Friday, August 28, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Entertainment Edition

This is a quick post for Frugal Find Friday! My family is coming to visit, I have to work and life is going to be hectic for the next 36 hours or so. But I thought these were worth mentioning.

Mike and I have become very good at finding frugal ways to enjoy ourselves. It is great to get out and do fun things without breaking the budget. Or even breaking into the budget! In the last two weeks we've had the chance to do a few things that cost us next to nothing.

First, we got the chance to do an evening cruise through Milwaukee and out into Lake Michigan. It was billed as a martini cruise, but really we just looked at it as a way to have some yummy snacks, see the city from the water and spend some time together. We got this opportunity through our financial planner. He has had a few activities from time to time and we try and make an effort to go if possible. He is a great guy and doesn't use these as a way to pressure people to do more investing. He also always lets us know if we can bring friends, but we've never felt like he was doing this to just get to meet more people. In fact, we've never brought anyone with us and we've enjoyed some nice evenings out thanks to him. This cruise would have probably cost us about $30 each if we had to pay for it, but it was free to us through him. I had a drink, Mike had a soda, the food was awesome and the view was spectacular. We left the little one at home (2nd time ever) and had our first real date in over a year. It was great. And it was free, other than $1.30 we paid to park on the street.

Second, we went on the Sprecher Brewery tour for Mike's birthday. Typically the tour costs $4 for an adult. Not too bad considering you get the tour, an 8oz. etched tasting glass, 4 beer samples, and unlimited soda samples. However we were even able to lower the price of that! When we went to state fair they had a wall of Sprecher coupons and one was for a free tour with the purchase of a tour. So we went to Sprecher for just $4 for the two of us. We both got the glasses. I tried a bit of two beers, Mike drank a lot of their yummy soda, I drank some soda too and we took home two glasses on top of it. A pretty great way to enjoy his birthday and not spend much!

Sometimes great frugal finds are things, sometimes they are experiences. Just keep your eyes open and you never know what you'll come across. Happy Hunting!


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Solly's--Oh How We Love Thee

And how our hearts do not.

Solly's should make you sign a waiver before you order. Seriously, they offer more fat and calories on a bun than any restuarant I think I've ever been to. But, it is seriously great. I mean in the 'this is real food and it tastes AWFULLY good' seriously good way. It isn't in the 'this is junk and my body is crying inside' way.

Mike discovered Solly's long before we met. And he fell in love. And he always order the Super Cheeseburger Special. Which is 1/3 pound of ground sirloin, cheese, mayo, tomato, lettuce and a serious amount of butter. Typically it also comes with grilled onions, but Mike skipped those. Then we met and on his birthday he introduced me to Solly's. And I ordered the regular cheeseburger. This comes with a 1/6 pound of ground sirloin, cheese, grilled onions and a serious amount of butter.

I had been warned that Solly's was the originator of the butter burger. I figured it was like other butter burger places that put it on the buns or put a patty on the burger as it is cooking. I mean really, how much butter can one burger hold? Solly's pushes the limit and then some. When the burger is done the put the cheese on and cover. When the cheese is melted the cook transfers the burger onto the waiting toasted bun. The onions go on top of the cheese and the butter tops it all off. And they do not use patties. They use a spatula. A rather large spatula that dips into a vat of real Wisconsin butter. The portion of butter follows the size of the spatula. It is large. They serve it right up to you and the butter is oozing and melting all over the place. The test is to see if you can eat the burger fast enough that the butter hasn't all dripped to the bottom of the plate soaking into the bottom bun and making holding your burger super difficult. If you can get your burger done before that happens you are a true Solly's diner. This practice also ensures that their stools open up very quickly for the next set of diners.

This picture gives you an idea of the race. The yellow is butter that has melted in the short distance from the grill to our spot at the counter. Did I mention that this is a big wrap around counter that everyone sits at. The waitresses (all 2 of them) work the two sides. You have view of everything on your side and you sit cozied up to complete strangers who are also testing their bodies ability to handle large quantites of butter. This is Mike's burger this year. He did away with the lettuce, tomato and mayo (special part) because who really needs to pretend there is anything healthy about this burger? Not him, that's who.

I couldn't get a great shot of the butter portioning, but this gives you an idea of how the grill works. There were 4 people working while we were there at the heart of dinner rush hour. There are the two waitresses (ours was AWESOME!) and the cook and one guy in the back doing dishes. They were serving people like crazy and we were loving it. While we were there a girl ordered a burger with light butter. Mike said it was a good thing we don't live in NYC as she would have been boo-ed right out of the place. You don't come to Solly's to order 'light butter' or 'no butter' or 'healthy' anything. You come to Solly's to enjoy the craziness that is a true Wisconsin butter burger!

It might not be frugal, it might not be healthy, but we LOVE Solly's. For our arteries we've decided that a visit every two to three years is about right.

Have a great day,


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My Other Baby Turns 30 Today!

Not the best picture, but it shows Mike with two of his loves!

When I met Mike one of my concerns was that he was 3 3/4 years younger than me. I didn't know if I was okay with that---odd thing to care about I realize, but it was on my mind.

I turned 30 about 2 months after we met. He turns 30 TODAY. As in, we have met, dated, been engaged, been married, had a baby, baby turned one and NOW he is finally getting around to turning 30. Wild, huh? Can't wait until this happens at 50. Oh, wait, yes I can.

Could you do me a favor? Would you send an e-mail to my accordion playing, amazing dad, great husband, Pint Size Polka pioneering, root beer drinking, dark chocolate loving husband?

His e-mail address is and I'm hoping he gets LOTS of e-mails from people he knows and people he doesn't know. He'll be so tickled!

And he already opened his gift and LOVES it. I went out on a limb and splurged a lot for it. I bought him a GPS unit that he can use as he travels to schools and libraries and gigs. He's traveled to many states this summer performing his Pint Size Polka program and I know that the Garmin would have helped. He lit up like a Christmas tree when he opened it! It is fun to spoil him a little from time to time. And I figured a 30th birthday was a great reason to do it.

Now I'm baking his cake and later we're going to Sprecher to do the Brewery tour. Dinner will be at Solly's restaurant. They have burgers that are amazing (and amazingly bad for you, I'm sure) and we only go every couple of years. I'll get some pictures (hopefully) to show you how crazy they are with the butter. It is actually the birth place of the butter burger and they are NOT shy with the butter.

Have a great Wednesday!


P.S. Please e-mail my hubby :)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Worth every penny!

Recently I spotted a group of utensils at a rummage sale. There were about 5 things in the group and 3 of them looked useful to me so I inquired as to price. They told me fifty cents and I was happy to take them home for that. I was especially happy because of this...

I have a scoop type ice cream scoop from Pampered Chef. It is great because it has the liquid in the handle that makes scooping really hard ice cream a little easier. And as my wrists seem to be developing issues I am happy with anything that makes using them a bit easier!

However, I have heard about using an ice cream scoop for measuring out batter when making muffins or cupcakes. I have always struggled with the drips of making muffins. And I never seem to be able to get the same amount of batter in each muffin tin. Now I had a shot at making it a bit easier and a bit less messy.

Let me tell you, it works! I have used it for corn bread muffins, chocolate cupcakes and assorted other batters. It doesn't take a full scoop to get the right amount into the tin, probably more like 3/4 of a scoop. I've made these goodies without having burned on batter around the cups on the tin! I've been able to go back and add a bit more without any issues too. This is something that really works for me!

This little puppy was worth every penny. Now I just want to find a smaller one to use for mini muffins and parceling out cookie dough. Calling all rummage sale hosters....sell me your mini scoops! :)


This is posted at Tammy's Recipes Kitchen Tips and Works for Me Wednesday.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Frugal Find Friday

This is a fun one to share! It is my first Frugal Find Friday featuring something I found in another state.

When visiting my family and attending a cousin's wedding in Kentucky my mom and I took a few hours to do a little rummaging. My mom is always on the go and never takes time to do this so for her it was a real treat to see what was out there. And she enjoyed it! She bought lots of things for her grandkids and a few things for herself. In the end I had to drag her home. Little guy was so tired and hungry and I was worn out, but she wanted to keep going! You get that lady started and she won't quit. As she pointed out, she never does this and she wanted to get as much in as she could. I was never so excited to stop rummaging as I was that day. We were just tuckered out!

So, the fun and frugal finds. At the best sale there were two ladies with about three tables of things set up. There didn't seem to be much, but you just never know. We were able to park right by the sale so I ran up and mom stayed with the little one. I found a handful of wooden utensils and spoons that she told me were $.10. Not each, for all of them. No problem! Then I found a cute little purse for just $.50! I love purses, but have not let myself buy any for a long time. I had decided about a month ago that if I could find a tote/purse that I could use as a diaper bag when needed that I'd get it. This one is adorable, will work when needed and was the right price! It does need a little stitching on one side, but that shouldn't be too hard. And it is in the same colors as little one's birthday party.

There were 3 pitchers on another table and I asked how much they were. I have quite a few pitchers and I love them lots. They are another item I have not let myself purchase for quite a while, but I just couldn't resist asking. The two were only $.25 each and another lady near the table snatched up the cuter of the two while I was asking. (Note to self: Always hold the item you are interested in as someone may overhear and take item before you can get back to it!) The third one she wanted more for. As she pointed out it is a Longaberger and they are more valuable. Her price was fair, but I just really don't need anymore pitchers!

So I paid for my spoons and purse and went back to the car. I told her about the pitchers and she couldn't believe I didn't buy any of them! Mom headed over to see what she could find and came back with some UK things and other odds and ends. And when she came back to the car she handed me the Longaberger pitcher! She laughed and said Happy Birthday. What a deal for her and what a fun thing for me. Mike just smiled when I showed him. He really doesn't understand the love for the cutie pies! This one is a one quart pitcher and is in a pattern that they don't do anymore.

The next day I told my aunt about this pitcher. She collects lots and lots of Longaberger and knows their value. She was really surprised at what a good deal we got and I almost feel like we should give it to her. But I think it is going to stay at my house!

This find was free for me, but in the interest of full disclosure I should tell you that the nice KY woman charged $2.50 for this. You can buy them at for $21.99 (+ shipping I'm sure) and new they were probably about $30-$40.

The other great find for me was a little 6 drawer all wood dresser for $5. Thank goodness we had the minivan and could haul it home. It is in pretty good shape and I'm debating keeping it as is or painting it. Either way it will be a welcome addition for some storage in this no decent closet house!

What fun Frugal Finds, don't you think? So, what frugal things have y'all found? Anything from KY? Or any state other than your own? Let me hear about them! And for lots more frugal findings please visit Southern Hospitality Blog.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Sad Day in the Blog World

Like Merchant Ships

I realize that she announced this on Monday, but I couldn't even write about it until today. My heart has been saddened by her decision, even as I completely appreciate why she would make it.

Meredith from Like Merchant Ships has decided to stop blogging (for the most part). Her post says that she'll back for "the occasional update" and I can only hope that she will. Like Merchant Ships has long been one of my very favorite blogs to visit. I realize I may sound a little like a stalker throughout this post, but I will really miss having Meredith's viewpoint in the blog world.

Why do I love visiting her blog so much? Well, she has an amazing ability to see beauty in simple, thrifty things. She has an amazing eye and picks out deals on the second hand market. I love seeing her little spatulas for $.10 and her platters and furniture and linens. I like knowing how she found them and how she redid them. She has been an inspiration to take the time to really find what I love and to not spend much money while doing it.

The woman can really host a gathering! I've seen her do amazing breakfasts for a bridal parties, picnics for her family, birthday parties, breakfasts for 100 people and many other events. They've all been done in such a way that makes the reciever feel special (or at least I know I would). They've been done on a small budget and with mostly reloved things. She proves over and over (and over again) that you can live a very beautiful life on a budget. The way she shows hospitality is wonderful.

She also sees beauty where others would pass by. She has used found wildflowers and "weeds" to decorate an adorable birthday cake for her daughter. She figures out ways to use a simple basket of ferns that blow me away. She can take an Aldi bouquet of roses and make multiple arrangements that would brighten anyone's day. She takes huge, rather ugly paintings and helps her children turn them into beautiful artwork to grace their home.

Meredith has inspired me from before I was even married. I e-mailed her before we went on our honeymoon (to ask about Menonite stores!) and she was nice enough to answer my questions. Now that I am a wife and mother I love her ideas and look up to her even more! I am constantly impressed by her ability to help her husband, raise creative children and still do it on a budget. So many people in todays world feel that living frugal means doing without or living with less. She has shown me (and many others) how to make it be better than! There isn't a question of what is lacking when you see glimpses of her life. There is 'more' in the small pictures we see than most families I know. More beauty, more creativity, more hospitality, more family focus...more.

I sincerely hope that Meredith will keep her blog active even as she steps back. Her posts are something I often refer to and I would hate to lose them as a resource. I've never met Meredith, but consider her a bit of a mentor. If you've never read her blog please take the time to do so. It is worth going back through her archives. You will not be disappointed! The links I've included are just a tiny smidgen of all that she has written.

Thanks for all your hard work Meredith! You have touched many of us. As you take the time to raise your family please know that you have influenced how many of us raise ours. And I promise, I'm not a stalker! :)

--now go read Like Merchant Ships!


Thank you Meredith for the "Aw, shucks" on your Tumblr. If you are here via that I encourage you to leave a comment about what LMS has meant to you. I've e-mailed Meredith asking her to come and read these comments as the 7 left so far have been so touching to me. She really has done a lot for so many of us, hasn't she? Let's make sure she knows it!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It Happened

The day that I've wondered about, thought about and hoped would never happened has occurred. I figured it was probably a matter of time, but had dreams that maybe I could go through life without it happening. It did anyway.

I got really upset and lost my temper with the little guy.

Growing up my mom was someone who I always loved, always talked to, and always looked up to. I also knew she had a wicked temper at times and that sometimes it was best to just avoid her. Usually we knew that what we were doing was going to set her off, but there were times when something just happened or she was just having a bad day and it would show up unannounced. I always hated those days.

I've inherited a lot of good traits from my mom (being passionate about things I care about, being hardworking, and my thriftiness to name just a few), but I've also gotten her temper. I do not like that part of myself and am constantly trying to work towards being more even keeled and not taking my frustrations out on those I love. Sometimes it goes well, but sometimes I still get upset in a pretty big way. It is not something I am proud of.

Friday the little one didn't take his afternoon nap. He went down like normal, but two hours later he was just fussing and playing and messing around. It eventually got to the point that we just got him up so he could eat dinner figuring he would go down for bed at his normal time. Mike had a band job so he had to leave about 6 and I put the little one down at 7 like normal. He fell asleep and it seemed all was well.

Oh, was it about to change.

I headed to bed about 10 pm, later than I had intended. I open our Starbucks on Saturdays and have to be up by about 3:45 at the latest to make it there on time. On weekends that Mike has this particular job in Madison he gets home about 2:30-3am and has to get up with the baby. It isn't a really fun thing, but we make it work the one weekend a month that it happens.

When I went past the little one's crib he woke up. Usually he'll make a noise and then go back to sleep. This time he jumped up and stood in his crib and started crying. I hoped he'd just go back to sleep as it was obviously not time to get up. It didn't happen. He was so needy and clingy and crying and screaming all. night. long. By the time Mike got home I'd gotten less than an hour of sleep and had spent most of the night rocking, walking, giving additional bottles, changing and just trying to comfort our very angry son.

It was not fun. I was frustrated. I was upset. I told the little one things I wish I could take back. I needed sleep.

Mike volunteered to take him, but I knew he was also exhausted and he would have to take over in about an hour anyway so I sent him to bed. He got up one other time just to make sure that he shouldn't take over because he could tell I was at the end of my rope. I sent him to bed again. Eventually the little guy did pass out on me while we sat on the couch and I got about 30 more minutes of sleep. I got him into his crib without him waking up and headed to work. He stayed asleep until 7 so Mike got about 4 hours of sleep which is better than we were figuring it was going to be that night.

I headed to work and made it through. Thank goodness I got a nap that afternoon as I was pretty delirious with exhaustion. I do not do well without sleep now that I've been used to getting it again.

When I had the little one I really was amazed at how patient I felt with him. I was getting sleep in tiny little blocks (he didn't sleep through the night until 7 months) and it didn't bother me. I have often had the feeling that 'if this was anyone else's kid I would be upset', but I never really felt like I was close to losing it. Friday night I feel like the day came when it didn't matter that he was my son I was just really upset. I didn't hurt him and never would, but I can absolutely-without-a-doubt-for-sure see how easy it could be to cross that line.

The good thing is that I reached a point where I just surrendered it all. I realized I just had to give up the hope of sleep and just accept that it was going to be that way for the night. I did shed a few tears and said many a prayer, but I think that the humbling was really good for me. If only it didn't take being up until 3 am to get there. And if only I didn't have to deal with it before I headed to work.

The kicker is we don't know what was going on. He wasn't getting a tooth, no fever, no obvious issues. He ate a huge breakfast the next morning, but he'd eaten well that night and had extra milk overnight in my attempts to soothe him. Maybe he's growing and was having growing pains? Who knows? I'm just glad that Saturday night he slept all night long and I'm praying that it happens again tonight. It probably will as I don't work tomorrow :)

One of the gifts of having a child is learning how imperfect I am. I have a feeling that there will be many nights (and days) of learning to surrender and take things where they are and not where I want them to be. My hope is that my little guy will have memories of a mom who was relaxed and even keeled even when things were out of control. I'll keep working towards that!

Any input is more than welcome. Have you ever been there?


So Simple!

I learned a neat trick for coring pears and thought I should share! All you need to serve full cored yummy pears without much waste is a melon baller.

I cut the pear in half and check how big the core part is. Then I can just use which ever end of the melon baller that fits around the core the best.

You just line it up, scoop it out and you are done!

Such an easy way to get rid of the seeds and such without wasting lots of yummy pear. When I used a knife I always felt like a lot of pear disappeared with the core, but that is not the case when using a melon baller to core.

If there is a little bit of tough stringiness along the edge just quarter the pear and use a knife to remove the very edge. Then slice and serve!

Talk about a kitchen tip that works for me. Hope it saves you some time and pear yumminess :)
See more great kitchen tips at Tammy's Recipes. See more great works for me ideas at We are THAT family.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Frugal Find Friday--Pampered Chef edition

It's Frugal Find Friday again! Today I'm showcasing two of the Pampered Chef items I've found frugally recently.

The first is something I've wanted for a while and I was SO excited when I found it. It is one of the Pampered Chef mini-serving spatula. I realize it is not a high dollar item at just $4.50, but I really find it hard to justify spending that much on one. When I saw it in a box of kitchen odds and ends for just $.25 I knew it was meant to be mine. It is in perfect shape and a quarter is really more my style :)

As an aside, do not forget to look in those kinds of odds and ends boxes. You never know what you'll find for a steal. Often there is lots of crazy junk, but I've scored a Tupperware funnel, a set of metal measuring spoons like I grew up with and this Pampered Chef small server in different ones. They can be little gold mines!

The second Pampered Chef item I found is a pizza lifter. My mother-in-law mentioned wanting a pizza peel a while back. She has looked, but never found one and I tucked that information away in case I ever came upon one. I did happen to find a smallish wooden one at a sale a few weeks ago and I dropped it when coming into the house. It broke! I felt a bit sick to my stomach about it all, but if I could break it that easily then I'm glad it happened before I gave it to her. I'd hate to give a gift that didn't last! The $1.50 that I spent on it was wasted, but I just hoped I'd find another one sometime. I know she'd really like one and has given up finding one on her own.

Today I found a Pampered Chef Lift and Serve. These two pieces work together to lift pizzas, wreaths and cakes. I think that she'll be excited about having them as they are similar to having a pizza peel and for just $3 I was glad to get them! And they are in the house and they are not broke! :) They originally sold for $11.75 and I'm not sure if they are even still available. Whatever the case, I consider it a $3 well spent.

Of course, no frugal Pampered Chef posting would be complete without mentioning my great find on the apple peeler/corer/slicer! It was a find that I will be using for years to come.

Happy Hunting to all those Frugal Friday followers. It is going to be a beautiful weekend here in WI and I have a feeling that garage sales will be hopping tomorrow. Let me know if you snagged any deals this week!

Here is a picture of those measuring spoons. They cost me a quarter and I'm excited to replace my plastic ones with them. Memories of cooking at home and no worries about plastic, I couldn't ask for more! For more great thrify find visit Southern Hospitality Blog.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nettacow's Big Giveaway

Nettacow is hosting a giveaway in honor of her 100th post. She's got lots of cute things that you can win and the best thing is that you get to pick! You may want to head over and enter, but if you win do not pick my 3 favorite things...pretty please?

Her blog is one I visit often. She has great ideas about raising a toddler, country living (I'm so jealous!), being frugal and crafting. I really like that she does a 'reading the whole internet' post where she links to many great ideas. I know I could spend WAY too much time reading on-line and I appreciate her pointing out some things I might enjoy, but didn't take the time to look for myself. It is worth a visit!


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Zucchini Casserole

Tammy is doing a recipe swap with summer squash and zucchini and I thought I should join the party. The timing on this made me laugh since I made up a version of this yesterday for lunch. Of course, I have no photos of that or of the real recipe! Trust me when I say that it is really good and that when I make it again I'll take some pictures. Also, just have to say that I am SO jealous of people who have this stuff coming out of their ears. We love it, but only one plant came up and there are just blossoms at this point. I'm hopeful that we'll get some and the farmer's market will supplement. The zucchini we ate yesterday came from two huge baseball bat sized zucchinis that Mike got at a gig from one of his fans. Maybe more will show up in our lives :)

Here's the original recipe:
3 cups diced zucchini--seeded and peeled
1.5 cups diced carrots

Boil these together until slightly tender and drain well

1 can cream of celery soup (or substitute homemade)
1/2 cup sour cream
4 oz sage and onion dressing mix (dry)
1/2 cup melted butter

Mix all together, reserve 1/3 cup for topping and add remaining amount to zucchini and carrots. Place in a casserole dish, top with reserved dressing mixture and some grated cheese if desired. It is really yummy!

Yesterday I had some left over homemade white cheese sauce and the end of a huge zucchini. I took out the center of the zucchini and boiled the outside shells in salted water for a few minutes until soft. I chopped up the insides, some green beans from the fridge, a few mushrooms, a chopped carrot, some red/orange/yellow pepper pieces that were lying around and some onion. All of these were cooked in a touch of olive oil until a bit tender. Seasoned them up with salt, pepper, garlic powder and Italian seasoning. Then I mixed in the white cheese sauce, a bunch of a bread crumbs from the freezer(some were finely chopped and some were bigger pieces) and put the entire mixture in the shells. Topped it off with a tiny bit of grated cheddar and some cooked pieces of bacon from the freezer and broiled in the toaster oven until the cheese was melted and the bacon was crispy and sizzling. It was really good and used up a ton of odds and ends that I had around. My favorite way to cook! Especially since Mike and little guy both liked it a lot too.

The rest of the big zucchini was chopped find to be used in soups or sauces this winter. The other one got shredded up and frozen for muffins, bread, or pasta dishes in the future.

I love summer and all the bounty. Now if only I could get my tiny garden to grow. Anyone have any produce they need used up here in Milwaukee? I'd be happy to give it a new home :)


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cream Puffs, Racing Pigs, and Food on a Stick--Oh, My!

We are back from a fun, exhausting, hot day at the fair yesterday! Little guy was a trooper as he missed his afternoon nap, but kept on being a good sport. We ate our way through the fair and have lived to tell about it. Let's start at the beginning of our day, shall we?

That's on a stick. Isn't that what fair is all about? And this year they debuted something quite different that Mike was very excited to try. He loves chocolate more than anyone else I know (which is saying something since I am a chocoholic too) and he adores bacon. So when they announced they were serving chocolate covered bacon on a stick he knew that he'd have to give it a whirl. Sounds crazy, right?

It really wasn't too bad. Actually if you think salty/sweet combos like chocolate covered pretzels then you are on track. It was cold (so the chocolate would stay hard in the heat) so it didn't really have that bacon flare that you'd expect. It was something that I'd have again, just not every week or anything!

Next we saw the racing pigs. This is a tradition at State Fair, but a couple years ago they changed the company that comes in and does it. I have to admit that I really like the other company better. They just raced pigs, but they had a race through the water too. It was funny and they seemed really professional. The company now races pigs, ducks, and goats and they introduced a pig that swims this year. The tiny baby pig only swam about 2 feet and he held it the whole time. Maybe they are working towards doing it on a bigger scale, but they just don't seem as great as they used to be. Little guy seemed to be watching and we did enjoy it. It is a tradition that cannot be missed!

And cream just must have a cream puff if you come to the Wisconsin State Fair! And this was little guy's first time time having one. He really like it and ate it the same way he does if we give him a taste of ice cream. He gets really still and opens his mouth for us to put in the spoon. Then he oh, so gently closes his mouth around it and lets it melt/dissolve on the edge of his lips and mouth. It is so funny to see! He has had almost no sweets in his life (other than his first birthday cake) so we don't mind giving him a taste of some of these once a year goodies! He liked the whipped cream so much that he licked the plate off and then cried when it was gone.

There were lots of other great things to see like the Lumber Jills,

the Budweiser Clydesdales,

animals, and a HUGE toy tractor display.

And then there were all the things we didn't get too! It was a fun and busy day.

The Kelty was in full force and we were glad we didn't have to worry about navigating a stroller through the crowd. Little man really enjoyed his vantage point and kept a close eye on the ceiling for fans, as he loves them so. There were some HUGE ones in the animal barns so he wasn't disappointed! He got to see some animals that were new to him and participated in a lot of people watching. I feel like we are always getting to see more of his personality and right now he is a pretty serious, observant little person. Many of our pictures make him look like he is upset or sad, but overall I really think he was enjoying himself. In new situations he just like to watch and then the next time he is more confident and gets sillier. It will be interesting to see what he is like next year at the fair.

I am so grateful for our beautiful family day at the fair. The weather was great, the food was yummy, the fair was fun. To make things even more relaxing we set a dollar limit for the day so neither of us had to worry if the other thought we were spending too much. We came in $8 under what we were free to spend for the day! It was nice for both of us to not have to worry about money and to actually even be encouraging the other to get something that they wanted. Is it wrong that we spent ALL our money on food? :) Sometimes we are frugal even when we aren't trying to be. And that is okay with me!

For more gratefulness visit Gratituesday at Heavenly Homemakers.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Off to the Fair!

We are off to the Wisconsin State Fair today! Mike and I have gone almost every year and we are excited to go again this year. Last year we had a baby who was only about a week old, so we decided to skip it. Now our little guy will get to see all the animals and have his very first taste of a cream puff. If you've never been to the Wisconsin State Fair then you've never had a real honest to goodness, so big you can't believe it, yummy as can be cream puff. I can't wait for mine. Thankfully I didn't miss out on these last year as two wonderful friends brought some to the new mommy!

The picture is not our little guy. It is from five years ago when my parents and nephew came up for a visit. He was about 18 months old and had THE BEST time at the fair. The cream puffs were a hit, as were all things piggy and tractor. And there are lots of tractors and things piggy at the state fair! When we were showing his mom the pictures a few months later he got really excited all over again. I hope our little guy enjoys it like his cousin did!

Have a great Monday and pray it doesn't rain all over us. Its been a wet weekend and they are saying its not over yet.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

How to make Homemade Hamburger Buns

A long, long time ago someone read my new little blog. And she asked, very nicely, if I could talk about baking bread. Specifically, if I could talk about baking hamburger buns as her recipe had left her frustrated. And even thought I'm no expert on hamburger buns, or bread and I haven't even had a blog long enough for it to have been a long, long time ago I decided I'd finally get around to answering her questions because she asked very nicely. So here is my best explanation of how to make great homemade hamburger buns.
Can you tell I've been up a long time already?
Basically, I've learned that baking bread is really not that hard if you really aren't too terribly fussy and you have one little piece of equipment, a bread machine. I have no special skills, but I've learned that feel is more important that specific measurements when it comes to how much flour vs. how much water you need on any specific day. And I quickly learned that a bread machine is your bestest friend ever when it comes to kneading. You can make bread without it, but I really prefer to have one!

So I had to make about 60 hamburger buns for my son's birthday and I did it all without too much muss or fuss. Start with your ingredients. Pictured here are some of what goes into our favorite hamburger bun recipe. Not pictured is milk. Please ignore the rather messy appearance as this was taken after the 4th batch of dough had been started. And I do not keep a clean kitchen while in the middle of baking. Or cooking. Or on Wednesdays. Or any day that ends in "day." It is a problem.

I load all the ingredients into my bread machine. Sorry for the blurry picture! It is my savior when it comes to kneading dough. It makes all the dough for pizza crusts, hamburger buns, and bread in our house. It is at least 10 years old, is dirty, and is worth every penny of the $12 I spent on it when I bought it! I see these for sale at yard sales and thrift stores all the time. We actually bought a brand new one for $9 for my mother-in-law at a thrift store just 2 years ago. They are worth the investment! My machine gets all the wet ingredients first, dry on top and then yeast at the very end. It gets set to the dough setting which takes an hour and 20 minutes to complete.

I check it about 10 minutes into the process to adjust with more flour or more water. You want it to be kind of silky to the touch. It should not be overly sticky (add more flour) and it shouldn't be so dry and tough that the machine cannot knead it fairly easily (add more water). There will be some bounce to the dough if you push on it and some resistance when you break a piece off. Then I just let it do its thing! When it beeps I have a big hunk of dough to work with.

Just for fun, a trippy picture of dough being kneaded by the machine.

Plop the dough on the counter and grab a bench scraper. If you don't have a bench scraper you can use a knife. Or your hands. This is not rocket science and there is no need to be afraid.

Pinch, pull or cut off a hunk of dough that is a small palmful or so. This can be adjusted for the size of buns you want to make. Tiny amount for sliders, huge amount for jumbo burgers. Do what strikes your fancy! Or get crazy and shape it into hot dog buns or brat buns or hero rolls.

Roll the dough around in your palm until it makes a ball, assuming you are going for the standard hamburger bun style roll. If I'm being more picky (or making just one batch and have some extra time) I kind of flat them a bit and bull the edges down and underneath so the top gets super smooth. Then they are a bit more nice looking, but no one has ever noticed when I do that extra step, so let's just do the quick method.

Smoosh the ball. It may or may not be perfectly round, but just get it kind of like a circle. It should be fairly flat. I just use my hands to smoosh, but if you wanted to break out the rolling pin and get them to be all equal in size and thickness, knock yourself out!

Put the rolls onto a backing stone or cookie sheet or whatever you plan to cook them on. Please take no notice of the dirty pizza stone and just look at the nice cookie sheet above. You may notice that my buns are not perfect. Such is life! Embrace diversity :) Cover them with a towel and let them rise. They need to poof up and look more like hamburger buns. This could take 30 minutes if conditions are perfect, but I always figure 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours. Just check on them when you get a chance and be ready to bake them when they look right.

This is looking right. They are poofed up a bit and look like unbaked hamburger buns.

Put them in a 400 degree oven and immediately turn down to 375. These will cook for 15 minutes or so. I check them at about 12 and then just pull them out when they look done. They should be lightly browned on top. I find that with a pizza stone they take a little longer (the stone is not preheated since they were rising on it), with a metal cookie sheet them are done a bit quicker. If you find that some outside ones are done, but that some in the middle are not yet done enough just pull off the ones that are done and pop the pan back in for a few minutes. I won't tell anyone!

Place the rolls on a rack to cool. Enjoy the yummy smell of fresh bread. Tell your husband he has to wait until dinner. Watch him rolls his eyes and drool a little. Then give in and let him have one hot out of the oven. Let him tell you how great you are. Then cool these and serve or cool and then freeze. We keep a bag in the freezer and just pull out what we need. They freeze really well and taste great after they thaw! You may notice that the tops are not as bumpy as before. The rising on the counter and the extra rise when they bake helps take care of some imperfections. This is why I wouldn't stress too much about the making them really smooth unless you like stress. Then have a ball!
The recipe I use:
1 1/4 c. milk
1/3 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 3/4 c. flour
2 1/4 tsp yeast
Layer in machine in order listed. Run dough cycle. Shape rolls, flatten, place on a stone or cookie sheet with sides almost touching. Let rise 45-60 minutes or until they look right. Heat oven to 400 and place pans in. Immediately lower to 375 and bake 12-18 minutes. Will make 10-14 average size rolls.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions!

Friday, August 7, 2009

We're Back and He's ONE!

It has been a whirlwind of the highest order around here lately. I didn't say too much before hand or during, but it has been a crazy month for trips and such around our household. And our baby is now officially ONE! Where has the time gone?

To give you a brief rundown here's where we've been. In the last two weeks we've spent 5 days (Thursday-Monday) in Kentucky visiting my family and attending a cousin's wedding. Then we came home and had 5 days to plan and get ready for our little one's birthday party. During that week I worked, Mike had gigs and we took his actual birthday (Thursday) to just have a low key day with the three of us. Then Saturday we attended another first birthday part and Sunday we hosted ours. To keep life interesting we headed to St. Louis early Monday morning and met my sister and the munchkins who came up from Arkansas! Tuesday Mike played at a library in Illinois and we drove home that afternoon/evening. Wednesday I worked at 4:30 am and then we spent the day at another band job. Thursday I worked at 6 am. Thank goodness it is Friday and I'm not working!!!

But, all in all I'm so glad we've seen both sets of Grandparents, his aunt and cousins and all right around his birthday. It felt like it was the longest birthday party ever! Maybe next year we can all meet at one location and save a few thousand miles on our van :) It is wonderful to have so many family and friends and for my husband to be doing something he loves. I am really excited to spend some time at home and to catch up on our lives a bit. We seem to work best as a family when we have down time to just relax and hang out together, take the dogs on walks and just be together. August should provide some opportunity for that and I am grateful!

No deals to report this week although hopefully I'll be doing some rummaging on my way home from work tomorrow. Today we are headed off to sign our trust/will and little guy is spending his first time away from us. How great is it that his entire first year was spent with one of his parents there to take care of his every need? I know that he is in good hands today, but it is going to be odd to be together and not have him there. I never knew when we'd take time away although it will be good for us to do it more as he gets older. I'm just grateful that there hasn't been a reason until now.

Have a wonderful Friday and we'll return to the Frugal Find Friday postings next week!