Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cheap and Easy(Bake)

Did you have an Easy-Bake Oven when you were little?  I had this one:

I'm quite sure it must have come from a garage sale or something because a) I'm not that old (this appears to be the original 1963 version) and b) it would be extremely rare for me to have any kind of "in" toy otherwise (no Baby Alive or Rub a Dub Dolly for me).

Oh my goodness, I found the Rub a Dub Dolly commercial on YouTube!  Tugboat shower!

Anyway, back to the Easy-Bake...we got one for Pinkerbelle for Christmas a couple of years ago, and only then did I realize the ridiculous prices on the baking mixes (which is probably why I don't remember using my Easy-Bake Oven very often).

Not to be deterred, I got online and found instructions for using regular cake mix.  For one of the little round cake pans:
3 Tbsp cake mix, any flavor
1 Tbsp milk

1. Spray pan with baking spray
2. Combine cake mix and milk until smooth; pour into pan.
3. Bake in preheated Easy-Bake Oven for 15 minutes.

We've been using the same box of cake mix ever since we got the oven (I know, I know, but I do reseal the bag with a clip, and besides I figure it's so preserved it's like a Twinkie and never spoils).  I printed out those instructions and taped them to the box.

Now, whenever the stars align and Pinkerbelle's desire to use her oven coincides with my willingness to put up with a little mess, we have the mix ready to go in the pantry.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

More On the Bedroom Redo

As I type, Craig is getting started on painting the bedroom walls.  I chose Behr Ultra Burnished Metal (UL260-17).

Can I tell you how much I love, love, love the new 8 oz sample cans?  It's more than enough to paint several large swatches on the wall, and at only $2.94, it's reasonable.  If I don't like the color I don't feel like I wasted too much money, like I used to buying a quart at about $10.

In fact, I would often skip the color-testing stage, and have occasionally been less than satisfied with the final room.  That totally would have happened this time, too, if I had just had Craig get a couple gallons of the color I originally thought I was going to go with.

These are the samples I painted on my wall.  I know that your monitor may not show the true color (I know mine doesn't), so we'll just use this for reference purposes.  These are all Behr Ultra:  from left to right they are Classic Silver, French Silver, and Burnished Metal.  From looking at the paint chips, I was pretty sure I wanted French Silver, which definitely had some blue in it. 

These are all in the gray family, but once on the wall, I could see that Classic Silver had too much green in it, and French Silver was darker than I wanted.  So I went with the Burnished Metal, as it went to the blue side like the FS, but was lighter.  (Am I the only one who can be swayed by the paint name? FWIW, Behr Ultra has good names.)

I found this duvet cover at  It only came in twin, so I bought two and will have to work some magic with the sewing machine to make it fit.  Sears has the same design in a comforter set in all the sizes, but I have a down comforter I want to cover.

I think the leafy pattern is a fresh update on a floral, giving it a contemporary feel without the "hard edges" that modern can sometimes have.

It's coming along...some day soon I'll have a relaxing master retreat rather than the mess it is now.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Just Do It

It pains me to admit this, but I am not a naturally fun mom.  I thought I would be, I planned to be, but I guess my personality is just a little too uptight.  I totally love my kids, and it's not that I ignore them or anything, but I'm just not the mom that has activities planned all the time or anything like that.  And I'm okay with telling them to go watch TV if things are getting too loud.

Recently, my friend Amanda did a post called Eighty-Three Percent.  It was mainly about balancing blogging time and family time, and it's a really good post.  But what got me was the quote she used:
"The home is eighty-three percent of your child's world, and you have only one opportunity to make it of maximum benefit."
-Dr. Howard Hendricks

My kids are 12, 9, and 8.  As they get older, less and less of their world will be home.  That's how it should be, but I can't help but think of what opportunities I've already missed.  Even before Amanda's post, I had decided to try to "do" a little more this summer.  More for me may be less than for a lot of people, but comparison is the death of contentment.  

Part of the plan was a weekly trip to library (we usually go pretty frequently anyway, but more sporadically).  They are all signed up for the summer reading clubs and have been reading more because of it.  That's a good thing.  We will also take advantage of some of the summer activities the library puts on; this past Monday it was a movie and popcorn, which was great since it was 100*.

The other part of my plan was one out-of-the-ordinary fun activity a week.  A couple weeks ago, with all this in mind, I decided it would be fun to tie dye shirts with the kids.  I did some tie dying when I was a teenager, back in the 80s when movies about the Vietnam war were abundant and pseudo-hippiness was cool.  I don't recall it causing any panic attacks back then.

We picked out some colors, I had the shirts, and then they sat there.  It was too hot to do it outside, I was afraid of dye staining everything in the house, yada yada yada.
This morning I bit the bullet and we just did it.  And guess what?  It wasn't that big a deal.  Oh, I panicked a couple times with dye splashing or whatever, but it all turned out in the end.

A fun time was had by all.  And hopefully, that is what they will remember, more than that their mother almost had to take a Valium to get though it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Laid to rest will be my two bedside lamps.  Purchased in 1998, for 50 cents each at a garage sale.  Originally country blue, in 2000 they were spray painted black.  They have performed their duties without fanfare for 12 years and through 8 moves.  Several more expensive lamps have failed during that time period, but these two kept on going.  Style not withstanding, it's just been in this most recent move that they have started to show their age with flaking paint.  Because they are still in working order, interment will take place at the local Goodwill.

I can't say that I'm sorry to see them go.  They have been a functional, but rather ugly, fixture in my bedroom for so long that I really don't even see them anymore.  Actually, that sort of describes my bedroom as a whole.  Neglected, messy, nothing pretty about it.

But all that is about to change!  We are starting on our bedroom makeover!  This will happen in several steps over the summer, and I will definitely keep you apprised.

My original plan was to find lamps at a thrift store and remake them to my liking; I looked a few times but didn't find anything great.  While I'm sure that something would have turned up had I waited, I decided, based on the less than 5 cent per year cost of the above lamps, that I could splurge a little.

I did some searching online and found the Crystal Ball Table Lamp at JC Penney.

The original price is $160 (!) but it was on sale for $59.99.  However, when I tried to put 2 in my cart, it said it wasn't currently available online.  I called the store and they had them in stock, but the sale price in the store was $89.99.  The saleslady told me to print off the internet page and they would honor it.

In addition, I had this printable coupon for $10 off $50 (good til July 10).  I printed off 2 coupons, and we headed to the store.  The cashier honored the internet price and rang the lamps through separately, allowing me to use a coupon on each one, without even batting an eye.  Excellent customer service!

So, I got the lamps for $49.99 each, which I thought was a pretty good deal.  They are infinitely more lovely than what I've had up until now.  And that is just a little glimpse into the bedroom makeover.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Keeping Cool

It's hot.  Really hot.  We're supposed to hit 100* today; add the humidity to that, and they forecast that it will feel like 109*.  I don't go outside on days like this.  That's what air conditioning is for.

My kids tend to hole up in the house too, but occasionally they will venture outside and turn on the hose.  Recently, they made their own water park.

This involved dragging a variety of items out of the garage and stacking them up.  Just add water.

 They actually considered going down the slide.  I don't think that would have ended well.  Fortunately they asked first, and we shot that down real quick.

Ta da!  Homemade summer fun.  Keep cool!

Friday, June 18, 2010

What a Scam!!

Better Homes and Gardens has been one of my favorite magazines for a long, long time. I usually have a subscription, but over the years I have let it lapse from time to time until a really good promotion to pops up.  That's where I am right now.  As with any magazine, it used to be that you would get several mailings warning you that it was time to renew, and then maybe a couple begging you to "come back" (usually with an even better price than they offered in the first place).

This time, however, I see that they have really gone hard-core and resorted to questionable practices.  This is what I've been getting in the mail lately:

PAST DUE:  Payable upon receipt.

The note is labeled as a bill and instructs me to "pay this amount".

It also contains this admonition:

The only problem is I did not renew my subscription (and of course they have not mailed any magazines since my sub expired)!  They, however, have "been very patient" and "expect" me to "resolve this....honorably" and "pay my debt". 

Last time I checked, you could not bill someone for something they had not ordered.  So, my question is, who is behaving dishonorably here?  Not I, methinks.  Seriously, this sounds like the kind of scam that makes it on to primetime news shows because it fooled a bunch of gullible people.  Okay, well, usually that kind of thing would have involved thousands of dollars, but I think the principle is the same.  It just seems kind of shady, and it's put a bad taste in my mouth.

I did find this in small print on the website: Continuous Service Guarantee: Your subscription will continue unless you ask us to stop. Each year you'll receive a reminder notice followed by an invoice for the low renewal rate then in effect. You can cancel at any time and receive a refund on all unmailed issues.  But I still think this is a dubious tactic...after all, my subscription did not really continue.

I guess I'll go to the website and cancel my non-existent subscription so they will stop sending these things.  That'll show 'em!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

House Tour

Last week I was MIA around here, because my dad and stepmom were visiting from Phoenix.  One of the things my stepmom and I like to do is visit model homes.  This time around, I found my dream house.  Don't get me wrong, I love my current house, but if I ever get the chance (and $) to move up, this is where I'm going.

Unfortunately, I did not have my camera with me, but I was able to get some photos off the website.  The thing I loved the most was the floorplan, and I know there's no way you'll be able to get the idea from these photos, bur maybe this will help a little bit.

Exterior.  There was an almost $16,000 premium for this elevation with the stone work.  The house looks much smaller from the front than it does on the inside.  It's 2768 sq ft, plus a huge basement.

As you enter the foyer area, there is a study to the right, and dining room to the left (the model was a mirror image of the above floor plan).  Looking through the dining room you can see the butler's pantry with sink and warming drawer.  Just beyond that was a large laundry room.

Straight ahead as you entered you were facing this fireplace and great room.  Two bedrooms and a bath are down the hallway.

Just to the left (in the approximate position that the above photo was taken), is the breakfast area and beyond that, the kitchen.

The kitchen had a breakfast bar area, which housed the sink, so that as you were standing at the sink you were looking out into the... called "Hearth Room", although this one did not have the optional fireplace. 

There's no picture of it, but that sliding door on the right goes out to a fabulous screened-in porch.  This was not your typical kind of shabby screened-in porch that looks like an afterthought.  This one looked like a part of the house.

Unfortunately, there are no photos of the bedrooms, either.  The master suite was wonderful:  a large bedroom, a closet the size of my son's bedroom, and a spa-like bathroom (below).

For our purposes, we would need at least one more bedroom (plenty of room in the basement for that).  What I really loved about it was that there were multiple living spaces, and that it was open but at the same time, spaces were defined.  Not to mention that the model had every possible upgrade known to man, enough to probably double the base price of the house.

I can always dream...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Suddenly, I Need Waffle Fries in Front of Me

My husband Craig, you may recall, is a chiropractor.  Occasionally he needs to send a patient out for an MRI.  About once a month, a guy from the MRI place brings lunch to Craig's office to say "thanks for your referrals".  He always brings Chick-fil-a, and usually there are leftovers that Craig brings home and we eat them for supper that evening.

Today was the day, and for some reason this time the guy brought an enormous amount of food.  This is the tray of nuggets that Craig brought home...after he, his office manager, and the MRI guy had eaten lunch.

There was also a green salad, a fruit salad, and a gallon of sweet tea. We ate a ton for supper, I put enough in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch, and then I took two days' worth over to our neighbors, who recently had a baby.

The kids thought they had died and gone to heaven.  We don't go to Chick-fil-a very often, because the nearest one is about 15 miles away, and so it requires a special trip.  Once a couple of months ago we were in that neck of the woods and were going to stop to eat.  Everybody yelled "Chick-fil-a!" until a moment later Firstborn had the realization "oh no! it's Sunday!".  Which made us laugh because of this video; this guy is so funny!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Fun Frozen Pop Recipes

I'm reposting this one from a year ago and joining Mary Joy's Low Cost Summer Family Fun Party @ Snapshots from your Heart & Home.
Mary Joy will be taking a little blogging break, but could use some encouragement...please go visit her and leave her a comment (read the most recent post in addition to the Summer Fun party).

I imagine that most of us have some of those popsicle molds. I know it’s easier, and pretty inexpensive, just to buy some frozen pops. But it’s also pretty easy, and perhaps a little more healthful, to make your own. If you get the kids to help, it’ll keep them occupied for a few minutes, anyway.

I have an old piece of notebook paper in my recipe file, on which I copied several popsicle recipes from a magazine when I was about twelve. I thought I’d share a few to get you going. (I’m sure I don’t really need to point this out, but after combining the ingredients, pour into popsicle molds and freeze.)

Purple Cow (one of my favorites) Whisk 1 cup milk with 3/4 cup grape juice, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup lemon juice.

Quick Berry Puree in blender 3 1/4 cups fresh or unsweetened thawed frozen strawberries with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water.

Pop Banana Puree in blender 1 1/4 cups orange juice and 1 cut-up large banana.

Cafe au Lait Boil 1 cup water, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp instant coffee for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup half-and-half. (I actually have never made these, although I'm wondering why not. I'll definitely try them this summer. In case the half-and-half scares you, my notes say these are only 65 calories each, but I don't see why you couldn't just use milk to make it lighter.)

Creamy Peanut Boil 1/2 cup water and 1/4 cup sugar for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter, then 1 cup milk.

Pineapple Yogurt Whisk smooth 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 1 cup pineapple juice, and 1 tsp sugar.

Enjoy, and keep cool!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Shower Curtain Pillows

Yesterday I whipped up some pillows for my living room.  The area rug in that room is green, and so I wanted to carry that through to the accent pillows for the sectional.

I started with some feather-filled pillow forms, a shower curtain, and a silk skirt, all picked up for a buck or two at thrift or consignment stores in the last year.

When I was originally planning this out in my head, I  knew I wanted to use a button closure for the shower curtain pillows, but was not excited at the prospect of making button holes (my sewing machine has become very temperamental of late).  But guess what?  Fabric shower curtains have a row of button holes along the top edge for the hooks.  It was brilliant!

Basically, I just cut the shower curtain into strips, folded them over envelope-style with the button-hole edge positioned as the top flap, and sewed up the sides.  I made two of these.

For buttons, I went through my old button jar and picked six, all of them pearly white, but different designs.

I cut the skirt into front and back panels and sewed up three sides, and used a zipper from one of the original pillow covers for the fourth side.  I kept the skirt's contrasting edge for interest.

The polka dot pillow (there are two of them) came from Target.  A few weeks ago they were selling just pillow covers for $4.99.  I decided not to worry about whether or not all the different greens work together, and instead think of it as fresh and fun.

Because it's also about pillows, and doesn't warrant its own post, I'm going to show you my other couch as well.  I had gone back to Target to get one more of the green polka dot pillow covers, and they were out, but what was left of the other colors was on clearance for $3.49.  Thinking of my red accents in the family room, which is now back in its warm weather furniture arrangement, I got a few covers to add a bright summery punch.  I think that does the trick!