Monday Meal Plan #20

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

Weekend Recap

Last week was supposed to be a four-day work week for me – my first in quite a long time – but thanks to a snow and ice storm on Monday night, I ended up staying home with my daughter on Tuesday. Since several of the student appointments I had scheduled at work that day were resume reviews, I was able to do a couple of them electronically, and managed to bill for a couple of hours of work, anyway. Getting paid to review resumes in my pajamas? Definitely a win in my book!

Anyway, my weekend started with Friday off, and I got a lot of errands and cleaning done that day. It was our turn to host the weekly, afterschool play date for my daughter and two of her friends, and, once again, I was amazed by how loud three second-grade girls can be.

I had no plans on Saturday, with the exception of a couple of very quick errands. My husband and I went out to dinner that night, at a restaurant we hadn’t been to since before our daughter was born. It was fine, but not great, and we may wait another seven years before going back. (If you read this post, you know that one of the things I love most about Saratoga Springs is the large number of great restaurants there are.)

Yesterday, my daughter and I spent a couple of hours selling Girl Scout cookies door-to-door. This isn’t my favorite way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but it’s a good experience for my shy girl. Also, she’s very motivated by rewards, and likes to study the list of incentives she’ll receive for selling different quantities of cookies. Only eight boxes to go to get the next prize…

Over the weekend, I also made a lot of progress on the book I’m currently reading, The House of the Dead. It’s fairly dense, and while I’m learning a lot, I don’t think I would call it a page-turner. But my next book is being held for me at the library for just a few days, so I’m extra motivated to finish.

The Week Ahead

The weather forecast looks clear, so this will likely end up being a four-day work-week for me. I’m scheduled to work Monday through Thursday, which makes for a more chaotic week at home. My motivation for cooking is much lower on my work days, so having a well-planned meal plan is extra important.

I have a couple of things going on this week, aside from work. On Tuesday evening, I’m attending a Mindful Parenting workshop led by our school district’s superintendent. (If you read last week’s meal plan post, you may remember that this event was originally scheduled for last Tuesday. Alas, it ended up being a casualty of Tuesday’s snow day.) On Friday night, I’m going out to dinner with some girlfriends – a first in quite a while! And on Sunday, there’s some sports event happening, I think…

The Meal Plan

Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Tortilla soup with raw veggies (This soup was on the last two weeks’ meal plans, but hasn’t happened, yet. I’m confident that the third time will be a charm, though!)
  • Tuesday: Leftover soup with rice and roasted carrots
  • Wednesday: Modified spinach & sausage one pot pasta
  • Thursday: Leftovers
  • Friday: I’ll be out with friends, so my husband and daughter will have a dinner date out, probably at Panera.
  • Saturday: Crab cakes with roasted sweet potatoes
  • Sunday: My husband will want to pick up “football food” for watching the game. A night off from cooking? It may be the only thing I like about the Super Bowl…

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Five Things I Love About Saratoga Springs

I live in the Capital Region of New York, meaning the area surrounding the state capital, Albany. This is pretty much the heart of upstate New York. (Check out this post for my thoughts on the definition of “upstate New York”.) While it isn’t technically true, I tell everyone that I live in Saratoga Springs. In reality, I live in a town that borders the city of Saratoga Springs, and is a part of the Saratoga school district. Plenty of people have heard of Saratoga Springs, but no one – even locally – has heard of our town.

Our town has no real downtown or business district, but it’s a lovely place to live. We were drawn to it for the larger, more private lots, and because one can get a good bit more house for the money here. I consider myself a resident of the town we live in, but Saratoga Springs is the community with which I identify. I fell in love with Saratoga many years ago, and when my husband and I decided to move out of the New York City area, we quickly zeroed in on it as our new home.

Five Things I Love About Saratoga Springs

I am incredibly happy living here, and there are many things I love about Saratoga Springs. Here are the top five:

  • Broadway. When my husband and I decided to leave New York City, we wanted to find a place with a decent-sized, walkable downtown. I’m not talking about a couple of nice blocks, but a generous commercial district, with lots of different kinds of business. Saratoga’s main street is called Broadway, and it has many restaurants, shops, salons and spas, boutiques, and other businesses. It’s well maintained, and has lovely, seasonal decorations throughout the year.
  • Restaurants. While I’m not fan of cooking, I’m a big fan of eating! When my husband and I left New York City – a city chock-full of amazing restaurants of all kinds – we were looking for a place that had a similar variety of great eateries, but on a smaller scale. From my fancy favorite, 15 Church Street, to the tiny, takeout-only Falafel Den, to Druthers Brewhouse and Restaurant and many others, Saratoga is full of great dining options.
  • Library. I didn’t really appreciate Saratoga’s public library until my daughter was a baby, and I was looking for places to take her. Like most libraries, they have a fantastic selection of books, DVDs, and music that patrons can borrow. But in addition to this, they have a great playroom for toddlers and young kids, amazing classes and programs for all ages, community spaces, a used bookstore, a coffee shop, and much more. It’s truly a community gem.
  • Farmers’ Market(s). Prior to moving to Saratoga, my main experience with farmers’ markets was the Union Square market in New York City. Saratoga’s doesn’t match its scale, but it’s a pretty fantastic market. In fact, stopping by the farmers’ market on a Wednesday afternoon or a Saturday morning is a pretty standard summer activity for us. And a few years ago, a second, Sunday market came to town, and it rivals the original in terms of size and quality.
  • Proximity. I’ve lived in New York, Boston, and Oakland, and I don’t miss living in a big city at all. However, I enjoy visiting big cities and taking my daughter to experience them. Saratoga is well-situated, in that one can drive to New York, Boston, and Montreal in four hours. We’ve visited all three cities multiple times, and will continue to do so throughout the years.

What do you love most about Saratoga Springs, or your own hometown?

What’s Up Wednesday: January, 2017

What We’re Eating This Week

As I described in this week’s meal plan post, it’s a busier week for my family than usual. Therefore, we’re keeping it pretty simple this week, and eating an easy favorite (spicy peanut noodles), a crock pot soup, chili, and pizza.

What I’m Reminiscing About

The other day, my husband asked our daughter if she remembered the first – and last – birthday party we had for her at our house. It was her second birthday, and since she was born just a few days before Halloween, it was a costume party. She wore her jockey costume, and we invited lots of family and friends, bought WAY too much food, and spent what felt like a lifetime cleaning both before and after the party. Afterward, my husband said, “Never again!” We’ve had her birthday parties at other locations – the local YMCA, a farm, and a nail salon – since then!

Trick-or-treating in the jockey costume
What I’m Loving

The relatively mild winter weather we’ve been having. Sure we’ve had a handful of very cold days and a couple of snow and ice storms, but for most of January and looking ahead to next month, our high temperatures have been in the 30’s and 40’s. For January and February in upstate New York, that’s pretty darn great!

What We’ve Been Up To

I’m working more than usual this winter, since it’s the busiest time of year in my office, and we’re down a full-time staff member. My daughter has gymnastics on Saturday mornings, and Brownies meetings every other week. It’s cookie season, so we’re getting everyone their fix!

 What I’m Dreading

Ugh – my first colonoscopy is scheduled for April. I have a family history of colon cancer on both sides, so I need to start getting screened fairly early. While the procedure itself sounds pretty gross, what I’m really, really, really dreading is the prep. Enough said, right?

What I’m Working On

My current projects include making activity plans for February break, lining up summer vacation plans and summer camps, and getting everything together for our taxes.

What I’m Excited About

Ordering seeds for my garden! I’ve been a little distracted by other things lately, but soon I’ll be going through the catalogs, and placing my order for seeds! I’m going to focus my veggie gardening efforts on tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, and winter squash this year. For flowers, I adore zinnias! I like to plant as many varieties as possible, and fill my kitchen window sill with vases of them all summer. Botanical Interests is my favorite source for veggie and flower seeds.

What I’m Watching/Reading

We don’t have cable or any streaming service, so we’re always WAY behind  on the new shows. My husband recently started us watching The Americans, and I’m loving it!! (We’re still in season one.)

I just finished reading I Am Not Myself These Days, and I’m currently reading The House of the Dead. (You can see all of the books I’m reading, have read, and plan to read in 2017 here.) I’m always slowly working through my huge pile of magazines – The New Yorker, O, Money, Real Simple, and Kiplinger Personal Finance.

What I’m Listening To

Podcasts, of course! The usual suspects – Scavenger Life, Sorta Awesome, Happier With Gretchen Rubin, etc. – plus lots of the Commonwealth Club. The Commonwealth Club interviews so many interesting people, and I added several books to my list after the last few episodes I listened to.

What I’m Wearing

Business casual (slacks and sweaters, mainly) for work, plus jeans, fleece, and cozy sweaters. And I wear my insulated Bogs boots pretty much every time I step outside my house.

What I’m Doing This Weekend

It’s going to be another quiet weekend here. I have a couple of errands to run, and my husband and I are going out to dinner on Saturday.

What I’m Looking Forward to Next Month

Valentine’s Day fun, sunset after 5:00, and February break!

What’s up with you??

Beekman 1802

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Monday Meal Plan #19

Happy Monday!!

Weekend Recap

Once again, I have little to report about my weekend – which is just how I like it! On Saturday, my husband took my daughter to gymnastics in the morning, and we went to meet with a new accountant during the afternoon. For our wild Saturday night at home, my husband and I watched an episode of our current show, The Americans. (We don’t have any form of cable or streaming, so we’re always way behind on the cool shows. We’re still in season one of this one, but I’m loving it!)

Sunday’s big highlights were finishing reading, I Am Not Myself These Days, and taking my daughter to a party for the book, Spy Ski School at our local bookstore. (See all of the books I’m reading in 2017 here.) Oh, and of course I sat down and put together this lovely meal plan – always a weekend highlight for me <insert eye roll>.

The Week Ahead

This is the first of two consecutive weeks when I’ll be working four days in row. (I hear you snickering, full-time working mothers!) I’m working Monday through Thursday both weeks. Other than that, my daughter has a Brownie’s meeting after school today, and on Tuesday evening, I’m attending a mindful parenting discussion led by the superintendent of our school district. (Attendees will receive a copy of the book, Every Blessings, and we’ll reconvene in March to discuss the book.) Of course, this may be complicated by the forecast for snow Monday night and into Tuesday. The last anticipated total I saw was five to eight inches, which means there will likely be a delay or snow day on Tuesday, which could lead to the cancellation of the district’s evening activities… And on Friday, it’s my turn to host my daughter’s weekly playdate with a couple of her friends. I’ll spend the day grocery shopping and cleaning the house in anticipation.

Meal Plan

I planned my grocery shopping trips poorly for this week. I did a produce run last Friday, and opted not to go over the weekend. Unfortunately, I hadn’t thought about this week’s meal plan yet, and am therefore limited to what’s in our house for most of the week’s dinners.

  • Monday: Weeknight black bean chili w/ raw veggies
  • Tuesday: Spicy peanut noodles from Simple Vegetarian Pleasures w/roasted butternut squash
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
  • Thursday: Probably a pizza…
  • Friday: Tortilla soup in the slow cooker (I planned to make this last week, but didn’t get to it.)
  • Saturday: Date night dinner out!
  • Sunday: Sautéed shrimp and veggies w/ jasmine rice

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

Lessons From A Propane Tank

My husband and I were first-time homeowners when we bought our house in July, 2009, and there were plenty of things that we were completely clueless about. Heating a home with propane was one of those things. We knew there was a propane tank on the side of our house, and that a local propane provider owned it. We knew that our heat, stove, hot water heater, and gas fireplace were powered by propane. What we didn’t know was how quickly we would use propane in the winter, what a good price for it was, and just how much of an advantage the propane company had over us, by owning our tank.

Our first few months in our house were a blur. I was seven months pregnant with our daughter when we moved in, so we were pretty focused on preparing our home and our lives for the arrival of a baby. It was also the summer, a time when we used very little propane. But we knew we had a nearly full tank, because we had reimbursed the seller of our house for what was in the tank at the time of our closing.

Lesson 1: Keep An Eye on The Level in the Tank

We learned our first lesson in November, about a month after our daughter was born. A friend from out-of-town was in the area, and she stopped by to catch up and meet our daughter. We hung out with her on the couch in our living room, with a fire going in the gas fireplace. A little more than an hour into her visit, I noticed that the room felt cold. Then I noticed that the fireplace was off, and the room temperature was lower than the temperature I’d set on the thermostat. We had run out of propane. On a Friday night in late November. In upstate New York. A space heater and lots of blankets got us through that chilly night, and we received an emergency delivery the next day.

We’ve never run out since then, but I check our tank level regularly throughout the fall and winter, and occasionally request a delivery, when it looks like we could run out before the propane company has our next delivery scheduled.

Lesson 2: If You Don’t Own Your Tank, The Propane Company Owns You

The propane tank that was at our house when we bought it, was owned by a large propane provider in our area. This meant that we could only fill it with their propane. There are many home heating fuel providers in our area, but we were locked into using this one.

After a couple of expensive winters, we started asking other people who provided their propane, and how much it cost them. From those conversations, we learned that (1) we were paying more per gallon than most people, and (2) the people with lower rates owned their own tanks and/or belonged to a local co-op.

Lesson 3: Threatening to Leave Gets Results

Learning that we were over-paying motivated me to negotiate with our propane company. (Somehow this had not occurred to me before.) I called them before the next rate lock-in period, and asked if they could lower our rate. I was told that we were already paying a low rate, and they simply couldn’t go any lower. Then I told them we would be leaving for a new provider, and suddenly they were able to discount our rate by $0.25 per gallon.

I was so excited that I had secured a lower rate, I didn’t really consider that it was still higher than our research told us we should be paying. Actually, this did cross my mind, but the thought of leaving our existing provider, buying our own tank, and starting with a new provider felt really overwhelming. We took the lower rate, and stayed with our provider.

Lesson 4: It Feels Really Good to Say Buh-Bye

Even with the lower rate, we were still paying at least $600, every time our tank was filled. (During most winters, our tank is filled about six times.) After another season of this, my husband and I sat down and took a hard look at the numbers. We researched the price per gallon paid by members of the local co-op who owned their own tank, and we were shocked. Our “discounted” rate was more than a $1 more per gallon than the co-op price. We felt like complete fools for having overpaid for so long, and resolved at that moment to purchase our own tank, and switch to the co-op.

We did just that early the next fall, and I gleefully made the call to our old provider to tell them the news. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t ask why we were leaving, or at least try to get us to stay. Still, it felt great to say goodbye to those greedy bloodsuckers.

How do you heat your home? Are you happy with the rate you pay?

Monday Meal Plan #18

Happy Monday, and happy Martin Luther King Day!!

Weekend Recap

I just had my most uneventful weekend in a long time. After picking my daughter up from an after-school playdate on Friday, we had dinner at home, then watched the (awful) Shopkins movie. She and my husband had a sleepover that night, so I spent my alone-time creating this page for tracking my 2017 reading, then did a little magazine reading in a hot bath. (I’ve accidentally dipped corners of magazines into the tub water many times, so I don’t read books in the tub.)

I ran a couple of quick errands on Saturday and Sunday, and spent the rest of both days reading, listening to podcasts, and lying around. It was a great winter weekend!

The Week Ahead

I’m officially back at my job for the winter term! This is the busiest time of year in my office, so I’ll be working three and four-day weeks. This week is a three-day week. I’m working Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. My daughter is off from school today for MLK Day, but my husband is not. My daughter has another afterschool playdate on Friday, and she’ll be staying a bit later to have pizza and watch a movie with the host family. If my husband can get out of work a little early, we may try to grab a quick dinner out together.

Meal Plan

Between the holidays, school vacation, and our travel last week, I’ve been on something of a meal-planning hiatus. While I liked not having to sit down and rack my brain for dinner inspiration, I found myself staring at the fridge and wondering what on earth we could have for dinner many nights. (There were also a couple of nights when we had cereal for dinner – something I swore I would never do while I was a parent.) All of this is to say, it’s good to be back at it – sort of. Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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It’s a No-Monday-Meal-Plan Week

Happy Monday! If you’re in a part of the United States that received snow and ice over the weekend, I hope you’ve managed to dig out. Helena was one of those winter storms that mercifully skipped over upstate New York. (Since we’ve already received a good amount of snow this season, I was happy to take a pass on this one.)

I’m not doing a meal plan this week. No, I haven’t already given up on my goals for 2017. It’s been a challenging few days for my family, and our upcoming week is somewhat unpredictable.

Weekend Update

My husband’s grandmother passed away late last week. We knew her passing was coming, and were able to see her for a final time at Christmas. But – as anyone who’s lost someone close to them knows – no matter how much notice you have, it’s always difficult to say goodbye to a loved one.

On top of that, my husband came down with strep throat on Friday. He’s been quite sick – feverish, tired, and has a terrible sore throat with cough – for the past few days. He started on an antibiotic on Saturday, and we’re hoping he’ll be back to normal shortly. (Please cross your fingers that our daughter and I avoid catching it.) Needless to say, we spent the weekend hunkered down at home.

The Week Ahead

We traveled to New Jersey yesterday for my husband’s grandmother’s wake and funeral. Depending on how late the funeral and family luncheon runs on Tuesday, we’ll either head home on Tuesday or Wednesday morning. If time permits, I’d like to get to the grocery store, since I’ll be going back to work on Thursday. (I’ve been off since early November!) Otherwise, I’ll go on Friday. To get us through then, we’ll probably be eating out of the freezer and pantry, and there may be a pizza in the cards.

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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Monday Meal Plan #17

Happy Monday, and happy 2017!! I hope you and your family enjoyed the holidays.

As is our tradition, we spent Christmas Eve at home, just the three of us. It’s always the only day of the year when our daughter not only puts up zero resistance to going to bed, but actually insists on going early. (Thank you NORAD Santa tracker!!) The downside is that she insists that we go to bed early, too, to make sure the house is quiet and everyone is asleep for Santa’s arrival.

We opened presents together on Christmas morning, and headed to New Jersey to spend Christmas with my husband’s family. We spent two nights in the Garden State, then stopped at my parents’ house in Orange County on the 27th. Some of my extended family members met us there, and we got to spend an afternoon catching up with them.

In the days that followed, we slowly put away the Christmas decorations, slept in a lot, went sledding, and took advantage of some post-Christmas sales. It’s going to be tough to get back into the swing of things, but as someone who likes a routine and a fresh start, I think it’ll be (mostly) good. (I am going to miss sleeping in, though…)

The Week Ahead

This is a transition week for our family. Both my husband and my daughter were off all of last week, and they’re back to work and school this week (Tuesday). We don’t have much of anything planned, with the exception of a very special dinner on Wednesday – and it won’t be made by me!!

This Week’s Meal Plan

I took a meal-planning break during the holidays, but it’s a new year, so I’m back at it! (If you read my goals for 2017 post, you know that finding a way to dread this task less is one of them.) Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Brinner – waffles and bacon
  • Tuesday: Pasta with butternut squash, kale, and pine nuts
  • Wednesday: It’s my bithday, so I’m not cooking. Happy birthday to me!!
  • Thusday: Chili w/ raw veggies
  • Friday:  Leftovers
  • Saturday: Baked shrimp scampi (from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics) w/ orzo and salad
  • Sunday: Lasagna soup w/ bread

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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My Goals for 2017

For many years, I didn’t make New Years’ resolutions, because, who keeps those things?? Most people – and I’m looking in the mirror here – have completely forgotten their resolutions by the time spring rolls around. But a couple of years ago, I came across a quote that was something like, “Without a plan for where you’re going, you guarantee that you won’t get anywhere.” It made me realize that while I might not achieve everything I set out to in a given year, if I don’t at least set some goals and track my progress, I probably won’t accomplish much, if anything.

Some people set an actual resolution, some people choose a word or a phrase to serve as a theme for the year, and others set some number of goals to strive toward. I’m going with the latter.

My Goals for 2017

Read at least 24 books that I truly want to read. I have a habit of sometimes choosing books I feel like I should read, or I should want to read, rather than ones that I really and truly want to read. Not this year. In 2017, I’m choosing only books that I’m excited to read! To add some fun and jumpstart book ideas, I’m participating in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s 2017 Reading Challenge. I chose the “put the oomph back in your reading life” option. (Read more about my reading style here, and track my progress toward this goal here.)

Try at least three new (to me) activities, preferably active ones. As someone who almost always chooses the familiar over the new, this one is a little anxiety-inducing. However, I recognize that it’s important both mentally and physically to challenge myself and develop new skills. I’ve been wanting to try snowshoeing for a couple of years now, so here’s my motivation. Also, group exercise classes terrify me, but there are lots of great options at my local YMCA. (And they would certainly help with my next goal…)

Run at least three 5K races. I pretty much took an exercise vacation in 2016 – with the exception of a late summer and early fall walking streak – and it shows. How? (1) At my annual physical in November, my doctor said I’m “not overweight”, but my weight has been increasing since 2012, a trend she called “concerning”, and (2) After I haul our trash and recycling cans up our driveway for the weekly pick-up, I find myself panting like I just ran a 10-yard dash. There are numberous 5K races in my area throughout the warmer months, and they’ll be a good source of motivation for me.

Find a way to dread meal planning/cooking less. If you’ve read any of my meal plan posts, (recent ones can be found here, here, and here), you know that I’m a fan of neither meal planning, nor cooking. However, I recognize both as necessary evils, and thus I carry on with them. Since assembling my weekly meal plan literally fills me with dread every Sunday, I need to find a way to make it more tolerable. This could mean following prescribed meal plans, or prepping more meals in advance and freezing them, or hitting the lottery and hiring a personal chef. I plan to try different strategies throughout the year, to hopefully take this task from a two to a seven on the dread-scale, by the end of the year.

Do you set resolutions or goals for the new year? What are you planning to achieve in 2017?

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