Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Are we really that lazy?

A week or so ago my husband and I hit up the grocery store, fistfuls of coupons and our favorite fabric shopping bags clutched tightly in our hands. We like to have contests of guesstimating how much cash we saved on our purchase.

Yeah, we're cheap. I know.

Now that I'm a blissfully no-longer-nauseous but get that fried chicken away from me or I'll kill you pregnant lady, I'm able to go out and about without hurking up what little food I could get down three hours ago.

We drove into the parking lot where I discovered two reserved parking spots for expectant mothers. "Aw!" I squealed in my hormonal voice. "I think we should park there!"

Too late. K had parked the truck and was halfway out the door, dragging my bloated behind with him. (Ok, so that's not what really happened; I actually tripped out of the truck on my own) We walked by the parking spots, and as I got closer I saw that you have to apply for a parking permit with the store...and prove that you're pregnant. REALLY? Ok, I can understand that they need to be restricted spots, but to prove to the store you're expecting a watermelon in the next 6 months? We also noted something else:

Right next to the pregnant parking spot? A regular parking spot. By 'applying' for a permit, you're saving a whopping 2.5 feet in your trip to the store. Sorry, but I'm not giving out my personal information to a grocery store just so I can park my car a hair closer to the door.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Recipe Review - Chicken n Dumplings

As a new wife and entry-level cook, I'm always on the hunt for inexpensive, yet tasty recipes. On a a message board that I frequent, one of the members posted her version of a chicken and dumplings recipe. It looked too good to be true, but I figured I'd give it a shot. Below is my modified version of her recipe:

1 whole chicken
1 can buttermilk biscuits
Poultry Seasoning
10 garlic cloves
Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
Sale and Pepper

In a large stockpot, toss in garlic cloves, add water, and bring to a boil. Clean whole chicken and remove innards. Season liberally with Poultry Seasoning, TC, and salt and pepper. Put whole bird into the pot and let it boil for 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, remove biscuit dough from can and cut into quarters - smaller pieces if you prefer smaller dumplings. Sprinkle melted butter over the biscuits and let them sit in a cool place while the chicken is still boiling.

Remove the chicken from the pot, de-skin, de-bone, and de-fat meat. Return chopped meat to the pot (in the same water). You may choose to add an extra cup of water if the level looks unusually low; this is not necessary and makes the gravy a bit runny, but still tasty. Bring water back to a boil.

When the pot is boiling, toss in the biscuit pieces and boil for another 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper generously. Remove the pot from heat, let it sit for about 10 minutes, and serve. I served mine with some cream gravy, but on its own it is still tasty.

Total cost for this meal: $6.50. ($4 for the chicken, $1.50 for biscuits, and I'll add an extra buck for seasonings, even though they are a pantry staple for me) We got about 6 servings out of it.

This is a wonderful, easy (albeit a bit time consuming) recipe for all of you wannabe cooks out there. Enjoy! Special thanks to my forum!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hot topic - Marriage and Obesity

Long time, no post.

I'm not in the mood to review, so I'll just post a link to a blog I liked and talk about it.

"New research shows that within a few years of getting married, individuals are twice as likely to become obese than their unmarried partners who are dating."

More here: Does Getting Married Cause Obesity?

I've been married, divorced, and am now remarried. During my first marriage I packed on the pounds willingly, albeit subconsciously. My first husband and I were never meant to be together, from the way I did laundry to the way he held affairs with coworkers. After the split, I ended up losing weight (mostly from depression) and got back into the dating field.

Eventually I met my current husband and we are working on the 'happily ever after' every couple strives to achieve. Have I packed on the pounds again? Actually, not really. After learning of an allergy and a brain growth that stunted any weight loss and correcting it, I shed several pounds before learning I am pregnant. My husband has also avoided layering fat for the winter and has stayed the same waist size.

We both agreed that we refused to gain the weight that some of our friends and family members had done. Even in pregnancy, when my mother in law giggles that I need to 'eat for two', I usually cringe and put down whatever I was eating in fear of gaining 70 pounds (like her) or 80 pounds (like her daughters). My husband, K, smiles at me and reassures me that I am not the size of a bovine, nor do I eat like a chicken. Under careful supervision from my doctor and my own healthy eating plan, I've only gained five pounds for the first trimester, an average gain.

So how did we avoid the massive amounts of weight gain? To start with, K and I both love to cook. We love fresh ingredients and loathe packaged dinners (unless one of us is sick or the coupon was just too good to pass up). K also has a job that keeps him on his feet for up to 10 hours a day, and we both decided to join a gym. A few weeks ago, we walked a 5k together for Alzheimer's awareness. While these past few weeks have been difficult for me because of morning sickness and extreme exhaustion, I've still managed to hang onto some of my normal sized work clothes.

I think people do let themselves 'go' once they get married. I also think this ties in with reduced amounts of sex after marriage. The mentality is "I got the prize, so why do I need to make the effort?" For any married readers who stumble upon this blog, DATE each other. Dump the kids for a night, put on some nice clothes and dust off the cologne bottle, and go on a date.

Just my thoughts.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dog Food Review: Instinct Chicken Meal Formula

After months of frustration with our poor Boston Terrier's hair loss and our Bulldog's incessant licking of his paws, I figured it was time to try a new food. Normally, we've fed Nutro products to our guys, but after a phone call with a groomer, I began to wonder if my dog, like me, was allergic to wheat products as well.
Most responsible pet owners know that corn products in pet food is nothing more than filler and increases the one thing we hate the most - poop. Our guys were pooping three times a day, and in a townhome's backyard, that makes for a lot of poop picking up. No fun for Mr. and Mrs. Judgemental. I adore my dogs and love the joy they bring into my life, but the poop thing..aside from helping me be ready for a human baby, not so much.

So I hit the groomer's shop and picked up a bag of this food:
Intro Nature's Variety Instinct Chicken Meal Formula dry dog food. We gasped a bit at the price (about $50) but the groomer explained that we'd be feeding the boys about 25% less, making the cost even out as the same as our beloved Nutro.
The kibble pieces are small, and for a Bulldog that doesn't chew his food to begin with, made it easier for inhaling. Duke (our Boston) wasn't impressed, but when he learned nothing else was available, he sighed and ate, albeit slowly. I liked the ingredients as well, and since it's difficult to determine whether the dogs would benefit from the food right away, we waited for four weeks to see the results.
Within two weeks, Duke's coat had improved, and Cyrus had stopped shedding as much. However, the poop had nearly doubled (something I was told would actually decrease) and both dogs were listless, depressed, and tired. I chalked it up to the heat, then to the fact we'd hardly been home. We gave it another two weeks. Both dogs' stomachs were miserable, both were depressed, and their coats had returned to their original state. I was discouraged.
After the 5th week, we had to take them off the food. I came home to a poop explosion from one dog and the other dog had a swollen face. The lack of grain in the kibble had simply done their digestion systems in. We later discovered Nutro created a holistic kibble with brown rice.
Bottom line - for the price we paid, I didn't notice enough of a difference in my dogs to continue buying the food. You can check out the website at naturesvariety.com . I did sign up for coupons and newsletters, and to this day I have received not even an email, other than thanking me for signing up. The kibble may work for your dogs, but my two were completely different boys the day after we took them off of this stuff. Definitely not worth the money for us.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Store Review - Planet Ford (Car Dealership)

We are all aware of the hundreds of thousands of recalls that Toyota has been dealing with for the past few months. Unfortunately, I am one of the poor victims that owns a Camry, so you can imagine the letters and phone calls I get daily about bringing it into the dealership to be fixed. However, a few weeks ago, I got a flier from a local Chevrolet dealership stating that they would purchase my poor Camry for 110% of its value, plus give me $2000 in cash to put towards one of their vehicles - new or used. At the time, I really liked the Ford Edge. Our finances being in order and the possibility of lowering my payments teased my senses, so K agreed to take me over to a Ford dealership, armed with my trusty flier. Our main goal was to get the Camry appraised and to test drive the Edge before we decided to buy.

We headed a ways away from our side of town to Randall Reed's Planet Ford Dealership in North Houston. Known for its huge selection of vehicles and apparently good prices, we assumed that we could test drive the Edge, and perhaps even find a used one. Unfortunately, the used Edge's didn't have the features I desired, so the used salesman sent us to the new car area, where we were picked up by an eager yet relaxed salesman. Right away I explained that I wasn't 100% ready to buy a car, but did want to test drive it. He said he understood and that he was willing to help us out. We sent the Camry off for appraisal.

According to http://www.kbb.com/, my Camry is valued at $12,000 trade-in. I understood that the value had diminished from the big recall, but I figured I would get something not too far away from it. Once again, I reminded the sales guy that I still wasn't ready to buy. However, after the test drive, the salesman happened to find the car I wanted - a cinnamon colored Edge with the new SYNC system, a few extra bells and whistles, but no sun roof, as mine has been rattling for the past 3 months and Toyota refuses to fix it.

The offer was about $32,000, and the appraisal came in at $7500. I was so insulted that I immediately shut down and ignored all of the wonderful promises the guy gave me, instead asking K to get us out of here. We immediately declined the offer. As the salesman headed back to his office in an attempt to crunch more numbers, I feel defeated. The car that I've worked so hard to pay down and stay on top of is now making me upside-down on it, all because of this stupid recall.

I've forgotten about the sales guy, who has returned with a new deal - $28,000 with $10K for my car. Nope, I've mentally checked out. I told him that I decided that I don't want new debt and to owe someone even more money and that I'll come back when I have a better grasp on my finances. He protests and K steps in, telling him that what I say goes, and that it's my decision; I deserve to be happy. We ask for his card and he went to the office to get one.

You realize this isn't the end of the story, right? Right!

I looked out at my poor Camry, sitting forlornly in the parking lot while employees milled about, waiting to snatch it up to fix and sell tomorrow. The little car has given me over 50,000 of its miles and just asks for an oil change, basic maintenance, and maybe a paint job for Christmas.

Enter J.R, the sales manager. I know this game, but I'm not prepared for this. The manager is a huge guy, poorly groomed, and proceeds to whine and moan and groan about my decision. He promises me $25,000 for the car, 1.9% financing, and almost $12,000 for my trade. He offers $50 cheaper payments monthly. I'm tempted (well, not really...I just want to get back to my car)...until he makes a comment that I'm stupid for not taking the deal. I immediately shut down and refuse to accept the deal. His voice rises and he scribbles numbers on paper. I shoot back with "Well, I wanted a USED Edge anyway."
"What's the matter with you? I'm giivng you 1.9% on a NEW car! Why would you want a new one?" (People are looking at this point, and I'm pretty sure steam is coming out of my ears.)
I told him "Ever heard of Dave Ramsey? I prefer to follow his teachings, and these numbers are making me panic." He asked why, and when he heard my response, he laughed in my face. I said "If I lost my job tomorrow, I would at least know that I only owe $8000 on my car rather than $25000 on your car."

I also gave my facts about new cars losing value as soon as they leave the lot. He tells me that I have no idea what I'm talking about and I'm wrong, new cars don't lose their value that fast. HELLO...do ya not see what I drove in here??? I bought a $24,000 car that is now worth $7500 and I owe $8500 on it!!! I'm livid and tired of him calling me beligerant and berating me. K has to grab my arm and steer me out of the dealership, all while the manager is cursing up a storm about not know what my problem is and how stupid I am.

We get in the car; I'm so irate I can't drive. I proceed to hug my little car and promise to drive another 100,000 miles before I consider getting rid of it. I ended up writing a letter to the managing partner and sales director of the dealership, plus I'm sending a letter to Ford headquarters for their lack of customer service. I said that I felt discriminated because I am a young woman, and was treated very poorly.

Overall, I highly advise you readers to avoid Planet Ford. They do business unethically and will do whatever it takes to put you in their car, even if it means insulting your character. We are to the point of desperation in this economy that test-driving a car is no longer an option - you have to buy it. How do we know what car we want if we aren't able to try it out? A friend of mine called up to the dealership earlier today and asked for a quick quote; when they demanded she come in and she declined, she was treated so poorly that she recorded the conversation on tape and sent it off to headquarters.

My email to the sales director and GM of Planet Ford was met with profuse apologies, but it's not their fault my car is worthless. Gee....thanks.