Friday, July 31, 2009

Recent Makeovers

Here are the blogs I've done in the past week or two...I've been busy! Click on the header to see the blog...

(She created the graphics, I formatted the page!)

And I've already got three (scratch that, now FIVE) that I'm working on this weekend! I am so grateful for allows me to work from home, and this is something I can keep on doing once school starts! I have been wanting to do something like this for a while, and it just kind of fell into my lap when I was least expecting it. I am so happy it did! :)

If you're interested in getting a makeover, don't forget, today is the LAST day to get the July 10% off special! As long as you reserve it by today, I'll honor the discount. AND...there's a contest running on my design blog. Go check it out!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wedding Party and Flowers

This was my HUGE wedding party!

Noah and I had 7 attendants each, with 2 flower girls, 1 ring bearer, and 3 ushers. It was a LOT of people to keep up with!

Noah and his attendants...his dad was his best man.

With my girls - all were my sorority sisters! My maid of honor (lower left hand corner) was my roommate in college.

Our flower girls, Kinley and Marion. They are Noah's cousin's daughters!

And our ring bearer, David. He's Noah's cousin on the OTHER side of the family (they have a huge family!).

There wasn't a section of "Show Us Your Life," but we got married at First Methodist in Tuscaloosa (and still attend that church today). Here's your random fact of the day - Bear Bryant's funeral was held there. So there ya go.

And boy did we have some flowers in that church. :)

Our unity candle.

On the other side of the altar, this was dedicated to our late grandparents.

The pew flowers...

...and our HUGE arrangements for the front of the church! We had three of these (but I kind of wish I had only gotten one - the other two just kind of blended in).

The food table at the reception (Jemison mansion for those locals)

This was probably my favorite part of the flowers - this was the mantle behind our cake. It was absolutely GORGEOUS. Made for some great pictures too! :)

My cake...

...Noah's cake (which was the most amazing thing I've ever eaten, by the way...Noah doesn't like chocolate, so he got a caramel cake)...

and the table arrangements!

Thanks for stopping can also see my wedding dress here!

You can also see all of my posts for Kelly's Home Tours here!

(All photos by Thomas Dorough)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

By Request - Living on $25 a Week

One of you requested that I put up my plan to only spend $25 per week on groceries, so here it is!

Rule #1 : Don't ever wait until the week you're going to fix something to buy the ingredients for it. I plan out my grocery list every week in two parts. First, I go through the weekly sale papers (they come out Wednesday here) and find things that I think we might use.

(Tangent time. This point leads me to...

Rule #2: I don't care how much of a good deal you're getting on something - if you don't use it, you're wasting money. It's hard sometimes, but I only buy the things we are going to use (and have used in the past).)

The second part of my grocery list is basically "filling in the gaps." I look through my pantry/fridge, consider the things I'm buying on sale this week, and plan out what I can make by buying the fewest ingredients.

If something isn't on sale and I absolutely have to have it, I go to Wal-Mart...nine times out of ten they are cheaper. This might mean a few stops when shopping for groceries every week, but to me it's worth it!

Rule #3: Get to know (and love) your freezer. It is extremely rare that I pay full price for any kind of meat. It's like against my religion or something. I stock up when it is on sale, put it in the freezer, and lay it out in my sink when I'm headed to work that morning. That way, it's good and thawed when I get home! I NEVER pay more than $1.99/lb for ground beef and very rarely pay more than $1.99 for boneless, skinless chicken (the way I figure it, at this price boneless, skinless is just as good of a deal as bone in, and SO much easier). You can also freeze milk, cheese, and most veggies. This is GREAT for onions...after letting several bags of onions spoil after using like 1, I got online and researched. If you chop onions and store in a gallon bag, all you have to do is pull them out and add to recipes. SO easy, and you only have to deal with chopping once every few months!

(Tangent on that - never get more than you can use in 4-6 months - it goes bad, even in the freezer, after that).

Rule #4 (the one, honestly, that I struggle with): Don't automatically assume that store brand is just have to be a little creative to make the name brands cheaper usually. There are probably hundreds of websites dedicated to this. The one I use is Deal Seeking Mom... they show the coupons that have come out in the last month, and link them up with sales on name brands at various stores. There are actually ways that you can make money shopping for some of these things at drug stores!

You have to be a little creative, but this can work very well if you have to have name brands for certain things. Also, make sure you compare price per ounce (NOT price) when considering store vs. name brand...they will get you with the price if they are giving you less product!

That being said, I almost always go with store brand. I've read in numerous places that store brands are usually made in the same factory, with the same quality as name brands, and just packaged differently. Canned foods, milk, baking supplies, etc. are usually the same! I just really had to try around to see what I was willing to pay more for. For example, store brand croissants are DISGUSTING...don't waste your money. You have to try these things for yourself to see what works for you and your budget!

Rule #5: Break each serving of a meal down into cost. This is how I arrive at how much I have to spend a week.

I'm a numbers girl, so this is how I do it: I budget about $1.00 per breakfast for the two of us. That doesn't sound like a lot, but considering I eat yogurt every morning (at 50 cents a cup) and Noah eats granola bars (at around $0.40 each) that usually covers it and then some! So if I want to use the $25/week thing, I just subtract 7 (for 7 days we have to eat breakfast) and that brings us to $18 left for lunch and dinner.

Well I eat a ham sandwich just about every day I am at school for lunch, and that's around 40 cents each (2 pieces of bread = 20 cents, ham = 20 cents). So that brings us down to $16. Noah usually has business lunches at least twice a week, so let's say we have to get him lunch for two days during the work week. We'll give him $2 a meal besides that, bringing us down to $14. Now the weekends, we split a big meal on Saturday (so we'll bring it down to $10) and Sunday we normally go to lunch somewhere...I don't factor our 2 restaurant meals a week into the grocery budget, so those don't count. So lunch is done!

Which brings me to Rule #6: Buy and cook in bulk. It is so much easier and almost always cheaper. I MIGHT cook twice a week for us...usually once a week. We will use what I'm cooking tonight as an example for how I budget dinner:

(This is straight from Kelly's Recipes, by the way)
Pork Tenderloin - about $4 for all of it (bought it on sale and I've had it frozen)
1/2 cup soy sauce - about 50 cents
2 oranges, juices - using leftover orange juice
1 lime, juiced - using lime juice from concentrate
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard - 5 cents
1 teaspoon ground ginger - 10 cents
1 clove garlic, crushed - 5 cents
1 tablespoon chopped scallions - 50 cents

I'm also serving this with mashed potatoes (about 75 cents for the whole thing) and green beans (about $1 for all of it). So, grand total, I'm paying $6.95 for a meal that will feed us for 5 full nights. That's 70 cents a meal!

So, out of 12 meals I have to make (not counting 1 night a week we eat restaurant), you can just about figure 12 x 70 cents is $8.40.

Leaving me $1.60 under my weekly budget. :)

One note about cooking in bulk - a general rule for me is I don't eat anything 5 days past when it was made. I DESPISE throwing food out, but I'd rather not puke my brains out to save a few dollars.

Now, I don't count cleaning supplies, hygiene products, paper products, etc. in that $25/week, that's strictly for food. But I've got a pretty good process going, if I do say so myself! :)

I have about 10 million suggestions I've racked up in my two little years of marriage, so I'm sure some of you out there have other ideas that everyone would appreciate! If you've got a really good grocery-saving idea, just leave it in the comment section!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Like You Didn't Know This Was Coming...

So the people at MckLinky are hosting another blog hop this week...the theme is children's pictures!

So guess who modeled for my picture... my furry child, Hardy!

Hardy has been with us since January 2008...everyone called him a "wedding puppy" because we got him about a month after we got married! He is most definitely a member of our family. We consider him our child (for right now)...we don't know what he's going to do when we have kids!

If you're new, thanks for stopping by...feel free to look around and learn about our little family!

MckLinky Blog Hop

Orange for Stellan

Here's an idea...

Why don't we all wear orange for Stellan today? It is a great way to show our support, and if somebody asks you about the color (if you're like me and own 2 orange shirts) it will be a great conversation starter in the prayer efforts!

(Terrible picture, sorry - you try holding a beagle and taking a picture with an slr camera at the same time. :))

I'm also willing to change anyone's blog, free or charge today, to an orange background in honor of Stellan.

So if you're wearing orange, I've changed your background, you have a Stellan name picture you'd like everyone to see, or you're just praying and you need somewhere to share, link up here!

(And, if you're on twitter, you can add a "praying for Stellan" ribbon over your picture by clicking here.)

And don't forget, pray for that little boy.

I Heart Faces - Beach

One of my favorite pictures from the beach was taken on our vacation this past May. We were on a beach in Nassau, Bahamas...and honestly, this picture was taken just playing around with my camera!

Click here to enter your own beach picture!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hardy's Gettin' a Girlfriend

I am OFFICIALLY on the lookout for a girlfriend for Hardy!

We think it's about time - the people at the vet have been on me since we got him about getting him fixed (a certain area of his body is sort of large and could cause cancer if we don't do it soon), and he's been doing some strange things lately. Like peeing in the middle of my kitchen floor Friday. I think that's what sent me over the edge.

So here are his "profiles" - they're kind of like for puppies!

And he's going to be in - his profile just hasn't been put up there yet!

So if you or somebody you know needs a pretty, mild-mannered (look at me selling him) beagle stud, just let me know...I've got one for you!

Doesn't he just look thrilled about the whole process? :)

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cookin' Up A STORM

Besides cleaning all day yesterday, I cooked ALLL day! Not to toot my own horn or anything, but I made some pretty AWESOME stuff!

This is SO's buffalo chicken dip. It came from the ABC 33/40 Cookbook...that's our local ABC affiliate, and they're selling a book of the employee's favorite recipes to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House. It's a great cause! If you're a local, you can get them at Bruno's and Food World.

Besides the good cause thing, the recipes are delicious. This was Jason Simpson's recipe in the book! Here it is:

2 cups Shredded Chicken
2 blocks Cream Cheese
1 Cup Ranch Dressing
3/4 Cup Hot Sauce (I used 1 cup since we like things extra spicy.)
1 1/2 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese

Mix cream cheese and hot sauce together well. Add ranch dressing. Add chicken and 1/2 cup of the cheddar cheese. Pour into an oven-safe dish and sprinkle rest of cheese on top. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Serve with tortilla chips or frito's.

And it, my friends, is divine.

I also made a big batch of my shaken potatoes yesterday! They're basically oven fries, but better. :) And they're so easy!

1. Cup up a 5 pound bag of red potatoes into bite-size pieces.

2. Add olive oil, then salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, and parmesan cheese to taste. (I've never measured this, I just add enough to coat each piece). Then shake like crazy to coat everything!

3. Spread out on a baking sheet covered in Pam.

4. Bake, uncovered, for around 45 minutes at 450 degrees.

That's it! If you're serving immediately, you might want to bake for close to an hour. I bake them just slightly underdone because I always make up big bags and freeze them, then just pull them out of the freezer when needed and bake the rest of the way before serving. WAY cheaper than those bagged fries, and better for you!

The last thing I made was seafood lasagna. A few weeks ago, our local grocery store had a buy 1 get 2 free sale on frozen shrimp and scallops, so I stocked up! It is AWESOME! You can find the recipe here.

So much for that diet...maybe next week. :)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle

My classroom is basically finished! I have a couple more things to do...I'm making a tiki hut reading area in the corner, and my principal is letting me use her animal print bookshelves. Besides a few little things, here's what we've got!

My behavior management board...I'm going to have monkeys to swing from the "vines," and each day the students have a good day they'll stay on the green vine!

Excuse the air conditioner vents on the counter. :)

I painted the countertops black and the background white to match the rest of the class. The leaves were made out of butcher paper!

My job board...I have these cute jungle rulers with animal faces on them ordered, and each student will have one. They'll rotate jobs each day!

The books are still all over the rug...the bookshelf will go between the desks and the giraffe rug.

Updated: Several people have asked where the rugs came from. The big giraffe print rug is from believe it or not, it was on clearance! You can just go to the site and type in "giraffe rug" and it might come up - but this was purchased several years ago now. The smaller animal print rug is from Kirkland's...I don't know if the whole country has those, but it's a home decorating store we have throughout the southeast.

You can see my word wall underneath the board. For those non-teachers, a word wall represents all of the words you learn throughout the year, so the students have continual exposure to new vocabulary. My FABULOUS Promethean board is above that.

One of the reading areas...if I have enough bamboo left from the tiki hut I'm going to make a "fence" behind that blank wall.

My small group center - with student writing sample display behind that!

This is where the tiki hut is going. You can see the blue tape where the walls are going to go, and it's going to have a thatched roof!

I am SO lucky I have six computers!

Looking at the room from the back corner (where the hut will go) - I still have to put the nameplates on the desks, but I don't have my class list yet.

I am SO happy with the way it turned out!

And by the way, thanks for all the recommendations on getting the paint off my hands. It's (slowly) coming off!