Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A year in books...

Recently, my friend Bobbi blogged about her top picks for books she has read in ’09. Now the first thing I thought as I read Bobbi’s blog was “Whoa! You’ve read 141 books this year?!?!” I think my count for the year tops out somewhere between 30 and 40 books. That being said, this year is probably the first year in MANY, MANY years that I have read with such intense frequency. Growing up, I loved to read. I would often read 2 or 3 books in a weekend (I’m a fast reader) for pleasure, not counting books I was required to read for school.

Then somewhere along the way, my passion for reading seemed to fade. I’m not certain why, because I’ve always loved the mental escape that reading provides, but it always seemed like life got in the way. I would read when I traveled (still is my favorite way to kill time on a plane) or occasionally see a book that I just had to read, but probably averaged no more than 2 books a year!

So what have I been reading this year? A completely random assortment of books on every imaginable subject. I’ve decided to steal Bobbi’s idea and share a list, though I’m putting my own little spin on it.

My Top 5 books for 2009:
(5) The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) – I was required to read this for a class I took fall semester. After reading the book, I easily would put this on the “Must Read” list for all women. The book is a fictional book that takes place in an alternate future in which women become something much worse than second class citizens. It really makes you think about some of the “innocent” fanatics and encourages readers to explore the notion that what may seem harmless today, could quite possibly become something far worse.

(4) Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships! (Kenneth Blanchard) – I thought that this book would be useful to read, considering my major. Additionally, I was taking a communication class that focused on interpersonal communication, so maybe I was just in the mood for this kind of book. This is a fairly easy read, nothing technical. The average person could most likely read it in a single sitting. The focus of the book is about using positive reinforcement to foster better relationships, which is something many of us have heard of. The reason I like this book is because it is able to clarify in very simple terms how to accomplish this, how many of us aren’t accomplishing it (even when we think we are!) and what we’re doing instead.

(3) Lover Eternal (J.R. Ward) – This is the second in a series of books called the Black Dagger Brotherhood. If you enjoy vampire books, you’ll want to check out this series. I will say, the first book in the series, I only thought of as “average” but I am glad that I have continued on in the series. I’ve currently finished 4 of the books, though this book remains my favorite.

(2) Dead to the World (Charlaine Harris) – For the minority of people out there who aren’t reading the Southern Vampire Series (it seems everywhere I turn, people are) this is the fourth book in that series. Why did this one make my list? Because after being teased in the first 3 books, for many readers, this book has some plot payoff! I must say, if you watch the series, True Blood, that is based on this series of books, I strongly encourage you to pick up the books, they are much better!

(1) Dead and Gone (Charlaine Harris) – Yes, I have picked two books from the same series for my top two books, but I really have enjoyed this series thus far. This is book 9 in the series, the last book until May of ’10. I know that some people didn’t enjoy it as much, but I really like this one.

One book that I am a little sad to say didn’t make the list… The Lost Symbol, by Dan Brown. I have loved, loved, LOVED Mr. Brown’s work over the last few years… And have been anticipating this book for awhile (it was at one point rumored to be released in ’07, so yes, I’ve waited AWHILE!). I even preordered the book, so I would have it the day it came out.

Unfortunately, it took me a few months to find the time to read it. While I didn’t completely despise the book, I didn’t love it either. Perhaps waiting so long made it hard for the book to live up to it’s hype, but I found this to be a just average read, though the subject is controversial.

Looking into 2010 I have stacks upon stacks of books that I’m trying to wade through… There are two books that I am eagerly anticipating.

First up – Dead in the Family (Charlaine Harris), the latest and greatest Southern Vampire Novel. I read the sneak peak of Chapter 1 on the author’s website earlier this week…. I cannot wait for this book to come out!!!

And second – is more of a wish… a pleading even… to Stephenie Meyer to please go back and finish Midnight Sun, or heck, rewrite the darned thing… I need more Edward!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Once a month cooking?

MoneySavingMom & FishMama are hosting a live once a month baking/cooking event that starts today. Once a month cooking... an interesting concept, but I am not quite sure I'm ready to jump in with both feet. There are only two people in my house (myself & the roomie) and our schedules vary, so we don't always eat at the same time, we eat out sometimes, and sometimes we just snack. However, I can say that the concept of having some meals on hand so that my kitchen can stay cleaner...well I can buy into that... so I'm dabbling with this notion of cooking/baking ahead... though I must say I cheated a tad, I roasted a turkey breast yesterday and have the deconstructed results already packaged and in my fridge, but I was really wanting some turkey and knew that would occupy my oven for much of the time, so I decided to get a jumpstart on it. So what else am I up to... well it's midday here and so far in addition to the turkey I roasted yesterday I have already made:

Baked Pasta - No recipe here, I just pick a pasta, this time I chose a whole wheate penne, cook as directed, drain, stir in grated parm cheese, saute up any veggies you have on hand, add in pasta sauce ( I had some jarred variety) and mix it up. I go ahead and portion it out in 2 serving portions and freeze. Then, just pop out of the freezer and into the oven... I usually top it off with cheese when baking (you can also stir in some cheese when you're making it up) and it's pasta for dinner without having to wait for water to boil, etc...

Stuffed Mushrooms - Again, no recipe, I'm really more of a method cooker. Start with stuffer mushrooms, remove stems and reserve... gently clean your mushrooms with a lightly dampened paper towel. Finely chop your mushrooms. In a skillet melt about a tablespoon of butter (or you can use an oil, I happened to have small piece of butter left over from some other recipes), as it melts, sprinkle in a tiny pince of red pepper flakes, lightly sautee a minced clove of garlic and a few tablespoons of chopped onions (I made veggie dogs last night, so I had some leftover onion... chop it once, store it in the fridge and add to dishes during the week!), stir in your mushrooms, and add some crumbled precooked meat (I actually used some Boca soy crumbles, work just as well, taste the same and you don't have to precook!). Season with whatever you have on hand, I used a bit of poultry seasoning, which is a fun little mix to cook with. Cook until onions are soft and then stir in some grated parm cheese. I then let the mixture cool... then just stuff about a tsp of the mixture into your reserved mushroom caps. Place on a lined baking sheet and freeze until firm, then transfer into another freezer safe storage option. You'll probably have some left over stuffing, just pop it into a freezer bag and toss in the freezer too, it's a great addition to pasta sauces! When ready to use, just pop them out and lightly spray or brush the caps with a little olive oil and bake at about 350 for about 15 minutes or until heated through. Oh, and sprinkle on some cheese!!

Next up - I have some yummy homemade bread that is rising and will be going into the oven shortly.

And I just pulled some yummy French Puff Muffins out of the oven and am getting ready to top them now.

I am also planning on whipping up some peanut butter fudge and then I'm probably going to call it a day for today... but that will definitely stock me up on some quick dinner options, breakfast options and a sweet treat... Also have to get some homework done and then I might regroup and see what I want to work with tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spicing it up affordably

My kitchen is full of spices, I don't know that I could even rattle off the assortment of spices and herbs that I have on hand. The great thing about having a variety of spices is the ability to change things up when you get bored with a particular dish. That being said, spices can be expensive. I don't mind spending a little money on quality spices however sometimes I run into a recipe that calls for a spice that I don't have on hand and don't frequently use. Obviously, depending on what it is, I can always substitute, but sometimes I like to give it a whirl. What I don't like to do however is spend $6-$10 on a spice that I may not use very often, especially if I'm unfamiliar with the spice. So what's a girl to do?

Check out your local health food store or the bulk food section of your local grocery store. Up until recently, when I needed a random spice that was a bit pricey, I headed to Whole Foods, but now, I can actually take advantage of the updated bulk food section at my local Kroger. There you will most likely find a bulk spice section. Now don't let the prices on the bins scare you... it's not oncommon to see prices like $17 or $29, this is however the price for a pound of the spice! You can simply get as much or as little as you like. Last week, I was trying a recipe that called for coriander, which I didn't have any of. Now a jar of coriander was around the $4 mark, but I wasn't sure that I would use it frequently enough to pick it up, and I was sticking with a budget... so instead, I just went over to the bulk section and dispensed out what I needed for my recipe - the cost was around 14 cents!

I really recommend this method if you're trying a new spice or if you are trying to stay within a weekly budget and don't have much wiggle room that particular week!

Be sure and check out Tammy's Recipes for more Kitchen Tip Tuesday Tips!

Monday, September 21, 2009

It was 1980 something...

It was 1980 something... the four little munchkins you see are 3 of my cousins and me. I'm the blonde one on the right, with the giant bear and the dirty white socks. We were thick as thieves. My cousin Rhonda, (second in from the left, the giant of the group) was like a big sister to me at that age. We lived across the street from each other from as early as I can remember. We shared toys, we shared secrets, we even shared clothes (I always got her hand me downs). One time, she even shared the chicken pox with me, though managed to avoid them herself... yeah, that was one she could have kept to herself. The little dark haired girl on the end, that is my cousin Shelly, and the tiny little boy next to me, her brother Kevin. They lived about an hour away, but visited quite often. I was born between them, Shelly being about a year older than me, and Kevin being almost a year younger. Sleepovers with Shelly meant late night gigglefests, with parents threatening to separate us if we didn't quiet down. And Kevin, being the only boy in the crew, was of course often teased mercilessly, but still a part of all the important playtimes. We all spent birthdays and holidays together. We played nice and we played not so nice, sometimes being cranky and taking it out on each other.

Through the modern marvels of Facebook, our family has been sharing lots of old photos, and we've had so much fun, laughing and teasing each other about old hairstyles and fashion sense as well as that lack of self conciousness that little kids seem to have when letting their parents take pictures of them doing silly things.

This picture really is a snapshot of a moment in time, back when we were young and idealistic. Back before life had reared it's head and exposed us to some of the less pleasant aspects. In that moment, our biggest concern was most likely if we would be able to get back out to play some more before our parents started hosing us down and getting us ready for bed. This was before three of us would learn the word divorce. Before one of us would welcome the birth of a second child while still reeling from the loss of a mother. Before one, at the tender age of eight would be able to establish the timeline of "before my dad died" and "after my dad died." These children aren't yet preparing to say goodbye to a grandma, the matriach that held their large family together. The innocence on their faces doesn't reveal that one will hear the word "cancer" not once, but twice as a young adult. That one will make some bad choices and go through some difficult teenage years. They will experience their share of loss, of illnesses (both their and loved ones), trials and tribulations, though it won't all be bad. They will also experience great joys, in marriages, and births; in graduations and promotions. In the time between then and now they will have felt both joy and sorrow, happiness and fear.

So, if I could go blink my eyes, and go back to that moment. Would I step out of the shadows and warn these children of what lies ahead? Would I advise them of what to watch out for and who to hug one more time? No, I think that if I could transport myself back there, I would just want to stay there in the shadows and soak in the pure, unadultered bliss that is the naiveity of that moment. I sit here now, knowing that they each come through it all, a bit wiser, a bit stronger. Each event has shaped those little faces into the adults that we are today; and we are the better for them. So I look into each of those smiling faces and revel in the innocent happiness of their gaze, and I am reminded that we were blessed with that moment, when all was right in the world.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Making Facebook Work For You - Part 2

If this is your first time joining me on the joys of FB, you'll want to start here in order to be completely in the loop.

So, now that you've mastered "Hiding..." Lets take a minute and talk about "Requests." What are "Requests" in FB? Well, they can be anything from a friend request, to a gift for your favorite farming application, to an invitation to play the newest farming game, to a virtual hug. FB has thousands of applications, enough to interest everyone, though most of us are usually only entertained with a handful of them, and sometimes lose interest in an application after a couple of uses. When I first started using FB, I would get so annoyed by the growing number of requests I received. They multipled like rabbits (and I couldn't sell their fur, because they weren't farming rabbits!) Sometimes I would get annoyed and just delete all of them. That only worked for awhile though, because, like dandelions, when you get rid of one, five more come back to taunt you. On top of that, some of the requests were useful. What's a girl to do?

Well, the answer really is simple, and it's very similiar to the "hiding" feature. When you click on your requests from your homepage (not the "See All" but rather a specific type that is listed) you're going to see something similiar to this:

I've blocked out names & pictures, to respect the privacy of my friends, but you should get the general idea of what the screen looks like.

Generally, you'll see who the request is from, if it is from an application, you'll see the name of the application and then you'll see some blue buttons that give you options (options are nice!)

The first option is generally an option to accept, which is what you'll click if you want to comply with the request. You will also have either one or two more buttons that give you the option of passing on the request. Generally you can click "No Thanks" or "Ignore" and get the same result, the request goes away. This is possibly what you typically do. It works, the request leaves... the problem is... if this is something you have no particular interest in... you've just created a dandelion... the request can come back, maybe from the same person, maybe not... but mark my words... it will be back...

That's why I like to use the two link options below the buttons. The first one is my favorite. "Block This Application." You simply click it, and you will be blocking all future requests from that application. This is particularly handy for some quizzes and if you're not into hugs, flowers, etc.

The second option, I rarely use. It's "Ignore all invites from this friend" Technically, if you have a friend who loves to invite you to everything under the sun, you can click this, and you won't get anymore invites from them, ever... the only problem, you may want to get something from them later. If you have a friends who is constantly bombarding you with new requests for different applications and you're tired of blocking them all, this would be an option... then again, you may just want to tell your friend to lay off the invites... Invites / Requests are kind of like the FB equivalent of an email forward. We should all be responsible and only forward ones we actually enjoy and choose the most appropriate audience for each one, unfortunately there's always one person out there who Spams us with everything... If you don't want the confrontation of telling them to knock it off, perhaps "Ignore all..." is your friend.

That's all for now. Next time, I'll be focusing more on what you can do to limit what others see you doing (Big Brother's watching, lol)

Be sure and check back for other posts on even more options to Make Facebook Work For You!

Gotta go, my farm is calling, need to harvest my crops before the Mobsters take them all and I have to call my Sorority Sisters in for backup because then the Vampires might get testy, and then who will there be left to Farkle with?!?!

Making Facebook Work For You - Part 1

Judging by my current friend count, I know that I'm not the only Facebook (FB for short) user out there. Actually according to FB's press releases, there are more than 250 million active users, 120+ million of those access their accounts daily. It seems like I am constantly finding old friends, coworkers, acquaintances, classmates, etc... Many of my family, from my mom, to aunts, uncles, cousins, etc... are now on FB and I communicate regularly with them through FB. According to Istrategylab.com, in 2009 there was a 276% growth in FB users, age 35-54, and 55+ has increased by 194%, not to mention younger demographics which grow exponentially.

Ok, so why am I boring you with statistics? Well I guess that's stemming from my recent back to school mode, I'm used to having to provide supporting details and references, lol... But seriously, the truth is, there are plenty of FB users out there. If you are using FB regularly (or even semi-regularly) you're bound to notice that your friend count creeps up... and with that increased friend count, comes more & more information thrown at you. I enjoy reading my friends updates, and often times I also enjoy seeing the results of their quizzes, etc... but sometimes, I think it can be overkill... I don't particularly enjoy going to my newsfeed and having to scroll down through 30 different quiz results to get to anything real or interesting. And as the number of friends I have has increased, along with the time that I can set aside to use FB decreasing, I have began to use options that make using FB work better for me.

So that's what I've decided to share with you today. There are actually several things you can do to enhance your FB experience, and if I were to put them all in one blog... you might be finished reading it by next week, so I'm going to break it up over a few blogs, for your reading pleasure.

The first focus... your view... literally, what you see from other people when you log into FB. The quickest and simplest option for eliminating clutter in your Newsfeed (the main part of your homepage, that streams your friends updates) is to use the "Hide" feature. Let's say for example that one of your friends is a "Farming" fanatic, however you aren't interested in farming, or in seeing updates from your friend (or friends...there are lots of us farmers!) about their farm. All you need to do is, the next time you see a post from your friend that is one of the "Farm" posts, hover your mouse in the upper right hand corner of that post (Just below the separator line). When you do this, the word "Hide" will appear. When you click on the word "Hide" you should be given a couple of options, either to hide your friend entirely (this means you won't see anything from that friend in your newsfeed, and I don't recommend this option for someone you regularly talk to) or the option of "hiding" that particular application. Once you click to hide the application, it will take away ALL posts from ALL friends pertaining to that application... and presto... no more farming nonsense for you! This is also a handy feature when your friends start a quiz that you have no interest in... you know, one of those quizzes that everyone takes, you can simply "hide" the quiz. I use this all the time for random applications, like "drinks, hugs, kisses, etc" It's not that I don't appreciate the sentiment, but honestly, FB has thousands and thousands of applications, and various friends have their favorites... if I didn't hide some, I'd drown in drinks, hugs and flowers!

Be sure and check back for other posts on even more options to Make Facebook Work For You!

Gotta go, my farm is calling, need to harvest my crops before the Mobsters take them all and I have to call my Sorority Sisters in for backup because then the Vampires might get testy, and then who will there be left to Farkle with?!?!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Getting the most out of college text books

Higher education can have a lofty price tag these days. Not just the usual suspects like tuition or room & board. When I went back to school last spring, I spent alot of money on books. In fact my book expenses were almost 40% of the amount that I paid in tuition! Imagine that, paying tuition, then spending somewhere between 1/3 and 1/2 of that on book... Why I haven't went into the college text book business is a mystery to me.

Depending on the class a text book might cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 - $150... sometimes less, sometimes more... You can save a few dollars by buying the used books at the bookstore, IF you beat the rush, used books are limited quantities...

Of course college bookstores will also buy your books back at the end of the semester, however you might be sad to find out that a book that you spent $100 on will be purchased back for around $20... I've been in the bookstore picking up books and saw a student turn in a stack of books and only get back about $40... And of course, used books, while less than new, still go for a pretty penny. If a book is $100 new, you can probably get a used copy at the bookstore for $80... that's quite a profit for the bookstore... you'd definitely get more dollars if you could cut out that middle man... but how do you do that? Well, you could try standing outside the bookstore and asking each student what they were looking to buy, but chances are that isn't the best use of your time... Which brings me to...

The wonderous invention we call the internet. Everyone knows you can buy practically anything online. Most of us are familiar with EBay or similiar sites that allow us to buy & sell at better prices than we might otherwise find. What you may not know is that EBay has a branch of their company called Half.com. So what is Half.com? It is similiar to EBay, but instead of bidding, you just list your price for books, cd's, games, and gaming systems. If you're familiar with the "Buy it Now" feature of EBay, that would be an easy comparison, all of the listings are simply at a "Buy it Now" price.

The great thing about Half.com is that you don't have to pay a listing fee (as you do on EBay). Half.com collects a small commission on all final sales, so if an item doesn't sell, you're not out any money. The trade-off is that unlike EBay, where the buyer pays you directly (through paypal, checks, etc) they submit payment directly to Half.com. The website pays you (via paypal) 2 times a month, so you won't get your payment right away.

So why am I talking about Half.com? Well they happen to be a big draw for college text books. People all over the country list their books online & sell to other people all over the country. I recommend if you are purchasing books to check out their website and compare the pricing to that of the local campus bookstore. Depending on the book, it might or might not give you some significant savings. And once the semester is over, a few weeks before classes resume, you can list your textbooks on the website for sale.

Just this week, I listed 5 textbooks of mine & my roomies on Half.com and in 3 days, I had sold all the books. The combined profit? About $350 - if we would have returned these books to the school bookstore, we probably would have recieved about $60.

Now I know that many of my readers may not be in school themselves, but many of you probably know people going to school, or kids getting ready to start college, etc - So pass this helpful information along to them. College is expensive enough, it's great when you can actually save a few dollars!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Slowly but surely

So week 2 came & went, I weighed in this past Sunday... after having dropped 10 lbs the first week, I was expecting some resistance... While I didn't make double digits again, I did lose a respectable 3 lbs... So I'm at 13 lbs lost for the month.

This "monitoring your sodium" diet is tricky, but I think I'm getting the hang of it. It seems easy at first, you just cut back on salt... then you start reading labels...and well... you realize just how tricky that can be. Nutritionists recommend that a person should eat no more than 2,400 mg of sodium per day. That is roughly the equivalent of 1 tsp of salt... And you may be thinking, I don't eat a tsp of salt a day... but you might be surprised to find that many people consume more than that, alot more than that...

Since starting this plan, I've targeted the "2400" rule... and when I go grocery shopping I'm amazed... Pasta sauce - 400 to 700 mg of sodium per serving, my favorite french bread pizza... a whopping 1100mg of sodium... even juice isn't safe... a serving of juice can have upwards of 90mg of sodium per serving... Does that mean you shouldn't drink it? Well, no... just that you may want to look for the best options out there, practice moderation, and take a realistic look at what you're consuming. I think that's important with anybody, whether or not you're trying to cutback on anything...

Even water that's not filtered to remove it has sodium in it... not that sodium is bad, your body does need about 500mg a day... it's just fascinating... Right now I'm starting the search for sodium free/reduced baking soda/powder (Baking Soda has a ridiculous amount of sodium in it!) But the stores around here don't seem to carry it, so I guess I'm going to order it online.

Ok, rant about sodium is over.... it just happens to be a forethought for me these days. I will be posting a couple more blogs this week, I've got a yummy recipe to share (that's low sodium, hehehe) and I'll discuss how to save & make money with college text books!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Off to a good start

In keeping with the concept that "It's not over after 30" I've embarked on a sort of "upgrade" for myself. Nothing drastic like botox (luckily I'm not in need of that yet) or plastic surgery. More of a do-it-yourself project, on myself.

The first thing I've tackled... Vitamins... I admit, I'm horrible about remembering to take them, but I'm working on it. I've also started back up on my iron supplements (I tend to be anemic) in an effor to bring myself some more energy.

I've also modified my diet. Again, nothing radical like "No-Carb", "Low-Carb", or "Cardboard Only" I'm just focusing on moderation and cutting out processed food where I can. The biggest change being sodium content. I'm trying to stick with the recommended Sodium allowance. I've never really had problems with my blood pressure, and I've never been one who was heavy handed with the salt shaker, but when I started looking at sodium content of items, I was shocked at how much sodium I was seeing. I've not outlawed anything completely, just keeping in mind the best ways to serve them.

I've actually came up with some great recipes that are healthy, low cal, and low sodium... oh and most importantly... TASTY... that I'll start sharing periodically on here. For those of you who see me chattering on about something on FB, just ask if I mention a recipe that I haven't shared and I'll be happy to pass it along.

The one item I have pretty much eliminated from my diet... Soda... It's really more of breaking a habit... But it's a great way to cut out carbonation (which excess can make you feel bloated) cut out sodium, caffeine, sugar (or sugar substitutes...which still make you crave sweets). I went an entire week without drinking any. I really wanted the "cola" taste, and had been trying to find a 20 oz Diet RC or Diet Rite (since they have no sodium, blah, blah, blah) but hadn't had any luck, so I did go yesterday and pick up a 6 pack of bottles at the grocery store... However, I only had one yesterday (and split that w/ the roomie) It was tasty, and I think it satisfied the craving... so I'm going to see if I can stretch those and only drink one per week.

I also need to get my Wii hooked back up (I took it to a friends awhile back, and haven't gotten around to setting it back up) so that I can hook up my Wii Fit and see how that works now that the monster lives here... Should prove to be interesting...

So, each week, I am weighing myself. And when I weighed in this week... I discovered that I had lost 10lbs! Now, I'm not crazy enough to believe that I'll lose that much every week... I know that because I cut my sodium down to a more sensible amount, I've definitely shed some water weight, so we'll see what this week holds for me.

That's all for now!

Monday, June 29, 2009

A great weekend

Well, I really have been MIA on the blogosphere lately huh? It's been a pretty crazy several weeks. After I wrapped up spring classes, I thought I'd have a bit more time, unfortunately that wasn't the case. Life happens. My summer class was VERY involved, my mom had a health scare, and life just seemed chaotic... I am glad to say I came through the other side unscathed (AND my Mom did too!!!!)

So, while I've had tons of ideas for blogging topics, I just haven't been able to manage to park myself down and start writing. Hopefully, I've turned the tide on that... I'm slowly trying to work my way back into the blogosphere...

My first blog back... is about my fabulous weekend trip to the 'Nati (Cincinnati) to see NKOTB (New Kids On the Block).

So, a few months ago, my best friend, being the great and wonderful person that he is, suprised me with an early birthday present of tickets to NKOTB... I cannot tell you how thrilled I was! I was a HUGE fan of NKOTB as a tween... you have know idea... I mean, my mom was pregant during this phase, and when I found it was supposed to be a boy, I begged my mom to name him Jordan Nathaniel Marcel (Jordan Knight's full name). I didn't manage to get the whole name to stick, but mom liked Nathaniel...

So, the concert was this past weekend. We decided to drive up a little early and stop and grab dinner first, at La Rosa's, yummy!!! Of course the fun part was getting from La Rosa's to the concert... See we had GPS'd ourselves to the restaurant. The plan was to then GPS from the restaurant to the concert. HA! When we got back into the car, even though the GPS had just sent us to this place, it now couldn't locate us. We thought maybe if we drove a little further back up our route, away from the trees, we'd have better luck... we were wrong... It was almost comical, we drove around Newport, and crossed over into Ohio before GPS found us. Luckily, we had managed to figure out on our own the direction to head, and we were headed the right way. Which is really a good thing, because GPS lost our signal again along the way.

We finally made it to Riverbend and parked. Then we completed what seemed like a 2 mile trek to get to the actual gates. Once we got inside the gates, we decided to go ahead and check out the concert merchandise and get something to drink before we headed to the seats. It was still rather humid out and pretty sunny... so in standing in line for both, the sun was beating down... and everyone standing around, including ourselves were sweating horribly.

The concert itself was great. The Jabbawokeez were the first opening act, they were suprisingly entertaining. Jesse McCartney was the second act. Then my boys were on. It was a great show, with alot of their old stuff mixed in with some new stuff. I got some great pics and had a blast. Of course by the time we drove home, I was more than ready to hop in a shower and get rid of the funk!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Crazy 8's

Natalie over at A Little of This, A Little of That tagged me for this meme.

THE RULES: Mention who tagged you. (check!)

Complete the list of 8’s.

Tag 8 other people.

(1) Public Speaking Class being over
(2) Vegas in October
(3) NKOTB concert in a few weeks
(4) Did I mention Public Speaking Class being over soon?
(5) Transferring to NKU in the Spring
(6) Kevin getting home to assist in monster watch
(7) Retirement (I've still got awhile)
(8) Oh yeah, Public Speaking Class ending... (lol)

(1) Bought a very expensive pair of black pants
(2) Bought a very awesome pair of black pants
(3) Contemplated whether the awesomeness outweighed the price of the black pants
(4) Took a bath while the monster spied on me
(5) Went to my FAVORITE class
(6) Gave a speech in my FAVORITE class
(7) Decided to grab dinner from a restaurant, because it was late and I was tired
(8) Ended the day with a good book and a hot bath

(1) Not go back to work until I finish school
(2) Find a job that paid me to stay home and go to school
(3) Retire at 31
(4) Figure out how to trap the house elves here to keep my place clean
(5) Catch up on sleep
(6) Remember to take my vitamins
(7) Eat Spaghetti
(8) Invent something that would make me millions of dollars

8 SHOWS I WATCH: ( I am going with what's on right now, everything it seems is in reruns)
(1) RW/RR Challenges (guilty pleasure)
(2) I'm a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here (Junkfood for the brain)
(3) The Goode Family
(4) Little House on the Prairie (yes, I've seen them before, I still watch 'em... I actually RECORD them to watch!)
(5) Jon & Kate, plus 8 (yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah... those little kidlets are cute... leave me alone!)
(6) Rachael Ray Show
(7) Raising the Bar
(8) In Plain Sight

(1) Pizza
(2) Peanut Butter
(3) Ice Cream
(4) Croutons
(5) Turkey
(6) Chicken Fingers (though I've never seen one on a chicken)
(7) Bread
(8) French Fries

(1) NYC at Christmas
(2) England
(3) Tuscany
(4) Lithuania
(5) Alaska (via a cruise)
(6) Australia
(7) Ireland
(8) France

Ok, so several people I would have tagged have already been tagged, so I'm only tagging a couple, however anyone who wants to... feel free to join in!

Mary at Owlhaven
My favorite Newlywed

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Secret to great cupcakes & cakes

Good Morning folks! It's Tuesday... and one heck of a Tuesday it's been already! You know it's going to be a great day when you have an icepack on your arm before 9 am!

However, I'm pushing through. I've been absent from the blogworld, because lots of school stuff going on in a small amount of time (that's what happens when you cram a semester class into a 6 week summer session)

It's time for Kitchen Tip Tuesdays over at Tammy's Recipes. I thought of this tip last week when I was baking up some Vanilla Zucchini cupcakes. It's a tip that I use most every time I bake any kind of cupcake or cake. I discovered it by accident. Once, while baking a set of cupcakes, I didn't have enough batter to fill all of the wells. I poured some water into the empty ones to prevent the pan from warping. I noticed that when I was finished baking, those cupcakes seemed moister. So I experimented... now when baking any cakes, I put another pan on the rack below, partially filled with water. The water in the pan creates some steam & moisture which helps offset the drying effect of the oven. Every time I use this method, I get a much moister cupcake, that stays fresh much longer!
Hope you find this helpful, and don't forget to head over to Tammy's site to check out more tips!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Murphy's law at it's best

Today was one of those meltdown days:

Went to the grocery store & was ready to check out... no $$$
Lost car in grocery store parking lot... TWICE
Almost got hit by Graeter's Ice Cream Van
Bread that was purchased somehow opened, dumping into carseat
Dog broke tooth (her's, not mine)

Purple & Orange Cauliflower, Oh My!

I stopped in at Kroger today & they have a great little sale. You can buy a head of Purple or Orange Cauliflower for just .99 each! White cauliflower is still about 2.50, and these were normally almost $4, so I grabbed a couple (plus they are just so darned cute!)

Once you bring the cauliflower home, you might be looking for a good recipe. Here's a good one to try. I wish I had a pic of it, but it was gone before I blinked! Maybe next time.

One head of cauliflower - chopped into bite size pieces.

Olive Oil - about a 1/4 cup

Salt & Pepper (I never measure these when I'm just cooking, I just sprinkle)

Garlic Cloves - Anywhere from 10-20 (sounds like alot, but it's worth it)

Italian Seasoning - about a teaspoon

Red Pepper Flakes - just a pinch

Shredded Parmesean Cheese

Place your cauliflower in a casserole dish. Peel & slightly crack your garlic cloves, throw them in whole. Drizzle the veggies w/ your olive oil. Season w/ salt, pepper, Italian seasoning & red pepper flakes. Toss to coat evenly. Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven. After 15 minutes, stir the veggies & sprinkle with the shredded parmesean cheese. Bake another 10 minutes. Check to see if the veggies are tender. You may need another 5 minutes or so (stir again if you do)

Remove & Serve immediately.

I really believe that in most cooking, (not baking which requires some degree of measurement) it should be about just getting in there and having fun. Feel free to swap out some ingredients if you want.

I suggest:

Can swap broccoli for cauliflower (or use both!)

Don't swap the garlic - It gets really tender & sweet, and is great smushed into the cauliflower as you eat (or on a hunk of bread)

Use whatever seasonings you want, experiment!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A real sinker

More & more often, our cell phones go lots of places with us. And it is inevitable, that at some point, many people find their cell phone taking a swan dive into the nearest body of water... When this happens, you might think it's money & contact info down the drain... but this may not be the case.

A few years ago, I worked briefly as a customer service rep for a cellular company, as well as spent a couple years in other capacities for the company. The knowledge I gained there has been pretty helpful, I'm an expert at troubleshooting my own phone. One great tip that I picked up while there was how to handle a wet cell phone. I've shared it with a few people, most recently with one today, and decided it might make a good blog post, in an attempt to get the info out to lots of people faster.

So, if you find yourself in a situation where your phone is in the water, the first step is pretty simple:

GET IT OUT! The longer the phone is in the water, the less likely you might be to restore it.

The next step is very critical... DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT, attempt to turn the phone back on to see if it still works! The truth is, often times a phone can survive being dropped in water, as in most occasions, the phone powers itself off when it hits the water. When you try to turn the phone on, because there is water inside the phone, you then short the phone out, frying it, so to speak... Water + Electricity = BAD

Now, quickly remove the back of the phone and get the battery out. This is really important if your phone by chance didn't power off, because you need to temporarily "kill" the phone.

Grab a towel, and dry your phone. Dry all the visible places... inside where your battery case is, around the hinges, open the little covers that hide the charger openings (you can use a Q-tip to try to soak up some moisture there) If your phone flips or slides or anything, open that too. The key is to expose as much as possible of your phone to air.

Next place your phone on a clean dry towel.

Now walk away, that's right... just leave it... you've done all you can do, and now you must leave your phone to the elements... Depending on how long your phone was in the water (say I dropped it into the sink and immediately grabbed it back out, versus I went into the pool and forgot I had it on me) You'll want to let your phone dry out for anywhere from 24 - 48 hours. If you have a small fan, it wouldn't hurt to set it near the phone to provide some air circulation.

After 24-48 hours, come back and reassemble your phone. Attempt to power it on. If the cellular gods are smiling on you, your phone should power back on. If it doesn't at first, you may want to try plugging it in and charging it, some batteries lose their charge quickly when wet.

I've had personal experience, and my phone came through just fine. I've also heard some really weird stories of things people have suggested that ended disasterously, such as:

Freezing your phone: BAD IDEA... water expands when it's frozen... you could really do more harm than good, plus you're going to be allowing more moisture into the phone.

Baking your phone: You would have to be VERY careful and I would NOT recommend baking the battery. Even without the battery, the LCD screen can be very tempermental when exposed to heat.

Of course the best plan is prevention... but we know that it's not always possible.

*On a side note, I imagine you could use the same process for other small handheld electronics, like Ipods, etc... but I've never had personal experience with 'em

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Staleness be gone - Kitchen Tip Tuesday

It's Kitchen Tip Tuesday over at Tammy's Recipes. Be sure and check out her site for a variety of tips!

Ever reach into a sleeve of crackers only to realize they're stale? or perhaps a bag of chips that someone left the clip off of? Maybe in your morning fog you didn't close up your Cheerios... While I'm a huge proponent of repackaging items, using clips, etc to keep out the air... inevitably something is going to get stale. And nowadays, everyone is looking for ways to make their money go further...

So the next time you find yourself with some stale chips, crackers, or cereal... try one of these two ideas:

#1 - Microwave - Use the microwave, on high, at about 30 second intervals until the item is thoroughly heated (it will vary depending on your microwave & the amount of food you're working with). Just spread the stale chips, etc out on a paper towel & microwave. Afterwards let the food cool down, and you'll find they've crisped back up.

#2 - Toaster Oven/Oven - Spread out the stale cereal, etc on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes in a 300 degree oven until nice and toasty. Once cooled, you'll find they taste fresh again.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Breakfast Pizza

Like most of my recipes, this is more of a method, you can embellish as you see fit to suit your tastes.


1 small/med onion

2 T butter

Salt & Pepper

Small can of refridgerated biscuit dough (6 biscuits)

2-4 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

1/4 lb breakfast sausage

3 eggs

1/2 cup milk

Start by cutting onion in half, and then slice fairly thin. Place onions in pan with butter. Season with salt & pepper. Start on Med/High for about a minute, then reduce down to Med/Low and continue to cook until the onions become soft and caramelized to your liking (depends on how much time I have) stirring periodically to prevent burning.

Brown & crumble the breakfast sausage (you could do this with the onions if you like, but if you want to cut down on excess grease, cook separately) then drain. This is where I took a short cut. I used precooked fake sausage crumbles because my roomie doesn't eat meat.

Roll out each biscuit individually until about 1/8 inch thin. It's easiest if it's done between two layers of waxed paper. Overlap the biscuits in an 8" or 9" pan/pie plate. I used a can of 6 biscuits, but these were fairly small biscuits, if your biscuits are bigger, you could probably get away with 4.

When the onions are done, spoon them onto the biscuits. Add the sausage as well. Sprinkle with cheese (you can use any kind of cheese, and more or less to your liking)

Whisk together the eggs & milk. Pour this mixture over the topped biscuits. Bake in a preheated oven (375) for about 20-25 minutes (until center is set). Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes before slicing and serve.

I forgot to take a picture until part of it had been served :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Baked Asparagus

Over at Tammy's Recipes, it's time for In Season Recipe Swap. I really like the idea of this recipe exchange, because it's all about using what's in abundance. This week's theme: Asparagus.

I've tried a few asparagus recipes. One of the new favorites in my house is one from Tammy's site, Creamed Asparagus Over Pasta. I only make 2 small changes to the recipe. (1) I go ahead and combine everything (the sauce, pasta & alfredo) in a casserole dish & bake it for a few minutes. (2) I add a pinch of nutmeg to the cream sauce. I like to add nutmeg to most cream sauces.

Hands down the favorite asparagus recipe in my house, and actually it's the easiest... is Baked Asparagus. It's more of a method than a recipe.

Start with the asparagus. You can use as few or as many stalks as will serve your family.

Snap or trim off the tough ends.

Lay the asparagus in a single layer in a baking pan.

Drizzle the asparagus with your favorite olive oil. (This is my favorite brand)

Toss the asparagus in the oil, so to coat them

Sprinkle with salt & pepper

I also sprinkle with shredded parmesean cheese sometimes

Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes

Serve warm

I like this recipe because it's so easy, I don't dirty any dishes except for my pan and it's done in less than 20 minutes without having to fuss over them, giving me time for whatever else I need to prepare. None of the ingredients are exact, just to your liking. I would guess it's about a tablespoon of olive oil, for an average bunch of asparagus. I just turn the bottle up and make one pass over the asparagus. I use a couple small pinches of salt & just a couple quick shakes of pepper. As for the cheese, I use it when I think to, but it's just as tasty without. You could substitute any hard cheese.
Make sure you go check out everyone else's recipes. I have a fridge drawer full of asparagus, so I'm excited to see some new recipe ideas.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Viva Las Vegas

It gives me GREAT pleasure to say that I'm heading back to Vegas this fall!!! The first weekend of October to be more specific. This is a rather recent development, it was only decided YESTERDAY. My roomie & I visited Vegas in December of '07 for an awesome concert (Spice Girls) and yet another concert is bringing us back there this year.

Still looking at vacation packages, we just purchased our concert tickets yesterday. So who are we off to see? Kylie Minogue! This is her first U.S. tour... Ever... My roomie is a huge fan, and I like her music myself. She finally announced a small tour (only 7 shows at this time) for North America. We actually barely got the tickets, they had a presale yesterday that started at 1PM, and both my roomie & I were online, and had to keep refreshing for about 5 minutes before someone's tickets must have gotten released, and we managed to score a pair!

If you have any bargains you've heard about in Vegas, be sure and let me know. Last time we were there, we managed to score a few, but always up for suggestions.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Schoolin' and Such

Well, back in January, I blogged that I had started my classes. I am happy to report that I am now going into my finals for each class. WooHoo! This semester has actually went by rather quick. I have just one final assigment/exam for each of my classes. And then...no break for me, beginning the week of May 10th, I will be starting summer school! Summer school will be 1 part catch up and one part get ahead.

I previously blogged that I was taking 3 classes & a lab (which is basically a 4th class) this semester. Unfortunately, I decided to withdraw from one of my classes. I was taking Comparative Religion and while the class itself had so much potential, and in the time that I was taking it, I discovered so many interesting tidbits, in the end, the class lacked the instructor input that I felt was needed in order to be successful. Each week we simply read a chapter and then posted our thoughts on a discussion board. We were graded on our posts, but our professor was very unclear about how he would grade the posts. We would only get one grade for all the posting for the entire semester and he provided practically no feedback on our comments. Additionally the few assignments were very vague. My biggest fear after being in the class for a month and a half was that when finals rolled around, I would have a final on unknown material. There just didn't seem to be a good compass for the class. So I withdrew, while I could still do so without it impacting my GPA. I will be replacing this class with a Women's Studies class in the fall.

My biology lab actually turned out to be very fun! Because the class was online, we had to purchase lab kits. We got to perform experiments at home! Some of it was challenging, because this was a new kit that they had not used previously, so adjustments in instruction had to be made, but I liked the class overall. And I now know how to extract DNA with everyday household ingredients!

Unless something goes terribly wrong, I should have an A in all 3 of the classes from this spring!

So, as for my summer classes. When I decided to drop my religion class, I knew that I needed to take at least one class during the summer to keep my fall schedule manageable. The first class I will be taking is public speaking. I DO NOT WANT TO TAKE THIS CLASS. Why? Well, the first reason being that while it is sometimes offered online, and I was holding out to see if it would be in the fall... they didn't... so I actually have to go to school (which means if I start working before the class ends, scheduling) and second, because I don't think I'll get the same benefit from the class. It's a requirement for the program I'm transferring into, and while I completely get why it's important for students... Having worked in professional settings, in management capacities, public speaking is something I've grown quite used to... but at least I was able to pick it up as an evening class for the summer... Just 3 evenings a week, for about 6 weeks... and my roomie also needs the class for his degree... so we're taking it together!

I'm also electing to take an additional economics class this summer. It's being offered by the same professor I have this semester. Since I'm familiar with his teaching style, I feel comfortable taking the class in an accelerated format (AND IT'S ONLINE). It will be picking up right around the time that my first summer class ends. This also means that I will only have to carry 7 hours (3 classes) in the fall to meet all my requirements for my transfer!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sign of the times

I was planning on posting a picture with this blog, which would have made it alot more interesting. Unfortunately, I got a little ahead of myself and tossed the box in the dumpster before I remembered.

So, on to the story. Last night, my roomie & I decided to grab pizza for dinner (he gets a great discount on Tuesdays, so it's super cheap) We picked up the order, and as we were leaving, I happened to notice the label on the box (the sticker that has your name, etc)... It said "Your Pizza Experience Was Managed By Christ"

Now I'm not trying to be sacrilegious or anything... but it truly is a sign of the times when the son of God has a part time job!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Homemade Croutons

I love croutons... I'm not a fan of salad, but I snack on croutons... but have you ever looked at the ingredient list on some brands? Not to mention, it's actually pretty easy to turn ingredients you already have into yummy crunchy goodness without leaving home.

I'll share with you my method, it's not an exact recipe, because it will vary based on your personal preferences and the quantities you have on hand.

Start with your bread. You can use fresh bread or stale bread, doesn't really make a difference in the end. The only difference is that the fresher the bread, the longer it will stay in the oven, in order to dry it out. Most recently I made some croutons with some leftover Sourdough bread I had. It was a really rustic bread and had lots of flavor, but you can really use any bread you want.

Cube your bread, size is up to personal preferences. I usually cube mine in about 1 inch or so pieces, because I like jumbo croutons. If you make them smaller, they'll finish faster of course. You'll want them to be similiar in size, so they'll all finish at the same time.

Spread the bread out on a baking pan and drizzle with melted butter (for a full pan, I use about a 1/3 a cup of butter) you can use more or less, just eyeball it, the more butter you use, the better the end result. Sprinkle the bread with your favorite seasoning (I use garlic powder) and then toss the bread cubes to make sure they are coated as evenly as possible (you don't have to be perfect)

Bake the bread @ 300 degrees until lightly browned and completely dry. You'll want to stir them every 10 to 15 minutes. I usually bake mine for about an hour and 15 minutes. These are a good project for when you're cleaning the kitchen, etc, since you'll already be in there. After about 30 minutes, I usually take them out and drizzle/stir in some additional melted butter (maybe another 1/4 cup) and some more garlic powder.

When you think they are done, taste one... if it's chewy in the middle at all, go another 10 minutes and try again. At about the 1 hour mark, I take mine out and sprinkle in some grated Parmesean cheese (toss to coat) and let them go another 10 to 15 minutes. Once they're done, to ensure that they are completely dried out and nice and crunchy, I just turn the oven off and leave them in the oven to hang out for awhile.

You can store them in an airtight container, or in the freezer for longterm storage.

Want more great kitchen tips? Head over to Tammy's Kitchen for Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What a monster eats

Yes, her chew toy is not 6 inches away, but she would rather chew on a stray plastic container she found.

But she eats her greens too! On a plate no less!

Life with pets

We recently bought a bookcase to fill some blank wall space in the living room. Previously there had been a large ottoman on that particular wall, but when we got the new living room set, the room was rearranged, and the ottoman was out. And we were stuck with a blank wall that just looked really bare. We went shopping looking for something to fill that space. We had some ideas, unfortunately, the stores weren't cooperating with our ideas. Everything we looked at was either not in our price range, too big, too small, or the wrong color. We finally ended up modifying our plans and switched to a grouping of items. This is how the bookcase came to be in our living room. For days, it sat empty while we figured out what was going on it. Well, except for the cats... who decided that this was their new multi level cat bed.

Finally, I started filling the shelves. We wanted the shelving to be functional (it needed to be a place our remotes could go, out of reach and maybe house some DVDs) but we didn't want it to be completely packed full of stuff, and end up looking cluttered. Our living room is small, and if the bookcase is overrun, it will just make the whole room feel cluttered. So far... I've got 3 shelves arranged... and then comes the decision... what goes on the last two shelves... because clearly, the cats still think that these two shelves are their bunk beds...

And of course, I somehow got a strange angle when I took this, and cutting off part of the shelf, because it looks crooked, but I'm looking at the shelf now and it's not.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A yummy mashed potato

It seems that everywhere I read, people are pairing down their food budget, trying to economize, not be wasteful, etc. One of the popular ideas, that's been going on, on a few blogs, is skipping the grocery store, and just using what you have on hand. I'm trying this as well. Yesterday I made a baked mashed potato recipe. Well, it's not really a recipe, so much as a method. I've read several recipes, and I just blended a few together, based on what I had on hand.

Here's what I used:
Bag of Oreda Steam & Mash Potatoes
1% Milk
Sour Cream
Onion Powder
Neufchatel Cheese
Smart Balance 50/50 Butter Blend
2% Colby Cheese
Salt & Pepper (not pictured)
Cooking Spray (not pictured)

Now, you could always use regular potatoes to start this out, but I had these on hand, buried in my freezer, and they cook in the microwave, less hassle for me!

You can also use regular cream cheese, I just happened to have the Neufchatel on hand.

You could also use whatever sort of cheese you had, I think any would work equally.

Now, start by popping the potatoes in the microwave, according to package directions (mine took 10 minutes on high). While they are doing their thing, go ahead and cube up your Neufchatel and shred your cheese:

Once your potatoes are done, wait about 2 minutes, then carefully pop open the bag, and dump them into a bowl with your milk & butter blend (use quantities recommended from package).

You can mash these by hand, or mixer. If I'm making regular mashed potatoes, I usually will just do them by hand, so as not to overwork them, but since I was going to be incorporating other ingredients and wanted it to be smooth, I used my KitchenAid. Once you get the potatoes started, and they're about halfway mashed, go ahead and add in your cream cheese (8 oz block cubed), shredded cheese (about 2 oz), sour cream (I just grabbed a big spoonful), and the onion powder (I just sprinkled some in, I'm guessing, about a half a tsp):

Mix until combined and kinda smooth. Spray a casserole dish (I used 9x13) with cooking spray, then spread the potato mixture in the dish evenly. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, and dot with some additional butter.

Bake @ 350 for about 20-30 minutes, until heated through. Serve

I forgot to take the picture until some of it had been served up, but I think you get the idea :)

Fabulous 5

So, here's the challenge. Go to your picture folders (or where ever you store them) and randomly select one subfolder (if you don't have subfolders, improvise) Then, select pic # 4, 7, 12, 16, & 22 (Again, if this folder doesn't have that many... just go with it) This probably works best if you're like me and have a folder that just seems to collect all sorts of random pictures with no real theme, there's always plenty of pics in the folder.

Here are mine:

This was taken a couple years ago on a trip to Vegas. It was the last night we were there, so we were walking around on the strip, trying to see/do as much as possible before going home. This shot is down by the Venetian, of course it was FREEZING out there, so it has hard to get a shot without shaking.

This is the hole in my backyard. They started semi filling it in with rocks when they were doing construction, now it's just there, one of these mornings, I'm going to be taking Zali out and I'll be half asleep, and when she starts down the incline (because heaven forbid she should pee on flat land) I'm going to lose my balance and go tumbling down this.

I'm a little behind on sorting, clipping, filing coupons. 'Nuff said.

I was just messing around with my camera when I took this picture, though one of my FAVORITE shows is on :)

These things are taking over my backyard

Friday, March 27, 2009

Very important rule

Just wanted to share an important rule. After applying flea medicine to your pet, do not pet your pet (lol) where the medicine was applied, or snuggle up... unless you're thinking about getting your lip pierced or something, in which case, it would probably make a nice anesthetic.

Monday night, we were settling in to watch a movie, and the monster, aka Zali was curled up beside of me being sweet. So I nuzzled up to her, not thinking that just a couple hours beforehand we had put her Advantage on.

At first, I just noticed the smell on my hands (it surprisingly smells good, kinda tropical) then I notice that my lips are going numb. At which point I calmly ask my roomie to pause the DVD, and jump up heading for the kitchen. I grab the first cup I find and start rinsing my mouth out with water, repeatedly. Then I decide that just rinsing over my lips probably isn't 100% effective, so I grab the first thing I see (Dawn Dishwashing liquid) and quickly squirt some into my hand, and begin scrubbing my lips. After a few more rinses, I determine that's probably all I can do. My roomie has at this point called in to see what I'm doing, so I make my way back to the living room, giving him the story.

Thankfully, my lips are still attached just fine!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Consumer Research at it's finest

Do you like getting freebies in the mail? I love it, especially when they are not your run of the mill freebies. I'm not going to take the time to bullet out the places you can go for free samples, there are plenty of other sites that do that. What I want to share today, is my review of some neat programs you can sign up for that may just leave you with a surprise in your mailbox.

First up:

BzzAgent is a "word of mouth" advertising program. They work with a variety of companies that want to advertise by giving away a select number of their product. How it works is simple. You sign up via their website and complete a basic profile. You then will also randomly complete brief surveys, etc that help guage your particular interests. When a campaign opens that matches your demographics, you'll be alerted to sign up. You get a "bzzcampaign" package in the mail with all the necessary items. My roomie & I both participate in this. I can't even begin to remember everything they've sent us... Just last week, I got a Glade Sense 'n Spray. A couple months ago, I got one of the new Cover Girl Lip Inks. About a year ago, my roomie got sent a Logitech Universal Remote (It's an AWESOME remote, with touch screen, etc... that retails for $200). Sometimes I go months and don't get anything, but then again, it's not like I'm working for them either. In exchange, after you've tried the product, they want you to create buzz about it, positive or negative depending on how much you like it. They usually give you coupons you can share, etc. You then complete surveys, etc and let them know how you shared. Pretty simple.

Up Next:

Pssst is a program General Mills offers, that allows you to learn more about new products and promotions. Most of what I have received from them has been in the form of coupons emailed to me. However l also received a package from them yesterday. Inside was a full size box of a new flavor of Fiber One Granola Bars (a 5 ct box) AND coupons! I didn't even request it, they just sent it! Pretty cool...

Moving on to:
SheSpeaks is a website for women, about women, by women. It's a forum, that contains all sorts of topics for women. The website itself is pretty interesting. There are also a variety of market research opportunities they offer from time to time. I've received chocolate, vitamin C packets... and today I'm receiving a Haagen-Daaz Party Package... Yup... they are sending me a package of their 7 new pints of Haagen-Daaz, along with coupons, and goodies to do an ice cream tasting party.

So what are you waiting for? There are others out there, and over the next few weeks, I'll try to share more of the programs I participate in. But for now, I've got some ice cream to watch for!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Some deals around town

Here's a couple of my favorite deals I've spotted recently:

I'm a greeting card person, I love them. I stopped in Meijer this weekend, and as I walked through the card section, I noticed some coupon tearpads. Meijer has a coupon for $2 off when you buy 3 American Greetings cards. They also have an assortment of cards for just $.99 each. That means you get 3 cards for $1 - The coupon is good through April 12th

I just happen to LOVE the new Cherry Diet Dr Pepper. Kroger has a sale right now, you buy 2 - 12 packs of any Dr Pepper and you get one free. Which makes them $2.34 each... not a bad deal. However, if you've already been buying Dr Pepper (or if you want to repeat this transaction) many of the 12 packs are advertising a $1 coupon inside. If you use 3 of these (because you are purchasing 3 12 packs) you can get the 3 - 12 packs for just $4 or $1.33 each

( I can see the mountain of Dr Pepper I shall be constructing, lol)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Crystal over at MSM is having a Baking Day. Sounded appealing, but I wasn't in the mood to spend all day in the kitchen with the oven going, but I thought it was a good idea to get a few things knocked out of the way for later. So I decided to join in. I've mixed up:

French Breakfast Puffs - Popping them in the freezer to enjoy throughout the week
Baked Pasta - Going in the freezer for later this week
Soup Beans - Possible dinner tonight for roomie
Frito Crockpot Candy - Intrigued me, so I decided to try them, they are yummy!

*Update, I also whipped up some yummy breadsticks, no photo, sorry :)
And I made some cornbread to go with the beans for my roomie :)
My new KitchenAid stand mixer really got a good workout today!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Life with the monster

Anyone who doesn't think that a pet isn't like a child should try living in my house for a week. While there are some obvious differences, trust me when I say that parenting a puppy can be even more difficult than parenting a child. So, several months ago, I shared with you about our new addition Zali. In the months since she has moved in she has brought many joys and many frustrations, such as "the candy corn incident" and of course she was officially dubbed "the monster" awhile back after devouring a few remote controls.

I am continuously amazed at how she learns new skills to both dazzle and try us. In fact as I am sitting here trying to type this post, I am being targeted with a ferocious onslaught of doggie love. Like any parent, I am the master at holding a wiggly child in one hand while cleaning up a mess with the other.

I think that Zali's goal is to teach us new lessons, I'm still trying to figure out what yesterday's lesson was exactly. Yesterday Zali became obsessed with soda cans. She managed to find one everytime I turned my back, and I would be alerted to her discovery by the cruching of the can. She even proceeded after having a can taken away from her, to hop onto the couch, near where a small table was. She sat behind the table, calm as could be, and punched with one paw (think kickboxing) and successfully knocked a empty can my roomie had finished earlier to the floor.

About 30 minutes later, I was sitting in the living room and I heard one of the cats make a strange noise, I peered around my laptop to discover that it was Smokie (Zali's favorite unwilling partner in crime) who was laying on his side, with the most peculiar look on his face. Why? Because Zali had plopped down and made herself comfy, using him as a bench.

I can't help but to wonder what comes next. And just when I think that the little monster is going to drive me mad, she comes up, cuddles beside of me and lays her head on my leg.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Perseverance and Lessons Learned

Lessons I learned this weekend:

1. Pizza Sauce is not a good tool for mopping the kitchen floor

2. Just a little butter will ensure a clean release of pizza dough from the pan

3. Egg whites are a great way to glue your waxed paper to your baking sheet

Saturday evening, I decide to make a homemade pizza for dinner. This can be a time consuming process, but the results are worth it. I started by making some dough. Next after getting the dough into a pan, I topped with my yummy homemade pizza sauce. What happened next, is still unclear, but somehow as I turned away to call to my roommate to come into the kitchen to help with toppings, I bumped the pan, and it fell from the counter. And of course... it flipped on the way down, landing sauce side down. You can imagine the fun of cleaning up this saucy, doughy mess, all while trying to keep the monster at bay!

Fast forward a bit, I recently bought a new Kitchen Aid stand mixer, and decide I wanted to give making meringues a shot. So of course it would only make since that the perfect time to start such a finicky recipe would be after having already had a dinner fiasco... Unfortunately, I pulled the meringues a little too soon from the bowl, and they hadn't quite reached the right stage.

Meringues take about 2 hours to bake, so an hour later when I peeked in the oven, and looked at the sad little meringue blobs... they had completely melted flat onto the pan. So I turned the oven off, and decided to wait until morning, to deal with the cleanup. I got up Sunday morning to find that the meringues, in their melting process, had completely glued themselves and the waxed paper to the baking sheet.

I did however succeed in making a pizza the second night. And yesterday, I made my second attempt at meringues, these turned out MUCH better.

Trying to decide what my next kitchen disaster will be :)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spring Cleaning

Anyone looking for a random kitchen accessory/appliance? I'm going through the cabinets and drawers, and trimming down the things I have no use for, or have multiple of. I've decided that there are just too many things not getting enough use, and things that I'll never get around to using, etc... so I've started a box of things I no longer have a use for. Now I just need to decide what to do with it all. Having a yard sale isn't very practical here, so I think I'm going to start craiglisting it all. I'm also going to post some of the things up here on this blog, so if you're local and I have something you might be interested in, you can let me know. I'm also open to barter/trade for any of the items.

I haven't had a chance to take any pics, but if you're in the market for some dishes, an electric mixer, a turbo cooker, or a "GT express" let me know. I also have a coffee table and an ionic hair straightener I'm getting rid of as well

Monday, February 23, 2009

What's for dinner?

I tried a new recipe from Tammy's Recipes for Spinach Rice Casserole. I am not a spinach eater myself, but my roomie thought it was quite good!

It's a pretty simple recipe, I made a couple minor modifications to the original, based on what I had on hand:

9 or 10 ounces fresh spinach leaves ( some people who reviewed the recipe used frozen, I went ahead and picked up fresh, it was on sale)
1 tablespoon water (I used a couple extra tablespoons of water)
1 teaspoon dried onion or 2 tablespoons of fresh, minced onion (Didn't have either, used 1/2 tsp onion powder instead)
1 cup cooked rice (measurement is after cooking, not before) (I had a pack of 2 of the Minute Rice cups that already cooked, that you microwave to heat up, since I was cooking the rice in the casserole, I didn't bother to microwave, used both cups, which equalled a little over a cup, but worked great!)
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon sal
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Start by wilting down your spinach leaves. I did this by dropping about half of them into a large pan with a couple tablespoons of water, over low-med heat. Pop a lid on, and periodically turn the leaves as the bottom ones wilt. As there is room in the pan, add more leaves until you get all of the leaves worked in. Once all the leaves are wilted down, remove from heat and allow to cool. (I removed the spinach to another dish, and spread them out so they would cool quicker) I prefer doing this because if you try to add the hot spinach to the rest of the dish, you can end up cooking the eggs a bit prematurely, which wouldn't be that tasty.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together. Stir in spinach. Place in a greased 8x8 casserole and bake at 325 for 35-40 minutes, or until middle is just set (you can check this with a fork) Keep in mind that you'll have some carryover cooking, so it'll finish once you pull it from the oven and let it stand.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Some great deals out there

Have you filed your taxes and now you want to treat yourself to something with your refund? Well, I'm not suggesting that you blow all of it, but there's nothing wrong with a great bargain.

I'm a big fan of Wisebread.com - They have a Best Deals link that gets updated throughout the day with the best that's out there on the web.

One great deal they alerted me to... courtesy of Fat Wallet... is that through Feb 28th Amazon.com is offering $20 off instantly from your $49 or more in selected Andis products. You just enter code ANDSFEB9 at your checkout. You can click HERE for the post and it has a link to the Andis products in the Amazon store. I was able to snag 2 new hair dryers (one for me & one for my roomie) and a new flat iron (all of which were on sale!) for $53, less the $20 = $33, and then I had $29 in Amazon gift cards from my banking rewards... Grand total was around $7 and shipping was free!!!!

Remember, before you decide to make a big purchase, do a little homework, there are plenty of bargains to be had!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just for fun, vote for me!

There is a little contest going on that I entered, so I am shamelessly plugging my entry :) (it's ok, you're supposed to tell your friends, and my readers are my friends!) Just go to this link Before noon on Friday (tomorrow) and vote for "Melissa" PLEASE & Thank you!

Here's my entry (which can be seen on the page) It looks better on the page, because I can't get this version of it to sparkle :)

Monday, February 2, 2009

Free Breakfast Tomorrow (Tuesday)

Tomorrow (Feb 3rd) Denny's Restaurant is giving away a free grand slam breakfast to everyone. Click here for details

Friday, January 23, 2009

Some great deals abound!

You'll have to use your imagination on this one for right now... I took pictures of my shopping trip with my phone, but last week I had modified the settings on my camera, and I can't figure out where it's saving the pictures!

So anyways, it's been awhile since I've shared some bargains, yesterday I managed to score some amazing deals. My kitchen cabinets are thoroughly stocked with all sorts of things.

First stop was Kroger, they're doing some really good sales this week. They have one of those promotions where if you can get $5 off your order for buying 10 products from certain groups.

Kraft Cheese is part of this sale. It's on sale for 1.99 for a variety of slices, shredds, cubes and chunks. There is also this little blinkie in some of the Kroger's that will give you a $.75 off one Kraft 2% variety. I usually buy the 2% varieties anyway, so this was a great deal. Between pizzas and casseroles, salads, sandwiches, snacks, pasta, etc... cheese will definitely be used in this house, and I had the fridge space... so I actually bought 10 packs of Kraft cheese! (Yes, I know it sounds like alot!) I got 7 bags of shredded, 1 pack of slices, and 2 blocks of Colby.
Let's look at the cost:
Kraft Cheese on sale for 1.99 each X 10 = 19.90
Less 10 blinkies for .75 : 19.90 - 7.50 = 12.40
Less $5 for purchasing 10 promotion: 12.40 - 5 = $7.40

$7.40 isn't a bad deal at all for 10 packs of cheese, it makes the cheese just $.74 a pack

Quaker Rice Cakes were on sale for $1 each, I had coupons from recent insert for $1 off, making them free.

Hormel Chili is on sale for $1 a can (Kev eats the vegetarian variety for lunch sometimes) and it's part of the "10/$5" promotion. I also had some coupons for $.55 off 2 cans from last week's inserts. I think I bought 8 cans total.

Rotel Canned Tomatoes are on sale for $1 and part of the same promotion, I had some $.30 off coupons (Kroger doubles to $.60 off) from last week's inserts, so I picked up some of those as well.

Kleenex Tissue is on sale for $1.59 and is part of the sale, I had some $.40 manufacturer's coupons from recent inserts, so that went into the mix as well.

Horizon Organic Single Serve milk is on sale for $1, there were recent coupons for $.25 off one (doubled) - I picked up a couple to use for cooking (I don't drink milk, Kev only drinks Soy)

I can't remember all the rest of the bargains, but those were the highlights. If I find my pics I'll update.

At Mejier, I worked a few good deals, the best being Kellogg's Cereal deal :

Kellogg's Cereal (select varieties) is on sale for $3 a box. If you buy 4 boxes, you get $2 off your transaction. I bought 4 boxes = $12 - $2 off - 2 Coupons for B1G1Free peelies - 2 $1 coupons = $2 for 4 boxes of cereal.

My grand total's for shopping:

Well at Kroger, my total when I checked out was $38 for $137 worth of groceries. However, I had bought an air freshner that was a holiday scent and was supposed to be $5.24 (and it had a $3 peelie on it, so it would have been $2.24) but it rang up as $10.49. I stopped at customer service and they checked, and told me since it rang up incorrectly, they were giving me the item free, so they refunded me the FULL purchase price of $11.12 (with tax) so my total at Kroger was only around $27! (It pays to check receipts!)

At Meijer, my total was around $32, but I had one transcation that didn't discount, so they gave me a $2 off my next purchase.

And I'm pretty stocked on the essentials now!

Want to know more of how I save big at the store, just ask! I'll be happy to share my tips!