Sunday, December 30, 2012

DIY Vacuum Extension Tube Replacement

Missing vacuum extension tubes: a cheap alternative to replacement tubes
ATTENTION: Don't throw away your empty wrapping paper tubes!

Left-over empty cardboard wrapping paper tubes aren't just for kids to shout through or hit each other over the head with (still tempting as an adult). There is a practical and exciting use for them! Yes, I do get excited about the strangest things.

We inherited this vacuum a while back. I love vacuums with hose attachments to reach those hard-to-reach places where dust bunnies like to hide.

The vacuum itself works great, but the extension to the hose is missing. Drat! Still too short to do the best of the dirty work.

{Enter: Empty Wrapping Paper Tubes}
The perfect DIY solution for replacing missing vacuum extension tubes! 

After combining the odds and ends of left-over wrapping paper onto one roll, we ended up with a few empty wrapping paper tubes that fit snuggly into the hole for the hose attachment. Wahoo!

Fit empty wrapping paper tubes snugly into place to act as vacuum attachment

And look! My empty cardboard wrapping paper tube works perfectly. I'll take that over spending a bunch of money on a replacement vacuum extension tube. And it works just as well! Look out dust bunnies!

easy, cheap vacuum extension tube replacement do it yourself solution
A few quick tips:

  • Make sure the tube fits snugly in place.
  • Label the top and bottom of the tube and attach the top to the vacuum each time (after using it several times the bottom end starts getting a little beat up). 
  • Do not alter the end of the tube (I tried squeezing one end together to mimic a skinny spout and the suction of the vacuum ended up sucking the tube together. Oops.)

Happy New Year image
Only 1 more day til 2013. Crazy!
Have a Happy New Year!

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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Make your own Italian Sausage

Make your own Italian sausage from plain pork sausageFor our big family Christmas Eve dinner festivities, we all decided to bring soups to share.

I've been craving a good sausage lentil soup lately, so that was my pick.

As I reached in the freezer for the package of sausage (one of my many great coupon finds!), I realized it wasn't flavored. Ugh. Please don't make me go back to the grocery store on the morning of Christmas Eve.

Thanks to an Italian Sausage Recipe I found online, I was able to turn my regular old pork sausage into flavorful Italian Sausage! The internet saved the day!

How to make your own Italian Sausage from regular Pork Sausage

In a glass bowl with an airtight lid, add the following ingredients and refrigerate over night:
(I only had just under 1 lb of pork sausage, so I halved the ingredients below, minus a dash)

2 lbs pork
1 Tbsp salt
1 Tbsp ground fennel seed
1-1/2 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp black pepper
3 Tbsp red wine vinegar

Mush ingredients all around in your raw pork and refrigerate over night in an airtight container to increase the flavor absorption. Cook normally the next day.

We even ground our own fennel seed with a mortar and pestle. Fancy, I know. It smelled SO good! Like licorice actually. I couldn't believe how fragrant it was.

Incidentally, the soup was a fiasco, so I'll spare you from that recipe. Midway through cooking, it seemed too bland so we added a bunch more flavorings. In the end, it ended up being way too salty and we didn't eat much of it. Drat! Note to self for next year's Christmas Eve dinner dish? Keep it simple!

Hope your holiday was happy and bright!

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nutella Coconut Cookies: easy and delicious!

Nutella Coconut Cookies are a quick, simple chocolate cookie recipe
A couple nights ago my husband came home at 7pm and informed me that he signed up to bring a dish for tomorrow's potluck. Oh, and a couple dozen cookies.

For a brief moment I felt like the mother of a 2nd grader who was just told while tucking in her child,  "Oh by the way, I'm supposed to bring 3 dozen cupcakes for a class party tomorrow. Goodnight." I'm sorry, wha??

It wouldn't have been a huge deal, except for the fact that I was exhausted from being sick the past several days with a sore throat & stuffy head. Top of my list? Not so much baking batches of cookies.

However, having been home pinning things on Pinterest, uh ehm, recovering that day, I suddenly had a moment of IPR (Instant Pinterest Recall). Some call it a disease, I call it a miracle.

"Nutella Cookies! Only 3 ingredients! Bake for 8 minutes!", I blurted out as Pinterest took over what little brain power I had left.

Crisis averted. My sanity, and the potluck, were saved. Thank you Tasty Kitchen!

Nutella Coconut Cookies

*Revised from Tasty Kitchen's Nutella Cookies Recipe

These cookies are like a little brownie bite - lightly crispy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. If they weren't for the potluck I would have eaten all 24 of them!

1 cup Nutella
½ cup Sugar
1 cup All-purpose Flour
1 whole Egg
*we added 1 Tbsp water
*we added 1/2 c. shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 350 F. Blend all ingredients together well. Form into 1" balls. *I used a cookie scoop. Place on a cookie sheet. Press down firmly with the bottom of a glass. Bake 7-8 minutes or until set. *I ended up baking them for 10 minutes maybe because mine were a little thicker. Cool on a baking sheet.

Nutella cookies are easy chocolate cookies with a soft, chewy texture

Bring these to your next holiday party!

Holly Berries Happy holidays from Shannon Sorensen DesignsHappy Holidays my friends!

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Remembering Newtown

It's surprising to me that the tragedy in Newtown happened 1 week ago today.

It feels like just yesterday.

My heart is still heavy for all those lost and their grieving families.

We've seen an outpouring of love and prayers for people we may not even know, but we feel for them and love them anyway.

We've seen an inspiring tribute to those lost, by many who have chosen to focus on giving through acts of kindness and spreading love throughout the world.

We'll never forget those little ones and the heroes that lost their lives trying to protect them. They'll forever be in our hearts.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Couponing in Seattle

couponing and saving money in Seattle
Sorry I disappeared again. I've been clipping coupons.

During a free trial of netflix, I stumbled upon the show "Extreme Couponing". Maybe you've heard of it? There's a buzz of controversy about it these days - primarily about the extreme part.

The show was fun to watch, but I'm not the extreme type. I'm not interested in having giant stockpiles of deodorant.  I'm not diving into stinky dumpsters hoping to score a few extra coupons. I'm not buying loads of cat food when I don't have a cat because buying-it-gives-me-points-that-lead-to-free-stuff.

What I do have time for, is smart couponing to save money on groceries and other necessities. Woohoo! With my husband out of work for several months, it has helped tremendously.

Tips for couponing

I've learned so much about making the most out of couponing since I started. and are great sources of information.

Here are a few valuable things I've learned that might help you stretch your dollar too!

Tip 1: Where to get coupons

  • Sunday Newspaper inserts (Red Plum, Proctor & Gamble, Smart Source, some in Parade)
  • Weekly local newspapers (Red Plum inserts. Check your area)
  • Ask family and friends to save them for you!!
  • Some libraries give out the Sunday paper for free (Check your area)
  • Community recycle bins (I wouldn't recommend dumpster diving)
  • Print coupons online i.e.,,, "like" companies on facebook, and sign up through their websites
  • Look through the grocery store for manufacturer coupons next to products
You'll be AMAZED at how many coupons are floating around out there once you look for them.

Tip 2: Find coupon match-ups

Look for sites who match-up coupons with current store sales:, Or for those of us in the Seattle area:,,; and match up your own (they don't always catch them all).

Tip 3: Match up your coupons with rock bottom prices

Paying attention to the sale cycles (see tip 4) will help you make the most of your coupons. For example, saving $1.00 on $4.00 toothpaste is good, but what if you could save $1.00 on toothpaste when it's on sale for $1.99? When you match up great coupons with great sales, you get great savings! Be sure to look in clearance sections for even hotter deals.

Tip 4: Learn store sale cycles

Did you know store sales operate on a 6-8 week cycle? At some point during that cycle certain products will hit their rock bottom price. Once you identify that, stock up and don't buy again for 6-8 weeks. If you have coupons in addition to the rock bottom prices - SCORE! *Meats are also on a cycle which rotates every 3 weeks or so (beef, poultry, pork). 

Tip 5: Stack manufacture coupons with store coupons

The best scenerio? Your store has a coupon for a product AND you have a manufacture coupon for it and what if it's even on sale?! Check your store's coupon policies to see if you can stack or double coupons. In Seattle's east side suburban area, Albertsons is the only store I've found that doubles coupons. QFC, Fred Meyer & Safeway let you stack.

Tip 6: Create meal plans around whats on sale

Instead of looking through recipes and creating a weekly plan, I look through grocery circulars and coupon match-ups and create my meals and shopping trips around what's on sale and what coupons I have. It actually makes shopping and meal planning a lot easier! 

Tip 7: Organize your coupons and shopping trips

Some use notebooks with baseball card page organizers, others (like me) use small plastic expandable folders. Use the method that works for you to organize and tote your coupons along for each trip. For an optimal couponing experience, separate each shopping trip into its own envelope with coupons and lists for each store. It has also helped me to count the number of coupons I'll be using, and have an estimate of what I'll be spending so I can tell right away if something's out of whack. Watching the register is important to make sure everything's scanning correctly!

Couponing does take time and preparation (and a stink-eye or two from impatient customers behind you), but when you end up saving 50%-80% on each shopping trip, it's worth it!

Here are a few of my favorite couponing deals so far:

favorite ways I have saved with coupons in seattle
$50.00 free groceries! Transferred a prescription and got a $50 credit

Paid only .50 cents for a premium package of sausage! Used a $1.00 off coupon for sausage that was on sale for $3.50 + a manager's special $2.00 off. Best sausage we've ever eaten! The better the deal, the better it tastes!

Saved over 80% on Ocean Spray bottled Juice! Paid .69 each (regularly $3.69) after sale, store promo and manufacture coupons

Paid only .70-.80 for cereal! With store deals, manufacture coupons and doubling coupons we saved big and stocked up on cereal normally priced at $4-$5 each.

Since starting my couponing adventures I've learned to look at what we eat and buy in a whole new way and it makes me feel good to know I'm saving us money.

Between getting our free Sunday paper, having my sister and mom set their ads aside for us, checking community recycle bins and printing them off online, we've got more than enough coupons to help us save.

Now does anyone have a coupon for printer paper? ;)

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