Saturday, October 30, 2010

SPENDING FREEZE!!!! The Plan....

For the month of November, some of The Hungry Housewives are doing a "Spending Freeze".  It's based on the theory that if you do something for 30 days, it becomes a habit which in this case means that if you don't frivolously spend for a month, you will be "cured" from excessive spending.  Which will -over the long term- improve your budget.

When I've told people what we are doing, comments range from "I ALREADY DO THAT!" (though I'm sure they don't to the extent they think they do) to "my husband would NEVER agree to it!".  So I challenge you to this:  IF you feel like you "already do this", keep the Freeze in the back of your mind and maybe you'll make even smarter decisions.  And if you're partner doesn't want to participate...that doesn't mean that YOU can't!

Here's how we're going to do this:

First of all, NO spending except groceries and bills.  Any other exceptions to this are up to's your money!

Kids:  My youngest just started pre-kindergarten.  If he is invited to a birthday party, OF COURSE I want to help him make new friends so I'll let him buy a present so he can attend.  On the other hand, I have a 12 & 16 year old who understand what we're doing so I won't extend as much leeway.  

Black Friday:  For you die-hard-fanatics out there...DON'T MAKE THIS ONE DAY AN EXCUSE TO NOT PARTICIPATE!  Do what's best for you (though I MUST say that the sales are not all that wonderful- there will be more in December!).  This is the day my daughter and I traditionally buy our designer purses so if she wants to go (she has a job), I'll take her around but since I have a couple of bags still with the tags on them, I'm sure I'll least until the after-Christmas-sales.  

Friends:  This is the time for invitations to start rolling in.  When you're invited to a candle or other home-based party- ATTEND.  The hostess would rather you show up as a warm body instead of not going...but I'm sure her and the consultant won't appreciate you pushing the spending freeze to others so keep it on the down lo' ;)  
When invited to a get-together, you probably have an unopened something around the house to use for a hostess gift, and most people have ingredients in the cupboards to cook without buying a prepared dish so take the time to make something.
Also, if you and your girlfriends chat over coffee at Starbucks, invite her over to your house for some home brew, or go for a walk together instead.  You'll be saving money and burning calories!

Thanksgiving CompanyIf you have family coming to visit, give yourself a pass on those days BUT don't forget all the free/low cost things to do out there.  Laughing over a board game is more fun then sitting silently at the movies and it doesn't cost a thing.  Plus, Thanksgiving dinner IS considered part of groceries.

Unexpected Events/Entertainment:  Most of us go to things we really don't want to go to.   IF something pops up, really, really think hard about how important going is to you before you make your decision.  Is it something that will wait a couple weeks?  
If you have something planned already- GO.  My friend and I purchased theater tickets months ago and there is NO way we are skipping out on dinner beforehand (plus the parking fee) so we are planning this now.  Also, my hubby works hard and doesn't get to hang out with the guys often.  I wouldn't think of asking him to give up his once-a-month poker night!

Eating Out:  Some of you may consider dining out as part of your grocery budget but be know that's not true!  If you are running around and need to eat, eat.  It's like being on a diet- just because you have a candy bar doesn't mean you'll stuff your face the rest of the month so eat out, then get back on the spending freeze horse.  On the other hand, if you are on your way home, I'm sure you'll be fine a little while longer.  To be on the safe side, carry a granola bar and water bottle in your purse/car.  

Groceries:  Though we said that buying groceries is one of your allotted spending items, why don't you try to see what's the lowest you can spend?  Go through your checkbook/online banking and see how many grocery stops, Costco trips, etc you did last month and make it a goal to cut that amount.  This is the perfect chance to get into the habit of using coupons (Queen Bee Coupons is a great web-site to get you started).  Plus, clipping coupons is FREE entertainment LOL.

If the Spending Freeze is something you're unsure about, or you don't really NEED to do (you're a rare person indeed), give it a try! At the very least, you'll have stockpiled some cash to go Christmas shopping in December :)  I'll keep you posted on our journey.  Here's hoping it's a breeze! (knock on wood).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Eatin' Out 'N' About at Hop Jacks ~ Bonney Lake, WA

Hop Jacks but couldn't find on Facebook
21290 Hwy 410 Bonney Lake, WA
I've been here a few times for dates, family dinner and a birthday celebration but for this trip, my friend Dawn and I were just out lunchin'.  Hop Jacks (name based on the hops used for making beer) is 1/2 family seating area and 1/2 bar which is separated by this cool metal art (sorry no photo- only had my camera phone!). 

I just get a water but Dawn orders the Hand Shaken Bloody Jack...Oops Mary.  The green bean was limp and tasted canned and she said it didn't taste that good (personally, Bloody Marys remind me of shrimp dipping sauce so yuck anyways!).
We have a hard time deciding what to get but settle on splitting the California Turkey Sandwich (mainly because it was one of the few sandwiches NOT on a ciabatta roll!) and each having French Onion soup.  I was bummed about my soup....the top was overly cooked making the entire soup soooo hot, it was hard to eat even AFTER I had finished my sandwich!  Also, I wish it had came with croutons instead of the oyster crackers.
Loved, loved, loved my sandwich that we shared!!!  First off, it was SO BIG (that's what she said! haha) and it tasted super yummy.  The bacon (oh, who doesn't love bacon!) were these nice thick slices and the turkey was very generous.  Described as "Roasted Turkey with bacon, provolone cheese, avocado, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pesto may on thick 9 grain bread" and came with your choice of chips, fries, fresh fruit, or salad.  Only bad thing I can say is that the avocado was a little sparse and a tad over ripe but I will be ordering this again!!!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eatin' Out 'N' About at Zato's for dessert ~ Bonney Lake, WA

Zato Grill & on FB
20609 SR 410E  Bonney Lake, WA

Coming straight from a bizarre birthday celebration dinner, we head over to Zato's for dessert and coffee.  I've only been here once before for MY birthday in December, and though the food was good, the service was a little off (1/2 of us got our drinks 1/2 hour before the others) so we haven't been back.
About 8:30pm on a Sunday meant the place was a little empty so we had our choice of seats.  Near the back right is a sweet round table with these super comfy chairs....ahhhh.
For some reason they only have the food and drink menu online so I don't have the "official" names for the desserts but it's pretty much: molten chocolate cake, sugar-free cheesecake, apple crisp with ice cream, and a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup cheesecake thing (am I missing one?).  Each were only $5.50.  Since I had a bunch of leftover chocolate desserts from an event I went to recently, I decided on the cheesecake.  Which, of course, they were out of so I got the Reece's.  My friend also wanted cheesecake but since she's eating sugar-free right now, she had to skip dessert all together.  Bummer.
Dawn said that the chocolate cake WAS good but I liked my Reece's- though I only ate 1/2 of it.  Birthday girl Dani was nice and let me have some of her apple crisp.  YUM.  Also, the stinkin thing was H.U.G.E.  
At the epic-fail dinner we had earlier at Chopstix Dueling Piano Bar, our "hot" coffee was pretty much ice cold so we were hoping for an improvement but the coffee here wasn't very warm either- one of the gals asked for hers to be nuked.  But since (hottie!) waiter Eric accidentally left them off our bill (told us to not worry about it), we didn't mind too much.  So, my verdict is- Zato's is a GREAT place for a little dessert but with a price tag of $2.50+, I think I'll save my coffees for what I really want at Starbucks and just order hot tea next time.  Thanks Zato's for the dessert- we'll be back....and maybe give dinner another try!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eatin' Out 'N' About at Chopstix Dueling Piano Bar ~ Tacoma, WA

Chopstix Piano Bar and look for them on Facebook
2702 6th Ave Tacoma, WA on a Sunday evening

To celebrate their birthdays, THH and friends like to go DO something or go out to eat.  In the case of the dueling piano bar Chopstix, we planned on entertainment AND good food!  What a disappointment...
First off, the only day we could all go was on a Sunday so there is no dueling- just piano playing (they take requests, etc).  When I called for reservations, there was a party of 30 and another smaller party being seated at 5pm so I made our time for 5:30. We arrived right on time so did as most ladies do after a long drive, we headed straight to the restroom.  Big mistake.  Not sure if it's the room freshener or what but the scent is so overwhelming that I skipped stopping by on the way out- ugh.
We were seated right by the piano which was going to mean good photos- yeah!  I asked the server for the specials which she said there wasn't any (though from the web-site, I knew that the Prime-Rib is $9.99 on Sundays).  We ordered drinks from a menu with no prices (that always bugs me) so wasn't too thrilled to pay $8+ for a small watered down martini.  A couple of the girls got beer (had to ask them to go back for lime for the corona) and tea (had to ask for the lemon).  We sat for quite a while before our waitress came back for our food order by which time we were STARVING.  The food was priced a little high (am assuming cause you're also paying for entertainment) so majority of us had settled on getting the Prime-Rib but as we were ordering, she told us they were all out of it but would substitute a London Broil.
The gals who ordered the side salads got those first which did not promise a good meal!  The blue cheese seemed like it had been frozen, then scooped out and plopped onto the lettuce like a cheese-patty.  Ewww.  As we were eating, we had to remind her to bring water more than once, and when we asked about the piano player, we were told he cancelled (WTH???!!).  
The waitress promises us coupons for a future date which is fine but we ask to speak to the manager.  Quite a while later, a different waitress comes out to tell us that she spoke with the manager, and we are to receive 25% off our bill.  I have to say- besides one other couple, the 5 o'clock groups and our party were the ONLY people in the place...wonder if they got a discount, too?

FINALLY our food arrives.  We asked them if they had fresh coffee, and the waitress said that if they didn't, she would make some.  Some time later she brings out a cup but goes back for creamer.  When she comes back to say there is NO creamer, we have her put her finger into the cup to show her how COLD the coffee is (would say it wasn't fresh, wouldn't you?).  BTW- check out the blue cheese glob on Tari's plate!  Bleh!  Below is her salad dinner which looked as if the toppings was from the bottom of... something...
Other than the epic fail that was the salads, the London Broil is not that bad.  The mashed potatoes were pretty good (had choice of that or fries) but the cooked veggies on the side was sparse...and I thought the broil was small, too.  One person ordered chicken strips and the criss-cross fries (hmm- not my first choice!) which she said she ate all of it only cause she was hungry...
Our highlight of the evening was getting to visit with each other and watch the Birthday Girl open her gifts!  BUT, since we were so bummed by the rest of the evening, we opt to hit another place for dessert and (hot) coffee so we ask for our bill.  Practically a HALF HOUR later, a few of the girls go to see what the hold up is and are shown back to the manager where they tell him just a bit of our issues with the evening.  When it's brought up how we asked him to come to our table earlier, he said that he couldn't because he was taking an order (???).  After all that, we were given our entire bill free- A FIRST FOR ME!  Though the service was terrible, we still tipped the waitress.   As we left, it occurs to me we didn't get our coupons for a future visit but I'm guessing that we won't be back LOL.  Someday, maybe we'll try another location!  In the meantime, it's off to find another location for dessert!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Recipes- Card Making Brunch

While the husbands are away.....the wives will.....


Seems to be our tradition that whenever our hubbies are out of town on business or otherwise, we use that time to get together to scrap or stamp.  If I'm given consecutive DAYS, I'll possibly get something done but these one day-ers mean I will leave not finishing anything LOL.  Thats OK with me because the conversation is a form of therapy....though a lot cheaper ;) My friend Heather hosted today and -besides the company- the best part is getting to eat!!!
Since I had to wait for the littlest to wake up, I was later to Heather's than I was hoping but when I got there, I was treated to coffee, muffins and candy (OH!  Orange Slices remind me of my late Grandpa Hawkins!).
For lunch, we started off with a yummy, yummy salad with our choice of dressings.  Then Heather dished up some deli potato soup and served with a side bread warmed in the oven.
Card Making Brunch Menu

Fall Pumpkin Muffins
Follow the directions for any muffin mix (pumpkin in this case) but when filling muffin cups, add a dollop of cream cheese then bake as directed.

Heather's Salad
Tomatoes- sliced into thin wedges
Carrots- shredded
Walnuts- chopped
Hard Boiled Eggs- sliced
Toss all together and serve with your choice of dressing

Bread and soup were a total delicious cheat...which is the best way!  Make sure to get items fresh from the grocery deli and warm using the stove instead of a microwave for a home-baked taste.

Thank you Heather!!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Eatin' Out 'N' About at Red Robin......yummmmm.....  Auburn Supermall location, WA

Whenever anybody suggests Red Robin.......I cringe.  The thought that comes to mind is burgers and fries which I am forced to eat all of the time so it's not my first choice.  Over the weekend, though, we decided to go since we had a free kid meal coupon....and obviously I haven't been in lately because they've added new items to their menu!  Added dishes are fresh burger variations (of course), pasta plates, sandwiches and salads.

The atmosphere seemed perfect for everybody unless you're there for a romantic quiet meal.  The bar was filled and the TV (football was on) and music were just the right volume to cover up the sounds of families with young children.  Three birthday songs were sung (and clapped) with such enthusiasm that our 4 yr old stated that HERE is where he wants to go for his birthday this month!

For our free Kid Meal, the 4 yr old ordered the chicken strips (which he wouldn't touch because they weren't nuggets).  Since it was free and somebody ate the left overs the next day for dinner, it wasn't a waste. Our 12 yr old ate earlier so he just wanted something small and though he is two years over the age for the kid menu, our server suggested he get the kids' fish and chips.  I MUST SAY- our waitress (Deb from Auburn Supermall location) was a super sweetie.  I liked her a lot!
My hubby who only likes what he likes, got the Prime Rib Dip.  He should have substituted the side because he asked me "now what's in cole slaw???" LOL.  He also said "The sandwich was the right size but the prime rib could have been a bit more tender with more peppers but otherwise the seasoning was good along with the au jus."
I ordered the Grilled Chicken Alla Caprese and I must say yummmm is right!!  This was sooo good (tasted better than how the photo looks.  Sorry- had my camera phone).  Only things I would have changed was providing an additional piece of focaccia bread and to have the dressing on the side.  On the left were three slices of mozzarella, a salad with olives and pepperoni in the center, and yummy chicken with brushetta.  Caprese is my FAV dish anyways and I would eat this again.

Red Robin boasts they have bottomless fries which means that they automatically brought out an extra basket with our food.  It's always nice to have extras but would rather they had been delivered later so they'd be hot and fresh.  They are also very generous with drink refills- we weren't even half way finished and they brought us fresh glasses.

So, I'm glad we gave it a second chance!  ....and I'm crossing my fingers on winning $1,000 cash or iPOD after I fill out their online survey ;)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Borrower Of Books- The School Of Essential Ingredients

As a constant reader, I don't know how I married somebody who doesn't read.  Oh, he can hunt for a car for HOURS on Craigslist but I don't think I've ever seen him crack a book besides the bible.  In fact, in high school, I remember watching Grapes Of Wrath together and then I had to tell him what the movie left out!

So since he doesn't have a love of books, he cannot comprehend what my fascination is with the written word.  Which means...that he doesn't see a need for purchasing books when we live within walking distance of a library!  This is why I'll always be a "Borrower Of Books" instead of an owner - with the exception of gifts from friends or paperback novels I can sneak out of garage sales.  Thankfully we live in an area with a great library, and there are amazing authors that live around us.

My first book that I'm highlighting is The School Of Essential Ingredients by Seattle author Erica Bauermeister.  I mentioned this awhile back on our Facebook Page and it still keeps popping up in my head.  YES- for everyday reading I DO read the historical romances (it's an addiction) but I was drawn to the title and the idea of it being about a cooking class which is something I've always wanted to do.

This book tells the story of each person that is attending the class.  The main character throughout is Lillian that owns the restaurant (and is the teacher).  I just love her style of cooking!  She doesn't use recipes but focused on how you FELT the food should be.  In fact, her cooking was a key role in her later years growing up.  The way she talks, it makes me feel like I would have NO problem cooking a live crab!!!!!  Which, considering I do NOT touch raw meat, is a big deal!

Throughout the whole thing, though, Lillian remains a mystery so the rest of the characters end up being the meat of the story.  I found something to relate to with each of them ...which I don't want to say in case I give anything away!  There is a new mom, somebody who has suffered a loss, an Italian adjusting to being in America, an older couple, and a young girl trying to figure out who she is.

I think this would be a great book for any book club.  It's not very long (just 272 pages) and there is so many themes that you can talk about (the book link has a page for book clubs).  Plus, who doesn't like a book about food??????????? 

Friday, October 1, 2010

Friday Flick- My top picks for Julie Andrews

October 1st is Julie Andrews birthday who is one of my FAVorite entertainers. To honor her, I couldn't just pick one movie for today so I thought I'd highlight my top choices:

OF COURSE everybody loves Sound Of Music and Mary Poppins- that goes without saying!

Victor Victoria
Golden Globe Award for Best Actress- Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and Nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress
Any musical is a good but there's lots of controversy here!  Sexual identity is at the core of this movie, and it involves lots of mix ups and misunderstandings.  James Garner is one of my fav classic male characters (he's also in my hubby's #1 movie Maverick).  

Throughly Modern Millie
Nominated for  seven Academy Awards and five Golden Globes.  
Is about a girl that decides she wants to marry her boss and all the craziness around that (co-starring Mary Tyler Moore so that's expected).  Set during the Flapper Era, there are lots of fun songs and a streak of criminal activity!

So now I think I'm going to look into a few I seemed to miss:

  1. Hitchcock thriller Tom Curtain  (A Hitchcock I haven't seen??? Not sure if that's right)
  2. Hawaii which was the highest grossing movie of 1966
  3. Darling Lili was nominated for Golden Globe Best Actress and Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
  4. The Americanization Of Emily- both James Garner and Andrew considered it their favorite film they appeared in