Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas on the cheap Bavarian Mint Coffee Mix

Bavarian Mint Coffee Mix

1/3 cup powdered non-dairy creamer
1/3 cup of sugar
1/3 cup instant coffee
2 tsp baking cocoa
5 peppermint candies, crushed

Combine all the ingredients together; store in an airtight container.  Attach instructions.

Instructions: Use 2 to 2 1/2  teaspoons per cup of boiling water.

All items can be bought in the bulk section. If you don't want to buy peppermint candies you can put some peppermint oil into your sugar before mixing all the ingredients. Or you can just give a candy cane with each gift and they can stir their coffee with the candy cane. Keep an eye out for vintage coffee mugs because this would be perfect in one.  Plus save you some money. This was my personal favorite to give all my co workers. Everyone loved it.

Next......Friendship Tea

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christmas on the cheap Vanilla Coffee Mix

Well it took me a bit longer to get back into the swing of things. I really do not handle stress well and looks as if I don't handle grief very well either.  I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and was able to spend it with friends/family. I spent the holiday at my moms with the rest of the family. It was a very hard day for me because it was my dad's favorite holiday. We would both hover in the kitchen waiting for the turkey to be done. He would carve and we would both eat the dark meat before it was even off the turkey. This year it was my duty to carve the turkey. Alone. It was a bittersweet day and I'm just lucky to have an amazing family that surrounds me. I love you all.

Each Christmas I like to make a plan of what I will be doing for all the family members. We have a rather large family so whatever I do it has to be budget friendly.  Each year I worked at Michael's Craft Store I would buy a Gooseberry Patch book. They would come out with one each year with new and exciting Christmas idea's. From crafts to recipes it was all easy and budget friendly. I now have 8 Christmas books and too many cookbooks and booklets to count. And every year I pull them out to get inspiration.

I will try my best to bring you one easy recipe each day. Along with the best place to buy these items or how you can get them cheaper or for free. Here we go!


1 1/2 cups powdered milk or non-dairy powdered milk creamer
1 cup baking cocoa
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup instant coffee granules
2 tsp vanilla powder

Combine all ingredients; store in an airtight container.  Attach instructions.

Instructions: Use 3 tbsp of mix for every one cup of boiling water.

Now days you can find most of these ingredients in the bulk section. You will save a ton of money by buying in the bulk.  I could not find the vanilla powder so I ended up using vanilla powdered milk creamer instead.  One year I made this for all my co workers. I bought paper bags and in each bag I had put a coffee mug, the mix, and some chocolates. My girls loved to decorate the bags with stamps or just doodled all over them with crayons. When you work for retail, anything involving coffee is a winner.

Next recipe...........Bavarian Mint Coffee Mix

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Last minute savings plan

In April I wrote a great post about 25 ways to save money that can be put to great use right about now. Christmas is only a month away and money is tight for everyone now days. So please try these out and hopefully you will stick to them from now on and save yourself money each month.  Its not only good for your wallet but good for the earth. Ive added a few more things so enjoy!

Could you use some extra cash after the bills are paid?  Maybe you need to save up for a birthday or holiday? I'm sure you all can and even if you don't need anything, saving money is always a good thing. About every 6 months I try to come up with a good list of things you can do to save money. Lets see how many of you do these things or will do these things.

1.  Stop buying plastic sandwich bags/storage bags. For lunches use fabric sandwich bags. Now days you can find these in all natural stores. If not try online at reusablebagssnacktaxi, or look for them at Etsy.
Added note:If you don't have the money to invest in these right now just get creative and use things around your home. Maybe use a cut up brown paper bag to wrap food, cut up a liner from cereal? Just get creative.

2.  Stop buying aluminum foil. Start saving the stuff you have now and reuse it as many times as you can. Or try just using metal lids from pots. Its going on 2 years since I have purchased any.

3.  No more air fresheners, plug in's or automatic fresheners. Just open up your windows or burn a candle. Biggest waste of money plus those things are filled with toxic synthetic oils.
Added note:Those essential oils you use to make soap? Simply reuse a spray bottle by adding water and a couple of drops of essential oils. Bamm! You have room spray or linen spray.

4.  No more prepackaged food or spice packets. Try looking up these at Recipezaar . You will save money and save yourself from preservatives, sodium and excess fat.  Remember you control it when you make it. You don't have to stick to the recipe exactly.

5. Stop buying laundry soap and make your own. A $5 investment will get you started. But if you don't have that $5 extra bucks just cut your regular soap in half and stretch it further.

6.  No more dryer sheets. Just make 2 balls from aluminum foil and toss those in the dryer. Or do what I do and use nothing.  And no I don't miss the smell of those synthetic fragrances.

7.  No plastic trash bags.  Yes you read this right. If you recycle everything possible and compost everything possible, you will need no trash bags. I take my trash out once a week and we never fill it up. Since there is no liquids or food in our trash there is no need for a bag. I just take the trash out and rinse it out with water once in a while.

8.  Stop buying cleaners. Simply use vinegar and water and that will clean up anything. And no your home won't smell like vinegar.

9.  No more cable or dish network. Have it shut off and love your family time. Now days you can watch movies on Hulu, watch favorite tv shows on their network websites, or rent movies for as low as $1 from places like Redbox. Regular TV is much better now then when you were little. You get a 24 hour kids channel and about a dozen others.

10.  No more eating out. This one alone will save you a ton of money. And this includes fast food joints. Yes it only cost you a dollar or so but you will pay for it through your health.

11.  Walk anywhere possible whenever possible within 1 mile from home. Less gas used means less money to buy gas. Try walking or biking. Yes you were born with legs for a reason!

12.  Hang dry your clothes. Got string and a nail? You have a easy clothes line! Put a loop at the end of the string so you can take it down anytime you want. Out of sight out of mind! This will save you up to $20 a month.

13.  Turn the thermostat down!!! 55 at night and completely off during the day. Put on a sweatshirt, socks and slippers. Plus gives you reason to snuggle. You will thank me later when you get your heating bill.

14.  No more new stuff. Try to find anything you need in a thrift store or garage sale before you buy it new.

15.  Get rid of disposables. No more paper towels, paper plates, paper cups, or to go anything! Just use your own and wash them. Yes even for birthday parties!

16.  Never refuse anything given. I always accept clothing, household goods, etc from friends or family. I rarely have to buy clothes because of this. In return I give away all our clothes and anything else I want to get rid of. Helps out in more ways than one. I have a friend who gives me extra organic produce that she cannot eat. Thanks Theresa!!! This saves me money each month and gets us eating things I normally wouldn't buy.

17.  No more medicines unless its really needed. Simple colds can be taken care of with vitamins, honey, tea, and eating healthy. There are always natural ways to take care of any ailment at Earthclinic.  Its my go to site for everything! Even if you have the best insurance you will save a ton of money. I save $20 (my co pay)each time I don't go to the doctor just because I have a cold.  Of course go to the doctor if its something serious or you just can't shake the cold off. Eat healthy and live healthy and you will not need to go to the doctor. I have been to my doctor only twice in the last 7 years and only because I found a lump in my breast. It was nothing serious after all but you just cannot chance something like that.

18.  No more papers! Each week you will get a free paper on your door step. Now days they even come with coupons! Plus your local stores ad's will be in there too. You can also go on any brands website and print out coupons. There's always a way to get around everything!

19.  Share a garbage service with your neighbor. This saves us $13 each month. My neighbor and I split the bill. We each recycle so much and compost everything that we just split our service. Never thought of that did you!

20.  Take a shower when needed instead of daily. No were not dirty people! I just wash when I need it. If my hair gets dingy or dirty I take a shower.This is the rule for our whole family. We do not roll around in the dirty, have dirty jobs, or sweat on a regular basis so we do not need to shower daily.  Just think about how much water and hair products you will save! Also when you do take a shower, put a limit on it!

21.  No more specialty coffee's! From now on make your own and take your own! This alone will save you a ton of money. Now days you can find organic coffee in bulk just about anywhere. Its way cheaper than buying your coffee from your local coffee shop. If you do need to grab a coffee, take your own mug and most places give a discount if you do bring your own mug.

22.  No more babysitters. Try switching with a friend/family member/neighbor. I do this with many people and have yet to pay any babysitters. Just remember to babysit in return. This alone saves a ton of money for people with many kids.

23.  Keep the lights off as much as possible. Open up drapes and let the sunshine in!

24.  Turn off the water when brushing your teeth.

25.  Take my clothe wipe challenge and save a bundle on toilet paper each month.


-Avoid all plastic!  I won't buy any plastic toys, food products, clothing, or anything else for that matter.  This rule has help cut clutter out of my home as well.  Look for food in glass so you can reuse or recycle it when your done.  You can use many large glass items for storing food in the pantry, fridge and even the freezer.  Apple sauce glass jars are great for storing food.

-Fix it, make do or ditch it. Anything that gets broken and can be fixed will be fixed. Anything that I can make do with we do.  Anything we don't need we donate or give to someone who needs it. This has saved us a ton of money. And now when we do need to buy something new we are very picky about our purchase. We look for no plastic items and stuff that can be easily fixed.  Most products these days are meant for single use or to be disposable. Even household items like scales.

-Borrow or barter.  Why buy something when your only going to use it once? Ask around if your looking for something in particular. Most the time someone has it and will let you borrow it. But know that if they need something you have then you need to let them borrow it.  Barter for daycare. You watch my kids and in return I will watch yours. My neighbor borrowed my dehydrator to dry some herbs I let her pick from my garden. In return she gave me lots of mint for making tea. Get creative!

-Buy seasonal food. Because my favorite produce stand is closed for the season I have to be creative. I cannot afford to buy anything I want organic so I buy whats on sale and in season.  Last week it was kale on sale so we ate kale. Organic pinto beans were $1 per pound so we had chili one night.  Instead of making a meal plan at home try buying whats in season and planning around that.  Also this rule can be used for meats.  Nitrate free pork sausage was on sale for $2.99 per pound so thats what were eating this week. 8 links for $5.99. Thats cheap!

-Buy in bulk. Less packaging means you pay less.  Also means less packaging to recycle.

-Make gifts and cards. Sometimes I make bath salts, soaps or things like that and give them as gifts. My girls love making their own cards which saves us money.  You can make a pie and give it to a girlfriend for her birthday.  Get creative and use what you have.  These are my favorite kinds of gifts to get.  It shows that you took the time for the person which means the world to them.

Now's the fun part. Watch your money stay in your wallet.  You can thank me later.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Can your Joe be any greener?

Each day I wake up and walk to the coffee pot like a living zombie. I feel this incredible pull towards my coffee pot so I can be able to live each day. My name is Nancy and i'm a coffee addict. I ran across this great article today  in the Huffington Post called Green Your Caffeine.  In this article you will learn a few ways to green up your caffeine habit. Great idea's but I have a few of my own to add. 

Thinking about all those years drinking coffee before I went green makes me cringe. All that pesticide filled coffee, paper coffee filters and disposable cups now haunt me in my sleep. Dreams of coffee cups that never decomposed follow me and keep saying "Way to go!". Well not really but you get the idea. 

There are several ways you can green up your cup of Joe which can be done little by little. No need to stress about it, just take baby steps. 

Switch to a French Press
This system you do not need any paper filters because it already has a built in metal filtration system. Its pretty easy to use which makes me happy. Put in your coffee grounds, put metal filter,  pour in super hot water, press the filter down and you have hot coffee. If you love a good rich cup of coffee then you will love the French Press. No paper and no energy needed equals AWESOMENESS! 

Getting the right coffee
There are several options when it comes to buying coffee. Just depends on what shade of green you want to be and how much money you are willing to spend. Here are your options:

USDA Organic-This means no pesticides or chemicals were used growing the beans. It can be found in just about any store you go into.

Fair Trade Certified-If your interested in the farmers who grow the beans then this is your best option. Fair Trade means that the farmers and and workers who grow the beans were treated humanely and paid fair in safe working conditions. 

Shade Grown-This is something new to me and I will look into finding this option. Shade Grown means that the beans were grown according to the Smithsonian Institution guidelines to protect migrating birds.  

Rainforest Alliance Certified-Basically means they were grown with "green" standards. 

If you buy coffee beans with any of these on the label then your supporting a great cause. I personally find my bulk  Organic Coffee at Winco for only $5.99 per pound. You can get a large coffee from Starbucks with that amount of money!  I ground it a the store and put it in my freezer when I get home. One pound will usually last us a month. 

Ditch the disposables!
Instead of using paper cups invest in a good stainless steel coffee mug. I recently found my Thermos stainless steel coffee mug at Costco for only $24.99. It was paired with a stainless steel soup thermos. This coffee mug should last me forever. Not many people know but paper coffee cups cannot be recycled. Now imagine how many paper cups are handed out each day at all the coffee shops. I feel a stomach ache coming on. So do me a favor and invest in a good coffee mug.  Oh and don't forget to bring it everywhere you go especially if you tend to get coffee from coffee shops. Some places even give you a few pennies off for bringing your own. 

Looking to green up your existing coffee machine?
If you have a favorite coffee machine and don't want to replace it then just invest in a metal coffee filter. My best friend gave me her coffee machine which came with this fantastic metal filter. Yes there is some plastic involved in this one but I will never have to use paper filters again. One day I will invest in a all metal filter and feel much better about it. These metal filters come in all different sizes and can be found in some stores but your best bet is to find it online. If you don't have the money right now to invest in one of these then switch from regular paper filters to compostable paper filters. This switch is the least expensive option but in time you will want to replace these with a metal filter.

Compost them!
Instead of tossing your coffee grounds in the trash, toss them into your compost. In no time you will have excellent compost! Any left over coffee from the day before gets poured into my indoor plants who by the way LOVE this. If your using compostable paper filters then simply toss the whole thing right into your compost. I sometimes just toss my coffee grounds around my plants on the soil.  I also mix them with my garden soil and use this mixture in my garden.  

Extra flavor
Instead of buying special flavored creamer that comes in plastic jugs, try to make your own special flavored coffee. Those creamers are full of tons of sugar, preservatives and who knows what else. I buy my favorite half and half from Whole Foods for only $1.29. It is not organic but it's hormone free. During the Spring and Summer I just add a 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla to my regular coffee. But during the Fall I add a pinch of cinnamon. Christmas I will toss a small candy cane in my coffee and stir it around. Adds just a touch of mint and is oh so yummy.  This simple tip will reduce your packaging and keep your money in your wallet. 

So take baby steps and try to green up your cup of Joe. Did I miss anything? Leave a comment and tell us your green tips when it comes to your cup of Joe!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Moving on but not forgetting

As most of you know my Father passed away last Monday. A year ago my Dad found out he had cancer and went through months of pain but finally beat the cancer. Or so we thought. 3 weeks ago my Dad showed similar signs of cancer which was confirmed a week or two later. But this time it was inoperable. It was an emotional week for my sister and a tough week for me as well. But we held it together so we could be there for my Mom and Dad. But I was scared. I had a dark pit in my stomach that I was trying to ignore. Saturday my Mom took Dad into the hospital because he wasn't eating and just didn't look good.

Saturday I took my daughter to her soccer game and my Sister called to inform me that Dad had a blood infection and the doctors were trying to give him medication to beat it. So I tried to watch my Daughter and support her while she played her game. That night we took the kids trick or treating and I tried to ignore the fact that my Dad was very ill. Sorta pretend it wasn't happening. Trying to trick your brain isn't that easy to do but I put on a pretty face. That night I went to bed with a stomach ache and rolled around for hours trying to go to sleep. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning worried about my Mom. What's to happen down the road? How will mom pay her bills? Dozens of things rolled around in my head and I never fell asleep.

7:30 rolled around and my morning was to start. Woke the kids, fed the kids and off to school the older girls went. I wasn't in the mood to sit around at my house alone (once again ignoring the situation) so I decided to get some groceries when I dropped off my twins at afternoon Kindergarten. I basically walked around like a zombie looking for things I needed at home. A 15 minute trip was taking me an hour. I put the groceries in the truck and started to head off to another store. That is when I received the call.

I couldn't understand anything my sister was saying. Only words I remember her saying were blood infection, 2 minutes and any minutes. She was crying uncontrollable and the only thing I could do was tell her to calm down and I was on my way. Two hours flashed by and somehow I managed to get up to the hospital. My heart pounded faster than ever and I felt like throwing up. I ran into the hospital and somehow found the floor I needed and stepped out of the elevator.  Time was standing still as I slowly walked down the hall. I couldn't hear anything and was looking for my Dad's room. I saw too much. I saw elderly men, a small child with dozens of tubes and cords, a beautiful elderly man eating his dinner, and then I saw Dad. This is when I fell apart. My knee's were weak, my heart ached and reality finally hit me.

For the next hour or so I stayed by my Dad who was unconscious. I laid by him stroking his hair with my face buried into his pillow. I listened to him breathe, watched his chest go up and down, and just looked at him. Almost like I wanted to imprint his face into my brain so I would never forget him. His breathing was a little scratchy but  slowly was quiet. I hugged my Mom and Sister often. And after a while I stepped out of the room and into a sitting area to look out the window. The hospital is up high on a mountain and you can see all of Portland Oregon. It was a really foggy night but I could see all the highways, car headlights, and bridges very clear. My best friend Dulcimer called me and kept my mind off of reality. It was a nice break. Once again reality came knocking and my Aunt told me to come to the room. So I hung up and ran into Dad's room to find all the family standing around Dad quiet. No one was saying anything and I asked what happened twice before anyone spoke. Dad had passed. I completely fell apart and my Aunt held me. All those movies I saw of people crying uncontrollable, women sobbing so loud, and literally falling over. That was me. I personally think Dad knew I was there and didn't want me to be in the room when he passed. Thank you Dad.

Since last Monday I have been to my Moms house everyday. Cleaning up around my Dad's table which he kept everything of his on. Opened the windows to let the sunshine in which my Mom loved but my Dad hated.    Removed all his medication, his dozens of random batteries he wouldn't throw away because they had not died completely, his smokes which my mother hated, and all his blankets and pillows off the couch which he slept on because it was comfortable. For some reason it was easier to breathe and the sunshine felt really good.

Why did I share with you all this personal information? I guess its a way for me to heal. Writing is my way of getting things off my chest and clear my mind. My blog is my life. The good, the bad and the ugly its going to be here to share with all of you.

Oreo's. He loved sports of any kind and watched them always. His love for records and music is something we shared. I now have his records and have been listening to them at home.  Every time I eat pork chops I will think of him.  Every time I hear the TV loud with sports on, I will think of him.  I will think of him always and forever.

Dad thank you for loving my Mom. Thank you for being the Dad I never had. Thank you for loving us like we were your own.  Thank you for sharing the last 15 years of your life with us. Thank you for loving me. I will never forget. I love you.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Time for a break

Today at 4:30pm my father passed away. I will be not posting anything for the next week but will be on Facebook to keep myself amused and to make time go by. I appreciate all your warm wishes and will read the comments each day. Thank you for being such loyal friends. See you soon.
aka Surviving and thriving on pennies