Sorry this post is a little late….. I was recovering from the party I hosted yesterday for the three birthdays we have in my family this month.  For as long as I can remember, we have always gotten our family birthday cakes at Publix.  Something about their buttercreme icing just cannot be replicated.  This year, money was tighter than usual (like REALLY tight!) so store bought cakes were out.  Even at $10 each it would have cost $30 that I did not have.  I decided to go thru my recipe box and create a special homemade cake for each birthday being celebrated.

My father loves coconut so that was the choice for him.  My daughter Coral opted for a red velvet cake.  I made a chocolate fudge cake as my birthday cake.  Since I am not so great at icing layered cake and I really don’t like the taste of canned icing and I thought a “sheet” cake still in the pan would be kind of un-festive, I decided to make them all bundt cakes!

In my opinion bundt cakes are severely underrated!  They are super easy!  You can make them from a boxed mix or from scratch.  They come out in one beautiful, round, molded piece that looks really pretty (I use a fluted mold).  No special icing techniques are required.  They are always SO moist inside too!  For presentation you simply dump the mold upside down onto a plate and the cake comes right out!  Simple!  You just have to make sure that you use a lot of baking spray so that the cake does not stick to the pan at all.

The coconut cake (made from a scratch recipe) got several layers of coconut glaze brushed all over it and then I sprinkled flaked coconut over the top of it.    The red velvet cake (made partially from scratch) got cream cheese icing drizzled all over the top of it so that it dripped down the sides intentionally.  The chocolate fudge cake (from a boxed mix) got chocolate icing and white icing drizzled all over the top of it for a really pretty mixed effect!

To make the icing drizzle, I just put some icing into a glass measuring cup and heated it in the microwave for 20 seconds.  This makes the icing much thinner and easier to drizzle with.  I stirred the warm icing  really well and slowly poured it over the top of the cake.   You can make different patterns with the icing this way too.

Total cost for all three cakes:  $7 (I had some of the ingredients on hand).

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I know I have posted before about leftovers and also about making a monthly menu plan.  Today when I was cleaning out my fridge and taking inventory of the freezer so I could plan my menu for August, it occured to me that I left out a clever tip I use every week.

When I clean out the fridge, I take all of the leftovers out and go thru all the shelves making sure everything in there is fresh and edible.  I put the leftovers on the counter and throw away the stuff that is no good.  Often I still have some leftovers that are only a day old or so and I am not willing to throw away good food.  Because the leftovers have been in the fridge for a day or two, my family does not “see” them there.  Kind of like if you open the fridge for a glass of water and the milk is on the same shelf, you just don’t really “see” it there.

To combat this, I repackage my leftovers, taking them out of the current container they are in and putting them in a different container (or even a storage bag) and then place them back into the fridge on the leftover shelf (the bottom shelf in our fridge is where all the leftovers are kept).  That way when the family opens the fridge and looks around, they see a different container in there that was NOT there this morning and it catches their attention and are more likely to eat it.

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Warning….. this may be a long post and possibly boring to anyone who is not interested in the items mentioned in the title of this post!  LOL!

When I moved in with Dane, he had a satellite provider on one tv in the living room.  Thats it.  Nothing else anywhere in the house.  So, he called them and asked about hooking up the bedrooms.  It would cost an extra $200 for installation ?!?!?!?!?!?! and also be about $50 extra per month ?!?!?!?!?!?!?! and that does not include internet because they don’t provide that ?!?!?!?!?!?!  So, I had to come up with an alternate solution.

The kiddos have a Wii in their room so they get the Netflix streaming thru that, because I subscribe to Netflix.  That provides viewing options for them.  That left only our bedroom to find something for.  Enter the Roku.

I had wanted a Roku for a long time and now was the time to purchase one.  I bought the mid-grade one for $80.  It was easy to set up and now we get Netflix streaming along with a few other “channels” in our bedroom. All we had to do was purchase the box.  No monthly fee from them (but I still pay for Netflix, which I was paying for anyhow).  By the way I LOVE the Roku!

Now that Netflix has announced their price increases, I am rethinking my strategy.  We currently have the “2 out at a time plus unlimited streaming” plan which runs about $16 per month.  Soon it will be about $20 per month.  Which isn’t bad but I felt the need to examine my options.

This is how I figured it out:  Netflix at $16 per month was $8 for streaming and $8 for 2 movies out at a time (which for us was 2 per week = 8 movies a month).  That makes the movies about $1 each.  That’s okay.  The same price as Redbox rentals.  But NOW it will be $20 per month, $8 for streaming and $12 is for the 8 movies I get in the mail each month which makes them $1.50 each.  Not okay.  Not the same price as Redbox.  Enter Blockbuster Online………

For $10 a month, I can have one movie dvd out at a time, mailed to me, BUT I can take that movie to the Blockbuster store and turn it in for another movie while I wait for my next movie to be mailed to me.  This means that I will probably be able to get 4 movies a week (2 by mail and 2 in the store) which equals about 16 movies a month for $10!  That sure beats the 8 movies for $12 that Netflix would get me!  Plus no long queue waits for new release movies at Netflix!  I can just pick them up when I trade in my Blockbuster dvd at the store!

So, I think what I will be doing is keeping Netflix streaming for $8 a month and going with Blockbuster Online for dvds.  Total $18 a month.  I save a couple of bucks and I get more movies to watch.

This summer we finally tried Gamefly as a rental service for games for the Wii.  The premise is great!  The problem we had was that just about every game had a wait time.  There were very few “available now” games and that was just frustrating for the kiddos.  When we went to cancel our account, we were offered a “free month” so I accepted that and we will have to see how that goes.  I will say here that we have rented Wii games from Redbox at $2 a night and that worked really well for us!  It is a great way to see if you like a game before actually buying it.  A lot cheaper too!

I think that sums it all up.  Oh, and I went with the local cable provider for internet service because I have to have internet service for ANY of this to work!  LOL!

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