Tuesday, November 12, 2013

'Tis the Season

I can't believe it but Christmas is just a few short weeks away. I have been working to finalize my lists and start my shopping. Thankfully, we're paring down the number of people we're exchanging gifts with this year too. (Yea for a less is more Christmas!) I am super-excited to see the holidays through my two year old's eyes as I anticipate Christmas to be pretty magical to him. We will be buying very few gifts this year but here is what I have come up with so far.

Andrew: toy Stihl chainsaw (Daddy is intent on this one and I agree that he will dig it), Memory board game, books (Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site and Tickle Time). I'm thinking an electric toothbrush and some art supplies for his stocking. We also talked about a train table and accompanying train but decided that he is still a little young to play with it properly.

Allison: a homemade doll, books (can you tell I like books?!) and possibly The Little Mermaid (since it will be vaulted by the time she'll be into movies in a few years). I'm super-stoked about the doll. My very talented friend, Cassie, is making it and her dolls are just adorable! I'm planning on getting a couple more fun books for our collection (Dinosaur's Binkit and That's Not My Puppy: Its Coat is Too Hairy). Can you tell I love Sandra Boynton books yet? We have a ton already but they are so fun! I have no idea for her stocking but I need to do something.

I'll probably do picture books for our parents and frame some photos of the kids. And I have no idea what to get my husband...he's always the tough one for me. (I'm open to ideas if anyone out there has any!)

How is your Christmas list shaping up?

Friday, November 1, 2013

November Goals

How is it that the holidays are already around the corner? This past year has flown by at a frightening pace! I guess moving, having a baby and chasing after a busy toddler, all while working and running a household will do that! Since my baby is sleeping more regularly these days (knock on wood!), I'm determined to get some more "me" time again. These are my goals for this month:

  • Work out at least four days a week
  • Organize my office. This is the one room that is still a disaster from moving. It is the catchall room for our house but I'm convinced it can be better than the piles of crap stacked in there currently. 
  • Read a book. I rarely make time to read these days but I really love to read. I haven't read a book since last winter and I'm very sad about this. I'm open to suggestions :-)
  • Get my Christmas shopping done. I've been making my lists but I would love to have everything bought this month. 
  • Decorate my house. My walls are still bare and this makes me sad. At the very least, I need to hang things up that I already own and like. 

This list doesn't look like much but I suspect it will prove to be tough.

Meal Planning Basics

Food is one of my family's biggest expenses. I am a firm believer in eating whole foods whenever possible and would love to buy all organic and make absolutely everything homemade. But life gets in the way of that goal and it just isn't practical with two young children and our busy lives. Several years ago, I discovered that a little planning goes a long way with both saving money on food and eating better. Sadly, I got out of the habit a few weeks back when I was super-pregnant and too exhausted to cook every day. But I have been gradually getting everything back on track (hello blogging!), including our meal planning.

I know there are lots of fancy tools out there to help plan meals but I have always found my old-school methods to work pretty well. First of all, I have a list of meals which I maintain. Basically, if I try a new recipe that we like, it goes on list. When I'm planning meals and drawing a blank, I consult the list. I have a second list of budget-friendly meals that I try to rotate in consistently. These include meals like soup and sandwiches, ham and beans and my husband's least favorite, breakfast for dinner. Perhaps it is odd, but I like to look at the weather when planning meals. If it is cold and rainy, I know I will want a warm soup or chili. If it is unseasonably warm one day, I probably won't want to turn the oven on. And no one wants to grill in deluge rains.

So from there, I start working around our calendar and plugging in meals for the week. The benefit of looking at the whole week at once is that I can eliminate (or minimize) waste by coordinating veggies and perishable ingredients.

What is your strategy for meal planning? Do you use a service or go at it on your own?