Monday, January 30, 2012

It's finally here!

Hi everyone, after many microwave meals and plenty of dust, grout and paint, my kitchen redo is complete. I adore it. I am cooking like a fiend. Can't find me? Look for me in the kitchen...I'm probably stroking the countertop or gazing into my new deep sink in wonder. Anyway, if you are considering re-vamping your countertops but are looking for an beautiful but affordable option, consider wood countertops. Ikea sells wood butcher block countertops for a fraction of the cost of any other surface. Our entire countertop cost just $225.00! (Granite would have set us back $1,800, minimum.) It gets wet like any countertop, but so far I've had no issues whatsoever. Here's the finished product:

Friday, January 27, 2012

Frugal February

Believe it or not, February is almost here! Every year I like to challenge myself to spend as little money as possible in February. Why February? It's a great time to work on eating all of that food from the freezer to free it up for this coming summer's produce and it's the shortest month, for starters! I'll have upcoming posts on free or cheap date ideas, frugal Valentine ideas, and plenty of tips to inspire your own frugal February. So try it with me this year. You may even be inspired to keep going!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clever brownie treat

Craving s'mores and it's to cold or rainy to start a campfire? Bake a brownie mix and spread marshmallow cream over cooled brownies. Broil until golden brown- this should only take a few seconds. Devour. You can also sprinkle graham cracker crumbs on top. These are so delicious. The crunchy, gooey marshmallow, the chewy chocolaty brownie...ok I'll stop. The point is, you must try this!

Sunday, January 22, 2012


For a fun twist on a collage, try framing a grouping of framed photos with a large frame (no glass, just the frame). How many times can one say "frame" in once sentence! Have fun with it and throw in a decorative medalion or cutout for added interest.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Salad

Citrus Salad with Toasted Seeds and Pine Nuts
Try this delicious winter salad with your next meal. It's light and refreshing and you will definitely not have left-overs!


  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon grated shallot
  • 2 teaspoons apricot preserves or marmalade or good quality honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 heads Bibb lettuce, cleaned and dried and torn
  • 1 navel orange, peeled and sections removed with a paring knife
  • 1 small ruby red grapefruit, peeled and sections removed with a paring knife
  • Gently toast the sunflower and sesame seeds with the pine nuts in small pan over medium heat.
  • Combine the shallot, preserves or honey, Dijon, juice and vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Combine the lettuce, orange and grapefruit sections, dress with the seeds and dressing just before serving.
*Serves 4

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Global" cleaning

Since we've been renovating the kitchen, I've come across some serious dust and dirt. Dust and dirt that probably pre-dated the renovation! The globes on my light fixture were covered with a tacky-feeling residue (no doubt from stove splatters) and covered with a thin layer of dust. After trying to de-gunk them unsuccessfully, I threw in the towel and threw the globes into the dishwasher. It did the trick! The globes are now sparkling clean and required no effort on my part. Now that's what I call perfect!

Monday, January 16, 2012

"Pep" things up

When you're ordering seeds, try cayenne peppers. These red beauties pack a serious flavor (and heat) punch. Make your own crushed red pepper this year- you will never buy it again! My sister grew these and shared them with me and wow, they were amazing! Here's a quick tutorial:
  • Once cayenne peppers are red, pick them (They do very well in pots)
  • Using a needle and strong thread, string them together like a garland
  • Hang in a cool dry place or in a window to dry
  • Once dry, proccess them in a food processor, seeds and all (no stems)
*Homemade crushed red pepper is a perfect gift idea! Tuck a packet into a basket of marinades and grilling tools for the ultimate guy gift.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Book Night

Take a break from technology and have a story night. Scatter cozy blankets around the fireplace or just around the room if you don't have one. Read a book aloud to your family and snuggle around a big bowl of popcorn to munch on as you listen. Try reading a whole series together or even "cheat" by using an e-reader to read aloud. I recommend the Little House on the Prairie series. Even from an adult perspective, the series is a great eye-opener to see how little our predecessors lived on and how greatly we are blessed today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Shopping fun!

Have a whine-free shopping trip with a quick and easy checklist. Simply cut and paste free clip art images of things that you might see in the grocery store. Draw a box next to each item. Tell the kids to color in the corresponding box as they spy each item. My sister and I tested this on our 3 kids and it worked beautifully! Don't be afraid to put more difficult items on the list such as the bee on this one. You'd be suprised at what they can find!

*This is great for any type of shopping or road trip. Just change the images to match the activity.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Have a loved one with a dreary winter birthday? Perk them up with some potted herbs. Herbs make great birthday, Christmas, get well, or Valentine's day gifts. You can plant the herbs from seed, dig from your herb patch, or even find them at your grocery store. My mom gave me this potted parsley plant at Christmas- one of my favorite gifts!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Winter Recipe

In our house, the arrival of cold weather brings soups, stews, and warm comfort food. Here's a quick, tasty, and healthy recipe for a cold day. It's an excellent make-ahead recipe too. I'll be sharing more recipes like it this winter.
Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes
1 large onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. chili powder
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
2 cans (15oz. each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (28oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup brewed coffee
2 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper

In a nonstick dutch oven, saute sweet potatoes and onion in oil until crisp-tender.
Add the spices and cook 1 minute longer.
Add beans, tomatoes, coffee, honey, salt, and pepper.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30-35 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender.

*Serves 8 (makes 2 quarts)

Top with hot sauce, sour cream, or cheese or enjoy plain. Serve with cornbread for a quick meal.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Seed Summit

Kick off your new year with a new tradition: a seed summit! Invite some fellow gardening friends over, scatter seed catalogs around the table along with pads and pens, and pop some popcorn. (After all, popcorn is a seed!) Browse the catalogs and make your selections for this year's garden. Have some garden reference books handy too if further research is needed. I attended my sister's first annual seed summit last night and it was so much fun that I decided to either attend hers or hold my own every year!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Kid's Purse Idea

My mom found this cute DIY kid's purse or pouch. Just cut the back pocket from a pair of jeans, sew on a back, and attach a ribbon for a strap. It's even more fun with sparkly embellished pockets!