Turning Over a New Leaf

March 28th, 2013

In March, my husband and I were inspecting our monthly credit card statement, and we found something that we were both extremely displeased about. Within a 24 day period, we ate dinner out 19 times! On average, that is about 24 days eating out in a month! We are both very busy, and we work opposite schedules of each other, so we only see each other in the evenings.

I wanted a healthier alternative to eating (large portions) out every night, and one that made sense for our pocketbook as well. Since cooking every night is a hassle, and cleaning is always a fight waiting to happen, I started researching ways to prepare food ahead of time so that cooking and cleaning would be less of a hassle and less stress for the two of us. I came upon make ahead meals and freezer meals as an option – it lets me buy items (meat, vegetables, etc.) in bulk and prepare everything in one day, and have minimal clean up that we can both do together so we aren’t fighting about whose turn it is to clean the dishes.

There are tons of blogs and websites out there, which all have fantastic ideas for make ahead meals, so I turned to their experience to assist me in trying this new adventure. I picked out 11 recipes from a few different bloggers who have a long history of making freezer meals and went to work gathering ingredients and preparing the meals. In total, I ended up with about 26 meals for about $180, or about $7 per meal. Considering we spent (on average) $35 per meal in February when we went out, that saves us $28 a meal. Just to be fair, we still have 2 dinners out per week planned into the menus, but that means we will cut our “going out” bill by a third. I will post (and rate ) each of the recipes as we try them. I am hopeful that this experiment turns out to be a successful endeavor and that I get a green light to continue doing this.

List of Recipes:

Asian Salmon
Baked Shrimp Scampi
Corn, Black Bean, and Beef Empanadas
Chicken Rice Wraps
Chicken Pot Pie
Sloppy Joes
Beef Stroganoff
Chicken Roll Ups
Fajita Chicken
Fajita Beef
Chicken Enchiladas

Crawfish and Adventures in Home Repairs

March 20th, 2013

This weekend, my Hubby, his friend, and I boiled roughly 30 pounds of live crawfish. I sorted out the moving from the non-moving crawfish Sunday morning. The result was a cooler almost half full of wriggling creatures.

Then, we had to make sure that the crawfish understood the rules – they were for eating! We accomplished this through a very in depth staring contest… For awhile, I wasn’t sure who would win. Fortunately, the humans had multiple large pots of boiling, seasoned water that made the crawfish rather nervous.

Unfortunately, I have no more pictures to show, but we did quite enjoy about 15 pounds of crawfish, leaving us with about another 15 pounds to shell for later (Crawfish Nachos, Crawfish Bisque, Crawfish Gumbo, Crawfish Etoufee, the possibilities are limited by the amount of crawfish you have on hand). I had to go to work, so I quickly packed the unshelled crawfish into the spare refrigerator (usually used for beverages) and left for work.

My hubby texted me Monday morning that the fridge wasn’t cold, could I check the settings when I got home. I check and the fridge is at least room temperature. We don’t know how long the crawfish have been sitting at room temperature, so we say bye-bye to the little fellows (and our Crawfish Nachos)!

I set about to begin salvaging or tossing the rest of the food and drink in the fresh food and freezer compartments, and notice that the freezer is still frozen. Upon further examination, I see water dripping from the roof of the fridge (top freezer setup). I also notice that there are 2 holes completely filled with ice, presumably leading to the defrost drain for the freezer.

My first action was to defrost the holes to attempt to allow the air through the system. I was able to feel some cold air coming through  but not enough to cool the fridge down significantly. I then started removing screws from the back of the freezer interior wall. First out was the ice maker that had not been used since the previous owners. Then the cover for the evaporator fan came down and out. At this point, I spot my primary problem Рthe fan was not so much as twitching. After reading several boards online about the fans in GE Refrigerators stopping, I came to realize that this is a fairly common problem. Luckily it has a surprisingly simple solution that involves tools as simple as a ratchet (or drill with a bit that fits the screw) and your hands.

I picked up the new motor for the fan at a Appliance Parts Shop about 20 miles away from my house for about $80. The motors are available online for about $50 shipped, but the Hubby wanted this problem gone. When I got the part home, I unscrewed the back wall to reveal the condenser (defrost?) coils. When you do this, it unplugs the light attached to the back wall. It was at that point that I decided to unplug the refrigerator/freezer (unit). Then I unscrewed one more piece which holds the fans and the motor itself.

The motor mount is held on with two screws, which free the motor mount once unscrewed. The motor can then be unplugged from the electrical connection. Two more screws remove the mount from the motor, and the new motor can replace the old. i then plug  the new motor into the electrical connection and plug in the unit Рthe fan is now purring like a kitten. I unplug the unit again, and reverse the steps to remove all of the panels. Finally, I plugged the unit back into the wall and let it cool off. A few hours later, it is good as new!

I was sorry to have such an expensive meal go to waste, but I am glad that the refrigerator was fixable and proud that I was able to do it myself. I will take spending $80 for a part over spending $600 on a new fridge any day!

Rolling Storage Bins

February 9th, 2013

For quite awhile, my husband has been storing old vinyl records he inherited from his parents under the pool table. I didn’t mind using the space for storage, but I did mind that they were being stored in beat up cardboard boxes that were impossible to move because of the weight. I have been wanting to buy crates for a long time, but most of the ones I have found were too expensive for their quality.

I started out by purchasing six 1×8 boards for the units I was making (enough for four crates). For each crate I needed:

2 – 18 inches
2 – 16.5 inches
2 – 14.5 inches

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The 18 inch pieces are butted together using pocket holes.

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I drill pocket holes along three sides of the 16.5″ pieces.

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And I also drill pocket hole along the bottom of the 14.5″ pieces

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I begin by clamping two sides together with a 90 degree angle clamp and connecting the pieces together with screws

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After all four sides are secured, I also screw the box frame onto the base (the 18″ pieces). Then, I attach casters to the base, and a handle to the front.

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I loaded the records into the bins and rolled them under the pool table

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Between the wood, screws, casters, and handles, each crate probably cost me about $20. Minus the casters and handles, each crate would have been about $12, the same as the crates from Michael’s, but much sturdier. All four crates were completed in about four hours.

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Picture Frame from Hardwood Flooring

February 2nd, 2013

Several years ago our church started remodelling our worship center. When it came time for the church to pull up the old flooring, they offered pieces of it to the congregation. My husband and I wanted to have a piece of church history, so we selected a few pieces. At the time, my idea was to turn it into a frame. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the tools I needed to complete the project until recently.

I took the pieces of wood and routed the tongue off one side and routed the bottom of the groove off of the other side. This left a lip for the glass, mat board, and backer board to sit in. I then mitered the edges at 45 degrees, and used my kreg jig to created pocket holes.

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I then screwed the pieces of wood together, making sure to clamp the edges together tightly so they pieces wouldn’t shift. I had an extra piece of glass lying around from another project, so I cut the glass, mat board, and backer board to fit.

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Once I get final approval on the project from the hubby, we will pick out photos and I will cut the openings for the pictures

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Table Top to Table

January 27th, 2013

I have a table top with no base, and I had no place in my house for such a large table if I did find a base. I tried donating it to Goodwill, but they wouldn’t take it without a base. It sat in my garage for 2 years, getting scratched and beaten up.

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Since it was too big to go anywhere, and I couldn’t get rid of it, I decided to cut the table in half.

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I started by taking out the supports on the underside of the table

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Then I removed the trim from the underside of the tabletop

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After all the excess trim was removed, I took a jigsaw and cut the top in half, reattached the trim. and added a 1×3 on the flat side of the top to provide support along the back.

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I went to the hardware store and bought 4 spindles, and attached the spindles as supports between the top half and bottom half

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Since the table is actually plywood, I sanded down the top and added wood filler so it could be restained

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I taped off the top surfaces so that I could paint the trim and legs.

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I then did several more coats of paint to age the table and stained the tops. I added a pillow to the bottom shelf for my pups, and placed it in my office for additional shelving

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