Monday, March 29, 2010

That was... interesting

Over the weekend, I bought a new cookbook on our friend Mandy's recommendation. It's called Deceptively Delicious, by Jessica Seinfeld (Yes, Jerry's wife). She takes pretty basic recipes - things that 5 year olds and my husband would like - and sneaks in pureed veggies. That way you get a serving of vegetables and all their nutritional goodness without having to taste them.

Too good to be true?


Today was day one experimenting with the cookbook. I was short on time so I went for the tuna salad sandwiches. I thought the prep time was pretty low. You steam cauliflower for 8-10 minutes and then puree it. I found it was easier in my food processor rather than the blender, but that could just be that I have a crap blender.

Then it's pretty much just like normal tuna salad - light chunk tuna in water, chopped up celery, a little light mayo, the pureed cauliflower, and a bunch of spices. Stuff it in a whole wheat pita and presto! Dinner.

I liked that it was quick and easily portable. Made it a good dinner to take to work. I was a little nervous when I went to eat it because I thought the cauliflower smell was strong, but I couldn't detect the taste of it and I was trying.

Hans ate it and said it was "good" but "not his favorite." At least I got him to eat some veggies.

I'm looking forward to trying the spinach brownie recipe. I've heard good things about that one. I've also heard that to cut down on prep time I can use baby food instead of pureeing fresh vegetables. We shall see.

Later this week I'm trying tofu with spinach... shhhh, don't tell Hans...

April's goal

This is going to be tough.

Hans and I have some big things coming up, so we want to see just how tightly we can pull in the strings on our budget. We've been keeping ourselves to eating out just once a week and that's been going pretty well. We've decided that for all of April, we will not eat out at all. That means no Jamba Juice breakfast on Saturday (sad face for Erika) and no stops at McDonalds for Dollar Menu drinks and burgers (sad face for Hans).

We did say that there would be one exception - we get to eat out once when we're in San Antonio for our monthly temple trip. That's kind of our special date ritual so that gets to stand. But that's the only one!

I think we'll be able to save a lot of money. I went to the grocery store today and got us the first week's worth of groceries. It was only slightly higher than our normal bill (taking into account our one night out dinner).

I'll let you know how it goes - wish us luck!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Someone has a new bed

Glad those weren't clean.

Guess dirty laundry looked comfortable?

The Reading List

I just finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. I actually started it a while ago, but had a hard time getting into it. I picked it back up this past weekend and it all of a sudden got good!

It's really interested because it's told from the point of view of a teenager with autism. He sees things very differently than you or I might and his perspective is fascinating. He's incredibly brilliant, but has a hard time with social aspects of life - white lies, jokes, facial expressions, physical contact, things of that nature.

He's trying to understand why the dog that lives across the street was murdered. What he ends up discovering is a horrible family secret that he's not ready to deal with.

What I liked best about the book is that you have to kind of piece it together. He presents certain events and facts, but because he doesn't understand some things, it's up to you to figure out what's really going on.

I'd definitely recommend it to a friend - it's a good, emotional read and a fascinating look into the life of an autistic teenager.

And I'm taking suggestions for a new book! Everyone keeps telling me Eat, Pray, Love is awesome, so I might try that. I'd really like a good biography of Emma Smith, but it's difficult to figure out which ones are "good." Any recommendations?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Spring cleaning commences

I'm pretty sure that spring cleaning will take us well into summer.

Our move into our apartment mostly consisted of everything from Hans' old apartment being dumped off at the new apartment, and all of my stuff from the Yellow House being dumped off at the apartment, during the week of our wedding. We had other things on our mind.

We didn't finally finish putting boxes away until we had to, when Liz moved in in December. It wasn't until last week that we finished selling off some of the crap taking up space (a futon, a couch, and several items from our wedding).

Now that we've finally figured out what's staying and what's going, we're tackling organization. It's amazing how much little things can do.

One of the only things we don't love about our apartment is that there is no pantry. Lots of kitchen cabinets and plenty of storage, but no pantry. And it's really hard to put food in those deep cabinets. Stuff disappears into the back and we never see it again. We realized recently that we had three bags of corn meal because I could never find it, so I'd just buy a new one each time I needed it.

Last week, Hans decided to tackle organizing our food cabinets. We bought these amazing OXO Pop storage containers that seal your food in and are really thick and sturdy. We used 20 percent off coupons to get some from Bed Bath and Beyond and then we were lucky enough to find some discontinued sizes at the Marshalls Home Goods Store in the Woodlands. Wish we had one of those in Austin. I've also seen the OXO pop containers at Target and The Container Store, but they're pretty much the same price everywhere.

Check out how much more space we have now, just by getting rid of all the bags and boxes! Not only do we have more space, but we can actually find things now. And we don't have spilled sugar and flour dusting the shelves. I love it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Finally.... a topiary!

I started this project well over a month ago and finally finished it last week. While it did actually take longer than I expected, it drug on forever because I only did a little here and there. But it was pretty easy and I love how it looks.

I found the tutorial here.

You need:
- A flower pot (mine was maybe $3 at Marshalls)
- A stick (Hans cut it off a tree outside)
- Floral foam (not quite as crumbly as styrofoam, but that would probably work too)
- Floral foam ball
- Faux box wood stems (Hobby Lobby, I needed 3)
- Hot glue
- fake moss

It's pretty intuitive. Stick the square foam in the pot for the base. Wedge the ends of the stick into the foam ball and the foam in the pot. I hot-glued both for extra staying power. Then you cut off little chunks of the boxwood plant. Put hot glue on the ends and slide them into the ball. I found it easiest to work in a spiral, from the bottom of the plant (where the stick goes in) around to the top. I also discovered, a little late in the game, that you need to pack them pretty close together so you don't get bald spots.

Then you finish it off with moss covering the foam in the pots and you're done! Ours is in the living room on the shelf above the couch and I think it adds a nice little pop of color and greenery to our otherwise neutral living room.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Whelp, I finally did it. I chopped off all my hair.

And no, I'm playing. Chopped. All.

Friday Hans went with me to Avant Salon where they cut of 12 inches of my hair. We packaged it up and sent it off to Locks of Love. For those of you who have never heard of them, they make wigs for cancer patients to use during and after chemotherapy. I think it's a really neat organization and this is my third time donating to them.

It's a bit shorter than I wanted. I was hoping it'd still be long enough for a ponytail, but once she started adding layers it was apparent that was out of the question.

I've gotten a lot of compliments, which makes me feel a little better about it because I'm not digging it to much yet. I feel like it's poofy. And I miss how long and soft my hair was. But it's just hair... and it grows back... right?

Last week-

This week -

cut, cut cut....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kaeng Raeng adventure

Today is Day One of my Kaeng Raeng adventure.

You may remember that I mentioned Kaeng Raeng a few weeks ago. It's a body cleanse and detox program that I ordered offline. My friend Lindsay started the company and I wanted to try it out. I figure, she looks amazing, so it must work. Oliver decided to try it before me and that was a whole big mess.

So I don't get to do the whole three days of the program because Bad Puppy ate one of the days' worth. Instead, I'll do two days of drinking Kaeng Raeng's real fruit, gluten free, vegan diet shakes, one for each meal. What I like about the program is that it's not a total liquid diet - I get to supplement the shakes with raw fruits and veggies. That means the little cooler right next to me is current stocked with celery, carrots, and nectarines.

I started the day with a Reunn, a strawberry raspberry pineapple flavor. Lindsay's website lists different recipes for preparing the shakes - I stuck mine in a blender with ice, strawberries, and lemonade.

My first impression was that it tasted pretty good! It was slightly watery, but didn't taste gritty. And one packet makes a huge serving! It took me a good half hour to finish off the batch and actually, I cheated and left half a glass.

It felt surprisingly filling. I was able to do a short workout without feeling lack of energy.

However, by the time I got to work at 4, I was starving. I mean, ready-to-eat-cardboard starving. I nibbled on carrots and celery, but that didn't satisfy me. I felt.... sloshy (for lack of a better word) inside, from having just liquids in there. I started fantasizing about food - mmmm... Chick-fil-a, P.F. Changs, Chipotle, even fried corn from Dirty Martin's (haven't fantasized about that one in a while!)

While I tried to coax Hans to bring me a burrito, he convinced me that I really want to go through with this. Cursing him, I started in on shake number 2 - Mango Peace Pineapple blended with orange juice. Surprisingly, I'm only halfway done with it and feel full.

I don't know how people do this for six days. I'll be lucky if I have the willpower to go two (i'm such a wimp!) But I know that I do feel good - healthy - and I feel like my stomach doesn't seem bloated the way it sometimes does after I eat.

Wish me luck with the rest of my adventure and I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Allstate nightmare over!

We seem to have many bits of good news lately! It makes me happy to type that. We are very blessed.

Today's good news comes in the form of closure - three and a half months after my car accident, the claim with AllState has finally been closed!

For those of you that remember, I first had one of the most deceitful and rude customer service reps that I've ever had the misfortune of encountering. I seriously think the guy should be fired. After one too many bald-faced lies, we refused to work with him anymore and would only speak with his boss. She was much more reasonable and we were able to negotiate with her until we finally feel that we received what we were due.

The funny ending to the story is that last week when we received the check, it was made out to "John Sweeting." Umm... seriously, can you guys not do anything right? Sure, our account lists John Carney, Karin Carney, Hans Sweeting, and Erika Sweeting, so at least they didn't pull names out of thin air. But combining two names together? Truly brilliant, and not at all surprising.

After being alerted to their stupidity, they canceled that check and issues a correct one to Hans and I. We deposited it in the bank and now that it has cleared, we can celebrate!

Even though we're happy that the experience ended without having to go to mediation, it did leave a bad taste in our mouths. Even though Hans' family has been with the same agent for over 20 years, we are starting to look into other insurance companies. And if you're shopping around, beware of AllState!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Credit cards, be gone!

Without burying the lead, our little family had a big milestone this week: We paid off all our credit cards!
Hans has always had one credit card that he used for tuition, textbooks, and other incidentals. Until this past year, I've never had a credit card. I opened one "for incidentals" and ended up putting more on it than I wanted. Yuck. We also had a Best Buy credit card for our pretty washer and dryer, and a Roomstore credit card for our couch. It was nothing over the top, but I hated worrying about which payment was due when and having to pay interest. It just felt like something hanging over our heads.

Thanks to Uncle Sam, we received a slightly larger-than-expected tax return. We debated what to do with it - put it toward my car payments, save it for a house.  We decided we'd be best off getting rid of our credit cards. So we paid of each of them this weekend and cut up the cards! No more credit cards! Yay!

We're not totally out of debt yet. Hans' parents helped us out by putting some of our honeymoon expenses on one of their interest-free credit cards. We hope to have that paid off by this summer and we'll be debt free! (I'm not counting student loan debt and our car loan - I consider those "good" debt, unlike "bad" credit card debt). We've already set up a savings account and started saving for a house. It's really exciting and I can't wait til we have a place of our own!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Called to serve!

Big news for the Gudmundsen family today!

Last night at 11:30 p.m. MST Austin John Gudmundsen received a call to serve a two year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in.....


He will report to the MTC on June 16th. He's shocked, but so excited to learn the language and get to know the Thai people. We are so incredibly proud of him and know that he is going to be a wonderful missionary!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Yup. That's a bad puppy.

Yesterday afternoon, I headed over to our apartment's fitness center to run on the elliptical for 45 minutes. When I came home, Oliver bolted toward the laundry room (where he gets banished when he's been bad) and I knew he'd done something to feel guilty over.

Last week, I ordered one of those detox programs online. It's actually a company created and run by a high school friend, Lindsay Reinsmith. It comes in a powder form and you mix it with juice or water or yogurt. I had left it in its box on the dining room table. I bet you can see where this is going.

Oliver managed to find his way onto the table, rip through the box and eat three packets of diet powder. In the process, he spilled powder all over the dining room floor, and then tracked it into the living room. Oh ya, we have white carpet. And Oh ya, the powder was blueberry flavored.

I came home to find a half dozen very large, very vibrantly purple spots on my carpet. And he must have licked it, because it was ground in good. I vacuumed. I sprayed Shout Spray and Wash. I used our little steam cleaner. I got some out, but not much. "Oh my gosh. We're going to have to re-carpet two rooms."

Fortunately, Middle Little Brother has some experience with messy puppies and recommended that we rent a Rug Doctor. Hans got one and we were able to get most of the stains out (plus the additional stains that we came this morning, when misbehaving puppy was sick all over the carpet - that's what you get for eating three packs of diuretics. Jerk).

The only funny part? Other Puppy is actually very well behaved. When I came into the house, he was curled on the couch in the exact same spot I had left him. He shot Oliver a look that said "OooOOoohh, you're gonna get it now!" and shot me a look that said "I've had no part in this." Oliver was covered head to tail in purple powder. It seemed like Hudson quite deliberately stretched his head, neck and back in front of me to show that his shiny coat didn't have a speck of powder on it. It seemed so human and thoughtful, his looks and actions conveyed so clearly that he wanted no part in any trouble.

I'm still not looking at Oliver. I don't want him anywhere near me. And he's still banished to the laundry room when I'm home. Anyone want a free puppy?

Pretty, pretty

As a photographer, one of my favorite things to shoot is bridal portraits. But it turns out that when it's my turn on the other side of the lens, I'm not so fond of them. So I never did them! But with our wedding day being such a rush and so crazy, we didn't have much time for photos of the two of us. We had a few, but not the volumes that some couples have. This past weekend, my dear friend Laura Jenkins (who I used to work with at Ron Parks Photography) met us at Old Settlers Park in Round Rock to do some "groomals." We had SO much fun with her and I'm blown away by how fantastic her work turned out. Here's the teasers she added to her blog. More to come!