Frugal Novice

DIY Macarons: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Our kids are kind of obsessed with macarons right now, and to be honest, I am too. They hadn’t even heard of them until a recent episode of the Kids’ Baking Championship on Food Network, where the contestants had to come up with unique macaron flavors. We all watch the show together each week, and that episode had us all talking about what flavor combinations we thought would be best. Our 8 year old mentioned he’d never tried one, so we made it our mission to find a macaron bakery on an upcoming trip to Dallas.

Macaroons! Err…. macarons! Either way, delicious. #yum #macarons #chocolate #instafood

A photo posted by Christi (@frugalnovice) on

We discovered JOY Macarons, and had a field day picking among the many flavors they offered.

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We bought half a dozen, started sampling, and then went back to buy a dozen more. We were hooked. In fact, while we were still in Dallas I ordered a silicone mat with a macaron template on Amazon so we could make our own macarons at home.

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Be Smart: How to Buy a Used Car (& do it Well)

Dealer New Cars Stock. Colorful Brand New Compact Vehicles For Sale Awaiting on the Dealer Parking Lot. Car Market Business Concept.

Buying a used vehicle is a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck – you’re more likely to be able to afford vehicles with those extras you crave, like navigation systems, heated seats, or built-in DVD players. Brian and I have bought all but one of our cars used, and most if not all of our future cars will probably be used vehicles, too. For some people, buying a used vehicle can seem a little daunting – so I’ve shared a few tips for making sure your used vehicle is a smart buy. Here’s one:

  • Buy a Certified Pre-Owned. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your vehicle has been inspected, serviced, and repaired as needed. Because of this, it’s being sold with an extended warranty that is really valuable. Buying certified pre-owned lets you know you haven’t bought a lemon. There’s an old saying that says “If you buy an ‘as is’ vehicle, you drive off the lot, and it breaks into two pieces… you own both pieces.” Go Certified Pre-Owned with your purchase. You’ll be glad you did.

For more tips on making a smart used car purchase, check out my guest post on the Ken Garff West Valley used vehicle dealership blog.

2016: New Year’s Resolutions – For Your Car

2016 push button. Concept of new year, two thousand sixteen.

We’re a month in to 2016. Have you made any resolutions this year – and more importantly, have you followed through?

I hope you’ll take a minute and consider making a few more resolutions… but not for eating healthier or saving money (although do those too, for sure!)… for your car. You’ll be glad you did, and your car will be thankful, too.

Here’s one resolution to start you off:

Take your car for regular tune-ups. Many oil change places even offers free check-ups in between oil changes, because they recognize that it’s a great way to keep your car in tip-top shape.

For other car-related resolutions, visit my guest post over on the Dulles Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership blog.

Carrot Cake Cookies – Sneak in Veggies for Your Kids!

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Hi everyone! It’s the first weekend in February, which seems unreal to me – 2016 is already off to a fast start! If you’re still looking for a fun Valentine’s cookie recipe, don’t miss my chocolate & sprinkle coated shortbread cookies I shared a couple of weeks ago. They’re perfect for kids’ parties!

Of course, with it being February I’m also thinking a lot about spring, and so this week for Mini Chef Monday I’m re-sharing a recipe that’s perfect for this time of year – plus it lets you sneak veggies in for your kiddos (my carrot-hating son even ate these cookies) – just don’t tell them what they’re called!

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Ski Trip Tips

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I’ve been on a bit of a travel-related post kick lately, with posts on Texas road trips, a Hurst, Texas staycation… and now tips for taking the perfect ski trip.

The Ken Garff dealership had a promo recently for getting ski passes, so I was inspired to write about ski trip planning – I hope these tips will be helpful for you as you plan any spring getaways!

  • Make a list (and check it twice). There’s gear you need for skiing, and you want to make sure you come equipped. You’ll need skis, poles, goggle, a helmet, boots, gloves, a ski jacket, pants, and more.
  • Be an early bird. If you’re renting gear instead of bringing your own, reserve everything ahead of time online or  be sure and get to the store as early as possible to beat the lines and get first dibs on what you need. Get to the slopes early, too, and avoid fighting for a parking spot.

For more tips on planning your perfect ski trip, visit my guest post on the Ken Garff dealership blog.

Save Money on Gas with These Apps

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I love saving money. I think the name of this blog along probably belies that fact! Whether it’s using coupons when grocery shopping, finding clearance deals for clothes, or looking for the best price on gasoline for our car, I’m all about ways to save.

As we all know, there are apps for virtually everything now, and so it only makes sense that there are apps out there for helping you save money on gas. Have you been missing out? Now you’ll know all about several great apps to try. Here’s one:

  • Cheap Gas shows you just that – cheap gas. This app is pretty straightforward, giving you a list of stations in price order (lowest price first). You can view the map to figure out how to get to your desired gas station from your current location.

For more apps to try, visit my guest post over on the Holt Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership blog.

Staycation: Hurst, Texas

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I wrote yesterday about road trip ideas for Texas – there are so many places you can go around the state that make for a great weekend or week-long trip. Of course, you don’t always even have to leave your city to have a great vacation! I wrote a guest post for the Holt Fiat of Hurst dealership blog all about how to have a staycation in Hurst. If you live in the DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) area, I hope these ideas can help you have a fun weekend with your family:

  • Get in some culture and see a play at the Artisan Center Theater – this is a great spot for couples and families to enjoy.

For more ideas of things to do, check out my post on the Holt Fiat of Hurst blog!

Three Texas Road Trip Ideas

A old hwy travels through the southern Texas desert near San Antonio

My family and I love to take road trips – and living in Texas, we have a lot of options as far as places to go. Texas is a huge state, of course; you could go to west to El Paso or east to Tyler, north to Amarillo or south to Houston.

If you’re one of my Texas readers, or if you’d like to do some Texas travel, you’re in luck – here are some ideas for places to go and things to do:

  • Waco: Roughly 90 minutes away from Dallas/Fort Worth, this city has gained popularity recently due to a popular show on HGTV. People are flocking to Magnolia Market, and it’s a fun stop for shopping – and dining, too. The store sits alongside a plot of land that houses food trucks and benches with tables, and a big patch of faux grass for kids to run and play. You can visit the Cameron Park Zoo for a less-crowded animal-viewing experience, stop by the Dr. Pepper museum, enjoy a stroll across the suspension bridge, and even take the kids to see a real mammoth excavation site.

Read more about Texas road trip destinations in my guest post on the Holt Fiat of Fort Worth dealership blog.

Make Mornings Easier

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Our mornings are always busy. Between getting the kids ready, making lunches, taking the dogs out, making breakfast, and finally getting ourselves ready, we end up rushing around most weekdays. We’ve talked about shifting tasks around so that there’s less to do in the morning, and here are some great ideas for things you can do to make your mornings less stressful – we’ll be trying some of them ourselves!

Check out What to Do in the Evenings to Make Your Mornings Easier

by Tend Editor at Mode

Sofia the First Cookies

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I mentioned earlier this month that we’ve started something new in our house – we’re scheduling dates with each of our kids using this chart. We rotate months so that Brian and I each get one-on-one time with the kids, and we also get time together as a family doing a specific activity.

For January I had a date with J, Brian had a date with C, and E got to pick a family activity for us to all do together. She chose – very specifically, I might add – that we would all make Sofia the First cookies. We don’t own Sofia the First cookie cutters, so we had to get creative. I also wanted to keep things simple, because this has been a busy month for us and I just didn’t have the energy to do anything too time-intensive.

Right off the bat I knew we’d need to make these cookies purple. Sofia’s dress is purple, and E is all about purple right now. We found a great sugar cookie recipe on allrecipes.com and followed it pretty directly, only modifying it to add a bit of purple food coloring.

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Next, we had to figure out how to make these cookies look Sofia the First-ish. We don’t own princess-themed cookie cutters, but guess what kind of cookie cutters work perfectly for a Sofia theme? Easter cookie cutters! Our set included a rabbit face and profile (who doesn’t love Clover the rabbit on Sofia, right? You’ve got to include him! Blue Ribbon Bunny was a favorite episode of E’s for several weeks), a butterfly (these have been present in many Sofia episodes, specifically Princess Butterfly) and two different flowers (Sofia and friends spend lots of time in the garden – we mentioned Vivian’s enchanted garden at her new castle, seen in All the Sprite Moves and E agreed flowers were perfect to include.

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Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam 3DS Game Review

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My husband is the ultimate Nintendo fan, with a collection including hundreds of games dating back to his childhood and the NES era.  Since he has had experience playing Mario games for decades, he eagerly agreed to review the advance copy we received of Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, which releases today. Thanks for guest posting, Brian!

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Hi everyone! As Christi mentioned, I’ve been playing Mario games most of my life, and always get excited for the latest game release. When I think of Mario games, I divide them into several categories; some are platformers, like the classic Super Mario Bros. – your character’s main goal is to get to the end of each level. Some are party games, like the aptly named Mario Party, which include party games and challenges that are fun to play with your family and friends (this is a favorite of our family on game nights!). And some are RPG (role playing games)-based, which means there’s an emphasis on character development and more tactic-based battles.

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Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam falls into the latter category, and to me it’s a great fusion of the Paper Mario games and Mario & Luigi game series. Like most Mario games it starts out with Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach, and you play as Mario to rescue her.

This time, though, you’re dealing with double the trouble, thanks to Luigi unleashing Paper Mario characters into the 3D world.

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Raspberry Lime Sorbet: Mini Chef Mondays

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Hi all! If you saw my post last week, you know we’re already thinking about Valentine’s Day around here. This week’s recipe is another great sweet treat perfect for February 14 – and beyond. I’ve got to give credit for the idea to Brian – when I was brainstorming for this week’s post, he immediately thought raspberry sorbet would be perfect. I decided to add lime in to the mix because I think the two flavors are great together. And this raspberry lime sorbet just has four ingredients!

Sorbet is a perfect dessert to pair with a Valentine’s Day meal, which can often be heavy. It’s light and bright, and this combination of raspberry and lime is sure to wake up your taste buds!

Raspberry Lime Sorbet

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 cups raspberries
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Directions:

 

  1. Get out a large pot, and add your raspberries. Be sure you buy more than 4 cups if your little helper plans to eat a few a ton.
  2. Add the sugar, water, and lime juice, then stir.
  3. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the raspberries have softened a bit.
  4. Use your immersion blender to mix everything up until it’s a smooth liquid. If you don’t like seeds, you’ll want to run this mixture through a fine strainer, but we don’t mind them at all, so we keep them in.
  5. Once the mixture has cooled for about 10 minutes, pour it into your ice cream maker and let it run for about 45 minutes.
  6. Let the sorbet set up in the freezer for 3 hours or overnight, then serve!

Step-By-Step Photo Instructions:

Get your raspberries ready – and while I’m thinking of it, if you’ve got a little helper like I do, you might want to get a good step stool for the kitchen. We found ours at IKEA, but there are some on Amazon too that are nice. E loves being up at counter height to help out!

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