Sunday, January 29, 2012

Entertainment center makeover: Dress Up Station and Toy Storage

As part of the Impossibilities Challenge, I decided to make over this old TV stand. It was big. It was ugly.

But it was also free, and who am I to turn away a freebie with so many possibilities? I was totally inspired by this makeover I found on pinterest.

The biggest hurdle to overcome once I decided to start was dealing with Punky Brewster's paint choices. It was very retro.

I also wanted to add, the biggest expense on this project was the $6 I spent on fabric. Everything else, including the paint, were leftovers from other projects!

So are you ready to see the transformation??




Isn't she pretty now?

The drawer pulls are Mary Engelberit, I believe. I found them several years ago at a charity rummage sale and they were used on another dresser, but they didn't work with the dresser once we redid the girls' room. So they went back in the "use later" pile.

And what's behind the curtains?



Dress up clothes!

This is a carefully disguised dress up play station for the little girls. We hung all their dress up gear, including the tutus, behind the curtains. In the spotted basket (found at DollarTree) are the fun hats and tiaras. Inside the wicker basket are puppets. The plan is to put furniture moving disks under the stand. If the girls want to pull down all the clothes (something I know is going to happen frequently!), they can push out the stand and perform puppet shows.

Behind each of the doors, we also have other fun creative play items including play dough, coloring supplies and a few games.

And what dress up station is complete without a mirror?


I'm still on the fence about whether or not to keep this white. I was thinking black. If I leave it to Punky Brewster, it will be pink. And pink isn't going to happen. ;)

I also took inspiration from Pinterest. Lots of people turn these into kitchens. :) I wanted to be different.  Linking this up on Young House Love's Pinterest Challenge for Winter :D


Linked up at:

Pinned it. Made it.  
Turquoise Lovin'


I'm Topsy Turvy

Friday, January 27, 2012

Chocolate Chip Plantain Bread

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And when life hands you brown bananas, you make banana bread!

And when the brown bananas are actually plantains?

Why you make Chocolate Chip Plantain Bread!

Plantains aren't as sweet as bananas, so adding the chocolate chips gave it just the right amount of needed sweetness.


 Chocolate Chip Plantain Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3  mashed overripe plantains
  • 1 C chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed plantains until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Cereal Anyone?

As mentioned in another post earlier this week, our family goes through a lot of cereal. When I find a good sale, I stock up! This week thanks to store coupons, sales, etc. I was able to get nine boxes of cereal for less than a dollar a box! Plus, there were freebies associated with buying the cereal, so it was all around a good week for breakfast foods.

This week, my out of pocket expense at Publix before tax was just $20.35. That broke down to "only" 80 percent savings. I could have done my transactions in such a way to make the savings appear bigger, but that would have involved multiple trips to the store...and I wouldn't have saved any money in the gas tank.

In the picture you also get a sneak peek at a couple projects I'm working on. The wall is going to be amazing...eventually.


Ok here's the breakdown of what I bought today

1 Mt. Dew
1 loaf bread
4 grands biscuits (.30/2 x 2)
4 Fig Newtons ($1/2 x 2)
4 Rice Krispies ($1/2 2)
2 12.6 oz bags M&Ms (FREE M&Ms WYB 2 Rice crispies peelie x 2)
5 Cinnamon Toast Crunch (.50/1 + $2/1 Any GM cereal Publix store coupon)
2 dz eggs (FREE eggs WYB 2 grands biscuits x 2)
2 doritos ($1/2 tearpad)
2 whole fruit bars (.50/1 X2)
8 Betty Crocker potatoes (.50/2 peelie)

$5/25 Save-A-Lot store coupon
$5/30 Winn Dixie store coupon

My total before sales and taxes was approximately $100! After coupons and before tax, it was $20.35.

Many of the coupons I used this time were found on tearpads at Walmart. Walmart has been getting a lot of great coupons lately on tearpads that I don't see in other stores.

Another bonus this week is two of the boxes of Rice Krispies had coupons for other breakfast foods in the package, plus another peelie for free M&Ms!

Creative Play

Punky Brewster and I went out to lunch recently. For a special treat, we did the drive-thru and she was able to get a kids meal. She was so excited to get the toy...until she pulled it out of the bag. After carefully examining it, she frowned at the toy that only did one thing.

"Mama, next time can we go to Burger King? They have crowns and then I can play with my imagination."

It was one of those moments where I had to smile at her disappointment.

I did something right as a mom. My child would rather play with a paper crown than a piece of plastic.

We've never done electronic toys at our house. With The Boy's sensitivities to noise, beeping, flashing and other loud toys have always been completely out of the question.

Whenever we get a larger brown box,  the kids go nuts for it. Even the tweens! Suddenly it's a family project to decorate the box into the next great rocket ship, boat, robot taking over the world...or even a TARDIS. Hours of fun out of one box. It's parental bliss.

I'm still working on my project for the impossibilities challenge. It looks like my girls' imaginations are taking the project in an additional direction: Giving them a colorful stage for puppet shows!



I certainly don't mind seeing a zillion puppet shows a day. I may end up putting furniture disks under the beast while it's put away so the girls can move it out for more playtime. I'm a bit disappointed in myself for seeing this project as a one trick pony. Leave it to little girls to find the best use for this!

Lately, the little girls have been on a playdough kick. By the end of a week of play, the once pretty playdough colors are all into one giant blob of purple or green. I'm not sure why those are the only two colors we ever seem to end up with. I'm going to try to steer the coloring to end up with a blob of orange next time. Just for something different.

Making playdough is super easy. I used Leelee's gel food coloring to get a really deep color. One batch makes enough to fill three playdough jars. Not bad for just a few pennies! Many recipes call for cream of tartar. If you're like me,  you think you have it and you don't. Did you know the difference between baking soda and baking powder is the addition of cream of tartar into baking soda? That means you can substitute baking soda into the playdough recipe.


Ingredients:
1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
1 cup water
1 Tablespoon oil
2 T baking soda
Food coloring by drops or gel

Directions:
1. Combine all ingredients in a pan and stir.  Cook over low heat, stirring until a ball forms.
2. Add food coloring and mix thoroughly until desired color.
3. Cool.  Store in covered container.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

I can haz a nap? Wordless WEdnesday


Gifts from my Neighbor

Every so often my neighbor brings things by. She has really quirky tastes, like me. It's a match made in neighbor heaven. Couldn't ask for a better neighbor.

She used to be a florist and an antique dealer. So she always has amazing finds.

Like this. I'm not sure what it's original purpose was, but it looks great on my kitchen wall.


I really love the colors on the serving spoons. They are chipped and very old looking. Certainly not something I'd use day to day. But oh so pretty.

And today, she made Punky Brewster super happy by bringing over a mink coat. Yes, my 5 yo now owns a mink coat. Miss Cat (that's my neighbor) said her uncle caught the minks himself and had them made into a coat. So I don't feel so bad about having real fur like this in the house...because it wasn't from a mill and it's vintage. Maybe I can find an excuse to wear it some time with the vintage hats I picked up.



Homemade Pudding Pops

Growing up, we were too poor to ever get Pudding Pops. Mom bought them once or twice on special occasions. It was one of those foods I swore I'd buy all the time when I was the grown up.

Of course we can't ever find them in stores now.

There are lots of recipes out there for doing them in tiny little cups with a Popsicle stick. Naturally, I don't have any of those things around. And if my kids had to wait for me to remember to buy those things? Forget it! I saw a few recipes showing them in ice cube trays. I never had success with those and keeping the ice cube trays in one piece.

What do I have lying around to make this work?

Silicon cupcake liners and cake pop sticks!




It's perfect because not only are the silicone cupcake liners reusable, but they came in fun shapes you can't get with those tiny cups. Just pop half of a cake pop stick (or a craft stick if you have them around) in them about an hour into the freezing process and enjoy!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Homemade Cleaning Products

Anyone who knows me knows that I'm frugal. D would say I'm cheap, but frugal makes it sound so much nicer and like I actually put thought into my purchases. And I do.

This time last year, I hit a huge sale on laundry soap. I was able to get about a year's worth for under $5! It was amazing. Sales like that don't come along often. There hasn't been one that good since.

About two weeks ago, I ran out of laundry soap.

I've heard a lot about people making their own and it being very cost effective. I did the math and I can get about a month's worth of laundry soap for about $1! It didn't take a math genius to figure out that I wasn't going to coupon laundry detergent for under $1 very often.

I gave it a try.

Praying I liked it.

And I did. The recipe I used even got Danger Girl stains out of her pants. And Danger Girl is rough on her clothes. Anything that can get grime out of her laundry is worth it.


The recipe is super simple.

LAUNDRY SOAP

2 C Borax
2 C washing soda
1 bar of soap, shredded.

Mix together in a bucket. Use 1-2 T per load.

Since that was such an amazing success, when I ran out of dishwasher soap over the weekend, I figured I'd give homemade dishwasher soap a whirl. In order for IT to be cost effective, I'd need it to be under $2 for a months' worth.

I found lots of different recipes, many calling for citric acid. A few called for using Lemon Kool Aid in place of the citric acid.

Yeah, that's more my speed. It's pretty much the same players as for the Laundry Soap.


DISHWASHER SOAP

1 C Borax
1 C washing soda
1/4 C kosher Salt
4 packets UNSWEETENED lemon koolaid (or cheap alternative)

Mix in a bowl. Use between 1-2 T tablespoons in each load, split between the cups. The amount depends on how hard or soft your water is. I can get away with 1 T each load.

Use vinegar as the rinse aid.


Some people have had problems with this, saying it leaves a film. I really  think it depends on the quality of the water. We have a lot of crap in our water and haven't had a problem. So if you have "good" water where you live, there might be difficulties with this.

I don't know how long this will last me. but so far, it's stretching pretty well.  Now, I just have to keep an eye out for sales on koolaid ;)

What natural cleaners should I try next?

Monday, January 23, 2012

This Week's Eats

I don't know how many times I've fallen off the meal planning wagon. I always have an idea in my head of what we're eating, especially when I go to the store. The last few weeks, however, I've just been kind of "meh" about cooking in general. I don't know if it's the weather or what.

But this week, we're back on track. I find myself turning to Pinterest for many of my meal planning ideas now.

Sunday: Sweet & Sour Pork (made way too much sauce LOL)
Monday: Beef & Venison Stew
Tuesday: Crockpot Sesame Chicken
Wednesday: Soup &  Sandwiches
Thursday: Chili & Cheese Macaroni
Friday:Tacos (making our own shells!)
Saturday: Breakfast

And Just so I don't forget the things I need to buy this week at the store:



4 lbs ground beef
sour cream
garlic
cheese
tortillas x 2

That's not too bad for a dinner list. I still have to remember to restock the cereal. If I buy the smaller boxes of cereal, we will go through one of those a day! On average, our family eats 20 boxes of cereal a month, which means buying at least five boxes a week just to keep up. We only use 2 gallons of milk a week since some of my kids prefer to eat the cereal dry.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

1986 called, they want the furntiture back

Alternate title:  "Never let your 5 year old pick out the paint."

Before we get too far into this, grab yourself a glass of Tang in collectible glass mug from McDonalds. I don't have any really vintage ones, so the Coke glasses from last month will have to do... and yes,. that really is Tang.





When last we left the ugly entertainment center, it was a lovely shade of primer white. A blank canvas so to speak, ready to taken to the level of "pinteresting..." as one friend put it.

My brilliant plan was to paint it turquoise. Then some black. Maybe add a few pops of red. So it really blended with the decor of the house. I wanted the piece to look like it belonged in the house and wasn't solely a child's toy. I wanted it camouflaged.



It probably would have gone as planned except I started the actual painting while Punky Brewster and Little Miss were home. If, ohhh...only if I had managed to get the blasted thing painted while they were at school. Things would have gone so very differently.

Punky Brewster turned her nose up at the Turquoise. She wanted it to be a "Rainbow of Colors", blame I place squarely on the shoulders of our Magical Librarian. We started painting the day she went to the Library Story Time. She has special pants she wears to story time just because the sing that song.



After denying her request to paint it like a rainbow, Punky Brewster suggested we try pink. It didn't sound too bad and if I just did the shelving in it...I had two cans of pink paint leftover from her "Oh look, someone threw up pink everywhere" bedroom (can you tell I'm not a fan of pink?) and let her pick which one she liked better.

I just wanted it done. So I agreed and started painting. Paint doesn't look the same wet as it does dry.

Suddenly, I found myself looking at my bedroom, circa 1986...






I have a feeling this isn't going to blend as seamlessly into my decor as I once thought. And, I now have to revisit my fabric choices...unless you think I can still get away with some zebra print?

My project right now is on hold until the weather clears. It is raining and the moisture is not letting the paint do it's thing. The whole thing is tacky...well, tacky and paint tacky.


Friday, January 20, 2012

Today is on hold

I have my knickers in a knot about something. And, I have a feeling its going to take most of today while I deal with the issue. If it's not solved by the end of the day, well then, I'm going to be a lot more upset than I am now!

I love Little B's school. It's the School for Normal Happy Children. Very much unlike the Stepford School for Overachievers and their Parents that Danger Girl attends. Things generally go right at the Normal Happy School. Problems are solved quickly. Parents are happy. Because everyone at the Normal Happy School is reasonable. Thank goodness.

Long story short is we're having some issues with the school bus. Totally out of the immediate control of the Normal Happy School. The last two nights Little B's bus has been late. Very late. Like freaking out and calling 911 kind of late. I didn't do that, but another parent did. Because we couldn't get in touch with anyone at the school OR at the district transportation office.

The bus was 90 minutes late. Ninety minutes.

So somewhere, the lines of communication are broken and it needs fixing. I'm in a fixing kind of mood.  I should be in a house cleaning mood. I'd rather be working on several other projects. But, the mama bear in me says this is the priority for the day. And when mama bear talks, everyone better listen!

I've put in emails to the principal, director of communication, school board members. Knickers definitely in a knot. And for once, D isn't having to hold me back from going mama bear crazy. He's having his own kind of crazy right now to deal with at work, so I have free reign to deal with this issue as I see fit.

How ballistic would you go if the bus was 90 minutes late and no calls from the school?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Imagining Impossibilities Challenge

This year, one of my goals was to do something with the ugly pieces of furniture I've collected. I've been putting it off, but then I found this challenge:




And I figured, why not? I decided this month to tackle one of those things that D never thought I'd actually get around to doing. So I decided to take this:

And turn it into something special. Because right now, it's not that special. It's a big ugly piece of cheap furniture a friend gave to me. 

We used it for its intended purpose for a few weeks. Then it because a nice place to put all the pretty holiday things. With the holidays over, well...it's starting to become a great place to put all the junk we don't have anywhere else to put. And i just can't have that.

So, I looked around pinterest and found some awesome things people are doing with old entertainment centers. I was impressed. Inspired, even. Inspired to do something a bit different for my girls. No spoilers yet :)

But I can tell you I am making progress because the beast now looks like this:

And while I was out on the porch priming, I through in another project:





My plan is to get this all done before January 31. 



So, what's your impossible goal that you've been procrastinating?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pinterest to the rescue!

I got a call at nearly 9 p.m. tonight that no parent wants to get: Little B's teacher is taking a new job and they are putting together a gift basket. I could either send money (we don't carry cash) or send a gift (did I mention it was nearly 9?)

So with the little kids already in bed, and D not even home from Scouts, I knew the only way to solve this was to turn to Pinterest.

And, once again, Pinterest saved my bacon. I was able to find a super cute gift idea and I had all the things ready to put it together!



Mexican Cocoa in a Jar

1 C cocoa powder
1 C dry milk powder
1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 t salt
1 T cinnamon
3/4 C chopped chocolate (preferably mexican, but in this case hershey mini chips)

Layer in a jar. Decorate with whatever you happen to have on hand. Who knew this die cut I got in a scrapbooking swap nearly five years ago would finally come in handy? And they call me a craft supply hoarder? Bhwahaha I knew I'd use it eventually.


To use: Dump mix in a jar. Measure out 1/3 C mix into 1 C boiling water. Store remaining mix in an air tight container.



Cake Pop Pretzel Bites

I promise, Leelee does actually use her cake pop maker. I know I've been using it quite a bit a lot more than she has in the last few weeks. She's so busy with school, she will just make muffin bites. I am the  one doing the fun experiments she happily taste tests for me after finishing her homework far later than she should.

For the pretzel bites, I started with one of those doughs  you let sit on the counter for a few hours without doing anything to it. Super Easy. The recipe can be halved if you aren't feeding an army like I am. It also keeps in the fridge for up to two weeks. So you don't have to make it all right now.

Pretzel Dough

3 C warm water
2 pkgs active dry yeast
1 1/2 T salt
1 1/2 T sugar
6 1/2 C flour

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Cover. Let sit on the counter for 2 to 4 hours. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks in a covered but not airtight container.  Chilled dough is easier to handle, so I recommend chilling the dough before using.

When you're ready to make the pretzels:


In a large pot of boiling water, add 1 T baking soda.



Take a handful of dough. If it is sticky or difficult to handle, sprinkle with some flour. Pull off about 1 1/2 t size piece of dough.  You don't want to go too big because the dough will puff in the process.



The original recipe calls for letting these come to room temperature before the next step. I didn't notice a difference between letting it come to room temp vs doing the next step immediately.

Toss in several of the dough balls into the boiling water. Not too many so they crowd. Boil for about 2 minutes.


Remove and set on a towel dusted with flour. Repeat with remaining dough balls. For a crispier outside, you can roll the dough in butter before putting it in to the maker. This is optional. I did it for the first two batches, then got lazy.

Place the dough balls into cake pop maker. Bake 8-10 minutes.

Remove from maker. Be sure to close the lid and let the cake pop maker come back up to full heat before adding the next batch.

Toppings:

The best part!  

If you'd like a sweet treat, roll the pretzel balls in butter, then in cinnamon sugar.

If you'd prefer salty, spritz the pretzel ball with a bit of water then roll into kosher salt.






If you were lucky to snag a mini donut maker this holiday season, you can use this same recipe except add a tablespoon of sugar to the boiling water in addition to the baking soda, to make mini bagels! I'll be trying those tonight :)




Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Carrot Cake Confessions

I love carrot cake. Almost more than Costco cake. And if you don't understand the Costco cake love, there's really nothing I can do for you, except perhaps introduce you to their triple chocolate layer cake.

Sunday night I decided to bite the carrot and make my favorite carrot cake recipe. It takes work, like any masterpiece. Soaking the SIX CUPS of carrots in brown sugar for an entire hour. This isn't an endeavor I undertake on the spur of the moment. I had made a delicious dinner complete with homemade biscuits...carrot cake would be the perfect end to the evening.


As I stood at the counter, grating the carrots, I heard a THUD and a cry. It took me a moment to register that someone was hurt because it wasn't actually Danger Girl that was injured. This time, it was the second most accident prone person in the house getting hurt: D. He was carrying Little Miss to a well deserved time out, when he tripped on this:






Like the good father he is, he rolled to keep Little Miss from taking the brunt of the fall. But, he landed on his elbow. The very same elbow he fractured in junior high and his mom didn't believe him that he hurt; presumably because he whines so much when he gets hurt. She made him wait three days before taking him to the doctor. I totally get that now.

He's complaining it really hurts. I ask him to wait a bit to make sure. Because the last thing I want to do on a Sunday night is to sit in the ER. I want carrot cake!

But, I'm trying to be a good wife, so after about 45 minutes, I agree to drive him to the ER.

I only had 2 C of carrots shredded at that point and didn't even think about macerating the carrots.

Two and a half hours later, we return from the ER (quick trip) with a sling and a "take two advil" not even a call in the morning! Not broken. At least when Danger Girl hurt her arm two weeks ago, we were told to follow up if it wasn't healing right. D didn't even get that.

Back at home, I'm now really wanting that carrot cake. And I don't want to have to wait til the next day to make it.

So I made the second big time waste of the evening. I tried a new recipe. I'm sharing the recipe here so you all can avoid it. The basics is you prepare a box of spice cake, add in 2 C carrots, some chopped pecans and an 8 oz can of drained pineapple. Bake.

Take a sample.
Gag.
Spit it out.

I was so sad. The next morning the cake was still sitting on the counter, taunting me. There had to be something I could do to save this cake. The second best thing about the carrot cake is the cream cheese icing. My only hope was to make an amazing cream cheese icing to disguise the taste (or lack of).

Saigon Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz block cream cheese
2 T butter
1 t Saigon Cinnamon
1 T milk
3 C powdered sugar

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together cream cheese, butter, cinnamon and milk until smooth. Add in powdered sugar slowly and beat on low until creamy. Taste. Add more cinnamon if necessary.

I prefer Saigon Cinnamon. You can use regular, but I'm not sure how that's going to taste.



I am very happy to report that the frosting was enough to save the cake!













Friday, January 13, 2012

Small shopping trip

I didn't do much shopping this week. Just didn't have the right coupons. Not every week can be a big winner. I think I still ended up with about 80 percent savings. Not too bad.

My total was $10 plus tax after coupons.

(5) Apple & Eve juices (.75/1 blinkie)
(2) Dole Mandarin oranges (.50/1 printable)
(2) banquet chicken
(3) Green Giant frozen Veggie ($1/3)
Saigon Cinnamon ($2/1 YAB flyer)
Tooth Brush (.75/1 + $1/1 Publix Special Olympics coupon)

$5/25 Save A Lot competitor coupon

If I had done the Con Agra rebate from the fall, my total would have been even less! The rebate included a coupon for $5/2 banquet chickens. These were on sale for BOGO this week, so would have been FREE if I had the right coupons.

On this trip, I also had my first encounter at this Publix with a clerk who didn't understand the coupon policy. She told me that my $5/25 coupon was for my total AFTER coupons. But, ya know, she was going to be nice and let me do it this time.  Of course I told her I'd been couponing at that store for a very long time and I'd never been told it was the post coupon total. Heck, Winn Dixie doesn't even make you use their $5/55 as a post coupon total.

Just to be safe, I stopped at customer service to ask. If there was this big of a change in the coupon policy, I wanted to know about it because it was definitely going to impact my shopping strategy!

As expected, there was no change. Just a clerk who misunderstood when she was told to ring up the competitor coupon at the end of the transaction. Crisis averted.

Drawer Organizing

Every time I start an organization project, D just sort of rolls his eyes and waits because he knows it will eventually fail. That's why one of my big goals this year is to get organized. Really organized.

Some aspects of our lives do run very well. Mainly meal planning. That's a trait I inherited from my mom and I think stems from my love of saving money.

I used to blame my lack of organizational skills on a lack of space. The old house was small. Eight people in 900 square feet. There weren't enough places to put people let alone things.

I don't have that excuse now. Well, not exactly. Even though this house is almost three times the size of the old one, I still lack space...storage space to be exact. We are trying to make space. For Christmas, D knocked out a false wall and put in some shelving. It's very unfinished right now, but I have some shelves to store kitchen items...under the stairs in...well, one of the many spaces in the house that lack a proper name. We call it the Harry Potter room. It's sort of a hallway that goes under the stairs that has two closets.

My kitchen lacks storage. I have four drawers and a row of cabinets and about three feet of counter space.

When we looked at the house, all I saw was potential. I didn't think about the functionality of it while we saved up the money for a remodel. It is very much like the kitchen in the old house...before we remodeled.

The good news: I know what could make it work.

Storing the big stuff wasn't much of a problem. It was the cooking utensils, measuring cups, cutting boards...those types of things quickly became an unorganized heap in the drawers.

In the old house I stored many of those things in baskets. We had deep drawers.

Not so much in the new house.

The only basket that fit was the one for my measuring cups.

Then, inspiration hit. Or rather, inspiration crashed in to me completely by accident. Leelee had made quite the mess while cooking and some of it ended up in the bottom drawer. I needed to pull everything out of the drawer and I didn't want to just heap it on the counter. And that's when I saw the empty box from the 12 pack of Mt. Dew. I pulled off the top and dropped in several spoons and spatulas.

The box and I stared at each other for a moment. I looked at the drawer. The box seemed about the right height...
I'm sorry to share this before the boxes are all prettied up. I'm a function over form kinda gal. No one is going to see in that bottom drawer outside of the family. And, I love my readers, but I'm not dragging out the paint for you on something like this. Or the decoupage. If you want to do this project, go for it. Make it purty. Me? I'm thrilled with the idea of ripping off some cardboard and sticking it in a drawer and calling it organized.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mozzarella Bites in the Cake Pop maker!

It's a gorgeous Saturday here in 'Bama. The sun is shining and it's a comfortable 72 degrees. I turned off the heater in the house. Trying to remain optimistic that winter won't be back for another go around. The older two kids are up in Birmingham today with D and the younger four still seem to think it's cold outside. So I bribed them. Go outside and I'll make a special treat. In some houses, that means a sweet treat. Around here, special is code for melty cheesey goodness.

Leelee first brought up the idea of the mozarella bites in the cake pop maker. I asked her several times if she wanted to try, but she's been overwhelmed with homework this week.

The first batch cooked a smidge too long. They were crunchy, which is great if you like crunchy bread.

This was a really great way to use up more of that pizza yeast. I used one packet of yeast and followed the directions on the back. I kept looking at it thinking something was wrong. It just didn't look like enough. Then I remembered I usually triple the recipe.

After making the dough, tear off about 1/2 tablespoon sized piece and squish it flat like a pizza. Add in a good pinch of cheese. Then seal up the edges and roll around into a ball shape. I used shredded cheese because it's cheap and we go through large volumes of shredded mozzarella.  This recipe would probably be easier using chunks of string cheese.

Next, roll the bread balls in melted butter. This would be a great use for a yummy garlic butter or maybe even an herbed olive oil.

Place them in the pre-heated cake pop maker for about 5 minutes. Longer if you want crunchy.


Serve with an excellent marinara sauce. My preference is for Newman's Own Organic or Victoria's marinara. Victoria's is pretty pricey but sometimes you can find it at Costco. It's one of the few things for which I'm willing to pay a crazy price.



Mozzarella Bites



1 pkg Fleischman's pizza yeast prepared according to package directions
1/2 C shredded Mozzarella
1/4 C melted butter
Marinara sauce

Take 1/2 T portions of pizza dough and flatten to 1/8 inch thickness. Place about 1 t mozzarella cheese in the center of the dough. Fold and seal edges. Roll in your hands to shape like a ball, making sure there are no gaps where the cheese can ooze out.

Roll balls in melted butter, covering evenly.

Place in cake pop maker and bake for approximately 5 minutes. 

Serve with warm with marinara sauce.

Yield: 24


Linked to these great parties

Creative Thursday  ** Made You Look  ** House of Hepworths  **  Thingamajig Thursday
Get your Brag On   ** Shine On Fridays  Kitchen Fun & craft Friday  Blissful & Domestic 
Happy Hour Fridays  ** Catch a Glimpse  ** Flaunt it Fridays   ** Frugalicious Friday  ** Drab to Fab
Days of Chalk & chocolate  At the Picket Fence     ** Super Sweet Thursdays **
 Project Party Weekend  ** Weekend Showoff Party  ** Tater Tots & Jello
 Mop It Up Mondays  **  Beautify it Mondays  ** Addicted to Recipes  ** Cure for the common Monday
Busy Mondays  ** Randees Organized Chaos  **

Friday, January 6, 2012

Snack Attack grocery week

My shopping trip this week was a good example of being able to stockpile with realistic savings, and another good reminder that what you see on TV isn't realistic. Yes, it's fun to get freebies AND money back from the store like I did last week, but it's not going to happen every time. I could make it happen, or darn close to it, but that would require me making multiple trips a week to the store to save an extra $5 per trip. With gas prices creeping up again, I'm trying to save even more money by doing my errands in one shot. If I have another errand that takes me near the store, I will stop in, but I'm not making a special trip to save $5 when it costs me gas AND time!

OK, I'm off my soapbox. On to what everyone really cares about: My savings.

This week, my total before coupons was $140!



After coupons and sales, my total (pre tax) was just $40! 

You'll notice I have Eggland's Best Eggs. These were not on sale. However, after my coupon doubled, these name brand eggs were still cheaper than the store brand (and even the Walmart brand AND cheaper than Costco). So sometimes the big brand, even not on sale, with the coupons is the best deal.

Here's what I got:

(3) Eggland's Best Large Eggs (.50/1)
(2) Pop Secret (.50/1)
(2) Tyson Chicken strips ($1/1)
(2) Cheezits multipacks
(6) Bird's Eye Veggies ($1/3)
(2) Muir Glen tomato sauce (.75/1)
Crispix (free WYB Any 2 cheezits)
(2) Family Size Tostitos
15.5 oz Tostito Dip (Free WYB any 2 family sized tostitos)
30 oz Tostito Salsa (.55/1 salsa WYB tostito chips + $2/1 salsa WYB any 2 tostito chips YAB flyer)
Quaker Oatmeal Squares
Spice Island Organic Basil ($2/1 YAB flyer)
Spice Island Organic Saigon Cinnamon ($2/1 YAB flyer)
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breast ($1/1 meat WYB 2 spice island hang tag)
(14) Snackwell/Nabisco 100 snacks ($1/2 tearpad)

$5/55 Winn Dixie Coupon + $5/25 Save A lot Coupon

My store limits to one Save A lot coupon per day. I could have saved more by going back over several days and breaking up my purchases. By doing it the way I did, I had an overall 72 percent savings.  That's my goal when I shop, and anything above that is just bonus.

I'm still not sure if spending $6.45 for 2 bags of chips and 2 jars of salsa was a great deal. My favorite deal this week is a toss up between restocking our snack shelf and finding the spices! I ended up paying just $1.29 after coupon for those PLUS extra savings on meat!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

CornDog Cake Pops

Cake pops seem to be all the rage lately. Leelee received one from her aunt for her birthday. And, she's had quite a bit of fun playing with it.

Leelee has come up with some great ideas I'm anxious to try. She's trying to work out a way to make pretzel bites! Doesn't that sound good? I'm more anxious for her to make the cheesey bread bites she's been promising. We have to do something to use up all the pizza yeast I got for free when I did the big shopping trip for our TV news.

This particular recipe is a spin off of an old snack-tastic favorite...the corndog muffin. I know I blogged about it at some point, but I can't find the link. It's pretty basic: cornbread muffins with hot dogs cut up inside. For the corndog cake pops, it's the same idea, except the hot dogs are cut smaller.

The recipe hit the EASY train when I picked up the Krusteaz One Step muffin mix on a crazy good sale.  You just add water and shake. One cut up hot dog was added to the mix and shake it more.






Drop into the cake pop machine by the spoonful making sure each has some hot dog goodness. Bake for 5-6 minutes.

This should yield about 18 corndog pops.

You can do this with any corn muffin recipe. I prefer to use the boxes or the one step for this because I don't like standing all afternoon making only a handful of these things at a time. :P

The kids ate one batch and I froze another for a nice afternoon snack. It's just enough to get me over that corndog craving that usually has me fantasizing about going to Sonic. Now, I just have to master the cherry limeade and we'll be all set.

If you want some more great ideas for your cakepop maker, check out Moscatomom!

linked up at:

House of hepworths **

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wordless Wednesday..Playing with Hair (braided bun)


Totally easy to do! Even for a hair idiot like me. :) I keep my hair short. Leelee can't do that or else her hair would be bigger and curlier, and that's just not a good thing.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Things I want my kids to learn this year

I set goals for myself and feel it is fair I set out a list of things I want my kids (and other family members) to learn this year.

1. Loading and unloading the dishwasher. This one in particular needs to be mastered by The Boy and Little B. They are almost 15 and 10, respectively. After 6 months in this house, I should not be finding my large glass measuring cup on the shelf where the plastics go. With open shelving and only four kitchen drawers, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that just maybe the large spatula does not go in the silverware drawer.

D seems to think I need to label things and accuses me of moving things around. No, things are only moved around because the kids keep putting them away wrong!

And they really have no excuses because Little Miss (2) know where everything  goes. And she will correct you if you even put it four inches from where last she saw it.

While we're in the kitchen, let's discuss the peanut butter

2. Lids back on the peanut butter and jelly when done. Again, another simple, easy to master task. Use it. Put it away.

Which brings us to #3

3. Peanut butter on the shelf. Jelly in the fridge. Preferably peanut butter with the knife removed and lid replaced on the shelf. Jelly with the knife removed and lid replaced in the fridge.

While we're discussing knife removal...

4. Knife does not belong in the mayo jar. I don't care if the lid still fits with the knife in there. YUK.

Speaking of food rules to master this year, we have to go back to the peanut butter. Peanut butter is real hot button issue for me.

5. Do not open a new jar of PB without making sure there isn't one already open. Check the counter under the plastic from the bread someone left out of the BREAD box. Move the box of salt someone placed in the wrong spot. If you can't find it there, check the refrigerator, because it's probably behind the milk.

6. The Bread box holds the bread. We're not out of bread. It's actually put away. Novel concept. And if the bread box really is empty, check the freezer. If that by chance is empty, put a note on the chalkboard wall. I'll forget if you tell me. I will. Just like I forgot to sign school papers, permissions slips, and about a half dozen other things that never got put up on the reminder wall. There's only so much data my head can hold. And right now, I'm playing Words with Friends...and losing...badly.

7. The Cat is lying to you. Josie gets fed twice a day. That's it. I don't care that she's whining at you. I don't care that her bowl is empty. She's fat. And if everyone keeps feeding her every time her bowl is empty, she might explode. And I'm not cleaning up cat guts.

8. Do not complain about being cold. Especially if you are wearing shorts, a t-shirt and no socks.

9. Library books need to be returned when they are due. Not a month later.

Segue into ...

10. Rooms need cleaning frequently. If we find a stack of library books two months over due under the bed, you are not cleaning your room often enough. I will not be as generous next time in paying off your finds. We will, of course, ignore the fact that I have my own unpaid fines and have to use the kids' cards to check out books.

11. No pogo sticking on or off the following: the trampoline, the porch, the second floor porch, the roof, the stairs, or inside the house. Please also note that Danger Girl is strictly forbidden from pogo sticking blindfolded, wearing roller blades, while hula hooping or while juggling. Well, she's getting pretty good at the hands free pogo sticking so we may have to revisit the juggling rule later.


Above all, I want my children to do more of this...

12. Laugh. At yourself. At your family. Except your sister during that special time of the month. Because the family just does not need that. We are a funny group. Have you seen yourselves?


12 Goals for 2012

As cheesy as it sounds, I have 12 projects and goals I've set for myself for the coming year. Many of them are just projects I want to finish around the house. The biggest goal is one I have no control over, however: Either selling or finding a long term tenant for our old house. I really want to only have one house payment this year. Since that is really out of my hands, wishful thinking goals aren't included in this list. That's also why I don't have a weight loss goal this year either.

1. Finish paying off the last of our non-house debt. This was a big goal for last year, too. And we came ever so close. We would have made it if we hadn't have found our dream house and moved! I am hoping to accomplish this one by March. Fingers crossed.

Many of the projects include work around the new house

2. Paint the dining room.

3. De-Clutter using this great planner.

4. Plant a Garden. Here's a great tool I'm using for that project! Apparently this week, I'm supposed to start planting leeks indoors. I have a feeling that's not going to happen.

5.Paint some furniture. Like this beast:


6.  Get closets.

7. Get a pantry

8. Sew. Lots of things.

9. Have an awesome Halloween Party. I am planning it already.

10. Take one fun vacation.

11. Go to a conference.

12. Make it on a reality TV show. OK, that's just being silly, but the thought has occurred to me that perhaps being on a reality show might help us save up the money we need to do the bathroom remodel. Or replace the roof. And it makes me totally wonder...would you be willing to go on a reality TV show if it meant completing a financial goal about a year sooner?