Monthly Archives: May 2011

Restaurant review: Casa Maria

I’m excited about today’s post as it is not only about a place I tried for the first time, but also my first time posting about a restaurant.

I’ll start with the disclaimer that I am by no means a professional restaurant critic. I simply write this blog which focuses on trying new things, mainly my experiences with new people, places, products and projects to share with you guys my victories (like thrift furniture refinishing) and flops (like the community arts market trip). So, given that I like to try new things and I like to eat, I figured a new restaurant report fit right in. 😉

Saturday evening, Jeremy and I were laying around, wiped out from our garage sale when I got a text from a friend. It was an invitation to join her and some folks that were going out to dinner. No cooking or dishes to do? Perfect! Plus we got some great friend time after a long day with strangers. Although our friends are apparently regulars, it was our first time to Casa Maria, an “authentic Mexican restaurant.”

It says so on the menu.

We were greeted with many welcomes and fresh tortilla chips and salsa—my kind of greeting. The menu was surprisingly lengthy and happy hour buy one, get one is all day, every day. ¡Si, por favor! And I hate tequila, but their Margaritas were delicious…and not chincy watered down “specials” either.

I sipped on my first one while everyone decided on their meal.

I didn’t need any time to decide. I always get the same thing when eating Mexican out: enchiladas! I’m fairly picky about what makes a great enchilada meal, too. Always ordering the same thing means, yes, I can tell the difference of high and low quality. I want those calories to be worth it. But apparently, I was the oddball because out of six people, I’m the only one who didn’t order the restaurant’s California Burrito. The friend who invited us warned that although it was extremely yummy, it was also extremely huge. Jeremy ordered it right away.

While we waited for our food, we chatted and I took in Casa Maria’s clean, casual ambiance. I liked that it felt Mexican without being cheesy and was fairly new, so the booths and lighting fixtures were more modern.

The bar area and its ginormous mural.

I was excited when our food was paraded over. Mine stuck out like a sore thumb from the burritos but it was so worth it. My number one complaint for poorly done enchiladas is the meat. If it is fatty or missing, I’m not happy. This meat had great flavor, was peeking out of the ends (so I knew it wasn’t a wimpy tortilla with a teaspoon of beef) and wasn’t sitting in oil so I knew it was lean and cooked properly.

A+

Jeremy was also excited about his meal. You saw how much fit on my plate. The California Burrito was all that fit on everyone else’s plate. Wow. It was even topped with white queso sauce, but Jeremy got his on the side. The picture’s a bit too dark but it’s what I had.

Now that’s a knife burrito.

Unfortunately, I do have one negative to report, and that was our server. Our friends go there all the time and always get the same server, who they rave about. Apparently, he was off that night. I asked for water with no lemon. I got lemon. It took an unusually long time for our food to come out. Our friend ordered a drink and didn’t get it until I was done with my first one even though we ordered at the same time. And I didn’t get my second drink until I asked for it at the same time I was finally able to get his attention to bring me a box for leftovers. Slightly disappointing.

Overall though, a good experience. As far as casual chain restaurants go, I think this is a tasty one. I took half my meal home and even reheated, my food was good and the meat still wasn’t greasy. For two dinners (and, technically, a next-day lunch), one soda and two alcoholic drinks, we came in under $25.

So, that was my experience at Casa Maria’s Mexican Restaurant. Have you tried anywhere new lately?

Garage sale tale

Hope you enjoyed your weekend! Jeremy and I are relaxing at home together, recovering from a very busy weekend. Not forgetting to remember our soldiers,  fallen and fighting, who allow us to keep a normal weekend where we can bar-b-que and watch movies and enjoy life.

Saturday, we held our first greenhorn garage sale! Just he, I and a bunch of our junk in the driveway with strangers.

We started the day before, listing everything we had and pricing it. Putting it on tables and wiping off dust.

It looked like this...

And this, when we were done.

We started hauling stuff out around 7 a.m. Saturday morning. Of course, by “we,” I mostly mean Jeremy. He’s awesome at moving stuff…so much so that people are often confused by how he does it. Pretty useful as far as odd hidden talents go!

I couldn't lift half...luckily, it was not a problem.

I stuck to my strengths by organizing the sections, keeping an inventory list, collecting money and schmoozing customers 🙂 Go team.

It wasn’t even all out before people started pulling over and coming up! We didn’t have any signs out or announcements on the Web (like Craigslist or GarageSaleHunter).

All on display as the early morning sun peeked over the roof.

We did end up putting two signs out–just in front of the house. We’re lucky enough to live on a main road so just drive-by traffic provided enough customers.

It was a pretty solid cycle of rush then slow then rush then slow. As the sun continued to chase us backwards toward the house (in order to remain in the shade), we got antsy. Especially about some of the larger pieces that we had. We had tried to sell the dining table and chairs before with no success and really didn’t want to have to lug them back into the garage…again.

But, two hours in and boom! An offer, and we happily accepted.

Also, the China cabinet was so large (you can see it in the first picture), I was convinced no one would buy it even if they wanted to because they’d have to way to transport it.

Then, at noon, I saw two very nice ladies eyeing it. “It’s so nice,” they said. “It could be yours,” I replied with a smile. But she wanted to pay half of what we were asking. As I was about to accept the offer, a voice whispered to me, “did they make an offer on that?” Yep, a couple spotted it from the road and wanted it also!

The piece I was convinced wouldn’t sell was in the middle of a bidding war. Let me tell you, this can be an intimidating and awkward moment. The first woman who wanted argued that she was a veteran with three kids and was there first. The older couple countered with a matching veteran card, and then raised her with kids plus grandkids.

But at the end of the day, I had to tell them that it was very nice to meet both of them and I truly appreciated their interest in purchasing our cabinet, however, it wasn’t about their story. It was about the moola. (Making it about the money felt very cold and unnatural to me, by the way, but kind of fun…and honest.) And by a $25 difference, the older couple took the win.

Lifting with their legs 🙂

They had cold, hard cash AND a way to take it home on the spot. Woo hoo! I couldn’t believe it fit in their vehicle, but they made it work (I don’t think it was their first rodeo garage sale). Jeremy provided the rope and helped them secure their tailgate.

That's customer service.

With that successful sale, we called it a day. All the small things that were left managed to fit in my car. We drove them straight to Goodwill.

All that remained.

I even got a receipt to we can write off the donation on our taxes so it’s a win-win conclusion. And the best news is a combo of extra income and extra space!

The garage today--hoorah.

So, that’s my garage sale experience. I’m thankful it was a good one (I’ve heard stories). Did you try anything new with your long weekend? Any garage sale stories of your own?

C25K: Week 4 report

Week 4, woot! This third week’s program (read about why I’m a week behind here) has been the first time that I really noticed how hard its going to get. The first two weeks certainly took effort but this week was especially challenging.

Week three involved alternating 90 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking with three minutes of running and three minutes of walking. The first day was an eye-opener. The end was a three minute run and I thought it would never end.

Run Day 1: I smiled for the photo.

This outtake is a more realistic representation of how I felt.

But, I did it!

Run Day 2: I actually quit 45 seconds early at the very end but I felt better than the first run.

Run Day 3: Courtesy of the Sunshine State...rescheduled.

In case you can’t tell, it was pouring down rain in that last picture. The yard is full of standing water. So, I’m running tomorrow instead. However, I didn’t put off this post because, in the spirit of trying something new, I’m going to stop weekend postings. It was really nice last weekend to use those days to get my thoughts together and spending quality time with family (and trying even more new things to share with you guys!).

Progress Report:

1. Mental

  • I am still nervous about if I’ll be able to make it. I think about the end runs and get overwhelmed.
  • I plan to just stay positive and not stress before even trying.

2. Physical

  • My right knee brace is working fabulously and now my only concern is shin splints on my left leg but I’m trying to better stretching.
  • Pounds lost: 0 Pounds gained:2 WTH? I blame my vacation’s graduation cake. 😉
  • BMI: Up one point.

3. Lessons

  • Three minutes is a really long time.
  • Stretching is key. Before, after and even on the days in between runs.
  • Ibuprofen/Advil and sleep is awesome.

So, that’s my week 4 recap. How’s your week going? Did you do anything new today?

Savings…HI-YO!

Today’s headline is courtesy of Jeremy (and I guess Ed McMahon, technically). 🙂

I’m so excited to tell you that I’m able to mark another goal off my list–For the first time, I saved more than I spent at the grocery store! It was glorious.

I upgraded my couponing efforts this week three ways:

  • I clipped all the coupons I found, whether I used that product regularly or not.
  • I graduated into a three-ring binder and organized it alphabetically.
  • I found another great coupon blog, The Krazy Coupon Lady, that provides match-ups and all the deals at many stores for you.

I also got some surprise and sweet help. When I got back from my trip to Tennessee, I had this weekly ad in the mail pile awaiting me.

See the stars?

Jeremy went through ahead of time and marked the deals and items we might be interested in.

How about some TP?

I compiled all the deals and products with what we needed or wanted to snag.

The list I made and checked way more than twice.

If you can read it, I wrote out the product name, the right size or variety, the cost, the coupon adjustment and the final price.

Then made some adjustments, gathered my coupons, grabbed my cloth bags and hit the store.

My original estimate = save $37, spend $89.

I wasn’t really feeling it at the store. I was second guessing my choices and wasn’t in the mood to take the extra effort.

The set-up.

So, long story short…we toughed it out, mainly stuck to the list but were flexible and splurged on one thing (Entenmann’s donuts buy one, get one). When we finished checking out, the cashier said, “wow! you did really good.” I said thank you and read the receipt as we walked out. By the time I hit the parking lot I saw it:

Hiyooooooo!

We saved $52.75 in-store plus $7 in gas reward (Winn-Dixie’s and Shell’s Fuelperks partnership program) and spent $52.38. I outright danced and squealed all the way to car. Actually, I tweaked my knee doing it. Worth it!

A little too excited.

Depending on how you count it, I was either $0.37  or $7.37 ahead, but either way, that scale is tipped to the savings side and I’ll take it! $105 worth of groceries for $52–all day :).

I plan to keep it up for as long as it makes sense to do so, which at this point seems like forever as long as I don’t let it interfere with my relationships, blood pressure or spare space in the house, haha.

So, have you tried anything new lately? Feeling accomplished? For more couponing tips, read my Coupon School post for advice from highly-successful couponer and links to other resources.

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Product review: Yoplait Smoothie mix

Much like my trial of Kemps, a buy one, get one promo spurred an unscheduled purchase…

Smoothie mix!

In came in several flavors but I chose blueberry pomegranate. You can see the white yogurt pieces on the bag picture. It only requires one cup of milk and a blender to make.

Ready to go.

I could’ve just hit the button then and I’m sure it would’ve been as good as it smelled…But since I’ve shared my smoothie addiction before, I decided to doctor it up just a tad (no offense Yoplait folks).

Four strawberries and two handfuls fresh spinach.

I think it was actually as good as ones I make myself only sweeter. Jeremy tried a mixed berry flavor package while I was in Tennessee and said it was good as well.

Mmmmmmmm, perfect!

I’ll mostly stick with my scratch smoothies simply for the sugar content and price. But, if another deal presented itself, it is easy, tasty and still a better option than buying one out.  Overall, I would recommend this mix as a good starting place or stand-alone, depending on your taste.

Did you try anything new today? Have you tried this mix yet? See you tomorrow! I have exciting goal news.

C25K: Week 3 report

After a disconnected few days,  I’m back! And am so happy to be here! Also, before I report out on my training program progress, I finally got the pictures of dogs on a plane up! Go check it out–the snout is worth it, I promise.

After week two, I shared with you that I only made one of the three runs due to procrastination and then a bizarre and sudden knee pain in the beginning of day two.

This past week, I had a cautious optimist voice in my head cheering me on. I decided to just do the day two and three runs from week two that I missed. So I guess, technically, this is Week 2 1/2 report :). I also wore a knee brace and made sure to run in the cooler mornings.

Success

See my cozy right knee? The five-minute cool down walk is my favorite.

Progress Report:

1. Mental

  • I felt a lot of pressure, fear and apprehension this week.
  • I just decided I would try and walk back or quit if I had to.
  • So far, I haven’t needed to.
  • I plan to just stay positive and not stress in my head before even trying.

2. Physical

  • I actually choked up half-way through because I was so grateful to not have to give up.
  • Pounds lost: 2
  • BMI: 1 point down–brings me to normal range, kachow!

3. Lessons

  • Not to be too hard on myself.
  • Not to allow myself to feel sorry for myself or slack.
  • Sometimes things are out of our control.
  • Running is great for clearing your mind. I’ve heard that before..that it’s a cleansing and disciplined sport. But I really do get it. Although, I think I get it because I’m too busy struggling to breathe and lift each leg to stress or worry, haha.

So, that’s my week 3 recap. How’s your week going? Did you do anything new today?

Technical difficulties

Well, this is a trying something new post…it’s my first post from my phone.

I posted on Friday that my Internet was rebelling and not allowing any photos. I’d insert the very cute picture of the search and rescue k9 eating airplane pretzels but only the caption would show. Muy frustrating.

Since I was out of town over the weekend, I figured I’d fix it today.

Instead, it’s gotten worse. Now I have no Internet at all! Thank you Comcast.

So, Android to the rescue this evening…except for pictures. Apparently, I can’t upload pictures from my phon. 😦 Boo.

It was good to try this way though. At least I know what my back-up options are as well as limitations. I should be up and running tomorrow. Thanks for stopping by. Check back soon!

Did you try anything new today? Anyone else have Comcast stories or super mobile devices?