About Me

My photo
I have two kids - a girl and a boy - and live in north-central Minnesota, land of snow and ice. Well, for 9 months of the year, that is. I work full-time for a local government, and on my "free time" I enjoy cooking, baking, hanging out with my kiddos, and RELAXING.

Friday, July 31, 2009

July Budget: A Summary

So I had eighteen thousand (or, okay, a couple) verbal comments about the budget I shared with you here. My friends and family have found something new about which they can tease me mercilessly.

But you know, if it wasn't about my accounting geek-ness, it would just be about something else.

That's the way my life goes.

But this post is not about my sad, pathetic state. It is about my budget. So, moving forward.

Way, way back a long time ago at the end of June I shared with you how I would like to trim some of the expense out of our budget and explained how I was hoping to do so. I also said I would let you know how it went at the end of July.

Well, guess what? It's the end of July; the results are in. And I know you're sitting on the edge of your seat to see whether or not I made my goal.

Or maybe you're just sitting on the edge of your seat because you're afraid if you get too comfortable in that chair you'll fall asleep reading this boring post about numbers. What can I say? This extreme exhibition of Type-A personality is not for everyone. If at any time you feel as though you are in danger of falling asleep in your chair and banging your head on the keyboard, STOP. Thank you.

Now, for those of you who are REALLY interested (and not just so you can make fun of me) here's how it all breaks down:

Groceries Goal: $250
Spent: I'm embarrassed to say this...$408
Do not even ask me how this happened. I don't know, but for some strange reason am inclined to blame it on my husband. And also, SlimFast products. And the Fourth of July. And camping trips. And the Co-op. Okay, there was a lot going on this month.

Please, no jokes about my grocery bill.

Dining Out Goal: $40
Spent: $24

Other Food Goal: $0
Spent: $0

Home Supplies Goal: $70
Spent: $125
Yes, I know, bad Alaina. But I was buying up some stuff for when we move down to the cities, because we don't own any Ziploc bags or Glad Force Flex of our own.

Video Rentals/Purchases Goal: $15
Spent $10

Gifts Goal: $100
Spent: $92

Toiletries Goal: $40
Spent: $20

Fun Goal: $250
Spent: $130

So, all of that to say, I overspent my "goals" by $44, which isn't bad considering how many groceries I bought this month. And, the best part of all...

We saved 54% of our income this month. Now, before I gave you an average monthly savings, so some months were much better than 17% and some months were obviously worse, like the month we went to Grand Cayman. But, as an average, we saved 17%. For us, saving 54% is huge. So overall it was a good month.

Even if I did spend $400 on groceries.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

An Evening in the Kitchen

I was in the kitchen all night last night.

No, you don't understand. Literally, ALL NIGHT.

I got home at 5:00 and went to bed at 10:00 and I stood in that darn kitchen for all those hours. Well, except the 20 minutes I sat down and scarfed down my peas and potatoes.

I shredded 15 cups of zucchini, I washed 5 piles of dirty dishes, I cooked a dinner of peas and potatoes, I made 3 dozen cookies, I washed grapes, I washed blueberries, I washed strawberries, and I made 10 jars of raspberry jam.

What a night.

alternative text

Here I am with the HUGE zucchini from the garden. This bad boy gave me six shredded cups. Man, I love zucchini. I've found several new recipes I'm very excited to try.

Darren had picked raspberries and since we're going camping this weekend and have softball tonight I wanted to get them all done up so they wouldn't go bad by the time we got around to them next week. He just ran up to the grocery store quick and bought some sure-gel and cans and went to work.

alternative text

alternative text

We got nearly 10 cups out of the berries.

alternative text

Mmmm...I love jam.

alternative text

Then, I made Snickerdoodles.

Only they aren't the Snickerdoodles you're thinking of.

They're better.

alternative text

So tasty. Go here for the recipe. The are delish.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

the final wednesday weight loss

Yes, the final one.

I'm just not feeling Wednesday weight loss anymore. It depresses me to see such little progress (almost) every week. Plus it became more of something I did because I said I would, and less of something I enjoyed blogging about.

Don't get me wrong, there will still be posts about me trying to lose weight. (I am me, after all.) But they won't be weekly. I am still someday going to reach my goal and when that day comes I will definitely share it with you. So don't feel too sad. Or maybe you're happy you never have to listen to me talk about my weight anymore.

Yeah, this will be nice for you then.

Oh, I supposed I should state my progress since last week. It wasn't pretty. That's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oh yum!

Last night I made the most delicious dinner in the history of the world. I wish I had taken pictures of it for you...but as it is, you will just have to image it. WARNING: Do not read this recipe if you don't like black beans. There is no way you will ever appreciate it.

Note: This picture is from eatbetteramerica.com. My foldover did not look so attractive, but my oh my was it ever yummy.

I got the original recipe for Santa Fe Foldover from Eat Better America, but I made a couple changes, including ditching everything that said "low-fat," "no salt added," and "healthy."


Pan-fry 1-2 cut-up chicken breasts with seasoning (whatever you prefer; I used Famous Dave's spicy chicken, or some such thing) until ALMOST done. You will be cooking them more in the oven and we don't want them to get dried out! And might I add I figured out this whole chicken ordeal by myself. The recipe does not call for chicken, but I thought it would jazz it up a bit. Plus, my carnivorous husband would complain if I served him a meal of beans, lettuce, and cheese.

Mix until a soft dough:
1 cup Bisquick
2 tbs cornmeal (NOT cornstarch, as I accidentally did...turned out okay though)
1/4 cup very hot water

Knead a couple times and roll in Bisquick to coat. Roll out to a 10" circle and place on greased pizza pan. (I used a Pampered Chef stone and didn't grease it--it was fine.)

1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 salsa

Spread on dough to within 2" of edges. Sprinkle with onions (the recipe says 2 tbs, I just grabbed a bunch). Put chicken on top of onions. Fold edges up and crimp together (the bean/salsa mix will still be somewhat exposed). Sprinkle with shredded Colby-Jack (recipe says 1/4 cup, I used more).

Bake 25 to 28 minutes on lowest oven rack at 375°F.

Top with lettuce, tomatoes (ick!), and sour cream. Serves 3. (Although the two of us ate the whole thing last night.) I will definitely be making this again!

Monday, July 27, 2009

She Coulda Been My Twin

People used to say we looked like twins.

alternative text

I guess I can see that.

My sister Alexis and I are only 19 months apart in age. (My brother and sister are only 15 months; yes, my mother was a brave soul.)

We did everything together growing up. We were completely and totally addicted to Barbies. We made up songs and dances and had our mother videotape them. We learned how to Rollerblade down my grandparents driveway. We created games to play on our trampoline. But as much as we looked and acted alike, we definitely did not appreciate being dressed like twins. Something our poor mother never understood, even from the get-go.

alternative text

My sister is one month old in this picture. We already have matching outfits on.

alternative text

The next Christmas...

alternative text

And the Christmas after that. Lest you start to think we only were dressed alike at Christmas, take a gander at this...

alternative text

Okay, so the hats are kind of cute. And I did always love ruffles on my socks.

alternative text

I'm not sure why Lex looks so scared in this picture. Maybe it's the fear she will forever be relegated my hand-me-downs, thus essentially owning two of every single outfit in her closet.

She had good reason to be afraid.

alternative text

I went to a wedding this weekend and saw the children of a woman I went to school with. She has two adorable little girls and they were dressed in matching outfits. I thought "how cute!" and then the next day I found these pictures. Oh, the irony of life.

alternative text

This was taken during our "dance class." Don't ask me about the crimped hair. What do you expect for 1993?

At our cousin's wedding last March. No, we didn't plan this.

alternative text

My sister and me on my wedding day. In non-matching outfits.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blog Changes

As you can see, I've made a couple changes with my blog. I was getting tired of the colors so I found a new header and changed a lot of the text colors. I also discovered how to make pictures appear larger (yay!) and will be experimenting with sizes for a few days. Finally, I changed the title of my blog. I started this blog shortly after my 21st birthday, hence the title "twentyoneyears," but I feel now that the title doesn't really sum up my intent in blogging, so I changed it. I hopefully will be able to figure out how to change some of my fonts as well. I don't know about you, but I get tired of Arial.

Hope you enjoy the new look!

Friday, July 24, 2009

I Get Excited About The Strangest Things

My mom gave me some old containers she no longer had any use for. And you know what? It was the high point of my week.

Oh, wait. I forgot about the Christmas ornaments.

It was the second-highest point of my week. What can I say, I love to organize.

Some day I would love to have a huge pantry with matching canister after matching canister of powdered, brown, cane, and granulated sugar; wheat, white, bread, self-rising, and pastry flour; wild and white rice; kosher and regular salt; baking soda and powder; olive and canola oil...you get the picture.

Temporary digression: You know, I'm not sure if I like to cook because I love to eat, or if I just like to cook. Sometimes I have a strange desire to cook dishes I know I won't enjoy. What's with that?

Moving on.

I was so excited I washed those bad boys up right away and began filling them with all my staples.

alternative text

Bread flour, sugar, brown sugar, and flour. These containers are nice and big. I was always filling my old ones up after every other use. It will be nice that these will last for a good long while. Please ignore the clumps in my brown sugar. It's fresh, I swear!

alternative text

See how big it is? Almost the size of my wonderful Kitchen Aid mixer.

I think some day I should write a post about my Kitchen Aid mixer.

alternative text

These are the minuscule canisters my flour and sugar used to be in. I should have taken a picture by my new ones so you could see it better. But if you can imagine, the big metal canister is about the same height (but has a smaller diameter) as the little plastic canisters. I shouldn't complain about the metal canisters; I did register for them as a wedding gift, after all, and someone oh-so-graciously purchased them for us. I do love them. I do. Especially now that I don't have to keep flour and sugar in them.

alternative text

In these old ones I have white rice, wild rice, powdered sugar, and coffee grounds.

Someday I will have large matching canisters. They will be a beautiful assortment of cooking staples. And I will love them dearly.

Friday = Free

Here are some good freebies for you to enjoy!

Free Mars Chocolate bar (up to $0.85)--HERE

Free Quaker Dark Chocolate Rasberry Almond True Delights--HERE

Free Signature Collection Travel-Size Item with any purchase from Bath & Body Works--HERE

Thursday, July 23, 2009

garage sale goodies

My grandma had a garage sale today. I stopped by first thing this morning so I could get all the "good stuff." And boy oh boy, did I ever get some fun things.

I got a lot of Christmas ornaments, which is perfect because we didn't have any. We have twinkle lights left over from the wedding, but no ornaments. I love big colorful ornaments, don't you?

Christmas is my favorite holiday. I love the lights and the colors. And everyone is always so happy and cheerful.

I especially like this blue tree...

But not as much as I love this red pine cone...

And definitely not as much as I love this cute little boot.

And I love this big blue ball even more than I love the tree, the pine cone, and the boot. How could you not love this?! It's the size of a cantaloupe, I swear to you. I have no idea what I'll do with it, but I couldn't resist.

What cute votive candle holders! How festive are they?!

These are some lovely golden bows.

Check out these funky ornaments. I love the odd ones. 'The crazier, the better' is my motto.

This one reminds me of a candy cane. I always love the idea of candy canes during Christmas, but when it comes right down to actually eating one, I can't do it. I eat the top curve off and I've had enough peppermint for the whole month of December.

This one reminds me of the Taj Mahal. Don't ask me why.

I get kind of an Orient vibe from this one too. But hey, that's okay. Can you believe I got all this Christmas stuff for $1.95? I love garage sales.

As far as non-Christmas items go, I got some smaller Tupperware containers. Very convenient because I was just talking to my mom this morning about how I wanted some smaller ones.

The world is ironic like that.

I also got another set of measuring cups, of which I neglected to take a picture.

Does that sentence sound weird? I did have "which I neglected to take a picture of" but I'm pretty sure you aren't supposed to end a sentence with the word "of." It's very important to me that I be grammatically correct in all things.

Ah haha...at least I amuse myself.

I got a small vase for $0.25...

...because I only have this vase.

We got it for a wedding present. It's a beast.

Do you know how many flowers I would need to have to fill it?

Way more than my husband will buy me.

Although there was that one time he bought me two dozen roses...but that was before we were married. Those kinds of things don't happen 'round these parts any more.

I got some fun jewelry. I never wear yellow gold, but I thought I could probably start for the low price of $0.25. Although I'm sure it's not real gold.

I love this blue stone.

And this cute little row of diamonds.

And I LOVE this brooch. I have a black, white, and gray scarf that is perfect for it.

Oh, do I ever wish for a new camera lens so my close-ups would be in focus. You will just have to put up with slightly out-of-focus pictures until that blessed day arrives.


We don't have any plates. Well we do, but they aren't ours. They were in the house when we moved in, and now that we're moving in five weeks we need to buy our own. I got 12 of these plates for $5.00. I did originally plan on getting Corelle, but my husband says they're too "flimsy." He wants big, sturdy, manly plates. Well, these plates are sturdy, at least.

And 15 cups and saucers for $5.00. Great bargain, although I'm sure Darren won't be crazy about the flower pattern.

He can learn to live with it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

wednesday weight loss

Right where I was last week. Bleh.

But, on a new and exciting note, I got ChaLEAN Extreme! Way excited to try it. Must get heavier weights first.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

finding the silver lining

I'm excited to move to the cities.

I am.

But I know I'm going to miss the big house we've been living in. With two bathrooms. And lots of storage. And many kitchen cabinets. And a washer/dryer. And a dishwasher, for Pete's sake.

The house we hardly had to pay any rent to live in. Or utilities. Or heat. Or garbage.

Do heat and garbage count as utilities?

And I'm going to miss the openness of home. The wind in the trees, the back dirt roads, the "middle-of-nowhere" feeling, the call of the loon on the lake...

Okay, okay. I'm moving on.

The hubby and I looked at many many apartments. The nice ones were expensive and the ghetto ones were cheap. Hubby wanted nice; I wanted cheap. It didn't go well.

As it turns our we'll be renting from my aunt and uncle in the cities. They have a decent-sized house and we'll have the whole upstairs with our own kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, living room, etc. We'll also have a separate entrance. And the price is right, if you catch my meaning. The only real bummer: it's minuscule.

So today, instead of pining over all I will miss, I thought of things I will appreciate about renting the upstairs of someone's home in the twin cities.

1. It will be a snap to clean. I'm talking 40 minutes, max, to dust, vacuum, sweep, wipe counters, and clean the bathroom. It's that small.

2. There's no rust in the water. I'll be able to wash whites there, instead of hauling them to my mother's house like I do now. You think it's a pain to go to the basement to do a load of laundry? Try five miles away.

3. I'll be close to Cub Foods. No more local grocery store! Not that I'm against local businesses, just that Cub is so much cheaper. And has a much wider selection.

4. I'll be close to Target. This requires no explanation.

5. No one will try and murder me alone in my home when Darren's gone for drill. I won't be alone.

6. There is no mud.

7. Consequently, no need for weekly car washes.

8. The weather is nicer, longer. Yes, 170 miles does make that much of a difference.

9. Because there are hardly any kitchen counters, there is hardly any room for clutter. I hate clutter. May it forever be relegated to the closet and out of my sight.

10. My husband will have to sort, organize, and purge some of his clutter in the move.

11. We will have a walk-in closet, as apposed to the closet we have now with accordion doors that always get stuck on the carpet.

12. My aunt and uncle will probably take us out to eat about once a month. They're like that.

13. My sister and my sister-in-law are both attending school down in the cities, so we'll see them more often.

14. The nearest Snap Fitness is 7 minutes away. Here, it is 30.

15. We will live closer to our friends and hopefully will see them more often.

16. Como Zoo.

17. Trips to the airport will be 20 minutes instead of three hours.

18. There are RedBoxes in the cities.

19. My cell phone will work indoors.

See? I can find the silver lining in anything.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Gotta Love the Co-op

I live about 15 minutes away from a Co-op. I finally went for the first time last weekend with one of my friends.

It was amazing.

The Co-op smells delicious and has lots of yummy treats. And it's CHEAP.

I got all these goodies for $34.93 last weekend.

I got 12.5oz of Parmesan cheese for $4.20. I love Parmesan on chicken fettuccine alfredo, which I made last night.

Twelve ounces of cheese sticks (which hubby likes in his lunch) were $1.76.

I got a pound (16oz) of almonds ($3.90; Planters are $6-something for 12 oz), pecans ($3.95), sunflower seeds ($1.40), and cocktail peanuts ($1.45). The pecans and cocktail peanuts are for baking. Darren takes almonds in his lunch and we have sunflower seeds on our salads.

I got these cinnamon sticks for $0.16 (1 oz) and the lemon peel for $0.75 (1.5 oz). The pickling spice was $1.06 for 3 oz. That black stuff is wild rice. It was my most expensive purchase at $5.50 for 1 pound. I have no idea how much it is elsewhere.

I also got two pounds of bread flour for $0.55. I made some foccacia bread. Someday when I have a tripod and a different camera lens I will show you how I create such deliciousness.

I got some organic lime juice (because I don't have limes on hand very often) for $2.19 for 12.5 oz.

"Put the lime in the coconut and drink 'em both up..."