Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall on in

Well fall is FINALLY here! Despite the fact that we broke a record for the hottest September 23rd in history here in Indianapolis, I'm still loving the fact that it is fall. I spent some time this past weekend changing out some decorations inside my house. I love the colors of fall so many of the things in my home are beautiful fall colors already, but I have a few money saving tips to stretch a buck when decorating!
1. Pillow covers
I was fortunate to snag some awesome deals at Target this summer on some throw pillow slip covers. I picked them up in navy blue, summery blue stripes, red, and striped red/orange/beige. The striped fall color slip covers and red slip covers have covered the cream microfiber pillows that came with my couch. I threw in some metallic brown and beige pillows I have from Old Time Pottery ($5.99 each) to create a great fall mood in my living room.

2. Using candles
Clustering neutral and fall colored candles on a simple brown patterned tray created a nice addition to my bar top. I love clustering candles of different sizes together to add some visual interest to an otherwise bland area. Here are some examples.

3. Dollar store accessories
Towels, candles, picture frames, and other various accessories don't have to be expensive. Check out your local dollar store to find some of these things on the cheap. I have a magnetic hook on my front door where I hang a sign for every season. Here is my fall one.

Some hand towels I got at Dollar Tree.

Kitchen dish towels I got at Dollar Tree.

4. Re-purposing
One thing I love to do is save the corks from my wine bottles. I keep them in a glass holder to add a wood feeling to the room. I love the aged look and people always compliment me on how creative it is. You could do the same thing with wood shavings, coffee beans, flower petals, fallen leaves (real or fake) or branches/twigs.

I hope you enjoy the feeling(although not quite the temperature) of fall by partaking in your favorite fall activities. Mine definitely includes drinking my favorite pumpkin spice latte and stepping on crunchy leaves. Last year I even had the inspiration to take up some photography of some trees at the park down the street.

Link up with my friend Cait's fall day at theblessedlife! What a great and inspiring blog :) She is truly an inspiration for the creative frugal outlet in all of us! Sounds good to me!


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Quick cooking

Hello lovely readers! I have to admit that amidst all of the hectic days lately, I've been wanting to share some struggles I'm having. Busy does not even begin to describe how life gets during soccer season. I'm eating horribly or not at all (well cereal counts right...) because I'm getting home so late from soccer. I have tried freezer meals (homemade and store bought), but even that seems to be a struggle at times. When my life is normal, I tend to take my leftovers as my lunch the next day. I have bought the fixings for some delicious sandwiches, which have unfortunately remained in my refrigerator since I NEVER wake up early enough to tackle this in the morning. I've resulted to taking soup for lunch or making the quick trip to the Subway right around the corner from school for a scrumptious $5 foot long. With saving so much more for retirement this year, I cannot afford to do the Jared diet too often. I've been getting some great deals at the store lately (when I actually have time to go) and I want to take advantage of my creativity to incorporate fall veggies into meals! I just can't seem to figure out healthy options that take limited amounts of cooking time for maximum flavor. So today I decided while watching football to tackle all the resources that I have for advice. Here are just a few of my solutions. Feel free to share some other ideas for healthy eating with limited time and money.
1. Crock pot meals-my quick fixes for the next 2 weeks will be 2 different chicken recipes and one for pot roast. One chicken breast, 1/2 cup rice, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup teriaki, and 1 cup mixed stir fry veggies. One chicken breast, 1/2 cup whole wheat couscous, 1/3 cup water, 3 cloves garlic (smashed), 2 sprigs of rosemary, 6 mushrooms, sliced. 1 pot roast, 1/2 cup water, 1 potato in chunks, 1 carrot, sliced, 1 onion, chunked. All can be cooked on low for 6 hours.
2. Macaroni Grill and Bird's Eye Voila frozen meals-I personally love the Chicken Florentine(MG) and shrimp scampi (Voila). Both are delicious! I used $1.50 off coupons to get the MG ones for about $4.00 each. I used $1 off coupons to get the Voila ones for about $2.50 each. I can definitely get dinner and a lunch out of 1 of these.
3. Weekend cooking-Over make weekend meals then package them up in individual portions for the whole week. Throw some yogurt, string cheese, or a fruit cup in the lunch bag for a well balanced meal.
4. Quick cook recipes from cookbooks and my Food TV magazines. I love Rachael Ray....that being said, I have a number of her 30 minute meal cookbooks. I've used post it flags to mark some of my favorite recipes that I can make in 30 minutes or less. I was also fortunate enough to receive a one year subscription to Food TV magazine using points from My Coke Rewards. I am about to extend this as a paid subscription because it is such a wonderful I got an offer to get the whole year for just $5 that I couldn't pass up. Food Network also has a database of all their recipes online. You can just enter the ingredients you have on hand and it will find a meal for you.

What resources do you use to try new meals with limited time and a limited budget?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fall is in the air

Well hello again blogging world! I know it has been quite sometime since I've posted. Things are finally calming down with the first few weeks of school and I am finding some inspiration in all things fall. Some people really love summer, but I LOOOOOOOVE fall. There is nothing like beautifully colored leaves falling off the trees, enjoying a pumpkin spice latte, and curling up in front of the fireplace. It has been a hot summer here in Indiana and I cannot wait for a break. This weekend it has provided some relief from the dreadful it's gotten me in the mood for stepping on crunchy leaves and opening up all the windows. I spent much of the beginning of the weekend in Zionsville coaching my soccer team. While it wasn't the most successful weekend with standings, it was wonderful soccer weather. On my way to our demonically early soccer game on Saturday morning, I stopped at Starbucks to partake in my first venti pumpkin spice latte of the season. It could not have been more perfect! Slightly pumpkinny, with a little kick of nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon in the delightful pumpkin spice, and perfectly frothed milk. Saturday night provided the opportunity to share some time with some wonderful friends by the first bonfire of the year. The popping of the fire, smell of campfire on my clothes, and roasted marshmallows made it almost nostalgic. Football season starts next week as well. In light of my favorite season, I thought I would share a homemade recipe that I tried this morning for homemade pumpkin spice lattes. It wasn't exactly like Starbuck's, but it was good none the less. Enjoy the latte with a good book in the living room with all the windows open for full fall effect.
Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

2 tablespoons canned pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons white sugar --I use Splenda :)
1 cup fat free milk
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 (1.5 fluid ounce) jigger brewed espresso

Brew espresso. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, whisk together the pumpkin, vanilla, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and milk. Warm over medium heat, whisking constantly, until hot and frothy. Do not bring to a boil. Pour the espresso into a mug and pour the pumpkin spiced milk over it. Top with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice.
***If you have a milk frother, use that instead of a whisk. It works to froth the milk much better than the whisk.

What are your favorite fall recipes? Share away!