Wednesday, July 2, 2014

3 Things That Keep Me Sane

When Cory and I finally make it to bed, it's usually already tomorrow. I've been this way for, oh, at least 25 years. I'm a night owl. A morning dreamer.

Sometimes it catches up with me in the form of scrutinizing the day ahead of me, combing it for the possibility of a nap. It doesn't matter that I almost never actually take one, it just helps to know I could if I wanted to. In theory.

I mean, it's messy. It doesn't make a lot of sense and there are a hundred different times I wish I'd been wired like a normal person. Alas.

I want to be organized and buttoned-up. I want to be that mom, task-oriented and scheduled. I tried for years.

But then I realized it actually caused me more stress than it curbed.
I'm a spicy mama, and this? Our spicy home.

We're mild spicy. If we were green curry, we'd be a four, which is pretty dang hot if you're a non-Thai lady, but also no cause for fire extinguishers.

Our home rockets wildly between tidy and the kind of disorder that inspires my four-year old neighbor to sniff, "It's a mess in there."  (Come ON, Yahir. It was laundry day! Cut me a little slack. Jeez.)

There are a few, teensy weensy things that have proven to bring order to my wonky life. They often align right around the first of the month.

First, we do our budget. Every single month. For the past 9 years.
Getting paid monthly has it's down-sides (see end of month near-starvation and general edginess), but it does make it easier to know exactly how much you have coming in, and exactly how much you have going out.

There have been times, over the years, that we've ended up in bi-monthly pay situations, but in our minds, it's easier to think of it all as one lump sum of cash.

Across the financial hilltops and valleys of our marriage, this budget has saved us. Now, making less than we have made since our second year of marriage, it shows us that everything is going to be alright. Or it'll at least be close enough.

Besides, next month? A clean slate.

I love that. (Clean slate carrot dangles on the end of the string only if you spend less than you earn!)

Second, I make a menu plan.

Or not.

But it's always so much nicer when I do. It simplifies life, gives me one less thing to lose track of or flake out on. This tends to happen when I'm in a more cookish mood, which happens to be occurring right now.

Here's my menu for this week:

Sunday - Grilled hot dogs with cabbage slaw
Monday -Greek Quinoa Salad
Tuesday - BBQ Chicken and Avocado Quesadillas (but with red onion and jalapenos added)
Wednesday - Tomatillo-Braised Chicken Thighs, Corn, Melon
Thursday - 5-Spice Beef and Broccoli, rice
Friday - Thai Quinoa Salad (around the world with quinoa!!!)
Saturday - Fish tacos with mango salsa and purple cabbage, black beans

I also planned to make:
Blueberry Coconut Pecan Breakfast Cookies (GF!)
Carrot Zucchini Apple Bread
Fresh Cherry Tart

Breakfast is usually peanut butter toast, whole grain frozen waffles with PB, homemade egg McMuffins with ham, smoothies, or cereal.

Lunch is Fend For Yourselves, which usually involves left-overs, but sometimes Ramen noodles. Once a week we try to meet Dad for lunch for $1 tacos or at the pizza joint that gives jail employees a ridiculous discount.

This works for me because it helps me keep my food budget in check when I shop for groceries ($500/month for food, toiletries, cleaning stuff)  and we eat out less (separate budget) because I have a plan and boatloads of produce and meat that'll spoil if we forget about them. It also helps me retain my mind and morale since cooking is cheap, edible therapy for me, especially when I'm here with all of the peoples for all of the days.

The last important thing I do is wipe the calendar and get a start fresh. Nothing feels better than seeing a clean expanse of white. Helps me breathe. It doesn't stay that way for long, but it's a great mental re-set for me, and I'm reminded that almost all the things that fill our days are good things. If they weren't? We would chuck 'em.

There you have it. All my tricks, and I do mean all, except for the one about my elbows bending backwards, but that lost its cool factor somewhere around 1989.

PS - Word has it my blog has been raised up from the dead. Hallelou! Technology is such a brat, sometimes.


  1. I still haven't mastered the monthly budget - mostly because me and numbers don't get along. I do do a monthly menu plan though and that has been a huge time/money/sanity saver.

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  3. i am just like you. go to bed too late every time and then regret it bad in the a.m. but at least there are things like fish tacos that help us last until 5 o'clock (somewhere).

  4. Ahhhh. The once a month paycheck. We have a love/hate relationship. As in just when I think I have it figured out and a budget mastered, a five week month creeps in or our AC motor breaks! Thankful for your perspective. A clean slate-a way to start again!

    P.s. A friend recommended Restless but I just finished Rhinestone Jesus and I'm avoiding all books that attempt to make me want to sell everything I have and move to Uganda. Namely the ones that make me a little uncomfortable in my comfy little life.

    1. Oh, the 5 week cycle! It's coming for us next month. :/

  5. I've wondered for awhile (years) what your monthly food/supplies budget was. I refer to ours as the Fareway/Walmart budget. (Is that strange? That I wondered. I hope not.)
    Now you have me wondering what your gas budget is. Well that and your entire budget really. Did I just type that out loud? sheesh. :) Gas is the one that always seems to get us and I don't even go anywhere. Like yourself we're back to leaner times as well, thankfully this time around holds a simple peace that wasn't there before and simple feels right...and good.

    Beautiful food and pictures, as ALWAYS.

    1. Gas isn't so much a "budget" in that we can't control it much.
      We usually write down $450, but sometimes it's more and sometimes it's less.
      Also, $4/gallon gas? Hate you.

    2. Thank you for answering a nosy girls question. :)

  6. I think budget is a dirty word to my husband. I meal plan two weeks at a time since we get paid twice a month. Your meal plan sounds delicious. I wish family had your family's palate. I guess when it comes to budget, I will set the budget, and he will just have to listen. lol

  7. Working with a budget here too. It's not as bad in summer when living is easier and feels free-er ... as in, there are more things to do which are enjoyable and fun and ... free. Also the garden helps. Can I tell you I convinced my husband to plant pickling cukes because of your post about them last summer? Yeah. True that. Thanks as always.

  8. It's such a great feeling to have that budget done at the beginning of the month.

  9. The first 7 paragraphs just spoke to my soul! Love your lovely writing xx

  10. praises. your blog is now back on my feed!

  11. Thanks for sharing! FYI, we make those blueberry pecan breakfast cookies often, and for the coconut you can use exactly one package of Trader Joe's coconut chips and half a bag of TJ's dried blueberries. We've also used sliced almonds when we didn't have pecans, and love them that way, too! Perhaps you've already made them ad have your system down... either way, enjoy!

  12. This: "Sometimes it catches up with me in the form of scrutinizing the day ahead of me, combing it for the possibility of a nap." This I do every single day. (If there's no hope, the caffeine drip begins. If chances are good, I skip the coffee so my nap will be that much deeper and more magical. If I skipped the coffee AND the nap doesn't happen? Well, let's not talk about that.) Someday I want to be a meal planner like you, and not the person who tries to make leftovers stretch for six days simply because when they run out, that's when I have to make something new again. Someday?
    Kelly @ View Along the Way

  13. I'm new to reading your blog but am so glad I followed an instagram suggestion to check you out. After coming off two very expensive months and facing a serious budget lock down your meal planning helped me start thinking in the right direction. I get so caught up in "meal planning = complicated" but was reminded that I didn't need to go that route, especially in the summer. I'm looking forward to reading through older posts. Thank you.

  14. So, another post to confirm that we're pretty much the same person. Cooking and reading are always at the top of the list. Schedules and orderliness and such? Nah. And also, Hi. It's night owl o'clock right now. And I'm on your blog. (But oh, the peace and quiet and utter un-neededness of it all!)

  15. Know what you mean about the budgeting.... I recently had to quit my job for health reasons which took away almost half of our income. Thank the Lord we had pretty much everything paid off, but we definitely have to pay more attention to where all of our pennies are going now.... I just bought that exact marker board to keep me and the hubby organized! (And colored coded it with all of the marker colors for separate things.... because yes, I am that dorky.) That and it somehow dawned on me that our utility door that sits right behind my desk is metal - so magnetized.... Can anyone say giant magnet board :) I now have my glorious marker board, markers and all kinds of other such things slapped up on my giant white canvas of a door :) (And I am pretty sure my husband now regrets calling to my attention that the door will hold magnets with papers galore in the first place :) )