Monday Meal Plan #5

Monday Meal PlanHappy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Weekend Recap

This weekend, I let go of my sadness about the end of summer, and fully embraced fall. I wore fleece (it was chilly!), went on a hayride, took a long walk, put away my summer pajamas and sweaters, planted bulbs, and even allowed my husband and daughter put up some Halloween decorations. (It’s still a little early for jack-o-lanterns, if you ask me, but they really enjoy getting that stuff up early.) I also finished reading Columbine, and started reading I Know How She Does It. I learned a lot from the former, but it was not a light read. I’m not too far into the latter, yet, but I’m really enjoying it. And, because I’m a podcast junkie, I listened to several good ones. My favorite was the most recent episode of the My Wife Quite Her Job podcast, about local business, Death Wish Coffee. Because I prefer my coffee mild, I haven’t tried their products, but I loved hearing the story behind this success business.

img_5897

The Week Ahead

This week looks to be a pretty normal, fall week for my family. I’ll be working on Tuesday and Thursday, and my daughter has a full week of school, plus dance on Friday, and gymnastics on Saturday, and my husband will be travelling to Buffalo for work one day. With that in mind, here’s what’s on my dinner meal plan for this week: (Curious why I meal plan? You can read why here.)

  • Monday: Crock pot Apple Bacon Pork Roast w/ couscous
  • Tuesday (work day): Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Taco salads (not sure if I’ll use ground beef or turkey yet)
  • Thursday (work day): Brinner! (Maybe pancakes, maybe eggs, sausage, and toast, but definitely “breakfast for dinner”!)
  • Friday (dance 5-6pm): Pasta w/ Sunday slow cooker beef ragu and salad
  • Saturday: Leftovers/fridge clean-out (If I can snag a babysitter, my husband and I will go out to celebrate our 11th anniversary.)
  • Sunday: Curried rice with shrimp (from Real Simple Easy, Delicious Meals) w/ roasted veggies

What’s for dinner at your house this week? How was your weekend?

This post contains affiliate links, which help support this blog. Thank you!

My Love-Hate Relationship With Stitch Fix

www-myupstatelife-com-2

I’m not a stylish gal. In fact, if you showed up at my house unexpectedly, you’d find me wearing yoga pants, a t-shirt that I’ve had for at least a decade, and probably a sweatshirt or fleece, depending on the season. As soon as I return home from the outside world, I race to my closet, put away my “real” clothes, and get back into my at-home uniform. As I type this, I’m wearing those yoga pants, a t-shirt from my college, and a zip-up sweatshirt that I purchased at Walmart, to wear in my post-partum days. (My daughter will be seven next month.) Needless to say, I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, and some of the items I have were purchased during W’s administration.

A couple of years ago, as a not-so-subtle hint, my sister gave me a Stitch Fix gift card for my birthday. If you’re not familiar with Stitch Fix, it’s a clothing and accessories subscription service. You sign-up, complete a detailed “style profile”, and set the frequency with which you’d like to receive your “Fix”. For a $20 “styling fee”, Stitch Fix sends you a box of five items, chosen for you, based on your style profile. You can purchase the items you want to keep – minus your $20 styling fee – and return the items you don’t want, using a prepaid mailer. If you decide to purchase all five items that you received, you get a 25% discount on everything.

I love the concept of Stitch Fix– a personal stylist picking out clothing items just for me, and sending them right to my door. I love trying clothing on in the comfort of my home, being able to try items on with shoes and other coordinating items that are already in my closet, and being exposed to brands and pieces that I’m not familiar with. All of these are major pluses of Stitch Fix in my book.

So what don’t I love about it? I found that my stylist didn’t always “get”me. For example, I live in a place where it’s cold close to six months of the year. There were some winter months when I received items that were way too lightweight for upstate New York winters, and I found this very frustrating. Also, there were times when I received items that were directly contrary to my Style Profile. For example, I’m not a fan of lace, yet I’ve received more than one piece of clothing that featured lace.

At one point, I was so frustrated with a particular Fix, I sent an email to the Stitch Fix customer service department, and requested a refund of my styling fee. I received the refund, but was advised that I should start a Pinterest board to share with my stylist, so she could get a better feel for my taste. I despise Pinterest, and I’m certainly not going to join it just for my Stitch Fix stylist. Besides, I completed the detailed style profile when I joined, and I always provide feedback on every single item I return.

When these things happen, I usually adjust the frequency of my Fixes, or take a break from Stitch Fix for a few months. But I really like having stylish, affordable clothing items delivered right to me, and some of my favorite clothing items have come from them. So – despite our ups and downs – I’m sticking with Stitch Fix for now.

Have you tried Stitch Fix? What was your experience like?

This post contains my Stitch Fix referral link. If you decide to give them a try, I’ll receive a small fee for referring you to them. Thank you!

Monday Meal Plan #4

Monday Meal Plan

Hey, look at that… it’s Monday again! How did that happen so quickly?

Weekend Recap

I hope you had a wonderful weekend. My weekend felt like a bit of a blur. Friday evening, my daughter had her first hip hop dance class. She took ballet for several years, but this summer announced that she’s “a sporty girl now”, and wanted to try something else. She started out slowly during the first class, but by the end of the class she had really warmed up and was strutting her stuff. I think she’s really going to enjoy this class.

She was supposed to have her first fall gymnastics class on Saturday morning, but we had to hit the road early to get to my sister’s house outside Boston, for my nephew’s fourth birthday party. The drive is roughly four hours each way, so I spent a significant amount of the weekend sitting in the car. I used my time to get in some naps, and to read Columbine, which I started about a week ago. (You can see my full fall reading list here.)

The party was a lot of fun, and I always enjoy catching up with my sister in-person. (Now that we both have families, it’s so much harder to schedule visits.) I also got to see my parents, and got in some snuggles with my younger (seven months) nephew, who will be having surgery this week. Please send lots of positive thoughts his way!

The Week Ahead

Life gets just a bit more complex for my family this week, as I’m returning to my (very) part-time job at a college, after a four-month summer break. I work two days a week, although I may add a third day as our office gets busier. I feel silly saying this, since there are lots of mothers who work full-time and have more kids than I do, but life at my house feels much more chaotic on my work days, and I always experience a brief period of readjustment when I go back in the fall.

With that in mind, here’s what’s on my dinner meal plan this week:

  • Monday: (Brownie pick-up at 5:00) Baked ziti with salad (I’m going to add some Italian sausage to the sauce.)
  • Tuesday: (First day back at work!) Leftover baked ziti with frozen peas
  • Wednesday: Slow cooker beef brisket with roasted carrots and parsnips
  • Thursday: (Work) Leftover brisket and roasted veggies
  • Friday: (Home from dance class at 6:30) Cheese quesadillas and 7-layer dip
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Garden vegetable lasagna soup w/ bread

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

This post contains affiliate links, which help support this blog. Thank you!

Friday Favorites

george

Happy Friday!! In honor of the weekend’s arrival, I’m sharing some of my current favorite things today:

img_5814

Dunkin Donuts coffee deal. My husband and I are big fans of coffee, but we are not coffee snobs. I like a good latte or cappuccino on occasion, but at home, we brew and drink Dunkin Donuts Original Blend coffee. In our area, the regular price is $8.99 for a one-pound bag, so I typically buy it in bulk at BJ’s, to get it a bit cheaper. But this month, the Dunkin Donuts locations in our area are running a special: 2 bags for $9.99! We stocked up to get us through the winter.

natures-way-pest-control

Nature’s Way Pest Control. For several months, we’ve had ample “evidence” that there was mouse activity in our house. We’d clean it up, put out traps, and remove the corpses a day or two later. Even our 16-year-old, arthritic cat killed a couple of the intruders. But the thing is, the evidence kept showing up. It was clear we were playing a losing game. So I contacted Nature’s Way Pest Control, and they sent Andy to help me out. Andy confirmed that we had a “significant infestation”, and that he’d found “multiple nesting sites” in our basement. (Gag!!) He put out bait inside and outside our house, signed us up for the “mouse program” (a monthly refilling of the bait containers), and will be back in about six weeks to seal the entry points all around our house’s foundation. I love Andy.

The Just Clean Something Challenge. I’m not a huge fan of cleaning my house, and I generally approach it fairly erratically. The only time I really get down to business and clean with purpose, is when I’m expecting company. So when Rebekah Hoffer of Simply Rebekah, announced the she would be leading her Just Clean Something Challenge this month, I signed on right away. Rebekah feels pretty much the same way about cleaning as I do, so she challenges her followers to simply clean one thing – above and beyond their normal, daily routine – every day. I love how this challenge breaks a seemingly huge project into manageable pieces. And the accountability in the Facebook group is very motivating.

51swjeowjil-_sx398_bo1204203200_

King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. As I mentioned here, one of my favorite things about fall is getting back to baking. It’s just too hot to turn on the oven during the summer, but now that the temperature has cooled down, I’m going back in! I’ve had my eye on this book for a while, and I finally bought it. It’s chock-full of information on different grain flours, their history and uses, and how to best incorporate them into recipes. First up will be the Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe (made with whole wheat flour)…

images

Saratoga Springs Public Library. I read a lot of books, but for various reasons – lack of storage, cost, etc. – I don’t purchase most of the books I read. Instead, I borrow most of them from our local library. I also borrow lots of children’s books and DVDs for my daughter. Over the summer, she participates in their summer reading program. Sometimes she reads to one of the therapy dogs. We’ve attended their annual gingerbread house-building event, nature shows, and musical performances hosted by this library. Although I haven’t taken advantage of them, our library offers all sorts of classes: computer, meditation, history, and hobbies. It’s truly a local treasure!

What are some of your favorite things today?

This post contains affiliate links, which help support this blog. Thank you!

My Fall Reading List

www-myupstatelife-com-1

One of my favorite things to do when the weather gets chilly is to curl up on the couch with a mug of coffee or tea, and read a good book. I was very happy with the books I read over the summer, and I’m looking forward to some more good reads this fall. Here’s what’s on my fall reading list:

51idsm4kvzl-_sx329_bo1204203200_

Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, by J.D. Vance. I saw the author of this book discuss it on several news programs this summer, and it sounded like a very interesting look into a place (Appalachia) and culture (hillbilly) I know very little about. (Confession: I actually finished this book last weekend. Is including here like putting something you’ve already done on a to-do list, just so you can cross it off? I’m not saying I’ve ever done that, but I’ve heard that other people do…)

51mljd9l3l-_sx322_bo1204203200_

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, by Charles Duhigg. I read another book by this author – Smarter, Faster, Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business – over the summer, and heard this book mentioned on the Afford Anything podcast. I’m generally a big fan of habits, so I’m hoping this book will help me make the most of this trait.

51ogijcl2vl-_sx330_bo1204203200_

The Bucolic Plague, by Josh Kilmer-Purcell. I’m late to the Fabulous Beekman Boys party, but I’m on-board now! I watched the first season of the show on DVD this summer, and it fed right into my secret desire to be a gentlewoman farmer some day. Plus, who doesn’t love a flock of adorable goats??

41r1sidfyl-_sx331_bo1204203200_Columbine, by David Cullen. I heard about this book on the true crime episode of the Sorta Awesome podcast – one of my absolute favorite podcasts, BTW – and I was intrigued when one of the hosts said it gives a much fuller picture of that awful incident than is typically covered in the media. (I read the amazing book, A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy, by Sue Klebold, this spring, and could not put it down.)

51l9lspigl-_sx329_bo1204203200_

I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time, by Laura Vanderkam. I wasn’t familiar with this author, until I heard her interviewed on the Afford Anything podcast. I found what she had to say about the effective use of our time, very interesting, and decided to read her books. I’m starting with this one.

51kbrtlroul-_sx324_bo1204203200_

The Mindful Child: How to Help Your Kid Manage Stress and Become Happier, Kinder, and More Compassionate, by Susan Kaiser Greenland. I struggle with making mindfulness a consistent part of my life, but I understand the immense benefits it can provide. I want to help my daughter take advantage of these benefits, too, only earlier in life than I have.

What are you reading these days? Can you recommend anything else I should read?

 

57c75197a4b5f77ba8b86569

PS: While I don’t have a baby anymore, I still love adorable baby items, especially from great brands like Gymboree, Munchkin, The Land of Nod, and Seventh Generation. Gymboree is giving away a bundle of $2,000 worth of products from these and other brands. Enter here if you have a baby, or know someone who does! (I sure did!)

This post contains affiliate links, which help support this blog. Thank you!

Monday Meal Plan #3

Monday Meal Plan

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

Our weekend was fairly uneventful. My husband had to work in Utica on Saturday, so my daughter and I were on our own for most of the day. We met friends at a playground in the afternoon, before going out to dinner with my husband, when he got home. Yesterday was a lazy day at home for me, and my husband ran a few errands. My daughter and husband also started decorating the house with fall decor. I’m okay with leaf, pumpkin, acorn, and other autumn decorations at this point, but nothing Halloween before October.

The Week Ahead

This week is the first full week of school, plus we have a couple of evening activities on the calendar. On Wednesday evening, we have open house at my daughter’s school. It’s a chance to meet her teacher and get an overview of what to expect from second grade. Unfortunately, it starts at 6:30, which is an awkward time to plan around. Since it’ll be almost bedtime when we get home, we’ll eat dinner before we head over to the school. On Friday evening, my daughter has her first hip hop dance class, which run from 5:00 to 6:00. We’ll get home from that at almost 6:30, but at least it’s not a school-night.

We’re heading out-of-town on Saturday morning, to celebrate my nephew’s fourth birthday in the Boston-area. We’ll spend Saturday night at my sister’s house, and head home in the late morning on Sunday.

With that in mind, here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

51j4wajxexl-_sx406_bo1204203200_

  • Thursday: Grilled salmon or swordfish, with grilled veggies
  • Friday: Leftovers/fridge clean-out
  • Saturday: Out-of-town!
  • Sunday: We’ll be arriving home from Boston late in the afternoon, so dinner will be some form of takeout.

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

This post contains affiliate links, which helps support this blog. Thank you!

What I Love About My Job

www-myupstatelife-com

In just over a week, I’ll be returning to my (very) part-time job as a career counselor at a liberal arts college. This will be my seventh academic year in this position, which still amazes me. After all, when I took this job, it was supposed to be a ten-week, temporary position.

When my husband and I moved upstate, I did not have a job lined up. (He did.) Once we were settled in our new home, I got in touch with staff members in the career centers at all of the local colleges. The Capital Region has quite a few colleges and universities, and I met with people at almost all of them – two community colleges, a state university, and five private colleges. Ultimately, I took a job working with a very different population – low-income adults – which I left just before my daughter was born.

I had always planned to stay at home when I became a mother, but when my daughter was about nine months old, I started getting stir-crazy and bored. Parenting is challenging in many ways, but I didn’t find parenting a baby to be particularly intellectually challenging. Even though I never thought I would work outside the home when I had small children, I was ready to make a change. So when my current boss called to offer me a part-time, temporary position while someone recovered from back surgery, I knew it was my chance to try out being a working (outside the home) parent. (Important note for people who hate networking, from a career counselor: My boss was one of those people I met with on my networking tour about a year and a half earlier. This is the power of networking in action!) I hired a babysitter for my daughter, dusted off my business-casual attire, and headed back to work.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this will be my seventh academic year in this position, and I’m going to keep going back for as long as they’ll have me. I love my job for several reasons:

  1. Career counseling is a perfect fit for me. I have a graduate degree in clinical social work, experience working as a recruiter, and experience working in marketing. I love writing. I love teaching. I love listening to people describe their experience, and helping them package it to sell themselves to employers.
  2. I really enjoy working with college students, particularly at a liberal arts school. College is a time of great discovery and personal development for most students, but figuring out what they want to be when they grow up can be confusing and frightening. I find it incredibly rewarding to help students make sense of this process and “find” themselves. I also love helping liberal arts students identify their many skills, and see the value of these skills to employers.
  3. I only work one-on-one with students. Most jobs entail meetings, projects, and events. My job requires just one thing: that I meet with as many students as possible, and work with them on whatever aspects of the job (or internship) search they need help with: identifying their goal(s), writing a resume and cover letters, developing and implementing a networking strategy, and/or preparing for interviews. This is what I love doing, and it’s the only thing I have to do.
  4. This position is very flexible. This is key for parents, and I feel very lucky to have happened upon such a position. I generally work two or three days per week, and most years, I’ve been able to choose my work days. I was able to schedule my work hours so that I can be home when my daughter gets on and off the school bus. If my daughter is sick or has a day off from school, I can reschedule my work days to accommodate her.
  5. I have summers and college breaks off. Because I’m paid to work with students individually, when the demand for these services drops off, I don’t work. (Apparently my boss doesn’t want to pay me to sit at my desk and surf Facebook all day…) This means that I have summers and college breaks off. This is great for me as a parent, because my daughter’s school breaks often overlap with the college’s breaks. And when they don’t overlap, I can generally switch around my work schedule to fit it with her school’s schedule. (See reason #4.)

No job is perfect, but this one is pretty, darn closeto perfect for my current season of life.

Do you work outside the home? What do you do? Has networking ever helped you in your career?

My Fall Favorites

ideas

Although we still have a couple of weeks left before the official start of fall, it’s definitely upon us. Here in upstate New York, there are many things to love about this season. These are some of my fall favorites:

Celebrations. We have a lot to celebrate in the fall. In addition to the Thanksgiving and Halloween holidays, my husband and I celebrate our wedding anniversary (11 years!) in October, and our daughter will turn seven at the end of October, too.

Gorgeous colors. This is kind of a no-brainer. In a couple of weeks, the leaves will start turning brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Plus, there will be mums and pumpkins everywhere we look,which only adds to the colorful beauty.

Cider donuts. The proliferation of cider donuts is clearly one of the best things about fall, in my humble opinion. Seriously, is there anything better than picking up a grease-stained bag of warm, cinnamon sugar-crusted cider donuts on a crisp fall day??

Return of baking weather. I really enjoy baking, but I generally take a hiatus from it during the summer. It’s already pretty hot, and I can’t bear to fire up the oven on most days. But by early fall, temperatures are cool enough to start making cookies, muffins, and other baked goodies on a regular basis, again.

Decorations. I love all of the pumpkin, acorn, apple, and gourd goodies that proliferate come September! The Saturday when our family goes to the local nursery to pick out pumpkins of every color and shape, Indian corn, and mums for our front steps, is an annual highlight!

Apples. Crunchy, juicy, delicious, and healthy?? Sign me up! Of course I particularly enjoy them candied and in pies and crisps, but surely they retain some of their health benefits in these forms… right??

Smell of wood fires. We don’t use our wood-burning fireplace (mainly because it’s very energy inefficient), but I adore the smell of wood-burning fires. Starting in late September, the smell seems to be everywhere outside.

Cozy clothes. While I don’t like winter’s freezing temperatures, I’m a wool-sweater-and-long-pants kind of gal. Each year is a little different, but usually by mid-October, my wardrobe has been completely switched over, and the cozy clothes are back in rotation.

A brief respite. Our highest electric bills of the year always come over the summer, when the air conditioning is in use. In the winter, we have propane bills for heating our house. But in the fall – at least until we change the clocks and the darkness descends upon us – we get a couple of months of relatively low electric and propane bills.

A fresh start. The start of a new school year energizes me, and gets me excited about becoming organized and scheduled, again. I implement systems, fill storage bins, and test new organizational tools. What can I say: I love structure!

What are some of your favorite things about fall?

Monday Meal Plan

Monday Meal Plan

Happy Monday! I hope your holiday weekend has been fantastic!

My family has enjoyed doing a whole lot of nothing this weekend. We considered driving to visit various people and places, but opted to keep it low-key and home-based. My husband has been putting in a lot of hours at work lately, so he needed some time to relax and recharge. He did some yardwork, I finished school supply shopping – what, me procrastinate?? – we took our daughter to play mini-golf for the first time, and did some planning for the upcoming months.

One weekend highlight was a party with good friends last night. We met when  our daughters were in the same kindergarten class, and fortunately we, the parents, are as good friends as our daughters are. And as a bonus, all three girls are in the same class this year!

The Week Ahead

This week is kind of a sweet-spot week. My daughter starts second grade on Wednesday, but her extracurricular activities don’t start until next week. Also, I have a couple of additional weeks at home, before I return to my part-time job in a local college career center, on the 20th. Basically, this week is about gently easing into the new school year, before things get hectic again.

With that in mind, here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

71SR4eCiRNL._SL1500_

Yesterday I shared on Instagram this great meal planning tool I found on Amazon. It’s the Mead Organizher Magnetic Shopping List. I can jot down my meal plan and shopping list together in one place, and display it on the fridge throughout the week. (I know there are higher tech tools for this sort of thing, but I’m a low-tech gal and prefer writing things down by hand.)

How was your holiday weekend? What’s for dinner at your house this week?

This post contains affiliate links, which help support this blog. Thank you!

Summer 2016 Recap: Highs and Lows

“She turned to the sunlight And shook her yellow head,And whispered to her neighbor- -Winter is dead.”

This is my daughter’s last full week of summer break. Although fall doesn’t technically begin for a few more weeks, once the school bus rolls up, summer is essentially over. (Cue the sobbing.) Summer, 2016 is, sadly, in the books. Here’s how it went for me:

Highs

  • I started a blog! But you already know that. Thank you so much for reading!! And for following me on Facebook. And Instagram.
  • I came close to achieving the balance of regular, fun activities for my daughter, without driving myself crazy, that I described here. Every day wasn’t a barrel of monkeys, but I feel good about the amount of socialization, fun, and educational activity my daughter got this summer.
  • I read some great books. I didn’t read a single book that I didn’t enjoy, but some were better than others. Overall, I’d have to say The Nest was my 2016 summer-reading favorite.

51LOMFLbcvL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

  • Summer camps were a success. My daughter has a long history of disliking summer camps of all kinds – even the ones she clearly enjoyed. (She’s an anxious homebody. I wonder where she gets these traits…) This year we tried two new camps – theater and art – and she has said she’d like to do both again next year. Whew!
  • We all survived the LONG drive to Bar Harbor, Maine, and back. We split the drive up over two days, but we drove home all at once, and those 9.5 hours in the car almost broke me. Fortunately, I’m able to read in the car, and we brought a bunch of DVDs for our daughter to watch. And we stopped at one of the many conveniently located New Hampshire Liquor Store rest areas.
  • I went to some great shows at SPAC. My husband has a contact in the SPAC box office who has gotten us free tickets for orchestra and ballet shows there the last two summers. This year we saw one New York City Ballet show, and a fantastic Philadelphia Orchestra show. Then I balanced out that culture by taking my daughter to the Kidzbop show last week.

IMG_4899

  • I ate lots of ice cream and kettle corn. Thanks, Dairy Haus, Humpty Dumpty, Plum Dandy, and Broadway Kettle Corn!

Lows

  • Getting my daughter to read and practice math was a near-constant struggle. I registered her for several summer reading and math programs, to keep her motivated to practice her skills over the summer. She was enthusiastic for about a week, and after that it became like pulling teeth.
  • My garden was something of a let-down. I didn’t get things started early enough, and I didn’t dedicate enough time to gardening throughout the summer. As a result, my veggie-garden yields were pretty low, and my flower gardens are full of weeds.
  • I didn’t bring my daughter to several places I intended to. I had planned to bring her to a variety of new-to-her local landmarks and attractions this summer, but we didn’t make it to any of them. What can I say; I’m a creature of habit.
  • The new behavior system didn’t create much behavior change. I created a summer positive-reinforcement plan to get my daughter to adopt some new (and overdue) habits this summer. Like the summer reading programs, she was very motivated for a couple of weeks, and eventually lost interest. Next up: a fall negative-reinforcement plan!
  • I ate way too much ice cream and kettle corn. Damn you, Dairy Haus, Humpty Dumpty, Plum Dandy, and Broadway Kettle Corn!

How was your summer? What were some of your highs and lows?

create a healthy home shop mightynest.com

This post contains affiliate links. Clicking on them costs you nothing, but helps support my blogging. Thank you!