Saturday, August 28, 2010

Summer Renovations and 1st Harvest

We've been focusing on the outside of the house and yard over the last few months. Home improvement projects included: gutters, resurfaced deck, patio furniture, grill, and patio door. Next on the list is getting the driveway sealed. So here are some pictures of the changes... Here is a picture of the dining room looking out to the deck when we first bought the house (notice all the snow): This is the back of the house and deck before the gutters or resurfacing: A couple pictures after they pressure washed the deck: The deck freshly painted and bright: The main reason that we got the new patio door was that it was rotted... More rotting revealed when the old sliding door was removed: Our new patio door (with a double screen door)... ...and finished deck with patio furniture, grill and vegetable and herb garden: By the way, for our 1st cookout, we had some awesome hamburgers (and bison burgers) with some "gourmet" type toppings...I made my with grilled peppers and onions, homemade hot mustard (I'll have to post that recipe sometime) and pepper jack cheese - Yum-O! And, the gutters make everything look new and bright too: I picked the first tomatoes the other day (from container pots on the deck). There aren't many and they're small. The peppers are really nice - I let them all turn red - too bad there were only three that made it. It's exciting to have something to harvest from my first attempt at any type of gardening...

Friday, August 27, 2010

Mike's 35th Birthday Road Trip

Mike's birthday was last Saturday. We went away for the weekend and had a great time in Pittsburgh. Friday evening we met my Mom and Dad, and Mike's old roommate and his wife at the baseball game (used our free tickets). Saturday we went to the new casino on the North Shore with a friend of ours (Mike and I both won a little bit of money) and then went Swing Dancing Saturday night. Sunday we went to my old church on the Northside (Allegheny Center Alliance Church) - the service was great and we also ran into one of my roommates and her husband - it was great to see them. For lunch we ate at Max's Allegheny Tavern, an authentic German restaurant with a buy one entree get one free coupon from Tropicana Rewards . One of my favorite things about the city is the variety of places to eat. After a drive past the new Children's Hospital (my place of employment 11 years ago) and a tour through Aspinwall past our old apartment with a quick stop at Cold Stone Creamery for Mike's free birthday ice cream, we headed home. There's always so many great things to do in Pittsburgh. It was a great weekend. Special thanks, again, to Steve and Amy for their hospitality. Hope you enjoyed your birthday weekend as much as I did, Mike!

Frugal Friday: Recycling Water

Now that we have houseplants and vegetable plants that need watered regularly, I have been using water from our dehumidifier and cooking water (I collected in this empty juice container) to water the plants. It makes more sense than dumping it down the drain. It got me thinking about other ways I could "find" water for my plants in between the rain waterings...
I found some ideas here
Anyone else have any other ideas?
...Pictures of our completed deck and 1st harvest coming soon...

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Frugal Friday: Deal of the Week

...was deodorant! CVS had Right Guard on sale BOGO (buy one get one free) and I had two BOGO coupons so I got four completely free deodorants! Then, I was at Big Lots and saw they had the clinical strength Right Guard (which Mike likes best but is hard to find and usually much more expensive - about $7 regular price) for only $2 each so I got 6 more! Those should last awhile...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Meal Planner Monday: No-Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup milk
6 Tbsp cocoa
1/2 cup butter
Mix in saucepan and bring to a roiling boil. Remove from heat and add:
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups rolled oats
Mix well. Drop by small spoonfuls on wax paper. Let set until hardened. Makes 2 1/2 dozen. Store in air-tight container. I think they taste best after a day or two. I guess I think of these as a summertime recipe because you don't have to use the oven on those hot summer days.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Frugal Friday: Cloth Napkins

We are buying less and less disposable paper products. Recently (with inspiration from Julie) we made the switch to cloth napkins. Julie had made hers inexpensively, but I picked up some at Walmart and a few on clearance at Target. I'm still trying to figure out how to keep them from getting wrinkled in the wash, but I do like using them better than paper napkins. Not that we used a lot of paper napkins before, but now we won't have to buy any at all. And, it feels more "special" using the cloth napkins.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Meal Planner Monday: Three Bean Salad

This is a classic summer picnic salad...and a rather healthy one...and it's easy to make which makes it one of my favorites to take to a reunion or summer picnic/potluck...
1 can green beans
1 can yellow wax beans
1 can kidney beans
1 can garbanzo beans (optional)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup vinegar
1/3 cup salad oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Drain beans. Stir all ingredients together. Let set at least overnight to mix flavors.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Frugal Friday: Free Paper, Bath & Body Works, IHOP Kids' Meals, Bowling

Staples: (2) Free reams of any computer paper after Staples Rewards through this Saturday (look for coupons on shelf good toward certain paper for possible "money maker") Bath & Body Works: Last weekend I got a free hand sanitizer and now there is an offer for a Free travel size product with any purchase...see here for details IHOP: Free Kids' Meals during the month of August...see more information here Possibly Free Bowling this Saturday...see details here

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Meal Planner Monday: Sweet and Sour Chicken

Do you have lots of garden veggies (peppers, onions, brocolli, yellow squash)? I am actually making this from the leftover veggie tray that we had at our lunch meeting at work (frugal, huh?). You could make stirfry now or freeze them for later use in this recipe. Sometimes, I just cook the meat and veggies plain, add cashews, pineapple, pineapple juice and a little soy sauce when I want to have the stirfry but not the sauce, but this is the recipe for stirfry that I usually use. It is Mom's recipe and Mike likes it too.
Large can pineapple chunks with juice
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 cup vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
Stirfry chicken (or pork) and veggies of choice (peppers and onions are a must but other veggies such as brocolli, yellow squash, cauliflower, snap peas, those mini corn cobs, water chestnuts etc are good too). Add above to stirfry and stir over heat until the sauce thickens. Serve over rice.