Monthly Archives: November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Happy Thanksgiving!! Today my husband, sister, mother-in-law and I are gathering together to eat what I hope will be a delicious Thanksgiving meal! Since it’s my first one I can only hope things turned out alright! Since it’s Thanksgiving, I thought I would take the time to post a list of the things I’m thankful for. This is by no means all-inclusive, it’s simply what I thought of off the top of my head! I am sure there are many many more things to be thankful for!

1. My job. I’m SO thankful that I am finally employed. Having the extra paycheck will make a huge difference in paying off our debts.

2. My family. Both extended and immediate. They are all wonderful and I’m so lucky to have them.

3. Our health. Currently everyone in our family is healthy. I’m not talking colds, I’m talking big things like cancer. We are all healthy and happy and I’m incredibly thankful for that.

4. My kitties. They seriously make me laugh every day with their antics! And I love when they cuddle up and sleep with us!

5. Our house. We are lucky not only to have a roof over our heads, but to own that roof as well. It’s been a blessed year for us.

6. My husband. As we approach our one year anniversary I’m so thankful that we met each other and got married!

7. My marriage. Everyone says the first year’s the hardest. Well, it’s been tough, but we’ve made it through.

8. Snow! Yes, even snow because it is so beautiful!

9. Friends who pimp out my Mary Kay business. I’ve had several new orders lately which has been awesome!

10. Our local thrift store. They have provided me with several Christmas gifts!

11. Freecycle, without which we wouldn’t have 2 couches and a Christmas gift for my mom!

12. Craigslist, without which we wouldn’t have our coffee table and numerous other things I’ve bought (and sold!) for less than their retail price.

13. Oatmeal. It is delicious and yummy and warming on a cool winter morning!

14. A garage, where my car is parked safe and sound and free of snow and ice!

How about you? What are you thankful for this year?

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How to do Christmas on a (very) tight budget: Guest Post!

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The following is a guest post by my sister, Laura. Enjoy!

If you’re like me, there are some people in your life that are just difficult to shop for. You could get them a book or a TV show, but they just have so many! A hand-crafted gift is awesome, but what if you’re not particularly hand-crafty?

This is where I like to fall back on the old standby: yarn crafts. I worked at a fabric store for three years when I was in high school, which exposed me to the world of crafting–sewing, knitting, quilting, the whole nine yards. Now, I’m not a great crafter, but I can handle knitting and crocheting just fine.

This is why I decided to give two of my more, shall we say, earthy-crunch friends… (drum roll please) knitted coasters!!

Pictured: An awesome gift idea.

The directions are ridiculously simple, ready?

Cast on 24. Knit until it reaches the desired size. Cast off.
Stick your gorgeous, finished product on your coffee table and let people stick their cups on it. Tada!
I used a size 5 needle because I wanted the stitches to be small and tight. I also used a wooden coaster I had around the house as a template and I consulted with my (avid knitter) best friend to determine the gauge before I set off.
Depending on how tight or loose your stitches are you should check your work against a template coaster sure you’re on track. After you make your first coaster, I would use that as your template so that your set is all the same size.
I chose my yarn based on two things: price and color. Caro’s favorite color is bright yellow, and Aubrey’s is green, so I knew which colors to get. I also knew that I was making coasters, not a sweater or a scarf or gloves, so when you get to the yarn store don’t get seduced by the 17 dollar skein of malabrigo yarn. I know, it’s hard, but resist! It will not respect you in the morning. Instead, allow yourself to fall in love with the simple, uncomplicated nylon-acrylic blend. I got two 1.75 oz skeins for eight bucks. For those keeping up with the math, that’s a four dollar present (plus the labor, of course).

The coasters don’t look perfect, but I don’t mind and neither do my friends, because they know I worked hard to show them how much I care.

Delicious 7 Layer Bars! AKA Magic Bars

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Every year for Thanksgiving (or really any family get-together where my family was the one to bring the dessert) my mom would make 7 Layer Bars. We never called them Magic Bars, but I guess that’s what they really are, since there isn’t exactly 7 layers in ours.
Anyway, the recipe comes from the back of a can of Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. I love this recipe not only because it’s delicious, but because you can bake it ahead of time and freeze them! It’s perfect holiday baking and this year for Thanksgiving I made this recipe on Sunday, when I had time. I will freeze the bars before they all get eaten and we will have them alongside pie for dessert on Thursday!

The ingredients are simple and cheap for this recipe (another reason I love it!)

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 (14 ounce) can EAGLE BRAND® Sweetened Condensed Milk (It doesn’t have to be Eagle Brand, but that is the one I typically use, mostly because the recipe is on the back!)
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
OR 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips and 1 cup butterscotch chips
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees F (325 degrees for glass dish). Coat 13×9-inch baking pan with no-stick cooking spray.
Combine graham cracker crumbs and butter. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Pour sweetened condensed milk evenly over crumb mixture. Layer evenly with chocolate chips, coconut and nuts. Press down firmly with a fork.
Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool. Cut into bars or diamonds. Store covered at room temperature.

Easy! This recipe takes no time at all, but even when you don’t have any time, you can cook it ahead and freeze it! What’s not to love?
I didn’t take a picture of my bars because a. I’m a little lazy and b. I wanted to get them into the freezer as soon as possible before they got eaten!

Source: Allrecipes.com

Playing for the team instead of cheering them on

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Now that I’ve finished my second week of work and even acquired a first paycheck, I’m feeling pretty good about my new job. I’m enjoying being out of the house all day, even if it means I get home late, eat, go to bed, and start all over again. That is OK if it means that I am able to contribute monetarily to our little family.

I was discussing this with B, my sister-in-law, recently. B and I have bonded lately over similar situations. She has been married just over a year, and spent her first few months of marriage unemployed and at home as well. Her husband was working outside of the house, but B was like me…stuck in the house, bored, an unintentional housewife.
Thankfully B was able to get a job and get out of the house, but she was there for me when I was still in the house. Going crazy, to some extent. This week, when I received my first pay stub, I was so happy, and I knew B would understand.
“Isn’t it nice to be playing for the team, instead of just cheering them on?” she texted me. I hadn’t thought about it that way, but yes, that is exactly how I was feeling. Despite the fact that the paycheck was small since it was only for one week because I came in the middle of a pay period, I was contributing. I was making a difference in our day to day life and it felt so good!
Now don’t get me wrong. As I sit here and write this I keep thinking that I was contributing to our family, at least I was supposed to. I was cooking dinner, doing laundry, sweeping, vacuuming, basically keeping the house in order. At least that’s what I was supposed to be doing. I won’t embarrass myself bore you with the details of what my days really consisted of, but they weren’t very productive.
These days the laundry isn’t always done. Geoff swept the floor this morning and cleaned the litter boxes while I threw a load of laundry in and changed the sheets. These days we are both contributing a little more, but things are more even, and I love it. These days, we are playing for the same team, and I am loving every inning of this game.
Don’t forget to check out my series on doing christmas on a tight budget! This Tuesday is the last post, and it’s a guest post!

How to do Christmas on a (very) tight budget: Play to your strengths

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My other posts in this series are right here.

Today’s tip on doing Christmas on a (very) tight budget is to play to your strengths. The key to saving money on gifts, I think, is homemade, thoughtful gifts. Do you love to sew? There are many many tutorials for things to sew, from clothes to purses, to baby items. If you own a sewing machine this is a great tip. Unfortunately, I’m not a very big sewer so this tip isn’t exactly up my alley.
One thing I do enjoy, however, is very simple projects. In years past I have knitted scarves, and this year I plan to make a pocket scarf (pictures and tutorial to come, when I get my act together!)
However, if I have any strengths, they would be in the kitchen. I enjoy cooking, though I enjoy baking much more. This year I am compiling a book of recipes that I have found online, tried out over the past year and enjoyed. I am including side dishes, main dishes and bakery items in my book. Staples has a really nice presentation binder that I plan on putting my recipes into. I will print the pages off at Staples at a low cost per page, and the whole present will cost less than $10! This is what I consider to be a nice gift, and it will be something a few of my younger family members will be getting, specifically my sister and brother-in-law, another newly married couple.
Playing to your specific strengths will not only make your gift-giving time easier, but it will also mean a little more to the people you are gifting to because it’s something that they know you enjoy, it’s personal and it’s homemade. As always, remember that not everyone wants to receive a personal, homemade gift. Some would much rather have a material object. Use discretion in deciding who to you want to receive your homemade gifts.

You will want to tune in next Tuesday for the last post in this series which will feature a very special guest post by my sister!

Holiday swaps

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I may be working hard to do Christmas on a budget this year, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to get my furry little friends a gift, too! They may or may not (most likely do not) understand what the heck Christmas is, but I do like to spoil my fur babies sometimes!

(This is one of the few pictures I have of them together! Though I know they like each other, they are more often seen rolling around and playing than cuddling together.)

That is why, when I saw that there was a pet blog swap going on, I decided I needed to jump on board! The directions are here, and it’s super simple and inexpensive (max $10!) and I can’t wait to see what type of animal I get to shop for!

So how about it? Are there some furry friends in your life that need a little holiday loving? Don’t forget that they need some love too!

Getting stuff done

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I have to tell you a secret. I’m obsessed with The Frugal Girl. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t know I exist, but I like to think that we’d be friends if I knew her in real life. You know, if I wasn’t living roughly 3,000 miles away from her.

Anyway, she is doing a new series on productivity that I’ve found, so far to be very interesting and relevant. You see, ever since I started my new job I’ve been, well, busy! This is exactly what I’ve longed for, so I’m loving it, but the fact remains there are things around the house that continue to pile up during the week, things that I need to take care of on a daily basis not just once a week on my weekends off. Laundry is accumulated (for two people we seem to have an awfully lot of laundry), dishes fill the sink, litter boxes need to be cleaned…you get where I’m going. (I will warn you, this isn’t rocket science, but if you’re anything like me you need a reminder every once in a while!)

I tried something new this week, something novel and different that I haven’t done since I got married. I got up with my husband in the morning. Geoff has to be at work (which is 30 minutes away) at 7, which means the alarm goes off at an hour I’m not exactly comfortable with: 5 am. I realize there are people out there who have to be at WORK at 5 am, heck, I used to be one of them when I worked at Dunkin Donuts! Since then, however, I’ve come to enjoy my sleep. Perhaps a little too much. (In my defense, however, we have a pillow top mattress that makes it difficult to get out of bed some mornings!) As a result, I have gotten more sleep in the past 10 months than I think I’ve ever gotten in my life. We got to bed early because Geoff gets up early. I typically get up and see him off, then go back to bed until 8:30 or 9. I realized this week, however, that this really isn’t the best use of my time, especially since I now have chores to take care of along with a full day of work.
So I tried getting up with Geoff, and you know what? I didn’t die. I didn’t fall asleep at my computer, but I did get things done! The first day I tried this I made coffee, sent Geoff to work with some, loaded the dishwasher and cleaned the sink. Thankfully Geoff threw in a load of laundry, put some laundry away and we both lost the cat. A productive morning, and that was all done by 6:30 am! When Geoff headed out I sat down with a full hour to myself of poking around on the internet. I typically do this anyway, but there was something different about this time. This time around I actually had time to play without making me late or run around to get ready. I gave myself until 7:30, at which time I showered, dressed, put on makeup and headed out by 8:30 (though I usually get to work at 9:30 I was meeting someone that particular morning).
The best part of this whole thing, however, was the fact that I felt so good! Sure, it’s early, and getting out of bed at 6 am isn’t exactly fun, but it was necessary, and will continue to be necessary through this season in our life.
Next week I’m going to actually take The Frugal Girl’s advice to heart and try to get to bed at a reasonable hour every night, but baby steps.

Like I said, this isn’t rocket science, and most of you probably have been doing this for years, but it’s taken me 10 months and a job to kick my butt out of bed, but I’m so glad it has.