Catered vs DIY Super Bowl Snacks

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Are you hosting a Super Bowl party this Sunday? Before you get overwhelmed by the idea of feeding a group of people for three hours or more, decide what your party really needs.

If you don’t think you’ll have a lot of time to cook, or you’re hosting a very large number of guests, you may want to opt for catered food. Your local grocery store usually has a catering department (look for it by the deli counter). They will have a variety of different snack platters such as wings, deli meat, vegetables, cheeses, etc. You can also call your favorite restaurant and place an order with them (many places have separate catering menus). Catering will be a more expensive option, but it is a great way to keep you out of the kitchen and cheering for your team!

If you’d prefer to do it yourself, you still have two different options. You can make all your snacks from scratch-the most affordable option, or you can buy frozen or canned ingredients and just pop them in the oven-also pretty affordable and a big time saver.

For example, my menu will include:
-Frozen meatballs which can easily be warmed up in the oven and served with a marinara sauce from a jar.
-Chicken drumsticks which will sit in different kinds of marinade until the guests arrive and then be cooked in the oven.
-Chips and a variety of store bought dips.
-Stuffed mushrooms which will be prepped before the game and can be popped in the oven when needed.
-Frozen pizza rolls which can be microwaved in about a minute.
-Canned chili which can also be microwaved or warmed in a saucepan on the stove top.
-Cookies and/or cupcakes which will be baked from scratch the day or morning before.

I think the easiest plan is to buy the items that are time consuming or difficult to make, and then make the items that are easier or can be prepared ahead of time. This gives you the best balance of time and cost.

Don’t forget to consider the amount of food each person will consume during the event. Are your guests big eaters? Is anyone on a diet? Try to figure out how much to make of each menu item before you go to the store or place a catering order. Also, when you make snacks at home, cook them in waves so they don’t get cold and so you don’t have too much go to waste if your guests get full.

With tasty and easy snacks, your party will be a win no matter which team you’re cheering for!

Design For The Future

Why it’s important to design for the home you want, not the place you live:

When you live in an apartment (especially if you recently moved in), it can be hard to resist the urge to decorate it. As much as you want to make your place feel home-y, you need to be careful that your money and hard work won’t go to waste when you move. Here are a few things you want to think carefully about before buying:

1. Furniture- when buying furniture for a temporary home (even if temporary might be a couple years), do not buy too much. Even if you wish to buy a home with a huge living room, you don’t necessarily have the space for a big sectional right now, and cramming it in will make your current living space unappealing. If you currently have a large room, keep in mind that your dream home might have a smaller room, or just a different set up. Also be careful not to choose a color or style that goes specifically with your current place. If you stick to solid colors, simple patterns, and less decorative styles, it will be more likely to go with your next place.
2. Blinds- if at all possible, do not buy blinds for an apartment unless you are getting a great deal. Your next place will most likely have different sized windows, and you’ll end up having to buy new ones. Curtains are a better idea because you can use one size to fit a variety of different sized windows.
3. Artwork/Wall Art- find something you like that will go well with the style you have planned for your permanent home. Maybe your apartment happened to have blue walls when you moved in, and blue makes you think of the ocean. Unless you’ve actually wanted a nautical themed living room, do not buy a painting of a harbor to hang in the room. When you move into your permanent place you’ll end up giving away that painting.
4. Lighting- if your apartment does not have overhead lighting (the kitchen usually will though), you’ll need lamps. Do not invest a lot in floor lamps! Your permanent home may have overhead lighting or else you can have it installed. Find an affordable and simple-style lamp that can be used in any room.
5. Rugs- do not buy large area rugs. Your next place will probably need a different sized rug. You can make up for the lack of an area rug by purchasing two or more of the same print of smaller rugs. If your permanent home only needs one of these rugs (half of the area rug you would have had in your temporary place), you can use the other rug in a different spot, such as an entryway. Once again, pick a pattern and color that you’d like for your permanent home.
6. Large Organizers- if you need a closet tower, pick one that can be used out of the closet in case your permanent home has a well designed closet that doesn’t require it. You can also use a small bookcase, shelving unit or bins to keep your stuff organized, and use these in various places later in your permanent home. Metal shelves or baker’s racks can later be used for storage in the garage, basement or laundry room.

Decorating Your Child’s Room

As soon as your child could string a sentence together, you started to hear all their opinions on different things. And it’s great that your child is such an individual but their taste doesn’t always match yours. This can become especially obvious in regards to how their bedroom looks.

A child’s bedroom is the one place in the world that’s truly theirs. (Sure, it’s under your roof, but you probably don’t live in their bedroom with them.) Your child wants it to be set up and decorated with things they like. Things that make them happy. And even younger children want a “cool” room for when they have friends over.

Instead of avoiding redecorating, jump in! As a child’s taste will change as they explore the world and discover new things, it’s important to keep the cost low and to be aware of big changes that may not work permanently. Try to avoid things such as:
-black and white zebra striped painted walls(or another similar paint job)-this will be difficult to paint over when they tire of the look
-building in anything that is age related (like a dinosaur shaped built in bookcase)

Ask your child to collaborate with you on the project. Make sure you have a few options of decor, colors, furniture, bedding, etc. that you approve of/can afford for each part of the room. This way your child can be the decision maker.

First thing you’ll want to do is find out your child’s favorite color. You probably know their favorite color, but it’s good to double check with them in case it has recently changed.

The next thing to decide on is what color you will paint the walls. Try to stick to a neutral such as white, light gray, beige, etc. Make sure the neutral you choose is one that will work well with their favorite color. If you choose beige and their favorite color is yellow, the room may look bland or washed out.
Your child may want their walls to be their favorite color but there are several reasons why that isn’t always the best idea:
-repainting the walls when your child’s taste changes involves a decent amount of work- moving everything out of the room or into the center of the room, covering anything that remains, removing switch plates and outlet covers, taping everything up, spending a day or more painting, waiting for the room to dry and air out, and finally putting everything back. (Wow! I made that sound like a lot of work!)
-if their walls are their favorite color and so is the bedding, curtains, pillows, lamps, throw rugs, toy box, etc. it can be too overwhelming. Pops of color are a lot more pleasing to the eyes. Also, by the time they pick a new color those other items may be getting worn out anyway, may be able to be modified, or might even match the next design.

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Once you’ve chosen your wall paint, it’s time to accessorize! Pick items in different shades of their favorite color or multi-colored items that incorporate that color. (I once had a bedspread that was purple with pink and yellow flowers. Pink was my favorite color at the time, but when that switched to yellow, the bedspread still worked. Plus it kept the room colorful instead of being all yellow.) You can usually find cute complete bedding sets for around $30. If you are afraid that cheaper bedding might not be warm enough, buy a neutral colored blanket to go with it. You can reuse the blanket for all future bedding sets.

A cheap and fun idea is to redo some of the items they already have in the room.
A white dresser (or any other paintable dresser) can be redone in the shortest amount of time. Empty the drawers and remove them. Tape them out so that it creates a border or frame on the face of the drawer. Let your child paint the border in themselves! Their friends will be so impressed that they did that themselves!

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For the lamps, you can simply switch out the shade to match the new room.
For throws and rugs- try to buy them on the cheap (they get worn out anyway). I know Walmart sells fleece throws in different colors and patterns for $5 or less.
For wall decor, check out my post Easy Wall Decor Project https://thehelpfulhousewife.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/easy-wall-decor-project/
This is a simple and affordable way to spruce up the walls with coordinating decor- your children can even do it themselves!

Don’t forget to check your local discount stores and the clearance sections of other stores! You can find some great deals and because these places often sell last year’s styles, you may find something you couldn’t find other places.

I hope these ideas have inspired you to go ahead and actually redecorate that room! If you have any questions or need more ideas, please let me know! Thanks for reading!

*Pictures in THIS post are not my own. I found them on Pinterest.

Vote!

Easy Wall Decor Project

Winter is my indoor season. I just hate the cold so much! Unless you ski or snowboard (which I don’t), there’s not a ton of fun outdoor activities. Which means I spend a lot of time hanging around the house. And the more time I spend in here, the more I realize my decorating is rather blah. So I’ve decided to make my least favorite season a productive one and do some pre-spring cleaning/organizing/redecorating. I know as soon as the weather turns warm and sunny I’m not going to want to be stuck inside getting this stuff done. Plus, if I’m going to be stuck in here for a couple more months, at least I can be stuck in a well-decorated, clean, and organized house.
Of course I should have started by getting the house perfectly clean, but it’s close enough and I got too excited about a new decorating project. I don’t know what to call it, but we can go with scrapbook paper wall decor for now.

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This can also be a great project for the kids to decorate their rooms, and it’s quick and easy enough that they won’t get bored halfway through.
I ran out to the craft store early yesterday afternoon and got all my supplies. I spent $11 but that included a lot of extras for future projects, plus some clearance items that were too cute to pass up.

Here’s a list of what you will need:

-3 sheets of scrapbook paper of a similar color but different patterns (I got these on sale for 36 cents each)
-3 picture frames of the same size and style (I got these for $1 each at the Dollar Tree)
-paint for the frame if you couldn’t find the exact ones you wanted
-newspaper (to protect your workspace)
-scissors
-spray adhesive or glue stick (you can skip this if you can’t find any around the house)

Step One:
Take the backing and glass out of the frames.

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Step Two:
Paint the frames. While waiting for them to dry proceed to Step Three.

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Step Three:
Use the backing from the frame to trace out the scrapbook paper. Cut the paper along the lines you traced.
Step Four:
Decide which direction you want the paper to set at. Be mindful if the print can only go one way.
Step Five:
Rub glue stick or spray the adhesive on the picture frame backing. Line up your paper and stick it on. Make sure you smooth out any bubbles or wrinkles.

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Step Six:
When your frames are dry, put the glass back in the frame (or skip it like I did- it’s not necessary and I hate the glare when the lights are on), and put the backing back in.

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Step Seven:
Hang and enjoy your creation!

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I would love to hear about your experience if you tried this project! I had a lot of fun making mine and I really like how it adds to the house.

Snow Day Dinner

It’s snowing like crazy here! Unless you’re a polar bear, you probably like to stay inside on snowy days. I know my only outdoor adventure today will be clearing off my car- reluctantly.
Days like this are perfect for relaxing inside, guilt free! Perhaps just pull out a blanket, plop yourself on the couch and catch up on your favorite tv show!
If that sounds a bit too unproductive for you, how about dusting off the crock pot and making a comforting, bone-warming dinner?!
I’m always looking for new recipes to try in my crock pot, but too often I find myself unable to cook them up because I’m missing ingredients. Oh the disappointment! It’s much worse if you live far from the grocery store, or it happens on a day like today, when it’s too cold and snowy to drive anywhere.
My goal is to find delicious, easy recipes with super basic ingredients found in every kitchen, and share them with you!
A basic hearty crock pot dish is the classic beef stew. My biggest challenge with this used to be that I didn’t always have a seasoning mix packet in the pantry. Thankfully, I found a solution- make your own! Here’s a recipe I found online to make your own seasoning. You can save a few dollars, and never again have to make a trip to the store for this one thing, or skip the dish altogether.

http://www.thesefour.com/2013/02/beef-stew-seasoning-recipe.html?m=1

I’ve tried the recipe and I think it makes a great stew- exactly what you’d expect! Now I have a big ziplock bag of this stuff in the pantry, ready for many, many more delicious meals!
Another reason why beef stew is a favorite of mine is that you only need 4 or 5 basic ingredients (besides the seasoning mix). You can use pretty much any piece of beef you have on hand. I’ve used London broil, thin sliced steaks, and many others that I can’t remember. Just make sure you cut them to the appropriate size. The rest of the ingredients are potatoes, onions, carrots and celery. If you don’t have one of the veggies, it’s not that big of a deal, but don’t forget to check your freezer in case you have a bag of one of the veggies frozen in there.

If beef stew isn’t for you, I have a boneless pork chop recipe for the crock pot. I think I invented it myself but I’m sure there’s similar recipes out there. You’ll need:

1 boneless chop per person (you can cut the bone off regular chops if that’s all you have)
1 potato per person, peeled and chopped into .5″ x .5″ x .25″ pieces
1-2 onions, peeled, halved and sliced
A teaspoon of minced garlic
Your favorite BBQ sauce
A few drops of liquid smoke- optional
Salt
Pepper
A few drops of your favorite spicy sauce (I use Lawry’s Baja chipotle marinade)
Some water

To save some time I fry the pork chops in a pan with some olive olive for a couple minutes per side (make sure it’s mostly cooked through). Place the chops in the bottom of the crock pot, and lay the sliced onions on top, then the potatoes. Mix the other ingredients together, adding just enough water to make it liquidy, not saucy. Pour the mixture in, making sure to fully cover over the potatoes, but do not fill any higher. If it does not cover, add a bit more BBQ sauce and water.
I turn my crockpot on high and cook for about 1.5-2 hours. *It will cook faster if you are making a small portion and could burn if your sauce is to thick.* To see if it’s ready, poke a chop with a fork- if it falls apart, they’re done. Also poke a potato and make sure they’re soft. Serve with a side of steamed broccoli, carrots or whatever you like.

I hope these ideas have inspired you to get slow cooking! I would love to hear about your favorite “basic ingredients” crock pot meal. I always need new recipes!