new 2012 recipes, part 3.

Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins - My brother, sisters, and brother-in-law play in a kickball league, and I made these muffins for breakfast before their all-day kickball tournament. I tried them a bit later, and they were good! I they didn't have a ton of banana flavor, though - I think next time I would add more of that.

Collard Greens - I signed up for another CSA this year, with Seeds of Life Nurseries. I wasn't crazy about the one I signed up for while I was living in Virginia, but this one is amazing. There's a ton of variety every week, and it's almost all stuff that I love. There's been very little waste this time around. Earlier in year, we got a lot of greens and lettuce, including collard greens, which I've never tried before. I tried a new recipe they sent with the produce, but I burned them.

Turnip Gratin - Turnips were another item that came in with the CSA, so I found this recipe to try. I halved it and just used turnips, and it was very good! It took a bit of time to make, so I probably won't do it all the time, but maybe for special occasions.

Lite Italian Salad Dressing - This was good, I think. I used it in another recipe without tasting it directly, so I'm not really sure.

Streusel-Topped Blueberry Muffins - These muffins are another thing I made for the kickball tournament. I haven't tried them, but my mom and nephew said they were really good.

Unstuffed Cabbage - I wanted to like this, I really did. I think I just don't like cabbage. I was really bummed, too, because I really hated wasting all the other good stuff in this, but it was just too hard to eat around it.

no spend july - week 2.

This experiment has been harder than I anticipated in some ways, easier in others. I don't really miss shopping and running errands (which, really, are often the same thing for me). I don't mind waiting a little while to make some purchases (like registering for kickball for the fall season). It isn't even that annoying to eat at home instead of out, as long as I plan ahead.

What does bother me is the grocery budget - feeling like I have to carefully plan out every purchase and avoid extras (like hummus or trail mix). And I really don't like second-guessing meeting a friend for lunch because it might blow the budget.

Spending Report:
This week, I spent $58.37, less than my weekly budget. Again, most was groceries ($50.12). The rest is for ice cream and Starbucks.

Lessons Learned:
  • If the last two weeks are any indication, a bare-bones monthly grocery budget for me is $200. This doesn't include the CSA half share I purchased several months ago. I've eaten from my pantry a bit, but a lot of this budget goes to fresh fruit.
  • It's not difficult to avoid eating out, if I plan ahead. This is key.
  • Errands (particularly the kind that involve going to several stores) are annoying.
  • I have more than enough projects to finish here that I don't need to go buy stuff for more
Related Posts:

words to remember #20: on scary dreams.

[Source: unknown via Pinterest]

words to remember #19: on courage.

“Courage is not the absence of fear,
but the judgement that something else is more important than fear.

The brave may not live forever,
but the cautious do not live at all. 

For now you are traveling the road between who you think you are and you can be.”

-Meg Cabot

no spend july - week 1.

It's been just over a week since I started my experiment in cutting back significantly on spending for the month of July. I budgeted $200 for anything other than regular bills, including groceries, eating out, gas, and any other kind of discretionary spending. Since my experiment will run just over three weeks, that gives me about $67 to spend each week.

Spending Report
This first week, I spent $82.03, which is definitely more than the $67 weekly budget. Most of this was groceries ($56.86), which I expected, though now I'm a little concerned that $200 might have been a little too aggressive. The remainder included $22 for a planned meal out with my sister (trying another new restaurant downtown), and $3.17 for an ice cream cone.

Lessons Learned
  • Even though I think I don't eat out a lot, the number of times I was tempted to do so surprised me. It was especially surprising how many times I wanted to stop because it was just easier, or because I didn't want to take the time to figure out what to make at home. Having a meal plan definitely helps with this. It doesn't bother to me to spend money eating out when it's about fellowship and community. It does bother me when it's about convenience.
  • I often use shopping as a form of entertainment, both in stores and online. I like thinking about new projects and buying the supplies, but I don't always follow through. This means that there are lots of projects around here that are half-done, or where I have the supplies and just haven't done the work. Because I'm avoiding shopping, I'm getting some of those things finished, and it feels good.
  • There are already a couple of things that I know I'll spend money on when this month is over, but it's not a long list. Hopefully that will still be true in another two weeks.

dining room lights.

You know how you know that your home has outdated light fixtures?

When you see your dining room light fixture in a movie (Footloose) made in 1984.

no spend july.

I'm trying a little experiment for the month of July - I'm taking a break from spending money. I read about No Spend Month at Small Notebook, and after giving it some thought, I decided it would be a good challenge - to use what I already have and finish the things I've already started, to avoid using shopping as a source of entertainment, and to play around with how bare bones I can get, at least for a little while. So, I've set a budget of $200 for the rest of the month.

Obviously, I can't just decide not to pay my mortgage, so regular bills will still be paid as usual (including mortgages, insurance, utilities, and my car payment). I also won't be changing my regular giving. I spent the first week of this month in Virginia Beach, on a mini-vacation/work trip, and those expenses won't be included either. So for my experiment, July started on Saturday the 7th.

The $200 budget will include things like groceries, dog food, eating out, entertainment, gas, and all other kinds of shopping, including stuff for the house. I picked an amount that seemed both achievable and challenging. We'll see how it goes - whether I've developed new spending and saving habits, or whether I'm just longing for a drink at Starbucks on August 1.

saying goodbye.

When I was growing up, we had a black toy poodle named Kurley. I still remember the day that Dad brought her home - she was just a tiny little bundle in his big arms and so terrified she was shaking. I wanted to name her Snowball, because I had a white stuffed dog named that, but Snowball is a pretty silly name for a black dog, so I was quickly out-voted. The name Kurley fit, because she was, and because that way she could share the same initials as my sisters and I.

Kurley was 18 years old when she died. By that time, she was pretty much blind, deaf, and so senile that she was going to the bathroom anywhere and everywhere. She had also been hit by car many years ago, and her bad leg was pretty much useless. When my parents finally made the decision to put her to sleep, I took her to the vet for the procedure. Even though that was more than 10 years, I still remember it very clearly. It was difficult, but she had lived a good, long life, and it was time.

So we grew up with one small dog, but somehow my sisters and I went a bit crazy when we moved out on our own. My brother is a big dog lover, too, and I have no doubt he'll have his share when he has his own home. I got Dakota as a puppy nine years ago, then adopted Harvey about a year after moving to Virginia Beach. Katie got Bailey just a few months before she married Mike, then she and Vince adopted Lexie three years ago, and finally they took in Zoey last spring, who turned out to be pregnant with a litter of 8 puppies (all of whom have now found a good home). Kelli got Barkley six years ago, then took Bella, one of Zoey's puppies. And my parents and Jon got Teddy six years ago. All of which means that if our entire family got together, including all of the dogs, and Vince's kids weren't there, the dogs would out-number the people. 

At least, that was true a month ago, but not anymore. Two weeks ago, Katie and Vince had to put Lexie to sleep, because she had developed nose cancer. It was too widespread (we suspect throughout her entire body) by the time they discovered it, and there was nothing more they could do. Then, this week, Teddy got sick very suddenly from complications due to undiagnosed diabetes, and he died on Thursday night.

I knew when I got my dogs that it was likely that, God willing, I would outlive them. And even though I know in my head that so many things in life aren't guaranteed, I guess I just figured they would go the way Kurley did, after a long and good life. Today I'm realizing that might not be the case, and I'm reminded to enjoy the time I have now with the ones that I love, including these furry, four-legged creatures that bring so much life to my home.

the fourth.

One of the tough things about moving is that it takes a while to find your people - the ones that are just easy to be with, the ones who have seen you through the last few years.

My move to Frederick has been wonderful in so many ways - I love my house and I love living near downtown. My job is going wonderfully, and working from home is a huge blessing. I think my relationship with my family, especially my sisters, is better than it's ever been. I've found a great church that I really like, and I'm starting to figure out where I plug in there.

But still, I miss my people. I miss having people, at least local ones.

I spent part of the Fourth on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach with several friends - some of whom still live me, and others who, like me, have moved away but are in town for a visit. I had such a good time, and at one point, I remember looking around and thinking (as cheesy as it sounds), these are my people. We're not all in the same place in life - married, single, young kids, grown kids, no kids - but these are the people I miss hanging out with.

Someday, I'll have people in Frederick, too. Until then, I'm so grateful for little breaks like these and the chance to reconnect with the people I love.

goal update (june).

It's time for a 6 month update on my 20 goals for 2012.

  1. Create art with Jacob - DONE (see art day and melted crayon art).
  2. Try 25 new recipes - IN PROCESS (14/25) (see part 1 and part 2).
  3. Read 5 non-fiction books.
  4. Read through the entire Bible - IN PROCESS - I need to catch up, but I'm working on it.
  5. Get eight hours of sleep a night for one solid month.
  6. Start an herb garden.
  7. Make meaningful art for my house - DONE, though there are still more things I want to make (see life is beauty full and abstract art).
  8. Explore downtown Frederick by trying six new restaurants - DONE. I've tried 10 new restaurants so far this year (MoxieCafe Nola, Cacique, Mistero, Nido's, Black Hog, Lunchbox, Pretzel & Pizza Creations, Isabella's, and Il Porto). And though they don't count for this goal, I've also been to Ben & Jerry's and The Greene Turtle (both chains) and  Brewer's Alley (not new to me). 
  9. Take a yoga class.
  10. Take a French class - IN PROCESS (the class finishes next week, on 7/9).
  11. Take Ally, Cam, and Jake to lunch for their birthdays - IN PROCESS - I took Ally and Cameron to lunch for their birthdays in February and June. Jacob's birthday is in September.
  12. Cut my car loan balance in half.
  13. Join a Bible study - DONE.
  14. See 5 (new) places from the book 1,000 Places to See in the U.S.A. & Canada Before You Die - IN PROCESS.
  15. Walk the dogs four times a week for a month.
  16. Set up a recycling center - DONE.
  17. Tile something.
  18. Grill something.
  19. Write random notes to the people that I love - IN PROCESS.
  20. Go hiking with my sisters - DONE (see hiking).