Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thrift store shopping

My friend and I got together today for a girls time together, and she wanted to hit a few places to look for jeans. She specifically wanted to go to two thrift stores in town.

Me personally? I go to thrift stores to look for all kinds of things. Household goods, books on occasions, sometimes clothes for the kids, but I rarely look for clothes for myself there. The reason why? I shop clearance sales hard-core. Shopping at thrift stores requires a more careful mindset than in regular stores. And you have to be willing to shop out of season.

But, I figured, I want to hang out with my friend, and it's been a LONG time since I've gone clothes shopping in a thrift store, so I may as well see what deals they have.

I was happy with the deals I found for myself. Three pair of pants for just over $10. One pair of fleece-lined pants, perfect for the cold weather that we are having right now, and a pair of light-weight canvas Capri pants for late spring and summer, plus a pair of loose canvas pants for just casual living in.

All three are household names that are easily known. Two of them have great detailing, those little things that make you happy.

Shopping at a thrift store DOES require a different mind-set. For one, you need to look at the size. Don't trust the tag that the price label says that it is. Always try it on if you can.

Next, be looking for wear. Are there any obvious stains? How do the seams look? Is there pulling or loose threads? Check the cuffs of the pants or the cuffs of sleeves/bottoms of the shirts. Look for worn places, ground in stains, etc. Is there pilling in the fabric? Some pilling is acceptable, but how much are you willing to accept? If you are buying for a small child, it may not matter, but if it is for a teen, picky girl or for yourself, this could be a deal-breaker.

Lastly, would you buy it if it wasn't such a "good deal"? Kinda like the concept of "I bought it on clearance" but only wore it twice so it isn't such a good deal. You want to be buying things that you will love, that aren't just taking up space in your closet.

For me, it is about knowing my prices and what I am willing to pay. I am one of those shoppers with a "price point" in my head for nearly everything. And today, I was happily surprised with what I found. Yeah, I will go back in the future and look for more good deals.

One other reminder, you may need to adjust (tailor) clothes from the thrift store so it fits you better. The fleece-lined pants that I purchased were a "tall" and needed hemming. But at $3.68 a pair, I can handle hemming! Sadly, the fabric was too thick for my sewing machine to handle, so I ended up doing it by hand (isn't that what movies on TV are for?), but it's a good project for the evening. And now I have nice, warm pants to put on tomorrow morning. I am excited!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This wasn't in the forecast

The forecast was for rain. Temps to be in the mid-forties.

Looks like it, doesn't it?

The ducks are not amused. They don't like the crinkly noise that the snow makes when it falls on the bamboo. They have been hiding in their pen most of the afternoon. Not that I blame them.

Poor guys. Hope they get used to it soon.

Saturday, December 26, 2009


A stitch in time saves nine.

Pithy saying or actual deal? Ever wondered?

My experience, it's better to catch those holes while they are small. Otherwise they grow on you!

That washing machine, it can be hard on clothes. The dryer isn't doing them any favors with the high heat, and flying zippers. A tip--remember to zip those zippers up or they can catch on other garments and make holes in things (learned this one the hard way with a brand new pair of pants....maybe you don't have moths, maybe it's the dryer and zippers). They can also catch loose threads and pull on them, making those holes larger.

Not to mention wearing clothes with small holes (yes, we probably have all done it from time to time, thinking it's not too noticeable). Our movements pull on those holes and loosen those threads, making them larger and larger.

For me, when doing the folding, when I run across a shirt or pants with a hole, I set it aside to work on later. It's a good project to do while watching television (rather than being on the Internet, just kidding!).

You don't need to be Suzy Homemaker, or a stellar seamstress to fix most holes in seams. You don't even need a huge sewing kit to do it with. You DO need a card of needles (a dollar or two at your fabric store), a few colors of thread (white, black, brown, navy and grey are good starter colors) and then scissors. If you catch holes small, you probably won't need pins, but having some doesn't hurt.

Pick the color that best matches the fabric you are working with. You are working from the inside of the garment. Start a little bit back from where the loose threads start (so that you are going over the good part of the seam), and begin with a knot to hold your thread. From there, start stitching. I usually whip stitch over the top. Try to keep your stitches close together and as tidy as you can. Keep working until you are a little ways into the good stitches on the far side of the seam. Then, tie it off.

It's not too difficult once you get going. And if you catch it early, it's pretty small and goes fast. It is when you ignore it that it gets to be several inches long.

This is also why it is better to fix any holes PRIOR to washing so that the washing doesn't make it worse (which is how my son's shirt ended up with three holes to fix instead of just one....stupid loose threads!). Sadly, I generally don't notice these things until I am FOLDING the clothes to put them away.

Catch those holes early! Same with loose buttons and hooks. It only takes a minute or two to fix and then it won't annoy you all day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas to all!

The gifts are unwrapped, we have McClintock going on the television, the fire is roaring. It's a good time to be a mom.

With the hustle and bustle of the season, it's easy to lose sight of the important things in life. To get caught up in the busyness of life.

So, right now, I am thinking of my blessings.

I am thankful that I have heat in my house. Many families in the world, and in America, don't have heat. But I do. And I am thankful for that.

I am thankful that I have full cupboards. I may not have every little thing in them that my heart desires, but I can make many, many meals before I need to run to the grocery. And that is a huge blessing.

I am thankful for a handy husband. A man who is willing to fix things. Who is capable of fixing things.

I am thankful for two boys who call me mom. They are wonderful and challenging, as any good children are, but I love them dearly, and am so very glad to call them mine.

Even though my life isn't perfect, my life is pretty darn good. The economy is tough, but this too shall pass. Family is what is important. Sticking together. Loving each other. And appreciating what we DO have.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Can it be fixed?

This one is for the homeowners out there.

Nothing worse than settling in, and having a major appliance take a hooey on you. For us, it's been the dishwasher this past month, and then the oven element last night.

Now, for the dishwasher. My father has been a dishwasher repairman for commercial dishwashers for decades (literally). He has fixed this particular dishwasher for me three times before. When he was visiting in September, he and my husband gave it a going-over at that time because it wasn't working right. So, when it stopped cleaning dishes, YET AGAIN, less than two months later, it was unlikely to be a quick and easy fix. Also, factor in the age of the dishwasher (10 years), and it was due to be replaced. We shopped around, dickered with the salesman, and got a good deal. Hubby installed it himself.

For the oven element. To begin with, I touched the element twice (I was wiping out the ash at the bottom of the oven after having run the self-cleaning cycle, and the element had broken into two places when I lifted it up to wipe underneath it). Found out later, this is a big NO-NO. 240 currents (or is it watts?) runs through it at all times, even if the oven is "off". Since the element was broken, that current was "live". I could have shocked myself badly. It's a blessing I wasn't hurt.

Anyway, hubby checked on-line and found that a new element is relatively inexpensive. He then called around town, found a local repair shop that had it in stock today (so we save on shipping fees, and get it today....considering the shipping cost, we only paid a dollar or two more to get it today rather than have it shipped). Bonus, hubby was able to speak to a repairman at the shop face-to-face who works on those ovens who could walk him through how to install it. (Bare in mind, hubby is a mechanic, please only work with the skill level that you are comfortable with!)

The upside to this is that we were able to fix the oven for under $40. What a huge blessing that is. But, when the element broke, we didn't know how much the part would cost. If it would be terrifically expensive, or relatively cheap.

Word to the wise. When an appliance breaks around the house, check out your options. Can it be fixed? Can you simply get parts and fix it yourself, or do you need to pay someone to fix it for you? If you need to pay someone to fix it for you, what is the worst case scenario? Would getting a new appliance be more cost effective at that point (thinking about wear and tear, how long will it last until it breaks again and needs further repair)?

Something to think about.

Christmas gifts are done!

Ahh....the relief of gathering things in early. I didn't say getting DONE early, but gathering early.

The cute boxes were clearance from last Christmas. 50 to 75 percent off (sweet!), so came out to less than $1.50 a piece. The ceramic tags with each box were also 50 percent off, so those were 2.50 a piece (and it does add something festive to the boxes). The baggies were from the Dollar Store (today, I made a run to the Dollar Store. WOW. But in a pinch, I can totally heart the Dollar Store!). Plus all the goodies I made up last night.

The black basket is for my sister-in-law. Her basket came from the Dollar Store. The quilted items were finished this morning (I worked on them while watching the news--multi-tasking). Three kinds of jam from this summer, vanilla extract, plus the cute ceramic tag from last winter.

All in all....I think it turned out very well.

A reminder to me that all the dithering that I did last December in the store thinking "should I be spending this money? Is this really worth it?"....well, it really was worth it. I used every item that I bought on clearance with these gifts. Each item elevated those homemade gifts into something that looks a bit fancier and special, without going outside my budget. And because I bought them on clearance, I stayed true to my own financial goals. Stocking up for later (and remembering where you put it!) is a good thing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Working on the caramels

Sticky goo everywhere.

Thank you, Skinny-boy, for the help! Mom really does appreciate it. (I was doing the wrapping part)

Christmas goodies

Oh to the YUM......

Today, I made toffee, covered in semi-sweet chocolate with pecans and peppermint. And then there is the Nanaimo bars (ohhh, you peanutty, chocolaty goodness!). We also have the good old Scottish shortbread (total fav of mine, I added some lemon glaze on the top, 'cause I loves me some lemonness). And then homemade caramels to round it out.

It's my gifts to all the men-folk in our lives, the uncles, nephew, and fathers.

Wouldn't you know it, though? Last night, to prep for the great cookie bake-off that was today, I ran my oven through it's cleaning cycle. Went to wipe out the ashes this morning....broke the bottom heating element. NOOOO!!!!

Of all these recipes, only ONE needed baking in an oven, and I used the toaster oven to do it in. Where there is a will, there is a way. You aren't stopping this determined woman from baking when I have my mind set to it.

I am glad to be nearly done with my preparations for Christmas. Now, I just need to get them packaged up....who wants to help?

Recipes found from: for the Scottish shortbread

FoodDay for the Toffee (we made it twice already--big HIT!!)

Givers Blog for the Caramels

FoodNetwork for the Nanaimo Bars (second time I've made this)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Shopping your freezer

I love shopping my freezer. Love, love it.

I get to be lazy. I get the best deals. I save gas. And when money is running tight, I know I have the freezer to fall back on.

Hubby had surgery at the end of November. Missed out on two weeks of work (part of that was with partial pay, but not complete pay), and since then, he has missed some work due to other reasons (having to leave early due to pain, etc). Needless to say, the paychecks have been thin. And we have the lovely holiday seasons upon us. Money seems to fly away at this time of the year. I've been making gifts, but shipping still costs money. Buying a tree. Extras for here and there. Gas to drive to Grandma's. Yup.

Which gets me back to why I love having that extra freezer out there. LOVE IT!!! During the summer, I blanch and freeze veggies like green beans and peas. I also froze up some apples, peeled those babies and cut them up for pies later. Yes, I plan on making a pie later this week. YUM.

This summer, milk was on sale for a dollar a half gallon. I stocked up and froze a whole bunch of that stuff. Today, I pulled out a few of those. Doesn't hurt to have extra insurance in the freezer for when money is tight!

But the best deals are to be had with meat. Hamburger goes on sale in summer. Around a dollar a pound, sometimes a bit more. I stock WAY UP on that when its on sale, and then package it into meal portions. Then, basically we eat off that for the entire winter. I will have weeks where I will spend $50 in one week on just hamburger, but that will take care of our family for quite a while.

Today, I snagged ice cream (with a teen in the house, he loves eating ice cream), a few frozen pizzas, the apples, chicken, and milk. I love shopping out there. All I need to go to the store for now is some bread and fruit for the week. SWEET!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Car airfreshener

I needed a break from hand sewing. What do I chose to do? Hand sew an air freshener, of course.

At least this project was quick, and a gift for myself. My oldest boy is a hockey player, and his gear is stinky. It makes my vehicle smell rank. Something needed doing about this.

I had some felt left over, so I cut two heart shapes out and whip-stitched them together really quickly. I had trimmings left over from my quilt (cotton batting) which I used as the filling. I had a few essential oils on hand (I used orange and cinnamon) which I daubed on the batting before adding to the shape.

Before I added the batting in, I stitched on two decorative buttons that I have been saving for a special occasion. I knew I was saving these buttons for a purpose, and this one works just fine.

Added the batting in to the heart, and finished stitching the heart closed. Last, I sewed on a ribbon long enough that I can loop the heart through onto something.

Tah-dah! Pretty to look at and will make my car smell nice as well.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Inflicting my new skills on others

Here it is! My gift to my mother in law. Hope she likes it (cause it took me forever).

Making vanilla extract

One of the gifts I am making this Christmas season is vanilla extract.

I tell ya, the hardest part about this job was to find the bottles!

Now, I found cheap vanilla beans on eBay. I've also heard you can find cheap beans from other sellers on the Internet. I don't recommend using your local grocery. My local grocery is charging twelve dollars for TWO vanilla beans. OUCH. So, look ahead and order some up!

Then hit the liquor store for some vodka. Yeah, I know, you will look like a lush. Me, I didn't get a large enough amount the first time, and had to make a second run. Boy, was I embarrassed! One of my friends suggested using a little 151 proof rum to top it off, but I went with straight vodka for mine.

I washed all the bottles out completely, then cut the beans lengthwise in half, then into smaller pieces. Put at least one whole bean per bottle (depending on the size of the bottle). Then top the bottle up with vodka.

Let sit for 8 weeks before using.

I didn't get mine made until December (of course!). I labeled them to not be used until February. As one person told me, considering all the baking we do during Christmas, no one wants to do any baking after Christmas anyways!

Hope you enjoy.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh baby, it's cold outside

December has come on with a vengeance in our neck of the woods. We live here in the Pacific Northwest, normally a temperate area. Frankly, I'm a bit spoiled. It's kinda a "banana belt" area, getting around the low 30's, maybe a few days of freezing, we are lucky if we see some snow. If we see any bad weather at all, it's usually going to be in January.

December has roared in like a lion, driving wind down from the north. The "Arctic Blast of 2009" is what they are calling it. We haven't gotten above freezing since Monday, and it's now Thursday. For our area, this is UNHEARD of! Especially this early in the season.

I know, I know, everyone wants a white Christmas, but it isn't white outside, it is just COLD.

I have FOUR QUILTS on the bed. The dogs are sleeping in the bathroom every night, and the ducks have a heat lamp. We had to buy pond heaters because going out every hour to break their water for them was just....too hard to keep up with. Sorry, but when we adults go to work for a few hours (or need to run errands, or go to therapy or sports practices for hours), no one is around to do it. We are all wearing extra clothes, and using the throw blankets in the living room.

When we bought the pellet stove this summer, I swore up and down that I would "splurge" and heat the house up to 70 degrees in the winter if I wanted to. Here it is, a few months later, and I can barely stand to allow the heat above 65. The frugal me keeps thinking of the cost of the bags of pellets. We have a ton and a half of pellets in the garage still, but I keep thinking "that has to last all winter!!!" Old habits die hard. And with this cold snap, we are whipping through those bags of pellets.

Hubby fixed the insulation on the doors a bit better than I had it a few days ago. We keep the insulated curtains closed on the windows all day (sorry, even though the sun is shining, the wind and cold weather just sucks the heat right out. Better to keep them closed.).

All we can do now is hope that the cold weather breaks soon. They are saying warmer weather by Saturday. Fingers crossed that they are right. Because 14 degrees at night is pretty darn cold. BRRRRR......

Monday, December 7, 2009

When we say Concentrated, we mean it

Chemistry in action! This is what happens when something doesn't turn out quite the way you planned it.

I've made my own laundry soap multiple times. The first two times, it came out very watery. I was using goats milk soap, and probably not enough bar soap, but it washed the clothes well enough. The third time, I did a mix of goats milk soap (used up the last of it) and bar soap (generic white soap). Worked great, gelled nicely. Turned out just like it was supposed to.

A friend of mine gave me a bunch of Zote laundry bars, including a container of already grated soap. SWEET! I need two cups of grated bar soap for the recipe, and here is exactly two cups, grating the bar soap is the hardest part of the job, I am home free. Oh so nice.

Until a few hours later when I realize that my laundry soap isn't exactly a liquid and is closer to a solid. Herm. My chemical reaction didn't turn out quite like I planned it.

As you can see, it's stiff enough that I can literally stand a spoon up in it. I am doing laundry with a scoop of jello per load. (It jiggles!)

Makes life interesting, that's for sure. At least I don't have to worry about spilling it down the front of the machine.

Make your own cleaning wipes

Ah, the dreaded bathroom chore. You know it.

Made somewhat easier by those handy little pop-up wipes. You know the ones I'm talking about! Comes in a round container. Oh so convenient. Swipe, swipe, and the nasty smell is gone.

I love those wipes. Having boys in the house, those wipes are really handy. I don't use them in the kitchen, just the bathroom.

But the cost on those things. DANG! I bought two containers on sale with a great coupon. Love 'em. But what to do when they run out??, one of them ran out. My solution? Make my own, of course.

I got my handy paper-towels out. (For the record, this is another rare purchase. I was a few bucks short on my Safeway "Spend $50 get $10 off", and a case of paper towels was what the cashier brought back to get me up to my $50 limit. I ended up getting a case of paper towels for free, and it's the first time I had paper towels in over a year. Shoo...I almost don't know what to do with 'em and I keep forgetting I have them. I accidentally packed them with the extra cat litter and forgot. Opps!) Rolled out about 25 of them carefully keeping them straight. Make sure to keep the center more open, you don't want it tight because this is your beginning. Cut off any excess so it fits into the container. Tuck it on into the container.

Add any cleaning product that you wish to use. Reminder: bleach and ammonia don't mix. And urine turns into ammonia. So you may want to pass on bleach products around the toilet. If you do use them, be cautious. Whichever cleaning product that you are using, dilute it with water. Remember, it's just paper towels soaking it up. If you use a hefty cleaning product, you may end up with sludge. (So, you might also want to go with a stiffer weight paper towel to start with as well!)

Put the cap back on it, and pull up the first wipe. Wah-lah! Home-made wipes. Now I can keep using them without feeling guilty. Ha-ha!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Projects for a Frugal Christmas

Here is my work in progress.

I know, it looks like a hot mess right now, but I have a few weeks. Give me time!

The random yarn is an almost completed scarf for my niece. It's only taken me several hours to knit, and I am so close to being done. (SO CLOSE!) Here's hoping that the colors are "cool" enough for a 15 year old. I've been working on it at the hockey games and practices.

The small quilt squares are the start to two different projects. I will be getting a tea kettle for my MIL this week, and making a cozy for her. The small squares will be cut and re sewn into a pinwheel pattern, then stuffed and lined.

The other quilt squares will be trimmed out a bit more and made into potholders for my SIL and my mother.

The other men in my life will be getting baked goods (who turns down baked goods?). Cookies, caramels, and toffee. I purchased small boxes on clearance last year after Christmas for really cheap, and will use those to pack all the yummy goodness into. (Also a great idea for teachers and other helpers you know.)

Lastly, I purchased vanilla beans off of eBay (for less than $5.00 with shipping- whoo-hoo!!!). I will be making vanilla extract to also send along with the potholders. I am super excited about trying to make vanilla extract....I hate the fake stuff, but buying real vanilla extract is EXPENSIVE! If I can make it myself for less than a dollar a four ounce bottle, that will make me super-dooper happy. I will make a separate post about that little project once the beans arrive.

So, this is one frantic homemaker trying to get all these sewing projects done. I'm making progress on it!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Prioritize for Christmas

Tis the season!

And it can make you completely crazy. And broke. The to-ing, and the fro-ing. The crowds. The spending of the money. The expectations. The parties. The decorations. The lights, the tree.

For me, I try to break it on down to the basics. If I only could get presents for a small number of people, who would they be? For me, that is Hubby, Skinny-boy, and Bubble-butt. They are my first priority to buy for, who I hunt the gifts down for and plan for back in August thru October. After that, I see if I have budget left for extended family (grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins). Typically, I try to make those gifts, knitting something, sewing something, hunting up a stellar good deal, filling it out with items from the Dollar Store to "foof" it out. I also may make cookies for my kids teachers (never hurts to say "thank you" for all the hard work that they put in with my kiddo's!).

I have never been one to do cards. Just...nope. So, I take a pass on that one all together.

As for parties, I'm an anti-party person on a good day, and would rather stay home. Unless it is important to my husband, we usually skip all the holiday parties.

Decorating. Hubby takes it on himself to do something outside. I'm always surprised by what he choses to do, and I never have much of anything invested in it, so it's fine by me. As for the inside, I have a very small number of items I put out each year. Takes up one small shelf worth of space. Simple.

This year, with the new pellet stove, we have less room in our living room than last year. We've decided to place our tree outside on the front deck, in front of our picture window, and we will decorate it with our LED lights. No dropped needles, no need to decorate with bulbs, and no worry about knocked off ornaments from the dogs. Unorthodox, but it works for me! (As I said, Hubby always comes up with something different for the outside.)

I try not to go crazy with baking. When the whim takes me to bake, I will. But this is how I act all year long, not just at Christmas! I will do some baking for gift giving to friends, but nothing too outlandish.

My point is, trying to keep everything realistic. Figure out for yourself what is most important to you. For some, it is important to attend a lot of parties to feel the holiday spirit. Then go with that, and let go of baking or decorating. For others, baking and decorating are a way to "bond" and symbolize Christmas to them. Well, that may mean relaxing other areas. Know that we can't have it all, at least, not all at once.

Choose what you want most, and savor that. What means Christmas and family to you? Ice skating on a pond and drinking hot cocoa? Walking in a snowy wood and cutting down your own tree? Those are great things, and make better memories than hunting for a thingy-bob in a mall that breaks the next day. Just a thought.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday, a rant

I just got back from the mad house. I have a whole lotta grrr going on.

Now, I love a good deal. And I am willing to do a bunch of work to get a good deal. I will glean someones fruit trees, I will weed a yard in trade for other things, I will do all kinds of things. But I hate wasting time. Truly hate wasting time.

This morning, I woke up early (way too early) to go to Old Navy to get a ski jacket for Bubble-butt. He's in Special Olympics, and they start skiing here pretty soon, so he needs a ski coat to wear up on the mountain. I can't afford expensive coats, so when I saw that ON had them on sale for $15, I was ready to jump all over that sale. Combined with fleece coats on sale for $5, which I could pick up for Skinny-boy (who tends to lose coats left and right), well, it was worth the trip and time.

The store opened at 3am. I'm nuts, but not that nuts. I got there at 3:45, picked up my four items, and got into line. So, here's my time-line, I am in the check out line before 4am. How long do you think it took me to get to the register?

Three hours!! It took three hours to get to the registers.

The question is: Why in the world would it take three hours to get to the registers? There are ten registers in the store. Of the ten registers, four of them were dedicated specifically for Old Navy credit card holders or for anyone who signed up for a credit card today. Six were for the rest of us who chose not to sign up for a credit card.

Seems ridiculous that on the BUSIEST shopping day of the year they would designate 40% of their check-out capacity for Old Navy credit card holders only.

Trying to "encourage" us to sign up for a credit card. And yes, it worked for several people.

I'm just annoyed at how manipulative it was. Because that's how I see it. Manipulative.

I don't mind the busy stores. It goes along with Black Friday. Suck it up, it goes with getting the deals. But the stores need to play fair too and not manipulate people who are in a hurry to get to the next deal.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Breaking in a new dishwasher or Teen vs Mom

Oh the trauma.... Oh the heartache....

I've had this dishwasher for a wee bit now. I enjoy having a dishwasher. It certainly is a convenience. Makes life a lot easier. But my dishwasher doesn't work as well as it used to. The dishes come out dirty even after being run. I end up re-running it, or hand-washing some of them.

Hubby has fixed the dishwasher several times, taking it apart and cleaning it. That helps for a while, but never for long. Within a few weeks to a month, the dishes start getting dirty again. *sigh*

No burst pipes. No burnt out motor. No huge fan-fair. Just simply....the realization that the frustration of unclean dishes even after having run the dishwasher means that the whole concept of "dishwasher" isn't working for us!

So....tonight, Skinny-boy and I went thru the task of doing the dishes by hand together. It started with Skinny-boy doing them himself. Then I realized that the water was running continuously. WHY was the water still running?! Oh, because to a teenager, putting soap on the dishcloth, picking up a single item, washing and rinsing it, putting it aside, then moving on to the next item...this is the way to wash dishes. OH MY GOODNESS. At this rate, we will use up a small pool of water before the kid is done.

I go over, try to explain the appropriate way of doing dishes (fill up a large bowl with soapy water, wash the dishes, then rinse in the sink, then dry on a towel). LET THE DRAMA ENSUE.

Eyeball-rolling. Dishcloth throwing. Soap-suds flying. "That's not how I do it!" "There are soap bubbles in the rinse water" "We will all get sick!" (Excuse me...this coming from the child who doesn't shower and who ....goodness, do I really need to go into how disgusting he can be?!) you can see, between the two of us, we managed to get the dishes done for tonight. Don't you just love how he stacked the dishes? Reminds me of Jenga. Wonder how Bubble-butt is gonna put the dishes away later tonight. many things will break?

I know, it's a BONDING moment between us. Yup. We will bond.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fix the DOOR

I see this door, and just envision dollars floating right out the crack of it....bye bye money... there you go.

Hubby complains that the house is cold all the time. He says that the windows are cold, that it needs more insulation. That we need to replace the siding. That we need to do this, need to do that. Okay, hun, I hear you.

But how 'bout we do the EASY stuff, like FIX THE DOOR?!

I mentioned back in September, before it got cold, that we needed to replace the weatherstripping on the door. Now, y'all, this isn't a tough job, since we already have a package of foam weatherstripping in the garage. He told me that the dogs would just rip it off, and he would do it "later".

I mentioned back in October that it was getting colder, we were starting to use the pellet stove and maybe fixing the door would be a good idea. He told me he would "get to it".

Yee-ah. Our bedroom, where this particular door is located, is an icebox at night. My side of the bed, is RIGHT BY that door. It gets a bit chilly by that door. Mind you, our house is small, under 900 square feet, and we have a pellet stove in the front room. When we keep the door to the bedroom shut, there can be a good 10 to 15 degree difference between the front room and our bedroom. Thank goodness for quilts and socks in bed!

I will admit it. I have been a bit passive-aggressive myself. Dad-burned-it, it is HIS job to fix things around the house, he SAID he would fix the doors, so he can fix them! But, today.....I got tired of it. I am tired of being cold. Of feeling the draft on my side of the bed. I am tired of wondering how much warmer the house would be if the door was sealed a little tighter.

So, I got my gumption on, and fixed it myself.

This woman can take care of herself, thank you very much. (I just don't want to HAVE to.) But hubby better make it up some how. Maybe I will leave him the dishes tonight.....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dreaded bathroom

I hate this job.

Now....remind me why it's MY job to take care of the bathroom? I understand why it was the woman's job to take care of the bathroom when it was the man's job to kill the animals, but my husband has never had to do that. Shoo....I come closer to raw meat than he ever has, and yet, I get stuck with the nasty bathroom job still.

This morning, I scrubbed the bathtub. This picture? This is the picture AFTER I had scrubbed the tub for 10 minutes. So, this would be the tub after it has been cleaned. So frustrating.

In my defense, I do clean it! I scrub the tub about once a week. My husband is a mechanic who works around grease and grime all day long, so he creates quite the nasty ring around the tub. Combine that with a porcelain bathtub that is 60 years old and is so porous that it holds on to all oil. Which the previous renter decided that PAINTING to cover was a good idea (what WERE they thinking?!). I spent the first few years in the house with a bathtub that peeled paint every time I took a bath. That was so nasty.

I have tried various products to help the bathtub situation. Tried Soft scrub (didn't really help). Bleach (almost killed me with the fumes). Plain old dish soap (nope). Baking soda (not all that great either). Seems like the only thing that really works is old fashioned elbow grease---a green scrubby and just whaling on it for a while. This counts as exercise, right?

I heard that if I waxed the tub it would resist oil and dirt and be easier to clean. OH REALLY? So I cleaned it as best I could, and then waxed the heck out of it. didn't work. Not at all for me.

So, other than replacing it, if anyone has any suggestions for a green option that is frugal for cleaning this ancient tub, I could really use the help! PLEASE! That, and a way to get rid of that rust stain. 'Cause, I DO clean that tub. It just doesn't show it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tea Kettle Cozy

Don't you DARE roll your eyes at me!

This thing really does work. And it's cute as a bug's ear to boot.

I made it with cotton on the outside, quilt-square on one side, poly-felt bird hand-stitched on the opposite side. There are two layers of bamboo/cotton batting inside, and then a lining. It is HEFTY.

When the kettle is hot, I can put the cozy over the top of it, and it will keep the water very hot for a good one to two hours (considering that my house is kept a cool 60 to 65 degrees, when I pour a second cup of hot water for tea or cider an hour later, and the water is still steaming hot---that is SIGNIFICANT). I was very surprised at how well it works.

Plus, I really do love the way it looks. It makes me smile to see it, which means that I am far more likely to use it on a regular basis.

Hubby was asking me tonight if I would make them up to sell. Hun, probably not the best question to be asking after I sat there for over two hours hand stitching the felt on the back of it.... How do you put a fair price on that? Not even getting into the cost of materials! (I was using left-overs from my quilt, so it wasn't much there this go round. But if I was making them to sell....well, it would add up!) Nah, they are fun to make for myself or for gifts, but not to sell. NOPE....

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Walking compost bins

Aren't they cute? The blue duck in the middle is Schnitzel, and he is enjoying the last of the garden's tomato's.

One of the great things about having runner ducks is that they are great foragers. Unlike chickens, they won't tear up your yard looking for worms and bugs, but they will hunt for them, and eat leaves, grass, etc. I take out all my kitchen scraps, all the stuff that I toss in the garden for compost anyways, and then let them into the garden, and they typically will eat the scraps and then leave their "presents" (ah-em....poo) to freshen the garden for next spring. I am perfectly fine with this, saves me from paying for fertilizer next spring.

Found out late this summer, that they LOVE tomato's! I would toss out the split cherry tomato's, and they would fight over who got to them first. And chase the dogs off of them. Today, I was pulling the very last of the pink tomato's off the vines. We had a hard frost last night, and lets face it, the tomato plants are over. So, I picked the last of the half-ripe tomato's and threw them out into the yard. Since the skins are too hard for the ducks to break into, I stepped on them with my foot. After that, it was goodie time for the duckies!

So fun to watch them play "Keep Away" from the other ducks, as they pick up a big hunk of it and try to hide it from the others. That, and the dogs wanting to get their piece of the tomato's, with the drakes chasing them off as the hens are going to town while the males are busy! It's back-yard entertainment.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The toothpaste story

Gather 'round, chillen's. This is the story of saving money with toothpaste -or- how weird I can get!

My lovely hubby, impulsive soul that he is, squeezes the tube from the middle of the tube. Now, y'all, I am a bottom of the tube squeezer. And never the twain shall meet. Nearly every morning would see me smoothing out the tube, and then carefully squeezing the tube from the bottom, only to see it the next morning, mangled in the middle again. Ah-HEM!!! Really?!

Now, at this point, I have a few choices. Yell at hubby (and really, what would this solve? Not much of anything.), get a divorce (which saves no one money! REALLY!), or get one of those fun rolling things that squeezes the tube of toothpaste up. Hmmm....thinking of going with option number three. (Decided to skip option four---killing him, altogether, because I have minor children, and it's hard to parent from jail. Just saying! Plus, it's a bit extreme for something so minor as squeezing the tube of toothpaste from the middle.)

I go to the store and look up and down the aisles for this fabulous invention. I KNOW they sell the blasted things, I've bought them in the past. (Since I have bought them in the past, where did they go? Just wondering.....) Any-hoo. Can't find them anywhere. I ask an employee where they are now hiding them. She looks with me and we can't find them. Then she says "why don't you just use a binder clip? That's what I use." Ah-ha! I have a bunch of those, and it doesn't cost me anything at all. Way to save money number two.

Come on home, snag a binder clip and smooth that tube out, roll up the tube end, and clip on the clip. Then what happens? Well.....the pressure squirts the toothpaste out the top! Of course it does. I wipe it off really quick and snap the lid down. Now I have a fingerful of toothpaste. Don't want to waste the what do I do with it?

Solution? Time to clean up my silver bracelets. I wear three silver bracelets all the time, and they get dirty. I take the bracelets off, rub the toothpaste on them, work it around, rinse them off really well, and dry them off. Wah-lah! Pretty, shiny bracelets. Way to save money number three.

And it proves that I am completely weird. But in a good way.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Apples from the tree

Late last fall we planted two apple trees. This summer, we babied them, but since it was their first year in the ground, I didn't have much hope for produce off of 'em. (That, and one of my children seemed to think that pulling the tiny apples off and using them as golf balls was fun.....)

So, a few weeks ago, after cleaning up the duck pen, I was walking back and I noticed there were two lone apples on the tree. They are both smallish apples, not at all polished and prettified like the ones in the store. But I was hungry and figured "what the heck, I may as well try one."

Took it on into the house and took a bite out of it. That is a yummy apple. Tart and tangy. Nice and crisp. What a lovely surprise from the backyard!

Just goes to show you. Sometimes good tasting things don't come in beautiful packages. No worms, either. (Awh, mom! I could have used the extra protein!)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Cute little cozies!

Insane quilting going on at my house. Yes, I don't really have a life.

I read the book "Pretty little Cozies" (ed. Valerie Van Arsdale Shrader) and it got me to thinking (bad move!). My mixer from my Grandma came with this old cover that didn't match my kitchen at all. Time to make a new one.

I am never one to go small. Why make things the easy way?

I used some fussy cut small squares that my mom had sent to me, got some matching fabric, made some quilt squares up. Then made some piping, used some left over batting, used some left over lining from the other quilt for the inside, and sewed it all together.

I am pretty happy with the way it turned out! Super cute!

My next project? A tea kettle cozy! Wish I had thought of that sooner. I enjoy using up fabrics and not letting things go to waste. (Including heat from the kettle!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Quilting: almost done!

I am still plugging away at it! As you can see, it is shaping up nicely. This week, it's been tied off, got the backing on it, today the binding was sewing on to it. All that is left is to hand-sew the binding around the edges and that baby will be DONE.

Not to shabby for a first project.

Don't know when I will feel like jumping into another project!

(Frankly, between this quilt and the zipper of the coat, if I don't see thread and my sewing machine for a month or so, it will be okay with me!)

Battle of the zipper

It was an ugly battle. There was blood spilled, curses spoken. Sweat and tears. Oh...why did there need to be so many seams in this coat?!

Skinny-Boy has this coat for his hockey team. We get his coat oversized so he can wear it for several years. The team players are "encouraged" to wear matching jackets to each game so that they all look alike, so it is a fairly necessary thing for him to have. A few days ago, he was putting it on to wear to school, and the zipper broke. As in, completely broke, not fixable.

Buying a new jacket is....well, out of our price range at this moment. The jackets are a bit dear. About $65 per coat. Shocking, I know. But, I have a sewing machine and I was thinking "oh, how hard can it be to replace a zipper?" Now I know---a lot harder than it looks!

Quick once over of the zipper, there are two top stitches on the zipper. Okay, I rip those out, figure that the zipper will then come right off. Umm....not exactly. I can't just tear at the fabric, because I need to put a new zipper in! So I am being careful as I hunt for other seams. There are TWO MORE seams hidden around there holding the zipper in. Good golly!! It took me over two hours to rip out one side of the zipper and pin the new one in. I could not believe it.

And then, tonight, I got to do the same thing with the other side. The whole while, reminding myself that if I were to BUY a new coat, it would equal at least one days worth of labor or more (if you count for taxes withheld, etc).

I got it done. Got to use the zipper foot on my machine (a first!). And my first zipper without anyone looking over my shoulder.

There is satisfaction in fixing things. And the coat looks pretty spiffy.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Working on my first quilt

Ah....well, actually, it is my first quilt all by myself. My husband bought me a sewing machine this past Christmas (subtle hint to sew?). For years, whenever I visit my mom on vacation, we work on quilts together. I pick the fabrics, she does the sewing (and the thinking about it). I get to do the ironing. Seems like a fair trade to me!

Ah...evidently not. This past visit, she bought me the makings of a quilt with the instructions that I need to grow up and make my own. All my my lonesome?? NO!!! It's super scary.

I got the blocks made, and here's a picture to prove it! Since then, I have put rails around it, visited my mother-in-law and got the batting and backing put onto it, tied it. All that is left is to bind it. Soo close to being done.

Once I've finished it, I'll post pics of the finished product. My MIL told me it's the biggest first project she's ever seen. Ummm...I guess I am a bit ambitious for a beginner. That and I like my lap quilts to be huge.

Mom is already egging me on for my next quilt. I am salivating at the idea of fabrics for the next one. Oh no! She's gonna make a quilter of me yet!

It's fall!

The time of the year when the leaves make that huge mess all over the yard? I made Skinny-boy help rake the yard. He and I spent over an hour raking all the leaves into one area. Sweeping off the deck, raking around the trees.

Boy, the ducks were not amused with us. They were yelling and complaining the whole time. I think it was because we were in "their" area, and kept making them have to move to different parts of the yard. So unhappy with the whole situation.

But, once we left the yard, they seemed to settle down just fine. Over the past week or so, the leaf pile has become their new bed. Several times a day, I look out into the yard, and see them, sleeping in the pile of leaves. My plan was to put the leaves in the compost barrel for the city to take, but the ducks are so happy with them! And the leaves are on bare dirt anyway. No grass to kill. I guess they can stay there for the winter. It won't hurt anything.

The weirdest things make the happy! But it is rather funny to see a duck walking through the yard with one stray leaf stuck to their chest, sort of like a t-shirt logo. Ha-ha!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Purging, how long to hold on to things

We all have things we hold on to. And different reasons why we hold on to them. I buy things on sale and hang onto them because I know I will need them "someday". Or, I have things that I used so much and so often at one time, but that I haven't used in a very long time. Or, I have things that I spent way too much money on and that I just haven't used in years.

Regardless, homes have only so much space. How long to hold onto things? Sooner or later, you realize that you either need to get rid of some stuff, get a bigger house, or rent a storage space!

I am an artist. So....I tend to collect a lot of art supplies. Papers, blank canvas, colored pencils, pastels, scissors, bottles caps, ribbons, pictures, inks, paints, brushes, stamps, the list goes on and on. Every art project seems to take it's own list of supplies. I make jewelery, scrapbooking, multimedia art canvas, niche dolls, pen and ink art works, artistic trading cards, knitting, sewing, the list goes on and on. And while a lot of these crafts take similar supplies, there always seems to be "one more thing" that is needed.

A few years back, I was into fused glass. I bought a glass kiln, tons of glass, cutters, molds, slumping molds, all the stuff to go into making things. And I made a whole slew of things as well! Tried selling my art, not much luck there. Two different shops, on-line in two or three different ways. Gave away a lot of it as gifts for Christmas, birthdays and simply as gifts at a gift exchange.

Two years later, it sits gathering dust. I haven't touched that kiln in two years. I see it in the garage, and it makes me feel....guilty. A weight of what I "should" be doing with it. Of an expense that is wasted. Hard to explain.

I decided this weekend, I would rather it were gone and that I made a little cash from it, than for it to be taking up space and making me feel the "shoulds" about it anymore. It was fine for a time in my life, I enjoyed the process of working with glass, but I moved on from it. I never gained enough expertise in it to be successful enough to sell my work, and without selling my work, I couldn't stay motivated enough to keep creating (nor could I afford to keep spending money on supplies!! Glass is expensive, not to mention electricity!).

So....why do you have some things that you hold on to? If some of your old things were broken, would you be upset, or would you shrug your shoulders, or be quietly relieved? Glad that you are no longer responsible for that item? Maybe it is the family silver that you are entrusted with...that is a pain to keep polished? Or a gift from a family member who points it out whenever they visit, but you actually hate? Or something that you loved at one time, but have since outgrown? It's okay to get rid of these things! Make space for things that are appropriate for THIS time in your life. Things that reflect who you are right now, rather than who you used to be or who someone else thinks you are.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Painting a Pennsylvania Dutch Sign

I needed something to pick my spirits up. I am trapped at home with a sick child (day two, son still has a wet, hacking cough. No fever. But I don't want to expose others. So, we stay home.). Sick kid has taken control of the television, and I don't even want to be in the same room as that....junk.

The weather is lovely right now. Itching to be outside in it! What to do, what to do? I can't go walking (I miss my walkies with my friend and my dog...sad that I miss exercise, but I do!). Oh-kay.

OH! Hubby mentioned when I was going to do that wheelhouse project. Okay, so I put off project too. When he finished his portion of the wheelhouse, there is a large expense of frontage that is blank. We debated making a mirror "window", and then I got the idea of making a Pennsylvania Dutch hex sign on it. I even did the research for it and discussed it with hubby. He liked the idea. And....that is all the farthest I got with the concept.

Until today. I was irritated. (Oh so irritated...see my previous post.) I needed to work off some irritation. So I primed the circle out. While that dried, I researched again the Dutch signs, wrote out my plan, dug out paints and brushes, sketched out my plan. Then, I went out and spent HOURS painting it out.

But look how it turned out! I love it.

The heart in the center means love (0f course), the oak leaves mean strength, the rain drops mean abundance, and the wavy border means smooth sailing through life. The colors represent: red for emotion, yellow for love of man, green for growing things, blue for protection.

What I like is that I didn't copy what someone else did. It is in the style, but the items I chose are for MY family, arranged the way I did for MY family. And I really like it.

Living green and feeling frustrated

I'm reading a new book, "Green Metropolis" by David Owen. He's comparing the greeness of living in New York with the greeness of living in other area's. In chapter one, he makes the point that the average kilowatt-hour use per household per year in New York is 4,696 compared with the average Dallas household of 16,116 (more than three times as much).(page 17) Which made me very curious...what is MY average household use? Now, our house is small, under 900 square foot, but still larger than the average New York apartment, still we aren't "insulated" as New York apartments are---but we try to live sustainably, so I wonder where we would be in comparison to those two numbers.

Dork that I am, I pull out my latest electric bill. Well, they give you a graph for the year, but only hard numbers for the past month. Herm. So, I call up Billing and wait on hold. And wait. And wait. And wait. (Gee, wiz. Is it really worth all this? But now, I am curious and somewhat invested.) Finally, I reach a human!! She looks up the number and tells me. Just over 12,000 kilowatt-hours for the year. And then says "yeah, that's a lot." WHAT?! What do you mean, "that's a lot?" How many people actually ask the question? Everything looks like a lot if you look at an entire YEARS worth of it all at ONCE! *breathing*

Still, in relation to the electrical use in New York City, my family DOES use a lot more than they do. Despite having done many many things to reduce the amount of electricity that we do consume. Truthfully, I am at a loss at this point in what to do.

We have switched out all our light bulbs for compact fluorescent bulbs a few years back. The windows have been upgraded for better ones. We put more insulation in the attic. I have a high-efficiency washer, and line-dry my clothes whenever possible. We just bought an energy-efficient fridge to get rid of the 10 year old leaking one. We have a heat-pump and installed a pellet stove (fingers crossed that that helps A LOT in our heating bill this winter). Other than blowing in insulation into the exterior walls (which would cost us a few thousand to do)....I am at a loss. We keep our heat low---right around 62 degrees in the winter. My kids are used to walking around with socks and slippers. We have portable heaters with fur, aka: dogs. We keep throws and blankets around. I offer tea and cocoa.

The "low-lying fruit", all the easy stuff to do to save money on our electric bill....we have done that stuff. And I am frustrated. Makes me want to throttle that faceless woman in the billing department who blithely said "yeah, that's a lot." If she only knew how hard I work to make that number as small as possible. And that one comment, tossed off without a thought, made me feel as if all my work is meaningless.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Channeling a little Tom Sawyer

I did some chores around the yard today, cleaning up the duck pen, changing the chinchilla bedding, stuff like that. Hub's was putting up a new fence, and I thought "I'll bring out my knitting and just chill on the deck and watch him for a while." Yeah, that was the nice plan for the rest of my afternoon.

I even brought out my knitting basket and my coffee. Then, I looked out to my garden, which I had been in and out of several times today, and noticed how ratty the fence was looking. Now, when hubby had put it in, we had gotten most of the picket fencing used off of Craigslist for a great price, and picked the rest of it from the home improvement store, unfinished. So, most of it is painted white, and part of it is unfinished. Hubby promised me that he would paint it all white for me to match, that he could do it with a paint gun, and it would take "just an hour or so".

Uh-huh. You ladies out there probably know where this is heading. That was two years ago, and the fence boards are still mis-matched. Spring-time is a bad time to paint since it rains in Oregon (go figure!), and once it stops raining, it is planting time...specifically peas, which I grow along the fence line, covering it up.

It just never seems to work out to be the right time to paint that blasted fence. But today, I guess it seemed right. I found a brush, an old can of exterior paint (thank you for the professional painters giving away paint! Sure, it's been sitting in the garage for a few years, but it was FREE. We were saving it for a reason.) and got to working. Three hours later, my garden fence is painted.

Hubby did come by, and tell me he was planning on painting it for me (uh-huh....when?!), and that I had paint in my hair. Gee, hun. Thanks for the help. Love you too. And while you are being helpful, why don't you touch up those few boards for me? Oh, and since you are picky about how the brush is cleaned, I'll let you take care of that.

Love you!

BTW....if anyone has any tips on how to get this huge glob of paint out of my hair, I would appreciate it. Cause this isn't a small bit, it takes up quite a bit of my hair. *sigh*

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fall decorations, make the most of what you have

I love re-purposing things that I have. Fall is a great season to do that, in fact, it practically screams out to do that! Want a scarecrow? Take some old clothes, stuff them with newspapers really well, take an old white or cream pillow case, draw on a face, and use a baseball cap or cowboy hat for the topper! You can dip fallen leaves in candle wax and hang them from fishing line. Use squash and pumpkins as decorations (you don't have to carve them for them to be decorative--in fact, if they are carved, they will rot very quickly).

In years past, when I grew corn, I would save the corn stalks, tie them up with string, and then set them next to my front fence posts or near my front door for a Halloween decoration. Sadly, I didn't grow corn this year to do that with. It is the first of October, and I am itching to decorate. What to do, what to do?

It hit me. I have an entire bale of hay in the garage for Jefferson (our chinchilla). See, it seemed totally weird to buy a huge bale of hay for a tiny chinchilla when I got it, but that bale had come in handy! I've used it for duck bedding, used it in the garden, and now, I am using it for decorations for Halloween. (Plus, it works as a bench in the garage!)

I simply pulled out large handfuls of hay and then tied them with some loose rope that hubby had used earlier in the summer and had lying on the ground. Here's how they look on my window box with my pumpkins. In the next day or so, I am thinking about making another three or four to put on the other window box.

If you have any good ideas for fall decorations, please leave them for others to use. You never know when a flash of insight will strike!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Learning to knit

I have a great respect for women who knit. Seems like it is a dying art. Knitted throws, knitted sweaters (which it seems like are made fun of! Considering the amount of time and energy it takes to make them, they should be deserving of respect.), knitted socks. Something to keep the hands busy while still being able to talk to others. Impressive. Not to mention--portable!

A few years back, I dabbled in knitting. Got that super fluffy yarn that made those neat scarves. Man, those things took chubby knitting needles, were pretty darn forgiving (the yarn hid a multitude of sins!), and I could whip out a scarf in about an hour. I made about 10 or 20 of them that year and then put them away and totally forgot all about how to knit. memory isn't all that great. I saw a blog on knitted washcloths (and knitted socks--I so want to make a pair of knitted socks. Do you know they have yarn with aloe in the yarn?! And the choices of yarn are super cool these days!) and it perked my interest. Washcloths. How easy is that? You knit a square. No special instuctions, no weird things going on, just a square.

Riiigghhhtt. It's been three or four years since I've picked up a pair of knitting needles, I am back at square one! A friend of mine graciously spent an hour or so showing me the basics again this weekend. Number one, I couldn't even remember a slip-knot. Come on, sweetie! A slip-knot! Casting on was another trial of epic proportions. (Makes me oh-so very glad that there is now YouTube and I can just watch a video showing the instructions over and over and over until I finally grasp it.)

The older ladies were watching me knit. Good to get the input. "Hun, your stitches are too tight." Gals, I hate to tell you, but there is a lot about me that is too tight, not just my stitches. "You have that so tight, not even water is going to get through it." Well, I guess that means it will last longer than a normal one! I know, it was all said in love.

I took it with me to my son's class. Sitting there knitting during his instruction. I felt very....old school. Here I am, a stay-at-home mom, knitting, while watching my 14 year old in class. Makes me sound like a freaky 1950's mom that I really am not (but kinda am?).

Ah well. I like my new hobby. Making washcloths is ...not "fun" yet. It is learning a skill, and certainly isn't easy at this point. It is a skill, and will take me a while yet to master. I picked washcloths because if I make a mistake, who cares? It's a washcloth! Knots, slipped stitches, twisted yarn, doesn't matter.

I encourage all of you, try something new this week. Its good to stretch yourself!

Living healthy--a way to save money

Here's a picture of my favorite walking buddy. And yes, his name is Buddy. He is Skinny-Boy's dog, a mix of Rottie and Doxie. (No, don't ask. But so you know, be careful what you are offered for free at a baseball game!)

I have always suffered with migraines. Both of my parents have migraines, so my having them is no surprise. For most of my life, they have happened just once or twice a month, around my cycles, not a big deal. Very manageable. And then, earlier this spring, BANG! I started getting them several times a week for apparently no reason.

Leading me to do some research on the internet, go to the doctor several times, start some new preventative medications, and making some significant lifestyle changes.

Over the past two months, I have cut out practically all fast food from my diet (and ohh....I do love a french fry and fast food burger!). I have cut out all soda, all diet drinks. No more caffeine for this girl. I cook 100% of what I am eating so I know exactly what is going into my foods.

Even scarier? I have started walking three or four times a week. Buddy and a church friend are my walking friends. Buddy loves his walkies. I am walking two to three miles each time. Understand, I don't enjoy walking, I don't like to exercise at all.

The up side? I haven't had a migraine in THREE WEEKS. I am sleeping through the night most nights now. I feel awake and productive, less irritable and snappy.

And I have lost 10 pounds! (When I started all of this, my goal was to reduce my migraines, not to lose weight. Losing weight is an unintended side-effect, but one that I will happily take another 15 pounds worth of!)

My nutty nurse practitioner is very proud of all the lifestyle changes that I have made since July. All she says I need to do now is double my exercise every week. I told her she was pushing it with that one!

For dog owners, my four-legged walking Buddy almost killed me on day one. Goodness, walking him was exercise without even moving, I thought he was going to rip my arm out of my socket. Later that day, I went to the pet store to get a new leash and a choke chain (because that's all I knew to get---dreading getting it because it meant another several days of training the dog to not pull.). Talking to the pet store employees, they recommended getting a "Halti" instead. You can see it in the picture of Buddy. It is black, and fits over the snout, clips behind the ears, and attaches to their collar. This thing works like MAGIC. Within a block, he was walking like he had gone to obedience classes. Walking with him is a breeze now. He is truly a pleasure to walk with, and after walking three miles a day, he is far mellower the rest of the day. I highly recommend this product to other dog owners, especially if you are out walking yourself anyways (and no, I am not affiliated with them in any way, are you kidding me?!).

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The bacon madness

I swear, some days I am just totally off my rocker.

Today I was totally off my rocker. On Tuesday, I bought some Velveeta (I know, but I bought it to go in chili for dip, or in enchilada's, things like that. Not to mention, it keeps in the cupboard!), and it had a tasty looking recipe on the back for Spinach Dip. Ohhhh......I love spinach dip but have been unable to find a good tasting recipe for home that isn't crazy expensive to make. This one seems reasonable, so I figured I would give it a whirl.

One of the ingredients is a few strips of bacon. Okay, no big deal. Except, the bacon I have is 6.5 pounds of bacon in my freezer. mmmm..... I have Skinny-boy pull it out of the freezer this morning to thaw and get on with my day. And on and on with my day.

Had a meeting with the school counselor after school, then rushing around with the kids, up at the home at 9pm. Get the kids in the bath then off to bed. Now it is almost 9:30, and the bacon is thawed. UGH. My options: put it in the fridge and deal with it tomorrow, or just suck it up and cook it tonight. Hubby, of course, votes for option one. Me, I vote for option two.

I am also very weird about cooking bacon. I refuse to leave any bacon uncooked once a package is opened. My personal thought is: just cook up the whole thing at once and clean the mess up ONE TIME. Otherwise, you will need to clean the stove and the pan multiple times when you fry up a few pieces. And to heat the bacon up, just toss a few pieces in the microwave with a towel or small dish over the top.

What that means is that, here I am at close to midnight with over a pound of raw bacon still left to cook. *sigh* Folks, I know I am not the only crazy person out there like this!

Nice thing about this? If Oscar Mayer can sell pre-cooked bacon in the refrigerated or frozen section, well, that means I can freeze bags of cooked frozen bacon! (I know my family! Hubby and Skinny-boy will suck down pound after pound of bacon until it is gone unless I "hide" it from them.)

Wish me luck that I will get the rest of this bacon done SOON because I have to be up in less than 6 hours to get Skinny-boy up for school. Will really need the coffee in the morning.

Bubble Boy likes the new eggs!

Got another present this morning (oh happy day!). Makes getting the ducks out much more exciting, let me tell you.

Because my hens are so young, the eggs are still small (this is normal, from what I have read. They will get larger over the next few months). Compared to a store-bought large egg, they are slightly smaller than that.

I have seen on several websites the comparisons of store-bought eggs vs home-grown, and wanted to see for myself. I had been told that the whites are more firm and gel-like, and that the yolk would be closer to orange than the sunny yellow of a store egg. Sure enough, our egg yolk was a deep orange, highly rounded up instead of spread out and flatter like the store bought was. The store egg ran all over the pan, while the home egg stayed in one place. Interesting.

Best part? My son declared the egg to be yummy! And that would be why I started this whole thing to begin with. To have yummy eggs that I knew from start to finish what feed had gone into creating the eggs. I am thrilled.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our first egg!

It's a red banner day at my house!

I let the ducks out before daybreak like normal (half-asleep like normal). I latch their pen so they can't pig out on grain all day. Later in the morning, I went back out to their pen to see if there were any eggs....and there was one! Granted, it was completely poo-covered (thank you, whoever you were. You really didn't need to wrap it for me.), but it is our first egg, so I don't mind too much.

I don't know which hen stepped up to the plate and decided to start them off, but I hope it's the beginning of a trend. My friend, who also has runner ducks, told me that the hens are a little competitive and will try to "out-lay" each other. Fingers crossed that mine are the same.

Here is hoping that my days of buying store-bought eggs are nearly over!

Hubby's comment when I called him to tell him we had our first egg? "How soon before we can start selling them?" Probably not in the near future, honey. But, way to be positive!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The bread curse is OVER!

I am doing a happy dance! Look at that beautiful bread. Oh my goodness, it is gorgeous. Smells so good, so soft and airy.

I figured out why I was failing time after time at making bread. And I didn't learn it from a cookbook or from a recipe, but from reading the reviews to a recipe. I found a recipe from (for Amish White Bread). I read several of the reviews, and one of them described very well how to proof yeast and what it looked like while yeast was proofing. Knock me over with a feather, I have been doing it wrong all these years.

The tip? I knew that liquids need to be about 110 degrees (I had been doing that!). And then I would add the yeast and stir it in. What I didn't know is that you need to allow the yeast to proof, to foam up. Now this can take several minutes, five to ten, so just be patient and let it work. It starts to look a little bit like tan cappichino foam. Wait until the entire surface of the liquid is covered and then start stirring in the rest of your ingredients.

As for the bread itself? A bit too sweet. Another reviewer said that the recipe was too sweet and to reduce the sugar by a quarter cup (which I did do), and I still found it to be sweeter than I would like. Still, I now know what I was doing wrong, and feel far more competent to try other recipes!

Brings me to the thought that so many of these homemaking skills are being lost. My mother would on rare occasions make bread when I was a kid (very rarely). And she didn't want to be bothered with teaching me how to bake bread. I can understand the feeling, it takes a lot of effort and extra time to teach a child skills. Usually when I would help in the kitchen, I would get stuck on peeling duty (meaning peeling potato after potato, or cutting up things) while she would do the technical stuff, and now that I have a household of my own, I am missing all this knowledge! Like proofing yeast. So when I have these ah-ha moments, I love to pass them on. Hopefully, they are helpful to others.

A reminder of why I stockpile

Tomorrow is payday. Rightly, it is MY payday, which is pretty small. See, I only work about four days a month doing bookkeeping, so my job income is usually just pin-money for the family. The fun cash that comes along that allows us to do things that we normally would do without.

But, with vacation last month, and Hubby missing several days of work, his paycheck was VERY short last time, should be better this time, but that is still another week away.

Bottom line? Bubble boy ate the last piece of bread yesterday night. Skinny boy finished off the milk this morning. We are out of fruit. The good yogurt has been gone for a week now (the horror!). So, mom was getting to thinking today.

Well....I had good luck with the artisan's bread last week, maybe my run at bread killing is over. I could try my hand at making white bread again and see how it goes. I check on-line for "recipe easy white bread" (go with your strengths!). Sure enough, there are tons of them. I pick one that got good reviews and am giving it a whirl. It's been rising for nearly an hour and is looking good (there is hope!).

For dinner, I dug up some dried red beans, a pound of hamburger, some fresh tomato's from the garden, a few odds and ends in the kitchen and am making chili. It's very filling, should last at least two meals, and is healthy.

I buy milk when it is on sale and I freeze it (if in plastic gallons, pour off a cup or two to allow for expansion). So I took out a gallon from the freezer and set it next to the warm stove to thaw.

All in all, even though I haven't bought groceries in close to two weeks, we aren't too badly off! I try and try to buy pantry items seasonally when they are on sale, even if I know I won't be using them right away. Such as, flour and sugar will be going on sale in November and December because of the holidays and increased baking. Sure, I do some baking, but not like a lot of families do. The holidays isn't traditional "baking time" for me. I still stock up on these items at this time! Right now, I am practically out of sugar at my house, because I have used it all up making jelly. Yes, it's the jelly making that uses up my sugar supplies. But come November, I will buy 10 to 20 pounds of sugar and set it aside for next summer and fall. I know I will use it. I shop this way for all kinds of things. Pick up odds and ends, even if I know I have plenty at this time, if the sale price is significantly below the normal retail price.

That way, when we hit a tight patch and there is not a lot of money for a while, I know I have plenty of toilet paper, shaving cream, flour and all the other necessities of life. There is peace in that!

Hankering for Cheesecake

I was out at hockey try-outs with Skinny-boy (you rock, kid!), and was pondering what to make for dinner. Pfft! Let's get to the important stuff. What to make for dessert!

My first thought? Cinnamon Rolls. Oh, I have a cinnamon roll recipe that uses my bread machine that totally rocks, but, sadly, it takes two hours in the bread machine, an additional hour to rise outside the machine, plus baking time, and....well, it's after 9pm. OUCH. Oh-kay. Can't do cinnamon rolls. What else can I make today? Hmmm....I have a few pounds of cream cheese in the fridge (a friend of mine gave me a huge loaf of cream cheese). Logical thing to make? Cheesecake!

I love the internet. You want to find a recipe on a whim, best place to look. And, I don't need a foofy recipe that requires 24 oz of cream cheese, a spring-form pan and a water-bath. Sweet heavens above, I want a down and dirty recipe for us lazy people!

Found one off of Kelloggs website. Okay, so their recipe calls for a Keebler Graham Cracker Crust. My solution? Use what I have on hand! What did I have? (This is bad...) I had Mini Teddy Grahams. It's okay, you can laugh. I put them into a sealed bag, tap-danced on them, and then used a rolling pin to crush them. Melted a few table spoons of butter in the microwave, mixed the crumbs and butter together, and pressed them into the bottom of a glass dish.

Other than that, I followed the recipe (pretty much). I skipped the sour cream topping, and used my own blackberry jam (after only one week of setting, it is jelling nicely!). Oh goodness! How yummy was that!

Hubby and I sat around the fire pit last night, talking and listening to the ducks, eating homemake cheesecake. Life doesn't get much better than this.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Two left and two arrived--my ark stays full.

Yes, that needs a little explanation.

We have had leopard geckos. Two of them, Blake and Gloria. My oldest son, Skinny Boy, begged and begged for them. So, it was Christmas gift of 2005. Wow, that was a LONG time ago. Minor miracle right there that we have managed to keep them both healthy and hale all these years! Anyhoo...oldest son has long ago lost interest in the geckos. It has become a chore and not a joy to have these geckos. They are never handled or watched. You know how it is with kids and animals.

We offered the geckos to science teachers (gee, I figured they would be a good object lesson! I thought wrong.), offered them on-line. Nope, no takers. Yee-ahh. They have been on our version of animal welfare, the black hole eating worms and crickets. At least the chinchilla is cute! Geckos aren't really very "cute" to me.

I had given up on getting rid of them. Resigned myself to having them until Skinny Boy leaves for college (packing them into his car with him and making him take the blasted things!). And then, this week, a young friend of mine asked me if I would be willing to give them to her. Would I?! I would LOVE to give them to you! Here, take all the stuff that goes with them too! Enjoy them! Be fruitful with them! End of the story? She is thrilled to have them, and I am thrilled they are gone. A happy ending!

The two new arrivals? Well, we got our four ducks (as hatching's) from Holdderread this past spring. I am so thrilled with my Indian Runner Ducks. I love watching them in the yard, seeing them chase the dogs, eating the bugs, digging at the dirt. I am excitedly anticipating eggs, but realize that it will be a few months yet until that happens. I've already mentioned to my husband that I would like to get a few more in the spring, but I don't really want to do hatching's all over again (raising ducklings in the bedroom is an intense, and pungent affair).

Hubs was looking online last night and saw an ad for two pair of ducks originally from Holdderread that were looking for a new home, hatched this spring, just like mine! Bonus, they are the same age as mine. Yes, hubby was joking, but I wasn't. My sweet man drove up, looked at the ducks, and brought me home ducks. Just in time for our fifth anniversary. Nothing sez love like a pair of ducks for your anniversary!

There you have it! Two animals out, two animals in. The two new ducks are the dark gray ones, they are called "blues". We have named them "Lady Grey" and "Blue Crew". Must be a guy thing, 'cause I am not sure what hubby is referring to! I have a FLOCK now! I love it!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Bread Success!

Look at that beautiful loaf! And yes, it tasted as good as it looked.

I made the dough early this afternoon, went and did some errands outside the house, came home, cut off a ball of dough and put the rest of the dough in the fridge for later. I love that part about this recipe...I have many loaves of bread just waiting to be baked inside my fridge. It's a beautiful thing.

The instructions said to cut off about a pound worth of dough, approximately a grapefruit size of dough. Well, perhaps my mental thought of a grapefruit is pretty small, or the loaf didn't rise well for it's second rising (a possibility). I was disappointed at the size of the loaf and worried that it was a sign that I had, once again, killed the yeast.

Hoping against hope, I baked it. I pulled it out about five minutes short of the recommended time (perhaps because it was too small). It turned out crunchy on the outside, soft and airy on the inside. Wonderful with butter, and perfectly yummy with my tomato salad.

I tell ya. This bread is the bees knees. Check it out!

Artisan Bread

School is back in session (Mom doing a happy dance!). This means I now have more free time during the day. Thank goodness for that.

I was fiddling around on StumbleUpon on the net, and ran across a few sites for Artisan Bread. Now, I have a very poor track record with bread. I am a yeast killer (KILLER!), and need the training wheels that my trusty bread machine gives me. But these recipes swear that even the most inept baker can handle this.

One particular site ( has an Artisan Bread that is stored in the fridge for up to two weeks and that you simply cut off a hunk and bake it when you want some. Got my interest!

So I am giving it a whirl. The picture is of the bread in the first raising. I made a wonderful tomato-basil salad from the garden, and am looking forward to some crusty bread to dip into the left-over oil.

Fingers crossed, wish me luck that my bread turns out well. I am SO hoping this works, because I would love to be able to bake up bread during the next two weeks for dinner. My mouth is watering with the thought of it. I will let you know how it goes!