Friday, May 20, 2016

Frugal Friday - Middle of May!

This week has gone by in a flash!  I can't believe that we're already into summer session and only have a couple of weeks of school remaining for the children.  We finally have real "spring" weather - warm evenings and breezy days with sunshine or light rain.  I'm loving it!  I'm hoping we'll be able to get the fire pit out soon and have a bonfire. Saturday looks promising for that.  Out daughter asked if we could get marshmallows and we may just have to!

This week has been a tough week with my shingles and I headed in to the doctor and I get to start trying a new medication at bedtime.  I'm hoping it works - I'm really tired of being in severe pain all the time and not being able to do the things I need to do.  That's also why I don't have any photos this week.  No energy to take any!

Here's some of the things that we did this week that are in the "frugal" realm:

* We planted our flowers/plants that we bought from the fundraiser at school.  They're beautiful and growing well!
* We ate at home for most meals or brown-bagged lunches.  I had two meals at work meetings and then John and I were treated to a meal at an interview for Call.  While we were at that interview, my parents took our children out to dinner to celebrate the end of our daughter's softball season.  They won their last game and are now headed off to playoffs sometime in the next week or so.

* I crumbled more dried mint leaves to make herbal tea (tisanes or herbal infusions).  I will steep some of it with ginger root to make ginger-mint tea as well. 

* My Mom purchased fabric on sale to make my daughter and me dresses for my husband's Ordination.   I bought fleece on clearance for $4/yard to make my children fleece jackets.

* I cut irises from my yard to decorate my kitchen table. 

* I read several books that we already owned but I hadn't read yet.  Some belonged to the children (they had received them for Christmas or birthday gifts from my parents) and some belonged to my husband.  Some are mine that I just hadn't had time to read yet.

* My parents bought us apples, grapes and yogurt this week. They had bought us a small ham over the weekend that we've been eating all week.

* I went for a walk with my husband twice for a mini date twice.

* We removed a lot of dead wood from some old bushes in our yard, worked on thoroughly weeding the last of the flower beds, and dug out yet more Creeping Charlie from the yard.  We reseeded the part of yard where the Charlie was dug with seed we had leftover from last year.

* We made muffins, potato soup, chicken noodle soup, pizza, breadsticks and breakfast sandwiches at home from scratch this week. 

What did you do that was frugal this week?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Frugal Friday - The Week O' Dance!

Our week started with Mother's Day and we've had dance four nights this week - two rehearsals and two recitals.  I feel like I've spent a LOT of time at a theater this week.  I did get a lot of grading done while I waited though, which was good because that's basically all I have left from spring semester at this point!

Our unexpected "guests" this week were "empty shells" my daughter brought home from a pond near a friend's house that turned out to be live snails.  Don't worry though, they have been returned to their home.
We have a quiet weekend here and I'm hoping to get some yard work done and my seedlings planted.  We'll see if the weather holds for that! Either way, I am planning a nap both Saturday and Sunday either way. 

Frugal things this week have been:

* We made ginger cookies, rhubarb crisp, chicken wild rice soup, pancakes, and taco soup from scratch this week. 

* I picked up a free loaf of bread using a punch card from my favorite bakery.

* My parents bought us groceries this week - milk and fruit and a 10lb bag of the $0.49/lb chicken! I haven't seen that price in a really long time!

* I brought a snack for both of my children to eat on the way from school to dance rehearsal this week.  We ate dinner when we got home both nights.

* We went to the dance recitals for entertainment this week.  We did stop for Dairy Queen on the way home from both recitals for ice cream purchased with a gift card.

* I sewed or tightened 3 buttons on my London Fog raincoat.

* I hemmed another pair of pants for my son and took in three shirts for my husband (he's been working out and lost quite a bit of weight recently).

* We cut white and purple lilacs from our yard to decorate the dinner table. The yard smells like lilacs right now.

* We also have yellow and purple irises blooming.  I am really enjoying my spring flowers this year!

* I purchased two plants at the plant sale - a 6-pack of midnight pincushions and a borage plant - for $5.

I am really looking forward to a couple of days off before summer session starts.  My plan is to rest, dig in my garden and maybe do a little sewing.  What have you been up to this week?

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Work Home and Family - Homemade Gifts Part 13 and 14: "Birthday Gifts"

So, these are "Birthday Gifts", but not the kind you usually think of.  
Our daughter had a dance competition on her birthday and she desperately wanted to bring treats for her dance line.  The dance studio doesn't allow food treats at competitions due to the mess and the possibility of someone getting an upset stomach.  She was really upset since she really wanted to bring cupcakes.  So we had to look for something else.
Well, they're dancers. 
They spend a lot of time on their feet. 
They don't wear socks with their tap shoes (they wear tights with their jazz shoes) so their shoes stink. 
They have achy and tired feet many days.
Every night our daughter has dance lessons, she comes home and soaks her feet in a basin of hot water with either foot or bath salts.  Two years ago we made peppermint foot soak for her teachers. 
She decided we needed to make some of her "No Stinky Feet" (as she calls it) foot powder and vanilla foot soak for the rest of her line to celebrate her birthday.

Corn Starch
Baking Soda
Dried Citrus Peel (we used orange since that's what we had - you can use lemon, lime, etc.)
Lemon Essential Oils (or orange, lime, etc., whatever you already have)
Optional: Yellow Food Coloring

Mix all dry ingredients together until thoroughly mixed with a ratio of 6 TBSP cornstarch to 3TBSP baking soda and 1 TSP citrus peel.  If using homemade dried citrus peel, run it through a grinder first so it's quite fine in size and texture. You want something about the size and texture of dried zest rather than actual peel.  Add 1-2 essential oil drops and mix thoroughly again.  Add food coloring if desired and mix one more time.

We tripled the batch to make 11 packets of 2 TBSP each with some leftover for us (we probably could have put 3 TBSP in each packet but 2 was plenty).  We put them in small treat bags that I had leftover from another event.  I created labels using my word processing program and free clip art on the computer.  We cut out the labels, folded over the top of the bag, and stapled it shut with the label. You could use little zipper-top plastic bags or any other container of your choosing.  A canning jar or shaker container (an empty powder container or empty spice container) work well for storing larger batches.

Cost for us: $0 since we had everything.

Your potential cost: About $15-$20 for multiple batches. The bottle of essential oils I have cost just under $8. Dried citrus peel you can make on your own or buy in the spice aisle of your grocery store for about $4 and it can be used for baking too. Cornstarch and Baking Soda are a couple of dollars each for a fairly large container at the grocery store.  A package of snack size zipper-top plastic bags can be purchased at the dollar store.  You will have plenty of the ingredients leftover to make several batches of foot powder.  If you use cornstarch and baking soda in your kitchen like I do, you will be able to use those ingredients in your kitchen too.  Essential oils have multiple uses as well. 

Citrus peel can be omitted if necessary but I find it keeps the powder from being too slippery and adds to the pleasant smell. 


Epsom Salts
Vanilla Essential Oil
Optional: Blue Food Coloring

Add a drop or two of Essential Oil to your desired amount of Epsom salts and stir until thoroughly combined.  Add more Essential Oils until you have the desired strength of smell. Do remember that the smell does get stronger a few minutes after the oil is added.  Add food coloring and mix thoroughly, until the coloring is evenly distributed. 

We have made pink peppermint foot soak, green floral foot soak, and orange colored orange scented food soak the same way.   You could really do any essential oil that you like.  The food coloring is completely optional but we like to use it for fun.  Since we don't have any allergies, it works well for us.  If I wasn't sure about allergies, I'd leave the food coloring out of both of these gifts.

We packaged these the same way as the Lemon Foot Powder, only with 3 TBSP in each packet rather than two.  I included instructions for use on the label for these along with the ingredients and the clip art.

Our Cost: $0 since we had everything on hand.

Your Potential Cost:  Around $10.  Epsom salts are pretty inexpensive - I purchased a 3lb bag at our local pharmacy for about $2.50/$3.  Don't buy these at the craft store - buy them from the pharmacy, drug store or in the pharmacy section of your big box store.  They're much cheaper! We use Epsom salts regularly so we have these on hand as part of our medicine cupboard. Essential oil for this about $8 for a bottle.  You will have be able to make a very large batch with these ingredients and the Essential Oil can be used elsewhere too.

To give these to her fellow dancers, our daughter packaged one packet of each in a small party favors container we had leftover from a shower I had thrown several years ago.  We had 12 containers and she needed 11 so it work out well for her to use them.  We'll package up the 12th one for her teacher at the end of the year.

Our first idea was to wrap them in tissue paper and tie them with curling ribbon, so that would works to. 

You could use these as favors at a shower or luncheon and place them as is in a basket for guests to take one on the way home. And I have added them as is to teacher gifts in the past when I felt like they needed something a little "extra".

What have you made this week?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Frugal Saturday - Birthday Week!

So it's the twin's birthday this week - they turn 11 today (Saturday).  These years have flown so fast and I'm really enjoying being their Mom.   They are at an age right now where they are growing and learning so much and are so much more independent than even a year ago - it's really fun to watch those proverbial wings sprout!

It's been pretty frugal week all things considered.  I was hoping to get a frugal flops post done this week but I think we'll have to save that for next week instead.  My parents are visiting and we're so happy to have them here!  We've had a really good first week of their visit and we're looking forward to several more weeks filled with dance events, school concerts and the like.  I'm hoping to get to the Farmer's Market in Downtown St. Paul (my favorite!) next weekend and finish purchasing seedlings for our garden.  We're planning a few more things in the garden than in the past - more beans and strawberries, more cutting flowers.  I'm really excited!

Okay - on to the frugal things!
* Ate all but one meal at home and brown-bagged the rest.  My parents bought us take-out for dinner last night since we were at a softball game until 8pm last night.  I had planned dinner in the crockpot but it was almost 90F here and Dad really didn't feel like soup so he offered to treat us!  Yum!

* Made muffins, sugar cookies, and bread this week.  We also made meatloaf, stir fry and tomato sauce at home this week.

* We picked rhubarb from the garden and made both a crisp and a pie.  We'll make muffins this weekend.

* We received asparagus from our CSA.  YUM!

* Bought some of my children's birthday gifts on sale (JoAnn had a terrific 60% off one item a couple of weeks ago and another 40% off one item coupon. I printed them on two different days and used them on those days to get two gifts at a good discount for each of my children.).  I made other gifts for my children.  These are the gifts you see in the picture at the top.  I also made my children coupons for fixing up a part of their rooms that they have been wanting to do - each has one area that needs to be better organized and cleaned out. I promised to help them with that before the end of May so it's all ready for summer.  (And don't worry - Buddy has more than one present there - they just all blend together due to the wrapping paper!)

* We bought three pepper seedlings and 12 zinnias at the school "early bird" plant sale.  Proceeds go to the scholarship fund.  I paid $10 for 15 plants.  Their full plant sale this this next week and I'm hoping to get a few annuals for the flower beds.

* Our daughter had 3 softball games this week.  We used those for entertainment this week.

* My parents bought us groceries this week - thanks so much Mom and Dad!

* I hung a birthday banner that we already had and decorated the house with flowers from the garden and a bunch of beautiful orange tulips that my Dad bought.   We wrapped gifts in wrapping paper or gift bags we already owned.

* My husband had Synod Assembly this week and he was compensated for mileage and the Synod paid his registration fees.  Once he has a congregation, these will be covered by the congregation.  He enjoyed several delicious meals while there.

* We played catch in the back yard several nights this week.

* We had beautiful weather so we did a ton of yard work this week.  My flower beds are ready for new perennials and the few annuals I purchase and my vegetable plot and pots are all ready for plants now!

What did you do this week that was frugal?

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Work Home and Family - Mother's Day Gifts! (Homemade Gifts Parts 10-12)

I feel like I'm sort of starting to get a handle on things again - my health has been pretty good this week, we have company right now (which means Mom does my ironing - thanks SO MUCH Mom!) and we're almost done with the semester! YAY!  Plus, the weather has been beautiful this week - perfect for gardening, softball games and eating dinner on the patio!  Bring it on, spring!  We love it!

We've been doing a lot of homemade gifts around here and today I'm sharing two gifts my daughter made and one that I made.  Without further ado, here we go!
This one was made by my Missy.  She actually made two - this is the one that she made for my mother-in-law.  My mother-in-law LOVES purple and bright pink - she's a very girly-girl - and we were going to put "Grammie" on it in silver sparkly letters.  Then my daughter realized how difficult it is to work with the silver sparkly embroidery thread and decided that pink and purple with gray stitching would have to do.  My in-laws family room is not insulated and they live in Iowa, so winters are cold.  This is perfect for my mother-in-law to curl up under while watching TV, reading or crafting.

This blanket is similar in idea to a fleece tie blanket, two pieces of fleece in the desired size attached together with no filler.  In this case she just straight stitched a 1" hem all the way around using the sewing machine and gray thread.  In the photo the gray is really hard to see but you can see the stitching line.  She likes making blankets this way because (a) she gets to use the sewing machine, (b) it takes far less time than a tie blanket, and (c) they never come untied, since they are sewed together. 
Items Needed:
Sewing Machine
Any extra embellishments you would like to add 
Blanket Instructions: 
Cut two pieces of fleece to the desired size of the blanket (ours is 54" square).  Pin pieces together, wrong sides in (or right sides out!) and sew a straight stitch from edge to edge along each side, being sure to tack stitching at the edges. . This gives a tidy square corner, which added a bit of decoration.   Clip threads and enjoy!  We used a single needle straight stitch with a 1" hem but we have also done with a 3/4" hem, a zigzag stitch, and two needles with contrasting threads. Our daughter left the raw edges raw, but you can certainly trim them if you'd like.
Our Cost:  $22.50 for 3 yards of fleece (1 1/2 yards of each color).  I had all the other supplies - thread, needles, sewing machine - already.   Our daughter used her own money to buy the material for this so we spent no money out of pocket on this gift.
Your Cost:  The same if you buy fleece on sale as we did.  Fleece is more expensive full price so if you bought at full price, you would certainly pay more.

Our daughter has been making jewelry and selling it occasionally for about a year now. She loves it and I love seeing how creative she can be!   We bought her some new supplies for her Christmas stocking in December and Grandma and Grandpa made sure that she had a few more supplies in her stocking too! I think she's well stocked for a while now!

She made this necklace for my Mom for Mother's Day.  It consists of one large bead from a multipack I bought at a school supply store, four smaller beads leftover from a broken bracelet, and two "crystals" that were in her Christmas stocking strung on yellow necklace cording that I purchased in a multipack at Michael's for her last fall.    It took her about 20 minutes to make this, with most of that choosing beads and laying out the design.

Items Needed:
String, Thread, Cording or Elastic Cord
Sharp Scissors (to trim your cord)

Our Cost:  $0 we already everything!
Your Cost: Varies depending on what you purchase.  You can make necklaces for free using beads from a broken necklace and elastic string from packages or another broken necklace or just thread. 


This was an idea I found in a book from our local library many, many years ago.  The book used Christmas themed handkerchiefs and put it on a red corkboard.  I used an inexpensive corkboard that I painted my Mom's favorite color blue and my Grandmother's handkerchiefs for something my Mom could hang on the wall all year round.  After this photo was taken, I decided I didn't like the distressed wood frame (mainly because of the uneven tone), so I painted it white.
Items Needed:
Paint and a brush/sponge
Straight pins or thumb tacks
Purchase a corkboard in your desired size or use one you already have.  If you so desire, paint the corkboard in a desired color. I used leftover water-soluble wall paint for the blue and then used white acrylic craft paint to later paint the frame.
After the paint dries, arrange the handkerchiefs on the corkboard.  I folded mine like they would be if poking out of the breast pocket of a jacket and then overlapped them so the embroidered edges are showing.  (See the photo below). 
Once you have your desired arrangement, attach the handkerchiefs to the corkboard using the straight pins or thumb tacks.  The original idea called for brass thumb tacks, which looked like ornaments on the Christmas-themed three.  Here, they were to "loud' and I thought they detracted from the overall look, so I used plain silver-colored, rustproof steel straight pins.  I placed them strategically inside the folds of the handkerchiefs so you cannot see them on the final project.
My Grandmother had quite a collection of beautiful handkerchiefs - I know she made the three with the crocheted edges and the two with flowers on the top but we don't know if the other four were purchased by her, made by her or given as gifts.  My Mom is pretty sure the printed brown one I used as a "trunk" was a gift from my Aunt back in the 1960's.  I wanted something that would display her handkerchiefs without damaging them and something my Mom could change out if she wanted to display others, so this was it!
Our Cost: $6 for the corkboard.  We had everything else.
Your Cost:  The same for the corkboard.  Vintage Handkerchiefs run anywhere from 25-cents to several dollars at second hand stores and antique shops.  You need at least 8 to make this, though you could use 7 and put a large vintage piece of jewelry at the top (such as a pin) rather than another handkerchief.  Straight pins and thumb tacks come in a multipack for a couple of dollars depending on how fancy you want them to be. Paint is also a couple of dollars a bottle or pint, depending on what you purchase.  If you have all the supplies you could make this for free.  Keeping on the low end you can make this without owning any of the supplies initially for around $20.

What did you make for Mother's Day this year?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Menu Plan Monday - Week of May 1, 2016

Tulips!  Red ones - we have these growing in our yard right now.  They're so pretty!

Our children turn 11 this week! 

It's so strange to me that my children are this old!  My son has been doing his own laundry and my daughter has been helping make dinner often.  I'm feeling really blessed. 

My parents are arriving this week to stay for a month.  I'm really excited!  My parents are in their 80's now and I realize that many people in their 80's are not as healthy and mobile as my parents are.  We truly treasure this time with them. 

Here's what we're eating - feeding 4 adults and two very tall tweens.

Sunday, May 1:
    Breakfast; Smoothies
    Lunch: Cinnamon Biscuit Twists, Pineapple-Strawberry-Pear Salad
    Lunch: Soft Pretzels
    Dinner: Breakfast Tacos: Eggs, Bacon, Potatoes; Sliced Strawberries

Monday, May 2:
   Breakfast: Eggs and Toast
   Lunch: Leftover Chili (from last week)
   Snack: Cookies
   Dinner: Hamburger Gravy, Roasted Potatoes, Tossed Salad

Tuesday, May 3:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal with Craisins and Almonds
    Lunch: Leftover Gravy and Potatoes
   Snack: Yogurt
   Dinner: Brown Sugar Meatloaf, Rice, Tossed Salad, Sliced Pinepple

Wednesday, May 4:
    Breakfast: Oatmeal Muffins, Raspberry-Mango Smoothies
    Lunch: Leftover Meatloaf
    Snack: Cookies
    Dinner: Spaghetti with Red Sauce, Garlic Bread, Pineapple-Mandarin Orange-Strawberry Salad

Thursday, May 5:
    Breakfast; Waffles from the Freezer with Strawberries and Powdered Sugar
    Lunch: Leftover Spaghetti
    Snack: Yogurt
    Dinner: Tossed Salad with Chicken and Strawberries

Friday, May 6:
   Breakfast: Eggs, Sliced Pineapple & Strawberries
   Lunch: PB&J, Carrot Sticks, Apples
   Snack: Cookies
   Dinner: Homemade Pizza and Breadsticks

Saturday, May 7, Our Twins' 11th Birthday
    Breakfast: Baked Eggs, Cinnamon Biscuit Twists, Strawberries
    Lunch: Pizza Twists
    Snack and Dinner: At a Dance Competition
    Dessert: Ice Cream Out after the Competition

What are you eating this week?