Saturday, March 31, 2012

A New Look...

I have been living without knobs on this little dresser for quite a while.  I made the 2 green ones on there and hated them but didn't know what I wanted to do (no plan B).  I made these from wood knobs: painted them green and put the 'D' on there & then 'painted' them with resin.  It was miserable work and they didn't turn out at all like I had envisioned (those things happen, right?)  The knobs I did for a dresser in LM's room turned out so cute I figured I was on a roll. HA!




We ran to Michaels yesterday to get a birthday gift for LM's friend and while I was roaming the aisles I found some cute white knobs for 99 cents that I thought might work.


I like the cleaner look they offered.  All of the knobs have a 'B' on them for our last name.  For a kid's room A thru F would have been fun, too.


The price was right & I liked the white on white look.  Upon closer inspection, the 'B' on the knobs looked like it was a sticker or maybe vinyl.  Something I could have done.  If I hadn't closed the September Acres knob factory!  But for less than $6 I think it's a hit!


I do love the all white look.  I am pondering painting some of my wall white even.  Maybe...

I'm linking up to Under $10 Under 1 hour @ 320 Sycamore & Frugal Friday at the Shabby Nest!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ultimate Recipe Swap: Easy Sticky Buns

A few years ago, I saw Ina Garten on GMA doing her Easy Sticky Bun recipe.  Easy & Sticky Bun in the same sentence?  I'm in.  So I made them that year for Christmas.  And New Year's Day.  Then I realized that due to the amount of butter and the yumminess of them I would need to make them on special occasions only.  I added Easter to the list and usually just make them for those three holidays.  With Easter coming up, I figured it was a good time to share the recipe again.  


Ingredients

  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped in very large pieces
  • 1 package (17.3 ounces/ 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted (I use Pepperidge Farm)

For the filling:

  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup white raisins

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees f. Place a 12-cup standard muffin tin on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 12 tablespoons of butter and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Place 1 rounded tablespoon of the mixture in each of the 12 muffin cups. Distribute the pecans evenly among the 12 muffin cups on top of the butter and sugar mixture.
Lightly flour a wooden board or stone surface. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry with the folds going left to right. Brush the whole sheet with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter. Leaving a 1-inch border on the puff pastry, sprinkle each sheet with 1/3 cup of brown sugar, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the cinnamon, 1/4 cup of the cranberries and 1/4 cup of the raisins. Starting with the end nearest you, roll the pastry up snugly like a jelly roll around the filling, finishing the roll with the seam-side down. Trim the ends of the roll about 1/2 inch and discard. Slice the roll in 6 equal pieces, about 1 1/2 inches each. Place each piece, spiral side up, in 6 of the muffin cups. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry to make 12 sticky buns.
Bake for 30 minutes, until the sticky buns are golden to dark brown on top and firm to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes only, invert the buns onto the parchment paper (ease the filling and pecans out onto the buns with a spoon) and cool completely.
**Now, I am guessing they would still taste yummy if you cut down the butter a bit.  But I haven't gone there yet!**
I am linking up to Life as Mom's Ultimate Recipe Swap.  Check it out; there are always really great recipes there!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Flat Tax...

Does doing your taxes = torture to you?


Every year about this time I think that 'flat tax' idea floating around out there would be a lovely idea.  This post is not meant to be a debate about our current tax system or any of the thousands of alternative ideas people have.  It's just a thought about how much easier it would be if we could send in a little note saying 'yes, we did make $XXXXX last year and yes, you did withhold $XXXX and yes, that is our portion.  thankyouverymuch.'

That way I could spend today decorating for Easter or making cards or reading 'Ali in Wonderland' instead of gathering everything I think I may need to take to the accountant in order for our taxes to be filed.

Now, I know what you're thinking 'you've had well over a month already to complete this task, why haven't you finished yet?'  I know you're thinking this because my husband asked me the same thing yesterday.  Just the nudge I needed to finish.

Hope your day is more exciting!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Back to Reality...

Spring break is just about over so it's back to reality.  We had a fun break and did a ton of things.  School starts up tomorrow.  I love the carefree days of no school.  Getting up when we want, doing what we want, not being on a schedule.  But LM does so much better with a schedule and she is ready to go back to school.  This afternoon she got her backpack out and 'organized' it so she'd be ready to go in the morning. 

Tomorrow for me will be full of errands, scheduling all kinds of appointments, working, banking.  Pretty much all of the things I didn't do last week while I was off enjoying myself.  Tuesday will be even more exciting busier since I need to deliver all of my tax things to the accountant.  Nothing like waiting until almost the last minute, right?

A break is fun but all of these other things are really what makes it all work.  They are the things that make it possible to take a few days off and really enjoy them.  The day-to-day reality is what makes the vacations really special - the endless days of doing everything you want, or nothing at all.

So tomorrow it's back to reality. Until the next vacation....
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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Dream Home...

We went by the HGTV Dream Home 2012 the other day.  I realized that we had been by it a few times before but I never recognized it since it really doesn't look like this:


I think part of the reason it wasn't easy to put two and two together is because the grass isn't green this time of year.  Also, there were no lights on and no car in the driveway.  There was security in front of the house.  I guess to keep people like us away!


There is a great view of the mountains which I love.  Beautifully snow capped this time of the year.  The house is in a new development.  There is one other house built and several lots sold.  I think it will end up being a nice little neighborhood as the years go on.  


I am loving the kitchen in the dream home.  Can't you imagine cooking and entertaining in this space?  Oh, to be the lucky winner of this home.

Right now on the HGTV website you can vote for where the next dream home should be.  I always look forward to the dream home each year.  How about you?

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Alpine Coaster...

We headed over to the Alpine Coaster on Wednesday for a little fun.  Actually, it was a lot of fun.  I am not a huge roller coaster fan when we go to theme parks (truth be told, I am not a huge theme park fan but that's another post) but this was different and really fun.  First of all, the view is MUCH better.  Here I am going up the hill.


This is the view from one side.  Not too shabby, is it?  Once you get to the top of the mountain you start coming back down.  The really cool thing is that you can adjust your speed going down.  Perfect for someone like me who doesn't feel the need for speed.  I was in my own little world when I noticed the guy behind me catching up to me so I had to speed up a bit.  Quite a bit.  And it was really fun!


I mentioned I had taken a few photos on the way up and LM said, "Mom, you're not supposed to use your cameras while you're on the ride."  Oops!



Here we are, all done with our ride.  The fun thing about the Alpine Coaster is that it's also open in the summer.  We can't wait to do it again!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break...

LM is on Spring Break now.  So many people think of Spring Break like this:


Usually I would be in that camp but thinking of the 110 degree summers has me preferring a Spring Break like this:


We have arrived in Park City sans husband and dog (who apparently misses us a lot).  There's not a lot of snow on the ground but LM has made the best of what's out there, making forts, snowmen and snowballs.  We're headed to the resort today to take our first ride on the Alpine Coaster.  Full report on that later. It looks like lots of fun.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Eating from the Pantry...

Simple Barley
Image: Whole Foods Markets
We spent February basically eating from the pantry.  I explained how we did it here.  I mentioned the Twitter chat I hosted on this very subject in my last post.  During that chat we talked about what we always kept in our pantries & described some of our most creative meals we've made only using items from out pantry.

To me, the idea of a full pantry means that my family can make it through the lean times or a disaster for at least a week or so without worry.  I am sure it means different things to different people.  Like some many homemakers I stock up when staples are on sale which means at some point my pantry over flows.  That's when I try to spend a month using up what I have - or eating from the pantry.

My dad is LDS and as far back as I know my grandma had a food storage room.  I remember it was fascinating when I was younger.  I was amazed at how much she had in there.  I would love to play grocery store in her storage room.  We didn't have one at home and I remember asking her once why she had all that food since it was just her and my grandpa at the time.  She said they tried to keep a year's worth of food on hand to help any families at church who needed help.  I am sure that was the quick answer for the 10 year old.  I have always loved this idea and wonder why everyone doesn't do it.  The LDS website does a great job of explaining food storage.

While our pantries may not be quite the food storage room my grandma had (or maybe it is) we all have our idea of 'pantry basics'.  Some great things to keep in your pantry include:


  • Rice
  • Legumes
  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • Pasta (we have lots of pasta in our house!)
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Oils
  • Spices
  • Tomato sauces (canned & jarred as well as ones you put up in the summer)
  • Sugar- brown and white
  • Flour
  • Salt and Pepper
Pretty basic stuff that can be the start of a fabulous meal.  Go beyond the dry storage and think of the things you always have in the fridge or freezer:

  • Eggs (I get nervous if I run too low on eggs!)
  • Frozen Veggies & fruits
  • Butter (I stock up on butter when on sale, some of my family thinks I hoard it.  But I'm never without)
  • Bacon (health concerns aside I usually have this on hand for breakfast or a quick carbonara - it freezes great)
With just the list above you can make breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.  

I think the most creative meal anyone said they made was when Sharizat took spaghetti sauce and mixed it with water & cream to make tomato soup.  I'm trying this one tomorrow night with some leftover sauce I have.

So when payday doesn't get here quick enough or your pantry is overflowing take note of what you have in there and make you meal plan using those items.  I think you'll be surprised.  

What kind of creative meals have you made just using items in your pantry/fridge/freezer?

Monday, March 12, 2012

My hosting gig...

LM watering the community garden
I watched Jamie Oliver's 'Food Revolution' series when it was on last year and was really intrigued by the work he was doing trying to bring healthy, real food to schools and to our homes.  As parents we have really dropped the ball on nutrition, leading to alarming rates of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes.  We all have fabulous excuses for not paying attention to what we're feeding our children but the bottom line is it's our responsibility to make sure our children are taken care of and it doesn't look like we're cutting the mustard, nutrition wise.

When I joined Twitter almost a year ago I had no idea that I would stumble upon another group of parents who are passionate about healthy, real food.  It has opened up my eyes even more and I was recently given the opportunity to host a 'Food Revolution' (or #foodrevparty) Party on Twitter.  I was nervous because I felt like these other hosts had been doing this longer (I have no idea if that is true though) & I didn't want to botch anything.  I didn't get any hate mail so I think I did an okay job.    The topic of my party was 'eating from the Pantry & Pantry Basics.  You can see the article with party highlights here. I hope you get a chance to look at it.

There were some great ideas on eating from the pantry as well as pantry basics.  I'll share some of those tomorrow.  It's fun to interact with other parents and get cooking & recipe ideas. The Twitter Food Rev Party is on Tuesday nights.  The time varies a bit each week so search #foodrevparty on Twitter for more info.

You can sign Jamie's Food Revolution petition  here.  Jamie's Food Revolution campaign is about saving the health of our next generation. Kids need better food at school (check out his school lunch photo wall & see how your school compares and rate the lunches).  They need better food at home- we need to keep cooking skills alive for the sake of our kids. 

Have you cooked with your kids lately?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Taming the paper beast....


I spent most of today trying to clean my office.   I used to 'clean' it a lot.  You know, organize the desk, shred, file.  But with all the accumulation of scrapbook supplies and other seemingly necessary stuff it's not enough.  I wish it looked as good as this photo.  Sadly, this is not a one day project so I will plug on this week and see what I can accomplish.

I started with the closet which, thankfully, is very small.  We have shelving in there which helps but oh, the things I found.  Cell phone boxes from 2 cell phones ago (empty)?  Check. Cords to heaven knows what?  Check.  Steering wheel to old video game?  Check. Electric bill from 1987? Check.  You get the picture.  Like I said, the saving grace is that the closet is small.

I pulled everything out of the closet and am in the process of putting back only the things we need.  I hope it goes without saying that the electric bill was shredded.  There was a lot of shredding going on.  Cancelled checks from 1991, anyone?  Why does it seem like I had less paper when the bank actually sent back my checks each month?

My husband, who would 'reorganize' the room but throw out very little wondered why it was taking so long.  I let him know that I wanted to do it right this time.  Two trash bags later, I think I have a good start.

I'll be back with the results show soon....

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Granola Recipe...


Amanda asked for me to post the granola recipe so here it is:

Lunch Box Granola

vegetable oil cooking spray
1 c. rolled oats
1/3 c. wheatgerm
1/4 c. shredded coconut
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
1/4 c. powdered milk
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg (we thought this made it a bit too nutmeg-y so next time I'll use less)
1/4 c. honey
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F

Spray the cookie sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray

In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats, wheat germ, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, powdered milk, raisins, cinnamon, and nutmeg, using the wooden spoon.

Add the honey, vegetable oil, and vanilla extract to the mixture.  Stir well until the honey covers all of the dry ingredients.

Press the mixture flat on the sprayed cookie sheet.

Bake the granola for 8-10 minutes until it is toasted, or light brown in color.  Use oven mitts to remove the cookie sheet from the oven.

Let the granola cool on the cookie sheet for about 1 hour.

Put the granola into sandwich bags and pack in lunch boxes for school.

Makes 8 - 1/2cup servings

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Lunch Box Granola...

LM's teacher gave her class an extra credit assignment for math last week.  It was a cooking assignment which helps the kids with fractions.  They had two recipe choices and she picked the lunch box granola.  I have been wanting to make granola for a while so I was happy she chose this one.  

She made a list of everything I would need to buy and I headed to the store while she was at school on Friday.  $16 later, I had the missing ingredients.  I was a bit shocked that some of these items cost so much.  I felt like we just bought a grade!


All the ingredients ready to go.



Recipe



Fresh out of the oven.


The finished product.

LM did everything herself except put the cookie sheet in the oven and take it out. She emailed a picture of it to the teacher and turned in a paragraph about it on Monday.  It turned out delicious and I know I'll be making it again, using up the ingredients I bought.  I don't think I'll ever buy granola again as it was super easy and I know it's healthier.  

I guess it was educational for both of us....

Monday, March 5, 2012

February 2012

  

February flew by.  Maybe because it's a short month.  Maybe because I am getting old.  Who knows.  It just flew by.

For me it was a month of organizing, purging, not spending.  Super fun stuff, right?  I realized I hardly blogged at all.  Again, was it the short month or am I just getting old?  Let's go with the short month.

I started off talking about my No Spend month.  I ended the month talking about the success of the no spend month.  Yep, earth shattering.

I loved my light bulb moment with index cards. Something that's been around for so long has helped transform my really busy, run-around type of days.  You should try it!

I shared what I think is a fabulous gift idea. It's easy, quick, fun, inexpensive, creative & something the kids can help with.  I loved it for Valentine's Day but Easter and Mother's Day will be here before you can say FTD so it would be a lovely idea for those holidays as well.

Not only are we enjoying our winter visitors showing off their driving skills right now, but spring breakers will be here this week so we'll have the older folks and the college kids packed in a Honda Civic to avoid on the road.  Truly, it's just better to stay home...

They say March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb.  So far, this has held true.  But I am looking forward to sharing my garage purge with you and showing you the grade I feel like I 'bought' for LM this month.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

How I did it...

Glass Canisters



Jeff asked me how we spent only $140 on groceries during the month of February so I thought I would explain.  First of all, we are a family of three so we have less mouths to feed than a lot of other families and there are no growing boys here.  Some other ways I was able to cut the food bill down last month:

  • We planned to eat out of the pantry during the month, meaning I planned my meals around what I already had in the pantry and freezer.  I made a list of everything I had and worked my menus around the list.  I had meat in the freezer that we needed to eat, lots of pasta & rice, sauces mixes and marinades.  I stock up on those items when they are on sale (love the 10 for $10 deals!)  
  • We do not eat a lot of meat.  All of our meals usually include meat (unless it's just LM & me eating if my husband is gone) but I make a lot of pasta dishes and tacos/quesadillas where I can stretch the meat really far. 
  • We eat dinner with my parents on Sundays and my dad usually provides the meat for us.  There is often leftovers which I will use on Monday or Tuesday in a quesadilla.
  • I buy vegetables and fruits in season and mostly on sale.  When I buy frozen vegetables I try to get a bag for $1-$1.25- one bag of corn, for example, will usually last us for two meals. We were given some avocados last month and a HUGE bag of lettuce by a friend of my husband's who is a lettuce farmer.
  • For breakfast I bought cereal - I paid $1 for a container of oatmeal which will last us more than the month because I also buy dry cereal (target price for a box is $2-$2.50-I seldom pay more than that).  I do splurge on Ezekiel bread (about $5 a loaf & I go through about 2 loaves a month) for my husband's breakfast which he takes to work with him.
  • During the week I do not make lunch for my husband as he eats out (business) most days & I don't pay for that.  On the weekends it's sandwiches - ham, tuna or egg salad & the occasional grilled cheese.  I buy bread from the bakery @ the grocery store which I find to be fresher and usually less expensive.
Those are probably the key factors that helped me spend so little last month.  I think the biggest thing was just using stuff I already had so I didn't have to buy it.

Jeff also asked if we buy anything organic.  We do.  I only buy organic milk which is probably my biggest 'splurge' (if that's what you want to call it!) but I did get, last week, a half gallon of organic milk on sale for 99 cents!  It was down at the bottom corner of the milk section, well hidden but I found it!  That's never happened before & I was so excited! I usually pay anywhere between $3 & $4 for a half gallon.  

I buy organic vegetables & fruits when possible.  Living in the desert has proven to be really interesting in the produce department.  To put it bluntly, the produce we have access to at our grocery stores stinks.  Usually worse than that.  I always say I haven't bought a decent tomato in 12 years.  Even the quality of organic is hit or miss.  So I peruse the entire department and buy what seems to be the freshest.  Sometimes it's organic and sometimes it's not.

I think that about covers it.  I'll be interested to see how much I spend in March.  I know I'll spend more than $140 but I'd be thrilled if I can spend less than $250.

If I missed anything or you have any other questions just leave a comment and I'll answer it.