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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wants vs. Needs

I hate my fridge.  It's like pretty much the worst fridge ever.
It looks like an old Soviet-style apartment
It was also free.  And it works.  But I don't love it, and I wish it would magically disappear because then it would give me an excuse to get a new one.

That's the rub, isn't it?  We always want something better, shinier, or new, even when we may not necessarily need it.

In my mind, if I had a new fridge, meal prep would be easier.  Right now, it's a horrible game of Tetris to get anything in this dumb appliance.  Things get lost so easily, and nothing fits properly.
The fridge I lust after is a French door stainless steel Kenmore beauty from Sears.  It is energy efficient, has tons of space for keeping produce fresh, and I don't have to take 429 things out first in order to get to the applesauce.

It also costs $1,600. 

So that's that.  The old fridge stays.  And I make it work.  And I curse at it daily, and plan for it's demise.  We all have to make big choices in life, and spending $1,600 on Jack's tonsil surgery wins out over a new fridge any day.

Delaying the purchase of something you merely want, allows you to:
1) bulk up your emergency fund.  I've tried to convince myself that a new fridge is an emergency.  Sadly, it's not.
2) Stay out of consumer debt
3) Save for a house
4) Pay medical bills (grrrrr)
5) Pay down debt
6) Throw extra payments at your car or mortgage debt

I'm not dropping any bombs here - everyone knows that replacing something that works with something better isn't the smartest financial decision you could make.

However, the actual intent of my post isn't a financial lecture.  I wanted to give YOU a chance to confess your own improbable, impractical, and ridiculous monetary desires.  Let's get crazy!  Flame free confession time!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Costco shopping list

A few weeks ago, multiple readers emailed me asking for a list of items that I buy at Costco.  One of them was contemplating whether or not the membership cost was worth it, and asked if I would share how we save money there.  It's taken me a bit to write it all up, so dear readers, forgive the delay.

Cost of membership: Costco offers different levels of membership that range from $55-$110 per year.  With the memberships, you get two cards.  I know many families that each split a membership and have one card per household.  It definitely reduces the yearly cost, while still allowing you access to the store.

We have the Executive membership which is $110 per year.  It is similar to the $55 membership, but we get a 2% rebate back each year that actually pays the difference in the cost of the membership.  If you were to plan on big purchases like appliances, etc., you'll receive a sizable rebate.

Here are some of the items we purchase at Costco.  Many of the prices are ranges because I'm not 100% sure on the exact amount.  Keep in mind, many of these prices may not be the same around the country:
  • Organic apples.  Price varies depending on type of apple, but it's typically about $7 for what I think are about 5 pounds
  • Organic whole carrots (I can't stand baby carrots) - 10 pounds for $6.50
  • Organic baby spinach, 1 pound (it's a huge tub) for $3.99
  • Brussels Sprouts, 2 pounds for $4
  • Kiwi, 4 pounds for $6ish
  • Pineapple, non-organic for $2.79
  • Avocado, 5 pack from $3-5 depending on the time of year
  • Tillamook Cheddar, 5 pounds for $14.99.  Tillamook was named the "World's Best Medium Cheddar" in 2010, and it is a Pacific Northwest producer.
  • Smoked paprika, $3-4
  • Organic evaporated cane juice (it's the sugar we use), 10 lbs for $11.49
  • Organic Better Than Bouillon, 16 oz for $7ish.  I make my own stock, but these are great to have on hand if you just need a tiny bit for a recipe.
  • Rosemary crackers.  We're obsessed with these, and they're from a local company no less!  1 big box for $7.29.
  • Environmentally friendly dish soap.  I have no idea the cost of this, but it's a big jug for a very reasonable price.
  • Cascade dish tabs.  I tried and tried and tried environmentally friendly stuff in our dishwasher, but it just isn't working.  It worked well in our last rental, but not in our new place.  90 tabs for $13
  • Toilet paper - Charmin, a giant package for $20, and every 2 months they have a $2 off coupon in their coupon books
  • Mozzarella, 2 pound loaf for $5-6 ish
  • Dried dates, 2 pounds for $8ish.  I use dates in homemade Lara Bars
  • Adams Natural Peanut butter, 5 pounds for...$9 ish???  I still occasionally make my own peanut and almond butter, but Troy dropped a bomb on me that he doesn't like almond butter.  When I'm behind in life, and short on time, I just buy some Adams.  The only two ingredients are peanuts and salt.  You do have to stir it to distribute the oil when you first open it, which is annoying, but a small price to pay.
  • Organic frozen berries - the availability and price vary throughout the year, but we found a berry blend there once that had blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.  10 pounds for $10.
  • Frozen blueberries, non organic - 10 pounds for $13.  They're not organic, but they are from a Pacific Northwest farm.  Jack loves to eat frozen blueberries ("cold blues") for dessert.  I give them to him in the tub.  It makes for a speedy clean up
  • Organic eggs.  I prefer to purchase them from our local farm, but the chickens have been on strike or something lately because they never have eggs.  I've had to purchase them from Costco for the last few weeks, and man oh man, they're just not the same.  2 dozen for $6.
  • Organic butter.  I haven't purchased it from there in awhile, as I've been buying from Azure Standard lately, but I believe Costco's organic butter is $7.29 for two pounds.
  • Snap Ware Glass Lock containers, which to date are the only glass containers I've found that don't leak if liquids are placed in them.  I can throw these in my work bag, and they go from the fridge to the microwave.  Costco sells a whole big kit of them in various sizes for $30.  Every so often, they have $6 off coupons in their monthly coupon packets.
  • Light bulbs.  Last month, they had LED lights for $4.99 ($14.99, with a $10 off instant rebate), but they have a wide array of LED and CFL bulbs.
  • Stretch Island Fruit Leathers.  I've made these before, but sometimes it's nice to have a ready to go snack.  The only ingredients are fruit purees and fruit juices.  And they're a Washington State company!
  • Stamps.  I'm not sure how they can do this, but you can buy stamps for less than the cost of getting them at the post office.  It's not a huge price difference, and you do have to buy them in a 100 pack.
  • Photos.  Their processing prices and times are reasonable.  They also print holiday cards and invites for something crazy like $14 for 50 cards and envelopes.
  • Nuts.  The prices of these definitely vary throughout the season, but they have great prices on pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and peanuts.
  • Organic meat.  I know they carry it, but I don't know the prices.  We purchase our meat at a local butcher, but we used to get the organic ground beef from Costco and I think it was about $3 per pound.
  • Organic chicken broth.  I no longer purchase it, so I don't know the price, but it was quite reasonable when we used to buy it by the box.
  • Frozen wild caught fish.  I don't know the prices, but they are affordable compared to other stores.  We buy their frozen salmon and cod.
  • 32 oz, Grade B pure Maple Syrup for $11-13
I know they also have organic frozen veggies like corn and peas, but it isn't something we purchase.  Friends who have used disposable diapers and formula, report that the deals at Costco are great.  They also carry organic brown rice and quinoa, and really delicious rice crackers.  Naked Juice and Odwalla are also sold there, but it's not something we purchase.  We used to buy their organic carrot juice to give to Jack, because he is so anti-vegetable, but I didn't like him drinking so much juice all the time.  Now I just put spinach or kale in his smoothies.

Last time I was at Costco, I saw they also carry coconut oil (finally)!  I think it was a half gallon of Nutiva, for around $22.

How about you, what do you buy at Costco?
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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I need your opinion. Hypothetically.

So, let's pretend a few things for a second.  Ready?  Close your eyes.

Errr, open them.  You probably can't read this post with closed eyes.

Duh.

Ok, so narrow your eyes a bit, and let's play make believe.  Hypothetically speaking, there might be this girl named Sarah.  And she might write a blog.  And she might like chocolate.  And water kefir soda.  And pedicures.

Now, let's say she might be contemplating going off the deep end and thinking about entertaining the idea of possibly working her ass off and potentially writing a cookbook at some point in the future.

Again, we're pretending here.  If that above were true, would you maybe think about buying said make believe cookbook?

:runs to hide behind the couch because I can't believe I just said that:

Updated 1-29 @ 8:45 pm: thank you all so much for your input, ideas, honesty, and encouragement!  I have absolutely no idea how to make this happen, but I'm certainly going to try my best.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Homemade Mondays week 13

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts
Aubrey of Homegrown & Healthy 
How to
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
My favorite post from last week was Punkwife's Coconut Body Scrub.  I'm not very girly, but there was enough estrogen in my body that got excited about the idea of homemade body scrub!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Meal plan for January 28th - February 3rd

Good morning!  It's a very good morning for me.  I have cute toes.  My sister-in-law (hereon known as Amy the Great) wanted to hang out with Jack for a few hours yesterday.  I went and got a pedicure, filled my trunk with $145 worth of chicken (more on that later), and then cleaned the house from top to bottom.  Carpets, mopping, bathrooms, dusting, etc.!  I also got to vacuum out the car, which contained approximately 4,691 pieces of maple leaves.  Jack had 2 leaves in the backseat to look at, and ended up crushing them over the course of a few days.  Lovely.

Did I tell you guys that our church is broke, so I offered to make bread for communion?  I make two loaves, twice a month, and use the dutch oven bread recipe.  I'm planning to add "maker of the host" to my resume.  Can you picture me in a group job interview?

Interviewer: Hi Michelle, I see on your resume, that you volunteer at an animal shelter.
Michelle: Yes!  It's very rewarding.
Interviewer: And Sarah, I don't see any volunteer work on your resume.
Me: Um, I make Christ's body.  It's kinda a big deal
Interviewer: Michelle, you suck.  Sarah, you're hired!

I'm sure that is accurate.

Jack is in week 3 of his swim lessons.  The first two days, he spent the entire 30 minute classes screaming his little head off.  It was so unsettling, and everyone looked at us like we were torturing him.  This was lesson three.  I'm so proud!  Sorry about the sideways video.
Saturday night, Jack wanted to play a game called "hide the friends".  He has about 490 stuffed animals that he sleeps with every night.  He calls them his friends.  He wanted me to hide them around his room, and then he would find them.  He kept telling me I was hiding them "too easy mommy", so I hid a few in a place that took him 10 minutes to discover.

The ceiling fan.  Genius right?  Love our popcorn ceilings, don't you?

Remember how I said I spent $145 on chickens?  Check it out.
Eight were for my aunt and uncle, and two were for my sis, but I'm pretty sure there are 14 in there that are mine.

A localish market sells free range whole chickens BOGO twice a year.  They had that sale going on this week.  It brings the price down to about $6 per chicken, which is awesome!!!  Whole chickens give you so many options for meals, and having them in my freezer feels like a bunch of little insurance policies.


Shall we discuss meals plans?  Here is our meal plan for the week.  Reminder, I only plan dinners, because breakfast is always smoothies or eggs with something, and lunches are always leftovers.  We rarely eat dessert during the week, and our dinner drink of choice is water kefir soda.

Monday:: I could lie and say that we were going to eat big salads, or tofu, or something else, but we're not.  I'm making nachos because I really really want to.  Juanitas chips topped with a little Tillamook cheddar, homemade guac, black beans, etc.  I'll pair it with a salad, but my heart really belongs to the nachos.

Tuesday::  Reubens, Brussels Sprouts, and fruit.

Wednesday:: This fish, salad, and fruit.

Thursday:: Troy is making his delicious burgers!  We'll serve them with edamame, and fruit.

Friday:: Popcorn dinner.  Yes, seriously we eat popcorn for dinner.  It's popcorn, leftovers, cheese slices, fruit, and cut up veggies.  Everyone gets as much as they want, and no one leaves hungry.  I adore Fridays because it is the easiest night of the week for making everyone happy!

Saturday:: French onion soup in the crockpot, salad, and dutch oven bread.

Sunday:: Dinner at my parent's.

I spent $145 on chicken, but at least $50ish of that belongs to others.  I spent $39.92 on other groceries for the week.

What are you guys having?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Start spreading the news

I feel legit ya'll.  Check out my posts on a straight up real website, American Profile.

The Well-Stocked Home Series: Buying the Bulk (how to afford to eat like we eat)

and

The Well-Stocked Home Series: The Freezer

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Whole house smell good

Cooking certain foods can make your house reek.  Cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bacon, and fish all make my house odoriferous.  The cabbage and Brussels sprouts let off an odor when being cooked, and also about six hours after being consumed...

This is a tip that is a cinch to implement, and has cleared out any smell that I've wanted to banish from my home.

Whole House Smell Good
2 cups of water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1-3 star anise (if you have them.  They're absolutely not necessary though)

Put everything in a pot and and simmer on the back of the stove until you can't smell whatever you're trying to get rid of.

If the scent isn't within wafting distance of your kitchen, you can put this all in the crockpot on low in your room of choice.  If using a crockpot, increase the amount of water.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The perfect roasted chicken

I don't make a lot of claims about doing anything "the best" (except my scrambled eggs).  So when I say this is the perfect, best roast chicken you can make at home, please read that with the conviction in which I wrote it.

What makes this chicken so perfect?  For the following reasons:

A) It's easy
B) It's delicious
C) It doesn't require anything fancy
D) It's a "fix it and forget it" kind of main dish

Shall we get started?  Let's.

Perfect (I swear) Roasted Chicken
1 whole chicken (if you can swing the cost of cage free, fancy chicken, it's worth it)
2 tblsp butter
1 tblsp olive oil
1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt (I know it seems like a lot)
4 cloves of garlic
2 springs fresh rosemary

1) Allow your chicken to sit on the counter for about an hour.  Chicken will roast more evenly if it isn't very cold.  Rinse it, pat it dry with 2 paper towels (one of the two uses I'll purchase paper towels for.  The other reason is because my husband loves them for blowing his nose.  Snot and chicken.  Lovely).  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.

2) In a small dish, soften 2 tblsp of butter, and add the olive oil, parsley, smoked paprika, and kosher salt.

3) Then with your husband snapping pictures and acting like he is taking photos for Playboy, put the cloves in the "cavity" of the chicken.

4) Find the breast part of the chicken.  :Giggle:  Put the breast part down in a baking dish.  Rub the butter and herbed mixture over the non-boobed side of the chicken.  Flip it over, and (don't be squeamish) put some of the mixture between the skin and meat.  Then rub the rest of the butter schmear all over the boob side of the chicken.

5) Tuck the rosemary under the legs (or wings, or wherever you'd like).

6) You have a few choices here.  If you want this roasted all over, start by placing the breast side of the bird down in the baking dish, and bake for 30 minutes.  Then flip.  Or, if you're like me, and are lazy and just care about the top being "crispy", put the bird breast side up, and bake for about 90 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 180 degrees when you check with a meat thermometer.  Nope, there is not basting, no tenting - nothing. And it is going to turn out perfect!

After you're done eating what you've wanted to eat, pick off any extra meat and save it for tomorrow's meal.  Put the rest of it in a big freezer-proof gallon Ziploc, and save it for making stock.


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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Homemade Ramen - aka the perfect meal for when your husband's mangina is infected

So family dinner at my parent's was cancelled on Sunday.  All of the sudden, I had an extra meal to plan.  Troy and I both had an allergy attack or something (I refuse to admit to being sick because I don't allow myself to get sick), and it was a "rode hard, put away wet" kind of situation.  Both of us were hurting.

One of us was barely able to sit on the couch without falling asleep.

One of us had to prepare meals, keep the house running, and wrangle the rug rat.

I'll allow you to make the assumption on who would be whom in this situation.

What we needed was a quick meal that was delicious, nourishing, and easy enough to throw together.  We needed some ramen.  But we didn't need the 2,700 mg of sodium.

Homemade Ramen
-Chicken broth (try homemade)
-2 green onions, diced
-1 tsp sesame oil
-1/2 tsp soy sauce
-Noodles of choice.  I used something called "Somen".
-Cooked meat if desired

1) In a pot, bring your chicken broth to a boil.  Add the soy sauce and sesame oil.  Then the noodles.  Cook for 3 minutes for "al dente" noodles, or 4 minutes for a more thoroughly cooked noodle.

2) Meanwhile, slice your green onions and meat.
3) Pour your soup in a bowl, and top with green onions, and meat (if desired).

Now, I can guarantee this is a 10 minute healthy meal that you'll love and will warm your body and fill your belly.  I cannot guarantee that this will stop your husband from whining and sleeping until 10 am.

This is soup.  It's not a miracle.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Homemade Mondays week 12

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts


Aubrey of Homegrown & Healthy 
How to
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well.
The post that caught my eye last week was Homemade Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate by Little Farm in the Big City.  Holy cow, how envious am I of someone who has a lemon tree and strawberries that ripen in March.  We get them around here starting in June!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Meal plan for January 21st - 27th

Can we talk about Friday for a minute please?

At my work, I have to plan my days off a year at a time.  Yeah I know, ridic., but it is what it is.  So back in June, I planned to have Friday off.  My aunt and uncle hadn't had Jack all that much lately because of a cold, and Troy keeping him home for "boy day".  So, I asked gently if they would mind still taking him on Friday so that I could have some "me time".

I wish I could bottle it up for you guys and share it with you.  Everyone needs what I had on Friday.

My first stop was to tour a new preschool with my mother-in-law.  She was an elementary educator for 32 years, and I thought she might want to check it out.

I had to pull her out of there because she was on the floor so involved with an activities the kiddos were doing.

Needless to say, it was a hit.  Jack will be starting in April.  I like his current preschool well enough, but I feel like he's reached the end of what they can offer.  The new preschool is four days a week (old one is two), and he'll be there for 2.5 hours a day.  Time to rework my budget!

It's a Montessori school, and I was blown away with the organization of the place (more on that later), which I know is one of the tenants of Montessori.  But also, the kids were so well-behaved.  I kept checking for a small pipe that was blowing out "happy and calm" juice.  I don't see Jack fitting in there for a few weeks, but dammit I hope they can work their magic on my little insane child.

Ok, so after preschool, I hit up Target, the mall to return some stuff at Macy's, and snagged a $60 sweater for $8.  You like?  It's like a wool silk blend or something fancy pants like that.
I'm drawn to orange because someone once told me I looked tan in orange.  As you can see, I am magically transformed in to a Hawaiian Tropic model.
I then took my wedding ring/engagement ring combo to the jewelry store because I've had a feeling for a year or so that it was too tight.  Um, yes.  It was 5 3/4 and according to their little ring size thingy, I'm now a 6 1/2.  On my honor, I've gained maybe 2 pounds since we were married 8.5 years ago, but I'm fairly certain it's all in my knuckles or something.

Ok, here is the best part.  I went to a really cute little bistro that makes a ton of their food with locally sourced ingredients.  I had a dilled chicken salad sandwich (holy crap, it was like heaven on bread, and my goal this weekend to to recreate it), sea salt and vinegar chips, a locally made root beer, and a (wait for it) white chocolate raspberry croissant.  I sat alone at a table, reading a book on my Kindle (second hand Kindle courtesy of my friend Elaina who upsized).  BY MYSELF.

And for as long as I wanted.  It was heaven, and I felt like weeping.

Then off to Goodwill where I picked up a lovely thread holder for $3.

It was bliss.  I want to make it a bi-yearly event.  The Day of Sarah.
 
Saturday, Troy was working, so Jack and I were on chilling a bit.  We mowed and weed-eated the lawn.  Well, I mowed while Jack sat on the porch playing with superheros.

We went inside, and some bug got up my ass and I had to clean out our master closet RIGHT NOW.   AS IN RIGHT THIS SECOND.  Should I have taken a photo of the before?  Yes, I should have.  Did I?  No, because I was so frenzied that I couldn't stop, or I WOULD DIE.

Jack helped by sitting on my bed pelting me with socks.  He called it Sock Darts, and while it was pretty annoying, it also kept him occupied for two hours, which is kind of a miracle.  I wonder if he'd be willing to throw socks at me so that I could nap?

Troy and I have always shared a closet the size of a shoe box, until we moved in to my parent's rental house.  I think we took it for granted we had space, and it turned in to a craphole.

Here is the after (shut up, yes I know I didn't take any befores).

Who wants to iron those pants for me?  Please?






I know, popcorn ceilings are super cool.
I got rid of 5 bags of stuff, and Troy has a huge pile to look through when he gets home.  And I'm putting the word out that if anyone ever buys Troy a coat, vest, or fleece again, I will end them.  He has SO many.  He has more coats than I have shoes.

Want to hear about some food now?  Thought so.  Here is our meal plan for the week.  Reminder, I only plan dinners, because breakfast is always smoothies or eggs with something, and lunches are always leftovers.  We rarely eat dessert during the week, and our dinner drink of choice is water kefir soda.

Monday:: Buffalo chicken (use this recipe, but with the dry ingredients from this one) sandwiches on pretzel rolls.  Salad, and homemade potato chips will be served as well.

Tuesday:: I finagled an invite to the in-laws for dinner.  SCORE!

Wednesday:: Quesadillas, tomato soup (canned from the summer garden), salad, and fruit.

Thursday:: ANOTHER dinner at the in-laws.  Double score!

Friday:: Popcorn dinner.  Yes, seriously we eat popcorn for dinner.  It's popcorn, leftovers, cheese slices, fruit, and cut up veggies.  Everyone gets as much as they want, and no one leaves hungry.  I adore Fridays because it is the easiest night of the week for making everyone happy!

Saturday:: TBA

Sunday:: Family dinner at my parent's.

I spent $43 at the grocery store, but $17 of that was vodka to replenish my homemade vanilla extract stocks.  

What are you having this week?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Smoked Trout dip

If after reading the title, your first inclination was to stick out your tongue and say "mleeeeeh", I'm going to have to ask you to just stick with me on this post.

Please?

My sister confessed to eating this behind a pillow at my parent's house in case she made a face.  But then she went back for more.  And so will you.  Pinky swear.

Smoked Trout Dip
1/4 tsp dried dill
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 tblsp of lemon juice
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
2 small cans of smoked trout (or other smoked fish)
1 green onion, diced

1) Open the can of fish, and drain any oil that is in there.  I got the trout at Trader Joes.

2) In a food processor, add the trout, dill, lemon juice, and cream cheese.  Pulse until combined.


3) Remove the mixture from the food processor, and put in a bowl or lidded container.   Add the Old Bay and green onions, and mix to combine.

Refrigerate for at least one hour to allow the flavors to meld.  Serve with veggies, crackers, or crusty bread.

And a healthy dose of skepticism for those of you who are still saying "meh".
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Introducing our newest sponsor - Blissful Firefly Lane Shaklee

You like how I put "our" in the title?  Troy would say "what, you have a turd in your pocket?  Why are you saying "our""?  Whatevs.

I'd like to introduce you to Wendy, from Blissful Firefly Lane, an independent Shaklee distributor.  I asked her to write up a little ditty about herself and her product.


Hello!  My name is Wendy and I am an Independent Shaklee Distributor.  I currently reside in a small town with my husband of nearly 7 years and our fur children.  We are currently expecting our first baby in a few short months! 

Our road of a failed adoption process and infertility is what originally led me to research Shaklee.  Both my husband and I have infertility issues, so we knew it was going to be a long hard road.  However, we had spent thousands of dollars and 1.5 years of our lives trying to adopt with no success. 


We went through the battery of tests the specialists put us through and I started taking a fertility "cocktail". Those drugs made me so sick!  I was suffering through all the sickness and was only given a 7% chance of getting pregnant.  After spending a lot of money, having three failed IUI's, and a whole lot of days where I was sick...we decided we needed a mental break from everything. 


This is when I found turned to Shaklee and their supplements.  I had already been using the cleaning products and loved them, so I figured I would try the supplements.  I spent 1.5 months strictly taking Vitalizer and Vivix.  I cut out the cocktail the doctors prescribed.  Went in for my 4th IUI and guess what?  Two weeks later we found out we were expecting our Shaklee miracle baby! 


I knew first hand the products worked and I believe they can help others with a variety of things.  I became so passionate about Shaklee that I knew I wanted to pursue the business aspect further.  That leads me to where I am today.  I get the pleasure of working my own business, set my own hours, and help others on a daily business. 


A lot of times people come to me wanting to change their lives, but they are so overwhelmed.  I always tell people the easiest way to start simplifying and creating a healthy lifestyle is through our cleaning products.  After that it is really simple to focus on nutrition, weight, and skin care.


Feel free to contact me anytime with questions.  I love helping people create their own success stories!  Or feel free to visit me at my blog,
Blissful Firefly Lane any time. 

While Wendy's experience may not be typical, it certainly sounds like she is passionate about the products that Shaklee offers!  Stop by Wendy's site and tell her Sarah sent you.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A hot bowl of ASS (Awesome Sarah's Soup)

Years ago, we spent New Years Eve with my in-laws (cause we're crazy party animals like that) at their beach cottage in Ocean Shores, Washington.

The weather was typical Pacific Northwest winter; rainy, cold, grey, and generally just "meh".  I offered to cook dinner, and knowing we were all chilled, I settled on some soup.  It was a boring soup...or so I thought.  My in-laws scarfed down a few bowls, and then proceeded to name it A.S.S., or Awesome Sarah's Soup.  I was so proud. I'm pretty sure it was my first dirty word acronym. 

But not my last.

A.S.S
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
5 stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced (oh come on, you know how much I love garlic!)
8 cups of chicken broth (try your own)
15 oz can of your choice of cooked beans (I use black)
15 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 cups small cheese ravioli
1/4 tsp dried sage
1 tsp smoked paprika
1.5 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1) In a heavy bottomed saucepan (like a dutch oven), drizzle a little olive oil.  Add the onions, celery, and carrots.  Stir to distribute the olive oil.  Put the lid on, and cook down for about 10 minutes, stir, and then cook another 5-10. 

2) Add your garlic.

3) Add your diced tomatoes.  These puppies are from my 2012 garden, but if you're buying them, get the basic 15 oz size.

4) Every few months I make a huge crockpot full of black beans, and freeze them in pint jars.  Technically you should let these defrost before trying to heat them to the point where the beans will come out.  Technically.  Those aren't ice crystals...those are um flavor crystals.

5) Add your chicken stock, and add the dried spices.  Put the lid on, and cook for another 20 minutes.

Up until now, this is a boring veggie soup.  Just wait my friends, just wait.

6) Add 2 cups of dried cheese ravioli. 


Put the lid on, and cook for another 10-15 minutes.  Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and some crusty dutch oven bread.

A hot bowl of ASS to warm you on a cold winter's day.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Homemade Mondays Week 11

Homemade Mondays is a series for people that are on a journey to better living, via healthier eating and a more natural lifestyle.  We realize that there are different paths that we all take to get to that place, and this bloghop celebrates that.  Whether you’re a seasoned raw foodist who has banned all things unnatural, or a rookie who is starting out by cutting out junk food, we’d love to hear from you! Link up with your favorite recipes, projects, crafts, or rants and raves.

The Hosts

Aubrey of Homegrown & Healthy 
How to
Homemade Mondays will open every Monday. You have until Thursday to make your submissions. We will share our favorite posts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and shout it from the rooftops.
  • Link up. Use the submission form below to add your blog posts to our gallery below. You can add as many links as you’d like, as long as they’re on topic. What’s eligible? Recipes, crafts, DIY projects, gardening, fitness, green ideas or just plain old advice. We’re pretty open.
  • Tell us about yourselves. Leave a comment telling us a little about your site and what you’ve shared. Of course this isn’t mandatory, but it’s a good way to stand out.
  • Link back. Share the love by adding a link back to this party with your readers so they can see all of these great ideas as well. 
My favorite post of the week was Scratch Cradle's "Ten Tips for the New Year" about chickens.  Troy and my father-in-law are finally building my coop in the next month or so (currently dubbed "Downton Eggey), and we're finally going to be chicken parents this spring!  I enjoyed the post because it made me so excited to get my girls!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Meal plan for January 14th - 20th

Stock up sales abounded this weekend!

Target is having a sale of things in bulk, and I saved a bundle on Troy's hair product.  Yes, rugged Carhartts wearing Troy uses an expensive product in his hair.  American Crew Fiber is the only thing my golden prince will allow to touch his locks, and that stuff is expensive.  It's regularly $17.99 for a small container.  Target had a two pack of them for $16.99.  I bought two, two packs which will last him for almost 2.5 years.

Speaking of hair, I've started using the tiniest bit (think 1/8th of a Tic Tac) of coconut oil to smooth my hair after blow drying it.  It works awesome, and it's basically a free product since I already use it in my cooking.  I adore finding cheap replacement products using stuff I already own.

Also, I'm not sure if this is just a Washington Costco thing, but our Costco is offering "warm" LED bulbs for $4.99.  They're $14.99 with a $10 instant rebate provided by Puget Sound Energy.  By "warm" I mean they have a similar light as an incandencent.  I know some people don't like CFL bulbs because the light is weird.  These bulbs look totally normal.

They were 60 watt, and 4 per member per visit.  They're reported to last 22 years (assuming 3 hours a day usage) and cost $1.23 a year to operate.  I replaced 3 CFL bulbs in our livingroom with these, and the light is so much brighter, but still very warm and inviting.

I wasn't planning on getting LEDs until our CFL bulbs had burned out (which takes forever), but my aunt and uncle got some at Costco and I saw what a difference they made in their living room.

And still speaking about hair, can I tell you about one of my new loves?  Desert Essence Green Apple and Ginger shampoo.  This stuff is awesome.  I used to use Burts Bees shampoo, but they changed the formula and I couldn't get it to lather without using a ton of the product.  This shampoo on the other hand, lathers with just the tiniest bit, and smells amazing.  I have very fine hair (my stylist calls it Turtle Fur) and this stuff doesn't weigh it down at all.

I will complain about one tiny thing with this product.  Taking the lid off of it (it's a flip top lid) makes the loudest sound ever.  I get up earlier than anyone else in my house, and I swear it probably wakes up people three streets over.

I found it at Fred Meyer for $7.99, and then found it for $6.30 on Azure Standard.  Yippy!

Troy had a few extra days off this week, and Jack and Troy had a few "boy days" at home.  Friday, they headed to Fred Meyer to meet a random dude off of Freecycle to pick up some roofing material for our soon to be started chicken coop (it's happening, it's REALLY happening this year!).  While they were there, they hung out in the toy section for almost an hour, just having fun.

Jack had a little fun, but Troy had a lot of fun.  He sent me some photos while I was at work.

1) "I can't talk now, I'm a little horse".

2) "Brown Chicken, Brown Cow" (if you say it fast, it sounds like "bow chicka bow wow")

He's taken ladies.  Don't even try.

Jack had his first swim lesson on Thursday, and it was, um, interesting.  He didn't cry, but he wouldn't even try to do what the rest of the class was doing.  I hope he'll  improve as we go more often.  Also, I think he'll do better once Troy isn't in the pool with him.  My husband is a well, a coddler.

When Jack and I went to visit my friend Anne in August, we all went swimming.  I told him if he wanted to get in the pool, he'd have to first jump off of the side in to my arms.  He cried for about 4 minutes, and then finally did it.  And then did it for the next two hours non-stop while laughing the whole time.  The next day my arms hurt in places I didn't know arms could hurt.  It was like working out with a 36 pound medicine ball.

So, I'll be in the pool with him on Thursday, and we'll see how it goes...

Anyhoo, here is our meal plan for the week.  Reminder, I only plan dinners, because breakfast is always smoothies or eggs with something, and lunches are always leftovers.  We rarely eat dessert during the week, and our dinner drink of choice is water kefir soda.

Monday:: Biscuit night.  I'll explain.  I make an all whole wheat version of Pioneer Woman's biscuits.  And the night before, I cook up some sausage, and bacon.  The night of, I scramble eggs, and put everything on the counter along with some homemade jam, peanut butter, home canned fruit, Lazy Lady Skillet Potatoes, etc.  You get to put whatever you want on your plate and biscuit, and we call it good.

Tuesday:: Homemade pizza, salad, and home canned fruit.

Wednesday:: Cashew Chicken, rice, wonton soup (homemade and yes, I'll post a recipe soon), and home canned fruit.

Thursday:: Split pea soup in the crockpot (recipe coming soon), garlic bread, salad, and home canned fruit.

Friday:: Popcorn dinner.  Yes, seriously we eat popcorn for dinner.  It's popcorn, leftovers, cheese slices, fruit, and cut up veggies.  Everyone gets as much as they want, and no one leaves hungry.  I adore Fridays because it is the easiest night of the week for making everyone happy!

Saturday:: I have no clue.  I'll play it by ear.

Sunday:: Family dinner at my parent's.

I have no idea how much I spent on groceries, but it was under $90.  I'm feeling lazy right now, and the receipts are sooooo far away (like 10 feet).  I bought:
  • Spinach
  • Apples
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Carrots (huge bag from Costco)
  • Cauliflower (one veggie I truly hate, but I wanted to try something new...)
  • Lemonade (I'm kinda obsessed with Arnold Palmers right now)
  • Smoked Trout (Trader Joes.  Trying out an appetizer I have in mind)
  • Salsa
  • Chicken (whole)
  • Pot Stickers (for the Won Ton soup)
  • Cashews
  • Green onions
  • Celery
PS, this post contains an Amazon Affiliate link.  As a reminder, I earn a tiny bit if you buy via the link, but I only link things I truly love myself.

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Major shout out to Les Schwab Tires

For those of you not lucky enough to live in the Northwest, you probably don't know about Les Schwab Tires.  Les Schwab is a regional tire chain that is famous for offering "free beef" during certain times of the year if you purchase new tires. 

My family has always done business with Les Schwab because they have outstanding customer service, and they stand behind their work - even when it costs them money.  During the first day that the state of Washington allows for snow tires to be put on cars, the line out of Les Schwab is huge.  Oh, and if you purchased your tires from them, they're putting those snow tires on for free.  By the end of the day, they all look exhausted, but they are still smiling.  The employees are always cheerful, patient, and busy popping free popcorn for customers. 

When I purchased my car in May, it came with decent tires that would last for at least another few years.  My dad found a set of used snow tires for me, and we've been storing them until winter.

Tuesday, Troy took my car in to have the snow tires put on.  The snow tires required different lug nuts than were on my normal tires.  Each tire had 5 lug nuts, and new ones would be $3 a pop.

$60 may not be a lot to a big company like Les Schwab, but when I just received a $3,192 health care bill for Jack's sleep study, you can bet it would have felt like a lot to me.

Well, Troy went up to pay, and not only did they not charge us for the tire change over (we didn't even buy the snow tires from them), but they comped us the lug nuts.

How do you get big and successful?  Well, you treat your loyal customers like they treated us.  They didn't know I have a blog and would praise the ever loving crap out of them for it.  They just did it because they saw an opportunity to reward someone for returning to their store time and time again.

I want to give them a giant shout out and thank them so much for their kindness.  They may never miss that $60, but it truly meant so much to us.

PS, before you can ask it, yes I'm going to be emailing the company a thank you!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baked potato soup - nourishing edition

I'm not sure about you, but baked potato soup is my idea of comfort food.  Creamy goodness, bacon, and something hot to warm you up on a cold winter's day.

Also, did I mention the bacon?

Alas, have you ever seen what goes in baked potato soup?  It's quite a list of heavy ingredients.  I'm not one to shy away from butter, cream, etc., but a traditional baked potato soup recipe is a little much even for me.  This version gives you the exact same delicious flavor, but without so much "stuff".

Dang Tasty and Pretty Darn Healthy Baked Potato Soup
6 Russet potatoes, peeled, and cut in to 1 inch chunks
1 onion, preferably white or yellow, sliced
4 tblsp butter
8 cups of chicken stock (try homemade, it's cheap and delicious!)
4 cloves of garlic, minced.  Yes 4.  Gotta keep the vamps away
1-2 cups of milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Toppings: cheese, bacon, green onions, etc.

1) Peel and chop your potatoes.  The smaller you cut them, the faster they will cook.  This is how I cut a potato in about 10 seconds:

a)
b)
c)
d)

2) Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pan (my beloved Dutch Oven is perfect for this).

Add the potatoes, garlic and onions, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring often.

3) Add the broth, and bring the spuds and onions to a boil, and boil until they have softened further.  If you prefer a thicker soup, reduce the broth by about 1-2 cups.

4) Transfer in batches to a food processor or a blender.  Or, just use an immersion blender and blend it in the pot.  Now the point isn't to blend it completely smooth - a few chunks here and there is ok.

5) If you're using a blender or food processor, put the soup back in the pot.  Slowly stir in milk until the consistency is to your liking.  Cook down for another 5 ish minutes.  Salt and pepper to taste.
If you prefer a thinner soup, blend well, and add more milk. 

Top with sliced green onions, shredded cheese, and bacon if desired.  Pair with a green salad, and you have a complete and healthy meal!
Can you believe I didn't have any bacon?  I can't believe it either!


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