Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Pantry!

This shelf used to be my "pantry."

That is one of the few shortcomings of this house. It has no built in pantry.

I wish I had a good picture of what this shelf looked like when it was filled with food.

Veronica's interest in the items on the lower shelves made it difficult to store anything there, so it ended up being rather top-heavy, with just a few things left at the bottom. It was pretty comical, actually.

But now. Now, I have THIS!

My parents took these out of their new house when they remodeled the kitchen, and they happen to fit perfectly on the wall where the white shelf used to be.

Paul and his Dad installed them last week.

Here's another shot from further back in the room. You can see the poor little white shelf, pushed aside out of the way. It has since been banished to the garage. I don't miss it.

I am in pantry heaven! I haven't even filled it up yet. There's just so much more space.

Thanks Mom and Dad for the cabinets. And thanks to Dave for helping to put them in.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Playing the System - CVS

Since I joined Coupon $ense last summer and started using coupons on a regular basis, I've been intimidated by the CVS loyalty program. Their Extra Care Card offers money back on certain transactions in their weekly ad, called "Extra Care Bucks" or "ECBs". They can be combined with regular coupons if you can spot the right deals. It seemed like a complicated system to me, so I kept telling myself "I'll start it next week" over and over again.

I finally bit the bullet and am now in my third week of "CVSing". Not only is it a lot easier than I thought it would be, but it is addicting! I can't wait to get my CVS ad on Sunday so I can see what great deals they have for the week. My Coupon $ense instructor has been invaluable, as well as the various couponing blogs that I've discovered. My favorite I've found so far is Deal Seeking Mom. I just like how everything is written out.

Anyway, here's my first week at CVS.

Because it was my first week, I didn't have any ECBs to use already. So I knew I would pay more out of pocket (OOP) this time.

Pantene Products: 2 for $6.97 - $2 off 2 coupon = $4.97 OOP, earn $2 in ECBs
Gillette Fusion Razor: $8.99 - $4.00 coupon = $4.99 OOP, earn $4 in ECBs
(2) Oral-B Toothbrush: $4.00 each - $0.75 coupon each = $3.25 OOP each, earn $4 in ECBs each

So my subtotal was $16.46, but I earned $16.00 in ECBs. So even though I had to pay the $16.46 (+tax) up front, I earned almost that much back to use for my next transaction.

For Week 2, I had $16 in ECBs to spend. The first CVS I went to didn't have everything I wanted, so I made two trips.

Trip 1:

Herbal Essence Shampoo: $2.99 - $1 coupon = $1.99 OOP, earn $1 ECB
Gillette Razors: $6.49 - $2 coupon = $4.49 OOP, earn $2 ECB
(4) Stayfree Pads ($3.89 each): $15.56 total - $7.78 (2 buy one get one free coupons) - $2 (2 coupons for $1 off) = $5.78 OOP, earn $2 ECB per package for total of $8 ECB
2 travel size baby shampoo for $0.99 each, no coupons or ECB on these, I just needed them

Subtotal: $14.24 - $14 ECB that I used from my first trip = $0.24 (+tax). This is where I went "Wow, this is awesome!" I still had $2 ECB from my first transaction, and earned $11 more, for a total of $13 ECB for next time.

Trip 2:

Right Guard Deodorant: 2 for $5.00 - $3.00 in coupons = $2.00 OOP, earn $2 ECB
(Not shown, 2 Snickers bars for 50 cents each...because I was hungry and they were by the register. I only ate one though. I saved the other one for Paul. I swear).

Subtotal: $3.00 - $2.00 ECB I used = $1.00 (+tax). If I had resisted the Snickers bars, I would only have paid tax on this transaction! $13 ECB left for next time.

Week 3:

CoverGirl Powder (the promotion was $3 ECB when you buy $10 worth of product):
$6 each, $12 total - $6 (buy one get one free coupon) - $1 coupon = $5.00 OOP, earn $3.00 ECB
Crest Rinse: $3.99 - $2 coupon = $1.99 OOP, earn $2 ECB
Colgate Toothpaste: $3.99 - $1 coupon = $2.99 OOP, earn $3.99 ECB
(Not shown, I caved on my hunger again. Keep in mind that I am doing this at lunchtime usually...1 20 oz Mountain Dew for $1.49 and 1 Doritos single for $0.99: $2.48 OOP, earn $1 ECB. So at least I got something back for it!)

Subtotal: $12.46 - $11 ECB used = 1.46 (+tax). $11.99 left in ECB for next week.

Sorry if this is boring, but I find it fun and a bit of a challenge. The goal is to spend ECBs on products that earn more in theory you would just keep rolling them over and not really spending much money at CVS ever again! A lot of the things I choose to buy are things we will use, and if we won't use them then I plan on donating them. And since CVS allows one manufacturer's coupon per product, you can combine different coupons to get great deals like the Stayfree Pads from Week 2, where you actually make money.

I'm still a beginner at it, and far from figuring out the great deals all on my own, but that's where belonging to Coupon $ense really pays off. It makes it much easier to plan my shopping trip.

That goes for grocery shopping, too...but that's another story.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Mommy's Girl

Over the last couple of weeks Veronica has become very possessive of me. She has always kind of fussed if Paul and I made any kind of physical contact, but always seemed to be pushing me away in favor of Daddy in those situations. This is to a whole new level. We can't sit too close on the couch or share a quick hug or kiss without eliciting violent disapproval.

But it is not just Paul that she is concerned about. Yesterday, at my doctor's appointment, she looked on with teary eyes as my blood pressure was taken and my belly was measured, saying "Want Mommy!" in a trembly voice.

But I think the most comical of these moments came this evening when Paul got home from work. He sat next to me on the couch and put his arm around me, at which point Veronica promptly announced "Want Daddy go work!" and firmly ensconced herself in my lap (or what little lap remains).

I must say, with baby #2 just around the corner, her timing is impeccable.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me!

Yesterday (Friday) was my birthday. It has now been 27 years since my mother interrupted my father, who was watching a movie about cave men, to go to the hospital. 27 years since that know-it-all nurse got the smackdown from my Grandma Hedwig. At least I like to think of it as a smackdown. If you want to know the story, you can ask my mom (haha).

Anyway, what better way to celebrate my birthday than to try a new recipe for beer-battered cod (which I have never made before), and cooking for nearly 20 people? There is NO better way, says I! The menu (sans pictures, since my hands were WAY too messy):

Chips and Homemade Salsa - I am on a quest to find the perfect salsa for Paul. I used PW's Restaurant Style Salsa recipe, except I used mostly fresh Roma tomatoes instead of canned. Yay for fresh tomatoes! I did use one can of Rotel, since I love the green chile flavor. One step closer! Next time I am going to use less than one whole jalapeno (or maybe a smaller one than I used this time), and try green onions instead of yellow. We'll see how it goes.

Beer-battered cod - I have very little experience cooking fish. Much less frying fish. Much less frying fish in beer batter. Much less frying fish in beer batter for lots of people. So while I way overestimated how much fish I would need, it was good because some may have gotten a little...overdone. I used this recipe that I found on a blog about English food. It was pretty darn tasty. I also discovered that the electric frying pan works much better for this than one on a stove top. More consistent results. So I will use that exclusively next time I make beer-battered cod.

Roasted Potato Wedges - These have become a favorite in my house lately. Really easy, really tasty, and really flexible. Another PW recipe, of course. They were not crispy unfortunately, having spent some time keeping warm in the oven, but still tasted good. I would like to try traditional chips with the fish next time though.

Green salad - Just some green leaf lettuce with various toppings to choose from. Nothing fancy, but I love salad lately. Especially with red bell peppers. Mmmm. Thanks Dad for cutting everything!

French bread - Compliments of Mike Pable, thank you, sir.

Red Velvet Cupcakes - Bakerella came through for me on this one. I took her Red Velvet Cake recipe she just posted recently, and used it to make cupcakes. (If you're interested, bake time was about 20-22 minutes, and you could probably get away with half the frosting, I had a ton leftover). Thank you, Brian, for frosting the cupcakes for me! I didn't realize at first just how much 2 ounces of food coloring is. Those little bottles? Only 0.25 ounces. I had two of them handy, so I ended up with 0.5 ounces in the recipe instead of 2. Still turned out red, just not as deep red as Bakerella's pretty pictures. But it didn't really matter because they still tasted great! I fell in love with red velvet cake after having one of Coldstone's ice cream cakes - where they layer red velvet cake with cake batter ice cream. Super yum! And super yum again for these cupcakes.

In addition to tasty food, I also acquired some much-needed cooking implements for my kitchen. Paul got me a meat tenderizer, so next time I make Chicken Parmigiana I can really pound those puppies flat! No, not puppies. Chicken breast. He also got me a candy/oil thermometer, which will come in handy next time I cod! Or marshmallows. Homemade marshmallows are good. Papae got me a wooden cutting board, which is substantially bigger than the plastic one I have been using. Hallelujah! That will make my chopping/mincing/slicing much easier. The book of crock pot recipes from Deb and Clint will come in handy as I try to expand my slow-cooking repertoire. And the fancy cake platters from my parents means that I won't have to present my baking masterpieces on my dingy plates anymore!

It was a great evening, and nice to spend time with family. I wish I had something philosophical to say about aging, but baby #2 is kicking me in the ribs and the bladder at the same time. Makes it a little hard to have a contemplative moment. I'll get back to you on that...maybe next year :-)