Monday, March 29, 2010

Menu plan Monday!

We are working hard on saving money on groceries this week (by the way, flour is on sale, yay for stocking up!) so we're having a little less meat than usual this week. Which is always a good thing.

Sunday: (leftover) steak and eggs, fruit

Monday: Skillet macaroni and cheese (Weight Watchers recipe!), broccoli

Tuesday: Progresso soup and turkey and cheese sandwiches

Wednesday: Hamburger helper, stir-fry vegetables

Thursday: Grilled pork, cucumber, rolls or pasta, possibly fruit (if there's any left!)

Friday: Shrimp...??? (The only reason I don't have a recipe picked out is because I haven't looked, but I do know we're having shrimp something! Probably Weight Watchers too.)

Happily, none of the meat we're eating was bought today, when we did our grocery shopping, so we're cooking solely out of the freezer! Also happily there was a lot of great produce sales, so we stocked up on fruits and veggies and are planning on eating healthy for most meals this week!

As always, Menu Plan Monday is brought to you by!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I'm an organizing maniac

If you know me, then you know that I love to be organized. If you know my mom, you know where I got that trait from! I've been following for a while now, and love all her tips, tricks and ideas, but unfortunately for me, I don't have a lot of use for them just yet. Since I just moved into the townhouse here, and Geoff hadn't been in it long enough to disorganize it completely, there isn't a lot of organizing necessary...not yet anyway. I'm sure that will come.
I remember the first time I realized I was actually a neat person (by neat, I mean clean, not cool, though I do like to think I'm that too! But I digress). It was when we moved into the house my parents live in now, and I finally got my own room. After sharing a room of comprable size for most of my life, having the whole room to myself was amazing! I immediately set to organizing, cleaning and keeping it clean. That is when I discovered how much I love to organize!

One of my favorite stores (which I have yet to actually visit, just checked it out online!) is The Container Store. For a self-proclaimed organizing maniac, this place is heaven! Like I said, I have yet to actually visit a store, but I'm hoping that will change soon! (Bear with me, I am going somewhere with this!)
Yesterday I started volunteering for the youth group, Big House, at the church Geoff and I are members of. This is not a new volunteer experience for me; I did it when I was back in Massachusetts and loved it. It was the perfect fix of teens that I think I always needed. Now, between searching for jobs as a teen librarian, I needed that fix again! So I volunteered for the youth group. Little did I know that it could go beyond just helping at La Mesa on Wednesday nights (by the way, last night was my first night and it was so much fun!)
Robert, the youth leader, has a problem. He has too much to do, not enough time, and (willingly) gave up his intern budget for the spring, so he also has no help. His office is a mess, and he worries that people will perceive his ministry as a mess too...something it is far from, I can assure you!
I have a problem too. I have nothing to organize and I'm home all day! Perfect! Today I'm going to Robert's office to find an organizing system that works for him, and organizing that office to make it a place he actually wants to bring parents and teens into! Best of all, he still has a little room in his budget for necessities like filing cabinets. It's heaven for me...there's money to organize and plenty to do! I can't wait to get started!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Menu plan Monday and a first month of budgets

I've been slacking in the blogging department, but in my defense, we had a friend visiting and Geoff's birthday to celebrate, so I've been spending less time on the computer in general. Which isn't always a bad thing!

Here is this week's menu plan, as always brought to you by!

Monday: Shrimp scampi, breadcrumb and spinach salad
Tuesday: Grilled steak, pasta, grilled zucchini
Wednesday: Grilled chicken, mashed potatoes and fruit
Thursday: Hamburger helper, broccoli
Friday: Soup and sandwiches
Saturday: Night out!

This week I'm attempting to use up what we have in the freezer and also buy meat when it's on sale. It's something I know I should have been doing all along, but it's difficult to make so many changes at once. This week's grocery bill was the lowest we've had all month, and look what we're having! Steak, shrimp, hamburger...I'm thrilled!

This was also the first month we attempted to get a regular budget going. Based on a number of factors, we have determined that $250 a month is what we're going to start out at. Every Sunday we go grocery shopping and I've been keeping track of our spending for food. This month we came out about $30 under budget, but since there are 5 weeks in March I just added it to April's budget. All in all, I'm happy with how it worked out, and though it's only been a month I'm glad to be sticking to the budget so far!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Space Needle and the Zoo!

Remember when I got the Entertainment book? Well, I am pleased to say that it has not only paid for itself in just a few short weeks, but it provided entertainment for our friend's Spring Break visit this week!
Kim introduced Geoff and I, and we are eternally grateful! She's still in school and decided to come visit us for her break this past week. Thanks to the Entertainment book we were able to visit a small local zoo and the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum in Seattle this week...for half off!

Since the museums are right next to the Space Needle, we decided also to go up there and take a look. It was my first time up and, as you can see from this picture, it was a typical Seattle day...cloudy and drizzly! But it was still a lot of fun, and a nice view all the same.

Yesterday the sun came out and we were able to really enjoy the zoo! It was a small zoo in the town we live in, but it was a lot of fun and there were plenty of animals there to amuse us! It was also nice to get out and spend a bit of time in the sun and fresh air.

I'm a sucker for feeding animals when it's an option. This mule deer was thrilled to eat the pellets the zoo provided!
As were the emus in the next picture. They were really funny as they'd peck at my hand (without hurting, they don't have teeth of course!)

It was a very fun day!

Monday, March 15, 2010

The usefulness of Freecycle

I definitely underestimate what a great resource I have in Freecycle. When I was in Alabama I got a few things from Freecycle and got rid of more, though most of my large furniture I was trying to tell on Craigslist. But I don't think I use Freecycle as often as I could!

Geoff and I are trying to save up for a new couch and loveseat set, but we just haven't made it yet. I don't like the couch he had when I moved in; it's from Target and flattens down to a twin bed. Unfortunately it also has a bar right down the middle that hurts when you both lie and sit on it! It's perfect for the office/guest room, but I wanted it OUT of the living room!

So when a love seat appeared on Freecycle, I jumped right on it! Since they were right around the corner from us, the owners even offered to deliver it, because neither of our cars were big enough to get it. I was thrilled, to say the least. This new one, which even the cat loves, will serve to hold us off from getting a new couch for just a little longer.

I even tested it's nap-ability out. I had an excellent nap on it yesterday!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Nothing says unemployed like a thrift store puzzle!

This past week, in an effort to get out of the house and explore, I visited a small thrift store in my town. I've been looking for a small bench for our entry way, and also a standing coat rack for the coats we use most often and thought this store might have something I could use. Alas, it didn't have what I was looking for, but it did have an excellent puzzle for $1! There were several options, so I figured if I like this one, I'll take it back (this store takes donations too) and get another one. They also have several old board games like Life and Mall Madness for under $5 that I thought I might check out next time. Nothing like some cheap entertainment!
By the way, I've done all that on the puzzle since Thursday! With no help from Geoff, because he's not that interested, but plenty of help from the cat. She's a little too interested!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Food Waste Friday

It was not a good week for food waste for us, I'm ashamed to admit. However, I did learn some valuable lessons this week, and hope to prevent further waste next week!

I'm very distressed to report that I had to throw out cheese this week. I LOVE cheese, and the fact that this one got moldy is an indication of just how long it's been around, because cheese takes forever to mold. Unfortunately, this cheese is pepperjack, and I don't like that type of cheese. I tried to use it on Geoff, but apparently forgot about it, so it went bad. Have no fear, there will most likely be no more cheese here anymore because typically I use it all up very quickly!

I'm even more distressed, no, embarrassed, to show you this next photo.

I'm embarrassed because that is a lot of salad that we didn't eat. The problem is, lettuce goes bad too quickly and for some reason I bought the family size of lettuce. I had good intentions when I did buy it, but apparently they didn't make it very far. The bottom container has leftover salad that never made it with Geoff to work, or to be eaten by me.
The top container has vegetables and broth in it, and it's from before we were married 2 months ago. In cleaning out the freezer I found it, defrosted it and sent it with Geoff for lunch one day, but he came back saying that it just wasn't that great. Apparently the freezing, defrosting and reheating of the vegetables really left something to be desired. Since I learned recently from The Frugal Girl that if you don't enjoy something there's no sense in forcing yourself to keep eating it, it went into the compost. Along with that lettuce, but not the cheese, of course.

I'm really hoping that next week is better for us!
Go to The Frugal Girl's site to see more food waste that is hopefully less than ours!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Baby fever

I don't want kids right now. Not at the moment, but someday. We've only been married two months and we dated long distance for so long that it's nice to actually have time with the two of us. A baby would throw that out the window. Not to mention the fact that I'm unemployed and while financially we are alright, we are not financially ready for children.

Phew, now that I've laid out the logical thinking, lets get down to the illogical. I want a baby. No, mostly I want to be pregnant. Maybe it's because I'm bored, maybe it's because I'm looking at a lot of friends with kids...friends who have been married at least over a year, though, often longer. Or maybe because I've been thinking about this since high school.

My best friend and I became obsessed with being pregnant some time in the middle of high school. I'm not exactly sure why, but we read about it, talked about it and, as a result, I knew much more about being pregnant than the average high school junior. Of course it's easy to dream when neither of us had a boyfriend, not to mention any prospects. Fast forward to now. I'm in a committed relationship and it would be perfectly reasonable if, next month, I told my parents that I'm pregnant. Perfectly reasonable, and yet completely illogical. See paragraph number one in this post!

The most frustrating thing about being married is baby fever. Combating the desire to get pregnant and have a baby, something that is hardwired in me in a way I never even realized before I got married, is proving to be more difficult than I ever thought.

So, what now? I have no idea. Now I wait, enjoy time with my husband, and hope for a job that will occupy my time.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sourdough pizza!

It doesn't quite look it from the picture, but the sourdough pizza was a huge hit! It barely made it to lunch the next day, actually! Lets just say we attempted a Margarita pizza and learned a lesson! But that's later. First, the recipe!

Like I explained in my previous sourdough post, you will need a basic sourdough starter to make this recipe. Aside from that, it was not all that different from any other pizza dough. It required a little more rising than normal, but since we were making it on a Saturday we had all day to worry about that.

Here is the before picture...

For our next attempt at a Margarita pizza, I think we need to cook the dough and sauce for about 10-15 minutes alone, then add the cheese for the last 5-10. Well, we learned for next time!

2 cups cold liquid culture
4 3/4 cups white flour (unbleached works best)
1 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix the liquid culture with 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup water in a large mixing bowl. This is the working culture. Proof 12 hours at room temperature or 6 hours in a proofing box (for us, this is the oven with the light on, but we usually leave it out on the counter overnight, covered in a light dishtowel.)

Add 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of the water. Mix and knead until smooth. Proof 8 hours at room temperature or 4 hours in the proofing box.

Punch down. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup water, the salt and the oil. Add to the dough and mix well. Reserve 1 cup of the flour for flouring the board. Mix and spoon knead the remaining 1 3/4 cups flour into the dough 1 cup at a time. (Note, that the dough will be really sticky, so more flour as you knead may be necessary)
When too stiff to mix by hand, transfer to floured board and knead in any remaining flour.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts and form each into a ball. Roll out each ball into a 12-13 inch round about 1/8 inch thick.
(The recipe suggests several different ways of cooking the pizza, but we prefer to make the round dough on the pizza stone, because it cooks best that way)
Proof 1 1/2 hours at room temperature or 45 minutes in proofing box.

Preheat oven to 475 degrees. Add toppings to dough rounds. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the edges of the crusts are brown.

Note that this recipe creates 4 pizzas, about 3 more than we needed! So instead, we have 1 pizza and 3 balls of dough in the freezer, ready to go for next week's pizza night!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Census workers

At home full-time, I get very bored and, unfortunately, watch a lot of TV. I have started to notice that there are certain types of commercials on TV, depending on what channel you're watching.

1. Motor scooters and other elderly ads. These ads are clearly directed at elderly, retired people who are mostly homebound.
2. ITT Tech and University of Phoenix ads. These are directed toward people who are between jobs and maybe careers, and therefore could benefit from going back to school.
3. Baby products, clearly designed for the stay at home mom (not me)
4. Census workers needed

Of all of these, only the latter applies to me, of course. Between these commercials and a call from my mother today, I decided to do something I'd been considering for a little bit. I'm applying to be a census worker. On Monday I'll go down and take a very simple test, get interviewed and, with any luck, get out of the house and make a little money at the same time!

At first I was a little hesitant about doing this, but days on end of boredom have cured me of that! In addition, the census only comes around once every 10 years, and in 2020 I may not have the chance to do it again. Plus, it's interesting, and something to talk about. But I think the biggest bonus is a little more money, and getting out of the house. There is no guarantee that I will get the job, of course, but we will see how it goes on Monday.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Food Waste Friday

(almost) Every week I try to post my food waste from the week! Inspired by The Frugal Girl, I am trying to reduce my waste and save money at the same time!

This week I'm a little ashamed to admit that this first photo is from before we were married...two months ago!

This was refrigerator bran muffins that are supposed to be kept in the fridge for 2 months. Well, we obviously kept it a little longer than that. Oops. I pulled them out to make muffins for breakfast and discovered that was not an option! Luckily we had used most of it up, and there were probably only about 6 muffins left in the batter.

Another victim of food waste this week was a potato that I did not get a picture of, unfortunately. I did manage to save most of the potatoes by making them into mashed potatoes, freezing them in muffin cups and saving each individual serving for later use! I'm especially excited about that. Anyway, several of the potatoes had eyes that I could cut out, but this one was a little moldy on the tip and I didn't want to deal with it. So I chopped it up and into the compost it went, along with the other potato peelings, of course.

All in all, a good week for us, I think!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ten years and cross stitch

Deborah, from Mom's Sanity is Making a Comeback posted this and I thought it would be interesting to think about. Where will YOU be in 10 years?

1. I will be 37, oh wow.
2. Geoff will be 34.
3. We will hopefully own a house (at least be making payments on it!)
4. We will probably have a couple kids.
5. We may or may not be still in this city, but I like to think we'll still be in Washington. I like it up here.
6. We will have been married 10 years!
7. I will hopefully be working as a YA librarian somewhere.
8. Hermione should still be around, at about 11, and we'll probably have a dog at that point.
9. My sister will most likely be married and I might have a niece/nephew! Now that's a scary thought.
10. I hope to have my weight under control, even after a few kids.
11. Geoff will hopefully have his masters in something that makes him happy!

Now it's your turn! Where will you be in 10 years? Feel free to comment or post on your own blog but let me know because I'm curious!

One of the things I use to keep myself from going crazy all day is cross stitch. I go in phases with when I want to work on it, but since I was in school I didn't have time to do it. So I've been going a little crazy since I got out!
I'm working on this for Geoff. It's a symbol from World of Warcraft, the online game he likes to play. I've been working on it since, oh, 2008, off and on, but I feel like I'm finally getting somewhere! Here is a progress picture, along with a picture of what it will look like when done, because I'm sure you, like me, have no idea what it is!

The bottom left corner is what I've been working on most recently. (Hermione wanted to get in the picture too!)

Here is what it will be someday...when it grows up! Without a job and at the rate I'm going, it might be finished this year! Of course I hope that I will get a job, but it would be nice to finish this, finally.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sourdough Starter

I have had several requests for more information on the sourdough pizza dough that we are planning for Saturday night. I did not expect this, but I'm thrilled to tell you more about sourdough!

It takes about 24 hours to prep sourdough for using, but the prep really only takes a few minutes every 12 hours. We have two types of sourdough (with another coming in the mail!) The first pictured, Geoff's blend, was made by my husband. It doesn't take much to make your own sourdough, by the way, and the interesting thing about that is that we could have Geoff's blend for 50 years and pass it onto our kids! Some sourdoughs are heirloom like that.
The other sourdough, which we typically use for pancakes, is called Yukon. It came from Sourdoughs International, and was a gift last year for Geoff's birthday from his mom. I really like this site because it has a lot of different sourdoughs, and describes which is best used for what. We have had pancakes with both Geoff's and Yukon, but like it best with the Yukon, for example.

Geoff does the sourdough prepping. Typically he'll take the sourdough out of the refrigerator, pour it into a bowl, and feed it (add flour and water). The sourdough warms to room temperature, gets all bubbly and active again (it rests in the cold while waiting to be used). We try to use it once a week, to keep it "active". Also, that way it takes less time to get it ready to be used when you use it more often.

Most recipes call for between 1/4 and a cup of sourdough starter. We normally throw some away (otherwise it'll overflow in the fridge!) and save a bit for next time!

Coming soon...sourdough pizza crust! Stay tuned!

Monday, March 1, 2010

I won a blogger award!

Mrs. Bushey, from The Bushey Life was sweet enough to give me this award! Thank you, it made my day!

Here are the rules: Make a list of 10 things that make your day and give this award to 10 bloggers.

1. Cross stitching
2. This award, haha!
3. Starbucks
4. Dr. Pepper
5. Hearing the garage door open, which means my husband is home
6. Being able to open the windows and get fresh air in the house
7. Clean sheets
8. How I feel after working out...glad I went! (It's not always easy to go though!)
9. A clean house
10. Scrapbooking

I really struggled with who I wanted to award this award to, to pass it on. To be honest, since I've just started blogging, I don't know 10 people to award it to! I finally decided to just pass on this, and please don't think I'm not participating out of laziness! This took me by surprise, and I spent most of my weekend trying to figure out what to do about it.
So, thank you Mrs. Bushey, and thank you all for understanding.

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