Friday, February 24, 2017

Christmas Prep 2017 - Only 10 Months To Go!

Yep, you heard me right.  Two months have already gone by since Christmas and although there is still plenty of time to get things done I know how quickly that time will pass.  For me, it is important to work on Christmas all year because I like to make the majority of my gifts.  This year is no exception.

So what have I been doing since the last time I checked in?  Not a lot, or so I thought until I started writing this post.  Turns out I actually have accomplished quite a bit.  Yaaaay!  

In January my focus was to restock the gift wrap supplies as economically as possible and I think I pulled that off nicely.  I added four new rolls of gift wrap, a large package of tissue wrap and a new roll of tape.  I also made some self stick gift tags using a sheet of address labels and my computer.  We are all set in the gift wrapping department!

Three new skeins of yarn for $3.97

Since then I have been focusing on collecting supplies and taking inventory of what I already have.  At a couple of thrift stores I purchased three pajama patterns and a robe pattern.  At another thrift store I bought three nice new skeins of yarn all in complimentary colors and one matches another skein I already had in my yarn bag.  I'm pretty sure I have enough yarn for a gift I have in mind.  👍

Fun flannel

I took a quick inventory of what I already had in my stash of fabric and notions and then made a list of what I would need.  Using a coupon paired with a sale I was able to get flannel fabric for pajama pants.  A week later I returned to pick up a half dozen 100% cotton knit T-shirts ($2.50 each) all in extra large sizes for another gift project I have planned.  Needless to say my project pile in my sewing area has grown.  

He is so cute!

I've managed to complete two gifts, one for a friend and one for a co-worker by buying a couple things on clearance and one item at a thrift store.  Total spent on those two gifts was just over $5 but neither one seems cheap.  In fact, quite the contrary.  And that is important to me.

These were 12¢ each!  And two are new and uncut!

At JC Penney I used a coupon and picked up several pair of socks that were on sale.  The coupon gave me an extra $10 OFF so the socks ended up costing half the sales price.  That made me super happy.  Thirteen pair of good quality socks for $9.99!  I also picked up my first stocking stuffer for FREE using a coupon at Bath & Body Works for a free small bottle of hand lotion.

Brand new and uncut

I went through my gift shelf in my bedroom closet and organized everything into a bankers box for now.  I have a few nice things left to use, but not a lot so I'll be restocking and stashing things in there throughout the year.

Next up is to get busy and get started on a couple of those gift projects I have in mind and hopefully get them completed in the next month.  I'll let you know how that works out.

Anybody else working on Christmas gifts right now?

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My March Meal Plan

I'm shaking it up folks!  This year the monthly meal plans haven't been working too well for us.  For one reason or another we haven't ended up making the things I had planned out.  Our schedules have been crazy busy with a lot of things going on.

Another thing that has happened is me.  My tastes are changing as I am focusing more on healthy eating to improve health and well being.  One of the biggest changes I've made has been to incorporate more plant based meals and fewer meat dishes.  Sometimes I end up creating two meals to fill up the kids and take care of me.

The girls and I talked about it and we've decided, in order not to work poor Mom to death we would divide and conquer.  From now on, I'll be doing my grocery shopping bright and early on Saturday mornings.  It is just too hectic to stop after work and shop.  And honestly, after a long day of work, I'm tired and just want to go home.

We have loads of food in the house so there are plenty of good options stockpiled away.  I'm going to focus most of my shopping on produce and a few supplemental and sales items.

With this template the menu plan is on the left
and the shopping list for the following week is on the right

Based on what I buy on Saturday I will map out the meals for the week ahead meaning I'll be using my Weekly Menu Planner now.  This is a huge change for me.  I'll probably do two or three weeks at a time, but then go back and tweak them once I've done my actual shopping.

Lastly, if the girls decide they don't like what I'm fixing for meals then they will take over the responsibility of creating something else.  They are excited about it and I'm excited for them.  I'm sure this will give them loads of good meal planning and cooking experience.

Nachos w/ homemade guacamole

Of course, I'll be sharing all of our culinary creations with you.  Not sure yet what the format will be exactly, but I'll come up with something.  I'll also be posting recipes too, so be sure to look for those.

I'm pretty excited about this.  I definitely am looking forward to giving it a try.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Asian Inspired Coleslaw

I can say with all honesty this salad is definitely Asian inspired.  My daughters are Asian and they inspire me. 😃  And they gave this recipe a BIG thumbs up! 👍

Asian Inspired Coleslaw

1 bag coleslaw mix - shredded green cabbage, red cabbage, carrots
1/3 red bell pepper, julienned
1/3 green bell pepper, julienned
1/2 cup snow peas, diagonally sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced & halved


2 Tbs. peanut butter
2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. toasted sesame oil
T Tbs. rice wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. dried ginger

In a large bowl place the ingredients for the dressing.  Whisk until smooth and well combined.  Add vegetables and toss until thoroughly coated.  Makes 8 servings.

Garnish with sliced almonds, peanuts or chow mein noodles if desired.

Lightly dressed and all of the veggies stay nice and crunchy.  Great flavor and pretty too.  Love this recipe!  Hope you give this one a try and enjoy it as well as we do.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Garden Plan Is Coming Together

We have been working on our garden plan for this spring and acquiring a few things to help us make it happen.  The squirrels have seriously wreaked havoc at hour little homestead.  They are out of control and I know a large part of it was their efforts to prepare for a hard winter, which we had.  But come on you guys!

The squirrels stripped the blueberry bushes to the point they killed them.  They pulled up and absconded with all of the strawberry plants.  They also took all of the apples and pears off our trees.  They didn't share a single one!  They did the same thing the year before too.  Little buggers!

We decided not to put in a garden last year because our summer schedule was way too busy to spend time feeding and entertaining squirrels.  So this year we will be starting from scratch and needless to say, squirrel control will be tops on the list.  Not to worry, there will be no pellet guns or poison involved.  We all need to live together, cohesively.  Hopefully our tactics will disrupt their routines and make them uncomfortable enough to encourage them to move on and look elsewhere.  Fingers crossed.

I'll be sharing the things we are doing with all of you as we get busy and get to work.  I'm super excited to get started too.  Are you planning to put in a garden this year?  Any squirrel troubles?  How do you handle the little blighters?

Monday, February 20, 2017

Last Week's Thrifty Moves

Sunday morning I made up a triple batch of homemade granola.  While it baked in the oven I got busy and filled up some Valentine treat bags with kisses.  I used sparkly silver Christmas ribbon I had in my gift wrap bin to tie the bags closed.  I think they turned out pretty cute and the girls loved receiving them on Tuesday morning.

These are the Christmas Hershey kisses I found on clearance at ShopKo last month.  As you may recall I pulled out all the green ones to use for cookies.  I haven't made the cookies yet and I confess I've snitched a few too, but since they are green I may just set them out for St. Patty's Day.

I used fabric from my stash and polyfil I already had to make a pillow form for the crocheted pillow cover I finished Sunday afternoon.  I had never made one of these pillow covers like this before.  I am really pleased with how it turned out.

I veered off the menu plan a bit and made an entirely different meal in order to use up some veggies so they didn't go bad.  It is important to be flexible with meal planning, especially if you want to avoid food waste.  We also had a bunch of odds and ends in the refrigerator so we ended up having a couple of "smorgasboard" meals for supper.

After dropping the oldest off at the college campus Tuesday we went to the library to check out books and wait until it was time to pick her up.  I wrote and the young one read.  It saved me a little gas not running back and forth.

The pillow I finished Sunday afternoon

I've been watching YouTube videos in an attempt to expand my crochet skills.  I'm learning to crochet a sweater, something I've always wanted to do.  I've only torn out most of it twice now.  Aargh!  I'll keep at it.

Wednesday I ordered 25 bareroot everbearing strawberry plants from Amazon.  I also ordered a roll of strawberry netting!  The plants arrived on Saturday.

The young one and I repaired one of the water feeders that broke this winter and gave all of the feeders a bath.... again.  It is so muddy outside.

I love having farm fresh eggs again!

We gave our kitchen scraps to the chickens again this week.  I also used some rendered beef fat I had saved to make them a suet cake.  We now have three of the four hens back in full egg laying mode.  We sold a dozen eggs to some friends who had been anxiously waiting.

I washed a bunch of quart sized Ziploc bags to reuse

I composted coffee grounds, tea bags and egg shells I crunched up.  I made another fire starter with dryer lint, a TP tube and a piece of newspaper.


On the way home from work Thursday I picked up two bottles of Purex laundry detergent on sale for $1.99 each.  I also used a $1 OFF coupon to bring my final cost to $3.99.

I renewed my youngest daughter's cell phone service for 90 days for less than $21.  I found a promo code online which gave me 60 extra minutes for free.

The Fred Meyer Friday freebie was a container of yogurt.  I downloaded that to my card.

Saturday morning I dropped off the oldest at the campus.  On the way home I made a big produce run.

How thrifty was your week?

Friday, February 17, 2017

Thrift Store Shopping

I have some pretty lofty goals this year for economizing so I can finish my debt elimination goal.  Not the least of which is to pay as little as possible for the things we want and need.  I've been doing some thrift store shopping lately to help me out in that department.

Yarn for crocheting

I like thrift stores.  For one thing most of them operate on behalf of a charitable organization and give a lot back to the local community.  Shopping at a thrift store allows us to recycle and use other people's stuff saving it from going to the landfill.  You also save a ton of money by buying used over new, so why not?

Patterns for sewing

I'm pretty darn picky when it comes to the things I buy.  I really look things over to make sure they aren't too worn.  I assume everything is dirty and needs to be washed.  I'm not afraid to mend or repair something minor if it is priced right.  When it comes to clothing, linens, yarn and fabrics I'll give it a sniff to make sure there are no offensive odors.

Vintage quart jars - Love!

I shop at nice stores.  They keep things clean and well organized and I feel they do a really good job weeding out the garbage.  It is nice to feel confident as you peruse a rack of clothes that someone has taken the time to make sure the items are in nice condition.  They also don't smell funky, you know what I mean?

Clothes for my oldest

Cute little votive candle lantern
I almost want to keep him

The girls and I don't have a problem with second hand.  Most of my friends don't either so to give a cool gift that was found at a second hand store is not offensive to us.  In fact we are kind of impressed by the various treasures we find.  I especially like the vintage stuff much more than something new and modern.

Clothes for my youngest
Brand new jeans with the tags still on!

Do you shop at thrift stores?  Are you one of those who can't wait for yard sale season?  What are some of the things you shop for?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

My $10 Afghan Project

I enjoy crocheting and I do so as often as I can.  Over the years I've made many potholders, afghans, hats, head warmers and scarves.  My creations are fairly simple and basic.  I'm completely self taught, learning from an old booklet that my great-grandmother had.  My technique, particularly how I hold my hook and yarn, is a bit unorthodox.  My aunt, who makes all kinds of beautiful and wonderful things, laughs at it, but as she acknowledges I get the job done.

While laid up last month I had my youngest bring me all of my crochet and knitting supplies which included a gallon jar full of yarn balls I'd made from the tail ends of skeins leftover from previously completed projects.  I also had a zippered plastic storage bag full of  skeins of yarn in a variety of pretty colors.  With all of this I was sure I could create something useful.

After a bit of thought I realized I had a lot of complimentary colors so I started crocheting granny squares.  Within a short time I had quite a stack of these little puppies and when the girls laid them out on the floor I realized I had plenty to make an afghan.  I was also pretty excited that I'd emptied out half of the mason jar and a third of zippered bag.

To make them come together I decided to border each square with the same color of yarn.  I already had a pretty skein of buff color so I started with that until I ran out.  I went to the fabric store and luckily they just happened to be having a yarn sale.  I bought another skein of the buff color as well as one in dark green and another one in chocolate brown.  The brown and green were colors I had already used in many of the squares so I thought I'd use them in the border to tie it all together.

Good thing I took a picture before this happened.
Damned cat!  😲

Once all the squares were done with a row of buff color we laid them all out on the floor in the pattern we thought looked best.  Then I started sewing them together with the buff yarn and a large needle.  I prefer to join my granny squares this way as opposed to crocheting them together because I don't like the ridges and bulkiness.  This way the afghan is nice and flat and smooth.

Yep, this one!  She's a turd.

Once all the squares were joined together I crocheted the border and called it done.  Except...  I still had one granny square left.  So what to do with one lowly leftover granny square?

You make a pillow cover!

I crocheted the remaining granny square until it was 18 inches large for the front of the pillow cover..  Then I used the buff yarn and crocheted another square the same size to make the back of the pillow cover.  When I finished that square I found some dark brown fabric in my stash and cut two 18 inch squares to stitch together for make a pillow form and filled it with polyfil stuffing.

I single crocheted the front and back of the pillow cover together along three of the four edges.  Then I put the pillow form inside and finished the fourth edge to finish it.  I'm really pleased with how it turned out.

I spent $8.87 on the yarn at the fabric store and used two other skeins I'd purchased some time back for 99¢ each.  I also used up a ton of scrap yarn.  I didn't use up all of the yarn I bought however.  I guesstimate the entire project to make the afghan and the pillow at about $10 out of pocket.  Not too bad, I'd say.

The afghan and pillow have been tucked away with a quilt I made to be used in the new house I plan to buy in the not too distant future.  Also know as my retirement home project.  I'm super happy to have these to take with me.

I'm sure I'll have to share it with this little girl

Ironically, by the time I rolled all of the leftover yarn into balls I had managed to fill the mason jar back up.  Guess that means I'd better get busy on another project!

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