Bacon, Pumpkin Bread, and Southwestern Egg Scramble

Saturdays are my favorite yes it's true.  I can sleep in a little and relax.  What's better than that?!  Nothing except maybe this delicious Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread via Reading My Tea Leaves with a side of bacon and a tortilla egg scramble.   I made a little loaf for us to nibble on then bake the rest of the pumpkin bread batter in a bundt cake pan to take with us on our trip to the mountains.

The tortilla scramble is out of this world simple and so tasty.  Just scramble eggs like you usually would then add crushed tortilla chips before the eggs set up, top with salsa and cheese, then let the cheese melt.  Oh yea...yummy!

I spent yesterday afternoon organizing my kitchen cabinets.  I keep seeing all these cute ideas on Pinterest about organizing, but I'm trying to keep the cost down so I just used what I had.  I ended up using all my mason jars leftover from summer canning and other containers that I had on hand.

A place for everything, everything in it's place

XOXO,

Alaina M.


Since my honey and I will be embarking on a Spending Freeze in just a few days we are starting to gear up and prep for this big decision.  We are spending New Year's Eve with two of my coworkers and their girlfriends in a cabin in the remote community of Blue Ridge, Georgia.  I can't wait for the trip and we are viewing it as a last "woo-rah" before we cut our extra spending completely.  I would also like to point that we agreed and paid for this trip before we decided to embark on this journey.

Here are a few things we have been doing to gear up for the spending freeze:

1.  Make a BUDGET!  This may seem simple but it's not easy to account for everything, even expenses that only occur on a quarterly, semi-annual, or annual basis.  Add a budget for additional expenses like oil changes and work that in to the monthly basis.

2.  Set up a separate account for extra income that you receive.  This is a Dave Ramsey tip and will be an account for items such as tax refunds, overtime, and any unused money from the monthly budget.  This account can be used as savings for emergencies or used to liquidate debt.

3.  Make a Needs vs. Wants List to have a better handle on things you are willing to spend money on.

4.  Trim your budget to reflect the needs side of your list.  This may include cutting cable television off completely to save over $700 a year like I will be doing at the end of my billing cycle or cutting your cell phone bill down to the minimum.  My sweetie and I found that we could cut his cell phone bill from $134 a month to $77.  That's a savings of $684 a year!

5.  Write down each purchase that is made everyday so at the end of the week you can see where your money went and shoot for at least one day a week where you don't spend any money.

6.  Use cash instead of a debit card when possible.

7.  Organize everything...from your closet to kitchen cabinets.  Not only will you feel better for scaling down and simplifying but you may find items that you can sell to make additional money from.  I found 3 pairs of boots I haven't worn in years that are in great shape...hello eBay.

8.  Be reasonable.  This goes without saying, but you need to set yourself up for success with your budget and your expectations.  Crunch the numbers and figure out how long it will take you to meet your income.

9.  Set a time limit of the spending freeze.  We have decided to do 90 days and will be sticking to it.  Once we hit the 90 day mark we will re-evaluate and see what the next step is.

10.  Get EXCITED!  You are about to take control of your money situation and get back on track.  There will be nothing more liberating than taking care of business and having more in the bank and less in debt.

These are just a few things that my sweetie and I have been working on to set ourselves up for success in the new year with our spending under control.

XOXO,

Alaina M. 


 

Beauty is only skin deep BUT I love my beauty products yes I do!  However I hate spending money on them and frugal living is all about making do.  Two items that I can not live without and use daily are eye makeup remover and leave in conditioner, so after a little looking and trying I was able to make them myself.

Eye Makeup Remover

Supplies:

Small Container either Plastic or Glass

Witch Hazel (available at most big box stores, pharmacies, or grocery stores)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

To Make:

Mix equal parts witch hazel and olive oil in container.  The mix should be 50/50 and will separate so to use simply shake and apply to a cotton ball or washcloth.

Leave in Conditioner

Supplies:

2-3 Tablespoons of your Favorite Conditioner

Water

Plastic Container with a Spray Pump (16 - 20 oz)

To Make:

Put 2-3 tablespoons of conditioner in the bottom of bottle then fill up with water being sure to leave about 2 inches of headspace in the bottle.  Screw on the top to the bottle and shake until everything is combined in the bottle.  Apply to wet or damp hair.



BEFORE
Well, I finally did it...I cut my own hair.  I have been talking to my family and friends about trimming my own hair for a while, but I finally got up the nerve to do it myself.  As part of my Spending Freeze I am trying to cut back on as much extra spending as possible and freezing all outgoing expenditures.  


I do not get my hair cut at a lavish salon and always get a dry cut, but a haircut in the ATL area is expensive.  I love my stylist and that is why I continue to go back to her every 6-8 weeks.  A dry cut (no shampoo, scalp massage, or styling) runs my pocketbook about $60 after tip.  So, $60 x 6 cuts a year = $360.  I also always dye my hair at home instead of paying for it.  A box of dye costs me about $12 and I touch it up about every 6 weeks.  

One of the steps to putting a freeze on your spending is making a list of things you are willing to spend money on and a list of things you are not.  My list is as follows:

WILL spend money on:

fresh produce
Chloe's medical expenses (my dog)
vitamins/prescriptions
boxed hair dye
Bible study materials/projects

WILL NOT spend money on:

clothes
hair products
fancy/prepared foods
eating out
haircuts

AFTER

Since I have been growing my hair out and want long locks before summer this seems like an easy way to save a penny and still promote healthy growth.  

I used Anna Jones's tutorial and it worked like a charm.  The only thing I would recommend is that if you have wavy or curly hair straighten it before you are ready to start cutting, use a pair of scissors designed for cutting hair (I used a pair of mustache scissors from a big box store), and trim your layers or bangs if you have them so all your ends are fresh on the bottom.

The whole process took a handful of minutes and was so worth it knowing how much money I saved.  My ends feel tangle-free and look great.  There is nothing better than a haircut to make you feel revitalized in the dead of winter.  Good luck with your trimming and let me know how it goes for you!  Happy saving!


Earlier this month I blogged about spoiling my sweetie with 12 Days of Christmas gifts.  I didn't want to mention what I did for each day but I thought that since today is day 12 I would share.

As the song goes, On the 12 Days of Christmas my true love gave to me...

1st Day:  a cozy sweatshirt

2nd Day:  two pairs of Ed Hardy boxer briefs

3rd Day:  three NFL Atlanta Falcons golfballs

4th Day:  four pairs of Under Armor ankle socks

5th Day:  5 Love Languages Book ( I also bought a copy for myself, so we can read it together)

6th Day: six couple coupons

7th Day:  seven photos in an album of us

8th Day:  eight Dove Promises chocolates each labeled with a promise

9th Day:  nine love quotes and Bible verse in a leather bound journal

10th Day:  ten issues of Men's Health magazine (one subscription)

11th Day:  Love Mix #11 ( Mixed CD )

12th  Day:  twelve public confessions about my man 

I hope this will inspire you to do something sweet for the ones you love and give them something to look forward to each day leading up to Christmas.


Here are twelve little reasons why my man is so easy to love:


1.  He loves GOD and that is a part of our relationship which adds to another level of fullness.

2.  He is kind to everyone regardless.

3.  He loves his family and friends and surrounds himself with people of quality character.

4.  He is so goofy.  Since I am a pretty serious person, this quality goes a long way and I am always laughing.  Whether we are quoting the Hodge Twins from YouTube or being silly, things are always a laugh.

5.  He is so supportive.  There is no one I would rather have in my corner than this man.

6.  He loves my squirt.  My dog Chloe Mae is crazy important to me and I am glad that he has embraced her openly.

7.  He is reliable.  Having a man do what he said he would do if a dieing thing, but my honey keeps it alive.

8.  He thinks about the future.  He is a planner like me and is always thinking about the next step.  Whether that is making plans, saving money, or working on his career.

9.  He is always willing to help.  No matter what it is he is helping me around the house, with work, or my Chloe.

10.  He makes things easy.  Being a high strung person, he mellows me a great deal and that I am thankful for.

11.  He is confident.  He is always sure of himself in every situtation and that kind of mentality makes me feel so secure.

12.  He gives his emotions away.  He always communicates with me what he is feeling and gives so much of himself.

My sweetie may blush when he reads this but as this is our first Christmas together I want to make it memorable and quite personal.

"Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay;
Love isn't love til you give it away."
-Oscar Hammerstein



Latkes are a traditional Hanakkah dish and with my surplus of potatoes around the house I thought I would enjoy a delicious holiday favorite.  Hanukkah started over the weekend and I thought this would be a perfect way to enjoy a tradition even if I am not Jewish.  After you try these babies you'll swear I have a Jewish grandmother.  

Latkes


6 medium potatoes peeled and grated

2 small or 1 medium red apple peeled and grated

1 medium onion grated

3/4 cup flour

2 eggs

1 tsp salt

pepper to taste

canola oil (quite a bit)

Chive Sour Cream


3/4 cup sour cream

3-4 Tbs chopped chives

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp lemon juice


Makes 14-16 latkes


Place potatoes, onion, and apples in a strainer and toss by hand with the salt.  Place strainer over a large bowl to collect excess water.  Allow the mixture to drain for 15-30 minutes periodically squeezing to release extra water.  Mix ingredients for chive sour cream and refrigerate until serving. 


Next, add the remaining ingredients minus the oil of course.  Beat the eggs on the side of the bowl then combine with a fork.



Make sure that mixture is thoroughly combined and heat a large skillet on high heat with canola oil.  I add enough to the cover the bottom of the skillet.  You could add more of course, but I find that this is generally enough to get the latkes really crispy without having to fry them in an inch of oil although you could do that as well.


Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup scoop mixture into the skillet once the oil is up to temperature.  Simply test the oil with a small bit and listen for a serious sizzle.  Once you scoop the mixture into the skillet, flatten the cakes with the back of the scoop so that they are about 1/3 an inch thick or so.  Be sure to not overcrowd the pan and keep the heat hot enough to cook the patties on the inside while browning them on the outside too.


Let the latkes cook on each side 2-4 minutes or until they are golden brown.


Once they are golden brown and crispy remove the oil and drain on paper towels to remove the excess oil.  You make have to add additional vegetable or canola oil to your skillet between batches, but just make sure it is the correct temperature before adding the latke mixture.


Once the latkes have cooled a little enjoy them with the chive sour cream or traditional applesauce.  

*This recipe has been adapted from The Cheese Pusher.



One the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

This year I decided to spend the 12 days leading up to Christmas spoiling my honey.  I got the idea for the blog Passionate Homemaking.  Basically you choose gifts that correspond with the days.  I will post a more detailed list of what I did for each day once it is over just in the event he reads this post.  Planning the gifts have been so much fun and I decided to start the gift giving yesterday so it doesn't interfere with my family visiting over Christmas.  I printed the cute little tags using these printables:



Enjoy spoiling the ones you hold dear!



Just like everyone else in the country I struggle with money.  My parents have always done an excellent job of instilling in me the values of hard work, but it seems I am in a rut.  I have a little credit card debit and have money stashed away for a rainy day, but sometimes it feels like I have no idea where my money is going.  I make a decent living at my job, but I feel like I have nothing to show for it.  After all, thank you for my amazing parents I do not have a car payment or any student loan debt.  My bills are small, so why isn't my savings account huge?  Let's break this down...

1.  I am an impulse buyer when it comes to small items like nail polish, food, and makeup.

2.  I justify spending money on myself because I work hard everyday at a job that really doesn't suit me which results in money spent on clothing and other items.

3.  I am a fanatic about cooking and am always trying out a new recipe.  This forces me out of my house and at the store to buy items I don't necessarily need in order to not go hungry.

These are the areas that I struggle with and it may not sound like I need to change a lot in the way I spend money to save more but I think there is more to it than that.  I have decided to embark upon a SPENDING FREEZE, yes FREEZE.  This means starting January 1st I will no longer be spending any money whatsoever on anything that is not vital to my life.  I got the idea from reading about the success of Anna Newell Jones.  She managed to get out from under her debt and save more money than I can even imagine.  This is truly an inspiration to me and my boyfriend.  We have decided to wait until January simply because we have already made monetary commitments due to the holidays (Christmas gifts, out of state wedding, and New Years Eve trip with friends).  

Since we do not live together we still have separate expenses and separate needs.  We both started by making a list of our budgets and trimming them down as much as possible.  The next thing we did was make NEEDS vs. WANTS list. 

Mine looks like this:

NEEDS

Shelter
Food
Transportation
Clothing

WANTS

New Clothing
New Car
Cosmetics

The next step was by listing items we were willing to spend money on and items we weren't willing to spend on.

WILL spend money on:

fresh produce
Chloe's medical expenses (my dog)
vitamins/prescriptions
boxed hair dye
Bible study materials/projects

WILL NOT spend money on:

clothes
hair products
fancy/prepared foods
eating out
haircuts

Here are some other tips that I will be utilizing to help me cut back on my expenses even further:

1.  Run errands only one day a week
2.  Unsubscribe from all email newsletters about sales (goodbye Macys and DSW)
3.  Make all food ahead of time (this will enable less of an urge to impulse buy food out in a hurry)
4.  No traveling out of town
5.  No eating out
6.  Only grocery shop while cabinets are bare unless buying fresh produce or milk, eggs, and bread
7.  Brown bag lunches to work and when running errands
8.  No more running errands on my lunch break, this will eliminate gas expenses and impulse buys
9.  Use cash for anything that is not an electronic payment
10.  Carpool with my honey two days a week to work (since we work down the street from each other)
11.  Write down all purchases on a daily basis to get an accurate account of money spent
12.  Account for expenses that occur on a semi/annual basis in the monthly budget (Chloe's vaccines, tests, etc.) 

These things are really going to enable me to be successful in my spending freeze challenge and are things I can start implementing right now.  It is also important to set a timeline for how long you want to not be spending.  For my honey and me this will be 90 days starting January 1st.

Here are some other helpful links:




Let me know if you have some tips that you would like to share about how you live on a budget and save like a crazy person!

" A penny saved is a penny earned."  - Ben Franklin




Living in the South everything is about family and pork and sharing a meal together, so it seems just natural that you would want to make Peppered Bacon Gravy with Biscuits for your family on a Sunday morning.  This recipe will blow your mind at how simple and delicious it is.  The biscuit recipe is the one I used and all and all it turned out well.  The only thing I did was brush each biscuit top with a little melted butter before I removed them from the oven.

 Here is what you will need:

biscuits

6-8 slices of good quality bacon chopped

2 1/2 cups milk ( I used low fat)

2-3 Tbs flour

salt & pepper to taste

Serves 4



Brown your bacon in a deep sided skillet until crispy.  Be sure to cook the bacon a little bit longer than you normally would so it does not get too soggy when you mix it with the gravy.



Once bacon is crispy, remove from skillet and drain on a paper towel.



Drain bacon grease from pan, but be sure to leave 2-3 tablespoons of bacon fat in skillet.  Stir in flour and cook for 1-2 minutes on medium high heat.


Whisk in milk a little at a time on medium high heat being sure to eliminate all clumps by whisking.  Once all milk is added whisk on medium high continuously ensuring that mixture does not scald.


Turn heat to low until mixture thickens and can coat the back of a spoon.


Once mixture is desired thickness return bacon and heat through.


Split biscuits and serve. 




Christmas is here and you better believe I started the decorating even before Thanksgiving came on the calendar.  The best thing about getting your decorations up early is being able to enjoy them.  Here are some of the things that I put up and with splitting the time between my place and my man's that is just that much more space to spread Christmas:



Disclaimer:  while my sweet boyfriend was a big help, my munchkin on the other hand was not.  She always seems to seize the opportunity for a nap.


The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing...I mean hanging a wreath for all the see.


This one I actually made by hot gluing shatterproof ornaments onto a basic garland wreath from the craft store.  Not only is it personalized with the silver painted letter "S", but it cost a fraction of the cost of those fancy ones in the stores and its beautiful. 


My fabulous fuchsia and gold Christmas tree.


The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...and sparkle.


I picked up a pair of these beauties at a Black Friday sale for 50% off.  They are the perfect touch to my kitchen cabinets.


The boyfriend's Christmas tree trimmed in red and green.

Here's to hot cocoa, memories, tinsel, gift giving, and love all around.

XOXO,

Alaina







Well I did it!  I finished my first half marathon with a time of 2 hours and 48 minutes.  It may not sound like much, but I finished and now I have one under my belt.  I am not going to lie...I may be hooked.  My sister and I are already talking about doing another one in the spring and I can't wait.

My boyfriend and friend were there at the finish and I am so thankful that I had them there to experience this with me.  There was no place I would have rather been on Thanksgiving day.  After the race, I spent the day with my boyfriend's family eating and getting to know his extended family.  I am not sure if I want to run this particular race on turkey day next year, but I am so thankful to be healthy and able to accomplish what I had been preparing for 8+ weeks.  What a blessing from GOD!?



XOXO,

Alaina



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