Archive for April, 2011

On the menu, part 2

It’s been several weeks now, and we’re still going strong with our daily meal categories. We’ve gone off menu a couple times, but for the most part using the guide has been helpful. As a recap, here’s what the meal plan looks like:

Mexican Mondays
Salad Tuesdays
Pasta Wednesdays
Casserole Thursdays
Pizza Fridays
Meat Saturdays
Soup/Stew Sundays

We plan meals and shop on Sundays (usually), and then write the plan out on our “white” board. Like this:

You’ll notice Wednesday I was gone, so Mike had ravioli by himself. And Thursday I wrote a note that I’d be late to remind Mike not to make dinner as early as usual. Saturday of that week we babysat Scarlet, so no dinner. And we weren’t sure where we’d be Sunday so we left it blank. Anyway, here’s how that week played out.

Mexican Mondays: Chicken and Black Bean Burritos

It should be noted that Mike, despite my reminders, always makes me the same size portions as he makes himself. I definitely did NOT eat both of those burritos. Good thing he’s a pro at cleaning both his plate and mine.

Salad Tuesdays: Salmon on spinach salad

Pasta Wednesdays: Ravioli

Mike didn’t take a picture of the night he ate alone, but we had ravioli the next week, too.

Casserole Thursdays: Potato Rosti

This is something we’ve made a few times after I saw the recipe on Suburban Bliss awhile ago. Pretty yummy.

Pizza Fridays: French Bread Pizzas

Soup/Stew Sundays: Chili Cheese Dogs

After babysitting Scarlet, my sister was telling us about the chili cheese dogs they had recently, and we couldn’t resist making them ourselves.  So Sunday we skipped soup or stew and had these instead!

Here are some other fun things we’ve been making. Or I should say, Mike has been making.

Soup/Stew Sunday: Homemade Beef Stew

Mexican Mondays: Quesadillas

Salad Tuesdays: Chicken Salad on Romaine

Casserole Thursdays: Arby’s

Mike needed a break from cooking, so Arby’s it was.

Pizza Fridays: Pizza Dodgers

We made these up based on something my dad invented when I was a kid. He, my dad, rolled out biscuit dough, filled them with taco meat and other taco yumminess, and baked them. Called them taco dodgers. So we took that concept and adapted it with pizza goodness.

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Ladies (and gentlemen), if you’ve ever been with a man with a beard, you know the sinking feeling you get when he tells you he wants to shave it. You know what it’s like to try to be supportive while secretly hoping he’ll change his mind. And you certainly know about the Facial Hair Transformation Photo Essay you are obligated to assemble and then share with the internet.

Step 1: The beard we know and love. Admittedly looking at little scrappy.

Step 2: Goatee with exaggerated sideburns.

Step 3: Solo goatee.

Step 4: Um, pointy mustache?

Step 5: Wow, creepy. Let’s move on. Quickly.

Step 6: Heil… yeah, no.

Step 7: Baby Face.

Isn’t he adorableI folks? I feel like I’m married to a 12 year old. I like the clean shaven look, but it’s no secret I miss the beard. But just like the things I do or don’t want to shave are my business, the things he does or doesn’t want to shave are his business.

Besides, I’m sure he’ll get sick of the upkeep and I’ll have my beautiful beard back. Right babe?

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Mac v. PC

What do you think? Is our nephew Brady more of a Mac baby?

Or a PC baby?

Either way, he’s adorable right?

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“Would you want to have our son(s) circumcised?”

When Shannon asked me this recently, I froze. I had no idea. My instinct was to say ‘yes,’ but I think it was only because it’s what I know. I’d always heard that uncircumcised penises are unsanitary, they look weird, etc. But I’d never really thought about it, and had certainly not researched it.

After some brief research on a reasonably trusted website, I’ve discovered some information.

First, the sanitation argument. It is harder to keep the head of the penis clean in an uncircumcised boy. This is true, but ultimately not a factor. It comes down to simply teaching the boy how to keep it clean. We are a civilization with easy access to soap, water, and personal hygiene products. So, not that big of a deal.

However, it also seems that circumcision leads to a decreased risk of urinary tract infections, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, penile cancer, cervical cancer in female sexual partners, and some inflammatory diseases. Although, risk of a lot of these issues can also be reduced by hygiene and medical knowledge, so it’s kind of a wash.

There are medical institutions studying the myth that circumcision leads to increased sexual sensitivity. According to the department of urology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, it’s about even. There are apparently lots of factors that affect sensitivity (and circumcision may be one of them), but most of the factors are negligible. So, that’s not much of a factor…but it is weird to think about the sexual satisfaction of our unborn, hypothetical son.

So then there’s the risks of circumcision. It supposedly can be complicated. According to the CDC, two thirds of males in the US are circumcised at birth. So, after actual birth, it sounds like the most common pediatric procedure in medicine. The biggest risk is infection, which is usually non-existent and sometimes minor and local. About 1 in 200 circumcisions result in minor infection, inflammation, etc. However, the risks become greater as the child gets older. So, not too risky, unless we wait.

Finally, the pain. This one is pretty one-sided. It definitely hurts. A lot. So, the biggest decision is whether or not we want to subject our 1-day-old infant son to excruciating pain and a wound that takes up to a week to heal. It’s kind of funny, because that argument seems to make the decision, and yet 2/3 of parents get past it, so it must not be that bad, right?

Besides physical pain, there’s the emotional aspects. A friend, upon discussion of uncircumcised men, admitted that her reaction might be “what the hell is that?” She told us that friends of hers kept their son’s foreskin, and our friend’s husband referred to it as “the ant-eater.” A commenter on a website I read admitted that, as an uncircumcised high-school student, his locker-room nickname was “flappy.” So, there’s definitely a social side to the issue that we have to consider. I might hate my parents if they did not circumcise me and it lead to a nickname like that.

Of course, this whole discussion may end up being moot, since an adopted son might already be circumcised. So, we may have the decision taken from us. Although, since circumcision is much less common in other parts of the world, it we adopt internationally, it might become a bigger decision, since he might (probably will)  be older than 1 day old.

So, no decisions yet.  Obviously we don’t need a decision yet, so that’s ok.


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On the menu

Even though Mike is a chef, this is very NOT a food blog. And I’m the one writing this post so you know it’s not going to get too “foodie,” but I’m about to write about meals, so brace yourself. About a month ago, Mike and I got fed up with food (pun not intended, but pretty awesome), specifically dinner-planning. Every week it was a struggle to figure out what to make for dinner without reverting to our usuals. To simplify things, one day we decided to create categories. Instead of searching the billions of available recipes for each meal, we’re narrowing it down to categories, like “salads” or “casseroles,” so you know, we only have MILLIONS of recipes to search through. But really though, it has helped. This is what we came up with:

Mexican Mondays
Salad Tuesdays
Pasta Wednesdays
Casserole Thursdays
Pizza Fridays (that one was my idea)
Meat Saturdays
Soup/Stew Sundays

We’re not home together every night, but each weekend we plan out which days we’ll need dinner and then think of meals in those categories. So far it’s not only been helpful, it’s been fun! I’ve even been able to contribute a few ideas so Mike isn’t stuck with the burden of all the meal planning. Interested in what we’ve been making? I thought you might be, so I’ve taking been pictures. In no particular order…

Casserole Thursday: Chicken Pot Pie

Pasta Wednesday: Spaghetti with Meat Sauce (and Garlic Bread)

Salad Tuesday: Steak and Bleu Cheese

Mexican Monday: TACOS!!!!

Casserole Thursday: Shepard’s Pie (Oops, this looks gross because I forgot to take a pic till I was almost done. It was quite delicious though!)

Pasta Wednesday: Spiral Pasta & Broccoli with Homemade Alfredo

Salad Tuesday: Bacon & Avocado

Soup/Stew Sunday: Homemade Potato Soup with Italian Bread

Pasta Wednesday: Homemade Veggie Lasagna with Garlic Bread

Salad Tuesday: Pear, Pecan, Chicken & Bleu Cheese

Meat Saturday: Pork Chops with Rice Pilaf and Glazed Carrots

Pizza Friday: Hungry Howie’s… mmm, grease.

Looking over this, wow, I’m a lucky gal. My husband made me all of those meals. Except the pizza of course. And they were all SO good.

Because we seem to be seriously lacking for content lately, I’ll probably post a few more of these meal updates. Hope you’re not bored to death!

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Big spenders

Lest anyone think we’re rich, I should explain how we can afford to book a European tour and buy a new vehicle at essentially the same time. Not that we need to justify anything, but I get the impression some people think we’re rather well off*, and that’s just not the case. In fact, we both work in the nonprofit sector, which, as I’m sure you know, is not know for its high salaries. So how did we do it?

Well, first we put the money we got as wedding gifts in the bank. Which, as far as weddings go, wasn’t huge. We were thankful for and humbled by every penny since all we did to earn it was get married, but we had a small and inexpensive wedding, so we didn’t get (nor expect) the THOUSANDS that many other couples receive.

Anyway, we opened an account with that money and then added whatever we could, including, most recently, our meager tax return. Eventually we determined exactly how much we needed to save for Europe and began putting away about $400 a month to reach that goal. That was not easy. Our budget didn’t exactly allow for $400 a month in extraneous savings, so we had to really scrimp on some things. Eventually the money started adding up and we had enough to book the trip, but we continued the super saving in order to accumulate enough for “spending money” while we’re traveling. We’re actually still working on that part. It’s not easy to save $7000 in less than a year, but we think 9 whirlwind days in Europe will be worth it.

And then there’s the minivan. How, in the middle of saving and scrimping for this trip, did we purchase a vehicle? First, we both called our lenders for our student loans. Combined, Mike and I were paying over $700 a month on our education debt, and we figured that was a good place to find some wiggle room. We both switched to graduated plans, which aren’t as bad as I thought. In my mind, graduated meant one year you’re paying $100 a month and the next you’re paying $300, and so on. There’s no way our income increases would keep up with something like that. However, turns out the payments only increase by about $15-30 every two years. So even by the last step in the graduation, I’ll only be paying about the same amount that I was paying monthly before I switched.

That was confusing. So basically for the last couple years I was paying $295 a month. Now that I switched I’ll pay $165/month to start. And every few years my payments will increase. But even at the end, right before I pay off the loan, I’ll only be paying about $350 (and only for about 9 months). Mike has as similar situation. So for the time being, we decreased our monthly student loan payments by about $300 combined, which allowed us to build into our budget a $300 car loan payment. Magic!

In order to buy the type of van we wanted and keep our payments at $300/month though, we had to come up with a $4,000 down payment. That part was hard. We had to dip into our savings. Not our Europe savings, but the money we had both been putting away since long before we met. Which hurt. Oh how that hurt my heart. Our savings were meager, so $4,000 was a pretty big blow. Maybe it wasn’t the most fiscally responsible decision, but we’re confident it was the right choice. We have a reliable vehicle, we can afford the payments, and we’ll build back up our savings as quickly as possible.

So I say all this not to complain about being “poor” because we’re really not. I’ve seen poor and we are not that, thank god. But it has not been easy to make these two recent purchases, and I felt compelled to clear that up. This trend will not continue, that’s for sure. We decided on our priorities and we adjusted everything else accordingly. After Europe I’m sure we’ll reassess and readjust again. This time, it’ll probably be to save for a child (see the Adoption category if you don’t know what I mean).

*Mike’s dad even said, “Well I guess you turned out to be the wealthy Morris.**”
**Morris is Mike’s fake last name.

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