Friday, February 29, 2008

No Picture Friday!

Sorry, my camera has died a painful death. Let us all mourn it's passing with some nice family updates. Everybody likes family updates... unless you don't know us, then they are probably boring.

Anyhoo-Moose is talking more and more. And... about every other word or so is decipherable. I spend my time saying, "what?" "don't whisper" "don't yell" and "huh?". He hasn't bitten any friends recently, so I feel safe saying maybe it was a phase. The last time he bit a friend, was when I was in Chicago. So I think that is how he expresses annoyance. So, as my friend Charing said, "hopefully daycare won't piss him off again..."

I took all I could take of Mickey Mouse Club. You can only watch Minnie get her Pretend Doctor Sticker for six times before you go crazy. So I switched our DVR to tape another show. "Yo, Gabba, Gabba". Mainly because is amuses me so much, and I like to think about what kind of drugs the creators had to have been on when they thought of this show. On a similar note, it is very educational, yesterday Moose learned about how to eat right, because the carrots and green beans wanted to be "in the party in his tummy". Trust me, it is better than Mickey.

Moose had a severe preference for me before his trip to Wisconsin with his Daddy. I am not sure how Daddy felt about it, but I remember when the preference was opposite, it about killed me.

But then again, I'm the jealous type, and I like everything to be about me.

Right after they returned, I realized things had changed for the better. He seems to equally prefer us both. He will call for us both in the middle of the night if he happens to wake up, he asks the current parent where the other one is, they are gone. It seems to have evened up the stakes. Which is great!

I can leave if I have to do some emergency clothes/purse/shoe shopping, and when Cory has to do some emergency car/car/car shopping, he can leave, and Moose is fine.

It has absolutely been killing Cory to not buy any cars the last couple weeks. He comes home every day talking about a new car option for me, when my leased BMW runs out next Summer. I nod, we look at the car online, and I tell him we'll test-drive the car next Winter. We have quite a list compiled.

To ease his car ache, he is planning on working on his SVO, which he pulled the engine out of a few weeks before Christmas. He's reached the expensive part of working on my car, so he has paused on that for a while. I'm quite curious how he is going to take my car out of the garage, and put his car back in, when neither of them run-by himself. It might be amusing to watch, actually.

I don't have a lot of news, myself. Work has hired a new copywriter, whom the other designer and I picked and are extremely happy with. She fits in super-well so far, and seems to be a very talented writer. I worked very hard with my boss last week to get her office all ready for her, and tried to make the transition of starting a new position easy for her. She will be taking all of the simple writing tasks out of my hands, for which I am extremely happy. I can write simple blog posts, but writing technical things escapes me sometimes:) Just not my cup of tea.

I was supposed to go back to Chicago last Friday, but the trip was canceled at the last minute. We waited to late to buy our flights, so my boss went without us.

Due to our onslaught of snow and ice, my ceiling in my office started leaking. I was on my video conference with the VP at the time, and he promptly told me to make sure I didn't inform anyone, or they might start charging me for a pool.

I am now friends with the maintenance man, which is extremely convenient I must say. Any little thing, I can now call him, and he jumps to help out. It is wonderful, and he is a very nice man.

We've been extremely busy at work, with a ton of projects due at the end of February. I am happy to say I met all of my deadlines, and had a leisurely Friday afternoon, completing projects, and exporting final files for my boss's presentation he gives at the end of the quarter. That is my favorite type of Friday, I must say.

We don't have big plans for the weekend, I don't think we're going to go out tonight, however I have breakfast planned with my friends today, along with a playdate for Moose and Carter.

I hope you all have a great weekend, and I plan to post my Domestic Goddess Tips tomorrow!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Almond Baked Chicken Strips

I tried this wonderful recipe last night, and I had to share it! It turned out delicious, and is not all that bad for you. The only "special" thing I had to pick up at the grocery was almonds, (you might not stock balsamic vinegar, but I do) so it was inexpensive to make too!

Baked Chicken Strips with Mustard, Almond, and Parmesan

H/t: Kalyn's Kitchen

2 very large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

marinade:
2 T mayo
2 T Dijon mustard
1 T white balsamic vinegar (or use slightly less than 1 T white vinegar)
1 T water
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning

coating:
2 T Parmesan cheese (freshly grated or coarsely grated, not the kind that comes in a can)
3/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Trim any visible fat or tendons from chicken, then cut each piece into crosswise strips about 1 inch wide. Wisk together mayo, Dijon, white balsamic vinegar, water, garlic powder, and poultry seasoning. Kalyn's recipe says to marinate the chicken for a few hours, but I forgot and just used the marinade as a dipping stuff for the breading to stick to.

When ready to cook, let chicken come to room temperature while oven pre-heats to 450 F. I used my chopper to crush the almonds up, (Kalyn recommends a food processor) Parmesan, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper, and put coating in large flat bowl. Spray non-stick baking sheet well with non-stick spray. Dip each chicken piece into coating, turning to coat both sides, and arrange in single layer on baking sheet.

Bake without turning for 15-20 minutes, or until top side is quite browned and underneath is starting to brown. Then use metal turner and go under each piece of chicken to be sure it's not stuck to the pan, then carefully turn each piece. Some of the coating will fall off and possibly get too browned in the pan, so don't worry about it. Cook 10 minutes more until chicken is well browned and cooked through. Total cooking time will be 25-30 minutes, depending on your pan. Serve hot.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Domestic Goddess Tips

Back on track this week, with my whole family to accompany me to the grocery store. I built my meal plan this week mainly from the meat I already had in my freezer, due to the deals I found last week on frozen chicken, and the buy-one-get-one-free deals from a few weeks ago. I also found a few side dish deals last week that I stocked up on, for instance Moose's favorite brand of macaroni and cheese was 3 for $5. So we are having that as a side in one of our dinners.

My tip this week is about buying in bulk. Some of the necessary items that most of us are required to purchase include cleaning products. I don't need them every week, but it seems that when I do need them, they all run out at the same time! It turns into a large chunk of the bill if we run out of tub cleaner, all-purpose spray, and toilet cleaner all in the same week. One solution is to make sure you only buy one cleaning item per week (before you run out!), therefore splitting the purchase over a couple weeks instead of one big blow.

Another solution is to buy the big "refill" option. Most of the cleaning products we use offer a large version that is cheaper per ounce. You just refill your spray bottle as needed. A super bonus is when you find that refill bottle on sale. Yet another reason to pay attention to sales either on the online flier or while you are in the store. I prefer the online flier, because we don't necessarily go down aisles if we don't have something on the list from that aisle.

Our total bill this week, for our family of three was $62. This included three cleaning products (two of them the refill variety, on sale), dog food, and deodorant. Plus, we allowed ourselves each a little treat this week, with me getting my fav Cadbury Eggs, and Cory picking out a Pina Colada juice. Having the extra meat in our fridge, and a few extras I picked up on sale, really made a large difference for us.

Pork Chops were on sale last week, so I picked up a package of four. Luckily, with our family of three, that will make us two meals. Moose and I split the large one, and Cory has his own (with sides, it is enough food). My friend Em sent me a wonderful recipe that I tried on Friday, and I thought I would share it with you.

Oven-fried Pork Loin
4 pork loins (I used two)
2 Tbsp margarine or butter, melted (always use butter!)
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup herb-flavored stuffing mix (I used the Stove Top chicken flavor, it was on sale)
Trim fat from the meat. Put melted butter into 13x9 baking pan. Mix egg, milk and pepper. Dip meat in the egg mixture then into the stuffing mix. Place in baking pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Flip meat and bake for 10 more minutes or until meat is no longer pink.
I used my stoneware baker, as did Emily. We both found that this recipe was very good, moist, and flavorful with the stuffing mix breading. I served it with peas and macaroni and cheese.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Picture Weekend: Wisconsin Trip Pt2

Here are the rest of the pictures my Mil sent me:



















Both my boys are home safe and sound now. I've been enjoying their company for the last few days, and absence definitely makes the heart grow fonder.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wisconsin Pictures!

My favorite and very understanding mother-in-law forwarded me pictures last night. Thank goodness because I was definitely missing both Cory and Moose terribly! She said that she took a ton more, but that these were the only ones that came out. (sorry if you aren't pictured!) (I'm posting every single one she sent me!)

Learning his boy-job early.
Playing guitar with Jake (I think!)
Cuddling with Em
Playing with Grandpa

Building with Carissa and Grandpa


I am not sure if my Mil is sending me more pictures or not. I know that they had a small family get together last night, but because Cory is a boy and I go the boy-version of the story, I have not clue who was there! Sorry I can't share more.

Cory said that Moose had a slight cough, so I'm hoping it doesn't get worse.

They are planning on coming home Wednesday and I'll be waiting at the door with bells on!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Domestic Goddess Tips

And therefore it has been ordained. Thank you Lisa for the title idea, see her comment on my last grocery deal post. Oh, Lisa, you know me so well. How could I not crown myself Domestic Goddess?

This weekend was a little different. As some of you know, Cory took Wesley to visit my in-laws in Wisconsin. They left yesterday after lunch. Here's a few shots I managed to snap before my camera died again:

I could almost feel Cory's eye roll when I said to wait a minute so could take some pictures. Gosh I'm a wonderful photographer, blurry and I cut heads off.
Again, demonstrating my foto skillz.
Catching the pensive moment...what do you mean Mommy's not going?
Picture me waving wildly with my whole body. ByeBye!ByeBye!
And they're off. Of course, they made it safe and sound. My mother-in-law is having the time of her life spoiling both my boys, I'm sure!


And on that note, I went to the grocery by myself today. It was very lonely. *sigh*

So Meijer was having a buy-one-get-one-free sale on their bags of frozen chicken breasts. In the past we have bought these, and they get shoved down to the bottom of the freezer, and they get freezer-burned and have to be thrown away. A few tips occurred to me, so I put them in action, and I think they will save money and time in the future.

*waves Domestic Goddess wand*

What?

Alright, so my new BFF (sorry Jessica;) is freezer bags. (JK) Apparently the bags and containers a lot of meat comes in, will not protect them from freezer burn. So that is easily fixed.

When I got home from the grocery today, I opened the bags, and divided the chicken into meal-sized portions, and split them among freezer bags. The two bags of chicken breasts, that were buy-one-get-one-free at Meijer this week for $15, will make ten dinners. (!)
Having them already split into dinner portions will save me time and help me not waste them (hopefully!) and the freezer bags will protect them from freezer burn. Now, since I have my meal plan for the week, I will check whatever dinner I have planned for the next night, and I will take out the appropriate meat to thaw!
I have two new recipes to try this week, and I plan to post about them after I make them. I have a new crock pot recipe to try, which everyone loves, and a new pork chop recipe from my friend Emily.

I have been stockpiling my new recipes (I have several blogs on my blog reader, and I belong to a ton of email lists) so when the main ingredient goes on sale at the store, I pull out the corresponding recipe.

Stay tuned for some picture posts from Wisconsin, and some (hopefully) delicious recipes!

*waves Domestic Goddess wand again, just for the fun of it*

Friday, February 15, 2008

Picture Friday!

Oh, you lucky people! I worked long and hard charging my batteries this week, so that I could have some pictures to share this evening.My sugar-heart cookies for Valentine's day. They were delicious, I will share the very easy recipe here later. I've decided to combine my two blogs into one. I only post a recipe every now and then, and most of my readers are the same group.

Moose and the dogs have worked out their differences. I know a lot of you had strong opinions about the dog issue that we had. We decided to try and work on their relationship, we've kept them separated with baby gates up until now. He realizes they deserve a certain amount of respect, and now doesn't tease them like he did previously. We (obviously) still keep an eye on the relationship, but I wanted to give you and update.


And now, a special present for uncle Kyle:
video

Sunday, February 10, 2008

So Apparently I Need a Creative Name for my Grocery Deals

I'll think on that and get back to you. I'm not actually sure how many tips I will discover, but I like sharing them with you, because you care, right?

This week was bit more like our bills will typically be, in my opinion. My mom sent me a website called MyGroceryDeals.com which I was excited about. You sign up (for free) and they list all of your local grocerys' sales for the week. We typically only go to one grocery, and at the moment we are stuck on Mejier. They have a wonderful produce section that is very fresh, and fully stocked at all times. Plus? They have an abundance of cashiers, which totally floats my boat.

Because we don't get the local paper, I was very excited about MyGroceryDeals.com, all of their stores' sales all listed out for me? Wonderful. I had planned to use the sale meat for the basis of my meal plan for the week.

We always go to the grocery on Sunday morning. Some of my friends are shuddering in horror reading that. Yes, once, in a time long, long ago, Cory and I lounged together in bed until 10 or 11, then drank hot coffee luxuriously while we contemplated if we would get out of our pajamas at all during the day.

Now? We're typically up by 7 AM, and rearing to go by 8 or 9. The grocery fills that morning time before Cory's Car Shows at 11 very well. We're in such a rut. I luv it. I heart routine:)

So I make my grocery list Sunday morning before we go. I happily logged in to MyGroceryDeals.com to see all the sale items, and make my meal plan.

Um, they haven't put the sales up yet. And as of 12 PM on Sunday, they still aren't up yet. I'm not sure when they typically go up, but that won't work for me unfortunately.

Luckily, I thought to go directly to Mejier's website. And low and behold, their Sunday Sale sheet that was in the paper, is was right on their home page. So I flipped through the sale sheet, noted the sale meat, and made my list. It worked great. And, as I mentioned last week, actually made the menu making easier for me.

We bought a few extra things this week, versus last week. We needed toilet paper, and our kitty food brand was on sale, so even though we didn't need it, we bought it while is was on sale. So we will get in that habit, buying things when they are on sale, instead of when we need them. According to Crystal, things go on sale in a pattern, so we just have to get in a groove on that pattern, paying attention to when things go on sale.

A lot of meat was on sale for buy-one-get-one-free. So we stocked up on sausage, hot dogs, and polska, then froze the duplicate (or "free" one) to use for next week's meal plan. Next week, I can use those things to build different meals.

Something else to note, that I have read several places, is about hamburger. Cory has a huge problem with greasy foods. In the past we have bought extra lean ground beef because that fact. It is much less greasy, however it is a lot more expensive. To save money, and be just as healthy, we have been buying ground round hamburger or ground chuck hamburger and cooking it as normal, draining it as normal, but then rinsing it with hot water in the sink. This rinses the rest of the grease off, making it just as healthy as the extra lean ground beef. (or so I have read:)

We haven't been lacking in the snack department either. Last week, I bought large blocks of cheese, and have been making beer cheese from scratch, which is delicious, and much cheaper than buying dip for chips.

Speaking of dip, we bought a eye of round beef pot roast for a dinner this week (which was on sale at Mejier), and I cook my roast in my crock pot with chunky veggies as sides. Instead of buying already chopped and cleaned veggies, like I have in the past to save me time, I bought large quantities of celery, carrots, and onions. Then, as I chopped them for the pot roast, I chopped the leftover celery and carrots into dip-able sticks. Now we have those to snack on and dip in ranch, during the week. I spent 20-30 minutes chopping veggies after we got home.

This week was more on target for what we will probably typically spend. The final bill was $96 for one week, with six planned dinners, and two lunches, plus all the norms such as milk and eggs.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Picture Friday

I am having camera issues, if you haven't gathered. I am looking into a more robust camera, but I may pick up new rechargeable batteries for now. Until then, I take two pictures, and then my camera goes dead.

We have been busy around here, due to the storms and tornadoes. Moose's daycare flooded, and was without electricity for two days. In the midst of that annoyance, Moose decided to get a virus (on top of his ear infection from last week) so we've been dealing with sky-high fever for the last 48 hours.

I was able to go back to work today due to the grace of God, or rather Mimi, who stayed home with Moose. I came in to another sort of tornado in the office, but managed to get everything on my plate tucked in nicely by 4:30.

I am filling my evening with baking cookies for Mimi's Cookie Exchange tomorrow evening. Should be interesting, I'll try to take pictures, but... we'll see how that goes:)

And on that note:

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Grocery Triumph

Many of you were interested in our my attempt at penny-pinching would go at the grocery today, so I thought I would give you an update. It was a total success. I was amazed.

Special thanks to Jessica for recommending I check out Money Saving Mom for ideas. Crystal had some great ideas for saving money, and most of them required making a plan. Which as most of you know, is my forte.

I recommend you check out Crystal's website for her drawn out plan, but I'll tell you what is working for me so far. Crystal recommended first, to make a meal plan for the week, including dinners, lunches, breakfasts and snacks. I always do this, so it was not a big stretch for me. There were a couple of differences in her recommendations however.

First, she recommended looking at your pantry and fridge to see what you already have, and work from that to produce a menu. This actually made my meal planning easier, because typically, I'll sit on the couch, and Cory and I will wrack our brains for meal ideas. Instead, the meals practically planned themselves. Oh, the pepperoni I froze a couple weeks ago? I should use that in Stromboli...the canned salmon I bought on sale a few weeks ago? I should make salmon patties with that... you get the idea.

Second, Crystal recommended writing absolutely everything down that you need to buy, and then not deviating from your list. This took only a few more minutes to include on my normal list, and would actually save me time in the long run. Last week we didn't buy any eggs because I didn't know if we needed them or not, if I had checked when I made my list, I would have known that I did need them. No more extra trips during the week, no more excess eggs, you get the idea! My list writing took me about 15 minutes total.

I bought the store brand on absolutely everything that was available. I will let you know how that goes, seeing as that we haven't eaten everything yet. Instead of buying ready to microwave in the package steamed frozen veggies, I bought the store brand, big bag of veggies. The directions differ slightly and will take a few more minutes work, but should be fine. I divided them between freezer bags and put the day's name on the outside so that Cory could get it started if I needed him to.

We didn't buy any carbonated beverages or beer. Which is not a huge stretch for me. Most of you know I stopped drinking cokes when Moose started eating with us regularly. He was always very interested in my coke because I was having it. So I started drinking milk with him for dinner or snack (or lunch, if we are together). I still order coke at a restaurant, or drink it when it's available. But it did occur to me, that this might be affecting my weight loss as well, it's not like coke is good for you, even the diet kind! Cory made the decision about the beer, I just nodded when he told me about it. Plus, he typically prefers more exotic beer than our store offers anyway. He has a stock pile of different things in his garage that a friend picked up for him, and he is slowly working his way through that.

We typically alternate our "baby" purchases, so they are not a huge hit on the total bill. Week one we buy a big pack of diapers, week two we buy a big pack of wipes, week three we have off, then we start over. This week was our week off.

Here is our dinner meal plan for the week:
Beef Tacos (we had fajitas in the fridge)
Italian Potato Pie
Breakfast Burritos (fajitas and half a tube of sausage in the fridge)
Salmon Patties (can of salmon in pantry)
Stromboli (pepperoni in the freezer)
Hamburger Helper

Our total grocery bill was $50 for six days, for our family of three.

This may have been a fluke, but I hope it is just a beginning. According to Crystal, if you keep track of sales, and stock up on those things as they pop up, it is totally do-able.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Picture Friday!

Oh my gosh, I've been so busy... blah blah blah. Yea, I know you're getting tired of the same old tune here, but... wait for it... yes, I have really been busy.

Again.

So busy in fact, that I've been getting home almost an hour later than normal most of the days this week. This really effects the evening, dinner, and playing with Moose. Kind of sad actually. I don't like it and neither does Moose.

The big job I was working on has been completed, and I shouldn't have such a busy week until, well, next month I guess, seeing as this is going to be a new reoccurring thing. I don't want to go into details, but I have been heavily stressing at work lately. So much so, I've lost about ten pounds. I can't actually blame that all on this job, it's been decreasing since Christmas.

I'm not sure why, I think it's stress.

And maybe the stomach flu bug I had last weekend. That certainly didn't help matters. Oh wait! That's another excuse why I haven't been blogging! I've been sick! So sick. No details, I'll leave it at that.

On a related note, Moose is sick this weekend as well. We were sitting at breakfast this morning when all of a sudden he grabbed his ear and squeeled, "My ear! My ear! eeeeeiiiieeee..."

So I'm happy Moose can now tell me if he is in pain, and if so where and how much. I am unhappy to report that he has an ear infection. We saw Doc M and he assured me that Moose's tubes where in and totally intact. They unfortunately cannot get rid of all the infections.

We had to reevaluate our budget this week as well. Cory's work has been incredibly slow, and that directly affects his checks. We switched our bills around between each other, and vowed to spend less frivolously (no more, ahem, cars and such, right dear?). Plus I have to look at our grocery bill and figure out how to continue to feed us healthily, but hopefully with a decreased total bill. So I've been researching different ideas online, and so far I've decided we're going to switch back to ground turkey instead of ground beef, and we're going to try some of the grocery store brands. I'll keep you updated if I discover anything groundbreaking on this quest.

And now, I'll leave you with this picture. (yes only one, check back next week, hopefully I will have been more active)