Keeping the Sports Bottles Icy Cold

If you’re like me and you’re short on room, time and the ability to consistently plan ahead, this might be a good tip for you.

I’ve got  a house full of boys in sports, who are always in the need of a jug of cold water to take to practices or games. Depending on the heat outside, they often need MEGA jugs, because  a little bottle of water simply will not do. MEGA jugs are great because they provide enough portable hydration, but they’re not so great because it takes nearly 1/2 bag of store-bought ice to fill it enough to keep it cold for the hours it sits on the sidelines.

Here’s a solution:

Freeze water in similar-sized leftover plastic containers (cottage cheese, yogurt, deli take-out, etc.).

When it comes time to fill the bottle, run the container under a little bit of warm water so the ice block falls right out, plop in your jug and fill. It melts much slower than store-bought ice cubes, and is way more economical. Immediately after using a block of ice, I refill the container and place it in the freezer so it is available for the next practice or game.

My jugs fit a large cottage cheese container perfectly, but depending on the mouth size of your jug, you’ll have to improvise.

Saving Money at the Checkout Lane

It’s been a bit since I’ve posted, I know. I took a little break.

My husband and I had a few days off together, and we spent our time doing non-essentials, as well as essentials that relieved us of some stress (getting some papers handed in, meal-planning, etc.).

Today, after 2 days of slowly gathering my coupons, and some meal-planning, I finally went grocery shopping. My budget was $400, with stops at 2 stores (Sam’s and our local mega-grocer, Woodmans). I spent a little over $100 at Sam’s and $340 at Woodmans (saving close to $19 with coupons). There were a few things I didn’t get, because I know it would have put me over budget and we can live without them until Frank gets paid on Thursday, but for the most part, I got enough to make meals each night, and fillers for lunch and breakfast.

Tonight we had Turkey Maid-Rites. I wasn’t sure how they would go over, but by putting the ingrediants in the crockpot this morning, we were able to have early dinners (for those of us ready to eat early) and then later dinners (for the hungry footballers after practice).

I absolutely love to have my meals “planned” for the most part. Ingrediants on hands, recipes picked out really does help and saves money on quick, thoughtless trips to fast-food, or ordering pizza because there’s no time or brain power to throw together a meal.

Next week the kids go back to school (already), so lunches will be eaten outside of home for the most part. I hope to also be able to start making ahead some meals, too, in addition to planning things out a bit better.

Cheap and Easy Decorating – Lightswitch Covers


(Repost from 2006)

After re-painting the livingroom and entryway, I decided it might be good to also change the light switches and electrical covers. After looking around at Home Depot, Menards and the like, I quickly realized that to replace all of the covers, I would have to spend more money than I had budgeted. So I decided to revamp the prominent light-switches using supplies I already had on hand. The only new supply I picked up was the scrapbook paper. My pictures didn’t turn out so hot, but you get the gist.

scrapbook paper in patter or color to match the room
glue (I used craft glue)
razor blade cutter (man I can’t think of the name right now – exacto knife, maybe?)

I took the scrapbook paper and made an outline of the lightswitch cover, cutting out the holes for the switches to fit through. I did not make holes for the screws; it wasn’t necessary.


step2.jpg step2z.jpg

Then I took the glue, mixed it with water (about a 1:3 ratio, glue:water). With a paintbrush and sometimes with my fingertips, I smeared glue on the back of the paper. Then, I placed the paper over the light-switch cover and smeared generous portions of the glue/water solution on the front. I let that dry a bit (10 minutes, maybe), then repeated with 2 more coats.


After that dried I put a clear protective spray over it that I had on hand (2 coats). I don’t know if it was necessary, but since I had it If figured I might as well use it for extra protection. I also did a little trimming of excess paper at some point during the process.



They look pretty good, but I can see things I may have done different, like trimmed a little more or maybe even did a couple more coats of the glue water to make it even more durable. But oh well.

UPDATE: Three years later these have held up beautifully.

Italian Sausage Soup – AKA “Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Soup”

Tonight I made Lootie’s favorite soup: Italian Sausage Soup. He requests it on his birthday, and on other random days. It is a simple, tasty comfort foot that I don’t mind making at all. I can nearly make it in my sleep. Since I was grocery shopping, I picked up the ingredients, except for the broth, since I had that at home, and a crusty loaf of Italian bread – the perfect compliment.

As I cooked the sausage and sliced the potatoes, adding it all the the pot with little bit of salt and red pepper flakes, I had a moment of panic. Is that IT?! Was it really this simple? Am I forgetting something?

I ran into the computer room to search my site for the recipe and found it: Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana Soup. It was in the archives from 2004. The recipe (a photo) was missing. Tragedy. This is a VERY yummy soup. I must repost it.

This is a homemade version of the Olive Garden® Zuppa Toscana/potato and sausage soup. And honestly, it’s actually better and super-dee-duper easy.

Here’s the exact recipe I have written down, with my subs in parentheses:

Serves 2 [my subs serve 7]

2 3/4 c. Chicken broth [2 large containers of chicken stock]
1/4 c. heavy cream [I don’t use nearly this much — I use 1/4 cup for my increased version and that’s plenty]
1 med. russet potato [3-4 red potatoes]
2 c. chopped kale [no measure, about 5 handfuls, whatever will fit to fill the pot]
1/2# spicy sausage [5 sausages, cooked and cut into medallions]
1/4 tsp. salt [to taste, I don’t measure]

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes [about 1/2-1tsp. depending on your taste]
1c. shredded Parmesan, if desired

Prepare the sausage by placing in skillet with 1/2 cup water. Cook on medium for 10 minutes, then uncover, turn and cook for 10 more minutes. Cut into medallions. If you use bulk sausage, brown it and break it up into chunks.

1.) Heat stock in large pot over medium heat
2.) Slice unpeeled potatoes; add to soup
3.) Add cooked sausage to soup
4.) Add salt, pepper, cream; stir
5.) Add kale; stir

Simmer for about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Garnish with some shredded Parmesan and serve with a nice hunk of bread. This soup is wonderful the next day and freezes well.