Thursday, October 28, 2010

Goal Setting

On vacation, I had some time to kick back and recharge, and I'm thinking I need to start making small changes in several areas of life rather than continuing to try big changes in just a few. This feels kind of overwhelming, but I think it might make things a little more balanced for me. The trick will be to focus on the most important areas and set a weekly goal. For me, the most important areas are health, money, stress, environment, and other (being the things I want to accomplish that fall into the general hobby realm).

For this coming week (Th to Th), I've decided on the following goals:

Health - Stay away from pop! I found out that aspartame makes me sick and regular pop has too much sugar and calories in it, so I'm going to try to say 'no' to soda as much as possible. Today has been good so far. I've drank a ton of water, two cups of coffee, and have a packet of hot cocoa for my afternoon beverage. A financial benefit is that I'm not spending money on pop from the work vending machines.

Money - After completing a budget yesterday, if we stay frugal and not do anything crazy, we can be slightly ahead by the beginning of the year. My goal this coming week is use the food we have in the house for meals and holding off on groceries until next week when I'll have a better idea of "wiggle room" after both J and I get our paychecks. This is going to mean alot of creativity and alot of Ramen, but it's doable.

Stress - The main source of my stress is work, so this week, I'm going to make it a point to take all my lunches and to get away from my desk for at least half of my lunch hour. This includes Mondays, which are our busiest days of the week.

Environment - My apartment is in a constant state of chaos and I'm constantly saying "I need to clean my house." Besides keeping up on the basics (trash, laundry, dishes), I want to start getting the bigger stuff in order. This week, my goal is going to finish unpacking and find a nook or cranny for everything I brought back from vacation (didn't have to buy family is awesome and gave me all kinds of nifty things).

Other - This is the fun stuff and could probably just be renamed Hobbies (or "Fun Stuff"). This week, I need...and this has become an finish "Resident Evil 5."  It's a fairly annoying game, but I'm to the last or the second to the last fight and so it would be silly of me to give up now (even if I am playing at the lowest difficulty level). I also have two scarf projects I want to complete, and I want to finish the book I started reading, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon.

Next Thursday I will hopefully have an update on how these goals go and have new ones for the following week.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010


This past week was spent in Oklahoma, visiting with family and spending time with my mom who flew down from Michigan. I picked her up in Kansas City last Tuesday, and on Wednesday we headed to McAlester, OK to see the maternal side of my family. It was alot of driving but it was so worth it! Oklahoma is beautiful. I'm in a small majority who believes this, but I don't care. I loved OK when I lived there and I miss it. This trip strengthened my desire to move back there someday. 

We stayed at my grandma's house, which is incidentally the house she grew up in, so it always feels so old fashioned to me, but in a good way. We visited with her the first day. On the second day, we took a drive to Shawnee to visit my Aunt Doris and do lunch at Cracker Barrel, where I tried catfish for the first time. It was actually pretty good, though I was warned that catfish that's not farm raised is a bit fishier. Grandma drove, which was nice, and I got some actual road trip knitting done. 

On Friday we hung out at my Aunt Sue's house, visiting her, my Uncle Sonny, and his wife Shirley. More knitting time for me. As much as I like being around my family, I very rarely have anything to add to the conversation, so I'm pretty quiet. Knitting kept me from feeling awkward. That night we went and visited with my mom's brother and his wife. Lauren is such a sweetheart and an amazing cook. She made our meals all week, and I know feel the need to find a way to duplicate her breakfast quiche, her banana pudding, and her manicotti. In exchange, I helped her with some knitting. 

We visited another aunt, did dinner at Sue's again, got lost in McAlester, and spent some more time with Monte and Lauren. I bonded with family and finished a pair of socks for Mom. I even got a little tipsy on German beer on Saturday night. It was good to get away and see people, and it was great for my mom who hasn't seen her family in several years. 

Unfortunately, I had to take her to the airport today and end our time together. I've been pretty sad today, but all good things come to an end. Like most quality times with family, there was alot of laughing, a few tears, and some great home cooked foods. 

Now, I have to look forward to the next few months and the holidays. My goals for the next couple of months are to get our finances in order and caught up on a few straggler bills. Nanowrimo starts Monday, and I'm ready to get the concept in my head down in story form. I have three parties to plan or help plan, a bunch of knitting to do, and some cleaning and organizing. I'm also going to give online writing a chance over at Triond. It feels a little more laid back than AC, so I'm going to try to get some chain of thought words on specific topics written over there for some page hit goodness. 

Good to be back!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Slow Cooker Love Affair

This past weekend, my slow cooker and I spent some quality time together. Meaning I used it and it cooked my dinner. But oh what dinners it made. I should say here and now that I'm proud of myself for just pulling it out of the cabinet. J and I go through phases where we're really good about cooking and other phases where the key word is takeout. A home cooked meal though is better than fast food any day, and even better when I don't have to do much to make it.

Saturday was Slow Cooker Corn Chowder. We were up early that day anyway since J had a work meeting, so I was able to set this cooking really early in the morning.

Instead of the bouillion I used a can of chicken broth and instead of ham I used smoked sausage. It gave it a good flavor but had a rubbery texture after sitting all day, so next time I might fry it up before putting it in. I skipped the celery and added good dose of garlic powder for some extra seasoning. We scored a day old bakery loaf of french bread at Dillons for 69 cents which we used in place of crackers. Let me tell ya...this was amazing! J doesn't even like corn all that much and he was impressed. Even though I cut the recipe down quite a bit, we still got two meals out of this, and the total cost, including the french bread, was about six bucks.

On Sunday, I made chili for what I think was the first time ever. I didn't even used to like chili, but these days it's one of my favorite things. The basic recipe I used can be found here, but like normal, I made quite a few changes. I was originally going to use ground turkey like this calls for, but the best place in town to get it is Aldi, and I didn't quite make it there, so we used beef instead. We had every intention of using the can of tomato soup the recipe called for but we accidentally picked up a can of chicken noodle instead of tomato and didn't realize it until we got home. Instead of going back, we improvised and used about a half can of leftover salsa and a half can of ketchup. I also didn't have an onion because I accidentally through what I had away, so I used a bunch of seasonings: onion powder, garlic powder, and southwest seasoning cooked during the meat browning, and then salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, and allspice in the crockpot. I also added a can of green chilies and omitted the ground cumin.

No pictures, unfortunately, but this chili was so good. We had it with crackers, sour cream, and cheese and again, it made another meal (though I let J have it for a lunch and dinner). Next time, I'm going to make a double batch and either freeze some or just have leftovers for a couple days because honestly? I loved it! I'm even considering entering this recipe into work's annual chili cook off this year. And in the tradition of chili, it was really cheap. If you count everything, including the toppings and crackers, the whole thing was about 8 bucks, and it would have been cheaper if we'd shopped at Aldi for ingredients.

I could definitely get used to these crock pot recipes for the weekend. It makes being lazy all that easier.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Konza Prairie Reptile Show

At the beginning of September, J and I went to the Konza Reptile Show, an annual event in MHK. For anyone who doesn't know, I love reptiles. I've always kind of thought they were cute, but a couple years ago we had a roommate who was a big snake enthusiast. He got us into them and we ended up with a few of our own. In fact, at one time we had five of them. With the move into the smaller apartment, we downsized to two boas, but we love looking, so this show was right up our alley.

If you're squeamish about snakes, better stop here.

This guy was one of two tortoises there. Turtles and tortoises are so cute. I get a little upset whenever I see a little turtle trying to cross the busy highway somewhere.

J once brought up the idea of a pet alligator. I like snakes, but there's no way I'm having a big chomper that would likely think of me as a substantial meal. However, this little alligator was adorable. If I knew he'd stay that size, I would have considered it.

And finally, in a rare self pic, here I am holding onto a gorgeous albino burmese python. It took two people to get her on my shoulders and then back off, but she was so mellow. If I were stronger, I could have carried her around for a while and she would have just chilled. She was for sale too, but alas, no room in the apartment. Or money for new snakes for that matter.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

In the Kitchen: Mexican Shells & Pork Chops

Among other things I'm trying to do more of, cooking at home is high on the priority list to help save money and just feel better about eating. Not to mention that fast food and pizza gets old fast. So does ramen. This past week I made a full menu and grocery list and bought things for a couple meals (more shopping tomorrow at some of the other stores).

Last night, I made Mexican Shells & Pork Chops for an easy Friday night meal. It was a first time recipe for me and it turned out really good.

Mine doesn't look as pretty as the one on the recipe page, but it tasted awesome. J and I aren't big green pepper eaters, so I omitted that. I seasoned the chops with some southwest seasoning and did have to add a little extra water to keep the noodles from cooking to the bottom of the pan.

As far as budgeting, this wasn't really expensive. The pork chops were about a dollar a piece, the shells and cheese were about a buck and a half, and the salsa was around two dollars but only because we forgot to pick it up at the dollar store and picked some up at the convenience store down the road, which was convenient but more expensive.  Veggie oil and seasoning were on hand.

Not sure why I never thought of the mac and cheese/salsa combo before. It's delicious!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blog Fail

I'm such a fail at blogging and writing in general. You'd think that considering how much I say I love it (and I do when I'm doing it), I'd be so much better at keeping up with it.

Not the case though, sadly. However, I am still here and life is still happening. One of my many excuses for not blogging is that I'm currently sharing a computer with J. A few months back, his broke, and we didn't have the money to fix what we thought was wrong with it. Come to find out, it's actually a much simpler issue and one of the awesome Tech Geniuses I work with believes he can fix it. So yay! It'll still be a couple weeks though. We're waiting for some parts and Tech Genius has to do some work travel next week, but it's all good. Hope is on the horizon.

It's usually just easier for me to let J have the computer, though he gives it to me when I ask and I have full use of it when he's at work. There was a time when I was completely addicted to the internet. A few times actually, some of them leading to all night computer sessions, missed college classes, and pixel hangovers. These days, much like some of my old party girl tendencies, that need to be on the 'net has waned.

I'm still around though and one of these days will get back to blogging regularly. Things are looking to perk up in the next few months and I've started doing some cooking again. I baked for the first time in months last night, and while the thing I baked didn't come out exactly as I'd hoped it would, it just needs a few tweaks and I'll make it again and share some info and pics on here.