Monday, June 27, 2011

Weekend Wrap Up

It is definitely summer here in Kentucky. Or so I am told. It is true, it is HOT here. There are also massive thunderstorms! There were thunderstorms everyday last week as well as a tornado in Louisville. Luckily, Louisville is a couple of hours away. But scary!
This was what my weather looked like all last week. Summery right?
By the weekend, the weather cleared up. Saturday was overcast but the temperature was around 80 degrees and it didn't rain a drop. Perfect since it was our nephew Brock's first birthday! We headed out to Grayson (about a 25 minute drive from Ashland) to celebrate at Jerame's sister's house. It was a wonderful party, the birthday boy was well behaved and  really didn't even make that much of a mess with his cake! Just for comparison I have posted a pic from our other nephew Gavin's first birthday as well as one of Brock.
Gavin's 1st Birthday (a tad bit messy!)
Mr Brock and his cake
A couple more pics of the rest of us enjoying the party, sans rubbing cake all over our faces :)
Jerame's Aunt Martha, his sister Jessica, our nephew Brock, Jerame's mother Joyce, and I
Joyce, Martha, and I
I love this adorable picture of the 2 of them :)
Jessica's husband Wayne and their daughter Megan
It may not look like it, but he really did enjoy his new toys!
On Sunday, couponing continued! Jerame picked me up 3 Ashland papers, a Huntington paper, and a Lexington paper. I usually don't do any shopping on Sunday's except for CVS. I was given a tip by a cashier at my CVS who told me there are a couple of "extreme couponers" in Ashland that clear out the shelves on Monday's. Although my CVS was out of the men's body wash I needed for a deal and I had to get a raincheck for it, I still managed to get a lot for the $5 I spent.

CVS Haul 6/26/11
All in all, a great summer weekend here in Kentucky!

Monday, June 20, 2011

All Things Kenny Chesney

Kenny Chesney tops my list as one of my favorite singers. I mean seriously, who doesn't like "She Thinks My Tractors Sexy"? His songs are breezy and fun, especially for country music. However in the last couple of years his music seems to be evolving. Growing up perhaps. I for one am loving this evolution!

For me, it seems to start in 2005. Very gradually at first. With "Beer in Mexico" from his "The Road and The Radio" album you are starting to see the melancholy side of Kenny. It still has a very upbeat, almost island tempo but if you listen to the words, they are a little bit deeper than his norm.

It wasn't until 2008 that I heard something from him that completely surprised me. It was "Better as a Memory" from his "Poets and Pirates" album. Not a lot of people liked this song, perhaps because it was such a shift from what he usually does. Around this time I heard a radio interview with Kenny regarding this song at which time he said he wanted to roll the dice on this song. People were either going to love it or hate it but he liked the song so much he wanted to take a chance on it. I  for one think the gamble paid off (the song did hit #1 in 2008).

Cut to now (or 2010). There have been a couple of his new songs out recently that I think are brilliant. Both are from his latest album "Hemingway's Whiskey". The first one is "Somewhere with You". It's a beautiful, moody, dark song. There was a time in my life I felt the exact same way and I think that is why this song speaks to me so loudly. Those times are long gone but I still find this song haunting. The first time I heard it I thought, "How does he do that?".  The second song is "You and Tequila" which has been playing on the radio since Memorial Day. Again, wow Kenny! You are growing up! This song is a duet with Grace Potter and their harmonizing on this song is sublime. I do recommend downloading the radio version however as I saw them perform this song live on the "Today" show and it did not do the song justice.

Kudos Kenny! This is one fan that continues to grow more satisfied over time!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Robbing the Store

I just have to share my experience at CVS this week. It's been a couple of weeks that I have been couponing and I had yet to score my first big deal. I was determined that today (being last Sunday) would be the day! On Sunday, armed with my 2 newspapers, I carefully planned out a small list of things to get at CVS. My small list included Jerame's deodorant, toothpaste, AA batteries, granola bars, and some Reese's mini's. I know, I know, candy right? The fact of the matter is that I buy candy. It is going to happen and there is no way around it. I might as well admit this fact to myself and buy it cheaply when I can. Anyways, hard to believe this small list totaled almost $50!

I was feeling the pressure as Jerame had decided to accompany me on this trip. He wanted to see what my new hobby was doing for us. I could tell he was super annoyed as we walked around the store and I put things in our basket that in his mind "We don't need". And by the time we were at the cashier and she had rung everything up and the register said "$46.51" I thought Jerame was going to have a heart attack. I handed the cashier my CVS rewards card and the register went down to about $23.80 because everything I had bought was "Buy 1, Get 1 Free". I forked over my coupons : $1 off granola bars, $0.75 off toothpaste, $1 off batteries, and $6 in ECB's from CVS. When the cash register finally settled on $15.05, I was so proud! I looked over at my husband and he had the biggest, goofiest grin on his face. As we were leaving the store he said, "WOW! You just robbed them!" He later admitted that my hard work was paying off (music to my ears!).

While I may not have robbed them, I was so close to my savings goal! When I started out doing this, I was looking to save between 40-70%. Well, this trip was savings of 68%! Pretty good for someone just starting out in the field! Now you may never see me on Extreme Couponing but then again, you never know :)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Site Under Construction

On a side note for the day, thanks to the Blog Doctor for the helpful website! I was able to add tabs to my blog in 30 minutes and I do not, I repeat I DO NOT know how to edit HTML code. Here is his website in case you are interested in adding tabs or another function to your blog::

So yes, I was able to add the tabs in 30 minutes. However, it is time to get on with my day so my tabs still need updating. Check back later after I have had time to complete what I have added!

A New Hobby? Yes, Please!

Over the past couple weeks, I have been researching the topic of couponing. I have become fascinated with the TLC show "Extreme Couponing" as I am sure countless others are. Now, I do NOT watch the show and think "Wow, I want to be like them." No, I will not be spending 60 hours a week scouring the Internet for deals, dumpster diving for coupons, or building a nuclear fallout shelter in my basement. Upon googling "extreme couponing" one of the very first websites I came across was all about "realistic couponing". Realistic couponing is more about using coupons on sale items to save 40-70% on your grocery bill. This sounded a lot more like me so I set out to go forth and save.

I wish I could say that I saved 70% my first trip. HA! I didn't do bad my first trip, saving about 27% at Kroger on groceries. My first trip was more about the learning experience and I have a lot to learn! Kroger has a savings card where you can go online and load digital coupons to your savings card to use in the store. The nice part is that all you have to do is swipe your card to use your coupons which eliminates/significantly decreases the need to carry a packet of coupons around. The downside is that you can't use digital coupons and manufacturer coupons together. Also, Kroger does not double their digital coupons but they will double the paper ones you bring into the store (under $0.50). 

One of the biggest couponing lessons I have learned (at least for me!) is to stick to my list! I have been making a list of what I am going buy and for what price and now have approximate totals on my lists. This week I was so close to my estimated total but still off $5. I know, I know, it's $5 but I have to admit I was disappointed when my total didn't add up. This lesson also came into play at CVS this week. CVS also has a savings card but with theirs you can scan your card as soon as you walk in the door and get free coupons! After getting my free coupons this week I saw I received one for $3 off a $10 makeup purchase. Of course I used this coupon and consequently added more money to my purchase since my makeup totaled slightly more than $10. Sigh. But, I'm learning!

As with all new hobbies, I am having fun figuring this out. I have since signed up for the Sunday paper, as well as a subscription to All You which is a popular magazine chock full of coupons. I have signed up for several email services for tips and popular deals for the week. I think Jerame is happy I have taken up a productive hobby as well as one that will help the house! As for me, it is time to head down to the post office to see if I got any new coupons in the mail... JOKING friends!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Adventures in Baking

I love to cook. Cooking is fun and relaxing and at the end of the day, you can make some pretty amazing things! I'm a decent cook due to the fact that I can follow a recipe and that I have been cooking long enough that I generally know what tastes go together and how much of what seasoning I should use. Now baking... baking is another story. Baking is all chemistry and chemistry (next to plant biology) was not my strongest subject in my education. Baking is about precise measurements whereas in cooking a heaping tablespoon is not going to kill your dish. Baking is also about precise cooking times and knowing exactly when that little toothpick pulls out "clean". Now I must admit that I have never had the precision of a surgeon or the desire to, which I think makes me better suited to cooking. However, I can't stand not being a good baker so over the past couple of months I have been trying out my hand at baking.

My first concoction was a Boston cream pie. What a lesson! My cakes did not rise, which I later found out was most likely due to the fact that my baking powder was expired. I learned to check my expiration dates on my products. I also over cooked my custard which resulted in the cream part of my pie being somewhat... dry and lumpy. Boo. Another valuable lesson learned. My next project was chocolate chip cupcakes, which actually turned out fantastic! I learned that cupcakes are ALMOST impossible to screw up. Keeping up with the cupcakes, my husband asked me to make Red Velvet cupcakes for his mom's birthday. These also turned out great!

The thing I have learned about cupcakes that makes them almost impossible to mess up is that if you properly cream the butter and sugar, the rest pretty much makes it self. I have found that creaming takes a lot longer than you think it would or should. In fact, a lot longer! But that proper creaming technique makes all the difference in the world and you end up with a light and moist cake. Here is the recipe I used for these wonderful confections-

Ingredients and Preparation:
  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 recipe Creamy Vanilla Frosting (below)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour three 9- by 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper. To make the cake: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well. In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the layers cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, then ice the top and sides of the cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting (below) .

Creamy Vanilla Icing
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
 In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes. In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well. Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (no less and no longer- set a timer!). Use immediately.

I know this sounds like a lot of work but it's worth it!

My happy cupcake customers! Recipe courtesy of

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Battle of the Bulge

My 2011 New Year's resolution was to get in shape. This resolution was different than my normal go-to resolution which was to lose weight. While resolving to lose weight is a valiant notion, year after year this goal got me nowhere. This year I decided it was time for a change. Instead of judging my progress on the scale, I would judge my progress by how my clothes fit. Instead of going on a "diet", I needed to change how I ate for life. As a fairly successful home cook I was used to healthy and fresh cooking. My problem was I had gotten to a place where my healthy choices were fewer and far between than my unhealthy "splurges" (more about cooking later, this post is about exercise, not cooking!) I just needed to get back on track. And instead of just expecting to lose weight by diet alone I would judge my progress with - surprise, surprise- exercise!

It is now June 1st and I feel I am well on my way to my New Year's resolution! When I started down this road in January, I was a size 10/12 and about 137 lbs. My physical activity level was... well, to be honest, zero. I started small, 20 minutes on the elliptical 4-5 days a week. After a couple of weeks, I was able to increase my cardio time to 30 minutes on the elliptical. Gradually, I added in 30 minutes of weight lifting 3-4 times a week and 45 minutes of Pilates 2-3 times a week. For a while, I did circuit training with 15 minutes of cardio followed by sets of crunches, squats, and lunges and then repeating the whole routine 3 times. My current routine is 30 minutes of intervals on the elliptical, followed by about 30 minutes of strength training. My strength training consists of crunches, planks, lunges, squats, and some free weight lifting. I am following all this up with 30 more minutes of fat-burning cardio. My hard work is definitely paying off though!  I am down to 130 lbs and just bought a pair of shorts in a size 6!

This may seem like an extreme workout. Let me say that most (ok, 90%) people do not have the time for this! I will just say that I do have the time for it right now and I haven't felt this healthy since I was 18! I can successfully report fewer headaches and stomach aches as well. My healthiness is spreading to Jerame as well. Jerame and I have started a new Saturday morning tradition of running a mile across the street at the high school. As part of my quest to judge my fitness, I decided I wanted to see how fast I can run a mile in. A couple of Saturday's ago, Jerame and I woke up at 7 am and headed across the street. My first mile time was not what I hoped and also helped me realize that I still have a long way to go! Oddly enough, I found this to be an exciting challenge which I will conquer! My PR running the mile was my sophomore year  of high school. I finished in 7 minutes 26 seconds. I wanted my time to be comparable to this. It wasn't! My first mile time was 9 minutes 23 seconds. Ugh! My second mile time was 9 minutes 21 seconds. I have since come to terms with this, consoling myself with the thought that there are many more Saturday's to prove myself.

I must say that I am extremely proud of myself for sticking to my resolution. While I by no means consider myself a flaky person, I can probably count on one hand the number of resolutions I have stuck to. I am just glad that this is one of them. Here are my progress pictures!