Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Lentils and Rice

For my lovely sister:

I basically follow the instructions on the rice package - 4 c. water to 2 c. rice. I do about 1 1/2 c. brown rice and 1/2 c. lentils, mostly because I think rice is easier to "hide" than the lentils. Add the water and let simmer about 40 minutes until the water is absorbed. This makes enough to last about two weeks, depending on how many meals have hamburger.

I know some beans and grains you need to soak, but you don't need to with lentils or rice. Sometimes I put it in the pan an let it set for several hours, and I think it does make it a little softer, but not a noticable amount.

I've thought about looking for red lentils, since they may blend in with the hamburger better. And how much hamburger you substitute is up to you. Meatloaf I did about half and half, other recipes where the meat is alone I use more meat then rice. Dishes like casseroles I can get away with less meat, especially if they have rice in to begin with. Last time I made stuffed peppers, I think I used less than 1/4# of ground beef.

However, I DON'T recommend using this in burgers, unless adding an egg would help. I ended up with half the burger on the top of the Foreman grill and half on the bottom and they just kept crumbling. We had tavern the next day. :)

In The Kitchen


I checked out this book from the library a few weeks ago. It has some good suggestions for getting more fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains into your family's diet.

I really liked it because the authors encouraged things I had already made up my mind on. For example, they don't push fat-free or low-fat versions of stuff. There are a few items where they recommend the reduced fat version, but they agree with my thinking (or the other way around) that when you take something out, something needs to go back in and it's usually artificial stuff.

I already use real butter, natural peanut butter (HATE the taste of the sugary stuff now), and one thing they mentioned that I never thought of is maple syrup. So next time I need pancake syrup I'll be looking for pure maple syrup.

The suggestions were based on keeping the flavor, and the ideas are made to fit your life. Such as a little bit of real butter and salt can add a lot of flavor, and if you need to cut back on sodium, home cooking contains such small amounts compared to fast food and packaged meals. And their recipes are intended to help busy moms, so a lot of them call for frozen or canned produce, but you can easily substitute fresh if you have the time.

I stuck sticky notes on all the recipes I thought would be good to try, and it would have been so much faster to mark the ones that I didn't.

I made an apple pear crisp out of the book the other day. The topping was very similar to my usual buttery one, but the ingredients were way different. Oatmeal, wheat germ, spices, an egg, and canola oil. I think it passed the hubby test, because he had some last night and didn't comment at all. (Along the lines of no news is good news...)

This morning I'm home with a sick little boy, so I tried a variant on my usual oatmeal for breakfast. I figured I often give him oatmeal with pumpkin, so I tried it myself and was pleased with the result (I allowed myself more spices and sugar than he gets).

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

1 c. boiling water
1/2 c. oatmeal (for one serving)
1/4 c. pumpkin
a good sprinkle of cinnamon
a dash or two of cloves
a dash of nutmeg
1 Tbsp. of brown sugar since I need the sweetness

Cook oatmeal. Add pumpkin, spices, and sugar to taste. Enjoy.

The sugar is way down from how much I used to put in oatmeal how many years ago, but maybe you guys aren't the sugar addicts that I am. :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reading Challenge

A while ago I though about challenging myself to reading the Bible in a year. I had been thinking how often certain parts get read often and other parts rarely get read (namely the last three books of the Pentateuch), and I cannot claim that I've read the whole Bible despite being a Christian for all my 25 years.

I found a plan that divides it up in a non-chronological order, mostly to avoid the monotony of Numbers. For example, Sundays are Epistles, Mondays the Law, etc. This PLAN is not the one I found before, but it looks exactly like it.

I'm on week 2 and it's been going well. Part of it is that I'm tied to a pump for 10-15 minutes three times a day with not much besides reading that I can do. Hopefully I can stay in the habit of reading the Bible each morning after this and not think that I don't have time. There's other times throughout the day that I could do it, but it is a good way to start out the day.







Thursday, October 16, 2008

Balancing Life

For the most part I don't have a problem handling part-time work. I've been at my company for 5 years now and they treat me very well, and I am VERY grateful that I only need to be in the office in the mornings.

However.

Some days I really don't want to go to work, but that's not much different from life pre-kiddo. Then there are the mornings where he wakes up and just wants to held because he's not feeling the best. But I still have to sit there and wrestle his clothes on because I'm already late, and it is so hard to listen to his sad cry.

I wasn't the mom who cried the first day of leaving her little boy at daycare because I was so grateful it was only 5 hours - not 9 - until I could pick him up. And it would make sense that it would get easier, right? I'm discovering that it's getting harder to drop him off.

Some of it may be due to teething and a cold, but this week has been especially hard. He just wants to cuddle in the morning, but he's been so tired and I have a hard time waking him up at 7, leaving me just enough time to feed him, dress him, and whisk him off to daycare. Then we get to daycare and he'll hold on to me when I try to pass him off to his teacher.

He doesn't cry when I leave and he happily moves on to his bananas and oatmeal or the toys.

But it was so much easier when he was less aware of my coming and going. Although it does feel good to see him get so excited each day when I go to pick him up.

I would rather stay home. I only work 5 hours, but I spend 1 1/2 hours running around the house in the morning trying to get everyone ready, and then when I get home it's about another 1 1/2 hours to get the kid and I fed, him down for a nap, and a few minutes to take a breath. And then I start running around to get as much done during his nap as I can.

I get a lot more done than I would if I worked afternoons, too. But I get up an hour later on Saturdays and still can usually accomplish more in the first two hours with the boy awake than I do during a weekday afternoon nap.

I know staying home would not be the "ideal" life I probably have in my head and I know there would be hard days, but I think it would be less stressful. No rushing at work to get everything done in about half the time I used to have. No more rushing to get the house clean, laundry done, supper prepped, and miscellaneous projects done during a short afternoon nap. No more restless "relaxing" with the hubby while thinking of all I need to get ready before leaving for work the next day.

Maybe someday.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ummm...

Does this count?

I had a little bump in my no spending month.

We're planning for our deck next spring (or so), and have always talked about a hot tub since our last house. I think it is worthwhile considering the problems Doug has with his feet and legs, and we agreed on either a hot tub or a whirlpool tub. The tub would require major reconstruction as our bathroom is currently too small, no matter how we arranged it. So a hot tub it was.

We can only get the local radio station at work and my CD player has gone on the fritz, so I always have the radio (with all its annoying commercials) on for background noise. The other day Swap Shop came on, and I managed to overhear someone selling a six-person hot tub. I had Doug call, figuring it was worth shot. We scraped up some cash, offered lower than they were asking (still had to go up a bit), but we got it for a fraction of the price of a new one.

Maybe used hot tubs are sold more often than I think, but I'd rather come up with the money now than end up paying for a new one next spring/summer/fall because my husband is ready and doesn't want to wait for another used one to come up for sale. He could use some work on delayed gratification...

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Price Comparisons

If my husband only knew...

He got frustrated with me once when I told him how much his giant bowl of ice cream covered in M&Ms probably cost. He doesn't understand how, or why, I know how much servings of food cost.

To put this knowledge to good use, I thought I would see if I could disprove the myth that eating healthy is expensive. So, for your academic enjoyment:

  • Popcorn (air popped) - .04/serving / Microwave Popcorn (Fastco) - .11/serving
  • Oatmeal - .06/serving / Cereal - .25/serving
  • Lettuce - <.10/serving / Ice Cream - .11/serving
  • Pretzels - .10/serving / Cheez-Its - .22/serving
  • Carrots - .10/serving / Chex Mix - .40/serving (.13-sale)
  • Bananas - .17/each / Oreos - .17/serving
  • Frozen Corn - .18/serving / M&Ms - .31/serving
  • Cauliflower - .22/serving / Pop - .30/can (sale)
  • Grapes and String Cheese - .26/serving / Hershey Bars - .55/each
  • Apples - .28/each / Nutty Bars - .17/serving
  • Oranges and Sweet Potatoes(small) - .30/each / Ruffles - .25/serving
  • Pineapple - .41/serving / Hostess Cupcakes - .25/each
  • Nectarines - .61/each / Bliss Chocolates - .50/serving
  • Mango - .67/each / Pringles - .16/serving
This isn't a perfect comparison list, but it gives a general idea. I generally buy fruit and veggies that are on sale, so I did the same for the other items. I did note which ones were on sale for a substantial difference, but almost all of them were based on sale prices.

There isn't a substantial difference, and there are plenty of "cheap" healthy foods to snack on, so hopefully this will help me and anyone else move towards some healthier snacking.

One thing I really noticed while figuring this list out, is serving sizes are not what you would think. For example, can you stop after one banana? Now can you stop after 3 oreos, because that's a serving size. And no one in my house has just 1/2 a cup of ice cream at a time. So these snack foods may be more convenient, but not necessarily cheaper.

Next time you think about buying a bag of chips, how about a dozen apples instead?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Cleaning

I grew up with Saturday cleaning. It worked, but it was also nice that my mom, sisters and I split the chores.

I carried that tradition on for most of my married life, but it just wasn't working for me anymore. With a little boy's naps to work around and a bigger house to deal with, there were some things I didn't get to when I actually felt like cleaning the whole house. And it was always the same things that got put off. (I won't even say how many months passed between the few times I cleaned our shower...)

So I decided to do a little bit each day to help me, with the idea that I want to keep a clean house, not keep cleaning the house. My husband, in the most loving way possible, would call me a nerd if he saw my sheet. :) I decided what needed to be done and how often, then filled out a calendar and printed it on a transparency. All I need to do is keep a calendar of the month behind it and look what needs to be done each day.

I've been doing this for a few weeks right now, and it's working quite well for me. I actually assigned nothing to Saturdays, so then I can either do anything I miss, but more likely I can use that day to help with siding (or whatever project we're undertaking at the time) or take on bigger tasks like painting or cleaning the fridge or organizing my closet.

Time to go. It sounds like the little boy is going to kick apart his crib.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

A "No Spending" Month

I've decided to do a no spending month, starting yesterday.

For how little "extra" I buy each month, I don't expect a drastic difference, but every month I've been spending more than I set aside for baby, household, and personal care items. This is my chance to figure out if I'm really buying more than I need, or if I need to reevaluate our budget.

I don't see a need to get very strict, so I will be buying more than the bare necessities at the grocery store. I'm not going to buy a lot of snacks/extras (although Doug says I never buy enough anyway), but I like to bake and I don't want to spend the month eating beans and rice. We ate a lot of oatmeal and egg dinners when we were first married, and I think we both enjoy a little more variety in our diet now. :)

Yesterday's Report:
Got together with a friend who's back for a visit after living in Mexico for about 3 years. We went to Butler's - but I had a gift card, so I didn't have to spend anything.