Phone Charger + Washi Tape

We are always at a lack for phone chargers in this house!  I ordered two from Ebay just before our trip to South Carolina, and then ordered a couple more earlier this week.  Frank needs one for his car, so one is already claimed, and I need one for myself (since the last one I had seems to have flown the coop).

Most of the chargers in the house are either black or white and fit the Samsung/Motorola phones.  It’s hard to tell who borrowed what charger.  As I unwrapped my precious new friend, I came up with an idea.  Washi tape.

I can’t admit to patience and precision on this little project.  I’m sure someone can improve on the final product with a little more time spent lining patterns and seams up.  I just wanted a quick way to mark my territory on this charger.

Cover your charger with Washi!

Cauliflower Crust Pizza – Recipe

OK, so here’s the recipe I’ve been using. Clearly I’m slightly obsessed, but when you’re trying to do a lower-carb/higher fat/moderate protein (LCHF) diet, there are some things you miss, and I miss pizza.

But not so much anymore. Really. This works pretty darn well for me.

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

For a low-carb (gluten free?) pizza, this one is the best I’ve found so far.
1/3 – 1/2 head cauliflower (I used about 1/2 for this one – it’s a forgiving recipe)
3.5 oz. grated parmesan, asiago, romano or other hard cheese
1.5 oz. shredded mozzarella
1 egg
(spices of your choosing – garlic, italian seasoning – skip salt, the cheese is salty)

Preheat oven to 400. Wash and dry the cauliflower (I use florets and stems) and chop it up in processor or chopper until resembles crumbs – then microwave for 3 minutes. Let it sit in microwave for about 5 minutes, then take it out and drain the cauliflower in cheesecloth or squeeze out excess water with paper towels. Add egg and cheese, and seasonings; mix in well.

Line a pizza pan or cookie sheet with parchment (I haven’t tried it without parchment, so I can’t tell you what would happen if you omit it)  then place the “dough” on and form into a circle. Pat well with your hands to make a nice shape. I make mine about 1/4 inch thick and then pat it again with paper towels once it is formed to get a little more moisture out. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden.

Remove the crust, turn oven to BROIL While the oven is heating, and add your sauce and a tiny bit more cheese (like an ounce – too much an it will be too cheesy), and any toppings you like. Place the pizza back in the oven to broil and watch it carefully. It only will take about 5 minutes for it to get toasty. If you don’t want to babysit it, you could skip the broiling part and just bake it for a bit more time.

Remove and enjoy.

It seems difficult, but it really isn’t once you do it a couple times. I haven’t gotten a crisp crust yet, but I’ve gotten a nice brown and a delicious flavor. Today I made sauce with 1 tomato and 1 can of tomato sauce (4oz) and some basil from my garden. Yum.

I’m going to add some flax or almond flour to my next pizza and see how that flies. This is pretty bare bones and works well.

Soaking My Feet

Every time I use my foot bath (which I’ve had for about 10 years, I ask myself why I don’t do it more often.



It is a simple act that feels incredibly indulgent. I don’t pay much attention to my feet, unless it is to paint my toenails, which I don’t do very often either, it seems.

Beyond enjoying the warm water, bubbles and massage, the delicious aromas of essential oils wafting around the room – I enjoy the fact that I’m saving a good $40 on a pedicure. I know many people would look at it otherwise, willing to spend the money and have someone else do it, which I do – about once a year. Every other time, I’m satisfied with my home experience, knowing I’m saving money on something I can do nearly as good.

And I don’t have to shave my legs before I do it at home.

(Not really) sorry to say, but my razor gets way less action in the winter months. This used to concern me more when I was about 20. I’m staring 40 in the eyes and it bothers me very little to admit that. Less than it did when I was 30. So the fact that I get to sit on my couch, update my blog, wear my sweats over my non-shaven legs… works for me.


Noodles & Company Wisconsin Mac & Cheese (copycat recipe)

This has become one of my favorite recipes: Noodles & Company Wisconsin Mac & Cheese (copycat recipe)

I have to admit, when I’d take my kids to Noodles and the order this dish, my throat tightens just a little. Isn’t there anything else you want? I mean, I make home made mac & cheese on a regular rotation and they love it. Can’t they try something I don’t make? And then I tried it. I liked it. Especially with a dousing of Sriracha Hot Sauce. I can see why it is a winner, and I’m from Wisconsin.

Pool of cheesy roux + noodles + a topping of shredded cheese?  You get to stir it up and watch the cheese melt right in front of you. What kid (or adult) wouldn’t want that?

Basically you are taking the cheese roux and instead of mixing that with the pasta and baking it, you plate it up all separate. Why wouldn’t it be good? I’ve been known to sneak some roux and noodle before baking and chomp it down. The stuff is good.

Here we go. Source:

Noodles & Co. Wisconsin Mac and Cheese
8 servings

2 lbs macaroni noodles (cooked al dente)
4 T butter
4 T flour
4 cups whole milk
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
4 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded
2 cups colby-monterey jack cheese, finely shredded

Cook the macaroni according to the directions to al dente; do not overcook!
Heat butter in sauce pan over medium heat; melt.
Add the flour; whisk to make a roux.
Continue to whisk until the mixture boils, bubbles and turns slightly brown.
Whisk in salt, pepper, and paprika.
Slowly whisk in the milk and continue to whisk and cook until it starts to thicken up. It will not get pudding thick, and will still be a thin sauce. This is how you want it.
Remove from heat and add the 4c. of monterey jack.

To serve: Pour about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of the cheese sauce into the bottom of a bowl. Add about 1 cup of cooked noodles over the sauce. Top with a small handful of colby-monterey (about 1/4 cup). Stir and enjoy!

NOTE: 1c shredded cheese is approx. 4oz.

I can feed my entire family a very healthy portion of this (and have leftovers) for less than it would cost to feed two people the same meal at Noodles & Co. — score!  You can make the noodles ahead and whip up the roux in less than 15 minutes. Just warm your noodles before plating. It heats up well, too.

Aldi Standards

I’ve never been a regular, loyal Aldi customer. My visits have been few and far in between. Years ago when my friend raved on Aldi I gave it a try. Ok. A lot of generic stuff. Big deal. Rules, like paying a quarter for your cart, having cash, and bagging your own groceries put me in the camp of questioning the experience. Is it worth it? I live in Madison, Wisconsin. There are tons of supermarkets small and large to choose from. I could go to Woodmans, shop all the generic items, and come out with a decent haul for a good price. So why did I need Aldi?

Unconvinced, I used it as a novelty, rarely visiting. Besides the quirky “rules” to follow, it seemed to me that most of the items there were junk food, and sub-standard quality at that. Still, I wasn’t sold. But… in the last couple years I’ve given Aldi another look.

I was no longer a stranger to the rules, so I equip myself with a quarter and cash (and a calculator) before I hit the store. Being a more learned shopper, and not as much of a brand snob, I’m able to navigate the prices and the quality a bit better than I was the first few times I gave Aldi a try. I should note that over the years, I think Aldi has stepped up the quality of their products a bit, too. (Some) of them are not as sodium and sugar-laden as they were 10 years ago.

In my adventures back to Aldi, here are the things I like:

  • No frills. I can leave coupons at the door. I don’t need them. No membership card, no having to have the ad in your hand. They got it. They know the sales, they give you the sale prices. Period. Simple. Stress-free.
  • Marketplace feel. People pay big bucks to shop in specialty markets that are small, hand-basket friendly (Aldi doesn’t have hand-baskets), and simply laid out (Trader Joes). What some will pay for ambiance completely astounds me. But I get it. I do.
  • Variety. It has the staples, it has some of the more trendy items. Then it stops. Kettle-cooked chips, fun chocolate bars with gourmet flavors, wines, cheeses, meats, ready-made pizzas, cold cuts and rock salt grinders. Then basics: flour, eggs, milk, yogurt, processed cheese, canned goods, waffles, ice cream, nuts, peanut butter, cooking oil and more. Staples for both the general consumer and the one who likes a little more flair.

Items I buy on a regular rotation:

  • Milk
  • Eggs (feel like I’m “slumming it” a bit on the eggs, because I like the ones with a little more to them.
  • Chips (can’t go wrong with the chips)
  • Chocolate (the raisin and hazelnut – YUM)
  • Butter is usually decently priced there
  • Cereal – good deals on some of the family favorites – their knock-off of Honey Bunches of Oats replaced the brand name in my house and nobody noticed or cared – they have a raisin bran crunch that is good, too
  • Italian Sausages – taste just fine
  • Tin foil
  • Produce – the sales are hit and miss, but I’ve been really pleased with the quality
  • Their version of Velveeta – again, nobody noticed it wasn’t the “real deal” – so much cheaper
  • Chorizo – cheaper, and just as good

There are some things I don’t buy – mostly the canned foods, only because I don’t buy a lot of canned foods. I have shied away from the household products – another item I don’t routinely buy. In a pinch we picked up some paper towel and it was fine. But it only came in two-rolls, and we need more than that. Haven’t tried the laundry detergent or any of that.

All in all, I will continue to add Aldi to my regular rotation. Even for cereals, chips, produce, milk and eggs, it is an easy stop to shop, with less potential to get me buying things I don’t need.

Do you have any Aldi favorites?

Wanna learn more? Check out Mom Advice for some Behind the Scenes at Aldi.


Snicker Salad

This is a ridiculously easy salad to make. We had a wrestling banquet (potluck) going on an I was short on time. I was busy making the team DVD (which I procrastinated on), and needed something quick, easy, and yummy. I’ve only made this salad a few times (because it is sinfully good, and too easy to munch on hourly), but it was always a hit. I first had it at my girlfriend Jodi’s house. My kids loved it and asked for it occasionally when they would remember it. It just… isn’t something that I want to put into our rotation of foods. This “salad” needs to be taken to a potluck to share.

(image courtesy of Flickr – mamaslittlemonkeys)

There are variations to this, but for the most part it calls for (ready?):
apples, whipped topping, snickers

Easy, eh?

Here’s how I broke it down:


3 tart Granny Smith
3 red apples (just not Red Delicious – something else – I think we used Pink Lady)
1 cup red grapes (you don’t need these, I just added them)
9 regular size Snicker bars (they cut easier if they are cooler)
Large tub of Cool Whip

Wash apples; chop into bite-sized chunks (skin-on). Toss in a big bowl. Add container of whipped topping  and toss to coat. (I did this to keep them from browning). Chop 4 of the Snickers into bite-sized pieces; mix/fold into salad. Wash grapes; cut in half, and add to salad. Mix again. Chop 4 of the Snickers, add to salad and mix. Transfer to pretty bowl. Chop remaining bar, sprinkle on top of salad. Remove from home via transfer to whatever gathering you are attending. Prepare to bring home an empty bowl.

Stay Out Of The Store – Save Yourself Money

Even though buying bulk (Costco, Sam’s Club) may not always render you the lowest price, it will keep you stocked and away from the stores. The less time you spend in the stores each month/week, the better chance you have at keeping to budget.

I purchased a ridiculous amount of sponges at Costco last year. I could have waited for sales (Costco did have an in-house coupon on them) and purchase them in smaller amounts, but since we have no dishwasher and use sponges constantly, it seemed like the best idea. Maybe not the best bargain price, but having them in bulk means that I don’t have to worry about having to make a special run to Walmart (the closest store to us) because we’re out a sponge.

Like I said back in this post (Using Scissors to Save Money), I cut each sponge in half, which also maximizes my dollar.

The smaller size makes it easier for little hands to hold (dishes are one of the kid’s rotating chores). I’ve been doing this for so long that a full-sized sponges feels foreign in my hands. I prefer the smaller size.

Other items I try to stock: toilet paper, laundry detergent (I wait for sales on this), toothpaste, toothbrushes (can get for almost free), deodorant and other toiletries (sales and coupons)

Salmon Melts Made Easy

We’re tightening the boot straps in a little bit more, but still trying to eat sensible dinners. Not always the easiest task. It helps that it is wrestling season and the boys are more mindful of what they are eating. What I notice is that everyone is eating much more sensible portions. I love that. Food stretches farther, and they are willing to try an even larger variety of food because the meals are geared to fueling the body, streamlined. There is definitely some not-as-good foods still floating around here, but I find I’m not making as much and we are still getting by amply. Even if I make a greasy, gooey batch of mac and cheese, a smaller dish will feed us fine.

I really, really appreciate that. For my budget, and for my own waistline.

Today I found this recipe for Salmon Melts (, and knew it would make a quick dinner:

Take one can of salmon (I currently use Wild Pacific, though I wish I could afford Wild Alaskan Sockeye, a better choice), and use a fork to mash it up in a bowl with a couple tablespoons of mayonnaise. I also add some salt and pepper, and Spike (a healthier version of seasoning salt, made with lots of dried veggies), and garlic powder is good, too.

Take 5-6 pieces of bread (depends on bread size and how thick you spread the salmon) , and spread salmon mixture on them. Cover with sliced or grated cheese.

Put in the oven at 350 F to bake for about 10 minutes (I often just use my toaster oven to save energy). Allow to cool for a minute and that’s it!

I picked up a loaf of crusty bread from the store, had them slice it, and grabbed 1 more can of salmon (I already had one). Doubling the recipe, and using a 1/2 slice of provolone each, I made enough for all 6 of us to have 2 sandwiches (well, Franny had 1), and we had 1 left over. For my seasoning, I used Old Bay Seasoning in mine (I love that stuff). It was warm, crusty, tasty and hearty. Oh – and easy! On the side we had a pasta salad. I also had chips on the table, but nobody touched them. Shocking!

Make Your Own Fancy Shmancy California Garlic Powder

I love my McCormick California Style Garlic Powder. I do, I do. I use it as my go-to garlic powder (I skip garlic salt and if a recipe calls for garlic salt I add garlic powder and salt). I use it as the base for my homemade pizza topping. It has a coarser grind and splash of flavor/color from the parsley.

But I also like to simplify. I like to make things myself if I can. Not to mention, whenever I’d buy the McCormick kind, I’d be spending more money than I cared to spend. So, I made it myself.

Pretty simple ingredients, both of which I purchased bulk-size from Costco (which sells some McCormick, if you like that kind). You can see in the picture that I used “California” garlic, which has a bit of a coarser grind.

For the price of two bottles of the store-bought kind, I can make about 2-3x as much of the mixture (and have enough parsley to use for at least 6 more). The ratio I used was about 3:1 garlic to parsley. But you can tweak to your desire. I have made it with regular-grind garlic as well and it did fine, but I prefer the coarse grind. Works for me!