Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 12 In 2012

Can you believe that today is the last day of 2012?

I thought it would be fitting to leave with you my top 12 favorite posts from 2012.

  1. Settling In--We bought our first home this year!
  2. Room To Breathe-- Stay tuned as I revamp our routines in the new year and continue to find my groove in my ever-changing schedule!
  3. Resourceful Drawer Pulls-- Still love these!
  4. Dear Cookies
  5. Valentine Getaway
  6. 7 Things We Don't Usually Spend Money On
  7. Expensive Free-Range Chicken Challenge--Continuing to work on stretching the grocery budget and using resources wisely in order to afford  better quality food!
  8. Inexpensive Photo Album Gifts
  9. Gingham Pennant Garland Fun
  10. Birthday Party
  11. How Not To Be A Good Host
  12. Mailbox Facelift
Happy New Year!

See you in 2013!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Chili Dog Casserole

I've been craving chili dogs recently and wondered how I could make a bunless gooey casserole version to switch up our Saturday night hotdog dinner.

A quick google search told me I was not alone in making something like this! One version I saw used croutons for the bread part which certainly sounds delicious!

Basically, I looked at a couple recipes, picked out a hot dog chili recipe to try and then layered the ingredients in a baking dish.

30 minutes later, we had hot bubbly gooey deliciousness!

Down here in the South, we eat our chili dogs with slaw on top. I believe that's referred to as "all the way".  I used to think that sounded and looked gross...until I tried it. It is so good!

I made coleslaw to serve with this casserole. Whether you eat it on top or on the side is up to you!

This recipe fills an 8-9 inch square baking dish and serves 2-4. Double the recipe to fill a 9x13 pan.

This would be a good freezer meal-- assemble recipe and freeze before baking.

Chili Dog Casserole 

Serves 2-4 

4 hot dogs, sliced in rounds
1 recipe prepared hot dog chili or buy a can from the store, whatever floats your boat
Shredded cheddar cheese, probably about 1 cup
Yellow mustard, optional
Chopped onion
Ketchup, optional--I'm a mustard girl when it comes to hot dogs. But hey, if you like your ketchup, by all means, knock yourself out!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place hot dogs in a greased 8-9 inch square pan. Cover with chili. Sprinkle cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Squeeze mustard and/or ketchup on top, if desired. Sprinkle with chopped onion.

Spoon this gooey yumminess on a  plate and eat with coleslaw!

Monday, December 03, 2012

Freezer Casseroles

This week, I'm going to be stocking my freezer with some casseroles and other easy to heat and serve dishes.

We have family coming to visit us during the month of December and I thought some freezer meals would come in very handy so I'm not spending all of my time in the kitchen while they're here.

I was inspired by Good Cheap Eats to have some casseroles ready to just pop in the oven! Then all I'll have to do is serve a simple side or two such as a salad and/or veggie to have a filling meal. We won't have casseroles every night---we'll change things up with some crockpot meals too.
 Sausage-Stuffed Acorn Squash prepared and ready to freeze!

Since changing our eating habits, I've realized that we don't eat that many actual "casseroles" anymore.

But I've come up with a decent list that includes some "tried and true" recipes that we like as well as a few new ones!

Tried and True:
New to Me:
Not Really Casseroles but Easy Make Ahead Meals:
  • Meatballs
  • Sloppy Joes-in-a bowl: Freeze sloppy joe meat, cooked brown rice and some shredded cheddar cheese in a meal kit. Serve with chopped onions, black olives, pickles, tomatoes, peppers or whatever you desire!
I'll start working on this list tomorrow and see how it goes. Even if I only do half of the things on my list, I will still be a couple of steps ahead making for a smoother December!

What's your favorite freezer recipe? 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bumbo Seat Recall

Bumbo has issued a voluntary recall on some of their seats due to the fact that an infant can fall out.

To correct this problem, they are sending repair kits which include a safety belt for the Bumbo and a warning sticker to place on the outside of the seat.

My husband jokes that the sticker is to provide reading material for the baby. :-)

Since I have a new baby starting soon, I went ahead and requested my repair kit. It arrived a couple of days later and I installed the new safety belt last night.

Ready for baby!

Just a FYI to any of you who have Bumbo seats--you may want to check and see if yours was included in the recall!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pie

This Chocolate Caramel Pecan Pie was my "fancy new recipe" contribution to our Thanksgiving dinner. When I saw the recipe in the November issue of Southern Living, I knew I wanted to make it!

This recipe called for a long list of yummy and not-so-healthy ingredients. Which is why we served it for Thanksgiving dinner. Because a) Thanksgiving is a holiday so therefore, we can eat whatever we want, right? and b) We had plenty of people to share it with so we didn't eat it all ourselves!

Anyways, this pie was to. die. for.

 What could be better than chocolate chips? Chocolate chips with cream, cream cheese and sugar, of course!

And since the chocolate layer isn't rich enough, why don't we add caramels, butter, cream, sugar and nuts?

Yes, why don't we?

Chocolate-Caramel Pecan Pie, ready to serve!

**Click the link above for the recipe!
**I substituted walnuts for the pecans. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving "Shepherd's" Pie In The Crockpot

Another delicious way to use Thanksgiving leftovers!

I layered a variety of Thanksgiving favorites in the crockpot for our weekly church fellowship potluck today. The result was very good!

Ingredients(varying amounts of each; this is a "use what you have" dish!):

  • Stuffing
  • Chopped turkey
  • Gravy
  • Green bean casserole**--other vegetables can also be used.
  • Mashed potatoes
My gravy was extra thick on Thursday and it always gels up when cold anyways, so I put it in a saucepan and added a little milk.  Then I whisked it while it heated on low until it was nice and smooth. Still a good gravy consistency but not nearly so thick--it stretched a little further this way!

Cold mashed potatoes are usually pretty clumpy too, so I added some milk to those as well and stirred.

To make your Thanksgiving "Shepherd's" Pie, layer in a  greased crockpot:

  1. Stuffing.
  2. Chopped turkey.
  3. About half of gravy.
  4. Green bean casserole** or other veggies. 
  5. Mashed potatoes.
  6. Gravy. 
That's it! Cook on low for about 4 hours.

The layers and flavors all kind of mix together into something very yummy and comforting!  I wasn't sure how it would end up in the crockpot but was very pleased with the result.

**I had mixed feelings about putting Green Bean Casserole in this. But it tasted great--I think the extra flavors from the sauce really helped the whole dish.

Keep in mind that your crockpot should be at least half full to cook properly. I used a 5 quart and added an extra thick layer of mashed potatoes to fill it up more!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Buy Handmade!

In honor of Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, get 20% off anything in my shop when you use the coupon code CYBERMONDAY12 at checkout!

Coupon code good through  Monday 11/26/12.

Thanks for looking!

Turkey Dinner Soup

I bookmarked this recipe a while back to make with Thanksgiving leftovers! It's from the cookbook Is It Soup Yet?

If using leftovers, this soup comes together in about 15 minutes. I made it for lunch today and we both really liked it!

Turkey Dinner Soup
Serves 4

2 cups turkey or chicken broth
2 cups leftover cooked vegetables: such as cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, peas, corn, green beans
1 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon celery salt (I left this out since I didn't have any.)
1 teaspoon salt
1-2 cups chopped cooked turkey
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons milk
2 Tablespoons flour
4 Tablespoons cooked whole cranberries (optional)

Pour broth into a medium-sized saucepan. Add vegetables, dill weed, celery salt, and salt. Cook vegetables for 10 minutes on medium-high heat until heated up. Add turkey and potatoes. Pour 1/2 cup milk into soup and heat through. Whisk 2 T. flour and 2 T. milk together. Add to soup, stirring well. Serve immediately. Top with a spoonful of cooked cranberries if desired!


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner

We're hosting Thanksgiving dinner for twelve at our house this year!

Preparations are well underway.

Several side dishes are in the freezer, the turkey has been roasted and sliced and pie crusts have been made.

Mom shared with me how a turkey can be baked ahead of time and reheated on Thanksgiving Day. Wrap the sliced meat in foil. Freeze or refrigerate. Place foil packs in crockpot and heat before serving. I've tried this before and the meat was very tender and fresh!

Doing the turkey in advance is nice because then you don't have the big turkey to take care of at the same time as everything else!

Pie crusts have been made. I planned to buy pie crusts this year but at the last minute decided to just make my own since I had all the ingredients. I'm no expert when it comes to pie crusts( lots of patches to cover tears!) and while my homemade ones won't win any beauty contests, they taste ok!

Thanksgiving Menu

My sister and family are coming for Thanksgiving plus some local friends. My sister and I are doing the bulk of the cooking but the other guests are bringing some things too. I've marked my contributions with an *. I think we'll have plenty of food!

Mashed Potatoes*
Green Bean Casserole*
Butternut Squash Casserole*--changed this recipe a bit and used squash instead of pumpkin.
Brown Rice Stuffing*
Stuffing*--we love Stovetop!
Artichoke Casserole
Cranberry Sauce
Deviled Eggs
Another side dish or two from guests

Pumpkin Pie*
Caramel Chocolate Pecan Pie*
Another dessert or two from guests

Cranberry Juice mixed with Ginger Ale*
Sweet Tea

What's on your Thanksgiving menu?

Monday, November 19, 2012


This head of broccoli was picked from my fall garden today.

I planted 6 broccoli plants and now all 6 have broccoli heads growing. Most are still very small--this big guy was the first!

We watched him grow for quite a while and finally decided he was big enough to cut.

I'm super excited about my success with broccoli. I've been a rather negligent gardener this season... Broccoli will certainly be on my list to grow again in late winter/early spring. 

I planted broccoli and cabbage plants for my inaugural fall garden and so far, so good. I planted green bean seeds too, but none of them came up.

It would be fun to serve broccoli from our garden at our Thanksgiving dinner!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Snippets Of Life

  • I sent in our registration for an event the other day. This morning, the event coordinator sent a nice email thanking us for registering and asking what the extra enclosed $12 cash was for. Well, we have absolutely no idea where it came from or why I had enclosed it! So we figured the best route was to just give that as a donation!
  • Toddler Girl mentioned her "Urkle Mark" (Uncle) the other day.
  • One of Baby Boy's favorite "chores" is helping to feed Rock. When we mention feeding the dog, he runs to the laundry room door and waits to go in and get the food for him. I measure it out and he proudly carries it to the dog bowl. The food occasionally does get dumped elsewhere but B.B. still mostly thinks picking up things is fun so it works. 
  • Overheard in the grocery store parking lot. Mother to son in the most gentle of tones: "No. It was like you were an animal in there!" 
  • Andy on men and women: "Men wear dress shirts. Women wear shirt dresses!" 
  • Toddler Girl ate a huge lunch one day. I asked her," Did you eat a big lunch?" Smiling proudly, she responded," I ate a big lunch! It was fun!" 
  • It had been one of "those mornings".  It had stopped raining but the ground was still too wet to play in the backyard. So I decided we would go for a walk. And I did mean walk! No stroller for little people to ride in, we were going to all get some exercise (read: wear little folks out so they'd take a good nap)! I told Toddler Girl we were going to get some exercise. About halfway through  the walk she said, "This is exercise!"  
  • Baby Boy (soon to be known as Toddler Boy) is quite attached to his Pooh bear. The other day, he and Pooh came over to be cuddled. As I picked them up, I said, "I love a boy and his Pooh!" Then I thought about what I'd said... We won't say that anymore. LOL!!!
  • Toddler Girl is very into everyone else's business and likes to make sure all of our ducks are in a row, so to speak. Andy said jokingly one day, "T.G., we need to talk about ducks!" To which she replied quickly, "Talk about Baby Boy's ducks!" Case in point. Hahaha 
  • And one more about Toddler Girl--she is in such a  cute stage right now:  She loves to sing and make up songs as she goes. We were out for a stroller ride and T.G. was singing and humming very happily. Then she sang, "We take shoes off in the bouncy house!"
What's going on in your life? 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pumpkin Cooking

Our neighbors gave us 2 big pumpkins a few weeks ago. I used them as outdoor decor for a while and then brought them in to cook before they started to rot.

Pumpkins can be hard to cut when raw, so I followed these instructions on how to cook whole pumpkins in the oven.

Super easy!

I got 12 cups pumpkin puree from the 2 pumpkins. I froze some in 2 cup portions(equivalent to a can of pumpkin) for many baking recipes and some in 3 cup portions which is perfect for pumpkin soup.

Some yummy pumpkin recipes we like:

Pumpkin bread
Pumpkin spice oatmeal (although since going mostly grain-free, I gag at the thought of eating a bowl of oatmeal!)
Pumpkin soup (I add chicken)
Roasted pumpkin seeds
Pumpkin pancakes
Cooked pumpkin with butter and salt & pepper

I'd also like to try this crustless pumpkin pie, although making a regular pumpkin pie recipe without the crust works just fine too!

What's your favorite pumpkin recipe?

Friday, November 09, 2012

Saving The Change

One tidbit I took away from reading Money Saving Mom's book earlier this year was her suggestion of saving $1.25 each week.

She explained that while $1.25 only adds up to $5.00 a month and saving $5.00 a month equals only $60.00 a year, it's getting into the habit of saving money. Typically, once you  start seeing a little money start to add up, you will look for other ways to increase your saving.

We are already in the habit of saving pretty consistently but I decided to take her challenge! Even an extra $60 a year sounded good to me! And I knew that we would be needing to purchase some furniture before too long and some extra cash to set aside for that would be super nice.

 I began by adding $1.25 to the fund each week by using some change left in our grocery envelope.  At the end of each month, I went through all of our cash envelopes and saved the change. I also began to save half of my "play money" ($10) each month and added that to my little stash  as well.

As our pile of change began to grow, we dubbed it "The Couch Fund" as a couch was one of the first items we needed to purchase.

We started our little fund in March and by July we were able to purchase some furniture off Craigslist-- a couch ($85), patio table ($60) and 4 patio chairs ($15).

I will note that we had also stashed the earnings from a spring yard sale (approx. $150) and also $100 we made by selling an extra lawn mower that was left for us by the previous owner of our house. These two "deposits" helped to beef up our little fund a lot!

We're still squirreling extra change away regularly hoping to purchase a new-to-us dining room table and chairs soon.  We continue to watch Craigslist and thrift stores/yard sales and while we wait to find just what we're looking for, we continue to add to our savings!

Once we purchase a table, a vacuum cleaner (new or factory-refurbished) is next on the list!

I like that we haven't had to add another category to our budget to save for these things but have been able to squeeze some extra change out of the existing budget instead. 

Yes, this takes more time than putting a purchase on the credit card! But it is so rewarding to see your savings grow and then to be able to pay with cash.

We started filling this jug with our extra pennies back in 2007. We wonder how long it will take to fill!

**This post is part of Frugal Friday over at Life As Mom.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Stick Wreath

One thing we have in abundance at our house is sticks! The little ones love to pick them up and play with them.

So when I saw this cute stick wreath featured on Crafting a Green World, I knew this would be a good fall project for my little brood.

All of us were able to participate in gathering a basket full of sticks and then the next morning, Toddler Girl and I assembled the wreath.

For the cardboard circle, I traced a dinner plate onto cardboard (used one of our recently emptied moving boxes!) and then used a bowl to trace the inner circle.

In the tutorial, she wrapped her cardboard circle with twine but I didn't have any so I used strips of burlap instead. A nice rustic and natural look!

I squeezed tacky glue for each stick and T.G. stuck them on the wreath! Tacky glue takes a long time to dry; I set the wreath out of reach for the rest of the day.

Yes, hot glue would be faster but then T.G. wouldn't have been able to help which was really the point of this project! And I have a love/hate relationship with hot glue--it doesn't always work as well as I think it should!

A brown gingham ribbon was used for hanging and our stick wreath is now hanging by the door where the littles hang their coats and bags.

We love our simple fall wreath!

Friday, November 02, 2012

Snippets Of Life

  • Toddler Girl saw me getting Baby Boy's pacifier (which attaches to him with a clip). She said, " Oh, _______(Baby Boy's) leash!"  LOL!!!
  • We have a little weather station in the house which tells the temperature and shows a little man dressed in weather appropriate attire. On this morning, Andy announced that we should be wearing wet suits, trench coats and hats. Hahaha 

  • In the "things you never thought you would say" file-- Me: "Let's not wipe our noses with the lion's tail!" 
  • A black sock accidentally got in with the load of whites to which I added bleach. It's kind of a blackish brown now...
  • A wooden skewer works to unlock inside doors....
  • Toddler Girl has been talking about "horsey-ducks".  
  • Toddler Girl said she wanted Andy the other day.  He picked her up and she wiggled out of his arms and pointed to me saying, "No, that one!" She can say my name but prefers instead to refer to me as "Mommy" or her latest, "You!"
  • I asked Andy the other day if the pants I was wearing made me look "extra plump". He assured me that no, they didn't. What was he supposed to say!?! We've been laughing about it ever since. Extra Plump. It could be a new size--XP. LOL!!!
  • Baby Boy is usually circling as I get Toddler Girl settled in for her nap. She sprawls out on her mat and says, "Kiss!". He comes over and kisses her. She did this yesterday then called to him again- "Hug!" He came and kissed her again. She has it made, doesn't she? 
  • This post is brought to you by Prednisone, which I've been on for a week now, due to an allergic reaction. It's amazing how energetic I feel when taking this stuff! I also eat a lot...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pinned It, Made It: Can I Clean My Bathrooms In 15 Minutes?

Can I clean my bathrooms in 15 minutes?

Always looking for ways to streamline my cleaning tasks, I pinned this article that tells how to clean two bathrooms quickly--in 15 minutes!

The question was: Would it work for me?

Well, let's find out!

Before starting the timer, I gathered all rags and supplies, including mop water.

I then set the timer for 20 minutes since I was planning to sweep and mop as well. (In the blog post, she did floors another day.) Floors already take me a while to complete--we have a good amount of hardwoods--so I'd rather just do the bathroom floors at the same time as the bathrooms!

She suggests starting with mirrors them cleaning toilet in Bathroom #1. I squirted toilet cleaner in both rooms first. Then back to #1.

Bathroom #1: Clean mirror, spray sink, counters and toilet with cleaner. (We don't use the shower/tub in this room so no need to clean weekly!) Run to Bathroom #2.

And yes, I'm cracking myself up with my references to the bathrooms as #1 and #2. LOL!!!

Bathroom #2: Clean mirrors. Spray sink, counters, toilet, tub/shower. Run back to #1.

Quickly scrub toilet and wipe down what was sprayed before. Repeat in #2.

Look at timer--exactly 15 minutes!

Back in #1, sweep floor and mop. Run to #2 and do the same thing.

Finish up just as timer beeps--20 minutes from start to finish!

The verdict:
It worked! But I moved fast--no dilly dallying!

My notes:
This was enough time to quickly do the basics but no extras such as dusting or wiping down cabinet doors. I'll do these things as needed on another day when I do dusting and cleaning surfaces.

This worked well for my size of bathrooms--small-average size.  Large rooms may take longer to clean.

I'm a timer motivated cleaner so this method is working really well for me-- I'm not as apt to put it off when I know it will be done in 15-20 minutes!

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It Monday at Country Girl At Home.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


The winner of the pumpkin giveaway is...


She commented that what she loves most about fall:

"The thing I love most about fall is the changing leaves. It is like a new picture outside my window each day."


For the rest of you, I'm offering a coupon code good for 15% off anything in my shop through October 31, 2012. Use  coupon code FALL2012 at checkout!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Play Dough

I've wanted to make pumpkin pie play dough for fall for a long time! And finally got around to it this fall...

It helps that the littles are really getting into play dough now. And our last batch of Smurf-blue  dough was needing to be replaced.

I looked at a few recipes on the internet and came to the conclusion that by adding pumpkin pie spice and red and yellow food coloring (to make orange) to my basic play dough recipe, we would have pumpkin pie play dough.

I am super practical and prefer the simple route for many things,can you tell? I mean, why reinvent the wheel play dough when you can just add to it to get what you want?

I didn't have pumpkin pie spice and I saw no reason to buy any so I just added a couple shakes of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and ground cloves that I had in the cabinet. If you really want pumpkin pie spice, here is a recipe to make your own! I didn't measure the amount I put in but I knew it was ready when it smelled so good I wanted to eat it.

I'm really happy with how it turned out--nice and orange and smelling just like pumpkin pie!

One of my favorite smells of fall!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cheeseburger Mac (Homemade Hamburger Helper)

I've been making Homemade Hamburger Helper type meals for  five years, since I first saw this post.

I didn't grow up eating Hamburger Helper and have only had the boxed kind a couple of times in my life. I do like easy skillet meals, though, which prompted me to try this in the first place! The homemade kind doesn't have all the chemicals that the boxed kind has so it's much better for us!

Our favorite kind is Cheeseburger Mac which I've adapted from the original post.

I know some of you are thinking, "I didn't think she ate pasta!" Which we really don't very often since eliminating wheat. But after a year of no pasta, I discovered that I could make this with rice pasta instead and it is super good!

The Tinkyada brand of brown rice pasta is very good. I bought a bag at a dent and bent type of store for $1 last year. We liked it. But regular price is around $3-4 a bag. That's high for pasta, especially if you aren't allergic. Since then, we've tried Trader Joe's brown rice pasta for $1.99 a bag(16 oz.). It's just as good! Since this recipe only takes 8 oz. of pasta, I can make two pots of this, each which serves us for two meals. Not bad, frugally speaking!

Cheeseburger Mac 

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 onion, chopped
1 cup water or broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
Ketchup and yellow mustard, a few squirts of each
1 cup diced tomatoes, drained
8 ounces pasta-- rice pasta, regular pasta, whole wheat, gluten free,whatever...
1-2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

1. Brown a half pound of meat and chopped onions in a skillet. Drain grease. I reduced the amount of meat from a whole pound to a half pound; we don't think it's made much of a difference in taste! This is one way I'm able to stretch the more expensive grass-fed beef and afford to eat it.

2. Pour one cup of water or broth in a measuring cup; add a teaspoon of cornstarch and mix well. Pour it into skillet and bring to boil.

3. Add several squirts of ketchup and mustard to pot. We really like the cheeseburger taste this gives but you can skip if  you want!

4. Stir in diced tomatoes.

5. Add noodles and stir them in. If needed, add more water so the noodles can be mixed in without clumping too bad. The water shouldn't cover the noodles! As they cook, keep an eye on the noodles and stire often, adding a bit more water if needed.

6. Cover and simmer, stirring often until noodles are soft, about 10- 15 minutes.

7. When noodles are done, turn heat to low and add a handful of cheese, stirring it in until it melts. Turn stove off, sprinkle more cheese on top and serve to your hungry family!


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Bushel Of Pumpkins And A Giveaway!

Remember these pumpkins I made last year?

I recently whipped up a big batch of them and they are in my shop

But for fun, I'm also offering up a set of 3 pumpkins as a giveaway here on the blog!

The giveaway will be open all week and I'll draw a winner on Saturday, October 20.

To enter: Simply leave a comment on this post for a chance to win! Make sure you leave a name and a way to get in touch with you if you win--an email address, link back to your profile or blog that includes an email, etc. I can't give the prize to Anonymous or to someone that I have no way of getting in touch with!:-)

For additional entries:

(Leave a separate comment for each one.)
  • Leave a comment stating what you love the most about fall!
  • Leave a comment stating your favorite cool weather or fall food to cook or eat. 
  • Leave a comment sharing your favorite fall activity! 
Happy Fall! 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pinned It, Made It: Pajama Pants

For today's Pinned It, Made It Monday, I'm sharing some pj pants I made a few weeks ago.

I'd pinned the instructions for making pj pants by using an old pair of pants for the pattern.

Back in the spring, I'd thrifted a delicious ruffled vintage sheet that was just dying to be made into something sweet! Pajamas seemed to be just the thing.

My husband said as soon as he saw me pull that sheet out, he knew it was going home with us! Smart man!

So anyways, I needed some new pj's and I thought, "Why don't I try making some?" So I did!

The instructions for the pants were very clear and detailed, making them easy to follow. The pants sewed up with very little trouble. I used the ruffled edge of the sheet for the hem of the pants eliminating the need for hemming.

I will say that the fit of these pants is a bit wonky on me. If I were to make these again, I'd need to do some tweaking. I'm not sure sure if the fit issue is the pants I used or the tutorial!

But at any rate, they are still wearable! And I really like them! I think they're super cute and feminine. 

I made a matching top from a Burda Young Fashion pattern. I can't locate the pattern at the moment for the exact pattern number. I've made several things from this pattern--a loan from my sister. I promise I will give the pattern back! Hahaha.

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It! Monday over at Country Girl At Home. **

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Picnic On The Deck

Now that fall is here and the days are cooler, we're enjoying much time spent outdoors! The littles enjoy playing outside so much that one day I decided to set up a picnic on the deck for lunch.

Toddler Girl (age 2 1/2) especially got into the idea. When she saw me moving their chairs outside, she ran to help!

We'd gathered a basket of sticks that morning for another project so I set those on the table for our centerpiece.

 I enjoyed the change of pace and the bright sunshine while we ate! The littles enjoyed it too, for the most part. We could hear construction going on behind our neighborhood, acorns falling and planes in the sky!

But for a dose of reality--- the lunch time/before nap time slot with toddlers is not usually all sunshine and roses! The littles were tired, irritable and one person did not like their lunch and made it known loudly. I'm sure the neighbors enjoyed our charming little picnic too! :-)

In spite of all this, a picnic on the deck is something we'll be doing more often!

It's a simple fun way to enjoy our lovely fall!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Organized Art Cabinet

Even though we have a play room now, we keep most of our arts and crafts supplies in the kitchen. We typically do these sorts of things at the kitchen table and it's nice to have everything easily accessible and out of reach of the toddlers.

I must admit, I feel spoiled to have so many cabinets in my kitchen that I'm able to devote one to non-kitchen items!

The art cabinet hadn't been properly organized yet; most things were stuffed in every which way and the organizing containers I did have in there were too big for the space making it a pain to pull anything out!

I rarely purchase organizing containers for a project but eventually I figured a few bucks would be worth having this area nice and neat! I just wasn't coming up with enough recycled containers on my own that were really what was needed.

I found these clear plastic bins with snap-on lids on clearance at Target for $2 each. I took a chance and bought four hoping they would be the right size for the space and the items being stored.

They worked great!  Labels were created from scrapbook paper scraps and packing tape. A plastic salad container was pulled from the recycling bag for stickers and I used one of the bigger bins from before to house all the random craft supplies that are not needed as often (pom poms, foam sheets, pipe cleaners, etc.) on the top shelf.

Next to our art cabinet, there is a skinny cabinet with 3 shelves where I've stashed some extra stuff like crayons, markers and colored pencils for older kids, some large bottles of paint, and some small toddler activities.

I love how these shelves are organized and how easy it is to pull out supplies and activities for the little ones!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Snippets of Life

1) Toddler Girl is at a very possessive stage of life. Real life example:

Toddler Girl holding toys.
Baby Boy stands and looks at what she has.
T.G freaks out: "Noooo! ______ (Baby Boy's name), mine!"
Me: " It's ok. ______ (Baby Boy) can look."
T.G. regains composure and holds toys out importantly towards B.B. "Ok, look!"

2) Abby and Dolly are two dogs in our neighborhood. They are known to roam occasionally especially around their own property. So we often see then when we are out and about. Unfortunately, Abby and Rock don't seem to get  along the best and usually bark and growl at one another.

One day recently, we were out for our walk, me pushing the double stroller with Rock on the leash by our side. Everything was fine and dandy until we approached Abby's house. I saw Abby and Dolly coming out carrying on and sensed Rock stiffening up. About that time, T.G. yelled, " Oh lordy! There's Abby and Dolly!"

She sounded so funny, I could hardly stop laughing.

Ahem... I do use the phrase Oh lordy on occasion.

3)  Baby Boy was enjoying emptying a bag of scrap fabrics the other day while I picked out a few pieces for a project. Rock, everyone's favorite, was nearby. I noticed Baby Boy laughing and laughing out loud and glanced over just in time to see him put a piece of cloth on Rock's head. He then stood back and laughed then repeated the whole procedure. Rock was such a good sport about his "hat"! And clearly, Baby Boy was amused!

4) Baby Boy loves tractors and notices them (riding mowers) when we're out. T.G. likes anything that B.B. likes so she likes tractors too! We like to sing a song about tractors and T.G. requests it often. So we sing. But for some reason, talking and singing about tractors makes her think about crackers. Haha.

5) We usually purchase natural peanut butter that needs to be stirred. I hate stirring peanut butter! It's so messy. Lately I've noticed that I'll wait and let Andy open the new jar of peanut butter. That way he'll stir it up. Which he doesn't mind doing. Plus he's just really nice like that!

6) A couple frugal blogs I've been enjoying lately are Living On Less Money and The Non-Consumer Advocate.

7) A verse I've been pondering: "Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever." Daniel 12:3.

What's going on in your life?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Crockpot Sausage and Sweet Potato Stew

This is a wonderful cool weather stew! It's easy to put in the crockpot on busy days.

Plus with sweet potatoes and vegetables, it's really quite nutritious as well! Any sausage can be used-- turkey, pork, beef. I've used both keilbasa/smoked type sausage cut into slices and bulk roll sausage that I cooked and crumbled. Both are tasty.

I like to serve this stew with a green salad topped with fresh apple slices and walnuts or pecans!

Sausage and Sweet Potato Stew

Makes approximately 8 servings; freezes well.

1 pound cooked sausage, any kind, even homemade.
4 small sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces; about 2 pounds or 5 cups.
1 cup chopped bell peppers
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 can diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups broth, chicken or beef

Combine all ingredients in greased 5 -6 qt. crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Make Your Own Sausage

When I was getting my recent beef, pork and chicken order together for a local farmer, I noticed that they were sold out of their sausage, which we like very very much!

Instead of sausage, I ordered some of their ground pork instead. And I've been adding a few seasonings and making my own sausage!

I adapted a recipe from the Not Just Beans cookbook using spices I had on hand. Really, seasoning your own sausage is quite simple. Spices can be adjusted according to your tastes.

This is more of an Italian-style sausage. I use it wherever we would use sausage-- for breakfast meat or in recipes. 

1 pound ground pork or you can do a 50/50 combination of beef and pork
1 tsp. dried minced onion
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. minced garlic or 1 clove fresh (finely minced)
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/8 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper

A teaspoon of fennel seeds can also be added for a more authentic taste but I didn't have any so left it out!

Sprinkle seasoning over ground meat. Knead until thoroughly blended. The Mix 'n Chop from Pampered Chef works wonderfully for this job! Make into patties or form into roll and refrigerate for 2-3 days to allow flavors to blend. I usually use it right away although the flavors are not as developed.

When ready to use, cook as you would cook regular sausage.

**Tomorrow I'll be sharing a yummy recipe that includes this sausage--perfect for fall!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Another Year

Today marks 8 years of marriage for us!

I looked at Andy the other day and asked if we were the same kids who got married 8 years ago. He said he didn't think so.  A lot of change and growth has occurred in the past 8 years. Good change and growth, I might add! But at the same time, so much about us has not changed.

We're still us.  And I like that.

Friday, September 28, 2012


This week I pulled both my personal profile and blog page from Facebook. Some of you may have seen my status updates informing of this decision and some may not have.

I won't go into specifics concerning this decision but you can be assured that I didn't have any negative experience that prompted this action.

In the meantime, I do still plan to keep my blog up and running. If you'd like to subscribe so you don't miss an update, you can subscribe by email or become a follower. Both of these options are on the right sidebar of my blog. Or you can subscribe via a reader. Google Reader  is my favorite and keeps all the blogs I read in one place!

As always, thank you so much for continuing to read and comment here at Mary Ann's House. I appreciate it and it means a lot to me!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More Coupon Savings

As I mentioned in this post, I'm making a bit more of an effort to use some coupons again to help me rebuild my pantry without buying everything at regular retail prices.

I had gotten more store coupons from my last trip to Bi-Lo so made a quick trip to see what I could find!

This time I had Baby Boy-who is-not-really-a-baby-anymore (18 months!) with me, so it was important to make the trip quick!

I'm not a fast grocery shopper but taking the littles certainly speeds me up which is a good thing! I like getting it done and going back home!

We picked up a few needed produce items and then these things:

  • Disposable cups-- FREE with $1 store coupon. These are often needed for our Fellowship gatherings.
  • Jug of water--FREE with $1 store coupon. This will be put with our emergency supplies. 
  • Sandwich bags-- 39 cents with $1 store coupon.
  • Shout-- $1.15 with $1 store coupon and 55 cent doubled manu. coupon. This would have been better had I waited for a sale but still a super price for something we use regularly. And now I have an extra for later!
While I really don't have a desire to be a super Coupon Queen, especially right now--there are so many other things I'd rather spend my time on-- using some coupons for needed items really is helpful to the budget!

Do you coupon regularly? What have you gotten for a good price recently?

Monday, September 17, 2012


Our new home is county instead of city so we aren't included in city trash pickup. Instead of paying for a private company to get our trash, we've opted to take our trash and recycling to the dump ourselves.

We live only about 5 minutes from the dump so this has worked out quite well so far. Admittedly, it does take a bit more effort to gather all the trash together to take somewhere than setting the can at the curb. 

A few ways we've reduced the trash and made things a bit easier:
  • Composting food scraps. I'd gotten out of the habit of consistently adding to our compost bin. Since moving, we've started this back up. I keep a bowl on the counter and then empty every day. Super easy. I'm also adding some to our garden plot to amend the soil. We have a septic system so no garbage disposal, so if not composting, these things would go right into the trash, not only creating more garbage but a lot more stink!
  • Recycling. The trash and recycling center provides a blue recycling bag. Almost all recyclables can go in this bag eliminating the need for sorting. They accept almost everything except for styrofoam. Recyclables in the trash can tend to fill it up very quickly so this keeps the actual garbage amount down.
  • Outside trash can. I keep a can outside for diapers and other smelly stuff. We normally only have one bag of household trash per week. I'd have to empty it more often if diapers were included so they get their own can plus it gets them out of the house! At the end of the day, I tie up the grocery bag of diapers we've accumulated and cart it outside.
  • Passing stuff on. Egg cartons go to the guy we've been buying eggs from. Another lady at the farmers market uses the plastic clamshell containers to package up her produce. I add those items to our market bag through the week and take it with us to disperse among the appropriate vendors. 
  • Reusing and repurposing. Individual applesauce containers make good little paint cups. There are oodles of uses for toilet paper rolls and cardboard. Glass jars can be reused. So I keep some. Not all. If I kept everything hoping to find a use for it one day, we'd be buried in a sea of recyclables. And we don't want that. I keep a few things if I have a specific use in mind and send the rest to recycling. Super simple.
  • Reducing the use of disposable items. Using plastic or glass containers instead of so many plastic bags, lidded bowls and pans instead of always having to cover with plastic wrap or foil, cloth napkins and rags instead of paper towels and napkins are some of the ways we reduce our trash. We don't do this perfectly by any means but the little things we are able to do add up to savings and less trash! 
By implementing these tips, we typically only have to make a trip to the dump every couple of weeks! 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Recent Frugal Stuff

I always enjoy reading when others post about ways they are being frugal and saving money on a daily basis. So I thought I'd share my own list of ways we've been able to save money recently or use what we already have creatively!

I know most of us are interested in making the most of our dollars and stretching them as far as we can these days. So maybe this will help!

  • A friend gave us some garden veggies: already sliced cucumbers and a couple small tomatoes. I made a Creamy Cucumber Salad with these and served it with lunch 2 days.
  • When folding clean sheets, I noticed the hems on the pillowcases had come loose. A few minutes at the sewing machine and they were mended and should last for a long while. 
  • Made some new snacks using ingredients I usually have on hand. Frozen banana bites and Grapesicles!
  • A roll of brown paper was left here when we moved in. On a  rainy day, I taped a large piece of it to the kitchen floor and let the kiddos color all over it.
  • We received a "Welcome to the neighborhood" coupon pack. Most were not things we would use, but we kept out a coupon for a free haircut which Andy used this week!

  • I've been sewing lots of aprons to sell locally and in my Etsy shop. I've challenged myself to come up with fun fabric combinations using what I have in my stash rather than running to the store to buy more. I've had to get more creative than usual but have come up with some really cute ones, I think! I've done quite a bit and could still sew happily from my stash for quite some time!
  • Used store coupons to get a few needed items for free or nearly free!
  • Marinated some beef in leftover garlic dill pickle juice for a stir fry. Very yummy. I've also been putting cucumber slices in leftover pickle juice to brine for a few days and making my own pickles! Not quite the same as "real" pickles but tasty! This is old-school frugality at its finest; I hate to throw pickle juice away.
  • I've been composting all of our food scraps minus meat and dairy. Since we started our fall garden, I've been digging holes and putting some right into the garden--free fertilizer!

  • Made this cute fall pumpkin with stuff I had on hand then realized that I didn't have a cinnamon stick for the stem. My first thought was when to run to the store to buy some but then my eyes fell to some sticks in the backyard--so I used a stick for the stem instead. Totally free!
  • Our house has a hard time staying cool. But with the little bit cooler weather, we've been able to turn off the ceiling fans! A small savings.Still using the A/C of course but soon we'll be able to turn that off too!
  • I've said no to quite a few purchases resisting the urge to upgrade when I have something at home that works just as well! More money saved plus less clutter! 
What frugal stuff are you up to these days? 

**This post is part of Frugal Fridays over at Life As Mom! 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Pinned It, Made It: Band-Aid Get Well Cards

I pinned this get well card idea a long time ago because they were so cute and hysterical! Recently, I needed a get well card and thought of this which was perfect for the recipient!

Ok, so these could technically be a kid's craft but so funny and I know many adults who would get a kick out of these! So when I got out the supplies to make a card, I made several to add to my card box.

Super fun and simple!

I added some of my own touches such as little stick figure arms and legs and even tried to come up with my own band-aid jokes and puns.

I may not have done so well with the latter. But it was fun!

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It Monday at Country Girl at Home. 

**My intention was to post this Monday but as you can see that didn't happen! Happy Wednesday everyone!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Time To Fill Your Shoeboxes!

It's that time again.

Time to start thinking about what you want to pack in your shoe boxes.

Collection week is about 2 months away: November 12-19, 2012!

I've been squirreling a few things away all year but just today pulled out the boxes and sorted the items into each one. Now I know what I need to fill them in!

And as usual, our girl box is already much fuller than the boy box! Always seems to happen that way--maybe because I love buying girly stuff?!!

 **If you'd like, you can see this video I did last year about filling our shoeboxes. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


I'm trying to make a bit more of an effort to use some coupons again for things I know we will use. Using just a few coupons can help to give our grocery budget a little more wiggle room. Plus after not using coupons or shopping the drugstore deals for a while, our grocery and personal care stash is starting to dwindle a bit!

We don't need 20 tubes of toothpaste since we only use 2-3 a year but buying an extra 1 or 2 of needed items as back-up is nice. And when bought on sale, saves us a good deal of cash!

I got a pile of store coupons from the grocery store last weekend so I used some of those on this trip. Most were very general coupons like $1 off any laundry purchase or any oral care purchase. I like coupons like that!

Here's what I got: 

Mustard- 39 cents with doubled 30 cent manu. coupon.
Canned vegetable- 49 cents with 20 cent e-coupon loaded onto store loyalty card.
Cereal- FREE with $1 store coupon. This will be a good snack for the little ones.
Toothbrush- FREE with $1 store coupon and doubled 75 cent manu. coupon.
Body Wash-FREE with $1 store coupon.

We also had gotten a $3 off any purchase coupon from CVS for my husband's birthday so he kindly gave that to me to use! Upon entering the store, I scanned his Extra Care card and received a $2 off any CVS brand body wash, so I was able to combine the two coupons for a good deal.

Body Wash
2 pk. bar soaps
Sale- Buy 1, get 2nd 50% off.
Used $5 in store coupons.
Paid 30 cents for both!

Do you use coupons? What good deals have you gotten recently?

Monday, September 03, 2012

Pinned It, Made It: Grapesicles

In the interest of trying another cheap and easy snack idea from Pinterest this week, I chose to make grapesicles.

I read the directions this time but wouldn't have had to; no hidden stuff I couldn't see in the picture! :-)

I'd gotten some big red grapes at Aldi so I washed, dried and threaded them on wooden skewers. (Used some shorter skewers I had.) I then laid them on a waxed paper lined pan  and froze.

I'd heard of eating frozen grapes as a snack but hadn't tried it and wasn't sure I would like it. Not a fan of trying to chew big frozen chunks! Too cold and makes my teeth hurt!

I do like these grapesicles! The grapes are small enough  and they begin to thaw rather quickly so they're not too cold to chew.

Pretty tasty and fun! And who doesn't like eating things off of a pointy stick!?!

Verdict: Win!

**This post is part of Pinned It, Made It Monday! over at Country Girl At Home.