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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Look What I Made!

About 4 years ago, I purchased a wreath the day after Christmas at Target. Let's just say, the wreath has served me well, dressing up my door for the last 4 Christmas seasons. However, over the years, the wreath has faded and the berries have snapped off. Leaving me with this:
Just a little too "Laura Ingalls Wilder" for me

So, I did this:

Spray Paint from Hobby Lobby, $5
 WARNING TO ALL DIVAS!! -------Spray painting may cause you to break a nail -------- 

Nail Snag - ouch

Hmmmm.... definitely not the look I was going for
So after I sprayed the entire wreath with uneventful results, I decided I hated the berries, so I did this.... and it felt good.

So now that I had a blank slate to work from, here comes the bling... Here's what I had to work with:

Glamorous Sparkle Sticks from Hobby Lobby, $2.50 - Got 'em for 50% off - HOLLA! 

7 Peacock Feathers for $7. Also 50% off.
First, I wound ribbon around the wreath and using a glue gun, gluing down some of the edges.

Argyle Ribbon from Hobby Lobby, $2.50... 50% off.
 Next I wound the sparkle sticks in the wreath, creating a bling-y affect.

Just stabbed 'em through and sniped off the ends that stuck out. Stabbing and snipping feels good.

bling - tastic
Now for the final touch.... Peacock Feathers. Why?? Because I'm fabulous B*tches!
Wind those suckers around, through the ribbon, and just a little hot glue...

Finger cramp... Divas do NOT do finger cramps...
How about an alternative option... Just a little embroidery floss.

Yeah I have embroidery floss. I used to embroider things as a child... get over it.
Just snip off a piece and tie the feather to the wreath like so:

And now I shall unveil the final product!!
Which requires many pictures from different angles.

If this doesn't say, 'You are about to enter the house of a diva', I don't know what does....

Jazzy Front Door!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tray Chic

A few months ago, I purchased this tray from Marshall's Home Goods for 12 bucks. I originally bought it for the glam-ful mirror edges. However, I just wasn't diggin' the shopper girl picture.

Yeah, that's pretty much how I look when I'm shopping, right?
I decided to recover the tray with some really pretty blue lace paper laid over chocolate brown paper I found at Michael's (total cost of paper = $2.67). First I cut the 2 sheets of paper to fit the tray. Then I used double stick tape to tape the lace paper to the solid sheet of paper like so:
That's tape on the backside of the paper
I used double stick tape to attach the paper on top of the original tray
Then I laminated the paper on top of the tray so I could easily clean the tray and set drinks on top of it with out having to worry about water marks.

Lamination paper roll was purchased with a 50% off Michael's coupon for $3.50.

And here we have a totally glamorous tray. How chic!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Holiday Baking and Crafting 2010

It's that time of year again to make cookie boxes to distribute to my friends and co-workers. In years past, I have made up to 4 different kinds of cookies and arranged them in cookie boxes. Over the years (this is my 4th year doing this), it has become quite an ordeal to make all the different kinds of dough in advance, and spend most of the next day baking and arranging cookies in the 20 or so boxes to hand out. Last year was quite a scramble, as I ran out of one particular type of cookie and had to bake some brownies at the last minute to cram into a few of the remaining boxes that were missing something chocolaty.
Making these holiday goodies not only brings joy to me, but I feel its a nice little thing I can do to let the people in my life know how important they are to me... especially my team members at work who have been working so hard on my team for over a year. So this year, instead of stressing out over a giant cookie operation, I decided to scale things back and just bake 2 different kinds of cookies, passing out 1 to half of the recipients and 1 to the other half.
Every year I have made Mexican Wedding cookies, and they are my absolute favorite, so I couldn't not make those. So for my other cookie, I decided to make something new.... a chocolate sandwich cookie with peppermint butter cream icing rolled in crushed candy canes. My friend Jaime had found the recipe on and thought that it looked so pretty. Note, I have made comments in the reviews section on this recipe under my name "engineeringirl" because of course, I've changed it slightly.
And without further ado, pictures:

Now THAT'S a cookie!

Can you believe that I used 10 STICKS OF BUTTER in order to make a double batch of each of these delicious cookies?
Little pillows of happiness

Seriously, how cute?!

Love Love Love the Martha Stewart packaging....
Oh and you know I couldn't end a blog post without telling you how I scored a deal on this adorable Martha Stewart packaging from Michael's Crafts... It just so happens that I received a coupon inside my Martha Stewart Living Magazine for 50% off any Martha crafting item as well as a 40% off coupon in my weekly Michael's Craft mailer. So I went through the line twice to be able to use both coupons, as they would not let me use both at the same time. As weird as that seems, it saved me $5 and $4 respectively, and that was worth my time!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Triple D Challenge

I am obsessed with food. I love trying new kinds of food... the weirder, the better. Basically, if it's not a bug or a rodent and not rotten, I'll eat it. There are so many types of food that are considered delicacies in other countries or even other areas of this country, I figure why not see what all the hub bub is all about? I mean, just because the dish is considered different here where I live, doesn't mean that it's bad! Some of my absolute favorite foods are international foods and not indigenous to the area I live in! Besides that, there are many other reasons to try new foods:

1) Support a local business - Many of the restaurants in my area that offer international cuisines are local businesses, owned my local entrepreneurs. Supporting local business puts money back into the community where I live, thereby sustaining it's growth - all around a good thing I think!
2) Appreciate other cultures - trying foods from other cultures gives me a way to learn about other cultures. 
3) Be open minded - you might even LIKE the new stuff you try! Heck, I would rather chomp down on some sushi over your run of the mill Chili's or Olive Garden any night of the week.
4) Save money - Many times a local restaurant prices dishes fairly and relatively cheaply (in comparison to like dishes at the big name places). These restaurants may also offer coupons to get customers in the door.
5) Be healthy - Local business most often use fresh ingredients and cook up the dishes to order. Again, unlike the big names where you are probably getting something that's been defrosted and thrown into an oven to heat up before arriving on your plate.

So with all those convincing reasons why one would want to eat locally and adventurously, I am eating my way through Houston by trying to dine at all the restaurants featured on Diners Drive-ins and Dives on the Food Network (Triple D). I started this adventure a little under a year ago when my sister visited in Jan 2010. Ever since then, every time I turn around, there's a new Houston restaurant being featured on that show! How lucky am I to live in a large city with tons of unique places to eat?! Here is the list I am working from:

Kenny & Ziggy's Deli - a real life NY Delicatessen. They make their Pastrami in house. Everything served in this place (including their sandwiches, pies and cheesecakes) is HUGE.

Niko Niko's - Hands down the BEST gyro EVER.

Cafe Pita - One of (if not the only) Bosnian restaurant in the US and my most recent restaurant visited. I had to drive 45 min to get there! It was totally worth it, and I will be back. Check out my pictures below!

The outside of Cafe Pita. On the corner of a strip mall way far away, but oh was it worth the drive.

Guy Fieri (host of Triple D) signed the wall! How awesome is that? I promise I'm totally not a stalker... well maybe only slightly.

Here's me eating a PLJESKAVICE - Ground beef patties mixed with flavorful spices served with lepinja bread and stuffed with mozz. cheese,mushrooms and crushed peppers
Red Lion Pub - A British Pub with Indian influences. Definitely a gem in Houston.

Lankford Grocery - Haven't been here yet. Their mission statement says they never give you a check, but that doesn't mean it's free... hmm it's definitely got me interested.

T-Bone Tom's - This one is near my house and is a local favorite. The armadillo eggs are a tasty creation to try!

Bob's Taco Station - Haven't been here yet, and I don't know anything about it. But judging from the pictures, it looks pretty authentic.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to Get Free Stuff on Your Birthday

One of my favorite blogs is Frugal Confessions.
The writer lives in Houston, and she blogs all about saving money while still living in "frugal decadence". Recently, she posted about birthday freebies here. Which inspired me to sign up for some of the birthday freebies and write about my own findings. So here's a comprehensive list of both the freebies I know of + the ones I have recently signed myself up for:

Victoria's Secret - Sign up to get email offers and receive a $10 off gift card to be used in the month of your birthday.

DSW Shoe Warehouse - Sign up to be a part of the Rewards Program and receive a $5 gift certificate on your birthday.

Sephora - Sign up to be a Beauty Insider and receive a free lip gloss trio for your birthday

Eating Out
Fuddruckers - Join the Fudds Club and receive a free 1/3 lb burger for your birthday

Jason's Deli - Join the Real, Good List and receive a $5 gift card for your birthday

Firehouse Subs - Sign up for the newsletter and receive a free sub on your birthday

Petsmart - Sign up for Petperks and receive a free toy for your pet during the month of their birthday.

Petco - Sign up for the Birthday Club and receive a coupon toward a purchase on your pet's birthday.

So now we wait... I'll let you know how much free stuff I score in April.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

FUN Run!!???

I guess running can be fun... I ran the Safety and Total Health Day "Fun Run" here at JSC a couple weeks ago.
While I can't say that I was having loads of fun, I did improve my time from my last 5K, and that was pretty encouraging. For those of you who are interested in running, here are the things you should consider:
1. A cute outfit (imperative actually)
2. Before the run, drink plenty of water and eat a banana
3. When you get tired, remember your body isn't tired, your mind is, so keep going!
4. Cross the finish line running, it will make you feel like a champ!
5. Run with a friend. It will encourage you.

And here is a picture of me near the finish line!

Me and my running buddy Marcella

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

From Indianapolis to Houston

Last month a very lovely article was published about ... yours truly! Needless to say, I was extremely flattered. The author, Ashley Petry of SOUTH - Indy's Southside Magazine, wrote a very articulate and intriguing article about my job functions and how I make my way to NASA from growing up in Indianapolis. I am so blessed to have the opportunities that I have with my job, and I am thankful everyday for it. Thanks to Ashley and Indy South Magazine for helping to remind me of that! I am posting it below as it was not available online in it's entirety.

Monday, October 4, 2010

My Face is Out of This World!

For the upcoming mission in November, NASA is promoting a program called Face in Space. The idea is that a person uploads their picture on a website, ( those pictures get uplinked during the shuttle mission from a computer here on the ground to a computer on the shuttle... enabling your face to be flown in space.
With the launch scheduled on Nov 1, I loaded a picture of me, Lola, and Dexter to the website. Now I just wait until after the mission, when I can retrieve our certificate signed by the shuttle commander that states our faces was flown in space.
Follow NASA and Face in Space here:

Check us out in the Flight Deck!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Finding Deals at Grocery Stores

The manager special section at your local grocery store is the best kept secret in there. I recommend finding out where the manager special section is located at the grocery stores you shop at, and visit it every time you go there. Even if you are just popping in for a couple of things, take 5 min to run by the section. You never know what you are going to find.
If you look, you are likely to find this wonderful place at the back of the store or sometimes at the side hiding near a back room entrance. It's usually a shelving unit or a couple of long tables. In the manager's special, you will find mostly items with a long shelf life, like cans, jars, and boxes. These items will be items that did not sell well in the store, items that are slightly damaged (but still perfectly fine!), or just items that are being retired. Additionally, there is a manager special section located within the meat section and sometimes within the frozen foods and wine isles too. Learn where those are and peruse them as well.
I know, I know... most people will say something like, this actually makes you spend more because you are spending money that you never intended to spend. I must disagree. You see, I operate by a system that I have named "Shoppertunistic". I basically eat based on deals. It's a double whammy when I get something super cheap from manager special and also have a coupon! But, I'll save that for another post. So, I stock up on things when they are on sale (like from the managers special or store sales, combined with coupons). I stock up my pantry (or my freezer, if its meat) and I replenish fresh items weekly like fruits, veggies, milk, yogurt, cheese, bread and eggs as needed. Using this method, I rarely purchase items from the inner isles of the grocery store without getting a sale or using a coupon. And to all you haters, I manage to eat very well.
Now for a show and tell on manager special finds:

Superb Tomato Sauce -
Organic sauce made with fresh tomatoes (not Tomato Puree as many other brands)
Regular price is over $10 a jar at Kroger... similarly priced at Walmart
My price was $5.29

Yes folks, that's like a 50% discount

Who doesn't keep a can or 2 of chicken noodle soup around for when you're sick?
Mine was 59 cents... and it's 25% less sodium. Who says you can't be budget and diet friendly?
Oh yeah, there's a dent in the can. So what?
I like to give to my local school's food pantry.
At 50 cents a jar for organic peanut butter, it's really quite affordable.
Here is my best score EVER. I was high on this for days.
Amy's frozen meals for 99 CENTS! 99 CENTS!! Man, I'm still excited about it.
These are usually at least 3 bucks, even at Walmart.

Organic, gluten free goodness.
 In addition to all of these wonderful finds, here is a list of some other gems:
Wine discounted 75% off. The catch? The label was on upside down!
Salon brand hairspray 90% off. Perfectly fine hairspray.
Organic vanilla bean extract for baking. The catch? The box was dented... Once I take the bottle out of the box, it goes in the trash anyways!

So folks, get out there and shop those manager specials! Let me know what you find!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Deals Deals Deals

People often ask me how do I find so many deals. Well the truth is this:

1. I shop A LOT. By this time, when I have a need (or a want), I know exactly where to go to find a deal. I can pretty much tell you who has what kind of sales and when, where to look for coupons, and where to go to find the highest quality items at the best prices.

2. I have learned some very important lessons from my mom. One of her favorite sayings is "The wheel that squeaks gets the grease". You will see this demonstrated below, however I would like to caveat with stating I never try to "cheat they system". However, I have learned the system, and I will take advantage of it. Also, I take good care of my possessions. If something breaks or is damaged, I take responsibility. And I never try to return used items (unless they are faulty of course).
  • I ensure I am getting charged the correct price on the items I purchase. I will ask cashiers to correct the prices on items that are charged at an incorrect price. Yes, this means that I must memorize the prices as I shop. This is a very easy thing to do when you actually pay attention to how much things cost as you shop.... interesting huh? I also review receipts as I leave the store to ensure the prices are accurate.
  • I take items back (including fruit) that are faulty or do not hold up to their advertised quality. If I have an issue with a product, simply calling the manufacturer directly can go far. I have received replacements for items that have simply not held up.
  • I know the return and coupon policies at the stores I shop. For example, Target sends out 'Target only coupons', and I clip 'manufacturer coupons' from the Sunday paper. You are allowed to use both coupons in combination when purchasing one item at Target.
  • I provide feedback to the merchants I shop with. When service is good, I will seek out the store manager to encourage them or highlight a particular employee. Certain merchants in stores and online encourage communication by giving out additional coupons for taking part in surveys or providing feedback. Stores such as Starbucks and PetSmart will give coupons for completing over the phone surveys about a shopping experience. Conversely, I will provide negative feedback when I receive less than desirable service. Doing so usually results in some kind of gift or coupon to keep me coming back. Either positive or negative experiences deserve feedback, so I give it often.
  • I am a loyal consumer. I give my business to places that treat me well and reward me for shopping with them. For example: Kroger tracks my spending and sends me coupons based on my purchases. Remember the store coupon vs. manufacturer coupon tip? Yeah... I cash in on that.
  • Lastly, ask for what you want. Sometimes, simply asking for a coupon for discounts on your purchases that day will go a long way. Also, asking for a break on the price works too. What's the worst thing that can happen? They'll say no... ???
3. I do not skimp on certain things that are important to me. One being groceries. I don't eat out alot. I find ways to save by bringing my lunch or ordering water instead of sodas when I do go out (nice on the wallet and on the hips). So when it comes to groceries, I want to purchase the highest quality items that I feel good about putting into my body.

Which leads me to my show and tell for my next post. How to save on groceries. I bet you can't wait.

Monday, September 27, 2010

I Ran a 5K and I Didn't Die!

This weekend, I conquered a fear.... Running. That's right folks, I hate running. HATE - IT. However, with Lola's (and let's be honest, mine) growing hips, something needed to be done. So, I started running the dogs a couple weeks ago. We're not talking about long distances or anything, let's not get out of control here. Basically our walks are more frequent and consist of little bursts of running mixed in with the walking. The dogs seem happier, Lola's a little skinnier, and my thighs are a little smoother.
So when Chris mentioned the Galveston Island Shrimp Festival 5K at Moody Gardens (benefiting UTMB), I have to say I was a tiny bit scurred (that's scared for the rest of you). Actually, I was downright terrified. But my BFF Hillary was going to run/walk it with me, so that helped ease my fears. I followed her advise and took a couple of ibuprofen, ate a banana, and drank water before the run started. And surprisingly we ran the entire first mile! In total, we ran about 2/3 of the race and walked about 1/3. I finished in 41 minutes, which definitely surprised me. I'm definitely looking forward to running a bit more, now that I have proven to myself that running will not kill me.
Now on to more fun things... Our registration in the 5K included a tasting cup for that afternoon's Gumbo Festival on The Strand. What is more fun than stuffing your face with delicious gumbo and not feeling guilty because you ran 3 miles that morning? SO MUCH FUN! We enjoyed walking around The Strand trying all the different restaurants' gumbos (the group consensus was that Yaga's was the best). After, we visited LaKing's Confectionery, which is the cutest soda fountain, ice cream, and candy store ever. I had a milkshake made with mocha chip ice cream. Enjoy the pics!

Just like an old fashioned counter

How adorable is this place?

Have you ever seen such a site? Seriously?

Sandeep surprised to see the powder straws. Brings back memories.

Rock Candy!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Spooktastic Decorations

I think it's because it's the official start of fall. Plus it's the holiday that kicks off the season of holidays (Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Years, followed by Valentine's Day).

I love decorating. I love costumes. I love handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. I love baking spooky treats. I love Halloween parties. Halloween is the best.

So I have decided that if I was going to put all time time and energy into putting up decorations, it made the most sense to put them up early, in order to enjoy them as long as possible. Makes sense right? So I started this weekend. Take a look inside my spooktacular home.
It started with these mercury glass candle sticks from the new 'Elle home decor' collection at Kohl's. They were 30% off, and just by sweetly asking, the guy at the register gave me an additional 15% off coupon toward them. SWEET!

 I found black glitter spiders at Walmart (8 for $2)!!
And see the cutest pumpkin candle I picked up a few weeks ago at Bath and Body Works

Next we have pics of the dining room. I snatched a bag of mini pumpkins at Walmart for $2.50! Actually they rang up for $2.98, but you know I had the cashier correct it... What! I'm not about to lose out on 48 cents! I just swapped out the candles from my regular table decor with the pumpkins.

I just used decorator moss for under the pumpkins to fill it in a bit

Enjoy your Halloween everyone!