Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Menu Plan Tuesday June 29th

Another week flys by....

The good news is that we ate all the meals that I planned for last week. The bad news is it took so much concentration I didn't have time to blog during that time. (Just Kidding! There are a few other things going on that are distracting me from blogging, which hopefully I'll have a chance to share soon.)

My freezer cooking day ended up being 'days' but it went well and added to my stash. With some meats and other basics on hand, I can focus more time on preparing the fresh items I'm purchasing at the farmer's market.

The plan:
  • Monday: Potato Kale Quiche (freezer), grilled chicken sausage, and sweet potato biscuits
  • Tuesday: Kids' Favorite: Spaghetti, Turkey Meatballs, and steamed mixed vegetables (adults eating leftovers)
  • Wednesday: Baked Fish Nuggets, steamed broccoli, and brown rice pilaf
  • Thursday: Lemon Chicken with Carrot Orzo and steamed green beans (farmer's market)
  • Friday: Mini Hamburgers, baked beans, and something fresh from the farmer's market
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: 4th of July Family Get-together: they liked the mini cupcakes I made for Memorial Day so much, I'm making them again! This time I'm doing the plain buttercream version, but still dipping them in the chocolate ganache, and still sprinkling them with salt.
  • Monday: (Holiday) Make Your Own Pizza (my personal pizza will be made with homemade Basil Pesto and will have chicken on top.)
Find meal planning inspiration at orgjunkie.com!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: June 21st

Summer has finally arrived, and the farmers markets are full of great produce! Today I am holding my own Personal Freezer Cooking Day (with my 3 yo daughter, who is currently cutting up a melon with a very small dull knife) so that I can move some of these food items a little closer to being prepared.

As for what we'll be eating for dinner this week, well, we need to eat a few things that didn't get eaten last week before we move forward. :)
  • Monday: Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs  (from the jar and the freezer--my son's begging request) with steamed green beans (from the farmer's market)
  • Tuesday: Marinated Salmon (from freezer) with Lime Cilantro Soba noodles and steamed broccoli--sliding from last week
  • Wednesday: Salt & Pepper Chicken, Mixed Roasted Potatoes, w/more steamed broccoli (another slider)
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday (Last day of school finally): Marinated Flank Steak (freezer), brown rice pilaf, and sauteed bell peppers and onions
  • Saturday: out for dinner
  • Sunday: Leftovers or out for dinner
  • Monday: Potato Kale Quiche (freezer), grilled chicken sausage, and sweet potato biscuits
Visit orgjunkie.com for more menu planning inspiration!

Freezer Cooking Day June 21st

After productive shopping at both the grocery store and the famer's market, I've decided to hold my own personal Freezer Cooking Day to get some meats and other good things prepped and stored in the freezer/fridge/pantry. Here is my list of tasks:
  • slice and freeze mini whole wheat bagels
  • marinate flank steak
  • marinate chicken: molasses glazed chicken thighs
  • roast and mash sweet potatoes to freeze for sweet potato biscuits
  • multi-grain pancake mix (store in pantry)
  • Basil Pesto (for a friend)
  • hard-boiled eggs (my 3 yo daughter cracked an egg the other day, looking for a hard boiled one to peel and eat!)
  • potato-kale quiche (ambitious)
  • Cut cantalope, cucumbers, and bell peppers for snacking
  • bean and cheese quesadillas (if I have enough cheese)
I'm pretty confident that the freezer items will fit in the fridge. It helps that I have a NEW refrigerator, just delivered last week. I opted for a top freezer so that I can easily lay soft items flat to freeze, and also freeze items on cookie sheets. So far it is a huge improvement over my past freezer!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Recycle a Piperlime Shipping Box

I ordered a pair of shoes from Piperlime recently, and I love them!

I also loved the interior of the shipping box:

The entire interior of the box is covered in little green 'limes' in a pretty shade of green. So pretty, in fact, that I couldn't imagine just tossing the box (used once!) into the recycling bin--or even my shipping box stockpile. I decided to see how the limes would look if they were on the outside of the box.

I used a pair of scissors to cut the tape open on the bottom of the box. I then carefully tore the glued seam of the box with my fingers. When the cardboard was completely flat, I refolded the box so that the limes show on the outside, and sealed the seams with clear packing tape. I left the top flaps loose for now, but I may table those down in the future. This was the result:

By keeping the seam on the outside of the box (rather than on the inside as it was originally assembled) it covers up the torn area and still looks pretty nice, as you can see below:

Now I have a pretty cardboard storage box! The dimensions are 14" long x 10" wide x 12" high. I just need to figure out what could be stored inside. Cardboard isn't a good fit for frequent use, so I am thinking it may belong on an upper shelf in my or my daughter's closet. The narrow width makes it easier to store it in a narrow area.

What's Your Motivation? Deadlines

One thing I know about myself is that I am really good at thinking up and starting projects. Finishing them is a different story altogether, and I am always trying to get better at finishing what I start.

Finishing projects around the house can be especially challenging because there aren't always specific deadlines around the home. Will the world end if the bathroom isn't cleaned today? Will daily life really be impacted if no one goes through the boxes down in the storage room? The exception would be meals (lest the ravenous hordes revolt) and emergencies, because yes, life will be impacted if nothing is done regarding the flood in the basement.

I've found it helpful to fabricate my own deadlines to help me move through tasks more efficiently. A few strategies I use include:
  • Entertaining: Somehow household tasks move up the priority list if I'm expecting people over, so when I'm feeling behind and unmotivated, sometimes I'll just invite some people over. It doesn't have to be a big party or anything; even a simple playdate will motivate me to vacuum and wipe down the bathroom. (You can ask the people who visit me: when they come to the door I am often finishing up the hall bath!)
  • Time Sensitive Rewards: I promise myself a reward if something gets done before a specified time. More on this later.
  • External Rewards: The latest example is that I reserved an energy efficient appliance rebate through our state rebate program. We have talked about buying a new refrigerator for years now, but we haven't followed through. Why? Because despite the fact that the fridge that we had was not meeting my needs AND using much more energy than newer models, it wasn't broken. I kept wishing it would break, but it wasn't cooperative. I'm happy to report that the rebate prodded us into moving forward with the appliance purchase.
 Whatever deadlines you fabricate for your household, be sure that they are realistic and doable for you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Basil Pesto

I went to the farmer's market last week and I couldn't resist picking up a bunch of fresh basil so that I could make a homemade batch of basil pesto! This is the recipe that I've cobbled together after considering a number of different recipes. I like to add only a little salt and then eat the pesto on top of salty crackers such as Kashi's TLC regular crackers.

Note: This pesto is garlicky. Feel free to reduce the garlic if it seems like too much for you.

  •  1 bunch fresh basil, washed and mostly dried (about 2 cups packed leaves)
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts (I use pine nuts mostly)
  • 3 cloves garlic (or less if you are not fending off vampires)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese: Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano
  • salt and pepper to taste
Add basil leaves and nuts to food processor, pulse to combine. Use a paddle to scrape larger pieces down into the mixture. Add garlic and pulse further. Add olive oil in a small stream while processing. Add shredded cheese and salt/pepper to taste. Sprinkle additional nuts and cheese on top for garnish.

Serve immediately, or cover with layer of platic wrap or waxed paper before refrigerating.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What's Your Motivation? An Exploration

I am still trying to get back on track after being derailed last month. I feel like there is so much I want to get done, but at the same time, I don't want to do any of it.

It doesn't really make a lot of sense!

My list of things to do typically includes two types of tasks: fun things that I want to do, and boring things that I don't want to do. I can usually motivate myself to do the unsavory tasks by 'rewarding' myself with the opportunity to do the things that I want to do (which are often a lot of work, not leisure activities). This system falls apart when I don't even have the motivation to do the tasks that I want to do.

For instance, sometimes I will assign myself a project to do and motivate myself to do it by planning to blog about it afterwards. I've pushed myself to work on a lot of things as a result of this blog! The problem is when I get so restless and unmotivated that I can't focus on writing--instead I go and read everyone else's blogs, then feel discouraged because my own blog is sitting idle.

I'm hoping that consciously acknowledging this struggle will help me to reconnect with my enjoyment of keeping my home and making progress on my goals and projects. I'm going to keep thinking about this challenge and explore what keeps me motivated (and what throws me off course) in future posts. Feel free to join the discussion in the comment sections!

Menu Plan Tuesday: June 15th

(I've got to figure out how to get this back onto Monday!)

I also have a bunch of basil waiting to be made into pesto, and I hope to make it to the farmer's market again this Thursday.

For more meal planning inspiration, visit orgjunkie.com!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Rascally Rabbits

I finally caught a picture of one of the baby rabbits that we've spied around our yard. (Haven't seen that deer again!) So far [whispering] the rabbits appear to be unaware of the vegetable and herb garden. This is good, because our fence doesn't go 6 inches underground as recommended for rabbit exclusion.Oops!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Menu Plan Tuesday: June 8th

My energy is back! Or is was, for a while, yesterday. Then I stayed up late last night and now I'm dragging, but at least I know why (sleep deprivation) and I know how to fix it (more sleep!) My test results were normal, but on the anemic side, so focusing on protein and iron seems to be sorting everything out.
  • Monday: Mini Hamburgers, twice done potatoes, and steamed peas and corn (the remains of last weeks' menu)
  • Tuesday: Baked Chicken Tenders, steamed green beans, rice pilaf
  • Wednesday: Leftovers (kids only)
  • Thursday:  Homemade Fish Sticks (not eaten last week), with leftover summer squash frittata
  • Friday: Lentil Rice Casserole, steamed asparagus
  • Saturday: Marinated Flank Steak, leftover lentil rice casserole, steamed vegetables
  • Sunday: Book Club-need to plan the menu! Leftovers for the family
  • Monday: Lasagna (from the freezer) and salad
Othher cooking this week includes cupcakes for a school party.

Find more meal planning ideas at orgjunkie.com!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fitness Goal Update for May

I should first confess that I skipped reporting on my personal fitness challenge for April. I fell behind, and I kept meaning to write about it, then May happened, and it fell by the wayside.

But I persisted! Despite the fact that both teenage neighbors who were available to watch my kids so I could work out mid-afternoon and be home for dinner... weren't available anymore. (One plays sports, and one's parent decided she couldn't do any babysitting until school lets out. Argh!) Then I had the bright idea to hold a yard sale and send items to a consignment sale at the same time. Then we went out of town two weekends in a row for a total of 8 days. Lastly, my son was having a minor problem at school and I felt like I needed to pay extra attention to him to try to figure out what was bothering him. (Issue Resolved, thank goodness.)

All this added up to my attending my class only 8 times in April, bringing my total in April for the year to 47; 3 shy of the 50 that I needed to be on track to meet my 150 class goal for the year. It took everything in me to keep going in May to try to make up at least a little of my slacking off:

Total Attended in May: 12

Current 2010 Total: 59 (Not including the class I attended yesterday so that I could look up how many times I attended in May so that I could make this report!)

The next challenge is an attendance game for the months of June and July. I am supposed to attend at least 30 classes total during this time. This works out fine to 15 classes per month, but the catch is that I will be out of town in July, a potential total of 9 days, possibly more. 31 days minus 9 days equals 22 days in which to attend 15 classes. If I wasn't breaking down these numbers into months and weeks, it would be much harder to figure out what I need to do to stay on track for the year. Plan for June: Go! Every day!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Declutter Challenge May Update: Nothing Much

Decluttering activities got a bit derailed this past month. In fact, I didn't do hardly anything to try to reach my goal this month, and my numbers reflect my lack of initiative!

I sold a nice maternity dress on Ebay, using the Buy it Now 30-day listing feature, which gave me $15.93.  The fees for this type of transaction are higher than for the auction. I think I should have auctioned the dress instead.

The exciting thing about this transaction was that it took place right after I left town for a few days. The timing was amazing. (Thanks to my sister for helping me out with shipping the item!) Lesson Learned: Don't forget to put your selling items on vacation when you are on vacation!

Here's a photo tip I discovered for my dress pictured above: I stuffed the bosom of the dress with crumpled paper towels to make a more flattering shape on the hanger (then used the towels for other purposes afterwards, of course). Another neat thing: a dress made of thin material can be carefully folded and fitted into a flat rate shipping envelope. I tucked it carefully inside a gallon-size resealable bag and pressed the air out first.

I also managed to sell two books on Half.com, netting a total of $12.89 after shipping costs and fees. I'm fudging a little here because I haven't recieved payment of one of these books yet; one just sold last week. My total book inventory on Half.com is still a grand total of two books, and I've been selling approximately one per month. I'll have to look around and see if I have anything else to list; these transactions are really easy to do!

We have a large outdoor shed that we are not going to use, so I made a half-hearted end-of-the-month attempt to sell it on Craigslist. It didn't sell yet.

And... that's it! My Grand Total for the month of inertia is $28.82. It's better than nothing, but nowhere near my $100 goal. I will have to use other funds to cover my minimum payment for my loan this month, and hope for better results next month.

The best part about getting derailed is picking yourself up and getting back on track. I have plenty of ideas on items to sell for the month of June and beyond, as well as two piles of items that have yet to make their way out the door to Goodwill. I have a variety of larger furniture items to offer on Craigslist, and some items to auction on Ebay as well... including the final batches of cloth diapers that we own. Somehow the toy situation that I thought I had under control is NOT under control. I think the toys are replicating exponentially when we are asleep! I'm hoping to get a better handle on the volume, location, and storage challenges this summer.

I'm linked up to decluttering progress reports at Amy's Finer Things In Life. Be sure to stop by and check out others' decluttering progress, which is hopefully more inspiring than mine!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Menu Plan Tuesday: June 1st

Better late than never?

As a result of reading The Mood Cure: The 4-Step Program to Taking Charge of your Emotions, I am working on some changes to my diet with the hope that the changes will boost my energy levels, which have been dragging significantly the past month or two. I think I overdid it with the salads. I'm not going to avoid salads in the future, but instead find a way to integrate salads without eliminating protein from my meals, because apparently I need much more protein than what I've been eating--and not only at dinnertime; I need more protein at breakfast and lunchtime, too... part of which will be accomplished by actually sitting down and eating a prepared breakfast, rather than grabbing a banana on the go.  (Bananas=Good, but no protein!)

The best thing I learned in The Mood Cure is that butter and extra virgin olive oil are Good Mood Fats, which is wonderful because those are some of my favorite ingredients!

  • Tuesday: Seasoned French Rack of Lamb, baked potatoes, broccoli, salad
  • Wednesday: Creamy Enchilada Casserole, steamed asparagus, strawberries
  • Thursday: Grilled Marinated Salmon w/Sweet Potato Black Bean Salsa (this is so good, try it!) served over wilted spinach greens (marinating extra salmon for the freezer)
  • Friday: Neighborhood cook out (need to find out what to bring)
  • Saturday: Mini Hamburgers (that we didn't eat last week due to the stomach bug present in the household), twice-done potatoes (using leftovers from Tuesday), steamed broccoli, salad
  • Sunday: Homemade breaded fish sticks (baked), with leftover sweet potato salsa and steamed veggies
  • Monday: Baked Chicken Tenders, steamed green beans, brown rice pilaf (making extra for future meals) and salad

Breakfasts will include: scrambled egg/whole wheat tortillas wraps, cottage cheese and pears, multi-grain pancakes, sweet italian chicken sausages, smoked salmon on ww mini bagels w/cream cheese, plain yogurt w/strawberries, and cold cereal b/c my kids are addicted.

Lunches will include: tilapia packets over whole wheat couscous w/zucchini and grape tomatoes, turkey tortilla wraps, bean and cheese quesadillas, and a Summer Squash frittata.

My energy level this well can be gauged by how much I get done around the house, which will be reflected in how many blog posts I manage to post! I hope this works, because I'm tired of dragging around all the time.

Find more menu plans, recipes and ideas at orgjunkie.com.