Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Organizing My First Ever (and Successful) Clothing Swap--Plus, Plans For The Next One!!!

I don't know about the rest of you, but I did something fun--and new--this weekend!

I held my first ever Clothing Swap this past Saturday morning and I must say, it was a success!

I had the idea several weeks ago after the Spring shopping bug hit me--but my wallet didn't really allow me to go on a shopping spree.  I started laughing about the thought of raiding all my girlfriends' closets for their old clothes when it dawned on me--why not get everyone together and we can swap all the stuff we're tired of?!  It would be just like shopping in their closets, but MUCH more convenient!

With that, I started organizing a Clothing Swap.

I admit, I had no idea what I was doing.  I looked online for some ideas--but turns out, there's about a bijillion ways to throw a swap...I didn't have the time or energy to fine-tune a long and complicated plan, so I kept it simple.

I reserved our church basement--it had plenty of tables and rooms for trying on clothes.  And I wouldn't have to spend days tidying up the place :-)

I sent out a Facebook invite to any local ladies who I thought may be interested.  And I probably missed a few people (and if you happen to be reading this, I'M SORRY!!!!) while checking all the boxes, but I did leave the invitation open for guests to invite additional friends.

And finally, the day was here!

We gathered in my church basement at 10:00am and started sorting our stuff.  I labeled tables based on the type of clothing and accessories, rather than by various sizes.  Any more, sizes vary so much between brands (and even sizes within a same brand may vary), that I wasn't going to sweat that detail.

Before you know it, we had tables overflowing with stuff.  I was so glad that people brought in TONS of clothing, purses, jewelry and shoes--it made for a huge selection of goodies.  We didn't limit/match the number of items that people could take (ie if you bring 6 items, you can only take 6 items)--instead, we let them take HOWEVER much they wanted!  Once everyone was done picking out their goodies, we let them find items for friends who were unable to attend.

At first, I was worried that we'd have a crazy amount of clothes left-over.  But when it was all said and done, we only had 5 bags of clothing left.  That's one of the major reasons why I didn't limit how much people could take ;-) We took the bags upstairs to our church's Encore Shop--it's a local thrift store run out of our old Rectory that donates its financial proceeds back into the community to assist with paying utility bills and prescription costs for impoverished residents.  The gals were super excited to have our left-overs and it was great knowing that the clothing swap benefited so many people.

All-in-all, the swap was a blast!  It didn't cost me a penny to organize it...and everything was swapped for free.  With the seasons changing and everyone yearning for new clothes and gas at $4 per gallon, you just can't beat free clothing!

Plans are already underway for another Swap in the fall--maybe around the first part of October?  When I picked the date of this past Saturday, I didn't realize this past weekend was K-State Open House AND Prom for many schools, so lots of people couldn't make it :-(  Soooooo, I promise to pick a better date next time!  Also, in hopes that many of the moms can enjoy a girls' night out (and all of us non-moms can enjoy the girl time!), I plan on throwing it on a Friday evening--we'll swap MORE than just our clothes (hehehe!)...ie kids clothes, home decor, you name it.  We'll swap what ya got!  And finally, if things go as planned, I'm hoping to include some food and wine next time around :-)  See you at the next Swap!
The church where I held my Clothing Swap...There's only 3 doors in relative proximity to another so I tried to easily identify the proper entrance :-)

A view of the pants, shorts and dresses tables...I was amazed at how many pants were brought to the Swap!

Checking out the goodies at some of the other tables...

And this picture is EXACTLY why the Clothing Swap rocked.  Check out all the stuff she got--for FREE!!!

Our left-over goodies...bagged up and ready to be resold,--the proceeds will help those less fortunate in our community :-)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Smokin' the Day Away...

Justin's birthday is less than 2 months away and I'm never one to give presents early...well, maybe 1 day early but that's IT!  And it's usually because I'm too excited about giving the gift and I'm about ready to spill the beans...but this year, I set a new personal record.  I gave him his birthday gift two months--yes, MONTHS--early!

We spent this past New Year's in Kansas City celebrating with Justin's college roommates.  Jabin, our host and son of a grocer, works in the milling industry and knows his food inside and out...And yes, there are days I secretly wish some of Jabin's tricks of the trade would have worn off on Justin when they lived together.  For example, when the guys came to stay with us back in October, Jabin took over the kitchen and had a HUGE breakfast whipped up--and cleaned up--in no time.  Like I said, why didn't that rub off on my husband?!

Anyhow, back to the story.  On New Year's Eve, Jabin introduced my husband to his smoker.  He had received the smoker as a gift from his parents and this thing was a gift from God...it was an electronic smoker AND had a digital thermostat!  All you had to do was load up the wood chips, throw in a pan of water (IF you wanted, it wasn't necessary), put the meat inside, shut the door, plug the baby in and set the temperature.  It was that easy!

The husband and I were never into smoking.  We bought a large Brinkmann grill several years ago and it has a smoker box on the end--but that just seemed like too much work....  In fact, back when the guys came to visit in October, we were sitting around the firepit when Jabin asked my husband, "What have you been smoking lately?"  We all sat there and our jaws just fell to the ground...and then I asked, "What the hell do you mean by that?!"  Turns out, Jabin had spied our grill/smoker box and was referencing THAT.  Not wacky tobacky....but we all got a good laugh out of that!

After we returned home from Kansas City, bellies full of smoked chicken wings, Justin decided he wanted a smoker just like Jabin's.  We priced them and they were actually fairly affordable.  Being the middle of winter, I decided I would buy him one for his birthday in June and it would be a HUGE surprise!  Because, really, would he even remember wanting a smoker for that long???

I was wrong.  For the past three months, my husband has been asking about the smoker.  Finally, I agreed to go to our local Ace Hardware just to "look" at one.  We got to the store, only to find out the company is discontinuing them--and as a result, Ace couldn't even order a floor model for us to look at!  We went to Home Depot--they didn't have any.  We went to Tru Value--they couldn't access the smoker, either.

So, what does a good wife do? I went on Amazon (duh!) and found an incredible deal on one.  Knowing the smoker wouldn't be around for much longer, I ordered it and told J-Money that his birthday gift was on its way!

If this isn't proof that my husband was a wee-bit excited about the smoker, I don't know what is...they had cut down a hickory tree at work, so they chipped it up and brought home 7 gallons of chips!  That's enough to last us, well, forever.

Anywho, the smoker arrived about two weeks ago and we've already fired it up a few times.  I have to admit, I kinda like the thing!  In a way, it's very much like a slow cooker--throw your food in, leave it all day and you come home to an incredible meal.  In fact, I think it will definitely replace our slow cooker during the Spring and Summer months!

The first weekend, we smoked some chicken quarters that we had in the freezer...we had no idea what we were doing and looking back, I feel bad for Jabin.  Little did he know that we would be calling him every 5-minutes about how to do this, how to do that...thankfully, he was a good sport and got us through the basics.

Because we were smoking chicken, we needed a brine to keep the meat from drying out--we eventually figured out a recipe for the brine and  and got the chips soaking in beer.  After 3 hours in the smoker, this is what we had!

After plating up my food, I took one bite of chicken and couldn't help but laugh!  Justin gave me a puzzled look but once he tried the chicken himself, he totally understood.  I couldn't believe we were responsible for such delicious chicken!  I was frankly surprised that we didn't kill the whole tray of chicken between the two of us, but it sure made for good left-overs :-)

That was two weekends ago.

This past weekend, we tried smoking a pork loin.  Again, we had some pork in the freezer (I promise I'm not a food hoarder!) that we defrosted and rubbed.  I had no idea how to smoke pork, so this time I went online for some information.  Luckily, I found a super awesome website full of tips and recipes.  We had struck gold!

We ultimately decided on a Memphis dry rub and a Western Carolina mop sauce.  They weren't identified as "matches" on the website and the dry rub was for pork butt (not a loin, like we had), but based on the ingredient list, I figured they'd go well together!

Much to my surprise, I was actually correct for once!  5 hours later, we took the pork out of the smoker, pulled the meat and warmed up the mop sauce.  Justin thought he had died and gone to heaven!  I can't even imagine what the mop sauce would be like drizzled over a pile of good ol' pulled pork!

For sides, I made fried cabbage and gluten-free Cheesy Garlic biscuits.  The fried cabbage was a new--and super easy--two ingredient recipe. Cabbage and bacon.  Anything with bacon is a guaranteed hit, right?! The directions said to serve it hot, so I did...but once it cooled off, I liked it even better.  Next time around, I'll just have to remember to make it early enough to chill it in the fridge for a while!  As far as the biscuits were concerned, I used the gluten-free Bisquick mix.  J-Money was CONVINCED they were something quite special--or, "off the chain" as he so Southern-ly put it.  I'm still not sure why he thought they were so great...???  Maybe he was just trying to suck up?!  Who knows!  But one thing that I thought was funny--he had no clue they were gluten-free!  I love tricking my husband :-)

So, what's on the menu for this weekend?  Smoked brisket!  I bought one at Sam's yesterday and I got the smallest piece available--it weighed in at 14 pounds!  That's a ton of meat!  But, the husband was excited--he will be eating on smoked brisket for several meals...and that excites ME--I won't have to do any cooking for a while!

Monday, April 16, 2012

My Crazy Savings at Target--Plus, a Great Coupon Site!

I have never been much of a couponer...I use them occassionally, but I never really find any good savings.  The coupons in our local Sunday paper are pretty worthless--it's usually brand-name items that we would never buy OR support hose for grannies.  Every now-and-then, I luck out and find coupons on a company's website that helps us save a few bucks.  For example, this winter I was hitting up Campbell's site b/c Justin was eating 2 cans of soup a day for lunch.  At most, with using the Campbell's coupons and a few store coupons for other small items, I was lucky to shave about 26% off my total.  Nothing too exciting...

Well, I think things are a changin'!  I ran into my childhood neighbor last week at Dillon's and she was there to spend a bunch of coupons.  After our visit, I checked out one of the sites she suggested:  www.dealdetectingdiva.com.  Turns out, the gal lives in Wichita so all of her savings are from stores that we have in our neck of the woods! 

Just this afternoon, the Deal Detecting Diva sent out an alert on Facebook for some new coupons available at Target...and turns out, Target lets you stack both store AND manufacturer's coupons!  Talk about some awesome savings :-)

Honestly, the timing was perfect!  Tomorrow, I sit for my Realtor's exam in Topeka and I'm swinging by Sam's Club afterwards...my one "have-to" purchase there is the 10-pound roll of 92/8 ground beef for $29.99.  At our grocery stores here in town, you're talking anywhere from $3.99-$4.50/lb for the same leanness.  Can't beat that!  But I was kinda getting tired of bagging the meat into Ziplocks just to find a slight accumulation of ice crystals after a few weeks...lucky for me, I was able to score a FREE FoodSaver at Target this afternoon!  Good-bye, ice crystals!

Here's a quick summary of my purchases AND savings from this afternoon.  The baggies aren't a big deal but hey, I used the last one this morning so I had to bite the bullet and by some ;-)
Retail Price: $19.99--after coupons: $FREE!

Retail: $8.99--after coupon: $6.99

Retail: $8.99--after coupon: $FREE!

Retail: $2.95--after coupons: $1.23

Retail: $7.99--after coupon: $7.99

Retail: $7.99--after coupon: $FREE!

Retail: $6.99--after coupon: $4.99

Retail: $2.49--on sale for $2.24

Total Retail Value: $71.52
Price I Paid: $23.42
Savings: $48.10 (67.3%)

And that's it, folks!  Pretty impressive, if I must say so myself :-)  For all y'all Kansas folk, be sure to check out her website and follower her on Facebook for up-to-the-minute deals!

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Dog's Day Out

I realized it's been a while since I last posted about our dog-child, Mitzi.  Or, is it Mitzy?  I'm not sure HOW it's spelled because I'm always alternating the "i" for the "y" and vice versa.  Regardless of how her name is spelled--or how creative of a mood I'm in--we all know I'm talking about!

Mitz is our canine companion.  She's a little--well, not so little anymore as she just gained 1-lb in the past three months, whoops--Maltese and we absolutely adore her.  I got her just over 4 years ago from some incredibly sweet breeders by the Nebraska border.  Ever since she came home, she's been spoiled rotten...but considering how cute she was as a puppy, how could I not spoil her?!

8 weeks old and weighing in at 2.5 pounds!

Here we are, full-grown dog and all--and it had become time for her to have her first dental cleaning at our local Vet Clinic.  The cheap-a@@ in me REALLY did not want to get her teeth cleaned...but after my sister adopted two dogs who NEVER had their teeth cleaned and ended up with crazy expensive vet bills post-adoption, I decided it wouldn't hurt to spend a little preventative money!

This morning, I dropped Mitz off bright-and-early at 7:15am.  Every time we go to the Vet, she stands by the door and is ready to leave--but today was different.  We met with a new-to-us vet and Mitzi became ecstatic!  She would not stop giving the vet "kisses" and when we would put her on the ground, Mitz would scratch at the vet's leg for more loving.  Guess she was in good hands!

Going into the procedure, I knew they would put Mitzi out--and of all dogs, yeah, you would want to do that with her!  There's just no poking around in her mouth...I thought I was prepared for the cleaning when the vet asked if I wanted to authorize any extractions...and if I wanted to do blood work...and IV catheters...and IV fluids...!!!  Like I knew?!  Was it necessary?!  If so, why wasn't it included in the basic price?!  I have a hard time with people talking to me before 8am, let alone asking me to make decisions--and expensive ones at that!

After some consideration, I decided to authorize the extractions--if that would even be necessary.  But after reviewing the other options and realizing it would be almost another $200, I did what any wife would do.  I blamed my husband.  I said, "OHHHH, I really want to be a good doggy mom, but my husband would KILL me if I spent that kind of money."  For someone who teaches assertiveness training, I'm embarrassed to admit that I took the easy way out but I was so worried about appear the slightest bit neglectful!

I was finally out the door and on my way to work.  Then, the doubt started in...what IF the blood work would have revealed something super important???  What if Mitz's blood pressure drops and they can't save her because I didn't authorize the stupid IV fluids?!  Out of cheapness, I had just signed away my doggie's life!

All morning long, my mind was just racing.  I eventually went to class and figured that no-news meant good news.  Several hours later, I was out of the classroom and went to check my phone--only to find out that the vet had tried calling me.  My stomach dropped and I immediately pulled up my voicemail so that I could process the information before calling them back.

As one would expect, the voicemail was very non-eventful.  They were calling to let me know that our dog had done GREAT and would be ready to go home later in the day...all of that worry was for nothing!

I was so relieved!!!  And feeling justified...guess there was nothing wrong with being cheap!  My dog DID survive...just like all of the other 10-billion dogs who get their teeth cleaned every year!

A few hours later, I picked Mitz up and I'm not sure who was happier to see whom!   As expected, she was completely wiped out and barely had the energy to bounce off all the walls when she saw me.  It wasn't the most typical Mitzi greeting but she quickly made up for it when I picked her up, put her under my arm and she looked up at me with her big black eyes...and just let out the biggest belch!  Big enough, that the aides heard it half-way across the lobby and couldn't help but laugh!  Yup, my dog was definitely back to her normal self ;-)

Now we're home and Mitz wants nothing to do but lay on her ottoman.  I figure that's okay--the sedation has made for a very quiet evening at our house, allowing this doggie momma a chance to unwind and keep on studyin'!
All grown up and exhausted from her dog-day out!  And weighing in at 10.4 pounds.  About that diet...

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Platform Wedge Trend--And Herman Munster...

I'm a shoe person--always have been, always will be.  I like to think that I get it from my late Grandma Barb.  As a little girl, I remember being amazed at how many shoes she had...and how they were so different from one another...and how I wanted to have a shoe collection just like hers when I got older!

Well, the time has come and needless to say, I have become a shoe person!  The picture below is from 2 years ago, when we first moved into our bungalow.  This was my section for work shoes...and I had another section on the other side of my closet devoted to boots.  Sadly enough, I had donated several trash bags full of shoes prior to moving...and now, my shoe "collection" has nearly doubled.  I don't know how it always happens, but it just does!

Oh, wait.  I know how it happens!  The other day, I picked out a pair of wedge sandals to wear to work. I had purchased the cork-soled, black peep-toe pumps 6 years ago at Target and had definitely gotten my money's worth as I wore them quite frequently.  As I slipped them on, I thought to myself, "Hmmmm, wonder if I should wear something else???  These shoes have treated me well but they're due to wear out one of these days."  But, they looked super cute with the skirt I was wearing and they hadn't let me down yet, so I left them on and headed out the door...

As class ended that day, I walked into the hallway and couldn't figure out why my right shoe felt 10x bigger than the other shoe.  I got to my office and realized the stupid strap had broken!!!  Guess that's what I get for ignoring my gut instinct!

After about 10 minutes of searching, I found a stapler and stapled the strap back together--how's that for being frugal?!  I was super excited!  I was able to salvage my shoe long enough to walk to my car but of course, this meant it was time to go shoe-shopping ;-)

When I got home from work, I decided to hop online and see what was out there.  After all, wedge sandals are all the rage this season and I have always loved, loved, loved wedge sandals...and what better time to be in the market than when your favorite shoe is everywhere?!

Well, I quickly noticed a serious problem--99% of the wedges have platform soles.  Yeah, yeah, yeah--platforms are all the rage and I admit, I have a few pairs of platform heels.  But on wedges?!  Ick!!!

For one, how can you walk when there's 3-4 inches of sole under your toes--not to mention the 5-6" of sole under your heel?!  Do the shoes even bend and flex?!  I'm all about sacrificing comfort for the sake of fashion, but really, folks...the platform wedge is an insane concept.  To prove my point, here are two styles that I saw many variations of:

To be completely honest, the snake print wedge is super cute.  But at 5'10", I really don't need a platform that exaggerated!  And here's why...

My major concern with the super-chunky platform wedges is this--wouldn't a person look like Herman Munster if they wore them?!  And at my height, I don't need ridiculously thick platform-soles to help me stand out above the crowd!

With that kind of mental image, I just can't do the platform wedge!  lol...and plus, they're kinda stripper-ish...I may be in a "trade" business, but I don't want people to get the wrong idea about what I do for a living :-)

On that note, I wanted a wedge that I could wear to work--and for play.  And of course, I found a super cute shoe that fit that requirement...but it's not black so it's not a direct replacement for the shoe that finally saw its last day.  Guess that just means I have to keep shoe-shopping and adding to my collection ;-)

My new wedges--I am patiently awaiting their May 5th ship date!!!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Are You Up For a Good Laugh???

My dream came true!!!  I am a proud owner of a MacBook!  When I realized I needed a computer for my real estate gig, I had a genius idea--wouldn't it be awesome if I could get an iPad, but with all the laptop features?!

Well, duh.  That's called a Macbook!  Yeah, I'm quick like that :-)

Anyhow, I got in touch with my computer-guru friend, Derek, and he affirmed my dream of owning a MacBook.  In fact, after looking at other (Windows) computers, I just couldn't find anything that I liked. Uhhh, but the only problem???  Macs are crazy expensive!  Even though it would be a business expense, it wouldn't make that much of a difference on our year-end taxes.  Thanks for reaffirming my tendency for expensive taste, Derek ;-)

For the past several weeks, I had been desperately trying to find a computer that I could live with.  But hell, they cost a decent amount of money and I just wasn't happy with any of them.  Thanks to my determination, I refrained from buying something I would be unhappy with...and amazingly enough, just last week, a company I used to purchase photography equipment from was running a MAJOR sale on the very Macbook I dreamt about!  And when I say major, it was major enough that I was sure it was a type-oh and called B&H just to confirm the price...then, I had Derek review the specs to make sure it wasn't some junk version.  It wasn't.  And I was going to save some amazing money.

I seriously about died and went to heaven.  When I hit, "Confirm Order," it took everything I had to keep from jumping up and down with joy!!  I was finally getting my MacBook :-)

My new baby arrived yesterday evening and as I geeked out over it, Justin tried his best to act very nonchalant.  That was--until I busted out the PhotoBooth.  How can you NOT enjoy yourself when playing with PhotoBooth?!  Finally, after a few giggles, he started to admit he was excited about my computer!  

For your viewing--and laughing--pleasure, I have posted some of our more humorous "portraits."  Aren't we a hot couple or what?!