Sunday, June 29, 2014

Avoiding the Actua Chill Pill

I'm gonna get a little personal on you here, for a minute.

I have a blessed/lucky/awesome life. Lets count my blessings, shall we? My husband never fails to care for our family. He loves me regardless of the emotional hell we've been through, he still laughs at my weird sense of humor, and for whatever reason, he still reminds me of how smart and beautiful he thinks I am. Crazy man.

My kids are 100% healthy, and we have a great relationship. I have a roof over my head that isn't about to cave in, running water, electricity, food in my belly, and the most awesome memory foam mattress topper... possibly ever. Any health problems that I have, we know what causes them - I don't have a mysterious incurable disease. I have 100 reasons to smile and laugh on any given day, and my crazy little caveman/warrior children and scruffy dog with an underbite make sure of it.

Given the fact that my life is surely rockin', the truth remains, I have stress issues. Anxiety (and other issues) run in my family, so naturally, I'm a wreck. I care way too much about what people think, and take most of it personally... It builds up after a while, and wanes on my energy levels. I've even had a few panic attacks in the middle of nothing. I think they call that the breaking point. I even stress myself out about trying not to stress. That makes sense.

The other night, my husband suggested I go soak in the tub. He may have been trying to wriggle out of doing dishes, but he had something, there. Huh.

So I took a quick shower, then filled the tub with the hottest water I could stand, epsom salt, and lavender essential oil. I think I laid in there for an hour, deeply breathing in the lavender.

I don't normally soak in the tub, it seemed futile up until now. But when I got out of the bath that night, I felt calm, and... for lack of a better word, content. I put some lavender skin salve all over to preserve my happy, post-soak skin. I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed, and ready to take on my day. (Doesn't that seem like a bunch of BS? Its not, I promise). I was hooked. It helps so much to just spend 30 minutes taking in the silence... and thinking about nothing

Friday, June 27, 2014

Roasted Squash with Onions

I am quite possibly the worst when it comes to getting creative in terms of vegetables. I know how important they are to our diet, so I really do make a conscious effort to include them, but I'm so boring about it! I shy away from salads because my littlest will sit there for six hours before he ever eats a raw leaf (plus, I can't have ranch or blue cheese dressing, what's the point?!) My go-to recipes are usually just steamed carrots or a smoothie with spinach or kale. I'm glad no one ever fusses about those two things, but after it being a daily thing, it just gets old. Fortunately, as fate would have it, we figured out something new by accident.

When left to his own devices, my husband developed a love for kebabs. They were simple, filling, and pretty nutritious the way he was preparing them. He grilled them up for dinner a couple of times, but would frequently sacrifice the veggies to the gods of the charcoal, because they would overcook and fall off before the meat was cooked.

My solution: make only-meat kebabs, and just roast the veggies in the oven. 

Now aren't you lucky - I picked these honkin' zucchinis from my garden this morning, so lets use 'em up, shall we? There will be a proper recipe at the bottom of the post.

Take a picture of your shoulda-picked-it-two-days-ago zucchinis. Then set your oven to bake at 425 degrees.

Slice 'er up.

Dice 'er up.

Roughly (do you see this picture? I'm serious when I say "roughly") hack up some onions.

Mix it all together with butter (or oil of your choice), garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

(I had some yellow squash in the fridge that needed to be used, so I threw some of that in there, too).

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Potato Preservation Venture.

Hi, I'm Meg, and I have an addiction. ("Hiiii, Meg....")

I love Costco. When I buy food or... anything really, I always compare prices. Usually, Costco has the best price per unit. If it is a PENNY less per unit, I would rather buy it. It's a penny! A hundred of those and you have a buck! That's a Toothfairy stuff, right there!

So the last time I went to Costco, I noticed the price of my favorite little red potatoes, and nabbed a bag.
I prefer these vs. Russets

- When I make baked potatoes, the boys have a perfect little serving size, and they eat the whole thing. Skins included.
- I'm convinced the color in the skin = higher vitamin level.
- They hold together better (vs. Russets) when I fry potatoes for breakfast or make french fries.
Basically, I don't buy Russets. So I got a huge bag of red potatoes. Moving along....

They sat in my pantry juuuust fine for a while, then one started to smell. Have you ever smelled a rotting potato? Holy hot dogs, Batman! I'd change a thousand breastfed-baby-converting-to-solids diapers before I ever preferred smelling a rotting potato. I couldn't let my money go to waste - my solution? Freeze them.

Here's what I did:

1. Clean out the sink. Plug the sink. Put all your still-good potatoes in the sink. Fill the sink with water.

2. Pour about a cup of vinegar in the water. Let potatoes soak for about 10 minutes. Shove your hand in the sink and agitate the potatoes, kinda like a washing machine. 

3. Drain the sink. Assure no potatoes went down into the garbage disposal. 

4. Gently scrub each potato, then set in your cutting area.

5. Cut the potatoes. Dice them, slice them, cut 'em into french fries. However you choose. I chose to dice them all, since I can use them diced in country potatoes, morning scrambles, soup, and roast them in the oven with squash in onions. It was the most versatile cut for me! 

6. Rinse out the sink. Plug the sink back up. Fill it up with clean water. Dump all of your newly sliced potatoes into the clean water, and let them soak for about 10 minutes. 

7. Lay a towel on the counter (I had two towels). Drain the sink and put all of your soaked, cut up potatoes on the towel and spread them into a single layer so they can dry for about 30 minutes.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Spicy Meatballs

... not really. Its only spicy if you put a ton of red pepper flakes in it... which I do... 'cause my husband likes it spicy. Rawr.

I make a ton of these at once because they're perfect for lunches (which I pack four of on a daily basis!), and a quick addition to dinners on tee ball or basketball nights. These make me happy because there's no gluten involved - so my little one doesn't have the alligator arms two days later.

They have a distinct, smoky flavor, so they don't need a sauce or gravy. I suggest serving them on their own alongside other things, rather than smothered in a sauce or mixed into something.

Meg's Meatball Recipe:

*2 lbs ground beef (or 1 lb beef, 1 lb pork)
*2 large eggs
*1/2 C Worcestershire sauce
*1/2 C rice flour (take dry rice and put it in the blender. Bam: rice flour)
*1 Tbsp salt
*1 Tbsp black pepper
*1 Tbsp red pepper flakes
*1 Tbsp smoked paprika (or regular paprika with a tbsp of liquid smoke)
*3 Tbsp minced onion
*3 Tbsp granulated garlic
*1 Tbsp turmeric - yes, I know. Just do it.

1. Throw all ingredients in a huge mixing bowl. Now stick your hands in the bowl and mash everything up with your bare hands until it is all incorporated (mix it really well, there's nothing worse than biting into a hunk of salt!).

2. Roll meatballs that are about an inch in diameter. I get something like 40 meatballs, give or take.

3. Put a thin layer of cooking oil of your choice in a large pan, and heat slowly on low (about 3 for those of us with numbers on the stove dials). Put the meatballs in the pan, searing each side. One pan-full of meatballs usually takes me about ten minutes, but stoves, pans, and meats (more or less fat content) will vary that time, so just cook slightly longer than you would a hamburger patty.

4. Place cooked meatballs on a cookie rack to drain excess cooking oil.

Your meatballs aren't going to be perfectly round, but they'll be perfectly delicious. Lemme know how yours turn out!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Budget.

I loathe spending money, even if its for something that I have specifically saved. I get this burning sensation in the pit of my stomach- and if its a lot of money (like our Vitamix was), I feel sick to my stomach.
 I keep the receipt for months under a magnet on the refrigerator, and refuse to throw away original packaging just in case I decide to return it.

But sometimes, people need a car, or a house, or an insanely expensive item for school like the crazy things my Mr. needs. We don't make a lot of money, so I cut corners where I can, but we still didn't have enough in savings to make large purchases or cover huge emergencies, if needed.

Where's the Money Going?

I am mathematically challenged, so I had to keep this a basic as possible. To determine where it was all going (and how much I could start setting aside), I started with a basic chart that included every single bill we could possibly have. I assumed nearly all of our money went to bills, groceries, gas, and vehicle maintenance. I don't really actively decorate my home, I'm fashionably challenged so I don't buy a ton of clothes, I try not to drive to save gas, I cook at home, and I don't have payments on anything... So where's the money going?
I even included the credit card that is like a cuss word in our home (seriously, we don't say "credit card" in front of our kids!) and we had a zero balance on. I included the amount due ("cost"), the due date, and the amount paid. The reason I included both the amount due and amount paid was because of the credit card - I typically will add a few dollars onto minimum balances due, to reduce accrued interest in the end. To avoid interest entirely, we only use the credit card when there is no other option.

It All Adds Up

At the end of my chart, I would calculate the total amount of our income that was to be used towards bills. At the time, we got paid on the 1st and 15th of every month. So I then would calculate how much money of our income was due to bills prior to the 15th, and after

I filled in some random numbers and dates for a visual. So, for the first paycheck of the month, only $677.69 is going to be used toward bills. For the second paycheck, only $237.02 will be used. I only pay bills that are due before the 15th with the 1st of the month paycheck. I also only pay bills that are due after the 15th with the 15th of the month paycheck. Does that make sense?

The total amount that went to bills that figurative month was $914.71. That's all? So now that we knew where is going, that means we can figure out how much to put away each paycheck. Remember - you still need to pay for gas and vehicle maintenance, groceries, and have spending cash on top of what you already pay your bills with.

Other Things to Consider

Another money-saving tip I used was asking myself if I really needed something before purchasing it. Would it save me money? Would it improve our life that significantlyAlso, can you borrow it from a friend? Can you find it used? Have you really scoured Craigslist, thrift stores, and yard sales that well? Consider these alternatives to purchasing new items every single time.

Some people like to separate their cash into envelopes for a better visual, but my chart worked well for me, I could just post it on the fridge and mark it as the month went on.

So there you have it, I hope it makes sense to you and helps you if you are looking for it. Do you have any tips or tricks to help you manage your income?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Just a Little Picket Fence

A few posts back, I published some pictures of my 2013 garden. If you'll notice, there was no fence.

Please excuse my neighbor's awesome need for 45 cars. 

There was no need for a fence. This year, the second anything had a leaf, we got a visitor.
A fuzzy, quiet, hopping, leaf-eating visitor. Little Bunny Foo Foo has a thing for tomato leaves, apparently. Where was Little Bunny Foo Foo last year? Well. This had to be handled.

It was time to build a fence. We were strapped for extra cash at the time, so my husband grabbed a roll of chicken wire and cut a couple 1x4s in half. Then he cut an angle at the end of each 1x4 so they were stakes. Then he hammered a stake at each corner of the garden, and just wrapped the chicken wire around the stakes. It was horrific - the chicken wire was floppy and... well, it was classy (not).

It really ups the class when you have toys strewn everywhere... geez.
I knew that was just a temporary solution, so I didn't fret too much. I could still bend over the fence to weed and harvest. But the problem remained. I wanted a sturdier and far more attractive fencing solution for my garden. Firstly  because I hate rabbits when they're not food or pets.  Secondly, because chickens apparently love spinach. Jerks.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Baked Salmon with Lemon and Dill

I make salmon the exact same way every time. There are only so many ways you can make salmon when there are picky eaters in the house (and one of them is a grown man)!

This is a recipe I think my mom learned in cooking school, then taught it to her mother. My grandmother used to make it for most of her dinner occasions , so I thought it was her recipe until my mom spoke up, recently.

Disclaimer: I cook with "a little bit of this" and "add that till it tastes right," because I don't typically use processed food - and nature never, ever tastes the same twice. So even though this has mayo in it, there's still the dill and lemon which vary greatly depending on different factors. I'm taking a page out of my mom's book and throwing nonspecific measurements at you. So this is a "to taste" kind of recipe, for sure. Take the measurements lightly!

* slab-o-(raw) salmon (I usually use 2-4 lbs so we have leftovers. This one is 3.5 lbs)

* 1 C mayonnaise. (If you can't make it yourself, get the kind with actual egg in it - the low fat junk has artificial WTF listed on the label and doesn't brown in the oven).

* Juice from 1/4-1/2 a lemon. (I like it tart, but you may not. Start small!)

* 3 Tbsp dried dill. Or more. Because I. Love. Dill.