Sunday, November 28, 2010

Using things from outside for my table setting: a last minute design idea!

For the last couple of years, Thanksgiving has been at my home but it has been very informal because of the busyness of all the little ones. I was overwhelmed enough with taking care of my four little ones and getting the Thanksgiving stuff ready that I didn't bother to create a table arrangement. At the very last minute, the day before, I decided it would be nice to make a simple table setting. I didn't have much to work with and I didn't have the time or budget to go out and buy something. (Of course, if I was a more organized person, I probably could have come up with something much nicer and much more creative a few weeks ago) I found an old small crate that was actually part of a Melissa and Doug food set my kids got a couple of years ago.....I quickly did a light coat of white spray paint so that it could be the base of my centerpiece. I used some small pumpkins we had left over from halloween, some festive hazelnuts and other nuts in the shells to fill in the crate. I used a small plastic plant that I already had sitting out in a simple white ceramic container as the main part of the piece. Then I had my kids go outside and get some sticks and some little acorn type nuts that fall off of a tree we have out in our front yard. I hot glued the acorns to the sticks and put them into the top of the greenery of the plant. I then used the rest of the acorns to hot glue onto a folded ribbon and some burlap strips I cut up for the napkin holders. It was a simple table design that added a little fall festiveness to our Thanksgiving meal! Oh, and the little cutie making a sneak appearance in the pic is my oldest son, who was so proud of what he helped me with!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Healthier meals for the holidays and link to a giveaway!

I love Thanksgiving and I enjoyed time with my family and friends yesterday! One of the many things I am trying to implement into my cooking is less processed foods and more nourishing foods. This is a slow process for as my hubby and several of my kids love processed foods! I have utilized many resources in my slow growth towards eating healthier more nutrient dense foods. Kelly The Kitchen Kop is doing a great giveaway for an e-course for Healthy Holidays! Check it out here!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Great design blog with a great pottery barn giveaway!

I found a new blog this week that I really like called, Urban Farmgirl. I love design blogs that have amazing ideas that are actually attainable b/c they incorporate frugal ideas, do it yourself ideas and creative ideas! I also really like Urban Farmgirl's style! Anyway, she is doing a Pottery Barn gift card giveaway at her site, so go check out her site and maybe you will win a great gift card!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My new found love, Part 2

My husband and I found this file cabinet that looks like a dresser at a garage sale. It is a very heavy solid wood piece of furniture. It was originally a very nice piece but a dog chewed on the lower corners and on the legs, it was scratched up and had some permanent marker drawings on it....other than that, it was in great condition. To our astonishment, we snagged this piece for $15. Our office is also our guest room so I thought this file cabinet would be perfect.....totally practical for our office needs but nice enough to to go in our guest room. I decided to make over this piece, so here is the before.

Here is the file cabinet with a light coating of spray primer.

After priming it, I painted it white, distressed it and then did a light glazing. I finished it off with a polyacrylic coating. The picture below does not do it justice, I am super happy with it. My hubby did not see my vision but was really happy with the end result!

Friday, November 5, 2010

I Love Painting Furniture!

I have developed a new love.....painting furniture. I don't have a budget to go out and buy new pieces of furniture (or at least I don't have a budget to pay much for furniture) but I love how painting, distressing, and glazing can make an old or ugly piece of furniture something totally great! We had a small dresser/nightstand that my husband had years ago as a teenager. We hung on to it but had it relegated to our guest room that has always been on my "to do" list of things I want to decorate and I just have never gotten to it. I was in a mood to change things up and I decided this piece would be the perfect thing to makeover and locate in a completely different area of our house! So, here is the before, notice the orange toned wood stain and the lovely brass hardware!

I used a spray primer so that I would not have to sand it much, then I painted it an aqua color. I did some distressing and then I glazed it with a brown glaze to tone down the brightness of the aqua! Then I sprayed on a polyacrylic coating and voila! Oh and I spray painted the hardware in bronze so they would be a lot more muted! This is now in a hallway near our kitchen and family room and I am thrilled with it!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I am thinking about taking the plunge into Cod Liver Oil - link to a giveaway!

I have read quite a bit about the benefits of cod liver oil. It sounds terrible but the health benefits are significant enough to make me consider it! Kitchen Stewardship is offering a giveaway for 20 people to win a bottle of fermented cod liver oil, so if you have any interest go read her review and register at Kitchen Stewardship!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

ELF Cosmetics up to 80% off!

Today and tomorrow only ELF cosmetics has two sales going on at one time. Anything on the website is 50% when you use the code TREASURE2 and you can hunt around for items that are additionally marked down making them 80% off. I found single eyeshadows that were 80% off as well as some lip glosses, plumping lip glosses, 1 lipstick and a few other things. I purchased several items for less than $10 total with shipping!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why I grind my own wheat (part 1)

Nearly two years ago I decided to take a small in-home cooking class by a local women who was teaching people how to easily incorporate whole grains into everyday cooking. Prior to taking that class, I thought people that made their own bread were people that really love baking and were super moms. I had only known one person that ground their own grain and that was over the top to me. I couldn't see wasting time and energy to grind my own grain when you can buy wheat flour pretty cheaply at the store. In the class I took, I began to learn that wheat loses its nutritional value pretty quickly and then it goes rancid. I also learned that there are many types of wheat (hard red, hard white, prairie gold, soft white, etc.) and that by grinding your own grain, you are able to have fresh wheat that has not lost its nutritional value, you can select the type of wheat that is appropriate to what you are baking (like soft white wheat to grind into pastry flour to use in cookies, muffins, pancakes, etc.) and you can make a tasty high quality baked good for much less than what you can purchase.

I then learned that with the appropriate equipment, making homemade bread is actually very easy and I could make several loaves at one time. I was inspired to give making my own bread a try because I could grind a very mild tasting wheat to produce a very mild tasting whole wheat bread that everyone in my family would eat. That is a challenging task with 4 children and a somewhat picky husband. So grinding my own wheat started with bread and now I use it in almost all of my baked goods, it has become one way way I can add more nutritional value to our food instead of using white flour. I am now learning to soak grains and even sprout them! Part 2, I will talk about the equipment that works great and makes my bread making so easy!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I had no idea creme fraiche was sooooo easy

This week I learned how to make creme fraiche and I can't believe how easy it is. I can't say I have ever really had creme fraiche before. I knew it was some type of european cream but I didn't know if it was bland or sweet or sour, I just knew it sounded gourmet and I thought it probably required some whipping. So, when I learned that it was easy to make and is a great way to add healthy bacteria to something that we already eat, I decided I would give it a try. Here are the basic instructions:

1 clean jar
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons of buttermilk

Add the whipping cream to the jar and then add the buttermilk. Put the lid on and then let sit out on the counter for 18 to 48 hours, until thickened. Once it is thick, put it in the refrigerator. Super easy, huh!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Amy Butler Pattern Giveaway

Several months ago I found a blog that had the tutorial to make over a T-shirt....the one I posted a short while ago. I love keeping up with Tea Rose Home because she has some really great ideas for sewing projects that I can actually do, even though my sewing abilities are pretty limited! Tea Rose Home has a great giveaway right now for an Amy Bulter Pattern. I love love love Amy Butler fabrics and the patterns are really fun and seem pretty easy! If I had the budget to buy some fabrics of hers I have a whole list of fabrics I would love to purchase. Tea Rose Home will be selecting five winners, so if you would like a new sewing project you can check out her site and register!

Monday, August 16, 2010

My first thrifty furniture re-do

I have had this inexpensive console table for a few years sitting behind my sofa.
I have never been all that thrilled with the piece for a variety of reasons: 1. It is stained a dark cherrywood color that has a lot of red in it and that isn't quite what I was wanting 2. It got scratched very easily and then just looked kinda warn and dingy 3.
I just wanted to something lighter and a little more fun. So, I decided I would paint it a pale blue. I used two coats of Zinsser oil based primer on it.Then I mixed several shades of blue sample paint that I already had until I got a shade I was happy with. I haven't put on a polyurethane coating yet but I am sure that will be in my near future! In fact, I have a couple of painted furniture projects in my near future.
And this was the end result.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Paying with cash.....update

In the last few months, we have started paying cash for all our purchases. We have had to tweak our budget quite a bit to get to a really workable place and we are still tweaking it, but it is working! I will admit it is a big change to use cash all of the time when you are used to using a card for everything, but once you get passed the learning curve, its not a big deal. I have found that it really does help me spend less and be a lot more frugal because I know that if I only have $70 left in my grocery budget for the month I don't waste those dollars on stuff that we don't really need. The irony for me of sticking to a tight budget is that I find it freeing because I know we are living within our means and we are working towards a goal. I know I am not over spending or buying things that my husband may say "why did you spend that much money on that!" So, for any one that is at a point where you feel like your spending habits need to change, I highly suggest you try paying for everything with cash. Its crazy that everyone used to operate this way not so long ago and now we are totally dependent on debit and credit cards! Being free from that dependency is also really freeing!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

$40 Giveaway at Paula's Bread

About a year and a half ago, I took a local class where I learned about grinding my own wheat and making my own bread. It was a fascinating class and I realized how simple it is so that prompted me to begin doing it. Just a few months prior to that class, I was talking with an aunt who grinds her own wheat and upon learning that she did this, I commented "I could never do that!" My ignorance of how easy it is, led me to make my smug comment. So, only a few months later, I would eat my own words! I have really come to love several things about grinding my own wheat, so I will provide a list below:

- the wheat tastes much better and much less bitter
- you can get lighter wheats and make pastry wheats to put into baked goods like cookies and muffins
- because the wheat tastes better and is fresher, my kids (and hubby) eat everything with wheat in it
- my bread is free of preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and all the other things store bought bread usually contains
- making my own bread is cheaper than buying high quality bread

Kelly the Kitchen Kop has a $40 giveaway for Paula's Bread. Paula's makes wonderful bread but more importantly she sells great resources on her website for baking, cooking and making your own bread! So, check out Kelly the Kitchen Kop's website, she has a lot of great info to get started with eating healthier!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A new frugal challenge: roasting a whole chicken!

I have never been a big meat consumer and I have always thought it would be fairly easy for me to become a vegetarian but I have never taken that plunge for various reasons. Even though we eat meat, I generally dislike handling it and am often grossed out by raw meat. Over the past few weeks, I have been taking an e-course called The Peasant's Feast by The Nourishing Gourmet. The course has been fascinating and has been challenging me in different food areas and has encouraged me in various ways to save money by preparing most things from scratch. One of the topics of the course is how to make chicken stretch. With that in mind, came the challenge of roasting a whole chicken! I have never in my life handled a whole chicken, I have been a boneless, skinless chicken breast girl all the way! Roasting a whole chicken provides flavorful and moist chicken that can be stretched over several meals and it allows you to make a very healthy and flavorful chicken stock. After considering the benefits, I decided I would give it a try. I gave it a try and it wasn't bad. The chicken came out great and it made a great amount of chicken stock that I will be using tomorrow night for my mom's homemade chicken and noodle soup! I will definitely be doing this much more often if not all of the time. So for all of you ladies that were squeamish like I was, give it a try!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Kids snack idea: fruit juice jello

In my quest to feed my family a healthier diet, one of my challenges has been snacks, so I am on the hunt to find some good snack options to feed my kiddo's. The challenge is that I am trying to stay away from processed foods and come up with easy things my kids will eat that are healthy. I made fruit juice jello last week and I wasn't sure if all my little ones would like it and to my surprise, they did. This could be a little afternoon snack or even desert! This is a basic recipe off of the box of Knox unflavored gelatine. The recipe can be tweaked to be thicker and firmer (like jigglers) or thinner. I used an all natural fruit juice that was on sale and I had a coupon for from the grocery store. Here is the recipe off the Knox box:

- 4 envelopes or 1 box (I actually only used 2 envelopes) gelatine
- 1 cup cold fruit juice
- 3 cups fruit juice, heated to boiling
- 2 tablespoons honey, optional

1. Sprinkle gelatin over cold juice in a large bowl; let stand 1 minute. Add hot juice and stir until gelatin completely dissolves, about 5 minutes. Stir in honey if desired. Pour into a pan (I poured into small bowls for individual servings).

2. Refrigerate until firm, about 3 hours.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blogs after my own money saving tips!

As I have said before, we are on a journey to learn to be more frugal. A big component to saving money in our budget is cutting down our food expenses. I have been utilizing coupons for a little over a year and I have saved a significant amount on groceries but I want to cut my food budget down even more and provide my family with healthier meals. It sounds like a tall order but I have a plan! I have started using cash only which has helped me spend less at the grocery store, I use coupons but only on things that we really need, and I am making more things from scratch. Even though I am going to be spending more on buying better quality meats, I am saving more by making more things from scratch and buying as little pre-processes foods as I can manage. I am also trying to make one meatless meal for dinner each week and then make meals that stretch the meat so that my more expensive quality meat will go farther! All of these changes mean that I have to get a lot better with planning my meals out each week. This could be one of most difficult parts of the whole puzzle fore me because I am not a really organized person. I totally see the value in organization but I really do love spontaneity, so for me it means I need to be more disciplined in order to really make cutting down my food budget a reality. For many people this comes easily but for me its like pulling teeth but I know it will be worth it.

I have found many blogs that have helped motivate me and give me more ideas on how to do this and today there are two great blogs that have articles on this exact topic. Check them out to get some great tips and ideas on how to provide healthy meals on a tight budget. The Thrifty Mama and also The Nester have great guest posts on this topic.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Super Cute T-shirt makeover

A few months ago I saw a great tutorial from Tea Rose Home on adding ruffles to a basic T-shirt. I decided that I would love to do it but I didn't have a shirt to use and I was determined I would only do it if I found a great deal on basic T-shirts. About a month later, I was at an Old Navy and found a great green T-shirt in the clearance section for about $2.25. I found another one in a different size so I purchased them both for about $5 with tax. I used old thread that was pretty close to matching and I borrowed my mother-in-law's sewing machine! I watched the tutorial once more and then got to work! About and hour to an hour and a half later, my green ruffled shirt was the end result! It was very and easy and pretty fun to do. The next day, we had a family outing at a local kids museum and no joke, a woman came up to me and asked me where I got my really cute shirt! I was thrilled to tell her the T-shirt was a bargain find and I added the ruffles myself! Check out the great tutorial Tea Rose Home has and the other great projects she has!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Produce Co-op: Saving money and expanding my food horizons!

I have participated in a local produce co-op on and off for the last year or so. Every other week you sign up to pick up a produce basket that is a mix of half fruits and half vegetables. They often offer other things like breads or cases of apples, tomatoes, etc. The quality of the produce is generally very good; often a lot of the produce is local and the price is great! The challenge for me is that we sometimes get things in our produce basket that I are very foreign to what we normally eat. On the one hand, I like being pushed to try new things, but on the other, if I am not purposeful in figuring out what to do with the unfamiliar produce, it can often go to waste (therefore I am not being frugal). This week we got brussels sprouts! Of course I have heard of brussels sprouts but I am a bit embarrassed to say I have never tried one. So I was determined that I would stay the course in being a good steward of our resources and wanted to therefore make sure I used them this week. I found a simple recipe online, courtesy of Ina Garten on, and roasted them with salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil (I added the garlic). The kids were not real big fans, but my hubby and I enjoyed them! I was so glad we tried them and of course, I felt really good that they did not go to waste!

Friday, July 2, 2010

While we are talking about quinoa....

Since we are on the topic of quinoa, here is a mexican quinoa salad recipe from, the nourishing gourmet, that I plan on preparing this weekend as we celebrate the fourth of July weekend. I have had a very similar quinoa salad before (just like the one in the above picture) that was excellent, so I can't wait to give this mexican version a try. Update...I made it over the holiday weekend and we really enjoyed it. It was light with a very nice flavor, we will definitely make again.

I love very flavorful foods and I am often skeptical of "health" foods because people often claim they taste good when I am often left disappointed. I truly have been surprised with quinoa because I have a few fairly picky eaters in my household and the taste of quinoa has not been an issue. The other thing I really appreciate about quinoa is that it is very can go from being mixed into taco meat or spaghetti sauce to being the main component in a refreshing salad. If you have not yet tried it, this salad may be a good start!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Quinoa in my taco meat!

I learned about quinoa about a year and a half ago and I have been trying to incorporate it into my cooking ever since. Quinoa is a grain like food that cooks up similar to rice but is a complete protein. Here is a link for the whole foods website that gives you more information on Quinoa.

Quinoa has a very mild nutty flavor and has a consistency similar to rice once it is cooked. Even though it is more expensive than say rice or other grains, it expands to 3 times its original size, making it much cheaper than good meat. I purchase it in bulk; cook it just like rice and then I can add it to many different foods. Today I am talking about adding it to ground turkey or ground beef for tacos. You can very easily play with the portions of quinoa that you add to your meat but I generally use half ground meat and half cooked quinoa. From there I season my taco meat with a homemade taco season blend or you could add an MSG free, store bought taco seasoning. My children and guests alike have not noticed the addition of quinoa and it makes for a healthier and more frugal meal.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Step 1: Starting with a Budget!

One of the first and most crucial steps towards our family becoming better stewards has been to create a budget. This is a big and important step so that we can track our spending and then be intentional with where our money is going. We read Dave Ramsey's book "The Total Money Makeover" and we cannot speak highly enough about how much it has helped us get on a better track to being wise with our finances. We are now using cash for all of our purchases and this new style of payment has totally transformed my ability to stick to a budget. Although I have tried to be more frugal over the past few years, it was easy to just spend $10 here, $5 there and of course some thing that was a great deal and I really could use would always pop up. It usually didn't seem like a big deal because I wasn't spending a lot of money but without a set budget, those things were quickly adding up! I am not a numbers person, so being able to visually see how much is left in an envelop for a particular category has really helped me stay on track. I do enjoy buying new things but this new endeavor of staying within my budget or staying under budget has been a welcome challenge that I know is the first step towards learning to be a better steward.

Here is a link to Dave Ramsey's website that has some excellent information and resources related to budgeting and taking control of your finances.

Here is a specific link to some of Dave Ramsey's budgeting tips and tools that I have found useful. Budgeting Tools