Join us for our Christmas Galore Link Party! Come share your awesome ideas for Christmas decor, party ideas, recipes, activities and anything else!!

While you're here, be sure to enter our giveaway for Shutterfly and Plum District Goodies! The giveaway has been extended to December 2nd and there will be 5 winners!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

10 Tips for Frosting a Cake

One of my favorite hobbies is decorating cakes, so I thought it would be fun to share some tips for layering and frosting a cake! Before we get to work layering and frosting though, be sure to check out the post I did a couple weeks ago about baking a better cake and about my favorite cake recipe.

So, here are a few tips to follow once you've baked and completely cooled your cake(s). In the pictures, you'll see that I used two 8" or 9" (I've never measured) rounds. You could easily follow these techniques with any diameter or shape of cake.

1. Level Your Cake. This can be a little difficult at first. There are a lot of handy tools out there to help you get it just right. Tools like this...

They typically either have a small wire or a gently serrated "knife" that essentially cuts through the cake. They're also adjustable so that you can change the height - you can change it to cut through the middle of the cake or just take off the domed top. But, you don't need those fancy little gadgets. You can use floss or even just a knife. Which is what I used.

See how the cake filled up over the top of the cake? When I do my round cakes, it's just easier to use the cake pan as a guide. It may not be perfectly level, but it's good enough for stacking. Frosting will help even out the rest! So, take your top off and set it aside.

I just have to say, if muffin tops are the best part of a muffin, then cake tops are the best part of a cake. Especially this yummy cake

Also, instead of just taking off the dome and putting the two layers together, you can make layers within the single layer to then fill and stack together.

2. Bring your cake up to a higher level and/or use a turntable.

This is actually my cake taker reversed - the bottom part where the cake goes is actually sitting on top of the cover. I like this setup best for two reasons - it brings the cake up higher (about 10") and because I can easily turn it as I frost my cake. A raised turntable would accomplish the same thing, but I don't have the money for one of those.

3. Make sure your cake layers are even on the sides. My cake pans are ever so slightly angled outward towards the top. It really isn't a big deal in my case, but sometimes it's necessary to trim the outer edges of the cake so that the layers are even. Doing so will help in the icing and smoothing process. Just stack your layers together and then with a knife, gently trim off any parts that stick out of the side. This process is easier if your cake is frozen (it's so much easier to cut through when frozen) and should be done before filling/stacking your layers if you're going to be using a filling besides frosting. If you're just using frosting, then you could do this after stacking and filling your layers.

4. Use a good frosting. Despite the fact that making my own frosting can make a huge mess (think sifted flour EVERYWHERE), I think homemade frosting is so much better to work with and it's a little more natural (no additives or preservatives). Store bought frosting is much more sticky (which is horrible for when you're trying to not get crumbs in your frosting) and doesn't hold its shape as well when you're trying to decorate with it. The frosting recipe I use is just Wilton's Buttercream Frosting. I prefer a mixture of butter and shortening and I typically double the recipe, too. This is usually how I make it:

1 cup shortening
1 cup butter (if you're going for a completely white frosting, use only shortening or get a whiter butter)
2 lbs sifted powder sugar
2 tsp vanilla (I don't usually use clear vanilla -if you want a perfectly white frosting, go for clear though)
2 tbsp milk (or water)
additional milk or water for thinning

To frost the cake, you'll want to use a thinner consistency frosting so that it will spread easier. Your stiff frosting is used for decorations that need to hold their shape. A medium consistency is also used for decorations like borders and such. A thinner consistency is also used for piping and writing. Check out Wilton's information on icing consistency. They even have a video - way more that I can show you!

Even if you're going to be covering your cake with fondant, you'll want to give your cake a good, thin layer of frosting. The frosting will help keep the crumbs in (it's sometimes referred to as a crumb coat or crumb later) and will give the fondant something to stick to. You'll want to make sure your frosting is as smooth and even as possible so that any imperfections don't translate into imperfections in your fondant.

5. Filling your cake layers. You can really use any kind of filling. I prefer to just use icing, but you can also use any kind of jam or preserve. If you're going to use something other than frosting, then you'll want to add a step to the filling process. Fill a decorating bag with some frosting, and using a round tip (probably around a #12 or so) pipe an edge of frosting all the way around the edge of your layer of cake. Then fill the inside with your filling. Putting an edge of frosting will help keep the filling in and will help it from squishing out into your layer of frosting that you're going to be putting around the rest of the cake.

6. Choose your weapons of choice. I prefer to use a small straight spatula and a larger bent spatula.

 I like to use the smaller spatula for the initial smoothing and especially for the sides. I find it's easier to work with. I like the larger spatula for smoothing out the top or for a tall cake. There are also angled/pointed spatulas and all sorts of sizes in between.

I also like the large bag and flat tip to help get the frosting onto the cake.

Have you seen those gigantic bags they use on the cake decorating shows? My little 16" bag is about the closest I'll ever get, but it does the job. I fill that baby up and it's so much easier than trying to smooth it on with a spatula.

Once you've covered the side of the cake, use your spatula to remove excess and smooth it around. When smoothing the side of your cake, use your spatula at a 45 degree angle and spin the base/cake, if possible. You'll get a smoother edge by moving the cake instead of the spatula. If too much icing builds up on the spatula, just wipe it off and start again.

7. Ice your cake carefully. Once you get your cake onto your base, plop on some frosting and get to work. But be sure to frost carefully! Don't go sloshing the frosting around every which way. Use your spatula at an angle on the cake - not flat and not perfectly perpendicular either. Once you start moving your frosting in one direction on the cake, follow that direction through until you read the edge of the cake. Once you've moved your spatula off the cake, you can choose a different direction.

8. Use your icing to help even out the cake. If your cake isn't cut/leveled perfectly even, don't worry. You'll just want to add some frosting in some places to give the illusion of evenness. No big deal! If you're going to be covering your cake with fondant, you'll definitely want to make sure your cake is as even as possible.

9. Getting straight corners. This is probably the hardest part of the cake for me. And unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of this process. Basically it's just a lot of back and forth between going around the side and smoothing the top. I could do this part for probably almost an hour. If you're using fondant, don't stress too much about this part. Your fondant is pliable and you can still give it a few smooshes and use a fondant smoother to get the squared corner look.

10. Smoothing out the icing. This is another step that I could spend quite a while doing. You'll need a tall pitcher, cold water, and your spatulas. Cold water from the tap should be fine unless it's summer and/or your water runs warm. If that's the case, just use a few ice cubes or put it in the fridge before you start the frosting process. This process may sound weird, but it really does work, trust me! Unfortunately I was running short on time and didn't get to snap any pictures of this process either, so I'll try and explain it the best I can.

Dip your spatula into the cold water, then tap the excess water off. You don't actually need the water, you just need to make your spatula cold so it will easily glide over the frosting. Holding your spatula at a slight angle (around 45 degrees), run it across the top and sides of the cake. You'll notice that the frosting starts to take on kind of a glazed look. The imperfections are smoothed out with ease. Repeat this process across the whole cake. When the frosting builds up on your spatula, wipe it away with a napkin or on the side of your bowl. Be sure to dip the spatula back into the cold water after every or every other run across the frosting. If you see any beads of water, just gently dab at them with a napkin - don't wipe them if they're on the frosting otherwise you'll have to redo what you just did with your spatula. After this process, you should have a fairly smooth, beautiful cake.

Again, I was running out of time and didn't have time to make it perfect, so ignore the imperfections you see on the side. Also, the camera made them look way worse - you could hardly tell they were there!

Do you have any tips for getting a smooth, beautiful cake? I'd love to hear them!

I'll be doing some decorating tips in the next week or so, so be sure to check back. Also, if you have any questions or want to know how to do something particular, please let me know so I can (hopefully) share with everyone in the upcoming decorating posts!


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dollar Store Storage Bins

I'm in the process of redoing Andyroo's room. He never got a "proper" nursery when he was born, so I'm making up for lost time and giving him a new big boy room. Part of the new room is some cleaner, more efficient toy storage.

One of the things that drives me nuts about his room is the toys! I know I'm not the only mom out there who feels that way about their child(ren)'s toys. When he was younger and had fewer toys, I tried the shoe size (6 quart-ish) plastic bins. They worked, but he eventually got too many toys and the lids didn't fit or they were stepped on and broken. For a while, his favorite thing to do was dump out the little toy boxes. I finally gave up the insanity of separating the toys and just got him one big box.

But when he dumps that out because he's looking for his tiny green army men, I go crazy. I may be the mom, but I do NOT like cleaning up after the other people in this house!

I was considering making some canvas bins, but I'm afraid that they'll just get ruined very quickly - ripped or crushed or whatever. I wanted to do something that would be sturdy, so I was considering using cut up cereal boxes or plastic canvas as inserts in the middle of the canvas to make them stronger. But I kept thinking about how they would get destroyed so easily. So I put off making them for a few months.

Then as I was walking around the dollar store, I found the plastic bins in pink and light blue and my mind immediately went to the spray paint for plastics! So I grabbed 8 of them. There were only 10 on the shelf and while I considered taking all 10, I thought that was a little greedy. Instead I took 8. Hehe.

Krylon makes a great Plastics spray paint in quite a few colors. I found mine at Walmart for around $4, I think. It was windy, I got a little spray happy, and then towards the end the can wouldn't stop spraying. So the can only did the 3 I needed. *Phew* Even so, a total cost of less than $2.50 per bin isn't bad at all.

Only 6 would fit on Andyroo's shelf. Of the 8 I bought, 5 were a light blue and 3 were a bright pink. Since I needed 6, I was going to have to use one of the pink. I decided to use 3 light blue and 3 pink and paint the pink ones a darker shade of blue. I had pictures of the pink bins (so you could see just how pink they were), but they've disappeared somewhere into the abyss of my computer. Oh well. Use your imagination :)

The 2 shades of blue ended up matching the his Thomas the Train comforter (which I found on Clearance at Target - total score!) really well, which made me extra happy. I'm kind of pulling colors from his comforter for the rest of his room. Someday I'll get it finished and let you all see!

Much more tidy, don't you think?

Each bin is used for a different set of toy - potato head, cars, train, etc. Now everything has a place! And Andyroo doesn't have to dump out the whole bin when he wants to find Potato Head's moustache.

I think I want to add some picture labels, but I haven't decided yet. So far Andyroo's pretty good about just looking to see what is in each box. And I still usually have to help supervise clean up anyway, so I just grab a bin and tell him to put all his cars in it.

These have been in Andyroo's room for a little over a month now and they're working really well. The paint isn't peeling or being scratched off (another of my worries) and they're just so darn cute!

I'm also thinking of painting or redoing the book shelf. Any suggestions?

What system do you have to keep the toys from taking over your house?


We're linking up with these super awesome parties:

Whatever Goes Wednesday, Idea Sharing Wednseday, What I Made Wednesday, Creative-ly U, Feature Yourself Friday, Just Something I Whipped Up, Frugal Friday, Lovely Little Linkup, Craftastic Monday, Woot Woot Wednesday, Strut Your Stuff, Our House of Joyful Noise, Get You Craft On, Wow Me Wednesday, Weekend Wander, Turquoise Lovin', Pity Party

Monday, August 29, 2011

Owl Nail Tutorial

I was on Pinterest the other night and saw a tote that someone had made to look like an owl. I immediately was inspired for my next tutorial. Again, I'll make it simple. ;)

You will need the following colors in nail polish: green, brown, pink, white, and black. You can use nail art pens for some or even all of this if it's easier for you. You may choose to use different colors than I used as well.

First I painted my nails green. I had to do three different coats because the green I chose was so light.

After the green polish was dry I took my brown nail polish and drew the wings on the side. If you need to put the polish on some paper first and then take a toothpick to draw in the wings do so. It wasn't hard to just paint the wings on with the brush. I did use a toothpick for the beak. Later I decided I wanted the beak in black as you can see in my main photo.

Next I took my white nail art pen and drew the big owl eyes. It's important to make sure you don't press too hard with the pen because you might smudge your green polish. Though the green polish seems can still be bumped in the first half hour and messed up.

I then took my black polish and put spots in the middle of the big white eyes for the pupils. I drew in a bigger beak over the old brown one and then drew the feet. The last thing I did was put my pink spots onto the wings. You can do the pink spots in the pattern that I did or you can create your own.

That's it! Isn't the little owl so cute? Your family and friends will love your creative nail art. Thanks again for looking at this fun nail polish tutorial. Keep coming back for more fun ideas and beauty tricks.

We're linking up with these super awesome parties:

Whatever Goes Wednesday, Idea Sharing Wednseday, What I Made Wednesday, Creative-ly U, Feature Yourself Friday, Just Something I Whipped Up, Frugal FridayDIY Under $5, Lovely Little Linkup, Craftastic Monday, Woot Woot Wednesday, Strut Your Stuff, Our House of Joyful Noise, Get You Craft On, Wow Me Wednesday, Weekend Wander, Turquoise Lovin', Pity Party

Sunday, August 28, 2011

FHE Idea: The Word of Wisdom

Sorry for the lack of FHE ideas the last couple of weeks. It's been a busy couple of weeks and I had to let a few things go.

Song:The Lord Gave me a Temple (Children's Songbook #153) (Download the song here or see and hear the music here)

Scripture: D&C 89:1-3 (Preface of the Word of Wisdom chapter)

Lesson Ideas:
  • On one piece of paper, write "Commandments" and on another, write. "Promises." Read and discuss D&C 89 to determine what the WoW entails and the promises that we're given if we follow it. List the commandments and promises on the correct pages.
  • Find pictures of food and beverages that we should eat (fruit, veggies, juice, etc) and that we shouldn't eat (coffee, beer, etc) and have your children determine whether they're good or bad for us. Some foods may be okay for us to eat (ice cream, candy, cake) but we need to use the principle of moderation. Explain to them how we can have those items (dessert at night, cake for our birthday) but we shouldn't eat them all the time and that we should make sure we're getting the nutrition our body needs. As you look at some of the bad items, discuss some of the consequences that might come from eating or drinking those items. For instance, drinking alcohol could cause Cirrosis of your liver; caffeine can make you jittery and then sluggish if you don't have it; smoking can cause lung cancer, yellow teeth, and a yucky, hacking cough.
  • Discuss the new food guide put out by the USDA - MyPlate. You could discuss why you cook the meals you do - why you include the various food groups. You could also discuss more in depth about nutrition and meal planning. If your children are old enough, you might plan some meals together that include all of the food groups.
  • Read this story from The Friend about how Joseph Smith received the revelation about the Word of Wisdom. (The Friend, June 1992, pg. 44). Also at that link is a coloring page/hidden objects page that your children could use.
  • For older children, read through D&C 89 and follow this Hidden Message Worksheet.
  • No matter which activity you choose, be sure to discuss WHY the Word of Wisdom is important. The Word of Wisdom was given to us so that we can be healthy, not as something to make us feel trapped. Heavenly Father wants us to be happy and healthy so that we can have more energy and feel good. You might also talk about how obeying the Word of Wisdom shows respect for our body and to Heavenly Father. It's another way to keep ourself clean and be of good mind to recieve inspiration from the Holy Ghost.
  • As a snack after FHE, have an assortment of fruits and dips. A mixture of yogurt and cream cheese makes for a really yummy fruit dip. You could also do apples and peanut butter, or use cool whip as a dip for any fruit.


Friday, August 26, 2011

Winner for the $25 Sam's Club/Walmart Gift Card!!!

We just want to thank everyone who entered the giveaway for the $25 Sam's Club gift card!!

The winner is...

 Number 12!! Which is...

Debra!!! Congrats, Debra!! You didn't leave an email address, but I'll post this on Facebook too, so hopefully you'll see this!  Either message me us Facebook, use the contact form, or email us lifeinthemotherhood (at) gmail (dot) com.

Homemade Cleaning Products

One of the small changes I've made over the last year, and even since Andyroo was born, is trying to use fewer chemicals in our house. I'm no expert and I'm not doing this to be considered more green. I just think that all of those harsh chemicals that we inhale and touch cannot be good us or our little ones. Besides being able to breathe easier, it's also cheaper to use homemade products. Even using coupons, I still save even more money by making my own cleaning products - it's seriously SO cheap!

Some of my favorite cleaning ingredients include vinegar and baking soda (not usually mixed together, though).

Why Vinegar?

I know most people tend to think of vinegar as pretty gross smelling, but it has many purposes and uses. It has anti-bacterial properties, deodorizes (the vinegar smell really doesn't stick around, honest), and leaves a great shine (especially on stainless steel) - just to name a few. It can be used in place of fabric softener sheets/liquid. Just add about 1/2 c to your laundry. As an added bonus, it will help brighten your whites and help rid your washer of any built up residue. Have a stinky washing machine? Run an empty load with some extra vinegar to clean it out and get rid of the smell.

Why Baking Soda?
Baking soda isn't just for baking! It's also a great deodorizer. Think of the commercials advertising the baking soda boxes for your fridge - they help absorb the smell! When you mix it with a little water, it creates a great paste which will remove all sorts of grime, scum, hard water, etc. No need to use harsh scouring clearners.

My favorite all-purpose cleaner is made with very simple, household ingredients. I use this to clean everything - the kitchen counters, stovetop, our tile floors, the bathroom counters and mirrors, and even the walls and anything else that I need to clean. It's non-abrasive, so it isn't going to scratch any delicate surfaces and I don't hesitate to spray it on.

All-Purpose Cleaner
1/2 c white vinegar
1 tsp Dawn dish soap

Add vinegar and Dawn to an empty spray bottle (about 20-26oz) and then fill with water. Gently shake to mix ingredients. You'll probably see some suds at first, but you won't be spraying suds on everything.

If you're looking for a replacement for your basic anti-bacterial spray and don't want to use vinegar, you can also use the following mixture:

Bleach Spray
1/2 c Bleach

Pour bleach into a spray bottle (about 20-26oz) and then fill the bottle with water.

Here are a few other mixtures that I use...

Window/Glass Cleaner
1 c Rubbing Alcohol (the isopropyl stuff)
1 tbsp white vinegar

Mix in a spray bottle and you'll have a streak free shine better than Windex

Furtniture Polish
1 c Olive Oil
1/2 c Lemon Juice (the real stuff, not the extract)

Mix well and apply to a cloth, then rub onto your furniture. Use a dry area of your rag to shine.

There are a lot of recipes for homemade cleaning products out there. What are your favorites? Has anyone tried making their own laundry detergent? It's something I'd like to try but I've been a little hesitant. I'd love to hear about the homemade products you use!!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tips for Saving Money

Let's face it. We all need to save money. Whether we're saving for a particular item or just need to scale back, it's really never a bad idea to make the most of our money. I've got some tips and tricks that I use to help our little family survive on one lonely little income. I'll be talking more about saving at the grocery store (without coupons) and saving with coupons later this week, so be sure to come back and check it out. Also, please feel free to offer any tips and tricks that you use! I'd love to hear them and I'm sure all of our other readers would too!
  1. Track your spending for at least 30 days. This is probably the best tip of all. Get a notebook and write down all your income and expenditures. You'll be very surprised at where your "money leaks" (as I've heard them called) are. The trick to this though is to not modify your spending habits and to habitually write down EVERYTHING. If you modify your habits (meaning if you change how you spend because you're tracking it), it won't be as impactful at the end of the month when you're looking at how much you spend on coffee or diet cokes. The same goes if you're not writing everything down. You can't say, "Oh, it was only $1. It doesn't matter." Really, those dollars and cents add up quickly and they do matter. Once you see how you regularly spend your money, you can create a budget and be more conscious about your day-to-day spending. You'll save money by knowing how you spend your money.
  2. Plan and eat your meals at home. This is one of the first things to go when our budget starts to get a little tighter. For me, I CAN cook at home. I know how, I don't mind doing it, I'm just usually too lazy to do it! Especially in the summer. I hate heating the house up and slaving away in the kitchen when it's so hot outside. What can you do to make eating at home more appealing?
      1. Plan your meals. You don't have to schedule something specifically for each day (though you can if you want) but at least come up with about 7 meals (depending on how your family utilizes leftovers, you may just need 5 or 6). Write them down so you and the rest of your family can see them. In the morning, pick a meal, pull out anything that needs to defrost, and then you're not dreading the dinner rush.
      2. Plan meals that your family will eat. It might be exciting to try new meals, and it's good to do that occasionally, but make most of your weekly/monthly menus with your family favorites.
      3. Ask your kiddos/hubby what their favorites are and incorporate them too. Along with that, let them help in the kitchen. They'll be more inclined to eat if they get to help you make it!
      4. Don't deprive yourself at home. If you're not eating out, you can still splurge on some goodies to have at home. Instead of going out for ice cream, pick up some at the store. No matter what you get, it will be cheaper than going to Coldstone!
  3. Reexamine your phone bill.  Whether you have cell phones or a land line, you can still do this. If you have both, are they both necessary? If you just have cell phones, but you have the bells and whistles (text messaging, smart phones, internet, etc), can you cut back at all? Look at past bills and examine your actual usage. Can you move to a lower plan or eliminate some of the frills? It might be a hard adjustment for a while, but there was life before all of this newfangled technology. Also, remember to look around when your contract is up with your current provider. Do your research to see what other providers are offering. Just because you looked around 2 years ago doesn't mean things haven't changed in the market since then, If you just have a land line, is there anything you can cut? Or, can you combine services (TV, phone, internet) to save money? Don't be afraid to call your provider to ask about bundles, discounts, or about cutting services.
  4. Reexamine your cable/satellite bill. This works about the same as your phone bill. Is there a lower package that you can purchase instead? Call and ask for any discounts or take a look at the other providers and see if they have a better option. If you find that you're not watching it or that you always think, "There's nothing to watch on TV," then think about doing away with it altogether. Hubs and I have never had cable or satellite and we don't regret it one bit. What have we done instead? For a while we took advantage of Hollywood Video's $15 a month plan, but when they did away with that, we switched to Netflix. There are so many affordable options available for streaming TV and movies to your TV - Hulu, Netflix, and Blockbuster are the main players. Sure we're usually behind in watching the "it" shows, but we can still rent them. I prefer to watch them on DVD or streaming - no (or very few) commercials and no breaks between episodes. If we want to stay up all night and watch 6 episodes of Lost, we can totally do that!
  5. Consider your entertainment. What are the things you do for entertainment? Everyone needs to have some fun and get out, go on dates, etc. But Can you cut back a bit? If you enjoy going to the theater to see a movie, you might consider renting more often. Redbox, Blockbuster Express, and Netflix are all great, affordable options. If you absolutely must see a movie in theater, try to make it to a matinee (usually before 6pm) or don't spring for the 3-D showings. You'll save money on tickets both ways. You also might try cutting back on the snacks at the theater - have you see the prices of popcorn and soda? Insane! Also, check out your local library! We're a small town and have a fairly small library, but they have a pretty decent selection of movies (both adult and kids and not just educational stuff) - for FREE!  The library is also a good source for books. Check the library first instead of going out and buying new books! Look into any free activities that your city or nearby cities offer. Plan those as dates or family outings. Take advantage of discounts that you find!
  6. Make sure to pay your bills on time. I know that sometimes it's tempting to just take the late fee (I'm guilty of this one) and wait for the next payday, but you're costing yourself money in the long run. Even if the late fee is just $5 (most are more, nowadays), that will still add up quickly. If you have a hard time remembering which bills are due when, consider using automatic bill pay through your bank.
  7. Do some homework before making any big purchases. Everyone thinks about doing this for something like a car, which is very important also, but do this when you're purchasing any appliances, electronics, or furniture. Does one store provide a warranty but another store has a better price? See if the store that offers the warranty will match the price of the other store. Even if you're willing to pay more for quality, do some research and know what it is you're buying. If you're looking at purchasing a laptop, get to know the terminology, the processors, speeds, and all those other things that you're only thinking about when the sales person starts asking you questions.
  8. Keep up on the regular maintenance of your car. This will help eliminate the need for some unnecessary and expensive repairs down the road. Change your oil according to your owners manual (in some models it's no longer necessary to go with the 3000/3 month rule). Look into the maintenance packages that are offered for certain mileage (50K, 75K, etc). I don't know much about cars, but I do know that these checkups will help keep your car running for longer!
  9. Consider starting a babysitting co-op with your other mommy friends. Instead of paying upwards of $5 an hour for a teenager to come and sit with your kids, see if there are some other moms that would want to swap babysitting. You watch their kids on Friday night while they go out and then they watch your kiddos on Saturday while you enjoy a night with your hubby. You could rotate during the week, every other week, or however often you need to get out of the house. This also doesn't just go for date night. Need to do some grocery shopping without the kiddos? Swap babysitting and let another mommy get out of the house too!
  10. Pay Cash/Start Saving for it now. You know that eventually you're going to want/need another or newer car. Start saving now. Want to upgrade your TV or gaming system? Save for it first. Planning a big vacation for next summer? Start planning, saving, and watching for deals now. If you can pay cash, do it. Especially when it comes to big ticket items that you might be tempted to pay for with credit. You'll save so much in interest by paying in cash.
  11. Buy Clothing (especially kid stuff) on Clearance. This is one of my favorites. Seriously. If you're really into the really hip and fashionable clothing (the fact that I call it "hip and fashionable" shows that I'm not, lol) then this might not be the tip for you. But right now, I don't really care too much about what brand my son is wearing - as long as he has clothing! Buying Andyroo's clothes when they're on clearance is something I've been doing since he was born - and I've saved soooo much money. This means that you'll have to estimate how big your kiddo will be in a year and watch for the clothing clearance sales. Right now everyone is trying to make room for fall clothing, so they all have all of their summer stuff on clearance. In fact, last week I went over to K-Mart when they had all their clearance an extra 40% off (Old Navy also runs that kind of sale too) and scored everything for Andyroo for next summer for $40. FORTY BUCKS! That's about 9 or 10 outfits, some extra shorts, and a swimming outfit. Pretty much everything Andyroo owns was purchased on clearance. I've found that for where we live (Utah), the best clearance sales are during the spring and fall. So during the late summer and early fall, you'll want to watch for summer/spring stuff to be on clearance, in late winter and early spring, you'll see all the fall/winter stuff on clearance. Like I said, in Utah, even though we have 4 seasons, it's not really necessary to shop for all 4. In spring and summer, Andyroo basically wears the same things. His fall and winter clothes are about the same too. Depending on where you live and what your needs are, you might be shopping on a different schedule.  
Hopefully you've found something in here that will help you save some money. Do you have any other tips to offer? I'm sure we'd all love to hear them!


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Chicken Bacon Alfredo Pizza

I mentioned this pizza in my Cheese Stick Recipe post and thought that I should show you my pizza too.

What you'll need:
  • Pizza Dough (I HIGHLY reccommend this Breadstick dough from Our Best Bites)
  • Garlic Bread Seasoning (also from Our Best Bites)
  • 1/2 c butter or margarine
  • Alfredo Sauce, approx 1/8 - 1/4 cup
  • Bacon Pieces (depending on how much you like - I LOVE bacon)
  • About 1 cup cubed/diced/shredded Chicken (cooked and seasoned to your preference) (I'm using canned chicken this time)
  • 5-6oz of shredded Mozarella Cheese
  • Corn Meal or Corn Grits (if using a pizza stone - optional)
  • Any additional toppings - tomatoes, onions, etc
  1. Follow the recipe here but stop before you cut and twist the dough into breadsticks. Instead, spread some corn meal/grits onto a pizza stone or pan and roll out the dough. Let it rise for a half hour or so. (Here is where I use the Corn Meal. Spread a bit onto your pizza stone before rolling the dough onto the stone. Technically you're supposed to preheat your stone and then put your dough on. I did that the first time I used my stone, but it was such a pain in the butt to try and move the dough. Now I just put down some Corn Meal and roll the dough straight onto the pizza stone without preheating it. The Corn Meal keeps the dough from sticking too much. Flour does NOT work so well to keep the dough from sticking. I may have tried that, very unsuccessfully.)
  2. Mix 1 1/2 TBSP Garlic Bread Sesoning and 1/2 c butter or margarine together. Heat in microwave until melted.
  3. After the dough has risen, spread the butter mixture onto the dough, covering completely.
  4. Spread the Alfredo sauce on top of the butter, making sure to leave an inch or so around the edge for a crust. I find I like the pizza better if I don't use quite as much sauce. I think I use maybe 1/4 cup total.
  5. Sprinkle the chicken, bacon and any other toppings (I used tomatoes) on after the sauce.
  6. Top with mozzarella cheese and slide that puppy into the oven. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes (or until the cheese is bubbly and the crust is golden brown.
  7. Remove from the oven and coat the crust again with the garlic butter mixture. Cut, serve, and enjoy!

We like to dip this in either Alfredo sauce or the remainder of the garlic butter mixture. That might sound weird, but it's no different than dipping in in the garlic butter from Papa Johns. The homemade mixture is just better (trust me, I've tried them both).

Doesn't this just look heavenly!?

The garlic butter is really what makes this pizza sooo good. The first time I made this pizza, I didn't use the garlic butter and the pizza was okay. The next time I made it, I got the crazy idea to spread the garlic butter on first and Oh.M.Gee!!! Adding the garlic butter took this pizza to a whole new level. Yum!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Handmade Gift Box

I've been trying to find a cute way to package the gift sets in my Etsy shop and this is what I came up with. My own box - made from card stock - and without a cutting machine!

Here's what you'll need:

  • 2 pieces of card stock - heavier weight is better (I used 12x12)
  • cutting mat (optional - to help ensure straight lines)
  • long ruler
  • glue stick
  • tape
  • scoring tool (I used a butter knife, but there are tools specifically for scoring)
Here's how to do it:

Step 1: Determine what size you want your box. I used 12"x12" card stock, and my box is 10"x10"x2". Based on the size you want, square up your paper with the cutting mat and ruler. Since my sides are 2", I went in 2 inches from each side.

Step 2: To score the paper, I used the smooth side of my butter knife and dragged it along the side of the ruler. You'll want to use pretty heavy pressure and after scoring, you should see an impression in the paper (but not any cuts or holes). You can kind of see the score lines in this picture here...
Step 3: Repeat for all 4 sides. Gently fold up the sides along the scorelines.

Step 4: Now for the corners. Gently pull in corner of the paper so that a triangle forms.  

Make the squared edges of the paper meet

and finish off the edge of the triangle.

Step 5: Repeat for all 4 corners.

Step 6: Glue the insides of the corners together.

Step 7: Fold the triangles over to the side of the box and glue down. Do this at all 4 triangles. I also added some tape for stability.

Step 8: I also added some tape to the outer corners of the box for more strength.

Step 9: Repeat for the other side of the box. You'll want to adjust the box size just a minor amount so that the box will comfortably fit together. For instance, I scored in exactly at 2" on each size and made this the bottom of the box. For the top, I scored at 1 7/8" instead.

Step 10: Make it pretty and fill it with your items! I added a label to the top and used some tape to help keep the box closed.

If you try this (especially with any other variations), I would love to see!!

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