Monday, October 31, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 8 Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies (in a jar)

This recipe came from Mary Hunt's book, Debt-Proof the Holidays.

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
3/4 C white sugar
1/4 C packed brown sugar
1 3/4 C all purpose flour mixed with 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp baking soda
8 large Reese's peanut butter cup candies cut into 1/2 inch pieces (wrap in plastic wrap)

Layer ingredients in jar in order given. Press each layer firmly in place before adding next ingredient. The cut candy pieces should be wrapped in plastic wrap and then added to the final layer. This will keep them fresh and the other ingredients dry until use.

Attach this message to the jar:

Remove candies from jar and set aside. Empty cookie mix in large mixing bowl; stir to combine. Add 1/2 cup softened butter, 1 egg, slightly beaten, and 1 tsp vanilla; mix until completely blended. Stir in candies. Roll dough into walnut sized balls. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 5 minutes on baking sheet. Remove to wire racks to cool copletely. Yield: 2 1/2 dozen.

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!


Friday, October 28, 2011

Cutting Costs on Vacation

As you are reading this, I am most likely running around like a maniac trying to get the last minute details finished before we leave for our vacation to sunny Orlando, FL!  I cannot imagine how difficult it is to prepare children for vacation because it is a real feat to get everything taken care of for our feathered and furry critters when we go away!


I have written about ways we save on vacation in the past, but I am going to do it again.  I love the fact that we are able to travel and experience new places every year based on the fact that we cut corners and save money even while we are on vacation!  Many people like to sit by the pool or ocean for an entire week reading books, but we are not that type of couple.  We like to go!-go!-go! on vacation!!

These are a few tips we use while traveling:

Pack Light
My mother is probably laughing hysterically at this first tip because I was (and still am) horrible at packing.  When we went to Antigua for my mother’s wedding back in 2003, my luggage was bulging at the seams with too many shoes, clothes and accessories.  I ended up wearing only a few of the outfits that were packed.  If I remember correctly, the bag was over 40 lbs! 

Now, I like to try to get everything to fit into a carry-on bag.  What I’m taking on this trip: 1 pair of sandals (I will wear my walking shoes on the plane,) 2 capris, 5 shirts, 1 long sleeve shirt, 1 pair of jammies, toiletries, laptop, iPod, camera and all the power chords.



Backpack
Todd and I bought an inexpensive backpack a few years ago that we take on every trip.  I don’t like to carry my purse so we throw my wallet into the backpack with some snacks/drinks and go on our way.  This helps to save room, and keeps our hands free if we go out shopping or pick up brochures while traveling.  Also, this can be used to transport anything you may have purchased back home on the plane.



Food & Drink
To save money on eating out, we go to the grocery store the first night we are in a new town to pick up items for breakfast (if a continental is not provided) as well as snacks.  The snacks are for the hotel room and to take with us when out and about.  I cant tell you how many times an apple or a granola bar has curbed our appetite enough to wait another couple of hours until lunner*, which we usually eat around 2 or 3 on vacation so that we only have to purchase one meal a day. (Not to mention if you eat around 2 or 3, you still only pay lunch prices in many restaurants!)

Laundry
Generally, we like to rent cabins or small houses that have a washer/dryer when we go away.  On this trip, we will be staying at a very nice hotel.  Instead of packing 9 pairs of socks and undergarments, I will be taking 4-5 pairs of each and washing them in the room.  We are taking our own laundry detergent and will hand-wash clothes in the bathroom sink to cut down on the amount we have to pack.

We bought these for $1 at Dollar Tree to put laundry detergent in


Public Transportation
I would have never considered this as an option in the past, but last year when we went to Miami Florida for a trip in early December, we used public transportation.  Let me tell you, we met some of the nicest people on the bus!

This year, while in a different part of Florida, we will be using public transportation to get to where we need to go.  For $16/person, we will be able to travel to the grocery stores, all of the Disney parks, flea markets, restaurants or wherever else we want to go for the entire week!

I don’t understand how the whole bus system works, but luckily Todd does!  Orlando’s public transportation website has an awesome feature that you can put in your starting address and your destination, and it will tell you what bus to take, what time the bus will be at the bus stop to pick you up, the length of time in transit and all of the important information!  This takes the guess work out of public transportation (thank goodness.)  And did I mention it will only cost $16/person for the entire week in bus fares?!? Cant beat it!

Free Activities
After I found the awesome public transportation website for Orlando, I decided to see what the city had to offer.  I Googled “Free Activities Orlando, FL” and instantly, a link with 40 free things to do in Orlando popped up.  The list includes a bonsai garden, butterfly garden, art gallery, historic Kissimmee, sculptures, flea markets, farmers markets, parks and recreation and the like!   Everything we need to stay busy and make the most of our trip.

Warning:  There will most likely be a lot of pictures to be posted on FaceBook while we are on vacation.  If you don’t already “like” Sparing-Change on FB, please do so now!  I would love to hear about how you save money on vacation.

How do you save money on vacation?

Definition:
Lunner: Meal eaten between “normal” lunch and dinner time

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Recipe: Apple Cake

This recipe is one that I got from a dear friend of mine.  With apples in season, this cake is a no-brainer.  It is so easy to make yet so delicious.
Apple Cake

Ingredients:
1 3/4 Cup sugar
3/4 Cup vegetable oil (or applesauce)
4 eggs
2 Cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
4-6 apples peeled & sliced

Directions:
Mix sugar, oil and eggs.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.
Stir in apples. (I put so many apples that there is barely any batter, and it turns out great every time!)

Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 9 Ice Cream Lover's Gift

This week's gift idea I would love to be given to me.  I come from a long line of ice cream lovers, and this is such an adorable gift!  I found this on the Better Homes & Gardens, website.  Take a look to see how quick and easy this gift is.


Photo Credit

These are the directions (directly from the Better Homes & Garden's website):

Give the gift of an all-in-one sundae.  Ice cream fans will love new bowls with their favorite toppings tucked inside. Choose plastic bowls tall enough to hold a topping jar when placing one on top of the other. Include a spoon, tie it all up with a bow, and add a gift certificate to the recipient's favorite ice cream shop.


Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Recipe: Apple Crisp

I got this recipe last year from Feathers in Our Nest last year and I've made it at least 10 times!  Everyone seems to like it when I make it, so I thought I'd share the recipe.

Ingredients:

4-6 apples
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp bakeing powder
2 Tbsp butter
1 egg
Cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350.


Core/Peel 4-6 apples and spread out in an greased baking dish

Mix together sugar, flour and baking powder

Cut in the butter and add the beaten egg

Mix well

Spread over the apples

Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmet (optional)

Bake for 30-40 minutes
 It really is that simple!  And it tastes so good!!

This post is linked up with Mama Dani's Flutter By Blog Hop, the Barnyard Blog Hop and Homemaker By Choice's Week Long Blog Hop.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Gasoline vs. Hybrid Vehicle

I absolutely adore my little car, Bianca She is 5 years old with 135,000+ miles on her and still going strong with no major repairs needed other than the normal oil changes, brakes, tires, air filters and spark plugs (done at my request at 100,000 miles.) 
Many people know that I really like my car because of the gas mileage, so they ask why I didn’t get a hybrid like the Toyota Prius because it gets better gas mileage than Bianca.

This is our reasoning:


Yaris
Prius
Price
$12,000.00
$24,000.00
MPG Highway
38
48
MPG City
30
51
Average Price/Gallon Gas
$3.50
$3.50

 As you can see, the Prius is twice the price of the Yaris (back in 2006.)  The majority of my miles are driven at a speed that would be considered highway miles (60+MPH.) Even though my car gets more than 38MPG highway miles, I am going to use what is listed on the manufacturer’s website for the sake of this post. 

You can see from the manufacturer’s websites that the Prius gets 10 MPG better gas mileage than the Yaris with highway driving.  However, lets compare operating costs* to see at what point it would make sense to buy a Prius vs. a Yaris.

Miles Driven/Year
24,000




Gas Consumption/Year:
(gallons)





Yaris
631





Prius
500




Gas Used/Year:
(based on $3.50/gal)




Yaris
$2,209





Prius
$1,750


















5yr. OC (Operating Cost):






Vehicle $
Gasoline
Total OC



Yaris
$12,000
$11,045
$23,045



Prius
$24,000
$8,750
$32,750



Difference:


$9,705
(Bianca's Favor)







10yr. OC:







Vehicle $
Gasoline
Total OC



Yaris
$12,000
$22,090
$34,090



Prius
$24,000
$17,500
$41,500



Difference:


$7,410
(Bianca's Favor)







20yr OC:








Vehicle $
Gasoline
Total OC



Yaris
$12,000
$44,180
$56,180



Prius
$24,000
$35,000
$59,000



Difference:


$2,820
(Bianca's Favor)







25yr OC:








Vehicle $
Gasoline
Total OC



Yaris
$12,000
$55,225
$67,225



Prius
$24,000
$43,750
$67,750



Difference:


$525
(Bianca's Favor)
As you can see, it would take a little over 25 years in order to recoop the additional price to get 10 MPG more than my cute little fuel efficient vehicle.

Todd and I are currently trying to calculate the operating costs of owning a Hyundai Elantra vs. a Chevy Volt (part electric vehicle) for our next vehicle purchase in 5+ years or when Bianca will no longer run.  We have looked into electric vehicles in the past, but it is never in the electric vehicle’s best interest due to the limited range the electric battery gets.

I really hope I explained this well enough to make sense.
Do you ever compute the operating cost of your vehicle(s)?

Monday, October 17, 2011

25 Weeks 'Til Christmas: Week 10 Primitive Candle Holder

Only 10 more weeks until Christmas!  I got some homemade gifts taken care of this weekend, but as of next week, we are in the single digits of weeks left until Christmas! 

This week's gift idea is from Better Homes & Gardens and I know exactly who I would like to make these for.  Anyone who is into the rustic or primitive decor/motif in their home, this would be perfect for them! 

Photo Credits
What You'll Need:
  • Drill
  • Bits
  • 18 gauge wire
  • 3 inch thick pieces of wood or logs
  • Wire Cutters
  • Dripless Tapers
Make It

  1. Using a drill bit to fit the wire, drill an off-center hole in each wood piece.
  2. Cut an 18-inch-long piece of wire for each candle. Glue one end of the wire into the hole. Let the glue dry.
  3. Wrap the wire around candle. Shape the wire end into a curlicue.
How simple is that?!? 

Every Monday through the week of Christmas will be a new homemade gift idea/project. Be sure to check them out! Happy Crafting!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Recipe: BBQ Chicken Pizza

I have heard of people making chicken BBQ pizza before, but it never really appealed to me until I tried it at my father’s house a couple of weeks ago.  I made it for dinner a couple of weeks ago and it was awesome! 


This is how I made it:


  1. Make the pizza dough (see below for recipe)
  2. Spread out the dough on your pizza stone or pizza sheet
  3. Apply BBQ sauce to the dough
  4. Add chopped up chicken over the BBQ sauce
  5. Place mozzarella cheese over the chicken
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 450 or until dough is fully cooked
  7. Enjoy!

Steps 1 & 2

Step 3 

 Step 4

Step 5
 

Step 7
(I had to add some shredded cheese because we ran out of mozzarella!)

I couldn’t believe how simple this was to make and with very few ingredients, it was right up my alley!  This recipe is a keeper in our home!


Our favorite homemade pizza dough recipe:

1 cup hot water
2 1/4 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
2 1/2 cups flour

Mix together the hot water and yeast, then add the the other ingredients.
Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes. 




This post is linked up with Weekend Blog Hop and Frugal Friday's.