Friday, December 17, 2010

Green Tip

Laptops use 50% less energy than desktops. Yet another excuse to work from bed. Want to be even greener? You can avoid unused energy by unplugging your laptop when not in use.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Travel Estimator

Living over 1,300 miles from home automatically necessitates that I become a frequent traveler. Between all of the different aspects associated with cross-country travel, from packing to making sure flights are on time to getting to the airport, it's bound to be a stressful process. Lately I've been mentioning my desire to win the lottery so that I can fly private, eliminating most of these headaches. Traveling privately would be my only big change in lifestyle after winning the lottery. Can you imagine how amazing it would be to show up at your closest airport, no matter how small, ten minutes before you want to take off, travel with as many bags as you need, not have to go through any security lines and have exclusive use of all of the commodities offered by a luxury private jet?

Alas, I've won no such lottery and will have to stick to my normal flying routines -until I hit it big of course. Lately I've been trying to see how stress free I can make my travels based on what I can control. Right now I'm trying to put together a suitcase of clothes and personal items that I can leave at my mom's house, allowing me to travel with only a large carry on purse. I've always envied the women that travel so light, now I plan on becoming one of them.

Recently, I've discovered the website TravelMath is able to calculate almost any travel question. It'll tell you travel distance, times, and prices, local time zones, latitudes and longitudes and their corresponding locations, and hotels near your destination. For those of you eco-conscious travelers, you can even find out which type of travel will emit the least amount of carbon into the atmosphere!

Whether you're someone who loves to travel or just has to, you will find TravelMath to be a useful tool for exhausting all of your search possibilities.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Hopes For Our New Chest Freezer

The hubby and I just took advantage of a sale on chest freezers at our nearby Home Depot. I've been telling him for months that the limited space provided by our current fridge really hinders us from saving money. The added incentive of this recent sale helped me push him over the edge.

With increase freezer space comes so many opportunities for saving money:
  • Frozen pizzas will cut our take out bills in half, from $15-$18 for delivery to $3-5 for frozen. Plus, no need to agonize over the 45 minute wait.
  • Finally, I can take advantage of "Smart One's" 5 for $10 sales.
  • We go through one loaf of bread a month. Halfway through it goes bad, and quicker if it's organic. Now we'll always have bread on hand.
  • Leftover soups and meals can be enjoyed months later. Who doesn't get sick of having lasagna five nights in a row just to avoid it spoiling. Now we can enjoy it one night and not even have to think about it for weeks.
  • Our homemade ice cream machine requires placing the interior of the machine in the freezer for at least six hours prior to using it. If it wasn't the size of a one gallon tub I might be able to fit it in our regular freezer. Now I can male home made ice cream at any time, which probably will be like three times a year...but that's not the point.
  • Eventually, when the time is right, I have an ambitious plan of making all of our children's baby food. And again, not even a baby wants to eat the same mushed sweet potatoes for five nights in a row. With this freezer I'll be able to make a large quantity of sweet potatoes, bananas, zucchini, etc. and freeze them in little ice cube trays for meal-sized portions. Here's the breakdown of savings when making your own baby food, (thanks to
Oh the possibilities are endless, hopefully.

Monday, December 6, 2010

2nd Annual Christmas Tree Decorating Party

Traditions are a huge part of my family, many that stem from religious holidays.

Every year since I can remember my family has decorated a real Christmas tree. Always getting the largest one that the room will allow. With a vaulted ceiling we had a few 15 footers! At least, as my six year old self can recall. But I can verify those numbers for you because of another great tradition my Dad started. Each year he had the tree salesman cut off and save the stump. This was not only for the more obvious purpose of allowing for better water intake. On these stumps he would write the date, height and width of the tree, and who was in attendance. Beginning with just my parents and, as the years go on, the additions of my sister, myself, and my brother were made. A unique scrapbook of sorts.

My husband and I now have three stumps of our own and I can't wait to begin adding the names of our children when applicable. For now, we choose to invite our friends over to help us decorate. Being in Cleveland, his hometown, most of our friends happen to be Jewish.

While it has been a struggle so far, and I know it will unfortunately be a struggle forever, it is very important for me to celebrate all of the holidays. So my strategy is to embrace Christmas and Hanukkah in our household. It is my hope that doing so will open the doors for acceptance from his Jewish family and friends. If they see that I openly celebrate their holidays with as much excitement as my own, they may just be okay with the fact that I require a Christmas tree as part of my holiday celebrations. However, I know I'll need to hold my ground to avoid a "give them an inch they take a mile" situation. In the past I've noticed that asserting my interest in the Jewish faith has implied to them a lack of interest in my own. Which is absolutely not the case.

And so explains our 2nd Annual Christmas Tree Decorating Party. We first decided to invite friends after a few of our Jewish friends with "Tree Envy" pretty much invited themselves. I purchased a bunch of inexpensive ornaments from Target as well as a few personal/decorative ones. Each year I plan on adding a few more so we'll eventually have a collection as unique as my parent's. And every year a few guests inevitably bring their own as presents. And while they are often Jewish themed or holiday neutral (stuffed dradel, silver ornament with blue Stars of David, snowmen, snowflakes, and my personal fave, a Chinese fortune cookie for all those Jews who go out for Chinese on Christmas), it is my firm belief that however involved and accepting they'll be, I'll take it. If they can't bring themselves to say Merry Christmas, but participate enthusiastically in the decorating, I get their intentions.

We began the night with a perfectly fitting lighting of the Menorah, since it was the fourth night of Hanukkah, and ended with some raucous Rock Band. In between we filled the night with tree decorating, it almost fell twice!, and tons of eating. All in all a great night and a step in the right direction.

Breck even made an appearance as Santa Clause!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Comfort Is Key

Photo courtesy of Angelina.
If you learn one thing about me, it’s that comfort is key. I’m probably the only person who thinks jeans are just about the most uncomfortable thing on the planet. Fashionable fitness clothing is my preferred everyday gear. My husband hates that I wear my “yoga pants” everywhere, not just for lounging around or working out. But I don't care. Although I don’t always use it for the original purpose of working out, I feel that, just by wearing them, I am more likely to get a little spontaneous exercise in. Wishful thinking probably, but the fact that they show off your figure is incentive enough to try and eat healthy and stay fit. It's an added bonus that they're cute.

Photo courtesy of Angelina.
My problem now is that, not only does the hubby think all I wear are these pants, but that I have the same five pants in an ongoing rotation. More importantly, he’s right. So lately I’ve been trying to find new gear, still in the fitness realm, but this time I'm looking for more upscale clothing. Something that will look a little more acceptable when, not if, it’s worn out of the house. I’ve recently come across this great website,, featuring exactly what I’ve been searching for. While it’s not at the same price point as my original sportswear, my search inevitably will require a larger investment. I think it’s worth it for high-quality pieces that I can both lounge around the house and run around the city in.

Started by avid sports and fashion enthusiasts Angelina and Sharon Pacaldo, Angelina, is based in San Francisco and offers sportswear ranging from tanks and sports bras to shorts and pants. For your girlier side you'll find necklaces, dresses and sandals! Frugal shoppers should check out their sale section and $5.95 shipping.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Green Tip

Here's a quick green tip that anyone can do...
Because 90% of the energy used when washing clothes goes towards heating the water, using a colder setting will save you a good chunk of energy and money over the course of a year. For example, the Warm-Cold water setting will use 80-85% less energy than the Hot-Cold water setting. Easy enough. Better yet, go with Cold-Cold and pocket up to $250 a year in savings!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Solution For All Taste Buds - Cherry Pumpkin Pie

Whether we're having Thanksgiving with four people or twenty it always feels like you can't please everyone. Some like plain stuffing while the meat lovers want sausage and there's those who want fresh cranberry sauce when a select few love the canned version (my dad included). And, of course, the age old debate of cherry versus pumpkin pie. That always seems to be our biggest conflict, so this year I decided to silence both sides by creating a half cherry, half pumpkin pie.

It's not as daunting as it sounds. You will need two pie crusts, one can of cherry pie filling and one pumpkin pie filling (I typically use the recipe on the back of the Libby's can - shh don't tell - but a homemade recipe will work just as well).

Begin by placing one pie crust in the bottom of the pie pan. Then, cut the second pie crust in half and put one half off to the side for later. This will become the top of the cherry half of the pie. With the other half cut a slice the width of the height of your pan. I prefer to use a pizza cutter, but a knife will work just fine. Place this vertically down the center of the pan, allowing it to divide the pumpkin and cherry fillings. Press a fork into this addition, both across the bottom and up both sides, to ensure a gapless seam.

Next, pour the cherry pie filling into one side. Typically a whole can will fit into that one half. Then pour in the pumpkin pie filling.  The cherry pie filling will support the weight of the pumpkin pie liquid. However, unlike the cherry filling, you will have an overflow of pumpkin filling. I choose to put the surplus in a separate smaller dish for a crustless, mini pumpkin pie. With the tad bit of crust that will be left over you can create cute leaf decorations for both the main pie and the smaller pumpkin ramekins.

Finish off the pie by placing the half pie crust you've set aside on top of the cherry pie, once again forking the edges to ensure a good seal. To allow for pressure relief, slice 3-4 slits into the cherry's crust before baking. Place the pie in the oven and follow the pumpkin pie baking directions. Cherry pie is more forgiving and can stand up to the pumpkin pie's longer baking time. To keep the crust from burning you can place tin foil over the cherry half.

Pie Pan by Emile Henry, available at Williams Sonoma.

The pie is done when the pumpkin half is no longer jiggly and a knife, inserted near the center comes out clean. I cooked mine a bit too long, which explains why the center divider pulled away from the cherry crust. Serve with some homemade whipping cream and you'll be the talk of the party! Has anyone done this with other types of pies?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Find Out Your Ecological Footprint

Yikes! I tend to think of myself as a fairly green person. I recycle basically anything that can be recycled, purchase organic food or recycled products when available and I try to be as energy efficient as possible. I even consider the fact that I wash my hair every other day to be "green". (Probably a stretch.) However, I just took the Ecological Footprint" quiz at and my results are a little scary. Apparently, if everyone on the planet lived my lifestyle, we would need 5.66 Earths to accommodate!

While that's scary, I think it's definitely a good thing to know. Even though I am below the national average in most categories. Ignorance is not always bliss. Fortunately they accompany your brutally honest results with the following tips on how to reduce your footprint...

To be informed, take the Ecological Footprint quiz yourself. And if you're not too shy about your results feel free to post them in the comments section below. If you're embarrassed, vow to choose at least three reduction tips to focus on. Good Luck!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Culture Shock Fashion Show

If you're anything like me, this Thanksgiving break will be filled with food, food and more food.  A great remedy for those in the Cleveland area will be the Culture Shock Fashion Show.

On Saturday, November 27th the Culture Shock Fashion Show will invade Cleveland's Convention Center Music Hall for the largest independent fashion event to ever come into this market.

With 125 models from five cities across the midwest it'll definitely be something different and exciting to do over the holiday break. Tickets are now on sale at

Friday, November 19, 2010

Green Tip

I'm constantly trying to think of ways to make our house greener and recently learned that a refrigerator typically uses about 15% of a homes energy. Thankfully there are ways to reduce this number.

First, a full refrigerator is a more efficient refrigerator. The items in your fridge act as a cooling system, similar to ice packs in a cooler, while an empty fridge takes much more energy to keep cold. So by keeping your fridge full, but not overly stuffed, you will be saving energy. Of course, the same goes for your freezer.

Similarly, be sure to let hot foods cool before placing them in the fridge. This will reduce the internal rise in temperature of your refrigerator. Of course don't allow meat to sit out at room temperature for too long, even if it's cooked.

Lastly, keep the area around the outside of your fridge clean. Removing any dust or dirt buildup from the back and underside - especially the coils - will help reduce energy usage and extend the life of your appliance. This is the task I'm least looking forward to. Maybe I'll talk the hubby into doing it.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Today is the Great American Smokeout Day, a day that encourages smokers to quit this nasty habit for just one day, and I'm reminded of my Dad's quest to help us avoid smoking all together.  My Dad was an avid reader and clipped more articles than was probably necessary. A previous smoker himself, he knew how hard it was to quit and the more he read the more he found out the longer you can abstain from smoking in the first place (i.e. the older you become), the less likely you are to ever pick up the habit.

So he made a $1,000 bet with each of his kids.  If we could make it to 18 without smoking he would pay us a grand. After confirming that this only applied to cigarettes (you never know) we each agreed. Of course, we were allowed to try five puffs, but the sixth one would cost us. I think he knew that if it was completely forbidden we would be too tempted. Knowing we had that buffer made it easier. We were each on the honor/guilty conscience system. So four puffs I had, never making it to that sixth costly puff.

When each of us made it to 18 he approached us with a double or nothing offer to 21. Being that I wasn't interested in them at all, I accepted. And with my $2,000 I went to the local Mac store with my dad and bought myself my prized laptop.

Still smoke free, there you have one man's successful attempt at helping his kids avoid such a costly and deathly habit. A legacy I plan on continuing with my kids. And it doesn't have to be $1,000. Whatever you can reasonably afford that will be a significant incentive, keeping in mind it will inevitably save you money in the long-run.

What Does She Really Do All Day?

I've always wondered what Breck does all day while we're gone.  Here's one theory... 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

There Is No Death

"I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength and I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, 'There...she is gone. She is gone.'

Gone from my sight, that is all. She is just as large and mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side. And she is just as able to bear her load of living weight to her destined port. Her diminished size is in me, not her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, 'There...she is gone' there are other eyes watching her coming and voices ready to take up the glad shout, 'There she comes.' And that is dying." - Henry Van Dyke

Painting by Texas Artist Laurie Pace

Green Tip

Think your ceiling fans are useless now that summer's over? Think again.  Running your fans in the opposite direction (that would be clockwise instead of counter clockwise) helps push warm air back down. Essentially having the opposite effect of its original purpose. Doing so allows you to keep your thermostat at a lower temp, reducing your winter heating costs and lessening your environmental impact. Most fans should have a switch located above the blades that changes the direction of their spin.

Cleveland's "Polar Express"

Beginning today and running through December 19th the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad will be running their "Polar Express". Pajama clad families board the train for this magical journey! This fun-filled evening excursion includes hot cocoa and cookies, a reading of the classic story, a lighted North Pole Village, caroling and a visit from Santa himself - all set to the music soundtrack of the motion picture!

For more information and to book a trip for your believers visit But hurry as certain dates have already sold out!

Images courtesy of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

And so it begins...

...the official Life, Love and Cake blog. Featuring posts about my life, baking and home tips, ideas on how to raise an interfaith family, and ways to save money.  Just to name a few. Basically everything that comes with being a wife. For a full description of this blog and to learn more about me click on the “About” tab.

Perfectly fitting for my first post and just in time for Thanksgiving I would like to focus on soup kitchens, food banks and homeless shelters.

It’s hard to believe there are children who go days without meals or don’t have a safe place to sleep at night. While it is important to recognize this is the case year-round, for some reason it is harder to conceive during the holidays. With the recent loss of my father I’ve found a new drive to make a difference by helping others. For those like me or those who just want to make a difference, I encourage you to volunteer this Thanksgiving season. It’s a way to honor the memory of loved ones by helping others.

If you think you’ll feel uncomfortable or if you plan on visiting with friends and family on Thanksgiving day, keep in mind there are lots of opportunities beyond serving the needy in a face-to-face setting on November 25th. Soup kitchens need volunteers to pick up donations, set up and take down the dining halls, and prepare the food; so there’s something for almost everyone.

To locate your nearest food bank I’ve found the Feeding America website ( to be extremely helpful. Simply select your state to find your nearest organization. And no matter what you choose to do this Thanksgiving, be thankful for everyone you're so very lucky to know and love.