Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Meals, lately

Okay, people have asked about our usual recipes or what a standard week looks like, so I'll try to keep doing these every so often. I've been stashing the old meal plans in the back of my binder so I can pull them out and do little round ups. But I neglected to write dates on these, so I had to piece them together a bit. I think I got everything in more or less the right order but it took some detective work and I'm not sure I got it all correct.

meal planning 5

Week 1:
Salad (Monday): Wild rice salad with roasted green beans and cranberries
Meat/lentils/pasta (Wednesday): Chicken in cashew nut sauce
Easy meal (Thursday): Burritos

Planning thoughts: Auditioning another new grain salad recipe, balancing it out with one of our favorite old recipes.

Advance prep: I made the wild rice salad on Monday and also made an extra large batch of the cashew sauce. I divided it and froze half of it (originally intended to freeze 3/4, so that's what you see written).

Recipe thoughts: I liked this wild rice salad but the cranberries made it just a little sweet for me. It was great as leftovers on a green salad though.

meal planning 6

Week 2:
Salad (Monday): Kale salad with slow cooked salmon
Meat/lentils/pasta (Wednesday): Pizza - sweet potato with brie + marinara with sausage
Easy meal (Monday): Sweet potato and black bean burritos (from Moosewood)

Planning thoughts: I had pizza dough in the freezer (need to share the recipe we've been using soon!) and I must have been feeling like sweet potatoes. Things changed during the week, though. I ended up making the burritos (not actually an easy meal, but I freeze at least half, which will mean an easy meal later on) and the salad on Monday and then the week got busy and we didn't need the salmon. I never buy meat until right before we use it, specifically because of situations like this. Note - I always purchase sausage from Whole Foods and buy just as much as we need (same with pretty much all our meat) which is why you never see leftover meat that needs to be worked into my meal plans. For this week I bought a single sausage, which feels a little ridiculous, but is just enough for a pizza.

Advance prep: Not much this week, unless you count the fact that I was benefiting from previous prep by using up the pizza dough I had ready.

Recipe thoughts: All of these are standards for us. I really love the sweet potato and brie flatbread. These sweet potato/black bean burritos are great but I'd forgotten just how much filling this makes! I have a ton in the freezer now.

meal planning 10

Week 3:
Salad (Tuesday): Cilantro noodle bowl with broccoli (posted about it here)
Meat/lentils/pasta (Monday): Mushroom rice casserole
Easy meal (Thursday): Eggs with black beans and tortillas

Planning thoughts: Trying out new recipes again! Not much left over to use up.

Advance prep: None. Luckily these were all pretty quick.

Recipe thoughts: The casserole was great. Maybe too good, because we definitely didn't get that many servings out of it! I think we got four servings, so either we're pigs or it's intended as a side dish. The cilantro noodle bowl was also really good. I used more broccoli than is called for in the recipe, because I like a really high vegetable to noodle ratio. We grilled the tofu on our large cast iron griddle and it was perfect. The easy meal is just TJ's cuban black beans on a corn tortilla (must be heated directly over the flame to get it a little crisp) with a fried egg on top. Add salsa, sour cream or just tapatio if that's all you have on hand. 

meal planning 1

Week 4:
Salad (Monday): Pearl couscous with prosciutto, mushroom and asparagus
Meat/lentils/pasta (Tuesday): Soba with peanut citrus sauce (+ steamed broccoli)
Easy meal (Thursday): Bean burritos + green salad

Planning thoughts: Nothing much that needed to be used up (just some broccoli and some burrito fixings), had some new recipes (couscous and soba) that I was eager to try out.

Advance prep: Minimal. I worked from home on Monday which freed up the time I would normally spend on my commute. I made both the couscous and the soba that evening and we ate the soba the next day.

Recipe thoughts: I liked the couscous pretty well but still haven't decided if I'll make it a standard. It might be better for winter. The soba noodles were good but still not quite what I was looking for!

meal planning 3

Week 5:
Salad (Monday): Meyer lemon grain salad with asparagus, almonds and goat cheese
Meat/lentils/pasta (Tuesday): Mom's beef stew (+ green salad)
Easy meal (Thursday): Roasted vegetable quesadillas (based on Moosewood Cookbook recipe) + green salad

Planning thoughts: I had leftover bell pepper, bok choy, asparagus, broccoli, sour cream, salsa, tortillas. The grain salad was another new recipe I wanted to test out. I didn't make a note of this, but I must have had a long day at work planned because that's usually when I treat us to the beef stew, which is a crockpot dish that apparently I've never shared. It's a really simple one.

Advance prep: I prepped the meat and veggies for the stew after I put the grain salad together and I also roasted the vegetables for the quesadillas at the same time. I actually put the entire stew together and then store it in a bowl in the fridge overnight, then put it all in the crockpot the next morning. I used to just put everything together in the ceramic liner but I read that refrigerating in the liner is a bad idea because the crockpot takes longer to get up to temp and it can be a food safety issue. This is a bummer and I've been doing it that way for years with no issues, but why take the risk over a single extra dirty dish?

Recipe thoughts: The grain salad was pretty good and we both liked it. I'll probably make it again soon. My only complaint is that it felt a little heavy because of the cheese. Again, I liked it as leftovers on top of a green salad better. This might be a personal issue.

meal planning 8

Week 6:
Salad (Monday): Spring wild rice salad
Meat/lentils/pasta (Wednesday): Chicken in cashew nut sauce (again)
Easy meal (Friday): Frittata (leftover chives, goat cheese, asparagus)

Planning thoughts: We had leftover goat cheese, chives and asparagus from the grain salad the previous week. I also had frozen cashew nut sauce from a couple weeks previous and I still had some wild rice leftover in the bag that I could use up.

Advance prep: None. Luckily these were all pretty quick.

Recipe thoughts: The wild rice salad was great. I subbed black lentils for the split peas because those are what I had. The color contrast was obviously lacking, but it tasted really good. Frittatas are just a good way to use up random leftover ingredients.

When I look back over this I realize we rely pretty heavily on a rotation of various burritos and quesadillas. I think we get caught in a cycle because we buy salsa or sour cream and then want to use it up over the course of a few weeks. This is fine with me.

Whew. I'll try to start doing more regular posts with our meals so you don't have to look at a month and a half at once!

Thursday, June 12, 2014


I'm not sure why I ended up on a quest to find the exact noodle bowl I've been craving, but now I can't let it go. So far, this recipe from 101 Cookbooks is the best one I've come across. Maybe I'll stop here?

chopping and washing
{chopping and washing}

I didn't have romanesco so I used regular broccoli and I went heavy with it. I like a high ratio of veg : noodles.

tofu slices
{tofu slices}

I cooked the tofu slices on my large cast iron griddle which I oiled first. I do have a tiny non-stick skillet but I just don't love using it.

cilantro noodle bowl
{cilantro noodle bowl}

These noodles are really simple but hit the spot perfectly. The sauce is like a light cilantro pesto. I'd consider adding even more vegetables next time (maybe some radish or carrot?). I did find that I needed more salt than the recipe called for, but I'm a heavy handed salter.

I think this one's a keeper.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reading, lately

I've been busy lately, which means less reading in general and also more re-reading. I need to get myself restocked because I've currently fallen into re-reading the Game of Thrones series and that really isn't necessary.

Delicious! - Lauren sent me her copy after I mentioned reading Garlic and Sapphires and I tore through it. It's a novel by Ruth Reichl and it was fun to read it having just come off G&S because I recognized the inspiration for many of the scenes. It's absorbing, well written if not terribly deep, and it contains a story within a story with an intriguing premise. I will say this - it's probably best if Reichl sticks to food descriptions and stays away from fashion.

Dancing with the Virgins and One Last Breath - I'm always looking for new mystery series and these ones by Stephen Booth are pretty good. They're set in England and feel moody and tense.

Lots and lots of Sue Grafton (F, G, I, O, U, R, N) - She remains my favorite mystery series author. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a funny voice.

The Goldfinch - Everyone was talking about it, so I put myself on the library waiting list and then somehow got the idea that this was about child abuse so I avoided it until the last possible minute. (I was scarred from reading A Boy Called It as a teenager and I couldn't take that again.) And then it turned out it wasn't about child abuse although there are some deeply depressing childhood experiences. All that confusion aside, I can't figure out why everyone is talking about this book. It's fine. I like the premise and the first few chapters were strong but it's looong, which I wouldn't complain about except it gets bogged down several times and feels a bit snoozy. And by the end I was completely out of patience with the narrator, which made things more difficult. I wouldn't tell anyone not to read it, but if you have limited reading time I'm not sure if this is your best use of it. But seriously - why are you all reading this one? Did I miss something?

Several Marcia Mullers (Pennies on a Dead Woman's Eyes, The Cheshire Cat's Eye, Eye of the Storm, Dead Midnight, Games to Keep the Dark Away, Vanishing Point) - Because I ran out of Sue Grafton. Another female private eye series. Many of these were re-reads but it's been over a decade so they felt fairly new.

The Moon Sisters - A randomly chosen novel that ended up being quite good. It's sort of sweet and dreamy. It follows two sisters (one severely practical, one with her head in the clouds) as they deal with the death of her mother and her unfinished novel. It feels a little fairy tale like and I enjoyed it.

Elizabeth Peters re-reads (Children of the Storm, Laughter of Dead Kings) - Because sometimes nothing else will do.

Where I Was From - I want to like Didion but I never seem to manage. I think this indicates a deep well of literary failure in my soul but I can't help it. This book was more history, less novel, and to be fair my head was probably too full of outside issues to hold much of substance, but dear god, there were so many names tossed around in there. I'm terrible with character names and I know it's a problem, but all these ancestors were appearing and disappearing and I had to struggle through, much like the settlers Didion describes. I'm going to try again (have three of her novels on my waitlist right now at the library) but I'm worried that Didion and I will never get along. Previous exhibit - my deep, guilty dislike of Blue Nights.

Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year - I saw Anne Lamott speak once almost a decade ago (that's how long this book has been on my list) and she is pretty charming. I love people who are open about how neurotic they are without celebrating it. I'm not sure i could be friends with Lamott but I really enjoyed reading her reflections on solo parenting in real time. You can tear through this book and you'll probably laugh a lot.

L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food - I have had my ups and downs with Roy Choi. I'm a (hugely dorky) fan of celebrity food figures due to my obsession with Top Chef and Choi's guest appearances didn't endear him to me. He comes off as a little try hard and overly self obsessed. But then I heard several radio interviews with him when this book was coming out and he sounded more self-deprecating than I remembered and I do love a hard luck story. Well, the book is worth reading, if you love behind the scenes food information and are willing to overlook some cheesy language. And it's true that Choi's early childhood was pretty rough, while his parents scrabbled to find a way to support the family. But as an Orange native I have to tell you that Villa Park, where Choi's family settled when he was just 12, is the ritzy part of town. I'm not arguing that he didn't have some significant struggles, I just had a hard time hearing them hashed out in great detail while being fully aware that his family was willing and able to step in and support him through any and all crises. I loved hearing about running hotel kitchens and would have loved more in depth information about how he built his restaurants (the book only goes to the opening of the Kogi truck). I guess I would have liked more food, less detail about how tough he's had it

P.S. - Saw Chef, which Choi consulted on, and really enjoyed it. Sweet story, so much good food footage. At one point the whole audience groaned when the camera did a close up on some sizzling hash browns. When the credits rolled someone hissed when Roy Choi's name came on the screen. Hissed! Like he was a Shakespearean villain! So let me clarify that I don't think he is evil and I will happily eat his food, he just makes me roll my eyes a bit and whether or not that's fair is up for debate.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Work space

In our old apartment we had plenty of space and yet still ended up working at the dining room table most of the time. Our dining room table wouldn't even fit in our new apartment (still working on a dinner party solution!), so we decided to make the "dining room" space connected to our kitchen more functional. We installed shelves, D put counter height cabinets in against one wall to increase our work/storage space and now we've finally finished setting up our work station!

work area
{work area}

Our computers live here and we eat here whenever we don't eat on the coffee table. Super classy around here. I couldn't give up the storage space of the little built in cabinet next to the stove, so I just took the door off on its hinges and asked our landlord to put it in the basement. I have easy access to all my cookbooks, which is especially nice since I usually end up doing our meal planning here anyways.

Here's a clearer shot of the table and cabinet combo.

new desk
{new desk}

The tabletop is from Ikea and D ordered the hairpin legs online (they're the 28" standard raw steel). The cabinet is also from Ikea and we waited MONTHS until we finally found one in the as-is section (we were also checking Craigslist). I hate paying full price for Ikea furniture. The rug is from West Elm.

We're sticking with a lot more white in this new apartment because it makes everything feel more open.

We'd just put it all together when the first photo was taken, which is why the work space is so clear. I'd love to say it looks like this all the time but we inevitably accumulate papers and pens and other detritus. We're trying to be good about it because the space is so visible, but man, it's difficult. I'm hoping the cabinet helps with that.

Previously, in our new apartment ...
Open shelving on the wall
Custom cabinets
Deep drawer inserts
Pot shelf
Hanging art
Reducing the pantry

Thursday, June 5, 2014


The finished product! It only took two months for me to get it dyed, planted and hung.

macrame planter
{macramé planter}

I will say this, macramé is satisfyingly mindless. You get to tie a bunch of knots! If you've ever spent a long summer making friendship bracelets or begging a camp counselor to give you more lanyard material, you are a prime candidate for learning macramé.

macrame planter
{macramé planter}

I started by searching all over for tutorials. I ended up mostly using this one, although I think it may be geared towards people with more experience because I had to do separate searches to learn how to tie each of the knots mentioned. I'd still recommend it to start with if you're willing to be patient. It makes you practice a lot of knots and you get a good sense for how to make a macramé plant hanger.

I bought two packages of this 6 mm cotton rope which I loved, although it is pretty thick so you end up needing more length. There are also thinner all cotton options available. If possible, I'd recommend seeking out an all cotton choice. It does cost a little more, and it takes a bit more practice to work with it but you can really see the difference in quality in the finished product. I tested out some synthetic clothesline and it was unpleasantly shiny and the texture wasn't great.

I made the entire hanger and then I tore it all out and redid it. That cotton cord isn't cheap and my knots were improving as I practiced more. The second effort has noticeably better tension than the first.

Knotting crafts are all about tension. Don't get frustrated if everything is looking wonky in the beginning. Relax, breathe, and practice. It takes a while to find your tension, so focus on that. Once you get a feel for it, everything will start to look better. If you are pulling as tight as is humanly possible, it will be difficult and uneven. If you're going in the other direction and not tightening enough, it will be loose and uneven. I don't think there's any way to have perfect tension immediately, so I resign myself to a learning curve anytime I try a new material and just know I'll have to take the work apart later.

The natural cotton looked beautiful on its own but I wanted something a little more modern, if that's possible with a hanging plant that we'll apparently be treating like a baby until we manage to kill it. I dip dyed it navy and I don't even care if ombré is on its way out. The glossy white pot is an inexpensive planter from Sunset Nursery.

To dip dye it I just used Rit dye in navy and set it up so that I could slowly submerge it at 20 minute intervals. I wanted a soft fade into white so I diluted the dye a bit more before dipping the last section.


Washing it all out in the sink was a huge pain and it came out a little less vibrant than I intended but I'm happy with it.


Finally getting it done was such a rush that I worked on two more (much simpler) versions using the thinner cotton cord this weekend and I have high hopes of getting them up in a more reasonable time frame.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Funfetti cake with German buttercream

I am an equal opportunist cake lover. I love fancy high end cakes with organic ingredients, grocery store cakes with giant frosting roses, homely sheet pans filled with cake mix and canned frosting. They all have their merits. I don't play favorites, but I have to admit I was pret-ty thrilled when I got a birthday request for Funfetti cake. In terms of pure celebration, I'm not sure you can beat Funfetti.

I'll admit that I spent a hot second Googling to see if I could make a homemade version (you absolutely can!) but ultimately I decided that I wasn't going to risk ruining someone's 16th birthday for the sake of my own compulsions. Cake mix it was.


I did, however, allow myself some room for interpretation on the frosting.

german buttercream
{German buttercream}

Let's talk buttercreams. Standard American buttercream is just butter and powdered sugar, beaten together like crazy. There are people out there (I live with one) who feel that American buttercream is too sweet. Luckily there are plenty of other options. There is Swiss meringue buttercream, which I used for my sister's wedding cake. It uses egg whites cooked with sugar and piles and piles of butter. It is beautiful and glossy and people who hate American buttercream will often love it. I'm also a pretty big fan of the old school cooked flour frosting. I used French buttercream (egg yolks cooked with sugar) on the Barbie cakes with great success. But why do something you've already tried when you have a chance to make something new?

German buttercream starts with a pudding base and then you whip in plenty of butter, giving you a fluffy frosting with a texture similar to whipped cream and an almost ice cream like flavor. I used the recipe from BraveTart, my favorite place for professional dessert advice. As usual, she didn't let me down. This frosting was so, so good and it held up beautifully. One kid asked for seconds on the frosting. No cake. I mean, sure, maybe he's equally enthusiastic about Costco frosting but D is definitely not and even he kept nicking spoonfuls from the bowl.


As always, I started with a crumb coat and refrigerated till firm. Then I mixed a few handfuls of sprinkles into the remaining frosting (to simulate the Funfetti effect of canned frosting) and spackled on the outer coat with an offset spatula. To decorate, I just added a layer of sprinkles around the bottom edge of the cake and then a small burst in the center. Done and done.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

How to make your own simple budget - spreadsheet included

Fair warning - this is a beast of a post and may bore you to tears if you aren't interested in money. Feel free to just come back tomorrow for a post about cake.

There are a million ways to make a budget and most of them are described in detail somewhere on the internet. I'm not an expert, but I've had a few questions about how I developed my budget and recently I've helped a few family members with budgets and it finally motivated me to put this post together. If you're interesting in budgeting, or if you're just voyeuristic and love hearing about how other people handle their money (no shame here), read on.

budget cards
{budget cards}

Here's my disclosure - Money is individual. What works for one person may not work for another. What works for you in this stage of your life may not work for you later. Don't get discouraged. Just keep playing around with it until you find something that is working for you and then stick with it.

My needs are fairly simple.
- I want a breakdown of how much I can spend in various categories each month.
- I want to spend less than I earn and to put some money in savings.
- I don't want to have to track every single expense. I will never be the person entering all her receipts every day. So my budget needs to survive without too much maintenance and it needs to leave me a little wiggle room.

Here is a link to the spreadsheet I use for budgeting (I deleted my own numbers and notes because even though I'm pretty open about finances I apparently draw the line somewhere). You can download it and fill it in or you can create your own from scratch or do this on pen and paper. I prefer the automated spreadsheet because it makes it very easy to play around with reducing/increasing your amounts in various categories while you figure out your goals. You will need to download the spreadsheet from Google Drive to edit it. When you click on the link, take a look in the upper left corner of the screen and you should see a downward facing arrow icon. That will let you download the spreadsheet to your own computer.

Filling in the spreadsheet:

Figure out what you bring in each month, after taxes. Enter that in the income cell. This is what is actually deposited in our bank accounts, which doesn't include, for example - our health insurance premiums, union dues, my bus pass, anything that is taken out pre-tax.

Start filling in your expenses on the lines below. Delete and add lines as necessary. Feel free to move things between one category and another. I roughly follow the balanced money formula and I categorize our expenses into needs (red), wants (green) and savings (blue). But what you and I consider needs might be different. For example, I put our haircuts in the needs category but technically they are wants because we could just buy a Flowbee and do them at home if we really had to. I count our student loan payments as savings, which I know might seem odd, but my reasoning is that when we're done paying them off (please god, sometime in the next decade) that monthly amount will start flowing into a savings account instead.

My point is that the categories are personal and you shouldn't spend too much time agonizing over them. Recategorize as you like, add lines where you need them. You'll notice I don't have medical expenses included here and that's because I use an FSA account and have a certain amount of money deducted from my paycheck each month. In my system, if I don't see the money come into my bank account it doesn't exist. I don't want to have to think about any numbers I don't have to think about.

Filling in the categories might be difficult if you aren't completely sure what you spend every month. You have two options.

Option 1: You can go back through your credit card statements and track your spending in each category. For the best picture you should do several months, ideally a whole year to catch any seasonal variations in spending. Obviously this works best if you almost exclusively use credit cards.

Option 2: The second option is to just not worry too much about it and set the numbers as best you can. I recommend doing this if you find you're getting completely hung up on the data. An imperfect start is always preferable to indefinitely putting something off. When I started our first budget I didn't really know what we were spending so I entered goal numbers in each category. I later realized some of the goals were well below what we had been spending but (surprise!) we were able to meet the goals anyways. Sometimes a lack of information can be useful.

Take a look at where you stand. Do you have money left over each month? I aim for a $50 - $100 surplus.

Do you have savings? You'll notice that I use several savings accounts. I take full advantage of the CapitalOne* (formerly INGdirect, RIP orange lion!) savings accounts and set up new ones for anything I feel like saving for. I have a personal savings account, a joint long term savings account that we never touch (for big ticket items like a house (ha!), a car, etc), a joint short term savings account that we use for car repairs, vacations and pricey lamps, a Circe savings account that we use for any dog expenses, and a holidays savings account that we use for the sudden bump in expenses we see in November/December (that one is new this year and I think it's going to be really nice to have).

If you entered your exact expenses and now want to start adjusting for a new budget, make a copy of the entire sheet (it will show up as a second tab in the workbook) and rename it. Then start messing with the numbers. This is the good part. See what happens if you lower one expense and decide where you'd like the extra money to go. I spend some time each year recalibrating (which is more fun if you're doing it because of a raise vs. an annual rent increase). When we were contemplating our move, I set up multiple tabs with different rental amounts and it gave us a really concrete understanding of how our lifestyle would change based on the new rent at different levels. It convinced us that taking a less expensive apartment would absolutely be worth it.

When figuring out your budget, make sure you keep a small cushion in there. As I mentioned, I like to have $50 - $100 left over each month. This insulates us if we go over on any of our regular categories in any given month.

Once you have a budget you're most of the way there! Don't drop the ball yet, though. Implementing the budget is a separate process.

Try to keep a full month's expenses in your checking account, untouched. Apparently this is a thing and it's called living on your last paycheck. I didn't realize it was a thing when we started it, I'm just miserly and terrified of ever paying overdraft fees so I keep a cushion in our account at all times. It's extremely helpful when one of you gets paper checks and isn't so great about getting to the bank to deposit them. Ahem.

Automate your savings. Hopefully there was enough left in your budget for savings. Set that up to automatically transfer over every month. I do mine at the beginning of the month but that's mostly a relic of the times when I was paid once monthly.

I also automate easy bills where I know the amount each month. This includes student loan payments, car insurance and all utilities. Sure, our gas and water vary by a few bucks each month but since we live in an apartment the fluctuations are pretty minimal.

I do not automate our credit card bills. We do all our spending on credit cards (points, protection, easy to track) and then pay them off each month. I know roughly what our bill on each of our two cards should be based on our budget. I worry that if I automated the bills it would be too easy to get lax about checking them regularly and I don't want to get caught off guard by credit card fraud. I do have an automated minimum payment set up to go through the day my bill is due. This way if I forget to pay a bill I don't get hit with fines. Yes, I really do hate fines. To date, I haven't forgotten a payment but I like knowing I have some back up.

Figure out a tracking system that works for you. I use the budget cards we designed, although I admit I long for an app that would do exactly the same thing. The critical thing for me is that I don't track all our spending. I don't worry about any of our recurring bills - those are budgeted for and I don't have to track them. The only categories we track are groceries, joint entertainment/eating out and joint household. We each track our personal spending to make sure we're staying within our allowances.

I let everything else go. I don't track haircuts, gas, cell phone bills, laundry, etc. If it's built into the budget as a line item, I have the money for it. This helps a lot if you tend to be lazy. Or cheap. I would avoid going for haircuts because it just seemed so expensive. But I feel better about myself if I get my hair cut. If the haircut is built into my budget, I know I have the money and I will go and not feel guilty. If there is something you know you should do for yourself but you find yourself not doing it, build it into your budget. Therapy? Biweekly massage? Manicure? Put it in your budget (decrease your allowance accordingly) and you'll be more likely to do it. It's a total mental thing because it's all just a big pool of money, but I find the line item really helpful in that respect.

There are tons of great budgeting tools out there and I won't claim to be the authority but this simple system has worked really well for me and been helpful when I've talked people through some budgeting issues. If it helps anyone reading, I'll be thrilled. If you have questions, or if you would just like to make fun of me for being such a nerd, leave it all in the comments and I'll get back to you. I can talk about money ALL DAY LONG, guys.

*If you're interested in opening up a CapitalOne account and don't have one already, I have a referral link right here that should give you a small bonus when you open an account with a deposit of at least $250. This isn't a special blog-gy thing (do I need to officially state that CapitalOne doesn't even know I exist? They don't), just a standard customer offer. I haven't used this in forever, but it looks like we each get $20. But of course, you don't need a referral. You can just go directly to the website and sign yourself up. I find having separate savings accounts hugely helpful and as far as I can tell, they have the easiest system and they make it simple to share accounts with your partner.

Related posts:
How we combined our finances after we got married
Setting up a budget strategy that works for us
Reflections on a full year with our new budget strategy

Monday, June 2, 2014

Catching up

Just a few highlights ...


{mother's day arrangements}

{raspberry scones}

{tasting at noble aleworks}

circe perch
{circe perch}


sunday coffee
{sunday coffee}

:: We did our usual mothers' day bouquets - I love the soft pink, lilac and white color scheme we went with. Might have been our best arrangements ever. The raspberry scones were for mothers' day brunch. Just my favorite easy scone recipe but with chopped raspberries.

:: We had some time to kill in Anaheim so we stopped at Noble Aleworks for a tasting. If you love sweet creamy stouts, they do a great job with them. Even I was halfway convinced and I do not love sweet stouts. My non-stout favorites were the Big Whig IPA and the Pistola (brewed with Serrano chilies!). Such a good afternoon.

:: Circe on a Hudson Bay-esque blanket that we picked up in Palm Springs last Christmas. She's the ultimate hipster, right? I am mildly terrified that she might jump out the window but she's barely willing to jump on the bed so I think we're safe. If we leave her at home alone she stays in the bedroom, because I'm not taking any chances. We get more obsessed with her every day. I can't even tell you about it without sounding like a slobbering idiot.

:: We finally got some plants going in here! Details soon. All planting credit to D. Herbs are as far as I'm willing to extend myself. We're trying to figure out a way to make that happen without any outdoor space (window boxes? but then we can't have screens?).

:: It's peony season, which you know unless you've been kept in an internet free zone for the last three weeks. I like them even when they're dying. I'm still mostly off caffeine of all kinds, but I can't resist a cup of coffee on a weekend morning.