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                                                         Printable Recipe
 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...

Monday, October 20, 2014

Reading and Eating

I started re-reading Little House In The Big Woods this past weekend and am almost finished. It is such a cozy read--charming and simple. One of my favorites! 

My plan is to read through the whole Little House series this fall/winter. It's been a long time since I read them. 

I've had a bag of butterscotch chips languishing in the freezer for some time now. They were given to us.  If they were chocolate or peanut butter chips, they would be long gone! I saw this recipe for Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies at Living Well Spending Less and decided to bake some cookies just for the fun of it. They are really yummy!

I love fall!

**I will continue my vacation posts once we get all 200+ photos edited and organized!!!**

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Our Trip to Williamsburg, VA: Day 1

We celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary on October 2 by spending the week in Williamsburg, VA.

We honeymooned in Williamsburg ten years ago and have talked since then of going back for our 10th anniversary. About two years ago, we began actively planning and saving for our trip. The whole vacation was paid for with cash in hand-- no coming home to a credit card bill! I will share more about how we were able to do this vacation debt-free in a later post. 

I will note that this was the first time since our honeymoon that we have been away for a week by ourselves. Our longer trips over the years have been with or to visit family. 

Ok, now for the details of Day 1: 

We left for Williamsburg on Sunday, September 28. Our first stop was at Cracker Barrel a couple minutes from home. We ate at Cracker Barrel for breakfast the first morning of our honeymoon. In the spirit of recreating a memory, we both ordered Uncle Herschel platters just like we did 10 years ago. The only difference was that I couldn't completely finish my meal this time! 

Our next stop was the Virginia Welcome Center on I-85. 

We took our daily selfie here. 

The little lady at the information desk was adorable and helpful. "Have you ever taken the ferry to Williamsburg?" She asked. "Why no, we haven't," we replied. She then gave us directions to get to the ferry, explaining that it would take us across the James River and dock at Jamestown, giving us just a short trip into Williamsburg. Going this way was the same in mileage as the route we had planned and much more direct, so we went that way. 

So we drove a nice drive through the VA countryside and arrived at the ferry. The ferry ride is free and runs 7 days a week.  

If you enlarge the last two photos, you should be able to see the replicas of the ships that originally came to Jamestown. 

I will share closer shots of the ships in another post since we toured them another day. 

The ferry ride was fun and gave a unique perspective to arriving in Jamestown. 

After we docked at Jamestown, we made the short drive into Williamsburg, checked into our hotel, and then found a quick dinner before getting some rest. 

We were greeted by an anniversary card and local goodies left in our room by hotel staff. 

We needed to be rested to start our first day of sight seeing the next morning! 

To be continued...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Frugal Five

 Some frugal things we've done recently to save cash!

1) My athletic shoes were starting to come apart on the soles. My husband glued them back together so they will last a bit longer.

2) I bought a big box of dishwasher detergent in the spring and stored it under the sink. Early summer, we had a leak and water pooled under the sink. The cardboard box of detergent got very wet of course. The soap in the bottom clumped up because of getting wet. Well, I was not about to waste it! When we got to the bottom of the box, I emptied the big clumps into a recycled plastic jar and have been breaking the clumps up and using them anyways. We're getting a few more weeks out of the dishwasher detergent this way.

Note: It's a good idea to store detergent in an airtight container from now on!

3) I've been packing my lunch to take to work everyday. It's usually leftovers so saves on waste too!

4) I found a really cute knit skirt at a yard sale this summer for 50 cents. The only downside was that the skirt was a size 2X when I am more of a size large. Before putting it down, I quickly realized that I could take it in on the sides and it would fit just fine. (The elastic waist was very smooth; some are very bulky and hard to take in this way but this one was easy!) Brought it home, took the skirt in several inches on each side and I had a really comfy skirt for 50 cents! I wear it several times a week; I like it so much!

5) Instead of buying more beef ($3.49 lb.) the last few weeks, I purchased whole chickens at 95 cents per pound. Buying the cheaper meat stretches the budget just a little further. In addition, bone-in chicken means I can make my own chicken broth! I still bought some beef just not as much.

And a bonus:
We got our grass-fed/pastured meat order last week packaged in 2 big green plastic bags. These bags are about the same size as our kitchen trash bags so I saved them to use for trash. One is being used now!
How have you saved money recently? Please share in the comments so we can all learn from each other!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

5 Things

This summer has been a fun and happy blur. We've been busy living life--I think about blogging but haven't done much of it in a couple of months!

So here's a quick post: 5 things going on in our lives!

  1. My husband turned 40 on Saturday. We had a big party that was really fun. This was a huge celebration because when he was born, he wasn't supposed to live very long. After a few years, they said he might live until his 20's. Well, we are so happy he is 40 and lives a healthy and full life. No over the hill black doom and gloom junk here!
  2. A yellow jacket stung me on the playground at work today. Ouch! It hurt for a while--just a little tender now. Thankfully, I'm not allergic. 
  3. Rock, the Cherished Dog, has learned to open the door from the outside. It's a door that needs to be really pushed shut to latch completely. So we put Rock out and a little while later, he is back in the house and the door is standing open. He has his own doggy door. LOL
  4. Melon--we've been eating a lot of it this summer. It is so good. I'm convinced that a  bowl of chilled cantaloupe or watermelon is the perfect accompaniment to almost any summer meal. 
  5. When we bought our house 2 years ago, there was a big above ground pool in the backyard. We did not want the pool. As far as we are concerned, pools are way too much work and a liability. So we took it out immediately. Which left a big hole in the yard. (The pool was partially dug in to the ground as well so the hole was much deeper on one side than the other.)  Then we priced dirt. Whoever said, "Cheap as dirt" hasn't had to fill a pool hole recently. We finally found someone to bring us dirt and do the work for a reasonable price. It was still more than we wanted to pay but the job got done. Our "pool hole" was a great conversation piece for 2 years. "What are you going to put in that hole?"  "Wouldn't that make a good fire pit?" "You should make an herb garden." You could just plant a garden in there!" "Are you ever going to fill that hole?" Well. Now it's filled with dirt and we stand at the window admiring it! It just looks so much nicer. LOL
Before the hole was filled....
And after! Much better! Once the deck is rebuilt, which is next on the list, this dirt area will probably be made into a simple patio area as well as maybe a flower and herb garden.

What's going on in your life this summer? 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Refashion: Men's Shirt to a Ruffly Peasant Top

I'm really getting in to refashioning and reviving clothing to make something new and useable.

My latest refashioning project is turning one of my husband's tshirts into a ruffly peasant top for me. 

Usually by the time he gets rid of shirts, they are only fit for the rag bag. This one just didn't fit right and still was in pretty good condition. 

An advantage to this shirt was that it's a nice shade of light blue. Score for me! I snatched that thing right up and hauled it off to the sewing room! 

I used this tutorial that I had pinned a long time ago. It was pretty easy to follow and the shirt didn't take that long to make. 

I can't really tell you exactly how long it took me because I worked on it in small snippets of time--maybe about 1 hour and 15 minutes total? Longer if you count the phone call to my sister to figure out how to do the lettuce hem on my machine!



Why go shopping for new clothes when you can make something fun at home?!? 

Monday, June 23, 2014

What I Did Today

I always enjoy homemaking posts that detail what that person did in her home that day. These are not boring at all to me. In fact I often learn something new that I can put to use in my own home.

So this post is one of those-- what I did today. 

I went shopping late last week so there was meat in the refrigerator that needed to be dealt with before it went bad. I like to go ahead  and prep most meats ahead of time and then freeze them. 

So today was definitely a cooking day! 

First off, we were out of granola so I made a double batch. We don't eat much cereal-- we don't really care that much for it and it takes several bowls to fill us up! We do like homemade granola though and it's been nice to keep on hand this summer for a cooler breakfast with yogurt and fruit. We've been eating it once or twice a week for a change of pace. 

While the granola was baking, I quickly made a freezer crockpot meal-- Italian Sausages with Peppers and Onions. This meal takes just minutes to put together. It's so nice to pull out on a busy day and throw into the crockpot. 

We prefer pork sausage but Aldi only had turkey when I was shopping last week so we'll use turkey sausage this time! 

Next up was some ground beef to take care of! I made 8 hamburger patties to freeze. We'll be grilling half of these this weekend and then will have enough ready for another meal later. 

Hamburger patties are super easy to make so it may seem silly to make them  ahead. But to me it makes sense to go ahead and quickly make them up so they're ready when I need them. 

We like to eat supper within about 30 minutes of me returning home from work so any prep work I can do ahead makes supper prep and the evening go that much smoother. 

I do a load of laundry pretty much every day plus other routine homemaking tasks so those things were also completed this morning.

I also was able to hard-boil a dozen eggs and then run the dishwasher before leaving for work this afternoon.

When I made dinner tonight-- Pork and Veggies-- I doubled the recipe and froze one portion for dinner one night next week. 

Andy is working the run-off election tomorrow so after dinner, I packed a lunch for him.  

In a nutshell, that's what I did today. 

What did you do today?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Watch Dog

As I pulled into the parking space, I could sense I was being watched. 

I turned to the left and this sweet face was what I saw! 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, this pretty much sums up what Rock does all day:
Then he'll go out for a few minutes:
Then back in for maybe a little of this:

But definitely more of this:
It's good to be a dog these days!

How are you spending these early "dog days" of summer?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Refashioning: Gaucho Pants To A Skirt

 Before: Pants!

I had two pair of black knit gaucho pants that didn't fit quite right. So I hardly ever wore them.

I've been wanting some new black knit skirts for summer. One day it clicked that I could try turning these pants into skirts. 

If it didn't work I really wouldn't be out anything! 

I used this tutorial as a starting point. But basically all that was needed for this project was to cut the inside seams of the pants open and then sew them back together. Sew the two front sides to each other and then the same thing with the back pieces. (Consult the tutorial for what to with the triangle shape area from the crotch seam which if not cut and sewn straight will make a weird point/bubble in your seam!)

After: A cute skirt!

This is one of those projects that isn't perfect but I love the finished results. Now I have two black knit skirts in my closet which will be so comfy and cool for summer!

Please note: The perspective of these pictures make me look really short and wide! I'm not short and I'm doing my best to not get too wide. LOL!!! It's the direction of the camera, I guess! :-)

Monday, June 16, 2014

Coca Cola 600

On Memorial weekend, we attended the Coca Cola 600 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. 

I had bid on and won (which means I got to pay for them, not actually won a prize!) 4 tickets to the race in a silent auction at work. One of the parents at the child development center where I work is on the pit crew for Chip Ganassi Racing. He donated these tickets. 

Anyways, I got a really good deal on the tickets and then, when he brought them to me, he had thrown two more tickets in. So we got 6 tickets instead of 4! 

We had already invited Andy's parents to go with us since they love racing and then with the 2 extra tickets, we were able to invite 2 more friends! 

It was really fun! 

This was my first race. It was an evening race and the weather was perfect! 

Our seats were pretty good--in between turns 3 and 4 and as a bonus were located in the family friendly section which turned out to be really nice-- no alcohol!

Races are LOUD! We had earplugs, of course, which helped a lot. It was really fun to see the race live rather than on TV. It's a whole different experience. 

A few years ago, a donut burger made with Krispy Kreme donuts for the bun and then a burger patty, bacon and cheese was featured on Man vs. Food. Ever since then, Andy has wanted to try the Krispy Kreme burger. 

Well, he discovered that one concession stand at the race track was selling the Krispy Kreme burger. So we made plans to get one for him. We had to walk a long long ways from our seats  to get to the concession stand and then back again but he says it was worth it! 

I tried a bite and it really was pretty good! The sweet of the donut contrasts nicely with the savory burger and of course, bacon goes well with everything! 

It was pricey as all food is at these events but it's the only item we purchased there. Race tracks allow guests to carry in small coolers so we took sandwiches,snacks and drinks from home. Plus we had tailgated before the race. The 600 is a long race so we had packed plenty of snacks and drinks! 

We're so glad our parents and friends could join us for the race! 

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Yard Sale Finds

It's been a while since I shared my yard sale finds. 

Honestly, I haven't been to that many sales this year and the ones I have attended have had very little that I needed or wanted. 

We went to three nearby sales this morning and I found a few cute little treasures! 

Sale #1: 
Stuffed dog: 25 cents
Toy wagon: 50 cents
These were bought for display items for when I set up at craft shows. 

Sale #2:
This was an estate sale and had some cute vintage items!

Vintage framed picture: $1.00
Sequined clutch: 50 cents
Small rolling pin: 25 cents

A closer look at the picture:

Sale #3:
Pampered Chef pastry roller: $1.00
Football snack plate: 50 cents
Tiny Christmas cookie cutters:$1.00

I already have a P.C. pastry roller just like this one and love it! They retail new for $15-$16. I bought this one to resell. 

I am a sucker for small kitchen things like the rolling pin and cookie cutters. I don't need them but I like them. Those antique small rolling pins really work and are great for play dough--I have a textured one too!

It was a fun time this morning!

Have you found any thrifty treasures lately?