Monday, December 15, 2014

~ Dear Santa..... ~

ATL ~  WAYYYYY Back in THA day .
We are TEN days from Christmas . Just typing that I have a small anxiety attack over all the things I haven't gotten done this Holiday season . A friend and I were just texting about how quickly time seems to be going by . In some aspects lightening fast and in others turtle slow . Anyway , back to the point of this children we have no problem making a list for Santa . We seem to know exactly what we want even at the ripe age of 5 . Barbie and her dream house , obviously . I wish I had retained that clarity of my own wants as I aged . Well , as adults we find ourselves stuttering and stumbling when asked or asking what one might like for Christmas . Also , the older we get , the more our families grow or our situations change the question changes to , " What do you NEED for Christmas ? " . Well, for those of you trying to answer those questions with something more than the expected , " more money " , " more time " . " better job ", etc . or for those of you needing some ideas of what to get here is a list to hopefully help .

~ Roll or Sheet of Stamps ~ I asked for these for my birthday in September knowing that it would help me to keep with one of my favorite Christmas traditions of mailing Christmas cards .

~ Gas Cards ~ With the ever fluctuating costs of fuel I feel like EVERYONE would appreciate a gas gift card in their stocking . Can't go wrong kind of gift....unless the person isn't old enough to drive . Then I point to the next gift listed .

~ iTunes Gift Card ~ Yes , a iTunes gift card is not a "necessity" nor will it help pay any bills , but it would provide some guilt free down loading to anyone on a budget or living pay check to pay check . I also see it as a can't go wrong kind of gift for teenagers .

~ Movie Tickets ~ Again , in the gift card isle of this shopping post a prepaid date night or even as a mom/dad night out prepaid ticket to a movie would be so unexpected . Life gets loud , chaotic , and overwhelming for ALL of us in a year , making "self care" so important . I have found that going to the movies on your own , not having to debate what to see , what snacks to get , who pays for what can seriously be so refreshing . I was surprised at how much it helped me on a particularly stressful weekend .

~ Netflix Subscription ~ Cable is EXPENSIVE !!!! It also at times is useless . I don't know how many times I have flipped through hundreds of channels just to end up putting a DVD on . For folks trimming their budget by subtracting cable a Netflix subscription would be a wonderful substitute . Not only do they stream movies , but they stream T. V. Shows and in case you haven't heard starting in 2015 " FRIENDS " will be added to their offerings . So . I vote it is a can't go wrong kind of gift . A year of Netflix , if I have done my math properly is less than or very close to a month of cable/internet .

~ Restaurant/Coffee Shop/Fast Food Gift Cards ~ See description above . Add to it the thought that for a college student away from home , tired of 3 meals a day in the dinning hall and ramen in the dorm this is the equivalent of a gold bar . This would also be helpful to any friends who have brought a new baby home over the holiday season or who might be spending the holidays in a hospital .

~ Subscriptions ~ Magazines , News Papers or are all cool subscription ideas . I often use Reward Points from varied companies customer rewards programs to get magazine subscriptions as gifts . Last Christmas two of my friends (a married couple) had just graduated with their PhD and Masters degrees . In celebration of these amazing accomplishments (along with a family bday celebration) they planned an overseas trip . So , to help them plan and dream , as their Grad gift I got them a subscription to Traveler by Conde Nast by using points I had earned through My Coke Rewards via the Coca~Cola Company . To learn more about how you can use MyCokeRewards and what other companies that offer customer rewards you can read my past post here .

Ginormous tree that tried to kill me
while I tried to set it up . #workerscomp Do you
think they would've believed me ?!
~ Spa Day ~ If you know someone in the category that most " gifts " are usually things that they " need " instead of things they want , then giving a gift certificate for a mani/pedi , facial , massage , or total spa day would be such a fun gift . I know that not everyone understands or agrees that even a partial spa day can relieve so much stress . If even for just the day you walk away feeling a little lighter and a lot pampered . I have zero friends who are anti spa . If they are they are closeted spa haters . Guys !!!! ALL WOMEN WANT TO BE PAMPERED , at some point at least . New mom , crazy season at work , just hosted or is about to spend an overwhelming about of time with family , has 4 kids with one more on the way, cooks three meals a day , grocery shops , cleans the house , keeps the children from being awful people no one wants to be around.........SHE IS MAGIC AND YOU NEED TO TREAT HER AS SUCH !!!!!! If you are reading this and are the husband of one of any of my friends or family.......just assume that yes , I am talking to you .

~ MAN TIME ~ Fella's I would never leave you out . As I posted in " Girlfriends and Wives "  a post from Februarys Valentines Series , guys are really not that difficult to please....for the most part . Gift cards to their man stores (i.e. lowes , best buy , sporting goods sores) , making sure their favorite food is offered at a dinner or making them a special dinner , subscriptions to a magazine they love, but never would get for them self because they just are that sacrificial , or getting them tickets to a concert , lecture or car show . Food , Sports and Lovin' is really about all most of them ask for from what I have been told and observed . So , I would encourage you to find your mans love language or most favorite thing ( yes , you can count as his most favorite thing  ) wrap it (for married folks...or yourself) in a bow and the man in your life can be marked off the to buy for list this Christmas season . You may be surprised at how much he enjoys a date night . Guys like Rom-Com movies too . They just aren't allowed to admit it in the locker room . Guy Code .

~ Payment for Classes ~ Once again , a potentially higher priced item , but also a potentially unexpected and very thoughtful item . Know someone who is always saying they " wish I had learned to.... " ? Paying for a language or skill class could be a wonderful blessing !!!! Since I have left Chattanooga a flower shop there has started offering classes . Sometimes it is arrangements , others it is centerpieces and around each holiday there is a class specific to that . I am so sad that they started offering this AFTER I moved and have always thought if I ever moved back this was for sure going on my to - do list . Their are also classes such as Financial Freedom that a lot of local churches host that could be so wonderful for a newly wed couple , college graduate , or even for your high school senior that is planning  to or will have to pay for college on their own .

~ Child Care ~ Not everyone can afford to stay home with their babies and the monthly bill for child care can be almost as much if not more than a pay check . A young working couple or single parent would not know how to thank you enough for a gift such as this . A week , month or several months would be a huge relief to them . This thought sorda comes with the idea of a small group or Sunday school class looking to give to someone in their church , group , etc . If this is too BIG of a gift for your budget then you may wanna consider offering your services or paying for the services of a baby sitter for a day/night . Parents are always in need of some time to themselves . Between work , home upkeep , children , family , church ,  the kids sports or arts classes , parents find their date nights few and far between. If you have a small group or what not you could combine several of the items on this list to make a care package of sorts . Baby sitter, Movie & Meal gift card = relaxing night for a couple or single parent .

~ Grocery Gift Card ~ Wal-Mart , Target , Food City, Ingles , Food Lion , the list goes ON AND ON AND ON of grocery stores that offer gift cards . Milk depending on brand can cost close to $5.00 a gallon . For loved ones with a large family , growing teenage boys , or who host family dinners and parties through out the season this would make for a AMAZING and thoughtful gift . Along with the grocery idea for those looking to spend a little more on someone or a family , according to your location , co-op programs are available .They deliver to the home fresh veggies , fruit , (depending on company) meat , and dairy . I have several friends in varied cities that have used these programs and LOVE them .
Adult version of a box of crayons .
This week (12/15/14) there is a coupon in the
Walgreens sales paper there is a coupon $0.39 per
sharpie up to 4 per visit/coupon/customer .
~ Silly Things ~ I go back to the people in your life , maybe even yourself that gets/asks for gifts that are more so needs than wants . Asking for or giving a "silly" gift is helpful to the "needers" mental health . It may , now that I think of it , even be helpful to the " givers " mental health . Living on a budget or pay check to pay check you don't realize how much those silly things we use to or would like to purchase " just cause " help our mental health . Sometimes even our physical . I have actually had a doctor tell me that going to get a Starbucks , ice cream or to stop into a store for a little something would better my health . Our mental health dictates much of our physical health . So, anytime I want a Starbucks it is now my belief that it is doctor ordered . I mean , if the doctor says I need it , who am I to argue ?! I may be apart of a rare group of people who LOVES them a sharpie marker . I do . I love having all sorts of colors for writing letters , addressing envelopes , and the occasional Sharpie Art project . At Christmas time Walgreens sales papers will usually have a coupon for $0.39 per sharpie , limit of 4 per person/coupon/visit . I recently got 4 brightly colored sharpies for just over $1.50 !!! WAHOOOO!!!!! Sharpies are the adult version of a box of crayons . Don't judge us . Another silly thing that coincidently is often a coupon in the Walgreens Christmas ads is boxed chocolates . Chocolates aren't just for Valentines day ! When making sure everyone gets a well balanced meal a person can overlook the joy that comes from a variety box of chocolates that are placed in those fun gold wrapping papers in a beautiful box . It is nearly decadent ! This list of silly things literally could go on forever . So , I would like to invite you to add to this list as you see fit .

~ Fur Babies ~ Fur parents are just as touched when you give a gift to their pet as they are when you give a gift to them . The Dollar Tree as you know is my new spot for unexpected yet awesome supplies and gifts . You can read here about my current baby shower gift of choice with items from the Dollar Tree . Pets love toys , ropes and squeakers , but they show their love of these items in a unusual tearing them up , taking them apart , taking out the squeaker , burying them in the yard or hiding them through out your home . Making spending $5 on a toy a total waste ! The Dollar Tree has had some great varieties in my experience . I recently got Jack a fun stuffed squeaky monkey that has rope on either side . A can't go wrong kind of gift for this pup !  Not to sound like a broken record , BBUUTTTT a gift certificate for a grooming , obedience classes or  a check up is also a great gift ! I personally can NOT cut Jacks nails . Which means that I take him to have a groomer cut them ever so often .
Jacks gift from Aunt Ashleigh last year . Surprisingly
he has not torn it apart or gotten the squeaker out . It is one
of his most favorite of toys !!
All of this is just a beginning , a thought , a suggestion , something to spark your imagination this gift giving season . I hope that it helps as you make your list for Santa and as you purchase gifts for those you love . If you have anything that needs to be added PLEASE feel free to add it in the comment section . We are all in this together . We might as well share survival tips .

Merry Christmas
The Faith Journals
& Jack Davis !

Saturday, November 29, 2014

~ Discount Diva ~ Holiday Gift Giving & Ebates ~ Breaking it Down ~

Before we get this gift giving party started I HAVE to remind you about shopping online through Ebates . I wouldn't be a proper Deal Diva or friend if I didn't . When starting your online shopping through you are setting your self up to receive back a percentage of what you spent . Cyber Monday is just around the corner and with the inevitable deals that will be online this is just icing on the cake . I no longer shop online WITH OUT starting at Ebates .

What is Ebates and how does it work , breaking it down ? Ebates is a web site that partners with online shops to provide coupons, discount codes , as well as a percentage back from your total purchase . You create a personal account that you will then sign into every time you want to online shop . Once signed in you type in the store you are wanting to shop into the search bar or click on one of the stores already on their home page , Ebates will then pull up a variety of discount codes , coupons, etc. and alert you to what percentage that particular store is offering back on your total purchase . On days such as Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday stores often double their percentage of cash back ! With your first Ebates purchase you will automatically receive a bonus gift card of your choice from a selection offered by several companies . After your initial purchase Ebates will keep up with the cash back you earn and after about 6 months you will be mailed a " BIG FAT CHECK " !!!! A real life , actual take to the bank and cash/deposit check . I wouldn't be recommending if I hadn't already used and totally approved of this service . So , as your friend , I promise this is a great idea and there is NO CATCH . I have been using for well over 3 years .  I have friends who have used Ebates for everything from wedding supplies to booking their honeymoon . The list of stores that work in collaboration with Ebates is HUGE . So , do yourself and your wallet a holiday favor and go check it out !

Now , onto my Gift Giving Guide for 2014 . While talking online shopping let me refer you to my post from 2013 , " Get Your Purse , We're Going Shopping ! " . Today was shop local/ shop small business Saturday . This previous post is filled with small business owners that I have shopped with or know personally, trust and recommend as a resource for your Holiday Gift Giving . If you do end up doing some online shopping this year I would like to send you to this previous post " Holiday To Do ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Repurpse " on how to make good use of all those boxes and bags that items are shipped in . I have learned that some companies save the pretty for inside of the box . Over time" flipping " boxes has become one of my favorite " Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Repurpose " items .
Next , a DIY gift , A Ticket on the Holiday Express is a previous post from 2012 of a DIY gift that I sent to several of my friends and their children that year . It started with a home made " mix tape " of some Christmas tunes . I then added a packet of microwave popcorn  and created a " ticket " that instructed everyone to get in their comfy warm jammies , pop their popcorn , grab a drink and the " mix tap " and pile into the car . Setting the scene for a fun drive of looking at Christmas lights in the comfort of your own warm car while Christmas Carols fill the back ground noise and popcorn fills your tummy . A lot of my friends had their first child or small children that year and I thought this DIY gift could be the beginning of a wonderful family tradition for them all . For all the specifics of that DIY you can click here . I mean , who doesn't LOVE seeing Christmas lights ?! It is so magical and pretty !
" Mistle ~ Toes " - this inexpensive and quick little gift has become one of my favorite to keep on hand not just at Christmas time, but throughout the year . Sometimes I make them with a particular person in mind and sometimes I just keep a couple "generic" ones on hand for just in case . " Mistle~Toes " is a bottle of nail polish , nail file , usually a chap stick or lip gloss and sometimes a pocketBac or travel size lotion placed into a cute bag . Last year I purchased super cute bags at the Dollar Tree and still have some left over for this year ! In this previous post " Nail Polish on a Winters Day " & " Breaking it Down ~ Stockpiling~ What is it and Why Should I Do It ? "   I share how to get nail polish at amazing prices to keep in your stock especially for these types of gifts .
This year my deal comes from Wal - Mart !! That's right , Wal - Mart !! Earlier this fall I noticed that they have super cute infinity scarves bundled 2 to a pack for the amazing price of $4 . 97 !!! TWO SCARVES FOR LESS THAN FIVE BUCKS !!!!!! I'm sorry , but year around that is a good deal . Plus , they had a huge variety and super cute colors , prints , etc . Needless to say I made a mental note for future gift giving and the Christmas Season . Then , several weeks ago I noticed a new display filled with $1. 00 earrings , bracelets , hair ties , and a few other odds and ends . Immediately I thought the earrings would make a great companion to a scarf . So , If you bought say one pack of scarves at $4 . 97 and two sets of earrings for $1 .00 each that could potentially be two gifts for less than $4 per gift . AND they're super CUTE to top it off !!! Now , I don't know about you, but most of the people I would gift get for aren't all about what was spent . They care more about the thought which has always been my gift giving motto , " it's not the cost , but the thought that counts " . So, I know none of them are gonna mind that I got a great deal on their super cute gift . For my friends who read my blog and will be getting this gift........just act surprised . I know you understand I HAD to share this deal .
sorry these aren't the best pics , but hopefully
they will give you a good enough idea
What will you be making or purchasing this year for Christmas gifts ? Do you have any amazing deals or adorable DIY's you would like to share ? Please feel free to comment below . You can also click on any of the highlighted links throughout this post and previous posts to go directly to the pages , web sites , etc . mentioned .

Happy Shopping and Merry Christmas !!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

" Jack " - An Update

JD Post Op on the ride home.
I would like to begin this post with an apology to all those that read my previous post on Jack's surgery . I am not quiet sure how , but I some how deleted it and can not seem to get it back . When writing that is my worst fear that I will put time and effort in and I will some how with user error delete the entire thing . Well, for those of you that didn't read my previous post , Jack Davis had to have surgery a week ago today . He had what we thought was 20-30 bladder stones causing him some problems . Once the vet go into the surgery they realized there had been far more stones than expected . Too many to count in fact . That knowledge alone made me so grateful that I went ahead and had the surgery performed for him . I hate the idea that my fur baby could've been in serious pain with out me even realizing it .

I was told by the vet that animals , especially well trained ones , are hard to read when it comes to certain pain issues . It usually takes it getting somewhat drastic before you notice anything . That was the case with Jack . I had noticed some blood in his urine early in the Summer , but had dismissed it to too much outside time . Later he had a few " episodes " of vomiting , not seeming quiet himself and even having an accident or two inside the house . Jack is getting up in years , but at 8 years old he is still too young for these kinds of things to be considered normal . Not to mention he is a very well trained pup . With these " episodes " I had told myself I would have him checked with his yearly shots , well come to find out JD is at the age now where his shots are only done every 3 years . So , I made an appointment to have him checked out . Again , I hated, HATED , the thought that he could be in pain and me letting it continue . After a x-ray and some tests the vet confirmed his stones prognosis and he was put on anti-biotics and anti-inflamatories ASAP .

A visit from Papaw makes everything better .
Since his surgery Jack has continued on his meds and is starting to get back to his normal behavior . His first two or three days post op really had him dragging and not quiet himself . Part of post op care was taking him out every 2 hours to potty , including waking him up through the night . Taking extra effort to keep his bladder from any stress . I believe this wore him out as much as just being post op and coming out of anesthesia . Wore me out too !!! I only had to do this for about 4 days , but I was whooped !!! I don't get how new parents handle the baby schedule . They have to feel like Zombies the majority of the first few months . Anyway, as the days have passed he has returned to a somewhat normal routine . The stones where sent off for testing and came back as Calcium Oxalate stones . Sadly , there isn't much we can do to prevent them . This means Jack will be watched even more closely than before . If that is even possible .
The cone of shame had to be brought out to signal
that I meant business about his after care .

For those as geeked out as I am about this
process . This is Jacks pre-op x-ray . You can see
a cluster of some of the stones in his bladder . Next
to it are a few of the stones that had been removed from
Jacks bladder next to a penny . Just to compare size .
This pic is courtesy of The Lafollette Vet .
I just wanna thank everyone for tolerating my fur parent craziness and taking the time to understand my love for animals in general , but especially my fur baby , Jack Davis . Thanks to those who have sent messages checking on him , to my family who helped out in so many ways , and to the caring staff at LaFollette Veterinary . I think one of the many bonus' to small town life is a Vet that calls to check up on their patient ! Jack is resting a little more than usual this week , but is well on his way back to normal !!
I wish I could sleep this hard .

Some of mine and Jacks favorite kiddo's sent Jack a get well package .
This is his message back to them . LOL !!

Friday, October 3, 2014

~ Breaking it Down ~ New Baby Etiquette ~ Session 6 ~

I mentioned in my post Breaking it Down ~ Baby Gifts , that it seems weekly I am getting notice that a friend or family member is pregnant or has just given birth . No joke , 10 minutes after posting that blog entry I got a call from a friend telling me she is expecting #5 for her ever growing family . It made me feel like my post was truly necessary and hopefully helpful . With so many loved ones bringing new loved ones into the world there has been a variety of calls , texts , etc . alerting everyone to the news that mommy to be is in labor . Not all of those calls have come when expected . I have several friends that have had to deliver far sooner than scheduled . Those experiences in mind I thought it might be a good idea to share some etiquette and tips when it comes to visiting , gifting, etc. mommy , daddy and baby . I am lucky enough to have the kind of relationships that we can say to each other , "tell me the truth it won't hurt my feelings" , "I'm too tired for visitors right now" , etc . But I know that not everyone rolls like that so , I asked my fertile friends to give me some insight to what is proper , helpful , and considerate in such a celebratory , but possibly sensitive time . This Breaking it Down will be done in two or three posts . Today I am sharing a story from my friend Ashleigh , writer of the blog Givensmeabreak . Ash's sister Brittney delivered a month and several weeks early . Ash's post is from her perspective on Britt's delivery as well as experience from her own . Thanks so much Ashleigh for sharing with us !!!
Ashleigh's son Rett , one of my favorite wee one's .
" Things for a baby delivery " - Ashleigh - Givensmeabreak
My sister recently had a baby.  He's precious.  His name is Case Holland Pryor and although I have multiple pictures of him, she's very limited with what she puts on the Internet so I'll respect her and keep him off of here.  I'm sorry.  But take my word for it...he's handsome and squishy and a great baby.

Some of you may not know but my sister had a rough pregnancy.  Lots of morning sickness, aches and pains and braxton hicks and list goes on.  As her due date approached, things started to get more intense for her also.  His due date was Sept. the end of July, she was having more pains and it seemed like more calls to her doctor as well as more visits were happening.  She also had a couple late night runs to the ER but all was well.  We all knew that Case was coming early....but no one knew how early, except the Lord of course.  :)

Well, my mom and I had planned for Britt's baby shower to be August 9.  It was super cute.  Brittany picked out cookies and milk.  So, we had all kinds of cookies and coffee punch and milk.  It was great.  Also, the week before the shower, Kraig, Rett and I had planned a trip to go visit Kraig's family.  I told Brittany that Case had to hang on through the weekend so we could make it home.  So, on August 6, we came home from Pennsylvania, Brittany went into the hospital early Thursday morning (the 7th) and had the baby.  He was a little over 5 weeks early.  Because of a prior visit to the ER, the awesome doctor had given Case steroid shots to help his lungs so when he did make his appearance he wasn't so far behind.  His lungs and everything looked relatively well.  But because he was a preemie, he had to stay in the NICU until he could breathe and eat on his own.  So, the next Thursday, I got to meet my nephew and he got to come home.  WOW!  What a miracle and what a blessing from God!  We were all just praising the Lord!!!

I left out some fun details because it is her story to tell but I will give you some pointers from the outside looking in.  And thoughts from when I was in the hospital having my son.  Brittany and Lance were super lucky and were able to stay at the hospital the whole time Case was in NICU.  That is not the case with all new moms.  But I think some things that are super helpful for family/friends that visit the new moms/dads are as follows:

             1 - snacks....and lots of them.  I would also include drinks or bottled waters in this category.  Or I would say bringing quarters for the vending machines because they don't always get to leave the room but you never know when those late night munchies will attack so snacks/drinks are always helpful to have on hand when you come for a visit.

           2.  I would say money or gift cards to places to eat that are located close to the hospital.  Hospital food gets old quick and the daddy doesn't get to eat that food so gift cards and money is always helpful so the dad can get something to eat too.  If you are like my sister, I'm sure she had money budgeted for such occurrence but not everyone thinks like that.  I sure didn't.  I forgot all about food when were going in to have Rett.  So, it wasn't budgeted but we had the money and people brought us food so it all worked out for sure.

         3.  Lastly, and very important, I know it's hard to know who will be at the hospital when.  But, if at all possible...try to coordinate who comes when.  I know with Rett, we had pretty flexible visiting hours but it still seemed like everyone came at one time and then no one came.  So, I felt guilty that some people weren't able to see him because of others, which is fine but if they were staggered visits then everyone would have gotten their time with Rett.  With Case though, no one got to see him because of being in NICU and they had stricter visiting hours so I think in those cases especially, the staggered visiting times are crucial.  Sometimes, I could tell Brittany was more tired from all the people that the actual birth itself.  I'm exaggerating but I know she was tired because people came all at once on some days.  Just be thoughtful and maybe try to plan the visits with family members and/or the new mommy to make sure you aren't coming on top of someone else's visit.

All in all, being a new mommy and daddy are great.  I think these are some of the things to be mindful of if you go visit the new family in the hospital.  It's not much but everyone always wants to visit and always wants to not come empty handed.  Of course, you don't have to bring anything at all but arms to snuggle the new baby but if you do want to bring something, bring a snack :)

Hope this helps.

Once a new mommy, myself....
If you have any tips that should go in my next Breaking it Down ~ New Baby Etiquette post please feel free to share in the comment section !!

Friday, August 29, 2014

~ Discount Diva ~ Breaking it Down ~ Session 5 ~ One Cereal Box at a Time ~ Kelloggs Family Rewards ~

The goals for the "Breaking it Down" series is to alert you to deals you may be missing and explaining deals / bonus' you may be passing up because you think there is a "catch" or it isn't worth it . Today's "Breaking it Down" will focus on Kellogg's Family Rewards ; What are they ? How does it work ? What do I get & Is there a catch ? You can follow this link "How Does it Work ?"  to read the exact words the Kellogg's company has used to explain the program . I will "Break it Down" using "Stacie Words" to explain it as well .

What are they ? - The majority of Kellogg's products are marked with the logo below . This logo is to indicate that inside or sometimes on the outside of the box there is a code that can be entered into your Family Rewards Account for points . Different products have different point values . When you enter the code they will show you the amount of points it was worth and your total accumulation up to that point .  This account is a free service and comes at no cost to you . You do not enter personal information such as credit card , social security , etc . You do enter information like your phone number , e-mail and mailing address . The reason for entering that information is so that they can mail you either electronically or physically the items you earn with your Family Rewards Points and from specially marked boxes . They also use your e-mail to give you updates concerning your account and to on occasion send you bonus codes just for being a member . Bonus codes cost you nothing and are calculated into your account just like a code you would find on a purchased product .

How Does it Work ? - On the Kellogg's Family Rewards page there is a link to their Rewards "Store"  . After you have entered your codes you then can use the points you collected as a form of "currency" . You can scroll through their "store" for books , bags , coupons , gift cards , charities , etc . You can donate your points toward a charity or use them to donate a book to a charity . All of that is further explained on the Schools & Charities  section of their page . I have used my code points to purchase 2 reusable tote bags . If you know me I am all about ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Repurpose ~ items . I hate keeping up or throwing away all those plastic bags that groceries are usually put it so , I try to always take a reusable bag with me when shopping . I have also used them to get a $5.00 Starbucks gift card . Those aren't the only gifts I've received from the Kellogg's brand . When you become a member of the Kellogg's Family Rewards program you are periodically given "bonus" items that do not deduct from your points . This means you get a product with out loosing any points collected thus far . Some of those things in the past have been Shutterfly freebie codes for Shutterfly products like address labels , photo book and luggage tags . You know me , I LOVEEEEEEEEE a Shuttefly product particularly if it is FREE !

Items I have earned / been given by the Kellogg's
Family Rewards & Specially marked boxes include
Nicole by OPI Nail polish , $5.00 gift certificate for the concession
stand at the movie theater , and (not pictured) 1st grade activity sheets and
 three children's books . Items that I "purchased" using
points is 2 resuse tote bags and a $5.00 Starbucks gift card .
 What Do I Get ? - As I mentioned above , when you use your points as currency you can get anything from coupons all the way up to a Vera Bradley Tech Case . It all depends on how patient you can be while collecting points . I am unsure I will ever be able to hold out for the 32,000 points for a Vera Bradley case , but you never know ! In the picture above I display the items I have either "purchased" or been given from a specially marked box through the Kellogg's Company . As I said in the paragraph above with my points I have "purchased" 2 reusable tote bags and a $5.00 Starbucks gift card . When I entered codes that came from specially marked boxes I not only earned points , but I earned specialty items that aren't offered in the rewards "store" . When you enter a code from a specially marked Kellogg's box you earn points from your code and can potentially earn a item that is NOT deducted from your points total . Basically a 2 for 1 !!
Example of a Specially Marked Box
Kellogg's Specially marked boxes are anything ranging
from cereal to their new Special K items like the one above .
What's the catch ? - If you notice in the picture of a specially marked box above , there is a picture in the lower left of the box , noting Free Nicole by OPI nail polish . At a glance you may think there is a catch , but I am here to report there isn't . Different special offers require a different amount of codes entered . The Nicole by OPI offer for example is 3 specially marked box codes for 1 bottle or 5 specially marked box codes for 2 bottles or you can do like me and collect all 3 bottles . My motto on this matter is that if I am going to eat cereal anyway , then there might as well be a bonus . Ya know , other than nutritional value and what not . This is basically the adult version of a toy in your cereal box ! If you glance the varied cereals at the store you will notice on Kellogg's brand boxes special drawings/advertisements for books , nail polish , movie tickets , etc . This is how you attain those items . I didn't buy 5 boxes of specially marked cereal all at once , but I just made a mental note for the next time I went to the grocery to keep my eyes opened for a box that's specially marked . Like I said , I am gonna eat Fruit Loops anyway , I might as well earn a book too . The children's books I have earned have come in handy to pass along to some of my "nieces and nephews" .

Long story short - I received 2 tote bags , 3 bottles of nail polish , 2 gift cards , 3 children's books and several other Shutterfly items all for eating my breakfast......and sometimes a midnight snack . To me , collecting the codes ,and taking five minutes a week or every other week to enter all of them is worth it . Again , I am going to be eating cereal anyway , might as well get a prize from my cereal box . And as mentioned before codes can be found on Kellogg's products beyond cereal boxes . Special K chips , cereal bars , etc . have also had codes in them . Just remember to look for the Family Rewards logo when purchasing if you want to get a box with a code inside .

I hope that this little "Breaking it Down"  post was of some help to you . I hope that it will make your breakfast a little more pleasurable knowing that your box of cereal may also provide you with a fun gift !

What are some programs that you would like to see broken down ? Is there a bonus out there you think the rest of us are missing ? Are you already a member of the Kellogg's Family Rewards program ? What are some of the rewards you've attained ? What products do you purchase to earn points ? Please feel free to share in the comment section .

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

~ Discount Diva ~ Breaking it Down ~ Session 4 ~ Baby Gifts & Dollar Tree Addicitions ~

This " Breaking it Down " installment will cover budget friendly baby gifts and my current addiction to the Dollar Tree . That's right kiddies ! Momma's got a addiction and she ain't ashamed of it !
My name is Stacie and I'm addicted to the Dollar Tree . I believe my highest love language towards others is gifts . I lllllllllooooooooovvvvvveeeeee sending someone a surprise piece of mail or showing up unannounced with a little prize whether it be home made , purchased or a little of both . This will quiet possibly be the 100th time you've read this , but my gift giving motto's are " It doesn't have to cost much to be worth much " and " It's the thought that counts not the cost " , so when I give  a gift both of those sentences run through my mind . A few others are........

Breaking it Down : When giving a gift I also consider things like , 1. How well do I know the person ? Obviously the better you know a person the easier it is to pick out something for them . 2 . Am I giving out of obligation or for the joy of giving ? If it is out of obligation perhaps a nice card will be best . I don't know about you , but I feel like I can tell when an act of "kindness" is forced . 3 . Is trying to figure out what to give becoming a struggle ? Giving is suppose to be a joy not a weight on our shoulders . 2 Cor. 9:7 - " Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give]; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver " . I am sure you have heard that verse used in every tithing sermon  you've ever heard , but one of the reasons it's so frequently used , is because it's true . 4 . What could this person really need that God could possibly use me to provide for them through this gift ? When considering what someone might need it isn't always something tangible . There have been times I have sent something as simple as a fun pen , tube of lip gloss , or even just a sincere note and it turned out to be worth more than if I had sent something that cost $100.00 to the one receiving it . Philippians 4:19 - " But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus " . Though , lets just be real for a second , I mean........who wouldn't love $100.00 showing up in their mailbox unexpectedly ?! Feel free to use these questions the next time you are invited to a birthday party , baby or wedding shower . You may find that it helps you a great deal in deciding how to celebrate your friends / family via gift giving .

These jars at one time contained jelly , pickles or
even mayo . But once the product was gone I gave them a
thorough soaking and cleaning prior to repurposing them .

Once cleaned I poured paint on the inside and rolled the jars
until everything was covered to my satisfaction . I then
created some designs on the outside , sprayed in and out
with a clear coat spray paint and then added some
twine that I had on hand . I think they ended up rather cute
and not so "baby" that they couldn't be used elsewhere .
As I mentioned in my post about Wedding Gifts , it seems that it is the season for wedding showers , baby showers , and bachelorette parties . I literally feel like every week I am getting a new text message or phone call that someone is engaged or pregnant . In the last 3 weeks and in the next 2 I will have had 3 friends give birth . Three of the little ones are girls !! If there is something in the water I refuse to drink it . LOL !! With all these new little one's coming into the world at the same time Auntie Stacie has had to get resourceful with her gift giving . In this post I made some jars to hold all those little things you need to keep by the changing table . To go along with that gift I also made a fun little picture frame , using the word laugh as a focal point and a comic strip as a boarder . I figure there are gonna be late nights and early morning when a worn out parent made need a little reminder to find the humor in it all . I imagine a half asleep father putting the diaper on backward or something like that . I'd laugh . With this gift I also added to the basket a few items that I have only come across at the Dollar Tree , a box of disposable bibs and a box of disposable diaper bags (for the dirty diapers) .  These items in this gift they have become a staple in my baby shower gift giving . I figure the disposable bibs will come in handy once you have a toddler on your hands and are eating out . I would think put the disposable bib on them , let them make their mess and leave the bib in the trash with your tray at the end of the meal . The diaper bags I am told are really handy also for when you are out and about . No one WANTS to leave a stinky diaper in someone's trash can so , these bags help to keep the stink and mess to a minimum . One friend of mine actually uses doggie bags . You know , the bags people carry to pick up pup pooh when walking their dog . I thought that was a great idea too !!
Final product . Basket , disposable bibs & diaper bags came
from the Dollar Tree . Everything else I had already on hand
just waiting to be used for something like this .
In my more recent gifts I have started to love the idea of gifting a starter set of dress up items . I know that a new born will not be able to use these things , but when she gets to the age of 2 or 3 she will be very excited to already have a few items to play pretend with . I also think dress up items could be fun when doing a new born photo shoot . These items come from the  Dollar Tree too . I was amazed at all the cute things I found while cruising the toy isle for tiara's and tutu's . I have given this gift in one version or another at least three times and have yet to get negative feed back . I think every momma and daddy imagine their little girl dancing around with fairy wings . It's just a very little girl thing to do.....and big girl . I totally own a pair of fairy wings.....and a tiara....STOP JUDGING ME!!
All items pictured are from
the Dollar Tree .
In this baby gift there are little pink hangers ( for little pink clothes !! ) , a momma rubber ducky with 2 baby ducky's , a tiara , set of fairy wings and a tutu . Not pictured is a awesome ice pack shaped like a tiara (even princesses get owies now and then ) , and a wand . Throw in some disposable bibs and diaper bags and you are good to go !!! Also from the Dollar Tree I purchased this lavender reusable bag . I know these pics are all girl gifts, but they also have fun boy dress up stuff too . I made note of items such as badges, guns , animal masks, varied vests for ninjas , military , etc . for future little boy birthday or baby shower gifts . You may be questioning the quality of these items if they only cost a dollar , well , so far I have had no problems or complaints . However , if something does break or rip that is another bonus to having only spent a buck . No real loss ! Plus , I believe the dollar tree has a good return policy if you ever needed it . Just be sure to read the print on the back of the receipt or to ask an associate if that is a concern of yours .
Not the best picture , but I used the tutu for fluff
instead of the tissue paper you would normally use inside of a
gift bag . I think it is all too cute and now lil' sis can tote all
her favorite dress up items wherever she like.....ya know,
when she can walk .
I know that some people will read all of my Dollar Tree praise and turn their noses up at the very idea , but something that most people don't realize is that the same manufacturers that create the brands you find at the grocer or drug store also make products for stores such as the Dollar Tree . They are sometimes given a different but similar brand name and if you compare ingredients you will find they are identical or extremely similar . For example , pediatric electrolyte fluid , does it remind you of anything you've maybe purchased elsewhere ?! The Dollar Tree also sells name brand items such as Yardleys , Zest , and Irish Spring and that's just in the soap isle !! I don't know about where you are located , but the Dollar Tree is the only place in town to create a balloon bouquet . Well , one that doesn't cost $25 for 4 balloons anyway . Just recently I purchased a inflated helium balloon at one of the local grocery's and it cost just over $5 !!!! I was so mad at myself for not taking the time to have stopped by the dollar tree and gotten more balloons for that same amount !! Sorry , that was a soap box moment .

To say that the Dollar Tree has become my go - to for shower gifts , care package supplies and little treats for myself now and then would be an understatement . When sending a care package of my own making , I like to toss in some fun candy , confetti or something unexpected to top it off . So that when the receiver opens it they know 1 . They are loved . 2 . They are thought of and care went into this and 3 . This is a fun gift they are about to go through . Since realizing the Dollar Tree is like a treasure chest of nothing but goodness I have also started getting my care package candy there . Just recently I picked up some of these butter cream mints and double bubble , of course !! No care package is really complete with out some double bubble chewing gum . They sell other name brand candies such as Twix , Lindt (yes , Lindt) and Tootsie Pop , just to name a few .
The buttercream mints say "Happy Birthday" . They
are also sold with "Thank You" , "It's a boy" and "It's a Girl"
printed on their packaging .  Such a fun addition to a birthday or baby gift !!
You know my passion for items that fit into the "Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Repurpose" category . Instead of buying a gift bag that will either tear or get tossed I have started purchasing cute reuse bags instead . I figure it is not just serving as presentation for the gift , but also participates in being apart of the gift itself . The recipient can use it for grocery shopping , toting items back and forth from work , or even as a gift bag for a gift they'll give later . I don't judge re - gifters as long as an item is still new and unopen / unused . There is no use in it going to waste ! You know how I hate waste .  Again , I was so surprised at all the fun patterns , colors , sizes and designs they had to offer when it came to reuse bags .
I'm unsure if you can tell how cute this reuse bag is
because of the pattern behind it . It is a black and white
flower shaped trellis pattern with purple trim and handles .
Those are candies laying on top :-)
To close my Dollar Tree section of this post I'll show
you my "Just for Me" purchase from today . You know
that it may be Summer outside house , but at the Faith Journals it is
Fall inside the house . I have already set up my Fall table décor .
I couldn't wait any longer and these fun glittery pumpkins
are the perfect addition .
One more baby on a budget gift that I'd like to share is from Shutterfly . I have used them for the majority of my personalized projects . Through Shutterfly discounts , bonus' , and freebies that come via their collaborative work with companies such as Target , Coca ~ Cola , and Kelloggs I have been able to create some wonderful personalized gifts with out going off budget . I have also been able to create a personal portfolio of events that I did while working as an university event planner . As I mentioned in my wedding gift breaking it down post , a favorite gift to give is shutterfly address labels . In the wedding post I wrote that every bride LOVES seeing her new name and address in print . It is one of those unexpected joys that gets forgotten in the chaos of actually planning a wedding and comes as a surprise after .  Well , to spin off of that idea I have given several of my friends address labels with their new babies name on them along with their address . I think the momma's have enjoyed sending thank you notes or letters to friends and family "from" their little one . Also ,  I do NOT know a grandparent alive that doesn't ADOREEEEEEEEE getting something from their grand child in the mail and that little address label that usually gets no attention , suddenly becomes one of the focal points of the piece of mail . If you follow shutterfly on Twitter , Facebook , Instagram , Pinterest or Google+ you will become privy to their give - a - ways , discounts , and bonus' before anyone else . One such freebie is on occasion a set of 24 , personalized , custom printed address labels . When purchased with a freebie code they tend to cost $3.27 in total , this being the cost for shipping , handling and taxes .  If you can't or don't want to wait for a freebie code this something you can also print on your own if you have a home printer . I have not found self - adhesive print labels that are the same quality as the ones you would receive if you ordered through shutterfly , but I would think they are out there somewhere . Even if they aren't and you print on the normal paper self - adhesive labels it still makes for a great gift ! As mentioned in the bridal post you could add a package of thank you notes or blank note cards and maybe even a page of stamps . A sheet of 10 stamps costs just under $5.00 . So , potentially you could give a awesome , personalized , helpful , and thoughtful baby gift for around $10.00 .

Shutterfly Freebie code + shipping, handling , taxes - address labels = $3.27
A sheet of 10 stamps from the Post office =  $4.90
 A pack of note cards from the dollar tree = $1.00 (pls tx)
                                                                                           =  $9 . 17 ish

I don't know about you , but I think that is a great gift for someone working on a budget !

Well, I hope that this " Breaking it Down " post has inspired some gift giving and care package ideas for you , that are not only easy on the wallet , but easy to create . I also hope that it has enlightened you a bit to the amazing finds that the Dollar Tree has to offer . I doubt it will be my last Dollar Tree rant . Yes , I do purchase gifts, care package items , and candy at other places , but now that I know all that can be found in this inexpensive treasure trove I will for sure make an effort to make it my first stop if possible when getting supplies for gifts and care packages . Honestly , I think that even if I had an unlimited amount of money I would still use the Dollar Tree as a resource . I mean , why wouldn't you save a buck if and where you can ?!! For me it is all about being responsible and accountable to His Provision for me and sharing that Love with others !

Happy Gift Giving !!! What are some fun baby shower gifts you have given ? Where do you go to find great bargains and deals ?! Please feel free to share with us in the comment section . Also , you can click on any highlighted item through this post to find links , past posts , etc. on the items or stores mentioned .

Friday, August 22, 2014


Happy 63rd Anniversary to my Grandparents !!!
" Marriage is the most natural state of man , and....the state in which
you will find solid happiness . " Benjamin Franklin
I cannot even begin to fathom 63 years . I can't imagine where I'll be or what I'll be doing when I am 63 . I can NOT imagine the commitment it takes to be married to someone for 63 years . Let ' s be real , I can ' t imagine the commitment it takes to be married to someone for 1 year . My mind simply can't handle the idea of forever . Maybe it's just my mind ?! But I struggle with the idea of anything forever , much less the idea of marriage . Even if I got married tomorrow there is a chance I would be married for over half of my life . THAT IS HARD TO IMAGINE !!! And I am a very imaginative gal ! Anyway , back to the couple , for the 60th anniversary the traditional gift is yellow diamond . You know ,  how every year is something different like paper , flower , silver , etc . My research shows that there isn't a specific gift for 63 because everything after 60 is kinda the icing on the pun intended toward a wedding cake reference . From what I saw every year after 60 includes a diamond as part of the modern traditional gift . Some years don ' t have a " traditional gift " just a " modern gift " . Needless to say I will not be getting my gparents anything diamond or yellow diamond for their anniversary . I mean......I don't have a coupon for that .
Papaw in his early years in the US Navy .
Location : England
" My most brilliant achievement was my ability to be able to persuade my wife to marry me . " Winston Churchill
My Gparents 3 children .
In 63 years of marriage , just a few amazing accomplishments are 20 years of service in the US Navy , 3 children , 1 grandchild ( yes , I am an only child and an only grandchild . I'm sure that answers a lot of questions for you concerning my level of's NOT even my fault !!! ) and one great - grand dog . They totally count Jack Davis as apart of the family . If you know them even a little bit you understand this not an exaggeration on any level . They moved more times than I can count , ya know , military life and eventually settled back in their home town . I have written several posts recounting stories from Mamaw and Papaw and the lives they've lived . Stories about their love for one another and for their family .

“ You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because
 reality is finally better than your dreams . ”   ― Dr. Seuss
I don't know that I have one specific story to tell you today so much as I just wanna list some fun facts about Mamaw and Papaw.....

1 . My G'parents met when Mamaw was sweeping the yard....yeah , sweeping THE YARD !! While sweeping the yard Papaw drove by , saw her and found his way to an introduction via one of Mamaw's siblings .

2 . The doctors swore up and down that I was going to be a boy ( hi , my name is Chad ) . So , Mom did not have a name ready for a girl . On the fly Mamaw decided my first name , Stacie . No offense to any Chad 's , but I much prefer this name . 

3 . Papaw took my Great Aunt Pat , one of Mamaw's baby sisters (Mamaw is 1 of 11 ) to her first day of school . Apparently she had a crush on papaw and I am guessing he was the only one who could talk her into even considering going to school . Story goes she went kicking and screaming , forgot her pencil and Papaw had to come back to give it to her......I'm wondering if that was premeditated ?!

4 . My grandparents introduced my Great Aunt Peggy to her husband , my Great Uncle Dwayne on a summer vacation when Aunt Peg came to spend the summer with them in California .

There are many , many stories to tell and I am sure I will share more in the future . For now I am going to close with the idea of , you just never know where your " someone " could be found . Be focused on being you and the tasks you have in front of you . I mean , I highly doubt Mamaw thought she would meet her life long bestie while sweeping the yard and I doubt that as Papaw left for a drive that day he thought he would cross the path of his future bride . Ya just never know ! They could be sweeping the yard or even a friend of the family . For those of you praying towards am eventual 63rd anniversary know that I am praying nothing less than God's best for you . Let Mamaw and Papaw be an inspiration that it is possible !

“ I am nothing special, of this I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough . ”
Nicholas Sparks, The Notebook    

Happy My Gparetns 63rd Anniversary !!
Yes , this gives you permission to eat cake . 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

~ Fresh from the Garden Recipies ~

I am writing this post on a dark and rainy Sunday afternoon . I have dishes to wash and one more batch of salsa to make , but I just couldn't wait to share with you my newest "ta-da's" !! I love learning new things and I love sharing what I've learned with others . I hope on this dreary evening you enjoy this post with a cup of coffee and a note pad . Perhaps these recipes will inspire you to do a little creating for future snacks , meals , and gifts ! Love you all !! Happy Rainy Sunday !!

A glimpse at the garden goodies fresh from the picking.
You know me ! I love a new recipe , home grown goodies , and learning something new . I also love making the most of whatever I have . Not letting one bit go to waste if I can help it . Some of my past garden / seasonal ideas can be read here , here and here . This summer has been no different . My dad grew a garden and I have benefited from its produce in more ways than one . This years harvest produced cucumbers , corn , and tomatoes . I feel like an abundance of each have found their way to my kitchen . Now , as you know with produce your time for making the most of them can be short . I was in a near mental panic trying to think of ways to use this vegetable treasure trove before it expired . I had shared some of the goodies with my gparents and used a few of them for the normal BLT sandwich , corn on the cob yumminess and cucumbers ( as is ) when I remembered that a friend of mine had made home made salsa before . That got my mind going toward what else could be made that would be 1 . stored well 2 . a possible gift to give 3 . something I would enjoy having access too through out the winter months . Those questions got me googling and pinterest-ing . After doing some research online as well as touching base with some friends who have made things from scratch I decided to make a run to the grocery for the extra items I needed and to get to cookin' !
These golden beauties required some shuckin' prior to use .
That's how it goes when your produce is garden fresh .
Something to keep in mind when starting a from scratch project is that it is usually going to take some time . For me this process took several days . I didn't wanna feel rushed , though I was extremely excited to see what would turn out . I had to get a few things from the grocery and research recipes deciding what might work for me . You probably know by now that I pick and choose from recipes . I rarely like a recipe top to bottom so I do a mix match to create one perfect for me and my wants / needs .  This was no different . First and foremost for this project was prepping the produce . As I mentioned before the stars of the show are straight from the garden so they needed to be shucked , de - silked , capped ( top stems taken off  ) and given a good wash prior to their use . I actually enjoy this part of the process . Doing things like sitting on the porch and shuckin' corn reminds me of my great grandma Hannah . I use to spend summers and after school with her when I was younger and I think she would be so proud to know that I have not only remembered , but put to good use some of the lessons she taught me . Being that I was one of her more restless grand kids I am also believe she would be surprised to find me sitting on a porch shuckin' corn or breakin' beans . It requires a calm that I have never really had . LOL !
Cherry Tomatoes taking a bath .
Once all the veggies were ready for use I started with the idea of home made salsa . SideNote: When picking up smellier items at the grocery I use the plastic bag that they offer near the veggie display as a bit of a glove . I put my hand in the bag , use it to pick up the item , for example a onion , then pull the bag down and off around my hand and the item in it . Then poof , the item is in the bag and my hands are free of onion smell !
Pretend this baggy is one of those thin plastic bags the grocery
store keeps near the fruits and veggies . Not the best
illustration , but will hopefully give you the idea .
Senorita Stacie's Salsa ~
This recipe made about 2 & 1/2 pints for me I think . The ingredients I ended up using are .....

1/4 th of a halved large red onion ( diced , this is my preference , some people will use much more )
1 Garlic Clove ( minced - cut into the smallest tiny pieces you can )
1 Jalapeño ( diced - I kept the seeds some people think they make it too spicy and don't use them )
1 Green Pepper ( diced into nice chunks - perhaps the size of a fourth of a dime )
Corn ( cooked and cut from the cob ) depending on size 1-2 cobs
Tomatoes - medium to large , core cut out , 4-5 used depending on size - cut into hearty chunks ( I use everything but the core and stem from the tomato )
Cilantro - I don't really like cilantro so I used a minimal amount minced
Lemon Juice ( some people use lime ) - half a large lemon squeezed and you don't use the seeds . If you don't have a fresh lemon I have used the kind that is in a lemon shaped plastic container and it works too .
Salt ( it's all about preference )
SideNote: I Save the lemon carnage to rub across the counter and on my hands post onion , cilantro , and garlic . It helps a little with removing the smell .

Everything in my opinion is done by preference in a recipe like this one . As I mentioned before I did a lot of reading on varied other salsa recipes but this mash up of several is the one that works best for my preferences . I like my salsa chunky so there was no need for a food processor or blender . However , if I had chosen to chop it up a few pulses in the food processor would have done the job . I am not a huge cilantro fan so for my personal batch I did not use it , but I did use it in several other batches that I'll be giving away . SideNote: Salt is done by preference , but is usually a fairly small amount like 1/4th or 1/8th of a TEAspoon . Keeping in mind that the onion , garlic , pepper and jalapeno all bring a salted flavor to the mix . I have learned through making guacamole that adding the salt post tomato helps the mixture to dilute / get juicy . The salt is a agitator when mixed in with everything helping to produce the juice that comes along with chunky salsa . Once everything was mixed and jarred I placed it in the fridge over night so that all the flavors could blend together . Every now and then giving it a shake to make sure it was all mixed well .
Fresh Salsa in the making .
The next day I tested my salsa with chicken nachos and loved it ! I also gave a jar to my dad and step - mom who have reported back that they too enjoyed it . I feel more confident knowing that someone else liked it . Perhaps that makes me a insecure cook , but since it was my first time trying to make it I needed the encouragement . Along with the chunky salsa I also made a batch of cucumber salsa . All the same ingredients above , minus a tomato or two and replaced with cucumbers . I used one cucumber because it was GIANT . It made the salsa more refreshing and different . I have just enough ingredients to make one more batch of the chunky salsa which I hope to do today .

Mama Stacie's Marinara Sauce ~
I really wanted to find a good use for these tomatoes before they went bad y'all !! So my next experiment was home made marinara . Again , after some research online and chatting with a friend who majored in such things I got to cooking . This process was longer than the salsa even with the veggies already prepared for use . The ingredients I used are ..............

5-6 Medium to Large Tomatoes cut in fourths and peeled . To peel a tomato you cut a shallow X into its skin , place it in a large pot of water with several other tomatoes , let them boil / simmer for 2-3 minutes or until you see the X start to pucker , remove from water ( carefully they'll be hot ) and the peel should come off easily . I removed the core as well . Some people remove the seeds because they can be bitter . I did not remove them nor did I find them bitter . I suppose it depends on the tomato .

1 White Onion - cut into quarters or sliced ( however you prefer )
1 Green Pepper - cut into quarters or sliced ( per your preference )

All put into a roasting pan , drizzled with olive oil , salt and pepper . Then placed into a preheated oven of 250 degrees and left to roast on the top rack for close to 45 minutes ( depends on your oven ) . I kept a  close watch on them to be sure that nothing burned / charred . They will start to cook down in this process , but won't completely . Remove from oven , let cool a bit , then place all the tomato goodness with a minced half clove of garlic into the food processor ( I used only a half because I would use the other half in preparing the sauce pan for the mixture , but you can do as you choose )  . I gave the mixture 3-4 pulses before it was liquid . I then poured the mixture into a large pot that I had simmering on low with olive oil with the rest of my garlic clove ( I removed the garlic that had been simmering first , I had gotten the best of its flavor infused into the olive oil while it simmered and didn't want little pieces of garlic in my sauce when all was said and done ) .

I then added the pepper and onion that had roasted with the tomatoes into the sauce . Now it is time for the spices . I have been making my Mamaw Daugherty's spaghetti recipe for yearsssssssssss . It is a handy & inexpensive thing to make when I have a house full of guests . Plus once you have purchased the spices in powder form they last for quiet a while . Great to have on hand for other Italian recipes and since I use most of them so rarely I don't mind that they aren't "fresh" . Also , as I mentioned before , so many recipes are "per taste" . Some people will use much more or less of what I use . It is all about what works for you and yours . I encourage tasting as you go .

1 tbs Oregano
2 tsp Parsley
2 tsp Basil
(sometimes these can be found in an "Italian mix" spice bottle . If I use a "mix" I am sure to read what other herbs / spices are involved and then decide my measurements based on that . For example if I use a mix that indeed has oregano , parsley and basil I may use 1 1/2 tbs all together)
2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp sugar ( I know that sounds odd , but it balances out all the acidity from the spices and veggies . I can't even taste it in the mix . )

I also added 3 cans of Campbells Tomato Juice ( they are similar in size to a "red bull" can ) to help thicken up my mixture . I didn't have tomato paste or I may have added 2 - 6 oz cans of that as that is what I usually use to make a tomato base when I am not using fresh tomatoes . SideNote: If you are NOT starting with a base of fresh tomatoes use 2 cans of peeled tomatoes along with the paste and juice mentioned above . You can find them in the canned goods isle at the grocery not the pasta or sauce section . Also , if you are not starting with fresh tomatoes you will skip the roasting section above .

Once all is mixed I let it simmer on low or warm (depending on your oven ) for 2 hours
stirring & tasting occasionally . Yes , 2 hours ! The low heat and slow cooking time allows all the flavors to blend with out the fear of burning something off or out of the mix . I didn't use the mix immediately so I jarred it , but if you plan to take it straight from pot to pasta I would suggest adding mushrooms and perhaps removing the green pepper and onion chunks to cut them into more manageable / eatable pieces . If I am adding the sauce to meat below is my normal "go - to" recipe .....

1lb ground turkey ( most people use beef , but I don't like the grease that comes from using beef so I use low fat percentage ground turkey as a substitution and think it's just as good if not better ) - simmered with olive oil , salt , pepper , powdered parmesan cheese and half a clove of garlic then cooked on med- med/hi until cooked through . I then lower the heat back to low and add in some of the sauce , enough to cover all the meat with some extra to spare . I pour the sauce meat mix over pasta (which I am sure you already know how to cook so I won't waste your time) , garnish with some parmesan cheese and chow down ( I usually use powdered parmesan cause it lasts longer ) .
I had to get resourceful . I didn't have a food funnel
on hand so I used a extra and CLEAN underneath
of a stove eye that I happen to have . IDK what
this item is actually called . LOL !!! Anyway , it worked !!!
This is the marinara jarred . The recipe above made just over
2 pints , but not quiet 2 1/2 pints .

Pasta salad pre - crouton .
Stacie's Summer Pasta Salad ~
The third use of my tomatoes and cucumbers is a pasta salad . No , I am not done with the tomatoes !! I used a spiral whole wheat pasta as the base of the recipe . Again , since I am sure you know how to cook pasta I won't worry with explaining that . Once the pasta was cooked I transferred it to a Tupperware type bowl to cool . Once cooled I added........

cherry tomatoes ( pictured above in a bath ) , I removed their little stems pre-wash
1 cucumber sliced and cut in halves
mozzarella cheese ( about 1/2 cup worth or so )
sometimes I add raw carrots cut into nickel sized pieces , but this time I didn't
1/8th cup of fresh chives ( aka green onions )
Italian dressing , I probably used 1/4th cup of dressing , but it is again up to your preference . I would think that Caesar dressing would be good too .

I placed the mix into the fridge over night , giving it a shake now and then to make sure everything was mixed well and when serving I added a few Texas Toast brand croutons . Such a yummy addition !!! I think having pasta salad in the fridge in the summer is a must . It is a great side dish or spice up to most meals and is yummy all on its own as a snack .

Fried Tomatoes ~
OK!! My last Tomato to-do . After all this experimenting I decided to get back to my southern roots and FRY the tomato . I had saved several light orange / yellow tomatoes hoping that they would work similar to green tomatoes . Green tomatoes are unripen , freshly bloomed tomatoes that are the norm for frying tomatoes . I used......

Corn Meal

Mixed the powdered ingredients into a bowl . I then dipped the sliced tomatoes into the mixture and transferred the covered tomato to a waiting pan of hot oil . Carefully placing it into the hot oil I let it fry for 2-3 minutes before turning it onto it's other side . Now , in full disclosure I did mess up several slices before I got one right . Normally when preparing something to fry you dip it in a liquid mixture such as milk or eggs, but since the tomato is obviously moist I didn't do that step . I just dunked it into the corn meal mix and let it go . Also , I think I waited too long to use these tomatoes . They were too far on their way to ripening . So , while I only got one good slice out of this attempt I did learn a valuable lesson . A green unripe tomato is the best because it isn't soft to begin with . Now I know and now you do too !!!
Pre- Fry . Aren't they gorg ?!
Perhaps I should have named this post simply , " Tomatoes " , LOL !! In all fairness the cucumbers and corn are vital ingredients too . I am very happy to have learned how to make fresh salsa and marinara . I feel so very domestic and resourceful after these experiments . Next I clearly need to learn the art of canning . SideNote: None of the above recipes are for dry storage . All are to be stored in the fridge or frozen until used .  I really wasn't sure when I started if these experiments would turn out or just have to be tossed . I am glad it was the first . I hope that these recipes are helpful for you as well ! What have you been making this summer ? Do you have any recipes to share ? Please feel free to do so ? We are all in this together . We might as well share survival tips !!

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