October 31, 2011

This Week's Menu Plan

Sour Cream Chicken Enchiladas

Now that it's been over a year since the first and only time I posted our weekly menu, I decided it was time for another look at what we eat around here.

We've started exercising after work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which means the dinners for those days need to be either something I can throw together in minutes or something I can make ahead of time. 

Me: Plain yogurt, fruit, whole wheat bagels
Nathan: Cold cereal (He doesn't want to eat anything else. I buy mostly healthier ones, with the occasional Reese's Puffs so he still loves me.)

Leftovers or whatever else we can find to pack

Tuesday: Crunchy Garlic Chicken (My new recipe for the week. I always try at least one.)
Wednesday: Sour cream chicken enchiladas (adapted for anti-spicy folk)
Friday: Baked Potatoes
Saturday: Dinner out
Sunday: Crock pot cheesy chicken and rice

I made some trail mix for us to take to work to keep us away from the vending machines.

Although we're still not eating super healthy around here, we are slowly moving away from processed foods to more natural ones. Now if only I could get some vegetables in my husband! If anyone has ideas on how to get him to eat more than a few bites of veggies a day, I'd love to hear them.

More menu plans at Organizing Junkie.

October 26, 2011

Enjoying Fall

Not too hot...not too cold...beautiful colors. It's a great time of year for having fun outside. 

 You can conquer a corn maze

Hug a tree

Cuddle together for warmth

Build a house

Dine al fresco

Pick the perfect pumpkin

And most of all, just escape from the city and enjoy the SPACE. As much as I love where I live now, the city can be a little suffocating after growing up with cows for neighbors.

What are you enjoying this fall?

Shared at Things I Love Thursday and Finer Things Friday.

October 21, 2011

The Illusion of Healthy Food

As I try to buy healthier foods and cook healthier meals, I've realized how little I actually know about healthy eating. I recently read through Eat This, Not That! 2012  and found shock after shock as I flipped through the pages. Did you know that Oscar Mayer turkey bacon actually has more fat than their regular bacon? Would you have guessed that Kix cereal has less sugar and fewer calories than Life cereal?

Which sounds healthier: 
Two beef patties with pickles, onions, ketchup and mustard on a toasted bun
Smoked white meat chicken with mozzarella, tomatoes, onions, basil and chipotle mayonnaise on Focaccia? 

How about eating two of those burgers with two beef patties? Surely the chicken sandwich would be healthier than that, right?

Take a look at these two items from McDonald's and Panera. Neither is healthy. Although you get less saturated fat and no trans fat with the panini, you're still consuming more calories than there are in two McDoubles. Panera might use more natural ingredients than McDonald's, but there's nothing natural about 1,910mg of sodium. Even though it's served on fancy dishes, Panera is still fast food. If you want to eat healthy, look at the nutrition facts (available on most restaurant websites). Or, better yet, just avoid eating out.

(Images from here and here)

October 17, 2011

Why worry?

It doesn't get you anywhere.

90% of worries never happen.

It solves nothing.

And tomorrow will care for itself (Matthew 6:34)

So why worry? I don't know. I still do it, but I'm working on it.

October 14, 2011

Brand Loyalty

For the most part, I'm not very brand loyal. I buy whatever brand I can get for lowest price at the time. I have no problem buying Meijer brand toilet paper or Kroger brand salad dressing, and I'm currently using Suave shampoo and Herbal Essences conditioner.

I think it's interesting to see what brands people insist on buying - a certain kind of diapers, a particular brand of toilet paper. I searched our apartment for cases of brand loyalty and found three. I will not compromise when it comes to these three items!

1. Crest Cinnamon Rush toothpaste
Nathan and I were both using this toothpaste before we met. It's not so much a case of brand preference as it is flavor preference. Neither of us like mint flavor, and this is the best non-mint toothpaste out there. Even if it costs $3 and I can get another kind for free, I'm sticking with the cinnamon.

2. Clean & Clear persa-gel 10
Not all creams with 10% benzoyl peroxide are created equal. This is the only one I've found that doesn't leave a flaky residue. It goes on clean and clear!

3. Lemi Shine dishwasher detergent
This stuff is amazing! A Target cashier once referred to it as "gold" when I was buying it. Until we move somewhere without super hard water, this is the only detergent I will put in my dishwasher. It's worth the extra money to not have white powder on all our dishes and utensils. The detergent I use for the pre-wash is still whatever is cheap though.

How about you? What are the brands you have to buy?

October 10, 2011

Our Wedding Album

Look what we finally have!

Since all we wanted from our photographers was a CD of the original photos, sorting and editing the photos and designing the layout for the album were all my job. I would not recommend this route to anyone unless you don't care that much about how your photos look or you're really good at Photoshop. I'm only kind of good at Photoshop, and I couldn't get the photos to the level I wanted them.

We ordered our book from Adorama. You can use the online tool they have to design your album, or you can use your own design program and export the pages as jpegs. I created my layout in InDesign, then uploaded the jpegs of each page on Adorama's album maker tool. They have a "fit to page" button that allows you to quickly insert the pages.

The main reason I chose Adorama was their Leporello binding system. Every spread of the album lies almost completely flat, so it's great for two-page photos. From Adorama's website: "Unlike other lay-flat systems which use two separate pieces of paper hinged at the center, every spread in an AdoramaPix book is a single unbroken sheet of premium archival photo paper." 

An album like ours (50 page 10"x10") costs $110, but Adorama's albums are often 20% off. We bought ours when we got an e-mail for 40% off. The only downside with Adorama is you're limited to 14, 26, 38, 50, or 76 pages. You can't just pay a little more to add a couple more pages; you have to add a lot more pages.

I'm really happy with how it turned out!

How long did it take you to get your wedding album?

October 7, 2011

What to Do with Stale Cereal (Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios Bars)

I hate letting food go to waste. I do my best to make sure we use food before it goes bad, but sometimes we still have some wilted lettuce or sour chicken broth. When we ended up with 3 cups of Cheerios that were too stale to eat, I really didn't want to throw them out.

With just four other ingredients, I was able to use the Cheerios to make some cereal bars. You couldn't tell the Cheerios were stale, especially after a day or so. I was pleasantly surprised at how much better these are than the cereal bars you can buy at the store. I bought some Cheerios and Cinnamon Toast Crunch bars once since they were cheap, and five months later we still have one left. Nathan devoured these homemade ones.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheerios Bars 
(Adapted from The Homesteading Housewife)
3 cups Cheerios
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy)
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Combine the honey and sugar together over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat.

Add the peanut butter and stir until it's well blended. (As you can tell by the flame in this photo, I forgot the "remove from heat" part of the previous step.)

Stir in the cocoa powder until it's mixed in.

Pour the chocolaty peanut butter goodness on top of your Cheerios and mix until the Cheerios are coated.

And pour the Cheerios mixture into a buttered 9x9 pan (I used an 8x8 pan since I don't have a 9x9).

Once they've cooled, cut the pan into squares. If you let them cool in the refrigerator too long, you will probably need a saw. Nathan managed to cut them after a lot of work with a big knife.

What ways have you found to use up food that is a little past its prime?

Shared at Frugal Friday on Life as Mom.

October 4, 2011

10 Things to Do Before Kids

"So when are you having kids?"

I was really amazed when people started asking that only a few months into my marriage. With women 10 years older than I am becoming first time moms and with my parents having me (their first) more than 7 years into their marriage, I was just not expecting to be asked that question so soon. What's the big hurry? While we would certainly consider a child a blessing at any time in our marriage, I see no reason why we need to have a baby right now. I'm happy just enjoying our marriage for a while.

A recent post on Weddingbee from the "After I do" series featured several married ladies' answers to the question, "What is something you wish you did before you had your baby, or something you plan to do before you have a baby? What is something you did before baby that you’re so thankful you did?"

I thought it was a good question to consider. Is there anything I could do now that I won't be able to do once kids come along? Is there anything I need to do before I become pregnant to improve my pregnancy experience or my child's life? Honestly, I can't think of anything I need to do, but there are a few things I probably should do or would like to do. This is a list of ideas, not necessarily goals or suggestions.

Figure out being a family of two
After a year of marriage, we're still working on how to function as a family unit and how to communicate with each other. I don't expect us to ever completely master that, but I'd like to feel at least a little less clueless before we add anyone else to the mix.

Go on a relaxing vacation
I'm not talking anything exotic here (we honeymooned in Cincinnati, after all). We just have a tendency to want to do this, this, this, and this when we go on trips. I want to go somewhere and not have an agenda for once. I'm thinking a nice cabin with a jacuzzi tub.

Start buying organic food and stop buying as much processed food
I can't see us ever buying organic food exclusively, but I'd like to at least buy the dirty dozen organically (an idea I got from the baby bucket list of Erika from Newlyweds on a Budget ). I want to start making my own granola bars, and maybe even crackers.

Get a second dog
This one probably sounds crazy if you aren't a dog person (which I used to not be). But Nathan really wants a second dog, and lately I've been thinking having a dog that will actually run with me would be awesome. Nathan met with a trainer last week about Nenya's anxiety and confidence issues, and she actually suggested getting a second dog once Nenya has become a little more socialized. If we're going to have two dogs when we have kids, it's best that we have both of them trained well before we have kids.

Get in the habit of regular exercise
I want to be able to exercise while pregnant, which means I'd better start exercising before becoming pregnant. This needs to happen sooner than later.

Move somewhere with a washer/dryer and fenced-in yard
This one is not optional. I am not going to haul a bunch of clothes and a baby out to the car to do laundry, especially since we'll have a lot of extra laundry. I also don't want to have to go outside with the baby and the dogs, especially if we get a second dog!

Read and Research
I want to read up on the facts on things like pregnancy and childbirth. What foods should I avoid? Home birth or hospital birth? I like to plan ahead. So far on my reading list are What to Expect Before You're Expecting and Get Ready to Get Pregnant.

Have a better community
We don't have much of a community here right now. Both sets of parents are an hour away, which is nice, but we can't really use them as a last minute baby sitter. We don't have many friends here either. Becoming first time parents when we're this isolated is a little scary.

Do some freelance design work
Although I will most likely continue to work full-time after our first child is born, I'd like to at least explore the possibility of working from home. I could use the extra work to build up my portfolio no matter what direction my career takes.

Continue putting all my income towards student loans and savings
Unless it takes us a long time to get pregnant, it's unlikely that we'll have all the grad school loans paid off before we have a baby, but I want to pay as much as possible.

How about you? Is there anything you'd like to do before you have kids, or that you wish you had done before kids?

Visit Oh Amanda for more Top Ten Tuesday Posts.

October 1, 2011

Some Things Never Change

The 10 year anniversary of the September 11 attacks got me thinking about what I was doing 10 years ago. I looked at the journal I kept at the time, but it turns out I had stopped writing for awhile in 2001 and didn't write anything on September 11. I did, however, find something that left me stunned and a little depressed...

These were my first two goals for 2001. Look familiar? Replace writing in my journal with writing on my blog, and you have two of my exact goals for 2011! I'm still trying to do the same things 10 years later with similar results. Wow.


So, how did I do over the past month with my new revised goals? The theme for most of them is "I was doing great, but then..." I got sick. Nathan was unemployed and then started second shift and things were weird. Life happened. But life has been happening for 10 years and isn't going to slow down any time soon. No excuses!

1. Exercise for 30 minutes 3 times a week. 
I manged to walk/jog in the morning 4 times. I guess that's something like a 20% success, which is still failure.

2. Go to bed at 10:00 each night and wake up at 6:00 each morning.
This is the best example of starting out great but failing. Maybe next month? Going to bed without Nathan is going to be rough, but I can't stay up until midnight.

3. Complete my daily chores and leave no dishes in the sink at the end of the day. 
I'm getting better on this one. The daily chore schedule needs revised though.

4. Spend less than $200 a budget period on food (groceries and eating out). 
This one was totally crazy. For the four-week period that ended September 10, we spent $200.27. So close! We've already spent over $200 this period, but we'll still be well under the $300 we had been spending.

5. Write at least 2 blog posts a week.
I had two weeks of two posts followed by two weeks with none. One positive thing about having evenings to myself now is that I'll be writing a lot more. I've always done my best writing late in the evening when it's totally quiet.

Have you ever seen history repeat itself in your life in a weird way?