Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tag I'm it!

Since I was tagged by Shawn Hessinger I figured I'd better participate!!!

5 things about me
1. My middle name is Lynn
2. I lived in Pittsburgh PA for 9 months
3. I completed 3 years of college, before I decided I was wasting my time & money.
4. I am still paying for said waste of time & money.
5. I was adopted as an infant.

So write your own "5 things", tag the next five people you would most like to hear about, link to them and back to this post and let's see what you come up with.

Tag you are it Lee Arthur

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Couple of Easy Chicken Crockpot Dishes

I usually don't have boneless skinless breasts around so I use what I have. Most of the time it's pieces, or if I've been to our meat market boneless thighs. I also rarely use milk when I crockpot. I will use the dry nonfat powdered milk with the amount of water called for.

2-3 chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I make my own cream of soups)
1 can skim milk or water
3/4 cup rice (NOT instant)
1 cup water
1 chicken bouillon cube (I usually leave out)
peas, broccoli or any other vegetable you like
Put chicken breasts in the crockpot. Add soup, milk, rice, water, bouillon cube and vegetables in the crockpot. Cook on low setting for 8-10 hours.

Chicken Taco Filling
1 packet taco seasoning (or 4 tbsp. bulk seasoning)
1 cup chicken broth
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
Dissolve seasoning into the broth. Place chicken breasts in crockpot and pour chicken broth over. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.
With two forks, shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Use in soft or hard tacos, burritos, nachos, etc.
**NOTE: This can be frozen, in its own juices, in plastic freezer bags.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Kitchen Magic

I found this article online, since I am adding a FUNCTIONAL kitchen layout to my 2007 goals I thought this was appropriate! I like to be frugal with time spent in my kitchen that is wasted... I dislike nothing more than having to spend 15 minutes searching for something that didn't get put where it belongs...


By Ramona Creel of

It’s amazing -- some people manage to get a complete aerobic workout just while preparing dinner! Back and forth, back and forth -- I get tired just watching! Today, pay attention to the way you move while you cook. How many times do you cross the length of your kitchen in one evening? Do you find yourself doing squats to get at your pans? Stretches to reach your dishes? Are you becoming a world-class hurdler, jumping over the dog’s dish every time you go from refrigerator to stove? All it takes is a few minutes to re-arrange your kitchen storage, saving you a lot of time and energy in the long run.


We all know how disgusting it is to pull an item out of the fridge, only to discover that it has mutated. However, we often mistakenly confuse NON-PERISHABLE with INDESTRUCTIBLE. Even Twinkies have an expiration date! Do yourself a favor today -- go through your cabinets and toss out anything that is old, rancid, stale, or hairy. And as you purge, be sure to keep a shopping list of items you need to replace. It’s also not a bad idea to make cleaning out the kitchen a part of your regular “home maintenance” routine. You may use these food “life expectancies” as a guide -- but when in doubt, trust your gut (or your nose!):

- Canned foods (2-5 years)

- Flours (3-6 months)

- Cereal (6 months)

- Grains / Legumes (1 year)

- Pasta (1 year)

- Dried Herbs (6 months)

- Spices (6-12 months)

- Condiments (1 year)


Every implement or supply that you use tends to fall into one of five categories -- cleaning, food storage, cooking, food preparation, and serving. The goal is to keep your equipment nearest the appropriate center, making it easier for you to perform your kitchen duties.

- Your CLEANING station consists of the sink, dishwasher, and trashcan. Of course, soap, disinfectants,
sponges, and rags should be stored in a cabinet nearby.

- The stove is central to any COOKING activities, so keep utensils, baking sheets, pots, and pans within
easy reach. If you can, also move the microwave and toaster into this area.

- Your FOOD PREPARATION center should be located near a large workspace (countertop or island).
You will probably want to store knives, a cutting board, mixing bowls, blender, food processor,
measuring cups, and other related implements close by.

- FOOD STORAGE, on the other hand, will center on the refrigerator -- and should include room for
Tupperware containers, canned foods, dry goods, and fresh fruits or vegetables.

- Your SERVING center may be split between the kitchen and dining area. It is often easier to store serving
dishes, linens, and candles near the table – while flatware, glasses, and plates usually work well closer to
the sink (it’s easier to put them away after washing).


Now, let’s tackle your cabinets and drawers. Limit yourself to one category of paraphernalia per area. That may mean putting canned goods on one shelf and boxes on another -- or keeping dishes separate from glasses. Organize your kitchen in a way that makes sense to you, but try to avoid storing food and cookware together in the same cabinet.

Storage paraphernalia can also do wonders with your current storage spaces. Stepped shelving makes it easier to see items hidden in the back of a deep cabinet -- and drawer dividers will help keep your utensils under control. Remember that rectangular storage containers take up less space than round ones -- and pot lids / flat cookware are more accessible when lined up in a vertical rack. Finally, don’t forget the many ways to turn “dead” spaces into useful storage -- including pullout racks, wall pegs, lazy susans, cup hooks, stacking bins, hanging storage, and space-saving appliances.


One final concern in your kitchen is movement from one “center” to the next. Some people claim that you should be able to reach every major appliance in one step. That seems highly impractical, especially if you have a very large kitchen. However, you can make your life a bit easier if you keep motion in mind. Try viewing your kitchen as a triangle -- SINK to STOVE to REFRIGERATOR. Your goal is to keep those paths clear! If you have to dodge garbage cans, recycling bins, or any other obstacles to get back and forth, you are doing too much work.


Ramona Creel is the founder of -- offering "a world of organizing solutions!"

Visit for organizing products, free tips, a speakers bureau -- and even get a referral for a Professional Organizer near you. And if you are interested in becoming a Professional Organizer, we have all the tools you need to succeed. (Copyright 2001, Ramona Creel)


Club Mom article...

Click here to register for your free ClubMom membership
Our Budget Basics

By ClubMom Member Janette, Omaha, NE

When we were in college and first married, my husband and I made $7,000 - $8,000 together annually. Now that we're out of college, my husband works and I stay home with our children. He makes more than we made during our college years, but we use the same budgeting method.

We were both able to get out of college debt free, and remain debt free other than our house payment and the minivan we just purchased. Here's how we do it:

First, we make a spreadsheet. On top of the spreadsheet we list the amount of money we have each month to spend.

We then list in order of necessity the things that we'll be spending our money on, starting with essentials such as house payment, food, insurance, gas, and so on. As we get down towards the bottom we list things like "date money, spending money, clothing," and so forth.

Read more here!

Janette is a ClubMom Member from Omaha, NE.

Copyright © 2006, CMI Marketing, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Getting Paid to Blog Ok, so I guess I have to put this in here somewhere!

I was referred to this site from Lee at who says he has already made $25 and it didn't take much on his part at all.

So I have signed up & am awaiting my first assignment!!!

I still have one blog pending approval, but I am waiting for an assignment, hopefully after the holidays something will pop up & I can get started checking it out.

So pop on over & sign up!!!

2007 goals

2. Setting up the office.

Since I'm not sure I am going to continue my PartyLite business at this time, I am generalizing this one. My files are a wreck, stuff is everywhere. I am not sure where anything is.

I have started, so the skeleton is there. I would love to set up my area for scrap booking, and such. I have 2 totes of pictures & stuff that needs to be put in albums (I started this about 6 years ago, when I had only one baby & he slept a lot!)

So goal 2 is to set up a workable workspace, where we can easily run our business & household from.

3. Exercise & eating healthy:
Well I will continue to walk with my sister. I have added some kind of exercise equipment to my spring tag sale "looking for" list. She has a gazelle & loves it, I would like a treadmill, but a gazelle would be ok. I know I rarely go to a sale without at least 1 piece of exercise stuff. I need to drink more water, less coffee (HA), eating convenience foods is the death of healthy living! So cutting back on convenience foods (prepackaged, drive thru, takeout, etc). I have 2 freezers & a spare fridge. I am going to make my own conveniece foods. I figure one day a week I can do a session & get the freezers full.

4. New clothes that fit. I can get a head start, since I got a few gift cards for Christmas gifts. I may even finish some of the projects I started while I was working, I'll at least have a few skirts that fit right! I am going to spend 1 day a week in the sewing room doing a UFO, some of that will be clothing!

Ok, I'll go over more later, I'm still trying to think up some really good ones!!!

Dust covers for new fangled sweepers.

Ok, so while I love the disposable cleaning pad sensation, they wreak havoc on a budget, so...

I have created my own pads. You can recycle old towels, flannel blankets, even the nice micro fiber towels can be cut to fit the sweeper.

I just made a pattern using a pad so I had the tabs right. I didn't sew a thing, just cut out the pattern & now I can stick them on the sweeper, wet with cleaner, water or nothing & go. When I'm done the rag goes in the wash.

If you don't have any old towels or flannel blankets to recycle try a thrift shop or yard sale, even having to buy your materials would be cheaper in the long run!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Ok, so I've had time to think about it ~my craft addiction that is~ and I think that I have done a good job with what I have!!!

There is no way to get around the little expenses that creep up. Thread is to the sewer like eggs are to cake. It just isn't one with out the other. I am also at a point where I am not accumulating, I am replacing. Besides dh & I haven't been on more than an overnight in 12 years (there was a long weekend we called a honeymoon). Everyone needs a vacation, and right now mine is my sewing room!!!

So I guess that doing my craft as frugally as possible is the best I can do! Just wish there were a fabric store I could work at...Loved the employee discount!!!

I just got a 13 gal bag of clothes from my Mom. It's full of fleece, flannel & denim. There is even a silk pant suit. Not sure what I'll do with that, but it felt nice & some of it was quilted, so who know the possibilities are endless. Our Salvation Army got what I didn't take, so nothing will go to waste.

So for now I just need to evaluate my projects, work from my stash & stick to replacing only what is essential!

~Sigh~ As long as I avoid the stores I'll be ok!!!

Recipe Blog

Ok so I am setting up a blog for my recipes! I have thousands...(ok it's another addiction...)

I'll be adding as I can. I am going to add the tried & true ones first, so it may take a while! I'll still post the "frugal" ones here too.

Check out The Festival of Frugality #53

My Gingerbread Latte's are over there!!! I can't wait to see what next weeks is like!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Peanut Butter Cookies *** Update

I finally got around to making these this AM. I made the WHOLE batch. It took a 19.75 oz bag of Hershey's Kisses & I still had 2 dz plain pb cookies. So I have 120 blossoms & 24 regual pb cookies.

I used my mixer to blend the wet ingredients than added them to the dry in a very large plastic container (I usually use a large stock pot, but it's in the garage????) I mixed that by hand.

I am also on this health kick where I like to sneak healthy stuff into food, so I swapped a couple tablespoons of flour for some milled flaxseed. You can't tell & who ever thought they'd get omega-3 from a cookie!!! I have also swapped out some of the white flour for whole wheat . If you don't go too extreme no one can tell.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


I am a crafting addict!

There I said it!!! Admitting you have a problem is half the battle right!!! Ok, so I justify my craft with lofty attitudes... I am recycling clothes into something we can keep using, I can get a better fit if I sew it myself, the kids love the stuff I make them...

Ok, so honestly, the problem is that I am trying not to spend ANY money. Which is "impossible" if you want to sew, knit, craft, etc... I am ok on elastic for a little while & I am ok on white serger thread, I have a rainbow of shiny embroidery thread, and FABRIC, eek, don't ask, cuz I won't tell.

I know I am getting 4 cones of black serger thread in my stocking... However, I need batting (I have some for a crib quilt I'm making & some flatter fleece for a table runner), my Mom requested I make her a quilted Mixer Cozy. No problem, SURE!!! It has to match the table runner I made her (ok, so I need to find the same fabric??? Ebay???) and I am running low on white thread, and the gray to match the prison guards pants is almost gone (I do random hem jobs, esp for my brother). I wanted to sew my Dad a nice gun cover, but I would need 5 feet of zipper, not even sure if I can get that locally anymore.....

This is where my struggle lies... And dh's of course, cuz he doesn't seem to understand that it takes a few things to make the nice things I make....

There should be a 12 step program out there!!! I started sewing clothing, then I worked in a fabric shop & started quilting, now I am trying to learn to knit, I can already crochet, I have a file drawer full of odds & ends saved to be glued into rainy day crafts with the kids. (I will have to take pictures of the CD rom ornaments we made, since I have to make more, thanks AOL!!!)

So if I ever sound conflicted, stray off topic.... Please thump me & set me back to right!!!

This is the same struggle we all go through I think, because it isn't just for my crafting bent. I HATE going to the store, getting a $100 bill & realizing that in 2 months 90% of what we bought will be competely gone, some quicker than that. I have made a list of every thing we use on a regular basis that has to be replaced & it is mind boggling. I am sure I am not the most frugal when it comes to toiletries & such, but I have weird hair & it really does have a mind of its own...

When you think about it the laundry, the bathroom, the pantry, the printer paper, STAMPS, pens, pencils, tape......I could go on all day. Batteries is the worst culprit of all. What doesn't take batteries now???

Dh's & my arguments beging something like this..."Where is the digital camera, oh here it is, hey why isn't it working, what do you mean you don't have batteries for it, weren't you just at the store (sure I was but we didn't have $14 left over to buy the right batteries, thought milk bread & cheese where more important) they can't cost that much, oh you just forgot..." "Oh wow, they do cost $14 & those are the cheap ones, wouldn't the $20 be better??? (Ok, well at least I'm not a total idiot)" My favorite is over printer ink!!! To replace the ink in both printers would cost us over $100. So when I get "why doesn't the fax machine have black ink?" I usually just try to hide!!!

One can only make so much go so far, all that anyone should ask is that you do the best you can!

I am sure I fit every definition of the Sidetracked Home Executives from and I can't even make it through a post with out getting sidetracked!!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

More MYO Recipes

I created the hot cocoa mix recipe from several I had found online. I am a coffee nut, fanatic, slightly obsessed... I am glad that I don't live or work any where's near a Starbucks & I am too big a snob to go for the icky convenience store ones regularly (maybe in a moment of desperation!!!) SO the tons of mochas & lattes & creamer recipes I have collected get used frequently!!!

Hot Chocolate Mix
4 cups dry milk
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
½ tsp salt
1/2 cup non dairy powdered creamer
1 tsp instant coffee (optional)

Mix ingredients and store in an air-tight container. Use 1/4 cup mix per cup of boiling water. Makes 20 cups total.

I have made this with mini marshmallows and or mini chocolate chips. I store mine in a zip lock bag. This is also good with a peppermint candy cane stir stick.

Gingerbread Coffee Creamer
2 cups Coffemate Powdered Creamer
1/2 c. packed DARK Brown sugar
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
Blend well, store in zip lock bag. Add 1 Well Rounded tsp to Hot Coffee or Tea.

Mocha Mix
¼ cup powdered non-dairy coffee creamer
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup instant coffee
Blend this dry mix in a blender. Use 1 tablespoon of mix to 6 ounces boiling water. Makes 16 servings.

To show that I have other yummy things to offer, besides COFFEE or chocolate!!! We use this all summer on grill food!
Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.
Yield: about 2/3 cup

Monday, December 18, 2006

Day After Christmas Poem

I found this online this morning, thought it was cute & I just had to share with everyone!

'Twas the Day After Christmas
From Unknown

Twas the day after Christmas, and all through the house,Every creature was hurtin' even the mouse. The toys were all broken, their batteries dead; Santa passed out, with some ice on his head.

Wrapping and ribbons just covered the floor,While upstairs the family continued to snore.
And I in my T-shirt, new Reeboks and jeans,I went into the kitchen and started to clean.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,I sprang from the sink to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like a flash,Tore open the curtains, and threw up the sash.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,But a little white truck, with an oversized mirror.

The driver was smiling, so lively and grand;The patch on his jacket said "U.S. POSTMAN."

With a handful of bills, he grinned like a fox.Then quickly he stuffed them into our mailbox.
Bill after bill, after bill, they still came.Whistling and shouting he called them by name:"Now Dillard's, now Broadway's, now Penny's and Sears Here's Robinson's, Levitz's and Target's and Mervyn's. To the tip or your limit, every store, every mall, Now chargeaway-chargeaway-chargeaway all!"

He whooped and he whistled as he finished his work.He filled up the box, and then turned with a jerk.He sprang to his truck and he drove down the road,Driving much faster with just half a load.

Then I heard him exclaim with great holiday cheer,

Where it came from:

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Ahh the dreaded emergency repair...
I think this is why the first step in most programs for debt reduction say to start an emergency savings fund. I know, but have I done it? NO! Not yet at least. But then I am not in 100% control of things right now. In fact it is becoming an increasingly more difficult struggle over finances here...

So, how would we handle such a crisis. {We have glass coverage on the van, so as long as it wasn't one of the kids fault we'd only have a deductible to pay, but other emergencies happen} Like last year, when on Dec 21st we woke up to a 51 degree house. Hmmmm that's odd, the furnace should be running.... oh my furnace died, the wiring actually fried, we were lucky it didn't start a more serious fire.

So we bought the coal furnace ( ). We thankfully had been saving to replace the furnace & had some money set aside (enough to cover the install, fuel & a first payment on the furnace). Of course I found out in June that we hadn't made a payment in months...but that's another post about sharing responsibility & decisions & earning trust...

I have read that a good emergency account is 3 months pay. OK, that amount of money will take years to build up. Unless you are single, renting & would like to live out of your car for 4 months (you still have to pay for the car right???). I know that the way to become wealthy is to pay yourself first, but emergencies happen all the time. The furnace wiped us out completely. All of the money we saved was gone, now we find ourselves starting over again. So how much do you sock aside, when you don't make enough to pay the bills to begin with.

I know that we are putting our biggest expenses to work for us. Our house is a 3 unit, do I like living with tenants HECK NO, but the extra $ every month helps us keep our payment to a minimum. So we got 2x the house for the same money.

Our next biggest expense was the ice cream business, long story but I am pretty sure that ship is sailing away! So, that one didn't work out this summer for us at all, at least last year we did a little better than break even. This year, I know it is still costing us... Why am I not the one in charge??? Grrrrr. All of the things I said wouldn't work, guess what THEY DIDN'T!!! Ah such is life.

Our 3rd biggest expense (not really monetarily our biggest, just the first one I would cut if I could) is our DSL, thankfully I convinced him to drop the cable modem...We get our DSL for $45, the cable was $75. So we saved $30 a month there, but of course DH needs it to work, dial up just isn't fast enough for his up links. At least it's mostly deductible. So we need to make the Internet work for us. I know he is looking at other things to do (selling high demand items, google adwords, etc).

I wish I could say the candle consultant business is going to save us, yeah right!!! I am really only doing it thinking I'll get out of the house & be around adults once in a while... Plus it isn't really something I want to go out & do 5 nights a week, I'd be happy with 1. Of course at 1 night a week, it just about keeps you busy enough to not be profitable, so we'll see. Postage alone is crazy!!! (Deductible at least, but then you need income to deduct from right!)

So I am adding to my list of 2007 Goals to save $100 a month (in an account) for emergencies!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Lazy Saturday

I was going to post about Goal 2 of 2007, but I'm just not inspired. Soooo, I'm gonna share my Gingerbread Latte Recipe with you. It's a copy of Starbucks, I think, anyway it's still YUMMY!!! I use it in regular coffee too, not 1/4 cup but to taste (I go about 1 Tbs or so, depending on stregth of coffee). (It was also good with my home made hot chocolate mix...)

So make this at home & save the $5 you'd spend!

Gingerbread latte

Gingerbread Syrup
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup fresh espresso
8 ounces milk, steamed (with a little foam)

whipped cream
ground nutmeg

1. Make the gingerbread syrup by combining water, sugar, ginger, cinnamon and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Be sure the pan is not too small or the > mixture could easily bubble over.
2. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat and simmer syrup, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat when it's done and slap a lid on it.
3. Make a double shot of espresso (1/2 cup), using an espresso machine. Use the machine to steam 8 ounces of milk, or heat up the milk in the microwave if your machine does not foam and steam milk.
4. Make your latte by first adding 1/2 cup espresso to a 16-ounce cup. Add 1/4 cup gingerbread syrup, followed by the steamed milk. Stir.
5. Top off the drink with a dollop of whipped cream, and a sprinkle of nutmeg. Makes 1 grande latte (16 ounces).

Friday, December 15, 2006

Goal 1

Teach my kids respect for money.

Give them knowledge & understanding of how the world works. And how to think out of the box.

The Rich Dad website has great products. I know the game for kids is on top of my things to buy in the new year (have ya noticed I am a list person... & yes there really is a list!) I have read

I think I am getting Rich Woman: A Book on Investing for Women - Because I Hate Being Told What to Do! for Christmas...

I think dh bought himself Why We Want You to be Rich: Two Men - One Message

So once I read em I'll let you know what I think... I can say that the first 2 books I've read have given me the tools to get as far as we have. Granted lots of past problems & that stupid voice inside that (ok DAD) says you can't do THAT!

I don't want to be the voice holding my kids back when they are ready to claim their future. I don't want the "get good grades, go to college, get a GOOD JOB" echos in their heads. Education is the cornerstone of our society, but really. Why go into debt $50K before you are 20 so you can get a good job at McDs... The loan payments alone will require 2 jobs. Dh & I both fell into the GOOD Job philosophy. I was smack dab in the middle when I figured out I didn't want to go forward, but had NO exit strategy. I interned in exactly what I wanted to do & HATED IT. I found myself in the bathroom sobbing more than once. I don't want to teach my kids that they have to do it anyways because it's a good paycheck.

There are many things the Prince already needs to UNlearn & he is only in 2nd grade. He is absolutely offended if you offer him a soda pop, because the "Drug Education Guy" told them it's a drug... OK so maybe caffeine is, BUT, I felt like a pusher!!! I was afraid he'd call social services on me... Of course he has never liked the stuff anyways, but the Princess(3) will down a can in a heartbeat (so we don't have it around often).

Frugal tangent~~~Besides the obvious sugar content & no I don't think a 3 year old is attractive all hyped up on caffeine & sugar (I don't buy into the theory that it has NO effect, come over after she's been into the Halloween candy jar). I just don't feel it's a frugal thing. So I buy it on sale or store brand, but I find that having it in the house keeps dh from drinking water.~

There are many levels to our families frugalness. But the only reason we do any of it, is because we want to be successful & raise successful children. I can't wait for my January check to arrive so I can order the Cash Flow game & play with the kiddos!!! I am hoping to learn just as much as they do!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Figuring out my 2007 Goals

Thinking about 2007 & the goals & resolutions I have. I know it’s early for some, but I like to plan ahead, so I can cherry pick from the list & choose the best ones (ie one’s I’m most likely to stick with.) Obviously I am not going to EVER give up chocolate or really truly eat better…

So far the list is decent:
1. Teach my children respect for money.
How to save, budget, spend wisely, plan for the future, what really is rich, etc….

2. Set up the office for my PartyLite Business. I am really new & nothing is organized yet, so every time I need something I have to dig for it. I need to.
a Set up files
b Have Hostess folders ready to go
c Keep my inventory organized
d Have envelopes & labels at the ready as well as stamps

3. Continue to exercise & do healthy things. Drink lots of water, keep walking, eat as many healthy meals a week as possible.
4. Buy new clothes that fit & make me feel good.
5. Spend at least one hour a day in the creative process (sewing, knitting, crafting)

6. Spend less time on the computer (or at least organize my time better)

7. Get the Princess Potty Trained.

8. Get the Princess to sleep in her own bed.

9. Organize my pantry.

10. Create Emergency Kits for the family.

11. Do something in my businesses every day.

Ok so not bad, it's only Dec 12 & I have 11!!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Virtual Cookie Exchange

I have this recipe scaled to make lots & lots. This is a tried & true family favorite. I always make the blossoms first then either freeze the leftover dough or make regualr cookies with it. I think this takes just about a bag & a half of kisses.

Peanut Butter Cookies
3 cup of peanut butter (crunchy or creamy)
2 cup of shortening
5 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
12 tablespoons milk
4 tablespoon vanilla
4 egg
7cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoon baking soda

Mix first five ingredants together at med speed until blended good. Add the egg, and mix well. At low speed Gradually add last three ingredients. Mix for 1 min longer. Scoop on to pan and make a criss cross on top with a fork. ( I just push it down gently with my fingers) Bake at 375 for 6 to 8 min. when you see them starting to set and are starting to turn brown take them out. Once they start to crack they have almost been to long. If I see one start to crack I pull them out quick. If you are going to freeze them scoop them out and put them on a cookie sheet. I go ahead and make my criss cross on them before I freeze them. Once frozen put them into a ziplock.

Variations Peanut butter blossoms Use creamy peanut butter. Make your balls with a small scoop (if you only have a med cookie scoop brake them in half) and roll them in sugar (do not flatten). Place on a cookie sheet and bake till just starting to brown. Pull them out and push a Hershey's kiss down on the center of the cookie. These are awesome.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Ah Christmas!

Ok so I am still not feeling the mood at all! Dh decorated the house, looks like
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (Special Edition) in here.

Maybe it's because Christmas is starting to mean my birthday & that is becoming increasingly depressing! Not just a constant reminder of my increasing age, but of my lack of real adult direction. I know what I am good at, I know what I am doing is important & worthy. I guess it just isn't wholly the direction I thought I would be going by now...

I wish I could say that we were being really frugal this Christmas & only doing simple decorations, but no! We (Dh decorated remember) have the large retro christmas bulbs on a string in each of the leaded glass windows. Now what used to be a dark room unless the sun was setting (a phenomenon I know happens daily but we haven't seen here since September...) is now so bright I walked in to "turn off the light cuz no one was in the room" & realized that it was just decorations.

We have already pruchased the childrens gifts. Dh & I are buying a new printer, that's what we decided we needed. Our exchange gifts will be simple, candle stuff, handmade or online purchases. Guess I need to go make some cut outs cookies!!! That always screams Christmas to me.

By the way, I discovered a virtual cookie exchange happening Monday the 11th! Sounds like fun & I love a good recipe!!!

Thursday, December 7, 2006

Snowy Day in WNY.

I am somewhat spoiled in the energy usage department... We live in a village with reduced electric rates & last winter we had a coal furnace installed,yes COAL

So sitting here watching it snow like crazy outside isn't really bugging me, but... Our house was built in 1867 or so & is extremly drafty (or as I like to say WINDY). I am sitting in one of the cold rooms, previous owners didn't bother to run a heating vent to this room after they divided a bedroom into 2??? But the worst room is our sons bedroom. His closet door has to have something propped against it our the wind will blow it open...

Sooooo I know a thing or two about draft stoppers. We put plastic on the windows in that room the first year we lived here, only to have them BLOW OFF, our first real construction project will be window replacement! I have thermal lined drapes in there now. It is helping, just not lots, again windy! We have plans to insulate the closet soon. It is tucked under the tennants stairway & might as well be open to the outside. There was NO insulation at all in this closet. Someone actually stapled wallpaper over the bottom of the stairs & that was the ceiling.

I know those of you with older homes are relating! We have our hands full with this one!!!

Back to the coal furnace. I am not fond of it personally, however I cannot complain about the bills it generates either. I just haven't figured out how to get or keep it going (chalking that up to a totally sexist notion that it isn't MY job!). We were able to heat our home comfortably last year for approximately $600. Our first year gas bill was over $2000 for the winter, we are still paying on it! I really wanted the wood pellet furnace but our supplier was out & the gas furnace (which happened to be a whopping 15 years older than we were told) decided to die 3 days before Christmas last year. What ya gonna do, gotta stay warm. And warm we are! The average temperature of our house has gone from 62 to 72. Even the hardwoods in the kitchen aren't frigid to walk across barefoot. BTW did I mention that even installed we probably spent less on the coal furnace than we would have replacing the gas one! So lets review $2000 = 62 degrees with a baby in the house $600=72+ degrees in the house & I don't have to own stock in a slipper company.... I guess if you are looking for a change RUN don't walk to your local wood stove, pellet stove or coal store retailer. I have heard better things about local dealers than the big chains....SERVICE is a huge issue with me.

Well anywho, my frugal tip for draft dodging... sew up a door sock! I used a scrap of leftover fabric (big enough to fit across the bottom of the door), an old pillow for stuffing & a pound of white rice (uncooked & not instant). You could also use beans or anything heavy (rocks...), it's just to give it weight. I folded the fabric in half & sewed the long side & one short side. Turned it right side out. Stuffed it with stuffing from the pillow & then used a funnel to add the rice. Then I folded the unsewen short side twice to hide the unfinished edge & sewed across. After all it is for keeping out the cold not a fashion accessory. I have seen these in adorable patterns & cute-sie designs, but functionality is all that's necessary. Besides the kids are already tempted to play with it...if it was a doll or reindeer it would never be doing it's job!

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

The Grocery Store Excursion

I was at the grocery store today & realized just how cheap I am!!! My regular laundry soap was a whopping $5.69, I usually pay $4.something... Of course I try to have a coupon, but I didn't today. So I didn't buy it. With the difference in what I would have spent I bought a really off brand for $1.99. I know I will regret it, but the way I do laundry it won't last more than 2 weeks! I had to go the regular grocery store because I am making wontons for our family Christmas Sunday (extended family at least). I have already made the chocolate peanut butter balls, crinkle cookies, & baked crab rangoons. I still have to make the cheesecake dip & beef dip for my Mom. She works Saturday afternoons & doesn't have time to do all she wants to!

I did manage to get a few things done today for Christmas. I drew my Sister so I ordered her an itunes gift card from itunes . iTunes gift certificates

She has had her ipod for a while now & she bought her hubby one for his birthday, so music is a great gift & I get to pretend I was frugal because there was no shipping charge!!!

My kids are done with (I still need to pick up a bubble bath for dd & some candy for stockings). I am very thankful we aren't at ages where someone has to have the wii or ps3. They were easy this year, dd has been done for a while. I picked her main gift up over the summer on sale!!! Woohoo happy dance, of course she is 3 & will probably have as much fun with the box. She can turn anything into a parade & a song.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Day 5...63 gift ideas under $10

I am not sure where I got this list from, but it's been a great help to me since I found it! I find myself pulling it up throughout the year to get my creative juices flowing!

We are lucky that we have a craft & farmer market close by, so I can get a bunch of locally made stuff that are good additions to any gift basket. Our market has everything wood carvers, ostrich farmer, candle & soap makers, sewers, wines, spices & mixes, fudge, coffee (locally roasted, yum), flags, bird feeders, bead work, maple syrup (local of course)... I could go on & on. So if you are lucky enough to have one of these great resources near by visit them often, I am always amazed at what they have for sale each time I go! It sure beats going to Wal**** for my gifts. I still do, of course they are the only mass merchandiser we have anymore. But, I think that for my gift giving $ local shopping is usually the best bet. People truly appreciate bits of your local culture and if you are careful you can get a great deal.

So here's the list!
63 Gift Ideas for Under $10
1. Gourmet coffees with a personal coffee cup
2. A pound of pistachios
3. Child's artwork, framed
4. Journal with special inscription inside
5. Teacup with box of herbal tea
6. Deck of cards and book of card game rules
7. Homemade cocoa mix in a pretty jar
8. Collage of special photos
9. Gel pens and pretty stationary
10. Bottle of sparkling cider
11. Home baked bread, include recipe
12. Disposable camera or rolls of film
13. Basket filled with deli cheese and fruit
14. Craft supplies
15. Holiday serving bowl or platter
16. Pretty basket filled with special jams or mustards
17. Decorative napkins and napkin rings
18. Fancy chocolate bars tied with a ribbon
19. Gardening gloves with a plant or flower seeds
20. Photo album, hand decorated is even better
21. Makeup tote
22. Prepaid photo developing envelopes
23. Homemade cookie mix with instructions for baking
24. Variety of bread mixes
25. Special coffee cup filled with candy
26. Fancy magazines tied together with a pretty ribbon
27. Gourmet popcorn and flavored oil
28. Locally made barbeque or steak sauce with basting brush
29. Pancake or waffle mix and a bottle of real maple syrup
30. Movie theater gift certificates
31. Board games (I just scored Checkers for $2.49, yes to outlet stores!!!)
32. Jar of sourwood or pure honey with biscuit mix
33. Note cards and book of stamps
34. Picture frames, buy them on sale!
35. Specialty cookbook
36. Pretty glass jar filled with candy
37. Collectible sports cards
38. Muffin mixes with muffin pan
39. Books, there are still a few for under $10
40. Set of dish towels and dish cloths
41. Nail polish kit
42. Pretty night shirt
43. Basket filled with kitchen gadgets
44. Video rental gift certificates
45. Pepper mill and fresh peppercorns
46. Handwritten copies of your favorite recipes
47. For the pets, gourmet dog biscuits or cat treats
48. Baking pans and supplies
49. Prepaid long distance phone cards
50. Small clock or radio
51. Pretty box for keepsakes
52. Colorful Post-It notepads
53. Address book
54. Christmas ornaments
55. Puzzles
56. Blank video or cassette tapes
57. Sewing supplies
58. Flashlight with batteries
59. Favorite quote embroidered on a nice handkerchief
60. Makeup brush set
61. Expensive socks, still under $10 (the new slipper socks are great, I wear mine out over the year so give them to me again & again, I'd love it!)
62. Special soaps and bath puff
63. and don't forget my absolute favorite... home baked cookies!

I also should add homemade candy. I make "to-die-for" Truffles that are super easy, my Aunt-in-law makes chocolate covered nuts clustered in the tiny muffin cups then gives them in holiday tins. It is so easy all you need are chocolate chips & something to cover it them! WIth the variety of flavored chips you can get as creative as you want. One year I made raspberry truffles with raspeberry flavored chocolat chips, mint is another good one. This year my truffles are going to be dipped in dark chocolate, I can't wait!!!

Monday, December 4, 2006

Day 3 & 4

Yesterday the computer just didn't want to cooperate!!!

I posted an easy to make christmas gift on Rice Pillows! If you don's have a sewing machine don't fret. I made the first couple with tube socks & a needle & thread (just fill 2/3 with rice & hand stitch the opening closed) I used small stitches & made two passes so the rice couldn't find a way out. I purchased dh a package of tube socks form our local "dollar" store & took out 2 pair for myself.

I also wanted to share a couple more MYO recipes!

2 cups dry milk
1 1/4 cups cornstarch
1/4 cup chicken bouillon powder
2 T. dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp thyme (opt.)
1 tsp basil
Mix all and store in airtight container.
To use: 1/3 cup mix to 1 1/4 cup water will give you concentrated soup consistency. For prepared soup consistency, double the water. Combine water and mix together and heat, stirring, until it reaches boiling and thickens.
To mimic cream of celery or other flavors (mushroom, chicken, asparagus,broccoli, whatever), just add some of that ingredient which has been sautéed or otherwise cooked and minced. I use the recipe plain for most casseroles. It has a slightly different flavor but it's nice.

Egg Beaters
2 egg whites
1 T. dry powdered milk
Drop or two of yellow food coloring
Mix all together until blended. Keep refrigerated. Do not make more than 1 cupful at a time because it does not keep well

Evaporated Milk
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry powdered milk
1/2 cup warm water
Blend well.

MYO Pedialyte
2 qts water (boiled & cooled)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
7 tbs sugar
1 pkt Kool-Aid (sugar free)
Mix well, store in the fridge or MYO popsicles by freezing in cups w/sticks

Chicken-Flavored Rice Mix
4 c Uncooked Long Grain Rice
4 T Instant Chicken Bouillon
1 t Garlic Salt
2 t Dried Italian seasoning flakes
2 t Dried Parsley Flakes
1/4 t Pepper
Combine all ingredients in a ziploc bag. Shake until evenly distributed. Put in large ziploc bag and label as Chicken-Flavored Rice Mix. Store in a cool, dry place.

To Use:
1 1/3 cups Rice Mix
2 C. Cold water
1 T butter or margarine
Put all above ingredients in a medium saucepan. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat and cook for 15 to 25 minutes, until liquid is absorbed. (cooking time depends on type of rice used)
Makes about 4 cups of mix.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Day 2! Make Your Own AKA MYO!

Today I was thinking about an ebook I have

I have learned so much from this type of web information! Everyone has at some point had to cover emergency unforseen expenses. "They" keep telling us to save at least 3 months salary, but "they" also tell us that very few of are actually doing it. "They" also tell us that we have to spend tons of moneyon Christmas gifts & decor & travel &&&&&&& the ands just keep coming! So how do we make it through another holiday season, or winter blizzard season with out wrecking our finances? Smart shopping, planning ahead, making our own snacks & mixes.

Don't get me wrong, I fall prey to the "I'm too busy to cook tonight, let's order a pizza..." But I know that when I have my freezer stocked with good & quick meals, I am more likely to run down & grab a tray, than I am to pick up the phone & spend $20 on pizza & breadsticks.

I have been getting emails from I have even purchased the software, so I can download all the yummies to my computer (I think I have failed to mention my addiction to recipes...sorry!). It is a great help in planning my cooking days & I can even add my own recipes.

Of course I have files upon files of recipes I have collected over the years. Most of the ones I actually use focus on the feeding my family for as little $ as possible. So my first step was to stop buying all of the prepackaged convenience foods, at least at full retail. I try to make as many things from scratch as possible. Make Your Own (MYO) has been my way of life for a long time! Granted MYO Oreos aren't nearly as yummy, but that's what sales & coupons are for! I do like that in making my own mixes I know what goes in them, I can toss in a few tablespoons of ground flaxseed, or add some secret whole wheat. I can take out some of the salt & know that I'm not adding in any preservatives.

I buy my baking supplies in bulk. I buy 25 pounds of flour at a time, 10 pounds of sugar... I know we all don't have the storage space, but I found a bunch of cheap large plastic containers at "dollar stores" to keep my stash fresh. I have noticed these larger sizes creeping into our local grocery stores, but you need to read the labels! Sometimes larger isn't always cheaper. I go every 6 months or so to our wholesale club (I do have a membership, but we also own businesses, deduction!). I know how hard it is to get through one of those monster stores & not kill your months budget, but I go prepared, stick with what I need & always allow myself some flexibility, but not lots. Frequently they have great deals on something I use, or oh yeah while we are here we should pick up printer ink.... It happens to us all!

So about once a month I dig out the recipes & start going. I make pancake mix, bread mix (for the bread machine), biscuit mix (ie bisquick), hot cocoa mix, sometimes cake or brownie mix. I store most of these in plasctic containers with flip lids that I bought at our local "dollar" store (not one of the everything for a dollar ones).

I also use this time of year to stock up on baking supplies for the rest of the year. We are lucky to have an Aldi here, they offer no brand goods at a fraction of the cost, so I buy my cocoa, corn syrup, nuts, baking powder, soda, etc from there.

So here are a couple of my favorite MYO recipes...

Potato Bread Mix (1-1/2 pound loaf)

I make multiple batches of this recipe, I just measure ingredients into zip lock bags.

3 1/4 cups bread flour
1/2 cup Dry Potato Flakes
1 Tbsp. White Sugar
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
Place the above ingredients into a large (gallon) sized zip baggie and seal.
To make the bread later, you will need the following additional ingredients:
1 1/4 cups Warm Water (110 degrees F)
2 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
2 3/4 tsp. Active Dry Yeast (1 pkg.) Or 2 3/4 tsp. Quick Acting Active Dry Yeast (1 pkg.)
Place all wet ingredients into the bread pan, then add the dry ingredients on top, reserving the yeast for last.
Insert the bread pan into the bread maker, and select "White", desired crust color, rapid or normal baking cycle and
loaf size. Select desired delay option, and press Start. You should store these mixes in a cool, dry place just as you would store the pre-packaged mixes you can purchase in the stores.

Crescent Rolls

This is the recipe I use when I need Crescent Rolls, it is easy to make and very good. I will probably never buy Crescent Rolls again.
This recipe equals two packages of rolls.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pkg. yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3-1/2 to 4 cups flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water, let stand 5-10 minutes until foamy. Heat milk until bubbles appear around the edges. Combine butter, sugar and salt. Cool to lukewarm. Add yeast and egg into milk mixture at low speed. Beat in 2 cups flour until smooth. Beat in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead a little. Let rise one hour. Punch down and divide dough into two parts. Cover and let rest 10 minutes. Roll out each ball to a 12 inch circle, cut each one into 8ths. Roll from wide end to the point. Lay on greased sheet and let rise 30 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees. Makes 16 rolls or equal to two containers of Crescent Rolls. You can use this dough in any recipe calling for Crescent Rolls, they are fluffier and nicer to work with than what you buy. If I only need half of the recipe in a recipe than I make rolls with the other half.

Ranch-Style Dressing Mix

15 Saltines
2 cups Dry minced parsley flakes
1/2 cup Dry minced onion
2 tablespoons Dry dill weed
1/4 cup Onion salt
1/4 cup Garlic salt
1/4 cup Onion powder
1/4 cup Garlic powder
Salad Dressing
1 tablespoon Mix
1 cup Mayonnaise
1 cup Buttermilk
Put crackers through blender on high speed until powdered. Add parsley, minced onions, and dill weed. Blend again until powdered. Dump into bowl. Stir in onion salt, garlic salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Put into container with tight-fitting lid.Store dry mix at room temperature for 1 year. Makes 42 1 tablespoon servings.To use mix--Combine mix, mayonnaise, and buttermilk.
Yield: 1 pint.

Self-Rising Flour

1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Combine. Makes 1 cup.

Friday, December 1, 2006

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Day 1 of December...

Ok, so now is the time of year when most of us start thinking about stockings & gift giving. Guilty, as charged! I really did mean to start so much sooner, but what can I say I am not a fluttering flybaby ( for nothing! I can say that thanks to black Friday specails the kiddos are done for Christmas morning gifts. We still do stockings plus gifts from Mom & Dad for Christmas Eve. They aren't getting much from us in the way of gifts this year, I know it's hard to do, but they are lucky in that we had HUGE extended families & there is never a shortage of presents to open. They just had their birthdays & we usually have to buy all of their summer stuff ourselves. I never realized how hard it would be having birthday & Christmas so close (did I mention I am a Christmas Eve baby...duh!). I guess my parents had the same problem with me, I was never in need of warm clothing, but even here in western NY we occaisionally need shorts!!!

I have been collecting ideas for inexpensive & practical stocking stuffer ideas. I have a bunch that I am going to put into use this year.

Batteries ~ No brainer, does anything not have batteries anymore!

School and art supplies ~ I'm sure the supply of pencils & erasers is dwindling at school, now is the perfect time to restock. (of course if you thought ahead & bought when everything was on special for back to school, you could be saving yourself some money!).

Bath supplies and toys ~ It's that time of year...tossing all of last years nasty bath toys & getting new ones! If you are like me you probably have a few toys that are so gross that soaking them in bleach isn't working anymore (why do they put so many grooves on bath toys, ewww). This is the time of year I get them the nice character bubble baths, usually I buy whatever is cheapest & makes bubbles! Two years ago I found some Crayola Tub tints, this has been a fun way to learn colors for the toddler & what combining colors does for the 2nd grader (then K).

I started a tradition of an ornament, dated & with their name on it. I try to find something meaningful to each child for the year, hard to do sometimes. I can usually find one for under $2. Then I just write on it with a Black Sharpie, voila instant keepsake!

Of course they'll get the chocolates & Mom has to have her candy canes (yummy in a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, rarely do they ever just get eaten!)

I try to focus on not only cheap, sorry FRUGAL gifts but also clutter free ones. If you live near a zoo or science center a family membership would be the best gift! We will probably buy season passes to our local amusement park, it's small & very kid friendly. No clutter there & a guarantee of family togetherness!!!