Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Also known as Taco Tuesday since the Lego movie came out and yes, we actually do eat Taco's every Tuesday.  It makes meal planning easy when there are several set days, I learned that from my mom.

For this week of Random Tuesday I have this lovely sign to present from Sonic in Tennessee, where we broke down this past summer for 3 days while waiting for our van to be fixed.

Stacy Uncorked

Monday, September 26, 2016

Sculpting With Kids 20mo - 8 years old

My husband and I are both artists but we both did art by ourselves as kids with whatever we could get our hands on.

As parents of 4 small children, we feel responsible to teach art and encourage them in a wide range of artistic endeavors.  I have no doubt that they will figure it out for themselves if they are so inclined, but I'd like to think that an early start will give them more confidence in trying new artistic mediums.  When I was younger I just assumed each art style was a singular pursuit, like if you were a painter then you only painted and so forth.

We can see that some of our kids are more artistically inclined but they all take an interest so we end up doing an art project and adjusting them for everyone's needs and age.

20 month old toddler through 4 year old's use Play Doh:

Older kid, 6 - 8, are starting to use adult clay's like Sculpey and Premo which get finer detail and require them to use more tools and techniques.

The Sculpey clay came with reference that the kids used to create these sculptures and I think once they gain confidence they will create their own characters.

I'm feeling a little rusty but the best way to teach is to sculpt along with them so here is my little aardvark:

Note: The links in this post are affiliate links.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to sell books on Amazon and make money!

I went through a phase in my 20's where I lived in Florida, had no kids, and bought a new book almost every week to read on the beach.  This was pre-internet streaming and we didn't have cable so reading was my primary source of entertainment.  Now I have a massive glut of book inventory - mostly chick lit from 2001 - 2008 that I will never read again because I only read books once.  There are some GREAT books in this collection but I don't have room to store these books.  

Today I posted 14 books on Amazon, you can find my store front HERE, the link takes you to feedback, select Products to see the books. Some of these are from conferences I've attended.  Big hug from me if you buy one of my books!!  They are priced competitively and all proceeds go to the refurbishment of our house.  

I've been selling my used books on Amazon for 4 years and I've found I can actually earn more per book than through used book sellers with the right books.  Here's how it works:

  1. Set up an Amazon Seller Account - the link is right here, or you can just scroll to the bottom of your Amazon page and click on "Sell on Amazon", then set up a Seller Account.
  2. Plug in the ISBN numbers for all books you want to sell.  Amazon will give you a suggested price that compares to other vendor prices after you put in the condition of the book.  

Here are the fees involved, this is important because if your book is priced too low, you could actually lose money:

  • Amazon Referral Fee – 15% of sell price (this seems to go away when you’ve posted more than 40 books) 
  • Amazon Variable Closing Fee $1.35
  • Amazon Per Item Fee $0.99
  • USPS Media Rate $2.60 on average for paperback (hint - the post office does not post their media rate but you must use it because it's almost $1.00 cheaper then paying by weight)

My benchmark is to earn close to $1.00 per book, if I can’t get this then it’s not worth the effort in my opinion.  To reach my target, I need to price my book at $2.25.  Here is a breakdown of the fees on a book I’ve posted recently:

  • Amazon Total Fees $2.68
  • USPS Media Rate $2.60
  • Total fees = $5.28
  • Sell Price is $2.25 + 3.99 shipping = $6.24
  • Profit $0.96
Amazon is great about showing you the lowest rate that other vendors are offering so if you see a low price like $0.01, don't bother posting the book because you would lose money after paying Amazon and shipping fees.  Once you've set your benchmark, like mine at $2.25, then you can reject posting any book that other vendors sell for lower than this price.  

I’ve got 14 books that are priced at $2.25 and above which will make an expected profit of $49.51 if all sell.  This is well worth the effort in my opinion.  The rest of my inventory that is worth $0.01 on Amazon will go to a yard sale or flea market sale.  

About those $0.01 books, have you ever wondered why someone would even bother selling a book for $0.01?  It's because the book has fallen in value and there are so many re-sellers that the book is only worth $0.01 + shipping.  If you advance to paying for a monthly $39.99 professional account, that takes away some of Amazon's fees but you'd need to be sure you can sell at least 40 books a month to break even on a $0.01 book. 

Note: The links in this post are affiliate links.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Stacy Uncorked

Over the past 2 months I've been mulling over my favorite blogging moments in 10 years and it brought me to internet meme's, of which I've participated in many but one comes to mind as the funniest and friendliest group and that is Random Tuesday Thoughts!  So I thought I'd tip toe back into the group and offer my two cents :)

Let's see - what randomness can I offer this week:

In the saving money category, we've decided to cancel our Apple Valley Trash Service, saving $50.85 quarterly.  Hubs is going to get a $130 annual dump permit and haul our trash to the dump.  It sounds nice, in theory!  

Monday was "Talk Like A Pirate Day", which we have celebrated for 7 years!  I was a little surprised at the lack of news, last year Disney jumped on board and there was other news coverage.  This year I don't recall seeing anything in the news but that just makes it more niche and special.  Our kids are so enthusiastic about this day that they actually thought we were going to let them stay home from school to celebrate all day.  Actually they first thought it was like a national holiday.  Sorry sweeties!

I noticed Stacy wrote about coffee on her post, which reminds me, we're really low!  I guess we best be planning our trip to the local coffee shop this week!  Yeah!!!

That's all I got for now!  XO to the Random community!!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Talk Like A Pirate Day - 2016

We've been celebrating Talk Like a Pirate Day for 7 years now and it's become so epic that this year our kids actually assumed it was a national holiday and they were surprised when they had to go to school.  For the last few year's I've seen quite a few businesses jump into the fray, like Krispy Kream gives one dozen free donuts to anyone who talks and dresses like a pirate and Disney was getting in on the action but this year I didn't see anything in the news or on Facebook so I guess we're back to be a niche group.  

It was kinda nice to have this as a school day because we like to create a treasure map and put clues all over our yard and we can do this while they are in school.

Here's tiny tot looking for a clue.

  Over here Evie!

In the past, we've had more than one in tears throughout the treasure hunt and this was resolved by making them take turns to read the map.  We put little treasures at every stop which kept it interesting.  In prior years we had put the entire treasure at the end. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Libby's Pumpkin is not what it seems, or so Joe Sevier would like us to believe

Y'all, I'm a self professed expert in pumpkins and I base this on my experience in growing them and using them exclusively for all pumpkin related baking since 2012.  So today, when I read this article saying that Libby's is not using 100% pumpkin, I started out feeling a little smug, but by the end I was just plain annoyed with the author because the article is peppered with inaccuracies.

The article starts by saying your Starbucks Pumpkin Latte is in fact a Squash Spice Latte because you've been conditioned by Libby's pumpkin cans to actually eat squash.  Hang on a second, isn't pumpkin actually a squash?  Also, the bulk of pumpkin flavor in ANY pumpkin recipe comes from a combination of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger - or sometimes a combination of all in what is called a pumpkin pie spice - at most you might say Starbucks drink is a Spice Latte but it's called marketing to add pumpkin in the name!    

The next point this author tries to make is that when we think of pumpkins, we think of Jack-O-Lanterns at Halloween, he then says "which, while edible, isn't good for cooking".  Now this is simply not true!  In 2012, when I first started cooking with pumpkins, I cooked a big ol' pumpkin before I even knew about those small darling sugar pumpkins.  The taste was fine!  Once you add all those spices, it taste like the pumpkin I used to buy for years from Libby's!  I've since bought many sugar pumpkins and I've found some have a brighter orange flesh which is closer to what I see in the Libby's brand and probably have been conditioned to believe is more authentically pumpkin.  I recently cooked a big pumpkin from my mom's garden that had pale yellow flesh but I think it hadn't quite finished ripening because the flesh was more textured, less dense.  I can tell you the resulting pumpkin muffins turned out awesome and were gone in 24 hours!

Next the author tells us Libby's is using Dickson Squash:

"Libby's Pure Pumpkin—the quintessential American canned pumpkin brand—is responsible for 85% of canned pumpkin sold in the world. When we think of a pumpkin, we usually imagine either the rotund, bright orange specimen that we buy up at Halloween to carve into a jack-o-lantern—which, while edible, isn't good for cooking—or its smaller, tastier cousin, the sugar pumpkin. But instead of those pumpkin varieties, Libby's grows a proprietary strain of tan-skinned Dickinson squash. "
Again, pumpkin is in the squash family, eye roll,  and I believe that this version is in fact considered a pumpkin!  Check out this page that calls the Dickson Pumpkin incredible!  So does this mean the author's only claim lies in what he believes to be the consumer's assumed belief that Libby's is using Jack-O-Lantern pumpkins when in fact they are using a Dickson Pumpkin?  This is just ridiculous.  

I personally love working with real pumpkins and I will always advocate for working with whole foods when it's a dietary staple to save money but if you're not big into pumpkin and it's a once a fall thing to make a pie then buy the dang Libby's can! 

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Tomato, Mozzarella & Sausage Baked Pasta Recipe

This recipe is adapted from a Fine Cooking recipe - I tend to find their recipes have too many steps for quick evening meal and I like my baked pasta's broken down into bowl steps like a lasagna.  It's just easier for me to do one bowl/pot, walk away and come back in an hour - such is the life with small ones and a work from home job, I have to work in spurts.  I've changed the ingredients to make it easier to work with items I'm more likely to have in my kitchen liked dried herbs - I just can't seem to make good use of fresh herbs in time, I'd say if you want fresh herbs, check out the FC link above.

  • 35oz whole tomatoes with juice (or one quart of canned tomatoes)
  • 2 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 t oregano dried spice
  • 1 t parsley dried spice
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t pepper
Place peeled garlic and onion into food process and dice small, then place them into a skillet with a little olive oil and cook at low temperature for 10 minutes.

Place onion and garlic mixture into medium sauce pan with the tomatoes and spices.  Cook on low temperature for 1-2 hours.

  • 12oz Italian Sausage
The sausage should be removed from casings (it can be bought without casings) and cooked at medium temperature until browned.  It should be drained of all grease and it can be then cooked in the tomato sauce or simply added to the pasta right before baking.

  • 1 bag Egg Noodles or 1 box Ziti
About 45 minutes before you are ready to eat, start a pot of water for the noodles and cook per directions on the packaging.

  • 1 cup Ricotta 
  • 1 cup Parmesan Cheese (I use the grated can version)
  • 1 egg
While noodles are cooking, stir all cheese ingredients in a small bowl.

  • Mozzarella Cheese 8oz grated
Set oven temperature to 375.  Once noodles are finished cooking, drain the water and place noodles into a large pot for oven baking.  Add sauce and stir evenly throughout noodles.  Add the meat and mix evenly.  Then add the cheese sauce in large lump segments and stir into the noodles.  Add half the mozzarella cheese and stir evenly, then add remaining mozzarella cheese to the top.  

Bake in oven for 30 minutes.  

In summary, my brain just works better for recipes that are broken down into steps.  I do love the original Fine Cooking recipe, but I find it's harder to work on a recipe from beginning to end without a break and to make sure I've got the more specialty ingredients on hand.  So this is my quick version and I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do!