Sunday, October 31, 2010

Spook-A-Look Halloween Photo Contest! Olé!

Night of the Bullfight
After three days of feasting on sugar, Catherine and Christine were ready to do battle with vampires, witches and even a big hairy Elmo! Endurance, precise timing, intense mental stamina and fast feet were all needed for the performances they put on.  Pulling off a feat normally attempted only by seasoned veterans, Catherine and Christine won trophies for their bravery, bags filled with the candy they carried home from every haunted house on the block!

This post is my entry into the Spook-A-Look Halloween Photo Contest being held by Giveaway Blogs and UPrinting.

The top ten entries will be posted on UPrinting's facebook page where the public will get to vote for their favorite so stay tuned.  The top prize is a $100 Target GC and an 18x24 Gallery wrapped canvas print, runner up gets a $50 Target GC and a 16x20 rolled canvas print! The twins are hoping to win and use the GC to do some Christmas shopping since they have to earn the money to buy their own gifts or make them-- they usually do a mix.  

Wish us luck!

Linking up with
  Show Some Saturday Love

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Want to Win a Laptop? I Did!

How many times have you seen a really awesome giveaway and thought that there was no way that you could win it?  Up until the day I won my own, I thought the same thing and never even bothered to try.  

I honestly do not even remember entering, because I always just passed things like that right up, but I did and I am so glad I did it. The Fashionable Housewife is one of the first blogs I started following and they always had giveaways going on.  I think I only ever put in the one initial entry for one or two things that I really wanted to win.  

I do remember seeing the HP Touchsmart laptop that was being given away to promote Sex and the City 2, but I forgot about it entirely until I saw my name on Facebook and then a corresponding email from The Fashionable Housewife in my inbox :)  

Okay, I originally wrote this post because The Fashionable Housewife was giving away another laptop, but the winner was drawn yesterday, so you can no longer enter.  But, it just goes to show that you cannot win if you don't try. 

This weekend I had some other great prizes show up at my door. 

First was a shirt from Alight, and even though it wasn't quite what I was expecting I think I can make it work. 

Then I won a guessing game on Facebook held by Pink Dandy and received a bottle of Pink Watermelon lotion. It is fabulous, and everyone should go check out her store! I plan on buying for my Christmas baskets. 

What has everyone else won?!

Friday, October 29, 2010

*CLOSED* CSN Review & Giveaway!

I know that 90% of my readers know of CSN stores, because I found out about them from all of you, but in case you don't, CSN Stores has over 200 online shops that are stocked with the best products around.  CSN is dedicated to offering the best of what you need to make your life easier, from a huge selection of children's toys to that perfect bar stool to mounds of Holiday decor!

We are actually in the middle of a kitchen makeover, by in the middle I mean no one can agree on anything selection or price wise, and CSN is like a candy store.  I said that I would pick a couple items and order them from the kitchen, but when I could not make up my mind I emailed my ideas to my mom and now she has gone and picked all new things.  

What we do need though are new barstools.  My dad inherited the set we have now from someone he knows, but they are the most uncomfortable things in the world and they make my legs fall asleep.  So, with company coming I need to get the old ones out and some new ones in!

Right now I am leaning towards
CSN has offered to give one of my readers a $20 gift certificate to use on any of their 200+ stores! The gift certificate will not cover international fees, so keep that in mind when entering. 

How to Enter:
Follow my blog using Google Friend Connect and then Head over to CSN stores and tell me which style bar stool is your favorite.  Include your email in the comment so I can contact you if you win.

Additional entries:
The following additional entries are possible, but each entry needs to be left in a separate comment and include email.

Like USL on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter
Follow my book blog, The Opening Lines 
Like TOL on FB
Tweet this message, limit once per day and leave me link to the tweet:
$20 CSN GC #Giveaway on Unus Sed Leona @chitownchica! Ends 11/6

Contest ends Midnight CST on 11/6 and the winner has 48 hours to contact me after I contact you.  Good luck everyone and thank you CSN Stores!

Ten Minute Halloween Costume: Mickey Mouse & Friday Hops

Okay, so you all saw the first of our ten minute Halloween costumes, the Flamenco dancer which was entirely put together from things we already owned.  Mickey Mouse is another idea that was thrown out there, but as soon as we got everything on someone decided Minnie would be better-- remember what I said yesterday about the whole changing their minds every other day. 

Once it was all one, Catherine decided it was too cutesy and she went back to vampire.   But, if you have a little one that wants to be Mickey this is easy enough.

Anywho, here is a ten minute Halloween costume, cheap too!

To make this costume you need:

  • Long sleeved black shirt
  • Black pants or leggings
  • Red shorts
  • White gloves
  • Pair of Mickey Ears-- we made some with the help of a headband 
  • White cloth or felt
  • Black face makeup
The only actual stitching you should have to do is to attach the white buttons to the belt on Mickey's shorts.  

Today I am linking up to:
Smart and Trendy Moms

I know I wrote a post about my feelings on the whole blog hop thing, but several bloggers suggested that I was not doing it right (ok). So, if you are visiting from one of the hops, please comment and let me know so I can get a better idea of how many ppl actually take the time to hop. Thanks!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ten Minute Halloween Costume Idea: Flamenco Dancer

If your kids are anything like my younger sisters, they change their minds about what they want to be for Halloween every other day! 

We are forever coming up with last minute Halloween ideas and most of them are composed of clothing and props we already own or that you can find for a song-- a fortune has never been spent on any costume in this house.  So, I figured I would share several frugal, ten minute Halloween costume ideas here for anyone caught scrambling at the last minute. 

First up: Flamenco Dancer (My baby sister is the model)

 To make this costume you need:

  • Long Skirt, I own several, in any color but red or orange are preferable
  • White, long sleeved shirt-- we used their uniform shirts
  • shawl-- the one pictured, I own
  • black heels or flats (better for running door to door in)
  • fan (I owned), I've seen plain ones at the dollar store and Michael's that you can paint
  • Jewelry-- bangles, big hoops or similar, large beaded necklace and a flower for your hair

No sewing needed!  Just put it all on, put up your hair, buns work best, but Catherine wanted a side do, and you are ready to go!  

This can also easily be transformed into a gypsy costume, loose white blouse, glittery belt and lots more bangles.....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Gift Card Roundup

I have entered several gift card contests and giveaways on blogs that I follow and it occurred to me that I should share these with my friends here on my blog.  Sure, it means more people and less chances of winning, but it wouldn't be a contest otherwise.  

In the last couple months I have entered several blog giveaways and had a lot of luck in winning-- much better than any contest I ever entered that was hosted by a company.  Just since July I've won a laptop, free Gap jeans, Stouffer's dinner and game, Wii games, a Nintendo DS, a perfume, several pieces of jewelry, GCs and books.  I am still waiting for a Kate Spade gift, clothing from a women's line and an entire line of cleaning products!

On to the GCs!
$10 Starbucks GC from In My Opinion
$55 CSN Gift Card from Mom's Mutterings
$25 Visa GC from Mom's Mutterings
$20 Socks4Life GC from From PDX
$20 All Dogs GC from Blissful Reviews
$25 Target GC at SAHMs Crazy Life
$25 to Ruth's Brownies From Vanessa's Soda Fountain
$50 Glencara Irish Jewelry from One2Try 
$50 Glencara Irish Jewelry GC from Thrifty & Chic Mom 

Amazon GC Winner! And Another Giveaway

I want to thank everyone for helping me work out the kinks that any giveaway post would have.  There were three I think-- that whole pop up comment thing I was oblivious to and I hate those-- and they have now been dealt with.  I also realized that I needed to filter my blog email automatically because it can fill up an inbox in a matter of minutes once it gets busy.

Anyway, we have a winner!

Jenny@ Freebie Spot

You will be receiving an email from me in just a minute!

Thanks everyone for participating.  I will be listing another GC giveaway here in a minute so stay tuned.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Decorating Inspiration: Wreaths!

A couple years ago I rescued this large woven branch wreath that was left behind by the previous owners and decorated it for fall.  I didn't have a lot on hand, just a few flowers and some ribbon, but I made it work and we hung it under the large window in front of our house. 

The wreath was stashed after we hung a large pine wreath for Christmas and it hasn't been out since.  I really feel like decorating for Fall though, even if it is already halfway into the season-- takes me a little longer than most to acknowledge the fact that summer is over. 

Flipping through a stack of old magazines that a neighbor gave me, I found tons of great ideas and inspiration for fall wreaths. 

This flower covered one is my favorite!

However, I do not think we have enough mums in the yard to borrow blooms from. 

Then this one!  I have been looking for containers in this style to hang on the brickwork in front of the garage.  I need three and they would be super easy to change from season to season.

This third one looks so elegant with that feather and the wreath is the exact same style as the one we have now. 

Then there are these, which are totally doable.

Now I just have to turn all this inspiration into something!  Anyone have a fall wreath they made posted on their blog for me to check out?

Amazon GC Giveaway Extended Till Today at Midnight

Just a quick note to let everyone know that the Amazon GC giveaway is extended till tonight at midnight. Our internet met a blowtorch Saturday and I could not get online to end the contest.  
Thanks to everyone who entered ( I did manage to iron out a couple kinks) and Good Luck!

Friday, October 22, 2010

My Beef With Blog Hops & Blog Hop Hops

So, I got a beef with blog hops.

Is it just me or does it seem like everyone under the sun has their own blog hop?  I know it is a great way to attract readers, but the whole point of the hop is so that readers can go to one or two places, find a collection of great blogs and hop.  With all the hops, all you come across when you hop from blog to blog are other hops!

Seriously, months ago there were just a couple really well done hops.  Now everyone thinks they can do it better and every single blog has their own hop, but not just one, many have one for every day of the week.  

I see blog hops, twitter hops, facebook hops, giveaway hops, book hops, review hops and then there are the specific type of post, giveaway and review hops.  

I really feel like the whole thing has just spiraled out of control, especially when it comes to the Blog Hop Hops and the Hops for Blog Hop Hops-- we are talking THREE tiers of hops now! Every morning I am looking at 9 out of 10 posts that end up being blog hop posts on my Follow feed. WHY?!

As if that were not bad enough, blogs post their hops the day before the actual hop and then close them off to new additions by the wee hours of the morning-- I know because I am up by 4 CST every morning and go through my Google feed with my coffee while the kids are still sleeping.  So, someone that might be actually looking for cool new blogs to follow ends up being shut out of any reciprocation because there are one hundred blog hoppers trying to drive traffic to their blog hop hops.  

What seemed really cool and fun is such a nuisance now. Am I alone here, or is anyone else feeling this way?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Another Shopping Site Deal- Rue La La

I love that social shopping sites are popping up everywhere, but Rue La La was one of the first and because it is so established, they host some of the best sales around.

This week Rue La La is offering new members a $20 credit good towards any purchase on their site till the end of December.  You have to claim it by the 25th though, so there are only a couple days left to snag it.  

Even if there is not something that you see right now, you have a couple months to watch the sales that are added and grab something that you really want.  

For those not familiar with Rue La La, and similar sites, the standard shipping is $10.

Don't forget, the $20 offer for new members from Swirl expires on the 31st of this month too.

I would appreciate it if you used my referral link to join!
Rue La La


Cheat Worthy Chicken With Mango Salsa

Co-op days are always crazy and hectic, and sometimes when I get home I just want to crash and take a nap-- actually, I do that a lot.  But, because we have just spent a long day out everyone is starving, and I just don't do fast food. 

We snagged some chicken breasts at the co-op though and I saw this stash of already prepared mango salsa and my mind immediately started flipping through all the mag versions of chicken with mango salsa that I spied all summer long.  

See, I have been wanting to try several versions, but the problem with mangos in my house is that they never last longer than a day.....actually, they never even make it into the fruit bowl. We love mangos around here. 

Almost every recipe that I dug up when I got home called for frying or breading the chicken, but I was not going to stand around cooking and I am trying to cut back on the fried foods that I prepare  at home. So instead I rubbed down the chicken breasts with garlic and lime, and dumped them into a pyrex dish to bake in the oven.  

I also cut up some red potatoes into wedges and sprinkled them with dried thyme, rosemary and garlic from my garden and put those on a rack under the chicken.  Tossed a fresh salad, spread the mango salsa over the chicken when it was fully cooked and wha-la!  By the time I was done putting away all the co-op groceries dinner was ready.  

I did feel like a total cheater because I used a prepped salsa, but it was delicious and totally worth it.  I have seen quarter pound packages of the stuff at the store for two dollars so if you are looking for a quick chicken dinner, give it a try. 

I didn't grab the cam to get a shot before serving and everyone (even the pickiest eaters) had seconds so there was nothing left.  :)

To make your own mango salsa:

2 mangos diced
juice from one lime
one small onion, diced
fresh cilantro, minced
sea salt (I prefer it)
chili powder (tiny dash)

Toss everything in a bowl and add chili powder to taste.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Amazon GC Giveaway! Test Run for Holiday Hop

I have yet to host any giveaways on this blog, and because most of my family and friends read and never comment, I need to make sure that I am ready for the large amount of traffic I am expecting next month.  That's right, I need a little help with a test run. 

So, to help me make sure all the links, blinkys, comment boxes and pop ups are working I have a random $5 Amazon GC to giveaway to a winner. I also just created a new FB page, just for this blog.  

Anyone in the US can enter, you just need to have a valid email addy (and leave it in your comment) so that I can send you the code. 

If you would like to win the $5 Amazon GC, visit Amazon and leave a link in the comment to the item you plan on redeeming it for. 

For additional entries (include each entry in a separate comment):
Follow my blog on Google Friend Connect (right sidebar)
Follow my book blog on Google Friend Connect
Like my blog on Facebook 
Like my book blog on Facebook
Follow me on Twitter

Contest ends Sunday, October 24th at midnight CST.  Winner will be announced some time Monday and has 48 hours to respond via email to collect their prize. 

Please let me know if anything is not working, or any other feedback that I can apply to the big event. 


Saturday, October 16, 2010

I Visit the Orchard of Spheres

Something really weird happened to me the other day.  I was standing outside, helping my dad sand down some furniture (the, you missed a spot kind of help), when all of a sudden I noticed how beautiful the fall setting was. 

This is weird because if you know anything about me, you know how much I despise fall. My garden dies, it gets cold, and the sun stops shinning. I seriously get depressed about it all and have never, ever noticed anything beautiful about any of it. 

But there I was, standing under the half hundred oak trees in the yard and the whole thing was so beautiful. At first it was the bright yellow and red leaves floating gracefully down, almost like watching the first snowfall of the year.  

Between that and the pile of apples I was getting ready for apple butter, I could not help but remember a couple lines to an old favorite.......

I visit the orchards of spheres, and look at the product:
 And look at quintillions ripen'd, and look at quintillions green.
Walt Whitman

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Speaking of Swirl- Free Deal With Coupon Code!

The other day I mentioned the new shopping sample sale site that I am totally loving.  Well, after working through backlogged emails I found a $20 coupon code that Swirl sent me for being a new member.  

The code is only good till the end of this month, but it works on $19 purchases too, of which Soho Hearts and Cosabella have several items priced at right now.  I tried using the code for a $19 and it came out to $0!

Of course, you do have to pay their standard shipping, but you would have that fee for anything.  Every day, or every other day there are new sales added to the site, so if you do not see something you want from the sales that are going on right now, keep checking back.  

With Christmas right around the corner, this is the perfect time to grab a gift for someone-- or yourself. 

Visit Swirl, sign up for a new account and then enter WELCOME2 to deduct $20 from your purchase. 

Let me know what you get!

The Harvest Is In & Apple Cobbler Crisp Recipe

Even though we have been living in the country, or closer to it, for a couple years now, we have not really had the chance to explore till this past year.  Joining our co-op is largely responsible for this, and I honestly don't know how long it would have been before we ventured into "The Beyond".

(FYI, The Beyond is the name the girls and I have given to the area immediately north and west of the civilized area us former suburbanites frequent.)

Being able to watch the fields year round was exciting, and its weird because it is something I never even thought about before.  Right now just about every field has been cleared and the harvest is in.  

We are up to our ears in apples, pumpkins, all kinds of squash.  Usually I take the girls to an orchard or farm to pick pumpkins, but this year it is kind of pointless because we have everything they are selling.  I'm still debating it though.  

Yesterday we made several apple cobbler crisps, to use up as many of the apples as quickly and easily as possible. All but one went off to offices to share, and it was delicious.

Apple Cobbler Crisp
7 to 8 large tart cooking apples (9 cups), peeled, cored, sliced 1/4-inch
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
2 Eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, melted
Ice cream, if desired


Heat oven to 350°F. Place sliced apples in ungreased 13x9-inch baking pan. Stir together 3/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon in small bowl; sprinkle over apples. Combine remaining cinnamon, flour, sugar, eggs, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle over apples. Pour melted butter over topping. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until lightly browned and apples are tender. Serve 

Today will have me making a batch of Apple Butter, enough to share with my nephew who likes to take some home with him whenever he visits.  

BTW, I bought this book from Amazon and it was totally worth it!

The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest: 150 Recipes for Freezing, Canning, Drying and Pickling Fruits and Vegetables 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Twinkle Living from Swirl

I have very quickly fallen in love with all the sample shopping sites that have popped up in the last year and a half and Swirl is my latest obsession.  Timing is always an issue with these sites though and I am not the best at keeping track of the dates and times each sale starts, so if there is something you see that you absolutely have to have-- BUY IT IMMEDIATELY!

This morning for example, I just saw the Twinkle Living Sale, which is already almost entirely sold out.  This is exactly the style of bedding that I have been hunting for, basic in design, but still very distinct.  

 Rose in Walnut & Grape

The busier patterns they have for beds are gorgeous as well, but I feel that you can do so much more in the room when bedding is simple. 

If you would like to join Swirl, click here.  Usually sales stay up for a week or less, and items can be discounted by as much as 60%.  

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Birthday Cakes and Shiver Shakes

There are rules, and it is not supposed to get this cold this fast.  Zorro and I woke up with the shiver shakes. I went to drive Missy to school this morning dressed in knee socks, pants, a shirt and a hoodie and I was still FREEZINGI seriously hate fall.  

It does however put me in the mood for some shopping. Can't stop thinking about blankies and knee socks, big mittens and scarves, oh and coats.  I want more coats.  

Like this one

As for the Birthday cakes, can you believe my baby sisters turn 14 tomorrow!?  I still remember everything that happened on the day they were waking me up at 5 in the morning to tell me they were going to the hospital and then the craziness that ensued.  And to think we almost lost them and my mom :(  

But all was eventually well and they turned out great ! :) 

We got them a birthday cake for the festivities yesterday, but it had um....a little something extra inside. 

So, nobody ate it and we returned it this morning.  We promised the twins another cake and I am still debating with mom, but we have made this delicious strawberry cake that the twins just love in the past, and I think its perfect. 

Strawberry Cake from Kraft Foods

What You Need
1 pkg. (2-layer size) white cake mix
1 pkg.  (3 oz.) JELL-O Strawberry Flavor Gelatin
4 eggs
1 cup  oil
1/4 cup water
1 cup  mashed fresh strawberries, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, softened
1 cup  powdered sugar
2 cups thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping

Make It

HEAT oven to 350°F.
COMBINE cake mix and dry gelatin mix in large bowl. Add eggs, oil, water and 3/4 cup strawberries; beat with mixer until well blended. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9-inch round pans.
BAKE 30 min. or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cakes in pans 10 min. Remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely. Meanwhile, drain remaining strawberries.
BEAT cream cheese in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in sugar. Add drained berries; mix well. Whisk in COOL WHIP. Stack cake layers on plate, spreading 1 cup COOL WHIP mixture between layers. Frost top and side with remaining COOL WHIP mixture. Keep refrigerated.

We usually add a cup and a half to two cups of fresh strawberries. This cake is really delicious!