Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Haircut

I tried, I really, really tried, to cut her hair at home, but I just couldn't do it. I rented a DVD. I even started the haircut, but freaked out (thankfully you start cutting underneath!). So I gave in and took her to Great Clips. It was $9 well spent!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Out of the Office and A Great Link

I have been so OUT OF IT all week! I don't know if it is the combination of not having any time off with my husband being gone almost all day on Saturdays, some not-so-fun things going on in our life (if you ever need someone to talk you out of a divorce, please feel free to drop me a line!), and not getting enough sleep or just female issues, but I'm not myself. My middle sister is on her way from Michigan and her husband joins her in a few days so we'll be kind of crazy over here for a while!

But I wanted to share this amazing post by Leila at Like Mother, Like Daughter entitled "Five Things Worse Than Being In Debt".

There are many, many "frugal" blogs in cyberspace. There are even more blogs that will tell you how evil debt is, how to get out of debt, how to follow Dave Ramsey. I agree with the vast majority of it, but it tends to get old really fast for me. Don't get me wrong, we eschew credit cards with the best of them and are on a strict cash-only budget, both of which have helped us get on our feet after being in grad school together and bouts of unemployment, but we make mistakes and we doubt our decisions daily. I love Leila's post because she is absolutely right: there ARE worse things than being in debt!

Friday, October 16, 2009

10 Ways to Use Up Hot Dog Buns

My husband's high school band (who won Outstanding Music, Outstanding General Effect, Outstanding Visual Effect and took 1st place in their division at their first competition last week) runs the visiting concession stands at all home football games. This year they seem to have a plethora of hot dog buns and we have been the lucky recipients of the hand me downs.

What to do with a huge bag of hot dog buns when we usually don't eat hot dogs?

1. PB&Js (or in the case of my daughter peanut butter and butter) or regular sandwiches
2. Tuna Melts (make tuna salad, put on bun, sprinkle with cheese and toast in toaster oven)
3. Mini-Meatball Sandwiches (throw on some meatballs, sauce, cheese and toast in oven)
4. Mini Garlic Breads (combine some butter, olive oil and garlic and spread on buns; toast)
5. Grilled Cheese (just some cheese and a frying pan will do)
6. Make them in to bread crumbs (and top homemade mac and cheese!)
7. Mini Pizzas (Slather on the sauce, cheese and toppings; toast or bake)
8. Breakfast Sandwiches (egg, cheese, bacon)
9. French Toast (It really works!)
10. Freeze for later (I got tired of thinking of ways to use them up!)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Three Bears Bread

The other morning Ella brought me one of her Highlights High Five magazines (LOVE the magazine and HIGHLY recommend it!) asking if we could make "this":

I needed to make a loaf of bread anyway, so I agreed to make them. Getting her to understand that we need to mix, rest and rise, form, rest and rise, bake and THEN eat was not so easy. But we managed. I used Megan's Real Lovin' Bread recipe and made half the dough into a loaf and the other half in to three bears. We used pecan bits for the eyes as I didn't have raisins. Use half the dough for the 3 bodies then half of the rest for the heads. Divide the rest in to thirds and make 6 balls out of each third for the paws, feet, and ears. Let rise for an hour and bake at 365 for 15 minutes or so.

The original directions call for a frozen loaf of bread from the store so you can do that if making bread isn't your thing. Ella was beyond excited and thrilled with the end result. Plus you get some really cute bread to munch on!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Frugal Halloween Costumes

Halloween is quickly approaching and I've been noticing more and more costumes in store sales fliers. I have a strict $5 budget per kid per costume and I'm willing to make the costumes if I need to to stay withing my budget. But by planning ahead, I can usually find a super cute costume for $5.

I keep to my budget by purchasing costumes the week after Halloween. I generally have to wait for a few days after Halloween for the prices to really drop (50% off a $25 costume is still too expensive for me!), but every year I've managed to find a cute costume for $5 or less. I check out Wal-Mart, the Halloween stores, Party City, Jo-Anns, Gymboree, Ebay, and my favorite, The Childrens Place. They will all have prices slashed on November 1st.

Another great place to find costumes at fabulous prices are second hand stores. It is harder to find costumes $5 or less there, but they are still way less expensive than the mainstream stores. We also give away our old costumes every year and have received hand me down costumes as well. It's a great way to get a free costume!

Last year I bought my son (who wasn't even born yet!) a bumblebee costume for $5 (with shipping) on Ebay. My daughter's costume, a ladybug, was free except the black shirt and leggings I picked up for $6 at Wal-Mart last week (see how strict my budget is?). The bonus is that she can wear the shirt and leggings all winter.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Energy Efficient Pasta

A few weeks ago I read a great tip on cooking pasta (I can't remember where!). I've used it regularly since on all types of pasta and all sizes of servings. It works perfectly and saves money on energy.

Bring your water to a boil (salted if you prefer). Dump in your pasta and let water come back to a boil (I stir mine to make sure it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot). Once the water is boiling again, put on a lid and turn off the heat.

The original tip I read said to let the pasta sit in the water with the lid on for 20 minutes, but I found that way overcooks the pasta. I set the timer for the time indicated on the pasta box and test the pasta after that time. If you are using white pasta, most likely the pasta will be done. I've found that I need an extra 5 minutes for whole wheat pasta.

The bonus is that you are not using any energy to cook the pasta. You simply use the heated water.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Pumpkin Waffles

Sunday morning I made The Ultimate Pumpkin Waffles with cinnamon syrup for breakfast (yes, there is a blog dedicated entirely to pumpkin waffles!). I doubled the recipe (but only had 3 eggs)as the original states that it makes 3 Belgian waffles and I wanted to freeze a few. My doubled recipe, however, only made 3 Belgian waffles, but they were very thick. I ate half a waffle and my husband made it through 3/4 of his. My waffle maker also makes really large waffles -- 1/4 of a waffle is about 1.5 Eggo waffles. These are not a quick breakfast by any means, but they of Fall. I still prefer Brandy's Gingerbread Pancakes, but these were a nice treat.

The cinnamon syrup is superb. My husband said it was like eating liquid cinnamon rolls.

And I'll be baking up some pumpkin bread this week to use up the leftover pumpkin!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apples Galore

It is officially apple season and I have been stocking up. So far I've "processed" 25 pounds of apples with 5 pounds still sitting on my counter.

I have found that having one of these handy dandy tools makes apple life a lot happier (the fact that it keeps a three year old occupied for hours on end is a definite bonus!). Mine was $20 at Bed, Bath, and Beyond, but I paid $16 thanks to a coupon. Worth every single penny!

My first batch was some applesauce for snacking. It's in the fridge, I need to make some more to can or freeze. Ella is not a fan, but Miles can't get enough!

Next, I made apple butter (in the Crock Pot, of course!) and canned it. I haven't canned in over 15 years and then I only did peaches, but I made it through just fine using this tutorial and a canning book from the library. Thirty apples got me 10 jelly jars of apple butter. I'm planning to give these away as gifts. The jars cost $.67/each brand new and the apples were about half that making for a very useful, economical, and delicious gift!

While the apple butter cooked (I had a mishap and it did not cook overnight as planned. My Crock Pot really doesn't like me very much!) I put together three Apple Pie Kits and threw them in the freezer for a later date.

As a special treat for after dinner, I made an apple pie completely from scratch, which was amazingly easy. The last time I made an apple pie was for Thanksgiving in 1998, but it was so much work to peel and cut the apples that I never bothered again. With my new gadget, this pie came together in about 15 minutes. I only had 2 cups of unbleached white flour so I used 2 cups of a white flour/whole wheat flour/wheat germ blend (from The Sneaky Chef) and the crust turned out perfectly! I also used 2/3 cups butter and 2/3 cups lard. It was delicious, but my husband and I agreed that the pie need more "juice" in the filling. I've checked dozens of recipes and they all have same ingredients and proportions -- any suggestions?

Pie Crust (make 2 for a top/bottom pie)
2 cups flour (you can safely use up to 1/2 amount of whole wheat flour)
2/3 cup butter/shortening/lard
1 teaspoon coarse salt
5-7 Tablespoons water

Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut fat in to flour and salt. Add water and form dough. Roll out for pie plate.

I'm far from done with apples. As long as I can get organic apples for $1 or under per pound, I'll keep buying them. I'd still like to make and freeze apple bread and I found a recipe for apple fritters from my 1st grade class I want to try out.

After I'm done with the apples, the pumpkins are next!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Loving October!

Is it just me, or is October one of the best months of the year? Apples, pumpkins, canning, football, cooler weather -- I am loving it all!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Gingerbread Pancakes

Our weather has FINALLY turned in to Fall! We dropped from 101 to mid-70s in a matter of two days. The baking and canning is officially commencing!

In honor of our first official "cold" day, I made The Prudent Homemaker's Gingerbread Pancakes. Brandy lives here in Las Vegas and has been an absolute wealth of knowledge for me. I'm looking forward to learning how to garden in the desert from her, especially using my backyard walls to grow grapes and berries!

This recipe makes A LOT of pancake batter. Way more than we could eat so I froze a large Ziploc full of silver dollar sized cakes. Also, I don't like buttermilk so I just used regular milk. I cut the milk down to 2 cups (I don't like runny batter)and it was still a bit runny for me. It's a delicious, Fall treat!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Saving Money on Car Repairs

We only own one car and it is almost 10 years old. Thankfully, it is paid off and we are saving up to pay cash when old faithful gives out on us (hopefully not for another few years!). One of the ways we save major money is by doing all car repairs ourselves ... and by that I mean my husband does all the work on the car HIMself.

This weekend was an oil change. While he was at the auto parts store picking up oil (and stocking up because it was on sale), he checked out the cost of new brakes because our back brakes our squeaking. Two years ago my husband replaced the front brakes and we had a mechanic replace the back brakes (hubby didn't know how to do it). Our front brakes are just fine, but the back brakes are making noises! We paid somewhere in the neighborhood of $200-$300 to have the back brakes replaced. The cost at the auto parts store is $25 and they are guaranteed for the life of the car! If they go out, we take the old brakes back and get new ones for free. Because he doesn't know how to do the back brakes, I checked out Chilton and Haynes repair manuals from the library and studying has begun. I'm so thankful to have a husband who is comfortable around cars to do the repairs himself!

I also think it is important for our children to learn about cars so Ella spent some time outside helping Daddy with the oil change this weekend. She loved being out there with him and had no problem getting DIRTY!

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