Photo Friday – Our Bailey Girl

This is Bailey.
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She joined our family in December.  She’s turned our life upside down. But, oh my heart. I didn’t know I could love a dog so much.

Exhibit A:

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She has me wearing a fanny pack of dog treats.

Exhibit B:

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20140320-220848.jpgShe has me making mashed sweet potatoes (with cinnamon, tumeric and ginger of course), salmon (or salmon oil) and goats milk (or goats milk yogurt) concoctions for her lunch. Her finicky tummy has also forced me to learn quite a bit about dog nutrition.  As in I read dog food message boards.  Yep.

Exhibit C:

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I take selfies with her.

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NYC Trip Recap – Part 1

I started to make the NYC trip recap one post, but there were just too many photos and I couldn’t pare down. The city begs to be photographed, especially on the beautiful weather days we were lucky enough to experience. Thus a 2 part blog recap. Part 1 will recap our Thursday evening arrival into Manhattan and our Friday in the city.

My husband and I took a kids-free weekend trip to New York City in mid October. Neither of us have ever been and we were both excited and nervous to visit the city. Thanks to my (honestly) wonderful in-laws who took very, very good care of our kids, we got to spend 4 nights and 3 full days (Thursday pm-Monday am) with nothing on our agenda but experiencing as much of NYC as we could.

We arrived around 8pm on a Thursday evening and took a cab ride from the airport to our hotel. The cab ride was a bit intense – our first peek into the traffic and roads of the city. The first of about 1345 times I thought “I could never drive in this city.”

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the first photo I took on the trip – looking out the cab window, way, way up and with my mouth wide open

We stayed at The Distrikt Hotel after reading good reviews on Trip Advisor. While we won’t stay in Times Square again, we were very impressed with the hotel. If you are looking to stay near Times Square, I’d highly recommend the hotel. They even had a little birthday dessert in our room upon check-in (this trip was a birthday gift from the husband).

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I was a little shell-shocked after the cab ride and wanting to curl up in the fetal position on the bed, but the husband insisted we head out into the city. We walked to Times Square which was insane as you’d expect it to be. People EVERYWHERE. Lights EVERYWHERE. Total sensory overload.20131109-201920.jpg

After about 5 minutes we were ready to move on. We consulted Yelp for a restaurant that wasn’t too touristy – most of Times Square is gimmicky chains – and decided on John’s Pizzeria. It’s in an old church, which makes for unique decor. I had two glasses of wine to calm my nerves from both the cab ride and the Time Square sensory assault and we enjoyed a Margherita pizza. The prices were surprisingly reasonable and the pizza was pretty good – thin crust, fresh mozarella and lots of fresh basil.

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It was dark – sorry for the haunted house pizza picture.

Day 1 (Friday)

We started the day by braving the subway. On a Friday morning at 8:30. At a very busy metro station. I was a wee bit overwhelmed by all the hustle. New Yorkers aren’t messing around with their Friday morning commute. We figured out which train we were waiting for, leapt on and held on for dear life. First stop: Zucker’s Bagels in Lower Manhattan. We had heard they had phenomenal bagels.  They did.  I had a bagel with smoked pastrami salmon, cream cheese, onions, capers and tomatoes that probably weighed a pound.  Besides scraping off a bit of the cream cheese, I ate the entire thing.  I wish we could have gone back on day 2 or 3, but we weren’t in the area again.

With full bagel bellies, we walked over to Ground Zero. We first toured St. Peters Church which became a haven for rescue workers after the 9/11 attack.

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We then got passes for the 9/11 memorial at the visitor center and toured the memorial.  The museum isn’t open yet, but the two inverted waterfalls are stunning and sobering.

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From the memorial we walked down to the Battery Park area to get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty. I snagged a green juice on the way there:

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This was as close as we got to the Statue of Liberty.  Before we got to NYC we decided that we’d save some activities and attractions for the eventual trip we’ll take to NYC with the kids (in 5 years or so) and taking the boat out to the Statue of Liberty was one of the ‘we’ll do this next time’ items.  nyc 5

From Battery Park we walked up to the Financial District, seeing the famous Bull Statue and the NYSE.

20131109-201955.jpgWe caught a subway to Chinatown.  That subway ride was considerably less stressful than our first one.  We walked around for a bit and then located Joe’s Shanghai for lunch.  It came highly recommended from a couple of different friends, so we were excited to try it out.  The restaurant was packed and they sat tables with more than one party.  We shared a table with two tiny college-aged gals who ordered 4 huge plates of food.  With their four dishes and our three dishes, it made for a crowded table.  It felt like a pretty authentic Chinatown experience and the soup dumplings were pretty tasty.  The fried rice was probably the best I’ve ever had.  We walked around for a bit more after lunch.  The seafood and veggie markets were quite the sight.  The food scientist in me was nervous about all the raw seafood sitting out in the open air, but the veggie lover in me wanted to buy all the unique greens.  I settled for just looking.

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We hoped on the subway again and headed to the NYU area. We walked around a bit and then headed to Washington Square Park.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day so we staked out a park bench and spent about 30 minutes just people watching.  The park is beautiful and the people watching was world class.  I was particularly impressed with a 4 year old who could work a skateboard like a pro.  His nanny kept having to chase him down.  We walked around some of the streets surrounding the park and they looked like the tree and brownstone lined NYC streets you see in movies like You’ve Got Mail.  We kept watching for Brinkley.

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We stopped for some gelato and then walked up to the Union Square Greenmarket.  It was a foodie’s dream.  Rows and rows of vendors with all kinds of products.  Because we were just tourists and had no way to store or prepare food, I only bought a few apples.   I hungrily eyed all the other vendors.

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We bought a hard apple cider (they were doing an apple themed event that day) grabbed a table and called the kids.  They were happily playing with their grandparents and we hung up and happily enjoyed a cider.  Ah, vacation….

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We walked all the way back to our hotel in Times Square, stopping to gawk at the Flatiron Building.

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Once we got back to our hotel, we realized that we had done some horrible time management and we actually needed to be at Rockefeller Center for our Top of the Rock reservations in 30 minutes.  We hustled through the Times Square craziness and made it there in time. We had purposely booked a time at dusk and it was, put simply, magical.  Watching the sun set over the city and seeing the buildings  (so many buildings!) light up as darkness fell was breathtaking.  Even though the observation deck was packed, it was still an emotional and moving sight.  These pictures don’t do it justice, but it gives an idea of the view.

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We stayed on the observation deck for about an hour, in no hurry to leave the view.  I highly, highly recommend Top of the Rock and especially recommend booking a time just before sunset.

We had dinner at a wine bar overlooking the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink.  It was a bit surreal to be sitting just across the street from the iconic ice rink.  We started the walk back to our hotel and came upon Magnolia Bakery (the famed cupcake bakery).  There was no line, so of course we had to go in and get a cupcake.  It was easily the best cupcake I’ve ever had.  I’m usually very underwhelmed with gourmet cupcakes but this one was the real deal.  I understand the hype.   We made our way through Times Square, especially crazy on a Friday night, and got to our hotel.  After all the walking and sight seeing we were exhausted.  True to our hard partying selves, we were fast asleep by 10.

20131109-181635.jpgSome of the day’s eats: Soup Dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai, Bagel at Zuckers, Gelato and Magnolia cupcakes.

Day in the Life (10.28.13)

6:30 hello Monday. Bible study (today’s lesson focused on patience, so it was rather applicable….) and hot tea.

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7:00 hello kids. Feed the kids breakfast (toasted bagels with peanut butter, grapes and apples) and get the girl and husband out the door by 7:20. Fold laundry, straighten up the house a bit, get dressed, pack gym bag and get boy set for preschool. Grab a green juice (made the day before) and second hot tea to bring in the car.

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8:30 hello world. Head out with the boy, destination: preschool. Drop him off and realize I forgot to put a package to mail and some halloween cups (that I need to get to another mom in his class) in the car. D’oh. Head back home to pick them up.

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9:30 hello yoga mat. Power yoga at the gym, followed by shower and getting ready for the day.

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11:15 hello late breakfast. Apple + pumpkin chocolate chip energy bar.

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11:30 hello Whole Foods. Pick up a few things for the week, even though they didn’t have the ‘whole foods version’ of m&ms that I was hoping to find.

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12:00 hello elementary school. Drop off a juice with the girl’s teacher and head to the copy room to make some copies for an upcoming class event. Got to snag a couple of hugs from my favorite 2nd grader.

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12:40 hello preschool. Pick up the boy and spend an extra 20 minutes chatting on the playground with another mom as our boys played.

1:30 hello post office. Mail a package, after adding a little flair.

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2:00 hello late lunch. Big ol’ salad eaten on the driveway while watching the boy work on his bike riding skills in between eating carrots.

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3:15 hello school bus. The girl comes home and we spend another 45 minutes outside playing.

4:00 hello kitchen. Pack up some chocolate chip banana mini-muffins for the freezer, clean up the lunchboxes and wash the rest of the day’s dishes. All while being serenaded with Jingle Bell Rock as the girl practices her Christmas piano recital piece. A bit odd in throws of halloween planning.

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4:30 hello computer. Hop on the world wide web to check email, pay some bills, check in with the world (ok, facebook and pinterest) and general time wasting. Wild Kratts entertained the kids on PBS.

5:00 hello tea. Cuppa tea while helping the girl start her Harry Potter pumpkin for the school ‘literary pumpkin patch.’ Started some rice in the rice cooker. Started this blog post.

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6:00 hello dinner prep. Started chopping vegetables for dinner. Make the girl’s lunch for tomorrow. Is it odd to have tomorrows lunch finished before tonight’s dinner?

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6:15 hello husband.  He got home a little early tonight, always a welcome treat. He did some stir-frying while I got the rest of dinner ready.

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7:00 hello dinner.

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7:30 hello mess. Head upstairs for the first time all day to get the kid’s bath ready and am greeted by this scene in the boy’s room.  The two of them have had some elaborate fairy/ninja/dinosaur/barbie furniture/magnatile game going on for 3 days now.  It usually involves someone singing a song from the Glee soundtrack.  It apparently involves using every toy in the room too.

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8:00 hello Harry Potter (pumpkin).  The girl proudly shows off her finished pumpkin.

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8:30 hello bedtime.  I lay down with my girl (the husband usually read to the boy) and end up falling asleep.  Oops.

10:00 hello to my bed.  Wake up and get ready for bed and go to sleep (for the 2nd time).

 

Currently….

I am:

Listening to the Nashville Season 1, Volume 2 CD.  It’s a good one.

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Watching the final Good Wife episodes.  I still have 3 to go.  I have a crush on Cary. (even though I just had to google how to spell his name).

Baking cookie pops for my boys last day of preschool tomorrow.  Hello summer.  Ready or not, here you come.

Eating watermelon in large quantities.  We go through two a week.

Drinking Glowing Green Smoothies from this book.  I needed some more kale in my life.

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Reloading my iPod with Lyle Lovett songs after seeing him in concert Friday night.  Great show.

Reading Night Circus.  I’m on page 4, so can’t tell much yet.

Still thinking about Grave Mercy, which I finished Sunday.  It was awesome.  Highly recommend.

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Planning our summer activities.  Since it’s already in the 90s and only going up, inside activities are on the agenda.  Pinterest, don’t let me down.

Cursing the high price of airline tickets.  Was hoping to make it to Minnesota this summer, but tickets are crazy $$$.  And stay-home mom isn’t exactly the highest-paying gig around.   Nor does it provide too many airline miles.

Procrastinating dealing with the end of Google Reader.  What new blog reader are you using?

 

My kids are:

Swimming up a storm with their swim team.  It’s a first for all of us and it’s been quite the experience so far. I experience new depths of love for those little munchkins each time I see them try so hard on something new.  I also have new shoulder pains from schlepping a heavy swim bag around each day.

Listening to Katy Perry’s Firework all the time.  They put on shows with their toys (the boy uses his ninjas or superheroes and the girl uses her fairies) singing in front of a stuffed animal audience.  Sometimes they have a story going along with it and, one day while listening in, I heard the following:

The girl, voicing fairy Rosetta, to Captain America, voiced by the boy “Are you fighting the bad guys today, or do you have the day off?”  For our safety’s sake, I hope he is working.  Those bad guys won’t fight themselves.

Watching Electric Company.  Hey you guys….

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Reading Little House on the Prairie (the girl and I together), Arthur books (the girl) and any deep sea creature or dinosaur books he can find (the boy).

Looking forward to reading the first Harry Potter as a family this summer.  The other night at dinner we were talking about it and my girl admitted she was worried she might be scared of the ‘guy with no nose.’  (she’s seen him on posters and commercials) (and that would be Voldemort, in case you were thinking of a different nose-less Harry Potter character).  My little guy, while holding a fork that was spearing a large raw carrot (just to set the scene), put his other hand on his hip and said, in an exasperated voice, “sister, it’s okay, because Darth Vader turns good at the end.” 

Eating even more than normal thanks to swim team.  My blender, cutting board and pantry are in constant use.

 

 

Currently I Am….

  • Listening to either The Lumineers CD or my Pitch Perfect Pandora station
  • Brainstorming ideas for Spring Break.  We are going to hunker down in San Antonio and try to avoid the rush of tourists.  Which means we will be no where near the Alamo, Riverwalk, Sea World, Zoo or Museums.  Which means I need to think of some things to fill up our days.
  • Reading Where’d You Go, Bernadette by. M. Semple.  I’m only on page 2, so can’t make any judgements yet.

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  • Juicing, Menu Planning and Trying to Practice Self Restraint again in hopes to clean up my diet a little.  Someone has gotten overly fond of sugar and processed foods again…  and has the pimples to prove it.  Tell me how I can have both new gray hairs, wrinkles AND pimples popping up simultaneously? Shouldn’t they exist independently??  I apologize to anyone who came in contact with me over the weekend and had to witness the mess that was my face.
  • Enjoying my girl’s reaction to Waiting for the Magic by P. MacLachlan . (‘This is my favorite book I’ve ever read! And can we get 5 dogs?”) It was the most mature book we’ve read together, but so wonderfully and sensitively written.  Next up is Charlotte’s Web.  Pass the tissues.  And pass on the bacon.

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  • Scrambling to ‘train’ for a 5K in 3 weeks that I got talked into.  Is there a yoga mat to 5K program??  My only goal is to not embarrass my self.  Too much.
  • Watching my little guy pour over the Guinness Book of World Records.  There are some bizarre records in that book: most balloons blown up with a nose, most weight lifted by ni*ppl*es, fasted mile on a pogo stick.  Maybe I should see if I can get in the book for ‘most cups of tea consumed in a year’ or maybe ‘only person to sport both  pimples and gray hairs.’
  • Trying to finish my girl’s 6th year photo book before she hits 7 and a half this week.
  • Drinking a lot of tea: Central Market Green Jasmine, Numi Chinese Breakfast, Yogi Licorice Mint and Tazo Joy.
  • Missing my sister.  It’s been too long since I’ve been in her presence.
  • Overhearing this exchange between my boy and his buddy who are currently playing upstairs “Let’s work together and try teamwork.  Teamwork always works.”  Guess whose mom makes him watch PBS kids shows instead of Sponge Bob?

What are you up to?

Currently I Am….

  • Eating vegetables.  After not eating too many for the month of December in lieu of Christmas cookies.
  • Joining Good Reads. Here’s me: http://www.goodreads.com/livelyshell
  • Drinking Republic of Tea Honey Ginseng Green Tea.
  • Disappointed with the post Christmas mail box.  Getting the mail is one of my favorite parts of December.
  • Practicing yoga (and visiting the gym) this week again after an unplanned 3 week break.  On the first day back on the mat my body went from Augh to Ahhhh after a few sun salutations.  In related news, I’m awfully sore. Hello torso – nice to feel you again.
  • Thankful for very accommodating in-laws.
  • Watching The Good Wife.  Love.That.Show.  Except for the Nick storyline.  Eww.
  • Slowly de-Christmising the house.  My goal is everything packed away by the end of the weekend.  It’s a slow job with little helpers around.
  • Reading Cleaning House, a mom’s 12 month experiment to rid her home of youth entitlement.
  • Needing to get going on some photo-book making.
  • Crossing my fingers that illness doesn’t strike twice in our home.  That flu spell was a doozy.
  • Missing girlfriend time.  December craziness limited coffee and dinner dates.
  • Crowning the Magna-Tiles as the most played with Christmas gift so far.  Those things are cool.
  • Anticipating spending my lululemon gift cards soon.  Granted they will only pay for one shirt, but I’ll love that one shirt.  🙂
  • Pondering the future of this blog.  To be or not to be, that is my question.

What are you up to?

On the Eve of December

Well hello there!

Here is some friday randomness for you:

People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Overachieving Elf on the Shelf Mommies. had me laughing so hard I cried. Our elf will make his appearance tomorrow and he is a slacker elf that just moves from spot to spot. My kids make enough mischief on their own, I don’t need to fake mischief for their entertainment.

Tonight during holiday movie night (The Grinch Who Stole Christmas is on tap – aka the movie in which Taylor Momsen was young and sweet) I’m going to fill out all the slips for our advent calender. I’m goofily excited about planning 24 days of activities instead of them just getting a hershey kiss each day.

I love, love having a Trader Joes in town. I hope to get up a few posts with my ‘must-buys’ from the store, but, well, December is upon us.

I read four books over Thanksgiving (we did a lot of driving). Beyond having a female main character, they had absolutely nothing in common.  Thanks to the Used Book Sale at the library for an assortment of reads.  My favorite was The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

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(Vinegar Hill by A. Ansay, Summer at Tiffany by M. Hart, The Adoration of Jenna Fox by H. Holt and Live to Tell by L. Gardner)

The weather has been awesome lately.  San Antonio summers are rather unpleasant, but fall/winter is fantastic.

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Our Pinterest inspired turkey fruit and veggie trays were a success!  The kids loved assembling them.  They will be back next year.

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Currently I am….

  • Planning Christmas activities in my mind while simultaneously chastising myself for not thinking enough about Thanksgiving.
  • Drinking a lot of hot tea.  A lot.  Like 5-6 cups a day.  I alternate between green/black/herbal, so the caffeine impact is reasonable.
  • Watching Nashville.  I can’t stand the character of Scarlett, but oh man I love it when she sings.
  • Smiling over my book haul at the library used book sale.  Combining two loves – bargain hunting and books – with a dash of helping out the library = joy.
  • Admiring my husband’s dedication to his family.
  • Laughing with my daughter as she reads me the Junie B Jones books.
  • Wondering when I can start reading her the first Harry Potter book.  Thoughts?
  • Cheering that San Antonio finally got a Trader Joes.
  • Practicing a lot of yoga.  It’s humbling, empowering and just makes me happy.
  • Wiggling my girl’s first loose tooth.  First Lost Tooth watch is on!
  • Beefing up my superhero knowledge to keep up with my little guy.
  • Rereading The Red Tent. It’s just as good as I remember.

What are you up to?

Photo Friday – Life Lately

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Hammers are always a good idea when you are four.  As are safety goggles.

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Sitting with spiderman.  I love my little superhero.

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The girl stayed home with me yesterday after an unfortunate throw-up episode the night before.  She turned out to be fine and we had a really nice unplanned day together.  There was plenty of TV, but also some reading and workbooks.

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One of her workbook pages covered cups/pints/quarts.  We took the lesson outside, along with my beloved pyrex.  The grass got some bonus watering.

20121026-090052.jpgWeek 1 of chore charts and so far, so good.  Check in with me in 3 weeks….

Their first weekly allowance starts on Sunday.  Any of you allowance givers?  What is your method?

 

On a (Different Kind of) Diet

Turns out that home renovations cost more than planned.  Who knew?  I mean, who besides anyone that has ever tried a home improvement project?  Or anyone with a fully functioning brain?

A few of our unplanned expenses

  • new toilet (an old crack was discovered when removing for flooring work and who in their right mind knowingly puts a cracked toilet back into their newly remodeled UPSTAIRS bathroom?  not us).
  • Having to pay to paint our two story foyer due to one of the adults in the house (not naming names, but it wasn’t me) trying out new paint colors on the wall, forgetting we didn’t have the original paint to cover it up with.  Oops.
  • Shower Glass – much more pricey than we realized.  But necessary.  Can’t exactly have a wall and doorless shower.
  • Car Repair – Nice little hit and run on the husband’s drive home from work.  He wasn’t hurt, which is the most important thing, but we are stuck with the deductible.
  • The paint-snafu-creator-not-mentioned above bought me a new juicer for my birthday.  I love that my guy knows a juicer is the way to my heart.  🙂

Plus lots of little other expenses.  And we need new tires soon.  And the holidays are coming.

All that to say, we checked our bank statement, restarted our hearts and the husband declared ‘we are now on a spending diet.’  

Rightfully so.

I’m starting the diet with our diet.  (say what?)

We actually have a pretty reasonable handle on our grocery spending, mainly due to eating mostly meat-free, but I am definitely prone to multiple spontaneous purchases with each shopping trip.  Like the chocolate almond butter that found it’s way into my cart last week (it is delicious, I’m not going to lie).  Or the bottles of kombucha, even though I brew my own.  Or a box of tea per shopping trip (always free trade and organic, which means $5-6 a box), when I have no less than 10 boxes in my pantry (it’s a compulsion). Or protein bars, which generally disappoint and aren’t as good (or cheap) as my homemade version.

The spending diet will extend to clothing/home/everything-else-I-buy-that-I-don’t-need-at-Target.  That will be more painful than the grocery cuts, but much more significant to the budget as well.  So, if you see me in real life, don’t judge my last season (or last, last, last season) jeans.  Just compliment me on my new toilet or lovely shower, my trendy juicer or maybe my snazzy new minivan door.

Some of the budget friendly meals on this week’s menu:

Oven Baked Lentils and Rice

(this little unphotogenic recipe is one of the most popular recipes on my blog.  try it – it’ll surprise you)

Soup and Bread Machine Bread dinners

picture from yesterday – a ‘throw lots of veggies in the crockpot and call it dinner’ soup and some bread

PB & B Blender Cookies for breakfast

oatmeal & bananas – pretty darn cheap foods

Greens & Eggs

Double Chocolate Protein Bites

Tastier, healthier and cheaper than most store-bought protein bars. That’s a win in my book.

And generally just (1) using what I already have in my pantry/freezer and (2) making a list and buying only what’s on that list at the grocery store.

Got any good spending diet tips?  I’d love to hear them!  

And, hey, how ’bout my new toilet?  She’s a beauty, huh?