30 September 2012

This and That

Hey hey, internet!  I'm sure you've been dying to know what's been going on around these parts, so here it is.  Consider yourself forewarned, though: it is NOT exciting.

1.  CATERPILLARS CAN STING.  Did you even know this?  I didn't until the other day when I was doing yard work.  Short version: new neighbors moving in and we don't want them to hate us because the outside of our house looks like the house is abandoned so I was trimming weeds that had become trees with these awesome new trimmer weapons that we bought and I grabbed a branch and then my whole hand was on fire and I was freaking out because it hurt like hell and I thought I was going to die but then I didn't.  Turns out it was an IO moth caterpillar, something that looks like cute fuzzy nature and then will kill you dead with its stingy venom.  For reals.  So, the neighbors can just go on thinking that our house is probably a meth lab or something.  I'll have to win their affection some other way.  Cookies?

2.  Charlie got all political on us.  Yes, we're those people.

3. Me [while helping Matt with trimming branches in the front yard]: Wouldn't it be so funny if I accidentally chopped off one of your fingers with these?
Matt: No.
Me: I mean, like, in 20 years it'd be a really funny story.
Matt: A really funny story you could tell to your next husband.
Me: Seth Meyers?

4.  Charlie is scooting about these days, about to start crawling.  Also, nothing will show you  how dirty and disgusting your floors are like a rolly baby in a white shirt.  Ew, ew, ew.  So Shecky and I decided that we should make onesies out of Swiffer sheets and then plant awesome fun stuff around the room.  It'd be like the Roomba, but, you know, more green.

5.  I laugh every time I see this.

23 September 2012


So, you haven't heard from us in a bit because, man, shit's hard right now.

Here, let me sum up what the last couple of weeks' worth of posts would have been if I had been posting.

"Waaaaaaaaa!  I'm tired.  Feed me.  Why does Chick-Fil-A have to be so homophobic and make me feel guilty for going there?  I want nuggets!  I want spicy chicken!  Waaaaaaaaaaaa!  I'm tired!  Work is annoying!  Waaaaaaaaaaa!  I'm tired.  What?  Chick-Fil-A reversed their policy?  Awesome.  But I'm still tired."

Aren't you glad I wasn't posting?

But I couldn't let today go by without stopping to mention to the whole internet that our little baby is six months old!  That's a whole half of a year!  What, what?!

So we've been spending the day together as a family (except for the hour or so I escaped to Publix to be BY MYSELF) and doing little household stuff and eating six-month celebratory chocolate chip cookies.  I thought about making a smash cake for myself, but that seemed a little excessive.

And, now, because I don't want to subject you to my list of complaints about work or a whiny speech about how I'm so freaking tired, I will instead make you look at lots of pictures of our favorite six-month old boy (and his best friend, favorite toy, the big yellow dog--they're seriously obsessed with one another).

Someone told him he was a Bills fan. 

13 September 2012

A Really Long Post about Meal Planning

So, I've been thinking about doing this post for a while since I feel like I talk and rave about meal planning to all of our family and friends and many people seem to think it sounds too hard for them to do.  Lately, lots of people we know are either trying to save some cash money by not eating out, or are getting married, or are procreating, and I think that Matt and I have a little something to offer here.  Obviously, there are people who are probably way, way better at meal planning than we are, but this is the system that's worked for us over the last few years, and I think it could work for lots of you, too.

First of all, why even bother meal planning?  Well, here's why (besides the fact that it's just plain awesome): it saves a tremendous amount of time, it saves lots and lots of money, it's healthier, it's easier, it cuts down on stress, and it's fun (fun because then you have totally awesome food to eat at home and you don't have to hem and haw about what to do for dinner or become a cranky monster because you're hungry and tired of eating Spaghetti-O's). Here are the basic steps we have for our meal planning.

1. Amass pantry and fridge staples.
2. Think about food and recipes.
3. Do an inventory of fridge and pantry.
4. Come up with list of meals and sides.
5. Look at recipes and write out grocery list.
6. SHOP!
7. Post list of meals.

Okay, here we go! (Totes get ready for lots and lots of words, peeps.) 1.  Amass pantry and fridge staples.  These will vary depending on the kind of food you like to cook and the diet that you have.  The things we try to always have on hand at home are
  • half and half
  • lemons
  • limes
  • pasta
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • fresh garlic
  • sriracha 
  • eggs
  • bacon 
  • crushed red pepper
  • kosher salt
  • onions
  • parmesan cheese
  • butter
  • spaghetti sauce
  • chicken broth
  • soy sauce
  • panko bread crumbs
  • carrots 
  • basmati rice
  • vinegar (wonderful because we use it for cleaning, for laundry, and for making buttermilk)
Having these staples available to us at any time means that there are a handful of meals we can make without really doing any shopping at all (granted, they are too often carbonara and chicken parmesan, which aren't the healthiest--but boy are they tasty!).  There are some other staples that we have that are much more specific, like sesame oil and rice wine for making Asian dishes, but we'll save those for another day.  I think it's really important to have a well-stocked fridge and pantry because you can use those ingredients for so many different meals, and then it doesn't really take much to add a few ingredients to create an awesome dinner.  It might take some time to stock your pantry the way you'll like it, but it's totally worth the time and money, and you'll be happy you did.

*Side note, I have different staples for baking.  They are vanilla, vanilla bean paste, flour, cake flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, food coloring, powdered sugar.  Some of the other staples above like butter and half and half double as baking staples.

**Matt's note:  Matt says that if you don't already have one you should get a pepper grinder because it makes everything better.  I will add that you should also always always always shred your own parmesan cheese and never ever buy that stuff in the green can.

2.  Think about recipes.  We think about food A LOT.  Is that what everyone does?  In the days before we make out a meal plan, Matt and I mention to one another the meals we'd like to have soon, whether they're things we've made a million times or just recipes we saw in a cookbook.  I read a number of food blogs, too, and when I find something that I think we'd enjoy, I'll email the post to Matt and myself for later consideration.  Thinking about recipes is a huge part of our meal planning, because that's what gets us excited about making dinner.  Also, we are total fatties.

3.  Take an inventory of the fridge and pantry.  This sounds way harder than it is.  Really, all I do is look at what we have and need to use, and what we are out of.  It'll be like noticing that we have 6 lemons (we always buy them by the bag) and thinking that our next plan should use up some lemons (so maybe we'll make Bitten Word rosemary lemon chicken or panko chicken with lemon sauce?) or noticing that we're totally out of bacon and need to stock up.  Fridge inventory time is also when I get around to throwing out that sour cream that's 2 weeks expired or realizing that we have homemade BBQ sauce that will be good for another week that we should use.  It's nice to have the refrigerator cleaned out and organized when we get home from the grocery store, too.

4.  Make our meal list (complete with sides).  I should preface by telling you that this only takes like 30 minutes, even though it might sound like it takes longer.  Making the list is one of the easiest and most fun parts of meal planning.  Matt and I sit down and write down the meals we want to make.  We try to maintain a good balance, too, so we're not having two weeks of Fatty McFatterson meals or all salads (which would really just mean we'd high-tail it to Mexico for some burritos).  The nice thing about cooking at home is that even our lard ass meals are healthier than the salads at many chain restaurants, so we can feel good about ourselves and what we're eating.  We usually do meal plans that have about 10-12 dinners on them, and that will last us about 2 1/2 to 3 weeks (with Matt working some nights and the occasional night that we go out or decide just to eat pasta with parmesan and butter).

When we think of the sides that we will make, we try to consider the sides we've already planned for.  So, for example, if we're going to have mashed potatoes one night, we might try to add in one or two other potato sides (like grilled potatoes or spicy baked oven fries) so that we use the entire bag of potatoes and don't end up tossing any of them.  This strategy saves us money and guilt since we don't have to feel bad about wasting food.

Lately, as we've grown slightly more savvy, we've started dividing our meal list into two and just buying the produce for the first five or six meals on our major trip.  We we need the rest of the stuff, one of us will dip into Publix for the rest of the time (I try to do it to get some quiet time for myself).  We started doing it that way because we kept kicking ourselves for letting produce go bad.  Now we also try to cook the recipes that require the produce that goes bad quickly (looking at you, green onions!) earlier than the others.

For other people, it'd probably be easier just to shop for fewer meals each time, like 5 or 6 instead of 10 or 12.  Since Matt works three nights a week now, though, and it's hard to find time and energy to get to the store with baby in tow during the school year when we're stressed to the max, we do it this way.

5.  Make the grocery list.  It's exactly what it sounds like, but make sure that you actually look up the recipes to ensure that you have everything written down.  Nothing's more annoying than going to cook dinner and realizing that you're missing one of the key ingredients.

6.  SHOP!  This part is fun, and we've gotten to where we have it down to a science.  I try to check the weekly ads online before we go to the store just to see if we should adjust our list.  Usually, we're in and out of the grocery store in about 40 minutes or so, and we spend about $100-$150 for 2-3 weeks worth of food (not counting the supplemental produce trip later that might be about $40 or so).  When you consider that just going to even a cheap restaurant will set you back $30 easy, and that you're eating way better food at home (better taste and better nutrition), and you do your arithmetic on the way home to figure out just how cheap each of those meals are, you'll pat yourself on the back.

For our regular grocery shopping, we go to Publix, which is sometimes more expensive than other, more disgusting grocery stores, but it is like a bajillion times nicer.  We're always happier when we leave Publix, so we decided that it was worth a few extra dollars.  Kroger makes me hate the world.

Okay, and here's the really shameful part.  We also go to Sam's (speaking of hating the world).  I detest it but we save a lot of money by going there.  I only go every 4-6 weeks or so (and I try to go on Sunday mornings while everyone's at church), and I only get items there that I know we'll use and that we have room for.  Also, I had to get to know what stuff actually costs elsewhere to know if I was even getting a deal at Sam's.  A Sam's trip usually involves getting (in addition to a healthy dose of self-loathing) parmesan cheese, hummus, baby carrots, pork tenderloin (or other meat that's on sale--we used to buy boneless skinless chicken breasts there because they were so cheap, but we stopped because they started to suck), peanut butter, granola bars (for school lunches), half and half, butter, berries, celery, sometimes bacon, and annually a 20 lb. bag of basmati rice.  (Sam's is also way cheaper for Mach 3 razors, which I buy about once a year and then gripe about for six weeks because they just should not be that expensive.)

7.  Post the list.  The last thing about our meal planning is super easy and definitely crucial.  We write a list of all of the meals we have the ingredients for and then post it on the refrigerator.  We don't get as specific as "On Monday we'll have pot roast and on Tuesday we'll have kung pao chicken" because we've found that sometimes we just don't feel like eating or preparing certain meals on certain days.  We do try to make the meals that use the most perishable produce early on, though, just to avoid waste.  We try to use common sense and make slow-cooked meals on the weekends and quick meals on weeknights.

Oh, and if you want to do meal planning and you don't have some already, I'd recommend getting a few great cookbooks.  Great Food Fast and Dinner: A Love Story are two of our favorites.  We also subscribe to Everyday Food, and I read a handful of food blogs whose recipes I've come to trust (DALS, Smitten Kitchen, Simply Recipes, The Girl Who Ate Everything).  And if you're just starting out cooking, I'd recommend either of the Real Simple cookbooks.  They're fantastic!

Phew!  There you have it!  Do you do meal planning?  What's your system?

12 September 2012

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

After moving to the SAV, it took forever to find someone to cut Matt's hair.   Matt had looked for a good lady to cut his locks for years, and had some absolutely awful thank-god-someone-invented-hats haircuts as he searched for the best lady.  And then we found Mandie!  And she did such a great job!  And she loved dogs!  And we loved her!  And we didn't have to fear having Matt get his hair cut any more! (I can really have anyone cut my hair because I've basically had the same haircut since 1995 when I couldn't get enough of Friends.)

So then when our hairdresser moved a few months ago, we were super sad and stressed and wondering how we could go about finding someone good to address the mop atop Matt's head.

Then I decided that, shoot, I could totally cut Matt's hair!  Young House Love Sherry cuts John's hair!  Looks easy!  (BTW, just because Young House Love makes something seem easy it does not mean that that something is actually easy.  See, also: painting wood paneling.)  So one night a couple of months ago, after I watched 3 "how to cut hair" videos on YouTube, Matt sat in a desk chair in our kitchen while I snipped and evaluated and snipped some more.

And you know what?  It wasn't half bad!  Was it the greatest haircut he'd ever received?  No.  But it was light years away from being the worst.  Plus it was free and convenient and we figured I'd only get better at my new cheapskate hobby.  Right?


Here's what happened tonight, after Charlie was in bed, while Matt was at work, about the time that, armed with an eensie weensie bit of haircutting knowledge and a dangerous amount of confidence, I completely lost patience with my own mane, the one that was so long and scraggly that I couldn't even get it to look good in a ponytail anymore.

Uh oh.

Yep.  Totes grabbed my ponytail and chopped that bitch off.  And then I figured that after I let my hair down it would be all wild and cool and a little bit chunky-layered and people'd be all, "OMG, Mandy!  Who cuts your hair?!  It looks absolutely marvelous!  How ever can you afford such an amazing stylist!?"  And I'd be all, "Oh, this?  I did it one night with some scissors and my skillz.  How sweet that you like it."

Except that that little fantasy would never happen.

Here's why.


I looked like an extra from The Hunger Games.  Or like a polygamist who just escaped from Juniper Creek and is trying to assimilate in the real world.

And so then I had to spend a little time, um, evening things out.  Oh, and getting rid of the rat tail that I suddenly had.

I had a rat tail.  This was a new low.

Guess we'll be finding a new hairdresser after all.  Anyone know of one in Savannah who can cut a mean "Rachel"?

06 September 2012

This and That

Hey, hey!  Just wanted to say hello to you, the internet, and fill you in on the mundane happenings around here lately.

1. School is kicking my ass.  I'm so tired and wiped out when I get home that I basically have enough energy to hang out with Baby Carlos for a while, put him to bed, and then become a vegetable myself.  I'm proud of myself when I have the energy to do a load of laundry or take a shower.  One million bonus points if I get to both.

2.  OMG BREAKING BAD!  The ending of that last episode just made me think and think and think about what will happen next.  I was thinking about Breaking Bad so much the other night that I couldn't even sleep despite how tired I was.

3.  Lots of people hate election season.  I love it.  I think I always have, even when I was a kid and didn't know anything. And it's no secret that Matt and I are pretty big Obamaniacs.  What you might not know is that I am a Biden-iac, too.  Love that guy and his handsome, winning smile.  I do think that [unless you're talking about Sarah Palin who's basically the biggest grossest gashwagon who's ever lived] it's important to just be really positive about the person you like instead of slamming the ones you don't.  So, I love my man Obam' and I love his policies and I love what he stands for.  And I love birth control.  And I love me some gays, too!  And I love the "Babies for Obama" onesie and "Cheers, Champ" coozie we ordered the other night.

4.  Earlier this week Charlie and I got into a big fight/debate/argument/battle over how much sleep a human should have.  Spoiler alert: baby thinks 2 hours per night is sufficient; I think 10 sounds better.  I'll win this battle yet, even if I have to wait until he's a teenager.

5.  Football started last night.  Here's what's awesome about football: Matt is happy, fantasy football, the weather tends to be nicer, pumpkin-flavored desserts (Um, do I only equate football with fall?  What about the ootb?).  Here's what's annoying about football: football.  Also, annoying people on Facebook and everyone who hates Pittsburgh.  I don't give a rat's ass about Pittsburgh, but every time I hear someone call it "Shittsburgh" I want to rip off my own arm and beat them with it.

6.  Check out the boy's lush lashes.  Matt puts mascara on him.

7.  And, finally, a Charlie cam of sorts for you.  Apparently, Mitch is just hilarious.  But we knew that already.  Now we have a new hobby, following Mitch around the house and laughing.  Mitch doesn't quite know what to make of it.

Only one more day this week to wake up early!  And I have to go now because the most handsome vice president of all time just came on the TV!


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