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Why, Cable, Why?

30 Mar

So after a blissful 11 years of being cable free, surviving at first on the fruits of network television and later, Netflix and Amazon Prime, my household recently succumbed to the filth that is cable TV. My husband was disarmed by an AT&T warlock who promised him riches of neverending cell phone data in exchange for a yearlong Direct TV contract. Well as is customary, AT&T was lying and we are currently dealing with big fat question mark on what we owe and yes – STILL NO UNLIMITED DATA, but at least we have some truly awful television to keep our minds occupied.

Well, 98.1% awful. There is Better Call Saul, after all.

Uncomfortable interaction of the week:

So the install guy comes to set it up and is in the process of showing me how to work the remote.

Tech: “Here, press this and choose a show to record”

Me: <Press the guide button and a show called MAN-EATERS OF THE CONGO displays in 60-inch grossness>

Me: “Ha, ew, right?” <awkward laugh in desperate attempt to convey that this is not the sort of thing my family is into>

Tech: <unamused> “Ok, switch channels with this button”

Me: <Change channel to (of course) CAJUN PAWN STARS>

Me: <after several dozen cuss word bleeps I finally find the mute button>

Me: “Hah, oh my, what have we gotten ourselves in to?”

Tech: “yeah.”

Now there are some truly nasty things available via this cable box – things much worse than congo area man eaters and pawn shop language – that we have had to physically remove from even appearing on the guide, but not all of it is terrible.

The best parts of having cable:

  • (The aforementioned) Better Call Saul
  • Fixer Upper
  • My 600lb. Life
  • Jill & Jessa: Counting On
  • Baskets
  • The Americans

It seems like total overkill to have 800-something channels for just a handful of shows, right? We most likely won’t keep the service after the promotional year ends (unless AT&T offers us the same never ending youth deal that they gave Stamos), but it’s here to stay for the moment.

Leave me some suggestions if you have any great cable shows you adore that won’t make me gasp and clutch my pearls.

How I Became a Costco Member.

30 Jan

Can a family of 4 shrink their monthly grocery spending from $600 to $400 and live to tell the tale?!

Stay tuned.

I have no idea where I got $400 from. I pulled it out of thin air. Actually that’s not entirely true. Here’s what happened.

We’re fans of the huge price club stores. Way back in the day we used to have a Sams Club membership and used it mostly to buy paper towels, toilet paper, disposable diapers (before I stumbled into the world of Cloth Diapers), and baby formula (my son was formula fed, my daughter was breastfed until her 2nd birthday. Side note: They’re both healthy, happy, appropriately attached children with similar brain function and immune system capabilities. If you’re reading this and are one of the people who made me feel like a rotten scoundrel for failing at breastfeeding my son…thanks a lot for the unnecessary anxiety.)

Anyway, those are the things we typically bought at Sam’s Club. Once we switched to cloth diapers and ditched the formula, we let the membership expire and started using Kroger 100% for grocery shopping. Sweet little Kroger, home of the expensive hormonal GMO meat. Birthplace of the football-sized chicken breast. Everytime I took one of these massive things out of its package I imagined the poor chicken as she lived, constant back pain from her enormous bosom, can’t find a decent bra, you know how it is when you’ve been genetically modified with growth hormone. I felt guilty for participating in her sad outcome.

Sure, Kroger has their Simple Truth organic meat, but it is astronomical in price. Which makes me crazy. Oh yeah, let’s make it completely unaffordable to eat real, clean foods and then wonder why America’s getting heavier and sicker every year. I actually don’t know the statistics on America’s progression as far as being heavy and sick, but it sounds right to say things are getting worse. This isn’t one of those blogs where I do research and present you with sound content.

Anyway, there I was, trying to go for the Simple Truth meats whenever I could, but sometimes slipping and grabbing the dirty meat because, well frankly, there were times I just wasn’t in the mood to pay eight dollars for a pound of ground beef. Considering $8 can get you 3 sacks full of ready to eat Taco Bell…again I ask why wouldn’t 74.1% of America be overweight?? (Oh yeah, I looked it up on Wikipedia! Nailed it.)

It's from Wikipedia, so it's true.

It’s from Wikipedia, so it’s true.

So I started limiting the amount of meat I would buy. I went from making some kind of meaty dinner 4 times a week, to 2 or maybe 3. I have a fair amount of good vegetarian recipes, so I simply added more of those into my dinner rotation. That worked pretty well for us, but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I was overpaying for my meats. 

If you know me, you might be thinking that now’s about the time time my BFF Michelle should step in and stop this madness. Well that’s exactly what happened. She let me tag along with her on a random Costco trip (she definitely was NOT letting me purchase things for my son’s birthday party on her Costco card and then letting me pay her back later. That would be wrong, and against Costco’s policy. Wink!) So anyway, on that purely sightseeing trip to Costco, I witnessed Michelle buying all this organic meat in bulk; ground beef, pork, chicken, oh my! Dividing it out by pound, I realized it was cheaper than Kroger. Quite a bit cheaper. Oh wow. Even when we were members of Sam’s Club it never dawned on me that I could be buying meats there.

So that was months ago. My husband (do I call him “husband” in every blog post? I think I do. It’s Tyson. Blog audience, meet Tyson, if you haven’t already). Tyson and I have known for a while now that they’re building a Costco right by our house that will be open at the end of 2014, so we decided that while it made sense to get a Costco membership, it also made sense to wait for the close one to be built. The existing one is 40 minutes away from our house. So we tried to wait. I continued to do my shopping at Kroger, but cringed everytine I bought meat. Then recently I started looking for ways to cut our grocery budget. I was pretty convinced we were overspending in this column, and decided restructuring it would be my new project. After days of brainstorming, I had the plan.

Step one: get a Costco membership

Step two: shop at Costco for meat and other bulk items.

It’s a pretty simple plan.

So we went to Costco and laid down $55 for a year membership. Then we all ate a hot dog lunch for $6.49 total.

Three hours later we emerged, sporting that special family dynamic that can only be brought on by hours of lollipop bribery and 30 trips to the bathroom. It was exhilarating.

Now here’s how I arrived at the $400/month grocery budget.

We spent $213.94 at Costco that day getting basically everything we buy throughout the month all at once. From laundry detergent to PB&J to our beloved HBO. Minusing out the pack of Sofia the First panties I got for my daughter, and a shirt for Tyson, it was ballpark $200. Meat wise I got 3 pounds of ground beef, 3 pounds of chicken breast, 4 pounds of pork sirloin tip roast, and 2 pounds of salmon. I plugged the meats into a month long dinner list, evenly spaced so that we are having two meats and one fish per week. I had also picked up a bunch of pasta in bulk so I plugged that in too, one pasta dish per week. Our whole family is wild about breakfast (really, who isn’t?), so we’ll also have a breakfast for dinner once a week. PS-serving breakfast for dinner makes your family think you’re the coolest.

So, let’s cut to the chase. Here’s what my month long dinner list looks like:

Screenshot 2014-01-30 at 4.00.54 PM

The whole thing won’t fit on one page without scrolling (keep rockin’, Google Keep!), but you get the idea. You might see there are some dinners I haven’t completely fleshed out yet. I’ve gotten part of the ingredients from Costco on my monthly run, but will still need more to make it. That’s where the other $200 of the monthly budget comes in. Every Monday (grocery day), I’ll go to Kroger and get what I need to complete that week’s meals. I’ve done this two times already and both times it’s cost me around $50. Do that 4 times a month, and it should be $200 Hence, I should be able to put this show on for $400 a month.

There you go. Stay where you are now (on the edge of your seat) and I’ll let you know if I’m able to keep this up and stay in budget.

I leave you with a glorious picture of frozen meat:

Treat yo' self...to organic meats.

Treat yo’ self…to organic meats.

xoxo

The One Where I Became a Barenaked Ladies Fan

11 Jul

If you’re a Ben Folds (Five) fan, you can rest assured that you have outstanding musical taste. If you’ve had the good sense to attend one or more of their shows, you and I will have to talk some time, because we both have experienced something magical.

Now, for some bizarre reason that I don’t understand, Ben doesn’t always headline the show he’s playing. So as you might imagine, over the 10 or so years we’ve been going to these shows, we’ve inadvertently seen a handful of other musical acts. Some have been pretty good (The Fray), others were not so good (I’m looking at you, Tori Amos).

Last month we went to the very first stop on Ben’s Last Summer on Earth Tour in Grand Prairie. I bought these tickets forever ago on the first day, in the first minute of the presale window, and the seats were phenominal. The non-Ben bands at this show were the Barenaked Ladies (the One Week guys?), and Guster (who?). I had absolutely no idea who was supposed to be the main headline. I know who I would choose as the main headline, but experience told me not to get my hopes up.

So Guster ended up being first. They had a decent little following in the crowd. Their music was good, I didn’t recognize any songs, but I enjoyed most of them. Honestly though, the guy kind of lost me after the first song when he said a little bit sarcastically, “Wow, I didn’t know Grand Prairie could rock so hard”. At first I thought “Does this guy not know where he is? Does he think he’s in some podunk little Texas town? Maybe he doesn’t realize that we’re basically in Dallas?”.  It felt completely inauthentic and weird. Anyway, I was wrong. Like the layers of a sweet, sweet onion which has started to mold, things started to reveal themselves over the course of the show. We found out that he is in fact FROM Texas, lived in Dallas for a time as a child, and absolutely hated every second of it. Clearly for him, the audience represented everyone from middle school who bullied him and told him he was wasting his time pursuing music. I felt like he should’ve covered Toby Keith’s How Do You Like Me Now?”. My husband thought he was just bitter about his band playing first, essentially being the opener. Maybe so, but either way the man did not enjoy his Lone Star stay. I say, it’s okay, Guster dude. If you’re playing the Verizon Theater in any capacity, you’ve probably gotten the last laugh regarding your childhood bullies. Chillax a little bit.

Next was Ben Folds Five, and it was, of course, perfection. We’ve never been so close to Ben before. Last time we saw him at Bass Hall and we were pretty close, but on the far end of his piano. We enjoyed a great view of the top of his head. This time…

Image

Hello, old friend!

Ok, we had a great view of his back mostly. Highlights include watching his hands on the piano keys and trying to figure out what kind of phone he uses based on the indentation of it in his back pocket. Anyway, that was pretty cool. I don’t think I’ve been that close to a famous person since the Mr. Belding Incident.

The award for biggest surprise of the night goes to (drumroll) The Barenaked Ladies!! Turns out they were the ultimate headliner. They closed the show and had by far the most massive reaction from the crowd. You know how it is when you’re at a concert and the openers finally finish and leave the stage, and then the lighting changes, and maybe the background marquee thing morphs a little, and people start cheering a little…and the atmosphere changes to like okay, let’s get down to some REAL business! That’s what it was like right before BNL came on. The whole place came alive. Barenaked Ladies. Who knew??

Here’s me when they first came out: A little annoyed that Ben is done and there is clearly not going to be an encore. Arms crossed, thinking maybe I’ll stay long enough to hear that One Week song and then suggest we jet outta there to beat the traffic.

Well okay. It took the BNL guy about 4 minutes to completely win me over. He’s got amazing stage presence, and is FUNNY. Plus it turns out they sing way more songs I like, and I had forgotten all of them. Did you know they sing the theme song to the Big Bang Theory? I don’t watch that show but I know a ton of people do. That’s pretty big. Watching them play, I started thinking about how they’re probably pretty rich by now. Like, really rich. I wonder if he laughs a little in his head when he sings If I Had a Million Dollars, since he most likey does have a million dollars. I wonder if he’s gone through all the things in the song and bought them. That’s what I’d do. At least I think I would. I actually don’t know the lyrics really well…I know he says something about an emu. People who are very rich completely facinate me.

Update (1/16/16): I have since watched all aired episodes of The Big Bang Theory, and I am now the world’s biggest fan.

Let's be friends.

Let’s be friends, guy from BNL.

Coffee and My Teeth

11 Nov

First of all, this.

Yes.

How amazing is coffee, right?

The dentist once told me I should lay off the coffee, that it stains my teeth and whatnot. I respectfully declined.

Anyway, I went to the dentist on Friday. It was bad. Again.

I have the worst teeth in America. They’re trying their darnedest to ensure I have a full set of dentures by the time I’m 50. Let me assure you that I have the utmost dental hygiene habits. I brush my teeth, on most days, three times. I floss daily. I use a prescription fluoride treatment before bed. I visit my meanie of a dentist every six months.

But every six months, without fail, I have at least one cavity.

Oh if only I could breeze in, get a nice gentle tooth polish and go home, swinging my free toothbrush and floss in the cute little bag with the anthropomorphic dancing tooth on it. Nope. I have to stay an extra hour and get shot up with Novocaine while two people attack my mouth with power tools.

So on Friday, after I got my cleaning done the dentist comes over all like “Hello Stefanie, how are you today?” And I’m like “I’m ok, but I’d be much better if you tell me I can walk out of here without any cavities”. And the man actually CHUCKLES.

Sigh.

Apparently the hygienist who cleaned my teeth and did my X-rays had betrayed me by secretly noting which of my teeth she thought had cavities, and leaving that information on a post-it for the dentist to see. Ugh! I see all that bonding and chatting we did about our kids earlier meant nothing!

I whined a little bit (as I always do) about how unfair it is that I have such a strict oral hygiene routine and I still get cavities. At that point there was some discussion among the doctor and hygienist that perhaps I’m not flossing correctly.

Say what, now? Is there more than one way to jam a string between two teeth?

Well doctor, I was thinking perhaps you aren’t putting on your pants correctly. Cause we all do it another way.

Whatever. Just fix the teeth.

So yes, 2 more cavities. Off we go to the procedure room in the back. Laying back in the chair I’m forced to stare at this toothpaste advertisement poster that they have attached to the ceiling. It’s of this pretty woman with the whitest, straightest teeth you’ve ever seen. I hate youI think.

Every time I come home all numb in the face and crabby I always toss up my hands and say “Forget it! I give up! Why bother? I’m just going to gargle with Dr. Pepper and see what that does.” But I can’t sleep unless I floss, so I keep doing it. Not that I’m doing it the right way anyway.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking, and I’ve found some good news. Someday soon all my teeth will just be pure fillings. There will be no more natural tooth components left, thus no more cavities!

My next appointment is in May 2013. Hear that, cavities? You have nearly six months to settle in, better get started. I’ll help you out by pounding you in further with my sloppy flossing techniques. Happy eating!

 

Calories and Paint

7 Aug

For anyone who was riveted by my quest to use my FitBit to accurately measure my calorie burn in spin class, I bring you an update! Clipping it to my sock seems to be fairly accurate. I’ve been averaging between 500 and 600 calories each class, which is a whole lot closer to my target than that shabby 208 I got while wearing it on my waist. I still don’t know how accurate it is, but I’ll take it. On any machine where I can see an estimation of my calorie burn in front of me (like elliptical, treadmill, or stationary bike), the calories burned is always a good 100 over what the FitBit says. But I figure I’d rather be estimating under my actual calorie burn rather than over, as I will eat every one of those surplus calories, just because I can. It’s like having a little extra money at the end of the month (does that actually happen to anyone?), and having the urge to go out and spend it all, just because it’s there. I am a gold medalist in eating. I am the Michael Phelps of food consumption. All I need is a slight nod from FitBit that I am 600 calories under my daily budget and that fridge is open. So I underestimate to trick my brain. Good thing my brain’s easy to trick. Wait, what?

I’m burying this next part in the middle of my blog that hardly anybody reads because it’s basically tooting my own horn and I’m bad at that sort of thing. Taking a compliment, no matter how small, feels so awkward and usually causes me to go on a rant about another area of my life that needs improvement. Which just makes everyone uncomfortable. Why can’t I just say “thank you” and move on? Anyway, I am proud of myself on this one. As of this morning I have reached a weight that brings me to a BMI in the normal range. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am not considered to be “slightly overweight”. This is where I could go on about how my BMI is the extreme highest you can have and still be considered “normal”. I will not do it. I’ve worked too hard these past 3 months. Good job, me! Thank you.

For the last several days I’ve been using all my spare time to finish up the painting in our house. One by one we’d done every area except the master bedroom and the hallway. Doesn’t everyone leave the master for last when doing home upgrades? No one’s even gonna see it, why bother?? I know all the relationship experts say you need to spend time making a haven for yourselves, especially for parents of young children. So…white walls, mismatched art, and a baby bouncer in the corner isn’t cutting it? Oh, ok then. Anyway we managed to agree on a really pretty lavender color for the walls that actually accentuates the purple floral drapes that we previously thought were hideous. Turns out they are hideous, when hanging on either side of a bed with a brown patterned comforter. We ditched the brown, brought in a solid dark lavender quilt with white accents, and ta-da! Definitely more haven-like. As for the hallway, I was trying to match the color to the existing paint that we have in the main areas of the house. The paint guy at Home Depot (who I feel compelled to tell you, was dressed to the nines as a Cowboy) assured me it was the same color. It is not. Not a huge deal when you figure the hallway is in different lighting, but there are several areas where I went around the corner slightly with the new color and you can totally see it. Just warning you, in case you come over before I get a chance to fix it.  Anyway, my main point to all that was to say that I burned like 300 calories at each painting session. Score!

ps: I do all the painting in our house. My husband does not and will not paint a wall. Except the part in our dining room where someone accidentally touched the ceiling with the roller and there are paint spots. He did that.

Bitter, party of 1

3 Jul

I can’t stand packing. Wait, let me rephrase…I can’t stand packing when the fun’s over and I’m leaving. Packing is the best thing ever when you’re getting ready to go on vacation or something.  So I’m sitting here on my in-laws’ couch with toys all over their living room, Kiwi’s crate in their computer room, dirty diapers in their washer, dirty sippy cups in their sink, clothes all over every square inch of the guest room, 1001 toiletry items scattered in the bathroom, and who knows what else that has rolled under the couch that we’ll just end up leaving behind. We’re hitting the road sometime tomorrow morning supposedly, but that’s a little hard to envision right now. I have had such a wonderful week and a half with my family and friends, and am bitter about leaving FL. I think a big part of my bitterness is that our house hasn’t sold while we were gone, and now we have to go back to keeping the house “show ready” while also trying to live in it. We’ve had a good number of showings this week, and it seems like there are some interested parties, but no offers yet. So that has me a little crabby. But I know the right people will come along, and our house will be perfect for them. I know it will happen.

Ok, getting up to help tackle this task!

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