Monday Meal Plan #44

Happy Monday! I hope you had a fantastic weekend!

Weekend Recap

We traveled to my sister’s house outside Boston this weekend, for my nephew’s birthday party. We left Saturday morning, after dropping our geriatric cat off at the spa vet. Her kidneys are failing, and she needs several daily medications to keep her comfortable. Our time with her is limited, but she’s hanging in there, for now.

We had a relatively uneventful drive  – it takes about 4.5 hours – and got to spend some time with my parents and my sister’s family, before heading to the party.

On Sunday, we headed home late in the morning, and stopped to pick up some mums and apples on the way. At home, I did laundry and some tidying up, while my husband worked on staining the deck.

The Week Ahead

This is my first week back at work, since early May. I’m working Tuesday and Wednesday, because Thursday is a school holiday. My daughter has her first Brownies meeting of the year after school today, and gymnastics class Wednesday evening. As of now, we don’t have any weekend plans, but we may check out the Adirondack Wool and Arts Festival one day.

Things have been going pretty well with Weight Watchers. I’ve lost 8.5 pounds, and would like to lose 5-7 more. It’s going to get a little harder as I return to work, though, since my job is 100% sedentary, and I won’t be able to go for walks on my work days. My hope is that the weather will cooperate, and I’ll be able to go for longer walks on my non-work days – at least until I start working at my second job in about a month.

This Week’s Meal Plan

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

  • Monday: Chicken parm dinner from Augie’s To Go with tomato and basil salad
  • Tuesday: Leftovers
  • Wednesday: Tortellini w/ frozen peas
  • Thursday: Grilled fish and veggies
  • Friday: Pork tenderloin w/ cooked apples and onions
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Turkey taco salads

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

My Favorite Blogs

I’m a huge fan of reading blogs. (And listening to podcasts, but that’s an entirely different post…) There are blogs out there on any and every subject, but my favorites tend to have a lot in common. In addition to the common themes that they share, many are also aspirational for me, or at least feature topics that I fantasize about (living on a farm, growing most of my own food, having a very organized home, etc.). I have very little in common with many of the authors, but I still love reading their every post!

One Hundred Dollars a Month

This blog covers many subjects that interest me: gardening, saving money, eating good food. (The name originated several years ago, when the author’s goal was to feed her family of four on a budget of – you guessed it – $100 per month.) I love the author’s light, but ever-so-slightly biting tone, and her practical, no-nonsense style. Oh, and her gardening posts and recipes have given me lots of ideas and inspiration in the few years that I’ve been reading them.

The Pioneer Woman

I love Ree’s Food Network show, The Pioneer Woman, and I really enjoyed her book, Black Heels to Tractor Wheels. She cooks amazing food, and has such a fun and positive approach to everything. She also takes absolutely stunning photographs of her land, and writes short, but informative posts about her life on an Oklahoma cattle ranch. And since living on a farm has long been one of my fantasies, I get to indulge this fantasy in bits when I read her blog.

The Prudent Homemaker

This is one of the blogs where I have almost nothing in common with the author. She’s a homeschooling mother of eight, lives in Las Vegas, and loves everything vintage. I find her frugality amazing, and her eye for beauty is simply stunning. Whether she’s photographing her garden, an arrangement of flowers, or her food, I’m always blown away by her pictures.

Life As Mom

I consider this to be a great, all-around “mom blog”. The author, Jessica, writes about cooking, parenting, homeschooling, and organizing. She has six children, all of whom she has homeschooled. While homeschooling is not something I am cut out for or interested in doing personally, it’s one of those topics that interests me tremendously. (Maybe I subconsciously aspire to homeschooling?)

Frugalwoods

The Frugalwoods couple recently lived out one of my fantasies: they left their office jobs and the big city (Boston), and bought a homestead in rural Vermont. They aim to grow and produce as much of their own food as possible. And while I generally agree with their ethos of saving money wherever possible, but spending it on things that bring joy, I could never live as frugally as they do – nor do I aspire to.

Joyfully Prudent

This is another favorite, all-around “mom blog”. The author is a mom of two – almost three – living in Texas. She writes about her busy life as a wife, mother, and small business owner, as well as cooking, decorating, and saving money. I really appreciate her openness about her challenges and frustrations with balancing everything in her life

Just a Girl and Her Blog

I generally steer clear of organizing blogs, because the hyper-organized look they promote feels very stiff and unnatural to me. Also, I tend to feel badly about my poorly organized home after I read them. (This is also why I avoid Pinterest.) I do occasionally feel this way when I read this blog, but it’s balanced out by the posts on topics like the author’s personal struggles, as well as her experience building her own blog and business.

Common Sense Homesteading

This blog about living self-sufficiently is another one that taps into my farming and living-off-the-land fantasies. And – just like homeschooling – I’m very interested in the “prepper” lifestyle, even though it’s not something I embrace or aspire to in my own life. I’ve also found some great gardening information here, since despite living in a different part of the country (Wisconsin), the author lives in the same hardiness zone (4/5) that I do.

What are some of your must-read blogs??

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Monday Meal Plan #43

Happy Monday!! I hope you had a wonderful weekend!!

Weekend Recap

I had a very exciting day on Saturday. My husband, daughter, and I took a drive out to Sharon Springs to attend their Harvest Festival and tour the Beekman Farm. (Check out this post for more info on my love for everything Beekman.) The Farm is absolutely gorgeous, and I got my fill of goat love and snuggles. We toured the flower and vegetable gardens, the goat barn, and even the on-site Beekman family crypt! (You can see more photos of our Beekman visit on Facebook and Instagram.)

We also stopped at the Beekman 1802 Mercantile, where I picked up a couple of their cookbooks, and actually got to meet Josh and Brent. (Swoon!!) Despite greeting guests and signing books for hours, they were warm, friendly, and welcoming. My daughter and I had our picture taken with them, and I’ve been beside myself with excitement ever since! We also picked up a few goodies for Christmas gifts while we were there.

The most recent Beekman cookbook

Yesterday my husband headed out to western New York, where he had a work meeting this morning. Since the meeting location is about six hours from our house, he decided to spend part of his Sunday driving out there, rather than getting on the road before 4am this morning! Before he left, he started the process of staining our deck to weather-proof the wood. (We had the deck replaced last year, and after a year of “weathering”, it’s time to protect the wood from the elements.)

My daughter and I met some friends at a playground yesterday afternoon, then enjoyed a girls’ night at home.

The Week Ahead

This is my last full week off from work for several months. I return to my primary job two days per week on September 19, and I’ll also be doing a temporary, part-time job at another college starting in October. I plan to catch up on some household chores – massive pile of ironing, I’m looking at you! – this week. I’m also meeting a friend for coffee, dropping off outgrown clothing at the children’s consignment store, and running my usual errands. Fall gymnastics starts for my daughter Wednesday evening, and Thursday evening is back-to-school night at her school. On Saturday, we’ll be heading to the Boston-area for my nephew’s birthday party. We’ll spend a night there, then drive home on Sunday.

I continue to slog along with Weight Watchers. After doing it pretty intensely for the first few weeks, I’m taking a more relaxed approach lately. (For the Weight Watchers knowlegeable, I hadn’t been using my weekly or activity points, just my daily points.) My rate of progress may slow a little, but I’m halfway to my goal, and tired of being starving.

This Week’s Meal Plan

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

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

Beekman 1802

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My Summer 2017 Favorites

It’s still officially summer, but with school having started and temps mainly in the 60’s these days, it definitely feels like fall.

Between the long days, the beautiful colors, and the more relaxed pace of life, I absolutely adore summer. Each year is a little different, though, and these are the things I loved most this year:

Atypical Summer Weather

I’m pretty cold-intolerant, but I’m not a fan of extreme heat or humidity, either. Most years, we get plenty of days of hazy, hot, and humid weather. In fact, most of the months of July and August can be this way. This year, though, we had very little of it. In fact, I can think of only a handful of days when we had typical summer weather. The humidity has generally been low, and I don’t think we hit 90 degrees more than once or twice. This meant we barely used our air conditioning – great for the electric bill! – and being outside was quite pleasant.

A rare, summery day

Veggies and Flowers for the Picking

Gardening is one of the things I enjoy most in summer. Our growing season is pretty short here in upstate New York, so I try to squeeze as much out of it as I can. We have a perennial bed that requires little maintenance, so I focus my efforts on two beds where I plant annuals. I adore zinnias, and plant as many varieties of them as possible. This year I added a number of different kinds of cosmos, as well as other annuals. Perhaps my biggest gardening victory this year was that my sunflowers survived! Every year, I plant several packets of sunflower seeds, and never once have they come to fruition. (The chipmunks seem to be the culprit.) For whatever reason, they did not get to my sunflower seeds/seedlings this year, and I’ve had a plethora of Shock-O-Lat, Vanilla Ice, Moulin Rouge, and other sunflowers.

I also had success with my veggie garden this year. I use the straw bale gardening method for my veggies, and this year I planted 15 bales. I stuck to veggies I knew my family and I would eat, rather than branching out and trying new ones. We’ve been swimming in Sun Gold, Chocolate Cherry, and Tiger Stripes cherry tomatoes, for weeks! (I’m still waiting for my full-size tomatoes to ripen…) I also had a good number of  cucumbers, zucchini, and summer squash. My beets are making slow progress, and I plan to leave them in the ground for as long as possible.

I love stepping out into my yard and picking bowls of cherry tomatoes and armfuls of flowers to display inside my house. As fall becomes more and more imminent, I treasure these trips even more.

She Loved Camp (Mostly)

My daughter is an only child, so socialization over the summer can be challenging. As a result, she started attending summer camp several years ago. Over the last four or five summers, she’s attended five different summer camps. And every year, she’s complained or resisted at least somewhat. This is always a source of anxiety and frustration for me, because I know she benefits from attending camp.

This year, she attended two, two-week sessions of the local children’s theater camp. (She attended the same camp last year, but was placed in a younger age group, which was not the best fit for her.) She loved both sessions, and impressed me with her comfort with auditioning for parts each session. She made new friends, and clearly enjoyed herself during each of the shows. It was such a relief that she had such a positive experience this year, and she’s already informed us that she wants to attend the same camp next year.

My little pig is on the right

She was less excited about her week of Girl Scouts camp, though. There weren’t any major complaints or problems; it just didn’t suit her. She even did do the one overnight at the camp, without incident.

Our Fire Pit

My husband is a pretty handy guy. He’s patient, and takes the time to do a lot of research on his various projects. His DIY-ing saves us a good bit of money, but I don’t always get excited about his projects. However, this spring he built a fire pit in our backyard, and I have absolutely loved using it. We’ve got a couple of Adirondack chairs and log benches around it, and we’ve enjoyed many times around the fire, most including smores, or at least marshmallows. It’s warm and relaxing, and I look forward to many more fires this fall and in future years!

The fire pit my husband built for us

Good Fiction Reads

In recent years, I’ve focused much of my reading on nonfiction books – some of which I’ve enjoyed, and some have felt like more of a chore. One of my goals for 2017 is to read 24 books that I really want to read. (In the past, I’ve been guilty of reading books that I’ve felt like I should read, even if I wasn’t really excited about them.)

I’ve read several nonfiction books this year, but I’ve also read several fiction books this spring and summer. (You can see all of my 2017 reads here.) With the exception of one, I thoroughly enjoyed all of my fiction reads, and I look forward to reading more fiction in the future.

Probably my favorite fiction read of the year

What are some of your favorites from Summer, 2017?

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Monday Meal Plan #42

Happy Labor Day Monday! I hope you’re enjoying a lovely, holiday weekend!

Weekend Recap

Summer seems to have abruptly ended in these parts. We didn’t have very many standard hot and humid summer days this year, but it was generally pretty warm. However, once the last few days of August rolled around, Mother Nature threw in the towel and started the clock on fall. I like fall, I really do, but it would’ve been nice to have temps in the 70’s and 80’s for a couple more weeks… As proof that fall got an early start, I wore a fleece jacket and SmartWool socks all weekend, and we even switched on the heat yesterday morning!

My father-in-law came up from New Jersey on Saturday. He and my husband had tickets for the Zac Brown Band concert in SPAC that night. My daughter and I went to see the movie, Leap, and hung out at home for the rest of the evening. She says it’s her new favorite movie.

Yesterday’s weather was cold – it never got out of the mid-50’s – with rain all day. After my father-in-law left, we took a family trip to one of my least favorite stores, Home Depot. We had our deck replaced last year, and now it’s time to weatherproof it. We chose a basically clear stain, plus deck cleaner, rollers, and a tray. Good times. We spent the rest of the day at home, in our pajamas.

After dinner, my husband and daughter watched a Star Wars movie, and I put together my work schedule for most of the upcoming academic year. This will be my seventh year at my current job, and I’m also going to be working part-time at another college for a few months. It took me a good hour to coordinate my work days at the two colleges, with my daughter’s school calendar. Why must there be so many half days and random days off in the fall??

Because things will be more hectic than usual for a couple of months, I’m going to focus on making some freezer meals over the next few weeks. I’ll probably just make double batches of some dinners, and freeze the second batches for the future.

The Week Ahead

School starts on Wednesday this week, and my daughter will be a third-grader (sniff, sniff)! On Saturday, we’re going to Sharon Springs for their Harvest Festival, and to tour the Beekman Farm. (You can read about my love for all things Beekman here.) And on Sunday, my daughter and I will be doing a shift at her Brownie troop’s table at the town garage sale. Other than that, it should be a quiet week.

This Week’s Meal Plan

I’m still slogging ahead with Weight Watchers. I’m more than a third of the way toward my goal, and I can’t wait to eat normal food again! Here’s what’s for dinner at my house this week:

  • Monday: Grilled fish and veggies from the garden
  • Tuesday: Turkey and spinach veggie lasagna w/ green salad (I’ll make two trays of the lasagna and freeze one.)
  • Wednesday: Taco salads (beef for them, black beans for me)
  • Thursday: Roasted pork tenderloin w/ frozen peas
  • Friday: Leftover buffet!
  • Saturday: We’ll probably grab something on our way home from Sharon Springs
  • Sunday: Quinoa stuffed bell peppers

What’s for dinner at your house this week?

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My Goals for 2017: Check-In #8

Some people are motivated by rewards. Some people are motivated by fear. Others are internally motivated. Me? I’m motivated by public shame. I do not want to be embarrassed, and that’s what typically gives me the push I need complete things. (I’m what the author Gretchen Rubin would call “an obliger”, based on her personality framework.)

It helped keep me focused when I trained for two marathons in my younger years. I joined Team in Training, which, in exchange for participants raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, provides coaching, support, and organized, group training runs. Those group runs were critical for me – in particular the weekly “long runs.” Knowing that I would be running 16 miles with a group on Saturday, helped keep me motivated to train on my own throughout the week. I knew I’d never be the first, but I really did not want to be the last person to finish the long runs.

What does this have to do with my 2017 goals? I’m using this motivation to help keep me on track with my goals. I’m sharing monthly check-ins on my progress to keep me focused, and as a form of accountability.

2017 Goals Check-In #8

(You can read more detailed descriptions of each of my goals here.)

Goal #1: Read at least 24 books that I truly want to read.

I really stalled out with reading books in August. Part of this had to do with the fair amount of traveling I did throughout the month, and not wanting to lug books around with me. Also, I get a lot of magazines, and I love reading them. My stack of to-be-read magazines grows a lot when I’m reading books, and periodically I like to make some progress on them. This leaves my total number of books read in 2017 at 13. You can see all of my 2017 reads – current, past, and future – here.

Goal #2: Try at least three new (to me) activities, preferably active ones.

Woo hoo – I finally made some more progress here! Early this month, we took a family vacation to Mont Tremblant resort village in Quebec. (You can read a summary of the trip here.) During the winter, Mont Tremblant is a ski resort. For many reasons, I’ve never been skiing. My strong aversion to the cold is high on the list, as is my fear of heights and falling from them. Specifically, ski lifts scare the bejeezus out of me.

Who’s having fun on the ski lift??

During the summer, the most popular activity at Mont Tremblant is the luge ride down a portion of the mountain. Driving a luge down the mountain was scary enough, but to get to the starting point, you have to take the ski lift. This was terrifying for me, but became a little less so, each time I did. (I did the luge three times.)

I’m not sure if I’m counting this as two – riding a ski lift and driving a luge – new things, or just one. What seems right to you?

Goal #3: Run at least three 5K races. Get 150 minutes of activity every week.

(I changed this goal last month, and you can read my explanation for it here.)

I thought this would be a good measure of my activity level, since I wear my FitBit daily and it tracks this metric, but in August I realized that FitBit is a bit more generous with what it considers to be active minutes than I want to be. As a result, I’m easily hitting this target, sometimes without doing what I would really consider true activity. Fortunately, it also tracks what FitBit considers “exercise”, which is more in-line with what I’m trying to capture. This is where I’ll be looking to measure my progress toward my goal of 150 minutes of activity per week.

Goal #4: Find a way to dread meal planning/cooking less.

This goal was particularly challenging in August, since I started doing Weight Watchers, with a plan to lose 15-17 pounds. (As of the time I wrote this, 5.5 are down…) I did Weight Watchers once before, about a decade ago, and I lost 27 pounds, with minimal discomfort. This is in large part because I love repetition; variety is definitely not the spice of my life! (Thus the need for 2017 goal #2!) I figured out a few meals and snacks that made the most of my daily Points allotment, and basically hit repeat daily.

This extreme repetition does not lend itself well to meal-planning for other family members, so my poor husband and daughter are having a lot of basic dinners. Grilled fish and chicken are things we can all eat, and some nights I have a Smart Ones frozen dinner, while they eat something that would blow through too many of my daily Points. In the meantime, I’ve been gathering recipes for when I can eat more normal foods again.

How are you doing with your 2017 goals or resolutions?

Beekman 1802

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