All gassed up.

As in fuel.  The 10% ethanol kind.  And a heck of a lot poorer, too.

So this whole livin’-in-the-country-drivin-20-minutes-to-town-every-time-I-turn-around-thing has seriously been causing me to have a mild coronary each time I pull into the filling station.  Add to that all the baby doctor visits I get to make to the big city that is just over 70 minutes away and I am in a bad way. 

$3.82?  For ONE gallon?  

I remember when Dad could flip me a twenty in high school and I was good for a full tank with enough spare change to score a box of Junior Mints besides.  (See Days Like This.)

I put in a twenty these days and can not even make it halfway there.  Bummer.

Please, don’t take this as the pregnant-lady-who-hasn’t-had-her-Dairy-Queen-fix rant (although, it sure would be nice if one of these sweet little towns around here would oblige me by building one).   It could also be the fact that I’m still subsisting on decaf, but I digress…

I am saying all this to say… I am about to eat crow.  

Most of the people who are anywhere remotely close to me know that I am probably one of Walmart’s biggest anti-fans.  I just really dislike the entire experience.  The lackluster customer service, the missing shelf prices, the mis-labeled aisles, and my personal favorite… waiting twenty minutes (or more) to check out with my shampoo and razor blades because they choose to have two out of their twenty-something cash registers actually open.  I just don’t get it.  And I will go anywhere else I can in town to get what I need before I resort to old W.  Unfortunately, in a small town such as this, there often isn’t much of a choice.

But then…  I heard something.  In truth, I don’t even remember it’s source.  A commercial?  A print ad?  A friend?

Regardless, I stumbled onto the fact that when you use a Walmart gift card (which are awesomely reloadable) to pay for your gas at Murphy USA (the Walmart-affiliated gas station), you get $.10 off every gallon.  

Ten.  Cents.  Off.

True story.  No fees.  Nothing.  It’s a straight up deal.

I raced to Walmart to pick out the prettiest card I could find.  Mine has mums (my favorite flower).  Hubby’s is about as uninteresting can be.  Orange with a grocery cart.  (Boo.)

So for now, Walmart, you have won a little piece of my heart.  

Well played, Wally World.

I am fully aware that the jig is up on December 24.  There only forty-five minutes between me and Target.  I hope you have some other fancy trick up your sleeve by then or the love may be lost for good.  

Love & Coffee.

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Guilty.

For a long time I was one of those people with loads of good intentions, purchasing hoards of healthy stuff at the grocery store only to discover by the end of a busy week that it was rotten beyond belief.  And into the trash it would go.

Guilty.

Apparently, I’m not alone.  A recent study showed that 39% of Americans feel the most green guilt over wasting food.  Not to mention…  money down the drain. 

Guilty.

Last week our family was pleasantly surprised (blessed!) with a small heap of fresh peaches from good friends.  I knew there was no earthly way we could eat them before they were bad.  What’s a girl to do?  Peach crisp was the first thing that came to mind.  I made three.  And even after all my girlies’ afternoon peach snacks, we were still drowning in peaches.  I cut and sliced until I was dreaming of peaches, and froze every last bit by the quart. 

And then, our sweet friends dropped by another round.  Oh, sweet peaches, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:  Crisp.  Cobbler.  Pie.  A la mode.  Shall I go on?

Mom called.  Her kitchen was overflowing with fresh, garden tomatoes.  Did I want some?  (Ha.  Is the Pope Catholic?)

I bartered a bit.  Peaches for tomatoes.  A fair trade.

I spent the better part of the weekend cooking down those lovely, red fruits into a savory sauce, which immediately fulfilled their destiny in a delectable veggie lasagna.  The rest went the way of the peaches, frozen by quarts.

No waste.  And a freezer full of summer goodness to be enjoyed well into the throes of autumn. 


Squeezing the daylights out of a ripe tomato.  Therapeutic.

Bookish.

It took me a long (loooonnnng time) to feel even remotely comfortable with the idea that an e-reader might ever have a significant place in my life.  

I.  Love.  Books.
I love the smell of paper and ink and leather and glue colliding in my nasal cavity.  (Seriously, it smells good.)   I love the way each grainy, fibrous page caresses my fingertips as I lose myself in an intoxicating story.  I love looking at page numbers and the sense of victory and accomplishment when slamming shut the cover upon completion of a 964-page monstrosity.
I.  Love.  Books.
I couldn’t pass up a Barnes & Noble, if I tried.  And the library is my second home. 
When accompanied with a steamy cup of heaven (coffee, of course), there is no place I’d rather be than curled up with a wordy book.  
I am not sure what initially made me think about it, but I started reviewing and comparing e-readers… two years ago.  And guess what this girl got for her May birthday???  Kindle Touch!  And I couldn’t be more in love.

L.  O.  V.  E.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t be ditching any of my favorite books.  (My Jan Karon library is forever safe in my book case.)  The idea of having access to thousands of books in my handbag at any given moment makes me giggle with nerdy glee.

To date, I have accumulated several hundred books on my Kindle.  And I have only paid for two of them.  Yes, two.

I have since discovered that there are so many places to find out about free ebooks for my Kindle.  It’s a little scary.  Like an addiction.  Almost overwhelming.  I have so much to read that I don’t know what to read!  Classics, history, fiction, children’s books, devotionals, and a plethora of pretty amazing cookbooks.  (Not to mention I now have three versions of the Bible.  So far.)

Nearly every classic is free which pretty much has me giddy as a school girl.  (I am completely lost in Little Women at the moment…)   Amazon.com also lists their top 100 free books for Kindle which is updated hourly.  A serious treasure trove!  I could go on to list all my favorite places to find out such things, but that would take all day.

Don’t have a Kindle?

Free Kindle reading apps are available for you phone, computer, or tablet here:  Free Kindle Reading Apps 

So here are links to a few of my favorite ebooks that are free at the time of this posting:

(These deals tend to change pretty frequently, so be sure to check the price before downloading.)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version (with Cross-References)
Art Museum: Ancient Sculpture To Impressionist Masters
The Furious Longing of God
Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa
The Truth About Butterflies: A Memoir

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
The Scarlet Letter
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
 
The American Frugal Housewife by Lydia Maria Francis Child (1828)
Circle of Friends Cookbook – 25 Burger Recipes
Out of Sight, Out of Mind – Easy Home Organization Tips and Storage Solutions for Clutter-Free Living
Salads for Every Season: 25 Salads from Earthbound Farm
SMART SCHOOL TIME RECIPES: The Breakfast, Snack, and Lunchbox Cookbook for Healthy Kids and Adults
Superfood Recipes (Healthy Eats)

The Children’s Book of Christmas Stories
The Golden Acorn
If You’re So Smart, How Come You Can’t Spell Mississippi? (Reading Rockets Recommended, Parents’ Choice Award Winner) (The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses)
Maebelle’s Hat
The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter
The Ugly Duckling (Illustrated)

Its okay.  Grab a cup of joe, put your feet up, and enjoy yourself.  It’s too hot to do anything else anyway…

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When Chickens Fly…

Off the shelves.

So my local supermarket recently had fresh chicken breasts on sale for $.88/lb.  Yes.  Eighty-eight cents.  (Minimally processed, no hormones, no steroids.  A literal steal.)  

Naturally, I stocked up.  No matter how you slice it, this family is chock-full of carnivores.  I love my veggies, but meat-eaters we are…  especially chicken.

At that fabulous price, there is bound to be some work involved.  Removing the skin is a piece of cake, however, I really do not look forward to picking the chicken off the bone once it is cooked.  I am left wondering if it’s truly worth the price when half of the meat is left on the bone.  And I have nightmares about my kiddos choking on those tiny rib bones.

What’s a girl to do?  Two words.

Crock.  Pot.

For years, I have made various stews, sauces, and beef dishes in my trusty slow cooker.  It hasn’t been until recently that I discovered the joy of preparing chicken in a similar way.  When slow cooked all day, the chicken literally falls off of the bones, leaving me with more chicken for my money and no bones to worry about for the girlies. 

Not to mention the slow-cooked chicken shreds so perfectly for sandwiches, pastas, or random snacking the rest of the week! 


My new favorite chicken recipe:


Slow Cooker Italian Chicken

(Note:  I make this in a large 7 qt. crock pot which makes a slew of leftovers for the rest of the week.  Halve the recipe for a smaller batch.)

4 – 5 lb.  Chicken Breasts (bone-in or boneless)  or a whole chicken
4 potatoes, cut into large chunks 
4 carrots, sliced into large chunks
1 c. Italian Dressing
3 cloves minced garlic (or garlic powder)
Parsley
Basil
Salt
Pepper 


1.  Place chicken breasts in bottom of slow cooker.  Add 1/2 c. of Italian Dressing over chicken.  Add minced garlic.  Season to taste with parsley, basil, salt and pepper.
2.  Add potatoes and carrots.  Add remaining dressing.  Season veggies to taste.
3.  Cook on low for 7 – 8 hours or on high for 3 – 4 hours.  (Chicken should reach internal temperature of 165 degrees.)

If you worry about the bones (like me!) remove before serving to small children.

Happy Tuesday, Coffee Lovers!

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This post is a part of the Frugal Tuesday Tip.

Mango Mania.

Yes.  That’s what it’s called.  The color my sweet hubby selected for our kitchen facelift.  It would be far more accurate to say that he absolutely insisted on it.  I am certain we spent at least 45 minutes in the paint aisle going around about this color choice.  Me, holding my ground for a subtle aloe green.  Him, pressuring me to go bolder.  Ay yi yi.  It was clear that I was not going to win this war.  After all, it’s paint.  If it doesn’t turn out, you paint over it.  No problemo.

Lucky for us, the previous owner nicely remodeled the kitchen, leaving only the walls undone.  So the last 5 days we have been buried in our kitchen, held hostage by layers of crumbling wallpaper, joint compound, and paint fumes.  I am happy to report that the deed is nearly done.

Hal.  Le.  Lu.  Jah.

We knew going in that the kitchen would be the toughest room in this house.  And because I spend so much time in there, it had to be done first or I was going to tear my hair out.  We meticulously removed 5 layers of wallpaper.  Yes.  Five.  This house was built in 1900 so we knew there were likely some hidden surprises beneath those layers.  I was time-traveling via wallpaper, literally peeling decades off these walls.  I am not sure which I found most intriguing, the 1950s fruit bowls or the circa 1930s teapot prints. 

My kitchen is mostly dry and back together.  And… I love the Mango Mania.  It’s warm and Tuscan and not nearly as wild as it sounds.  As much as I hate to admit it, my sweetheart was right.  In this case.  And now I get to pick out new window treatments and accessories to go with my new kitchen colors.  Score.

And when I find a way to manufacture more time into my schedule (ha!), I will be stripping paint from the gorgeous woodwork on the five doorways in the kitchen.  (Yes.  Five.)  Seriously, who paints over such things?  Happy this madness seems to be contained to the kitchen and the wood work in the rest of the house is beautifully intact. 

Originally, this five-day vacation was slated to be just that.  Vacation.  Friday is our 10-year anniversary and our intention was to finally take a trip to celebrate.  But then we bought a house.  And I got a new kitchen for my anniversary.  And you won’t find me whining about it one bit. 

So don’t worry about me.  I’ll be sipping coffee amid the warm, Tuscan mangoes.  Wait.  Are there mangoes in Tuscany?  Well, whatever.  It’s just plain pretty.

BONUS TIP:  We found ourselves in need of an extension for the paint roller and not wanting to make another trip into town.  Hubby discovered he could unscrew the broom handle and it was a perfect fit to screw into the end of paint roller.  Voila!
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Lunch Lessons.

I love living here, but as I am quickly learning, there all sorts of little challenges popping up that I hadn’t really thought about before.  

One hurdle in particular is lunch.

Yes.  We were spoiled in town.  Hubby came home for lunch nearly every day.  It was a sweet time to reconnect and catch up and nourish ourselves.  Now…  not so muchThere are simply too many miles between us and eating out every day isn’t exactly friendly to our bank account.  ($5 Footlongs from Subway can only charm a person for so long.)

I wasn’t really prepared for the whole packing-a-lunch ordeal every morning.  Packing for the kids is easy.  (Kid-friendly ideas here:  Lunch Much?)  

My sweetheart, on the other hand, eats at least three times as much, craves massive amounts of protein and is very…  specific about his food.  There have been more than a few recent mornings where a grumpy hubby left the house lunchless simply because I didn’t plan ahead.  (Oops!)  Sandwiches and soup were getting old really fast.


Then a lightbulb…


Several weeks ago, while preparing a larger-than-usual pan of enchiladas (one of the few meals that everyone in the family will actually eat without someone rolling their eyes and pushing the plate away), I hit a wall.  The dish was stuffed to overflowing and I had 4 lonely enchiladas left over.  What to do?  Epiphany.  I wrapped each one individually and stuck them in the freezer.  Hubby’s lunch!  He was thrilled and they reheated perfectly for his mid-day meal.  Now I make a double batch and freeze away!

Homemade, perfectly portable,  and oh-so-yummy.  Not to mention, exceedingly inexpensive to make.  


Some other things I am filling my freezer with for this purpose:


Pepperoni Pizza Poppers


A homemade version of a pizza pocket.  Use refrigerated biscuit dough (or homemade!).  Roll each out to a thin circle.  Fill with sauce, cheese and desired toppings.  Fold over into a semi-circle.  Use fork to press and seal the edges.  Bake at 450 for about 8 minutes.  Wrap individually for future use!  Experimenting with other fillings is fun, too:  chicken, cheddar cheese, and broccoli; ham and cheese; chicken, barbecue sauce, and cheddar cheese; etc.
Microwave for about 2 minutes to enjoy.


Meatloaf Muffins


Use your favorite meatloaf recipe and scoop into a muffin pan.  Bake at 450 for about 15 minutes.  Cool, wrap individually and freeze.  (Mix it up and top with marinara sauce, Italian seasoning and mozzarella cheese or barbecue sauce and cheddar cheese!)  Microwave for about 2 minutes to enjoy.

Meatballs & Marinara

Freeze your homemade meatballs (this recipe is my fave:  Italian meatballs).  Store in an airtight freezer container or freezer bag.  For lunch, pack with a small container of marinara sauce for dipping.  (A baby food jar is the perfect size!)  Microwave for about 2 minutes to enjoy.

Taco Cups

I cannot take any credit for this, but my amazingly kitchen-talented friend, Lori sent me this idea awhile ago.  (Check out her blog here:  4newtons.)  Press refrigerated biscuit dough into a muffin pan, fill with taco meat, cheddar cheese, and bake!  I imagine these would freeze equally well, but haven’t yet tried it!



Almost any casserole can be frozen in individual portions in the same way.  I’ll be experimenting some more with this…

Check out my Recipes page for more yummies!
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Pinteresting.

So I (and pretty much the rest of the world) have become completely and wholeheartedly obsessed with Pinterest.  It certainly is getting a lot of attention these days.  If you are not already familiar with this delightful corner of the internet, let me introduce you.

“Pinterest, meet Coffee Lover.  Coffee Lover, you have now been sucked into a vortex whose habitual tendencies are second only to the power of a steamy caffeinated beverage.  Resistance.  Is.  Futile.”

Pinterest is a virtual bulletin board where users can create “boards” to which they “pin” the things they love from all around the web.  I have boards devoted to recipes, crafts, fashion, etc.  It’s a social network of sorts where you can view what your friends are pinning and vice versa.  Pinterest literally becomes a visual “Favorites” that is much more comprehensive, interesting and well, let’s face it… just plain fun.  The possibilities are endless.  Baby shower ideas, seasonal crafts, inspirational quotes.

I also use Pinterest to save money by crafting meaningful gifts at home.  (About my 75% of my most recent Christmas gifts were Pinterest inspirations!)  Another of my favorite ways to use Pinterest is to find new ways to upcycle things I would ordinarily throw away.  

Here are some of my favorites:

(Be sure to click on the links to see pics!)

Tic Tac container:  Perfect for storing bobby pins.  (No matter how hard I try, my kidlets will continually have bobby pins roaming freely all over the bathroom drawer.)

Bread Clips:  Those little plastic tabs that keep the bread bag closed (which my children routinely lose before the bread is gone) can be used as labels and clipped onto the tangles of cords plugged into any given power strip. 

Entertainment Center:  You know those old boxy things running rampant at yard sales and thrift stores that won’t fit most TVs anymore?  They get new life as a play kitchen!


Pop Tab:  Incognito picture hanger.

Travel Soap Dish:  I dare you to find a better card game organizer.  It’s also the perfect size for holding a box of crayons!

Cheese Grater:  Painted in a whimsical color, this former kitchen gadget is a novel earring holder.

Old Bath Towels:  Turn them into a cozy bath mat.

Cardboard Salt Container:  Cut off the top to the size of a Mason jar and use the canning ring to secure it.  Voila!  A pour-top jar.

Wooden Ladder:  Turned sideways and mounted to a wall, it becomes a bookshelf.

And that’s just the beginning…

Have an overabundance of something and no idea what to do with it?  Pinterest it.  I’ve had bags of those popsicle craft sticks sitting in a cupboard forever.  Type “popsicle sticks” into the Pinterest search box and looky here.  Who knew, right?

Seriously, what’s not to love?  Come Pinterest with me. 

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