Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ebay Adventures

A few days ago I started my ebay-adventures, and guess what? After only one day I sold my first set of items (a series of romance novels) for $ 25.00. Not bad for taking a picture, adding a description to my items and putting them up for sale.
Today, I will send the books as promised.

Here is a picture of my books almost ready to go:
That was $ 25.00 in about 15 minutes of work. A few other items are being "watched" and on two I also already have  bids, meaning I have earned at least an additional $8.00.

It is kind of funny though, how small things like these can make one this happy.
Anyhow, I will write about the final success of my first ever ebay postings on Saturday, when the "auction" is over.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Paint chip overload

Today I will write about something I have been thinking about quite a bit since starting our saving-up-for-a-down-payment-to-buy-a-house-next-year-project. It is trying to figure out a color scheme for our future house. I think most of this is nothing but daydreaming, imagining what could be, and evaluating all the options and possibilities that are out there. I love passing by the paint isles in home improvement stores and to grab as many paint chips as possible. Over the last year or so, my collection of paint chips has become huge.

Here are just a few of them. Every time I pass by the paint isle I add another batch to my collection, which doesn't necessarily makes things any easier.

I think I have a preference for a theme that carries through an entire house, but I am not too sure how to get there.

I could go with something a bit more vibrant:

All shades of one color, like blue:

or Gray:

I could also create a warmer feeling like below:

It is for sure very difficult to decide on anything, but then again I don't even have a house yet. Maybe next year, this whole discussion will make much more sense for myself.

One thing though, I know for sure, and that is that I love grabbing a paint chip every time I get the chance.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I finally bid the bullet

Over the weekend I realized how many books I have in my shelves right now, that I have read about once, and that were collecting nothing but dust.
After dismissing the option of selling them through book-buy-back-sites (which I have used in the past for some of my college text books), I finally decided to tap the to me still unknown ebay.

My older sister is an avid buyer and seller on ebay and I remember her room always being of full of stuff that she was currently selling.

To me, ebay always just seemed this one big unknown I didn't have the time to try.

Anyway, on Sunday I decided it was time to try it out myself and to finally get started.

So after registering for ebay and paypal.

  I started researching similar listed books, their prices and the best way to market them. I am sure I made a whole bunch of strategic mistakes, I feel like I am off on the shipping costs, and for sure I have no clue if I am going to sell anything. But then again, I will never know if I don't try.

For now, I took advantage of the free posting they are offering right now, and I will see how far I get with the items I listed.

Later on in the week, I will post if I had any success at all.

How did you start out on ebay? Where you successful? You didn't sell a thing? Let me know. 
For now, I will look for a different group of items to sell since my first batch of items includes nothing but books, mostly romance novels.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pancakes gone WRONG ...

Saturday Morning I started making batter for my pancake-breakfast. Some of the pancakes were planned for breakfast, some of them were supposed to be frozen for later.
Now, I have made pancakes a million times before and therefore making them shouldn't be much of a problem.
So ahead I went, adding sugar, eggs, milk, mixing them all up. Then I added some flower and realized very quickly that there wasn't nearly enough as needed.
Here is a work in progress shot. Already expecting that this wasn't going to turn the way I wanted.

See, how thin the batter is? It just went all over the pan very quickly and I figured, OK let's go for "crepes' then.  Or maybe I should just start creating since there was no rescue for my breakfast pancakes anyway, lol. That's when I figured, why not try apple sauce to thicken things up a bit.

For sure, this did not work out as well either.

Looked more like I was frying a thin chicken filet.

Then I looked through my cupboards to see what else I could do. I came across a pack of chocolate powder and decided to add some of that since it has a "flower-like" consistency.
 After some waiting I got this:
Can you see where this was going? It was about when I decided that my breakfast really wasn't turning out the way it should.
I mean, we tried it anyway just to make sure:

We actually did end up eating a few spoons but I can for sure tell you that next time I'll go back to old-fashioned pancakes.
However, if you need a surefire way to mess up your pancakes, you have found it!

So tell me if you have had a kitchen disaster recently.

(By the way, it looks as if not even my pictures want to co-operate with me today)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Meal Plan Sunday - 6/26/2011

Here is my meal plan for the upcoming week:

Here is everything in a readable version:

  • Oatmeal, Blueberries, Milk
  • Whole Wheat Cereal, Banana, Milk
  • Oatmeal, Blueberries, Milk
  • Pancakes, Homemade Strawberry Jam, Smoothie
  • Whole Wheat Cereal, Banana, Milk
  • Scrambled Eggs, Toast, Smoothie
  • Poundcake, Strawberries, Juice (*changed from above)

  • Sandwich X 2
  • Leftovers X 3
  •  Potato-Brokkoli-Gratin
  • Rice, Beans, Baked Fish
  • Leftovers
  • Beef Wraps, Salad
  • Rice, Beans, Chicken
  • Leftovers
  • Pork Lomb, Baked Veggies, Potatoes 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Daydraming - A bedroom mood board

I was absolutely, so completely bored at work today, and with so much time on my hands, that I got busy dreaming up a complete master bedroom based on only Ikea items.
Did I mention that I love that store? I didn't think so. It doesn't make things easier for the next Ikea being about 5 minutes away from my house.

That's better than 5000 chocolate bars and a hot shower. Anyway, whenever I get the feeling of "i-got-to-go-and-buy-all-that-right-now", I think twice and then start creating moodboards. Sometimes I try to be budget-conscious, sometime I don't care too much.

Anyway, here is what I came up with this time:

I worked mainly with grays, dark blues, white, and sparkly elements such as glass and metals. Just guessing I think that this would cost about $ 2000.00 in total. Certainly not budget friendly, but good enough to spend a day day-dreaming very much. 
What have you been up to today at work? (Shame on me, lol). 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Living on a budget - Homemade vegetable stock

Every once in a while I will post about little projects that can be done very easily with very little or no upfront cost.

Growing up, I remember my mom making chicken soup from homemade stock. The taste of it was always great. I never remember her though making a large batch and freezing portions of it.  That is an idea I stumbled upon while reading various "mom-blogs" and similar websites.

Considering, that making stock didn't seem to be something requiring a whole lot of attention, I decided to try making some myself. Besides tastes factors, I also thought about the costs of homemade stock, which is next to nothing. We never really bought any ready made stock in a can, but we do spend quite a bit of money on those little spiced cubes you can add to water to create a stock.

Just for fun I  took a closer look at the ingredients on there, but most of them I can't pronounce. The first thing that becomes clear is, that these cubes contain a lot of salt and artificial ingredients.

So with the goal to reduce our spending as well as do something for our health, I have spent the last couple of weeks adding scraps and unusable pieces of veggies and meat to a quart-sized ziploc bag that I kept in the freezer.
Following this recipe, I collected enough ingredients to prepare my first own batch of stock. After we came back from our father's day breakfast I prepared everything for my newest kitchen experiment.
A large pot full of water to which I then added my veggie and meat leftovers and scraps (mine included some chicken bones with leftover meat, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage, garlic and some other ingredients I can't remember).

This was by the way about the time my hubby came around looking at what I was making for lunch. Taking a look at me as though I had gone completely crazy he returned to doing his own stuff.
I added some salt, pepper, and bay leaves to my mix, and then let the soup boil on low for about 2 hours or so.
Here you can already see how my stock had gotten a nice color.
Since I wanted to avoid spending any money, I prepared some tupper-ware in all different sizes to store my stock.
I used a large spoon to remove the larger veggie and meat pieces, and then simply used the pots lid (which comes with a built-in strainer) to remove smaller particles.

These went into the freezer after they cooled down, and I'll use some of it this week for my veggie soup that I have on our dinner menu.
If my experiment turned out well, I'll get some better fitting storage containers from the dollar store or so. We'll see.

What have you been up to experimenting in the kitchen?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Taking it slow ...

I am enjoying some hubby-and-child-free quiet time over here with a blueberry-banana-smoothie and and some French Toast Casserole (recipe found here).

mmmmmhhh :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Family Time: Discover new Treasures in Town

This weekend we went to discover a neighboring town's treasures. Hoboken is located right at the Hudson River with a beautiful view of Manhattan. The promenade along the river was already beautiful and we often went on walks there.

The last couple of years they have been working hard in creating a little walkway off the promenade and into the river with playgrounds, benches and more.

When the weather cleared up, we went and spent a beautiful afternoon discovering the new addition to the town.

Our son enjoyed the trip a whole lot.

After enjoying the playground and a few other areas we went and got an ice cream to enjoy the late afternoon.

Next time you want to do something fun with your smaller kids, just go out an discover the town next door.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Some more deals

Besides my regular food shopping trip, I used some CVS deals to stock up on diapers, toothbrushes and toothpaste.
Here is what I got this weekend:

And here is the breakdown of my trip:

Transaction 1)
- Pampers Diapers: $ 20.00 (reduced from 24.99)
                             - $    1.50 (manufacturers coupon)
- Huggies Wipes:    $   6.00  (reduced from 7.99)
                             - $    0.50 (manufacturers coupon)
--------------------------------------------------------------------> $ 24.00 Out-of-pocket, earn 10 ECBs
Transaction 2)
-  Credit from ECBs: - $ 10.00
- Colgate toothpaste:    $  2.79 (reduced from $3.19; earns 2 ECBs)
                                   - $  0.35 (Manufacturers coupon)
- Colgate kids toothpaste: $ 3.99
- 2 CVS toothbrushes   $ 2.80 (reduced from $ 3.74)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------> $ 0.00 Out-of-pocket; 2.77 ECBs leftover

Transaction 3)

- Credit from ECBs:           $ 2.77
- 2 CVS toothbrushes:     - $ 2.80 (reduced from $ 3.74)
- 1 Lysol Multi-Cleaner: - $ 4.99 (which in hindsight I didn't pay enough attention on the price and paid far too much for it)
---------------------------------------------------> $ 5.02 Out-of-pocket
Tax still needs to be included though.

A few more thoughts about the drug store game:
1) I need to stop spending my ECBs right away. Instead of earning and spending all of my ECBs on the same day, I have to make more of an effort to transfer those extrabucks to another shopping trip.
2) I have to be more careful with the money I spent on some items (see my overcharged cleaner).

As I am still learning, I think I can be happy about my achievements today, but I will more of an effort to get to know the game and to follow its "rules" better.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!

Just a quick

to all the daddy's out there. We'll have a BBQ today and enjoy the beautiful weather outside, with a few jumps in the pool.

Meal Plan Sunday - 6/19/2011

After checking out what I have available in my cupboards this week, I created my meal plan for the next days:

This week, I will have a few items from my freezer, some seasonal veggies and the mandatory rice and beans dish. I am loving all the deals on fresh strawberries and blueberries and I am taking full advantage of those in forms of smoothies and adding them to our breakfasts and snacks.

Father's Day Breakfast at the Brazilian Bakery
Oatmeal with Blueberries
Fruit Smoothie with Toast
Oatmeal with Blueberries 
Wholewheat Cereal with Milk and Banana
Homemade Pancakes, Fruit Smoothies
French Toast Casserole (Leftover), Blueberries

Leftovers X 3
Sandwiches X 2

Rice, Beans, Steak from the BBQ
Pasta-Casserole, Salad   
Ground Beef Wrap, Salad
Rice, Beans, Meat/Tilapia
Veggie Soup, Garlic Bread
Rice, Tilapia, Baked Veggies

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This week's Freebies

Here is what I got in freebies this past week:

- 1 free quart of Glidden Paint
- 1 free Father's Day Card from Tiny Prints

I am still thinking what I am going to do with my Barely Jade Color, although I will probably paint furniture with it.

The Father's Day Card is obvious, I guess.

Have you gotten anything interesting this week?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Budget Birthday Party

On Friday was my son's 2nd Birthday. I can't believe it, since the last two years just went by so fast.
My little preemie baby is growing up and we can see his character traits coming through. A strong-willed little boy who loves, loves, loves balls, going for walks to the port and our chocolate lab.
The last two years I have also seen our worries about possible long-term preemie effects go away.
So finally Friday was the big day again. We decided this time to keep things very small. We only invited one married couple with their two daughters, and had a great time.
Party preparations started on Thursday evening. I had decided on homemade ice cream cake. So, after dinner I prepared a simple chocolate cake, which I then cut in half.

I added slices of strawberry and then covered the cake in foil to keep it from turning dry.
I also covered the same sized form with aluminum foil and then used this as a form for my ice cream, which I added while slightly soft. The form was then also covered and put in the freezer.
The next day, I then assembled the cake and the ice-cream layer, to create this:

Since my mixer gave up on me a few months ago, and I haven't gotten around to buy a new one, I used the ready whip cream to decorate my cake. Not ideal, but it worked. But a new mixer is definitely on MY birthday wish-list.
After the little one went to bed, the hubby and I started blowing up balloons. Our son loves them, so I thought it would be cute to see how he would react to a room FULL of balloons when he woke up.
About 20 minutes of blowing up the balloons our living room looked like this:

I used some of the balloons to create a garland for our party corner and the rest was brought next to the baby's bed.

Friday morning was great. Our little one woke up to a room full of balloons and had a blast (although it took him quite a while to really wake up). It's amazing how something as simple as balloons can leave a child so happy.

Somebody hadn't woken up yet, lol.

After breakfast and a few pictures with Mommy, I was off to work and the birthday boy had the whole day to spend with daddy, who was lucky enough to have a day off.
I got home and then quickly assembled and decorated the sideboard, prepared the table and table wear:

I re-used last years dark blue table clothes, as well as napkins and plastic forks and knifes. Then I took a curtain panel found in Ikea's 'as is' section a few months ago for $ 3.00 and used it as table runner.
A blue bucket from the dollar store held little gifts (from the dollar store) for the guests. I also used blue and green hard plastic cups, which I had purchased for my son's 1st Birthday and which we use to this day every day.
I believe, the balloons, the bucket, and the little gifts altogether were around $ 10.00.
After making final preparation and ordering 2 large pies of pizza to be delivered later on, our two little guests arrived.

We played, ate and had lots of fun to end the night with a birthday song and wish-wishing.

Now for my final approximate budget breakdown:
- 2 large Pizzas and Ice-tea: $ 28.00
- Ice-cream cake ingredients: $ 10.00
- Decoration, balloons and gifts: $ 10.00
Total: $ 48.00

There you have it. I think balloons are such an easy decoration for kid's parties and cheap too. And one also doesn't have to break the bank to feed the guests.
Let me know if you have any cheap and easy ideas I can use for next year.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Time Saver

Last week, I came home one night, and did what's on the plan many nights - cooking. But instead of cooking only for one dinner and maybe tomorrow's lunch, I made a double batch and froze the rest.
Here is last night's creation:

Quick Wraps:

Here is what you need:
- 1 10-pack of wraps
- 1lb of ground beef
- 1 green pepper
- 1 large onion
- 1 - 2 cups of shredded carrots
- Salt, Pepper, 1 cube of chicken broth

Here is what you do:
- fry the ground beef in a skillet until brown

  - in the meantime shred carrots, cut pepper and onion in small pieces
- Add vegetables to meat and stir occasionally for a few minutes
- Add salt, pepper, and the chicken broth cube
- Keep stirring for a few more minutes
- Add two scoops of the mix on a wrap
I added a little bit of mozzarella cheese and then folded my wrap and served it with a side salad and juice.


By the way, I then used the remainder of the meet and finished all the other wraps. I covered each in a paper towel and then aluminum foil and froze them in ziploc bags.

With maybe 10 minutes worth of extra work I just prepared a few more dinners for my family that will save me precious time down the road.