Sunday, February 28, 2010

Financial Goals: Checking in for 2010, February

February has been an exciting month for us! To help me want to stay "gazelle intense" with our goal to be completely, 100%, debt-free-including-the-mortgage one day, I have been listening to Dave Ramsey's radio show online most afternoons. It helps me remember why we want to "live like no one else so we can live like no one else." And why sometimes a "beans and rice, rice and beans" diet is necessary.

Here's our progress with our general 2010 Financial Goals:

Goal: Cash only for Groceries and Entertainment/Recreation.
~For the month of February we decided to alot $10 extra to our Grocery Budget to be able to stock up on some things for the month of March when I probably won't be doing very much grocery shopping. I was able to stock up on lunch meat and cheese, buy extra flour to make bread to freeze, and replenish a couple other little things here and there. I don't think I went over-budget once, so the cash system is really working!

~For the Entertainment/Recreation, this is just hilarious. We tried. We tried hard. But it just doesn't work so well when you have a date night all carefully planned, you have just enough cash in the envelope and a coupon for a free appetizer... and then go to the wrong restaurant. And you eat before you pay. And the waitress comes back and says "Um, this coupon is for O'Charley's, not Applebee's" and you end up paying the full amount with your debit card! Lesson learned (and laughed about!!): don't rely on your rememberer to remember where the coupon is for. Read the fine-print!

Goal: Stick to the budget - less impulse buying.
~Success!! No lawn mower blades were purchased this month. That I know of. Daniel did buy me a cute little box of chocolates for Valentine's Day, but I don't think he needs my permission to do that :)

Goal: Put some money into savings each week.
~Again, 2 out of 4 weeks we did this. There were still some big ticket baby items we had to buy (ahem, nursing bras are NOT cheap!) so instead of putting money into savings then taking it back out to pay for those things, we just put it right into the baby fund.


Now, on to the Extra Goals we had for February!

Goal: Get budget categories Entertainment/Recreation, Miscellaneous, and Gifts out of the red.
~Accomplished!! These were categories that I/we just "let go" during December. (Insert big regret!) At the beginning of the month I put down on paper a mini-debt snowball system, and we were able to "pay off" these categories early!

Goal: Get Daniel a debit card so we can wean out our credit card.
~Accomplished!! Well, it's been ordered and should arrive this week. I am SO looking forwards to not "paying for the past" anymore!! I'm not sure I have Daniel convinced to cancel our credit card (yet!), but he's definitely on board with using the debit card instead.

And, drum-roll, please!!!
~Woohoo, woohoo, woohoo!!! WE DID IT!! This is something we've been talking about for probably a year now (ever since rates started dropping), and we decided around the end of the year that yes, it was the right thing to do. We closed on the 22nd, with a rate decrease of .51%!! Shh, don't tell Dave, but we refinanced for another 30 year mortgage (the rate is LOCKED IN, baby!). With the refinance, our monthly payment is lower enough from what we're used to that we will be able to cash-flow the addition we are going to build (ourselves) this year. Once the addition is finished, we will throw that extra money towards the mortgage. I played around with an amortization calculator and if we simply pay what we're used to paying monthly, we can knock this debt out of our lives in 12-14 years, less than half the term of the loan! Of course it would be totally awesome if we could do it in less :)


It is so exciting to see the teeny-tiny speck of light at the end of the tunnel - that is not an on-coming train :P 12-14 years to being debt free sounds so much more do-able than a dragging "30 years."

I'm not sure what our extra goals for March will be yet. They may not be very exciting since a lot of excitement will be revolving around Baby George's arrival :) But, you never know! So stay tuned!!

This post is linked to LifeAsMom's Frugal Friday.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Yoga Moves = I Feel Better!

This past week a friend of ours offered to show me some yoga moves that would possibly help with the pregnancy-related pubic pain and discomfort that was really slowing me down. We met after church Wednesday evening and went through a handful of moves. They have worked wonders!!

After church Daniel and I went grocery shopping. Before, walking that much even at a snail's pace would eventually be pretty painful. I was super tired so I don't remember exactly, but I do know that I was fine with walking from the store to the car instead of asking Daniel to pull the car around to the door.

I've done the yoga moves on my own each day since, and while I'm not zipping around like a speeding bullet, I don't have to contemplate every step I take to determine if it's worth the hurt or not. In fact, I'd say I can walk without thinking about it most of the time!! Not everything has been "cured" - rolling over and getting out of bed is still uncomfortable. I still can't pop out of bed running - I have to start slowly :)

I don't know if it's related or not (I'm guessing it is), but my overall energy level has even been better. Thursday I actually CLEANED the kitchen and did three loads of laundry - one which I hung outside on the washline - and only took 1 nap instead of 2 very long ones. Yesterday I washed the kitchen floor by hand and it went pretty good (it desperately needed a good scrubbing!!), and got a lot of other things done, too (along with a nap). At least, "a lot" considering what's been the norm lately :) Still not as much as if I was not pregnant and had full energy, but before Wednesday evening, I wasn't sure how much more cleaning and preparation I was going to get done before the baby came. Now I feel like I will be able to get quite a bit done each day that George decides to stay put (I am still quite eager for him or her to be born, though!!!).

Friday, February 26, 2010

Apricot-Garlic Chicken

The other day I needed to come up with something for supper. I wanted something that was good, new, and most of all, easy. I brainstormed for a bit, stirred up a concoction and it was really good!! I wish I hadn't run out of time and had been able to take a picture. Not only did it taste good, but it looked pretty, too :) I didn't measure the ingredients, so these are my close guesses:

Apricot-Garlic Chicken
2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup Apricot Jam
2 med. garlic cloves, minced or crushed
1 Tbsp. mustard
1 1/2 tsp. honey
2 Tbsp. butter

Combine jam, garlic, mustard, honey and butter in small saucepan over med. heat until sauce-like. Place chicken in baking dish, spread with sauce. Cover and bake at 250° for 2 hours or until done (my chicken was frozen, so for thawed chicken you would lessen the baking time I'm sure). Serve chicken with pan juices.

This post is linked to LifeAsMOM and The Grocery Cart Challenge where each week 100's of recipes are shared.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

$40 Cash Weekly Grocery Trip 2/24/10

This week was "re-stock the cupboards week" as we were scraping the bottom on several things. There are some good sales going on, but the one I was most interested in is going to be running through March and my coupons are good through March, so I decided to save that stock-up for another week.

I didn't get a picture this time. It was 11:30 till we got home last night (we went shopping after choir practice and we were later than usual in leaving church), and I was/am so tired I don't feel like digging the groceries back out for a picture :) You're not missing anything too exciting. Except the fact that when you don't combine sales with coupons, money doesn't seem to buy nearly as much!!


1 gal. Orange Juice - $2.50 (I love when it's on sale cheaper than cheap concentrate!)
48oz. Vegetable Oil - $2.93
Shortening - $3.56
Garlic Powder - $1.00
Ketchup - $1.35
Pint Whipping Cream - $2.79
5lb. Bread Flour - $2.49
Miracle Whip - $3.49
Head Lettuce - $1.55
Mayonnaise - $2.49
Soy Sauce - $1.19
lb. Bacon - $3.00
2 apples - $1.44 ($1/lb)
Bananas - $.99
1.49lb. Ground Beef - $4.75
2 doz. Eggland's Best Cagefree Brown Eggs - $1.49/ea. (Markdown)

Shelf Price - $45.27
Total OOP - $39.26
Saved - $6.01 / 13%

Last week when I was cleaning out my coupon file I kept telling myself that I need to clip some of the Eggland's Eggs coupons to keep in my grocery envelope. It's not very often I run across those eggs marked down, but when they are, if you have the coupons they can be very inexpensive. I was kicking myself last night for not doing that. There were 8 doz. marked down, and I could've had them for about $.70/doz. if I'd had coupons with me!!

Next week will be interesting. Since this month we've been spending over our normal budget, next month we'll be spending under budget, mostly to get the bare bones necessities to round out what we have stockpiled. We have a great stockpile of lunchmeat and cheese, so I think we'll come out ok.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Takin' It Easy

I've certainly realized lately how much my blogging has slowed down, sorry about that :) I really enjoy reading blogs where the blogger posts regularly, so I feel bad when I don't do the same!

The past week and a half or so my life has really moved into the slow lane. I'm glad that my emotional state is not in shambles because "I can't ____" like I want to. I know it's really hard for some people to slow down. It's probably too easy for me :P The aches related to the pregnancy have given me two options: do things at a snails pace or pay for it with it hurting to do anything. I choose Door 1. Several things have been put on the back burner, but we're still living, eating and breathing.

Menu planning has gone out the window for now, it seems, which is why there hasn't really been a Menu Plan Monday for a while. Monday I had no gumption whatsoever and we had eggs, sausage and fried taters for supper. Tuesday I felt more up-to-it so I tried two new recipes out of my latest Taste of Home Simple and Delicious magazine (Eh, they were so-so. They didn't taste as good as they smelled when they were cooking. Daniel gave both dishes a "solid B."). I also mixed up a batch of bread and am played laundry catch-up for Mon. & Tues.

All that to say, I hope you all bear with me through this slow time :) I know blogging doesn't take more than finger exercises, but when there's not much going on it seems there's not much to blog about :P In the meantime, I'll try to do better at doing something I always want to do, and that's to write the posts as I have content ideas.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

38 Weeks

This was taken before our date on Friday night :)

Not much to say other than I'm ready to have this baby at any time :) I have really enjoyed most of the pregnancy, and I do enjoy feeling the baby moving around, but truth be told, the uncomfortableness is getting old :)

The "3rd Trimester Fatigue" set in a couple weeks ago, and I'm ready to be tired because of taking care of, holding, seeing, feeding, and clothing my baby instead of being tired from lugging around a big pregnant body :P Basically I want to SEE this little reason I'm so tired instead of just feeling it :)

As of this evening the nursery is painted (most of the way... enough that I can finish the touch-ups in my "spare time"), the furniture is arranged, and Daniel put the crib together. I need to wipe down the mattress and get it made up with the sheets and blankets that I washed yesterday :) There's a lot of stuff I ought to do before the baby comes, but if he or she would decide to come tonight, or tomorrow, I feel like things are quite ready enough that it would not be a big deal. We unpacked the car seat yesterday and I spent some time looking at it and playing with it. It's not installed, but I looked over the installation instructions and shared them with Daniel. It looks pretty cut and dried simple, I guess we'll see. You always hear horror stories about car seats being such a big hassle to install. In another couple days hopefully we'll be driving around our big white boat, sporting a car seat :)

I didn't sleep well last night at all, and this afternoon's nap was too short, so I need to scoot off here and go get the crib made and get myself into bed. There is a MOPS meeting tomorrow morning and I hope I feel rejuvenated enough to go :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Meatball Stroganoff

Throughout the life of my blogging and menu-planning, many of you have asked for the recipe for Meatball Stroganoff. I finally remembered to get pictures on Monday when I made it. The recipe can look very overwhelming, but it really is very easy.

I do need to say that I usually make the homemade noodles that are in the recipe, but we were out of eggs and I wasn't up to it so I used some of the FREE Barilla pasta that I "bought" last summer. It still tasted great! I do enjoy the homemade noodles, though.

Meatball Stroganoff

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3 egg yolks
1 egg
6 Tbsp. water

In a bowl combine the flour and salt; make a well. Beat yolks, egg and water; pour into well and stir to combine. Turn onto floured surface and knead 8-10 strokes. Divide into thirds, roll out each third as thin as possible. Let stand for 20 minutes or until partially dried. Cut into 1/4" strips, then the strips into 2" in length; set aside.

1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1/4 cup quick cooking oats
1 Tbsp. finely chopped onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1 lb. ground beef

In a bowl combine the egg, ketchup, oats, onion and salt. Add beef; mix well. Shape into meatballs. Place in 9" x 13" baking dish (meatballs should not touch each other). Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 10-15 minutes or until no longer pink.

2 cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup milk
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. paprika

In a large saucepan combine soup, sour cream, milk and paprika; heat through. Add meatballs, cover and cook until heated through, stirring frequently.

Cooking the Noodles:
In a large pot bring 2 quarts of water and 1 tsp. salt to a boil. Add noodles. Cook for 12-15 minutes or until tender; drain. Toss with 1 Tbsp. butter or margarine and 1 Tbsp. minced parsley.

Serve meatballs and sauce over the noodles.

Notes: When I plan to make the noodles, I start them early in the afternoon. They take up a LOT of counter space, or I will sometimes pull out cookie sheets and transfer the rolled out dough onto them to dry. My dough always takes longer than 20 minutes to "partially dry," too, which is another reason I start early. Perhaps I just let it dry too much :)

Aside from the noodle-making, it only takes maybe 30 minutes to mix up the rest of the recipe if you time everything right (like, don't wait till the meatballs and sauce are done to start the pasta water :P ). Oops :) I was just proof-reading the recipe and realize that I don't usually cover the meatballs and sauce when I cook them. Like most recipes, this one is hard to goof so do whatever floats your boat :)

This post is linked to LifeAsMOM's weekly Ultimate Recipe Swap (or "URS").

Thursday, February 18, 2010

$40 Cash Weekly Grocery Trip 2/17/10

Welcome back for another weekly peek at what I spend our grocery money on :) Call me crazy, but I do have fun sharing this with you every week.

Ahh, it is good to have eggs in the house again! Poor Daniel had (homemade and frozen) pancakes for breakfast 2 mornings in a row. He really prefers an egg sandwich most days. We should have enough eggs now to last a while, unless I go on some crazy baking spree - which may happen, and is why I bought extra eggs this week. They will also keep well if I don't get around to baking.

Here's the goods (Sorry for the poor lighting, the range light bulb blew just as I was going to take the picture!) :

And here's the price break-down:

10lbs. Russet Potatoes - $3.68
Gal. Orange Juice - $2.99
1/2 Gal. Milk - $1.89
(2) Pineapple - $1.99 ea.
(4) 12oz. Buddig Lunch Meat - $1.50 ea.
16oz. LOF Lunch Meat - $1.50
Whole Chicken - $2.87 ($.59/lb)
Pancake Syrup - $3.14
(2) 18ct. Large Eggs - $1.99 ea.
(6) Yoplait Yogurts - $.28 ea.
1.04lb. Ground Beef - $3.90
Apples - $1.78 ($1.00/lb)
Grapes - $.84 ($.88/lb)
Tomatoes - $.87 ($.99/lb)
Bananas - $.94 ($.49/lb)

Shelf Price - $66.28
Total OOP - $39.96
Saved - $26.32 / 40%

Again, this is $10 more than we would normally spend since we're stocking up before March comes, bringing a baby with it :) I used up the last of my coupons for the lunch meat, and I think we're set on that for a while.

I hope to post later in the week how I (plan to) make my own frozen Smoothie Mixes, so stay tuned!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Feb. 15

I have been missing having salads (and fruit!!!) the past week or two!! Mostly because tomatoes didn't fit in the budget. They are on sale this week so I'm eager to have some salads again!!

Monday - Meatball Stroganoff, Green Beans
Tuesday - Taco Salad
Wednesday - Open-Faced Texas Burgers*, Pasta, Vegetable
Thursday - Bacon Cheddar Egg Bake, Fruit Smoothies
Friday - Baked Chicken, Baked Potatoes, Salad
Saturday - Date to Applebee's!!!
Sunday - Pizza, Veggies & Fruit / Stuffed French Toast

*This is a recipe in my latest Taste of Home's Simple and Delicious magazine.

It feels like it's been for-ev-er since Daniel and I went on a "real" date. Mostly due to needing the money in our entertainment category for something else. This week we should have money back in our entertainment envelope, and combining that with a coupon for a free appetizer that we got the last time we were at Applebee's, we should be able to have a very nice date and stay within our budget. I'm so excited!!

I have decided to not attempt grocery shopping on my own this week. This past weekend with the pelvic discomfort I had (yesterday was day #3 in a row, I'm hoping today is not day #4!), I've asked Daniel to go shopping with me Wednesday evening after choir practice. That way he can push the cart and do the loading and unloading of the groceries.

This post is linked to I'm an Organizing Junkie, where everyone shares their menu plans each Monday.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Almost 37 Weeks

Here we are :) Baby George and I. I was waiting for Daniel to get home from work to go to our small group get together so I fiddled around with the camera and timer and got another picture taken finally. It's amazing (to me) the big difference between week 32 and today!! Wow! George is getting big!

I have started my weekly Dr. visits and everything continues to be going really great! This past Monday she (Dr. D) said that the baby's head isn't anywhere near being in the pelvis, but he/she is still head-down.

Baby George now weighs about 6 1/3 lbs. and is approximately 19" long from head to heel. I can tell it must be getting more crowded in there... the kicks and wiggles aren't quite as drastic, more like slow, ploddish movements (but definitely moving around for sure!!). My stomach is starting to feel the squeeze, too. Sometimes it feels like my stomach is being shoved up my throat, and if I could just stretch myself out a bit everything would be good :P

I remain heartburn and reflux free so far! Other things have cropped up, though, that are making the pregnancy a little less enjoyable at times. My feet and ankles swell up like sausages most mornings before I get my shoes on. Thankfully wearing my shoes and being up and about seems to really help the swelling go down. A couple weeks ago I had the hard realization that all shoes but my sneakers are out for the next while. My feet simply will not go in any of my other shoes, sandals or even my flip-flops. Or, if I do manage to squeeze them into a different pair of shoes, my feet pouf out over the tops and look gross. So, if you see me at church on Sunday morning in my Sunday duds and wearing white scuffed up sneakers, well, there ya go :)

Pretty much the only other downside so far with the pregnancy has been considerable discomfort from time to time lately with my pubic bone. So far it doesn't hurt most days, but on the days it does it isn't very fun at all. It really slows me down. I know it's not as bad as it could be (a friend of ours was unable to walk some days because of it) and I try to not do things that seem to trigger it to hurt. I had to learn how to roll over in bed keeping my knees and feet together (it's really hard to do!!), how to get in and out of bed and the car... pretty much any movements that you normally do with your feet or knees NOT together. I've talked to the Dr. about it and she said it's related to round ligament pain as all the muscles connect to the bone at that one place where it hurts.

On a different note, we finally have a boy AND girl name picked out! Woohoo!! No, we aren't telling what those names are, but we both feel ready for a boy OR girl now that we have both names decided on. For a while Daniel wasn't ready to pick out names, then we had the boy name and kinda decided on the girl name but we just weren't quite sure about the girl name, even though we both liked it. It just didn't seem quite right. Then the other day we both thought of the exact same name and knew it was the right one :)

It is interesting to listen to people's comments about my pregnancy. One day a lady said I was still carrying very high. The very next day my MIL declared that the baby has dropped (Daniel and I don't think so). Some people say I'm carrying "out front," others say "all over." So far only one person has said they think it's a girl, though. Many people ask me what I think the baby is, and really and honestly I do not have any idea except that it's a baby and it's either a boy or a girl! I have tried very hard to not let other's ideas influence my own as I don't want to get attached to the baby as one gender and then having to adjust to it being the other. That's the whole point in not finding out what the baby is, so we can be surprised :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Getting Ready for Baby

I have a mental list of things I want and need to do before our little bitty arrives (the time keeps getting closer and closer!!). I think hitting the 36 week mark and realizing that we only have "about" 4 weeks left was a big motivator to get some of those things taken care of :P I wasn't specifically dragging my feet or putting things off, I just hadn't "gotten around" to them yet. This week I've put non-essentials (everything but food and laundry) on hold and accomplished some of those things! And each time I get one of those things done, I feel more "ready" for the baby to be born.

Daniel has been working on the nursery painting project. His company took a snow day yesterday (first one that I know of) and he made good headway. We hope to have everything painted by the end of this week. I originally started out helping with the detail work, like cutting in and painting the trim, but one day of that and my body didn't like it one bit. So I'm letting him do all that and I'm working on the other stuff :)

I really really hope I have the nursing bra purchasing taken care of. It really stinks, ya know, because I FINALLY found a regular bra that I like, so whenever I'd need to purchase new ones I could just walk in and pull some off the rack. Now I have to go through it all over again, purely guessing at what size I'm gonna need, having no clue of what I "want" in a nursing bra, etc. I went to Target first (several friends recommended them) but just didn't like their options. That experience helped me know better what I want/don't want, so I guess it was a good thing... Anyway, I've recently read some blog reviews praising the Bravado Nursing Bras so I checked them out. I really like the way their bras "work" so I ordered a couple pair in a few different sizes. Whew-wee, was that a chunk-o-change, but if they are as good as the reviews say they are (good support, comfort, etc.), and if they fit, they should be worth every penny. Hopefully an investment that will last more than 1 kid, too.

Our Chicco Travel System arrived today!! Granted, it's still in the box, out in the snow, waiting for Daniel to get home and carry the monster, 50lb. package inside, but now we can legally and safely transport our little peanut around :P We took advantage of a 15% off sale, free shipping, plus gift cards and were able to get it for a lot less than full price. Different people offered us the use of theirs, and we considered those options, but I really felt like I would be more comfortable knowing my baby is in something with the latest and greatest as far as safety. (I didn't know until recently that car seats have expiration dates?) And we felt that by getting brand new, it should easily remain up-to-date as far as safety for multiple kids (assuming we'll have more than one).

Finding a pediatrician is another thing on my list. I asked around among our friends with wee bairns and have found one that I think we'll like. I still need to call their office and talk with them and do whatever you do to set up a Dr. for your unborn baby, but I'm relieved to know I at least have one picked out!!

Uncle Sam... ahh. Taxes. That is one thing that I for sure wanted to have completely done, finished and filed before the end of February. I have a strong haunch that if I wouldn't get them done, heh-heh, I would NOT feel like doing them with a newborn on my hands AND learning how to be a mama!! We finally got the last of the information last week and yesterday afternoon I finished getting everything together and organized. Now I just need to set up a time with my MIL to get together and do them (Daniel's parents "share" their Turbo-Tax with us).

I haven't done a lot more freezer cooking, I think I have 5 meals worth of stuff in the freezer? I'm not super worried about food for the month of March because my MOPS group will be supplying several meals, and our Sunday School class always covers about 2 weeks worth of meals. Between those two and the food I've cooked up ahead of time, I don't think we'll be hungry at all. I do need to focus on stocking the freezer with bread, breakfast things (At least for myself. I'm sure Daniel will continue with his daily egg sandwich breakfast), and snacky things like muffins, granola bars and cookies that Daniel can put in his lunch box. Yesterday I made a batch of pancakes and froze the leftovers, and today I made a batch of (24) banana nut muffins to freeze. I have a bag of cranberries in the freezer that I need to use, and I'm thinking cranberry muffins or bread. I plan to make another batch of regular bread tomorrow (I made 2 loaves yesterday) to start the bread stockpile.

We still have plenty to do before the baby comes. Like finishing the thank-you notes for the gifts we've received so far, sorting through and washing the baby clothes that my sisters are loaning us, packing my hospital bag, and of course I'd love to have the house completely spic and span :P For the most part I feel like if the baby would decide to make an early appearance, we would survive just fine. Ok, I would like to get the nursery painted and the crib set up first, but after that...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Weekly Grocery Trip 2/9/10

This week I kinda went all over to get the groceries. When you're stretching the dollar as far as you possibly can, you have to go where the goods are the cheapest :)

From Food Lion, Kroger and WalMart:
(2) Whipped Topping - $2.83 (for both)
1/2 gal. Milk - $1.59
1 gal. Orange Juice - $2.99
Romain Lettuce - $1.00 (markdown)
Vanilla Flavoring - $.98
(2) Instant Lemon Pudding - $.82 ea.
Cocoa - $2.84
Lettuce - $1.55
Peppercorns - $3.32
Bread Flour - $2.14
3.5lbs. 93% Lean Ground Beef - $9.80
2.12lbs. Ripe Bananas - $.82 ($.39/lb markdown)
2lb. Chuck Roast - $5.23 ($2.49/lb)
Apple - $.75
Lemon - $.48
18ct. Eggs - $2.49

Shelf Price - $48.16
Total OOP - $41.11
Saved - $7.05

This week I had $40 (plus $1+ left from last week) to spend instead of the usual $30, since we've upped the Feb. budget a bit to be able to make and freeze some things ahead of time for the month of March when I won't be up to cooking and baking very much.

I also got stuff today to make dessert (pies) for our small group meeting on Friday. I'm planning to try a new recipe for a lemon pie - it looks fabulous in the picture, I'm hoping it tastes as good as it looks :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Feb. 8

Yay! I finally have a menu plan for this week :)

Monday - Chicken BBQ, Baked Potatoes, Green Beans
Tuesday - BBQ Beans & Hamburger, Cornbread (both leftover)
Wednesday - Chicken Pot Pie, Jello Salad
Thursday - Roast Beef, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans (leftover from Monday)
Friday - Small group meeting, taking dessert (Banana Split stuff??)
Saturday - Plantation Supper, Salad
Sunday - Leftovers/Cereal/Pancakes ?

Nothing super exciting or new, but it should all be good and filling :) I had some of the days figured out before today and just had to sit down and come up with the filler items. Now I need to start thinking ahead for next week :)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

On a cold, snowy day like today, nothing beats snuggling up with a good book (or blog) and a mug of hot chocolate :) To "sweeten" the deal you can even make your own chocolate syrup! I haven't compared prices, but I'm very confidant saying that it is certainly cheaper than buying store-bought.

Growing up we kids learned to make chocolate syrup early on. It was a staple in our kitchen, to the point that one didn't often need to refer to the recipe book to make this recipe. It really is quite simple, only takes a couple minutes to make, and tastes great!

In a 2 quart, heavy saucepan combine the sugar, cocoa and cream of tarter.
Whisk in 2 cups of water. (You have to whisk it a bit to get the cocoa powder mixed in even this well.)
Bring the syrup to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Please note that the syrup does expand and will run out of the pan if you're not careful! You have to stand and watch it like a hawk and may even need to lift the pan off the burner to prevent boil-over.
Once the 10 minutes are up, remove from heat and add salt and vanilla. Cool the syrup, pour into desired container and keep refrigerated. Enjoy!

I store mine in a 1 quart Rubbermaid container like this:

I will add that this is sweeter and more chocolatey than Hershey's Syrup, so when making a glass or mug of chocolate milk you don't need to use as much to get the same flavor. Also, if you use real vanilla, you might want to add only 1 tsp., then taste and see if you want to add more. This last time I made it I used Watkins instead of the normal store-brand imitation and the vanilla flavor is much stronger than my liking. I think I will cut it back next time.

Chocolate Syrup

2 cups sugar
1 cup Cocoa
1/4 tsp. Cream of Tarter
2 cups water
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. Vanilla

Combine sugar, cocoa, cream of tarter and water in a 2 quart, heavy saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 10 minutes without stirring (watch carefully so it doesn't boil over!).

Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla. Cool, pour into storage container and store in the refrigerator.

This post is linked to Life As Mom and The Grocery Cart Challenge.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Gardening on the Brain

Just a couple weeks ago the weather was warm and spring-feeling. It certainly got me thinking about the garden! I'm beginning to wonder, though, how soon we'll be able to do this:

When we keep getting this!!:

This past Saturday we had another snow-storm dump a nice 14" on us. It is absolutely beautiful and Daniel and I both love winter and snow :) We haven't had snow like this since we've been married, and supposedly it's been quite a bit longer than that since our area has had 2 big snow falls in one winter.

With the incredibly wet November (Yay! We were sooooo dry.), more rain and 18" of snow in December, another 14" of snow this past weekend and calling for more rain/snow this weekend/next week... I'm not sure we'll be getting into the garden as early as I'd hoped. Goes to show why you should never base your plans on what the weather is "usually" like!

I would like to plant peas this year (we missed last year and have missed having peas in the freezer) and because our springs/summers usually get so hot so fast, we have to plant them pretty early so they have a chance to mature and bear before the heat gets them. The last week of February was the till and plant date I was hoping for, no later than the 2nd week of March. Our soil does not drain very well, and even though our garden is at the top of our property, it can stay saturated in some areas for quite a while. We will just have to wait and see :) We have planted peas in mud before, perhaps we'll just do it again this year!

How about you, are you getting your gardening ducks in a row yet? Perhaps this will be your first year or you've done it for as long as you can remember. Feel free to ask questions or share tips in the comments section! I love to hear what my readers are up to :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Menu Plan Monday ~ Feb. 1... or not??

Sigh, another week of "or not." It just didn't happen for this week. Yet. Not giving up hope. And it's not like I haven't had time to menu plan. I mean, our church services were cancelled Sunday so I certainly could've put one together then in plenty of time for this week.

Once again I've been up late the past THREE night's now. Sunday night was my own fault. Daniel was out working service calls and we spent some time together after he got home. Then I wasn't able to sleep one single wink (it seemed, I'm sure I dozed) that night for some reason unknown to man and I felt zombie-ish Monday. Monday night and last night it was after mid-night till we got to bed. When it rains it pours, and 2 different couples from church had their heat go out. Daniel was trying to get them up and running again and I'd gone along with him both times (more "us time" together :) ).

The menu for this week so far has been:

Monday - Frozen Chic. Wings and Ore-Ida French Fries that Daniel got for Christmas
Tuesday - Frozen Pizza and Salad
Wednesday - I think I might actually "make" something this evening. Hmm, what should it be? Maybe Chicken and Rice Casserole and a vegetable.

One thing that doesn't make it easier is that when it snows so much, the trek to the freezers is very "awkward with a chance of tipsy" for me in my pregnant state, so I try to avoid going down there if I possibly can when I can't see the ground or makeshift cinder block steps I'm stepping on. If I was not pregnant I'd grab the shovel and clear a path (Daniel hasn't had time to), but yeah... at this stage muscles I never knew existed make themselves well known if I attempt anything like that :)

So that's our menu for this week so far :) Today I'm cooking up the chicken I bought yesterday to chop up or shred. I'll either freeze it as cooked chicken or I might make BBQ. That will be another main dish in the freezer for when our little bambino arrives and Mama doesn't feel like cooking :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Weekly Grocery Trip 2/2/2010

I'm sorry this is a bit late :) It's been a full day for me. Doing laundry and getting my grocery list/coupons together this morning, a bunch of errands while I was out, and then we were gone all evening so Daniel could help some friends get their heat back on (success!).

Welcome back to another week of displaying my grocery shopping loot :) Kroger was having a 2nd week of their Mega Events (Football) sale, so of course I took advantage of it! AND managed to stay under budget :)

I did have $40 today for our grocery budget (usually it is $30/week). Daniel and I decided that since the month of March is going to be pretty adventerous (with the baby due the beginning of March), I should go ahead and use some of March's budget each week to be able to stock up/make things ahead of time.

That said, here is what (almost) $40 got me today:

* = Mega Event item

1/2 gal. Milk - $1.89
Dr. Pepper & Pepsi 12pk. - $3.00 ea.
*Lay's - $1.78
*(4) 8oz. Kraft Cheese - $.49 ea.
*(8) Cream Cheese - $.75 ea.
*(2) 12oz. Armour Meatballs - $1.44 ea.
Bread Flour - $2.14
Stacy's Pita Chips - FREE (with coupon from fanning Stacy's on Facebook)
(2) OJ Concentrate - $1.68 ea.
*(2) Rotel - FREE
(2) 12oz. Buddig Deli Meats - $1.50 ea.
Split Chic. Breasts - $2.85 ($.98/lb.)
Celery - $1.63
Bananas - $.93 ($.48/lb.)
Lettuce - $1.55
Onions - $1.28
1lb. Carrots - $1.18

Shelf Price - $89.23
Total OOP - $38.33
Saved - $50.90 / 57%

Only 17 of the Mega Event items are pictured. I did get 20 total, but one thing was toilet paper (which comes from our Misc. budget) and my MIL had asked me to pick up 2 boxes of Raisin Bran for her. These items are not figured into my totals.