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Friday, August 26, 2011

The Magic of a FoodSaver

This machine is my new best friend:

Originally used in our house for freezing meat during hunting season, crab meat in the summer and fresh fruit from nearby farms, it now freezes William's baby food.

I have been using this tray which makes 1 oz cubes:

Once I puree a fruit or vegetable, I freeze one tray's worth and keep any remaining puree in the refrigerator and use that first. The next day I pop out the cubes and put them into 3 inch bags I cut from the roll. I use the "manual seal" option to seal off one end before putting in the cubes. I usually do three because that is two feedings worth so it is easy for me to thaw.

Then, I use the "vacuum seal" to suck out all of the air and seal up the other side of the bag. And that's it! NO FREEZER BURN! After my other post about baby food, a few friends on Facebook told me the bad part was freezer burn. Well, this prevents it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Glass Stenciled Mirror {tutorial}

Two of my good friends, Nick and Sarah, got married at the end of July. They have been dating eight years and had known each other four years before that. We went to middle school and high school together so I have known both of them for a long time (or what seems like a long time).

A few years ago (or maybe less?) they bought what seems to be a beautiful historic home in Connecticut. I say "seems" because I have not actually seen it in person yet which is a shame on me. I know they were looking for antiques to fill their home and when I remembered I had purchased this mirror, yet not hung it in my own home, I thought of them.

I wanted to make a subway art mirror and although it didn't totally end up the way I envisioned, I was still happy with the result. Since I do not have a Silhouette and I didn't want to hand paint all the words, I went to a craft store to look at stencils. Lo and behold, I found blank stencils - hallelujah! I thought it would be easier to make my own stencils rather than lining up each letter for every word with precut stencils (I'm still not so sure about that). Once I got home with the blank stencils, I printed out various words that I wanted to use on the computer.

I grabbed a Sharpie and traced every word onto the stencil. I realized that letters with "inside areas" like P, R, A, and O were going to require an alternative plan since cutting the stencils out eliminated the center areas completely. So, I added an extra cutting line to try and preserve some of these letters since I didn't want it looking "off."

Once the words were cut-out, I started with their names because I knew I wanted it in the center and it was significantly bigger than the rest of the words.

For the etched glass effect I used NAME OF BRAND paint which I am thrilled worked otherwise I would have had to go to plan B which was doing this all on a piece of painted wood in contrasting colors and then inserting it in the mirror's frame. I did a few words at a time since it required me to paint a few coats, peel off the stencil and do touchups all before it started to dry.

Looking back, I think the words should have been larger to give it more of a subway art feel, but since the words are smaller, it is almost more of a mirror than I originally thought it would be. It also would have been much cleaner looking and more efficient if I had a Silhouette, but make do with what you have, right?!

PS: Sorry the photos aren't too great but it is hard to photograph a mirror!! Also, I blurred out some of the personal information on the mirror.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saving $$$$ with

I am a sucker for good deals. When I get e-mails from my grocery store about the deals of the week or from clothing stores that I frequent, I always look and usually buy. Online, I tend to shop only with promo codes (you know, those codes that get you extra discounts at checkout) because of the money I save.

I have been playing around on a site called CouponChief which offers thousands of online promo codes! Woohoo, it's like a goldmine for folks who like to save money :). I was already captured on the homepage with a 15% off offer from The Container Store since we're working on improving the storage capacity of our office.

There is a great video tutorial on the site which breaks everything down real easily for users. Basically, before you purchase anything online you should visit CouponChief to see if there is an online coupon available for that vendor. If there is and your order fits the criteria, YOU save money. Can't argue with that, right?!

One feature that I signed up for is e-mail alerts for my favorite stores and categories. Now, the coupons will come to me before I even have to look for them.

Also, if you are feeling generous and want to share a coupon code with others, you can actually submit coupon codes which is like clipping coupons for others. All you do is enter the vendor web address, coupon code, offer details and expiration date. If you submit coupon codes you actually get money back when others use your submitted code. This is what they call Pay-2-Share. You get 2% commission (at a $25/month per store per month limit). Pay-2-Share is rather appealing to me, but I don't have experience with it yet to tell you if it works. So, if I would have signed up a few days ago, I could have seen the e-mail from Carter's in my inbox with the coupon code SAVEMORE. I could have gone to CouponChief and entered the code in my account and received credit if others used it. I know sharing is an extra step when everyone is short on time(believe me -- I know!!) but if you really do get money back, it is like saving money twice: by shopping and by sharing with others who shop.

So stop on by, create an account, play around and let me know what you think!

*I was asked by to write a paid review of the site. Although I am being compensated, the review and thoughts are my own based on my experience using the site.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gone but Not Forgotten

Where have I been? Well, I was in Connecticut for one week, came back for three days during which my husband had Lasik surgery and was then off to Pennsylvania for 2 1/2 days. Now I am (finally) home and I don't want to leave! Don't get me wrong, I had fun on our trips, but this house needs some attention!

William and I drove 7 hours to northern Connecticut because my close friends were getting married. This is the couple whose gift I mentioned in an earlier post and will discuss in a future post. We left on Tuesday and my husband joined us Friday-Sunday and then we headed home the following Tuesday. Whew! It was the first time I was alone with the baby so long around the clock, but we stayed with some good friends and saw my family so I had some help for which I am grateful.

The wedding was beautiful and a lot of fun! The ceremony was at the Old State House and the reception was at The Hartford Club. Since these are friends from high school who started "liking" each other 12 years ago, I saw a lot of old friends which made it even more of a celebration. These two are made for each other and I am thrilled that they are now husband and wife!

The night of the wedding was my first overnight away from William. He stayed at my mom's house with her and my sister and my mom even had a little "meet and greet" with her friends before he went to bed. I know it bothered me more than it bothered him that we were apart! And no, I didn't sleep in the next day...I just couldn't wait to get up and go see him. 

We brought the baby to a small zoo at Forest Park since the weather cooled off a little on our last day in town. He is always watching things that move (me, toys, our cat, etc) so I thought he would like the animals. He was pretty attentive for a four month old and I had him in the Snugli carrier most of the afternoon so I had my hands free to shoo away any unwelcome animals.

So, we are back to the real world and our routine and I will be posting about the special wedding gift soon!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Fresh Cherry Pie

I know I said I don't bake, but here I am, at it again! This is only the second time I have made cherry pie (the first being Thanksgiving) and the first time I used canned cherries since they weren't in season.

I used this recipe from The Food Network with a few tweaks (in parentheses):

  • 4 cups fresh or frozen tart cherries (I used fresh and had to pit them by hand!!)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (I compromised and used 1 1/4c)
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch (my small local grocery was out of cornstarch [not kidding] so I used tapioca mix since other recipes call for it)
  • 1/8 tablespoon almond extract
  • Your favorite pie crust or pie dough recipe for 2 crust pie (I used Pillsbury refrigerated dough)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, to dot
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, to sprinkle


Place cherries in medium saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat.  I cooked mine for about 10 minutes. 
In a small bowl, mix the sugar and tapioca together. Pour this mixture into the hot cherries and mix well. Add the almond extract, if desired, and mix. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. SIde note: The cherry mixture is DELICIOUS at this point so you might want to start off with extra cherries since you may be eating a few while the mixture is thickening. This took me 8 minutes. I think if you cook off less juice in the previous step, the mixture will thicken more quickly. Remove from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more tapioca. I added 1T of tapioca at this point. The mixture does thicken considerably once it cools!

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Use your favorite pie dough recipe. Prepare your crust. Divide in half. Roll out each piece large enough to fit into an 8 to 9-inch pan. Pour cooled cherry mixture into the crust. Dot with butter. Moisten edge of bottom crust. Place top crust on and flute the edge of the pie. Make a slit in the middle of the crust for steam to escape. Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 50 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool.

mmmmmmmm DELICIOUS!!