Budget Tip: Stock up on Gifts

I’ve said it before, and I still stand by my statement: I would much rather give gifts than receive them. I love, love, love Christmas shopping, but I HATE draining my bank account around the holiday season (not to mention all of those annoying long lines at the mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas). So, one way to save yourself some money (and stress!) is to start your holiday shopping A.S.A.P.! This also works for birthdays and other holidays and events you know will be approaching quickly!

One of my favorite things to do is keep a running list of gift ideas for the people I need to buy for. Pay close attention when shopping with these individuals, as they will often drop hints as they browse: “Oh, I’d like to have one of those” or “Wow, I’ve always wanted one of these” or “I need that!”. Make a mental note of the item and the price, and as soon as you can, jot it down on paper… otherwise you will most likely forget about it later (trust me!).

Use your time to look for good deals on the items on your lists. That way you can get them for a decent price and save them until the gift-giving day arrives! Also, check clearance sections in stores for gift ideas that you may not have on your list. For example, my brother is always the hardest person to buy for when it comes to Christmas presents. So, a few weeks ago when I came across a certain item at Kohl’s I knew I just HAD to get for him, I was super excited. Without revealing the present, it was an item originally priced for $40.00, and I scored it for $4.00! A 90% savings!!! KA-CHING!

So keep your eyes open and prepare to do your Christmas shopping months ahead of time. You’ll be a lot happier with the outcome once the big day finally rolls around!

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Craft: Bird’s Nest Necklace

This is a cute little necklace that would make a great gift for your mother or grandmother on Mother’s Day, which is coming up very soon! It’s very easy and inexpensive to make!

necklace

You will need:
-1 chain
-3 Beads, colors of your choice
-Wire, color of your choice
-Wire cutters

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Directions:

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Thread your beads onto one end of your wire, making a small loop at the end to keep the beads from falling off.

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Loop your beads around each other, kind of tying them in a knot.

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Twist your wire all around the beads about five or six times to make the “nest” shape. Cut your wire, leaving about 5 extra inches extended from the nest.

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Wrap the extra wire around the nest, looping it through and around the beads every now and then to secure them to the “nest” frame.

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Use the last little bit of wire to loop the nest through your chain, and wrap the excess around the loop to secure it.

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And you’ve got a necklace! If you wanted to give this to your mother as a gift, you could really personalize it by using beads or gems the color of her children’s birthstones.

If you make this necklace, I’d love to see pictures! Tweet them to me @CaitWithTheFace

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Exceeding Expectations

When I started my new job, I went in with one goal: to exceed any expectations my new employers had for me. And so far… I’ve got to say, I’ve been pretty successful!

I think I previously mentioned that I had interviewed with this company 3 times before they finally hired me. On my resume, I had clearly stated my strengths, including: “Fast learner.” Yet, it seemed no one had faith in my honesty! But luckily, I’m getting the chance to show them my full potential.

At the beginning of my training, they’ve warned me, “This is a lot of new information to learn. It’s a lot to take in. It can be overwhelming. Don’t give up. You’ll get the hang of it.” And I think it was about day 3 when I started hearing, “Wow, you’re a quick learner! You’re doing awesome! You’re doing everything perfect! No one gets this perfect on the first try!”

It really feels great to pleasantly surprise my coworkers and supervisors. They assumed I would need a lot of help coming into this position, but they are amazed at how quickly I’ve learned the ropes and how well I’m doing. Of course I have to give major props to my coworkers; they’ve been nothing but welcoming and helpful and patient during this time. But this has been a major confidence boost for myself as well. I can’t even explain how great it feels to exceed those expectations previously set for me. If I have any advice to give to someone about to begin a new career, it’s to set the bar for yourself and then aim way above it. Going above and beyond can really pay off in the end, and I, myself, can’t wait to be rewarded for my hard work!

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Pinterest Project: Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells

If you ever plan to come to West Virginia and have some fun, you better be ready to get your hands dirty! That’s what comes to mind when I cook stuffed shells, a recipe that always undoubtedly ends up with messy hands! I came across this recipe on Pinterest from   Busy-At-Home. It looked delicious, so I decided to give it a shot… My review? Two big messy thumbs up! I did adapt it a bit, including cutting the number of servings waaay down. Only my husband and I were eating, and there was no way we needed 38 stuffed shells! So, here’s my version of the recipe, but be sure to check out the original, too!

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For my version, I only made 11 shells in a 9×9 baking dish, but I still had a lot of filling left over, so you may want to cut down the filling ingredients even more if you plan on only making a dozen shells.

Ingredients:
2 C chicken breast, cooked & shredded
2 green onions, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes with chiles
1/4 C chicken stock
1/2 tsp cumin
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C picante sauce
12-15 large pasta shells, cooked al dente

Directions:
Cook the pasta shells in salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.

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Combine the cooked chicken, green onions, diced peppers, and cumin in a large mixing bowl.

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In a separate bowl, combine the cream cheese, chicken stock, and undrained tomatoes with chiles. When mixed well, pour over the chicken mixture and mix all ingredients together. It’s okay if your cream cheese is not completely mixed up at first; I found that it is easier to help combine with cream cheese when it mixed with the peppers and the warm chicken.

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Spread 1/4 C picante sauce in the bottom of a 9×9 in. baking dish.

Fill each of the cooked shells with the filling and set them in the dish on top of the picante sauce.

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Once the shells are filled and arranged, drizzle the remaining 1/4 C picante sauce on top of the shells, then cover with cheddar cheese.

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7. Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

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Mexican Chicken Stuffed Shells
Ingredients:

2 C chicken breast, cooked & shredded
2 green onions, diced
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 (10 oz.) can diced tomatoes with chiles
1/4 C chicken stock
1/2 tsp cumin
1 C shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 C picante sauce
12-15 large pasta shells, cooked al dente

Directions:
1. Cook the pasta shells in salted, boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
2. Combine the cooked chicken, green onions, diced peppers, and cumin in a large mixing bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, combine the cream cheese, chicken stock, and undrained tomatoes with chiles. When mixed well, pour over the chicken mixture and mix all ingredients together.
4. Spread 1/4 C picante sauce in the bottom of a 9×9 in. baking dish.
5. Fill each of the cooked shells with the filling and set them in the dish on top of the picante sauce.
6. Once the shells are filled and arranged, drizzle the remaining 1/4 C picante sauce on top of the shells, then cover with cheddar cheese.
7. Cover with tin foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes.

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Decorating on a Dime: Thrift Store Treasures

If you think it’s absurd to spend hundreds of dollars on items simply used for decorations… well, you’re right! It is absurd! No one has to dish out that kind of money for decor when there are perfectly good items for sale in a place many people don’t dare to check: your local thrift store!

I know it may seem like a lot of the things lining the walls of thrift stores is just outdated junk, but there are few items that can’t be taken home and given a little TLC before they’re good as new.

Take, for instance, my latest find at Goodwill. During one trip, I spotted these little angel statues for $0.49 each, and after some consideration, I decided not to get them. It was only when I returned about two weeks later and found they still hadn’t been purchased, that I decided to give them a home.

This is what they looked like when I bought them:
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You can probably see why many people walked right by these cuties. But, I saw their potential and knew with a few layers of paint, they would look great!

So that’s what I did. And this is what they look like now:
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I love my little angels! They bring a lot of character to my bookcase, I think. And I love even better that I didn’t even spend $1 for the pair of them!

What discarded treasures can you find at your local thrift store and bring back to life?

Tweet me pictures! @CaitWithTheFace

For other tips on creating frugal decorations: I love the blog How To Nest For Less. Check it out!

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Pinterest Project: Solid Color Canvas Quotes

This project was Pinterest-inspired when I happened upon this lovely lady’s blog. It’s one of the simplest crafts, yet.

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You will need:
-Wooden letters (enough to spell out the phrase or word of your choosing)
-Canvas
-Hot glue gun & glue
-Spray paint, color of your choice

For mine, I chose to make 2 with some of my husband’s favorite Bible verses. But whatever you choose to spell out, arrange the wooden letters on the canvas how you want them placed, then glue them down!

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Once your letters are glued down and have had some time to dry, use your spray paint to cover the entire canvas and letters. Be sure to do this step outside or in a well-ventilated room! You may have to do several coats to ensure the wood on the letters doesn’t show through. And that’s it!

These are mine:

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Be creative… make designs with your letters… use your freedom of expression and make something awesome!

If you do this project, tweet me pictures! @CaitWithTheFace

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Recipe: Lasagna with Homemade Sauce

I’ve got to admit… as much as I looove Italian food, I’m not really a fan of lasagna. I think most of it has to do with my distaste for tomato sauce (even when I order pizza, I have to order “light on the sauce”). BUT–this recipe comes from my Aunt Martha, who shared it with my parents, who shared it with me, and it includes its own recipe for homemade tomato/meat sauce, which I actually find very delicious! Of course, you can make it easier on yourself and use the store bought kind just as well, but this just may be the tastiest lasagna you’ve ever eaten!

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Lasagna with Homemade Sauce
Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
3/4 C chopped onion
2 T olive oil
1 (1 lb) can diced tomatoes
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
2 C water
2 tsp garlic powder
1 T chopped parsley
1 T sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp oregano leaves
1/2 (8 oz) package lasagna
1 lb ricotta cheese
8 oz mozzarella cheese
1 C Parmesan cheese

Directions:
In a large, heavy saucepan, lightly brown the beef and onion in oil. Add the tomatoes, paste, water, parsley, salt, sugar, garlic, pepper, and oregano; simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Cook your lasagna according to the package directions. OR you could use the easy way out (like I do) and use the oven ready noodles that you don’t have to cook beforehand!

In a 13×9 in. baking dish, spread about 1 C of the sauce. Alternate layers of lasagna, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan.

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Bake at 350 degrees F for about 40-50 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly. Allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving!

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Lasagna with Homemade Sauce
Ingredients:
1 lb ground beef
3/4 C chopped onion
2 T olive oil
1 (1 lb) can diced tomatoes
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
2 C water
2 tsp garlic powder
1 T chopped parsley
1 T sugar
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp oregano leaves
1/2 (8 oz) package lasagna
1 lb ricotta cheese
8 oz mozzarella cheese
1 C Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. In a large, heavy pan,  lightly brown beef and onion in oil. Add tomatoes, paste, water, parsley, salt, sugar, garlic powder, pepper, and oregano; simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
2. Cook lasagna according to package directions.
3. In a 13×9 in baking dish, spread about 1 C sauce. Alternate layers of lasagna, sauce, ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40-50 minutes, until lightly browned and bubbly.
5. Allow to stand for 15 minutes before serving.

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