Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reorganizing the Guest Room!

Now that I am happily unemployed (well, relatively, I do still sell Thirty One Gifts and work in the nursery on Sundays), I'm working on getting this house under control!

Today I've decided to tackle the guest bedroom- aka the junk room.  Unfortunately, when we moved we downsized.  I've donated, given away and thrown out tons of things in the three years we have lived here, but somehow we still have too much junk!

Part of it is my unwillingness to get rid of some of my craft items.  I want to paint more, I want to cross stitch more- I want to finish those latch hook projects- but I just don't have the time to do it.  Still, I find it hard to move out my items.

Part of the problem is that the house also came with furniture I don't want and don't need- but we have to find a place to "cram".  If we stick it outside in the garage and it gets ruined, it's still our fault, even though we've asked them to remove what we don't want.  Sigh.

So, I'm working on trying to condense what I can't bring myself to donate or give away.   I'm trying to put all the unwanted furniture in the guestroom.  It's not going to give folks who need to stay the most luxurious room in the house, but it comes down to inconveniencing one person for a day or two, versus everyone in the house all the time.

I definitely think this is going to be longer than a one day project!  Accccck!


Monday, July 29, 2013

Awesome Diced Potatoes

You'll Need:

*3-4 medium sized russet potatoes.  Adjust this based on the amount of people you will be feeding, but these are great- you'll end up scarfing them up, trust me.
* Lipton's/Great Value/Whatever Onion Soup Mix (1 packet)
* 1 tbsp. of Olive Oil.

Peel and dice your potatoes.

In a baking dish, mix your potatoes with the Olive Oil, making sure they are coated.  You don't want them too oily.   These cook better if they aren't piled up too deeply in your baking dish, so try to keep them to a thin layer.

Dump in your soup mix and stir well, making sure the potatoes are well coated. 

Pop in to the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, making sure to keep a check on them.  Stir occasionally.

You're done! Delicious!    This recipe can also be adjusted to use canned potatoes quite easily- just reduce cooking time in the oven.


Thursday, July 25, 2013


I'm doing more canning this year- I've found it so darn convenient- I love taking an hour to make 3-4 times the amount of something I need, if it means I will only take 10 minutes to use it later on!

For instance- tonight we had French Onion Soup for dinner. My preferred recipe can take forever to make and messes up multiple dishes (pots, pans, the mandolin slicer, measuring spoons, etc.  Not to mention I have to get all that junk out).  I also can put it in the exact amounts I need it- we don't end up with WAY too much soup leftover that we have to either toss out or eat until we are sick of it. Money saving! woo hoo! Bags of onions? Cheaper than buying a few at "full" price.

By doing it all at once, I can simply pop open a jar, toss in the croutons and some gruyere cheese and it's done!  Today I cut up a small onion (by hand- it's not such a task when it's only ONE) to add a little crunch to the soup.  I didn't have to measure a single thing and a dinner that would have taken me an hour to make took 10 minutes.  

I plan on canning potatoes this year.  I'm able to buy bags of small russets and do all the peeling, dicing, etc. just once.  Then I can pop open a can of potatoes, mix up any ingredients I want (I have a killer recipe coming for you guys- cheap, easy and quick!) and voila- fancy side dish is done.  It also will take them a shorter time to cook, since the potatoes cook while being canned.

Don't feel good? Pop open a can of french onion soup instead of ordering pizza.  In a hurry? Pop open a can of potatoes to make hashbrowns, instead of paying out the nose for a bag of frozen ones.  Not to mention- my salsa tastes way better than the junk you get at Walmart.  Sorry- but it's totally true.  Healthier too- we don't get all that extra sugar, GMOs, whatever.

There is something satisfying in seeing all that homemade food on your shelves as well.  Makes me feel so darn self-sufficient!


Monday, July 22, 2013

Benefits of Eating In-

I was thinking today- as I often do.  The topic was money and how to acquire more of it, or keep more of what I have- as it often is.

I thought of the website 5 Dollar Dinners and said to myself "Hmm.  $5 a dinner for a month is $150. Fast Food at $12 for 2 people is $360.  $20 a dinner (going out to a decent place for 2 people) is $600!   WOW."

That's right.  Eating at home can save so much money.  I know most of us won't spend $20 a meal every night, but think about it this way- Let's say you go out for a sit down dinner twice a week (let's call it dinner on the weekend), and grab fast food one night a week.  That's $72 in food that week, compared to $35 making a $5 dinner each night.  Wowza- that's twice the cost.

Sometimes you can come in better than $5 by eating out.  For instance- by utilizing a Papa John's coupon code tonight, I got a large pizza with tons of toppings for $8.54.  We'll get two meals (for 2 people) off the one pizza, coming out to $4.27 for each meal.

Now is the time to start if you are interested in making cheaper meals.  Cheap corn is easily frozen.  You can go ahead and can your tomatoes, freeze your peppers- whatever you want to do.  I'm going to try canning potatoes this year as a quick to prepare and inexpensive side dish.

Couponing and working the sales is essential to making cheap dinners.  When you do go out, utilize coupons and bring home leftovers! $20 for your two people meal out isn't a budget buster if you get two meals off of it!

Drink water! That helps cut the costs of eating out as well.

The benefits to eating at home extend beyond saving money.  You know what is in your food, how it was prepared, you don't have to wait in line to get it and it always is going to be just the way you like it.

I'm currently working on eating in more.  It's satisfying to make your own meal and even more satisfying to make it with ingredients you grew or hand chose.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Google It!

I am giving making yeast rolls once last shot.  I always manage to royally screw it up, most recently adding too much salt.  It should be noted that this is the same recipe I use for my homemade bread, so I really should have a better handle on it, but what can I say... it's my Achilles Heel.

I turned on the bread machine and it appeared to be stuck on a 4 hour bake cycle.  I tried several things- holding the on/off button for 10 seconds.  Unplugging it, then plugging it back in.   Randomly mashing buttons while cursing at it.  I tried everything ya'll.

Now this is where you can save some money.  I could have chunked it out and bought a new one.  I could have taken it in to be repaired somewhere.

Instead, I jumped on google and looked up "Panasonic bread machine won't change functions".  <-- eloquent, no?   Instantly up came pages of people who had the same problem.  The solution? Hold the on/off button until it turns off, then hit the timer button.  Voila, it functions again.

Woo hoo! Saved myself having to buy a new machine or pay someone to do the exact same thing!  So next time you have an appliance or item that went a little wonky for no reason- simply google what it's doing.  Chances are, someone online has a simple solution for fixing your problem!


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Garden Robber

We lost another tomato to our garden robber.   This is the second tomato that has been partially eaten on the vine.  Add in an already pitiful yield and we just can't afford to lose more produce!

I think the obnoxious, whiny birds that are living around the house are robbing our plants of their ripened tomatoes.  We've managed to get two tiny little tomatoes, approximately roma sized, off of our "Better Boy" plants.  Ugh.

I think I will tie a plastic bag to one of our tomato sticks and position it near the plants that are fruiting.  Hopefully the bag moving in the wind will discourage the small birds from scarfing up our vegetables.

The chickens enjoyed getting what was left of the tomato, again, so at least it wasn't a complete waste.

I also purchased the book "Container Gardening for Dummies" yesterday from a clearance table. Hopefully it has some helpful hints and tips for me!


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Jalapeno Happiness

We went to visit with some folks from our church today.  It wasn't the best day for it, since Tim and I are both exhausted from a long night at a rabbit show.  We didn't get home until the wee hours of this morning.  While I got more sleep than he did, I still feel ready to drop.

Regardless, we went to eat lunch with the couple and the lady, Diane, offered Tim a big, beautiful bowl of Jalapenos to take home with him.

It seems that while she loves to grow them, she doesn't care for the spicy jalapenos.  Of course, her plants are fruiting like crazy, while ours have only a single, pitiful jalapeno on them.   At least the one I thought was dead is finally beginning to bloom!  The rain we have had lately has everyone worried about small harvests.

I'm trying to decide what exactly we will do with all these jalapenos.  Tim isn't a big fan of pickled jalapenos, but I may try a jar again anyway.    I know he'll eat some fresh or in various dishes.

I definitely think I am going to try making a small batch of  "Cowboy Candy"- aka Candied Jalapenos.  I figure if they don't turn out well, at least we didn't spend a lot of money or use our entire crop of jalapenos on them.  I also want to include a jar or two in some Christmas gifts!


Friday, July 12, 2013

Mind Blown.

If you are looking for some silly, fun reading and happen to be a fan of Pixar movies, check out this blog by Jon Negroni:  The Pixar Theory

Long story short- every Pixar movie is interconnected and takes place in the same universe. 

Ohhh the theory- it is wonderful.


Friday, July 5, 2013

Vacation Items- (12 Months of Christmas Gifts)

It's July- the big time for vacations and when millions of people flock to the beach or other destinations.

The beach is a perfect place to pick up special gifts- literally- for free.  Hunt the shores for sea shells and use them to glue to a plain store-bought (or hand painted) picture frame.  This could work great as a gift for a mother or grandparent, especially if you have an old picture of the family at the beach.

Gather seashells and sand from the beach.  Put the sand in a vase (try the dollar store), place a candle in the sand (make sure it's slightly buried in the sand for stability) and sprinkle cute shells you found (or bought cheaply at the gift shops) around it.    You can do this same thing with beautiful pebbles from a mountain stream.

Pick up river rocks if the beach isn't your thing.  Wash them well and let them dry, then use a paint pen to write words on each rock that describe your recipient- "Funny", "Happy", "Inspiring"- try to do around 10, then package them in a cute little container.  Write a beautiful note to the person you are gifting them to, to let them know where the rocks came from and that each one describes how you feel about them.  This is a perfect pick-me-up gift and a nice bowl picked up on clearance could make a lovely way for them to be displayed year round.

Even if you don't want to make a gift, try looking for unique items while you are shopping on vacation.  You never know when you'll find a completely unique item in one of those funky little tourist shops- it's a great way to avoid a big box store and you can even share that you got the item in X- a subtle way to share with the person that you were thinking about them at a time other than Christmas.


Catch up on all the 12 Months of Christmas posts here.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Summer Yummin'

We have had a ridiculous amount of rain lately- the yard is sludge, but at least it helps keep those awful temperatures at bay.

The best part of summer, in my humble opinion, is the bounty from the vegetable garden!  Unfortunately we had to go with the container garden this year and so far I am not terribly impressed.  Our first two tomatoes were tiny and split open- the chickens enjoyed the treat, but BOO that we didn't get to use them ourselves!  One tomato plant is doing pretty well, it has a ton of blooms and the few green tomatoes on it's branches are already larger than the first two from the other plant.  Now if I can just keep it from going bad because of all the water!

Our green pepper plant is thriving in it's pot.  We even have three tiny peppers (and a ton of blooms), which I find amazing.  Last year it was late August before we had green peppers, even though we planted earlier than we did this year.

One jalapeno is doing well, we're just waiting on it's single pepper to be ready to pick, but I have high hopes for a large yield later in the summer.

Our Hot Banana Pepper is by far the success story so far.  We've had several peppers that have found their way to our dinner table and WOW are they hot.  They have the power to make you sweat and light your mouth on fire- which is perfect for those light summer dinners of sandwiches and salads.

I miss our large garden, complete with corn, onions, cucumbers and other money-saving Summer must-haves, but I've still got high hopes for the plants we have.  Every little bit helps and it just isn't summer around here without a harvest from the garden!