Weekly Meal Plan:1/22/18

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

Weekend Recap

We enjoyed some warmer weather over the weekend, which made it much more tolerable to be out-and-about. On Saturday, I made a Target run, as well as a couple of other errands. My daughter headed to a friends’ house for a sleepover late in the afternoon, and my husband and I went out to dinner Saturday night. (Restaurant gift card from friend + sleepover for daughter = free date night!!)

Yesterday, I did some cleaning in the morning, and my husband took down all of our remaining outdoor Christmas decorations. Our daughter had a friend over for an afternoon play date, and my husband watched the football games. I have ZERO interest in football – or sports of any kind, to be honest – so I spent some time reading the paper and watching videos on YouTube.

The Week Ahead

It’s another five-day work-week for me! I’ll be at Skidmore College Monday and Tuesday, and at Union College for the rest of the week. It should be pretty busy at both schools, which makes for hectic, but fast-moving work days. As usual, my daughter has gymnastics on Wednesday evening, and at least as of now, we don’t have any plans for next weekend.

Weekly Meal Plan

I can’t pass up a good sale, so our pantry and freezers are bursting at the seams. As a result, I decided to skip making a grocery run for the week, and have a (mostly) pantry-challenge week. (I was inspired by the month-long pantry challenge Jessica from Good Cheap Eats is currently doing.) The only thing we’re going to run out of this week is fresh produce, but I have lots of frozen veggies to get us through the week.

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

  • Monday: Ravioli w/ green beans
  • Tuesday: Special take-out surprise for my husband (shhhh…)
  • Wednesday: Leftovers
  • Thursday: Risotto  (recipe from Michael Chiarello’s Casual Cooking) w/ frozen peas
  • Friday: Mandarin orange chicken w/ vegetable fried rice (both from Trader Joe’s)
  • Saturday: Leftovers
  • Sunday: Tacos/taco salads

What are you having for dinner this week?

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My Most Memorable Birthday

(The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer, since my husband and I got engaged on my birthday a number of years ago…)

Earlier this month, I turned 43. The older I’ve gotten, the less of a “thing” my birthday is to me. I’m incredibly grateful for my health and safety over the past 40+ years, and I know that in many ways, I’m a very lucky person. But I no longer get giddy about my birthday, looking forward to celebrating and opening presents. (Although, if you’re reading this husband, I do still love getting presents!) Actually, the thing I probably look forward to the most these days is not having to cook dinner on my birthday. In many ways, my birthday is just another day to me.

Birthday Gift #1

This year, however, my birthday ended up being very memorable – and not in any particularly great ways. For starters, our part of the world was stuck in a sharp and stubborn cold snap. For a couple of weeks straight, the daily highs struggled to make it into the teens, and overnight lows were well below zero. This kind of cold snap is not unheard of for upstate New York, but this one lasted for an unusually long time. And for someone who’s pretty cold-averse, this was not a great birthday gift.

Birthday Gift #2

We heat our house with propane, and we’re on our propane company’s auto-delivery list. This means that they estimate our usage, and deliver when they believe we’re getting low. Over the years we’ve been using them, I’ve been impressed by their accuracy at estimating our current propane level, and I’ve never been concerned about them letting us run out.

Unfortunately, they were caught way off-guard by this recent cold spell, and did not have the propane supply nor the manpower to deliver to all of their customers. Many people ran out completely, and their stories were all over the local news and Facebook.

We watched our tank level drop below 20%, then 15%, then 10%, and slowly into the single digits. We set our thermostat at lower and lower temperatures to preserve our remaining supply, for fear of running out completely and having our pipes freeze. On my birthday, the thermostat was set at 59 degrees.

Birthday Gift #3

In keeping with my birthday being just another day, I was scheduled to have my blood drawn for my annual lipid profile early that morning, and then to take my car in for an oil change. I had to fast for the blood work, so I just had a cup of black tea for breakfast that morning.

Just before the school bus arrived to pick my daughter up, we got into my car to pull up to the end of our driveway and wait. As soon as I turned the key in my car, the “check engine” light came on – and stayed on. “No problem. I’ll have the mechanic look at it when I get there,” I thought. However, as soon as I pulled out of our driveway, I could tell that something was wrong with my car. It didn’t accelerate with my usual amount of pressure on the gas pedal, and it seemed stuck in gear. Every time I stopped for a light or a stop sign, I had the same problem with it accelerating painfully slowly for the first 20 seconds or so. As a result, I dropped my plan to get my blood drawn, since this would’ve required me to park the car for at least a few minutes, and I was concerned about getting it going again to get to the mechanic.

I debated whether I should go the faster route to the mechanic – the highway – or take the local roads. Since the latter would’ve entailed a lot more stopping and starting up again, I opted for the highway. I stayed in the right lane the entire way, and watched every other car on the highway that morning blow past me as I maintained a steady 60 miles per hour speed. Did I mention that it was also snowing during this drive??

I made it safely to the mechanic, where I spent a couple of hours waiting, and periodically calling the propane company to check on the status of our delivery request. (I got a busy signal every time.) The mechanic finally told me that they’d need to keep my car overnight to do “more detailed diagnostic”. Thankfully, I had two granola bars stashed in my purse, which I devoured while I was waiting for them.

At least this guy hung out with me at the mechanic

The mechanic is about a half hour from our house, and they do not have loaner cars for customers. Much to my relief,  my husband was able to leave work early to pick me up. While he was driving, I called he propane company again, and magically got through to a human being after only about two minutes on hold. She told me that we were scheduled to receive a delivery the next day, which made me feel a lot better – but also concerned me since our tank was running on fumes at this point. So my husband and I stopped at a hardware store and bought a kerosene heater and a can to fill with kerosene. My husband set it up when we got home, along with our, three space heaters, to try to keep the temperature at a habitable level. By the time we went to bed that night – all three of us in our queen bed to keep warm – I was a nervous wreck. I was cold, snapping at our daughter, and imagining the cost of replacing our burst pipes and draining our flooded basement.

Birthday Gift#4

In the end, I received a belated birthday gift when the propane truck rolled into our driveway around 9:30 the next morning. I immediately teared up at the sight of it, and watched the delivery guy fill the tank, from inside. When he left, I raised the thermostat temperature, and shut off the smelly, kerosene heater. At that moment, I realized that, while I like to romanticize living “off the grid” in the woods somewhere, I’m definitely not cut out for that lifestyle.

Oh, and I got one more belated birthday present when the mechanic called that afternoon to say that a mouse had chewed through a sensor wire, which caused the difficulties with my car and the presence of the check engine light. For the bargain price of $260, I got an oil change and a new wire installed. Happy birthday to me!

(PS: I also received a number of lovely, real gifts from my family this year. They were a lot better than the “gifts” discussed here!)

How do you like to celebrate your birthday – if at all??

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Weekly Meal Plan: 1/8/18

Happy Monday!! I hope you had a warm and lovely weekend!

Weekend Recap

It’s been absolutely freezing here in upstate New York!! When I got up on Saturday and checked the weather, the temperature was -4, and the wind chill was -22. No thank you, Mother Nature!

We had a pretty typical winter weekend for our family, meaning we were basically in hibernation mode. On Saturday, we picked up my car at the mechanic, where it had been hanging out for a couple of days. I was supposed to take it in for just an oil change on Thursday, but the check engine light came on when I turned the car on that morning. It turned out that mice had gnawed through a wire to one of the sensors, which required a pretty inexpensive fix.

We use a mechanic about a half hour from our house, so having a car serviced is always a bit of an ordeal. It was ready for pick-up on Friday, but we opted to pick it up on Saturday. Since the mechanic is halfway to the only Trader Joe’s in our area, I decided to swing by for a stock-up trip. I went a little nuts, but since I’m going to be working almost full-time this month, I wanted to load up my freezers with some of their semi-prepared foods for easy dinners. Just keeping it real, people.

The rest of Saturday and Sunday entailed some exercising on our new treadmill (per my goals for 2018), some cleaning and tidying, some reading (I’m almost finished with What Happened), and lots of relaxing.

The Week Ahead

I’m back to work this week, and I’ll be working five days a week most of this month. I haven’t work five days a week in, well, a long time, so I’m a little nervous about how this is going to go. I’m very used to having a couple of days off during the week, when I can handle errands and household chores. The thought of cramming all of that into the weekends stresses me out. (Yes, I hear all of you full-time workers laughing at me.)

My daughter has a full week of school – assuming the weather cooperates – along with a Brownies meeting after school today, and gymnastics on Wednesday evening.

This Week’s Meal Plan

As I shared on Facebook a few days ago, I’ve been using my new Carrie Elle meal planner to create my meal plans, and I’m loving it! (Naturally I mean that I love the planner, not the process of meal planning, sigh…)

I love this adorable meal planner!

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

What are you having for dinner this week?

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Product Empties: December, 2017 Edition

These are the products I finished up in December:

Personal Care

  • Tub of Mario Badescu Almond & Honey Non-Abrasive Face Scrub: I’ve had this in my shower for over a year. I like that it cleans my face without abrasiveness, but I don’t think it does much exfoliating.
  • Pack of Collagen Make-Up Cleansing Wipes: I got these at Dollar Tree, figuring it was worth giving them a shot for the cheap price. While they did a fine job of taking off my make-up, they’re very thin and I didn’t like the texture at all.
  • Tube of Garnier Fructis Style Curl Scrunch Controlling Gel: This was just okay. I found it kind of drying, and the hold was not great. (I like a nice firm hold on my curls, since they get pretty frizzy without it.)
  • Travel size bottle of Up & Up Clear Comfort Multi-Purpose Solution: I keep one of these in my travel bag. It’s cheap and works well.
  • Stick of Dove Advanced Care Invisible Anti-Perspirant in Sheer Fresh: This was the first one of these I tried, and I liked it. I’m not particularly brand-loyal with deodorant, but I’ll pick this up again the next time I can get a good price.
  • Tube of Bath & Body Works Ultra Shea Body Cream in Twisted Peppermint: I loved this scent!!
  • Can of Gillette Satin Care Dry Skin Shave Gel: I’m also not brand-loyal with shave gel, but I tend to use this one because it goes on sale every month.
  • Small tube of Crest Complete Whitening Plus Scope toothpaste: My husband and I both like this kind of toothpaste, so I grabbed this tube when I saw it at Dollar Tree.
  • Bottle of Clear Care Cleaning & Disinfection Solution: I wear extended-wear (each set lasts for three months) contacts, and this cleans them really well.
  • Bottle of Joico Joilotion Sculpting Lotion: I put a little of this on my hair after I blow-dry it. I’ve been using it for years, and will continue to do so, unless I find a better option.
  • Tube of Frizz-Ease Secret Weapon Flawless Finishing Creme: I put a little of this on my hair when it’s looking kind of frizzy.
  • Small Colgate Total Dental Floss: Not surprisingly, I’m not brand-loyal with dental floss. I got this particular one for free in my last goody-bag from my dentist.
  • Two bottles of Thera Tears Dry Eye Therapy Eye Drops: My eyes have been very dry lately, so my eye doctor recommended that I put a couple of these drops in my eyes when I get up in the morning and before I go to bed. I was skeptical, but doing so has made a big difference in my comfort level.
  • Sample size tube of Pangea Organics Nigerian Ginger with Lavender & Thyme Facial Cream: I’m not sure where I got this, possibly in a past Birchbox or Ipsy Glam Bag. It worked pretty well, but I didn’t love the scent.
  • Sample size of Ahava Dead Sea Crystal Osmoter Facial Serum: I’m not sure where I got this one, either, probably with an Ulta order. It was fine, but basically an oil, which I don’t like the feeling of on my face.
  • Bottle of CVS brand Calcium & Vitamin D supplements: I don’t get enough calcium in my diet most days, so I usually take one of these.
  • Bottles of CVS brand CoQ-10 and Magnesium Oxide supplements: Along with the one below, I take these supplements for my migraines on the recommendation of my neurologist. Much to my amazement, this “cocktail” noticeably decreases the intensity – not the frequency, unfortunately – of my migraines.
  • Bottle of Radiance Platinum Vitamin B-2 supplements: I have a hard time finding B-2 in the generic, CVS brand, so I usually end up with this brand of them.


  • Small Target apple cinnamon scented candle: The scent on this candle was undetectable, but I loved the mercury glass-effect of the glass container.
  • Bottle of Era Active Stainfighter detergent: I’m not at all brand loyal with laundry detergent, because they all seem to work equally well, to me. I got this one on sale, and it worked just fine.
  • Bottle of Comet Stainless Steel Powder Cleanser: I like to use these powder cleaners on my sink. This one was fine, but I’ll try other options, too.


Product Hit of the Month: It’s not exciting, but those Thera Dry lubricating eye drops have made a big difference in my eye discomfort and dryness.

Product Miss of the Month: Either one of the lip colors. They both looked pretty bad on me.


If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve probably seen my Sample Sunday posts. I love sample sizes and trying new products of all kinds, but I’ve been hanging onto my stash for a while, rather than putting them to use. As a result, I’ve started pulling out a few samples on Sundays, to try out over the next week or so. Here are the samples I finished in December:

Do you use any of these products, too? Are you a big fan of samples, or do you stick with the tried-and-true?

Frugal Real Food Meal Plans

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Weekly Meal Plan: 1/1/18

Happy New Year!! I hope you had a lovely weekend and your 2018 is off to a great start! Did you make any resolutions or goals for the new year? I set twelve goals for myself for 2018, one of which is to continue creating weekly meal plans. Womp, womp…

Weekend Recap

We had an extremely low-key weekend. My parents came up to visit us Thursday through Saturday. Since it’s been too cold to be outside for more than a couple of minutes at a time, on Friday afternoon we went to Albany for lunch at Druthers and to visit the New York State Museum. None of us had ever been there, and we were all pleasantly surprised. They had a fantastic exhibit about the history of the women’s suffrage movement, as well as beautiful exhibit of photographs taken in the Hudson Valley, where my parents live and I grew up. Despite all the cool exhibits and displays, my daughter’s favorite part was definitely riding the carousel.

My parents left around noon on Saturday, and my husband, daughter, and I did very little for the rest of the day. My husband started dismantling the Christmas decorations, while I did some laundry and cleaning. My daughter and I played a few exciting games of Monopoly Junior, and I used our new treadmill for the first time.

New Years Eve was basically more of the same: cleaning, laundry, and generally recovering from Christmas. Early in the evening, we went to a party at one of my husband’s coworkers’ house for a couple of hours. We got home and immediately put on our pajamas – which should tell you whether or not we made it until the ball dropped.

The Week Ahead

This will be my last week off before going back to work for the winter term/semester. (One of the colleges I’m working at is on the trimester schedule, and the other is on the more standard, semester schedule.) Winter is a busy time in college career centers – likely because students get an earful from their parents while they’re home for winter break – so I’m anticipating a busy couple of months at work.

Since I’ll be working five-day weeks in January, I need to do as many errands and chores as possible this week. I plan to drop items off at the consignment store, make some grocery stock-up trips, get an oil change in my car, have my blood drawn for my annual blood work, and do whatever else I can do in advance.

My daughter returns to school on Tuesday, but it should be a pretty quiet first week back, without any extracurricular activities.

Thursday is my birthday, so naturally I’m looking forward to a night off from worrying about dinner. 🙂

This Week’s Meal Plan

Welcome to my first meal plan of 2018!! Here’s what we’re having for dinner this week:

What are you having for dinner this week??

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