October 30, 2010

The Downside of Renting

Renting can be better than owning a home for many reasons. Although I fully believe that renting is the best option for us right now, there are some times when living in an apartment can be difficult. This past Wednesday was one of those times. While I was driving home from work, I got a call from Nathan. He asked me, "Do you want to see if you can do a take your dog to work day on Friday?" What?!?

Apparently, one of our neighbors saw fleas in their apartment, so an exterminator was scheduled to fumigate all the apartments in our building on Friday. It would be safe to return home by the time we got off work, but we still had to figure out what to do with the other member of our family.

Nathan had already spoken with the property manager and the exterminator before he called me. The exterminator told us that they wouldn't have to treat our apartment but that we should put a towel by the bottom of the door if we left Nenya there. We decided that didn't sound too safe. I probably could have gotten permission to take her to work with me, but that wouldn't have been the best situation for either of us.

We ended up taking her to a doggy daycare. The place had good reviews, and it was only $15 for the day with the coupon they had on their website. 

Here's a screen shot Nathan took of their live webcam. On the right you see three workers and a big group of dogs, and on the left you see Nenya. What a crazy girl! We think she was probably trying to tell them that she needed to go out.

Even though it was an inconvenience and extra expense for us, it was good for Nenya. She normally sleeps a lot during the day and is ready to play as soon as we get home. She had such an active day that she was worn out by the time Nathan brought her home.

So, this wasn't really  a horrible experience. It's just frustrating that we can be told we have to leave our home since it's not really ours. And since we share a building with several other people, the actions of one of our neighbors could cause some really awful consequences for us. For these reasons, I do look forward to the day when we can be homeowners.

What's your opinion on renting versus buying?

October 28, 2010

Another Perspective on Gnocchi

Today, two days after my less than excellent experience making gnocchi, I came across this blog entry about making gnocchi with kids. Wow, they sure make it look fun!

"The process is easy enough for you to involve very young kids, is a fun sensory experience (mashing, mixing, rolling!) and makes a wholesome dinner that the whole family can share." 

Okay, maybe I shouldn't have said never. I still don't want to make it again anytime soon and definitely won't try to fix it after coming home from work again, but maybe someday.

October 27, 2010

Married to an MBA Student

Around the time we celebrate our one year anniversary, we will also (Lord willing) be celebrating Nathan’s graduation from his MBA program. It’s been interesting being married to a student. Recently, upon hearing that Nathan and I work the same hours, someone exclaimed, “Oh, so you have the whole evening together!” Well, yes and no. Since Nathan's classes are online, we’re both in the apartment most evenings, but we can’t exactly spend every minute together. This doesn’t bother me for the most part since I’m an introvert and don’t mind having time to myself, but sometimes I’ll want to tell Nathan something while he’s reading and have to try to keep it to myself.

Of course, I also keep busy doing most of the cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping. Nathan says he never expected his wife to do be the one to do all of that, but it wouldn’t really be fair for him to do a lot of chores on top of his school work when I don’t really have anything else to do. He does all the vacuuming though since he actually enjoys it and I dread it and also takes out the trash. He will help out with various other chores when he isn’t super busy.

Nathan getting ready to cook ostrich. He's a great cook, but he only cooks once a week at most these days.
The fun part of Nathan being a student is being able to learn along with him. A lot of his classes are IT-related and way over my head, but I’ve at least been able to pick up a few terms and concepts to make me feel somewhat more informed about technology than the average person. The classes that I find most interesting—the ones involving mainly theory and psychology—are the ones he can’t stand.

It only becomes really difficult to be married to a student when Nathan has to write a paper. While I freely admit that I almost always finished writing papers at the last minute, Nathan doesn’t even start papers until about the last minute. This is not good for my mental health. The craziest part? He still manages to write really good papers! A couple weeks ago, he started a paper the day before it was due, and managed to be one point away from a perfect score. I don’t know how he does it, and I don’t think he does either. Knowing he works well under pressure still doesn’t make it fun for either of us when he is under pressure.

I’m really looking forward to the day when he’s finally done with his classes, but I’m trying to be as supportive and understanding as possible in the meantime. After all, his extra credentials should eventually lead to extra income, so I can’t complain too much about that.

Were you or your spouse a student when you got married?

October 26, 2010

Never. Again.

I made gnocchi tonight for the first and last time. I love gnocchi. When I had gnocchi in college and at Olive Garden, it was amazing. It's about $3 for a pre-made package, so I decided to make it from scratch. Bad idea! Cheap? Sure, it's just flour, egg, and potato. But it was definitely NOT easy.

The first step in making gnocchi is basically to make mashed potatoes, which in itself is difficult enough if you've never done it before, and I hadn't believe it or not (Nathan's really good at it).

Once you've made your mashed potatoes, you mix them with the egg and flour. You then knead the dough, roll it into little snakes, and cut it into small pieces that you drop into boiling water.

I think the whole process took around an hour and a half. This would have been okay had it been really good gnocchi, but it wasn't. It wasn't bad, just nothing special.

Fortunately, I'd bought Ragu six chese pasta sauce to serve with it, which was really good. That basically saved it.

In the future, I'm buying packaged gnocchi. The money I saved by making it from scratch wasn't worth the amount of time I spent preparing it or even any possible nutritional benefit.

October 23, 2010

Of Apples and Llamas

Last Saturday, Nathan and I took a trip to a local orchard. We were able to pick our own apples, which neither of us had ever done before. Unfortunately, it was late in the season, and the only varieties left were red delicious and golden delicious. We could have gotten other varieties from the store, but we wanted to have the experience of picking them. 


We also had fun going through their corn maze. It was interesting going through with Nathan. He has a really good sense of direction, and somehow he was able to track every turn we'd made and which paths we had and hadn't been down. I would have been wandering through for quite awhile had I been alone.

We also got to hang out with a llama and a couple of goats. The llama refused to let me pet him, but I was kind of worried he would eat my hand off anyway.

We had lots of fun, and today I got to have fun with some of the apples we'd bought. Neither of us really enjoy eating raw apples that much, so I decided to make some of them into apple crisp. I used this recipe, cutting it in half. It looked easy enough, but halfway through the baking I noticed the apples looked like they we're getting a little dry. I ended up taking it out after 50 minutes (the upper end of the recommended baking time). The apples still weren't particularly soft, but I was worried they would get way too dry if I'd left them in longer.

It wasn't bad though. Nathan gave it a B+ to A-. He said sometimes his mom's apples crisp was really good and sometimes it wasn't, so I was happy with these results for my first attempt. It may have been better with a different kind of apple.

Any tips on making apple crisp?

October 19, 2010

The Nerd and the Free Spirit

When it comes to the budget, Dave Ramsey says one spouse is the Nerd and the other is the Free Spirit. The nerd enjoys numbers and coming up with the budget, while the free spirit doesn't care about it and feels controlled by it.

It isn't so black and white with Nathan and I. We're both nerds in some ways, but we can also be free spirits. While Nathan may seem like the nerd at first glance since he loves accounting and is working on an MBA, I have kept records of my earnings and spending since I was 11 years old and engage in what Nathan refers to as "stalking" our bank accounts online ("Did you enjoy that Arby's you had for lunch?").

When it comes to creating the budget, Nathan is the nerd. He sets the amounts for each category each month, and he was the one who planned out our debt snowball. Although I offer some input, I remain the "whatever you want" free spirit for the most part. Being the Excel guru that he is, he set up an amazing budget tracking spreadsheet for us with all kinds of drop down menus and formulas.

However, in terms of actually tracking the budget and trying to ensure that we stick with it, I become the nerd. I'm the one who records all the transactions in our Excel spreadsheet and makes sure bills get paid on time. I will give Nathan reports and observations on how we're doing with the budget.

The important thing is that we both know where we want to be financially and we're working together to get there. If we agree on the budget, we shouldn't have any major disagreements over money.

October 17, 2010

What's for dinner?

"What do you want for dinner?"
"I don't know. What do you want?"

For the first couple months of our marriage, we didn't have the whole eating dinner together thing figured out. In fact, since Nathan was working until 7:00 or even later, sometimes I was too hungry to wait until he got home to eat. Once Nathan got an 8:00-5:00 job and I grew tired of the daily "What's for dinner?" discussion, I decided to try menu planning.

The challenge in menu planning (and part of the reason we had such a difficult time figuring out what to eat for our meals together) is that we don't exactly like the same foods. When I was single, I would often have a meal of just brown rice and a salad. I didn't eat very much meat. Nathan, on the other hand, only likes five kinds of vegetables, and lettuce is not one of them. Rice is fine with sauce, but he doesn't like it dry. As a bachelor, he would cook meals like lasagna or chicken alfredo. I just can't eat anything that heavy on a regular basis. I wanted to cook healthy meals for us, but I found it nearly impossible to find any healthy recipes that Nathan would actually eat. I would look through cookbooks saying, "Nathan won't eat it, Nathan won't eat it..."

The compromise I came up with was to have meat with every almost every dinner but to try to cook it in a way that is flavorful without being super fattening. Also, I make sure to serve it with fruits and vegetables so we don't fill up on just meat.

I plan out what we're going to eat for dinner for a week at a time. I generally just plan the main course rather than the full meal and just make sure we have enough to eat with each meal. Each Friday, I plan what we'll eat for Saturday through Friday of the next week. Then I go grocery shopping.

Here's the menu for this week, the sixth week I've tried menu planning.

Sunday: Barbecue chicken. We ate this with white rice, green beans, and biscuits with pumpkin butter.

Monday: Lemon tilapia. The recipe I'm using is for lemon-chili tilipia, but I'm leaving out the chili powder since Nathan doesn't like anything spicy. (I can always add some to my serving.)

Tuesday: Scrambled eggs with ham and cheese and blueberry muffins.

Wednesday: Leftovers. We're in a Financial Peace University class right now that meets at 6:15 every Wednesday, so dinner has to be quick.

Thursday: Pasta and meatballs. I'm using this recipe but leaving out the cayenne pepper.

Friday: Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup.

Is it super healthy? Not really, but Nathan is willing to try new things and take "baby steps" towards healthy eating and I try to eat more fruits and vegetables than I do meat.

Anyone have some healthy yet tasty recipes without vegetables?