Saturday, November 29, 2008

Handmade Gifts

On Thursday afternoon, my husband's family had their $5 Christmas gift exchange. The little people are in one group and the adults in another. Our youngest son received a really cute sock monkey made by my husband's cousin. I knew she was taking the Handmade Pledge for Christmas this year so I was excited to see what we would get. We were pleasantly surprised and both of my sons enjoyed it. So here's to handmade gifts and the labor of love they truly are!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shop It To Me

I don't spend a lot of money on clothes. It is a necessity, yes, but not something I need to buy everyday. But I know there are those of you out there who love to shop and this is a great way to get some great bargains:

Shop It To Me

The way I describe it is an online catalog of clothing, shoes and accessories in the sizes, styles and brands that you choose. And everything is on sale or clearance! It's a great way to get some shopping done. You can sign up to receive the SaleMail everyday, twice a week, once a's up to you. (Personally, I get mine twice a week.)

There's a bonus: if you get your friends to sign up you earn a $10 gift card from several different places. I didn't really believe that I was going to get a gift card in the mail for having my friends sign-up, but the other day I got a nice little card in the mail and there was my $10 card to Starbucks!! What a wonderful surprise!

I know what some of you are thinking: this is just a ploy to get my email address and I'm going to get a bunch of spam in my inbox. Nope! They have a great privacy policy. I actually got the information and signed-up under my sister-in-law, Beth. She's very cautious about info on the net so I knew I could trust her.

Shop It To Me also has a blog that's a great read. The author talks about fashion trends and what she has purchased through Shop It To Me.

Happy saving!!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Perfect Cake-Mix Cupcakes

Here's the cake-mix cupcake recipe from Hello, Cupcake.

You can use any standard cake mix, but avoid those with pudding in the mix and steer clear of lighter cake mixes such as angel food, since cupcake projects need a firm cake that will hold up when it's decorated. If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make a fair substitution by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice to 1 cup whole milk. Let sit for 10 minutes to sour. (Actual buttermilk is better.)

1 box (18.25 oz) cake mix (French vanilla, devil's food, or yellow)
1 cup buttermilk (in place of the water called for on the box)
vegetable oil (the amount on the box)
4 large eggs (in place of the number called for on the box)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners.
  2. Follow the box instructions, putting all the ingredients in a large bowl and using the buttermilk in place of the water specified (the box will call fro more water than the amount of buttermilk you are using), using the amount of vegetable oil that is called for (typically, white or yellow cakes call for 1/3 cup; the chocolate cakes usually call for 1/2 cup), and adding the eggs. Beat with an electric mixer until moistened, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes longer.
  3. Spoon half of the batter into a ziplock bag. Snip a 1/4-inch corner from the bag and fill the paper liners two-thirds full. Repeat with remaining batter. Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the baking pans, place on a wire rack, and allow to cool completely.

First Birthdays

On Sunday we celebrated my youngest son's first birthday. It was a modest party with friends and family from our church. We served cupcakes, ice cream and pretzel rods.

My cupcake idea came from a book entitled Hello, Cupcake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. They have some really creative ideas for decorating cupcakes. And they have a great recipe in the back for vamping up your cupcakes from a box mix. They also have "from scratch" cupcake recipes and frosting recipes too. Just can't get enough of it!!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Blessings Turkey

I've been re-reading through one of my favorite books, Treasuring God in Your Traditions by Noel Piper. It's a great read and as my boys get older I realize more and more how important family traditions are. This book not only talks about holiday traditions, but daily traditions (quiet times, devotions together as a family, bedtime rituals). I've been wanting to establish a tradition for Thanksgiving and my friend, Kristi, found a great idea by Debra P. from the site

You make a turkey out of construction paper (minus the feathers) and glue it onto a piece of white poster board. You then cover the poster board in clear contact paper (so it can be reused for the next year). Next you cut out orange, red, and yellow paper feathers--enough so that each family member has a feather for each day in November. At dinner each family member writes something that they're thankful for and tapes it onto the turkey.

What a great way to display all your blessings!! Thanks Kristi!

*picture of turkey courtesy of Kristi K.

Baked Cod with Crunchy Lemon-Herb Topping

We're always looking for a way to get fish into our diets. I'm not saying that this is a really healthy way, but it's a delicious way. This is from my favorite cooking magazine, Cook's Country, December/January 2006 edition.

Baked Cod with Crunchy Lemon-Herb Topping
Serves 4
Haddock, halibut, or bluefish fillets are good alternatives to cod (we've also used Alaskan pollock). If some of the fish pieces are very thin, fold them in half to make thicker pieces. If you like, substitute dill or basil for the parsley.

1 tbsp unsalted butter
24 Ritz crackers, crushed into coarse crumbs (about 1 cup)
2 tbsp minced fresh parsley (or 2 tsp dried parsley), divided
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 small garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp grated zest plus 1 tbsp juice from 1 lemon (don't use
the bottled stuff)
4 skinless cod fillets (about 2 pounds; I buy the frozen fish
instead of fresh because it's much more affordable, thaw before cooking)
salt and pepper
lemon wedges for serving

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Grease baking sheet (do NOT use a stone, it will be seasoned with fish) with butter. Toss cracker crumbs and 1 tbsp parsley together in medium bowl. Mix remaining 1 tbsp parsley, mayonnaise, garlic, lemon zest, and lemon juice together in a small bowl.

2. Pat fish dry with paper towels, then season with salt and pepper. Place fish on buttered baking sheet, spacing pieces about 1/2 inch apart. Brush tops and sides of fish with mayonnaise mixture, then press cracker crumbs into mayonnaise.

3. Bake until crumbs are golden brown and fish flakes apart with fork, about 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

I like to double the mayonnaise mixture and serve as a dipping sauce on the side. Here's the mayonnaise sauce for quick reference:

1 tbsp parsley
3 tbsp mayonnaise
2 small garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp grated zest plus 1 tbsp juice from 1 lemon

Mix together and serve on side.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Mexi-Corn Dip

1 can Mexi-corn (corn with peppers)
1 small can green chilis
1 cup mayo
1 cup colby-jack cheese
1 cup Parmesan cheese (not the powdered kind)
1 tsp cumin

Grease a 9x9 pan. Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips.

Can keep warm in a crock pot on low heat.
May add a small can of chicken breast.

This is a recipe I got from my friend Nichole. She brought it to Bunco this last month and I thought it was delicious. I'm trying to think of how I can make it a meal. ;)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Got the Music In Me

Whenever Christmas comes around I get a little melancholy. Sure, I reflect on the joy of the season, but what really hits me is why this little Baby came to earth in the first place. I think about how Mary held Jesus after He was born and I wonder if she realizes what a special little Boy she's holding. I wonder if she realizes that He will change the world. I wonder if she really knows that there will be times in His life that He will just beam the joy of the Lord and at others there will be true sorrow.

My husband just got the new Chris Tomlin CD "Hello Love." It has my new favorite song on it, "Jesus Messiah." Here are the lyrics and I pray that as you reflect on them you can praise God for the joy in Christ's birth, the sorrow of His death and the power of His resurrection.

Chris Tomlin - Jesus Messiah

He became sin
Who knew no sin
That we might become His Righteousness
He humbled himself and carried the cross

Love so amazing
Love so amazing

Jesus Messiah
Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer
The rescue for sinners
The ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah
Lord of all

His body the bread
His blood the wine
Broken and poured out all for love
The whole earth trembled
And the veil was torn

Jesus Messiah
Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer
The rescue for sinners
The ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah
Lord of all

All I hope is in You
All I hope is in You
All the glory to You, God
The light of the world

Jesus Messiah
Name above all names
Blessed Redeemer
The rescue for sinners
The ransom from Heaven
Jesus Messiah
Lord of all

Jesus Messiah Lyrics - Chris Tomlin Song Words

Song Words by Artist / Band : Chris Tomlin
Song Lyrics Title : Jesus Messiah
Taken from Album : Hello Love
Single Released : -
Music Genre : Christian Music

(Music Song Data Information taken from : wikipedia)

Papa Fajita's

Yummy! Papa Fajita's was my favorite restaurant while in Houston. It was delicious! Jonathan had beef enchiladas but I wanted to try something different...and it was. I ordered a grilled chicken avocado enchilada. As I was eating, I was thinking this sauce is so rich and thick. I asked the waiter what was in the neon-green/yellow sauce and he said he had no idea but would ask in the kitchen. Turns out it was only tomatillos and milk. It was so tasty. I want to try and replicate the sauce and will let you know if I ever get that accomplished.

Homemade tortilla's filled with grilled chicken. Topped with cheese, tomatillo sauce and avocados. Yummy!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Back to Blogging

After a week of relaxation and refreshment in Texas with my husband and a few stressful days/nights with my family and the boys (mostly due to the boys not sleeping well at night), I'm back to the blog world. We had a great time on our trip and had some wonderful food. At home with my mom we did some window shopping at some consignment stores and home decorator stores. I gleaned a lot of ideas from the shops and am ready to share!!

But first I want to let you know about CouponBug. CouponBug is a great place to get coupons because you don't have to sign up for any emails and you put in your zip code so you only get the coupons that are relevant to your area. Really nice! If you want to bypass the membership, click on the "Get My Coupons Now" in the upper right corner and enter your zip code. Then you just click on the coupons you want. It's great!! The coupons are updated weekly.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Latest Flicks and Movie Info

My husband got me hooked on The Internet Movie Database (IMDB). It's a great resource for checking out new releases, what films your favorite stars have appeared in, and summaries of movies so you know what you're getting into. We use it in cooperation with our library movie requests. We find out what movies are being released soon on DVD, hop on over to our library website and check if they will be getting the movie. It's a great way to get new releases without paying a thing.

IMDB is also a great place to check out the voices in animated movies. They also give you a picture of the actor/actress and other movies they have been in.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Library

We love our library! It's a great place to save money. We have yet to take full advantage of all the services our library offers, but this one is our favorite: reserving movies! Yes, you can reserve movies at the Ames Public Library. It's really simple to do:

1. Enter your Borrower ID number (it's on the back of your card)
2. Enter your PIN number. This should have been assigned to you when you received your card, but you can call the library to get a PIN.
3. Now go to the online catalog and type in a title. Choose a movie (or book) from the list by clicking on it.
4. Next you'll be at a page with the movie's information and scroll to the bottom. Click the button, "Place Request to Hold Item for me" at the bottom right-hand side of the page.
5. You will be shown a page that tells you how many people are in line to reserve this item before you and you have the option to "Cancel" your request or you can "Request".
6. The library will contact you (via email or phone) to let you know when your item is ready to be picked up. If there is a Bookmobile stop near you, you can also request to have the item brought to the Bookmobile location and you can pick it up there.

It's that easy! The Ames Library has new releases and a wide selection of films to choose from. You get them for one week and they're FREE as long as you return them on time. You can request more than one item at a time.

** Sometimes you have to be careful with children's movies because they can receive a lot of scratches and the DVD will skip around a lot.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Easy Pasta Casserole

1 lb penne pasta, cooked
4 eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp salt
3 cups Mozzarella
1 jar spaghetti sauce (we like Ragu's Mama's Special Garden Sauce)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat eggs and mix in Parmesan cheese and salt. Pour over hot pasta and mix until all pasta is coated. Pour pasta mixture into greased 9x13 pan. Pour spaghetti sauce over pasta mixture and top with cheese. Bake for 15-20 minutes and broil until cheese is golden brown (about 2 minutes).

This recipe can be halved and baked in a pie plate and you have Pasta Pie. You can substitute any kind of pasta for the penne. I use penne because it coats well with the egg mixture and the spaghetti sauce gets down into the pasta better. You can also add 1/4 to 1/2 lb of pepperoni before topping with cheese.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Quick and Easy Chicken and Rice

1 to 1/2 lb chicken breast, cubed
2 cups Minute Rice (brown or white)
2 cups water
1 cup milk
1 stick butter or margarine, melted
1 package dry ranch dressing mix

Preheat over to 375 degrees. Grease 9x13 pan. Mix all ingredients in large bowl. Pour into greased pan and bake for 45 minutes.

This recipe is from my friend, Beth. She served it to us for dinner with a side salad and beer bread. I like this recipe because I usually have all the ingredients in my pantry and freezer. No special trip to the store. Yay!!

Sing a Song

Well, I'm back...and this time hopefully for good. When I started this I didn't really know what I wanted to get (and give) out of this blog and after reviewing several wonderful blogs (links to the right) I have come up with some things I would like to post:

* recipes
* frugal ideas
* my thoughts on Scripture passages and songs
* crafts
* any other ramblings I feel are worthy to share

I think that's it for now. I'm going to start tagging my posts as well. I love me some organization! So, I hope you enjoy and I hope I can stay organized!