Monday, May 28, 2012

Triple Chocolate Cupcake

Anybody out there love chocolate?  If you are a chocolate lover this cupcake is for you.  This is a triple chocolate cupcake with white chocolate butter-cream frosting.  VERY decadent!  I was a popular gal today at our family get together.

The cupcake itself is the same recipe that I use for my triple chocolate bundt cake, just done as a cupcake instead of a bundt cake :)  The frosting is from the Wilton baking site.

Triple Chocolate Cupcake

  • 1 package Devil's food cake mix (without the pudding)
  • 1 4oz package of instant chocolate fudge pudding & pie filling
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Mix together cake mix, pudding, eggs, oil, sour cream and  water.  Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until just blended.  Beat on medium speed 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl often.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Turn into well greased muffin tin or cupcake liners.  Bake about 25 minutes or until a cake tester (tooth pick) inserted in center comes out clean.  Note - this can be tricky because of the chocolate chips.  Let cool 10-15 minutes in pan, then invert to unmold (unless you used cupcake liners).  Let cool completely.

White Chocolate Butter-Cream Frosting
  • 9 ounces  white baking chocolate coarsely chopped
  • 1/8 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/8 cup milk
  1. Microwave chocolate with 1/4 cup milk in microwavable bowl on Medium-high for 1-2 minutes; stir chocolate halfway during cooking time. Do not overheat. Chocolate will continue to melt while being stirred.
  2. Cream butter and shortening with electric mixer.  Add vanilla
  3. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time.  Beat well on medium, scrapes sides and bottom often
  4. Add melted chocolate
My trick to frosting is to put the frosting in a Ziploc zipper bag.  I cut a corner off and use that to frost.  Super easy and your frosting looks very professional.


You may also enjoy:

Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day to my favorite vet, my grandpa.  He was stationed over in Korea when my mom was born, she was almost two before she got a chance to meet him.  

This is one of my favorite pictures of my with my grandparents.  Don't you love my vintage hair-do?  Mike and I had made a weekend trip to St. Louis to spend some time with grandparents.  This picture was taken at the St. Louis Zoo, my cousin is the little boy in the picture as this was BC (before children).

Thank you to all the past and current service men and women for the sacrifice you've made for our country.  

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Weekly Menu

It''s that time of the week again where we get to plan our menu for the upcoming week.  Last week I was so frustrated.  Twice my menu post was deleted due to my own stupidity.  I re-typed it the first time but said "forget about it" the second time it happened.

Last week we did a lot of grilling.  Mike was on second shift and I didn't want to turn the oven on so I planned every meal for the grill.  I made my beer butt chicken as well as my pizza on the grill, it was delish!  

This week we are doing a lot of eating from the pantry.  Our grocery bill has been insane and we are cash poor this week.  I splurged and surprised Mike with an Ipod (he's training for the Tough Mudder) and then Michael "surprised" me by not returning his rental textbook.  My "surprise" was in the form of an almost $200 charge that I wasn't expecting.  I was not very happy about that at all and yes, he will be paying me back. 

I took as much cash as we could afford to spend to the grocery store and was pretty relentless in not buying what we didn't absolutely need.  Here's what we'll be eating:

  • Taco bar (I'll make some guacamole with the Tastefully Simple seasoning, yum!)
  • Family cookout for Memorial Day (wait until I post the recipe for the desert I'm taking1)
  • Fend for yourself
  • Chicken breasts (seasoned with seasoning salt, onion & garlic), glazed carrots, applesauce, salad, Parmesan dinner rolls
  • Brats, corn, tomato salad, cranberry relish
  • Stuffed hamburgers (we make two thin burger halves and then stuff them with flavored cream cheese), roasted potatoes, corn, strawberry salad
  • Dinner out
In case you are interested, here are the two recipes from last week.

What's cooking at your house?

I'll be posting this over at I'm an Organizing Junkie

Friday, May 25, 2012

Pizza on the Grill

Last summer I got the courage to try making a pizza on the grill.  I had heard a lot of people talk about it, but I was always a little nervous about trying it.  Guess what - it's pretty easy and very yummy.

I'm sure there are amy different ways that you can attempt to make pizza on the grill, this is what works for me.
  • 1 round pizza pan with holes in the bottom
  • Olive oil
  • garlic
  • Pillsbury pizza dough
  • Desired toppings
Heat grill on high while you are preparing your dough.  I'm sure a lot of you out there make your own down, while I would love to do that I just don't roll that way right now.
Lightly grease pan (not to much because it does have holes on the bottom)
Please dough on pan and shape to desired size
Pour about a tablespoon or two on top of the dough and spread it around (more or less to taste)
Top with garlic

Before you put the dough on the grill, prepare all your favorite toppings and have them ready in bowls.  I personally use the following:

  • Olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Onion
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Asiago grated cheese

Once everything is assembled you are ready to start grilling.  Remember, this is going to go incredibly fast so you need to be prepared.

Turn down flame to medium.  Place pan on grates for approximately two minutes.  You need to keep a close watch on the bottom as there is a very fine line between done and burnt.

Once the bottom is done (mine usually reminds me of a pancake), remove pan from grill and put on a heat safe table.  Flip the pizza dough (done side will now be on top) and add your toppings.

Once you are ready, return your pan to the grill.  You'll need to keep an eye on it but I find it usually takes about five minutes to finish cooking.  If you want the top to cook more slowly, turn the burners down to low instead of medium.


Do you cook pizza on the grill?  Feel free to add any of your tips in the comment section.

You might also like:

Grilled Chicken
Zucchini Bread
Butterfinger Cupcakes

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Saving for Christmas – Viggle


As you know, I’m always looking for creative ways to fund my Christmas purchases. Recently a friend of mine shared that he was using an APP called Viggle to accumulate points that he would use to buy gift certificates.

Straight from their website: Viggle is a loyalty program for television that gives people real rewards for checking into the television shows they’re watching. Currently available for Apple iPhone®, iPad® and iPod touch®, Viggle automatically identifies what television shows its users are watching and awards them points when they check-in. Viggle users can redeem their points in the app’s rewards catalogue for items such as movie tickets, music, gift cards and much more.

As you can see, one of the downsides of Viggle is its limited availability. I would hope that as they get more market awareness they would look to expand their APP availability to capture a new audience.

I’ve been using the APP for a little over a month now and have to say that I like it and find it well worth my time. My gift certificate of choice is the Old Navy gift card which is currently available for 18,000 points. I’ve already collected one and should be able to collect a second one in a few days.

In my opinion, you don’t have to be a crazy TV watcher to use this APP. Individually we aren’t huge TV watchers in our house, but between the four of us it does add up. There are also a variety of other ways to earn points.

Ways to Earn Points

• Log onto any TV program and you will receive 1 point per minute of watching
• Log on to bonus programs (they are specifically identified) and in addition to the point per minute you will also be awarded 100 – 300 bonus points depending upon the show that you watch. Last Friday if you were able to watch Ellen and checked in you were awarded 1,500 bonus points!
• Play games on certain shows while checked in. Some of the bonus programs will have questions that if answered correctly can earn you up to 25 bonus points. Answering the questions wrong will give you at least five points.
• Watch commercials and trailers. I just watched a David Beckham Burger King commercial and earned 75 points. The points per trailer/commercial vary; the biggest award that I’ve seen is 100 while the smallest is 5.
• Invite your friends. By registering here or through one of the links I have posted throughout this review, I will earn 200 points for anyone who signs up the first time they check in.


• Ease of the program. The APP is very easy to navigate around and doesn’t take much time to check in
• You do not need to be glued to the TV at all times. As I said, we aren’t crazy TV watchers. We have one account that we share as a family. My husband and I usually have the news on all morning while we are getting ready, my son will typically watch sports in the afternoon and after dinner we’ll flip on the TV for some evening shows. While we may not be glued to the TV at all times it is usually on so we just check into whatever is on. Sometimes we’ll decide what to turn on based on the value of the bonus points!
• Points accumulate fairly quickly. We average about 1,000 points a day between our bonus points, games that I’ve played and commercials. If I’m checking in consistently that equates to a $10 Old Navy gift card every three weeks.
• Variety of prize levels available. The prizes range from $5 certificates to Starbucks and Redbox all the way up to an Kindle Fire.


• My biggest negative is the evolution of the program. In the short time that I’ve been with the program I’ve seen the prices of the rewards go up. My friend who has been using it longer than I have has stated that the prices have risen several times and the earning potential has decreased. As a business person I totally get that you need to do what you need to do to stay profitable. As I consumer I don’t always like it.
• Sometimes getting your program checked in is difficult. The way it is supposed to work is that you “tap” to check in, your phone listens to your TV and identifies the program that you are watching. The system will go through that cycle twice before it gives you the option to manually check in it if can’t determine your show. For some reason, mostly on my iPad, there are times that it won’t give me the manually check in option. This is quite frustrating when the show is playing, the device won’t identify it and I can’t manually check in. I’m even more frustrated if it’s a high value program.

Overall this is an APP that I would recommend if you have an Apple device. The program requires very little work with a fairly lucrative payout. While you won’t get rich, having $50 - $60 bucks to offset your Christmas spend (or before school clothing spend) will be very beneficial.

Have any of you used Viggle? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

You might also like:

Paying for Christmas - Swagbucks
Using Kaizen to Simplify Life

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

10 Easy Swagbuck Points

Tonight when I was on Swagbucks I noticed they were offering 10 Swagbucks for signing up for Alice.  If you don't already have an Alice account, sign up for 10 free Swagbucks.  There are additional swagbucks (440) with your first purchase.

Note:  The above link is a referral link

First Flower Pot of the Year

My project for this evening.  My back is killing me today, I don't know that I'll get them all done.  Did you notice the girls sneaking in the picture?  They definitely need a haircut!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beer Butt Chicken

Ok, I know the name sounds horrendous but I can guarantee this recipe is totally awesome. This may be a Wisconsin thing, but one of our favorite ways to cook chicken in the summer is on the grill over a beer can. Yup, that's how recipe gets it's name. The bottom end of the chicken sits on a beer can half filled with beer.

There is actually a kitchen device that takes the place of the can (for those "classy people" :) I was given one for Christmas a couple of years ago but have found it be no more effective but a whole lot messier than using a can. Instead of dealing with clean-up I just use a can and then throw it away.

Now lest you think that Wisconsin children are weaned on beer, let me assure you that's not the case. At least not in our household. While we do use beer (even though I'm not a fan of drinking beer I do think that it gives a nice subtle flavor to the chicken) any kind of carbonated beverage will do. If you prefer not to use beer I would recommend Seven-Up or Sprite as the alternative.

Beer Butt Chicken

1 can beer (or clear carbonated beverage) half full
Desired spices (i.e. rosemary, garlic, salt, pepper, etc)
1 chicken

While preparing chicken, heat grill on high. Dump (or drink) half the contents out of your can. I typically throw into the can 1-2 garlic gloves, a little bit of rosemary as well as some salt and pepper. Rub the chicken with oil, season chicken as if you were going to bake it in the oven. (I use seasoning salt, garlic, salt and peper) Place can on cookie tray, settle chicken (large opening down) on top of the beer can. The legs can be used to help stabilize the chicken. Turn down heat on grill (to about medium), grill with lid closed (for about 45 minutes) until thoroughly cooked. I personally use a thermometer that sits in the chicken while it bakes. I take it off the grill the the temperature in the breast reaches about 165 - 170.

Here's what I find works best for me. I put the chickens (I always use two) on a cutting board to prepare, inserting the thermometor into one of them. One a cookie sheet I put the prepared cans of beer. Once the grill is ready, I put the cookie sheet on the grill and then place the chickens on top of the cans. If you don't have a grill or prefer to make it in your oven that's possible too. Just make sure that the grate is low enough so that the chicken isn't brushing the top of the oven.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pink Lemonade Cupcakes

There is a local restaurant that serves killer cupcakes.  One night when I was there for dinner I had a lemon cupcake, made with ricotta cheese, that made me want to cry it was so good.  The problem is they haven't served it since (at least when I was there) and I haven't been able to find a similar recipe on line.  After some search I did find this recipe on Confections of a Foodie Bride that I thought I would give a go.

1 1/8 cup (9 oz) frozen Pink Lemonade Concentrate, thawed*
White cake mix
3 egg whites
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
Non-stick spray

3 cups + 3 Tbsp confectioners sugar
1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
1/8 tsp salt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Red food color (to color icing and sugar, optional)
1/4 cup granulated sugar (optional)

To make the cupcakes:
  1. In a stand mixer, add the cake mix, egg whites, vegetable oil, and the pink lemonade concentrate. Mix on low for about 30 seconds and then increase to medium speed for 90 seconds (the batter will still be a bit lumpy; take care not to overmix so you don't end up with dry cupcakes).
  2. Spray each cupcake liner with the non-stick spray and spoon the batter into a prepared muffin pan (fill the cups between 2/3 and 3/4 full). Bake at 350 for about 25 minutes or until a toothpick registers "done" in the center cupcake. Remove the pan from the oven and cook 5 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and cool completely on a baking rack.
  3. Once the cupcakes have cooled, make the icing and ice the cupcakes.
To make the frosting:
  1. Add the butter, confectioners sugar, salt, lemon juice, and food coloring (if using) to the stand mixer and mix on low using the paddle attachment until combined. Turn the speed to med-high until the icing is fluffy and uniformly pink. Add the icing to a pastry bag fitted with a 2D tip and ice the cupcakes.
Here are some tips that I discovered when making them this past Mother's Day

  1. The cupcake itself wasn't very pink even though I used pink lemonade.  If you want a pinker cupcake I would recommend adding a little food coloring.
  2. I didn't think the cupcake was very tart but the frosting was.  I may have added more lemon than I should have to make the frosting thinner.  Next time I may actually use a little bit of orange juice to cut down on the tartness while still giving it a nice citrus flavor.
  3. Instead of a pastry bag and tip, put your frosting into a ziplock sandwich bag.  Snip one of the corners and then frost
  4. There are a couple of different ways to garnish.  In the picture above I cut up fresh lemons as a garnish.  Down below is a picture where I sprinkled some purple sugar I had left over from Fat Tuesday with a mint sprig.

These were a big hit with my family and co-workers.  Enjoy!

You might also enjoy

Triple Chocolate Cake
Carrot Cake
Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Paying for Christmas - Swagbucks

I know, it seems a little early to be talking about this - doesn't it?  The trouble is that Christmas will be here before you know it and once again you'll be wondering how you're going to pay for it.

Prior to last year it always seemed like I was caught off-guard by Christmas.  Yes, I'm aware that Christmas comes the same time every year but I was never really prepared.  Our usual mode of paying for Christmas was to use our first paycheck in December since it was a three paycheck month.  Not a very good way of budgeting and it created a lot of stress.

To combat that stress I decided to make paying for Christmas a focus last year.  Christmas shopping last year was much less stressful given the fact that I had the money stuck aside to pay for it. There were a few steps that I took which I'll be sharing over the next few weeks.  This week I wanted to start with Swagbucks.

For those of you that aren't familiar with Swagbucks, it's a site that offers different ways of earning "swagbucks" (cute isn't it) which can then be turned in for awards.  They offer an incredible array of awards ranging from gift cards to electronics to houswares.  There is pretty much something for everyone.

There are a number of ways to earn swagbucks.  My primary way to earn is by using the site as my search engine.  By searching a few times a day, I average about 10 swagbucks per day.  If you are looking to rack up points faster (and have some time) there are a number of other ways to earn.  Some of them include:
  • Answering surveys (rather time consuming, I don't typically do this)
  • Taking the daily poll (this is super easy, I usually do this)
  • Print coupons (another easy way to earn while saving money that I take advantage of - you do have to use them to collect your points)
  • Tasks (these vary and I don't typically do these)
  • Complete offers (I purchased our Netflix through here and earned swagbucks.  Unless you were planning on purchasing the item, I wouldn't recommend buying something just to get swagbucks)
  • Play Games
While there are many options for redeeming your swagbucks, my personal choice is to buy Amazon gift cards.  A $5 gift card is available for purchase for 450 swagbucks (it's actually a better deal than saving up to buy the higher amount).  Everytime that my account has enough swagbucks accumlated I turn them in for my gift card.

A couple of things to note if you are turning in your swagbucks for gift cards.

  • You can only redeem five of the same cards per month (plan ahead to maximize your purchase power)
  • It takes a couple of weeks for the gift certificate to be credited to your account
  • The certificate can be redeemed on your Amazon site where you will be able to use it when you are ready
I haven't redeemed my points for any actual products so unfortunately I can't comment on shipping charges or time frames for purchases.  If any of my readers have I'd be interested in hearing how it worked for you.

Using Swagbucks certainly won't make you rich, but wouldn't $50 be a nice addition to your Christmas fund?

If you want a chance to win a $50 Old Navy Card leave a comment here.  The drawing closes this Friday at midnight.

I'll be linking this up to We are THAT Family

You might also like:
My Week in Chicago
10 Things I Learned Being a Beauty Pageant Contestant
Frugal Gardening

Note:  The above link to Swagbucks is a referral link.  If you register through this link I will receive swagbucks.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Week in Chicago

I've spent the past week at a conference in Chicago.  After I signed up for the conference, I have to admit that I was dreading it a little bit.  Somehow I didn't check our calendar and I ended up missing Belle's last band concert.  To add salt in the wound, Mike was working second shift, my mom was out of town and my in-laws had plans.  Thankfully Michael was around so she at least had one person in the audience who loved her.  While she said it didn't bother her, I felt like the worst mother in the world!

Even though I was dreading the conference I ended up having a nice time.  We stayed at the InterContinental Hotel.  The room was quite nice even though it overlooked the parking garage.  My colleague ended up with a nice view, I don't know how he rated!  The bathroom looked pretty cool, but in my opinion wasn't very conducive to getting ready in the morning.  Here's a couple pictures of the room.

I realized as I was loading the bathroom picture that my purse snuck in the picture!  If you read my "What's in My Purse" post you'll notice I bought myself a new one - and it doesn't have red crocodile leather :)  I bought it when we were in St. Lucia as my souvenir.  I love it but it's really only for summer.

There were several highlights of the conference.  The first was the very first keynote speaker.  She works for Microsoft and gave a dynamite presentation that pretty much everyone could enjoy, I felt a little bad for the next speaker because he was very dry, she was a hard act to follow.  The next highlight was the new friends we made.  At lunch the first day we ended up sitting on either side of a gentleman who was there by himself.  Michael proved to be very friendly and we enjoyed our lunch with him.  Later that night there was a reception at a local art center.  As soon as my colleague and I walked in into the room we were approached by a woman who introduced herself as one of our company's carriers (we all had badges which stated the company we worked for).  We ended up spending the rest of conference with her and Michael.  Hi Sheila!

The last highlight of the conference was getting to meet one of the speakers.  This speaker is a well-respected authority in our field who actually invited me, can you believe it - me, to be a contact on Linkedin last year.  He's written a book (which I bought) so I took the opportunity to go up, introduce myself and ask him to sign my book.  As soon as I introduced myself he says "Ah yes, we are connected on Linkedin aren't we?"  I was pretty surprised that with his wide range of contacts he would actually recognize me.  Totally one of my highlights.

For dinner the first night we went to the restaurant inside the hotel.  Unfortunately we weren't really impressed by it.  Even though the waiter was awesome, my pork tenderloin was overcooked and the potatoes were tasteless.  My colleague's tuna wasn't much better except it was under cooked!  However, to give credit where credit is due they rocked breakfast!  We both had chef cooked omelets that were excellent.

I had made dinner reservations the first day we were there for McCormick and Schmick's.  After we had a chance to get to know Sheila and Michael, we asked them to join us for dinner.  The dinner was phenomenal starting with our waiter.  He was a lot of fun and took such good care of us.  We started with the calamari for our appetizer, highly recommend it if you go there.  I had the stuffed salmon as my entree, which was also wonderful, followed by creme brulee for desert.  Everyone else had the death by chocolate for dinner which also looked pretty good.  The dinner was a great way to end the conference.

The best part of the week?  Getting home and getting a huge hug from Mike, who of course promptly asked if we were getting Chinese for dinner.  He missed me :)

So, that was my week.  Did anything fun or exciting happen in your life?


Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Lucky One Update

The winners of The Lucky One novel are: Melissa Kristie Kelli Helen Gina I've contacted you by e-mail for your addresses. Thanks to everyone who entered!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Weekly Menu

Talk about an easy week for menu planning, it's definitely this week.  I'm leaving Tuesday for a business conference in Chicago and won't be back until dinner time on Friday, looks like the family will be having a lot of "fend for yourself" nights this week!

As we were grocery shopping yesterday I told Mike that he was NOT going to get spaghetti.  He was a little pouty when we walked by the spaghetti aisle but I stood firm.  I figured since I was going to be gone for the week we could have a meal that would excite the kids so I planned on serving brats tonight.

Well.......Mike must have been a good boy because God decided we weren't going to have brats.  We went to a family get together earlier today where brats were on the menu.  Brats are a favorite in our house, but not enough for two meals.  Add to it the storms that went through and all plans for grilling was done.  In case you were wondering, my brother-in-law stood outside with an umbrella to grill our brats and hamburgers :)

So, as we were leaving I made a list of ingredients for the boy to pick up at the grocery store.  Can you guess what we're having for dinner?  Bingo - spaghetti!! The kids aren't to happy - yet again.  I'm not sure if it's the actual spaghetti they don't like or the work involved in the clean-up.  The meatballs make quite a mess and there are a lot of pots to clean.  I should really look into buying some cooking bags, but why take away the kids' fun?

Here's the menu for the week, I told you it was an easy one!

Spaghetti and meatballs, strawberry salad, corn, garlic bread
Fend for yourself x4
Dinner out
Chicken and stuffing, glazed carrots, homemade applesauce, salad, bread (Mike is working next weekend so I'll cook a meal the kids love next Saturday).

I of course will be eating out all week!  We'll do at least one really nice meal but the rest will probably be low key.

What's on the menu at your house?  Feel free to link up or share in comments

I'll be linking this up at Good Cheap Eats, Money Saving Mom, I'm an Organizing Junkie

You might also like:

$50 Old Navy Gift Card Giveaway
Apple Pie Baked in an Apple
Gift Ideas - Spending Time with the Kids

Fend for Yourself Ideas

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that every week we have at least one or two  "fend for yourself" nights.  Since it is a regular on our menu plan I thought I'd share some of the items that I keep around the house for those nights when the kids are on their own.

Basically, a "fend for yourself" night is just what it seems.  Every family member is responsible for making their own dinner.  I plan these on nights when we're all coming and going with no hope of sitting down as a family.  If I'm around when one of the kids is eating I will sit down at the counter with them so that we can spend a few minutes together.

Even though everyone is responsible for feeding themselves, I do want to make sure that there are healthy, semi-nutritious options available for them.  I can't control whether they eat them or not, but they are available!

Del Monte No Sugar Added Mandarin Oranges
Nature's Child Applesauce Squeezables (my daughter's friends tease her about these but she loves them!)
Pre-packaged sliced apples with caramel

I have found that it I put the fresh fruit (apples, oranges, bananas) in a bowl on the counter the kids (and me) are more apt to eat them. If they are kept in the fridge they tend to be forgotten. The pre-packaged fruit is a little more expensive, but the I feel more comfortable with the all-natural aspect and the packaging is convenient for the kids to grab it on the go and they stay fresh longer.

Frozen Lean Cuisines or Kashi meals
Hard boiled eggs (for egg salad sandwiches or as is)
Flavored tuna packs
Mac & Cheese
Sweet Baby Ray's Pulled Pork
Frozen hamburgers patties (our son is old enough to throw them on the grill for him and Belle)
Sandwich meats

Depending on what we've had earlier in the week the kids may opt for leftevers, otherwise the options above (or something similar) is pretty much available all the time. Of course, that doesn't stop the kids from complaining that there's nothing to eat :)

That's what fend for yourself looks like in our house.  What does it look like in yours?  Do you have any other ideas to share?

You might also like:

$50 Old Navy Gift Card Giveaway (ends 5/18)
10 Things I learned Being a Beauty Pageant Contestant
12 Decorating Projects for 2012 - Update

Friday, May 4, 2012

Organizing the Garage

Excitement is filling the air at the WWIN household.  The tension is palatable.  The reason for this excitement?  Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie has announced a new organizing project.  Yeah!

Ever since her weekly organizing sessions last year ended I've felt my momentum dwindle a bit.  Ok - there have probably been other issues like being completely stressed out first quarter that might have lended itself to my lack of organizational focus.  The good news is I have a new project to focus on!!!

Laura is hosting a Great Garage Clean Out Challenge.  I know what you're thinking.  "Are you serious!?"  "You're getting excited about a garage cleaning party!?"  Yes, yes I am.  Typically the garage cleaning is Mike's domain.  After all, isn't having the whole house enough work for me?  Usually you would be right, however there have been a few things lately that have been bothering me.

This is close to the view I see every time I pull out of or into the garage. 

See those Ultra Wheel roller blades?  I haven't put them on my feet in well over 15 years.  My daughter hasn't been a shoe size 8 for at least two years (she has her father to thank for that).  Me thinks it's time to get ride of some of that stuff.

If my camera wasn't acting up I could show you the an area that would make you cringe.  I'll save that for next week:)

I'm not sure what my plan will be, but it will definitely start with getting ride of the roller blades and ice skates!  I'll update you next week on my progress.

Do you have any organizational projects you're working?  Feel free to share in the comment section.

I'll be linking this up over at I'm an Orgaizing Junkie

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Gift Idea

I enjoy gift giving and am always on the lookout for fun and unique gifts, preferably “experience gifts” if I can swing it. You know the gifts I’m talking about, the ones that truly delight the receiver. Gift giving can get a little expensive though so I try to make sure that these delightful gifts don’t break the bank.

For my goddaughter’s birthday this year I decided to give her a portion of her present early, without her even realizing it. This turned out to be one of my favorite gifts of the year so far; an experience gift, an inexpensive gift and a unique gift all rolled into one.

During the kids break this past Christmas I invited my goddaughter (who also happens to be my niece) to spend the evening. I had done some research into public places in our city that had unique Christmas displays and mapped them out. I took the girls (my niece and Belle) out for “girl’s night” of stopping at each display. At each location I took a picture of the girls with the display. I tried to get nice picture and a fun picture at each stop, sometimes taking multiple pictures of the girls while they primped and decided on what pose they wanted.

Here they are doing the "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evel" pose.

Once I got home, I logged onto my Mixbook account and chose one of their Christmas themed books in a soft cover 8 x 8.5 size. The temptation to go a little crazy with my Mixbook albums is always there, but I was able to restrain myself this time. It only took me about an hour or so to put the book together, I was really pleased with the results. Make sure you look for coupon codes at sites like ¢ before ordering.

Dinner:               $8 (for all three of us)
Gas:                   $7
Photo Album:     $13.50 (including shipping)

In all honesty, I really wouldn’t include dinner and gas in the price of the present. We eat out way too frequently for me to consider this a gift expense. Due to the fact that I commute to work, my gas budget is pretty high so I don’t really consider it a big deal to drive around the city using a couple of gallons of gas either. However, I did include them in the interest of full disclosure because I realize that there are a lot of families that may view those as expenses to be considered.

We had so much fun spending the time together and seeing all the displays that was a gift in itself. However, seeing her delight and getting to share the experience with the family was truly a pleasure.

Here are some ideas to do something similar in your area.

• Find all the parks in your city (you’d be surprised at how many small neighborhood parks are out there) and visit each one. Take the kids picture in front of the park sign (or make your own so you remember where you were) and then spend some time playing there. Obviously this wouldn’t all be done in a day!

• Find all the statues in your area; take pictures of the family reenacting the various poses.

• If taking a driving trip this summer, take a picture of the family in front of all the restrooms you visit. You might as well make those frustrating stops fun :)
• Identify all the historical markers in your area and stop at each one, even if they are dumb.

• If you live in a really cool historical area (or are planning on visiting one) decide on something funny to do at each site. Wear a goofy hat, make silly faces, etc.

Whether you choose to do it the old fashion way by printing the pictures out and putting them in a photo album or use one of the new digital sites, be sure and get an album to commemorate the fun times you had.

I'll be linking this up at Life As Mom

Note:  This post does contain affiliate links
You might also like:

$50 Old Navy Giveaway
Vegas Scrapbook

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

10 Things I Learned Being A Beauty Pageant Contestant

With the popularity of Toddlers and Tiaras a lot of focus has been put on the pageant industry. While I personally think the parents on that show go a little overboard, I do think that pageants can offer young ladies of the appropriate age many lessons they can carry with them through life.

When I was 18, I had an opportunity to participate in our local pageant. The winner would go on to represent our city in the state pageant with the ultimate prize being the Miss America title. Although this was 20+ years ago I learned many lessons from that experience.

1. Prepare for your big interview - If I were to do it again I would put much more time into prepping for the interview. At the tender age of 18 my interview experience was very limited and I did not know what to expect. As an adult I recognize the value of preparation and would encourage someone getting ready for any kind of interview to do a sufficient amount of prep.

2. If you can walk across the stage wearing nothing except high heels and a swimsuit there isn’t anything in life you can’t do – There are few things scarier in life than standing in front hundreds of people wearing nothing but high heels and a bathing suit. Before my foray across the stage I thought that the term “knees knocking together” was simply a phrase. I’m here to tell you that it’s not! Whenever I get nervous about a presentation I think back to that day and am glad that I don’t have to give it in my bathing suit. Note to future contestants, please do not go skiing the week before the pageant. It’s hard enough to walk on those heels let along doing so while recovering from a sprained ankle. Additionally I don’t think judges are impressed by a bluish green hue running up to your mid calf.

3. Experience counts – I was very na├»ve entering the pageant world and it showed. Many of the girls had participated in other pageants and some of them had actually been crowned in other cities. My inexperience was very apparent from my choice of swimsuit to my song choice. If you find yourself lacking experience, ask for help from those that have gone before you.

4. Different people make the world go round – There were some very unique ladies participating in the pageant with me. I didn’t really appreciate all the different personalities at the time but we all brought something to the table. Celebrate the differences in people, it keeps the world interesting.

5. Spray adhesive really does keep your swimsuit bottom from creeping up – Who knew how fantastic something like spray adhesive could be? Spray adhesive as well as dress tape can usually be found in the undergarment departments of your finer establishments.

6. Practice makes perfect - The pageant contestants make it look so easy, gliding across the stage in their swimsuits or strutting their stuff to music. I can attest to the hours spent practicing those moves. Making something looks easy takes a lot of hard work.

7. Winning is great but you need to enjoy the journey – I did not win the pageant, place or even go home with the Miss Congeniality title but I had a blast participating. The reasons that I signed up in the first place were varied, but while I would have loved to take home the title I was looking more to prove something to myself. So often in life we only have our “eye on the prize” and we forget to enjoy the journey.

8. Grab the opportunities that are presented to you – As a pageant contestant we had other opportunities presented to us for participation such as modeling for a bridal show and doing a radio interview. These were experiences that helped me bond with the other contestants and allowed me to do things I haven’t done since. Whenever unique opportunities are presented to you grab them, they truly will enrich your life.

9. Doing something unusual will give you an interesting ice breaker for the rest of your life (or a blog posting) – I don’t pull out the pageant card very often but when I have it’s usually greeted with a lot of interest. One of my co-workers once told me that I should use it more often since he thought it was so fascinating. Take the opportunity to do something few people do and you’ll always have something interesting to talk about.

10. Appearance isn’t all about beauty, it’s about how you present yourself – As a society we place a lot of emphasis on beauty. How much money goes into plastic surgery, hair extensions, make-up, spanx, etc to give the illusion of beauty that we aspire to. My heart aches when I hear how some of these young girls feel about themselves because they don’t look that way. While we can’t always put the time and effort into the “illusion”, we can control is how we present ourselves. The most beautiful contestant isn’t always the winner; it’s the contestant who presents her best self for all to see.

Is there anyone else out there participant in a pageant? What were your takeaways?