Wednesday, November 28, 2007

An Old-fashioned Christmas Tree






As the university housing manual came out earlier this year, we discovered rules that we didn't know about last Christmas. Such as the one that says you can't put lights on a real Christmas tree (they're worried about fires). As much as I didn't want a light-free tree, I really didn't want to go out and buy a fake tree that we weren't ever going to use again. So we decided to go ahead and get a real one, and forego the lights. I originally planned to use ribbon on the tree, in place of lights. But when we were out looking for ribbon, I stumbled across these cute garlands. They're made of red and white wooden beads, and remind me of the old-fashioned popcorn and cranberry garland. I had considered making one of popcorn and cranberries, so when we found this, it seemed perfect, especially since we hadn't been able to find any ribbon we liked. I love the look of this garland! Although I do miss the twinkle of lights, I am enjoying my very old-fashioned looking tree.

Our tree topper adds to the old-fashioned look. We found her last year. It's not a real tree topper - just a rag doll that we're using for one. We loved her as soon as we saw her, and she does the job beautifully.

The tree skirt I made last year out of a piece of cotton and some bias tape. It was extremely simple and very inexpensive compared to buying one!

For quite some time, my very favorite ornament has been these little mice. We first discovered them years ago when my brother brought them home. I believe he had made them in Sunday School, or something. My parents made some another year, and then last year I made a bunch and gave them away (and kept a couple). The little mice tucked in their beds always brings a smile to my face. I love seeing them hang on the tree.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Frugal Scrubber


I usually use a scrubber sponge when I am washing dishes and come across something that doesn't come off with just a washcloth. I have been buying packages of scrubbers, then cutting them into three smaller pieces so that they last longer (I thought that was being pretty frugal). I ran out of them, though a couple of weeks ago, but have got along without them fine since. I was washing dishes this afternoon and couldn't get a pan clean. I was about to leave it to soak for a while longer when I remembered something that I had in a drawer. When I was reading The Tightwad Gazette a while back, one suggestion had been to use onion bags as scrubbers. Afterwards, I had saved an onion bag I had, putting it into a drawer, but then forgetting about it until today. Remembering it in there, I decided to try it, so I pulled it out. I put my wash cloth inside the bag, then used it to scrub the pan. It worked wonderfully, just as well as a regular scrubber. It worked really well to have the wash cloth inside it, because then I had soap, and it was easier to hold on to. I was so pleased to find that this worked well! I may never buy scrubbers again. It might be frugal to cut scrubbers up, but it's even more frugal to use something that's free!

Monday, November 26, 2007

My strong husband....

Who needs a saw? After we had decided on a tree we liked, my husband used his mighty strength to get it for me, as the following video shows....
video

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Time with family...



I love spending time with family during the holidays. We spent the weekend doing fun Christmasy things with our families, and it was so much fun! Saturday we went to my in-laws house and had a fun evening of watching A Christmas Carol and then making Christmas gift tags. I was able to make a bunch and I should have enough for all our gifts.

Sunday after church we went out with my family and continued our tradition of cutting down a Christmas tree. Last year Seth and I had gotten a tree on our own, so it was fun to go with them again to a tree farm and look for trees. We were able to find two good trees to cut down.

Christmas and family....can't get much better than that! =)

Friday, November 23, 2007

It's Officially Christmastime!


Now that it is officially the holiday season, I've started with the Christmas decorations, one of my favorite things to do! I finished my candy wreath, so I hung it on the wall. Of course it won't look so nice for long, as the candy slowly disappears! The rest of our decorations will be going up over the next couple of days...I will post more pictures when we finish.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Are Books on Their Way Out?

I remember reading a story as a child - it was about a boy and girl who lived in the future. They did their schoolwork at home, but their mom didn't teach them; instead they had an electronic "teacher", a machine that taught their lesson, gave them homework, etc. I remember that in the story, the kids found a real book, something neither of them had ever seen, since they weren't made anymore; they read using the screen of their "teacher". They discovered that the book had belonged to one of their grandfathers. That's all I really remember from the story, but I remember thinking at the time that that probably wouldn't ever really happen - I couldn't imagine not having real books. I still can't imagine not having real books to read, but I do now think that will someday happen. I was watching the news yesterday for a little bit and saw the newest release from Amazon - the Kindle, an electronic reading device. It is about the size of a book, and its screen will show one "page" at a time. It can hold up to 200 books, which can be bought and downloaded instantly thanks to its wireless capabilities. It was hailed as perfect for travelers, who of course can only take so many books with them at one time. Having seen this, I can easily imagine this sort of thing taking the place of paper books in the not-so-distant future. After all, it would save so much money and so many trees. While I can agree that this could be a wonderful thing for someone who travels a lot, I can't imagine curling up on the couch in front of a fire, with a cup of hot cocoa and what is basically a little computer. No, I enjoy the feel of books, turning the pages, and the faded print of older books. While I am now sure that someday paper books will lose their place in most homes, I really hope that doesn't happen for a very long time.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Finally!

I finally got around to adding links to blogs I read. I've been discovering new blogs recently, so I may add more links in the future. I really enjoy reading other people's blogs - learning a little about their lives and getting new ideas!

I am also very happy this morning because Saturday our wireless internet started working again. We're supposed to have wireless in our college housing apartment, but for some reason, it hasn't worked for probably 6 months. So we've had to use the long ugly cable to hook up to the phone jack. Now it's put away. Hooray for wireless! =)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Yummy Homemade Mac & Cheese


I don't buy boxed macaroni and cheese very often, not only because the good stuff usually costs too much, but also because it really isn't very healthy. It is, however, good; better than most homemade kinds. For some reason they tend to either be kind of dry or not very cheesy. Since my husband really likes macaroni and cheese, one day I just decided to see if I could make my own. I based it off the boxed kind - using the ingredients they use, only using real cheese instead of the "cheese" powder. I just kind of winged it, adding some of each ingredient until it seemed good. It turned out really well - we both really liked it and I have made it again several times since. I wrote down the approximate amounts I used the first time, but I don't usually measure - I just estimate. Here is the "approximate" recipe that serves two people:

1 1/2 cups pasta (we like to use penne pasta)
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/8 milk
3/4 cup + a little more shredded cheddar cheese

Cook and drain pasta according to directions. When the pasta is almost done cooking, prepare the cheese sauce. Place margarine, milk, and 3/4 cup cheese in a sauce pan, heat and stir until smooth. Add it to cooked, drained pasta, mix well. Sprinkle in a little salt and pepper, if desired. Pour into a baking dish, sprinkle with a little more cheese, and place in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes until the cheese is melted. Enjoy!

I usually make more than this so I have some leftovers to send with my husband to work. One thing to note, also, is to put water in your pans soon after you make this - otherwise the cheese sticks to them and they are harder to clean.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Apples....




My grandma recently gave my parents a bunch of apples, and my mom passed some of them along to me. I finally was able to find some time to do something with them. I used a few of them to make a yummy apple crisp, but I wasn't quite sure what to do with the rest of them. I had to use them soon or they would start going bad. I thought about making and freezing applesauce, but unfortunately, that's not my husband's favorite thing. Then I remembered my mom saying something about freezing apple slices, and I decided to try it, since then I'd be able to use them at a later date, whether I wanted an apple pie, or make a little applesauce for me. I found a few sites online that explained what to do. I used the "dry pack" method, which simply involves peeling and slicing apples, then placing them on a cookie sheet, and putting that in the freezer. When the apples are frozen, they get placed in a freezer bag, labeled, and put back in the freezer. This will be great if I ever need a dessert in a hurry - with the work of peeling and slicing apples already done, I can make an apple crisp really quickly!

Traditions


We've had a busy week here so far, which isn't too unusual. This is the first evening we haven't had anything going on since last Wednesday. We spent the weekend celebrating Seth's birthday with our families, which was nice. I love birthdays, partly because I love all the traditions that go along with them. My family started some traditions when I was growing up that I've tried to continue, like serving the birthday person breakfast in bed, a birthday bag, which is kind of like a Christmas stocking, and a "cake topper" present, which is just a little present that is given when the cake is served. I'd like to be able to start some of my own traditions, too, but so far the only thing I've been able to think of is to make a special birthday candle that we've used since we've been married. It's one tradition of our own, and it also is a great money saver! I made the candle holder from a clean sparkling cider bottle, and just printed up a little "Happy Birthday" banner and taped it on the bottle. Then I just used a normal taper candle. This saves me from having to buy special birthday cake candles! It's kind of a fun way to recycle something that normally gets thrown away.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Girl's Night

I enjoyed a fun evening with my mom and sisters last night! My dad was away at a men's retreat, and my husband was busy last night, so it was just us girls. We went to a favorite Christmas bazaar, bought some fun things, then we went back to my parent's house to watch a Christmas movie! And of course, what's a movie without snacks to go with it? =) It is so nice to be able to spend time with people you love! I am so blessed to have a wonderful family!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Happy Birthday, Seth!

Today is my husband's birthday. I always love special days! Unfortunately, Seth had classes and his internship to go to, and I had to work. But we were able to spend some time together, too. I made him breakfast in bed, a special tradition from my family. When I got home from work, we had a nice dinner, watched a movie, and then we went out for dessert. We'll also get to spend some time with our families this weekend to celebrate!

Happy Birthday!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Decorate the Door - on the inside!




I read somewhere - I can't remember where - about putting something on the inside of your door so that it looks nice when people leave your house also, instead of just when they come in. So I've been planning a project for a while, but I wasn't able to actually make it until last night when I borrowed a small drill bit from my dad. It was simple to make - I just drilled a few holes, painted these pieces wood I found at a craft store, wrote on them with a Sharpie, and then put in some wire. I was pretty happy with the way it turned out. Someday I really need to learn how to do calligraphy - I've been wanting to for years, and it would help with projects like this. So the writing's not perfect, but it does add a little color and cheer to the inside of the door!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Home Office



We use our kitchen table for a lot more than just eating. Since our internet hook-up is by the table, this is where we use our computer, so this is also where Seth does his homework, and it's also where I do most of my household stuff - banking, budgeting, bill-paying, etc. Because of this, our table is often filled with papers, books, etc. So when it comes time to eat, we have to clear the table, usually piling the stuff on the couch because there isn't any where else for it to go. So I've been trying to think of a way to make things simpler for us, to allow us to be able to do the work we need to do at the table, but also help us keep it a little cleaner so we can use it for meals easier, too. So I've come up with a solution that has really worked for us. I already had the basket on the left, and I thought that would be a great place to be able to put papers that we're using, and it also has a place for pens and notepads. But I also needed something to put my household notebook in, and I really didn't know what would work for that. We decided to go to Ikea a few days ago (one of my favorite stores), and I found the basket on the right. It was absolutely perfect for my notebook. Now we're easily able to put everything away so the table stays pretty clean, but at the same time, everything is easily accessible for when we need it. The mini bulletin board above the right basket is something I made years ago - I just put a small piece of cork from a craft store into a small frame, and that works well for reminders, since it's something that I look at often. I've been really happy with this set up!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Coupons - to use or not to use?

Most "frugal" books that I've read tend to all say the same things. So I've found it interesting to find something that is "controversial" among those that consider themselves to be frugal. That is, some swear by it while others don't give it the time of day. Some people claim to save hundreds of dollars and get lots of stuff for practically nothing by using coupons, while others say that it isn't worth the time to search for coupons, and that when they do find them, they are usually for name-brand products they wouldn't buy anyway, or that are still more expensive than generic brands.

I tend to agree with those that think coupons aren't worth it. I personally don't use coupons very often. I purchase the majority of my groceries at the store my husband works at, where the prices are lower than most other stores, and I get a discount. Most of the products they sell are their own store brand, so manufacturers coupons don't work there anyway, and they don't put out store coupons. The rest of the things I buy I usually buy on sale, which often happen to be generic brand products. I don't have the time to spend looking for coupons, and the amount I would save probably wouldn't be worth it. Some stores in other parts of the country offer double or triple coupons, and then it is probably more worth the time spent looking for them. But around here, no stores do that. And since I am able to stick to a fairly frugal food budget without coupons, I don't really bother with them.

I will use them every once in a while, if I just happen to come across something I would use. I do have have a coupon envelope that I keep in my purse, mostly filled with coupons for 40% off something at a craft store or the Christian book store. I have found a few really good coupons that other people have posted on their blogs, like a coupon for a free bag of candy, or for $5 off a Polly Pocket toy. Since these are really good (i.e. free) coupons for something I would buy, I'll use them. My mom will give me good coupons sometimes, also, like a coupon for $5 off a Tylenol product. Since I have a hard time swallowing pills, I buy chewable Tylenol, so this coupon will save me a fair amount of money. This is the sort of coupon that is worthwhile to me. Most coupons aren't that worth it.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Day After...

This is one of the most dreaded days of the year for a teacher. The day with tired, cranky kids who are coming down off a sugar high. Fortunately, it wasn't as bad today as it could have been. The kids had their moments, but for the most part it seemed like they had slept most of the sugar off.

Now, since the holiday is over, I'm going to be on the watch for cheap candy that I can use to make one of the cool Christmas wreaths featured here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bvaRCEwZTm4

Just copy and paste the address to check it out.

Yum!