Thursday, May 2, 2013

Yesterday da boyfriend became da fiance!  He proposed at the top of beautiful Sam's Point on a perfect spring day. Don't mind my manly-man hand, its hard to take a picture of your own paw!

Friday, March 1, 2013

What I've Been Up To

I've had a very busy month...mystery shopping! Just as I jumped head-first into couponing many years ago, I've jumped straight into the world of being a secret shopper.  Do any of you do this as well?  I started during the last week of January, plowed on through February and did my first March shop this afternoon.  Including items/meals that I've been reimbursed for, I've made $682.49!!!!!  I can hardly believe it myself.  Now granted, when I start something new, I almost always go overboard, so I've been doing shops just about every day of the week.  Some shops are straight reimbursement - you buy an item, they pay you back, some are straight pay - $10 to go somewhere and evaluate something, and some are a combo of both.  I've done a bunch of shops at grocery stores that reimbursed me for my purchases - I combined these purchases with rebate items, Savingstar credits and catalina deals wherever possible.  My hunny and I have eaten out at a bunch of restaurants for free or close to it and I even did a shop at an oil change joint and got reimbursed for all the charges.

If you shop too, I'd love to hear which companies you use.  I've had very nice experiences so far with Market Force, GFK and Reality Based Group. You can search for legitimate mystery shopping companies and/or jobs through MSPA's website. As with anything else, do some research before signing up with a company to see what other folks are saying. And you gotta be organized. I've been keeping a spreadsheet of what jobs I've completed, how much I'm owed, what format the money will arrive in (Paypal, check, direct deposit, etc) and if/when the money has arrived. And you'll need to keep copies of your documentation for a while, depending on the company's policies.  Its been similar to the system I use for tracking my rebates.  A little organization goes a long way.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

More Adventures in Woodworking

Take a look at the newest home-built addition to our house - a home-built headboard!  Da boyfriend made this beauty for me for Christmas and stained and installed it this weekend.  Eventually, I'm planning on painting the bedroom a light green and I think this color is going to look great with it.  

He's now crafted our lovely mantle, a rustic dining room table and created a spacious jewelry box..  Not only is it great that he enjoys doing projects like this, but I think of all the money we're saving by creating these things versus buying them in a store.  I have a bunch of other projects in mind to keep him busy!  Hopefully next on the list will be a corner shelf like this one.  :)

Monday, December 31, 2012

A Baking Bonanza!

I was a baking fiend this weekend!  I started out with a batch of Pioneer Woman's French Breakfast Puffs.  They were so moist and the cinnamon sugar coating was so tasty...but DBF and I learned an important thing about ourselves.  Neither of us likes nutmeg.  I'll definitely be making those again, minus the nutmeg.  I bet they'd be good if I sub'd the nutmeg with cinnamon...

Next I moved on to these amazingly tasty loaves of white bread.  Made from scratch and hand-kneaded, they were definitely worth the work.  This recipe made four loaves.  This bread is so good that it makes me want to not bother buying store-bought bread anymore.  But my loaf pans are tiny and a bit small for sandwich bread.  Does anyone know of a place that sells loaf pans that are more like the size of loaves of bread you'd buy in a store?
DBF and I took a trip over to Target to look for organizational racks so I can make my cabinets look more like this.  I ended up finding the upright racks she stores her muffins tins and cutting boards in at Walmart for about $5.  Now my muffin tins are all in order and easy to grab - I love it!  But anyway, back to Target.  My store had tons of holiday clearance, but just the usual stuff - wrapping paper, candy, ugly decorations, etc.  I wasn't impressed...until I spotted this Nordic Ware mini-loaf pan.  I just couldn't resist.  Nordic Ware makes the cutest stuff!  They had a bunch of cute muffins too for around $6.
Nothing fancy here, just a store bought cake mix with some funfetti icing - but doesn't it look like a huge donut?  
Now for our favorite new treat - Georgian Cheese Bread.  It doesn't look like much, but boy was it good.  The dough was super sticky and didn't rise very much (it was a bit cold in the house) so I wasn't expecting much when I put it in the oven to bake.  I think next time I'll double the recipe since the loaf came out on the small side.  DBF has already put in a request for me to make this one again ASAP.
Inside - light, fluffy dough and delicious cheese!  Two of my most favorite things, all merged into one.  I didn't have any Havarti cheese in the house, so I used mozzarella and a mexican blend and it came out great. Next weekend I'm going to give these Pepperoni Muffins a try.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas (In Pictures)

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!  Ours was filled with good old family time and laughter.  We even had a white Christmas!

My sister somehow found the Clark Griswold moose mugs from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and got a set for da boyfriend and I - aren't they hilarious?  Best Christmas movie ever.  "Are you still in the Navy Clark?"  "PLAY BALL!"
My mom, "the quiltin' bitch" as we've aptly nicknamed her created this beautiful Christmas themed quilt.  I love the semi-abstract Santa's.  My uncle stared at it for a good thirty minutes before he saw them, but I expect you will do much better!
That just about says it all...

Minnie's Grinch feet
"Watch it with the comments lady, I'm mighty close to your ankles and I've been known to nip"

The ever-so-shy Freckles emerging from downstairs to see what's going on.
Looking so demure...

Rocky loves to hang out on top of the stairs and keep his eye on all of us.
And his mom, who was down the hall.
Deliciousness on a pretzel!  My sister melted Hershey Kisses over the pretzels and topped each with an M&M.  The salt of the pretzel, plus the white chocolate, plus the chocolate, plus the peppermint?  Boy howdy!
I picked up this rustic looking clock for my dad.  I thought it would be nice if I put in a battery and set the time for him so it would be ready to go.  After finishing my present wrapping, I heard a ticking noise and realized you could hear the clock ticking through the wrapping paper.  Then laughed myself silly for creating a veritable bomb present.
"Mommmmmm, put me down!"
As usual, before the wrapping paper had even hit the floor, Bootz was all over, in, around and on top of the boxes.
Shadow and what's left of her circle rawhide bone. It only took a couple hours for the other half to disappear.

Do the hustle! 
Woo!  Looks like Freckles got into the spiked eggnog this year!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Its (NOT) the End of the World as We Know It...

When I get bored, I typically crack open a good book and flip on the tv.  But not da boyfriend.  He was bored the other day, so while I was at work, he made me a jewelry box!
Isn't it beautiful?  Lots of compartments to store all different sizes of jewelry.
The top shelf fits perfectly on top of the bottom layer like so.  He's going to stain it for me too, just have to pick out the perfect color.
In his typical style, its a little large.  I'm still trying to figure out where I'm going to put it!  (like our gingerbread men table runner?)
Now I just need to fill it up!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

My New Career - Cookie Decorator

The baking bug got me on Friday and I set about making Pioneer Woman's oh-so-delicious looking truffles with sea salt.  The recipe was easy enough, melt together chocolate, condensed milk and some vanilla, let it set up in the fridge for a couple hours and then dunk in more chocolate.  I can't remember what I was doing on Friday that made me want to finish up the truffles Saturday morning, but it must have been good because I left the chilled bowl of chocolate in the fridge overnight.  Saturday morning came...with a migraine so the chocolate went unattended for the day.  By the time I took the bowl out this morning, the chocolate was rock hard.  A minute or two in the microwave fixed that in a jiffy.  I rolled out the chocolate into balls and stuck them in the freezer for a couple minutes before dunking them into the milk chocolate. I've never had chocolate sprinkled with sea salt before and boy have I been missing out.  These are gooooo-oooood!

Inspired by some hilarious cookie cutters I found at Target, I also thought I'd whip up a batch of cookies and decorate them.  Whenever I tackle something creative, I always have the most amazing pictures in my head of how its going to turn out.  I picture beautifully created cookies with intricate frosted details, sort of like the magic I see all the time on Bake at 350:
All you have to do is follow the instructions, right?
What could be easier?
Sigh.  What I always forget to factor in is that by the time I've made a million chocolate truffles, whipped up the batter for shortbread cookies, rolled it out, cut out ninjas with my new cookie cutters, bake the ninjas, washed the dishes and bowls and measuring spoons and measuring cups I've dirtied and let the cookies cool....I couldn't care less about how the cookies look.  So I ended up taking some of the extra melted chocolate from the truffles and "decorating" the ninjas with it.  If you can call this decorating.
The important thing is that the chocolate got on the cookies.  Who cares if it looks like they were in a mud-flinging contest, right?  Right?

Seriously though, how funny are these cookies?  They're ninjas in three various action poses.  I kept breaking off their limbs, so these two are just about the only ones that stayed intact during my baking and decorating project.
Have you noticed these adorable containers?  They're from the Temp-tations line, sold on QVC and I'm in love with them.  My sister noticed them a while back and got a set for my mom, who loved them so much that she bought a set for my sister in return.  Happily, it was my turn to get in on the fun and these were my birthday present from my folks.  You can throw them in the microwave, the oven, the dishwasher, you name it!  And they're so cute that so you can serve your dishes right out of them without having to transfer your food into something a little spiffier than your garden variety Pyrex dish.  There are tons of colors and shapes and sizes, but each set stacks right inside itself for easy storage.  They also come with metal racks with handles, so you can take the dish right out of the oven, put it in the rack and carry it to the table - no pot holders needed!  Ok, enough of me sounding like a commercial.  Go check them out, they're really cute and practical.