Friday, July 31, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Swimming Pool and Easel

What a fun Frugal Find I have to share today!

I was out running some errands and had little one with me. Typically he stays home with Daddy when I run around or I do my stops on my way home from work. However, Mike needed to really focus on work, so I took the little guy with me. Of course, that meant that we ran into a neighborhood rummage sale. It is not so fun trying to rummage when it involves getting an 11 month old baby in and out of his car seat at every single stop. And the sales were not close enough to walk around blocks and such. I decided to give it a shot and we made it to about 6 sales before I decided I needed to get home to give him lunch and stop stressing us both out! He was a real trooper though...maybe he'll make for a good bargain shopping buddy as he gets older.

This was not the most prime neighborhood for sales. Lots of junky stuff and not very organized sales. However at one stop I spotted a ton of stuff, some of it baby items so I figured maybe I'd have some luck. No luck on the clothes, but they did have a child art easel set up to the side. It was behind a particle board bookcase that I can never get to stay together. The small, falling apart bookcase was marked $10 (don't they sell for like $15-20 new?) so I was a bit worried that the easel would be expensive. Lucky me, it was only $2! Now I realize that little guy is not at the age that it is useful, but if these 11 months have taught me anything it is that time really flies. I figure he'll be using it soon enough and for $2 I'm happy to store it for a while!

And now I'm really happy! I just started browsing around on-line to see what the prices are on these new. For ones similar to this one the prices are a bit insane, in my humble opinion. So far I've found this, this, and this. Seriously? Somewhere between $60-$160 ON SALE? I'll take mine for $2 thankyouverymuch! Oh, wait. I just found the label and mine is from IKEA. It was only $14.95 and I'm still happy to have it and store it for $2. :)

Then I spotted a piece of blue plastic. Not sure why it caught my eye, but I realized when I picked it up that it was a teeny, tiny kiddy pool. One that required blowing up the sides and the bottom. Seriously the perfect size for this summer. Little guy can splash and Mommy can put her feet in and relax. My first question was if it held water. They weren't sure, but one of the girls happened to be on the phone with the owner of the pool. She said that it did. They I had to ask the dreaded this in the right box? It was in a box that contained random little Christmas ornaments, some chop sticks, and a few other odds and ends. By far, this was the biggest item in the box and in the best shape. The box said $.10. So, "Is this in the right box? It's $.10?" The answer was yes!

I figured for $.10 I'd take the chance that it was a leaking pool. Good news is, it's not! So little guy loves splashing in it and I'm excited about my find. Of course about 15 minutes into enjoying it I spied a $.25 sticker stuck to the side. I think I negotiated a deal without realizing it! Just for the record, I'd have paid a quarter! From what I can find on-line I'm guessing this was between $10 and $20 new.

Maybe it is worth dealing with the car seat stuff and hauling around the baby! Turns out I got some pretty awesome deals after all :) More great deals over at Southern Hospitality!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Happy Birthday Sweet Boy!

Today my little baby turned 1 year old! I honestly cannot believe that he is that old already. I no longer have a little baby, I have a toddler. Time has flown so quickly and I have no doubt that it will continue to speed up even more as he gets older.

We watched some of the videos we've taken of him through the year. Wow, has he grown and changed! At one point he was fussing and crying on the TV and he was fussing and crying in the living room at the same time. I think he was trying to out scream himself! Mike pointed out that his cries sound very different, but they are the same pitch. Oh, a musician's ears are never at rest.

I am so grateful to have him in my life and love being his mama. Watching his videos made me miss the baby days even more than I typically do though. When he was born my mom asked me if it was a love like I'd never known. In many ways it is, but in many ways it just seems like he was meant to be here. Like he completed a part of our family that we didn't realize was missing, but that felt right when he got here. Like he had always been there, but we didn't know it and could now fully enjoy because he had arrived. He is simply wonderful.

The banner is something that we are using at a party on Sunday. I had found his outfit last Christmas when Steve and Barry's was going out of business. It is a really cute blue and green and white striped all in one outfit and I had some scrapbook papers that went with it. So, I figured I'd make a little banner to hang on our clothes line since it is right where everyone will be hanging out and eating. We are keeping things simple and this banner a few balloons are the only decorations we are doing. The food and cake is all being made by me and we are only over our grocery budget by $6 even with preparing to feed about 30 people. Wish us good weather for Sunday, will you? Thanks!

So the banner was so simple. I cut up some solid cardstock that went with the colors, cut scrapbook patterned paper into circles (using a Creative Memory circle maker I've had forever), glued them together and then used some blue letters I got at the Dollar Tree a long time ago. I didn't have enough of two letters so I used other ones to fake them. They look good enough that I'll bet no one notices! The white ribbon was also on hand and I just used a hole punch to make way for the ribbon. All done with supplies on hand with no extra expense! The best way to go in my opinion :) The light was fading fast so the colors don't look great on these pictures, but the sign is bright and cute and should make for some cute pictures with him in his outfit.

Have a wonderful day, I know I sure did!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Produce Pick Up Update

So, I went and picked up the produce last weekend for the freecycle folks. It turned out to be a bit different than I expected, but it really worked out for the best.

I got to the location at the time that I was told to, but the stand had thrown out all the stuff that would typically be picked up. They knew the regular folks were not coming, but hadn't heard that I was. I was so bummed as I had driven for a ways and had cleared my schedule for the next day to process whatever I could. They even checked to see if they could salvage what had been tossed, but it was all over in a dumpster and I wasn't about to try and rescue it. I do have some limits in my selective squeamishness!

The woman was so apologetic and really, she had done nothing wrong. She gave me her cell number and asked that I call if I ever do pick up again. Then she started looking around. They had a box of plums, a box of broccoli, and a box of eggplants that they were trying to sell for $1 each and she told one of the guys to load it in my van. Than she brought over 7 pints of blueberries. Then another guy brought over a big bag of oranges. Seriously it was like produce was being thrown at me!

So, I looked around their stand and decided I'd buy a few things as well. They are definitely in the market of moving lots of produce for not too bad of prices. They had stuff that is more iffy marked down even more and from there it must go to the $1/box stuff and then eventually if it hasn't sold it ends up with our freecycle folks. I picked out a few sweet potatoes and bunch of cilantro to get and was contemplating more when she told one of the helpers to just let me have them. It would only have been a $1-2, but I was so touched that she would do that! I couldn't ask for more things as I didn't want to appear greedy and I went home and enjoyed those sweet potatoes with my boys!

When I got home I looked everything over and was THRILLED to learn that the blueberries were organic. The ironic thing was I stopped to buy non-organic blueberries that same day, but the store I stopped at was out of them. Talk about having things provided! There were a few bad ones, but really they were in amazing shape. We ate about a pint, froze a couple pints and then used the rest to make jam and syrup.

I went through the plums and they were not in that great of shape so they were the idea behind the jam. I made one batch of plum-blueberry jam and one batch of plum-blueberry-orange syrup (AKA jam that didn't jell!). These are awesome tasting and I was excited to do some more canning. In fact, I used up every pint and half-pint jar I had from my mom. Thank goodness I got to get more from her this weekend!

It only took 1 orange to make the syrup and one was rotten. The other 6 are being eaten and are very yummy! The eggplants ended up in the compost. They were going too fast and I left them till last since they are our least favorite of the items we got. If they had been used that night I could have saved some, but really they were so spotty and soft that I just decided to let the compost bin have some goodies too.

The broccoli was a project. It was not the best looking broccoli I've ever seen, but I'm sure it has been around longer than I would like to think. The crowns that were in decent shape I blanched and froze. I ended up with A LOT of bags for us to eat. I also took the stems and cut out the softer core. Those pieces I froze as well as I'll use them (with the crowns) to make some really wonderful broccoli cheese soup this winter.

The load ended up being smaller than anticipated, but the produce was in decent shape and it was an amount I was able to handle. I am so grateful for this produce and for my ability to use it to feed my family so well!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Shoes

Yes, I'm still here :)

I wrote this as a comment to Southern Hospitatlity's question about shoe memories and I thought I should save it here on my blog. I love these shoes, although I'd kill myself if I tried to wear them very often or for very long!

As I was getting ready to turn 30 I knew I needed to embrace it. I was single, owned my own home, had a good job and had no reason to stress over it (although many of my friends had when they hit the big 3-0). I threw myself a big bash with dinner for a ton of friends and drinks and cheesecake after at a martini bar. In order to really bring in my day with style I found some beautiful (and pretty cheap) turqoise heels with lots of sparkle! My little nephew (3 at the time) even pointed to them and said "pretty shoes" when he saw me getting dressed. The kid knows style!

Those shoes were so much fun that night and were not my typical style which made them even more special for such a special occasion. They helped me celebrate a wonderful milestone and just 2 short years later they were my 'something blue' when I walked down the aisle to marry my sweet husband. I love those shoes and will never get rid of them! Now, I don't know that I'll have much reason to wear them anytime soon as I am chasing an almost 1 year old, but they were my "Heck yah, I'm turning 30" shoes and then my "Forever I choose YOU" shoes. They are priceless and are a part of my history! They even have a picture in my scrapbooks.

I love shoes too, and typically now my favorite are flip flops. :)

What are your favorite shoes?


Friday, July 24, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Old Time Toys

This is one fun Frugal Find Friday to fill you in on. I was really excited about what I found and it just got better after I got home!

I made lots of stops in short order and found a few things off little guys clothing list for this next year. There were 4 pairs of shorts for $.50 each and 2 pairs of pjs for $.50 each as well. I know there were a few odds and ends too, but the two best things came at the same sale.

This was a big looking sale that had stuff all over the entire lawn, driveway, into a get the picture. There was a lot of old stuff and then some new, a rack of clothes and just a real mish-mash of things. Turns out there were like 9 different families involved, but I think most of it came from mom and dad cleaning out the house in a big way!

There didn't seem to be much off my list, but I poked around quickly to see if there was anything I had to have. One a tarp on the front lawn there were a few toys and when I got over there I saw this...

There were actually 2 of them, but only one had a mallet. They were marked $.25 and $.50 and the mallet was next to them. I asked the girl in charge if there were two mallets and she said no, just take which one I wanted. Well, I took the $.25 one! They were in similar shape, so I do not know what the deal with two prices was. It is really well made and I do not think it was just made as a children's toy. The label says it came from Korea and it is definitely been around for a good while.
Mike LOVES this! He has played and played and played with it. Keep in mind that Mike is my husband, not my baby :) The little one like it a lot too and has done pretty well in making melody sounding noises! Of course, he also like sucking on the mallet and it is meant for him as he gets older. I have a feeling we'll be doing a lot of playing with it and I already wonder if I shouldn't have bought both of them. What do you call this instrument? I called it a xylophone, but Mike INSISTS that it is a glockenspiel. A quick search on google shows that he is probably right since ours has metal keys, not wooden ones! Read about them here.
The other find was not too far away and you may have guessed what it is by the picture on top. I think that little guy is so cute and SO 70's!

Yes, I played with them. I had to make sure we had most the pieces! We do not have the blacksmith sign and I think we should have had a few more long pieces, but it is mostly there. Hopefully I'll be able to find more and little guy will have a big collection by the time he is older. This set is in great shape and even the box isn't too banged up.

So how much did I pay for the Lincoln Logs? You may have guessed it...$.25! So at this sale I spent a total of $.50 and we've already gotten that much enjoyment out of what I bought. And the baby isn't even old enough to play with them yet. Seriously, these may be our favorite toys we've gotten for him! There is one listed on e-bay now and the bidding starts at $4.99.
Did you find any great deals? Let me hear about them! More great deals over at Southern Hospitality!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Bit Crazy!

So, I mentioned that things were crazy. They are, but its good. I'll not be posting too much the next couple of days as we try and get things back to normal, but I will have my Frugal Find Friday post up. Wait till you see how fun the things are...we have been LOVING them!

Mike had a big trip to OH and PA at the beginning of this month to play for a bunch of libraries. Since he got back we've been going like crazy as well. We've got a family wedding, two more road trips, a little one with a first birthday to celebrate, and I've got to make coffee once or twice before the end of the month too. Twenty hours a week is needed to keep our benefits going strong!

So, enjoy your family, enjoy the summer and let's all take a moment and relax at some point!

See you again in a few days!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I Survived!

What a day at work! It really wasn't too over the top busy, but we did have lines to the door a few times during the free pastry event. Most people were really excited about it and had their print out or had their cell phone with the information for us. They eagerly chose a pastry and said thank you. Of course, there were those who didn't have the info, but wanted a free pastry, which we gave them. There were those who wanted multiple free pastries since they printed out the coupon multiple times. We were only supposed to do one/person, in most cases we were able to give them one/drink they ordered if they had the print outs to go with them. There were those who wanted free pastries that were not a part of the promotion, which we couldn't do. There were even some that came after the event was over and didn't have any information other than they wanted the free pastry and they wanted one that wasn't part of the event. And one person was really disappointed that we didn't have any apple bran muffins left by the time she came.

Sometimes you just can't please everyone!

I love freebies and good deals, but I think we all do well to read the fine print, follow what it says, and be grateful for what we are given. Today I am grateful that so many people support Starbucks and by doing so keep my family covered with health insurance. I am also grateful for those who came today and were grateful for the generosity of Starbucks in promoting the new no artifical colors, flavors, trans fats or HFCS pastries. And gratefulness continues for those who realized that we were all working very hard for them and tipped us!

Read more grateful posts here at Heavenly Homemakers.


Monday, July 20, 2009

Starbucks Goodies for FREE!

Just another quick note! Life has been crazy and I hope to be back and running shortly, but I had to let you know about this awesome thing going on at Starbucks tomorrow morning. We've never done any give away this big before!

If you come in to any Starbucks between open and 10:30 am you can get a FREE morning pastry with the purchase of any brewed or handcrafted beverage. In other words, buy anything we make or brew (not counting bottled juices and water) and you'll get a free pastry. Now it only goes until 10:30 or until the pastries run out, so I wouldn't wait until 10:30 to come in. You do need to have a copy of the e-mail that was sent to registered card holders or a copy of the facebook invite or the thing from twitter or at least be able to show us it on your cell phone. As long as you bring in any of those things you will be a pastry. So order a tall coffee ($1.75 here at my store) and you'll get a $1.95 pastry! Not a bad way to start the day :)

Here is a link to the facebook invite.

Hope to see you at Starbucks tomorrow! Don't forget to be nice to your baristas as we will probably be working really hard. Tips are always great too :) And yes, I am one of 4 working this event at our store tomorrow.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wish Me Luck!

Just droping in today to let you know that I am going on an interesting adventure. The friendly freecycle folks that pick up produce couldn't do it today and asked for a volunteer to do it. So I'm heading down to pick up whatever can fit in our van. I know that a lot of it is destined for the compost right away, but hopefully much will be able to be used and enjoyed and canned and frozen and such! I'll try and get some pictures this time and let you know what my plans are. I'm hoping that I'll have a very busy day on Sunday!

Have a great Saturday,

Friday, July 17, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--A&W Mugs

Mike is not really a drinker. In fact, you could say he is not a drinker of things alcoholic. However, the man does love him some Root Beer. He's tried micro brewed, specialty and even generic. He has a few that he is partial to and a few that he is not interested in. His favorite is A&W. That's right, give the choice he would prefer to drink A&W Root Beer! And of course, the only way to enjoy A&W is in a frosted mug.

Small problem, the mugs are not cheap. You can buy them at the drive-ups or on-line, but you are going to spend $11.99 in order to have one shipped to you! I probably would have bought one for him at some point as it does make him very happy, but we had some glass mugs and it was hard to justify spending money on the A&W mugs when we could use what we already had.

Enter Freecycle. You just never know what will pop up on that group. And lucky for me-- actually, lucky for Mike--up popped one A&W mug. Typically I would not be willing to drive across the city for one glass, but this was for my hubby and I knew he would love it. So, I drove to pick up 1 A&W mug. The sweet people remembered that I had said my husband was a huge fan and decided to give me 2 more mugs with the 1 they had offered up. Yipppeee!

These mugs actually are a whole different breed than the glass mugs we had. They are MUCH thicker and do hold the cold a lot better. The 2 mugs they added in are taller and look to be a lot bigger, 20 ozs, than the 1 they had originally offered, 14 ozs. The little one is actually Mike's favorite because the glass is so much thicker and it really chills the root beer the best. In fact it often gets the floaty chunks of ice when you add the root beer. They work great for floats too!

Nothing beats free, except when free REALLY makes someone's day. Mike loves telling the story of coming home from a hard weekend of playing and seeing the mugs sitting there. I think he fell in love with me a little more that day! We store them in the freezer and there is no treat for him like having a cold A&W in his mug!

A quick tip if you have frozen mugs stored in your freezer (and you should, trust me on this one). Store the mugs upside down. Why? Well, if your freezer is like ours there are lots of freezer bags and containers of stuff. If you store them right side up you may find a bit of yucky in the bottom of your mug or worse, floating in your root beer. If they are store upside down they are always super clean inside and ready for your favorite beverage!

Any Frugal Finds for you lately? Let me know what deals you are scoring! Check out some other great deals here at Rhoda's.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Now Why Didn't I Think of That?

I am in the process of trying to de-clutter some things around our house. We have a little home and Mike and I are both clutter bugs. Add in the rummaging I'm doing for the little one and we have too much STUFF in too small of a space. Oh, how we hope that our little guy will not be a clutter bug!

So, I'm going through many, many magazines that I had saved over the last few years. I've got back issues of O, Real Simple and Money Magazine. I'm trying to go through them again and get any information or recipes out that I feel the need to save. Then I'm taking them to work for people to browse while at our Starbucks. After that they are going in the recycling at work unless other people take them home first. I love the fact that they are living at least one extra life!

Today I wanted to share a tip I found in the Real Simple from August of 2005. They did a piece on other uses for appliances that many people have around the house. Some were very obvious to me (using a Crock-Pot to keep hot cider or cheese fondue warm during a party), but others made me go "Why didn't I think of that?" The ideas that really appealed to me had to do with an ice cream maker. Maybe the heat caused these ideas to sound so yummy to me?

So what can you do with an ice cream maker other than make ice cream?

*Make slurpees! Pour a 12 oz can of cola (or other flavor soda) into the machine. Run for 10-15 minutes and when a thick slush has formed scoop into two glasses and slurp away! I'm thinking Mike would LOVE this done with root beer.

*Make margaritas! Pour all your favorite margarita ingredients except the alcohol into the machine. Once frozen add the tequila and triple sec and start the party!

*Make frozen hot chocolate! Make your favorite hot chocolate (homemade or instant) and pour into the machine. After about 20 minutes you can sit back and enjoy the yumminess!

*Make a frozen lime rickey? No idea what this is, but it sounds pretty good. Pour 6 oz of seltzer, 1 oz of simple syrup and 1 oz of lime juice into the machine. Freeze for 15-20 minutes and give it a whirl for yourself!

Don't these sound interesting? I realize that you are using some electricity, but if you compare the price of having some yummy unique treats at home to going out for a 7-11 Slurpee or other frozen goody you are saving some real money. We do not have an ice cream maker, but I think I'm adding it to my rummage sale list!

What fun summer treats do you enjoy? Find more great tips at Tammy's Recipes!


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Entertaining from the Freezer

Last night we got a call from some really wonderful friends. They were going to be in town and would we be around? These friends live about 90 minutes away and we've only seen them twice in the last year. Would we be around? ABSOLUTELY! So excited to see them, but by the time we'd firmed things up I needed to have dinner on the table in less than two hours and Mike wasn't home to help. Oh, and maybe I should vacuum and put dishes away and clean off the table and stuff? Uh, yeah, I should.

So what to make? Thank goodness for my habit of shopping when things are on sale and preserving and having things in the freezer. We had some frozen hamburger patties from when the meat was 1/2 off and needed to be frozen right away. I took it home, made it into 1/4 lb patties and flash froze them. Pulled 6 out and started defrosting them. I had a bag of homemade hamburger buns that I could pull from as well. (I promise I'm going to do a whole post devoted to making and storing these...they are wonderful!)

Okay, now we need some sides. I pulled a bag of corn out of the freezer for an easy veggie side dish. That day spent doing corn paying off again! I had some potatoes and decided to give this dish a whirl. I've read about it from two different mommy bloggers in less than a week. Can't be bad, right? It was great! And if the oven would be on to make the potatoes than I might as well make some corn bread. I grabbed a bag of the homemade mix that I keep around.

And again, can't have the oven on and not make dessert! So I pulled a big bag of apples out of the freezer from my little apple party a while back. Dumped those in the pan to start thawing and then topped it to make an easy apple crisp.

Everything getting prepped. Crisp ready, potatoes boiling, corn thawing! Sorry for the not great shots, but I was in a hurry! No after pictures as they were here and we were talking. : )

Dinner came together so easily and didn't take too much time. Everything was ready to roll and cooking by the time our friends got to our house. Not a lot of stress for me and very yummy food for all of us! This is the way I like to muss, no fuss and no extra expense to the grocery budget. We didn't do any run to the store to get anything fancy and our friends commented multiple times that dinner was so good. In fact, the husband is an awesome cook and as they were leaving he commented again.
The best part of the night was jut getting to sit and catch up with some friends we hadn't seen in far to long. They got to play with the little guy and we got to hear about their lives. It was so wonderful that it worked out and I'm so glad I didn't get worked up about trying to make a perfect meal or stress about what I could have done with more time. When I got the call I just took the time to think through what could work based on what I had. In the end that was more than enough!
Entertaining from the freezer is fast, frugal and works for me!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Canning Adventures Continued!

So, when you've got a sink full of not perfect, but free tomatoes, some (free) garlic, 1 huge (free) Vadalia onion, and a couple of (free) sweet red peppers what do you think you should do?

I say clean up some canning jars and start the water bath going!

Then use your cute little princess to chop up all the garlic and onions and dice up the red peppers.

Get all the supplies lined up and ready to roll! Start the water bath now as it takes some time to get to a full boil.

Start boiling the tomatoes for a minute or so to make the skins come off easier. Peel them into a big bowl if you can't have a canning colander. (This is from over a month ago now, I could skip the peeling part now thanks to my fun twins!) Put your favorite cutting board into a big jelly roll pan to make clean up WAY easier later. Chop, chop, chop the tomatoes and get ready to have some fun! Of course, you can freeze the watery tomato juice for soup.

Saute the garlic, onion, and red peppers in some olive oil. Add the tomatoes and cook. Let them cook down until you get a nice sauce consistency. Add basil, oregano, salt, pepper and whatever other spices you like in your tomato sauce. Can it all in quart jars adding 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each jar to ensure higher acid content. Water bath for 40 minutes, remove and let cool. Check seals after cooling to be sure they have all sealed, remove rings, wipe jars down and then take pictures of your accomplishment.

I seriously think I am getting addicted to posting about canning! These were done right before the pears and I ended up with 5 quarts of this yummy tomato sauce as well as enough for lunch that day. The other two quarts are peaches/nectarines that we got the same day. This was all done with produce that we picked up from our freecycle connection. When I saw what I had gotten it just made sense to turn it into sauce right away. Some easy, quick, yummy pasta meals coming our way!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Keeping Clean while Cooking or Canning

Don't you just adore alliteration? I was feeling clever this morning! :)

This is a quick tip, but one I've just fallen in love with. It makes clean up so much easier when dealing with very juicy or messy items. I've got a big plastic cutting board that I like to use, but the juice of watermelons or tomatoes or cooked meat just runs all over. The board is flat and there is no lip to catch the mess.

So to make it easier when canning tomato sauce I placed the big plastic cutting board in a big jelly roll size cookie sheet. There is a pretty big edge to the jelly roll pan and no juice was able to escape! When the board started swimming in juice I just dumped it out into a container to save it for soup. When it came time to clean up I was able to wash the cutting board, the jelly roll pan and do a quick wipe of the counter. There was none of the usual disaster around the entire counter top, cabinets and floor! So to make cutting tomatoes easier and less messy always put your cutting board into a cookie sheet.

Talk about a time and sanity saver! I'm posting this at Tammy's Recipes. Check out all the other great ideas here!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Starbucks Barista Thermal Coffee Press

Time for another Frugal Find! This one is a real winner in my book.

I work at Starbucks. I don't really drink coffee and Mike doesn't drink it all, but I work at Starbucks! Funny, I know. When we do a coffee press for customers we use the Starbucks Barista Thermal Presses. They are heavy, double walled and are all stainless steel. We sell them from time to time, but often the only presses we have for sale are ones that have glass bodies. Personally, I do not like the glass bodied ones as they are not as insulating and they have been known to break. Many of my co-workers and their families scoop up the Barista when we have it since they get it for 30% off. Not being a big coffee drinker I have never felt the need to get one, even with my employee discount.
Now for the Frugal Find part of this post, otherwise titled "Why I now own a Coffee Press."
Bopping along from rummage sale to rummage sale on my way home from work as usual. I stop at a sale that doesn't really seem to have any kids stuff. No problem, I have some things on my list that are not for little guy and sometimes the non-kid sales are where you find that stuff at the best prices. A quick glance makes it seem like this is the typical knick knack, old pictures, and random junk kind of sale. I'm ready to scoot out, but then I see the press. I pick it up and see that it is the Barista, the one we use at work that is never in stock and people love. I take the press apart and everything looks to be in good shape. It needs a cleaning as the last person who cleaned it didn't get all traces of coffee residue out of the screen. (Important to get the best flavor out of the next press.) It is on a table with little glass odds and ends and other small pieces. I do not see a price, so I ask. She looks to the other ladies there and they all say its $1. $1? Seriously, one dollar. I give them my $1 and when I walk back to my vehicle I see the sign on the other side of the table that says "Everything is $1 on this table." So they weren't just making it up, they really did only want $1 for it. How they could price the press and the odd little glass saucer and the dollar store Santa the same price I have no idea!
When I told my manager that I bought a Barista at a rummage sale she was shocked. Then she wanted to know how much I paid, but before I could answer she said she didn't really know if she wanted to know....she knows my penchant for finding a good deal! When I informed her it was $1 she replied that I may have gotten the deal of the century. Of course, you and I both know it wasn't that, but it sure was a Frugal Find! I've cleaned up the inside and it is in perfect shape. I haven't polished up the outside, but that will happen soon. I will probably keep this to serve coffee when we have guests. The best way to get the true flavor of any coffee is to serve it in a press. However, if I find someone who would really appreciate this I may pass it on with a few bags of Starbucks coffee!
Do you want to know what they sell for retail? They are not cheap. $49.95 is what they are priced on Starbucks merchandise website. Of course, this doesn't include shipping. Oh, and even at that price they are out of stock. Seriously, this is a popular coffee press!
I love Frugal Find Fridays! If you have any great deals to share from this week please let me know. I get as big of a high from other people's deals as I do from my own! If you want to see lots of other great deals from all over the place head over to Southern Hospitality.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Eating Out for Less with

Just a quick note to say that if you are looking for a way to eat out for less I've got a great suggestion for you! Mike and I do not go out to eat often, but when we do we try and utilize at least one money saving strategy. Sometimes its a coupon or a special offer, but a few times it has been with a certificate from is a site that offers certificates to restaurants at pretty good prices. You can buy a $25 gift certificate for $10 and a $50 for $20. We've gotten $10 ones for $3 in the past as well. When you log on you enter your zip code and it pulls up all the restaurants in the area and you can browse what is available that fits what you'd like to eat.

You enter your info and print out the certificate so there is no waiting and you can use it right away. Some certificates do have fine print, so make sure it works for you. Often you cannot apply it to liquor or you must have a certain amount on your bill to use it. For example you may need to spend $35 on food in order to a $25 certificate. They do have an expiration date, so make sure you do not procrastinate too much!

Mike and I have used these to try restaurants that we wouldn't have spent the money on otherwise or we weren't sure we'd like, but wanted to give a chance. Overall we've had good experiences with our certificates. We always follow the fine print and we often used the minimum to take home a lot of extra food!

A few notes of caution. I gave a certificate to my sister for Christmas one year and when they went to use it in their hometown the restaurant told them they were no longer participating. They did adjust the bill to basically honor the certificate, but I would make sure to call and verify that the restaurant is honoring them if you are going to spend much money on certificates for a certain restaurant. I also got an e-mail from letting me know that a certificate I had not used was no longer valid as the restaurant was no longer accepting them. (I never got an e-mail from them for my sister's situation.) They offered to let me pick out a different one via e-mail, but I was never able to get it to work. In all fairness I tried to e-mail them once, but didn't follow up. I was disappointed, but am hopeful that if I was more persistent they would have come through on their promise to replace my gift certificate.

Now why am I writing all of this? I just found out there is a special running that makes this deal even better! From now until July 31st you can get 50% off of all their gift certificates. So if it is a $25 certificate that would normally sell for $10 it is only $5. If it was a $50 that sells for $20 it is now $10. I'm thinking that this is a great way to get a nice date night out without spending a whole lot! Even with the fine print stuff and a nice tip you could easily eat out at a nice place for $20-25. That is a deal that works for me!

To get this deal enter promo code WDMAG at checkout.


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Gratituesday-Summer Weather

We've had the most unusual spring and summer this year. It stayed so cold and rainy for so long that it seemed like summer would never come.

Then it came in a big, bad way. The first day of summer and for a few days following it felt like the hottest, most humid summer weather we ever have in Wisconsin. In fact, we got as hot and hotter than it was all of last summer. This was after being 10-20 degrees colder than normal even the week before!

Then it got cold again. Seriously, what the heck was going on?

Now, now it is summer. The kind of days that make us Wisconsinites so happy. The kind we live here and put up with -30 wind chills for. The kind that make so glad to live here! There is a bit of breeze, a beautiful sky, cool nights for sleeping, warm days that get right to 80, but with very little humidity and no need for air conditioning.

This is summer and I am so grateful! I LOVE this weather. And to top it off I am off for 5 days in a row. Such a wonderful day!

To see other things that inspire gratitude head over to Heavenly Homemakers. It is Gratituesday!


Monday, July 6, 2009

Free Redbox Monday

So happy to report a new free redbox code for today! Mike and I love having our movie Mondays where we get a free rental and enjoy it with homemade pizza for dinner. redbox bummed us out big time when they announced they would not be doing a free code every Monday anymore. For the summer they are doing a free code the first Monday of every month though and we are enjoying it while it lasts! We also had a few other codes to use so we've enjoyed a movie every Monday so far. Hopefully there will continue to be codes and we can keep up this tradition.

The July 6th free redbox code is 7HE79B.

What? You don't know about redbox? You're not sure how to use the codes? No problem.

Redbox machines are located at many Walmart, Walgreen, Pick N Save and other grocery locations. They are at McDonald's too, but I've never seen them at any in WI. If you need to find a location try looking up your zip code here. They look like vending machines and are red. There is typically a big bill board type part on one side that shows pictures of the more recent movies and then the vending machine right next to it.

Once you get to the machine just touch the area that says "Rent with a Promo Code." Then enter the promo code 7HE79B.

Search through the movies by genre or just scroll through them on the main screen. If you want to read about one just touch the movie poster of that particular one. Once you found one you like you just select "Checkout." You'll see the total cost and the promo code subtracting it. Your total will be $0.

You will need to run a credit card or debit card through. It will not be charged. You can rent multiple movies by using different credit or debit cards with the same promo code. You can only use any specific free redbox code one time with each credit or debit card.

You need to return the movie by Tuesday at 9 pm in order to avoid paying any fees. If you do not your card will be charged $1. This charge will continue at the rate of $1/day until you return the movie. If you go over 25 days they will stop charging your card and the movie is yours to keep. It would be more frugal to buy it than to do this. :) You can return you movie to ANY redbox location. So rent one on your way home from work today and return it tomorrow to the one on the way to the grocery store, or one close to your hubby's work. They make it simple, just get it there by 9 pm.

We have loved redbox for their generous free codes, the simplicity of getting and returning them to any location and the new releases they offer. Hey redbox, keep giving codes and I'll keep telling everyone I know to use your service!

Enjoy a free movie today!


Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 5th of July!

Happy day after the 4th everyone! I realize that it is odd to title a post Happy 5th of July, but since that is what day it is, I thought I'd do so as part of my truth in advertising pledge.

Pre-parade antics with Mike

I hope you and yours had a wonderful 4th of July. Ours was busy, busy and more busy and overall it was a pretty good day. I worked from 4:30-8:30 so I got the day started rather early. After that I rushed home so we could get to the Waukesha 4th of July parade. Mike and his band have played there for 3 years now and have such a great time. The people are wonderful and it is a fun parade to watch. This year I had a buddy to show the floats to! Little one seemed to enjoy it and I'm sure it will get better and better for him as he gets older. We gave him two little flags to hold and he waved and waved them. I think he knows what he's doing already! Of course, he also had to chew on them a bit as well. The adventures of an 11 month old...everything must be taste tested at some point.

After the parade we headed north to pick up some fill dirt, then home where I baked up some cookies and brownies. A quick shower, church, home to grill some burgers and finished the evening with fireworks. Funny story about the fireworks. Mike and I have gone to see fireworks every years since we were dating. We always bike or walk over to a local park and enjoy the show. One of my favorite pictures of us is from that first firework display! This year we didn't want to wake the baby to go to the park and we REALLY didn't want to keep him up an extra 2-3 hours. So, Mike thought we might be able to see the park's fireworks if we got up on our garage roof. I wasn't thrilled the idea, but it turned out the view was blocked anyway. We went out front and realized we had a really good view if we stood in the middle of our street. Both sidewalk views were blocked, but we were able to see them really well in the middle of the street. So we stood in the middle of the street and hoped for no cars. Thankfully we had no one turn onto our street while we were there! And more thankfully, we will not be doing that with any children since when he is old enough we will go to the park!
Hope you had a safe and wonderful 4th!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Apple Corer

A fun find to share with you this Friday! I've been wanting an apple corer/peeler/slicer since last fall. We picked apples off a tree that was headed for trimming and did we ever bring home a ton! It was great as they were free, had not been sprayed and were Golden Delicious apples. When you make applesauce it is recommended to combine multiple types of apples for the best flavor. However, if you can only do one type Golden Delicious is the one to go with. It is a sunny, yummy apple flavor and all those apples turned into lots of applesauce! And a crisp or two as well.

Mike prefers smooth applesauce with no peels or such blended in. I also knew we'd be feeding this sauce to the little one when he started solids in the middle of the winter. So, I peeled apples. I peeled and cored and cut up apples. I had a 5 week old baby and I peeled and peeled and peeled apples. It took me a long time, but we ended up with a lot of applesauce in our freezer. (This was before I had my canning stuff.)

This year I have had some issues with my wrists when I do something too much in too short of a time. (Maybe from peeling all those apples? I sure hope not.) So, I knew I could do smooth applesauce with my canning colander if I found one, which I have. We grew up doing only tomato juice with it, so I am excited to give mass applesauce production a try! I also really hoped to find an apple corer/peeler/slicer though. We like apple crisp and other apple desserts that are made with sliced apples. If I had a corer/peeler/slicer I could make lots of those types of apples for the freezer and not have to do all the work myself.

As you may remember, I keep a list of things I'm looking for and last weekend I was apple to cross apple corer/peeler/slicer off my list! I found a new looking Pampered Chef one at a massive rummage sale. The owner had never used it and wanted the space in her cupboard back. She didn't have the directions, but thought it should work fine as they'd never done anything to it except store it.

Here are some pictures of its first trial run.



Seems to do what it says! The only thing I've read on-line about it is that it works best with Granny Smith apples. Some have real issues with it when trying to do red apples or soft apples. This could cause a dilemma as I hope to be using home grown apples, which can be a bit soft. I think we'll be okay though as some of my apples were awfully soft. It did tear them up a bit, but I saved the slices I could and put the rest of the parts into a pot to make applesauce. I figure if I'm doing sliced apples I'll also be doing applesauce so it will work out. It may not be the most perfect with home grown softer apples, but it will save my wrists a ton of work and that will be totally worth it. So far, I am a very happy camper!
So you want to know what I paid for it?

So I spent $4.00. New they are selling for $31.50. Oh, and mine came with the stand. That is extra, of course. The stand sells for $14.50. So my little $4, never been used stand cost the nice rummage sale lady about $46 and she even put it together for me before selling it to me for $4. One more thing to cross of my list! The directions are even on-line so I was able to figure out how to use it very quickly. And I found out it can make spiral fries out of fun!
Any Frugal Finds in your life this week? I love hearing other people's deals, so feel free to leave me a comment with your finds!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

More Canning--Diced Pears and Pear Sauce

Just a quick post today to show you a few pictures of my canning adventure from a few weeks ago. You may remember that I mentioned having pears from some of our free produce. However, I never showed you how it turned out! I ended up making diced pears and pear sauce.

I didn't take any pictures of the case of pears that we got or of me peeling the pears. So sorry, but it would not have been too exciting anyway. Just know that it was a wooden case with Argentina stamped on it and the pears were all wrapped in green tissue paper. Can you believe these pears came all the way from Argentina? Crazy how far our food travels. There were some good ones to eat and a bunch of them that were really yucky. The majority were somewhere in between! I wanted to can diced pears, but knew that many of the pears would be best suited for sauce. I kept a big measuring cup with some lemon juice water next to the cutting board and threw any dices that were fairly firm in there. The rest of the pears were chunked up and put in my enameled cast iron pot which also had a bit of lemon juice water to prevent discoloration. You can see the diced pears waiting patiently in the picture below.

After I cooked the softer pears down a bit I used my Kitchen Aid Hand Blender to puree it to a smooth consistency. This blender was not a frugal find, but it was a gift from my husband and it is well used and loved!

The next step for the sauce was the addition of cinnamon. Did you know that most cinnamon in the US is not actually from the bark of a cinnamon tree? It is Cassia. Not sure what that is all about, but it tastes good! Penzeys Spices are wonderful and flavorful. The company is headquartered right down the road from where I work. Again, not really frugal, but I have a wonderful friend who gives me a gift box of some spices every year for Christmas. I love it!

I didn't add any sugar so it will be great for baby and for us to eat this winter! I've never canned pear sauce, but it was the exact same process as doing apple sauce. The pears were free and I am excited to use what I have to provide for my family!

I ended up with 3 pints of diced pears canned in a light syrup. These were cooked in the syrup for 10 minutes and then water bath processed for 15 minutes. Exactly 4 quarts of pear sauce is what a full enameled cast iron pot holds! These were water bathed for 25 minutes. It was not a hard process and will give us yummy fruit options this winter when pears are $50 a pound...just kidding, but you get the point I'm sure.

Anyone out there canning anything yet? I'm learning a lot and learning fast. I love it and I'd love to hear your adventures.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Filling the Freezer-Corn

A while back I mentioned that I used my Food Saver to freeze corn for our family for the winter. The last two summers I've managed to put up enough corn to last us for the entire year, with even a little over flow. As of today I think we've got about 4 bags of corn that are still from last summer and I've already put up 5 bags of corn for this year! The bags I use are the quart sized Food Saver bags, so they hold a lot more than the typical 16 oz or less bag that you buy at the grocery store. We are able to make huge batches of corn chowder, taco soup and salsa chicken with black beans and corn all winter long. We eat corn as a side dish as well since it is probably my husband's favorite vegetable. By spending a little time processing ears of corn I am able to provide my family with yummy summer fresh corn all year long at a fraction of the price. Talk about something that works for me! Here's how I do it.

First I find the corn at a great sale price. Two years ago the large local chains of grocery stores ran a deal for $.10 ears of corn. I went and got 20 ears to start just to make sure it was good and that we liked it. The next day I went back and bought 40 more ears of corn. After I realized how easy it was to freeze I went back to get more. They were out! I got a rain check and went back for another 40 or so ears a week later. I'm not exactly sure, but I froze about 80-100 ears worth of corn that year. The next year Aldi had corn for $.10 an ear. I knew to just go for it this time. I was VERY pregnant and decided I needed to get it all done ASAP as I may not have much time after baby arrived. I think I did 60-80 more ears last summer, all in one day. This year Aldi had some corn marked down to $.10 an ear after Memorial Day. They didn't have a ton left, but I still did 30 ears. I'm hopeful that I will see prices continue at $.10 an ear or that I will find someone who has corn I can pick after they are done with it. Finding corn at a great price is an important part of the 'fraction of the cost' part!

Second, I make sure I have time to process the corn within a day of bringing it home. The sooner you get it in the freezer, the sweeter it will be. The longer corn sits the more of the sugar converts to starch. This is why many people who grow their own corn say to start the water boiling before you pick the corn. Talk about some sweet stuff! I know the corn has been trucked in and make an effort to minimize time on my end.

Third, it is finally time to get to work! I put all the corn out on our deck which connects to the kitchen through a sliding glass door. I take my dish rack outside with me and have a large container for putting the corn husks into ready to go. I make sure my microwave is clean and I put a bunch of ice and cold water into my sink. There is a pie plate and a sharp knife along with a large bowl set up on the counter. The Food Saver is out and I have the quart bags ready to fill with a sharpie for labeling along side. It is really a simple process if you get everything ready to go before you start.

So I shuck the corn out on the deck and put the ears into the dish rack. I fill it up pretty full to start, because once I'm rolling I'll have less time to come and clean the ears. I do have some time though, so I do not worry about getting it all done at once. I get all the husks off and try and rub the silk off as well. I do not worry about getting every single strand off, they do not hurt you! Did you know that there is a strand of silk for every single kernel of corn on that particular cob? Fun fact for the day. The husks all go into the compost pile when I am done.

The next step is blanching the corn. I used to do that with hot water, but learned from another woman buying lots of the sale corn that you can use your microwave. It saves on lots of hot boiling water heating up the house! I do 4 ears at a time and put the microwave shield over them to help them steam. They go in for between 5-8 minutes depending on how strong your microwave is. The slight cooking helps them freeze much better than if you just did it raw. There is lots of science behind this, but I'm not going into it now, we've got corn to finish!

They go from the microwave to the ice water bath to shock them and make them stop cooking. We will cook our corn when we eat it, no need to cook it to death now! The cobs will be HOT so please use an oven mitt or tongs or something to protect your hands. As you can see, my ice has melted. It is important that this is cold, so you may need to restock the ice or drain the water and start over. As you do batch after batch it will get pretty warm. Keep the microwave working by starting another 4 cobs as soon as you dump 4 into the ice bath. They can hang out in the ice bath for quite a while, no worries!
After the corn has cooled a bit you can begin cutting it off the cob. I drain them and then stand the cob up in a pie plate and cut it off with a big sharp knife. The sharper the better. The trick is to get as much of the kernel off as you can without cutting into the hard center of the cob. It takes a bit of practice, but you will quickly get the feel for it. I love it when big planks of corn kernels fall off together. I feel like such a chef! When the pie plate gets full I transfer the kernels into a bigger bowl. I want to make sure they are as cool as possible before I begin filling the freezer bags. Less moisture build up, less worries about making chemicals leach from the bags, less heat on my hands, just better for them to be cooled off in my opinion!

I find that as I work I can de-kernel the cobs faster than the microwave can get them done and then cooled in the ice water. This extra time is great for going and shucking a few more ears or even for beginning to package them up. There is a real rhythm that makes it go pretty quickly once you are working! I have been able to do a years worth in just one day both of the last two summers. This year I only got about 30 ears done so far, but I'll be doing more when I find some and hope that then I'll be able to do it all at once again!
I package the quart bags pretty full and seal them following the instructions. I label them with the year to make rotation easier during the summer months. I use it like I'd use any other frozen corn I get at the grocery store. It is a simple process all in all!

After a big day of corn freezing I make sure we have a few ears to enjoy at dinner that night. Nothing like the first ear of sweet corn in the summer! Or in little one's case, the first one of his life. He really enjoyed finishing off my ear. Maybe this is a hot new toy for teething? Hope you enjoyed my little tutorial on freezing corn!