March – 2010 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

March 2010

Easter Egg-stravaganza

Why is it that I felt compelled to use the word “egg” somehow in the post title? I tried to stop myself, really I did… but in the end, the cuteness factor got me and I went with it. I’m not even talking about eggs in this post, really.  I think it’s because I’m on a sugar-high from eating my sugar cookies that turned out really ugly. Don’t ask… just beware of a) cookie cutters that claim to be “egg-shaped” but are actually pretty much circles, and b) over-saturating icing with food coloring, making it freakishly bold and way too thin.

Today was J’s Easter party at day care, and we were supposed to bring a dessert treat. I initially decided to make the aforementioned cookies, but then a coworker showed me some cupcakes that I just had to make, too. Want to see how cute these cupcakes are?

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Menu Plan Monday

I’m trying several new recipes this week to spice things up a little!

Monday: Leftover Abuelo’s chicken fajita tacos with rice, black beans, & salad

Tuesday: Wanchai Ferry Kung Pao chicken – we didn’t end up having this last week. I’m adding in carrots & zucchini, and the kit comes with peanuts & rice.

Wednesday: Eating out with friends

Thursday: Homemade pizza with whole wheat crust. I’m going to use this recipe for the crust, but plan to use all whole wheat flour. We’re going to have one pizza with turkey pepperoni, and then I’m trying a recipe from my friend Alexis. I’ll include the recipe below, if you want to try it too – it sounds SO good!

Friday: Baked lemon pasta with grilled chicken & green beans.Can you believe I’ve {gasp} never tried one of the Pioneer Woman’s recipes before?

Saturday: Zesty BBQ chicken and sweet potato fries. I’ve made this before for sandwiches. This time I’m going to try shredding it a little less and we’ll have it without bread.

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Feeling Like a First-Time Parent the Second Time Around

I have mentioned before that Brian and I have two (adorable!) boys – J, who is 2 1/2, and C, who will be ONE YEAR OLD (I’m still in denial!) in a little over two weeks.

When J was born, we were the typical first-time parents: worrying over fussiness, sleeping too much, not sleeping enough… you get the idea. Health-wise, though, J never gave us a scare. He rarely got sick, and when he did it was always something pretty mild.

C came along 20 months later, and by then we felt pretty seasoned, at least with the newborn stage. We were expert swaddlers, we could change diapers without getting sprayed (definitely something we didn’t know how to do the first time around), and we could calm fussiness like the experts we were.

Then, when C was about one month old he started having episodes that scared us half to death, and taught us pretty quickly that there were still things we hadn’t dealt with before as parents. Continue Reading…

Consignment Finds

I found some bargains last night at a local consignment sale. I consigned a few items, but decided not to use my consignor’s pass to shop early on the first day of the sale. Instead, I waited and went last night to the half-price sale. I have definitely changed since having children. Pre-kids, I would have been first in line to go in the doors, but now I’m in that “mom” rut of not shopping for myself as much. Shopping for the kiddos is much more appealing!

I had to snag a photo of their storefront window on my phone so I could share it with you – how adorable is this?

Anyway, back to half-price night – stock had definitely dwindled from how much there was when I dropped off my items to sell, but there was still a decent amount to look through. I wound up spending a whopping $14.08 (including tax) and got four things:

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Friday Follow

It’s time for Friday Follow again!

Last week I went over to Hearts Make Families and visited quite a few of the blogs participating along with me, and found several good ones to add to my reader. I’ve learned pretty quickly that networking with other bloggers is really helpful in a lot of ways. First, you gain more of a readership if people know about your blog; second, you can learn a lot from others that have been blogging a lot longer; and third, like I mentioned before, you can discover blogs that are really great.

Question of the day: What is your favorite blog (other than your own, of course)?

Things I Love Thursday: Our Home Organizer

When we moved into our house, there was an odd little wall on the side of the oven, right next to our dining area, that we weren’t really quite sure what to do with. We put our trash can there, but the majority of the wall still seemed too bare.  I am a big list-maker (in fact, I first contemplated writing this post solely about how much I love lists in general!) and decided to get a message board to put up. I found one at Target that is half white board, half cork board.

I don’t think we had any idea at the time what a hub this would be for our family. It is such a great way to keep up with what we need to do and where we need to be – not to mention a great place to display a regular rotation of J’s artwork.

Here’s what our board looks like right now:

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Book Review:’s Dining Out at Home

Many of you are probably familiar with Stephanie Manley’s site – it’s a resource for finding recipes you can make at home to replicate your restaurant favorites. Stephanie has a new cookbook coming out soon called’s Dining Out at Home, and I got the opportunity to take a sneak peek of this great collection of recipes – and even gave some of them a try.

The book is a collection of original recipes Stephanie created to mimic those found in restaurants around the country. Right off the bat I could see the immediate appeal for families like ours, those looking to save money (and those who know how stressful going out to eat with toddlers can be). In cooking the foods ourselves, we’re able to trim the cost that restaurants add in to cover their overhead. When eating at home, we don’t have to worry about tipping our server. These aspects alone make this book a valuable asset for any family kitchen. Continue Reading…

Tuesday Tip

I don’t know that I’ll do this every week, but I figured today I’d share a tip that I’ve figured out for decorating our home – and saving money, of course!

A while back I bought some gorgeous candles on clearance at a local shop. They’re square, which I love, and they have a warm honey color to them that looks even better once they’re lit and the glow from the flame reflects off of them. I set out on the hunt for something to set them on, and quickly found that most of the candle plates I liked were anywhere from $8-$15. I’m not talking about anything ornate, either! I tend to like things with clean, simple lines.

Inspiration struck. We were at Target (surprised?) and I decided to head over to take a look in the kitchen department. I immediately saw square, white, ceramic plates that were perfect for what I wanted. There were different sizes available, and I could buy just one. The best part? I got a 9″ plate for just $2.99. I love how it looks paired with the candles – the square shapes work together really well. If I wanted to, I could add some small smooth stones around the candles, but we liked the simplicity of just the three candles on the plate.

Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear them!

Menu Plan Monday

Last week I was on Spring Break, so since I’m back at work this week I tried to plan simple meals as we get back into the swing of things.

Monday: Burgers and french fries, leftover from our date night. Easy!

Tuesday: Family night at Chick Fil A – kids eat free and they have fun activities for them, too

Wednesday: Margarita grilled chicken with black beans & cilantro lime rice (using recipes from Stephanie’s new cookbook – excited to try them!)

Thursday: Leftovers!

Friday: Tacos, black beans, and Spanish rice

Saturday: Breakfast for dinner, or as we affectionately refer to it, brinner. Yum! This is a favorite around our house.

Date Night In

Since having two boys, my date nights out with Brian have dwindled down a little. We’ve always been content to spend an evening playing board games or watching a movie on TV –  with an occasional round of Rock Band thrown in – I’m sure Brian would say this doesn’t happen often enough.

One thing I do miss, just a little? Going out to eat. When we were first married, we went out to eat much more often, not thinking at all about how much money we were spending. A favorite place of ours to go was (and still is – we just don’t go there nearly as much!) Chili’s. We both have several meals we really like, so we didn’t get stuck in a rut ordering the same thing over and over again. Two of our favorite things at Chili’s are their skillet queso and their blue cheese bacon burger – yum!

I’m working on a book review for Stephanie ( of her great new cookbook (I’ll be posting the review later this week, so keep an eye out for it), and came across one for Chili’s Skillet Queso – score! I immediately knew that was one of the recipes I wanted to try, and that inspired me to make my own version of the blue cheese bacon burger, too.

First I made the skillet queso, because after all, it’s an appetizer (and I needed sustenance for all my labor in the kitchen, right?). All I’ll say right now is that it was super easy – I’ll wait to tell you more about this one when I post my book review.

On to the burgers. I’ll fully admit that I have never been the best at cooking hamburgers. Normally Brian handles these out on our grill, but it was in the 30’s yesterday – weird Texas weather strikes again! – so I planned to cook these in our Le Creuset grill pan, which Brian got for a birthday gift (I felt like it was MY birthday too getting that).

First I sautéed some onions in a small skillet with a dash of olive oil, a sprinkling of kosher salt, and a pinch of sugar.

They started out like this:

And ended up like this:

At the same time, I cooked four strips of bacon until they were nice and crispy. We love bacon in our house, but we usually get turkey bacon to try and be a little healthier. I also mixed the ground beef with some Worcestershire sauce, kosher salt, and black pepper. I formed it into four patties, refrigerating two for later, and put the two for dinner on our grill pan.

After everything finished cooking, it was assembly time. We found some great onion bread that we decided to use for buns. Very different from what we’d get at Chili’s, but it was a nice difference from normal hamburger buns. And isn’t it pretty?

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Free Photo Strip from Shutterfly

I’m a big fan of Shutterfly, and have used them for several gifts. Well, now they’re offering a new service called Wink. It’s a lot of fun, really. You upload photos from facebook, twitter, or from your computer and are able to turn them into a photo strip. Then you can have the strip mailed to family or friends – it’s only $2.50 for everything, including the mailing.

You can try the service for free by clicking here. I made my first photo strip today using photos from our trip to the park last week – what do you think?