Fall & Halloween Ideas for Parties & Porch

Halloween is coming upon us fast! Can you believe how time flies? It seems like a few days agohalloween ideas when the redbuds and dogwoods were in bloom here in my part of the world. Now the nights are downright chilly and the days have a soft warmth, which I love. The time is at hand to start coming up with Halloween ideas, as well as fall decorations.

Halloween Ideas for your Party

I turn to Pinterest for ideas for any occasion. There are so many great DIY Halloween ideas, fall decorations, fun recipes, and everything else you could ever come up with. Some of my favorite Halloween pins:

  • This skull cheese ball tickles me. I had planned to make it for our Halloween party, but we’ve decided not to have one and go to a haunted house, pumpkin patch, and other fall goings-on instead.
  • How about this all meat party table? I love it, although I wasn’t going to do this one for our party-too costly. But so cool!
  • Now this one I was so going to do! A bowl of worms, hehe. Only I was going to put alcohol in them for jello shooters. 🙂

Here are some great online stores to get your supplies for your party, costume, and decorations:

  • Dollar Days is a great place to shop for party favors and decorations at wholesale prices. When you sign up for an account with them you get free shipping on your first order. So why not check out the Dollar Days Halloween Store. You may find just what you need!
  • A quirky, outside-the-box online store you’ll want to check out is Things You Never Knew Existed. They have some really cool things. Click this link and receive 20% off all Halloween items!
  • Annie’s has all kinds of craft patterns and supplies, including Halloween. Check them out for some fall and Halloween ideas.

Fall Decorations for your Porch & Lawn

Here’s a link on Pinterest for 27 Fall Porch Decorating Ideas. Love these! Lots of great ideas to pretty up the outside of your home.

You can make pretty wreaths from bittersweet. Bittersweet grows in a large portion of thefall decorations United States. It is a thick vine with leaves and towards fall they develop orange “balls”. These balls open up in the fall and expose pretty bright berries. You can do cuttings for flower arrangements, as well.

Another thing I love for fall (or any occasion, really) is burlap flags and wall hangings. Here’s a really cute one.

I hope you come away from this post with some inspiration. It’s a great time of year for street fairs, festivals, bonfires, and decorating.

If you try out any of these ideas and/or websites, please let me know. I’d love to see photos, too.

Halloween ideas


crochet tutorials

Crochet Tutorials & More Round-Up

Wanna learn a new crochet stitch? Or need a refresher? Or maybe you’re looking for some free patterns. Today I’m bringing you some websites that have great crochet tutorials and patterns. I’ve gotten away from the homemade part of this blog. So I thought it was time to share some posts from yarn/crochet sites. And this is mostly because I’m terrible at explaining stitches. 🙂

  • Annie’s-Formerly known as Annie’s Attic, this is the link to Annie’s stitch guide. The tutorials include basic stitches, advanced stitches, how to increase and decrease, and much more. They also offer a free Talking Crochet newsletter sent straight to your e-mail. You can sign up here. Annie’s also has magazine subscriptions available. Another great perk with Annie’s is they offer classes. Learn new crochet skills from top experts with Annie’s Online Classes.
  • Red Heart Yarn-They offer video tutorials at this link. Videos are probably more helpful to some people, so you can actually see the stitches being done. Here’s a fun contest from Redcrochet tutorials Heart. For I Love Yarn Day, they are sponsoring an online scavenger hunt for a chance to win a prize worth up to $1,500! I’m planning to do it if I can remember. Red Heart sells their products online as well.
  • Lion Brand Yarn-Their website has a Learning Center with tips and crochet tutorials. Did you know Vanna White has her own yarn with Lion Brand? Products are also available on the site for purchase.
  • All Free Crochet-This is their tutorial page. The page includes crochet tutorials for stitches as well as how to read patterns. They also sell products and have giveaways.
  • Yarn Wars-This is Yarn Wars’ tutorial page. There are also free patterns and contests. Yarn Wars also has a Facebook page where folks in the group can show off their creations.
  • Crochet Pattern Central-I’ve been using this site for years. There’s a tutorial page and tons of free pattern links.
  • Love Crochet-They have free patterns and sell products as well.
  • Yarnspirations-You can find free patterns at this site too, as wells as products to buy.

There are tons more great websites out there with crochet tutorials, cool products, and free patterns. I shared links to a couple of crochet bloggers in a previous post that have some cool patterns. And a pattern for an Easter chick that doesn’t really have to be for Easter can be found here.


So once you check out some crochet tutorials and you’re ready to get started, here are some products I love and also some specials:

  • Ergonomic crochet hooks-Oh my goodness, I love these! They have a nice cushy handle. Ifcrochet tutorials you crochet a lot, these hooks will help with sore wrists and fingers.
  • I Love This Yarn-I really do love this yarn! You can get it at Hobby Lobby, my favorite store.
  • Love Crochet has 15% of DK yarns and hooks, using the Code HOOD15.
  • Yarnspirations has 25% off Bernat Softee Chunky and Baby Chunky yarns.
  • Lion Brand has a clearance page on their website.
  • Red Heart has 10% Unforgettable Waves yarn.

I hope you’ve found some useful information from this post. I’d love to hear from anyone who has used any of these websites or products.

Traveling Kentucky-Bittersweet Cabins, Renfro Valley

Have you ever been to Kentucky? If not, you’re missing out; of course, I’m biased. I’ve lived in the state for 18 years and most of my roots come from here. And I work in Renfro Valley.

Kentucky has it all except the ocean-mountains, hills, lakes, streams, flat and rolling farmland, plus lots of beautiful backroads. To me, it’s like no other place. Renfro Valley is one of those special Kentucky places where you can go back in time for a while. The Valley is located just off I-75 at Exit 62.

There are quite a few attractions in Renfro Valley to enjoy. I’m focusing on the Bittersweet Cabin Village in this post, but will also include a short list of other attractions.

Bittersweet Cabin Village

I love the Bittersweet Cabins. Located in Kentucky’s Country Music Capital and run by the Mount Vernon-Rockcastle County Tourist Commission,renfro valley these cabins are definitely a step back in time. They’ve been brought in from different areas of the state. Even the gift shop was once a log cabin, built in 1880.

There’s a free self-guided tour of the cabins, which include a blacksmith shop, farrier shop, general store, broom shop, and more. Two times a year, the first weekend of June and October, there are live demonstrations by a blacksmith, broom maker, and others.

renfro valleyThe gift shop is filled with handmade items from local artisans as well as souvenirs. And there’s a resident cat, Punkin, that everyone loves. She sometimes walks around with folks as they tour the cabin village.

One of my favorite things available at the cabins is the Little Lending Library on the front porch of the gift shop. It’s a cabinet with books. Take a book, leave a book. I just love this idea. There’s a campground and motel nearby, so this is a great way to help out travelers when they finish all the books they’ve brought on their trip.

For more information and more beautiful pictures, visit their website.

renfro valley

Kentucky Music Hall of Fame & Museum

renfro valleyAlso run by the Tourism Commission and located just a 1/4 mile from the Bittersweet Cabins in the old stables of John Lair, the founder of the famous Renfro Valley Barn Dance. The museum is filled with memorabilia of musicians, singers, writers, and managers. There is a small fee to  tour the museum. Here’s their website for more information.

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center

Next to the Bittersweet Cabins, the entertainment center provides high quality music from theirrenfro valley house band as well as famous headliners such as Loretta Lynn and Travis Tritt. There’s a quaint village with gift shops and a restaurant. An RV park, cabins, and motel are also on site for your stay. Different times of the year, they host festivals in their field. For more information, check out their website or call 1-800-765-7464. For a list of stores in the village, visit this site.

Lake Linville

A great place to fish and camp, the boat dock is located just a couple miles from Renfro Valley.renfro valley-lake linville There’s a bait shop and a fabulous restaurant, Back Porch Smokehouse, overlooking the lake. For more information on pontoon rentals, camping, and fishing tournaments, call 606-256-0636.

Other Nearby Restaurants

  • Limestone Grille-75 Holt Ln., Mt. Vernon, KY 40456. They offer daily lunch and dinner specials.
  • Marcella’s Farm to Fork-216 Cedar Rapids Rd., Mt. Vernon, KY 40456. Marcella serves up home-cooked food. She uses local producers as much as possible.
  • El Cazador-Just off of Exit 59 in Mt. Vernon, KY. They offer specials just about every day on Facebook.

In later posts, I’ll cover more information on the area. In the meantime, y’all come. The leaves will soon be changing; don’t miss out on the orange, yellow, and scarlet beauty.

** P.S. If you’re interested in starting a website, Bluehost is offering a special for September 15 & 16 only. Use this link and get your website for only $2.95/month!

The Importance of Being Independent

Do you consider yourself to be an independent person? For years I thought I was until I found myself living alone for the first time when I was 42. That’s when I  realized I wasn’t nearly as independent as I thought.

I worked, took care of the bills, went out of town alone, and set up at craft fairs by myself. I thought I could take care of myself. And I can, but at the beginning I struggled greatly. I soon found that I’d been far too dependent on my husband for everything.

When you’re young it’s easier to be influenced into doing or thinking what others say you should be doing and thinking. This is especially true when you’re not confident with who youindependent are. Going straight from your parents’ home to a place you share with a significant other can put you in danger of losing your identity before you have one.

This may not be true of everyone; some kids are independent long before they should have to be. And some kids are strong-willed and focused and already have a sense of who they are. But I’ll wager that most of us are not these things until we’re on our own for a while. Even if you live at home, there are ways to become more independent.

Reasons to be More Independent

I think that all of these reasons can lead to more success in life, whether it’s your family, social, or business life.

  • When you’re independent, the need to rely on others diminishes. Not that it’s bad to need people sometimes, but it’s a great thing when you realize that you can do a lot for yourself without having to always count on someone else or put someone else out. And let’s face it-there are going to be times when no one is there for you, unfortunately.
  • As you begin to discover yourself, your confidence level will rise. It’s so freeing, especially when you realize you can be or do anything you desire.
  • It helps you with making decisions. Decisions becomes easier when you’re confident and have been thinking for yourself. Dependence on someone else’s choices can become a habit-it’s so much easier, but it can cause you to never use or know how to use your own judgment.

How to Become More Independent

Sometimes it’s tough to be more independent, but these suggestions can help.

  • Don’t agree with others’ opinions/beliefs unless you actually feel the same way. Think about the subject for yourself and form your own opinion. Getting into the habit of thinking for yourself will go a long way towards being independent.
  • Don’t belittle yourself-accept who you are, flaws and all, while at the same time actively work on improving any areas you’re not satisfied with.
  • Try not to be too emotionally attached to others. I’m not suggesting you should be cold-hearted. Don’t throw away your relationships in pursuit of independence. We all need people in our lives to love and cherish, but we must also learn to be on our own at times and not hinge our happiness or success on someone else.
  • Take charge of your independence. Open your own checking account, start saving money, pursue a career that makes you happy, find activities you like and do them solo occasionally.
  • Learn how to do things that aren’t typically your job, like mowing the lawn, cleaning, and changing the oil in the car.

Live Happier

It’s my belief that being an independent person allows you to be live a more free life. It bringsindependent confidence that you can make it on your own if need be. It brings the knowledge that you can go anywhere or do anything without others if there’s no one available to spend time with you. Being independent frees you from fear and gives you choices you wouldn’t have realized you had before.

It’s not always easy to be independent. It can be a struggle, but it’s worth the struggle. Just remember that you don’t have to cut yourself off from others to become independent. But be a leader sometimes instead of a follower.

Check out these great inspirational quotes regarding independence. There are some really great ones.



make money online

Make Money Online: 37 Websites to Try

Looking for ways to make extra cash? Me, too. I’ve been on the search for a while now for that magic website that I can make a killing from. I haven’t found it yet, exactly, but I have found a bunch of sites where I can make a little extra. Hopefully you’ll find a way to make money online with some of these sites.

Today I’m sharing 37 sites with you where you can earn money and/or gift cards plus a bonus 4make money online more sites for freebies. There are so many out there and I’m sure the following is just scraping the surface of what’s available. I’ll be sharing more later as I find them, do the research, and try them out.

I have used most of these myself and still use quite a lot of them. So far I haven’t gotten rich off of them, but the extra money sure has helped. A few years ago I didn’t even realize there was such a thing as a legitimate way to make money online besides ebay and craigslist. Now that I’ve begun researching I’m finding a lot of legit sites.

Some of these I’ve talked about already, but it’s the first time for many of these websites. I’ll tell you which ones I’ve tried, which ones suck, and which ones I love.

Data Entry & Transcribing

If you enjoy data entry, then you may really like these sites. You’re not going to get rich, but you will make money online from the comfort of your home.

  1. Clickworker-Data entry or search chores for a few pennies each. Once you get used to everything, the pennies add up. I haven’t done much with them because I’m satisfied with the Smart Crowd and Mturk, but here’s my referral code if you’re interested.
  2. Leapforce-Perform research evaluations. I didn’t find out how much Leapforce pays, but they pay once per month. I haven’t signed up for this one, but have saved it for further research.
  3. Smart Crowd-If you’ve followed me much you know I love the Smart Crowd. It’s data entry and the pay is generally 35 or 60 cents/1,000 keystrokes. For more information, check out their website or this post.
  4. Mturk-Run by Amazon, this is another mostly data entry site. There are also other tasks available. I’ve written a little about this site here. I can usually earn more with the Smart Crowd, but on days when SC doesn’t have enough work to keep me busy, Mturk is my go-to.
  5. iSoftStone-Another crowdsourcing site for small tasks. I’ve heard good things about this site from other bloggers, but I can’t seem to get my profile done right so that I can begin working. It’s on the back burner for now.
  6. Literably-Audio transcription of children reading. The clips are generally 30 seconds to 1 minute long. There are shortcut keys to delete, substitute, and add words and sounds to the transcript. It’s sort of complicated at first. They are accepting new workers right now. I think the pay is something like 50-80 cents per minute of audio transcribed.

Freelance Writing & Virtual Assistant

For me, it’s been hard to make money online or otherwise with my writing, but I enjoy it. Here are some sites to use if you like to put pen to paper.

  1. Virtual Vocations-If you’re a writer or a virtual assistant, this site has freelance job opportunities. A paid subscription provides you with “full access to telecommute jobs database, hand-screened and researched daily.” Memberships start at $15.99/month. I’m very interested in doing this in the future.
  2. Freelancer-Like Virtual Vocations, Freelancer is a site that provides freelance writing opportunities. With Freelancer, however, you bid on the jobs. Their plans start at $5.99/month.
  3. Flex Jobs-Pretty much the same as Freelancer. Yearly plans start at $49.95. I have read a few reviews and it seems like a good company to go with.
  4. Contena-They only allow so many workers at a time, but I do know they are allowing members right now. There is a fee for access to their writing gigs.
  5. Info Barrel-I’ve written a little about this website in a previous post. They accept originalmake money online articles written by you and not already published elsewhere. They pay a share of the profits from the advertising they put on your page.
  6. Ezine-Pretty much the same as Info Barrel. I have created a profile and received a bunch of emails about getting started. I’m very interested in trying out this site, when/if I have time.
  7. Blogging-Setting up a blog is not as hard as you might think. Blue Host is offering web hosting for $3.45/month. There are several ways to earn money with a blog. Set up ad accounts with Google Adsense, Chitika, or others. Be an affiliate marketer with companies such as Amazon. Or sell your own products.

Paid to Click & Survey Websites

I’ve lumped these two types together because a lot of paid to click sites have survey opportunities as well.

  1. Gifthulk-Get paid to click on ads, watch videos, and take surveys. You can then cash out your earnings for gift cards. If you start an account with Gifthulk let me know; I may be able to send you some codes to earn Hulk Coins. Here’s my referral code: AC939432
  2. Swagbucks-My very favorite paid to click site! I make at least $1/day with them for justmake money online clicking around. For more information, check out these two previous posts.
  3. Inbox Dollars-Much like the above two sites. I mostly just click on emails these days and get paid 2 cents each time I do. Once, I won a $50 Target gift card in their sweepstakes. They have lots of other things to do too. I’ve included Inbox Dollars in this post.
  4. Survey Downline-a survey site. I don’t enjoy doing surveys, but if you do, this is a great website to go with. For a little more information, check out this post.
  5. My Survey-I haven’t done this one in a long time. But it’s worth it if you like surveys.
  6. Pinecone Research-I haven’t done this one in a long time, either. It’s a great survey site, but it’s invitation only. Here’s an invitation link. Pinecone Research pays $3 per survey and sometimes you actually get full-sized products to try in your home before doing a survey.
  7. Cash Crate-much the same as Survey Downline, but Cashcrate has a lot of paid to click things available, too. Just for signing up, they credit your account $1. Once your account has reached $20 they will send you a check.


  1. Foap-an online app. Take photos with your phone and submit them on the app (it’s verymake money online simple) and then others rate them. You can build albums with anyone’s photos on the app. If your picture is sold, you earn $5. If someone’s photo that’s in your album sells, you earn 25 cents.
  2. Twenty20-Pretty much the same as Foap, but there’s no app. I can’t find how much you earn from a sale, but something tells me it’s $20. 🙂
  3. Pay Your Selfie-another online app. You post selfies based on the app’s requests and get paid. It may be a selfie with Tostito’s or a selfie at the pool. The pay varies, but all the ones I’ve done have been from 20 cents to $1 each.

Make Money Online Selling Your Wares

Whether it’s something you’ve had lying around the house, something you’ve handcrafted, or a service you offer, there are lots of choices for selling your wares. You should have no problem finding a website to help you make money online.

  1. Fiverr-Sell your products or services with this site. Check out my post all about Fiverr.
  2. Craigslist-I’ve sold a few items on there and it’s nice because you can sell local.
  3. Ebay-We all know about this one. But did you know they’re now offering valet services? Send your items in and let them do the work for you. For more information, check out their link.
  4. Etsy-Like ebay, but you sell handmade items and crafting supplies. I’ve sold a few items with etsy. It’s a great place to go for ideas, as well.
  5. Artfire-Another great place to sell handmade and crafting supplies. I’ve sold with them as well.
  6. Facebook Yard Sale Pages-I sell often on there and it’s simple. Just list the item, meet the buyer locally, and you’re done. You’re just out gas money.
  7. Social Media Business Pages-If you have a product you sell or are a blogger, making yourself a business page on Twitter, Facebook, etc. will help out a lot. When someone likes or follows your page their friends will see it and possibly bring more business to you. I participate in Bloggers2Brands and Pinning Ain’t Easy on Facebook. The purpose of these is to share, comment, and like other bloggers’ posts and pins and they do the same for you.
  8. Amazon-They have a program called Amazon FBA. It’s the same premise as ebay valet. I really want to do this! The Selling Family and Side Hustle Nation both have information on the program. And here’s my recent post with a little bit of information on FBA.

Shopping Receipts & Rebates

  1. Ibotta-I just joined and I already love it! Ibotta is a rebate system. You choose items you plan to buy and after you make the purchase, verify it and they deposit money to your account. If you redeem your first rebate within 7 days of joining, they will deposit $10 to your account! The items on Ibotta range from groceries to pharmacy to health and beauty and more. Sign up today!
  2. Receipt Hog-I did this one for a short time but I kept forgetting to scan my receipts. Receiptmake money online Hog is an app where you scan all of your receipts and earn coins. Read a little more about it.
  3. Ebates-Another rebate website. Make money online by shopping through Ebates.
  4. Checkout 51-Pretty much the same as Ibotta. Buy grocery items, scan your receipt, and receive money in your account.

Website Testing

  1. UserLytics-They provide you with a website and you will do a usability test. While doing the test, you will be viewed on webcam for reactions. They pay is $5 to $50 per test. I haven’t done this one yet.
  2. Enroll-The pay on this one is much less and the available tests are not very frequent. But it’s much easier than UserLytics. You just click on which web page you like best and type why. I’ve received 20 cents to 60 cents for each test.

Bonus: Freebies

  1. BzzAgent-Receive free products to try and share your review with folks on social media. After you sign up, fill out some short surveys so BzzAgent can get to know your needs better and match you up with a campaign.
  2. Influenster-Works about the same as BzzAgent. On both of these sites, linking up your socialfree stuff media is important.
  3. PINCHMe-Every Tuesday PINCHMe offers free samples if your demographics qualify you. They also have other discounted offers.
  4. Crowdtap-I just joined Crowdtap recently and I like it, but I don’t have time to do much. You join up with a brand and answer very short surveys and sometimes a mission where you will write comments for social media and so on. Points add up and can be redeemed for gift cards and other things.

Go Ahead, I Dare you to Make Money Online!

That’s all for this post, but I’ll be doing more in depth posts on some of these websites.

It’s not that hard to make money online. You may not make enough to quit your job, but anything extra is a plus.

I hope you’ll try some of these websites and let me know your experience with them. With any luck, you’ll find one or two that will really improve your finances. And I seriously do want to hear from you!


Blog Round-Up: Fave Posts on Finances, Recipes & More

As you can tell, I don’t stick with one subject (or niche) on this blog. I like to write about a variety of subjects: finances, self-improvement, recipes, etc. I also follow a number of other bloggers. So this week I’m doing a blog round-up, sharing with you those blogs and posts that I find interesting and that go along with some of the same things I write about.


Earning Money Online

  • The Selling Family-Jessica Larrew does a great job of helping you through every detail of selling on Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon). I haven’t started this side hustle yet, but I’m reading all the emails from Jessica as I have time so that when I’m ready to begin, I’ll know what to do. I’m hoping when I have the finances for it, I’ll have a great little side business. Here’s her post “A Beginners Guide For Starting An Amazon FBA Business“. You can also sign up for her Amazon Boot Camp.
  • Side Hustle Nation-Nick Loper is fantastic! He has so much information on his website. There are a lot of ideas for side ventures and tons of interviews and tips to get you started. financesAmazon FBA is also one his side hustles, but my favorite post from him is “99 Side Hustle Business Ideas You Can Start Today”.
  • The Work at Home Wife-blog by Angie Nelson. She has a lot of great work-at-home tips and ideas. I joined her Facebook Community Group and posted a concern about my blog and she answered it with a great tip. I’ve noticed that she really tries to help out others trying to make a living at home.

Saving Money

Personal Development

  • Live Purposefully Now-Elle Sommer and her staff writers provide tons of self-improvement posts. One such post is “5 Ways to Cultivate Self-Love and Reclaim Your Life“. There are many others.
  • The Grief Toolbox-Offers information about the grieving process and tools to help you through and find hope once again. A great website if you’re coping with loss and/or feeling alone in your grief.
  • Steve Pavlina-Steve’s blog is all about “Personal Development for Smart People”. He talks about “conscious growth” and finding your purpose. Along with Elle Sommer, he has a lot of self-improvement information.



  • My Merry Messy Life-Sara provides posts on crochet patterns, food, and living green. She has lots of great ideas. This link will take you to her free crochet patterns page.
  • There are just too many great crochet blogs out there to list very many, so I’m just going to provide a link to my Pinterest board for crochet patterns. There are some absolutely darling ones in this board.

I hope you’ve enjoyed checking out these blogs and pins. I’d love to hear from you about them, especially if you’ve tried any of the recipes or tips.

Chicken Goulash Recipe Challenge

I have a challenge for you today! I’m sharing a chicken goulash recipe I came up with the other day and I want you to try it and make variations to it. Then I would love, love, love it if you would comment and share what you did!  We can all use new recipe ideas for dinner.

I wasn’t sure what to call this, but my boyfriend said it was chicken goulash, so I’m going with that. While it’s not technically a goulash recipe, It is much like it, minus the tomatoes and broccoli. And it’s possible it would be good with a can of tomatoes. I may have to try that next time.

So I had this big pack of boneless chicken tenders and I wanted to do something different with ingredients goulash recipeit. I also had a few mushrooms and half a head of broccoli that I didn’t want to go to waste. I get mad at myself when I don’t use up veggies before they go bad.

I went to the pantry for some type of pasta to throw in and a box of mac n cheese caught my eye. I grabbed the cream of chicken soup while I was in there, but I bet it would have been just as great with cream of mushroom soup since there are mushrooms in this goulash recipe.

The jalapeno pepper came into play because someone gave us a few from their garden. I don’t like really spicy food so I just put a small amount in, but obviously, you can leave it out or put more in according to your taste.

I didn’t use measurements on the veggies, but as you can see from the photo, I only had a small amount of each. This is the kind of recipe where you can change up everything. That’s what makes it so easy, tasty, economical, and versatile. Here’s a link to a hamburger/pasta recipe that’s along the same lines.

Chicken Goulash

  • 1 T. oil
  • 2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, cut in half length-wise and sliced thinly
  • 1/2 tsp. jalapeno pepper, cut very small and thin
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • broccoli florets
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 box macaroni and cheese dinner, including cheese
  • red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste

Brown the chicken in oil. About halfway through, add the sliced onion and jalapeno. When the chicken is browned, add the rest of the ingredients. Cover lightly and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.

This is quite economical to make. I used off-brand mac n cheese and soup. And using up whatgoulash recipe you have in the fridge is a great way to save money. It certainly beats throwing food out.

A can of tomatoes might do the trick to make this dish more pretty as it’s not very colorful, but all in all, it turned out great and was a huge hit.

I hope you make this goulash recipe and will share the changes you’ve made to it. Don’t forget my challenge! 🙂

Earning Money with the Smart Crowd: A Review

I’ve talked about the Smart Crowd in some previous posts. You can find those posts here and here. I didn’t go into much detail then so I thought I’d review it for you today. It’s a great way to earn a little extra income, but you probably won’t be able to make enough money to support yourself.

What is the Smart Crowd?

The Smart Crowd is a crowdsourcing data entry website, meaning that the work available is done by a group of people online from home. It’s run by Lionbridge and used to go by the name Virtual Bee.

Workers are paid 35 cents per 1,000 keystrokes on most files and 60 cents per 1,000 keystrokes on a few others. So as you can see, you’re not going to get rich from this side hustle, but it adds up faster than you might think.

Data entry workers are paid through Dwolla, which is just like PayPal. You are paid twice a month as long as your balance is at least $30 by the 15th and last day of the month. The Smart Crowd transfers your earnings to Dwolla which you can then transfer to your checking account.

How to Get Started with the Smart Crowd

To register, go to their website and sign up with your personal information and choose some interests and abilities. You will then be able to take some short keying and reading comprehension tests-nothing very difficult. Once you have completed the testing all you have to do is wait for an email from them, approving or denying your registration.

It seems like it took several weeks before I heard back. As a matter of fact, I had forgotten about it altogether. But I did hear back and I’ve been keying for them for a little over a year. In that time I have earned over $800. Keep in mind, though, that part of the time I worked a full-time job and after that I was busy with this blog and other online interests. So all in all, I think I’ve done pretty well.

Types of Work Available

I’ve included this screenshot so you can see what kind of work I do for the Smart Crowd. It may vary per worker depending on your skills, including speaking other languages.

Inline image

As you can see, I’ve earned $7.02 today and $60.68 this month in only the first 10 days of August. I’ve worked 2-4 hours each day while watching TV. The work available to me at the moment of this picture was Dollars Only and Numeric. You key one line at a time and hit enter.

For Dollars Only, you key only dollars, no cents. Sometimes the files will be Alphanumeric, Multiple Choice, Decimals, and others. There are instructions for each type, but generally nothing confusing.

Depending on your evaluations, there may be other types of work available to you, such as searching online for pay.

Final Thoughts

I totally recommend the Smart Crowd to earn some extra pocket money. I wouldn’t count on it to pay your bills, but it’s still a great little side hustle.

You may have heard bad things about the pay. I admit, the pay isn’t much, but recently they discovered an error in their system. We weren’t getting paid for certain types of entries, but the error was corrected and they back paid everyone. I received over $60 back pay. Now that it’s fixed I’ve noticed a big difference in my earnings each day.

If you’re looking for ways to earn money from home, the Smart Crowd is a trustworthy side job. Let me know if you sign up or any thoughts you may have.

Grandma’s 5 Hour Stew Recipe

I have a great stew recipe to share with you today, and I hope you’ll love it. Although I don’t make this stew very often, it’s special to me because it was my Grandma’s recipe. Every time I do make it, memories come flooding back of her in the kitchen. She was a great cook, having learned a lot from her German mother-in-law.

The difference between this stew and others I’ve made is that you don’t brown the meat andstew recipe you bake it at a low temperature, instead of on top of the stove. I guess the slow-cooking is what makes it tender.

I’ve written the stew recipe out just as she had it. I’ve made some changes and note them below. I’m not sure how many years ago she began making this stew, or where the recipe came from, but she’s been gone for more than 30 years, so it’s an oldie!

Five Hour Stew
2 pounds stew meat
1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
3 onions, thinly sliced
6 carrots, sliced fairly thick
1 cup celery, sliced fairly thick
4-5 potatoes, cut into large pieces
1/2 cup seasoned croutons
1 T. salt & sugar
3 T. minute tapioca
1/2 cup red wine

Don’t brown the meat.  Mix all ingredients in a covered casserole.  Bake covered for 4-5 hours at 250 degrees and stir occasionally. I’ve found that it works best in a dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. It seems to make the meat and vegetables more tender when using a lid instead of aluminum foil.

Rather than using red wine, I use beef broth or add water and a bouillon cube. I do one of these variations because I don’t usually have red wine in the pantry.

Instead of minute tapioca, about 2 hours into the cooking time, I mix a little water and flour together (make sure it’s smooth) and stir it in to the stew-that helps make it a little thicker.

I have no idea what the croutons are for, but I always add them-you don’t even know they’re there when it’s finished.  I’m sure the croutons could be left out, though.

Serve it up with some nice crusty French bread and real butter and you’re sure to have a crowd-pleaser.

I hope you enjoy this stew recipe and it becomes one your stand-bys. For more recipes, check out some of my other posts.

If you fix this great dish, please let me know what you think of it and what changes you may have made. Or share your own recipe; that would be awesome!

free activities

20 (Mostly) Free Activities for the Kids

Summer is in full swing and the kids are home climbing the walls, right? Need to get them out of the house or entertained? I’ve come up with some ideas for (mostly) free activities to do withfree activities your children to help the summer pass by more smoothly.

Some of these ideas are probably no-brainers for most parents, but I threw them in the list anyway. 🙂

Outdoor Adventures

  1. Most towns have a small local park. Take them to play on the equipment and have a cheap picnic on the ground. Sometimes county parks have low-cost paddleboats for rent.
  2. Go swimming. One of our local water parks is half price after 4 p.m. And you can search the internet for discount coupons or coupon codes. Or find a lake where you can swim for free.
  3. State and national parks are free! Cumberland Falls and Perryville National Historic Site are(mostly) free activities two that are fairly close to my home. Sometimes there are special events at these parks, so check their websites before you go. Along with some exercise, you can use these excursions as learning experiences. The last time I went to the Falls there was a cool reptile show.
  4. Take a walk and explore. Pretend you’re on safari or digging for bones. Kids love this kind of stuff and it fuels their imaginations. My friend’s grandma always did those types of things with her and it’s among her fondest memories.
  5. Go camping. You can find cheap campsites, especially if your camping in a tent. Or you can pitch a tent in the backyard, make s’mores, and tell stories around the fire just like you’re in a campground.
  6. Go fishing. Fishing is a relatively cheap activity if you’ve already got all the equipment. You can get a dozen nightcrawlers for $2 or $3.
  7. Get out the Slip ‘n Slide or sprinkler and let the kids run through the water. Guaranteed to bring shrieks of delight!
  8. Go to the zoo. Most zoos have discount packages. The Cincinnati Zoo offers AAA discounts, money-off tickets through Kroger, and military discounts. If you take your own lunch it will be even cheaper.

Free Activities Indoors

  1. Gather up all your board games and have a game night or game day. Be creative and make up your own rules.
  2. Movie night! Watch movies from Netflix, Hulu, or the Red Box. Red Box frequently has discounts. Alternatively, you could go to a free movie under the stars. A lot of towns offer Friday Night Flicks.
  3. Have a dance party. Pull up appropriate kids music on Pandora and let ’em get their groove on.
  4. Have a crafting party. Most of us have all kinds of paper, crayons, and other craft items. Let the kids create some cool things. Maybe they could even come up with homemade holiday gifts. Check out Pinterest for some ideas.

More Indoor Fun!

  1. Take them to a museum. There are many small museums that are free, mainly ones located in parks and historical sites. You may also be able to find art, history, and children’s museums that are free and offer free activities for the kids.
  2. Libraries are awesome free places to take your children. Most have summer readingfree activities programs and offer free activities as well. Book stores are great too, and some of them also  have summer reading programs. My favorite is Half Price Books. Their kids books are so inexpensive!
  3. Go bowling. KidsBowlFree.com and Coupons.com have coupons for free bowling for your kids!
  4. Go out to eat. Many restaurants offer free meals for kids. Here is a website listing lots of restaurants with offers and discounts for children. And here’s another one. 🙂
  5. Take them to the skating rink. Kids Skate Free is a website offering free skating for the young ‘uns.

More Great (Mostly) Free Activities

  1. How long’s it been since you’ve gone to a drive-in? Remember those clunky microphones you used to have to hook up to your window? Even though you listen to the movie through your radio these days, it still makes me feel nostalgic whenever we go to the drive-in. Ourfree activities drive-in gives you a coupon for 2 kids half-price next time you come. And you can always surf the net for discounts. Just stay away from the costly snack bar.
  2. Take them to a free sports clinic. These are generally offered on college campuses.
  3. Vacation Bible School. Even if you don’t have a home church, you can still send your child to VBS. Many churches offer free pick-up and drop-off services.
  4. Last but not least, take the kids to local events. There are all kinds of little towns around me that have free festivals and car shows with musical entertainment.

Don’t forget, no matter what you decide to do, check the internet for coupons, coupon codes, and other discounts. Groupon is one place to check as well as sites like Fat Wallet and Slick Deals.

Most importantly, have fun and stay cool. For more money saving tips check out a couple of my other posts. Please comment if you have any other great cheap ideas.