Monday, November 30, 2015

Shopping Goals: December 2015

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" is playing softly in the background.  The soft glow of Christmas lights are emanating from my daughter's room as she watches a marathon run of "Gummy Bears" on the Kindle.  My son is running back and forth happily playing with a chunky string of beads speaking in his own language how happy they are making him. 

You know, times like this make you take a deep breath and smile, realizing how very rich you are in this world.

Anyhow, when it comes to shopping goals for last month...well the outcome wasn't so great.  Since we didn't have any money to speak of, most of the goals went unmet.  We did manage to get an extra turkey for the freezer this year as our local Safeway affiliate had turkeys for .78 lb when you spent 50.00, so I was able to get a turkey for that price during normal shopping.  I was also able to pick up two hams for 1.38 lb at Fred Meyer one week and I found oranges on sale for really cheap (.78 lb) and got some for the fridge.  My daughter has since decided she loves oranges, so those are almost gone, but I'm happy we had them.

Other than that, not a whole lot got accomplished, but I was happy to get what we managed to swing in our normal grocery budget, so I'm not complaining.

December's shopping goals are pretty sparse as we are pretty much out of money and any money we get in will be shoved directly into savings to save up for January's bills. 

I do, however, have a change jar, and I'm going to make that go as far as I can to get a few things this month.  Mainly a few stocking stuffers.  I'll be making some stocking stuffers for the kids too, but want to make sure they have a few treats in there (and honestly, I'm creative but making a Hot Wheel's car ain't gonna happen *laugh*).

We are going to be working on a severely reduced grocery budget this month to conserve what money we have, so the other items listed will be worked into my 50.00 per week grocery budget for December.

Now, December used to be a huge month for shopping for me.  After Christmas clearance was my baby for finding gifts for the next year, especially when it came to the adults in the family (dishes, etc) and back when Target was new up here the first couple of years they were open their toy clearance was just awesome...90% off and abundant back I miss those days.  Actually, ahem, I still have a few toys hoarded from Christmas clearance shopping trips of yore where a deal was too good to pass up and so I'd buy the toys and save them.  I'll be raiding what little is left of that hoard this year for a few gifts (including at least one for local charity toy drives, which I try to donate at least one toy to every year if I can).

Now a days the only thing I would really hit would be Target for their after Christmas clearance on wrapping paper and gift wrapping doo dads.  However I have managed the last four years to get wrapping paper for .50 or less at Target , so I'm hoping that by stretching out the wrapping paper I have already that I won't need to buy any more for next year if I'm careful how I wrap.  I think I can make it work.

Shopping Goals December 2015

Regular Stores:
  • Hershey-etts filled candy canes (one of our local stores has these on sale for 1.00 through the middle of next month, so I'm going to try and get two for the children's stockings and one for my son's school for reinforcers).
  • Small things of Play Doh (for stocking stuffers.  These usually go on sale for less than 1.00 at some stores)
  • Hot Wheels Cars (Target).  For son's stocking.
  • 1 LED light bulb if on sale (I stole the nice bright LED bulb I had in my sewing lamp to put in the kid's bathroom when their fan light burned out.  It's pretty dim in there without one, so I wanted an LED in there because it's turned on so much, so now I'm down a lightbulb).
  • Water Softening Salt (I don't even want to check, but I'm pretty sure my salt reservoir is probably empty by now...doh).
Thrift Stores:
  • Watch for tools for husband (he collects vintage tools of certain brands, so I'm HOPING I've learned enough to get him a few cool things *laugh*).  Must be 1.00 or less per tool if possible.
  • Toys/other doohickies that the kids might like in their stocking for 1.00 or less.

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 11/30/15

Okay, so the menu plan last week got shot into space somewhere in all honesty due to sick kids, life circumstances and Thanksgiving, so I didn't bother to even try to come up with much of a menu plan for last week.  We kind of just winged it when it came to meals (pancakes, leftover ham and things like that ended up being on the menu.  It worked out alright).

This week I want to get back into my winter menu plan a bit more, but also keep it simple since I'm still juggling a daughter with a double ear infection and upper respiratory infection going on. 

So, here we go!  This week's menu plan!
Monday:  Thanksgiving leftovers (after today the rest of the turkey goes into the freezer, which isn't much I'm happy to say).

Tuesday:  Tacos

Wednesday:  Super Easy Chili

Thursday:   Shrimp and Rice

Friday:  Chicken Alfredo

Saturday:  Baked Chicken, popovers, roasted glazed carrots

Sunday:  Leftovers (tacos or chili)
To Bake:  Bread.  Baking day:  Wednesday (no speech therapy this week due to children being sick and other engagements for the speech therapist.

Desserts:  Jello with whipped topping, vanilla pudding.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Mulled Apple Cider Green Beans With Cranberries

This is a recipe I developed years ago and have been making at Thanksgiving religiously every year since.  My husband's comment is always that he'd like to serve the green beans in a restaurant, so yes, they are THAT good.

The list of ingredients might seem a bit odd, but trust me, try it once.  You won't be sorry.

Also note, if you don't have apple cider I can understand that for sure.  You can substitute out apple juice for the cider, but try to get the no sugar added kind or the sauce might come out too sweet.

Mulled Apple Cider Green Beans With Cranberries
  • 1 package frozen whole green beans (if you have them.  I used cut ones this year, which didn't turn out QUITE as well I thought, but if that's what you have, use it)
  • 2/3 cup mulled apple cider (below is a mulled apple cider fake out if you need it)
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
1.  Preheat skillet over high heat and add about 2 tbs olive oil to pan.  Add onion, reduce heat down to medium and cook until onion is translucent and sweet.  Add apple cider and dried cranberries  (if using regular apple cider or apple juice add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and a pinch of ginger, cloves and nutmeg to the cider in the pan).  Cook until the liquid is significantly reduced and the cranberries are plump and nicely re-hydrated. 

2.  Place green beans in a pan and cook according to package directions, or place in microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 4 to 5 minutes or until done (this stops the green beans from getting water logged while you're cooking the sauce).
3.  Pour green beans into cider mixture and mix green beans until well coated.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

 Well, when it came to last week's goals it was sort of a mixed bag type of week.  I got Thanksgiving done and out of the way and got a few Christmas gifts done, but that was about it.

I was hoping to get some more caught up in that regard today, but then my son woke up a bit after midnight with a stomach bug which led to a pretty much sleepless night for my son, my husband and I.  Luckily the worst seemed to be past by about six, so we all passed out (oh it was hard getting up to get my daughter breakfast this morning).  I had a terrible headache all night and most of today, which has finally decided to leave me in peace, but I'm not sure if I'm going to be getting much done tonight as my husband isn't feeling well now.

So, yeah, between two sick kids and just the general frenzy of Thanksgiving, not a lot got done in other areas.  But, I'm totally okay with that all things considered.

So, my goals for this week are:
1.  Dig out Christmas decorations.  Try to find a good wreath form to use or make (I'm pretty sure I have one of those I salvaged from a previous wreath, but I'll have to see if I threw it away or not).

2.  Wrap up gifts that I have boxed up so they are ready to deliver.

3.  Detail clean house (some of the sub list is seen above there) to get rid of germs from the kiddos being sick.

4.  Go in and talk to schools about possible substitute or aide positions on very limited hours.

5.  Weed through big container of cookbooks in den and get rid of the ones I don't need (the cookbooks were my dad's so it's taken me a lot of years to get to the point where I could get rid of some of them).

6.  Work on Christmas gifts.

7.  Work on goals for next month.

8.  Listen to Christmas music, breathe deep and try to find enjoyment in the holiday season.  Pray.

9.  Work on the endless pile of mending.
And there you are folks.  My goals for this week.  How about you?  Are you up to anything this week?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift Twenty Five: Weighted Lap Pillow

This is another gift I made for my son this week.  Luckily it didn't take long as I was juggling sick kiddos, housework and Thanksgiving preparations.  With my son's autism, especially lately, he is really liking weight on his head specifically, but it also liking just general weight on him (he's been sleeping with a weighted blanket on for the first time ever the last couple of weeks), so I decided to make him a weighted lap pillow.

I used some plastic weight bead things that you use to weigh down the legs of stuffed animals and such as the weight in this.  It worked, kind of.  I didn't get it to weigh as much as I would have liked due to lack of beads, for one, and because I wanted to make sure I could move the beads out of the way to sew the sections down without fear of breaking a needle.  It weighs a couple of pounds, though, so hopefully that will be enough to make my son happy.

I just cut out a basic square shape that looked like a good size to fit over the top of the head (or in a lap) and then I left about a four inch section open on one side, turned it right side out and started filling it slowly with the beads (as if you are not careful they go EVERYWHERE!).  I eyeballed long sections as I was filling and would then stop and quilt down the section I'd filled and repeated it for about three lines of beads.  This way the beads won't just roll to the sides and not leave any weight for the top of the head and will also help the cloth to take the wear and tear of being weighted down better (vs all of the beads rolling onto just the side seams as time goes on and not doing as great).  I sewed the pillow inside seams with a zig-zag stitch to help the seam take punishment a bit better than just a traditional straight stitch as well.  Uses a bit more thread, but I think it will wear better that way.

By the way, I totally understand if you don't need to make one of these, but you can use the same concept and use rice in the place of plastic beads and make a nice weighted eye pillow for someone you love.  That way they can put the pillow in the freezer for a few moments to help cool their eyes (or their forehead) after a long day or you can put it in the microwave for a few seconds to make a warming pad for the back of the neck after a long day.

Total Cost to Make Gift:  Nothing as I had everything to make it.

Total Time to Make Gift:  About an hour as I was REALLY careful moving beads out of the way of my needle.

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

I had actually written a post about the long and depressing week and my depressed state of mind last night, but decided not to publish it for the sake of everyone's holiday spirits.  You're welcome *slight grin*.

This week I really felt like a truck named Desolation hit me and threw me into two carnival trains that were on a collision course and they were carrying loads of worries on one end and loads of depression on the other end.  By the time the inevitable Richard Scary type of collision had occurred, I didn't know which way was up and just ended up trying to find the pieces of myself enough to function.

Basically we have no money, problems are abounding in trying to get money, bills are due and once paid I'm trying to figure out how to stagger along to make sure we have things like gas money until said problems work themselves out.  I looked for a job for myself, but can't find anything that would make us enough money to support the family (that four year marketing and business admin degree and all of those years of being an office manager REALLY seem to be paying off...sorry sarcasm gets me through sometimes), which is what I'd need to do as we need one parent at home to take my son to therapy and school. I am doing everything I can think of, including looking around to find enough things to sell to open an Etsy shop so at least I could make enough money for gas and things.  I am praying vehemently for a blinding flash from the beyond on what to do, but so far I'm not having a lot of luck in that area.

It didn't help that I had sick kids home on Monday.  Over the weekend the kids and husband developed a cold that hit hard and fast and Monday no one but me was feeling that great.  My son got over the cold in normal order and so did my husband, but my daughter kept having this wet cough that worried her father and I.  Tuesday the kids had a snow day, which was good because they both needed the rest.  Wednesday both kids were in school for the entire day.  We had the nurse check out my daughter's ears, which she complained hurt, and he didn't see any infection and said they were a little plugged but that was all.

Thursday rolls around and my daughter woke up with her ear hurting her pretty good, but we were hoping it was just clogged, put some things in her ear to break up ear wax and by the end of the day she acted like she was maybe feeling a bit better (no where near normal, though). 

And then yesterday she woke up and it was obvious she was going to a doctor.  Her cough had worsened by a lot, both of her ears were killing her, she was running a fever and she just sat and cried she felt so miserable.  My husband ended up at the ER with her since every place I called had taken a long weekend for Thanksgiving.  Final diagnosis:  Upper respiratory infection with a double ear infection on top of it. 

She's now on copious amounts of antibiotics and lots of cuddles, but at least she's finally starting to act normal for the first time in nearly a week.  She's not been that sick and worried us that bad in a few years.

At any rate, I did, in the middle of "mind blurring tornado of worrying events" manage to save money this week, so let's get to that and brighten up this dim hall shall we?

1.  I went to the store on Wednesday with a set budget in mind and stuck to it hard.  I was able to get the bare minimum of groceries for next week with a little leeway built in for things like milk and drinks for my son during the week and still came in 100.00 under my normal grocery budget (which isn't easy when your son subsists on processed foods let me tell ya).

2.  I got a few Christmas gifts done this week.  I'm no longer on schedule to be done by the end of November with everything that has happened the last two or three weeks (plumbing problems, sickness and other things oh my), but I'm hoping to get the rest of my gifts done within the first week of December.  My goal is ultimately to get all the gifts done before Christmas break as when my son is home it is SO much harder to get sewing projects accomplished without sacrificing up my house in offering to him to destroy as I turn my back on him for 20 minutes at a time.

3.  When I went shopping I found some decorative gourds marked down to 1.00 and I used them as a centerpiece on my Thanksgiving table.  I'm trying to find a good place in my house today to see if I can possibly dry them so that I can use them for decorations in coming years as well.  Biggest problem is finding a well ventilated place for them to dry where I won't forget about them and such.

4.  For Thanksgiving, instead of buying a new bag of red potatoes for one of the dishes my husband really wanted me to make, I pulled out the 1/2 bag of potatoes I had left from earlier in the year.  Some of them were kind of past their prime, but I sat and took the extra time, cut out all of the bad spots and salvaged every bit I could.  And I got enough potatoes to finish the dish (had to add a bit of extra cheese to cover some thin spots in the dish, but it worked).

5.  When making the turkey this year, I brined the turkey neck right along with the turkey and baked it in the same roasting pan.  I ate the turkey neck as part of my Thanksgiving portion.  I had gotten into the habit of throwing the turkey neck away, but doing it this way, I'll definitely be doing that in the future as it was really tasty.

6.  I belong to an organization called, "Smiley 360" which is a product testing outfit (I definitely can recommend them to you all as they are legit).  I got a notice that my latest "mission" shipped, so that is more free things I'll be getting in the mail.  This mission was really easy to fulfill the requirements for as well, which was a double benefit as not only did it save me money, it saved me time.

7.  Even though things were looking bleak and I fought tears a lot the last three days, while at the store yesterday I heard the familiar ringing of the bell.  Since I was a child I've always donated to the Salvation Army with their bell ringers.  I dug around in my pocket, pulled out all the change I could find and donated it all.  It did make me feel a little bit better and recovered some of my holiday spirit.

8.  My husband won a contest on a forum he belongs to (it's a guys and their tools type of thing) and received some free tools in the mail as his contest winnings.  It made him happy to receive the prize, which made me happy as he's been kind of miserable lately too.

9.  We've been enjoying unseasonably warm temperatures the last few days.  While it's melted the snow at rapid rates (much to the disappointment of the children) it has been saving me money on my heating bill, so I'm not complaining.

10.  I mended a hole in my son's jacket pocket and a couple of socks this week. 

And there you are folks.  Some of the ways we saved money this week.  How did you do?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Cranberry Relish

This is a recipe that was passed down to me by my husband's grandfather.  My husband had mentioned to me when we first got married how much he loved a certain cranberry relish his grandmother made every year at Thanksgiving when he was a child.  So, when his grandfather moved to Alaska, I asked him to share the recipe.

And it is so good I've made I've made it every year since then on Thanksgiving and sometimes Christmas.  It's that good.

And the best part?  It's super simple to make.  I call that a win-win!

 Cranberry Relish

  • 1 Bag fresh cranberries (you can use frozen if that's all you have.  Don't defrost them first, just use frozen ones).
  • 2 Seedless navel oranges 
  • 1 1/2 to 3 cups sugar (depending on sweetness level preferred.  We go for 1 1/2 cups)

1.  Cut one navel orange, peel and all, into quarters and put into food processor.   Now you can do this with the second one as well, but the relish will be pretty tart if you do it that way.  I tend to, now, remove the zest from the second orange by thinly slicing the peel and then removing the pith underneath.  I find that by not using the pith on the second orange that I'm able to cut the sugar amount by 1/2, which I think is not a bad thing :).

2.  Place the zest and orange pieces from the second orange (or the entire thing cut into quarters) into the food processor as well.  Process the oranges for a few moments to chop up the peel and things into more manageable pieces.

3.  Add whole bag of cranberries.  Pulse food processor a few times to lower the level in the food processor and then add 1 cup sugar.  Process until mixture resembles relish (it doesn't take too long).  Add additional 1/2 cup sugar and pulse to combine.  Taste and then adjust sugar level to where you want it (warning though, this stuff gets sweeter the longer it has to set up in the fridge because the sugar dissolves, so go for a BIT tarter than you'd like it at the table).
This stuff freezes well, so you can make a vat of it (and trust me, it makes a lot) and freeze it in smaller serving containers for six months to a year.

A Gift a Day Gift Twenty-Four: Bath Sheet

So, I felt proud of myself for making this gift.  Why?  Well, this bath sheet was made out of some fabric I've held onto for years.  It's a nice terry cloth-like the type of fabric you'd normally see baby robes and things being made out of (nice and thick though), but I never had enough fabric to make a robe or something out of it.  I had originally gotten the fabric in some bags I bought at the thrift store about four years ago.  The store was liquidating it's fabric and crafting things to move to a new location and so they sold these HUGE garbage bags full of cloth for 3.00.  The bags were opaque, so you couldn't tell what was in them, but the bags were so big I took a chance and bought two of them.

Glad I did too as I got some really good fabric out of them that I'm using to this day and about, oh 2 to 4% of what I got from the bags just got donated back to the store after it moved, but the bags were definitely worth it.

Anyway, I realized this year that, once again, I didn't have enough fabric to make a robe to fit either one of my kids (every year I seem to have to relearn that lesson when it came to the fabric), so I finally decided to make a bath sheet for my husband out of it.

I went online, Amazon actually, and looked up bath sheets to get some basic dimension ideas and then I cut the fabric out as big as I could while taking off the uneven bits (since the dimensions of a bath sheet were just a bit bigger than the cloth as a whole).  I then sewed a couple of different shades of bias tape around the outside edge of the towel (because I didn't have enough of either one color).  The varying shades of blue actually came out looking rather neat.

I was going to embroider a letter or something cool onto it, but decided against it as it's a towel and my husband gets pretty dirty in his profession, so I figure if I bleach out bias tape I won't cry, but bleaching out embroidery I put a lot of work into...THAT would make me cry.

The dimensions of the final product, by the way, if you do a bath sheet correctly is about 40" x 70".  Mine ended up being closer to 40" by 65".

Total Cost to Make Gift:  Nothing as I had the materials.

Total Time to Make Gift:  About an hour.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Thrifty Thanksgiving: Making a Classy Thanksgiving Table on the Cheap

First, I'd like to wish a "Happy Thanksgiving" to all of you in the U.S.

I thought that this would be a good holiday to not only thank the Good Lord for the blessings in my life, namely my children, husband and the fact that I was lucky enough to be born into a country where food and water are readily available for me to eat and drink, but this would be a good time to share a kind of special "Thrifty Thursday" with you all.

Namely, I wanted to share how you can swing a holiday on the cheap, with a little thinking in advance, and no one would ever know that it was "cheap" for you to swing.

Above is the shot of our Thanksgiving table this year.  With the exception of the food, table runner and pot holders (which I made all of those...well not the base ingredients, but you get the idea *laugh*) and the centerpiece (which I'll get to in a second), everything else on the table was purchased used from thrift stores and yard sales.

The french white plates I found at the used store a while back for .50 a plate.  I bought four to use for "fancy holiday" place settings as you can't go wrong with white.  The Corelle casseroles that I'm using as serving dishes I got at a yard sale for .50 each (complete with lids) or I already had in my collection of casserole dishes for years.  The Corelle platter my turkey is being served on my husband and I ran into at a used store a few months ago for 5.00...I kind of didn't want to spend the money but I've been looking for a Corelle serving platter for a LONG time, so I was thrilled to have it so I could get rid of the huge, clunky, and impossible to store serving platter I had previously.

The bowl the rolls are being served in?  Thrift store find for 1.00.  The tablecloth 2.00 at a thrift store.  You get the general idea.

Now, I did not buy all of these things at once, far from it. The tablecloth alone I've had for at least six years. It's taken me a while to accumulate enough to have a holiday table that pretty much matched (the Tupperware gravy boat I will not part with for the sake of matching unless I find a Blue Cornflower patterned one, sorry to say.  That thing keeps gravy warm for hours).  I use all of these things from day to day as well, with the exception of the plates.  Changing one thing at a holiday table, believe it or not, can really help to make a holiday special.  So, my advice would be if you are looking for a way to spiffy up your holiday?  Buy white plates and just go from there to decorate because you can use white for every single holiday I can think of and just change up the other decorations around it.

My centerpiece was built in a basket tray I bought at a used store for .50 a long time ago and I use for everything from harvesting stuff from the garden, hauling treats for hot cocoa or something on to using for a centerpiece like this.  I've gotten to a stage in my life that if I have something in my kitchen I want it to be able to perform multiple tasks if possible.  I have a small kitchen to begin with and then adding in my utilitarian nature...well I like multi-taskers.

The gourds were a great find that I ran into at the regular grocery store yesterday as I ran in to get the bare minimum of groceries for next week.  They had big bags of gourds marked down to 1.00 a bag (probably due to the holidays being pretty much over), so I bought them.  My original plan had been to harvest different fake flowers from different fall themed arrangements I have around the house, but this was quick, easy, and my kids loved playing with the gourds all day, so it was worth it, I think.

And that's another bit of advice I can lend.  When shopping with the holidays in mind, shop a year ahead if possible.  Sounds odd I know, but things like tablecloths, dish towels and decorating things go on clearance after the holiday has passed and it is a wonderful time to pick things up for the next year cheap.  Just be sure you label them and box them where you can find them the next year so you don't forget what you have.  And yes, I do in fact shop the sales at the used stores right before the holiday hits (a lot of thrift stores, at least around here, will have buy one get one sales or 50 to 70% off sales to help liquidate holiday themed donations).

I, honestly, don't keep a lot for any holidays other than Christmas (since we use a fake tree and such) and Halloween.  Halloween and fall tend to get kind of lumped together, so when Halloween is over the fall decorations roll over into Thanksgiving decorations.  I tend to use pine cones (like the one seen in the arrangement above) for fall and winter arrangements, so they do a lot of duty around here in the way of decorating.  I harvest a lot of pine cones from my own yard, even, to help fill space in some areas.

I normally try to buy a live wreath on Black Friday weekend for 5.00 or so, but this year I think I'm just going to harvest some pine from trees in my yard and see what I can make instead as I don't have the money to waste on something like that right now.

But I mainly wanted to do this post to just post up some encouragement.  Just because you are broke doesn't mean your holiday table has to be boring even if you are reusing a lot of things you use from day to day.

Enjoy your holiday everyone and I hope you all found things to be thankful for today!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift Twenty-Three: Travel Car Mat

This is a gift I made for one of my younger nephews.  They tend to be over at grandma's a lot, so I thought I'd make a car mat for the nephews to play cars on while they are over there.

For the main body of the mat I used some green duck fabric that I'd bought before my daughter was born and was making stuff for when the baby came.  I had some left over as back then I used to buy like 10 yards of fabric as I was always afraid I wouldn't have enough fabric (obviously I had a long way to go on the learning to sew front *laugh*).  I cut two pieces of equal size that looked about what I wanted for size (yes, it was that specific ;).

To make the roads and buildings and such I taped some computer paper together and cut it down to the exact same size as the top of the mat.  I then drew the roads and stuff onto the paper, cut them out, giving myself instructions on the pieces I cut (upper left, upper right, this side up, etc).  I then pinned the paper pieces to different colors of felt I had and cut out everything.  Then I pinned it to the top of the mat and sewed it all down.

I lastly embroidered the words onto the pieces, so that the boys would know where the gas station, the airfield and the store were.

After that I took the bottom of the mat and made a quick pouch attached to it for the boys to put their cars, airplanes and boats in before heading out to grandma's house, using a velcro closure.  I then sewed the main mat, right sides together and left about a 4" gap in one side to turn it right side out and then sewed that closed.  I also quilted through both layers along the main road on both sides as the pouch that I made on the back tended to weigh down the bottom layer and I didn't want it getting too out of whack.

Some things on the mat didn't turn out as well as I would have liked.  I would have preferred the roads be grey or black instead of light tan, but I didn't have the fabric and didn't have the money to go and get some special.  So, I did the best with what I had and then sewed the road lines in black for distinction (I felt yellow was going to look dirty too quickly).

So breakdowns?

Total Cost of Gift:  Free as I had everything I needed for this for quite a while.

Total Time to Make Gift:  Three hours.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift Twenty-Two: A Gun Case

First a Disclaimer:  I live in Alaska.  We have guns up here.  If you don't like guns, don't read this post as you won't get anything out of it :).  Just wanted to warn ahead of time.

My husband is one of those "hard to shop for" types of people.  He's one of those men that is getting to an age where if he needs something he goes and gets it, so when it comes to gift lists they usually include high dollar items that we can't afford in a GOOD year.  Normally, I look all year long and find him some cool vintage items at the used stores or yard sales.

This year I came up completely empty handed on that front.  Since the economy went downhill the used stores are being shopped more heavily, which leads to a lot of cool items flying off of the shelves before I have time to meander down to check them out.  Buying used toys for my kids, which is normally a given to pad out Christmas, wasn't in the game plan this year either as there just hasn't BEEN the toys at the used stores this year.

So, I tried to think of things to make for my husband this year and after months of brainstorming actually came up with some ideas.  This was one of them.

He knows he's getting this one as I asked him straight which gun he'd like a gun case made for.  He showed me the revolver he'd like to have a case made for and told me how he'd like it shaped (thus why it's contoured instead of just like a rectangle to fit multiple guns). 

I put the gun down on the wrong side of the faux leather and traced the gun with a lot of leeway for the material to bend around the gun and to take into account a flap and a lining that would need to be added.

I used faux sheepskin as the liner for the case.  The logic behind this was kind of simple in that every time I see a gun case that my husband has that comes with a shooting bag or something it's lined with faux sheepskin, so I figure there's got to be some logic to it *laugh*.

After cutting out the pattern about FIVE TIMES before I figured out that I would have to do one lining piece and one main piece reversed to accommodate for a back side to the case (duhhhhh!), I finally got the pieces lined up and sewed together right.

Now, I kept the top piece on the case until after the lining and main pieces were sewed together through along the body of the case.  I then figured out where the main body would end and the flap begin and I cut those pieces off.  This way I would have a front and back to my flap, but without the lining (which I removed those pieces after I cut the flap off.

I then sewed the flap with the right sides together, but left the bottom open.  Then I turned it right side out and sewed it to the main case.

I finished the case with a heavy duty snap that I hand sewed on so that it would last to wear and tear (versus velcro which I was worried would get too dirty over time).

All said and done, though, for my first real attempt at making a good gun case, I thought I did a decent job.  And now I have the beginnings of about four more gun cases if I ever want to make more in the future (har!).

Total Cost to Make Gift:  I've had the leather and the sheepskin for a long time, so I'm going for free on those as I don't remember how much they cost originally.  The snap was one of some snaps that I got for general repairs and things about a year or so ago, so I'm going to estimate about .75 for that.

Total Time to Make Gift:  About two hours between messing up the pattern repeatedly because my brain refused to function and then going and checking the fit on the gun repeatedly to make sure the case would fit it well.

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift Twenty-One: Stuffed Ornaments

This was kind of a last minute "change up" in my gift making schedule.  I was originally going to make my baby niece a Christmas themed teddy bear for Christmas, which I'd gotten as a panel project from the thrift store, but when I actually cut the pieces out and looked closely at the instructions, I got curious and started pinning.  Which I'm glad I did.  The bear is HUGE compared to what I would have liked to give as a gift to someone who lives in a very small space right now.

So, to take it easy on my in-laws when it came to storing the gifts, I tried to think of something at least decently small that a little toddler would be able to enjoy.

Remembering back to my childhood when it came to Christmastime there were some vivid memories (that all of us have) and one of my biggest one was playing with the stuffed Christmas ornaments that my mom had my sister and I help her make when I was a little girl.

So, I decided to make her some stuffed ornaments for the tree instead.  I mean my sister-in-law can cut off the hanger and let her use them as toys too and they won't take up much space in her house, which I thought was a definite benefit.

I had originally planned to make these for the holidays around here.  I found a bag of already cut out ornaments for .25 at the used store and bought them a couple of weeks ago.  Well, out of like nine designs the ones above were the only ones that actually had a front and a back for them and had the seam allowance not cut off of them (I'm thinking a sewing beginner was working on this project before me).

To try and make turning the ornaments easier, and to avoid puckering I clipped around the ornaments before turning them.  

Total Cost to Make Gift:  .25 for the cut out pieces.  The batting and thread I already had, so they cost me nothing.

Total Time to Make Gift:  About two hours as I kept getting distracted by a son destroying my upstairs.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

You know the "Season of Being Broke" might as well be "The Season of Things Breaking" because my goodness it seems that the more broke we get the more things break on us and we don't have the money to do much about it, so we just have to figure out a way to make it work. 

For instance, above.  That is a shot of my laundry room ceiling right now.  I didn't include the other 1/3 of the big hole off to the rear right of the photo, or the hole down in my wall at the bottom of my laundry room.  Those were from heaters upstairs not working (thus the hole in the ceiling when my husband had to run all new wire for the heaters) and the hole in the wall from our master bathroom tub drain getting clogged terrible (some might remember that).

My laundry room soon won't have much sheet rock on it and the way things keep breaking and/or going wrong, I'm starting to think that might not be a bad thing *scowl*.

This weekend's adventure was when we found out that the tub in our upstairs bathroom shared a sewer pipe with my kitchen sink and that there was a clog that did not want to be dislodged in that pipe.  The tub drain had never worked right, but my husband had figured it might be the worn out drain mechanism that was causing it to always drain so slow.


I swear the previous owners of this house never ONCE thought to do any type of sewer maintenance on their pipes.  The sheer amount of disgusting things we've pulled out of these sewer pipes is astounding to me.  I think at this point, though, at least I PRAY I'm right here, that we've hit pretty much every drain in this house by them going bad on us, so hopefully they'll work right from now on *fingers crossed*.

In this case, we found out about the clog by the kitchen sink, as I was trying to do dishes, backed up and wasn't unclogging and then I went into the bathroom and there was really DISGUSTING water in the tub that had backed up.  Honestly, I thought our sewer was backed up with how disgusting it smelled, so I ran and got my husband who then lectured me about panicking him because the sewer was okay, it was just the two things backed up.

We thought it might be an easy fix.  We put Liquid Plumber down the kitchen sink, which then backed up into the tub and my husband snaked the drains for hours.  Nothing worked.

My husband finally cut another portion out of the laundry room ceiling to try and find the problem pipe, determined that it had to be where a pipe formed a T because nothing else was backed up and sure enough he was right.  But, even with snaking it close to the source, and my husband getting coated with really ucky things, nothing would dislodge the clog.

Finally I got the idea to back up all the drains upstairs so that there wouldn't be anywhere for air to escape and have my husband suck on the end of the pipe with a shop vac.  Which did dislodge the clog, or so it seemed, a tiny bit as the tub would finally drain after it backed up.  So, I put stoppers in all the drains save one kitchen sink drain and took the plumber's helper and and just plunged it good.  And it actually seemed to work, making the drains work better than they ever have since we moved here, really.  So far.  We're hopeful, but we'll see how it goes.  At least about 98% of my dishes are finally done (I'm doing them slow...just in case), so I feel a bit better about life in general there.

When it came to my Monthly Goals...well some of them went South fast.  Nothing stops detail cleaning of your kitchen than having sewer water all over the place from pulling drains apart and everything (thank goodness I got that recovered last night).  As soon as the drains backed up I started to seriously panic about money, which didn't need much help.  I ended up having to do a lot of towels and clothes and everything else today from the mess yesterday, so my hopes to get completely caught up on laundry didn't happen.  And we went from freezing cold temperatures to getting 8" or more of snow yesterday, so going out into storage for Christmas decorations...yeah that's going to wait until a bit later in the week I hate to say.  Same with putting the Halloween decorations away.

I did get some things done this week, however. 

Christmas gifts are getting done and on time which is a wonderful change of pace for me.

I got a few spice mixes made.  I still have a few more to go, but some did get done.

I got a few pieces of wood furniture polished, but still have more to do there as well.

And I did manage to find my gravy mix and my jarred gravy to donate to the school and donated my son's old boots and some other outgrown winter items for the school's program where a needy family can go in and take what they need discreetly when it comes to winter gear.

So, let's get onto the goals for this week:
1.  Take turkey out of freezer and place in fridge to defrost (already done :).
2.  Mend 2 holes in comforters.
3.  Work on Christmas gifts.
4.  Make holiday table runner for kitchen table and side board.
5.  Dig out Christmas decorations and tree.
6.  Put away Halloween decorations.
7.  Make more spice mixes.
8.  Wrap all of the home made gifts I've made so far to deliver after Thanksgiving.
9.  Embroider a few dish towels (this is more of a "for fun" type of goal)
10.  Finish cleaning the house and mop all floors with bleach (because yuck.  I've already gone over everything with Comet, but when it comes to disgusting germs...I'm going for the bleach).  Shampoo carpets that might have gotten stepped on with icky shoes on.
11.  Find brining bucket and clean it.
And there you are folks.  My goals for this week.  How about you?

A Gift a Day Gift Twenty: An Art Kit

When it came to a few of my nephews I got completely stumped on what to get for them.  My one nephew  is in preschool, so I thought that something cool to give to him might be an art kit.  My mother-in-law was telling me how much he loved school, so I thought this would be a nice way to bring school a little closer to home.

He does have two younger brother's though, so I wanted to give him something he could keep his art supplies in.  So, I decided to try my hand at making a zippered pouch for the first time.  I was actually quite pleased with how it turned out, especially for a first attempt :).

I found a small canvas (I love these things as they are mounted on heavy cardboard and are made for mixed medium, so it's easy to find a frame to fit them, unlike the stretched canvas and they are fun to work with because they are so versatile) at one of the thrift stores a while back for .10.  I had been thinking, MAYBE that I'd get some time to paint again someday (a hobby I used to enjoy), but yeah...what was I thinking, I'm a parent *laugh*.  So, I decided to include that so he had a platform to make something cool for his parents to frame.

Don't have canvas for something like this?  Why not stack up some computer/printer paper?  Kids love to draw and I doubt they'd care what you gave them to draw on.

I then made a zippered pouch for his things in light blue.  The blue fabric is actually some scrap left over from making my son's birthday quilt and pillow sham and it worked fabulous for this project.  I picked that color primarily because I had a zipper to match in my zipper stock.

The art supplies themselves I've had for a while as I raided Target a couple of years back when their school supplies went on clearance super cheap (.08 boxes of crayons, .04 glue sticks, that type of thing) and while my stock is getting kind of small anymore after a few years of raiding it for my daughter's stocking stuffers and birthday gifts, as well as for the aforementioned school supplies, I had enough to put this together.

Total Cost to Make Gift:  About 1.00 with the original cost of the school supplies, the zipper and the canvas.

Total Time to Make Gift:  About 45 minutes to make the zippered pouch and about 2 hours trying to figure out what "safe" place I had put the canvas so my kids didn't do anything to it *laugh*.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift Nineteen: Sensory Cube

This is a gift I made for my son as he's a sensory seeker.  He also loves to smack things down and make noise and spin things.  So, with this I tried to combine the best of all of those worlds.

I made a six inch square cube out of different kinds of fabric I had around the house (I tried to find things with the most texture variances).  First I made a 7" square out of cardboard for my pattern/template (1/2" seam allowances on each side will then net you a 6" square cube).  The cube features some really good quality fake leather, fake lamb's wool, a suede-like fabric, some satiny (and shiny) type of material, some rough upholstery fabric, and some fake fur.  Sewing the various fabrics together was actually a lot easier than I thought it would be (thank you to my wonderful sewing machine).  When I stuffed the cube I tore up an old chip bag (cleaned of course) and used it as part of the stuffing so when you squish the cube it crinkles.

And if you put the cube on a corner when you spin it, it does spin.  Not GREAT, but my son won't care *laugh*.

My husband thought it turned out really cool and thinks my son will like it.  I hope he does too :).

Total Cost to Make Gift:  Nothing as I had all the material here.  If I had to guess on cost breakdowns on the fabric, since I bought all the remnants used, I'd have to wager about .75 overall in fabric was used.  The batting I had from what I found in storage over the summer and the thread was part of the gifted thread my step mom sent me a while ago.

Total Time to Make Gift:  1 hour.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Frugal Friday: Money Saving Weekly Recap

This week was kind of up and down for me.  My son has been going to school grumpy and not wanting to work most of the morning so his teaching team came up with the idea for them to walk him down to class, instead of me taking him, and they would get him through taking his coat off and stuff quickly and run him to do some sensory seeking activities to get him in a happy mood.  This, so far, is working well for him, but I felt kind of bereft as walking him to class in the morning was an enjoyable part of my day where I got to wave bye to him and wish him a good day and talk to his teacher.  I know a good portion of my downed mood when it came to this was because I'm a helicopter parent by necessity so letting go, even when it is for their own good, is hard for me sometimes.  I know I'll get over it in a bit here and get used to the "new normal" but right now I feel kind of like I got barred from the classroom, even though I shouldn't feel that way.  Motherhood can be fun *laugh*.

My daughter was having issues with her stomach problems early in the week until the day she decided she wanted to get out of school and manipulated a poor sub nurse to get me to take her home.  After spending the entire afternoon in bed, after getting one heck of a lecture from me, and losing some privileges she thought should be rights, she's been a LOT better about not hopping down the nurse over every imagined slight.  Which is an upper for me as the last three weeks have been terrible with her getting picked up from school.

Money problems weigh heavy right now, yet at the same time I'm trying really hard to dig up holiday spirit for the sake of the kids as they both love the holidays (of course, I mean they're kids!).  It's just hard to set my worries aside for their sake.  But, I'm trying.

Christmas gifts are going well, so that was an upper to my week as well.  Soon I'll be able to focus on my husband and kids exclusively instead of worrying about extended family too, which will be a relief and ahead of schedule for me.  Usually December is just as hectic as November.  If all works according to schedule at this point I'll be done with most gifts before December starts, which means I can actually relax when it comes to making things in December.  Definitely a good thing.

Other ways I've saved money this week are...

1.  I shopped sales hard this week to get some things as cheap as I could.  I got two hams for 1.38 lb at Fred Meyer this week and got a turkey, while there and getting other things we needed, for .79 lb.  I went 20.00 over my normal grocery budget, but since I was below it the last few weeks I recouped the money I went over.  Next week is going to be a "next to no spending" week as we're pretty well stocked up at this point, so aside from getting things like milk and maybe eggs, I'm not seeing us needing much in the way of groceries.  Since we have bills coming in the next two weeks, not spending money next week can only help at this point.

2.  I got another coupon for a free container of juice from Old Orchard!  I was kind of surprised that I got it as only the first 1000 people to respond to their survey on a certain day got the coupon and I never get those, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that in the mail.

I also got my free issue of Better Homes and Gardens as part of my free subscription through Free Biz Mags (I believe that's their full name).  Sometimes they offer free magazines for just being a homemaker, and that's where I get subscriptions like these (coupon and magazine seen above).

3.  I went over to my mother-in-laws today to pick up a compact sewing machine I had bought years ago when my husband and I first got married.  This sewing machine was actually my first sewing machine.  Before then I had used my mom's sewing machine or a school's machine, but I'd never had my own.  My husband and I lived in a TEENY apartment, so I tried to buy everything compact, so I bought the sewing machine because it would fit in my closet space in a certain hole I made for one (yes, we were that tight on room).  I mended jeans and even made a fleece blanket with the sewing machine (well part of it as some of it I had to do by hand because the fleece was just too much for the little thing).

My mother-in-law had mentioned she still had it as I'd given it to her for my sister-in-laws when they were smaller after I'd gotten my nice "real" sewing machine, and asked me if I would like it back for my daughter.  I accepted as I think it will be a good machine to train my daughter on.  My sister-in-laws never used it from the look of it as my red bobbin from when I made the fleece blanket was still in it, but I'd kept everything in the box including the manual, so rock on me *laugh*.

I was going to have her help me make Christmas ornaments for the holidays with it,  but we'll see how the holidays go.  It's definitely nice to have it though, and a definite tip of the hat to my mother-in-law for throwing very few things away (thanks again for the machine, Stacey!).

4.  My husband and I did hit the used stores when we had some time together this week since the kids were in school.  We both saved money by not spending money on things we wanted that were out of our price range (which pretty much everything IS out of our price range right now) and instead if we couldn't pay with pocket change we didn't buy it.  Really I hated to walk away from things like Pyrex fridgies that I found at one used store, but at the same time I didn't need them and I felt good for being able to make that distinction, where a lot of people in the world can't.

5.  I mended two shirts this week and the zipper on my daughter's winter jacket (as seen in my Monthly Goals Updates post from Sunday).  These mends saved us a bunch of money by me doing it myself, even though messing around with my first zipper absolutely petrified me (yes, the jacket zipper was my first ever zipper install even though I have a ton of zippers...I was always so scared of messing it up).  I've made a promise to myself to mess around with zippers more to get better at doing them and so far I'm keeping my promise to myself.

6.  I stayed home a lot this week, mainly due to therapists being sick (pink eye) and son not doing great in school so I wanted to give him a couple of full days there to get more acclimated to his new schedule/routine.  Staying around the house helped me to keep on top of house work a bit better and allowed me to save money by keeping out of unnecessary stores.

7.  Instead of buying some Christmas themed fabric at the used stores for a table runner, I decided to wait and see what I could dig up around the house in holiday-like colors.  I am glad I did that as while digging through my fabric I found some Christmas themed Peanuts fabric that I had bought at Jo Ann's last year on clearance for 90% off and I even got more off still because it was end of the bolt (I remember all of that because it was some ridiculously small amount for the fabric after discounts and I was really pleased).  I'd gotten it for the price and the fact that my son loves Snoopy, but wasn't sure what I would do with it.  Now I know ;).

8.  My husband and I made sure to eat left overs as much as we could this week for lunches so that nothing would go to waste (read:  Lots of ham sandwiches, which we both enjoyed ;).

9.  I repaired a toy of my son's that had broken from him over winding it the wrong way.  I was able to take it apart and re-screw the handle that he'd managed to unscrew in his zeal.  I took some super glue and glued the handle on this time, where at the factory they had just screwed it on, so that he won't be able to unscrew it again.  He tried to screw it the wrong way once, but when it didn't react the same way he stopped and played with the toy correctly.

10.  I have been enjoying watching some shows on YouTube and Hulu this last week for free.  I've also been really enjoying listening to some good old fashioned CD's while cleaning and/or working on Christmas gifts.  I'm getting to an age where I really am preferring to listen to music vs. watching TV a lot of the time, so this was a really nice experience for me and saved energy consumption (running a CD player vs running a DVD player and the TV for instance).

11.  I got my gas bill in the mail and by turning the heat down at night and turning it down by two degrees colder than last year, so far the gas bill is coming out about 50.00 less per month than last year.  Due to REALLY cold temps the last couple of weeks and me being forced to turn up the heat a time or two, I'm not sure how much this will hold with next month's bill, but I still feel pretty good about having any savings at all because the gas company has raised their rates right along with our electric company.

And there you are folks.  Some of the ways I saved money this week.  How did you do?

A Gift a Day Gift Eighteen: A Potholder

Last year, after I had given the customary home canned goods to my son's school teachers, aides and therapists, I decided that I didn't want to sacrifice any more canning jars on the behalf of gift giving, because I needed all I had left.  So, for my daughter's teachers and student teachers I made potholders instead and that seemed to go over well, so I was going to do that again.

Well, instead I ended up trading some pot holders for boots (not complaining mind you!) so I decided to finish up the one pot holder I was currently working on for my son's speech therapist (she's divorced and has her daughter living with her, thus the pink) and then I'll come up with something else for the teacher gifts (running low on cotton yarn).

I have been wanting to share how I make these with you all, so I guess this is a good opportunity to do so!

I make pot holders with cotton yarn like they make for dish clothes and such.  I like to buy a big spool of yarn at Wal-Mart or a huge skein at Jo-Ann's on clearance.  I've been using the same colors of yarn from those spools and such for YEARS and I've made a lot of dish clothes, wash clothes and pot holders.  Trust me, that yarn will go further than you think.

If you don't want to use two colors, or can't afford to buy 2 colors of yarn, just roll the one skein you have into two balls and use the same color.  They come out looking just as nice that way.

Simple Knitted Potholder Pattern

You will need:
  • 2 strands/skeins of cotton yarn 
  • Size 7 Knitting needles 
  • Size H crochet hook (optional)
1.  Using double yarn (2 skeins at same time) cast on 26 to 28 stitches (if you aren't going to crochet a border around the pot holder at the end, definitely go for 28, or even 30, just to be sure the pot holder looks right).

2.  Knit for 36 rows (no purling here).

3.  Cast off and tuck in ends.

4.  Using one ply of yarn this time, crochet a border of your choice around the pot holder for 2 rows and then make a chained hanger on one corner of the pot holder.  Secure the hanger down and cast off.

5.  If you don't crochet, once you are done casting off and tucking in ends for your pot holder, braid three pieces of the cotton yarn (four inches long would be more than long enough) and then tie the braided yarn to one corner of your pot holder for a hanger.  
And tadaa!!!  You now have a simple pot holder pattern.  I can make one of these in about two hours of uninterrupted time.

And yes, before you, ask, these work great.  I use these in my own household all the time and I've yet to burn myself using them.  And trust me sometimes it takes me a few minutes to figure out where I can put something down *laugh*.

Total Cost to Make Gift:  I've had the yarn for years, so I'm going with free as I can't remember how much the yarn cost.

Total Time to Make Gift:  Two hours.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift Seventeen: A Sewing Kit

One of my goals for my daughter this year was to gift her some things that would, hopefully, get her interested in domestic arts more.  So, I decided a small kit for sewing and embroidery was in order.

I decided to take a scrap from the very small amount of material I had left from the fancy quilt to make a  small needle book (a pillow, a tea cozy with coasters and a needle book out of one baby quilt.  I think the previous owner would be proud).  I took some bias tape that was a color I don't use very often (I pick packages up for .10 at the used store whenever I run into them) to make the border around the book (and re-secure the three layers of course).   Some pink lace hem tape helped to dress up the bias tape binding.  I then took some white felt and made some pages for the book, using pinking shears on the edges to dress it up a bit.

For the fastener I sewed a button that was one of a huge amount of buttons my step mom sent me.  I would have used white elastic vs black here, but I didn't have any white in the appropriate size to work well for the button fastener and I didn't have the money to hop out and buy some right now.

The rest of the kit consists of a seam ripper (the one in the picture is a stand in.  I finally found a smaller seam ripper with a lid, which I couldn't find when I first put the kit together), a needle threader, embroidery scissors (yes, these are indeed the ones I bought for myself.  I didn't have the money to buy my daughter her own set, so I found a small pair of utility scissors to use for myself and gave her the ones I had bought), some buttons and a couple of colors of embroidery floss.

I'm going to tie the small embroidery hoop onto the front of the kit with a ribbon before putting it in the box.

The zippered container was one of the finds we got at the used store with pocket change.  My husband found it for .75.  I believe it's an old manicure set holder, but with all the elastic holding pieces, all it took was a seam ripper in a few places and it worked fabulously for it's new purpose (and it's silver and sparkly.  My daughter will like that part).  The embroidery hoop was also .50.

Total Cost to Make Gift:  5.25 between the cost of the embroidery scissors, the case and the embroidery hoop.

Total Time To Make Gift:  About 1 hour.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift Sixteen: Waterproof Matches

So, you want an idea to give to an older kid that they would appreciate if they are into camping, survival or just like to help light up the bonfire in the yard?  On the cheap?  For WAY less than it would cost if you bought them at the store?

I give you home made waterproof matches! 

This is going in with my oldest nephews camping gift, since he didn't get a camp soap while his younger brothers did.  After this gift my camping gifts for my three oldest nephews are done!

Waterproof Matches

You Will Need:
  • Wooden Matches
  • A Candle (I used a beeswax candle I got for free a long time ago and has been sitting in my china cabinet)
1.  Light the candle.

2.  Dribble wax while holding the candle onto a piece of cardboard (be sure to do this in an open area so you don't have to worry about setting something on fire) until a puddle forms.

3.  While still dripping hot wax into your little "wax pool" take your other hand and start rolling the matches one at a time in the hot wax, being sure to completely cover the top of the match.  Aim to get some of the wood below the tip coated as well to afford the best protection.  Hold waxed match aloft for a few seconds to let the wax cool slightly and then place the match carefully on some treated cardboard (I used an old pasta box, flattened, for this entire project). 

4.  Repeat until the desired number of matches have been coated.

5.  If you want to be sure that the wax seal is good around the match head, while the wax is still warm, take your fingers and gently pinch the wax around the match head to be sure the wax is sealed to the tip well.

6.  Let matches set until you are sure they are cold and then pick them up and place into a container of choice (I used a newly emptied glass spice jar I had on hand).  My mom always used an old film case for 35mm film as they are pretty water tight on their own, but I don't even know if you can get those anymore *laugh*.
And there you are folks.  One easy and useful gift to gift to someone this holiday.  Coating the matches takes a little bit of time and some space (as you have to place the matches so they don't touch to dry and all), but otherwise it's pretty easy to do.  And you won't have to shell out 2.00 plus for like 10 waterproof matches.

Total Cost to Make Gift:  Free as I had everything I needed here. 

Total Time to Make Gift:  About 40 minutes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift Fifteen: A Counting Book

This is a gift for another young nephew of mine.  When it comes to really young kids I try to give gifts that they can grow into and, most importantly, chew on.

So, when I ran across the panel project at the thrift store I snatched it up.  I love the overstuffed books as they can be used as...well as books (stater of the obvious I know *laugh*), to help foster a love of reading in a  young child, but can also be abused without side effects.

This is a simple counting book that goes from one to ten and features baby animals, so I figured this would be a good panel project to get (as we end up with a lot of babies being born in the family it seems).

For the batting for this I used a mixture of different fleece remnants I had, primarily red, which gave the pages a bit of a pink/fleshy tint to them, but it worked out okay :).

But man, can I say that this was one of the worst printed panel projects I've ever done?  The directions weren't great by any stretch, none of the lines lined up right so some of the pages got cut off at the very edge, it required a 1/8th seam allowance which is small for a project like this and the middle lines were printed so badly that nothing would have worked if I had sewed on the line (the pages would have been horribly misaligned) so I had to figure out a new line and just figure that  the lines would look off with not a whole lot to be done about it. And it still ended up coming out a bit off, but at least it's a lot better than it was.

Total Cost of Gift:  1.00 for the panel. 

Total Time to Make Gift:  About three hours as I fought with the pattern to make the book look okay.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Menu Plan Monday: Menu for Week of 11/16/2015

I have to say that for the most part I was able to stick to my menu plan for last week and it was a big success.  Over the weekend things got a bit off as my husband ended up working this weekend, so I just went easy for dinner for myself and the kids as I tried to clean the house some more.

This week's menu as part of the winter menu focuses mainly on ham as I'm baking a ham this week to free up some room so I can, hopefully if money will somehow allow me, get a couple of hams here in the next bit as they go on sale cheap for the holidays.  I'm hoping these recipes blow over well with the family as having ham every once in a while will definitely be a good way to beat the menu monotony.

Menu for Week of 11/16/2015
Monday:  Baked ham, kale, boiled potatoes

Tuesday:  Breakfast dinner (fried ham, pancakes, fruit cocktail)

Wednesday:  Apple Gammon

Thursday:  Ham and kale quiche

Friday:  Turkey burgers

Saturday: Ham and cheese crepes, peaches

Sunday:  Potato Cheese Soup, home made bread 
Desserts:  Baked apples, jello with dream whip

To Bake:  Bread.  Baking day,  Tuesday.

A Gift a Day Gift Fourteen: The Gryffindor Scarf

First, I want to do yet another shout out to my step mom who was kind enough to track down this yarn for me and send me a skein to try out.  I really appreciate it!

Every year I make my daughter a scarf for Christmas.  She LOVES them.  Last year I let her pick the colors for her scarf and the cotton candy pink with the variegated colored yarn was dubbed, "The Cotton Candy Scarf" and boy does it live up to its name.

This year I decided to go a bit more subdued for her and make her a Gryffindor color schemed scarf from Harry Potter.  Since I never can keep the scarves a secret with her as I knit them at night while watching movies and stuff with the family, she has already voiced her approval of the colors *laugh*.

For this scarf I wanted to try a new type of yarn that Red Heart came out with called, "Team Spirit" yarn.  It's supposed to, in theory, give you stripes as you knit without you needing to switch between two colors of yarn, thus saving you the need to either carry over one yarn color or cut, knot and tuck in loose ends at the end of the project (what I do).  My step mom found me the gold and burgundy colored yarn and I gave it a try.

My opinion?  I did not like this yarn, Sam I am.

The biggest problem I found was that the variegation didn't seem to have any rhyme or reason to when it switched colors.  My husband started referring to it as the "drunken Aunt coloring scheme when what you needed was the sober housewife scheme" and yeah...that was actually pretty accurate.  There was a large section of burgundy about in the middle of the skein (you can see it on the upper right in the pic of the scarf above), so I now have an extra large stripe of burgundy, some of the gold sections were off by two or three rows, etc.  I actually thought of cutting the yarn and switching colors the old fashioned way, but I didn't have enough yarn (for one) to do this and for two...what is the point of USING this yarn if you have to do that?  I was thinking about how much yarn I would have to knot together (since the colors switched over so uneven) or just plain waste to try and make the stripes even and I finally just gave up and knitted the skein, figuring my daughter (who lacks my knitting OCD) wouldn't care, which she doesn't.

The other problem I had with the yarn was that the colors switched weird.  Sometimes you'd end up with two rows of pink hued yarn from where the red transitioned to gold and sometimes the red would just end, or stutter as it switched.  Not ideal for a nice universal look to the finished product.

And while knitting along I noticed that there is not one, but two shades of burgundy in the skein, so half the burgundy is lighter than the other half of the scarf.  Not pleased.

I use Red Heart yarn a lot.  I love that it's made in the USA (which being American I do like to support our manufacturing) and it's normally really good quality yarn.  But this stuff was just...ugh.  Not up to Red Heart standards.

So, yeah, I'm glad I tried the yarn out, but I won't be using it again.  For the cost it's just worth getting two colored skeins of yarn and knitting the old fashioned way.

So, break downs!

Total Cost to Make Gift:  Free as the yarn was gifted to me.  Thanks again, Rox!

Total Time to Make Gift:  Four hours. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Monthly Goals Update and This Week's Goals

Wondering where the goals update went last week?  Well, I decided not to do it.  Mainly because my goals for this last week were simple.

1.  Try and recover Apocalyptic disaster that was my house.
2.  Try not to cry.

My house, was quite simply, THAT bad.  With the kids being sick so much and having to get picked up from school early and my son being grumpy with teething and super destructive my house looked so awful it depressed me.  And I had a broken vacuum that didn't want to suck up anything until I could get some duct tape, so it was NOT a fun time.  Between the house and just general monetary stress, it was a pretty depressing time for me.

This week I ended up breaking down cleaning chores by day as I tried to recover the house as much as possible.  I ended up having to pick kids up early a couple of days due to hives or the weather or other issues, but for the most part I was able to get the house semi-recovered.  I still have some of my over-sized dishes that don't fit in the dish washer (like cookie sheets) that I have to wash and put away, but at least I can find my kitchen counters again, which is a definite improvement and the upstairs and downstairs is vacuumed, which is definitely better than it was.

The top sprayer of my dish washer started working really cruddy this week and I finally figured out how to unclip it to check on it and found the gasket is half gone on it, which means the top sprayer is going to continue to work cruddy until we can afford to get a replacement gasket.  I'm figuring between this and my daughter being a real pain about playing with water in her room no matter the punishment that is dished out, it is time to go with my dad's old saying of, "Why would I buy a dishwasher.  I helped create one."  Basically, dish washing is now going to be on the nightly chore list for my daughter and hopefully it might get some of the want to play with water no matter what worked out of her.

This weekend, for me, was a weekend of firsts.  For the first time I had to figure out how to light my furnace as the temperatures have tanked hard here and our pilot light suddenly has decided this last month to randomly go out and need to be re-lit.  My husband was at work and so I finally managed to get the furnace cover off, read the directions and had the furnace lit in under five minutes.  I felt pretty good about that as being mechanically inclined is usually not part of my general make up.

The second first I ended up doing this weekend was I replaced my first ever jacket zipper (seen above).  My daughter's winter jacket had a really miserable tongue on the inside of it that was too long and not stiff enough so it would get caught in her jacket constantly.  I was always telling her to be careful and not force it, but, of course, she decided to force it yesterday and got the zipper jammed up good.  My husband decided to take over on trying to fix the problem and ended up ripping out four zipper teeth in the process.

I was not happy, at all, but we ran by Jo Ann Fabrics and picked up a zipper and I went home, got busy with a seam ripper.  Being VERY careful and observant on how the previous zipper had been installed I got the new zipper installed in a few hours.  The zipper size on the jacket was a really weird size (right under 21 inches) so I ended up cutting down the zipper and then I hand sewed in the top of the zipper to be sure everything would fit okay and filled in the topmost teeth of the zipper with thread, once again by hand, to create a new "zipper stop".  It worked great, thank goodness, and the benefit was that I could move the zipper pull out of my way as I worked by keeping it up and out of my way on the part of the zipper that I was going to have to cut down.

Since getting a zipper replaced at a seamstress is about 40.00, I felt good that I was able to do this task.  Sure, it is not as perfect as if a seamstress did it, but it works and pulls smooth, so I'm happy.

Anyway, onto the goals for this week!

1.  Continue to work on Christmas gifts (making progress!)

2.  Mix up some spice mixes (I'm running low on my favorites)

3.  Continue to clean the house, especially get the kitchen detail cleaned in preparation for Thanksgiving next week.

4.  Find turkey brining bucket so I know where it is for next week.

5.  Pull out Christmas decorations from storage. 

 I move them inside early so that they come up to room temperature before I have to worry about putting them up.  This way, too, I have a few weeks to find them as they get dispersed around it seems.  And it's cold, so making this a general goal works for me.

6.  Put Halloween decorations into storage for year.

7.  Finish getting caught up on laundry and put laundry away.

8.  Dust ceiling fans.

9.  Polish wood furniture.

10.  Breathe and try not to panic about money. 

It's counter productive and is just going to give me an ulcer eventually.  I need to try meditation.

11.  Work on mending, especially the socks.

12.  Clean mirrors and windows.

13.  Dig out gravy mix to donate to school for Thanksgiving baskets. 

Every year my daughter's school gives away a few baskets to needy families.  I try to donate at least one thing a year.

And there you are.  Some of my goals for this week.  Do you have anything you're working on this week?

A Gift a Day Gift Thirteen: Nativity Scene Christmas Ornaments

Making new Christmas decorations every year, and a lot of them, has become a tradition with my son in the house.  He is a mass of destruction toward our Christmas tree and ornaments every year, so it's been a constant search to find ornaments that will hold up to his abuse.  I have gotten to a point where I don't even mind it, really, as he loves Christmas ornaments and especially the tree so much.

One of the things that I've found survive the holidays around here is home made stuffed Christmas ornaments.  My son might steal them off the tree and play with them all over the house, and as a result I might be finding them in July in his toy box, but they do survive.  So, I keep my eye out for things I can make stuffed ornaments out of.

So, I figured that overstuffed Christmas ornaments for the tree was a great gift for my son this year.

I ran into a panel project at the used store early in the year that I thought, at the time, was Christmas ornaments (it was stapled together, so it was kind of hard to tell).  For 1.50 for the panel, I figured it was worth getting.

I went to cut out the ornaments, or what I assumed was ornaments, only to realize that the panel wasn't for ornaments but a 3D overstuffed nativity scene.  They had instructions for putting bases on the nativity pieces and using cardboard as stiffeners in the pieces, etc.

Well, with my son, who likes to slap things down, that would have ended in tears early, so I instead figured out a way to take the pieces, cut them and sew them carefully and now we have some nice, but very big in some cases (the Three Kings are really big) overstuffed ornaments for the tree.  I'll keep the tree up for a few extra days past Christmas this year to allow my son to enjoy the ornaments, but I know he'll like this gift a lot. 

These ornaments will also do double duty as I'm planning on doing some Godly play with my daughter to tell the story of the first Christmas and the ornaments will make good puppets and visual reinforcement.  It'll be a fun Christmas Day activity.

To make Christmas ornaments cheap?  Use felt, double stacked and draw some Christmas like  designs on it (you can also use cotton fabric,  I've made a lot of ornaments from a package of fat quarters when they go on sale cheap at Jo Ann Fabrics over the years).  With yellow I make star and bell shapes.  Green is great because you can just make at tall triangle put a rectangle on the bottom of it and voila you have a rustic Christmas tree. No worries if they don't come out straight.  That's the charm of rustic looking ornaments.  Just make sure you add a second line so you have your seam allowance around the ornament.  I usually cut out both parts of the ornaments at once (right sides together folks).  You can hand sew the ornaments or machine sew them, leave a little opening to turn them and then stuff them (don't have fiber fill?  Get creative.  I mean these are Christmas ornaments.  Fabric scraps down to confetti size can work as filling.  Laundry lint is a trick a friend told me about a while back.  Really even paper towels or scrap paper could work as it's not like these have to hold up to wear and tear!).

Another really fun thing that I make from time to time that is suitable for gift giving?  I will take cinnamon sticks that are kind of old for baking applications and cut them in half with a serrated knife (or a small saw would work better, but I hate to use my husband's tools for fear of breaking something, so I use a cheap serrated knife and flinch and hope I don't wreck it *ahem*.  Note to self:  Buy a saw for my household tools one of these days) and than stack them like you would a bundle of logs.  Than take some ribbon and wrap around your "log bundle" and loop the ribbon at the very top to make a tree hanger before gluing everything in place.  If you have it, little bits of moss or colorful dried flowers added to where you put the loop on the cinnamon logs makes a wonderful bit of garnish for the ornament.

And voila you have a really beautiful Christmas ornament that will also smell pretty.  And it doesn't take much to make.  Really there's no reason you couldn't make this with sticks from your yard, even, if you could find ones that were nice and straight.  And it really does make a cute ornament for someone's tree. 

Total Cost to Make Gift:  1.50 for the original panel.  The batting came from the crafting supplies I found in storage earlier in the year, so I had it on hand.

Total Time to Make Gift:  About three hours between having to CAREFULLY cut the ornaments out, line up the lines (since the ornaments have fronts and backs to them) and sew them just right so that they looked right.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Gift a Day Gift Twelve: Fire Starters

I wanted to share at least ONE gift with you that no matter your skill set or economic conditions that you could make for free, or as close to free as possible.  This is a great idea for anybody who has someone to shop for or make gifts for that loves camping.  These are going to be added to my gift boxes for my nephews with their pine cone fire starters as these will work better to start a fire while the pine cone fire starters work great to extend your kindling. 

And all it takes, literally, is a bit of effort to collect laundry lint and you're pretty much good to go!

So long as you do laundry and have access to lint and use toilet paper or paper towels (or know someone who does) so you can get your paper tubes and some scrap paper (which who doesn't have that lying around) you can make these!

Fire Starters

You Will Need:
  • Laundry Lint (you will need more than you think, so collect it in a shopping bag to make these)
  • Toilet paper tubes (or paper towel tubes cut down into 1/3's)
  • Paper to wrap the tubes in
  • Cotton thread, or other thread that will burn easy
Construction can't be easier!

1.  Take your empty tubes and pack with laundry lint. 

2.  Wrap your tubes with paper (I used brown mailing paper as I have a huge roll that I've had for years and don't use very often).  Twist the paper at each end of the tube to hold it in place.

3.  Tie the paper at the ends of the tubes with thread.  And voila!  You're done!

To give the fire starters a bit more "oomph" I used some wax paper on some of mine to fancy up the fire starters a bit and give them a bit more burning power.

To use:

Light one end of the fire starters where the twisted paper is.  Place under your sticks and kindling once the actual paper tube catches. 

I remember making these in girl scouts and they worked really well when I was a kid, so here's hoping they work as well as I remember :).

Total Cost to Make Gift:  Nothing as I had scraps of wax paper left over from making candy earlier in the year that I was keeping around, the brown mailing paper has been around for about 10 years now and been moved from place to place and the rest was just things that would normally be thrown away.

Total Time to Make Gift:  Well, since I kept forgetting to collect my laundry lint and my son (who loves to eat paper) kept stealing and chewing on toilet paper tubes, to make this many it took me about three weeks collecting lint and tubes to make these.  Construction time took about 45 minutes to pack the tubes and then wrapping them with the wax paper got a bit tricky as the wax paper was, of course, slippery.