Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Naptime


Sooooo........apparently keeping up on menu plans and blogging aren't on the agenda for this week. There is SO MUCH to do around here. I'm quite honestly overwhelmed. Every day I make a new list of what we need to do inside the house, outside of the house, and before the baby comes.

1. Paint Evie's new room and nursery
2. Find& purchase big girl bed
3. Find & purchase ( through the classifieds, consignment shops or Craigslist) a crib for my parents, a glider for me, and a swing for the baby
4. Pull weeds & plant new flowers
5. Plant garden ( if it ever.dries.up.)
6. Organize the garage
7. Find curtains and blinds for 4 different rooms ( yes, its kind of like living in a fish bowl. apologies to the neighbors.)
8. Finally hang the pictures and prints on the walls ( our walls have been totally bare since we moved back in, um, September?)
9. Organize and separate clothing to donate ( working on it)
10. Install ceiling fan in our room, pedestal sink and ceiling tiles in the downstairs bath

..And about 50 other things. Ahh!

Today I was off work, so the munchkin and I grocery shopped and went for my appointment with the midwife. After that, I was beat. Beyond exhausted. I forgot that this happens in the 3rd trimester? So what did I do? Work furiously through her nap and get TONS done?

Nope. I napped too. And it was glorious.

So today, that Works For Me.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Real Food

Photo Credit

Several years ago, I picked up The Omnivore's Dilemma out of curiosity. Little did I know how shocked and dismayed I would be after learning the real history of food here in America. I implemented a few changes in my diet, filed away the rest of the information, and moved on.

Last year I finally decided to really attempt to change our diets, and little by little, have worked in new changes. It really is a struggle though. Where we live ( central Illinois) is dominated by large chain supermarkets, with a small health food store here and there. While I enjoy visiting them, the prices are totally cost prohibitive to us at this point.

So what can we do, as a family on a budget? The answer, for us has been to pick and choose. We can't go and buy everything 100% organic, but we can purchase differently. It has kind of been a transition to 'whole foods' more than anything. I started purchasing whole wheat flour and baking our own bread. Ideally we'd buy wheat berries and grind our own, but I've yet to find a decent grain mill that isn't outrageously expensive. Ideas, anyone?

We switched from margarine to olive oil and butter. I've heard many people singing the praises of coconut oil, but I'll admit I don't know much about it. No white tortillas, or pretty much white anything. We stopped purchasing white, refined sugar and have instead opted for Turbinado sugar and honey. I try to avoid artificial flavors and colors, but I'm not perfect on that yet. I haven't cut out all white flour, because some recipes really need some to come out correctly, so I've at least switched to unbleached in that department.

Call me naive, but I never realized how bad lunch meats really are, and I love a good turkey sandwich. We found one brand that has no artificial preservatives, nitrates being the main offender. Its a bit more expensive so we don't buy it as often, which is probably a good thing.

Beyond more conscientious shopping, we've simply quit eating out as often and cook at home. Sounds simple, but it helps enormously. When I make the meal, I can choose what goes into it. Most restaurant food is insanely unhealthy. Have you ever looked at the nutrition information from Chilis? I think I cried. My favorite 'salad' had more fat and calories than some of their fried stuff! So depressing. We still have an occasional meal out, but have really come to love cooking at home. Not to mention the savings! Even with buying healthier food, making it yourself is so much cheaper than a restaurant!

Its definitely a slow progression. We still buy supermarket meat, although in quantities not nearly as big as before. This year we'll be purchasing part of a local, grassfed cow, and part of a local hog. The farm from which we get our CSA sells chickens, so I'd like to get a few of those as well. On Craigslist yesterday I found a local guy selling an upright deep freeze and I think we're going to snag it up! That means I can freeze/can/preserve what we grow and actually have space for it. I don't really know what I'm doing, but there are so many great resources online that walk your through, step by step.

What do you think? Have you made any steps ( no matter how small) to move toward a more 'real' foods diet?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why I...Don't Have Cable

Why I...



1. Money.
When we had Comcast, it was running us approx. $100 a month . More than we can afford to pay at this stage in the game. That's over $1,200 a year just to have the box in the house. What debt could I have paid off or what amount could I have saved in all of those years? Yikes.

2. Time.
TV was taking over our lives, even if we didn't really notice it. I could get sucked into TLC or HGTV for hours a day, and my husband would stay up super late just to catch a re-run of some show that really didn't matter.

3. Reading
I'm an avid reader, or so I used to be. But more often than not I'd just flip on the TV and stare at it mindlessly for a few hours. Between working and caring for a baby, laying on the couch and zoning out seemed easier.

4. My Daughter
At 20 months, my toddler still has no idea about kids shows. She doesn't know who Barney is or watch the Backyardigans. She loves to read and will spend the day outside getting muddy, playing with babies, or pretending to cook like Mommy.

5. Being Careful of What We See
I realize that one has full control over what is viewed, and can turn it off at any time. I'm one of those people who loves crime shows, and Criminal Minds is my absolute favorite. I can watch episode after episode. But one thing my husband pointed out is that I wind up being fearful afterward. I become more paranoid about locking doors and windows ( not necessarily a bad thing), and worried about a boogeyman around every corner ( bad thing). What is the saying? What you put in, you get out? Deliberately putting things in my head that lead to a spirit of fear can't be positive or edifying. At least in my scaredy-cat case :) Not that I won't ever watch Criminal Minds again, I've just benefited from not having it available 24/7.

Lest you think I'm being legalistic, know that I understand the day will come that Evie WILL want to watch movies and shows for kids, and that's okay. I just love the idea that she is learning how to play and learn and imagine without needing TV. And sometimes, not having cable has its downsides. Last weekend we went to a drive-in with some friends and their son. We saw Hop. Well, I use the term ' we' loosely. *I* spent the movie chasing a toddler around, and around, and around. Occasionally she would glance at the screen and say ' bunny' or ' chickie', but that's it. She wasn't having it. Her attention span for watching even a kids movie isn't there.

We've saved a lot of money by not having a cable bill to pay, and if I really MUST watch the new episode of Law & Order, I can use the digital box and pick up a local channel. But one of the neatest things I've noticed is how our family time has changed. My husband, instead of sitting in the recliner and falling asleep, now works on projects around the house. I'm back into reading. We go on more walks as a family. I cook more and spend time researching recipes. We spent 3 hours the other night plotting out our garden, never switching the TV on.

I love technology and don't think TV is bad, but this has been a really good choice for our family.

** Side note, I am truly thankful you can find most TV episodes online, because occasionally there is a show I'm just dying to check out. Extreme Couponing? Yesss.**


Check out Vanderbilt Wife for more stories of those participating in this really fascinating series!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

T-I-R-E-D

Whew. Apparently I've forgotten how wiped out pregnancy can make you! I've been working a ton, and working weird hours. I had a day off today, and after a midwife appointment, grocery trip and a few other errands..I'm exhausted! So much for Menu Plan Monday, but here's Menu Plan Wednesday?

Wednesday: tortilla-crusted cod fish tacos, homemade pico de gallo, spanish rice, salad

Thursday: grilled chipotle pork chops, roasted red potatoes, broccoli

Friday: homemade pizza, salad

Saturday: lasagna, garlic bread, salad

Sunday: TBA- probably dinner with family


On a side note, do any of you shop at club stores? Do you find them to be a good value or a waste of money? My mom has a Sam's Club membership, and I went with her today. I found some excellent deals on bulk walnuts, almonds, oats, yeast, frozen fruit, cheese, etc. But the whole experience left me a bit overwhelmed. I could tell many of the items weren't really a ' good deal', they were just uber big sizes. I so wish we had a Costco around here, but Sam's is it :(

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Faith Like a Child

Last night, I overheard my husband reading our 19 month old daughter her bedtime story. As the book finished up and he closed it, she responded with an enthusiastic ' Amen!.' I definitely felt my heart melting.

But it really got me thinking about the search we've been on for the last few years. We haven't really had what I'd call a church 'home' since we've been married. Part of this has been because we've both had major problems with what I'd call 'traditional' church and its structure. We're more fans of a simple church model, with less emphasis on the regular church trappings. Things like 5-6 pastors, youth groups, a big building, lots of employees, nurseries where your child has to have a computerized name tag to keep track of him/her, even the landscaping companies hired to care for the church grounds. Not that these things are wrong per se, but we've more affinity with a smaller, closely knit, New-Testament style gathering. Ultimately where we probably belong is a house church, but neither of us feel we're ready or qualified to start something like that right now.

That being said, we live in the heart of Illinois, in a white collar town literally brimming with large churches and their equally large budgets. We spent a few years at one church, but it didn't feel right, so we kept looking. And looking. Finally, a few months ago I stumbled upon a small gathering of families, and it seemed promising. We've been attending and slowly getting to know people. There is no nursery or kids church, so that has been an interesting challenge. Toddlers generally don't like to sit still for an hour or more, but we're making progress. A lot of the families home school, and we haven't for sure decided what to do with school for our kids. But the people are very loving, and the teaching and emphasis on raising Godly families is spot on. When the women there learned we were expecting our 2nd ( while having virtually just met us), they were thrilled and already talking about a baby shower! Crazy. There are virtually no 'programs', but occasional men or women's breakfasts, a couples Bible study, etc. Something I love- the pastor has a full time job outside of the church. He is paid no salary. They have no building. Tithes and offerings can be spent however they choose in the community, which I think is fantastic.

I'm cautiously hopeful that maybe we've found our home for now. Tomorrow night we are having dinner with the pastor and his family, to get to know one another better and talk over some issues. Community is so essential in the life of a believer, and we've been sorely lacking it for several years. Much of the time I feel as though I'm fumbling around in the dark when it comes to being a wife and mother, so the prospect being able to look to older, more experienced women is super exciting. So if you're the praying kind, maybe say a little pray that our dinner goes well and we'd be willing to go ahead and dive in?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Menu Plan Monday



Last week's menu plan went pretty well, and we mostly stuck to it. It really is nice to have a little bit of organization . Its especially nice to know ahead of time what I can use up, so I'm not running to the store for a last minute item. Although I did run to the store because I forgot skewers for the kebabs..oops. But I'm improving! I did big grocery shopping last Thursday so we're set for a while, and have some leftovers. The main thing I'm doing is trying to incorporate more leafy greens ( a goal we're constantly working on), as well as adding more beans to our diet. My husband is quite the carnivore, but he's expressed interest in eating more fish and even going meatless on some meals. I figure it will cut down on the amount of fat we eat, and will help the grocery budget. A win-win.


Monday:

Black bean/corn quesadillas on whole wheat tortillas, grilled veggies ( we had some left over from this weekend), Mexican rice

Tuesday:

Tilapia with Honey-Tangerine Sauce ( From Jessie @ Vanderbilt Wife), wild rice, spinach salad

Wednesday:

Crock Pot Chicken & Potatoes, Salad ( I will be working 3-11:30pm, so I'll make up ahead for hubby & daughter)
Thursday:

Dinner with the pastor & his wife of the new church we've been attending. His wife insisted I not bring anything- sweet!

Friday
:

White Bean, Tomato and Spinach Pasta ( from Candi @ Family, Stamping & FOOD! ), toasted homemade ( via bread machine) garlic bread
Saturday:

Homemade pizza- turkey sausage, whatever veggies we have leftover from previous meals, cheese, olives. Yum!

Sunday
:

Marinated grilled pork tenderloin, green rice bake, spinach salad, crusty bread


I will post the recipe for the green rice bake sometime soon. My mom has made it for years, and it has always been a favorite of mine. I've been experimenting with my newly purchased bread machine and I hope to have some pictures up soon of my endeavors. For whatever reason, I've been completely slacking with photos since last Fall. I blamed all day sickness at first, but now I'm just being lazy.

Have a great week!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Bread Machine Success

This winter I decided that I really wanted to try making my own bread. Not having a clue what to do, I started with pizza dough. Then I moved to dinner rolls, and those were a relative success. But what I really wanted was a bread machine to make some 'real' bread. You know, the kind you slice and use to make sandwiches. I wasn't about to spend the $$$ on a brand new machine, and decided I'd wait until garage sale season rolled around. I went to my first sale yesterday morning, and what was the first thing I saw? A really nice bread machine, and for 5 bucks! I snagged it up and today tried some Cinnamon bread. It was good, but I wanted a white/wheat blend for slicing. So I next tried this recipe, and it was awesome! Light and fluffy and really yummy. Here's the recipe for anyone who might be interested:

Best Bread Machine Bread

Ingredients
  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package bread machine yeast
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Directions

Place the water, sugar and yeast in the pan of the bread machine. Let the yeast dissolve and foam for 10 minutes. Add the oil, flour and salt to the yeast. Select Basic or White Bread setting, and press Start.


I swapped one cup of whole wheat flour for one of bread flour. Next time I might up it to 2 and see if we still like it. It really was that simple, and I *really* had no idea what I was doing!