We’ve made it exactly five and a half days of not eating out, and have exactly five more days to go to fulfill our promise (we get paid next Friday). It’s been easier and more fun that I thought, but the desire to just head to a restaurant has been strong, too.

There have been some “con”-like results of this. For one, we’re having to use the dishwasher at least once a day. Then there’s the matter of the time it takes me to prepare and cook each meal, although it’s a nice distraction for me and a good way for Carlos to interact with Diego. We’ve also been coming up with ways for Diego to help, like handing us stuff to set the table.

I think we have both missed following our cravings. Like the other night Chinese food sounded good, but I’m not about to attempt sweet and sour soup or pineapple chicken. Even if I did get all the ingredients I’m not sure it would be up to par…well, maybe I’m just being defeatist.

Breakfast has been mainly cereal or oatmeal (loaded with bananas and raisins, yum) and for lunch we’ve made sandwiches with turkey and tuna fish. A couple of afternoons we had leftovers from the night before.

Our dinners have been nice. I made stuffed peppers for the first time with ground turkey, white rice, tomatoes, oregano, onions, garlic, and a ketchup-soy sauce-tabasco sauce I concoted. It might sound gross but everything came out yummy. Another night we made a pot of pinto beans, added some chorizo and ate with “chuletas,” which is pork chops that are boiled in a frying pan with water (just enough to cover them) salted and with a bit of vinegar, then once the water evaporates you fry them until they’re crispy. Again, might sound gross but they come out really tasty and tender.

Finally, we had spaghetti with mushrooms, spinach and turkey sausage one night, a frozen cheese pizza with salad another night, and “saltado” (basically sauteed thin meat with onions, tomato, cilantro and french fries) and white rice. I get all these crazy recipes from my mom. They’re Peruvian dishes.

Diego didn’t like the saltado that much, but he ate pretty much everything else. I warmed up a corn tortilla with cheese for him that night.

Right now we’re heating up the last of our frozen pizzas (I cut us off at two). Tonight I think is tofu, squash, carrot and onion stir-fry with an Asian simmer sauce, maybe more white rice.

I hope it make it one more week!


Carlos and I made a pinky-swear promise the other night to only eat at home until our next paycheck. That will mean two weeks, or about 14 days, of home-prepared meals. The rule will be that if we don’t have enough food to make a meal at home, we’ll go to the store and buy what we need. Usually when this happens at our house we head to a restaurant, then vow to buy groceries the next day. A few days later, we finally make it to the store. But we never seem to know exactly what to buy. We get staples, but then are missing key ingredients to complete a meal. Now we have no excuses. I’m trying to be flexible, though. Frozen pizzas or already cooked foods count, as long as its from the grocery store. I hope we realize how valuable it is to eat at home, and in the end maybe we’ll save some cash.

big boy

June 24, 2007

Our plan for the weekend had been to get Diego a “big boy” bed. Really what we had in mind was a toddler bed that would hold his crib mattress. He’s been getting a little more difficult with the bedtime routine, and we thought perhaps he’d be ready for a little bed. One of my coworkers talked me out of it, at least temporarily. She said that toddler beds are not practical, because in less than a year (or maybe two) he’ll be ready for a twin size bed. We haven’t budgeted for a new twin bed yet. We also have the added complication of planning for another baby. Would it be smarter to get the toddler bed and wait until he’s really ready for the twin; go ahead and get a twin bed; or get a set of bunk-beds in anticipation for a younger sibling? I think the bunk-beds would work best. That way when he’s older and has friends over, even if there isn’t a younger Virgen member running around, we’ll have space. But we can’t afford a new frame and two new mattresses yet. We could probably just get one mattress, and just use one of the bunk beds, as my coworker also noted. Anyway, it’s still up in the air. I still think the toddler bed would be work the $60.

So we held off on buying any beds, and got Diego a “big boy” booster high chair, instead. He’s been getting cranky about his regular high chair, and has been more interested in sitting with us at the regular table. But he disappears in the seat and can barely see his meal just sitting on the regular chair. I guess I probably shouldn’t even let him sit there. So he’s delighted with the booster. He’s got his own place at our table in the kitchen, and is getting quite skilled at drinking from a cup without a spill-proof lid. Our dining room table is a little trickier. We have a gathering table that is a bit higher than a regular table. I probably shouldn’t strap him in the booster chair in one of those, which are high like bar stools. Maybe with careful supervision, or maybe in a year or two.

Mr. Brooks

June 24, 2007

Last night we headed to the drive-in. It was my first time watching a drive-in movie. Ever. We brought Diego, who was already sleepy, and he slept through almost all of the first movie, “Mr. Brooks.” Walla Walla is located just a few miles north of the Oregon border. The drive-in theater is in Oregon, on a stretch of highway heading into a city called Milton-Freewater. The drive-in is obviously dated: nothing frilly or glamorous about it. But there was something very cozy about sitting in our car, watching the sun fade and the stars come in, as the movie began. We took advantage of our moon roof and had it open the whole time. There was a calming wind blowing outside that kept shifting the clouds and surprised us with a cool breeze in the warm car.

This being our first drive-in experience as a family, we realized we should have probably cleaned the windshield before heading out. We were out of windshield wiper fluid so we just had to bear it. The movie was fine — not great, and not awful. It started just at dusk, and the movie wasn’t perfectly visible at first but got sharper as the sun faded more. The real draw of the night was just the experience of being there. The entire night cost us just under $15: $10 for the car, and $4.25 for a big soda and popcorn.

Diego began shifting in his car seat, and once he opened his eyes he couldn’t get back to sleep. It probably didn’t help that he had a direct view of the film. When he started whimpering I got him out of the seat and held him in my lap. I got him to watch the stars and moon through the moon roof rather than focus on the violence of the film’s ending. He did really well, until we had to decide whether to stay for the second movie, “28 Weeks Later,” or head home. I thought we should have stayed for a bit of the second movie, until the baby got tired again. But we decided to head back. Diego didn’t want to get back in his car seat, but it was only a few minutes before he was asleep again.

I’m looking forward to going back to the drive-in when Carlos’ daughter, Itzul, comes up in August. We’ll have to come up with another way to keep Diego calm during the movie.


June 18, 2007

I’ve been bombarded the last few weeks with privacy notices from my credit people. I wanted to share some of my knowledge as the family’s CFO about these missives. Definitely read through them. Read up to the part where it talks about how the credit people share your private information with other agencies. I am always floored by how much junk mail I get from credit cards that I already have. If I wanted a better interest rate, I’d call and ask for one! If I wanted cash advance checks, I’d request them! It is so important, at least I think, to read through those sections until you get to the part that reads, “if you don’t want us to share your information with affiliated or third-party companies, follow these instructions.” In the case of a few credit cards, I had to fill in a slip at the end of the privacy policy with my account numbers and with the appropriate boxes checked off. I put those in the mail today. The Best Buy Card people sent me my privacy notice electronically. I read through the fine print, and in their case, I need to call a phone number to get them to not share my information. I am guessing I will probably need my account number, so it’s a task that will have to wait until I get home and dig up the card from the hole in the back yard…but seriously, it is stashed somewhere so that I am not tempted to buy video game systems or the Sex and the City boxed set every time I walk in there.

I just wanted to share some of my (almost) junk-free living tactics with others, in case you are in the habit of not opening the privacy statements or not getting to that vital last section where you get to make a decision on how you’re solicited to.

baby milestones

June 12, 2007

I stayed home today because Diego woke up with a fever. Together we caught up on some PBS programming. I saw part of a show called “A Home of Our Own,” where a group of ladies talk about pressing mommy issues. The topic today was getting a baby to sleep through the night.

It got me thinking about how well Diego sleeps. He usually knocks out between 7 or 8 p.m. and gets up by 6:30 a.m. On rare days he’ll sleep until 7. That’s a good 11 hours, plus his late morning or early afternoon nap. That’s pretty early to be up on a weekend, but getting those extra hours alone at night really makes a difference. It feels like we’re so blessed now, that it’s hard to forget it took almost a year to get him into that sleep routine. Before that, Diego had us up at least once or twice a night wanting to breast feed.  In the early months I’d go to his crib every two or three hours. That’s also when his crib was in the bedroom with us.

One of the joys of moving to Walla Walla was getting Diego his own room. The first few weeks in the house, though, he’d start in his own crib and then end up in our bed. Eventually we got used to keeping him in his crib, but we’d still have to drag ourselves across the house to soothe him when he woke up. Once I stopped nursing him in the middle of the night everything else got easier, but not without a few rough days. What helped us was sticking to our routine and rules. Carlos gives him his bath and usually lays him down. Then I’m the one to get Diego in the mornings. I help with some of the bed-time routine: Diego only really lets me brush and floss his teeth, and I really enjoy going through a few books with him before bed. Then Diego says good-night to us and his toys and gets in his crib, where a blue blanket and some stuffed animals keep him company.

The show today emphasized having a routine and sticking to it, as well as letting the baby have some sort of soothing object to take to bed for comfort. The ladies also said how important it was that babies go to bed while still awake (but sleepy) so they learn to fall alseep on their own. At first Diego would wimper or cry out, and our rule became to wait at least five minutes before going back in. If he happened to wake up in the middle of the night, we’d hug him, then lay him back down without picking him up. Carlos did this task for a while because it was too tempting for me to go since I was no longer breast feeding.

I can’t even remember now how long it took him to get in the good habit, but it was a lot quicker than I expected. And now we’re all that much happier for it. I can’t believe I made it a year without sleeping through the night.

date afternoon

June 7, 2007

Carlos and I had our first “date” in Walla Walla in many moons. Last time we snuck off to the movies without the baby was when we saw “Pan’s Labyrinth,” before it won the Oscars and was released on video. This time we left work a wee bit early (we took a short lunch, boss, in case you’re reading) to catch “Knocked Up.” It felt sneaky to drive past the street Diego’s day care is on and not stop. We treated ourselves to popcorn and sodas, sprinkling a ton of butter and powdered jalapeno into the popcorn tub. I actually really enjoy movie outings and it was nice to be in a cool, dimly lit theater with my sweetie.  Too bad the movie was so raunchy. Okay, it was sweet and tender as well, in an “awh-shucks” kind of way. The hero of the film is a pot-smoking overgrown child in the body of a young adult, who gets his one-night stand pregnant. And she decides to keep it! I thought it was funny the way “Borat” was funny: I laughed my pants off, but I probably wouldn’t watch it again. There were just a few too many F-words, references to sex acts and body parts and testosterone-laced humor to make me put it at the top of my list. But I had a great laugh. I cracked up when the guy did mushrooms with his future bro-in-law and freaked out watching Cirque du Soleil live in Vegas. There were some great camio scenes with better known movie stars, playing themselves, because the main gal in the movie is a host for E! television.

I think my brand of film humor is more aligned with Alexander Payne flicks, like “Election” or “Citizen Ruth.” One of my favorite movies is “Drop Dead Gorgeous,” a great mockumentary.

Anyway it was great to get away with Carlos, even just for two hours out of the day. We drove to get Diego right away, and it was a great feeling to have him throw his little arms around my neck when we got there. We took him to the park for being so patient with his crazy parents who dared to sneak off to a movie without him.


June 5, 2007

Finally finished “Petropolis” today. I blogged about it last week I think, so it took me a few days to finish it. In my previous life I could have probably finished it in a couple of nights. I really, really enjoyed the story, although I would probably recommend waiting for the second edition because there were some typos and glaring grammatical errors…at least to me. The story is written in third person, but is mainly told through the eyes of a young Russian girl who immigrates to the U.S. It was a bit odd to read dialogue that was meant to be in Russian but typed in English, and then getting to the characters really speaking English, when it seems that is what they’ve been doing all along. This immigrant, or foreigner, perspective might be why the grammar errors are there, like using entitled instead of titled or emigrated instead of immigrated. The “entitled” slip almost made me put the book down, I was so disappointed. But it had been such an engrossing read that I kept going. The main character of the book is a total anti-hero. She is chubby, awkward, feisty, and kind of dumb. But she gets in great adventures, and let’s her poor judgment lead her to great things. The book is also about severe poverty, endurance, survival, sacrifice, and even love, although it’s hard to tell because so many of the “loves” in the story are selfish deep down. Short of explaining the whole plot, it is a bitter, painful story that was easy to get through because of the humor and ridiculousness of the characters.