Friday, April 29, 2011

Dog Breath

While you have spring cleaning on the brain, don't forget Fido. Give  your dog a real bone every month or so to clean his teeth. This is the easiest, cheapest, most natural way to clean teeth and your dog will love it too! I've been giving my dog bones for years and the vet always comments on how clean and plaque-free his teeth are. (Our dog is now 9 years old.) Another perk for your pup is that he doesn't have to be put under. Anesthesia is very hard on a dog's system and not to mention, costs a bundle! You can find bones in the frozen section of your grocery store. (A pack of 2 will set you back around $1.50.)
*Never give your dog chicken bones as they splinter and can cause major intestinal distress.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We have a winner!

Congratulations to Kalyn! You have won a copy of The Backyard Homestead! Email me at with your address so that I can send a copy. Thanks for all of your comments. I'm dreaming of summer food too!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Spring giveaway!!

Because it will be 85 degrees today and the birds are singing outside my window. Because winter is over and it's time to scratch around in the dirt and grow things, I'm giving away a copy of one of my favorite books: The Backyard Homestead. This book is a terrific resource for gardening as well as animal care. It is an easy read with excellent illustrations and is my go-to book for gardening questions and ideas. The best feature of the book is that it is relevant for urban gardeners too!

To win: leave a comment sharing your favorite thing to eat or grow from your garden. Don't garden? Just share your favorite seasonal fruit or veggie. I'll draw the name on Wednesday morning and post the winner. Good luck!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Easy Easter Headband

As some of you may have guessed, I'm not a "fancy schmancy" kind of gal. I'm not into the stiff shiny shoes your kid only wears once or fancy hair bows so big they make baby's head wobbly! I was looking for something a little more special than the standard hair clip for my girl's Easter 'do, but not over-the-top. After fruitless hunting, I decided to make my own and I have to say it worked perfectly! (Unlike many of the projects that don't make it into this blog.) The beauty of this headband is that you can customize it to work with any outfit, it lies perfectly flat, and costs little to nothing. This one was free- I used old ribbon in my scrap box.

 Step 1:
Place ribbon around the noggin the way you want it to lie.
Cut ribbon so that the ends meet at the back of the noggin.
Cut 1" off of your cut and measured ribbon. (Can you tell I love the word "noggin"?)
Step 2:
Sew a small piece of elastic onto the ribbon, connecting the ends.

(This picture is actually backwards. The ends of the elastic go on the backside of the ribbon.)
Step 3:
Slip onto your critter's noggin and admire! The elastic makes it easy to put on and keeps it nice and comfortable. No headband headaches!

*This was so ridiculously easy. I think I'll go make a couple hundred. Maybe I'll patent my idea and make millions. I'm excited to make some for myself since I have a pea-sized noggin and nothing fits. I can't wait to have something pretty on my cranium too!
This is the final product. Of course, you should use matching thread (unlike my white on green here). The elastic part goes on the back of the head- you don't see it there because the hair covers it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Putting treats in a basket is the perfect presentation for get-togethers and Easter parties. Just nestle a bowl into a grass-lined basket for a fresh and fun way to display goodies. I tried it out for an Easter party this morning with these cookies. Perfect!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Road Trip Results

Well folks, 1400 miles later, the results are in! We managed to drive from Virginia to Florida and back for less than $100 total! (gas, food, etc..) Gas prices were sky-high and ranged from $3.79 to $3.99 per gallon too, so our total would have been much lower otherwise. I kept a log of all expenses as well as the value of what we would have paid had we not used gas cards and packed our own food. I was conservative on the first total and assumed that you would only be eating at fast food restaurants during the trip to and from Florida. (Most folks would have spent around $400-500, but I'm going to assume you all are more thifty that that!)

Gas: $193.85
Food: $107.00
Grand Total: $300.85

Our total:
Gas: $59.07
Dessert for hosts: $12.00
Cotton Candy: $3.00
Lunch out: $15.00
Starbucks: $3.97
Grand Total: $93.04

 Here's the low-down on how we did it:
  • We saved our gas cards from the BP promotion several months ago in addition to gas cards that we earned from using our credit card points, in case you're wondering how the heck we paid for gas.
  • I bought snacks from Food Lion with the store credit I earned from last month's promotion.
  • Everything we ate on the way to Florida was packed.
  • We enjoyed a dinner date (Free babysitting from grandparents!) with a tab of $53.00, but used $45.00 that was given to us as an anniversary present along with $8.00 that I saved from milk bottle deposits. Cha-ching!

As you can see by what we spent our money on, we did splurge on certain things and treated ourselves to little luxuries that we wouldn't normally enjoy. After all, we were on a mini vacation! With a little planning ahead, you can enjoy a great vacation for very little cost- even if you have to drive a long way to do it!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Coal, anyone?

I've had this old coal bucket on my front porch for years. It came to me from my great-grandmother. It's perfect for holding magazines, but it's definitely outlived its glory days. A quick spray paint job gave it a fun new look. I'll have to post a picture later of it doing its job on my porch for you to get the full effect.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kelloggs promotion

I know that many of you may already know about this promotion, but it was such a good one that I had to tell everyone else about it. (Thanks to everyone who told me about this!) Kelloggs is having a promotion! For every 10 cereal UPC's that you send in, you will receive a $10 debit Mastercard (use like a gift card). You can do this up to 5 times per household. Here is a link to all the info you'll need:

I have to say that when I took my recycling to the giant bin, I saw a few crushed Kelloggs cereal boxes. Glancing furtively over my shoulder, I felt myself leaning in trying to reach them. I suddenly realized that I was precariously perched on the edge of the bin as I tried to reason with myself. "You can't dumpster dive, Emily. This is crossing the line." But the other part of me said "Go for it! Just a little further- can't you just feel those Mastercards in your hand?" I gave up and decided to bring my much taller husband out here. (He has longer arms.) There. I said it. You all can see me for who I truly am. A person deeply afflicted by the need to find a deal. I said my piece.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Road Trip On The Cheap

I'll be doing a series of posts in the following weeks that will document our road trip to Florida. I'll keep track of all expenses and compare my expenses to different scenarios to showcase how to make a long trip more affordable. I'll also cover other aspects of the trip so that you can all learn from my mistakes! So don't let high gas prices get you down. So fasten your seatbelts- it's going to be a fun ride!
*Disclaimer: my last name is not Griswold!*

Monday, April 11, 2011

Cake Savers

Have you ever put the time and effort into baking a cake and overcooked it, leaving it dry and cracked? I know I have! Even if your cake isn't dry, maybe it's just lackluster or bland and needs a little extra flavor. Here are some tips to save the day:
  • Brush the layers of a chocolate cake with strong coffee *I just did this-yum!
  • Brush the layers of a chocolate or vanilla cake with jam (heat jam with 2Tbs. of water first)
  • Brush layes of a chocolate cake with a liquor such as Bailey's or Grand Marinier
  • Make a ganache using chocolate chips and spread on top of brownies. Sprinkle with nuts. (Use about 1 cup of chips, 2 Tbs. butter, and 3 Tbs. milk. Heat over low until just melted.  Add more milk to thin if needed.)
  • Top frosted layers with toasted coconut.
  • Have a cheesecake that flopped? Scoop it up and top with fruit. (Tell guests it's a "free form cheesecake". It works every time!)
  • If the cake is just too ugly, cut it up and make a trifle.

Friday, April 8, 2011

It never hurts to ask!

Asking is definitely underrated! More often than not, I've not only been glad that I asked but I've actually been rewarded for it!
  • Asking is a great policy at yard sales. If you see an item that you'd like multiples of (ie. plates or a set of something) and there is only one or two of that item, ask if they have more. Sometimes they will go find more for you inside of the house or garage!
  • I recently bought an item on ebay that I liked so much I was interested in buying more. The same seller had more of the exact item listed, so instead of paying what she was asking, I asked if I could buy 2 and get a discount (that I suggested). She happily gave me the discount and we both got a great deal!
  • We ordered honey bees for our small yard, but we'd like a little more space. I noticed an empty lot across the street that would be perfect. The owners live out of town, so I looked up their name and address on the county GIS and sent a letter asking for their permission to put the hive on their lot. I'll let you know if I hear back from them!
  • We bought a dresser a few months back on craigslist. I noticed a beautiful table next to the dresser and asked if it was for sale. They said "Sure!" and we got an amazing deal!
So never be afraid to ask- the worst thing that can happen is that they'll say no.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring Recipe

At last, we can finally enjoy the foods of spring! Here's a quick and easy recipe for a casual dinner or lunch. The best part of all is that you get to use leeks! These are by far my favorite spring veggie.

Spring Frittata
1 teaspoon butter
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (about 2 large)
1 (10oz) pkg. fresh spinach
1/3 cup skim milk
2 Tablespoons finely chopped basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4 large eggs
4 large egg whites
2 cups cooked & diced red potato (about 3/4 lb.)

1 1/2 Tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded provolone cheese

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leek; sauté 4 minutes. Add spinach; sauté 2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Place mixture in a colander, pressing until barely moist.

Combine milk, basil, salt, pepper, eggs, and egg whites; stir well with a whisk. Add leek mixture and potato. Pour into a 10-inch round ceramic baking dish or pie plate coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and top with cheese. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until center is set.

Broil frittata 4 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges.
Serves 6

* You can be flexible with the ingredients. Some suggestions include:roasted red peppers, asparagus, feta cheese, artichokes, or broccoli.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spring fun for little ones!

Decorating cupcakes are a fun Easter or spring-related activity for little ones. Set out frosted cupcakes along with fun toppings and see what they can create! When my niece and nephew were visiting, we did these cute treats with them. For toppings we used coconut tinted with food coloring, spring sprinkles, colored sugars, gummie bunnies, and jelly beans. The kids loved it and came up with some pretty cute treats!