Saturday, January 29, 2011

Traditional Valentine's Day Meal

Just wanted to put this idea out there early, in case you want to start the tradition yourself.  This one is from my childhood - the traditional Valentine's Day meal - a heart-shaped meatloaf!!  My mom made one of these every year and it was a tradition I just had to pass on to my own family.
The above picture was taken last year (obviously pre-cooking) - I made it in the crockpot with carrots and potatoes for something a little different.  I also made layered jello (alternating layers of red, pink, and white) and cut it out with heart cookie cutters.  Another great thing for the kiddos is to put a drop or two of red food coloring in their milk, or get the cranberry flavored ginger ale!

Do you serve anything special for Valentine's Day?

Click here for a list of parties I may have linked up to!

Friday, January 28, 2011

You Found Me!

Thanks for coming over to my new blog!  I have imported all my posts, so everything can be found here.  The sad thing is, followers don't transfer over with if you were a previous follower, please "follow me" again.  If you have just been lurking around...please consider makes me feel all happy inside :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Ice Cream

Snow day!!  Since Jackson goes to school twice a week, I can be excited about snow days again!!  I wanted to do something fun with him today, but we're all still fighting colds so I didn't think playing outside would be the best.  He actually asked for ice cream this morning, and little did he know I already had a plan...snow ice cream!
It's very easy, quick, and of course cheap to make.  In a medium sized bowl, combine 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Go out and collect 4-5 or more cups of clean fresh snow - don't pack it, just scoop.

Add the snow to the milk mixture a little at a time, stirring to mix.  Stop when the consistency gets how you want it.  We probably could have added a little snow more snow to ours, or even put it in the freezer for a bit, but we were impatient and wanted to try it.  Here's our finished product....
Actually, those were almost the finished products.  Here's the actual finished product, with an added ingredient suggested by Jackson.
Time to taste!  Was it a success?

Click here for a list of parties I may have linked up to!

Thank you ~ I'm so honored!

Bubbly Nature

also featured here...

Keep Home Simple


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Pure Cinnamon Deliciousness

This snowy day was the perfect day for baking.  I just got The Pioneer Woman Cooks for a Christmas present, so I decided to break it in a little by making her famous cinnamon rolls.  The recipe makes a pretty big batch...
so now my freezer is stocked!  Of course, I didn't put them all in the fact, we had brinner tonight so these guys could serve as a side dish.
Yep.  Pure Cinnamon Deliciousness.  And the maple icing?  The bowl may have been licked clean.
If the other recipes in this cookbook are half as good as this one, I'm going to be one happy camper.  Besides the yummy end result (the little guy proclaimed these "the goodest things I ever ate"), I'm loving this book for the author's sense of humor, and the loads of pictures and step-by-step instructions.  I highly recommend it!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Secrets of Saving: Coupon Organizing

After I posted about stockpiling, I received a few comments, e-mails, and facebook messages asking about more couponing tips.  Like I said, I have been out of the couponing groove for a few months now (hanging my head in shame).  I'm still couponing, just not the hard-core version.  The "hard-core" version is what I'm going to share with you today, and hopefully it will motivate me to get back to my A-game!

I have always been a saver and a couponer.  My problem was forgetting what coupons I had clipped or having them expire before I could use them.  I started carrying around one of these...
It's cheap, plastic, and can fit inside your purse nicely.  It has dividers that you can label, like I did here....
It helped a great deal, but I didn't like having to search for a coupon everytime I needed one.  I decided to go all out and start the binder method.  Note:  This is not for everyone.  It does take a little time each week.  You will receive weird looks.  Many of the weird looks will be from your husband, even if he is secretly impressed at your mad organizational and saving skills.
So, here's what you need:
A 3-ring binder, some dividers, and baseball card collecting pages (they have 9 pockets on each page).
I had a one inch binder but I may suggest using one that's a little bigger, because mine filled up pretty quickly.

Don't mind the dirty table, I took my binder outside for better lighting :)
Instead of buying dividers, I already had some manilla folders at home, so I used those.  I started by dividing my binder into different sections and then sub-sections for maximum organization!  The manila folders were labeled into the main sections, and then I used sticker labels to directly label the 9-pocket pages into the subsections.  Here's a picture that may help explain better than my wording!

You can see the main section is "Baking" and the sub-section is "Mixes."
Here's the list of my sections & sub-sections, but I suggest you organize them to better fit your shopping needs or your grocery store layout.
  • Baking
    • Ingredients
    • Mixes
  • Beverages
  • Canned
    • Fruits/Veggies
    • Sauces/Seasonings
  • Frozen
    • Fruits/Veggies
    • Ice Cream/Desserts
    • Meals
    • Sides
  • Grains
    • Cereal
    • Meal Kits
    • Pasta
  • Meats
  • Refrigerated
    • Yogurt
    • Other Dairy
  • Snacks
    • Sweets
    • Salty
  • Cleaning
    • Dishes
    • Laundry
    • Other Cleaners
  • Drug & Bath
    • Bath
    • Baby Misc.
    • Diapers/Wipes
    • Deoderant
    • Feminine
    • Makeup
    • Medicine
    • Shampoo/Hair
    • Toothpaste/Mouth
  • Paper Products
    • Bags/Containers
    • Foil/Saran/Etc
    • Paper Towels
    • Tissues
    • Toilet Paper
  • Store Coupons  (where I keep ExtraBucks, catalina coupons, etc)
    • CVS
    • Giant
Now, all you need to do is clip coupons and put them where they belong!  Yes, it does take a little extra time, but knowing exactly what I have and keeping what I have organized makes me much more likely to use the coupons and SAVE!

A few more helpful hints: 
  • "Like" coupons can share the same pocket.  Just keep the stack in order of the expiration date.
  • Make sure to keep the expiration dates easily visible.  This way you can take the coupons out as soon as they expire.
  • I keep all my "free product"  coupons in a separate envelope in the front pocket of my binder so I'm less likely to forget about them.
  • When I go grocery shopping, as soon as I have an item with a coupon, I put that coupon in an envelope.  That way when I'm standing at check-out, my coupons are all ready and I am not holding up the line.
  • Know your grocery store's coupon policy.  Many double coupons, but keep in mind it is often only the first "like" coupon.  (example:  If I buy two boxes of mac & cheese and have a 50 cent coupon for each of them, the first coupon will double to $1, but the second coupon will not). 
  • Take advantage of stacking coupons - most grocery stores will stack the manufacturer's coupon (the kind you get in the Sunday paper) with a catalina coupon (the kind that prints out at the register). 
  • When I only need a few things, my kids come with me.  When I need a lot, no thank you.  It's nearly impossible, even with typically well-behaved children. 
  • Be nice to the cashiers.  If you have a coupon for a free item, be sure to let them know or put it on the top of your stack so they don't have to search through your receipt at the end.  They will appreciate it.
I hope that helps - if you have any questions, just leave them in the comments.  I was going to add a paragraph on where to find coupons, but thought this post was long enough.  If that's something that would interest you, look for it sometime in the near future!

Linking up to the Penny Pinching Party here! and the homemaking linky here!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Valentine's Day: Love Frame

Now presenting the first Valentine's Day project of the year...
There are so many Valentine's projects I've seen that I would love to do...unfortunately I haven't had the time or money to spend...using the basic idea of the JOY frame I made for Christmas, I put this together in a few minutes this afternoon with stuff I had laying around my craft room - a cheapy frame, scrap of cardstock, chipboard "LOVE", and paint!  Easy, free, and cute!

Click here to see a list of parties I may have linked to!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Quiet Time Activity: Sticker Book

We're in the thick of the cold and flu season.  Our family hasn't been hit too hard, but for a little while we were sick on and off - stuff just seemed to be lingering.  One weekend, Jon and I were both sick with something stomachy, something was weird with Carly because she was just sleeping the day away, but other than being a little tired, Jackson was just fine.  I felt bad for the poor kid because no one felt like playing with him, so I came up with this super simple idea that kept him busy for a LONG time....
A sticker book!  He has waaaaay too many stickers that I can't bring myself to just throw away to pare down the amount.  I got out a simple composition notebook (you can stock up on these at CVS at the beginning of the school year - they usually have them free after ExtraBucks), his enormous pile of stickers, and let him go to town! 
He loved it, he's finally using his stickers, and it kept him busy while I lounged on the couch sipping ginger ale and wishing I would just throw up :)  (I never did, and we're all better now...thanks!)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Etsy Spotlight

Oh Etsy, how I love thee.  I would count the ways, but there are too many.  I could spend hours just "window shopping" all the handmade or vintage goodies.  I thought I'd start featuring some of my favorites here.  If you read this blog, you're well aware that our biggest excitement lately has been the laundry room, so of course I've been searching Etsy for some things I dream of's a few great finds!

Felted Wool Dryer Balls by Clean Sypria - they are to use instead of dryer sheets!  The shop sells all different varieties and you can even pick your favorite scent!  Clean Sypria says she has used the same ones for eight years and they still work!  Eight years!  Plus, they are just so cute!  It would be adorable to have a bowl of these sitting on your dryer.

Clothespins on the Line Print by honeytree - I adore the colors in this simple print.  Beautiful!  Come to think of it, I love everything in the whole shop!

This awesome ironing board cover by CityChickCountryMouse might even make one of my most hated chores enjoyable!  Love the fabric choice!

Love this Vintage Laundromat print by buckscountyframes - so fun!!  Another shop with gorgeous photography!

Simple and cute, this Laundry Day Print by Toxicguineapigs (how's that for a memorable name!) has me longing for a warm spring breeze!

I don't have a clothesline yet, but hopefully this spring I'll be getting one, and I would love to have this bag by HandmadebyBette to hold all my clothespins!

Great stuff, right?  There is some amazing talent out there! 

Do you have an Etsy shop?  Let me know, I'd love to check it out!!

Weekend Wrap-Up

What a great weekend!  Friday night after we put the kids to bed, friends came over and we played Settlers of Catan and talked theology until almost 1:30 am!  I know those of you who are childless don't think that seems late at all, but with kids, that very seldom happens.  It was a great night.  Saturday was an Ikea trip and then watching the Steelers win over the Ravens - always a good time!!  Sunday was a day of church, setting up some of our new Ikea finds, and then youth group in the evening.  It was a fast but fun weekend.

One of the things I was so excited to find at Ikea was a shelf for the laundry room.  It's the perfect place to put my Mason jars. 

I think one of the few things that could make my weekend better would be to win this giveaway that The Shabby Chic Cottage is hosting right now.  Head on over for your chance to win a Silhouette!

And.....there's another Silhouette giveaway going on here!  Go there and sign up - if you win and don't want it, you can give it to me ;)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Secrets of Saving: Stockpile

I love to save money.  It's a slight obsession/passion of mine.  There's a lot of reasons why I love to save money....
  • I want to be a good steward of what God has given me.
  • I want to be able to continue being a stay at home mom.
  • I like to be able to splurge once in awhile - go out to dinner or away for a weekend!
  • I like to save on the big things - money saved on the little things sometimes means we are able to put more down on our mortgage payment - which in the big picture, means it will be paid off sooner!
  • It's good to have some money saved and put away "just in case" of illness, job loss, etc.
  • Not gonna lie - it's the thrill of the hunt!  I get a rush when I know I saved money!
When I'm on my A-Game, which is obsessive couponing, watching sales, etc etc....I aim to spend about $40-$50 a week on groceries, which includes diapers and toiletries.  Lately, I have not been on my A-Game.  The couponing I was doing was definitely saving me money, but I just did not have the time to put into it.  I fell behind and now it's going to be a monumental task to catch up again.  I'm still doing pretty good on the weekly budget though, largely in part to my stockpile. 

I know some people will cringe at the mention of a stockpile, but before you judge, let me give you a list of stockpiling tips....then you can decide for yourselves if you think I'm a wacko. 
  • Only stockpile what you have room for.  The goal here is not to end up on a Hoarders episode.
  • Only stockpile what you will actually use in a reasonable amount of time.  I don't care if the flea & tick shampoo is 75% off....if you don't have a pet, don't buy it!!  Along with attention to expiration dates!  Some things are on sale for a reason!
  • Never pay full price to stockpile.  This is not brain surgery - if you pay full price just to have your stockpile, you aren't saving money!
  • Some good things to stockpile include pantry items you use all the time - for me those are things like chicken broth, diced tomatoes, etc.  I also love to stockpile toiletries - CVS is my main source for these - seems like almost every week you can get a free toothpaste, razor, or deoderant!  Cleaning supplies are another great thing to stockpile because they can get so expensive if you end up having to pay full price.  Thanks to my favorite savings website, For the Mommas, I stocked up on Purex laundry detergent last February, and I haven't had to buy laundry detergent since!!!  All I had to pay for were the coupons I bought on eBay.
  • Wondering what to do with your stockpile (besides USE it?)  Those items can make great gifts!  Give a bride-to-be or someone moving into a new house a big box of cleaning supplies!  You can also donate!  Did you buy that flea & tick shampoo because it was a great deal, get home and realize you don't have a dog?  Donate it to a local animal shelter!  Donate food to a food pantry, or toiletries to a local rescue mission!  There are always people in need, just look around!!
Want to see my latest stockpile purchase?  CVS is running a great deal on Finish Dishwasher Tabs & Gelpacs....normally they are priced at $6.89 (yikes!) - this week they are on sale for $3!  I bought some coupons on eBay (for a very little amount)...$2.25 off each box, making each box only 75 cents!  So, I bought 10 boxes for $7.50.  Each box has 20 tabs or gelpacs, so I won't have to buy dishwashing detergent for a very very long time.  To sweeten the deal, I also earned $10 in ExtraBucks for spending $20 on that particular brand (before coupons - I love CVS!)  So technically, they are paying me to do my dishes 200 times!
Even a picture of dishwashing detergent is made cuter with a baby in the background, right?
If you are a local, don't worry, I left some finish at CVS for you....but just in case they are all gone when you get there, don't worry, CVS has a GREAT rain check policy - they never expire!

PS - Another great thing to stockpile is toys, especially when you find them on clearance!  Great for gifts or donations!!!  See my previous post here for the toys I picked up during Target's after-Christmas clearance sales!

Linking up to the Penny Pinching Party here! and to the homemaking linky here!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Laundry Room Reveal

Ok, you caught me.  The laundry room still is not 100% complete.  There's still some minor things we need to do and a few things we need to get.  Nonetheless, I'm ready for a reveal.  Just as a reminder, at some point, previous owners had used these two rooms for their dog breeding stuff.  (Check out this previous post for a few "before" pictures).  Obviously not something we were thrilled with, but when we bought the house, we knew someday we could turn it into something useful.  Fast forward 3 1/2 years and we are so pleased with how it turned out!  I just wish I had more "before" pictures for some better comparisons! 

Here's the still-to-do/get list (doesn't include things like fill up the walls with artwork that are more long-term things):
*Putty holes & paint trim!
*Paint doors
*Baskets for shelves
*Shelves for above washer & dryer  (done!  see it here!)

Now, be prepared for a lot of pictures....sorry for the poor picture quality for some of them....
First, another "before" picture (yes, I was too lazy to scan this so I took a picture of the picture)'s the view standing in our kitchen looking out to the hallway - the door straight ahead leads to the garage.  Lots of wallpaper.  Lots of blue.  Wallpaper and blue seemed to be the main themes of the house.  And yep, those are ducks on the border.  Or possibly geese.

And the after - new flooring, wallpaper stripped, walls, doors and trim painted - door to garage removed due to the hallway added on to connect the old hallway to the new rooms (along with a peek at my daughter's jammie-covered bum):

Continuing forward:

Turning left around the corner, the laundry room looking into the mud room:

Straight ahead:

I need to find something to sit on it, but I love my little green bench!  It was a great our basement when we moved in!  Here's a close-up - I love that old look that just can't be duplicated - I just wish I knew the story behind it:

Now looking to the right - I want to put baskets on the shelves to hold hats, mittens, etc.  The sliding door on the left leads to a little porch area:

And now, turning around for the backwards walk-through:

The metal bucket is to store "outside stuff":

Just on the other side of the door is the utility sink:

"What is that thing hanging above the sink?" you might ask....and I might tell you - it's a drying rack!  More specifically, a drying rack I saw 2+ years ago at a store going out of business.  I didn't buy it because I didn't have a place for it, but my husband told my mom-in-law about it, and she surprised me with it!  It's been sitting in my closet for a few years, just waiting to be hung up and admired in all it's glory....

And now continuing our backwards walk-through, a view of the laundry room (the wall opposite the washer & dryer)....our freezer and pantry shelves....I also have a great cabinet to put under the window, but I'm using it in another part of the house right now:

On top of the freezer I have these great vintage-y looking grape boxes that I don't know what else to do with (any ideas?):

And on top of the pantry shelves, is this collection of stuff I don't know what else to do with - the Hops bottle is from the (now out of business) restaurant that Jon & I went to on our first date (awww!), the crock and some of the blue mason jars (I loooove blue mason jars) are from my Grandma's house:

And the other wall looks a little something like this (to help put it in perspective, the utility sink is to the right of the dryer):
In the above picture, Jon built the box to stand the washer & dryer on ($200 per pedestal - no thanks).  The rug may or may not still have a Target  price tag, because I may or may not be returning it.

Besides the green bench (and the washer & dryer of course), my favorite thing would have to be this...
I first posted about these letters back here - we found them at an antique/flea market place - they are letters from an out of business movie theater.  At first I was going to spell out "LAUNDRY" but Jon thought that was too typical.  He was right.  When I saw the "&" it all fell into place.  The only problems were that some of the letters were red and some were black - we solved this with a little spraypaint - also, there were no "A's" - we solved this by turning a "V" upside down and adding a little piece of Armaflex (with an insulator for a husband, many household things are fixed with Armaflex). 

And for the last close-up, I have this little dandy - Pottery Barn used to sell something similar as a Christmas card display but I bought this on Etsy from curlywire (again, a few years ago, just waiting to be used).  I'm not sure I love it in this spot, but I think it will look better when I have more pictures and cards to display - in the meantime, it's a cutie picture of our niece & nephew, and a birthday card from a few years ago that still makes me laugh:

Well, there you have it - The Laundry Room Reveal!  I am loving the extra space and not having to trek down to the basement to do laundry!

Click here to see some of the parties I may have linked to!
I also linked up to:
WhisperWood Cottage
EEK!  *Lots of jumping and clapping!*  I'm so excited becase this project was featured on my very favorite crafty blog!!

Wowzers!  Lots of excitement on this post, becase....

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Freezer Cooking/OAMC

I am a big fan of OAMC (Once A Month Cooking).  I love that a few hours work will stock up my freezer with meals, and I love those days when I don't know what to cook and can just pull a meal out of the freezer.  It ends up saving money, too, because I don't go to the grocery store at the last minute looking for a quick and easy meal.
I've been cooking freezer meals for a few years now.  When I first started, I used this book pretty much exclusively. 

It's a great book that I highly recommend, especially if you are just starting out doing OAMC.  Sure, it's easy to double a casserole recipe and freeze one, but this book gives you everything you need - down to the grocery list and step by step instructions.  I still use the book quite a bit for recipes but don't follow their meal plans much.  Instead, I try to go by what is on sale or just what we are hungry for!
My last batch of freezer cooking went a little slower than expected.  Typically I try to do all the work in a day.  This time I spread it out over a few afternoons.  Our refrigerator and freezer broke, so that put a dent into my plans.  We got a new fridge/freezer (that I LOVE) and then I continued on with the meals.
Here's the list of what I made with links to some of the recipes (the ones without links are from the book).  Many of them are new recipes, so fingers crossed they turn out good!

Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork x2
Chicken Fried Rice x4
Meal on the Run Pork Loin (shredded pork for sandwiches)
Beef Taquitos (this one turned out to be a FAIL since my corn tortillas kept breaking.  I scratched the idea and instead just froze the meat for tacos x3).
Denise's Black Beans (my favorite!) x4
Sausage & Spinach Stuffed Shells x2 (we had this earlier this week and it was delish!)
Crabcakes x3

And because every post is better with a picture, check out this new it's still wearing the plastic!  (Just don't look too closely at my hideous blue cabinets...eek....but while you are looking, you can check out our new flooring - there have been a lot of changes around here lately!)
While it was a pain to have to buy a new refrigerator, I did have to hide my excitement a little!  In the 6 1/2 years we have been married, we have lived in 2 houses - both came with their (old) appliances.  It has been SUCH a blessing not to have to buy appliances when we moved, but I'm not gonna was pretty exciting to get a new washer & dryer, and now refrigerator these past 2 months!  (Although I'm hoping all the other old stuff doesn't die too soon!)
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