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Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Together Tuesdays

This week is our second week of having our new feature: Frugal Wedding planning.

My thought for this week is almost as important as last week (har har), we are going to talk about location.

Your first step is to find out if your dream location is a reality. If you live in Wisconsin and you're thinking a cheap castle wedding, it probably isn't going to happen. Analyze reality vs fantasy.

There are also many, many things that go into the choosing of your venue. If you want to serve meals to your guests, do you want a specific company, will the venue work with said caterer or do they only use themselves or close friends?

Honestly, my aunt cooked our meal, but this is something to know: if you are going to an owned non residential sight, and desire to have the food done by your aunt, you have to check out your venue's licenses and requirements.

Meals can vary in cost. Our dinner was only about 60 to feed 150 people. But that was with my aunt's sacrifice to cook for us and my buying ingredients on sale.

So, really check around and see what your options are before you jump into a decision.

If you are open to it, try campgrounds, state/county parks, backyards, etc.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Monday's Recipes- Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dip (Like Olive Garden's!)

My husband has what I have seen in my life as “expensive” tastes. You know the restaurants that serve the nice warm hot artichoke-spinach dip? He absolutely loves that. It’s not a favorite of mine, but I like to see him happy. I have made it for him. When we feel like splurging or being fun, I write in on our menu plans, our own special phrase: Bachelor Night.
There’s a story about this…when we got together and I moved in with DH, he lived with his best friend at the time. Paul, his friend, would go grocery shopping and come back with those little pizza bites, or hamburger helper “singles” or other little mini appetizer type things and microwave them and that was lunch and/or dinner. I am not kidding, he would even buy that microwavable bacon. I shudder just thinking about it! So after Paul’s apparently eternal bachelor-hood, we named it Bachelor Night.
So, without further ado…for Hot Artichoke-Spinach dip you need…
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts (canned, or frozen than thawed)
½ c frozen, chopped spinach, thawed
8 oz cream cheese
½ c grated parmesan cheese
½ t crushed red pepper flakes
¼ t salt
1/8 t garlic powder
Dash of pepper

Boil spinach and artichoke hearts in 1 cup of water over medium heat until tender. Drain.
Heat cream cheese in small bowl in microwave. Add vegetables to cream cheese, stir well. Combine rest of ingredients, serve with tortilla chips.

Enjoy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday Goals

Wow! What a week.
This week, I accomplished a milestone-I hit the marker of having lost 5 lbs. I almost cried that morning on the scale. See, aside from my pregnancy, I have always had a hard time losing or gaining weight, which sounds okay until you realize the much of that has been spent in the state of "overweight". Now that I am regularly exercising, eating well and all, I'm feeling better.

So anyhow, I'm supposed to be writing about my goals.

Last week:
Blog at least 6 days. Lets see...I got Sun-Thursday down...just gotta get either Friday or Saturday back in there
Work out each weekday. Wed, I wound up fighting hard on my depression. I could barely get myself to do anything. So, technically I didn't do so hot on this one.
Clean 15 min each day. I did this. I am still trying to catch up but I'm trying and that is what counts.

This Week:
Blog 5 days a week
Work out Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri
Attempt to not fight with my sister while I assist her in moving on Saturday
Not lose my patience with my toddler

Thursday, April 29, 2010

ABC Get To Know Me!

This is called the ABC's of me. How could I possibly pass on the chance to answer questions about myself!

A. Addiction: Redline energy drinks or books...it's a hard choice.

B. Bed size: Queen, though some nights I wish it could adjust larger.

C. Chore I hate: worst? Cleaning in general.

D. Dog or Cat?: Cat. though I do also love Dogs.

E. Essential part of my day: Breakfast. Without it, I am lost.

F. Favorite Animal: I don't really have a favorite...when I was a kid though, I loved Zebras because they came at the end of the alphabet and I thought for sure that due to that, no one paid attention to them.

G. Gold or Silver: Silver, I tend to look sickly in gold.

H. Height: 5'3" Yup, I'm a shorty.

I. Instrument I wish I could play: Guitar, than our guitar sitting around wouldn't be so pointless.

J. Job: Wife and Mom extraordinaire

K. Kids: 1 little girl

L. Living Arrangements: Own home in a suburb (almost too far out to call it that)

M. Mom's Name: Pam

N. Nickname: Sapphire, was my name as a camp counselor

O. Overnight Hospital Stay: I think only with the birth of my child.

P. Pet Peeve: When my husband doesn't look around for something that is within 3 feet of him.

Q. Quote from a movie: can't think of one.

R. RIGHTY OR LEFTY?: righty

S. SIBLINGS: technically 2 brothers and 3 sisters, but only one of each are actually in my life.

T. TV Shows:Uh...I don't really get to watch tv.

U. Underwear: What about them?

V. Vacation I am dreaming of: Ireland

W. Why I am always late: I have a toddler.

X. X-ray: Had them on my back a few times.

Y. Yummiest food the hubby makes: Sweet and Sour Meatballs from scratch (I promise I will try to post that recipe soon)

Z. Zodiac sign: Libra

So now that we have established how much I rock, what are the ABC's of you?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday With A Twist

It appears as though I was "Photo Tagged" by MN Small Town Mom.

So here are the rules to play along:

1) Go to your photo files, select the 8Th photo folder.

2) Select the 8Th photo in that folder.

3) Post that photo along with the story behind it

4) Then challenge 8 blogging friends to do the same!

Now, I don't have an 8th photo folder, in fact most of my photos are actually backed up on discs in my firebox. So, I did this by going to the 8th created album of mine on Facebook and chose the 8th photo, hope you don't mind.


This was my wedding day. This is my husband and Mother in law dancing for their "Mother-Son Dance". We chose the song "Than They Do" by Trace Adkins...I'm pretty sure this is just before MIL started tearing up.

Now to tag 8 people...
1. My Tots Exactly
2. Rational Mind of a Crazy Woman
3. How could You Not?
4. Piggy Bank Dating
5. The Happy Atheist Homemaker
6. Hearts Make Families
7. Work, Wife, Mom...life!
8. Loving and Living in TX

If I didn't tag you and you'd like to join, please, feel free to leave a comment and let me know to check out yours.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Together Tuesdays

I am working on a new feature, that I call Together Tuesdays.

I am looking at life, and so many are getting married, which is wonderful and exciting. When I was planning my wedding, it was not unheard of for weddings to breech the $10,000 mark after all said and done. So I would like to share with you how we kept our wedding down to about $2500 or less.

Our first feature is about the Dress.

Honestly...my dress was one of the most expensive parts of my wedding. My husband proposed 2 Octobers ago now, and we married last September. I began looking at dresses in February. I ended that same day. I went down to David's Bridal after hearing too many of their "$99 sale" ads.

I asked to see some of these dresses that were so cheap...but I am bigger, and they claimed that they didn't have any in my size...I still don't know to this day if they did. They brought me some truly ugly dresses. One had a giant bow on the butt and looked like they have been trying to sell it since the 1980's! Another looked fabulous-on the model in the picture of it-on me, however, it made me look even shorter than I am.

The manager than brought one and I fell in love. It was a $1200 dress marked down to $600.

We used layaway. One thing I will say is that everyone will offer you credit cards to pay for your wedding. DO NOT DO IT! Either save up, put it on layaway, or don't get it. I have never heard of someone that was happy still paying off their wedding years after the fact.

Try consignment shops and thrift stores-I have seen so many different dresses there. There is also a non profit, Brides Against Breast Cancer, if they come to your area with their donated dresses, please consider trying them. All their profits go to breast cancer research.

Also, a bit of advice from my sister is to start asking questions, how much to alter this; What is the designer and style number, etc. If they will not give you the information of the designer and style number/name-you can probably find it cheaper elsewhere!

What suggestions do you have for readers looking for wedding dresses?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Monday's Recipes- Cheese Balls

Have you ever been to a party and seen those awesome cute little cheese balls, then fell in love with the taste. Next you go to the grocery store and get all excited when you see them…and then looked at the price and put it back down. I have. Many a time. This last holiday season, despite the sales, I still could not bring myself to pay the price of those things, no matter how good it sounded.
So, I searched recipes and found this one. We all loved it, though it almost made TOO much for our small gathering of 5 adults and one toddler. It was my first time trying it though so we just used the leftovers through the week.
Here’s what I did:
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened(you can soften cream cheese either by leaving it out a few hours or microwaving it in small intervals)
1 (1 oz) package ranch dressing mix (dry)
2 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 ½ c chopped pecans
In medium size bowl, mash cream cheese. Mix dressing mix and cheddar cheese into cream cheese.
Shape into a ball.
Roll in nuts. Refrigerate covered for at least 2 hours, until ready to serve.
Don't forget about our SURPRISE Giveaway!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Goals

I am starting to get into a routine around here, which is nice, as it helps so much with getting things accomplished.

So last week's check in:
Blog Daily- I missed Friday, because it was such a busy day for me.
Exercise in some fashion each day- Check! The only week day I didn't make it to the gym was Wed, in which Lorelei and I went walking. Pretty awesome.
15 minutes each day cleaning SOMETHING in my house- I did most days, and got the hosue mostly cleaned up, at least decent enough to have people over
Try my best to get my darling daughter to STOP crawling out of her bed and stay in bed when we put her down for the night!!-this is still sucking. I wind up laying in the bedroom for up to half hour each night. If anyone has ideas that work, feel free to pass them on :D

This week's Goals:
Blog at least 6 days.
Work out each weekday.
Clean 15 min each day


What do you hope to accomplish this week?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Fun

I take weekends off from working out. Some people go every other day, I like to go M-F, and spend weekends taking care of "business" with my husband.
That being said, I still am trying to watch what I eat and how much. I have never been so overweight as to really work hard to lose it all...and now I'm becoming almost obsessed. Ultimately, I want to lose a total of 50 lbs. I know that it will take a long time to do it the most healthy ways possible, but I'm okay with that, partially because I want to form healthy habits anyways.

Part of something I would like to do is to eat less red meat. We eat 3-5 red meats a week...usually ground beef. My eye opener is that my brother in law has been diagnosed with high cholesterol. I grew up primarily on ground beef though, so I ask you all, how do you eat frugally but healthy?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sam's Club, A day Trip

Let me start off by saying that we do NOT have a membership to any of those member's warehouse style places, currently. We had one for awhile and didn't use it enough to justify it.

When we were younger, my stepdad and his brother had a falling out. At that point, I lost contact with my cousins. Recently, we have slowly come into contact with them again, and Friday, I even went to work out with one of them.

I am rather enjoying having a work out buddy in my cousin. Not only is she awesome, but it pushes me harder. So today, while we were panting away on the elliptical, I mentioned that I had promised Mr Scratch that I would pick up steaks and we could use the grill tonight (Super Target has steak on sale for $1.99/lb!) She asked if I just wanted to go to Sam's Club with her, since she has a membership.

Although she forgot what she wanted, we got plenty there! Soil for my veggies, Ink for the printer (it equals out to at least 1 free cartridge!!!), A dress for DD, workout shorts for Mr Scratch, Some of the girl's favorite breakfast foods (that are so expensive elsewhere) and our steak. The steaks I got are enough to make not one, not two, but 6 meals for Mr Scratch and I, and I only paid $11 for the package! That's cheaper than ground beef around here!

I am very excited to get going on my veggies and see DD in that fun summer dress (a variety of clothes that she has none for this year until now)

Do you belong to a club? What makes it worth it for you?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wordless Wednesday


In honor of hearing about many recent births, I give you a photo of the day my daughter was born...that is my nephew with us, upon discovering that he couldn't be the "apple of Auntie's eye" anymore.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Container Gardens

I am majorly bummed about something.

Our plan for this year was to finish switching out appliances, as we have a nice stove and dryer in our back shed, than empty that shed and tear it down. Not only is this shed just worn out, but it is taking up precious space where I would like to put my garden in.

We're not going to make it. My very generous friend who will be helping Mr Scratch switch said appliances out, is extremely busy right now. Sucky, but understandable. So, our vegetables will cost a little more than I intended to grow, as we will have to do a container garden.

I would like to share our expenses and plans with you.

I would like to have 13 tomato plants, 6 jalepeno pepper plants and 6 bell pepper plants.

I was also given 4 cucumber plants by my neighbor.

We decided we didn't want to invest in expensive pots, just wanted the cheap nursery style pots.

I spent a night searching online for pots. It was beginning to look hopeless! Many of the websites, I would get excited, a 5 gallon pot would only be $1.50. So, I'd load up my 'basket' with everything we needed...and shipping would cost more than the products! The added shipping would make it more worthwhile to go to the hardware store or Walmart and just buy their cheapest pots and call it a day.

Than I found this website...Alternative Gardening

Their pots were cheap...and so was their shipping.

For a total of 28 pots, and shipping, we paid $57. Most other sites were around $100 or more!

So, we ordered them, and about 4 days later, they showed up.

Next was to figure out how much soil we needed...the answer? almost 400 gallons. I knew that was going to put a hole in my pocket!

After shopping around, we got it down to $38 for all that soil.

Everything else we need has been either given to us or reused from years past, so I don't tend to count those--afterall, if I use these 'new' pots next year for seedlings, I wouldn't count them towards my total spent towards gardening!

I will be lining the pots along my back fence, so they should be fun and decorative too!

How is your gardening coming along?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Monday’s Recipes: Slow Cooker Salsa Chicken

I absolutely love the concept of a slow cooker. I use mine as often as possible. When we know that we’re going to be out and busy most of the day, I usually try to plan a slow cooker meal. One of the favorites for my family is this salsa chicken. Even my toddler loves this.
So, how to make them…
4 chicken breasts
1 cup salsa (when I have my homemade, I prefer mine, but store bought will work)
1 package taco seasoning
1 can cream of mushroom soup
½ cup reduced fat sour cream
1 can black beans (drained)
Frozen corn
1 cup rice
2 cups water

Add chicken, salsa, taco seasoning, woup, sour cream, beans and corn to crock pot. Cook on low 6-8 hours.
Shred chicken (if you are looking for a product to make this easy, Pampered Chef sells a “Mix & Chop” for under $10, I have one and LOVE it), cook rice.
Add rice to crock pot when ready to serve.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sunday Goals

I am sad to report back on my goals this week. Most of them, I didn't do as well as I wanted. But, I have very good reason.

I am a child abuse survivor. My abuser is my biological father. Until I was 18, I had a restraining order on him. I did not renew it, as I didn't have a "just" cause to do that. My half sister sent me a message on Tuesday. A friend of his was wondering if any of us kids wanted contact with him.

I went into a panic. I freaked about protecting my daughter. The abuse was so long ago now, that at least in my state, I would have to wait until he showed up and tried to do something to get a restraining order to protect my poor little girl. I started making phone calls and have the situation mostly resolved. Now I have to begin working on my end and heal mentally from the fear he unknowingly imposed on me. I also have found out that there is an apology letter sitting with his probation officer that he did in treatment. I haven't quite figured out if I want it for sure.

That being said, I am going to take it easy on myself these next few weeks, and mostly do some very basic goals, just to get my mental health up, stop looking over my shoulder and put myself back on track. I need my normalcy back!!!

So, Check in Time!!
Last Week's Goals:

Work out a minimum of 4 days
-I made it to the YMCA only 2 days this week-Wednesday and Friday. However, I didn't sit idle, so I am also counting the vigorous Wii playing on Monday (seriously, I think my heart rate was higher than when I use the treadmill!!), Tuesday, DD and I played outside a lot. Thursday, I had appointments, and yesterday I gardened a ton, with a special event today-Highway Cleanup with a local group!

Start Cleaning one room-
I totally missed out on this. My living room is cleaner, but it's my toddler's fault...and nothing is where it belongs that got "cleaned". She has a new obsession lately, to find bags, buckets or other containers and put things in them. And leave them there.

Blog Daily- I almost made this one! I missed yesterday because we were at my Mom's trying to fix the brakes...again!

More items out than in-consumables not included, 2 items came in- toilet cleaner and a broom (for outside), nothing but normal trash went out this week. However, this goal did prevent me at least from buying meaningless stuff.

Lay a minimum of 15 bricks for my garden's border- I slaughtered this goal. I not only laid 15 bricks-I laid the entire last 25 bricks, than went on to mulch the front garden!

This week's Goals:
Blog Daily

Exercise in some fashion each day
15 minutes each day cleaning SOMETHING in my house
Try my best to get my darling daughter to STOP crawling out of her bed and stay in bed when we put her down for the night!!


Also! Don't forget to enter the latest GIVEAWAY (for those that needed it, there has been a clarification made on the terminology of "Summer Foods" on the post itself!)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

In a Rut-Giveaway.

DH is bathing DD tonight (he usually does), and I got to thinking.

I fell off the meal-planning wagon for the last few weeks. I need to get back on, it is only leading to too many times of "I forgot to thaw something for dinner."

However, here is my biggest issue right now. It is spring. Does anyone else have this thing that when the winter months are over they want "summer food"?

I don't have very many summer recipes...really, especially not "frugal" ones. Most of them are like Stuffed Green Peppers, which I don't like to do so often because it's so much meat!

So, I would like to challenge my readers. My husband will eat nearly anything, as will my daughter.

Using either Chicken or Ground Beef (or no meat), what are your favorite summer dinners?

In fact, I'm not quite sure what I'll give away yet, but we'll make this a giveaway.

So, it's a surprise giveaway. Maybe a gift card, maybe a cookbook...maybe a recipe box and/or recipe cards, I don't know yet!

Here are the rules:

Your first entry must have:
A recipe for a summer food, this means no comfort type foods (like soups or casseroles) and your email address.

Bonus entries:
Each entry must be made into a separate comment to count.

1. You may post up to 3 total recipes for my family to try and each will be considered one entry (if posted seperately)
2. Post about this on your blog. Leave a link to your post.
3. Have 2 friends come by and say "_____" sent me (and post at least the mandatory entry)
4. Followers get a bonus entry, new or old, but you must post that comment as well.
5. Comment on any Monday Recipe post (only comments made after today will count)


To be counted, your comment must be posted by May 1st, 12:00 AM CST.

Good Luck!

****A clarification on "summer foods": In the summer, I tend to try to use my stove as little as possible, so I love to do salads (that can count as a dinner), and tend to gravitate towards a lot more "fresh" items. To me, soups and casseroles and "heavy foods" are great-for winter.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mary, Mary How does your garden grow

Spring is springing in my area. As a child, this meant playing, as an adult, this is something totally different. I don't believe I ever noticed just how incredibly much green is out there!

We started today taking "death" out of my garden beds...and some life, in the form of weeds. So in the spirit, I wanted to take you on a small tour of the life I have planted in my yard since we have lived here...

Below are the iris bulbs I planted last fall. My neighbor showed up one day and said "do you want some Iris bulbs?" At the time, my MIL was in the process of losing her home-which she had spent 20 years landscaping. Purple irises are her favorite and she always planted them. So, I said yes, and planted them around for her.
This is just a SMALL amount, which borders my shed.

We also took much of her favorite and our favorite plants from the yard. Around the time my sister in law was born, she bought a hydrangea. Traditionally, these bloom either blue or pink. Last summer, we had balls of flowers in both colors on the same bush, we also had some that were half and half and even purple. So, of course, this bush had to come. If you look closely, the buds are starting. It was cut down for winter, as I was told to do, and I can't wait for it to start shooting up and get big again!


And here is a rosebush. I absolutely love roses, they are amongst my favorites. This is for my daughter though, whose middle name is Rose.

She also had a few fun hostas, here are a couple different varieties. I didn't know much about Hostas, and this is my first time experiencing them coming up. The more purple one we didn't think made it through the winter. However, we removed some dead leaves and there it was!

This is just a pile of SOME of the "branch-like" death we pulled out. We intend to set them aside for kindling for some fires this summer.

As you are about to notice, I rather like lilies. This is one of my five "Happy Return Lilies". They bloom all summer and just keep going.

We were given some Oriental Lilies as well, and those are shooting up, despite the fact that we had a hard time keeping them going last year.

One of my housewarming gifts was a few mint plants. I excitedly planted them...than learned they take over quickly. As each vine grows out, it roots down! These will be replaced in the garden with something else and moved into pots because I just don't want to fight them this year.

Day Lilies. I am not hugely fond of Day Lilies as they take a lot of space and each bloom only blooms for one day, I just haven't figured out what I would like there instead so they're staying for now.

And, last but not least, these are the seedlings I have started and am starting. Since the beginning of March, I have been rotating seedlings through that little greenhouse flat (which works awesome, it was only $5 at Wal-Mart too!) until they get too big for it, than they go in a larger pot with friends, and will be moved into the gardens when it's time.

Off the top of my head, there are marigolds, tomatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers, daisies, squash, canterbury bells, lavender and so much more!


What's sprouting up in your gardens?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I have a confession...

I was not very frugal the other day.

My husband and I have been tossing back and forth the idea of purchasing a Wii, for about 6 months. We are not very big on gaming, like some are, but as an occasional form of entertainment, we love to game. We have 2 old Playstation 2s. But it just wasn't doing it for us anymore.

We did do it in the most frugal manner possible-we purchased used/refurbished from the gaming store.

I feel like I should explain...When we got our tax return, we bought a few things we needed-like a safety rail to convert our daughter's crib to a toddler bed. We bought a car recently, being as the need came up for it. Aside from that, our return was sitting in savings. My husband was unemployed at that time and has now been at his new job 2 weeks and is doing great there.

However, I won't pay $45 for a game. I limit myself to sub-$20 games only, or save up for awhile and purchase the expensive ones out of my fun money (which usually goes to "fun" necessities like if I find a shirt for my daughter that I absolutely love)

I will hang my head in shame now ;) and go play my Wii.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Monday's Recipes-Sausage N Peppers

This is another slow cooker favorite. It can be done as a very spicy dinner or very mild.
3 lbs Italian Sausage in casings (we buy it very hot)
3 cloves crushed garlic
2-3 red bell peppers and 2-3 yellow peppers (green, if cheaper or more in your budget are also acceptable to cover all peppers)
2 cans tomato sauce
1 can tomato paste
Italian seasonings
Salt
Cut links into approximate 3 inch chunks.
Brown in pan with olive oil, turn heat down, add rest of ingredients, slow cook at least 2 ½ hours (I have been known to just toss it all into the slow cooker uncooked and let it cook all day)
We usually serve this with noodles or rice.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday Goals

This is the second week of our feature of listing our goals for the week and checking in on last week's goals.

Last Week's Goals

Make it to the YMCA-Everyday. Swim twice a week just me and DD, minimum 25 min on treadmill each day, plus muscular on non-swim days.
-I did fairly well on this. We did miss Monday, Wed, and Saturday. Monday was an exception on the basis that we spent Sunday overnight in the ER trying to find out why DD was screaming instead of sleeping. Wed just got too busy, I had an obligation at 1, and just couldn't make it that morning. Saturday was because we found it more important to fix the car. I am proud of myself on this though, as I pushed myself harder on the treadmill-and have lost 2 lbs since I began working out.
Not eat out.
-I failed this mission. DD and I had Burger King one day because of being out so much. We also ate at Subway after our work out today. Oops.
Blog Everyday.
-Mission Accomplished!
Clean a room in my house.
-Total failure, I forgot this goal!
Somehow, get rid of more items than come into my home.
-I did this!!! I tossed out a bunch of stuff, including some sheets from my husband's childhood, and only brought consumables into the house (I am not including the car parts...I see those as consumable at least to some degree)

This Week

Work out a minimum of 4 days

Start Cleaning one room

Blog Daily

More items out than in

Lay a minimum of 15 bricks for my garden's border.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Almost There!

If you look back to Sunday's post, you'll see this week's goals. I almost didn't post today, than remembered about that post...

If you recall, we purchased a used vehicle a week and half ago. It ran great on the test drive...and the owners chose not to divulge to us that it doesn't always start well.

I have put our daughter into her car seat and gone to start the car several times this week, only to have to flood it to get it going. My mechanic friend gave us some ideas of how to start off...first he wanted us to do a tune up (and while we were at it, we thought we might as well do an oil change).

Let me tell you--if you can learn to do these things on your own (or have a friend who will do them for you), you will save TONS! Our cars are somewhere where we buy quality parts not always the cheapest!

I do not know yet if my car is "fixed" because the problem only occurs on the first start up and is inconsistent. The inconsistency also makes it difficult to diagnose. However, here is the breakdown of price for everything we paid for for my car today.

5 quart jug of oil- $9.50
Oil Filter- $2.88
Rotor- $11.99
Distributor cap- $9.99
Spark Plugs (2 sets of two) $8.88 each (with the ones we purchased, we also should not need to purchase spark plugs for my car ever again)
Spark Plug wires- $32.99 (Lifetime guarantee too!)
Valve stem covers (discovered two were missing) $2.99
Lug Nuts (discovered one was missing) $5.99-they only came in a set of four, so we have three extra now.

The only thing that I paid extra for fun were is my valve stem covers-I paid an extra dollar to get colored metal ones vs the standard plastic.

So, today, my dad taught my husband how to do a tune-up. We found an old receipt from my husbands last tune up--he paid $60.00 just for the labor part, and each of his parts were more expensive!

My dad and husband got to create some new memories over my dad's favorite topic-cars, and we saved a decent chunk of change in car maintenance.

Next mission for the two of them? Fix my husband's breaks, starting with installing a new master cylinder.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Friday Follow.

Once again, I have hooked up with other blogs to do a Friday Follow. So, first I say, WELCOME, to each and every one of you!!

By now, if you're anything like me and my family, you're done working for the week and your brain has checked out, so if you're looking for a big in depth post, please look below.

A few things about us. We are a young family, learning to make it on our own with a little girl who is 18 months old. I am a stay at home mom for many reasons, one is the absolute joy I find in it, alongside the fact that the jobs I could "easily" get to contribute wouldn't even hardly cover the cost of child care in my area and expenses of me working.

So, to make it as a single income family, we try to live as frugally as we are comfortable with, including making things from scratch and other things. I love to share tips I find and use with anyone and everyone, as well as stories of our lives and pictures of my daughter.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reading Frugally

Books are expensive.

Seriously, they have gotten ridiculous! Fortunately, I have a few suggestions for those like me who can devour a book a day if they are feeling like it.

Use Your Library This may seem obvious, but if it is a book that I do not intend to keep or read over and over again, my first stop is the library. My local library is really awesome about having many copies of most books in stock. Ours is a network throughout our county of approximately 8 or 9 libraries. If I want a book that is at the southernmost library and I'm live at the northernmost, I can request it right online and usually within 2 or 3 days, I get a notice right in my inbox online that it's there. Even better, they have movies there too! Some are free and others are a buck for 7 nights! That's better than redbox!

Buy at the Library! I have heard that library book sales are dependent on the library. Ours has a constant bin that you can go through at each branch. Books usually are as cheap as .25 or as expensive as 1.50. I have heard that some libraries save all the books up and once a year have a huge sale. Find out what yours does.

Borrow. I watch other avid readers' shelves and carefully borrow my books out as well. I keep a little note pad near my books stating who is borrowing what and go from there.

Bargain Books I absolutely love that Borders and Barnes and Noble each have Bargain books sections. I have found everything from children's books, to classics, to even some current fiction for real cheap prices there.

PaperBackSwap.com This is a wonderful website. I have been on it for over a year now. What you do is gather all your books that you no longer want. Sign up for the website, and type in all of the isbn's. This will list them as available. When someone wants your book, you approve the request and depending on when you say you'll mail the book by, you have up to a week to mail it out. You do pay shipping (usually around 2.50 for Media Mail). When they mark the book received or if you use shipping confirmations, you get a credit. You than use your credit to order a book which will show up on your doorstep within a few weeks of ordering! You can also "purchase" credits for about 3.00. They have a bargain books area as well now, where you can pay with a credit as well as a little cash to get a brand new book from a warehouse.

Dollar Stores I have never had luck *yet* at finding books for myself at the dollar store. However, kids rarely care what the story is about, and so my daughter and nephew get tons of books from the dollar store and dollar sections of Target. They are cheap so that we simply can't care if they get destroyed-and slowly but surely, they do!

What do you do for inexpensive ways to read?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Wordless Wednesday-


What did you put into my bath?!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday Giveaways

Unfortunately, I don't get a lot of giveaways that I enter. In my goal to unclutter, I only enter giveaways for things I really want in my home or would be awesome gifts.

STL Mommy is running one such giveaway that I'd love to win, or see one of my readers win. My daughter loves yogurt, and I'd love to let her try this new "Simply...Go-Gurt" and with it would come an etch-a-sketch and a little binder style book.

Enter Here...and tell them we sent you!

Monday, April 5, 2010

This Sucks.

I am so glad that I have posts written out for certain days. It has been hard for me today to get anything done.

Let's back way up...
Saturday evening, we brought the minivan we were borrowing/storing for my MIL down to her apartment. Now that we have my cute little car, we just had no room or desire for it. We wound up eating down there and sitting for a bit before coming home.

Now our daughter usually goes to bed about quarter to nine. That night, she didn't go to bed until at least 10 and didn't seem to settle down and fall asleep until 11. She still got up at her normal time. For two days now, she's been fussy.

Come last night, she slept an hour and somehow woke herself up and screamed and cried, writhed and wriggled all over me when I was holding her during it. Finally, I tried putting her back to bed. I decided that in 20 min, if she hadn't calmed, we were calling the nurse line through our clinic. Sure enough, 20 min later, I got her to stop screaming long enough to call the nurse and be told to take her to Emergency Room! By the time we got to the ER last night, it was just after midnight. I am used to the waiting room wait game at the ER. I have thrown my back out several times and had to go in.

We had no wait. We got there, the nurse line had given them a heads up, so they had a room ready for us. They took her vitals, gave her a teddy bear and tried to calm her. We did tummy x rays to make sure all was well. They did a catheter in case there was something the urine could tell us.

All came back fine. Her diagnosis: mild gas. Seriously?! I realize it could have been something life threatening but I had to keep her awake until 2 am for mild gas?

By the way...no matter what time she goes to bed, she's up between 8 and 9. She woke me at about 9 this morning. Not horrible, I know, but not what we're used to!!

Monday’s Recipes: Enchiladas

My family absolutely loves Mexican food. My husband adores his family’s sour cream style enchiladas, however I am very much not fond of the flavor of those, therefore I tend to make these as a compromise.
6 tortillas (I like to have extra because it always seems that I have more filling than tortillas)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can black beans, drained
1 c shredded cheddar cheese
Enchilada Sauce (below)
Fill tortillas with beans, tomatoes and cheese
Roll and place in pan
Top with sauce than add more cheese
Bake at 350 until cheese is melted
Enchilada Sauce:
3 Tablespoons Vegetable oil
1 T flour
¼ c chili powder
2 c chicken stock
12 oz can tomato paste
1 t oregano
1 t ground cumin
½ t salt
In med saucepan, heat oil, add flour, smoothing and stirring with a wooden spoon.
Cook 1 minute and add chili powder and cook 30 seconds
Add Stock, tomato paste, oregano and cumin
Stir to combine
Bring to boil, reduce heat to low and cook 15 minutes. Sauce will thicken and smooth out. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

New Feature: Sunday Goals

Every Sunday, I find myself thinking of things I'd like to get done that week. I also find myself better at my goals if I tell others, of course, so I thought...why not blog them? Many of them relate to either frugality or bettering my life in some way. I wish to not only help people on the road to living more frugal lives, but also to help them live better lives.

So, Each Sunday, I hope to make a post detailing how I did on the previous week's goals and to set that week's. Obviously, this is just starting, and I can only remember some of the goals I thought of this week (hey, this has been a long long week for me!) and so I will recap those and set this week's!

Last Week
Begin some sort of exercise regime
Force myself to "bite the bullet" and meet with that Personal Trainer for free at the YMCA
Find a Car
Make it through Easter Alive

Well, I got my new car on Tuesday, which led to more ability to get out and exercise. So, Wed, I didn't make it out--I had to buy tabs and do so much stuff that by the time I was done, Honey was home and we had stuff to do together so no exercise.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday I exercised. Friday, I even met with the personal trainer. He did his tests and gave me a few goals, which I am going to start working on immediately. Ultimately, I would like to lose about 50 lbs. I know that that will take some work.
Making it through Easter Alive! Well, I did. Barely. Normally, it's seeing all that family and doing all that busy in one day that is just too much. Today, it wasn't that bad, honestly. It was the fact that my daughter was a cranky mess! The only time she was decent was playing with her cousin, really. Oh, and watching Tinkerbell with Grandma.

This Week
I have high hopes.

Make it to the YMCA-Everyday. Swim twice a week just me and DD, minimum 25 min on treadmill each day, plus muscular on non-swim days.
Not eat out. Life's been hectic lately and it's become too easy to eat McDonalds and the like.
Blog Everyday.
Clean a room in my house. It's all getting messy and cluttered again.
Somehow, get rid of more items than come into my home.


Of course, my daughter is not yet asleep which is odd and has me very worried that she is ill again which could throw any or all goals out the window.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Now Announcing...

The winner of my springtime giveaway.

Kimberly has been contacted through her blog and has 24 hours to respond before I go for another.

Keep your eyes open for another giveaway soon!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

April Fools Day

In honor of April Fools, I would like to tell you about some of the pranks that I have either witnessed or helped pull.

Before my dad could no longer work, he worked at a local auto parts store. It was only about a mile up the road. Often, a co-worker would pick him up, or Mom and him would do the shopping and than she'd drop him at work and run and get him.

One April Fool's day, she dropped him off, not even realizing the date. As he ended his shift, he called to remind her to come get him. She sent my brother out to start the van, as it was still cold that year, while she got her shoes and stuff on.
After a minute, he came running in. "MOM!" he hollered, worried sounding. "The van is gone." She thought my brother was messing with her, so she looked outside. Than she called Dad and told him. After playing along, about the time that Mom said she had to let him go so she could call the police, he finally said it..."April Fools, I had (coworker) run me home to get it on my lunch. I'll be home shortly"

It was than that we started planning the next year against him.

I am a recovering addict. I spent my sophomore year through senior year of high school in a sober school for others like me who carried the concern that I did-finishing my high school career staying sober, despite the desire to get high. Sober Schools, by nature are very small. At the time of our story we had approximately 10 students and 2 teachers. We also had open campus lunches. Often, I would bring a lunch, sit inside and eat it and than walk off school property to have a quick cigarette.

That years' April Fool's Day, I purposely did not bring a lunch. I went to the local McDonald's to eat and have my quick smoke. I needed Dad to see that I was definitely going off campus that day. About 20 minutes after lunch ended, I sat peacefully working on my schoolwork, at my desk, while 5 feet away, my teacher, Erick called my dad. He told him I didn't come back from lunch and that some kids saw me go off with some known druggies. He was able to act genuinely concerned about my well being. I managed not to laugh while Dad said he would call Mom and be to the school as fast as he could.

He did call Mom (who knew this was happening) and she kept a straight face. She said she couldn't leave work at that time and to keep her updated. She than called us and let us know that he had called.

We waited 5 more minutes before I called Dad back and asked what the date was. He, of course, was asking where I was. I persisted him to look at the calender, at which point he started laughing and admitted that we finally got him back for the crap he pulled on us.


What have been some of your favorite April Fools (or even everyday) pranks?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Patience Pays

I have said this once and I will say it again and again, patience pays.

We have been searching for a second used car for us. Our budget, compared to what it would get you a few years ago, was TINY! We were hoping for $600 but able to go to $1000. I have been sharing my husband's car for the last 2 years. It has done well for us, however, since my father in law went into treatment in October, we have enjoyed the use of his minivan in addition to our own car. It has been wonderful for my daughter and I to get out during the days and do stuff. My husband is also the type that doesn't like to leave much when he returns home from work, so if I can do the shopping during the day, we are both happy.

I have been scouring Carsoup.com and craigslist for a few months. At first, I was just looking to see if it was possible for us. The hope looked slim, we learned that when we were ready, we would have to watch closely and when something came up that we were interested in, jump on it FAST.

Yesterday, we drove 40 miles round trip, to get there and find that someone got there just before us and opted to buy.

Today, I watched Craigslist very closely.


This lovely little car came up at $750. We made it to test drive it, and though it needs a few things eventually, it was in great shape for it's age.

Even better? We talked them down to $600! Thank you tax return.

Tell me about a lovely deal you've gotten recently.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monday’s Recipes: Tequilaberry Salad

Do you remember when Tequilaberry’s was open? Maybe they weren’t in your area, however, there is one of their recipes that lives on. It is Tequilaberry Salad.
I had long forgotten this salad, until my mother in law made it for a bbq we all had together. I fell in love all over again. I have brought it to pot lucks and people attack me with hugs.
Here’s what you do…
1 small head of lettuce, finely chopped
¼ head cauliflower, finely chopped
½ bag bacon bits
½ c parmesan cheese

And for the dressing:
1½ cup real mayo
½ c sugar
1/3 cup milk

Mix dressing all together, set aside
Combine vegetables, bacon and parmesan cheese together.
Mix dressing all over vegetables.
Serve immediately.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Welcome!

First, I want to welcome all of the new followers!

A few things around here, Most Mondays I give a recipe of something to make from scratch (ocassionally something goes wrong and I don't get it done).

Fridays, I love to answer questions, so please ask them.

Wednesdays I do the Wordless Wed.

And we do currently have our first giveaway going. It is sponsored by me, not a company, so it's not big, but it's fun! Go HERE TO ENTER

Again welcome, and just let me know if there is something you want to hear about!

FAQ Friday:Illness

The most common thing I see is "We spent more because we're ill" be it on medication, food, drink, or whatever.

Though I haven't been asked this question, I thought it could be brought up as a good one to ask. I realize that the conventional cold season has ended. However, in this house, we are all currently nailed hard with colds.

First of all, medications: we buy generic. The only time we buy name brand is when I can combine a sale with coupon to make it cheaper to get name brand than to get generic. We also try to keep them on hand, so that we don't suddenly have to buy $20 in medicine all at once. It doesn't mentally sting so bad than.

Honestly, Target is one of my favorite places for generics. Their up and up brand carries a fabulous price with quality product. Their infant ibuprofen is almost half the price of Motrin, and it's essentially the same darned thing. Same with other generic medications. If you're not sure, feel free to look at active ingredients and compare.

Something that we do that my husband grumbles about...


I buy both of these products (in generic). He constantly tries to tell me that there is absolutely no difference. Yet, to me there is one. Nyquil makes me drowsy, dayquil doesn't. So to get through a day with a toddler-I must have dayquil because I certainly can't be falling asleep.


This is another product I keep stocked in my house. Again, we usually do generic, but sometimes I can get a B1G1 coupon from Pedialyte and than I will get that because they usually have more flavors. Once, I was even able to get a coupon at the same time from Target and combine them to get 2 for less than Target's brand of pedialyte. I never crack these jugs unless our daughter is very ill. If she's still drinking nicely, I won't crack a pedialyte.

Now, I also must note as to why I insist on rotating flavors. Remember when we were children and cough syrup was almost always grape? Now I can't do most grape flavored things because they remind me of being ill. So, I'm very careful of that for our daughter.


We have also been known to take leftover chicken and make chicken noodle soup from scratch, but that, I believe is another post!

What does your family to to keep the cost of being ill down?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Gardening Progress

My first garden up this year will be most of my flowers.

I have begun growing some seeds as of a few weeks ago. I started about 12 pots. My cat has knocked over at least three. All but 2 have sprouted.

Today, while my daughter and nephew played on the plastic play equipment in our back yard, I worked on some of my border to one of the gardens.

Last summer, as I think I have mentioned before, my MIL was foreclosed on. It's a tragic story as my FIL was swimming in addiction. As we moved her into her very own apartment, we also moved some of her things to our home. They had stacks of bricks leftover from their landscaping projects that we took and I have been working on those into my own borders ever since. Last summer, by the time I started this, it was a hard project. I could do no more than a few bricks at a time. The roots to the grass were live and attached. The sun was high and hot. Thus, my front still remains unfinished. However, I did the entire border to my shed this afternoon.

This was after taking my daughter swimming.

We went to the YMCA. You can get a free 3-day pass. The days don't have to be consecutive, however when they give you the pass, they'll give you an expiration date on it and they sign off or punch out the card each time you go. We are strongly considering a YMCA membership. If you are a low-income family, they also have a personal pricing plan that you can apply for. They will discount your membership if you are eligible. We are eligible for this, and so we are considering it. Definitely something to look into if your interested. For a monthly fee, we'll exercise on equipment and swim almost anytime we want with our daughter. For a little bit extra for the class, DD and I are possibly going to take a Mommy & Me swim class.

What do you do to get ready for summer? Where do you take your children swimming?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Trying New Things

Today, my husband had an interview. Can we say woohoo?! It was through a temp agency, but it's a start.

So his interview was in an area that we don't normally get out to. It is not a direction we normally drive in so it just seems so far away (even though it really isn't). So, our daughter and I went with him. He dropped us off at an outdoor mall and we wandered-for those that don't know, in my area the weather is absolutely gorgeous today! DD loved it. As we went down those little ramps on the sidewalks, she'd say "wee!" As wind picked up her little hairs, shed giggle.

It was adorable.

Anyhow, I kept hearing that Trader Joe's was a simply fabulous store and the only one reasonably close was in that area. So we agreed that after Mr Scratch got done interviewing, we would meet there and look around-and find out what the fuss was over.

So, I asked around to my online friends and found people that shop there regularly. I was told to get their pizza dough, and their pizza sauce. I was told that really anything they sell is to die for.

We wound up going a little crazy there. But the dough-so fresh! So doughy! So soft! SO STINKING CHEAP! It was only $0.99!! And we got so much else, the pizza sauce, I got cashews (one of my fav snacks but usually what I find is either too salty or overpriced)-they had a lb of unsalted for only something like $3.50! We got juice, we got breakfast options for the little one-we got SUSHI (for lunch). I'm not kidding, 8 normal sized pieces of California roll style sushi for $3.99!

They were demonstrating Lobster ravioli and lobster bisque sauce, and let me tell you, I don't like lobster, but for free, heck I tried it--and I liked it! So we got that for a special night.

Our sushi, on the way home was simply fabulous! So far, I must say that I am very impressed, Trader Joe's. If this kind of quality (with healthier food and cheaper prices) continues through what we have purchased today, the Scratch family WILL be back.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St Patrick's Day-in my home

We "celebrate" St Patrick's Day. We are not Catholic, nor do we have any truly large amount of Irish in us. My husband and I are both "mutts".

However, I feel at times that I am at war with myself over this holiday. Americans only celebrate (usually) to drink a beer, as well as wear some green. Have you ever read the history of this holiday? I received a message from a dear friend of mine today, reminding me what I already knew. For few people is this truly a celebration.

This is why:

Patrick recieved sainthood because of his role in bringing christianity to Ireland. That is well known fact. What isn't taught in schools, and ESPECIALLY in church, is that in order to do this he had to take tens of thousands of lives. He came to the country to "civilize the savages" that were the majority at that time. These so called savages were Druids. Peaceful, earthy type folk who worshiped the world around them and all the great things it offered. They lived in complete harmony with nature, and harmed no one. They lived predominantly in the woods, or forests. They practiced connection with nature in every way, including free, and natural sexuality, which angered Partick and his ilk to no end. How dare someone think they are free to do what they chose with their genitalia. Alas, they didn't worship Patricks god, so they had to go. He traveled throughout Ireland converting the people to weak or weary to fight. The ones who did put up a fight, and stand up for their beliefs, and way of life, were murdered. Men women and children alike were slaughtered without a shred of conscience. No one was spared.There was no tolerance for freedom of choice. Jesus or death. After he had converted and or killed the whole of the Druid population, he burned all of their records. History, art, folklore, and life practices. Can't have any of those "villainous teachings"*(see the true meaning of the word at the bottom) raising their ugly heads and causing trouble for the church. To this day Irish peoples the world over are almost all Catholics. They have no real grasp of what Druidry, Celtics, or their own ancestors, were. An entire civilization was wiped out, all in the name of a supposedly loving and compassionate god. Therefore on March 17th of each year, I wear black. I wear black to mourn the loss of a race of people who only wanted to live in peace, their own way, and not bother, or be bothered by anyone else. An entire civilization erased by a man who couldn't stand the thought of anyone else in the world thinking differently from him. And for this murder, this genocide, a monster was immortalized, Connonized, for his efforts. It is not at all unlike Hitlers attempt to wipe Jews and Judaism off the face of the planet, although not on nearly as large a scale. So if you are Irish, or plan on celebrating today, take a long look at what you're drinking to. Maybe you should wear black and do what us Irish folk (even halfies) do best. Have a wake. Get shit faced drunk and party for the ones who are gone. Celebrate the lifes that were lost, and what they stood for.

If you made it this far, I applaud you. I'm sorry to be such a buzzkill, but someone has to take the initiative to educate the skull orchard that is the human race in the new millenium.

* The word Villain comes from the Latin word Villa, meaning country house. Villain means literally "one who dwells in the country". Patrick assumed that all country dwelling peoples were Druids, and therefore bad people. Thus the word Villain, or "one who dwells in the country" became synonomous with an evil person.



We celebrate simply to have fun. In the future, I hope to use days like today to educate my daughter on other cultures. How do we currently celebrate? We purchase some Irish Beer (Smithwick's this year), wear green, and this year, I made corned beef, cole slaw (I'm SO not a fan of cabbage otherwise) and I picked up some Irish Soda Bread. We try to celebrate having other cultures rather than what the day is about.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Turn-Bloggy Giveaways

Alright, WAKE UP! No more sleeping, spring is upon us!


To celebrate spring, I would like to do a giveaway. It's sponsored by none other than me. I will send you a four-pack of plantable pots, and some seeds to get your garden growing, if you win.


I have to tell you, I just started using these plantable pots this year, and they are awesome! I haven't planted them yet, of course, but my seeds are growing wonderfully-my marigolds already have about 1/2" of growth in a weeks time! Than, when it is time, I can easily just dig the hole in my garden and put the pot in. Per advice of a sage gardener, I will likely only put the soil and plant in and keep these pots in use until they are too darned tired, as pots can definitely inhibit your root growth, thereby inhibiting your plant growth. However, these pots are much more eco-friendly than those darned plastic things you pick up at the greenhouse.

Due to the nature of gardening (pun intended) I will not choose which seeds you get and say "You must plant xyz flower" I want you to tell me what YOU want in your garden.

So, How do you enter?

1. Leave a comment, tell me what you are planning to plant in your garden, and what kind of seeds would you like sent to you should you win.

2. Refer-a-friend. This can be done by posting in your blog, or having someone come over and say "so-and-so sent me" on this post.

3. Subscribe/follow. Current followers included.

Leave each comment separately. Contest closes April 1st at 5 pm Central time. Winners will be determined at random.

GOOD LUCK!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Monday's Recipes-Stir Fry

First, sorry I have been absent a lot. I don't want to make up excuses. I deal with depression and there are definitely days I want to do nothing more than cuddle with my daughter and maybe read a book. Most days, I do well, as you have seen with this blog. This past week has been a hard one. Nothing triggered it, but rest assured it's being dealt with.

One of our favorite back up dinners in our home is stir fry and home made wontons. Occasionally, we add some egg rolls. I am not going to go into the egg roll making in this one, as we have only made them from scratch once-most of the time I don't have the energy, and I like to be familiar with a recipe before I go spreading it around.

Our Stir fry tends to vary by what we are in the mood for. Most often it consists of:

2 chicken breasts, sliced and usually diced a bit smaller.
1 bell pepper, any color.
An eyeballed amount of frozen broccoli
Small can of Water chestnuts
Snap or sugar peas (I go by whichever is cheaper) I use about a handfull, bought fresh
Baby corn (found in the "ethnic" aisle at the grocer)
Jullienne style carrot strips
a dash of either teriyaki sauce or General Tao's sauce

We do have a wok, so I heat that up with about a teaspoon of oil, and toss the chicken in. I fry that, stirring pretty much constantly. I than add the frozen vegetables and when those are thawed but not hot, I add the rest of the veggies. Usually, once all the veggies are added, I put a big of whichever sauce we desire on and fry it all up, stirring fairly often.

For the won tons, usually I prep them during the day. I whip up some cream cheese and Worcestershire sauce until soft, than take won ton wraps from the store (I usually find them in the produce section, however depending on the store, have also found them in other odd places), I'll put probably just over a teaspoon of cream cheese in each wrap and pinch it closed at the top. We than use our deep fryer and fry them. I don't want to give you a time for how long to deep fry because it REALLY depends on the type of oil you use. When we use veggie oil, it takes 2-3 minutes, when we use corn oil, we're taking #1 out as soon as we put #7 in. You just want them golden brown. You can also bake them instead, this of course would be healthier but just doesn't taste quite the same.

What are your favorite ingredients to Stir Fry?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Mission

It has been a hard week in our home, but in a positive way, really.

I have been spending much time with family. My mother has been recently diagnosed with a few new problems, nothing life endangering-only life changing.

Do you ever notice that when life takes a turn, it becomes harder and harder to remain frugal sometimes?

I want to tell you one thing I have been doing in a frugal manner this week. I have been working on Easter baskets. I am buying for my daughter this year, and also my sister and I agreed to make baskets for eachother's children.

I have bought a few things, most from the dollar store. I found a small bubble thing for this summer, garden "tools" for when I bring my daughter outside while I'm gardening this summer and other such summer things. Our local dollar store has some wonderful options right now-I do suggest trying yours out if you are a dollar store person.

Another thing that occurred, is my nephew was here yesterday and got ahold of 2 permanent markers. The affected room? The room I spent a ton of time on for my daughter. I was close to crying. He got her toys, a dresser that was her daddy's when he was a toddler, the toy box her great grandpa made her, her bed...and the pillow her grandma cross-stitched for her. I was so very upset.

Our first idea was vinegar water-we use it for a ton of cleaning around our house, I find it works better than most cleaning chemicals. It didn't do anything for it. I remembered that last June, I found a coupon for those magic erasers for buy one get one free, so I sent my hubby to grab a couple, and inch by inch, they removed the marker from everything non-porous. My brother in law remembered from one of his jobs that they used marker on almost everything, and rubbing alcohol to remove it.

I am not kidding, with a toothbrush and rubbing alcohol, we got all the marker off the pillow!! We than hand washed it and laid it out to dry.

It is now dry and you can't tell it was ever touched-most of our stuff is that way! So, if you have little ones, I definitely suggest to have the magic erasers on hand and rubbing alcohol!



One more thing before I release you from my grips! Since my daughter was born, I have struggled with some acne type issues. On my cheeks, near my ears I get red blemishes and small zits around them. I also get many zits around my lips. I have never dealt with this before, so my mission for you is to find a frugal way to help get rid of this. Tell me what you use and how well it works. Where do you purchase it?

Hope all are well!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Oh Blog, How I have Neglected Thee...

I wonder if you could ever forgive me?

I am in an exhausted but accomplished (and therefor good) mood.

Do you know, I was thinking a lot today as I cleaned and worked on some things. Some people have a negative connotation with the word frugal. Many think frugal equals cheap. I do not believe that way. I believe that frugal is finding ways to make your money last. It also just so happens that many of my absolute favorite frugal ways are things that are considered being "green".

I do not purchase water. It is expensive and I get it in my home for free. We do not purchase paper napkins (aside from special occasions, instead I have a set of cloth napkins that I purchased at a garage sale for just a buck. They get dirty, they take up so little room in my washer that to try to calculate the cost of washing them is rediculous and in my humble opinion, it is going too far.

The majority of my furniture is pre-owned. If I'm not super happy with it's appearance, I like to fix it and make it so that I can be super happy with it's appearance. In fact that is why I am tired today. Pre-owned furniture. My great friend, Kim, purchased her first home (AGAIN, congrats, Kim) and was fortunate enough to be able to replace much of her furniture at the same time. So, we went down there and took much of it for her. I now have a designated crafting area (a small desk), enclosed DVD storage (no more frustration of trying to stop DD from removing every DVD from the rack), a new, better microwave cart (which made it so the old one could be used as a TV stand in the bedroom) and my daughter has a barely used recliner...in child size.

Do you know what else? I did a good deed while I did this. My mom has a friend who have fallen on very difficult times. She deals with deathly kidney problems, as well as other health issues. She has been unable to find a consistant roommate and has lost her items a few times when she was unable to pay her storage bills due to her health. Kim sent them a "new" bed through us, and we threw in a "new" lamp and some cabinets we had. Last week, we sent them some tables we no longer used.

We all know that the infamous spring cleaning is starting in many homes. I know I'm doing it! I challenge you to find someone who needs the items you no longer use in your home and give them away. You won't regret helping someone in need. How you go about finding that person is up to you. Go onto Craigslist and take a moment to email someone who has posted a wanted ad and sounds like they really need your item. Ask around.

You'd be amazed the people who won't speak up that they need or want something until it's offered.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Working?

It is no secret, my husband and I are receiving some help to get by while he is unemployed.

One of the programs that is helping us is requiring us both to go to several classes to help get into today's workforce and boy, I can only remember one time I was this tired in my daughter's life. That's when she was newborn and waking several times a night. We are getting up at 7 am every morning and sitting in intensive classes to write a resume that will work best in today's jobhunting. Tomorrow, we will be going over interviewing skills.

I won't lie. I don't want to go back to work. (and my husband supports this). However, this is required for us to get by right now. It is not easy or me, I am already having a very difficult time each night when I pick my daughter up from my sister who is kind enough to be offering us child care services.

My normally loving, cuddling daughter wanted nothing to do with me today when I picked her up.

While I'm happy that she is doing well with all of this...I am not. I am hurting because of this.

I can't wait until my husband finds a job.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Bloggy Giveaways

One thing I absolutely love about the blogosphere is the giveaways. That is what truly got me going, after I started watching a few here and there...it was the giveaways who got me.

I confess that when my daughter was a newborn, I entered literally hundreds of giveaways a day.

I thought I would start something here, once a week, I will make a post of blog giveaways that I'm interested in. I will edit the post as I find more and more giveaways, that way I'm not flooding you all with them. I know that that usually drives me insane.

First off, because Alice In Wonderland is coming out, and that is beyond awesome, STL Mommy is doing an Alice In Wonderland Giveaway! So head on over there and enter...and if you win, come let me know too!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Monday's Recipes-Pickle Wraps

When I was a little girl, my grandma and grandpa still lived in the same state (now they are across the country). We had several Christmases each year. One with them, one with my Nana and Papa, our own family's, and I'm sure there were a few others. One thing we had every year was what we called pickle wraps. Grandma would make them for each holiday or gathering, and they would disappear almost as fast as she could put them out.

A few years ago, they moved across the country. Suddenly, if we wanted our wraps, we had to figure them out ourselves. Now, each person makes them slightly differently, I think, but I became in charge of making them because I'm the youngest and they are relatively cheap to make.

Here is what I use...

1 small jar of dill pickles. I prefer whole because spears get the juices everywhere, and make them soggy and gross.
1 block of cream cheese
Worcestershire sauce
Lunch meat, I prefer ham, in deli style slices.

You must either soften or allow the cream cheese to soften. If you do not do this, it will be hard to spread and tear the daylights out of your meat.
When the cream cheese is soft like butter, place into a bowl, add a bit of Worcestershire sauce. Now, I don't measure but I would say it's probably about a tablespoon? Whip this up with a hand mixer, this will also help make your cream cheese more fluffy and easier to work with.
I lay about 3 pieces of ham end to end on my work space and spread them all with a small bit of cream cheese. You can be a little liberal with the cream cheese, you will likely have a bit leftover otherwise. I than place the pickle on one end and start rolling it up. If your ham is of the size where all the ends start overlapping in the same spot, try to stagger them. I find this makes the flavor blend better (and will look better later when you put them out!) I than roll them into a bit of tin foil like a small piece of candy.
Repeat this until you are out of an ingredient. I typically run out of pickles first and have a bit of ham and cream cheese leftover. Granted I don't have the best eating habits but I must admit I kind of like to spread the cream cheese onto the ham and eat it on the spot.

I store the wraps in the fridge until the cream cheese hardens. I usually make the wraps the night before, so it is fine, however if I am in a pinch, I will sometimes just put the wraps into the freezer for an hour or so. I wouldn't do this long enough for them to freeze though, because as pickles thaw, they get gross and mushy.

When I'm ready to serve the wraps, I simply cut them up, arrange them on a plate, and put a few toothpicks nearby. I than run before the stampede comes!


When I was pregnant with my little girl, I craved these like crazy...we actually made a bag and I would sit and eat them without bothering to cut them up. Than, one day I got sick of them and my poor husband was bringing them to work for the next few weeks.

Friday, February 26, 2010

FAQ Friday: Kitchen Tools

It's time for FAQ Friday! I love doing Fridays for this reason.

Again, I have little questions to work from, so I'm going to use one that has been in my mind for a long time to blog about.

What kitchen tools do you spend a little more on?

I honestly feel that almost any tool is worth buying nicer quality. Often when I need a new tool, I will shop around and evaluate quality vs price. There are many tools out there, and many competitive brands. Do I buy Martha Stewart's brand? Walmart's Mainstays, KitchenAid, Pampered Chef...? Often times I evaluate each tool individually.
Recently, I decided that a food chopper would make my life easier and would be worth the cost vs use. I looked at many different brands. Many of them seemed...cheap. They may have been a bit cheaper financially, but they were also cheaply made.
In December, I hosted a Pampered Chef show. I like some of their stuff, however some of it is definitely overpriced. I promise, I do not have enough in the budget for their almost $500 knife set! However, a few of their lower priced items are definitely worth it...and I feel, well...pampered using them.
My grandma booked a show off of me, giving me the benefit of being able to purchase one of that month's hostess specials. I purchased their food chopper at 60% off! I believe it was about $12. Their chopper has a guarantee on it, which I love.

I have tools in my kitchen that may have cost me more however, they save me time, or physical pain. I think that's worth a few more dollars.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Wow.

I am going to be off topic a bit today. Sorry.

I just wanted to quickly peek on. I'm having a rough day...don't worry, nothing is "wrong", I'm just having one of those days. You know the one, where you can't get yourself motivated to do nearly anything? Yup. That's my day.

Yesterday, I did a ton. Andrew and I attended a mandatory meeting in the morning in relation to some help we are getting to make sure we don't fall under while he is unemployed. Than, we picked up the girl, I finished painting the living room, we managed to get most of the furniture in place, and now I just need to clean up the stuff.

I put a few pictures back up on our living room walls today, and re-filled the bookshelves. But, aside from caring for the daughter, who was in rare form, wanting only to cuddle Mom.

I'm sorry for those that were looking for more than this, I'll try again tomorrow. :D

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Stocking Up

Another method of living frugally is to stock up. I know, it sounds silly at first. Why should I spend more money all at once? How the heck is that frugal?
Truth is, if you go to the grocery store and chicken breasts, for example, are not on sale (meaning that round here, they are about $7-$8 per 3 lb bag) this is not a time to stock up. Now when the local grocery runs them for $4-$5 per bag, that is when you stock up. Typically, on the occasion that the sales like this occur, I find it a waste of space to buy more than about 2 bags of chicken.
I used the example of bagged chicken breasts. I know this is not the most frugal way of eating chicken! There are very few things that my family and I get picky about. I am honestly the picky eater in the house. I can rarely eat chicken, or really any poultry, with bones in it anymore. When I was younger, my grandmother used to break the bones and suck the marrow out. This plays into it…it’s also a texture issue for me. When I try to eat something with texture similar to what chicken is like near the bone, I gag. Once I start to gag on my food, I cannot eat anymore, even if it’s something different.
My family stocks up. When there is a sale on a food we love, we buy more of it than if we were to buy it off-sale. We had to find a balance though. It became depressing almost, if I stocked up and than a month later we still had tons and there was an equal or greater sale on the product. If I have plenty of something, I cannot justify purchasing more.
We used to use a chest freezer. These are awesome for larger families, or families in different circumstances in which they cannot deal watch as often, or cannot get about so much. For us, it cost us more in space and electricity. It also cost us frustration as we could not keep it organized. For three people, in our case, it was not worth it. We have a lovely sized fridge and freezer combination. The top portion of my freezer holds our meet and our ice, as we have an icemaker. If this is full-I’m not allowed to buy more. The bottom half of our freezer holds what I call convenience foods. This is typically almost all for our daughter…chicken nuggets for lunches, waffles, and more. We tried making her waffles, she won’t eat them other than Eggo, or store brand waffles.
My point is, stocking up is a wonderful way to make your meals cost less in the long run. However, there is a limit. If you’re paying the difference between the sale and regular price by paying for an extra freezer to run…you’ve obliterated your deal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Update to Fajitas

As promised last night, we made our own tortillas.

We are still in the habit of making our own, so it was halfway through frying the steak for our fajitas that I realized I needed to make them.

As I said, we used Penniless Parenting's recipe-and it went well! Amongst our first postings, we tried the recipe found in Under $1000 Per Month. It went well, though we were uncomfortable with the amount of shortening in it. Penniless offered up their recipe and we finally got to try it!

Instead of reprinting the recipe, I would like to direct you over Vegan Tortillas by Penniless Parenting

Our only problems were that it was hard to roll them thin enough and they'd shrink back down as I rolled them. However, they worked well for the food. I am toying with ideas to add some flavor to my tortillas, as I always did like the jalapeno ones at the store and other odd flavors.

Do you have another tortilla recipe for us to try? We'd be delighted!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday's Recipes- Fajitas

Fajitas are a favorite in my family. When we want a cheap, out to eat, sit-down meal, we often share a single order of fajitas and walk out full. I love it. Recently, I took to making our own fajitas. It's really quite simple.

We use (for the three of us):

either 1/2 lb of steak or a single chicken breast cut into strips
2 bell peppers, usually green because they're cheaper but if other colors are on sale, we'll toss those in. Cut these into strips as well
1/2 medium purple onion, cut into strips
Fajita seasoning (we do not buy those individual packets. At our grocery store they have an area with fresh seasonings, for about $1.50, I get one of these and it goes about 5 rounds of fajita dinners, someday, maybe I'll try making my own blend but it's not expensive so I don't see it as an immediate thing to play with)
extra (optional) toppings for us often include just sour cream. We use light, but you can use whatever you prefer.

The Directions
Our particular style of fajita mix requires you to marinade your meat in it for 1 hour. I can't lie, I often forget to do this in time so I find myself just sprinkling it onto the meat as I cook it.
I usually use my 10" skillet to saute the meat first. I put a hint of cooking oil (never a lot) and sprinkle the seasoning over the meat, I cook until done. For steak, for us, we like a wee tiny bit of pink. Chicken must be cooked until no pink though!

I than remove the meat into a covered dish to keep it warm. I use these little casseerole dishes my aunt gave us at my bridal shower. They are small and perfect (and make a nice display) Next, I saute the onions and bell peppers together. I usually like to put a little of that fajita seasoning on there as well.

Next, I move those to another covered container.

I set it all on the table with some tortillas...in the past we've been using store bought, but tonight, I intend to try to make our own from the recipe offered by our follower, Penniless Parenting. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow!

Andrew and I than sit down, I cut some of the veggies and meat up even smaller for our daughter, and we make each fajita as we're ready for it!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Another Home Improvement thought

With my husband laid off, we have all this time on our hands.

So, we've been doing some of the projects that either I can do, but need his help watching the kid, or have been on the list forever.

One of the tips I received from my MIL to me, and I would like to pass onto you is really quite ingenious and simple...

Mistinted Paint

I'm not kidding. We go to Lowe's or Home Depot (and sometimes even Walmart has some decent ones) and just check out the paint that they tinted wrong for someone else. What was someone else's "2 shades too dark" could be your perfection.

We just did this today...I've been wanting to do my living room in a sage green. I've been fiddling with colors on the wall...you know the routine, pick up one of those paint chip samples, tape it to the wall, decide you hate it, leave it there until you decide on a different color, than take ALL of them off the wall, curse yourself for leaving them there in the first place and start painting.

Well, when you have a specific color in mind, sometimes it can take a lot of stops. We never go on special trips for these cans of paint. But if we pass, say, Lowe's and have some extra time, we may quickly stop in and check what they have.

Today was one of those days. We stopped into Lowe's and I looked and they had a great shade of green for my living room...a gallon of it for $5! That would have normally been about $22!

So, our housewarming party is on the 7th, do you think I can get my living room in order before than?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wow!

Some of you may have noticed a TON of comments (at least compared to usual) on my last post mentioning Friday Follow, it is thanks to Follow Friday that as I write this, we welcome 10 new followerstoday alone!

If you can't tell, I'm excited! Thank you to each and every one of you that make this blog happen-if it were not for you, this blog would just be my pointless rambles!

Welcome, to all!

FAQ Friday

I haven't had many questions for followers yet, so I am going to start off this new routine with a question that my Mom asks me...a lot.

How do you make weekly menus and remain flexible?

Yes, we make weekly menus. It is absolutely a fabulous tip I picked up at one point for saving money. I use the sales to make menus off of and it avoids many things in my home. The biggest thing? The 4 pm argument of "What's for dinner?" You know the one, when you suddenly start thinking, "Mmmm, dinner is getting near time, what shall we have?" Than you realize that everything is frozen, or needed started in the crock pot hours ago. My Mom is ever famous for this.

First off, I watched our patterns in life. We typically do our shopping on Thursdays. That was the day that my husband got paid while working for his last job. When we are living pay check to pay check, this is often how it must be done. This told me I had to have my grocery list for the coming week by Thursday.

Next, on Sundays, I would go through the ads. There are 3 main local stores that I check and shop. I check all of these ads and see who has the most and the best deals.

I than take my menu planning magnet (I found it at Micheals in the dollar section, it's awesome. One side lists the days of the week, each with their own square, than about 1/3 of each page is space for a shopping list), if we have any activities or plans for that week, I write them in. This allows me to plan what I make around what is going on. Say we have an activity starting at 630, than we usually need to eat before, and I'm probably not going to want to make something labor intensive. So, I write EACH activity on the menu planner.

I than think of the type of meal I want for each and every day. If we have a daytime activity where we'll return home tired but in time for dinner, than I'll usually put a crock pot meal in for that day. The point is, I work around a lot of things. I don't plan my meals and than work around them.

On that note, how we are able to keep to it is to STAY flexible. I'm not kidding! If Mom invites us over for dinner, we go and we reschedule that night's meal. Depending on what it is is when I push it out to. If it's something that doesn't involve many perishable ingredients, it may get pushed out further.

If the day doesn't go as planned and we're exhausted come dinner time, we look forward on the meal plan and flop a day or two to make it work, rather than calling Domino's.

I won't lie, it also helps that my husband doesn't let me give into random pizza cravings and call Dominos. But if it weren't for my meal planning, every day would be stressful.

I also choose not to plan breakfast and dinner. I like some choice each day and those aren't so hard. Besides, this is when my husband gets a chance to eat his leftovers.

Do you have a question for me? Ask away, than watch for it on FAQ Fridays!