Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: The Hunger Games

Aaron and I had both been hearing a lot about the series The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, but found that there was a huge wait list for the books at the library. Before we took our little getaway last month, we perused the library looking for some good reading and listening in the car. We were excited to find the audio CDs for The Hunger Games in the young adult section. We snatched them up and promptly devoured them.

Yes, devoured is the correct word! We were immediately enthralled in the characters and plot. The story is told from the perspective of 16 year old Katniss Everdeen who suddenly is fighting for her survival in an arena pitted against 23 other teenagers. It is a brutal and terrifying place to be. Collins manages to keep the horrific images in check though despite the gruesome premise.

We found these books to be very exciting and very well-written. My only complaint is with the third and final book, Mockingjay. It didn't quite live up to the previous two. I couldn't help but wonder if Collins rushed to churn this one out in the heat of the previous book's popularity. It was also more graphic and violent then the other two.

Despite my criticism of the final book I still heartily recommend this series. It is well worth the read. You should definitely check them out!

Monday, June 27, 2011

More Thrifting and DIY Fun

My newest hobby is frequenting the thrift store (like making friends with the employees kind of frequenting. Note: I am finding that friendship with the employees pays off in the form of discounts and help getting items into your car AND they are some genuinely nice people). The Salvation Army happens to be pretty close to work and Aldi shopping for me so it is nice and convenient. I have had some fun finds lately. I have been doing lots of sanding, spray painting, crafting, and gluing lately. As a matter of fact I have a lot of projects currently in the works so stay tuned!!

Here is a completed one to check out now. I found a lacquer tray for 1.99 and had visions of beauty for it. Something like this that West Elm sold for $24...

Cute huh? I thought something like this would look particularly nice on our new coffee table (yes, yes I know I haven't posted the coffee table is coming, I promise! Maybe, MAYBE even by the end of the week. It is getting closer to being done. You can catch a glimpse of it below, the tray is sitting in it). Here is the before:

The red color of the tray was chipped and didn't match our decor at all. Some white spray paint, some fabric and some Modge Podge solved that problem.

Ahhh...much better!

Look at this thrift store beauty that I snapped a pic of:

I am still kicking myself for not buying it on the spot for $49...oh the potential.

Have you had any fun finds lately?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Berry Delicious Pie!

There are many reasons you should make this pie:

1. It is delicious!
2. It's so easy...I'm talking like 15 minutes to put this baby together.
3. It's hot outside and you never have to fire up your oven to make this.
4. It's summer and fruit is cheap!

I got this recipe from my mother in law. It came from a cookbook she had and I'm pretty sure that it is an Amish or Mennonite cookbook (this is automatically a point in its favor in my opinion because those Mennonites sure can cook!). You can take a look at the original recipe here (just click on the picture to enlarge):

I have made a few variations to the recipe, namely that I use less sugar and a store bought (Aldi) graham cracker crust (mostly for convenience sake, I'm sure that the actual crust recipe is delicious).

Heat 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup water, 3 and 1/2 T corn starch and 2 T Caro syrup in a saucepan. Your mixture will first look like this:

But keep stirring and heating and it will thicken up to this:

Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in 2 T strawberry jello.

While this cools, wash and slice one carton of strawberries. I also threw in some blueberries this time too. (Note this recipe is versatile, you could make it with peaches and peach jello too.) When the mixture has cooled stir the fruit in.

Pour the fruit in your pie crust and then refrigerate until it is well set.

Top with whipped cream and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strawberry Nachos!

"Strawberry nachos?!" you say. Yes! I had a carton of strawberries on hand and a hankering for some dessert. I turned to my Cooking Light cookbook and found a recipe entitled "Strawberry Dessert Nachos" and I was inspired. Since I was lacking the majority of the ingredients for that specific recipe, I made up my own- crispy, cinnamon sugar tortilla wedges covered in a cheesecake-like mixture and topped with strawberries. Yummy!

Strawberry Nachos

1. Slice 1 carton of strawberries and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar, set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. With a mixer, cream together 8 oz cream cheese (I used reduced fat), 1 (6 oz) carton of plain yogurt (or use sour cream, I just had this on hand), 3 tablespoons sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla.

3. Slice 6 flour tortillas into wedges. Spread them out on 2 cookie sheets and then spray them with cooking spray and top with cinnamon sugar (1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon).

4. Bake tortilla wedges at 400 for about 8 minutes, or until crispy.

5. Top tortilla wedges with cream cheese mixture and then strawberries. Enjoy!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thrift Store Purchase and Craft

Ok, so I have to ask, who went to Salvation Army and bought everything I posted about?! I find it a bit mysterious that everything that I posted and commented about was gone when I went back! Guess somebody really loved that "Teacher's Throne." I want to know if one of you nabbed that entertainment center to make a kitchen...the tag said it had been there since November and now suddenly it is gone. No worries, there were plenty more similar ones.

I didn't go back for the chair or entertainment center, but I was hoping to grab up the coffee table. I was really disappointed when it wasn't there, but I think it was a blessing in disguise. Without that table being sold, I probably wouldn't have found the fabulous one that I bought! I am so excited about it and I can't wait to share pictures with you. Aaron and I both agree that it is a great fit in our living room. It does need some sanding and paint or stain. Not to worry, before and after pictures will be coming soon.

Now that we have a great new coffee table, I figured we need some coasters :) I received a box of photo coasters as a gift from a student this year and hadn't done anything with them yet. I wasn't crazy about the idea of putting photos in them, but thought that they could definitely be made into something really cute.

I cut some leftover fabric and inserted it in the coasters and loved the outcome:

Remember my new curtains and pillows in the living room?

The fabric was remnants from the living room. Stay tuned for a new pic of the living room soon with the addition of the coffee table!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Thrifting Store Sights

We hit up the thrift store this week for some afternoon entertainment and fun (yes, we consider poking through people's cast offs to be fun)!! There was a lot to take in and I took my camera along to snap a few pics of stuff we saw.

Aaron ponders how many model airplanes could be displayed in this glass curio cabinet. The thrift store's prices decrease based on length of time in the store...this was dated with Aaron's birthday. Was it fated to be his? Perhaps not, we didn't bring it home :)

Remember the garage sale stool that I snagged for Aaron's classroom? I was wrong, he didn't want a medium height one, but a tall one (sigh). I suggested this might be a better solution:

A "teacher's throne" (it even swivels and has lovely gold designs on it, haha). This didn't make it home with us either.

I pondered this coffee table:

It has the same curved legs as our dining room table and side table. I was envisioning all the wonderful ways I could paint it. I didn't buy it (yet). What do you think??

Aaron did find something to bring home:

A keyboard drawer- he plans to install it on his hobby desk to put paint and such on. I am all for it, especially if it will keep the top surface less cluttered :)

When I saw this TV and entertainment stand...

I couldn't help but envision all the cute play kitchens that could be created from it. Like these:

Fresh Cut Flours

Hey Day Living

Finding Joy

Aren't those so cute and fun?! Sadly our apartment doesn't really have space for a play kitchen.

I was a little discouraged today at the prices at the thrift store. Some of them seemed pretty high. It made me think garage sales were the way to least then you can haggle on the price :). However, everything at this thrift store will be 50% off this Saturday...I just might have to go back.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stares and Glares

This afternoon I went to Publix armed with a bunch of coupons. I knew exactly what I was there to get (cheap cheese, free lunch meat, cheap organic milk and better than free bars) and made it to the check out fairly quickly. I chose a line with a young, friendly looking cashier and began checking out. As she was scanning my items a lot more people lined up behind me, some with not very many items (note- this was not an express line). I handed the cashier my coupons and she began to very slowly examine each one and then scan it. In her credit, she wasn't being obnoxious about studying them or anything- I think she was just doing her job conscientiously (and maybe a tad bit slowly). As she worked, I could feel the stares, glares, and sighs behind me. I heard an older couple whispering about my large stack of coupons.

Then, of course, she had to call a manager over. Apparently, I had more coupons than items (because I had both manufacturer ones and store ones). This doesn't violate any policies but apparently requires a manager to enter a code to override the register to make it allow more coupons to be scanned. I could really feel the glares now!

But then there was that sweet moment when she gave me my total: $13.90. I paid as quickly as I could and thanked her and fled to my car. Was it worth it?

To save $41.48...I would say so.

Monday, June 6, 2011


So I had hoped to have some fun garage sale finds or an awesome new recipe to share, but alas it was not to be. My iron stomach was defeated this weekend by the dreadful stomach flu plague. Yes, it had been since the 6th grade that I had vomited and yes, it was just as bad as I remembered. But enough about that unpleasantness. So instead of vintage bargain finds and new delicacies, today you will be subjected to the topic of budgeting. Big sigh (I know, I know, everyone's favorite topic). Not because I am an expert, and not because we are great at it, but because we are finding what works and what doesn't and because I need some help.

I have a love/hate relationship with Dave Ramsey. Love his principles, love his story, love his encouragement, and love his radio show (ok, I admit to becoming a little teary on Fridays when people call and share their stories and then exuberantly yell "WE'RE DEBT FREE!" So inspiring.) The hate part come in with the difficulty of making wise but not always fun choices. But as Dave always says, "The difference between a dream and a goal is a plan." And I think a big part of the plan is a budget.

We have worked out a monthly budget that works for us. Some tips that we have found for making it work are:

* We have categories for "Aaron's hobbies" and "Susie's hobbies." This is nice because it gives us some guilt free money to use as we want. It can roll over as needed, especially if one of us wants to save for something bigger.

* We move our monthly savings into our savings account at the BEGINNING of the month. Then it is gone...out of sight, out of use!

* At the end of the month we figure out if we have any money left over from the month then this gets moved to savings. Again, out of sight, out of use.

* We leave some wiggle room in our budget. We have a miscellaneous category and it gets used up every single month. You know, for those things that just happen and don't really fit in any particular category but always add up.

*We have a monthly budget meeting. This is when we transfer savings, adjust categories if needed, write tithe checks, etc. It is good for us to be on the same page and talk through stuff.

Now lest you should think we have it all together let me quickly put a stop to that!! We always, ALWAYS go over in at least a few categories of our budget- can we say eating out :) We would do well to follow Dave's advice and stick to the envelope system in this area. Ugh, but I really don't want to.

We started out using Quicken Online for our budget and then when they were taken over by we just switched to Mint. I really do not like We have found it to be very user unfriendly and dumb (haha, as dumb as a computer program could be). Quicken used to "learn" from how we categorized transactions and then automatically apply that to future similar transactions. Mint doesn't do this and it drives us crazy.

So I need your help. Do you use a budgeting website or software that you recommend? Please pass it on! Also share any tips you have of what works well for you.

Note: I asked Aaron what picture I should use for this post and he readily modeled for me. No actual restaurant savings cards were harmed during this photo shoot.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Millie's Nursery

My friend Memo has a gift of making things beautiful. She loves color and has an eye for putting things together. When I first saw Millie's beautiful nursery I knew I wanted to share it on here. I think it belongs in a magazine but we will have to settle for my little bloggy spot :)

Isn't it pretty?!

The crib was a garage sale find and a friend made the bedding as a baby gift.

They live in a charming, older home with very high ceilings. The long curtains look great! Memo and her mom have found a gem of a seamstress who makes them for next to nothing.

The cutest part of the room though is...


Wednesday, June 1, 2011


We spent the long weekend on a "getaway." Oh how I love a getaway! This one was a bit overdue as we had been planning on going somewhere since back at our anniversary in February, but then the stomach virus plagued our house that weekend and then life got busy, busy, busy. With some time between school and summer school for Aaron and a lull in dance classes and the twins being out of town, we jumped at the chance to escape and have a little R and R.


My cousins live in a charming little town on the bay. They graciously let us stay in their "little house" in their backyard.

We ate good food...

Ok, lots of good food!

We relaxed on the beach

We explored the Naval Aviation Museum

We shopped the outlets

And we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!