A Survey and Leftovers

Standard

In the past week, two friends said “I just need to find your blog post about budgeting and using leftovers.” I took that as a sign (okay, I don’t believe in “signs”).. I took it as a slight nudge and reminder. A slight nudge and reminder that what I have to say might actually be interesting beyond my own self.

Anyway, the long absence comes with, hopefully, a long return. On to the actual blog:

Currently, our family has a $70 per week food budget. It has gone up slightly since I last blogged. This is, in part, because we are making a strong attempt to rarely eat out. Prior, our budget was filled with little expenses to the coffee shop or to grab a sandwich at Subway. When we calculated those little expenses, we realized it was a BIG expense. My husband’s employer doesn’t have a microwave so warm leftovers for lunch are out. We are putting the additional $10 toward lunch meat, sliced bread, and chips.

So, if you find all of this interesting, and would like a refresher as to my “budget philosophy” (like that term?), go here.

So how do you “start” your meal plan? Survey.

Here’s what my fridge looked like at the start of the week:

IMG_0313

Whoops. Sorry. That’s just a cute 10-month old-eating-yogurt-pic.

Alright, this is what my fridge really looked like:

IMG_0309

Here’s the inventory:

  • Breastmilk for the cute yogurt-eating baby
  • 2 half opened containers of yogurt
  • a whole lot of black beans
  • milk
  • 2 eggs (those were immediately eaten after the picture)
  • a tiny bit of sour cream
  • 2 bunches of almost too far gone carrots
  • 1 entire head of lettuce that still should be good
  • 1 bunch of celery
  • a few apples/strawberries/blueberries
  • lots of canned tomatoes and tomato sauce

Alright. Survey’s done. Now what? I start thinking, “what will NOT last and can NOT be frozen?”

  • Great. Pretty much everything on the list–except I could probably freeze the black beans.

I cooked the black beans for a soup, so, serving up ANOTHER black bean soup is out for the week. This week, we plan on having them three ways: baked sweet potatoes with black beans, black bean burgers with sweet potato fries (we have fries and buns in the freezer) and taco salad with an avocado buttermilk dressing (we LOVE this dressing).

The taco salad will use up the lettuce and the avocado dressing will use up the sour cream. Which leaves coming up with something for the celery and carrots: SOUP. Lentil soup brings in the protein, will use some of the carrots and celery, and will go well with some leftover garlic loaf bread that I have in the freezer.

See how that happened? Four meals with left over food and TONS of black beans! The only items added to grocery shopping list to complete these recipes were:

  • Sweet potatoes (I’m doubling the recipe for lunch)
  • Tomatoes (4 total: 2 for the taco salad, 2 for the sweet potato recipe)
  • Lime (for dressing)
  • Cilantro (for salad and sweet potatoes)
  • Tortilla chips (duh. delicious)
  • Avocados (3 total for the dressing and the ginormous baby)
  • Cheese (for taco salad)
  • green onion
  • bread crumbs (for burgers)
  • 2 dozen eggs (for burgers and mass morning consumption)
  • Buttermilk

Since I will have leftover buttermilk, I will need to think of some ways to use it up: pancakes and buttermilk biscuits for the lentil soup. That leaves two extra meals (veggie meatballs and leftovers). Bam! The list also included snacks, lunch meat, toothpaste, half and half (for coffee!), fruit, and chili powder since we were running low.

The total came to $68 (I had $2.50 in e-coupons).

Again, keeping your pantry stocked up on things like lentils, flours, garlic, onions, and grains helps keep the budget low (for example, the ONLY thing we needed to buy for the lentil soup supper was buttermilk). We avoided meat and tons of dairy this week because of the expense of snacks, lunch meat, soda and chips. Hope this provides a starting point.

Off to feed the super snuggly baby!

A year

Standard

A year.

It’s been an entire year since I’ve written. This past year has been life-altering: filled with welcoming our son to this world in May. My heart (and mind) haven’t been ready to try to pen the emotional flow of pregnancy, birth, and life-after. It has been a sacred year. It has been a year that felt like five years. A year that completely and totally shattered my preconceptions, that broke and re-molded me, that helped me find peace all while handing me a deep sense of mama-bear-worry. A year.

I wasn’t ready to write, until today.

So, I think it’s only fitting that I try to put to words our son’s birth and the last year.

First, you all should know that I’m a planner. According to my plan, I wasn’t supposed to have a baby until the end of the school year. I was going to finish my Master’s and voila! newborn! Yes, laughable…but the truth. So, when I gave a presentation at my job on the farm in July and felt like I was going to faint, I knew something was off. I had a spare pregnancy test (again, for a few months in the future when we would be “trying”) and had a fleeting thought….maybe I’ll just take it.

I remember the moment when the second line appeared. I sat on the back steps of the house unable to fully breath. Really? BUT THIS WASN’T MY PLAN.

I truly believe God planned this pregnancy to be unplanned. It was the blessing. Since I was not in control at the start, I more readily accepted that I never was in control. So, when I spent weeks upon weeks hugging the toilet (or carrying trash bags in my purse for the unexpected morning sickness), when I realized I wasn’t finishing my Master’s on time, and when we decided to wait on choosing a name for  our little one until after we met (which would never EVER have happened in my planning mind), I rolled with it. I wasn’t in control–God was.

We were fortunate to have a health pregnancy. The 20 week ultrasound was indecipherable (how can anyone know what that black and white blur is??) but we heard the words “healthy,” “blessing,” and “BOY.” Watching each month tick by, we waited–expectantly. We travelled as much as we could: to Nevada, California, North Carolina, and Hawaii. I continued to try to prepare my mind and heart for birth. I was scared of the unknown, of the pain, of whether I would be able to birth my child naturally. I was scared that God was continuing to teach me what a loss of control really looked like…

Hawaii

One day shy of 36 weeks, a Sunday, I woke with cramping. I begged my husband for donuts. We settled on a trip to Krispy Kreme. By the time we got to the taste of sugary, North Carolina good-ness, I felt terrible. I paged our midwives. I made it to church, threw up, and then spent the entire service in the bathroom coaxing myself through the shock of potentially having contractions. We hadn’t packed our bags. This wasn’t part of “the plan.”

And then the contractions (or whatever they were) stopped.

By Good Friday (three days before my due date), the cramping started again. This time I was ready. Again, breathing through the service. The cramping continued, on and off, for several days–through Easter. I called in to work to let them know I wouldn’t be in. My husband stopped working, thinking labor was imminent.

And the contractions stopped.

Two weeks slowly crawled by. I tried every tale that induces labor: acupuncture, homeopathics, spicy foods, walking, yoga, pineapple. Nothing worked. I painted our bathroom–desperate to encourage our little one to make it into the world. Just so you know–standing on bathtubs while two weeks overdue won’t bring a baby either. We went through testing and another ultrasound to ensure everything was still OK. We heard the words “healthy” and “a LOT of hair.” By 41 weeks and 6 days, a Sunday, our midwives decided to encourage our little one–partially because my, ahem, “plan” of being at a birth center would end at midnight when I, officially, hit 42 weeks, and partially because they knew I just couldn’t wait another day. To my foggy, I’m-done-with-not-having-my-body-to-myself brain, the midwives were going to give me some liquid concoction of herbs whose only known side effect was to bring on labor. Bring it.

The cramping started again about nine hours before our scheduled trip to meet the midwives for my special bring-on-labor cocktail. I shooed the twinges away and tried to catch my final hours of sleep, all while anxiously focusing on the cramps–are they consistent? Are they getting closer together? Could this be it? But then, again, the cramping had come and disappeared so many times that I merely believed it was just another ache and pain of carrying a baby.

The 45 minute drive to our birth center was long and silent, my husband holding my hand. I remember trying to center myself solely on breathing through the little twinges, as if I was practicing for the big ones and giving myself a little pep talk. It was surreal and strange not going into labor as I expected. I thought I’d be at home for hours during early labor and then have a difficult, long ride to the birth center. I didn’t think I’d have a deep, reflective conversation with the midwives or go out for Thai food while waiting for labor to start post-liquid-concoction. I also didn’t think I’d be 7 cm dilated and not know it or that my “cramps” were actually contractions. But there you have it, I wasn’t in control.

Birth was hard, but nothing beyond what my only-child imagination had dreamt of. I think I must have spent most of the birth with eyes closed and shoulders clenched…because, well, I really only remember voices and my shoulders still ache 3 months post-birth. Beautiful voices compose my memories– of Alissa, our doula, counting during the pushes and sweetly pulling my hair out of my face (note to self: have hair long enough to fit into a ponytail or short enough not to plaster itself over your squinted eyes); of Christine, our midwife, squeezing my hand and telling me I could do it; of Taylor, our midwife, making eye contact (one of the few visuals I remember) and telling me I was doing awesome in such a strong way that I truly believed it; of my dear, loving husband holding me, never leaving my side, and repeating over and over and over what a good job I was doing. I remember promising myself that I would never, ever drink lavender colored Gatorade again. I remember thinking, when I dropped into the warm birthing tub, that I just might fall asleep and slip under the water. I remember hating, with every ounce of my body, the person who designed a birthing stool….Actually, I still hate that person.

 

And I remember when Taylor said that I had been pushing for four hours.

 

That moment is blazed in my brain, because my eyes opened and it was dark outside. Apparently, hours had passed. Taylor gave me an ultimatum: two more pushes and, if nothing changed, I needed to go to the hospital.

I really didn’t want to go to the hospital. That wasn’t part of the plan. My brain moved from focusing on each breath to a whirlwind of panic and frustration. I put all of my energy into those pushes: mentally begging and pleading with my body, our little baby, and God. In a moment, I also surrendered and  told myself that if nothing changed I had done my best.

Funny thing, all of my releasing of plans hadn’t prepared me for the final hour of labor. God, truly, wanted to break my sense of needing a plan and being in control. The ride to the hospital was, well, as you can imagine–terrible. And, when the OB told me that my son, in spite of her best efforts to move him, was just not turning, I was mad. The OB confidently told me she thought a C-section was best as I sent every mean thought her direction through my squinted laser eyes. Did I want to talk it over? No. Was this the way I imagined the birth to go? No. Did I want to continue to labor? No. Was I willing to consent to a C-section? Yes.

This was the first time during labor that I felt out of control, even though it was one of the few moments where I made a decision and was in control. I was surrounded by nurses and doctors that I didn’t know. Although my doula, my husband, and the midwives were present and by my side, I felt utterly alone and scared. Hospital policies prevented anyone in the operation room while they gave me anesthesia.  I believe God orchestrated a wonderful nurse to be present as I struggled accepting this new reality. She didn’t leave me while they gave the anesthesia–she stood, eyes locked on mine, encouraging.

And then, clarity returned; eyes opened. I watched the clock, realizing that my arrival at the hospital occurred past midnight and I was officially 42 weeks. I remember commenting on my doctor’s shoes (yup–that’s right). In fifteen minutes, they were pulling our son out.

After hours upon hours of remembering to breathe, I lost my breath when I heard our son’s cry. I ached to see and hold him. The nurses swooned “look at all that hair!” and decidedly announced that he needed a blues name to match his scruffy voice. My husband said “oh my gosh, he looks like my dad.”

Haven

Our boy was big, pink, and healthy. His hair swirled in a black wave atop his head. In an instant, I felt utterly in love, unprepared, and mesmerized by this little being that had been hidden inside of me for so long.

 

I realized that I had just been a participant in a miracle, entirely out of my control.

 

Haven Eli Collier (4)

A year.

 

Our midwives

Our midwives, Taylor and Christine

 

First bath at home

Haven

Big Life Daydreaming

Standard

I’ve had a lot of time to think over the past few weeks. Mostly, this is due to my summer job which involves long stretches of working outside on a research farm while doing tasks that exhaust your body. In an effort to keep my mind OFF of how tired my body is, I think about….well….big life things. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of time to daydream about my life.

Sometimes it’s just nicer to think about where you’d rather be than be present in the moment.

(Don’t tell my yoga instructor I just said that.)

Anyway, I’ve been struck by how these long stretches of quiet, often painful physical labor have seemingly reminded me of long-lost passions and desires. I’ve also wondered how they ever got so buried? I thought they’d always been there, held tightly. I’m realizing how utterly forgotten they have been.

Or maybe they have just evolved, in these hidden dark places, into something entirely familiar but new?

For example, I wrapped a present for a friend’s baby shower last week. I rummaged through my box of salvaged tissue paper and leftover bags from wedding presents to find the most beautiful handmade paper filled with blue and purple butterflies. I had a fleeting moment where I wanted to keep the paper forever because it was too pretty. But, I hastily cut and clipped to make it fit this friend’s present. Then, in that quiet moment, the long-lost passion hit me:

I love beautiful paper and handwritten letters.

I started thinking–why did I ever stop making cards? Why did I never connect how very much I like wrapping presents? And, (here’s where my brain went on to a “big life daydream”) why don’t I actually do this as a job or as play more than once-every-four-months-for-a-shower?

All of this thinking has led me to the realization that I miss my creativity. For so many years I have focused on “science” that I have turned off the part of my brain that could sit for hours on the floor cutting paper and making cards or sewing a pretty quilt. I realized that, at some point, I stopped noting the things that inspired my creativity and, just like a butterfly, the creativity left.

I have yet to figure out, exactly, how to recapture the creativity. But, I think the first part of my daydreaming is awareness (here’s where my yoga teacher can be happy again). Awareness that I miss this part of myself and, with this absence, something new and extraordinarily more beautiful will rise from it.

 

$60 per week meal planning #2-

Standard

After (another) long hiatus from blogging, I thought I’d share this week’s menu plans with you all. This week’s total came to approximately $70 (that includes three dinner meals with guests and 3 jars of peanut butter on sale). I know I’m–technically– over budget, however, adding meals for seven more throughout the week bumped us over budget.

 

I, first, surveyed the fridge and had an abundance of a few food items from friends (namely lemons and eggs). Lettuce and kale in my garden are doing well and, therefore, make a few appearances on this week’s list:

Sunday: Kale and Goat Cheese Frittata

Monday: Stuffed Swiss Chard (recipe to follow)

Tuesday: Taco Salad with Avocados, Beans, Roasted Corn, and Chipotle dressing; Homemade raspberry ice cream

Wednesday: Fish and Kale Salad

Thursday: out to dinner!

Friday: Burgers, Sweet Potato Fries, and Salad

 

Enjoy!

Saying Goodbye

Standard

Let me start my month-long silence by telling you that I’ve had semi-good reasons for not writing. Similar to the dread that I experienced in high school when my mom left me a short and seemingly simple list of chores, I’ve been dreading writing this post and needed the space to process.

Two weeks ago my husband and I wished our friends Kyle and Kristina off as they moved to Minnesota. Although we knew the day was coming, I don’t think either of us had fully prepared ourselves for saying good-bye to our friends that had, really, become family. Kyle and Kristina, their beautiful daughter, and their crazy dogs, had become integral to our daily lives. The last two weeks are left with a missing-ness (if you all will give me the liberty to make up that seemingly perfect word). We have been so accustomed to swinging by for 10 minutes, spending a casual evening at one another’s houses while watching TV, and just easily chatting over pizza. Kyle and Kristina have been our encouragers, faithful dog-watcher, and holiday hang-out couple for a while now.

 

Alex and I have been struggling to fill our time with these friends gone. Although we have gone through many moves and transitions over the last 10 or so years, I don’t think any get easier. We’re constantly trying to fill these missing holes with other things that never quite fit. The only “fix” is to find something entirely new and unique that makes the longing/missing a little less.

When I was younger, my mom read The Little Engine That Could and I find myself repeating this over and over as I process through the missing of our dear friends:

 

 

Finding happiness

Standard

When I was four years old, my family moved to North Carolina.

I’m not sure if it was my first day living in my new house, but as I ran in to the backyard, there were two girls there, about the same age, who ran up to the chain link fence saying “HEEEEYYY!”

Now, “hey” was not a word yet in my language storage bank. But, after meeting Amanda (one of the girls), saying “hey” and saying “HEEEEYYY!” are definitely distinguishable. The former being a general greeting to a stranger, the later being reserved for the most joyous, dearest friends. This greeting will forever remind me of this first introduction to the South and to Amanda (here’s a picture of us from a few years back).

525430_698350837634_1409424439_n

Amanda is, perhaps, one of the happiest people that I know. I mean, she’s REALLY happy (like tackle you on the side of the street happy, like squeal at the sight of a baby happy, like laugh until you cry all. the. time. happy).

And her joy is infectious.

I tend to be critical and opinionated. Amanda tends to melt this down into a babbling, happy Becky.

For the longest time I struggled with how “not happy” I am. But, over the last few weeks, something strange has been happening.

I’ve started finding things that make me crazy “Amanda” happy.

I don’t know what caused this shift away from constant negativity (because I know I’ve tried in the past without success). But, I think part of it comes with awareness. Anyway, back to these things (which are not related to the big “life” things which make me happy in a much more fulfilling, lifelong sort of way).

They’re little things that make me dance in the middle of the yoga studio happy or make me start laughing to myself. I think they’ve always made me happy but, I was just too good at keeping myself sensible to notice.

So, y’all want to know what makes me happy? Here’s the 2 week list :):

1. Polka Dots! (and, since discovering this–which all started with a polka dot key chain from–you guessed it–Amanda–I now own a LOT of polka dot clothing)

2. Sprinkles (rainbow all the way!)

3. Fruit Snacks!

4. Fried Okra!

5. Chocolate Croissants!

Is it a little concerning that most of these are food items (that happen to not be healthy for you)? Or how many explanation points I just used?

So what makes you happy??

 

$60 per week meal planning #1

Standard

So I’ve somewhat “slacked” on providing you all actual lists of what I’m planning on making. Partially, this is due to my crazy life which has resulted in a lot of not-fun meals (read: eating out, take-n-bake pizzas, or spaghetti). I think (and hope) that I’m back on track!

 

Here’s this week’s list–which, with a bottle of wine, came to $49:

Monday: Spaghetti with zucchini and yellow squash (shoot! this isn’t supporting my previous claim of being back on track)

Tuesday: Stir-fry (bok choy, carrots, broccoli, and tofu) with ginger tamari sauce (this sauce recipe comes from the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen–though it’s given at this blog site), brown rice

Wednesday: Falafel, pita, lettuce, and tzatziki

Thursday: I wrote on my list strawberry rhubarb dessert because I am making dessert for our Bible Study. Apparently, I wasn’t wise enough to actually plan a meal. Perhaps a nice big salad is in order… I think I’ll have enough leftovers from the stir-fry and I have plenty of lettuce in the garden

Friday: red beans and rice with cornbread (working on perfecting the recipe for a Southern dinner we’re fixing in a week…I’ll share it soon!)

Saturday: leftovers/clear out the fridge!

 

Enjoy!