Twelve Days of Christmas Movies, Day 2: “Broadcasting Christmas” and Special “We Just couldn't finish it” Mini Post: “Angels and Ornaments”

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Today’s Christmas masterpiece is “Broadcasting Christmas”, an 84 minute romp (my Christmas movie rule is they should always be 90 minutes or less so this is perfect) starring seasoned TV and TV movie stars Dean Cain and Melissa Joan Hart. The pair play ex-lovers and current local news hosts who find themselves thrust into a competition to become the new co-host on a national morning TV show.

Synopsis: Hart and Cain split ways six years ago when Cain got the posh NYC news anchor job the two were competing for, leaving Hart stuck in local news purgatory in Stamford (City motto: Say it fast and it sounds like Stanford). The two are thrust back together when the co-host of the august morning show “Rise and Shine” retires as the competition to replace her starts up. Cain is in the running to replace her because of his NYC anchor job and connections, infuriating Hart. Hart, for her part, lands the audition by losing her shit on the 1100 Stamford local news and making an impassioned plea for the job. As these meltdowns tend to do, it goes viral and infects the nation with Hart fever. Or something. Anyway, she finds herself in the running.

There’s some heated competition as the two guest host, along with two other competitors, on the venerable Rise and Shine. A five year old piano player is trotted out. Dean Cain dances along with a jazzy rendition of Deck the Halls. Cain and Hart rekindle their old flame, at least for a while. A camel is promised but doesn’t make it on screen in one of the film’s most disappointing moments. A magical 100 year old fruitcake proves to be pivotal in the final stretch. Or maybe it’s not magical. But it should be. The ending is, as ever, predictable and sweet.

Review: Treacly. Predictable. The stars have decent chemistry but Dean Cain, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, can out act MJH any day of the week. She plays broad, with excessive hand gestures and copious full-body eye rolls. It’s almost like she honed her acting skills on a cheesy teen drama opposite a cat puppet. The rekindling of the romance is hurried, has minimal conflict, and doesn’t feel earned, but that’s to be expected. My favorite moment came when Cain made a throwback to his Superman days, explaining to his harried producer that MJH has been in the metaphorical local news wilderness honing her skills like a superhero who has retreated from society (“It’s very much a thing!”, he insists.). All in all it’s decently watchable as far as the Christmas movie genre goes. 3.786 out of 5 Candy Canes.

Is it Christmassy?: Quite. It takes place in the three weeks before Christmas and all of the Rise and Shine segments are about Christmas. Mrs Claus, Christmas music, lighting ceremonies, and the mystical fruitcake all add to the Christmasness. It lacks scenes on actual Christmas or more personal Christmas moments so it gets a ding for that. 4 out of 5 Stockings for Christmasness.

Drinking Game Suggestions: Drink when MJH rolls her eyes, Rise and Shine is mentioned, either of the two stars cohost, the fruitcake is mentioned, or a story is stolen.

And now for our very special “We Couldn’t Finish It” mini post…

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Sometimes we just can’t finish a Christmas movie. Maybe it’s because it’s bad, or boring, or we’re tired, but they aren’t all winners. In this special segment we’ll be exploring those films that just didn’t make the grade. Today we’ll be talking about Angels and Ornaments.

Angels and Ornaments is about Corrine, a music store clerk, music teacher, and Christmas aficionado who has recently broken up with her boyfriend. This leads her to ask a family heirloom ornament of a group of carolers the question: “Why can’t I find my true love?”. This, in turn, prompts an angel to show up in the guise of a caroler, an angel who can’t get his wings until Corinne finds her true love. Obviously this means her long time friend and boss, I want to say Dave?, a sensitive soul with a taste for the classics. The caroling angel, Harold (don’t worry, the film addresses this on-the-nose naming in a moment of self awareness) gets a job at Dave’s music shop in an effort to complete his mission. The angels have kind of a Good Place thing going on, but imagine if the Good Place wasn’t that great of a show. Harold also has a pretty spiffy watch that tells him how long until Christmas happens, and thus how long he has to complete his mission. And that’s about where we left off. I imagine that it ends with the angel condemning everyone to eternal damnation, or maybe Corinne and Dave get together and Harold gets his wings. Either seems likely. It wasn’t terrible, we did make it halfway through, but it just didn’t grab us in either the “Hey, this is okay” way or the “Oh my good this is wonderfully awful” kind of way either. Two out of five half eaten gingerbread men for quality, and I’ll give it a solid 5 out of 5 mistletoes for Christmasiness. I mean, it’s centered around an ornament, after all.

Favorite Quote: “Stop and sip the eggnog.”

Drinking Game Suggestions: Drink any time the caroler ornament is shown, Corrine sings, a seasonal drink is drunk, “true love”’ is said, whenever you see Harold’s star scarf, Harold’s watch is shown or mentioned, and any time the story of her grandfather and grandmother is mentioned. This will fill you with holiday cheer in no time at all, I reckon.

Twelve Days of Christmas Movies: Christmas in the Clouds

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by Tim

Special Blog feature: Twelve Days of Christmas Movies. We’ll be watching Hallmark, Lifetime, and other Christmas masterpieces and reporting back to you on how they were. Movies will be graded on a Christmas curve. It’s just not fair to judge Christmas movies on the same standard as big budget, or medium budget, films. It’s also not very Christmassy to be so judgemental of such earnest pieces of art. We’ll be offering a brief synopsis, a quick review, and a rating as to just how Christmassy the films are. We hope you enjoy this feature, and we hope you enjoy your Christmas.

Tonight’s Christmas masterpiece and our inaugural review is “Christmas in the Clouds”, available on Amazon Prime’s Hallmark Movie channel. Christmas in the Clouds features a Native American cast and that classic Christmas movie trope: The Mistaken Identity. It also has a recurring appearance by a painted mouse (take a look at the top of the poster), which was my favorite part.

Brief Synopsis: Retired Chief Joe Clouds on Fire has been exchanging letters with the widow Tina Littlehawk. He assumes she’s old, she assumes he’s young. When she takes a surprise trip to Joe’s family’s ski resort she finds Ray Clouds on Fire, Joe’s son who runs the troubled lodge. Confusion ensues. Also a small girl glues a feather to the head of a mouse and paints it. The mouse escapes. Tina thinks Ray is Joe. Ray thinks Tina is a reviewer from a prestigious travel guide (Spoiler Alert: the reviewer is actually a whiskey soaked old white man who gets taught the spirit of Christmas. Also, the mouse hides in his pocket. Hijinks ensue.). Joe is obsessed with winning a Jeep Cherokee in a bingo game. Romance ensues. Confusion leads to a well placed slap on Ray’s face. A Navajo version of Amazing Grace is sung and the painted mouse comes back to the girl who painted it in the first place. Other things happen and the ending is probably predictable to any seasoned Christmas film viewer.

Review: Surprisingly solid. The cast is good (the most famous name being Graham Greene) as the lodge’s chef), the story is typical but well done, and the scenery is nice. Five out of Five Christmas trees.

Is it Christmassy?: Not a lot. It takes place during Christmas and there is the aforementioned Navajo Amazing Grace, but Christmas doesn’t take a real role in the plot. One out of five Santa’s for Christmas relatability

Honolulu, Hawaii with the Locals

Little P and I (Jamie) just took a pretty amazing budget vacation (Tim had to work because he needs to rack up some vacation hours- you know how it goes- we missed him a ton).  Anywho, it helps to know the right people ;-) (aka people who live in tropical places) and P and I are lucky enough to have my Dad and Stepmom who live for part of the year in Honolulu, Hawaii! They were wonderful hosts and I thought it would be interesting to share what people who actually live in Honolulu recommend to do on a vacation there as my Dad and Stepmom took us to do lots of fun things.

The Beach the Locals go to:  Ala Moana Beach Park

Waikiki Beach, where all of the tourists go, is an experience that you may want to have on your trip but it is hectic! We wanted a nice calm beach where we could spread out and relax. My Dad and Stepmom took us to Ala Moana Beach Park and it was perfect! Chill enough for the adults but there were still other families and kids for little P to play with.  I swear she would have stayed there making sand castles for 24 hours if we let her.


Adjacent to Ala Moana Beach Park is Magic Island, a little peninsula where everyone on the island of Oahu seems to be taking their wedding pictures because the views from Magic Island are amazing. My Dad pointed out that this would be the perfect place to take photos for my Instagram :-) 

Here's the view of Magic Island from the beach:


And my Insta worthy photos ;-) taken from Magic Island (photo credit of the pic of me goes to mi padre) :



Ala Moana Center

Across the street from Ala Moana Beach Park is Ala Moana Center, the "largest shopping center in Hawaii". There are several worthwhile reasons to visit this mall. 

- They have a Hula show at the central stage every day but Sunday at 1:00

Big Island Candies My Stepmother introduced me to this store as the perfect spot for souvenirs. It's not cheap but their candies, cookies (especially the macadamia nut shortbread) and brownies are SO GOOD.  Like, so so good. Like I may have bought some to give to someone else and then ate them.  They are also all packaged in adorable little boxes and containers. Perfect for gifts or your next KonMari project.

- Shirokiya Japan Village Walk: Ala Moana Center has a Japanese food court! Lots of fun and you can get beer there for $1!

If You're Plus Sized

There are a few Forever 21s (that's right, I said Forever 21) in Honolulu, but the best one by far is the one "on Waikiki". Specifically : 2301 Kalakaua Ave #209, Honolulu, HI 96815. Why am I telling you about Forever 21 when you have one in your home town? Because this is a three story shop with an entire floor dedicated to plus sizes, something that you unfortunately don't see in most cities.  


The Perfect Day Trip

One of my favorite things to do in Oahu was drive to the other side of the island. Our first stop was at Waialua Bakery in Haleiwa. It was so charming and so delicious. I had a turkey sandwich with hand carved turkey that they roasted on site. The bread was amazing.  The cookies were amazing. The banana bread...was LIFE CHANGING. Best banana bread I have ever had. 

Next, we headed to Mokuleia Beach Park, a few miles West of Haleiwa along Farrington Highway. We were four of about seven people there and I think this was my favorite beach because of it. P highly recommends playing in the tide pools and looking for sea turtles. Additionally, the beach is right by an air field with sky diving and you can watch groups of people sailing through the sky as you relax in the sand.   Another cool little tidbit, according to my Dad, is "We were a few hundred yards away from a place owned by one of President Obama's high-school friends, where Obama often visits when he's here on Oahu. "

We took the slow, breathtakingly beautiful, coastal route clockwise around the island from Mokuleia back to Waikiki, passing all of the famous big-wave beaches--Waimea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. We also drove past Turtle Bay Resort, where "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" was filmed. As we headed south along the east shore, we went by Kualoa Ranch, where "Jurassic Park" and "50 First Dates" were shot.


On Your Way to the Airport

La Mariana Sailing Club

This place! I think I had originally seen it on one of Anthony Bourdain's shows. Founded in 1957, La Mariana's tiki bar is the real deal and it's just a few minutes away from the airport. There's often music and impromptu hula dancing. We sang along to "Sweet Caroline" as little P enjoyed some of the best fruit punch I had ever tasted and we had some grown up drinks and a yummy dinner (I had macadamia nut pesto pasta and chicken).

And then we headed home.  Sigh. Truly a vacation to remember. It was especially wonderful because of my Dad and Stepmother and their tips for enjoying Honolulu to it's fullest.  Thank you, guys!  







Rocksbox (Sponsored)

*Get a Month of Rocksbox for free by clicking the Ad banner below (or going to and entering my code jamiehayes83xoxo  at checkout.

I've been given the opportunity to try Rocksbox and I think I'm in LOVE! Rocksbox is a jewelry subscription box containing a set of three designer pieces. I've gotten my set and I wear my jewelry constantly. Once I'm done rocking my current Rocksbox I can either purchase the jewelry (the monthly subscription fee can be applied to your purchase) or send it back for my next set. Getting my Rocksbox in the mail was SO fun and it was a blast to browse their site and create my wishlist. Once the wishlist was complete, a stylist curated the perfect set to be sent to my home.

And let's talk Holidays. What a great way to borrow jewelry for that special Holiday party (act fast and consider turnaround time)! Plus, a Rocksbox subscription would make the perfect gift!

I am very pleased with the jewelry in my first Rocksbox set:


and my favorite:


To get a free month of Rocksbox, click the ad below (or go to and enter jamiehayes83xoxo at checkout.

Fall and Halloween Decor

I had a fun weekend of poking around the Dollar Tree store and decorating the house, so I thought I'd share it with you all. I love looking at "fall decor" on Pinterest and if there's one thing I've realized, it's that I'm more of a minimalist than I thought. I'm not one to make an epic tablescape nor do I have a mantle that looks like a Pottery Barn ad (I don't even have a mantle). Instead, I like to find little things to place throughout the house. I was pleasantly surprised by what I found at Dollar Tree and I think that by not putting all of the cheap stuff in one place, I made it look less cheap. In addition to the Dollar Tree, I got flowers, gourds, pumpkins and smelly (in a good way) pine cones from the grocery store. So without further ado, here is a tour of our Fall and Halloween decorations:

Window stickies for the kiddo are a must for every season. Her placement of the stickies was on point.


My favorite: Sunflowers in a mason jar. Swoon.


We've had this really amazing Fall leaves painting from my Dad and Stepmom's neighbor, who is a super talented artist. I had a heck of a time taking a picture of it so please forgive the reflection and odd angle. 


The painting is in the corner of the living room so here is a zoomed out picture. The glitter pumpkin with a flickering LED light is from Dollar Tree.


My favorite Dollar Tree find:


A Grocery Outlet skull (came in a big bag o skulls) and a purple glitter LED flickering skull from Dollar Tree:


Now, let's talk decorative gourds. Instead of hand picking my gourds, I bought a big (green mesh that I couldn't see through) bag of them because it was cheaper. I won't do that again. I ended up with a rather weenie-esque gourd that I couldn't make look un-weenie like for the life of me. Then several of the other gourds wouldn't stand on their own.  So I put the non standing gourds and the weenie one in a bowl and called it a day.  This beautiful fall glitter globe is borrowed from my Mom's place. Pay no attention to the scratch on my wall that I'm just now noticing.


Fall candles and stands from Dollar Tree. Another one of my favorite finds.


Candles, more gourds, and a bowl from Goodwill filled with pine cones:

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Here is the overall zoomed out view of our dining room. Hi Blue kitty!

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and here are the doodads on our built-ins leading into the living room. The little lantern flickers and is from the Dollar Tree as well.


One last thing: We had so much fun painting pumpkins this year. I displayed them in P's playroom.


10 Things That Entertain My 4 1/2 Year Old

I've always kept a mental list of Little P's interests as she grows up. For one reason, relevant to a budget blog, it reminds me that the things she's interested in aren't necessarily more toys or better toys or a bigger collection of toys.  It helps me, when I'm shopping for treats or gifts to think about what would get the most use and actually, a lot of the things featured here were gifts from friends and family (thanks guys! you know her well!) So, for those of you who want to know how a 4 year old spends her day, here's what P is currently in love with doing and playing:

1. Ponies, dinosaurs and zoo animals get together and throw a raging birthday party.  This is generally a game P plays with Tim or I and she instructs us on what to do.  It almost always goes like this:  we set up the party by putting a group of my little ponies together and then one by one a potential party guest comes up, usually via a Rescuebots boat and asks to join the party.  They then introduce themselves and show off their special skill.  T-rex roars and stomps around a bunch, flying ponies fly and flip, sometimes the guests get together and do a spontaneous obstacle course.  

While this game does requires toys, any existing toy can participate in this wonderous imaginary party world. 



2.  Drawing, coloring, painting, crafting

This is what P spends a large amount of her time doing.  If a world existed in which the only thing she owned to play with was arts and crafts supplies, she would be content.

She loves this book by Ed Emberly:


Here is P making pen holders for Father's day:



3.  Books

P has started to memorize some of her favorite books. I've been told this is a big step in pre-reading.  Her all time favorite book:

The Book with No Pictures
By B. J. Novak
 Her favorite page from her favorite book

Her favorite page from her favorite book


4. Puzzles

Her favorite ballerina puzzle from her Aunt and Uncle:




5. Doing chores!

Did you know little kids love to do chores?!  P ASKED us to make her a chore chart.  I think possibly because it involves a prize once it's filled up but I was still so proud.  Her chores are to put away silverware, clean off the dining room table, clean her room and playroom, sweep, make her bed, feed the cat, fold towels, yard work, and clean up the living room.


6.  Legos!  What four year old doesn't like legos.  Here's P with allll the legos at the library lego club.  She ended up making a "Dinosaur Castle House" which I unfortunately didn't get a picture of.  



7. Hunting for fossils

A friend of ours got P this "dinosaur egg" where you can scrape and carve away at the (I think clay) egg to find tiny little plastic dinosaur bones....she was obsessed with this!


Here's some similar ones:

Additionally, P and Tim went to a local fossil bed and found some actual fossils embedded in rocks.  P likes scraping and scraping to free the little leaf fossils from the bigger rocks.  She'll sit there scraping for a good half hour which, in kid time is a very long time.



8. Cooking with Dad:


Pretty much the cutest thing on Earth.  P LOVES to cook with her Dad.  For Easter, we bought her these kids knives which I highly recommend:


9. Blanket Forts

Cozying up in a blanket fort?  Pretty much the best thing ever for all ages.  We take our forts seriously in this family.  Tim has a whole ropes and clothes pin system.



10, Bubbles

Bubbles bubbles bubbles.  Check out this dinosaur bubble gun.  It even roars.  Loudly. Our neighbors love us.



There's our top ten.  If you have a kid, would love to know in the comments how old they are and what their favorite thing to do/play is.

GIVE THE KIDS BOOKS! (my holiday shopping thoughts)

-by Jamie

(*probably obvious disclosure: I am a member of the Amazon Associates program)

It is time to purchase your holiday gifts now.  Did no one tell you this?!  :-)  My favorite thing to give for Christmas or any holiday is a great book. 

The first thing I always do every year, is go check some lists and suggestions from Amazon.  Oh look!  You can get to Amazon from the banner on top of my page!  Anyhow, I usually take a look at what's new in cookbooks and art books.  Then I browse the kids books.  Amazon has awesome suggestions almost always and they also have my favorite thing which is a list of the best 100 books ever (or some such title) and also the top 100 children's books (sorted by age!...for those of us who only know a kid of one specific age this is hugely helpful to know what books kids of other ages want to read).

plus a suggestion from yours truly:

Cheechako by Jonathan Thomas Stratman

Where do I begin?  I have always been fascinated and SO interested in learning more about people who live in these really rural locations and/ or natural settings, where they have to live off the land, so to speak; like Alaska, or that place in Patagonia where that fancy chef guy builds lots of amazing fires....random reference, I know.  

Stories of survival and homesteading are my favorite.  I'm a bit obsessed with the show "Alaska, the last Frontier" and as a kid I loved the books White Fang and A Call of the Wild.  I recently read a newer book, that I think is right up there with them called Cheechako, which is the first book in the series of the same name, by Jonathan Thomas Stratman.  (who I believe lives near Eugene, OR!) I would say the series is for 9 year olds ish and up.  Like way up, like an almost 34 year old, for example.

Cheechako is about a young man named Will who lives in (and then later in the book farther away from) a tiny town in Alaska called Nenana.  He is from Boston and feels like a foreigner in the town full of people who have always lived there.  In the beginning of the book he is an introvert who spends most of his time at home reading or dreaming of Boston, saying to himself "this can't be all there is" of the tiny tiny (and I do mean tiny) town.  After a very exciting day indeed, Will gets a new best friend (a dog) and also befriends an Alaskan native named Elias and snowy adventures ensue! Their survival skills are tested and Will transforms from someone who feels like an outsider, to a young man who is confident in emergencies and comfortable in his own skin.  I am looking forward to reading the next two books in the series!  You can purchase the set for $30 on Amazon Prime or you can order the series in ebook format or I think on the kindle thingey.   You can download the ebooks on Jonathan's website as well!  He gives details on how to download for free!! (on Smashwords.)  Or again for the Holidays or a Birthday or any day, this is truly a great gift!

Kids and Crafts: Make an Afternoon of It

-by Jamie

Here's the way I see it:  If you're making a mess then go ahead and really make a mess :-)  Yup! A new way of arting and crafting has emerged from the Hayes household.  On a particularly rainy day I received a package from Amazon.  Lil' P gets particularly excited about packages from Amazon...ever since a huge box (who recalls what was in it...that is not important) arrived for her last year and transformed itself into a spaceship.   Anyhow, the package that arrived on this particular day was quite a bit smaller but an idea emerged.  I put the box along with some crafty things I had collected from my closet on the table, blasted some music, and let lil P go for it!  Out emerged the coolest lil dollhouse I have ever seen (and yes I am biased).

The minute P said "dollhouse" I realized we needed some "dolls".  Clothes pins worked perfect for that.  P drew little faces on about 10 different pins and then had me draw some.  We drew on little outfits for the dolls as well and named each one after one of P's friends and family members, so that they could have a doll to play with when they come over. (her idea)

Pretty much the only other thing I did to help was cut some holes in the box with an exacto knife for windows and the door.

Next P made the carpet:


And decorated with "stickaws" and pipe cleaners (which she wrapped around the windows):


Now lets talk about all of the high tech modular furniture that P made for her little house.  You see, according to her, these tissue tubes can be seats for a rocket ship, tables, or a bed.  (the house is a normal house but it can also fly in space duh)

 (the pillows are not nipple pads although nipple pads would work)

(the pillows are not nipple pads although nipple pads would work)


So there we have it.  My kid was entertained for hours which is very much worthy of a blog post if I do say so myself.  :-)



My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 3

-by Jamie

Part 3!  Here we go!

The Family Meal- Home Cooking with Ferran Adria

I remember when I was just discovering my foodieness and I asked someone who the best chef in the world was.  Their answer was Ferran Adria of El Bulli.  So here we go with that theme again:  I just love knowing what a chef eats when they're actually cooking for themselves.  Chefs at El Bulli eat a "family meal" together every day and that's what this book is about.  They use purposefully inexpensive ingredients as they're feeding a crowd.  There is a back up of stocks, broths, and sauces in the freezer.  The family meals are well organized and coordinated with step by step instructions and timelines.  

Each family meal at el Bulli includes bread, a first course, a second course and desert. The coolest part is they really mix together foods from all different cultures, as the chefs come from all over the world.  In one night they'll eat burgers and ceasar salad and the next night its farfalle with pesto, Japanese style bream fish and Mandarin oranges in Cointreau.  This book is a great way to adventure out and try new foods on the cheap, plus I promise you will become best friends with your local fishmonger.


The Working Class Foodies Cookbook by Rebecca Lando

The title for this one says it all.  After the free PDF in part 1, this is my favorite budget cookbook.  Each meal in this book costs under $8 per person and it's really great stuff: risotto, all kinds of soups, shrimp n grits (yum!), pasta from scratch....  Lando also has great recipes for cheaper cuts of meat and explains how to get the best deals/ most bang for your buck.  There are recipes for lamb shanks, chicken wings, short ribs, various cuts of pork and the like.

The Food Lab by J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

While the first key to cooking on a budget is knowing which foods cost the least (see book above) the second equally important key is to simply have cooking skills.  As Lopez-Alt explains, once you know all of the ways to cook an egg, the basics of soups and stocks, meat preparation etc. then you can make something from pretty much anything.  Instead of always following recipes you can think on the spot about what you'd like to cook with what you see in your fridge or whats on sale at the market.  If there's one book that will make you the best cook you can possibly be, it's this one.  It is the literal science of cooking, in a nutshell and Kenji Lopez-Alt does an awesome job of teaching.  (he even took all of the pics in the book)

For example, here is a display of eggs boiled at 30 second intervals so you can decide exactly what consistency you'd like:



Thus concludes my list of favorite cookbooks for the cook on a budget.  I'd love to know if you have a favorite budget cookbook.  Let me know in the comments :-)



My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 2

-by Jamie

Woohoo!  Time for part 2!  Up next on my list of favorite cookbooks for people on a budget:

Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

The day I discovered that I wanted to be Christina Tosi's best friend (not that she has any idea who I am) was actually the same day I knew that Tim was most definitely the man I should marry.  Tim made me the "Birthday Cake" from Tosi's first book, the Momofuku Milk Bar.  There are no words to describe how amazing that cake is but I shall try:  Imagine the best boxed confetti cake you've ever had but imagine it was three tiers and made from scratch and was twenty times as good and had chunks of cookies in it and and and

So yeah.  Ya'll may know Tosi as a judge on Masterchef but I've dribbled on photos of her baked goods for years prior to her TV debut.  #imjustsayin  :-)  For example, here's the Inside cover of Milk Bar Life

 photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in  Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

I've made the above cookies countless times and it has taken me all of five minutes not including the time in the oven.  I suppose there's an ongoing theme in the budget cookbooks I've chosen- most are these sort of simplified or "at home" versions of fancier/ less budget friendly books by the same chefs.  This one's title explains exactly the point: This is how Christina Tosi lives.  This is the stuff she actually cooks when she's at home and exhausted after work, when she wants to entertain, on a weekend off, for a bbq, etc.  She has an entire section devoted to what she does for an ideal "girls night".  I tend to be the girls night host amongst my friends as well so this was of course my favorite part.

 Tosi's girls night includes a Jam and Jelly making session  photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in  Milk Bar Life

Tosi's girls night includes a Jam and Jelly making session

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

I take that back.  My favorite part is actually the recipe for "Kimcheez-its" and dip

 photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in  Milk Bar Life

photo credit: Gabriele Stabile in Milk Bar Life

 Recipe from  Milk Bar Life  by Christina Tosi

Recipe from Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

In a nutshell:  Get you this book! 

Milk Bar Life: Recipes & Stories
By Christina Tosi



More Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless

I mean, look at that cover.  You want to eat that food?  I don't blame you.  

Tim made Bayless' pork chili verde and it was insanely good.  This is a budget cookbook review so here's the cost breakdown:  He bought a pork loin for $8 but only used half, bought tomatillos, serano and poblano from the Mexican Market for about $3 plus some garlic and onions for maybe $4.  This fed us for literally days.  

 Tim makes Rick Bayless' pork Chili Verde

Tim makes Rick Bayless' pork Chili Verde

There are tons of recipes for legit Mexican food in Bayless' book and almost all of them are inexpensive and healthy.  You could easily eat Mexican food every day with this book.

Stay tuned for part three of this Budget cookbook review :-)





My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking on a Budget Part 1

A Three Part Series by Jamie Hayes

 not pictured:the free pdf "Good and Cheap" by Leanne Brown

not pictured:the free pdf "Good and Cheap" by Leanne Brown


My husband Tim and I met five years ago on  okcupid (A website which I highly recommend). We both took the website rather seriously, answering all of the voluntary 'about me' questions.  Like, I'm talking hundreds of questions. This is my very long way of saying that it is our theory that this okcupid algorithm matched us, in a nutshell, because of our love for food.  Another thing the algorithm seemed to grasp is that neither of us care about money and therefore we studied liberal arts and therefore we live, you guessed it dear readers, on A BUDGET.

Tim is an avid cookbook collector.  When he was younger, before he had any responsibilities, he would buy books like these:

Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking
By Nathan Myhrvold, Chris Young, Maxime Bilet

Flash forward a decade or so to us being parents on a budget and our go-to cookbook is a completely free PDF (more on that below) but we do budget cooking foodie style (although, to quote my bff Katie, I like the word gourmand better than foodie...maybe I shall say we are gourmands on a budget).  We pay great attention to the ingredients and where they come from. Sometimes that location is our own backyard.

We've managed to obtain quite the collection of cookbooks throughout the years and below are some of our favorites.  We hope you find your new favorite cookbook among them.


MODERNIST CUISINE at Home by Nathan Myhrvold with Maxime Bilet. Photography by Nathan Myhrvold, Melissa Lehuta and The Cooking Lab Photography Team. Published by The Cooking Lab. 

Modernist Cuisine at Home
By Nathan Myhrvold, Maxime Bilet

Back in the day, Tim purchased for himself the original masterpiece in all of its glory: Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Its five volumes include: History and Fundamentals, Techniques and Equipment, Animals and Plants, Ingredients and Preparation and Plated Dish Recipes.  Also included was a spiral bound Kitchen Manual.

But a few years ago after Modernist Cuisine was so successful, its creators made a shortened version of their original multi-volume series, this time geared towards the home cook interested in incorporating more modern techniques into their cooking.  Their new project became Modernist Cuisine at Home. This newer book is just one volume with an additional spiral bound kitchen manual.

Much like its predecessor, Modernist Cuisine at Home has the worlds most beautiful food photographs by Nathan Myhrvold, Melissa Lehuts and the Cooking Lab photography team:

 photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

 photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

photo credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

The reason I chose this book specifically for cooking on a budget is it can teach the aspiring modernist home cook all of the basic recipes they need, such as the worlds best pizza dough recipe (we swear by it) and Mac and Cheese that will possibly make you cry with happiness if you like cheese as much as I do and did I mention- the photos alone are worth every penny.

 credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home

credit: Modernist Cuisine at Home



The Free One: 

Good and Cheap by Leanne Brown

 To quote Brown's blog: 

Good and Cheap is a cookbook for people with very tight budgets, particularly those on SNAP/Food Stamp benefits. The PDF is free and has been downloaded more than 1,000,000 times.

After the PDF went viral online, I launched a Kickstarter project to fund a print run, using a "get one, give one" system (like TOMS Shoes) so that people who bought a book for themselves could give another copy to a family in need.

The campaign was tremendously successful — I asked for $10,000 to print a small batch, but I ended up with 5,636 supporters who raised $144,681! That made it the #1 cookbook ever on Kickstarter.

To Download The FREE PDF:

Good and Cheap is my favorite!  This, I would say, is the book I think of and use the most day to day.  Its recipes are also the least expensive as they were designed specifically for people on SNAP/ Food Stamp benefits. Brown created the pdf with the budget of $4 a day in mind. (holy cheapness!) Good and Cheap is a great overall lesson on how to eat well even if one is on food stamps (or would like to spend much less money on food in general). Take note, Gwyneth Paltrow.  If I were to sum up Leann Brown's suggested lifestyle philosophy when it comes to eating on a budget, it would be to concentrate the most on plant foods, using meat sparingly.  She also has some great from scratch recipes for things like roti, tortillas, pizza dough, pasta, etc. but the best thing about this book is that you don't feel like you're eating cheaply. Instead you're thinking like a true cook- taking great care with everything you make at your kitchen counter.

*stay tuned for parts 2 and 3 of my series on cookbooks for the cook on a budget

Yachats, Oregon

-by Jamie

Hello!!  I didn't forget about you!  Things got busy busy but the good news is I'm amped for the summer and am thinking I will have lots to write about as Oregon is sort of magical that time of year (who am I kidding- its magical all times of year).  Speaking of, Tim and I took a VERY mini vacation (about 24 hours) to Yachats a few weeks ago.  It was so wonderful!  Plus, I remembered to take pictures and notes so I could write about it:

For my friends who aren't from here, the Oregon coast is actually quite close to where we live- about 50 minutes or so.  We drove west toward the cost after dropping 'lil P off at the grandparents in Eugene.  Our first stop was, I think, the first potty option in Florence and a good way to send $20 out into the ether:

 Tim's tee shirt is worthy of its own blog post

Tim's tee shirt is worthy of its own blog post

Yup.  The casino.

Up next was the Fred Meyer where we bought all the junk foods and gas for the car.  Then it was time for adventuring and Heceta Beach.  The lighthouse and the lighthouse keeper's house are some of my favorite things about Oregon (not to mention the beach itself).  

Next it was time to check in at the hotel.  We stayed at the Adobe in Yachats which I highly recommend.  Every room has an ocean view but it is still very affordable.  (It was VERY affordable for us as we had a gift certificate from my amazing in-laws but I still plan on going back as often as possible).  Here is the view from our room!  :

The room also had a fireplace and an excessive amount of lounge chairs.

You can buy this at the front desk:

We got fancified and then got a fancy drink at the hotel lounge.  The waitress who appears to be sitting on my shoulder was an absolute hoot!

We then went out to dinner at a place called Ona.  The ambiance was excellent and it felt like a fancy date.   We had a nice server as well.  I will say that the food could have been better and more local given the prices.  Also too much saffron can actually taste a bit dirty/ muddy and this was unfortunately the case with my pasta.  I learned later that there is a fun pizza place by the Adobe so next time, that.

The next day we went to the Drift Inn for breakfast which is tried and true and awesome.  They have umbrellas hanging from the ceiling!  


and this mural!

Then it was on to one more beach where Tim found every agate in Oregon and I found no agates but enjoyed the hunt.













Attention All Humans with Boobs!

-by Jamie

Here's a story for ya:

Right after I graduated from college (the University of Wisconsin...Go Badgers!!) I needed an easy summer job and I ended up working at Lane Bryant for all of three months.

I gained a very valuable skill there, which still comes in handy to this day.  The skill of properly measuring women for bras.   Since making that fact known, I have had pretty much every one of my girlfriends ask me one of the following questions:

1.  How do I measure myself so I know what bra size I wear?

2.  I've noticed you have a rather large bust, Jamie.  Where do you purchase your bras and how much do you spend on said bras?  (ok I guess that counts as a two part question)


Here are my answers:


-You'll need a cloth tape measure.

-First, while wearing a bra measure yourself (in inches) around the band of your bra; over the band and not too tightly (but sort of tight).  If you have an odd numbered measurement or any fractions of an inch, round up.


*The band of your bra, not the straps, is what is 90% in charge of holding up your boobs.  You want the band to be tight without being painful.  If it leaves a mark, then it is too tight.

-Then, still while wearing a bra, measure around your breasts at the outer most part (probably your nipples).  Make sure you have really good posture.  It should almost feel like you're sticking your breasts out.  Keep your shoulders back.

Write down that measurement (in inches)

-Now, count the number of inches in difference between your band measurement and the measurement around your breasts.  Write that number down.

For example, if your band measurement is 38 and the measurement around your breasts is 43, then the number you would write down is 5.


-Use this chart with your magic number:

less than 1 inch difference  AA cup

1 inch in difference is an  A cup

2 inches  B cup

3 inches  C cup

4 inches  D cup

5 inches  DD or E cup

6 inches DDD or F cup

7 inches  DDDD or G cup

8 inches  H cup

9 inches I cup

10 inches  J cup

11 inches  K cup


2.  Where to buy Bras and Swimsuits if you have a big chest or are plus sized (aka you have a bigger band width than what is available in chain stores):

-First of all, right at home here in Eugene, Oregon there is an amazing store for all women and all sizes both large and small and everywhere in between:  Ruth's Foundations!  (they are located in the Southtowne Shoppes in south Eugene)

This place rocks!  The women there are so helpful and they have pretty much every band size and cup size and more importantly if they don't they'll order it for you.

The bras I've gotten at Ruth's (I also bought a Speedo swimsuit there in a plus size) were a little on the pricey side although that may be because the brands that carry my size tend to be pricier.  I think I spent about $60 per bra.  But the idea with Ruth's Foundations is they want your bras to last you a long time.  They offer repairs/tayloring of bras so if, for example, the under wire of your bra comes out or the elastic band is fraying/ losing its elasticity they can fix that.

Unfortunately, as a large-chested plus sized woman, this is the only store in town that carries my size so after that I head online for my shopping:


-Amazon!  You can get to amazon from the banner right at the top of our page!   You can get pretty much anything you need on Amazon.  I've gotten all of my big 'ol nursing bras here and other bras as well.


Simply Be

I got an awesome strapless bra here but I wasn't a huge fan of what it was called, lol.  They called it "The largest strapless bra in the world".  Sometimes they offer said bra and sometimes they don't but this is a great place to buy plus size bras and they have a good range of prices.  They have some really good deals on two packs of bras as well.  (not to mention great deals on six packs of underpants)



Sometimes I'll find a great bra in my size here.  Great prices...probably the least expensive option on this list.  Nice swimsuits, too!


Bare Necessities

Huge range of sizes!  I would probably say this is my favorite place to buy bras, shape wear, underwear and swimsuits.


La Leche League

Carries all sizes and all different kinds of nursing bras.  I love their nursing cami and it was the only one I could find in my size.


*Why am I not including places like Lane Bryant and Torrid, you ask?...for the simple reason that I do not buy bras at those places as they do not carry my size.  However, they may carry your size and if they do awesome!  I really like their stuff.


In the comments section, please feel free to let me know if there's any great places I've missed.  Thank you for reading!






Use It Up Challenge: A Tale of 4 Grains

-by Jamie

Well I'm just gonna go ahead and say it:  We sort of failed the "Use It Up" Challenge.  But only sort of.  I'll explain:

First, here's what I had in mind:  Tim and I were planning on using up all of the random stuff that we'd accumulated in our pantry by getting creative and looking up recipes, etc.  Then I was going to beautifully organize things with a plethora of decorative vessels.  What didn't occur to me when we chose this category to use up is that we had friends and family in town for the holidays, lots of holiday parties and pretty much never ended up eating dinner at home.  Oops :-)

Here's where it gets really embarrassing:

This is both the before and after picture of our pantry.  I know.  We are what I'd like to call "pantry shovers"; meaning ever since we moved into this house OVER A YEAR AGO we've been shoving our groceries into our cabinets, telling ourselves that we'll get around to organizing it all at some point.  Tim's random Asian ingredients ended up at the top where I can't reach...that's about as organized as we've gotten so far.

Now that our dirty secret is out of the way I would like to move on and discuss what I did get out of this challenge, which was actually a lot:

Tim and I both want to be healthier.  I recently had a doctors appointment during which I discussed with my doctor the fact that I have these huge spikes and dips in my hunger and energy levels and that I sometimes even get nauseous when I'm really hungry.  She said that this was probably due to my addiction to processed refined carbs aka my tendency to eat lots of baguettes and pasta.  She recommended that I try to not make those items such staples of my diet.

So, as you may notice, the only pasta left in our pantry is one box of lasagna noodles.  The question now was what do we cook instead?  That's where this challenge was hugely helpful.  While rummaging around I found all sorts of healthier grain options that I had either opened and tried once or, gasp, never even opened.  Here are some of the recipes we tried, with honest reviews on how they tasted:

1.  Rice (brown rice is of course ideal).  This one is obvi and I'm sure most people eat rice as part of their diet.  To go on top of the rice, for the "Use It Up" challenge I grabbed a pre-made curry boxed 'meal kit' and added to it sun-dried tomatoes, since I wanted to get those out of the pantry (an awful idea) as well as cabbage, tofu and fish sauce (a very good idea).  The consensus:  I will definitely continue to stock up on these sorts of ready made curry boxes as it was so easy.  We got a bunch at the Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet.  And I will never again add sun-dried tomatoes to it.


2.  Quinoa

We had four boxes of quinoa that we purchased once from the Cottage Grove Grocery Outlet because they were on sale for $3 each!!!  Then we tried it once and I didn't really like it.  The solution:  This recipe I got from pinterest:

Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

It is sooooo good!  I won't exactly call this healthy cuz cheese but it is a great way to get veggies, protein and healthy carbs into the belly of Lil' P...she loved it.



3.  Millet

I'm gonna go ahead and say that millet as a stand alone is not so yummy.  But I have not given up on it!  I plan on trying to bake with it as well as use it in soup ...I think it will work better that way.  For millet I used this recipe:

Millet Bowl with Mushroom Gravy and Kale

While I find Millet blerg, I love love loved the gravy!!  I plan on making it again and putting it on top of a different grain.  Since I'm not vegan and because I was trying to use up what I had as opposed to go shopping, I made some substitutions/ changes to this recipe which I was happy with:

-I cooked the millet in vegetable broth. 

-I dissolved a chicken bullion cube into the gravy

-I also added Worcestershire sauce and dried parsley for some color

-I topped with Parmesean cheese!!!!!!!!


Oh man!  I'm not going to even bother with a recipe because I eat this stuff ALL THE TIME!  It is so good!  Follow the package instructions and cook it with broth instead of water and wow!!  Farro stands alone and can be used as a side dish for any, chicken, pork, you name it.  You can even make farro risotto (farroto).  Get you some Farro!!!!!


Ok well I think that's about it for this portion of the Use It Up Challenge but I'm not calling it quits.  I'd like to actually finish the challenge with Tim's help and use up a bunch more stuff in our pantry to make some space so that we can actually organize it.  We will of course keep you posted!!  Happy New Year!


P.S. don't forget to check out Ali's blog.  She'll be posting with what she did for the challenge tomorrow and I have a feeling it's going to be awesome

Good Little House

Use It Up Challenge

by Jamie (but Tim will be taking part in the below mentioned challenge too!)

One of our favorite bloggers (who also happens to be Tim's cousin), Ali at Good Little House had an amazing (maybe even a HayesAmazing...badumbum) idea to get our blogging/photography/crafting/handyperson/creative/cooking juices flowing:  We are going to spend the next month (until January 5th) using up some thing(s)- and by the way, we challenge you to do the same!  The idea is to choose a category of things you have a bunch of that you need to use:  crafting supplies, scrap paper, pantry items, a freezer full of mystery meat, billions of dollars in philanthropic funds, a garden full of squash....You get the idea.  I think I know what we'll be choosing to use up but you'll have to stay tuned to see our blog post about the challenge this January :-)

Stretch the Budget, Tip 1- Pork Loin Savings

By Tim

Hello and welcome to another recurring feature here at Hayes Amaze: Stretch the Budget, a savings tip series that will have you saving money and eating great for pennies on the dollar. (Disclaimer: It probably won't be that amazing. But it'll be worth it.) For our first trick we are going to take a large cut of pork loin and show you how to make it into several chops, a roast or two, and some meat for mincing or grinding.

I am an unrepentant carnivore. I am more than happy to make,  eat and cook vegetarian entrees. They can be delightful, filling and satisfying. They can even be wonderfully unhealthy. But I would be lying if I didn't say that I prefer a little meat in my dinner. And since meat can be expensive I look for ways to save a little money while getting a better product. And so it is that I introduce you to our guest this evening: Mr. Pork Loin

When I buy pork I try and avoid a pre-brined, injected cut of meat. They inject the pork to make it stay moist when it's cooked, put a little flavor into it and, most importantly, pump up the weight so you spend a little more. I find that the brined meat is a little too salty, throws off my recipes and generally has a strange quality to the meat that I don't appreciate. That said, if all you can find is an injected bit o' meat, don't feel bad about buying it. Just remember to watch any salt you put into the recipe as the meat is already fairly well salted.

So we have here a 4.25 pound hunk of meat at $2.29 a pound. How does that compare to pre-cut, supermarket chops? I'm glad you asked.

 Pork chops in the wild.

Pork chops in the wild.

Here we have a package of four chops, about a half inch thick for $4.99 a pound. One, maybe two dinner's worth of meat for ten bucks. We have twice the meat for a lower price. Sweeeeet. We also have control over how thick our chops are. These are a pretty decent thickness for supermarket pork chops. Anything less than a half inch thick is going to be overcooked before it's done and you may need a saw to cut it, or at least leather working tools. And plenty of gravy to cover the dryness.

Alright, enough about those supermarket chops. We are through, and we've moved on to something much better and will never look back. So, first step with our pork loin: Remove the wrapper.

 My knife is about a foot long. That's a big hunk of pig.

My knife is about a foot long. That's a big hunk of pig.

Removing the wrapper is best done over the sink. Set up your cutting board and take your pork and a knife to the sink and have a couple paper towels ready on the counter. There's going to be a bit of liquid and it's a little ooky and you don't want it all over the place. Food safety is no joke, friends.

Once the wrapper is off, hang the pork loin over the sink for a second to let any excess liquid drip off. It's not completely pleasant but it'll be worth it. Some people say you should rinse your meat, but that isn't really necessary, and present advice is to avoid doing that as water can splash bacteria all about and turn your kitchen. I don't know about you, but I have enough bacteria around my kitchen already, thank you very much. Take your paper towels (good thing you had them ready, isn't it?) and pat the meat dry. Lay the pork loin on a cutting board. Like the picture.

Now it's time to decide what you want to get out of your pork loin. Do you just want chops? Do you want three or four decent sized roasts? Maybe a mix of the two? Maybe you want to make a pork loin copy of Michelangelo's David. I cannot help you if that's the case. It may be too late for help at that point.

Here's what I decided to do:



We have here six inch thick chops, a lean chunk on the left there that I'll be using to make spicy bulgogi pork (Why yes, I will share that recipe with you! Thanks for your interest!) and a fatty chunk on the right that I will be grinding up to make meatballs. If you are going to make a roast I recommend using that fattier side and cutting a four or five inch section. The fatty bit will help the roast from being too dry. The leaner section is good for stir fry.

Now that you have decided what you want out of your loin (oh dear, that didn't sound right...), commence to cutting. Start by cutting your roast of one end and then work your way down, cutting piece by piece. Like I said, I prefer a thicker pork chop, about one inch. Chops that size won't dry out as quickly and can be pounded into thin cutlets that you can use to make schnitzel or tonkatsu (and I will cover those as well, thank you for asking). A half inch would be the minimum thickness I recommend, and you can go up to two inches for some real cave man sized double chops, if that's how you want to roll.

Take your knife and make long, slow strokes. Use the whole length of the blade. The less sawing back and forth, the smoother the surfaces of your chops and roasts will be. It should take just three or four back and forth motions to get through. If they do come out a little ragged don't worry about it. They will still be delicious. You'll just need a little more practice and maybe some better knives.

Now that you've parted the pork it's time to put it away. Decide if you're going to use any of the bits in the next day or so and freeze anything you will be saving for later. I like to put them in single layers in large freezer bags so I can take out one or two as needed. The roasts will go into individual bags.

Wash your hands (cross contamination is no joke, people!), get as many bags as you need, open them and grab some tongs. Alternatively you could ask a responsible adult to help you if one is near. They can hold the bags open while you fill them with your dirty pork hands. Today I was alone, so I used tongs. Be careful not to touch the outside of the bags or zipper area with the raw meat.

And there you have it! You'll note that one chunk is not bagged, that's because I used it to make meatballs immediately after I portioned my pork. The tale of the meatballs next time, my blog friends, but until then, enjoy!