Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Always Read The Fine Print + DIY Magnifying Glass Project

While reading my friends Facebook updates today I noticed one of those dear to my heart posted this:
“I wonder if there is such a thing as an honest realtor??? Found out today that we have to vacate our house on the day of closing instead of getting the 10 days we agreed to. I will never listen to anyone again who tells me.. “Just sign here, it’s like all the other addendums you’ve signed.”

Which brings me to my savings tips for today… always read the fine print, especially for anything relating to money changing hands. If you are signing a lease, read the fine print. If you are confirming a job offer, read the fine print. If you are submitting a rebate, read the fine print. Not only will this help ensure accuracy, it will help you make sure that everything you thought you were getting is what you are actually getting out of the deal.

It broke my heart to see something like this happen to someone I love, and it could have been prevented quite simply by reading the fine print.

Reading Takes Time:

If you can, take the paperwork home to review at your leisure. Ensure you read both your copy and the copy for the person with whom you are entering a contract, and that your copies are identical so there's no bait-and-switch going on.

Consider The Buddy System:

If you are aged, or have poor eyesight, always bring a trusted friend to read your paperwork to you or for you. If that is not possible, ask for the file to be sent digitally and use a text to voice program.

Try Your Hand At Sleuthing:

Use a magnifying glass. Not only will it help you read the fine print, it will make you look cool. Ok, maybe not, but it will be fun… While you are at it, wear a trench jacket and chew on a fat pretzel stick as if it is a cigar (sorry, no real cigars- lung cancer is expensive). You can find fake mustaches here, to complete the look.

DIY Magnifying Glass:

To really romanticize poor eyesight (you know you want to), make a cool yet affordable magnifying glass. Buy a cheap metal one and transform it with bake-able clay and some bronze colored paint.While the clay is soft, mold it to your liking. Add texture with fishnet, tulle, or a toothpick. After baking is complete, rub some green paint into the creases and wipe off for that antiqued look. Let dry.
Of course, if your eyesight is that bad, creating a custom made fine art magnifying glass is probably not at the top of your list… so humor me. I’m the humorous,Sherlock Holmes fangirl romantizing-poor-eyesight creative type.;)

***Nerd Warning*** 
(Mental image: Can you hear the sirens? Sorry, I watch too much sci-fi and I'm envisioning red flashing lights and an annoyingly repetitive beeping signalling something like a nuclear reactor preparing to blow or a ship full of aliens flying through a Stargate... please continue...)
This link will be useless to you if you have poor eyesight, but it's really cool if you have kids: Make your own water magnifier.

If that doesn't work for you, you can always request a digital copy to view zoomed in on your computer, them print at home to ensure it is the same thing you are signing.

Consult A Lawyer:

Is the legal-eze just above your head? Legal documents sometimes seem like they are purposefully written to confuse you. If you are low income and cannot afford a lawyer but have the need for one, consider visiting or Google search “free legal advice.” Depending on your case, there may be professionals in your area willing to help for a small fee or pro- bono (volunteer).

Moral of the story: Don’t let yourself become the victim.
Have you ever had any issues understanding the legal paperwork of rebates or contracts?

Hobby Lobby 40% off coupon + other deals! (Week of August 26th)

Hobby Lobby released it’s new circular and sales ad Sunday with another 40% off coupon!
You can use the 40% off coupon on any item that is NOT on sale. Follow the links above for more information!

Remember, Hobby Lobby is closed on Sundays, so the deals all start tomorrow! Happy Shopping & Happy Crafting!

Free Bridal Guide Magazine! (GONE)

Click here and you can get one free issue of Bridal Guide Magazine!

Not getting married anytime soon? Already married? That’s OK! Sign up and then give it to a friend. I’ll be giving my copy to a girl friend at work who got engaged a few weeks back. I always give her bridal catalogs and she loves those so she will be very excited about this!

Hurry, before the deal ends!

How To Get What You Need Without Spending Anything!

No, it's not the "5 finger discount."...

It's bartering!

Back in the days before we had dollars and cents, let alone a rapper named 50 cent,  before we had Ben Franklin’s portrait on paper, bartering was the most common way of getting what you needed.

Think back to your elementary school days- what did we do when we had a snack in our lunch box that we didn’t really want?  We bartered. Nowadays this concept seems pretty foreign, but I promise you, it is innate and it works for almost anything… except perhaps utility bills. There are plenty of places you can find to barter. Try farmers markets, craft shows, local bulletin boards, and websites like

1. The key to successful bartering is that both parties must walk away feeling like they won.

2. Offer a reasonable barter…

Keep in mind that they may counter you. So don’t start with your absolute best offer. Aim a little better and wiggle back and forth until you both come to an agreement.

3. Don’t be too eager.

If you really need something, that puts the ball in their corner, meaning you could end up with the bad end of the deal. Don’t show all your cards right away. Be aloof but firm and leave your emotions at home.

4. Remember the value of your bartering relationship.

Whether the deal is better on their end or yours, or one of you concedes slightly for the sake of the bartering relationship, at the end of the deal you should both walk away satisfied with what you are receiving.

5. Finish the paperwork…

Have fun, be honest, be aware, be kind, and of course, if these items are large ticket items, make sure all the proper receipts are accounted for and the paperwork is squared away. You don’t want to take your items home and find out they were stolen goods, or worse- be scammed out of your item by someone who was playing you all along.

6. Safety First!

If you don’t know the person with which you are trading very well, make sure to take a buddy!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Eat Cheaply: Lentil Soup

My lunch today.  Remember my "secret" to making any meal look fancy.

Bean dishes are known for being especially tasty, especially cheap, and healthy to boot! According to this site, lentils are high in fiber, iron, B vitamins, and protein. So eat up! 

Here's my very own cheap and easy recipe for lentil soup.




2 cups dry lentils
Garlic powder
Onion powder
Black pepper


Ham or Steak bone (already cooked, meat removed from bone)
Red pepper flakes
Minced onions
Chopped chives
Fresh parsley for garnish


1. Put 2 cups of lentils in a big bowl. I prefer a Tupperware bowl or Mason jar, but anything big enough that can hold liquid will do.
2. Rinse and strain.
3. Then cover with twice as much water. Loosely cover with a lid.
4.  Let sit overnight at room temperature. The lentils will soak up all the water and grow up to double their size. They may even possibly show signs of beginning to sprout. This is perfect!


1. Rinse the beans one more time.
2. Then pour them into a saucepan, and top with water, just above the beans, or more if you like your soup thin.
3. If you have a ham or steak bone, now is the time to add it.
4. Bring to a boil.
5. Add spices to taste (sorry, I never your senses).
6. Boil for 20 minutes or until beans are soft.


1. Remove bone and give it to your dog. He will love you.
2. Scoop soup into bowls and add garnish before serving.
3. Take a photo and post it on my blog. ;)

This is a great soup when you are stuck home sick (like I have been the past 2 days) or when the weather gets chilly.

I wrote this blog using the Blogger app while sitting in the doctors office. Do you have any go-to soup recipes for when you are sick?

How to Make Any Meal Look Fancy!

So I'll admit. I love to cook, but I'm no personal chef... With a background in art, at least I can kind of make it look like it! Whether it’s take-out, served last minute to friends, or a garnished 35 cents box of macaroni and cheese-  here are some key tips taken from discussions with my brilliant personal chef sister, Chef Melody...

Disclaimer: all of the photos of fancy food below were 100% home made. My brilliant sister reminded me she would "never, ever make boxed macaroni and cheese and garnish it," so there are, of course, no photos of macaroni below. Humor me and enjoy my side of dry italicized sisterly sarcasm. 

Here’s the secret: let the food take center stage:

Red and Yellow Tomato Salad by Chef Melody of  Order In With Me Photographed by Penny Weaver Frazier.
Treat your table as if it is a blank canvas. Each dish is a work of art. Presentation is key!

-Set the mood. 

S: Did anyone else hear some weird old man with a creepy deep voice saying that in your mind when you read it?
Beautiful lighting makes any meal look fancy. Create a low light setting with a darker room. Add soft light with candles or low watt bulbs, lampshades and curtains to dim the lights. Keep in mind that you can enhance mood lighting with reflective materials like mirrors or shiny vases.

- Invest in a pretty set of dishes

S: No, apparently pretty paper plates don't count. ;)
Molten Chocolate Cake by Chef Melody of  Order In With Me
Photographed by Penny Weaver Frazier.
Most upscale restaurants use plates that are white or black or at least a single neutral color.

- Serve smaller portions on large plates

S: as opposed to the American all-you-can-eat way of piling it as high as possible. You stop earning points for your mashed potato tower after graduating from college.
Seared Scallops by Chef Melody of  Order In With Me
Photographed by Penny Weaver Frazier.
The negative space makes the presentation look more appealing. It features the food.

- Serve each item separately, in courses

S: the way Martha would do it. "It's a good thing."
 Shrimp Scampi by Chef Melody of  Order In With Me
Photographed by Penny Weaver Frazier.
This allows your dinner guests the chance to focus on one set of flavors at a time and allows everyone to eat more slowly and savor the meal, without feeling the need to rush to the next course.

- Vary your colors.

S: You're S.O.L. if you're colorblind... vary textures?
Salad by Chef Melody of  Order In With Me Photographed by Penny Weaver Frazier.
If you absolutely must serve everything on one plate, make sure you have at least 3-4 different colors on the plate. A meal of macaroni and cheese, carrots, and orange juice is bright but boring! Mix it up as much as you can! Bonus: meals that vary in color supposedly have more balanced nutrition.

- Add decorative flourishes to semi home made meals.

S: OK, I'll admit it- this tip is mine. My sister doesn't make "semi home made" anything.

Completely Home Made Twice Baked Potato Soup by Chef Melody of Order In With Me
Photographed by Penny Weaver Frazier.

A  sprinkle of hand-ground pepper and a sprig of something as simple as a celery leaf on top of a scoop of boxed macaroni and cheese can elevate a basic meal to a higher level. A hand full of fresh berries and little bit of chocolate syrup swirled around a store bought angel food cake can turn your table into desert heaven and make your guests feel special regardless of what you spent on the meal.

- Last but not least, a smiling host makes any meal delightful!

S; OK, OK... it's cheesier than the boxed mac and cheese my sister detests, but it's true.
One of my own "fancy" semi-home made meals.
Regardless of your budget, you are the king or queen of your household. Relax and have fun! Don't take yourself too seriously. :) It doesn't have to be perfect.  It’s okay when there are surprises. That’s what makes life interesting and entertaining guests entertaining!