Saturday, April 28, 2012

Date Night

Once you have kids things change.  I realized this again after spending a wonderful dinner with my husband a week ago.  Before kids, going out to dinner was just something we did on a regular basis.  Now with a little one at home it becomes an special event!  One that gets written on the calendar and circled with a heart (ok so maybe there wasn't a heart around it but it was put on the calendar!)

As we sat in our cozy two person booth at the Melting Pot (which I had a coupon for because if you read this post you would know that dropping $100+ on one dinner isn't part of my new plan) I looked at my husband and started to think about the 8 1/2 years we have spent together and how our 4 year wedding anniversary is just two months away.  WOW!  8 1/2 years, that's the life of a 4th grader!
Mmmm Fondue

What a journey it has been.  When "they" say you never know where life will take you "they" aren't kidding.  When I first met Luke we were both heading into our senior year of college.  I had dreams of going to Graduate School (Now I realize that was probably only due to the fact that I was majoring in Communication and what in the world do you do with that degree!) and Luke was heading into his final hockey season of his college career with a team ranked #1 in the country.  If someone would have told us that in 9 years we would be married, living in Wisconsin and have a two year old and a new born I'm not sure I would have believed them (mostly due to the "living in Wisconsin" part!)

Our dinner that night was delicious and we had the fondue routine down considering we like to unofficially consider the Melting Pot one of "our" restaurants as whenever I would go visit Luke in a new city that he was playing in we would always look for a Melting Pot to go to for our special date night out.  The only disappointing part for me was the fact that I couldn't enjoy one of their yummy cocktails and instead had to settle for a non-alcoholic raspberry lemonade thingy.  It was good but Luke's wine looked WAY superior!
My drink

The best part of the night was the uninterrupted conversations that we were able to have.  No kid screaming or poking at us, no TV or other people rerouting the conversation.  Just the two of us, like it was in the beginning (plus Luke's phone, I think he suffers from being under stimulated. hehe  He's one to have the TV on all day and night just for the background noise)
Luke texting/googling/emailing.
My goal is to do this at least once a month.  For some that may sound easy but when you both work full time, have to find a babysitter in order to leave the house and have other commitments throughout the week you forget to plan for just the two of you.  I know it's important and I can see why.  I'm thinking next month maybe we should do something other than just dinner.  Any suggestions?

I would like to thank my mother-in-law and her husband for watching Max while we were out.  It sounds like he only cried for 5 minutes when we left which is pretty good these days considering he's been an overly clingy Mommy's boy the past few months.

Monday, April 16, 2012

{Pregnancy Workout} Hello old friends, I've missed you

It's day 2 of getting back into the gym and I feel better today than I even did yesterday!  Probably because today I got to spend time with my favorite friends again... weights!  I'm not much of a cardio fan I have to be honest.  I know it has it's place so I do it but only because I have to.  Don't expect me to go any longer than 20 minutes though.  So let's focus on what I do like... lifting!!!

Typically when I workout I like to put together a plan first as to what muscle groups I'm going to hit and exactly which moves I will use to achieve my goal.  I'm such a geek as I usually write down my workout on a small slip of paper and stick it in the pocket of my sweatshirt so I don't forget.  When you have limited time to workout you don't want to waste it standing around trying to think of what you should do next.  I also like to focus on my upper body one day and lower the next, however, for today I wanted to do a full body workout.  Since I've been finding it difficult to fit in my workouts I didn't want to leave half of my body out with the possibility of not getting to it later.  

For those of you that are unaware I am currently 6 months pregnant so that adds another element to work around.  Here is where my caution statement comes in... please consult your doctor before embarking on a new workout routine, especially when you are pregnant.  That being said, a lot of women are afraid to do anything more than a light stroll or easy yoga when pregnant because they think it's too much.  I've been told that you can continue your current workout routine once pregnant as long as you listen to your body, drink TONS of water and steer clear of a few things such as; after 12 weeks don't lie flat on your back and it's advised not to do any strenuous twisting movements with your abdomen.  Other than that, go for it!

Here is my workout from this morning:  2 sets of 15 reps each, resting only in between sets not individual moves (therefore, do 15 reps each of #1-#1 0, rest, rehydrate and then repeat)

1. Bicep Curls with free weights
2. Rows with free weights (one arm at a time)
3. Tricep Kickbacks with free weights (one arm at a time)
4. Cable Chest Press
5. Lateral raises
6. Shoulder Press
7. Sqauts using the ball against the wall for back support
8. Plie squats again using the ball against the wall
9. Donkey kicks on the mat
10. Calf raises

This workout goes really quick and you will work up a sweat because there is no resting in between moves just at the end of the set.  I like to super set my moves like this so I can squeeze in a lot in a short amount of time.  This workout is great for pregnancy because there is no lying on your back and the ball works great as a support and added balance for your squats.  At the end of my workout I like to do a full stretch.  Another word of caution here for pregnant women, your ligaments and joints loosen when pregnant so be careful and don't overextend yourself when stretching.  

As far as the weight you choose to lift I typically would recommend choosing something where the last two reps you can barely squeeze out, however, when pregnant I like to tone it down a little so I pick something that I can finish 15 with but probably couldn't do another 2-3 after that.  If you can't make it through 10 reps at the weight you chose then drop it and pick-up a lighter one to finish out the 15.  On the other hand, if by the end of 15 you feel you could do another 15 you need to bump your weights up a couple lbs.

Now for those of you wondering what in the world a Tricep Kickback is I would highly recommend reading a copy of Oxygen Magazine.  This is my workout bible! :)  It isn't a sissy women's fitness magazine but also isn't only for body builders so it's great for anyone that's interested in health and fitness.

As far as equipment goes I'm very lucky to have a full gym in my apartment complex. If you do not have access to a gym then this workout may not be right for you.  Check out Oxygen as they typically have routines you can do at home with just one set of weights or bands.

These are the lighter free weights we have in our gym.  They go from 3lbs up to 15lbs.

These are the heavier weights... I'll save these for after the baby comes.

This is the cable machine that I use for my "Cable Chest Press" you can see the handles are set-up currently for that.

This bench is perfect to use as support for your Rows and Tricep Kickbacks.

Ball used for squat support.  This goes up against the wall and then you lean on it with your lower back.

The "other" room I frequent less. :)
For those of you in the area I'm always open to have you over for a little training session as I love to workout with a partner!  Just be ready to go by 5:30am as that's when I like to hit the gym ;)

Friday, April 13, 2012

Crockpot Fail

The other day I was super excited to try out one of my Pinterest creations.  A crock pot freezer meal!  How awesome does that sound.  A few weeks ago I put together my sauce and divided it out into 2 separate freezer bags then added pork chops to each bag.  Wrote the date, what it was and the cooking instructions right on the bag and popped it into the freezer.  So Easy!

Then the night before my dinner I stuck it in the fridge to defrost and that morning thew it into the crock pot.  I was a little hesitant as I typically like to put my crock pot together over my lunch break to make sure I don't cook it too long as most recipes call for Low 6-8 hours and I typically am gone for 9+ every day.  This day though I already had lunch plans so that morning in went the pork chops.

All day I dreamt about the tasty sauce on top of some rice and couldn't wait to have a home cooked meal waiting for me with little to no effort at all.  Then I received the phone call from my husband.  It was 10 minutes before the end of my day and he phoned to tell me that I may need to think of an alternative to dinner unless dinner was supposed to be hockey pucks with brown sludge!

Whoops!  I guess the 8 hours was just a little too long.  Instead I treated my family to burritos at a local Mexican restaurant and called it a night.  I thought the crock pot was supposed to be fool proof... could have fooled me!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Margaret and Max's Easter Adventure

Last weekend for Easter Max and I drove 4 hours to visit my family in Minnesota.  I was extremely nervous about driving all that way by myself with him as he's typically not the easiest in the car but the thought of staying here with Luke gone at hockey and my family in Minnesota forced me to go for it!

For weeks after I made the decision to go I prayed, planned and prayed some more :)  In the end my prayers were answered! and due to my obsessive planning all went well... except for a few minor hiccups.

My plan was to leave soon after Max woke up in the morning as he doesn't nap well in the car so I didn't want to risk him being over tired once we got moving.  The morning of our departure Max woke up an hour and 15 minutes earlier than normal and would not go back to sleep! Ugh!  I started to wonder if this was a sign of what was to come and second thoughts filled my head.  I pushed through my doubts and we were on the road almost right on time.  Max's early rising turned out to be a blessing in disguise as no further than 30 minutes into the drive...

After an hour nap and some snacks things were still pleasant in the car.  My parents had offered to meet me at the half way mark so that my mom could jump in my backseat to entertain Max.  This ended up working out perfectly as 5 minutes prior to our connection items began to be thrown and a melt down was imminent... In comes "GaGa" and all is well in the world again!  Max and "GaGa" had a great time playing and singing along to his Kindermusic CD the rest of the way there and I breathed a small sigh of relief.  The first leg of the trip was a success!

In comes the first miss hap of the weekend.  That afternoon my brother and his fiancee were loading up a moving truck as they were spending the weekend moving into their new home.  My dad was off assisting them and so left myself, my mom and Max to entertain ourselves.  What better place to do this than the park near my brother's new home.  Max had a blast and the park was great!  It wasn't until he started limping a little that I began to become concerned.  Then after a few more steps he started to crumble to the ground and physically could not walk any longer.  He didn't cry at all so I wasn't sure what the problem was but I knew that park time was now over.  We spent the evening carrying him around and trying to decide if we should take him in to see the doctor but in the end there was no swelling and he wasn't crying so we decided to see how things were in the morning.  True to his tough little boy form, he was perfectly fine the next day.  Must have simply twisted an ankle.  Of course he didn't want to sleep in his pack n' play that night and being that I wanted to be able to monitor him I allowed him to sleep in my bed.  Ok, the real reason was I'm a sucker for his sad face, however, we both slept great!

Max sleeping in the King Size bed next to the pillow barrier I set up!
The next day we headed off to the Mall of America with my cousin Katy.  Max was mesmerized by all the people and once he saw the Nickelodeon Universe it was all over!  He couldn't keep his eyes off of all the rides and action going on.  Every time he would hear a kid scream he would say "yeah!" and point.  I promised him that next time we come to visit his dad would take him on a little kid ride... I don't do rides.

In comes problem #2.  That night after playing all day at the mall and at my brother's new home Max was a little over tired.  It was more challenging to get him to sleep but he finally passed out again.  Only difference was this time at Midnight he woke up and started to have a full blown temper tantrum for at least 10-15 minutes (it felt like an hour!).  He didn't want his blankie, passie, sippy cup... NOTHING!  He simply screamed and covered his face with his hands.  My parents room was directly next door and my mom said she heard me threaten to move him to his pack n' play if he didn't quit.  Of course I never followed through with that.  In the end I'm not sure what got him to lay back down and go to sleep.  An hour later he tried to pull that crap again and I simply faked that I was sleeping and he calmed himself down and went right back to bed. :)

The next day we joined my brother and his fiancee at their church for an AMAZING Easter service.  Max played in the childcare... (until other parents started to pick-up their kids and then he cried until his face was dripping with tears and snot.)  I loved the contemporary music they sang and I knew every song!  I was so thankful for all of my prayers being answered so far regarding the weekend and also thankful for the ability to spend it with my family.
Max helping my dad load up the cars on Sunday morning.

All ready for church
The drive home ended up being ok as my parents drove with me to the half way point.  I was nervous to leave them as Max had already taken a nap during the first leg of the trip.  Again my prayers were answered.  First he played with his new favorite toy (below) then he fell asleep again! SCORE!  He woke up an hour before we got home but a few snacks (sugar cookies and Pringles- I would have shoved anything his way to keep him happy... don't judge!) and some traffic to watch he was a very content little boy until we got home.

Between the new VTech Learning Turtle electronic toy and this new toy he loved this one the most... go figures!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Did someone say SALE?! My road to frugality.

I have NEVER been a money conscience person.  I even joke about not EVER looking at prices (sorry for making some people cringe).  When asked how that could possibly be I simply reply, "Well I only shop at stores where I know I can afford what they have to sell."  Leaving out the part about being able to afford maybe 1-2 items that they sell, not 10!

I'm not exactly sure where this lack of money sense stems from but sometimes I think back to the days of junior high... it's the night before a band concert (don't judge) and my mom and I are in search of the perfect white top and black skirt for me to wear.  I always being self conscious, and never wanting to stand out, run around to every store looking for the perfect outfit that will blend in with everyone else.  Of course, this is nowhere to be found.  As the night ends we settle on "the best we could find" and the next night I can barely focus on anything other than the horrible outfit I have on.  This traumatizing moment has led me to the motto of "If you like it buy it as some day you may need it!"... and that motto has led me to credit card debt.  Not the best motto I guess. :)

Recently after finding out I was pregnant with child #2 I realized I had to get my finances under control. I started this journey with a New Years Resolution "Get Finances Under Control."  There, I was set... not so much.  I had a lot to learn.  Over the past few months I have read books (thanks to my friend Shannon who is very wise with her money!) and have researched couponing (along with my new frugal partner in crime, my sister-in-law) and have even resorted to shopping at garage sales!

Here are some things I have learned over the past few months...

Grocery Shopping
1. Check your grocery store's weekly ad for discounts and make your meal plan around those discounts.  I had the most fun I've ever had at the grocery store when I went for the first time and actually LOOKED AT THE PRICES!  Who knew a bag of chips cost $4.00+!  I try not to buy them now unless they are on sale.
2. Buy store brand for items that you can't tell the difference.  My husband Luke had a really hard time with this one.  When I started telling him about my new found grocery shopping attack plan his sarcastic comment was "Next thing I know we will be eating store brand ice cream!"  After this I have made sure to only buy store brand items that I will be using in a recipe so he can't see the box and therefore won't know the difference ;)  don't tell him that.  Things like tomato sauce, canned vegetables or butter are good ones.
3. Cut coupons and organize them in something that you can take with you to the store.  Plan ahead and incorporate them into your meals when you can but also have them on hand in case you see something that you missed putting on your list and that way you have your coupon with you.  Make sure when using coupons that you only buy things you are going to actually use AND don't just buy that brand because you have a coupon.  Sometimes the store brand or another name brand is cheaper even with the coupon.  Buy that brand instead and skip the coupon.  I like to only use a coupon when the item is already on sale so then I feel like it's a double bonus!  Some stores like my local grocery store offer double coupon days... I now shop on those days in case I have a coupon to use.  My store doubles the first 5 coupons up to $1.00 each so that's an additional $5.00 in savings just for shopping on that day.  Ok, so some of you are probably thinking... who cares about $5.00.  Well, it all adds up is what I have to say.
This is my coupon organizer.  It fits in my purse so I can whip it out when needed.  I organized mine according to how my local grocery store is organized.

Baby Items
Getting ready for baby #2 is easier than the first as most of the big things I already own, however, I'm now having a girl and my first one is a boy so clothing is something I will need to purchase.  I know from dressing my little guy that not only do they go through an entire wardrobe every 3 months but they still need multiples of everything as outfit changes happen frequently.  I know I've spent hundreds of dollars every time my son grew out of his clothes.  This time I'm preparing ahead of time and doing it smarter.  I have to say that shopping for girls clothes is much easier than boys... and WAY more fun! :)  I have been to a few garage sales already and a local consignment sale called Just Between Friends.  If you have one of these sales near you I would highly recommend going.  I picked up 68 items for my baby girl all for a little over $100.00!  Some of them look hardly worn too.  They give you these huge IKEA shopping bags to put your clothes in while browsing and at one point I had to start kicking my bag along on the floor because it got too heavy to carry!  There is another one of these sales coming up in May and I have already made an assessment of what all I already have so that I can make sure to buy only what sizes I still need. (disclaimer, this sale is better for girl stuff.  I have tried to find boy clothes and typically the selection is limited.  They do have other baby items though so don't be discouraged if you have a boy)

Here is some of my loot from the JBF Sale and garage sales!  Nothing here is brand new.  

Shorts, skirts and pants are in the drawer, along with a few onesies that I didn't have enough hangers for!

Groupon and Living Social can help you to still have fun and enjoy restaurants and services you like at a discounted price.  Most of the time I'm not interested in their offer of the day but when I find one I like it's super exciting!  For example, I just purchased a pedicure and manicure for only $25.00!  Now typically I would do my own to save money but with my growing belly getting in the way of touching my toes a monthly summer pedicure is a must.  I typically pay $50.00 for just my pedicure so to get both services for $25.00 is awesome!  Again, make sure to only buy deals that you a.) will actually use and b.) would have bought anyways.  Otherwise your just spending more money because it's on sale.

Stock Up/ Buying On Sale
Walk into my laundry room/storage area (in a small apartment you have mix use rooms, for example I store my dutch oven, bread maker and food processor in the closet of my guest bathroom) and you may find a mass of kleenex, toilet paper, paper towels, etc.  This is because I have changed my ways from buying something when I need it to buying it only when it's on sale.  This way I am guaranteed to get the best price.  For these household items that I use all the time I browse the local Target, Walmart and grocery store ads to see who is offering the best deal and then purchase what they have.  I have also been keeping track of what I've been paying for these so to make sure that I only buy when it's the best discount available.  Sometimes I walk away with 12+ rolls of paper towel, 24+ rolls of toilet paper... and it starts to add up at the check-out.  I then remind myself that I'm set for the next few months so to spend a little more now will be better in the future.

Mountain Dew anyone?  Obviously it was on sale for 4 12 packs for $

Eating Out vs. Eating In
Most people know that cooking your meals at home saves you money.  This is one I already knew! :)  The one thing I wasn't so good at was saving left overs and so in return wasted a lot of food.  In an essence this is a planning problem.  I make dinner every night except Fridays (that's Luke's night, which typically means ordering a pizza).  Luke doesn't eat left overs so I make an entirely new meal every single night.  Sometimes these recipes would feed an entire family of 4 and instead of thinking ahead I would simply throw the remainder in the garbage (another cringe moment, I know).  Now, when planning my weekly menu I PLAN for left overs!  I love left overs and since I eat lunch at work every day I now either save it in the fridge to eat within a few days or if there are tons of left overs I package them up in individual serving sizes, mark the date and what it is on the container and throw it in the freezer.  Not only does this save me money by not wasting but then I don't have to run out and buy a $7.00+ lunch every day!

The Library
I love reading and books in general and always just purchased my books from a store but then my friend reminded me of the library!  I don't think I've had a library card since middle school so I felt like a complete novice when I went in to get one.  Now when one of my book holds comes in I get super excited!  Not only do I get to read this amazing book but it's free!  Plus, I never let myself read because I feel as though I should be doing something else but if I can only keep the book for 14 days I am more apt to allow myself to read so that I can finish the book!

Here is my current library read, thanks to my friend Lindsay for recommending.

I hope by candidly sharing some of my new found enlightenments that you may be inspired to go out a save a dollar.  I'm still learning so any ideas that you have for me send them my way!

**Side note.  The morning after writing this post I attended a Matilda Jane trunk show at a friends house and relapsed.  A few cute dresses and pants for baby girl later and I'm forced to admit that my frugality is obviously a work in progress!**

Monday, April 2, 2012

Casserole Exchange

My sister-in-law came up with a great idea to have a casserole exchange between her, myself and my mother-in-law.  On Friday at work we all came to the table (well actually the car as we were driving to lunch) with a few recipes each to vote on.  My mother-in-law had two recipes that included sauerkraut (I voted those out immediately!) so for her we settled on Taco Pie.  My sister-in-law really wanted to make Barbecue Chicken Mac N' Cheese but my mother-in-law told her she had to offer up more than just one recipe so she listed off a few others and in the end we all settled on... Barbecue Chicken Mac N' Cheese (sounds delicious doesn't it!)  I had originally wanted to make Chicken Pot Pie but just in case printed off a few last minute recipes from Pinterest... my new favorite thing!  In the end they voted on Cheesy Chicken Lasagna.  Found originally on Pinterest.  I have made it before and really liked it and so felt confident making it for others.

Now that the dishes were chosen we had to decide how much we were going to make.  My sister-in-law and myself wanted to use disposable pans so as not to worry about getting them back later.  We settled on using the 9x11disposable pans.  We would each make 1 per person so 3 total in order to keep one for ourselves.  The exchange was set for Monday at work giving us the weekend to purchase groceries and make our meals.

I made my Cheesy Chicken Lasagna Sunday afternoon while Max was napping.  Then I wrapped them up, wrote what they are, the cooking temp and time and when they were made.  I believe my mother-in-law was going to eat all of hers the week of the exchange but since Luke is out of town and it's only me and Max at home I knew I was going to have to freeze some for later when he's around.

This was great because I only had to make 1 recipe but will end up with 3 different meals!  Tonight I'm going to have my mother-in-laws Taco Pie.  I'm thinking this will be good to do again before baby #2 comes.  If anyone else is interested in an exchange let me know... I'm in!