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Monday, June 18, 2012

5 things that are making me happy right now: a week in review

Good Morning friends and happy Monday! As we head into a new week fresh off of a great Father's Day weekend, I wanted to just take a moment and re-live some of the great things that happened in our lives last week.
1.)  If you follow me on Facebook then, you already know that HomeGoods started following me on Instagram about a week ago. You know HomeGoods right? As in this...
HomeGoods Logo
Sadly, my Alaskan friends and family don't have a HomeGoods, but when you travel to the lower 48 trust me it's so worth a trip into this store. Just be warned that you may find way more than your suitcase can accomodate on the trip home! HomeGoods not only has amazing home decor, but they have it at incredible prices! Here are a few things I picked up the other day to change out my mantlescape.

Beautiful right? I can't wait to show you how I incorporated them into my simple summer mantle decor. You can connect with HomeGoods here on FB, on their website, or if you have an iPhone or android check them out on Instagram too. And don't forget to follow me too! Just search Courtney Taylor. Leave me your name and I'd be happy to follow you back!

2.)  Many of you know that we are a homeschooling family. This was our first year and I am SO proud and happy to say that WE MADE IT! My sweet girl finished Kindergarten on Wednesday. I am so proud of how far she has come this year. She has learned to read, write in cursive, count past 100, she can add and subtract all the numbers to 10. And the biggest surprise, to me anyway, has been her newly found love of science! She absolutely loves to learn anything and everything about nature, biology and the world around her. She just soaks it up! I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to teach her this past year. I learned so much about her and her interests and how her little mind learns and processes things. It's been an amazing experience.

3.) There's this cake that's been in our family for years. My mom acquired the recipe from a family friend many years ago and has been making it for birthdays (mainly Steve's) and various occasions ever since. It's not just any cake. It's a carrot cake. And not just any carrot cake. It's "14 carat" cake! That's what its called because it's the best carrot cake out there! I made this cake for Easter this year and blogged about it here.
Shortly thereafter, I saw an advertisement for an Original Recipe Contest hosted by AAFES Exchange Facebook page. On the final day that entries were due, I entered this cake on a whim. I quite honestly didn't expect anything to happen from there, but to my surprise my cake made the first cut (haha, pun!) and then before I knew it, I had made it into the finals. After a couple of weeks of voting and 2 weeks of judges making/tasting the entries with the most votes, I was notified by email on Thursday that I WON! What?! Are you kidding me?! I won a Kitchenaid Artisan stand mixer, which is so great but honestly I was just excited to have won the contest!

4.)  I told y'all above about HomeGoods following me on Instagram and Saturday I was once again surprised when began following me! Holy what?! It is my dream and goal to turn this little blog of mine into something. I have a looooong way to go to even get anywhere near any of the "heavyweights" of the home DIY/ crafting blog community but with followers like HomeGoods and as well as some of those "heavyweights" on other social media sites that link back to my blog, it's a pretty good start. I've started a Snickerdoodles and Taylor Tots Facebook page recently. It is still under construction and should be beautiful and functional this week, I would love to have you show your support and "like" my page. In addition, I desperately need now to bring in a blog designer to pretty things up around here, make it more functional to connect via other social media and help me find my theme. Stay tuned, because there will be a major overhaul in the near future!

5.)  My good friend, Leigh Anne and I make it a regular Saturday morning date to go garage sale-ing together as often as each of our family schedules will allow. This weekend afforded us that opportunity while our husbands got together to take the kids to breakfast. Such great husbands! Now, y'all KNOW how much I love a great deal and this weekend I scored big time! Here is a picture of what I bought. I'll be sharing later in the week, how much I paid and what I did with it, so stay tuned!

6.) I know I said 5 things, but, I couldn't end this post (although, I'm sure you want me too! Ha!) without recognizing my incredible husband and the great Father that he is! I love this man more than words in the English language even exist to express! He is our little girl's prince and our son's best bud. He is their best example of what a man should be. He loves their Mama and is her best friend and we are SO blessed to call him Daddy and husband!

Charlie, we are so blessed and thankful for you! We love you SO much...for all tomorrows!!


Monday, June 11, 2012

Fancy tacos: stretching the beef

So, I made stuffed shells a few weeks ago and after browning the hamburger with garlic and onions, I realized I had way more than I needed. I used what I needed for my recipe and put the rest-probably a half pound or so in the fridge. Fast forward two's nearly 2 o'clock and I'm looking around trying to figure out what to make for dinner. A quick scan of the fridge yields tortillas, cheese, salsa, sour cream. Perfect, tacos it is. Eyeing my left over ground beef, I happily close the fridge and go about my day not worrying about having to take anything out of the freezer. Fast forward again a few hours...I pull out my ground beef, peel off the lid and realize that I do not have enough meat for all of us. It's now too late to thaw any additional meat. When I was a kid my mom used to always mix her taco meat with refried beans. I knew that I didn't have any of those, but the thought sent me in the direction of the pantry where I knew I had black beans. I also had left over corn in the fridge so I threw that in too.
What a happy accident this turned out to be. My family LOVED it! In addition to being totally delicious and looking like I made fancy tacos, I was able to get more vegetables and fiber and protein into my family. Score!!

Have you had any culinary "happy accidents" recently?
How about any tips for stretching your meal ingredients?  I'd love to hear 'em!


Thursday, June 7, 2012

A blessing through Craigslist

I can't even begin to explain how much I love a great deal! I really hope that y'all scour thift stores, garage sales and craigslist when you're looking for something. Truly amazing deals are out there! I shared last month about my fabulous Pottery Barn lamps Goodwill Score and today I have another fantastic find to share with you.

I found this deal on craigslist last week. It all started with a list and a birthday gift. First, the list. I have a running wishlist of things that I want. I think I've mentioned it before? It gives Hubs a good jumping off point for gift-giving holidays. On my wishlist, I had listed an additional set of both my silverware and my dishes. I had only a 4 place setting of each which has worked out fine for our small family since the kids still eat from children's melamine dishes and use baby/child utensils. However, our flatware/dinnerware situation had recently started to become problematic as we've had a lot more guests at our house than previously. (I'm sure Disneyland practically in our backyard and the beach only a mile from our front door has nothing to do with it!) Enter, the birthday gift. Hubs took a few items from my list and gave them to his mom when she asked for gift ideas for my birthday last week. My wonderful in-laws gave me not one, but two additional sets of silverware and now I have a gorgeous silverware drawer brimming with 12 place settings! I love it!
Well naturally, my newly stocked silverware drawer juxtaposed against my seemingly bare in comparsion cabinets put me on the hunt for my dinnerware at a good price. With a fresh eBay gift card in hand (another b-day gift- thanks Mom and Steve!) I began my hunt there and alllllmost purchased just 4 dinner plates- taking an a-little-at-a-time approach. My mind was quickly changed however, when I saw the shipping quote. Grrr. Next, I decided to give craigslist a whirl. What were the odds of finding a very specific dinnerware- Pottery Barn Sausalito, and in the right color- buttercream? Probably not good, but I do live in LA where the population alone makes craigslist odds a little better than most places so I thought why not. I was actually surprises to find about 7-8 Pottery Barn Sausalito listing. None of them, however, showed a buttercream picture. One listing did catch my eye though because it showed a red place setting with a price tag of $2. I clicked on it and practically fainted! This fantastic God-sent woman had a TON of Sausalito! She had huge lots of Sausalito in merlot red, chocolate brown, turquoise and BUTTERCREAM!!  She had everything priced per piece, the lowest being only $2 or she would sell the sets for a specified amount. I immediately called her up and expressed my interest in the buttercream and nearly had my heart broken when she told me that another woman was coming that very evening to look at everything and was possibly interested in purchasing pieces from each set, breaking them up. She graciously offered to email me after the other woman left and let me know what remained of the buttercream. I would have gone over that evening myself, but she lives 53 miles and over an hour drive from me. She kept her promise, however and emailed me about an hour later with the fantastic news that the other woman only purchased the turquiose set! Woo!! I immedately made plans to be at her house the next morning at 9:30.
At 8 AM the following morning, I loaded up the kiddos, Tristan still in his pj's, swung through the McD's drive-thru and began the drive to San Juan Capistrano. It took me a bit longer than I thought to get to her house, but trust me the drive was sooo worth it!
I first met her husband, who greeted us with a warm smile and a handshake. Then introducing the kids to his own 2.5 year old daughter, pointed all of them in the direction of the sidewalk chalk. His wife was just as friendly, Tristan had an apple juice box explosion on our drive down and she brought me paper towels and even helped clean it up!
Ok, back to the dishes. Here is what I scored:

8 dinner plates
8 salad plates
8 cereal bowls
8 coffee mugs
2 fish platters
1 large oval platter
1 large serving bowl
1 gravy boat

All of this is still available at Pottery Barn, so I took a little trip to and priced it all out. Several of the pieces are on sale right now and if I had gone to the store and purchased everything it would have cost $436 plus tax. Regular price would have been $475 plus tax. Wanna know how much I paid??

 $60 BUCKS!!!!

Can you believe it?! See why I called her a God-send?! Seriously, y'all I can't tell you how blessed we feel! I pray that God would bless her and her sweet family for their generosity. She could have very easily asked (and gotten) a LOT more for her dishes. And not one single dish has a chip, crack or even a utensil mark on it. She had them stored so nicely in a cabinet in her garage with foam dish pack material between each piece. My family has been incredibly blessed by hers. I truly wish we lived closer because I think our families and certainly our children would be great friends.

Have you found any great deals lately? Been incredibly blessed in an unexpected way?