Friday, December 12, 2014

Small Gifts To Save On Shipping

We live a good distance from any of our family members with the closest being a 5 1/2 hour drive away. 

So every Christmas, we ship at least one box of gifts to someone! This year we are sending two: one to my sister's family in Texas and one to my parents in Oregon. 

I don't mind shipping boxes and always love packing them up-- so much fun! But when the cost of shipping is about the same or more than what the gifts cost? No thank you! 

So this year, I focused on gifts that were compact and easy to ship. By doing this, I was able to pack each family's gifts in a small flat rate box! 

This saved us a lot of money this year! 

**Note: We keep our gifts to family members pretty low-cost; usually in the $5-$10 range per person. We also try to do useful or clutter-free gifts as much as we can. I will share some of the specifics of our gift-giving after Christmas so as not to spoil the surprise for our family members that read here!**

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Finishing Fall Stuff & Cranberry Apple Preserves

I felt like I needed to finish up fall before I could decorate the house for Christmas!

We got our apples for applesauce late this year so I had to push it to get them done by Thanksgiving. But I made it-- around 42 quarts. Whew! 

I'd also purchased a bushel of apples for a friend who is learning to make and can applesauce this year. She wasn't able to get together until last week. So those apples are done now too--around 15 quart for her. 

saved 3 apples from all our applesauce, jelly and dried apple making to make Cranberry Apple Preserves. I had some cranberries in the freezer and a coworker offered me a couple oranges she wasn't going to eat. I had just seen the recipe in the canning book and put an orange on my shopping list--I had all the other ingredients on hand. So the oranges came in perfect timing! 

This smelled wonderful while cooking. Everything cooked down nicely and made a lovely red color.

I got 6 jars of preserves. I will use some of these for Christmas gifts. 

Cranberry Apple Preserves
 Recipe from The Ball Book of Canning
 Yield: about 9 half-pints

2 pounds cranberries
3 green apples, cored, peeled and chopped
1 orange, seeded and chopped 
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
1/2 cup honey

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring slowly to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil gently almost to gelling point. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot preserves into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. process in boiling water canner 15 minutes.

Our fall pumpkins needed to be cooked. I like decor that can do double duty--pretty to look at and yummy to eat later! 

I used this method again for cooking whole pumpkins. It's so easy! Just wash your pumpkins, poke them several times all over with a knife and bake for about 1 1/2 hours at 350 degrees. Let cool a little before handling.

Ended up with a huge bowl of pumpkin puree to freeze. I froze it in freezer bags in 2 cup portions. Yield was 16 cups--equivalent to 8 cans of pumpkin.  

Now that those things are checked off, I'm ready to move on to Christmas!

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Mending A Tablecloth The Scrappy Way

Last Christmas, a candle burned a hole in my festive tablecloth.

The hole is right in the middle of the tablecloth. Instead of tossing it or making it into something else, I opted to give it a little scrappy makeover by just patching it over. 

I used a few Christmas scraps to cover the hole and make a cute little patchwork thing in the middle. 

I finished the patch off with a scrappy Christmas tree featuring red polka dots and some candy cane stripe-- a combo that never fails to make me happy to look at! 

While not perfect, we love the look this embellishment adds!

One tablecloth saved from uselessness!

Monday, December 01, 2014

After Thanksgiving

This is what Rock looks like after his party weekend at puppy camp. 

In fact, I kind of feel that way myself after Thanksgiving! 

My mother-in-law graciously sent the HUGE turkey carcass (with lots of dark meat still on, which we love) home with me. So I'll be making broth and soup this week. I'm scouring my soup cookbooks for a good and maybe more unusual turkey soup recipe. If you have a good method or recipe, I'd love to hear about it in the comments.

I made this Turkey Dinner Soup a couple of years ago which we enjoyed a lot. 

These are setting on my counter after a jelly making session right before we left for Thanksgiving. This apple jelly was made with apple peelings and cores from some dried apples I made earlier. Waste not, want not!

I got the idea from Wendi's blog and then followed the directions for apple jelly included in my box of pectin--I used Certo.

Have a great week and enjoy the first week of December! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

My Idea of Black Friday Shopping

We're visiting Andy's parents for Thanksgiving weekend.

My idea of Black Friday shopping is not staying up all night hitting the mall. I waited until mid-morning, then went out to snag deals at CVS and Rite Aid. 

No crowds there! 

Most of the items bought were free or nearly free after Extra Care Bucks at CVS or UP Rewards at Rite Aid. 

I stuck to buying items that I know we will use and buy regularly anyways. That made it easy to decide what to buy!

We are stocked up on paper towels, laundry detergent and lotion for a while! My husband uses the Vaseline lotion and it is expensive when purchased at regular price. 

This is what I got at CVS. I spent $13.80 and got $12.97 back in Extra Care Bucks to use like cash on future purchases. 

Important to note that I used a $5/$15 coupon I had received in my email earlier this week. I opted to load it onto my card and $5 was taken off my order automatically. 

This is what I got at Rite Aid. I spent $63.82 out of pocket and got $42.01 back in UP Rewards to use as cash on future purchases.

I don't know if I have ever spent this much at one time on drugstore deals! The downside to Rite Aid's rewards program is that you can't use the rewards until the next day. So no rolling them over into another transaction immediately. I did not want to go out again tomorrow so I bought everything in one transaction.

The advantage to Rite Aid is that a store is located close to my house and work so I can stop in there very easily when I'm out and about.   

 I'll use the bulk of these rewards to buy some higher priced household products such as toilet paper, Rid-X and dishwasher soap. 

These sales are good through Saturday, November 29 if you want to grab up any of these items. Money Saving Mom has lists of the deals available at these drug stores. I looked at the store ads on their websites too before shopping.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend to all! 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

We Made It!

Every year, we make it into a game to see if we can wait until November to turn the heat on in the house. It is just a fun game of frugality for us. We love squeezing out one more month with a low gas bill.

Many years we end up caving in during a cold snap in October.

But this year... we made it! There were a few cool mornings this past week but we soldiered on, wearing extra layers, using the oven and moving around which all helped to keep us warmer.

This morning was around 40 degrees but felt much cooler. It was 64 degrees in the house which is chilly for me. So, on November 1st, we switched the heat on and it feels so nice and cozy!

Have you turned the heat on in your house yet?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Our Trip to Williamsburg: Day 2

Our first stop on our 2nd day of vacation was to the Colonial Williamsburg visitor's center.

First on our agenda was to buy our passes to see the sights. On our honeymoon, we had no extra money so we just did the free things. But this time we wanted to be able to take in some of the ticketed attractions so we had budgeted accordingly ahead of time.

We purchased 7 day passes for the Historic Triangle--Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. The passes are certainly not cheap but divided over 6 days (we were only there for 6 days but our passes were for 7), the cost is very reasonable and much less expensive than purchasing tickets to see individual attractions.

We walked out of the visitor's center and headed down the path to Colonial Williamsburg.

 The walk was longer than we remembered from our previous visit. The rest of the week we took advantage of the shuttle that made a loop around the city, beginning and ending at the visitor's center. We could get on and off wherever we wanted and the longest wait at any one stop was maybe 10 minutes. We still got plenty of walking in but the shuttle rides saved a lot of time and energy! The shuttle service was free with our passes so we were tickled to make use of it!

Anyways, on our walk to the Revolutionary City, as they call it, we toured a Colonial Farmstead. I have no pictures of this which I am surprised by!

Upon entering Colonial Williamsburg, we toured the grounds at the Governor's Palace. We toured the inside of the palace later in the week.

We also took our daily selfie here.

After the tour of the gardens and grounds at the Governor's Palace, we continued walking, stopping to look in a few of the shops and touring the George Wythe house.

A note about the tours--I'm one of those people that can only take so many guided tours. But the tours we did here were very entertaining. Most were told more as a story which helped to keep my attention! Most were only 30 minutes long too.

By this time, we were hungry for lunch so we stopped at Chowning's Tavern for lunch. (I believe I have a picture of the actual building that was taken later in the week that hasn't been edited yet so I'll post it later!)

This restaurant was in Colonial Williamsburg and runs much like it would've in Colonial times. It was a fun experience to eat there.

After lunch, we walked to the nearest bus stop and took the shuttle back to the visitor's center. We spent the rest of the afternoon looking for some Washington Redskins paraphernalia at local stores and then relaxing at the hotel. We ate supper in our hotel room/suite which included a full kitchen so we could do some of our own cooking. I had brought a few freezer meals along to make cooking really easy! Our hotel also had a free hot breakfast bar every morning so most days we only ate out one time.

And thus concluded our 2nd day of vacation.

To be continued...