January – 2012 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

January 2012

Give the Gift of Organization with Rubbermaid’s New Contest!

At Rubbermaid, they know first-hand that organization can give you more time to give back to the community, yet it can be hard getting started. They wanted to reward those who give everything to others and help them get more organized so they have a little peace of mind. That is why they are offering a $5,000 organization makeover to someone deserving. Check out the contest and nominate someone who has made a difference in your life. You can learn more and enter here!

Wordless Wednesday: Cozy

If this isn’t the epitome of coziness, I don’t know what is!

Buying Jewelry as a Gift

Jewelry can often make the perfect gift, but it can be difficult to choose. How will you find something that you can be sure the person you are buying for will like? In actual fact, this can be far easier than you might think, and certainly shouldn’t be something which puts you off opting for jewelry when as a gift.

Often, the easiest way to ensure than the person who you are buying for will enjoy wearing the jewelry which you buy them is to look at the type of jewelry which they already wear. This can be easily done if you are buying for someone who you see on a regular basis. Do they prefer long earrings, or small studs? Do they usually wear delicate gold or silver necklaces, or chunky costume jewelry? If you can’t decide what type of jewelry the person you are buying for likes to wear, then simply take them shopping with you. If you make out like it’s you that wants to check out a place which sells great value engagement rings or a particular style of bracelets, then it will be easy to ask their opinion. This can be a great way to find out their preferences without arousing suspicion.

You might also choose to purchase jewelry which will be of particular significance to the person whom you are buying for. If they are a close friend or loved one, then you might even want to get a particular item engraved. On the other hand, you might be able to find out what their birthstone is, and find something featuring the relevant gem. Choose fun, fashionable jewelry if you want something which the person you are buying for will want to wear regularly, or classic styles and traditional designs if you’d rather give something which they will want to keep forever.

Disclosure: http://cmp.ly/3

Project 365: January 4-7

Alright, I’m definitely sticking to once-a-week posting for this, because there’s no way I’d keep up with it if I had to post them more frequently. It is fun having a reason to seek out a photo each day (and I have some pretty cute, semi-willing subjects to use for a lot of them). Here are my shots for the rest of the week… and then Brian and I are headed out for a date night! Hibachi grill, here we come!

January 4 – C’s black bean, oh-so-French, mustache:

January 5 – J stares off to space at dinner, hoping the food will magically disappear from his plate so he can go play more quickly.

January 6 – Flip flops! Ahh, Texas weather.

January 7 – We’re finally finishing our master bath remodel – check out our soon-to-be-finished travertine floor!

Coupon Cactus Snags Some Great Deals!

There are a lot of coupon sites out there, which we – as the deal-finder experts we are – know well. Because of this, if there’s something really great about a coupon site, it stands out and makes me take notice.

Coupon Cactus did just that.

Of course, there are some things about the site that you’d hope for – like, you know, coupons and coupon codes. Well, Coupon Cactus has those in abundance. You can find them for a certain store really easily with their list in the sidebar, which I love. When I’m looking for discounts, it’s typically going to be for a store I know and have already planned on shopping at, so being able to find what I want quickly is a huge plus. For instance, say I want to save with Nordstrom coupons – they’re right there at the click of a mouse.

Simple, right? You can save money with Nordstrom coupon codes or codes for virtually any store you’re interested in.

But that’s not what set the site apart for me. There are two things:

1) Live Chat help. If you have trouble finding something or have any questions, their staff is there to help you out. And if you happen to visit their site outside of normal business hours, there’s a spot down in the bottom right corner of the screen to submit your question. I love that they want to go above and beyond for good customer service.

2) Cash Back. They tell you straight up that they  offer cash back because they get paid a commission for every order you place and they want to share it with you. That is something you’re just not going to find most places!

Feed Your Baby the Best – Baby Bullet Giveaway

It’s the start of the new year, and we make all sorts of resolutions for ourselves – to work out, to be more organized, to eat better. Why not resolve to feed your baby the best by making his or her food from scratch – easily and quickly – with the Baby Bullet? You can find all sorts of great recipes along with other tips and information at the Baby Bullet blog.

And what better way to start off the year than with my first giveaway of 2012?

One lucky reader will win a Baby Bullet system of their own! This giveaway is open to all US residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Thursday, January 26. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.

Mandatory Entry: Visit the Baby Bullet Blog and comment below telling me your favorite tip or recipe you see.

(Only valid after the required entry has been completed)

Please leave a comment for each extra entry – if you blog about this giveaway and get 2 entries, for example, comment 2 times.

Note: Baby Bullet is providing the system for giveaway. I did not receive a product and was not compensated monetarily for this post.

Carrot & Zucchini Mini Muffins Recipe – Giada De Laurentis

If you’ve got kids who don’t want to eat their veggies (or, let’s be honest, you don’t really like eating them yourself) then you’ll love this great way to sneak some veggies in with a tasty treat. Giada de Laurentis has whipped up a recipe for carrot & zucchini muffins that blends together deliciously sweet veggies, raisins and cinnamon for a calorie-conscious muffin recipe. Great for breakfast or a quick snack in between meals, these little muffins have big bite. And for those still seeking an extra dose of sweetness, spread on the soft cream cheese and honey frosting.

Ingredients:

For the muffins

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup grape seed oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup grated carrots (from 1 medium peeled carrot)
  • 1/2 cup grated zucchini (from 1 medium unpeeled zucchini)
  • 1/2 cup raisins

For the frosting (optional)

  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) whipped cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey

Directions:

1. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 24 mini muffin cups with paper liners. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, sieve together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon. Add any solids leftover in the sieve to the bowl and mix in.

3. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the oil, syrup and egg.

Add the dry ingredients and mix well until combined. Mix in the carrot, zucchini and raisins.

4. Using 2 small spoons, fill the muffin cups 3/4 full with the batter and bake for 15 minutes until light golden. Cool for 5 minutes. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool, about 30 minutes.

5. Frosting: In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese and honey until smooth. Spread the cooled muffins with frosting and serve.

Shared with permission from A Bullseye View & Target. A Bullseye View is an online magazine, updated regularly to bring Target to life. It is a behind-the-scenes look at Target’s most exciting partnerships, initiatives, events and innovations.

Make Cleaning A Breeze! {Free Printable Cleaning Calendar}

Are you looking for the latest version of my free printable cleaning calendar? Click here to get the newest PDF – one you can use for each month!

I hate house cleaning.

I love the effect, of course. And I actually like organizing. But when it comes to chores like mopping, vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom, I’m always unmotivated – I don’t have allowance dangling in front of me like I did back in high school.

Since I don’t enjoy cleaning, I put it off until the weekends, when it then becomes a long list of tasks that take a huge chunk out of our down time. Or sometimes (ahem – very very rarely, of course) we slack on things like dusting until company comes, which of course is always the best motivator.

While surfing StumbleUpon the other day I came across a list of how to clean your house a little each day. I immediately zeroed in on this approach, because who doesn’t like the idea of minimizing effort? The list didn’t account for weekends (when I might have more time for a detailed task, for instance) but it gave me the idea to create a calendar for myself.

And I had to make it cute. Because somehow that makes cleaning seem more pleasant.

In the belief that I’m not alone in my distaste for cleaning, I’ve created a PDF of this calendar that you can download and print out for yourself. Just click here to start the download.

I’m sure there are some of you who keep immaculate homes and love to clean. If so, you are absolutely invited over.

If you’re like me, though, I hope you can use this to help make a clean house seem achievable. Between work, kids, and all sorts of other commitments that pop up, it can seem overwhelming. But by taking it a little at a time (and recognizing that perfection isn’t required) you can keep on top of things and still have plenty of time left for everything else.

One note – you’ll see that two Sundays are designated as laundry days. I’m not suggesting you hold off and just do laundry two times a month. If we tried that I think we’d be barricaded into our house. Do a light schedule of laundry throughout the month; enough to keep your family clothed. But then do towels, linens, and other clothes in bulk twice a month to get the “heavy lifting” of laundry over with.

Do you like the calendar? I want to get feedback on this one to see if I should post next month’s calendar too. I’m going to create one each month for my own use, but let me know if you’d like it posted for you, too!

Project 365

I take TONS of photos, so committing to this project of taking and sharing one photo every day shouldn’t be a problem for me. Except I already didn’t take one January 1st, so I’m using one from Dec.31 instead. :) After this week I’ll probably post a week’s photos at a time on here, or you can view them on my Flickr stream here. Here are my first three:

January 1: As mentioned, actually taken 12/31, on a 70+ degree day we enjoyed at the park. C had this determined look as he rode, because he really wanted to catch up to his big brother.

January 2: Actually taken by Brian – nothing like a friendship between a boy and his dog!

January 3: Keeping the romance alive- Brian needed to run an errand at lunch so we grabbed our sandwiches and ate them in the car. We lead an exciting life, I know!


Are you participating in Project 365? I’d love to see your pics too – share a link in the comments below!

New Year… New You?

I love fresh starts. There’s just something inherently motivating about a new year, even though it’s really just the next day on the calendar. I liken it to the start of a school year, which (at least for me) was always a time of excitement for what was to come – and new school supplies, of course. Oh how I loved my Lisa Frank folders! But I digress.

So here we stand on the brink of another new year, and I’m one of those that can’t help but want to make a few changes, to set a few goals. It’d feel like I was missing out on an opportunity if I just let this newness pass me by. In the past I’d make pretty explicit tasks my focus – lose a certain amount of weight, save a certain amount of money each month. So, I suppose my initial resolution is to change how I set my resolutions. Instead of changing specific things, I’ve got a few overarching goals for 2012.

1. Make conscious decisions. No more eating mindlessly, spending thoughtlessly, or staying awake way too late unintentionally. There are many more behaviors that could fall under this, but you get the idea. I want to decidedly make prayerful choices for my life, so that a year from now I can feel good about where I am and what I’ve done. This is first on my list, because it will directly affect my success with my other resolutions.

2. Give more. I decided last January that “give” would be my word for the year. A lot of bloggers wrote about picking a theme word that would be their focus, and I really liked the idea but never got around to writing a post about it. It’s my word for 2012, too, because I’ve got room to grow in this department. I’m blessed, and want to bless others’ lives through my actions. So, I hope to give more this year – to strangers, to friends, to those who need it the most. I want to remember that giving can be big or small, and it can be of things, money, or time. And I really want to teach this concept to my boys through our actions as a family.

3. Be creative. I love to make things and bake things, and used to work on projects all the time. Now I know I waste time browsing online or watching TV, when I could be doing something I love. I want our family to actively, on a regular basis, be creative with something we enjoy, whether it’s paint, Legos, food, or anything else we dream up.

I’m sure I could come up with several other resolutions (in fact, I had to limit myself ahead of time to three so I didn’t go crazy with it), and I have to admit there’s a part of me that wants to NOT make them because it’s such a cliche. Regardless, I think we could all use an impetus for change now and then, and I’m ready to do just that.

What changes are on your list to make?

The BEST Cinnamon Roll Recipe

So, I’ll start off 2012 with a confession. I don’t really love the Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon rolls.

{pause for gasps}

Let me clarify that I do love many of her recipes, including her amazing salsa that we make on a regular basis.

But her cinnamon rolls? Way too sweet and way too rich for my taste. I like fluffy cinnamon rolls, and hers end up being too gooey for me. Maybe you like gooey cinnamon rolls, and maybe you’re a huge fan of the PW recipe. But if you’re looking for something different, and {dare I say it?} better, then you’ve come to the right place.

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of warm milk
  • 4 1/2 cups of bread flour
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast (for bread machines)
  • 1 1/4 cups of brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon
  • Another 6 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream
  • Milk

Directions:

  1. If you have a bread machine, put the butter, eggs, milk, flour, sugar and yeast into your machine and set it to the “dough” cycle, and skip to #6. If you don’t, follow directions 2-5.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk in a large mixing bowl. Make sure the milk is not too hot or it’ll kill the yeast!
  3. Add in the butter, eggs, sugar and salt; mix well until all ingredients are fully combined.
  4. Using your dough hook on your stand mixer, or your hands, add in the flour a little bit at a time and mix well.
  5. Knead the dough for 5 minutes and place the ball of dough back into the bowl; cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a semi-warm place for an hour.
  6. Melt the other 6 tablespoons of butter. In a separate small bowl, combine the brown sugar and cinnamon.
  7. Using a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll the dough out into a fairly rectangular shape, about 14″x 21″.
  8. Pour the melted butter into the center of the dough, then spread evenly using a silicone basting brush or the back of a spoon. Generously sprinkle the cinnamon/brown sugar mixture over top of the butter until it’s pretty saturated. You may end up with a little of the mixture left – it’s up to your discretion how cinnamon-sugary you want your rolls to be.
  9. Roll your dough up tightly along the long side (meaning your roll should be about 21″ wide once you’re done). With a sharp knife cut it in half, then in half again. Take each of the four segments and cut them into three equal pieces.
  10. Place the rolls into a buttered 9″x 13″ casserole dish, cover and let rise for 30 minutes. {After this point, you can cover the dish with cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight. This is what we do so there’s not a lot of work in the morning!}
  11. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the dough is golden. Watch the dough in the center of the dish to make sure it’s not doughy before you take them out of the oven.
  12. While the rolls are baking, combine the powdered sugar, cream, vanilla extract, and almond extract together with a hand mixer in a large bowl. Slowly add milk a little at a time until the frosting reaches your desired consistency – I like mine fairly thick because it melts once you apply it to the cinnamon rolls.
  13. As soon as the rolls are out of the oven, spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting on the top of each – it will melt and run into all the nooks and crannies.
  14. Enjoy your homemade cinnamon rolls!

Before baking & after: