Monday Meal Plan #15

Monday Meal Plan

Weekend Recap

We had one of those blissful, quiet weekends at home. On Saturday, I took my daughter to a Brownies (Girl Scouts) masquerade party at the library. While she was there, I got coffee with the mother of one her friends. We hadn’t caught up in a while, so it was great to have a couple of hours together.

I didn’t leave the house on Sunday. I got a good amount of cleaning done, read some of my current book, and caught up on some important lounging.

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Oh, and we ate way too much delicious crumb cake all weekend. I’m a huge lover of crumb cake and coffee cake – Is there a difference? – but I had never made them before. I tried the (easy) recipe in Martha Stewart Baking, and the cake is wonderful. (It should be. Between the cake and the crumb topping, there are almost five sticks of butter in the recipe.)

The Week Ahead

This week is going to be busier than usual. My daughter has a Brownies meeting until 5:30 tonight – thus, the quick and easy dinner I’m making. Tomorrow is the second grade holiday concert at 6pm. I understand why the school schedules the concert at this time, but, man, does it make for a hectic evening. My mother is coming up to attend the concert with us, and she’ll stay over tomorrow night. We’ll pick up a pizza on the way home from the concert. On Wednesday, my daughter’s Brownies troop is singing at our town’s Christmas tree lighting, making it a perfect leftovers night.

On Saturday, my parents are coming up for our Christmas celebration. Our tradition is to spend Christmas Eve at home, just the three of us, then drive to my husband’s family’s house in New Jersey on Christmas day. Since we don’t see my parents at any point during the Christmas holiday, we get together with them for an early Christmas celebration every year. We have a nice dinner and dessert together, then open our presents for each other. (We’re doing it a bit early this year, because my husband, my daughter, and I will be in NYC the weekend before Christmas.) This year I’m planning to make my Italian grandmother’s shrimp scampi recipe. She was a fantastic cook, and made big, delicious Sunday dinners for many, many years. I was thrilled when I found her hand-written scampi recipe, a couple of years after she died. I’ve meant to try it before, but haven’t, so a family gathering seems like a great time to make it.

Meal Plan

Here’s what’s on my dinner meal plan this week:

  • Monday: Pasta with garlic, tomatoes, and spinach (my vegetarian take on Ree Drummond’s Chicken Pasta Florentine)
  • Tuesday: (School concert at 6pm) Pizza and salad
  • Wednesday: (Town tree lighting at 7:30pm) Leftovers
  • Thursday: Beef burrito casserole (I didn’t get to this last week.)
  • Friday: Leftovers
  • Saturday: (Christmas dinner with my parents) Grandma’s shrimp scampi w/pasta and green beans
  • Sunday: Baked ziti (Another one I didn’t get to last week)

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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What’s Up Wednesday: November, 2016

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It’s time for November’s “What’s Up Wednesday” post… on a Friday… in December!

What We’re Eating This Week

At my daughter’s request, I made her favorite macaroni and cheese recipe for dinner one night, and the tray has lasted for days! I enjoy it, but after eating it for dinner twice, I’m ready to move on. We’re also having one of my favorite easy and tasty meals this week, taco salads. And I’m planning to try a new-to-me soup recipe, too. You can read my full, weekly meal plan here.

What I’m Reminiscing About

The memories that Facebook shares have been killing me lately! They make me think about all of the fun, holiday events and activities we’ve done with our daughter over the years: breakfasts and sundaes with Santa(s), caroling, and making gingerbread houses.

What I’m Loving

I’m not going to lie: I’m loving having time off from work during the holiday season. It makes it a lot easier to get things done, including progress toward completing my winter break goals.

Also, I’m really loving seeing holiday decorations everywhere I go. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved looking at them. My tastes have certainly evolved over the years, but beautiful lights, trees and garland make me very happy at this time of year.

What We’ve Been Up To

The past couple of weeks have been full of holiday preparations. I made several desserts for Thanksgiving, and then we traveled to Massachusetts to spend the holiday with my sister and her family. When we returned home, we got our Christmas tree and all of the decorations went up in our house. I also tackled much of my holiday shopping online during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday events.

 What I’m Dreading

We’re taking on a very expensive home project this month: replacing our water heater. When our heating system was serviced in October, the repairman showed me a very  small area of corrosion on our water heater. This led my husband to research the exact age of our tank, and what its normal lifespan should be. It turns out that our tank is 12.5 years old, and its average lifespan is 12-15 years. Rather than wait until it fails and our basement is full of water, we decided to replace it now. And while it’s a bit more costly than getting another conventional water heater, we’re switching to a more energy-efficient tankless hot water heater. I’m very happy that we’ve made this decision, but I’m not looking forward to writing that check.

What I’m Working On

I’m in the early stages of planning my Christmas cookie baking. I like to make a couple of kinds for our family, and then large batches of four or five kinds to leave in the main office at my daughter’s school, as a thank you for the staff.

One nightly project my husband and I have been working on is our elf on a shelf. We alternate nights, so neither one of us is called on to come up with creative ideas two nights in a row. While it can feel like a chore at times, our daughter’s delight in finding the elf every morning more than makes up for it.

What I’m Excited About

Later in the month, we’re taking our daughter to New York City for a weekend. It’ll be her first trip there during the holiday season, and she’s going to love all of the lights and decorations. We’re going to see Cirque du Soleil’s NYC show, Paramour, eat dinner at a restaurant overlooking Rockefeller Plaza and the tree, and spend a night in a hotel. I’m really looking forward to it!

What I’m Watching/Reading

Post-election, I’ve cut my television news consumption dramatically. I’ve dabbled a bit in some History Channel shows lately, including American Pickers, and a  show about the history behind the channel’s drama about the Vikings. The latter made me realize I want to read more books about history.

Speaking of reading, I’ve been neglecting my fall reading list, and instead have been reading a lot of magazines and blogs. Also, my husband got me a Sunday New York Times subscription, and I’ve been reading as much of that paper as possible, every week. There’s so much good stuff in it!!

I’ve also read close to half of The Power of Habit. I really enjoyed the first section, but the second section has been less interesting to me.

What I’m Listening To

I finally caught up on all past episodes of Jean Chatzky’s, HerMoney podcast, and while I still regularly listen to my other favorites, I’m also looking for some new podcasts to add to my list. (Any recommendations??)

What I’m Wearing

All warm and cozy clothes, all of the time. I think I’ve pulled out my entire inventory of winter layers now, and they’re all that I wear these days.

What I’m Doing This Weekend

We don’t have very many plans for this weekend. Saturday afternoon, my daughter has a masquerade party with her Brownies troop. Another mom and I are grabbing lunch and catching up, while our daughters are at the party. Also, my mother is coming up for a few days next week, so I’ll be prepping the guest room and doing some general house cleaning on Sunday, in anticipation of her arrival. And I’ll be doing more reading, of course.

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month

Christmas, of course!!

Monday Meal Plan #14

Monday Meal Plan

Happy Monday!! Has your turkey coma worn off, yet?

Holiday Weekend Recap

We had a very nice Thanksgiving at my sister’s house in Massachusetts. We got to see my sister, brother-in-law and their kids, my parents, and some of my brother-in-law’s family members. My daughter played almost constantly with my nephew, which is so sweet to see. She’s seven and he’s four, but the age difference is rarely an issue for them. Since my daughter is an only child, I love seeing her building a relationship with her cousin. (At nine months, my other nephew held absolutely no interest for her, but I’m sure that will change some day.) In addition to catching up with family and enjoying a delicious Thanksgiving dinner, we were fortunate that there was barely any traffic when we made the four-hour drive early Thursday morning, and again on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, we said goodbye to our autumn decorations, and my husband hauled all of the Christmas decorations out of the basement. He spent most of that day setting up lights, unpacking ornaments, and otherwise enveloping our house in Christmas spirit.

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Searching for the perfect tree

We also cut down our Christmas tree for the first time. We like to put our tree up the weekend following Thanksgiving, and in recent years, there have been more needles on the floor under the tree, than on it, by the time December 26th rolled around. To try to extend the life of our tree, we decided to cut it ourselves this year. (I use the term “ourselves” loosely, since my husband did all of the sawing and most of the dragging.)

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Photo credit: My seven year-old

The Week Ahead

It’s back to work and school for my husband and daughter this week, and I have a number of appointments on multiple days (doctor, exterminator, consignment, etc.). My daughter had a Brownies meeting until 5:30 on Monday, and there’s a big event in Saratoga Springs on Thursday evening, the Victorian Streetwalk. Other than that, it should be a relatively quiet week.

This Week’s Meal Plan

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Monday Meal Plan #13

Monday Meal Plan

Happy Monday, and Thanksgiving week! I hope you had a wonderful weekend. We got a little snow yesterday, and it really feels like the holiday season is upon us!

Weekend Recap

I had a lovely and lazy weekend at home. I didn’t set foot outside my house on Saturday. Instead, I did some reading, researched pie recipes, took a bath, and emptied, purged, and organized my dresser drawers. (If you’re keeping score, that’s the first thing I’ve done from my winter break goals.) Yesterday, I did a little more reading, finalized my Thanksgiving recipes, and did a very small amount of cleaning. The highlight of the day was attending the Nutcracker Tea at the Hall of Springs in Spa State Park with friends. It’s a fundraiser for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), and this was the third year I took my daughter to this event. After the last time we went, I felt like I had my fill of it. But as soon as the tickets went on sale this year, nostalgia and the holiday spirit took hold of me, and there was no looking back!

The Upcoming Week

This is a pretty atypical week for my family, as I’m sure it is for most of you, too. My daughter only has school today and tomorrow, and my husband’s office closes early on Wednesday.

In past years, we’ve had Thanksgiving with my family at my parents’ house, then traveled to my in-law’s house in New Jersey. Since my nephew, Charlie, had surgery a couple of months ago, traveling with him would be too much for my sister and her husband this year. Instead, they’ll be hosting at their house outside Boston. Because driving any distance on Wednesday is typically a nightmare, we’re getting up early and driving to Massachusetts on Thursday.

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My contribution to the Thanksgiving meal is dessert. Even though making pie terrifies me – especially on an important holiday – I’m bringing one pie, a pumpkin cheesecake, and chocolate chip cookies. (The latter is a request from my four year-old nephew.) After much research, I decided to make the classic apple pie recipe in the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook, and Ree Drummond’s Pumpkin Gingersnap Cheesecake. And for the cookies, I’ll use the Nestle Toll House recipe.

This Week’s Meal Plan

Since we won’t be eating at home for a couple of days, this week’s meal plan is pretty simple. Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Sausage, lentil, and kale soup w/ baguette (This is the third time it’s been on a meal plan, and this time I mean it!!)
  • Tuesday: Leftover soup
  • Wednesday: Pasta with Sunday slow cooker beef ragu (from the freezer) w/ roasted broccoli
  • Thursday: Happy Thanksgiving!!
  • Friday: Brinner – pancakes and bacon (This also didn’t happen last week, as I had planned.)
  • Saturday: Beef burrito casserole w/green salad
  • Sunday: Leftovers

What are your plans for Thanksgiving? Are you making an entire meal, or select elements?

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Friday Favorites: Staying Warm

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I hate the cold. December through March, I just want to be inside, wearing layers, and drinking hot tea. One might reasonably wonder why, given this, I would choose to live in upstate New York. It’s something I ponder a bit every year, but I’ve lived without seasonal change in the past, and I greatly prefer living with the seasons, even winter. Over the years, I’ve developed some chilly temperature coping strategies that help me battle the cold, and stay warm throughout the winter. There are some of my favorites:

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The best boots I’ve ever worn
  • Bogs Winter Plaid boots. I bought my first pair of these boots last month, and I am in LOVE. They’re 100% water-proof, insulated, and guaranteed to keep my feet warm at temps as low as -40 degrees. I also love that they’re slip-on, rather than needing to be tied. They’re incredibly warm and cozy, and they’ll be great in the winter snow and slush.
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I never get cold with my down comforter
  • Down comforter. I bought my down comforter almost twenty years ago, and it’s still going strong. It’s so warm, I only use it during the coldest two or three months of the year. It’s machine washable, too, which is a huge plus to me. It was a long time ago, so I don’t remember exactly which one I bought, but I know I got it from The Company Store.
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Another layer for my legs
  • Smartwool socks. I’ve been wearing Smartwool socks for years, and I love how many different styles, patterns, and thicknesses they come in. Some are like down comforters for my feet, and others are a bit lighter. My favorites for winter’s deep freeze are these knees socks, which are basically an extra layer for my lower legs. (Bonus: Smartwool actually makes a wide variety of clothing, including girls’ leggings, which my daughter loves.)
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Toasty warm when the temperature drops
  • Flannel sheets. Before the down comforter comes out, I put my flannel sheets on my bed. They’re super soft, and they warm it up a bit, without the extreme warmth of the comforter. I have this LL Bean set.
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This keeps me warm at work.
  • Space heater. My office at work is in a small, old building.  It’s drafty and poorly insulated, and it’s freezing when I arrive in the morning in the winter. Thankfully, our department has several space heaters available for staff use, and I gladly put mine to use. It warms up quickly, and the heat level is adjustable. It’s also on wheels, which makes it easy to maneuver it around my small office, as needed.

How is winter where you live? What products help you manage the cold?

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans

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Monday Meal Plan #12

Monday Meal Plan

Hey there! Happy Monday-ish! I’m a little late in putting this week’s meal plan together for a variety of reasons. First, my husband and I spent Saturday night at a hospital gala a few hours away. Friends of ours were kind enough to let our daughter spend the night with them, so we were able to spend the night at the resort/casino where the event was held. When we got home on Sunday afternoon, I was tired and focused on reading countless articles about the presidential election in two Sunday papers. Also,we picked up a pizza on our way home Sunday, so I knew I had at least Monday’s dinner covered. Finally, have I mentioned that I dread putting together my meal plan every week?? 🙂

The Week Ahead

We have just a couple of unusual things going on this week. Tuesday is a half-day at school. This is the last of four half days for my daughter has had in October and November for parent-teacher conferences. On Wednesday evening, I’m meeting a friend for a holiday shopping event. On Friday evening, my daughter has what will likely be her last hip  hop dance class. The thing she enjoys most about it is that she gets to spend an extra hour with her BFF, so her BFF’s mom and I decided to save the money we would’ve spent on the winter session, and take turns hosting Friday evening playdates at our houses. Everybody wins! And on Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I are going to a Nutcracker performance and tea. Since I have several days without appointments or activities this week, I’m planning to make some progress on my winter break goals.

Dinner Meal Plan:

Monday: Leftover pizza w/ cut-up veggies

Tuesday: Spicy peanut noodles from Simple, Vegetarian Pleasures w/ roasted asparagus (I didn’t get to this one last week.)

Wednesday: Leftovers

Thursday: Roasted salmon and Brussels sprouts

Friday: Brinner (probably pancakes and bacon)

Saturday: Sausage, lentil, and kale soup w/ baguette

Sunday: Leftovers

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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My Winter Break Goals

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I have a very part-time job. I work a few months at a time, throughout the academic year, as a college career counselor. Since my only job is to meet individually with students, when the demand for student appointments goes down – think final exam weeks – I go on break. I’m off over summers and the college’s winter and spring breaks. While this is not a particularly lucrative work schedule, it comes with tremendous flexibility. I’m able to get my daughter on and off the school bus every day, and I can adjust my work days as needed to accommodate school holidays, half days, and sick days. (Read more about my job here.) For this stage of my life, it’s the perfect position.

In the lead-up to final exams, the demand for student appointments decreases, so my winter break inevitably begins before the students’. Mine started late last week, and I return to work on January 10th. What am I going to do with these two months? Well, there’s the holiday season and all of the school events, celebrations, and preparations that come with this time of year. But that still leaves plenty of unstructured time on my hands. As a person who craves structure, I find it helpful critical to give myself some goals for the next two months. So in addition to the standard holiday preparations, here’s what I plan to accomplish:

  1. Empty, clean, and organize the cabinet under the kitchen sink. This hasn’t been emptied since we moved into our house seven and a half years ago, and it’s jammed full of cleaning supplies, bags, and who-knows-what-else. Frankly, I’m afraid to see what’s back there.
  2. Clean the ovens. Please don’t judge me, but I haven’t thoroughly cleaned the ovens since we moved into the house. (Are you sensing a pattern here?) While we have two, one gets most of the use – and it shows.
  3. Finish my fall reading list. I have two books left – The Power of Habit, and The Mindful Child.
  4. Complete six, small-space organizing projects. There are countless cabinets that have not ben emptied and organized since – you guessed it – we moved into our house, or shortly thereafter. Occasionally I’ll reach into the back of one of them, and I’m surprised – sometimes pleasantly, sometimes not – by what I find.
  5. Try five new baking recipes. Although the holiday baking season is a time for traditions, I regularly come across hundreds of recipes that I would like to try. Now is the time to do it.

When was the last time you scrubbed your oven? Are there any cleaning/organizing projects that terrify you?

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Monday Meal Plan #11

Monday Meal Plan

Happy Monday! I hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Weekend Recap

I enjoyed a relaxing weekend at home. My in-laws came up for a visit on Saturday. They brought my 11 year-old nephew with them, since he had missed the family birthday party for my daughter a couple of weeks ago. He brought my daughter some birthday presents, and even played Barbie dolls with her. We went out to lunch, took the kids to a park and playground, and had coffee and dessert at our house, before they headed back to New Jersey.

I spent all day at home yesterday, which I love doing every now and again. I cut back the dead plants in my flower bed, cleaned up the remnants of my straw bale garden, and covered the flower bed with the leftover straw. This serves two purposes: (1) the decomposing straw is a layer of compost, and (2) it prevents the early growth of weeds in the spring. (This was my second year growing vegetables in straw bales, and I am a believer! This method is perfect for cooler areas, with relatively short growing seasons, like upstate New York. I learned all about this method from reading this book.)

The rest of my Sunday was spent coloring and playing with my daughter, catching up on other blogs, and lounging. A pretty perfect Sunday, if you asked me!

The Week Ahead

This is my first week of winter break from my job, which means that I’m off until January 10th. From an income perspective, the holiday season is not the best time of year to be on break, but from a scheduling perspective, it’s a great time to be home full-time. There are parties and concerts at school, holiday events in town, and of course, holiday planning, shopping, and travel.

I’m anticipating a fairly relaxed week ahead. I’m not working, and my daughter is off from school on Friday (Veterans Day). The only big event is Election Day, when I’ll be glued to news coverage all day! I’ll spend the evening on the pull-out couch in our living room, until the election results are called. It seems like it may be a looooong night this year… Whoever you’re supporting, can we all agree that it’s a huge relief that this election cycle is coming to a close?!?

On Saturday night, my husband and I are attending a gala for his firm. It’s at a resort and casino a couple of hours away. My daughter will be spending the night at a friends’ house, and since we’re eating at the gala, I’m off-the-hook for dinner that night!

Here’s what’s on our dinner meal plan this week:

What’s for dinner at your house this week? Do you have any Election Day/Night traditions?
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October By The Numbers

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It’s the start of a new month, which means it’s also time to look back on the last one. There are lots of different ways to review, summarize, and evaluate a month, but I like taking a snapshot of some of the numbers.

Times I exercised (30+ minutes): 8

I started out the month strong, but with my busier than usual work schedule, birthday parties, family visits, and other commitments, I just didn’t exercise as much as I should have. Since many of my clothes mysteriously shrank over the summer, this is an area where I really need to improve.

Days worked: 12

I worked three days per week in October, rather than my typical two. It made the weeks a bit more hectic, but it was also very nice to earn some additional cash!

Books read: 1 (and a half)

I read – and loved! – The Bucolic Plague, after setting aside I Know How She Does It. (Read why I gave up on it here.) I also started reading (just barely) The Power of Habit.

Blog posts published: 10

I crave consistency, so I’d really like to publish three posts per week. I missed that mark twice in October.

Pumpkin spice anything consumed: 1

I find that a lot of pumpkin spice-flavored things taste kind of artificial, so I steer clear of most of them. The one thing that I consumed throughout the month was Tazo Chai Pumpkin Spice tea. I love that stuff!

Pieces of Halloween candy consumed: 2

I certainly had my share of treats in October, but only two of them qualified as Halloween candy.

Times meditated (5+ minutes): 1

This is something I really want to make a habit of, but it’s a struggle for me. I have a hard time quieting my mind, which makes me resist even attempting to meditate. However, the physical and mental benefits are countless, so I’m going to keep plugging away at it.

Birthday parties attended: 2

My daughter turned seven in October, and we had two parties for her. One was a family party at my parents’ house, and the other was a pedicure party with a few of her friends. She had a great time at both of them.

Illnesses in our house: 1

I fully expect one or more of us to be blowing our nose constantly from now until some time in April. Our daughter came down with a cold on 10/23, and her nose is still running! Fortunately, neither my husband nor I caught this one.

Times it snowed: 1

ACK- it actually snowed in October!! This never happens, but Mother Nature lost her mind, and we got a couple of inches of wet snow on October 27th.

How was October for you??

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Monday Meal Plan #10

Monday Meal Plan

Happy Halloween! I hope you had a wonderful pre-Halloween weekend!

Weekend Recap

The first part of our weekend felt like a blur. Friday was my daughter’s 7th birthday, so my husband came home from work early. He joined me at her school to pick her up, along with our weekend visitor: her classroom guinea pig, Zippy Chippy. The kids take turns bringing him/her home over the weekends and school breaks (assuming their parents are cool with it), and they get dibs over the birthday weekend.

 

After getting Zippy settled in next to our betta fish, we took our daughter to her dance class, then out for her birthday dinner of choice, Chipotle. I happened to have a BOGO burrito coupon, so it ended up being a very affordable birthday dinner! We had ice cream cake and she opened her presents at home, afterwards.

On Saturday, my daughter had gymnastics class, and that afternoon we met friends for Saratoga’s Fall Festival. There are activities like face painting, pumpkin rolling, and pony rides, but the main attraction is trick-or-treating at the business along Broadway. After the festival, we ducked into Glitter Nail Bar, for a small pedicure party with a few of friends. There was more cake and more presents, and the girls seemed to have a great time.

Pedicures after picture
Pedicures after picture

Yesterday was a much more relaxed day. We went trick-or-treating at the Spa City Farmers’ Market, then spent the rest of the day at home. I wish I could share a long list of thing I accomplished at home, but it’s pretty brief. I composed this blog post (score!), cleaned the fish bowl, changed sheets, and cleaned my daughter’s bathroom. Other than that, I spent a lot of time in a seated position.

The Week Ahead

Tonight we’ll be taking our daughter out for the trick-or-treating main event. Given the late hour we’ll get home and that Tuesday is a work/school day for all of us, dinner will be some form of take-out. I’m working Tuesday and Wednesday this week, and Thursday is (yet another) half-day for my daughter. We have our parent-teacher conference that afternoon, and I’m really looking forward to it. (In previous years, I’ve volunteered in her classroom and felt much more comfortable with her teachers and classmates. Her teacher this year doesn’t have parent volunteers in the classroom, so I’m feeling kind of out-of-the-loop.) On Saturday, my in-laws are visiting, so we’ll probably be having dinner out with them. With that in mind, here’s what’s on my dinner meal plan this week:

What’s for dinner at your house this week??
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