Friday, June 27, 2008

Vanilla Extract vs. Imitation Vanilla

10/26/2009 - UPDATE: I recently purchased another bottle of CVS imitation vanilla and noticed the ingredients were not exactly the same. I haven't used it yet but just pointing this out as a heads up. D

A few years ago Cooks Illustrated magazine did a comparison of Vanilla Extract and Imitation Vanilla. Before I even started the article I assumed I knew the answer and that the expensive extract would be rated the best. They had everything from bottles that were $6.00 for 2 ounces to a imitation vanilla that was $.99 for 8 ounces.

In the taste test they rated a generic local store brand as the best. However, the next two were imitation vanilla. And strangest of all the second choice was from a drugstore, CVS Pharmacy. The third choice was McCormick's imitation vanilla, rated above their extract.

Since we have a CVS in our town I decided to purchase a bottle to try. (I'd have tried the number one pick but we don't have Shaw stores in Georgia, at least not in North Georgia.) I have used the bottle for several months as it is an 8 oz. bottle and I have only used it a teaspoon or two at a time.

I have been very pleasantly surprised at how rich and full the favor is. So in the spirit of saving money and getting a great value I have no reservation in recommending this vanilla.

With all the food prices going up, CVS may has raised the price on this product, but I doubt it will ever rival the price of the extracts.

Give it a try and please let me know what you think.


Thursday, June 26, 2008

National Brand vs Suave

Usually I purchase Secret Powder Fresh deodorant, however, recently I was in a rush and grabbed a stick of Suave Powder by mistake. The color and and label are very similar to the national brand. The national brand is usually around $3 for the size I purchase. I thought the store was having a major sale when I purchase the product for $1.

OK, I'm not the most observant person in the world, and I get dressed in semi-darkness so I did not notice I wasn't using Secret until the container was almost empty and I was getting dressed to go out for the evening. That tells me the product works as well as the national brand and it costs way less. I've been purchasing Suave for about three months now and haven't been disappointed yet.

For what it's worth, Suave has my recommendation as being as good as Secret and a $2 savings adds up quickly. (This is my opinion only, so take it for what it's worth - about $.02)


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dine out for less

I was checking in on the embracing motherhood blog and found Kim had a great money saving tip. Please check out her blog here.

She found a web site that offers discounts on restaurant gift certificates and offers a $25 gift certificate for $10. ( The site is simple to use and seems like such a good deal I wanted to share this with you too. Just enter your zip code or state and get a list of restaurants in the surrounding area. You can refine your search by selecting restaurants within a number of miles from your zip code. Restaurants can
also be filtered by cuisine.

I have not tired this service yet but on their Who We Are page they list the Better Business Bureau icon and offer a guarantee. Of course it is always buyer beware so check it out before you make a purchase.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Goodbye to the Pool

When we bought our house, one of the features I loved was the pool. I envisioned sitting pool side drinking iced tea, while our son and his friends played and swam in the pool. All that happened, but it is now 10 years and a Rotator cuff surgery later and I've had it with the pool. I'm tired of digging dead frogs and snakes out of the skimmer. Tired of mixing and adding chemicals. Tired of the time it takes to keep it clean and the cost. In our region of the US we have been in a serious drought for several years so we haven't even opened it for two years. So instead of working to keep the water clear, we worked to keep dead leaves off the cover and to remove any water that does collect before mosquitoes lay eggs. We are also in an area where West Nile Virus shows up in the warm, hot summer months, adding that worry to being outside after dark. We finally drained the pool. I just want the thing GONE! I want a yard not a whole in the ground.

This past weekend we talked to a contractor about filling in the pool. He is going to come out and give us an estimate on how much it will cost, how long it will take and how much dirt will have to be hauled in. I have decided to keep a record of the project and thought it would be interesting to see the before and after pictures.

I'll look up pictures of the pool when we were using it and post some now photos too. It should be interesting to see how things progress.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Baby Oil To The Rescue

Baby oil has many uses beyond what the name would indicate.

Tonight my husband came into the kitchen as I was cooking dinner. I noticed he had a comb in his hair. Which is odd because his hair is short and I didn't see how it was staying in place. I commented on it and he said he had glue in his hair and needed me to cut it out. He hadn't realized he had glue on his hand and touched the back of his head. Unfortunately the glue was spread across a fairly wide spot and it wasn't just on the tips. I was concerned if I cut the hair, the spot would be very noticeable. I suddenly remembered baby oil. What was the worse that could happen? He might need to wash is hair again but that was it. Since the glue was epoxy I wasn't sure what to expect., but it did remove a lot of the glue. Not completely but there was only a couple of spots on the tips that I couldn't get to release and I did cut those out. Needless to say we were both pleased.

Here are just a few other uses for baby oil
Remove the sticky residue left from labels and price tags
Eye makeup remover
A Skin softener when used in bath water
Remove latex paint from skin

Google uses for baby oil and you'll see just how many links are pulled. Amazing stuff.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pantry Tips

I've been married a long time and one thing I've learned is to keep my pantry stocked.

In the early days of my marriage, I would run out of flour, sugar or canned vegetables all the time. I soon learned that I actually could save money and time by watching for sales and stock up. I watch for 2 for 1 sales, then purchase one to use and one for the pantry. This only works if it is something we actually use and if the item's freshness date won't expire before it is used. For items that might expire I either purchase one saving half the price or buy both and give one away.
(Check your store to make sure they offer this pricing. Sometimes it is buy one get one free so you would pay full price for the first item whether or not you got the second item.) Also if the item is something you can't use before it would expire, consider giving the free / half price item to a food bank or an elderly or young couple that could use a little help with the grocery bill.

I shop at Kro
ger or Publix and have found their store brand items are generally just as good as the national brands. However, check the unit price every time. Sometimes when the national brand is on sale it will be cheaper than the store brand.

If I know I'm going to be baking, like at Christmas, I'll start watching for sales on sugar and flour. I'll buy these
items when they're on sale even though I may not need them right away. When it's time to bake I'll have plenty on hand.

Finally I try to organize my pantry. I group the can goods together, so I know at a glance how may cans of peas, corn or tomatoes I have on hand. That also helps when I'm making my grocery list.

Just some common sense tips that I hope you might find useful.

Our First Obedience Class

Tonight was the first class of an 8-week course in obedience. I say our first class because the training is as much for the dog owner as for the dog. The instructor explained this first 8 week session is really about teaching the owners how to train. That's not to say that there won't be any dog training going on. That will happen too, but slowly and in the correct way, with lots of patience and consistent practice. A few minutes at a time several times a day. A puppy's attention span is only a few minutes at a time so 2 - 5 minutes is plenty.

Tonight's class was mostly introductions and going over some basics. Josh, our instructor, is having us focus on getting our pups to respond to their name. Homework is also to work on sit and down.

The class was smaller than expected, with only three dogs tonight. Josh, our instructor, said seven dogs had registered. Since Trixie is a small breed, Papillon, I wondered if the class would be separated according to the breed size. It wasn't. In addition to Trixie, our class consisted of a five month old female Boxer that did extremely well considering how active Boxers are. And a seven month old that looked Ilka a Vizsla / Lab mix, named Chicken Nugget. (He's called Nugget)

Puppies being puppies, there was some barking, lots of sniffing and a bit of jumping. I am rather glad that there wasn't a full class. At home Trixie will go out in the backyard and bark until the neighbor dogs come out. They then proceed to bark at each other for a little while, then run back and forth on either side of the fence until they get tired. I knew she was the one that often started things at home. What I didn't expect was that she was doing the same thing in class but more subtly. She would lay quietly, or sniff around a bit. But then she would move toward the middle of the room and plant her feel and stare at "Nugget". She didn't bark, she made no sound at all, just a stare. Nugget would react by standing up and barking and trying to chase her. Yeah the smallest dog in the place was the trouble maker. Go figure.

Homework = Name,Sit, Down, and definitely more exercise just before the next class.

I hope to post each week to keep a record of how things are going in these classes. It will be nice to look back at the end of the eight weeks to see just how far we have come.


Friday, June 20, 2008

NEVER go grocery shopping hungry

Your hear this all the time. Never shop hungry. So what did I do last night? I went shopping hungry. The cupboards were bare, no cheese, no lettuce. the bread was moldy. I didn't even have anything I could cook that didn't require major defrosting. No choice, there had to be a trip to the store. I made a half hearted list and headed out the door. The plan was to get some sandwich stuff and some fresh veggies. Expected expense? Around $25 - $30. What really happened: I walked in the door to the smell of freshly baked bread and I spent the next 45 minutes wandering around the store gathering up all sorts of yummy stuff......and I spent $82.57.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Who Woulda Thunk It?

Today, I was reading a favorite blog, The Pioneer As she frequently does, there was a question for her readers. Today's question was "If you could only listen to one music genre, what would it be?" For me the answer is Bluegrass.

The question sent me down a long road of memories about Bluegrass and my life. I can't remember a time when Bluegrass wasn't part of my life. As a child I can recall listening to Flatt and Scruggs on TV and Saturday nights at Mamaw's with Cousin Porter, Mamaw, and my mom playing and singing for hours on end. Frequently, my mom, brother and I would sing for benefits around the area. Usually it was just us singing and Mom playing her guitar. However, just before one benefit, Dad happened to meet a couple of brothers at the local music store. He discovered they both played Bluegrass and during the course of their conversation, he invited them to come by the house to see if we could join forces for the upcoming show.

We practiced a couple of times and on the night of the benefit show, they played their set and then played the music for Mom, Darrell and me as we sang our songs. We felt like "big time singers" with a whole band. I still remember how much fun we had.

I was a teenager at the time and loved traveling with my family to Bluegrass Festivals across the South. We met many of the stars of the day and lots of wonderful people who were there to listen to the music just like us. We made memories I still treasure, as we traveled from festival to festival.

A couple of years later, John was at the house and everyone was just sitting around talking and watching TV. He looked over and said, "Put on your shoes and lets go to a movie." That was our first date and the rest is history.

John played music professionally for a time and was away for long stretches. There weren't any cell phones or email back then, so we weren't able to talk much while he was traveling. By the time he decided to quit the road, I wasn't interested in dating anyone else. We were married just six days after my 20th birthday.

During our married life, we've played Bluegrass and Bluegrass Gospel music as a part of several groups as well as gigs with just the two of us. We've made friends that are as close to us as family. We've traveled to Bluegrass Festivals through out the south, and met stars and ordinary people. (Most stars are ordinary people too.) We've had glorious fun and shed a few tears along the way.

In a couple of weeks we will celebrate our thirty-fourth wedding anniversary. Who woulda thunk that a chance meeting at a music store with my dad would have lead to meeting my future husband.

I want to encourage everyone to embrace life. You never know when a casual meeting might turn into the rest of your life. It led me to my soul mate and when I look at him my heart still goes pitty pat. Not bad after 34 years.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Our Papillon puppy is now a bit over six months old and we took her to be spayed yesterday. She was dropped off around 11 AM and John picked her up at 9 AM this morning.

As I have mentioned before our 13 year old Manx cat, Hobbes, and Trixie aren't exactly "best buds" and while they are generally tolerant, there are still times when they really go at each other. (Especially if there is chicken involved.) However, I think Hobbes, almost missed her a little bit at first, but by this morning he was getting comfortable being the only pet again. Then today Trixie came home and though she was still a bit groggy and just laid around, he was visibly upset that his domain had once again been invaded by this "creature." If a cat can be disappointed, Hobbes was definitely disappointed.

By this evening, things are back to normal. Hobbes is in the other room sulking. Trixie is trying to get John to throw her "rope" without much success, since we've been given strict instructions to keep her quite and limit her activity for several days.

We are starting obedience training on Friday. I have a hope that by the time the 8 week course is over Trixie will be calmer and she and Hobbes will finally get along. I know I dreaming but then what else are dreams for?


Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

This is the first year we are both without our dads. In the last years of their lives they both lost the ability to recognize family members. Strangely enough that didn't make their passing any easier. It was almost like loosing them twice.

I do know they both loved their families. They loved their children but their grandchildren were their pride and joy. My dad would rather spend Friday nights at home playing with the grandkids than anything else I can think of. Our son and his cousins spent every Friday night at Mom and Dad's house. They "made movies," they played games and most importantly, made memories that will be with them a lifetime. Ask any one of them about those Friday's and they will smile and tell you a memory to go with that smile.

I remember the day our son was born and my father-in-law came to the hospital wearing a three piece suite and a hat. I asked him why he was so dressed up. He said "I want to look good the first time my new grandson sees me." That was so like him. He grew up poor and always wanted to look his best. I can never remember him any other way.

They had four grand daughters when our son, the only grand son, was born. He was so very thrilled and was always close to Aaron. When Aaron announced he had been called to be a pastor, Mack asked him to come over for an afternoon and they had a very deep discussion about spiritual matters. Mack was always supportive and proud of his family.

Fathers are special. If your dad is still alive be sure to tell him you love him, and not just on Father's Day. Make it an everyday thing.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Saving Money on Celery and Cheese

OK, I know talking about grocery shopping isn't exciting, but I buy lots of celery and cheese and like to save money everywhere I can. So when I find either on sale I like to stock up. The problem lies in "shelf life." Celery becomes limp and cheese will mold if not used in a fairly short time right? Wrong! I have discovered how to extend how long they will stay fresh in the fridge.

OK so celery isn't every one's must have veggie, but I like it and use it for snacks instead of chips and such all the time, and like to keep it on hand. The process is simple first cut off the root end and trim the tops (You don't have to do this but it makes using the stalks faster and easier when you need them.) Wash the stalks well and allow them to drain for a few minutes. Then wrap them tightly in aluminum foil and store them in the fresh veggie bin in the fridge. I've had crisp green celery for up to three weeks.

Cheese is expensive, so when I find it on sale, I like to purchase a big block of the stuff. I use it in everything and frequently take a few cubes and some of crisp celery sticks for lunch. The down side to a big purchase can be waste due to it molding. Mold can be cut off and the cheese is perfectly fine, but there comes a time when there's too much mold to salvage the cheese. The solution is to NEVER touch cheese with your bare hands. To accomplish this you can purchase those disposable gloves like they use at the deli department, or you can just use plastic wrap. I put plastic wrap around the block of cheese and leave only the section I want to cut uncovered. Then I can securely hold on while I'm cutting. If I'm using the prepackaged stuff then I cut off the end of the package, slide a table knife down each side of the package to release any stuck places. Then I put the plastic on the counter and slide the cheese out of the package until I have exposed the amount I want to cut. The trick is to never touch the inside of the package or the plastic wrap side that will touch the cheese.

I have used the same plastic wrap to cover the cheese, but again you must use caution not to allow the side that you've touched to touch the cheese. It seems that no matter how well you wash your hands the oil from our skin reacts with cheese and will cause mold. So either use caution when wrapping with the plastic used to hold the cheese or just get a fresh piece.

When I follow this process, I've never had to throw away cheese for mold. Now my husband doesn't always do this and so sometimes I find a "fingerprint" sized circle of mold. Unfortunately once the mold process begins you can't just cut out the moldy section. You have to cut away below where the mold is found to stop the spread.

I hope I've explained this clearly because it has saved me grocery dollars and these days every dollar really counts.

Later ya'll

Friday, June 13, 2008


I love to save money and share kitchen tips and cooking shortcuts. I frequent numerous web sites to get helpful information and I've decided to share some of these sites and tips with anyone that might land on this blog.

A newsletter I love to read is Mary Hunt's Everyday Cheapskate . She focuses on all sorts of ways to save money and I can recommend her web sites and newsletters to anyone interested in saving money. She provides recipes, grocery tips and I love the tips for saving from her readers. Take a moment to visit her site and see if you find anything you can use. Check out of the newsletter on the uses of baking soda I think you will find several ways to use soda you've not thought about before.

I'm excited about this web site and think you will find it well worth checking out. Momelettes Is a brand new site and I hope I'm not jumping the gun by sharing it with you. Jess has done a great job and I love the tips she offers on this site. As the name implies it is directed toward moms but you don't have to be a mom to love deals. Please visit her site and let her know what you think.

Well, I'm out of time tonight but hope to post about more sites I love soon.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Their going to the chapel and their gonna get married...

My brother's oldest daughter is getting married on Saturday. As the wedding is now just days away, I have been reflecting on life and all the changes we've seen in the 23 years since her birth. In 1985 my sister-in-law and I were both pregnant. She was due in March and I was due in April. Anne Marie was born on March 10 and then unexpectedly three days later our son, Aaron, was born a month early on March 13. Two of my cousins were also pregnant that year and their daughters were born that summer. Lots of new babies in the family that year.

Fast forward twenty three years, and we've had numerous life changes, both good and bad, in just the last two years.

My dad died February 24, 2006.
Our son was married March 3, 2007.
My nephew married June 2, 2007.
My cousins daughter was married June 30, 2007.
My nephew's new wife lost her brother in a motorcycle accident in July 2007.
John's dad passed in January of this year.

Thankfully, we are now back to a time of happy changes. Aaron and Lauren are expecting a baby and Anne Marie is getting married Saturday. I remember her so very well as a beautiful, angelic, mischievous towheaded little girl. One of my favorite memories is seeing her look so sweet while the grand kids played and had snacks at my parents house. She and Aaron looked like twins when they were little and have always been very close. On this occasion she leaned over and so sweetly hugged Aaron, but at the same time she reached over his shoulder and stole his Skittles. The sweet moment went quickly to a squabble. But their fusses never lasted very long and soon they were best buds again.

Annie's up coming marriage has allowed me to think of their childhood more than Aaron's wedding. With his marriage I was so busy getting ready, I didn't have much time for remembrance but I now I can take time to think and have enjoyed remembering their childhood and all the adventures they dreamed up on those Friday nights at Grandma and Grandpa's.

Anne Marie, may God bless you and Josh. I pray you will always be happy and just a bit mischievous. I love you dear.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


John has a car that is like one he had in his youth. It too is a work in progress. He has been working on this car for about 8 years. A little at a time but it is still far from being complete.

This past weekend he went to the corner store and the car wouldn't start. I went to assist him but we could not jump off the car. A good Samaritan help us tow it home. John determined it was a starter problem. So part of his Saturday was spend removing the starter so a replacement could be found.

I couldn't leave until I knew John was safely out from under the car, so while he was under the car I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the plant life in the yard. Actually these plants are from my neighbor's yard but hang over into ours so I figure their fair game for pictures.

I liked the way light filtered through the leaves on these plants. At least I'm not standing right over John being antsy waiting on him to finish.... Hope your Saturday was grand.