Thursday, April 25, 2019

mealplanning strategy

I have never actively thought about mealplanning, but from the time Andrew and I started cohabitating (2007...), he was the "adult" and I came from my parents' house, so we did a lot of things his way and grocery shopping was one of them. Whereas my mom and her sisters and my grandma keep fully stocked pantries with canned goods, buy things on sale just because, and have extra freezers for meat, we figure out what we are going to eat for the week and buy that.

Before Pinterest, I was inadvertently mealplanning. Now that I eat three meals a day at home during the week, I try extra hard to mealplan. Few things are more annoying than the "there is nothing to eat in this entire house" feeling. And I was chatting with a friend about this and she liked my approach so I will share because, why not?

We generally eat dinner at home Sunday - Thursday. There are two of us. I don't eat shellfish, we rarely eat beef at home (Andrew gets enough of it with BBQ life and it is never my favorite), I don't cook pork, and we rarely eat fish since we both prefer it fresh and have to eat it the day we buy it and that is too much commitment. I don't like canned veggies and I will spend more on meat if it is easy to cook (ie, premade raw meatballs that I can pop in the oven, already marinated chicken...)

Andrew went to culinary school; I started doing more of the cooking since working from home. I'm afraid of undercooking meat, I have awful knife skills, and faster is better. I try to avoid too many convenience foods, a ton of carbs many nights in a row, and only ask Andrew to cook one weeknight per week since his workday is about 12 hours long, including the commute.

Okay, so onto the strategy - Step 1 - Pick a meal that can last for two nights. Cooking is dumb and I like to maximize my time. If the two night meal is something Andrew will cook, we normally have it on Sunday and then Tuesday. If I cook it, it can be any night, but normally it's Monday. Some two night meals that we go to are enchiladas, black bean soup, chili, harissa chicken (one night with cous cous, the next night over salad), stuffed shells, Chinese chicken, or Mediterranean bowls. If we want to have a "bun" food, like veggie burgers, we'll usually plan a second bun food, too. So there are 2/5 nights.

Step 2 - Pick something easy - There is always a night where we don't want to cook, but our "going out" options are limited (read: we are picky and don't like the suburban chains surrounding us) so having something super simple on hand saves many dinner debates. This can be a big salad with pre-shredded rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, salad and a frozen pizza, omelets, ravioli, Trader Joe's orange chicken with rice or frozen veggies, Trader Joe's frozen Indian meals with naan, or veggie quesadillas. I also grab quick options on Costco runs. I grabbed a gyro kit a few weeks ago that we both really liked, and it was a nice change. We're now at 3/5!

Step 3 - Try something new. Typically, this is a new recipe I want to try. Bonus points if it's enough for leftovers. I try to pin things on Pinterest, but occasionally something at the store will catch my eye. Trader Joe's has raw, pre-seasoned chicken in different flavors so that falls into this category. My grocery store also sells Hello Fresh kits, so if those are on sale, I will grab one. I use Skinnytaste and Iowa Girl Eats for recipes most often.

Step 4 - An old faithful and/or something Andrew will cook. A lot of things fit into both of these categories. I don't cook pork, or chicken on the stove. I can cook ground turkey, but I like it better when he does. In a normal week, I'll plan a meal in this category like tacos, lettuce wraps, a sheet pan meal (chicken sausage + veggies), pork and veggies, spaghetti and meatballs, things like that. And that's all 5 meals for the week!

Since I work from home, I also have to plan my breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. Those are way less exciting. For breakfast, I love Siggi's Greek lemon yogurt. I keep those on hand, but some mornings I just want a Kind bar or some fruit. I also get Naked smoothies when I catch them on sale to get some extra fruit in. My lunches are most often an "adult lunchable" in which I take the kids concept of a lunchable - meat, cheese, and crackers - and then add carrots, cherry tomatoes and hummus or dip. By getting different meats, cheeses, or crackers each week and switching up the dips, I somehow don't get too bored of this. I'll also get a salad kit most weeks, so my lunches are two salads and three lunchables. I need to have SOME kind of option or I tend to get annoyed.

We do get into food ruts, and I try to write down things that I try or bookmark or pin recipes that are hits. I also follow Costco and Trader Joe's accounts on Instagram so I can see their new products and grab them if they look good. As far as a grocery budget, I don't really try to keep one since I know that if we don't eat at home, we will go out, and that is way more expensive and more calories so I figure anything from the store is a better choice.

Monday, April 15, 2019

currently consuming

If I ever joined a cult, it would be because Bre told me to. I don't know why but she has this ability to tell you about things, non-forcefully, and then you are like, yes, I must try or do that thing. See: bujo-ing and all the crap I have bought because of it. And watching I'm Sorry again. And Add It To My List. She is doing a "Last Week Tonight" post each week and of course it makes me want to share the things I like, too.

So here are consumables that I have been loving that don't cost extra money, assuming you have library access/streaming services/a way to listen to podcasts.

(I hate that I have to get so technical but surely someone will be like "well electricity to run my TV costs money so really that isn't free." I mean not a real someone, but the bitch eating crackers that I imagine in my head who loves to judge me. Anyway.)

Podcasts:

This American Life - Beware the Jabberwock - I love TAL but some eps are better than others. This one totally fascinated me by telling me more about a name I have heard from twitter - Alex Jones - and how he came to be, and why he is so problematic. Like I could have told you before that he was awful, but now I can pinpoint exactly what he has done that was bad and speculate on how it came to be.

Conan O'Brien Needs A Friend - Pretty sure Bre rec'd this too but we share a love of good ole Coco. Even the ads on this are funny ("Conan O'Brien pays off the mortgage on his beach house..." complete with bird sounds in the background). Conan interviews celebrity guests to see if they could be friends but asks really entertaining questions and lets them shine without taking over. Also, his assistant Sona keeps him grounded in reality and calls him out in perfect ways. This one is great, especially the ep with Michelle Obama.

TV:

Superstore is a show I never expected to like. I don't love sitcoms. However, I was bored and a friend recommended this and I like America Ferrera so why not? This is a sitcom in a workplace with some unrequited love and long-running jokes, but it also brings light to illegal immigration status, maternity leave (or lack thereof), women's rights, and other issues without being too preachy. Plus it often makes me LOL.

Shrill had to make my list because I love Lindy West so much. But really, as someone who has never felt thin but is not plus-sized, I found SO MUCH of this show relatable, and I'm sure women of all sizes do, too. (The first scene where she is stuck in the shirt...). It is what Girls could have been if the characters weren't terrible. Was Annie always likeable? No. Did I like the last episode? No. Is the book better? Of course. But I loved so many parts of this show, including Annie's roommate, who was the BEST.

The new season of Queer Eye is so, so good. The one where they record the guy saying bad things about himself and play it back for him and then the one with the young, black, lesbian women were my favorites and both had things that I wanted to write down and nod my head to.

Books:

My favorite, Nora McInerny, wrote another memoir called No Happy Endings about life after her husband died of cancer. This time, we get to see her grief as she raises their son, falls in love again, and gets pregnant while getting two bonus kids from her now-husband. It's a lot, but if you truly like to see how another person navigates life, it is 1000% worth your time.

Allow me to be the 47th person to tell you to read Michelle Obama's book, Becoming. I really loved it.

I really liked Pachinko, which has been around a while, but if you haven't read it, I really recommend it. It is the story of one family, through generations, and with the backdrop of the Korean/Japanese conflict that I honestly knew nothing about. It really hits on the fact that so many emotions are universal, regardless of when or where they happen.

TL;DR - just consume all these things.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

what's new?

What's new with me is that I miss the connection of internet friends.

Also, recently, the idea of vulnerability keeps creeping up - in my work life, from Brene Brown on instagram, and from my therapist, which is what made me really listen.

(Lauren, you have a therapist? Yup - vulnerability in sharing, y'all).

I feel like those two are tied together - my fear of being vulnerable on the internet can make me, well, somewhat uninteresting. If I am not sharing my whole self, then what is left to read?

Anyway, like many others, I can wax poetic about the good days of blogging circa 2013 - no shade, I like to know I'm not alone - and I can also try to do something about it. So here I am, linking up with Kristen, and hoping some people who are just regular women with no intention of being an #influencer come around and read paragraphs and don't mind a lack of pictures.

So - what's new with me since I actually wrote a blog post with some feelings?

I'm working on being nicer to me. Did you see that episode of Queer Eye in season three where they recorded all the bad things the guy said about himself and then Karamo made him listen to it? That was SO resonant with me. I may not say them aloud, but how many times a day do I judge myself, or think that others will? How much negativity am I spreading internally? Whoa.

So that led me to writing down daily gratitude. Yes, I have scoffed at it before, so if that is you, I totally get it. But, it gives me a reason to visit my bullet journal daily and it can be as simple as how fantastic the perfectly ripe pineapple I just ate was. All it takes is one little thing.

On the life front, I am working to straddle the line between Instagram makes me want to buy everything and not being a mindless consumer. For example, if you listen to my Instagram stories, you know I have recently discovered this store called Dirt Cheap which has Target stuff at HUGE discounts. I will go in there and be like "hmmm, well, this vase is cute and SO CHEAP" and have it in my cart, but then think... why? Why do I need another vase? Is it sparking joy? Usually no - I usually get my joy in "things" from quirky knickknacks found in antique malls - and I am able to put it back. I mean yes, the thing is cheaper than my average Starbucks, but do I need MORE STUFF? Mostly, the answer is no. However, after living in our house four years, I am finally working to make some of our spaces more home-y and adult - a rug under our bed, finally hanging some art in the bathroom, and buying a concert poster with no idea where to hang it mostly because I was in love with it. (It's an Avett Brothers poster with an astronaut riding an armadillo and it was perfectly Houston. I had to.) I guess my personal line is that if it will make me feel a way - comforted, pull up a memory, etc - then I am more than willing to consume.

(But I also saw a tweet of a cartoon with the Marie Kondo landfills where the trash was up to the sky so I really am trying to be mindful of my footprint as a human.)
(The responses not to blame Marie for this are spot-on - WE are the ones to blame for having SO MUCH stuff. It isn't her fault for encouraging people to get rid of it. She didn't buy it for us)

And finally, vulnerability. I mentioned that before. I wrote the aforementioned paragraph and thought about how I would love to connect with some new, regular women who blog or read blogs, and how maybe they love to consume things and it brings them joy, and I wanted to rewrite everything I said. I don't want to hurt feelings. But I have to own what I think, try to articulate it, and accept when I'm wrong, or at least honor a difference of opinion. I have secretly wanted to be perfect in so many ways while trying to tell myself I didn't care what other people think for SO LONG, and it's exhausting. So, to put it all out there, and in the words of John Mayer, "just wanna be liked, just wanna be funny... looks like the joke's on me, so call me Captain Backfire." Not being my full self wasn't me enough, so it's a thing I'm looking to change. Trying to be more moderate and not piss people off worked in a way but was a disservice to me. I like to read real thoughts and feelings and see what everyone else is going through, but all I can control is what I put out there, and I am going to work to make that much more honest and vulnerable. 

SO anyway, if you are new here and made it through that, you might be my kind of people. I am much more likely to post on Instagram than keep blogging going, but if you like blogs, I already have half a post drafted which is more than I blogged all of last month. Cheers to working on you, reading about real people, and killing time on the internet.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

add it to my list, first of 2019

Bre wanted to write an add it to my list post on the same day but not do a link-up because one of our many traits in common is apathy to additional work, so here we are. Bre is also the enabler-in-chief so if she suggests I do something or buy something, I probably will. I consider it my implicit trust in her judgement (except for adult cartoons. I have to draw the line somewhere).

Anyway, to refresh your memory, Add It To My List came from the fact that I love telling people what to buy or consume in real life, so with this post, I can take that love onto the internet. So, here are some things I have enjoyed lately, broken down by things that cost nothing (and won't add to physical clutter for all of you who have Kondo'd recently), things that are really cheap (~$5), and things that cost a little more.

Things That Are Free:
Cold (podcast) - I guess I am fortunate to have not lived a hard life and to be able to listen to podcasts about difficult subjects. This one is about Susan Powell, a woman whose husband was suspected of her murder after she disappeared. There are so many weird, messed up details and many of the major people in the story kept diaries, plus there are police tape, so it is really well put-together listening. I'm not fully caught up and a few things drag, but I would recommend it if you like podcasts that focus on one case.

Believed (podcast) - This one is also hard to listen to, but I got sucked in while in my car solo on a four hour drive, so the eps just kept playing. It's about Larry Nassar. Nothing is sugar-coated, but it isn't exploited, either. There is enough info for you to CLEARLY understand that he was a criminal, but his acts aren't the focus; his survivors are.

So You Want to Talk About Race - putting this on the free list since I am all about libraries, but this one is worth your money. If you consider yourself a white ally but still have a hard time in conversations about affirmative action, or why there is no white history month, or other some such nonsense that you KNOW is ridiculous but you can't articulate why when approached with such ignorance, you need to read this book. Even if you know those things, or if you are a person of color, you would probably get something from it. I loved it. If nothing else, follow the author on twitter.

Things That Are Cheap
Homemade Medicine Balls! - Thanks to Leslie, I learned that you can make a Starbucks medicine ball at home. I was sick during the Christmas season and spent a small fortune on these at Starbucks. No idea if they actually work, but they taste good and make a nice work-time treat. For the uninitiated, it's a combo of boiling water and lemonade with peach tranquility tea and jade citrus mint tea, plus a touch of honey. Fifteen tea bags are around $5 and you can get them at Target, so the start-up cost to make these is higher than $5 but they save money in the longrun.

Face mask spatula - Bre told me this existed and I went to buy it that day. If you have facemasks that are in large tubes for multiple uses, these are amazing! It helps you apply the mask evenly, keeps your hands cleaner, and honestly just feels fancier. I got mine at Walmart for like, $2 but this Target one came up first on google.

Things That Are Less Cheap
Buying used - I bought a dresser from Joss & Main or Wayfair or something like that last year. I hated assembling it, and only two of the six drawers work correctly. I got some barstools that needed assembly from Target for Christmas. One of them is a bit wobbly. I realized I don't have this problem when I buy pre-loved furniture from my beloved antique malls. I got a lovely 1940s kitchen cabinet this weekend, no assembly required, plus I love that it was previously-loved and better for the Earth.

Stickers - So in #bujo/planner world, there is this company called The Happy Planner and they put out sticker books that are like, $20 each before coupons. Every few months, there is a new release and "planner girls" (yes, this is a thing) swarm Michael's/Hobby Lobby/JoAnn to get the latest stuff because sometimes, the best books disappear, never to be found again. Instagram FOMO is real. So this release happened and the Instagram flip-throughs were everywhere and there were two stickers books I needed. Picture me, at Hobby Lobby at 10 a.m., digging through boxes of not-yet-out merchandise to find my two books, and then asking my planner friends on facebook if anyone needs anything. While I was waiting for my answer, two more ladies came down the aisle and stopped at the empty pegs where the stickers should have been and seemed disappointed. I pointed them to the boxes to dig through and their morning was made. I never expected to bond with strangers over stickers as a grown woman, but here we are. The point here is if something dumb makes you happy, just get it... (and if you want to see how I use them, @brunchandbujo on instagram).

Carry-on Luggage with spinner wheels - I travel solo pretty frequently and can't expense a checked bag unless it's a long trip (nor do I want to anymore). I have a leather tote I use for my laptop and purse essentials, and then I make my way through the airport with my carry-on. I used to have a cheap one that I thought was fine - my bag could get pulled behind me, no big deal. But, I upgraded once I started traveling for work and being able to keep my bag upright in front of me with my laptop bag on top seems to weirdly simplify everything. I move down the plane aisle better, I can navigate through crowded airports faster, and it just feels easier. I got Andrew and I each a Samsonite at Ross for around $60, which is baggage fees for one round-trip flight, so definitely worth the money if you can pack light!

Houston restaurants that should be on your list: Morningstar (pancake balls!), Indianola (get the ham appetizer, and I don't even like ham), and Theodore Rex (it makes me happy every single trip).

That's my list lately - or at least, things I haven't already shared on instagram.


Tuesday, January 29, 2019

languages I don't speak

Not real languages. If you take this literally, than everything but English would be on this list. Spanish would get an asterisk. I can at least kind of understand and read that.

I'm talking more about pop culture languages. Things that other people slip into conversation and make reference to and others just get it while you smile and nod. Rent Live was all over my twitter feed the other night, and in the nicest way possible, I just didn't care. I mean I'm sure it's great and I know it was groundbreaking but I don't speak Broadway. I saw Wicked in NYC and Avenue Q when it came here and that's it. I didn't grow up with showtunes, wasn't a theatre kid, and it's just a whole world that exists that I don't understand.

Some other "languages" I don't speak:

Game of Thrones (all the white guys look the same, and the incest. I couldn't get into it)

Superheroes (Marvel? The other one? Crossovers? I know Batman, Superman, and Spiderman. And that I should see Black Panther. That's it.)

Current Pop Music (I'm not in the car long enough to hear it and I guess it doesn't matter enough for me to find it on YouTube? I know Cardi B says "Okurrrt" but that's about it.)

Candy Crush (Lives? Levels? I have never played it!)

Piano (Okay, not really a language but a lot of kids played growing up and know the basics. I can tap out Mary Had A Little Lamb for ya...)

Lord of the Rings (??? There is that weird thing with the rings and Gandalf?)

Star Wars/Trek (Never saw any of them. I get the ships mixed up. I know Trek is pointy ears and Scotty and the main characters of Wars but please do not reference the plots as I will be lost.)

What are some things you know nothing about, or "languages" you don't speak. I have a friend who doesn't speak Harry Potter which I at least learned long ago and can usually reference quite well.

OH and Bre and I are going to do Add It To My List, just as a post, not as a link-up, the last Tuesday in February so put that in your bujo and prepare!