Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 12 days of Coupon Deals

Have you ever saved 70% on your purchases in 3 weeks?  Have you ever paid $30 for every $100 worth of items?  I hadn't until this past 3 weeks!!!  To give you the wow factor up front, here's the ultimate breakdown.
Retail Cost of items before discounts, coupons and rebates: $1041.39         Price Paid: $322.09
A-Frickin-Mazin : )

Alright, the couponing has been in full swing within the last 3 weeks.  I had some great luck over Thanksgiving with saving on groceries while family was out.  Of course there are some items you just "have to have" at the holidays, so I wasn't able to totally shop the ads, but I worked it hard!  We saved over $200 that week in groceries.  Granted we spent about $400, but still, $200 is $200!

I've been keeping track of my awesome coupon deals in the last 3 weeks.  When I went back and looked at my list tonight (yes, there is a list - are you really surprised?) I realized there have been 12 stores/vendors that I have saved BIG at in the last 3 weeks.  Time for me to share my awesome deals with you all.  I'm not going to post all the details as to where I got all the coupons and all of that jazz - too much detail might overwhelm you all.  However, if anyone would like the specifics as to how I pulled these deals off, just let me know.  I'd be happy to send you the document with the breakdown : )
Melissa's 12 Days of Coupon Deals
Day 1 - Lane Bryant:
2 Purses and 4 scarves (x-mas presents)
Would have been $180, I paid $90

6 pairs of Underwear: 
Would have been $90, I paid $8 (Who the heck really pays $15 per pair of underwear... not me!)

Day 2 - Target:
Did you know Target has their own store coupons on their website???  They are great to match up with manufacturer’s coupons.  I was able to do this recently, and it paid off! Check out their site here
16 Smart Ones: (Ryan takes these every day for his lunch)
Would have been $32, I paid $16

Day 3 - Rite Aid:
(Rite Aid is running a special right now.  Spend $100 in the store between now and 12/25/10, submit your receipt numbers online and get a $20 rebate check in the mail.  The best part is, they have recently changed their policy to add up the total spent BEFORE coupons.  Based on this, and the deals below – just about anyone could get to $100 before coupons, I did tonight ;)

Colgate Toothpaste
Would have been 3.50, I paid $-1 (yep, I made money!)

Philips Sonicare Rechargeable toothbrush (This was an awesome deal!!!)
Would have been 79.99, I paid 4.99 =)

Sharpies 4 - 8 packs
Would have paid $35.96, I paid $5.49

Hershey’s, Pot of Gold (going to go towards x-mas presents)
Would have been $19.98, I paid $1.98

2 - 4packs of Cottenelle Double Roll Toilet Paper:
Would have been 8.38, I paid 3.19

Gillette pro-fusion glide razor. 
Would have been 10.99, I paid NOTHING!!!

Dayquil 24 ct. caplets and Nyquil 24 ct. caplets. and Puffs Kleenex
Ryan had a cold this week, so this purchase came in handy.
Would have been $16.97, I paid $3

4 Large bags of holiday m+m’s. (Perfect for my father-in-law at x-mas.  He loves these!)
Would have been $15.96, I paid $5.48

Day 4 - Giant:
2 bags of Pedigree Dog Bites 5oz.
Would have been 6.10, I paid $1.50 or 75 cents a bag

Hatfield Pork Loin Fillet (this is the pork I've featured in recipes before)
Would have been $59, I paid $30.25 (Plus an extra .30 cents off per gallon of gas, worth about $4.80)

Day 5 - Turkey Hill Gas Station:
Buy $100 in gift cards, get .40 cents off in gas.  Bought gift cards for stores we still had x-mas shopping to do.  Saved about $6.40 off in a gas fill-up.

Day 6 - Hallmark:
4 rolls of Wrapping paper, 90 sq. ft each
Would have been $19.96 for 4 rolls, I paid $1.96

Day 7 - CVS:
EOS lip balm
Would have been $2.99, I paid nothing = FREE

4 boxes of Gas-X (come on people, it's the holidays - and this stuff never expires!)
Would have been $22.26, I paid $-1.74. Yep – I made money on this one!

4 boxes of Playtex Sport Tampons.
Would have been $21.96, I paid $7.96 or $1.99 a box

Cold Buster cough syrup.
Would have been $8.99, I paid nothing = FREE  

New prescription or transferred prescription at CVS, earn a $25 gift card.
I filled a prescription for a vitamin supplement.  Total cost 1.96, then earned a $25 gift card.
Would have been $1.96, I paid $-23.04.  Yep – I made money on this one!

Day 8 - Kmart:
Kmart every once in awhile has Coupon doubler day!  Double up to 5, $2 off coupons in one day. Must spend $25 before coupons and scan your register rewards card before the transaction starts.

2 boxes of 36ct. Playtex Gentle glide tampons 
Would have been $24.98, I paid $5.98 or 2.99 each

2 bags of Snausages Dog Treats.
Would have been $6.98, I paid $1 or .50 cents a bag.

1 bag of Pedigree Denta Stix dog treats.
Would have been $3.99, I got them FREE!

John Frieda Hair Thickening Cream.
Would have been $5.99, I paid $1.99 (and this stuff works!)

Day 9 - Pet Smart:
5 bags of Nutro Small Breed Adult Dog Food.
Would have been $69.95, I paid $40.85 (This will be enough dog food to last Bentley until June 2011)

Day 10 - Weis:
10 bags of T-bonz dog treats.
Would have been $34.90, I paid $10 or $1 a bag!

Day 11 -
Bought $25 gift certificate to local restaurant, Flavers, for $2.  
Would have been $41.30, we paid $18.30

Day 12 - Groupon:
This is a website where you can buy gift cards/certificates at discounted prices.  It’s based out of Texas, but they will sometimes run discounts for national store chains.  I’ve gotten 2 so far! If you’re interested in any of the deals on this site, let me know.  I will get a $10 referral credit for each person I send an invitation to. : )

Cold Water Creek:
Spend $25 to get a $50 gift certificate.  I used this with a coupon I got in the mail for cold water creek (Spend $150, get $50 off) to get a really nice Christmas present! 
Would have been $150, I paid $75 (for the gift in the end).

Spend $15, get a $30 gift certificate. 
Used this and another $10 off online coupon code I found by doing a Google search to buy another Christmas present.
Would have been 59.95, I paid 34.95

Ready to start couponing yet... check out this big, beautiful binder of savings/deals ; )
Prep Materials for setting up the HUGE Binder.  Ended up with 3" binder, and it's packed full.

38 tabs, organized by aisles in the grocery store that we shop in most.  I added categories after sorting.

Using baseball card holders to keep the coupons organized works well.  I also use 4x6 clear picture holders to hold the bigger, store specific coupons.  This binder weighs just under 12 pounds - it's slightly annoying, but saving 70% isn't!


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

What is a blog and what is my story???

I thought about this question on my way home tonight from a conference I'm attending.  What really is a blog?  I suppose it could serve many purposes.  Some professional (if you want it to go there), some purely personal and some even financial.  Clearly, my blog is no "get rich quick" scheme.  And, as a few of you have commented, it's not professional based on the content of my brief mentioning's of my professional life.  Instead, my blog is purely and utterly self indulgent.  This is the space that I go to when I feel like writing to my hearts content.  Do I have followers... yes! According to the side of my screen, I have 7 followers.  Hey, everyone has to start somewhere, right?  Actually, as much as I appreciate those 7, and yes - I do appreciate (and personally know) each and every one of you, it's just as important that I allow myself the time and space to capture my thoughts.  There are plenty of personal things that happen in my life that are not included in the blog.  And I'm fine with that.  This is not a bitching post, this is not my diary, and this is not my brain dump at the end of every day - this is instead, my story.  Whatever piece of that story I'm wanting to tell myself for the day.  Notice how I said myself?  Let me explain...

Today in a workshop at this conference, we learned about helping our clients and students by letting them author their own story.  This couldn't have been a better topic for me to listen to.  I needed to be surrounded by people today that are not in our business for the red tape, the correct political answer, or the "who has the appropriate title to do this job or meet with this client" mentality.  Today I listened to a very wise, and I hate to say it, but I'm going to - "seasoned", career counselor.  He has an amazing career, with a long and respected history.  He said many wonderful things, all things that I wish my hand was fast enough to capture while scribbling my notes in his 2 and a half hour session.  Two things I did scribble were:

"If everything goes as planned, you have no story". 
"Find your pain, look for the hole in your heart, and it is there that you will find what made you strong enough to be you".

He also asked, what is your cliche message or tag line?  What saying do you find comfort in or buy into?  For me, it's "Everything Happens for a Reason" and/or "Trust the Process".  Now from what I gathered during his very informative talk, these two sayings I gravitate towards because of early issues of control I developed.  I probably find comfort in them because they allow me a quick escape to bring sense, logic and delusional control to whatever situation I am in.  I'm done self-diagnosing those for now, but plan to revisit why those 2 popped up immediately in my head when asked.  In another session we were asked, if you were any box of cereal on the shelf, what would you be and give 3 reasons why.  You're probably asking yourself - what the F do these career counselors do all day... but I promise there was a reason behind it.  That will most likely be the topic of a future post.  I did survey some friends, family and loved ones to get their opinions.  I'll report those to you all when the results are in.  Current front runner... Honey Bunches of Oats.

I'm going to divert for a moment, so just follow me...

The other night, I was asked to speak at our support group for WLS patients.  About 2/3rd's of the room was pre-op people or recent surgery people and the other 1/3rd was veterans.... yes, at 9+ months out we are considered veterans.  Anyway, the overall topic of the night was how to prepare, handle and survive the holidays.  I focused on a few messages.  One was: prepare yourself for the reality of only having control over YOUR expectations, not others.  So much about our WLS process is about controlling and managing our environment.  2 things I love spending my time on (controlling and managing ;).  I'm not sure I have this down yet, but it's worth talking about and helping others become aware of it.  We talked about food choices and judgments that come with that: "Can you REALLY eat that?" or "Do you eat anything "normal" anymore???"  Whatever those opinions, expectations or judgments might be - you can't control them.  All you can control is what your expectations are and how you handle whether or not your expectations are met.  Gone are the days of turning to food for comfort, answers or out of anger.  Welcome to the new world of voicing those concerns, opinions, thoughts and feelings AND knowing that you deserve to have every single one of those!

Another message, one that I feel was my most important was this:
Celebrate, honor and thank yourself.  Every version of yourself.  Because without all those versions, you wouldn't be who or where you are today. (I don't think I was this articulate when talking to the large group - but it was my intention to get this message across).

Starting to see the full circle, Oprah "aha" moment that I had today at the conference???  Either way, keep reading... I appreciate it ;)

So many times, my friends from WLS group or those that I hear speak up say they are working so hard to leave that old person in the past.  To get rid of their bat wings (flabby arms) or rid themselves of the tire (the soft doughy section of flab that will just not leave).  This is hard for me to hear.  I guess we all got to where we are in different ways and each need to come to terms with that in our own way.  I would never want someone to LIVE in the past by dwelling, but what I would hope and want for people is that they RESPECT the past.  And by past, I mean ourselves.

If you're anything like me, you remember your life phases, stages and milestones by the outfits that you were wearing.  For example: 7th grade band concert, long red pleated formal dress with lace collar.  I believe mom bought me the blue one (exact same) just to make sure I had 2 dresses that were extra fabulous - and I did LOVE those dresses.  How about the green silk shirt in my sixth grade picture?,  Oh picture day, a day that we all knew was going to be captured forever and would be a daily reminder of who we were on that day as we had to use our school ID every day for the next year.  Moving onto high school, my size 16 denim shorts and size XL coral button down top that I wore to a bowling alley my senior year from New York and Company.  Memorable because it's one of the last things I remember buying from a "regular" store.  If Carley is reading this, she might remember the coveted pair of Calvin Klein denim overalls from VonMaur.  Oh, those were downright amazing.  I'm sure they'd be like today's ugg boots.  Something where knock-offs are just not the same, but you wear them long past their due date.  In fact, I think mine got chub-rub holes in the thighs. And that my friends, was a sad day... 

I'm at a place in my life where both personally and professionally I need to start authoring my own story.  I need to reflect on the past and put a voice to the future.  I have a goal that this next year will be a year of reflection.  I plan to tackle this by making a list of goals (Because I make LISTS dammit!) and whatever during the upcoming year doesn't relate to or affect those goals - I'm going to let roll.  PS - I'm not ashamed of those lists.  It's how I function, it's part of my "story".  I promise not to go on and on through the blog about my story.  What I can say is, I'll mention it.  I'll mention my goals to help keep me accountable to my cyber friends.  I'll reflect on the process - because as the title of this blog says, it's all about trusting the process.  And finally, I'll be truly and utterly self indulgent (in the blog).  It is only then, that I'll be able to become comfortable with myself and my story - whatever piece of that story I feel like sharing with myself on that day.

So in closing of this "novel" - something I could have continued writing for hours - I leave you with a picture.  A picture that I would like to say THANK YOU to.  This picture represents a version of me that makes me who I am today.  It also represents all of those hard years I spent working towards that version of myself.  And it was hard work.  It's hard work for any of us to be us - we all have a story, and we all deserve to tell ourselves that story - any (self-indulgent and well deserved) day.

Picture Day: June 2, 2009.  I will always have my school ID to look at and say THANK YOU even when the mirror no longer looks like this.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Coupon Deals this week!

So this week I shopped using my coupons.  I'm still waiting on my book to arrive from the Krazy Coupon Lady website, but I've been researching and hitting the deals hard.  The BEST deal I found I had to share.  This one was not planned because it was not advertised.  Dixon and I were walking around Giant (We do this often... don't judge) and I remembered I needed some more milkbone biscuits for Bentley.  They were on sale 2 for 5 and with the purchase of 2 you got a $1 off coupon on your next order.  THEN on each of the boxes was a coupon for $1.50 off a box (they normally retail for around 3 or 3.49 a box in the grocery store). 

So here's the run down:
4 - 1.50 off coupons pulled from the box.
Already on sale 2 for 5
$2.00 off in coupons for next purchase at store.

Total paid: $2 for 4 boxes or 50 cents a piece.  A savings of at least $10!
Proof that the sun was shining here today - look at that deal!
Ryan and I also have been working on getting the kitchen organized this weekend.  We have most of it put away except for some of the misc. stuff that is still needing to find a home.  With the fridge cleaned out and most of the counters clear, I decided to make lunch that was actually something other than a frozen healthy choice meal.  About 2 weeks ago Giant was running a special for buy one get one free on pork roast.  We bought 2 pork loin roasts for 5.99 (awesome deal!).  I also recently scored my favorite uncle Ben's 90 second rice for 3 for $5 with a doubled coupon of $2.00 for a total cost of $1 per bag (well worth it for the convenience).  Awhile ago there was also a sale on frozen veggies: 2 for $3 and I had a $1 off coupon, so our bag of steam fresh frozen corn was only $1.  Finally, Giant was running a special last week for a free loaf of bread with a total purchase of $25.  We hit the $25, so the free bread was an easy decision.

Total meal cost:
Pork: $2.98 for entire roast
Steamer bag of corn: $1
Uncle Ben's Rice Medley: $1
Bread: Free
TOTAL: $4.98 - and we're easily going to get 4 servings or 2 meals out of it. 
$1.25 per person for each meal! Now that's what I like to see =)
Pork roast straight out of the oven.
oooo... jealous of the BLUE counter tops?  I think not.  Jealous of the yummy and cheap meal... maybe? ; )
(Prep for the meal: pork loin roast - put in roaster pan lined with tinfoil.  Cover with tinfoil and bake at 375 degrees for 40 min.  remove tinfoil and bake for an additional 10-12 min. Corn: 6min. on high in microwave and Rice: 90 seconds on high in the microwave.  That's how I roll people... nice and easy!)

At target this weekend I stocked up on Stove Top stuffing for the holiday with coupons, got Ryan some great pants for 7.50 each (with coupons) and bought all of my necessary binder supplies.  I'll be posting later about building my coupon binder and how that all goes.  The other current thing on my to-do list is making the master grocery list for the Thanksgiving week when mom, dad and Erin are out.  Hoping mom will send me a few recipes so I can finish that list out.  9 days worth of meals are planned - now it's all about shopping for the best deals!  I'll keep you posted on that =)

Happy couponing!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Magazines Oh My!

I've been dabbling in coupons this week.  I had a bit of a stressed moment yet again over the weekend thinking about what was coming this week and Ryan reminded me that although I enjoy getting a great deal - it's not really relaxing.  I finally was honest with him in what I truly like to indulge in and that is a good magazine.  Yes, after clipping coupons for hours, I am the person that can justify spending anywhere from $5 on up for a pretty and appetizing magazine standing in the grocery store line.  I admitted to my friends and co-workers yesterday that magazines are my true indulgence and I need to get over the embarrassment.

Here's the great part!  Just as I own up to my indulgence, I get an email from TheKrazyCouponLady website and it says Real Simple magazine is on sale through amazon for $10 for 1 year (12 issues).  What??? Okay, first of all, I thought it was a scam.  2nd, I thought there was probably some insane shipping because I'm pretty sure one weekend ago I paid 4.99 for one issue.  So how could this possibly be true??? 

Well folks - it is true!  This deal is good on Amazon until Nov. 6th.  While I was on the website, I also found another great deal - Redbook for $10 for 24 issues.

Here's the breakdown:
Redbook: 24 issues for $10 - 42 cents an issue
Real Simple: 12 issues for $10 - 83 cents an issue

Then I went looking for some other magazine deals and was pleasantly surprised.  I went to the do-it-yourself website to order directly from them and got a 2 year subscription (2 years/8 issues) and was offered the bonus buy of Better Homes and Gardens for a year for $5 bucks!!!  Again, no shipping!
Do-It-Yourself - 8 issues for 19.97 - 2.50 an issue
Better Homes and Gardens - 12 issues for 5.00 - 42 cents an issue
Now if I could just get those people at clean eating magazine to forward my subscription to this house - I  miss my healthy recipes people!  So I've owned it - I've owned my magazine obsession and I'm putting it out there for you all to judge.   Happy shopping on Amazon for some great magazine deals!!!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The 3 A-holes ; )

I've been thinking lately that it's important to bring everyone up to date on the main characters in my life.  I commonly refer to Ryan and Bentley.  Then there is Mom, Dad and Erin (look for them around Thanksgiving, they will be staying with us).  Every once in awhile you'll hear me refer to the 3 A-holes.  Yes, I am a proud member of this club.  I belong with 2 of my colleagues/closest friends.  We bonded over a traumatic event at the E-town fair (woman in a box as a side show... no more explanation needed) and ever since, we've referred to ourselves as the 3 A-holes of E-town.  2 of us now reside in E-town and we're working on our 3rd member to get her butt up here.  We try to find the humor in the days we share and have supported each other through a lot.  I don't know what I'd do without these girls : )

Below are some fun pictures that should help give you a feel as to what we're up to.  I foresee many future posts referring to our escapades.  Oh, and Dixon - thanks for hanging in there tonight with the coupon queen.  I was so glad to be able to use my Border's 40% off coupon and treat you to your first trip at Perkins with a coupon.  Booya!  Slater - I missed your "ambivalencey" tonight!
3 A-holes at the E-town Fair 2010
Slater and I as blondes Halloween 2010 - Yep, it was only 8:30 and we were already at it!
Dixon and I praying that Carole (and flat Carole) never leaves... our prayers were not answered and I never took French.
 And drum roll....

1st purchase with a coupon from TheKrazyCouponLady website:
Thank you Ryan for finding your wife the PERFECT coffee mug for work.  I'll be breaking this bad boy out on Monday and let the mug do all the talking!  Best $6 purchase (with 40% off coupon) in a LONG time : )

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Krazy Coupon Lady...

So I have a confession...

My confession is not about food, it's not about hiding multiple pairs of shoes in a closet so my husband doesn't see them, and it's definitely not about some deep dark secret that I harbor.

My confession is that I LOVE COUPONS!!!

Alright, where to begin?  Recently, work has been hard.  Work has been really hard.  I've been coming home feeling totally uninspired and like I've lost my calling (Not the best feeling for a career counselor that spends her days helping others figure out their passion/calling).  Now I know that me losing my calling is not really true, because I still get my energy from helping students and offering them guidance - but the "administration" is out of control.  So much so that it makes me question every professional decision I've made in the last 2 years.  The good news, I have yet to question any personal decisions I've made in the last 5.... so at least something is working!

So my friends, husband and co-workers have been on a mission lately to find me a hobby.  I think this need for MY hobby comes to protect themselves from the regular venting and also a not so subtle attempt to redirect my energy towards something productive.  For any of you in my life circa 2008, you'll know that there was the brief stint with jewelry making.  As Ryan reminded me recently, I had a business account, tax ID number and over $1000 worth of beading supplies in the first 3 days.  What I did not have was 1 piece of jewelry made.  After reflecting on this and Ryan holding that lovely mirror right up to my nose - I've realized I enjoy logistics, planning and structure.  Scrap the creativity, scrap the dreaming - I want RESULTS people.  Thank you mom and dad for passing your exact personality types on to me ;)  ESTJ all the way!  The career counselors out there will know what I'm talking about.

Before I get into the specifics, I should tell you that with moving and everything else we want to accomplish in the next year - Ryan and I have really been watching our budget.  One of the ways we're watching that budget is trying to save money on regular things we buy or do.  For example, lunches during the week, cars being serviced at a particular location or shopping for new clothes (pant size is still changing about every 3-4 weeks!) using a great deal like buy 1 get 1 free.  The running joke is that I don't go anywhere unless there is a coupon.  And if there is a rewards card at the check out, you better prepare yourself for me signing up for it.  the other week I saved us over $130 bucks on groceries with clipping coupons and developing our grocery list off of the ad.  We like to visit Boston Market with our coupons and dine on their thanksgiving style food for less than 10 bucks for our "night out".  Yes, we live the high life.  We live in a world of Sunday paper excitement, a constant need for sharp scissors and my coupon organizer.

There were many ideas vetted as to what my hobby/passion outside of work should be before coming full circle back to coupons.  For reference, some ideas that were brewing included: 1 - Fresh floral arrangements for our house each week 2- painting on a canvas for the "collage" 3- photography 4 - event planner/consultant 5 - travel coordinator 6 - refinishing furniture 7 - stylist/design consultant 8 - the perpetual student... always a good fall back for me 9 - becoming addicted to some of my favorite magazines by ignoring reality and bury my head in them each night when I come home.  Real Simple... you know I'm talking to you!

Then one of my closest friends, Dixon, showed me a you tube clip of the Today show.  There were 2 women in the clip, Heather and Joanie.  Heather and Joanie are 2 stay at home mom's that were college roommates.  They are passionate about saving their families money by cutting coupons and shopping smart - any they now run a business and wrote a book called Krazy Coupon Lady.  They are passionate, energized and wanting to help others by passing along their information.  Sound familiar people???  Dixon showed me this clip because she thought these ladies were like me.  What she didn't know is that I'd jump all over this and get even more involved in coupons than I currently am. Do you know comforting it is to know that there are other Krazy's out there like you???
My current coupon book - only 13 categories.  This will grow I'm sure!
A picture with proof of some of the shenanigans Dixon and I get in to =)

So here's my plan... I plan to work through their website with tips, tutorials and binder creations to make sure I'm not missing anything in the world of coupons.  These ladies have their bases covered with this stuff.  Clearly, I'm not a beginner - but I'm going to start at the beginner tutorials - just so I don't miss anything ;)  I'll continue to post my findings, tips and other experiences as I embark on this journey.  Let me apologize in advance to any of you that I will be interacting with while on this Coupon Kraze...  yes, our destinations might be seriously impacted or influenced by my coupons.  No, I will not just forget about it and not worry about the extra 50 cents, I will always want that extra 50 cents back.  And maybe, just maybe... I'll start my own E-town/PA chapter or club of the Krazy Coupon Lady! 

Passion meets Practical = Mel's bliss

Shout out to my dad's cut off Velveeta box lid where he stored coupons growing up (and probably still does)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

We've been up to moving...

So I've been M.I.A. for over 1 month.  Okay, we are getting close to 2 months at this point.  A lot of updating to do, but I thought I'd start with a picture of Bentley and I.  Last night Ryan, Bentley and I went to a k9 club event on campus for rescue dogs.  Although Bentley is not a rescue dog, he was still welcomed and the students enjoyed playing with him.  One of my students, also named Ryan, was there taking pictures of the event.  He's trying to start his own business of photography someday, so I'm encouraging him at every possible turn to come and take pictures of whatever is going on.  I was really proud to see him there and he took some great pictures! The one below is one he took of Bentley and I - Ryan likes it : )
Ryan and I have been busy little bees working on the house in the last month and a half.  Our friends have been helping out too.  Frankly, the walls would not be painted without their help!  We've painted 5 rooms (dining room, living room, sun room, master bedroom and guest bedroom) and all the trim.  We have a bit more work to do in the guest room and then we're going to start decorating.  Unpacking is, well... a work in progress.  We have unpacked all the "necessary" items, Bentley has his stash of toys and the main furniture is pretty much in the correct rooms.  This weekend I suppose it's time to tackle unpacking all those boxes, but I've started to find a NEW passion... refinishing furniture.  My goal for the master bedroom is to make it look shabby chic.  A few google searches later, Ryan said "honey, just do whatever you want with the room, I guess I don't really understand".  I think he's starting to get it.  Tonight we bought 2 dressers for me to refinish.  I have been going to every antique and thrift store in our area looking for "treasures".  I've decided my sister and I have officially traded personalities!  She is becoming the ultimate business woman and I am shopping in thrift stores, talking people down on prices and looking at the "bones" of a piece of furniture to decide if the piece will work.  Mid life crisis at 28??? It could happen!

I think a lot of this is stemming from me wanting to have a project, something tangible and something to see RESULTS!!!  Work has been without "results" for awhile now and this might be my solution.  I will probably get back to cooking, but while the weather is nice, I plan to refinish furniture while I can in the garage and keep working on everything else.  I've also found some treasures here and there that I'm looking forward to putting up in the rooms.  I'd love to find a sitting chair for one of the rooms yet, but I think I'll have to wait on that one.

So here's what's to come...
-before and after pictures of the house
-9 month pictures (because as of Oct. 5th I hit my 9 month mark and I'm down 130 pounds total!!!)
-Before and after pictures of furniture I refinish
-crafty projects that either succeed or fail - remember... it's all about trusting the process ;)
- more recipes (eventually)
- and finally... a little more commentary.  I feel like I've been censoring some of my thoughts on things because it didn't fit the title of my blog.  But to HELL with it!  I have thoughts that can become plans that can easily influence other parts of my life - even if I don't intend for that to happen.  So I'm going to be checking into redesigning the look of the blog.  I'll stay with the title because there is a part of me that wants to honor how this all started, but in the last 9 months I've changed and I think it's time for my blog to reflect that too!

So all of you structured people out there (you know I love you!) get ready for my A.D.D. of blog posts and enjoy the ride of the next 9 months. (Not that there is a countdown or anything ;)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Margarita Pizza

Not sure what's happening with my pictures - they won't load the right way!  Sorry about that!

This was one of my favorites pre-surgery and this is the first time I've tried to make it after surgery.  In fact, I never made it before - I always just ordered it whenever we went to an italian place.  This version is just a tad healthier ; )

Whole wheat pizza dough (I bought mine in the refrigerated section of the grocery store)
1 tbsp. oregano
8 slices or 8oz. of mozzarella cheese
1/8 or 1/4 cup fresh basil (Mine came courtesy of Ms. Andie Stone!)
6-8 oz. of tomato sauce (Fresh would be good, but I use Prego for ease)
3 med. roma tomatoes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 500 degrees.  Put pizza dough on pizza tray.  Spread olive oil on both sides of dough.  Spread tomato sauce on dough, leaving about a 1 inch edge.  Cut tomatoes into rings and lay out on top of sauce and dough.  Sprinkle with oregano and torn up basil (reserve a few pieces of basil for top).  Layer cheese over tomatoes and lay the last remaining basil leaves on the top.  Cook for 10-12 minutes on top rack at 500 degrees.  Serve HOT!

YUM!  (Only downside of this recipe - left overs don't keep very well.  So make sure you've got a group to eat it all if you have a problem wasting food.  We tossed the rest because it still was much cheaper to make than what we used to spend ordering out!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Whole-Grain Zucchini Apple Bread

This recipe is from my clean eating magazine that I rave about.  I kept everything the same except I added 1/2 tablespoon of baking splenda and used the food processor for the apple and zucchini.  Thanks to Andie for inspiring this recipe with her HUGE zucchini from her garden (also referred to as our private farmer's market in the office).

Pam cooking spray (Baking if you have it)
1 1/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup spelt flour (I found this at our specialty grocery store - Stauffers.  The brand that we use is called Red Mill.  You can find it here)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp fine sea salt (we use the kind that has the grinder on it)
1 granny smith green apple (finely grated in food processor)
1/2 large or 1 small zucchini (finely grated in food processor)
1 egg
1/2 cup of low fat plain greek yogurt
1/4 cup honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8x4 or 9x5 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
In large bowl, mix together flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and splenda.  Set aside.
In a separate bowl, whisk together grated apple, grated zucchini, egg, yogurt and honey.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until combined. 
Spread batter into prepared pan and bake until golden brown. 45-50 minutes total.  Serve warm with margarine.

Ryan: It's good.  But basically, it's like a sweet wheat bread if I had to describe it.  That wheat taste makes it a little funky, but it's good.  Visually, it looks like a tuna salad loaf.  (That's a direct quote folks!)
Mel: Not my cup of tea.  Close enough to sweet apple bread, but not quite there.  It either needs to be more savory or a full on sweet bread.  Next time, I might use less yogurt and add another fruit like some raisins.  It was easy enough to make though!  Let me know if you try it and what your review is.

Broccoli and Bacon Salad

So this is the second recipe from this weekend that involved using left over veggies.  My mom made this kind of salad for us growing up, but I used equal instead of real sugar.  Ryan again said "I'm not sure on this one..." and he ate nearly half of the bowl for dinner tonight!  Very easy and is best if you let it sit overnight.

1 large head of broccoli - cut into smaller, bite size pieces
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
3/4 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
2 tablespoons white vinegar
12 packets of equal
4 slices of bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled into small pieces

Clean, trim and chop broccoli into large bowl.  Add onion, raisins and sunflower seeds. 
In a separate bowl mix together mayonnaise, milk, vinegar and Equal and stir until smooth.  Pour dressing over salad and stir.  Cover with saran wrap and let sit overnight or at least 2 hours before serving.  Before serving, sprinkle crumbled bacon over the top.

Cheesy Cauliflower Soup

Ryan and I went to a murder mystery party at his boss's house last week.  We brought a veggie tray to the party and there was a ton of broccoli and cauliflower left over. Solution: 2 recipes that work with both!  The first is cheesy cauliflower soup.  Ryan said "If you make that, what am I going to eat for dinner?"  My response: THIS!  He loved it!  Andie at work tried it too and she asked for the recipe.  She's a great cook - so that's how you know it passed the test =)

2 cups of fresh cauliflower, steamed
2 cans of condensed cream of potato soup
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tbsp. of butter or margarine
1/2 cup shredded carrots
2 cups of milk
1 can of whole kernel corn, drained (7-8.5 oz size)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/8 tsp. pepper

Steam cauliflower in Ziploc steamer bag for 4 minutes.  While cauliflower is steaming, saute carrots and onions in 1/4 c. of water and 2 tbsp. of margarine.  Stir in soup, milk, corn and cauliflower.  Heat through.  Right before serving, mix in shredded cheese and pepper until melted.  Serve with whole wheat rolls or whole wheat crackers

Friday, August 6, 2010

It's Official - We're Moving!!!

For the last couple of months I've been looking for houses to rent closer to work for me.  We knew our lease at our current place was up at the end of September and we weren't sure if we could find a house closer to the college.  Needless to say, any of the houses listed with the rental companies around this area were insanely priced.  Let's just say - 1600 a month for a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house (not owning it) was too much for us to pay in this market!

So I got frustrated and then I got gutsy (that's usually how it works).  I found a great house for sale by owner about a half mile from the college campus.  It is HUGE and I thought, no way.  But it was priced under market value and the owners had been trying to sell it themselves for a couple of months.  So I fired off an email letting them know we'd be interested in renting or at least talking about if they would consider it.  I mentioned in the email that I worked at the college and we're originally from Iowa - not sure how long we'll be here - hence the reason we're still motivated to rent.

About a week later I get a call on my office phone from the owner.  They had looked me up at the college to see if I was legit.  They said not interested in renting at this time - I said, if you change your mind, let us know.  They changed their minds about 4 weeks later!!!  We think it didn't sell because it's much too large of a house for an older couple to take care of and the inside needs cosmetic updates that might be too expensive for a younger couple.  That's where we come in.  We rent - so all major things fall to the owner, but they are going to let us change ANYTHING we want about the inside of the house.  Our first priority is to fence off the yard for Bentley and replace the carpet in the living room.  The carpet that is down now is very nice, but it's a hideous shade of red/maroon that HAS TO GO!  Then we'll go from room to room and paint and update as we save.  We're just so excited that it's big enough for our needs for the next couple of  years (Okay, lets be honest - at least the next 10 years) and that we're able to make any changes we want to make it feel like a home.

Here's the run down of what the house has:
5 bedrooms, 1 full bath, 2 half baths, 2 1/2 stall detached garage, a full cellar basement and full walk-up unfinished attic. Other rooms in the house include the living room, dining room, mud/laundry room, sun room/office, kitchen and screened in porch. The lot is a half acre and looks like our very own park (see pictures below).

We're putting fencing up and putting new flooring down on labor day weekend  - will start to move in on September 15th and need to be out of our current place by October 1st.  There will be a massive garage sale in our development on September 18th. So if anyone is in need of clothes and/or furnishings, let me know.  We'll be doing pre-sales in advance like I did before.  Right now I have size 18-28's available.  A lot more 18-22's this time! Everything MUST go - I refuse to move it to the new house!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Waldorf Salad

Tonight we had our version of Waldorf salad.  We use sliced almonds instead of walnuts and don't serve it on lettuce.  In the pictures you'll see a slice of bread.  Ryan had his as a sandwich and I just ate mine with a fork.  It would have been great with crackers too.  I might do that for lunch tomorrow with the left overs!

3 stalks of celery - chopped
1 cup of grapes - quartered
1/2 apple - chopped
1 large can of chicken
1/2 cup of light mayo (use more or less depending on preferred taste)
1/4 cup of sliced almonds
(Black pepper is optional - we prefer it without, my extended family prefers it - so it's pictured)

Cut/chop all ingredients - mix together in a bowl.  Serve on toast, crackers or lettuce leaves.  YUM!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

and the no-cooking saga continues...

2 things to share this evening...

1) After a coupon driven/Ad shopping trip to the grocery store last night, I was ready to come home and get back in the kitchen full force.  And then our fridge died today!  Cold food is lost and we're back to beef jerky, pretzels, a loaf of bread and chips.  It's a sad state of affairs at our house, but luckily it happened after both sets of parents left and before work gets crazy for me again.  The lady that owns our house said she'd order a new one right away and have it delivered asap.  I'm thankful that work this week will be somewhat flexible so I can come and meet the delivery guys whenever they get here.


2) We've started training for a 5K!  Tonight was our first night of doing it out of the next 9 weeks.  We'll be doing the couch to 5k program 3 nights a week and by the 9th week we should be able to run 5k (a little over 3 miles) without stopping.  Tonight was actually another WOW moment for me!  First, I could actually jog/run.  I'm surprised my body remembered how to do that!  Maybe it was because I had reintroduced my body to being in a pool again this past week (it had been a LONG 12 years....)  I got new workout clothes when my mom was out and we were shopping.  Let me just say, I love Reebok Fit Dry clothes.  I'm currently in a size 18 capri/pant and their XL capris and pants fit me.  Of course they are tight - but hey, they are moisture wick work out pants that are intended to be tight!  They come in an XXL for anyone in the area that is interested.  I found 1 pair at Ross in York and got another pair at the Reebok outlet in Lancaster ($17 on sale).  I think I'll be going back for a 3rd pair of carpis so I have one for each day that we run.  They are really nice because they go about 3 or 4 inches below my knee - which means that none of my chub rubs together on my legs.  Who would have thought that this bundunka dunk butt could run without getting that horrible chub rub!?!

Things I noticed while I was running: 1) my chub on my arms bounces against my torso and it sounds like people are clapping.  Yep, I pretty much supply my own audience.  It's great!  2) My butt is still the largest thing on my shrinking body and it bounces onto my legs as I run... it kind of hurt and that was strange! 3) I'm wearing a non-wire cotton minimizer bra, a sports tank that has a double layered sports bra and I can't believe I'm saying this... the girls stayed in check and didn't hurt afterward - if anyone wants specific brands, let me know (Ryan did ask if I needed tape just in case of chaffing... that is a reference to Andy Bernard on the Office ;) 4) for the first time tonight, I put my I-pod to good use while my play list kept my butt going!!!!

For those that are still in disbelief that my butt was on a treadmill jogging/running (I kind of am)... below is a picture of the start of our 5K training.  Watch out 5K race runners in late October/early November... we could be coming to a race near you!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Round 2 of Vacation!

This past week we spent with my parents traveling around - we accomplished a lot in the 7 days that they were here!  We're all exhausted now, but their plane just landed in Iowa and Ryan and I are in laundry/weekend mode as usual.  Below are some pics from our trip.  Food posts will hopefully be coming in the week to come.  With all this traveling we haven't been making anything! 
Ryan and I at Rehoboth Beach, DE!
Orioles game - God was it HOT!
Mom and Dad on their 31st wedding anniversary at the WWII Memorial in DC
Bentley was a happy boy when we got home - no more LONG vacations for awhile (if it were up to him ;)

Another update - I had my 6 month appointment with Dr. Brader (my surgeon) on Thursday and I'm 12 pounds ahead of schedule.  I weighed in at 239 on Thursday and because I'm doing "so well" he set a HARD goal for me for my next appointment.  By October 7th he wants me to be at 212!  EEEEKKKK.  10 weeks, another 27 pounds... we'll see about that buddy!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

NYC Trip Recap

This past week we went to NYC for 4 days with my in-laws.  It was their first time ever being to the city, so we did all the touristy things we could fit into those days.  3 days in a row it was over 100 degrees (I think every day set a record!) and the fourth day it was a comfortable 98.  (Note the sarcasm!) 6 days from now my parents fly in and we'll be going south to Rehoboth Beach, Annapolis, Baltimore and DC for the week.  July is officially family vacation month!

Here's what we did:
St. Pat's Cathedral
Top of the Rock - NBC Studios
Rockefeller Plaza
3 gray line tours of NYC Downtown, Uptown and night time/Brooklyn loop
Grand Central Station
Macy's / FAO Schwartz / Bloomingdale's
Empire State Building
Ellis Island/Statue of Liberty
Central Park
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Natural History Museum
Jersey Boys Broadway show

Here are some pics!
Let me explain the hat... it was over 100 degrees and the sun was beating down.  Anyone that knows me knows that my skin will blister and burn in 2 seconds!  So I said to hell with it and protected my neck and face with the floppy hat!  Outcome: not one sunburn in all the days we were there... only one slightly embarrassed husband ;)

View from the Top of the Rock.  A far superior experience compared to the top of the empire state building.  The lines are much more manageable and the view is 10 times better!
This is us standing in line at the end of the 3rd day at the Natural History museum.  I was literally drenched at this point (my hair was soaking wet with sweat) and I kept asking Ryan how my hair looked.  All he did was laugh - but wouldn't help!  So my retaliation was to take a picture of us waiting in that god-awful line looking marvelous!
This is the Egyptian Sphinx I got in trouble for leaning up against during this picture... Needless to say, I was CAREFUL to not touch anything else the rest of the day!
Waiting to get into Jersey Boys - it turned out to be a good show that we both enjoyed.  The people our parents age around us were REALLY into it!  It's a good starter show for those that are skeptical about going to one - we had seats 10 rows off the stage =)

Tomato Chicken Rice Soup

This past Friday, we went back to a place called Baxter's in Paoli, PA.  It's where we had our rehearsal dinner for our wedding in October of 2008.  My father in law has been talking about his meal for the past 2 years!!!  We made the trip out on Friday evening for him to get his steak tip dinner before they left for Iowa on Saturday morning.  This time around, I ordered this chicken dish and got a cup of soup to start.  The soup was a tomato base with chunks of chicken and rice.  It was SO good I didn't even bother eating the rest of my meal (1 cup of soup is still more than enough).

So last night I decided I was going to use what we had in the cupboards and try to recreate it.  Surprisingly, it came pretty close!  I think the only thing I may do differently next time is sub the 10 oz. of water for 16 oz. of low sodium chicken broth.  It was a little more like a stew than a soup and I think the chicken broth would have added some depth to the flavor.  Ryan on the other hand said  "please don't change it too much, it's really good the way it is". 

Ingredients (from my version last night):
1/2 cup of chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. of minced garlic (equivalent to 2 garlic cloves)
2 tbsp. of olive oil
2-3 stalks of celery - chopped
2 tsp. of garlic salt
1 package of Purdue short cuts roasted chicken (chopped into tiny pieces) Here's what you're looking for
1 package of uncle ben's 90 second brown rice (don't cook in the microwave)
10 oz. of water
10 3/4 oz. condensed tomato soup
14.5 diced or whole stewed tomatoes - no salt added
5.5 oz. tomato juice
6 oz. tomato paste
1 pinch of dried bay leaves (found in the spices section)
6-8 small leaves of fresh basil - chopped finely

Saute onion, garlic and celery in olive oil on medium high heat for 3 minutes.  Add chopped up chicken to mixture and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Stir in condensed tomato soup, water, tomato paste, tomato juice and stewed tomatoes.  Once that has mixed thoroughly, stir in brown rice (straight from the bag), bay leaves and basil leaves.  Stir until mixed well.  finally, add 2 tsp. of garlic salt and simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.