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!