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.


  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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 from home 2 days - Yes! I needed both days. 
  • Work on my my "homework" from my coach - Yes!


  • 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. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Getting things done to get ahead

We had a super productive day yesterday, which allows us a bit of flexibility on our "to do list" for today. M was gone, so the kids & I did the following: I worked out, went to Costco, went to Safeway & the produce stand, took the kids to two soccer games, did returns at two separate malls (yuck, I hate shopping) & then cleaned the entire house. I challenged myself to be as productive as possible, so that we could relax a bit today. Mission accomplished!

I leave for Tokyo tomorrow, so need to wrap up a couple of things. Here's what I'm planning to do today:

  • Run 8 miles
  • Finish packing
  • Laundry
  • Make 3 dozen muffins
  • Meet M's cousin/kids for ice cream
  • Have the boys call my parents
  • Make butternut squash soup + goat cheese crostini for dinner
  • Go to the library, return all books & get new books
  • I also need to run to Rite Aid to pick up something for my stomach before my flight. It's hard to find even the most basic over the counter medicine when it's not in English ;-)

That's it on my side. I love having a productive day, and I amazingly had a ton of energy yesterday. Not sure what caused it, but I definitely took full advantage. It was supposed to be cool & cloudy, but ended up being gorgeous. Nick's team lost 0-1 in a tight match, and Sam's team won 3-1. Both games were great to watch, and Nick played goalie in Sam's game, so everyone got a chance to have a win under their belts for the weekend. 

Looking forward to doing a little bit of reading in addition to wrapping things up for the weekend. What about you? Did you have a productive Saturday? What's on the agenda for today? 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Frugal Friday

It's been a pretty regular week around here, but we do try to make consistently good decisions. So, even on a week where it feels like we've accomplished nothing, I step back & do see a few wins:

  1. Remembered to fill out a monthly work reimbursement. It's only $5/month, so feels silly, but I tie it in when I have another expense & remembered to cover the last four months. $20/back in my pocket.
  2. Received a reimbursement from the title company on our house we sold last summer. It was over $200, and something to do with a utility refund. Even though it's been a year, I'll take it!
  3. We line dried the majority of our clothing, as we normally do.
  4. I made all dinners at home. (Lunch is a mixed bag, but the kids pack lunches, and M & I eat for free at work).
  5. Filled out additional paperwork needed to get an FSA reimbursement.
  6. Finally sold an old gift card to a spa (it was the $15 leftover after I got a massage - five years ago) & sold it for about $10. 

That's it on our end. What about you? What frugal wins have you had this week?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Suck it up, buttercup

When I was growing up, that was a common phrase from my parents when I complained about doing chores - particularly yard work. I grew up out in the country, and outside chores were . . . extensive. Now days, I frequently find myself repeating "Suck it up, buttercup" to motivate myself to just get thing done. Case in point - running. I'm NOT enjoying it as I have in the past, but it's so healthy, a great challenge for me, and I did sign up for a half marathon with my sister & friend in October. At this point, it's clear I'll be walking some, but I still need to be running. I have a huge mental block associated with running, no idea what's causing it, but still - suck it up & just make it happen. That's my goal for today. A 6 mile run.

Aside from the run, which I need to get in this morning before it gets too warm, I need to clean the house. Again, because cleaning the house is so much fun, I'll be telling myself to "suck it up". ;-)

In no particular order

  1. Run 6 miles
  2. Have the boys call my parents
  3. Boys soccer
  4. Make a new recipe - chicken & dumplings. I'll report back if this is any good.
  5. Vacuum
  6. Clean bathrooms
  7. Clean kitchen (didn't get the house cleaned yesterday)
  8. Work on schedule for the week w/nanny
  9. Deal with a few work conflicts (I go through my work calendar on Sundays)
  10. Yoga
  11. Catch up on personal email
  12. Order pictures for the kids
  13. Sweep
  14. Laundry
  15. Return PE stuff that I bought the kids. We found other options online
  16. Menu plan
What about you? What do you have to "encourage" yourself to do each week? 

For efficiency, here's our menu plan for the week:

Sunday - chicken dumplings
Monday - leftover pizza (so gourmet)
Tuesday - leftover kebabs & rice
Wednesday - leftover dumplings
Thursday - clean out the fridge
Friday - M will be out of town, so the kids & I will probably have burgers from the freezer
Saturday - spaghetti & meatballs
Sunday - salads

Saturday, September 8, 2018

I need to get things done

And yet, somehow don't have much motivation today. I see where this is heading! It's one of the last sunny weekends, so am contemplating reading by the pool. . .

Anyway, here's what's on the list for today:

  1. Take Nick to soccer game
  2. Costco
  3. Produce stand
  4. Run to the mall for a return. I hate returns & hate going to the mall
  5. Laundry
  6. Work out
  7. Clean the kitchen
  8. Bathrooms
  9. Vacuum
  10. 15 minutes of meditation
Luckily for me, M is making dinner tonight. What about you? What are you hoping to get accomplished today? Are you feeling motivated, or  . . not? :-)

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Menu Plan Tuesday

I'm getting a bit later start on our menu planning this week, but as always, having a menu helps me feel more relaxed & ready for the week. It also avoids meals out!

Here's the plan:
Tuesday - leftover burgers from our barbecue
Wednesday - tacos (I prepped & froze the meat on Monday)
Thursday - leftover hot dogs from our barbecue (currently in the freezer)
Friday - any remaining leftovers. If none, frozen pizza
Saturday - kebabs & rice
Sunday - curry with rice

What about you? What's on the menu plan at your house this week? 

Monday, September 3, 2018

Labor Day weekend grocery find

It's been a good weekend so far. Nick's team didn't make it to the finals of the soccer tournament, so we have today free. Hurrah! He is less excited. :-)

The boys were invited to a swimming party last night, so M & I had an impromptu date night. Today we will be heading over to another friend's party. I'm planning to bring pound cake & a nectarine/basil/mozzarella salad that's always a crowd pleaser.

I had some errands to run, so we headed out today to pick up hot dogs on sale at the local grocery store. We ended up stumbling on clearanced bags of pasta. 3lb bags, for $.57 each. So excited! Pasta is Nick's favorite meal, so we bought 12 bags. I may go back tomorrow to see if there are any left. What a bargain!

We also took advantage of a few Rite Aid deals, and spent all of our points. M & I both needed new razors blades, which are pricey. I earned $14 in additional rewards for a future purchase.

We also pressure washed the garage (it was covered in dust after the air conditioning installation). I love a productive 3 day weekend! What about you? How did you spend your weekend? 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

September goals

September is one of my favorite months - I like the transition between fall & summer, & the return of a routine. Our kids go back to school in August, so by the time September rolls around, much of the craziness of getting back in the swing of things has passed.

I'll need to get pretty focused in September, as I have a business trip and also need to get ready for my half marathon! It's now or never time. :-)


  • 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)

  • Have one family evening together: cooking dinner, board games, etc
  • Have a date night with my husband
  • 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. 

  • Complete another full round of 21 Day Fix
  • Eat 5.5 servings a day of fruit & veggies
  • Lose 3 pounds
  • Run 12 times, complete 1/2 marathon training plan
  • Avoid dairy, as part of my efforts to solve my stomach issues
  • Work from home 2 days
  • Work on my my "homework" from my coach


  • Plan sabbatical!
  • Make one new recipe
  • Spend time with a friend
  • Volunteer at least 1x
  • Again - Order the book "Now What" from the library & complete it

Any big goals for September? Put it out there so we can cheer you on! :-) 

Saturday, September 1, 2018

August goals check in

I can honestly say that August went by in a flash. I can't believe the kids are back to school, & the last month of summer is done! Let's see how we did on our goals.


  • Stay on track with our food budget, including both eating out & groceries. We will have guests for a few days, which may push the spending a bit higher than normal, so this will require some planning & effort. - We were under for groceries, but over for dining out. I also bought two gift cards on discount that we haven't used, but applied them to our August budget. I also took my mom to lunch as a thank you for deep cleaning the house when she was here.
  • Come up with one way to reduce what we need/spend on an ongoing basis - I can't think of anything special that I did this month
  • Earn another $200 in sidehustle money. Split this between college money for the kids, & an extra payment on our vacation house mortgage. - Yes! We made $265 this month.
  • Rough out our 2019 budget, 2019 vacation plans, & income projections - this is critical as I try to narrow down work options - We've made some progress here, but need to keep refining our numbers. 

  • Have one family evening together: cooking dinner, board games, etc - We spent a lot of time together when my parents were here, and enjoyed a few pool parties. 
  • Have a date night with my husband - No, & I miss this! Hoping we can find time in September. 
  • Continue financial help (knowledge, not money) with sister & friend - Nothing has come up this month. 
  • Take the kids to Great America before the passes expire - Both the boys have now been 1x, although they went with friends. M was going to take the boys last weekend, but Nick wasn't feeling well.  

  • Complete another full round of 21 Day Fix - I was pretty focused on my relay, & have been having some health issues, so only completed 10 days. 
  • Eat 5.5 servings a day of fruit & veggies - my stomach issues have made this quite a challenge. Definite fail. I'm averaging around 3/day. 
  • Lose 3 pounds - Yes. I do think I've lost a bit of muscle tone, but I'm also suffering from some stomach issues that are making eating unpleasant. I have a bunch of appointments to try & figure it out, so fingers crossed. Although, the weight loss is at least one positive result. ;-) 
  • Run 12 times, complete 1/2 marathon training plan - I was pretty focused on my relay, & have been having some health issues, so only ran 1x. 
  • Complete 4 pace walks for my relay. - Yes!
  • Successfully complete my relay - Yes!
  • Work from home 2 days - Yes. I don't think I'll have any WFH days in September, which makes me sad. They really help my energy level & overall productivity. 
  • Work on my my "homework" from my coach - Yes, it's been eye opening & fun/challenging. 
  • Start working on options for a revised, part-time role. Investigate options, reach out to my network - I'm passing on this right now. Work is absolutely insane, and my goal is to get through to my sabbatical. I can't focus on anything else right now. Putting this on pause for the time being. 


  • Make one new recipe - Nope. 
  • Spend time with a friend - Spent two days in a van & then celebrating, so counting it!
  • Volunteer at least 1x - Nope. Really need to find something that works for my schedule. 
  • Again - Order the book "Now What" from the library & complete it - Ahem. still need to do this. 

As you can see, it was quite a mixed bag this month. I really need to solve my stomach issues (I'm thinking it's a dairy allergy combined with something else?), and I got a round of blood work back that shows my anemia is in full force, so need to get that addressed as well. My goal is to get through to the end of the year, and take my sabbatical!! Woohoo! More to come on goals for September. 

What about you? How did you do with your August goals?