Sunday, November 1, 2009

Getting Organized (Financially)

I've been thinking heavily about budgets lately. I have a standard amount of debt, with school loans (still haven't finished, but I will!), credit cards (Visa, Kohls and Target).  However, I also have a lot of what I refer to as "silly debts," which are old credit cards, book clubs, music clubs, and old medical debts. I've decided to take the bull by the horns and figure out my financial situation for once and for all. I've made attempts in the past, but I never kept it up.  Same goes for my health (but that's another post).  I was laid off in March and it took me a minute to learn to live like my situation had changed. *Cue the violins, because this is sad!*

I've been looking at different budgeting options.  I know that I need to keep this simple and easy to follow, or I will become bored and will let it go. I've been a faithful follower of Single Ma, who has paid off debt, rebuilt her credit and worked on savings for the last few years. I've simplified what is a very detailed, incredibly funny process, but please check out her blog for yourself.  I've also become a great fan of Simple Mom, who is an advocate of PearBudget and Dave Ramsey, who works with his own methods.  I think I'll come up with a combination of methods I've seen on their blogs, since I am a fan of them all!

I'm giving myself two weeks to get my budget together.

Until Then...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monterey Chicken (Like Chilis)

This recipe is similar to Chili's Monterey Chicken. It's a simple recipe that can be cooked a few different ways.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts*
your favorite chicken seasonings (I use pepper, garlic powder and Lawry's chicken and poultry rub)
1/4 cup oil (I use canola or cottonseed)
1/4 cup bbq sauce (I use Sweet Baby Rays)
1 cup shredded monterey/cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon*
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped scallions or chives

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Rinse your chicken breasts, pound them a little flat and pat dry
Sprinkle your seasonings lightly and rub into the chicken.
Heat oil on medium high heat in a pan, and saute the chicken until it's browned. You can also use a George Foreman grill and forgo the oil.**
Transfer your chicken into an oven-safe pan that you've sprayed with non-cook spray, or added a little oil to, or you can leave your chicken in the frying pan if it's oven safe.
Brush about 1 tablespoon of BBQ sauce on each breast.
Top each breast with 1/4 cup cheese
Sprinkle each breast with 2 tablespoons of bacon
Place the pan in the oven, and let this bake for about 10 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. You can also use the broiler if you're comfortable with that. That will only take about 3-4 minutes.
When you're ready to serve, sprinkle each breast with 1 tablespoon tomatoes and 1/2 tablespoon scallions.

This is best served with loaded mashed potatoes (potatoes with bacon, cheese and scallions), steamed broccoli and garlic bread.

* To make this recipe vegetarian, I've used Morningstar Farms Mealstarters Chik'n Strips or new Grillers Chik'n and Bacon. Simply cook according to the package, and swap out for the meat. Just as delicious!

**For a smokier taste, you can instead grill the chicken instead of sauteing and then put it in the oven for the final steps.

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent and Rinse Aid

How I wish that the above picture were true! A holiday from apron strings.. what a lovely dream. I will admit that my dishwasher makes my life easier, but it's just one small aspect of taking care of my kitchen. *le sigh*  I was a fan of the Cascade action packs, but the cost, the labels that read as a "who's who" in poison, etc. prompted me to look for other options.  After reading up on it, and searching the internet for other options, I found that this formula works best for me:

I've been using this for a minute as a test, so I trust it!

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent


1–box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (I found mine at Kroger in the laundry aisle)
1–box of 20 Mule Team Borax
1–box of coarse Kosher Salt
1-container food-grade Citric Acid = I had some already, but you can find it online ( extra cheap, or you can find it in spice specialty stores. Kroger has it sometimes, and it's either called Citric Acid or Sour Salt. If you cannot find this you can substitute 2 lemon Kool-aid packets per batch that you make. They have to be lemon, because otherwise, they'll discolor the inside of your dishwasher.

Rinse Aid
1 – gallon of White Vinegar

In a container with a lid (Old coffee cans work great) mix:

1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup citric acid

Shake well! That's it! When you pour it into your dishwasher cup, use about 1 tablespoon of the mix. It will clump together, but that's fine. It's because of the citric acid.

For the rinse aid, simply fill up your rinse aid compartment with vinegar. Not only does it keep your dishwasher clean and deodorized, it's great for the dishes.

Homemade Febreze

I've been tinkering with making my own household cleaning products for a while now.  From the expense, to the artificial smell, to the decidedly bad environmental factor, I decided to go the natural route.  I know that there is no one recipe that will work for everyone, but here is a recipe to make your own "Febreze."

Homemade "Febreze" 

1/2 to 1 cup liquid laundry softener (I love Downy Lavender/Vanilla, or Gain's Apple Mango Tango)
1 cup vinegar
2 to 3 cups water

Mix everything in a spray bottle, and just spray it as you would with Febreze. This works well on most fabrics, including furniture, carpets and pet areas.  The possibilities are endless!

You can play with the amounts, as far as the ingredients go. If you find that you have a thin white film on your items, you may need to add more water.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Teetering on the Edge

I wasn't ready to take the extra step, but it was taken for me. I was feeling like a slave to a job I hated and I boss that I disliked. I didn't have as much time for my children or my husband, and I'd lost a lot of my zest for life. Mounting debts to maintain a lifestyle I was sleeping through, unhealthy eating choices and my sedentary lifestyle seemed to consume me. I kept saying to myself...I am better than this! I am better than this! But I couldn't seem to make the leap. Then... I was called down to Human Resources and told that I was being laid off. Part of me panicked, part of me let out a huge sigh of relief. I've decided to take this time to hone my skills as a mom/wife/friend/daughter/sister. So far, so good.