October 28, 2014

Out & About

Before we moved, Matt and I used to take almost daily walks during the week. There were a number of places near by where we could go that had paved paths complete with spectacular views and local wildlife. Now that we're "out in the sticks" as they say, there are only a handful of places to walk nearby that I'm currently aware of. We've started taking walks around the neighborhood, if not to get exercise, than at the very least to scope out the neighbor's houses and decide how to make ours that much cooler.

To break up the monotony, we took the scenic drive over to one of the lakes in our area for a jaunt across the dam. It was a beautiful day, there were plenty of people out and about and it was a nice change of scenery. I always appreciate being on the water, particularly because in my previous life I had free access to waterways of varying sorts - the Long Island sound, the lake, the Connecticut River.  

One of the really neat things about the dam is that there is a fence along the way with locks on it that people have left behind, just like the Pont de l'Archevêché in Paris. I find it oddly romantic and very beautiful, so I took a few pictures.


October 23, 2014

'Hallowee' Carved a Pumpkin & Baked Pumpkin Seed Recipe

'Tis the season for Halloween merriment! One of my favorite things about Fall is all of the pre-holiday festivities: apple picking, corn mazes, state fairs, baking pies and naturally the carving of the seasonal squashes. Matt and I ventured into a corn maze a few weekends ago and "got lost" for a total of 26 minutes at Clinton Sease Farms. Matt had a game plan in place that including only taking left turns and as expected it worked. Next time, I intend for us to race. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had a blast.

Pumpkin Checkers - I was losing but an adorable
child interrupted our game by moving a few pieces for us.
Perfect timing.
It seems that apple orchards come far and few between here in South Carolina and that in order to have a fall-time apple experience, we'd have to drive up to North Carolina and this was meant to be more of a morning outing than an all-day adventure. As consolation for this lack of fruit foraging, Matt bought me a 27lb pumpkin. 

My big, strong man. Total babe.

October 22, 2014

Pluggin' Along

Hey, y'all. 

I've joined Bloglovin'! 
Which means that you can now follow me 
via any (or all) of the following:

E-mail Subscription

You're welcome.


October 20, 2014

How To: Inexpensive DIY Candles

Like most ladies of my particular age, I have a fascination with candles (can I get a Fall inspired hallelujah for pumpkin spice?). I've always liked them, but I am particularly fond of the ambiance. There is something I find truly spectacular about the glow of a candle in the evening; that despite the fact that they give off minimal heat, the room is warmer for having them there.

But holy Vanilla Cupcake Scent, Batman, are they expensive!

A few weekends ago, I went to the beach with my HLP (hetero-life-partner), Juliana. It had rained all week and I thought a nice trip to the coast for some sun was in order. Naturally, as is my luck, it rained at the beach all weekend and was sunny and warm at home.

That didn't stop us from having a good time, however, so on Saturday we went for a walk around one of the local outlet malls for some intense window shopping. One of the stores that I begged to stop at was the Yankee Candle. I had a coupon with the offer to buy 2 large candles, get 2 free that I was desperately hoping to take advantage of. I love the scents that Yankee candle has and with their new Fall line out I was eager to sniff out some new favorites. 

But color me flabbergasted when the jars cost $27 EACH. I recently paid that price for some work slacks from Target and could barely prevent my inner cheapskate from freaking out and exiting the store in a very spastic, unladylike manner. Money has been especially tight for me lately, as I am still catching up from my summer travels and unforeseen expenses have been popping up left and right. I could not reasonably justify spending nearly $60 on candles, regardless of how many "free" ones I was getting.

But that doesn't stop me from wanting them and so with frugality and DIYing in mind, I thought I would share with you how ridiculously easy it is to make candles. They're much cheaper than the store-bought counter parts, only require a few materials and some cost upfront, and make great gifts. Not only that, but you can be creative with the scents and colors. [Note: apparently apple and berry scents go well together, but berry and pumpkin do not. You've been warned.] Since Christmas is only 65 days away as someone so kindly reminded me on Facebook the other day, this is a great project to get a jump on in time for the holidays! Here's what you need:

October 15, 2014

How To: Popcorn Ceilings Undone

Hi folks. This one is a doozy. Grab a cup of coffee and settle in. You can even take a break somewhere in the middle. I will understand.

October 13, 2014

How To: Toilet Paper Protector

Somewhat recently, my friend Kayley adopted a curious cat. This adorable lap-cat is that causer of trouble and maker of mischief. Just a few weeks ago, she was out shopping with her boyfriend (aka this blog's Most Avid Reader) when they came home to find the cat stuck in one of her upper kitchen cabinets. My understanding is that the cat had climbed head first into the hollow area, not realizing just how far down he would descend if he climbed in all the way. I wish I had been there to witness the ridiculousness of the scene but since I was not, I only imagine the cat's tail in the air, back feet waving wildly out in the open as he clung on tight for all nine of his little-kitty-lives. It makes me chuckle a little. 

Which brings us to three weeks ago. Kayley had posted on Facebook about whether or not anyone had experienced the misfortune of having a cat who enjoys unraveling the toilet paper roll. I had done a little bit of research on Amazon and found products like this one that she could purchase to protect her TP roll from the kittens claws. But instead of purchasing something, she came up with her own solution. Behold: 

Picture courtesy of Kayley
Giving her major props for this work of art because seriously, who thinks of that? It was a solution to her problem. And free! And so this is how her toilet paper remained...

Until she needed to change the roll.

A follow up comment on Facebook stated: 

"Operation Tissue TP was a failure. Removing the tape to change the roll caused severe cabinet damage. Do not try this at home."
Apparently duct (or the cheaper "duck") tape is not faux-wood friendly. The solution to this of course is to purchase the product I listed earlier. Right? WRONG. We make them! $15? How about a big fat NOPE. I can totes make one of those and for much less than $15! So I did. And if any of you crazy cat ladies (or gents) out there have this same problem or just want to jazz up that ugly toilet paper roll to match your bathroom decor, here's a little step by step for you.

October 8, 2014

Butter Chicken Recipe

Matt and I have many similar life principles, especially in consideration of things like finances and whether or not it's OK to watch a full season of House of Cards in one sitting. But one thing that we do not share is our feeling towards chicken. Matt loves chicken is all of its forms: baked, fried, dipped, chopped, roasted, sauteed, marinated, winged, tendered, whatever. I much prefer a lobster or a steak if I have the option and I rarely if ever order chicken at a restaurant.

But in our efforts to eat just a little bit better, I began a life-or-death search for a recipe to use on boneless, skinless chicken. Also, I needed the opportunity to redeem myself after this and this happened, so I started perusing the internet as is the norm because, let's be honest, who even uses cookbooks anymore?

And guys, I'm not kidding, I think I found the best chicken recipe EVER. It's not exactly "healthy" by industry terms, but there were absolutely no leftovers. It was spectacular.

When it comes to eating a chicken dinner, unless they're wings, I will generally cut up the chicken into pieces and push it around my plate to disguise how much I haven't eaten. Yes, I'm a child, I know. I find chicken boring and flavorless unless it's whole roasted or rotisserie and that is probably more of a testament to my cooking and/or Matt's finickiness than chicken as an entrée. But this recipe absolutely takes the cake and it's so easy that I have to, have to, have to tell you about it (horrible camera phone pictures and all). I ate all my chicken, guys. All of it. Every morsel. I didn't even save room for dessert and that's saying something.

So here's what you need:

What You Need

  • 1 cup buttered crackers crumbled (I used Original Ritz because they're my favorite and also because I was trying to save them from going stale. Next time, I will use the whole wheat version). 
  • 1/4 cup salted butter cut into pieces
  • 4 boneless, skinless halved chicken breasts (I only used two because they were huge and I cut them in half - same difference)
  • 1-2 eggs 
  • Seasonings as you see fit (I used garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and a pinch of salt, but you could use paprika or chili powder or some other dry seasoning for more flavor). 

What You Do

1. Preheat oven to 375° F 
2. Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry with paper towels (helps the egg stick!)
3. Whip your egg(s) in a shallow bowl 
4. In a separate shallow bowl, combine your crushed crackers and dry seasonings

5. Cover each piece of chicken in egg and then roll in the cracker mixture to coat

6. Arrange chicken in a shallow baking dish and place butter pieces between the breasts (it seems ridiculous, but trust me)
7. Bake chicken breasts for approximately 40 minutes or until it reaches 160° F internally (or if you do not have a meat thermometer, until it is no longer pink and the juices run clear)

You don't need to flip the chicken, although some people who commented on this recipe said that they did to help with "crisping" the other side. Honestly, I didn't and they came out just fine. Kind of like fried chicken but without all the grease. And if you wanted to make it healthier, you might consider using low-fat, whole wheat, low sodium crackers. Instead of crackers, you might use crushed corn flakes. And instead of butter there is always margarine. I think this will work fairly well regardless of which way you choose. Make it your own to suit your tastes and lifestyle. Isn't that what cooking is about?

It's so super easy and delicious, I highly recommend giving it a try. Be sure to let me know how it works out for you. 

Bon Appétit! 

Original recipe can be found here.

October 4, 2014

How To: Fall Wreath

There are a handful of blogs that I follow, one of which belongs to a lovely lady from my home town, Sarah, over at MakeGrowDo (which you should definitely go check out). Not only does she take absolutely beautiful pictures of her projects, has great recipes and a green thumb, but she's got a whole slew of DIY masterpieces and sometimes I will saunter over there for a little inspiration. 

Recently she posted a DIY Fall Wreath that I thought was a perfect project for me to complete for my own front door. So at her recommendation, I took a little jaunt over to Hobby Lobby after work on Friday to peruse the wreath-making materials. Armed with a 40% off coupon, I walked around the store collecting little items for a handful of projects that I'm working on. I picked up a twig wreath from the floral section that was priced much lower than the pre-made ones I had seen upon my arrival. Ones like this:

Although it is lovely, I can not possibly pay $70 for a wreath. Sheer madness. I will make my own for less than $10, thank you. So I bought my wreath ($4.99). I looked at the flowers and other decor to add to it, and while they did have some reasonably priced options, I had seen similar products at the dollar store the week prior and decided I would get my flowers and whatnot there. However, while at Hobby Lobby, I did pick up a chalk board and some ribbon that I had hoped to incorporate. Here's what I used:

What You Need

  • Ribbon (I got a thin black and a chevron burlap that I liked a lot)
  • Faux flowers/twigs/decorations that you want to add
  • Zip ties, gardener's wire or string
  • A wreath hook
  • Small chalk board (to fit in the center of the wreath)
  • Kitten helper
  • Wire cutters
  • Scissors

What You Do

1. First I used the wire cutters to separate the flowers from the stems that they came on. I got these flowers at the dollar store, so they're not quite as nice as the ones I might have gotten at the craft store, but they were cheap and they suit my purpose.

2. Then, I wove the flower stems into the wreath at varying angels, twisting the ends into to wreath to help them stay. Make sure you have a kitten near by to help you by eating the flowers, wreath, ribbon, and to run off with your zip ties. It's much more fun.

3. I purchased a sparkly spider from the dollar store (I had originally wanted a fluffy owl, but all their beaks were glued on upside down and they looked too ridiculous to use). I used a zip tie to attach the spider to the wreath. I was going to use two, to be safe, but the one seemed to hold in on sturdily enough. 

I attached the zip tie on the second leg and secured it there.
4. After I wove all my flowers and attached my spider, I set the wreath aside and measured and drilled holes into the chalk board. It measured about 8 in. across, so I made to pencil marks at 3 and 5 inches and eyeballed it to make sure they were mostly centered. I then used a 13/64" drill bit to drill two holes. I then strung some thin black ribbon through the holes to hang them from the wreath.

5. I then cut a length of burlap ribbon and tied it to the wreath hook just above the wreath in a bow. And then hung it from my door!

How to make a fall wreath

(It's a little off center, don't worry folks, I fixed it).

Happy with the result! I'm grateful that it distracts from the hideously green door. I can't wait to paint that silly door, but that's a blog for another day. 

And the best part is that the total cost was only about $15. That's almost 80% less than the store bought one. Thank you, frugal living. 

Until next time!

PS: Here's an update on the door! 



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