Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Well, we enjoyed a wonderful Ham dinner on Easter. We are now left with lots and lots of extra ham. I have been trying to be creative in using up all of the leftovers. Here is my list of recipes so far:

Ham, Broccoli, and Pasta
Cook pasta and drain. Add a few tablespoons of butter to pot and let melt. Put pasta back in pot and add 2 beaten eggs. Stir until the eggs have cooked themselves in with the pasta. Add diced ham and cooked broccoli.

Ham and Potato Soup
So good. I wonder if this freezes well?

Ham and Potato Frittata
good but not as good as the soup!

Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

We will have gotten our fill of ham by the time we get through all of leftovers!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

It's never too early to shop for Christmas!

Toys R Us are having a nice sale this week on DS games - 2/$40 for certain DS games. My older two boys each got a DS for Christmas this past year. I know they will be thrilled with a new game for Christmas next year. I am planning a trip to Toys R Us this week to pick up 2 games. Planning ahead for Christmas definitely makes it less stressful and hectic. Each month, I set aside a certain amount of money specifically for Christmas. If I see a great deal on something that I know my kids will love, I have the cash to spend. I have always shopped ahead for Christmas but this is the first year I will also be putting money aside each month. Hopefully this will keep me from overspending and overbuying!

Kmart Deal

Kmart currently has a great deal on Kellogg's select cereals, 12oz - 20 oz, for $1.88. Plus, Kellogg's is running a deal where you get a free gallon of milk if you buy a certain number of Kellogg's products. I went there the other day and got 5 boxes of Frosted Flakes for $1.88 plus I got two coupons for a free gallon of milk. Five boxes of cereal and 2 gallons of milk for a total of $10.15? Not bad even if the cereal will only last a week, maybe 10 days, in my house!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Working Mama Monday

Morning Routines

I love having a morning routine! It helps save me time and aggravation. My kids do better with a routine and I think they like knowing what they are expected to be doing or what they have to do next. During the week we have a very strict morning routine given the early hour we all have to be up and out of the house by. Our routine works because both my husband and myself stick to it every morning.
During the weekdays we get up in shifts - my husband, my youngest son and myself are up first and I am out of the house, with my youngest son, by 630. The second shift is my husband and the other two boys. He gets them up, dressed, fed, and on the bus before he leaves for work. Each kids know he has to get dressed before he comes downstairs. Each child chooses between two or three breakfast choices. The older two know they have to eat all of their breakfast before they are allowed to have 10 minutes of Wii or DS. Sometimes they have a bit of homework left over that they have to complete before they can do anything fun. The older two boys have to get their backpacks (put take home folders in it) and lunch on their way out to wait for the bus. My youngest son knows he has to get dressed, eat breakfast, use the bathroom, get his shoes and coat on and then we leave. Being four years old, this set routine keeps him focused and cooperative(usually).

On the weekends we really have no set routine. But I have noticed we have more behavior issues and sibling fighting on weekends compared to weekday mornings. I am going to have to institute a weekend morning routine!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Week in Review

This past week has been the second of two very busy hectic weeks. I am happy it is over and we are that much closer to our Spring Break. I didn't do a lot of cooking or cleaning or organizing or really much of anything these past two weeks. We did have our annual St. Patrick's Day party last weekend and I did obviously cook for that but no extra cooking. We have been eating very simple meals here this week, pasta, pancakes, etc. I even took the kids to McDonalds twice in the last two weeks! I haven't done that in quite a while!
As for shopping, I did get a great deal on cereal at Price Chopper this week - 4boxes of cereal for $6 plus I had 2 $1 off 2 boxes coupons. That brought the price to a dollar a box for the four boxes I bought. Nice but... there is only less than half a box left! Kmart has cereal on sale this week for $1.88 a box so I am going to go stock up again. I am seriously thinking about not buying any more cereal since it is expensive and we go through so much.
I am also planning a Toys R Us run this week. They have DS game on sale - 2/$40. I will buy 2 and put them away for Christmas. It is never too early to start Christmas shopping if you get some good deals!
Have a Happy Week!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Home Improvements

My husband and I have must have gotten struck by Spring Cleaning Fever. We have started or at least purchased a few home improvements this weekend. We are in the process of sealing our living room hardwood floors. Some areas of our living room floor are down to bare wood - all of the sealant has been worn away. We really don't have the extra money to have the floors professionally redone. We decided to just add the sealant in order to improve the look of the floor (it definitely is shiny!) and to protect it until we have money to have them redone.
We also decided to rip up the carpet in our sunroom and lay down wood flooring. Our dog will have accidents every once in awhile in that room and I don't want the dog urine to soak through the the ply wood beneath the carpet. My husband bought the flooring to install and hopefully we will have it done by the end of this coming weekend. We used the money from our House Maintenance envelope to purchase the flooring and it felt great to be able to use cash for it!
I am also itching to paint that room as well as our bedroom. I did spend one day during our winter break cleaning the walls in our bedroom so it is all set to be painted. I still have to decide on a color for our sunroom - I am leaning towards a cream or little green since we have left over paint form other projects. We are planning on painting our bedroom a light brown with an even lighter brown trim. I then need to figure out wall treatments for both rooms. I will definitely post pictures when we finish these projects!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Working Mama Mondays


Maybe of us have many many unwanted, unnecessary items hanging around. I know we have our share and then some of items that are taking up space. I wanted to unload some of these items but don't want to have a garage sale. Garage sales take a lot of time and effort to have and I don't have any extra time or energy to have one. Enter Craigslist. Without leaving the comfort of my home, I sold three items this weekend - a floor length mirror, a wooden train table, and a booster chair. I love Craigslist!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Working Mama Monday

Bulk Cooking

I want my family to eat healthy and nourishing foods. I am trying to cut back on the amount of pre-packaged and processed foods. But...I am a working mama with little time to spend preparing each and every meal from scratch. Enter Bulk Cooking or as other people call it Once A Month Cooking, Freezer Cooking, etc.
The concept is simple, spend one to two days a month cooking meals ahead of time and then freezing them to use throughout the month. Voila, the two 8 hour days spent in the kitchen buys you time throughout the month.

Except... I don't have 1-2 days a month to spend just on cooking. Devoting this amount of time each month to just cooking does not work for me, my family, and our schedule. I have tried modified versions of Bulk Cooking and I do believe it is a great time saver but at this point in my life, I can't pull it off. So, I have have experimented ways to save time in the kitchen and still feed my family healthy foods.

The best variation I found that works for me and my family is what is often referred to as Batch Cooking. Each time you prepare a meal or even a single food item, double, triple the recipe. Freeze the extras for the future. I do this with pancakes all the time. I also have done this with baked goods like cookies, muffins, and breads. If you are making meatballs for dinner, make a ton! Make 2 pans of lasagna, freeze the second pan. Even if you aren't making an extra meal, little steps can save time in the future. If you are chopping onions for one meal, chop a bunch and freeze the extras.

I have found a few extra minutes, here and there, help those days or nights when you are pressed for time.

Friday, March 5, 2010


I been slowing trying to wean my family off paper towels. We have a stash of old cloth diapers that we use but there are days when we whip through them in no time. I really didn't want to go out and buy new towels just to use as rags. A few weeks back my husband cleaned out his t-shirt drawer and he had a very large pile of t-shirts that either were stained or just didn't fit right. I am donating the ones that aren't stained and I cut up the stained ones to use as rags. I cut off the neck opening and sleeves and then cut each shirt in half. I donated the scraps to an agency that I know recycles rags. I now have a new stash of rags to use and I didn't have to spend a dime.
For more frugal ideas, check out Life As Mom.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Working Mama Mondays

Getting Help

Working and having three boys can can me busy. Add the fact that my husband teaches a college course one night a week, one of my sons' plays soccer in the fall and spring, one son plays t-ball, and both of my older sons are in Cub Scouts. Plus I am the den leader for my younger son's den. Put all of that together makes for a very busy house. Thankfully, my husband and I are both on the same page about a lot of things. We did have a house cleaner come in once a month to do the big cleaning jobs but we stopped that a few months ago in an effort to tighten our finances and start paying down debt. It was a sad day for me! Given that all of the housework, errands, and everyday clutter was still there, I felt a bit overwhelmed. Well, I quickly cheered myself up by telling myself I hadn't had a house cleaner for all that long and I had been able to get it all done before.
Except, now there are three boys instead of one or two AND we have a much bigger house.
It was time for everyone to step up to the plate. My husband and I take on certain jobs, he is in charge of doing the laundry(thank god for that!), I fold the laundry and everyone puts their own laundry away. One of us makes dinner, the other cleans up the kitchen. My husband is great about starting the dishwasher each night before he goes up to bed.
The children have their own responsibilities that are appropriate for their age. They definitely give us trouble when it comes time to do their chores but they are getting better. Each kid is in charge of their rooms, putting laundry away, picking up toys and toys, making beds, etc. They do these on the weekends. Some weekends they fly through this other weekends there are lots of excuses and even tears. But, as I said before, they are getting better.
There is still room to improve for all of us but the biggest lesson I have learned is everyone could use some help. I am lucky that my husband shares half of the housework and child rearing. I really don't think I would be as organized and on top of things if my husband wasn't as good as he is about doing his share. Love that man!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Snow Day Fun

Finally we got some snow here in Upstate NY. We had the day off from school this past week and enjoyed some time playing in the snow. I love that I get snow days too. The three boys and I made a snowman an snow forts. We topped the day off with snowmen pancakes. I had a little trouble getting the pancakes to actually look like snowmen but once I add the marshmallow eyes and chocolate chip nose and mouth, it was clearly a snowman. Now I have make pancakes at least once a week and I know the boys like them but they were so excited to be eating Snowmen Pancakes! Here's our favorite made from scratch recipe:

1 1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoon oil

Sift dry ingredients. Combine wet ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Easy!! Makes about 20 small or 7 large.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


I bought this chair at a garage sale for $1 this past summer. With a little paint, fabric, and time it looks like a new chair! I prefer to use Old Village brand paints on furniture. I had some Philadelphia Brownstone left over from another project. I purchased the fabric and cushion for the seat at Joann's on sale. I used quilt batting, that I had, to pad the back. Total spent on materials: $20. Check out more Frugal Friday ideas at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Nagging-To-Do List

Alright - here is an update on my nagging to do list. Anything in bold is recent - I even added another to do. In fact, given enough time, I could probably add quite a few more. I am pleased with the progress I have made so far. But I do wonder, will this list ever end or am I always going to be adding to it?

Everyone has one - the list of things you have to do but keep putting off. My list seems to grow with every day. Amy at Mom Advice has a post about the amount of energy a nagging-to-do list can take. I think about my nagging-to-do list ALL THE TIME but I usually don't actually do anything on the list. Not any more! I have been putting in a concerted effort to get some items checked off my list. Here is what is on it and what I have accomplished so far:
  • Finish sunflower craft
  • Finish burlap wreath craft - Finished!
  • Call for hair appointment - made the appointment!
  • Return shirt to Target - returned!
  • Paint bedroom(first need to finish getting wallpaper down) All wallpaper down and walls washed - ready to be primed!
  • Register son for little league - Registered!
  • Email cousin about summer visit - Email sent!
  • Get car inspected and oil changed - Done!
  • Renew Driver License
  • Finish envelop craft - Done
  • Finish painting and recovering chair(got for $1 at a garage sale this past summer)
I am sure there are more things I should add to this list, especially since I have finished some of this list. I am trying to accomplish at least 4 of the more easier items on this list each week. I am also trying to tackle at least one larger project on this list each month. Maybe, just maybe I can get my bedroom painted this year!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Working Mama Mondays

Successful Menu Planning
I was never a big menu planner until recently. I would halfheartedly try to think about what we were doing to eat for the upcoming week but I never stuck to any real menu plan. This led to a lot of eating out and wasted food. When my husband and I decided to get a handle on our finances, one area I wanted to focus on was cutting our grocery bill. Enter the menu plan. There are many blogs/sites out there dedicated to menu planning. I love the tips and links on I'm an Organizing Junkie. I try to post our weekly menu here to give myself some sort of accountability but I don't always get to do that. Even when I don't post it, I still am planning! Each Sunday I plan out what we will be eating for each meal for the upcoming week. This is a bit different than what I used to do. When I did try to plan our meals, I only focused on dinners. Now that two of my boys need lunches pack, I include lunch and breakfast in the plan. I take into account all of our evening obligations, whether I or my husband are going to be absent from dinner time or if we need a quick meal. I also account for any school lunches my children want to buy that week. *

*An aside note here: I realize purchasing school lunches may not always be frugal but for some reason, I hate packing lunches. I will be the first to admit I do the happy dance when I realize someone is buying lunch and I don't have to pack them one!

I limit breakfast to a choose of two items and I keep in mind what I know my boys like. Mornings are a bit too hectic to try new food so they stay pretty constant with either toast, cereal, bagel, or pancakes. Lunches usually consist of a main food item, fruit and/or veggie, a yogurt, and a dessert item. I also include a snack for their midmorning break at school. They purchase snack milk each day. My husband is easy to pack for; soup, veggies, granola bar and a fruit. I won't even begin to try and explain my lunches. At this point I am trying to follow a low/no gluten diet for health reasons.
Dinners tend to be very basic in our house. I don't have the time to prepare complicated meals. Each dinner tends to be be a main food, side dish of some sort of carb, fruit and veggies. Nothing too exciting or adventurous but it works for us.
Here is our plan for this week:
Breakfasts: Choice of chocolate muffins, cereal, or toast
Lunches: cheese and crackers, leftovers, salad, or soup
London broil, onions, veggies, Annie's Mac and Cheese for kids
Roasted Chicken, mash potatoes, cut up apples, salad
Pancakes and Sausage
Marinated Chicken breast, cheddar and onion muffins, veggies
I think that there are a lot of positives in utilizing a menu plan each week. No more waiting until the last minute to realize the meat need for that night's meal is still in the freezer. We don't eat out as much and I feel we are saving money in the long run. There are many people who plan their meals based on what they already have in the cupboards. This way, they can really slash their grocery bill. Check out this post explaining how to do this. I am not there yet but some day I want to be! Happy Planning!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Decluttering Week Wrap up

With the kids and myself off on Winter break this past week, it seemed a good idea to get some decluttering done. Here are a few items that left my house this week:

4 t-shirts(husband)
4 shirts (me)
1 pair of shoes(husband)
7 pairs of shoes (me)
3 stuffed animal toys
Letter magnetic toy
2 books
misc. small toys
Large stuffed superman
plastic floor train playset

All of these things are making their new home at the salvation army! I was able to clean and reorganize my tupperware cupboard(not that it is going to stay organized for long). It is amazing how many tops I have but no matching containers. Do they run off in the night? There are still many rooms, closets, and nooks and crannys that still cry out to be decluttered. I am trying to go slowly with this so I won't get stressed out when I don't have the time to do everything I want to do immediately.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wrist Warmers

Every winter I curse the glove companies. Why can't they make gloves that cover kids wrist, preferably covering up to their elbows. My kids' gloves always ride up and leave their wrists exposed. They are constantly complaining that the snow gets inside their sleeves. A friend of mine had purchased a pair of gloves that were much longer and seemed to really cover their son's wrists. Unfortunately these gloves are expensive. I already have a ton of gloves for my boys and I really didn't want to buy any more gloves. Recently, another friend of mine mentioned the wrist warmers she made her daughter. The directions for these are so easy, anyone can make them! Take a pair of old socks or you can use socks that have no matches. Cut the toes off and make a small hole on the side so your thumb can fit through. Slip your hand through and that's it. No sewing, no patterns! So easy. I am going to attack our pile of unmatched socks and make some more of these babies! Thanks Jen!

Vacation Week

Our vacation week is flying by! I still haven't had a chance to get a lot of bulk baking or cooking done but I have accomplished a lot. I made chocolate waffles from here as well as chocolate muffins from here. They were both delicious and my children gobbled them right up! I made meatballs for dinner and smoothies for snack today. Man, I am tired! The boys have been taking turns having friends over this week. Today was my youngest son's turn and he was so excited to have his two friends over, one of which was a, gasp, girl. But it was ok as he told his brothers, "she's girl but she is fun". Cute. We made shamrocks using the idea from here and oobleck. I also got a few things checked off my nagging to do list!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Cleaning on a dime and be good to the environment!

I have to admit, I hate cleaning. Well not actually cleaning, I hate picking up. If all I had to do was just clean the house, I would have such a sparkling clean house. It is the clutter and picking up that gets me. Anyways, enough of that rant. I found an awesome book that has helped me make my own environmentally friendly cleaners. Clean house, Clean Planet by Karen Logan has changed my thinking about cleaners. We now only use environmentally friendly, nontoxic house cleaners. At first I was a little concerned that I didn't have my handy Clorox wipes to kill all of the cold and flu germs that float around. But in the last 2 years that I have been making my own cleaners, we haven't had an increase in illnesses. In fact, we really haven't had many contagious illnesses. The recipes for cleaners are easy and quick to make. One of the best tips was using a pumice stone to clean hard water stains in the toilet bowl. You can purchase pumice stone at the hardware store. They don't scratch porcelain and work fabulous, you just have to get past the yuck factor of having to actually put you hand in the toilet bowl! One other thing that I like about the book, is that Karen Logan breaks down the cost of each recipe and compares the cost to ready made cleaners. That is one of the reasons I was able to get my numbers man on board without a lot of convincing! Go purchase a copy yourself and get cleaning!
This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesdays


I have always felt I was unlucky. I don't win raffles that often, never got a winning scratch off lotto ticket, never win 50/50 raffles. You get the point. But the other day something happened that made me stop and realize I am lucky!

I was driving to work with my youngest strapped in his car seat. It was dark and rainy. I was on a three lane highway that had the far left lane closed for construction. I was in the middle lane when out of no where there was a car in my lane coming straight at me with no headlights. Since there was a barrier to my left and cars to my right, I really didn't have a lot of options. Thankfully, the car turned into an opening between the barriers and a head on collision was avoided. Wow. That shook me up. Had me rethinking this whole unlucky thing. Really, does it matter if I win lotto scratch offs? Does it matter if I win the 50/50? Yes, the extra money would be nice but I don't need it. So I started to think of all the areas in my life where I am lucky. I have a wonderful husband and three awesome, healthy, and loving boys. My husband and I both have good paying careers. We have a house, we have food, we can pay our bills on time every month. I am so lucky!!

Working Mama Mondays

Weekly Planning
One of the handiest tool a busy mom needs to have in her box of tricks is the ability to plan ahead. I am a big planner and I love to make lists. Some days there is so much information rattling around in my mind that I find I can't relax until I get it all out. I find putting it down on paper helps me clear my mind and I usually find I don't have as much to do or remember as I thought I did.
Enter my weekly planning.
Each Sunday evening, I sit down and figure out what has to get done that week. I look at what activities the children might have, any evening meetings or obligations that my husband and I may have that week. I then make a list of additional things that I have to do that week, whether it is an errand that has to be run or a phone call that needs to be made. After I do that, then my husband and I decide who is going to do what. I usually am the errand runner. The area where I work has many of the stores that I would need to go to and I get out of work earlier than he does. My husband usually takes the phone calls, I don't have a direct phone line, only voicemail. I do make the appointments for me and the children since I usually take them to the appointments. An example of our weekly planning would look something like this:
  • Monday: Oldest son's scout meeting(Steve take him)
  • Tuesday: Middle son's scout meeting(our house, I am den leader), Steve to take youngest to run a few errands
  • Wednesday: Scout committee meeting(me), Grocery shopping, Snack milk money for older two boys
  • Thursday: Steve teaches a college course on this night.
  • Friday: Movie night
  • Return some items to Walmart
  • Bank
  • Grocery Shopping
  • Pick up Prescriptions
  • Crickets for lizard
Phone calls:
  • middle son's homeroom parent (I'll take this call)
To do list
In addition to this list, I also make a menu plan for the week. I certainly keep our evening obligations in mind when I am planning our menu for the week but more on menu planning next week!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Menu Planning Gone Bad

I have a confession to make....I didn't do a menu plan this week. This resulted in eating out THREE TIMES!!! Grant one of the times was just Steve and I and it had been planned as a date for Valentine's Day! As an aside, the last date the two of us went on was back in October! We needed it. The other two times we ate out were because we were too tired to think of dinner. See where no menu planning gets me! This coming week the kids and I are off from school so I have a chance to turn the whole week into freezer cooking week. I think I am going to try and get some baked goods made this week as well as spend a bit more than 10 minutes on our dinners. Our freezers are pretty stocked up on meat so I really have a lot of choices to pick from this week. Here is the menu:
French toast, Pancakes, or Toast
Kids: pizza, pancakes, sandwiches, cheese and crackers
Steven: leftovers, salads and soups
Me: leftovers and salads with tuna or leftover chicken
Roasted Chicken 2xs
Pasta with meatballs
Sliders(mini hamburgers)
Marinated Chicken breasts 2xs
Pizza Pockets
fruit, smoothies, pretzels, goldfish

For more menu ideas, check out I'm An Organizing Junkie.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Burlap Wreath

I love coming across easy to do crafts. I recently found this burlap wreath here, courteously of MomAdvice. I made two, the one pictured and another I gave to a friend for a Christmas gift. The one picture is hanging in my dining room and I absolutely love how it came out. I used burlap that I had left over from covering shrubs for the winter. I purchased burlap from Joann's for the wreath I made for my friend. I think I like mine better but I hope my friend likes hers! She suggested I make more from old burlap feedbags. I think that would look cool. Get me some feed bags Jen!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sunflower craft

I found this great idea to make sunflowers out of burlap and canvas here. It took me awhile to get around to making them but I think they turned out quite nicely. I had planned giving them to a friend for a late Christmas gift but she informed me she "hates sunflowers" recently. As she obviously didn't know my plan, I am not offended - she will just get another homemade craft I made from burlap and a wire clothes hanger (more on that craft later). The kids were actually able to help me with this craft - my youngest and oldest helped sponge paint the canvas, my youngest also helped stuff the flowers and he also helped find sticks for the stems. It was a very low cost project - about $2 for the canvas, the burlap was about $3 and I had the stuffing, paint and sponges. Not bad for $5!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Comparison Shopping

Target has some nice deals this week, so does CVS, as well as Price Chopper!

I took a few minutes this afternoon to compare which stores have the best prices on the same items.
  • Target and PC have Progresso Soups on sale this week.
Target - $1.40
PC 2/$3
That's no brainer on which is better.
  • They both have Bounty Paper Towels Giant 8 Roll on sale.
Target - $9.99
PC - $10
A penny difference but you get credit towards gas if you purchase the paper towels at PC. Don't forget the the $1.00 off coupon from this Sunday's paper!
  • Again, both have Yoplait yogurt on sale.
Target - 10/$5
PC - 10/$5
Once again, PC gives credit towards gas.

I try to spend some time going through the PC, Hannaford, Target, and CVS Sunday ads. I could include Rite Aid too but I feel four stores are more than enough for me. I have found that the Hannaford I typically shop at does not accept Internet coupons so I usually only shop there for a few items, maybe not even every week. PC and Target tend to be my favorites along with Walmart. I have found Walmart usually has lower every day prices on a lot of items. I will make a Target run for the soups as well as Fiber One Bars which are on sale for $2.33. Go here and get a .40 off Fiber One Bars and $1.10 off 3 Progresso soups.

Working Moms

Working moms verse stay at home moms...a debate you never want to get into with either side. I have the best and worst of both worlds - 10 months of the year I am a working mom, 2 months I get to stay home. There are definitely ups and downs to each and I find the decision to work or stay home to be very personal. Each person is different and each person has to make the decision that is best for their family. Some mothers have to work outside the home but wish they could stay home. Some mothers stay home with the children but yearn to be back in the working world. There are some days I wish I could stay home and many a summer day that I wish I was at work. There are going to be good and bad days regardless if you stay home or work outside the home. After having read through many awesome blogs, I noticed that there aren't a lot, that I found, geared towards working moms. Since I am a working mom who is trying to be frugal and eco-friendly, I am going to start blogging about what I know. Each Monday I am going to be posting various tips, strategies, and advice to help those mamas who work outside of the home. If you aren't working outside the home, don't worry, many of these post can still work for you. So join me each Monday for Working Mama Mondays!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

A day in the life of....ME

Working outside of the home is very hard. You not only have a lot of responsibilities at work, you still need to try and balance the family life. Many people choose to have one parent stay at home, while other families, mine included, just can't afford that option. There are days when I feel I will not make it through one more day and other days where I just love having two jobs, work and home! As a teacher, I do get to experience the best of both worlds and couldn't pull off the school year without the assistance of my husband. But until those lazy days of summer are here, I run my butt off. So - just to give people an idea of what my day is like, I have decided to give everyone a peak into the craziness that is my day to day life. (Just in case you are curious)
  • 5:30 - Wake up to the annoying alarm clock to realize my husband and I are not alone in the bed. We have been joined by 2 of our 3 boys at some point during the night. My youngest is actually completely naked! (He had wet his bed during the night. Being the very thoughtful child that he is, he stripped off all of his clothes and climbed into bed with us. He didn't even wake us up!)
  • 6:30 - out the door with my youngest carrying at least 4 bags and whatever toys my son feels he can't live without.
  • 7:10 - Drop off youngest at babysitter's - race to get to work
  • 7:30 - 3:00 work - out out at lunch to run some errands, must eat lunch in hurried bites between classes
  • 3:00 - leave work right on time
  • 3:15 pick up youngest at babysitter's and go get older two at their school which is 25 minutes away
  • 3:45- drag youngest into the older kids' school and pick up older two and race to get to doctor's which is 15 minutes away, give kids animal crackers in the car so they won't be cranky
  • 415 - Miracle - we get to the doctor's office on time AND get in to see him on time!
  • 4:45 - finish with doctor's appointment - head for home
  • 5:30 - get dinner on the table (children hate dinner and begin to complain) Daddy home!
  • At some point the complaining has stopped, some kids choose to eat, others will have to wait until breakfast! - time to get older 2 boys working on homework, maybe start some Valentine's cards?
  • Dad is in charge of finishing homework, play time, clean up kitchen and bedtime - I leave to run errands; return library books, pick up prescription at one store, grocery shopping at another(turns out to be quite relaxing and QUIET!)
  • 8:00 - errands done -go home and unpack groceries (youngest 2 make their way downstairs and chat with me while I put the last few groceries away)
  • Back to bed - find Husband and oldest son passed out in our bed.
  • 8:30 - everyone in bed, including Daddy - downstairs straighten up kitchen (not really needed since Daddy did this), pack lunches and bags for next day, spend some time on computer
  • 8:45 - Youngest comes downstairs to tell me he needs to use the bathroom - send him to the bathroom but he did not get there in time - send him upstairs to wake up Daddy and have Daddy help him get new pjs
  • Get clothes ready for next day(this could comprises of checking to see what is least dirty and wrinkled, depending on energy level!) Tonight, I iron a pair of pants.
  • 9:00 - youngest downstairs AGAIN to tell me he needs me - take him back upstairs, threaten to close his door if he gets out of bed again.
  • 9:15 - Check on oldest two - one asleep - oldest playing his DS. Give lecture to oldest the he is not allowed to play the DS in bed on a school night. Lecture, apparently not appreciated, oldest gets ticked.
  • 9:20 Finish up downstairs, take dog out one last time
  • 9:45 - Night time bathroom routine
  • 10:00 - Fall into bed, asleep in with minutes (and I use to have insomnia!)
Exciting isn't it! Exhausting more like it but it is our life for now.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Unexpected Expenses

Finally we are getting ahead with our finances. Or so I thought! January has been the bad car karma month for us. It started when my husband took his car in for an inspection and oil change. That little trip cost us $800. Two days later the car wouldn't start for him. Fuel pump problems and we spent $700 more. Another few days later, an engine light came on. HE stopped at the mechanics and turned out to be an oil leak. Cha-ching.... $200. Well, not to be outdone, I took my car in for an inspection and oil change and came out with 4 new tires and $700 poorer. I also got the bad news that the front and rear end break pads will need to be replaced in the next 8,000 - 10,000 miles. WOW! That was an expensive car month! We had hoped to buy a used car for my husband this spring but after putting that much money into his car, we are going to put that purchase off until next spring. It is frustrating to have had to spend so much money all in one month but we can't not have cars. Hopefully February will be kinder and gentler on our wallets.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Decluttering Update

So I have been trying to declutter my house one small tiny baby step at a time. This weekend, my husband's t-shirt drawer was the target. I didn't do the actual decluttering, I was just on the sidelines, cheering him on! He has two large drawers devoted to t-shirts. These drawers were overflowing to the point where not one more shirt was going to fit in them. I had even had to start piling shirts on top of the dresser! My husband was a trooper and got through both drawers in no time flat. He tried on many shirts to see if they still fit and was able to discard many which were way too big(he recently lost a bit of weight, 30 pounds and counting!) He discarded many shirts I absolutely hate and shirts that fit but just didn't look good. He even kept 2 or 3 that he wasn't thrilled with but I love on him! I now have a nice pile of shirts to cut into rags and he has 2 neat and not filled to the brim drawers! Not too bad for 10 minutes.

Decluttering accomplishments to-date:
  • Linen cupboard
  • Under bathroom sink
  • My sock drawer
  • Husband's t-shirt drawers
  • Kids' rooms
  • Toy/craft closet
  • Family room toy box(sort of cleaned out but there were too many kids around to really get rid of stuff!)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

As my 2nd Freezer Cooking Day draws to a close, I am finished! Here is what I accomplished:
Pancakes 4xs
Bone Broth Soup
2 Roasted Chickens
1 batch of sugar cookies
Vanilla Wafer Cookies 2xs
20 mini hamburger rolls
I never got to the pizza pockets! Oh well. My freezer is packed! Many other people participating in these cooking days seem to have planned on making whole meals or at least part of a meal. At this point, our meals are very simple, so there usually isn't a lot of prep for them besides remembering to take the meat out of the freezer. Plus my boys don't seem to be eating a wide variety of foods lately. I will have to work on that. I do enjoy having homemade baked goodies in the freezer for lunches and having a ton of bone broth on hand is such a time saver. As a full time working outside the home(school year only!), freezer cooking has been helping me stay a bit more sane!

Hannaford Deals 1/31 - 2/6

I feel it is a slow week for great deals at Hannaford this week. Here is what I am definitely making a trip for:

85% Lean Ground Beef - $1.79/lb
Homestyle Roasting Chicken - .59/lb

Price Chopper Deals 1/31-2/6

here are the good deals that I see at Price Chopper this week:

Fresh Blueberries - B1G1F
Fresh Bagels - buy 6 get 6 free
Orville Redenbacher's microwave popcorn - B1G1F
Maxwell House Coffee $4.99 with isave coupon
Hillshire Farms Smoked links - B1G1f
Oscar Meyer Hot Dogs - B1G1F
Skippy Peanut Butter - $2.00
Quaker Life Cereal, Oat Squares, or Mini Delights rice cakes - 2/$5
Capri Sun Fruit Drinks 10 pack - $2
1/2 price Thomas' bagels or mini bagels
Farm Rich Appetizers all varieties - B1G1F

Also in the flyer this week - "Double any colgate coupon"Coupon and 2 "Double any manufacturer's coupon" Coupon

Freezer Cooking - Day 2

Another day to cook. Unfortunately I have no energy at this point. I am hoping I will hit my stride later today. We have lunch at my parents and then I am hoping to get some cooking in after that. Here is my list for today:

Vanilla Wafer cookies 2xs
Pancakes 4xs
Pizza Pockets
Finish up the Bone Broth

My bone broth has been simmering for about 15 hours and as soon as it cools a bit, I am going to strain it. I'll keep some aside for this week and the rest I will freeze. Pancakes are up for our dinner tonight so I can just make a lot of extras and freeze for breakfasts. Vanilla wafer cookies will hopefully get done later this afternoon. I also still have my usual Sunday night chores of getting things ready for the week. I do want to boil up a few eggs for lunches for me and I was hoping to make some fresh juice for Steve. What a busy day! Plus, the downstairs still needs a cleaning and laundry has to be folded and put away. Thank god for Steve who actually does the laundry for all of us!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Freezer Cooking Mid-Point Check in

alright, I am in freezer cooking mode. I have made hamburger rolls and 2 roasted chickens. I have sugar cookies in the oven and big batch of bone broth soup simmering on the stove top. I am going to attempt pancakes and pizza pockets tomorrow. I also got the upstairs of the house cleaned! The kids have been cooperative and have been entertaining themselves until about 20 minutes ago. I guess it is time to go play with some children!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Freezer Cooking

Money Saving Mom and Life As Mom are hosting another Freezer Day(s) January 29th -February 2nd. I have big plans for this weekend. In addition to the usual weekend chores of cleaning and laundry, I will be cooking up a storm. I have never really been as ambitious as Crystal and Jessica but I do have a few food items planned for this weekend. Here is my list:

Hamburger rolls
Pizza Pockets
Vanilla Wafer cookies
Sugar Cookies
2 roasted chickens
Bone broth(made from the roasted chickens)

I am sure I will think of more to add to this list as the weekend progresses. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Price Chopper Deals Week 1/24-1/30

Price Chopper has a lot of good sales on their meat this week. Here is what I think are the best meat deals:

Boneless Bottom Sirloin Steak $1.99/lb
Boneless Chicken Breast $1.99/lb
Boneless Pork Loin $1.99/lb
Cook's Spiral Sliced Ham $1.69/lb
80% lean ground beef $2.49/lb.
Hatfield Traditional ham Steak 2/$5

I am most definitely using my extra grocery money to stock up on some of these deals! Remember join Price Chopper's facebook page and you could also see some exclusive coupons!

Last Week of Eat From the Pantry Challenge

Alright - the last week is here and all I can say is thank god! We went over our $400 a week budget but not by much. I want to try and keep our grocery budget to $500 a month for the next two months. Here is what we will be eating this week:

Choice of cereal, toast or bagels
Boys: Cheese and crackers, PBJ sandwiches, leftovers
Me: salads
Steve Soup and salads
Hamburgers(using my new slider grill!)
london broil
leftovers 2Xs

I am glad that this month is just about over and I am still left with money leftover. Price Chopper has some fab deals on meat and I am going to use some of the leftover money to stock up on that.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Eating From the Pantry Challenge- Week 4 (almost)

It is just about the last week of the Eating From the Pantry Challenge and thank god for that! I am scrambling for lunches and snacks for the boys. I have decided not to buy any more lunch meat and they can't have peanut butter at their school because of the number of kids that have peanut allergies. I do a happy dance anytime I see they are going to buy their lunch at the school. Any ideas would greatly be appreciated! I tried a recipe for homemade graham crackers and not one of my kids would even try them. Tonight we made homemade vanilla wafer cookies. The general consensus was that they were yummy. I also made pizza bites. Basically I used our regular pizza dough recipe, rolled it out in a square, made half a white pizza and half a regular pizza. I then cut it into smaller pieces and rolled them up. I then brushed them with a little olive oil and sprinkled Parmesan cheese on top. I did have some problems rolling them up and pinching the ends to stay closed. They certainly don't look like the frozen kind you can buy but I know exactly what is in them! No one had any complaints eating them at dinner. I also dug out a package of gluten free pizza dough for me. I made a white pizza with a little basil and tomatoes for me. I guess these recipes have been the extent of my creativeness this month (besides the chicken soup). It is really hard to be creative when your kids refuse to eat much. Lately, I feel it is a fight every meal to get them to eat. My middle kid has been especially picky this month. He has gone a few nights not eating anything at all because I refuse to give him a separate meal. He did tell me he would be willing to eat applesauce, cut up apples or french fries! Let's cross our fingers and hope this is a stage!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Here it is, the middle of the third week of Eating From Your Pantry and my pantry is EMPTY! I ran out to the grocery store tonight and got some good deals to restock but I am now officially out of grocery money for the month. I did my shopping at two stores and I was really careful about what I bought. Here is the break down:


Helavua Good cheese 2 @ 2.19
Keebler Club crackers with cheese 2.00
Nabisco yogurt covered pretzels 2.00
Nabisco 100 calorie mini chocolate cookies 2.00 plus the package had an instant !.50 off coupon!
Roasting Chicken 3.37
4 pack Star Kist tuna fish 2.79
8 lb bag oranges 4.99
Total spent including coupon 20.03

Price Chopper
4 packages of Price Chopper brand frozen veggies 1.00 a bag
Gallon of skim milk 2.57
2 boxes Pop secret popcorn 3.19(B1G1F)
Price Chopper brand individual applesauce 1.50
3 london broils - 1.99/lb
2 Dole Salad 3.49 (B1G1F)
2 Wheat breads 3.39 (B1G1F)
2 cans of pears 1.oo each
can pineapple 1.29
4 pack Danactivn yogurt 2.89 (1 off coupon)
5lb bag grapefruit 2.99
bag of pears 2.99
plum tomatoes .99/lb
fiber one yogurt 2.79 (1 off coupon)
18 eggs 1.78
Price Chopper brand french fries 1.99
Total Spent 48.22

Altogether I spent 68.25. Obviously this is lower than my 100 a week goal but if I added all of what I spent the rest of the month the total is: 454.57 a little over my 400/month goal. I really am going to try and make it until the end of the month before I go back to the grocery store. I still have 200 left to restock. Now if I could spend only 450/month all of the other months of the year!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Target Deals

Target has a good deal on Fiber One Bars this week. They are $2.33 a box. Use a .40 coupon off of 1 box found here and they are $1.93. This is a lot less than they normally are. I was able to print out 2 of these .40 off coupons plus I had a $1.00 off 2 boxes coupon, that I can't remember where I got it. I got four boxes for only $7.52.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eat From Your Pantry Week 3 Menu Plan

Alright, the third week! It is starting to be more of a challenge this week but I do have one dinner we didn't eat last week to roll over to this week AND my birthday is Friday so we are having my family over and ordering out(money for this is coming out of our Birthday envelope). I was able to pick up ground beef this past shopping trip and have been able to add some variety to our menu. Each week is starting to look the same to me!

cereal, pancakes, toast or bagel

Same as always!

Roasted Chicken 2xs
Grilled cheese or egg sandwich
My b-day - ordering out!

Rice cakes

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Grocery Shopping

As we enter week three of Eat From the Pantry Challenge, I am definitely feeling the "Challenge" part. I really thought I had more food than I did. We are pretty much out of meat, flour, eggs, milk, butter, etc. I still have a lot in my cupboards for side dishes and breakfasts. I made a few different shopping trips this week in order to take advantage of some good sales.

First up Walmart -
3 bags Birds Eye Steamed frozen vegetables - 1.25 each - used $1.00 off 3 bags coupon
2 pack Colgate toothpaste - $3.00 - used .75 off coupon

Total spent - $5.00

Next was Price Chopper. I wouldn't list EVERYTHING I bought but I did get some good deals. Ground beef was on sale for $1.99 a pound so I bought about 5 pounds. I haven't seen ground beef on sale for awhile and we haven't had red meat in quite sometime. I spent a total of $127.85 but with coupons and sale prices subtract, I spent out of pocket $98.59. Not bad but still with the Walmart run added in, I am 3.59 over budget this week. Steve also ran to the store once for a few supplies I had forgotten and we now have about $75 left for the last week. I think we can make it but the last week will be challenging!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Decluttering- weekend results

I had planned on going through all of the kids' toys and books this weekend. I didn't realize what a big chore it turned out to be! I managed to go through the boys' bedrooms and with their help, decluttered their toys and books. My younger two sons had no problem parting with many toys no one uses, books no one reads, they even cleaned out their "special" drawers. Each boy has a drawer in their nightstands that they like to keep little knick knacks and other things they feel are very special to them. My oldest son didn't part with very much at all. In fact he insisted on keeping his valentine's that he got in kindergarten (he is now in 3rd grade!). Oh well, he must take after me. Anyways, I did get three bags to donate to the daycare, a bag for the salvation army, a bag to toss, and a few things to tuck away in their baby boxes. It definitely took more time than I imagined and what with our regular weekend chores, I never got to the toy box in our family room. I figured I have a whole year for this decluttering plan, so waiting until next weekend is no big deal. So, new plan, next week I will tackle the toy box in the family room and the basement shelves the weekend after that.

Week 2 of the Eating From The Pantry Challenge

Week 2 finds me with a pretty bare refrigerator and empty cabinets. The masses are clambering for food! We made it through the first week with no problems. The second week is another story. Maybe I don't have as much food stored up as I thought. It is definitely going to be a challenge to stay at $400 for groceries this month. I keep trying to think of what I want to spend the extra $250 that I should have leftover from our grocery budget. There are so many things I could spend it on. I think, I will end up spending it stocking up on some good deal next month. I also want to use some of it towards so organic foods, replenish my cleaning supplies(essential oils, Dr Bronner's soaps, etc) as well as some herbs for teas. Here is what we will be eating for Week 2:

pancakes, cereal, toast or bagels

same as last week

Waffles with fruit
Individual Pizzas and salads
Scrambled eggs or eggs and sausage muffin

goldfish, vanilla wafers,cookies, smoothies, fruit

For more menu planning ideas visit I'm an Organizing Junkie here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Grocery Shopping Trip

As we enter the second week of the Eat From Your Pantry Challenge, my freezers, refrigerator and cupboards are quite bare! I went to three places today in hopes of replenishing our foods. As I posted early, I am on a strict diet and I am also trying to avoid foods with red dye 40. It is amazing how many yogurts geared towards kids have red dye 40!!! Any ways, I did pretty good sticking to our $100 a week budget. Because I did really well at Target and Aldi's, I am going to bore you all and give you the break down!
Target Trip
Bought 2 Juicey Juice 8 pack juice boxes for 2.25 each
Bought 2 bottles of Juicey Juice for 2.25 each
Yo-baby yogurt - 2.29
Coupons used -
2 Target coupons - $1 off 2 Juicey Juice
Stacked with 2 MFR coupon - $1 of 2 Juicey Juice
1 $.40 off yo-baby yogurt
Total Spent: 6.89

5 Grapefruits - .39 each
Broccoli - 1.59
2 packages of peppers - 2.59 each
bag of onions .99
Bag of apples $2.39
Bananas .99
Box of Saltines .89
bag of mini marshmallows .69
Bag of baby carrots 1.19
2 bags of salad 1.99 each
Gallon of milk $2.09
2 containers of grape tomatoes 1.99 each
Box of vanilla wafers $1.99
2 dozen eggs $1.17 each
Package of cheese 1.99
can of black olives $1.19

Total: 32.72

I also spent 40.40 at Walmart bringing the week's total to $80.01. Not bad! Best part of my shopping trip - I went with a good friend and had a coffee and adult interaction:) Now off to make cookies with my youngest.

Eating Healthy

I have found a very informative website aimed at helping people eat healthy foods that do not have all of the additives and preservative our society has decided to add to our foods. Check out Nourished Life here. I am taking baby steps to overhaul my family's nutrition and I would love to wean us off foods that contain unhealthy additives and preservatives while keeping our grocery costs down. Currently I am trying to avoid all products with yeast, sugar, dairy(to some degree) and any processed foods. It is difficult to do especially since we are in the middle of our Eating From The Pantry Challenge. I am planning on using our left over grocery money from this month to try and stock up on some healthy alternatives but in the mean time i am trying to do the best I can. This will certainly be a learning process but I truly think our overall health will be most improved from this diet change.

Friday, January 8, 2010


I spent a lot of time over the Christmas break trying to organize different parts of my house. I was able to get the toy closet in good shape, clean out my sock drawer(for some reason this is the drawer I stash things in!), organize my craft closet a bit, clean out the linen closet and under my bathroom sink, and organize the Christmas decorations. I definitely have a ways to go in the decluttering though. I love the idea of getting reid of at least one thing each day for the next year. For more specifics go here. I don't think I will actually get rid on one thing a day but I will try and spend some time in the next few weeks going through different parts of our house and get rid of things we no longer use or need. I hate throwing things away since our landfills are already bursting. I would rather try and find new homes for our things or recycle them if we can.
Seriously though, we have so much stuff it is amazing! Half the stuff we are no using but it is certainly taking up space. I do have to admit I am a bit of a pack rat and have a tendency to not let things go. If I look around our basement, there are boxes and boxes of textbooks left over from my college years. Why do I still need them? Since I haven't done anything with them except move them a zillion times in the last, ahem 16 years, I think it is time to let them go. I plan on helping the kids declutter their rooms and our toybox this weekend. My youngest son's daycare is having a toy drive to help replenish their toys. It would be a perfect place to donate toys no one wants anymore and help declutter our house. Next week I want to try and tackle the basement. We have a few shelves up that are filled and I would like to clean them out and use them to store all of the food I have stocked up on. That is, if we have any extra left after our month of eating from the pantry!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Cleaning Closets

An annual activity that I always feel compelled to complete this time of year is cleaning out closets and storage spaces. I tackled the kids' toy closet last week; today was our linen closet and under our bathroom sink. Would you believe I found 6 deodorants and 8 toothbrushes?! I threw away more expired medicine than I imagined we even had. I found leftover iron pills I ahd to take after my youngest, who is now 4, was born. Wow, apparently I haven't really looked under the sink in awhile!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Menu Plan - Week 1

Alright - here is what we will be eating this week -


toast, cereal, pancakes, or eggs


Soup for Dad
Soup and salads for Mom
Kids- some days the bigger boys are buying, other days I still am trying to come up with ideas. Maybe cheese and crackers, leftover pasta, leftover pizza, grilled cheese, or BP&J.


Ham with scallop potatoes
Individual Pizzas - Mom and Dad - roasted peppers, oldest boy - white pizza, littler boys - regular, salad, carrots, and fruit
Chicken with mash potatoes, veggie and fruit
Pasta with egg and parm. cheese and salad
Leftovers (pasta and chicken)
Kielbasa with rice and veggies
Homemade Waffles


Popsicles (my kids are addicted even in the cold weather!)
Bread and butter

For ideas and menus, check out I'm an Organizing Junkie's website here.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A month of meals

I have been thinking and planning for the Eat From The Pantry Challenge. I think,as I stated before, we will try and spend $100 a week, mostly on perishables, and try and eat the core of our meals from the pantry. I sat down earlier today and tried to plan out a month menu. It really was difficult to figure out what we are doing for the entire month AND plan our meals around our activities. Instead, I decided to take inventory of the main courses we already have in the freezers and list out 27 meals. This way, each week I can pick from this master list. I only have to plan 29 meals because I already planned the 1st and the 2nd's menu, plus we will be getting together with my family 2 times this month to celebrate my sister and my birthdays.
Here is what I found in our freezers:

3 Kielbasas and 9 meals worth of chicken
Wow, not a lot. I really thought I had more meat in the freezers. Maybe there will be a super sale on meat this month! I am planing on adding the following meals to my list:

Pasta 4X
Homemade Pancakes 2X
Homemade Waffles 2X
Homemade Pizza 2X

Now I just have to come up with 6 more meals. I am thinking grilled cheese and soup, maybe ground meat will be on sale one week this month, and eggs for another night. I am trying to come up with lunches for the boys and I am having trouble thinking of things to pack for them. I am trying to stay away from lunch meat because of the additives and preservatives that are in them. I have been packing cheese and crackers and left over pizza for them. I think I could get away with leftover cold pasta for my oldest and a cold grilled cheese for the youngest. Breakfasts are easy - cereal, toast, bagel or pancakes. We have a lot of bread and bagels in the freezer and I have a good stash of cereal. I think that I just need to commit to planning out each week, cook some of the food ahead of time (pancakes, waffles, pizza dough), and making sure we follow through!

Eat From the Pantry

Some blogs are hosting Eat from the Pantry Challenge for this month. Check out Life as Mom here. While I certainly can't avoid the grocery store all month, I decided, with support from hubby, to only spend $100 a week this month for perishables. This way I can certainly use up some of my stockpile but still have fresh healthy foods. I need to sit down and plan out what we are going to eat this month - a month menu! I have been struggling with completing a weekly menu lately so a month will be a challenge. I also am going to try out a few new recipes for snacks for the kids. I have been really exploring the whole food movement and really want to concentrate on avoid a lot of the preservatives and food dyes found in many snack foods. I will be sharing by monthly menu as soon as I can made one up! Meanwile, I still have to pack up all of the holiday decorations, take down the tree(I have been itching to do this since December 26th!), entertain some friends this afternoon, play with my boys and enjoy the last few days until it is back to the grind!