Friday, November 30, 2012

Cookie Exchange

I'm going to a cookie exchange this weekend and I have to bring nine dozen cookies. Each person gets a dozen of each kind of cookie therefore I am going to be bringing home nine dozen cookies. Umm... that's a lot of cookies.

Now cookies are my number one favorite when it comes to baked goods but let's take a minute to do the math. 12 cookies in a dozen; times 9 dozen equals 108 COOKIES! If my husband and I each eat half that's 54 cookies!

But we won't eat them all ourselves (at least this month) we will freeze some and/or take some in a work. We'll share cause we're nice like that. Spread the love!

Anyway, I made Double Peanut Cookies from a Betty Crocker Cookie cookbook. The recipe said it would make 4.5 dozen so if I doubled it, I'd have nine dozen exactly. Problem is, I needed to have extra cookies for the judges (oh yes this is a cookie competition up in here.) So just to be on the safe side I tripled the recipe but get this; it only made nine dozen exactly. While baking I pulled out the three best looking ones for the judges and we sampled three of them so now I have only eight and a half dozen. They are completely normal size cookies and I still ended up short. Can't blame myself for enormous cookies or anything.

Here's some cookies chaos
By the way, I'm the reigning champ of the cookie exchange cause I won last year with a Paula Deen recipe for ginger cookies. I hope this double peanut goodness can live up to the hype.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

I love putting up the Christmas tree. We have an artificial tree (I've never had a real tree for Christmas) but I love our little fake tree. We bought it after Christmas two years ago and put it up last year for the first time in our apartment. It was the perfect size for our cozy little apartment living room.

This year we put it up in our new house! We put it in the family room and if you read this post then you might recall that we have a vaulted ceiling in that room and it makes our little tree look even more well... little. But enough jibber jabber here's a picture.

Next time I post a picture of the Christmas tree I'll get a more accurate tree to ceiling ratio shot. All of the Christmas boxes are piled up underneath the tree to serve two purposes 1. Keep my cat away from the tree if possible (and this method is failing by the way) 2. I don't know where else to put all the Christmas boxes. I know I should give gifts in them, but I think they are so stinking adorable I like to keep them. I just don't know where to display them yet. But for now lets just look at the details.

And this is one of my favorite ornaments (that I bought at Wal-mart last year for just a few bucks but I think it has that vintage feel which I love.)

Do you have your Christmas tree up yet? Do you have a favorite ornament? Do you have any advice about how to keep your cat from climbing the tree?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Making Our House Into Our Home: The Family Room

We moved a little over two months ago and the last of the boxes are being unpacked. Our house is definitely feeling more and more like home everyday. Last weekend I focused on the family room. Right now, we don't have time/money/energy to completely redecorate the whole house. (Especially since my list is long and expensive; including new flooring and trim.) But I am a firm believer that any room in your home can look great using what you already have.

Does anyone remember the HGTV show Freestyle? It was one of my absolute favorites! They would bring a professional decorator into a space and have them completely transform it using what the client already had. There were so many good ideas on that show, I wish they were still making new episodes. I tired to keep that Freestyle mentality while I was unpacking and setting up our space. I don't need to run out and spend money on new decor items when I already have a lot of cool stuff.

I don't have a good before picture because at first it was empty, then it had the couch and some boxes. Not much to see, but now that I've added some accessories like pillows and hung up a photograph* and "styled" the end tables (I put styled in quotation makes because the thought of me styling anything makes me laugh) it looks much more finished.

*The photograph will be replaced considering it is extremely small compared to the wall. The ceiling in the family room is vaulted so that wall is about twelve feet high. A more proportionate piece or pieces of art going to happen in the future.

The candy dish on the end table is from a thrifty store, the books are from a library book sale (many libraries have used books sales a few times a year) the pillows are the standard pillows that came with the couch and my mom made new covers for them with some fabric I bought online. I hope this room will grow and change as my design tastes grow and change.

I have since put the Christmas tree up in this room and I hope to share that in a few days!

Monday, November 12, 2012


My mother-in-law gave me some beautiful Lusterware this weekend. I had never heard of it before, but now I am in love. She gave me a few of these beautiful orange teacups and a few white pieces as well.

Wouldn't' the orange look great in a fall display? I told my husband we need a china cabinet or a buffet/sideboard or something quick because I love beautiful serving ware and I need a good place to store it when it's not on display.

She also gave me these two bowls, which are not Lusterware but they are Fire-King. I'm still trying to learn about all these different pieces so forgive me if I am incorrect. These little bowls are adorable, and that's a fact.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Extra Money for Christmas Gifts

Christmas season is soon approaching which means Christmas shopping is about to take over my wallet! If you are one of those people who planned all year long for the holidays, I think you're awesome. I am going to aspire to be just like you next year. BUT if you didn't save for Christmas all year long (like me) then this post might help.

While writing out a list of all the Christmas gifts we want to give our family and friends this year, it was easy to see that we were going to run out of funds before we ran out of friends. We do use credit cards but we pay the balance off every month so CHARGE IT was not an option. I put my thinking cap on and thought of a few things we could do to make our dollars go farther this year. I'm not going to personally use all of them, but I wanted to share them all hoping that it might help someone else.

1. CASHBACK BONUS BABY! This is one of my favorites because it's quick and easy. If you have a credit or debit card that earns you cash back or rewards points, cash that baby in! Go check and see how much you've got stored up in your cash back or rewards points. You might be surprised and find a hundred bucks just sitting there waiting for you. Many of these programs allow you to cash in your rewards for gift cards or actual physical items. You could redeem these and gift the item or gift card to your family and friends.

2. Sell something. This doesn't have to be complicated. Ebay and Craigslist are always good options for turning your unwanted items into cash. Personally, I haven't sold anything on eBay or Craigslist yet but I have taken items to resale shops and got cash on the spot. Actually just a few weeks ago I took some clothes to a local resale shop and got twenty bucks back. That's enough to buy at least one person on my list a Christmas gift. Resale shops that sell childrens' items and clothing would be a great option for a family who wants to turn some of their unused items in to new Christmas gifts for their kids. (You could even do some Christmas shopping there with the money you make, saving you from full retail price at a regular store.)

3. Request a reimbursement from your employer (if they offer such things.) At your company, do you get reimbursed for driving to off site meetings or purchasing supplies? If so, awesome! Add up what you are owed and turn in all your paperwork so you can get your money back before December. Don't wait until the week before Christmas, depending on the size and efficiency of your company they probably won't have enough time to process all of your paperwork and get your money back to you before the big day.

4. Find some seasonal work. This is more of a time commitment but it would definitely be a solution to finding more money for Christmas. This article says that Kohl's is hiring 50,000 seasonal jobs this year. This would be perfect if you only need seasonal money. Other places to look for season work would be the mall, local retail stores, places that offer seasonal gift wrapping, local community events (light shows, zoos, parks and recreations events, etc.) Another way to earn some seasonal income might be to babysit for a mom while she does her Christmas shopping, or offer to wrap gifts for a family (this is a great idea for a family your regularly babysit for), pet/ house sit for your neighbors while they are out of town visiting family, offer your babysitting services (again) to families who have company Christmas parties or other holiday soirees to attend. Offer to clean someones house before they host a holiday party. People are usually busier this time of year and their full schedule might equal more green in your wallet.

5. Empty your change jar.  Do you have a jar of change sitting on your dresser? Roll it up and take it to the bank. You might just have fifty dollars sitting right there. Or if you've done the five dollar bill savings plan (every time a $5 bill comes into your possession you hang on to it) the holiday season might be the right time to make good use of it.

Here are five ideas for helping your come up with some extra cash at Christmas time. (I know I said Christmas over and over again but they would definitely apply to any kind of holiday giving.) Do you have any ideas for coming up with some extra money this time of year? If so, please share!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Making Cents with the Dollars

I'm really passionate about family financial management, personal finance, monthly budget planning. Whatever you want to call it, I like planning and tracking money. I'm not perfect at it by any means but I'm constantly looking for a better way to keep track of my families finances.

I'm not talking about major financial planning, investments, 401k's etc. because honestly, I don't know much about all that stuff (but I am learning.) I'm talking about budgeting and expense tracking. Although budgeting is extremely important, I'm going to skip over that to talk about expense tracking. I feel you hear a lot about budgeting, but not a lot of information about how to stay on budget. No one wants to get to the end of the month and realize they went wayyy over budget in one (or more) categories. I think the hardest part about tracking your expenses is finding a system that works for you.

A method of expense tracking I always go back to is plain old pencil and paper. After a paycheck is deposited in our account I divide the amount into each budget category. During the week I save all receipts then I subtract each receipt from each appropriate category. My favorite tip for keeping up with this is to make a weekly appointment with yourself. I've kind of fallen off track with this lately, but Saturday morning used to be my money time. I would divide the amounts from payday into each category (based upon my budget, which I can talk about later.) Then I would pay all the bills that were due that week and BOOM, done. Done with stressing about finances, done with worrying about paying bills on time. Done wondering about how much I can spend in the upcoming week. Let me just say, when it comes to money knowing is a lot better than not knowing. I like knowing exactly where I stand, and this method has helped me a lot.

(Side story: I took logistics and six sigma training classes in college. They focused on continuous improvement when it comes to supply chain management. Coming up with answers to questions like, "How can I produce these widgets more efficiently? How can I reduce the cost of production? How can I reduce the production time? etc." While I learned a lot in the classes, one of the things that stuck out to me most was the words continuous improvement. It made me realize that there is almost always room for improvement in lots of areas of life. Budgeting and expense tracking being one of them.)

So, true to my side story I am looking for ways to improve my expense tracking. I plan on using this blog to talk about how I am inspired by numbers. How I take my budget it and use it as a tool to live the best life. I want to talk more about different budgeting methods, different expense tracking methods, tips and tricks etc. and also how I'm using these tools to be creative, have fun and smile everyday.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Wicked Workout

This is a short post just to say listening to Gaelic Storm and pretending you know who to Irish dance around your living room is a great workout. My Irish dancing looks like a lot of awkward hopping but wow, my pulse is racing!