Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I'm on the stitch fix wagon...

After lurking on their website for a few weeks, setting up a style profile and lurking some more, I finally scheduled a Stitch Fix and it arrived this week!!

I finally broke down because not only did I want to check it out, but I finally decided that it would be worth the $20 investment to have a stylist find some options that I probably would not pick for myself. I've realized recently that my time is more valuable that it used to be and I'm not skilled at shopping and fashion. I'm also finally deciding that I would prefer to have high quality items that may cost more initially, but will last longer. I just don't want to, or have the time to, replace things so often. So I considered this a $20 experiment.

I was very concerned about the cost of the items because I tend to be a Target shopper, not so much a Nordstrom's shopper. So I did a little research and found that while the average item is $65 or so, you can request to be on the low side of that. I emphasized that in my order.

I also was worried they would send me crazy stuff that just didn't fit my normal style. I wouldn't mind trying a trend, but I don't want expensive things that would be glaringly out of style in a few weeks. So based on other Stich Fix reviews, I added lots of detail to my profile and also pointed them to my style board on Pinterest (which I loaded up with outfits I like).

The wait time to get the fix was longer than I would have liked. I scheduled in mid January and took delivery late February. Perhaps it was the holiday rush or something, but I was pretty bummed there was a delay.

When it arrived I was so excited! The box is even cute and it is packaged so carefully. It really felt like a gift arriving, not anything like a typical department store order. It even included a personalized note from the stylist that showed she had indeed read the notes on my style profile. This was not at all a random shipment, these were truly picked out for me.

These were the five items I was sent:

This drape front cardigan was $58. I've never spent that much on a cardigan but I love it! I looks very cute and can be worn with a ton of items. It will also help me make great use of my summer clothes as we transition to warmer weather. This was my keeper.

This top was $54. It looked good on me but not great. I decided that if I'm going to pay full price for items, I want to love them when I put them on. So this one went back.

This adorable dress was $68. I really like the style of it and love the skirt but the top was pretty much transparent and that doesn't work for me. I would have definitely kept it otherwise.

I really liked this purple dress which was $78. It looked good on me and I liked the cut but the sleeves and color and not a logical choice for the coming heat. I couldn't justify the cost on a winter item heading into spring. I tried it on twice to be sure - I really liked it.

I really loved these pink pants for $88. But I had just gotten a nearly identical and non returnable pair from clearance at J.Crew. Seriously the day before. I really don't need two pair of pink pants. So back they went.

Each item had a style card with it to give me ideas about how to wear it and what to wear it with. I found these to be very helpful and give me some creative ideas.

I was very pleased with the simplicity of the return shipping. The bag was enclosed and addressed and all I did was fold the clothes back up and stick them in. It gets dropped off at the post office tomorrow but I think you can also just stick it in your mailbox.

I only kept one item from this fix, but I was very pleased overall. I went online and provided feedback about the items which should help improve my order next time. I already went ahead and scheduled one for late next month. And I'm already getting excited about it!

Want to try it out? I get an a referral credit if you try it out so don't be shy. http://stitchfix.com/sign_up?referrer_id=3314914
I have a feeling you will like it as much as I did! 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

So what do you get with a quarter or half of beef?

I've posted before about things to know before buying a half or quarter. But often the next questions is how much beef do you get in that order? It has taken me ages, but I finally took the time to photograph and document a quarter of beef (this is also called a split side of beef). I rarely open my customer's boxes, but since this customer runs this blog, I figured it would be ok. :) So, this is what the quarter of beef for Sarah looks like. She and Michael customized their order based on their cooking style, the fact that summer BBQ season is almost here and the fact that there will be an infant keeping them busy very soon.
This is how their quarter broke down by weight of the individual cuts:
Filet Mignon - 2.64 lbs
Top Sirloin - 7.56 lbs
Rib Eye Steak, boneless - 6.1 lbs
New York Strip Steak - 6.09 lbs
Flat Iron Steaks - 2.56 lbs
Tri Tip - 2.55 lbs
Sirloin Tip Steaks - 3.24 lbs
Cross Rib Steak - 3.48 lbs
Carne Asada - 5.49 lbs
Chuck Roast - 7.88 lbs
Rump Roast - 3.1 lbs
Fajita Strips - 3 lbs
Ground Beef - 65 lbs of ground beef.
*Note that most people won't usually get that much ground beef but with a baby arriving soon, we kept it simple for them. They could have kept briskets as roasts, shanks as roasts and another roast from the round to have more roasts and less ground beef.
So they ended up with just over 53 lbs of cuts and 65 lbs of ground beef for 118 total pounds. That is actually pretty heavy for a split half or quarter of beef. 90-100 lbs is more common, this just happened to be a big steer.

This is what their ground beef looks like, all in one pound packages.

Next is the line up of "higher end" steaks - filets in the front, rib eyes next, New Yorks behind and lastly the top sirloin steaks. The steaks are all packaged two to a package and all are 1 1/4 inches thick, standard for us.
Below are the tri tip, sirloin tip, cross rib steak and flat iron steaks. These are all great on the BBQ. A cross rib steak and sirloin tip steak both do well with a marinade, quick BBQ and served no more than medium. Note that there is no flank or skirt steak. Since there is only one tri tip, one skirt steak and one flank steak per side of beef, we divide these as equally as possible between the two quarters - one get the tri tip and the other the flank and skirt steak.
Finally we have the roasts. In the back - or top of the photo are the rump roasts and chuck roasts. The Chuck roast is the fattest of the roasts but very, very flavorful and super easy to 'set and forget' in the crockpot. Below those are the carne asada and at the bottom are the fajita strips.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

We Moved!

We moved and every corner now looks like this:


Ok, fine … the corners AND the middle pretty much every room look like that!

We have tons of unpacking to do and it is going pretty slow since I am about the size of an SUV but that’s ok with me. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Water Conservation #3 - indoor water fixtures

This is my third installment in the series on saving water. Here we focus on a quick and pretty painless conversion from traditional shower heads and faucets to a water saving package that I picked up at the box home improvement store.
While searching for individual water saving items - which was actually difficult since there are tons to choose from and I had a toddler with me - I managed to find this wonderful package of items. It was about $12 with tax for the whole package. I saw it, grabbed it and headed for the checkout. The package included a shower head, kitchen faucet aerator and two bathroom faucet aerators.
My wonderful husband installed them. The shower was easy, the kitchen sink was easy, but the bathrooms were for a different thread. I haven't made it to the hardware store to get the correct thread, so those haven't been used yet. But literally the other items just screwed right on. I don't even think we needed tools.
According to the back of the package, we should be looking at some pretty good power savings. But we are just looking at and measuring the water savings. 
So far, no complaints about the change. We won't track the power savings, but hopefully that is a bonus on top of the water savings. With a whopping $12 invested, we don't need much savings to pay for it.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Water Conservation #2 - landscaping


According to the Environmental Protection Agency about 30% of all residential water use is outdoor. That is a lot of water for plants and lawn and a big part of your water bill.

Before the drought became the bigger concern, the test house was already considering replacing their lawn with ground cover. The main issue then was moving toward a lower maintenance option. Typically the test house has been spending $50-80 per month to get the lawn mowed. It is not a big lawn to begin with and as it is next to the street and not fenced. It isn't used as a play area or as any sort of outdoor living space. It is just there for looks really and currently serving very little function.
The lawn before.

They want the area to have some curb appeal, but use less water and require just seasonal maintinence. There is an existing in ground sprinkler system, but it has to be turned on and off manually. The owners also didn't want to spend much time or money on the project at this point.

So we researched ground cover options and decided that an aggressive ground cover which would spread quickly would be ideal. The current lawn is paved on all four sides so an invasive plant isn't much of a concern.

We could have also considered switching to a desert style landscape or a hardscape (rock or cement or some combination of that). Both of those options will require more work up front and be more expensive so we will fall back to those options later if ground cover isn't a good fit at this location.
We decided on paper to try vinca minor. It is aggressive, fast growing, very hardy and drought tolerant. It is very low maintenance too. When we mentioned this idea to a friend, they liked the idea and had done something similar on their lawn with vinca minor. They offered to let us dig up some of theirs to start on the test house lawn.

So the plan that we have started on the test house is this:
We planted the vinca minor starts from our friend right into the existing lawn. The lawn was pretty patchy anyway so we hope that we will get the vinca minor to take over and simply out compete the grass. This worked pretty well for our friend on their lawn. We will water the plants minimally the next few weeks, and water them by hand to not encourage growth on the rest of the lawn. We are going to see how they grow and spread and add more starts in the next few weeks.

Looking forward to keeping you posted about this project and see what sort of water savings we get. We hope the combo of water and mowing savings will make this a very worthwhile change!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Vlog on California Drought

I'm going to try this out as a "vlog" since I tend to speak better than I write. Here is how the drought is impacting our farm.

Homemade Yogurt Parfait

I love yogurt and could eat it every day.  I prefer Greek yogurt for its thicker heartier taste but flavored Greek yogurt is expensive when you buy the individual containers.  So, I decided to make some parfaits to keep in the freezer for a quick snack.  
All you need is yogurt (I chose Greek nonfat plain yogurt), berries (I chose frozen since they were not in season yet), chopped almonds, and honey.  Oh, and some containers. 
The containers are 1.2 cup and seem to be a good size.  It is a hearty snack at that size and some days I am not hungry enough to finish it so I am looking for a little smaller containers. 
Here is how to make them:
Scoop in some yogurt.
Top with berries. 
Top with almonds.
Then honey. 
Smoosh the lid on.
And place in the freezer.  This will make 4 containers this size (but of course I only have 2).
I like to take these to work as an afternoon snack - just pull it out of the freezer in the morning and it will be ready to eat in the afternoon.  If you want this for a morning snack, then pull it from the freezer the night before and it will be thawed and ready to enjoy by late morning. 
I love these because I could make a bunch (if I had more containers) and not have to worry about having healthy snacks for work or the weekend.  They would be in the freezer ready to go!
I was worried about the almonds getting soggy but they provided the perfect crunch even after being frozen and thawed!
YUM!  What is your favorite healthy snack?