September 27, 2012

It’s Thursday Already?

Where does the time go?

This week has just *flown* by, and it’s already Friday tomorrow.

We’ve had a couple days of fall-appropriate temperatures, and it’s been SO nice.  80 degree days past about mid-September make me cranky.  Once fall officially hits, I’m ready for overcast skies and cool breezes cartwheeling the colorful leaves past the window while we watch football. Watching football inside while it’s hot outside really takes away from the fun!

Miss Avery is almost ELEVEN MONTHS OLD – holey buckets.  Today she figured out how to climb into her “toy drawer” (and preferred to sit in it while she played for the rest of the morning), she realized she could climb all the way into the “Rubbermaid cupboard” I let her play in while I’m in the kitchen, and she figured out how to get up on the first stair….the second stair….and all the way up the entire flight of stairs.  All in one day!  Little monkey!

We also joined a moms’ group, and we’re really enjoying it.  It’s so nice to see Avery get a little interaction with other kids while I get some grown-up time with the other moms.

I finally got some fall decor  out – are you proud?  You should be, because I hardly know where the time goes, between chores, cooking, Avery, weekend visits here and there, and now football season!

For now though, time to get the baby (sniff! she’ll be a toddler soon!) into bed.

September 14, 2012

Fall Pinterest Picks 2012

Hey! Welcome to FALL already!!  Okay, so it’s not technically “fall” yet, but we’re darn close, and it’s definitely in the air out here in the ‘burb, so I’m going with it.

We’ve had a couple days here of much cooler temps, and it’s SO getting me in the mood for fuzzy socks, jeans, boots, scarves, and all the other warm clothes in my closet that I’m ready to pile on.  If I’m not careful, I could go overboard and end up a sweater Michelin man on the first really cold day of the season…

Oh yeah, and I can’t wait to rake leaves – the first day of raking is fun before it gets old – turn on the fireplace (I love that …. “turn on” rather than “clean out and chop wood for…”!) and make some super yummy fall recipes. 

The geeky gardener in me is even excited to trim back all the plants and see a garden that’s ready for winter and snow.

OH….oh yeah….again….this is Avery’s first fall!  She was born *almost* on Halloween last year, so even though she was around for some fall days, we were pretty much holed up inside last year. 

With all that said (I guess I’m feeling chatty this fall), I’ve been inspired by some really cute ideas from Pinterest lately.  Here are the best of the bunch:

Wrap pumpkins in tulle and tie with wire-edged ribbon!  Very cute and EASY.

 

Put a pot of fall mums IN a pumpkin.  Love this.  Spray paint a couple little ones gold. 

 

How about a cute little treat to send to school with your kiddos?  In a lunchbox or for a Halloween party, this would be adorable.  You can usually find nice looking crepe papery leaves at the dollar store.

 

Here’s a yummy crock pot recipe for baked apples.  I’ve made baked apples in the microwave before, but never with this brown sugary-looking filling stuff in them! Looks like crunchy, sugary, streusel-y bliss to me, and I bet it makes the house smell amazing.  (Although I haven’t actually looked at the recipe, so maybe it’s something gross like grape nuts cereal…you’ll have to find out for yourself.  I choose to think it’s something yummy and probably not healthy.)

 

And now for some Halloween fun.  How cool is this one?  The descriptor says it’s water balloons with glow sticks inside, suspended in stockings.  Looks to me like it’s a little different than that (just sayin’) but that WOULD work!  Some variation of this would be neat, regardless how you did it.

 

This idea isn’t new, but I really like it.  Elmer’s glue on wax paper, sprinkled with glitter.  Sounds messy…and worth a shot!

 

Fun stuff.  And now maybe I should go see what I can do with my box o’ fall sitting in the dining room barfing out leaf garlands before I plan to make any new crafts.  Hey, it never hurts to have an arsenal of ideas!

Feel free to follow me on Pinterest, as I’m sure I’ll be pinning lots more fall (and Christmas…and craft…and recipe…and…and…) ideas.

Just click the button in the right sidebar that looks like this:

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Happy Fall!

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September 12, 2012

Cutting Food Costs: The Price Book

Here I am again, into a new month with a new meal plan!  I’m dedicated to cutting our food bill while also avoiding the “what should we do for dinner” dance each evening. 

Here’s a quick update.  This month, I planned for 16 meals.  I’ve been to the grocery store once, Wal-Mart once, and Walgreens once.  I’ve spent a total of $242 and there’s nothing (as of today?) I know I’ll need by the end of the month.

I also borrowed a book from the library on cutting our grocery bill even further, Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half by Steve and Annette Economides.  I’ve seen this family on TV, and they’re truly experts at frugality.  There are a ton of tips in their book, but so far, the biggest one I’ve taken away so far is the need to have a price book.

The importance of a price book isn’t new to me, but I’ve really procrastinated doing it.   I’ve just been too lazy to do the work myself and record prices.  Instead, I’ve taken shortcuts:  followed blogs that list and rate the week’s grocery deals, I’ve checked out CouponMom and similar sites for their ratings, and I started my super-abbreviated price list in August for about 8 items. 

After reading the section in the book on having a price book, I finally realized no shortcut is going to have as big an impact as the price book itself.  So finally, I dug out a little, old notebook and filled it alphabetically with a list of products we use regularly, one per page.  It only has a couple weeks of price info in it right now, and some items have no price yet.  But for a few, I’ve noted prices from several ads and/or stores and I’ve found a shocking variation in prices that I never would’ve noticed before.

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For example:

Cheerios.  We’re brand-specific on this one, but I’m okay with Regular, Honey Nut or whatever other flavor.  Cheerios also comes in a bunch of different sized boxes.  A couple weeks ago, the 8.9 ounce box of Regular Cheerios was priced at $3.19 at our King Soopers.  This week, a 14 ounce box of ANY Cheerios is $1.99 at Safeway.  Big difference!!  That’s a range in cost of 14 cents per ounce to 36 cents per ounce.

Kraft singles.  Again, we’re brand specific on these.  I’ve tried generic singles and they are *bad*.  Yuck!  Last week Kraft Singles (16 pack) was $2.88 during my shopping trip at WalMart.  This week, the same size package is $1.49 at King Soopers!  (If that’s not a great argument that Wal-Mart doesn’t always have the best prices, I don’t know what is.)

Coffee.  We’re not brand specific here, per se, because we go with either the generic Kroger brand or Folgers.  The Kroger brand 34.5 oz package of “Breakfast Blend” is almost always $8.99, and Folgers is almost always $9.88 at King Soopers.  (Yow.  Coffee is so expensive!)  This week, the 34.5 oz Folgers Country Blend was $6.99 at Walgreens.  I haven’t tried Country Blend before, but for a $2 savings, I think I can give it a shot!

Another quick and easy one is Diet Pepsi.  When we drink pop, it’s almost always Diet Pepsi.  Usually the price is 3 12-packs for $11, which *seems* pretty good, considering the individual cost per 12 pack is around $4 or $5.  Two weeks ago, the price at King Soopers was 4 12 packs for $10.  I’m pretty sure I’ve also seen 5/$12, but not for a while.  So far, my “buy price” is now $2.50 per 12-pack.

So there you have it.  The concept of a price book could mean a difference of $2 or more per item on my shopping list, and I’m finally doing it.  I just take my little notebook with me to the store, write down some prices here and there, and then I use my receipt when I get home to fill in the rest.  Not every price is updated each week, and I even have a few items where I haven’t yet put in even one price….but I’ll get there.  Grocery store ads also help me update the prices.

Do you have a price book?  Do you know your “buy price” for the major groceries you use? Am I the only one who can’t remember the “good” price from week to week? (I wouldn’t be surprised at all, actually!)

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September 11, 2012

A Refinished Hutch!!!

My newly refinished hutch...

Holey moley, I’m practically bouncing in my chair to finally show you all the newly refinished hutch to go with the buffet I refinished oh…like two years ago.

The back story is that I wanted a china cabinet of certain dimensions to fit on a narrow wall in our dining room.  I found a buffet plus hutch on Craigslist that was just the right size.  It was an undesirable color, but that was no problem.

We brought them home for $100, and I got to work refinishing the buffet.  It was a learning curve, but it turned out beautifully and we’ve been enjoying it ever since.


Hutch with wood tone and paint

BUT…the hutch sat in the basement, totally neglected, until I finally decided I had to just get’er done.  So up into the garage it came, and I got to work.

Here are some high quality cell phone shots (snort!) of the hutch, with its stemware and plate racks.

The wood was a sort of honey-orange color, and the “white” portions were a yellowish cream that seem to have been very sloppily glazed.  (as in… it looked kind of dirty.)

Buffet hutch before refinishing

This isn’t a super high-quality piece of furniture, as you can see.  But it worked out to my advantage, because I could easily unscrew the stemware holders, which I tossed.

Top of the hutch

The plate rack wasn’t so easy to remove.  I had to take a saw to it.

Buffet hutch before refinished 2

But after all was said and done……Here it is!

Refinished buffet hutch

When I did the buffet, I was a little shy with the paint stripper. This time around, it was the first thing I grabbed.

Refinished buffet and hutch

I stripped the paint and stain, sanded the thing to within an inch of its life, and then worked on the painted areas first. It took primer, a couple coats of paint, a couple coats of Polycrylic, and sanding between each layer. I also taped off the shelf and covered it with newspaper while I worked. I used spackle to fill the holes left by the plate rack because it was all I had on hand. I probably should’ve used wood filler, but oh well.

Cream and dark wood hutch

Once the painted areas were dry, I tackled the stained sections. Pre-stain, two coats of stain, and two coats of polyurethane. This one had a couple spots in the wood that took stain poorly. I sanded them like crazy, but in the end I had to accept the spots as adding “character.”

A little "country" buffet hutch

I’m just TOO excited about this silly thing.  It looks marvelous, fits the space perfectly, and gives me lots of room for storage and/or décor.  I moved my cookbooks over here from one of the kitchen cupboards as well, where they were always falling over.  I think they look very cheerful now that they see the light of day!

Refinished hutch and buffet again!

I accessorized for “everyday”, but I’m already itching to get some fall décor on this thing.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, thanks for stopping by!
ASig

Linked up to The Thrifty Home, The Shabby Creek Cottage, House of Hepworths

September 6, 2012

August Recipe Round Up: 9 Dinner Ideas

Hey all, here’s the lowdown on the best recipes I made for my August meal plan, with my own spins.  These came from a bunch of places: Pinterest, Martha Stewart Cooking booklets, Taste of Home, and my recipe box (aka “No Idea”!)   

If it wasn’t a “keeper”, I’m not including it here.  Also, these turned out great at high altitude, so if you’re at sea level and they don’t work quite as well….that’s probably why.

First up – the “love child between a birthday cake and a brownie” (according to my husband):

Cake Batter Bars

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These were a little tricky to find the perfect baking time.  32 min was the sweet spot for me.  They were underdone and very doughy at 30 minutes, but perfect at 32.  You might have to try a couple batches to get it right (luckily there’s enough cake mix in a box for 2-3 batches of these!).  Also, the original recipe called for 3/4 C of butter.  For me, this made them SUPER greasy, so I cut back a little with no adverse effects.  These are so good, they probably won’t last more than a day or two – just warning you Smile

Peanut Butter Brownies

This one I got from my mom.  It’s so good…I highly recommend white chocolate chips in it.  These are pretty greasy (peanut butter, after all), but I think they’d qualify as a “high protein snack” for anyone with morning sickness.  Also, no need to grease the pan, as the recipe says.  The peanut butter does that for you.image 

Easy Chili Mac

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Beef Barley Stew

This one makes a huge batch.  The recipe called for one large portabella mushroom, but I used a container of pre-sliced mushrooms to make it easier.  I also used bouillon cubes to make the beef broth, as that’s easier than keeping the boxed/canned version on hand.  I also use minced garlic that comes in a jar.  It’s 1/4 tsp per “1 garlic clove” called for in a recipe, and it’s just way easier than chopping up garlic and getting my fingers all garlicky.

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Spaghetti with Butternut Squash and Brown Butter

Although I usually use margarine in place of “butter” in recipes, this one actually requires real butter to get the “brown butter” flavor.  Also, I must be a total bumpkin, because I had/have no clue what escarole is, and I wasn’t in the mood for a scouting expedition through the produce department to figure it out.  So, I opted for the more familiar green leafy veggie: spinach.  (The prewashed kind!)

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Beef Stroganoff

Sorry, no recipe for this one.  I used 1 lb of stew meat, a packet of stroganoff seasoning (and the instructions on the back), egg noodles and the stuff the seasoning called for.  I can’t remember now all the ingredients, but sour cream is obviously required.   Beef stroganoff seasoning packets are a staple in my cupboard now.  Tasty and easy.

Chicken Thigh Fajitas

I used thighs for this one, but chicken breasts would work just as well.  You’d need about 1.5 lbs worth of whatever chicken cut you prefer.

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Crock Pot Southwestern Chicken

I love crock pot chicken recipes because you can use frozen chicken! Whoo hoo for lazy folk like me!

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Tater Tot Casserole

Nick loves this stuff.  It’s not the healthiest, but served with a steamed veggie, it’s filling and a pretty square meal.

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Hope you got some good ideas for dinner!  Sorry for no pictures – it’s hard to remember to take a picture when I’m in a rush to get it on the table.  Maybe I’ll do better with September’s recipes Smile

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