Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Random Thoughts from My Commute

I have a 100-mile roundtrip commute to my job each day.

Most of my drive is on Interstates. So it's a relatively easy drive.

This allows me to ponder my existence daily. I thought I'd start blogging about some of the thoughts I have or sights I see.

Two recent sightings have left me with some questions:

1.  Why does a woman driving a mini-van in central Indiana have handcuffs hanging from her rearview mirror?

2.  Why is a skeleton hanging behind a driver's seat of a pick-up truck wearing a suit coat?

I told you, just some random questions from a typical workday drive.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Homemade Ice Cream: A Summer Tradition

It doesn't happen very often, but at least once or twice each summer my dad pulls out the ice cream maker and the family enjoys a batch of homemade vanilla ice cream.

If we are lucky, Mom makes up a batch of Granny's hot fudge sauce to go on top.

When I saw that Indiana Dairy is giving away a Kitchen Aid Ice Cream Maker Stand Mixer Attachment to wrap up June Dairy Month, I knew I had to blog about it. Click here to find out how to enter but hurry, the giveaway ends June 30!

Since Dad hasn't whipped up a batch yet this year (I have high hopes for July 4th), I thought I'd just give my 5 favorite things about homemade ice cream:

5.  The sound of the motor as it churns and churns.

4.  The distinct flavor of homemade ice cream. I haven't found it replicated in the store freezers yet.

3.  The brain freeze I ALWAYS get from the first bite because it's so much colder than store-bought ice cream.

2.  The hot fudge, whipped cream, cookie crumbles, candy toppings...

1.  The fight with my sisters, nephews and dad to clean off the beater when it's pulled out of a freshly made canister of ice cream!

Who wants some ice cream?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Gal Pals + Food + Fun = Girls Weekend!

For the last couple of years, my gal pals over at Going Jane and Bathtub Mama and I have been getting together at least once a year (maybe twice if we can swing it) to shop, scrapbook, talk and generally laugh our butts off at a Girls Weekend (GW).

Last year we TRIED to re-live our college days with a little too much rum, lots of chocolate, and some late-night crank calls to the hubbies (theirs, not my imaginary guy - he never answered). Unfortunately we re-lived the bad, as well as the good. WARNING: Never, ever drink rum from a Listerine bottle. Trust me on this one!

This time the gals are each bringing their daughters so there will probably be a little less re-living of the glory years, but still lots of fun.

Basically, I live smack dab in the middle - a four-hour drive for each - so this year GW is rocking my place.

Right now, I'm channeling the Pointer Sisters..."I'm So Excited and I Just Can't Hide It!!" (Imagine me singing and dancing through the house. OK, maybe you shouldn't.)

I already have some of our weekend planned.

Last GW just happened to fall while New Moon was in theaters. Since the new Twilight movie - Eclipse - won't be out until NEXT weekend, we have to fill our time with other activities.

I do have some movie theater gift certificates that I got a rockin' deal on recently at CVS and Toy Story 3 is in theaters so maybe we'll trade Edward and Jacob for Woody and Buzz.

Or there's always Redbox (I heart Redbox, as they say over at GOODEness Gracious) where we could go with Remember Me and still get our Edward fix!

In non-movie news...I was totally excited to learn that one of Bathtub Mama's and my favorite haunts when she's up from her southern home is having a monster of a sale this weekend! Half Price Books is having a huge clearance sale at the state fairgrounds on Saturday and Sunday and we are SOOO there. Everything is under $3. Awesome.

Add in some swimming time and all that left is figuring out how we'll feed ourselves!

I've been drooling over a multitude of recipes in the blogsphere and have decided to attempt at least one or two this weekend.

First, I've stocked up on biscuits so we can gorge ourselves on Going Jane's strawberry freezer jam. I'm also going to attempt a variation of The Pioneer Woman's cinnamon toast with English Muffins - an ode to my days out East. I also have a wide variety of cereals that I have gotten for a steal so we are good to go for breakfast.

I'm taking advantage of the homegrown ground beef (hamburger) in the freezer and doing tacos or spaghetti or maybe loaded nachos...dishes the wee ones will enjoy as much as we will.

For dessert, I've been craving these Grasshopper Cupcakes over at Sumo's Sweet Stuff since I joined the Cupcake Carnival earlier this week!

Of course, it wouldn't be a weekend visit to my house without going out at least once (usually more than that). Bathtub Mama and I always hit Ruby Tuesday's for their delish salad bar and I have a coupon so here we come.

I'm sure some Malibu will find its way into our Diet Cokes & Coke Zeros so maybe, just maybe, there will be some dancing as well..."to the windows, to the walls."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Quick & Easy Black-Bottom Cupcakes

To celebrate Father's Day, I volunteered to make a couple of desserts for a casual evening gathering on my parents' backporch.

I decided to go with quick-n-easy desserts that I don't have the recipes for. A quick text to a co-worker got me started on the first - a strawberry angel food cake trifle.

Basically, it's a layer of cut-up angel food cake (or pound cake), topped with a layer of pudding (made with 1 & 1/4 c. water or milk & a tub of whipped topping), then a layer of whipped topping (I heart whipped topping!), then a layer of strawberries (or your choice of berries or fruit or candy). Repeat!

Since my four boisterous nephews were also going to be present, I decided to go with cupcakes for my second dessert.

One of the first recipes I remember baking on my own is black-bottom cupcakes - from scratch. The recipe was out of this great kid's cookbook that my sister and I loved.

Well, I didn't have that recipe at home but I did have a box of chocolate cake mix, a brick of cream cheese and some chocolate chips! With a quick call to my sister who provided an alternate cream cheese mixture recipe, I was off to the oven.

The recipe...

Chocolate cake mix

Cream cheese filling:
1 8 oz. package cream cheese (softened)
1 egg
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 t. salt
Chocolate chips (as many as you want!)

Make cake mix as directed on the box.

Beat cream cheese filling ingredients (except for choc. chips) together. Stir in chocolate chips.

Fill the cupcake liners about 1/3 (or a bit more) with cake mix and add a tablespoon of the filling. Bake according to the instructions on cake mix box.


They turned out pretty good. Not quite a good as the originals, but no one complained! Next time I think I'll try to make the cake mix and filling a bit thicker and see what happens.

Be sure to visit some of the great posts from the Cupcake Carnival and Cupcake Tuesday by clicking on the buttons below. They are way more creative than I am!


Cupcake Tuesday at

Monday, June 21, 2010

Day 7 of Summer Slim Down: Wii Action

I admit it.

I'm a fair weather walker. If it's scorching hot with no breeze, I'm not going out. You can't make me!

I had plans to walk with Lil' Sister again Friday night and she was bringing Ty-Ty with her because her hubby was working.

I decided that it was just too hot to subject lil' Ty-Ty to the heat. Aren't I the best Auntie ever?

Instead I grabbed a movie from Redbox (I love Redbox!), and headed over to Lil' Sister's house for a different type of workout.

Yep, a little Wii Sports action!

We started off with tennis but it wasn't pretty. For someone with little to no eye-hand coordination, I never got the swing of it (excuse the pun).

So we switched to boxing and I found my true calling. I jabbed, I cut, I swung. I was a natural. Lil' Sister wasn't too bad either.

It actually was a pretty good workout for our arms. Not sure we burned too many calories though!

After several knock-out rounds of boxing, we switched to Wii Carnival Games. I really enjoy the carnival games and we competed in some head-to-head games.

Can you tell it was exciting? Notice the dog...she couldn't stand it and had to close her eyes.

I should tell you Lil' Sister is really, really competitive. Me not so much. After besting her in the first few games, she got serious and kicked my butt!

However, I had the largest cheering section:

He was super-excited at his Auntie's total domination in the boxing ring!

After our vigorous workout, we rewarded ourselves with a true chick flick - Valentine's Day! Cute movie, nothing earth-shattering. Worth watching just to see if you can name all of the movie stars in it.

The best thing about playing Wii games (besides the company) was that I didn't snack the entire evening - that's helpful in terms of the slim down campaign!

Stay tuned...picking some toning exercises and doing them!

Disclaimer: Lil' Sister and her family are living in a great little rental house while they build a new home. So the window treatments and carpet in the above photos do not reflect her decorating tastes!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

5 Things from My Dad

In anticipation of Father’s Day, I started to think about all of things I’ve inherited from my father, as well as everything he’s taught me. The list is too long to put in this post, so I narrowed it down to 5 things:

1. My blue eyes:
2. My sense of humor: I’m a little off kilter and silly, just like my dad. We have some great inside jokes in my family and most of them can be traced back to my dad. I say “Butler.” He says “Cincinnati.” We both laugh. See I told you, an inside joke!

3. My love of the comics page:
First let me say that my dad reads two newspapers front-to-back every day and I picked up that habit from him as well. However, my mom does that as well but she does NOT read the funnies (what we call the comics page) – that is something I learned solely from my dad.

It’s so bad that a) we’ve passed it on to my oldest nephew and b) dad and I can have such serious conversations about certain comic strips. So much so that if my mom walks in mid-conversation, she asks us who we are talking about.  When we say “Crankshaft” or Funky Winkerbean,” she rolls her eyes and walks away!

4. An appreciation for the land and what it can give to us:
My dad’s work uniform is a white t-shirt, blue jeans and work boots. For his entire life, including the four years he went to college, he has farmed. He’s farming the same land that his father and grandfather farmed and that is a lesson as well. My dad instilled in me the knowledge that if you work the land and tend it carefully that it will provide for you – and your children and your children’s children and so on. It’s not an easy life’s work and I’m appreciative that he – and others – chooses to do it so I can pursue my life’s work without worrying about having to grow food to feed myself.

5. A sense of family:

Enough said!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sprucing up My Little Outdoor Oasis: Day 1

One of the reasons I bought my condo almost two years ago was that I wanted some outdoor space again. I spent the previous 6-plus years in a second-floor apartment with no balcony.

After growing up on a farm in the country with multiple yards (our side yard was the perfect shape for a ball diamond - though the long ball got lost in the corn more than once), I missed being able to sit outside and read.

BUT I don't have the time (or really the desire) to keep up a big yard - or even a small one. So a condo with a small patio area is perfect for me. I have my outdoor space but not a lot of upkeep!

Still, there is some yardwork that is necessary and since last year I didn't get around to planting anything until late July, I'm determined to spruce it up before my gal pals come over for a well-deserved girls weekend later this month.

Before getting started, I went to my parents for inspiration. My folks have put a lot of time and effort into landscaping the homestead - especially the last few years since my mom retired from a 30-plus teaching career. You know teachers...they need to nurture. My mom has switched from surly teenagers to plants!

Here are some of my favorite features:

This was where our above ground pool once was!

My dad built my mom these window boxes and I love, love, love them!

The chicken house once stood here. When I was growing up only the foundation was left, We spent many a summer day playing house, school, store there.
This rock is now a part of the chicken house landscape feature. It broke my heart when my parents moved it from its spot under the tree in the side yard. It's a perfect standing rock - flat on the top, not too tall. Again it was a favorite childhood play spot.

So, I now had my inspiration...and thanks to my dad I had my tools.

I was tackling a rosebush so the leather gloves and long-handled clippers were a necessity. My first order of business was cutting back a rosebush that got out of control over the last two years because I don't know when or how to probably prune!



Next up, planting some pretty flowers and spreading mulch. Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 3 of the Summer Slim Down

As I started my journey to fit back into my super cute black swim shorts by July 4th, I decided to start with a vigorous walk after work on Tuesday. Unfortunately, a storm blew through that evening so I did some crunches instead.

Slow and steady wins the race, right?

Luckily the weather has cooperated since then with two gorgeous summer evenings - perfect for walking.

To prepare for my walk Wednesday evening, I pulled up my iTunes to create a playlist for my iPod that would inspire me to pick up my pace and get my heart a pumping!  

Unfortunately, I realized that my recent listening habits tend toward a more laidback type of listening!

I pulled my "Exercise" playlist of 27 songs that I tried out during my walk last night. Most of them were OK. A couple really made me pick up my pace - like "Ruby" and "Paralyzed." And a few just didn't make the grade!

I didn't have a lot of time to search iTunes today but I did grab a Katy Perry song (Hot N Cold) that I usually groove to in the car. I'm hoping to use a couple iTunes cards I got on one of my wheel & dealing trips to CVS to pick up a few more songs.

An iPod is good, but company is better when it comes to exercising! Lil' Sister came over and walked with me tonight. It's great to have an exercise buddy AND time to catch up on each other's lives.

I know I won't always have a real-live exercise companion, so I'm looking to you for help. Have any go-to songs when it comes to exercising?

Send them my way. I only have 17 days to trim, really didn't do the math until just now.

Maybe I'll just stick with the bigger pair of swim shorts! Cookie, anyone?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Slimming Down by 4th of July (or else)

It's time to buckle down.

See the swimming shorts above? Aren't they cute?

I LOVE them. They are long enough to hide my not so firm upper thighs, but not too long to make me feel like I'm wearing a granny swimsuit.

I have the black pair above and a similar pair in brown. The night before we headed down to Florida for our family vacation, I tried on my cute swimming shorts.

The brown ones fit just fine (they are a larger size)...the black ones, not so much. Close your eyes and think "muffin top" - quick open your eyes...horrible image, huh? Sorry but now you know how I felt!

This is a major problem. I have a lot of cute swim tops to go with my black swim shorts.

I'm determined to get back into them by the July 4th holiday!

Over the last 3-4 years, I've been floating between two clothing sizes and it's annoying. One size is just a little too snug. The next size up is just a little too big.

Now, I'm not saying that I need to lose a bunch of weight - just about 5 pounds (maybe 10 to be back to my drivers license weight) so that I'm firmly in the smaller size.

I do NOT want to go out and buy a bunch of new clothes...just fit into the clothes I already have!

So, I've decided to start exercising regularly because I've tried the serious dieting route before and I just don't have it in me! I am planning to start eating more fruits and veggies and less chocolate and chocolate, but the main goal is to do some sort of exercise DAILY.

I'm going to utilize the great walking path that is right outside my door and walk for at least 45 minutes 4 days a week.

The other 3 days I'm going to do some sort of toning exercises - concentrate on losing some pounds around my middle.

Any ideas for a good workout? I'm looking for some exercises/routines that work.

Check back soon for updates!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Starting the Week Off with Some Deals!

I have been rocking the CVS and Walgreens deals (see this week's bounty above) for a while now, thanks to some tips from the Frugalista and a couple great sites that lay the deals out clearly each week (In Good Cents and Hunt 4 Freebies) - I'll get back to those shortly.

This week I decided to try my luck at Meijer and their "10 for $10, 11th for free" deal. Add coupons, including double coupons up to 50 cents, and there are some deals to be had! I bought 38 items (including 22 from the "10" deal), used 17 coupons (6 were doubled) and spent...drumroll please...$34.10.

This is a bit on the high side because I picked up some "impulse" items like balsamic vinegar (to make the Balsamic Rosemary Chicken Marinade over at GOODEness Gracious).

I don't have a Meijer in my hometown, but I'll definitely make the trip again if the right items are on sale AND I have coupons!

Now back to the regularly scheduled savings...

In addition to my shopping, I picked up some items for my mom as well this week (explains the over abundance of toilet paper purchased).

The gals at the make-up counter at my local Walgreens are GREAT. They always make sure I have all the coupons I need to get the best deals possible. However, I came prepared this week.

First, I bought:
Nivea For Men body wash: $5.99 - $1 coupon = $4.99
Schick Hydro 3 razor: $7.99 - $4 coupon = $3.99
But, I got: $10 Register Rewards back!

I turned around and used the $10 Register Rewards, plus another $1 Register Rewards to buy:
2 small boxes of Honey Combs (check out the end caps for this great deal) for $1 per box: $2 - $1 coupon off 2 = $1
4 rolls of toilet paper: $2
4 bags of Hershey candy (for my candy basket at work) for $2.50 each: $10
And, I got: $5 Register Rewards back!

So, in the second transaction, I spent a grand total of $2.84 and took home $5 Register Rewards to use next week.

Now, on to CVS...

I spent a grand total of $2.66 this week at CVS with $9 of Extra Care Bucks (ECB) used.

CVS had a wide range of 10 for $10 items (remember you do NOT have to buy 10 to get the savings). So here are the deals I got:

Lady Speed Stick: $1 - $1 coupon = FREE
Palmolive dish soap: $1 - $.50 coupon = $.50
Ultrabrite toothpaste: $1 = a happy mom
Cottonelle toilet paper: $5.97 - $1 coupon = $4.97 ($.41/roll)
2 Old Spice body washes at $4 each: $8 - B1G1 coupon = $4 (ECB earned)
And I got back $9 in ECBs!

Somehow I got $8 back for the body wash even though there was a 1 item limit - score. I also used my Green Tag Bag ($1 ECB every 4th use).

Be sure to scan your ExtraCare card at the "deal" machine at the CVS store before you checkout. Last week it gave me a $5 off $15 purchase that can be used on your total BEFORE coupons and ECB - just be sure to give it to the cashier before any other coupons.

So there are my deals for the week.

If you have any others, please share!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Oh Vacation, Where Have You Gone?

I've been back at work for a week and haven't really had the time to think about those busy, yet fun days of our oh-so recent family vacation to Disney World.

But I do miss the togetherness (the big guy in the back isn't one of the family)...

the sweetness...

the silliness...

the joy...

the pool...

the naps...

and especially the boys!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

I Confess...It's All Gone

I have a confession to make.

I'm hanging my head in shame.

I only meant to eat half of it. The other half was to be an after-work snack for tomorrow.

But it's gone...all gone.

But I drank a glass of skim milk with it, so that makes it OK, right? 

Sunday, June 6, 2010

What is it with Little Boys & Guns?

Spending the week with my four nephews at Disney World was great.

However, it reminded me that I grew up with three sisters and we spent our time reading, playing house and dressing up our Barbie dolls.

Not my nephews...they are too busy running, playing with action figures & dinosaurs and "shooting" everything that moves (and sits still).

I haven't figured out how little boys learn how to make EVERYTHING (even their fingers) into guns...but they all do it!

It doesn't help that three of my nephews are total Star Wars fanatics. 

For this reason, we planned our last day at Disney World so that we hit Hollywood Studios for the "Star Wars Weekend" festivities.

It was a hoot! Storm Troopers opened the park from the roof of the entrance gates. Star Wars characters roamed the park and posed for photos.

I guess Captain Rex (see below) is my oldest nephew's FAVORITE character (from Clone Wars, I believe) and we just happend to be in line when he came out! Notice the hands on the big guy forming a "gun."

It was great to see the excitement on BOTH of their faces when they met Captain Rex - totally priceless.

In addition to the Star Wars characters, we also met some classic Disney/Pixar characters, including the Green Army Men from Toy Story.

Guess what the boys liked most about those guys?

You guessed right...their guns!



I don't think they are ready for the Army yet, but you never know...


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Silly Hats Galore

Well, I didn't have to buy my nephews silly hats...their parents did it for me!

Now for a close-up...


The profile shot shows this one off better...

The oldest went for something a bit more "grown-up"...


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