Monday, February 24, 2014

Menu Plan Monday - Week of February 24

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My kitchen and I are starting to become friends. This is a miracle all by itself. I've done a great job cooking this past week and hope to be even more successful in the coming week. This is probably a "duh" thing, but I cannot get over how much money we have saved in the food budget. We have switched over to a cash envelope system and it is nearing the end of the pay period and I have quite a bit left in the food envelope. Woo hoo!

My dinners for the week are:

Whole chicken in the crock pot, sweet potatoes and a vegetable (not such which yet)
Porcupines, this was a regular meal when I was a kid. I use ground turkey as we are not a beef household, a side vegetable
Chicken and rice ranch soup, I cannot wait to try this one. We are gluten free so chicken and rice is our chicken noodle soup. The ranch twist sounds yummy!
Black beans and rice, an attempt at doing one meal a week meatless. My husband is not so enthused about this idea.
Chicken fried rice, I mix and match lots of recipes, sort of a clean out the fridge kind of thing for us
Vegetable "beef" soup in the slow cooker, we will use ground turkey instead. If I get industrious we will have brown rice bread with this.
Ranch chicken, by far my favorite! This is so easy and so yummy! My daughter even eats this up!

Did I mention how easy this is? Using a 9x13 baking dish, put 4 raw chicken breasts in the center. Throw some green beans on one side. Throw some potatoes on the other. Dot it with some butter. Shake some dry ranch mix over the top. Cover with foil. Cook at 350 for about an hour until the chicken is done.

You can easily change this around to your family's tastes. When I originally saw this recipe it called for Italian mix, we prefer ranch so I use ranch. We love green beans here, but I have used other vegetables depending on what I had on hand. I had a bag of mixed potatoes and used those the last time I made this. Another time I used a bag of frozen hash brown potatoes and that was great too. I make my own ranch mix to always have it on hand, we use it for lots of things, oddly, never to make ranch dressing.

For breakfasts we will be doing various oatmeal recipes and I'm going to try to make some muffins. I will post recipes if things come out well. I tried a steel cut oatmeal in the slow cooker last night and we can say it was a complete fail. I have oatmeal soup. Yuck!

I'm going to link this to Laura at for Menu Plan Monday.. If you are looking for some menu inspiration you will be able to find lots of fun menus and recipes.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Free Emergency Water Storage

The past three weeks have found us preparing for two different winter storms here in the suburbs of Atlanta. I am very thankful that I did not have to brave the grocery store lines to stock up on food and emergency water (it also helps being gluten and dairy free - no bread and milk runs here!)  When making the first strides into emergency preparedness expenses can really add up quickly. One of the most important items to keep on hand is a good storage of water. We have several commercially prepared bottles of water but still needed to build up our supply without breaking the bank.

The first thing I did was not novel by any means. Someone in this household may be trying to single-handedly keep coca-cola in business, no judging :). Rather than recycling all those 2-liter bottles, I rinse them with bleach and then refill the bottles with tap water. If we need this water for drinking at some point this water will be run through a filter so I am not terribly concerned with adding bleach or doing any additional means of purifying.

When I first started doing this I would remove the labels and try to make things look cuter. Now, they just get washed well and re-filled. Just using my "trash" gave us enough water storage for one day for our family and dogs. The next part is harder: finding homes for all this water!

Another method of "free" water storage I do is using my mason jars. I have a decent collection of jars and keep these filled with water between other uses. Should I need the jars for storing leftovers or hopefully canning one day, I just use the water to water the plants or other needs around the house and dry my jar. This is a little thing, but does give a good amount of extra water storage for absolutely no cost to me.

Hope this helps someone else just getting started in their preparedness. Does anyone else have some fun ideas they want to share?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Everything in its place....linen closets

We moved into our current home a little over a year ago and I was blessed to have TWO linen closets. Our former house had zero, so this was very exciting for me (yes, I probably need to get out a bit more than I do.) I get asked a lot about how I organize things so here is a peek into my closets. The first closet is in my master bathroom. The other linen closet services the hall bathroom and guest bedroom.

This is the best attempt at getting the entire closet. I think it is pretty roomy. Yes, I love the sassy brass shower door. It is on the list, but not yet high on the list!

The top shelf is where I put "extras". The boxes are for toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, soap, and lotion. I keep the mega bottle of hand sanitizer in here. We use it only if someone has contracted the plague or some other contagion, so it hangs out here with the masks.

This is where we keep our medicine. I separated things out according to types. I am OCD enough to have a checklist that includes expiration dates. This helps to make sure I have things in stock should we need something. I also write the expiration dates on the tops with a sharpie.

The next shelf is self-explanatory. It does appear I need to make a Sam's run for more TP though. You can NEVER have enough toilet paper.

My husband and I share this closet so these are our spare towels. We keep 4 towels, 4 washcloths, and 3 hand towels for our bathroom. I really don't know why there are only 3 hand towels, I'm guessing someone has gotten lost or is now a rag. This lack of symmetry may give me the twitches! The little toile box is a wonderful smelling bar of soap my sweet aunt sent me from Williamsburg.

The box holds all of our first aid supplies and the beach towels. Not really related, but they fit well on the shelf together :)  The floor space contains a scale, our fireproof safe (should any burglars be reading, this safe contains only documents and I don't think my marriage certificate or things like that have particular value to anyone but us should there be a fire!) and a heating pad.

I subscribe to the "you cannot organize clutter" school of thought and keep our linens pretty streamlined. We have one set of sheets and they are on the bed. I just wash them and put them back on the same day.

Sorry this is dark and a terrible shot. I am standing against a wall to get this far away. The door also looks spotty because I am now in about month 7 of painting all of the interior doors of the house. Worst. project. ever. Hate painting doors. The previous owner painted all of the doors black which looks great in houses with lots of natural light. We have lots of trees and it just made it looks like black holes everywhere.

Anyway....This closet holds extra blankets and the guest bed sheets on the top shelf. We keep 4 sets of towels for our daughter and guests. A bit more TP hiding up there. Pillows for the guest room. Our guest room is used as a playroom so has a pullout sofa which is why none of the pillows are on the bed!

That's it! I keep our rags in the laundry room and a container in the pantry. Table linens and cloth napkins are kept in the dining room. I used to have labels on all the shelves (my husband is impatiently waiting for me to return all the labels :) ) but I had been reorganizing things too often. This seems to be the final locations as they have remained for about 6 months.

Hope this helps someone trying to organize their closets. Anyone have some good tips?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Menu Monday

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The past week was a fail in the cooking department. My poor kitchen was left pretty lonely and my wallet is asking for a vacation. In my defense, I live in the suburbs of Atlanta and we did make it through an ice storm!

Does anyone else have grocery store panic? During menu planning I go through all the thoughts of whole foods, organic, coupons, frugal, ahhhh, how do you figure out how to balance all this without losing your mind! Am I the only one?

My menu plan for the next two weeks is complete, but now for the hard part: actually following it! Putting together a list of meals, the grocery list, and then shopping are not the difficult part for me. Many times I am not in the mood for the dinner that is slotted for that day. Since changing to a system of just writing down 14 dinners, 14 lunches, 14 breakfasts that are not given specific days we are doing much better at following our menu plan. If anyone has advice on following the menu plans I would love to hear them!

This is our menu plan for the next two weeks. I'm sorry that these are not linked to recipes, I have not yet learned how to do that. Many of them can be found in either the "this week's recipes" or "cooking" boards on my pinterest boards.


Oatmeal with fruit
Apple pie oatmeal in the slowcooker
Steel cut oats in the slowcooker

(do I need to mention that I buy oats in bulk?)


I do not make any plans for these. Typically we will just eat leftovers or heat up soup and sandwiches. When school is in session my daughter eats the same thing every. single. day. I get to vary the fruit for her, but that is the only variable.


Pork fried rice
Crockpot chicken, rice, veggies (this is a whole chicken that just cooks in slowcooker, I do whatever veggies I have on hand that need to be eaten)
Black beans and rice, salad
Ranch chicken (my favorite and easy, which is probably why it is my favorite! pictured above, I do not have "after" pictures as this is always eaten quickly!)
Turkey burgers, sweet potatoes, veggies
Chicken noodle soup, brown rice bread
Chicken "teriyaki" & veggies
Pasta with meat sauce, salad
Chef's salad
Repeat: crockpot chicken, potatoes, veggies
Chicken fried rice
Repeat: ranch chicken
Repeat: chicken noodle soup, brown rice bread

My menus are typically gluten and dairy free and absolutely no tree nuts. Pork will make occasional appearances. Beef will not be making appearances. Chickens and turkeys fear us!

Hope everyone is doing great with their menu plans and has a fantastic week. I am linking this to Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie's website If you are looking for some inspiration in your menu planning be sure to check it out!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter Storm Warning

For the second time in two weeks we are battening down the hatches. A bit concerned that they are using words like "catastrophic", "crippling", and "historic." I hope to be back tomorrow, today is full of cleaning and prepping for possible power outages. Be safe Atlanta!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Doesn't Smell Bad, Just Different and an Update

One of the products that I use, but don't love, is shampoo, so it was high on my list to try to make myself. After searching through recipes I attempted the first one this morning. I will admit that while I was in the shower I hated the feel of using the shampoo. My hair felt yucky and I was not impressed with the smell. I went ahead and blow dried it only to realize that it looked similar to my hair pre-wash.  I went in search of a second opinion. My husband had a look of fright when I asked him to sniff my hair. After a few minutes of quiet he said it didn't smell bad, just different. This is the equivalent of telling someone it "looks interesting".  He also mentioned that it looked like I needed to wash my hair. Complete pinfail. Yuck! No pictures, you are welcome!

Hubby will be helping me this afternoon give my little blog a facelift. Should the web grid go down, it wasn't us. Ahem. Hope to be back next week with a prettier blog, clean, sweet-smelling hair, and a little bit of organized closets and emergency preparedness stories.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Lives and Blogs Intersecting

Have you  noticed that trying to simplify things sometimes leads to more complications? I have added some blog posts from another blog I started but am going to blend into this one. Blend may not be the correct word, slam into this blog in a jarring fashion may be more apt. I apologize for the whiplash.

My plans for this blog are to document my attempts to try to lasso a bit of the chaos in our lives into a semblance of order. I am also trying to do it with a bit of humor. We are trying to lead a life that is more intentional, less consumer driven, a bit more self reliant and hopefully with a lighter footprint (which we need to do at home to offset my husbands very large carbon burn as a pilot.) As I started the other blog I wanted to make sure that it was not a place to bash my husband (or others) and that will also be true of this blog. Following this is the last post I am bringing over, but I feel it is appropriate here as well. After this, I will be back to hopefully a more cohesive feel to the blog.

As I start this blog there are many things running through my head of posts I want to write, various avenues I want to talk about and things I want to avoid. One of the few concrete ideas for this blog is what it is not, this will not be a platform for me to bash and be disrespectful to my husband. That is not the intent of this blog, sometimes the line between teasing and bashing becomes a little blurred and I welcome any comments should I need to change direction. My husband will also be able to tell his side or have me remove something. I may also be hard on the airlines and the Navy, but please understand, I am so thankful for what they do provide for us.

I am someone who thrives on order, routine and did I mention that I love lists? I like knowing that on Mondays my daughter has swim team, which days I have carpool, even what days I do various cleaning tasks. Neither the military or airlines seems to understand this need in me, or they just choose to disregard it (I keep telling my hubby he needs to talk to the big guys about this!). This blog is sort of my attempt to make something good out of the parts of my husband's career I don't like  too much. It is much easier to deal with an exploding water heater when I can think of it as more fodder for the blog rather than another mini-crisis to handle by myself. (Do you know how hard it is to try to get directions via text when you are standing in water?)

Okay, enough seriousness, just wanted to get my disclaimer out there!

A bit about me...

Hello! I am an 80's child and like most girls watched Top Gun more times than was probably good for me. Add to that one of my favorite uncle's being a Navy pilot and it is safe to say that my husband's profession is not much of a surprise.

In 2002 I married my own Navy pilot and realized, gasp!, Hollywood lied! Somehow the movie is not very clear on how many moves you will get to do, and do alone if your husband is able to consistently pay off scheduling to never be home for a move. They failed to mention the 6-month deployments. Oh, and those white uniforms that look so good, they forgot to tell you how you will spend the hours before he needs his Chokers scrambling throughout the house looking for various pieces and parts and being so thankful you remembered to pick said uniform up from the dry cleaner!

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my pilot and we have had a great journey together both in the active Navy and now Navy Reserves, but there are times when I no longer want to hear words like flight, Navy, uniforms, airline, crew scheduling, and without question the word deployment!

In case our life was not crazy enough, he left active duty and is now a commercial pilot and in the Reserves. That 2 days a month and 2 weeks a year thing....right, so not true! Now there are 2 sets of uniform parts and pieces to hope are all accounted for at the right times. I have no idea what the man will do when he retires from the airlines and Navy, someone has been telling him what to wear since he was 18 years old. What may be more shocking for him, there will not be velcro on his clothes!  Yikes!

Thanks for listening to me ramble about our lives. I am hoping that this blog allows me to share some of the ups and downs of our life and a place to revisit when things are rough and I need a laugh!

Handywoman in Training

I am now fairly confident that all mechanical appliances, or large objects that have the ability to spew water or other messy items, are completely tapped into my husband's travel schedule. When he is home most appliances behave and work as they should. I place food in the microwave, hit the amount of time I need, push start, and it works like a charm. My husband leaves the country and same microwave will not shut off when the door is open. I am now sporting a pretty good tan and hoping not to start glowing anytime soon.

Last trip my husband headed down to South America and all was well. The following morning I woke up, opened the garage door to go to church and low and behold we have a new, indoor swimming pool. This would be a great addition to our home provided all swimmers get the necessary tetanus shots before entering the pool and we no longer desire hot water for cleaning and bathing. A lot of money later, we now have hot water and a tankless water heater. There will be no more spewing water in my garage!

He is off on a trip now and the count is one new condenser motor for the A/C at our rental house and some repair work for the back screen door. Unfortunately, it is still early in his trip. The A/C repair was an easy fix for the HVAC man and I have to admit to some entertainment value with the screen door damage. We have a "phantom" screen door on the back of the house. For reasons unknown, our builder thought putting a 24" wide patio door on the back made sense (have you ever tried to carry a tray of food through a hobbit hole?) Our new dog is not familiar with the screen door and at 57 pounds managed to send that baby right off the tracks. The look on his face might have caused me to need to sit down due to laughter. The dog has recovered from the mishap, the screen door needs some serious rehabilitation or possibly last rites.

Do these things happen to others or did Murphy take a room in our house and not even bother to offer me rent money?

Hubby the Science Guy

Occasionally emergencies occur while Hubby is gone that are not my emergencies. We have a sweet, Italian lady who lives next door. Apparently there was some sort of cooking incident that seemingly permanently sealed a pot and lid. She called asking for assistance because my cooking skills are legend, ahem. After a quick call to my dad and now the fear that if there is air trapped inside that heating the pan could cause an explosion, I decided to do what any self-respecting person does in these instances, I googled and facebooked to see if anyone had any solutions. I finally decided that the safest solution, the one not involving explosions and the fear of sausage guts sprayed all over my kitchen, was icing the lid while giving the pot a hot spa treatment. All of this excitement was going on in the hours before Hubby was returning from a 3 week det (for the non-military, this is a long business trip) from Japan. The hours prior to his return there *might* be a flurry of cleaning and general clean up since the cat is returning and the mice have been playing....and now there are sausages visiting the spa on my kitchen counter.

A very jet-lagged Hubby walks in to see the hostages sausages on the counter and I'm sure immediately thinks this is just another example of my fine cooking skills. I explain the situation and he doesn't do much more than smile and nod and move on to other things. I am considering just buying my neighbor a new pot and pan and being done with the mess.

We go to bed and all is peaceful until about 5am when I am sure there has just been a gunshot downstairs. I went running downstairs (in hindsight this was probably not wise), and am confronted with the smell of death. Hubby looks at me with chagrin, but informs me that the hostages are now free but he thinks they might be bad. Uh, like I said, smell of death is in the air. Italian sausages that have been iced and cooled all day in a pan give off a smell similar to dead skunk.

Hubby quietly returns to bed with the understanding that tomorrow we will be making a list of approved QUIET activities for him to do while suffering from jetlag.


Our daughter, who will be called Peaches from here on out (this is not a name in her usual rotation so I felt it was safe, someone calling her this would probably be met with suspicion at best), seems to have a warped idea of what her dad does for a living. Hubby was flying a red eye flight home from South America and I told Peaches that he would be really tired when he got home since he was flying all night. She was very confused by this and asked why he didn't just turn the autopilot on so he could get some sleep. Not wanting to go into to much detail about pilots overshooting the Minneapolis airport and how this would be frowned upon by the FAA, I tried to explain that even with autopilot the pilots are still in the cockpit, wide awake. She then suggested that this should be a job for the co-pilot. Uh, Peaches...that would be Daddy.

After thinking about this some more she seemed very concerned about the state of his eyes when he got home? Would they be glowing red?

Not-so-secret Secret

A bit of housekeeping, in my attempts to simplify I am moving my other blog onto this one. 

One of the perks of being married to an airline employee is that you get to fly for free. We live outside of Atlanta, the busiest airport in the United States, so it is pretty easy to fly off to almost any destination. There are direct flights here pretty much to any place in the United States and many cities around the world. Paris, Naples, Crete...all at my fingertips.

Except I hate to fly. Hate might not be a strong enough word for my feelings about flying. If I can avoid getting stuffed into that little tube with hundreds of other people and screaming kids, I am going to do it every chance I get and twice on Sunday. It would probably embarrass my husband if it were known how many miles we log in our car so I can avoid any part of the airport other than the outside drop-off and pick-up lanes.

This is not news to my husband. As newlyweds we left very early the day after our wedding to honeymoon in Jamaica. The first leg of the flight to the Miami airport was not too bad, but the idea of getting back into a plane and heading to Jamaica was almost more than I could stand. My poor husband sat with me in that terminal asking if I was going to do this or if we were going to need to rent a car and drive back to Jacksonville. After a very long pep talk with myself, I went and bought the most expensive little pack of Dramamine (seriously, I think I could have bought the equivalent amount of pot or some other illegal drug for what I paid for it!) and managed to get on the plane. There was a debate if we would be boating home, but I made it both there and back on an airplane.

I am surprisingly not that rare of a bird. There are several of my pilot wife friends that have the same "I would rather walk for the next 18 hours in high heels than get on an airplane" thoughts as I do. Any other white-knuckle flyers out there?

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade laundry detergent is like the gateway recipe to DIY cleaning recipes. The powdered version is so easy it gives you the confidence to start making other products around the house. I will say, I have avoided making the liquid version. Cooking laundry detergent? Um, no, not when the powdered version is quick, easy, and effective. We made the basic recipe and have been very happy with it, never missing fake spring breezes or the other bad stuff they put in commercial cleaners.

One of my favorite blogs had a recipe with a little bit of a twist that I decided to try.  You can find her post and blog here, (There is probably a better way to share her post, but I am not that tech savvy.) Another thing I like about her recipe is that it makes a LOT of detergent. We will not be making detergent for quite some time!

The first step was to grate 3 bars of Fels Naptha soap. I admit to being lazy efficient and did this in a food processor. As an aside, I have owned this food processor for almost a year and I think I have only ever used it for making laundry detergent. Yes, I have mad cooking skills!

It looks like cheese, but really is soap. One problem I had with this method was heat. Apparently the food processor gets pretty warm and was melting the soap while it was being chopped. Not a big deal, just had to scrape it out a bit. They ended up being little balls. We (did I mention how sweet my husband was spending his morning as my assistant?) added the soap balls to the powders and used the blender to get the consistency I wanted in the powder.

This was probably only the second time I have used the blender and will just skip how much time it took us to figure out how to actually operate the blender. We are smert people! If you are lucky during this step you will realize that your dog thinks the blender is an enemy invader. Between the barking and blender noise I will be deaf for at least a week!

Hard to tell, but this is Jack barking the blender into submission.

We blended until we reached a good consistency. One problem with doing this much detergent at one time is just finding enough space to mix it. We pulled out a stockpot and hubby got everything mixed.

I have a love of Mason jars and the 1 gallon jars were too cute to pass, even if I needed 2 of them!

Anyone else "cooking" in the kitchen? Have dogs barking at appliances (this was calm for him, he thinks the toaster oven is the worst thing ever!)?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Get Your Shine On

Y'all had to sing that title didn't you?

We are blessed to have hardwoods on our first floor but after the snow storm and regular living with 2 dogs and a 9 year old the floors were looking a bit worse for wear. Of course, this might be because while I vacuum regularly they only see a mop on special occasions. I saw on Pinterest a lady had tried Holloway House products and they worked really well. This morning I dragged my hubby to Wallyworld and we picked up a bottle of cleaner and a bottle of quick shine and I've been bringing back the shine!

The pictures do not do the floors justice, but this worked awesome! They are shiny and extremely clean looking. I tried taking a picture of the line of what was done and not done but my photography skills are seriously lacking. Believe me, there is a very distinct line where I stopped. The floors just make me happy. They do not feel slick although I haven't let the dogs run on them yet. Jackson has difficulty on wood floors, so he may be ice skating later. Payback for the 3am barkathons Jackson! (Insert evil laughter)

The bottle says you can add multiple layers of shine, but this is just 1 coat, because, well, that was enough for me! It is also a dreary, rainy day here in Atlanta, but you can still see how shiny they got. Love!

This is the before shot. If you look in the lower part of he photo you can see it is pretty dull.


The pictures really do not show the difference. Inside it looks very shiny and bright. Anyone else fight with dull floors? How do you keep them clean?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Winner, winner, chicken dinner!

Move aside Betty Crocker, a new cook is here! Okay, maybe not. Do you think if I wore an apron I would be a better cook? Hmmm, something to ponder. What I have no talent for is taking pictures of food. There is clearly a secret to this that I do not know. Pinterest, here I come!

My favorite appliance was put to work again and with the proper directions. Open chicken wrapper, remove the gizzards (there may have been an "oh my goodness this is nasty dance" accompanying this), dump into slow cooker, put on the lid, push 6 hours and walk away! The house smelled fantastic and I did nothing else to it. My kind of cooking! I steamed a package of mixed veggies and heated some leftover rice and called it good.

On a negative note, have you noticed that foods coming out of the Slowcooker are not attractive?

Here's where I got crazy and earned my special apron. The chicken carcass was put right back into the slow cooker, I threw in a couple carrots that are willing to sacrifice for the cause, and filled the rest of the pot with water. Tomorrow morning I will have a large pot of homemade chicken broth and my kitchen will still smell yummy! How awesome is that! I feel like a foodie! My friends are snorting with laughter.

Anyway.....I am going to get crunchy tomorrow and try a recipe for homemade dishwasher detergent. We have been eliminating as many chemicals from our home as possible and I want to give this a try. There are many other DIY items on my list for me to get my mad scientist thing going. Either that or I may go hug a tree...friends, stop the laughter!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday....another successful day in the kitchen, except for the sink which is patiently waiting for the dishes to be hand washed. Joy.

Sundays are actually a hard day to avoid eating out as our routine has been to hit the local BBQ place after church. Much to my daughter's disgust I held strong and we had leftover chicken fried rice for lunch. This may or may not have caused a small meltdown in the church parking lot. Ahem.

When we got home I used my favorite kitchen appliance and put hubby to work browning some ground turkey. He is not my appliance, but one of my favorites. Anyway, the turkey and other things were unceremoniously dumped into the crockpot to come out as chili this evening. (As an aside, why the heck are there crockpot recipes that require browning, using the stovetop, whatever?  The beauty of the crockpot is the ability to just dump things in and not babysit it.) Chili came out great. Sadly, we are Broncos fans so after that the evening has been pretty much a flop. We still love you Peyton!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

8 Things I've Learned in the Kitchen

Hmmm...this worked out like past journaling attempts with very large breaks.  Oops.

My husband and I have been talking about some of the relatively small changes that would create large dividends in our life. One of these, gulp!, is curbing the take-out. I have an allergy to the kitchen. There are few things that I would rank lower on my enjoyment list than cooking or preparing meals. That said, eating at home would help make the arteries and wallet feel better. So I am putting on my big girl pants (proof of the need to say good-bye to fast food) and figuring out how people crank out lots of meals and manage to be happy doing it.

I am now one week into my challenge and have cooked every night except one. Did you know when you regularly cook you get lots of leftovers? I am going to try to document my journey to becoming Betty Crocker with a smile.

Some of the things I have learned this week:
1.  Keeping the dishwasher empty and reloading immediately makes cooking much more enjoyable.
2.  Starting this challenge the same week a snowstorm shut down the streets of Atlanta gave me a serious advantage. This is probably a serious understatement.
3.  There is really a difference in having higher quality utensils, pans (saving up now for more Le Creuset pans).
4. Having the right tools makes things easier!
5. Preparing the meat for the week at the beginning of the week is another serious help.
6. In the same vein, washing all produce on market day was also a big help.
7. I do not like having a rigid meal plan. It has been much easier having a variety of ingredients ready and choosing which meal sounds good that day rather than saying  Tuesday is taco night even though I am more in the mood for chicken fried rice.
8. I do not have enough Pyrex storage for leftovers.

We have been regularly eating oatmeal for breakfast. Cooking it on the stovetop and adding vanilla and cinnamon makes it somewhat like eating an oatmeal cookie. Well, if you are willing to use your imagination a bit. We actually are so happy with it that I just ordered a 50lb bag of organic oats. Our arteries will be singing!

We have had such an assortment of leftovers that lunches have been very easy.

Dinners have been a variety of hits and so-so's. Very little variety because well....I am using training wheels. This week's meals were: pork fried rice, shepherd's pie, slow cooker honey bourbon chicken (this got mixed reviews), chicken fried rice (have an ok recipe but will try a new one next time), hamburger soup, ranch chicken (yum, yum), and tacos with homemade tortillas. I think tortilla making must be an art that requires practice, I am very talented at making pieces of lace. I tried a gluten free flour recipe but will try a corn tortilla recipe next. With the tacos I added tomato sauce, pinto beans and ground turkey with taco seasoning that I made myself. The insides were great!

My weekly grocery run had a bit of a complication, the produce section was picked clean and the shelves looked like the zombies had attacked (I live a few minutes from where they are filmed, so maybe they did get loose!). Apparently there had been a mad rush when the snow word was used followed by semis that could not get through Atlanta.  I will go back to replenish my fresh produce for the week, otherwise I am ready. My goal for the week is also to take pictures, I need evidence that I am really doing this!