Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Budgeting

I don't particularly budget for holidays like Thanksgiving.  Usually we just cook a big dinner and eat a lot of leftovers.

Last year we took a vacation instead of eating at home.  Our budget this year was much lower.

Last year's approximate budget:
3 nights in a hotel in Carlsbad (The Hilton Oceanfront Resort and Spa)
2 days at LEGOLAND
Associated food (lunches and a couple of dinners).  Gas.

This three day trip cost about $1000.

This year's approximate budget:
Pre-cooked meal from Fresh and Easy: $60 (about $30 more than it would cost if we cooked it ourselves).
Bagel breakfast this morning: $10
Possible burger lunch tomorrow - it's Sunday Sabbath: $30.

This year's fun: $70 more than a standard year.

The "fun" things we did this weekend (since we were not on vacation):
Thursday beach walk with a former coworker (free!)
Sleepover for my son (friend was here)
Lunch and walk with a friend (here): free!  (leftovers)

It was definitely more relaxing than traveling.  The tree is up, the leftovers are delicious.  I've spent quite a bit of time working on Christmas projects/ gifts.  Our family calendar came - I make one on, order 10, and give them as gifts.  This year, I copied last year's so I could keep the birthdates on there and not retype them.  At the last minute, I realized that I hadn't changed "2013" to "2014" on the cover.  So I caught that.

Apparently, what I DIDN'T catch was my son's birthdays - the calendar says they will be 7 and 1 next year.  Whoops.  Going to fix those manually.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Week Menu

Well, I'm gonna be honest.  There's been a lot of frozen chicken nuggets, frozen pizza, and one-pot pasta in the last couple of weeks.  Spouse has had two trips in two weeks and I caught a second cold. The second trip was an "oh shit" on Monday when he realized his telecom on Wednesday was not a telecom.  It was, in fact, an in person review on the East Coast. So in addition to all that, the baby has been teething...he finally got #15 and #16 is taking WAY too long to come out.  I'm going to get a break after this right?  Please say yes.  After all, there are only 20.

I did finally get healthy enough to get my flu shot yesterday, so yay me!  The pharmacist at the drug store suggested I aim for August or September next time.  I tried for October this year but had bronchitis.

Anyway, on to Thanksgiving week!

Over the weekend I used 5 weeks worth of CSA carrots to make a big pot of ginger carrot soup.  It's about 3-4 nights worth of soup (half done).  I roasted a bunch of eggplant and zucchini as a side dish.  I made my favorite Mediterranean chickpeas and rice, but in the rice cooker instead of the pressure cooker.  I have a problem with burning this stuff in the pressure cooker.  I made caponata (wait, that may have been last weekend).

So this week is chickpeas and rice, carrot soup, lots of salad with salami and cheese. 

Thursday's menu:
Roast turkey breast
Sausage and cornbread stuffing
Brussels sprouts with bacon
Butternut squash risotto
Pumpkin pie
Mashed potato casserole (aka, heart attack on a plate)
Chocolate peanut butter pie

Now, you're probably thinking "what a great list of homemade deliciousness!"  And in a normal year, you'd be right.  Except for the occasional trip east to visit family (or last year's impromptu trip to LEGOLAND), we cook dinner every Thanksgiving.  In the past, this has included huge numbers of people (up to 14 in student housing, with our one-butt kitchen).

But this year, we are ordering dinner from Fresh and Easy.  But we are making the potato casserole and chocolate peanut butter pie ourselves, so that's something.  We just didn't have the energy for a huge to-do this year.

I'll leave you with a couple of photos from our Sunday Sabbath.

Monday, November 11, 2013

My first "Sabbath"

So this was the weekend where I tried to institute a "Sabbath".  A day (mostly) off from chores, and a day for fun.

On one hand, this means all chores end up squished into one day.  On the other hand, I just did fewer chores.

On Saturday, I baked bread.  This is huge people!!  I don't have time to bake bread when I have a baby/ toddler.  Until age 3, cooking is dicey.  I made Moroccan lentil soup to go with it, and it's a pressure cooker recipe (you can find it on my "favorite recipes" tab).  I was going to have salad too, but didn't feel like it, so the lettuce is still unwashed in the fridge.  (Maybe for dinner tonight??)

This bread is sage-apple bread based on a yeast bread recipe by Mark Bittman.  A friend brought it to a housewarming party last weekend and I demanded the recipe.

On Sunday, I consider cooking to be a chore (well, cooking with kids around), so we had Teriyaki chicken in the crockpot, rice in the rice  cooker, and steamed broccoli in the microwave.

Teriyaki chicken dinner:
~3 lbs chicken breast: $5.71
80% of a jar of teriyaki marinade: $1.60
2 cloves garlic: $0.10
grated fresh ginger: $0.10
Total for chicken: $7.51
This is about 9 servings, give or take. $0.84 per serving

1 cup uncooked rice (cooked): $0.19 (6 servings) = $0.03 per serving.

12 oz broccoli: $1.50 (5 servings): $0.30 per serving

We celebrated our "Sabbath" by going on a 6 mile/ 3 hour hike with the kiddos.  It was fun but at one point we lost the trail (well, you cross a creekbed many times.  This time of year, it's dry.  So you get lost for a little bit trying to find the trail).  Anyway, I stepped off a rock onto what looked like solid ground.  Eh, not so much, it was quicksand.  Here are a few photos from the hike.

And...there may have been McDonald's for lunch after, and I may have split a hot fudge sundae with the boys.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Blue Zones

I have been wanting to read this book The Blue Zones for awhile.  I am not sure why I didn't just run out and buy it, except - well, I don't do that anymore. I will put books on my wish list for Christmas.  I will read books on my Kindle (usually free ones).  And we don't have any book stores anymore.

So last week while I was down and out with bronchitis, I paid $5 for the Kindle version and read it in a few days.  It was very fascinating and worth the read.  I also went to the website and checked to see what my "age" is.  Turns out: 41.  I remember the days when  my lifestyle had me a good 5-10 years under my real age, and now it's only two.  This is not surprising with the amount of stress that I am under, the lack of time for exercise and cooking, and the "still carrying around 30 lbs of baby weight" status.

There are many things I learned from the book that I will be trying to incorporate into my life (again, and for the first time):

1.  Beans.  One of the things that most of the Blue Zones had in common were beans.  Fava beans, pinto beans, other beans.  Most Blue Zone areas are bean eaters.  I had gone a little on the "Paleo" wagon a couple of years ago (but never full bore) and stopped eating as many beans.  Also, as I age, I find that I cannot eat as many carbohydrates and maintain my weight.  So my tendency has gone toward more chicken and fewer beans.

2.  Sleep. I have already been working on this.  I try to get 8 hours a night.

3.  Walking/ exercise.  Most of the Blue Zone areas get a lot of exercise.  Walking as part of daily life.  Gardening.  Few actually "work out" a lot - they just get more exercise in general.  And in Okinawa, one of the biggest things was just frequently getting up and down from the floor.  This is where being 43 with a toddler is a good thing.

4.  Meditation/ Yoga.  I have not really done this much yet.  But at my women's retreat weekend, I learned the importance of being able to meditate (and for me, I find Yoga to help with that.)  I want to start taking 15 minutes in the morning to stretch/ do Yoga, and meditate quietly in my room.  If only the kids didn't get up so damn early.  I also learned that knitters/ crocheters get meditation benefits because their minds go "blank" while they work.  So I pulled out my crocheting.

5.  Sabbath.  I am not particularly religious - religion serves a purpose much like meditation.  A "higher purpose".  One item that many religions put forth is the idea of a Sabbath - a rest day.  With two full time jobs and two kids, this is going to be tough.  But I am going to try it.  I am going to try and do all of the chores on one day, and set up the crockpot for one day on the weekend.  Just to enjoy family.

So what's happening this weekend:
1.  My husband is off at "Zombie Survival Camp" with the 7-year old.  It's kind of their "Sabbath".  I'm at  home doing laundry, cooking, taking the baby for his haircut, etc.
2.  Tomorrow we are going to either meet friends for dinner and to chill out, or have a very simple soup for dinner.
3.  I have been invited to a housewarming.  I would love to walk there (about a mile one way), but I'm not sure I'm physically up to it yet.
4.  Dinner tonight is bean burritos and tomorrow may be lentil soup.  Beans!!

Have you read the Blue Zones?  Do you meditate?  How do you reduce stress.  Do you want to try and live longer?