Family Life, Frugal Living, Recipes

Saturday Thoughts

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My girls

We got a lot of snow last night.  Last week’s snowstorm hit us this weekend instead.  We were planning on driving about an hour away to see my daughter’s show choir competition.  The weather continues to be the deciding factor in whether or not we go.  I hate driving in winter weather almost more than anything.  While it seems like it is clearing up now, blowing snow and ice remain in the afternoon forecast.  Thankfully, 3 more competitions are on the calendar and I have committed to meeting family at 2 of the 3.  We may decide to err on the side of caution today and stay home.

Last night’s snowstorm was kind of nice.  It forced us to stay in and properly unwind from the work week.  I had put some lentil soup in the crockpot before leaving for work yesterday, making dinner prep and clean up very easy last night.  We watched Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (which I liked, my husband hated), snuggled with the dogs and popped a big batch of popcorn.  It was nice to turn in early last night with a good book.  I was sound asleep by 10:45.

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Given the likelihood that we will be staying home today, I plan to make some brownies, a loaf of bread, get a good walk in and finish a book.  We have dinner plans for tonight, that is why I am going make some delicious brownies for dessert to serve with ice cream, here is the recipe.

Brownies

1/2 cup butter

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F . Grease  an 8-inch square pan.
  2. In a large saucepan, melt 1/2 cup butter. Remove from heat, and stir in sugar, eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat in 1/3 cup cocoa, 1/2 cup flour, salt, and baking powder.  Fold in chocolate chips. Spread batter into prepared pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

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What are your plans for this snowy Saturday?

Family Life

Birthday Celebration

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This is what happens when you don’t have enough candles

Today my middle child, Hannah, turned 21!  Where did the years go?  Honestly, it feels like she should only be about 5 or 6 years old.  But here we are, she’s a grown adult with all the rights and privileges of an adult (with the exception of renting a car and running for president. btw, she would make a much better president than the clown we have now).

Being the daughter of parents who try to practice some kind of simple living, frugal living and her own desire to consume less, we opted for an experience gift to celebrate her big day.   Today, Hannah and I went to Kohler Water Spa to celebrate.  We spent the day be pampered.  She had a facial and manicure while I had a massage and pedicure.  We sat in the hot tub, steam room, sauna and swam.  We ate delicious spa food which included chocolate mousse, drank infused waters, enjoyed some granola and green tea.  We also had some champagne to celebrate this milestone.  It was honestly a perfect day.  I have decided that now that I am the mother of adults (my youngest is 17), experience birthday gifts are the way to go.  Honestly, she is going to remember this day we had together forever.  But, I doubt that she could even remember what we gave her for her 19 birthday.  I am going back to 19, because for her 20th we also did an experience birthday.  I did offer to buy her one thing in the spa store and an extra (I had 20% off) and she declined.  She felt that everything was too expensive even with the discount and she stated again that she does not want more stuff.  So we left, having spent exactly what I planned for, without extras that no one needs.

Tonight we are celebrating with vegan hamburger mac and cheese, salad and banana cake.  We did celebrate last night as well when her brother was home.  Instead of cake, I made almond butter bars .  When searching for candles, I realized that I did not have a 2, but I did have enough numbers that I could get to 21.  My youngest suggested I buy a 2 for future use.  The other kids suggested I not do that, that the hodgepodge of candles makes it uniquely us.  I think they are right.

I think that she is planning on going out tonight, after dinner with her boyfriend, so that she can have a drink.  Being a girl who likes to be asleep early, I doubt it will be a late night for her.  But, I really hope that she has some fun. We live in suburban Milwaukee so I doubt they will be going downtown and the options in our little town are somewhat limited, so that alone could make it a very early night for her.

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Photo by Ylanite Koppens on Pexels.com

 

Family Life, Frugal Living

Goal Updates

  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.
    • This week my blood pressure has gone from dangerously high to just plain high.  It’s going in the right direction!  Yea me.
  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.
    • I did not reach 10,000 all 7 days, but came very close and went way over 10,000 on more than one day.
  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 have not had a drop of alcohol since New Year’s Eve
  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.
  12. More dates with my husband.
    • There’s always next week.
  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 every day, except today.  It’s too slippery out there.
  15. Throw away 20 items per day.
    • Done
  16. More no spend days.
    • The only money I spent this week was $72 on groceries and anticipated bills.
  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.
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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Family Life, Frugal Living

My 20 Goals For 2020

This year I have decided to try a new approach to personal changes in the new year, instead of resolutions, I will have goals.  When I set a goal for myself, I usually do accomplish it.  When it’s a resolution, I fail miserably.  This year I have 20 personal goals set for myself.

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Photo by Evie Shaffer on Pexels.com
  1. I was recently diagnosed with VERY high blood pressure.  Until November, it was always normal.  Out of nowhere, it has gone up a lot.  I am now under the care of a cardiologist who has put me on medication and he is starting a round of tests to try figure this out.  So, 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.
  2. Lose 20 pounds.  Truth be told, I could stand to lose more than 20.  But, small goals are best and 20 seems like a good start.  When I hit that, I will add 10 more to lose.
  3. Continue to get 10,000 steps a day in.  This has never been a problem for me.  But now, more than ever, I need to keep this habit in my daily routine.
  4. Go to the gym 3 days per week.  I need my daughter to hold me accountable with this one.  She is so good about getting herself to the gym on a regular basis, I need to follow her lead.
  5. I have spent a lot of time reading about the causes of high blood pressure and what I can do to bring it down.  Eat more fruits and vegetables.  I eat a lot as it is, but it’s time to add more, especially potassium rich produce.
  6. I downloaded the Simple Habit app to encourage meditation on a daily basis.  I keep hearing that meditation helps calm the mind.  I do meditate, but not daily.  Time to start trying to meditate at least 2 or 3 days per week.
  7. Get back into the yoga habit.  Several years ago I went to yoga 3-4 days per week.  I was in great shape, but I fell out of the habit as my kids got older.  Since they are now adults, I probably shouldn’t continue to use them as an excuse for not going.
  8. Cut down on the alcohol.  I really don’t drink very much. I have wine with dinner some nights and enjoy a cocktail when in a restaurant.   But, until I get my blood pressure under control, I need to eliminate alcohol.
  9. Now on to other goals.  Pay off the house.  We had every intention of paying it off December 31.  A couple of unexpected expenses put that on hold.
  10. Read 110 books in 2020.  I sign up for the reading challenge every year on Goodreads.  I don’t think I have ever missed my goal.
  11. Read 3 classic books this year.  I am starting small because in all honesty, I don’t always enjoy the classics.  But, my mom and I agreed to start with Call of the Wild in anticipation of the movie.  It seems easy to add 2 more to 2020.
  12. More dates with my husband.  In the past I told myself we would have a date night once a week.  That proved to be difficult to achieve some weeks, making it easy to just forget about it.  Date night once a month seems easier.
  13. We have a membership to the Milwaukee Art Museum that I plan on utilizing a lot more this year.  I really do need to spend more time taking advantage of the cultural activities my city has to offer.
  14. Spend more time outdoors.  It’s not always easy in the winter to be outside.  But in the spring, summer and fall, I need to spend a lot less time indoors.  I recently read an article that encourages 1000 hours per year which is about 2.5 hours per day.
  15. Throw away 20 items per day.  We have too much stuff in this house and some of it needs to go.
  16. More no spend days.  These are so easy to accomplish and the benefit can be seen in your checking account.
  17. Spend more time with my friends.  This is another one that I am pretty good about following through on.  I enjoy meeting friends for lunch, dinner and potlucks.  In 2019 I reconnected with several old friends that I have spent time with.
  18. Finish a knitting project I started in November and start and finish another.  I learned how to knit in 2019 and really enjoy it.  I hope to find more time in the coming year to year improve this skill.
  19. Learn how to can!  We usually have a prolific vegetable garden (2019 was a failure).  My husband is the one who usually preserves the bounty.  But, more job responsibilities means that I should take this one over.
  20. Go on 2 weekend getaways with my husband.  A full blown vacation is not going to happen, but a couple weekends away should be attainable.

That’s my list.  What kind of goals have you set for yourself as you start a new year and a new decade?

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Photo by Surene Palvie on Pexels.com
Family Life

We Got A Puppy

Saturday morning I woke up a little later than usual, around 7:15.  I was ready for a morning full of errands to prepare for friends we were having for dinner that evening.  But, first, I needed coffee.  It was then that I noticed my 17 year old daughter was also ready for the day, which was most unusual given that she is a teenager.  Teenagers like to sleep in on weekends.  My husband told me that they were going to Fleet Farm to purchase chicken food.  He had promised to take Maeghan to Aldi for chocolate if she came with.  What?  Honestly, that was the craziest thing I had ever heard.  Aldi’s chocolate is just not that good.   I asked why he felt the need to drag her out of the house for chicken feed and told her she didn’t have to go with.  She insisted, I rolled my eyes and said ok.  Truth be told, I was looking forward to a Saturday morning coffee in peace.

I went about my morning.  Showered, ate breakfast and then started to clean a little bit.  Eric had to take my car for this strange errand, so I needed to wait for him to do my own.  It was at about 10:00 am when I started to vacuum that they returned.  Thankfully, I resisted to the urge to comment that it should not take 3 hours to find chicken feed.  Because when Maeghan walked in behind him, she was holding this little girl.  If you look at the bottom, you can see the eyes of our very confused beagle trying figure out what the hell just happened to her perfectly balanced world.

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Meet Sadie.  She is the last of our three dogs.  She was an early Christmas present for me. But it is clear that my husband is just as smitten as the rest of us.  We now have 2 golden retrievers (a strange dream I have had since childhood) and a crazy beagle.  Gift giving will not be necessary for me now for several years, as this is all I have wanted.  It’s funny because I brought it up on Friday night and my husband’s no was so firm that I thought, I better not bring it up again.  Honestly, I had no idea that this was in the works.

The whole family, their significant others, coworkers and classmates all knew that I was going to be given a puppy for Christmas.  Not once in all those weeks of careful planning did they let the secret out.  I am a very lucky woman to have such a loving husband and family.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

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Family Life

Bumps In The Road

The last several weeks have proven to be difficult.  Without getting into a lot of detail, my family is dealing with a serious medical issue.  I have been away from my home and family a lot the last several weeks.  It has been difficult at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  My kids are older and self sufficient.  They don’t need me to be around all the time, so leaving is not a problem.   I am blessed beyond measure that my employer has worked with me every step of the way in making sure that I have all the time off that I have needed, without hesitation.  If you don’t have an employer like that, find one.  It makes a terrible situation just a little bit less terrible.  My husband has been a rock star.  He has taken care of everything at home off and on for the last several weeks.  Thank you.

We need a furnace!  Apparently modern furnaces are expected to last 15 years.  When the HVAC guy said “you need a furnace” my response was “we just got a new furnace.”  No, actually we bought a new furnace 15 years ago.  Proof yet again at how fast time goes by because I had it in my head that the furnace was only 5-7 years old.   I honestly think that those things are set to die on a predetermined date.  It makes no sense to me that in the age we live in a furnace can’t have a longer life.  Regardless, we had days that were actually 26 degrees below 0 last winter, so a new furnace it is.  I will end this by saying furnaces sure are expensive.

We have had A LOT OF RAIN.  Our lawns are completely saturated and what remains has no where else to go.  The gloom is starting to get to me, as I would love to be able to get outside and enjoy autumn.  It starting to feel like that will never happen, there is more rain in the forecast.  When it is this wet outside, it just feels gross to be outside.

I sound like I am complaining a lot and I shouldn’t.  Life is good.  My kids are healthy, I have a great job, a great spouse and not to mention a great dog:) . But sometimes it feels like things are a bit harder than they need to be and I have been that way for a few weeks.  I need a serious attitude adjustment and hope that can happen soon.

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Family Life

A Weekend Away

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View from our cabin

I spent the weekend in Door County WI.  My parents rented an absolutely beautiful cabin in the woods, about a half mile away from Lake Michigan.  We enjoyed some much needed time away and time together as a family.  Sadly, my son and his girlfriend could not join us and neither could my husband.  They were missed, but they were fulfilling obligations that they had at home.

We spent our first night at the cabin.  I cooked a fish dinner for all of us, ending the meal with ice cream and Door County cherry ice cream sauce.  Door County WI is famous for their cherries, so when in Rome……  I stocked up before we left on frozen cherries, cherry salsa, cherry pie filling, cherry jam and wine (not cherry).

Thankfully, although my dad would disagree, there was not access to local television.  There was a Packer game on Thursday night and he missed it.  Being a native of Green Bay, the Packer games are very important to him, even if they are having a losing streak.  Instead, we played Monopoly, something we haven’t done in years and dear old dad kicked our asses.  A win that he would not have been able to claim had the Packer game been accessible.  He proved that some things never change, his ability to win any board game is one of them.

Door County, like any tourist trap, is filled with shops of all kinds.  We spent our Friday, driving up the coast and stopping at shops at our leisure, mostly browsing, but I did buy a couple things to bring back.  We went to a wonderful fish restaurant for lunch, enjoying a bowl of whitefish chowder.  No, it does not taste like clam chowder, but to have clam chowder on the shores of Lake Michigan would not be very authentic, so whitefish it is!

Every year my mom and I take my youngest to Door Shakespeare, an outdoor theatre that performs Shakespeare in the summer.  Friday night we went again and saw the Merry Wives of Windsor.  It was a lot of fun and the play was hilarious.  They tend to modernize that plays they perform, so while they are using the play that was written, as is, they are set in modern times.  For me, that change makes them easier to follow.  Because let’s be honest, Shakespeare can be difficult to comprehend.

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Door Shakespeare Theatre

Our final full day started out with a rousing game of mini golf, another Door County staple.  Since there were 6 of us, we broke up into teams.  I learned that I am terrible at golf, of any kind.  I felt like I was doing ok until my mom told me that all but 2 of the holes were par 2.  It didn’t matter though, we had fun and laughed a lot.  Our day ended with smores in the indoor fire place.

I write about this because time with family is so important.  We get one go around on this big blue rock. We need to embrace all the time we can with those we love.  Personally, I have been trying to be more intentional with family time by accepting invitations when they come my way and by extending them.  It took me a long time to get the point in my life where I truly know that family is everything.  They are always there for you no matter what.

Family Life

Girls Weekend

I went to Chicago over the weekend.  My dearest friend from high school lives there and it was time for some girl time.  I can’t remember the last time the two of us had spent a moment together that didn’t include our husbands or kids.  I recall a dinner out, just the two of us after the birth of my daughter 20 years ago.  So, it’s been awhile and long overdue.  I am on the cusp of being an empty nester with my youngest starting her senior year of high school and showing little need for my constant companionship.  My husband and I have reached that stage where we love to be together, but yearn for time apart occasionally, a weekend away provided that.  Her children are at camp for 2 weeks and found that she had the house all to herself for the weekend.  I am optimistic that I will be able to take advantage of more weekends with my female friends as the years go on.

We don’t live far from Chicago.  The drive is 90 minutes if traffic cooperates and since my friend lives in the Northern suburbs, I don’t have to deal with the hell of downtown Chicago traffic.  I left late afternoon Saturday and was happily enjoying a glass of wine (or 2) on her patio by 4:15.  After a couple laughs and some really good cheese (thank you Trader Joe’s), we headed to the train station to take the train to the heart of downtown for drinks and dinner.  The weather could not have been better for an evening downtown.

We went to City Winery which is on the river, put our names on the wait list and bought a bottle of Rose.  For 45 minutes we sat on the river, wine between us and laughed and talked like we hadn’t in a couple decades.  For 24 hours we weren’t parents or wives, we were friends.   After a delicious dinner we headed to the Hancock building for yes, another glass of wine.

We went to the top of the Hancock building which is 96 stories for a very overpriced glass of wine, but an absolutely gorgeous view of the city.  While it nearly killed me to spend $16 on wine (yes that price is correct) I believe it was the cost of being able to take in that view.  From 96 stories up, we were able to see Navy Pier and the fireworks that were going off at Lollapalooza.  I took pictures, but they don’t do the view justice.  I am a terrible photographer and I do not have a phone that is able to take decent night time pictures.

We headed back to her place, via an Uber this time and turned in for the night.  After a cup of coffee and scone on Sunday, we took a walk along Lake Michigan on the Northwestern campus.  I was able to take in a couple more views of the city before heading back to my family to celebrate my husband’s birthday.  It was another fun filled weekend on the books.

As my friends and I continue to march through our 40’s and see our 50’s within a couple years, I think it is important for all of us to hold our friendships close.  So much of our early adulthood is focused on kids, spouses, jobs and just trying to pay the bills.  Our friendships ground us and remind us that we are more than a wife or mother.  We are independent of those titles.  New Year’s is still several months away, but I already know that I am going to focus of friendships more in 2020.  In fact, I think I will make that resolution now.

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Family Life

Early Morning Treat

I woke up earlier than I usually do this morning.  Because I start work a bit later than most people, I have the luxury of sleeping in  most mornings.  I have considered myself lucky, but I do miss those early mornings to savor a cup of coffee while the house is still quiet.  Most nights I commit to waking up earlier the next morning, but I rarely follow through.

This morning was different for some reason.  I woke up at 6:00 when I heard my husband getting ready for work.  So, I pulled myself out of bed to let the dogs out and start a pot of coffee. What a treat that was.  It was a beautiful morning.  Summer is finally here, the proof was in the dew that I walked through as I took my dog out for her morning potty break.

After my husband and daughter went to work, I brought the dogs with me to our front porch.  With a book and cup of coffee in hand I took advantage of a quiet morning before going to work.  I really need to go back to my early bird schedule, the morning has so much to offer.

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Early morning game of catch with Luna

Family Life, Recipes

Mushroom and Boursin Cheese Omelette

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Watt’s Tea Room was a Milwaukee monument for over 100 years.  Watt’s was a  restaurant that served breakfast, lunch and tea on the top floor of the shop it was part of.  The store sells china and crystal and I can’t think of a time that we were there that we didn’t see a mother and daughter there, picking out patterns for a wedding registry.  On December 31, 2016 the tea room  closed it’s doors, bringing the end of an era.  My daughters and I were there on the last day for one last meal and to say goodbye.  Watt’s Tea Room was an annual tradition for us, we would go for lunch the Saturday before they went back to school.  The food was good, I am not so sure that it was amazing, but it was good.  For me, it was more about being part of the history of our city.  Everyone knew about Watt’s Tea Room and almost everyone I knew had either been there with their mother or daughter at least once.

One of my favorite meals was their mushroom and boursin cheese omelette.  When the store closed, my first thought was “oh no, that omelette”, I feared I would never eat one again.  I have since tried to replicate it at home and I believe I am close.  When I serve that omelette, I am sure to have big, thick english muffins on hand, as Watt’s was famous for their english muffins.  Here is my attempt to recreate that recipe.

Mushroom and Boursin Cheese Omelette

2 eggs

1 tbsp half and half

2 oz mushrooms

splash of white wine (optional)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp butter

garlic and herb boursin cheese (to taste)

Whisk eggs and half & half.  Heat olive oil in pan, once heated add sliced mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.  Add white wine for extra flavor.  Once mushrooms are cooked, remove from pan and add butter and melt.  Add eggs, once firm add mushrooms and cheese. Note, boursin cheese is very flavorful, you don’t need a lot.  Fold into an omelette, garnish with additional mushrooms and cheese.