Thursday, January 29, 2009

Linguine with White Clam Sauce

I remember my momma making this growing up. It seemed like such a treat considering how poor we were back then. But now I know's fancy AND it's relatively cheap! I haven't made this in years and just remembered it out of the blue last week and suddenly got a huge craving! I pulled it straight out of the classic red and white Betty Crocker cookbook.


8 ounces dried linquine*
2 6 1/2 oz cans minced clams
Half-and-half, cream, or milk*
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T margarine or butter (I used olive oil)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour*
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup snipped fresh parsley (I forgot to buy this!)
1/4 cup dry white wine**
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese*


  1. Cook linguine. Drain; keep warm.
  2. Meanwhile, strain juice from canned clams and save 1 can's worth of juice. Add enough half-and-half, cream, or milk to clam juice to equal 2 cups.
  3. For sauce, cook onion and garlic in margarine or butter until tender, but not brown. Stir in flour, oregano, salt and pepper until well coated. Add milk/clam juice mixture all at once. Cook and stir until thick and bubbly. Cook for one more minute. Stir in clams, parsley, and wine. Heat through. Serve over warm linguine. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

* I used gluten-free pasta, gluten-free flour and soy-milk in my subsitutions. I left off the Parmesan cheese from mine, but N loved it.

** Since I can't have alcohol, I searched a bit for some wine substitutions. I read somewhere that using lemon flavored mineral water worked. So I tried it. It was...meh...okay. So I put in a splash of lemon juice. A little better! While this works in a pinch, I still wish I had a sauvignon blanc to use. I'll do this the right way when non-preggers, but it worked for this momma's craving.

For more yummy and economical recipes, visit the Grocery Cart Challenge's Recipe Swap!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip - 1/26/09

So here I am at Week Two of menu planning. Is it bad to say that I'm a little surprised I'm here? LOL! Budgeting has never been a strength of mine and I usually quit before I get going. But actually, I had fun with the menu planning and I was really proud of myself last week with only going over my $75 budget by 58 cents! Which was wonderful motivation to give this week another try. Honestly, I would have stayed under budget, but Monkey's Lactaid Milk wasn't at Target...they were out. So I headed to Sprouts and it's about $1 more expensive per half gallon there. Ouch! Oh well. I'm not terribly upset considering it was my first week's shot at this.

This is a new week and new menu has been created! So here's this week's list:


Generic Saltines 1.09
Apple Juice 2.19
Lea and Perrin's Worcestershire 1.89
Generic Lemon Mineral Water 1.39
1 can Chef Boyardee Ravioli .94
1 can Diced Tomatoes .59
2 jars Barilla Pasta Sauce 4.18
Generic Honey Nut Cheerios 4.39
1 bag Starbucks Whole Beans 7.04
Nature's Own Wheat Bread 2.79
Honey Crisp Apples 4.38
Green Grapes 2.29
Generic Frozen Peas 1.79
Gluten-free Frozen Waffles 1.84
12 pack Sprite 3.00
1 gallon Milk 2.59
1/2 gallon Lactaid Milk 3.49
Generic OJ 1.99
Kraft Block Cheddar 2.00
Kraft Shred Cheddar 2.00
Right Guard 3.34
Pantene Hairspray 3.49
Double Roll Bounty Papertowels 2.99
12 pack Cottonelle 6.99

Total with coupons and Tax $69.48


Bulk Corn Meal - 1.37

Total with Tax $1.37

Grand Total $70.85

This Week's Challenges:

Toiletries and dry goods - A nice little chunk was taken out of this week's budget for toiletries and paper goods. But since these items last awhile, I hopefully won't see them on another grocery list for another few weeks. Half way through the store, I realized things were going to be really tight and I debated about putting the Sprite and Starbucks back. But since these were N's only two requests, I went ahead and kept them. He doesn't really ask for much, so I try to accomodate him when I can. So I took a few other things off my list to counter-balance and it worked out. (Drinkable yogurt to try on Monkey, hair stuff for me.)

No Proteins - You'll notice there is no meat in this week's list. We still have meat left over in the freezer from last month, so it's working out. While not a challenge now, I have a feeling this will catch up and bite me later.

This Week's Learned Lessons:

Don't under-estimate the list - Even though I had two meals from last week that didn't get made, thus going on this week's menu plan, I thought I'd have more wiggle room in the budget. The paper goods took that up pretty quickly. :-(

Impulse purchases - I CAN be disciplined about these when I really want to be. You'll notice NO chocolate this week's list. I'm rationing out all the bulk chocolate I purchased last week. I'm allowed nibbles a day instead of handfuls.

Improvise - My original menu plan was to make lasagne. But I couldn't find my gluten-free lasagne noodles at Target, Sprouts, OR Tom Thumb. So I opted for bulk corn meal to make home made polenta instead. I'm planning on baking and then layering like noodles in the lasagne. While I've never done this before AND it might be a total bust, it's keeping me in budget this week AND I didn't have to make an extra trip to yet another store.

Credits at Sprouts - Did you know you get a .05 credit for every bag you bring in and use? Or even if you don't use a bag? So I just took my little bulk bag of corn meal (originally 1.42) and by just not putting it into a Sprouts bag saved me 5 cents! Not a biggie, but I'm thinking, it adds up over time. Not to mention it helps me with my plan to Go Green-er. I have my own shopping bags, I just need to get in the habit of using them.

On a final note...

You'll notice that I attempt to put the brand name on the line items and generic if it's generic. For a couple reasons. One, sometimes the name brand is on sale and actually cheaper than the generic. (Kraft cheese this week.) Secondly, there are some things that I'm just really attached to the name brand (Pantene Hairspray) and don't really want to go generic. And lastly, there are some name brands I MUST stick with simply because they are gluten-free (Lea and Perrins Wooster, Barilla pasta sauce). Perhaps some of this will change as I go along, but I want to note that I'm still staying in budget without going all generic all the time.

I have a few dollars leftover as of right now, so if something little crops up, hopefully I won't go over budget this week. All in all, I'm happy for two weeks in a row!

To see other women involved in the Weekly Shopping Trip from Grocery Cart Challenge, so here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 1/26/09

I think last week I said that Menu Plan Monday was a Grocery Cart Challenge thing. It's not. It's actually an OrgJunkie thing. I didn't know. Oops. Visit here to visit the original place. AND they're having an exciting give-away too!

Here's what the W household has planned for dinner this week:

Monday: Linguini with White Clam Sauce
Tuesday: Lunchmeat Sandwiches
Wednesday: Oven-Fried Chicken, GF/DF Green Bean Casserole
Thursday: Popcorn
Friday: Polenta Lasagne
Saturday: Baked Potatoes w/Chili
Sunday: Peach French Toast Bake (breakfast at church), Probably out somewhere

Couple things:

I am not listing most of the breakfasts, as it's mostly get what you can get as you're running out the door. (And it's all typical stuff: Pop-Tarts, eggs in a tortilla wrap, frozen waffles, fresh fruit, etc.)

Two of my meals last week didn't actually get made because two other meals were SO BIG, that leftovers lasted longer than anticipated. So you'll be seeing those pop up again in the next week or so.

I plan on sharing the recipe for tonight's dinner (linguine with white clam sauce) later this week, which turned out, in one word: YUM-O!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Tuscan Sausage and Bean Soup

This is one of my favorite soups for when the chilly weather hits. And it's SO easy! I'm not one to follow recipes verbatim...they really are just guidelines, so a lot of these measurements are guess-timates. Do what works for you!

Italian Sausage and Bean Soup

1 package of Jimmy Dean spicy breakfast sausage (it's gluten-free and most Italian sausages are not)
1 can garbanzo or cannelini beans
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced fresh yellow squash
1 cup diced fresh zucchini
1/2 cup frozen spinach
2 teaspoons fresh minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
4 cups water
Parmesan, Reggiano or Manchengo cheese shavings (I don't do this because of my dairy allergy, but it sure does make a pretty meal!)

Brown sausage and onion in large stock pot. Drain and pat dry to eliminate as much grease as possible. Add remaining ingredients (EXCEPT squash and zucchini) and bring to boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Add squash and zucchini and simmer for additional 15 or until the vegetables are al dente. Remove bay leaf. Top with shaved cheese. Serve with grilled polenta or corn muffins.

This always makes enough for N and I to have dinner, lunch leftovers and usually another meal or two to freeze for later.

For additional yummy and economic recipes, visits the girls over at the Grocery Cart Challenge Recipe Swap!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One Of Those Days

Ever have one of those days? Where nothing goes right? Where the baby is whining non-stop all morning, while you're trying to put on makeup and get dressed? Where your husband says just the wrong thing that makes you mad or hurts your feelings? Where you hit ALL the red lights into the office? Where your boss asks you to attend two badly scheduled meetings that really just jack up your day? Where the lady in front of you at the grocery line has a million coupons, returning the wrong detergent and is taking FOREVER when you need to be somewhere in 4.2 minutes?

I have those days sometimes and if I'm not careful, it can ruin my evening with my husband and child. It can ruin my week. It can ruin my entire attitude about what I might or might not have going on in my life. And I just.don'

I think I need these glasses:

Thank you Shelia for the kick in the pants. Perspective. Could we be anymore self-absorbed?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Weekly Shopping Trip - 1/19/09

So God has been convicting me lately to become a better steward of what monies He provides us, so this is my first week to actually implement two new habits that will assist in that.

If you read my post yesterday, you'll know that I've been inspired by Gayle over at Grocery Cart Challenge. This is my first week to attempt applying two of her money-saving methods: weekly menu planning, and weekly shopping trips. So yesterday I sat down and did my menu plan for the week and last night I went shopping for all the ingredients I was lacking.

My goal is to get our weekly shopping budget around $75, eventually lowering it more, if possible. I'm not familiar enough with budgeting this area of our lives to know what works yet. If you read my previous post, you'll probably glean that we have never had a grocery budget. I'm a little embarrassed to confess that we're rather spoiled in that area of our finances. We also have a few challenges, personal to my diet that I'll list later, so this will be a lesson in what works for us.

After creating this week's menu, I wrote down every ingredient I would need to create all of the food from our Weekly Menu. Some of which I had in hand, some I did not. The items I did not have, I put on my grocery list.

This is what I came up with...along with a few impulse buys. (I'm being gentle on myself since it's my first week.) :-)


Swiffer 360 $4.29
Hormel Bacon 3.69
2 bags Dole Lettuce 4.48
2 cans generic black olives 2.18
Generic tomato sauce 0.47
Generic diced tomatoes 0.59
Mission corn tortillas 1.99
2 cans generic diced green chiles 1.34
Bulk lemon drops 0.82
Generic Frosted Mini-Wheats 4.83
Generic decaf black tea 2.79
Decaf Constant Comment 2.19
Generic green beans 0.69
Del-Monte Peaches 1.47
Spam 2.44
2 cans Starkist tuna 2.14
Small Gala apples 3.24
CF Coke 4.00
Can minced clams 1.59

TOTAL $46.28


1 lb Bulk chocolate cashews 4.84
1 lb Bulk chocolate raisins 2.59
Rice Dream 3.29
Tofu 1.69
1 pint blackberries 1.50
yellow bell pepper 0.69
1 pint grape tomatoes 1.50
2.34 lb yellow onions 1.17
1.89 lb oranges 0.93
2.45 lb Russet bakers 1.69
1 quart strawberries 1.50
1 Texas grapefruit 0.34

TOTAL $21.72


Considering I didn't want to spend more than $75 this week, I'm happy. But...I have some challenges that I need to overcome and obviously some areas I need more discipline.

Two pounds of bulk chocolate candy? What on earth?! I'm blaming it on hormonal cravings.


Not making a thorough enough list. I realized tonight after I got home that I will need milk for the Monkey before the week is out, so I'll need to make another trip for that. I'm praying that I don't make anymore impulse purchases while I'm there.

Dietary restrictions. Budgeting with my dietary restrictions (gluten and dairy allergies) makes a tiny grocery budget something that's just near impossible. A box of simple gluten-free water crackers cost close to $5 for me. A loaf of bread, close to $7. Dairy-free and gluten-free ice cream $6. So instead of expecting myself to be a Gayle, I'm just going to allow myself some slack for what works for me and see where I can trim later.

Limited stores. Gayle works with outlet bakeries and outlet grocery stores that sell day old breads, or dented can foods. Since there aren't any of those type of stores in my area, I have to work with what I have. From what I can see, Target, Wal-Mart and Sprouts are the best options for me to use without coupons. Because I truly just don't have time or energy to clip. (Or patience!)

I full realize that much of my expensive items (meat) I already had stashed in my freezer, so I'm anticipating next week being a bit more of a struggle, as I'll have more of those items on my list.


Tom Thumb is WAAAY expensive. I shop there all the time out of convenience and habit. Wow - have I been getting ripped! But simply going across the street to Target and Sprouts, I think I saved quite a bit of money. So my shopping trip is 10 minutes longer because of traffic lights. Not a deal breaker to me if I budget my time wisely.

Sprouts has GREAT produce and bulk bins. I was surprised and impressed with the quality of the produce at Sprouts and the cost! I think it surprised me because I always consider health food stores as pricey. But strawberries and grape tomatoes were HALF what I would have paid at Tom Thumb and even Target. It also contains the added convenience of providing a great selection of gluten-free foods, which are hard to get at regular grocery stores.

Fun stuff. I know myself well enough to know that must allow this in the diet or I'll end up making terrible impulse purchases later. Hopefully, I can get more disciplined about them as I go, so I'm not going to beat myself up over it today. But obviously this area needs a little tweaking. LOL!

So that is my experience for the week. I would like this to become a habit. I'm feeling very convicted that this is an area that would please God if I take seriously. I'm hoping that eventually, I can start sharing some of the recipes that I utilize and with that, create an environment of sharing and support with others that have the same goal of saving money.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Menu Plan Monday - 1/19/09

I found a blog about a year ago, called The Grocery Cart Challenge. You might have noticed on my sidebar. Although I've been a regularly inspired reader, rarely have I put her posts and money saving methods into practice.

For any of you that really know me, I'm a total sucker for a good bargain. I LOVE saving money! I have no shame in that the majority of my clothes are from TJMaxx, Marshalls, or even second hand stores. A pair of my favorite Gap stretch chinos I bought at a resale shop for $1.00.

But one area of my life that I really have absolutely NO discipline with is our grocery budget. Perhaps because I grew up in a pretty poor family, barely surviving with the help of WIC. I remember many times, our milk was powdered or our cheese came in huge 5 lb blocks. Perhaps it was because when I finally got out of my parents's home, I paid the rent by working in the food service industry. I worked at several places where I acquired a fussy palate for good food and wine. Either way, I love my food and if I want it, I get it. The unfortunate thing is that N is the same way. We love cooking and trying new things! But rarely do we budget what we're cooking or what we desire. It's one of the bad things about being in a double-income home: we have the income to do whatever we want when it comes to food.

The more I read Gayle's Grocery Cart Challenge, the more I'm convicted that I need to start applying some of her methods to our household. So yesterday I decided that this was the week to start, at least attempting, to create a weekly menu plan. This is huge for me! Usually dinner consists of take-out, ordering in, fixing something I have no ingredients for, thus an extra trip to the grocery store to get needed ingredients, along with a bunch of impulse buys.

So I took an inventory of what we already had in the cupboards, fridge, and freezer and tried to create a menu plan based on what I found in there. This is what I've come up with for this week's menu:

Gluten-free oatmeal with stewed cranberries and apples
Cold cereal and fresh fruit
Banana bread
Frozen waffles with stewed cranberries and apples
Eggs & Bacon
Peach French Toast Bake

Leftovers from the previous night, along with fresh fruit and lunch meat for my snacks. (I need to eat every two hours or I get nauseaus.)

Hot wings, celery, carrots
Italian Sausage and Bean Soup, cornbread
Mexican Chicken Skillet, corn tortilla chips
Popcorn (Thursday is our non-dinner night)
Blackened Shrimp over Creamy Polenta
Linguini with Clam Sauce

Based on this menu plan, much of what I needed I have in stock, so it's just a matter of purchasing the lacking menu ingredients. Tune in tomorrow, where I share my grocery list. Not that it's that terribly exciting, but if I put it out there for all of you to see, it's making me accountable. And when it comes to this area of our finances, I really need some accountability.

I guess what I'm kind of hoping for is for some of you girl friends to do this along with me and we can come up with ideas and be a sounding board for some experienced advice. If any of you are interested in trying this along with me, let me know. And just to ease the pressure...I'm just sticking my toe in the water. I can't guarantee I'm going to stick with this, but I'm just feeling convicted to at least try. :-)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My Baby is Growing Up!

As of this week, Monkey is getting slowly transitioned out of his Baby II class (12 – 18 months) at school into the Toddler I class (18 – 24 months). In the Toddler I room, the kids don’t use high chairs at meal/snack times, nor do they have cribs to take naps. They eat at tiny little tables with these itty-bitty knee-high chairs and sleep on these little mesh cots that are raised about 3 inches off the ground. They also begin encouraging use of potty chairs and reading words.

The reading thing is so cute too…the new room has little word tags all over it in their appropriate places: Sink. Toilet. Paper towels. Clock. Chair. Blocks. And they're in English and Spanish, to encourage them to be bilingual, which I love!

While the full-time transition will not happen for another two months, they are putting him in there for a few hours a day to get adjusted to his new environment and new peers. It really is exciting to me that he has a new place to play with new friends and new toys, but I’m a little concerned about the eating, napping, and potty thing. It's just making me realize, that when changes like this come up in school, it means it's time to adapt at home too.

So my questions to you more experienced parents out there:

  1. How old were your kids before they started eating AT the table, without a high chair? Did you struggle with them STAYING in their seats?

  2. How old were your kids when they transitioned to a toddler bed from a crib? How did you keep them in it and not out in their bedroom playing? Or just falling out, when gymnastics are done in their sleep? My kid flops around like a fish on dry land!

  3. How old were your kids when they started showing interest in potty chairs or potty training? He’s already showing the pre-cursor signs by hiding when he goes #2, which I find kinda cute! Hearing funny noises behind Daddy’s recliner always makes me giggle. LOL!

I know it’s just me being hormonal, but I just don’t feel ready for these big boy changes! Can he possibly sit in a chair and eat a meal without jumping down? Can he possibly take a nap NOT confined to a safe space? Doesn’t it seem early to consider introducing potty chairs at this age? Can any of you momma’s share any real life experience to tell me what is “normal”, what works, what doesn’t, etc? This stage has crept up on me so quickly and caught me a little off-guard. How is it that I can misjudge so badly how quickly my baby is growing up?

*sad sob!*

The one cool thing I realized as I’m typing this out? For whatever reason, God has blessed us with the opportunity to do this all over again with another child. If any of you were surprised by our news, don’t feel alone. I still have to pinch myself to remember it’s not a dream!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


I’ve been off caffeine for about two months now per my OB’s instructionss. With the exception of some occasional M&Ms or baby Snickers (okay, and the Reese’s Peanut Butter cups from our last small group meeting), I’ve done exceptionally well. Tired of course, but considering the circumstances, not a surprise.

I’ve been JONESING for the stash of Mountain Dews that my coworker keeps in our little office fridge. Now that I’m finally out of the first trimester, I’m feeling courageous enough to venture out of my limited pregnancy diet. So last week, I ask if I can purchase a can from him. He was generous and said to just take what I want, when I wanted. What a nice guy! With three kids of his own and witnessing what his wife went through, he said he understood pregnancy cravings. So I opened a can the other day and poured myself a tiny styrofoam cup of the sweet neon nectar. I felt like I’d gone to Heaven! But I after two months with no caffeine, I knew I was asking for trouble if I drank the whole can. So my coworker finished my (his?) can of Mountain Dew.

Today I have another craving. I’ve been thinking about it all morning and finally caved about two hours ago. So I put a dollar on his desk and took another can. I drank the whole thing! I was a lady and didn’t guzzle like in the commercials, like I felt like doing! I sipped and savored and made it last. It’s beautiful and cold and even feeling it swirl around the ice in my cup made me feel special somehow.

*happy sigh*

But good grief, after a WHOLE can, this stuff makes me feel like I’m Wonder Woman! I bet I can deflect bullets off my bulging belly or something. Where’s my lasso?

I’m most likely going to regret this at 1:00 this morning, but man, it was sweet while it lasted!

POST SCRIPT: Like I'd ever have the boobs to fill out that costume! But a girl can dream...

Friday, January 9, 2009


This is Chris, the son of my friend Stacy. He's the pastor at a church in Abilene and last year met this wonderful, darling young lady that was created just for him. Everyone who's met Rachel loves her and knows she's a perfect match for Chris.

As you can see from this shot, it's a special woman to love a pastor with a sense of humor like this. ;-)

Congratulations Chris and Rachel! May God bless your relationship for many, many years! We are so happy for you! We are tickled that you get to enjoy each other's company for a lifetime. I promise, it's one of the biggest blessings you'll ever experience.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Living Up to His Name

When we found out we were pregnant with JK, for whatever reason, we started calling the little jelly bean shaped baby, our Monkey. Without realizing it, we created our own monster. As the pregnancy progressed, that little jelly bean shaped baby started kicking like he was headed for a Bend it like Beckham future. Since he was born, not much has changed. Our little guy is truly one of the most active children we've ever met. Endless energy, insatiable curiosity, and fearless wonder make this child the most wonderful (and exhausting) highlight of our lives! And everyday he lives up to his name like no other little guy we know.

He will climb anything...

...crawl into the tiniest spaces...

...try anything at least once, as long as it looks exciting!

We only wish he were as adventuresome with food. This guy definitely has his opinions about what goes in his mouth. He's a bit of a picky eater. But when it comes to any kind of pasta with red sauce, it's a huge hit!

Since we seem to have this self-fulfilling prophecy going in our household, we've decided that this next one will be called something other than a little primate that gets into everything. Any suggestions? :-)

We're only 13 weeks along and we've had a few complications early on, thus the reason for waiting so long to share our news publicly. Although, since I'm already showing pretty good, I'm not sure we'd be able to keep this a secret much longer. You really do show quicker with the second baby! We are feeling positive that things are progressing well. We had a heartbeat of 167 at our last sono and the majority of my days are fighting nausea and fatigue just like with JK.

We would covet your prayers for this little one's health and safety. And we would also covet any prayers for our sweet little Monkey. This July, his life will be changed forever and we will need all the wisdom and guidance we can get to make his transition as smooth as possible.

For those of you that have already been praying for this child, we cannot thank you enough! God gave us strength through your encouragement, prayers, and continually touching base with us. We are so grateful for you! You are such a blessing to our lives. You know who you are.

Humbled with His Grace,

A & N

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Mommy's Christmas Present = Fun For All!

About two day's into my birth mother's visit, our dishwasher breaks down. Not good when I'm wanting to impress my Mama. But being the sweet lady she is, she took it upon herself to be the official house dishwasher. (Can you see another reason why I was so sad when she left? LOL!) We barely ever saw a dish on the counter, in the sink, on the table, anywhere! So the pain of not having a dishwasher wasn't really felt until Mama left. Wow! Talk about getting hit with a brick wall of reality! But we decided to fight the urge to hit Home Depot and see how we could do without it. So we struggled for about two weeks without a dishwasher, before we threw up our hands and decided it just wasn't going to work for us.

N took it upon himself to do all the research, as I wasn't really that picky. I just wanted something white. Within a few days, he found the perfect one! Merry Christmas to Mommy! Woohoo! But I had NO IDEA how much the whole family would love and benefit from the purchase.

Here is Monkey helping Daddy take out the old decrepit appliance from 1969. Can you say Harvest Gold? Matches our Mary Kay pink countertops.

Here is Monkey celebrating with De-Da on the installation of Mommy's present. I can honestly say, there isn't anyone that can hold a candle to De-Da in Monkey's eyes. He LOVES this man!

Here is Monkey with his new toy...the dishwasher box. This was a bigger hit than MOST of his Christmas toys. He plays with this thing every day and doesn't ever get bored with it. How sad is that? We could have saved all that Christmas money! Live and learn.