Cooking Inspiration

Ever since I caught the (respiratory) flu two and a half weeks ago, I’ve been in a cooking and eating funk. I kind of lost my appetite and desire to cook. When I was feeling really yucky, I ate vegetable soup and oatmeal. Once I started feeling a little bit better, the only thing that sounded good was cereal and nuts (which always sounds good to me). We even got some delicious pizza one night and it really wasn’t that great to me.

Yesterday we made our weekly/bi-weekly trip to Trader Joe’s. That’s our regular shopping spot even though it’s about 30 minutes from us. When we were making a list and meal planning, nothing sounded good to me. Honestly, I just wanted to buy frozen convenience meals and call it good. Well after some bickering between Ryan and me, we finally decided on a grocery list. We were also starving and grouchy while making this list and that’s never a good idea. Hah.

Here are a few items that are usually always on our list… I always think it’s interesting to see what other people buy.

  • Mac & Cheese
  • Bananas
  • Cheese
  • Pistachios
  • Cereal
  • Coconut Milk
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Onion
  • Crackers
  • Salsa
  • Tortilla chips
  • Black beans
  • Vegetable broth
  • Bread

We ended up filling our cart to the brim this time around. Of course, we ended up getting a few more things than what was on our list. ;) Like a chocolate bar filled with cookie butter (OMG), frozen vegetable samosas, and orange juice.

Last night we had breakfast for dinner. I made egg, veggie sausage, cheese on a biscuit and oh my goodness, did it hit the spot! I was so happy that something actually tasted good. Not only that, but the veggie sausage helped satisfy my craving for meat. It tasted like real sausage and had the same texture (Morning Star brand). Ryan made fun of me for enjoying my “Egg McMuffin” so much. Hah.

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With our leftover biscuits, I made mushroom gravy today for breakfast. This was my first time making mushroom gravy and I’m pretty proud of how it turned out! I used the gravy recipe from A Beautiful Mess. I tried mushroom gravy and biscuits at a restaurant in Louisville a few months ago and I couldn’t believe how good vegetarian gravy was! I really recommend it.

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Tonight we are going out to dinner with friends for Mexican food. YUM! For the rest of the week, we have a few dinners planned: veggie burgers, tempeh sloppy joes (will be my first time making these), and vegetable and noodle soup. For easier/lazier meals, we can do mac & cheese, grilled cheese, pb&j, etc. For snacks we have: crackers and cheese or peanut butter, apples and peanut butter, chips and salsa, nuts, and carrots and ranch dressing.

Grocery shopping and meal planning helped inspire me to cook and eat again. I think we have a good plan for the week. :)

Detoxifying Our Home

We’ve been on a mission to rid our home of toxic chemicals! It was one of those darn documentaries that inspired us again, ha. ;) We watched Chemerical back in the winter and have been detoxifying our home and learning more ever since. We chose to detoxify because it is safer for us, the environment, and easier on the checkbook!

Do you feel overwhelmed by the cleaning supplies aisles at the store? Not only by the variety of products and the high prices, but also the smells too? There seems to be a different cleaning product for every surface in your house and that can get expensive! Not only that, but almost all of them are toxic to us either through touch, taste, or simply breathing them into our lungs. For example – why would you eat off of a plate or wear a shirt that was washed with toxins? It doesn’t really make sense to me why we would pay all that money for products that poison us and the environment. The only reason I still go down those aisles is for a good brush, sponge, or mop!

I’m happy to report that we have replaced almost all of our toxic products, from cleaning supplies to personal care items. It was more of a gradual process for us. The very first thing we did was get natural bars of soap for the shower – ones with no artificial fragrances or unnecessary chemicals. Isn’t it sad that plain ‘ol soap can be tainted with toxins?! Ugh.

Since then, we have replaced our shampoo and conditioner, toothpaste, face wash, lotion, etc. Thank goodness for Trader Joe’s, as they have some awesome products! I still want to experiment more with these items and find even better and simpler solutions. We are also still working on finding a safer anti-perspirant/deodorant and makeup for myself. Makeup is a tough one so I really just haven’t been wearing it much at all.

For cleaning, sometimes all you need is soap, water, and a sponge. Who knew?!  Vinegar and baking soda are miracle workers as well. So simple, yet so effective. I have a spray bottle with one part vinegar to one part water and lemon essential oil in it. I use that for kitchen and bathroom counters and make a similar mixture to mop floors. I scrub toilet bowls with baking soda and scrub the shower with vinegar. Another product you could use is grapefruit seed extract and water. I use it for a produce cleaner, but it can be used to disinfect almost everything.

We have been using Trader Joe’s laundry and dishwasher detergent, but I am about to make my own! I bought the supplies and now I just need glass jars for them. Laundry soap will be: grated (pure) soap and washing soda, plus vinegar for the softener. NO dryer sheets – only lavender bags for smell. Dishwasher detergent will be: salt, washing soda, citric acid and vinegar for the rinse aid. If you want to clean your dishwasher or washing machine – just run a cycle with vinegar.

Like I said, I use lemon essential oil for the clean smell and because it’s also a disinfectant. You can also use tea tree oil as a disinfectant (which I should do!) There’s tons of essential oils out there that have many benefits and great, natural scents! I use lavender everyday on myself actually. :)

Don’t take my word for it. Do some research and experimenting. Here’s a great article on natural cleaning solutions to get you started! Give it a try and your home will feel fresher and cleaner than before!

First World Problem$

Lately, I’ve been having an internal struggle about consumerism and money. I think it multiplies when I walk through Target or when I read blogs and social media.

The ironic part is we don’t have much discretionary income left over for consumerism to be a problem. I always wonder where the heck all our money goes, even though Mint tells me and we keep watch over it. The numbers just don’t add up in my head. We like to put all of our Two Are Better income back into our business so we live off of Ryan’s income, which I think is a very do-able number. But every month there’s bills and debt and groceries, and so on. It feels like a first world problem that X amount of money doesn’t seem like enough for two people (and three pets, I should add, who are expensive). It’s really beyond me how we paid for our wedding last year.

Here’s how my thought process goes: I wish we had money growing on trees (hah) so I could buy things I want. Like decorations for our house or craft supplies or clothes and the list goes on. Then I feel guilty that I want all of this stuff and feel like I should be thankful for what we have. Maybe it’s a good thing we don’t have much money to spend on these items. But – if we did have the money, how would I balance my wants and needs? It wouldn’t be appropriate to spend every penny, and especially on things I don’t have to have.

I’ve already started looking into another part-time job for myself and I think I do need it to help pay off our debt (student loans hurt, which feels like a common theme). I just still can’t get over the fact how much it costs for two of us to live. I feel like we even do major things to cut back on costs, like being a one-car family with no car payments, not having cable TV, not buying meat, etc. However, there’s still our mortgage, other first time home owner needs, internet for work, student loans, credit card bills, utilities, and the list goes on. It really gets monotonous every month, doesn’t it?

Now I should be thankful that some extra money goes towards enjoying nights out with friends or extra expenses of that month (ex – we plan to buy a lawn mower this month). But in the end, there’s no money left to make major strides for a savings or emergency fund (shameful!) and certainly not decorative pillows or other fluff.

Please tell me this is normal. I’m just being honest and transparent about how I feel and again, I know it’s a first world problem. I am truly thankful that we have food on the table, a roof over our head, and clothes to wear, plus much more. In the end, I want to be good stewards of our money, no matter how much we have.

Jasper, the friendly dog

Not only are we recent home owners, but also recent dog owners!!! :) Now we have 2 cats and 1 dog and our animals officially outnumber humans 3:2!

At the beginning of April, we adopted a 2(ish) year old male Corgi who we named Jasper. Of course, we had to continue the gemstone theme with our pet names. Now we have Onyx, Pearl, and Jasper. ;)

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We don’t know much about his history except that he ended up in a Missouri animal shelter in January and a nice lady with a horse ranch adopted him. However, he didn’t work out too well at the ranch. He chased the horses and the cars on the busy road. She determined that it just wasn’t safe enough for him as he just wanted to run free. I really wish we knew more about where he came from, as he appears to be a full bred Corgi and they don’t end up at shelters too often.

We found out through Facebook and Ryan’s Mom that he needed a new home and it coincided with our trip to Missouri to visit family. We went and met Jasper and decided we wanted to adopt him! He’s SO sweet and loving. We liked the fact that he was past the puppy stage and that he was the perfect size for us. We gave him several baths and got rid of his fleas (as he was living in a barn) and he travelled back home with us to Indianapolis.

Jasper seems to love his new home with a big fenced in yard, long walks around the neighborhood, and a nice sunroom to sleep in at night. When he’s really lucky, he gets to come inside and sit by us on the couch or office. ;) So far, we have taught him to sit and shake and he caught on pretty quickly. He’s a smart little guy and just cute as a button. Our cats don’t love him… but it works. Onyx actually has been trying to play with him lately (we think) and Pearl hisses and growls at him (but that’s typical Pearl).

I’m so glad we found the perfect dog for us! We knew we wanted a dog at some point and he kind of just fell into our laps. I think they call that fate. ;)

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Edit:

I wrote this post before The Pet Fiasco of 2013 that happened yesterday so I’m not very happy with our pets right now. Jasper, the friendly dog, does not describe him at the moment.

First – Pearl decided to climb the neighbor’s tall, wooden fence because she loves to run away from our yard. I couldn’t reach her since the fence is way above my head. The neighbor’s dog smells fresh prey and comes out of the house and starts jumping up at her trying to eat her for lunch. She just sat stunned at the top of the fence, barely balancing, all while it looked like the fence was going to be knocked down from the dog. I seriously thought she was a goner if she jumped or fell into the yard. Well – she did.

I didn’t know what happened to her until I saw her way up in the neighbor’s tree. I guess she outran the dog by means of a miracle. I seriously couldn’t believe she was alive. After a while the neighbor got home and I told him what happened. He said he was surprised – and glad – that nothing happened to her. I tried coaxing her down from the tree and back into our yard.

In the process, Jasper somehow gets out of the gate in our yard and I thought he was going to run away. Instead, he goes after a group of three dogs who were being walked in front of our house. I run after him and he starts biting and fighting with this poor innocent Beagle. I did not want to get in the middle of a dog fight and it was nearly impossible with 4 dogs tangled up. I just yell at Jasper while I’m in shock of what’s happening.

Ryan hears all this going on and runs outside and pulls Jasper off of the dog. The Beagle gets loose and starts running down the street so I run after him so he doesn’t run away. It’s the least I can do for the poor lady and her dogs. Well, I’ve been sick so that about killed my lungs to run a block, but I did manage to chase the dog home and he stayed until the owner got there.

Thankfully she was really kind about it all and the dogs were unharmed. What a great way to meet our neighbors, right?! Pearl ended up coming down the tree and coming back inside and was unharmed besides a chunk of fur that is now missing. Well, right after all this drama, Ryan and I got in a big argument over it all and it ended in a lot of tears. I couldn’t get to sleep very well last night because I kept re-playing all of this in my mind. It just turned out to be a horrible, no good, very bad day.

Flashback – Wedding Thoughts

Here’s a little flashback for you…

I guest blogged about wedding thoughts when I was 21 – and now I’m 24 & married! This is interesting to look back on. :) The good news? I made it through my wedding day anxiety-free (with a little medication).

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Lately I’ve been thinking, probably too much, about getting old(er)… and what comes along with it. Even though I’m only twenty-one years old, more times than not I feel old rather than young. It seems like everyday I get on Facebook, someone is newly engaged, married, pregnant, or a parent. Some of these people are close to my age, if not the same age. It’s just hard to wrap my mind around that we’re getting old enough for this. Or are we?

I almost feel numb to it because a lot of times it is out of order and just not the way it was intended to be (in my opinion). Too many times I feel like people are taking these stages of life way too lightly, which is why there is usually an unfortunate announcement of a divorce too.

Not to mention, there is always a Facebook ad about engagement rings trying to grab my attention. Is it because my status on FB says In a Relationship with Ryan Ray? And ’cause everyone else is doing it? Yeah, I’m sure a ring would look good on my finger too, but it’s so much more than that.

Because I’m in love with my boyfriend that I met four years ago, I’ve been noticing more inquiring minds lately… “Oooh…is he the one? Do you want to get married?” To my surprise, my own mother has even said a few things about it lately, being half-serious. I usually reply with something like, “Maaaybe just to make them wonder.

The pressure is building…

Honestly, I do hope to marry him. I’m not going to say it’s for sure until we’re engaged, because engagement is that commitment to marriage. I just don’t know when that will be and I don’t think Ryan knows either. We don’t really talk seriously about it (yet), but it’s fun to talk jokingly about with my friends. :) That’s just what girls do. We’ll know when the time is right, but for now it’s hard to say. A year, two years, three years? When he graduates? When I graduate (we’ll be old by then)? Or how about when we’re ready.

I could put it this way. If we were ready now, I’d say I do without looking back. I look forward to that time when I can be called a bride. Sometimes I have to remind myself I have a lot to work on to feel totally comfortable in that position. I think I have far too many self conscious/shy issues right now that are yet to be figured out.

I’m not your typical girl who has been planning my dream wedding since I was a little girl. The extent of my planning was playing that MASH game at sleepovers. Honestly, I think when that time comes I’ll be pretty dang clueless. I haven’t even been to that many weddings in my lifetime, especially in my young adult life! I’ve been a flower girl three times and a bridesmaid once. It amazes me that those brides on “Say Yes to the Dress” (show on TLC) walk in to the store knowing what kind of dress they want. Um, a white one? One thing is for sure, I’ll be leaving the men’s clothing up to my groom. Flowers, colors, decorations? Oh my!

Yep, that’s all I have to say about that.

Okay so what do I know? I won’t be a bridezilla. My flower girl will be my cousin’s daughter because I was my cousin’s flower girl and my cousin was my Mom’s flower girl.An outdoor wedding would be amazing in the spring or summer. My Dad has recently passed away and no one will take his place walking down the aisle. If I faint, someone better reach out to catch me.
Speaking of which, what worries me the most about my wedding day are nerves and anxiety. Last weekend, I went to visit my long-distance boyfriend for the first time in 2 months and my digestive system was not nice. It is a given that my chest will be all splotchy, but that will be the least of my problems. I will honest-to-goodness have to learn to some type of meditation before my wedding day or it will be very unpleasant for me. Sigh.

You’ve probably seen this video… how awesome would that be? To the song Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night? I would love love to have a choreographed dance or two for the reception.

And oh the honeymoon… Oh baby! (Not that kind of baby!) How about The Virgin Islands? I may or may not be choosing that destination because of the name. :)

The wedding is fun, but what about the marriage itself? I want to make sure I take enough time to prepare for the most important part, the life-long commitment that begins at the wedding.

It’s both scary and exciting that time is quickly passing me by and before I know it, I’ll be talking about the real deal.