Monday, June 1, 2020

Menu plan Monday

We've been a bit scattered with our menu the last few days, so I'm trying to correct that. Here's what we're having (have been having)

  • Friday - I made naan pizza with pesto parsley, made M cauliflower crust pizza, and Nick made the kids pasta
  • Saturday - our plans fell apart, so we did takeout Greek food. The restaurant has been very consistently good for 5+ years, but the food was very disappointing this time. I'm wondering if they have a new chef, have adjusted recipes based on availability, etc. It was pricey before, so not worth the price. 
  • Sunday - tacos (and, salmon for M)
  • Monday - I'm planning on some sort of a mahi mahi recipe. I'm thinking of this one
  • Tuesday - leftover tacos
  • Wednesday - lubia polo (freezer)
  • Thursday - pasta & meatballs
  • Friday - TBD
That's it for us. What's on your menu for the week?

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May goals recap, how did I do?

It's the end of another month of staying at home, so let's look back & see how that's impacting my goals.

Despite everything happening right now, I'm feeling pretty good. I'm focused on the things I can control and influence, I'm on a low news diet (for my own mental health & well being) & setting achievable goals.

I like to see progress, so each month, I intentionally set goals that allow me to measure progress in the categories that are most important. Here's how I did in May.

1) Financial

  • Stick to the budget, & rebuild plan for taxes due - done. We were over in groceries, and under elsewhere. 
  • Pay down our mortgage to our next milestone. - Way over delivered!
  • No clothing purchases for me. - Bought a new sports bra. I've been working out a lot, and my old ones are finally stretching out the point of being unusable. Some are 10+ years old, so they've lasted, but eventually have to be replaced.
  • Make $200 in side hustle. - I made $466 on 24 eBay/local neighborhood swap sales! I've been listing at least one item every day, and it's paid off. I've had a few snafus with shipping charges, but generally, this has been a very positive thing for me. I love the cycle of decluttering, earning money, and typically use the drop off at the postal box for exercise. So, it's a triple win. 
  • Keep working through freezer/pantry clean out. 10 items out of pantry/freezer
    • Mini naan bread - almost gone
    • Mozzarella sticks - used
    • Heavy cream - froze remainder
    • Pine nuts - used some for parsley pesto
    • Tahini - no progress
    • Lipton onion soup mix - no progress
2) Family
  • Find time to take the boys to socially distanced activities - so much tennis! They've played a lot, and I've played with them twice
  • Off the computer by 7:30 each evening (not counting reading) - I've been reading a ton. But, it's tempting to check other tabs. I really, really need to continue to focus on not reading the news at night.
  • Have a weekly half our alone with M. - Going well, mostly walking or sitting outside talking.
  • Schedule monthly calls with M's family - we've been sharing videos, due to time zones.
  • Two hours of practicing Farsi or Spanish - lots of Duolingo Spanish practice! Unfortunately, Duolingo doesn't offer Farsi.
  • Make revised summer plans - eh, where we can. A lot of places (summer camps) still haven't announced plans, so we haven't been able to finalize anything beyond June.


3) Fitness/health

  • Lose 3 lbs - lost .8 of a lb. However, I tried on all of my jeans yesterday, and all of them fit! I had a few more "aspirational" jeans, and even those fit. A couple pair were still snug, but even being able to wear them shows some progress.
  • Work out every day in May - yes! 
  • Track calories. Aim for 1400 calories/day - 1621. Which is, interesting, exactly my calories in April. Exactly! 
  • Complete 1200 minutes of cardio, 10 strength & 5 stretching workouts - I picked up the running quite a bit, and didn't balance as well as I should have. Crushed the cardio goal with 1,870 minutes (may be a personal record), but only had 2 strength & 4 stretching workouts. 
  • Meditate 20 times - I only meditated 9 times. I can tell the difference, and with the state of the world, the current US situation, and my own stress level, I need to get back to this.
  • Run 10 times - I ran 16 times! I'm so happy I was able to get back to a consistent running schedule
4) Personal
  • Stay connected with friends - we did a weekly happy hour, and I also did a (virtual) lunch with a friend
  • Volunteer - I volunteered for a study at work
  • Journal 25 times - I journaled every day in May, so 31 times
  • Adapt a more positive mindset - I'm doing okay, but ... these are some challenging times. I'm focused on things I can control & reducing media consumption.
  • Listen more often vs talking - working on this
  • Reduce swearing - eh, hit or miss
  • Read one non-fiction book - nope. I ready a TON this month (25+ books), but no non-fiction
  • Compliment M every day - yes
  • Support the kids with online learning - yes, and we are caught up with all missing assignments. Two days left in the grading period!
  • One project/day (taking advantage of the WFH situation) - yes, I've done this. Everything from re-organizing areas of the house, to yard work, to cleaning crystal. I push myself to use the time at home. 


I've been more productive during this time than during my sabbatical. In some ways, that makes sense, as there was lots of traveling during my sabbatical. I've been able to build up a very consistent routine lately, because there are no competing demands on my time. I've also realized that a more relaxed schedule (not to the point we're at now, but somewhere between now and our previous life) is really useful for everyone. We'll have to figure out how to keep some of that, after life returns to the new normal.

What about you? How did you do with your goals in May?


Friday, May 29, 2020

Frugal Friday

It's another week of sheltering in place! Here's what we've been up to.


Saving on things we buy
  • Used a discount code to pick up mojito supplies (shop pick up service, where they drop off in your trunk). The supplies weren't cheap, but significantly less than what we would have paid for a few mojitos in a restaurant. We'll also use fresh mint from our garden. 
  • Used $4 grocery store reward to apply towards hot dog buns & ice cream for the long weekend
  • Found out that my husband & I will each get reimbursed for office furniture, as we will be WFH for the indefinite future. We'd previously bought adjustable desks & other items, and will now get our money back! This is a huge win. 
  • I also saved around $2,000 by doing a significant amount of yard work on my own. We will have a gardener handle other tasks, but we cut the bill down by quite a bit by my earlier efforts. 

Earning money
  • Sold a big ticket item (crystal pitcher, $100) on eBay & spent a lot of time & materials around the house to get it packaged safely. Arranged for free package pickup via USPS
  • Sold another good sized item (slate cheese tray, $65) & repurposed a box that had just arrived (we had to buy our son a laptop for school work, which was...not frugal). 
  • Continued listing & selling (smaller) items on eBay
  • Earned a $5 reward on Bing

Avoiding spending
  • We've had issues with our car registration (we paid, and got a smog test) & there was a glitch that kept telling us our smog certification was expired. Because the DMV was closed, I was very tempted to get another smog check. But, instead, waited for an hour in the chat queue, spoke to an agent & got it resolved. Saved $55 & avoided the cost of getting a ticket, even though technically we are paid up on our car tags. 
  • Planned to do a pickup lunch to kick off the long weekend, but forgot that M had the car, and our other car didn't have tags (above). Avoided takeout lunch. ;-) 
  • We've had to run our A/C for brief spurts (an hour here & there) to keep the house cool, as it's now our office & school & the weather has been close to 100 here. However, I am line drying all of our clothes, taking advantage of that warm weather! We do this year round (not with towels, socks or underwear, but everything else) & it's great to avoid heating up the house & to save money. 

What about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Back at it Tuesday

The long weekend went incredibly quickly, but good times were had by all. Save for the kids, who did need to squeeze in assignments around tennis & pool time. Only 10 days left of school. Let the count down begin! I've definitely never been as excited about school ending. This year has brought with it many challenges, and while I think we'll get over the finish line, there was a huge learning curve for everyone with online learning & a lot fell through the cracks.

I went for an early run this morning, as it's supposed to be close to 100 today. We also turned on our air conditioner for a couple of hours yesterday - the first time this year. We got in the pool, floated on rafts, and tried to chill out.

I have a handful of meetings today, and for my chore of the day, I went through & inventoried all of our gift cards & travel credits. Because of one preferred restaurant going bankrupt, and all of our cancelled travel plans, I wanted to get on top of everything. I now feel much more organized. This situation has definitely taught me that my risk for hanging on to gift cards I don't have an immediate plan to use is . . . not great. I also have gift cards for other places (a barre studio, the kids climbing gym that was a gift) that may also not survive COVID. A good lesson that, in these unpredictable times, gift cards are a riskier bet than previously thought. We will try to use up as many as we can in the upcoming months, and then stop buying them unless we have an immediate use.

I haven't decided what I'm going to list on eBay, so I'd better go off & get productive.

And, menu plan for the week:

Saturday - grilled burgers & corn
Sunday - grilled chicken on Caesar salad + sauteed green beans
Monday - grilled hot dogs & beans
Tuesday - leftover burgers & corn
Wednesday - leftover chicken, maybe as tacos, with beans
Thursday - leftover hot dogs + something from our produce box
Friday - any remaining leftovers

What about you? How are you doing today? Have you had any negative experience with gift cards, as a result of COVID?


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Long weekend Saturday

It's gorgeous here today, which makes for a great long weekend. I got up & went for a run, but wish I was up earlier, as it was already hot. My pace was about a minute off my normal, so I clearly need to start adjusting to the warmer temperature.

Last night I tried a new recipe, and thought it was easy & kid friendly - Easy Taco Bake. I made it exactly as described, but did sub out the sour cream & used Greek yogurt, as it's what I had on hand. Turned out great.

I made a few eBay sales, and got those packaged & ready to go. I'm working on some old crystal that I've never used, getting that cleaned & listed. The kids are playing tennis & M is getting supplies to build shelves in a few of our closets. Hurrah.

And, a little bit of progress in the garden! Tomatoes & peppers, starting to come out.



That's it for me. I'm off to get things done. Hope everyone is having a fabulous Saturday.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Yard work progress

I wish I'd thought to take photos of all of the yard projects I have going, but I did take a few before/afters. I'm not quite done with this area, but it's already starting to look so much better. This is probably the smallest area I'm working in.

Before:


After:



Don't mind the irrigation system - need to get that cleaned up as well. Strawberries have made their way into this area, and we're hoping that by removing all of the overgrown plants, we can get a nice strawberry patch going, next to the tall rose bush. There are some sort of wild lily, and the fruit tree of unknown origin that produces a very small amount of citrus fruit. Some sort of lemon/grapefruit hybrid, I think.

Here's a picture of the small ivy removal project I'm working on (the other side is about 10x this size), unfortunately.


Before:


After:





And, not the best picture of the big ivy project, as I took this while I was trimming the enormous tree, but you can see the ivy in the background:


This is definitely how I'm staying busy during the quarantine! What about you? Do you have any big projects (yard related, or not) that you are trying to accomplish?



Frugal Friday

Another frugal week has gone by. Nothing too exciting to report. We continue to make meals at home, eat lots of leftovers, reduce food waste, and look for ways to cut costs.

Saving on things we buy

  • Made my own coleslaw mix for a recipe, using cabbage & carrots. About 1/3 less than buying it pre-made.
  • M also made his own nut mix, by purchasing the items separately & mixing them at home, saving a few bucks. 

Earning money

  • I found $.01 on the ground, while on a walk. Big money!
  • I've continued to sell things on eBay
  • I continued my one chore a day, and cleaned out the shoe bins & sports equipment area in the garage. I put some shoes aside to resell (almost never used soccer cleats that are now outgrown, same with hiking boots, etc) & found a full set convertible skateboard/scooter. Got it cleaned up, posted on our neighborhood swap site & sold it for $30 a few hours later. No contact porch pickup, and they paid me through Venmo. Super easy. I wish all sales could be like that.
  • I also found old collapsible goals, and sold those for $25.  


Avoiding spending

  • We avoided takeout this week, and managed to make a lot of meals at home. Our grocery bill continues to be very high, but is always cheaper than takeout. 
  • I had another "virtual happy hour", which means a glass of wine at home, which is much cheaper than an in person happy hour
  • I'm also getting a $40 refund for my son's graduation (he is graduating from 8th grade) as the celebration is cancelled
  • M also invested in clippers, so he can cut the boys hair. It's unclear whether this will save us money. If he cuts their hair a few times during the quarantine, we will be even. So, it looks promising. 
  • I also used a jalapeno left in the back of the fridge drawer, vs buying a can of chiles for a recipe.
What about you? Any frugal wins to report?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Working out, lately

I've worked out every day since February 25th, and am on quite a roll with consistency. What's contributing to this? Well, no international travel for work, no vacations, no commute to the office, no taking kids to sports, games, practices, etc.

Working out is also a critical component of my mental health right now, as I juggle the kids at home, my own work situation, and our "new life", that none of us were expecting.

I've been running more lately, and am almost to the point where I'm enjoying it again. Almost. :-) I keep thinking I'm making no progress on time or distance, but looking back over my runs since the beginning of the year, I most definitely am. Isn't it interesting how our minds try to tell us one story, but the data tells another? We can be our harshest critic, so I find tracking my workouts & calories to be really helpful - both to keep me in check when I'm telling a different story (oh, you're keeping your calories totally in check. Not so much with some extra snacking during the day), as well as to show me real progress when it happens.

So far, 1/3 of my yearly runs have happened in May. That means I wasn't running much the first part of the year, and I"m getting much more consistent in May. The data indicates both are true.

My current workout schedule/plan for each week is as follows:

  • 3-4 runs
  • 1 strength workout
  • 1 yoga/stretching workout
  • 1 hike/walk day
I am also going for a bonus walk most days (with the kids, M & the neighbor's dog) & doing quite a bit of yard work. It's a stretch to stick to my 12k step goal when I'm at home, but I'm hitting it almost every day, with some dedicated effort.

As for the weight loss, I made progress in March/April, but have slowed down a bit recently. I need to shave 150-200 calories/day off of my totals. It's doable, but less fun than I'm currently enjoying. :-)

I am working hard to appreciate one of the advantages of the "new normal", which means having the time to consistently work out. It's really helpful, and I know it's benefiting my physical & mental health tremendously. 

What about you? How are you doing with your well being during this time? Are you adapting your workouts or finding new time to squeeze in walks? 

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Drizzly Sunday

It was beautiful outside yesterday, so I took advantage by going for a run in the morning, and getting more yard work done. Lots of raking, trimming, & tearing down of ivy. The kids helped out for a bit as well, which makes the loading & clean up much easier.

I also made egg roll in a bowl (so easy, & flavorful), went for a run, made a double batch of muffins, juiced a bag of lemons, and cut a pineapple for smoothies. And cleaned the house, although the kitchen needs another pass, after all of that kitchen prep work.

What's on the agenda for today?
  1. Go for a quick run. It's raining, so I'm not particularly jazzed
  2. Package & mail a couple of eBay sales
  3. List a new item on eBay
  4. Figure out my bonus chore of the day
  5. Clean the kitchen (again)
  6. Have the boys call my parents
  7. Make chicken fiesta skillet for dinner
  8. Work on our packing list for the beach house
  9. Read my book 
  10. Talk to M about adding shelving to a few closets
That's it for me. What is everyone up to today?

Friday, May 15, 2020

Frugal Friday

Another week of shelter in place. Here's how things played out for us, in the frugal world.

Saving on things we buy

  • Who knows what things will look like in February, but I went ahead & bought tickets to Whistler for ski break next year. The tickets were 1/2 the normal price, and if you bought between now & the end of May, you can change or cancel with no penalty. 
  • We also received a 20% credit from our season's ski passes this year. It is not for cash back, and can only be applied towards another ski pass. We weren't planning on buying it, but they have added COVID insurance, in the event the resorts need to close again next year. I'll run the math, but we skied 7 days last year, and it was quite a bit cheaper with season passes. Nick is unfortunately in the older bracket now, which is a hike from last year. With season passes, you also get hotel discounts, and I was able to buy tickets for my nephew at Whistler for a discount. 
  • I used a $20 UberEats promo code + Uber rewards to buy dinner on Saturday, with no money out of pocket. 

Earning money

  • Continued to list & sell items on eBay. The earnings are small, but it's fun to continually get things out of the house. And, I have to walk to the mailbox to drop off the packages, so that's over a mile round trip whenever I have a sale. Win/win/win!
  • Received a $22 payout on Rakuten, for purchases made earlier in the year. 

Avoiding spending

  • Knowing that we wouldn't be able to go to Hawaii as planned in June, I've waited to cancel our flights. If the airline cancels, you get your money back. If you cancel, you get credit. I was very pleasantly surprised this week when the airline cancelled our flight, & I've now requested our money back. I've already cancelled the hotel & will receive a full refund.
  • Because we aren't going to Hawaii, we will drive everyone to Oregon vs flying. Those flights weren't cancelled by the airline, but I cancelled on our side, and received credit for a future trip. 
  • The family relay we participate in was cancelled. They are forwarding our registration to the following year (no money back), but I was able to cancel Nick's flight & get credit. Assuming we can be together in small groups by August, I'll still plan to fly to Portland, and we'll do a trail relay run with my family. 
  • We had one take out lunch & one takeout dinner last week (a splurge for sure), but otherwise, all meals made at home. 


Frugal fail:
And, offsetting nearly all of my frugal wins, the restaurant the boys & M loved to eat at while I traveled (a salad bar) went out of business due to Coronavirus. I'd purchased gift cards at a discount, which are now worthless. I haven't had the heart to go & add up how much we're sitting on, in useless gift cards. It made me nervous enough that I treated the kids to lunch at Panera (using a gift card) as now I'm worried about any other businesses that might go under, while we have gift cards.

How about you? Any frugal wins for the week?

Thursday, May 14, 2020

It's Thursday

I've been trying to get consistent about running three times/week. I'm at the point where it's still not fun, and feels like a slog, but if memory serves, that gets better over time. Fingers crossed. I went for a run this morning, and am hopeful that will give me an extra hit of energy today. Some days I get that runners high, other days, not so much.

Our Hawaii trip is officially cancelled (no surprise), as the airline cancelled our flight, and it's very likely that Hawaii will extend the mandatory quarantine for all visitors. Because of this, we will pivot & instead drive up to Oregon & spend time at our vacation house. It's not Hawaii, but we feel lucky to have this option. And, it will be so much cheaper!

As for the rest of today, I've packaged an item for sale on eBay, and need to schedule a package pickup. I have a few meetings this afternoon, and then a virtual happy hour with friends. It's a weekly thing, and I always look so forward to the social connection.

And with that, I'm off to m next task. What about you? What are you up to today? 

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Happy Mother's Day

I hope all of you moms have a wonderful day. I'm planning on rallying myself for a run shortly. I'll keep the to do list reasonably short today, and want to wash the sheets & mail an item I sold on eBay. I'll list another item, and hopefully make some progress in the yard. The kids have promised help in the yard as part of their Mother's Day gift. ;-)

We ordered takeout last night, and M & I sat on the patio & drank a margarita. It was really lovely. Earlier in the day, a friend dropped off a bag of supplies from Trader Joes, for the boys to make me a Mother's Day brunch. It was so unexpected & thoughtful! There is a yummy looking cinnamon bread, maple syrup,  eggs, sausage, & juice. Hopefully they can whip that up when I'm back from my run.

I went on a long hike yesterday, so was too sore for much real yard work. Fitbit said I had 26k steps, which explains my lethargy later in the day.

One of my top requests on Mother's Day is always cupcakes, but my favorite bakery is closed. Nick tried his hand at lemon cupcakes stuffed with a raspberry filling. The cupcake & the filling turned out fabulously, but he had some issues with the frosting. In the end, he skipped the frosting & lightly dusted them with powdered sugar. We dropped off cupcakes for our two elderly neighbors, as well as for my friend with the Mother's Day breakfast surprise, and one other friend who sends us treats. It was so nice to surprise the moms with cupcakes.

I spent part of yesterday dreaming about future planning. I don't know if any of you are like this, but I do want to think about a future that involves fun family trips again. I don't know realistically how far out those trips will be, but it makes the situation feel less hopeless when I imagine them again. Currently, we're looking at two trips: February 2021 (ski week) at Whistler, and April 2021 (spring break) in Hawaii. Airlines are offering full credit back with no fees, if you book between now & the end of May. We will likely book both, as I already have credit on the airlines for previously cancelled trips, so it's no money out of pocket. And, I get to dream a bit about future travel.

Finally, on to the menu plan:

Friday - we had tacos/taco salads
Saturday - we ordered delivery Greek food
Sunday - M is making my favorite - Persian kebabs & rice
Monday - chicken alfredo (freezer) w/pasta or cauliflower rice
Tuesday - leftover kebabs & rice
Wednesday - carnitas (freezer)
Thursday - any remaining leftovers
Friday - cauliflower pizza (adults), regular pizza (kids)

How about you? Are you dreaming of any future travel plans? What are you up to on Mother's Day, and what's on the menu this week?

Friday, May 8, 2020

Frugal Friday

Another frugal week, with our state/county still adhering to shelter in place.

Saving on things we buy

  • Can't think of anything in this category.  We've just been buying groceries, and nothing is really on sale these days


Earning money

  • Continued listing items on eBay, and making small sales. Sold a couple of items I've had listed for months, which always feels great. 
  • Found $.01 on the ground

Avoiding spending:

  • Picked up lemons out of a neighbor's "free" box, and juiced them. I've been enjoying lemon in my water each day. 
  • Mailing eBay sales out of repurposed packages & bags from prior purchases we've made
  • I've been doing a huge amount of yard work. We will likely consider hiring a monthly yard service (once allowed again), as it's something we discussed when I got my last raise. However, we don't want to pay for some of the bigger projects that exist, and would prefer to handle those on our own prior to starting the service. 
  • Making meals at home, reducing waste, menu planning to ensure we're using what we have on hand. 

What about you? Any frugal wins to report?