Category Archives: Life in General

Freezing!

It’s October 1st and we are freezing!

Wait. What? It’s a beautiful, sunshiny, warm-ish (for October in the Pacific Northwest) day! But alas, my household is freezing. Our spending, that is.

Ruth over at Living Well Spending Less has put out the challenge, and I am up for it! The challenge: 31 Days of Living Well and Spending ZERO! Yes, ZERO! I’m a little nervous, but my nearly non-existent budget for the last…well, as long as I can remember…has prepared me for this day and this challenge.

My long-time blog readers and followers may recall me going on assorted different spending freezes, clean out the fridge/freezer/pantry challenges, and just plain being broke over the years, but this will be the first time I take on the challenge of actually committing to spending NO MONEY (aside from necessities and bills, of course.)

$10 Menu and Shopping List (Yes, I used coupons. No, I don't always spend so little at the store.)

$10 Menu and Shopping List (Yes, I used coupons. No, I don’t always spend so little at the store.)

All of this means that I am going to be brewing my stock-piled coffee stash (my beloved Starbucks Tribute will find its way into my coffee cup this month), will not be drinking wine (this isn’t a necessity, and I did NOT stock up before taking this challenge, because, well, that kind of defeats the purpose, right?) but may pull some long-forgotten vodka from the back of my freezer as I dig around in hopes of locating an also long-forgotten yummy treat to enjoy, and our menus will be fun and maybe a bit quirky as we use what is floating around our pantry, fridge, and freezers. This also means that my lunch-time visits to Starbucks are on hold for the month, as well as my more-frequent-than-I-care-to-admit trips through the McDonald’s drive thru for lunch (good-bye cheeseburger and small fries. I don’t think I’ll actually miss you, and I will be happy to keep my $2.62 per visit all to myself!)

What would you have the most difficulty giving up for a month, or even indefinitely? For me, it’s coffee (I know, shocking, right!? :)). And chocolate. My chocolate stash will surely run out this month…good thing I have plenty of chocolate chips. Yes, I know they are meant for baking into yummy treats, but I see no harm in popping a handful of that semi-sweet chocolatey goodness in my mouth while I give myself a pep talk convincing myself I do NOT need to go buy more Godiva chocolate (at the mall, where of course I will want to stop in at all my other favorite stores as well…). Don’t worry, Godiva, I WILL be back again. I won’t leave you forever, I love you too much and you make my stress melt away. xo

Now that you know what I *won’t* be buying, let’s talk about what I *will* spend money on. Bills. Gas (so I can get to and from work so I can get paid so I can pay those bills). Required school fees for my teens.

Perishable foods including produce (if needed. But we have an awesome neighbor who likes to share his garden goodies with us, so those may not be needed. Plus, I already spent the money on a Bountiful Baskets contribution that I get to pick up on Saturday, which should hold us over for a couple of weeks at least.), dairy, perhaps bread (I may decide we should just get back to making our own like we used to…) Our grocery budget is generally low anyway, in about the $200/month range, but we are cutting way back to just the basics and I anticipate spending around $40 this month.

Stick with me this month and see how much fun we can have without spending any money! It CAN be done, even with two teenagers roaming the house with me. They’re on board for the challenge too. I think. I hope. Well, if they’re not, I guess it’s time for them to get jobs. 🙂

I may not post all my random ramblings about this challenge here on my blog, so pop on over to my Instagram account and join the fun there. ThatCookGirl on Instagram

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Go For Green

Leprechaun Visit | www.ThatCookGirl.com

You’re never too old for Lucky Charms or a Leprechaun visit!
Go For Green!

 I see all these moms running around making elaborate Leprechaun traps, fancy treats, costumes…well, you name it, and I’ve seen the over-the-top, make-the-average-mom-look-bad crafts and projects and parties. This may very well come as a shock to some of you, but I am NOT a crafty mom. I used to think I wanted to be a crafty mom…but it looks like it takes a lot of time and energy and I would just rather put forth that time and energy hanging out than crafting. So far, I don’t think my kids have been scarred too much by my lack of craftiness. Now, I may not be crafty, but I still sure know how to have fun and most Holidays around here are memorable. (Let’s not talk about Valentine’s Day this year, please… I failed miserably by forgetting to leave a silly card for my kids to find when they wake up…Hey, I never said I was perfect! I think I redeemed myself by bringing home chocolate strawberries, though.)

How does a non-crafty mom make Holidays totally awesome you ask? The answer is simple! I have a private line to all the well-known Holiday spokespeople. The Easter Bunny, Santa…yes, even the Leprechauns. Having this “in” with these people really helps when you aren’t crafty! It just takes a quick call, email, or text message to confirm that my kids still get a thrill out of the little details of the Holiday, and I’m off the hook for crafting! A special treat will be dropped off by morning and I can get some much-needed sleep!

Such as it was for St Patrick’s Day! A quick “Go for Green” text message and I was off to bed at an early hour. The Leprechauns paid a visit, performed a bit of mischief with chairs on tables, stools turned upside down, milk turned green, even the fruit bowl turned upside down and the fruit stacked on top…and left a treat for the trouble of having to clean up after them. We all get a good giggle at their silliness every year, and this year was no exception.

Of course, this doesn’t let me off the hook for cooking dinner. We will still have our traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage. It is in the slow cooker now and will be ready when I get home from work. Another mealtime saved by the slow cooker!

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Shots and Ice Cream

Shots and Ice Cream For Dinner | ThatCookGirl.com | Some days just require a shot (of espresso)...and ice cream for dinner

Some days just require a shot (of espresso)…

Some days just require (espresso) shots and ice cream for dinner. Today was just such a day. I wouldn’t say I had a bad day, it just wasn’t particularly good. It began with receiving some sad news that didn’t quite allow itself to settle in. And then the day just went on as any usual day at the office would, people dropping in for different things throughout the day, appointments and meetings, coffee breaks (of course…I mean…it is MY office. There IS coffee!), just the usual goings on of the day. And then just before the day at the office ended, more sad news. And this time it took a good 15 or 20 minutes to settle into my heart and soul, and when it finally did, both bits of news settled into me all at once and it took all my strength to finish my day and get myself home to my babies.

Shots and Ice Cream for Dinner | ThatCookGirl.com | Some days just require a shot (of espresso) and ice cream for dinner

…and Ice Cream for Dinner

Life is precious and short and sweet. Celebrate the smallest moments. They are the biggest. Hug someone you love a little tighter today and every day.  Call someone. Take a chance you’ve been scared to take. Don’t wait another second to tell someone you love them, even if you think they already know. Have ice cream for dinner. Have a shot (of espresso).  Go for it! Live while you’re still living!  As my daughter wisely said once “Live; You Might Like It

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Celebrate With That Cook Girl

National Kahlua Day | Happy Birthday That Cook Girl |ThatCookGirl.com

Raise a glass with me! Cheers to another year of awesomeness!

Is it a coincidence that National Kahlua Day and That Cook Girl’s Birthday fall on the same day? I think not. Every year on February 27th the world rejoices. I share this day of rejoice for the awesomeness of Kahlua and for surviving another year of this crazy ride we call life.

I spend the month celebrating my birthday. I spoil myself because I deserve it, and I learned years ago that people will treat you only as well as you treat yourself.

This year I will end my birthday month celebrations enjoying a glass filled with this yummy homemade coffee liqueur I made using my favorite coffee.   Raise a glass with me! Cheers to another year of awesomeness!

I know, I know…you all want to know why I’m not sharing the recipe for this awesome, yummy, sweetness. Well, because I haven’t decided this will be my “go-to” recipe. It’s the first time I’ve made coffee liqueur. I did not use the recipe my Mom uses (ssshhh don’t tell her). And since making this recipe, I have come across many other methods I want to try. Some methods require an instant coffee, others use a cold brewed method, while still others use whole coffee beans (!!!). And then there’s the different choices of alcohol. My Mom’s recipe would use Everclear, and her liqueur is quite tasty. I used a mixture of Rum and Brandy for mine, giving it a bit more depth of flavor. Several of my friends have received gifts of the yumminess I made back in December, and I hope they are enjoying it.

:::CHEERS::: Much love to you, and wishes for another fabulous year!

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Kitchen Tree

I’m sure it won’t surprise you to know that I love Christmas. I love, love, love decorating our tree. I always try to convince my kids that I should leave it up year-round. Last year I even planned on seeing just how long I’d last with it up. I probably could have kept it all the way into summer if not longer. But, we moved and it had to come down. But out of pure stubbornness, on moving day, it was the last thing standing. And we moved in mid-February! Everything else was packed and loaded into cars and there stood my tree, still as beautiful as the day it went up.

ThatCookGirl.com/Kitchen-Tree

ThatCookGirl.com
Kitchen Tree
What? Doesn’t everyone put a Christmas Tree in their kitchen?

But I digress… This year we are in a beautiful house with a big kitchen. And so I got to put up a (small) Kitchen Tree! What? Doesn’t everyone put a Christmas tree in their kitchen?  I added my coffee ornaments, my cooking-themed ornaments, and some favorite childhood ornaments and I found a home for it on my kitchen counter. I will enjoy this tree every morning as I pour my coffee, every evening as I cook dinner (or watch the kids cook dinner, whatever the case may be), and I will enjoy it every time I walk into or through the kitchen.

Who knows. Maybe it will find a permanent home atop my stack of favorite cookbooks in the corner. One just never knows.

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Do you do anything unique?

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A Thankful Life

Hello my loyal blog-readers. Are any of you still out there, waiting for me to get my act together and start posting again? I hope so.

Well, today seems as good a day as any to see what I can do about getting back to blogging. You may be thinking “How does she have time to post on her blog when she should be busily preparing Thanksgiving dinner for a crowd?” Easy. I’m not hosting dinner this year. Nor have I for several years. You see (and I’m about to get really real with you here), I stopped hosting the big Thanksgiving dinner when my life turned upside down a few years ago. I tried desperately to turn it right side up, to no avail. Life has had me upside down, inside out, backwards, right side up,right side out,and forward again more times than I can count. So I just started rolling with the punches. And boy were there a lot of punches thrown my way in the last 5+ years. All the while I dodged a few, threw a few back, and found myself left breathless and disoriented by even more. In the last 2 years I have held 5 different jobs and had 4 different addresses to call home. Somehow I managed to keep my head held high, if only barely at times. So, I hope you will forgive my immense absence from the blogging world, and just welcome my attempts to return. I make no promises for how often I will blog. I only promise to try to be entertaining when I do.

This morning as I prepare to have Thanksgiving dinner with some much-loved people in my life, it hit me just how very thankful I am. Not only today, but every day. I saw this saying recently that sums up my feelings pretty well:

It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.

I am thankful for more reasons than seems reasonable at times. But I am thankful nonetheless. For the love I have been surrounded by, the opportunities life has presented to me, the friends who have become family, the friends and family who have stood by my side as I made choices that they may or may not have agreed with but supported me no matter what. More than anything, I am thankful to have my 2 pretty darn amazing teenagers who keep me going when all I want to do is give up. I will show them and the whole world that life doesn’t have to be perfect or even go your way to live it happily.

Now, I am being summoned by a cup of coffee that needs my attention and my world famous artichoke dip that isn’t going to make itself.(It’s famous in my world, that counts, right?)

My wish for you is to be thankful for the small things and the big things, the good things and the bad things, and for every choice you make, the good ones and the poor ones. Each of these things will make for a happy life if only you can find a way to be thankful for them.

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Traditionally Non-Traditional

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my kids? They are fun and quirky, just like their Mama, but in their own unique ways. We all embrace each other’s individuality, bringing out the best in each other, making every day life fantastically fun together. Part of our fun is that we love tradition, but we also love to break tradition!

Color Me Happy

It’s Easter. So we obviously had to color some eggs. We even made some tea eggs after seeing my sister’s post about making them. Coloring eggs is one of my favorite things. I don’t know why. I don’t even really enjoy hard boiled eggs all that much. But there’s just something about the fun, bright colors of Easter Eggs that bring a smile to my face. I’ll be coloring eggs long after my kids have grown up and moved away from home. It’s a Holiday tradition I enjoy very much.

Baskets o' Plenty

Let’s not forget the candy, of course. Our baskets were left in front of the fireplace for the Easter Bunny last night. This year, we all have “proper” baskets. I have struggled every year with the fact that my kids don’t have nice baskets that they will enjoy bringing out year after year, even as adults, like I have. I’ve just never found nice ones that we liked. Some years we didn’t even have a basket, so the Easter Bunny would leave their treats in new lunch boxes or new baseball caps. Always fun, but this year when we looked, the kids decided they both really liked the plain wood ones. They are sturdy enough that I think they will last a long time for them! And we awoke to our baskets filled with candy, candy, and more candy, plus some notebooks, coasters, books, and even new toothbrushes for the kids (their Dentist will surely be happy to hear that! lol)

Traditionally Non-Traditional Easter Dinner

So, what does a silly family like ours have for dinner on Easter? I’m so glad you asked. Cheeseburgers, of course. I was asked by someone today if I would be having a big ham dinner. He seemed a bit taken aback when I said “No, we’ll be having cheeseburgers for our Easter dinner tonight.” He asked me if that was a family tradition. It was then that I realized our “tradition” is that we like to be “non-traditional”. He seemed pleased with my response, and thought it was a pretty cool way to enjoy Holidays. [By making a tradition of breaking traditions.]

Our Easter dinner, 2012: Cheeseburgers, piled high with plenty of melted sharp cheddar cheese, fresh lettuce and tomatoes, and some thinly sliced red onion. Paired with artichokes [with lemon butter for dipping!] and sweet potatoes, and of course some deviled eggs (gotta use those colored eggs somehow, right?)

And the weather for this day? PERFECT! We made great use of our deck for the first time since we moved in here, and enjoyed our fantastically fun dinner outside, giggling about our silliness and enjoying each other’s company and laughter.

I hope you enjoyed your Holiday as much as we did.

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Up For Air

I’m coming up for a brief shot of air… The last several months have brought changes that can’t be described. We’ve had tears, laughter, joy, sadness, and every emotion in between. But it’s all part of life, so we push on and come up for air when we can. I know I’m going to regret saying this… but it looks like we’re finally seeing the light at the end of this very long and windy tunnel!
 
So, the biggest news: We’ve MOVED! Into a HOUSE! Although, somehow, we can’t find room for all the stuff we had in our apartment…? haha… We think it expanded and/or reproduced.
 
Our kitchen is much larger, no more "one-butt-kitchen"… in fact, the kids can make their lunches for the next day while we’re making dinner, and there’s room to move around! Amazing!
 
While I’m up for air, I’ll try to get a menu posted for you. Stay tuned this weekend…….

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Our Crazy Schedule…

I know what you’re thinking… everyone’s schedule is crazy! Well, you’re right! So I’ve got a few meal-time solutions for you.
 
 
I made this for dinner one night last week, and was impressed. I was resistant to trying it, because cooking a chicken in the microwave didn’t seem appealing to me. Well, too many people were raving about it, so I gave it a try, and boy am I glad I did! You’ll be glad when YOU try it, too!!!
 
Tonight I am just back from a girls weekend at the Beach House. But dinner still had to be done… I realized I had several things that were in need of  being used up before spoiling. So, here’s what I did tonight:
 
I made Jerk Chicken Salad, but instead of using pasta, as I usually do, I used romaine lettuce, to get that out of my fridge. 
My time saver for the week: I started a 30-Minute Chicken while I was making the Jerk Chicken Salad. So that chicken is cooked and ready for shredding! My John plans to make enchiladas with it! I was able to make our dinner for tonight in the time the chicken for later this week was cooking. That’s TWO DINNERS in 30 Minutes!
 
Need another meal-time solution? Give Deluxe Cheeseburger Salad a try!
 
This week we will have little to no grocery shopping to do. With a chicken already cooked up and ready for a meal this week, a nice big salmon filet in the fridge (THANKS, Veronica!!!), and plenty of other things in the freezer, fridge and pantry, we’ll need only some milk and maybe bread for the week. YAY!
 
So, a tentative menu:
 
Monday:
Chicken Enchiladas
Rice
Beans
 
Tuesday:
Well, I’m out of town for work… My John will probably find a steak, and the kids will eat with Aunt Veronica (THANKS!)
 
Wednesday:
Hm, well, I think the Salmon sounds good for a light meal, after 2 days on the road
with veggies and mashed taters!
 
Thursday:
HM… something with ground beef, maybe Meatloaf
with rice and salad
 
Friday:
We’re going to the M’s game!!! So, it’ll be Garlic Fries and Hot Dogs!
 
Saturday:
We celebrate my brother-in-law, who became a citizen of the United States recently! I’m so proud of him!
 
Sunday:
I think I’ll take a roast out of the freezer and have a nice, Sunday dinner!
 
So, What’s For Dinner at Your House?!?!
 
 

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Suzy Homemaker?

Well, not exactly… but I’ve been called worse, so I’ll take the title when it applies.
 
And yesterday, well…. it applied quite well. I spent the day catching up after having been gone for training for several days, and coming home to a sick family who was in need of some spoiling.
 
The day was spent with extra kids, who got to try a soup they wouldn’t have gotten at home (as I found out later, their Mom doesn’t care for the soup, so chances are, they won’t have it at home…). We completed laundry in between Wii gaming, and I spent lots of time in the kitchen…
 
On the menu for Sunday was:
Soudough Bread Bowls (yes, handmade my none other than ME :))
Split Pea Soup
Strawberry Shortcake with homemade whipped cream
 
 
My kids, as usual, enjoyed the soup. And encouraged the visiting children to try it. And, well, those kids didn’t hate it. They didn’t really enjoy it, but they didn’t hate it. My kids have convinced them that if the soup had been thicker, it would have been better…… lol So I might have to make some thicker, and invite these kids up again. ;o)
 
Now let’s balance this Suzy Homemaker type meal/day with today. I worked… I dropped my kids with my sister and I worked. all. day. The kids are spending the night with my sister, and I am again working. all. day. tomorrow. So that meant tonight’s dinner was for me and My John. He had no thoughts for dinner. I had no inspiration for dinner. So I went to the store and came out with this:
 

Um, yeah…. as a friend already told me "Even Suzy Homemaker needs a day off". lol But I did use my own shopping bag for carrying home my groceries.

Tomorrow the kids will be home for dinner. I’m thinking about using our leftover chicken from the fridge and make Tex Mex Chicken & Rice Skillet. MMMMMMMM And Wednesday I work from home and have the perfect roast for making Mo’s Java Pot Roast! MMMMMMM

So…. What’s For Dinner at Your House?

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