Sunday, October 21, 2018

An anniversary cake

M & I celebrated our wedding anniversary last night (13 years!) & the kids really wanted to make us a cake. They were quite ambitious, and made the cake & frosting from scratch.


The cake had some structural issues ;-), but the flavor of the cake was incredible. The frosting didn't quite get there, and we had so many laughs last night.

I was trying to make a fun Persian dish, and M stepped in to help me, and it turned out incredibly well. We also had champagne, and just laughed in the kitchen, listening to music. Probably one of my favorite anniversaries ever.

In other news, I've been productive so far today, trying to get ahead of future meals & prep:

  • Set aside enough of the chicken rice pilaf for one dinner tomorrow, and froze the rest. It also made two lunches this week, so 3 dinners + 2 single serve lunches = 11-12 servings. Yum!
  • I shredded a brick of romano cheese, and froze in individual baggies. Cheaper & better than buying pre-shredded
  • I used the remaining ground beef from last night's recipe to prep taco meat. I ran out of taco seasoning, so improvised with my own recipe. All of that is now in the freezer for future meals.
  • I also set aside enough lubia polo (that's the Persian dish from last night) for at least 1-2 future dinners, and froze the rest.
  • I cleaned the freezer & tossed a few things that had seen better days
  • I also set out everything for dinner tonight, as timing will be tight & Sam & I will be cooking together. (That takes more time than when I'm on my own.) Pre-shredded cheese, etc. 
  • I went through the boys drawers & closets & found a bunch of stuff to donate
  • I arranged all of the carpools for the week, and managed my own work calendar to accommodate 

Feeling good about our progress today. Here's what's still left to do:
  • Mop
  • Some sort of strength training
  • Another load of laundry (after soccer)
  • Take Nick to soccer
  • Sweep the pool area
  • List a few things for sale on my neighborhood alias (stretch goal) 
  • Have the boys call my parents
  • Figure out how to do a video call with M's parents

Hope you are all having a great weekend!

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Tales from the grocery store + a menu plan

I used to a do a semi-regular series on our grocery shopping, as well as our menu. I've been very frustrated by our menus lately (three of us are not too picky, one child is very picky, but everyone likes different things.) The overlapping circle of things we all like is. . . pretty much tacos & pizza. ;-)

Today's grocery receipt reflects a bit of that, as well as the fact that we are now running out of food earlier & earlier in the week. (I cook on Fridays/Saturdays/Sundays & then we eat leftovers during the work week.) In earlier days, we could make it until Thursday without resorting to freezer options, but some weeks we are out by Tuesday! This is more likely when I've been out of town. Note that we typically don't but much in the way of prepared food, but decided to stock up to give ourselves a bit more flexibility.

So, without further ado, here's what we bought at Costco:

  • 5 dozen eggs - $14.49
  • Pears - $6.59
  • Milk - $5.19
  • Potatoes - $9.99 (I don't remember potatoes being this expensive before?!)
  • Breaded chicken tenderloins - $6.99
  • Potstickers - $6.99
  • 4 pack of bacon - $11.49
  • Empanadas - $7.59
  • Grapes - $7.99
  • Sausage ravioli - $8.89
  • Clementines - $6.99
  • Ground beef - $18.30
  • Chicken breasts - $21.71
  • Bananas (had to get organic, as the non-organic were very ripe) - $1.99
  • Honeydew - $2.89
  • Cucumber (3 pack) - $4.99
  • Strawberries - $4.99
  • Pineapple - $2.99
  • Apples - $8.99
Total = $160.04 - about $35 more than I like for a weekly shop, but we were out of both chicken & ground beef, & the bacon was for a recipe.

Here's our menu plan for the week:
  • Saturday - I'm making a Persian dish - lubia polo (using ground beef. We have everything else at home)
  • Sunday - We're trying a new recipe - buffalo chicken bake. I'll report back if it's any good. (using bacon, chicken & potatoes)
  • Monday - Leftover chicken rice pilaf (made on Friday)
  • Tuesday - Leftover lubia polo
  • Wednesday - Leftover buffalo chicken bake
  • Thursday - If no leftovers remain, we'll be having the sausage ravioli
  • Friday - TBD. Haven't gotten that far yet, and I have a late meeting on Friday, so it might be something convenient

What about you? What are you cooking this week, and what is your average weekly shopping budget?

Friday, October 19, 2018

My seven year blog anniversary

I can't believe I've been blogging for seven years! Things have changed so much in our lives, both financially, & otherwise.

A few big things along the way:

  • When I started this blog, our kids were 4 & 5. They are middle schoolers now! It's crazy to see the progress
  • We were living in Seattle, and now are in northern California
  • We bought a house in California, and leveraged the sale of our Washington house to create a flex fund that will make up the difference when I either quit or go part-time. Yeah for having options!
  • I was diagnosed with lupus .. . it's changed my life, my priorities, & my focus on energy management so very much
  • We've taken our net worth from $670k to $3.6M. More details on that in a separate post, if there's interest
The older I get, the happier I am with my life. I feel so lucky to have a husband I enjoy spending time with, healthy/happy kids, my own family (sister, Mom & Dad) that I get along well with, and more than everything else . . . despite some challenging odds, I'm healthy. I feel incredibly lucky about all of that.

We've made good financial decisions, had a bunch of luck thrown in there, and worked hard. We continue to ask ourselves whether something is a "need" or a "want", and try to in source where possible. We've optimized our financial lives fairly well at the moment (minus our housing costs, those are insane) & are comfortable with the tradeoffs to keep the kids here until they graduate.

And, I'm so excited about the future. The future of a flexible career, the next stage with the kids, and the future of what we will do as we have the time to travel more . . . I've always been worried about growing old, and I wish I could go back & tell my younger self how amazing it is. Yes, I'm not as skinny as I was, and my hair is definitely coming in gray, and the wrinkles. . . oh, the wrinkles! But, I wouldn't trade this phase for any other phase.

Thanks for being along for the ride, & I'd love to hear from any of you about things you want me to blog about. Always happy to share!

Frugal Friday

Because I was out of town over the weekend, it was a bit crazier this week than I'd want it to be. Here are some of the frugal wins we had:

  • Rather than takeout on Monday, after a long cross country meet for the kids, I stopped by Trader Joes & picked up a few frozen entrees. It wasn't as cheap as making my own meal, but less than takeout. ($10 for two dinners worth)
  • My mom & dad insisted on giving me money for something that was totally unnecessary (I loaned them money for a few weeks while they were waiting for an estate to close & they wanted to pay me interest - & way too much at that). I used the money to cover a brunch on Sunday for everyone as a way to pay it forward. 
  • I used a Starbucks freebie for a drink at the airport before my flight home
  • Despite my temptation to order a snack on the plane, I remembered my half marathon goodie bag contained a small snack, & dug that out instead. 
  • M & the kids picked me up at the airport, vs taking an Uber
  • And, I received a bonus for a large project that I delivered at work ($650, after taxes). I donated $350, so two organizations could also receive the match from my employer, and then I'm putting the other $300 into the boys college accounts. 
What about you? Any frugal wins for the week? Looking forward to being home this weekend, and having the opportunity to plan out our menus for the week ahead! I always feel more ready to tackle life when I have a menu plan, and prepped food in the fridge. 

Monday, October 15, 2018

I ran a half marathon, & other events

I'm back from a fabulous weekend with my sister & best friend. We spent a couple of nights at the Oregon coast (so much laughing) & then headed to Vancouver on Saturday for our 1/2 marathon. We ran yesterday, and it was such a great experience.

The weather for the race was absolutely perfect, and the course was gorgeous. Highly recommend, as it ran along the Vancouver (WA, not Canada) waterfront. I also ran the entire race with my sister/friend, and we really helped to motivate each other. I knew I would fade in the last three miles, but the first ten actually felt pretty good. All of my training has been on hills, so the flat course was fabulous. We were about at the pace we expected, and actually had a porta potty stop, plus several water breaks. I also stopped to take Advil at mile 9. My knee/ankle started aching pretty badly, and miles 12 & 13 were brutal. My knee is feeling a little better today, & I will definitely avoid anything too intense until I'm recovered.

After the race, we had brunch, and my mom joined us, which was lovely. More laughs, planning our next race, and lots of just general happiness that we'd completed our race. It was the first half for my sister & friend, and my 5th, and first 1/2 in four years. I remember why I love running, and definitely want to run another one, with more consistent training. I've never had knee/ankle pain, so I know this is due to pushing too hard with not enough of a base this cycle of training. I'm committed to being more ready on the next go round!

The boys don't have school today, so I'll catch up on all of the work I missed, and get a few "life" things done as well. Nick is running at our county cross country event this afternoon, so there will be more running today!

Hope you all had a fabulous weekend. This weekend was a great reminder for me that setting challenging goals can be inspiring, and can push you to new limits. My sister/friend had always resisted running, and it wasn't until we all agreed to run this race that my sister started running at all. My friend had never run more than 5 miles. They are so hooked on running, & I couldn't be happier that we set a goal & accomplished it together. Woohoo!

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Enjoying Saturday

It's a lovely day today, & I've already been on a two hour hike with a friend. Combining a workout & catching up once a great kickoff to the day.

The boys should be home from running errands soon, and then I'll take Nick to a soccer game, and Sam will have another game this afternoon. Other than that, we need to clean the house, go to the produce stand & grocery store, and that's it.

I also need to make a menu plan for the week, so here's what we're thinking of. And, we've been running out of food mid week, as the kids are both playing two sports right now, so everyone is quite hungry! I need to figure out more backup options.

Friday - I made chicken risotto
Saturday - I'm making beef tacos, with enough meat to freeze (hopefully)
Sunday - Sam & I will try a new recipe - Sesame Chicken with rice
Monday - Leftover risotto
Tuesday - leftover tacos
Wednesday - leftover sesame chicken
Thursday - I'll be out of town, so the boys will likely eat out
Friday - Boys will eat burgers from the freezer

What are you up to this Saturday? The weather is supposed to be nice again all week, but I'm feeling the urge to bundle up, make soup & bake. . . it feels like fall!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Frugal Friday

Another week with mostly standard frugality in place. It's the little things!

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

  • Drove our electric car for commutes & charged for free at work
  • Ate at home for all dinners. (Kids have packed lunches, and adults eat for free at work)
  • Adjusted the pricing on an eBay item, and have multiple bids. This is an item I received for free at work, so all upside.
  • Reviewed our Q1-Q3 spending for 2018, and started to work through our proposed changes for 2019. 
  • Picked more tomatoes to ripen inside (with a banana, in a sealed bag)
  • Continued to make creative use out of our freezer options. For this week, we've eaten the following lingering freezer items:
    • Taquitos
    • Butternut squash (turned into soup)
    • Baguette bread (turned into crostini)
    • Grilled hot dogs
  • I also made hummus at home, using garden jalapenos

That's it from our side. What about you? Any big frugal wins? Are you reviewing your 2018 spending, and adjusting your 2019 budget? 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Goals for October

I'm looking forward to a few fun things in October, combined with a girls weekend! The girls weekend will culminate in a half marathon. . . . Ahh, the things I'll do to have brunch with my girl friends! :-)

Financial:

  • Stay on track with our food budget, including both eating out & groceries. 
  • Come up with one way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis
  • Earn another $200 in sidehustle money. Split this between college money for the kids, & an extra payment on our vacation house mortgage.
  • Continue working on our 2019 budget, 2019 vacation plans, & income projections - this is critical as I try to narrow down work options. Decide on 2019 remodeling plans (if any)
  • Determine if we it makes sense to max our HSA & a Mega backdoor Roth, with our tax liability
Family:

  • Have one family evening together: cooking dinner, board games, etc
  • Have a date night with my husband, & plan our anniversary
  • Continue financial help (knowledge, not money) with sister & friend
  • Take the kids to Great America before the passes expire. This is a maybe, based on soccer schedules & other commitments. 
  • Plan our trip to Hawaii

Fitness/health:
  • Complete another full round of 21 Day Fix
  • Eat 5.5 servings a day of fruit & veggies
  • Lose 3 pounds
  • Run 8 times & finish a half marathon
  • Avoid dairy, as part of my efforts to solve my stomach issues

Work:
  • Work from home 2 days
  • Work on my my "homework" from my coach

Personal/creative:

  • Plan sabbatical!
  • Make one new recipe
  • Spend time with a friend
  • Volunteer at least 1x
  • Finish homework books for Sam & keep working on our homework routine

That's what's on our list for October! What about you? Any big goals you're working on? 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fake takeout

My older son loves Asian food, and now that I'm avoiding dairy, a lot of our typical recipe options are off the table. Many Asian recipes don't include dairy, so we've been checking out a broader array of recipes lately. Sam wanted to make dinner tonight, so he selected Dragon Noodles. We had leftover cilantro from a cilantro hummus recipe I'd made yesterday, so the timing was perfect.

We loved the recipe, but made a few small tweaks:

  • Note that the serving size is 2. We tripled to serve 6.
  • We skipped the red pepper, as Sam likes moderately spicy but not intensely spicy food
  • We included 4 eggs vs the recommended 3, to increase the protein
  • We didn't have brown sugar, so subbed for 1 tsp of agave. We didn't want it to be sweet
  • We used spaghetti noodles instead of fettuccine or other kinds (that's all we had), but we increased the pasta to 16 oz. Sauce/flavoring worked perfectly with that
  • We served with a protein on the side, but if I were making it again, I'd thinly sliced cooked chicken, and perhaps add shaved carrot, at the time I was combining all of the ingredients
Delish! We've eaten through most of the frozen Trader Joe options, but Sam likes to have "takeout" night, where we make samosas, spring rolls, gyozas, etc. Trader Joes sells reasonable options, and it would have been fun to add another side dish if we'd had anything.

I was happy to have the help with dinner, as i was tired after my 10 mile run today. It was the first time in as long as I can remember that I almost threw up on my run. I didn't bring any fuel (shot blocks, electrolyte water, etc) & my water belt was rubbing uncomfortably on my stomach. I started feeling terrible about 3 miles in, and really struggled with miles 3-5, all of which were brutal uphill. I sat down on the side of the trail & rested for a few minutes & then had a solid run for the last five miles.

I rested for quite a bit after that, and then cleaned the house (fyi, cleaning the kitchen before a 12 year old cooks with you is a recipe in frustration),  & ran the kids around. Nick ran a 21 minute 5K, and was quite proud of himself. :-) 

All in all, a lovely Sunday. I hope you all had a great weekend, and feel free to share your favorite replacement takeout recipes!

September Goals Recap - How Did I Do?

I really thought September was going to be the month where I accomplished a bunch, but . . . maybe October? ;-) With a business trip (Tokyo) & a week of jet lag & insane work schedules, well, let's just say I've been more productive.

Financial:

  • Stay on track with our food budget, including both eating out & groceries. - Well, I need to look & count how many Saturdays are in any one month, because we grocery shop on Saturdays. There were 5 vs 4 in September, which pushed us over. We also had an unexpected date night (kids were both at a swimming event) & ordered pizza when Nick came home from school with a bonus friend. All told, we were about $225 over across both). 
  • Come up with one way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis - Nothing, under than charging our electric car for free at our work. We don't have a charger at our home, and then ended up with a free offer in case we're out & about & need to charge. Which means, no gas prices, and no charging costs. 
  • Earn another $200 in sidehustle money. Split this between college money for the kids, & an extra payment on our vacation house mortgage. - I made $10.44, but also we had an unexpected $200 come in from a rebate from our property we sold last summer. I expect to get paid about another $200 from a family member paying me back as well. 
  • Continue working on our 2019 budget, 2019 vacation plans, & income projections - this is critical as I try to narrow down work options. Decide on 2019 remodeling plans (if any) - We didn't make a ton of progress in September, but have whittled down some of the expenses. 
Family:

  • Have one family evening together: cooking dinner, board games, etc - The boys & I had a popcorn/movie night, and I've been teaching the kids to cook, which has been fun. 
  • Have a date night with my husband  - Yes! We ended up getting an unexpected break when both kids were at a swimming party. 
  • Continue financial help (knowledge, not money) with sister & friend - Nothing came up this month, but we will all get together in a couple of weeks, so there may be more opportunities. 
  • Take the kids to Great America before the passes expire. This is a maybe, based on soccer schedules & other commitments. - It didn't happen in September. 

Fitness/health:
  • Complete another full round of 21 Day Fix - I did 12/21, but missed a few workouts when traveling & then jet lag made the following week really hard. (I do 21 Day Fix around 5:45 am, and jet lag really wrecks that.)
  • Eat 5.5 servings a day of fruit & veggies - No, I've had major digestive issues, and I've cut back on certain kind of fiber when my stomach is acting up. 
  • Lose 3 pounds - Haven't gotten on the scale since I got back from Tokyo, but I'm guessing I held steady. Will confirm. 
  • Run 12 times, complete 1/2 marathon training plan - I ran 9 times. Again, jet lag/international travel is not a great plan for training. 
  • Avoid dairy, as part of my efforts to solve my stomach issues - Mostly. 
Work:
  • Work from home 2 days - Yes! I needed both days. 
  • Work on my my "homework" from my coach - Yes!

Personal/creative:

  • Plan sabbatical! - I have a list going, but didn't really make much more progress. 
  • Make one new recipe - I made Dragon Noodles & Chicken Dumplings. YUM!
  • Spend time with a friend - Nope, but I have a girls weekend in a couple of weeks. 
  • Volunteer at least 1x - I signed up for something at the school, but it's not for a couple of weeks. 
  • Again - Order the book "Now What" from the library & complete it - I started reading a few homework books instead (for helping Sam), so I'll save the "Now What" for another time. 

All in all, given the month with work & my (hopefully!) last international trip, I'm satisfied with the progress. I always forget that it's not just the week that I'm in Tokyo that's the problem, but the disruption to my sleeping, energy level & morning workouts for a full week when I return. Yuck. 

How about you? How did you all do with your September goals? 

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Grocery check in + reconsidering the menu

I thought I'd check in on our grocery budget this month, & see how we did with our spending. A few notable shopping trips were made, outside of the norm. First, I bought Sam some Trader Joes frozen meal options, as he's been tired of his standard packed sandwich. That added quite a bit to the budget, but I wasn't in a position to stock the freezer with homemade options, given my work hours earlier in the month. Additionally, I stocked up on a few sale items at our local grocery store, buying after school snacks that were on special seasonal markdowns.

Our monthly grocery budget is $625, and we spent $665, so about $40 over our budget. The two out of the ordinary trips noted above were $65, so discounting those, we were on track. I also bought items to make dinner (butternut squash soup with goat cheese crostini) a couple of weeks ago, but M's flight ended up being delayed, so I froze everything. I'll be making that dinner tomorrow instead.

As the weather gets a bit chillier, I also want to adjust our menu planning & get the kids more involved in meal selection & help (when they are available). Homework comes first, so it's rare the kids have time during the week, but they certainly can help more on weekends.

After looking at our fridge & freezer & deciding what we might want to use up, here's the tentative menu plan for the next two weeks:


  • Friday (9/28) - naan pizza, using up pesto & fresh mozzarella, as well as some tomato sauce leftover from another dinner
  • Saturday (9/29) - butternut squash soup (make two, freeze one), and goat cheese crostini. I have the squash & bread in the freezer, and the goat cheese in the fridge
  • Sunday (9/30) - creamy pesto pasta with chicken & broccoli. This is a new recipe, so I'll report back on it, if it's any good. We have chicken & pesto in the freezer, as well as broccoli & cream cheese in the fridge, so costs should be low. 
  • Monday (10/1) - leftover naan pizza
  • Tuesday (10/2) - leftover butternut squash soup + crostini
  • Wednesday (10/3) - leftover pesto pasta
  • Thursday (10/4) - spaghetti & meatballs. We have all of the ingredients for this on hand
  • Friday (10/5) - I think I'll make baked risotto, with any leftovers on hand, probably using up some of the remaining goat cheese, and likely chicken from the freezer. I love risotto, because it's super flexible. The boys will likely eat at their school dance. 
  • Saturday (10/6) - chicken enchilada pasta, likely made with green sauce instead, as I have some green enchilada sauce lingering in my fridge.
  • Sunday (10/7) - Dragon noodles with some sort of meat from the freezer on the side. We shouldn't need anything special for this dinner either
  • Monday (10/8) - Leftover baked risotto
  • Tuesday (10/9) - Leftover chicken enchilada pasta
  • Wednesday (10/10) - Leftover dragon noodles
  • Thursday (10/11) - I'm going to be out of town, spending time at our vacation house with my sister and friend, so the boys will likely go out, using the very last of a gift card
  • Friday (10/12) - I'll be out of town, so I'll pick up frozen pizza for M & the kids. 
What type of fall meals are you rotating in? Any favorites to recommend? I tried the chicken & dumplings recipe, & we LOVED it. Except for M. He doesn't like soup, which I find to be quite limiting. 

Hope you all have a fabulous weekend!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Frugal Friday

And, by frugal, I'll use a loose definition, because it's been really just business as usual for us this week. Although it feels boring to recap a standard week, maybe it will be useful for others. If nothing else, it reminds me that every small frugal step that is a habit is part of a lifetime of financial fitness.

So, what frugal wins did we have this week?


  1. Arranged carpools to soccer. This is standard, but saves us a tremendous amount of driving time.
  2. Made all dinners at home. Really scrambled this week, as I was out of town & didn't cook much over the weekend. 
  3. Line dried the majority of our laundry. (We do machine dry towels, socks, etc).
  4. I drove to work every day in our electric car, and charged for free at work. 
  5. Even though I had late & early meetings (12 hours/day), and there was no standard meal service at work, I avoided Starbucks or takeout. Both were very tempting.
  6. I inventoried our freezer on Sunday, which allowed me to see exactly what I could cobble together for dinners. In a double win, it also helped me to create more freezer space. 
  7. Ripened several garden tomatoes in a bag with a banana. Free tomatoes from the garden . . . yum!

What about you? What have you been up to this past week? 

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Jet lag, menu planning & frugality

In frugal news, I spent just under $20 last week, as I was out of town. (I bought Nick a gift of special Japanese origami paper. He's obsessed with origami, and has been incredibly helpful with chores & house work & school work, so this was a gift. I don't typically buy gifts for the kids when I travel, so this was a fun surprise). M & the kids ate out one time, using a gift card. In less frugal news, we had to utilize our nanny way more than normal due to my schedule, which will be around $250 extra for the week. The boys also made $10 taking care of a neighbor's pet, so they are excited about their additional income. :-)

I slept for 13 hours last night, so I'm hoping the jet lag will be minimal this time around. I worked out & kept the eating in check in Tokyo, so I'm hoping for a small loss on the scale. Fingers crossed. I didn't do my 10 miler today (hahaha, that was a great aspiration with the jet lag), and need to have a strong running week this week. I have late nights most days this week due to performance reviews at work, so the week ahead is going to be crazy busy. I'm really, really hoping that will be my last international work trip.

As for today, I've unpacked, am on my 2nd of 4 loads of laundry, Nick is helping me clean the house, and I'm working with Sam on homework. (Not the actual homework - the process of planning & organizing for the week ahead so he can start learning more planning skills. Homework & the organization/time balance is still quite a challenge for him.) We need to make some major time investments in helping in this way. I've also bought a few books to read on the topic. Having time to support him in this way is important to us, but it's a real juggling act. I need to also set up a meeting with his school counselor, to see if she has any other tips to recommend.

And, on to menu planning. We scrambled last night, as M had the kids at two soccer games & had to run errands, and I didn't get home until mid afternoon. We ended up buying a prepared meal at Costco (ravioli), when buying groceries. We need to get organized with meals for the week.

Saturday - Costco ravioli
Sunday - kebabs & rice
Monday - leftover ravioli & a kale/shrimp dish M had
Tuesday - leftover kebabs & rice
Wednesday - a casserole from the freezer my mom made + rice
Thursday - pot stickers & fried rice (Trader Joe's, freezer)
Friday - homemade naan bread pizza

What about you? What are you having for dinner this week? Also, any tips for supporting a middle schooler on learning organization & best practices for homework? Would love any tips or insights.