Saturday, December 31, 2011

Living on a Dime's E-book Collection Sale

    Living on a Dime is having a New Year sale on a collection of 18 of their best-selling e-books. It is $20 for the set, but, like I said, 18 books are included. There are too many to list, but you can see which ones are included here or read the titles in the pic below. 

      I just promote these books because I think they have a lot of really great tips and advice, especially for those who don't know where to begin organizing. 
     As we approach the time most people make "New Year's" resolutions, here is an article by Jill from Living on a Dime on some tips for losing weight and saving money. All of these may not work for everybody, but chances are, you're bound to find a couple you can use!

10 Ways to Lose Weight and Gain Money
by Jill Cooper
  1. Eat smaller portions. The less food you eat, the less food you have to buy which means you spend less money on food.
  2. Walk more. I have a grocery store 2 1/2 blocks from me. Shame on me for driving there, especially when I only need one or two items. I can't even use being in a hurry as an excuse because it takes me the same amount of time to walk as to drive. Stop complaining about gas prices and start walking.
  3. Stop paying someone else to do your work. Start doing your own yard work and housecleaning. You don't think you have time to clean? Use that hour you would have worked out at the gym each morning to do your house work or yard work. Not only do you save the money you are paying someone to do these things, but you don't have to pay to go to the gym. Don't think you can lose weight cleaning your house? Trust me. If you are doing these things properly you will lose weight. You can clean and organize in five minutes.
  4. Stop going out to eat as much. Not only does it cost so much less to eat at home but you can control how much you eat and what you are eating better. How often do you eat everything they give you in a restaurant just because you don't want to waste money? Make easy meals at home and save money.
  5. Take the kids to the park instead of the movies. It doesn't cost a thing to go to the park and you get exercise. Plus there is the added benefit of actually talking and playing with you kids instead sitting staring at a movie.
  6. Drink water and not pop (or sodas). We all know it. Pop is just empty calories with no benefit. Why spend the money or pack on the extra weight?
    That goes for Lattes too. It costs much less to just have a regular cup of coffee from home and is much less fattening. Save the lattes for a special treat or dessert.
  7. Reduce excess scheduled activities. Many of us are just too busy with things that are often not really that important because we think that's the way it should be. Eliminating some of your excess commitments will save on gas and will reduce stress, which will make it less tempting to eat or spend as a stress reliever.
  8. You don't need to bring out the fatted calf to entertain or impress people. Have simple cake and punch at your child's birthday party instead of going to Chucky Cheese's. It's funny how the expensive flashy things are rarely the things the kids remember fondly when they grow up.
    If you're having people over for dinner, keep the food simple. You don't need a 10 course meal that includes everything from lobster to an expensive cheesecake. There are very few people who wouldn't enjoy roast chicken with fresh fruit for dessert just as much, especially if the company is good.
  9. Stop shopping and start exercising. When under stress there are two things at the top of the list that people do. Shopping and eating. Have a plan of attack so that when you start feeling stressed instead of grabbing your purse (or wallet) and heading for the mall you hit the yoga mat, hop on your bike or just start walking.
    Do you know how much money you would save if you exercised instead of shopping? Not to mention you probably would rid yourself of a lot of your stress. If you don't have as many money problems from over spending you wouldn't feel the need to go shopping or over eat and you would eventually break the cycle.
  10. Drive quickly by fast food joints. Don't even drive by them. Don't drive on the same street where they are. If you have a big problem with this, don't drive in the section of town where they are. And if you have any in your town then move to another town! (This was my favorite son-in-law's idea. Guess where his weakness lies! HA! HA!)

Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit , sign up for our free Living On A Dime Newsletter and learn to save more! 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Our Water Was Out Last Night :-(

     I thought I was going to be home last night writing my first blog post from home in about two weeks, but it was not to be. We got home around 6:30 pm only to find that our water had been turned off. Now, there was the notice we get on our door every month and a half or so about how they're going to turn the water off for a few hours the next day (which was today), but that didn't explain why the water was off yesterday evening. So, we ended up spending the night with some friends. 
     My husband called the office this morning to ask what the deal was, and apparantly some people on the bottom floor (of different buildings) had experienced flooding related to the plumbing, so the administration shut the water off from the whole complex and supposedly it was on at 10:30 pm last night. But how were we supposed to know what was going on? 
     Now it is Friday evening and we are finally at home, with water. I am so drained, mentally and physically, and I feel like I have this whole pile of stuff to do. Oh where will I find the energy? But I finally get to sleep in my own bed tonight. Hopefully I will wake up ready to be more productive tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another Day on the Road

    Well, I was not able to get online at all on Sunday or Monday. Yesterday (Tuesday) was our first day on the road on our way back home. We stopped in the Biloxi, MS area after driving about 9 hours. The hassle to use the internet was horrible. It was "sponsored" by Google music, or something like that and it made me watch an ad, "agree" to terms of use, then "connect" and it made me repeat this process several times throughout the course of the evening and when  I was finally ready to post what I had written last night, the connection "reset" and I lost everything. So I gave up after that. It was late and we needed to get up this morning. So now I am writing this in the car and will post when I get access to another interenet connection.
    We are driving through Lousiana now and my husband is looking for alligator tail meat for a friend back home. We found some gator meat at a small seafood store in Slidell, right over the Lousiana border that one of the ladies at the Lousiana welcome center told us about. But if we can find some alligator tail meat, we might get a couple pounds of that too. And apparantly my husband has decided he wants some andoille sausage as well. Next thing you know, he'll be wanting to make him red beans and rice when we get home. Haha.
    Well, we had a pretty good Christmas, in case anyone was wondering. I can say it's a good thing we upgraded to a minivan, because there is no way all this stuff would fit in our old Ford. Among our little girl's presents were a Radio Flyer wagon and a little rocking chair, both of which were things we kind of wanted for her anyway. But they do take up space! Now the question is where we'll put this stuff when we get home. Our little apartment is filling up with stuff (my husband and I are as bad as the grandparents) and she's not even two yet. But she had good time, and that is what it's all about.
    I hope everyone had a good holiday and had lots of good food and family time. I will try to write again soon, though you never have any idea how the day will go. Every day is an adventure.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Day Trip to Sarasota

     I'm just sitting here at my computer, not sure what to do next. I'm in one of those modes where I've been going going going so long that now that I have nothing to do for a little while and I'm not quite sure what to do with myself! 
     Yesterday we went down to Sarasota for the day to visit some friends we haven't seen since we moved away in May. One of my best friends spent the day with us and we met one group of people for lunch at Troyer's Dutch Heritage. It is a restaurant and gift shop in the mennonite community of Sarasota. I didn't venture to the upstairs section this time, which is mainly things like purses, jewelry and other crafts and collectibles. 
     The restaurant has a buffet, though they also have a menu. I really like the apple butter and peanut butter spread they have that you can put on their rolls. I think the peanut butter spread is a mixture of peanut butter and honey and it is a little more liquid than regular peanut butter. You can buy a lot of their baked goods and jams and such in their downstairs shop, which is more edible items. They have bread, cookies, fudge, donuts, candy, cheeses, jellies, etc. It would be too easy to get carried away with all the good stuff they have in there. I managed to get away with a couple pieces of fudge and a donut (which I still haven't eaten). 
     After lunch, we went over to the Sarasota Square Mall where there is a Yoder's deli that we used to like to eat at. I really love their chicken salad, so I had to get a little container of that and I also got a jar of apple butter. As soon as I figure out how to replicate the chicken salad, I will let you know!
     For dinner we went over to the home of some other friends in the area. It was a nice visit, but we got away kind of late and still had an hour and a half drive back to Tampa! So we didn't get back until after midnight. We were definitely tired when we got back and weren't in a hurry to get up this morning! 
     I seem to be coming down with a cold and the sinus pressure has been giving me a headache all day. And I am still drained for the rest of the week. I feel ready to go to bed, but it is still too early. Normally we like to go look at Christmas lights on Christmas eve, but I think we are all just feeling too drained. We will probably look at some tomorrow, though.
     Hopefully I will be able to post tomorrow, but it will be pretty busy, so I may not. Either way, I hope you all have a great holiday! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Travelling for the Holidays

     Well, this is the third day we've been on the road and we're all getting a little stressed out and cranky. Monday and yesterday were both really long days and I haven't posted in my blog. Last night I didn't even turn on my computer at all when we got to the hotel because I knew if I did, I would get to bed later than I needed to. So I didn't get online at all--even to check my email (which I know must be packed by now).
     We've had some pretty nasty weather the last couple days as well. Monday morning we woke up to a clap of thunder about 20 minutes before I actually had my alarm set for. Wouldn't you know--in west Texas, where it hardly ever rains, it decided to rain right when we needed to be loading up the car. So my husband tried to load the car when the rain let up a little bit.
     So we finally got out the door and drove in a consistent drizzle pretty much all day. Sometimes the rain was really nasty, sometimes it stopped for a little while. We stopped at J Gilligan's in Arlington for lunch. We wanted to try their "Irish nachos" after seeing the restaurant featured on a show on the travel channel. We had intended to make it to Shreveport, but ended stopping about 45 miles west of there in Marshall.
     We expected to see less rain yesterday and at first the weather was dreary, but not rainy. But after we cut down south on I-49 in Louisiana, we went through the worst weather ever. It was NASTY. My husband said it was the worst he's ever driven through. The only thing that kept him able to drive was watching the tail lights in front of him. It was raining buckets and the wind was blowing hard. But we survived.
     We stopped in Baton Rouge and ate at Copeland's. It was a little on the expensive side, but my husband remembered liking the seafood gumbo and since we were going through Louisiana, it was the thing to do. There was not much on the menu that wasn't fish or seafood, and I can't stand either. So I got sausage and red beans and rice. My husband said he actually liked mine better, mostly because it was warmer than his. So, he got it out of his system.
     We finally made it to Pensacola last night and we were completely exhausted. I was ready to go straight to bed. We had to get up early again because of time constraints and my little girl was really ornery at breakfast. She didn't sleep too well last night and isn't really feeling great today. But hopefully we'll get to rest up tomorrow and maybe we'll all be feeling a little better.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Coconut Bon bons and White Chocolate Pretzels

     This past week I've been working on all kinds of goodies, most of which have been given away (or eaten :-P). But I saved the best for last, since these are what we're taking with us to Florida. On Friday I made coconut bonbons and yesterday I made white chocolate covered pretzels and these are super-important holiday traditions for us. :-D Don't they look yummy, all ready to go? Put them in a nice little tin or colorful container and they make great, inexpensive gifts, too, and I don't know who doesn't love receiving them!
Coconut Bon Bons
     These are great for that chocolate craving. Yes, it had coconut in it, but even my dad, who hates coconut, got convinced to try one and said it was pretty good. I'm not a huge fan of coconut in general, but I love these (as does everyone who's tried them...). Here is the recipe if you would like to try it out. 
Mix together: 
     2 lbs of powdered sugar
     1/2 cup (1 stick) of melted butter
     1 can of sweetened condensed milk
     2 cups of shredded coconut (I actually just used 1 14 oz package) 
     This will make a sticky mixture and you will need to chill it (preferably overnight) before rolling it into little balls. Even after chilling, your hands will get sticky when handling it. Place the balls on cookie sheets covered with wax paper. I also put each batch in the freezer for a few minutes before dipping chocolate. I'm usually multi-tasking in the kitchen. 
     Melt a box (8 oz) of Baker's semi-sweet chocolate on low heat with a 1 x 1 1/2 inch square piece of parafin wax, cut up or shredded for better melting. Roll the coconut balls one by one in the melted chocolate, coating the whole thing with chocolate then return it to the wax paper. You can use a toothpick or a utensil made for dipping chocolates. You may find you need to add more chocolate if you find you are running out. If you need to thin the chocolate a little, add Crisco, 1 teaspoon at a time till you reach the desired consistency. Don't add to much or it will be too runny! When the chocolates are cooled and the chocolate has firmed up, they are ready to serve! 
White Chocolate Pretzels
     These are even easier to make than the coconut bon bons and are perfect for that salty-sweet combo you sometimes crave. 
     All you need to do is melt one or 2 packages of Baker's white chocolate and dip small pretzels into it and lay it on wax paper to cool. You can add a little parafin wax to it to make it dry harder, if you like. Just like with regular chocolate, use Crisco if you need to thin it up. And keep an eye on it, because it tends to scorch more quickly than the semi-sweet chocolate. But it is pretty simple to do. Try it out and let me know what you think. :-)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Touring the Labor and Delivery Unit

     This morning we went to check out the new labor and delivery unit at one of the local hospitals. They are opening a brand new unit in January and are currently giving "sneak peeks" so we thought we would check it out (since we're due in Feb.). Well, first of all, we parked on the wrong of the hospital. They are still constructing the back entrance near the parking garage, so it was blocked off. So we went in the main hospital entrance thinking it was all connected. 
     We meandered all the way around to the emergency room and asked the ladies there and they told us to go outside around to the front entrance. So we finally made it and it looks like they still have quite a bit of work to do before it's done. But there were people there to greet us at the door and show us to the elevator, so we knew we were finally in the right place.
     We filled out our "registration cards" then we were shown around the labor and delivery and post-partum units. The rooms aren't completely furnished yet, but they were a good size. There were couches and chairs in the rooms, but the beds hadn't been put in yet. So the nurses just told us where they will be and we had to use our imagination. 
     At the end of the tour they had cupcakes, punch, coffee and water available, as well as information about the labor and delivery unit and bags for expectant moms that even included a cute little onesie. Mine was blue (since we're expecting a boy) and said "Mommy's New Little Man." I finally got to have my chocolate cupcake I've been craving all week and the punch was pretty good too. 
     A few minutes after we left and were trying to decide what to have for lunch, I got a call from one of the nurses telling me I had won a door prize. So we went back to get it and it was a little bottle of lotion. Yippee. I thought it was kind of funny. There was a guy shuttling people back and forth from the parking lot to the front entrance of the mother baby unit, so I got a ride with him while my husband waited in the car with the baby. After that, we came home and scrounged around for lunch. 
     Overall the unit seems like it will be really nice. We still plan to check out the other hospital too, but that probably won't happen until January. Anyway, it looks like we have some decent options and I'm definitely looking forward to February for more reasons than one!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Busy Week

     It has been a pretty busy week for us so far. On Monday morning the washing machine would not drain.I was stressed about the hassle of having someone from the office sent up and my husband's cheerful observation was that we would have to move everything out of the room if they had to replace the washer. So he wanted to what he could do first.
     We have kind of an awkward set up. Whoever owns the apartment thought the walk-in closet would make a good laundry room, so that is where our washer and dryer is. It makes a pretty cramped laundry room. Especially when it has to share space with hanging clothes, as there is no other closet in the room. But we make do. And I'm just happy we have a washer and dryer at all. 
     So, we borrowed a shop vac from a friend and I emptied the sopping wet clothes from the washer and my husband proceeded to start sucking water from the washer drain. The culprit? A baby sock! Needless to say that sock is not usable anymore and we're thrilled that's all it took to get the washer working again. 
     Also Monday afternoon I called the doctor to get the results of my 3 hour glucose test and they called me back with the wonderful news that I do not have gestational diabetes. So I celebrated by immediately eating a whole box of Oreos. Haha. Just kidding. I did not do that or anything like that. I'm still aware of needing to make good choices.
     Much of yesterday (Tuesday) was spent making cookies to take to some of the older people at church. I made rolled sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies, and I am definitely feeling the effects today because my wrists have been aching all day. So everything I've done today that requires the least amount of force has been kind of painful. 
     It's amazing, the little things we take for granted. Like the use of our hands. It's not until we hurt something that we realize just how much we use it without even thinking about it. But anyway, by the time I got all those cookies rolled out and baked, I didn't have it in me to ice them last night. I had already been on my feet all day and I was just achy all over.
     This morning one of the moms from my little girl's Bible class invited the moms and kids from class over for crafts and lunch. Before lunch the kids did a book exchange and we made "snow globes" and Christmas tree door hangers.
     After lunch we (meaning the moms!) decorated sugar cookies while the kids ran around and watched Cars 2. What can you expect when you try to get 2 year olds to sit down to do anything? But it was fun, though I must admit I was tired when I got home!
     So, I anticipate being pretty busy the rest of the week as well. We plan to go pass out our cookies tomorrow and on Saturday morning one of the hospitals in town is having a preview tour of a new mother and baby unit opening in January. So we might go check that out. And of course other various things to get ready for the holidays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Homemade for the Holidays e-book Sale

     Well, our snow has been gradually melting the last day or two, so now we're at the drippy, browning stage where you just see patches of snow on the grass here and there. Oh well. It was nice while it lasted. We've been informed by friends from here we shouldn't expect to see such a nice snow around here again this winter. And being in west Texas, the odds of having the temperature cold enough and enough moisture in the air are not too great, I must admit. 
     I got up this morning not feeling too wonderful and my general mood was not improved by going to the doctor ad being reminded that I need to take the 3 hour glucose test tomorrow. Yuck! I have not been told yet that I have gestational diabetes, but today I've been eating like I have. I had carrot sticks with ranch and deviled eggs for lunch. My appetite has just not been to great since leaving the doctor. Otherwise everything with baby seems to be fine. 
     This week (until next Tuesday, the 13th) Living on a Dime is having a special on their Homemade for the Holidays e-book collection. For just $10, this set includes 3 e-books. Christmas on a Dime has ideas for spending less on gifts and decorations and some Christmas recipes. Country Christmas Recipes and Gifts Cookbook has recipes for edible homemade gifts. Traditional Holiday Meals And Menus includes recipes and menus for traditional holiday meals. 
     In addition to the 3 e-books, the Homemade for Holidays set includes the following bonus downloads: Christmas Card Planner, Christmas Meal Planner, Christmas Cookie/Candy Planner, Christmas Wish List, Christmas Gift Planner and Gift Ideas. All-in-all, a pretty good deal! Remember, this sale only goes on through December 13th, then the price will go back up. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

We Got Snow!

     Today we had our first snow here. It was kind of exciting. It actually started snowing last night and my husband and I just watched it for a little while. It might sound anti-climatic if you live in the north and snow in the wintertime is a given, but I've spent much of the last decade in Florida where it is quite a rarity. I did see snow when I lived in Europe as a teenager, but it's been a long time. 
     So, when we got up this morning, the ground was covered in snow, so we bundled up our little girl and took her down to play. She was fascinated, of course, and not quite sure what to think. In fact, when she first saw the snow from the window, she said "messes!" which, of course, we thought was funny. While we were outside, it started snowing again, so we decided to come inside and warm up, and she did not want to come inside! 
     We ended up spending much of the day out, so I didn't actually get as much done today as I was planning. But we had a nice little family day out and got to see the Texas mesquites covered in snow (which made them more attractive than usual!) There is nothing quite like seeing the landscape covered in fresh snow. I'm sure I will think differently as it starts melting and gets dirt and sloshy, but for today it looked nice. 
     We did have one exciting (and gross) incident today. We were in Hancock's (a fabric store) when the Kay-kay quite an "accident" that made it through a few layers of clothes. To make matters more fun, there was no changing table in the restroom, so we managed to find a table in the store that had been mostly cleared off. Not an ideal situation, but when you have an emergency, you gotta do what you gotta do. We had to completely change her clothes. 
     Now we are back home, the baby is in bed after her long day and we have a fire in the fireplace. We got one of those logs that are ready to just set in the fireplace and light on fire. it just seemed appropriate to us to have a fire in the fireplace since we have snow outside, and I made cookies and we're going to have hot chocolate. You know, the "traditional" winter stuff. 
     So, while today was an "off" day because of the extra excitement, tomorrow I hope to get back into my routine and do better with my meal planning and grocery shopping. And speaking of grocery shopping, I've had a new e-book recommended to me. It's called the 2012 Guide to Groceries under $250 a Month. I haven't read it yet, but I'm definitely looking forward to checking it out!


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Trying to Get My "Mode" Back

     Well, we got back from our trip Tuesday afternoon, sick and worn out (at least some of us). I meant to post yesterday, but I was in that mode of "I just got back in town and I just can't make myself do anything but the bare minimum." Also, I felt kind of lousy because of whatever sickness I have. Sore throat, sneezing, headache. Plus I was really tired and my back was/is getting more achy. I just felt like a lead weight. I still do, kind of, but it's not quite so bad today. 
     I am really trying to get back into my mode of getting more done. I did manage to finally unpack our big suitcase today and I have a load of laundry in the wash. It is a constant battle trying to keep the living room floor clear of clutter, though. Anyone with toddlers knows this. Kay-Kay wants to bring her toys and books, a couple at a time, from her room into the living room. And then she will get a hold of a piece of junk mail, or some other paper product, and tear it into pieces. 
     So when I finally get around to "pickup" mode, I usually have a couple of books, a few random toys (like dolls/stuffed animal, a couple of blocks), pages from toy catalog mailer and a few pieces of napkin. And of course I have to move her tricycle from the middle of the room, because it always somehow makes it there, whether she was riding it or not. 
     Now she is finally taking a nap (I'd like to do that myself) so I have a few minutes of quiet. I still have more to do. There is always more to do. I'm just lacking motivation. I run out of energy and it's getting harder to bend over to pick stuff up. I don't like to feel like I'm being lazy, so I will probably make myself do it anyway, but I don't want to overdo it, either.
     The thing about going on vacation is you get out of your "mode" and when you come back it is hard to get back into it! Of course, getting sick (or pregnant) doesn't help with that, either. And we are going down to Florida for Christmas, to see my husband's folks in about two and a half weeks, so by the time I get back into my "mode" I will have to get out of it again! And when we get back, I will be a month more pregnant than I am now. 
     So, I will just have to manage the best I can until I just can't anymore. And I'm sure I will get there at some point. Maybe the "nesting" syndrome will come in about then and help me out. LOL But seriously, I was starting to do pretty good. I really don't want to slip back down the slope. But, thankfully, I have a supportive husband who will help me out if I need it.