October 27, 2010

Meal Planning

Over the last few weeks, I've had several conversations with different people about meal planning, and I thought I would share how I make it work. 

First, the overview: I cook almost every night. We usually save going out to eat for the weekends. We're not afraid of leftovers, and so some meals I cook can feed us for two nights.

Let's say it's Sunday, and I know that I need to go grocery shopping. First, I look in my pantry, refrigerator and freezer. What's in there?

  • Black Eyes Peas in the pantry
  • Lettuce from the farmers' market in the refrigerator
  • Ground beef and chicken in the freezer
Chris had asked me last week to make black eyed peas so that's easy. I check the pantry to see if I have rice to put them over. Check. And I have my grandmother's chili sauce to put over them, so there's one meal; although, I might want another veggie.

The lettuce from the farmers' market can make a delicious salad. I decide that I can defrost the chicken, bake it and add it over the lettuce with pecans (already in my freezer), cheese of some sort (have a block of parma in the refrigerator), and I can make a dressing (I have olive oil and red wine vinegar). I decide I might want to buy some onions.

The ground beef I decide to cook up and season with Italian spices (in the pantry) and have spaghetti one night. But, I'll need to get a package of frozen spinach and a jar of sauce. I already have the noodles in the pantry.

That's three meals already, and that's usually what I plan for. Considering leftovers and the occasional dinner plans that come up, three planned meals usually works well.

So here's what I do when I go to the grocery store:

I look for a veggie to go with the black eyes peas: I buy one acorn squash that I'll split and bake in the oven. Meal #1 done.

I grab one bunch of green onions for the salad, and as I'm passing the chicken section, I see they have split breasts on sale. I buy two packs of those, and add one to the freezer, leave the one that's already there, and cook with the other. That means I just stocked my freezer some more on sale! Meal #2 done.

I grab a jar of pasta sauce and head to the freezer section for the frozen spinach. (Add frozen spinach to your pasta sauce and you get a lot of veggie points!) When I grab the frozen spinach, I see that the Boca burgers are Buy 1 Get 1. I remember that I do have extra buns in the refrigerator (or freezer, can't remember) (why don't they make packs of buns the same quantity as burgers??) So I grab two packs of the Boca burgers for my freezer. That gives me more freezer stock, and an easy extra meal this week if we need it. Meal #3 and #4 done.

Then I buy all of our staple stuff: juice, bagels, sandwich fixes, etc.

My final trick is to come home and make a list of the week's meals and place it on the refrigerator. This way, after a long day, I don't forget what I bought, and get a take-out pizza out of desperation.

I find shopping like this has decreased my grocery bill because I only buy what I need and items that are on sale that can be stored in the freezer.

How do you plan your meals?

October 21, 2010

Farming It

This past weekend, we invited Matt and Laura to the farm with us. 

Here are some of my favorite photos. 

Laura and Mom

We spent some time in the cave, and Laura found something!

Matt got the camera on it for closer inspection.

It was a wolly bugger. 

Then Laura got a lift to sit on a shelf in the cave. 

Matt and Laura on more stable ground.

Laura and me. We're even cute in a cave!

We ventured to the creek on the property. 

The water was so low we could wade across most parts of it. 

I think they liked it there. 

So do we!

And then we got out our fishing poles. 

Matt caught a fish!

Then we checked on the cows. 

Just as cowy as ever. 

And the chickens.

And the rooster, Sheryl Crow. 

Him with his ladies. 

Then the mood hit him and he needed to crow.

We peeked in the chicken coop for eggs. 

Matt found the hidey-hole !

And the dogs needed some love. Love this picture!

And we finally met baby Emily. 

Laura had some words to the llamas to make sure they were friendly. 

And we ate and drank the rest of the night. 

Laura was very diligent with her photography duties. 

Did I mention that we ate and drank?

"We have a whole other day and a half with these people?"

"Just kidding. We love y'all!"

Every time my mom and I get together, there is at least one shot like this. 

Laura figured out how to run my camera's interval timer. 

And the pool table was delivered while we were there so we were sure to break it in.

The last night we made pizzas!

In the pizza oven!

The guys helped assemble. 

And I took "artistic" photos.

It was a wonderful weekend, and we're already talking about when we can do it again. Saturday we went canoeing and fishing, but Laura has all the fish pictures. So this is a To Be Continued...

October 20, 2010

My cat is smarter than your 1st grader

Porter doesn't need thumbs to be the coolest cat around. And, he loves office supplies just like me!

October 19, 2010

AC has AC troubles

This post is about air conditioning. Don't feel pressured to read it. However, if you know anything about air conditioning, or know someone who knows someone, please continue. Also, if you want to read someone else complain, press on. 

On July 13th, our air went out. Our house was still under the warranty from our seller's, and the warranty company sent out a repairman from AirGo. Let's call him Mr. A. He arrived and found that our fuse to the outside condenser had been tripped. He fixed it, and went on his way. 

On July 19th, we were not getting air upstairs and called him back. He returned, and replaced our upstairs damper, which controls air flow between the up and down stairs. 

On July 21st, we were still not getting air throughout the house. He returned and installed a new control panel, with the diagnosis that the control panel was not properly cutting the air on and off. 

On July 30th, I was out of town, and Chris called me to say there was no air. I called a new company at this point, mostly because our warranty had expired and because I no longer trusted AirGo. 

I called Landmark Heating and Air, and they came out that evening. We'll call him Mr. L. He found no air running, and he found a bad dual capacitor in the outside condenser. He replaced that part, and the air ran properly. 

On August 2nd, the air went out. Mr. L came back. When he arrived the unit was running properly; although, it had not been earlier in the day. He spent a lot of time looking at the system, and found that the zone control panel was using the system transformer, and the cover on the control panel says that the system needs two transformers to run properly. We only had one. He disconnected the upstairs damper (the one we had replaced), and left both dampers open all the time. He said that the system would work fine this way until we needed to run the heat, and then we would need the upstairs damper to close on command. He suggested that when we are ready to turn the heat on, he will come back, reconnect the damper and install a second transformer.

Last night, October 18th, the air went out. I called Landmark after hours, and they sent out Mr. L2. He found the unit and pipes to be frozen. He was able to thaw it, and found the unit low on freon, which he filled. Then he performed a Leak Search (I capitalize it because the cost of it must require it.), and he found a leak in the cooling coils. He said with the refilled freon, we would be able to have cool air until the freon ran out again through the leak and everything froze. This could be days, months or years, as he couldn't predict how fast or large the leak is. 

I have intentionally left out prices from this long and sad story, but let me tell you that a cooling coil is more than our monthly mortgage. 

We told him we would think about the cooling coil, but as we had cool air for the night, we sent him on his way.

Is it really possible that all of these parts have broken in three months?

To review, we've replaced:
  1. Upstairs damper
  2. control panel
  3. dual capacitor 
  4. The threat of a second transformer (although not purchased)
  5. And now, the threat of cooling coils
Have we been duped? Do any of these people know what they are talking about? My only hesitance from suing all of them is that after each one came out, the air did work for another period of time. On all of the receipts, it says "Now running properly." And it was.

Feel free to click on COMMENTS below and sound off about your own home repairs, any suggestions for us, and your credit card number if you want to donate to our cause. If you need something to write in the memo line, the foundation is named, "The Keep Chris Cool and Complaining Free Foundation"

October 13, 2010

Playing Nicely

Here is a snippet of the nice photos from the rehearsal dinner.

See? We can play nicely. 

The new Mr. and Mrs. Heimke


Meghan and Laura

Mary Elizabeth and Meghan

A good one of the college girlfriends.

Barbecue nacho bar. Delicious.

The blues singer.

The Kinsers!

Me and Sarah

The bride and groom.

Laura--matron of honor--and the bride

A gang of girls.

Matt and Meghan. Sibling love.

The bride with the matron of honor and best man.

The Entrekins!

Laura gave a wonderful, funny and touching toast.

If you look closely, you may see some moisture under Jenny's eyes. It was touching.

 The best man was very funny in his toast. 

Darrin looks like he may have heard that one before.

Darrin decided to set the record straight after the toasts, and he was hilarious.

Chris and Matt

Kendall and Darbie. 

Darrin and his dad.

"Seriously, it's quite in this corner. No one is looking.."

Just kidding! Here's the happy couple!

Stephanie and Jenny.

Some hubby-wife Washburn love.

So cute!

And finally, the bride and groom!!!

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