Thursday, October 29, 2009

Creating a Holiday Budget

The best part of holiday shopping is picking out gifts for everyone on your list. The worst part is when January comes along with the bills and you realize you over spent. One way to avoid the worst part is to create and stick to a holiday budget.

Step 1: Create a budget book. Add lined paper, dividers, and a zipper pocket (pens and pencil pouch) to a 3 ring binder. The paper is for taking notes and keeping track of things. The dividers are to separate lists or budget years. The zipper pocket is to hold all of your receipts.

Step 2: List Expenses. Make a list of each person you need to buy a gift for. This includes family, friends, teachers, and co-workers. Don't forget to make a list of other holiday expenses like: greeting cards, gift wrap, decorations, baking supplies for cookie trays etc.

Step 3: Set Limits. Evaluate what you spent last year or estimate what you spent last year and determine where you need to cut back and where you need a little more. Maybe you went way overboard with the cookie trays but needed a little more money for gifts. Make adjustments where necessary and then place an amount on everything. For example, $5 for teacher gifts, $10 per co-worker, $20 per extended family member, $50 for decorations. Maybe this year you can cut back on the number of cards you send out and send e-cards instead. Many people throw away the cards after the season anyway.

The most important thing is to do what is best for you. Don't compare your budget to someone else’s because everyone has different ideas and needs. Once you have your budget set make sure you keep track of everything you spend. You may go over on something but under on others. Make adjustments where necessary. Follow through with your budget to make sure there are no surprises come January.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Keeping your Kids Safe on Halloween

If you plan on having your children go Trick-or-Treating then there are a few things you should do to keep your kids safe on Halloween.

  • Have children carry a flashlight so they can see in the dark
  • Put reflective clothing or a glow stick on your child so people can see them.
  • Remind them to walk and not run. Costumes can sometimes hinder their ability to move and running will only cause more problems.
  • Remind them to stay on sidewalks.
  • Have them only approach houses that are lit.
  • Know where child predators and sex offenders live by looking it up online and avoid those areas.
  • Take your child instead of having them go alone.
  • Don't let them eat candy until after you have inspected it.
  • Remove any candy that is not age appropriate like jaw breakers for young children.
  • Instruct them not to eat any candy that is not wrapped.

If you are expecting Trick-or-Treaters make sure your yard, driveway, and sidewalk are free from things that kids can trip or get injured on in all of the excitement. Have your porch light on. Place your pets in a quiet location (see previous post for what to do with your pets). Turn your porch light out to signal you are out of candy or not serving candy.

I hope you have a safe and happy Halloween!

Fun Halloween Recipes

If you are attending a Halloween party or hosting one you are going to need some good and fun recipes. I do not have any signature recipes so here are some links to great websites that have yummy and fun Halloween Recipes.

Family Fun
Food Network
Wanda's Halloween Cookbook
Halloween on the Net

Hope you have fun.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Funfetti Popcorn

Yummy popcorn my sister shared with me. I decided to make it for teacher appreciation gifts for the teachers I work with at church. Attached to the bag was a tag that said "Thanks for being a popping part of our primary." It's one of those recipes that I don't have the exact measurements so I'll tell you what I did.
I popped 10 bags of microwave butter flavor popcorn and set it aside. Then I melted 6 (10 oz) bags of vanilla flavored (mine already had the sprinkles in it) melting chocolate. For the life of me I can't think of the name of the brand right now but it is the stuff you melt to do chocolate covered pretzels. You can find it in the candy making section of Michaels and Wal Mart. Once it is melted you pour it over the popcorn. Mix until the popcorn is coated then toss in several handfuls of M & M's. You do not want to many M &M's, just enough to add some more color. Then you pour the popcorn out of the bowl onto a table or counter covered in wax paper, tin foil, or Saran wrap to cool. After about 20-30 minutes you are good to go. This made approx. 35, large fist size popcorn balls. This would be great to have on your cookie plates you give to your neighbors during the holidays.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Snicker Apple Salad

This recipe is perfect for all the fall apples. It makes a lot so I like to take this recipe to pot lucks. It tastes like candy apples. I'm not sure if it is a dessert or a salad but I'm sure it could be served as both. One thing I'm sure of, it tastes delicious!
Snicker Apple Salad
4 oz cream cheese, softened
16 oz. cool whip
3 Granny Smith apples, cubed
3 Delicious apples, cubed
3 Snickers candy bars, cut into chunks

Mix all ingredients together. Serves 10-15

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Keeping Pets Safe on Halloween

Don't forget about your pets during the Halloween fun and festivities. I found this video about keeping pets safe on Halloween.

Aside from the helpful advice you get to see cute pets dressed up.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Halloween Party Idea

My husband and I were invited to a Halloween party last year but were unable to make it. After seeing all of the work the hostess' put into it I'm sad we weren't in attendance. Check out Life Frosting, the blog of one of the hostesses, and see all of the creative genius. They had incredible names for all of the food like Torn Skin Crisps, Rabid Dog Froth, Brains and Beans and many, many more. So, if you are a party person check it out. This site also has many craft ideas too.

I'm looking forward to seeing what they have planned for this years party.

Friday, October 9, 2009

33 Minutes to a Cleaner House

A friend of mine sent the following in an email to me. Who ever thought it up was brilliant. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

33 Minutes to a Cleaner House…

You're getting company in 30 minutes. Your house is a mess. WHAT WILL YOU DO?Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the first session of Housekeeping Tips for Regular People. If you're a Martha Stewart type of housekeeper, this column is NOT for you. However, for the rest of you, this is your chance to learn 15 Secret Shortcuts to Good Housekeeping that your mother never told you.


1: DOOR LOCKS If a room clearly can't be whipped into shape in 30 days--much less 30 minutes--employ the Locked Door Method of cleaning. Tell anyone who tries to go in the room that the door is intentionally locked.CAUTION: It is not advisable to use this tip for the bathroom. Time: 2 seconds

2: DUCT TAPE No home should be without an ample supply. Not only is it handy for plumbing repairs, but it's a great way to hem drapes, tablecloths, clothes, just about anything. No muss, no fuss.Time: 2-3 minutes

3: OVENS If you think ovens are just for baking, think again. Ovens represent at least 9 cubic feet of hidden storage space, which means they're a great place to shove dirty dishes, dirty clothes, or just about anything you want to get out of sight when company's coming. Time: 2 minutes

4: CLOTHES DRYERS Like Secret Tip 3, except bigger. CAUTION: Avoid hiding flammable objects here.Time: 2.5 minutes

5: WASHING MACHINES & FREEZERS Like Secret Tip 4, except even bigger.Time: 3 minutes

6: DUST RUFFLES No bed should be without one. Devotees of Martha Stewart believe dust ruffles exist to keep dust out from under a bed or to help coordinate the colorful look of a bedroom. The rest of us know a dust ruffle's highest and best use is to hide whatever you've managed to shove under the bed. (Refer to Secret Tips 3, 4, 5.) Time: 4 minutes

7: DUSTING The 30-Minutes-To-A-Clean-House method says: Never dust under what you can dust around.Time: 3 minutes

8: DISHES Don't use them. Use plastic or paper and you won't have to.Time: 1 minute

9: CLOTHES WASHING (EEWWW) This secret tip is brought to you by an inventive teenager. When this teen's mother went on a housekeeping strike for a month, the teen discovered you can extend the life of your underwear by two ...if you turn it wrong side out and, yes, rerun it.CAUTION: This tip is recommended only for teens and those who don't care if they get in a car wreck.Time: 3 seconds

10: IRONING If an article of clothing doesn't require a full press and your hair does, a curling iron is the answer. In between curling your hair, use the hot wand to iron minor wrinkles out of your clothes. Yes, it really does work, or so I'm told, by other disciples of the 30-Minutes-To-A-Clean-House philosophy.Time: 5 minutes (including curling your hair)

11: VACUUMING Stick to the middle of the room, which is the only place people look. Don't bother vacuuming under furniture. It takes way too long and no one looks there anyway.Time: 5 minutes, entire house; 2 minutes, living room only

12: LIGHTING The key here is low, low, and lower. It's not only romantic, but bad lighting can hide a multitude of dirt.Time: 10 seconds

13: BED MAKING Get an old-fashioned waterbed. No one can tell if those things are made up or not, saving you, oh, hundreds of seconds over the course of a lifetime.Time: 0

14: SHOWERS, TOILETS, AND SINKS Forget one and two. Concentrate on three.Time: 1 minute

15: If you already knew at least 10 of these tips, don't even think about inviting a Martha Stewart type to your home.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Tips for Selecting Vegetables at the Supermarket

It’s frustrating to bring home fresh vegetables from the supermarket only to have them be less then ripe or overly ripe. To help you avoid this problem here are some tips for selecting the most common vegetables.

Onions- You want an onion to feel firm. The papery skins should be dry. Avoid onions that have soft spots or discoloration.

Peppers- Make sure the stem on peppers is bright green. You want firm bell peppers with tight skin.

Potatoes- Avoid potatoes that are soft or have wrinkled skin. Firm potatoes are best. You definitely don’t want to buy potatoes with sprouts, or a green tinge. The green is an indicator that it isn’t ripe yet. If possible, buy them individually because when buying in the bag you can get bad potatoes.

Corn- Looking at the outside of the corn cob you want tight, bright-green husks. The silk should be moist and a golden brown color. Avoid the dark brown silk. When you pull back the husk, you should see tightly packed, juicy kernels.

Cucumbers- If possible, don’t buy the waxed cucumbers. You will know it is waxed because it will have a shiny sheen and you can feel the wax. Cucumbers should be firm without wrinkles and soft spots. They can have variable color from light to dark green. The best ones are around 6 inches long.

Summer Squash- Whether you are selecting the yellow or green variety, choose squash that is about 5-6 inches in length. The bigger it is the more watery and fibrous it becomes. You want firm, smooth, and shiny squash.

Lettuces- Most people do quite well selecting lettuce. Avoid the brown, wilted lettuce.
Beans- You want firm, spot free, wrinkle free, bright pole beans. When you bend them they should snap.

What other tips do you have for vegetables that I have not included?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Sweet Pork Enchiladas

This recipe is one of the most shared recipes I have. I will share it with someone and then they will share it and so on. One reason is, it is so easy to make. The other reason is, it is full of flavor. What could be better than tender sweet pork accompanied by cheese that just melts in your mouth?

Sweet Pork Enchiladas
3-4 lbs pork (roast, ribs, whatever)
1 C. brown sugar
1 C. salsa
10-10 inch tortillas
Shredded Mozzarella
1 Can green enchilada sauce

Place pork in slow cooker and cover with sugar and salsa. Cook for 6-8 hours or until it shreds easily. Drain juice off pork. Roll shredded pork and cheese in tortilla and place in pan. Pour enchilada sauce over and sprinkle with any remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. We serve it with sour cream and additional salsa.

Sometimes I cook extra pork and use the pork the next day for pulled pork sandwiches. I just add the cooked pork to a pan and heat through. I then add KC masterpiece Barbecue sauce until it is the consistency I want. This is as good or better than the kind you can buy pre-made in the store.

This cooked sweet pork is also good as the meat on a salad.
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family and friends do. Don't forget to share this recipe and site with friends.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

What to do with all of that Halloween Candy

As a child I think Halloween was second to Christmas as my favorite holiday. It was so fun to dress up and go door to door and get free candy. What child wouldn't like to do this? I don't really remember my Mom and Dad limiting my candy consumption in any way. I always gave them a few pieces of their favorite candy, Mom- York Patties and Dad- Mr. Good bar. The chocolate was always the first to go and the last for me were the Sweet Tarts. I'm more of a sweet fan than a tart fan. I digress. What do you plan to do with all of that Halloween Candy your children are sure to bring home?

I am one who tires of hearing I want candy..... All day every day until it is gone. So, here is what I do.

I make sure my kids eat a healthy, normal dinner before they head out. While we trick or treat they can eat 2 pieces of candy (that I inspect first). Once we get home they get to go through their candy and share with mom and dad (my favorite part). If it is a school night they may eat a few more pieces and then it is off to bed. When it is not a school night, like this year, I let them eat to their hearts (and stomachs) content. The next day whatever is left gets put into a big bucket and the candy is then used as rewards for various things. I potty trained my son with his Halloween candy as the reward. I put the candy out of site with the hope of out of site out of mind. Sometimes there is enough candy leftover for Christmas stockings.

It is ultimately up to you the parent to decide how much and when your children get to eat their candy. There is one big thing you should do though to eliminate any whining and complaining about the rules you impose. Lay down the rules and make sure each child understands before they even head out the door.

What do you do with all of the candy? Do you let your children eat it whenever or do you ration it out?

And don't forget to turn off your porch light if you are not handing out candy, not home, or out of candy. This will keep trick-or-treaters from ringing your doorbell all night.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Money Saving Tips for Halloween

Do you find yourself every Halloween spending oodles of money on your child’s costume or on the goodies to hand out to the trick or treaters? I don't know about you but it really irks me to spend $15 or more (I'm really cheap when it comes to buying something that will only be used for one night or maybe a couple of dress up times) on a costume just to have the price slashed the day after Halloween to 75% off. So, every year I vow to buy the costumes for the next year the day after Halloween. You will also notice the price of the candy slashed the day after Halloween. Candy has so much sugar and preservatives in it that if you buy it when it is on clearance and put it in a cool/dry location it will last until next Halloween. Doing this you can cut your costs by at least half.

Some other ideas for saving money on Halloween:

  • Do a costume swap with friends and neighbors. Trade your previously warn costumes for someone else’s costume.

  • Find costumes or items to create costumes at thrift stores. My cousin used a table cloth to sew a costume for her child. The cost of the table cloth as 50 cents compared to the fabric at $2 or more per yard.

  • Buy decorations the day after Halloween for the next year. If you buy a little bit at a time, eventually you will have collected quite the display.

What are some ways you save money on Halloween?