Eco Living, Family Life, Frugal Living

Eco Friendly Party Ideas

balloons calm clouds colorful
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on

I know that it is only February, but graduation parties are only a few months away.  I myself will be having a graduation party for my youngest.  As good parents, we want to give our children the best of everything, right?  Even fun, brightly decorated parties.  They worked hard, they deserve it.  Before I go further this rant, I will be the first to admit that with my older children, I had parties and pulled out the stops.  I decorated with balloons, plastic confetti, plastic utensils, paper plates.  The works!  I wanted to enjoy their party, celebrate their accomplishments and make my life easier.  But, in the last couple years, I have become so much more aware of the environmental impact of these disposable items. Parties can be fun without the plastic waste.  Here are some ideas:

  1. Skip the balloons.  They are fun, colorful, beautiful and loved by many.  I love balloons.  I always have.  Sitting on the end of a buffet, they can make the party seem so much better.   But, they are terrible for the environment.  They do not decompose, animals eat them and they get stuck in everything from trees to utility lines.  Instead of balloons, how about a bouquet of flowers at the end of that buffet instead. My daughter’s school colors are red and white, so that leaves us with a lot of options.  Stick with local flowers and that is even better.
    person wearing red sweater and black pants holding bouquet of pink flowers
    Photo by Secret Garden on


  2. Use the paper plates!  The water waste to clean a sink full of regular plates is likely just as detrimental as the paper plates.  But, spend the extra dollars and purchase environmentally friendly plates that are compostable.  A quick google search will give you endless options.
  3. The precut and arranged fruit and vegetable plates from your local grocery store are so tempting.  But, they are sold in huge containers of plastic that will no doubt end up in a landfill.  Instead, create your plates with serving dishes you have at home and cut your own produce.
  4. Choose alternatives to single use plastic water bottles.  Fill a 3 gallon water dispenser with water (you can add citrus to make it pretty) and have paper cups available.  Or, but cans of water.  The aluminum is still better than plastic.

    sliced lemon fruit in glass picher
    Photo by Julia Zolotova on
  5. Instead of purchasing confetti to decorate, use a hole punch and create your own out of leaves that you find on the ground or construction paper.  This another free option and 100% eco friendly.

    assorted colors paper cutouts closeup photo
    Photo by Ylanite Koppens on
  6. Use your everyday utensils instead of plastic utensils.  It will take extra time to clean them, but think about how much more eco friendly that choice will be.  Also, you already own a drawer full of utensils, so you will also save money.
    blur breakfast close up cutlery
    Photo by Pixabay on

    These are just a few of the ideas I have as I already start planning my daughter’s graduation party this summer.  What other ideas are floating around out there to make graduation party season both fun and eco friendly?

Frugal Living, Recipes

Mushroom Stroganoff

Last night I made my favorite comfort food, mushroom stroganoff.  We eat very little beef, so I need to adapt my recipes that call for beef and make them vegetarian. My stroganoff is very simple to make. During the winter months, the dish is a regular in our meal rotation.


Mushroom Stroganoff

12 oz pasta or egg noodles

1 tbsp butter

2 8oz containers mushrooms (I use button mushrooms)

1 chopped onion

1 tsp garlic powder

2 cups vegetable stock

3/4 cup sour cream

3 tbsp flour

1 1/2 tsp dried parsley

salt and pepper to taste

Make pasta according to direction. While pasta is cooking, melt butter and saute onions for 3-4 minutes.  Add mushrooms and saute until soft.  Add garlic powder, cook for additional minute.  Add vegetable stock and flour and whisk until the stock is thick.  Add sour cream and parsley.  Simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Add salt and pepper, serve over pasta.





Frugal Living

Meal Plan February 16 – February 22

This week’s meal plan includes a dinner party with friends and dinner out for our daughter’s very last show competition.

Sunday February 16 – pesto ravioli, salad and bread

Monday February 17 – mushroom stroganoff, salad

Tuesday February 18 – bean burritos

Wednesday February 19 – spaghetti, salad and bread

Thursday February 20 – cod, roasted potatoes, broccoli

Friday February 21 – going to Mardi Gras themed dinner party

Saturday February 22 – dinner out

What is on your menu for the week?

shrimp dish
Photo by Mister Mister on
Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

holiday sweet conversation hearts
Photo by Jill Wellington on

The week started with an absolutely beautiful snow fall.  I compared it to the snowfalls of my childhood.  The flakes just slowly fell from the sky.  It made for a pretty Sunday.  We focused a lot on saving this week.  Maybe it’s the prospect of having 3 kids in college at the same time in September, thankfully that will only be for one semester.

  1.  I went to Aldi to do our grocery shopping.  Aldi has changed it’s image and the store shows that.  I spent $65 on a week’s worth of groceries.
  2. We bought an annual pass for our county park system.  The upfront cost was $35, but we use it a lot during the year for hiking and picnics.  There is also an area where the dogs can swim. When you have 2 golden retrievers, access to water they can swim in is a must.
  3. We had a date night on Friday night.  Our suburb has THREE restaurants that serve an okay dinner, they take up 3 of the 4 corners near the train tracks, and they are actually more bar than restaurant.  But, since my husband had no desire to turn around and go back downtown, we enjoyed some bar food.  We chose to skip the cocktails and have one at home when we were done with dinner.  It turned out to be a $30 date night which suits us just fine.
  4. I finally started to do yoga again.  But, I have decided to practice at home.  I have the mat, the bolster, strap and blocks.  I can get DVD’s from the library and do yoga in the comfort in the home.  In the past, I took a class at a yoga studio.  Yoga isn’t cheap.
  5. My husband and I decided that while we are going to have a date night for Valentine’s Day, we are going to skip gifts and cards this year.  We don’t need or want anything.


Family Life, Misc

Today’s The Day

It has been 3 months since I had a health scare that landed me in the ER for 9 hours!  What they found that night was two things.  One, I have very high blood pressure that needs medication.  Two, I have a thickening in my aorta.  I was referred to a cardiologist who isn’t sure what is going on.  He ran a whole series of blood tests on me.  I was tested for everything from hepatitis to scleroderma.  Thankfully, everything is fine.  The majority of my blood might have been drained, but my blood work is good.

Of course with that all being fine, the question remains, what is wrong with my heart?  So, today, I am having a cardiac MRI.  I was pretty calm about it, until last night.  Now, I am getting a little scared.  It doesn’t help that I am terribly claustrophobic and this is going to be a two hour procedure.  My husband is going with me.  He won’t be able to hold my hand during the procedure, but I know he will be in the waiting room for me when I am done.  Claustrophobia set aside, I am actually starting to worry that they are going to find something wrong with me.  Given the heart procedures my dad has had this year, I am scared I might have to have the same thing done to me.  Most of the time, I feel like I am pretty strong.  But today, I am not really feeling that way.

I had planned on skipping the procedure.  I told myself that I was going to skip it because it was unnecessary, the blood work told me I am healthy.  I also used the excuse that with our high deductible insurance, this was not fiscally responsible, which is ridiculous of course.  I was going to skip it because I just didn’t want to know.  Ignorance is bliss and all.  But, after long discussions with my husband, parents and some really good friends, I realized that in this case it is better to be proactive today rather than reactive in several years in a cardiac crisis.

So, off we go in a few hours.  When we return, I will be enjoying a glass of wine.

heart shaped lights
Photo by Ian Panelo on
Family Life, Frugal Living

Weekend Thoughts

This last weekend was one of those rare weekends in which it was perfectly relaxing and yet I was able to do so much.  We finally got a date night in.  It was nothing spectacular, we went to a local bar for burgers and then headed home for a cocktail.  We decided to start a jigsaw puzzle that my daughter had given me for Christmas last year.  It was a 1000 piece puzzle and felt like a monumental effort.  It turned into a family project though, the four of spending hours working on it here and there while listening to music.   It was the kind of family togetherness that happens organically, we will not be able to just recreate it, because it just happened.  Here is the end result:


Female power!

The weather on Saturday was gorgeous.  We knew that a storm was expected on Sunday, which by the way turned out to produce more snow than I think anyone expected.  We took advantage of the weather and went to our local county park and took a long walk with the dogs.  That was a comedy of errors.  Those dogs were not expecting the many smells, the other dogs and just the change of scenery.  They were so excited and so badly behaved.  At one point, two of the dogs had completely wrapped themselves around my legs in opposite directions.  What can you do but laugh.  It made me realize that like humans, dogs can get cabin fever just as much as humans.  We walk them daily, but they haven’t had a good, long walk like that in a couple months and it really showed.  Honestly, as much as I hate to wish the passage of time, because it means I am just getting older, spring can’t come soon enough.


Inspecting something very important

Sunday, I had plans to spend the day with a friend for brunch and the museum, the weather had to put those plans on hold.  I took advantage of the time and made several meals for the week.  I am always so happy when I do this, I don’t know why I don’t do this timesaver more often.  When my son came home that day, I introduced him to the 90’s classic Beverly Hills 90210 and we spent the afternoon watching that train wreck.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love it and appreciated that after attempting to get my daughters to watch it with me, my son finally did.  We had our weekly Sunday family dinner and enjoyed each other’s company.


When the boy comes home, he gets the good stuff

Family Life, Frugal Living

Meal Plan February 9-15

Yesterday’s weather put my Sunday plans on hold, so I took advantage of that time and made a couple meals ahead of time.  My week is going to be really easy as far as dinners are concerned.

Sunday, February 9th – cream of mushroom soup, salad with crab cakes, rolls and cherry pie with vanilla ice cream

Monday, February 10th – lasagna, salad and garlic bread

Tuesday, February 11th – rice and bean enchiladas

Wednesday, February 12th – lentil soup and salad

Thursday, February 13th – salmon, quinoa and broccoli

Friday, February 14th – Valentine’s Day, dinner out

Saturday, February 15th  – Not sure about this day, will be out of town for both a show choir competition and a roller derby tournament.

Planning my meals out like this every week has helped keep me very organized, saved me money and prevented food waste.


Frugal Living

Frugal Friday

Ughhh!  I had to give in this week and buy shoes with solid arch support.  Guess what? Those do not fall into the frugal category.  I spend a lot of my working hours on my feet.  As a result, my feet, knees, back and hips are very unhappy.  But me feet are the angriest. I have plantar fasciitis in not one, but both feet.  Ouch.  A simple internet search led me to the best shoes for such a condition and let me tell you, the resulting shoes are not attractive.  I shall feel frumpy at work.

It was a pretty quiet week at home.  I am happy it is Friday, a relaxing weekend is just what I need.  Here are a few things we did this week to stay frugal.

  1.  My daughter’s backpack broke (at least the zipper did).  Instead of buying a new one, I found a freebie I received from the Sierra Club and gave that to her.  It works just fine, but it was clearly designed with hiking in mind.
  2. Our utility bill went down $50!  Not sure what the cause was, but I like it.
  3. We went out for dinner 0 times in the month of January.  As it is, we don’t eat dinner out a lot, but to not go out at all was an accomplishment.
  4. My daughter, who works at Starbucks, brought home a bunch of sandwiches that were about to expire.  We have several days worth of lunches.
  5. My coworkers have started a puzzle exchange.  I received my first borrowed puzzle.  This is such a great idea, save on resources and money.  It’s also free time spent with family working on it.

That’s about it.  What did you do this week to save?

assorted puzzle game
Photo by Magda Ehlers on
Family Life

Goal Update – January

  1. My number one goal is to get my pressure back to normal.  Several of my goals have been set to help bring it down with the help of medication.
    • My blood pressure officially falls into the normal range!!
  2. Lose 20 pounds.
    • While I will not say how much I have lost, the scale is going in the right direction.
  3. Continue to get 10,000 steps a day in.
    • My average for the month of January was 9,268 steps per day.  I need to improve.
  4. Go to the gym 3 days per week.
    • Good thing this one is a goal not a resolution.  Otherwise, I would not try again next week to go at least once.
  5.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.  I eat a lot as it is, but it’s time to add more, especially potassium rich produce.
    • I was successful with this one.  I make sure to add extra produce to all 3 meals.
  6. Try to start trying to meditate at least 2 or 3 days per week.
    • I accomplished this goal this week.  Meditation 3 days.
  7. Get back into the yoga habit.
    • I did not do any yoga this week.
  8. Cut down on the alcohol.
    • I allow myself some wine on the weekends
  9.  Pay off the house.  We had every intention of paying it off December 31.  A couple of unexpected expenses put that on hold.
    • This will happen, but not this month
  10. Read 110 books in 2020.
    • I am off to a great start with 7 books read this year.
  11. Read 3 classic books this year.
    • I have started Call of the Wild – Done!
  12. More dates with my husband.
    • We have date night planned for this Friday
  13. We have a membership to the Milwaukee Art Museum that I plan on utilizing a lot more this year.
    • There’s always next week
  14. Spend more time outdoors.
    • I walked my dogs nearly every day
  15. Throw away 20 items per day.
    • Done
  16. More no spend days.
    • I spent $11.49 on non essentials, that’s it
  17. Spend more time with my friends.
    • Done
  18. Finish a knitting project I started in November and start and finish another.
    • I am almost done with my project.
  19. Learn how to can!
    • I will officially visit this goal in the summer.
  20. Go on 2 weekend getaways with my husband.
    • I am looking for fun get aways in the midwest.

beige wooden rectangular chopping board

Frugal Living

Frugal Friday….A Few Days Late

I can’t remember what kept me away from the computer on Friday to write my Frugal Friday post.  Better late than ever, here is the round up.

  1. No spend January was a success!  I kept to my goal of shopping the freezer and pantry first.  Our grocery bill for the entire month was $299 for a family of 4 (5) on Sunday nights. I bought one item that was not a need, but had to have.  Here it is:IMG_0514I justified this purchase by reminding myself that it will provide hours of fun.  My only complaint is that The Art of the Deal is in the collage.  I am not a fan of Donald Trump.
  2. I bought our bi annual box of toilet paper.  I buy a box with 80 rolls twice a year.  They are wrapped in paper, not plastic and it’s recycled paper.  The cost is $80 if you do subscribe and save with Amazon.
  3. In addition to the bulk TP, I also buy almond milk in bulk.  Also part of subscribe and save.
  4. I have a coworker who is collecting plastic bags for project a through her church.  I have been able to give her produce bags, newspaper bags, cereal bags, etc.  Not necessarily frugal on my end, but in the spirit of reduce, reuse, recycle.
  5. I was able to group all of my errands into one day, Friday.  Doing this allows me to fill my gas tank once per month.  That is not to say I don’t go anywhere.  We use my husband’s Yaris for long trips and driving more around the city.  He has a 10 gallon tank in his car that gets about 25-30 MPG.  You just can’t beat that.