Thursday, April 23, 2015

Read A Book

What is the advantage to me being back here on the letter R, while others are preparing their U posts to debut in a few short hours?  I get to write a post about reading books... on World Book Day!

In celebration of World Book Day and my love for reading, I thought I would share a few of my favorite books from over the years. I am intentionally being a bit vague with plots and descriptions, so that you will be able to go and enjoy the books if you choose.  I would love to hear about your favorite books in the comments as well! 
For Little Ones
When it comes to books for kids (and no I don't have any) I love books with great illustrations!  They make such fun read aloud options. Here are a couple favorites -
<a href="">Strega Nona</a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
Strega Nona was one of my childhood favorites. I love Tomie de Paola's illustrations! They are detailed, yet somehow simple and classic. 

I absolutely LOVE the illustrations in Jan Brett's books. I first fell in love with her books back in kindergarten when my teacher read The Mitten to our class, and then we colored in our own mittens and animals to reenact the story.  I still remember the activity some twenty years out of kindergarten, and actually found the printables online so I could do it at the after school program I ran!

For Not Quite So Little Ones
I received a copy of A Little Princess when I was about nine or so from my library's summer reading book.  I devoured it.  It was (and still is) my favorite book! I loved the interesting names of characters like Ermengarde and Melchisedic, I learned about history as Sara's imagination transformed her attic garret into the Bastille, and I simply got enveloped in the life of this little-girl-who-was-not-a-beggar.

For Grown Ones
Of course, the kids shouldn't be the only ones busy reading.  Most of my fiction reads are historical fiction and things I find free on Amazon.  Here are some of the other books I recommend:

When I attended the Los Angeles Religious Ed Congress several years ago I was told by the teachers I was staying with that I had to go to Greg Boyle, SJ's talk.  When I went to the talk I had to buy his book.  Greg started his parish ministry in Dolores Mission in LA, and went on to find Homeboy Industries, a (remarkably successful) ministry to gang members.  This is their story.  A story of heartbreak, compassion, love and lots of grace.

I figured I would throw in a fiction book as well, just in case someone is looking for a good read.  Plain Truth is actually the only Jodi Picoult book I've ever read start to finish.  Something about trying to solve a murder in Amish Country is just so surreal it drew me in!

Friday, April 17, 2015

More Meals For One

Since we can't just eat
lasagna all the time, I thought I would share few of my other favorite meals that I have found to be perfect for single living.
One-Pot/Skillet Pastas
When you think of a skillet and a mish-mash of ingredients do you immediately think stir-fry?  WeIll for me, it is all about what I like to call "skillet pastas."  Prepare your pasta as normal, then in a skillet or saute pan heat oil and whatever other ingredients you want mixed in with your pasta.  Combine, stir and eat!  To save on dishes, you can simply combine ingredients right in the same pan you boiled the noodles in (I simply pour the ingredients in to the pan while my noodles are in a colander then add the noodles back in and stir).  Some of my favorite ingredients to toss in include tomatoes (canned or fresh), olives, frozen spinach, and garlic.  If you are looking for a more unusual recipe check out this fun jewel pasta recipe from one my favorite food blogs, Budget Bytes.

Mini-Eggplant/Chicken Parmesans
I am in love with these yummy eggplant cutlets that I found at Trader Joe's. 

The whole box costs less than three dollars (more than a fresh eggplant, but way less per serving than a frozen eggplant parm entrée). I simply top the cutlet with sauce and some cheese, heat and voila eggplant parm.  If you're more of a meat eater the same approach can be taken with chicken patties or breaded chicken cutlets for a chicken parmesan version.
Omelets & Scrambles
Eggs are another great resource for single-living.  They keep awhile in the fridge, so you don't need to worry about a dozen going bad on you.  They also come to us already appropriately portioned straight from nature, simply take as many eggs as you like and cook.  Prepare them any way you like but my favorite is scrambling them up with salsa, veggies, or breakfast sausage.
Grilled Sandwiches & Panini
No one can argue that a simple sandwich is a perfect meal when you're crunched for time or money.  After a while though ham and cheese on whole wheat can get a little boring.  I have found that grilling my sandwiches or cooking them on my Panini press, makes them a lot more enjoyable!  Somehow the simple fact of heating the sandwich makes it feel less like a grade school sack lunch, and more like a meal.  I also try to elevate the sandwiches with some more unusual (but not necessarily expensive) ingredients, something which works very well when the sandwich gets heated and everything melts together!  Shredded cheese? Salsa?  Sliced avocado?  Chunky canned tomatoes?

This post is part of my "Frugal Food" series, be sure to check out:
Frugal, Hungry and Single - my intro to the challenges of cooking for one on a budget

Lasagna For One - how one simple hack, makes lasagna the perfect meal for a solo kitchen
What Is Your Rice and Beans? - Beyond rice and beans on a rice and beans budget

This post is linked up at:
Giving Up On Perfect, Sarah Titus' Frugal Friday

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Lasagna For One

Did you check out my post about the challenges of being
Frugal, Hungry, and Single?  Are you too struggling with the stresses of cooking for a small household while trying (or needing) to stick to a tight budget? 
May I present... lasagna for one.  After all, who doesn't love lasagna?

The great thing about this lasagna, is there is no wrong way to make it! Lasagna for one isn't about the recipe but the method of preparation, so if you have a family favorite lasagna recipe - do it up! I love my grandma's lasagna and she says her recipe came from the back of the Mueller's box.  If you need a lasagna recipe check out this one from "my grandma" (aka the folks at Mueller!)

What is the secret to lasagna for one?  Loaf pans.  Simple, aluminum (disposable) loaf pans!

Here are my lasagna supplies & ingredients ready to go! (Of course I used cheese too).

To make this lasagna I started like normal, by boiling my pasta noodles and browning some meat.  I went with ground turkey.

Once the noodles and meat are ready it is time to get your loaf pans out and get layering!

Sauce, noodle, meat, repeat!  Oops - that's sauce, noodle, meat CHEESE repeat!

 Once you have enough layers to fill the pan, your lasagna is done!  Now it is time to wrap those pans up nice and freezer tight, and you have some yummy lasagna ready for the freezer!  I used about a pound and a half of meat, 2 cups of cheese, and a box of noodles which yielded 3 loaf pan size lasagnas.  I had lots of extra noodles however, so next time I plan to either boil only half a box of noodles, or add some veggies into meat mixture to bulk it up! 

This post is part of my "Frugal Food" series, be sure to check out:
Frugal, Hungry and Single - my intro to the challenges of cooking for one on a budget
More Meals for One - Four simple & versatile ideas for single cooking

Friday, April 10, 2015

Indifference, Inspiration, And Other Things I Didn't Say

When looking at the AtoZ blogging challenge for this year, I considered doing a quotes version with daily quotes by various famous and not so famous people that I liked and which had inspired me.  I (obviously) changed my mind, and decided to go eclectic instead.  But today is the exception as the biggest quote which stood out to me was one by Elie Wiesel about indifference.  Since I <3 quotes here are the words of Mr. Wiesel as well as several other quotes I thought worth sharing.

(1) Indifference
The opposite of love is not hate, its indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, its indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, its indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, its indifference.
-Elie Wiesel
(2) (More) Indifference
The most deadly poison of our times is indifference.
- St. Maximillian Kolbe
(3) Simplicity
I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things in life which are the real ones after all. -
-Laura Ingalls Wilder
(4) Love
I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts there can be no more hurt, only more love.
- Mother Teresa
(5) Suffering
Human suffering anywhere concerns men and women everywhere.
-Elie Wiesel, Night
(6) Challenges
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
(7) Habits
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not a virtue but a habit.
- Aristotle


Thursday, April 9, 2015

Get Off The Treadmill

This isn't a post about exercise.  In fact, if you're at the gym - get back on the treadmill.  I repeat, get back on the treadmill!

But what if you aren't on a literal treadmill?  What if - like me - you're on a figurative treadmill? 

What if you find yourself going nowhere fast?  What if you're not going "nowhere" but you aren't really going "somewhere" either?

What if you want to be great, but you find yourself stuck at good?

What if you just find yourself stuck?  In your career, in your personal life, in your health, your relationships, your faith? 

Well, then maybe you're just like me.  Ready to get off the treadmill.  Ready to move. Really move.  Move forward. 

After all - the hare didn't win the race.  Are you better off building speed and running full throttle on a treadmill?  Or are you better off slowing down a bit in order to get off the treadmill and start running (or maybe just jogging) down the road?

Interested in seeing just HOW I plan to get off the treadmill? - Check out my follow up post, Just Kick It In Gear.

Linked Up At:
Blogging from AtoZ Challenge, SDG Sisterhood 

Frugal, Hungry and Single

Like I said the other day in my post about
couponing at CVS, I am one of those people who likes couponing. I am usually pretty good with grocery and household purchases.  Yet, since moving on my own I have found keeping a food budget quite challenging!

I thought shopping for one would be easy.  After all, I am not feeding multiple people or caring for a big house, and I don't have a gaggle of teenagers or a house full of babies and picky toddlers. But single living brings its own challenges, here are a few I encountered (and some solutions).

Challenges of Cooking for One:

Recipes – While they can be adjusted relatively easily, most recipes are not designed for one person and need to be altered.
Time – Single people often find their time stretched in different ways than non-single people.  While I certainly don’t have as many responsibilities as I will when/if I have a spouse and family, my life as someone living alone is much less “home-based,” than it would be if I were living with family or even roommates.  I work multiple jobs, and all of my fellowship and family support is found outside of my home.  A lot of times that means my food budget is spent on drive- through meals and quick convenience foods.
Waste  - When you’re cooking for one food waste can be a big issue.  I have had fruit rot and yogurt mold before I could finish containers, and have tried my hand at batch cooking only to discover that I disliked the recipe or grew bored of the meal before I finished it.
Cost Saving Strategies Don’t Always Apply - When you’re cooking for one person, buying in bulk is out for perishable items.  Sure the cost per unit is less, but that doesn’t save you money when you simply can’t use the items before they will spoil.   The same can be true with Buy One Get One (or Two) sales.  
Overcoming the Challenges:

 Batch Cook Basics – If you are set on batch cooking, stick with basic items.  Cook a chicken, broccoli and rice casserole on Sunday night and you may easily be bored of it by Wednesday.  Bake some plain chicken breasts and you can have baked chicken and veggies one night, a chicken sandwich for lunch one afternoon and countless other meals throughout the week.

 Buy (Semi) Bulk of Things That Keep – It goes without saying, that non-perishables and paper products can be bought in bulk regardless of household size, but what about other items? While buying warehouse size packages of most perishable items is not the best idea for single-person households, there are some fresh produce items which keep well, and come in “semi” bulk packages.  While I would never buy a restaurant size package of apples or carrots, I can confidently buy things like 10 lb. bags of potatoes or large quantities of easily-freezable bananas. 

Buy Just What You Need for Things That Don’t – For the things which spoil quickly like fresh greens buy just what you intend to use in the next few days.  For fresh salad I often stop at my grocery’s salad bar.  While the cost per pound is significantly higher than regular produce, I am able to get a variety of salad veggies which I otherwise probably wouldn’t buy for just one person, and I don’t have to worry about anything going bad before it is eaten.   

Linked up At:

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Greetings

To all of my Catholic, Protestant and other Christian readers - Happy Easter.  To all of my Orthodox and Eastern Catholic friends - Happy Holy Week.

And to all, regardless of denomination - Christ Is Risen!

Linked Up At:
The Modest Mom Blog

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Debt & Money In The Bible

Today I am combining my participation in the AtoZ blogging challenge with participation in one of my favorite weekly linkups - 7 Quick Takes Friday. I decided pretty easily that letter "D" would be debt.  After all I have been reading Dave Ramsey, and I aspire to be debt free.  Then I realized that right now, I have been far from gazelle intense toward that goal.  I don't have one of those inspiring "getting out of debt" stories that I like to read on other peoples blogs.   But my letter D is still debt....

In one of his talks Dave discusses debt from a Biblical perspective, reminding us that debt is not a salvation issue, it is not something to send us to Hell, but still the Bible has nothing good to say about debt!  So for my inspiration and yours, here we have 7 quick takes on things the Bible does say about debt!
(1) Proverbs 22:7
"The borower is slave to the lender."
(2) Proverbs 6
"If you have put up security for a neighbor... free yourself like a gazelle from the hands of the hunter."
(3) Psalm 37:21
"The wicked borrows but does not pay back, but the righteous is generous and gives."
(4) Romans 13:8
"Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who has loved his neighbor has fulfilled the law."
(5) Deuteronomy 15:6 & 28:12
"You will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow."

(6) Ecclesiastes 5:5
"It is better that you should not vow, than that you should vow and not pay."
(7) Proverbs 22:26-27
"Do not be a man who strikes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you."

This post is linked up at:
Blogging from AtoZ Challenge, This Ain't The Lyceum, 5 Minutes For Faith, Missional Women, Create With Joy's Friendship Friday The Modest Mom Blog, Grace and Truth Weekly Christian Link Up, Soul Survival Christian Living Link Up

Friday, April 3, 2015

Couponing and CVS

It is of little surprise to folks who know me in real life that I like to coupon.  I like saving money, watching others save money on Extreme Couponers.  Mostly I like the puzzle of seeing how I can use these coupons to get the best deal possible on my stuff. I am far from being an extreme coupon-er or joining the ranks of folks who write books and blogs like the Coupon Mom dedicated entirely to coupons, but I like to think I know a thing or two!
The main secret to my couponing success comes in three little letters - CVS.  While I do clip and use coupons at other stores, I always seem to get the best deals at CVS!

Here is last week's CVS "haul" which I brought home for a total $20.17

My "haul" included 2 All brand laundry detergents, 2 Cover Girl Mascaras, 6 bottles of Pantene shampoo and conditioner, 5 different hair styling products from Garnier & Pantene, hand lotion, and some feminine products.
My Tips for Couponing at CVS:
(1) Register your ExtraCare card.
Register your ExtraCare card online at CVS' website and receive coupons by email.  My $10 off $40 or more coupon was a big help in last week's deal.  Remember that if you have other coupons, the CVS money-off coupon can be applied before those other coupons.  (For example, my total came to about $42 before coupons, they took of the $10 off $40 coupon and I was still able to use other coupons).

(2) Print Coupons In Store
Make sure that your first stop every time you visit CVS is at the price-scanner and coupon printer where you can print additional coupons with your card.  These CVS store coupons can be combined with manufacturer's coupons and offer great additional deals.  Recently I have gotten 10% off Kotex products, 30% off hand lotion, and my favorite a $3 off $10 Garnier coupon which I combined with several other Garnier manufacturer's coupons for better savings.

(3) Multiple Transactions
While you should certainly be courteous of people behind you in line, don't be afraid to do multiple transactions, they are the key to great savings at CVS. Multiple transactions will allow you to best use those ExtraCare bucks that you earn when shopping sales.  Part of my success last week came from breaking up my transactions to that the $10 in ECB I received could be used toward other items I was buying.  I bought enough in one transaction to generate the ECBs and then did a second transaction in order to use those ExtraCare bucks immediately.  After all, who wants to lose free money?

(4) CVS Deal Blogs
Another great resource when coupon shopping at CVS is the blogs dedicated to doing exactly that!  They will tell you great deal scenarios and often have pictures of the next week's ad up well before you receive your Sunday paper. I <3 CVS is a blog dedicated exclusively to CVS but simply google "CVS coupon matchups" and you will find many other blogs discussing CVS deals!

Happy Couponing!


And I am curious readers - Do you coupon?  Want to try your hand at couponing at CVS?  I am giving away a $5 CVS gift card to one of my readers!  To enter please leave a comment answering one of these questions:

What is your favorite store to coupon at?  What are your best coupon tips?

This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own, as is the cost of the giveaway.  I will choose the winner at random on Sunday April 12th, I reserve the right to cancel the giveaway if there are insufficient entries.

Budgets, Bagels and Blogs

I am still a day short and getting posts for A, B and likely C all up today!  I was a little late to the party this year so I never got hooked in to the Linky List but I am having fun with this anyway.

What are some of my favorite B things?
Budgets, Bagels and Blogs

I have been slacking in the budget world the past few months, but I plan to get back on track because I have to say I love the freedom that comes with having a budget!  I love the guilt free spending of stopping for an iced coffee and knowing I can afford it, or being able to make an extra payment on my student loans :) 
Some of my favorite tools/websites for budgets are:
This one doesn't really fit in with the trend of links that are going on with my other two Bs, but I still enjoy bagels.  Specifically I love French Toast Bagels with Maple Cream Cheese from a little café near where I work!  If you are from Western MA it is definitely worth popping into Holyoke for a visit to the Dam Café.

Since one of my goals in the AtoZ challenge is to build and participate in community, I thought I would share with you a few of my favorite blogs.  It is an eclectic list, but these (in no special order) are the blogs I find myself visiting most frequently.