Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What I Wore to Work - Thanksgiving Luncheon Merona Dress

Dress - Merona (Goodwill)
Shoes - Target (clearance)

A week before Thanksgiving, my office held its Thanksgiving luncheon.  The luncheon is sort of a pot luck, with the company providing turkey and ham and the rest of us bringing in additional dishes.  For my part, I brought in homemade coleslaw.  Not really a traditional Thanksgiving dish, but it was on the sign-up sheet!  I used The Pioneer Woman's Jalapeno Coleslaw recipe, which is Dave's favorite.  I did omit the cilantro because even though we love it, I know some people are repulsed by it!  My boss raved about the coleslaw, particularly the fine texture of the cabbage.  That's the key to good coleslaw in my book.  And the Presto Salad Shooter I picked up at a yard sale for $3 does the job (remember those from the 80s!

Now onto the dress!  Another Goodwill find - just a simple black and grey print Merona dress with tie at the waist.  It has a sweetheart neckline with slightly puffed sleeves.

Mary Ellen 

Linked at The Pleated Poppy

pleated poppy

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Trash to Treasure - Christmas Tree

Old dressers aren't the only trash to treasure items you'll find discarded.  You might also find a few artificial Christmas trees!  Of the current trees we have - 14 at last count, we only purchased three.  Our 7 ft. main Christmas tree, was given to us by one of Dave's co-workers after he assisted him in clearing out a storage unit (along with a sofa and TV).  The rest have been trash to treasure finds!  People will throw out perfectly good artificial trees.  They upgrade during the holiday sales and don't have the space to store multiple trees.  So, they throw out the old one.  And we "rescue" them!  The tree above is our latest rescue.  A 6 ft. pre-lit tree, with fold out branches.  We decided to place her in the living room where she can be seen as you walk up the steps from the foyer.  Now, I just have to decide on decorations.  Probably something to coordinate with the other two living room trees!

Mary Ellen   

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

No, it's not an episode of Hoarders!  This was our living room the day after Thanksgiving.  Dave brought all our Christmas boxes down from the attic.  Since then, we've been pretty busy!

Thus far, we've assembled and decorated 11 Christmas trees (faux, of course!).  And have two or three more trees to go, along with other decorations.  The hot cocoa has been flowing and Bing Crosby has been playing in the background! 

Hoping your weekend has been merry & bright!

Mary Ellen

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Best wishes for a joyful Thanksgiving from our family to yours!

Mary Ellen

Image courtesy of Vintage Holiday Crafts

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A PTO Day from Work - "Pie" Time Off!

I'm taking PTO (paid time off) from the office today to prepare for Thanksgiving.  So, what does a working home keeper do on her day off from work?  Well today, PTO might as well stand for "pie" time off!  I've been baking since morning.  A pecan pie for Dave's birthday (Happy Birthday Honey!) and a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving dinner.  And I've got a pan of cornbread in the oven right now to make stuffing with tomorrow.  I can't wait to dig into a slice of pecan pie with homemade whipped cream tonight!

Are you doing any baking today?

Mary Ellen 

Our Thanksgiving Meal

Roasted Turkey (brined using Pioneer Woman's Favorite Turkey Brine)

Crockpot Cornbread Stuffing (A Year of Slow Cooking)

Roasted Butternut Squash & Broccoli in Browned Butter Sage Sauce

Organic Brown Rice

Homemade Dinner Rolls

Semi-homemade Pumpkin Pie (I'm using prepared pie crusts)

& Dave's Green Jello Salad
(A dish he enjoyed as a child made by his maternal grandmother which involves mixing green jello with crushed pineapple and cream cheese.  It's a Midwestern thing I'm told.  Sounds like a strange combination, but it's good!)

Image courtesy of Vintage Holiday Crafts

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Meal Planning Tips


  • Keep it simple!  I remember the first Thanksgiving meal I cooked as a new wife.  I wanted so much to impress Dave and my visiting family members by making exotic side dishes to accompany our Thanksgiving turkey.  Unfortunately, my culinary skills did not match up to my high expectations.  The Thai beef dish I attempted to make went horribly wrong and stunk up the entire apartment!  After I stopped gagging, I ended up throwing away the beef and the pot it was cooked in!  I learned a valuable lesson - keep it simple.  Most people expect the basics on Thanksgiving, turkey or ham, rice or potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, rolls and something sweet.  So stick to the basics!
  • Make a plan.  Once you've determined what dishes you're going to prepare for Thanksgiving, look at your meal plan and see if anything can be made ahead of time.  The day before Thanksgiving, I'll be making my pies, baking cornbread for the stuffing, roasting butternut squash and preparing the dough for my dinner rolls.  On Thanksgiving morning, I'll make a schedule for the dishes.  Traditionally, our family eats Thanksgiving "dinner" around early afternoon instead of in the evening.  Working back from the time I wish to have the turkey on the table, I'll plan the start of my other dishes so everything will be done about the same time.  Or as close as possible!   
  • Use more than just your oven.  Unless you're fortunate enough to have more than one in your kitchen, your only oven will be tied up with the turkey on Thankgsiving.  To keep your meal plan on track, don't forget about the other tools in your kitchen.  For my Thanksgiving meal, I'll be making my cornbread stuffing in my crockpot, cooking veggies in my steamer and baking rolls in my toaster convection oven.
I hope these tips help your Thanksgiving preparations go smoothly!

Mary Ellen

Monday, November 21, 2011

Tony Stewart Wins!

2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Champion
Tony Stewart

In order to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship on Sunday, Tony Stewart had to win the race.  And win he did!  Battling back from 40th place after early damage to his car, Tony Stewart held off Carl Edwards to win his third Cup championship.  Even though I'm not really a fan of Roush drivers (except for Ricky Stenhouse Jr on the Nationwide side), I have to say Carl Edwards was absolutely flawless in the Chase.  Which makes Tony's win even more amazing!  

A great finish to a great season!  

Mary Ellen

Photo credit    

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Coming Soon - The Money Saving Mom's Budget Book

Last week, a wonderful surprise was dropped off at my door.  A pre-release copy of Crystal Paine's new book, The Money Saving Mom's Budget!  Like most of you, I'm a huge fan of Crystal's money saving website.  Her site has been a tremendous resource to me as a working home keeper.  So, I'm really excited all her wisdom is now available as a book. 

The Money Saving Mom's Budget is scheduled to be released on January 10, 2012.  However, you can pre-order your copy in advance.  And look for my review of Crystal's new book in the coming weeks!

Mary Ellen

(Note:  The Barnes & links in this post are affiliate links.  Read my disclosure policy here).

Friday, November 18, 2011

NASCAR 2011 Chase for the Championship Final Race Sunday!

So, the NBA is locked out?  Who cares!  The final race of the 2011 NASCAR Chase for the Championship is this Sunday at Homestead in Miami!  It's down to two drivers - Carl Edwards and Tony Stewart.  The two are separated by just three points.  This will bring to an end Jimmie Johnson's five consecutive championship reign.  And unfortunately my favorite driver, Kyle Busch, will have to wait until next year to win his first Sprint Cup championship.  I'm sure ya'll heard about his issues during the Texas race weekend.

My pick to win the championship - I'm going with Tony Stewart!  He's a former champion, an owner-driver, has Hendrick power under the hood.  And he has that agressiveness and swagger I like in my drivers!  But, Roush cars do run well at Homestead.  I can't wait!

Are you a NASCAR fan?  Who's your pick to win the championship?

Mary Ellen     

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What I Wore to Work - Casual Friday

Dress - Kupcake (Goodwill)
Sweater - Kohl's (clearance + coupon)
Shoes - Target

The dress code for my office is business casual.  However, a few years ago management instituted casual Fridays.  Since I've been wearing only dresses and skirts, my casual Fridays look exactly like my Monday thru Thursdays!  But I thought this recent Goodwill find encompassed the spirit of casual Friday.  This tube dress is made of a stretchy, denim-like material - whose name escapes me at the moment (darn old age!).  I actually had a mom-made ring sling made out of the same material when Clayton was a baby.  My favorite sling by far as it was stretchy and durable.  Anyway, the dress came with a cute skinny red belt.  I paired the dress with a white sweater from Kohl's (on clearance for $6 plus 15% off coupon).     

Mary Ellen

pleated poppy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not So Extreme Couponing - Clipping Coupons

Coffee & coupons
part of my Sunday morning routine

I've shared with you some of my "not so extreme" coupon shopping trips.  But I thought I would take some time to explain the how-to behind the trips.  It starts of course with clipping coupons.  If you're a working home keeper, you may be interested in saving money using coupons.  But on the other hand, you may think you don't have time to add one more thing to your busy schedule.  Let me assure you, couponing doesn't have to become another full-time job!  My style of couponing fits very easily within my home and work schedule without disrupting either.

Mike Holmes
an essential part of couponing :)

On Sundays while I'm in the kitchen making breakfast, Dave and the boys head out to buy copies of the Sunday paper.  Dave buys up to three copies of the Sunday paper each week.  Why three?  Because Harris Teeter will only double or triple three like coupons.  Buying only three of an item means my stockpile grows at a slower rate.  But typically, three is enough to get us through to the next sales cycle. 

Once we've finished eating breakfast, I gather up my coupon inserts, a pair of scissors and my cup of coffee and head to my chair in the family room.  I turn on the TV and start up my DVR recording of HGTV's Holmes on Homes (with Mike Holmes) or Holmes Inspection.  It's just a must for me!  I go through each insert individually (why rush!) and cut out only the relevant coupons.  For me, relevant coupons are non-food items (cleaning, health & beauty, paper products, pet food) and select food items (baking supplies, nuts, frozen/canned fruit, juices, almond milk).  I don't bother clipping the processed food coupons at all since we eat mostly from scratch meals made with whole ingredients.

With my coupons clipped, I pull out my coupon holder, which is an accordian receipt file small enough to fit in my purse.  I go through each file category and pull out any expired coupons and add in the newly clipped coupons.  I found that it is best to file my coupons right away.  Otherwise, I end up with piles of clipped coupons lying around.

So, that's my very simple, very easy approach to clipping coupons!  Next time I will discuss finding deals and preparing for my shopping trips.

Do you clip coupons?  If so, what is your clipping style?   

Mary Ellen                  

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sunday at the Park

Our area has many wonderful city parks.  Going to the park is a favorite (and frugal!) activitiy our family enjoys quite often.  Some of the parks are out of the way and off the beaten path.  It's fun to see what you can discover when you take a walk into the woods!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What I Wore to Work - Back In Black - Forever 21 Dress

Dress - Forever 21 (Goodwill)
Cloche Hat - Croft & Barrow (Kohls)
Shoes - Target

I probably have too many black dresses in my closet.  When I come across a black dress at Goodwill, I always find myself thinking if I should buy yet another one.  But like the many black shoes I have in my closet, each black dress is special and unique in its own way.  Plus, black is a classic color - timeless, even.  And it provides the perfect palette for colorful accessories.  So maybe a girl can never have too many black dresses! 

This particular black dress was another Goodwill find.  It is exactly like my favorite navy blue uniform Forever 21 dress, except it's black (of course!).  Most of the time, I wear a bright colored floral pin in my hair with this dress.  But today, I went with my black cloche hat.        

Trench Coat - Merona - Target

And to add another layer of black, I wore my black plaid trench coat.  I bought the coat new (gasp!) at Target a few years ago with birthday money from my mother-in-law.  It has a belt for the waist, which I sometimes wear.  At other times, I think wearing the belt makes my backside look rather large.  Although, I guess the coat can't be blamed for that!

Mary Ellen

pleated poppy

Monday, November 7, 2011

Beyond the Frame - Alamance County Arts Council, Graham, NC {Pic Overload}

"Oriental Fan" by J. Seward Johnson

Last month on my birthday, we took a nice Sunday drive over to Graham, NC to visit the "Beyond the Frame" exhibit hosted by the Alamance County Arts Council.  The free exhibit featured the work of J. Seward Johnson (of the Johnson & Johnson family).  Johnson created life-sized sculptures inspired by well-known nineteenth-century Impressionist masterpieces.  At this exhibit, getting close to the art was not only allowed, but encouraged!  Perfect for small children!   

Johnson entitled this 19 figure piece, "Were You Invited?"  It is inspired by Renoit's Luncheon of the Boating Party.  Our guide mentioned the lady above with the dog was Renoit's wife.

The sculptures allow Johnson to take the viewer "beyond the frame".  Note the lady in blue.

Below the table, Johnson shows her with one shoe off!

More members of the boating party

There was a very small space amongst the sculptures where one could sit with the party.  Ashleigh joining in.

The boating party continued

In the actual painting, the man with cane raised is in the background of the work.  Here Johnson makes him a more prominent figure by having him engage some uninvited guests.  The uninvited guests are not apart of Renoit's work.  They are actually J. Seward Johnson himself (leaning back) and three of his real life artist friends.

Entering the garden, we find Johnson's "On Poppied Hill" inspired by Monet's Poppies and Woman With A Parasol.  The woman and child are Monet's wife and son.

Johnson's sculpture of Monet painting the scene

Outside the garden, Johnson's work entitled "A Thought to Consider" (inspired by Manet's In the Conservatory) 

The beautiful house where the Alamance Arts Council is located in Graham.  The Queen Anne Revival style house was constructed in 1871 and was the home of Captain James White and Emma Holt White.    

I loved the light blue color of the porch's ceiling!

On the porch, "A Turn of the Century" inspired by  Renoir's Dance at Bougival.

As you enter the house, you are greeted by Johnson's "Landlady" (Van Gogh's L'Arlesienne)

To the right, a work entitled "Pondering the Benefits of Exercise" (Renoir's Lunch at the Restaurant Fournaise)

Ashleigh getting close

Johnson's "Oriental Fan" inspired by Monet's La Japonaise.

She has a little surprise underneath her kimono :)

And outside of the house, a 20-foot version of the "Turn of the Century" sculpture.

Mary Ellen