Skyzone…

Excuse the blurr, they didn’t want to stop jumping for the pic!!

What do you get when you mix a rainy day, two bored kids and an indoor trampoline park? Lots of fun!! I am talking about…

SKYZONE!!

This is a new facility that opened not far from our house and we tried it out today. The kids had a blast! It is a huge warehouse with tons of indoor trampolines – even the walls have trampolines on them! There are even areas where you play basketball and dodgeball using the trampolines to bounce up high.

It appeared to be fairly safe, the kids wear special shoes for jumping (they look similar to Nike Air Jordans) and there are foam mats surrounding all the trampolines. There are also adults walking around that work as “referees” to make sure that the kids do not break the rules or get hurt.

The normal price is $13/hour for each person jumping. I got a deal on SweetJack a few weeks ago for half price so I snagged those in order to try it with the kids. They also have a small snack bar with reasonably priced drinks and also offer birthday parties.

If you are looking for something to do with the kids on a rainy day, try Skyzone. It appears to be a franchise that is available in multiple cities throughout the US. Go to their website to find out more information, www.Skyzonesports.com.

**This review is my own opinion and Skyzone in no way compensated me for giving it. Amen.

 

Kid’s Consignment Sales…

I went to a children’s consignment sale the other night. When my kids were smaller I sold and bought at consignment all the time. Since they are older now, I haven’t been doing them as much. I decided to throw some stuff in a local church consignment sale and attend their presale and see what I could find. Wow, I forgot how much they have at these sales! If you need kids stuff, this is the place to be. They have everything from room decor, bedding, kids clothes, books, toys and baby equipment. I felt like the prices were reasonable compared to retail but after having shopped Thrift Stores and Yard Sales, they were definitely higher than that. I paid $33.00 for 13 items or $2.53/item. It is more than my ususal $1 finds at the Thrift Store but it was nice to have so much selection. I was able to get Brittany two swimsuits, two pairs of shorts, two skirts, a dress and a few tops. I even picked up a shirt for myself, a book for Josh and a movie for the kids. Saturday was half price day and I hit it again and founds a few more bargains than what is pictured here. To find a consignment sale in your area, try the website The Bargain Watcher, they have lists of sales in multiple states.

Here are some of the items that I got (sorry for the dark pics, I had my iphone with me at the time):

I sold in the above mentioned sale as well as purchased. My final total on what I sold was $80 after the church got their 30% cut (which is tax deductible). I really wasn’t selling very much to make this but it paid for what I bought and gave us some extra cash for future clothing purchases. I am also selling and buying in my first adult consignment sale next week.  That sale includes men and women’s clothing, shoes, home accessories, sports equipment and children’s toys. Consignment sales are a great way to earn a little extra money and clothe your family for much less than what you would pay retail.

 

 

Growing Older…

 

I turned 36 years old this weekend. It is a good thing. I am more comfortable at 36 than I was at 26. But growing older has some challenges that go with it. I am not saying that I am old but I am older than I was this time last week. As I grow older I find that it is more important than ever to take care of myself. I try to run three times a week, eat enough fruits and veggies and get plenty of sleep. But maybe I was not taking care of one part of my appearance. Let me tell you a little story…

A few weeks ago John and I were sitting in church and there was a lady sitting in front of us. She had very long hair and it had gone to a salt and pepper gray color. Neither one of us mentioned it until after church when John turned to me and asked me if I had noticed her hair. When I said that I had he commented that he didn’t want my hair to look like that.  Now, I have a few silver hairs that have shown up but I didn’t realize that John was concerned that I would not take care of myself. It was a little bit of an eye opener for me. I realized how important it is to take care of yourself. It makes you feel better and keeps the spark alive in your relationship.

Fast forward a few days later and I saw a Groupon for a Hair Salon near me. I was hesitant at first but decided that I didn’t really have much to loose. It is just hair and if it got messed up, it could be fixed. I bought the Groupon and I booked an appointment for a few weeks later. It was a good deal – cut, style and full highlights for $50 and I felt that I needed a little updating. But as soon as the appointment was made, I began to get a little freaked out. My biggest problem? A failure to communicate. I have in my head what I am looking for but for some reason when I try to communicate that with the stylist it never comes out the way that I had intended. I can go in armed with pictures and examples of hair colors or styles that I like but when I leave, it looks way different than I thought it would. This is what has stopped me in the past from taking care of this part of my appearance. It wasn’t really the money or the time, which is what I told myself, but my fear that I would not be able to tell the stylist what I wanted. Well, I had my appointment 2 days before my birthday. And the result? Beautiful. She did exactly what I asked her to do and it is looks very natural and fabulous. And I feel better for having had it done. Here is a picture of the back of my head in case you were wondering…

It is so important to take care of yourself, especially as you grow older. Not only physically but in all the areas of your life. You need to have balance and take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life and I hope to do it with continuos maintenance and improvements.

 

Blueberry Cream Muffins…

I love muffins. I have four different kinds of muffins in my freezer right now but that didn’t stop me from whipping up a new batch this morning. They make a quick breakfast, a great snack and they travel well in the kid’s book bags. This is a recipe that I found online the other day and since I also love blueberries, it seemed like a homerun. I added a little lemon extract and lemon zest to the batter to also give it a little pick me up. These came together fast and the look “blue”tiful!

Blueberry Cream Muffins

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup blueberries

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease 6 muffin cups or line with paper muffin liners.

In large bowl beat eggs, gradually add sugar while beating. Continue beating while slowly pouring in oil. Stir in vanilla. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt and baking soda.

Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with sour cream. Gently fold in blueberries. Scoop batter into prepared muffin cups.

Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes.

 

Grocery Totals and Weekly Menu 2/23/2012

It was a pretty good week this week. Nothing exceptional stood out. I did get an online bargain on Organic Maple Syrup at Vitacost.com. I normally buy Maple Syrup at Kroger and pay $6.59 for 8 ozs. We eat pancakes several morning a week at our house so I buy a bottle of syrup about every 2 weeks. I found a 32oz container of Pure Maple Syrup for $14.30 using an online coupon and free shipping. That comes out to be $3.57/8 ozs. Almost half of what I have been paying! I was happy to place the order and we will see how it all turns out! If you want to try Vitacost, you can get a free $10 credit when you sign up using my referral link – just click here to use it. And just to be honest, I will also get $10 when you sign up that I will probably use to buy more maple syrup!! (they also have a variety of vitamins and organic food available)

I also had 2 coupons for free 12 packs of Coke that I used this week. If you haven’t signed up for mycokerewards.com, you should do it. I enter the points that we get off of 12 packs and plastic bottle caps and then turn in the points for rewards such as the coupons for free 12 packs. They also have free tickets to movie theaters and free magazine subscriptions, among other things. Give it a try and see how fast your points add up!

Total Spent: $117.39
Total Value: $164.92
Total Saved: $47.53
*Plus $4 in Kroger Catalinas to spend next time I shop that is not reflected in these totals

Weekly Menu:

Friday:
Sesame Chicken
Steamed Broccoli
Rice

Saturday:
Out to Dinner for my birthday (not sure where yet!)

Sunday:
Chicken Tetrazzini
Homemade Rolls 

Monday:
Steak Fingers
Mashed Potatoes
Asparagus

Tuesday:
Sweet & Sour Chicken
Rice
Broccoli

Wednesday:
Famous Potato Bacon Soup
Homemade Rolls

Thursday:
Chicken Quesadillas
Rice

 

Here is this week’s recipe:
I will make 2 of these casseroles in 8×8 pans and freeze one for another night. Quick and easy!

Chicken Tetrazzini

INGREDIENTS

1 (8 ounce) package spaghetti, broken into pieces
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons sherry (I omit)
1 (4.5 ounce) can sliced mushrooms, drained (I use fresh if I have them)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

 

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.

2. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti, and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until al dente; drain.

3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring, until smooth. Remove from heat, and gradually stir in chicken broth and cream.

4. Return to heat, and bring to a low boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add sherry, then stir in cooked spaghetti, mushrooms, and chicken. Pour mixture into the prepared baking dish, and top with Parmesan cheese.

5. Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until bubbly and lightly browned.

 

 

Anniversary Savings…

Since Valentine’s Day was just upon us, I thought I would post about the anniversary trip that John and I took a few months ago. We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary in November. We like to take a small weekend trip for our anniversary most years since it is our one weekend each year that we get to be together and pretend we are living the pre-kid life. Not really since we normally end up talking to the kids atleast 10 times a day while we are gone but atleast we can sleep late. The above picture is us holding up as many fingers are we have been married – it is a cheesy thing we like to do for each anniversary. I guess when we get past 20 we will have to go someplace warm where we can be barefoot!

This past anniversary we went to Pigeon Forge, TN, and rented a mountain cabin. John did weeks of research and looking online to fine exactly the cabin he was looking for, and he did a wonderful job. It was slightly more expensive than a normal hotel room but having the extra space was well worth the increased cost. We save all year for our trip so we know ahead of time what our budget is going to be and that makes it a little easier to plan where we are going and what we will do. This year we wanted to try to have a relaxed time without spending much money and we accomplished that exactly. Here are some tips for saving on a trip:

Use the kitchen. We stopped at the grocery store when we got into town and bought drinks, snacks and breakfast food. We made use of our kitchen for several reasons. One, it is more economical to buy all of that at the grocery store than to run by a gas station or fast food place everytime you are thirsty or hungry. Second, it is quicker to be able to get up and make your own breakfast than it is to wait in a restaurant. Third, I prefer food cooked at home to most things that I eat at restaurants especially when it comes to breakfast. Here is John making breakfast one morning:

Eat cheap. When we did eat out, we normally did one of two things – we either shared a meal or we took leftovers back to the cabin. The main reason we did this is that the size of most meals that you get at restaurants are much larger than you would normally eat. I do not need to eat twice as much and feel uncomfortably full when it is not necessary. John and I have similar tastes so it is not a problem for us to share. We ordered pizza and salad from Mellow Mushroom the first night we were there and it was enough to have pizza for lunch the next day. Dinner the second night was at a great restaurant called Bull Fish Grill. We shared an appetizer, entree and dessert and it was more than we could eat (we actually took leftovers back from that too). If you have coupons for any of the places you will be eating while you are away that is even better. It is even worth it to try restaurants.com or Groupon in the area where you will be staying to see if they have any deals. Here is a picture of our appetizer from Bull Fish Grill – Fried Green Tomatoes with a Goat Cheese and a Balsamic Vinegar reduction, it was delicious.

Cheap entertainment. Redbox and Blockbuster Express are your new friends. For the most part, we do not go to the movies any more. If we want to see a movie, we get it from one of the video boxes and normally we have a code for a free movie. Before we left for this trip, I searched to see where the closest Redbox or Blockbuster Express kiosk was located. It was just down the street from our cabin and directly in front of the grocery store that we would be stopping at. We rented a movie for each night of our stay with a total cost of $2. It gave us a chance to catch up on some movies we had wanted to see and spend time together in a relaxed setting.

Get back to nature. Since we were in the Great Smoky Mountains, it was only fitting to spend our days outside. We hiked to two different waterfalls and Clingman’s Dome (the highest point of elevation in the area). While on our way to the trail, we passed through throngs of people spending their beautiful Saturday afternoon shopping. I am not against shopping but it is a necessity, not a past time. Some people use shopping as a hobby or a time filler when they are bored instead of being creative. We only went into one Christmas shop while we were in Pigeon Forge and that was while we were waiting on the pizza to be ready (and we didn’t buy anything). The time spent outside enjoying nature was wonderful, it gave John and I a chance to talk, play around and just enjoy being with each other. Here is a picture of us at Grotto Falls:

 

Next time you are going on a trip, take some time to plan ahead to save some money. Think about what you will be doing, where you will be going and what you will be eating. It is well worth the extra effort to make the trip more cost effective.

Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels…

I love soft pretzels. I don’t normally buy them at the mall because they are so expensive for something so simple to make yourself. There are only a few ingredients and you can customize the toppings to put almost anything you want on them. We like them plain and buttery or sprinkled with cinnamon sugar (not big salt fans here). Don’t forget all the sauces you can dip them into – mustard, ranch dressing, hummus, cheese or even chocolate. These are especially fun to make with the kids since they enjoy shaping them and can make them into any shape they want to – who says a pretzel has to be shaped like a pretzel? Give these a try and see if you ever buy another overpriced mall pretzel again!

Hot Buttered Soft Pretzels
King Arthur Baking
For a full tutorial with pictures click here 


Ingredients
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
7/8-1 cup warm water*
*Use 1 cup of water in the winter when the weather is drier and less water in the summer when it is more humid.

Topping
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons baking soda
coarse, kosher or pretzel salt, optional
3 tablespoons butter, melted (use unsalted if you are salting the pretzels)


Directions: 

1) To make dough by hand, or with a mixer: Place all of the dough ingredients into a bowl, and beat until well-combined. Knead the dough, by hand or machine, for about 5 minutes, until it’s soft, smooth, and quite slack. Flour the dough and place it in a bag, and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.

2) To make dough with a bread machine: Place all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for dough or manual, and press Start. Allow the dough to proceed through its kneading cycle (no need to let it rise), then cancel the machine, flour the dough, and give it a rest in a plastic bag, as instructed above.

3) To make dough with a food processor: Place the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in the work bowl of a food processor equipped with the steel blade. Process for 5 seconds. Add the water, and process for 7 to 10 seconds, until the dough starts to clear the sides of the bowl. Process a further 45 seconds. Place a handful of flour in a bowl, scoop the slack dough into the bowl, and shape the dough into a ball, coating it with the flour. Transfer the dough to a plastic bag, close the bag loosely, leaving room for the dough to expand, and let it rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

4) While the dough is resting, prepare the topping: Combine the boiling water and baking soda, stirring until the soda is totally (or almost totally) dissolved. Set the mixture aside to cool to lukewarm (or cooler).

5) Preheat your oven to 475°F. Prepare a baking sheet by spraying it with vegetable oil spray, or lining it with parchment paper.

6) Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface, and divide it into eight equal pieces (about 70g, or 2 1/2 ounces, each).

7) Allow the pieces to rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Pour the baking soda/water into a 9″ square pan.

8) Roll each piece of dough into a long, thin rope (about 28″ to 3″ long), and twist each rope into a pretzel. Working with 4 pretzels at a time, place them in the pan with the baking soda/water, spooning the water over their tops; leave them in the water for 2 minutes before placing them on the baking sheet. This baking soda “bath” will give the pretzels a nice, golden-brown color.

9) Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle them lightly with coarse, kosher, or pretzel salt, if desired. Allow them to rest, uncovered, for 10 minutes.

10) Bake the pretzels for 8 to 9 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. (mine were very golden at 8 minutes, next time I will cut the time back a little)

11) Remove the pretzels from the oven, and brush them thoroughly with the melted butter. Keep brushing the butter on until you’ve used it all up; it may seem like a lot, but that’s what gives these pretzels their ethereal taste. Eat the pretzels warm, or reheat them in an oven or microwave.

Yield: 8 large pretzels.

 


Valentine’s Day Dessert…

 

We do not normally go out to dinner on Valentine’s Day because the restaurants are too crowded, service is slow and it is very expensive. What I do instead is to make a nice dinner at home and try to make a nice dessert that John and I can share after the kids have gone to bed. This year I saw this recipe online and is called to me – chocolate cake and cheesecake together? Be still my beating heart!! I love both of these and the thought of having them together in the same dessert sounds downright sinful. Here is the recipe, it is a little involved but it was so worth it!

Chocolate Layer Cake with Cheesecake Filling
Recipe adapted from Food Network

 

Chocolate Cake:
1 Devils food cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
4 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. almond extract

Cheesecake Layer:
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp. almond extract

Chocolate Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
6 cups powdered sugar
6 Tbsp. cream or milk
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Sliced almonds, for garnish

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (9-inch) round cake pans with wax paper circles and butter them well.

In large bowl, combine cake mix, water, oil and eggs. Beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add sour cream and extracts and mix to combine. Divide batter evenly between the 2 prepared pans. Bake 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks and let cool completely.
After removing the cake from oven, reduce temperature to 300°F.

While cake is baking, prepare the cheesecake batter.

Line a 9-inch round baking pan with aluminum foil, letting edges of foil extend over sides of pan. Lightly grease the foil.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar, beating until smooth. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream and extract. Pour batter into prepared pan.
Bake 45 minutes (at 300°) then turn the oven off and leave the cheesecake in oven with door closed for another hour. Let the cheesecake cool completely in its pan on a wire rack then cover and chill for 4 hours. Using edges of foil as handles, remove cheesecake from pan and peel away foil.

To make frosting:

In a large bowl, beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add chocolate, beating until combined. Beat in almond extract, vanilla extract and powdered sugar, adding a Tablespoon of cream after every cup of sugar.  Beat until light and fluffy.

To assemble cake:
Spread a layer of frosting on top of one chocolate cake. Next, layer cheesecake and top with chocolate icing. Place second chocolate cake and ice with frosting on top and on the sides. Sprinkle almonds on sides or top.
Pipe on additional frosting for decoration if desired.

Tiffany’s Notes: We subbed strawberry yogurt for the sour cream in the cheesecake layer because we had run out of sour cream. And since we had a strawberry theme going, we used some homemade strawberry jam in between on the layers of cheesecake/chocolate cake. It is very yummy but be warned that this cake takes a long time to make, so it is best to make the layers a day ahead and assemble a few hours before serving.

 

Thrift Store Tuesday…

Today is the Valentine’s Day edition of Thrift Store Tuesday which means that my sweetie helped me shop the stores today! We spent 2 1/2 hours going to four different thrift stores. It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend a Valentine’s Day!

Here is what we got:

Metal Basket Weave Mirror: $8.00
The price on this was $21 at the thrift store but I talked the guy down to $8. I have been wanting a mirror for our foryer and I love that this one is made of metal and has an interesting pattern to it. I am thinking of hitting it with a coat of spray paint – what color should I go for?

2 short-sleeve shirts: $1.50
These are for me. I thought the Elmo shirt was just cute and the other one is from the Lucky Brand.

5 Brand New Starbucks insulated plastic cups: $5.10 ($1.02/each)
These were a great find! I bought them with the intent to re-sell 4 of them on Ebay but they are so cool that I might just keep them for myself.

Baby Bjorn: $4.02
This is in almost brand new condition and I am going to stick this on Ebay since I think I can get at least $20 for it. Josh just about lived in this type of carrier when he was a baby.

Bamboo Drawer Organizer: $4.99
This is for one my kitchen drawer that holds all my oversized items. It fit exactly and organized everything. I saw it listed online for over $20!

3 Brand New Beanie Babies: $2.00 ($.67/each)
These are for Barkley, our dog. Since today is Valentine’s Day, I wanted to get him a new toy and the little red Cardinal just spoke to me. I also got him the Lamb for Easter and a Turkey for Thanksgiving. Much cheaper than buying dog toys at Petsmart.

Total Spent: $25.61 (but I hope to make back much of it on Ebay)