Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Laundry Room Measuring Cup: Take One

About six months ago, I broke the measuring cup I used for bleach and such in my laundry room. I finally found the exact same measuring cup at Dollar Tree yesterday, and I bought it. It looks like this.

Now that I have it home, I am thinking that the red markings do not "go" with what I want eventually for my laundry room.

Am I crazy? Yes. I am incredibly OCD and quite the perfectionist. I have moved this cup to the kitchen cupboard (I already have one of these in the kitchen). The search begins again. :/

Erin

Today's Verse: February 28, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

Proverbs 17:28 (NKJV)

Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.

This one is for me today! I am a NASCAR fan, and I waited patiently for the Daytona 500 to air last night. I was very excited about watching it under the lights, but other people on Facebook and Twitter criticized NASCAR and Fox's decision to carry the race rather than air "House." Initially, I decided not to respond, but ultimately I did. I deleted my blunt post within an hour! But still, I probably should have kept my mouth shut in the first place!

Erin

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chives

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One of the (few) good things about having a husband who is gone so frequently is that I have had to learn to do things myself. Usually, I let him tend to our plants. But right now, his work hours are CRAZY (but at least he has a job, right?). So this morning, I decided to harvest the chives we planted last year in our indoor garden. I took some shears and cut them to about an inch above the soil. I clipped the bad parts of the chives, washed and dried them, and then cut them into 1/4-inch sections. Then I froze them in water in an ice cube tray (one teaspoon of chives per cube).

I will keep these frozen until I need them. At that time, I will pull them out and let the room temperature melt them before I add them to my recipe.

While I was doing this task, I kept thinking, "I really want something with Worcestershire sauce in it for dinner!" I finally realized that the smell of the chives was causing that craving. Still, I am amending our meal plan so that we have Swedish meatballs tonight and spaghetti on the 28th. Now you see why I have to update that plan at least once a month! :)

Erin

Fruit Tea Pitcher

My husband drinks fruit teas when we go to restaurants that have them. So when I saw a fruit tea pitcher at TJ Maxx/Homegoods in the fall, I decided to buy it and give it to him for Christmas.

Truth be told, I don't think he was that interested in it at first. But now he likes it a lot. He started with blueberry tea. Right now he is drinking his own Arnold Palmer-esque lemon tea (using the lemons that were left over from our latest batch of homemade lemonade).

Basically, this is a pitcher with an "infusion" rod in the center of it to hold fruit that seeps into the drink to flavor it. You can change out the fruit when you think necessary and still keep the original drink in the pitcher.

Granted, we have had this item only two months, but I would recommend it for people who like fruit teas--or perhaps even for someone who wants to drink water, but prefers when it is flavored. Want one? Check TJ Maxx/Homegoods or Marshall's. Amazon has it, but the price is around $20, and I paid less than that. In fact, I am looking for another now; my husband wants to give one to his father for his birthday. :)

Erin

Today's Verse: February 23, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

Matthew 18:21-22 (NKJV)

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?"
22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven."

Erin

Organizing the Freezer

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Prior to this week, my husband's work hours were 0700 to 1600. This week, the command changed the work hours from 0600 to 1600. Because my husband has been here so little lately, I have been busy organizing. We have to move to another apartment sometime in April or May, so I figure whatever I organize and discard now will expedite that process.

For Christmas, I received these LabelOnce food labels. About a month ago, I bought ten packages (yes, ten) of these Rubbermaid storage containers from Dollar Tree. So to organize my freezer, I broke up (most of) my packages of meat and placed single servings in each of them. I labeled each container with the type of meat, the date of purchase, and the serving size within the container. When I make butter from cream, I freeze the butter in the same containers and label it similarly.

(Yes, that is an unbroken pack of chicken wings beside the containers; when we eat wings, we eat half of the package for lunch and half for dinner, so I leave them in the package. Also note that we are in the process of switching from Tyson's and other similar companies' meats and to better meats. I'll blog about that later.)

These containers stack nicely in my freezer, I can easily move them to the refrigerator for thawing, and if they don't thaw completely in time, I can move them straight to the microwave for defrosting. Too, I love that the labels are erasable!

In a few years, we hope to raise our own cows, chickens, and pigs and thus to have lots of butcher paper in our freezer. For now, I really like how we've chosen to organize our food.

Erin

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites

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I promised my husband that I would not eat any more edible chocolate chip cookie dough for a while. Enter chocolate chip cookie dough bites.

I found the recipe here at DisneyFamily.com. I did modify the recipe a bit. First, I used unsalted butter, so I added a pinch of salt after I creamed the butter and sugar. Too, I halved the flour after reading the comments below the recipe.

These are delish! Again, you probably will suffer some serious health consequences if you eat them often, but everything in moderation, right?

I'll try to find another cookie dough recipe next week. :)

Erin

Homemade Taco Sauce

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As I mentioned previously, my husband and I love tacos and recently began making homemade taco seasoning. About a month ago, I found this recipe for homemade taco sauce on the Creatively Domestic blog. I used the recipe to make four eight-ounce jars of taco sauce.

Before I found this recipe, I bought Old El Paso taco sauce, but I will never again buy any from a store. This stuff is better and cheaper, and I know what's in it.

To make tacos, I boil one boneless, skinless chicken breast or brown one-half to three-quarters pound of beef; then I add lots of chopped onions and green peppers to the beef or chicken. Finally, I add a tablespoon or so of our taco seasoning and about half a cup of water. I microwave the taco shells, stuff them with the meat mixture, and eat them with this taco sauce on the side.

I'm nearly ready to take on making my own taco shells. Anyone have any good recipes for those?

Erin

Handling Household Tasks: Making a Shopping List

I have a chalkboard that my husband and I use for adding items to our shopping list.

Once a week, I use my meal plan and this shopping list to determine what I need to buy at the store. I type all of the items into my shopping list form:

Shopping List

I try to put the items in order based on the layout of the commissary I frequent. I make a special note of any items on sale, the store where the sale is being held, and the price of the item. In fact, I note any items that should be purchased other than at the commissary: Examples are chicken broth (which I buy at Dollar Tree), tortilla chips (which I also buy at Dollar Tree), and sugar and all-purpose flour (which I buy generic at Walmart). I even have a section of my shopping list for expiring coupons. If I have a coupon for something I use, I try to use it.

If an item is not on the list, we don't buy it that week unless the item is on sale *and* the sale will end before our next shopping trip. And I generally update my finances and my budget before I go shopping so that I know exactly how much I have to spend. If I have $40 left in my budget, I spend no more than $40.

Your shopping list certainly does not have to be printed, nor does it need to be on paper; you may have a shopping list as an app on your phone. But making a list and sticking to it could help you save food and money.

Do you make shopping lists, or do you go to the store and buy what tickles your fancy? (I know people who do that!)

Erin

Handling Household Tasks: Planning Meals

I'm a bit behind on the series on handling household tasks I started last week. I am going to catch up over the next couple of days.

After I review the weeks sales ads or circulars, clip coupons, and then organize them, I plan meals. Because I really hate going shopping and because I have noticed a correlation between the amount we spend and the number of times we go to the store, I try to plan meals for an entire month. At the beginning of February, my meal plan for the month looked like this:

Menu plan

Typically, however, I stray from this menu plan at least a few times during the month. The reasons vary: Perhaps my husband is going on an unexpected underway, or maybe we eat out one night, or maybe we are just tired of making new recipes nearly every day and decide to make something simple for a night. At any rate, I generally have to revise the plan at some point based on what food we have left in our cabinets. My revised menu plan for the rest of February looks like this:

Updated Menu Plan

You can plan your menu for a week, for two weeks, or for a month. You can write it on a scrap piece of paper (I print the menu plan on recycled paper and tape it to the pantry door) or create a menu planning board using a dry erase board, a picture frame and wet erase markers, or a chalkboard. However you do it, menu planning helps avoid excessive dinners out and enables you do create a good shopping list.

Do you plan your meals ahead of time? I had an aunt who actually went to the store every day to buy what she was cooking that night. I cannot imagine, but I'm sure that plan works for some!

Erin

Organizing the Craft Room

Okay, so I don't really have a craft room; I have an office/craft room/gardening room. But I still call it my craft room because I use the room primarily for crafting. :)

The temperature here is supposed to be in the mid-60's today and in the 70's tomorrow. What this means is that I may actually be able to get some much-needed spray painting completed! So today, I needed to organize the craft room so that I could get my hands on the things that need to be painted:

  • Thumb tack vase fillers
  • Soup cans I am going to use as vases
  • A black Dollar Tree basket I am painting with some rust-looking paint to look like an egg basket
  • The last of some holiday pine cones (I want to discard the last can of Krylon Glitter Blast spray.)

All of these are now sitting in the living room awaiting warm temps and relatively calm wind speeds.

I used the four Dollar Tree baskets left over from the bathroom storage redo to store my glue sticks, wood glue, E6000, Mod Podge, and Glitter-It!; my various bottles of acrylic paint; my jute, twine, and sisal; and my paintbrushes.

I was also (finally!) able to find some room to set up my sewing machine!

While organizing the craft room, I found the materials for these projects:

All of these are in addition to the shutters my husband bought me for Valentine's Day that I intend to turn into beautiful living room decor. And I just bought an old magazine holder for laptop storage yesterday.

I think the time has come to stop buying new things at craft and thrift stores and to finish the projects I have started. What say you?

Erin

Indoor Garden

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Last year at a family get-together, my cousins gave us a bunch of seeds. I passed along a few to my parents, but we kept most of them. I saved some soup cans (I have a stockpile of soup, but when it's gone, I'll be making my own) and used them to plant an indoor herb (and one fruit) garden.

My husband used a 3/16 titanium drill bit to put holes in the bottoms of the cans. He folded coffee filters and put one in the bottom of each can. I put Miracle-Gro indoor/outdoor potting soil in the cans, and he planted the seeds. I used Avery EcoFriendly White Address Labels (48860) to print labels; I used Mom's Typewriter font for these.

We had a very small indoor garden last year, but we used actual pots then. I am excited about using the more easily managed tin cans.

Do you have a garden? Indoor or outdoor?

Erin

Today's Verse: February 22, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

Psalm 30:5 (NKJV)

For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.

Erin

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Chicken and Rice

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When my husband and I first married, when I was home and he was at work, I would eat cans of Campbell's chicken noodle soup or Chef Boyardee ravioli for lunch. In the last year, however, I decided to start eating foods that actually have to be cooked rather than nuked in the microwave.

These days, I eat a lot of chicken and rice when my husband is working. I usually boil a boneless, skinless chicken breast or two early in the week and then store the stock that results. I add a cup or so of that stock to a cup or so of chicken broth purchased at Dollar Tree and prepare half a cup of (white--still can't bring myself to eat any other kind!) rice in it, first on high until it boils and then on low until it is ready. I shred about a quarter of the chicken breast and stir it in. You can add celery (I love celery!) or onions or carrots or probably any number of other vegetables as well. I always add a bit of salt and a lot of pepper, and on more than one occasion, I have thrown in some poultry seasoning or chicken bouillon. You might even throw in some parsley.

I love this stuff so much I can eat it every single day of the week.

In fact, I have eaten it every day of the last five working days.

Perhaps something new tomorrow! :)

Erin

Cleaning Out the Cabinets

My mom has owned a lot of kitchen appliances over the years. She has kept a Bunn coffeemaker on her counter for the last two decades. For the last few years, the only other appliances on her countertop have been a toaster and a toaster oven. So she stores everything from a blender to a breadmaker in her cabinets. She has not used some of these items in at least a decade (I think her blender is actually from the 1970's, and I have NEVER seen her use it).

She and I differ in this respect. If I don't use something, I don't want it cluttering my counter or my cabinets.

I have been assembling a bunch of mismatched tea goblets, wine glasses, coffee mugs, and plates to replace my old Coca-Cola dishware. In order to fit them into my cabinet, I had to go through my old items and put some in the eBay/Goodwill stack. I sent 8 bowls, 4 plates, and 6 cups to that stack this morning, not enough really, but an improvement nonetheless!

So while I was working on this task, I decided to sort through my kitchen appliances. I no longer use my toaster oven (and my husband dropped it when we moved in 2010, leaving a slight dent in it), so I found another home for it. I do occasionally use my waffle maker, my icy treats maker, my food processor, and my electric can opener, so I placed those in the cabinet where they are easily accessible, but still hidden away. I use my crock pot frequently and my George Foreman grill and blender semi-frequently, so I placed those where they are easily accessible, but in the cabinet nonetheless. The only appliances on my counter right now are the microwave, my KitchenAid mixer, my toaster, my deep fryer, and my husband's coffee maker. We use each of these at least every other week. I also organized my cupcake holder, my cooling racks, my cookie press, and all of my cake decorating supplies, from my Wilton Ultimate Decorating Set to my fondant mat to the Rubbermaid I use for storing my buttercream. Now I actually have room to fit more things in my cabinets!

I think I am going to add organizing my cabinets as a yearly task on my chore list. Do you clean out your cabinets periodically?

Erin

Third Year Anniversary Gift

My husband and I will soon celebrate our third wedding anniversary. The traditional gift for this particular anniversary would be leather; the modern would be crystal or glass. But since NASCAR racing began at Daytona last week and I found out I would have to spend a small fortune to prepare our old CRT television to watch the race on local channels, I decided we would spring for my husband an early anniversary gift and buy a new TV instead.

Initially, I thought we would buy a 22" television for our bedroom, but since we vowed long ago to keep TV's out of our bedroom and because I don't foresee myself ever allowing a television with a screen larger than 32" in my home, we decided the smart thing would be to spend $150 extra now and get a (for us) large TV for the living room.

We went with a Dynex because a) it was on sale at a GREAT price (hello, President's Day), b) John's ship has one of these that has performed well, and c) these have great reviews online. And yes, we bought the Geek Squad extended warranty.

So John got what he wanted (except that he wanted a PS3 to go with it. Maybe next year!). Now on to that pressure canner . . .

Oh, and by the way, that is "Army Wives" (on Netflix) on the screen. I didn't want you to see my reflection in the TV screen, so I turned on the TV. I don't have any connection to "Army Wives." I just really love this show. Its portrayal of the struggles of military families is pretty accurate. (Its portrayal of law school and the taking of the bar exam is a joke, but that's a story for another day.)

Erin

Today's Verse: February 21, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

Matthew 18:15 (NKJV)

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother."

Erin

Monday, February 20, 2012

Friends

When I was in high school, I ran with the Heartdance crowd. (Heartdance was a Christian music store.) My friends and I attended Quest every Thursday morning and See You at the Pole every year. We said grace before our meals. We sang Audio Adrenaline and Michael W. Smith in our cars. And even though our classmates voted on some ridiculous garbage for our senior song, *our* song was "Friends."

God blessed me with another set of friends in law school a few years ago. I spoke to one of best law school friends on the phone this evening. She is a godly woman. My family is going through some tough times right now, and so is hers. We discussed things and decided the best course of action is to pray about it and move on. And we promised to pray for one another.

I don't have tons of friends; I've always thought quality more important than quantity in this area. But I have good ones. Always have. Hope I always will.

"Show me the friend, and I'll show you the man." ~ "Army Wives"

Erin

Lemon Sugar Hand Scrub

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At one time, I kept Mary Kay Satin Hands on hand, but $34 is a bit more than I want to pay for the set. So I started looking on the Internet for a recipe for some good hand scrub to take the place of Satin Hands, and I found a plethora of DIY scrubs.

I tried one for lemon sugar hand scrub from the Under the Table and Dreaming blog first. I used the recipe on the blog and did not add honey as suggested in the comments. The mixture did make my hands (and feet!) smooth. I really wanted a deeper color and a better smell, though, so I added a few (too many!) drops of yellow food coloring and some essential oil. Next time, I am going to add some raw honey--and less yellow food coloring.

Overall, I love this stuff. Hey, I love anything I can make at home so that I can know what ingredients are in it and spend less money, too.

Do you make any of your own scrubs, soaps, or shampoos?

Erin

Homemade Lemonade

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My husband and I drank a lot of Kool-Aid during the first two years of our marriage. Because he preferred lemonade, we drank mostly that flavor. But other than the occasional punch, we rarely drink it now. Instead, we make our own.

This recipe is adapted from the Southern Country Cooking from The Loveless Cafe cookbook. If you don't have it, you should buy it. It's my favorite cookbook.


Ingredients
1-1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. salt
8 c. water
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Directions
Put the sugar, lemon juice, salt, and water into a pitcher. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon slices.


This lemonade is both lemony AND sweet. You may want to increase or decrease the sugar and/or add an extra lemon.

Oh, and take note that this cookbook does NOT include the recipe for Loveless Cafe biscuits. Did you really think that the cookbook would give away that recipe? Yeah, and the Colonel's selling the recipe for KFC, too. Obviously not! :)

Did I mention that want the new Loveless Cafe desserts cookbook, too?

Erin

Living Room End Table

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When my husband and I married, we bought inexpensive cheap round tables from Target and Walmart to place beside our couch. Our project list has long included creating or buying better side tables. That task is finally off our list, but the story behind the task completion is a long and storied one!

Last year, when I was planning on opening a fancy family law practice, my husband and I crunched the numbers and figured out that we would be better off if we were to create or build my office furniture so as not to break the bank. During a trip to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, we purchased an old white wooden cabinet door for around $3. We brought it home, sanded it, and attached four table legs we purchased for about $20 at Lowe's. Thus we had an end table for less than $25. My husband stained the entire thing dark walnut. And then stained it again. And again. And again. And finally put a few coats of polyurethane on it. Unfortunately, I just was not happy with the look of the stain because the tabletop (cabinet) was more rustic looking and shabby than the table legs. At some point along the way, I decided to downsize my practice plan, so I decided we could use the table in our home. But I disappointed him greatly when I told him I was going to paint it white. I'm sure he was frustrated after all the work he put into it.

But I could not bear to paint it after all of his good work. Last week, I pulled it out and placed it in the corner beside the couch, in the stead of one of those round tables we bought three years ago. Here's what it looks like:

I *love* it now. I'm not sure what changed my perspective on this piece, but I think I love this $25 table more than I would have liked anything I might have purchased in a furniture store.

So we have officially taken another task off our project list.

Erin

What Do I Do With This? (Chest of Drawers)

My parents bought me this chest of drawers for Christmas about ten years ago.

Clearly, this piece is unfinished (real) wood. I now want to sand it and paint and/or stain it. My bedroom is black. Dark walnut is my favorite wood stain. The options:

  • All black?
  • Black with a walnut top?
  • Black with walnut drawers?
  • Walnut with black drawers?

Thoughts? I'm voting for black with walnut drawers; my husband is voting for walnut with black drawers. But he and I both could probably be convinced to do something different.

Erin

Homemade Italian Seasoning

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I posted earlier today about making homemade taco seasoning. Similarly, after I used the jar of Italian seasoning that was packaged with my spice rack, I decided to make my own rather than buying it at the store. I used this recipe. Some people add sage or garlic to their Italian seasoning recipe, but this one sufficed for my needs.

Don't you love my spice rack jars? I broke one, but was blessed enough to find some extras on clearance at Bed Bath & Beyond. Now I am looking for some inexpensive round labels so that I can relabel them. The home budget is nearly gone for this month, so maybe I will be able to find some in March. :)

Erin

Homemade Taco Seasoning

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I cannot overemphasize how much my husband and I love tacos. Once upon a time, we spent a small fortune on Old El Paso taco seasoning mix--three bucks a canister times about six canisters a year. I hated dropping that kind of money on the stuff, but what really got me convinced that I needed to make my own was when I Googled the ingredients. Yuck!

So I decided to make my own. I used this recipe at the Whole New Mom blog. I followed the directions exactly. And the verdict? I love this stuff. It's a bit spicy the first time you try it, but I got used to the heat quickly, and I wouldn't want to go back now.

You should try making your own taco seasoning. I haven't figured up the cost difference between this recipe and the store-bought stuff, but since I had all the spices on hand already, I did not have to buy anything new. (Doesn't that mean that the stuff was ultimately free? Okay, well, maybe not! But cheaper than $3 per canister for stuff loaded with preservatives!)

Erin

What I Received for Valentine's Day

My husband finally returned from underway on Friday, and we celebrated Valentine's Day Saturday night with two 18-ounce steaks marinated and grilled on our George Foreman grill by my husband. The food was better than that from Logan's or Texas Roadhouse--cheaper, too! Total cost for meal? About $12. Can't beat that!

Diamonds may be some girls' best friends. Not mine! My gift this year:

These came from Country Boy Antiques in Norfolk, Virginia. If you visit this fantastic store, you'll have a hard time walking around in the place, but if you're looking for treasures, it is THE place to go in Norfolk (we'll talk Chesapeake antique stores later). Cost for these? $7. I am going to start cleaning them up and hope to paint them this weekend when the weather warms to the 70's. I am going to put some vinyl on them and put them above my mantel.

Did you get anything crafty for Valentine's Day?

Erin

Today's Verse: February 20, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

1 Corinthians 2:14 (NKJV)

But the natural man does not receive things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor an he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

The NIV version is a bit easier to understand:

The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

Erin

Friday, February 17, 2012

Handling Household Tasks: Organizing Coupons

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If you're following my series on handling household tasks, you know that I clip coupons. I store all of these in a coupon organizer. Initially, I had an accordion file with labels. Now, I have an actual binder. It has dividers labeled with the following sections:

  • Price list: A printed spreadsheet of each item I purchase for my household and the best everyday (not sale) price (measured by cost per unit) I can find for it. I make sure I note the brand, the size of the item, the store where I purchase the item, and the cost. With this method, I can look to see if a generic item might be cheaper at Walmart than the brand name is at the commissary. I can also send my husband shopping when I am sick and he can look at the list and know whether something is a good deal. The price list is printed on recycled paper and is stored inside a page protector. I update it when necessary.
  • Retailer coupons: Coupons for A.C. Moore, Michaels, CVS (including ExtraCare Bucks), RiteAid (including +UP Rewards), Target, and any other store or retailer that issues coupons or rebates or its particular store only. I put these coupons in alphabetical order by retailer. Depending on the size of these coupons, I store them in page protectors (for 8.5x11-inch pages) or coupon-size binder pages I purchased on Amazon.com.
  • Manufacturer coupons: Coupons for specific items such as vitamins, cereal, sugar, and baking soda. I order these using the layout of the commissary I shop most often. I store these coupons using the coupon-size binder pages I purchased on Amazon.com.
  • Restaurant coupons: Coupons for restaurants from Denny's to Chick-fil-A. These are in alphabetical order by restaurant name. Again, depending on the size of these coupons, I store them in page protectors (for 8.5x11-inch pages) or coupon-size binder pages I purchased on Amazon.com.
  • Service coupons: Coupons for services that rarely use such as dry cleaning coupons and massage coupons. I store these in coupon-size binder pages I purchased on Amazon.com and put them in order by likelihood of use.
  • Coupon policies: I print coupon policies from every store that has one online and place them in standard page protectors. I have never had to use one, but if I need to, I have it. I update these once per year, typically in January.
  • Rewards cards: I use my husband's old baseball card holders to organize these. The cards are in alphabetical order by issuer. If I am acquiring points on a card (such as the cards for RiteAid, A.C. Moore, and Ollie's), I place a small sticky note on the back of the card with the total points acquired to date. I update the sticky notes after every shopping trip (if I use them).
  • Gift cards: I use baseball card holders to hold these, too. Again, the cards are in alphabetical order by store or restaurant. I have placed a small sticky note on the back of each card with the amount remaining.
  • Certificates: I use page protectors to organize my Groupons and Restaurant.com certificates in alphabetical order.

If you want to make your own dividers, check out this tutorial for making dividers from the Cajun joie de vivre blog. If you would prefer not to buy coupon pages but do have page protectors and a sewing machine, check out this tutorial for making your own coupon holders from the Down Abbie's Road blog.

I store the current circulars in the front pocket of my binder and my shopping list in the back pocket. My name and contact information is inside the binder; if it is lost, I hope it will be returned to me. But I treat this binder the way I treat my purse; I do not step away from it while shopping, and I hide it under the seat if I leave it in my vehicle. It is usually stored in a cabinet here at my home.

If you have a home management binder and a coupon organizer, you will probably want to create a cover for each so that you don't confuse them. I used scrapbook paper purchased on sale at A.C. Moore. My home management binder looks like this:

My coupon organizer looks like this:

I love this organizer. With it, I have found that I am able to save $10 or more per shopping trip and to shop more quickly as well.

Whether you decide to use a envelopes, an accordion file, an index box, or a binder like mine, the key is to be organized and to know your system so that you can go to the store and shop efficiently and quickly.

How do you organize your coupons?

Erin

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Today's Verse: February 16, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

John 1:1-3 (NKJV)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Erin

Handling Household Tasks: Clipping Coupons

Yesterday, I started a new series on handling household tasks, and I discussed how I review circulars each week. Today, I am going to explain the process I have adopted for clipping coupons.

Because I do not get a Sunday newspaper, I rarely get coupon inserts. Instead, I rely on printable coupons and coupons I receive through online promotions. To get those, I have signed up to receive e-mails from a LOT of the manufacturers of the products I use. These are a few companies that frequently send coupons via e-mail and/or post them online:

I also sign up for some web sites that send e-mail alerts regarding freebies and coupons; too, I have Groupons, Google Alerts, and other daily deals sent to me. Because I sign up for so many newsletters and alerts, I always end up getting spam--especially spam that I do *NOT* want to see. To curb the annoyance as much as possible, I created a separate e-mail account at Gmail. (I actually included the words coupon account in the e-mail address.) I then created filters within Gmail to ensure that e-mail containing certain words is automatically deleted so that I never have to see it. As a result, I have relatively few problems with spam at this point.

I check my coupon e-mail once a week. Because I sign up for so many deals alerts, I have anywhere between 200 and 400 e-mails in my inbox each week. I can usually sort through these in an hour or so--and that time includes reviewing the recipes that I also receive at this account (and pinning the good ones!). By the time I am finished, I have usually printed tens of coupons.

And then I begin the task of cutting the coupons, generally while I watch "Army Wives" or another of my shows on Netflix. If someone has saved me some coupons she has received in her newspaper or via some other medium, I sort and clip those at this time as well. Because I personally use so many coupons and because I clip insert coupons I would not generally use to send to troops overseas, clipping generally takes me another hour.

The next step is organizing the coupons into a coupon organizer or binder. More on that tomorrow!

Erin

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Today's Verse: February 15, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (NKJV)

18 Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.
19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, "He catches the wise in their own craftiness";
20and again, "The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile."

Erin

Towels

As I mentioned yesterday in my post on dishware, I had a plethora of household items in a hope chest when I married. Those items included a set of Coca-Cola dish towels and blue towels.

Three years after moving my husband into our first apartment, I still have the same towels. Although much of the Coca-Cola decor has been removed and the blue Starry Night theme is certainly long gone, I have steadfastly refused to replace the towels. As a teenager, I watched my mother cut new strings from towels and ultimately re-purpose them into cleaning rags, all the while wondering why she would not simply replace them when she had the money to do so.

Today, I do the same thing she did, despite that I, too, have the money in my budget to buy new ones. I have had to repurpose a bath towel because it was unraveling (I currently use it on my Swiffer WetJet), but the rest of my bathroom linens and kitchen towels remain. They are indeed a little worse for wear. Still, I keep them. I wash them weekly, I cut any strings that may have appeared, and I put them away, ensuring that I put freshly washed towels and dishtowels at the bottom of the stack in an attempt to ensure that the towels wear as evenly as possible.

My husband wants new towels, although he has not yet been insistent about buying ones. He is going to get them--eventually. But at this point in my life, I do not see the thrill in throwing away towels--or anything really--that are still usable and still are in good condition overall. In my mind, the economy and the environment beg me not to be so hasty.

Erin

Valentine's Day Kissing Ball

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About a month ago, I was in Target buying my beautiful little Valentine's Day birds when I spotted a kissing ball. It was a beauty, made with nearly perfect red rosettes. I wanted it. And then I saw the price tag: $14.99. My home budget was $100 last month, but I was also buying lots of (expensive) organizational and storage items, so I could not fathom paying that kind of money for a kissing ball.

Especially when I figured I could make one.

I spent just over a quarter each for eight pieces of red felt at A.C. Moore. And then I used this tutorial on how to make paper flowers to make felt rosettes. I hot glued them onto a styrofoam ball I already had. I really like the result. (I am using it as a topiary rather than as a kissing ball.)

As with all of my crafts, I look at this project and think, "This is SO not perfect." But again, I spent a little more than two bucks for it. And I made it! And next year, I can try another one and do better.

And that, friends, is the last Valentine's Day project. I intended to post it late last week, but this project took some serious time. Sorry for the delay. And now on to spring decorating!

Erin

Handling Household Tasks: Reviewing Circulars

I try to spend just one day a week doing my weekly household tasks: reviewing sales ads and circulars, clipping coupons, organizing my coupon binder, planning a dinner menu, updating the food inventory, creating a shopping list, shopping, paying bills, and organizing the finances. For the next week, I am going to detail exactly how I handle these tasks. If you are trying to get organized, perhaps you will be inspired. If you are already organized (perhaps even if you're not), perhaps you get give me some ideas to streamline my system!

The first thing I do each week is review sales ads or circulars (or whatever you want to call them). I review just about every circular you can think of. In fact, I have a list of the ones I review each week (I don't want to miss any because missing a week means the possibility of missing a deal)!

  • A.C. Moore
  • Michaels
  • Dollar Tree
  • Big Lots
  • Dollar General
  • Family Dollar
  • CVS
  • Rite Aid
  • Walgreens
  • Ollie's
  • K-Mart
  • Target
  • Walmart
  • Office Depot
  • OfficeMax
  • Navy Exchange
  • Commissary
  • Bloom
  • Bottom Dollar
  • Farm Fresh
  • Food Lion
  • Harris Teeter
  • Kroger
  • The Home Depot
  • Lowe's

Long list, right? I spend about 45 minutes going through these circulars. The task would take less than half an hour if I reviewed the ads in print rather than online, but since I get only the local Navy newspaper, I get very few print ads. Instead, I have to go to each store's web site and look for the link to its ad. Now that I know exactly where I am going on the web sites, I have shortened the time required. If you are new to searching for ads online, doing so may take you a while longer.

At any rate, if I see something in the online ads that is a good deal or that I would like to purchase, I add the item to my tentative shopping list (I will discuss this process more in depth later, but for now, just know that I put the items on a scrap piece of paper or type them in Notepad on my computer). If I see something I intend to purchase in a print ad, I circle the item in black permanent marker and place it in my coupon binder (which I will also discuss later!).

After I review all of these circulars, I am ready to clip and organize coupons. This task is a bit harder. Okay, it's quite a bit harder. I'll talk about that task process tomorrow.

Erin

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mug Brownie

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My husband is underway. You can look at my food journal and tell. This morning, I had edible chocolate chip cookie dough for breakfast. For lunch, I had a mug brownie.

I found the recipe for a two-minute mug brownie through Pinterest. The first time I tried the recipe a few weeks ago, I forgot to add salt, and I didn't measure the ingredients carefully enough. I wasn't sure that I really liked the recipe. But since I made a few mistakes in the preparation, I tried it again today, and although it was good, it wasn't the near-perfection that I usually seek when I add recipes to my recipe binder.

Then I made a second mug brownie this evening (Don't judge me! My husband is gone on Valentine's Day!) and decided to get rid of the canola oil and substitute melted butter. I also added a drop or two of vanilla. The result? Yummy, gooey goodness!

Clearly, this is not the type of recipe you eat with any frequency. It has a lot of calories, and it definitely does not fit into one of the healthy food groups. But for a once-in-a-while treat, this stuff is good. (I'll call this my Paula Deen disclaimer!)

Erin

Valentine's Day Birds

I bought only one Valentine's Day decoration this year that I did not make into some sort of craft: these two birds from Target.

Aren't they cute? They cost me $3.99 each. I think they were worth the cost.

Hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day. My hubby is underway (Have I mentioned that? Maybe once or twice.) right now, so I have blogged--A LOT--today to make myself feel better. Thanks for sharing the day with me. Good night!

Erin

Basic Sauted Chicken

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While pinning on Pinterest, I came across this recipe for basic sauteéd chicken. I am not one of those Pinterest fans who sits in front of my computer and pins thousands of pictures without every trying any. So of course I tried the recipe.

It is stellar.

I made this recipe with all chicken broth, and I used dried parsley instead of freshly chopped. Still, I have eaten this dish two nights in a row, so you know it's good.

In fact, this recipe is going in the recipe binder. That is how good it is.

Erin

Glasses and Mugs and Plates, Oh My!

My parents bought me a hope chest when I was around eight years old. At first, I put collectible items in it. But as I grew older, people started buying me bath towels and dish towels and place mats and other such things. I filled the entire chest with mismatched things for my future home.

But after I graduated from high school, I decided that I really did not like the theme I had going. I had collected rabbits in middle school and high school, so I had a lot of rabbit-themed towels and such. Most of the stuff was pink! What I wanted was a Coca-Cola kitchen and a Starry Night-themed bathroom. So in the following 12 or 13 years, I collected a lot of Coca-Cola stuff and quite a few blue towels with gold stars and moons on them.

Then I moved my husband into our apartment and quickly discovered that I hated the mismatched blue towels and gold (and yellow) stars and moons in the bathroom. Within two years, I had changed the theme. Within another year, I had changed it again to my current decor.

As for my kitchen, when I moved my husband here in March 2009, I had literally more than 100 Coca-Cola glasses. Six Coca-Cola canisters. Probably about 50 Coca-Cola plates and bowls. Tens of Coca-Cola signs and tins. Coca-Cola candles. Coca-Cola silverware. Coca-Cola dish towels. Three or four sets of Coca-Cola salt and pepper shakers. Two or three Coca-Cola table runners. Do I need to keep going? Our kitchen looked a bit ridiculous. Even I thought so!

I have slowly weeded out the collection. The silverware kept breaking, so I donated what was still in good condition to the thrift store and bought some nicer silverware from Macy's. I am currently in the process of listing a lot of the remaining Coca-Cola items on eBay.

Most of what remains is my glasses, plates, bowls, and mugs. Initially, I thought I would look for nice matching sets of white or black dishware. But now, I am thinking of doing something COMPLETELY different.

I bought this glass at the thrift store for 55 cents.

I bought two of these mugs at the thrift store for 17 cents each.

I bought this Ikea plate at the thrift store for $1.99.

So what I am thinking is that I will assemble an eclectic collection of dishes and glasses from the thrift store. If I have a dinner party and need everything to match, I can always use my formal dining set, which I currently have no intention of getting rid of.

What are your thoughts? Does everything need to match?

Erin

Bathroom Storage Boxes

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I bought some tiny baskets from Dollar Tree a little over a year ago with the intention of using them for storage of toiletries in the bathroom. They are vinyl or some other fabric that is easy to clean and does not seem to attract mold and mildew that cannot be cleaned. Still, I don't really like them that much anymore. For the last few months, I have been looking for a better option. My husband was okay with spending $15-$20 on baskets at Michaels, but I'm cheap thrifty, and I couldn't justify spending that amount.

Then I saw DaNita's bathroom organization at the Delightful Order blog. She used Dollar Tree baskets and boxes! I have been looking for some that I liked since I pinned the post on Pinterest.

Today, I found them.

They were $1. They will be easy to clean. They are big enough. Drawback: They were made in China. (Good grief, isn't anything made in the U.S.A. anymore?) But I bought two anyway. And then I used some black vinyl and my Slice machine to label them, one with my name, one with my husband's.

I am in love with these. Bye, old and ugly baskets! (Well, I will probably move them to my office to use for storage there, but you get the picture.)

Erin

Sweet Tea

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I am Southern, through and through. I guess I really never even knew that tea existed other than iced sweet tea. Seriously--I was that ignorant! My husband is from the Pacific Northwest, and he drinks hot chai tea. Hot? Chai? What is the world coming to? ;)

Mark Lowry is a Christian humorist, and his monologue here pretty much encapsulates how I feel about tea and other Southern delicacies (not safe for work--you'll laugh!):

I love Mark Lowry, and I love everything he says in that video. I'm a Paula Deen kind of girl! I even have a deep fryer sitting on my counter. But in all seriousness, I eat all of this unhealthy food in moderation.

That said, I still think my sweet tea is good, even if some people think it a little syrupy.


Ingredients
2 family-size tea bags (I use Great Value tea, the Walmart generic)
Water
2 c. sugar

Directions
Fill a medium-sized saucepan halfway with water. Immerse the two tea bags into the water, and heat on high until the water is boiling. Turn the heat off, cover the saucepan, and allow the tea to "stew" for a few hours. When you are ready to make your tea, place a strainer over the mouth of a pitcher, and dump the tea and water into the pitcher. With the strainer (and the tea bags in the strainer) still over the mouth of the pitcher, add additional cold water until you have about one gallon of tea. Add sugar and stir. Store in the refrigerator.


What kind of tea do you drink? Hot? Iced? Sweetened? Unsweetened? Flavored?

Erin

Family Name Sign

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I have wanted a family sign for a while now. When I found a piece of wood at Michaels for less than $5, I decided to use it to make one. I stained the wood dark walnut with some stain I had left over from another project and then cut the letters and a fleur-de-lis from white contact paper using my Slice machine. When the stain was dry, I placed the letters on the sign.

I love it! I am thinking, though, about spacing the letters in "The Bergs" a bit closer together. What do you think?

Erin

Edible Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

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I love eating cookie dough, but I also know eating raw egg is not really a safe food practice. So I was glad to find a recipe for single-serve edible cookie dough at the Cut Out and Keep web site (through Pinterest, of course!). I tried the recipe yesterday as a snack, but was not loving it. It was too sweet and not chocolate-y enough.

So of course I had to make modifications to the recipe and try the stuff again for breakfast this morning. And yes, at least for my taste, I made it perfectly (if I do say so myself)!


Ingredients
1.5 tbsp. butter, melted
3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
A few drops of vanilla
1 tsp. skim milk
Chocolate chips

Directions
Combine your butter, flour, sugars, and vanilla until the mixture is uniform. Add milk to the mixture to give the dough a suitable consistency. Stir in chocolate chips--as many or as few as you want. If you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to cut the sweetness. Put the dough in the freezer for a few minutes. Then eat.


The adjective single-serve is key here; the picture above is an accurate representation of how much cookie dough this recipe you will yield. In other words, if you are going to share with your significant other or kids, double or triple the recipe.

This stuff is GOOD! And now I won't have to worry about the dangers of eating cookie dough.

Erin

Today's Verse: February 14, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

Hebrews 13:1-2 (NKJV)

1 Let brotherly love continue.
2 Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.

What an appropriate verse for Valentine's Day!

Erin

Cleaning the Blender

My husband and I have a blender sitting on our kitchen counter. During the summer, my husband uses it to make smoothies. I rarely use it myself, although once in a while I find a recipe that calls for using one. Still, I want it clean at all times. Unfortunately, the placement of the blade makes cleaning a difficult chore.

Thank God for Pinterest! I found this quick and easy tip on cleaning a blender at the Ask Anna blog. Pursuant to the directions there, I filled my blender 3/4 full with water and squirted a bit of Dawn inside and then turned on the blender for 30 seconds. I poured out the mixture and rinsed the jar. Suddenly, I had a much cleaner--and better smelling--blender!

Have you cleaned your blender lately? If not, try this tip. It's actually fun (or so says the girl who enjoys cleaning)!

Erin

Monday, February 13, 2012

Apothecary Jars for Bathroom Storage

For Christmas 2009, my mother purchased me a couple of small jars that I have since used to store my cotton balls and cotton swabs in the bathroom. I wanted to replace them with larger apothecary jars. And lately, I have started using the jars I have to store bath salts, so I really needed some new jars (right?).

I had been eyeing some jars at A.C. Moore for a while. They were priced at $6.99 each. Last week, I finally used coupons on two visits to get two of them for less than nine dollars. I ran home, peeled off the stickers (made in the U.S.A.!), and put the cotton balls and swabs inside the jars.

Only when I filled the jars did I realize I bought the wrong cotton balls at the commissary. Hmm. At any rate, I love these jars! They look so elegant in our bathroom.

What do you use to store your cotton balls and cotton swabs?

Erin

Simplify Sign

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I love signs. Just check out my Pinterest boards and you'll see just how much! At any rate, I have wanted to make a "Simplify" sign for a while. I am very much a fan of Henry David Thoreau, and his advice to "Simplify, simplify, simplify!" resonates with me.

I was at Michaels a few months ago and saw a very cheap unfinished piece of wood that I thought would be perfect for such a sign. I bought it--with a coupon, of course! This past week, I finally painted the sign face white with a couple of coats of My Studio acrylic craft paint. I then cut the letters for the word simplify from white contact paper using my Slice machine and aligned the letters atop the (dried) white paint. (This step took me a few tries. I started with four-inch letters and eventually had to re-cut the letters a bit smaller.) Finally, I stained the entire sign (including the white paint and the contact paper).

I initially intended to remove the contact paper, but I loved the effect of painting over the contact paper so much that I decided to leave well enough alone:

I love this sign. The hubs says it's cool. And since my living room is brown and white, it matches perfectly!

So this is my craft for the week. You like?

(Have you ever noticed that I use a lot of parentheses? I am just trying to convey information that you might like to have. I actually majored in English, so I should know better. If using so many parentheses drives you crazy, let me know. I'll try to stop!)

Erin

Today's Verse: February 13, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

1 John 5:1 (NKJV)

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.

Erin

Valentine's Day Gift

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I have been racking my brain to come up with a good Valentine's Day gift for my husband. When I saw a love message board on the A Content Housewife blog, I knew I had found the perfect gift. I bought a piece of scrapbook paper on sale at A.C. Moore for about 40 cents (actually, I bought two because I did not like the spacing on the first page I printed). I used a 50% off coupon at Michaels to buy an unfinished frame for about $3.00. I used some leftover paint from a curtain rod project we completed last year to finish the frame, and I cut the scrapbook paper to fit the 8x10 frame and used my laserjet printer to print "I love you because" on it. The toughest task--and the most expensive!--was finding wet erase markers, which I finally found at Office Depot and which cost me $6.99 for five of them. The result:

I am so thrilled with the outcome. My husband helped me clean the stove hood this weekend, so I wrote my first message on the board already. ;) And since he is (already!) underway again, I gave him the gift early. He loved it!

What did you get your significant other for Valentine's Day? Nothing?! You still have time to make this quick, easy, and expensive project!

Erin

Friday, February 10, 2012

Today's Verse: February 10, 2012

Today's verse of the day from the YouVersion phone app:

Psalm 103:13 (NKJV)

As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.

I think I prefer the wording of the NIV version:

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him[.]

Erin

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Love Blocks

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I have been trying to post a Valentine's Day craft every day this week, but I missed yesterday. The weather is SO cold here that all I really want to do right now is lie underneath my huge pink quilt on the couch and watch "Army Wives," and that was pretty much all I did yesterday. Please forgive me. I am trying to make it up to you by posting a second craft today.

I made these beauties all by myself.

I love them so much--and they were super easy to make! I bought four wooden blocks for $1.59 each at A.C. Moore. I bought the wooden letters (L, O, V, E) for $0.99 each (each package contained three letters, so I have leftover for another project). I bought red and white paint for 50 cents each (I have leftover paint, too). I used sandpaper and paint brushes I already had from other projects to sand and then paint each letter and block. When everything was dry, I used wood glue (which I bought with a 50% off coupon at Michaels) to glue the letters onto the blocks.

I may make more of these for other holidays in the future. If you're looking for an inexpensive and easy Valentine's Day decoration, this one may be it.

Erin

Valentine's Day Votives

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I love candles, and my husband loves making them (he says the process is cathartic), so we have a LOT of candles around our house. I put two of the votive candles he made before Christmas to use when I saw these Valentine votives at the Better Homes and Gardens web site. I already had the candle holders, which cost me 50 cents each at A.C. Moore. I bought candy nonpareils at Michaels with a 50% off coupon, but you could probably make your own red and pink colored sugar for a similar effect.

Yes, the ones on the BHG web site look better, but I like mine just the same!

Erin

Bath Salts

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I find few things as relaxing as a long soak in a hot tub. Along those lines, I absolutely LOVE bath salts. Once upon a time, I bought bath salts from a store, but now I make them myself using Epsom salt, essential oils, and food coloring. You can find a little more detail at this post on winter blues bath salts at the Homespun with Love blog.

My current batch of bath salts is honeysuckle-scented. I use some of this stuff at least once a week.

Did I mention that bath salts make great (and inexpensive) gifts? Grab a jar from Dollar Tree and fill it with these, and you have a wonderful gift for under $2. Can't beat that!

Erin