Friday, October 29, 2010

October 24 - I did a bad, bad thing

On October 5th, I did my September tally of shoes, and typed I had bought 16 pairs of shoes this year, more than many of my friend own in total. I was thinking about this, and reviewing my purchases, wondering what I might do differently. Were there any purchases I regret making?

I hate the rain boots, but that was a good purchase for that specific time.

I really did not need the gold strappy sandals, but they are cool and I don't regret buying them. They'll never go out of style.

I regret purchasing the ballet flats and flip flops when it turns out they were marked down the very next day - if I had bought at $25 and $12, I wouldn't have any regrets whatsoever (even if the flip flops are crippling me). The extra $23 spent bugs me, but not the shoes themselves.

I kind of regret the platinum wedges, since I really wanted gold sandals and I convinced myself they were gold when they really aren't.

I've worn, and thus written about, 14 of them, with still 2 to go (they are both suede, so waiting suitable weather and occasion - stay tuned, they are teed up for sometime in the next two weeks, I think).

So then I started wondering if there were any shoes I wish I had purchased. Any regrets for shoes eyed, but not bought? And only one popped to mind - the nude peep toe slingbacks.

And so, when I found myself in the Talbots outlet, presented with an opportunity, I must now confess my 17th purchase this year:
What: Size 8.5 nude lizard print peep toe slingbacks with 3.25 inch heel
From: Talbots (outlet)
Purchased: October 2010
Cost: $16

Dude, they were $16! And I regretted not buying them! I could not pass them by. Even though 8.5 is a little big on these, but I can tighten the back. I likely won't have a chance to wear them in 2010, so had to confess my purchase here. If I want to stop purchasing (which I must clarify is not actually something I really want to stop doing, I mostly just feel slightly greedy and wasteful with so many pairs of shoes), I need to stay out of the stores.

Bottom line for these: a total keeper, have to think of ways to wear them next spring/summer

The real bottom line: I'm going to buy more than 20 pairs this year. I want a pair of tall black boots, and I am desperately craving a pair of gray booties, though I am really trying to talk myself out of them. It feels....excessive. That's what I feel when I think about my shoes. I love the vast majority of them, and am glad I own them, but my shoe collection feels excessive.

And, it's difficult to count with all my posts, but I do believe this is the 100th pair of shoes I've written about. Which means I have another 70 or so to go, but I have to say, I don't feel like I have 70 more shoes to be worn. I feel like there is 20, maybe 25, remaining, but what that really means is I am holding onto shoes I never wear and will likely never wear and I MUST get rid of them. I'm looking at you, (most of the) top shelf of my closet and rack in Elizabeth's room.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

shirt decluttering

So as I've written about in shoes, I tend to hold onto things forever, stacking new things on top of old until I've created a future archeological dig. Hmm, though I cannot find where I wrote that in the past.

Anyway, after acquiring a couple of new t-shirts, my t-shirt drawer was in danger of exploding, so I went through it the other day. I moved a stack of shirts into deep storage (yes, i should have gotten rid of them, but I wasn't ready. They joined another stack of shirts that are just a hair too small in my way back closet).

But then, I actually did put 4 shirts into the discard pile! This is a bag of Rich's stuff that has been cluttering up the bottom of our closet for months. Possibly a year. We need to do a big drop off, including of stuff in our basement, and when that happens, guess what, I'm double counting that as one extra item because of the effort involved).

That re-orange shirt is killing me because it fits, it's just a little worn. I only wore it one season, but it's started pill-ing and the fabric looks blech. I have to hold on and keep it in the discard pile!

And then I threw out two things - one quite nice cable knit cotton sweater from Talbots that I really like but that developed a huge rip in the collar. Poor quality, Talbots! And then this shirt that I got two summers ago from the Gap for $17. Love the color and fit and wore it all the time, and mysteriously out of he blue it developed holes in front and back. Now that's poor quality.

It actually developed holes the first summer, but I held onto it wondering if I could salvage as I loved it, but it's never going to get better. Time to get rid of it.

Total items gone: 6

October 23 - red loafers

What: Size 7.5 red-tan hush puppies
From: Hush Puppies (hechts)
Purchased: 1996 or 97
Cost: $32

Another from the old shoe files. These have been hanging in Elizabeth's room since 2003 without being worn once. You know that adage if you haven't worn something in a year, throw it out? I pretty much bust that wide open.

I used to wear these a fair amount, but...I don't know. Just sort of outgrew them? (In terms of maturing my wardrobe, I mean.) They are also a wee bit pinch-y. But I got a ton of compliments on Saturday, and one very preppy woman even asked if they were Hush Puppies. I think after all these years they've moved into vintage territory, so I can't get rid of them!

Bottom line: keeper, though they will probably never get much wear. I'll move them into archival storage and bust them out on special occasions.

Week 3 - Fri-no sat-no Sunday pork

Oops, no picture from Sunday's Balsamic-Glazed Pork With Lentils. I did end up shopping on Friday and picked up all the ingredients, but a friend called and suggested dinner out so we shelved this recipe. Saturday we were feeling blah and in the mood for pizza, so we finally got around to this on Sunday night.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Super easy and quick. We cook pork tenderloin a fair amount, and have never browned it - just roasted. Not sure it's worth the effort to brown when you can just slide it in the oven, but I think it may have given more flavor.

This was another low carb recipe, and well, we like carbs. So we used our of our favorite yellow rice mixes. (the Real Simple blogger wanted a carb side, too).

Did it taste good?

Kid friendly?
They liked it. I was skeptical about the lentils, and almost prepared a green vegetable side dish, but they both ate a few bites of lentils.

Would we make it again?
Not super wild about the lentil dish. It makes a ton, which I guess makes sense if there is no other side dish. But they're not that flavorful - I didn't think it was a good flavor match for the pork. But otherwise it was a good variation on a standard meal.

So that catches us up to Week 4. And here's where it all really, really fell apart. We had friends over Sunday afternoon so I did not go to the grocery store. And on Monday, looking at our overstuffed fridge, I just said the hell with it and decided on leftovers. Tuesday was Rich's birthday, and we went out for dinner at a family style Italian restaurant, which left us with 5 pounds of leftover pasta in ragu. So last night we had more leftovers. And there's still more in the fridge, so last night I said to Rich, let's just skip this week, and restart up next week. He was happy to hear it.

I thought, with each recipe making 4 servings, I'd eat one, E&A would split one, Rich would eat one plus the rest of E&A's portion, and Rich would take the 4th serving for lunch the next day, but it's not entirely worked that way. So with a ton of fesitivities planned around Halloween, a fridge that is still full, and general blah, we're taking a week off.

I was simply not made for rigid plans. But check back in next week, as a couple of the recipes look like real winners. And after the orgy of excess this Halloween promises (7 events in 4 days!), a week of simple, healthy, wholesome food will be perfect.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Week 3 - Thursday strata

Last Thursday's meal was Mushroom and Herb Strata. This was the longest prep time recipe out of all 20, but with a little prep work it worked fine for a weeknight dinner.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
It was. A fair amount of prep, but pretty easy to make.

I decided to use egg substitute for 4 of the 6 eggs, to cut down on fat and cholesterol. Also used 1% milk. I thought those changes allowed me to use a little extra cheese! If I were to make it again, I'd cut the bread into cubes in advance and let it dry a little beforehand as they didn't really retain their shape - I felt like I was making dressing not a strata. Also, even though it's called mushroom and herb strata, the only herb is parsley! I'd add more - oregano, thyme, something, anything, to make it a little more herb-y. I always thought when you made stratas you were supposed to pour the egg mix in and let them sit overnight (and make for breakfast) or the whole day (for dinner), to let the flavors meld but maybe you don't have to.

Kid friendly?
hahahahaha. Oh, were you serious? They wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole. Elizabeth did, under duress, try one "no thank you bite" (take one bite and if you don't like it you can say no thank you). And promptly gagged. So they ate leftover tortelloni.

Did it taste good?
It did. A little bland.

Would we make it again?
It was pretty good. With a salad and a glass of white wine it felt like a sophisticated dinner. I wanted it to be a little more something, I'm not sure what. I think it might actually be a good side dish, perhaps? I don't know. Rich liked it. I just didn't like it as much as the Real Simple blogger did. I'd make it again but not as part of a regular meal rotation.

Week 3 - Wednesday ground beef

Whew, catching up on my food challenge! Last Wednesday's dinner was Asian Beef and Mango Salad. A huge hit, for a lot of reasons. For me, I have tended to think of ground beef as something you buy to mix with those awful hamburger helpers, or use in spaghetti sauce or something else you just mix it into, or turn into hamburgers or meatloaf, but not as something that could stand alone. This recipe was an eye opener.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
super easy - not more than 15 minutes to make.

E&A love mango, as do I, so I bought two. Wish I had bought three. Also, kids tend to not like salad and my kids are no exception. So I decided to use the lettuce as wraps. It kind of worked, they ate a few bites of lettuce.

Did it taste good?
Delish. Loved it.

Kid friendly?
They loved it. Well, in truth, they loved the mango. Andrew liked hiding the mango seed under his bottom in his chair (something he often does when eating), then inquiring, "where mang-go?" Get it? Not where mango go, but where mang go? We crack ourselves up in this house.

Would we make it again?
Definitely. So far this may be the winner recipe of this entire challenge.

October 22 - brown sandal discard

What: Size 7.5 dark brown 2.5 inch heel sandals with decorative buckle
From: Aerosoles
Purchased: early 00s
Cost: $18

I have had these photographed since June. They are a hair (ok, more than a hair) too tight, but I really like them. I don't want to give them up, but after several months of them sitting on the floor of my bedroom and me trying them on repeatedly, it's time to admit they have to go. Sigh.

October 21 - what to do about these?

So, yikes, I got all caught up and then bam, a few days slip by and then it's a week and I have to figure out what I wore, what I am going to discard, what needs more pics, what comes next.

Until this challenge, I never realized how many pairs of shoes I owned that were the same shoe in different colors. Black and pink. Seafoam and black (haven't worn the black in this challenge yet). Bronze, silver, and blue. Brown and black espadrilles (and I even have replacement pairs for both of those stashed away!). And I there are more I can't even remember.

So I was cleaning out my closet last week and found these (duplicates to these):
What: Size 8, square toe, 2.5 inch tan/brown heels
From: Nine West (hecht's, I think)
Purchased: mid-90s
Cost: $25

There is obviously a problem with these. THEY ARE TWO DIFFERENT COLORS! When I first got them, the color difference was subtle. I surmised one pair had been on display and faded a bit. I used to wear them all the time, but would often ask my (female, style-conscious) colleagues if they noticed a difference and was always assured they did not. Now, it's a different story. I liked these shoes, but acquired other brown shoes I liked better, and these have been shoved in the back of my closet for years. The color differential has become extreme. I am torn. Would it polish out? Is it worth it? Should I just get rid of them? I have several pairs of brown shoes that fit this niche that I like much better.

I think I should trash them - I think in a donation pile no one would realize they are a match! Help me out here, what would you do?

Bottom line: awaiting input - leaning towards trashing

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October 20 - purple lizard slingbacks

What: size 7.5, pointy toe lizard print purple slingbacks with a 2.5 inch kitten heel
From: Ann Taylor
Purchased: mid 90s
Cost: $30

I called the black croc pumps the shoes that started it all, but really they are the Shoes That Started The Blog. These really may be the Shoes That Started It All. I've had them forever, got them on super sale, they are my first pair of Ann Taylor shoes (usually too expensive for me), and I think they might be my first pair of stylishly patterned shoes just don't go with anything. In other words, these might just be the shoes that started the collection: the quirky bargain hunting shoe extravaganza that is my current shoe wardrobe. Hmm, maybe. Whatever, I still love them.

If I've had them let's guess 12 years (sure it's been longer, but 12 is good for simple arithmetic), and worn them 3 times a year, that's 36 wearings, which means I'm at less than $1.00 per wear. Pretty darn good, and definitely worth it.

Bottom line: keeper!

Week 3 - Tuesday shrimp

Last night's recipe was Shrimp with White Beans and Toast. I managed a grocery run right at the end of a busy day and got almost everything, except I forgot juice (super sale), lentils, and there were no pork loins left (huge sale). So for Friday's dinner I still have to go out to the store again. That's 3 trips this week. Sigh. Rich was out for dinner, so it was just E&A and me, and I was wiped out after a long day, so I seriously considered just heating up leftover chicken, but glad I pressed ahead.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Super easy, super quick. Biggest problem was my frying pan wouldn't quite fit 3 slices of toast, so the bread grilled unevenly.

Knowing Rich would be out I bought 12 ounces shrimp, instead of a pound, and still had leftovers.

Did it taste good?
It was really good. I was aggravated I only had great northern beans and no navy beans, thinking the northern beans would be too big and overwhelm, but they were fine. The arugula was really good.

Kid friendly?
They love shrimp so it was a big hit. I decided not to cook anything on the side and encourage green eating and they both ate a little. I was skeptical about the bread for them, but they both just picked it up and munched on it. And they both ate a good number of beans. A success. Elizabeth even praised it, which is rare indeed.

Would we make it again?
I think so. On the one hand, this is a great 'pantry meal' - except for the arugula, you could easily have the ingredients on hand, so if you needed to whip up a quick supper this would be a fast, healthy option. On the other hand, the arugula added to the finished dish, so I need some ideas of what might be pantry ready that would sub - if I had baby spinach left over from another recipe, certainly. I don't know about frozen greens. Hmm. Maybe it would be ok without a green cooked in, and just have a side vegetable.

October 19 - black patent slingbacks

What: Size 7.5, heeled black patent platform slingback loafers, 3 inch heel, .25 inch platform
From: Talbots
Purchased: fall '07
Cost: $44

Saw these shoes in a Talbots store and knew I had to have them, and doubted they'd still be around to make it to the outlet. I managed to resist them until the 3rd markdown ($98 to $55 to $44), but then I had to grab them. More than I wanted to pay, but I've worn them a lot so the per wear cost is pretty low. They're great.

Bottom line: keeper

October 18 - black boots

What: size 8 2.5 inch heel short black boots
From: Bass (outlet)
Purchased: 2005 or '06
Cost: not entirely sure. Guessing $40, though it's likely they were cheaper as the Bass outlet has good sales. But $40 is a good guess. Actually I think I bought these at the same time as a pair of Bass tall boots I have, so probably there was some deal.

I have a pair of slightly higher-heeled short black boots, and wanted something more casual. These still aren't quite it. Even though the heel is not too high, it's still a heeled boot. I'm glad I have them, and they fit a niche, but I'd still like a pair of more casual, low-heel black boots (like my brown ones) for every day wear. Yes, I do think it is entirely reasonable (although admittedly a luxury) to have 3 pairs of black short boots, and multiple pairs of tall boots and even some ankle boots, too. One cannot have too many pairs of black boots. Well, of course you can have too many - my point really is there are a lot of black boot niches!

Bottom line: keeper

Week 3 - Monday chicken

Monday's recipe was chicken paprikash. This is the week this plan kind of fell apart. We were away and busy most of the weekend, so no time for a big grocery shop. I thought I'd go on Monday, but couldn't find my car keys, and there was too much to buy to walk. So I walked and only bought Monday's ingredients, plus a few extras ($25). The whole point of this exercise for me really was to expose me to new recipes and cooking techniques (after nearly ten years as a vegetarian, I don't have that many mad skillz in the meat cooking department) and to streamline so I wasn't running to the grocery store every day, a habit I've developed in my work from home mode. It's not a bad habit, but I wanted to get back in the mindset of weekly planning.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Super easy. A little long for a weeknight - yeah, sad to say 45 minutes to cook is too long.

Did it taste good?
It did, even using the chicken breasts and legs and I had hated the week before (and had safely stashed in the freezer). Turns out, I really despise the smell of cooking chicken skin. It really is a bonesless, skinless world for me. Luckily Rich was home early and handled the browning of the chicken for me.

I used some frozen chicken we had stashed away. Also, like the Real Simple blogger, I thought the sauce needed a little more. I added chopped olives. A bay leaf would have been good, too. And, like many of these "meals" I felt it needed a side vegetable - green beans for us.

Kid friendly?
They loved it. Andrew ate two chicken legs.

Would we make it again?
Sure. It would be a good company dish on the wekeend, as it was easy to make and you could easily scale it up. Actually it is very similar to a dish we made for friends a few months ago, though I cannot now remember where I found that recipe (another thing to declutter: my recipe collection!).

Week 2 - Friday pasta

Yikes, I am super far behind. Friday's meal was supposed to be ravioli with brussel sprouts and bacon. I say supposed to be because somehow I flaked when shopping and grabbed dried tortelloni instead of friesh or frozen ravioli. No idea why.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Super easy and quick.

Did it taste good?

Well, the tortelloni, which I guess I grabbed because E&A are big fans. A is under 2, so we avoid nuts, which isn't that hard becasue neither Rich nor I really like most nuts cooked in things, so we left out the pecans. Which in our nut-hating opinion improved the dish immensely. Also. Why in the world would you get rid of all the bacon fat and even wipe out the pan, only to add oil to sautee the brussel sprouts? Ok, well, maybe it's healthier from a saturated fat perspective, but obviously the recipe writer does not keep a can of bacon fat in the freezer for exactly these sorts of purposes. I spooned out the excess bacon fat (and put it in the freezer), but yum. Seriously, why would you not use the baon fat? Madness.

Kid friendly?

Would we make it again?
Absolutely! We have a favorite brussel sprout recipe with pistachios (one of our nut-hating exceptions) and a lot of lemon juice. But this might even be better. Well, heck, anything cooked with bacon is better.

October 15 - the shoes that started it all

What: size 8 3-inch heeled almond toe croc-embossed pumps
From: Talbots (outlet)
Purchased: late May 2010
Cost: $33

The shoes that started it all! These are the ones Rich noticed that caused him to sigh I had so many shoes I never wore, bought at the same time as the great bargain yellow flops. But I do not have any plain black leather pumps. I don't. These were a good buy. I wore them with a wrap dress to a job interview. Perfect.

Bottom line: Keeper

Monday, October 18, 2010

October 13 - new purple passes approval

What: size 8W brown/purple with buckles flat loafer
From: Lands End
Purchased: July 22, 2010
Cost: $9

Finally! A cool day so I could break out these shoes I bought way back in July! I could not pass these up at $9, so they were the 11th pair I bought this year.

Rich had an early morning meeting, so Andrew and I walked Elizabeth to school. We were running late, so I was hurrying them along the sidewalk when Andrew bent down and said, "Mommy?! Shoes. Shoes! Good!" Which caused Elizabeth to walk back to us and cast her critical eye on my feet, whereupon she said, "I've never seen those before Mommy, I like them!"

Starting 'em young, that's what I'm doing. They've got good taste.

Bottom line: keeper

And finally I'm caught up this month, so I have a few holes in the month of October but it's daily shoe blogging from here on out. Whew.

decluttering returns!

OK, so in addition to shoes and food, I've got to get back to decluttering. My goal is one project a week. On the 10th, I sorted and organized the toys in the living room.

The toy sort. My least favorite activity. How in the world do the toys get so disorganized? WHy can't they keep their toys together? It makes me crazy. I did a toy sort in July, so we were way over due. Though I guess once every three months is probably all I can handle. I've got to sort through toys in bedrooms and, ugh, tackle the basement.

But for now, I got rid of one plastic bag full of broken toys, crappy toys, broken bits and pieces, etc. I'll count that as 1 item, even though it was a long, tedious job (Rich and ELizabeth were out and Andrew was supposed to be napping, but he 'helped' instead!). I also threw away 2 wooden puzzles. The pieces had never fit together well, so they were super difficult to put together. And after being chewed on, too many of the pieces had portions of their picture worn away. Oh, and each were missing at least 2 pieces. So 2 more things gone.

I kept this puzzle. But J, where are you?

Total items: 3

October 10 - red heels

What: size 8 square toe 2/5 inch brick red heels
From: Nine West (Hechts, I think)
Purchased: mid 90s
Cost: $25

OK, at this point I want to catch up by date, so I skipped a few days. I was going to do discards, but just want to catch up. Also, it was warm, and I'm pretty much out of sandals, though not entirely. So I have no real excuse, just not inspired by what remains of warm weather shoes and ready to pull out the fall shoes.

I've had these forever, but haven't worn them much in the past 5-8 years. I used to wear a lot of dark red, but not so much anymore. Not sure why. So I grabbed these and they're still comfy, but I wore them with black pants and a pink-ish paisley cardigan, and felt they didn't go well together.

Bottom line: keeper, but they won't get much wear unless my wardrobe picks up more of this brick red color

October 8 - blue flats (sorta)

What: size 8 blue and white ballet flats with gold buckle
From: Talbots (outlet)
Purchased: spring 09
Cost: $10

So this post is a wee bit of a lie. I got dressed (cuffed jeans, blue/white shirt) and taped up my heels, still hurting from Wednesday and put on these flats. Took the pic, and then took two steps out of my bedroom and decided it was just not going to happen. So while I had the best intentions, and am still counting these as worn, I ended up wearing blue flip flops instead. I just had too much walking to do and my heels were still too tender. And karma paid me back, because it turns out the blue flip flops, with that flower, are not so flexible and end up causing some twinges along the tops of my feet. So I ended up with pain anyway. At least this solves the mystery - I talked about pain in my foot on August 6th, two days after I first wore those blue flip flops. So now what to do about the super cute blue flip flops, but I'll deal with them next year, I think.

Anyway, these flats kind of verge on the too much category - too many colors, too bright/big buckle, too crazy a pattern. I think they'd have to be paired with a fairly neutral outfit. But there is still something appealing about them, so I will find something to wear with them. I bought these at the same time as these, my first flat purchases.

Bottom line: keeper

Friday, October 15, 2010

Week 2 - Thursday tacos

Oops, I neglected to take pictures last night - Chorizo and Potato Tacos with Black Bean Salsa.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Very easy and quick.

Did it taste good?
Very tasty.

I used Italian sausage instead of chorizo, as offered as an option in the recipe. I figured chorizo might be too spicy. I think a mix would be good, but did you know you can buy Italian sausage filling not in a casing cheaper than sausages? Good to know! We also had regular salsa, too, and I served leftover yellow rice and green beans to the kids.

Kid friendly?
They loved it.

Would we make it again?
Heck yeah. I think best recipe so far (followed closely by the meatballs). We often do taco night and this was a nice twist. And, I cannot wait til Saturday morning, when we heat up the leftover sausage and potato and pour beaten eggs in and make a delicious breakfast.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Week 2 - Wednesday chicken

Last night's recipe was Red Currant-Glazed Chicken with Spinach.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Pretty easy. Though Wednesday is soccer practice until 6, so it's always a rush to get dinner on the table. This was a longer recipe to prepare (35 minutes) which was a pain. If not for this challenge, last night would have definitely been a heat up leftovers dinner night. Luckily, Rich got home before I did so he was able to get things started, otherwise we wouldn't have eaten til 7.

Did it taste good?
Sadly, no. I think it was a couple of things. When you buy chicken parts, I've always been disappointed by the chicken breasts - they are always so huge and just taste off to me. I need some sort of sauce. And in this case, the glaze was on the skin, which neither of us ate, so I felt like the glaze imparted no flavor. Maybe buying more natural chicken, with smaller pieces, would have had better flavor, or if the glaze went under the skin or I don't know what. I really didn't like it at all, unlike the Real Simple blogger.

Last night was apparently low carb night, with a menu of chicken with a side of spinach. We also made yellow rice.

Kid friendly?
Yeah. They liked their chicken legs. They both love yellow rice. Neither liked the spinach, shockingly.

Would I make it again?
Nope. I might glaze boneless skinless chicken breasts and grill then. Maybe. But I'd probably just marinade them in Criollo, my favorite. I cook spinach like this every once in a while - based on one of my favorite dishes at Jaleo, so that will stay.

October 7 - boring black

What: Size 8 black loafers with stitching and a silver buckle
From: AK Anne Klein (L&T)
Purchased: January '09
Cost: $25

And another pair of my infamous January 09 shopping spree (5 pairs in one month, though 1 was bought in 08, and I had no job at the time). These were just too practical and standard to pass up and you don't often find the very basic black shoes on the discount racks. After I wore my streamlined brown penny loafers, my friends commented they were too plain and stodgy for me. I fully admit they are plain and stodgy, as are these. But sometimes you need just a plain shoe for everyday wear.

My heels were seriously torn up from the day before, so I needed something super easy, loose, and comfortable because I had a fair amount of walking to do, including to and from soccer practice. You just can't stand on the sidelines of the soccer field in wild and crazy heels. Mostly cause it's either dusty or muddy, and certainly not worth ruining your fab shoes!

You know, it's taken until just now to realize I scored so many good shoes in Jan 09 because of that little financial meltdown thing in 08. I really was irresponsible buying them all, but I couldn't pass up the cheap basic ones. There were so many available because everyone else was more responsible. I've never even worn one of the pairs (they're basic blue, a great buy but I don't often wear blue), and another is definitely a heavier, cool weather pair so stay tuned.

October 6 - first time brown tweed

What: size 8 tweed tasseled, gold accented pumps with 3.25 inch heel
From: Talbots (outlet)
Purchased: 2008 or 09
Cost: $18

I picked these up on a whim at the outlet and they'd never been worn. Hmm, they might be from 07, even, now that I think about it. I need some brown pants - I'm realizing most of my pants are black, while lately most of the shoes I've bought are brown. So not much to wear with them.

I had a meeting at the school this day and hurriedly grabbed these, along with jeans and a brown sweater, and walked quickly to school. (if not for this challenge, I'd have just worn the low brown boots). I should have taken a minute to put on some knee high trouser socks or hosiery, because wow. Blister city. Lesson learned, but my heels are definitely toughening up for fall shoe season.

Bottom line: keeper

Week 2 - Tuesday meatballs

Wow, am so far behind!! Tuesday's meal was Lamb Meatballs with Couscous and Feta. Yeah, I just wasn't going there - the recipe itself and the Real Simple blogger both talked about subbing with beef, which I did. But to change it up a little, I bought the "meatloaf mix," mostly beef but a little pork and veal, too.

Oh, this reminds me, I forgot talk about shopping this week - the total was $137, and that included the basics like milk, oj, bread, side vegetables (frozen and fresh), fruit, a few snacks, and Sunday's dinner of pot roast. Typically, I would have bought a fairly large roast so we'd have it for leftovers another night or two during the week, but this time I bough the smallest roast I could find, and I've had leftovers twice for lunch and there's probably one more lunch size serving left.

Anyway, meatballs.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
This is a perfect example of a how much I'm learning with this challenge. This meal took less than 20 minutes from start to finish. So incredibly easy. I've always thought meatballs were complicated to make and cook evenly but these were a piece of cake (and it helped Rich was home so he actually put them together). I'd also never have thought to have meatballs without tomato sauce.

Did it taste good?
I actually had a PTA meeting that night, so after getting dinner together I took off. I tasted a meatball before I left and it was tasty. Rich thought they were a little bland, but overall he reported it was good.

Just the meatloaf mix - oh and also it needed a side of green beans for vegetables.

Kid friendly?
Yep, though couscous, while super easy to make, really sticks to kids' clothes and kind of gets everywhere. Elizabeth loooooves feta, which has always surprised me, but Andrew liked it too.

Would I make it again?
Definitely. So fast! Hmm, though it would depend on Rich's presence for the meatball mixing/shaping.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Week 2 - Monday shrimp

I was rushing - as usual - and those radishes shouldn't have made it in this pic - they are for Thursday's meal!

OK, look, there's no way around it, shrimp is a terrible choice from an environmental perspective. Wild caught Gulf shrimp are considered ok, but that's about it. Though, if you look at the seafood guides, there are shrimp listed as good choices - farmed inland, or in closed containment systems, or wild caught in the US or Canada. I don't know the percentages anymore, but the vast majority of shimp available in the marketplace is farmed or caught overseas, and it's a terrible choice for the environment. It just is. And a large part of me leaving the seafood world professionally had to do with my frustrations over getting all worked up about recommendations that the average consumer cannot find. Seriously? Pink shrimp from canda caught only certain months with a nordmoor grate? Are you kidding? Sure, highlight seasonal or regional good choices, but let's acknowledge most people have no chance of getting that option. But, recommendations and availability are getting better. Whole Foods sources all their seafood from mostly sustainable sources, and Trader Joes has indicated they are going to move in that direction. Until then, I buy what I can get and since it's not bought all that often, I don't feel too terrible about farmed shrimp from overseas.

Last night's dinner was Curry Shrimp and Snow Peas.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
It was - quick and fairly easy. I read it several times and studied the picture and just could not quite figure out what exactly I was supposed to do with the snow peas (slice length-wise). After dinner was over, it finally clicked - they were supposed to be sliced length-wise into strips! (I thought it was just one slice, which made no sense, and then I sliced them cross-wise). Ah. Oh well.

Did it taste good?
It did, though as the Real Simple blogger noted, it was a little bland. I wanted some more depth of flavor.

Well, I was puzzled by the snow peas, as written above. And ultimately, decided I did not want them to be raw and cold - had they been sliced into matchstick size slices, maybe then I get the crunch factor they were aiming for. But I just had this big mental block about it. So instead I placed my cross-wise sliced pea pods on the top of the simmering shrimp to get them a little warm and slightly steamed. They were good.

Oh, also I had leftover zuchinni and left over mushrooms and just added that to the broth to simmer a few minutes along with the shrimp. Both were good additions.

Kid friendly?
They've always loved shrimp (which Elizabeth used to call snimp) and they loved this recipe.

Would I make again?
Maybe. It was easy and tasty, though oddly bland.

October 5 - brown suede boots bye bye

What: Size 8.5 AA brown suede low boots with 1.5 inch heel
From: Talbots (outlet)
Purchased: late 90s, early 00s
Cost: ?? $35

I sorted through some shoes over the weekend and found these in the boot box under my bed. I've had them forever, and wore them a lot when I first got them. I wore them with my big chunky orthotics, which wore into the leather, causing this hole. I've held onto them all this time, but it's time to face facts that they are not repairable and certainly replaceable.

Bottom line: trash

October 4 - brown low boots

What: size 8.5 brown leather ankle boots, 1.5 inch heel
From: Talbots
Purchased: late winter 2009
Cost: $40

These boots are awesome, and I wore them all the time last winter. I almost didn't buy them because they were 8.5s, but they should have been my first sign that my feet have gotten larger. They need to be polished, but they are great. I wish I had them in black, and will keep my eyes open for a similar black pair.

Bottom line: keeper

Week 1 - Friday steak

Wow, I am behind on posting, thanks to a busy weekend. Friday's recipe was Steak With Roasted Carrots and Onions. But, it had been a long week and we decided to go out to dinner, and so had the steak Saturday night. Don't get me wrong, I am critical of the monthly meal plan because they never acknowledge in the text that it is only 20 recipes. Everyone needs a night off from cooking, so were I an editor at Real Simple, I would have added a simple sentence that read something like, We've planned 5 meals a week for you, leaving a night for going out and a Sunday supper of your choosing.

Anyway, Saturday's dinner. Yum.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Super easy and fast.

Did it taste good?
Delish. Our only problem was that our steaks were thick and had been frozen (with a nod to food safety, Real Simple recommends you freeze the meats you buy over the weekend for those meals that come later in the week) and might not have been fully thawed. So they took longer to cook, resulting in burned bits in the pan. I should have made the wine sauce in another pan, because even though I scraped most of the burnt out, the sauce still had a slightly bitter burned taste, though it was still good. The roasted vegetables were great.

I had leftover potatoes from Monday so roasted those with the carrots. This meal was apparently the low carb option for the week, as the only side was supposed to be roasted carrots and onions. The Real Simple blogger said she wished she had rice, so I prepped some brown rice to accompany. The only other funny thing is Real Simple recommends a red wine with this recipe, but the ingredients call for white wine sauce. So we drank white wine with the steak. Still good!

Kid friendly?
For whatever unknown reason, Elizabeth has never liked any orange vegetables - no carrots or sweet potatoes. But otherwise, they loved it.

Would we make it again?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Week 1 - Thursday pork

Last night's recipe was Pork Cutlets with Spicy Noodles.

Kind of an odd sideways shot - I overbrowned one of the cutlets but it was still good.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
It was easy and quick. I was a little worried about the pork, which had to be dredged in flour, then a beaten egg, then the panko bread crumbs, then the pan, but I set up a right-to-left assembly line, and used tongs, so it went very quickly and - bonus! - I never had to touch the raw meat. I got all 5 cutlets in the pan within a minute so they cooked evenly.
Did it taste good?
It did. The only thing is, the Real Simple blogger wrote about the flavorful meat, and I found it to be bland. Not sure I seasoned it enough with salt and pepper before all the dredging. Maybe the salt and pepper should have been in the flour? Or in the panko? Or maybe there should have been extra seasoning in the panko - some parsley, or maybe some dried basil? Something that kept it asian flavored - I originally thought grated parmesan, which would give more flavor, but wouldn't really match the other flavors. Or maybe the meat marinated in soy sauce?

I was game to try jalepeno (which I have never once cooked with before), but Rich had done the grocery shopping and didn't buy one, figuring it would be too spicy for the kids, particularly Elizabeth. I was planning to use less than half, but none was probably the right call.

Also, I have to say the recipes themselves are turning out to be good. I hate to keep harping on this, but this is supposed to be a "meal plan," and I just wonder why there is this aversion to vegetables and/or side dishes? I want my kids to be eating plenty of vegetables, so once again we had a side dish - green beans. I thought about throwing peas into the noodles, but we were out as we didn't buy extra veggies in the grocery trip. Next week I'll know better and stock up.

And one last issue - half a pound of shitake mushrooms is a heck of a lot of mushrooms. Rich bought two 3.25 ounce containers. Once sliced, there were more mushrooms than noodles! So now I have a couple of extra ounces of shitakes sliced in the fridge, as I added as many as reasonable to the noodles but just could not add them all in.
I'll use the extras for tonight, so that'll be fine. Also, if you look at the real simple blogger's photos, I jsut don't believe that's 8 ounces of shitakes. Mushrooms are really light.

Kid friendly?
It was. Elizabeth (5) picked out the mushrooms with a big eeewwww, but ate the rest (oh, where did my good eater go?). Andrew (22 months) shoved fistfuls of 'new-news' (noodles) in his mouth whether there were mushrooms or not. Neither seemed to notice the ginger.

Would I make it again?
Sure. It was tasty, and the noodles would certainly work with chicken or fish or shrimp, while the breading on the cutlets could also be used different ways with different recipes.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

October 3 - pink heels

What: size 8 pink croc 2.5 inch heeled pumps
From: Bandolino (TJ Maxx)
Purchased: mid 00s
Cost: $30

These are great basic pumps, perfectly comfortable mid height heel. Love 'em, but you know, you can't wear pink pumps every day. The heels on these are black, while the other pink shoes I just wore have brown heels, so I always think of these as complementary pairs. I wore them to church with black pants, a pink cotton shirt, and a black sweater.

Bottom line: keeper!

October 2 - garnet loafers go goodbye

What: size 7.5 garnet suede loafers
From: Hush Puppies (Hechts, I think)
Purchased: late 90s
Cost: $35, give or take

Saturday was the FSU/UVA football game at UVA, and wouldn't these have been great with my garnet and gold sweatshirt and jeans? But alas, these were really too small back in the day (I'd only worn them a handful of times because they hurt) and it's time to admit they are simply too small and they need to go. I couldn't even get them on my feet for a pic.

So I wore my awesome bronze platforms instead. They are awesome football game shoes as they give me some height, and they are comfy, and they look like they would be too awesome for football and walking but since they are comfy they work great.

I am seriously thinking about offering some of these shoes on ebay. These are a little out of date/chunky, but still nice.

Bottom line: outta here, one way or another

Week 1 - Wednesday turkey burgers

Last night's recipe was turkey burgers with creamy romaine slaw.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Super easy, and only took 20 minutes.

Did it taste good?
Yummy. The mustard in the burger added nice flavor (and just last week I made a recipe for turkey burgers that had parsley and soy sauce and was also quite good). The slaw was tasty.

Kid friendly?
Yeah. Well, there was no way either of them were eating any slaw. I'm surprised the dynamic duo like turkey burgers, but they do. We had sliders last week, which work better for them, but Elizabeth took a few bits of the burger on a bun, while Andrew took his burger apart.

Well, this is supposed to be a full meal, right? A turkey burger with a couple of pickles and optional potato chips on the side is NOT a full meal. I thought I had sweet potato fries in the freezer, which would have been perfect, but I didn't. So we had regular fries (baked in the oven) and some peas and some garbanzo beans so we wouldn't leave the table hungry!

Would I make it again?
Sure! The only bad part was the Touching Of The Meat. I was a vegetarian for 9+ years, and am still squeamish about raw meat. So I had hoped Rich would make the burgers, but no such luck. You're not supposed to overwork ground meat anyway so the burgers don't get tough, so it was just the forming of the patties that made my skin crawl. Sliders are definitely not as bad, as I use a scoop to put the meat in the special slider pan (of course we have a special slider pan!) and smoosh it down with the slider lid.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October 1 - stalked heels

What: size 8 high heeled plaid peep toes
From: AK Anne Klein - cyber stalked not sure where
Purchased: 2008
Cost: $40 ?

I've written before that I went through an AK Anne Klein phase in 2007-08. I saw these shoes online and fell in love and cyberstalked them for a while. I can't remember what price I finally paid or where I got them, but I know I watched them for a while. (hmm, I may go back through my bank statements!) But once I got them, they waited in their box. I just never had the occasion or outfit to wear them. The heels are awfully high, so it has to be the right occasion, and while I love the glen plaid, I just don't know how to work it. The heel is brown, and the buckle is gold, and there is a bronze-y trim, so I think they'd go well with brown dressy trousers, of which I own zero. But then what else? Dark brown pants, red sweater? (what under the sweater? white? tan?) Dark brown suit with skirt (I own one), and red top? Tan pants/skirt with blue top and carry red bag?

I wore them out to dinner with friends with cuffed jeans, a red t-shirt, olive green cord jacket, and green long necklace. That worked, but how else could I wear them?

These remind me of a jacket Rich once bought - a plaid sportscoat for $25. But the mix of colors meant he never quite was happy with the rest of his outfit. See, the red is prominent, but the other colors are really blue and gray and a light tan. Any ideas?

These are the shoes that first made me think I was turning into a shoe collector, not a person who owned a fabulous shoe wardrobe. If you owned a pair of shoes you could never style (for want of a better word) would you get rid of them or keep looking for the right outfit?

Bottom line: keeper. I should sell them on ebay.

Week 1 - Tuesday pasta

Last night was supposed to be penne with tomatoes, eggplant, and mozzarella. Here's the thing: I hate eggplant. So, two days in and we're already 2 for 2 in making changes. Rich suggested subbing zucchini, which worked fine. This is similar to recipes I used to make all the time when I was a vegetarian and still often do. Easy, fast, tasty, relatively healthy, and filling.

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Super easy. Definitely a 30 minute meal.

Did it taste good?
It was really good. Nice mix of flavors. I've never added mint to a pasta dish like this, but it added good flavor. And I never would have added red pepper without the recipe, but that gave it a little kick without making it spicy - the kiss of death for Elizabeth.

Kid friendly?
Yeah, mostly. They ate the pasta and some tomato and cheese. I think they got some nutrients beyond plain pasta (sometimes I use whole wheat pasta, but honestly I grew up on plain pasta and just prefer it). I keep offering zucchini and they reject it every time. I keep trying, though (I'm actually not wild about zucchini, either, but I eat it).

The recipe calls for 1/4 cup olive oil to sautee the eggplant (in a non-stick pan!). I never cook eggplant, but isn't it known for soaking up oil? Why so much oil? I sprayed the pan with Pam and sprinkled in a little olive oil for flavor. Also, had olives left over from the day before so chopped them up and added. Yum.

Would I make it again?
Sure. This was a tasty variation on a pretty standard meal. We need to grow mint in the yard - I've always been afraid of it taking over the garden, but it's really a shame to buy mint when it is so easy to grow.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

September tally

Not to worry friends! The shoe blogging will continue, and I'm going back to every day. I've got three pairs lined up for the discard pile, and have already worn two pairs this month that had never been worn before, so there's more to come. Somehow, though, I've just decided to do an extra 20 posts in October. Just for the fun of it. Hmmm. NaBloPoMo will be a piece of cake compared to this.

Plus I kind of said I was going to start real decluttering. Yikes. Pending unemployment has me stressed out.

So, I kinda on and off blogged/wore different shoes in September - 13 pairs, $413 total, average price $31.77.

I bought two pairs in September, and have worn both. (There are days I worry I am showing an alarming tendency to just acquiring shoes for the pleasure of owning them, not for wearing. Yet another step toward meeting my destiny of becoming a crazy hoarder!). Though, one purchase allowed me an extra discard.

Overall, I've been blogging shoes for 122 days (and yet no merchants are banging down my doors offering free samples yet! What's up with that?).

I've worn 83 pairs (almost half of my estimated total!).

I am keeping 68, trashing 1, donating 9, and on the fence about 5. (I need to go back and look at the fence ones as I think I later got rid of one of them. Also, I have got to get to the cobbler.)

That's 73 kept and 10 out of the house, so a cull rate of 12%. (I kind of have a goal here, and it's about 20%).

I estimate, over the past 15 + years, I've spent $2234.75 on these shoes, or an average cost of $26.92.

It's not escaped my attention that I've purchased 16 pairs of shoes this year, which is more shoes purchased in 9 months than most of my comment-ers own in total. (let's not even talk about the &^%*& pending unemployment thing, ok?)

Week 1 - Monday tilapia

Welcome to day 1 of my 4 week (weekday only!) recipe challenge. Last night's recipe was Roasted Tilapia, Potatoes, and Lemons. This was a good recipe to kick things off, except I don't like fish, so I cooked a couple of chicken tenderloins for myself. I briefly sauteed them on both sides for less than 2 minutes per side but finished cooking them in the oven, to ensure they were done at the same time as the fish. Step 1 - roast potatoes, lemon, thyme in olive oil in oven. Step 2 - prep next step - add olives, fish, (optional chicken), sprinkle with paprika, salt and pepper. Try not to splatter open magazine containing all the recipes.

Step 3: finish roasting everything

Was the recipe easy to follow?
Yes, super easy. The write up says total time 45 minutes, hands on time 10 minutes and that was a slight underestimate. I started at 5:50 and thought it was done at 6:38 (so 48 minutes) but not all the potatoes were cooked through, so we were able to eat but the pan had to go back in the oven. And I like recipes where there is downtime, to have a break to go check on the dynamic duo who might be wreaking havoc in the living room.

Did it taste good?
It did. A teeny bit bland, I'd say, but overall it was good. Roasted olives are yummy.

Eh. Elizabeth likes fish so she ate most of her serving. Andrew said he was hungry before he sat down, but he didn't eat much.

This was a mighty simple meal - white fish and potatoes. I had to add a vegetable, green beans. And adjusted a chicken tenderloin for me.

Would I make it again?
Eh. Maybe. Since I don't like fish I wouldn't have much motivation, except maybe during Lent. It was easy.

Tilapia is generally a decent seafood choice from an environmental and health perspective. Nearly all of it is farm raised, but the label on this fish says wild caught. Um, doubt it - more than likely farmed-raised in South America. Not a perfect choice, but not terrible.

Here's the Real Simple blogger's take. If I made it again, I'd go with her suggestion of broiling for an extra few minutes at the end to crisp things up, and I'd have to add a few minutes extra at the beginning for the potatoes. I never, ever find the time to roast potatoes to be accurate in recipes. Maybe my oven is not hot enough.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A new feature

So, when my parents were here, my mother told me AwwwClutter had become boring. Indeed. That didn’t stop her from from taking 4 pairs of shoes home, though, and she tried to cover herself by saying I had stopped posting regularly, but then my dad made some remarks about the bad pictures and overly long stories. When your own parents are bored, well, what can you do? I am going to continue though with renewed vigor, because I really do want to ditch a few more pairs.

My friend K. suggested I post pics of my entire outfit, but I’m not quite ready to upgrade my photography and more importantly, my pajama wearing, so no full outfit shots for now, though that might change.

But, I’ve also found myself with a little more open time this coming month, so the decluttering is going to pick back up.

And, more importantly, I am adding a cooking angle. I had a coupon for $1 off Real Simple magazine, and HT was offering double dollar coupons (love that!), so I bought a copy of October’s issue. Flicking through it, I noticed a feature story on a “month’s worth of dinner!

So, why the heck not. I’m going to cook with Real Simple this month. One of my friends, TSM, has a grid she follows for, well, everything, including nightly dinners. The thought of a grid makes me itchy – I’m more of a free form, spontaneous person. And I do ok in the nightly dinner routine, with a fair amount of variety and diversity. But my parents also make fun of our cooking style (hi mom and dad! So happy to have you visit for a week!) – we tend to like to cook big batches of things, and have leftovers more than half the week. Love nights when I am just able to heat up something in the microwave. So this will be a change, cooking every night. We’ll see if we like it.

I’ll comment on the recipes probably the next day. Today, here are just my thoughts on starting the challenge. First, in the magazine and website, they talk about a full month, but really it is 4 weeks. But really, it’s Monday-Friday for 4 weeks – no recipes for Saturday or Sunday. Which is fine, but it really and truly annoys me that in the text they never address there are no recipes for Saturday or Sunday! They offer a shopping list and several times say this is all you need for a months worth of dinners, But THAT IS NOT TRUE. Annoying. Very, very annoying, actually. But it’s also fine as it gives us some leeway, I guess, for our own choices or for going out once a week.

Second, I tend to like recipes that are linked. Buy a whole onion, but use half in this recipe and half in recipe #2. Cook extra chicken breasts and use them in the next nights’ choice. Or whatever. That just seems more efficient to me. But no, this is 28 different meals.

None of the recipes seems to take more than 45 minutes, so that’s good for weeknights, but I’ve found in the past Real Simple timing can be quite off. So I’m watching for that.

I also like to cook seasonally – and by that I mean following the sales in the store flyers. So chicken when it is on sale, and beef when that is on sale, etc. So this could be a shock to our grocery budget. And finally, in looking over the recipes, while they say it’s a complete meal I think some of the nights are lacking in vegetables. So I may have to supplement.

The ingredients for this week cost $155, including the staples of milk, OJ, eggs, bread, etc. We typically spend about $100 a week, so already we’re over. We’ll see how it goes the rest of the month.

Wish me luck, let’s keep our fingers crossed the kids like the food, and we’ll see how it goes.

September 29 - new black sandals

What: size 8W black slide sandals with stitching trim
From: Naturalizer outlet
Purchased: September 24, 2010
Cost: $12!

When my parents and sister were here, we decided to hit the outlets, and I checked out the discount racks at Naturalizer. There wasn’t a lot (thank goodness), but I snagged these (yikes, that makes 16 this year alone!). And guess what? I filled a black sandal niche. So, getting rid of these. Love 80% off!

Bottom line: keeper

September 28 - not quite gold wedges

What: Size 8.5 3.25 inch platinum wedges
From: Talbots (outlet)
Purchased: September 17, 2010
Cost: $24

I couldn’t resist them. I had a quick work trip to Virginia Beach September 16 and 17th, and while a group of us drove down from DC, the others took flights back to their respective cities leaving me to drive home alone. I stopped in Springfield to pick up a bunch of party supplies for Elizabeth’s birthday, so of course I also made my way to the Talbots outlet. These were on the 50% off rack, so I had to have them – my 15th this year. Except, all this time, I’ve been coveting based on the online picture, which is clearly gold. These were labeled platinum, and you know what? They are not gold. I had the perfect outfit picked out, slipped on these shoes, and thought, oh crap, these are really more silver than gold. Darn platinum. Still wore them, but don’t love them quite as much as I thought I would. Still need gold sandals! The search continues.

Bottom line: keeper