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Sunday, December 1, 2013

'Tis this season!

'Tis the season for holiday shopping!

If you're like me, you do the majority of it online. Aside from saving time, gas, and sanity - no circling parking lots trying to find ANY place to park, no being stuck in people jams because everyone is oblivious to the fact they're blocking the walkways, no mall traffic, no long lines and best of all, less opportunity for being electronically pick-pocketed, you also have the potential to actually MAKE some money WHILE you buy online!

Here are my some of my favorite ways to make and save money while shopping online:

EbatesThis year, Ebates seems to have higher percentages back than last year.  Here's how it works - click the link I posted. Register. Once registered, find your store or product on the Ebates website, click the link and shop! Shortly after your purchase is complete you'll get an email from Ebates telling you how much money was credited to your account. Easy peasy - they will automatically send you a check or make a deposit to your Paypal account - whichever you set up when you register.

Above is the banner you'll see once you're logged in - if you want to search for the store or item, type it in the box to the right (see blue arrow above)

 If you want to see what stores are participating, directly below the Ebates logo in the banner you will find a drop down box that lists the retailers in alphabetical order, click and go!

Mr. Rebates is my other go-to site for instant rebates.  It works the same way as Ebates does, but has a little different layout. 

Directly below the Mr. Rebates logo, you will see a search box. Below it are two options - Stores or Products. It defaults to stores. If you want to search for a specific product, click the bubble for Products before your type in your search term.  Both sites tell you the % of the rebate you will receive.  Mr. Rebates doesn't automatically pay you, but they do email a reminder to request your check just before they cut the checks. All you have to do is log in, go to My Account and click on Request Check. You can also hover over My Account and choose Request Check. Quick and easy! 

Both sites also tend to have coupon or promo codes listed (I find Mr. Rebates tends to have more listed) so you can save even more while shopping online. Also good to know - these two sites frequently have different rebate percentages for the same store. So I always check both before I make my purchase and use the one giving me more money back! No brainer right? Right. 

Retail Me Not - always check here for coupon and promo codes no matter where you order online (seriously...I NEVER pay full price when Mr. P and I order pizza - yes, they even have promo codes for internet pizza ordering). Now this site doesn't pay you to shop, it just helps save a few bucks. Those bucks add up. Why pay full price if you don't have to? 

The above screenshot shows a couple of the stores that are currently rotating thru the main page banner right now and some of the deals available. No account necessary to use this site, but if you choose to register and you mark codes as good (thumbs up / thumbs down next to the code) and choose to enter your savings amount it will keep track for you and who doesn't like to see how much they've saved over a year? Again - not required.  When you go to just type in the name of the store to the right of the Retail Me Not logo and scroll thru the codes that come up. 

Don't forget to use these in combination with Mr. Rebates and Ebates to get the most bang for your buck this holiday season...and all year long!  Check back with them every time you shop online because stores come and go and sometimes they have special promos - for example on Black Friday I scored rebates shopping on - which normally isn't participating. So in addition to free shipping (I have an Amazon Prime account - which I highly recommend if you are a big online shopper, but not just for that reason, perks for Kindle users, streaming movies, etc - good stuff - it's between $70-$80 a year - worth it just for the free 2 day shipping!) I got a little cash back for picking up a couple of good deals on Christmas gifts.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

More Pinterest Cooking!

Here are a couple more recipes from my Pinterest files that we've whipped up here at the Paisley Cottage as of late.

The World's Best Chicken

I don't know if it's the World's Best - I still find marinating in plain old Italian Dressing or Spiedie Sauce to be my favorites - but it's easy and it's good.

World's Best Chicken 

We call it Maple Dijon's more accurate.

The World’s Best Chicken Serves 4
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a small bowl, mix together mustard, syrup, and vinegar.

Place chicken breasts into 9×13 greased baking dish. Season with salt & lots of pepper. Pour mustard mixture over chicken. Make sure each breast is coated. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until meat thermometer reads 165 degrees. Exactly how long you should leave it in is based on personal preference and your oven.  Season with chopped rosemary. And prepare for people to ask you to make it again!
PS: To make this in the slow cooker, combine all ingredients and cook on low for 3-4 hours.

I used fresh rosemary from our garden and sauteed some green beans (also from the garden) and whipped up some mashed potatoes to go with this and it was a great meal. Now there's no need to marinate this, but as things usually go here at the Cottage, we marinated. Mr. Paisley was just whipping up the mustard mixture when I got home from work and tossed in the monkey wrench "I need to go to Smokey Bones and get my camera from Adam". Adam is a friend of mine who used to work with me, but got laid off. He had my new IP camera that I couldn't get to work - turns out, the camera is bad. Anyway - there were $10/$20 coupons in the paper from the weekend, so we finished up the chicken and tossed it in the fridge for the next night and I ended up getting my camera and having a lovely Cuban Sandwich with broccoli for dinner. Smokey Bones does a fantastic Cuban. 

Balsamic Flank Steak

Balsamic Flank Steak 

Well...this was just ok. I've never bought a flank steak before - though it is my favorite cut at Texas de Brazil. They happened to have one package of flank steak out when I popped into BJ's, so I snapped it up and we made this and cooked it on the Grill Dome. The edges are really good...the middle has no flavor.

Now part of that may be because I didn't realize the flank steak was rolled up (?!) The first time Mr. Paisley went to check on it after throwing it on the grill he said it had started to unroll. So maybe it just didn't get marinated well. I plan to give it another shot, but i'll just buy a London Broil (which apparently, is part of a flank steak...). I'll also use my Food Saver marinating dish.  This one we served with broccoli.

Balsamic flank steak
¼ c. balsamic vinegar
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 garlic clove, minced
1 lb. flank steak
salt and pepper

Combine first four ingredients in a large ziplock bag. Add steak, turn to coat; marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature. Grill until desired doneness. Let stand, covered loosely with foil for 10 minutes, before cutting in thin strips against the grain.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Rockin' the Pinterest Recipes

Yes we are! I have finally being making a point of going to my assorted "food" boards on Pinterest to try some of the recipes I pin. 

Today we had a family celebration for a couple of birthdays and had reservations for brunch (which ended up being lunch) at the Rainforest Cafe at Downtown Disney. They have pretty good food, but it comes with Disney prices. 3 burgers, 2 coconut shrimp entrees, a veggie pasta dish and a kid's spaghetti plus drinks and a $16 chocolate volcano "cake and ice cream" was just over $200. At least the parking was free.

At any rate, mid afternoon rolls around and my 6 coconut shrimp and green beans have left me starving. Wednesday I picked up some Boar's Head ham and King's Hawaiian rolls to make Hawaiian Ham & Cheese Sandwiches. The recipe can be found HERE at Pip & Ebby along with a ton of other good stuff.

Being the bad blogger starving person that I was...there are no photos. Rest assured, they more or less resembled the lovely photos on the recipe site.

My review? A little time consuming to slice the rolls and difficult not to squash them flat. I used dijon mustard because I don't like yellow mustard. None of the mustard flavor comes thru in the final product so if I make them again i'll just use the yellow mustard. They are crazy rich. I think I could cut back on the butter. 

Mr. Paisley's review?  "Tasty!" and he doesn't like ham. Go figure.

I *LOVE* King's Hawaiian bread of any type, but I think i'll just use it plain to make cold sliders...unless the hubs actually requests these. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

This morning I made Lokshen Kugel

Loksehn Kugel you say?  Yes. I say.

One of my co-workers came in  yesterday and was talking about a bunch of food that her neighbor brought over to her before work. Apparently leftovers from Thursday's Rosh Hashanah meal. She went on and on about this noodle pudding dish. I  suggested it was kugel and she was sure it wasn't. So on my break I googled some kugel recipes and came across this one at The Shiksa in the Kitchen

I sent it to her and she said "yes yes - that's exactly what it looked like!" Go figure...kugel, just like I said.

So I decided I would whip this one up this morning. My house smells AHHHH-mazing because of the cinnamon sugar topping. Too bad it doesn't FEEL like fall outside here in Central Florida - it sure smells like it in here!

Oh dear...someone couldn't wait long enough to take a photo.


This is a great base recipe and in the comments on the recipe page there are several additions and tweaks and I fully intend to try at least a couple of them.

This is a VERY rich dish. Woo boy! It's very good and heavy. I think I'll try to lighten it up next time with low fat sour cream and fat free cream cheese while I add that crushed pineapple someone mentioned (yum!). 

I've also decided it may be time to retire my vintage Oster blender. It works like a champ, but more often than not I end up having to split up my ingredients that need to be blended because the pitcher is just too small. Including this one - 6 eggs, 1 brick of cream cheese, half a stick of melted butter, 2 cups of sour cream and a cup of cottage cheese...that filled up the blender TO.THE.TOP. and I still needed to add the sugar and salt LOL. Yeah, no...I ended up blending what was in there and dumping it all in the Kitchen-Aid mixer. It worked...just left me more dishes to wash!

Anywho - I gather this is a traditional dish served at various Jewish holiday meals or events. I'm not Jewish. I've never had kugel before, though I've heard friends speak of it. So I thought I'd break out of my cooking rut and make something new.

Glad I did!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Robin's Nest Before, During and After

This has been a long time coming. A labor of love...with a little cursing and a lot of money thrown in.

We bought the cabin in September of 2009 (under contract at the end of June...should have known more drama would follow LOL). Here are photos from the first time our awesome real estate agent Nik Shewmaker took us to see it.  

from the street (I didn't take an outside photo I guess - this is the one from the listing)
 downstairs bedroom
 downstairs bathroom
 front deck
 living area from the upstairs landing
 the once awesome hot tub (it had a waterfall LOL)
the screened back deck with the hot tub
 the upstairs bedroom
the upstairs bathroom / vanity
 the upstairs bedroom
the kitchen area from the front door / living area

It had been foreclosed on. Little to no maintenance had been done on it since it was built in 1995. These were taken at the end of June 2009. We didn't see it again until the middle of October 2009. If I took photos that day, I can't find them. Let me tell you what we found. The roof had been leaking. The whole cabin just felt damp. The walls of the hallway were COVERED in white and green fuzzy mold. So were the doors. Frankly...I was petrified to sleep there, but I wasn't about to fork over cash for a motel room for the night either. Luckily we had spent the night at Mr. P's parents' home so it was only a 4ish hour drive and we had the majority of the day to turn this mess around. So we unhooked the trailer and went straight to Lowe's. 

Shopping list:
  • Buckets
  • Mop
  • Murphy's Oil Soap - 2 gallons
  • Scrub Brushes
  • Razor Blades
  • Windex
  • Paper Towels
  • Rags
  • Sponges
  • Broom
  • Dustpan
  • Trash Can
  • Outdoor Garbage Bags
  • Damp Rid. Lots of Damp Rid. (we actually still have it in all the closets)
  • Gloves. Lots of Gloves.
I changed into my sexiest cut off sweat pants and paint splattered, holy (air conditioned) tee, some new gloves and it was off to the races. Opened the windows and cranked down the AC to try and dry the place out a bit and Mr. Paisley and I cleaned that place from ceiling to floor. Every inch of that cabin was scrubbed and wiped down. I kinda like the smell of Murphy's Oil Soap. Thank God the cabin is under 1000 square feet. Sadly...that's just the floor. I don't really want to know how many square feet we cleaned between the walls and ceilings and beams and doors and window casings. We were exhausted. But I felt less concerned about sleeping there. I did however insist that the blow up bed we brought be in the middle of the floor...away from the walls. The next day we unloaded the trailer and the truck. I had been shopping from the time we came back with the cabin under contract until the day we left to drive up there in October. House in a box! Mostly...
We went from the photos above to 3 days. I know it was 3 days because my mom was visiting her sisters and they all decided to drive down to stay the rest of the week with us. Nothing like an impromptu house warming party!

from the street
 the living area
 the dining area
 the living area from the upstairs landing (wow...didn't realize how bare it was even after moving in a trailer load of stuff!)
 the front deck - I miss my little was much cuter than it's replacement
 the upstairs bedroom

the downstairs bedroom (set up for having 3 unexpected guests)
 voila! a light fixture in the laundry closet! (free - from my dad - it was brass...I painted it bronze)
 the stairs
 the side of the kitchen you can't see because it's behind that wall in the photo below
 the kitchen area (woo hoo...we have a dishwasher...but no other appliances LOL $50 on Craig's List baby!)
 the front door (note the curtain...that's what they looked like when they were at the Paisley Cottage - my mom didn't get crafty with them until her 3rd or 4th visit when I lugged my sewing machine up there with us - held up with random tension rods that I had in a closet at the Cottage)
the upstairs landing

 And here are the most recent photos. We have rearranged. Changed out. Cleaned. Stained. Replaced. Reworked. And mostly enjoyed....getting Robin's Nest to it's current state. It's not finished. The roof still leaks once in awhile. The floors need to be refinished. The sofa and loveseat are too big for the space. The lighting needs work. The interior doors need to be replaced, the kitchen counter is ugly. Some of the interior walls need more cleaning than Murphy's can do (water stains from the leaking roof). It'll come with time. It's hard to get a lot done when you're only there for 7-10 days at a time. Slow and steady wins the race. 

from the street - cleaned and re-stained
 the front deck
the front deck's new bench (free - made from a bunkbed my neighbor threw out and some scrap 2x4s from the shed) to replace the cute small one that someone stole. This photo is from last Winter.

 the upstairs bedroom

 the upstairs bedroom
 the upstairs bedroom (random shelf - similar, but not the same as the ones downstairs - this one happened to be in the Paisley Cottage when I bought it and it was in a closet - it's deeper than the others and shorter which bugs me. I bought a new one last week, ran out of time to stain it and get it up trip!)
 the upstairs bedroom
 the upstairs vanity (old light fixture from remodeling the bathroom at the Paisley Cottage - it was a textured stone type sand color - I painted it black - free is good! I got the mirror for $35 at a thrift store - it was $70, but everything was 1/2 off - the frame was a lovely shade of 1980s salmon...amazing what some black paint can fix.)
 the upstairs bathroom (curtain is recycled as well - actually, all of them are - when the Paisley Cottage was "beach cottage" I had these chambray tab top panels in my family room, my awesome mom cut and spliced and added trim and hems and voila - all "new" curtains for the upstairs bedroom, the upstairs bathrooms, the kitchen and the living area!)
 the upstairs bathroom
the upstairs bedroom
 the stair wall
lower stair landing
 living area window looking out to the front deck
 living area from upstairs landing
 hallway downstairs
 the downstairs bathroom
 the downstairs bedroom
 the downstairs bedroom
  the downstairs bedroom
the downstairs bedroom

the fireplace - it gets changed all the time. No flat screen over our fireplace - we have old school CRT TVs at the cabin. The flat screens get stolen somewhat regularly from the rental cabins near us. We aren't there to watch TV so the old 32" CRTs are there until the die.
 the goose is sometimes on the fireplace...this is over the window in the kitchen/living area
the living area - free pillows from my Auntie Alyce
 the back deck and the less fancy, but working hot tub replacement
 new LED lighting on the front deck
new low voltage lighting in the front flower bed (they are little frosted glass "mushrooms" plus 2 spotlights, one lighting up the dogwood tree and one lighting the star on the chimney)
 the front flower bed during the day - see our new "log" edging along the road? Helps with the water running downhill - it's a small cedar tree we cut down after one of the storms last year. I change out the flag and the "yard art" with the season - gotta have a little whimsy in the mountains! (the mushroom lights hardly show up during the day)
and last but not'll probably have to enlarge the photo - but we added an owl tree face to one of our trees across the road - our year round neighbor up there just noticed it 2 weeks ago - it's been there since the end of APRIL! LOL

In summary...

We've come a looooong way baby!

All of the exterior stain, wood filler, and caulk were purchased at our local Perma-Chink office. The folks that work there are extremely helpful and knowledgeable when it comes to log homes. Many thanks to the staff at both the Knoxville and Sevierville, TN locations!
You guys rock!