Friday, December 24, 2010

Last minute Santa Hat tree topper

Last minute tree
We have a new 4ft Christmas tree in the family room.
It was a last minute thing and I did not have a tree topper nor did any store.

So...I had to make one, of course

Here's how to do it:
1. Find one old Santa hat somewhere in the house.
1. Measure how tall you need the topper to be.
2. Cut the hat to size - chop off the bottom.
3. Trim off the white trim and resew it to the new smaller hat. (If you don't have a sewing machine you can easily do this by hand.) You may have to make it a little narrower to look good on the smaller hat.
4. If you tree has a flimsy top, reinforce it a litte. I used wooden skewers.
5. If you're having trouble getting the hat all the way down the tree top, wrap the top couple of inches in ribbon to eliminate the resistance of the pine needles.
6. If your pom-pom is a little floppy, stuff some fabric remnants (the ones you cut off) into the tip of the hat.
Last minute tree topper
Cute, right?
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Pay NO attention to the forecast

the forecast


no complaints here

(mind you, this can change in a flash, so the weather guys may still be right later on today)
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cupcake Inspiration

I just saw these over at Little Birdie Secrets.
I think I may have to make some.
It's much simpler than it looks.
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Saturday, October 16, 2010

It's Fall in Seattle

A friend and I went for a walk at the Washington Park Arboretum this week.
And visited the Japanese Garden too.
Japanese Garden
If you want Fall in a bottle close to home (in the Seattle area), this is the place to go.
Japanese Garden
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Friday, September 10, 2010


I stumbled upon this on the Obama Foodorama blog.
If you live in or near Nevada (unfortunately I don't), it's at Lattin Farms which, I believe, is somewhere near Reno.
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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Nobody told me... build an ark.
We are pretty much drowning over here in the PNW.

The TruGreen guy came to aerate and overseed the lawn yesterday.  He left a little set of instructions which, among other things said, "Adequate moisture is absolutely essential for seed to germinate...however do not keep them water logged by overwatering." Tell Mother Nature that, Mr. TruGreen guy.

The plants around the garden do not seem to mind all the rain.
This is my tree peony. The flowers are 10" in diameter.
May there be a sunny day or two in our future.
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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010

Coupon Update

I've learned a couple of coupon lessons since my last post on the subject.
I thought I'd share.

Firstly, I checked out two free web sites: and

The verdict:
  • Hotcouponworld : does not actually tell you whether the final price is a good deal, and that's what I like about The Grocery Game - knowing whether I should use my coupon or wait for a better deal.
  • Couponmom: is a lot like The Grocery Game. And free. I compared Couponmom's list and The Grocery Game's list for a couple of weeks. Couponmom lists fewer deals but, if you don't want to pay, I highly recommend it.

I also learned another clipping (actually non-clipping) trick.
A big problem with clipping coupons was that sometimes I wouldn't clip a coupon because we don't normally buy that product. Then a great deal comes along and I don't have the coupon.
Now I keep the entire coupon insert and just write the date on the front.
When I'm compiling my grocery list I only clip the coupons I'll be using on that particular shopping trip and put the insert away for next time.
Much less hassle.
Coupon booklets
As for The Grocery Game. I found a little problem with their list.
My grocery store has a lot of deals where you have to buy a minimum quantity of a product to get the good deal. That's not a problem if the price is really good.
Sometimes however, the Grocery Game people list a coupon to be used on the product.
Coupons are usually for only one item. But in this case you have to buy the minimum quantity the store lists.
So you're really only applying the coupon's savings to one of the items. Not all four as the Grocery Game implies.
Fiber One Bars:
- regular price: 3.99
- sale price $1.50 each if you buy 4
- coupon $0.50 on one item
GG claims that the new price is $1.00, but that's only true for one of the four items.
The rest are still $1.50 each
In the end you're really paying $1.38 each.

All that being said, today was a good coupon day. I even got something for FREE!

ItemQtyOriginal PriceFinal PriceSavings
Classico Pasta Sauce2$3.59$2$3.18
1lb Penne Pasta2$0.99$0$1.98
Betty Crocker Fruit Roll-ups 4$2.99$1.50$5.96
Cheerios Cereal2$2.99$0.95$4.08
Cheerios Cereal2$2.99$1.00$3.98
Raisin Bran Cereal2$3.49$0.75$5.48
Raisin Bran Cereal2$3.49$1.50$3.98
Arm&Hammer Cat Littler1$8.99$5.99$3.00
Arm&Hammer Laundry Det.2$5.99$2.49$7.00
Fuji apples1.89$1.99$0.88$2.10
Total Savings:$45.54!

Not bad. Not bad at all.
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy May Day!

The little Lilies of the Valley are in their prime.
And they smell SO good!
Lily of the Valley
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Monday, April 26, 2010

Operation Closet I

Yesterday I decided to start organizing my closet.
I normally put the summer clothes away in the fall and take out the winter stuff, and vice versa in spring, but last year I didn't do it.
My closet is not all that big, so it's a HUGE mess.

Step 1:
Empty out the closet and cull what I haven't worn in at least one season.
Project Closet
I only managed to do the shelves yesterday. All the "hanging" clothes are still up there.
It seems I wear a lot of t-shirts...
I also had to put the clothes back in the closet before I was ready last night because I needed the bed to sleep on.
The donate pile is already pretty large.
Project Closet
Today I'm hoping to get some closet organizing tools and tackle the hangers.
Stay tuned.
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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

(Not) Blowing in the Wind

If there's no wind, how do they decide which direction it's blowing?
North at 0 mph?
Just wondering.
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Monday, April 19, 2010

Are those coupons worth it?

Yesterday I spent 30 minutes clipping coupons and printing out lists from The Grocery Game.

I went to the grocery store with my coupons and list in hand.
I spent more than an hour buying $70 worth of groceries. My grocery store has all these "Buy five or more and get a really good price" specials which, combined with coupons, could add up to great savings, but are a real pain to figure out. A REAL pain. Because it's mix and match. You can buy 3 of this and 2 of that and get the discount, or 5 of one thing, or...
You get the idea.

And then, because I was tired and stressed, I bought this:
Not on the list and not on sale.

Then I got home and discovered that I had NOT bought five of the correct item combo; or bought an item which was not eligibe for that discount, etc.
Now even more disillusioned, I ate the above item. I have stuff to return AND I have to exercise an hour more to burn off those calories.

Here are the savings:
ItemQtyOriginal PriceFinal PriceSavings
Duncan Hines Brownie Mix1$2.39$1$1.39
Nature Valley Granola Nut Clusters1$3.99$1$2.99
Nature Valley Granola Bars4$3.99$1.30$10.76
Fiber One Cereal1$4.99$1.75$3.24
Cascade 2 in 1 Dishwasher Detergent1$5.99$3.49$2.50
Seven Up Soda4$2.19$0.85$5.35
18 large eggs1$2.59$1.88$0.71
Total Savings:$26.94

Worth it? What do you think?
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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Spring Fever

It's finally Spring in Seattle. Time to get my winter butt off the couch.

On Friday I started the Couch to 5K running program.
It guides you from couch potato (or, in my case, office chair potato) to being able to run a 5K in nine weeks. I've done it before, so I can attest to its success.
Running Shoes
If all goes well I should be able to run a 5K in June!
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Friday, April 16, 2010

Is this a sign...

...or is it spam?
I'm going shopping anyway.
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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts

Yum, yum, yum!
These are not diet or budget friendly but, oh my!  So good!
Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts
Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts
(Recipe by the Barefoot Contessa in House Beautiful Magazine)
Makes 4 tarts

3 tbs good olive oil, plus more for brushing
4 c thinly sliced yellow onions (2 large onions)
3 large garlic cloves, cut into thin slivers
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
3 tbs white wine
2 tsp minced fresh time, plus sprigs for garnish
1 package (17.3oz) puff pastry sheets, thawed overnight in the refigerator. Use cold.
4 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
4 oz garlic & herb Montrachet goat cheese
1 large tomato, cut into 4 (1/4"-thick) slices
3 tbs julienned basil leaves
2 oz Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler
Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a sheet pan (or two - see notes) with parchment paper.
  2. Heat 3 tbs oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the onions and garlic. Saute for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are limp and there is almost no moisture remaining in the skillet.
  3. Add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, the wine, and thyme and continue to cook for another 10 minutes, until the onions are lightly browned. Remove from the heat.
  4. Unfold each sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured surface and roll it lightly to an 11" x 11" (see notes) square. Using a circular object as a guide, cut two 6" circles from each sheet of puff pastry.
  5. Using the tip of a sharp paring knife, score a circle 1/2" inside the edge of each pastry. Prick the pastries all over with the tines of a fork and place them on the sheet pan.
  6. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the grated Parmesan on each round, staying inside the scored border.
  7. Place 1/4 of the onion mixture on each circle, again staying within the scored edges.
  8. Crumble 1 oz of goat cheese on top of the onions.
  9. Place a slice of tomato in the center of each tart.
  10. Brush the tomato lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with basil, salt, and pepper.
  11. Finally, scatter 4 or 5 shards of Parmesan on each tart. If the pastry is warm, chill for 15 minutes.
  12. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.
  13. Garnish each with a sprig of thyme and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve warm.
Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts
  1. Four pastries will not fit on one sheet pan - at least not the ones I have. I used two, and I have two ovens, so it worked out just fine. If you have a convection oven, you can put two sheet pans in there with no problem. If you don't, you may have to bake two at a time, and keep the others in the fridge until you're ready to put them in the oven. Or buy a large sheet pan, which I think I'm going to do anyway.
  2. I did not garnish these with sprigs of thyme, but if you're making them for guests you can.
  3. Remember to take the pastry out the night before.
  4. Parmesan cheese off the shelf next to the pasta is NOT grated Parmesan cheese. You need to find it in the deli, next to the other cheese.
  5. Don't skimp on the cooking of the onions. They are the most important part of this dish, in my opinion, and need to be sweet and yummy.
  6. I couldn't find Montrachet goat cheese and used another brand, so I think as long as it's garlic & herb it'll be just fine.
  7. You can buy Parmesan cheese already shaved.
  8. An 11" x 11" square will not cut into two 6" rounds (duh!) so I cut one and then pressed some of the cut-off pastry onto the remaining bit to make it big enough.
  9. You HAVE to score the pastry border and keep the toppings inside of it if you want a puffy look.
  10. I did not drizzle extra olive oil over the tomatoes or the top of the tarts. Puff pastry is fatty enough already, thank you.
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Monday, April 5, 2010

It's Coupon Clipping Time

Every so often the need to save money pops to the forefront and I start clipping coupons, because groceries are one of the easiest places to trim the fat, so to speak.
After a while it gets a little old, so I tend not to stick with it.
But this time I will.
I think.
First off:
I would not be clipping coupons at all if it wasn't for the Grocery Game web site. (I'm not affiliated with them at all.  This is just my personal experience.)
Time is of the essence to me and I don't have time to walk up and down the aisles matching my coupons to products and then still not knowing if it's a good deal or not.
The Grocery Game gives me a customizable list of all items on sale at my local grocery store and tells me which coupons to use and whether the final price is a good one.

I have a whole bunch of "rules" for clipping coupons, but I'll save that for another post.
My coupon organizer:
Coupon organizer
As you can see, the coupons are organized in categories.
I also have my phone number in there because I've left more than one of these in shopping carts in the store parking lot.
Coupon organizer
This time around I want to see if my Grocery Game ($2.50 a week) and Sunday paper (about 50c a week, I think) subscriptions are worth it.

Here are today's savings:
10 x cans of diced tomatoes - regular price $1 - coupon price 50c - savings $5
10 x 6oz containers of Yoplait yogurt - regular price 79c - coupon price 40c - savings $3.90
3  x Axe Shower Gel - regular price $5.49 - coupon price $2.67 - savings $8.46
Total savings: $17.36

There was more, but these were the most quantifiable items.
Please note that these are items I buy regularly anyway.  My teenager has expensive taste in yogurt and shower gel.

Bottom line:  Definitely worth it

(It does take about 20-30 minutes a week to clip coupons and customize your list, and about 15 minutes extra in the grocery store making sure you have everything you wanted to get.)
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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

I've been neglecting this little blog terribly. Things have been a little crazy in the nest...
...but I'm hoping to get back to it soon.

Happy Easter!
Easter 2010
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Project Back Door - The final chapter

It only took two months but we finally have french doors!
Remember the sliding door?

Look what we have now! I love, love, love them.
We had them specially designed to open 180 degrees to the outside.
We're bringing the outside in.
At first the animals were a little perplexed at having to enter in the center of the doorway but it didn't take them long to learn.
I can't WAIT for summer when I can have those doors open all the time.
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Friday, January 22, 2010

Project Back Door - update

Just a short note to let you know that I haven't forgotten about this.
I'm having SERIOUS issues with the installation company and, if I don't get them resolved soon, I will be naming names.

Stay tuned...
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Friday, January 15, 2010

Project Back Door Part 1

We've wanted to have the sliding door replaced for years.
It's an old aluminum door that has been scratched to bits by the previous homeowner's dogs.
It's drafty and lets lots of cold air into the house.
And it's ugly.

Here's what we started with this morning. (Well, almost.  The installers had already removed the trim and put down their drop cloths.)

Did you see that little face in the bottom right corner?
I'm very excited, but I think they're going to be working out there in the dark soon.
Come back tomorrow for the "after".
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dinner on a Dime #1

OK, not quite a dime, but I do aim to cook for under $10 most nights of the week.  I tell myself that this makes up for the $25 Friday night pizza and the occasional dinner out.
Years ago a friend and I used to challenge ourselves to make dinner for under $5 but that was years ago and in the pre-teenager era.

I also love my crockpot.  There's nothing like taking 5 minutes or so to prepare dinner in the morning and not having to think about it again.  Love it!

This recipe works well for children (peanut butter!) or adults.
Crockpot Thai-Style Pork Stew
(Adapted from Cooking Light Magazine)

For the stew:
2lbs boneless pork loin, cut into 4 pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut in 1"x1/4"-ish strips
1/4 c teriyaki sauce
2 tbs rice vinegar
1 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 c creamy peanut butter

Remaining ingredients:
6 c hot cooked Basmati or Jasmine rice (2 c uncooked)
1/2 c chopped green onions
2 tbs chopped dry-roasted peanuts
8 lime wedges

To prepare stew, trim fat from pork.  Place pork and next 5 ingredients (thru garlic) in crockpot.
Cover with lid and cook on low for 8 hours.
Remove pork from pot and coarsely chop.
Add peanut butter to liquid in crockpot.  Stir well.
Gently stir in pork.
Spoon into bowls on top of rice and sprinkle with onions and peanuts.  Serve with lime wedges.

I use whatever pork roast is on sale, even bone-in (just add 4oz or so for the bone) and try not to pay more than $1.99/lb.
The bell pepper cooks away completely.  Kids won't notice it.
I like Trader Joe's Soyaki, but any teriyaki sauce will work just fine.
Jasmine rice is my favorite.  It adds extra flavor.
Be gentle when mixing the meat back in with the sauce or you'll have mush, which still tastes good but looks a little unappetizing.
The green onions, peanuts and lime are just for when I want to be "fancy".  I normally don't bother.
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Monday, January 11, 2010

The Monday Morning Clean

Welcome to 2010!
House Front
(OK, so this is a photo from last summer, but we need a little green right about now, don't we?)

As part of my only New Year's resolution, which is to get organized again, I'm getting back to the daily routine.

Monday morning is cleaning day over here. After the weekend the house generally needs it.

I'm no Martha Stewart and I try to get this done as quickly as possible.
If you move fast you get a bit of a workout too. No gym needed on Mondays.

  1. Start a load of laundry
  2. Wash the dishes, wipe the counters - 20 minutes
  3. Straighten up and dust - 15 minutes
  4. By now I can put the first load of laundry in the dryer and add a new one to the washing machine.  This is normally the last load, because I do a load of laundry every day.  Remember?
  5. Take out garbage and recycling, wipe garbage can, replace bag - 5 minutes
  6. Sweep and Swiffer® floors - 20 minutes
  7. Empty wastepaper baskets - 5 minutes
  8. Windex shiny surfaces: stainless steel trashcan, ss microwave, window above the sink, kitchen scale, sliding door - 2 minutes
  9. Swish the bathrooms (wipe out sinks, toilet rims) - 3 minutes
  10. Vacuum - 15 minutes
  11. Fold first load of laundry and put second load in the dryer - 5 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes
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Monday, January 4, 2010

What do you find...

...when you decide to shake the crumbs out of the breadbasket?
All clean now!
Basket liner
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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Books Read in 2009

I'm always amazed at how many books I get read.
I only read for about 30 minutes before I turn the light off at night.

The Glass Castle - Jeannette Walls
The Gravedigger's Daughter - Joyce Carol Oates
The Help - Kathryn Stockett
Blowfly - Patricia Cornwell
Olive Kitteridge - Elizabeth Strout
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society - Mary Ann Shaffer
The Shack - William P. Young
The Scarlett Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - Jean-Dominique Bauby
Dangerous Games - Michael Prescott
Hornet's Nest - Patricia Cornwell
The Memory Keeper's Daughter - Kim Edwards
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski
The Road - Cormac McCarthy
Julie and Julia - Julie Powell
A Thousand Splendid Suns - Khaled Hosseini
My Life in France - Alex Prud'Homme
The Simple Truth - David Baldacci
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
Peony in Love - Lisa See
Touching Stars - Emilie Richards

21 books!

My favorites:
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
The Red Tent
A Thousand Splendid Suns

My least favorites (by far):
The Road
Peony in Love
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