Crazy Bread Life Hack

I have posted before about my desire to implement more natural, sustainable food choices in our home and my gardening/farmers-market adventures to that end. But I have also admitted to being far from perfect in this quest – sadly too often convenience wins out. So I hope none of you will be too disappointed to hear me admit that, from time to time, my family very much enjoys picking up a pizza for dinner. My boys probably enjoy it a little too much. But one thing I DON’T enjoy is wasting food. And often times, when we pick up a family meal deal, complete with crazy bread and a drink, that is just what happens. Because, let’s face it, who likes to eat leftover crazy bread? It gets so hard and tough in the refrigerator that, even my cheap thrifty, waste-abhorring side gives in and feeds it to the garbage. Until today! Today I had an idea. A wonderful, awful idea, to borrow words from the notorious Grinch. Whenever they give you crazy bread, they also give you a little tub of pizza sauce to go with it, which invariably also gets thrown out. So why not put the two together, add a little bit of cheese (and some pepperonis if you happen to have them), and make a whole new pizza! I tried this today for our lunch and, let me tell you, it was a great success.

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Here is a quick run down of what I did if you’d like to give it a try:
– Slice each bread stick in half, length wise, to make it a little thinner and give you more pizza
– Spread the pizza sauce over the rough side of the bread
– Add toppings. I added pepperonis (sliced in half), grated mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese, and a little bit of Italian seasoning.
– Bake at 350 degrees till the cheese is melted and slightly browned (approximately 10 minutes).
– Enjoy!

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The boys loved it. And so did Mama’s wallet. Hope you all do too.

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The Real Cost of Cheap

Today I found myself ruminating on the ideas of durability and quality versus availability and cheapness. We come across this dilemma rather frequently in our daily lives. Something breaks or wears out and we are faced with the decision of whether to spend a little now and pretty much guarantee that we’ll spend it again in the not so distant future, or spend a bit more now for a quality item that we know will stand the test of time. In the long-term, of course it’s a better investment to opt for quality, but who has the extra money to spend? If things break around our house, usually it’s not part of the planned budget and too often, cheap is the only option. But sometimes I wonder, why is cheap an option at all?  It never used to be. If a craftsman built something, they built it to last. They took pride in what they had made. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it had to be any more expensive to make. It it was just made with care rather than the understanding (and often the hope) that the buyer would most likely chuck it in a few years and buy a new one. Plastic and prefab have since replaced wood and steel. Machines have replaced hands. And because there is such a dramatic difference in quality, there ought to be a significant difference in price, right? Even if it didn’t really cost that much more to make. And no one seems to consider the fact that all of these products that are made to be discarded and replaced year after year end up in landfills and never biodegrade.

But what is the solution if you can’t afford the quality that used to be affordable and now seems to be elite? My solution is usually to search for second-hand or slightly damaged or refurbished items that still, despite their age or scratch-n-dent appearance, stand out against their cheap counterparts as objects of beauty and enhanced functionality. And, this way, I also reduce waste by buying things that others have discarded or no longer need. For instance, our coffee maker broke this week. A problem that needed to be remedied ASAP, since it was creating very crabby parents in the morning. But for the last decade, it seems, I have been buying a new coffee maker every couple of years because that’s about as long as the $30-$40 machines last. And I was tired of this cycle. Particularly because, when I was growing up, we had the same coffee maker for at least a decade because it was made to last, it was a Bunn. But I certainly didn’t want to spend $200-$300 dollars on a new coffee maker. (Let me rephrase that, I wanted to, but I have MANY higher priorities for that kind of money.) Even though the five machines I’ve already bought over the last 10 year (at approximately $45 a piece) add up to the same amount and created 5 times the waste! So I searched Overstock and Craigslist and Amazon‘s used sellers and found an Amazon warehouse deal of a new Bunn coffee maker in perfect condition but with damaged packaging for $65 – only $20 more than I would’ve spent on a cheap one that I’d have to replace again in a couple of years. Score!

Another example of this is my son’s tricycle. You can find any number of cheap plastic tricycles and big wheels out there whose plastic cracks, colors fade, and seats fall off within a couple of years. Or you could spend a hundred dollars on a nice steel, Radio Flyer Trike that will last through every single one of your children. But I don’t spend that kind of money on my toddler very easily. So I found one on Craigslist for $15 whose owner’s only son “never really liked it that much and barely rode it.” Sold!

So, let this encourage you to seek out quality and stop encouraging the production and sale of goods that we know are made to be quickly replaced. Even if you have to cut some corners or bruise your pride a little bit to get it, it will be well worth it in the long run. And, who knows, we might just change the ideals of our society in the process!

Designing Daydreams Come True!

A couple posts back, I mentioned that it was really time for my big boy to have a big room to match his big personality.  (I know, I know . . . that’s a lot of big.)  It was becoming more and more obvious that, whether or not we were able to sell our house, Aiden needed his own space that was not the nursery he had occupied since he was born:

The Nursery

We decided to go ahead and move him into the other room, since we are planning for another kiddo sometime in the near future.  This room  was initially the guest room and looked like this:

BEFORE: The Guest Room

I have spent the better part of my long, labor-day weekend transforming it into this:

AFTER: Aiden's new room!

I know the sports theme is a bit out of character for us, but Aiden loves sports and balls and I thought this could be really fun.

These chairs make the room! And when I found them for $20 each, it was the last push I needed to go ahead and decide on a basketball theme.

I'm pretty sure Aiden likes them too!

As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure he likes the whole room.

And he liked helping me decorate it too.

All in all, I think we scored a “home run” with this one!  What do you think?

Fashion on a Budget

I have shared with you all before my love of shopping as a means of reducing stress. I know that for many of you this is unfathomable since shopping and stress are essentially synonyms in your book. But for me shopping is an outlet unlike any other, and it’s guaranteed to lift my spirits. But regardless of whether or not you share this sentiment, most of you can understand the ‘tired’ feeling that your wardrobe gets after certain items have been used and re-used – sometimes for years. It is that feeling that, despite having full draws and closets, you actually like very little of whats in there and constantly feel as though you have nothing to wear. Oh well . . . back to old faithful . . . Sigh. Because in today’s economy, who can afford to revamp their wardrobe every year?  YOU CAN! With a little extra work and an affinity for bargains and consignment stores, you can accomplish a tremendous amount on a dime.  Particularly if, at the end of a season, you find sales at consignment stores. Then the already ridiculously low prices are cut in half. And you can feel good about what you are buying, not only because you are saving so much money, but because you are helping reduce waste by buying second-hand. The best way to demonstrate this amazing potential is to share with you my most recent jackpot. Everything below I got for a TOTAL of $70.00 – the cost of one outfit new at a department store.  Enjoy and happy bargain hunting!

Yellow Dress - $4.80 (found at the Bargain Boutique); Red Dress - $4.00, Red Jewelry - $3.00 (both found at Goodwill), Boots - $3.00 (found at the Bargain Boutique)

Plaid Top - $3.20, Red Top - $2.40, Sandals $3.00 (all found at the Bargain Boutique)

White Top - $3.20, Black Top $2.40 (both found at the Bargain Boutique)

Red Top - $3.20, Purple Top - $2.40, Jean Skirt - $3.20, Shoes - $3.00 (all found at the Bargain Boutique)

Black Top - $3.20, Patterned Top $2.40 (both found at the Bargain Boutique); Jeans - $4.50 (on clearance at Target)

Coral Skirt - $3.20, White Shirt - $1.60 (both found at the Bargain Boutique), Grey Dress - $15.00 (found at Kid's Kloset)