Thursday, September 30, 2010

On the Eve of October...

I decided to slowly start adding in my Halloween decor.
Not quite ready for the spider webs everywhere and non-sense, but I'm ready to usher in October!
Here's what I added today

I am so excited for October!!!
What do you think??

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Lazy Woman's Guide to Canning

Mr. Free and I ventured into the canning world this past year with some good friends of ours leading the way.
It was a whole new world for me!
And much easier than I had thought!

So far we haven't canned a whole lot, but our list includes:
Mulberry Jam
Mulberry Syrup
Apple Sauce
Apple Butter

All with great success!!!

There are many different ways to can, and most involve some specialty equipment.
However, in consulting with friends and family here is the system we do and has worked beautifully.

All you need is
Ball jars
Container of hot water
Stuff to put in the jars

First take the jar and its components and submerge it into HOT water.
You can fill a big bowl, or fill your sink or even put them in the dishwasher through a HOT cycle to get them sterilized.
I usually just do the big bowl or sink.

Once your sauce or jam or whatnot is ready to be canned, take jar and lids out (remember they will be HOT!) And wipe them down dry.

Pour in your goods.

Then quickly place the lid and ring on tightly and wipe down the lids dry.

Flip upside down on a dishtowel for several hours or overnight. (The pressure and heat will create a vacuum and cause the the lid to seal. If you listen carefully you will hear a "woosh" sound when it seals.)

Voila! Canning success!!!

Make sure to label your jars for storage so you know what it is! And you can reuse your jars and lids so they really are a great investment!

I hope this offered a little insight for those not yet venturing into canning, but it truly is a lost art! It's such a great way to extend our summer and fall harvest through the long winter!

Happy Canning!!!

P.S This is my 200th post! Crazy huh?! Thanks for reading still!!!

Monday, September 27, 2010

How did I not post about this sooner?!!!


Kansas City will be getting in 2011....

Not 1....

But TWO!!!!

I know I'm a total dork, but I'm beyond excited.

I love grocery shopping.
It combines my two great loves.

Shopping and food. : )

Happy Monday World.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On a personal note....

My life seems out of control.
Allow me to share.
About 6 months ago I prayed this prayer:
Lord, please don't let my life go according to my plan. I desire at the end of my life to look back and see how the journey was not how I would have chosen, but it was glorious. I truly saw God work through all the twists and turns.
Boy has that prayer come true.
I am a planner.
A huge planner.
And thus far, aside from a couple things, my life has gone exactly how I'd planned it.
But that worried me.
I didn't want to be an old lady and think Yes, Life went just how I'd planned. How would God be glorified through that? How many blessings would I have missed that way?
These past 6 months have sure taken my plans and through them through out the window.
My plans?
Get pregnant last July, have baby in March.
Have Mr. Free finish school, sub for a while and maybe get a job.
Other than that? Same ol' same ol'.
What has happened?
Well, indeed I did get pregant last July but that baby was only meant to be with us for a brief moment. No nursery to get ready by March after all.
We now have an 18 year old boy living with us. We are helping him get on his feet and have the skills necessary for independence.
Mr. Free is finishing school in December and already has a lead on a job.
I can truly say that life is not going as planned.

I know I am just in the midst of one of the twists in the road, but I am completely overwhelmed.
I am grieving the loss of our child.
I am blessed by the opportunity to help a fellow brother in Christ.
I am grateful for the career opportunity for Mr. Free.
I know everything that happens is for my good and His glory.
It's just really hard for a planner to completely let go.
And that's what I've done.
Every day has been incredibly hard.
I just have to let go and give it all to Him.
He loves me so much and has such a great plan for me, why wouldn't I give it all to Him?
He knows my heart is aching yet rejoicing at the same time.
And that is hard.
He knows that and is working it all for good.
My heart aches to be a mom.
I want it so bad.
But I have to let that go and understand that God may not have that planned for me.
And I have to be OK with that.
Sorry for the rambling... it's just been a really hard week yet I am hopeful and at peace resting my life in His hands.
I pray everyone has an incredibly blessed weekend.
Hug those you love a little tigher. : )
Back to your regularly scheduled, more light-hearted postings....

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Oh What A Little Paint Can Do....

Here is a set of old nasty shelves that were left in our basement.



This is Step 1 of our Trillion Step Basement Makeover project.

What do you think?
Too bold?

I like it.... : )

Monday, September 20, 2010

Fall Decor

I seriously LOVE this time of year.
Have I mentioned that yet?
: )

It's funny...each year at the end of summer I start thinking about Fall decor and how I don't really have that much.

Then September rolls around and I get the tote out and see that I have a LOT more than I remembered!


Here's some pics from around our home sweet home!
Please regard the human-ness in the pics. Yes, you will see cookie sheets drying, etc. Sorry.

P.S. My biggest frugal tip for seasonal decor is to buy at the end of the season for the following year. For the last 3 years I snagged decorations for my home and classroom for 75-90% off at Target, Michaels and Old Time Pottery. Just have patience and plan ahead for the following year!

You'll save a ton of $$$ that way!

Happy Fall!!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

S'More Candy Bars

So Mr. Free had been requesting Homemade Marshmallows.

Yesterday I got down to business. And they were suprisingly easy! I used this recipe here.
It yields a LOT of marshmallows! Last night we enjoyed some hot cocoa with the marshmallows and obviously still had a ton leftover.

Then Mr. Free had a genius idea.

S'More Candy Bars.

And they are super stinkin' easy.
Here's what you need:
- Graham Crackers
- Homemade Marshmallows
- Chocolate almond bark
-Vegetable oil

All you need to do is break the graham crackers into quarters, along the perferated edges. Then cut your marshallows to fits.
Place the marshmallows on top.
Melt the almond bark in the microwave then thin out a bit with some vegetable oil.
Pour the chocolate over the marshmallow/graham crackers until completely coated.
Chill in fridge until chocolate is hard.

These are SUPER rich.

But delicious.

We are thinking about doing another batch with a smear of peanut butter between the marshmallow and graham cracker. Mmmmm.....

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!!!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Channeling my inner Martha....

Today I...

Woke up before 9 (huge accomplishment for me on a Saturday!)
Made homemade apple fritters
Peeled and cored a zillion more apples to freeze for future pies
Made another batch of apple/pear sauce.
Or as we call it....plapple sauce.
Picked up the house and decorated for Fall.
Details coming soon!
Made homemade marshmallows

Whew! I wish I could spend every day like this!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Decorating on a Budget

Alrighty, I'm getting back to the heart of this blog!
My love of decorating our lil' shoebox home!
I thought I'd share some tips with you today!
Here is one snapshot of our home in our living room.
With this one little glimpse, I have 8 frugal decorating tips to share with you.
*please see diagram below*

Here is the breakdown:

1. Use art you have!

I'm lucky in that Mr. Free is an artist and has many artist friends willing to share their work for free. Even without a resident artist, pull out your husbands old high school paintings, or your mom's summer community college pottery. It adds dimension to the room, history and of course, good conversation!

Cost: Free!

2. Frames.

When needing to frame art or photos, first check through your home for miscellanous frames you forgot you had. I have like 2 dozen in our basement. If you still don't have the right kind of frame, check thrift stores! You can pop out the existing art in them, and then use the frame!

Frames don't need to look perfect upon purchase. If it has good shape and stability to it, but is an ugly color, spray paint it! For Mr. Free's Senior Show this is how he framed 80% of his art work. And it saved us hundreds!!!

Cost: Free- Less than $20 (on average)

3. Second-hand furniture

This loveseat was given to us by Mr. Free's parents when we got married. It's not perfectly our taste, but a great neutral piece to use. So feel free to take furniture from family our check thrift stores and craigslist. You can even slipcover to personalize it. And it'll save you big $$$ vs. buying brand new!

Cost: Free-$200ish (depending on quality)

4. Pillows

The loveseat came with pillows that did not match our style. I simply bought some fabric I did like (houndstooth!) and made my own pillow cover for them. Voila! Cost like $4!

Cost: Under $10 (depending on fabric)

5. Painting trim and doors

For about $20 in paint, you can make your home lighter and airier with white doors and trim. Our 50 year old home had grimy wood trim and doors. With a can of paint and a weekend you can completely transform the feel of your home.

Cost: Less than $20


We got this rug that I LOVE from Overstock. This site is a great resource for home furnishings and usually offer a great deal on items. Check the internet for home decor before plunking down $$$ at a Big Box Store.

Cost: Varies

7. Use exisiting flooring

If you are lucky enough to have hardwoods (even if buried underneath carpet) use them! Ours are NOT in great shape. They have some splothes, worn spots, etc. But to me, it adds to the charm. It shows people lived here for 50 years. And I like that.

If you have carpet and it may not be the shade you'd choose...make it work! Design the whole room around that color to make it flow and look like it's a part of the room!

Cost: Free!

8. Adopt a cute kitty.

Isn't Otis adorable? For a nominal adoption fee you can have your very own cute kitty to wander around your home and be in just the right spot for a photo op. : )

Cost: Adoption Fee (usually less than $50)

There you have it... I hope these ideas may spark some thoughts about your own home!

What are your money saving decorating tips?

I'll be back with more frugal decorating tips using another corner of our home!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Put it on my tab....

So I added a new tab up top.
It's called Recipes.

So far I've put a few recipes that I've already featured on the blog previously.
And most of them are carb-alicious.

I promise to put some more healthier recipes in there.
Maybe with some protein even.

Remember friends...I'm not a chef. Not by a long shot.
I'm a real woman, wife and work outside the home.
So these have to be simple.

But.....thought I'd share what the Free Household likes to eat on a regular basis!
Bon' Appetit!

Any type of recipes you'd like to see?

Leave me a comment and let me know!

Monday, September 13, 2010

An apple a day.....

.....or let's try 85 lbs.

Mr. Free's Nana and Grandpa have 2 apple trees and a pear tree in their backyard.
And let's just say we had a hayday.

On Saturday we went and picked our little hearts out.
Here's Mr. Free up in the tree....being him.... : )
And here's the back of our car loaded down with 85 lbs. of fruit

Most of which is still sitting on our dining table.

Thus far I've made some applesauce and apple butter and canned them.
I've still got like 80 lbs left people.

Here's my plan of attack so far:
- Eat lots and lots of apples and pears with lunches
- Peel, core and slice enough for approx. 8 pies or cobblers and put in freezer bags and freeze
- Make more apple sauce/ apple butter and can for long term storage

I need more ideas! I know many creative people read this blog so tell me your best apple and/or pear recipes!

If it helps the apples are a mix of gala and red romes.

With this many apples, and if the old saying is true....I shouldn't have to go to the doctor in a LONG time!!!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New Bedding : )

So, we got new bedding.
And I'm super excited.
I love it.

It had been months since I had bought anything for the house.

We had a good winter comforter, and a good summer comforter,
but darn. We needed a good medium-weight fall comforter.

I had been eye-ing this set for awhile.
I wanted something more modern.
This was originally $79 at Target
(from fave!)
but it was down 50% off at $34.
I really will never pay full price for home decor. It usually always goes on sale.
If it doesn't? It wasn't meant to be.

Mr. Free gave me the nod of approval so I took it home with me.
And I love it.

I've learned since being married that I like home decor more than clothes.
I mean, you see your home decor every day.
You hopefully don't wear the same outfit everyday.... : )

Hope you all are having a fabulous weekend!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Latte' Love

So, now is the time of year for a cozy, yummy latte'.
I don't know about you, but $5 a pop at the coffee shop does not settle well with my pocket book.

With the cool, Fall-ish weather I thought I'd try the Pumpkin Spice Latte'.
I didn't like it.
Don't judge me.

But I do like Cinnamon Dolce Lattes.
So I made my own.

Here's the Jenny version of the recipe.
Sorry Type A's...
I love my ceramic Starbux mug!

Sweet Cinnamon Latte'
aka Cinnamon Dolce Latte

2 shots espresso or 1/2 c. brewed coffee
1 c. milk
1 tbs. sugar
1 splash of vanilla syrup (I used the Torani kind)

First, make either 2 shots of espresso or 1/2 c. strong coffee.
Then, on the stove top heat up some or all of the milk. (I keep some aside cold to help bring down the temperature of the drink. I'm a wimp. Like mine warm- not HOT)
Add in the sugar, vanilla syrup and several dashes of cinnamon.
Heat til pretty darn warm. Not boiling.
In your mug, pour in your espresso/coffee, then your milk mixture. Sprinkle on some more cinnamon if your heart desires.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

DIY Frugal Tart Burner

I love burning tarts.
No, not the food kind.
The wax kind.

I especially love the fall scents.
Apple, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Pumpkin, Almond.
Last Christmas I got this great, modern looking, electric tart burner.
I loved it!
Not only did I not have to fear about an open fire in my home, but it looked good!
It was modern!
It had clean lines!
It didn't have ivy etched into the sides!

Sadly, two weeks ago, like Humpty Dumpty, she took a great fall.
And she is no longer with us.

I really didn't have the budget to replace her.
And I didn't want to wait til Christmas for a new one.
I'd miss my fall scents!

So Mr. Free came up with a genius idea.

We already had a cute ceramic dish that looked similar to the tart burner and would perfectly hold a tart (was a clearance item at Target for $.74)

I then purchased a candle warmer/drink warmer at Michaels for $4. (You may already have one at home, making this even cheaper!)

Then voila! Place the dish on the candle warmer, plug it in and you have an electric tart burner!
It cost me a total of $4.74 vs. the $20 Bath and Body Works Model with a similar look!

Another plus to the DIY version is that I can simply place the dish in the freezer to remove the tart. With the previous model I wasn't able to do that since it was all in one unit.

So be creative!

All you need is a candle warmer and a glass or ceramic dish!
You could use an old Mason jar, an old candle jar that you have lying around, a pretty piece of pottery or whatever suits your fancy!

So there you have it.

Bring on the fall scents!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fall Recipes: Apples

This is not a food blog.
I am not a chef.
I have some recipes I like, Mr. Free likes, and I use often.

I don't really measure anything.

If you're Type A....just back away. Sorry.
If you can handle that there are no exact measurements, proceed reading.

Slow Cooker Apple Pear Butter
8 apples
3 pears
A bit of water
Some cinnamon
Some ground cloves
Capful of vanilla
3/4 c. brown sugar

Core and chop up apples and pears
(I keep the skins on because I'm lazy, feel free to peel them)
Dump into slow cooker
Add a splash of water to slow cooker to start them cookin'
Pour a capful of vanilla and a sprinkle of cinnamon
Cook on High for 4 hours
Mash apples/pears with a potato masher
(I like mine chunky...if you want your butter more velvety smooth, you can place it in a blender and blend or use an immersion blender)
Add in 3/4 c. brown sugar

(Some recipes call for as much as 3 cups of sugar. Adjust the sugar content to your liking. And feel free to mix brown and white sugar too)
Add in splash more vanilla, sprinkle some ground cloves and generously sprinkle more cinnamon.
Cover and cook for 1 more hour on low.

Yields 3 jars.

*** You can of course, use all apples instead of the apple/pear combo. Our all pears even. Go wild. ***

Apple Dumplings I
Serves 4

2 apples, cored and halved
1 box refrigerated pie crust (ready to roll out, 2 crusts)
Butter, 1/2 stick at room temperature
Brown sugar

Preheat oven to 400*
Mix the butter in a bowl with some cinnamon and brown sugar
Cut the 2 pie crusts in half
Scoop butter/sugar mixture into apple half where core was
Lay apple on the half pie crust
Fold pie crust over apple half til completely covered
Use moist fingers to seal seams
Lay 4 dumplings on cookie sheet
Sprinkle tops with cinnamon and white sugar
Bake 20-30 minutes at 400 until golden brown.
Serve with some homemade vanilla ice cream sprinkled with cinnamon.

Apple Dumplings II
Taken from The Pioneer Woman
Serves 8.....or fewer with plenty of yummy leftovers

2 apples, cored and sliced (each apple 8 slices)
1 cans of crescent dough
2 sticks butter
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 1/2 c. Sugar
12 oz. Mountain Dew

Preheat oven to 350
Butter a 9 by 13 casserole dish
Roll an apple into a crescent roll, place in buttered dish
On stove top melt 2 sticks of butter
Add sugar and barely stir
Add vanilla
Pour mixture over apples
Pour Mountain Dew around edges of casserole dish
Sprinkle with cinnamon and bake for 40 minutes
Serve with homemade vanilla ice cream and spoon some sauce from pan over dumplings.

Apples wrapped in crescent dough.

Butter sauce.

Ready for the oven.



This is my most favorite time of the year!

Please let me know if you try any of these recipes and pass along any great apple/fall recipes you have too!!!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Chore Chart Breakdown

As I mentioned last week, the Free Household is now using a weekly chore chart.
Though it hasn't been perfect, it has been *much* easier.

I am not a naturally organized, clean-freak person.
I'm right-brained, Type B, Music Teacher type person.
AKA messy.

So, when the chore chart says 'Clean Living Room' I need to know exactly what that means.
I thought I'd break down for you what we do weekly for each room.

Here we go.


Wipe down cabinets
Clean counter top
Clean stove top
Wipe down appliances
Scrub Sink
Wipe down trash can
Clean out and wipe down fridge

Empty all wastebaskets and take out trash and recycling


Straighten up


Scrub tub
Scrub toilet
Scrub vanity
Clean mirror
Wipe down faucet

Living area

Wipe down furniture
Clean glass coffee table

No chores!


Sweep floors
Steam mop floors

On Thursday I launder our towels and sheets
Saturday morning I launder the area rugs and throw blankets

Each evening before bed, put away everything that is left out and straighten up living areas.

This all makes for a much easier, happier home!

I hope this may have helped someone out there who is as right-brained as me!
Happy Long Weekend!