Friday, October 17, 2008

Decisions

Decision - noun - a: the act or process of deciding b: a determination arrived at after consideration

I am dumbstruck by things sometimes. I am working at BMG right now. This is the first close to minimum wage job I have had since I first started college back in 2000. That job was in a movie theater in a college town. Most of the people there college students who were looking to help pay their way through school or just have some pocket money while in school. BMG for the most part is a different story.

Most of the people there are "full" time people, meaning that this is their primary source of income. Some of them are full time status meaning that they get at minimum 32 hours a week, or they are part time which gives them close to 16 hours. Currently, I am in the part time category and I am getting anywhere between 12 and 20 hours a week. There are several reasons that my schedule is so varied - there aren't that many shows right now (there will be more when the holidays get closer) and my personal availability (I can't work on Sundays and once I start my new job I can't work before 6pm). I am giving background so that anyone reading this has an idea of how things work and what some of the situation is.

The people I work with are all really nice people. I have enjoyed getting to know them. I like them and they are fun. It has been nice having people to talk to and socialize with even if it is just at work. I haven't gotten into any major conversations with anyone, but part of that is my ideas, theology, and political leanings don't line up with most of theirs and I would prefer not to get into fights with people about things like that.

I have been talking to some of them and listening to their stories of how the wound up there. They are all interesting and diverse stories, but they are almost all sad. They all focus around decisions whether they are good, bad, or just a lack of decision making. Some of them make my heart sad and others make me want to know more of what got the person to that place.

One person is living with their fiancee who has been out of a job for a year. The one I am working with was working at Disney and then Sea World and now BMG. They are in a position that they haven't paid rent this month, about to lose their car, and having to switch cell phone plans because they can't afford it. They are trying to pick up extra shifts where they can, and for the most part being successful. Interestingly enough they have nifty tech gadgets and I found out that they bought a puppy from a pet store (I would guess they spent about $300 on it, because that is about the average I saw when we went to the pet store the other day).
I feel bad for this person, but I want to know how they go there. What choices they made to wind up in that financial decision.

Another person I talked to today was telling me some about their life. They dropped out of high school in 10th grade. They don't have their high school diploma or GED. They said that BMG was the first job they had been able to get. They said that they can't move out of the place they are living because they can't afford it and they can't get the money together the even really think about moving. This person is really sweet and friendly, and from what I can see a smart person. My heart almost breaks for this person because I can't fathom being in that situation.

Other people have mentioned that their parents are still paying all their bills and they are frustrated because their parents put limitations on their behavior because they view it as their money being spent and they should have those say.

Others are adults and this job as I said is their primary income source. Some have kids and others have families. I don't know how they support themselves let alone kids. Minimum wage/ low wages weren't really meant to support anyone. I do agree with the political statement that minimum wage jobs were designed for people in high school, people with no job skills, and as supplemental income. I will say that is what AJ and I are using our part time jobs for - to supplement the paycheck that AJ is bringing home right now. The extra money has been very helpful and definitely made it so that we can survive, and right now most of our income is going to survival (we do have a little bit going to tiny bits of fun and an even tinier bit going to savings).

AJ and I made the decision to move to Orlando knowing for the most part the situation we were getting into. We didn't think it would take this long to find me a job, or for even AJ to get an interview with the company he is working for. We still don't know if he is going to be hired to do the job that he has been doing for 5 months. But we knew we were moving down here in an unsteady state. That was our choice, and we have prayed a lot to have some stability, and we have had to have faith that things would work out. But, we were moving with job skills that should provide decent jobs. We were not moving ourselves with no idea or clue as to what we would be doing for a career.

I finally got hired into a position that I want and can do. It is in a forensic molecular biology lab. I turned down 5 jobs waiting to get this one. One was a really hard decision because though the pay would have been less it had really good benefits and vacation/ sick time. I am not going to have those options with the job I took, but it is a better fit to me and I really like the guy I will be working for. That was a hard decision and it will affect us in the long run. To take this job I have to keep my BMG job because that is where our health insurance is being provided from right now. It was a hard realization to come to that I was going to have to have a full and a part time job. Honestly, I don't want to do that. The lazy side of me wants to just be a lab tech because I get to sit all day in a nice A/C lab and get to do fun things. The social side of me want to keep my friends that I am making at BMG, but it is much more physically demanding (I don't like physical... see my body size for proof of that - again another decision I make).

I just wanted to remind myself of how decisions shape who and what we are. I was talking to AJ about this on the way home and we were both reminded of the line from Uncle Ben in Spiderman, "With much power comes much responsibility." Not that I think AJ and I have much power - I would like to have more power and more control, but I don't think that would be a good thing because I would fret even more. I just think that we made hard choices and some of them stunk at the time we made them, but they gave us more freedom and flexibility later on - college, cruddy jobs, and moving. Others seemed like good ideas at the time but later on became burdens - loans, limited career choices, and moving.

No one makes great decisions all the time, and honestly I think the bulk of our decision making comes from a lack of decision making at all. It is easier to just continue on the same path without thinking about it and not really fighting the tide. I want to make the decision that I don't want my decisions to be made like that. I want my life to have purpose and my decisions even if they are hard to be choices that will lead me to where I want to be.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Response to The $25 Challenge

There was a challenge in Illinois during September. It was designed to have people live off of a budget of $25 per person for a week. Some of the people in the challenge had families and so they were alloted more money than others. A group of them got together on blogger to blog their experiences, here.

I am very frustrated by this and the people that were blogging. Most of their complaints were of the nature that they could not afford fruit, vegetables, or milk. That they were forced to live off of sub-standard foods, such as freckled bananas (I personally won't eat a banana until it has lots of freckles, but I don't consider yellow bananas sub-standard food). They were also complaining that they were forced to live off of rice and beans or other very starchy foods.

Most of the people you could tell were not used to having to live on a budget (at least for food). Also, I couldn't find any of the official rules, but from reading the post I am assuming that they were not allowed to use stuff they already had in their pantry. There were several people who complained about the lack of salt, pepper, and spices in their diet to make the food taste better. They complained that someone who was living off that tight of a budget can't afford spices to make their sub-standard food taste better. Clearly these people have never gone discount store shopping. When I head to the the Dollar store or Dollar General they always have spices, and occasionally they have them two for $1.

There are several major reasons that this whole challenge frustrates me:

  1. AJ and I live off a budget of $25 a week per person. So for the month of October we have $250 since there are 5 weeks. When we were living in Gainesville and I was more familiar with the stores and the sale papers we were making it off of $15 a week per person. I am not claiming that it is the easiest thing in the world, but it is fairly doable without that much more energy than before I had a food budget. Also, honestly, the food that I cook hasn't changed one bit.
  2. These people only did it for a week. They did not have to really learn how to budget, how to shop, or how to cook.
    1. Budget - Some of the people did a trial run to see what their money would buy, but none of them mention the sales papers, the loss leaders, coupons, or other such things. Like I said before, when I was really familiar with the stores I could find great deals that fit into my budget.
    2. Shopping - They didn't have the time to learn to stock up when things went on sale. When canned goods go on sale for really cheap, you stock up. When meat is on clearance because the store needs to get rid of it to clean the case, you stock up. When you see a good deal on frozen goods you stock up. The weeks that things are on a great sale, yeah other things might not get bought, but it slowly builds up a pantry and a freezer for things that later on will get you through. Then you have a little more freedom to buy some more fun things. As long as you keep your eye out for good deals you will almost always have a perpetually stocked freezer. The other thing is that if you shop for fruits and veggies that are in season they are always cheaper and taste better. If you are looking for peaches in the middle of winter they are going to be super expensive because they are in limited supply.
    3. Cooking - Several people mentioned that if they had cooked from scratch they could have stretched their money a lot farther. Well then, duh! Cook from scratch... A good chunk of the meals in our house are from scratch, namely because they taste better and I really enjoy cooking.
  3. They make it seem like everyone who lives off of $25 a week is walking around starving all the time. Last time I checked, I needed to loose a lot of weight. AJ on the other hand is loosing weight, but that is because he is a hyper monkey and runs around like a silly goose. He has never told me he was hungry all the time (he does say he is hungry, but that is normally at a meal time - which is when a person is supposed to be hungry).
  4. Sub-standard foods! There definitions of sub-standard food make me angry. Most of them didn't like canned veggies. One guy was cranky about canned salmon. Honestly, canned veggies aren't as amazing as fresh ones, but they are good. Also, there are things that they work so much better in than fresh veggies. Canned corn works better in chili than fresh corn does. For things like that it doesn't make sense to spend the extra money on it. The canned salmon thing got me, too. I have bought some really cheap canned salmon and for the most part it worked well in what I was using in it (salmon cakes). It isn't the same as fresh, but it isn't marketed that way. Also, on a side note we have a huge chunk of fresh (now frozen) salmon in our freezer. It was bought on our budget. There is enough to make 3 full servings off of when we need it (again, the benefits of shopping on sale).
  5. No fruits and veggies! We normally have both of these in our kitchen. The fresh kind that came off trees and such and not out of cans. We have frozen berries in our freezers for yummy smoothies. We normally have apples, pears, oranges, bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, greens (spinach), onions, and lemons (or some random combination of the above ) at all times. Yeah, we do run out and we don't restock until shopping day, but that teaches us not to eat all the fruit in one day (which AJ could do).
  6. That food stamps are supposed to be able to fully fund a persons diet. Honestly, food stamps were meant to subsidize a persons food budget not be the entire amount of money that a person spends on food.
I will admit AJ and I have other money built into our budget for eating out ($70 a month) and occasionally buying a soda or candy bar. So our $25 a week is just focused at the grocery store. The thing is that extra splurge money means if we spend it on junky type food we don't have it for other things that we might want to spend it on (it is our blow money and outcome of living on a budget). Also, rarely does our food budget include snack type items - chips, soda, cakes, ice cream, or pudding snacks. It happens occasionally, but that makes it a treat not a way of life.

I know there are plenty of hard working people out there who live on a tight budget. Right now, AJ and I fall into that category. We are trying to make ends meet when they really don't want to right now. We have had to be creative. There have been weeks when we didn't even have the $50 to spend on groceries, and we made it by living out of our pantry. We ate really well those weeks. We didn't live off of our eating out budget (namely because it was already used because it was the last week of a month). There are also plenty of websites that have great ideas on how to live on a really tight budget. One of my favorite ones is if you have to feed a whole family on $30 a week total. This amazing lady feeds her family very well on very little. She admits that it will take work, but it is doable and no one will go hungry.

Our meal plan when weeks are tight:

Breakfast -

cereal and milk
grits
pancakes

Lunches -

leftovers
sandwiches and fruit

Dinners -

black eyed peas, rice, and cornbread
homemade pizza
chicken, mashed potatoes, corn
frozen raviolis with sauce
turkey spaghetti
black beans, rice, corn, and cheese

Our meal plan when we have a full budget:

Breakfast -

cereal and milk
pancakes, eggs, and bacon
french toast
grits

Lunches -

leftovers
sandwiches and fruit and carrot sticks
avocados

Dinners -

pot roast with carrots, potatoes, and onions
turkey taco soup
ground beef in gravy over mashed potatoes
turkey spaghetti (namely because I am craving it again this week)
beef pot pie (made from the pot roast - just add peas and tomato paste)

See for us living off a budget doesn't look that different than living out of our pantry. The major difference is where our protein sources come from. When times are better they come from animals, when times are leaner we tend towards more bean based protein, but not as much as I thought it would.

I am not trying to criticize people who really have a tight food budget. I am in that category myself, but I am just trying to show that if you try you can make it work. It does take more effort, but a crock pot is a wonderful thing to help make food that is good for you, yummy, and lets you buy really cheap cuts of meat to cook with. I am also trying to show that it is possible to live off food stamps, feed your family, and still get healthy food.

Please leave your comments, especially if you agree and are living on a tight budget or if you don't agree and think it isn't possible.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

More Prayer Request

I am not going into specifics here, but I do need some prayer from everyone out there. Please please please pray for AJ and I tomorrow. Please pray for our job situations. Please pray that God will provide for us. Please. Things are topsy turvy and well we need your prayer.

Monday, May 19, 2008

I am in the Newspaper!

I got my picture taken for the newspaper last week, and the story ran today. I think this is really cool. If you want an idea of what I spend some of my time at work doing this is it.


If you want to see it on the Gainesville Sun site, click here.


New hope for fighting cancer

Published: Monday, May 19, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, May 18, 2008 at 11:48 p.m.
Doug Finger/The Gainesville Sun

Molly Strickland, a biological scientist with the University of Florida Department of Urology, demonstrates the process of working with cell culture media in the Urology Cancer Immunotherapy Lab at the UF Cancer and Genetics Institute where vaccines are created by a patient's own stem cells to fight prostate cancer.


Clinical trials
  • A clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful cancer research process. Studies are done with cancer patients to find out whether promising approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment are safe and effective.
  • Treatment trials test new treatments, such as a new cancer drug, new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, or new methods such as gene therapy.
  • Quality of life trials (also called supportive care trials) explore ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients.
  • A number of cancer trials currently are being conducted through the University of Florida Shands Cancer Center.
  • For information, please call the Florida Cancer Trials matching site at 800-584-9976, or visit the Florida Cancer Trials matching site to find clinical trials being conducted in your area.

  • - National Cancer Institute, Shands Cancer Center

You might describe Dr. Jorge Galante as the ultimate educated medical consumer.

The 73-year-old orthopedic surgeon has been dealing with prostate cancer for a decade. After two years of conventional treatment, including surgery and radiation, his cancer recurred.

The Chicago resident went searching for an alternative to undergoing more of the same treatment.

His search brought him to a clinical trial involving immunotherapy now under way at Shands at the University of Florida, under the direction of Dr. Johannes Vieweg, professor and chairman of the department of urology.

Galante flies to Florida once a week to receive an injection of an experimental vaccine that enlists his body's own cells in the battle against cancer.

Every year, 230,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that Florida will rank behind only California and Texas in the number of new cases diagnosed this year.

Vieweg brought his studies of the potential prostate cancer vaccine with him from Duke University when he joined the UF College of Medicine faculty in 2006.

He says the customized therapy overcomes many of the obstacles and side effects of other forms of cancer treatment because it uses the patient's own cells.

Blood is drawn from the patient and the dendritic cells are isolated from the white blood cells. They are then genetically manipulated to detect the antigens that mark tumor cells before being reinjected into the patient.

Antigens are protein fragments produced by invaders such as viruses or bacteria that trigger an attack by the immune system. Vieweg characterizes them as "a red flag" at the surface of tumor cells.

The antigen telomerase is overexpressed in prostate cancer and other human cancers, Vieweg explained.

Dendritic cells activate the immune system by capturing the antigen - in this case, telomerase - and presenting it to the body's killer cells, called T cells.

The custom-made vaccine is prepared in a $4 million "clean room" in the UF Cancer and Genetics Research Building. It's not a vaccine in the traditional sense. A patient can't get a shot or two and prevent cancer. But it does enlist the body's immune system to battle against cancerous cells.

"We have something unique here," Vieweg said.

Because the dendritic cells can be programmed to seek out tumor cells with pinpoint accuracy, they can combat cancer without causing further harm to the body, unlike radiation or chemotherapy.

Could be widely used

The strategy being tested in the current clinical trial is not limited to prostate or kidney cancer, but is potentially applicable to all cancers, in Vieweg's view.

"We just haven't done the studies to determine which forms of cancer respond best to this therapy," the researcher said. "I'd have to say we're almost there."

"Almost there" is close enough for Galante.

As part of the clinical trial, Galante is helping to prove that the vaccine is safe and effective for use by others.

But for him, the immediate benefit is that he is able to lead a normal life.

"I have a wife, children and four grandchildren whom I want to see grow up," Galante said. "I have been waiting for this vaccine to come on line."

Diane Chun can be reached at 352-374-5041 or chund@gvillesun.com

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Prayer Request - JOBS!

Well I am breaking out the prayer request again. I normally don't write much about my job, and with good reasons. I deal with some really confidential stuff and the rest of my job is fairly boring to most people and those that it isn't to boring makes them want to pull out their hair with me in frustration when things don't work.

Well there have been circulating rumors that three of the four positions in our group are being closed. Mine is supposed to be one of them. I am not panicking like I should be because I know it is all for the best and that God has a plan for it all. Also, there are some deep undercurrent issues that if you want to know about you will have to talk to me. So I am not to unhappy about all this. The problem is I need some prayer that God will provide another job for me either in the short term until AJ can find a job, or in the long term that will allow us to go ahead and move to Orlando and allow AJ to job hunt down there.

We are just in a state of flux and chaos. Luckily AJ's job has allowed him to start working up to 30 hours, which the plan is to use the extra money to pay off his school loans and such. I have been following I've Paid For This Twice Already advice about snowflaking. So I have been squirreling away small bits of money and extra income for a little while. I also want to thank again the people who have contributed to me being able to snowflake this money. It has given me a sense that financially we are going to be ok and that money is going to be there, just not as much and as freely.

The main thing I am worried about is my health insurance. I have some weird health problems and loosing that coverage is going to stink, but I am not panicking about that really either. I have already started looking into personal health insurance plans and their coverage. They are more expensive, but that is what emergency funds are for, right?

So, again I ask that ya'll be praying for mine and AJ's job situation and that God will just keep us calm and provide the same way He always has.

THANKS!!!!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Weight Update






The new weight total is 213.8lb! I am thrilled. I know that I didn't do an official weigh in last week, but I am still happy that I lost almost 4 pounds in 2 weeks. Especially with all the stuff going on in my life. The biggest of which is AJ had his wisdom teeth taken out. That means that I have been home trying to get things ready for that and also being his "nurse".

This being home has made me realize that unless my day has a set schedule I graze all day! When I am at work I am much better about 3 meals and 2 snacks. Being home... I eat almost no real meals and munch all day. This has lead to me going over my points 3 days this week, but luckily I have done some major pint building with exercise and I did bank some points early this week. So all in all I still have a positive point balance and I plan on keeping it that way through today. That means that I can have a little bit of whatever yummy is at Betty's house for Bible Study tonight.

Speaking of Betty... I need to start calling her more often to go walking with. She is a great partner and since the offer is there I need to take her up on it. I need to start making this exercise thing a priority and not just a "oh I have got time during work to do it." Because I am feeling a lot better, well at least as well as possible for me which still makes me very happy.

I am wondering if I can fit into some of my jeans that were getting to tight again. I am still kinda scared to try because I don't want to have a failure in clothing size just yet. If I don't try I can keep it in my head that they are still too small and then when I do try them they will either fit very well or they will be a bit to big. I think I will wait for that and then let people know.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Playing Catch Up - Rapid Edition

Wow! It has been a while since I posted and a lot has been going on, so since I don't have much time a list of all the stuff in no particular order:

  • AJ and I spent the day with AJ's friend from Peru, Dan. He was here in FL for Wycliffe training.
  • AJ bought me flowers. They are beautiful, and I have yet to take pictures of them. They are still in full bloom a week later.
  • We went to see Clue: The Musical. It was a blast. They gave you clue cards and everything. So COOL!
  • We went to a baseball game with Callie. I am convinced AJ and I make the Gators lose baseball games, but Callie can get them to win.
  • AJ officially graduated from UF! With a GPA I would round up to a 3.0, but AJ is a legalist and it is a 2.99 to him.
  • I have been walking a lot lately. A lot equals about 7.5 miles a day. Go Me!
  • AJ is going to be having his wisdom teeth out on Friday. I am slightly nervous, but I know it is all going to be ok.
  • Our new Super Wal-Mart opened today. I am very happy to have another place to buy food. Between them, Save-a-Lot, Publix sales, and coupons I should be able to get our shopping done much cheaper. Also, when all else fails there is still Sam's
  • I have lost about 11 lbs. total. I am not exactly sure what the exact total is since I wasn't home on my weigh in day and the scale I used was off weight wise all weekend. It kept saying that I had gained all the weight back in 24 hours. I don't think so. This means that I won't post an official weight until this Sunday.
  • I got 2 free trial sizes of Clinique Happy today with a coupon.
  • I got a free 8x10 picture from Walgreens with their Mother's Day promotion.
  • We went to Busch Gardens. Their new area Jungala is very cool. I wish I was 10 and it would be awesome.
  • I saved $14.33 at Publix between sales and coupons this week. That made me very happy.
  • I forgot I like playing trivia with Jamey and Scott. We have gone twice in the last two weeks. It is nice since certain people aren't there.
I think that is a pretty god wrap up of what has been going on lately. It has been a very full time.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Prayer Request

To Whomever May Read This:

I need some prayer. If you are a believer and want to just throw me on your prayer list I would appreciate it. I had a really rough night last night with very bad dreams and feelings I haven't had in a very very long time. I honestly believe it was a spiritual attack. My sleep has always been a very weak and attack prone place, so it isn't very surprising that it happened, but it was one of the worst I have had in a long time. I have no clue what caused this attack and I am not even sure what area of weakness they were hitting, but it is a deep down guttural unnatural sensation and one I do not like at all.

Thank you!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weight Update

Today was weigh in day. The total was 217.6. *insert major happy dance*








Needless to say, I am very happy. I forgot that I had originally punched my weight into the tracker the morning after I came back from the doctor. So, according to it, I have lost 7.6 pounds. Yay Molly.

I have been doing pretty good on my points. There have been a couple of days of struggling, and going over my 31 max points, but I have accumulated about 18 extra points this week. That has allowed me to go over by 10 total this week. I haven't added today's extra points into that, but I ended this week with more extra points than I used. Not to bad for my first week back.

I have also found some fun recipes that are very low in point, very healthy, and very easy on our food budget. We had homemade rice and bean burritos tonight. Oh my they were yummy, and I also got 2 full burritos with sour cream for a total of 5 points - oh yeah!!!

I am actually enjoying my walking as my exercise. Three to four days a week for work I have to walk across campus to the hospital to take samples and then wait 45 minutes to get the results. During this time I speed walk around a slightly deserted floor in the ARB. I know this one secretary thinks I am crazy with my Zune blaring and me walking in circles, but soon she will be seeing less and less of me go by her door. I am actually really thankful for this chance my job is giving me to work out on the clock.

Friday, April 25, 2008

YAY - Money!

I have got happy news: I got money yesterday!

Yesterday I got my check from Cashcrate.com yesterday. It was only $16, but wow! I had just filled out a couple of their free offers (I made a spam email box for this purpose) and the daily surveys. It was fairly easy and I did it while I had down time. So it didn't take up any valuable time. I would really recommend them if you are looking for a fairly easy way to make some pocket money. In my case this money is going into a savings account to pay for some trips that are up coming in mine and AJ's life. Cashcrate pays out once a month, so as long as you make $15 a month they will send you a check. They also have a nifty referral program. Anyone who signs up under me I get paid an extra 25% of what they make (they don't take it from the person, but it is just an over and above type thing). Then anyone who signs up under that person, I get 10% of that (and their original signer gets the initial 25%). Pretty nifty.

I also got my $40 from RevolutionMoneyExchange yesterday. They are still doing their promotion of get $25 for signing up and I get $10. So if you are interested in it, click the button on my side bar. I would appreciate it if you do it, and well you get money out of it.

I have also been getting emails from MyPoints and InboxDollars. MyPoints gives you points that you redeem for gift crads. InboxDollars pays you cash when you get up to $30. Both of them will send you emails that you click on and it credits to you account. I like both of these because they are easy to do, especially if you create an email account just for them. It is nice, I check it about twice a day and click through the emails and I get points. If you are interested in either of these things let me know and I can send you a referral link.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Oh Where Is My AJ *sung to the Hairbrush tune*

I am grumbly, I warn you now. Read at your own risk.

I miss my AJ. I haven't seen him since Saturday (well that is even questionable if you count all the running around I had to do and all the other activities we had going on).

He has been staying up very late to work on either homework or his senior project. Which means that he has been coming to bed about the time I have to get up to go to work. It is sad when I get up to go potty in the middle of the night and he is still working away. I miss my snuggle partner.

Also, his group has been meeting a lot lately to get everything done for their project that is due tomorrow... that means that for the last 2 day I have been told he would get home at 5pm... yeah right. Last night he got home at 9ish, and tonight isn't looking any better.

The real downfall of this is my eating. Being depressed or unhappy makes me eat more randomly. I am still within my points for the last 2 days, but barely. Yesterday I stayed within them because of the exercise, today is about the same, but not there yet.

YAY HE IS HOME! I AM GOING TO GO SNUGGLE AND FEED MY HUBBY!!!!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Meal Plan Monday - Weight Watchers

Starting back on Weight Watchers today. The points are listed in parenthesis. I am hoping AJ doesn't starve on this. He needs to gain almost as much as I need to loose. After Monday the totals won't add up, but that is so I can make changes to snacks and such as I need or want them in my diet.

Monday (28)-

Breakfast - oatmeal (3) and yogurt (2)
Snack - apple (1)
Lunch - Lean Cuisine pepperoni pizza (7) and WW Popsicle (1) and tea (1)
Snack - 1/2 zone bar (2)
Supper - sea scallops (double portion), mashed sweet potatoes, green beans (8) and dessert (3)

Tuesday (21) -

Breakfast - oatmeal (3) and yogurt (2)
Snack - applesauce (1)
Lunch - Lean Cuisine frozen meal (6) and green beans (0)
Snack - yogurt (2)
Supper - Speedy Shepard's pie (7)

Wednesday (30)-

Breakfast - oatmeal (3) and yogurt (2)
Snack - apple (1)
Lunch - Speedy Shepard's pie (7)
Snack - 1/2 zone bar (2)
Supper - Spaghetti with meat sauce (10) and green beans (0)

Thursday (26)-

Breakfast - WW chocolate muffin (3) yogurt (2)
Snack - banana (2)
Lunch - Lean Cuisine frozen meal (6)
Snack - applesauce (1)
Supper - stromboli (5)

Friday (31) -

Breakfast - oatmeal (3) and yogurt (2)
Snack - banana (2)
Lunch - Spaghetti with meat sauce (7)
Snack - carrots (1)
Supper - pork roast, stuffing, and sweet potatoes (15)

Saturday () -

Breakfast - pancakes (6)
Snack - banana (2)
Lunch -
Snack - carrots
Supper - curried lentils and potatoes over rice(I still need to figure points on this) and samasos (I still need to figure points on this)

Recipe:

Curried Lentils and Potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped; about 3/4-cup
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
  • 15 ounce can no-salt-added tomatoes
  • 4 cups peeled & coarsely chopped potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Measure lentils.
Place them in a large pot.
Bring the lentils to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to low simmer gently.
Simmer for 20 minutes.

Peel and chop your onion and potatoes.
Set the potatoes aside.
Heat the butter or oil in a 10-inch skillet.
Add the onion and curry powder.
Fry over medium-heat until the onions are tender and the spices smell good.
Frying the onions and curry spices bring out their full flavor so please don't omit this step.
Set the pot aside until the lentils finish cooking.

Scrape the onions and curry powder into the pot of lentils.
Add the remaining ingredients too.

Stir the mixture until everything is evenly combined.
Simmer, uncovered for 15 to 20 more minutes, or until the potatoes are tender.
Serve in deep bowls with hot buttered whole wheat flat bread and cooked rice.


Makes 4 large servings.

Samosas (borrowed from Real Simple)

  1. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  2. 1 medium onion, chopped
  3. Kosher salt and pepper
  4. 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  5. 2 cups (about 16 ounces) refrigerated mashed potatoes
  6. 1 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
  7. 1 jar mango chutney (optional)

Heat oven to 375° F.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and the curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in the potatoes and peas.

Unroll the piecrusts and cut each into 6 triangles. Place a heaping tablespoon of the potato mixture in the center of each piece. Gather the corners of the dough and pinch to form a point. Pinch the seams to seal. Transfer to a baking sheet.

Bake the samosas until golden, about 25 minutes. Serve with the mango chutney, if desired.


Yield: Makes 12

NUTRITION PER SERVING
CALORIES 216(50% from fat); FAT 12g (sat 4g); SUGAR 2g; PROTEIN 3g; CHOLESTEROL 7mg; SODIUM 518mg; FIBER 3g; CARBOHYDRATE 26g

Meal Plan Monday is hosted by: Organizing Junkie

Back on Weight Watchers- sort of

I have decided to start doing Weight Watchers again. I have been tossing the idea around in my head for a couple of weeks, but last week I had to go to the doctor and get weighed. That was depressing. I officially reached my heaviest weight on written record - 225. So that really got my brain thinking, what can I do that is healthy and something I can really stick to? Well that idea simmered in my head for a couple of days until I read my sister-in-law's blog, and she has joined a gym and was mentioning Weight Watchers. Well that prompted me to dig out all of my nifty stuff... my points sliders, cookbooks, and food journals.

I got to looking at what I had accomplished in the past. I lost about 40lbs in 30 weeks. It wasn't a rapid weight loss, but it was really healthy and very controlled. I never got down to the weight that they said I should be of about 145, but honestly I don't think my body can get to that weight again. I did get down to about 180, and honestly I looked great. I was wearing a men's size 34 pants... considering I have child bearing hips from here to eternity, I was majorly happy. Want to know something sad? AJ is now wearing some of the size 32 pants that I had bought with the hope of getting into them (they are a little to big for him, but with a belt they are fine).

So my goal is to get back down to 170-185 (yes it is a huge range, but one I am comfortable setting now and we will see how it goes when I get close to it). I am not officially joining back up because it just isn't in my budget, but since I have everything that I used in the past I think I can do it at home. The only thing that we have to get for this is happy stickers to put on my weight chart. Stickers make me do things I am not normally crazy about. I swear I am not four years old anymore, I just act it.

I am really proud of myself. I "unofficially" started yesterday. Unofficially because I wanted to get started before I went grocery shopping. I did really well with my points until I went to Bible study... there was some very very yummy chocolate derby pie. I only had a little piece, and it was worth it.

I officially started today. So far so good. I walked to earn an extra 3 points (45 minutes total hard walking - all total walking today I walked 6.91 miles). I have a total of 31 points to eat today because I am doing the point cycling. Where one day you eat your minimum points and then the next you eat your maximum. It is supposed to keep your body guessing how much it is going to get and help prevent plateaus. I don't know how true that is for me, but I am willing to try it. So tomorrow I am supposed to eat 26.

Extra points are kinda fun. You get to bank them, or use them if you need to. So say I was to eat 34 points today after all... no harm done because I had 3 extra points from exercise. They only hard thing is that if you exercise below your minimum points you have to eat back up to them. Your body has to have a certain amount to keep going or else your body thinks you are starving and then no weight loss, and I really don't want that.

My goal is to kinda keep a posted record on here of how I am doing so that if it looks like I am falling off the bandwagon people can yell at me and get me back on track.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Silly Allergies

I have been sick with my allergies this week. They have been bothering me to the point that I have been home since Wednesday afternoon. I went to the doctor today and she looked in my ears... apparently my ear tubes are all stopped up and my ear drum is all sucked into my ear. Yeah, I know kinda gross, but at the same time kinda neat.... well if it didn't hurt so much.

But on a slightly happier note she gave me two prescriptions for new allergy medicines. The downer note is that they are both tier 2 drugs on my insurance which means they both cost $25 each month. That is a big chunk of our budget, so I was considering only filling one and just not using the other. Well, I did fill one because I had a fill a new prescription at CVS get a $25 gift card... so in some ways it negates the cost of the medicine. Then I got to looking in the sample of the other medicine the doctor gave me - IT HAD A COUPON IN IT! The coupon is for $20 back for filling a prescription. SWEET!!! Which means that I will fill this one as soon as I get another coupon for a free gift card from somewhere. Add that on top of the $20 rebate coupon, and I am getting a good deal out of it.

Well that got me thinking...I wonder if any of my other medicines have possible coupons. I went on the Merck website which is the maker of Singulair has a rebate program that is odd, but good. $10 off the first two prescriptions and $20 of the third, so I called them and requested that they send me the packet. If it will help my allergies and get it for less than it is supposed to cost that would be great.

I also went and checked out the site for Nasacort, they have a program you can enroll in and they will email you rebates for up to $20 a month for filling the prescription. If they email it to me once a month I will gladly refill this until I figure out if it is working.

YAY for coupons and rebates!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

RevolutionMoney- Update!

RevolutionMoney has extended their happy promotion until May 15th! So if you haven't signed up, you should. AJ got his account verified yesterday and is in the process of having his money transfered to his account. SWEET!

I would also like to thank the two people who signed up and got me an extra $20. You are great! That extra little bit helps our budget a lot!

For anyone else who would like to take advantage of this deal, please click the link to your right. It will get you $25 and me $10.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mythbusters

Last night the Mythbusters came to Gainesville. WOW!!! AJ and I went out to dinner with Jose and Adrienne, and then headed to the O'Dome. None of us thought that it would be that crowded, but there were so many people wanting to get in. AJ and I found a parking spot really close, but Jose had to park all the way down in the commuter lot (about a mile away).

It was fun spending time with Jose and Adrienne. We found out that we have a lot in common and that we are both really nerdy couples. I think we are going to try to invite them over for a Star Wars marathon sometime soon.

Unfortunately, the Mythbusters weren't allowed to blow anything us on campus. We were sad, but we did learn some fun facts - that San Diego won't let people make projectile weapons unless it is for research purposes and then it must be held by a law enforcement officers.. so they just invite the police out to be a part of it, the same thing goes for explosions and the fire department. They have also been consulted by NASA and a couple other agencies. They also said that they would keep doing this until they die, because it is more ingrained into their personality to try to tinker with things and figure them out. They had some great one line comebacks to the moderator... I wish I could remember some of the better ones (or any of them at all).




This was the largest crowd ACCENT had turn out since a speaker in 2004. We were way up in the upper decks, but actually we had great seats because we could see two screens and the stage.




Way down there on the stage.



Up on the big screens.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Meet and Greet Monday - The Florida Gators

Saturday AJ, his mom, and I went to the Orange and Blue game. It is the spring training/ exhibition game for the Florida Gators. This game isn't a regular game by any means. They do all kinds of fun things like the student races and catching punts. Also, the coaches are on the field the whole game and there is no "get back coach" saying to the players, "Get back behind the lines." So all in all it is a great way for fans to come out and enjoy semi-football during the Spring. The other great thing is that it is free for students and only $5 for everyone else. So people who can't normally go to the games get a chance to go the The Swamp. Also, our local power company was one of the giant sponsors and in our last bill they sent 2 for 1 coupons, so AJ's mom and I both got in for $5. YAY!!!

This was an hour before the game. Notice all the people in the stands across the way. The stadium holds 93,000... Saturday there was a turn out of 64,000. Needless to say, Gator fans turn out for even the minor things. It was really hot and really sunny, but there was a great crowd.



Though AJ didn't actually get to run, he got his name up on the big score board for being in the top 24. The football player that AJ would have ran against ran a 4.21. YIKES! That is fast.


AJ's mom at the game.



One of my good friend's little boy. It was his first game. She is doing well starting him out as a baby Gator.


The unveiling of the Tebow plaque on the wall of fame inside The Swamp. He is up there with only two other people - Steve Spurrier and Danny Wuerffel. Our other two Heisman winners.


Tebow's Heisman Trophy.


The National Championship Trophy. Isn't is pretty?

All in all The Orange and Blue game was a blast. The Blue team won (YAY almuni side!) I am going to miss living in Gainesville for things like this. Hopefully, we will be able to get tickets to games to come back to every once in awhile.

Meet and Greet Mondays are hosted by : The Natural Mommy

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Playing Catch Up Saturdays- Baseball

Last night AJ and I went to another baseball game. As we were walking up this nice guy gave us tickets to sit right above the Arkansas dug out. They were in the second row, so we had great seats. Not that our usual free bleacher seats are bad at all, but we could have reached through the fence and rub the heads of the Arkansas players. I think it made AJ happy to be able to jeer the opponents and know that they could actually hear him. Unfortunately we lost last night 2 to 1, but it was still a lot of fun!



Normally we are sitting in the section over on the left, up high... Today, not so much.





Albert was being really silly last night. Right before this he was sitting in one of the seats with his feet up on the bar. The kids were having a great time playing with him last night.


Whenever the Shands life flight helicopter flies over the stadium the score board shows this fun little graphic. The cool part is that there are two separate graphics, one when it is flying into the hospital and a different shaped one when it is flying back out.


I think using Saturdays to catch up on blogs is a good idea. If anyone else is wanting to use Saturdays as a catch up day feel free to post your link in the Mr. Linky. Just a heads up this is my first time ever using it or hosting anything, so be warned... I promise I will get better at this.




Playing Catch Up Saturdays - Super Speedy Hubby

Well AJ ran again on Thursday, unfortunately he did not make it into the finals. He was really fast though. It was fun getting to be there to cheer him on and getting to watch him run.




Here are some other general pictures from then:



AJ filing out his paperwork.



One of the other runners. As Scott would say, "His hair gives him speed."



Playing Catch Up Saturdays- Seaworld

I didn't do the greatest job of posting what little bit I did see at SeaWorld last Saturday, so I thought while I wait for AJ to wake up, his mom to get here, and my stuff shells to cook I would play catch up on about 3 blog post.





The sky when I first got into the park.



A very very friendly sting ray.



The license plate of the car I was behind. After being drenched this made me smile, so I thought I would share it with everyone.


Friday, April 11, 2008

RevolutionMoney

I GOT MY $25 TODAY!!! *happy dance*

So I am encouraging anyone else who wants to take advantage of this nifty deal to click the button on my sidebar. You have to sign up before April 15th. You can either have them mail you the check or you can link your checking account (which is what I did) and then have it transfered electronically. *again major happy dance*

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Works For Me Wednesday - Brita Water Pitcher


I love my Brita!!! We got a big one for a wedding present, and I use it all the time. I actually get grumpy when it is either empty or not enough water for a full cold glass. I have been having a hard time remembering to bring water to work. I need water to drink at work because the clean room is the most dehydrating and draining place I have ever been. Well, happy happy day... Lowe's had small Brita pitchers on sale for $7.97, and I found a coupon for $5 off from the manufacturer. Brita is trying to get people to use less plastic bottles so their site has the coupons if you promise to try to reduce your bottled water buy. Well, long story not so short.... AJ and I each got a pitcher to take to work. With the nifty coupons we got them for $2.97 each. What a deal and I am loving having mine at my desk. I am drinking so much water - YAY!

Works For Me Wednesday is hosted by Rocks in My Dryer.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Meet and Greet Monday - On Tuesday

Today's Meet and Greet is of my Super Speedy Hubby.

On the second part of our honeymoon at Disney. Can you tell I am married to a nerd?


He is watching me "fly" a kite. He looks really confused by it.


After kite flying in St. Augustine. He seems happy with his beer. Again notice the nerd shirt.


Meet and Greet Mondays are Hosted by The Natural Mommy.

RevolutionMoneyExchange: Earn $25 when you sign up

I saw this today on a site I read. It is for Revolution Money Exchange. They are hoping to be the next paypal, and to encourage that they are offering $25 FREE when you sign up. I have read some really good things about them, so I signed up. By the time I had logged into my account for the first time I had already been credited the money. SWEET!!!! You can either tie it to a bank account or you can request them to send you a check and that is all there is to it.



Refer A Friend using Revolution Money Exchange


The cool part is that for every person you refer you also make $10. So if you get one person to sign up you get $35 not to shabby. I think I am going to try to get AJ to do it too. So if you want to be really nice to me, use the button above to sign up and also give me $10. Oh, and you have to sign up before April 15th to get the bonus $25, so hurry if you want it.

I will warn you that you have to give them your social, but it is because they are an actual bank. They are also FDIC insured which is spiffy too. Some how I think for me this will be about like my paypal account... I use it when I need it and most of the time forget that I have it. I did take advantage of the paypal offer of free money when they did theirs too, so clearly I just like getting free money.


Read more about it here and here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

CVS and other shopping

Ok, today just seems to be a bloggy and busy day. I feel like a lot has gotten done, but it has been a long day. I got AJ to go shopping with me this afternoon. I found some great coupons today and I wanted to take advantage of them before they expired. I like shopping with coupons, they help me feel like I have gotten some splurges without actually paying a lot for them. I am still a slight girl and I like getting new things that I normally wouldn't buy.

Store 1 - CVS

Excedrin (24 count) - $1.99 each * 5 = 9.95
Covergirl TrueBlend foundation - $9.29 each *2 = $18.58

Coupons:
Excedrin $2/1 *5 = $10
Covergirl $2/1 = $2
Covergirl B1G1 = $9.29
EBC $5 = $5

OOP = $2.24

EBCs Generated = $17


Store 2 - Lowes

Brita Water Pitcher $7.97 *2 = 15.94

Coupons:
Brita Man. coupon $5 *2 = $10

OOP = $6.32

Store 3 - Bath and Body Works

Body Massager $4
Body Lotion $10.50

Coupons:
Store coupon by anything and get an item up to $11 value = $10.50

OOP = $4.26

So all in all a good night of shopping. Just add that to my great grocery shopping from this weekend ($29 at Publix and $25 stocking up at Super Wal-Mart). I know I am not sticking to any real budget very well at this point, but I feel like I am doing better at getting what we need and some of what we want at better prices and freeing up some money to be able to put into savings and try to get my credit card all paid off in the next month.

Meal Plan Monday - Pantry Cooking

Meal Plan for the Week:

Meal Plan Monday is hosted by : Organizing Junkie

Monday - Salmon Patties, Rice, and Corn

Salmon Patties

1 can pink salmon (skinless and boneless)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 cup breadcrumbs (or enough that the mixture comes together and isn't to wet)
salt and pepper to tase
1tbsp cooking oil

Mix all ingredients together except oil. Heat the oil in frying pan. Make mixtures into patties and place into hot oil. Cook until golden brown on each side.

Salmon patty sauce

1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayo
dill (to taste)

Combine all together. Serve as dipping sauce on patties. Very yum.

Tuesday - Chicken Fried Steak (new recipe in Wycliffe cookbook), Potato Au Gratin, Peas, and Carrots

Wednesday - Black Beans and Chicken over Rice

Thursday - Perogie Casserole (new recipe edited from here)

Ingredients
  • Lasagna Noodles (9)
  • Mashed Potatoes (2 cups)
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese (2 cups)
  • Onion chopped (1/2 large)
  • Sour Cream
  • Butter or margarine - 1 stick

Directions
  1. Cook Lasagna Noodles
  2. Cook mashed potatoes
  3. Sautee onion in a small amount of butter, grind up really fine.
  4. Melt remaining butter
  5. Layer 3 lasagna noodles in bottom of 9x13 dish
  6. Place all of mashed potato mixture on top, pour half of the butter , sprinkle half of the cheese, and onion.
  7. 3 more noodles layered
  8. Make a layer out of sour cream
  9. Layer 3 more noodles, cheddar cheese and remaining onion
  10. Finish by pouring remaining butter over top of dish
  11. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbling hot
  12. Serve warm topped with sour cream, salt and pepper
Friday - Steaks on the grill, corn on the grill (thanks AJ's mom!), potato au gratin (maybe)

Saturday - CORN (Clean Out Refrigerator Night)

Sunday - Pork Roast, Stuffing, Applesauce, Green Beans CROCKPOT NIGHT!

Super Speedy Hubby

Currently UF is in the midst of having its first ever "Fastest Man on Campus". Well AJ decided to try out for it. On Thursday he ran a 40 yard dash in 4.5 seconds. Let me just say - "WOW". Honestly, I can't fathom moving that fast, but I know my hubby is a quick. I have seen him pitch a softball and then get to the back field to catch it, so in some ways I am not surprised... I just have never had an actual time to put to his quickness. (Side note: I am hoping our kids aren't that fast because mommy can't chase them down.)


Well I just got news that AJ qualifies for the finals. I think that means he races against the top 30 people from 2 try out dates, then the fastest 5 get to run against the UF football player at the Spring Exhibition game. Want to know the cooler parts? AJ's mom is coming up for the game, and ESPN is going to be covering the game on GAMEDAY (it is the first time they have ever done that). Wouldn't it be awesome if AJ got to run with his mom there and maybe be on gameday?

(I realize this picture isn't of him running. I have to wait until Thursday to get those, but I thought this might show how fast he is just to get that kind of height on a jump.)

Randomness... or how NOT to make banana bread

From Friday on, this has been a weird weekend. I was sick Friday day, so I went home and slept... and slept... and slept. All in all I was probably asleep for about 5-6 hours. It was nice, but not as helpful as I wanted it to be. So I finally woke up because I needed to get AJ and I packed for going to Orlando, or at least as packed as I could get us since I can't pack his computer gear. So I got up just about the time he was getting home. I decided that I wanted to take banana bread with us on our trip and since we weren't leaving for a couple of hours it would be fine to make it. So I get out the supplies to make a loaf and some muffins (chocolate powder added to these). So I get it put together and even add some of the chocolate mix to the regular one to make the loaf all spiffy and swirly. I put it in the oven and start to make the mix for waffles since that is what we were having for dinner. I get the mix made and the iron hot... then BAM!!!! No power! What.... ack!!!! The banana bread had been in the oven for about 10 minutes. Well I leave it in there hoping the power will come back on or it will have enough heat to cook through. No such luck. The muffins cook (in 2 hours), but the loaf was still all gummy and slightly liquidy. Well, the power finally came back on, but we were really hungry and cranky so I threw the semi-cooked loaf into the fridge to wait until we get back on Sunday. I also pack some of the mostly cooked muffins. They were yummy in their gummy state.

So since we couldn't make waffles we went to IHOP. They have a fun promotion going on right now for "Horton Hears A Who". It is a fun meal. They have Sprite with colored Jello in it to make a Beezlenut Splash. Very fun! AJ really likes them, me... not so much. I just don't like chunkies in my drinks. But I will keep it in mind for when we have kids and they want something fun.

So we head to Orlando.

Saturday, AJ packs up to go to his LAN party and I head out shopping with his dad. We went lots of places and didn't buy anything... only because we had no cash at the cash only place, and the store we went to didn't have what we wanted. Oh well. So afterwards I pack up and try to head to the parks before the storm breaks. NO LUCK!

I get to that side of town and the heavens open up! So I get a magazine at WalMart and wait until it passes. And wait, and wait, and wait. Finally I give in and head to do shopping. YAY no rain. So I head to SeaWorld. I get there, blue skies. I walk in, light drips. I get to the stingrays, torrential downpour.




Well, this went on for about 45 minutes. The bad part was I had to go potty... which was right across the walk way. I held out until it at least lightened up some. I did get some fun pictures and video though. Mainly of the storm and the stingrays. The stingrays are really cool, and you can feed them. It feels like a vacuum cleaner on the back of your hand.

So I finally gave up and head out. I only got my feet soaked (YAY Harry Potter umbrella). Then I headed to Downtown Disney. Eh. It was to wet to be fun. So I left. I got lost. for 2.5 hours. At least I found the back parking lot for Magic Kingdom cast members. Getting lost got me really unnerved. It has been a while since that happened, and I was ready to go home. But I had promised I would go say hi to AJ a the lan party. I got lost again. I found him, and then went home. And went to bed.

Sunday we got up and came back to Gainesville and I worked all day. Afterwards I did our grocery shopping for the perishable and sale stuff at Publix. Side note: After coupons and sales I spent $29.67 on groceries. YAY ME!!!

So I finally get home and put our poor poor banana bread back into the oven. It cooked and cooked and cooked. It never cooked all the way through. It is still kinda gummy, but yummy enough to eat. I wish I had taken pictures of it before I started cutting on it. It shrunk up and looks more like a brick than a loaf of bread. Hmmm... note to self... don't let the power go off while baking banana bread.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Flutterbys and Swedish Meatballs

Last night was a fun night. AJ and I went with Charlene and Stasia to The Natural History Museum. Last night was part of the Museum Nights program where they open up the museum to UF students. There is always something fun going on, and last night they let students into the butterfly garden for FREE!!!! This is a big deal because it is normally about $8 per person.

The garden is really cool. It is climate controlled area that looks like a giant netted room. It has butterflies and some birds in it, with lots of awesome flowers. There is also a waterfall that flows into a pond that has turtles and coy. Needless to say I think the pictures will do a better job showing it than I can describe.










The other fun thing we did last night was I made Swedish Meatballs. The other day I was watching my FAVORITIST IN THE WORLD COOK - Alton Brown

He was making meatballs. I decided that I had never really tried making them, other than for the inserts into nano-burgers for my bentos. So I wanted to try adding them to our meal plan at some point. Well, last night I was supposed to make chicken fried steak... I didn't think I had the bread crumbs. Improvise time.... so it was on to swedish meatballs. It was fun, messy but fun. They came out really well. The only complaint that either AJ or I had was that the sauce didn't make enough sauce. That is a reasonable thing to fix.

I actually didn't use Alton's recipe because I was lazy and didn't want to look for it on the foodnetwork site, and I just googled swedish meatballs. Here is the recipe I found:

Swedish Meatballs

Meat: (the main ingredient)
2 pounds ground lean beef
Filler: (to give the meatballs the right consistency)
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup torn bread (I soaked the bread in the milk to make it mushy)
Salt and Pepper:
Salt to taste (1 1/2 teaspoons suggested)
Pepper to taste (white or black pepper - 1/2 teaspoon suggested)
More Flavor:
1/4 teaspoon allspice

By hand or on medium speed with an electric mixture, thoroughly blend the ground meat, filler, salt and pepper, and other flavorings. Beat until very well mixed. Form into balls about 3/4"-1 1/2" in diameter: do this by hand, or use a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop, or a melon baller. Makes 30-150 meatballs depending on how large they are.

Cooking methods:

Pan-fried: Heat a skillet with 2-3 tablespooons of cooking oil to medium-high heat. Fill the skillet about half full with the meatballs, and fry them for about 10 minutes. Shake the skillet gently during cooking to keep the meatballs turning and to cook them evenly, about 10-15 minutes depending on size. You may need a spatula to encourage some of the more stubborn meatballs to turn over properly. As soon as meatballs are browned, take them out of the pan, let them cool and drain a bit, and keep them warm (try using an oven-proof dish in a barely-warm oven) until ready to add sauce and serve.


White sauce:

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cup half and half or cream
1/2 cup water or chicken broth (may be made from bouillon)
Fresh dill leaves or parsley leaves (optional)

Add the flour to the butter in a saucepan, mix thoroughly, turn on heat to low heat. Discard the fat from the cooking pan, then rinse the pan in the water or broth to loosen the bits of meat from the pan. Add the water or broth to the butter/flour base in the saucepan and mix thoroughly. (Tip: at this point, mixing the flour/fat mixture and the broth mixture in the blender removes all lumps thoroughly.) Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and add the half and half or cream slowly. Simmer until a good consistency. Add dill or parsley if desired. Stir the meatballs into the sauce until heated through. Transfer to the serving dish and serve immediately.


I served them over egg noodles. YUM! I think this is getting added to our routine meal plan. It also made enough that I can freeze some and that would make this even easier.


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Take me out to the ball game...


Last night AJ and I went to a baseball game. I have to admit, I am still learning about the sport and have only been to four games - two Gator games and two Braves games.

It was fun! Last night the Gators were playing the team from University of North Florida. It was the first game of the season, the next two will be next week after the Gators travel to Tenn. this weekend.



We had tried to go to the game on Sunday, but there were all kinds of things preventing that. So instead of getting to sit in the stadium we sat in the car next to the stadium and listened to the game on Sunday. It was nice though, if not odd. AJ found one of the balls that was hit over the fence and he gave it to a dad for his little boy. The player in the picture is the one who hit it over the fence. On Sunday one of the Gator players got hurt too, he got hit in the foot by the ball and went down like a sack of potatoes.

Well, last night we randomly choose our seats and settled in for a fun night of baseball. There were these two ladies sitting behind us and they were having a blast... laughing and giggling and getting all into the game. So I being curious by nature wanted to get a glimpse at them. They were two mom looking ladies, and they were wearing player pins (UF makes buttons for the parents/ families of the sports teams with the players last name and number on it). That made things make a lot more sense. So we kinda talked to them and they kept getting calls asking them to call people back when their player got up to bat. It turns out that the player that got hurt on Sunday was the son of the mom behind us. It was neat hearing all about the experience and how they has rushed him to get x-rays and all. I think it was also neat seeing that a mom doesn't stop being a mom even when their baby is grown and playing college sports. Last night the player also got hit in the butt by the ball, even at that this mom was ready to go jump down on the field and strangle the pitcher. Southern mommas are great!

Last night was amazing. The clouds were really cool. I was happy to get to spend a good chunk of the night just hanging out with my hubby and watching some baseball.

I am not sure what the outcome of the game, because we had to leave at the top of the seventh. It was getting late and I was getting tired. I am convinced that pitcher was trying to keep me up all night... it was taking 30 minutes per inning. He also had some weird thing about throwing at least three times to knock someone off base. Oh well, we all have our quirks.

Recipe Swap: Crock Pot Lifesavers - Guinness Beef Stew

Beef Stew - yum. Guinness - yum. Guinness Beef Stew - yummy yummy in my tummy!

Some how this meal tends to be a collection of whatever is floating around the apartment when I decide to make it, so it almost always varies. It also doesn't help that I am not the biggest fan of following recipes and/ or measuring cups. I kind of have an eclectic view on cooking and that it is a science as well as an art form. Luckily I am blessed with a husband who for the most part will eat almost anything and lets me play in the kitchen.

The recipe swap is hosted by The Natural Mommy

Guinness Beef Stew

  1. 1lb cut up beef (the only thing I think that wouldn't work is hamburger), so the cheapest cut of beef should work well.
  2. carrots -diced how you like them.
  3. potatoes - diced how you like them.
  4. 1/2 onion - chopped into large sections
  5. 1 bottle of Guinness
  6. 1 can beef broth (small)
  7. 2 tbs tomato puree, dissolved in 4 tbs water
  8. pinch of pepper
  9. 1tsp thyme
  10. 1tsp oregano
  11. 1/4 flour
  12. 2 tbs oil
Cut meat into cubes of 2 inches (or so) and toss them in a bowl with 1 tablespoon oil.
Season the flour with ground pepper.
Toss the meat in the mixture.
Heat the remaining oil in a wide frying pan over a high heat.
Brown the meat on all sides.
Add the onions and tomato puree to the pan, cover and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a crockpot. P
our some of the Guinness into the frying pan.
Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the caramelized meat juices on the pan (because these are the yummy bits).
Pour onto the meat with the remaining Guinness and beef broth.
Add the carrots, oregano, and the thyme.
Stir.
Cook in crockpot for 4-6 hour on high, or overnight on low. Basically I follow the rule, when it smells to yummy to resist it is done.

If it isn't thick enough you can add a little bit of cornstarch at the end, but that is a personal preference.

Also I occasionally make soda bread with this, because it is easy and quick.


SODA BREAD

  1. 2 cups of all purpose flour.
  2. 1/2 Teaspoon baking soda
  3. 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  4. 8 oz of sour milk

Preheat the oven to 425 F. degrees.
In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients.
Add the sour milk to form a sticky dough.
Place on floured surface and lightly knead (too much allows the gas to escape).
Shape into a round flat shape and place onto a cookie sheet and cut a cross in the top of the dough.
Bake for 30 minutes.
The bottom of the bread will have a hollow sound when tapped so show it is done.

Cover the bread in a tea towel and lightly sprinkle water on the cloth to keep the bread moist.

Ok, just thinking about all this makes me hungry... I wonder what is on our meal plan for tonight...

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

WFMW - Silicone Bakeware


I love my silicone bakeware. AJ and I had put it on our wedding registry, but didn't get it. So when Target sent us our competition coupon I decided I really wanted to get this (and our camping tent, but that is another story).

The kit I got has everything shown to the left. The two items that I am so in love with are the cookie sheet liner and the muffin baking pan. We use the cookie sheet liner at almost every dinner meal in our house. Yay for tater tots not sticking to the cookie sheet anymore. Making biscuits is a lot nicer now too. Having the nifty muffin pan means I have been baking muffins about once a week now.

I love the fact that everything comes off or out of the pans. I even made meatloaf one night in the loaf pan. I was so happy when the whole thing just popped right out (I don't trust my big brothers not to cut through the silicone had I left it in there). I was also amazed at how nicely the meatloaf cleaned up out of the pan. Normally it takes forever and day with lots of elbow grease to clean out the sticky meatloaf saucy topping, but this just wiped out with hot water and a sponge (and soap of course). Before these I had switch to disposable loaf pans for meatloaf, and now I wouldn't go back.

The other great thing about this bakeware is that it is completely dishwasher safe. I have washed it on the top and bottom racks and they come out clean. The baking sheet liner folds in half and fits on the bottom rack with the plates, sweet!

So silicone bakeware is my Works for Me Wednesday

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I Made $11.97 at CVS today!


Today was my first true net gain today at CVS. *Jumping for joy!* We needed milk and vinegar, so I had to figure out some way to get them and to try to make a real gain today. I had $17.99 in EBCs to work with, which I will admit was a good start, but I hadn't figured out how to really work them without loosing more than I made.

The break down:

Transaction #1

$8.94 - Essence of Beauty gift bags (6) (EBCs - $10)
$3.99 - CVS Rapid Release "tylenol" (1) (EBCs- $3.99)
$0.09 - Easter Chocolate (1)
_____
$13.02 - Total
-$3.00 - CVS coupon $3/10
_____
$10.02 - Total
-$10.00 - EBC
______
$0.02 - OOP

EBCs Earned: $13.99

Transaction # 2

$11.97 - CVS Rapid Release "tylenol" (3) (EBCs- $11.97)
$9.98 - Softsoap Spa (2) (EBCs - $9.98)
$1.99 - Heinz White Vinegar (EBCs - $1.00)
$3.69 - TG Lee Milk
______
$27.63 - Total
-$2.00 - Softsoap Spa coupon (2)
-$3.00 - CVS coupon $3/10
-$4.00 - CVS email coupon $4/20
______
$18.63 - Total
-$14.97 - EBC
______
$3.66 - OOP

EBCs Earned: $22.95

Final Outcome:

EBCs Spent: $24.97
EBCs Earned: $36.94
EBCs "Profit": $11.97


Yes, I realize I am a nerd. I am thinking of scanning in my spreadsheet that I had created to work this out. The sad part isn't the spreadsheet... the sad part is all the calculations on the spreadsheet done in pen. I worked hard on the spreadsheet and then in the car on the way to CVS I figured out another way to make more EBCs. My initial calculations came out to making $21.96, not to bad... but I would have spent $15 and not gotten my milk or vinegar. So all in all, I am proud of myself. Just a side note: AJ thinks I am silly for this, but I think deep down he is proud of me (and not just because I am having to do math for my new crazy hobby).
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