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