Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Retail v. Thanksgiving

Alright. I will freely admit that this post is nothing but a rant. I know this has nothing to do with saving money, but you know what? It's my blog, so I'm going to rant anyway.

Ok, so to the point. I follow out local NBC affiliate on Facebook and lately they have made several posts about retail stores opening up on Thanksgiving and the employees that are either signing petitions or striking to try to change that. I've been disturbed by some of the comments left by other followers. Here are a few examples (I lifted these verbatim, so the awful grammar is not my own this time, and I let these jerks retain their anonymity):

  • "So really it doesnt make a difference because their are tons of other people working on Holidays and people are making a big deal out of store clerks and etc to work on holidays?? It is not hard work.."
  • "Its not like what they do is Rocket Science. of course, we have become an entitlement society and everyone believes their job is the most important."
  • "I don't see what the big deal is...like others have said most families are done with Thanksgiving dinner by 8 anyway. I'm sure the stores that are opening earlier aren't forcing the employees to work."
  • "Yep I'm shopping don't like it get a job that don't require holidays matter fact be grateful you have one I mean come on people this is a given in retail..." 
  • "Nobody forced you to work at target or Walmart or where ever it is you draw a pay check. If you don't like it find another job!"
  • "Boohoo...I know a lot of people who would be happy to take your job for you."
  • "If you whom work at walmart or any other service job do not like it go to school and get the hell out of the way."
It's the attitude behind these comments that really bothers me.

Most of you know that I work in retail. When I was hired, I knew that I would be working on Black Friday. I'm not crazy about the idea, but that's fine. But, I still get Thanksgiving Day. Not everyone in retail does. I also get holiday pay, which again, not everyone does. Not forcing their employees to work? Think again. Most retail workers are required to work on Black Friday. If they want to keep their job, they have to work that day.

But this whole attitude that the people in the above comments have pisses me off. Retail is generally not an essential thing. One day without a retail sore open is not a huge deal. Forgot the cranberries? Oh well. Should have planned ahead. You can live without cranberries.

Yes, police, firemen, nurses, etc. all have to work on holidays, but let's be real here. They are essential. We need them. And typically, they are going to be paid more that your average retail worker for their time. Besides, back when I was growing up and my mom was a respiratory therapist she worked every other holiday, so they don't have to work every holiday, in general.

Then there is the implication that retail is not hard work. That's a bunch of crap. There are lots of times when I work 10 hour shifts and come home aching all over. Being on your feet all day is tough, and couple that with customers who are pissed off over something stupid or just generally being irate because they want a discount or don't like the company policy that I have no control over doesn't make it easy at all. I work very hard at my job, thank you very much. When someone is yelling at me, I have to smile and deal with it. I have to dig through stockrooms to find a size someone is looking for, only to have them not buy it. I have to refold piles of clothing that people leave a mess. I have to do all of this and more. It is not an easy job to do retail and do it well, but I try to. So, if you are one of those people advocating for stores being open on Thanksgiving, you better be being nice to the people that are checking you out. They don't have a choice but to be there dealing with you when they would rather be at home with family.

Besides, there is absolutely no reason to be rude to them. Act like a friggin' adult.

And then there is Mr. "go to school and get the hell out of the way". I have gone to school, thank you very much, and I wager that I'm better educated that you are. Many of the retail workers I know are in college or have degrees.  Most are very intelligent. I didn't take this job because I'm stupid. I took it because I needed a job and this one was available. Would I like a job with set hours, holidays off, better pay, benefits, and that kept me off my feet? Of course! But until I can find one available, I am where I am, so I would appreciate it if I didn't get treated like I'm a moron.

People are so rude these days. I know I've said it before, but I think its an important point. There is no reason to be rude to any retail worker who is trying to help you. Be nice and make it a positive experience for both of you.

And then here is this, because I feel like this is an appropriate time to share it:

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Dining on a Dime: Cake Mix Brownies

Most of you know my now that I have a vicious sweet tooth. I could not get by without sweets and baked goods, it's just not going to happen.

I originally found this recipe on Pinterest, for Strawberry Brownies, but the link didn't go to the recipe and a search of the site it took me to didn't yield the original recipe either. I tweaked the one on the pin to my liking and am very pleased with the result.

I didn't use a strawberry cake mix, but a caramel one. This recipe took just a few minutes to prepare and in under half an hour we were enjoying yummy "brownies".

You will need:
  • 1 box of cake mix (any flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons of booze or water (more on this later)
Preheat your oven to 350°F and spray a 9x13 inch pan lightly. In a bowl mix together your ingredients until everything is incorporated. Batter will be very thick. Press evenly into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 14 minutes.

The original recipe called for only the eggs and oil. I switched the oil for butter (butter with caramel, that was a no brainer for me). The batter still wouldn't quite pull together for me and my arm was getting tired, so I added 2 tablespoons of Captain Morgan Black to the batter. Voila. Perfect.

The possibilities here are so endless. Lemon, strawberry, red velvet. You are limited only by the choices of cake mix, booze, and your imagination. These would also be incredible with chocolate chips or toffee pieces sprinkled on top. Experiment!

If you come up with any mind blowing combinations, you know the drill! Share them! You guys have been awfully quiet lately!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Holiday Shopping

Well, I feel like I really shouldn't ignore the topic anymore. Despite the fact that Thanksgiving has not even yet come and gone, since I work in retail it is totally clear to me that we are well into the holiday shopping season. I have a few tips, tricks and reminders for you as you work through your holiday gift lists.

1. Do your research

Sure, those deals in the Black Friday ads can seem pretty smoking, but make sure you do your research to find out if you are really getting as good of a deal as you think you are. It's pretty simple.

2. Really want to save money? Make your gifts!

Thanks to Pinterest and the internet, it is easier than ever to find ideas and tutorials that will help you makes fun handmade gifts for your friends and family. You get the satisfaction of making them something they will love and save a little money in the process. They will get an awesome, one-of-a-kind gift! Win-win!

or 3. Buy handmade.

There are tons of stores on etsy and Storenvy full of some truly awesome handmade gifts (like mine, wink, wink). I'll be working on a gift guide featuring some of these stores soon, but its easy to dive in on your own. Support small businesses!

4. Be nice!!!

This might just be the frustrated retail worker in me talking, but, please, please, please, be nice to people! Keep in mind, not only on Black Friday, but all year, that most of the time, the things that you are upset about aren't the fault of the people trying to help you. As cashiers, we don't have control over the way things are priced, the number of items available, colors and sizes available, etc. It isn't our fault that the company we work for has made changes that you are unhappy with. Computers are going to run slowly and there will be computer glitches. People will move items under sale signs that don't belong there. Please keep calm. Please be patient. Please keep in mind that no matter how early you got up to shop, most of us had to be at the store even earlier. Don't leave a mess behind you. Act like an adult. Holiday shopping can be total madness. Try not to make it worse for people. I could rant on this one forever, but it seems to me that people could really use a reminder on basic courtesy this time of year. And that is sad.

Something else to keep in mind: if you aren't able to score exactly what you went out to get, try to keep your cool. The people you are buying for will most likely love something else just as much, as long as it comes from the heart. I know, that sounds extremely cheesy from me, but its true. I would rather have a gift someone took the time and thought to make for me personally, than something they went to the store and knocked a bunch of people out of the way for so they could get it cheaper.

Anything to add? You know I love it when you share!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Fun!

Ok, if you are anything like me (and I'm guessing you aren't, because I'm kind of a jerk) you are hiding out in your house avoiding the trick or treaters. So, if you want something to do while you're hiding out, or really just anytime because these sites are awesome, check out some of these websites:

Order of the Good Death: Written by mortician Caitlin Doughty this blog is written "with the goal of bringing the realistic discussion of death back into popular culture." She also has a webseries called "Ask a Mortician". She is completely hilarious, if, like me, you appreciate a dark sense of humor. You should also follow her on Facebook, she's fantastic!

The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice: A blog by medical historian Lindsey Fitzharris, this is site is SUPER fascinating. I seriously sat down and read the entire thing the day I discovered it.

Cracked: Ok, so this one is not always Halloween themed, being that it's a comedy site, but that do have an entire "horror" section and its awesome.

If you have any good creepy or dark site, I want to know about them! Post them!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

More Halloween Tricks!

Ok, I promised you all some more Halloween decor tips today and here they are.

Now, Martha Stewart I am not, but I like to think I'm not totally incompetent when it comes to decorating. And while I love it when other people admire my decor, it think it is ultimately mot important to please yourself. You are the one that has to live with the end result. Anyway, back to Halloween.

When it comes to Halloween decor, I'm into to having interesting details. For one thing, I've always wanted one of those little Halloween villages like they have at Michael's, but they are way too expensive for me, so I'm slowly building up my own alternative.
The houses are tealight holders from Target. Our store didn't have them this year, so I unfortunately wasn't able to expand. The tombstones came from the Dollar Store and the coffin was a paper mache coffin from Michael's that I painted. Once upon a time the tree was a white tree for Easter that I got from my mom. Considering I don't decorate for Easter, I decided it was better served for Halloween and painted it black. The spiders hanging from the tree came from my mom. It's something I can build up a little at a time and is going to have a much smaller price tag than the village sets you can buy. Deven even wired the larger house up with LED lights for me.

The next decor hurdle I had to deal with was the empty aquarium in the corner of the living room. It was my birthday present from Deven, but we haven't yet had the chance to get it filled. We solved this by covering it was black fabric and creating a little scene on top.
This, again, was relatively inexpensive. The bedazzled pumpkins were gifts from my friends Cecilia and Jessica and the bedazzled skull was also from Jessica. The beakers came from my mother (isn't my mom awesome? She always finds me the best Halloween stuff!) The other skull is a votive holder from Michael's we got super cheap since the back was broken.
Behind it is a tree I made a few years ago from poster board that I spray painted black. Doesn't get much easier than that.

We generally keep the lights low for atmosphere, but still want there to be some light. We use orange string lights in the kitchen and on the curtain rod. This year, Deven also put some under the couch to add a glow underneath it. We also had this:
Now, I can't lay claim to this one. This was made by Deven's brother Justin and his girlfriend, Shelby, from PVC pipe, hot glue and led tealights.

I made this:
I cannot tell you how easy this is to replicate and it will help you add some lighting to your Halloween decor. I used one strand of orange lights and some orange tulle in a large hurricane jar. This one is also super easy to do with different light/tulle color combinations.

What are your Halloween decor dilemmas? Or nifty ideas? I would love to hear them! I'm always looking for new ideas!

Happy Halloween kids! I'm working on something fun for tomorrow too!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Trick or Treat!

Hooray! Now that our big annual Halloween party is over, I'm so excited that I can actually share our decor with you all! We try to keep everything a surprise for our guests, so I didn't want to reveal anything until after it was over.

First of all, I'm was super excited about my costume, and it was probably one of the easiest ones I've ever come up with. I went as Abby from NCIS. If you don't know who I'm talking about, you really should watch the show. Personally, I think I nailed it. I even had the Caf-Pow cup.
Here I am with the lovely Shelby
Of course, the hair took me two tries and I ended up going with the permanent color, so it looks like I'll be rocking the raven haired look for awhile.

I didn't get pictures of everything (some of the lighting effects don't photograph well, like the floating candles, but I'll try to do a tutorial on those sometime), but here are a few of the highlights:

 Here is the wreath I made. Will definitely do a tutorial on this one, it was so easy and I think it looks fantastic.

In the bathroom, I sank some plastic bones in the water and added floating candles. Last year I dyed the water red. This clearly does not look quite so impressive in the bright light as it does by candle light. We also had flickering bulbs in the vanity lights, so as not to ruin the atmosphere.

I found this sweet framed negative at an antique store and knew I had to have it. I replaced one of the bathroom pictures with this. In the candle light it added a creepy touch.

In the backyard, on the other side of our fire pit, we set up the graveyard. We made all the tombstones ourselves a few years ago. It went in the backyard this year because the first year I had it set up, someone stole my two favorite tombstones and it broke my heart. Now the neighborhood hooligans don't even know its there.

And this is the pièce de résistance:

Out 7 ft. tall Jack Skellington. Sweet, right? He was a huge pain in the butt to make, but I think we can all agree that the end result was worth it. No tutorial on this guy, I didn't take any pictures of the process and it was, like I said, a huge pain to make.

Tomorrow, I'll show you a few of my other decorating tips and have a quick, easy and dirty cheap lighting tutorial!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Dining on a Dime: Pumpkin Better Than Sex Cake

Sorry there has been such a long time between posts! We've been busy getting the house ready for our big Halloween party and I've been sick with the flu. I'll be working a bunch coming up soon too, so please bear with me if posts are few and far between. I promise I still love you guys.

Alright. This one is dynamite, folks. Like truly spectacular. And so easy.

Bam. Don't pretend you don't want it.

This one would be great to serve as an alternative to pumpkin pie. Or, just because you want cake. Which is what I did. It seems like a few times a week I look over at Deven in the evenings and say "I wish we had cake." And since I have no self control, this is what happens.

I've seen this recipe all over Pinterest and modified the one I found at Something Swanky just a bit to suit me.

You will need:
  • 1 box of yellow cake mix
  • 1 15 oz. can of pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 8 oz. tub Cool Whip, thawed
  • Toffee bits
  • Caramel topping
First, preheat your oven to the temperature recommend by the cake mix. Mix together the pumpkin puree and cake mix. DO NOT add anything else. It will be very thick. Spread the mixture into the bottom of a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake according to cake mix directions.

Once baked, let cool for around 10 minutes or so. Of course, I didn't. I'm impatient. Next, poke holes over the top of the entire cake. A chop stick or the back of a wooden cooking spoon would be great for this. Pour the can of sweetened condensed milk over the top of the cake. At this point, its best if you let the milk soak in at least over night. I waited a few hours before finishing mine an eating it. At first I was only slightly impressed with the cake. After it sat overnight and I ate it the next day I was blown away. Don't get impatient. It's worth the wait.

To finish up, spread the Cool Whip over the top of the cake and sprinkle it with toffee bits to your taste. You can also use Heath bar bits, but I'm not a huge fan of chocolate with pumpkin. Finish off with a generous drizzle of caramel topping.

Cover and store any leftovers in the fridge.

And another, because why not?
Now, go make the cake. Trust me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Necessity of Being Strong

I ended up in tears tonight over a couple of t-shirts. I know. That sounds completely ridiculous.

I bought three things at work tonight after I finished my shift. One was a new white tank to replace one I wore until it was threadbare and had holes in it. One, was $3 on clearance, plus my employee discount and the last was just a nice black t-shirt I'd wanted for awhile. Altogether, I spent less than $15 on three items.

But the more I thought about it, the worse I felt for spending any money on them. The tank I could justify, I needed to replace the one that went into the rag bag, but the others... I didn't really NEED them. Besides, I need two new tires for my car and food, plus the monthly obligations I have coming up next week. That really leaves me next to no wiggle room for anything that isn't necessary.

It's been a tough couple of years, financially, and its required a fair amount of resourcefulness and TONS of sacrifice to make it. I hate asking anyone for help, but have had to suck up my pride and do so much more often than I would like. I didn't just start this blog to help people save money so they can have more to spend on vacations and clothes... I wanted to help people like me who need to save money from necessity.

I haven't had health insurance for years, so I use a lot of herbal remedies and suffer through plenty of other things I would typically have gone to the doctor for. If there aren't leftovers for me to take for lunch, I take the Easy Mac we get for free from my grandparents. There are no vacations, we don't even make the three and a half hour trip down to visit my family as often as I would like, because I just can't justify the expense. I can't buy new clothes for myself without being wracked with guilt. 

And I hate it.

My dad has told me before that I can handle things lots of other people he knows can't because of everything I've been through in the last few years, and that may be true. Just getting by is something that lots of people can't do, and I'm grateful that we have been able to, but just getting by gets old. I hate feeling guilty any time I spend money on myself.

Last Christmas, Deven and I were getting ready to leave my dad's house and come back to ours. As we were loading things up, all of the gifts that my step-sisters had received from their Christmas were still all over the living room. I found myself feeling really jealous about those gifts. Dad usually gives me cash... and don't get me wrong, its wonderful, but I always feel like I need to spend cash on something practical: mortgage, gas, food, student loan bills, and I never feel right spending it on myself, I wanted things. I hated myself for being so materialistic, because there is so much in my life to be grateful for, but it was hard not to be.

Hence the reason that three shirts tore me up so bad. Deven offered to pay for them, but I take his help so often on things I do need, I really don't want to take it on something frivolous. I won't even let him pay for me to have a haircut. So, the shirts will go back tomorrow.

Dad can call me strong, but I don't think I am nearly as often as I'd like.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Dining on a Dime: Lemon Butter Shrimp

Now, I know you have probably seen this recipe all over Pinterest. It's super popular, but trust me, there is a good reason for it. My mom got me started on this last weekend when she came to visit us, and its completely amazing. We made it again tonight with even better results. Here is where I got my original recipe at over at Pearls, Handcuffs and Happy Hour. I varied it just a bit though.

You will need:
  • 1 lb. uncooked, peeled, deviened shrimp (I used medium sized, frozen shrimp that I thawed first)
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1-2 lemons, thinly sliced
  • 1 package of Italian dressing mix
  • 8 oz. of spaghetti, cooked and drained
First, preheat your oven to 350°F. I put the butter on my pan and place it in the oven while it heats to melt it. Once melted, pull it out of the oven and place your lemon slices on the pan. I lined the whole pan, but just use as many as you would like. Place the shrimp in a single layer on top and sprinkle the whole thing with the Italian dressing mix. Place in the oven and bake 12-15 minutes or until all the shrimp are pink. Toss shrimp and some of the butter sauce with your spaghetti and enjoy!!!

Seriously! Its THAT simple. And it's so, so very good. The shrimp doesn't make it the cheapest meal I could have featured, but we got the shrimp at Wal-Mart for $5 a bag, which I didn't think was too shabby.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dining on a Dime: Corn Pancakes

I love to make breakfast. That has been one of the perks of my current job: since the earliest I ever have to be there is 9:45 a.m., there is almost always time to make breakfast should the fancy strike me. This is a recipe I've used before, and I'll be honest, I have no idea where I found it. Still, it's too easy and too delicious not to share with you.

You will need:
  • 1 8.5 oz. package of corn muffin mix (like Jiffy)
  • 2 Tbsp. Baking mix (like Bisquick)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
Whisk ingredients together. Cook as you would regular pancakes, with one caveat: Typically when you are making pancakes you would watch for the bubbles to pop on the surface of the pancake and the edges to dry a bit before you flip them. That doesn't happen with these. As a result I burned the first batch I ever made. The best advice I can give you is to give them a few minutes and then just check them. For me, I just can sort of feel when they need to be flipped. It sounds weird, I know, but that's the only advice I can really give you.

This recipe made 6  four to five inch pancakes. They are nice and thick pancakes, too, very filling. Slather with butter and syrup and its time to chow down. Mmmmm.

I snagged a few boxes of Jiffy corn muffin mix for $.50 at the store this week, making this recipe very inexpensive. I also like to have the mixes around because I use them in my phenomenal cornbread. (See Dining on a Dime: Sweet & Spicy Turkey Chili).

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What I'm Grateful For

You can all consider this therapy. One problem with blogging is that everyone generally only gets to see the bright sunny exterior. Anyone who really knows me in real life knows that I'm not at all a bright sunny person. I've always been a little on the negative side. That is certainly not the way I like to be, but I've always had trouble finding the silver lining. So, in an effort to help my own mental state a little, I'm forcing myself to find things in my life that I can be grateful for, both big and little. Hopefully, I'll do a post each week on some of these things. With any luck, I can make an impact on my outlook.

So today, I'm going to start out with a few of the more immediate things.

1. Deven
Sometimes he makes me want to tear my hair out, but I know that no matter what, he will do anything for me. We've struggled financially, but he is always willing to help me out if he has the money. He will run to Walmart at midnight just to pick something up I need. He let me drive his beloved truck unsupervised. Now, THAT is love. We are there for each other no matter what, and that is about the best fairytale anyone can ask for.

2. Cooper and Freckles

Deven and I never plan on having children (which is really a topic for another day), so our pets are our children. I have had Freckles for years. I picked her out the day she was born and knew I had to have her. She's chubby and a huge brat, but I love her to pieces.

Deven and I adopted Cooper together. He's completely irresistible. He will maul you trying to get attention when you come through the door, but after he calms down he just wants to snuggle and be petted. He's the most sensitive dog I've ever known, if a TV show or movie makes me cry he always has to come stick his nose in my face and check on me.

I couldn't ask for better children. :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I Love Goodwill

I mean seriously. I really, really love it. Originally, it boiled down to love of a good deal. Let's face it, who doesn't get a warm fuzzy feeling when they land upon a really good deal? These days, that love comes at least partially from necessity: I just can't afford new clothes.

For any of you who don't know me personally, its been a rough couple of years for me, in a financial sense. I've lost two jobs (we won't go into that morass), and now work part time in a department store. Even with a great discount, sometimes its next to impossible to afford things like a new pair of jeans, which I have been needing desperately for awhile now; my last nice pair of jeans have been repaired many times and now I think are probably beyond repair. My favorite brand of jeans in the whole world are Silver Jeans. If you are familiar with them, you know Silvers don't come cheap. At $75+ a pair they are definitely out of my reach for right now.

So, off to Goodwill I went. I don't always find something that I like there, but I usually have pretty good luck. After digging through the racks, I'd found two plain Old Navy v-necks, nothing spectacular, but not too bad. I moved to the jeans, and it was one of those moments when you could hear angels singing. A pair of Silver Jeans. They didn't look like they had even been worn. I had to take a deep breath at this point, because who knew if they would even be the right size. Silver doesn't size their jeans the way other brands do, and I couldn't remember what size the pair I had at home was. These looked pretty close, so I grabbed them and a few other pairs to try on. I didn't want to get my hopes up too much. But it was definitely my lucky day. Out of the three pairs I picked up, they were the only ones that fit, and they were perfect. I'm not ashamed to say I did a little happy dance in the fitting room. How good my butt looks in those jeans probably contributed to the happy dance.

So for $4, I had my coveted jeans.

Oh, yeah, and I got some books. One of my other obsessions.

So, even though I have to shop there because I just can't afford anything else, I still get that thrill from getting a good deal and am still able to dress myself the way I like. Can't complain about that.

Sorry I have been such a slacker lately. Keep your eyes open coming up soon I'll have a few recipes for green tomatoes. We have inherited tons of them. My mom is also coming for a visit (YAY!!!), and we plan on doing some cooking, so watch for that too!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, it's finally here. I'm 28. Yuck. I don't like that. Maybe I'll just be 27 again. Or 25. I plan on accomplishing very little today, and that includes a substantial post. Maybe tomorrow.

I did want to tell you all about the Fall Into Fall September Giveaway over at Singledou[b]t. There are a bunch of amazing prizes up for grabs, including a pair of rose earrings from my shop, so if you haven't already entered, head over and do so before its over. Stick around to read some, too, because Kim is awesome and has been a big help to me in growing my blog.

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Good Reason to Never Drink and Bathe

So, I've been having some trouble with stress lately. To be honest, by lately, I mean the better part of my adult life and quite some time before that. I've never handled stress well and here in the past few months it been worse: I've started to grind my teeth which is leading to tension headaches, I cry at the drop of a hat and I spend a good deal of time feeling very close to small panic attacks.

Once upon a time I would have just gone to the doctor, but I haven't had health insurance for several years now, so those days are long gone. Being sick of the stress and its associated health issues, I'm on a mission to get better at dealing with my stress.

I'd decided the other night to have a long soak in the bathtub, good classical music, candles, bubble bath, a glass of wine, and a homemade sugar scrub I'd just whipped up. Sounded like heaven.

So, I got everything ready. I should probably mention that by this point I was two glasses of wine in. Normally, this would be no big deal for me, but it had been longer than usual since I'd had anything alcoholic to drink, so I was fairly tipsy, and in a HUGE hurry, apparently.

My bathwater was way too hot, but instead of just waiting for it to cool down I ran to the kitchen for a few handfuls of ice cubes and tossed them it. I finally talked myself into the water and tried to relax, sipping on my wine. I tried to lay back into the water, using a rolled up bath towel for a pillow. Bad idea. I don't know if all the alcohol decided to hit me at once (it can do that, right? ;) ) or what but I went from tipsy to drunk in a flash. My heart rate started going up and I was having a hard time catching my breath. I was uncomfortably hot.

But, of course, being now drunk instead of getting out of the bath I decided to go ahead and use my sugar scrub and shave my legs. Genius. I'm lucky I didn't lop off a leg. THEN, I finally decided it was probably a good idea to get out of the water. I ended up lying in bed trying to cool off while sending drunken text messages to Deven, who was down the street talking to a neighbor. Very mature of me.

My mother found this hysterical. And in retrospect, I do to. All in all, not the most relaxing choice in the end. I think next time I'll skip the wine. Or the bath. I'm undecided. Either way, you'll probably being hearing more about this stress relief mission.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Handy Dandy Tips: Beer Shampoo

When I mentioned this one at work everyone looked at me like I was a crazy person, but if you've never heard of this before, bear with me here.

Some background: Neither Deven nor I drink beer. Yuck. Can't stand that taste or the smell. Anyway, a few months ago, Deven got into his head that he wanted some Pabst Blue Ribbon. He insisted that he'd had it before and liked it. Long story short: he was wrong. So, we were left with a bunch of beer taking up space in our fridge. I'd been trying to come up with ways to use it up, beer bread being the most obvious, when I began seeing things online about using beer on your hair.

Now, I've been pretty neglectful of my hair lately. It needs to be trimmed badly, but I can't seem to talk myself out of the money for a haircut (I've been trimming my own bangs for a few months now). It's been frizzy, easily tangled and just plain unmanageable. I used this beer shampoo once and my hair came out smooth and shiny with fewer tangles. I've heard that using beer on your hair can also make it appear thicker. I haven't noticed this particular benefit yet, but maybe with further use I will. I should also mention that my shampoo didn't smell beer-y. If you use an unscented shampoo it might have some beer smell to it.

You will need:

1 1/2 cups of beer
1 cup of mild shampoo

This one is really easy. Pour your beer into a saucepan and boil it down until it makes 1/4 of a cup. Let cool. Pour the reduced beer into the shampoo and mix. Pour your shampoo into a bottle and use like you would regular shampoo. Store in the refrigerator between uses.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dining on a Dime: Stretching Your Ground Meat

I know, I know... I've been doing a ton of recipes lately. Cooking in one of the things that relaxes me and life has been a little stressful lately, so you'll just have to deal with it for awhile. ;) I'll try to have a crafting or Pinterest test up before the weekend is out.

Moving on, this is one of those simple tricks we have been using for awhile and it didn't occur to me until tonight that it would be a great tip to share with all of you.

We all know food is expensive these days, so it nice to be able to stretch what you can further. We typically buy ground turkey in bulk at Sam's and then freeze what we can't use immediately. Awhile back we were experimenting with trying different flavors with our burgers and decided to add in some finely chopped mushrooms (I typically pulse a few handfuls of button mushrooms in the food processor) in with the meat and seasoning. It's that simple. A pound of meat will usually make us two good sized and one smaller burger, but with this there is easily enough for two big and two smaller burgers (or three burgers if you want to be obvious about it.)

The results were surprisingly delicious.

The burgers came out super moist, but there wasn't a strong mushroom flavor and there was not really a texture difference from regular burgers, so this might be a good way to sneak more vegetables into food for the kiddies. You can always add more mushrooms to get more of the mushroom flavor. We have never tried this with ground beef, only because I don't usually buy it, but I'm sure it would be tasty as well.

How do you guys stretch your food further? I'd love to hear from my readers and try out some new recipes myself!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Grant Life 1,000 Follower Giveaway!!

Want to win some amazing prizes? Kelley at The Grant Life has her HUGE 1,000 follower giveaway going on right now! If you don't follow The Grant Life you definitely should, she's super sweet and always willing to help out a fledgling blogger! There are two prize packs to win, with lots of awesome prizes... you can even win one of the wooden button rings from my shop! You can enter on the Rafflecopter below!
Prize Pack One

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4. 3 Dozen Simple Cake Bites [Color May Vary] - The Sweet Life
5. Rainbow Happy Birthday Cupcake Toppers [Winner picks color] - Leroy Lime
6. $10 Starbucks Card - the Houtz House Party
7. Premium Ad Space - Addicted to Recipes
8. 200x200 Ad Space + Blog Planner PDF - Texas Lovebirds
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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Dining on a Dime: Brown Sugar Pound Cake

I went back and forth on this recipe. When I first heard about it I was very excited. Then I had trouble finding a recipe I really liked. I finally settled on one I liked and made it. It's divine. The issue is its not what I would consider super cheap. Ultimately my decision was to go for it. What is life without a little indulgence? And this certainly qualifies as an indulgence. It is NOT diet food by any stretch of the imagination. It's dense and a bit rich, but not too sweet.

You will need:
  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
First, preheat your oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a bundt pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the sugars and butter until light and fluffy. 

Beat in the eggs one at a time and add the vanilla.  Alternate mixing in the flour, baking soda, and milk until everything is incorporated. The batter will be very thick.
 Pour into your prepared pan and bake 60 to 75 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before you remove from the pan.

Of course, this one didn't come out quite perfectly for me. Even though my toothpick came clean, it wasn't quite done in the middle, but that's ok. It also didn't come out of the pan quite perfectly.
Baking fail.

 But, it tastes wonderful. It's subtle, if that makes sense, but very yummy.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Marvelous Mondays Link Party!

I'm participating in the Marvelous Mondays Link Party over at This Gal Cooks. Go check out all of the great participants!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Handy Dandy Tips: Homemade Febreze

Briana at Life.Family.Love is quite possibly a genius. She has this recipe for homemade Febreze for just $0.15 a bottle and it is awesome!!!!

We have pets so we used to go through quite a bit of Febreze, but its so expensive that we've had to stop buying it. I honestly hadn't thought about making my own until quite recently. It really doesn't get much easier than this.

You will need:
  • 1/8 cup liquid fabric softener
  • 2 Tablespoons baking soda
  • Hot water
  • Spray bottle

Add your ingredients to the bottle and fill with hot water. Shake. Spray. Enjoy. See, told you it was easy. I'm all about easy.

I used a vanilla and lavender scented fabric softener. Our house smells AMAZING right now. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Dining on a Dime: Pancake Squares

Breakfast food can almost always make me happy... Fur actual breakfast, for dinner, whatever, I love it. Here lately I've been on something of a pancake kick. We were all out of baking mix Saturday morning, so I decided to improvise and made some corn meal pancakes. They were super yummy, but are, alas, a story for another day. Sunday (and I admit, again this morning) I made these pancake squares. They are so good and unbelievably easy!!
This is yet another Pinterest discovery. The original recipe can be found here at the Big Red Kitchen.

This recipe could not be any easier and all of the ingredients are things that I generally have available. You get all the pancake taste without all the work of waiting over the griddle and flipping. I didn't take many pictures, because it didn't seem important that you have pictures of me mixing batter.

You will need:

3/4 cup milk
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

First, preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly spray an 8x8 baking dish and set aside.

In a bowl whisk together the milk, melted butter, egg and sugar. Slowly mix in the flour, baking powder and salt. Just like with muffin batter it is important that you DO NOT OVER MIX! Lumps are alright in this case. Pour the batter into your pan.
I sprinkled some chocolate chips on half for Deven and left my half plain. You could just as easily add them to all of the batter or even sprinkle the top with fruit. Whatever you like.

Place the pan in the over and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. I usually test with a toothpick for doneness, particularly with this recipes, since it doesn't really brown much.
Serve just like you would pancakes. Yum, yum.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Handy Dandy Tips: Cleaning Your Glass Top Stove

Cleaning a glass top stove is not as easy as I was led to believe. While it is certainly easier than a stove with coils, it still takes plenty of work and special cleaning supplies, which can be expensive. Once again, Pinterest offered a "miracle" solution, so naturally, I had to put it to the test

Here is the link my original pin took me to at Behind the Studio. My stove top was MUCH ickier than hers: I had a boil over last night and I had been trying to get it really dirty in order to test this, so I wasn't sure mine would come clean as easily as hers did.
You will need:
  • A rag
  • Hot soapy water
  • Baking soda
First, you'll want to wipe off any crumbs from the stove top. Next, sprinkle baking soda over the areas that need scrubbing.

Now, you'll soak your rag in the water and partially wring it out. You don't want it completely soaking, but you do want it nice and wet. Lay it over the baking soda and let it sit for 15 minutes. As you can see, I had to do mine in sections, as my rag wasn't big enough.

 After the 15 minute are up simply take the rag and start scrubbing. It did not take nearly as much scrubbing as I anticipated to get everything to come clean. I would recommend wiping the surface down with Windex afterwards, since any remaining baking soda can leave the stove top looking cloudy.

 There are still a few burn spots that stubbornly refused to budge, but I'm sure another round of soaking and scrubbing would take care of those. All in all I would say this is just as good if not a little better than the store bought cleaners.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Handy Dandy Tips: DIY Peel Off Pore Cleaning Mask

Ok, I actually forgot to pin this one, but this, again, comes from something I saw on Pinterest. It's basically an egg white mask with a twist.

I've done egg white masks before, with various mixtures, and they are not bad, but I never noticed any particular results. If you have ever used a pore strip before, you will kind of get the idea of this particular mask.

To try it, you will need:
  • One egg white
  • Tissue paper
I also mixed in two drops of tea tree oil with my egg white, because I'm pretty much convinced at his point that tea tree oil will fix just about any problem. I have read before that it is good at drying up acne, so therefore its inclusion in this mask. If you have sensitive skin I do not recommend using the tea tree oil.

Now, the idea here is pretty simple. Spread some of the egg white on your face and then apply tissue paper on top of it.. That's all.  Here is an awesome picture of me with the mask on. Probably should have gone with white tissue paper, but all I could find was blue or red with glitter in it, so blue it was.

Now, you just let it dry, then peel it off.

In the end, this one really surprised me. It actually worked. The results were not as dramatic as a pore strip, but it definitely yanked some of the nastiness from my pores. I won't post a picture of the results, because, ew. Just trust me. My skin also looked considerably brighter and was very soft.

All in all, a winner. It's far, far cheaper than pore strips and will do your whole face.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dining on a Dime: Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Sorry for the delay in posting here lately! I've been working a lot of closing shifts and have just been exhausted. But, we slept until nearly 12:30 this afternoon and now I'm back on track! Anyway, getting on with the recipe!

This recipe is super yummy! I had never made any sort of zucchini bread or anything like that before, so I wasn't super sure about it, but its wonderful... moist and very chocolatey!

Before I jump in, let me just say, for all the non-bakers out there, this is not like my other recipes. You will actually need to measure your ingredients carefully. Baking is far more precise.

Here is the blog post I got my recipe from.

Moving on, you will need:
  • 1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used extra light olive oil, it has all of the health benefits of olive oil, but with a lighter flavor)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (one medium zucchini made more than enough for this recipe)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Pre-heat your oven to 350° F, then grease and flour a loaf pan.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, baking powder and the baking soda.

In a separate large bowl mix together the eggs, oil, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Tip: spray your measuring cup with a little cooking spray before you put in the honey. It will slide right out!

 Next, you'll gradually mix the flour mixture into the egg mixture. The batter will be very thick. One everything is incorporated, fold in the zucchini and the chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into your loaf pan and place it in the pre-heated oven for 60 to 75 minutes.
Once you remove the pan from the oven, allow to cool in the pan for 15 minutes before trying to remove the bread. I had to run a knife along the edges of the pan and it fell right out.

You are supposed to let the bread cool completely before slicing it. I am far too impatient for that. I let it cool a little, but then went ahead and sliced it while it was still a little warm. Mmmmmm. So good.

It will be wonderful for breakfast in the morning. It's tasty on its own, but is also good with a little butter or margarine. I know it sounds a little weird, but we always used to do that on chocolate cake as kids and its still my favorite way to have it. This bread is so close to cake that it tastes awesome that way.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Dining on a Dime: Roasted Garlic Parmesan Broccoli

This recipe is far and away one of my favorites, and its very much a crowd pleaser. Maybe people just don't want to hurt my feelings, but I've never gotten less than rave reviews on this broccoli. We probably have this side two times a week or more and its extremely easy to vary the veggies you use as well.

I cannot impress how easy this is. You will need:

  • Broccoli florets, fresh or frozen
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Grated Parmesan cheese
This is another recipe that is super easy. Toss your broccoli into a bowl (if it's frozen thaw it at least partially) and drizzle with olive oil. Be careful not to use too much or your veggies will be a little soggy. You just want to coat the broccoli lightly and give the other ingredients something to stick too. Next, add your other ingredients. This is definitely another one of those dishes where there is no exact amount I can tell you to use. Use as much or as little as you would like. You can also use fresh garlic, which will get a little sweet when it's roasted. If I use fresh garlic, I also tend to still use just a little garlic powder. We're big garlic fans in our house. And its good for you, so no complaints there.

Once everything is added, simply stir until the broccoli is coated. Next, spread the broccoli onto a pan that has been lightly greased. I typically use a jelly roll pan. I like something with sides.

Now, pop your broccoli into a preheated 425°F oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the broccoli starts to get brown and crispy.

It's as easy as that. We have not had steamed broccoli in our house since I discovered roasting it. It's so much better and super simple. As a side note, I've also done this same recipe with Brussels sprouts, one of my very favorites, and it is amazing. It would also be yummy with cauliflower.

Now, THAT is a meal!