Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Have You Seen Ben Franklin?

If you have, that can only mean one thing. It’s almost time for Money Smart Week! Each year, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago holds a series of free seminars throughout the Seventh Federal Reserve District (all of Iowa and most of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin). They cover topics such as personal finance, small businesses and entrepreneurship, retirement planning, taxes, mortgages, investing, and bargain shopping.

Money Smart Week will be held in Chicago from April 2 to April 9, 2011. You can see the calendar of events here.

Here’s a listing of other areas that are having Money Smart Week, which might be a different week. MSW @ Your Library has even more options for states outside of the seventh district.

John and I attended a few events last year, and would go again if we had time in our schedules. Will you be going?

PS - I just heard about the new Financial Blogger Conference which will be held in Chicago October 1 - 2, 2011. I might just have to go! Until then, I've added a little flair to my sidebar.
Pin It

Friday, March 25, 2011

Thoughts for Friday

How about some cheerful inspirational for a Friday?

Have a wonderful weekend. I hope all of you have a chance to slow down and play.

(Print can be purchased from thewheatfield on Etsy.)

Pin It

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Conquering Quinoa

Quinoa has been on my radar for quite some time now. I think I first read about it in St. Louis' "Sauce Magazine." Recently, I've seen it popping up in blogs and magazines. It was about time I conquered quinoa. Actually, I sat this one two out and let John handle the cooking. Working weekends has been exhausting and I needed a few minutes to chill while he prepped dinner. And yes, he's a darn good cook.

I'm not sure why we waited so long to try quinoa. It's super tasty, packed with protein and other nutrients, and reasonably priced. I think John said a pound from the bulk aisle at Whole Foods was about $3. And he didn't use anywhere close to a pound for either recipe. This might sounds strange, but the texture reminds me of a combination between couscous and fish roe served on sushi.

We first tried this recipe, but I didn't take any pictures. Fortunately, John made a different quinoa recipe a week later and this time I took pictures. We served jerk seasoned shrimp on the side. So here you go!

Quinoa with Lemon, Herbs, and Pine Nuts
Adapted from the Chicago Tribune

1 cup quinoa (we used a combination of regular and red)
2 cups chicken broth or water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
3 to 4 cups fresh spinach or kale (1 bunch), chopped
2 lemons (about 1/2 cup lemon juice)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves or 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped (We used 3 T dried mint leaves)
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
Sea salt to taste

Pour quinoa into a strainer and rinse.

In a medium pot, bring broth to boil. Stir in quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low, simmering about 15 minutes, until quinoa expands and absorbs all liquid. Fluff with a fork.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute, stirring, until it softens, about 5 minutes. Add pepper flakes and chopped greens, stirring until greens are just wilted, 3 to 5 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium. Add quinoa and stir gently to combine. Grate in the zest of both lemons (if using whole lemons), squeeze in juice and add chopped or dried herbs and roasted pine nutes. Stir in sea salt to taste.

May be served hot or at room temperature. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Pin It

Monday, March 21, 2011

I've Gone Bananas

Do you ever crave food? Not in a pregnancy craving sort of way, but when you want to eat something allll the time? I occasionally go through phases when I want to eat the same thing for every meal. Well, maybe not for breakfast. I'm a milk and cereal kind of girl. A few years back it was salads with dried or fresh fruit, fancy nuts, and stinky cheese. Then it was (and still is at times) ordering whatever included avocado or guacamole. Recently, I've been on a big banana kick. Bananas foster cupcakes, banana bread beer, banana nut bread Clif bars, and the most recent addition....bananas foster whoopie pies. With cinnamon buttercream. And rum.

What? You don't add booze to your buttercream? OK, it was Mardi Gras. I figured the whoopie pies needed a little extra kick. One teaspoon was all it took to take these whoopie pies from "whoo" to "whooooooooo!"

This was my first time ever making whoopie pies, so things didn't go quite as planned. Apparently I don't play golf enough to know what a "golf ball sized" portion of batter looks like. My cookies ended up being softball sized. And maybe a little flat. But I don't think anyone was complaining.

PLUS, I had another buttercream breakthrough! I didn't want to drag out the Kitchenaid mixer just to make the frosting, so I used the food processor. I read about it a while back on Smitten Kitchen, but never tried it until now. Oh my gosh...this frosting was incredible! Just throw everything in the food processor and you're good to go. Seriously. It might change your life.

But now, Mardi Gras is over and Lent is here. The whoopie pies are long gone and I won't be eating sweets until the end of April. Fortunately, I found something new to satisfy my banana cravings: this recipe for peanut butter banana bread.

Want a house update? The seller will be making all the changes/fixes we requested from the inspection. We've signed all sorts of paperwork and sent updated financial information. Now we're waiting on final approvals for lending.

Bananas Foster Whoopie Pies
Adapted from Eat Live Run

Makes about 18 whoopie pies

 3 cups all purpose flour
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups bananas, the riper the better (approximately 2 bananas)
1 tsp baking power
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground white pepper (I added a few grinds of black pepper instead)

In a large bowl, beat together the brown sugar and oil. Add the bananas and eggs and mix well. (I used a potato masher for this step.) Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, and ground pepper.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix.

Scoop (or pipe) golf ball sized portions of batter onto lined baking sheets. Bake for twelve minutes. Let cool thoroughly before sandwiching together with frosting.

Cinnamon Buttercream
Adapted from Eat Live Run

1 stick butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I also love cinnamon, so I added more)
2 tsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp rum

Cream together the powdered sugar and butter until smooth (in a stand mixer or food processor). I started with 2 cups of powdered sugar because I wanted to check the sweetness and to try avoiding getting powdered sugar all over the kitchen.

Add the cinnamon, vanilla extract, rum, and milk and whip on high speed until very light and fluffy.

To prepare whoopie pies, pipe (using a pastry bag or plastic bag) small dollops of frosting on a cookie and sandwich another cookie on top. Or be like me and spread a dollop of frosting using a knife. Cookies will stay fresh in a sealed tupperware container for three days but they are best eaten the same day they are baked.
Pin It

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Post at Savvy Cinderella

To help you get through the middle of the week, how about a double dose of Fiscally Chic? There's a bonus post to be found over at Savvy Cinderella. Meaghan is a fellow Jess LC Ambassador and found me through my Makeunder My Finances series posted at Makeunder My Life.

Savvy Cinderella is a pretty cool concept. It's like a Craigslist for brides. Brides-to-be can browse listings for fabulous finds such as wedding dresses, accessories, decorations, you name it! Newlyweds can list their lovely wedding items after their big day. Sounds like a win-win to me! I totally wish it was around when we were planning our wedding. 

So what will you find in my guest post? Tips on how to merge finances together at the beginning of a marriage. And a few wedding pictures :)

Pin It

Big Impact, Little Budget Art

While reading a recent post by Young House Love about their affordable artwork, I realized I should probably share our affordable artwork! Plus, who doesn't need a jolt of color to make it through these last weeks of winter?

Last spring and summer we were looking for a little big something to fill the blank wall above our bed. With a king sized bed and 10+ foot ceilings, it definitely had to be something that filled the space and made an impact. But we didn’t want it to significantly impact our bank account.

We really liked the Classical Symmetry prints from Crate '& Barrel, but couldn’t fathom spending $369 plus tax and possibly shipping. I considered framing scrapbook paper or fabric, but didn’t see six patterns I liked. I looked for artwork on Etsy, but John and I could never agree on something. We kept going back to those darn C '& B prints. Guess that meant I was making them myself!

Gather your supplies. I purchased everything from Dick Blick. Your local craft store should have everything you need:
  • Canvases
  • Acrylic paint in a multitude of colors
  • Stencil brushes
  • Stencil film
  • Patterns to trace
  • X-Acto knife (box cutter also works for simple patterns)
  • Cutting board (I used a flattened cereal box)
  • High tech water cup to rinse brushes
  • Painter’s tape for chevron pattern and to secure stencil to canvas 

Making a stencil

Print off the pattern you’d like to make into a stencil. Shrink or blow up the print using a copier as necessary. Trace the pattern onto your stencil film. Cut out the pattern using an X-Acto knife (or a box cutter if you temporarily lose your X-Acto knife like me). Be sure you leave some “tabs” to hold the center part of the stencil. You’ll paint over the gaps later. And you definitely don’t need a fancy “self-healing” mat when cutting out your stencil. I used a flattened cereal box as my cutting board. 

This Morrocan stencil was made using the template from fresh crush, found via Design*Sponge. And if you're looking to make some chevron canvases, you can find the tutorial at Makeunder My Life. Jess's chevron paintings have made quite the splash around the Internet.

Hard at work with wine glass nearby
  • It’s better to paint two thinner coats of paint than one heavy one. You’re more likely to get paint under the stencil if you glop it on.
  • I used painter’s tape to hold the stencil to the canvas.
  • Sometimes the paint can get underneath the stencil. Be sure to wipe it off the stencil so you’re not tracking it around your canvas. You can also use a damp paper towel or a clean wet brush to remove fresh paint that’s gone awry.

To hang your canvases, nail some sawtooth picture frame hangers to the back of the canvas. Hang them up and admire your craftiness!

Approximate cost breakdown 
  • 6 canvases (18 x 18) - $40
  • 6 tubes of acrylic paint  - $20
  • Set of stencil brushes - $5
  • 2 packs of stencil film - $8
  • X-Acto knife - $3
  • Painter’s tape - $5
Grand total - $81

And I still have lots of paint, a few leftover stencil films, and can reuse the brushes and X-Acto knife.

Yes, I know the paintings don’t exactly coordinate with the wall color. If I had it my way, the walls would be a different color. But since we’re still renting and can’t paint the walls, we have to deal with it. Hopefully the canvases will coordinate better in our new house :)

Pin It

Monday, March 14, 2011

Are You a Housewife MacGyver?

Hi friends! How was your weekend? Mine was busy and relaxing, if that makes any sense. Errands, running 8 miles, seeing friends, and bottling our most recent batch of beer (a red ale). I also managed to catch up on sleep, even with the time change. Plus, we had our home inspection on Friday, which went pretty well. No major safety findings (woo hoo!). But there are a few things we'd like the seller to fix before we move.
Today I'm starting to share more of the nitty gritty details of buying a house. First up is figuring out what you can afford and getting preapproved for a mortgage. Though you'll have to swing by Lorene's sweet blog for the details. That's because I have a guest post as part of her Housewife MacGyver series!

What is this Housewife MacGyver series? It's a year-long journey of becoming more self-reliant through the wise use of resources. Basically, each month Lorene has different guest bloggers share a snippet from their area of expertise. Thus helping all of us become more self-relient and educated. March covers finances, which is my expertise!

So please stop by just Lu and read on!

Lorene, thanks again for asking me to write a guest post. And just Lu readers, welcome to Fiscally Chic. Feel free to look around and make yourself at home.

Pin It

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sneak Peek

Hiiiiii!!!! Thanks for all of your well wishes and congratulations! We're obviously still super excited about everything. Getting the keys is still subject to the home inspection, securing a mortgage (we've already been preapproved), and attorney review of the contract. But I wanted to show you a picture of our cute little house anyways.

Say it with me again, everyone, "YAAAAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!"

Pin It

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

They Accepted!!!

Super exciting news! We took a second look at our favorite house on Sunday (in addition to first looks for others), made an offer on it last night, and found out the seller accepted this morning!!! No counter-offers. Just flat out accepted it!

This is my overly enthusiastic happy face :)

taken by John's sister
More news and updates to come!!!
Pin It

Friday, March 4, 2011

House Hunting!

Remember not so long ago how I told you we are saving for a house? Guess what? We're looking at some this weekend! I'm a little delayed in updating you, so this is actually our second tour of houses. I don't want to spill all the beans yet, but here's what one of them looks like:

I know...I'm such a trickster! Obviously more posts on the home buying process will be coming down the pipeline :)

Hope you all have a good weekend!
Pin It

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Check your Charges


Today is a PSA and friendly reminder to check your credit card transactions before blindly paying the bill.

With the help of online banking and Mint, I can easily review our transactions on a regular basis. A few weeks ago, during a scan through our recent activity, I saw something a little suspicious. I've been working late and have been taking cabs home instead of public transportation. That's when I saw two charges for the same amount, on the same date, and from the same taxi company. I use different taxi companies, the fare tends to be slightly different each time, and based on my receipts, it seemed wrong.

Since I didn't have time to deal directly with the taxi company, I let our bank do all the dirty work. I submitted the online claim and faxed a copy of my receipt. A few days later I received a confirmation from the bank saying they were working on my request. In less than a week, one of the charges was removed from my credit card as well as a few extra cents for interest.

Moral of the story, don't think that companies and credit card machines are perfect. Sometimes accidents happen and you can be charged a different amount than authorized. More importantly, you have important rights to dispute errors in your bill under the Fair Credit Billing Act.
Pin It
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...