Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Paying for Christmas Gifts with Pocket Change......

Who thinks about Christmas in June??? Well, not this guy....he's still on vacation


But this momma doesn't have a choice...planning for Christmas always starts this early for me and with a new baby coming in October, there is no better time to start planning!

Today I wanted to share 3 easy ways I save for Christmas....and as promised I'll tell you how to pay for Christmas with pocket change!!

1. Swagbucks is my all time favorite way to help pay for Christmas...how? you might ask. Well let me tell you just how easy it is. All you do is sign up, add the Swagbucks tool bar and start searching. It REALLY is that easy! Each time you use their search engine, you have a chance to win "swagbucks" virtual dollars that add up to awesome prizes. There are tons of prizes to choose from, but what I use my swagbucks for are Amazon gift cards...when you reach 450 swagbucks (usually in 2-3 weeks) you can redeem them for a $5 Amazon gift code. These add up faster than you think...and once you add your gift code to your Amazon account, wait for them to add up to $25 or more so you won't have to pay for shipping!!


Search & Win


2. MyPoints is another great way to earn points toward gift cards. There are a number of ways to earn points with this program. The easiest way is to open "MyPoints bonus mail" e-mails sent directly to your e-mail account. Each one is usually worth 5 points. You can also add the tool bar and earn points for doing 30 searches a month. Also, when you search, if one of their advertisers is listed on the side of your search result you can earn points per dollar spent with that advertiser....there are tons (Target, Wal-mart, Gap, Overstock.com.....the list is a mile long!) Once you reach 1,500 or more points you have enough to trade in for a gift card. I have earned so many gift cards with them since I started....I just got a $10 Lowes gift card in the mail yesterday! You can save these to give as Christmas gifts or use them yourself to buy gifts, either way it's just too easy not to try!
3. As promised.....How to pay for Christmas with pocket change.....

Did you know that with Coinstar you won't be charged for counting if you trade in for a E-gift card code?? That's right...all that change you have sitting on your nightstand can be turned into an Amazon gift code and you won't be charged a penny to get it! We save all of our change and when we have a good amount....Coinstar, here we come! I add my Amazon gift codes to my Amazon account and watch the money add up!
Last year....for the entire year....I didn't enter my credit card info on Amazon at all. I was able to use the codes I got from Swagbucks and Coinstar to purchase sooo many Christmas gifts without taking any money from our bank account! And you wouldn't believe how much my son loved his LeapFrog Leapster paid for with, yes you guessed it, POCKET CHANGE!!

I hope you find these tips helpful.....and I would love to hear some of your money saving tips for Christmas too! It's never too early to start planning, right??

~Carmella


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Why, Oh Why?? Adventures in raising Children....

If you are a parent you will completely,100% understand this...

Ahhh...the joys of parenthood. One day they are tiny little babies needing everything from you, the next day they are four and giving themselves haircuts when you are out of the room ....

Not so bad, right??? Until Daddy got home and decided he would help him out with a new haircut.....
Now, pregnant, very hormonal momma can't seem to stop crying, "my baby! he's bald" *more tears*
Then...I had an idea.....

That's much better...well, at least he's not bald :)

~Carmella


Linked to:


Stuff and Nonsense

Tasty Tuesday...Steak House Dinner @ Home

Welcome to yet another Tasty Tuesday! Today's recipe is super easy to make and really easy on the budget too!
London Broil is one of my favorite cuts of meat because it tastes great and goes far....and who doesn't love a steak house dinner without the steak house price??

London Broil with Oven Roasted Asparagus and Mashed Potatoes


2lb cut of London Broil
3 tbl spoons Olive Oil
1/4 Cup Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbl spoons butter (at room temp)
fresh herbs (any that you like or have on hand)

Begin by marinating your London broil in the olive oil and Worcestershire sauce for at least 3 hours (or over night if you remember)
When you are ready to begin cooking, heat a grill pan on the stove top to med-high heat. I add cracked black pepper to the pan but otherwise keep the pan DRY! Take your steak out of the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. This step is so important when you are searing meat, if the meat is wet it will steam and become a bit chewy :(
When your pan is heated add the steak and don't move it. I actually use an iron skillet on top of the steak to make sure it gets a good sear.....



For a medium steak that is 1 1/2 -2 inches thick, cook 7 minutes per side. While your steak is cooking away, time to make up some herbed butter to add on top once it is finished. Simply add your finely chopped herbs ( I like rosemary, thyme, and chives) to your room temp butter and press together with a fork....



When your steak is cooked take it out of the pan and place onto a platter. Spread your herbed butter on top and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting in thin slices.
My favorite side dishes for this steak house dinner are asparagus and potatoes (roasted, mashed, baked..you get the idea)
For easy oven roasted asparagus....trim the ends of the asparagus, place on a sheet pan, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in a 425 oven for about 15 minutes and enjoy!

I hope you love this dinner as much as our family does....and as always, be sure to let me know if any of the directions aren't clear or just don't make sense ;)

~ Carmella

Linked to:

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Peter Pan....the story of a cake

Last weekend we spent the day in Kentucky celebrating the birthday of our sweet little friend. Her mom called a few weeks before and asked, "Do you think you could make a Peter Pan cake?" You know my answer was, "Sure, I think I can do that!"
And then I fretted, pondered, and even had a few strange dreams about how in the world to make a Peter Pan cake.... thank goodness for my sweet husband and his creativity because he helped me sooo much with this one. I made up some fondant using this super simple recipe and we channeled our inner 5 year old and got to work.
The fondant has a play-doh like consistency...and who doesn't love to make things with play-doh? We found a picture online that we thought we could work with and starting molding.....this is what we came up with
I made a two layer cake and iced it with my irresistible butter cream frosting....No, he's not perfect but we aren't professionals...and the birthday girl seemed to like her cake just fine


But what the day was really about was spending time with friends. We are so lucky to have them in our lives and so blessed to be there for all the special days!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tasty Tuesday...Apple Crisp

We have all heard that "there's nothing more American than Apple Pie" but what about those of us who are too lazy haven't mastered the fine art of making Apple Pie?? Enter the Apple Crisp. It's easy...it's tasty....and when served on red and blue fiestaware with a little vanilla ice cream it just sings all American!

Apple Crisp

1 c. brown sugar
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 c. water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
6 peeled and diced large apples
3/4 c. flour
3/4 c. rolled oats
6 tbsp. butter

Combine 1/2 c. brown sugar, lemon juice, water and cinnamon in bottom of small baking pan. Add diced apples. Blend remaining 1/2 c. brown sugar, flour, oats and butter until crumbly. Spread over apples and pat smooth.
Bake at 375°F. for 40-50 minutes, until apples are tender and crust is browned. Serve hot with ice cream.

This would be a perfect dish to serve at your 4th of July party and it's quick and easy enough to make just before heading over to a friend's get together too!
Happy Tasty Tuesday!

This is just a test....And a few Helpful hints....

I am attempting to add a few new buttons to my blog....this is proving to be more than my brain can comprehend today, but I am determined.

I just read a helpful hint...if I add the pictures to my blog in a post I can easily determine their location.



*UPDATE*  I was able to add these beautiful new buttons without any trouble at all! I know I am so behind the times but I can't be the only one in blog land to have had trouble with this! You can find the link to the page I found most helpful HERE , hope it helps you too!

~Carmella

Friday, June 17, 2011

A few of My Faves this Friday....

I didn't realize just how hard it would be to keep up with my creative projects now that summer is here. I have been so wrapped up in having fun with my kiddos I haven't even used Gorilla glue or Mod Podge in days!! ( I know, I should be getting the shakes by now)

Can you blame me?? Who could leave this kind of fun to go pick up a paint brush??

But...that doesn't mean I haven't been keeping up with what everyone else is doing out there in blog land, so I wanted to share a few of my favorite projects from a few of my ultra creative friends...

First up....Jamie from Crafty, Scrappy, Happy
You have to go see how she turned an old cabinet into this beautiful mantle....she is sooo amazing, and her projects reflect just how amazing she is! Oh..and she's got a GIVEAWAY going on at her blog right now too, stop by a say hello, I promise you will fall in love with her too!

I have become fast friends with this next blogger...Mrs.Love from Love Sweet Love can show you how to make this oh so sweet Tiered Planter (I think this may just be one of the projects I'll try this weekend)LOVE it!!


Up next.....let my great friend from Life Without Whiteout make you laugh until your sides hurt and show you how to do some pretty great projects too...like this one...you have to go see how she did this Pottery Barn knock off....she made this seem so easy, maybe even I could make one too :)

We probably all know Heather and Vanessa from At the Picket Fence , but just in case you missed it...check out how they turned this $3.00 caddie into a great way to make outdoor dining easier...I am always so inspired by what they have going on at their blog and know you will be too!
DSC_0217

So...that's it....my Friday Faves...and ladies...I don't have a
"featured here" button just yet, I'll see if I can figure that out in the coming days...that is if were aren't catching lighting bugs, laying by the pool, swinging on ropes in the creek, making homemade ice cream, roasting marshmallows....you get the picture, we are just having too much fun to slow down right now :)

Thank you all for your kindness, encouragement, and friendship...it means more to me than you know!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tasty Tuesday...Easy Guacamole Recipe

Hi there and welcome to Creative Carmella's first ever Tasty Tuesday!
I am going to try my very best to bring you a super tasty recipe every Tuesday...one that hopefully you will love and be easy to make...

To kick things off, I thought I would share one of our family favorites for the summer:

Easy Homemade Guacamole

2 Avocados
1 Roma tomato
1 lime
fresh cilantro to taste (chopped)
1 tablespoon liquid from jarred jalapenos
pinch of salt

Peel and dice avocados and mash with a fork until you get a texture you like. Dice Roma tomato and gently stir into mashed avocados. Add the juice from the lime, jalapeno liquid, salt and cilantro. Stir and chill for at least 30 minutes and serve with chips!
*Note* if you like a little extra heat, finely chop a few jalapeno slices to add to the mix!

Hope you enjoy and be sure to let me know what you want to see on Tasty Tuesday!

linked to:

Stay At Home Nation

Monday, June 13, 2011

Your Very Own Beach in a Jar....

Hello and happy Monday! I hope you all had a great weekend. The kids and I headed down to Alabama this past weekend to visit family and attend a baby shower for one of my greatest friends. It was a so much fun, and it's always a little hard to head back home after a visit....but alas...we are home now and I wanted to share in more detail how to make your very own BEACH IN A JAR....
sounds like fun, right?

Start with the supplies : a jar, fish bowl, or here, I am using a small apothecary jar with lid. Sand and shells...and your favorite beach picture. Also, I used a candle stand and my trusty glue gun to put the jar on...I wanted a little height for this piece

Here is my jar after I hot glued it to the candle stand...


All there is left to do at this point is add your sand, shells and picture...


My Beach in a Jar found a home on a side table in the living room...but the great thing about this beach is it can be moved (and probably will be moved) anywhere....


Oh...and here's one more look at my beach in a fish bowl that I used in my summer mantle


Kind of fun, huh? Hope you enjoy it and are able to bring a little bit of the beach to your home this summer too!


linked to:
homework
Confessions Of A Stay At Home Mommy

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spring Into Summer.....My Mantle

Ahhh....summer time......
There are so many things I love about summer....

1. I was married to the love of my life on the first day of summer
2. Our first born made her arrival in summer
3. Lazy days and family vacations
4. Late nights spent under the stars
and
5. (I've said it before) No rushing...at all...we live in the South, that's just how we roll when the heat rises!

With all of that Summer love going on, I thought it was time to freshen up my mantle. This year, since we won't be going to the beach, I thought I would bring a bit of the beach to us....

Taaa Daaa....

Here are a few close up's
Can you believe these beauties came from my yard this morning??


I got this idea from the one and only Layla at The Lettered Cottage....I added a picture of my hubby and our little one, it was his very first time seeing the ocean!


I had to include a wedding day picture (also known as the happiest day of my life)...and a few books to read this summer


This old (FREE) window got dressed up with a little homemade beach garland, the black and white print was a gift when we got married


Here it is from Spring...into....Summer!

So...What do you think? Does it feel like Summer?

Thanks for stopping by...and if you like what you see, be sure to follow so we can get to know each other!

~Carmella

I'll be linking up to these fun parties:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Time!

Summer break is here....now what do we do??

I have dreams of this....
Give me a moment...I'm still dreaming.........

Okay...back to reality.....and back to my ever growing baby belly (22 weeks and counting)....we have planned to stay close to home this summer. Temperatures have already reached into the mid 90's this week so... plenty of pool time and indoor activities seem to be the ticket for us this summer!

I made a fun little scrapbook to keep up with our Summer fun and when it's all said and done at least the kids will have proof that we did actually do SOMETHING...(don't you just love it when someone asks your child, "what did you do this summer?" and they answer, "nothing."!)



It's a pretty simple Mod Podge project that I made with a blank scrapbook I got at a yard sale for 25 cents!


I used a thin layer of Mod Podge to add scrapbook paper...and before adding the other embellishments, I added a couple of layers on top to help preserve it


Inside, I added a list of all the fun (and very do-able) things we are planning to do this summer

(click on picture to enlarge)

I decided on a list, that by the end of summer, we could successfully have every activity checked off.....takes the pressure off of this very tired momma! I love that our kids are usually happy doing anything and even if we don't get a beautiful beach vacation this year, we will still have lots and lots of fun being together!

What are some of your plans for this Summer? I would love to add some more activities to our list!




Linked to these great parties:

Come Together Kids