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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 3/29

Well, so much for great plans and designs.  I started Menu Plan Monday two weeks ago with a bang.  Last week, it just didn't happen --- not at all.  It didn't matter all that much because we had gone out for dinner two different nights on the weekend with friends and came home with a ton of leftovers -- and that essentially became the menu plan for the week.  No fuss, no muss.
But still --- when I commit to something, I like to actually see it through -- and I hate getting off to such a poor start.
Now this week, I'm a day late with my menu plan (just posting it, actually -- I really did make it on Sunday)   
This week is a bit challenging because of the Easter holiday coming up and the various responsibilities that we have (okay, okay, that my husband has...) during the week.  It messes with meal planning quite a bit.  But here's my best effort, because I believe that simply doing it is important.  I do have to make more of a day-by-day plan this week, because the week is so crazy.... Here goes:

Breakfasts
Monday:  toast with peanut butter, oranges, tea
Tuesday:  pineapple with cottage cheese
Wednesday:  fruit smoothies
Thursday:  flagel (a flat bagel) with cream cheese and juice
Friday: We're fasting
Saturday: egg sandwiches on english muffins
Sunday: breakfast at church

Lunches:
Monday:  leftover macaroni and cheese
Tuesday:  salad with salami ribbons
Wednesday:  cucumber roll sushi and apple wedges
Thursday:  fruit salad and cottage cheese
Friday:  We're fasting
Saturday:  We'll be traveling:  granola bars, cheese and crackers, apple wedges
Sunday:  Easter dinner:  ham, potatoes, asparagus, popovers, salad

Dinner:
Monday:  eggplant and cheese rollups
Tuesday:  pasta with sauce
Wednesday:  beef and peppers over rice
Thursday:  pierogies with sour cream and carmelized onions
Friday:  We're fasting
Saturday: Dinner out with Dan and Lisa
Sunday:  can't imagine we'll want anything after that huge Easter dinner!!




Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's Spring: At least on the dinnertable...


I wanted a quick and easy dinner and found this recipe for Pasta with Peas.  We have a summertime favorite that is Pasta with Pesto and Peas, so this sounded like a sure winner for the wintertime and early spring. 
Pasta with Peas

1 lb box of pasta (I used Orecchiette, the ear shaped pasta)
1-2 tbs of olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 can of Le Seur baby peas
¾ cup of heavy cream
1 cup of grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
¼ cup of shredded mint leaves (loving my aerogarden for this)

Cook the pasta according to the box.
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet
Add the garlic and peas and sauté briefly
Stir in the cream  and half of the grated cheese
Simmer until it thickens
Mix the sauce and the cooked pasta and the mint.
Serve the remaining grated cheese on the top

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ten Ideas for a Welcoming Home

I was browsing around the web and stumbled upon a lovely home-making blog called The Blessed Nest (great title, don't you think??)  She recently had a post on 10 Simple Ideas For a Welcoming Home.  There are some really terrific ideas there --- I strongly recommend that you click over and see what she thinks.   I found a couple of new ideas --- you probably will too.
Blessed Nest inspired me to try my own hand at 10 Ideas for a Welcoming Home (sort of like one of those Letterman knock-offs)  
  1. Corral the clutter!!  Some simple baskets that keep the daily clutter of life under control are all it takes.  No one feels comfortable around someone else's newspapers, magazines, children's toys, dog toys etc.  Just stash it in an easily accessible basket and get it out of sight.  You'll feel better and your guests will too.  
  2. Clear the clutter on the porch and sidewalk too.  You may love looking at the tricycle your three year old left in the sidewalk, but its just an obstacle to a guest.  Obstacles are, by definition, not welcoming.  Likewise the dead flower basket that blew down in the wind storm last week, and the broom that you left leaning against the wall on the porch.  Create a clear, clean path up to and into your home.
  3. Give the windows of the door a quick swipe with Windex.  After the long winter, they're probably at least a little smudged with fingerprints, pawprints and the like.  Make them sparkle!! It only takes a minute and it makes a huge difference to the visitor walking up to your door.  Don't forget the back door too --- some company is "back door company" and usually they're the best kind.  Right??
  4. Light a candle that smells terrific.  I learned this one from my friend Patricia.  She has one of those homes that I always envy, but will never have (mostly because I will never clean the way she does).  Besides the simple clean of her home, she always has a lovely candle burning in the kitchen (she's a Yankee Candle gal, I'm too cheap for that)  The smell just welcomes you and pulls you inside.  
  5. Keep a sparkling pitcher near the fridge.  When guests arrive (even unexpected guests) fill that pitcher with a little ice and some fresh cool water.  Its amazing how welcoming a simple glass of water can feel --- and the pitcher just makes it feel special --- like someone was hoping you'd come for a visit.  
  6. Put some of those fancy, schmancy paper guest towels in your bathroom --- and forbid the family to even think about touching them!!  I'm not one for spending money frivolously -- but this little touch means I don't have to wonder about guests feeling squicky about some grimy towel with dog hair on it.  The guest towels are there in a little basket on the ledge of the sink..... Again, it makes it feel like I've been hoping you'd visit.  
  7. Actually sit down with your guests.  No one feels comfortable visiting when the hostess is struggling in the kitchen or trying to sneak clean the bathroom.  These people came to see you.  Visit with them a while. 
  8. Get in the habit of hosting Friday night dessert.  Its amazing -- Friday night seems to be the one night that stays somewhat clear in everyone's schedule.  Kids teams and practices and clubs are most often during the week or during the day on the weekend.  Adult social activities seem to be largely scheduled for Saturday nights.  Don't try for dinner --- everyone is trying to re-balance after the long work week.  Just invite someone for 8:00 dessert and coffee.  You can pick up something on your way home if need be.  
  9. Accept invitations to other homes and to group outings.  People cannot feel welcomed and comfortable in your home if they're not comfortable with YOU.  
  10. Practice relaxing --- when you're tense, you convey that tenseness to everyone around you --- your kids, the dog, your friends -- everyone.  When you relax, everyone around you can relax too.  After all, isn't that what you want in a welcoming home??? You want your guests to relax.  Relax!





Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Tiny Bit Better Than Yesterday

The other day I was listening to the radio and heard this interview with Chantel Hobbs --- you can listen to the interview here and see her website here.   She is a fitness expert and motivational speaker with a Christian perspective.  While I found some of her comments about diet and exercise very intriguing (I’ll get to that in a minute) – I found one comment she made to start a huge brain spark in me.  “We need to get to the place where we decide that every single day we can live a little bit better than we did yesterday”.  WOW!!   That applies to just about everything in life around here. 
In terms of fitness and healthy eating --- I’ll just borrow from Chantel.  Its all about balance --- fast one meal a week --- splurge one meal a week.  Balance --- but overall, make a daily decision that today will be a tiny bit better than yesterday.  Eat a tiny bit more vegetables today.  Eat a tiny bit less junk food today than yesterday.  Walk or run a tiny bit further today.  Move a tiny bit more.  That’s all, just be a tiny bit better today than yesterday. 
Yesterday is already on the books.  There is nothing you or I can do that will change yesterday.  And tomorrow is too overwhelming.  Nevermind forever – that’s way too overwhelming.  Just manage today – let today be one tiny bit better than yesterday was. 
Can you imagine how much life will be in one year if every day gets a tiny bit better than the day before it???  Can you imagine how much fitter our bodies could be? How much smaller our clothing might be?? How much better our doctor’s checkup will be??
So as we move through this spring together, I want to look at Chantel Hobbs’ idea and apply it to some different areas of life.  Want to come with me??

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day: Hungarian Style

It’s St Patrick’s Day!!  Are you wearing green?? I actually forgot my green until I started this post --- and went ARRRGGGHHHH!!  I quickly ran upstairs for something with a little touch of the Irish in it. 
No, we’re not Irish ourselves, but isn’t everyone Irish today??? That’s what my favorite Irishman tells me anyway. 
I’ve moved my menu plan around a little bit (I didn’t factor in St. Patrick’s Day when I made the plan) so we’re having broiled fish and Hungarian cabbage and noodles for supper (sorry Sean, that’s as close to and Irish meal as we’re going to come – it does have cabbage!!)
For those of you looking for a way to serve the super-cheap cabbage this week (especially those of you not overly fond of the traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage – that would be us) I thought I’d share my friend Esther’s Hungarian Cabbage and Noodles with you:   

Hungarian Cabbage and Noodles
Ingredients:
1 large head of cabbage cored and sliced into thin ribbons
1 tsp salt
3 tbs oil (she said vegetable oil, I used olive oil)
1 tbs sugar (I cut this down a little bit)
1 onion, diced
fresh ground pepper to taste
1 package of egg noodles (get the good ones for this recipe)

Salt the cabbage and let it rest for a half an hour --- this will help to drain some of the excess water out of it.  Blot it with paper towels to get the drained water. 

Heat the oil in a skillet and add the sugar --- gently brown the sugar.  Add the onions and the cabbage and saut√© gently for about 20 minutes.  Be sure to stir them frequently – we don’t want charred onions. 

Season with the pepper to taste.

Transfer all of this to a large bowl and keep warm.
Follow the directions on the package to cook the egg noodles – you’ll want to undercook them just a tiny bit --- al dente sort of . 

Add the noodles and the cabbage mixture together.

Serve with fish or pork or chicken (Esther says beef too, but I like it better with a white meat or fish)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Menu Plan Monday: 3/15

So, since we're fully on board with our budget and squirrelling away money like..... well, like squirrels, I guess..... I decided that I'd better get on board with  menu planning as well.
We've always done "well enough" with taking advantage of specials at the store and organizing food based on what's in the house.  But, I'm thinking that with a little extra organization and planning, I can do even better!!
So, here's my first attempt at posting and organizing our menu plan Monday --- (thanks to Organizing Junkie for organizing and motivating everyone on this)

Breakfasts

  • oatmeal with strawberries
  • frozen waffles 
  • english muffins with peanut butter and fruit
  • yogurt and fruit
  • French pillows (I'll post a recipe later -- they're amazing!!)
  • egg sandwiches
  • oatmeal again -- with whatever fruit is still around
Lunches
  • leftover carmelized onion pizza (we had a pizza fest last night and have a ton of leftovers)
  • salad with leftover cut-up steak
  • pasta with sauce
  • leftover artichoke pizza
  • leftover mac and cheese
  • leftover unstuffed cabbage
  • sandwiches -- 

Dinners
  • pork chops with stuffing, applesauce and green beans
  • unstuffed cabbage
  • macaroni and cheese
  • pasta with sauce and salad
  • fish with Hungarian cabbage and noodles
  • potatoes gruyere with salad
  • asparagus with poached eggs and baked potato

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Lent: Time


Don’t forget to set your clocks ahead!!  That’s right, Daylight Savings Time begins today.  That means it will be much darker when I leave the house at 5:30 AM (drat!), but it will stay lighter much later in the day (hooray for walks in the woods with Ginger!)
That got me to thinking about time --- as I prepare for my Easter celebration. 
One of the things that makes this all work for me and for our family is time.  I have time to prepare.  I have time to ready the house, time to shop, time to prepare a special meal, time to decorate.  I keep reading about how we as a generation have less leisure time than previous generations --- but we still have plenty of time.  More than many in our world. 
In part, that’s because we have so many labor saving devices that make time for us --- I don’t have to spend a whole day down at the river pounding my laundry on rocks to get it clean.  I don’t even have to spend the whole day at the Laundromat getting my clothes clean.  I can put a load in the washer and then go about other things in my day.  When its done, I move it to the dryer and I move back to doing other things.  The laundry does not totally consume my time (we just got our dryer fixed yesterday, so I’m a little laundry focused right now --- and appreciative of our newly functioning dryer!!)
I have time.  I can go for a walk in the woods with Ginger.  I can sit and read a book or mess around with this blog.  I can spend a half an hour futzing with the mantle to make it look the way I want it to look.  This afternoon we’re spending time with friends – doing nothing.  Sure, the guys will watch the games and we’ll make pizza together for dinner.  But mostly, we’ll be doing nothing.  We’ll just sit and talk and enjoy each other’s company.  None of us will feel the need to multi-task because our families will starve or freeze if we don’t (how do you think quilting bees and husking bees got started?).  We’ll just idle away the afternoon – and enjoy time.  
Time is a precious gift that I let slip past me all too often.  I let time pass unnoticed and unappreciated.  My challenge this week is to notice time and to appreciate it.  Sitting for just five minutes each morning and evening to spend some quiet time and appreciate that time is the challenge for this week.  Whether your tradition leads you to pray, to meditate or simply to sit quietly and notice the luxury of time --- appreciate some time this week.  

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Happy Birthday on a Budget

So, how do you celebrate your husband's birthday without blowing the gazelle intense budget that you've both agreed to??? You get mighty creative --- that's how.

First, I started the morning by sneaking "Happy Birthday" into every snippet of our morning phone chat that I could --- I probably said "Happy Birthday" seventy-five times in a ten minute chat.  It was obnoxious, but cute.   It also made it really, really clear that I was onto his birthday and it wasn't going to pass by without notice!!

Dinnertime!!  Using my free shopping techniques, I scored some cheese, baking potatoes, and cake mix at super low prices (nearly free!!) and used some of the savings in my shopping budget to score an inexpensive steak and some asparagus.  The menu??

  • broiled steak
  • potatoes au gratin in little french au gratin dishes (pretty and a little bit fancy)
  • roasted asparagus
  • homemade birthday cupcakes in flower cake molds with buttercream frosting YUM
  • Champagne (someone had given a small bottle to me around Christmas time -- this seemed the perfect time to use it)
I picked up a card using ECBs at CVS (don't you love a sentence with more acronyms than actual words??)  and a small present (I'm not giving away ALL of my secrets!!)  Voila -- a fun and celebratory birthday without blowing the gazelle budget!!  

I'm happy.  He's happy ---- Happy Birthday!!




Sunday, March 07, 2010

Lent: Education


This is the final week of the Lenten “Get ready, get set” calendar (hmmm, wonder why its only four weeks?? --- Lent is longer than that.  Maybe this really is Lent-Lite??)  I’ll still continue my preparation for Easter, both physical and mental/spiritual --- but without the help of the calendar. 
This week the calendar focuses us on thinking about education.  It pointed out that over a billion people entered the 21st Century unable to simply sign their names – that’s a very minimal measure of literacy!!  These folks have never read a book, have never perused a blog, never heard of Shakespeare, Dante, Edith Wharton or even Twilight (another fairly low measure of literacy).  What this means, is that they don’t have access to a way to make their lives better. 
Think about it.  You and I have access to a world of information and knowledge.  We can learn to do virtually anything.  We can audit classes at MIT (really, you didn’t know that?? Click here --- its free --- really).  We can learn to build furniture (see Ana’s blog here) or cook (I’m not giving you links on this one – there are too many) or anything else we want to learn.
For those of us who ride “on the coattails” this is what gives us the power to make our lives better.  We can access information, instructions, and inspiration for improving the quality of our lives without spending a ton of money.  We can learn the things our mothers never taught us (like how to clean a shower curtain or how to manage a budget or whatever). 
This week, I’m focusing on being grateful for my education – and for the continuing education it affords me.  I’ve learned to read and to write – and to run a computer marginally well --- well enough to make it find what I want on the web, anyway.  That all affords me access to more information than I could possibly process in a lifetime.  That’s something to be grateful for!  Every time I turn on my computer, I’m celebrating my education.  Every time I read ANYTHING --- even the back of the cereal box (yes, that’s a bad habit of mine), I’m celebrating my education.  When I read the words to the hymn I don’t know in church, I’m celebrating my education.  How will you celebrate your education this week?? Get ready, get set --- Easter is coming.