May 30, 2011


If you've never made it up to Galena, IL, I highly recommend it. This has been (I think) my fourth visit up here, and it's still very enjoyable. We came up here this Memorial weekend for a family wedding, and stayed in a hotel with a water park indoors. The Country Inn and Suites is a very nice hotel, especially if you have kids. Our boys loved every minute of it!

The trip took us about 4 1/2 hours, but it went by very smoothly with our two boys. We were prepared and brough a couple electronics, and lots of books! We also stopped for lunch with the rest of our family.

There were lots of things to do in Galena, we went out to eat on Saturday night to Vinny Vanucchi's and had some great Italian food. Here's a couple photos before we ate. It was also nice hearing an accordion playing as we window-shopped.

Since we were in Galena for a family wedding, there was a complimentary bus/trolley ride to the farm where they were being wed. The boys loved riding the Charter bus and the trolley!

They even had apple cider for the kids in champagne glasses.

Also, the bride was brought down the farm in a horse drawn carriage. How romantic! We got a photo of it in the background of my sister-in-law and her fiance!

In between swimming at the hotel, and hanging out with family, we tried to get a nap in here or there.

Of course, we always try to stay at hotels with a continental breakfast, and I'm so proud of our family for staying green while everyone is using styrofoam. We use our picnic set we got from our wedding and use that when we go down for breakfast, and just wash them when we get back to our room. We sometimes get funny stares, but other than that I think we're making a difference.

And don't forget the plethora of snacks that we always bring with on trips outside the home! This time we hid them in the hotel dresser drawer.

And before we check out this morning, we had to make one last pit-stop at the pool before we left.

How did you spend your Memorial day weekend?

May 27, 2011

Garden Update - 5 /27/11

Our garden has gone through some tough weather lately. They've been through some wild winds from a possible tornado, they've gone through super hot weather to really cold weather. And I have to keep reminding myself that they will be stronger through all of it.

Our backyard is growing very well. Check it out:

(pictured above: Peas!)

(pictured above: Corn that something is eating)

(pictured above: side garden - bottom to top - Tomatoes, Zucchini, Green Beans)

(pictured above: Fresh Greens - Kale, Spinach, Lettuce,
Red Leaf Lettuce, Brussel Sprouts)

(pictured above left to right: Broccoli, Peppers, Tomatoes)

(pictured above left to right: Broccoli, Peppers, Peppers)
There is a line of salad greens, and green beans in the top section.

(pictured above left to right: Daisies, Parsley, Rainbow Collard Greens, Peas)

(pictured above: Basil)

(pictured above left to right: Empty pot, Tomato and cilantro,
Jalapeno Peppers, Tomatoes, Rainbow Collard Greens, Chives, and another empty pot.)

That's all for now. What's growing in your garden?

May 26, 2011

Go Green: Picnic Style

I got an email today on how to have a picnic and produce zero-waste at the same time! Brilliant! I wanted to share that email article with you today, so that you can prepare as you set out on your Memorial Day festivities.

Thanks, Ebay Green Team!

May 25, 2011

Celebrating 8 Years of Marriage!

My husband and I just celebrated our 8th year of marriage this week, and we were very excited to find the opportunity to get away together. My gracious mother took on the role of grandma and babysitter for us, while we drove up to Starved Rock and camped out (without the kids!!!) Sometimes it's very necessary as a married couple to spend some time away from your children to really appreciate them.

I have to admit, that I didn't think of going camping for our anniversary, all on my own. I actually "googled" cheap ideas to celebrate marriage, and camping came up as one of the ideas! Brilliant, I thought to myself! My husband and I both love to camp, and what better way to relax and enjoy each others company than to do something we both enjoy.

I asked around to see what other people could suggest we do while we celebrated while going camping, and someone from church suggested that I bring some fancy glasses and a bottle of wine. Thinking ahead, I knew that we probably wouldn't be allowed to bring in alcohol to the camp, so instead we brought some good ol' Ginger Ale.

Here are some fun photos that we took on our anniversary camping trip:

If you're wondering what we cooked on this special occasion? Well, some simple items, really.

And to bring that hunger about, we went on a nice hike before lunch:

So, that's it for now, just wanted to share some photos from our anniversary!

May 21, 2011

Grocery Shopping for 2 Weeks = $104.32

(Pudge excited that I splurged and got some "Cloud Cakes")

My sister and I pulled out our cookbooks and pulled together a list of meals for the past week and this upcoming week. So the photos below will be for those meals. We mainly went to Aldi's and County Market for our shopping adventures.

We usually have $50 set aside for groceries each week, and since we were planning for two weeks, we had $100 to use. Also, last week we had $19.96 extra to spend this week, which allowed us to spend $119.96.

Aldi = $57.22

County Market = $41.10

We went shopping here the day that the Penny Pincher coupons expired, so it was fun to see everyone using up their coupons before they expired. We stocked up on the brownies, since they were only $0.27/box (with manufacturer and penny pincher coupon combined)!

I forgot to get this bag of potatoes into the photo above, so here it is:

I also purchased some falafel and couscous at a local store in town. I forgot to get a photo of that purchase, and that cost $6.

So, that's pretty much all we bought for this past week and this coming week.

Total came up to $104.32.

Buy One Get One: Caribou Coffee

This weekend, if you show this coupon at a Caribou Coffee joint, you should be able to buy one, get one free. I've been loving the coffee drinks lately, so this is a great deal! I know that there are a couple Caribou Coffee places in the County Market's here in Champaign, if you're looking for a place to use this coupon.

Enjoy! Thanks, Money Saving Mom!

May 17, 2011

Homemade Pretzels

Photo taken by Amber

My sister has been so helpful, that she took on the task of making these pretzels. I was her coach along the way. We decided to not make the "bites" instead we just made our own creations. This recipe was taken from Two Peas and Their Pod's blog, and they sure did turn out tasty!

Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites

Adapted from Bobby Flay

Soft Pretzels: 1 1/2 cups warm water 2 tablespoons light brown sugar 1 package active dry yeast 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour Vegetable oil 3 quarts water 3/4 cup baking soda 1 whole egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water Coarse sea salt

For the Pretzels: Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix with the dough hook until combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and begins to pull away from the side of the bowl, about 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough appears too wet, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time. Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a flat surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring the water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and add the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, about 4 1/4 to 4 1/2 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope measuring 22 inches and shape. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites. Boil the pretzel bites in the water solution in batches. We did about 15 bites at a time. Boil for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon. Place pretzel bites on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking spray. Make sure they are not touching. Brush the tops with the egg wash and season liberally with the salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 18 minutes until golden brown.

Remove to a baking rack and let rest 5 minutes before eating. Serve with cheese sauce, recipe below.

Cheddar cheese sauce: ½ Tablespoon unsalted butter ½ Tablespoon all-purpose flour ½ cup milk 8 ounces Cheddar cheese, grated

For the cheese sauce:

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the Cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

*If you want to make cinnamon and sugar pretzel bites-instead of adding salt, sprinkle the bites with cinnamon and sugar. For the frosting mix-soft cream cheese-about 3 T, powdered sugar, a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and a little bit of milk. Whisk together. Add more milk if it is too thick, if it is too thin, add more powdered sugar. I don’t measure. I just guess until the consistency is right.*

Touch-A-Truck Tomorrow!

Just wanted to let all you moms and dads know that tomorrow (Wednesday, May 18th) is Touch-A-Truck day at Centennial Park here in Champaign! If you've never been to it before, be sure to mark this one on your calendar.

The event will begin at 10am and end at 1pm. It's a great event for all kids from ages 2-5.

Also, there will be free ice cream from Marble Slab! The whole event is free, so come on out!

May 13, 2011

Grocery Spending this Week = $30.04

This past week wasn't too exciting for grocery shopping. We've been doing well with making meals and using up what we have in the pantry.

Big Lots = $7.40
Stocked up a little bit on bread, since they had a few loaves of bread on sale for $1.10.

We made a couple trips to County Market to pick up some staple items in the home.

County Market = $8.05
I was especially excited about the Dole Salad mix, because they were on clearance for $0.99/bag, and then I found a coupon on one of the bags for $1 off 2 bags! That made one bag free!

County Market = $14.59
We made 5 pizzas for Mothers Day for my in-laws, so these items below were for that occasion. Again there was a clearance on the Dole Salad mix, and I found another $1 off 2 bags...that made one bag free!

So, total spent on groceries this week was only $30.04. We usually set aside $50/week on groceries. How'd you do this week?

May 6, 2011

CVS & Walgreens

Pudge and I went to CVS and Walgreens this morning and here's what we got for $9.06:

We also got $2.77 ECB (Extra Care Bucks) from CVS, and $2 RR (Register Rewards) from Walgreens. So, I will use that on our next trip there.

If you're curious where I get my deals from, I check out Coupon STL's blog every week!