Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Frugal Halloween Costumes

Since Halloween is tomorrow and this post is about saving money on costumes, "Frugal Friday" will be on a Wednesday this time...Halloween is tomorrow! Yeah! I LOVE it! In Spanish we call it "Noche de Brujas" (Witch's Night). In my Church, we do the Trunk or Treat usually the Saturday before Halloween. This year, my husband and I decided to be Mary Poppins and Bert. We used clothes we already had, except the hat, of course!

 The hat I found at the Goodwill, then I bought a fake plant there too for .49, cut the flowers and hot glued them to the hat. The white shirt is from the Salvation Army, $2.99. The gloves are from the Goodwill, $1.99. I already had the skirt and the red ribbons from another outfit. The shoes are from Old Navy (from last year). For Bert, he pretty much had everything, I just cut an old shirt for his handkerchief. The hat is from Target, clearance section, $7.50.

 The Darth Vader costume is from the Goodwill (brand new) $9.99. The Rapunzel dress is from my daughter's birthday party. My oldest son does not like store bought costumes. Since I could not find an overall, I bought suspenders at the Goodwill, $1.99, a yellow shirt at the Salvation Army, $1.99 and a Nike yellow hat for $1.99. I then bought black pipe cleaner at Walmart for $.99, wiggly eyes for I think a dollar and preserve tin lids for $3. I already had the black ribbon and the vinyl for the "Gru." I cut white paper the size of the lid, hot glued it on the inside, then glued the wiggly eyes. Glued the ribbon on the sides and hot glued the lids to the hat. On the back, I attached the black ribbons with Velcro. I cut and hot glued the pipe cleaners to the hat for the Minion's hair. Using my Silhouette Portrait I cut the "G" on vinyl. My son hates jeans so he did not want to wear them and he chose to wear these blue pants. I attached the suspenders to give it the "overall" effect.

We hope you have a very fun Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Crockpot Zuppa Toscana

My husband and I love soups in the winter and fall. There is nothing like coming home on a chilly day and smell the aroma of soup and bread coming from the kitchen. I created my own version of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, my husband's favorite. Since we eat healthy, I make it a little lighter in calories but without sacrificing flavor. I do it in the crockpot so all the flavors can blend in.
  • 1 lb of turkey Italian sausage
  • 1 1/2 cups of half and half
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • fresh thyme
  • 2-3 russet potatoes cut in big chunks
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1 stalk of celery, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  •  1/4 parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup water
  • salt and pepper to your taste
  • Red pepper flakes to your taste
  • Spinach or Kale to your taste, we like to see quite a bit of it!
First, cook the sausage with the garlic, onions, carrots and celery, until no longer pink. Make sure that the pan is REALLY hot before you cook the sausage. This produces "caramelization" of the meat and gives it more flavor. You do not have to cook all the way through. Add the rest on ingredients, except the half and half and spinach. For the thyme, I just throw a little "bouquet" in the broth and as it cooks it falls apart. You then remove the stalks from the soup. Let it cook on high for 4 hours. 30 minutes before serving, add the half and half and spinach and let cook for another 30 minutes. Serve with crusty baguette. You can put some shredded cheese on top. If you happen to have a leftover cheese rind, toss it in the soup while cooking.

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Living Room Inspiration

I have been working on our family room for the past weeks and it is almost done. I will be revealing it to you soon. However, if you have decorating ADHD like me you start with another project before you end the previous one ;-). Since we do not have a formal dining room, our living room is the place where we gather with friends, so it is very important that we have a buffet. I already showed you the makeover that I did on the antique buffet I got on Craigslist. It has been perfect for storing Grandma's old china, tablecloths and utensils we only use on special occasions. Today I put together an inspiration board for my living room so it is functional and serve as a double living room-entertaining room. It is not very big but it is not small either. The furniture I picked for this is very similar to the one I have already. Remember this is only an inspiration. My decorating style is, if it had a name, eclectic french cottage. I LOVE antiques, french calligraphy (and I do not speak french, but hey, it is la joie de vivre!), distressed furniture and neutrals (but not all white) with a hint of "pop" color. I really do not know if my style does have a name. And all of this has to be childproof, or in other terms, washable. Here is what I came up with:

Now this is TOTALLY me! The buffet in this picture does not look like mine, but this is only to see how things will look together. I got a coffee table for FREE that I am working on, very similar to this one. The pillows will be made using a transfer technique that I will show you that is AMAZING! So stay tuned. I have been really busy in the past weeks!

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Frugal Friday 3

Do you really use your leftover food? In our home we never throw food away except is in bad condition. The kids have a tendency to get "tired" of eating the same food a couple of days after. I have to get creative and use all the leftovers. I had already planned for a meal yesterday, but since we had some friends for dinner and had plenty of leftovers, I knew I can use them to create a new meal with little added ingredients from my pantry. For dinner in Tuesday, we had Lemon Chicken and baked potatoes. I had plenty left over, including dark and white meat. This meal could NOT be simpler.
Leftovers potatoes and chicken, we could just warm them up and eat them like this. But it would not be enough for the 5 of us! So I turned this:

 Into this: potato and chicken hash! And the family loved it!
I simply cut the potatoes and chicken into little squares. I heated a large skillet with EVOO, I warmed the potatoes and cooked them a little bit until they got crispy on the outside. I minced two cloves of garlic and chopped up some thyme and added them to the potatoes. I seasoned them with salt and pepper. I later added the chicken to warm up. I served this with creamed spinach and warm, crusty bread.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Princess 3rd Birthday

The Princess of the house turned three and wanted a Princess birthday. Since she does not have too many friends yet, we invited her closest and did something very simple. She loves castles so I decided to make a castle cake. It was fun to make. I am not a cake decorator so I really do not care for professionally decorated looking cakes. I wanted her cake to look like a mommy homemade cake, with things she loves: ice cream cones, wafers, pink frosting and chocolate!
For the cake I prepared cake batter for two cakes but divided them in 4 square smaller cakes. After they cooled I made butter cream frosting with added food coloring. The cake had three layers of cake and two layers of frosting.

After I put the "crumb layer" I put the cake in the freezer for 15 minutes to seal the crumbs. I do not like those in my top layer...

I then cut the left over cake into quarters. and used two of those for the top of the castle. I used one layer of frosting in the middle. I repeated the same thing as before, put it back in the freezer to seal the crumbs.
I then frosted the bigger cake and put it back in the fridge. Then I frosted the little cake and put it on top of the big cake. Using "Easy Frost" frosting (tongue twister!) I decorated the sugar cones and rolled them in pink sugar. I then added the candy for decor. The cone in the middle is a smaller one. I used strawberry wafers to make the windows and doors of the castle. My daughter loved her cake. 

The meal consisted of burgers and hot dogs and there were also treats such as chips, grapes, strawberries, sugar cookies, strawberry oreos and carrots. The drink was white grape raspberry juice.

We had a "decorate your own crown" station.

We had a "dress up" station with jewelry, princess wands and dresses.

Of course we had a big mirror!!

I decorated the dining room with pictures of her telling how much she has grown! (do you see that board and batten? tutorial coming soon!)

We had purple, pink and white balloons (Rapunzel's dress colors, the one she was wearing!) on the floor for a fun "popping the balloon-freeze" game.

 We also had a "bag" pinata. We found out the cardboard ones are too hard for little ones to break.

She had lots of fun!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Two Toddler Experimenting Activities

My daughter is almost three and she loves everything "discovery". She adores to get messy, to play pretend and color...yes, even color the walls with permanent marker! Yikes! I love to teach her and she loves to learn. 
First we experimented with colors. With this simple (and edible) activity she learned that if you mix colors, colors change. It was like magic to her and I loved when she discovered this! 
First, mix up some vanilla instant pudding, with only 1 3/4 cups of milk instead of the 2 cups (your kid will love to do the mixing). Then, separate the mixture in 4 bowls and add some food coloring to each. We did red, green, blue and plain (yellow of the vanilla).

 Get a big container for mixing and let her/him experiment!

 In case you did not notice, yes, she is a Princess 24/7 of the day! Here she is wearing a Cinderella dress!

Activity #2 Salt Play dough

1 cup of salt, 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup of water.
Let them mix it. This is a great sensory activity. My daughter kept adding the salt. She then used it to "cook" pizzas and playing with the rolling pin. She also uses cookie cutters to create shapes. You can also practice shapes and sizes, and if you want to, you  can color the play dough by adding food coloring. I have another recipe for play dough that I like best using Jello, but this is a quick recipe for hours of fun!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

For the Soul Sundays

This weekend is Conference weekend for the members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. If you would like to watch the many testimonies of the Savior, click HERE. It will probably be available to watch on the internet tomorrow. And I want to share my testimony with all of you. I know that my Savior lives. I have seen His tender mercies in my life. I know about His love. It is my engine everyday. Because I know He loves me, I know I can endure anything and do anything. His light is the light that illuminates the path that we so call life. Whatever your circumstance, doubt not of His love. You can find that out for yourself, in the darkest times as well as the good ones. The power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is very real, and it is available for you whether you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or not. If you are drowning in darkness and despair, come to Him. He will provide the peace you need even though your circumstances might not change. If you have abundant blessings, go to Him in prayer and thank Him. He wants to bless you. Remember sometimes the trials in life are a blessing in disguise, He sees the bigger picture. I know all this because I have experienced it and have seen it happen in the the lives of loved ones and friends. Come unto Him, it is my invitation. Have a blessed Sunday!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

New Life to a Goodwill Chair

I got these chairs at the Goodwill for $9. I thought they were in great shape and I envisioned what I wanted to do with them. They pretty much stayed that way for a long time because I was in the middle of more projects.

  The first thing I did was ordering some slipcovers from Sure Fit, they are only $24 or so a piece so I decided to not even stress about buying good quality fabric and doing my own. Plus you can toss them in the washer if they are dirty. After I received them I realized that the fabric is stretchy and some of it would come up so the underlying ugly white fabric would show. I knew that maybe I could buy some upholstery tack strips that are easy to put up and take off. I got  a 5 yard strip for $17 minus discounts.
I removed the fabric from the legs and all the staples. Yes, it was a P.A.I.N! I got poked several times but...oh well, it was worth it, right? I filled up the holes using wood filler and then sanded them and stained them using Dark Walnut gel stain, a couple of coats. After they dried, I applied 2 coats of Polycrilic in gloss.


Am I the only one that leaves an iron on the floor? Please tell me you do too!
I put the slipcover and added the tacks using a hammer. It is not perfect, but at least the fabric stays in place.

I think they look better. And they are super comfy!

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