Thursday, November 12, 2015

Male Planning, not Meal Planning

Even now that I am staying home, my husband fixes a lot of meals because he enjoys cooking, and the baby always wants to eat and eat and eat just when dinner should be fixed. Since she sort of needs to be attached to me to eat, it complicates that whole being over a stove and using sharp objects thing. I, however, am left in charge of meal planning and food buying. With a three-month-old and intense graduate work, this task is a bit more challenging. With a picky husband, this task used to be difficult.

Here are some of my food shopping tricks:
1. Use Amazon Pantry (just bulk stuff, or things not offered on Peapod)--when baby naps, I try to accomplish grad work, not go grocery shopping. I do not fear grocery shopping with an infant; it's just annoying and cumbersome. Plus, I hate food shopping anyway. Food shopping online while posting in online discussion forums for grad class works out pretty well. It all comes in one big box, so it's probably better to use this method for bulk items.

2. Use Peapod (food delivery service through Giant)--delivery fees aren't too steep; they actually do a great job (at least in our area) of choosing good produce; they frequently send promo coupons in the mail.

3. Feed the baby. While she naps, take a quick trip to the grocery store for meat/specialty items. If the baby is cluster feeding at this time, I just wait until the weekends and make my husband go, or we go as a family. (Now that she's three-months-old, her time between each feeding has grown a bit.)

Here is my new meal planning method:
 1. List items in pantry. Our family cannot be the only one that has a ton of stuff in the pantry that goes unused for months at a time. So, I made a list of items in our pantry, fridge, and freezer.

2. Once I had a list of what actually existed in our cabinets/fridge/freezer, I came up with a list of meals that could be made with just these things and possibly a few additions. I did not write down recipes. I just wrote down ingredients. My husband chooses his own adventure while cooking anyway, so recipes are nearly useless with him in front of the stove.

3. Once I had a list of 7 meals (at least one in a crockpot), I made a trip to the store or ordered food through Peapod. We make the meals with the ingredients that will spoil the quickest.

How is this method different?
Not forcing ourselves to fix a particular meal on a particular day gives us the flexibility we need as a family.

With this method, I always have at least one "easy" meal on hand (ex: Applegate hot dogs, broccoli, and mac and cheese), one crockpot meal, and enough leftovers to make lunch the next day. (I can't make a new lunch for myself because there is not enough time between naps to make myself something new and tend to other household chores/graduate work.)

Also, I created my own meal plan template based on my needs. Here's what a completed meal plan looks like:

By the way, we have been using this method for the past month, and it has been the only method that has worked for an extended period of time!

If you want access to the PDF file, then go here.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Stitch Fix Redeemed Themselves

After I had Vincenza, my style had to shift. First of all, I wore a lot of fitted tees before she was born, but nursing her and general discomfort mean that I really want nothing to do with shirts that cling to me. Second of all, I won't be going into the classroom every day, so my style has to go a little more casual. It seems silly to wear wedges and work pants while I try to do the laundry, try to eat breakfast, or take a long walk while wearing her in the Ergo. I am nothing if not sensible. 

I think everyone is pretty much familiar with Stitch Fix, but if you're not, here's the low down: a stylist (mine have never been the same for the past 8) chooses 5 items for you based on the style profile that you fill out. You pay a non-refundable $20 styling fee, but if you choose to keep something, that $20 goes toward that item. They send you a pre-labeled bag to return anything you do not wish to keep; this part is not an extra fee for you. Once you mail back the bag of items (must be within three days!), complete the checkout process, where you provide feedback on each item. Schedule a "fix" as often as you want. Be mindful that most items are not under $50, so if you don't want to pay $44 for a t-shirt, request not to receive them in any fixes. If you want to give your girl here some kickback and you haven't signed up yet, use my referral link here (or not). 

When I explained this style shift to Stitch Fix, they sent me two boxes filled with so many things I hated/couldn't nurse in/felt too dressy for my current lifestyle. The only "dressy" thing they gave me in this fix was an actual dress that miraculously works for nursing, and the stylist gave me a great idea for styling it casually. Good job, Melissa. Melissa saved you, Stitch Fix, because I was really going to stop receiving them completely. (Now, I'll just get them every now and again since I have to start tutoring to earn some extra cash.) 

If you are completely dissatisfied with Stitch Fix's performance, TELL THEM. They really listened to me when I sent them an e-mail that told them they did not look at my Pinterest board (clearly), read all of the reviews of the items they send to me (those dang things take precious time when you have a kid), or listen to my feedback at all. They really listened this time. 

Also, like the e-mail response said to me, most of their stuff is at least $50. Therefore, I specified in my stylist note that I did NOT want t-shirts because I would never spend $48 on a t-shirt. I asked for things I knew would be worth extra money (a good bag, a good coat, and sweaters). I feel that telling them what I did NOT want ended up being just as important as telling them what I DID want.

Anyway, on to the review of the pieces:

Item One: Livi Dress by Papermoon ($58)
Thoughts: The stylist suggested pairing it with a vest and boots. I loved how that turned out. The colors are navy and off-white, which means it will go with a plethora of other colors. It's long enough, and it will work well with tights in the winter. It actually pulls down enough for me to nurse the babe. It looks way better belted. It looks sort of like a sack when it's not belted. 
Here it is styled another way. I might wear this to my internship. (I am not returning to teaching right now, but I am finishing my graduate degree in Educational Technology, which means I go into a school at least once a month.)

 Item Two: Anchorage Solid Canvas Tote by Street Level ($58)
Thoughts: My laptop fits in the middle zipper pouch, which I think is just amazing because it still has two large side compartments. It would work really well as a smaller diaper bag, which is what I asked the stylist to give me. I also specified that I wanted a neutral bag. This one is exactly what I have been looking for for months and months.

Item Three: Chaplin Lined Hooded Anorak Jacket by Market & Spruce ($94)
Thoughts: I have been hunting for this jacket in a fall thickness for at least a year. With the 25% off for keeping all of the items, I felt that the jacket was a reasonable price, especially since I loved the length, the red zipper, the hood (key component for me), and the general fit. I wear my winter version a LOT, so I think this one will be a great transition coat. I told my stylist I did not want a pea coat (have enough of those and too dressy for where I'm taking my overall style these days). 
(Also, these black flats are Simply Vera from Kohl's--I LOVE THEM.)

 Item Four: Cobar Fleece Lined Jacket by California Moonrise ($78)
Thoughts: I did NOT love the price. It made me choke a bit, but it was more cost effective to keep everything than keep just the bag and coat (my original "yes" pieces). It's so soft. I am actually lounging in it right now. Like my mom said, Vincenza will love cuddling into it. I wish the fleece lining was inside the sleeves, but it's still really warm. They call it a jacket, which I don't think it is. The stylist suggested pairing it with a dress, which I have not tried, but that's a good idea. Forgive my swinging, disappearing arm.

Item FiveKillian Cowl Neck Sweater by RD Style ($68)
Thoughts: This sweater is SO soft. I love the neutral color. (I would loooove it in white, too.) It is actually long enough to wear with leggings because it completely covers the bum. I told my stylist that I wanted sweaters but to avoid wool (allergic). 

I paired the sweater and the coat. I have to say that I am a big fan of how it turned out. Husband, take me on a hayride. I look perfect for the occasion. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Orange, Black, and Headless

No, this post is not a Halloween tale. However, after a two-month hiatus, I am sure my presence is a tad scary. Babies have this innate ability to soak up every spare moment (and not-so-spare moment) you have, so all of my actual spare moments in the past almost-three months have involved reading for graduate class. Of course, I should be reading for graduate class right now, but momma needs a break...even if our professor did assign us 100 pages of reading this week. 

Plus, my words might actually make sense today since Vincenza slept for her longest stretch yet, 9.5 hours, and she's been out for another three so far this morning. It feels like a gust of fresh air because girlfriend fought all but two hours of sleep yesterday and slept for four hours the night before. (In case you were wondering, I cannot just slip an almost-three-month old some coffee when she does not sleep. In fact, when I drank caffeinated tea a week after she was born, she pinged off the walls for all of forever.)

Anyway, I do actually get dressed most days. Sometimes, I eat breakfast. Sometimes, I brush my teeth. Sometimes, I take a shower. Sometimes, I miraculously do all of these things. So far, today, I have eaten breakfast, ordered an external hard drive for backing up my thousands of pictures, canceled an Amazon order of size 1 diapers (someone blew out of her size 1 diapers and right into size 2 this morning), and let the dogs outside to forage for squirrels (unsuccessful venture). Some day, I will give you some of my tips for dressing as a new mom, particularly one who is nursing a messy eater. For now, I will show you my headless outfit, which unintentionally, belatedly celebrates Halloween.

As it turns out, Vincenza's room is perfect for taking pictures. Since she does not yet sleep in there, I might as well make good use of the pretty accent wall and superb lighting.

The Outfit:
Shirt: Old Navy (recent, super clearance--exact for $8)
Pants: Old Navy (recent, super clearance--exact, more size options in black)
Flats: Aerosoles (last year--possibly the same ones here)