Sunday, February 26, 2012

Adventures in Menu-making

I had posted on Facebook recently that I was going to try to stretch my tax return as far as it will go this year by trying to make our paychecks last longer for groceries and gas and the day to day, week to week stuff we always need.  I'm the main money person in our household in terms of money management (Thad is a spender, not a manager), and now that my husband is going back to school we'll have a nice sum of debt to pay back after he gets the degree he's going to work on.

I had been using Ziplist, and I loved it, it lets you add your recipes that you like and make shopping lists out of the recipes, but it had no planner capabilities.  I really need a planner.  I used to use Tasty Planner, but had made the switch over to Ziplist.  Someone I worked with recommended Pepper Plate, and oh boy I'm in love.  I've worked out the initial kinks (what is the difference between the Menu option and the Planner option?) and found that they offer a bookmark button that lets you add a recipe from a webpage you are viewing.  If it's one of the website supported by Pepper Plate you don't even have to copy/paste, but if not the copy/paste is all done in a sidebar on the page and is SUPER EASY.  Case in point, I added about 30 recipes to it this morning from various places.

After I added all my recipes for the morning I started adding the things I plan to make to my Planner.  Menus are where you can combine recipes you plan to make for the same meal into a Menu, and then you can add those grouped recipes to your Planner.  Once I picked the days of the week I was going to make my meals you add that days to your Shopping List, which I had already customized to match the aisles at our nearest Walmart so it would group my ingredients into where I would find them.  I took out the stuff I knew I already had, added a few things that weren't food related (like diapers) and voila, we're ready to hit the store.

I've also been using Pinterest a bit more these days, which has introduced me to a lot of really awesome recipes and some homemade cleaning products, so as I find these I will probably start adding them to Pepper Plate.  I also fell in love with a blog called Mama Loves Food that has pretty much given me a new reason to live.... or at least cook :)

I'm still working on a way to capitalize on my children.  They are cute but I don't know if I'm the kind of mother that can force them into child modeling.  I'll work on loosening my morals on the subject a little more :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Surprise Mommy and Daddy Weekend Alone

Filled with Newcastle. I will also soon be filled with Newcastle. TO FRIDAY!

Monday, February 13, 2012

New Addiction

Do you ever get the feeling that the words being played in Words with Friends can be seen as oddly subtextual? I think I just made that word up, but if you're playing Words with Friends I bet that word oddly makes sense. 

And "qi" is not a real word. Well, maybe it is bit I also didn't fact check that to be sure. All I know is that I play "qi" whenever I can because Qs are worth 10 POINTS, WHICH IF YOU CAN PUT ON A DW OR TW COULD YIELD YOU MASSIVE POINTS. Ugh.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Perfect weekend

We haven't even made it to Sunday and this weekend feels like a warm pair of sweatpants after taking off cold wet clothes.  Hopefully that means that tomorrow will continue this awesome, super relaxed vibe.

Last night we had our friends from Wyoming in town and staying at our house, so I got a sitter and we hit The Vig for some dinner and beers.  Dena had her first New Age cocktail (New Age wine on the rocks with a twist) and their cheese stuffed mushrooms are the stuff my dreams are made of.  We ran into some folks we know at dinner, so it was a super fun night of visiting and catching up.  Dena and her family are moving from Greybull to Sheridan, which will be fun since we're just a quick jaunt down the interstate now and I happen to love Sheridan.  Win win!

After a late night Dena and I woke up bright and early (admittedly my wake up time was ridiculously earlier than Dena's) and headed across town to pick up her Bountiful Basket.  Have you checked out BB?  If not, click the link and prepare to have a door to more affordable healthier eating/cooking opened in front of you.  After BB pickup with made another pickup, this time of the kid variety, getting her boys from her brother since they had a boy cousin sleepover party the night before.  Today was the birthday of Dena's 3rd zoo member, Trypp, and he and Elora are now both 5 and starting school this fall.  Crazy.

Before we left for the BB pickup I started a crock pot full of French Toast Bake (please let me know in the comments if that link doesn't work).  It was like the most cinnamony delicious bread pudding ever.  Huge hit with our houseguests.  For dinner I tried out another slow cooker recipe for Baked Potato Soup and it was dynamite.  Super easy and delicious.

So the whole slow cooker thing has been my recent obsession, and I guess I'll explain why.  We joined the YMCA and I am trying to work through a few recipes on the weekends that I can potentially use during the week.  One of the huge advances I'm making in my approach to slow cooking is in the form of a little light timer I bought at Walmart for $10.00.  I leave for work at 7:15 every day, and I have a pretty substantial commute to work each day that would make it unrealistic to drive home to start a slow cooker.  But some recipes can't cook for the 11 hours we may be out of the house each day so I'm going to use the timer to start the slow cooker at a specific time when we're at work.  Brilliant!

Well, it's 9:20 on a Saturday night and I'm actually considering curling up in my bed for an early nights sleep.  My kids have other plans though, since they like to stay up late whenever they have the chance.  Here's hoping for a wonderful Sunday to finish out this fuzzy feeling of contentment in Casa de la Swan this weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Thermpolis Recap

Last weekend Thad and I took the kids to Thermopolis/Greybull in Wyoming to visit friends and take the kids to the Thermpolis Hot Springs.  We had a gosh-darn good time, so I'll share a few of the highlights!

We left Friday night after work and got to my friend Dena's house close to 9 PM.  My cousin Johnna lives in Greybull with her husband and son so she was over at Dena's to see us when we got to town.  Dena and her husband Taylor live in a lovely home with their 4 kids, and we have been wanting to make it over state lines to see them since they moved there last year. 

We stayed up way too late (including Colter, who didn't get to bed until 1am, which shocked me) and woke up to a delicious breakfast of biscuits and gravy with hash browns.  Oooooo-ee, Dena makes some good hash browns.  After breakfast the men went over to Taylor's job site to give Thad a tour, and we started getting ready for the drive to Thermpolis. 

The Thermpolis drive started with a delicious strawberry shake for me (burgers for the kids) at A&W, then kids napped during the hour long drive to the springs.  We went to Star Plunge, which has both indoor and outdoor hot springs pools, as well as indoor and outdoor waterslides that are open year round.  Colter was even big enough to go down the outdoor slide with LaKenzie, who is the best little babysitter ever.  Elora went down the huge indoor slide all by herself, what a big girl!

We got done soaking and headed to Butch's Place in Kirby, WY for some burgers that I've heard raves about.  Well, lo and behold we weren't able to eat at any of the 3 restaurants we stopped at because there were so many basketball/wrestling events going on that every place was packed.  So after trying Kirby and Lovell we tuck-tailed it to Greybull and ate at Lisa's and it was awesome.  Dena and I had some big ol' margaritas (super delicious ones, at that) and we all stuffed ourselves.  We got back to their place and watched Moneyball while all the kids crashed.

Sunday came too quickly.  Dena made us a big heaping pile of pancakes and we lounged and visited and played until it was pretty much time to go home.  I had a bunch of clothes to drop off for the youngest little spud in their brood, and I came away with a bunch of jeans (in my new and improved smaller size) and a couple cute tops.  All in all, it was a win-win!

We had a great time, and I can't wait to make it back down to visit and start doing some Big Horn camping this summer.  Thanks to Dena, Taylor, Jim and Johnna for showing us such a good time in Wyoming!