Thursday, May 31, 2012

Weekly Bargain Updates

This piece on bargaining is going to be short and sweet, because baby girl has been giving Mommy a hard time this week and I am on bed rest.  Now, you may think that gives me more time to write blog posts, but in fact I’m so anxious and uncomfortable that it’s hard to stay focused.  But, no worries…I have two great bargaining tidbits to share with you!

First…save the date for June 16 if you live in the Quad Cities.  Our Quad City Moms Blog ( is at it again! It’s another “Mama’s Market”, but this time it includes…you guessed it, a GARAGE SALE!  This should be a great event, with lots of great garage-sale deals, as well as local vendors and activities for the family.  Don’t miss it! Here’s the info, so you can transfer it right to your family’s calendar:

And, last but not least, an update on my mom and I’s garage-sale success this year. Last week, my mom hit the mother-load for baby girl clothes. She even hit a sale that was ½ price on everything!  If you thought the last picture of our baby clothes buys was good, wait til you see this one!  Most of these items were found by my mom and our friend Barb, but I was along for one of the days and I found some of it, too! And the best part, we found stuff for all sizes…newborn up to 12/18 months.  My baby girl is going to be dressed adorably cute every day, and for a fraction (and I mean small fraction) of the retail cost!

Without further ado, here’s our stack:

I didn’t sort it by items like I did last time (just too tired this time around!), but I did count them.  Outfits, shirts, pants, skirts, headbands, shoes, a crib sheet, and a piece to hang on her wall…107 items total!

And the cost?  Approximately $48.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Easy and Delicious Cookie Recipe

                                                              Lemon Stamper Cookies

These lemon cookies are a BIG hit with our family and friends. They are so easy, with minimal ingredients, and my husband can seriously finish off the entire batch.  Now, what’s not to love about a recipe like that?? I hope you enjoy them as much as we do!


1 cup butter or margarine, softened

3 ounces cream cheese, softened

½ cup sugar  (plus a little more for dipping)

1 tablespoon grated lemon peel

2 cups all-purpose flour

Instructions: In large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed, or mix with spoon.  Stir in sugar and lemon peel.  Gradually stir in flour.  Cover; refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls, and dip into additional sugar.  On ungreased cookie sheet, place balls about 2 inches apart.  “Stamp” balls to about ¾ inch thickness using a potato masher, the bottom of a glass, the bumpy side of a meat mallet, etc.

Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until set but not brown.  Remove from cookie sheet  to cooling rack.  Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Simple DIY (do-it-yourself) Project

Because we are expecting our third baby this summer, we decided to get our boys moved to their new big-boy bedroom and get them settled a few months before their baby sister arrives.  They have been in their new room for about 2 months, and it has been working out great.  With that accomplished, my next task was to turn their room (previously blue and green with frogs) into a girl’s room!  The good news is, I’ve never been a fan of pink and purple and flowery and all that, so I didn’t plan on changing it a whole lot, but I did want it to look like a baby girl’s room, not a boy’s room.
Before: Blue and Green Frogs
I decided that I could handle a little bit of pink, but I also wanted to add a touch of orange.  I took out most everything that was blue, and left all of the green stuff.  So, I had my colors to work with now:  pink, orange, and green (all of them bright shades, not pastels).  The boys didn’t have much on their walls, but they did have two square frog pictures above their crib.  I took these down (yes, I cried when I did it!), and decided to make my own replacement.  Off to the craft store!

So here’s today’s do-it-yourself project for your home:  making wall art (or any decorations, for that matter) to match exactly the colors you want, the theme you want, etc.  After all, we can always find something we like at the store, but the idea of finding multiple things at multiple stores and trying to get them all to coordinate? That’s just overwhelming!

Materials: Canvas, Adhesive, and Scrapbook Paper
Here’s what I did:  I went and bought two 10x10 canvas pieces at Joann Fabrics, just the size I needed to replace the two frog pictures.  Then I went hunting in the scrapbook paper aisle until I found the perfect one for my little girl---and there it was! Bright pink, bright orange, and bright green—definitely girly, but not too flowery and princess-ish for mommy!  I found two coordinating prints and some Mod Podge adhesive, and went home to get to work. 

As this was my first time doing a project like this, my plan was to cut out a 10x10 piece of the paper and then stick it on the canvas, and maybe paint the sides pink or orange to match.  But as a friend suggested, the paper was bigger than the canvas, so why not just wrap it like a Christmas present? (Thanks for the suggestion, Tim!).  So that’s what I did, and it worked out great!  The Mod Podge is so easy to use…just get a foam brush, brush it all over the surface of your canvas (be careful to smooth out the edges!), and then carefully place the paper on top.  For a “glossy” look, I bought the glossy type, and also brushed it on top of the paper after it was firmly attached to the canvas.  I let them sit over night, and the next day I put them up on her wall above her crib.  It was finally starting to look like a girl’s room!
After: Pink, Orange and Green Shoes!

While I was putting some of her clothes away the other day, I looked around and thought of another idea for the scrapbooking paper that I had leftover, as well as the Mod Podge.  I cut out some of the shapes on the paper, and then stuck them onto the drawers of her plastic shelves from Ikea.  It looked so cute!  I cut out a few more, and stuck them on some of the other little plastic items in her room. I was so proud of myself!

And, for my last project…I bought a third and final coordinating piece of the paper, and am going to buy a 12x12 canvas to attach it to (thought I would mix up the sizes, to make it less uniform). This paper has a lot of empty space, but that’s because I bought some pink alphabet/number stickers…which I will be using to put her name and birthdate on it when she arrives!  Can’t wait!
3 more months until this has a name and birthdate on it!

 I definitely recommend trying this project in your home. If you have a wall that’s just “missing something”, head on over to the craft store and look through the scrapbooking paper. I bet you will find at least one pattern that matches your colors/theme, if not more.  Simply wrap it around your piece of canvas, and you’ve got yourself some custom wall art! And it didn’t cost an arm and a leg, either!

*I bought all of my items on sale or with coupons, and I also receive the 15% teacher discount at JoAnns.  The total cost for the three wall hangings and decorating the plastic bins was approximately $17.  Can’t beat that!

Monday, May 28, 2012

My Grandpa Sam: 100 words or less

*Today, on Memorial Day, it has been exactly 9 years since we lost my Grandpa Sam to cancer.  I can barely believe those words, even as I type them.  Nine years, and yet some days it hurts like it was yesterday.  But, because the purpose of the blog is to “look for the good”, that’s what we will do.  My grandpa was not perfect, nor anywhere near it, but he had a lot of good in him.  Here’s my 100 words about him:

He always whistled…always.  He was a collector of junk, a garage-saler, and had a sweet tooth to rival anyone (I can never eat a Chips Ahoy without thinking of him).  He loved his country—he was in the Navy, he was a Police officer, and also worked for the Sheriff’s Department.  I miss his laugh, I miss the way he teased us, and I miss watching Iowa basketball with him.  I wish he was here to meet my boys (one of them his namesake), and yet I find comfort in knowing that we will see each other again someday.

..and there you have it. With one word left to spare!  I pray that all of you spend this Memorial Day remembering the ones you have loved and lost, and the ones who serve our country every single day.  I know that for us, we will be doing both.  Here’s to you, Gramps.

me and my Gramps, 1984

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Letter to my Second-Born

Today’s grab-bag topic is my second-born son, Cooper Alonzo.  As you read this blog today, we will be celebrating his second birthday with our family and friends.  And even as I write these words, I can not believe that my baby boy will be two years old this Tuesday! I have been keeping journals for the boys since before they were born, so I am always writing to them, but this is my chance to let the world hear! A big thank you to Robin at Pink Dryer Lint ( for the idea to post “letters” on the blog to each of my wonderful children.  And so, this one is for Cooper.

To My Second-born Son:

First breakfast with Mommy
I will never forget the day you joined our family.  You must have been anxious to meet us, because you arrived in record time! Only 67 minutes after I checked into the emergency room, I was holding you in my arms.  You were such a beautiful baby…dark brown (almost black) hair, and such a pretty olive-skin color!  At 6 pounds 13 ounces, you were no smaller than the average baby, but you seemed incredibly tiny to Daddy and I, after your brother had come out at a whopping ten pounds!  I remember sitting in the hospital that night, and instead of holding you, we kept laying you out on the bed with us to talk about how small you were!  The next morning, I propped you up on the pillow next to me while I ate breakfast, and Daddy took our picture. I absolutely love that picture of you…so tiny!

Meeting big brother for the first time!
Your first few weeks of life were very busy…we brought you home to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, where we were living at the time.  Those first days were spent packing up our things, trying to get your big brother used to having another little one in Mommy and Daddy’s life, and adjusting to life in our new home.  You were such a good baby.  You slept a lot, and snuggled with your “bobo” blankie (before you were born, your brother referred to you as “bobo”).  As if you weren’t beautiful enough when you were born, you just kept getting more and more beautiful!  Big eyes like mommy, dark skin like your Grandpa, and the cutest little body!  You loved to be in your big, soft swing (you looked so tiny in there!), and Mommy had to watch you every minute, because your 21-month-old “big brother” was not very good with baby brother!  Don’t worry…he didn’t mean it!

Your first Christmas!
Through these past two years, you have grown into such a handsome boy. Your hair has gotten a little lighter, but your skin is still to-die-for brown. You are still so little, and I cannot believe that it has been two years since that day, when Grandma and I welcomed you into the world and Daddy came running in only two minutes too late!  You have learned to hold your own with your big brother, and these days it’s usually him that comes running and crying for Mommy!

Your FIRST birthday!
Although you may be small in size (you are still only about 25 pounds), you have enough personality for a whole boat-load of kids!  You love anything Toy Story, and you run around the house with your arms outstretched, yelling “Buzz Lightyear to the rescue!”  You love juice (I’ve never seen a kid drink so much of anything…) and now you just walk over to the cupboard, get out your cup and lid, and bring it to me or Daddy to fill up.  You are talking more and more every day, especially these last few weeks.  You call your brother Sam “Sammie”, and you follow him around like he’s the only person in the whole world to you.  I pray that I never, ever forget  these days with my boys, and that I always remember the adorable things you both do every day.  We thought that you would be the quiet one of the bunch, but you are proving to be quite the feisty one!  In fact, you threw yourself quite the fit last night in the frozen aisle at Wal-Mart! But hey, most of the time you are a sweet, sweet boy.  That's all that matters!

You are so precious, Cooper Alonzo.  You are loved by so many, and at the top of that list is your Mommy, your Daddy, and your big brother Sam.  Our family would not be complete without you, and that day we brought you home in your little blue shirt with the brown squirrel on it was one of the best days of our lives!  You bring so much joy and laughter to our home, and we love you more than you will ever know.

Happy second birthday, my little second-born.  Mommy loves you.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hugs and Kisses...Part 2.

As promised, we are continuing last Saturday’s discussion about the power of touch.  I mentioned that I would like to comment on how the American culture kind of bothers me…here’s what I meant by that:
Last year, I taught a course entitled “Latin American History and Culture”.  When I walked into class the first day, I was somewhat shocked to hear about half of my class speaking Spanish.  As a Spanish teacher, I am used to hearing Spanish of course, but this particular class is taught in English.  Turns out about half of the baseball team (all of them from Puerto Rico) had signed up for my class!  Long story short, I really grew to love having those guys in my classroom. They were rowdy, and sometimes a little too talkative, but it was nice for me to be able to speak Spanish with some native-speakers, and it was even nicer for them to have a teacher who actually understood what they were saying!  About halfway through the semester, they one-by-one started referring to me as “Misi”, which is an endearing term for “maestra” (teacher, in Spanish).  This made me so happy.  And then one day, when one of them was walking into class, he said “Hola, Misi” and started to come towards me, as if he were going to kiss me on the cheek! Now that is a definite no-no at my work!  However, in their culture, it’s perfectly normal for people who know each other, even teachers and students, to greet each other with a hug or a kiss on the cheek.  He just had gotten mixed up about where he was!
I have to admit, I felt so bad after that happened.  Not only because he had been embarrassed, but because I, too, felt as if I should be hugging them and kissing them on the cheek when they entered my classroom.  Now don’t get me wrong, I would never do that with my students, because it is not acceptable in our school systems in the United States, but after having lived in Spain during college, I really got used to the “dos besos” (two kisses) that is the customary greeting.  It is definitely something you have to get used to, no matter which side you are coming from—either going from no physical contact at all to everyone kissing your cheek, or going from kissing everyone on the cheek to a nice, firm handshake.
After the semester ended, I really didn’t think about this anymore.  Until…about six months ago we met some new friends at our church, who happen to also be from Puerto Rico.  We have become very good friends now, and this issue has yet again come up.  When these new friends come over, she hugs me and I hug her back.  But when our husbands are in the picture, it’s just an awkward mess!  Should her husband kiss me on the cheek, which he would do with all of his friends at home?  And should my husband, who is from this country, kiss her on the cheek?  You see what I mean!  Recently we had them over for dinner, and we also invited our good friends from high school.  After everyone left that night, I brought up the issue with my husband again, but this time with a new question:  why can’t I hug and kiss my friends who are from here too?  I mean, these are friends that we have known for ten years or more, why wouldn’t we want to hug them when they come into our home?  And yet these new friends, whom we have only known for a short time, get the hugs and kisses just because of where they are from?  None of it makes sense to me!
I still don’t know what to think or do about this situation, but judging from all of the things we learned last week in our article about the power of touch, I would guess that the best thing to do is to hug and kiss everyone!  Hugging makes us feel better, makes us feel more connected.  And who doesn’t want that with their friends?  It may be awkward for some of my American friends, but it may not---I am already a hugger, so they probably wouldn’t even notice anything out of the ordinary.  I just think that we, as a culture, should adopt a more intimate greeting process with our friends and family—it just makes sense, doesn’t it?

What are your thoughts?  Do you hug and kiss your family when you see them?  Your friends?  If you don’t, how would you feel if they started this practice with you?

Also, as promised, I am sharing the list of the top five “on-screen hugs” from that Good Housekeeping article. I’m sure you all have been holding your breath in anticipation! Here they are…

1.       Jenny and Forrest at the anti-war rally in Forrest Gump

2.       Jack and Rose just as the ship hits the iceberg in Titanic

3.       Holly Golightly and Jack Varjak at the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s

       4.       Melanie and Ashley when he returns from war in Gone with the Wind

5.       George Bailey hugging his family after Clarence saves him in It’s A Wonderful Life

…there you have it! Did you think of any more to add to the list?  I love a good hug!  Go out and hug your loved ones today!

PS...If you are wondering what my favorite hug didn't happen on the movie screen.  On my wedding day, my dad, who does not dance, took me by the hand and led me onto the dance floor for our father-daughter dance. We surprised most of the people there, because we had been taking dance lessons together.  We did our dance (certainly not perfectly!) and at the end, I ran over to him and hugged him.  No offense to my husband, who made my day perfect, but this was one of my favorite moments caught on camera that day!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Community Spotlight: 12th Street Sweets!

Once again, I am SO excited to put the "virtual spotlight" on another great place in our community! If you haven't heard of 12th Street Sweets, you have not been "looking for the good in your community"! The mastermind behind all of the deliciousness is none other than my good ol' friend from way back, Miss Lisa Willman. We sat together in Spanish class, we were roommates on our trip to Spain, and husband and I met at her house! Needless to say, Lisa is a special girl to both of us! She has started a home-based bakery here in the Quad-Cities, and I recently interviewed her about it. Please read what she has to say...she is truly passionate about her work, and the pictures tell it all!
1.       What was the inspiration for 12th street sweets? (How did it start, when did you start baking, etc.)
12th Street Sweets is the result of a renewed interest in a lifelong hobby and being in the right place at the right time. As long as I can remember, every birthday/holiday/special event/Tuesday came complete with a dessert, but Christmastime is when my family really pulled out the stops. My grandmothers, aunts, cousins, and mom would all gather together to make plates of sweets to pass out to friends and neighbors. Then life happened. I moved away for several years during college, and, although I managed to make it back home for almost all of the major events and holidays, I still missed the little get-togethers (and the desserts that went with them) like crazy. When I finally moved back to the Quad Cities two years ago, I was determined to make every party from here on out count, and my way of making them special was with loads and loads of sugar.
Around this same time, two other very important events took place. First, I met the love of my life, B, and we began a wonderful relationship. B is a diabetic, so for the first time, I started learning about the properties of sugars, and started paying very close attention to the ingredients that I was using. I started trying out new recipes and bringing in the extras to work. People started talking. They started asking me to make things for them, and I thought, “Ok, maybe I could do this…” B filled me up with ideas, inspiration, and encouragement, and told me that, yes, yes I could.

Then, one of my beloved grandmothers (pictured above) passed away, but not before she cleaned out her kitchen and gave me loads of her beloved utensils and tools. I love how the wooden rolling pins are stained and cracked, and how her collection is based not in what the newest gadget was, but in what had served her well for decades and will continue to do so for years to come. Sometimes, when I use them, I can still see her in her kitchen, or standing by the stove. I think there’s a little bit of magic left in these items, and I’m determined to see what they’re capable of.  Other than that, it’s just been a word-of-mouth thing. People are talking about my desserts and want to try them out, and I’m happy to oblige. 12th Street Sweets is just what I call my little hobby, my little corner of the kitchen.

2.       What is your favorite thing to bake (cookies, cakes, cupcakes,bars,etc.)?  Why?

My favorite thing to make is probably custom-decorated sugar cookies. Of course these are often the most time-consuming too, but I love that you can create just about anything out of two basic ingredients – cookies and icing. No need for fancy fondant or gumpaste in a cookie (of course you can use these – it’s just not necessary). They’re just a basic medium in which you can be oh-so-creative. I like that.

3.       Do you have a favorite order so far? (your best work, your best cake, etc.)  And have you had any mishaps with any orders? (we all make mistakes!)

This Cat in the Hat cake was a lot of fun, but it started out as a total mishap. I had painstakingly created a buttercream transfer of the Cat the night before, but when I got it out of the freezer, for some reason it hadn’t set up yet. So when I went to put it on the cake, it literally disintegrated before my very eyes. Ughhh…. Not cool. So I ended up grabbing some icing and just drawing this guy by hand. And it worked! (Insert big sigh of relief here) This cake may be simple, but it will always hold a special place for me because I was soooo relieved my last-minute fix worked out, and it ended up matching the party d├ęcor perfectly.
I had a similar thing happen with this one. A family I knew was throwing a “White Trash Christmas” themed party and they asked me to create a roadkill cake for the event. So I had grand visions of this really detailed raccoon getting run over by a car on the highway. The original image I made didn’t quite work out the way I had planned, but then I kinda smacked myself and realized it was supposed to look crappy. It’s a white trash Christmas! So we threw some asphalt rubble (crushed oreos), made some cigarettes and doobies out of tootsie rolls and called it good. I’m told that the party’s catering included canned sardines and Cheez-Wiz, and that the family’s weiner dog wore a wife beater tank top.

 That said, my favorite cakes are the ones that go off without a hitch. Doesn’t happen often, but I can dream….right??

4.       How is 12th street sweets different (AKA better!) than other local bakeries in the Quad Cities?
I get a lot of people calling me that say they’d gone to other bakeries and were handed a book of options and told to choose something. I think people want to have more say in their desserts than that, especially if it’s for a special event. Brides have poured over glossy photos in the magazines, and they want to make sure their cake is both unique and fabulous. This is where 12th Street can step in. Not only will we create custom flavors, but I work with the customer to select a design, so that the dessert is one-of-a-kind and made special for them. For large orders, we usually have a consultation, and then I send them a sketch for approval. I’ve found that people really enjoy playing an active role in designing their desserts. We also differ from larger bakeries because of the active role we take in your ceremony. We will not only make the desserts, but I’ve also helped brides design their dessert tables, made custom cake stands, and even made one bride’s wedding dress!

        12th Street also offers desserts that most bakeries don’t carry. We make cake balls, cake pops, truffles, cheesecake, pies, you name it. We can also recreate your favorite foods with desserts. We’ve done a tostada dinner out of cookies and fruit before for a taco dinner fundraiser.  Here’s a nice summertime meal perfect for grilling out – all out of desserts!

5.       What are your goals for the bakery this year?  Where would you like to see it in five years?
Right now, the bakery is just a hobby, but it’s come so far in its short lifetime that I can’t even imagine what the next year or so hold! Later this year, I’m planning on taking some courses from a world renown sugar flower artist and am definitely looking forward to incorporating some of those in future cakes, so keep your eyes peeled! Within five years, I’ll just be excited if people are still getting excited about the desserts that come out of 12th Street. That’s what keeps me going – making other people’s events special through dessert.

6.       If someone is going to try 12th street sweets for the first time, what “sweet” do you recommend they try?? (is there a most popular item?)  And most importantly, how do they order? (what is the best way to reach you?)
If someone’s just looking for something to sweeten their day, then I recommend trying either some cookies or bars. Sugar cookies are always a hit, but my personal favorite right now are these dark brown sugar drop cookies made with dark chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, and dried tart cherries. It has the perfect blend of sweet and sour. For bars, I highly recommend the cream cheese cookie dough bars (but remember to keep them in the fridge). These are so tasty I recently had a bride that came in to order a huge wedding cake change their minds and go with a smaller cake and these instead.
Ordering a small batch of cupcakes is another good way to try us out. 12th Street boasts a lengthy list of cake and icing flavors, and of course we can make custom toppers to make them extra special.

I can be reached by phone, email, Facebook, or smoke signal. Phone is (563)-381-7796. Email is Facebook is under Lisa Anne Willman. Smoke signal is …well…just smoke. Every order is made custom, so please give us at least a couple of days’ notice so that we can make sure to mark you down on the schedule. Thank you!!
So, contact Lisa ASAP!  Even if it's just a small order of cupcakes....although I would go with the large of course!  Bon apetit!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

House Tour #1: What you can REALLY do with garage-sale and clearance-rack buys!

If you have been reading my blog so far, you already know how much I love my house (if you haven’t, then check out the post entitled “Look for the good in your home”).  And you also know how much I love a good bargain! When we moved into our house, we had a lot of rooms to fill…it’s a lot bigger than our old house.  But, filling up rooms with furniture and decorations can get expensive!  We were so lucky to receive “hand-me-downs” from so many wonderful friends and family members…and the rest, you guessed it, I made up for by scouring every garage sale in town, and hitting up the clearance racks!

About 2 months after we moved in, we had nearly every room in our house furnished and decorated, and I really don’t think some people would believe how much (or, I should say, how little!) we spent in doing so. At that point, we were having a birthday party for my son at our home, and we were so proud to take everyone on a tour of our new place. Of course, my mom and I made a point to share all of our greatest bargains, and people were impressed!  In fact, one of my friends even told me I should call the local newspaper and tell them about how we furnished our house almost entirely from garage-sales (that friend, by the way, is the inspiration for this “home tour”….thanks for the idea, Lindsay!).  well, I didn’t call the newspaper, but I am sharing it with you, today!

Our first stop will be the guest room.  The only reason I’m starting there is because it’s the only room that’s always clean and picked up! I really do love this room, it always brings back memories of my time living in Spain.  In fact, some days I tell Matt that I’m going to move over to this room instead of ours!  Let the bargains begin….

Speaking of my time in Spain, these black and white pictures are actually post-cards (about 50 cents each) that I bought while living there.  Every time we went into a little souvenir shop, I would look for a new one to add to my collection. When I got home, I found these red frames on the clearance rack at TJMaxx, for approximately 2 dollars each (it’s been 6 years…I don’t remember down to the penny!)

This montage is above the guest bed.  Starting from the right, the silver piece was a set of four (I used the other three in my sunroom) and cost $2 total, making them a whopping 50 cents.  The two pictures in the middle are also post cards, bought at Ikea for 50 cents each (frames were $1.99).  And the best deal in this part of the room…this picture of the flamenco dancer.  It was in an old, beat-up frame at a garage sale for 25 cents.  A quarter!  I re-framed it with this silver Ikea frame (about $5 I think).

I love how this little desk area turned out.  The red and black square picture frames on the wall were 25 cents each at a garage sale, and the black calendar was a gift.  The red bowl on the desk (which I fill with all of the little hotel-sized shampoo and soaps, for our guests) was also a gift.  The little red lantern-type thing next to the bowl was $1 at a garage sale, and I filled it with vanilla coffee beans. (This is a great way to make a room smell good, and for cheap!  I’ve had the same beans in there forever, and they still smell good. Just shake them up every once in a while, and you’re good to go!)  Red heart box, 25 cents at g-sale.  Silver and red candle-stick, $2 on Hobby Lobby clearance rack.  The red and black lamp (which I love, because the bottom half also lights up!) was $3 at a g-sale.  And the desk….such a great buy!  My mom and I found it at an estate sale for $4.  Yup, four dollars! (the footstool was a gift, purchased at Hobby Lobby with the coordinating piece, seen in the next pic)

This red and white cookie jar was one of our favorite g-sale finds…my mom bought it for me (for $2) but she has told me many times that she’s going to take it back for herself because it’s so cute!  Both frames are from Hobby Lobby clearance rack, a couple dollars a piece.  And that picture of my son Sam making his little “oh” at only two weeks old?  Well, that’s priceless.

This little red and white dress was sewn by my husband’s grandma, while the shoes hanging on the wall were worn by my grandma (yes, she actually wore those! They are seriously about to fall apart!).  And the picture in the middle?  It was a gift bag from my aunt Jean…not only a flamenco dancer, but it says “Sevilla”, which is where I lived!  I cut out the picture from the bag and found a frame to fit.  Love it!

Last but certainly not least…this decorative picture is the first thing you see when you walk down the hall to our guest bedroom.  It was actually in our kitchen in our first apartment when we got married, and then in our kitchen again at our first house.  My mom and I found it at Hobby Lobby for $4!

Okay that’s it, I promise! I’m sure your brain is just bowling over with excitement over our bargains!  We just love to share our bargaining adventure stories!  And if you ask me, it turned out to be a pretty cute guest bedroom! (ps…the bed was a hand-me-down from my husband’s family…it was his great-grandma’s bed!)

For all you fellow bargain-hunters, stay tuned in the coming weeks for a continuation of our house tour. There’s lots more where this came from!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Party Tips From A Caterer

Today’s post comes again from my best friend, Laura.  As a caterer, she has learned a few “tricks of the trade” along the way, and she’s sharing a few with us today. I have to admit, she has helped me make my parties much more presentable!  Since moving into our new house, we have had birthday parties, a baby shower, and even a wedding reception! None of them would have been the same without Laura’s help!

Here are a few tips to present and serve the food at your next party:

Baby Shower:  Used Upside-Down Tupperware and
Plastic Table Cloths for "Lifts"
When you set out the food for your event, don't just set the bowls and platters on the table or counter.  It's super easy to dress up your table or counter with a few table cloths, remnants of fabric (that match your theme colors), and random Tupperware, baking pans, and mixing bowls.

Use wide-based containers,  flipped upside down and covered with table cloths to create “lifts”—this  will give your serving area dimension and height.  Use remnants of fabric or tulle, scrunched or twisted to add color.  I have also used cut flowers in addition to the tulle for an extra pop of color.

Another tip to dress up the food is to serve items in plain glass, stainless, or black and white ceramic/ stoneware bowls and platters.  Keep the serve-ware simple and coordinate decorations and extras with party colors.

When I cater, I can never have too many serving utensils! I would suggest buying an extra set of serve-ware (large spoon, large slotted spoon, tongs, serving fork and cake server), available at department stores; Target; Walmart; or Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I also like to have a several pairs of plastic serving tongs in a few sizes (these can be found fairly cheap at a party store);  they work really nice for fruit and veggie platters.

Another one of my favorite party tips is, if you have multiple tables for guests to sit at and you want to cover them with plastic table cloths, consider buying a roll of plastic table cover at a place such as TPC Cash &Carry.  You can cut the plastic table cover to fit any size table and it can also be used to cover the lifts on the food table! Multi-purpose solutions are the best!

Happy Party-Planning!
What are some of your best party tips? Or any questions for the caterer?