Thursday, October 31, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Week 7 & 8 Shopping Trips

I know you're all dying to know how I did with the $1.61 I had left for two weeks so without further ado let me tell you. 

During week 7 (aka last week) Liam and I went to NO stores.  We spent $0 last week on groceries.  So yeah, I still had the $1.61 left for this week and I made it.  

Well sort of.  

Ok, I went over by $0.18.  But I really needed to buy some eggs so I could make cupcakes for Will's birthday.  Normally I buy them about 4 dozen at a time from McCord's because they sell them for $0.99/dozen every 4-6 weeks.  However they haven't had them on sale in a while and I ran out.  I was going to wait but birthday cupcakes for my man were practically an emergency so I stopped at Meijer and picked up a dozen for $1.79

Part of the reason we were able to make it work is because we spent several days with Will's parents and of course they fed us (quite well in fact!) so that was less food that we had to use from our pantry.  We also had someone drop off several bags of groceries while we were gone.  This was an amazing blessing that I'll go into a little more in another post!

So technically we didn't make it, but I'm good with how we did!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Week 6 Shopping Trip

Well, if you remember my last shopping trip post you'll recall that I changed my way of buying groceries for this month.  Previously I was only spending $10/week on groceries.  However when Meijer ran their "10 items for $10 and get the 11th item free" deal I decided to switch to $40/month (or 4 weeks to be precise) so I could spend a little more on that sale.  Last week was the first week of this endeavor and I spent $27.73 which left me with $12.27 for the rest of the month. So lets see how I did!

My first trip was to Sam's Club on Wednesday where I picked up 3 gallons of milk at $1.99 each.  I also had to purchase toilet paper because we're almost out and that's not something I want to run out of!  Thankfully Sam's toilet paper is always a good deal, often better than I can usually get even on Amazon.

My grocery total for this trip was $5.97

My "other" total for this trip was $17.47 (for the toilet paper)

Then on Friday Liam and I hit up McCord's for some bananas, eggs, raisins, and one avocado.  I forgot to take a picture of my purchases so you'll just have to imagine how artfully I could have arranged them for you *wink*.

My grocery total for this trip was $4.69

My grocery total for week 6 was $10.66 and my total other spending was $17.47

That leaves me $1.61 for the next two weeks.  This could get interesting folks so stay tuned to see if I can make it!

And just so this post isn't completely picture-less here's a picture of my ever present kitchen "helper"...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Week 5 Shopping Trip

I haven't had a chance to post about the Spending Freeze lately because I have been crazy busy!   Between potty training Liam, canning applesauce (my first canning experience ever!), and helping to plan and execute a fundraising banquet I haven't had much time to sit down, let alone compose a post.  Now that life has slowed down, with the exception of canning applesauce, I feel like I have time to give you guys an update!

I finally found time (and money) to go shopping last Friday morning.  So it had been 11 days since my previous trip.  Will gets paid on Thursdays so I wanted to wait until payday before I went again.  This was an "expensive" week for grocery shopping.  For those of you who are familiar with Meijer they had their "10 Items for $10 and get the 11th Free" deal going on.  And those of you who are familiar with me know that I have a hard time passing these deals up because they can be extremely good.

There were so many good deals in this round of "10 for $10" and I knew I could definitely spend more than $10.  Unfortunately I had a conundrum on my hands.  Should I spend more than $10 and stock up on some much needed items, or should I stick strictly to my $10/week?  It was a really hard decision but I think I came up with a good compromise.  I decided that this month, instead of having $10/week I would give myself $40 for the whole month.  That way I wouldn't have to scrimp on purchasing things we could really use in the near future that were part of the "10 for $10".

So on Friday I stopped at 3 stores with my newly potty trained little buddy!  Thankfully he lasted through all 3 stores without needing to make a stop.  I'm LOVING having him potty trained!

Anyway, here's a picture of the results from our shopping trips:

Our first trip was McCord's where we picked up a $0.99 clearance bag of plums, 2 bags of shredded cheese (cheddar and mozzarella) and a couple pounds of bananas.  The plums (there were 12) were in excellent condition, definitely not what you normally consider "clearanced".   Another reason why I love, love, love McCords!  My total for this trip: $5.38

After McCords we hustled on over to Meijer to cash in on the "10 for $10" deal.  We picked up the following:
  • 6 bags of pretzels (we use these for snacks and Will's lunch)
  • 4 bottles of salad dressing - 2 ranch and 2 ceasar (we use these for stromboli, pizza, quesadillas, and of course salads)
  • 4 jars of salsa (we use these in southwest chicken casserole and other Mexican themed dishes)
  • 2 cans of pumpkin (it was really hard to only buy 2 cans!)
  • 2 cans of refried beans (I know, I know, I could make them for less but with all the canning and other things I've been making from scratch this was a concession I was willing to make)
  • 2 bags of tortillas (ditto the above comment)
  • 1 bag of hot dog buns
  • apple juice
  • 2 packages of butter
My total for this trip was $22.35 

So the total for my Week 5 grocery shopping trip was: $27.73

I also purchased 40lbs of cat litter for $10.60 (a crazy good deal at Meijer and something I said we would continue to buy) and then Liam and I buzzed over to Walmart where I picked up a 21 quart canning pot for $21.17.  I really needed this pot in order to can  applesauce.  I purchased a pot a while ago that had been labeled "canning pot" but it didn't hold my quart jars.  Big problem!  Technically I'm not counting this as money spent because I used the money I make from teaching piano lessons which is not counted as part of our regular income.  We generally save this money to pay to have my piano tuned and for gifts throughout the year. 

Other spending: $31.77

By the way, if you're looking for a piano teacher for your beginner kiddos I've got openings!!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Week 4 Shopping Trip

I know, I know!  I just went grocery shopping on Friday.  In my defense I really only stocked up on basics (flour, milk, etc) so I decided to get my grocery shopping done early this morning in order to help supplement this week's meals.  Plus if you get to McCords (our awesome, little local supermarket) early enough you can get $0.99 bags of produce!

So without further ado here are the results of my shopping trips:

First up McCords!

Liam and I headed out bright and early to McCords and picked up the following:
  • 3lbs of bananas (7 bananas)
  • 2 15oz cans of kidney beans
  • 3lb bag of locally grown onions
  • 2 $0.99 bags of clearance produce
We got the following in our two clearance bags:

We got 4 tomatoes, 5 kiwis, and 4 lemons for $0.99!
In our 2nd bag we got 3 oranges, 1 grapefruit, 1 giant lemon (I think), and a 2lb bag of purple onions for $0.99!

I plan on zesting and juicing the lemons and then freezing the zest and juice for use in recipes later on.  I will also be dicing the purple onions and freezing them because they are nearing the point of "use it or lose it".  We will keep the other onions in cold storage in our basement with produce from our garden. If you notice, none of the clearance produce is in terrible shape.  I think I will have to toss one of the purple onions, but everything else is great!  Side note:  Liam had his first kiwi today and downed the whole thing in under 20 seconds.  I think he liked it...

McCords Shopping Trip Total: $5.15

Next Stop: Meijer!

I purchased the following items:
  • 3 boxes of Meijer Macaroni & Cheese
  • 2 cans of corn
  • 1 can of sweet peas
  • 1 bag of frozen peas and carrots
  • 2 Steak and Cheese Burritos
  • 2 Breakfast Burritos
  • 12 oz bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar (not pictured)
Apple Cider Vinegar was not my first choice for using one of my precious $10 but we have a fruit fly problem and I used the last of my stash yesterday.  I rarely, if ever, purchase frozen burritos, but at $0.16 a pop after coupons I couldn't resist. I can't even make them that cheap!  It also helped that the canned veggies and mac and cheese were both 3 for $1 this week.  I'm envisioning soup additions with those veggies!

Meijer Shopping Trip Total: $4.54

Grocery Shopping Trip Grand Total: $9.69!

So yeah, we slid in right under $10.  Don't worry, I'll be keeping you updated about how our meals are working out!

PS:  In case you're wondering about the first couple comments on this post... I accidentally published the post before I typed a single letter in the body of the post :-)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Week 3 & A Shopping Trip

We're just finishing week 3 of our Spending Freeze Adventure.   If you have no idea what I'm talking about check out this post here to find out more about the crazy adventure we're on!

This week we took our first official grocery trip after we spent the afternoon at ArtPrize. As I mentioned in my original Spending Freeze post I am planning to spend no more than $10 each week to feed my family of 3.   I know it seems crazy, but we do have a small stockpile of food in the basement so I think we'll make do for a while.  

Since we were going to be in Grand Rapids for ArtPrize we decided to do our shopping at Sam's.  With $10.  Yeah, it was a crazy idea.  To be honest if we lived closer to Sam's or Aldis I think I could do $10/week for food fairly easily.  However being 40 minutes away from the nearest Sam's and Aldis does not make weekly shopping there feasible.  That being said I knew my $10 for the week was not going to go very far, especially since I knew I could stand to stock up on flour (I'm baking my own bread now) and milk (it's only $1.99!), among other things. 

I started praying that God would provide more money for us to stock up on a few items.  After perusing Sam's website I determined that I could really use $40 to buy the following items: 25lbs of flour, 1 canister of basil (since Liam dumped mine and I use it a lot), 5 gallons of milk (we freeze it), salt, 2 rotisserie chickens (they're only $4.88!) and a pair of winter pajamas for Liam (they have the cheapest new fleece pajamas around).  I began praying specifically for that amount.  

God answered my prayer in two phases.  First, I suddenly remembered that I had gotten a $5 gift card from Sam's in the mail recently.  I was going to use it when we stocked up at Sam's before beginning the Spending Freeze but Will went for me instead and I didn't have a chance to give it to him.  So I tucked that into my wallet along with my $10.  Then, a couple days later I unexpectedly received $25 as a gift for something that I had done for some friends thus giving me the exact amount I had prayed for.

So we stopped at Sam's on our way home from ArtPrize and picked up the flour, milk, chicken, salt, basil, and pajamas.  Our total: $39.09!  So I guess technically we spent more than $10 but the money beyond the $10 didn't come from our bank account so I'm willing to let it slide. 

Then we went home and I made one of our favorites:  Southwest Chicken and Rice Casserole!

And lest you think we don't eat very well I'll recap a few of the meals from this week:

  • Cold Cereal
  • Baked Oatmeal
  • Toast
  • Fresh Fruit
  • PB&J
  • Deli Meat Sandwiches
  • Fresh Fruit/Vegetables
  •  Ham and Cheese Stromboli
  • Will was able to score free lunch at work several days this week
  • Leftover Chicken Teriyaki and Rice (with peppers from our garden) from last week
  • Chicken Alfredo Pasta, Zucchini sauteed with Italian Dressing and Tomatoes, Salad, Breadsticks
  • Ditto (we had it Tuesday night with Will's parents and then ate leftovers on Thursday)
  • Popcorn (because we leave for church on Wednesdays shortly after Will gets home from work I feed Liam dinner before we leave and Will and I have popcorn when we get home)
  • Southwest Chicken and Rice Casserole with corn on the cob (we'll have the leftovers next week!)
  • Pizza (our Saturday night/Sunday afternoon tradition)
See!  We're not going hungry at all! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Frugal Fun

Just because we aren't spending any money doesn't mean we can't have any fun...

Today my husband took a much deserved day off.  He was sweet enough to watch Liam while I got my haircut (don't worry, I had saved up for this before the spending freeze).  Then when I got home we headed out to ArtPrize.  If you're not from the area or familiar with ArtPrize it's the world's largest art competition and gives the world's largest prize for contemporary art.  You can check it out here!   They give out prizes based on public voting and as well as juried prizes.

This is a great opportunity to have a frugal, fun day with your family, but it also works well as a field trip if you live in the area and homeschool your children.  There are so many great opportunities for art discussion because the variety is extensive!  It would be fairly easy to spend a bunch of money at some of the food vendors, but all you really need is some spare change for a parking meter, the rest is free!

So we headed out and used all the spare change in our car to park for a few hours at a meter downtown.  We spent some time looking at exhibits around the riverfront area.  Here were a couple of our favorites!
This guy would stand absolutely still for the longest time and then would "come to life" and put on a show.

We loved this piece!

This one was unique and we liked the 3D aspect of it.

This one was gorgeous!

This one was a lot of fun!

I thought this dress made out of measuring tape was intriguing!

So many ties!  Looks like part of Will's closet...

This one cracked us up.  However we were a little disappointed to find out that he had created/painted all the license plates and signs; they weren't real.

As we meandered our way along the river we stopped in a nice shady place to eat the lunch we packed.  It was a beautiful (though warm) day and we enjoyed the rest and shade!  And Liam enjoyed some time out of the stroller and a yummy honey crisp apple (courtesy of Will's nice boss who has his own honey crisp orchard)!  Our total out of pocket cost for this day of fun was $1.85 that we paid for our parking meter.

Always stealing someone's shades, but never willing to wear his own...

Be still, my beating heart!

"App-poe peeeeee!"

I have so much more that I want to share about the tiny million ways God has shown His love to us since we started this adventure but I don't want to overwhelm you guys!  I'll share one quick little example: Today we were able to find a great parking spot at a parking meter that still had a considerable amount of time left on it!  It may seem small, but it was still an encouragement to us and stretched our $1.85 even further!

Hopefully I'll have a post up tomorrow about our first official grocery shopping trip of this spending freeze and whether or not I was able to stick to my $10/budget...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Revenge of the Spice Drawer Bandit

It would appear that Liam isn't quite sure about the Spending Freeze Adventure that we started recently...

A few days ago he used his favorite little stool to get a hold of a fork and then headed on over to the fruit bowl to see what kind of damage he could inflict. 

Thankfully I got to him pretty quickly and only one apple fell victim to fruiticide.  Yeah, I totally made that word up.

So then this morning I was out on our enclosed front porch talking on the phone because it's one of only two places in our house that gets reliable cell phone service.  I was watching Liam The Spice Drawer Bandit through the big picture window we have between our living room and the front porch.  He was busy playing with a toy so I figured he would be fine.  He ducked out of my sight for just a couple seconds, but I just thought he was getting another toy.  As I was watching through the window he climbed up onto the couch, which is up against the window and starts knocking on the window and laughing.  Then, before I even knew what was happening he dumped my 3/4 full shaker of dried basil leaves on the top of our couch.  Are you kidding me?  He's laughing hysterically and I'm saying "No Liam, no!"  and the lady I was talking to on the phone was laughing me.

I have thus determined that Liam wants me to spend more money on groceries that I'm supposed to.  Especially with the way he goes through bananas!  I suppose that since his current favorite cartoon is Curious George it's appropriate but man he goes bananas for bananas.  He has one almost every day for breakfast, and before he's even all the way done he's already pointing at his plate saying, "Nan-nan, pleeeeeee".  

Liam likes to make sure his bananas have company

Thankfully keeping up with his banana cravings shouldn't be too difficult because we have been wonderfully blessed with a little supermarket in our hometown that rotates rock-bottom sale prices on produce.  Their bananas are ALWAYS $0.39/lb and about every 3-4 weeks they go on sale for $0.33/lb.  That is an amazing price for a) being in Michigan and b) not being a Costco or Sam's Club.  So needless to say we go through a lot of bananas in our house.  I'll be talking a little more about this wonderful supermarket in the future and how it helps me stick to my grocery budget!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Spending Freeze Adventure: Introduction and Weeks 1 & 2

I know in the past I've not been very good at keep my blog updated but I think this last "break" really takes the cake for the longest time between posts!  I'm actually a little embarrassed by it, especially because I don't really have a good reason for it.  Basically I've been blog lazy...

So anyway I want to talk a little bit about being frugal.  I've talked before about bill paying but I wanted to go a little more in-depth about finances and talk about our newest financial adventure; a spending freeze! Before I get into that though I want to give you a little background.  

We've been down to one income now for almost 2 years.  Thus far it has been an interesting and sometimes frustrating journey.  We had been using a loose budget since we were first married and it was really helpful.  Before we had our little guy and I was working full time we were doing just fine.  We knew that when we had kids I would stay home so we decided to live on Will's income and use my income to pay off debt.  We paid off all of my Bachelors and Masters degree debt and we also paid off about a quarter of our mortgage.  So thankfully, by the time Liam was born we were technically debt free, with the exception of our mortgage.

We decided to be a little more strict with our budget once we were down to one income and it seemed to be ok.  However we got lazy with our budget and I got lazy with the grocery shopping and we had unexpected expenses.  Soon our savings account was dwindling and I couldn't figure out why we weren't ever adding to it! I also stopped relying on God to provide for our needs and started worrying. We certainly had enough money to pay our bills, give to our church, and purchase food and gas, but there never seemed to be anything extra to set aside for the future.  I was getting frustrated.  At this point I realized that I had indeed stopped relying on God to meet our needs and I was repentant.

I decided last month to take a hard look with fresh, faith-filled eyes at our current finances and our projected finances once our new, more expensive health care kicks in next month.  Most people can see an immediate difference in their finances when they cut out their daily trips to Starbucks or weekly eating out but we already had a bare-bones budget.  We don't have smart phones or cable, we don't eat out, we don't have A/C in our house and Will carpools so we don't spend an obnoxious amount of money each month in gas for him to get to and from work (it's about 80 miles round trip for him).  That being said, once I totaled the cost of our monthly bills, our tithing, and food and gas expenses I realized that we could potentially be putting $500 each month into our savings account if we didn't buy anything but the basics.  

I was flabbergasted, to say the least!  I mean obviously there are miscellaneous expenses that come along, but our budget was *supposed* to account for those.  Frankly I could NOT figure out where in the world the money had gone and I was ashamed, especially because the Bible frequently encourages Christians to be good stewards of the money with which He has blessed them. 

So now to the Spending Freeze Part:

Right around the time I had my epiphany I read this blog post about going on a month-long spending freeze and I was very intrigued by the idea.  I knew we needed do something a little different since our budget is already very basic.  After some time spent in prayer I believe that this is a good option for my family.  I know this idea won't work for everyone, but I think it will for us.  

The gist of a spending freeze is that you pay your bills and tithe each month and that's it.  You should set some ground rules on what you can and cannot spend money and you should try to eat out of your current food stores for as long as possible.  If you don't have a stockpile of food you should do as Dave Ramsey says and go on a rice and beans diet.  

Dave Ramsey also says that you should have an Emergency Savings Account with 3-6 months worth of living expenses.  As I looked at our bank I account I realized that we do not have that.  After a few recent extra expenses we didn't even have 1 months worth, which was kind of disheartening.  We decided that the amount we wanted to save up for this account was $5,000 and that doing a spending freeze for 6 months would be a great start and should put us really close to our goal. 

We technically started our Spending Freeze Adventure September 9th, 2013 and are planning to stop around March 9th, 2014 and I plan to blog weekly about our progress!

Some of the rules we decided on besides tithing and paying our monthly bills include the following:
  • We will still get oil changes on our car.  Our local oil changing place offers them for cheaper than we can do them on our own, so we'll still get them done there on both our cars
  • We will still purchase nighttime diapers for Liam.  Though I use cloth diapers on him during the day I still haven't figured out a nighttime cloth diaper solution that doesn't require me to spend a lot of money on wool diaper covers.  That will cost us about $14 for 3 months worth of diapers
  • We will still buy kitty litter because, yeah, that's gross
  • We will spend no more than $10 each week on groceries (mostly on milk, eggs, cheese, lunchmeat, veggies and fruit).  We don't have a crazy large stockpile of food but I recently stocked up on some meat, canned veggies and other staples from Sam's Club so we're in a pretty good place. 
  • We will only buy clothes as needed for Liam.  Liam is going to need some winter PJ's soon so I plan to buy those, but he is VERY well set up already with winter clothes thanks to an awesome Moms to Moms sale I went to last fall.
  • Will's birthday and Christmas are both coming up.  Yes we will be participating in both!  We've been saving up for Christmas with each of Will's paychecks and it is a line item on our budget!
  • We will not eat out, unless of course you plan to pay ;-)
  • And I will not buy any Kindle books (it's amazing how $1.99 here and $2.99 there adds up!)
I'm sure there are other things that I'm forgetting, but for now that's it!  I'll be updating the blog soon with some struggles we've already had in the first 2 weeks of this spending freeze!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Cash Crate!

Please note: The thoughts in this post are my own and I am not being reimbursed by Cash Crate for them.  However, all links will take you directly to my referral page!

As I mentioned earlier today on Facebook I recently started using a new survey/offers website where you can earn a few (or more!) dollars each month.  Will and I have been poring over our budget recently and have been looking for a way to give our income a little boost.  The cost of gas for Will to drive to work each day has been taking it's toll so I decided to give Cash Crate a try.

You get $1 just for signing up and then you can complete varying levels of free offers (or paying offers) for different amounts of money.  There are also surveys and cash tasks that you can complete too.  In my spare time (i.e. while Liam was napping) I was able to complete almost $8 worth of offers and surveys.  I'd say that hour was well spent!  You have to earn $20 before they send you a check, but they pay every month like clock-work if you earn more than $20! 

They also have a nice referral system where you earn 20% of what people you refer earn, and then 10% of what people they refer earn.  If you bump up to the next tier of referral earning you jump to 30% and 20% respectively.  That sounds like a pretty nice deal to me!

Cash Crate has been around since 2006 and after having done some research I've come to the conclusion that it is a legitimate way to earn money online.  I really like that they also let people who earn money post pictures of their checks on the website.  It might seem like a small thing, but the additional transparency is always nice to see! 

Hopefully I'll be able to post a picture of my first check soon!  In the meantime, check out Cash Crate and let me know how it works for you!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reuben Stromboli

One of my favorite main dishes to make is stromboli.  It's a go to meal for me when I can't think of anything to make because rare is the day when I don't have all the ingredients on hand.  I make my own dough for pizza every Saturday so since I use the same dough recipe for pizza and stromboli I always have the ingredients in my cupboards.  I also love stromboli for it's versatility.  So far I've made the following variations: pizza, ham & cheese, ham & turkey, chicken bacon ranch, turkey with guacamole, and my personal favorite, chicken caesar.  I've even made a breakfast version with cheddar cheese, scrambled eggs, veggies and bacon (it was yummy, by the way).

Friday night I decided that we would have stromboli because it sounded good, but I wasn't sure what kind we would have.  I looked in the fridge and saw the sauerkraut I'd purchased recently and got an idea.  I was going to make Reuben Stromboli!

Now I don't like sauerkraut, or reubens.  In fact this bag of sauerkraut was the first bag I'd purchased in my entire life.  I know, I bring shame to my very German last name.  To my credit, it's my married name, so I'm only carrying 5 years worth of shame :-)  Anyway I knew I needed to use up the sauerkraut so I pulled it out and got to work.   I usually make a full recipe's worth of dough and we have it for leftovers, but since I knew I was making pizza the next night and the leftovers would sit for a couple days I decided to make several smaller stromboli and freeze them for Will to take to lunch.

Reuben Stomboli:
2 1/2 to 3 C all-purpose or bread flour
1 Tbsp sugar
1 Tsp salt
1 Package yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
3 Tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 C very warm water (120 to 130 degrees F)

In a large bowl mix 1 cup flour, the sugar, salt and yeast. Add oil and warm water. Beat with electric mixer on medium speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour until dough is soft and leaves sides of bowl. Place dough on lightly floured surfaced. Knead 5-8 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

Roll your dough out into the number of stromboli you want to have and place the circles on parchment lined baking sheets.  Once on the baking sheets cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 30-45 minutes or until almost doubled in size. While your dough is rising pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees F.

Or if you have a bread machine throw all the ingredients in, turn it to the dough setting and let your machine do it's thing!  When it's done follow the instructions in the above paragraph!

1 lb sliced corned beef
1 c thousand island dressing
1 1/2 c sauerkraut
1 c shredded swiss cheese
1 roma tomato, sliced (optional)
1/2 small white onion, sliced (optional)

On each dough circle choose one half that will have all the toppings.  Make sure to leave a 1/2 inch of clean dough around the perimeter of the half you are filling.  Squirt a thick line of thousand island dressing and top it with about 2 Tbsp of sauerkraut.  Place 4-5 slices of corned beef on top of the sauerkraut.  Then add a couple slices of tomato and onion and top it all with 2 Tbsp of shredded swiss cheese.  Fold the empty half of dough over top of the filled half making a half moon shape. Crimp the edges together using a fork (or see my picture below for a tutorial on a prettier fold) and cut a slice in the top to let out steam.  Brush the top with an egg wash or butter and sprinkle with freshly ground salt and pepper.

Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until golden brown on the top.

Mmmm, we think tomatoes and onions make everything a little bit better!

I made 6 small stromboli, but I probably could have gotten 8, especially if they're being used for lunch!

Whoops!  I was so focused on getting the pictures taken and getting it done before Liam woke up from his nap that I forgot I didn't want Thousand Island on mine.  I had to wipe it off and put on some ranch!

Don't forget your sauerkraut!  I actually let a couple pieces drop onto mine before I realized what I was doing.  I definitely wasn't very focused!

Mmmm, meat and veggies!

This is the pretty crust I was telling you about.  In college I worked for four years in campus dining where I learned this pizza crust technique.  It's not as difficult as it looks but it does take some practice!  I like to make sure that I leave a little extra lip of dough on the bottom half of my dough (it looks like the top half isn't quite as big in the picture above).  Then, starting at one corner stretch a little section or tab of dough out and fold it up and over the top half of the dough.  Move to the next section and do the same thing, but this time make sure that the tab you fold up and over covers the edge of the tab preceding it.  In the picture above you'll notice that in the last tab that I folded up you can see the right edge, but in all the preceding tabs you can only see the left edge.  Just keep folding little tabs up and over until you get to the other end and just fold the last tab over and push it into the dough to seal it up.

So hopefully you can enjoy some Reuben Stromboli in the near future!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Making My House A Home: Kitchen Curtains

So a long time ago (at least it seems that way) I started a series called "Making My House A Home".  I did one post and haven't done another since then.  Fortunately that doesn't mean I haven't been doing anything to make my house a home, I've just been tardy in blogging about it.

Ever since I can remember I've always wanted a bright cheery kitchen full of red accents.  During high school, or maybe even college, I can't really remember, I was at Meijer with my mom and I saw these adorable cafe style curtains that I wanted for my kitchen.  They were white cotton with a red panel at the bottom.  There were also red buttons with green stitching to make little cherries and I thought they would be perfect.  Since I didn't have my own kitchen and they weren't on sale I decided to let them go.  

Several years later I was getting ready to outfit my very own kitchen (and house) and was perusing the clearance aisle at Meijer.  Guess what I found!!  Those curtains!  I could hardly believe it, I was so excited!  Looking back I think I was more excited about the fact that the curtains that I had loved so much were still available than actually getting the curtains.  I put them up and they looked cute, but there was too much white, I wanted more red:

I don't normally keep my curtains that high, I just rehung them quickly to take a picture of them a) for the blog and b) so I could sell them online!
  After a while I decided I did indeed need more red but I didn't want to pay $20 for a new set.  I stopped in at Joann's Fabric one day to pick up some fabric for another project and happened upon this fabric:

I fell in love right away, it was classy and intricate but wouldn't be too overwhelming on our small window.  Best of all, it was on sale.  I only needed a yard and on sale it cost me just $2.25!  Now that's a bargain!  So I set to work with my sewing machine while Liam was napping.  I won't go into all the gory details but I followed this helpful tutorial and despite a few seams that look a little like a drunk person trying to walk a straight line I think they turned out pretty well:

I thought briefly about making the curtains the same height as the window because the view out that window is anything but pretty.  However I'm a big fan of natural light so I decided to just make them a couple inches taller than normal to cover some more of the less than pleasant view.   Something I didn't expect is that I've been enjoying using my sewing machine more and more.  However my skills are definitely a work in progress.  Hopefully I'll be able to post about the curtains I'm sewing for our office and the inches I added to my new dress soon!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Very Vera Bradley Birthday

So last night I had a dream that I was at the mall and this lady told me that my eyebrows were too bushy and too close together.  So every time I've looked in the mirror this morning I've been self conscious about my eyebrows :-)

That being said, last week was my birthday and it was a wonderful week.  My dad took Liam and me out for brunch and the antique shopping, which was lovely!  I was also spoiled by my two guys, my in-laws, and by my parents and I wanted to highlight a couple gifts.  As I mentioned on Facebook last week Will surprised me with a new Vera Bradley bag.  I had asked for a makeup bag because my stash has outgrown my current bag.  He went into a local Hallmark to see if they had one and instead came out with a new purse that he'd gotten for 50% off!  I love that he's trying to be frugal, but still get me something he knows I'll love!  I opened the box, which was the Vera Bradley box my purse from Christmas had come in, and cautioned myself not to get excited, thinking it must have been just the right size for the non-Vera Bradley gift he had gotten me.  Boy was I happily surprised!

On Saturday night we enjoyed tacos for my birthday with my parents and I was surprised again by a very full Vera Bradley box.  My mom had gotten such an amazing deal between sales, free shipping, and a 15% off code for her entire order that she had picked out a new makeup bag, and case for my makeup brushes, a purse, and a matching wallet!  I know Vera Bradley isn't the cheapest habit so I appreciate that my family is willing to go out of their way to find it within their price range.   So here are my fabulous bags that I can't wait to use:

And then, as I already mentioned, I was greatly spoiled by my mother and father-in-law!  I got a fantastic bundt pan and and adorable little set of salt and pepper grinders among other things.  However, my favorite gift, by far, was the jewelry box that my father-in-law made for me.  He made it out of a beautiful burled (his word, not mine) piece of box elder.  In case you're wondering "burl" (and I had to look up burled to be sure what it meant), is an abnormality in the wood that makes a beautiful and highly sought after swirl pattern in the grain of the wood.  

The other unique and amazing thing about the piece is that the bottom and top were carved completely from one piece of wood.  He didn't cut the boards and then nail or glue them together, instead he began carving a large chunk of wood and kept cutting away and carving until the entirety of my little box appeared.  He has some serious talent and thankfully he's passed a good portion of it on to Will.

Yes, he even engraved my initial:


Here's another picture of the burl:

I've come to appreciate how he inscribes the date, who it was made for and who made the piece. I like knowing that in 50 years one of my grandchildren might cherish the fact that they know their Great-Grandpapa was talented and generous with his talents:

And lastly, I was quite surprised to open the box and find that it had been lined with a velvety material and that my father-in-law had "framed" a picture of Will and myself in the lid.   Needless to say I love it and can't wait to put it to good use:

So thank you Will, Liam (who got me a Whoopie Pie recipe book, by the way), Mom, Dad, Mom and Papa Wagner, it was a fantastic birthday and I am so grateful!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Animal Crackers In My Soup (Or On My Rug) & Ikea

I found this little surprise on my rug today:

It made my heart happy!

In other news, I went to Ikea for the first time ever last week.  My friend and I spent 5 (yes 5!) hours perusing the store.  I was overwhelmed and amazed at all there was to be had.  Some of it was really nice, some of it was a little too modern for me.  But all in all it was a great trip and I'm excited to go back there again, maybe this time with Will!  Here's a little peek at what I picked up:

Of course I got the iconic blue Ikea bag, because, seriously, who doesn't want one of those...  I also picked up a set of bowls, cups, and plates for my little man, a lovely knit (or crocheted?) throw, some fun juice glasses, a set of plastic food storage containers, a wall storage holder for plastic grocery bags, and a yummy smelling candle! 

My two favorites are these sweet little juice glasses:

And this cozy throw:

I was really excited to get out of the store having only spent $60, especially after I saw that the people in front of me dropped $1500!  Whew!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Smoky the Racoon

I've been wanting to try some new makeup techniques lately so I was VERY excited when I discovered e.l.f Cosmetics at Meijer this week.  Basically it is a very affordable line of all sorts of cosmetics from foundation to eye shadow.  They even have makeup brushes.  Everything (at least at Meijer) was $3 or under and most items were $2 and under.  I was ecstatic because when I'm trying out new things that I may only use one or two times I don't want to have to shell out the big bucks!

So I picked up an eye shadow smudging brush, a four-pack of coordinating eye shadow, and some eye shadow primer for $4 total.  Um yeah, I can handle that!  So I got home, waited for my little man to go down for a nap and I got to work trying to imitate a "smoky" look I'd seen on Pinterest.  And, I failed.  Miserably.  Instead of "smoky" I somehow ended up with "racoon".  Oh well, practice makes perfect so they say!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Day In Pictures (and a few words too...)

Last week was quite a busy week and it was capped off with Will's parents coming to visit for the weekend.  I am extremely thankful for Will's parents and the fact that they are so loveable; it's certainly nice when you get along with your in-laws!  This morning, due to poor driving conditions my Bible Study was cancelled so Liam and I decided to have a semi-lazy day:

"Hmmm, what's that?"

"I almost got it!"

"Grandmama, I found your chapstick!"

After Will's parents left yesterday I found one of my mother-in-law's bracelets on the floor in our spare bedroom so I sent her an email to let her know I had it.  She emailed back saying that she had also lost her chapstick somewhere along the way.  I really had no hope of finding it and was therefore quite surprised when I opened Liam's Peg & Hammer Bench and realized Liam had slipped it inside.  When I finished taking the picture above I turned around and caught sight of this:

My little mountain climber!

As I started folding laundry he climbed into the basket....

...and promptly tipped over trying to reach the lens cap!

But he was not to be deterred from the task at hand!

"Hmm what else can I climb on?  Apparently not this!"

And so he moved on to his rocking chair, but that didn't work either.

"Nothing under there for me to get into"

"Maybe there's something in here I can get!"

"If I could just see in *grunts*"
Keeping up with Liam has been a full-time job today, he's been on the go since the moment he woke up.  Thankfully my little man is napping now and I'm able to take a wee little break!