Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Easy Meat Sauce

Here's an easy meal that we have at least once a week in my house. I like it because I always have the ingredients on hand, it's healthy and I can whip it up in about 20 minutes, although the sauce tastes better the longer you let it simmer. I guess it depends how hungry you are. Beware, this is a very thick sauce, my husband has no tolerance for runny marinara.

1 lb of ground turkey
Olive Oil
1 lb wheat pasta (our favorite are the bow-ties)
2 tsp crushed garlic (about 2 cloves)
1 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cracked fennel
salt & pepper

Optional ingredients: sliced mushrooms, diced onion and/or diced red or green peppers, red wine.

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Heat olive oil, about 2 tbsps. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add turkey and cook until no longer pink, season with salt and pepper. If adding any onions, mushrooms or peppers, add now and cook until tender.

Season meat with oregano, basil, crushed red pepper and fennel.

Add can of crushed tomatoes and tomato paste to meat. Add a splash or two of good red wine if you have some on hand. Let meat sauce simmer for as long as possible. Serve over cooked pasta and sprinkle with parm cheese.

A little more about me, and an update

I discovered several of my favorite blogs shortly upon my return to work after my maternity leave. I was looking for advice on how to manage the work/life balance, how to deal with the heartache of leaving my baby at daycare, and how to save some money. From the moment we started telling people we were having a baby, everyone started asking, “Are you going back to work after you have the baby?” The strange thing is, my husband and I never really had an in-depth conversation about this topic. We both knew that in order to provide the best possible life for our children, we would have to be a dual income family. That doesn’t mean that we couldn’t make it on just his salary, we would make it work, but it would mean no vacations and no big purchases for a while, which was a big risk to take if you’ve ever seen our second car.

When I first got pregnant, I was working at a low-paying job that was supposed to be my bridge from the academic world to the business world. It was pretty miserable but I had been there for less than a year. It was also the kind of job that if I were to return to work after maternity leave, the bulk of my salary would be going straight to daycare with very little (and by that I mean $200 a month) left over. We probably would have been okay, but was the stress of working and leaving our baby at daycare really worth it to walk away with $200 a month? No! And was I in a field where taking a leave of absence for 5-6 years would allow me to jump right back in when I decided to return to work? No! So at 3 months pregnant, I started looking for a new job, and luckily, I found a great job, with a great company, (that didn’t mind hiring someone who was going to take a 12 week leave in 6 months), that I really enjoy. And I think having this job has really contributed to my ability to balance being a mother with having a career and finding both rewarding. Not hating work surprisingly makes life a little easier.

The difficult part of all of this is that as our friends are also starting to have children, the wives are making the choice to stay at home. Originally, I partially justified my decision on the thought that we live a huge city, with a high cost of living. But these couples live in the same city as us. The difference is that up until my 3rd month of pregnancy, I worked at crappy paying jobs. So while my husband is feeling bad that he doesn’t make enough money or that his friends are more successful than him, the onus of the situation is more on me. I didn’t earn enough during my 20s to support our future family. But the experience I got from working those crappy paying jobs was key in landing my current job, a job that I find both personally and financially rewarding, my “dream job”. I do feel guilty about this situation. I feel guilty because my husband understood my desire to work for personal reward rather than financial reward after graduating from college. I feel guilty because overall, this choice may have set us back a little financially. I feel guilty because now I have to leave my beautiful baby girl at daycare every morning. But then I think about that choice I made, and look at our friends who are staying home. In many cases, they made the choice to work for financial reward hoping to find personal reward, but never did. I have to be confident in my decision to seek personal happiness. If it all works out as planned, in ten years my husband will be the one who can choose whether or not he wants to work or stay home and be a “kept man”, and I think he deserves to have that choice.

The first few months back were hard, mostly because I didn’t really know any other new working moms. I felt very alone and very exhausted, like I was spreading myself so thin that I wasn’t very good at any of my responsibilities. Then I found blogs of other working moms, who were feeling the same way and going through similar situations and reading their words was immensely helpful. Just knowing there were other women out there having the same feelings and dealing with the same situations was comforting. Here is a big internet “Thank You” to all those women from me and I hope to pay it forward by sharing my experiences as well.
There are mornings when I don’t think I’ll ever get it all together in time to leave by 6:45 am and there are mornings when it takes every ounce of courage in my veins to drop the baby off at daycare . There are evenings where I am so exhausted that getting to the gym is a huge accomplishment and making dinner is the last thing I want to do. There are always dirty dishes in the sink, and folding laundry is a forgotten art in our household. But together, we make it work. I would much rather spend 30 minutes on the couch watching our daily TiVo recording of Jeopardy! (I know I am smarter than him, just not as quick to shout out the right answer), than slave over keeping the kitchen clean.

So last week I made it to the gym 3 times, yay! (During one of those trips, I gathered enough courage to weigh myself, and it wasn't as bad as anticipated, but I'm still shooting for at least 5 pounds gone by March.) And we’ve decided on a NEW paint color for the master bath, yay! And my parents were in town so my mom folded all my laundry and helped me clean the kitchen, yay! But the dishes are all dirty again, oh well.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

When seeking a second opinion on paint colors, don't ask your color-blind husband

All 20 minutes of my free time each evening has been spent on the walls in our master bathroom. First, the hideous wallpaper had to GO. It was shiny and silver and had lots of little birds on it. Then, the walls and ceiling (yes, the shiny wall paper was also on the ceiling) had to be primed. Next step, paint the walls, finally! Except I started painting last night and decided that the color does NOT match. The color itself is actually very pretty but its just not a good match with the tile. Now we have to pick out a new paint color and decide what to do with the 2 quarts of "Oklahoma Wheat". I'm thinking that I will save it to paint our closet when I reorganize it next month. I realize it sounds totally crazy to paint a closet but guess what, there's ugly wallpaper in there too that MUST GO.

So the home improvement project for this weekend is to get new paint for the bathroom and finish that project already!!

Switching gears, last night the baby was happy to show us how she learned to crawl on all fours. It was hilarious watching her finally figure out how to coordinate the arm movement with her legs. Then I cried because she's growing up so fast, and because I have to do a better job of cleaning the floors.

Finally, here's the recipe to my husband's favorite dish. He would seriously eat these every single night. I'm posting my favorite recipes with the hopes of being discovered by the Food Network.

Easy Chicken Tenders

1 package of boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into little strips
2 eggs
Olive Oil
Honey Mustard for dipping

Cover bottom of skillet with olive oil (about 2 tablespoons) and set on Med-High to High heat

I usually set this up assembly-line style as follows:

Dish #1: About 1 C flour seasoned with salt and pepper
Dish #2: 2 eggs beaten with a couple of tablespoons of milk or water
Dish #3: Bread crumbs

First cover the chicken strips in flour, then dip them in the egg wash, then coat with breadcrumbs.

Add strips to the hot pan (make sure the oil is hot, otherwise the coating on the chicken tends to come off)

Cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, I usually watch for the breadcrumb crust to start turning golden brown. Keep adding olive oil between batches and let the oil re-heat between each batch.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I love to cook and I'm always looking for new, healthy recipes. I made this chicken recipe over the weekend and it was delish with some buckwheat soba noodles. My husband actually gave it two thumbs up and willingly ate the leftovers the next day for lunch.

One Down, Two to Go!

There are several reasons that I started this blog and I think it’s about time that I start focusing my posts on those reasons. The main reason is to document some personal goals I would like to work towards this year and I think this blog would be an excellent way to document my progress.

One is to get back into fixing up our house. We moved in to our home in May of 2006 and made a lot of headway in the home improvement department until I had the baby in April 2007. Since then, we’ve been a little stagnant at getting things done and I’m hoping that by writing out my goals I can better keep track of what I want to get done and also have a place to store my decorating ideas and brainstorms. First up is the master bath transformation, which I will post about later. This is probably the biggest house project we’ve taken on so far but boy has it made a difference!

Another personal goal I am working towards this year is getting back into pre-baby shape. There is a pair of Seven for all Mankind jeans sitting in the back of my dresser drawer that I simply adore but still cannot button. Oh, I miss how nice they make my butt look! The jeans I have right now, one Gap and one Joe’s Jeans, are okay, but not as butt-flattering as this old favorite pair of mine! I realize that pregnancy may have permanently changed the shape of my butt and I may never really fit into those jeans again. But, if I can make it to the gym at least 3 times a week, continue to eat healthy, and at least loose the last 5 pounds of baby weight in the next 3 months, and still find they don’t fit, I’ve promised to reward myself with a shopping trip to Nordstrom’s to buy a new pair. I also want to get back into shape to start trying for baby #2. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, because why work so hard to loose weight when you are planning on getting pregnant and guaranteeing yourself at least a 30 pound weight gain? After having baby #1, I was able to loose the majority of the baby weight without really being committed to going to the gym on a regular basis and I think this is due to the fact that I was in pretty good shape prior to conceiving baby #1. (I am also convinced that these last 5 pounds are the 5 pounds that I put on during the ONE week that I was overdue. Seriously, I weighed 5 more pounds at my appointment on Friday than I did at my appointment 5 days earlier on Monday. While this caused me to TOTALLY freak out, my doctor assured me this was normal and perfectly okay.) Several women have told me how it only gets harder after each child to loose those extra pounds so I would personally like to be as healthy as possible before conceiving #2. My husband and I have learned the hard way that things don’t always go as planned so if for some reason baby #2 doesn’t happen exactly when we would like, then at least I feel good about myself and my health.

I hope to keep adding to this list. For today, I will tell you that it took every last ounce of energy I had last night to drag myself to the gym. I had a decent workout and I felt much better afterwards. So much better, I ended up whipping up a pot of my favorite turkey chili recipe for dinner. It’s amazing how going to work out can make you feel more energized afterwards, which is actually a great motivator for me! So yay for me, one trip to the gym this week with another planned tonight.

On another topic, this morning was one of those mornings that was difficult to leave the baby at daycare. She was so happy and giggle-ly this morning, she even waved to me as I was leaving. If it wasn’t so damn snowy this morning, I probably would have spent my ride to work crying instead of worrying about all the other stupid drivers on the road.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Things that made me laugh this weekend:

1. My 9 month old daughter grabbing the waiter’s butt at brunch. I can’t blame her, he was cute, but I’m pretty sure he was gay. We left him a good tip.

2. The following story that almost demonstrates how cold it was this weekend:

My friend was doing her laundry in the basement of her apartment building. She transferred the clothes from the washer to the dryer only to realize she did not have enough quarters for the dryer. She left the clothes in the dryer and went upstairs to find some more quarters. She couldn’t find any quarters so she decided she would just get some change the next morning when she went out to buy a Sunday paper. Sunday morning she goes down to the laundry room to dry her clothes. She opens the dryer to check that no one has stolen her wet laundry overnight (which has happened to her). To her surprise, she finds her clothes have FROZEN into one huge lump. She had to break up her frozen underwear, socks and bras so that the dryer would even work then had to run the dryer twice, once to “thaw” her clothes and once to dry them!

3. My husband and I stuffing our faces with sushi, drinking one beer each and then passing out on the couch.

4. So this one didn’t really make me laugh, it’s just weird. The following conversation between my husband and his brother (who lives several states away):

Husband: “What are you up to tonight?”

Brother: “Going to a going-away party for the neighbor.”

Husband: “Oh really, where is he going?”

Brother: “To jail.”

Husband: “Okay, so I have to ask, why is he going to jail?”

Brother: “Um, he was busted for internet porn with minors.”

**Note to self, when visiting brother in law in the future, keep a VERY CLOSE eye on daughter.

Husband and I want to plan a vacation. I suggested San Francisco or Napa Valley. He suggested Paris or Nashville (Two completely opposite places, but I'm sure he has a motive for each, I just haven't figured it out yet). Looks like I have to do some vacation research this week. Any suggestions?