Thursday, September 30, 2010

Week 2 & 3 of September Goals

Well, I struggled last week with meeting my goals - not really sure what happened, and I don't like to make excuses, so instead of beating myself up about it (which defeats the point!), I just moved them to Week 3. No biggie - I'm really only doing this to focus on what's important to me and to keep myself moving in the directions I want to move. Thanks to letting myself off the hook, I've made good progress:

Family/ friends - implement weekly family night done - it's Thursdays!
Health - increasing exercise - done! signed up for three weekly classes
Personal - create a master to do list - always ongoing, but the list is in my notebook
Work - travel article - complete and submitted to associated content
Home - clean up my herb garden and porch - in process, I'll post about what I've done there tomorrow

So, pretty successful overall!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dinner and a Movie - $20!!!

Today you can get a great deal on dinner and a movie:

At Citydeals do a search for Buca di Beppo/ movie deal. Right now, you can get a $20 gift card to the restaurant and two free movie tickets! Since I love to go to the movies for free, I snapped this deal right up. Buca often has $10 off $20 coupons in the paper, so I'm going to keep an eye out for those - if this is truly a gift card, no reason we couldn't use the coupon also. That would easily cover dinner for two and a movie!!!

Check it out - I see a fun date night coming up soon. If Eat,Pray,Love was still in the theatre that would be a fun night - Italy and Italian!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

It's Monday - I'm on time this week!

Monday - Subway sandwiches (not the best, but not the worst fast food)
Tuesday - grilled fish, fresh green beans, homemade chutney
Wednesday - date night (pizza for the kids)
Thursday - sausage and cabbage (didn't get to it last week)
Friday - SIL's house
Saturday - chili, cornbread
Sunday - pulled pork in crockpot, cornbread, pickles

Check out more menu plans at Organizing Junkie

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Where did the week go?

Wow! What a busy week. I had plans everyday to post about:

- my weekly goals and the progress (or lack thereof) that I've made
- our mini vacation to a nearby city
- fall outings on the cheap
- some fun new recipes

So, next week I'll try to catch up. In the meantime, one fun fall idea is the apple orchard. We go EVERY year and buy up a ton of apples for baking, storing and just plain eating. The weather was perfect today - sunny and seventy - so we spent the afternoon wandering the orchard and trying a wide variety of apples! I'm even going to try my hand at canning since I'm out of freezer space. We'll see how it goes . . .

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

A day late, but better late than never right?

Tuesday - fish tacos (my favorite and since Alaskan cod is on sale at Whole Foods!)
Wednesday - date night
Thursday - chicken noodle soup (w/ homemade broth); sourdough bread
Friday - hamburger zucchini stir fry (from Family Feasts for $75 a Week)
Saturday - out or sausage & cabbage (from same cookbook)
Sunday - chicken stir fry over brown rice

Often if I need some inspiration for my meal plans, I'll sit down with a cookbook or two and select a few new (or old favorite) recipes. That's what I did this week. It's actually quite fun for me - I love reading (and collecting cookbooks). I haven't made either of the recipes from this cookbook yet, but I love the style of writing, they sound delicious and I have all the ingredients on hand!

If you'd like more menu ideas, visit Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Yummy "healthier" chocolate cupcakes!

Well, my daughter asked for chocolate cupcakes. Being the nice mom I am I told her I'd make some. I pulled a box from the shelf and took a look at the ingredient list - uh oh - goes so against the way we are trying to eat these days. So, I pulled out my cookbooks, looked at a few different receipes and came up with the following . . . and WOW, they are better than I thought they would be! I even ate one with my morning coffee for a mid-morning treat. The only thing I wasn't thrilled with was the white suger. I would normally substitute honey, but I didn't have enough on hand.

Chocolate cupcakes

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 T flaxseed
1 and 1/2 cups sugar (or try honey if you have it)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (best quality you can afford)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt
3 large eggs (lightly beaten)
3/4 c. coconut oil (melted)
2 cups finely shredded zucchini

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour cupcake tins (made 18 normal sized)
2. Combine all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Add eggs and beat in, then do the same with the oil. Fold in zucchini. The batter will be a bit "chunky."
3. Spoon into prepared muffin tins. Bake about 25 minutes - until fork comes out clean.

Cool and eat plain (as I did) or ice with your favorite frosting.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Tees for Change - $13 or less

Today Jasmere has a great new product - but just until noon! Sustainable Tees for Change! You can purchase a $13 (or less if more people purchase them) voucher which will net you a free tee. I really like the message tees! I may purchase a voucher for a friend - it would be a cute gift.

Mini Vacations

It's been a busy first few months of school - more so for my husband than myself I think. We've decided to take off for the weekend with some friends to a nearby city. This is a trip that we take as a family every fall and they've decided to tag along.

Although the city is only an hour and a half away, by staying in a hotel (sharing an affordable 2 bedroom suite at a Staybridge), doing "vacation" things - festival, restaurant meals, local zoo, this trip always feels like a real getaway. In past years we've come home very relaxed.

We joke with our friends that this is the "year of the vacation." And, truth be told, it has been. We've managed at least a weekend away almost every month. We've made some fun memories without spending a fortune.

I've shared some tips in the past, but since this trip is with friends, our spending patters will be different. I'll be sure to share some cost saving ideas next week when we return!

Oh, and tonight is our first "official" family fun night. We do family stuff all the time, but I thought the kids would enjoy a weekly tradition, and Thursday is typically our light night - plus, it will make the weekend feel like it's starting earlier. If the weather is nice we are going to play putt putt (thanks to a great Groupon deal I purchased a few weeks ago). If it's raining, it will be board games and popcorn!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Week 2 September goals

Well, I was pretty successful last week on my weekly goals. I completed everything except for weeding out my pantry. I'll continue to work on that as I have time.

Family/ Friends - implement weekly family night
Health - schedule regular exercise
Personal - create a master "to do" list
Work - write a travel article
Home - clean up my herb garden and finish off the porch

Some of these are items I informally do already (family night, exercise, to do list), but am not super consistent with. Others are things I want to get done, but never seem to get around to . . . so this is my week to get around to them!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

We are hopefully going out of town this weekend, so an abbreviated menu plan is in force:

Monday - eggplant casserole, spaghetti with parmesan
Tuesday - brat patties, green beans, homemade rolls
Wednesday - date night
Thursday - stuffed poblano's (new experiment - they looked great at the farmer's market Saturday)
Friday & Saturday - out of town
Sunday - pizza

Check out Organizing Junkie for more great menus!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The weekend already

Wow, where did the week go? I feel very "behind" this week. You know that feeling? You are always "running" to get things done so you can move on down your list.

So, I've decided that as I don't want to live my life in a rush, I'm going to "take a breather" today. Did I accomplish everything on my list? NO! Will I? NO - and that's okay.

Beginning at 3:30 today (when the bus drops my daughter off), I'm opting out of the rest of my to do list. I figure it won't matter if the house isn't perfectly cleaned today, it won't matter if I didn't finish every "to do" on my list - we aren't going to lose our home because I didn't get stamps today . . . instead, I'm going to literally throw away the list and enjoy my weekend. Maybe if it rains and I feel like doing some cleaning I will, but not because I have to, just because I want to.

The weather is perfect, so maybe we'll go to the apple orchard, or just hang out around the fire pit in the backyard. I've got some limes in the basement - maybe I'll make up a fruity drink and call the neighbors over to chat while we watch our kids play in the cul de sac. Who knows? I do know that I'm more likely to remember a fun fall weekend spent with my family and friends than a clean house, organized closet or perfectly synchronized schedule.

So I declare this a weekend of fun! Feel free to join me!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Plans for Week 1 September

So, as mentioned last week, I'm working on one item this week for each of my "focus" areas. Here are my plans:

Family/ Friends - plan one on one time with each kid
Health - make a list of proposed "diet changes"
Personal - create a list of books I'd like to read
Work - update and schedule next steps for my "to do" list
Home - clean out the pantry

I think this is manageable - as I've thought of new things I'd like to do, I've simply added them to a "master list" so I won't forget about it when I have some free time. So far, I've finished my work list and started the diet and personal lists. We'll see how it goes and I'll update next week as to progress and week 2 goals.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

A day late this week, but a yummy week!

Tuesday - tuna (grilled for me, raw for hubby), avocado & tomato salad, brown rice
Wednesday - wild salmon on the grill, zucchini & tomatoes, sourdough bread
Thursday - date night
Friday - hamburgers, homemade buns, potato salad, tomatoes & mozzarella
Saturday - smoked pork, homemade buns, corn, salsa & chips
Sunday - shrimp linguine (with homemade pesto), tomatoes & mozzarella

Doesn't it sound good! I'm going to start the sourdough bread tonight so it can rise overnight and then make it up fresh for dinner tomorrow.

For more great menu ideas, check out Organizing Junkie's Menu Plan Monday post!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Mystery shopping

I know I've mentioned before that we often do mystery shops to save money on our date nights. Mystery shopping is a great way to pick up a little extra cash and/or save money on entertainment. It is however, work. I've been doing it for years, so I can enter the forms pretty quickly and I have a good feel for what I need to remember when conducting the shop, but I can remember those first few shops taking me an hour or more to conduct.

As it can be time consuming to enter the shop details, I go through periods where I conduct a lot of shops, but then, when life gets busy, mystery shopping is one of the first things to go. I enjoy doing them, but I don't make enough money to keep at it if I'm really busy.

This was a slow work week for me (holiday week), and the kids were in school, so I picked up a few shops. Just an example of what you can expect:

Yesterday at the mall I did two clothing shops - together I'll get paid $35, plus a bracelet I purchased. Today, since the kids are at Grandmas, I'm doing a movie shop where I'll get to see a movie I've wanted to see, along with a free drink. Plus, get paid $5.

A few pointers if this is something you are considering:

1. Go to Volition to find quality mystery shopping companies.
2. Sign up for LOTS of companies - back when I didn't have kids I'd sign up for 5 a day - that gives me dozens to choose from.
3. NEVER pay for mystery shopping - if you have to pay money, it's a scam.
4. If you decide to do shops, try to cluster them - for instance yesterday I did two shops at the mall - I was there anyway, and it maximized my time. Or, I'll select shops that are near an area I plan on going to anyway and then I'll work my errands around the shop.
5. Be prepared to spend some time inputting the shops - eventually you'll get pretty proficient at it, but it can take a while at first.
6. Make dinner shops your date night, or restaurant meal for the week - this will definitely cut your entertainment budget even if you don't make any extra cash.

If you decide to pursue this for some fun extras, have fun with it. You won't get rich quick, but the perks can be fun!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Goals

Since today is September first, seemed like a good day to outline the project I mentioned yesterday. The areas of my life I'd like to concentrate on are:


I think 5 is manageable - especially if I only have one concentration area in each a week. I spent a lot of time thinking about those five areas yesterday to determine where I wanted to start. I have so many ideas for each of them! I decided that in order to keep myself from getting overwhelmed, I'd simply keep a running list of changes/ ideas in my journal. That way, I wouldn't forget them, and each month/ week I can refer to the list to see what feels right.

I have a draft for all of September, but I think I'm just going to start with week 1 - that way if I need to expand an area for a second week or feel like a change in my "proposed" following week is appropriate I won't feel pressured to not make the change.

Week one will be a sort of planning week for some of the categories - for others there will be action items. Tune back in later in the week to see specifically what I have planned!