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. :)