Fish Fingers and Custard

Saturday, November 23, 2013
      I've embraced being a nerd from a very young age. Really before I even knew what it meant. We recently discovered the vlogbrothers on Youtube, and I think John Green made a spot on assessment of what it means to be a nerd. They're pretty awesome, you should go check them out.

  I tried to hide it in high school because the things I like aren't necessarily "cool". I was enthusiastic about musicals, theatre, David Bowie, science, Tim Curry, and Harry Potter. After awhile I met other people who liked the same stuff I liked and weren't embarrassed by it at all. It helped me come out of my shell and realize I can be pretty excited about stuff and not really care what other people thing. That is pretty awesome.  

 Today is the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, something I'm relatively new to nerding about (thank you to Saskia and Becca for making me watch it!). I'm pretty excited about today,  I love theme parties and I love costumes. Also I love baking fun things. 

 Like these T.A.R.D.I.S. blue cupcakes with bow ties:

The Fish Fingers and Custard are pretty fun too:

 Do you have any fun plans for today?

Cars go 'Vroom'. Unless they're mine...

Thursday, November 21, 2013
  My car goes "squeak, squeak, knock, knock, knock." I'm no mechanic but I'm pretty sure that's not how they're supposed to sound.

 Phillip didn't think so either. Last week my Nissan took a trip to the mechanic, we were thinking "we know it needs new struts, that's probably all it is."

 Turns out if you have a car in Michigan and don't wash the salt solution off of it, the bottom has a tendency to just kind of rust out. Yes, my car needs new struts but he mentioned something about just 2 metal bars holding the engine up and having to go to an auto body shop and pay $3,000 to fix it.

 I only paid $1,300 for this car to begin with. I'm not going to pay $3,000 to fix it. 

 We spent the weekend going to various car dealerships and were sneered at from pretty much everyone. Why? Because we would tell them the budget we're working with. Apparently if you're not financing a newer car or buying something really expensive they really don't care to help you. Instead they like to say "Well, you're not going to find anything for that price, but come look at this car that's only $3,000 more than you want to spend. You can get really low payments."  What? Are you even listening?


 So now I think we're going the private seller route, I'm scouring Craigslist, Carsoup, and Autotrader in hopes of finding something that will last us a few years until our student loans are paid off. 

 Being an adult is not all it's cracked up to be. 

Our New Abode

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
  This is my 100th post! That's pretty snazzy.

  My parents and aunt came down to visit us last week and they finally got to see our new apartment. We moved in toward the end of September but finally finished decorating last week. The garage is still messy but I'm working on a sign that says "Creative Clutter > Idle Neatness." That should excuse the mess well enough for us.

  Now, on with the pictures!
This is the living room (obviously) in our old apartment.

New Apartment! After a year and a half I finally managed to print some wedding pictures.

Old bedroom

New Bedroom

 The only decor we bought for the living room are the picture frames and prints. The rest is stuff we already had, just arranged differently or in a different room.  

 Most of you who read this know Phillip, but if you don't he's about 6'3 and loves sleeping in a cocoon of 7-8 pillows. We have been talking about getting a king size bed for about 6 months because I always felt like I was falling off the edge and my back was starting to hurt. So we went ahead and bought a bigger bed and bedding for it. Now we have a proper guest bedroom for friends and family. No more air mattresses! 

 I bought the bedding from, if you've never shopped there you should check it out. They have lots of great stuff at really good prices. 

 I really think the biggest difference is that the walls are painted with a better quality paint and have a nicer color to them than the cheap white paint the apartment complex used. We couldn't even clean the walls because the paint would come off onto your sponge. 

  This post is mostly for my mom, she didn't see the complete finished product while she was here.

  What's your favorite decorating tip?

Crockpot Failure

Friday, October 25, 2013
  The weather has finally chilled here in East Tennessee, and I have a confession. Cold weather makes me want to just snuggle up on the couch, eat mountains of potatoes while drinking vats of hot cocoa. Today seemed to be the perfect day for potato soup. I knew I probably wouldn't feel like cooking after work today so I found this potato soup recipe.

 I only have a small crock pot so I ended up cutting the recipe in half. It looked promising, I chopped my onions, garlic, and potatoes and dumped them in the pot. Added the broth and butter and gave it a stir. Setting it on low for 8 hours as directed. Around 2:00pm Phillip came home and sent me a text "wow, that soup smells awesome!"

  I had high hopes, I really did. As soon as I walked in the door at 6:00 I smelled nothing but onions. I used my handy immersion blender and topped it with some bacon and cheese. Lifted the spoon and...gross. It smelled awful. I made Phillip taste it first. He can usually eat anything but actually spat this out. Now I have some potatoes roasting in the oven.

 Bleck. I will now depend on Phillip to make me some tasty potato soup, his is about 100 times better.

Forming New Habits

    I'm back! We moved over a month ago and finally Charter has connected the internet at our new place. They hired a contractor to come out and put in a cable line but it kept slipping through the cracks. Their communication is terrible.

   This week I have started focusing on my habits around the house. When I was growing up our house was always clean and tidy (well except for the basement, but don't tell mom I told you that). I'm struggling to get into the habit of tidying up my house daily so that I don't have such a mountain of stuff to do on the weekends.

 So far I have learned to start small. If I try to accomplish a lot of things at once I feel overwhelmed and end up not doing anything. This week my focus has been on the kitchen. Every day I have made myself do the following and hope it become a habit. Wipe down the counters and, load the dishwasher instead of piling things in the sink, and sweep the floor. It seems to help if ti do most of this while dinner is in the oven.

 After I get into the habit of having the kitchen finished each day I'll add another room, then another. We still have a couple of rooms that are in disarray from the move. Tomorrow we will hopefully straighten those up and get the garage sorted into my sewing room. I've promised my mom I will share pictures when the place is ready to go.

How do you form new habits and make them stick? I seem be to really great at learning bad habits, like plopping on the couch and watching the entire season 2 of The New Girl. I don't really need any encouragement to do that!

Movin' On Up

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
   We aren't spontaneous people. At all. I usually hem and haw about whatever decision needs to be made and when I'm finally ready to make a decision whatever I was going to buy is gone and the whole process has to start over again. Perhaps this is why it took us 5 years to go from first date to wedding date.

  This week we made a pretty spontaneous decision. We're moving. I've been miserable in our apartment for quite awhile, being overrun by spiders and having a drunk and clumsy at 3am upstairs neighbor isn't really a picnic. We had been looking at rental houses but last Thursday we decided to just stick it out and for awhile. Friday a friend from church sent me a picture on Facebook "My friend has this house for rent if you guys are interested."

 Friday I called the number, Saturday we looked at it, Sunday we said yes, Monday we signed the lease and started moving in. Best part? I rode my bike to work this morning and it took me about 4 minutes to get here! It's in the area of town I've always said I wanted to live, we have trees now! I can put up bird feeders, have flowers, and the walls aren't drab and scratched up, the carpet isn't all stained and icky. I'm so stinkin' excited!!!
I've been kind of like that for the past 48 hours.

 The rent is a bit more than we were paying but we will definitely save on gas and we are closer to town. We had been driving out to the bike path which is about 15 minutes from the apartment and now we can ride to it.
 Here are some more happy gifs. Have a great Tuesday!

Grocery Day!

Saturday, September 14, 2013
  We did manage to stay on budget today! I also managed to lose my Kroger receipt so no recap for today. The only notable thing we purchased is a jar of Coconut Oil. It was on sale for $6.39 which is a pretty good deal. I also found Fage Greek Yogurt for $.35/container.

   Today I made tamales for lunch, they were not fabulous so I ended up eating the chicken with sour cream and some cheddar instead.

   Tonight I made Yogurt Banana Oat Muffins and they are awesome. I used a container of the Fage Greek Yogurt. They are made with oats ground into flour instead of regular flour. I have 2 more overly ripe bananas so I think I will make another batch and freeze them. I would take a picture but my kitchen is kind of a disaster. No need to share that with you folks.

    I'm really glad I stumbled upon this oat flour trick. A friend of mine has recently cut gluten from her diet so it's good to know that I can replace regular flour with oat flour in some baking things.

   Hope everyone is having an excellent weekend! Fall has arrived here in East Tennessee and I don't even have the words to express how amazing it feels! Get out there and enjoy it!


Clean Eating for 14 Days

Friday, September 13, 2013
  I have been MIA for awhile, sorry about that! Business from my Etsy shop has started picking up, this is super exciting! I did a craft fair last weekend so I made a few new items for that event so that took up a lot of time as well. My best seller, well in fact my only seller have been my cupcake toothpicks. I have to admit they are pretty darn cute! I may be a bit biased though.

 Also since this is supposed to be a get out of debt blog I feel guilty writing about things that don't pertain to that. Honestly we are now kind of on auto-pilot as far as that goes. I pay all of our bills on the 1st of each month, after that most of the following paychecks are getting moved into the savings account so we can buy a new-to-us car pretty soon. Pretty boring isn't it? There really isn't any magic in getting our student loans paid off, just lots of work and sticking to a budget *yawn*.

 One thing we do struggle with is our food budget and how to balance eating real, healthy foods without breaking the bank.

  I read this article yesterday and passed it along to Phillip. It discusses all of the different additives that go into our food, some of which are actually banned in other countries. Last night we talked about it and are setting up to do a 14 day clean eating plan. So basically for the next 2 weeks this blog will be new recipes and if they worked out or not!

 Here is a chart I found on Pinterest outlining what we'll be attempting to do:

   Basically our goal is to eliminate artificial flavorings, artificial colors, and preservatives. Whatever we eat we will try to get food in its most basic form and then prepare it accordingly.
   I will probably fudge on the avoiding white flour thing, I have never been able to successfully bake a loaf of bread with wheat flour.
   Our budget is going to be $75/week, this will not include meat.We bought a Groupon to a local butcher shop, more about that in another post. We'll also keep track of if we lose any weight and how we feel each day.

 If you'd like to read more about clean eating check out this article.

 Thanks for stopping by!

My First Guest Post!

Monday, September 2, 2013
 I came home to find a link in my inbox to my first guest post ever! It's over at Jennifer McKenna Says. Basically it's an overview of what we are trying to do to get out of debt.

 Now it's my turn to pass on the opportunity to be featured in a guest post here! If you would be interested in sharing your journey to get out of debt send me an e-mail.

 Enjoy your Labor Day!

You Can't Always Get What You Want (When You Want It)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
  Sometimes I don't have a lot of patience. Growing up an only child I had more than my share of temper tantrums.
This probably looks familiar to most of my family members.
  My most memorable tantrum was when I was around 4 and we were going to Wal-Mart, which parents love to do anyway right? There are 2 Wal-Marts where I'm from, one was infinitely cooler than the other because they had lobster tanks. We ended up at the other Wal-Mart, a huge tantrum ensues because "I WANNA SEE THE LOBSTERS!!!!"
  Don't worry, I got my butt busted for that and rightfully so.

  There are a few lists circulating out there about "Characteristics of Debt Free People", each of the lists I've seen posted says that they are patient. When it comes to patience we're a work in progress. We have been very patient with our cars but in the past month we have poured $900 into our Jeep. Not cool Jeep, not cool. 

  This week has been full of car browsing, we had a list of ideal characteristics of the car we want. After visiting a few dealerships and doing some online research we were told repeatedly that what we're looking for doesn't really exist anymore. 

  Were we looking for some crazy space car? Nope. 
   Here is the list we brought with us:
  • Less than 100,000 miles
  • Made in this century
  • Less than $6,000
 Doesn't look too outrageous does it? We didn't think so but apparently it's unrealistic. We did find a few cars that we liked that were a bit over that price range. We could have very easily sat down and filled out the financing papers and walked away with a new-to-us vehicle and a car payment. We are pretty adamant about paying cash for it though so we left with a list of cars and a business card. 

 Now it has become a challenge to see how fast we can save for it and how we can make adjustments in our budget to put more money aside each month until we get it. This will put a hold on paying extra to our student loans but we think is a wiser decision to get a newer low mileage vehicle that will last instead of getting another clunker. It will be nice having a car that isn't old enough to be a junior in high school! 

 So we're working on this patience thing.

 How do you handle having to wait for something?

Thrifty Weekend

Sunday, July 14, 2013
 We did more this weekend than we have in a long time. We're pretty much homebodies and are totally okay with that.

 A friend of mine got a new puppy last week, on Friday she gave me a call and we took her doggies to the dog park downtown. Afterwards we walked them up to Market Square, I've lived in this area for 5 years and this is the first time I've been downtown on a weekend evening. See, I'm definitely a homebody.  I learned a lesson, if you want to attract lots of stares take a beautiful and well behaved Malamute into a public place. He loved the attention and it was adorable. Cost of the trip: Rita's Italian Ice - $5.

 Saturday was a big day. I didn't post it but these came in the mail a few weeks ago:

  It was pretty fun, we scrambled around the week before trying to find things to have appraised. We settled on some of my jewelry pieces from my grandparents and a Stein from the now defunct Falstaff Brewery.
These are La Rel costume jewelry pieces from the 50's that belonged to my grandma Louettie.

This is a resin stein from the brewery where my grandpa Elmer worked.

 So are we going to be millionaires and pay off all of our student loans tomorrow? Not likely! The jewelry appraised for about $50, I took my grandma Kathryn's pearl ring from the '30s and it appraised for a little more. They looked at the stein and were like "umm we don't know what this is, so $20?" The tickets for the even were free and so was the parking. Only thing we spent was our time. 

 We also ran into our only family members who live in the area, they were in line a bit ahead of us. After we had our stuff appraised we all went to McKay to forage through stacks of books. This was my first time there as well. It was overwhelming! We're going on vacation soon and I was looking for some cheap "fluff" books to read. We brought home 10 books and only paid $5.68. Now that is an awesome deal! 

 Saturday evening some friends from church came over to play cards, Phillip lost for the first time ever. He's still grousing over it a little bit. Cost: Free! 

  We had a lot of fun and are totally tuckered out. I'd call that a successful weekend. :)

 What did you do this weekend? What are your favorite "budget friendly" weekend activities?

Adventures in Quinoa

Sunday, July 7, 2013
    If you know me you know that I'm a really picky eater. Last week was my first time trying steak (it didn't taste like anything...what's the fuss y'all?) and ribs. The ribs were actually pretty good.

  On Saturday we said bye to my parents and I sat on the couch and cried for a bit because 500 miles is a lot of miles! Then I finished my pity party and we went out to pick blueberries. We were going to head to Knoxville and get some blackberries too but I talked Phillip into going to Three Rivers Market instead. They have fancy pants healthy food and I was feeling adventurous. They also sell lots of grains and spices in bulk which is great because if you don't like something you're not stuck with 5 lbs of it! We bought some turbinado sugar, tricolored quinoa, and some banana chips.

  Do you know what quinoa looks like? Bird seed. If you say it doesn't your totally fibbing.
bird seed.

 I actually googled it to see if it was the stuff they put in the cheap bird seed, apparently it's not but I think they're wrong.

 I didn't know what to do with this stuff, so I did what everyone looking for recipes does; check out Pinterest. I found this recipe. Mini Quinoa Pizzas, that sounds harmless right? You cook them up like potato cakes, throw on some cheese and sauce and stick them in the oven.

 Did you know you have to rinse this stuff first? I don't own a strainer that small so I had to get a little creative.
That's my snazzy flour sifter.
 This called for 1 cup of quinoa boiled in 2 cups of water until it's absorbed all of the water. I think mine sprouted, is that supposed to happen? It wasn't in the instructions but they definitely had tails when they were finished cooking. 

 After it's finished cooking you put it in the fridge to cool. 

 I decided to use my time wisely.
I've made this recipe for blueberry muffins before and it's pretty wonderful.

 So I mixed up my muffins whilst waiting for the quinoa to cool. When it has cooled you mix it with your spices and eggs, then pan fry it in oil. I used canola but you could use anything. 
See the sprouts? I'm not crazy, I promise!

When they're finished top them it a spoon of tomato sauce and a little cheese. Bake until the cheese has melted.

  So the verdict is that they're not terrible. They tasted a lot like potato cakes, I can handle that. Do you have a favorite quinoa recipe? Care to share?

 Oh and my muffins, they're pretty much awesome. I made a double batch because we're taking them to work tomorrow. I've dubbed it Magical Muffin Monday, because I adore alliterations. 


Easy Corn Tortilla Recipe

Saturday, June 22, 2013

     We had been doing well on eating whole foods for quite awhile, but slowly and surely we slipped. Now we're back to trying to do things from scratch and only eat things that are really food that grows from the ground. Not chemicals created in a lab. Did you know red food coloring is made from the shells of beetles? Sounds appetizing doesn't it?

    Cooking from scratch seems more expensive but is actually way cheaper in the grand scheme of things, it also only contains things that you put in there yourself.

 A friend of ours is going gluten free to see if it helps her feel better, they came over for dinner yesterday and Phillip was going to make Fajitas. We usually make them by using store bought flour tortillas. Since flour contains gluten I decided to make corn tortillas from scratch. It was a little bit time consuming but overall it was really easy! Phillip picked up a bag of this stuff at Kroger on his way home:

I think he said this 4lb bag was $2.50. 

The recipe is right here on the bag!
  I just followed the recipe listed on the bag.

 2 cups Torti Masa
 1 1/4 cup water
 1/4 tbs salt

In a large bowl stir together the salt and flour, then add the water to make a dough. I ended up using 2 cups of water because the dough came out crumbly at first.

 After you've made the dough section it out, this amount should make 16 tortillas. Roll each one up and get your skillet warmed up.

 Now you can roll out your tortillas, which is easier said than done! I placed the ball of dough between a ziploc bag and a cutting board so it wouldn't stick to the rolling pin. They're going to look a little wonky but they're still pretty tasty. 

It helps to have someone rolling them out while you're cooking the other ones, this way they don't get the chance to dry out!

 I at first tried putting the dough in the ziploc bag but it just stuck to everything. When transferring this to the griddle I did have to carefully remove them with a spatula or they would fall apart.

  Now you just cook it until it's done! Just brush a little oil on your griddle before placing the tortilla on, if you want them to bubble up pat them with a damp paper towel before you flip them. 

I'm not sure how long they took to cook, I wasn't really paying attention! 

I'm also not sure what the nutrition facts are for this recipe but I can't imagine it would be too terrible! I didn't realize that we had corn tortillas in the cabinet so I decided to check out their ingredients.

 Sodium Propionate (propionic acid, sodium hydroxide)
 Gum Blend
 Sorbic Acid
 Fumaric Acid

Again our ingredients were: corn, salt, water. I think I'll stick with homemade from now on! That bag of flour was $2.50 and I estimate that it will make at least 5 batches of 16 tortillas. The corn tortillas we bought at the store were probably $2.00 for 18. Making them yourself is a much better value!

What things do you make from scratch? Care to share your recipes?

Swimming in Strawberries

Tuesday, June 18, 2013
  This post really is really just an update on what we've been up to. Kind of budget related but not really.
Strawberry season has wrapped up. Think we stocked up enough?

This load was from our last trip to the berry farm.

5 gallon size bags full of frozen strawberries. I tried to stack them on the scale but they kept falling over! I'm estimating it's about 20 pounds.

I also learned to make jam this year! It was pretty easy! We have 8 half pints of strawberry jam in the cupboard. It was a lot of fun to learn and I look forward to using this new skill when blackberries come in season in a few weeks!

 The farm we have been going to charges $1.35/lb for strawberries, this is typically cheaper than the grocery store. They taste so much better since they're so fresh! They aren't really sprayed with any insecticides and shopping there supports local business. Sounds like a win/win situation for everyone!

 We're hoping those strawberries will last until next Spring but I'm not sure they will. We're running out of room in our freezer and it's not even blueberry season yet! I'm going to start scouring Craigslist for a mini freezer to keep our fruit in.

 We went back to Missouri for Memorial Day and brought this contraption back with us. I am pretty excited about it. Here's a really easy recipe for Kettle Corn if anyone is interested.

Here's a really easy recipe for Kettle Corn if anyone is interested.
1 tbsp Coconut Oil, 1/3 cup Popcorn, 2 tbsp sugar, and salt to taste.

Melt your coconut oil on medium heat. Drop in 1 kernel of popcorn. When that kernel pops you're ready to add the rest of the popcorn and sugar. Attach the lid and stir like crazy!

As soon as it has stopped popping dump it into your serving bowl. If it stays in the hot popper it might burn.


    Yesterday was the first successful batch I have made on my own! No burnt kernels here! No burnt Sunnys either. I usually have Phillip make this for me because hot grease freaks me out,  since he's taller his face is not as close to the popping grease as mine is. 

  That's all I have for today!


Halfway to our 2013 goal!

Thursday, June 13, 2013
      I just have to say I'm pretty excited. Our personal debt payoff goal for this year was $30,000, it seemed impossible. That's like the price of a new car, or half a house.

       Yesterday we hit the $15k mark. $15,071.41 if you want to get nit-picky.

       Now it feels like we will actually reach that goal which is pretty crazy.

       The even crazier thing is we haven't even done anything too radical. We're not selling our plasma or dumpster diving. Just living in a cheap crappy apartment, driving really old cars, cooking at home most of the time, and taking our lunches to work.  I thought I would be super controlling of our electric bill during the summers but when I get hot, I get cranky. When I get cranky, I cry for no reason. It's ugly and I don't like it. We turn the thermostat down in the evenings to a level that doesn't make us want to maim each other.

      We've faltered on the cooking/going out thing quite a bit but are trying to get back on track.

      Now for my celebratory dance!

Really? No dancing?

Much better!
 In other exciting news I'm teaching a free budgeting class tonight for the first time. I'm excited but kind of nervous because I'm a really crappy teacher. We'll see how that goes!

  Have a good day!