Friday, February 18, 2011

Frugal Friday

It has been a long, crazy week for the Johnson family.  Hunter has had parent-teacher conferences, inservice, and all kinds of fun teacher things that have kept him at school late. I've had interviews, homework, and other fun things that have kept me out late as well.  We are looking forward to a relaxing weekend to catch up on sleep and time with each other.  We don't want to go out and spend a lot of time/money on entertainment? Our solution? Netflix.  I know, everyone is screaming Netflix's praises, but I just want to throw my opinion into the mix.  We got Netflix 2-3 months ago and it has really changed the way we watch t.v.  If I didn't love sports so much, I would absolutely get rid of cable and just use Netflix. We pay $8.99 a month for the instant stream only package (in other words, we don't get the DVDs in the mail).  We stream it through our X-box and it has become our go-to entertainment recently. There are really three great things about Netflix.

1. We can catch up on movies.

Hunter hates to go the movie theatre to watch new movies. It is against his frugal nature to spend $10 a ticket. We occasionally go to the $2 theatre in our town to see movies, but with Netflix, we've really stopped doing that.  There are a lot of movies we've missed over the last 3 years that we are catching up on.  We've recently watched The Proposal and i'm trying to get him to watch The Time Traveler's Wife. The great thing about these movies is that I can sometimes convince Hunter to watch things he would otherwise never pay money to see (like the two movies I mentioned above!).

2. We can watch t.v. shows that we wouldn't normally be able to.

We don't have  HBO, Showtime, etc, but really enjoy some of the shows that come on those channels like The Tudors, Dexter, and Californication. For the most part, we can watch these shows on Netflix without paying premium cable prices. I will say that area brings up one downside of Netflix. Since we pay only for the instant streaming, the selection is more limited than if you pay for the premium plan. For example, Dexter Season 1&2 are available for instant streaming, but that's it. Fortunately we have friends with DVD plans who are willing to share :-) If we ever did completely get rid of cable, I would definitely upgrade to the DVD plan.

3. I can watch things I would never buy!

Did you know you can stream work-out videos on Netflix? I just discovered this gem last weekend when I was looking for a Yoga work-out. There is a pretty decent selection of various genres. Some of them are from the 1980s, but trust me, it just adds to the charm. Now instead of spending money on new work-out DVDs, I can just stream one through the X-box. I also watch t.v. shows that I would never buy.  I saw a few months ago that "Murder, She Wrote" (yes, with Angela Lansbury) had recently come out on DVD.  I loved that show as a kid! Seriously, it was my favorite t.v. show when I was three. I would never buy them on DVD, but I really wanted to watch them again. I did a quick search and found out the entire series on Netflix. Score for me!

If you are looking for a frugal way to access movies, t.v. shows, or even work-out DVDs, consider Netflix. I promise you'll be just as obsessed as me!

*I didn't receive anything from Netflix for this post. I promise I just love it this much! 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Works for Me Wednesday

I've been fighting off a cold for the last couple of days.  You know the feeling: nasal congestion, fatigue, and general grumpiness (well i'll blame my cold for the last one anyway!).  I hate feeling sick and have been pretty lucky so far this winer.  I don't like to take antibiotics, so i've been trying some less extreme measures to combat my cold. These tips aren't anything new, but I think always helpful to hear.

Hand Washing

  • This is a big one! This is a great article from the Mayo Clinic about the best times to wash your hands and how to wash them.
  • So I'm a big fan of sleeping even when I'm not sick, but a little extra sleep can go a long way in helping your immune system fight off evil germs. If you are feeling sick, go to bed an hour earlier or sleep in (if you can). 
Extra Nutrients
  • I know there is a big debate over if Vitamin C can actually help your cold or not, but I think its important when you have a cold to make sure you are eating health. Ice cream may help you feel better, but fruits and vegetables are going to provide you with the kind of nutrients your body needs. 
  • Every time I had a cold growing up, my mother would make me gargle with salt water. I hated it. I swore as an adult, I would never ever gargle with salt water. Well it turns out that gargling helps ease sore throats like nothing else. So guess what I did yesterday? It turns out my Mom was right. 
I think overall the most important thing to do when you are sick is just take care of yourself. Slow down! Give your body some time to conquer those nasty germs and you'll be back at full speed in no time. That definitely works for me!

*Disclaimer: Obviously, I am not a doctor and you shouldn't take medical advice from me. These are just tips I've found help me feel better. If you are sick, consult your person doctor for any and all medical advice!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cooking Around The World..

The two loves of my life (besides you know, Hunter, my family, Cordy, etc) are travel and food. That's why I was so excited when my friend Christina got me this awesome birthday gift:

It is a cookbook from Williams-Sonoma which features recipes from several different countries around the world. There are a gazillion recipes which was a little overwhelming at first. I decided the best idea would be to take it one country at a time instead of just trying random recipes. I couldn't decide which country to start with, so I thought why not let social media make my decisions for me? So dear blog readers, the decision is up to you. I let Hunter narrow the choices down to five (you know that whole illusion-of-control thing). So...should I start with:
  • Mexico
  • Greece
  • Middle East
  • China
  • Thailand
The decision is yours! Leave a comment with your choice and i'll feature recipes from that country each week.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Frugal Friday

One of the biggest complaints I hear about exercising is that it can be expensive-gym memberships, shoes, equipment, clothing, the list goes on and on. I'm linking up with Frugal Friday over at and sharing some tips for how to exercise for cheap. Before I start, I think its important to stress that you should invest in good shoes just to avoid injury. A good pair of shoes can save pain, expense, and time!


Gym memberships can be expensive, but you can get good deals especially around the first of the year. YMCA's often offer cheaper rates than other gyms. If you love to swim, check to see if your town has an indoor community pool. My hometown has a pool which offers water aerobics, swim lessons, and free swim. You can buy a yearly, monthly, or weekly pass for much cheaper than the usual gym membership. High schools, colleges, and universities often have indoor or outdoor tracks which are free to the public during certain hours. You can also look on craigslist, newspaper ads, or ebay for used gym equipment for your house. Yard sales are another great source of exercise equipment especially in the summer when people are trying to move.

Not feeling a gym? There are lots of ways to work-out at home without spending a lot. The first is obvious, walk or run! Most cities have greenways or running trails which are open to the public. I run on a public greenway which is great. If you live in a neighborhood, find a running or walking trail that takes you through your neighborhood. You'll meet your neighbors and stay close to home!
Bad weather? Try work-out dvds! Amazon has a ton of work-out dvds for under $10. I'm saving my swagbucks for an Amazon gift card, then I'll use that for Jillian Michael's latest dvd. It won't cost me a thing, but i'll get a great 30 minute work-out! If you don't have free weights and don't want to buy them, use soup cans or water bottles. Another great at-home tool is a jump rope. Jumping rope can burn up to 600 calories an hour! Now, I don't know about you, but I can't jump rope for an hour straight. If you jump rope during the commercials of your favorite t.v. show though, you can get a great work-out for around $3.00! If you live in an apartment building with lots of stairs, walk or run up the stairs for 10-15 minutes, 3 x a day. That's a 30 minute work-out for free.

Working-out can be as expensive or cheap as you want it to be. It is easy to spend lots of money on the gym, clothes, and equipment, BUT YOU DON'T HAVE TO! Don't let cost keep you from getting healthy :-)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Works for Me Wednesday

works for me wednesday at we are that family

Last week was supposed to be Valentine's Day tips, but i'm running a week behind. I am not a huge fan of Valentine's Day to be quite honest. I think it tends to be kind of scam. I heard this morning that the average cost of a dozen red roses is $47! If you add in the cost of going to dinner, getting cards, and buying gifts, this holiday is starting to rival Christmas in cost! So, Hunter and I are planning on staying in this Valentine's and cooking dinner. Since we cook dinner almost every night, I want to make a meal that is a little more special than our average weekday meals. Here are two of my favorite meals which I hardly ever make, but which I think would make a perfect Valentine's Day Dinner.

Stuffed Alfredo Chicken (From Southern Living)
  • 4 boneless Chicken Breasts
  • 8 oz ground sausage
  • 1 (1.25) oz envelope Alfredo Sauce
  • 1 cup Mozarella Cheese
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 10 oz Frozen Spinach
  • 1/2 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1. Place chicken between two sheets of heavy plastic wrap. Flatten to 1/4 inch thickness with meat mallet or rolling pin.
2. Cook sausage in a skillet until no longer pink. Drain.
3. Prepare Alfredo Sauce according to package directions. Set aside.
4. Combine Mozarella and Parmesan cheese
5. Stir together sausage, spinach, ricotta cheese, and 1/2 cup mozarella cheese mixture. Spoon mixture evenly down center of each chicken breast, and roll up, jellyroll fashion. Arrange chicken rolls, seam side down, in a lightly greased pan.
5. Pour alfredo sauce sauce over chicken. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
6. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to 1 hour.

This recipe is great with twice-baked potatoes or steamed veggies!

Prosciutto-Pesto Chicken (from

This is actually a really easy recipe, but the ingredients make it perfect for a special occasions.
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • 6 pieces prosciutto
1. Arrange chicken breasts in a greased pan.
2. Spread 2 tablespoons of pesto over chicken.
3. Wrap each chicken breast in 2 pieces of prosciutto.
4. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.

This is also good with roasted potatoes, roasted vegetables, or rice! Serve either recipe with a special dessert if you like sweets. My husband doesn't, but I might make him his favorite Velveeta Shells and Cheese as a special side.

Valentine's dinner at home works for me!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Sugar Coma and Super Bowl

Yesterday was the big game! Although I was quietly mourning the fact that my beloved Colts weren't playing this year, we still had to have a party! It is the Super Bowl! I think I get my love of all things football from my parents. They didn't throw many parties when I was growing up, but they threw a big party for the Super Bowl every year. Now I can't go without at least doing something on Super Bowl Sunday even if i'm not really pulling for one team or the other. So, yesterday we had a few friends over, ate chips and pizza, and played some Balderdash. This happy day coincided with my lovely friend Angela's (or as we call her AngMo) birthday. For my friends' birthdays, I let them pick any dessert (or meal for my non-sweet loving friends) and I make it for them. Angela's choice did not disappoint. She found a Paula Deen recipe on which can only be described as decadent. It was a chocolate layer cake with cheesecake filling. It was AMAZING. Here is the recipe:

Cheesecake Filling
  • 2 8 oz pck. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tbsp almond liqueur
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a 9 inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Grease aluminum foil. In large bowl, beat cream cheese until creamy. Add sugar, beating until smooth. Add 1 egg at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Add sour cream and almond liqueur. Pour batter in prepared pan. Bake for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes is up, turn off oven and leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove from pan. Chill and cover for 4 hours.

Chocolate Cake Recipe
  • 1 box chocolate cake mix
  • 1/2 cup almond liqueur
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9-inch cake pans. Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth. Pour into prepared pans. Bake 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean. Let cool completely.

  • Place one of the chocolate cakes on a plate. Spread a layer of frosting over the top of the cake.
  • Place cheesecake on top of chocolate cake. Spread frosting over top of cheesecake.
  • Place second chocolate cake on top of cheesecake. Spread frosting over top and sides.
Eat and die of happiness :-)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lentil Soup

Although we haven't gotten the massive snow that other areas around the country are dealing with, it has been cccooolllddd here! When the wind is blowing and its so frigid outside I love a nice bowl of soup! My friend Mitchell sent me a great recipe for lentil soup that I made this week and had to share. Its a great "clean-out-your-cabinets" soup. Got some diced tomatoes? Throw them in there! Green pepper? Sure! I'm not sure I'd ever make this soup the same way twice, but its very satisfying no matter what you put in. Here is what you need for the basic recipe, but again feel free to add whatever you think would be good:

  • 2 cups dried lentils
  • 1 1/2 quarts water
  • 1 medium sized onion chopped
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped and peeled
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 6 oz can tomato sauce
  • 3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 cups chicken, vegetable, or beef broth.
As you can see, I mixed the ingredients up a little bit.

I didn't have any carrots, so I added a can of diced tomatoes. I also increased the amount of cumin and oregano in addition to adding cajun seasoning. Like I said, feel free to play around with the recipe. I also added some sausage for Hunter. Ham would also be a good addition if you wanted to add meat. If not, the lentils have a great flavor all on their own and are very filling.
Put the lentils and water in a crockpot. Chop your vegetables finely and then sauté in a large frying pan until limp and glazed.

Once done, add the vegetables, spices, and cooking broth to crockpot. Top with bay leaf or leaves (I used two).

Cook on low for 6-8 hours. Add tomato sauce, red wine vinegar, and any additional broth (depending on your preferred soup consistency) and cook on high for 30 minutes. I topped mine with a little sour cream and it was the perfect soup for a cold wintery night. Enjoy!