Sunday, September 24, 2017

Busy, busy

I took the boys to four games yesterday (they won all of them, so that's a sign there will likely be two each this afternoon), as well as tried to get a few things done before I leave for my trip.

I managed to squeeze in a yoga workout, made lentil soup, homemade rolls & chocolate chip cookies. And, shredded & froze all of the parmesan cheese so M can quickly assemble dinners. I then walked to an evening event (a painting party) & enjoyed chatting & painting - while drinking wine, of course ;-)

I was up early this morning to wash the *very* fragrant soccer uniforms from yesterday. Here's what else is on my list:

  • Pack lunches for the field. I'm not a fan of this "park". They charge admissions & don't allow any food. Which means they want you to buy their unhealthy & ridiculously expensive concessions. We'll "tailgate" instead. 
  • Sort dinner for this evening. I won't be here, but have defrosted a lasagna for M & the kids.
  • Finish my last minute packing
  • Take both boys to their first games of the day. There is a 15 minute gap between them, so should work out well, logistics wise.
  • If either of the boys make it to the finals, I'll need to call M to head to the field so I can leave, get home, & take an Uber to the airport. 
  • I'm also going to try & eat something before I head to the airport, because, as we all know, airplane food is tragic.
That's it for me. I'm not a fan of the Sunday evening flights, but . . . what can you do? Let's hope it's on time & a painless flight.

What is one thing you will accomplish today that will save you time during the week? It won't save me time, but by prepping food for M, it will ensure that he & the boys can eat quickly, & hopefully limit eating out. ;-) 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Tournament time

Nick's had a soccer tournament scheduled for this weekend for several months. It wasn't looking too hectic, as Sam's calendar was free of games. Until earlier this week when he was invited to play with a team one division up. So, now both boys have a full tournament schedule this weekend. They are guaranteed three games each (two today, one tomorrow), and if either team does well, there will be a fourth game on Sunday. 

I like watching both boys play soccer, but this is a lot, even for me. ;-) I'm leaving for London tomorrow evening, so here's what else needs to happen this weekend:

  • Soccer. Lots & lots of soccer
  • I'm attending a girls painting/wine party this evening. It's something I won at the school auction, and is led by one of my friends. Looking forward to this, as I hardly ever get a chance to see her. 
  • Work out, x2. I'm on a bit of a roll & want to keep up the positive momentum before my trip
  • Pack
  • Make a Costco list
  • Go to Costco
  • And the produce stand
  • Return library books
  • Shred parmesan cheese for the freezer
  • M is going to try to fix our car. One of the windows won't roll all the way up. 
  • Finish all of the laundry before I head out
  • Time permitting, make an extra batch of muffins for the freezer
I also just found out from our team manager that the tournament facility has an entry fee. Not impressed. All of the fields around here are free, and with that many games, and our schedule, it looks like we'll be paying a minimum of $20+ for entry fees. Not frugal at all!

What about you? What's on your weekend agenda? 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Frugal Friday

Here's what we've been up to this week:

  • Used up some broccoli that was about to go bad in Broccoli & Cheese soup over the weekend. Yum!
  • Ran out of time to make homemade rolls on Sunday, but dug out some bread from the freezer rather than buying anything
  • Noted that I hadn't received my mileage credit (compensation for a flight changes over the holidays) & called Alaska Airlines again. Received $150 (both) for the adults, & finally got the 5,000 miles (both) for the kids. 
  • Submitted an HSA expense for my parking at my doctor's appt ($12).
  • Finally noticed that an old HSA (M's employer from about 5 years ago) has been charging $1.50/month for paper statements, and is charging $4.99/month now that they are not sponsored by the employer. Fixed the $1.50/month paper statement. Will add the HSA rollover to our current accounts to my to do list, because there are multiple forms required. M's current HSA will also give you a $25 bonus for moving funds from another account, so that will be a huge win.
  • Went through my standard weekly exercise of entering our flight information & price matching, & ended up with a $52 credit for future travel! Woohoo!
  • Used up a Groupon for an Italian restaurant that was about to expire. Even with the Groupon, still too expensive, so won't buy it again. Did use leftovers for additional meals this week.
What about you? Any big wins this week? 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Gift card inventory

I try to take inventory of our gift cards throughout the year, to ensure we're treating them like cash. I also have received several gift cards to non-restaurants as gifts, and winnings in the school auction.

Here's what we have available:


  • $40 Groupon to a local Italian restaurant. Expiring soon. Need to use this week.
  • $25 Subway gift card
  • $51.60 Sweet Tomatoes gift card
  • $60.62 Starbucks card
  • $15 at a local spa. Leftover from a massage M got me for my birthday when we first moved here, 3+ years ago. I'd like to use it, but that will require an investment of additional money. Maybe could give it away? Or, alternatively, book a birthday massage & use this to defray a small amount of the cost.
  • $500 at another local spa. Work gift. I have no idea why I haven't booked something yet, but I will! :-)

  • 2 movie passes
  • 12 paint ball tickets, won at the school auction.
  • 1 month of free art class, won at the school auction.

  • $50 Visa gift card. Can be used as cash. Will apply to my Christmas funds.
  • $100 Target gift card. Will apply to my Christmas funds.

Inventorying the gift cards will ensure we use them up before the expire, and turn to the cards before using our own funds. What about you? Do you track gift cards like cash? Any gift cards you are hoping to use up?

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Soccer & Soup - Sunday

Two more soccer games complete today (Nick's team won again, and Sam's team had another loss, although much closer than yesterday). I was on the soccer field & then out & about for the majority of the day. But, I did manage to get in a quick run in the morning, do all of the laundry, talk to my parents, & help the boys organize their closets.

I also made soup for dinner, to use up some questionable looking broccoli. I made this broccoli & cheese soup (similar to Panera's soup), and the only change was that I pureed the entire batch in my Vitamix before adding the cheese. It was delicious! I served it with bread & salad, to round out the meal.

The weather has cooled off perfectly here, and I'm enjoying the peace & quiet while Michael has the boys out of the house. :-)

If you like broccoli & cheese soup, give it a try!

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Grocery store score

After a very early soccer morning (3-1 victory for Nick), & a less victorious game (1-7) for Sam (and Nick, who was subbing), I took the boys & a bonus friend to lunch at In & Out. Nick was in at goalie against the best team in our league (a year up for him) & did an amazing job staying focused, even though the other team put up so many amazing shots. He had some great blocks, and stayed positive despite the challenging game.

As a special treat, I took the boys & their friend to lunch, where they each proceeded to eat two cheeseburgers, fries & a milkshake. We started with one burger each, and they were all still quite hungry & polished off a second burger each in no time. Luckily, it only came to $30. Oh, how I wish I could still eat two burgers, fries & a milkshake. ;-)

Once soccer was done for the day, I dropped Nick & bonus friend off for a sleepover, and went into the local grocery store for hamburger buns. Hamburgers are actually on the menu for tonight (although, I doubt anyone will be in the mood, and we will likely swap things around), and while Michael & I prefer them without a bun, the boys both enjoy them with a slice of cheese on a bun. I always walk through the clearance aisle, and the clerk was just stocking the shelves. Huge scores!

Here's what we got (and, I should have been reviewing the register as things were rung up, as you can see, but was distracted by the bagger, who dropped a bunch of stuff on the floor & we were trying to pick it up).

  • Organic pizza sauce - this actually rang up incorrectly & was supposed to be $.57. It rang up at $3.59 & will need to go back for a price correction
  • Shredded parmesan cheese with garlic - $.57
  • Pesto - rang up correctly, but charged me for 3 & I got 2. But, $.57/each! I'll get a price adjustment next time I'm there.
  • Natural jam sweetened with honey (vs sugar) - $.57 x3
  • Mac & cheese (the Star Wars edition) - $.27 x10!
  • 32 oz jars of organic pasta sauce - $.57 x3
  • Organic pasta sauce (smaller size) - $.57x4
  • Power Ade (not part of the clearance, but for my soccer player who gets migraines. I let him bring Power Ade if he's playing two games in a day). - $.59 (a steal) + $.10 bottle deposit x3
  • Cookies (a splurge for soccer game treats tomorrow). I've divided up the package, so each kid will get to share 1/2 with friends after the game - $.57
  • Cheez Its (a rare snack for Sam to bring in his lunch) - $.57
  • And, hamburger buns ;-) - $1.75

Total spent = $19.23. And, after the credits I'll receive, it' will really be around $16! Super excited to stock the pantry for that price.

Woohoo! Any big grocery store wins on your end? I closed out the afternoon with a trip to the produce stand for corn (3 ears for $1), radishes ($.59/bunch), mini cucumbers (Nick's favorite - expensive & just under my max price at $1.99/lb), and wheat lavosh bread ($2.99).

Soccer Saturday + a Menu Plan

Soccer season is back in full swing! We have the early game today (8:00 am, 7:30 field arrival!), as well as an 11 am game. Ahh, well, at least we'll be all wrapped up by lunch time. Bright side!

I need to get in a couple of runs this weekend, and perhaps yoga, time permitting. M & I also need to talk about the house projects & come up with our wish list & a minimum viable list. Adulting is often hard. :-)

Here's what's on the menu for the week:

  • Friday (yesterday) - oven baked chicken risotto, with homemade chicken broth, M's grilled chicken, fresh mozzarella, and tomatoes from the garden. Yum. 
  • Saturday - M will grill either burgers or kebabs, with potatoes. 
  • Sunday - we have a Groupon for a local Italian place that is close to expiring, so we will go there for dinner. 
  • Monday - leftover risotto
  • Tuesday - leftover burgers/kebabs
  • Wednesday - is it too much to hope that the meal out will yield leftovers? If so, I have a lasagna in the freezer
  • Thursday - ground beef tacos, or taco bowls. 

What about you? How are you doing with your menu plan? Are you adding fall recipes back into the mix? 

I'd also love to prep some lentil soup for the freezer. LOVE lentil soup! So easy & healthy. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Frugal Friday

Yet another crazy week of work & activities! We mostly stayed on course with our menu & kept the shopping to an absolute minimum. Overall, it was a pretty inexpensive week!

Here's the list of frugal wins for the week:

  • Called about our Christmas flights. They were moved three hours later, and there are no better options to rebook. Accepted the rebook, but asked about compensation. Received 2500 miles (x4, for all of us) that we will use towards our mileage challenge in 2018!
  • Received $1.97 in credit card rewards thanks to noticing a Subway cashback deal. I'd enrolled right before leaving for my relay, and bought lunch there during the event. Every dollar counts, in this case. ;-) 
  • Made dinner ever night this week, despite a lot of chaos with M traveling for work
  • Didn't go to Costco this week, as we normally do. M is obsessed with having a full fridge. I took advantage of our stockpile in the fridge, and bought a few thing at the grocery store for $13. Total savings of ~$100. Woohoo! :-) 

And, here's what we ate this week, as compared to the menu plan. We ate 3 of 4 planned meals, with tomato soup subbing for fried rice. We also mixed up the ordering, which is typical for us. 
  • Monday - Plan was Spaghetti & meatballs.  We really ate another quick freezer meal, as M was out of town. We had the rest of the panko chicken, mini tacos, pizza bites & to health it up a bit. . . cucumbers & tomatoes from the garden. Plus fruit salad.
  • Tuesday - Plan was beef tacos with build your own toppings: cheese, tomatoes, salsa, onion & this is what we ate
  • Wednesday - Plan was eating down our "pool party" stash. Likely pizza rolls, mini tacos & some sort of protein. (Chicken, most likely). Instead we had tomato soup & grilled cheese sandwiches for two of us, with Nick eating a leftover taco. 
  • Thursday - Plan was fried rice, using any leftovers, + edamame. Instead, we ate the spaghetti & meatballs with fresh tomatoes from the garden & Parmesan cheese. 
  • Friday - Chicken risotto - still the plan
  • Saturday - Grilled burgers & potatoes - still the plan
  • Sunday - Kale & chicken salad + caprese - still the plan. I have a package of mozzarella cheese that I really need to use up. 

What about you? Any big frugal wins for the week?

Monday, September 11, 2017

Back from our quick trip

What a whirlwind of a weekend! We flew to Portland on Friday after work, and had hoped to arrive at 8 pm. In the Uber on the way to the airport, we received news that our flight was delayed. We ended up being two hours late, which meant a couple of very sleepy boys.

Actually, we were 1:55 late. Which is ironic, given that the airline has to provide you with compensation if you are 2+ hours late. ;-)

We all woke up early on Saturday, and my sister, aunt & cousin prepped all of the food for the wedding. We worked for about 5 hours, and then headed over to the wedding location to set everything up. Note: this was a very small, low budget wedding, as my parents were "hosting" for my aunt. She's in her early 60s, but mentally disabled, so definitely doesn't have the budget to pay. We all pulled together as a family, & celebrated. My husband was the DJ, the kids passed out food, we all prepped drinks, decorated, & made all of the food. I was exhausted by the end of the wedding! My aunt, however, was extremely thrilled & so happy throughout the course of the event.

We flew home late yesterday afternoon, unpacked & whipped up a quick dinner out of freezer options (baked chicken & gyozas + salad).

Our attempts to be frugal mostly paid off. I brought food for myself, M & Nick for dinner at the airport on Friday before our flight. Sam opted for a burger & fries, but due to the delay, was starving & asked for a fruit & cheese tray on the flight. The flight attendant also handed out free drinks (an apology for the delay), so I took advantage & had a glass of champagne. ;-) Win some/lose some.

I also treated to Starbucks in the morning on Saturday, but used a gift card purchased a while back. As for Sunday, we had breakfast with my family, but got lunch at the airport. It was too chaotic at my parents house to prep food. Once again, we attempted to share things, but Sam ate the entire burger. Michael & I were left with a side salad & fries. Oh, to be a (very active) 11 year old boy. I remembered to throw together a few snacks (grapes & zucchini bread), so we filled in with those until we could get home.

All in all, it was a super expensive weekend (we paid A LOT for the flights, & M entertained the kids at the movies during the day on Saturday, to keep them out of our hair), but one of those family memories that are hard to pass up. We will trim back in other areas, in order to offset the additional expenses.

And now, for a "no planning" week ahead:

Monday - Spaghetti & meatballs
Tuesday - Beef tacos with build your own toppings: cheese, tomatoes, salsa, onion
Wednesday - Eating down our "pool party" stash. Likely pizza rolls, mini tacos & some sort of protein. (Chicken, most likely).
Thursday - Fried rice, using any leftovers, + edamame
Friday - Chicken risotto
Saturday - Grilled burgers & potatoes
Sunday - Kale & chicken salad + caprese

How was your weekend? 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Frugal Friday

What a week it's been. I've been working until midnight every night dealing with a crisis in Japan, and then getting up again at 6 to be at the office to keep working through options. It's been very . . . unfun. I'm hoping we've found a solution. Fingers crossed. Sometimes technology is very painful. We're flying to Portland this evening to attend my aunt's wedding. Should be really fun, although a very quick trip!

Here are some of the frugal wins for the week:

  • Transferred our tax savings (Federal & State from profit of our rental house sale) to a higher yield savings account. Will likely make an extra couple hundred dollars in interest vs the account I previously had.
  • Avoided going out for ice cream on Sunday night, and had watermelon at home instead. Even though it was 90+ in our house. We sat outside, as it was just started to cool off, and dipped our feet in the pool.
  • Ate lunches at home on our long weekend
  • Returned the moleskin I bought at Rite Aid (for Nick's giant blister). All of their products have a "try & buy" warranty. I bought it & was unable to remove the sticky backing on any of the sheets, so took it back for a full refund.
  • Converted hotel points to airline miles, generating 100,000 miles (enough for 2-3 round trip flights)
  • Redeemed remaining points for a $100 Target gift card, that I will use towards Christmas gifts.
  • Used $48.04 of airline credit from a price match to offset some of the cost for my parents trip here in October. They are coming to stay with the kids while we go to Hawaii for our anniversary. 
  • Noticed that Comcast was charging me for a modem rental. We had it picked up way back in April (a story for another day). That means, months worth of $10/month charges. I called & am getting all of those charges reversed, as well as a reduction of $10/month in ongoing charges. First of all, such a scam. Second of all, what a huge savings based on just correctly monitoring my bill. 
  • Changed our ski week trip to Tahoe for a unit with a bigger kitchen (but mostly because we had to switch days & the days we wanted weren't available), and it was actually cheaper. Woohoo! Saved about $100. 
  • Price matched another flight & saved $10 (will receive credit for the airline for a future purchase).
  • Made dinner every night this week, despite the chaos.
  • Packed a dinner for myself & M to eat at the airport. The kids will grab a burger when we get there.

That's it for us! What about you? Any frugal wins for the week? 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Using miles & travel goals

As part of my 2018 planning, I'm evaluating our travel plans for the year, building a budget, & determining our priorities as a family. We've roughed out our list of destinations & timing, which leaves us with the budget review.

When we decided to move to California, we prioritized spending time with family & friends in Washington. We knew this would represent a significant portion of our travel budget, but it's important for us to maintain our connections & ensure the boys get to spend a lot of time with our relatives. (The majority of my family lives close to each other, making it easy to see multiple people in one trip.)

Our travel budget for the 2018 is $7000. This represents a variety of trips, but just one potential hotel stay. The biggest category of this budget is for airfare, car rentals, etc. (Note: a few trips haven't been fully planned, so these are placeholder numbers, although the full sum needs to come in at or under $7000.)

Our full flight budget for the year is $3,900, and would take around 390,000 miles to cover in total. (Note that this is an estimate. Some flights require more miles, so I'd like to be flexible on which parts of our travel we can book via points so we can get the best value). Given that airfare is such a big component of our traveling, I'd love to find a way to get at least half of our flights covered via miles. My stretch goal would be all of the flights covered via miles, but I think that will be challenging! I haven't been very efficient at maximizing these opportunities in the past, and want to focus on this. Here are the ways I'm thinking about accruing these miles:

  • 36,000 - We have a credit card through the airline, & I'm guessing this is how much we'll accrue
  • 30,000 - companion fare via our credit card
  • 90,000 - existing miles balance 
  • 50,000 - points transfer from a hotel loyalty program (primarily accrued via work travel) 
  • 90,000 - miles from my other three travelers. These are harder to use, as I have to book the reservation under one child, for example, which is a hassle if we're traveling in groups. But, let's optimistically go with this. 
  • 30,000 - points accrued from other hotel transfers. This is optimistic, although I do have quite a bit of travel planned for Q4. 

If we were able to utilize miles to offset the majority of our 2018 travel, it would allow us to either a) take additional trips or b) reduce our costs! We're leaning towards b, with the understanding that some trips naturally go over, and we may want to increase our budget around a major milestone (15th anniversary, etc). 

What about you? Do you use miles or points to offset your travel budget? Any tips to share? 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Long weekends are wonderful & 2018 travel plans

Although I'm not able to do everything on my to do list (the heat!), having an extra day has been fabulous.

To beat the heat, I did more planning chores than normal this weekend. One of my plans was to budget & prioritize our planned 2018 travel. The boys have voted on skiing in Tahoe this year over our planned 2018 Thanksgiving trip to Hawaii. While not exactly the same cost, skiing in Tahoe is extremely expensive. Here's what we're thinking of so far for travel in 2018:

  • January - no planned trips
  • February - skiing in Tahoe over "ski week". We are planning to stay for 3 nights in a condo with a small kitchen. Expenses will be: the condo, lift tickets, food for meals we don't make, etc.
  • March - no planned trips
  • April - girls trip at the beach, with my sister & bestie. I'll need to buy my flight, but the rest of the expenses are negligible, as we'll be staying at our beach house
  • May - I've promised my mom a girls trip, as a gift for her birthday & Mother's Day. Not sure exactly when we'll go, so earmarked for May. Would prefer no back to back trips, but we'll see. Again, cost should be pretty minimal, and my flight will technically fall under the gift category.
  • June - We'd like to take the kids to Yosemite. Not sure if we will, and/or if it will be in June, but putting it here for now. 
  • July - we'll be doing our annual family trip to the beach house. So, airfare for four, car rental, plus more food than normal
  • August - I'll be doing my relay, so airfare for one. 
  • September - no planned trips 
  • October - M & I may do a long weekend together, if my parents are up for coming to our house. Potentially Sonoma.
  • November - no planned trips
  • December - we'll all go to Portland for the holidays, and will need to rent a car for our visit. Round trip airfare for 4 is pricey, so I will try to use miles again.

After listing it all out, I was able to see that airfare will be by far the biggest expense in 2018. I took a look at all of my travel rewards (mostly accrued from work trips) & matched up the hotels to see if anything would work for our trips. We actually don't have many hotel trips planned in 2018, and some of my miles are expiring. So, I opted to transfer points for 100,000 miles to our preferred local airline. I'll use these miles to reduce much of our travel spending. We also have a credit card with our preferred local airline, and I'm hoping to use miles for our Christmas 2018 trip as well. By listing it all out, I'm able to determine whether the number of trips & total planned expenses are reasonable, and adjust as needed. I'm also able to best utilize our travel rewards, which is a nice benefit.

Sam had a friend over to swim yesterday, and Nick remains at his camping/fishing trip. The pictures have been super cute.  

Otherwise, we've continued to make the most of our leftovers.
  • For lunch yesterday, I had the final piece of quiche (crust removed, as it was soggy) inside of 1/2 a pita pocket (freezer), with a tomato from the garden. I also had 1/2 a pear & the last of my delish cold brew latte popsicles from Trader Joes.
  • M had a sandwich made with a variety of cold cuts in the fridge, and the remainder of a leftover salad from dinner out on Saturday.
  • For today's lunch, I'm having the remainder of pizza that we made on Friday, and M will have another sandwich with a few other "spare parts" in the fridge. 

How do you plan your yearly travel? Do you handle it more spontaneously, or do you have your travel ideas planned out in advance as well? 

Weekly menu plan

Here's what we're planning on making & eating this week:

  • Sunday - grilled fish + roasted potatoes or rice (haven't decided yet)
  • Monday - grilled chicken + roasted potatoes or rice (whichever we didn't have on Sunday)
  • Tuesday - leftover grilled fish +side dish
  • Wednesday - leftover grilled chicken + side dish
  • Thursday - Eat up any leftovers still in the fridge
  • Friday - Traveling. We will eat something at the airport. The boys love Smashburger. I'm hoping I'll be able to make sandwiches for M & I to eat & bring with us, but will be dependent on my work schedule. 
  • Saturday - at my aunt's wedding.  
  • Sunday - likely heating up freezer pizza or something, as we are getting home late from the airport. 

I'd also like to prep ground beef for tacos, but I need the kitchen to cool off before I can do that. I typically make multiple meals worth, and then freeze for a quick & easy dinner.

What about you? What's on your menu for the week? 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

It's too hot, and gone fishing

Oh, the heat in the bay area! We don't have air conditioning, and our house has stayed at 90+ for the past two days. Inside. Even at night. :-( It's pretty miserable. We do have one in room air conditioning unit, and have it set up in our spare bedroom. M is less bothered by the heat than I am, so I've been staying in the spare room with the kids. It's much cooler, but I'm not super used to sharing a bed with the boys, and they are very "active" during the night. ;-)

I was up at 3:30 and have just decided to stay awake at this point.

I'm feeling a little sad that I wasn't able to accomplish much/any of my to do list yesterday (cooking, cleaning, organizing, etc). But, we definitely made the best of it. . . drinking margaritas by the pool while the boys were off with friends.

My youngest is off on a camping trip to the Russian River with friends. Apparently, they went fishing. So, so cute. Mine is the one in the orange shirt.

It looks like the weather may be cooling down a bit today, and another ten degrees by Monday. Thank goodness! For today, maybe we will head to Half Moon Bay & enjoy the cooler temperatures. 

Other than that, we've been doing a reasonably good job of eating things from the freezer & fridge. Yesterday as the exception. We were supposed to grill fish & M just couldn't hack the heat. We went out (both boys were with friends), so free bonus date night! (Well, the sitter part was free.) We had a lovely dinner out & enjoyed the unplanned date in a cool restaurant. 

Random things we've eaten this week:
  • Baked a quiche for dinner. This was one of two quiches my dad made when he was here. We ate one, and froze the second. I was happy to clear up some freezer space & to have a quick & easy dinner. Ham & cheese quiche with fresh garden tomatoes. 
  • One serving of chicken enchiladas (freezer). Same as above. Leftover from a dinner my dad cooked when he was here. I ate this for lunch on Friday, as I was working from home.
  • Leftover kebabs transformed into a lunch sandwich for M, using spicy hummus, garden tomatoes & a ciabatta roll. On the panini maker.
  • Leftover quiche (minus crust, which was a bit soggy), stuffed into 1/2 a toasted pita with garden tomatoes for my lunch yesterday. Yum. Served with a pear & a post lunch popsicle. ;-) 

I'm also hoping to get a few organizing & planning tasks done on the computer today. I'll likely work from our (much cooler) spare bedroom.

  • Planning our 2018 travel budget & calendar
  • Finalizing the remainder of my 2017 work travel. Looks like: London, Singapore, Seoul, Tokyo. A little worried about the current political environment & visiting Seoul/Tokyo right now. 
  • Chatting through remodeling/update plans with M & determining ordering, budget, etc. 
  • Make a menu plan for the week
  • Review my existing travel rewards (points programs) & update my tracker so I can determine whether there are options to use any points during 2018, understand upcoming expiration dates, etc. 

That's it for us! What about you? Is it hot where you are? How are you staying cool? If not, what are you up to this long weekend?  

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Goals for September

A new fresh month, and a few new goals to consider in September!

1) Financial - 
  • Meet with a financial planner
  • Finalize investments & budget from post rental house sale
  • Plan our 2018 budget
  • Plan our 2018 travel plans
  • Finalize list of house projects for our "new" house
  • Find one alternative cost cutting option
  • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. If nothing sells, donate & get rid of the clutter.

2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!
  • Cook one meal with each kid, so they can start helping with the cooking.
  • Have a family game night. 
  • Get the kids involved in prioritizing our 2018 travel.
  • More decluttering & organizing in our new house (would like to get the boys closet shelving installed, so they can put away/organize all of their games & toys)

    Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in September
    • Stay on track on my business trip to London (complete at least 3 workouts)
    • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day
    • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio
    • Complete 6 strength workouts.
    • Complete 6 stretching workouts
    • Find another event to train for, now that my relay is over

    4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
    • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress 
    • Work from home 2x this month.
    • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc.

      5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
      • Try a new recipe using my new crockpot
      • Do something social at least once per month.
      • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month.

      That's it for me! What about you? Any big new goals for September? Or, small but manageable goals? Sometimes those are the most fun. :-) 

      Friday, September 1, 2017

      Frugal Friday

      This is a combination of two week's worth, as I didn't post last Friday. Here are the frugal things we've been up to!

      • Got a refund of $1072 for our home mortgage (rental property sale), & tucked that away for some upcoming home projects
      • Picked up a Subway gift card (that generated a Rite Aid reward) earlier in the summer to use for lunch at my relay.
      • Bought Starbucks gift card (same thing - grocery store reward) a few weeks ago to use for breakfast at my relay
      • Pre-made breakfasts & lunches for my older son, to avoid him buying anything on the days he has to leave early for sports. 
      • Made chicken broth from bones (that were leftovers from a meal out, so at least I got a few uses out of them ;-)) & leftover vegetable scraps.
      • Re-purposed my sticky granola bars (not good for lunch boxes) into protein balls for after work outs.  
      • Made dinner at home all week, even though I hadn't really prepped anything. Scrambled together a few things (pesto I made a week or so ago), freezer meatballs, & various bits & bobs from the fridge. 
      • Started tracking my interest from my fund. I'm hoping this will motivate me to do a better job diversifying my investments & balancing my accounts. I made $56.94 in August. (I'm tracking real gains, not any stock changes in my investment accounts). I'll shoot for more each month!
      • Traded a friend for beach house usage on Labor Day to do all of the laundry & sheets & cleaning, saving me $90. I would have let her use the house anyway, & she's my bestie so she would have taken care of the cleaning had I asked, but it worked out great for this weekend. :-)
      • Turned in our Audi as part of our settlement with Volkswagen (emissions class action lawsuit). Although, we bought a new one the same day, so not sure how much I'd count this as "frugal". We would have liked to drive the previous for 15+ years, but the recall happened. We also attempted to buy a used one. Due to the lawsuit & turn ins, it was very challenging. It was $700 cheaper to buy a new car, so we went down that path. It was also $1500 cheaper to use financing. We are required to use the financing for 3 months, which will cost us $99 in total. After that, we will pay it off for a savings of $1401. I hate car buying, so I'm very happy the process is over. 

      Frugal fails:
      • Threw away about 1/4 cup of edamame that was in the back of the fridge. I didn't notice it before I left last weekend, & it was bad when I came back.

      That's it for me! Any big frugal wins or fails on your side?

      Thursday, August 31, 2017

      August goals check in

      I cannot believe another month is wrapping up! This month was filled with lots of adventures! My parents were in town for a week, the kids went back to school, & completed my relay (woohoo!), and spent some time preparing for the craziness of back to school.

      1) Financial - 
      • Finalize investments & budget from post rental house sale - I have handled some of this. I've been waiting to get our tax stuff sorted, but have done a couple of investment transfers. 
      • Finalize our budget list for our (new) house - Yes, this is done. I am also using this to work through our 2018 budget. 
      • Find one alternative cost cutting option - I can't think of anything?
      • Sell another $100 of items on either eBay or my local Facebook swap site. - Nope. Sold nothing. 

      2) Family - Spend more time together as a family!

      • Find a nanny!! I've interviewed 15+ people. We don't need that many hours (between 10-15/week), so this is a really hard role to fill, unfortunately. - Yes! And, she seems great so far. 
      • Do a minimum of one fun activity/month with the kids. This can be family puzzle night, cooking dinner together, board games, going out somewhere, etc. - We hung out by the pool a few afternoons, and had a few Sorry tournaments. 
      • Be more present with the kids & M - play games, minimize computer time, exercise together, etc. - Mostly, yes!
      • More decluttering & organizing in our new house (would like to get the boys closet shelving installed, so they can put away/organize all of their games & toys) - Nope. This one remains. 

        Fitness/health - Lose 4 pounds in August
        • 30 miles of pace training for my relay - Yes!
        • Stay focused on my fitness, despite all of the many trips - Not as much as I'd like, but I did okay. 
        • Eat five servings of fruit & vegetables (combined) per day - I hit 4/day, which is a good improvement. I'd love to see 5!
        • Complete 1000 minutes of cardio - Finishing the month with 830 minutes. 
        • Complete 6 strength workouts. - 6 strength workouts complete!
        • Complete 6 stretching workouts - I finished with 4 stretching workouts
        • Successfully complete my relay at pace time (or below) - yes!!! 

        4) Work/career - Improve my work life balance.
        • Keep better perspective at work/reduce stress  - this is a particularly crazy work week, but overall I've done well with this. 
        • Work from home 2x this month. - Yes
        • Brainstorm how I would spend my time if I wasn't working. Really think creatively about what this would mean, what the challenges would be, etc. - Haven't done this, & I need to!

          5) Personal/creative - Spend more time on myself/creative pursuits.
          • Try a new recipe using my new crockpot - Nope, didn't get it it. Hoping to try a few things out this weekend. 
          • Do something social at least once per month. - Yes! i had my relay, which involved spending 20+ hours in a van with friends & family. ;-) 
          • Volunteer a minimum of 1x/month. - This didn't happen this month. I did increase my charitable giving, as a few things came up, but no actual volunteering. I need to get back into the rhythm of volunteering on Friday afternoons. 

          That's it for me! Overall, I'm happy with my progress in August. What about you? How did you do with your goals? 

          Monday, August 28, 2017

          A relay complete, and a scrambled menu plan

          Over the weekend, I completed our annual relay with my family. I do two legs - one 7 miler & one 8 miler. The 7 miler was in the late afternoon, but my 8 miler was at 3:00 am, in the pitch black, in the middle of the wilderness. It was a little freaky!

          I managed to stick exactly to my pace time, which, given the distance, is pretty great. I was actually 6/10 of one second over my pace time, after 7 miles. I'll take it! About as precise as you can be.

          I have some plans to amp up my training earlier in the year next year, as I hope to shave off 30 seconds/mile. We shall see. Our team placed in the top 6% of all teams. We have 4 people over 60, a 15 year old, and a variety of people in between. The fact that we all train hard & place high is my big motivator for taking it seriously & training. Who wants to let down their 62 year old uncle, who calls the relay his best weekend of the year? ;-)

          Anyway, I'm back now &, as I didn't cook over the weekend, it will be a wild ride to get dinner on the table every night.

          • Monday - tonight we had spaghetti & meatballs. The adults had homemade pesto on their pasta
          • Tuesday - leftover kebabs, rice & Greek yogurt sauce
          • Wednesday - Sam's first cross country meet, so we'll be home late. Baked chicken & gyozas (both from freezer)
          • Thursday - back to school night at Nick's school. I'll defrost the quiche we have in the freezer. 
          • Friday - homemade naan pizzas
          • Saturday - My picky eater (Nick) will be out of town, so I think we'll go out to Vietnamese food with Sam. (I'll also pre-make a meal for midweek, to ensure we don't run out of food!)
          • Sunday - I'm planning to make soup (crockpot) & homemade rolls. Recipes still TBD
          I'm hoping to use the long weekend to get some additional freezer meals prepped, as we are all heading to Portland the following weekend for my aunt's wedding. My aunt is my mom's sister, and she's been mentally disabled since she was a child, and has the emotional maturity of a 10 year old or so. She's now in her early sixties, and is getting married (first time). Too say she is thrilled would be a giant under statement. It's actually quite a bit for flights for four, as our schedule is really fixed due to work. But, we're making it happen. It's really important for her that we attend, so we are flying in late on Friday, and returning on Sunday afternoon. It will be a bit of a whirlwind.

          What about you? What's on the menu for the week ahead? 

          Turning back on commenting authentication

          Sorry, all. I tried to allow for non authenticated users to comment on my blog, and I get about 15-20 spam comments each day for each real comment. I'm going back to the old way. Apologies, as I know it cuts down on authentic comments from real readers. :-(

          Monday, August 21, 2017

          Recipe pricing & price per serving

          It's been a long time since I've priced out a recipe, but was I'm trying to expand our horizons & integrate the boys choices into the menu more, I thought it would be helpful to try out.

          Per Sam's request, I made this lasagna recipe.

          Menu costing:
          • Sliced fresh mozzarella - $7.69 (1/2) = $3.85
          • Cottage cheese - $4.99 (3/4) = $3.74
          • Ground beef - $5.69 
          • Pasta sauce (free - leftover from my parents)
          • Lasagna noodles (free - leftover from my parents)
          • 1/2 onion - $.40? Not sure, haven't priced them in a while. 
          Total I spent on this recipe = $13.68

          I made a few tweaks to the recipe, as follows:
          • Added the onion to the ground beef when browning it
          • Stretched the recipe to make 2 smaller pans (4x4s), one for immediate eating, and the second for the freezer
          • Used the majority of a large tub of cottage cheese, as we already had it, and it helped expand the dish to 2 pans.
          • Ditto on the mozzarella. I used a full loaf of fresh mozzarella, minus 2 small slices. 
          • I didn't price out the things that were already in my pantry from my parents visit. However, for completeness when purchasing everything from scratch, let's say $2 for the noodles & $2.50 for the pasta sauce

          I expect this will yield 10 individual servings with my changes, which puts it at a price per serving of $1.37 (rounded up). If I had bought all of the ingredients (adding $4.50 as noted above), brings the cost up to $1.81. Of course, one of the reasons I chose this recipe was to use up lasagna noodles left in my cupboard. :-)

          Additionally, there are ways to bring the cost down pretty substantially:
          -Find a cheaper source for ground beef (all of the ingredients really, but this one stands out as I had to buy it at the grocery store vs my way less expensive typical Costco purchase)
          -Reduce the cheese & mozzarella
          -Add extra veggies to the sauce to round it out
          -Make my own pasta sauce

          I didn't plan this recipe with any particular price per serving in mind, but it was super helpful to shop for all of the ingredients, and then price it out afterward. I'm going to have to continue to do this to determine the right price points for more of our dinners. What about you? Do you price out your recipes? What price per meal or serving do you aim for?  

          Sunday, August 20, 2017

          Menu Plan

          Here's what's on our menu for the week ahead. I typically cook a bigger meal on Friday, Saturday, & Sunday & then we have leftovers during the week, plus one quickly assembled freezer meal. Unfortunately, I didn't make enough naan pizza on Friday - every one disappeared! I need to adjust quantities a bit, now that the boys are eating more.

          • Saturday: tacos + chips & guacamole
          • Sunday: lasagna 
          • Monday: homemade mac & cheese (if I can get it assembled this weekend) + grilled chicken
          • Tuesday: leftover lasagna
          • Wednesday: leftover mac & cheese + chicken
          • Thursday: I'll be out of town (relay), so the boys will have spaghetti & meatballs
          • Friday: I'll be out of town (relay), so the boys will have pizza (from the freezer)
          • Saturday: I'll be out of town (relay), so the boys will have any leftovers, or may go out to Sweet Tomatoes. A wild Saturday night. ;-) 
          • Sunday: I'll be flying in late afternoon, so I'm hoping M will grill kebabs.
          In addition the dinners listed above, I pre-prepped some breakfasts for Sam. He needs to be out of the house earlier in the morning, so we're experimenting with different prep ahead breakfast options. This weekend I also made:

          • Breakfast burritos
          • Breakfast sandwiches
          • Chicken stock (just with leftovers from the freezer/fridge). Finally got the time to make it happen, and I needed to clean out the freezer! I freeze it in 1.5c portions for our favorite risotto.
          • These granola bars
          • As well as these  granola bars. (I'm not sure what I did wrong, but they are too sticky/soft. Not great for a lunchbox.)
          And, what we bought at Costco this week:
          • 2% milk - $4.69
          • Peaches - $8.99
          • Pears - $5.99
          • Honeydew - $2.99
          • Two dozen eggs - $13.99
          • Strawberries - $4.99
          • Plums - $6.49
          • Cucumbers (x2) - $3.49
          • Sliced fresh mozzarella - $7.69
          • Red seedless grapes - $7.49
          • Pineapple - $2.99
          • Canadian bacon - $9.99
          • Cottage cheese - $4.99
          • Butter - $11.99
          • Bananas - $1.39
          • Blueberries - $3.99
          • English muffins - $6.99
          • Baguette - $4.99
          • Broccoli - $5.29
          • Bananas (organic) - $1.99
          Total for Costco  = $124.82. (All other ingredients we have in the freezer, pantry, fridge, etc). Most fruit/vegetables are for snacking & salads.

          M did this shop, so a few takeaways. . . 
          1. Eggs are insanely expensive. I'm going to need a new source, when we're prepping meals in batches. . .  $7/dozen?!!
          2. The broccoli was also crazy expensive, and we should have picked it up at the produce stand.
          3. The mozzarella wasn't a bad deal per oz, but we needed less & I could have gotten it at the store (in a smaller size). It would have been more per oz, but we would have used it all. Now I need to make sure I use all of this. 
          After realization #1, and realizing we had no ground beef in the freezer (and, we *always* have ground beef in the freezer), I went to the local grocery store to pick up a few morethings:

          • Unplanned - A box of tea (12 count) clearanced for - $.10 (caramel apple - not my favorite, but a super inexpensive treat)
          • Also unplanned - Organic ranch dressing for $.57. I planned to make my own, but saw this & thought the price was good enough to try for an upcoming recipe
          • Elbow macaroni - $.99
          • Ground beef - $5.69 (the price was supposed to be $3.99, so I was not happy. The sign was very misleading)
          • A dozen eggs - $1.79
          • Neufchatel cheese - $1.99
          Total spend at the grocery store = $11.13

          I also needed avocados, and they didn't have any at the produce stand. Instead, I picked up a bag of 4 at Trader Joes for $4.99

          And, my final stop was the produce stand:

          • 5 tomatoes - $1.66 
          • 2 lbs of mini cucumbers - $3.30
          • A huge head of cauliflower - $.99
          • An enormous green pepper (I used the rest of mine from the garden in my breakfast burritos) - $.72
          • A container of organic strawberries -  $.99
          Total spent at the produce stand = $7.66

          All told, I spent $148.60 for a week's worth of groceries, plus some items to stock the freezer. I haven't done this kind of total in a while, & it's a good way to check out how I'm doing, areas to trim back, etc. What about you? How much do you typically spend in a week? Do you price out your recipes? That's another thing I haven't done in a long time & should start doing!

          Saturday, August 19, 2017

          What I do when it all gets to be too much

          You can fill in your own blanks about what "too much" is, but for me, right now, it's all of the anger/fighting/terrorism, as well as the way people treat each other "online", behind their anonymous names. I'm not going to talk about any of that (this is a safe space :)), but it has been getting me down, & making me feel helpless. So, here's my approach to how I handle situations like this.

          1. I go outside. Sunshine is good for the soul.
          2. I work out. The endorphins are also good for you. Bonus points if you can combine #1 & #2. Also, at least one day a week, I try to work out until exhaustion, vs just a quick go at it.
          3. I talk to my friends. Either via text, email, or even better. . . in person.
          4. I plan a fun event. Right now, I have two exciting things on the calendar. My family relay is next weekend, & then I have a trip to Hawaii in October with M. Sometimes I just need a few minutes to do some fun planning about my events, or just think about the activities.
          5. I cook. Or bake. And get organized. A feeling of helplessness on world events pushes me to want to have more control over our family life. This week, that's translated into: making chicken broth, two batches of granola bars, & breakfast burritos. And, the day is young. :-) I'll report back on any big recipe wins.
          6. I do yoga, or deep breathing.
          7. Probably obvious, but I don't touch any social media or news. I take a media break. 
          8. I try to eat well (lots for fresh fruit/vegetables). Combined with a glass or two of wine on weekend evenings.
          9. I do something kind for others, as often as the opportunities present themselves. Small things are great! Not everything has to be a huge, meaningful thing. A few examples from the past few weeks: made a conscious effort to smile at strangers, visited a neighbor who lost her spouse, offered a ride to my friend's son when I knew her schedule was crazy, donated extra school supplies when I found bonus stuff in our house, brought in extra yard produce to my coworkers, and treated my nephew to concert tickets that he really wanted but couldn't afford for his birthday. Doing these things remind me of how it feels to help/give, and also hopefully gives someone else just a small positive boost in their day as well.
          10. I hug my kids. And husband. Even when they are annoying me, frustrating me, and I feel stressed out by the world. I'm doing my best to raise kind & thoughtful kiddos. Hugs are never out of place, and remind them that we love them. Even when they've spilled all of their breakfast on the floor while I'm my way out the door. ;-) 
          I'd love to hear how you deal with everything, and your methods for dealing with stressful situations. Please share!

          Friday, August 18, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          It was a bit of a "slow" week for frugal things, as we are just getting our new routine sorted out with the start of school. But, we did have a few wins!

          • Cancelled our Starwood Amex. Now that Costco no longer takes Amex, it's not worth the $95 membership fee. 
          • Moved some of my savings to a higher yield account. It's not very accessible, but the interest rate is significantly better. This will generate a minimum of $600 in difference.
          • Menu planned for the week, including a "freezer cleanup night" (Thursday), which included baked chicken, & various other items we'd purchased & not used for a pool party.
          • Extended library books that we weren't done with, & returned the rest just in the nick of time before accruing a fine. 
          • Ate all meals at home (exceptions for free meals provided at work for lunch). 
          What about you? Any big frugal wins this week? 

          Thursday, August 17, 2017

          The pantry challenge

          Every few months or so, I try to inventory my pantry, determine what I have too much of, and make a concerted effort to use up those ingredients. Unfortunately, in our new house, the pantry is poorly laid out. We have plans to modify the shelving, which will help tremendously with the ability to view more of the pantry inventory. For now, things keep just getting overlooked & pushed to the back. Hence the pantry challenge!

          I like the challenge of identifying a few ingredients that really need to go, and focusing on using up just those items. So, for this month's pantry challenge, I'd like to use up the following:

          • An enormous (25 oz) jar of green olives. Side note: what was I thinking?
          • 1/3 or so of a package of chocolate breakfast cereal. This is nothing we would allow the boys for breakfast, but I'm open to using it in something a little more snack like. One of our house guests brought this.
          • The end of a bag of pretzel chips.
          • Two 1/2 used boxes of lasagna noodles
          • A 1/2 bag of pine nuts
          • Most of a container of almonds
          • Most of a container of cashews . . . see any themes?
          • A few bits & bobs of trail mix
          • Most of a large bag of sourdough stuffing. 
          • An unopened jar of Nutella

          A random mix of ingredients, for sure! I would definitely like to make granola, so the nuts will help with that. I have a great Nutella brownie recipe, and I'm thinking lasagna for the lasagna noodles. I know, super creative. I'll have to give some thought to the rest.

          What about you? Do you have regular targeted pantry clean outs? Do you enjoy the challenge, or loathe the concept? I'm in the former camp, although usually start to drag after the first few "wins". 

          Wednesday, August 16, 2017

          How to stay motivated, & the $100K goal

          As I've mentioned before, I've struggled a bit with my motivation to keep churning away at work, after the sale of our rental house. However, I've set a timeline that works best with our family finances, as well as my particular work situation. (Q4 is our craziest time of the year, and I'd prefer not to leave my team stranded at such a critical juncture. Despite really dreading another Q4. :-( )

          I will try to limit travel as much as feasible, but it looks like I have a minimum of two international trips left before I wrap up.

          With that, I'm trying to stay focused & motivated. By working these last few months (or, 162 days. . . but who's counting?), I can save up extra money that will cover some of our expenses, and help us transition from a very high income/dual earner family to just M working. (My longer term goals are fuzzy, but will likely involve working part-time, for substantially less). This last $100K will preserve more of our savings, and allow me more flexibility in my longer term work decisions, which definitely feels like a big win.

          As such, to keep my eye on the prize & maintain motivated, my goal is to save $100K between now & the end of January, 2018. Why that amount? Three reasons -  1) it's a nice round number, 2) appears to be in scope assuming no other major financial outlays, and 3) allows me to cover a variety of upcoming expenses in the months ahead.

          I won't get into the nitty gritty of where the money will come from (long story short - a combination of savings from my salary, my stock option vests, and my 2017 bonus - which is paid out in January of 2018). I did think it would be helpful to outline where that $100K will go:

          • $5,000 will go into our travel fund to pay for the remainder of our trip to Hawaii in October. We've paid for our airfare, airfare for my parents to our house to watch the kiddos, & a hotel deposit so far. 
          • $62,000 will go to state taxes, for the capital gains on the sale of our rental house. Sigh. By paying in 2017, it reduces our federal taxes owed in 2018. (Or, that's what our accountant said, so I'm just going with it).
          • $33,000 will go towards our property taxes on our current home. It's unclear when we will get this bill (the assessor's office predicts 9 months from purchase, which would put us in November). And, this is an estimate, as they were unable to accurately predict our property taxes. Our county has a bizarre calculation, but it's anchored in the purchase price, so this feels accurate.
          So, a bunch of money spent on taxes, and a tiny amount spent on a fun vacation. At least I'm building in a little fun in there. :-) 

          I'll provide regular updates, and need to keep our money in check for the remaining few months in order to achieve this goal. I want to ensure I don't stray off of our budget in the upcoming months, as every dollar will count when I leave my job!

          What about you? Any big goals you are currently using to motivate yourself to keep your eye on the prize? 

          Tuesday, August 15, 2017

          A time for new routines & recipes

          It's going to be interesting this year, with the boys at two separate schools. One has an early dismissal day (Tuesdays) & the other has a late start day (Wednesdays). I did manage to arrange soccer carpools, so that should help. Sam also wants to try out some new clubs & activities (you know, as a new middle schooler! ;-), so that may add some extra wrinkles. Details on that still coming, as they haven't announced the schedule yet for after school activities.

          As part of a new season, we try to review our routine (see above) to determine the hot spots, and coordinate rides, nannies, & work schedules. We also review the boys chores & determine if we need to make any adjustments. We know that Sam is taking an advanced math class, so we will likely need to free up more evening time for homework. That means he'll likely pick up a few additional weekend chores.

          Speaking of chores, our boys are 10 & 11. Here's the current list of chores they currently manage. (They split them, for the most part, by day to account for sports practice).

          • Setting the table
          • Watering plants 
          • Bringing in the mail
          • Making lunches (we're about 1/2 way there)
          • Cutting fruit for breakfast
          • Putting away their laundry & keeping their rooms cleaned
          • Taking the garbage & recycling out (as needed)
          • Taking the garbage/recycling/yard waste to the curb on garbage day
          • Making a salad (this is usually in the winter, when they don't have to water the plants & have more evening time)
          • Shower (not technically a chore, but they feel like it is ;-))
          • Homework (again, not a chore, but their top priority every day)
          • Empty backpacks, bring any paperwork for us, bring their lunch bags to the counter & put all dirty containers in the dishwasher 
          • On weekends, the boys help with ad hoc chores such as yard work, and pool maintenance.

          I would like both boys to be more involved in meal planning & selection. I have one who eats almost anything, & one who is still exceptionally picky about food not being "mixed". This has been a challenge for meal planning & cooking in general, but we continue to get better, & he knows he can always heat up anything in the fridge, and/or make his own pasta if dinner isn't something he will eat. *I* don't make separate meals. I'd like for this to evolve as he gets older, but it's our current operating principle.

          As for new recipes, I'd like to get Sam (the non-picky eater) more involved in selecting recipes, and potentially helping more with the prep & assembly. Mornings are getting crazier (middle school hours), so I'm considering making breakfast burritos & breakfast sandwiches with him this weekend for the freezer, and seeing if that helps us get out the door a bit faster. I'll report back on any successful breakfast freezer meals. 

          What about you? Any great breakfast recipes you can recommend? Particularly those that can be prepped in advance/frozen? He likes to eat a full breakfast (eggs, starch, fruit), but would be open to anything particularly filling. How often do you review your routines & schedules at your house? 

          Monday, August 14, 2017

          The first day of school

          It always represents a fresh start, fresh energy, new supplies, new friends, & a return to routine. Today we have a newly minted middle schooler (6th grade) & a 5th grader. They are both excited & nervous, but the middle schooler is particularly nervous. I'm nervous as well, as the school district does not provide transportation. This means biking across major roads to get to & from school every day. My dad took Sam on multiple practice rides last week, and we've discussed safety at great length, but . . . it's still hard to trust that everything will go well.

          I finally found a great nanny, but am on my own this week (she starts next week). That means juggling the schedule to accommodate soccer & carpools, but I'm looking forward to getting the routine going, & ensuring everyone gets where they need to be every day.

          We also dusted off our chore chart last night, and made adjustments to the list of responsibilities. The boys were very animated when discussing who would water our outside plants. Apparently, that is the chore that takes the longest, amongst the entire list. Who knew? ;-)

          I have a variety of financial tasks to tackle this week, which should take up most of my free time. Here's what's on the list for the week:

          • Finalize all schedule details (including soccer carpools)
          • Test out our new crock pot!
          • Determine final tax numbers for our rental house sale (working with an accountant)
          • Call about a potential deck expansion at our vacation house
          • Call our primary bank about a higher yield account option
          • Investigate a back door IRA
          • A few speed workouts for my relay (in less than 2 weeks)
          • List a bunch of workout DVDs on my local Facebook sale site.
          If I get those tasks done, I'll be happy! 

          What about you? Do you have kids going back to school? What are you hoping to accomplish this week? 

          Saturday, August 12, 2017

          Menu Plan Saturday

          I'm taking my parents to the airport shortly, and trying to get prepped for the week ahead. I just received details of the boys practice schedules & field locations, as well as details for school next week. I'm trying hard to get prepared & ready for the craziness that awaits the start of a new school year. Particularly a new school year with the kids at different schools.

          In amazing news, I found a nanny! She's great, and was just hired as a kindergarten assistant at our local school. She needs two weeks to give her notice at her other job, as well as do some training, but after that, I'll be back to having a nanny. I'm so relieved!

          As for a menu for the week, here's what I'm thinking:

          Saturday - Risotto
          Sunday - kebabs & rice
          Monday - leftover pizza
          Tuesday - leftover risotto
          Wednesday - leftover kebabs
          Thursday - slow cooker baked ziti
          Friday - leftover ziti

          I bought a new crock pot, so I'm hoping to make at least one crock pot meal this week. If you have any great crock pot/slow cooker recipes to share, I'd love to hear about them!

          Friday, August 11, 2017

          Frugal Friday

          It's been so fabulous to have my parents here this week. They've been so helpful (cooking, cleaning, laundry, & getting the boys around to their activities).

          • Purchased Starbucks gift cards (I go to Starbucks only when traveling for work or on vacation) & earned $30 of credit for my local grocery store
          • My parents will likely make several stops at the grocery store next week when they are staying (they typically cook), so I will leave the $30 credit for them to use while there here.
          • Remembered to call our rental property insurance company & let them know our house is sold. Will be receiving a check for $108. Woohoo! Free money I wasn't expecting. :-) 
          • Made all meals at home while I was solo this weekend. Included dusting off chicken from the freezer that no one really liked the first time I made it. I made some tweaks & it was totally fine. 
          • When I was cleaning Sam's closet last weekend, I discovered that his Boy Scout uniform shirt was pretty much destroyed. I'm thinking a combination of sap & campfire. I washed it four times, & was planning to give up. (They are pretty persnickety about a clean uniform). I happened to be on our local neighborhood swap, and a neighbor was giving away a brand new shirt, same size as my son's. What are the odds?! This is about a $25 shirt. 
          • Made six dozen muffins & a batch of protein balls, to stock the freezer & ensure everyone has easy snacks & breakfast items.
          • Made dinner on Sunday, when we had guests in town. Kept it pretty simple (spaghetti & meatballs, garlic bread, & salad). The majority of the dinner was made with pantry/freezer items, and the salad I purchased.
          • Used Rite Aid rewards to buy everyone ice cream (does your Rite Aid have a Thrifty ice cream shop inside? If not, you are missing out!)
          Overall, I'm feeling pretty good about how we did with the week. How about you? Any frugal wins? 

          Tuesday, August 8, 2017

          A no regrets summer

          With school starting next week, we're at the end of what I typically consider "summer". Seasons aside, this is the end of the kids time off, and the end of no homework & soccer practice. I went into this summer with the goal of accepting changes in plans (many of which caused schedule complications) & enjoying as much time with friends & family as we possibly could.

          My parents also clearly are trying to maximize their time with the boys before they are at an age when they can't be as active. They did a great deal with the kids, and I cannot express how grateful I am for all of their time, support, and many amazing activities. (Mountain biking, hiking, scavenger hunts, frisbee golf . . . you name it, they did it.)

          As a recap, here's what happened this summer:

          • My parents took the boys to Disneyland, right after school was out
          • I flew in to Portland to celebrate various graduations, and drop the boys off for a big mountain biking adventure. The boys were no longer on the beginner team this year, and were thrilled.
          • Flew back to Portland a week later & spent two weeks at the beach. Various family members rotated in & out, & it was fabulous & relaxing. (Minus the flu two kids came down with on the last day).
          • Sold our rental house. :-)
          • Came back from Portland & had the flu myself, and immediately flew to Japan for a work trip. 
          • Returned from Japan (long flight, compounded by 7 hours on the tarmac) & had house guests.
          • Went to Sonoma for a girls trip
          • Had house guests again
          • Sam attended overnight Boy Scouts camp for a week
          • Had numerous pool parties, & let the boys have lots of friends over
          • Went to Las Vegas with M to celebrate his 50th birthday. SO. much fun was had. The fact that M & I still laugh constantly in each other's company is a very good sign. 
          • And finally, this week, my parents are in town to hang out with the boys during this last week of summer break. Their help is absolutely essential: my dad is supervising Sam as he practices riding his bike to middle school (complex route), they are taking the kids to soccer practice, to dentist appointments, helping them get school supplies, helping with chores, & make dinner each night. Angels!
          I still have a few things coming up - my family relay in a couple of weeks, and we are all attending my aunt's wedding in September.

          It was a crazy busy summer, and I do prefer a more relaxed schedule. But, I enjoyed my time with friends & family so much. I am very blessed to enjoy my family & really want to spend time with them. And, I'm grateful that everyone in my family (aunts, uncles, sister, etc) spends as much time as possible when we're in town. 

          It wasn't the most frugal summer, but we did an exceptional job of cooking at home vs eating out, even with all of our guests & entertaining. I'm very proud of that effort, as it took quite a bit of planning. We are likely going to have a very different summer next year (more on that to come), but after this summer, I am reminded again of how lucky I am to enjoy spending time with the people in my life. My husband, my kids, my parents, my best friend, etc. Truly blessed. So, from here on out, 2017 is the crazy busy summer of no regrets. :-) I took (almost) every opportunity that was presented to us to spend time together, and am grateful for all of it. 

          What about you? How did you spend your summer? 

          Sunday, August 6, 2017

          Sunday Funday

          Looking very forward to picking up my parents & the boys at the airport this afternoon. I don't have a ton of time left to get things done, but here's my rough schedule:

          AM (before I pick them up)
          -Strength workout
          -Quick pace walk
          -Pick up a freebie Boy Scout shirt (details on that in Frugal Friday)

          -Pick up parents/kiddos
          -Make dinner
          -Water plants
          -Pace walk with the parents

          I should be able to get all of that done, which will mean I've finished almost everything on my list, plus a few bonus items. Fingers crossed!

          1. 4 pace walks (training for my event). Two need to be long, and one short but fast. The other is somewhere in the middle. - One done
          2. Two strength training workouts - One done. 
          3. One stretching workout (likely yoga) - - done
          4. Clean the fridge - started on this, but ran out of steam. Also, forgot that I also need to clean the outside fridge, so need to add that as well. 
          5. Make 6 dozen muffins -  done
          6. Clean & organize both freezers - done
          7. Pick up a copy of our utility bill (we're having trouble with school registration due to the move, & they need a crazy amount of paperwork) - Done
          8. Go to my office & print a bank statement (because, of course our printer is out of ink!) - Done
          9. Pick up ant spray, and try to eradicate the little beasts. - Done, and looks promising. 
          10. Go to Trader Joes for frozen edamame. A healthy & filling easy snack. - Done. 
          11. Inventory the school supplies to determine what we need to buy, vs can supply from home. - Done. 
          12. Organize my filing tray. - - done
          13. Call our insurance company to determine the savings in paying our auto policy all at once (vs monthly) - Done, and realized that I could cancel our rental property insurance, and we saved $108 on the remainder of the policy! Woohoo!
          14. Make a menu - Done. 
          15. Get all paperwork prepped for a school registration visit on Monday. - Done
          16. Return a dress -  Done
          17. Check everyone in for flights -  Done
          18. Clean the house
          19. Organize the boys closets -  Done
          20. Wash all sheets/make beds -  Done
          21. Go to Costco -  Done
          22. Go to Rite Aid -  Done
          23. And, the produce stand -  Done
          24. Text a friend to understand when Sam is supposed to be at middle school, as we haven't received any information due to the registration "challenges" -  Done
          25. Organize the pantry - this one is unlikely to happen today. 
          26. Water all of the plants - Done, 2 of 3 days. 
          27. Sweep the patio Done, 2 of 3 days. 

          I also discovered a few new chores along the way, as it seems always happens. 
          • Washed sleeping bags & set out to dry
          • Trimmed back the plants in the garden (unrelated to the closet clean out ;-))
          • Filled out all paperwork for Sam's orientation tomorrow

          What about you? Are you having a productive weekend? What are you looking forward to on this Sunday?

          Saturday, August 5, 2017

          Weekend check in

          I am enjoying a little peace & quiet this weekend. And, by that, I mean that I have a weekend free of travel & house guests, and I'm making the most of the time by trying to get prepared for the start of school & soccer again. Plus, a very busy travel season for work looms for the rest of the year. (Three planned one week international trips for me, and two for M by the end of the year. Groan).

          Here was my original to do list yesterday, with progress noted.

          1. 4 pace walks (training for my event). Two need to be long, and one short but fast. The other is somewhere in the middle.
          2. Two strength training workouts - One done. 
          3. One stretching workout (likely yoga)
          4. Clean the fridge - started on this, but ran out of steam. Also, forgot that I also need to clean the outside fridge, so need to add that as well. 
          5. Make 6 dozen muffins - Two dozen done. 
          6. Clean & organize both freezers
          7. Pick up a copy of our utility bill (we're having trouble with school registration due to the move, & they need a crazy amount of paperwork)
          8. Go to my office & print a bank statement (because, of course our printer is out of ink!)
          9. Pick up ant spray, and try to eradicate the little beasts. - Done, and looks promising. 
          10. Go to Trader Joes for frozen edamame. A healthy & filling easy snack. - Done. 
          11. Inventory the school supplies to determine what we need to buy, vs can supply from home. - Done. 
          12. Organize my filing tray.
          13. Call our insurance company to determine the savings in paying our auto policy all at once (vs monthly) - Done, and realized that I could cancel our rental property insurance, and we saved $108 on the remainder of the policy! Woohoo!
          14. Make a menu - Done. 
          15. Get all paperwork prepped for a school registration visit on Monday.
          16. Return a dress
          17. Check everyone in for flights
          18. Clean the house
          19. Organize the boys closets
          20. Wash all sheets/make beds
          21. Go to Costco
          22. Go to Rite Aid - Done.
          23. And, the produce stand
          24. Text a friend to understand when Sam is supposed to be at middle school, as we haven't received any information due to the registration "challenges" - Done. 
          25. Organize the pantry
          26. Water all of the plants - Done, 1 of 3 days. 
          27. Sweep the patio - Done, 1 of 3 days. 

          I worked yesterday as well, so although this isn't quite as much as I'd hoped, I feel good about my progress. I also had the bonus task this morning of making protein balls for the freezer. I tried a new recipe, so I'll report back on how they went over. We keep these in the freezer for a quick pre-soccer snack for the boys. I need to start stocking the fridge & freezer for my hungry, growing boys! 

          They are currently with my parents this week, and so far they've been on 6 mountain bike rides (including one 16 miler at Mt. Hood), & they've hiked at Mt. St. Helen's, and had a scavenger hunt in down town Portland. Love my parents. They are absolutely amazing, and I can't imagine my life without them. They arrive tomorrow, bringing back the boys, and will stay for a week. It's the last week of summer, and there are no camps available. The boys plans for the week include: non-stop pool parties (Nick's request), practicing biking to middle school with my Dad, going to Target with my mom to get school supplies, lunches out, and having friends over. They are thrilled. As a special thank you to my parents for all of their help being amazing this summer, I've written a thank you note from all of us, and have $1,000 set aside for them. They don't have much money, and are retired, and love to spend what they have on the boys, so it really makes me feel good to be able to help them out a bit. 

          That's it for me! Wishing you a productive weekend. What's on your to do list? I need to get outside before it's too hot for my pace walk.