Monday, May 30, 2011

Tuesday’s Tips and Tricks

Have you ever been sucked in by a “forward this” or other questionable email?  We probably all have been at one time or another.  Do any of these sound familiar?

  • money will be donated toward the care of a sick child every time this message is forwarded
  • wealthy foreigner needs to move his accounts and he’ll give you a percentage if you’ll help him by giving him your bank account number
  • religious leaders plead for action; atheists are attempting to get religious broadcasting banned

Most of them are fairly harmless; the only real damage done is cluttering up somebody else’s inbox.  But some could have more unfortunate consequences.

So before you forward that message to your entire address book, verify the information.  Use a website like or to search the information.  Occasionally there is some truth to the message, but most often it’s an urban legend kind of thing and you can save yourself from passing on false information.


Got any favorite products, gadgets, recipes, shortcuts, or other tips?  Link them up here! 

  • share a tip that makes your life easier
  • please link back to me in your post
  • link to your specific party post, and not your general home page
  • please be polite and visit several other participants and leave a nice comment
  • I reserve the right to delete entries that don’t link back to me or do not fit the party theme

Linky will close at 11:59 pm central Tuesday.


Knock-Off Highlights

{I hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend!  Thank you to all of the men and women who have served in our armed forces.  Freedom isn’t free!}


There were some pretty awesome projects linked to last week’s knock-off party.  Thanks to those of you who participated; double thanks if you put my link in your post!

Here are a few of my faves.

Jane from Two Sides of the Rainbow made her own version of Restoration Hardware’s hotel bedding at a fraction of the cost.



Tanya from Percolating Projects made her own Farmhouse Bed à la Pottery Barn.



Annette from Designs By A Rose used a thrift store find to make a rosette lamp like Pottery Barn’s.

rosette lamp 4


Jane, Tanya, and Annette, you’re welcome to take my “I was featured” button for your blog if you like (scroll down for the code on the right sidebar).

I hope my readers will check out some of the other Knock-Off entries.  It’s good stuff!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Knock-Off Party


Welcome!  This party is for those of us with champagne taste, but more talent and resourcefulness than cash.  If you knocked it off, you can link it up.   The party is now open to any home décor catalog/store knock-off.  There are a few basic rules (more details here):

  1. the knock-off must be made by you
  2. please have a photo of the original item so we can compare
  3. please link back to me in your post (why? read this)  If you like, just copy and paste this into your post:  Partying @ Homebody


This month, I recreated the Deux Ruban Linen Panel from Ballard Designs.  The 96” panel sells for $89 each.



I already had drop cloth drapes in the family room.  While not linen, the color is very similar.  It’s been a couple of years since I put these up, but I think each panel is one 6x9 drop cloth (about $10 each at Lowes).




I bought 24 yards of black 1½” grosgrain ribbon at 82¢/yd (that was 30% off at Hobby Lobby) and sewed stripes to the bottom of my panel.  I didn’t even take it down; I just set up my sewing machine next to the window.  Procrastinator that I am, I did this at about 4 pm this afternoon, and I’ve only done the one so far.




I had decided to only do three stripes, instead of Ballard’s four, partly to save a buck because I have another set of these panels to do in the adjoining dining area, which will be another 24 yards.  But now I don’t know; I think that fourth stripe adds a little oomph.  (I also think I need to raise my panels a smidgen so that they are just grazing the floor instead of resting on it.)  Other than that, I like it!



Your turn!

I’m going to leave this open until Sunday night, but will do a highlight post on Friday.

Laugh of the Day

My kids have watched this video 8,463 times in the last week, and they laugh every. single. time.

Well, okay Craig and I laugh too.

(We also laugh at several more of his talking animals videos.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tuesday’s Tips and Tricks: Easy Go-To Meal


You know those nights when you need to get something on the table quickly, but you didn’t plan ahead or just plain don’t feel like cooking?  One of my go-to meals for those kind of nights is taco meat.  It’s fast, easy, inexpensive, if necessary it can go from freezer to table in a matter of minutes, it’s kid friendly, and it’s very versatile.

Tacos aren’t the only way to use it.  If you have tortillas, make burritos or quesadillas.  If you’ve got tortilla chips, serve nachos.  If you’ve got lettuce, make taco salad.  If you have refrigerated biscuits, press each biscuit into a muffin tin, fill each with taco meat, top with cheese, and bake to make taco cups.  Use any combination of toppings you like for any of these options.

As I mentioned last week, I rinse my cooked ground beef to reduce the greasy factor.  Another trick I have when making taco meat is to use about 1/2 pound of beef and add a can of black beans; it reduces the fat further and costs less than using a full pound of beef.

I keep packets of McCormick taco seasoning on hand (contains no added MSG), but if you’re in a pinch you can look online for homemade taco seasoning, such as this one from allrecipes.  I personally haven’t found one that I like as well as the commercial packets, but they work when needed.


Got any favorite products, gadgets, or other tips?  Link them up here! 

  • share a tip that makes your life easier
  • you must link back to me in your post
  • link to your specific party post, and not your general home page
  • please be polite and visit several other participants and leave a nice comment
  • I reserve the right to delete entries that don’t link back to me or do not fit the party theme

Linky will close at 11:59 pm central Tuesday.

Knock-Off Party This Thursday, and a Plea


Don’t forget that my next Knock-Off party is this Thursday, May 26.  I’ve also changed the rules…starting this month, you can link up with your knock-off of any home décor catalog.

I’d also like to mention a little bit about party etiquette.  It has become very popular for bloggers to just put a “here’s where I party” link in their post.  I’d like to point out that this is not ideal for the hostess or the other participants of the party.  Most people probably will not click over at all, and if they do, they may not know which party this particular post is linked to.  That means that they cannot click over to the hostess’ blog and see the other entries.  That means less traffic for the hostess, for the other participants, and ultimately for you (if everyone uses that method).  Your link will stay in my post forever (in blog terms) so you could potentially get traffic from my party post for a long time.  Please be considerate and return the favor.  It’s awesome if you use my button, but it’s okay if you just put a text link in the post.  If you like, just copy and paste the following:

Partying at Homebody


Can’t wait to see your knock-offs!


Full party rules:

  1. Your knock-off can be inspired by any home decor catalog, such as Pottery Barn, Ballard Designs,  Restoration Hardware, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, Anthropologie, etc. 
  2. your knock-off entry must be made by you
  3. you must include a picture of the original item from the catalog so we can compare
  4. it’s perfectly fine to knock-off something that they don’t sell anymore, or something that you see styled in the catalog or store but isn’t actually for sale.  But, in either case, I would like you to have a photo of the original item, either scanned in from an old catalog, or a photo you took in the store.
  5. it must be a specific comparable item, like my lamp shade
  6. I don’t want something totally unique that you made that you think has "the look”; that’s awesome, but it’s doesn’t fit this party.
  7. Items which have "the look", but were purchased at a different store for less money and required no alterations from you also do not fit the party
  8. you must link back to me in your post, preferably using my button code, which you can get in my right side column
  9. it’s okay to use an old post that fits the party guidelines, just edit your post to add my link.

More Tornadoes

When our tornado sirens went off last night, we headed to our (very messy) basement.  We were there about 15 minutes, and other than some rain the storm passed us by without causing any problems in our area.



Other areas of the state were not so fortunate.  Joplin Missouri was directly hit by a tornado last night, about the same time we were sitting in our basement.  Some news sources are reporting at least 89 dead and people calling for help under the wreckage as crews search for survivors this morning.

I was looking for a picture to post, but then decided that it will be all over the news, and I really don’t need to share scary video or pictures of destruction.  Let’s just keep Joplin in our prayers, as well as all the others who have been affected by devastating weather this spring.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Parade of Homes: Current Living Room

As of April 30, we have lived in this house for three years. Of the eleven homes we’ve lived in, there’s only one that we’ve lived in longer than this one.  In the past we’ve always been pretty quick about painting and decorating, I guess because we knew if we waited we’d probably move before we got anything done.  We will be in this house for the foreseeable future, and while we have most of the rooms painted, that’s about as far as it’s gone.  I don’t have much on the walls, and I don’t even have any family photos out. 

It has occurred to me that I never really finished the parade of homes, as I only showed the builder model of the house we’re in now.  I’ve been waiting for it to be “done”, but since that’s not happening, I’m just going to get on with the parade.  If you’d like to start at the beginning, I have chronicled all ten of our previous homes in a series:  Parade of Homes.

We had this house built, but it’s just a plain boxy builder home.  In addition, the living areas are not large.  You can see from the floor plan that the family room is about 14x14 and the living room is about 15x14.  I’m not complaining; I love my house, but trying to figure out how to make it look pretty and still be functional is eluding me.

Screen Captures3


Part of the problem is that every picture I see of a room that I like, whether it’s online, in a magazine, or in a catalog, has significantly different bones than my room.  I have yet to see a anyone do a makeover feature of a small square room with no architectural details and wall to wall carpeting.  I was lucky enough to get 9ft ceilings, but magazine rooms, even the “boring, boxy” ones, have soaring 10-12ft ceilings.  They have hardwood floors and huge windows.  They have crown molding and 6” baseboards.  They are considered small if any one dimension is less than 20ft.  In magazine terms, my living room would be a nice walk-in closet.

Here is my living room right now, enhanced by my totally awesome photo splicing technique:




These photos are older, so a few accent pieces have changed, but not the main furniture.  This will give you the full tour of the room and an idea of the size.





Points I feel obligated to make:

  • I know the current drapes (top photo) are too short.  They were on clearance and I’m trying them out; if I keep them I’ll add some fabric to make them longer (but I’m probably going to go back to my dropcloth drapes)
  • the furniture is really too large for the room, but I will be replacing it this summer because it’s full of holes.  I’ve almost saved up enough to buy the Ikea Ektorp sectional and chair, which are smaller in scale
  • this room functions as the TV room, so while unfortunate, the placement of the armoire is necessary, as is having enough seating for the whole family
  • it’s hard to tell, but the room is in fact painted in the top two photos (Benjamin Moore Natural Linen)

You might also be interested to see the consultation I won from Layla Palmer of The Lettered Cottage a couple years ago, and her ideas for this room.

Weekend Bloggy Reading

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Iced Coffee Recipe

My daily addiction to Maxwell House International Café French Vanilla Latte has been mentioned on this blog more than once.  I still drink it virtually every day, but recently in a pinch I came up with a pretty darn good substitute.  From time to time, I even choose it over the other.



The key ingredient is La Crème French Vanilla Real Dairy Creamer.  I was excited when they came out with this not too long ago, as until then, our only choices have been flavored non-dairy creamers.  My sister says she’s been able to get flavored dairy creamer in Canada for some time, and was always surprised when she visited that it wasn’t available here. 

When I make this for myself, I don’t actually measure, but I’ll give you approximations so you have a starting point.  Start with about 2 tablespoons of La Crème and add enough milk to make a cup.  Add a teaspoon of instant coffee (I use decaf, which is an advantage over the Maxwell House mix).  Mix until the coffee is dissolved.  Add ice, and top with whipped cream and sprinkles.

Enjoy!  Trust me, you’ll be coming back for more.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Tuesday’s Tips and Tricks: Leaner Ground Beef

When I cook and crumble ground beef, I don’t like it to be swimming in fat.  I mean, I really don’t like it.  So years ago, I started rinsing my ground beef after it was cooked.  I thought I was the only one until I got looking online a few years ago and found that it’s actually a method suggested by The Journal of the American Dietetic Association  and the Canadian Beef Information Centre as a way of reducing the fat content.

Basically, my method is to brown the ground beef, place a colander over a bowl or empty can, and empty to beef into the colander to drain the majority of the fat.  Then I rinse the beef with hot water.

From a pdf from the Canadian Beef Information Centre:

Fullscreen capture 5162011 53459 PM.bmp

Fullscreen capture 5162011 53436 PM.bmp


Hillybilly Housewife also has a good article about rinsing cooked ground beef.

I usually buy lean ground beef and rinse it, but after reading this data, I think I’ll save some money by buying regular, since rinsing eliminates so much fat.  I’ll still get lean for things that can’t be rinsed, like meatloaf.


Got any favorite products, gadgets, or other tips?  Link them up here! 

  • share a tip that makes your life easier
  • you must link back to me in your post
  • link to your specific party post, and not your general home page
  • please be polite and visit several other participants and leave a nice comment
  • I reserve the right to delete entries that don’t link back to me or do not fit the party theme

Linky will close at 11:59 pm central Tuesday.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Deal at Payless Shoes

For some reason, I’ve had a hard time this year finding cute summer shoes that are comfortable and at a price I want to pay.  This led me to visit Payless earlier in the week.  I’ve shopped there before, but it’s been years since I bought anything for myself at Payless.

This week I was reminded why it’s been so long since I’ve been.  There were some cute shoes, but nothing I wanted in my size.  That’s usually what happens when I go there.

Then I went to their website and realized that not only could I order online, but I could pick up my purchase at the nearest store and avoid paying shipping, and all the styles and sizes were available! They are running BOGO through Monday (May 16), so I ordered two pairs.

The Emma Peep Toe Espadrille in Multi:



The Bella Flower Peep Toe Flat in black:


(I tried these on in the store in a different color, and even though they have a little bit of elastic at the sides, they are very flexible and comfortable and not at all like my strange Target shoes.)

These were each $22.99 which seemed kind of high to me, as I remember Payless being really cheap, but with the BOGO I paid $11.50 for the second pair.  Not only that, but I found a 20% off entire purchase promo code (46412) that works with BOGO, making my total including tax $29.23.  That felt about right, pricewise.  I don’t think I would have paid full price for two pairs.

If you don’t have a Payless near you or just want to have it delivered to your house, use Ebates when you place your order and you’ll get 3% cash back, which will at least help cover the cost of shipping.  Store pick-up is ineligible for cash back.  (The above is my referral link; we’ll both get $5 if you sign up using my link.)

Happy shoe shopping!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Read Any Good Books Lately?

I love to read!  In elementary school, I would have several chapter books going at once.  In my adult life, I tend to go in spurts, because reading can distract me from my real job of keeping my family fed and clothed.  I won’t read anything for quite a while and then when I can’t stand it any longer I head to the library and get a stack of books.

I’ve been in “on” mode lately, so I thought I ‘d share with you what I’ve been reading.

Christian fiction has been on my nightstand a lot.  Sometimes (as with any genre, I guess) that can be hit or miss. But none of the books I’ve read lately have been preachy, and they’ve all had good foundational stories.  By that I mean that the author told a good story that contained Christian elements; it didn’t feel like they created a subpar story to try to fit the Christian message they wanted to get across.

In the last couple of months I’ve read the first two books of the “Kinship and Courage” series by Jane Kirkpatrick.  It’s about a group of women who make the journey from the east to California during the time of the gold rush.  Honestly, it took me a while to get in to the first book.  The story was good, but the characters weren’t particularly likeable.  Even so, I did enjoy the book overall, and by the end and into the second book, I felt like I understood them better.  There’s one more book in the series that I’ll read after a while.  I’ve learned my lesson about reading a whole series one right after the other (read about that here)!



Another new-to-me Christian author is Robin Lee Hatcher.  I’ve recently read The Perfect Life and Return to Me.  I enjoyed both of these books, particularly the former, although in both cases it did kind of feel like the story was full of conflict that resolved a little too easily and quickly at the end.  Also, I didn’t realize until now that Return to Me is the second book in a series.  I didn’t feel like I was missing out on any vital information, though.




On the non-Christian chick-lit side, The Pregnancy Test by Erin McCarthy was a fun read, but I must warn you that there were a couple very graphic and pages-long s*x scenes, which I felt could have been toned down quite a bit without doing any damage to the story.

I’m currently reading Practically Perfect by Katie Fforde (does anybody else want to pronounce that fuh-ford, or just me?).  I’m only a few chapters in, but so far so good.  Plus, it’s about a young woman who is rehabbing an English cottage to flip it for a profit, so it’s got a kind of HGTV thing going on too.



What’s been on your nightstand recently?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Tuesday’s Tips and Tricks: Petunias

Despite what seemed like a winter that would never end, we are now safely into the planting season.  Annuals (plants that only live one year/season) are an easy way to give your yard quick, long-lasting color.  Petunias are one very popular annual, and for good reason:  they produce lots of blooms and come in many colors.

The only thing I don’t like about them is the dead-heading.  Some annuals, including petunias, require that you frequently pinch off spent blooms in order to prevent the plant from going to seed and to keep them blooming until the first frost.  While not difficult, it needs to be done almost every day, and personally, I don’t like the smell or the stickiness this chore leaves on my fingers.

Last year I tried Wave Petunias, a variety that needs no dead-heading, and they were awesome!  Virtually no maintenance required other than watering.  A few times I did need to trim the whole plant back to keep them from getting too leggy, but that’s all.

Wave Petunias come in many colors and several different varieties with various growing habits (for pots, or borders, for example).  If you’re looking for some easy color for your yard, give them a try!

(This is not a sponsored post.  Also, I couldn’t find any photos of my pots last year, so this photo is from the Wave website.)

Fullscreen capture 592011 82116 PM.bmp

Got any favorite products, gadgets, or other tips?  Link them up here! 

  • share a tip that makes your life easier
  • you must link back to me in your post
  • link to your specific party post, and not your general home page
  • please be polite and visit several other participants and leave a nice comment
  • I reserve the right to delete entries that don’t link back to me or do not fit the party theme

Linky will close at 11:59 pm central Tuesday.

Friday, May 6, 2011

How Rude!

So, Wednesday afternoon I dropped my son off at the YMCA for his homeschool P.E. class, and then headed to the nearby McDonald’s for what has become a bit of a weekly ritual…free Wi-Fi and a small caramel frappé.  I highly recommend the frappé; however, if you don’t want to feel guilty about drinking it, do not read the nutritional info.



And all of that has nothing to do with the rest of the post, except that I had a photo, and it happened right before what I’m going to tell you next.

On our way home, we stopped at the grocery store to pick up a couple of things I needed for supper.  We were in the store for about 15 minutes.  On the way back out, as I was approaching the van from the rear passenger side, I could see through the windshield that a young man was putting a piece of paper under the driver side wiper.  I figured it was some kind of marketing flier, but a quick glance around told me that no other vehicles had one.

As I came around to the driver’s side, he walked passed me, with a bit of an “oops!  I’m caught!” look.

The paper I found under the wiper caused me to walk around to the other side of the van and take a look.  blogmay11


Hmm…okay, not my best parking job ever, but I didn’t notice it when I parked because there was plenty of room between me and the vehicles on each side (in fact, I would guess that the other car was on the line on the other side).  If I had realized I was (just) over the line, I would have made adjustments.

And what, you ask, did the paper under the wiper say?


Seriously?  Wow.


(In light of some of the comments this post has received, I’d like to clarify that I am not trying to excuse my parking job.  I don’t park like that normally, and in fact will go to great lengths and maneuverings to correct my parking if I pull in crooked or too close to another car.  In this case, I didn’t notice I was over the line because I pulled in directly in between two already parked vehicles with plenty of room on each side of my van.  I just don’t feel that (anonymously!) calling someone a nasty name is warranted, and I thought my readers might get a kick out of it.)



Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Eat Like an Egyptian

I have recently started making an effort to serve one or two meatless meals a week.  I often make spaghetti or chili without meat, so it’s not totally new to me, but I made the conscious decision to do it more regularly as a way to spend less on groceries.  A few weeks ago that led me to try kusherie, a recipe I found in a library book I had, The $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook.

Kusherie is Egyptian lentils and rice.  The recipe from the cookbook is reprinted here in a Denver Post article, but there are lots of versions around the web.  I tried it because I had all the ingredients and it looked pretty simple, but honestly I wasn’t expecting much based on the ingredient list.  As it turned out, we all enjoyed it, and Skippy even asked to have it again so I served it last night, too.  It’s not gourmet by any means, but more in the category of comfort food.




As is usually the case, I did not follow any recipe exactly, but mostly followed the $5 Dinner recipe.  It takes several pots and pans, but it’s not at all difficult.  Here’s what I did:

1.  Cook 1 cup (or more) of elbow macaroni

2.  Cook 1 cup of brown rice (I use quick-cooking brown rice)

3.  Cook 1 ¼ cups green lentils (simmer on med-hi heat in about 4 cups of water until soft—not mushy—this took me 30-45 mins)

4.  While the lentils are cooking, combine the sauce ingredients and simmer for at least 20 mins:   

  • 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground cumin (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • dash of cayenne
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped celery leaves (I didn’t chop them and just put them in while it simmered, then removed them)

5.  Slice an onion, separate into rings, and cook it slowly in a little olive oil until browned/caramelized

6.  Combine the lentils and rice; if desired, stir a little of the sauce into the macaroni.

7.  To serve, put a scoop of macaroni on the plate, top with lentil/rice mixture, spoon some sauce over it, and top with browned onions.

I was the only one in the family who would eat the onions, but in my opinion they are a vital component of the dish, so if you like onions at all, make a lot.  They are cooked past the sharp in-your-face onion flavor to a mild sweetness, so it’s worth trying even if you think you don’t like onions.




Inexpensive, easy, and a kid-pleaser…I think this is going to go into the rotation!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Tuesday’s Tips and Tricks: Google Calendar


A few months ago, I told you about Library Elf, and bemoaned the fact that our current library system does not participate.  Without the Library Elf email telling me I had books coming due, I was paying a lot of fines.

Craig has been trying for years to get me to use some kind of electronic organization system (i.e. a Palm Pilot, or nowadays an iPhone), but I have always resisted.  I prefer pen and paper.  For a year or so he has been telling me that he enters all of his and the kids’ activities in Google Calendar and I can just look there to see what’s going on, or add my own event.  I really never even bothered to look until recently.

So, admittedly I’m pretty much always the last person to jump on the technology bandwagon (well, other than my dad) and this is probably old news to you, but once I jumped on this one, I found Google Calendar to be very useful.  Back to the library thing, I can enter my multiple library due dates, and then set it to email me a day or two ahead so I can renew them, just like Library Elf would.  Even if that was its only function, I’d be happy with it.

It’s a secure website, and you can have separate calendars (personal, family, blog, etc) and either view them individually or all together.  As I said, you can have it email reminders to you.  Craig and I share access so we can keep up with each other.  And I’m sure there are tons of other things it can do that I’m not even aware of.

Just go to , click on the drop-down menu labeled “more”, and scroll down to “calendar” to get started.


Got any favorite products, gadgets, or other tips?  Link them up here! 

  • share a tip that makes your life easier
  • you must link back to me in your post
  • link to your specific party post, and not your general home page
  • please be polite and visit several other participants and leave a nice comment
  • I reserve the right to delete entries that don’t link back to me or do not fit the party theme

Linky will close at 11:59 pm central Tuesday.