Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Last Chance for Uppercase Living!

It's with a heavy heart that I announce my "retirement" from Uppercase Living. I love, love, love the products - but my life is moving in another direction and there's just not room for direct sales right now. So, if anyone is interested in taking a peek at the catalog before I go inactive on January 1st, my website is http://claudine.uppercaseliving.net/ and you can order online until the 1st.

There's currently a sale going on too! Select expressions are 40% off and you can earn free shipping with a $50 or more product order. Hurry! Time is running out....

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ron & Frank's Giveaway #2!!

Thanks to all 5 of you who entered...I did random.org and even though I have no idea how to post the results here (screenshots didn't work), you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that it selected number 5 and number 4. So congrats to Becky and Sandy, you've got some hot eggnog mix coming your way! :)
Remember a little while back, the nice people at Ron & Frank's (http://www.ronandfranks.com/) sent me some samples to share with those of you who visit my blog? Well, I've saved the best for right now because with this Giveaway #2, you can enter to win the most awesome flavor of their hot beverage selection. EGG NOG! If you love egg nog flavor but can't deal with the fat and calories of the real stuff, check this out...20 calories, 0 fat and 1 g. protein!!

I wanted to wait until the holidays were upon us, and today I realized I better get moving on this contest because time is ticking....can you believe it's already December?!? We woke up to our first snow of the season yesterday, so even though winter doesn't officially begin until the Solstice on the 21st, it sure feels like winter. :)

So, on to the contest....

I was trying to think of something super cool and fun to make you do in order to be entered to win. This time, I'm taking the contest up a notch by offering TWO WINNERS. Each one will get a package of Ron & Frank's Skinny Gourmet Egg Nog Mix, no sugar added with splenda. For 20 calories a serving, that means ZERO weight watchers points and a whole lot of creamy, egg noggy goodness. Believe me, hot egg nog is to DIE for. TO. DIE. Trust me on this.

Back to my plan, I was trying to figure out how you could win... and for some reason, the holiday preparations have sucked the smarts out of my brain. So, all you have to do is leave me a comment with your favorite hot beverage and your name/email address. Check back on Friday to see who the winner is. The contest will close at noon EST on Friday, December 11th.

Easy peasy!

Now do me a favor and please go check out the Ron & Frank's website too....gotta show them some love for sending us free contest goodies!! http://www.ronandfranks.com/ And maybe place an order while you're there. ;)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Watch This Space...

Word on the street is, there's a new contest coming to this blog in less than a week and you could be the lucky winner if you pay attention! Keep your eyes peeled.....


Friday, November 13, 2009

ZERO point breakfast or snack

Even if you're not following the Weight Watchers point system plan, you can surely appreciate a good-for-you breakfast. My newest favorite is a container of Fiber One yogurt (I like key lime) mixed with 1/2 cup Fiber One original cereal. It's like a little parfait, and is SO delicious and filling. Imagine my surprise when I plugged it into the points calculator, only to discover that the entire bowl has ZERO points.

You heard me right! No points. And yet, it's a yummy, filling, fiber-packed bowl of breakfast goodness. I eat this every morning for breakfast and it keeps me hunger-free for at least 2-3 hours (something a plain old bowl of cereal never did).

Plus, it doesn't just have to be just for breakfast. This bowl is great as a go-to snack when you are out of points or just want something sweet with no points wasted. I'm not a Weight Watchers expert by any means, but to me, this just makes sense!

Visit the Fiber One website and print a $1 off coupon for a 4-pack of yogurt to get you started.

Have you got any good low point go-to snacks you want to share?? Hit me with a comment!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Coughing Stinks

I have bronchitis.
And asthma.
It's not pretty.

My 5 year old has been coughing for 2 weeks now, and my husband just started coughing too. Oy.

The good news is that I stumbled upon a cough syrup that actually WORKS, and it tastes fantastic too. Seriously, I can't get over this stuff. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit that I did receive a sample bottle of this magical elixir from the wonderful people at Boiron. But after we went through that bottle, I bought another THREE bottles today (I don't like to run out of things). I just wish I had thought to look for a coupon before I bought these guys. Oh well, my loss is your gain...print out two of these $1 coupons http://www.boironusa.com/files/boironwebcoupon.pdf and then head over to Walgreens, where you can score $6 in Register Rewards (free money!) if you buy two bottles.

Bottles of WHAT??
I'm getting to that....

It's called Children's Chestal Honey. It is a homeopathic cough syrup with a bunch (9 actually) of random active ingredients that I've never heard of - and honey. No artificial color, no high fructose corn syrup. And I'm not kidding, this stuff tastes just like a spoonful of honey. YUM!

And the best part is that it works. For about $6.99 a bottle (minus the $1 coupon I found), it's a great deal. Trust me on this one.

Disclaimer: Be sure to check the bottle to make sure there's nothing in it that you or your kids can't have, and please check with a doctor if you have concerns about your health. The honey in Chestal is filtered to ensure its safety for children 2 years of age and older.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ladybug or Impostor?

Is anyone else starting to get really disgusted with the ladybug infestation this fall? I keep finding dead (or pretending-to-be-dead) ladybugs lying around my house in the strangest places. And I have no idea how they are getting in! They are probably taking the same route the wasps take this time of year, but that's another story for another time.

This story involves me, leaf blowing the yard, and an innocent looking tree...at first glance, the tree looks like any other which hasn't lost it's leaves yet. But upon closer inspection, I found thousands of ladybugs! At first I thought it was kinda cool, then I got a little creeped out by the sheer amount of them climbing all over the trunk and base of the tree. Ewww! What *are* those things?!?

Well, it turns out that these aren't ladybugs at all. Nope. These impostors are actually called Asian Lady Beetles...and their specialty is swarming. In late fall (yep, it's late all) they look for a place to hibernate and try to work their way indoors or to a warm spot. You can tell a lady beetle from a ladybug primarily by the color. Ladybugs are red with black spots. Lady Beetles are varying shades of orange, with or without black spots.

So what's a girl to do about this? Not much, really. They'll be gone once it gets cold enough, and being in Indiana I know that could happen any day now. They aren't as bad here as I've heard tell in other parts of the country, so I guess I'm lucky in that respect. I do vac them up, as needed. And my 5 year old thinks they are cool. So as long as the majority of them stay outside, I'll deal.

Wanna tell me your lady beetle story?? Hit me with a comment!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bird Feeder

We have a bird feeder on our deck that I love to fill up in the fall and watch the birds go to town! They sing and chirp, it seems to make them so happy. I took a few pictures for you. It's hard to really capture the beauty of this sight with my camera, so you may have to imagine how cool it is on your own.

But here's the rub. We also have a local raccoon. A hungry, feisty, BOLD raccoon. A raccoon who likes to climb up on the deck, tip the feeder, hook a perch on the railing of the deck, and let the bird seed pour into his mouth...leaving none for the bird.

He does leave us something though. If seeing the tipped feeder isn't enough evidence that he's been around, there's frequently a small pile of...er....poop, left on the deck. It really just adds insult to injury.

I do not like that raccoon.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Easy Fridge Decor

While I'm on the subject of upgrading the house, I wanted to show off my refrigerator for those who haven't seen it in person. I sell Uppercase Living on the side, so I like to use it in my home for easy, temporary decorating. This is how I fancied up my fridge. Love it!

The vinyl is removable but not reusable, and comes in over 30 color choices. You can choose from the catalog, or create your own. If you want to check out some designs for your house visit my website at http://claudine.uppercaseliving.com/ before I get kicked out for not meeting minimum sales for the quarter...which will probably be January 1st. LOL!

Friday, October 23, 2009

New Sink - Kitchen Upgrade

We've been trying to sell our house. It's a pain. One of the feedback notes we've heard is that there are other homes in the area with more upgrades....well yea, and they are priced a lot higher too! Regardless, we decided that it wouldn't hurt to take a critical eye to the house and see what we might be able to change. Ever since we moved in 4 years ago, I've hated the kitchen sink. So, I wanted to upgrade that sink from a crappy 11 year old stainless to something new and sleek. I got a great deal on an off-white Blanco sink from a local plumbing supply store, so off we went!

Unfortunately, the Blanco was accidentally damaged during the install....so I ended up with an Elkay e-granite in white instead. Still, it's beautiful! Deep bowls, wire racks for the bottom, and even a cutting board. We added a new Kohler faucet that has a built-in sprayer that pulls out, and a new rim part for the disposal to complete the look.

You like?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Meal Planning

For a while, I was making a meal plan for the entire month and somehow sticking to it! It was a joy to be able to look at my list in the morning and know what we would be having for dinner. Things were easy then...but somehow I got away from monthly meal planning. I started back up recently with weekly plans for a month, and then two days ago I totally pulled the trigger on making a meal plan for the rest of October and I am SO glad I did! It really makes things simple to be able to look at the list in the morning and not have to think about dinner as much. I think it's also cost effective because I'm able to plan ahead and use up a lot of the bargain meat I have in the freezer, instead of running out every couple days for meat. As a rule, I try to incorporate at least 2 crock pot meals each week, as well as at least one leftover day a week.

For those who want to start meal planning, the first step I use is to take an inventory of food/meals I have in the freezer, fridge and pantry. You have to know what you've got to work with...and if you're like me, chances are there are packages of frozen meat that have been lingering in the back of the freezer.

After taking an inventory, make another list of all the meals your family likes to eat. Even if it's things that you don't have ingredients for on-hand. You still need a master meal list to give you ideas of recipes for the month.

Finally, take a 3rd piece of paper (or use the computer if you prefer...me? I'm a pencil and paper kind of gal) and merge the two other lists. My advice is to work with what you have on-hand to create a month of meals that you know you and the family will eat. Also, remember to build in meals of leftovers every few days. And you can also plan to double cook...ie, make a double batch of chili for week one and freeze half for another meal during week three. See how easy!!?

Here's the rest of my month, in order:

shrimp with tarragon pasta
homemade pizza
out to eat (if I'm lucky!)
ranch chicken
crock pot tostadas
italian beef
quesadillas (from left over beef)
quiche (to use up eggs and veggies from fridge)
fly to new orleans (yippee!)

Do you meal plan? Let me hear about it!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Apple Season

I love autumn. There are so many reasons why... the temperature drops (but not too low), we can fire up the fireplace, the colors change beautifully and apples are in season. My thoughts turn to the kitchen - applesauce, apple butter and baked goods of all varieties.

Today, I have applesauce on the stove and will later magically turn it into apple butter by cooking it low and slow with fragrant cinnamon, cloves and a bit of brown sugar. YUM!

I also have a new pie recipe in the oven. It's called Swedish Apple Pie and there is no bottom crust. Gotta love that! I hate pie crust. There, I'll admit it. I dislike pie crust. But this recipe intrigued me because you combine sugar, flour, egg, butter and spices to pour over the top of the apples in your pie pan before baking. Hmm, a cross between a pie and a cobbler perhaps? Or maybe a buckle? In any event, it's in the oven and when it's cooked and sampled, I'll report back with the recipe (with my modifications, cause you know I can't follow a recipe without making it my own by altering something or another!) and pictures.

Apple season rocks!

*Swedish Apple Pie*

1 1/2 pounds apples - peeled, cored and sliced

2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoon cinnamon (divided)

3/4 cup melted butter

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss apples with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and pour them into a pie plate. Thoroughly mix together brown and white sugar with the flour, remainder of cinnamon, butter, and egg. Spread this evenly over the top of the pie. Bake in preheated oven until the apples have cooked and the topping is golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I made tamales this week with my friend Norma and they are amazing! The backstory on my search for the perfect tamale started with some fresh tamales I had a few years ago in California from a Farmer's Market. Since then, I've visited other markets and ordered them online...good enough, but just not what I've been craving.

Until now.

And making tamales is a lot easier than I ever thought it would be. It's definately time consuming, which is why I was so glad to have Norma around. In fact, it was her idea to make tamales, so hats off to Norma!

I'll link the recipe I used from a website that has really specific directions AND photographs. The cool thing is that you can totally deviate from the ingredient list (for the most part) and customize your tamales. We made chicken/pork like the website suggests, AND we made black bean & cheese and beef tamales. YUM!


The cool thing about this website is that they break it down for you to the ingredients you need, how to cook the meat, how to prepare the masa, how to assemble the tamales and how to cook them. After cooking, you can freeze these babies and re-steam them for dinners or lunches later. AWESOME!

Check out the link above and please let me know if you make tamales....I can't wait for Tamale Making Day to come again this winter. :)

Next up, my soon-to-be-famous GUMBO recipe! (and I'll add tamale pics soon)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Giveaway Time!

Update: the WINNER is #8
Random.org picked post #8 as the winner. Congratulations!! (I have no idea how to do a screen shot of the actual draw, so you'll have to trust me on this one.) Thanks to everyone who entered....check back often for more contests and giveaways. I'll do the 2nd Ron & Franks giveaway in November.

With the weather turning cooler, my thoughts turn to warm drinks. I love a hot drink on a cool morning, or before bed, or in the afternoon...well, any time really! And last year I discovered a super-delicious brand of drink mix that is not only affordable, but also low calorie. Ron & Franks Skinny Gourmet! They sell a variety of drink and baking mixes with or without Splenda in flavors like cappuccino, spiced apple cider, peanut butter hot chocolate, and so many more.

Ron & Franks (http://www.ronandfranks.com/) Skinny Gourmet drink mixes are THE BEST. The company is pretty darn awesome too, because when I sent them an email requesting a sample for my blog giveaway, they sent me FOUR packages of their creamy hot chocolate mixes. So exciting - you are going to love this stuff!! I'm tempted to keep them for myself...but that wouldn't be right. ;)

Here are the rules for this giveaway contest. If you want to win, you must visit the Ron & Franks website here and poke around, then come back here and tell me (in a comment) what flavor drink mix sounds the best to you. Or any product really. Check them out, and if you can't wait for the results, place an order for yourself....you will *not* regret it!

This contest will have one winner, selected by random.org, from comments left on my blog. I'll keep the contest open until noon EST on Sunday, September 27th. You're going to have to check back on Sunday evening to see who the winner is and then email me if it's you so I know where to send your goodies.

Oh, you probably want to know what the prize is....eh?

The winner will receive two packages of drink mix:
  • Ron & Franks Skinny Gourmet Diet Hot Chocolate in White Chocolate Raspberry flavor
  • Ron & Franks Skinny Gourmet Diet Chai Tea

Each package makes 24 servings and each serving has only 20 calories!! For those Weight Watchers followers like myself, that's ZERO points. Don't let the word "diet" in the title of these scare you off. Seriously, these are so good, I am stocking up for the fall & winter. But you can also make iced versions if you prefer your beverages cold.

Now those of you who have been paying attention might be thinking to yourself, "hey, she got 4 packages and is only giving away 2...what's up with that?!?". Well, good question. I'm saving the other two bags until closer to holiday time because those are both the famous Egg Nog mix. If you like Egg Nog, but can't stand all the calories, you're going to want to try this! I love egg nog flavor, but the actual drink is a generally little too....thick...for me. Ron & Frank's version is PERFECTION. And like the other mixes here, these too are made with Splenda for a low calorie treat.

Good luck with the contest!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Swag Bucks

While I'm waiting for the giveaway item to arrive (yippee!), I thought I'd let you know about a new freebie/earning website I just joined. I'm going to pimp it here with my referral code, so if you join too then I can earn more stuff. Then get your friends to join and you can earn even more free stuff too!

It's called Swag Bucks.


That is my referral link. So far, I have 8 swag bucks.

What is it? It's an online portal dedicated to helping you earn digital dollars called "Swag Bucks", which can be redeemed for exclusive swagbucks.com merchandise. You SEARCH the web (like you already do now) using their website, EARN swag bucks periodically during these searches, and then REDEEM the bucks for prizes like gift cards.

So lend me a hand and join, mkay?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stay Tuned...

I'm going to give something away soon.
I just have to figure out what it's going to be...but when I do, it's gonna be good!

Stay tuned.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Chill Time

I love relaxing. I mean, it's probably obvious...most people do, right? But it's that especially important, ever-so-rare occasion that I get to really, really RELAX that I enjoy most of all. This weekend, I got to do just that.

I spent a day and a half in Michigan with my family and friends, just having a good time and being together. Such a wonderful way to spend a weekend....a birthday weekend, none-the-less. And even with the chaos of making dinner and entertaining 15 people, including two 5-year olds, in someone else's house - we still managed to feel relaxed. THAT is the sign of a great weekend.

So I'm sending a big shout out of thanks to my husband, daughter, sister, Aunt and the 'significant others' who helped make this weekend one to remember.

Ahhh, I needed that!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Free Food from Schwan's

I love having food delivered to my house. Where I live, not many places will deliver...but the Schwan's Man will! Of course, I have to cook that food myself, but it's not all that bad. If you've never ordered from Schwan's, then you're like me. I didn't even really know what it was until we moved to Indiana. Basically, it's a quaint little service this frozen food vendor uses to get customers. Delivering food right to your door, every two weeks, just like the milk man of days gone by. (...and no, I'm not old enough to remember the milk man, thankyouverymuch)

So, here's how I was introduced to Bob, my Schwan's delivery guy...FREE FOOD. Yep. Free. $10 worth on your first order. He'll come back every 2 weeks to see if you want to place a real, paying order - but if you don't then just say so. And chances are you will, because some of their stuff is AWESOME.

This is a link to the $10 free deal - check it out soon, I have no idea how long this will last.

My favorites?

  • Strawberry Daiquiri Sorbet (dairy free! and limited time only, do a search for it)
  • Single Serve Fruit Packs - Island Blend (great for healthy smoothies, and it's tropical fruits which are harder to do on your own - but they do have a regular berry one too...I can get 2 smoothies from one fruit pack and you get 4 in each big bag)

I've heard their fish and seafood are both really good, and I'll be getting those next time. I'm on a diet, so a lot of the frozen stuff here isn't really in my "plan"...but for family or a splurge or a party, it all looks really yummy!

If you order, leave me a comment and let me know what you tried!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blog Me

My sister just sent me a Facebook message. She said to update my blog. Which must mean that at least some people are reading it. Or, at least one person is reading it. Thanks, Sis!

I like knowing that people are reading. I've been gone for a bit, but I promise to try and write more frequently. I think I'm just having a hard time trying to figure out what to say lately. I'm open to suggestions....

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Amazon Grocery Deals!

I don't typically post about sales on my blog, but this is one I took advantage of yesterday and placed an order. I got some good stuff, and I think you can too...so I want to share the details.

Amazon is having a promotion on some grocery items, good for back to school. Stock up and save up to 40% on any combination of eligible products.

Here's how it works:
Buy any 2 eligible products and save 20%
Buy any 3 eligible products and save 30%
Buy any 5 eligible products and save 40% (this is obviously the best deal!)

Use the following promotional code when you check out: BCKSCLO9.

This offer applies only to products offered by Amazon.com and for purchases made between July 20 and September 6, 2009 (This offer cannot be combined with Subscribe & Save or other code-based offer).Stock up and save--all items are eligible for Amazon Prime and FREE Super Saver Shipping over $25.

Here's the link to the main page. Some items are super cheap to begin with, and adding free shipping with 40% off makes it SWEET (esp. if you like to buy in bulk and have things delivered right to your door!) http://www.amazon.com/Back-School-Grocery/b/ref=amb_link_84843791_1?ie=UTF8&node=235692011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=top-1&pf_rd_r=1ZR70JG2A6X0RVRJ18PG&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=484170531&pf_rd_i=235692011

Wanna know what I bought and paid? I was thinking about school lunches when I was filling my Amazon cart....unfortunately, many of the snacks have milk in them, so those were out. But, I managed to find some stuff! I bought:

36 mac n cheese cups (Audrey's new obsession, we don't use the cheese packet!)
8 chicken & stars Campbell's soup at hand cups
8 chicken & mini noodle Campbell's soup at hand cups
6 boxes (20 bags each) Tazo apricot vanilla white tea
20 no sugar added organic squeese applesauce things

So essentially, if you don't count the tea (since it's not for lunches) I paid $65 for 52 lunch items (mac n cheese and soups) plus 20 sides (applesauce). Not bad??

ps- we don't use the cheese sauce packet in the mac n cheese cups, in case anyone was wondering how my non-dairy child can eat mac n cheese!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Leftover Rice, Rice Pudding

I adore rice pudding. Love it!
We had leftover rice from some mediocre Chinese food last night and I needed to finish off the meal on a positive note, so I went searching for a non-dairy rice pudding recipe that was sinple and delicious. While I didn't find one exactly right, I was able to come up with my own.
Turns out, my dairy-free daughter doesn't like rice pudding so I could have used cow milk. Oh well.


Leftover Rice Rice Pudding

1 cup leftover cooked white rice
2 cups milk (any kind - I used almond milk)
1/4 cup sugar
small pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg, optional

Combine cooked rice, milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the vanilla. Cook until just about all of the milk is absorbed. Stir in cinnamon and/or nutmeg, if using. Divide rice pudding into individual serving dishes serve warm or chilled. Makes one big bowl, which for me was pretty much 2 servings but that just depends on whether or not you want to share.

From Trash to Treasure - arm warmers!

I bought my husband some new dress socks for work at the outlet mall a couple weeks ago. He tried one on, and it had a big hole in the heel. One sock out of 3 pairs, so it wasn't really worth the 40 minute drive back to the outlet mall to exchange it. So...I had this brilliant idea on how to reuse that particular sock.

My husband likes to destroy things when he throws stuff away, so he was beginning to cut up this defective sock. I caught him just after her cut the foot off..... "gimme that!", I said.

I pulled it onto my 5 year old's arm and asked her where the thumb should go. She showed him, and he cut a tiny slit (not a hole) for her thumb to stick out. Viola! Arm warmers...just like Baby Legs or Hanna Andersson, only waaaay cheaper. But still super cool. At least, my 5 year old daughter thinks so.

Arm Warmer Instructions:
take a sock, cut the foot off
cut a small slit into what would be the top of the sock
the cut portion will be slightly looser, that goes at the top of the arm (cuff it, if need be)

You can even go nuts if you really know how to sew and stitch up the cut portion, sew in a cuff, add some embellishments...I just saw a bedazzler at CVS for $5, I *knew* I should have picked that up! You can also make one for each arm, but around here, we prefer the rock star look with just one.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Guilty Pleasures

I had a wonderful dream last night.

I dreamt that Nabisco created a new flavor of Cakester....orange! You've never had a cakester? Oh boy. Let me tell you, the golden ones are divine. And I imagine that if there were an orange flavor, it would be even better! I can still see it in my mind, a little pale orange cake with fluffy, sweet white filling....

Of course, I think I'll have to go out and get a Hostess cupcake - orange flavor - instead. It won't be the same, but after I peel off that nasty "frosting" layer, it should do the trick.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


My 5 year old is a great kid, and she totally cracks me up because she's both smart and witty. Case in point, last night I asked her to get her jammies on. She decided, after being unable to locate a proper pair of pajamas, to come back to the kitchen wearing only panties.

She then declared that she was going to sleep in her "nude jammies". My husband has coined the term for these as "skin jammies".

Whatever you call them, she's wearing them again tonight.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

It's the Little Things

It's raining.
It's also the 4th of July.

I love the sound of the rain gently falling on the trees in my backyard.
I love how it gets just a bit (or sometimes a lot) darker outside during a rain shower.
I love the smell of fresh rain.
I love that my daughter gets just a bit more snuggly when the thunder claps.

So I guess it's not all that bad to have rain on the 4th of July.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Easy Way to Fold Sheets

I do not like folding sheets. I'm terrible at it, really.

I do like being mentioned on other people's blogs (in a positive way, of course). And I also like winning contests. Today's post is the best of both!!

Check out my friend Sandy's organization blog. It's awesome! I have used, and plan to use more, of her amazing organizing ideas. And today, she mentions me in her blog because I won a contest by describing how I organize my sheets in the linen closet. It also works for stuffing them in a drawer or under your bed, if you prefer.



Visit her blog and leave a message to let her know you stopped by.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fun with Shaving Cream

While I'm sure some adults would enjoy this too, I'm specifically speaking of fun for kids with shaving cream.

Rainy day? Too hot to play outside? Just plain bored? Struggling for bathtime? Give the kid a can of shaving cream, strip 'em down and plunk them in the tub. Instant fun!

I gave my little one a $0.79 cent can of shaving cream and free reign to "play" in the tub. She covered herself and every surface she could find, including a cup, spoon and 3 barbies. About 45 minutes later, she was rinsed, clean and smellin' great. She later told me that this was "the best day of her life!". With feedback like that, you can't go wrong.

Shaving cream. They are already half way to a bath!
Trust me. Worth every penny....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Contest Winner!

The winner of the crock pot liners, as chosen by random.org (so you know I didn't cheat), is comment #8!


You've got some liners coming your way girlfriend. And I fully expect a comment here after you try one out. Got it?

Congratulations, and thanks for all of your entries (as few as they were)....I appreciate your support! :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Crock Pot Liners Saved My Life

Well, I'm exaggerating a little. They didn't really save my life exactly. But they sure made clean-up a lot easier...which makes my life easier. And who doesn't like easy?!?

I've been using Reynolds Slow Cooker liners for a while, they run about $4 for a box of 4...so $1 each. Expensive, yes. But totally worth it.

Then one day, I stumbled across a similar product that changed my life. Ok, exaggerating again, but seriously trust me on this one!

EZ Pans slow cooker/crock pot liners. THE BEST!

You've heard of crock pot liners, right? Basically, plastic-type "bags" you put into your slow cooker before you dump in the food. Then after cooking, you simply lift out the bag and toss it. Wipe down the inside of your crock pot with a damp towel (I use vinegar & water) and you're done. Simple, fast clean up. It makes me want to use the crock pot more and more, which is a huge time saver.

So here's another great thing about the EZ Pan liners. They cost about .30 cents each! I found a seller on Ebay who had them, but they are also available on Amazon.com....here's a link....free shipping too! You may not *need* 100 of them, but at this price you can either stock up for the year or share with friends.

Check them out and let me know what you think if you try them!

Let's do a contest, shall we? I'll choose a random number and the person with that number post in today's comments on this entry will WIN 5 of these crock pot liners. Yippee! My first contest. Post entries must be entered by midnight EST 6/15/09.

ps- please remember to either put your email in the comment or be a registered user so I can contact the winner! check back tomorrow for the winner's name. :)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Oatmeal Packets

It's summer. In an attempt to lure my 5 year old away from PBS, I needed a craft. And we needed breakfast. These Homemade Oatmeal Packets accomplished both!

It's really simple and delicious (and inexpensive!). What else would you expect from me?!?


3 cups oats
brown or white sugar
baggies or some container (you'll need about 8 per batch)
small blender/chopper/Magic Bullet
mix-ins for the oatmeal (dried fruit, powdered creamer, chocolate chips, etc)

Blend up 1 cup of oats and set aside in a bowl. Next, portion out 1/4 cup servings of the remaining whole oats (not the ones you just blended) into airtight containers like baggies or other small containers. To each packet, add 2 tablespoons of the powder oats (it's a thickening agent). Some recipes call for a dash of salt, but I didn't find it necessary. If you like, add a teaspoon or so of brown/white sugar or powder sweetener of choice. The final step is to add the mix-ins...

  • dried fruit (raisin, blueberry, cranberry, cherry, apricot)

  • spices (cinnamon, nutmeg)

  • powdered creamer (for a fruit & cream variety)

  • chocolate chips

  • chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds)

  • colored sprinkles
Close up the bag and your custom made, healthier-than-store-bought, instant oatmeal packets are complete! You can even take the craft aspect of this activity a step further by making fun labels for the packages. Or, set up a "topping bar" and have some friends over to make oatmeal packets and let them choose their own mix-ins. The possibilities are endless.

To serve, just add approximately 1/2 c. boiling water to a bowl with one packet of oatmeal. Mix well and let it sit to thicken. You can play around with the water amount if you like thicker or thinner oatmeal.

My daughter loved making these, and because we used a combo of red/green sprinkles (leftover mix from our Magic Reindeer Food from last Solstice) her oatmeal turned blue! Be cautious, with the mix-ins added, you may not even need sugar or sweetener. Our had sugar added, but next time I'll leave it out if we put in sprinkles because she said it was too sweet. Huh!??! It's true!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Homemade Bug Repellent - Deet Free!

Know what I don't love? Bugs. Namely mosquitoes. I have a bite on my ankle that is driving me crazy. Literally, crazy. So I needed a solution to prevent mosquito bites this summer, and I've found one that isn't going to harm me or my child with harsh chemicals. This bug repellent recipe is affordable and can easily be made in the kitchen without needing to buy a lot of crazy ingredients. And, of course, it's simple. I was given this recipe by a friend who found it in Family Circle. Thanks Brandi!

All you need are a few ingredients:

  • equal parts of apple cider vinegar & witch hazel (I used 1 cup each)
  • a few drops of citronella oil (for 1 cup and 1 cup, I used about 2 teaspoons of oil)
  • spray bottle (walmart, $1.57)

Mix it all together and funnel into a spray bottle, or just funnel it all in and then give it a good shake. I can vouch that it does work. My daughter went to camp 2 days this week and hasn't had a single bite. One of her instructors, wearing shorts and a t-shirt, tried it out today on her legs only. She was bitten by mosquitoes on her arms, but not on her legs. Success!

If you don't have citronella oil, today is your lucky day because I have a website for you to order from AND a $5 coupon to pay for it!!

use $5 off code KON547

I bought this citronella oil for $3.37.

While you're there, you can also pick up some wonderful sweet almond oil to make sugar scrub!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Good Deal!

I love a good deal.
But, you know that about me already don't you. ;)

Here's one for those of us who hate to pay full price on clothing.

Chadwicks - 50% off any 1 item
Code: CH21595
Expires: 6/18/09

Guess what? I just bought a new dress!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Homemade Vanilla Extract

( UPDATE 2/17/12: I now sell fresh, raw vanilla beans on my Etsy shop SimplyClaudine! http://www.etsy.com/shop/SimplyClaudine )

Two years ago, I learned how to make vanilla extract. I love it! Homemade vanilla is so much better (and far less expensive) than store-bought extract. And it's very, very simple. Here's a basic recipe and a link to a reputable vanilla bean store online with a special offer! Free shipping if you enter the promo code "mayspecial"...so hurry! If you buy the Tahitian package, you should have enough beans for one batch, but I just ordered the combo pack. One of my water recipes calls for a vanilla bean, so make sure you order plenty!

How to make vanilla extract:
Take a bottle of cheap-o vodka and pour it from the plastic container into 2 large quart size mason jars. Rinse off your vanilla beans. Split them open down the middle, leaving them attached at the tip. Drop 4-6 beans into each mason jar. Cover tightly with a clean lid and ring. Place somewhere dark and cool. I keep mine in a kitchen cabinet. Give the vanilla a shake once a week. It will take at least 4 months for the vodka to turn into usable extract. So if you're hoping to give these as gifts for the holidays, plan accordingly...start now! The longer it sits, the better.

When you're ready to use it, strain out the vanilla bits and bottle the vanilla. For a unique presentation, add half (or whatever amount) of a fresh vanilla bean to the container. Lovely and useful!

I'll post pics later.

One million thanks to my friend Tracy for reminding me of my love for vanilla extract and my need to blog about it.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Turtle Mama, part II

She was back this morning, presumably laying more eggs into the hole...and digging up more of the yard. I was able to get a picture of her this time. Box turtle or snapper?

Here's a picture of the nest too (sorry, I have no idea how to arrange photos here). Yesterday you could see one of the eggs in there, covered mostly with mud. Today, it looks like she peed in the hole and maybe laid more eggs. (That's what I read, I know, it's kinda icky but hey, that's nature!)

Monday, May 25, 2009

Yard Turtles

The family and I went out to dinner this evening. As we were leaving the driveway, my husband asked if that round thing on the grass was a turtle. It was indeed, almost as big as a freaking dinner plate. She was hovered over a hole, and I wondered if she was laying eggs. I got out of the car and looked in the hole, which seemed to be filled with these big white glops. I thought they were too big to be eggs, we've seen remnant shells on the driveway before and they were much smaller.

Low and behold, next thing you know, she pushed an egg out of her behind. I mean, probably not literally her "behind", but that's what it looked like. Those are some big eggs! I'm guessing she laid about 10-12 of them in that hole, pushing them down gently with her back leg each time. So freaking cool to see that, and to be able to give that experience to our daughter -who laughed hysterically when I yelled, "OMG, she just shot an egg out of her butt!" because it completely shocked me.

We're hoping the eggs survive, I may fashion some sort of "cage" over the hole so predators don't eat them. But I'm on the fence about whether or not I should interfere with natural selection and nature's fate and all that. From what I have heard (and I'll do more research), turtles lay eggs and then just leave them, never to return. The babies who make it, hatch and go happily on their merry way. Weird, no? In any event, we've got some investigating and observing coming up this summer...there looks to be at least 1 more turtle egg hole in the yard!

Another thing I found out is that the incubation time for turtle eggs is anywhere from 45-90 days, depending on the type of turtle. Of course, I have no idea what kind of turtle this one was, so that's more research we need to do. Can anyone say homeschool activity?!? That ought to keep us busy for a day or two, now that preschool is out. And by early fall, maybe we'll be lucky enough to have a handful of baby turtles to watch as they leave our yard to start their own lives.

Got anything cool like that in your yard? Leave me a comment and tell me about it!

Sunday, May 24, 2009


I sure do love a good facial. I try to do them at home for myself, but finding the time makes it difficult. As a splurge for getting our tax refund, I treated myself to a facial in town at a salon which uses my favorite products by Repechage. Ah, it was bliss. Pure bliss. And my face looks and feels super clean. So now, I'm motivated to keep things clean and do mini facials at home at least once a week. In reality, it doesn't take that much time to pamper your face if you break it down into simple steps.

These are the steps I use for my home facials...in the interest of full disclosure, let's keep in mind that I am not a cosmetologist, esthetician or dermatologist. I have no training in giving facials and I'm probably not qualified to give advice on them. I'm just a girl who likes facials, who used to get a lot of facials, and who now can't afford facials so I mostly do them at home. That being said, here we go. Whee!!

1) Cleanse
Rid your face, neck and upper chest area of dirt and oil by using a gentle cleanser made for faces. Rinse with warm, not hot, water.

2) Exfoliate
This step is important because it removes not only dirt and oil build-up, but also clears away dead skin cells and stimulates circulation. All are very good things.

3) Steam
I like to stick my face into the steamer (or use a sink full of hot water with a towel over your head) during the exfoliation stage after the scrubbing and before the rinsing.

4) Mask
Depending on your skin type and needs, there are a variety of masks you could use. Me? I like a calming clay mask because I have sensitive, yet blemish prone skin. Leave the mask on for 5-15 minutes and rinse off using a warm, wet washcloth.

5) Tone
Swipe a cotton pad or the tip of a washcloth soaked in toner over your entire face, avoiding the eye area. I recently discovered Witch Hazel for toning and I love it.

6) Moisturize
The final step in your facial is to moisturize the skin with a cream of your choice. Remember my water post? Skin needs moisture, so load it up after a facial. Drink water and use a moisturizer.

Pamper yourself!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Look what I found in my backyard! No. I'm kidding. But, a dear friend of mine was kind enough to send me this picture of a real, live local eagle. In central Indiana, who knew?! Apparently, eagles around here aren't that unusual, but I've never seen one.

So my friend took me to see the nest. Whoa, those things are huge! When I was there, we didn't see the bird. Darn. However, my pal was lucky enough to not only catch an amazing shot of this eagle, but she also saw it's mate AND some babies in the nest. How freaking cool is that?!?

Let's face it. You just can't get any cooler than an eagle. Seriously, they are indeed the most awesome bird alive...and for a while there, things weren't looking so good for our national symbol. In 1940 Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act, which made it illegal to shoot at, kill, or poison the birds. Things were ok for a while ...until the pesticide DDT came along. It got into the food chain and eventually caused the birds to lay eggs with thinner shells (which, you know, can't be good) and the eagle numbers dropped dramatically.

After DDT was banned in 1972, eagles began to recover. Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1967, and the modern act in 1973 - and the bald eagle was among the first animals named on the protected list.

On June 28th, 2007, they announced that the bald eagle had been taken off the federally protected list. YAY! However, laws still prohibit killing and harming eagles or their nests or eggs. So, that's good for the eagles.

There you have it. Many thanks to National Geographic for the info about eagles. :)

And if you'd like to check out my friend's website, here's the link. She and her husband are - by far - two of the most talented photographers I've ever known. Very cool stuff. http://www.ennisphotography.com/

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Bountiful Garden

I love fresh produce. Even better is when it's locally grown, organic....and free!

A good friend of mine has been working very hard on her garden (which is extremely impressive), and now the cool weather crops are ready to harvest. So, she invited me over to gather some herbs and veggies. What a feeling of accomplishment it must be to see actual plants and FOOD coming up from the ground where once there was only dirt and tiny seeds.

Today I came home with lettuce, mustard greens, chives, green onions, something that smells like cilantro but is more wispy (ideas anyone?), fancy french radishes, and a garlic bulb to put into the ground at my house.

Technically, it's not free....she paid for the seeds and fertilizer, etc. She also paid for these crops with her blood, sweat and tears. But for those who love to be outside and work in the earth, it's a small price to pay. And being able to share our bounty with friends makes it even sweeter! For my part, I will share my homemade jam and sugar scrub (and a couple tall nonfat caramel machiatos) in exchange for the ability to image, even for a few minutes while I feel the warm sun on my face, that I was the one who toiled away in the garden to produce such an impressive harvest. I'm certainly looking forward to later this summer when the potatoes, tomatoes and corn is ready!

Aside from the single garlic bulb in my side-driveway plot of garden (and I use the term garden very, very loosely), I have a small patch of strawberry plants (either the deer or the rabbits keep eating the flowers before they can mature). I also have one of those upside-down tomato planters on my deck that I'll fill with tomato starts with basil on top. For a garden novice, it's a start.

Are you making a garden this summer? I'd love to hear about it in the comment section!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Water - Pure & Simple

We just returned from a wonderful cruise, my husband and I. At dinner, our table-for-two was right next to a beautifully large round window that overlooked the ocean. Being on the ship for 6 days, it got me thinking alot about water....and the fact that I totally do not drink enough of it.

You've heard the idea that we should all drink eight 8 oz. glasses per day. Or maybe you've heard that you should cut your body weight in half and drink that many ounces of water per day. (No, I won't tell you how much that would be for me, so don't ask.) Personally, I think it's more a matter of personal hydration - everyone is different and hydration needs are too. Unfortunately, the problem is that most of us don't realize when we're actually thirsty...and we either ignore it or mistake it for hunger.

So today I'm vowing to increase my drinking water intake and I'll going to share a few of my favorite natural water-flavoring recipes to make things more interesting. If you've got a good one I missed, please leave me a comment...I'm always looking for creative ways to flavor water.

With all these recipes, the longer you let them steep in the fridge, the more flavor you'll get. I'm using a big 32 oz. Tupperware mug for these recipes, with ice. Feel free to adjust for your personal taste!

Simply Lemon - add a slice or two of lemon (or lime) to water. Please be sure to WASH the fruit first.

Citrus Burst - add a squeeze and a slice of fresh orange plus a peeled slice (quarter size) of ginger to water.

Minty Fresh - add a few sprigs of mint (you can probably get this fresh from someone's garden, mint takes over like crazy and most people would love to share!) to your favorite citrus water.

Vanilla Orange - add half of a fresh vanilla bean (split open) and 2 slices of orange to water. (in a pinch, a teaspoon to taste of vanilla extract works too)

Cranberry Orange - toss in a few crushed fresh cranberries and a couple slices of orange to water.

Refreshing Cucumber - add just a few thin slices of cucumber to water for a unique refreshing flavor, and it's even better with a bit of mint.

Raspberry Splash - crush a few and leave some whole, but toss some berries into the water....yum!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Silver Jewelry is Pretty

Do you ever find that you need a little gift for someone, say for Mother's Day or a birthday, and you can't spend a lot but still want it to be nice? I've got just the ticket!

Silver Jewelry Club. http://www.silverjewelryclub.com/

Only, it's not actually a club, so there's no joining or fee involved. And the best part is that the jewelry is FREE! Yep, free. You pay $6.99 for shipping...and if you buy a pendant and want to add a necklace chain, it's $4 more. Not too shabby!

I'll tell you honestly that some of the items are really nice, and others are not so much. But that may just be personal preference. And they look a lot bigger online than they do in real life, so keep that in mind. But I've bought a couple pendants and find them to be relatively heavy (which means they don't have that automatic cheap feel to them). The chain is nice too, for $4.

So for $7-11 each, you can buy a couple nice silver jewelry pieces to hide away for those times when you need a last minute gift...I'm thinking these would be great for birthday parties for the 8-15 year old set, friends, sisters, that hard-to-buy-for aunt...take a look at the website and see what you think.

Oh yea, I forgot to mention that there are four items up at one time and they change every 15 minutes. So if you see something you like, buy it...don't wait....or it may be gone when you come back. :)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Virtues of Vinegar

I'll admit it, I typically use Melaleuca products for most of my cleaning. I'm really happy with the products, especially Sol-u-Mel because (among other things) it can get marker out of my carpet. But recently, I discovered the virtues of vinegar. White vinegar, that is. For a long time, I thought vinegar was just a liquid used for cooking. And to be honest, I wasn't really sure what you cooked with vinegar except for coloring hard boiled eggs.

Well guess what?! There are a ton of uses for vinegar, and I'll list a few for you that I personally do....

  • Clean hard wood floors with a vinegar and water mixture. (I keep a spray bottle full of 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar and use that for everything!)
  • Pour 1/4-1/2 cup of vinegar into the laundry machine during the wash and/or during the rinse cycle to get cleaner, brighter, softer clothes.
  • Spray windows and glass with a vinegar and water mixture and wipe dry.
  • Wipe down counters, stove, oven and kitchen appliances with a vinegar and water mixture.
  • Clean stains out of the microwave with about 1/4 cup of vinegar and a splash of water in a bowl, heat it for a minute or so until it steams, then wipe the inside of the microwave clean.
  • Add 1/2 cup vinegar to the dishwasher in the rinse agent compartment to help remove water spots.
  • Put a cup filled with plain white vinegar on the top rack of an empty dishwasher and run a cycle thru to clean the interior.

What do you use vinegar for at your house? I've love to know more uses....leave me a comment!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Playing with Our Food

My "almost 5" year old daughter loves fun food. She'll eat practically anything if I put it into a bento box. Kabobs of any kind are one of her favorites. Lately though, I've been getting lazy in the creative department...and she seems to be getting more picky about dinner. So, a friend showed me a blog I hadn't seen before with some fun food ideas, and I made hot dog spiders! She liked them so much, she ate two hot dogs worth, and asked for them for lunch the next day. Not only that, she didn't request the usual "dipper" of ketchup or spaghetti sauce. Amazing!

Here's how you make 'em...it's simple (as per the title of this blog, it has to be!)

Hot Dog Spiders

saucepan of water
hot dogs
spaghetti noodles (dry)

Boil the water. Meanwhile, cut up the hot dogs into your preferred size. We like bite size so they are easier to eat as finger food. Break the spaghetti into thirds. Poke several strands of spaghetti thru the hot dog bite. Toss them all into the boiling water, cook until noodles are tender, approximately 8-10 minutes. Drain, cool and eat!

I can totally see doing these for a child's birthday party or playgroup too. And for the record, Mama like them too!

Special thanks to this website for the awesome idea~ http://www.boingboing.net/2009/04/21/freaky-food-fun-inse.html

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beets...Not Just for Dinner Anymore.

"I was cutting root veggies for tomorrow's dinner and one thing lead to another...."

This is what a friend of mine told me last night. I wasn't sure what to think, until she elaborated. Turns out, she gave herself "lowlights" with a fresh beet. While I wasn't entirely sure what that meant, I assumed it has something to do with coloring her hair. You see, I'm a brunette. Ask me about highlights, and I can explain it, show you old photos from college and give you suggestions for your own color. But lowlights...huh??

"I took the end of the beet and rubbed it on a few strands of hair.....sounds like something you'd do!"

Indeed, it does. I was intrigued and needed to know more.

"Highlight is light, lowlight is darker than your base color."

That was my AH-HA! moment. I got it now. Sounds awesome! And it got me thinking, what could I possibly rub on my own dark brown hair to change the color naturally like that? Aside from juicing lemons and hanging out in the sun (who used Sun-In as a teenager and then claimed that the sun just did that "all on it's own"? admit it, I know you did.) I started looking through the pantry and fridge to see if I had anything might work. Kool-aid? Coffee? Rhubarb? Bananas?

I'll have to keep you posted on this one. For now, I think I'll just let my stylist hook me up.

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Yum. Mexican food. One of my favorites...along with Italian, Green, Thai, Chinese, Afghanistan, Sushi....well, you get the idea. Anyway, for those who don't know, our daughter is allergic to milk. And you will likely be surprised to know that almost all commercial taco seasoning packets contain milk or a milk product. Who knew?!? So I set out to create my own taco seasoning and it turns out that not only does a homemade mix taste better, but it's also more affordable and time-saving to keep a jar of this stuff in the pantry. You can alter the recipe below to suit your tastes - more or less of any ingredient will just make it "yours". Enjoy!

And if you want a super easy and delicious recipe in which to test out your homemade taco seasoning mix, try my friend Tracy's Crock Pot Tostadas...and check out her blog at http://outnumberedbythekids.blogspot.com/ for her Deal of the Day. Sweet!

Homemade Taco Seasoning Mix

1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried onion flakes
1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
1/2 - 1 cup chili powder (we use 1/2 c.)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin (I love cumin!)
4 teaspoons salt

Put all ingredients into a jar with a tight fitting lid (I like canning jars personally). Shake to mix. Use to taste in whatever recipe you choose - approximately 1/2 cup equals one seasoning packet from the store, but I frequently use less, especially if I add more chili powder to the mix.

Tracy's Crock Pot Tostadas
6 to 10 servings

1 lb ground beef-browned and drained
2 cans refried beans
1 envelope dry taco seasoning mix (or use homemade version above!!)
8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
10 tostada shells ( I skip this and use tortilla chips instead)
diced tomatoes
shredded cheddar cheese
black olives
sour cream

Combine ground beef, beans, seasoning, tomato sauce and water in crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours. Crisp tostada shells (or just use tortilla chips, Fritos, etc.). Spread hot mixture on shells and top with remaining ingredients OR scoop hot mixture onto plate, top w/ remaining ingredients and scoop with chips.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Today is Earth Day, so I thought it would be appropriate to tell you about a "green" effort I've undertaken. At home, we have been increasing our general recycling and trying to use fewer disposable paper products by using rags instead of paper towels for cleaning, cloth napkins instead of paper, glassware instead of plastic, etc. And of course, we traded in the H3 for the Prius (hee hee! sorry honey.) But this past winter, I started a worm compost bin for our preschool.

My friend Sandy, the Green Guru, turned me on to an idea known as Vermicomposting. Her blog is here, http://modern-simplicity.blogspot.com/ and I highly recommend checking her out!

To put it simply, vermicomposting is using worms to convert organic waste into usable compost for the garden. It's really easy to do, fortunately for me because (I hate to admit it) sometimes if new things are hard, I just won't try it. But I'm so glad I did, because (1) kids love worms and (2) it's totally good for the environment.

Want to make your own worm bin? Here's how.....

1) Gather up the following supplies
  • an old plastic storage container (fairly large, like a Rubbermaid tub)
  • a handful of red wiggler worms (from the bait shop or online)
  • a handful of soil
  • some kitchen scraps
  • some newspaper
2) Toss the worms in the tub with the soil and the food, cover them in barely damp newspaper strips and put the lid on. Don't forget to poke holes in the tub's lid for air circulation.

3) Every week or so, add more scraps and newspaper strips as needed. In a few months, you'll have wonderfully rich compost for your garden or houseplants. You'll also have a lot more worms -- they multiply like crazy in there. Happy worms make a lot of babies, so I've heard.

4) Generally, you want to put only raw fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags, coffee grounds and the like in the bin. Stay away from meats, oils, dairy products, orange rinds and other citrus fruits. Worms also like a weekly eggshell or crushed Tums.

At school, the students give their teachers any leftover scraps from lunches - surprisingly, nobody is "saving" lunches for the worms...just giving them things like brown spots from bananas or the peels or crust from a sandwich. It's very cute. At first, one of the teachers found an escapee on the floor one morning before class. I'm sorry to say, he didn't make it. But I believe that was the only casualty. And we know now that if they try to escape, they are not happy. In this case, a little more newspaper and water did the trick.

I'll be taking home the preschool worm bin for the summer and hopefully keeping them alive and happy. My daughter has a new fascination with worms, and has even created her own mini worm bucket in the garage. She found a new worm today and now there are 7 of them. Plus one leaf and a bunch of dirt...and some grass clippings.

I would also like to state for the record, I will never actually have to touch a worm. I will use a spoon, if necessary. Or have my daughter do it. She will be more than happy to volunteer for worm duty. Actually, maybe I can convince her this is a new pet. Yeah, that way...we won't ever have to get a dog!

Do you vermicompost? Are you going to give it a shot? Drop me a comment and let me know! (and check out Sandy's blog for more details on starting your own bin)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Goodwill....Great Deals!

I can smell a bargain a mile away. That's why I knew I had to stop in at the local Goodwill store after yoga class yesterday. See, I've been staking out 2 Coach bags for a while now...watching, waiting, hoping that they would soon go half price. Yesterday, I had the feeling! I went in, checked the color of the week and...YES! It was blue! So I headed to the locked case and asked to see "my" two purses. I bought them both, along with a blue tagged s'mores maker for $4. One purse was $10 and the other was $7.50....success!

What's that? You don't know what the color of the week means? (GASP!) Each item is marked with a price tag which includes a color code. Each Sunday, the sale code color changes, and that means it's HALF OFF. Such a great deal, especially if you can find things that are clearly worth more than the price tag states.

My favorite things to get at Goodwill are Coach bags, wood furniture, and kitchen gadgets like bread machines and juicers. When my daughter was smaller, I frequently would find barely used Hanna Andersson dresses for her as well. For the record, I draw the line at a few items. There are several things I will never buy from a Goodwill store, including shoes for myself, unders, bathing suits and food. That's just me though.

Did you know that Target uses Goodwill to dump all their unsold merchandise? I've seen loads of new-in-box Target furniture and toiletries (yesterday it was mostly hair dye and anti-gas meds).

Really, if you think about it, getting things on sale like this is actually like making money. Don't you agree? :)

Leave me a comment and share your best Goodwill find!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Best. Jam. Ever.

I love making jam. I do not love eating jam. Frankly, I just don't really like fruit so jam never really hits the spot for me. But several years before my Dad died, he taught me how to make and can homemade jam. I have fond memories of he and his girlfriend making jam during the summer and early fall at my grandmother's house in Michigan. The smell of hot fruited sugar can't be beat. And now that my Dad is gone, I cherish those memories more than ever...and continuing the tradition of making jam helps me keep him close.

So yesterday I realized I had a 2.5 lb bag of pie cherries in the outside freezer that I intended to use for jam this winter. Oops. I ended up making a quick batch while my daughter was at a playdate. It only took me 45 minutes to make a batch of the best cherry jam ever. Typically, I'm a certo girl. Certo, for those new to the process, is pectin (which makes the fruit set up into jam, rather than sauce). Certo is a liquid which comes in a pouch, and it's the only thing my Dad would use. But I wanted to make sugar-free jam, and certo requires sugar, lots of sugar. Instead, I deviated from the norm and went with Ball Natural Gel No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin, in a box...cause it's a powder.

Making jam is really very simple and I'll outline it for you here, in case you want to give it a try. The first time you make jam, you'll be hooked. Trust me.

What you need:
canning jars
lids & rings (must be new)
stock pot
sugar or splenda
lid magnet (a stick with a magnet on it, I'll explain this later)
damp towel

What you do:

PREPARE: Put your jars into the dishwasher and run it with the heated dry cycle. You need to sterilize the jars and keep them hot. Put the lids and rings into a saucepan filled with water and boil them, keeping them on the heat until you're ready to can.

COOK: Next, follow the instructions on your pectin package. They are pretty much all the same, and it involved cooking the prepared fruit (*prepared meaning chopped or crushed, sometimes adding lemon juice) over high heat with sugar, stirring constantly. When the fruit and sugar reaches a rolling boil, add the pectin and cook for 5 minutes or so, depending on the pectin package. A rolling boil is one that you can't stir down.

JAR: Once the timer rings, you'll ladel the hot jam into the hot jars. Take only 2-3 jars out of the dishwasher at a time, fill those, then grab a few more until all the jam is in jars. Wipe off all the edges of the jars with a damp towel so they are clean. Then, take the stick with a magnet on it and grab the lids from the saucepan, place them on top of the jars. Do the same with the rings. Screw the rings on, only as tight as you can using your fingertips...ie, not too tight.

SEAL: Here's where things get a little controversial....I pretty much only use what is called the Inversion Method. That's what Dad used, so that's what I use. After the jars have lids and rings, flip them upside down onto a clean towel on the counter. Time it for exactly 5 minutes. No more, no less. FIVE minutes. After 5 minutes is up, flip them right side up. Then, you wait. You'll hopefully hear the "pop" of each lid sealing. Don't touch them or test them out for several hours or you risk accidentally creating a false seal by pressing on the top of the lid. (My husband did this once, he knows better now.)

Now if the jars don't seal, that's when I might do a water-bath. I don't even want to get into the details of a water-bath, it's just a PITA really. It's not hard, but I rarely use it. Some people will tell you that it's not safe to invert for canning. But for over 25 years of eating my Dad's jam and almost 10 years of canning myself, I'm perfectly content with inversion and feel confident that it's safe. And since I never enter contests with my jam, I think I'm fine. (contests usually specifically state you can't use inversion)

So there you have it.
Jam Making & Canning 101.

Hmmm, maybe that should have been the title for this post.....

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homemade Laundry Soap

More homemade stuff today, this time it's laundry soap. Eventually I'll add pictures, but for now just imagine in your mind what these things look like. Thanks.

So, everyone uses laundry soap. And it's not cheap. Or if it is cheap, it doesn't clean very well in my experience. As an alternative, I decided to try a homemade "recipe" for laundry soap that a bunch of my friends are using...and it turns out that I really love it! It's easy to make, very economical and, since you only use one-two tablespoons per load, it saves me time in the long run because I don't have to continuously buy laundry soap.

Here's the basic recipe below with instructions. I keep mine in an old coffee can. It's plastic, so maybe it's more of a coffee tub. None-the-less, it's there, and it lasts a long time. You can use the aforementioned pure essential oils from your sugar scrub recipe too if you want to fragrance it up a bit. See, now that's thrifty! I don't, personally, because I like it just the way it is. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Oh, and one tip is that you'll need a grater. Specifically, I recommend a microplane. Trust. Without one, if you're anything like me, you'll cut your knuckles up during the assembly process. Microplane is the way to go, it gets a finer grate AND it's safer. :)

Basic Homemade Laundry Soap

one bar Fels-Naptha (found in the laundry section, it's a bar of soap for laundry not bodies)
one box of Arm & Hammer washing soda (not baking soda, not laundry detergent, "washing soda" - it's a powder, also found in the laundry isle)
one box of Borax powder (guess where this is...yep, laundry isle)

Grate fels bar with a microplane. If you use a regular box grater, please be careful and use the smallest grate you can. Add one cup each of the Borax and the Arm & Hammer washing soda. If you have lots of stains, you can add an additional 1/2 cup of the Borax for added cleaning power. Mix and store in a container with a lid.

To use:
Add one to two tablespoons to each wash load. Add essential oil if you like.

Obviously, this recipe is for a powder soap. Historically, I never liked using powders, but this soap has changed my mind. I love it. You will too. Believe me. Have I ever steered you wrong?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Sugar Scrub

I like to make things from scratch. I think it's that feeling of accomplishment that gets me hooked. It could also be the fact that I'm cheap. Er...um...thrifty. Yea, thrifty is a better word. In any case, if I can make something homemade that equals or is better than store-bought, then I'm all over it.

So right now, my thing is sugar scrub. I adore a good sugar scrub. I also find them exceedingly necessary during dry skin weather. Before I shave my legs, I use my sugar scrub to exfoliate and then I don't get those itchy, red bumps all over the place. Plus, sugar scrubs smell so nice, they make me smile!

Recently I realized that I was paying way, way too much for a sugar scrub. Because really, how hard is it to make a sugar scrub?? Not hard at all! Here's my recipe below. You can get creative and adjust not only the ingredients (change up the oil or fragrance) but also the measurements. It's all up to you. Enjoy!

Basic Sugar Scrub

oil -I use sweet almond oil with a touch of olive oil
sugar - I use white sugar, but sometimes do half white and half brown....divine!
fragrance - I believe 100% pure essential oils work best, make sure you use one that is meant for the body, not a room freshener. I really like Young Living brand oils, they are therapeutic grade.

Find a container to hold your sugar scrub. Tupperware is good, or a glass jar with a secure lid. Just realize that you'll be slippery and wet when you use it, so glass might not be the best choice if you're slightly clumsy. Add as much sugar as you want to the container (start with one cup), then pour in some oil (start with 1/4 cup) and mix until you have the consistency of wet sand. Next add a couple drops of essential oil fragrance. If you like it stronger, add more.

Voila, sugar scrub!

Pamper yourself with a daily or weekly sugar scrub. You, and your skin, deserve it.

(I've had a special request so tomorow, I'll share my homemade laundry soap recipe. It's easy and economical, plus it cleans big time.)

Thursday, April 16, 2009


In yoga, the word namaste is said to mean "The light within me honors the light within you.". As an aspiring yogi, I want to welcome you to my blog! Simply Claudine is my attempt at journaling things I find interesting or useful or just plain cool, from homemade laundry soap to delicious recipes to shopping bargains...and everything in between.

First things first, I want to acknowledge that yes, if all my friends were to jump off a bridge, it is quite possible that I too would jump off said bridge. Why? Because I love my friends. I trust my friends. And if they all jump, there must be a good reason. So it stands to reason that since practically everyone I know has a blog, I need one too. In my defense, I do have a dozen full journals in my closet from my high school and college days, so writing to myself and documenting my existence is not a completely new concept for me. Blogging just makes things a little more public.

So... read on my friends, the best is yet to come!