Saturday, May 30, 2015

Dare to Share #165

It is Friday night, and you know what that means.. 
It is time for Dare to Share! 

It has been an exciting week here. Yesterday the Seniors got their caps and gowns. We have a tradition at our school that the Seniors walk the hallways for the last time, and then head outside for a Senior picnic.  She decided did not want to go to the picnic, but she did allow me to take several pictures.  Now that I see her in her cap and gown, it is starting to feel more real.  Next week is rehearsal, and then on Saturday graduation. 

This week I shared how to Save Money on Your Summer Cookout.  I showed how I was able to plan a cookout for 8-10 people for under $30.

I also shared a dessert Kara made for Memorial Day Strawberry Shortcake Cake.  This cake tasted just like actual strawberry shortcake. 

With our crazy schedule this past week, I was not able to share features from last week's party.  I will be doing that this weekend. 

I will also have to come back and share a post from my co-host from Kim from Kandy Kreations. It seems her blog is unavailable at the moment.  I think it is my Chrome. 

Now it is time for this week's party.  You are welcome to link up anything that you would like to share.  If you are chosen as a Dare to Share Feature of the Day your post will be featured on the blog and my social media.  Kim also chooses features for her blog and social media.

Now link up and HAVE FUN! 


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Friday, May 29, 2015

Strawberry Shortcake Cake

This past weekend we were going to make a red, white and blue cake for Memorial Day. When I went to the store though, it seems none of the stores had any blueberries due to recent weather issues.  I did find some tiny containers available at one store, but they were $3.99. Um, no thank you. Two of the stores were supposed to have a bigger size on sale for $1.50, so I was not going to pay more than double for just a few berries.   I did find a great deal on strawberries at Aldi.  A pound container was only .99, so I picked up two.    Kara wanted to make the dessert. Since we only had strawberries, I told her she could make whatever she wanted.  

She loves Strawberry Shortcake, which gave her an idea.  She wanted to try and make a strawberry cake.  We picked up a box of Angel Food cake, and made it using a bundt pan. 

She cut up one of the containers of strawberries. I was not sure she planned to use them on the cake.  

She filled up the hole completely with strawberries. She knew she wanted to cover the cake with something but did not want to use frosting.

Every summer I make a Easy 4th of July Strawberry Pie. For this pie, I make a strawberry gel that she thought would be perfect for her cake.   We tried a very similar recipe for the gel, and it made way too much for what we needed. We should have stuck with the orginal amount.  

1 cup sugar 
1 1/4 cups water 
2 Tbsp of cornstarch 
1/4 cup of strawberry jello 

Bring the sugar, water and cornstarch to a boil over medium heat.  Stir frequently.  As the mixture starts to boil it will thicken.  When all of the sugar has dissolved at the strawberry jello, and remove from heat. 

Once the gel had cooled, she covered the cake with it.  She also covered the entire top with more cut strawberries. 

When we cut into the cake, the berries spilled out.  

We added a little whip cream, and this yummy cake tasted just like strawberry shortcake! 

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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Saving Money on your Summer Cookout

Now that summer is here, it is time for summer parties and family cookouts.  This past weekend I planned a cookout with enough food  feed 8-10 people for under $30.  I am going to share my money saving tips, that you can use for your summer get togethers, and even weekly grocery shopping.  

1. Check the Store Flyers  

We have four grocery stores in our town.  I usually do most of my shopping at Aldi, but this week both Kroger and Meijer had very good sales as well.  I decided it would be worth my while to go all three to save the most money.  I went through the flyers and made a list of what I thought I would like to buy, and which store had the best price on particular sale items. If you do not get a newspaper, that is okay.  You can see the flyers each week on the store's website.  

2. Check a Deal Website 

After I have a tentative list on my own, I check the deal websites for see a full list of deals. My personal favorite is Bargains to Bounty.  One  reason why it is my favorite is it is more local to where I live, and the deals are  for the stores where I shop.  There are many other great sites as well, that specialize in stores around the country.  I got through the deals and add them to my list. I might also cross off things from my tentative list if I see a better deal somewhere else.  

3. Use a Variety of Coupons 

There are several types of coupons available to use on your groceries.  I used a combination of all of them. If you do not have flyer coupons,  or do not want to clip them that is okay. Many stores have digital coupons on their websites that you can add to your rewards card or perks account.   They might go by different names such as MPerks (Meijer) or Cartwheel (Target) but they all work the same way.  Just load them to your account online, and the savings show up at the register.  In addition to flyer coupons, and store coupons, I also print coupons from several online sites. 

Once I made my list, checked the deals, and clipped my coupons, it was time to go to the store.  

Here is just some of the great deals that I found this week.. While I bought more than I normally do, I actually saved a lot more money.  I stocked up on several items, and currently have enough food for over ten meals.  

One of the very best deals that I found this past week was the Corn on the Cob.  Meijer had corn 8 for $1.  Normally corn on the cob is in the .25 to .30 per ear range.  This week it was under .13 a ear, which is 50% off!  Not only was this an amazing deal, it tasted super sweet and delicious. 

Here is the rest of the menu, and how much I spent 

2 packages of Johnsonville brats on sale for $2.89 each. (normally $4.99)   I used a $1 off coupon making each package only $2.39.  (a 48% savings) 

a package of buns .89 (Aldi regular price) 

A bag if frozen chicken breast on sale for $6.99 (normally $9.99) 

A package of Ball Park Franks on sale for $1.25 (normally $2.99)  we did not end up eating these, so we have them for a later day. 

A 2 lb container of macaroni salad $2.49 (Aldi regular price) 

A jar of peach mango salsa $1.89 (Aldi regular price) 

A bag of tortilla ships $1.69 (Aldi regular price) 

8 ears of corn on the cob $1 

large watermelon on sale for $3.48 (normally $5.99) 

For dessert my daughter made Strawberry Shortcake Cake.  We ended up being so full on the other food, that we ended up eating it today. (recipe to be posted soon! It tastes just like strawberry shortcake)  

Box of angel food cake .99 (Aldi regular price) 

a package of strawberries  .99 (on sale at  Aldi) 

a container of Cool Whip .99 (normally $1.99) 

The final price for our cook out $27.43  
Regular price $42.88

 I saved $15.45, 36% off my total with just a few simple steps, and very little work. 

Here are some more ways you can save in the summer that you might not have thought about..  

Stock up on condiments and meats the week before a summer holiday. You can find items like ketchup, mustard, mayo and hot dogs at some of their best sale prices of the summer. 

Buy in season fruit when it is at it's cheapest and freeze for later 

If you have a U Pick farm nearby, buy in bulk and freeze. If you know how, make homemade jelly and jam.  

If you have a green thumb, grow a veggie garden.  My favorite is home grown tomatoes right out of my garden.  

Do you have any more ideas on how to save money in the summer. I would love to hear about them.  

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Happy Memorial Day

While we are having cook outs and spending time with friends and family today, it is good to remember why we are having Memorial Day.  We are remembering those in the armed forces who died for our freedom.   I love this picture I took of my daughter several years ago. She was walking with her brownie troop in our town's Memorial Day parade.  She was so excited when the processional started moving that she raised her flag in the air, and started waving it. Maybe you went to a parade today. Maybe you will be celebrating with friends.  However you decide to spend the day, I hope you have a safe and happy Memorial Day. 
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Friday, May 22, 2015

Dare to Share #164

It is Friday night, and you know what that means..  
It is time to Dare to Share! 

We are getting into crunch time.  In the next few weeks we will be having the end of school, a graduation, a dance banquet/rehearsal/recital and massive garage sale.    

Today was a bittersweet day.  Today was the last day of high school for my oldest daughter. We have worked so hard to get to this point.  During high school she has been in a program called seat time waiver.  She is the first student to graduate from our high school  being in the program for all 4 years.  In the beginning of her Freshman year, we found that traditional school was too overwhelming for her.  Her principal who knew her in middle school and then moved up to the high school. He was in charge of the students in the program, and said she was perfect for the online program. That year you had to get special permission to be part of it.   Every single day of high school I would drive her to school later in the day.  She would do her elective classes at the high school, and then do her core classes online.   I am so thankful that we had this opportunity for this non traditional approach to school.  When she was a sophomore, they opened the availability to take online classes to all students.  Her brother is taking one next year since he wants to take German as his foreign language, and they do not have the class at the high school.  For one of her science credits she got to take Oceanography. Isn't that cool?! .  That is not really a class you would think that would be taught at a high school in the middle of Michigan  I have not really cried yet, but next week during the Senior walk, and then during graduation, I know I am going to be a crying my eyes out.  

I am in the process of working on two posts.  I just did not have a chance to finish them yet. As you know this weekend is Memorial Day and the kick off to summer.   I have invited a few friends over for a cookout.  Today my daughter and I went grocery shopping and got all of our food for the big day for only $30.  On the menu, grilled chicken, brats, hot dogs, macaroni salad, tortilla chips and salsa, watermelon, a flag cake (minus the blueberries, there is  shortage in our area) and S'mores. I am going to share some of my best shopping for a party on a budget tips.   I am also working on some of the best party finds for your summer parties.  We hope to have a graduation party later in the summer, so I hope to have some good ideas to share.  

Because it is almost summer, Homemade Frozen Treats as the Features of the Day this week.    

Blueberry Pear Ice Pops by Lemons and Laughs
Strawberry Sorbet by Home Cooking Memories
Frozen Hot Chocolate by Frozen Hot Chocolate
Sangria Popsicles by Lipgloss and Crayons

Not pictured but also featured Bubble Gum Frozen Yogurt and Ultimate Ice Cream Float by Kleinworth & Co.  

I love chocolate covered Oreos and my co-host Kim from Kandy Kreations always has some super cool ones to share.  If you like superheros check out these Super Easy Chocolate Covered Superman Cookies

It is now time for this week's party.  You are welcome to link up anything that you would like to share.  If you are chosen as a Dare to Share Feature of the Day, your post will be featured on the blog and social medial.  This part is also seen on Kandy Kreations for double the exposure.  Kim also chooses posts from the party to feature on her blog and social media  

 Now link up and HAVE FUN!  

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Homemade Frozen Treats for Summer - Features of the Day

With Memorial Day just a few days away, and having several days in the 80s I thought it would be the perfect time to feature some delicious homemade frozen treats.  

 These Blueberry Pear Ice Pops by Miranda of Lemons and Laughs, are healthy and full of fruit. 

Use those fresh in season strawberries to make Strawberry Sorbef without an ice cream maker like Brandie of Home Cooking Memories.

Love hot chocolate in the winter?  Turn it into Frozen Hot Chocolate like Jenn of Clean & Scentsible.

For an adult treat you might want to try this Sangria Popsicles by Carly of Lipgloss and Crayons. She shares recipes for several different flavors.  

Want to see a few more recipes for frozen treats.  Stop over and see Bubble Gum Frozen Yogurt and the Ultimate Ice Cream Float by Gina of Kleinworth & Co. 

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Dare to Share #163

It is Friday night, and you know what that means.. 
It is time to Dare to Share! 

How is your week going?  Last Sunday when my kids took me to dinner for Mother's Day, we were greeted by this sweet family of geese that I shared on Instagram  They were kind of an unexpected site in a busy restaurant parking lot. 

Also this week, I featured Six Strawberry Recipes that are perfect for summer..  

No Bake Strawberry Pistachio Cardamon Tart by Spoonful of Flavor
Strawberry Limeade Rum Punch by All She Cooks
Strawberry Goat Cheese Crostini by Just Us Four

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberry Bread by Simply Stacie
Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Apple Galette by A Pretty Life
Strawberry & Lemon Caipirinha by A Dish of Daily Life

I shared a post on How to Save Money on Textbooks, which is great timing because my daughter is just about to graduate 

Today I shared a post on a simple test I found out what  you can do to see if Eggs are still safe to eat.

My co-host Kim from Kandy Kreations has a lot of great ideas for the end of school, and graduation like these Printable Candy Wrappers

Now it is time for this week's party.  You are welcome to link up anything you would like to share.  If you are chosen as a Dare to Share Feature of the day, your post will be featured on the blog and my social media.  Kim also chooses features to share on her blog and social media

Now link up and HAVE FUN! 


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Friday, May 15, 2015

Are Your Eggs Still Safe to Eat?

I had not planned on writing this post today, it kind of just happened naturally.  I wanted to make some eggs for breakfast this morning, when I noticed the date on the end of the carton. It was dated about 3 weeks ago.   I wanted to know if my eggs were still safe to eat. 

Meaning of expiration date on egg carton

I had heard somewhere that eggs were still good well  past the date on the carton, but I could not remember for how long.  I did some research, and found several sites saying the same thing.  Do you remember my post about the How to Figure Our the Expiration Date of Wilton  Candy Melts?  I found out that the number system on eggs is very similar.    You will see two numbers on the egg carton along with a date.   The number that begins with a P, that is the number of the plant where your eggs were processed.   The other number, in this case the 086, is the date the eggs were packed based on the Julian calendar.  To figure out what day it means, just look up Julian Calendar in your browser, and you will see several choices to choose from.  I found out 086, means March 27. 

I also found out that sell by, best by and expiration date all mean the same thing, and it will say different things depending on the plant.   That date can not be more than 30 days after the date the eggs were packed, according to USDA regulations.  So even though it says the eggs expired on April 25th, that is definitely not the case.  If you get rid of your eggs by the date on the package, you are throwing away a lot of eggs that are still good to eat. According to What's Cooking America eggs are safe to eat  4 to 5 weeks after the date as long as they are stored properly. 

Float eggs to tell their freshness

I also found out that there is a very easy test to see how fresh your eggs really are. To check, just fill a bowl or glass with cold water.   If the egg sinks and lays flat, it is still fresh.   If your egg sinks and stand up on it's side a little like this one, that is okay too.  They are still fresh enough to eat, and at the perfect stage to turn into hard boiled eggs.  Did you know that if you use a very fresh egg for a hard boiled egg it is much harder to peel?  So if you want to take a batch of deviled eggs to a party or picnic, they will look a lot better if you use eggs a few weeks old.  If your egg floats you should throw it away  because it is no longer fresh.  Another interesting fact that I learned.  The reason why an egg that floats is no longer fresh is because their shell is porous.  Air enters the egg through the shell. The more air inside the egg, the older the egg is and the more buoyant it will be.  It is also best to store your eggs inside the carton on the inside of the fridge.  Storing open in the door will cause your eggs to go bad much sooner.  

The next time you want to make eggs, be sure to try this simple test and figure out if they are still safe to eat. 

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How to Save Money on Textbooks

Disclosure:  I partnered with Campus Book Rentals on this post.  All opinions about Campus Book Rentals and Operation Smile are 100% mine. 

I have partnered with Campus Book Rentals on my blog for the last few years.  I think they are a wonderful company who also helps out children in need with every textbook rented. This time though, working with them takes on a special meaning. My oldest child is going to be graduating from high school in a couple of weeks. I am not sure where the time went. While she is not going to travel to go to school, she is thinking about a great community college in the area with an art program. When it comes time for her to get textbooks, we know the first place we are going to go. 

Did you know that you can rent college textbooks? Back when I went to college, that was not an option. We had to spend hundreds of dollars on books that we were only going to use for a few months, and hope that we could sell them back at a much lower price at the end of the semester. Renting your textbooks from Campus Books Rentals, you can save 40-90% off the cost of buying, and do not have worry about what to do with the book when the class is done. Shipping is free both ways, which saves you even more money. If you like to highlight in your textbooks, that is okay too.  The company knows that different schools are in session at different times, so they offer very flexible renting periods.  

For every textbook rented, Campus Book Rentals donates to the organization Operation Smile.  Operation Smile has been in existence for over 30 years, and to date has provided over 220,000 free surgeries for children with cleft lips, cleft palates, and other facial deformities around the world.  They have saved the lives of thousands and thousands of children over the years.  I love that you can save money renting something you need, and help save lives at the same time. 

Want to learn more about the benefits of renting textbooks, check out this video: 

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Six Strawberry Recipes - Features of the Day

I mentioned during the Dare to Share party that I had a feature planned from last week.. A recent trend I a noticing is a lot more things made with strawberries.  I LOVE strawberries and where I live we are very close to the upcoming season.  Here are SIX great strawberry recipes that are great for summer time. 

No Bake Strawberry Pistachio Cardamom Tart by Ashley of Spoonful of Flavor
This yummy dessert has a gluten free crust and made from a few simple ingredients 

Strawberry Limeade Rum Punch by Jessica of All She Cooks
This fruity drink is perfect for the summer time while hanging out with friends.

Strawberry Goat Cheese Crostini by Shannah of Just Us Four
This dish makes a great spring lunch or bridal/baby shower treat. 

Cream Cheese Stuffed Strawberry Bread by Stacie of Simply Stacie
Perfect as a snack or dessert and served with vanilla ice cream 

Strawberry, Rhubarb, and Apple Galette by Jo-Ann of  A Pretty Life
This rustic pie can be made with your favorite fruits. 

Strawberry and Lemon Caipirinha by Michelle of A Dish of Daily Life
Another fruity drink that is great for your upcoming summer parties 

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Dare to Share #162

It is Friday night, and you know what that means.. 
It is time to Dare to Share! 

It's been another crazy week here.  Tonight  was a Robotics banquet, a girls night out at church, and a school dance.  A lot more will be happening in the next few months, that I will be sharing at a later time.  I do have a feature for this past week  chosen, and it will be posted this weekend. 

This week I was able to do something special for a friend who could use a treat for Mother's Day.  I have a few friends who have lost their mothers, and this time of year can be a little hard for them. We had a very nice time, and it made her week a little brighter. You can read more about it in A Mother's Day Treat for a Special Mom.

My co-host Kim has a great Mommy Bingo Game Printable that would be fun to play with your family this weekend. Be sure to stop over and print a few game boards. 

Now it is time for this week's party.  You are welcome to link up anything you would like to share.  If you are chosen as a Dare to Share Feature of the Day,  your post will be shared on the blog on my social media.  Kim also choses features that are shared on her blog and social media.    

Now link up and HAVE FUN! 


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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Mother's Day Treat for a Special Mom

Disclosure: I was sent these treats by Shari Berries to share with a mom in my life.  All opinions in this post are 100% mine. 

I was recently given a great opportunity that I could not pass up.  I was asked to write a post about a mom in my life.  While I am close to my mom, she lives several states away and I do not have the chance to see  her very often.  I knew right away of another mom that I wanted to write about, my friend Rhonda.  I met Rhonda almost six years ago when we were both volunteering at our kids' elementary school.   We were both greeters who sat in the front hallway, and  welcomed parents when they came in the building.  I had the first shift of the morning, and she had the second. We started talking and realized we had a lot in common. Both of our boys were about the same age, and are very similar  My son had already been diagnosed with Aspergers, and her son was just starting the process. Not only did we become good friends, but our kids did as well.   Do you remember the milestone birthday Garden Party I shared a few years ago? How about  the It's Not a Party Until Someone Throws Up post?  That was her special birthday, and our kids having a great 4th of July holiday together.   

She has become one of my best friends, and is like an older sister to me.  She is a nurse who loves to take care of others, but doesn't always have the chance to do things for herself. This time of year can be a little hard for her.   Her mom is no longer with us, and she does not have a lot of family. I know she really misses her mom, and it is hard not to think about her with the constant reminders that are everywhere this week.  She has done so much for me over the years, and I really  wanted to something special just for her. She recently had a birthday, so I chose a day between her birthday and Mother's Day to celebrate.  I told her I had something special planned, but did not tell her anything else other than  she should come over hungry.  

Originally we were going to have lunch, but with our schedules it ended up being later in the day.  I knew we were going to have a decadent dessert, so I planned for a healthy meal.  We had chicken salad with cranberries and almonds, and homemade pepperoni pizza salad.  There was a little problem though, I forgot to pick up the pepperoni at the store so it was just pizza salad.  Since it was Cinco de Mayo, we also had blue chips in with individual bowls of mango salsa. (Aldis's has an excellent mango salsa for under $2!)  It was starting to get dark when we started to eat, so the lighting was not the best for pictures.  

Luckily I was able to take pictures of all the great goodies sent to me by Shari's Berries before dinner.  What they sent was amazing! Gourmet Dipped Strawberries that we gigantic, chocolate dipped cherries, and cheesecake bites. 

In addition to all of the other goodies, we also got Mother's Day Chocolate Covered Oreos. Yum! 

Everything looked so good, we had to try it all!  It tastes as good as it looks! It was the perfect  way to finish a special dinner.  Do you have a mom friend that might need a special treat this time of year?  
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