Wednesday, December 3, 2008

I missed Menu Plan Monday this week

So, I didn't quite make the Menu Plan Monday deadline this week... add that to the list of things that I put off and missed! I actually did plan out my menu on the whiteboard in my kitchen, though, so I'm not really that much of a slacker. I even went grocery-shopping on Monday night based off of what was in my fridge, what was on-sale, and the menu I had created accordingly. Here's what I got:

Lots of delicious things, right? And only $37! There are a lot of bits of meals in that bunch, but not the whole lot of complete meals - missing the milk, eggs, carrots, etc. In no particular order, here are the meals that I'll be making with my winnings:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

After a much needed hiatus...

... I'm back! November just really caught up with me, and I needed to focus on getting things done moreso than keeping track of getting things done - which means I didn't keep track of my spending or food-intake, and definitely didn't keep up this blog (well... that was partly because I misplaced the cable to connect my digital camera to my computer... but whatever).

Probably the most exciting things that I did while I was away from this were to go back to Seattle for a few days to see my family and some old friends, host two friends at our apartment around Thanksgiving time, and prepare a delicious home-cooked Thanksgiving meal for Matt and myself! I don't have any pictures to share from those first two things, but I do have some nice pictures of our Thanksgiving meal (which I like to call "Turkey Day Minus the Turkey"... even though people look at me strangely when I say that!).

The whole table setting, complete with candles (totally stolen from our mantle!).

A close-up of the delicious spread!

What's included in a vegetarian Thanksgiving, you ask? Well, clockwise from the upper right corner, there are scalloped potatoes, home-made cranberry sauce, butter-topped rolls, my mom's dressing (don't call it stuffing!) recipe, roasted acorn squash, green bean casserole, and mashed potatoes. And of course, you have to top that off with a healthy bottle of red wine, because wine is inherently healthy, right? ;)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A few side projects to write about!

I've been working on a really big home project; slowly but surely, the guest room has been getting more uncluttered and more usable! But alas, it's not ready to be written about or photographed yet, but it's also been keeping me from working on other things, so I haven't had much to update about. :( This hasn't kept me from undertaking a few other small side projects, however!

The new charging station!

If you're like me, you have about 5 million things that you carry with you every day that may or may not need charging and may or may not already have designated charging places. When I left my personal cellphone at home for the third time in one week because I couldn't find it and it was totally dead, I decided enough was enough! I've been very happy with the charging station above from Costplus (this link is to a similar one), as it keeps track of my keys and chargers for me! It just sits on my counter by the front door, and it's small enough that it's not intrusive on that (already busy) space.

A little home herb garden, replanted.

I also decided it was time to redeem myself for all of the plants I managed to kill this spring and summer by replanting the little herb garden planter I bought this past spring. My first attempt at growing chives and basil starting out well enough, but failed miserably when I forgot to water it for a month and everything turned brown. This time, however, I'm determined to get some usable herbs out of this planter! Plus, there's nothing like a little herb garden to liven up your kitchen during a dreary winter, as this one's definitely going to be. :)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I'm not using the crock pot at all this week -- not sure why, but I just couldn't find anything that excited me to make in it while planning today. Unfortunately that means actually cooking every meal this week - so these recipes better be good! :)

As always, check out Org Junkie's awesome site for more menu planners!

Monday: Matt loves Mac-n-Cheese, and I've been testing recipes to try and find one that he absolutely loves, so these week's experiment will be Easy Mac and Jack.

Tuesday: Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

Wednesday (class night): Stir Fry with leftover veggies over brown rice

Thursday (class night): Leftovers

Friday: Stuffed (with onions, cheese, veggies, etc) baked potatoes

Saturday: Grilled cheese and soup

Sunday: This Green Bean Casserole sounds too delicious NOT to try. :D

I Love Changing the Clocks!

Ever since college, I have loved the return to Standard Time that happens every fall. Seriously, you know those days where you wish you had an extra hour? One day a year you actually get one, and it's awesome. Every year, I'd plot out of my 25 hour schedule to make sure I'd get as much done as possible - I don't know what it is, but I feel so much more motivated just knowing that an extra hour is there to do whatever I want with. I always feel like I have to put it to good use because it's such a good opportunity! And even though I'm not an undergraduate anymore, I still find myself feeling the same way about the longest day of the year.

This year was no different! I woke up to my clock reading 8:15am this morning (meaning it was actually 7:15am), and felt so energized for it being so early in the morning! And now, it's getting close to 5pm and it's already dark, but I don't care because I've been so productive today! Before 2pm I'd done some homework, planned out menus for the week, gone shopping to buy all the food, made a delicious snack for Matt and myself, started laundry, and gone for a 45-minute run.

My only wish is that we could get an extra hour more than once a year -- it's just such a good opportunity to get caught up (and get an extra hour of R-and-R, too!)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

I get by with a little help from my... neighborhood council?

I got a postcard in the mail from my neighborhood council a few weeks ago, which advertised a yearly program that they put on for their residents. "Clean out your clutter", it read, saying that for one day and one day only, you could put basically whatever you wanted on the side of the road and they'd take it away - FOR FREE.

So one night this week, Matt and I cleaned out all of the gigantic boxes that we'd had in our garage storage room because they were too big for the regular weekly recycling, and we were too lazy to go to the dump. We also put in a large (broken) trunk that a friend had left at our place with the pile. Our pile on the curb ended up being pretty huge, but by 8am the next day, it was totally gone. And we didn't have to do anything but put it at the curb! Hooray!

So thanks, Neighborhood Council, for helping me live in a more clutter-free apartment. I highly recommend either participating in a program like this, or suggesting one if your neighborhood council doesn't offer something similar.

Project 10: The Budget (Part 2)

Well, it's officially November, which means it's time to post my follow-up to the first half my first financial tracking experiment. And I have to say, I did a lot better in this half!

Total spending between October 16 and October 31 was $377. I have to say, though, that this should be a lot higher - Matt basically paid for all expenses surrounding Phantom of the Opera and the weekend of debauchery that it was a part of. But, since that number is almost $125 less than last time, I'm going to go with it. :)

So what's my total for the month? A whopping $796. I know, right? So where did that $796 go, exactly? Well according to my calculations, the breakdown's like this:

  • $284 for Groceries (and other household purchases)

  • $12 for Personal Items

  • $90 for Alcohol & Tobacco (or just alcohol in my case)

  • $17 for Clothing

  • $85 for Food at Work - I bought something at work 13 times this month! Ugh.

  • $192 for Meals Eaten Out - 10 times this month - good lord.

  • $40 for Recreation (a.k.a. gym membership)

  • $154 for Gifts and Cards - Matt's birthday and my brother's birthday

  • -$78 (my credit that I'm giving myself for returned school books)

I feel like this is a good starting point for my budgeting efforts. Obviously there are some areas that I can cut back on - I mean, there's no reason to spend $192 for eating out when I've also spent $284 primarily on groceries. Sheesh. Well, I guess you can't fix something until you've identified the problem - it can only get better, and I've already got my spreadsheet printed out and ready to go for this month. :)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

As always, check out Org Junkie's website for more menu plans this week!

Monday: We didn't make it this week, so Fried Rice with tofu for me and chicken for Matt.

Tuesday: Stir fry with left over veggies and brown rice.

Wednesday (class night): Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday (class night): Leftovers, and I'll be making Pumpkin Pie Brownies for the Halloween potluck at work.

Friday: Broccoli, Cheese, and Walnut surprise

Saturday: Frozen ravioli with steamed veggies

Sunday: Falafel, and something with couscous to go with it.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Project 8: Decluttering Financial Paperwork - An Update

It's been a while since I originally wrote about my shred-happy day of organizing my financial paperwork. So far my significantly down-sized accordian folder has been serving me well - not that I've totally stayed on top of the filing, but the piles of important papers have been significantly reduced in size and number.

I wanted to share a step in the paperwork decluttering process that I completed this past weekend that I feel will be of immense benefit to my personal finances and sanity. This past Saturday, I cancelled all of my store-specific credit cards. There are 4 reasons that I did this: 1. Once I'd bought the things I needed from each one using the enrollment bonuses, the rewards really weren't that great for each card; 2. They encouraged even more spending at stores I frequented too often anyway; 3. getting 4 statements a month (plus updates to card plans and all that) is a LOT of paper; 4. God help me if I ever lost my purse (or worse yet, it got stolen) and I had to call all 4 and go through the cancellation process AGAIN (seriously folks, this took me well over an hour's worth of phone calls, and I wasn't even trying to request new cards).

Instead, I've opened up a new credit card that I can use anywhere with a pretty nice credit limit that far eclipses the 4 former cards' limits combined (hooray credit scores). This card will give me perks outside of coupons at stores that I've already bought the things I need from - namely, free airline tickets. YES. It's one card with one statement, which means one bill to pay instead of 4. Basically, I'm much more likely to pay the bill on time, much less likely to keep contributing to my habit of frivolous spending spawned by $10 off coupons that I got for rewards from the individual store cards, and I'm much more likely to get something beneficial out of it (if I can get even one free flight anywhere, that's worth it to me).

I know this won't work for everyone, but I've already seen a noticable improvement in the amount of paper I have to hold on to. My purse is lighter, my spending habits aren't killing as many trees, and Linens-N-Things is going out of business and won't honor their credit card coupons anyway. Plus, all that shredding is kind of theraputic. :D

Monday, October 20, 2008

A new 5 weeks begins...

So, I don't know if anyone else just realized this, but in 5 weeks, the craziness that is the week of Thanksgiving begins. I have two words to describe how I feel about this: HOLY CRAP. How did this happen? Where did fall go? How the heck am I ever going to be ready??

This whole blog started as a 5 week project to get my apartment organized before I went back to school. And lets face it, I kinda failed. So now, with 5 weeks left before Thanksgiving crunch time, it's time to get back to business.

This 5 week session has one goal - to get my apartment ready for a holiday party after Thanksgiving. This means it has to be organized, I have to decorate for the holidays at least a little, and I have to get my stuff together enough to figure out party details. The conditions of this are simple - 1. I can't get behind on school work, and 2. I can't use this as an excuse to not work out or go to the gym.

This is totally do-able.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

Can't believe it's already Monday again! This week's menu isn't too ambitious, but I'm excited for the acorn squash recipe below (I've never had acorn squash before). It's the best part of getting my produce delivered - we get new things that I never would have picked up myself, and thus find delicious new veggies and recipes all the time.

Monday: We never ended up having spaghetti last week, so spaghetti and steamed veggies tonight!

Tuesday: I received an acorn squash in my box of produce last week, so we'll be trying out this Moroccan stuffed acorn squash recipe.

Wednesday (school night): Canned soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday (school night): Left-overs!

Friday: My fondue pot has been collecting dust lately, so I think we'll have some cheese fondue (using this recipe) with bread, carrots, celery, and apples (and maybe some chocolate fondue with strawberries and pound cake if I'm feeling ambitious).

Saturday: Dinner out before seeing Phantom of the Opera!

Sunday: I liked the Fried Rice recipe from last week so much, that I'll make this again with baked tofu for me and whatever kind of meat Matt wants.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Project 10: The Budget (Part 1)

Earlier this month I posted about keeping track of my spending this month with the help of this spreadsheet. I know this sounds terrible, but this is my first real tracking experience - other than making sure I have more money in my account than I'm spending at the moment, which isn't a great kind of budget scheme to have (obviously).

Let me preface that before starting this, I went through my receipt accordion folder that I have to kind of gage my monthly spending habits, figuring out how much my receipts totaled and then averaging them. This is problematic for 2 reasons: 1. I only had 10 receipts total for the months of January and February, which clearly is NOT all of the money that I spent those two months, and 2. somehow I determined that I should only keep receipts showing sales tax (???? - like I'm spending enough to be able to claim that tax on my returns in January!) so I have a few months where that was the standard of receipt saving. The highest month I had was May, with $988.47 - this makes sense because I'd just moved and bought a ton of stuff for the new apartment. The average of my monthly receipts was $527.11, which isn't too bad (in my opinion) since it includes groceries and travel costs.

So today, after filling out half of my budgeting spreadsheet, I totaled everything up to see where I am for the month so far. It looks like my expenditures are currently at a whopping $419. I KNOW, right? What the heck? There are 2 reasons I think this number is higher than normal (yes, these are excuses) - 1. my little brother turned 18 last week and Matt's birthday was yesterday, so OBVIOUSLY celebratory costs were high for both of those occasions, and 2. all of the numbers are rounded up. BUT, in reality my spending was higher than this because I counted the $85 refund I got on 2 textbooks I returned as a credit, and subtracted it from the overall spending (which means I actually spent $504, good lord).

Obviously this is my first crack at the whole budgeting thing, and this will improve as I set firm dollar-amount guidelines for myself. It is very interesting to see where all the money goes, though.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Budget Grocery Shopping

So, I finally did it. I menu-planned based mostly on what I had on hand, I made a conservative list of items to buy for the rest of the week, and I checked out the grocery ads online before hitting the store. What I came away with is probably the most productive grocery trip ever, which also happens to have been the cheapest (for what I got, that is).

The spoils of my trip, minus the wine.

I got 4 cans of beans (3 for chili, one for salads), two cans of diced tomatoes, green salsa (thanks for the recommendation Rachel!), peanut butter, 6 eggs, a 1/2 gallon of milk, two kinds of cheese, frozen green beans and frozen peas, whole wheat bread, and english muffins - for eating. I also bought 6 bottles of wine that were super on sale, and then cheaper with my reusable wine bag.

Grand total? $42.13. Mommy blogs, you've got me convinced. Coupons/ad-checking/menu-planning is the way to go.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Menu Plan Monday - Better Late Than Never, Right?

I know, I know, it's Tuesday. Oh well, better late than never, right? I'm getting a box of veggies and fruit from Fresh Abundance tonight, so we'll have to alter the menu depending on what actually arrives in that. As always, check out Org Junkie's website for more menu plans.

Monday: Fried Rice and Asparagus Parmesan

Tuesday: Ravioli from the freezer and steamed veggies

Wednesday (school night): Slow Cooker Beef Stew, with veggie broth and tofu instead of the beef

Thursday: Matt's birthday! Probably dinner out somewhere.

Friday: Spaghetti with jarred sauce, steamed veggies, and garlic bread

Saturday: Vegetarian Chili in the Slow Cooker

Sunday: Canned soup and grilled cheese.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I've been doing some thinking...

...and I need a weekly schedule. And by schedule, I mean of chores and stuff around the apartment so that I'm not leaving everything for Sunday and getting totally bogged down for an entire day of my weekend with all this stuff I've left the entire week to do at the end. I'm really good at procrastinating, and then getting super frustrated when everything takes so long because I'm trying to do it all at once. I've talked to a couple of people recently who've mentioned either their personal household's schedule or someone else's schedule they're familiar with, and it seems to be pretty successful. I guess we'll give this one a go this coming week and see how I fare...

Sunday: General straightening/vacuuming

Monday: Bathroom

Tuesday: Kitchen

Wednesday: Class (night off)

Thursday: Class (but trash and recycling anyway)

Friday: Bills/mail/paper work for the week

Saturday: Laundry

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I can't believe it's October already! Wow, time really flies. This week's going to be a little different because not only do I have school, but I'm running a half-marathon on Sunday! Anyway, here's the plan for the week, and of course, there are tons of other fantastic menus for the week over at Org Junkie's wonderful website!

Monday: Tomato and Cheese Maccaroni (recipe to come)

Tuesday: Curry with random left over veggies and tofu, served over brown rice

Wednesday (School Night): Pulled Chicken (instead of pork) for Matt, mixed veggies and tofu for me, served with packaged "South-Western Style Mashed Potatoes" (I'm skeptical...)

Thursday (Schoon Night): Left-overs

Friday: Dinner out!

Saturday: Broccoli and Cheese Bake (I'll be using half broccoli and half cauliflower), and brown rice for pre-race carbo-loading. I don't remember who posted this a couple of weeks ago, but thanks to the other menu planner that found this and shared it!

Sunday: Left-overs - cuz I'll be really tired after my race!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Selling Back Books

One of my classes for this quarter had a pretty hefty list of books for a leadership seminar. We're talking 4 books, priced together at around $200 (which included me scouring the bookstore for 2 used copies of books... so yeah). So imagine my surprise when, on the first night of class, my leadership seminar somehow magically transforms into a climate change policy class! Not that I'm complaining, because the topic is definitely more interesting, but this means that half of the $200 worth of books must go back to the school bookstore, and Thomas Friedman's latest book Hot, Flat, and Crowded must be purchased and read immediately (which the school bookstore defnitely DID NOT have).

But hey! Hadn't I been meaning to try selling some books back to Auntie's Bookstore to get in store credit for more books? I had! So today, I came to work armed with 2 plastic bags full of books to trade in for credit, with which I could buy Thomas Friedman's latest. The only negative about the exchange was that Auntie's wouldn't take half of the books I brought in. BUT, here's the awesome part: for the 6 books (1 hardcover, 5 paperbacks) that they DID take, they gave me a whopping $18.00 credit!!! Isn't that fantastic?? I was totally expecting like, 50 cents per book, tops.

So, my $28 hardcover new book required for class, minus the $18 credit, and with 20% taken off because it's a current New York Times bestseller, came to $6.25. YES.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Tracking Things

I've been tracking what I eat for the last 2 weeks - not for any dietary purpose, more just to see how many meals I eat out and what kinds of stuff I eat on a regular basis. And it's actually been really helpful! I'm spending less on food at work because of it, and I'm spending less on groceries because I'm buying things that I eat often instead of things I want at the time.

So, for this month, I'm going to try tracking all of the money I spend in a kind of similar way. I have a print out of this spreadsheet (thanks Rachel!) that I'll be carrying around to track things on. I think it'll serve two purposes - reduce spending on random crap, and also make me more aware of exactly where my money is going. I think it's already working, too, because I didn't spend anything at all yesterday! Hooray!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Project 9: The Bathroom Junk Drawer

I guess this title is deceptive, as it's not really a drawer; it's more like a plastic tub that's been accumulating STUFF since I was a teenager. Unfortunately, it's been overflowing for quite some time now, and the things that didn't fit in the tub were starting to appear permanently as clutter in bathroom drawers and on the bathroom counter.

The overflowing drawer/tub.

I didn't even know what the heck was in this thing when I started. And MAN, you should've seen some of the expiration dates on this stuff.

A bird's eye view of everything from the tub spread out on my bed.

The finished product was a much smaller selection of nailpolish and a much emptier tub - which resulted in a cleaner bathroom counter and less-full drawers! And it only took half an hour. :D

Monday, September 29, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

It's time for Menu Plan Monday! As always, check out Org Junkie's fantastic website for more menu plans!

Monday: Birthday dinner for Jesse!

Tuesday:Soup and grilled cheese sandwiches

Wednesday (school night): Stew with eggplant, tomato, and garbanzo beans

Thursday (school night): Slow cooker vegetarian curry servd over brown rice

Friday: Leftovers.

Saturday: Ravioli with a steamed vegetable of some sort.

Sunday: Enchiladas! This is a new recipe, I'm hoping Matt will enjoy it while watching Sunday Night Football!

Sorry for this little plug, but I've got to say, I'm super excited for my box of locally and organically grown veggies and fruit to arrive this week! I belong to a local co-op/farmers market organization that delivers a delicious box of vegetables and fruit every week, which is super convenient since I don't have to go shopping for fresh food (and Matt doesn't either!). Most major cities have these kinds of organizations, and I highly encourage everyone to check the web for one close to them!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weekend To-Do List

Well, my 5 weeks are officially up. Classes started two nights ago, so my time is even more limited than it was before. :( It's even more important to make sure I get done what I need to get done, and have some sort of way to hold myself accountable. That being said, here's what I need to get done this weekend:

1. Donate. I have 2 new bags of clothes (a lot of which are Matt's things that he went through as we organized closets and the dresser) to give to the thrift stores. The sooner the better!

2. Books. I need to return books that I bought from the campus bookstore that we're not actually going to use in class, buy books from or Amazon that we actually ARE going to use in class, and sell that stack of books back to Auntie's.

3. This is guestroom weekend. It's time to tackle the spare bedroom and make it presentable and usable.

4. Budget! I have a whole separate to-do list of budget-related things, like closing store-based credit cards that I don't use, totalling up receipts, balancing my checkbook, and making a long-term budget plan. This will be greatly helped by phase two of finishing Project #8.

That's about it for this weekend, other than the usual cooking, cleaning, and (now) homework!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Project 8: Decluttering Financial Paperwork

Well, I've officially started the process that I talked about awhile ago. I'm so lucky that Org Junkie just happened to post about office organization today! Basically, what I did was go through my current accordian folder to find things that could be shredded. Then I went through my stacks of paperwork to figure out what could be thrown away immediately, what needed to be acted upon, and what needed to be shredded. I came up with this pile of stuff for shredding:

After the shredding takes place, then it's time for filing! Unfortunately, my accordian file is already exploding even though I haven't filed any of the new stuff. I'll need to find something that better accomodates what I've got. Then it's on to consolidating credit cards and finally making a budget. Hooray!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

I'm totally a list person, and this really helped keep me from buying frivolous food last week! Plus, this is my first week back at school (UGH), so it's going to be even more important to be organized about dinner this week! Here goes again, recipes where I can. And as always, visit OrgJunkie's fabulous website for more Menu Plan Monday participants!

Monday: Stir fry (carrots, celery, onion, broccoli, peas, tofu) over brown rice

Tuesday: Vegetarian Chili in the slow cooker!
1 can each of navy beans, red beans, and kidney beans
1 can vegetarian refried beans
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilis (10 ounces)
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth/stock
Drain and rinse all beans (except refried), throw everything in the crock pot on low for a long time (I always just wait 'til I'm hungry... doesn't really seem to matter!
Season with red pepper flakes if it's not spicy enough
Serve with sour cream and cheddar cheese!

Wednesday: It's a school day, so Matt will be eating Slow cooker chicken with gravy that I'm adding potatoes and carrots to, and I'll be having left overs in class!

Thursday: Another school day, but I'm cooking anyway! Spaghetti - saute tofu in olive oil with garlic and italian seasoning until lightly browned, then add it to jarred spaghetti sauce - we'll have garlic bread on the side

Friday: Pizza - hopefully home made, but lets be honest, probably not!

Saturday: Soup (beef stew for him, roasted peppers and tomato for me!) and grilled cheese sandwiches

Sunday: Leftovers

Project 7: The Closet

This weekend was super eventful, which I'll post about later, but for now -- the closet! I've wanted a functional closet that was actually decently organized for awhile now, but with the lack of a dresser, it was really hard. So, with the completion (and now use) of the best dresser ever, I was able to make my closet organized, clean, and functional. Hooray!



I basically took the huge thing of plastic drawers out, leaving one on the floor for my workout clothes (which I consolidated to one drawer in a previous poat), and then added a plastic sweater rack that holds my pants and yup, you guessed it, sweaters! I'm lucky that our apartment already had that really convenient shelf for my shoes. So now, my closet doors shut, everything has it's place, and we're all good! Hooray!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Project 1 Update!

To assist with the onslaught of paperwork and important items that are brought into our apartment by way of mail, friends, work, school, etc. I decided add a basket that would collect items before they can be sorted. So now, I have a kitchen bulletin board (for kitchen related papers), a regular bulletin board (for everything else) and a basket to keep the mail from going everywhere. My counter has never been cleaner!

Project 6: The New Dresser!

So, I bought this sweet dresser from Costplus (when it was on sale, of course!) to coordinate with the nightstands. Even though I messed it up a little bit (the top is on backwards... oops!) it still looks MUCH MUCH better than the plastic drawers and tubs that Matt and I had each been using since college!

Isn't it pretty?

Just to prove that it's actually being used! Matt has the top two drawers and I have the bottom one. The drawers are HUGE, so I managed to fit everything from my old set of three plastic drawers into my one drawer on the bottom!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Menu Plan Monday

This is my first time participating in Org Junkie's Menu Plan Monday, but I've been meaning to for awhile! I'm hoping this will help cut down on the number of groceries I buy that end up going to waste because I haven't adequately predicted the amount of food the boyfriend and I consume in a week. It also doesn't help that I'm a vegetarian and he's decidedly NOT. :) Anyway, here goes my first attempt!

Monday: Grilled cheese and cans of soup (Amy's Minestrone for me, Beef Stew of some sort for him)

Tuesday: My italian mac-and-cheese, which I'll post a recipe for at some point.

Wednesday: Pulled Chicken (instead of pork) sandwich for Matt; falafel sandwich for me!

Thursday: Spaghetti with Tofu sauce (saute tofu in butter, garlic, and italian seasoning until browned, then add it to a jar of spaghetti sauce), with bread and steamed veggies

Friday: Dinner out with the boyfriend's parents!

Saturday: We're going to a college football game! Hooray! (who knwos what I'll end up eating!)

Sunday: Left overs, or broccoli/carrot/celery/whatever-extra-veggies-I-have-left stirfry over brown rice.

I'm back!

We had a house guest, followed immediately by a 9 day trip to visit both my family and the boyfriend's family, and then another house guest that participated in the last part of the roadtrip for 3 days upon returning. Basically, it was a fun (but LONG) couple of weeks! And, unfortunately, my classes start again in a week and a half, so my 5 weeks are almost up. :(

We'll be receiving more guests on Thursday night (the boyfriends parents! Gotta impress!), so the apartment really needs to get picked up! I did the bathroom and kitchen cleaning yesterday, so that's all good. But I still don't feel comfortable presenting it to his parents as the home I've made for us (and he has, too, but let's be honest- mostly me! :D ).

I really am a list-person, in that I make lists and function a lot better with a list in the back of my mind of things I need to do. So, with the deadlines in mind, here is what I plan to do this week:

1. Clean up the clothes in our bedroom. This means finishing putting the clothes in the dresser (1 drawer left, for Matt's sweaters), fixing up the closets, donating all clothes we don't need anymore, and vacuuming/dusting.

2. Fix the paper clutter in the kitchen/dining room/living room. It's the first thing you see when you walk in the place, and it's not going to impress ANYONE with the way it is right now!

3. Rearrange the furniture. We kind of have tables, chairs, recliners, etc. all over the place and in various rooms and not in arrangements condusive to entertaining. Shouldn't be too hard to do, but just needs to be done.

4. SELL BACK BOOKS. Those piles I made in a previous post? Still in the middle of my living room.

5. Make a budget. This was actually the thing I wanted to do the most during this whole process, and the thing that's been put off to the last minute. Oops!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Project 5: The Workout Drawer

My task for this evening was figuring out what the heck was going on with my workout clothes drawer. Seriously, there are things in there from middle-school (which was over 10 years ago, ps). Well, anyway, you can't organize something if you don't know the extent of the problem, right? Well, above is the scariness that ensued when I lined it all up on my bedroom floor! That's right, you're looking at 7 pairs of basketball shorts. A like, 6 pairs of running shorts, 5 pairs of spandex, 2 running skirts, and 14 t-shirts. Yeah.

Haven't decided what I'm keeping yet and what needs to go... but I think I'm going to purge everything that's been in that drawer since high-school (which is less than half of it, so not that bad). I mean, all I really need is one workout outfit per day, right? :D

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Project 4: The Books - Part One

I spent most of my weekend doing laundry and other things that don't necessarily require new organization (and really don't photograph well -- sorry, but no one's getting before and after shots of my mopped floor). This is mostly because Matt and I will be taking a trip for over a week, beginning next Saturday, and need to have things cleaned and in order because we'll be having a house guest immediately upon getting back!

So anyway, we've had three huge tubs of books cluttering up our "guest room" that I've been wanting to sort through and figure out. So, long and short of it was this: I made three piles - the first was an "I'm going to read this in the next year" pile, the second was "I either loved this book or it has super important sentimental value", and the third was for donation/reselling. Pile 2 is on the right, and Pile 3 is on the left (along with a ton of my DVDs that I really haven't watched since college).

And finally, Pile 1 went into the bottom of the nightstands that I put together last week. Since I do most of my reading in bed, I thought it'd be the best place.

Now I just need to figure out a place for Pile 2, and get the books from Pile 3 to Auntie's to resell.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Project 3: The Make-Up Drawer

Pretty heinous, isn't it? There was all kinds of stuff in here, which of course makes it seriously difficult to find anything of course (especially when you're half asleep and running late!). A half hour of sorting and an $8 pack of drawer organizers later, this is what it turned in to:

All the old stuff go thrown out, and everything is sorted into containers based on frequency of use, and items likely to be paired together. Hopefully this will make my morning routine go much faster!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Preparing to tackle my financial paperwork

This is a picture of the counter top that serves as our dumping ground for every important piece of paper or mail that comes through our front door. It's a good thing it's so big! This is undoubtedly one of the most difficult parts of the condo to keep organized, and it's actually a miracle that it looks this good in the picture I took earlier this week. :)

The bane of my existence for the last several years has been developing a small, concise system that I can use to keep track of my bills, bank statements, tax returns, paycheck stubs, and all the other variosu pieces of important financial information that seem to flood into my condo. I realized this January as I was searching for important tax information that I still had in my possession every single pay check stub I'd ever received - since my first job nearly 10 years ago - and that they were in NO WAY organized.

I did some google searching (and blog reading) today about what kinds of documents are really important to keep for an extended period of time, and which ones can really be disposed of after awhile without risking any potential damage. I thought that this document provided the most realistic and helpful guidelines about time frames for particular types of documents.

So tonight, I think I'll go invest in a paper shredder! I have two accordian folders that I've been utilizing for a year or so, but they need a drastic overhaul. This will be a weekend-long project I feel, but it'll be so nice to have it done and out of the way!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Organization Update!

Well, my organizing, cleaning, and decluttering has been sidetracked for a few days! We had a house-guest on Tuesday and Wednesday, and tonight we're going to a fantastic concert tonight, so no improvements from me!

I did, however, make a tragic mistake. :( While putting together our new dresser from CostPlus that will match the new nightstands, I managed to basically bore holes in the front of the top piece of wood by putting in on backwards! Oops! I was wondering why the screws weren't going in so easily... I'm going to try and salvage it tomorrow, and it doesn't look too bad to keep it on there backwards, but I'm just hoping I didn't permanently ruin it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Project 2: The Nightstands

One of the things that I've known for a while needed to be changed is the bedroom furniture, or lack thereof, that is currently in the condo. Our nightstands especially left something to be desired. Mine is the set of three plastic drawers ($15 at Target my first year of college!) that I've been using for over 5 years now - notice how everything is precariously stacked and falling off! Matt's is the black thing... I don't even know how to describe it.


So after looking around at bedroom sets a little while we shopped for couches in late April/May, and constantly keeping my eye out for deals online, I managed to find these
on sale at Cost Plus World Market
, complete with a free shipping offer. I'm a sucker for free shipping, lets be honest, and I oggle the dark wood stuff at World Market every time I'm there, so it was a no brainer!


Everything fits, and they look so much nicer too! I couldn't be happier.

Donation Time!

I'm a big believer in donating things to those in need. This goes especially for thrift stores that tend to employ people that would otherwise be out of a job, and use parts of their proceeds to support programs for the needy and impoverished. Collecting items from around the house to donate also serves as a wake-up call to myself by putting me in my place about my own materialism, and reminding me that I need to use my hard-earned money for better things than a fashionable pair of boots (from 6 years ago), etc.

So last night, I took the two bags pictured above to Value Village. They contained... about 1/3 of my wardrobe - just about everything in my closet that was purchased in or before 2004. I brought Matt with me, and he also donated 2 bags of stuff that he's had in the trunk of his car since we moved 4 months ago.

And then, as our reward for our good deed, we got delicious take-out Thai food and went o home to watch the Olympics and thunderstorm for the rest of the night. Hooray!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nesting Tables: They're finally finished!

One of the reasons I created this blog is that the majority of blogs regarding household organization, de-cluttering, and decorating are made by and for stay-at-home wives and mothers. It's not that there's anything wrong with this - I think being a stay-at-home-mom with lots of kids is way out of my league - it's just that it's a different situation than the one I'm in. I don't have children, I work full-time (and more some weeks!), and I've spent at least 2 nights a week and one full weekend a quarter in a classroom. That's a lot of time outside the home! Basically, it means that I have to make sure the time I do spend at home is restfull while still being productive. It's a hard combo!

Case in point: I bought these nesting tables nearly 3 full months ago from American Unfinished Furniture, a (you guessed it!) unfinished furniture store in Spokane that came highly recommended from several friends. I'm a big fan of really dark finishes on wood, so I bought some finish to do it myself. It was really easy, and only took about a weekend - although, I did manage to mess up one of the legs on the smallest table, even though you can't really tell in the pictures. The worst part, though, is that the corner pieces required to oh, actually attach the legs to the tables, were left out of the packages.

So imagine my surprise when, upon arriving home today, there they were in the mail! Hooray! So I now present to you my new nesting end tables, that will serve our needs much better and classier than the stools we've been setting things on instead of sitting on. :)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Project 1 - Keeping Papers in the Kitchen

One of the first things that I knew I had to do something about when we moved into this place was the crappy old bulletin board that the previous tenant had put up on the kitchen wall. It was literally in pieces, with little fragments still attached to the heavy duty tape he had used to keep it on the wall. And, try as though I might (with my bare hands and soap and water, that is), I could not get the remnants of that tape off the wall!

So, on my last trip to Target, I perused the school supplies section for locker materials (I know, I know, so junior high). I got a package of 4 pieces of cork board for $10, and a $5 magnetic dry erase board. Both of these items were originally intended for lockers, so they fit perfectly in the oddly shaped space on my kitchen wall. To avoid making the mistake of the former tenant, I used some extra ribbon from a previous craft project to hang the left-side bulletin board instead of the super sticky wall tape in the package (I used the wall tape for the white board and bulletin board on the right side, because I figured a couple extra spots on the wall wouldn't be markedly different than what was already there).

I figure the left side will be used for important mail items like bills to be paid, important letters and invitations, and other items not to forget. The right side will be used for kitchen related papers, namely recipes I receive from people (I get a lot, surprisingly), coupons, grocery receipts, etc.

And of course, any chance I get to leave Matt a little note is welcome in my book!



I have 5 weeks of freedom...

So, here's the deal. I just finished my first year of grad school, and have exactly 5 weeks until my second year begins. So what am I going to do with all my free time? I'm one of those people that thrives on lists, goals, and being busy, so I think this is the best way to keep myself from going insane...

The thing that's been most neglected between my work schedule and class schedule/homework is without a doubt the 1200 square-foot condo that I moved into in mid April (I know, 4 months later and I'm still not moved in and settled? Aaaaaack). There have been several issues centered around moving into this condo. First, this is by far the biggest living space that I've had... ever. It's more than double the size of my last apartment, and needless to say much roomier than the rooms I rented out of college houses as an under-graduate.

Second, being a recent graduate of college (and a current grad student), I've never really gotten out of that undergraduate mode of whatever's-cheapest-never-throw-anything-out-it's-still-usable-with-giant-holes. Basically, all of my "furniture" is plastic or hand-me-downs from family members, and don't even get me STARTED on the majority of clothing in my wardrobe or things in my kitchen. Not all of this is problematic (everyone needs a set of 3 plastic drawers from Target... just maybe not 5 like I have in lieu of tables), so it'll be a mix of keeping and finding new items to more effectively and elegantly use.

And third, I'm sharing my condo with my boyfriend of almost 3 years (it's still crazy that it's been that long!). As anyone that's moved in wiht a significant other knows, there's this weird melding of stuff that has to happen - and it becomes much more evident if the two of you have too much crap. I don't necessarily think that we have too much stuff, but there's definitely stuff in here that I've never seen used before that we don't NEED.

Over the next 5 weeks, I plan to undertake various projects to organize, clean, and decorate my condo to make it more livable and presentable and just all around nicer. This should be a fun adventure! :)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Meet the Organizer

Hello everyone -- I'm Becca, a 23-year-old college graduate trying to make her way in the adult world. I live in Spokane, Washington, with the love of my life and our new family member, Mojo da Betta Fish. We live in an apartment close to downtown, and love taking advantage of what this city has to offer. I work full time, but I'm also going to school for a Masters degree at night and on weekends - and boy does that make my social life suck! :D My interests include running (5ks, 10ks, and half-marathons... I post about them occasionally), reality tv, drinking wine, reading books, and taking long naps. And I still sleep with my childhood bear every night. Basically, I'm the coolest person ever.

This blog is about my quest to organize my "house", both literally and figuratively. My apartment is obviously the literal part - it's a mess, which is unsurprising since I'm disorganized and busy. But I'm also on a mission to get my life in order. This means everything - my finances, my 5 and 10 year plans, my mind, my body, and my soul. I'm trying to incorporate new things (like menu planning and budgets) to keep me on track with beginning a responsible adult life, while continuing to have fun and enjoy being young!

There are a few things about me that you should know when reading my entries.
  1. I am a vegetarian. When I post recipes (or link to them), you can assume that any non-vegetarian ingredients are being substituted for vegetarian ingredients. Especially if they involve chicken stock. Ew. The only exception to this rule is when I specify that I'm cooking something for Matt - I do cook him meat every once in a while, because he's the best boyfriend ever.
  2. I am (at least close to) the messiest person on the planet. I qualify this by saying that I'm "messy", but not "dirty" - there is no rotting food in my apartment, but there are tons of stacks of papers and stuff. I've been messy all of my life (my parents have some crazy stories), and this is the major thing that needs to change in my life.
  3. This is (for the most part) not a personal blog. I have made the conscious choice not to post about my love life, my work life, my family, etc. Obviously I'll address major events that occur, but there won't be any posts about sensitive personal issues. I also prefer to keep information like my net-worth, weight, etc. private - so this isn't going to turn into a personal finance blog or weight-issues blog. I'm not explicitly trying to be anonymous - I'm just trying not to air my dirty laundry to the world! :D
Thanks for reading and joining me on my quest to dominate life - please feel free to send me a note if you have any questions, or just want to say hello!