Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Spring Eating

We're trying something new around here: menu planning. It is a bit fussy at first and rather overly organized. I mean, really, who can't come up with a week's worth of good, delicious, nutritious, affordable, fast, healthy, sustainably-produced meals week after week? Us, I guess.
So I got a bee in my bonnet and put together 4 weeks worth of meals: breakfast, lunch, snacks, dinner. I picked through our mountain of recipes, both the tried and true ones as well as some new attempts. I tried to focus on what is fresh in the spring (asparagus, leeks, clementines...) and I had a few repeating themes: taco Tuesday, fish Friday, pasta, beans and rice, pizza/tart, slow cooker meat, and salads. Then, in an effort to keep portion size in check, I tried to tally the entire day's worth of Weight Watcher points (using the old system, not Point Plus).
The part I'm sheepish about admitting is that despite how dorky and slightly obsessive this task was, I really kind of enjoyed it. We plan to rotate these 4 weeks through the spring and then come up with a new meal plan for the summer. Ditch what didn't work and keep what did. Keep it seasonal, keep it interesting.
Some notes:
  • The meat dishes are rather vague since we get all of our meat from the neighbor (or ourselves). We have odd cuts that I don't even think are generally available in the grocery store. We also cook whole chickens, which are 5-7 lbs each.
  • I've included some links to recipes that are similar to ours (like the slow cooker pork or chicken) but not exactly what we do. I just didn't want to type up a new recipe when there are food blogs out there that do that every day.
  • A friend suggested I add a grocery list, which would be very swell. But that complicated things because we don't buy meat and are trying to use up groceries from the previous week. I may try to find time for it down the road.
  • So far we find that when something comes up (a dinner invitation, an extra long work day...) the leftovers pile up and we need to adjust. Generally, we take the extras and put them in the freezer so we don't have food wasting. For the summer menus, I might try to work a flex day in to the schedule.
So if you end up using the plan, you'll have to improvise parts that work better or differently for you. If you have any thoughts, comments, questions, or suggestions - let me have it! I'm already anticipating tomato tarts, zucchini lasagna, blueberry crepes... and other staples of summer!

Meal Plans:
(click on an image to bring it up, then right click it to save it)


I put it on my recipe page so this post didn't get ridiculously long(er)
Martha Stewart Spring Produce Guide: heaps of our recipes come from Living magazine and there is an online guide to bunches of recipes using spring produce. Handy!

Blog Links:
I don't want to reinvent the wheel, and in doing this little project I was shown some (real, paid) blogs that do this kind of thing full-time. There are grocery lists and everything!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


I present to you...

An Event 65 Million Years in the Making...
BIG Fun! Oh we had a lot of fun!

I did go over the top just a teensy bit. With egging from my friend, Heather, who loves this kind of thing (and is so good at it!) and help from my friend, Emily, we included lots of little dino touches. (Our dinosaur party inspiration is here.)
We started off with the Dino Egg Hunt! We borrowed a bunch of Easter eggs from our egg hunt friends, and bought a few special ones to add to the mix. Darling and Emily suggested decorating the bags before the party, and I'm so glad. The assembly wasn't particularly fussy, but I could see wind, 4-year-olds, glue sticks, and excitement merging to form a perfect storm.

After the egg hunt, we had some pizza. Our dino snack food was out the whole time, along with Blueberry Tea and water. Darling was in charge of the watermelon T Rex and he did a fantastic job. We had veggie shrubbery for decoration and an odd assortment of finger food mostly spurred by what Oliver likes: olives, radishes, carrots, popcorn, trail mix...

After lunch we lined up for the Dino Egg pinata. Darling was insistent on making the pinata and he did a great job (O helped, to be sure). It was filled with dino stickers and tattoos and figures and whatnot. No candy, but that was our personal preference.

And then after the pinata was, of course, cake and gift opening. We had lava cakes inspired by a pinterest find, but used boxed cake mix for time's sake. The fossil cookies didn't hold the image particularly well (I should have tried shortbread or sugar cookies instead of peanut butter), but no one seemed to mind. The dino rice krispy treats didn't even make it until the pizza arrived.

The free printables from HP were a huge help. I made the dino invitations from there, the bag decorations, the dino mobiles, and the little dino props. I printed the decorations on card stock and the bag dino on recycled 20# paper. The bags were both the kids' egg hunt bag and their goody bag (yes, we did party favors) and pinata loot. The favors were:
I wanted to add a dino egg but there just wasn't time. No one missed it, I'm pretty sure.

What a fun day! We had some wind gusts but absolutely beautiful weather and Big Fun. O really loved it and had a good time with his friends. We opened his gift at home (some dino books, a tape player, construction videos, and a red-tailed hawk). He knows that we had his party before his actual birthday and said, very matter of fact, "Mama, I want a bird party for my real birthday party. We can do a bird egg hunt, and a bird egg pinata, and I can get bird gifts..." Ahhh, yes. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thrifting Recap

I haven't posted any thrifty finds in a while, mainly because they haven't wowed me. Good bargains on kids' clothes don't really make for interesting reading material. But the past couple weeks, our luck has turned.

First up, the one I couldn't contain. I was so excited about finding a dusty La Cloche at a desolate (and a bit depressing) roadside yard sale, I immediately called fellow thrifting enthusiast, Monica. Happily, her response was just what I wanted to hear: enthusiasm and excitement! Price = $4

Then there is this little gem. It wasn't a huge bargain because the front side is missing, there is no furniture, and it was still $2. But Pack Rat (that's me!) had some vintage Little People furniture from my own circa 1978 toys, and now it's a properly furnished little cabin.

A couple good books (25¢ each) and a crayon tin ($1) were good finds. I found more good books at that price (bunch of Eric Carle), but we have copies so I'm sending the loot on to some friends.

And how about these beauties? I don't know if they are cut or complete or what, but at 50¢, I thought the pictures alone were more than worth it.

Take a closer look.
Shall I make the potential pedophile, 70s porn star, or strange shower touching man?
Apples keep me in tube tops
Moving on, Darling nabbed this perfect clock from his office. They've been in that building for probably 40 years and are cleaning house to make room for more offices and bodies. He got it for me for my future studio, which I plan to decorate like a kitchen.
Bonus points if you can tell me what color my running tights (as O says "fast pants") are

He also scored this gorgeous double sided chalkboard headed for the dumpster. This will be going down in the basement as well, in the lounge/library/play room (whatever we're calling that casual kid zone. Lastly, he grabbed a HUGE paper cutter. I didn't photograph it, and it is a little inky blotchy and ugly, but it has been called in to service already and performed like a champ. Great grab!

Grand Total: $8.50. Rather grand, pretty thrifty, I think.