Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Purees and Procreastination

In my last post, I wrote out my "To Do" list for the week. Here it is Wednesday and I haven't done squat from my list.  On Monday I had zero energy.  I watched Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart, did a little cleaning of the master bedroom and that. was. it.  Seriously, I could not figure out why I was so useless.  The next morning I learned the ugly truth.  The Hubs had made decaf.  I apparently cannot function without fully caffeinated coffee.

 Yesterday I took Babycakes swimming at my aunt and uncle's house.  I thought I could get a few things done during her nap but she only slept for another hour. When she woke up she was SUPER cuddly, which was nice, but I knew she wasn't feeling well.  Sure enough she was running a low grade fever.  She was so clingy that I wasn't able to get anything done.  I even had to put her on my back so I could make dinner.

She didn't sleep well last night which means no one slept well.  So I made an appointment when we rolled out of bed this morning with her pediatrician.  Diagnosis: ear infection and eye infection.  So another round of antibiotics and eye drops.  Have you even given eye drops to a 2 year old?  I don't recommend it.

Anyway, back to the point of my post.  While Monday was definitely a day of procrastination, the past two days have been Mommy duty.  I also mentioned last week that I made some purees that I would talk about in a later post.  So here is that post.

A couple of years ago I picked up a copy of Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious  cookbook on the bargain table.

I decided to start using her recipes/ideas to include more veggies in our diets.  The Hubs is a big fan of sloppy joes so I thought I would try her version to see if it would pass muster.  Since her recipe called for some things 1.) I didn't have on hand and 2.) I knew someone didn't like, the recipe below is my version of her recipe.  Capiche?

Okay, I started by browning a pound of ground beef in the skillet.

 To that I added 1/2 cup of sweet potato puree, 1/2 cup of butternut squash puree, 1/2 cup of vegetable broth, 1/4 cup of tomato paste, 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper.  Cook on low heat for about 15-20 minutes.  (HINT:  The tomato paste in those little cans is about 1/2 a cup.  Rather than throw away the other half, I put it in a freezer bag and popped it into the freezer with my other food purees.)

I used vegetable broth because it's what I had on hand and I was trying to use up what was in the fridge.

We were out of hamburger and hotdog buns so I served them on toasted white bread with a side of sweet potato fries.  The Hubs and I also had side salads and Babycakes had some cucumbers from the garden.

These passed muster with the food critics in the house so it will be a recipe I use again.  I have additional purees in the freezer so I am ready for another evening of sneaking some veggies into a main course.  :-)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summary of My Weekly Goals

If you recall, I posted my goals for the week last Sunday here.  So here is how I did...

-Work on Dissertation for at least 4 hours  DONE! It was a struggle but I was able to spend 4 hours actually working (not painting my nails, checking out Facebook, or other task avoiding behaviors!)
-Make purees (butternut/yellow squash, red pepper, cauliflower)
Done!  While I didn't do them all on Monday I did get all of my purees done this week.  Stay tuned and I'll show you what I'm using them for. :-)

-Call Assistant Principal about possible Professional Development Presentation for faculty
Done!  I even followed up with some of my co-workers so we can try and work together  on a presentation.

Tuesday:-Work on dissertation during Babycakes' nap  This was a fail.  I took a nap. :-(
-Work on Little Firecracker's baby blanket for at least 30 minutes 
35 minutes of work before aforementioned nap!
-Peel paint  While I peeled paint I didn't get as much done as I was hoping.  

Below is a little "before and after."

-Swimming with Babycakes (it is summer after all!)  Done!  Even though it started out a little cool we had a successful morning of swimming. Babycakes even jumped in the water and got her face wet! :-)
-Dissertation during nap  This was a big ole fail.  I can't even remember what I did but I know this didn't happen.
-30 minutes on Little Firecracker's Blanket  Another fail.  Maybe I'll finish the blanket before she goes to kindergarten. :-/

-Minimum 4 hours on dissertation  While not a total failure I only got about an hour of work in that day.  
-"Catch-Up" on household chores  While my house is still not "clean-clean" we can now walk through the dining room without breaking any limbs.

So I feel like this was a somewhat successful week so I'm going to try this again...

3 hours on dissertation
30 minutes on Little Firecracker's blanket
Make granola bars for Babycakes

Pool time!

Peel Paint (and hopefully get the rest of the ceiling paint off!)

Library Time with Babycakes
? Park in the Afternoon?

3 hours on dissertation
30 minutes on Little Firecracker's blanket

Here's to a great week!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kitchen Overhaul

I thought I would post a few pics of the kitchen project today.  While we aren't installing new cabinets or replacing the flooring (yet!) I still feel like this job is an overhaul.  Especially considering we are doing ALL of the work ourselves.  Initially I started this by myself.  But I think the Hubs realized I was going to need some help with this project if it was going to be complete before Babycakes starts kindergarten in 3 years!

This was how much I got done the first day.  That ugly hospital green is the oil based paint I need to cover.

Even the ceiling is hospital green!!! Ugh!

Here is the Hubs giving me a hand.  I apologize for the glare in these pictures.

Unfortunately ceiling paint peeling is a lot slower than wall paint peeling. :-(  

This was after a day spent peeling.  I am trying to finish the ceiling today so that I can get some primer and get started on the next phase of this project.  Here's hoping I get this stuff peeled off today!

Monday, July 22, 2013

What Was I Thinking???

Yesterday, I posted my "TO DO" list for the week.  I said I would spend at least 4 hours on my dissertation proposal.  While I have been working pretty continuously on it for most of the day, I thought I would use a stop watch to measure my "time on task."  That was stupid.  Now, even though I have been working for most of the day I feel like a bum because my measured "time on task" is only 1 hour 49 minutes and 12.9 seconds.  That is less than HALF of what I said I would do!  And yet, my brain feels like a big pile of mush.  How is this possible?  And while I thought I had written about 5 pages it was more like 3 (and that's being generous!).   Will I ever get this thing done?  :-/

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Summer, Please Don't Leave Me! I'm Not Ready Yet!

With my summer quickly dwindling away, I need to get my poop together and get some stuff done around here!  While pondering this the other day, I decided that I needed to get moving on some projects before heading back to work at the end of August.  One of the projects that has been hanging over my head for a couple of years is painting the kitchen ceiling.  (Look!  I made a punny!) Unfortunately I knew it would not be a simple project. This is because in addition to painting the ceiling I also need to repaint the walls because the paint is peeling.  So I decided to start peeling paint of the kitchen walls so that I could start the process of painting the ceiling.  

Why am I peeling the paint off of the kitchen walls?  Because whoever owned the house before painted a latex paint over an oil-based paint.  If you aren't familiar with paint - painting latex over oil is a HUGE no-no.  This is because the latex simply peels off of the original oil based paint.  And when I say peel I mean PEEL in huge sheets.  Not all of the paint peeling has been in huge sheets.  There has also been a lot of chipping that crap off with a razor blade.  

Well, as the Hubs and I were finishing up the walls today we made a horrible discovery.  The ceiling has to be peeled too.  UGH!!! This just added even more time/work/money to this "simple" summer project.  So, in order to get everything done that I would like to do this summer I am having to be a little more structured with the remainder of my time off.  This being said, I am putting my "TO DO" list on my blog in the hopes that someone will actually read it and hold me accountable for making sure I do this.  So here is goes...

-Work on Dissertation for at least 4 hours
-Make purees (butternut/yellow squash, red pepper, cauliflower)
-Call Assistant Principal about possible Professional Development Presentation for faculty

Tuesday:-Work on dissertation during Babycakes' nap
-Work on Little Firecracker's baby blanket for at least 30 minutes 

-Peel paint 

-Swimming with Babycakes (it is summer after all!)
-Dissertation during nap
-30 minutes on Little Firecracker's Blanket

-Minimum 4 hours on dissertation
-"Catch-Up" on household chores

I know this may not seem like an enormous list of things to get finished in a week's time when I don't have to go to work and Babycakes is in pre-school 3 days a week.  But I am not very good about finishing projects and I need to get something done!  Please keep me motivated!
Thanks!  I hope you all have a wonderful (and productive) week!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Eating on the Cheap!

In an earlier post (here) I shared how I meal plan and shop for a week of groceries.  I had a request from my girl Amber over at The Binkertation for my favorite recipe on a budget.  While I don't really have a favorite per se, I did cook up a delicious and healthy meal the other night that was a big hit here at Wilted Acres!  So without further adieu, I give you my budget friendly pizza...

I started off by using this recipe for the crust.  It's a whole wheat crust that was pretty tasty.  No one complained so I call that a success!  Next, the Hubs spread the dough around on our pizza stone.  I could do it but it just makes me mad to stretch it.  It ends up with holes and I ended up swearing so it was really for the best. :-)
I could never figure out how he was able to get the crust on pan without swearing so perfectly until I saw him using a smooth plastic tumbler as a "rolling pin."  I told him he was a genius and that I was going to blog about his brilliant idea.  Next he scored the dough with the fancy tool that he got from a pizza place years ago so that the sauce gets down into the dough.

 Next we added our pizza sauce that is actually nothing more than spaghetti sauce.  I learned that trick many years ago when I took home economics in middle school (Thanks, Mrs. Arnold!).  At $0.99 a can it was much cheaper than pizza sauce AND we could make 2 pizzas from one can of sauce!

Next I snuck on some sliced zucchini from the garden.  I was able to get an extra serving of veggies on there without altering the taste too much. (Hint: hide it under the cheese!)

 I thought we had pepperoni in the fridge but the Hubs had commandeered it during a late night snack raid.  I was too lazy to go out and buy more so I just used what we had on hand.  This included some bacon that I had leftover from another dinner night.  I just put a couple of slices on a plate in between some layers of paper towel and microwaved it for about 2 minutes (more or less).  I also added some ham (lunch meat) and sweet Lebanon bologna since we had both on hand. We also sliced up an onion (I always buy a bag to keep for recipes as most of what I seem to cook calls for onion of some type.)

I also thought I would share my tip for saving money on cheese.  I very rarely buy pre-shredded cheese.  The Hubs and I got a food processor for a wedding gift and I have used it to grate cheese ever since.  It saves us a bundle!

The final ingredient to our pizza was black olives.  I absolutely LOVE black olives on my pizza.  The Hubs?  Not so much.  At first Babycakes was not an olive fan either until I introduced her to olive eating 101.  You put them on your fingers!  She is now an olive fan.  

So let me break down the cost:

Dough (I had all ingredients in my pantry)  $0
Zucchini (from the garden)  $0
Pizza/Spaghetti Sauce $0.50 (since I had enough sauce for 2 pizzas)
Cheese ($1.88) (I only used half of that block)
Meats $0 (since I used what we already had left over)
Olives $0.99
Onions $0
Total Cost for Pizza:  $3.37
We also had some left over for lunch the next day.  I would say that was a budget friendly dinner!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Conference and Vacation

This past week, the hubs and I went to Williamsburg, Virginia for a conference.  As teachers we have lots to keep up with and the Virginia Department of Education sponsored a fantastic series of workshops for us to attend.  It's not often that professional development is this good.  And while we were busy "being professional" my Mom (a.k.a. Grammy) came along to take care of Babycakes while we were in sessions all day.  Our first night there we took Babycakes to Duke of Gloucester street to run some pent up energy she had from the long car ride.  It was also night for us to get out and get some fresh air.

Babycakes caught sight of some horses grazing in a field and was mesmerized.  This kid seriously loves some animals.  Which makes me happy because I love (most) animals too.

Babycakes also LOVES her Grammy.  She has stayed with my mom at least 2 days a week since she was born and she is for sure Grammy's girl.  They have a very special relationship and I am so happy they do because my mom is the BEST!

I'm not usually in the pictures because I'm usually the ones taking the pictures!  But the Hubs was able to take some this time. :-)  Thanks honey!

We also had some fun trying on all of the hats in one of the gift shops.

Babycakes even found somewhere to play a quick round of peek-a-boo!

I'm not sure how many of you have been to Williamsburg, but it really is a wonderful place to visit.  I hate that we didn't have more time to visit but am so thankful for the brief time I did have.  One of the things I love to photograph and admire are gardens.  (Not sure that sentence is grammatically correct.  :-/ )  The gardens in Williamsburg are amazing.

I love the little white out building in the back!

And such an ingenious idea for climbing veggies!

What a lovely place for a book and glass of sweet tea!

And just so you all don't think it was all fun and no work, here is a picture of me and the Hubs with Harry and Rosemary Wong.  For those of you who aren't in education these names probably mean nothing to you.  I think the Hubs put it best, "Harry Wong is to education what Johnny Cash was to country music."

It may sound silly but this was one of the highlights of my 18 year career in education.  Such an honor to meet them.  They were so super sweet and even signed our copies of The First Days of School.  For those of you who are fans, the Wongs have written a new book called The Classroom Management Book that will be coming out this fall.  Can't wait to get my copy and read it!  (This is not a paid advertisement from Harry and Rosemary Wong, I am just a huge fan of them and their work!)

Anyway, I'm glad to be home after such a great trip.  Babycakes is trying to recover from a nasty cold and an ear infection that she came down with while we were gone.  I need to get some stuff done around the house.  August will be here before you know it and I'll be heading back to work.  I hope all of you have been enjoying the summer!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Meal Planning

Living on a fairly tight budget, I have learned the importance of weekly meal planning.  I've had a lot of folks tell me they don't have time to cook or plan meals.  I tell them I don't have time NOT to plan out our meals. Since meal planning seems to be somewhat of an enigma for folks I thought I would share my fairly simple meal planning strategy.

 I don't have a computer based spread sheet or anything that high tech.  Although I may do that one day.  for now, I use a tablet that I purchased from the dollar bin at Michaels Craft store a while ago.

It lists the days of the week and I write in what we are having for dinner that night.  I don't worry about breakfast or lunch.  We usually grab breakfast on our own and I try and keep things like cereal, breakfast bars, and bananas on hand for that.  Lunch is usually sandwiches or leftovers from the previous night's dinner.  I also list and nights we won't be eating at home (like our anniversary dinner) and those nights we need to eat the leftovers.  In addition, I write down where the recipe is locate - cookbook and page number- so that I don't forget where I found the recipe.  After I make my meal plan for the week I make up my grocery list.

I typically try to use what I have on hand when planning the dinner menu.  This is to keep food I have in the fridge from going bad.  I've also been attempting to try a new recipe each week.  I have a tendency to collect recipes and then never try them to see if they are any good.  So in order to try and pare down my collection I've been trying some new things in an effort to purge out the ones that aren't very good.  I'm also trying to prepare one vegetarian meal each week.  The Hubs is a serious carnivore so I have to use my creativity.

Below is my grocery list for the week.  I only buy what is on the list.  This is critical for keeping costs down.  I do allow some wiggle room for things that are on sale that we use regularly but for the most part I am list driven.
I also only grocery shop with cash.  This eliminates the temptation to overspend on groceries.  We attended Dave Ramsay's Financial Peace University this past winter and he suggested the envelope system that is based on only using cash.  We have found this to be very helpful.

I hope this has been helpful to some of you.  I really encourage to to try a couple of weeks of meal planning. Let me know how it works for you!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

4th of July Fireworks

Lots of excitement here at Wilted Acres since my last post.  So let me fill all of you in on what's been happening...

On Thursday, the Hubs and I were preparing to celebrate the 4th and our anniversary.  Yep, we got married on the 4th of July four years ago. (No, it wasn't a red white and blue wedding.)

Anywho, we had made arrangements for Babycakes to go hang out with her Grammy so we could go to dinner that evening.  But before we started our anniversary celebration, we wanted to start with our Independence Day festivities.  We started by having Babycakes "help" Daddy hang the flag outside.

After that, plans changed significantly.  I received "the call"  I had been waiting for.  My "baby" sister (I can call her that since there are 7 years between us!) was in labor and my services as assistant coach were needed.  I was soooooo excited!!!  So I hopped into the car and headed 40 minutes north to the hospital while the hubs took over all parenting duties while I was helping my sister and her husband.

After Babycakes got up from her nap, she and Daddy decided to head on up to the hospital to get some Mommy loves.

I can't even tell you how much I love this picture of her.  Quintessential Babycakes right there.

Let me tell you what a trooper my baby sister is.  She went 16 hours before she asked for any sort of pain relief.  16 hours!!!  As soon as I showed up I was begging for drugs. But I digress.  At around 10:30 she had dilated to 10 centimeters so she  was ready to push.  Unfortunately, the baby's heart rate decreased each time she pushed so she had an emergency Cesarean section to get baby out.  I was sad I couldn't be there when my beautiful niece came into the world but am thrilled that she made it here safely.  And that's what's important!

So without further adieu I present my beautiful niece, Ellie who will be known from this point on as "Firecracker" since she was born on the 4th of July!

Isn't she just the cutest?  Just to make sure she knew me, I went by yesterday afternoon to formally introduce myself as her favorite auntie (from Virginia that is!)  :-)

I'm so glad that she is here so that Babycakes can begin a life of memories with her new cousin, Firecracker.

Hope everyone had a great 4th as well!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Hiatus Over!

I'm back from an unplanned hiatus from my blog.  After all of the emotions I experienced from the event I shared in my last post I just felt I needed some time to spend with my family and to regroup.  I didn't make a conscious decision to take a break from my blog, it just sort of happened.  So my apologies.  I'd also like to thank everyone for their kind words via the comments section and private messages sent to me.  Y'all are the best!  :-)

Anywho, lots of summertime fun has been going on here at Wilted Acres.  While I haven't finished any fabulous craft projects or cooked up anything super-delicious in the kitchen I have been busy making memories with the Hubs and my sweet Babycakes!

Just a few short days after finishing up the school year, we loaded up and headed to the beach for a week with some friends.

Here's Babycakes hanging out on the front porch waiting for everyone to arrive so we can leave.

We went to the beach in Delaware, which was a first for me.  I usually head south to the beach but was pleasantly surprised by 1. how close it was to home and 2. how nice it was!  We rented a condo for the week and it had a pool which was a huge hit with the little one...

Because Delaware doesn't have sales tax AND we were close to a TON of outlets, we even did a little shopping at the Yankee Candle Outlet...

and a super cute, kid-friendly, locally owned bookstore. (That gray blur is the Hubs trying to keep up with the little one!)

Since it was a beach trip we did make it to the beach.  Unfortunately, Babycakes was not a fan.

No sand on these little toes.  She did NOT want that stuff on her feet, her hands, or anywhere near her!  So unlike her beach lovin' Mama!  The sand is my favorite part!  We tried two different days and two different beaches.  Here she is with her Daddy on the second beach disaster visit.

Don't get me wrong.  It's not like she was screaming bloody murder or begging to leave.  She just did not want to sit (or stand) in the sand.  She was perfectly content to sit in my lap or her Daddy's lap.  Especially if we had food.  Girl LOVES to eat.

She also went for a test drive while we were out and about one day...

She also got to visit with some kitties one day while we were out and about.  Other than shoe shopping I think this was one of her favorite parts of the trip.  And I am not joking about the shoe shopping.  The kid was in the Stride Rite outlet store for almost an hour trying on all of the shoes.  

There was also a wonderful park we were able to find in our travels that she loved.  We went there a couple of times during our stay.  So much to do!

 By mid-day, my little girl was tired.  So we made sure there was plenty of time for naps.  Mama joined her most days!

Before leaving, we had to make sure we cleaned up.  Here is Babycakes "helping" her Daddy vacuum before we head out.

So that's one week of my summer thus far. We also went to spend some time with my Dad and Step-mom last week and opened up the "pool" here over the weekend (this consisted of Mommy blowing up a giant zebra pool and filling it with the garden hose).  I did spend some time working on my dissertation proposal yesterday and plan on working on it again tomorrow.  Other than that, it's been a low-key summer so far.  I could get used to this!