Friday, December 11, 2009

Have I Disappeared???

Nope!!  As if the move wasn't enough of a distraction, I'm also pregnant!!!  We finally conceived via IVF, so all our free time from September until now has been totally devoted to getting and staying pregnant.  Throw-in a last minute move across the country and there was no time for any type of fun, house-wife things.  

But, I might be able to redeem myself- Matt's co-workers at Stanford are having a "cookie festival" for the entire athletic department on Monday.  Since Matt doesn't bake, I've stepped up to the plate and will be making:
  • Fudge
  • Peppermint Bark
  • Pine Bark
  • Knock-You-Naked Brownies (best caramel brownies ever)
  • Peppermint Brownies (easiest spin on brownies ever and super delicious, too)
  • Frosted Cinnamon Apple Bars
  • Chocolate Toffee Crunch Bars
Yes- I'm making 7 different desserts.  Impressed?? You should be :)  Today I have to make the shopping list to make sure I have enough eggs and butter and what-not.  And yes- recipes to come, but only after I've tested them and know that they're good.    

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Forgive Me

Life has been nuts the past 2 months. The lastest craziness? We're moving. It's just our second cross-country move in the past 18 months. We're busy packing, but once we're settled in our new home (early December) I'll be back to being the busy housewife that I was before :)

Monday, September 21, 2009


So - many people know that I love mail and how I think envelopes hold little nuggets of joy.  And in an effort to trim the budget, I am turning to the genius of envelopes.  It's a simple method (and I guess it came from Dave Ramsey, but I have no idea about his financial advice...) and really helps keep a lid on things.

In a nutshell, the envelope system is simply putting aside cash (in an envelope) for budgeted expenditures.  My grocery money??  It has it's own envelope and whatever is in the envelope has to stretch for the month.  Clothing money?? Same thing... it arrives on the first of the month in an envelope and that's all I get.  When it's gone- it's gone.

It's amazing to see how much you can save by forcing yourself to stick to a budget like this.  We made an excel sheet and seeing the numbers made it all the more motivating.  The systems starts in October- wish me luck!

Monday, September 14, 2009


When I was a junior in high school, my family spent spring break in NYC. One of my mom and I's outings was to Trish McEvoy's original office (in her hubby's derm office) to get our make-up done. I remember being wonderfully amazed. Unlike the typical woman behind the Clinque office, this woman doing my makeup was as artist. She actually knew what she was doing and as a client, I learned much from her.

Besides the make-up, my mom bought me a set of TM's make-up brushes. I remember thinking, "wow- that's kind of expensive for an eye shadow brush... I just use the little q-tip like thing in my old make-up". The woman explained to me that the brushes were an investment... they are wonderful, high-end tools that if maintained properly would last more than 10 years.

As I was cleaning the house the past few days, I came across my make-up brushes. Sure enough, they've lasted for over 10 years. Purchased at 17, they are still in wonderful condition. I clean them religiously and store them properly... who knows how long I'll have them!!

I just love products like this... wonderfully made and that stands the test of time. Sure, I have to give my brushes a bath every few months. But for me, that's a small cost.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Totally Gross

And this is why it's vitally important to deep clean:

This is underneath my oven... three crayons, one pencil, two marbles, one Barie toy syringe, one hair band, some purple thing, 40 cents, and years of dust. Apparrently the family here before us had a girl and never took the time to deep clean :)

It feels good to know all of that stuff isn't lurking under my oven anymore.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fall Cleaning

So, Matt is away in Boston visiting some high school friends for the weekend. That means I'm cleaning the house. But it's not just cleaning: I'm super-dee-duper cleaning for fall!! And honestly, it's the perfect day for it... pouring rain, wind, and grey skies.

When I sat down to make a room-by-room list of everything I needed to do for this, I was overwhelmed, to say the least. But, I finally checked out Fly Lady and she has a pretty good list. I'm a fan of Fly Lady because she's real and is very encouraging in the home making department. I know she is a bit over the top sometimes (getting dressed to the shoes??) and her style is by no means practical for everyone, but overall she's a winner

Here is her list for doing a detailed cleaning of your home:
The List

Now, there are things I'm adding because I'm viewing this cleaning journey like spring cleaning in the fall. I'll be washing pillows, wiping walls, and cleaning behind the fridge, too.

Happy cleaning!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Zucchini Plan

Yesterday, with 16 zucchini/summer squash on my kitchen counter, I made a plan. How about zucchini soup?? I could cook it up now, freeze it, and then pull it out of the freezer this fall/winter. I hit the computer and found this recipe:

I tasted it and it's GREAT. I did not do the herb thing on top because:
a) I despise the taste of parsley;
b) I'm freezing the soup; and
c) I buy herbs very cautiously (except cilantro, which is the King of Herbs)... If I can't use up all of it, I try to find a way around it.

I do plan on serving this with bread... maybe a garlic-rubbed charred bread (ala Rachel Ray). This recipe took up 8 of the zucchinis. Only 8 to go! My freezer is already full of shredded zucchini from past co-op weeks... we'll be enjoying lots of zucchini bread throughout the fall :) But, I'm sure I'll end up shredding more. Luckily, Matt likes to eat zucchini raw so I keep slicing it and sending it to work with him.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Co-op This Week

Matt picked up our share this week... and we got 12 zucchinis!!! We also received:
  • 5 summer squash
  • 2 egg plants
  • 4 green peppers
  • raspberries
  • bag of peaches/nectarines
  • arugula
  • tomatoes (cherry and regular)
  • basil

I have NO idea what I'm going to do with that zucchini... any help??

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What I Really Wanted to Buy at William Sonoma

Need I say more?

It's only $899, but I'd receive $40.00 cash back plus a 1 year subscription to Food & Wine or Travel & Leisure magazine. I don't think it's going to happen...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dish Towels

Kitchen linens hold a special place in my heart. I can (and frequently do) visit home stores for hours just looking at the different options for table cloths, napkins, and towels. I invision when I would use each one, what I'd wear to match (seriously), and the meal that would go perfectly. Without doing much, linens can change the look and feel of your kitchen. And, high-end linens make me giddy... there is just something wonderful about these beautiful pieces. The colors, designs, textures, and shape somehow endure. I know- I sound crazy.

Anyway, the nice linens come at a price... the beautiful Le Jacquard Francais towles below run $20 a piece. Sure, $20 isn't bad. But, when you think about stocking your kitchen with 10 of them and then consider replacing them as stains require, it's a few hundred a year- on dish towels!! This doesn't include napkins, table clothes, or dish cloths (yes, there is a difference). So, I skip this little luxury because sadly, I live in reality.

One of my favorite "cheaper" towels are Willaim Sonoma dish towels. I've had mine about 5 years now and while some are looking rough, most have held up extraordinarily well. And, they're (only) $18/4.
While I was in Dallas a few weeks back, I popped into William Sonoma while waiting for a sweet friend at the mall. And, to my delight- they were on sale for $4.29/4!!! They had 2 colors of towels: green/pink, which I will save to use next summer, and a white/sage which is already at use in our kitchen. I am super delighted with my purchase :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Peach Pie

We've been getting peaches weekly in our co-op pick-up, so I finally decided to make a pie a few weeks ago! To date, I have made 2 of these pies and they've both been a big hit. The best part is: the recipe is so simple.

No, I didn't make my own pie crust (gasp!) but I think I will for the next one. I've heard that they're much easier than they sound. Oh- and peeling peaches is very simple with a potato peeler. I read lots of articles that said to blanche them and then peel them. I found no need to do that.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I have loved being apart of our food co-op. We get a wide variety of fresh, organic, locally grown produce delivered to our town weekly. It keeps me focused on trying new ingredients and recipes, and our meals are more diverse.

That's not to say that it's easy doing a co-op. Menu planning has changed since I get the produce on Wednesday: instead of planning on Sunday (after I've had a chance to research this week's circulars/coupons), I'm trying to plan a bit on Sunday and a bit on Wednesday. It's not the most efficient use of my time, but it's working- I think. And, you need to be flexible with what you get. Lucky for me, Matt eats ANYTHING. So, I know that whatever we get will likely be eaten if I take the time to prepare it. We've also had to be a bit understanding of how many crops the farm is yielding. Like most of the East Coast, Long Island has had a crummy summer. That translated to lots of lettuce in June (more than 2 people can eat) and no tomatoes, yet. But overall, we're happy with it- it's been the right decision for us!

This week we got:
3 red onions
3 green peppers
2 zucchinis
1 bunch of parsley
1 bunch of carrots
2 lbs of purple potatoes
1 bag of mixed lettuce
1 eggplant
1 bag of UFO peaches

We usually get more fruit, but we have tons of these cute, little peaches to help us get through the week! Not quite sure how I'm going to use all of this throughout the week, but I'll let you know!!

The Dilema

I find that I post infrequently and it bothers me. But, I think I know why: I'm very unimpressed with what I do around the home. And, I'm sure other people are equally unimpressed listening to me talk about how I followed a recipe. This was greatly reinforced when I watched "Julie and Julia" this weekend with some friends in Dallas. You will never see me bone a duck or cook a live lobster. It's just not in the cards for this girl.

But, I LOVE what I do around our home. The planning, prepping, and cooking; the sorting, organizing, and cleaning. And, I love keeping a record of it. So I'm going to continue :)

Tomorrow: this week's co-op pick-up!!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer Squash

Matt and I are about 6 weeks into our farm co-op program and we are slowly getting the hang of everything... for the first few weeks we were overwhelmed with large amounts of random produce. We get our deliveries on Wednesdays, so I'll explain more then.

Last week, we received some summer squash, aka: zuchinni. It looks like a cucumber but when you hold it, you can tell it's not as dense. Having never even purchased a zuchinni before, I didn't have a clue what I was going to do with it. Luckily, our co-op has a recipe site:

Golden Earthworm Recipes

Here is the recipe I used last night for our summer squash and Matt LOVED it. While I was preparing it, I was bit neverous... oil spattered everywhere and I was convinced I had somehow messed up this seemingly easy recipe. But, apparently it worked! Matt said he has several dishes like this before and this one was done perfectly.

Zucchini with Garlic and Dried Crushed Red Pepper


Sunday, July 12, 2009

I'm Baaaack and CVS

I have no idea what I was doing for 2 months, but I'm back!! I've been couponing and saving, but my house is embarassingly messy and I can't remember the last time I tried a new recipe (except for a braised fennel one that made me gag two nights ago). But, here goes to a summer of house-wife goodness!

I heart school supplies. In "You've Got Mail", Tom Hanks says to Meg Ryan (via email, no less), "Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address". A man after my own heart...

I digress. CVS is starting to have great deals on school supplies, and I was the first one through the doors this morning to get my fill! Here's how I did (reminder: ECBs is a CVS store credit):

Portfolio Folders: Usually $0.59 each, on sale for $0.05
No Coupon --> Total Price: 10 for $0.50

Bic Pens: Uusually $1.99, on sale for $0.99
No Coupon --> Total Price: 3 for $2.97
Earned $2.97 in ECBs --> Free!

Rulers: Usually $1.19, on sale for $0.99
No Coupon --> Total Price: 2 for $1.98
Earned $1.98 in ECBs --> Free!

Scissors: $2.99 each
No Coupon --> Total Price: 2 for $5.98
Earned $5.98 in ECBs --> Free!

Notebooks: Usually $2.29, on sale for $0.99
No Coupon --> Total Price: 2 for $1.98
Earned $1.98 in ECBs --> Free!

Glue: $0.99 each
No Coupon --> Total Price: 2 for $1.98
Earned $1.98 in ECBs --> Free!

8-Hour Tylenol: Usually $5.99, on sale for $3.99
Used $2 Coupon --> New Price: $1.99
Earned $3 ECBs --> -$1.01 (aka: Money Maker)

Gillete Fusion Razor: Usually $9.99, on sale for $7.99
Used $4 Coupon --> New Price: $3.99 Earned $4 ECBs --> Free!

Total for items without sale prices/coupons= $44.06
Total for items using sale prices and coupons= $22.66 (incl tax)
Used $9.93 in ECBs from last week
Final Price= $12.73
Total ECBs Earned= $21.89 ($9 more than I spent!)

So, what am I going to do with this stuff?? We will definitely use some of it and the rest is marked for donation!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Super Yummy Brownies

We hosted our Bible study last night and I finally got a chance to make these cheesecake brownies.  I printed the recipe about a year ago but somehow, I never made it.  These are really good and really easy.  I like them best straight out of the fridge.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Stamp Out Hunger

Since I've been collecting canned goods on super-sale for the past few months, I have lots to give away to those in need!  The US Postal Service (whom I love... getting mail is one of the highlights of my life- seriously) will be collecting non-perishables on their mail-routes tomorrow and delivering the goods to local food banks.  You can bet that I plan on cleaning out our basement pantry!!  The great thing is that you just have to pack up the goods- your mail carrier takes care of everything else- easy peasy.  Learn more:

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Baking Day

Today is baking day!!  Tomorrow we are going to Disney World, and I thought we'd bring along some homemade treats for snacks and breakfasts.  It's more economical and healthier... and I get a good excuse to spend a day in the kitchen :)  Here's what we're making today:

Sour Cream Banana Bread (2 loaves)
Apple Bread (2 loaves)

Right now the banana bread is in the oven and I'm going and I'm going to do some laundry.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My (imaginary) Cutting Garden

When I grow up, I want a great cutting garden surrounding my home. I love the idea of planting and tending, so that when the time is right, I can go outside with a wide-brimmed hat and clippers, and cut beautiful bouquets right from my yard at a moment's notice. Until then, the local Stop-n-Shop flower department will suffice... I picked up these flowers for our bathroom this week. They didn't translate well on my camera phone (my camera needs to be fixed... again...) but I'm really happy with my selection. I have no idea what they're called, but I think of them as my "Dr. Seuss" flowers.

Hopefully, Matt and I can start some container gardens this month... I don't have much experience gardening- anyone have any ideas or advice?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Favorite New Top

Let's face it: I love to be comfortable. Seriously. Love. The Comfort.

And, I also love to look pulled together and cute, which can be difficult for a stay-at-home-wife because most of my day is spent, well, in the home. I can (and have) gone the entire day in my sweats, only to change just minutes before Matt gets home.

So, when I find a piece that is (a) soft and comfy; (b) cute and stylish, I nearly keel over in excitement. I purchased this Ella Moss top while in Seattle a few weeks ago. It looks great on and it's soft as can be. I know I will wear this all spring and summer, and therefore didn't mind the absurd price tag :)

I have no idea who this girl is...

Friday, April 3, 2009

Laundry Shute

These are the stairs to the basement (which is 90% finished; there is no ceiling...).  Our washer/dryer live down there; and consequently, our stairs have turned into a make-shift laundry shute:

Look closely and you'll see that I've thrown clothing, towels, boxes, buckets, and wrapping paper.  It is creeping half-up the stairs.  Not so organized or pretty... need to work on this.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Banana Bread with Sour Cream

I used to use an amazing recipe for Banana Bread... it called for coconut and raisins, and it was so moist; I would literally eat an entire loaf in one sitting.  However, Matt didn't like the recipe so I've spent the better part of the last three years finding one that he loves.  Apparently, this recipe is the one:
Matt told me several times that this recipe was a keeper... I thought the recipe was very good- the sour cream adds a bit of tartness, but I still miss my raisin/coconut recipe!

Friday, March 13, 2009


I am always amazed when I walk out of CVS... I feel like I've committed highway robbery. Here's what I got today (yes, the photo was taken in the car...):

It's only three items, but it should have cost me $13.24, but I only paid $1.59- yes folks, that's 88% off!  Here's the breakdown:

Secret Deodorant: Usually $5.49- on sale for $3.99
Used $2 Coupon --> New price: $1.99
Earned $1 Extra Buck for next week.

Crest Toothpaste: Usually $3.89- on sale for  $2.99
Used $1 Coupon --> New price: $1.99
Earned $2 Extra Bucks for next week.

Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion: $3.69
Used $1.25 Coupon --> New price: $2.44
Earned $2 Extra Bucks for next week.

Total for items without sale prices/coupons= $13.24
Total for items using sale prices and coupons= $6.59 (incl tax)
Used $5 in Extra Bucks from last week.

Final Total = $1. 59
Earned EB's = $5

And yes, these are all things we needed! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Dinner Party Review

Matt and I hosted our first dinner party in our new home last night! Some friends from church have included us in their tradition of rotating dinner each week. One couple hosts/cooks the main course, one brings a salad, one brings a dessert, and one couple is "off" and doesn't bring anything. We feel so, so blessed to have met these friends; we just laugh for hours when we're with them :)

Anyway, here is what I made:

Barefoot Contessa Turkey Meatloaf: Yes, I'm still on my BC kick... I was really excited about this dish! The online reviews for her recipe are all great and it was a good size for our group. I hadn't had meatloaf since my mom made it when I was about 5, but it was really good and very moist! Even though it takes 5 lbs of turkey, it feeds 8 well. I might up the ketchup on top to 1 cup next time. Oh, and you need a really, really large bowl to mix everything in before shaping it into a loaf :)

Glazed Carrots: I made these once before but couldn't remember them. Turns out that they aren't that memorable! They were a decent side dish, but I'm looking for new recipes...

Green Beans with Shallots: I decided to try this Food Network recipe and it was pretty good. I still like my almond, lemon, and butter green beans better, but I will make these again.

I also learned something about tea kettles... if you fill them above the "max fill" line, they over flow... who knew!?

Monday, March 2, 2009

No, I haven't disappeared or fallen into a deep hole :) It's just that my domestic life hasn't been too interesting lately... we've been busy with travels and work, so I feel like I'm keeping up just enough to get by. But, I wanted to share something that is now sitting on my desk.

Spring Cleaning
Are you ready for it? I'm not, but I love the list. It makes me want her book!!

Also, I'm having 2 other couples for dinner tomorrow night! Matt and I have been included in a dinner party group that meets at a different home every Tuesday. There are usually 4 couples, but one can't make it this week. It's finally our turn to host and I'm really excited. We have a snow-day today so I'll be spending most of it sorting, organizing, and cleaning so that the house looks nice. Matt was super excited that it snowed because it meant that he could get away with NOT raking up the leaves (yes, Matt never raked before the snow fell... so, we have to deal with leaves in the spring). I'm trying a few new recipes for the dinner, and I'll be sure to post how they turn out.

More to come later!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Awesome Day at Stop-and-Shop

Thanks to The Wandering Peanut, I scored some great deals today at Stop-n-Shop!! I'm actually still basking in the glow of saving so much money :)

We didn't need much this week, since we're heading back to Seattle for 5 days. But, it happened to be a great time to stock up on some staples. What should have cost me $99, cost me $57 (it will be $53 once I get my Windex rebate). That's almost half-off!! And, it's either all natural and organic products, or great deals on canned food to donate.

My purchases for our home included:
2 bottles of salad dressing for $1
All natural frozen corn: FREE
12 organic chicken breasts for $10 (plus a $3 coupon off my next purchase)
5 big cans of organic tomatoes for $9
Bags of frozen organic potatoes, raspberries, blueberries, edamame, and corn for $10.
10 organic chicken drumsticks for $3

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Matt and I have a new favorite enchilada recipe, but I'm nervous to share it. It's delicious and simple, but it's about as Mexican as Taco Bell. But still, who am I withhold this yumminess?

Depending on where you live, your experience of finding green enchilada sauce will remind you of Indiana Jones finding the Holy Grail. Long Island happens to be one of these places. It took me weeks to find a can. It was hiding in an all-organic store. 15oz cost me $4.49. (You will need about 25oz). Yes, you can make your own. If you have or know of a good recipe, let me know... I'm trying this one next week:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Coconut Cookies

I had a hankering for coconut the other night... lucky for me, I found some in the pantry and made these. They were SO good!! The recipe says it makes 3 dozen, but unless you make miniature cookies, I don't see that happening... I got about 15 cookies out of this.

Chewy Coconut Cookies
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C.) Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in the coconut.
3. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto an un greased cookie sheet. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
4. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly toasted. Cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What-Did-I-Make Wednesday

When I first starting cooking (really cooking meals for Matt and I), I always searched for the easiest recipe. And, I was thrilled if it actually was an all-inclusive meal... I could not handle more than one thing at a time! Yes, there were many nights of burned dishes and choice words... But, I'd always throw together a mixed green salad for the illusion of working hard in the kitchen:)

One of my favorite newbie resources was used Real Simple's "Fake It- Don't Make It" recipes. While I've moved-on from these, one recipe has stuck around our home. It's the Shepherd's Pie. It's a warm, hearty meal and perfect for a day like today when we have a foot of snow on the ground. And, since we have tons of potatoes just hanging around, I've decided to make it tonight.

Easy Shepherd's Pie

1 pound ground beef
1/3 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
8 ounces frozen mixed vegetables (such as carrots, peas, and corn), thawed
1/4 cup (1 ounce) shredded Cheddar (optional, but we always add cheese...)
1 16-ounce package refrigerated or frozen and thawed mashed potatoes (I never used these, but chose to make my own)

1. Heat oven to 400° F.
2. Place the beef in a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat until no trace of pink remains, about 5 minutes.
3. Spoon off and discard any fat. Stir in the ketchup and Worcestershire. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
4. Spoon the beef mixture into a baking dish. Mix the cheese (if using) with the potatoes in a medium bowl.
4. Spread the potatoes over the beef and bake until heated through, 10 minutes.
5. Divide among individual plates.

Monday, February 2, 2009

This Week at CVS

I mentioned before that I'm starting to really love shopping at CVS. Why? Because they have the greatest Customer Loyalty program and I'm racking up free items :) When you purchase certain items with your member's card, you get an ECB (Earned Cash Back... it's literally like a gift certificate for a future CVS purchase). Here's what I purchased today:

Gillette Shampoo
Cost: $5.99 (used a $2 coupon) --> $3.99
Earned ECB: $3.00

Natural Dentist Healthy Gums Rinse
Cost: $6.99 (used a $2 coupon) --> $4.99
Earned ECB: $4.00
I purchased two of these (and used two coupons) so that I could actually get money back with a $10 mail-in-rebate. Thanks, BeCentsAble!

** I also had $3 worth of ECBs (gift certificate to CVS) that I used during my purchase.

Total without coupons: $19.97
Total with coupons: $10.97
Earned ECB's: $11
MIR Check:$10

If you consider ECB's like cash (I do because I use them on things we actually need...), we paid nothing for these 3 items and actually made $10! So, in a small, small way- it's like I was paid to shop :)

Sunday, February 1, 2009


I read somewhere that an easy way to save money was to cut dryer sheets in half. Sure, you're only saving cents/load, but essentially, you'd be getting your dryer sheets for half-off... not bad.

I tried it tonight.

It didn't work.

All of our clothes are full of static and they aren't as soft.

So, save yourself the time and energy- splurge on a full dryer sheet :)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cleaning Out

Purging clutter and junk can be so good for the soul!! If you need any additional reasons, check out Martha's 100-Reasons-To-Get-Rid-Of-It. I can't wait to clean out some more...

I have a confession...

... I love getting a bargain.  Anytime I can save money on something, I'm thrilled.  

But, I also have my staples on which I splurge: I'll literally show up to Marshall's wearing an outfit that could pay the rent just to save an extra 50% on an already reduced post-seasonal item.

My recent conquest to save money has been on groceries... learning how to effectively/efficiently comparison shop and use coupons- it's been a little stressful at times, but totally worth it!!  It's getting a little trickier now that we're moving towards organics.  But, I'm still doing well (and very thankful for store brand organics)... I spent $60 on our groceries today (it should last through the end of next week) when it should have cost around $80.

My favorite way to save money is at CVS.  I have been learning their customer loyalty program (aka: free card) for the past few months, thanks to some blogs that I now read daily (thank you, and Two weeks ago I got $9 worth of items for $0.09- seriously.  And this week, I got a big bottle of Head and Shoulders for $0.79 (it's about $6.75 regularly).

YES- I have boundaries for saving money:
1. It has to fit in the budget;
2. We have to have a place to put it; and
3. It has to be something that we can actually use (or donate to a local non-profit).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Great Play-Doh Recipe

I know that play-doh isn't a standard kitchen creation. But, working with kids, you come across a lot of make-your-own-play-doh recipes; and, most of them are poor substitutes for the real thing. However, I made one today that is actually really great- it's smooth and soft and really moist. And, the ingredient list is simple and sweet :)

1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup corn starch
3/4 cup water

1. Mix the baking soda and corn starch in a pot.
2. Use hands to make sure all the lumps are broken up.
3. Add water.
4. Heat the pan on the stove over medium heat and stir constantly.
5. As soon as the mixture gathers together (a little over 5 minutes), remove from the heat. When it cools (about 45 minutes), knead it into a smooth play dough.

Note: If you don't stir continually, it will stick and burn (and stink). Also, don't over cook this play dough or it will crumble when used.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Black Bean Soup

I got this recipe from my mom, Ellen.  Most people love it:

3T olive oil
1/2c. yellow onion, chopped
2 small garlic cloves, minced
1t ground cumin
3/4c. celery, chopped
3/4c. carrot, chopped
3c. chicken broth
3 - 15.5oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
juice from 1 lime
1T tomato paste

1. In a large pot, heat the oil.  Add onion and garlic, and cook until tender
2. Stir in cumin and cook 1 minute.
3. Add celery, carrot, stock, and beans.  Heat to boiling.
4. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes.
5. Stir in the lime juice and tomato paste.
6. Puree soup in the blender (note: when mixing hot soup in blender, only fill the blender about 1/3 full, as hot liquid expands).

This soup is great for freezing.  I serve with sour cream and a warm, crusty bread.  Enjoy!

What-Did-I-Make Wednesday

Side Note: Well, in the past week my "domesticity" has pretty much revolved around unpacking boxes, sorting, organizing, and putting-away. The bad part is that we're going on 2 1/2 months of this, but the good part is that it's almost done (seriously...)

Whenever I go out of town, I like to leave something for Matt. I used to write him a letter for everyday I was gone (awwww....), until I found that he never opened them, much less read them. So, now I leave food- a much more reasonable gesture. I have completely monopolized the kitchen, so Matt has no idea where anything is (you should see him try to unload the dishwasher). I'm sure he would survive without the meals; and I'm sure he would just head to the closest grocery store and buy 10 Budget Gourmets for $10. Economical, yes. Healthy, not so much.

This weekend, I'm heading to Dallas to see Kim, my amazing college roommate. (I haven't seen her since August and I'm going crazy.) We're going to shop, see friends, celebrate her promotion, etc. Matt, on the other hand, is staying home with Hula, so I'm starting his "leave behind" meals today.

This is what he's slated to get:
Sun dried tomato pasta (in fridge for Friday night and Saturday lunch)
Black Bean Soup (freezer meal)
Tomato Soup (freezer meal)
I am freezing a loaf of french bread (sliced in half) for his soups. The boy will freak without something to dip in his soup.
Hummus with freshly sliced carrots and Naan
Homemade chocolate chip cookies
Homemade strawberry lemon muffins

I will also do a shopping trip right before he goes and get things like bananas, chips/salsa, and Pirate's Booty. Does this sound like a lot of food?? Not for Matt. Matt consumes like a beast.

Long story short: tonight I am making the black bean soup and will post the recipe later.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What-Did-I-Make Wednesday??

It's that time of year- the Stony Brook student athletes are being reviewed for the academic eligibility. This means long, stressful meetings for Matt and the academic advisors. I decided I would cheer them up with some yummy treats! I delivered these goodies today:

Sun Dried Tomato Dip: I admit it; I am addicted to the Barefoot Contessa (thanks, Lil!). I use light/reduced fat ingredients for this dip and by "good mayo", I use Helman's Light and it still turns out great :) I serve with carrots, celery, tortilla chips, and pretzels.

Apple Muffins: I got to use the apples I froze back in the fall!! I felt so domestic pulling the labeled and dated zip-loc from the freezer and taking the appropriate amount. These muffins are really good. I make them in large muffin pans so it looks like they're from a bakery.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


As I mentioned in my last post, we joined a CSA for the upcoming spring, summer, and fall. What is a CSA?? Good question! A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) is like having a farm membership. Members (like me) pay a fee and "buy into" the farm. Every week, we receive a variety of fresh, organic produce. Some CSA's require members to work on the farm in addition to paying a membership fee. I made sure to find one that did not require labor :) You can learn more about CSA's at

We decided to join The Golden Earthworm ( Besides having an awesome name, it delivers the food about a mile from our home. I'll go on Wednesday afternoons and pick up our fresh produce (if I miss the pick-up, they simply donate the food to a food bank). We decided to join a CSA because:

1. it's organic, making it healthier for us and for the community. Pesticides ruin soil and compromise the water quality.
2. it's local, meaning healthier for us and healthier for the community. Supporting local farms is a wonderful way to be involved in the community and support our neighbors. Not that our neighbors are farmers...
3. it'll help me think "out of the box" for cooking...

While I'm super excited about this, I'm really nervous, too. There's no guarantee about which produce you'll receive. It's all based on what was harvested that week. So, I could easily end up with 6 types of produce that I a) don't like, and b) have no clue what to do with. I guess I'll be getting creative in the kitchen during the harvest :) People who are super-CSA-ers will freeze much of their produce to help them get through the winter months. We will not be those people :)

To find a CSA near you, visit and type in your zip code! Some CSAs will actually deliver to you door every week- you can't beat that!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Home Making Goals 2009

Do you know what favorite part of New Year's Resolutions? That there's no day when everyone sits down and evaluates their progress (or lack-there-of).

I didn't post these sooner because I'm still working with them... I almost ditched this exercise all-together. Making a list of goals is tough for me. I LOVE planning, sorting, and organizing. But- I also love letting ideas and routines develop organically based on current needs, future desires, and the people around me. Life isn't consistent, so why would my goals remain consistent for an entire year?? Consequently, this list below is a bit uneven: some resolutions are very specific, while others are just grand ideas. In no particular order:

1. Move towards an organic, locally grown. seasonal diet/menu/shopping experience. I already joined a CSA... more on that to come!
2. Purchase more "whole" foods, less pre-packaged foods.
3. Learn how to (and actually practice) canning/freezing techniques.
4. Move towards home-made, chemical free cleaning solvents.
5. Re-think our use of the dry-cleaners. I may look into wet cleaning, instead.
6. Create (and stick to) a functional cleaning schedule.
7. Learn to knit... I hope I can find someone to teach me!
8. Practice cake decorating.
9. Enjoy at least 1 craft project/week.
10. Reduce our grocery bill monthly.
11. Get rid of any toxic products in the house. Replace with healthier options.
12. Purchase "fair-trade" whenever possible.
13. Take a quilting class.
14. Make the bed at least 5 times/week. I am really, really bad about this.

Do you have any good ones??

Happy New Year!!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve Menu Review

How did I do?? Not too badly! I spent the day leisurely making the meal (in my new apron- thanks, Roomie!!). I baked the cake in the morning and then did the Parmesan croutons around noon. I frosted the cake around 1:30pm and then took a break to clean up the kitchen/house and do my hair :) Then, I blanched the green beans so they'd cook faster and vacuumed the house with our brand-new, special pet-hair vacuum. By this time, Matt came home with a twisted ankle from his run- poor guy! Here is a review of our meal:

Parker's Split Pea Soup: This soup was very, very yummy. The recipe says to skim the foam from the top of the soup, but not much acquired through the cooking. It also reminds you to stir frequently so that the veggies won't stick to the bottom- I found this very true in the last 20 minutes of cooking. I pulled the soup off the burner about 5 minutes early, as it was really thickening up. I'll add more chicken stock when I reheat it today.

Parmesan Croutons: There was way too much salt called for in this recipe and not enough Parmesan cheese! I added more cheese as I went but didn't realize how much salt was on them until it was too late. Next time, I will edit the ingredients :) Matt didn't think there was too much salt on the croutons, but I thought it was worse that a potato chip. My throat actually hurt from the salt... Regardless, they are pretty yummy- we each had about 4 in our soup!

Main Course:
Pan Seared Fillet Mignon with a Cabernet Sauce: This was pretty good and pretty easy to make. HOWEVER, the recipe says to put the cab in a hot pan. I did and it was a big, BIG mistake. The wine popped and spatted all over the kitchen. The floor, my clothes, the counter, the stove top, the cabinets, the ceiling, etc were all covered with wine. Next time, I will let the pan cool a bit before adding the wine... think "warm" pan- NOT "hot" pan.

Mustard-Roasted Potatoes: Matt thought these were good, but I thought they were really good. The mustard flavor was pretty subtle so I might add another tablespoon next time. And, the prep was so easy and so was the cooking, which is always nice! After popping these bad boys in the over (I used a mini turkey roasting pan), all I did was stir every 20 minutes. They cooked the perfect amount and I can't wait to finish them today!

String Beans with Shallots: These were just beans to me... I couldn't really taste anything else. I really like green beans, so I'm ok with that. I guess I just expected more. Both Matt and I prefer this green bean recipe (and no, I do not use all of the butter that it calls for because, well, beans are supposed to be healthy):

Coconut Cake: It was amazing!! Seriously- go make this cake!!!! It does make a lot of icing, so there's plenty to cover every last bit of cake. Make sure you put enough frosting between the layers and keep frosting until you're out! I did have one goof making it... I didn't realize that I had an 8" and a 9" cake pan until after the cakes were baked. Oops. But, it's nothing that some creative cutting with a serrated knife can't fix. It's a BIG cake, so I could only eat half of my small slice. I think I'll try the cupcakes, too :)

Overall, I was really happy with our dinner (and thankful that Matt cleaned the wine off of the ceiling while I kept our meal on track)! I did notice that I don't have a cake leveler, so I may have to pick one up with my 50% off coupon from Michael's tomorrow :)

Happy New Year!!