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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Removing The Temptation To Spend

I’ve had to tighten the budget recently, I mean really tight. I overspent on frivolous stuff in the last six months – extra meals out, too many trips to Target. Important expenses increased too, an extra trip to OC each month adds $50 for gas. Combined with losing a source of income I was expecting for the next two months, I’m definitely watching every penny. I applied for food stamps. I already receive WIC, and was surprised I could get both. Considering we eat almost all our meals at home, and my love for trying new recipes, groceries are the biggest chunk of my monthly budget. I looked into selling plasma. There’s a facility in La Mesa that pays $55 a week if you come in twice a week to donate your blood for plasmapheresis. I just got pierced (read: frivolous spend), now I’m ineligible to give blood 12 months. I’m driving less. I’m avoiding Target like it’s a zombie trap. I canceled Netflix. Even little things like riding the carousel and the train at Balboa Park, or buying ice cream at SeaWorld, are on hiatus for the next few months.

After the initial shock of recalculating my budget (and sadness of making Target forbidden) I’ve felt empowered by this reminder of a “less is more” mentality. I got all excited to clip coupons, but most of them are for packaged meals and processed foods. Not that I don’t eat packaged food, it just doesn’t make up the majority of my grocery list. Why are there no coupons for produce? I did end up clipping some coupons for almond milk, pretzels, fruit snacks, dry pasta and yogurt. WIC gives me a check for $6 a month to spend on produce. They give me $25 worth of milk and $10 worth of juice we don’t drink, I wish I could swap the value for more produce.

I had a short lived fantasy that I would just eat every other day – save money and drop 10 pounds – winning! Back in reality I realized that I love food and most days I have a hard time waiting a few hours between meals.

As I was scrolling through my inbox this morning I realized I get close to 50 emails a day tempting me with discounts and deals. I get emails from Groupon, Living Social, Gap, Old Navy, Pottery Barn Kids, Lucky, Overstock, Zulily, Mama Bargains, Shutterfly, Gilt, Picaboo, TravelZoo, Aaron Brothers, Victoria’s Secret, Macy’s, ModCloth…the list goes on. One of the emails today was a Kindle for $79 (normally $149) and it included a $20 gift card to WalMart. I really wanted to buy it! Do I need a Kindle? No, I’m doing just fine using the free Kindle app on my iPhone. Was it the Kindle I really want? Nope. I want the Kindle Fire so I can download apps. I’m just a broke ass moth flying towards the sparkly sale flame. No deal is worth spending money I don’t have, I know.

So I’m removing the temptation, especially with Christmas is around the corner (or already in our lap if you go to any retailer). These emails are just going to get more enticing and promise me all kinds of things I want at super bargains that trick me into justifying the splurge. I have to keep telling myself I’m on survival mode for a few months, and it’s good for me. Like spending a few weeks eating salads after the holidays, I’m going to trim down a little.

I unsubscribed to almost all of my emails. I hesitated, thinking “what if I miss a really good deal for something I need?!” But I won’t, because I don’t need any of that right now. Goodbye Groupon with your cheap bikini waxes and pedicures. Goodbye Zulily with your sweet deals on kids clothes and toys. Goodbye Old Navy with your 30% off all the dresses and leggings I need want. Not any time soon, and maybe not as often as before, but I’m sure we will meet again.

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Friday Favorites

Favorite Music   Florence and the Machine. I love rocking out to the Ceremonials album, plain and simple.

Favorite Recipe   Honey Beer Bread from Gimme Some Oven is on my “must try” list for this week. How delicious would this be if I used a bottle of The Great Pumpkin or Oktoberfest to celebrate fall?

Image from Gimme Some Oven

Favorite Announcement   I’m going to have a niece! My sister is due with her second baby in January and just found out it’s a little girl. Leia will have a boy and a girl cousin to play with, and they’ll all be close in age, I love it.

Image from Art, Books, Tea

Favorite Fashion   

Mint dress, cranberry coat, cocoa boots – I love everything – especially giving holiday flavors to the colors, ha.

Black and white with gold accessories and a pop of pink for the nails, classic. I don’t think I’ve ever owned black jeans, but this look makes me want a pair.

Love earrings from Etsy. For my newly re-pierced ears.

Favorite Parenthood Humor   World’s Best Father, Dave Engledow. This guy is so awesome, his creativity is off the charts. Little Alice Bee is a lucky girl to grow up with such fun loving parents. It looks like what started as a few funny pictures to entertain friends and family got him national media attention. He’s putting together a calendar for 2013, and I might have to buy one. The images below are from his Kickstarter page.

Favorite Travel Fantasy  

Melissani Cave, Kefalonia, Greece.

The “Forgotten Temple of Lysistrata, Greece” is floating around Pinterest, but I can’t seem to confirm if it’s legit. If it is, what a beautiful example of the earth reclaiming our history.

Favorite Technology   Instagram Socialmatic Camera. Just a concept, for now. Take a picture, upload to Instagram, print as a polaroid. Faux retro love.

A Crafty Wanna-Be Mom

I loved my Grandma’s sewing room. Inside was all kinds of crafty goodness – colored paper, fabric, markers, pipe cleaners, foam shapes, you name it. She would take me to Michael’s and let me pick out silk flowers, cake decorating sets, sticker books. I remember her teaching me how to curl ribbon for a present. I was so frustrated I couldn’t do it as effortlessly as she did. “Sarah, when you’ve practiced for 50 years (our age difference), you’ll be even better than me.”

Pinterest is an endless source of DIY and craft ideas. Some things I pin, thinking “that’s actually pretty cute, and useful, and not too time consuming.” But most of it I just laugh and think “really, who has time for that madness?!” It’s important to me that Leia experience the magic of art and creativity. But if I’m being honest, I’m totally slacking in the kid friendly crafts department. Same goes for my house and DIY projects – lots of great ideas, not a whole lot of action. I’m not being overly ambitious either. I’m not trying to make flower vases from wine bottles or turn an old TV stand into a play kitchen.

We made hand print hugs today for both Grandmas.

Here are other projects I consider realistic:

Use a paper punch to make shapes from paint cards and string them together. One step up from the good ol’ paper chain. I think this would be fun to do with Leia for different shapes for different holidays.

Buy felt. Attach to wall (command strips?). Cut shapes.      Easy peasy.

Mod podge tissue paper to the inside of a glass jar and drop a LED candle inside. There are no less than 8,345 uses for a Mason jar on Pinterest.

Easy to make dough, cookie cutter shapes, stamps for a pattern and paint. Merry Christmas!

Cornstarch + water + food color = sidewalk paint.

Here are ones that make me laugh:

Make your own sandals! No thanks. I’ll get some flip flops for $2 at Old Navy.

Maybe it’s because I’ve only recently had decent fingernails to paint, but 99% of the pins for decorated nails look ridiculous to me.

Pretty much all of the ideas to radically transform one item of clothing into something else make me laugh. Maybe if I loved a sewing machine like I love a stand mixer I’d feel differently.

See comment above. This was made from a man’s dress shirt. I’d rather buy a different shirt/skirt/whatever than take the time and effort to create one from something else.

16 hours and 127 tiny paper flowers later…

Ain’t nobody got time for that. Exactly.

Easy Small Batch Pancakes

In one of my many domestic fantasies I’m standing in beautiful kitchen, morning light pouring through the windows. I’ve got my yellow apron on. I’m listening to friends and family chatting over coffee in pajamas. Spatula in hand, I’m creating a gigantic stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes with fresh blueberry compote to feed the masses.

In reality my mornings are more like this: Leia pulls my hand to drag me out of bed, “Breakfast mommy! Wake up kitties, foodies!” I make her some fruit/grain/yogurt combination and turn on cartoons while I make myself coffee and toast with peanut butter and a banana.

I’ve tried making pancakes at night and keeping them in the fridge to heat easily in the morning. They’re never as good the next day. Pancakes aren’t a labor intensive thing, I can premake the mix and add the wet ingredients in two minutes. Maybe it’s the time it takes to cook the whole batch I don’t have the patience for?

So I tried this recipe for Greek Yogurt Pancakes to make a small batch with minimal ingredients. It was perfect for my usual it’s-still-dark-where-is-my-coffee breakfast for two.

They’re a little on the thick side, so I added milk to thin the batter. Not the best pancakes I’ve ever had, but they are delicious and worthy of a repeat appearance. Since taking pictures of my food was the last thing I was thinking about, I’ll share the picture from her blog.

Image from Everyday Belle

  • 6 oz Greek yogurt (I used nonfat vanilla Chiobani)
  • 1 egg
  • scant 1/2 cup flour (I used cake flour, but all purpose is fine)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup almond milk

Mix together the yogurt and egg in a bowl, add flour and baking soda until combined. Like all pancake recipes, don’t over mix, some lumps are fine. Thin it out with as much milk as needed. I made 6 smallish pancakes, 3 at a time, on my cast iron griddle.

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

I love sweet breads – banana bread, pumpkin bread, zucchini bread – they’re all delicious. I especially like ignoring the sugar and oil content and telling myself I’m eating a healthy treat, loaded with fruit and/or vegetables. At some point I will probably try to combine carrots, zucchini, pumpkin and bananas into one super bread.
I had zucchini that was starting to go soft, and pumpkin puree leftover from last week. So I jumped on Pinterest and decided to try this Pumpkin Zucchini Bread from Six Sisters’ Stuff. I have to admire a family with six sisters, you go girls.

I divided the recipe in half since I only have one loaf pan. I also reduced the sugar and made some tweaks to the eggs and oil. It turned out perfectly moist and delicious! I brought it to the park for a play date, and it was enjoyed by moms and kids. I bet it’s even better the next day, when all the flavors get to know each other. I wouldn’t know because Leia ate the last piece before the day was over.

Image from Six Sisters’ Stuff. Pretend you can see pistachios and you’ll get the idea. Like usual, I forgot to take pictures before it was all gone.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. ground flax mixed with 6 Tbs. water (or two eggs, lightly beaten)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil  (you can use vegetable oil, melted butter, or a 50/50 mix of applesauce and oil)
  • 1/2 Tbs vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread flour (all-purpose is fine)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios (or walnuts, or leave out the nuts)

In one bowl, combine flax (mixed with water), both sugars, pumpkin, coconut oil (melted) and vanilla. In another bowl sift together flour, salt, spices, baking soda baking powder. Combine wet and dry ingredients, stir in zucchini and nuts. Pour into a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan sprayed with nonstick or lined with parchment. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes. Cut off the end piece and burn your mouth trying to eat it. Let it sit in the pan for 10 minutes then place on a wire rack to finish cooling before cutting into slices.

Friday Favorites

Favorite Purchase   The only reason to brave the weekend crowd at Costco? Free samples. I rarely get suckered into a purchase after scooping up those little plastic cups, but this time I couldn’t resist. Each pouch serves two, heats in 90 seconds and a four pack is less than $5 with the coupon this month. The ingredients are real, nothing hard to pronounce, with the right amount of spice and consistency of a really good chili.

Favorite Recipe   If you like butterfingers, it’s time to stock up on candy corn, peanut butter and chocolate. I found this three ingredient recipe floating around Pinterest. The similarities in flavor and texture were surprising! I had to give them away immediately, my willpower is not that strong.

Favorite Kitchen Item   I stole a large stainless steel mixing bowl from my Grandma’s set years ago. I’m pretty sure the bowls predate my existence since I remember them from my childhood. They’re tough, lightweight, clean up easy – the epitome of a kitchen workhorse. This set from fancy pants Williams Sonoma will only set you back $50 and last 100 years (only a slight exaggeration).

Favorite Music   Glitch Mob’s “We Can Make The World Stop” came up on Pandora and I fell pretty hard for the electronic beats. It’s one of those songs that makes me run a little faster on the treadmill. Since then a number of songs and remixes have been in heavy rotation.

Favorite Writer  I won’t pretend to be well versed in the essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson. But he’s responsible for many of my favorite quotes and inspiration for living a purposeful life. “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.” “Life is a journey, not a destination.” My Mom is a big fan of saying grace before meals, I politely oblige in agnostic silence. This Emerson quote seems like a beautiful way to give thanks and make Mom happy.

Favorite Happy Tear   This beautiful letter written by Martha Brockenbrough for her oldest daughter to reveal the truth about Santa. “Santa is bigger than any person, and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. What he does is simple, but it is powerful. He teaches children how to believe in something they can’t see or touch.” If you don’t think that’s lovely, you probably steal toys from in Whoville during the holidays.

Favorite Dream Home   This big open porch with a fireplace surrounded by trees is perfect for a chilly fall night (when we eventually get one in San Diego).

Friday Favorites

Favorite Read  Southern Living Magazine. I haven’t traveled in the South. I don’t have Southern relatives. My knowledge on all things Southern is slim.

Still, I’m convinced in another life I belong on a porch swing, sipping tea, eating cheese straws and watching Leia run around a big grassy backyard. Maybe it’s the history and architecture, or the food, or the slow down lifestyle that draws me in. I live vicariously through this magazine, imagining “someday I’ll go there” itineraries to soak up all things Southern.

Favorite Style 

I love everything about this outfit – bright patterned maxi, yellow bag, boots, turquoise jewelry.

How pretty and feminine are these? Walking in heels is awkward and painful for me, so I stick to flats. I am very much a comfort over style (if I have to pick) girl. Still, these are adorable for the rare occasion I get fancy, totally worth leaving the party barefoot a few hours later.

This ring is just stunning. If there’s a marriage in my future (no, I’m not dating, so many years from now), this would be one of my top choices. I love the simplicity and colored stone.

Favorite Music   Mumford & Sons.

I love all their raspy, folk rock, bluegrass goodness. They’re coming to LA for two nights in November which is entirely unfair. Come on guys, why not one day in LA and one in SD?

Favorite (yet to be made) Recipe  These two cauliflower recipes are calling my name.

I tried the butternut squash fries from last week’s “favorites” post. Like all my attempts to make fries in the oven they were a mix of burnt, mushy or underdone. How does that happen? I mostly blame my inability to cut perfectly uniform fry-shaped sticks. Also, I think there’s some magic trick to making fries in the oven I just haven’t figure out, maybe parboiling?

Favorite Mom Moment   Watching Leia sleep. I had a horrible nightmare this week. She was kidnapped. While I was running around in a frenzy everyone else around me was calm. It was so vivid and traumatizing. Seeing her next to me was like taking a deep breath after being under water. Watching her sleep always makes me feel peaceful, centered, like all is right with the world.

Favorite Dream Home   Two reasons I dream about a big spacious backyard: cool tree houses for the kiddos and cozy fire pits.

Favorite Fantasy Travel   The fairy pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Magical indeed.