Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Woolies, and fabric, and clay...oh my!

I have been one busy crafter, lately.

I spotted a blog on how to wet-felt wool over soap to make "coal" for Christmas, and then took that idea and made an abundance of "coal" for my team who have been naughty this year. Pruney fingers abounded in my house (no, just on me!), but I think the "coal" turned out cute.

I also saw a blog on how to make no-sew flowers out of organza, simply using scissors and a candle to singe the edges, then hot-glue the petals together. Once finished, glue together into a flower then onto a clip or headband. Again, I was able to use what I had on hand (self: WHY do I have four colors of organza when I have no little girls in the house and I don't wear this stuff?!). It was fun to make while watching television and I only burned myself a few times. Heh.

I scrounged up some clear plastic tubing from an air pump hubby got for an aquarium, I photocopied some old Sears ads, inked the edges, rolled them up and put them inside, then placed beads at the ends and used wires to finish it off. Makes for interesting and colorful beads!

I have also used my Christmas money to buy Fimo clay. *drool* My first attempts at bead making isn't perfect, but what do you expect? I tried a Skinner blend of ocher and chocolate, surrounded by black. It needs more work. Still, not horrible for a first try! I also made impressions of gears and nuts, baked it off, and then used antiquing to show off the details.

Here's the completed necklace I made with my beads I've been creating.

The tubing beads (four of them), the clay beads, and then two purchased beads (the key and number 7, both of which I used alcohol ink to color to match the other beads) and a purchased watch from Ebay (that is my inspiration piece).

I am having WAY too much fun with crafting.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Flops--it happens to the best of us

I've been fiddling with permanent alcohol inks lately. Much fun! Layering colors, able to color glass, metal, plastic, and then spray with sealer. Sweet!

Led me to think, shrinky plastic! I have some, and thought I would make some earrings with it. When I color them prior to shrinking with permanent markers, the color is too saturated when it shrinks, so I thought I would try to blot on some color AFTER shrinking with the alcohol ink instead.

BIG MISTAKE. Note to self and others: alcohol ink removes Sharpie and permanent ink.

There goes about an hour of my life drawing the picture that I will never get back. *sigh* So, if you work with permanent ink pens and alcohol ink, try to keep them separated from each other or it could "erase" the design. (I worked off of the back side of the plastic dink for my second one).

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Decorated Glass Bottles---and a Christmas gift recipe

Aren't they pretty? An improvement over various shampoo bottles, if you ask me. There are two types of shampoo, a conditioner, and bath salts. If it were up to me, I would try to transfer all my bathroom goodies into bottles (but I think my husband would object).

Three of the bottles got frosted, just normal glass etching cream. I used templates from clip art books and a paper cutting book, which made it time intensive. I then used permanent ink on the etched parts to highlight the etching. Any excess ink can be removed with special ink remover.

The bath salts bottle was the easiest. The metal label holder was from the scrapbooking section, the writing was printed off my computer. A little stamping ink to match the bath salts, some glue to hold the paper onto the metal holder, then some hot glue to adhere it to the bottle. Easy-peasy.

Bath salts would make an EASY and INEXPENSIVE Christmas gift. Save some glass bottles and lids from your kitchen. Such as the artichoke jars, glass spaghetti jars, etc. Wash and dry well. At the grocery store, buy rock salt from the spice aisle (used for making ice cream). At the craft store, purchase fragrance and coloring in the soapmaking aisle (this is where you will spend a few bucks, but you will have a LOT left over). Also, to make the metal labels, snag some metal label holders from the scrapbooking area.

Pour about 1/3 of the box of salt into a metal or glass dish, use a spoon to stir the salt and mix in 4 to 6 drops of fragrance (to your liking). Remember, it will get diluted in water, so you can go on the strong side if you like, or go light. Either way. Once stirred in well, add 4 to 6 drops of color, well spread out. Stir in. Then, add to jars, and top with lids. Make labels as directed above with "Bath Salts" and the name of the fragrance.

If you want to "fancy" it up even more, add ribbons, or paint the lid in a matching color, or ......

Friday, December 3, 2010

Brick Doorstop

Mom was in town, and bought me some toys (aka: art supplies). They are wrapped for Christmas, so I cannot use them yet. But, got me in the mood to do crafty I need I purchased some permanent inks.

Last night, as we were shuffling around cat food containers and tubs to keep our door cracked enough so the cat can get in and out, but the dog cannot get out, the thought occurred to me, "we need a door stop". Question is: what to use for a door stop?

My thought is that a brick would work perfectly well. And looks somewhat hideous. Meaning? I need to decorate it!

First step was to find a brick. If you have seen my back yard, you would know that this is not a difficult thing. About 2 minutes of looking, I find a good one. I washed the dirt off and did a quick towel dry. Next step is to dry it. This took incredibly long. Over an hour on the fireplace top did nothing. An hour in the toaster oven at 200 degrees got closer, good enough to work with, but still isn't totally dry. Note to self: those brick hold A LOT of water. Who knew?!

I stamped the brick with permanent ink. This is different than normal stamping ink, and is specifically labelled as permanent ink. I used a background stamp (something small--text). After that, I used acrylic paint in cream, and stamped on the top stamps. Note to self: go lightly with the paint! If you paint the stamp too heavy (I was worried that the paint would dry before I stamped it), then it "gooshes" out the sides and is sloppy. Looses a lot of detail because of this.

I let the paint dry for a few minutes, then went back with alcohol inks to mellow out the cream paint color. I have "latte" that I used over all the cream to make it less harsh, and then used some "gingerbread" on the gooshy parts of the cream stamp to tidy it up. Last thing I did was spray it all down with sealer to fix it.

I am happy with how it turned out. Practical, but pretty.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Flops of the week!

And this week has been a dozy for flops for me.

I've been wanting a chain maille necklace for years now. I really wanted to make one (whatever possessed me?!), and this was the week for it! I had some wire in my jewelery kit, I wound it around a dowel, hubs cut it into jump rings for me, and I started following the instructions.

Somewhere along the way, it all went horribly wrong. I have about one inch done. After an hour (methinks this is not a good use of my time, and we aren't counting the time to make the rings in that time either). And the one inch I DO have is ugly. I am not sure if the wire is the wrong size, the diameter is the wrong size, or if I made an error in the pattern. What I have learned is, this is a case where I should support my fellow artisans on Esty. Yup. Some things I am simply not meant to do, and I should let this one go.

My other flop of the week isn't truly a "flop", it just didn't have the desired outcome I was hoping for. I saw glass etched shampoo bottles on Craftgawker a few months back (perhaps I should just block that site? nahhh, I get WAY too many wonderful ideas!), and thought I would love to do that for myself. My husband does not understand why I would need to move the shampoo from a perfectly serviceable plastic bottle to a glass one (because the prettiness of the glass bottle makes my heart sing when I see it isn't an adequate answer?).

I got the glass etching cream, contact paper, and a glass bottle. Spent two hours with a scalpel cutting out the pattern (why go half-way?). Since you likely cannot make it out from the picture, the top is a female face with wavy hair and a frosted area to write on, the bottom area is a large lily pad and flower.

Once I finished up, I thought that the red shampoo I had would really make the etching pop. Nope, not so much. Not at all.

I am wondering now if I could use stamping ink on the frosted area's to stain it to make it stand out more. I have some older votive's (Glade votive's, heh...I reuse them in other holders that I don't want the holder to get wax all over) that I can "experiment" on before I try it on that. But it bums me out a bit.

Plus, my fingers are red from filling the bottle with the shampoo. Wonder how long that is gonna last? Good times....good times.

Food Waste

Watching the Early Show. The average American Family has $1,300 in thrown away food every year. I am shocked and appalled. Stunned, actually. The family that they were spotlighting had half of a grass-fed cow that they were throwing away. That is appalling to me.

Food waste. *breathe, must breathe* On the one hand, I do get it. We buy things and we get busy. We eat out. Food goes bad. Truly, I mentally do get it. But emotionally, I do not get it. I simply don't.

If I get food, I deal with it. This means packaging it to freeze, or to store. This means checking dates, looking at what is in the refrigerator from time to time, adjusting meal plans to get rid of what is close to spoiling. If something is "heading over", I cook with it, encourage members of my family to eat it, bake with it, or feed it to the dogs, ducks or other animals (in my mind, if it is consumed, it is not wasted).

Case in point, I was given a partial case of tomato's on Sunday. On Monday, I was busy to my gills with things and couldn't deal with it. On Tuesday, I spent a bulk of the day, skinning the tomato's, stewing them for hours, and then preparing them in three containers to freeze, letting them cool on the counter, and then freezing them. I also used the skins of the tomato's to shine my pennies for my table (double use, no waste). This wasn't "convenient" for me, nor part of my planned week, but it was a windfall, a blessing, so I dealt with it.

I don't comprehend the American mindset of throwing out food. I don't grasp it. If there is leftover food, save it for another meal. Feed the scraps to the dog and then feed them less dogfood at night (and for the record, no, our dogs are NOT fat, I watch their weight closely). If there is A LOT of leftovers, freeze some and make a second meal out of it later in the month.

Pities sake, if for nothing else, you will save yourself money.

Getting off my soap box now.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cut Books


I am a book lover. Truly, I am. Huge reader, supporter of the library (I am there on a bi-weekly basis, they know my face), and here I am cutting up books?

Yes, but this is ART!

This is my third book that I have cut up. It is AA Milne's, "When we were Children". I chose it because it had so many wonderful illustrations. There weren't many Winnie the Pooh pictures (which is what most of us associate with AA Milne), but the other illustrations are fantastic.

After doing the cutting, I went a step farther, and hand colored many of them.
I also used foam glue dots to give support to the cuttings and give the book more depth (something more visible in person than in the photo). Next, glued down each page (this is the 'not fun, very tedious' part of the process). Lastly, covering the open front cover with plastic covering so the cuttings don't get destroyed. The cuttings are so easily torn, and when the books are handled, people try to touch everything, so the plastic is important to protect the cuttings.

It is an enjoyable process. Fun to do while watching television and chilling at home. Picking and choosing which picture is important and which one's are not.
A great use for nursery books that children have outgrown, or a topic book with pictures for a gift for Christmas. Good places to look for inexpensive books are Goodwill and second hand stores (I got mine at a library resale shop, so even in cutting up the books, I was supporting my local library!).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Making wool acorns

On craftgawker again (man, I REALLY need to avoid that gives me idea after idea after idea....). The cutest little wool acorns. Awwhh.

First thing I needed to do was find acorns. Not as easy as it sounds, turns out. Took my son to fencing one night, and *angels singing* oak trees in the parking lot. There I am, in the dark with a flashlight, picking up acorn caps. Oh the lengths we crafters go to.

Next step was finding wool roving. Off to the quilt store (my favorite place!). Must refuse to look at fabric. Do I need a needle punch? Not really. Do I need a needle mat? No. Stick with just the wool roving.

After that, must complete other unfinished craft projects. heh. This is the harder part. Finish up the jackets (DONE!). Finish up cutting the books (DONE!). No, I still haven't glued those or put the covers on it, so they haven't made it to the blog, but the cutting is done.

Now I can start on new projects! Hooray! I spent the evening making the wool balls, meaning about an hour rolling wool in water and soap. Pruney fingers. Then they had to dry overnight. This morning, I did the fun part of matching wool balls to acorn caps, each cap being a different size and depth and each ball being different. I used hot glue to attach them.

Aren't they the cutest thing ever?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Tabletop water garden

I have several ponds in my yard. This is the first year I am trying to overwinter some of the plants (oh please make it thru winter!). They are hiding in the garage, and don't seem all that happy.

I was on Craftgawker the other day, and found the blog "in words and pictures" with a lovely picture of a tabletop water garden. Made me start thinking of my own plants just lingering in the garage.

My first thought was, running down to the craft store for a large, clear, glass bowl for the garden. My next was, why not use my hurricane lamp for candles for it?

I put it together this morning (nothing like gathering plants and dirt and gravel while in my jammies at 8 in the morning! heh Crafting triumphs practicality on some days!). I like how it turned out. I still want a larger bowl, something large enough to put a few fish into, but it can wait for a few weeks.

A little nature indoors! Ignore the dust in the picture. Obviously, crafting is more important to me that dusting as well!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

My last remade jacket

I like how this one turned out. The black trim adds a lot to the look, placed along the zipper and the cuff. I also added a "mini overall" clips to the sleeves to gather them in a little. The sides are gathered in with vest buckles.

This jacket was purchased for me a few years back, size 14. I've lost some weight and it swims on me now. But with these few changes, and the soft fabric, the buckles really work to make it more fitted.

Later, when I can get some help from my mother, I would like to take out those side buckles and replace them with a triple row of buckles, as well as adding some decorative buttons on the sleeve or shoulders. Not sure...

And here is the before so you can see the changes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

My second jacket

This is a beautiful jacket. Fully lined, multiple princess seams in the front and back. The workmanship on it is excellent. Just a bit....boring.

I added velvet ribbon to the collar, cuffs and pockets. I changed out all the buttons (whoo-whee, that single center button was EXPENSIVE, but worth it). Stitching on all that ribbon was tedious, but adds a lot to the jacket.

It isn't flashy or overly "romantic", but now has a dash of old-world charm to it. Toss a frothy blouse underneath it, and you have a lovely outfit.

Here is the before of the jacket. Perfectly serviceable, if a bit dull.

Remaking Jacket--Steampunk it up!

I found a jacket I love in a catalog. For $89.99. Oh no, I don't think so!! I looked on the internet for other jackets on eBay and Esty...not happening. What to do, what to do?

Then it hit me, used shops, find a coat and remake it myself! I am handy (well, I like to think so!) and I have ideas.

I found two blazers at the Digg (a local second hand store), for five dollars each. I am super excited to get started on my second blazer, maybe later tonight.

I went to JoAnns and bought some trim braiding, some different buttons, and organza. Added some ruffles to the front and back, added the trim, added the buttons. I LOVE how it has turned out.

A plain, jane jacket is now turned into a romantic, creative jacket. So lovely.

The BEFORE is below.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Saving my pennies to make a penny table

I have been inspired! (Again? you say..well, yes. It never ends for me.)

This is my inspiration. A desk covered in pennies.

Found it on the blog, Epbot. I have seen a FLOOR covered in pennies, which was also cool, but how do you move that?! But a table, well, I can just take that with me when I move.

I have been saving up my pennies now for about a month. In my household, we don't typically rush into things. I scrounged up all the pennies in the household (sadly, barely covered the bottom of the jar). Purchased a few rolls of pennies from the bank. Do you know that purchasing rolls of pennies is like gambling? Except, no matter what, YOU WIN!!

In 2009, they minted commemorative pennies for Abe Lincoln, four different coins. I have been looking to get multiples of all four coins (anything to break up the monotony of the Lincoln Memorial). Additionally, in 2010, they minted a Shield penny! I am also hunting for multiples of those. Meaning that each time I unroll a bunch of pennies, it is exciting to see which coins I may have gotten this time.

Regardless of whether I get a special coin, each penny has a life of it's own. Some are shiny and new and bright. Others are very world worn, barely recognizable as a penny. I have one that is practically black, with a faint impression of the Memorial on it. Others have a green patina from the copper, and most of them are simply a deep brown. Some were minted in the 50's and are still crisp and clear, others were printed in the 90's and look beaten to death.

The life of these coins. It may just be a penny, but they have more value than their monetary worth. When I see them spread out on the table, the variations in colors and differences in wear....they become something more than simply pocket change.

And that is why I can't wait until I get my penny table. Need to save up more pennies!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finished wood boxes

From humble beginnings...

to this! I am happy with how they turned out. Something I was already using, now made a bit prettier.

Decorating a wood box

LOVE the site Craftgawker!! Saw a beautiful small wood box (chest) decorated with paper. Ahh....

I have a small set of boxes I got from Ikea a few years back (gah! that long?!) that I have been using in my bathroom. My mom bought me some breathtaking paper in Montana (say what?!) this summer that has been sitting in my closet rolled up. I have just been wondering what to do with it. Inspiration has struck!

I am out of Modge-Podge, so I used plain old Elmers Glue. I cut parchment cardstock to fit the front and sides and tops of the boxes, then glued them on with the Elmers, using a foam brush to get even coats. Then I cut out my ladies with an scalpel, measuring to fit. Again used Elmers and a foam brush to apply them. Let dry for a few hours.

Next, I distressed the edges with sandpaper. Then, I applied a few different colors of ink with a brush. Pink, cranberry, key lime green, and blue. Start with the lightest, and work to the darkest. I even applied it to the edges. Let dry.

After an hour or so, apply a light coat of Elmers glue over the paper and edges with ink. Make sure to cover well the edges of paper. Let dry completely or overnight, then apply a second coat.

Once this coat is dry, I will apply a coat of sealant, then take another pic of the project all done. I love how it is turning out!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Luminaries...taking it to the next level!

I just can't leave well enough alone.

This is round two. I LOVE art nouveau. Sadly, it's expensive and I can't afford it. I own a book of clip art, so I photocopied some flowers I loved, and cut them out with an scalpel.

Same basic instructions as the former post, use a 12 by 12 piece of scrap booking card stock, cut on a 45 degree angle. Measure it to be 3 1/2 inches wide. Once cut on the longest part, cut a small portion off one end leave a a thin fold-over for gluing. Measure and fold for each panel, for this one I measured each for 3 and 1/8inch. Do the same four times to make a cube and dry fit.

Then comes the fun part. Find your image! Make sure it fits. Pick out four different ones or repeat the same one, or draw them on. The image you select is important, make sure you aren't cutting out huge portions, but leaving paper connections to reveal the image.

I did not glue or tape them on, I held them on with my free hand because I was working from the front this time. I worked from the center to the outside, periodically flipping it over, to carefully repeat the cuts from the back to get the cut sections out. It's all about patience and being careful.

Once done, cut off the excess on side four, use a glue stick to glue the flap onto the back of side four. I used tiny binder clips to hold it together. It slides over the top of the Febrez shade (pictured is "White Linen").

Very pretty, and super personal!

Would make a lovely gift!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Making Halloween Luminaries

I have the flickering Febrez luminaries, and I enjoy them a lot. But, I am not such a fan of the style choices I get. I decided to work up something myself that is a bit different!

Making luminaries for it instead. Safer than using a candle, and it turned out very cute! (Sorry, no pic in the dark. I tried, but I am too shaky without the flash)

I started with basic scrap booking card stock, 12 by 12. Cut it on a 45 degree angle, down the middle of the paper to get the longest strip possible. If you want an exact fit so you use no scented liner, trim a small bit off one side (leave a little flap, about 1/8 or less, for gluing at the end), fold over for a crease, measure 3 inches, crease again, another 3 inches, etc..until you have 4 sides.

Pick your display side (I forgot to do this and ended up using the duller side. tsk!), and then draw your simple picture on the opposite side. Do the same for all four sides. Be sure to leave about 1/4 inch at the bottom for the lip of luminary if it is to fit snug.

On the picture side, take a thumbtack or pin, and poke holes evenly. Do not place them too close together or they will tear. It's best to work from the center to the outside to decrease the chances of tearing. Once that is done on one side, turn it over, take a slightly larger pin (I just used a display pin my son had for baseball) and do a secondary poke on all the holes, working again from the center outwards. This pushes the paper toward the back which DOES make a difference (in the pic, I messed this up at the top of the pumpkin, and I can tell!), plus the larger holes lets more light out.

Repeat four times.

Last step, do a dry fit on the luminary, trim the excess off the far side, then use a glue stick to glue that tiny extra piece to the inside of the far side.

Tah-dah!!! If you want scent, add some essential oils to the paper (but beware, the oil, being oil, will stain the paper....and you don't want it to be too close to the bottom or it will get into the light. Use your own judgement!).

I am thinking of doing a monogram for hubby and I for our bedroom just a smidgen larger so I can use the liner inside of it (thinking 3 1/8 inch per side). Love making things personal!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Living Small

My husband and I have embarked on a 7 to 10 year plan. Soon, our children will be grown and we will be able to move on from here. I want to move closer to my parents who are getting older, so that I can help them as they age. But I do not want to live in the same household as them (been there, done that, not gonna do it again).

Hubs and I have been looking at various house plans and houses in the area (Montana) to get ideas. I am in LOVE with the Tumbleweed house plans by Jay Shafer ( I see the plans as very well thought out, and practical arrangement for two people, possibly three. I have also been reading a lot of books on living in small spaces, by writers like Sarah Susanka and others. It is fascinating to me to see how small space can be made more efficient and open just by being more creative and thoughtful. We don't necessarily need MORE space, we need to be more mindful in how space is used.

Talked with my father about our ideas. This is a man who has drawn up plans from scratch on at least three houses that I know of, remodeled two others. He has an associates degree in drafting. So, he knows how to make house plans. Also, we are CURRENTLY living in a house of less than 900 square feet with four people, four dogs, two cats, and a chinchilla. I only feel "cramped" when we have guests. Otherwise, I feel like I have adequate room in my house.

My father told me that we need to have 1,200 square feet minimum for our next house and the plans were were looking at (less than 800 square feet) were too small. Are you KIDDING ME?! There will only be two of us, possibly three (depending on boomerang adult kids). Why would we need more square footage in the future than we have currently?

In my mind, if we start from scratch building, my husband and I get the golden opportunity to build in all the wonderful ideas we glean from Sarah Susanka and others on how to capitalize on the space! To utilize every last inch of what we have with built in bookcases, built in eating areas and things such as that. Why waste space?

I have always envisioned myself as I age living in a smaller space. Either in a studio area, a small cabin with a loft, something along those lines. My "mental picture" had always been around 400 square feet. So, to me, 700 to 800 square feet is HUGE. Spacious! Practically as big as what I currently have, just with less people in it. What in the world will I do with all that space?

Sorry for my rant of the day. I just don't understand the bigger is better concept.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Making our own cat post

Picked up a new kitten this weekend (hey...what is another animal? Am I right??).

She is so pretty!! Hiding right now (shucks, doesn't it figure!).

But, another cat means another cat litter box. We have dogs, and our dogs like to treat the dog like a snack tray ("ohh....almond rocha! Sure, I'll have some!"), and then come give me kisses. No thank you!

With our other cat, Furby, we have her cat box up on a shelf. Since we need a scratching post anyways, how about incorporating a large scratching post to hold the cat box?

Scratching posts are crazy expensive! Fifty to over a hundred bucks for one. Are you kidding me?! It's a couple of two by fours, some plywood, and carpet. It's nuts to me.

I sweet talked hubby.... I purchased carpet scraps today ($10), and hubby fab'ed something up in about an hour. BOOM! Here it is. Total cost to me out of pocket today was $10. Everything else was scraps around the house.

I love me a good deal!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

The more things change....

the more they stay the same.

Odd how that happens!

My oldest son plays hockey. And this year, he has been invited to skate practices with a high level team (he is 15, most the kids on the team are 18 to 20). This is a break for him, a chance to be on the ice, learn some skills and be seen by the coaches. Mostly, to gain better skills and hopefully get a foothold in the coaches mind for next season.

The bad part? He would miss two classes four days a week. And his school doesn't allow for early release for sophomores. What is a mom to do?

I could home school him, but that isn't my first choice. I tried calling the school counselor, met with the principal, neither met with any success. I applied for two different charter schools. He had attended a charter school for his 7th grade and half of his 8th grade years, doing his classes on the Internet, and meeting with his teacher twice a month.

This program was successful for him in the past, and allows for a lot of flexibility; he can do lessons at night or early morning, even on the weekends, he can do work ahead of time if he has games out of town, etc. He simply missed fellow students and wanted the social element that I can't give him at home.

But we have come back around to the web academy again. Funny, when the public school told me "no, he cannot have early release. I guess you can work out a program with the college or attend a private school" my thought was "NO! Those aren't my only options! I can home school my son (I am college educated, he is smart, we can figure something out) or we can charter school (the best choice, as it is still part of the public school system and is accredited, earning him normal high school credits that transfer back)"

Full circle. Back to a form of "homeschooling".

My teen son, the one who earlier this spring told me I needed to get a "real job" is now telling me he is glad I don't have a "real job" so that we have flexibility to do all this. Darn toot'n son!! And THIS is why I don't have a "real job".

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rebuild it, make it better

Our living room ottoman was getting torn up. Having a cat and "pleather" with do that. Plus dogs, kids...a well used living room. Basically, this piece of furniture gets USED.

The small pin holes became small tears, became rips. It was annoying to me (if no one else). I would drape blankets over the top of it, which the dogs or husband would knock onto the floor. Ah well.

A friend gifted me with a gift card, and the fabric store had a stellar sale this weekend. I used this opportunity to buy some upholstery fabric, batting for underneath, and refinish the top of the ottoman.

Hubby unscrewed the top for me and marked where the holes go back in Sharpie. I had washed, dried and ironed the fabric. I laid the batting down on the floor (I prefer two layers because the corners and edges become compressed quickly) in two layers, put the ottoman top in the middle and pulled the batting over the edges to make sure it fit. After ensuring it would fit on all sides, I made a primary cut to all sides (keeping it oversized because you can always cut off more later, but it is impossible to glue it back on). I started on one long side, cutting the under side layer shorter than the top layer and then stapling the top layer to the ottoman. No need to go crazy with the staples at this point (I only did about 3 on each side for the batting to hold it in place). I then did the other long side the same way (cut the under layer a bit shorter, then three staples evenly along the side to hold the batting in place). Then the two short sides. Under cut the batting, then staple the center. Carefully staple the two sides. Now you need to deal with the corners. On the inside batting, you need to cut away a lot of the excess, but not ALL of it. Cut away all but about 3/4 of an inch or so, and then tuck that 3/4 of an inch INSIDE the batting to surround the corner. For the outside batting, you will cut away a lot of that batting as well, tuck around the corner and staple well. Do the same on all four corners.

For the fabric, lay it down on the floor. Place the ottoman on the middle. Pull the fabric over the edges, making sure there is enough to cover all the batting plus a fold-over for a "seam" to staple. Cut away any excess. NOTE: if your fabric is directional, make sure it is straight and even at this time. Also, it is better to leave excess now and cut it off during the process than remove too much.

When stapling, you want to start on one long side in the middle, do a few staples, then alternate to the other side, do a few staples, and switch back and forth until done. Also, keep the fabric SNUG but not tight. To staple, pull the fabric over the top of the batting, fold over the raw edge of the fabric so it is hidden when you are done (and you are stapling thru two layers of fabric). Staple there. Move an inch or less and repeat. After a few inches, do the same on the opposite side of the ottoman, careful to keep the fabric straight and snug but not tight. Complete until finished on four sides.

Corners: I made "bed sheet" corners. I cut away the inside of the corner, used my fingers to tuck the fabric as far into the fold as I could to make the fold straight, brought the fabric straight up, and stapled the heck out of it.

Lastly: ScotchGuard. With dogs and kids, ScotchGuard is my friend. Hoping to make it wear a little better.

Plus, in a few years, I can always refinish it again (like I have done the kitchen chairs multiple times now!). It's not scary, just patience and some staples!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

We use it all--goodies for the ducks

I got blessed the other day. A 25 lb box of tomatoes. Too much to use all at once, plus some of it was under ripe, some was overripe.

I ended up peeling them and stewing it up, then freezing it for later use. Leaving me with a large amount of cut out cores, peels and rotten pieces. But in my house, no food gets wasted!

My duckies LOVE tomatoes. Craziest thing.

I also shelled peas on Friday. The dogs enjoyed chewing the pods, and the ducks also ate some. Let them have at it! Go for it, guys.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cooking your own dog food

Ahh, the good old days. When dogs were fed table scraps. Meat scraps. Leftovers of whatever there was, supplemented by some meat.

Then, in the 60's and 70's, there was the rise of the dog food industry. And today, a burgeoning pet food industry. As if pet owners are too stupid to feed their pets on their own. As if dogs are so fragile that they have to have specific diets that are difficult.

Y'all....I don't know about your dog's, but mine will eat cat crap. Just keeping it real. My dogs will eat garbage. Dead baby birds if they find them in the yard. I mean, it isn't like I "allow" them to eat these things (serve them up on a silver platter for them, here....have some cat crap), no, they go looking for these things all on their own.

Then we had the whole melamine in the dog food, dog food recall there, in 2007. Can we trust the companies making the "right and wholesome foods" for our dogs? I don't know anymore.

We hear them tell us "no table scraps" and "no people food". Excuse me? What do you think domesticated dogs have been fed for the past few centuries? Dog food companies have only been around since the early 1900's, prior to that, all they GOT were table scraps and meat from the butcher.

Leading me to my point. I have a new pug puppy. My Pesto. The industry dog food he was on was causing an allergic reaction in him. Because of this, I started cooking his food for him. But, sadly, I didn't do my research and didn't do it smart. NEED to READ before doing!! Dogs do need vitamins and minerals (easily replaced by a crushed tablet sprinkled over their food). I am now working directly with my vet, creating a meal plan for my pug, with the proper vitamins and minerals.

And, frankly, it will be healthier in the long run, making for a better life for him. Plus, it really isn't any more expensive than the bagged dog food for such a small dog. My Pesto....he's worth it.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My garden is outta control

I am having a fallow season. I admit it. It has been one of those springs, moving in to one of those summers.

Hard to feel motivated to do much of anything. Seems like I complete the minimums of what I need to to keep my family running. Nothing horrible, I cook dinner, grocery shop, do my work, clean, etc. But my garden is suffering.

A few times a week, I look at my garden and think "I really need to weed". I have even weeded about 4 times. Still, the weeds are completely taking over right now.

On a higher note, my potato plants are HUGE. The difference between the potato boxes, where they are waist high, and in the garden, where they are only a few inches high...I think going with the potato boxes it is worth the extra work. I have kept up with them this spring, adding shredded paper and grass clippings to them a few times a week. Fingers crossed that we get ton's of potato's for yummy eating in the next month or so!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Chipp'n it

Using it all up!

I am so tired of trimming our trees, and putting them in the brown barrel (our city's yard debris), and then paying for mulch or barkdust. Feels like I am throwing away money.

However, buying a chipper....oy! They are expensive. You can get a cheapie one that will only chip tiny branches. The better ones, they cost more.

We have put off getting a chipper for exactly that reason. For several years now. Recently, hubby found an old one on Craigslist (you never do know what you will find on there). It wasn't running, but the seller was adding two motors with it. Mechanic-man thought he could make it work, and picked it up.

It took more work than he expected, but take a look! Whoop! This is a heap of tree branches that we trimmed off this morning, turned into mulch for the potato boxes by this evening. Isn't it beautiful? I love using things up.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shopping it hard core

It's shopping day at my house. Wednesday is the first day of the sales for most stores around here, making it most likely that the stores haven't yet run out of what is on the ad.

I have always been a good shopper. Not a novice by any means! But lately, my friends have been helping me to "kick it up a notch". Opening my eyes to the wonders that are out there.

There are a bunch of extraordinary websites for the dedicated shopper. Coupon Mom is a well-known one. But in MY neck of the woods, we have Frugal Living NW, which clues us in to the exact stores, ads, and coupons that I can use in MY town. It makes my shopping SO MUCH easier! I scan through the ad's on my own to see what works for my pantry, what I am low on that is a good deal, and then I jump onto Frugal Living to see what the hot deals are for the week. I am talking about deals that, with a coupon, are free or nearly free. Then, I pull out my coupon binder and check to see if I still have that coupon. Love it!

Another great one for me is Fabulessly Frugal. And, if you are on Facebook, you can join all kinds of groups for couponers, and they will also direct you to links for free samples (who doesn't like a free sample mailed to them?). It is like getting presents sent to your mailbox!

Today, I went shopping. Used a rebate from my son's contacts ($14) and all my coupons. Spent $26.74 out of pocket, and saved $72.17. This past weekend, Albertson's had coupon doublers, and I walked out with completely free items after using my coupons (Weber grill seasoning, Baby Ray's BBQ Sauce). It is exhilirating to leave a store with goods without paying a penny (with a receipt!).

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gifts from heaven

My husband rocks.

I've been working on this quilt (that is HUGE!). On a teeny-tiny glass cafe table. Mind you, this cafe table isn't attached to the base, so if I put my machine to the far right to give me more space for fabric, the top will flip off. Means that I end up sewing, while bunching up fabric on my leg (propped up on a chair). Fun times, fun times. Still, this is what you do when you don't have a lot of money to BUY things and you want to get something done.

We had looked online for small sewing tables, and have been waiting to get one. Just cost prohibitive. And nothing screamed "I love it and it's worth it." to me. Why spend hundreds of dollars on something that you don't love?

I came home from my son's therapy last night to see a white desk in my living room. With my husband asking me "Well, what do you think?" It took me a few minutes to comprehend that this is a sewing table and it is for me.

My husband works as a mechanic and happened to be in a warehouse that is moving. They are clearing out a bunch of old goods, and this item was in a old box. About 10 years old, but all the parts are there. He got it for $75. I looked it up online, and found the same model for $1,500. WOW!! Shocking. The owner just didn't want to move it to the next warehouse.

What a blessing! And what a WONDERFUL husband to remember that I needed a sewing table. And thank you, God, for providing more than I could have dreamed or afforded.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Working on those potato boxes

Today is the nicest day of the year yet. I am enjoying our sunny weather. Got out in the garden, added some more straw to the potato's. They are finally taking off. A few bloggers wrote about having good success using straw and newspaper shred instead of soil around their potato's, so I am trying that in the boxes. It lightens it up, and is less expensive than dirt, plus, I am the one hauling it around, so it is easier on my back! I will tell you how it turns out in a few months.

My other chore of the day is trying to keep ahead of the dandelions. We have renters right next door, and they finally mowed their grass for the first time of the season last week. Weeding is not high on their list of priorities. The renters prior to them also didn't think that yard maintenance was part of their duties. Needless to say, the yard is covered in weeds. Which means that MY yard gets covered in weeds.

I try to do something about it. A few times a year, I go out and weed. Plus, I am courteous to my other neighbors, we mow often enough to keep the dandelions from going to seed (you are welcome! I don't want to pass on the "joy".). But it is a never ending battle. Not helped by the fact that A) I refuse to entrench myself and wage war on a weekly or daily basis. Sorry, my ego isn't tied to my lawn! and B) I refuse to use chemicals on my lawn. I don't want to harm my family or my animals, nor have the run-off go into the ground water. Between the two issues right there, it's a losing battle.

Most years, I do basic hand-to-hand combat. Or the hot-water method (not always successful). This spring, I heard about using straight lemon juice on weeds to kill them. Huh. Well, shoot. I don't have an issue with straight lemon juice. I did add a drop of dish detergent in hopes of getting the whole capillary action going on (don't remember where I heard that, but adding dish detergent means the plant will soak it up better? or is that only with oily concoctions and I didn't need it? Either way, it can't hurt anything!). Sprayed the heck out of the front yard and a bunch of the back yard.

It made the dog sneeze (duh, avoid that, sweetie!). Was a bit depressing, doing all the spraying in the back. Step, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz. Step, spritz, spritz, spritz, spritz. Felt like there were 10 weeds to every one step I took. Pities sake! If I kill all the weeds in the back yard, there won't be any green there.

And as I finish, I look over at my neighbor's, see his fenced in gravel area, ripe with snowy dandelions.....and know that my efforts are, for the most part, completely pointless.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Costco, looking for suggestions

Well, folks. I must be one of the rare hold-outs in America. I don't belong to a warehouse club. I know, I know. It's a shocker.

We don't have a Sam's Club where I live (so it's not an option). As far as I know, all we have around here for a big-box store, is Costco.

All of you Costco lovers out there, who love a good deal, please let me know. Is it worth the fee for the privilege of shopping there? More importantly, what do you shop for? What are the biggest savings??

I have read a few articles on the subject (Consumer Reports, Good Housekeeping), and they say Advil, prescriptions, paper goods, etc are good buys. But they took ONE item and price matched it across a few stores. They showed direct comparisons for only 6 items (which isn't how I shop, what if I don't need Vanity Napkins? Sure, it's a good deal, but I don't use that!). Frustrating.

I am appealing to you, the regular consumer. What things do you find to be the best deals at Costco?

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Save money-check that unit price

Out shopping today. Had a hankering for a spring salad. You know the kind, lettuce, blue cheese, crisp apple, some green onion and some chicken. Nice! And healthy to boot! I could just pick one up at the store or fast food, but if I buy all the ingredients, I can make several of them myself at home.

I am a lover of the blue....cheese, that is. I stopped by the cheese aisle, and picked up an "inexpensive" package of crumbles. Five bucks for five ounces. Made a mental note to check over in the dairy aisle to see if it was less expensive over there. Snagged a few other items (mandarin oranges on sale, that would also be good on a different salad!).

Stopped by the dairy aisle. Sure enough, same size package of crumbles is a dollar less per ounce. Four bucks. Yes, it isn't imported, but I am not trying to impress anyone with my salad. I just want to eat healthy. Okay---I'll take the less expensive blue cheese crumbles. Then I notice, they have a four ounce solid cheese pack, in a wax wrapper, for two dollars. Oh really?

Let's see. Save myself a buck and a half (its one ounce less) if I crumble it myself and store it in my own container? Which will take me all of, oh, a minute or two to do. YES. I will do that!

Think about it. Time taken to make the crumbles myself VS money saved. This is so worth it! Knowing myself, I picked up two packages of the wax packed crumbles so I could enjoy them in the upcoming weeks. Hopefully, this will encourage me to make more salads. And I still spent less than my original package of blue cheese that I picked up.

I have chicken baking in the oven to top my salad with as we speak. I just season with seasoning salt, bake, cool then cut into bite-sized strips. Toss it in the fridge and add it to salads over the next few days. Makes for healthy, "lazy", eating!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My quilt grew, and grew, and grew

This is the project that has been eating up all my time.

All those crazy, teeny-tiny pieces. Sewing strips together, then ripping them apart, just to sew them back together in slightly different order. Oh, a completely crazy project.

Then, once I finished the middle, I decided it was too small, so I added a border onto it. Oh, yeah.

Funny thing? This is supposed to be a lap quilt. A throw or something to toss on the end of the bed. Err.....not anymore. I think it's bigger than that now! Opps.

But that borders TOTALLY makes this quilt work. I love it.

Now I need to measure for the backing, sew that up, then send it off to the quilter. I'm super excited!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

More cozies---what fun!

Aren't they fun?

I needed some protection for my mapping system. My Garmin. Little Aussie Jack, who helps me find my way. I carry him around in my purse and want to make sure it stays in one piece. Needed a bag to put it in.

I also recently got a new camera (on clearance!). It is significantly smaller than my older one. Fits neatly in my purse. But I don't want to buy a whole new camera bag and all that. Whoo-boy.

One day of sewing. A few small pieces of fabric in pretty colors that I have been saving aside. I really like the way the ruffle turned out on the camera case. It's cute. Too bad I couldn't take a picture of the camera IN the case so you could see it better....

Fun and pretty. And will make me smile every time I use them.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

More signs of spring

I am loving the warmer weather here.

I have the windows open in the house to freshening the air up. Ahhh, clear out that stale smell, please!

I've started pulling off my socks midway through the night, and waking up too hot. Signs that it is time to take off that extra comforter off the bed and stash it until next fall. So nice to remove it.

I also folded and put away several of our blankets in the living room, knowing that it's about the end of the season for those as well. I always keep one or two around for cooler nights, but there isn't a need for four or more of them! Time to tuck them away until fall.

Doing laundry and folding the clothes. Looking at my sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, knowing it's nearly the end of the season for those too. Not quite, but getting closer.

I still need to put away the scarves and gloves. I forget about them, because the coats get piled on top of them and hide them. But it is well past the time when we are using any of those!

The apple trees are blooming. Lilacs are starting to bloom. A few of my potato plants are peeking up, fingers crossed that more come up in the next few days. I am itching to plant tomato's, just waiting for payday (you know how that goes!). I've been working in the garden, turning the soil and getting it ready for the new plants.

Yes, I am ready for spring. Bring it on!

Thursday, April 15, 2010



I know. He is the cutest, pugliest thing ever.

I am all hopped up on pug-ness.

As I posted before, my old girl, Bonnie, we put down back in January. My sweetie. Loved her to the end.

Hubs and I visited a few pet stores (hiss, boo!) over the past few months and even played with a few puppies at the store. Walked away (just walk away...). There were a few Craigslist ads for older pugs that we responded to that didn't work out, and then we forgot about it for a while.

This past weekend, my parents visited from Montana with their pug, and it made me remember how much I missed my puggie. Pugs are a breed different from any other. They simply ARE. And it was time to look into a new friend.

We visited the pet store AGAIN, saw the price and almost died. Six hundred and fifty for a pug?! That was born in December and been in a cage for lordy knows how long. Nope.

Back to the ad's. Found an ad in the paper for puppies that were ready to go. Parents on site. We went out and visited. Super clean house. Sweet adult dogs, litter of three puppies that were healthy and so dear. Real nice family. Perfect! The puppies had been started on paper training and had first shots. Excellent.

We spent far less than we would have at the pet store, significantly less. But EVEN BETTER is the fact that we saw the parents of our Pugster, and they are super friendly. His litter mates are healthy and sweet. The home he was born in is clean and nice. I don't have to worry that he was born in a hovel outside. Hooray!

I am back to my armful of pugness. The snorting in my ear. I've had a pug in my life since I was 18, and pugs are "the dog" for me. My life feels more complete now. *sqweee!!*

Friday, April 9, 2010

Re-decorating for free

My living room is looking stale. BORING. Very blah.

You know how it gets at the end of winter, beginning of spring. We all want a new look. Something to "freshen up the space". That itch for something new and different.

I have the itch! Above my entertainment center, I have had the same photo's displayed for several years. OY! Time for a change. But, being me, I don't want to spend any money on this little venture.

I have bunches of things that I love and are pretty in other rooms. All it took was a few minutes roaming my bedroom, gathering a glass globe from here, a blown candle holder from there, a carved eggs, a twisted tourquoise blue glass, some driftwood---and wah-lah! I have a new, fresh, spring blue display for my living room. A mix of blues and driftwood above the television.

All things that have meaning to me as well, a trip to the beach with hubby, a vacation to visit my parents. Ah....wonderful reminders of good times.

A fresh new look. And it didn't cost me a dime.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Yard work (or lack thereof)

Our grass in the back yard is short. Curious, that. I had to mow the front yard a few weeks back, and I mowed the front yard again today. Wonder what is up.

Also, I seem to be missing all the dandelion flowers in the back yard. I have an abundance in the front. Thanks, neighbors, for letting your yard go to seed and making it pointless for me to even try! But my back yard is weirdly lacking in blooms. What is up?

Oh yeah! The duckies are eating it all.

Thanks, guys. You sure do know how to make a lazy gardener look good. Keep up the good work covering my behind. And I'll keep slipping you the grain when I visit on the back deck. Luv ya!


Friday, April 2, 2010

Having items work double duty

I cooked a turkey yesterday. Searched high and low for my roasting pan and couldn't find it anywhere. Herm. What else can I use?

I don't have any of those plastic cooking bags. Wondering what else I can use? Ah-ha! My canner! It's enamel, just like my roasting pan, and has a lid on it.

I checked the oven, if I take out the second rack and drop the one rack all the way to the bottom, I can make it fit. Sweet! I baked that turkey in that canner, and it worked just fine for it. Surprise me.

Got me to thinking, what other things do I have around that I use for double duty? Well, I bought some casserole dishes with lids at the Goodwill a year or so back. Oddly enough, I don't use the casserole dish very often, but I use the lids on a near daily basis! We use the lids to cover dishes for reheating items in the microwave (it prevents splatters so I clean it far less often--saves me time and energy!), I use them to cover my pans on the stove (they weren't purchased to match those pans, but they fit), and I also use them on my crockpot (I was given a small crockpot second-hand from a friend, and the lid was chipped which let steam escape). It's weird how many other things I use those lids for other than the "casserole lids" that they were originally bought for.

In my laundry detergent, I made it way too strong this last batch, and I have an 1/8th cup measure (which is so rarely used in recipes) that is perfect for measuring the laundry soap into my wash.

I'm using an old plastic coffee can as a feeding scoop for the ducks. I use old ice cream buckets for holding food scraps for compost. (But that is simply REUSING, not really double duty)

The nicest thing about having items that work double duty is that you purchase fewer things. You don't need to store so many items.

Anyone have any other good tips for things that work double duty?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The ducks are hiding all the eggs

and driving me completely batty!

The girls were doing so well. Laying two to three eggs a day (so good!). I had a bunch of eggs in the fridge. And then, BOOM, all of the sudden, no eggs at all. What the heck?!

I look all over the yard. Couldn't find any nests with eggs in them. *scratching my head* Hmmm..... What in the world is going on? They sure LOOK like they have eggs in them. So they must have the eggs somewhere in the yard.

Two more days, no eggs. I hunt the yard again. Finally find ONE nest in the bamboo, there are four eggs in it. I steal the cleanest one (it's still morning, I figure that's the one she laid that day). Leave the rest. I don't want any rotten ones. Ewww..

I've started leaving them in the pen later and later in the morning. Instead of letting them out at 7am, I leave them in until 8....and now, until 9. I got ONE egg in the pen today. What is going on??

Took out grain for them this morning, and the dog runs out in the middle of the yard with a "ball" in his mouth. Wha?? He found an egg! Not sure where he found it. I took it from him. A few minutes later, he comes out with ANOTHER one. I take it away from him. A bit later, another one.

He finds a total of FIVE EGGS this morning (he broke two of them). I found one under the deck. Of course, it would be in the middle of the deck, and while trying to get it out---picture it, I am lying on my stomach, on a blanket in the mud, with a long rake--- I broke the shell. Why did I bother??

Sad to say, the dog does a better job of finding eggs in the yard than I do.

If anyone has a better tip on how to discourage the hens from hiding their eggs (other than keeping them locked up all day, I want them to forage!), I would LOVE to hear it! There are simply too many hiding spots for them in my yard.....

Friday, March 26, 2010

Potato boxes

Trying something new this year. I enjoy red potato's, but NEVER buy them in the stores (the price is crazy expensive in my budget). Last year, I grew red potato's for the first time, and they did pretty well. I learned a few things (cut up the potato's before planting, plant in potato boxes instead of hilling them) that I want to try out to see if I get more yield this year.

Because I cut the potato's into smaller pieces (go me!), there are so many of them, it won't all fit into the garden. Opps! So, we are planting them right outside the garden. I got my youngest son to help move dirt for me (thank you, sweetie!).

Worst part about this? As soon as fresh dirt is put down, the ducks come running over to dig in it looking for bugs and worms. Great. Two days after I took these pics, hubby made the potato boxes to surround the dirt (and to hold the dirt in that will be coming once the potatoes start growing). Thank you, dear!

I am using the old bedding from the duck pen over the potato's as well. Hoping that the manure helps the 'taters grow bigger. Fingers crossed that my potato's grow big and prolific this season!

The peas are poking up. I love to see them starting. And the romaine is off and running. I need to thin them out in the next few weeks. Hoping to let them get just a wee bit bigger so that the ducks can have a snack on the ones I thin. All a part of the plan (so I say....)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Blessings, you won't know if you don't ask

Medical bills, that's what I am talking about.

Hubby had surgery last Novemeber. We got the bills in December. Thousands of dollars, AFTER the insurance paid. Why do we pay for insurance month after month? I forget.....

I call the business office to set up payment arrangements, am told my only options are for a third company. They sell our debt to the company, the company then charges a percentage of interest for 2 years, but allows us to pay X dollars a month. This is the ONLY option that I am told about. So this is what I set up.

Fast forward two months, we have paid one month to the other company, but have set aside a large amount of cash. I go to the business office in person and ask if we can make a settlement for the remainder of the medical debt. I'm told that they will not do that, but that I can apply for hardship where they will reduce or erase the debt completely. WHAT?! Why didn't they tell me that in December? Oh, but I've already signed the papers to the other company. NOO!!! Hold it, the final papers haven't been signed (thank you, Jesus!), so they can halt selling my debt until I can fill out the hardship paperwork. WHEW.

Thank you, Lord, for having me go on that day to check on our debt. If we had made a second payment, it would have been irrevocable. The debt would have belonged to the third company and we couldn't have worked with the hospital. Thank you, Lord!

I fill out the paperwork. It felt very invasive. Three months worth of paystubs, three months worth of bank statements, our tax returns, etc, etc. Hubby HATED that we had to give so much information.

I took it back in two days later, turned it in. The lady in the business office looked it over quickly and told me that she thought 100% of our debt would be written off. Worst case would be 80% of the debt. Oh-kay. That would be lovely. But I am scared and anxious, so I will just wait and see. Hopeful, don't get me wrong, but I will wait.

I got the letter this week. The hospital wrote off 100% off the debt. This is over 2,500 worth of medical bills that we would have been paying off over the next two years. That we would have been paying INTEREST on.

I suppose the thing that frustrates me so badly is that I didn't know that they had a program to write off debt. To apply for hardship.

My advice to others? Please ask. Hospitals in particular. Ask the business office which programs they offer. It can't hurt to ask!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stupid dog, and stupid library

Hey teacher, the dog ate my homework. Okay, he ate my books.

Not once, but twice.

The first time, it was my fault. When we leave the house, we put the dogs in the bathroom so they don't get into mischief (as seen by what he did to the book!). I accidentally left a book next to the bathtub, and while I was gone, he used it as a chew toy. Irritate me! He will be TWO in a month, and it's been a while since he has chewed up something. Grrrr.... It was the FIRST time he had chewed up a book. Granted, he's eaten other things in the bathroom (toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes, etc), but a book?!

I took myself down to the library, showed them the book and paid to have it replaced. Since it is part of the county system, and I request a lot of books, it was from another library, so I write a check to the library that it originated from. No big deal, but I hate paying full price for a book when I know I can get a better deal on books that full retail.

Two weeks later, the dog does it again. Double GRRRR.... This time, I had the book up on a shelf, on top of a stack of towels. He had to WORK to get to this book. The dog was determined to eat this book. What in the world?! Is it the fiber? Does he hate me? WHY DO YOU EAT THEM?

Breathing, must keep breathing. It wasn't just the cover or the spine of the book this time. No, he shredded 25 pages from the middle of the book (which I hadn't even gotten to yet). Sadly, this means that I missed a major part of the plot. That right there is enough to make me want, we don't harm our animals, as much as we would like to.

Okay, I have to do something about this book. I don't want to pay full retail for it, because that is just crazy talk. I have a Barnes and Nobles membership (my youngest son loves a particular series that the library does not carry, so we buy the series, he reads it for several months, then we donate the books to the library. Win-win!). I buy the book there, get my discount, and take it to the library.

Now, I have gone this replacement book route in the past. Part of living in the same town for *cough, cough* nearly three decades means that you learn some things. But today, I learned that where this book originated, the Lake Oswego Public Library, they do not allow you to replace the book yourself. PLUS, they charge you a five dollar handling fee. EXCUSE ME?! This book is now going to cost me thirteen dollars to replace??!! I bought it myself for $7.19! Pities sake.

I am half tempted to cut off the library bar-code and put it on the replacement book, put some clear contact paper over the whole she-bang and drop it into the drop box and see if they even notice (except that is lying). It sooo feel like extortion to me.

Mmmph. I will wait until next Monday when I am a wee bit calmer, and then I will call the library and see if maybe we can find a middle ground on this issue. Because at the moment, I have a tic. And I am annoyed.

At the dog. And the Lake Oswego Library.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Electronics, part two

Perseverance and keeping your eyes open. It ain't over until it's OVER!!

Hubby brought home a USB cord for the printer to hook it from my laptop to the printer. Oh-kay. We already had one. Well, he got a longer one so I could use it from my chair rather than while next to the printer (visions of the dog racing past the cat, ripping the cord out and tearing the laptop off my lap. No thanks, I'll just sit on the floor to print stuff). That's okay, hunny, I don't print things an excessive length of time, and I can sit on the floor to do it.

This necessitates returning the cord to the store, I don't want to waste $30 in my closet because of laziness.

Then, while cruising the ad's last night, hub's just happens to look at Office Max and finds the EXACT same model printer on sale this week, for $50 less. Fifty bucks!! Hmmm, does the store we bought from price match? (Yes, for the record, I checked their price earlier and it was higher...ah, the frustration!) A call to the store, three transfers, and a transfer to a fax machine line. What in the world?! Meaning, we don't know if they price match or not. Good thing I already need to take a trip in for the USB cord.

Today, I trot myself down to the store, go to Customer Service and have my handy receipt and ad. Yes, they do price match. After returning the USB cord (which, at other times in my life, could very well have just ended up languishing in the closet "just in case we need it") and getting the price match, I ended up with a total of eighty dollars in my pocket. Not bad for a days work!

Lesson learned? Even after the purchase is made, it doesn't hurt to see if the item has gone on sale somewhere else, and if they price match where you bought it. Fifty bucks saved is fifty bucks. That is grocery money in my budget!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

This boot is made for walk'n

Isn't she stylish?!

That's my girl! Ms Chatty, sporting the latest in designer, veterinary duds. The turquoise boot. Whoo-hoo, work it, girlfriend!

Chatty has been hiding for a few days. Tucking herself under bushes, making herself scarce. I thought she was just getting broody. It IS spring, after all. And then I saw her walking around yesterday afternoon, limping. Oh, no! What did she get into? I caught her (when my ducks don't run away from me, I know there is a problem) and checked her out. She had a huge lump on one foot. Huge being a relative term, more like the size of a pea. Obviously bothering her.

I call the vet we use. They don't see ducks, but give me the number of another vet. They don't see ducks either, but they give me the number of a vet. You see where this is going? I end up calling MULTIPLE vets before finding one. (There are all these ad's of vets in the phone book with pictures in their ads of birds, and yet they don't see birds. Isn't that false advertising?!) I make an appointment for today.

Poor girl hasn't been handled this much EVER. Hasn't been in a car since the day I brought her home as a duckling. I think she is traumatized. From the sounds of it, it's like a calluses that is infected, since there is so much pressure there, it can't heal and got infected. The vet lanced it, and made her a "boot" to relieve the pressure for a few days to give it a chance to heal. That and antibiotics for seven days, twice a day (yea me! I get to catch a duck and force pills down her throat. Does it get any better?).

This also was an opportunity for me to pick the vet's brain about food (well, since I was THERE I should ask!) and bedding for the pen (replacing it with sand this weekend to spare their little tootsies from further trauma).

All this for eggs?! No....I'll admit it. They have officially moved to the realm of pets. OUTDOOR pets, but pets, nonetheless. Pets that I get eggs from, but pets.

Word from the vet: gravel is too hard on their webbed feet to use in their pen. I didn't want dirt or concrete (in our wet climate, it makes for mud and stink in the summer. Disgusting!). Her recommendation was several inches of sand, and then to use a leaf rake once a week to remove the droppings, and hose it down every few months. Replenish the sand as needed when it gets low. Plus, if the ducks do eat it, it should pass safely through their system. So, that's the word from the vet. Passing it on to other duck lovers out there!


Ah, the 21st century. Needing a home printer. But what to get?

We had a printer/scanner/photo-thingie. Number one: the HP model that we bought (several years ago) didn't produce nice photos. They were grainy and streaky. Not to mention, photos eat up A LOT of color ink. I learned that I was much happier going to a drug store for my photos. Since I have a digital camera, I can pick and choose only the photos I want, the quality turns out better, and I don't waste money on all that color ink on photos that are sub-par. Number two: those little ink cartridges don't hold much ink. We don't make a lot of copies/prints at home, but it seemed like we were ALWAYS running out of ink! And to refill the cartridge costs $12 to $15 dollars, to buy new is more than that. Do that a few times a year. OUCH.

I read on the Internet recently that it is more cost effective to get a laser printer. I was skeptical. But thought I would check it out.

Most new ink jet printers cost under $100 dollars. An inexpensive laser printer costs $170 dollars. Ink jet refills cost around $20 or more. And print off 100 pages (in my experience, it's less than that). The laser printer toner is $40 and runs 3,500 pagers. That means that the upfront cost will save you very quickly in saved toner costs!!

We went with the laser printer. Granted, it's only black and white, but we don't care about color. The model we got has a USB to plug into the computer, and is rated for small offices. It is Energy Star rated and goes into sleep mode after a minute when not in use (very nice!), so I don't have to think about turning it off and on all the time. Plus, it prints out FAST compared to the ink jet (the model we got is for offices---and yes, it was the best deal---so it prints fast).

I am doing a happy, happy, happy dance. Energy star rated, saving money over time on the toner. And I now have a printer at home that works. I can once again start printing coupons off the Internet at home. YES!!! Internet coupons, how I have missed you.....

And I did the leg work. Calls to stores, cruising stores on the 'net. Good times! Still, I love knowing I got a good deal. Love that!! Especially when hubby asks "Are you sure such-and-so store didn't have a better price on that model?" and I can pull up the store and model and show him, yes....we got a better deal! LOVE THAT!!!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Garden is started

I know it seems early, but we have had unseasonably warm weather! We are in a La Nina pattern, and are running two to four weeks early this year in our weather pattern. Meaning, we are closer to the end of March weather-wise than the beginning of it.

We did have some frost early last week, but other than those two days of frost, it has been a few weeks of frost free days.

I asked at the feed store in Feb if they had potato starts. Nope, not until March. Today I went in, and they had some. So, I got my potato starts (red potato's, a treat). Hoping I can convince hubby to build some potato boxes to see if those produce more potato's. It's a process to convince him.....

In the garden today I got the peas planted, and romaine lettuce. It will be my first year for romaine lettuce. Typically, I go for normal old leaf lettuce, but decided to try romaine for a change of pace. Why not? My peas did poorly last year, not certain if it was the weather conditions or the type of pea that I chose, so I have my fingers crossed that this year will be better!

It is so odd to hear the frogs croaking and to see the trees coming into bloom this early. Sadly, I still feel cold all the time (I have no cause to whine, everyone in the Midwest and east can throw snow at me!), and crave sunshine.

Come on, sunshine!!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Meet our newest addition, Kiwi

A good friend of mine who convinced me to have runner ducks lost her male late last week. That left her with only one female at her house. Changes in life, with the busyness that happens to all of us, means that she needed to find a new home for her precious Kiwi.

Would I be willing to take in her baby? WOULD I?! You bet I would! This is a beautiful chocolate runner that has been hand-raised from a day-old duckling. Sweet as can be.

She joined our little flock this past Saturday, and wasted no time in trying to find where she fit into the group. The two blue's I have have never been high on the group list, Kiwi ignores them. Kiwi wants to be part of the main group, buttering up to the dominant female (the white and fawn hen, Spicy) and dominant male (the Mallard, Mario).

It is interesting to watch animal politics play out in the back yard, let me tell you! After a few hours of some pecking and feather pulling, things have settled down. Now it is mostly chattering and bluffing each other (just between Kiwi and one other hen, Chatty, who are battling it out for position).

She is learning the ways of our flock, following them into the pen at night, running up to the deck with them whenever I come outside (I come bearing treats of lettuce and they know momma has goodies!).

My youngest son has declared that we need another duck, because we now have an odd number. Ah, no. Nope, I don't think so. Good try, though. My husband thinks we need to put a sign out that we are fostering ducks. Again, no. I don't think so. I think we need a duck crossing sign in front of our house. YES!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

It must be spring

Considering I hung my first batch of laundry on the clothesline.

Can't wait to have sunwarmed clothes. They just smell better!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Laptop case


It's done. Worked my fingers to the nubs with hand-stitching the binding on, but doesn't it look spiffy. I like the zesty colors. And I love me coffee. Mmmmm, boy.

I have a messenger bag that I carry my laptop in when I travel out of the house. But it has no padding at all. So, it was time to make a case to put the laptop into, and then use the messenger bag.

I doubled-up on the batting to make it softer, and used leftovers from an earlier quilt for the interior of the bag. I also had some binding leftover from another project that matched these fabrics just right (I KNEW I was hanging onto that for a reason. Saved me time making some new up. Go me!!).

I'm happy with it. The colors certainly make me smile.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Repurposing--making pillowcases out of curtains

My mother made us a quilt for our bed a few years back, and there were some leftover blocks. Seemed a shame to waste them, so we sewed them into a valance for the bedroom. That worked for several years.

Until the city finally fixed the streetlight outside our bedroom, and the light was keeping us awake. Silly us, we blamed the neighbor's Christmas lights for a few weeks (then we realized they were off. Opps!) I made a new light-blocking cafe curtain to block the light while we are in bed, but it doesn't match the valance. Hmm...I don't want to just throw away good quilt-block fabric, so what to do with it??

For the past two days, I have been re purposing them into a pillowcase. Sadly, the valance wasn't wide enough or long enough to make two of them (I did try to figure a way to make to work, but it just wouldn't have looked right). The center blocks are from the valance, I added the side borders to increase the size. I needed to try out how to do some quilting (I wanted to try free-hand quilting), so I did that over the top. Then I added some ribbon on the edge to make it spiffy.

I think it turned out well overall. Took me a crazy amount of time, but it looks very pretty.

My next project? A fabric case for my laptop. I will post pics of that once it is done!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's sweetheart

I may have been gone for the weekend, but before I left, my sweetheart gave me a card (awhhh!) and a quilting foot for my sewing machine that I have been eyeballing for a while now. He even remembered to use the 15% off discount (I love him even more for remembering that). He rocks my world!

And then, while I was out of town, he made hooks for my measuring cups, hung a phone on the wall that has been in my way in the kitchen, and cleaned the coffee pot (he doesn't even DRINK coffee!). How cool is he? Plus, he cleaned out the filter in the dishwasher.

All those gifts of service to show he loves me.

Means the world to me. Truly, truly does.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I don't have iron in mah butt

Or is it supposed to be lead??? What I mean is, I get lost at the drop of a hat. The family calls it "going on a Wendi Adventure". When we go someplace new that the kids aren't used to, the kids start asking "are you lost, mom?" Not a good sign.

I used to live in Indianapolis. Never got used to living there. Never COULD learn the landmarks. I drove an entire circle around the city because I missed my exit. I existed in a state of anxiety because I was constantly lost. Was a factor for why I moved back home.

This is a HUGE reason why I continue to live in the same town I grew up in. I am used to this town. At least in the metro area, I can look for Mt Hood as a landmark, or note the rivers and bridges. I have lived here long enough for things to look familiar. I still get lost around here, or friends tell me short cuts of how to get places that I never found on my own....but it's better for me.

This weekend was a hockey trip out of town to Seattle. Bane of my existance. It was horric. The teen boy wanted to ride with other kids, leaving me with my youngest (who is autistic and cannot read a map!!!) to help me navigate. Oh not so successful. I have anxiety issues. Whopping ones. Particularlly around driving (as you can guess by the "Wendi Adventure" comments and the fact that I haven't moved from my home town.....). An hour long drive on an unknown road to the hotel took me an hour and a half. I got lost THREE TIMES. I was shaking. One really should not try to read a map while driving at 65 miles per hour. I don't recommend it. Really. I had to beg the fast food workers for help. Yeah....that bad. Only to get to the hotel, calm down for an hour, and do the whole drive in reverse, back to the ice rink. NOOOO......

Two days of this. Two different rinks. Many, many different highways. The 167, the 405, the I-5. Construction, moved exits. My nerves being shot.

And it hit me. I did so much better when I had my lovely Mr. TomTom. I got Mr. TomTom as a gift for Christmas. I only had him for a year before he went to data heaven, but he was sexy. His ducet tones "turn left ahead" was such a God-send to an inept map-reader like me.

Is buying a replacement for sexy Mr. TomTom a waste of money? Or a much needed balm to my soul? At this point, considering my nerves (the scrawled notes written at 65 miles per hour on a crumpled printed Google Map so that I might be able to duplicate this feat of finding the hotel a second time), my blood pressure (through the roof!) and my relationships with my kids ("YOU NEED TO HELP ME FIND CENTRAL AVENUE RIGHT NOW!!!!")....I think it is time to re-think the importance of a satellite mapping system.

A few weeks ago, if you asked me, "Do you want to spend $100 on a satellite mapping system with your tax refund?" I would have told you no. No, I can think of a hundred other things to do with that money. But after a weekend of misery, driving full of stress and anxiety, well, I think it is time to buy a replacement for that old Mr. TomTom.

mmmmm......hoping for a new, sexy voice to serenade me on my drives in the near future and guide me on my way.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

and now we are back to rain

But before it started raining again, I did manage to rototill part of the garden. Like, a quarter of it. No need to get too ambitious.

This past week, I have been reading the book "The Cake Mix Doctor Returns" by Anne Byrn. I had read her first book and used some of the recipes, so I thought I would give this book a whirl.

Oh to the YUM. I have been baking way too much. Three cakes in just over a week. I have made the Cinnamon Struedel Cake, a Lemon Cake, and yesterday was the Apple Spice cake with Caramel "frosting". These cakes don't survive long at my house. Just a few short days. Oh the horror!

My youngest thinks that a small slice of cake is perfect to take in his lunch. My oldest thinks that a honking big slice makes a perfect after-school snack. Me, well, it's nice to have a piece in the mid-evening, once dinner has settled.

I love these books. If you aren't a cake baker, these cakes are fairly fool-proof. And oh so very, very good. Plus, it makes your family feel special.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Enjoying the unseasonably warm weather

It is gorgeous out! Sorry to gloat, but here in the Pacific NorthWet, it is beautiful today. We have had a run of warmer than normal weather for over a month now, but it's been rainy for a lot of that. Today, however, it is pure sunny goodness.

My kids just went to their father's for the weekend, I got my oldest to help clean out the duck pen before he left. And now, I am sunning my face on the front porch. feels almost sinful.

The warmer weather also has my mind turning toward gardening and planting. When we cleaned the duck pen, I always put the used bedding into the garden to amend the soil. It's nearing time to til it into the ground and think about planting the early veggies. I told hubby I needed to buy seeds soon. Word is there is a seed shortage around for certain things. Of course, seems like particular kinds of seeds always sell out faster than others. I need to hurry and get what I need soon.

Hard to believe it is February and I am thinking of planting! But we haven't had a hard frost in a while. The weatherman said that we are one to two weeks ahead of schedule for our weather temperatures. If that is the case, it won't be long before I need to get the sugar peas and lettuce's into the ground. I typically plant those in March. And March isn't that far off!

Life comes at you fast! I am hoping my peas do better this year than last.

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy this one lovely warm weather day, and soak up some sunshine.