Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

This is just a friendly reminder that today is the last day of the year in case you didn't look at the calender. This means it is the last day for tax-deductable donations for 2010. In addition to donations, it is also the last opportunity to use up your quota if you have a flexible spending health care account. You may want to double-check your flexible spending account rules for qualifying purchases. I know ours includes things such as band-aids and supplements so I'll be stocking up on these. I'm also cleaning out my closet right now- Goodwill here we come!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Now is the time to SHOP!!!

Stores are clearancing out their Christmas inventory, so now is the time to take full advantage! Try to think beyond Christmas while you shop by remembering these tips:
  • Valentine's day is only 6 weeks away- buy red candies, napkins, and plates and save them for February.
  • Walmart has a great variety of holiday tablecloths on sale for about $4 right now. Pick up some for gifts or for you. Most of them are solid colors such as green, red, and gold which can be used any time of year.
  • Use one of the tablecloths you bought for a tree skirt for next year. Just cut a slit through it and place at the base of the tree.
  • Buy Christmas themed pencils, erasers, and trinkets for next year's operation shoebox, angel tree, or your own child's stocking.
  • Buy extra wrapping paper, lights, and decorations for next year-you'll love pulling out brand new stuff next year without paying a thing!
  • Check your grocery store clearance cart. Our Kroger has Ghiradelli chocolate chips for $1 a bag!
  • Another deal I'm seeing is boxed Christmas cards. Pick out a few boxes with simple designs and re-face them by putting a picture on the front. $1.50 for 15 cards is sooo much cheaper than buying or even making them yourself!
  • Online photo processing companies are having super sales on picture development and photo cards. I'm planning on doing a valentine photo shoot with our daughter this week and taking advantage of the photo card deals. The pictures will still be current as Valentine's day is only 6 weeks away and the cards will be much cheaper now!
*Online photo-processing sites: , , , , .

Tip O' The Week

I love pasta. Now I love it even more without taking a bite. Here are a few clever uses for uncooked spaghetti noodles!
  • Protect the frosting job on a cake by sticking spaghetti noodles into the top before wrapping with plastic. (This is a better alternative to toothpicks because the noodles are longer.)
  • Mark a recipe in your cook book with one.
  • Use one as a cake tester if yours has gone MIA.
  • Use to light candles on a birthday cake. You can light a lot more candles at once than with a match.

Monday, December 27, 2010

What's the password?

I've noticed while doing my online shopping this year that nearly every website requires you to create an account before you can place an order. This means you must create more passwords than you can possibly remember. After all, you have to remember your email, paypal, ebay, billpay, and other passwords to boot. I've read that if you use the same passwords over and over, you are more likely to be taken advantage of by a hacker. Yikes! I'm closing out this year by creating a password log. By entering all passwords with corresponding accounts into a notebook, I'll never have to wait for an email containing my forgotten password again! Just keep your password notebook in your computer desk for easy access, and if you're not comfortable putting "PASSWORDS" on the cover, just leave it blank or write a code word on it so you don't throw it away. I hope you will get as much satisfaction as I have from trying this simple tip.

*On another note, Chik-fil-A is giving away their new spicy chicken breakfast biscuit to a limited number of people who make a reservation on their website. Go to: and follow the directions to claim yours today! (I tried it this morning and it was quite simple to do!)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

One final "note"

Well, Christmas is just 3 days away so I don't think you really need any more decorating or cooking advice at this point! I don't want to sound like your mother, but a hand-written thank you note is such as nice way to close out the holiday. Thank you's don't have to be long-winded. A short heartfelt note will do the job just fine. An easy way to keep tabs on your gifts is to "inventory" them after they are unwrapped and before you mix up who gave what. Just make a list of each person's name who gave a gift and what they gave. This makes writing those thank you notes so much easier. It also helps to pre-address and stamp envelopes ahead to shave more time off the task. There. That was easy!

*You can find pretty thank you notes in packs of 8-10 at Michael's craft stores for $1 each.

If by chance I know you personally and you haven't sent a thank-you, please know that I am in no way offended! =)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Prize Winner!!

Congratulations to Elizabeth Lewis on winning December's prize drawing! Please email me your mailing address at to claim your loot. Your feet will thank you!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Final Cookie Recipe

Christmas will be here in just 5 days! Here is my 4th and final cookie recipe of the month. This recipe makes beautiful gifts that look like you've purchased them at a gourmet candy store. Just don't mention that they are so quick and easy to make! (They taste pretty darn great too.)

Candy Cane Bark

6 oz. chocolate candy coating, chopped
3 oz. milk chocolate, chopped

6 oz. vanilla candy coating, chopped
3 oz. white chocolate baking squares, chopped

1/4 cup crushed candy cane pieces
  • Melt the first 2 ingredients over low heat until smooth.
  • Pour into a 10"x8" pan lined with foil.
  • Melt next 2 ingredients over low heat until smooth and pour over the chocolate in the pan.
  • Draw a knife or spatula through the chocolates to make swirl patterns.
  • Sprinkle with crushed candy canes.
  • Chill 30 minutes and break into pieces.
Makes 1 1/4 lbs.
*Candy coatings can be found in the baking aisle.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I don't have any brain cells firing today, so let's make it a prize-winning Friday! In honor of the 4" of snow that has been dumped on some of us, my gift to you (the winner) will be a pair of merino wool socks. If your tootsies haven't yet been treated to these heavenly beings, you are in for a treat! Just think of them as soft sweaters for your feet that actually keep your toes toasty. Seriously folks, everyone should own at least 20 pair! You may even be surprised to win 2 pair if I find a great deal on them. To enter the drawing, leave a comment stating your favorite Christmas gift. A name will be drawn at random on Tuesday morning. Good luck!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Another Recipe!

This recipe is perfect for appetizers, breakfast, snacks, or gifts. They are packed with protein and won't leave you feeling hungry. The best feature is that just about everyone loves them- even picky kids! So without further ado, I give you the most versatile of treats: the Sausage Muffin.

Sausage Muffins
3 Tbs. butter
1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups baking mix (The Bisquick-type stuff in case you were wondering!)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup sausage, browned drained and crumbled

  • Melt butter in a skillet over medium-high heat  and add onion. Cook 3-5 min or til' tender.
  • Combine baking mix and cheese.
  • Combine milk and egg and add to cheese mixture, mixing just until moistened.
  • Stir in onion and sausage.
  • Spoon into muffin cups sprayed with Pam.
  • Bake at 425* for 18 minutes or until golden.
  • Let stand 2-3 minutes before removing from pans.
 Makes 1 dozen muffins

  • Use reduced fat baking mix and skim milk. Reduce butter to 1 Tbs. (I use this method)
  • Use ham instead of sausage
  • Use shredded chicken instead of sausage and add 1 (4oz.) can of chopped green chiles and Mexican blend cheese.
  • Make mini muffins using a mini muffin tin and bake at 425* for 14 min. Makes 2 dozen.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's a wrap

Wrapping paper is a fun and savvy way to spruce up any table. I put this paper on my table when some friends came over so that our kids could play with play dough, crayons, and markers with somewhat reckless abandon. You can also use wrapping paper for a table runner or place mats. When you're finished with the project or dinner, just roll it up and throw it away. Don't only use this at Christmas. This is a quick and fun way to add some color to a birthday party table too!

Monday, December 13, 2010

More Cookies!

I hope you enjoy these chewy, spicy delights! They are a great recipe to make any time since most of the ingredients are already in your pantry.

Molasses Sugar Cookies

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup oil
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon each ginger and cloves
additional sugar

1. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, oil and molasses. Add egg; mix well. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves; add to sugar mixture and mix well. Refrigerate 4 hours or until easy to handle (I skipped this step).

2. Shape dough into 1 inch balls; roll in additional sugar. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes or until tops crack and edges are set. Cool for 2-3 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.

Makes: 4 Dozen

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Card Display

Wonder what to do with all those Christmas cards? Display them on an old shutter! You can usually find them on I found mine last year for $5. A coat of red spray paint later and there you have it: a fun card display.
*I use sticky tack to hold the cards in place.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cookie Recipe

These cookies are about as wicked as they come. They are impossibly easy and are so chewy and fudgy. I discovered the recipe about 3 weeks ago and have made them about 5 times since. You have to try these- no cookie tray would be complete without them!

Easy Chocolate Fudge Cookies

1/4 cup butter
1 (12 oz.) package semisweet chocolate chips
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans

  • Combine the first 3 ingredients in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or til' chocolate chips are melted.
  • Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and flour until blended. Fold in pecans.
  • Drop immediately by level tablespoonfuls onto a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray.
  • Bake at 350* for 7-10 minutes. Cool on sheets for a minute or two and transfer to wire racks.
  • Makes 4 dozen
  • *Dough may be frozen for up to 1 month or refrigerated up to 2 days. Let stand at room temperature before baking as directed.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Now I have a purpose for those oddball picture frames that I can't bear to toss! They make perfect "bones" for a fun wreath. Experiment with different shapes like squares, rectangles, circles, and ovals. Here are the steps:
  • Separate your greenery into small bunches
  • Secure florist wire to the frame by tying a knot
  • Lay a bunch onto the frame and wrap the stem 2-3 times with the wire
  • Repeat with slightly overlapping layers
  • Wrap a few extra times on the last bunch and tie off and you're done!

*I used boxwood, but you can also use winter berries, fir, pine, spruce, or cedar.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I've changed the settings on the comment format, so it should be much easier to comment now. Please leave comments if you wish- I love to hear your ideas and feedback!

Friday, December 3, 2010

It's so easy being green!

 Greenery is the cheapest most beautiful Christmas decoration in my opinion. This does have something to do with the fact that it's free! Bring some green into your living space by incorporating it into every area. I used an antique salt shaker to hold greens in the kitchen, tucked tangerines and greens into a hurricane candle holder, and peppered the rest of the house with green touches here and there. Next week, I'll show you how to make unique wreaths from fresh greenery and an old fashioned kissing ball. Don't have anything green in your yard? Me either! Ask a friend with land or a big yard if you can snip. You might be surprised- I had so many offers, I was able to be picky! What to snip: cedar, boxwood, fir, spruce, nandina berries, and pine. 

Christmas Deals

The Christmas deals are flying thick and fast so I'll do my best to keep you updated. Through December 5th, The Body Shop is giving away a tub of Jolly Orange scented body butter with any purchase. Free shipping is also included. There is no coupon code required and you can place your order online at: I ordered something from them today and it all worked out great!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

More Gift Giving!

Dan and I enjoy giving the neighbors on our street a little something homemade around Christmas time. It's a fun way to get to know your neighbors and has become a tradition on our street. I've included some gift ideas for neighbors, but you can also use them for teachers, friends, visiting guests, or anyone else you wish to surprise. I like to give them to our postal workers, librarians, and garbage collectors too.

Chocolate coated pretzel rods
A tin or bag of chex mix
Granola (I'm doing granola this year.)
A mixed cookie platter
A jar of something homemade (apple butter, jam, etc..)
A loaf of homemade bread
An amaryllis plant or paperwhite bulbs
An essential oil with tips on how to use it
A jar of homemade bath salts. Click on the link for instructions on how to make them:

Pretzel Rods
Pictured above are my favorite pretzel rods. They are so easy to make and SO delicious! Here's how you do it:

Melt 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips and 1 Tbs. shortening. Dip pretzel rods in the chocolate and roll in toppings. Let sit for 1 hour to harden. Give someone a bouquet of these today!

Topping ideas:
Chopped candy bars
Chopped nuts
Crushed candy canes
Crushed Oreos
Crushed graham crackers w/mini marshmallows

Monday, November 29, 2010

Handy Dandy Substitutions

With plenty of Christmas cooking coming up, you are bound to run out of something! I rarely have all of the ingredients for any given recipe, so improvising is a standard practice in my kitchen. Here are a few substitutions to save a trip out to the store:
  • Egg beaters 1/4 cup = 1 egg
  • Buttermilk= 1 Tablespoon vinegar + enough milk to make one cup. Let stand 5 min.
  • Plain yogurt for sour cream
  • Broth and wine can be substituted for each other in recipes
  • 1Tbs. cornstarch=2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. Allspice = 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. ginger, and 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • Cracker crumbs or panko can replace bread crumbs
  • 1 cup of chicken broth= 1 cup of water + 1 bullion cube
  • 1 ounce uunsweetened chocolate= 3 Tbs. baking cocoa + 1 Tbs. shortening or oil
  • Cool Whip can replace whipped cream
  • 1 (.25oz) packet of yeast= 2 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
And while I'm at it, here is the first of the promised Christmas cookie recipes with a handy description. Enjoy!

These cookies are so easy, yet look and taste like a fussy recipe. They are reminescent of an Almond Joy candy bar. Holy moley are these good!! Did I just drool? Yep. I think I fried the keyboard...

Chocolate and Almond Macaroons
3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 (14oz.) package sweetened flaked coconut
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/8 tsp. salt
14 whole almonds
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I prefer dark)
  • Stir together first 4 ingredients. Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto waxed or parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Press an almond into top of each cookie. (Dough will be very sticky)
  • Bake at 350* for 15-17 minutes or until golden. Remove to wire racks to cool.
  • Microwave chocolate chips at high for 1 minute or until melted and smooth, stirring halfway. Transfer to a ziploc bag. Seal bag and snip off a corner and drizzle chocolate over cookies.
 Makes 2 dozen

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What's coming...

Greetings to all on this Thanksgiving Eve! I'm taking Friday off, but I'll be back on Monday. For the month of December, I'll feature a favorite tried-and-true cookie recipe each week. I promise I will not post anything complicated or finicky! Also keep your eyes peeled for a Christmas giveaway. So dig into that "yard bird" and get ready for Christmas inspirations out the wazoo- see you on the other side!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Be my guest. Or not.

Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving at your house or are a guest in someone else's, these tips will help everyone feel relaxed.

  • If you are a guest, bring a nice hostess gift. Some favorites include: wine, chocolates, a potted plant, any homemade treat, or a sampler of your homemade jams.
  • Always offer to help prepare the meal and with clean-up.
  • If you're staying overnight, bring along some food items to help out with meals. I like to bring homemade bread, granola, or muffins.
Click on the link for my favorite granola recipe:

  • If you're hosting, do as much cooking ahead as possible so that you can enjoy your guests.
  • Let guests help! No one wants to sit around and watch you work and let's face it, we all want to feel needed.
  • Ask guests about food allergies or preferences before you plan the menu.
  • If you're serving wine that a guest has brought, use a decanter at the table. This way, the guest will feel no pressure if they didn't bring a $50 bottle of wine!
  • Have conversation starters for the dinner table such as having everyone share their biggest blessing of the year or have each person update the group on what they've accomplished this year.
  • If you have the space, set out your tupperware or storage containers before the meal. That way, everyone can pitch in to help with clean-up.
  • Give your guests a key so that they can come and go as they like.
  • Don't stay up too late Thanksgiving night- you need your rest for Black Friday sales!
Here's a breakfast recipe that is a great crowd pleaser and is super quick and easy:

Easy Breakfast Casserole
6 eggs
2 cups milk
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 lb. ground pork sausage
1 tsp. salt
3 slices white bread, cubed
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

  • Beat eggs lightly and add milk, mustard, and salt.
  • Brown, crumble, and drain sausage.
  • Spray a 9 x 13" baking dish with Pam.
  • Spread cubed bread in bottom of dish. Arrange sausage over bread. Sprinkle cheese over sausage. Pour egg mixture over all.
  • Bake uncovered at 350* for 45 minutes
Serves 8-10

*The best thing about this recipe is that you can assemble it the day before and store it in the fridge til' the next morning.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The finishing touch

Are you hosting Thanksgiving this year? Sometimes entertaining can be intimidating- especially when it comes to the cooking! Here are some helpful tips to make your food look as good as it tastes.
  • Shave a bar of chocolate with a vegetable peeler to make curls
  • Snip chives and scatter over a dip
  • Cut the top off of a pineapple and add to a fruit platter
  • Float lemon slices in lemonade or apples slices in cider
  • Brush herbs and fruit with egg white or melted corn syrup and dust with sugar for a wintry look
  • Make strawberry fans by slicing lengthwise and leaving the stem intact
  • Dust desserts with cocoa powder, cinnamon, or powdered sugar
  • Hollow out a bell pepper to hold dip
  • Use curly kale to give texture and color to cheese platters
  • Chop off the base of a bunch of celery (about 4") for a celery "flower"
  • Stay away from symmetry- no one wants to eat food that looks like it's lined up in a cafeteria!
  • Build a mountain of cheese and have grapes cascading from the top.
  • Mix up that veggie tray.
  • Make a ring out of that boring cheese ball and put jam in the center. 
  • Place pots and pans of different heights underneath the tablecloth to give your buffet table some scale. Place different dishes on top to keep things from looking flat.
  • Tuck fresh herbs into the edges of trays.
  • Most of all, get creative and have fun. If you don't like the results, don't worry- it'll get eaten anyway!

Strawberry fans

Sugared cranberries and mint (rosemary works well too)

A celery "flower"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I love eggnog flavor. I do not like eggnog itself. This recipe is for those of us on either side of the eggnog fence. I've even known loathers of the frothy brew to partake of this pie with great relish. (No, I don't mean the condiment.) Our uncle Woody doesn't even like desserts, but now lays claim to an entire eggnog pumpkin pie every Thanksgiving! So without further ado, I give you the recipe for a killer Eggnog Pumpkin Pie.
*This is so easy to make- even kids can do it!

Eggnog Pumpkin Pie

1 (15oz) can pumpkin (not pie filling, just pumpkin)
1 1/4 cup eggnog
2/3 cup sugar (You can add less if you like your pie less sweet.)
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp. salt
1 unbaked pie crust

Combine all and bake at 375* for 60-65 minutes or til' no longer jiggly in the center.
I like to serve this with a dollop of Cool Whip on top with rum flavoring and nutmeg mixed in!

*Here's a quick substitution for pumpkin pie spice if you need it:
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Macy's Sale

Yesterday and today, Macy's is having a sale from 7:00am-1:00pm. Their clearance is an additional 50% off and you can find 2 coupons in the newspaper for $10 off a $25 purchase. One is in the Macy's ad and the other is within the main section of Tuesday's paper. This should be a worthwhile sale since Macy's does not usually have many exclusions. I'm headed out to check it out- good luck if you do too!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deals at Gap

Gap stores are having great deals! I checked out my local Gap today and found tons of kid's clothes on clearance for $1.97-$7.97. But gets better! If you provide your email address at checkout, you get an additional 30% off your entire purchase!! Hate spam but still want the deal? Me too. Set up an email account specifically for these kinds of offers. You never have to check it if you don't want to! This way, the junk emails stay out of your personal account. Happy shopping and happy Veteran's Day to all of you who have so generously served our great country!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Golden Egg

Kroger was having a great sale yesterday. Combined with coupons and clearance, I managed to get all of this stuff for 16 cents! Buying 4 boxes of crackers may seem a bit obsessive, but I'm planning on using them in my batches of Chex Mix at Christmas. It's not too early to start buying things like this for Christmas cooking. After all, it's only 25 days away!!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Black Friday...Oh the Joy!

Black Friday. For those of you who are not familiar with this term, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving when stores have their biggest sales of the year. It is the pinnacle of every bargain hunter's quest for victory in a land of lame 30% off sales and the famous phrase "some exclusions may apply". (We all know this really means that the sale applies to only 2% of the merchandise!) I dream all year of this day. There is a strange mix of comradery and competition with all of the other bleary-eyed shoppers as you embark on a shopping marathon while the rest of the sensible world sleeps off their turkey dinners. Well if you're on the competitive side like me, you need to check out This site has sneak peeks on various store's Black Friday ads so that you can start planning your route now! The site is updated every day so check often.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Earrings are such a fun way to accessorize! My ears do not tolerate them and if yours are like mine, take heart! I've found some fun new ways to wear earrings. So go digging in your grandmother's jewelry box- those huge funky clip-ons are back in style!

  • Remove the post and glue to thumb tacks to add pizazz to your cork board.
  • Remove the post and glue a magnet to the back for your fridge.
  • Leave posts in and poke through a lampshade for a glam look in your teen's bedroom.
  • If it's big enough, use as a brooch
  • Remove the post and glue onto a small clip or bobby pin for your hair.
  • Snap a pair of clip-ons to your shoes.
  • Gather a long multi-chained necklace to the side with a large earring or brooch.
  • Use a hoop to connect the ends of a broken necklace.
  • Clip onto a scarf or purse.
  • Actually wear earrings as they're intended to be worn? If you lose an earring back, snip a small segment of rubber band and poke onto the post. (My aunt Mary came up with this little ingenious tip!)

Here are a few pictures of ways to wear earrings. I had to borrow a few from a neighbor, but I'll be hunting down new ones at yard sales to add to my collection.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Over The River And Through The Woods...

Whenever I travel - even if it's sending the little one overnight to Grandmama's house, packing toiletries is a breeze! I keep a small toiletry bag stocked at all times for each member of my family. Inside are toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, razors, shampoo/conditioner, Q-tips, dental floss etc. When packing to leave, I simply put each person's bag in with the luggage. Unpacking, once home is fast and painless as I just put the bags back under the bathroom sink. No shuffling involved. Of course I bought the extras to stock the bags with coupons and most were FREE so no extra investment required!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thanksgiving Deals

Turkey day is coming this month! If you are involved in charitable food donations around the holidays, now is the time to shop! You can provide all of the ingredients for a delicious Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for very little if you keep it in mind while you shop this month. Purchase items as they go on sale instead of buying them all at once and you'll save a bundle. I got started on my donations today at Kroger. Here's what I bought for $3.25: 

*Kroger is having a great sale this week so stock up!

Friday, October 29, 2010

My New Friend

I'd like to introduce you to the new-to-me product I alluded to last week. Drum roll please... Castile Soap! (pronounced cast-eel) What the heck is castile soap? Castile soap is a special type of soap made from olive oil. It contains no synthetic chemicals, artificial colorings, or animal products. The best feature of this stuff is its ability to clean your dog, car, self, laundry, floors, greasy oven, and woodwork. It is gentle enough for use on sensitive skin, yet cuts grease and grime like nobody's business! I'm also saving money because a little goes a long way. One of my favorite features is not breathing chemicals and inhaling lemongrass instead! Here are some tips for cleaning with castile soap.
  •  Shampoo: Mix 1 part Castile soap, 1 part water, and essential oils for fragrance. (I haven't tried this yet but plan on it.)
  • Floors: You can mop almost any type of floor with a solution of ¼ cup liquid Castile soap and 2 gallons warm water. If the floors are greasy, add ¼ cup distilled white vinegar to the bucket.
  • Leather upholstery: Add 2 drops liquid Castile soap to 1 quart warm water. Apply to the leather with a barely moist sponge.
  • Marble countertops: Stir 1 tablespoon liquid Castile soap into 1 quart warm water. Dampen a cloth with the solution and wipe surface. Rinse, then dry with a clean cloth.
  • Car: Mix ¼ cup liquid Castile soap with hot water in a bucket (fill almost to the top). Rub a generous amount of the solution on your car’s exterior, windshield, hubcaps, and tires with a large sponge, then thoroughly hose it off.
  • Sinks, showers, tubs, and ceramic tile: Create a homemade soft scrubber by combining 1 tablespoon liquid Castile soap and 1/3 cup baking soda.
  • Stovetop and vent hood: Add a few squirts of liquid Castile soap to 2 cups hot water. Apply to the stovetop, the burners, and the vent hood to cut through accumulated grease.

 *Castile soap can be found at health food stores and is available scented or unscented. I chose unscented and add essential oils to match my mood. As mentioned above, I'm currently on a lemongrass kick!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Golden Egg

CVS had a table of clearance items with 2 bins underneath of 90% off markdowns. I don't have an immediate need for most of these items, but it sure will be nice to pull it out of storage when it's needed instead of paying top dollar!

Here's what I scored for $3.80:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Hang Em' High

A clever way to organize your necklaces and bracelets is to hang them on a tiered pants hanger. The velvet covering protects your jewelry from scratches while allowing you to be able to see all of your jewelry at a glance. No more digging through tangled rat's nests of necklaces! I hang mine on an extra towel rack in the bathroom, but you could hang one anywhere- closet doors, hooks, you name it!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Cleaning

Fall cleaning in my opinion is just as important as spring cleaning. After all, you are about close up your home for the winter and who wants to be trapped inside with dusty air? I do not love to clean although I love a clean house, so I have to bribe myself into the annual fall clean-fest. This year I told myself I couldn't put out my fall decorations until the house was really, really clean. Several days of sweat and lots of Billy Joel and Keith Urban later, my decorations are up and my house is clean! (For the most part.) Here's a list of things to help you get started. Good luck gumshoe!
  • Pull out furniture and vacuum behind and under it. (I found old cobweb kingdoms behind mine!)
  • Open the windows while you clean to air things out
  • Clean your humidifiers and replace old filters
  • Wash your hardwoods & add essential oil to your brew for fun
  • Dust your computer monitor, keyboard, and tower
  • When you come across a messy drawer, attack it right away!
  • Wash your windows
  • Wipe down baseboards, trim, and cabinets
  • Clean your oven
  • Organize the pantry
  • Pull out the duvets and air them out before making up beds
  • Break out the flannel sheets!
  • Wipe down fan blades and light fixtures
  • Change air filters
  • Launder drapes and shower curtains
  • Test your heat before you actually need it. Better to find out now that it's not working than in a snowstorm!
  • Clean coffee makers and dishwashers by running through a cycle with vinegar while empty.
  • Spot clean carpets and rugs
  • Take a hot bath afterwards and stagger into bed
*I'll post later on my new favorite cleaning product. I'm sure many of you may already use it, but try to humor me anyway! =)

Monday, October 18, 2010

The power of pumpkin

Today's entry is from my sis, a registered dietitian and contributor. Thanks for the day off!

Now that we are in the swing of fall, I am happily incorporating pumpkin into as many dishes as I can dream up. Did you know that pumpkin is packed with nutritional goodness? In one cup of cooked mashed (canned or fresh) pumpkin you will find Vitamin A, Beta Carotene, fiber, potassium, folate and protein with just 49 calories! Due to its mild flavor, pumpkin can be combined with a variety of dishes. Here are a few ideas.

  • Add pumpkin to oatmeal along with pumpkin pie spice for breakfast
  • When making waffles or pancakes, stir pumpkin into the batter
  • Chili or other thick soups or stews are a great medium for ½ cup of pumpkin – the pumpkin adds a creamy texture (don’t worry, your family won’t know it’s there!)
  • Pastas or risottos are delicious paired with pumpkin
  • Desserts: pies, cookies, cakes, breads, trifles, crisps

I hope you are inspired to check out the season’s offering of pumpkin. Your body will thank you as will your taste buds!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Osage Oranges

Osage oranges are one of fall's fun treats. The unexpected shockingly chartreuse green orbs are covered with nobs and wrinkles. These lovely fall fruits have a distinctive citrus smell and are reputed to ward off nasty insects such as cockroaches, fleas, and crickets. Researchers are currently testing the sap for use as a natural mosquito repellent. Shirking any practical function, I just love to have a bowl or vase full of them sitting out in the house. The color is so vivid and the smell so lovely! Osage orange trees are easy to spot once the leaves begin to fall as they dangle like Christmas ornaments from the trees. Though they occur naturally in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas, they have been widely naturalized all over the United States I know they grow wild in Virginia, so when we go on a fall hike we bring plenty of bags to use for collecting. If you are so lucky as to find these beauties, you'll get to enjoy them for about a month. (After a month, they begin to rot.) Give them a try- you won't regret it!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall Decorating

I love decorating the house for fall. I know it's not technically a holiday, but why not celebrate the cool weather and bright colors? Take your inspiration from the great outdoors. Fill vases with acorns, chestnuts, pears, pomegrantes, apples, pumpkins, and small gourds. Fill bowls with osage oranges. (In case you aren't familiar with these little treasures, don't worry- I'm blogging on them later this week.) Scatter leaves on your table and set a pumpkin in the center. Speaking of pumpkins, find creative ways to display them. One year I drilled holes into our pumpkin for a polka-dot look. This year I have 3 heirloom pumpkins in a tower. Carve you or your child's initials, address number, or school emblem into your pumpkin! Poke apples onto skewers and add leaves for a "boquet". (pictured below) Artfully arrange branches and twigs in a unique vase of cannister. The most fun part is going out and gathering nature's goodies. We don't have a large yard or even a tree, so I go to our local park or a friend's property. I don't think anyone will get arrested for taking some fallen leaves and acorns! If like me, you sometimes struggle for inspiration, go to your favorite home store's website and snag ideas. The acorns pictured below are from Pottery Barn. (Just don't pay $14 for "designer" acorns when you can get them for free!) Did I say that out loud?

Monday, October 11, 2010

On the "Ball"

Oh great, I've done it again- another corny pun in the title! Please forgive me if you "can". Ok I quit. Promise. Canning jars are a perfect way to store things. They are impervious to bugs, kids, and moisture. The large gallon ones are my new favorites because they can hold larger quantities of things. They are the perfect carrier for homemade granola at Christmas. (If you are a neighbor of mine, please ignore this post. Otherwise, you know what you're getting this year!) Vases, drinking glasses, salad dressing shaker, pen/pencil holder. You name it- the uses for jars are endless! Best of all, it's no big deal if they break and they're re-usable. Here are a few ways I've been using mine. I hope this inspires you to enjoy yours!

Items inside jars here are: oats, popcorn, beans, granola, gummi bears, coins, and buttons.
*The large gallon sized jars can be purchased at home and garden stores. These came from Ace hardware and cost about $12 for a pack of 6.

Friday, October 8, 2010

This Tip Ain't No Lemon!

Thanks to a very clever friend (thanks Jennifer!), I've been introduced to a new-to-me product. You can now find 100% pure lemon juice in the frozen foods section! The cost of a 7.5oz container (equal to about 7 lemons) will set you back only $1.99. It's also extra convenient since it will keep in the freezer for months. So next time I'm making something that requires fresh lemon juice, I'm going to use the frozen juice instead of buying lemons and spending way too much dough! It can be found next to the lemonade and juice concentrates and (at least here) both Kroger and Food Lion carry it.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Drink to your health!

Have a sick kid on your hands? Feeling rotten yourself? Whip up a smoothie for a special treat! Clean out your fridge of extra fruit and steer toward fruits that are high in vitamin C. Add frozen berries, a little fruit juice, and you'll have a tasty, nutrient-dense smoothie in no time! I often do this for our daughter when she has a cold or isn't feeling well. It not only hydrates, but gives her the vitamins and antioxidents her body needs to fight off the crud! Stir in powdered or liquid vitamins too- the thick consistency of the smoothie will mask its texture! If your little one isn't eating well, you can add milk or yogurt for extra protein.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Prize Winner!

Congratulations to Laura, who was our prize winner! May you enjoy many tasty recipes from this cookbook. It's a great one! Thanks to everyone for your kind comments. I'll have more prize drawings in the future so stay tuned!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Deal Alert

Food Lion has 8 oz. bags or blocks of Kraft cheese for $2.79 buy one get one free which is a good deal. But wait, there's more! Print off a $5 off 5 Kraft cheese coupon and the price plummets to $.56 a bag! (This is assuming you get 6 bags) Here's a link to the coupon:  Now go get em' tiger! This deal is good through October 5th.

Fall Gardening

It's never to late to start a garden! Even though it's late in the season, you can still grow veggies outside. Right now, you can plant garlic, radishes, spinach, beets, carrots, turnips, and even lettuce if you keep it under plastic hoops or a cold frame. Don't forget that now is the time for planting flower bulbs too. Tulips, crocuses, daffodils and hyacinths are some of the easiest to find right now. Plant flower bulbs in groupings for a big impact when spring arrives!

I'm trying garlic for the first time this year- I'll let you know how it goes. Here's a quick tutorial on how to palnt garlic:
Plant in mid-october for an early summer harvest.
Break up the bulb and plant the cloves individually, poiny end up.
Plant the cloves 1" deep and 4" apart.
Shoots of fall-planted garlic should appear in the spring!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Surprize! (Yes, I know that's misspelled. You'll get it in a minute!)

In honor of my 100th post and our 8 months together, I'm having a giveaway! The lucky winner will receive a copy of Southern Living:Our Readers Top-Rated Recipes cookbook. This is one of my favorite go-to cookbooks with tons of mouth-watering recipes. Already have this one? Enter anyway and give it away as a gift!  

Here's how to enter: post a comment stating your favorite tip you've used from this blog. Post your comment by 9pm on Monday, October 4th and I'll annouce the winner on Tuesday morning. I'm drawing the name at random, so good luck! Thanks for the memories...may we have many more!
*As an added bonus, I'll email the winner a list of my favorite recipes in this cookbook!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Golden Egg Alert!

Total Cost: $.08!
I went to the store today to buy garlic for planting in the garden and left with this little cache. The Gillette body wash was in the clearance bin for $1.59 each and I had 3 coupons for them at $2.00 apiece. Kroger actually owed me money at this point, so I had to pick up a pack of gum to get a positive balance! Not bad for 8 cents!

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Daily Grind

Coffee grinders can be pretty handy little gadgets. Although providing perfectly ground beans for a pot of joe is their specialty, grinders are great for other things too. Out of flour in the middle of a recipe? Toss some oats into your grinder and grind until it reaches a flour-like consistency. Not only is this a handy substitute, it's nutritious too! Coffee grinders can act as a mini-food processor, chopping nuts, seeds, baking chocolate, and grinding flax seeds. Concerned about cleaning? Toss a handful of rice and grind away to clean and sharpen the blades. Rubbing a piece of soft bread around the resevoir also helps to remove small food particles and flavors.

*This is off-subject, but I'm just letting you all know that yes, I know fall is officially here, but I'm not ready to acknowledge it yet due to 95* temps. Next week I'll have fall postings out the wazoo!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ice Queen

I usually clean out my garage freezer before summer produce starts coming in but this year, summer got away from me. Anyway, I ended up cleaning it out this weekend. I've found that if I don't clean out and organize the freezer at least once a year, I end up having to toss food because it was entombed beneath a huge pile of who knows what. If you stay on top of the freezer clutter, in the end you'll have a tidy freezer and you'll actually know what's inside. It'll do wonders for your soul!
*For the record, I will confess that I found a poor dejected freezer-burnt turkey bosom from May of 2008 in my weekend expedition! May it rest in peace.

Before: oh the carnage!

After: sweet relief!

Tips for cleaning out the ol' freezer:
  • Label things such as sauces or broth since they're hard to I.D. once frozen
  • Use plastic milk crates to store large amounts of one thing (mine are full of cherries and pheasant)
  • Group the food according to type. For example: breads, convenience foods, desserts, fruit, veggies, meat, ice packs, etc.
  • Invest in hanging freezer baskets
  • If you're feeling really crazy, draw a "map" of the contents and tape it to the door. (I did not do this, but I'm sure that someone out there really will. Good for you if you do!)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fall Blooms

My dear husband came home this afternoon from a grocery run with some beautiful flowers for me in luscious fall colors. He knows how I adore this spectacular season and the flowers were a perfect way to celebrate! This is a fun way to "glam-up" your flowers naturally. Just snip a few handfuls of pampas grass and wind into a coil. Press the coil into a wide vase or glass cannister. Place flowers inside and add water. You can also cut flower heads off and float them in the water, which is equally pretty. Have fun and happy almost-fall! *By the way, the first official day of fall is Wednesday, September 22nd. Get out there and celebrate!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Be Prepared

Since we're heading into hurricane season on the east coast, I thought I'd blow some ideas by you about being prepared. Remember, these tips are for any type of disaster or power outage from snow, hurricanes, flooding, you name it. Did you know that the average grocery store has only a 3 day supply of food? That fact alone has inspired me to make sure that I have plenty of canned and dried food on hand. Some food suggestions include canned beans, oatmeal, granola, peanut butter, crackers, dried fruit, nuts, vitamins, and baby food or formula. You can cook food on a gas stove or grill, but make sure you have matches to light the stove. The rule of thumb for water supply is one gallon per person for day with at least a 3 day supply. That's a lot of water! Don't forget to have an extra supply of prescription medications- especially for conditions such as diabetes. Take inventory of your supplies and replace batteries, candles, matches, and other supplies as needed. Make sure you know where your supplies are! If you know a storm is coming, make sure your vehicle has a full tank of gas. Don't forget to check on elderly neighbors or friends who live alone. Not everyone reads this blog and will be as prepared as you! =) Now that I've scared some sense into you, check out these helpful websites for more info:

Monday, September 13, 2010

Golden Eggs

Kroger and CVS were having great deals today! Here's what I got for $3.40:

  •  Nivea Men's body wash (free w/extra bucks)
  • Skintimate shave cream $.25 with extra bucks and coupon
  • Active Vitamins free with extra bucks
  • Energy chews free with extra bucks
  • Glade soy candles $1 each on clearance with coupon
  • Chewable Vitamin C $1.35 with coupon
  • Vitamin D tablets $.10 with coupon
  • Ball fruit pectin on clearance $.30 credited to me with coupon!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Power of Dough

I cannot emphasize enough the value of cookie dough. No, I'm not talking about that stuff in a tube from the store that will last a decade from all of the preservatives in it! I mean the real deal, homemade with real butter kind of cookie dough. My freezer always has at least one log of cookie dough in it, ready for action! When I'm in the mood for something sweet, I just slice off a few cookies and throw them in the oven. No mess and no overeating! When I have to take dinner to someone, I almost always include a log of cookie dough with the baking instructions written on the bag. People dropping by? No problem- just slice and bake for a quick snack. Here's one of my favorite recipes. Just try not to eat all the dough before it hits the freezer!

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups uncooked regular oats
2 cups chocolate chips

Beat butter at medium speed til creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well. Add eggs and vanilla til combined. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Stir in oats and chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350* for 12 min. Cool on sheets 3 min. Cool completely on wire racks. Makes about 5 dozen.

To freeze: roll dough into 2 logs and wrap in waxed paper. Put wrapped logs into freezer Ziploc bags. They will last several months, but I've never had them longer than this!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ice Cube Trays

Since I'm low on kitchen space, many gadgets have to be multi-purpose for me to justify them taking up precious real estate in my cabinets. Ice cube trays fall into that category. Don't buy them new- they're usually super cheap at yard sales and thrift stores. Here are some favorite uses for this humble, often overlooked little gem!

Things to freeze:
  • Leftover coffee to add to iced drinks
  • Lemonade or punch to cool your punch bowl without watering down the contents.
  • Extra broth or soup stock.
  • Pesto
  • Leftover gravy
  • Fill halfway with water and add fresh herbs before freezing.
  • Extra egg whites (these keep up to 6 months-be sure to thaw in the fridge)
  • Leftover wine
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Tomato paste
  • Mini Jello molds for kids
More uses:
  • Soap molds
  • Drawer organizer
  • Craft organizer (beads, glitter, jewelry)
  • Separating your weekly pills/vitamins
  • Painter's palette

Friday, September 3, 2010

My New Hero

My new hero (besides my husband of course) is bald, muscular, and has a gold hoop earring. Any guesses? Yesterday, I found our daughter happily drawing with a black Sharpie on our light gray carpet. Oh the shock, the horror of it all! After a quick perusal online of tips for getting it out, I chose the easiest one: the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser. It worked! I just wet the eraser, squeezed it out, and scrubbed til the stains disappeared. I have no idea how or why this works, but it does. So next time you're faced with removing ink stains, call on the bald guy. He works wonders!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Big Cheese

Check out for a printable coupon for $5 off 5 Kraft cheese products. A list of qualifying products will print off with the coupon to make it easier. If you wait for a good $1 per bag of cheese sale, that's 5 bags of cheese for free! The coupon expires on 10/1/2010.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Nice "Re-covery"

So I've had these lovely fiddle back chairs in my garage for 4 years. I bought them at an estate sale for $4 each and gave them a good re-finishing and paint job. They sat in the garage for another year. I've finally mustered the courage to upholster the seats and I'm pleasantly surprised to have pulled it off! *Warning, this job was not done by a professional. Please do try this at home!

Trace and cut out a piece of foam (I used 2" thick), using the seat as a guide.

Cut out a piece of quilt batting and your material about 2" larger than the foam.

Lay down the layers in this order: material (right side down), batting, foam, board.

Pull the fabric over the edges and staple onto the board. Try not to get wrinkles around the corners when you gather them. (A little tricky but not too hard.)
One down, three more to go!
*All of the materials needed to do this can be found at any fabric store.