Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Super, Fantastic, Amazing Cake?

Happy Birthday Daddy!
Several years ago I took some cake decorating classes with a friend from work. It was fun, and I learned some great tips. I have since made a lot of fun cakes for birthdays, holidays, church picnics, and random days of the week. Don't get me wrong, you are not going to see me on the Food Network anywhere but in my dreams, Halloween, or on April Fools Day. That said, I like to make my family feel special by making them cakes on their birthday.

Made these for a MOPS cake walk.
A long time ago, I learned that My Vet only feels special when I make a cake from a box, with canned frosting. To make it more festive, I get to go crazy and use funfetti cake and frosting. I always struggle with the fact it isn't complicated enough. Then I am reminded that I'm the complicated one, not him.

A just because cake.
When we were first married I asked My Vet if he had any idea where a particular dish was, his response was "I put it in the tupperware cabinet. Since tupperware has fitted lids, and it has a fitted lid. I figured that is where you would put it." (It was actually french white, oven safe, glassware and so it went in another cabinet. I could understand his thought process though, and loved that he noticed I had a system, and tried to figure it out.")

If I can be complicated on my birthday by requesting cheese cake, ice cream cake, or pie, my Vet should get to be straight forward and get a simple frosted cake. I should also be thankful that I get the easier birthday celebration to plan.

Retiring to a farm cake

Birthday Cake

Actually made this one in a countertop roaster, when my oven went out before Christmas!
Disco themed birthday party

Church picnic

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Debt Free Christmas: Divide and Conquer

This is the perfect topic for me this week. Our theme at preschool is "sharing and caring, how to be a good friend". It's also how to get through Christmas, Debt Free!

Have home parties instead of renting a space. I admit it, I have a hard time opening my house. I look at the photos on Facebook of my friends awesome homes and am embarrassed. Get over yourself! Your friends don't care if your house is a showplace, or not. They are coming to see you, not your house. That said, for me, it's also a good way to keep motivated to clean, or finish small projects that I've been meaning to get to. (Yes fireplace, I might finally be talking to you.)

Host or attend a cookie exchange. It is cheaper and easier to make dozens of one kind of cookie, than it is to buy ingredients and bake dozens of different kinds. It's also fun to get together for coffee and taste testing!

Invite friends and family to join in celebrating your holiday traditions. Things don't have to be elaborate. Don't expect your get together's to be like the ones you see on TV or in the Movies. Hot Cider and your DVD of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation; make Krumkak, Lefse, or another holiday favorite that works best when you have multiple hands; decorate the tree; go Christmas Caroling; load up the van and go look at lights.

If you are hosting, ask everyone to bring a dish. Ask them what they want to bring or make suggestions so that you don't end up with a table full of green bean casserole and nothing else. I like to ask people to bring a signature dish or something in their skill set. Since they are bringing a dish they might not feel the need to bring a hostess gift, that will end up saving you both! On the flip side, if you attend a party, ask what you can bring to lighten your friend/family's load.

I admit it is really hard to ask guests to bring something. I even live in MN where it's a pretty normal part of life, and I struggle with it. Ask yourself "would I want my friends to go into debt to have me over for dinner or a party?" Guess what, they will have the same answer as you.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Black Spider

I recently told you all about my love affair with Cast Iron Cookware. Now for just $13.76 + FREE store pic-up, you can get in on the Cast Iron love! Sears has this 3 piece set on sale for just $15.29, use the coupon code GREATGIFTS and you can get it for just $13.76! That is less than I paid for my first Cast Iron Pan and you get 3. Totally jealous, and wishing I was a better hoarder so that I could get in on this deal for myself. :-)

**I am not being compensated to share this. It is just a really good deal.

Cheesey Wild Rice Soup

I love living 'Up North'. In the summer we see wild rice growing in our local lakes. Then in the fall when the weather changes I get to make one of my families favorite recipes. This year I changed up my recipe a bit, in order to incorporate my DIY challenge for 2012. I used ** in my ingredient list so that you could still be successful with store bought substitutions.

Cheesey Wild Rice Soup:
1/2 lb of Bacon cut into small pieces (Freeze remainder for another day)
1 medium yellow onion chopped
1/2 cup Wild Rice
1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
2 Chicken bullion cubes
6 1/2 cups of water**
1 celery stalk chopped**
1 can of mushrooms**
1 medium potato chopped**
1 cup Cream of ... Soup Mix**
12 oz of American Cheese cubed or shredded
5 cups of milk

In a large stock pot, fry bacon pieces until almost done. Saute onion, wild rice, brown rice, oats, and celery in bacon juices until celery and onion are translucent. Add water, bullion, potatoes, mushrooms, and soup mix., bring to a low boil. Reduce heat, add milk and cheese. Heat thoroughly, while stirring. DO NOT BURN. Serve. (I often make this in the crockpot, as it is even yummier the longer it simmers.)

** Reduce water to 2 1/2 Cups, eliminate other ** items and replace with 1 can each of cream of mushroom, cream of potato, and cream of celery soups

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pictures, Pumpkins, and my Peeps!

My Peeps. :-)
Today I got to host a Shutterfly More Merry House Party. Several of my friends took time out of their day to join me. It was a lot of fun for me. I got to show off some of my updates around the house, and tried lots of Pinterest recipes and crafts.

By popular request here is the Pinterest inspired recipe for:

Pumpkin Latte
CrockPot Pumpkin Lattes
1 Quart of half and half (That's the tall one)
1/2 of a 15oz can of pumpkin
2 Tablespoons of Pumpkin Pie Seasoning
2 Tablespoons of Vanilla
1 1/4 Cups of Sugar
Full 12 cup pot of strongly brewed coffee (I doubled the amount of coffee grounds)
Whipped Topping for garnish

Combine all ingredients in your crockpot. Use an immersion blender to fully incorporate the pumpkin. (The Original recipe called for whisking, but many of the comments recommended an immersion blender, since I had one... I used it.) Cook on high for 2 hours.

Bottom of second batch!
This was such a hit, that I needed to make a second batch mid party! (I was about to substitute regular milk for the Half and Half, when My Vet came home, then ran back out to the store for me.) For the second batch I placed the crock in the microwave on high for 6 minutes to get it hot fast. We drank that round up quick too!

Getting all crafty.
I wanted to try a Pinterest decor idea, but didn't want to spend the money on helium. So I just used painters tape to tape the dollar store balloons to the ceiling! I then just set out the photo books, photos, and cards I had made using Shutterfly.

After party fun!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Debt Free Christmas: Gift Cards?

Can buying Gift Cards be a good idea? No and Yes.

1. It is estimated that $2 billion in gift cards will go unused this year! I admit that I am an offender. I am an avid couponer and have a very good system of storing coupons, and gift cards so they get used. Yet, I still have one for a resturant, over an hour away that isn't kid friendly. I doubt it will ever get used. (I appreciate the thought and effort, it just isn't practical for us.)
2. The problem is cards for places the reciever doesn't frequent. Just because you love a restaurant and think your friend will too, they might just never make it there to use it. Instead, if you really want them to experience it, make a date and take them there. (That way you both win!) If for some reason you need to give a gift card, give it to a store/restaurant you know they love going too.
3. They are just as impersonal as cash. Go ahead and just give the cash, then they can spend it how they want.
4. You will end up spending more this way. You could make, or find a more perfect gift for lots less than you would probably spend on a gift card.

1. The receiver has told you they love that store, or have been eyeing something, and you know your gift card will allow them to finally get it.
2. You are buying the card for yourself. What? If you live on a strict budget, you already know how much you typically will spend at any store. So you can take advantage of Christmas promotions.
3. Using a gift card for stores you already shop can give you rewards. My family loves *Pizza Ranch, they are offering $5 free when you purchase a $50 gift card. Additionally the $$ you spend on the gift card earns you Ranch Rewards resulting in another $5 off your next purchase. In this scenario, we got $60 of buying power for $50. It was also a fundraiser night for a favorite charity, and they earned 10% of the night's proceeds!
3. Using a gift card for stores you already shop can give charities rewards. My church has a gift card buying program called Scrip Cards. The church receives a portion of the proceeds, and they are available every week for commonly shopped stores and restaurants.

Four cons and three pros, if your still not sure, than don't do it. Why throw your money into that $2 billion?

If you receive a gift card, use it ASAP, the longer you hold on to it, the more likely you will forget about it. Better yet, invite the person who gave it to you, time together is my favorite gift of all.

*I am not being compensated to plug Pizza Ranch, we just like eating there and this gift card scenario was really good.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Daylight Savings Time

Daylight Savings Time...yeah an extra hour of sleep! Uhm... who forgot to tell the kids?

What to do with all this extra time before church? Laundry...check, Read the paper...check, Pinterest...check, Eggs Benedict with homemade Hollandaise sauce...check.

That's right homemade Hollandaise sauce! I am not Martha, Julia, or Paula, (love that good Irish boy, Bobby though!) so believe me, anyone can do this. I just do it right in the blender.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce in the Blender
3 egg yolks (I place the whites in a freezer bag so when I need whites I have them.)
1/4 tsp mustard (I like a Dijon, but sometimes only have plain yellow on hand)
1Tbsp lime juice (lemon is traditional and can be used, I just like a twist)
1 dash hot sauce
1/2 cup butter (melt in microwave)

*Place egg yolks, mustard, lime juice, and hot sauce in blender. Turn on the blender then slowly drizzle in the hot melted butter with the blender on. Serve immediately

The acid in the lime juice and the heat from the butter 'cook' the egg. If you add the butter to quick or without the blender running it will cook your eggs to fast and you will get a lumpy scrabbled egg mix up. I have had a lot of kitchen mistakes, but that hasn't happened to me yet. This recipe is pretty fool-proof.

What did you do with your extra time today?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Win free Shutterfly Swag!

**A winner has been selected using check your email. Congratulations to Tara H. from MO. Thanks to all who entered**

I was selected to host a Shutterfly More Merry House Party!

House Party is this awesome website that connects people like us with some of our favorite products. We promise the companies to invite over some of our friends for a party, and they promise to send us party favors that will knock your socks off!

Look what all they sent me!
Anyhoo... Since you are my friends, I am going to give away a prize pack to one lucky reader. The prize pack includes One 8x8 photo book for you, 10 personalized holiday cards, a 101 free prints offer**, and a way for you to share the spoils with 5* of your besties!

The Giveaway ends Wednesday, and you can earn up to 3 chances to win. Good Luck!

Here is the small print from Shutterfly:
*Offer expires 12/17/2012(11:59 P.M. PST). Offer is food for one (1) free, 20 page, 8x8 hard photo cover photo book at Offer calid for one-time redemption per billing address. Any additional pages will incur a per-page fee. Storytelling TM styles and elements will incure additional fees. Offer not valid on licensed premium photo books, premium photo books, layflat pages, leather, padded, cloth, crocodile, faux lizard and soft cover photo books. Taxes, shipping and handling will apply. This offer is not redeemable for cash and cannont be sold, transferred or combined with other offers, discounts, promotions or credits. this offer is governed by the laws of the State of California. TM and (c) 2012 Shutterfly, Inc.

**Offer valid for 101 4x6 prints, Not valid for in-store pickup at Target, Walgreens or CVS. You will recieve your 101 prints credit after you have entered the valid email addresses of five friends. One offer per household. Offer ends December 10, 2012 (11:59 P.M. PST).

Giveaway rules:
  1. No purchase necessary to win. Purchase or payment of any kind will not increase your odds of winning.
  2. Sweepstakes/Giveaways are open only to legal residents of the fifty {50} United States {including District of Columbia} who are at least eighteen {18} years old at the time of entry, unless otherwise noted in the footer of each individual promotion.  
  3. The duration of the giveaway is specified within the post.
  4. The giveaway prize is specified within the post.
  5. The number of eligible entries received and total prizes available determines the odds of winning.
  6. Entries are accepted via {not by facebook, blog post comment or email}. During the promotion period, follow the instructions in the required entry section in each promotion. You automatically will receive one {1} sweepstakes entry by completing each optional or required entry. Use of a private social media accounts {Facebook or Twitter} to promote this giveaway is at the entrant’s sole discretion and not required to enter. Note, promotion of a giveaway via social media accounts such as Facebook and/or Twitter are commonly used as a marketing tool, and also to provide entrant with an extra chance to win.
  7. Multiple entrants are not permitted to share the same email address and/or household. Any attempt by any entrant to obtain more than the stated number of entries by using multiple/different email addresses, identities, registrations and log-ins, or any other methods will void that entrant’s entries and that entrant may be disqualified. Use of any automated system to participate is prohibited and will result in disqualification. Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, incomplete, invalid, unintelligible or misdirected registrations, which will be disqualified.
  8. Winners are selected at random by and will be announced the week of the giveaway end date within the original giveaway post.
  9. Winners must comply with all terms and conditions of these official rules, and winning is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements.
  10. The giveaway winner will be notified by email.
  11. If a potential winner of any prize cannot be contacted, fails to reply to the notification email within the required time period {two weeks}, or prize is returned as undeliverable, potential winner forfeits prize.
  12. In the event that a prize winner is disqualified for any reason, the prize will be awarded to an alternate winner by random drawing by There will be one {1} alternate drawing after which the applicable prize will remain unawarded.
  13. All prizes are non-transferable and no substitution will be made except as provided herein at the sponsor’s sole discretion. Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize for one of equal or greater value if the designated prize should become unavailable for any reason. Winner is responsible for all taxes and fees associated with prize receipt and/or use.
  14. By receipt of any prize, winner agrees to release and hold harmless CindyRiddle, sponsor, and their respective subsidiaries, affiliates, suppliers, distributors, advertising/promotion agencies and each of their respective parent companies and each such company’s officers, directors, employees and agents {collectively, the “Released Parties”} from and against any claim or cause of action, including, but not limited to, personal injury, death, or damage to or loss of property, arising out of participation in the Promotion or receipt or use or misuse of any prize.
  15. CindyRiddle reserves the right to cancel, suspend and/or modify the promotion, or any part of it, if any fraud, technical failures or any other factor beyond administrator’s reasonable control impairs the integrity or proper functioning of the sweepstakes, as determined by administrator in its sole discretion. In such event, administrator reserves the right to award the prizes at random from among the eligible entries received up to the time of the impairment.  
  16. The released parties are not responsible for: {1} any incorrect or inaccurate information, whether caused by entrants, printing errors or by any of the equipment or programming associated with or utilized in the promotion; {2} technical failures of any kind, including, but not limited to malfunctions, interruptions, or disconnections in phone lines or network hardware or software; {3} unauthorized human intervention in any part of the entry process or the promotion; {4) technical or human error which may occur in the administration of the promotion or the processing of entries; or {5} any injury or damage to persons or property which may be caused, directly or indirectly, in whole or in part, from entrant’s participation in the promotion or receipt or use or misuse of any prize. If for any reason an entrant’s entry is confirmed to have been erroneously deleted, lost, or otherwise destroyed or corrupted, entrant’s sole remedy is another entry in the sweepstakes, provided that if it is not possible to award another entry due to discontinuance of the promotion, or any part of it, for any reason, administrator, at its discretion, may elect to hold a random drawing from among all eligible entries received up to the date of discontinuance for any or all of the prizes offered herein. No more than the stated number of prizes will be awarded. In the event that production, technical, seeding, programming or any other reasons cause more than stated number of prizes as set forth in these Official Rules to be available and/or claimed, administrator reserves the right to award only the stated number of prizes by a random drawing among all legitimate, unawarded, eligible prize claims.
  17. Participation constitutes entrant’s full and unconditional agreement to these Official Rules and aponsor’s and administrator’s decisions, which are final and binding in all matters related to the promotion. Winning a prize is contingent upon fulfilling all requirements set forth herein.
  18. Void where prohibited by law.