Monday, August 31, 2009

Cutting and Freezing Jalapeños

The pepper plants in my garden continue to produce well, and I still have some blooms so it looks like we'll be getting peppers up until it freezes. (Which, based on the buzzing insects - locusts or cicadas, whatever you call them - may not be too far away!) I canned some jalapeños but I like to freeze some, too.

Kitchen tip: ALWAYS wear gloves when cutting jalapeños. Seriously. It is SO NOT worth the burn! You can get plastic or latex gloves similar to what food service workers wear that are pretty cheap, but they can be a bit flimsy. Replace them as soon as you notice them sticking to your hand - that means you likely have a leak somewhere. Wash your hands immediately. DO NOT rub your face, eyes, or anything else. If you wear contacts, I highly recommend removing them before working on the jalapeños just in case. That is the reason Alton Brown always wears glasses now.

If you do find yourself suffering from "jalapeño hands", you can visit this post by Newly Purnell for a number of suggestions for relief. (warning - some comments are a bit crass, and some contain swear words - that pain would drive a saint to drink, though . . .) It sounds like different things work for different people. Some that I noticed included:
* milk - I recommend pouring on a cloth or paper towel and applying that to the burning area
* rubbing alcohol (also pour on cloth and apply) and/or hand sanitizer
* rubbing the affected area on something made of stainless steel if possible
* paste made of baking soda and water
* Calamine lotion
* An anti-oil facial astringent or anti-oil acne cream containing benzoyl peroxide
* honey
and many, many more.

Actually, I'm thinking I might declare a pair of rubber gloves (like those used for washing dishes) for jalapeño use only, because I tend to use my left thumbnail and index fingernail to scrape out seeds and membranes, which eventually weakens the glove and that leads to a very high likelihood of jalapeño hands.

To freeze "whole" jalapeños, I cut the tops off, then run the tip of my knife around the top of the pepper between the flesh and the seed pod in the center, through the ribs, or membranes. I then make one cut down to the bottom tip. I open the pepper up, remove the seed pod, try to remove as much of the ribs as I can, and all the loose seeds. I then put them in a freezer zip top bag and freeze. Today I fit about 32 jalapeños per quart bag, though I could have packed a few more in if needed.

Hubs likes jalapeños but isn't crazy about cream cheese, so the standard jalapeño popper recipes aren't his cup of tea. A few years ago, I came across a recipe for Jalapeño Chicken Wraps in a Taste of Home magazine that Hubs really likes.

I found that in order to get the bacon as crisp as he likes it, I needed to pre-cook the bacon if I used the grill. I have also made them in the oven, and that seems to crisp the bacon better.

Enjoy your hot peppers - but do it safely! And for more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes!

Porcupine Meatballs

One of my favorite meals at my grandma's house when I was little was porcupine meatballs. Of course, it may have been influenced by the macaroni and cheese and homemade bread she served with it - and I'm sure there was some sort of vegetable, but it has certainly faded to the background. If my memory serves correctly, once I grew up I asked for the recipe and she just used tomato sauce. That doesn't quite fit with my grown-up palate (or the memory, but I digress), so I set out to create my own.

I've actually combined two recipes, one that I found somewhere for the meatballs themselves, and another for the sauce. Perhaps I'd better back up - in case you aren't familiar with porcupine meatballs, they contain rice, which kind of sticks out like little quills.

This time, I used four pounds of hamburger, and I tried making the meatballs larger than usual . . . the scoop I used was probably about 1/3 cup, though I probably only had about 1/4 cup of mixture in there. I then put the meatballs on cookie sheets and baked them instead of browning them in a skillet. Since I had 44 total meatballs, I divided them 11 to a batch and froze three batches and cooked the other one.

Being me, I was out of white rice so I used brown . . . and during the simmering part, I cooked it and cooked it and cooked it. Still wasn't done. So the next day, I put the meatballs and sauce in the crock pot and THEN the rice finally got done. But the meatballs pretty much fell apart! Can't win for losing, and it tasted great. I've added white rice to the shopping list, though.

So. Recipes!
Porcupine Balls

2 pounds hamburger
1 cup regular uncooked white rice
1/2 cup water
1 medium onion, chopped fine
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon celery salt (optional - I never have it)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix well, shape into about 20 balls, brown.

Mix 15 oz can tomato sauce, 1 cup water, and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, pour over balls. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes or until rice is tender.
And here's the meatballs and sauce recipe that *I* like for the sauce (more on that in a bit):
Barbecued Meatballs - from a former co-worker's mother who is a good cook! And it's an honest-to-goodness freezer cooking recipe.

3 pounds hamburger
12 oz can evaporated milk
1 cup oatmeal
1 cup cracker crumbs (~27 saltines)
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons chili powder

2 cups ketchup
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (see my riblet post for a link on why it's OK to use - no crazy chemicals!)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup chopped onion

Meatballs: combine all ingredients (will be soft) and shape into walnut-sized balls. Freeze in single layer on wax-lined cookie sheets until firm, remove to air tight container and return to freezer.

Place frozen meatballs in 9x13 pan. Combine all sauce ingredients in bowl and stir until sugar dissolves. Pour over meatballs. Bake at 350* for one hour.

Notes: may want to make half again the sauce amount if you like saucy meatballs. Sauce can also be used on meatloaf.
My problem? Hubs thinks the sauce is too sweet. I can see his point.

So this time I experimented with a mixture of BBQ sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, and Worcestershire. I used about 1 cup BBQ sauce, 1/2 cup ketchup, about 3 tablespoons brown sugar, several good shakes of Worcestershire, and some water to thin it, though I'm not sure I needed it. In actuality, I intended to use more ketchup but ran out. I thought the sauce smelled too BBQ sauce-y, but the flavor wasn't quite as strong. Still, I intend to use a higher ratio of ketchup next go-around. And, with three pounds of meatballs in the freezer, there WILL be a next time . . .

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Canning Spicy Tomato Juice & Jalapeños

It's been a while since I've introduced a new category to my blog, and I hope this one ends up with lots of posts eventually! This week, I canned spicy tomato juice. It's a recipe I've had for a while (and I actually managed to track down via the Taste of Home website - spicy tomato juice recipe) and I'm sure I clipped it because it gives instructions on freezing it. I've been afraid of canning for a long time (something about sending your whole family to the hospital does that to a girl) but I really want to conquer it!

There are still quite a few tomatoes in my freezer from last year (I'll have to share with you how I freeze tomatoes!) so I tried using about half frozen and half fresh. I ended up making about half again the recipe, although I ended up with about double the yield. I also didn't pay strict attention to the amounts, just put in about what I thought it should be and had Hubs taste test it when it was done. (YOU tell ME how many tiny onions make up "three medium onions" worth - plus half again, to boot!)

I will use about two quarts of this when I make chili (mmmMMM, can't wait until I make it so I can share that recipe with you!) and I also canned several smaller jars as Hubs enjoys it in a red beer every now and then.

Surely you know I couldn't do this without an "incident" right? Since tomatoes are so acidic, I went with my dad's advice that I didn't need to put them in a water bath to can them. So I washed the jars in HOT soapy water (using rubber gloves - it was that hot), and rinsed them in HOT water, then filled them with HOT juice, then put HOT lids on them and screwed on the rings. Then I started clicking around to some friends' sites, and got nervous.

I ended up removing the lids, using new (boiled) lids, and processing them in a water bath. (EDIT: I now am adding lemon juice to each jar, and I've also read that juice should be processed in a pressure canner. Good grief this stuff is complicated, isn't it???) Since I had a bit of extra space, I also made some pickled jalapeños since Hubs likes them.

Like everyone's kitchen, mine HEATS UP when canning . . . some things that I did to try and keep it cool included:
* setting a fan in the doorway to blow cool air in (while Goose was napping, of course).
* dumping my hot water as soon as I was done with it (I would also recommend taking it outside to cool and then using it on your garden).
* taking my jars from the water bath into the bathroom to cool - I lined the tub with a towel and set them in there. I also put the pot in there until it cooled down.

I also wasn't quite sure where to store my newly canned treasures. Away from heat and light is recommended . . . so I put them under the bed in the spare room! It's close enough to the kitchen that they won't be hard to grab when I need them.

If you're new to canning, I highly recommend Laura at Heavenly Homemaker's Canning 101, and you may remember that Lori at A Frugally Old Fashioned Homemaker put together a great post on Helpful Canning Information.

Link Roundup - Papa Airplane! Edition

We took Goose to breakfast at a fly-in this morning. (A fly-in is when a bunch of pilots fly to a designated airport and show off their planes, basically. Sometimes the bigger ones might have an air show or some such, but this one was quite low-key.) Goose ate her pancake, and eyed the kitties running around the building. When she was done, I thought she might want to go pet them, but she was ready to look at planes! Or so I thought. Turns out, I think, she was ready to go flying! Unfortunately Papa didn't bring his airplane . . . I'm thinking the two of them are going to need to take to the sky before long!

Lots of great links this week -

I'm a big whiny weenie when it comes to heat, which is why I've been so cheerful lately with the cooler temps. What, haven't you noticed? :>) I'm making note of this post on DIY Neck Coolers at Salihan Crafts - I've seen these here and there but this one jumped out at me and said "why don't you make one?!?" Need to find those crystals first . . .

Not sure that I'm quite ready to make the step, but Katie at Kitchen Stewardship posted on Effective Homemade Deodorant that is very intriguing.

Hopefully no one ever needs to know this, but I really liked this post on How to Make a Designer Hospital Gown. I bet these are real day brighteners!

As you know, I'm a geek for bubbles, and I love this Bigger Better Bubbles Homemade Wand at The Adventure of Motherhood.

EAT (I must have been hungry while surfing this week - lots of recipes to try!)
Amy at Finer Things posted on Blueberry Overnight Coffee Cake and a recipe from Crystal (of Biblical Womanhood and Money Saving Mom fame) for Lazy Granola.

Sarah at Sarah's Musings posted on Calabacitas and Whole Wheat Graham Crackers. (In Spanish, calabaza is squash or pumpkin . . . and I'm reminded of a silly little rhyme we used to say when I was studying in Mexico. It isn't very funny when translated, but thanks, Sarah, for the reminder of that little memory!)

Skip to My Lou has a post on Making Strawberry Fruit Leather with a link to an apricot version.

That reminds me that Laura at Heavenly Homemakers posted last year on Homemade Fruit Leather - also not in a dehydrator! She made apple and peach. MMMM!

Similarly, Tipnut has a post on Drying Apples without a dehydrator, no less. I think I'd need a cooler day, but wouldn't that smell amazing?!?

I was intrigued by this post on How to Make a Decision Like Ben Franklin at The Art of Manliness (with a heads up from Trent at the Simple Dollar). As a math geek and lover of all things complicated, I've actually done something similar a few times.

Amy at Finer Things wrote a great post on being The Entertainer (or not) as part of her "Mommy, Come Home" series. I'm pleased to say that Goose spends most of her time playing by herself, though I would like to pull together more of the activities that I post about here :>) for us to do together.

Lori at A Frugally Old Fashioned Homemaker posted on putting up corn, and in response to my question, she then posted on the brush she uses to Silk Corn. We have been just accepting those wayward pieces of silk in our corn . . . perhaps next year will be silk-free! Thanks, Lori!

I really enjoyed this post at Conversion Diary on "I Want To Homeschool But I'm Afraid", and the best part is the comments and links there. I'm really excited to give honest-to-goodness homeschooling a try in a few years.

Along those lines, I enjoyed these posts on back-to-school traditions - Plum Pudding did a scavenger hunt and Once Upon A Holiday made a Schultute, which is actually a first-year-of-school thing. Hubs and I both have some German in our ancestry, so this works in well!

Here is a YouTube video on Pope John Paul II that shows his extraordinary connection with children. I cried while watching it and I realized again how much a person can love someone they've never met . . . and I miss him so much. Sounds odd, I suppose, considering I never met him. He was a truly great man.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Today's Treasures

I visited our thrift store today, for the first time since before we left on vacation. I'd been hitting it pretty hard right up until we left, looking for things to keep Goose occupied in the car. (Note: I updated with more pics and how things worked for us!) Today I was able to relax and browse a bit since I had a bit of time between working and heading home to pick Goose up for lunch. For $2, this is what I found:

Four games for ten cents each. We already have Scrabble, but I wanted to get an extra one to make necklaces! (You can read about my silhouette pendant making, and Make and Takes has the initial Scrabble tile pendant tutorial that got me thinking about it. Chasing Cheerios also put a new spin on Scrabble tile pendants.)

Sorry is an old favorite, Hurry Up is a new one I'd never seen before (it's kind of a marble maze, I think), and you fellow 80s kiddos may recognize ol' Simon. :>)

Here's the rest of the fun stuff! I picked up a copy of the OLD Cheaper by the Dozen, which my mom read to us a chapter at a time spread over several bedtimes - I can't bring myself to watch the Steve Martin movie. I'm sure it's nice, but it just isn't the same. Ahem. I also picked up a copy of Sewing With Scraps (which may end up as a give-away . . . ) and a coloring book for Goose.

I also found a small toy iron, which I think is similar to one I had as a wee lass (is that right, Mom? Did I have an ironing board, too? I need to dig around your basement . . . just as soon as I have an actual toy room to put it all in!) and a small sieve that she can use if we ever get her a sandbox. I also picked up some floral foam, a small packaged kit to make five cloth-covered buttons, some chenille stems (that I will forever refer to as pipe cleaners), three wooden clothes pegs for organizing ribbon scraps, a package of small wooden beads, a magnifying glass, and a package of wooden rings.

I need to dig around a bit more as I thought I had posted about a game I made for my nieces that used a wooden ring, but I sure can't find it. Maybe that'll be next week's Frugal Friday post - it was cheap and easy! (and hopefully fun!) Anyway. My total was actually only $1.75 but they don't make change so I rounded up. Not too shabby, eh? I've already told Hubs that IT IS ON - we'll be playing some Simon tonight!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bangle Bracelets

God surely has a sense of humor. My sweet cow farmer of a husband has two very lovely, trendy sisters. Now, I may have been raised a "city girl" (if you can call a town of 5,000 souls a "city"), but I have completely adapted to the rural life where a normal day means you see cows, cats, chickens, and an occasional neighbor drive by. I would hardly know a trend if it knocked on the door and invited itself for dinner.

So, when it comes to coming up with gifts for these lovely girls, I turn to one million of my closest crafty "friends" on the internet for guidance. Whenever I see something that I can make for them without a lot of expensive purchased inputs - but into which I can pour a lot of love - I bookmark it! (And I now pass all these ideas on to you, in my reading the whole internet posts.)

One such idea that I found last year turned into Christmas presents for my trendy sisters - One Pearl Button's decoupaged bangle bracelets. The instructions are easy enough for ME to follow, and the results were pretty good, I thought! (Photo is my sister-in-law who happened to be wearing one of her bracelets on the same day I posted this!)

Basically, you tear pages from a magazine or catalog and use Mod Podge to stick them on a wooden bracelet "blank". This was my first time with Mod Podge and I really got into it. I also sprayed them with an acrylic sealant so hopefully they wouldn't feel tacky. I enjoyed picking colors that I thought reflected their personalities and mixing and matching them so they'd flow well together.

I recently came across a similar version for the younger set at Whipup. I haven't made any yet, but perhaps Goose needs a couple so she can dress up like her aunties? I don't know - what's the old saying about how do you keep them down on the farm once they've seen the light of the city? Nah . . . I have a feeling Goose's favorite thing will always be tractor rides with papa so hopefully we're safe. :>)

Also, I'm soliciting advice on a vacuum sealer and a dehydrator to preserve our garden goodness . . . I'd love it if you Frugal Friday folk would head over to that post and share any knowledge you have!

And for more frugal ideas, visit Life as Mom.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Any Atari Geeks Out There?

I have been reminiscing a bit lately, remembering all kinds of "this time last year, Goose was [insert action here]" - such as learning how to walk around the 4th of July. (She was a late walker.) About this time last year, I was comparing our life to the Atari game of Adventure. (Link takes you to Wikipedia.)

[Or better yet, click here to play! Though it's a bit tougher using the arrow keys instead of a joystick and I just figured out how to drop something without picking something else up: use the spacebar. Man, I could waste a ton of time there. We didn't need no stinkin' fancy graphics when I was a kid!]

Anyway. Where I actually was going with this - and it isn't necessarily going to make sense unless you have played the game a lot - is that having a newly walking toddler was kind of like having the bat in our house. I'd leave something somewhere, and when I went back for it, it would be gone. Something new might be in its place. And that thing would be somewhere else, and whatever was there would be gone.

I'm hoping *somebody* out there can relate having played Adventure in their glory days - because this comparison really cracks me up. And now I'm off to play Adventure again, and maybe lean on Hubs to hook up our old Atari . . .

Help! Need a New Vacuum Sealer & Dehydrator

My parents are so generous to us; a few years ago, this manifested itself in a vacuum sealer. I didn't realize what a treasure it was until last year when I used it to vacuum seal some of our garden bounty. I loved it - but I found a problem right away. I didn't dry the green beans after blanching them, and some of the water seems to have gotten sucked into the motor and this year, it doesn't work at all. I'm REALLY disappointed, to say the least! But I have a couple of gift cards that I have tucked away for this purpose, so now I'd love to get your input!

If you have a vacuum sealer, what brand is it? What do you love about it? What do you not like about it? Is there something it doesn't do that you wish it did?

You can see Tammy's posts on vacuum sealing here:
Vacuum-Sealed Foods
Food Saving Without a Food Saver
Meatballs In Bulk, For the Freezer
Input Requested, Frozen Meal Ideas
Making and Freezing Pepperoni

And, while I have you here, do you have a food dehydrator? Same questions - what brand, what do you love and not like?

Tammy's posts on dehydrating can be found here:
Food Dehydrators
Preserving Food - What Do I Do?
Dehydrated Pears
Dehydrating Bananas
Banana Blessings
Onions, Onions, Onions
Cheaper Baked Beans

(Some of the mentions are in the comments.)

Other blogs I love that have sections on preserving: Bethany's section on Canning and Preserving and Kim's Sections on Canning and Dehydrating, Lori's canning, Sarah's Lacto-Fermentation Series, and it takes a bit more digging, go look at Laura's blog. (How about a canning catagory, Laura?!?) :>)

I'm anxious to read what you have to say!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Link Roundup, Meatloaf on the Grill Edition

I tried a new meatloaf recipe last night but did NOT want to run the oven for two hours. So, I put it on the grill. I made a small pan out of heavy duty foil, and put the shaped loaf in it, then slid a cookie sheet under the foil to take it out to the grill. Once I had it positioned, I made sure the edges of my foil pan were all standing up and added the water. I grilled it on medium-low for about an hour and a half to an hour and forty-five minutes. I also made grilled potatoes on the other side (and then used leftover potatoes in breakfast burritos this morning and leftover meatloaf in sandwiches at lunch).

So. Links! This is sort of two weeks worth, so hang on to your hats -

Valerie posted about a fun modern art project her daughter did - very cute!

Here is a fun easy handmade bubble blower at Chasing Cheerios made out of straws. Possibly the best part is the comment that a few pin pricks mean you can blow out to make bubbles but not suck in any yucky stuff (bleah!).

Along those lines, Monkey Lobster has directions on making giant bubbles with a homemade wand.

Calamity Kim (great blog name!) has a post on How to Make Chiffon Flowers. I love the imperfections of them!

Martha Stewart has some downloadable doily patterns that are shown printed on labels and stuck on tins. My recommendation? Pair that with the repurposed tins that you cover with scrapbook paper yourself. Oh, and I wouldn't spend money on full-page labels, either . . . I'd print on regular paper and cut it out, then use Mod Podge or other glue to stick it to the tin. Or a at a minimum, I'd try to make stickers out of the leftover part of the label!

I was highly amused by these fish in a bag soaps at Peak Candle Supplies.

I'm intrigued by the method these custom wooden nickels are made. (at Just Something I Made)

Here's another water bottle tote, at The Long Thread this time. I like the elastic at the top to keep the bottle in. Now I just need a decent water bottle . . .

My sister-in-law Rach sent me a link for this Recycled Wine Bottle Torch. When I look at our life, I'm a bit taken aback by how little time Goose and I seem to spend outside some days. I really dislike mosquitoes (and their bites, and things like West Nile Virus), and I also really dislike coating myself and my kid in bug spray chemicals, and I further dislike having to try to scrub off said chemicals once we come inside. We talked to some friends recently about their bug control methods, which include a mosquito magnet placed at the edge of their farmyard and twice weekly spraying, but then I wonder 1) about the effectiveness of spray when it's OUTSIDE and then 2) if it hangs around, then your kid is picking that up while playing in the grass. No winners here. Anyway, the torch is way cool. :>)

Valerie also has some great Laundry Day Fun ideas at Frugal Family Fun Blog. I don't have too hard of a time getting laundry done, though Goose sometimes "helps" me by putting things in or taking them out . . . one. at. a. time. But, in a number of years hopefully I'll have her doing laundry on her own, so I'm trying to think of the payoff down the road.

Here is an amazing post on a Dr. Seuss baby shower at Kara's Party Ideas that is crazy cute and well-thought out! I'm thinking it was likely pretty pricey, though. I think, though, that there are ideas that can be borrowed from it to pull off something of similar "ooh" factor for less cash . . .

Whisker Graphics has a very cute printable for a 5 Good Things Booklet. It was created as a way of looking at the positive in each day, and the booklet holds a week's worth of good things. (And I love the design!)

Tipnut has posts linking recipes for pizza sauce and pizza dough. I have collected a bazillion recipes for both and have yet to find one that doesn't make me go "meh". It's really a personal thing, I think.

I beg your pardon for interjecting a quite serious note. I came across a link to Regina Doman's 20 Things You Can Do For Those Who Are Grieving. Regina wrote it after her son Joshua was killed in a tragic accident. It is recirculating after Mary Ellen Barrett's son drowned last week. It has reminded me to pray for all who have lost a child at any stage of life, from the womb on up. I can't imagine the hole it leaves in a parent's heart.

I think a lot about how God uses suffering to draw us closer to Him. Karen Edmiston has a knack for saying things better than I can, and quoting the good ones. In Keeping Company with Karen, an interview at just another day of Catholic pondering, she notes:
C.S. Lewis once said that “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
(Now go read the rest for the context!)

Trent at the Simple Dollar wrote a great post on dorm clutter: what you actually need for college that I should have had 15 years ago (yikes!). Actually, this could apply toward pretty much most of life - I know I have way WAY more stuff than I really need.

Scroll down about half way in Melissa Wiley's Scribbles and Bits post for some really great links on watercolors. Very interesting . . . and a long way, I'm sure, from the watercolors of my childhood.

Melissa Wiley also provided a link to this post on making Ivory soap souffle in the microwave. We'll have to wait a few years for Goose to appreciate it, but it sure looks fun!

It's been a while since I've linked to Jen at Conversion Diary, but her post on Stopping to Smell the Roses: a Practical Guide really struck me this week. What it said to me was that if I want to fit in more, I need to do less, though that isn't really what she says. Oh, heck, just go read it for yourself. :>)

My knitting skills are still in the very preliminary learning stages. So when I saw a tip on using a crochet hook to pick up dropped stitches, I was intrigued. Interestingly, it came in a post at Girl on the Rocks in a tutorial on making a keychain crochet hook. Man, I love the internet. How random is that?

We won't be going this year, but I have Hubs locked in to taking Goose and me to the 2010 Nebraska State Fair since it's moving closer to where we live. Trent at the Simple Dollar wrote a post last year on A Frugal Guide to the State Fair with lots of great tips on how to get the most out of it.

Speaking of Trent at the Simple Dollar, he also has a post on I'll Do It Tomorrow (basically lack of motivation). I need to revisit this on a regular basis . . .

Copyblogger wrote about 5 Common Grammar Mistakes that I read with interest. I'm a bit of a grammar lover, but I know I make big mistakes sometimes - especially when I'm in a hurry! (So if you ever catch a mistake on my posts . . . feel free to gently let me know! :>)) I have to admit the one I notice the most is when people use an apostrophe when the word is actually plural. (i.e. The cat's are in the barn. Should be "cats".) (My apologies for friends who I've mentioned this to . . . it's a compulsion, really.)

And finally, this one is for Lori who recently got curious about cooking habits: Trent at the Simple Dollar wrote about the lessons he learned after embarking on an adventure of making (and making suggestions to remake) a number of recipes from NPR's How Low Can You Go series. (visit the post for a whole bunch of links and some interesting sounding recipes - plus Trent's comments) Trent is considering a food blog and I hope he does it!

Whew - next week should be better since I won't have two weeks of posts.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Giveaway Winners!

Zoiks, how could I go through my entire day - proofreading at my day job, lunch at my MIL's, mowing the lawn, making meatloaf for supper on the grill - and not announce the giveaway winners?!? Let's get down to it! Winners are:

Sarah! She chose a pair of baby leg warmers, and she'll get the Patchwork book, too.

Vanessa! She will get the taggie blanket.

Amy! She'll get the bathtub fishing game.

Shaye! She's getting the crochet book AND a pair of leg warmers.

FrugalFarmFamily! She didn't pick anything :>) so she's going to get the holiday and Christmas books and the Heloise book. (It'll save me on postage!)

Hélène! (who also food blogs here - yum!) She'll get the giraffe baby leg warmers.

Rachel! She gets the tins.

Valerie! She gets the fairy wings.

Zimms Zoo! She chose sock monkey baby leg warmers.

Connie! She chose a pair of Christmas baby leg warmers.

Heather! She'll get the Breastfeeding book and a pair of baby leg warmers.

Angela! She gets a pair of pig baby leg warmers.

You may notice a theme . . . I'm looking at the enormous pile of baby leg warmers I have and I'd rather they be on some chubby little legs than waiting in boxes. So, I went with a nice even dozen winners. I e-mailed or contacted through your blog each of you (I think!) so please get back to me with your shipping address and I'll get your loot sent out.

Thanks to all for participating, and as I said, I have several fun things set aside for giveaways, so I'll have to do a few more . . . just let me save my nickles for postage!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bathtub Fishing Game

Back on this reading the whole internet post, I highlighted this post on foam bath toys. I took it one step further and made it into a fishing game! (I have also put some in my Etsy shop)

To find the patterns, I did Swagbucks searches for coloring pages with reasonably simple outlines. I used Microsoft Word to resize the images so they'd be approximately the same size (4" or so, to be easily handled by a toddler). I then traced them onto pieces of 2mm to 3mm craft foam sheets and cut them out.

I wasn't exactly sure how to go about making the net. I found a couple of plastic embroidery hoops at the thrift store and a piece of netting that I think is tulle. I pulled the tulle through to about what I thought would be a good amount of net - enough to actually catch the fish but not so much as to make the fish difficult to retrieve from the net. I folded the extra tulle back over the hoop to provide more layers to hopefully make it stronger and then stitched around by hand through all the layers. It works!

As noted in the linked post above, I saved the extra pieces from cutting out the foam forms. I cut them down into reasonable sized chunks and punched holes in them for Goose to string on a shoelace as a necklace. I actually went one step further, and saved the hole punches as well as the trimmings that were too small for necklace pieces and once Goose is a bit older, we'll use them to make a collage, I think.

For more frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom.

Vacation Pics

So Goose is snoozing her way toward hour 3 of her first nap back in her crib, and I'm just now getting to this post. I've spent more time than I probably should have trying to knock down the numbers in my Reader (and I tried to spend some time each day keeping it below double digits!) so we'll see if I can get this done and published. Not that anybody was worried, but I have a number of posts bookmarked for this week's reading the whole internet post! Anyway, as we say in our house - ready, set, go!

This is Goose and me enjoying some ice cream at one of the stops in Yellowstone. At the last minute, I tossed in her favorite winter hat and I was glad that I did - not only did it help keep her warm, but she was so glad to see it. You can see her faithful favorite animals made the trip, too.

Here we are on the huge teddy bear sofa at the wolf and bear center. This and the playground there were the most exciting things . . .

Goose is talking to my mom here as we waited for Old Faithful. She saw the steam and told my mom "hot!" You can also see the necklace she made out of a shoelace and small empty thread spools. She wore it a lot. :>)

Hubs and Goose are checking out the Wind River behind our motel in Dubois, Wyoming. It was really pretty! We had a great room there, too - half the price of the one in Big Sky and every bit as accommodating.

Here are wagon ruts along the Oregon Trail near Gurnsey, Wyoming. Looking at them, I felt so . . . SOFT compared to those pioneer women. Could you imagine riding in a wagon all that way? With all your worldly possessions, many of which were abandoned along the way to lighten the load for the animals? Mercy. We also visited Independence Rock and Register Cliff, two places where pioneers carved their names (similar to Chimney Rock here in Nebraska). It was interesting to see how the scratchings had eroded - I'm sure the inscribers thought it would be there forever.

We were all pretty glad to sleep in our own beds last night. In fact, by early evening, Goose was saying "bedtime!" and asking to be put in her crib so she could play in the familiar surroundings. She went to sleep pretty quickly once it was actually bedtime, and slept nice and late, too. (So did her mama!) I need to upload a few more pictures to my post on keeping toddlers occupied in the car and provide a bit of feedback on how things went. Overall, Goose was an amazing traveler and did quite well . . . though there were a few times when I wished we'd have brought my parents' TV/VCR with a few of their beloved Care Bear tapes!

Thankfully I got this banged out before Goose woke up, so I'd better do a bit more unpacking. It's amazing what a wreck the house can turn into! See you tomorrow with a Frugal Friday post -

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Almost Home/Sewing in Baby Steps

We are staying at my parents' tonight - it was one of those things where we just couldn't go another mile even if we wanted to. Goose has been a trooper, though! I think the only thing that got her through this evening's drive was the thought that she would get to watch Care Bears at Grandma's. My mom *just* took her upstairs to bed, so it's another late night. Here's hoping we'll be back on schedule soon once we get home.

I wanted to make a quick post to point out that Valerie at Frugal Family Fun Blog is hosting a beginner's sewing workshop called Sewing in Baby Steps to help anyone learn how to sew! Though I've been stitching away for several months now, I joined to see what she's cooking up - I know I will learn some new things, too. There are instructions on the linked post on how to join the Google Group, and it starts September 1st. Hope to see you there - tell all your friends! :>)

I have pictures uploaded to my computer and hope to share a few of them once we get honest-to-goodness home. Hope everyone is well!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Microwave Chex Mix

In the summer, I like to use the oven as little as possible. In preparing for our week-long car trip to Wyoming, I wanted to pack some snacks that would help keep us going without being too unhealthy or expensive. Homemade Chex Mix fits the bill (and is delicious!!) but running my oven for an hour in August is about the last thing I want to do. Kitchen tip: use the microwave to make Chex Mix! My basic recipe is the same:

Chex Mix
3-6 tablespoons butter (less is lower fat, more is yummier; I use about 4.5 T)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon seasoned salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
3 cups each Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Wheat Chex
1 cup pretzel sticks or mini twists
1 cup bagel chips or melba toast, broken into bite sized pieces if necessary

I measure all the cereal, pretzels, and chips into a gallon ziptop bag. In fact, I will sometimes measure it all out and just store it in the ziptop bags ready to be seasoned and cooked. (You'll need two boxes of wheat Chex to one box each of rice and corn and I think you'll end up with six total batches.)

Melt the butter in a cup or bowl, stir in seasonings. Pour over cereal, zip top closed, and shake well but gently to combine. Pour into a large bowl. Microwave on high for two minutes, stir. Microwave another two minutes on high and stir, then microwave one more minute. Bowl will be HOT! Pour out on newspapers (I cover them with a layer of paper towels) to cool and dry. Flavor improves as mix cools. Store in an airtight container if you have any leftover.

In the winter, I prefer to make the mix in the oven. I just bake it at 250* for an hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

And be sure to visit my give-away post - there's something for everyone!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Vacation Update

[I don't have too many links to share as of now, so I'm not doing a Reading the Whole Internet post yet.]

We're having a pretty lovely time on our vacation! We left home after Goose's nap on Wednesday, and stayed at my parents' that night. Goose got me out of bed about 1:45 with some pretty hard crying, but was able to go back to sleep after a bit. Thursday we drove all the way to Sheridan, Wyoming, intending to stop at Ft. Laramie but by the time we got there, Goose was asleep and I wasn't about to wake her up.

On Friday, we enjoyed a lovely lunch with a whole bunch of family on a beautiful lake. Hubs took the Goose back to the hotel for her nap, which she not-so-politely declined. Sigh. Of course, she slept about 10 minutes on the way to the wedding. She hung in there pretty well, but when she misses a nap like that, I really prefer to get her down for an early bedtime to make up for it. I gave in to some family peer pressure, though, and stayed for the late dinner . . .

[The wedding was outdoors and they zipped through towards the end as a thunderstorm made its way towards us. We rushed inside just as it started to rain. Unfortunately, the dinner was intended to be outdoors and no one in charge must have realized the storm was coming because they didn't pull in the tables. We waited quite a while for them to set up some alternate locations inside - I think we ended up eating in an excercise room? - then we waited for the bridal party to get back from wherever they went on a bus.]

Goose chattered all the way home, and didn't fuss much going to bed, which was nice. She didn't sleep in, though. We got packed up and headed on to Little Big Horn, which is where Custer's Last Stand took place. We ate lunch there then walked around the trails, and Goose ended up falling asleep in the stroller, which has *never* happened before. Better yet, she stayed asleep for the transfer into her car seat (never EVER happened before!) and actually ended up sleeping around 3.5 hours, tying her recently set car nap record. She woke up about the time we got to Bozeman for supper, and we continued on to Big Sky where we had hotel reservations.

Our room is fantastic for what we need - there are two queen beds in the main room (one for sleeping, one for stuff!) then another queen bed in a separate bedroom. I've learned that Goose and I both sleep better when we are not in the same room. (Someday, I'll do a long post or series of posts on what to do when your baby is a terrible sleeper.) Last night, she'd reached the end of her rope, though.

We splashed around in the pool for a while hoping to wear her out, and it was quite late by the time I put her down. She spent an hour and a half alternating between crying HARD and saying "blanket! help!" and holding her taggie blanket that my MIL made her. I couldn't for the life of me figure out what she wanted to do with it - I tried every part of the crib and her and finally gave up. I got her to sit down and patted her back until she was nearly out then I leaned her over and she thankfully stayed asleep.

This morning we visited West Yellowstone before heading into the park. We were walking with Goose when she slipped out of both our hands, fell, and bonked her poor head. I felt awful, but it was pretty minor. Hubs drove through the park while Goose and I slept, which was nice. :>) Actually, we only slept through about half of it, and stretched our legs (and had some ice cream!) then saw some spectacular sights. (Yes, I know I should post pictures but it's late and my borrowed camera and cord are all the way across the room.)

We went back to West Yellowstone and visited . . . something - don't remember what it's called. It was billed as some sort of bear and wolf place but it sure wasn't worth the money. The best part was the playground where Goose and another little girl had a blast on the slides. (The other little one was a week younger than Goose.) Then it was off to supper where the inevitable happened - Goose took a face plant. She has been running more and getting braver this trip, so it was bound to happen. It wasn't nearly as bad as it could have been - she didn't even cut her lip. But I still felt awful and I hope we don't spend much if any time in that town tomorrow!

As a blessing, she went to sleep without a peep tonight, and at a pretty reasonable time, too. Tomorrow should be a good day! We're planning to drive through the south loop of the park then toward home, though I don't know that we'll even make it as far as my parents'.

I'll get some pics posted soon, I promise. Hope everyone had a great weekend!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Homemade Baby Leg Warmers

Greetings from beautiful Wyoming! We had a lovely trip here (mostly) - beautiful scenery, 2-year-old took a 3.5 hour nap in the car (!), I forgot my wallet, my camera, and a bracelet device that I use to control motion sickness when driving through the mountains(!). Luckily I brought most of the cash we intended to bring, Hubs has all our credit cards, and the only thing I'm really missing is my drivers' license. My mom loaned me her camera, and we'll pick up some Dramamine or such before heading into the mountains. On to Frugal Friday!

When I got pregnant and started reading all the "baby propaganda" out there, one advertisement that stuck out as *cute*cute*cute* was for Babylegs. Ever the cheapskate, though, I set my sights on more practical items that we actually needed. If YOU wish to buy a pair or six of my leg warmers, I'd be happy to oblige, though! Please click over to my Etsy shop from the sidebar.

One day, I stumbled across a tutorial on flickr to make baby leg warmers out of socks. When I went back to link to it, it said the page was now private. I've not taken pictures when I've made any, so this post was an attempt to walk you through it in words. Goose is shown above sporting her cow leg warmers. [edit: here it is!! And here is a tutorial on how to make them using a dollar store scarf. Awesome!]

First, get your hands on a cute pair of adult knee socks. Unless they're for a tiny baby, you want actual knee length, not mid-calf or crew or anything else - and adult size, not girls. Lay them out flat whichever way they come out of the package, usually with the fold running down what would be your shin and where the stocking seam would hit down your calf if ladies still wore such things. (How's that for a visual???)

I try to eyeball where the sock seemed to smooth out at the ankle coming up from the heel to make that first cut - essentially, you're cutting to make a long tube for the main part of the legwarmer, so you want that bottom seam to be as even as possible, and cut the foot off the sock. Consider the design on your sock, and decide if you'd rather have an extra inch in length or straight stripes in the design on the bottom.

Next, you're going to cut the toe and heel off the foot of the sock so that you have the small tube that goes over the middle of your foot, and we'll use that to make the cuff. Again, eyeball your sock and try to cut so that you'll end up with the most even top and bottom possible. The original instructions identified to cut the cuff to a certain size, but I found that some socks (cough*cheaper ones*cough) didn't come out well when I tried to do that. Since your foot is taller the closer it gets to your ankle, the tube will be wider at that end. I tried to just trim it up evenly and take off the least amount of fabric possible near the toes. (Clear as mud?)

You'll discard the toe and heel, unless you want to use them for sock monkeys, or some such. I made this sock monkey for my niece for Christmas last year - but you use a whole pair of socks, no need for extra heels or toes. Unless, I suppose, you have socks with the heel worn out, in which case you'd be glad for the extra heel pieces! I promise her mouth doesn't look that crooked in real life - yikes! But I digress. Sorry.

If the intended recipient happens to have chunky thighs, you may want to use a piece of knit or ribbed fabric instead, and make what used to be the top of the sock (that reaches your knee) into the bottom of the sock (that sits on baby's ankle) and make a larger cuff for the top. You'll use the same principle as we will for our cuff.

Fold the cuff in half lengthwise (so that the top is the part that was near the ankle and the bottom is the part that was near the toes) with the RIGHT sides together, or basically inside out. You can use a machine to stitch these together if you prefer, I found that I could control my tension better by hand stitching. Stitch down the side of the cuff so the top and bottom are still open. Make sure you use good knots - these will likely take some abuse!

Then fold it in half the other way to form the actual cuff, so the wrong side of the fabric is inside. Take a look at the pattern on either side and decide which one you prefer - you might also look at how it will join up with the bottom of the other part of the sock. Situate it so the part you want showing is to the inside and insert the main part of the sock/legwarmer in the cuff with the three cut edges together. (MAN, that is begging for a picture - sorry!)

I would try to line *something* up between the top and bottom, be it the seam of the cuff and the fold line of the sock, or whatever works for the pair you have. Then start stitching! This is where hand-sewing really worked better for me. I'd sew several stitches, then give the opening a stretch all the way around so that the smaller cuff would stay lined up with the larger sock.

Once you get it all stitched on, tie a good knot, snip your thread, and turn the cuff right side out - admire your work and repeat on the other sock! The tutorial recommended using a serger or zigzag stitch to finish off the raw edges inside, but I never have and they seem to be fine. Feel free to e-mail me at the address on the sidebar or leave a comment with any questions!

If you don't want to make a cuff, and the intended recipient is an older child, check out My House Boutique's leg warmers that are simpler to make.

And for more frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Microwaved Scrambled Eggs

Sometimes it can be tough to get toddlers to eat enough protein. If Goose asks for eggs in the morning, I'm happy to oblige! The problem is that she wants eggs NOW . . . and though we're working on patience, first-thing-in-the-morning hungries are pretty rough.

To get breakfast on her high chair tray FAST, I use the microwave to cook a scrambled egg. I use a round glass dish, around four inches across. (I used to use plastic, but I think this method is pretty hard on them.) Grease it according to your favorite method, or whatever strikes your fancy in the morning - nonstick spray, bacon grease, butter, etc.

You can crack the egg directly in the dish and scramble it with a fork, or you can crack it into another bowl or cup, scramble, then add to the dish. The advantage of using a separate bowl is that you don't disturb the grease and the egg sticks a bit less, though I've found that either way I still need to handwash the bowl.

I start by microwaving for 30 seconds on high, then let the egg rest a bit to deflate. If it's a smaller egg, it may be cooked through; I usually give it another 10-20 seconds to make sure. (Runny eggs make me nervous.) Run a knife around the outer edge of the egg to loosen it from the bowl and tip it out onto a plate, then cut into pieces.

(EDIT: These are also perfect with cheese and bacon, sausage, or ham on biscuits or bagels! And now that Goose is older, I crack two eggs in the bowl and cook it for longer - a minute to a minute and a half, depending on size.)

And, if you're my Goose, holler for "sirup!" (a combo of honey and real maple syrup thinned a bit with water) in which to dip your toast and egg . . . then go to Tammy's Recipes for more kitchen tips.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Homemade Doll Sling

(Subtitled: How To Blow Off An Entire Day)

One of the nice things about having Mass so early (ours is at 8:30) is that even after it's over, you feel like you have the whole day in front of you. So today, with a house that always needs cleaning, garden that needs tending, a week-long trip to pack for, and any number of small things that I could work on, I decided to make Goose a sling for her stuffed cat and bear. Priorities, you know.

I wish I had a link to point you towards, or even instructions to give you, but I *totally* winged it. Worse, Goose was napping for most of the time I spent constructing it, so I couldn't even measure it to her - which was probably for the best because the few times I did, I think she got frustrated with my admonitions not to touch (sharp pins) and then I'd whisk it off and she'd just want to play with it. I did have a sweatshirt of hers that I could at least use as a frame of reference - she's smaller than I think!

Before her nap, I measures her back from her shoulder diagonal to her hip as a starting point (12" for her). I used a remnant of fabric (the flowers) and didn't have enough to make it as wide as I hoped, so I used another remnant (the green) to line the pouch and made it wider than the flowered part so that it showed some on the outside.

To give some rough measurements, I think the back piece was something like 11" wide by 14" long, and I intended the pouch to be about 20" wide by maybe 16" long? That way the pouch would be about 10" deep, so there would be no worries of anything falling out.

I began by hemming the sides of the back piece, then I stitched the flowered outer piece of the pouch to the green lining, with the wrong sides together. I pressed the seams open so they'd lay better and turned it right side out, then centered the flowered piece so there was about an equal amount of green on either side (about an inch) and pressed the edges so I knew where they should be. I also pressed the fold at the bottom.

The next part was the last easy thing . . . I sewed the back piece to the bottom of the pouch. Except that I did it backwards - Goose seems to be right-handed, so I wanted the sling to go over her right shoulder down to her left hip. I accidentally sewed it backwards and had to take that seam out (after I pressed it open, of course). Story of my life.

Once I got that straightened out, I had to figure out how to attach the top of the pouch to the top of the back. I knew that just leaving it as it was, it would be far too wide for her little shoulder, so I dinked around some with folding the pieces in to a point of sorts, and Goose "obliged" me by waking up about that time. I tried it on her with just pulling the front and back pieces together, and it was too big and wouldn't stay on her shoulder. I tried getting all crazy with ribbons (won't even tell you exactly what because it confused ME) and that didn't work so well either. So I just stitched a ribbon in the front and back but angled them more straight up to go over her shoulder so I could tie them, and that seemed to work.

Goose still hung on to her cat and bear as she walked around, but anyone who has used a sling knows that you do that at first, and you even find yourself doing it later out of habit or just wanting to snuggle the little bundle in there. In fact, for the picture above, I had to coach her to hold her arms out so you could see the sling. :>)

So, it probably wasn't the most productive use of my time, but I sure am pleased with the results. I'm putting this under the handmade gifts category, though I'd say it needs more tweaking before I'd actually *give* one to someone . . .

And, please visit my give-away post and sign up for a chance to win a pair of baby leg warmers, taggie blanket, bathtub fishing game, fairy wings, vintage craft books, a CUTE set of storage tins - go see!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Link Roundup, HI JESUS! Edition

So we went to a funeral this morning. About an hour before, we were on our walk around town, and whenever we walk by our church, Goose tells Jesus hi. As we walked past this morning, there were several family members standing outside and in her usual fashion, Goose hollered "hi, Jesus!" Here's hoping we gave them a bit of a smile on a sad day . . .

Here's the links of interest for the week:

I'm a sucker for the combination of cinnamon and sugar, and Goose loves all things muffin, so cinnamon sugar muffins are right up our alley. (at Being Frugal is Fabulous)

Not sure why I haven't made this blueberry humble cake from Two Straight Lines yet. There's cinnamon ice cream involved, guys. Mmmmm.

(By the way, I finally made the pumpkin crunch cake from this reading the whole internet post and it was everything I hoped it would be. I did half with nuts, half without, and we ate it with vanilla ice cream.)

I need to just make yogurt already . . . Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has her method of homemade yogurt up. I tried making yogurt once a long time ago, but it didn't seem right. I think it's time to try again! (And believe me, Katie is THOROUGH! A girl after my own heart!)

Other than I'm lazy and it's hard, hot work, the main reason I haven't tried canning is fear of making my family sick (or worse). Tipnut has a page on signs of spoilage in home canning to help guide me.

This is one of those things you hope you never have to know, but Stacey at Almost There did a post on how to get Desitin out - of clothes, carpet, furniture, etc.

Let's Explore has a nice list of gift ideas for kids that involves more thought and caring than cash. (The best kind of gift!)

Not sure if I remember, or just think I remember these from my younger years: Mr. Yuk stickers. It's a symbol for kiddos to learn means "don't touch!!!" and it has the national poison control number on it. I think we'll request some. Goose is doing well with learning what things are a big NO, the oven is hot, she tells me whenever I open it, for one. Another is when I'm washing knives, she tells me they're sharp! That was one I really wanted to impress upon her since she has taken to pushing a chair up to the sink so she can help when I wash dishes.

Here's an old article from The Simple Dollar on ways to entertain kiddos for a buck or less.

Goose's hair doo-dads aren't out of control yet, but I can see this framed barrette and hair bow holder at the Idea Room coming in handy before long.

Can't believe it was just last week that I posted about DIY moon sand, but Michelle at Scribbit has a different recipe for moon sand (kind of, anyway) that takes less inputs, too.

While I *really* try not to watch too much TV, there are some shows that reel me in. LOST is one of them. Trent at The Simple Dollar posted recently about the upcoming season, which is the final season, in a reader mailbag post. He had this to say:
I think the last season is going to start off with Oceanic 815 landing in Los Angeles in 2004 without crashing on the island. That means that no one who died on the island is actually dead. Afterwards, though, they’ll all start having dreams about the island and will eventually find their way there in some way or another. The final one to return will be Jack and the final scene of the final episode will be identical to the first scene of the first episode. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Lost might be my favorite show of all time.

Hmm. I don't quite see that, but it's well within possibility. Guess we'll see in January!

"Those Aren't Fighting Words, Dear" is an article in the New York Times about a woman whose husband came home and told her that he didn't love her anymore, and she didn't buy it. She managed to hold their family together, and I was inspired to see someone stand up so strongly for the lifelong commitment of her marriage. (I had a little trouble getting to the second page, you might have to find the place to click to skip the ad, or you might have to click back and then click on the 2nd page again. Totally worth it, though.)

Karen Edmiston posts this quote:
"I saw about a peck of counterfeit dollars once. Did I go to the window and throw away all my good dollars? No! Yet you reject Christianity because there are hypocrites, or counterfeit Christians."

~~ William E. Biederwolf
and then a brief story on one step of her journey from atheism to Catholicism. By the time I finish typing all this out, I'd just as well have typed it all but it's her story so go look. And, while you're there, click on links in her sidebar to some of the stuff she's written. She's goooood.

And last but nowhere near least, Stacey from Almost There wonders "did the Reformers have any right?"

Happy surfing!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things Toddler Book

Back on my post about keeping toddlers occupied in the car, my friend Sarah had this recommendation:

The only other thing that might be fun is to get one of those little photo albums (the kind that hold one photo each page) and put in photos of family that she's going to see to re-familiarize her with some members she hasn't seen in a while, as well as pictures of her favorite things at home (cats, tractor, etc.)

She's right on with that idea! (and she knows what my Goose loves.) Goose has a Who Loves Baby Photo Book that you can insert photos into for little ones to look at (but can't ruin . . . and hers needs updating badly!) and she also has a "favorite things" book that I made her that was super cheap. I'll show you how I put it together. (with apologies for the picture . . . it was 10:30 PM when I did this!)

I used cereal box cardboard for the pages (cut approximately in half, so you get four per box), various pictures cut from magazines or printed from the internet, a glue stick, clear contact paper, and a hole puncher. The white paper is if you wish to cover the printed side of the cardboard, which is not always necessary (I'll tell you why below).

After being a mother for five or ten minutes, you start to know what your little one likes, so I kept an eye out for pictures of things that she enjoys. For this book, I used mostly animals. If you have a variety of sizes, you can group smaller ones on the blank side of the cardboard and put larger ones on the printed side. If the picture takes up most of the page and doesn't make you dizzy with the Cap'n in the background, perfect! But if you need to put several pictures on the printed side, or if your bigger pic isn't quite big enough, add a layer of white paper as the background.

The glue stick helps hold things down while you're putting it together, and is a bit forgiving if you want to move something. Make sure you note where you want to punch holes and leave adequate room - or just punch through the picture, though you may end up hearing "owie, Mama!" a hundred times while a toddler points at the hole in the kitty's tail or whatever. Ahem. Also don't forget that if the holes are on the left side on one side of the page, when you turn the page, they'll magically be on the right side! (Not that I'd know that from experience . . . ahem again).

Once your pages are how you like them, use the contact paper to cover. I kept my cardboard trimmed just enough so that I could cut the length of the contact paper to be the width of the cardboard page and have little waste. Make sense? No? Hmm . . . lay the contact paper tube on the table as it as shown above in the pic. Unroll the contact paper the width of your page - take the Cap'n piece of cardboard as he's situated above and lay him on the sheet so he's facing you in the same way (just sliiiide him down). Cut the contact paper about an inch longer than your page, and remove the paper backing from the top half. Stick the page on there as straight as you can, unroll the other half, and fold it up over so that you have a contact paper sandwich with your page in the middle. (or you can do the bottom half first - it's your book!) Press down well to adhere the contact paper and remove any bubbles, then trim the edges. Repeat with the remaining pages.

Use the hole punch to punch two (or three, if you wanted) holes in each page, using one page as a guide so you get them in the same relative spot. To tie them together, I threaded scrap yarn or ribbon through the holes, then laid a pencil along the edge so that I could pull the knot tightly but it would leave some slack once the pencil was removed so Goose could turn the pages. I recommend a double or triple knot.

I'll admit these don't last forever, especially getting knocked around, pulled out of and shoved into the diaper bag, but I have used some scotch tape and packing tape to seal the edges as needed and they're fine. The contact paper is the only real investment in this project . . . and you get an awful lot of it to use for other things. Anybody else's mother cover everything in clear contact paper when they were little? I thought it was the coolest!

For more cool, frugal ideas, visit Life as Mom.

And, if you're coming over for Frugal Friday, please visit my giveaway post! I'm giving away a pair of baby leg warmers, taggie blanket, bathtub fishing game, fairy wings, vintage craft books, a CUTE set of storage tins - go see!

Treasure Hunting at the Methodist Rummage Sale

There are at least three churches in town that have semi-annual or annual rummage sales as fundraisers. There is a lot of junk, but sometimes I manage to walk away with some cool stuff! (Which is definitely a finer thing! Go see Amy for more finer things.) Here's what I scored this week:

An old flannel blanket for a quarter that was too cute to pass up. The words on it are "me and my shadow" and the little girl is doing various gymnastic moves and tumbles. Also for a quarter each, I got a bag of electrical outlet covers, and after the stomach bug that Goose had, I wanted to get another waterproof mattress pad. This is just a pad that tucks between the sheet and mattress, but it'll do the job plus can be used on a big bed for potty training and the like.

A set of Close-Up USA maps put out by National Geographic. You can read more about them here though I'm not sure which year mine are. They were $1.
A fun box of random old office supplies for $1. Goose will love the labels as stickers, and Mama loves the pile of little memo pads to tuck in the diaper bag (or an activity bag for the car). I'm not sure how Goose will feel about the labels that you have to lick to get them to stick - every time I lick an envelope, I say "bleah" and now when she sees me do it, she says "bleah" too. :>) The little white box holds typewriter correction papers . . . we do have a typewriter that Goose plays with, but I'm not so sure the keys work very well anymore. I bet we'll find something to do with it! My favorite part of this bag are the little yellow birdie notepapers - you write on the inside, then fold up and seal the back, and address and stamp the front. I'm going to have a hard time deciding who to write!
A bag of wooden beads for $1 (or was it 25 cents? I don't remember . . .) - the bad thing is that I don't think the dye is waterproof, so I fear once they get wet, they'll bleed. They might get put away until Goose is a bit older. I also picked up a bag of what turned out to be bias tape (going to have to figure that stuff out!) and other trims. My favorite - the whole reason I bought the bag, in fact - is the embroidered red trim under the beads above. I'm seeing that on a skirt or something in the near future!

Last but not least, an Easy Bake oven and cookware for $2.75. I never had an actual Easy Bake, so I just pretended to bake, but I couldn't pass this up. I'm thinking I'll put it away for an upcoming birthday - I was thinking next year (Goose will be 3) but I think the instructions say 8 and up? Anybody have or know of a little one (or not-so-little) with one of these?

Since I don't really get to town much for garage sales, I guess I make up for it at the rummage sales. :>) Anybody have a favorite find they'd like to share?

Also (get used to this footer for two weeks, regular readers) please visit my give-away post and sign up for a chance to win a pair of baby leg warmers, taggie blanket, bathtub fishing game, fairy wings, vintage craft books, a CUTE set of storage tins - go see!

100th Post Giveaway - Something for Everyone!

Edit: I'll leave it open until midnight central time tonight!!

I am celebrating some small successes here today. (To see more mom successes, visit Faith & Family Live). (and I've re-arranged the post a bit.)

1) I've been quietly collecting stuff to give away in celebration of my 100th post. Because I don't want blogging to take up too much of my time, let alone my money, most of it is thrifted (cough*used*cough) or homemade. (Please note that I've dinked around with the formatting for way too long . . . and this post will look different on the page versus in a reader versus in e-mail anyway, so I'm waving the white flag! Please excuse any extra white space and/or other wonky formatting!)

Without further ado, here is the list of goodies:

A pair of my homemade baby & toddler leg warmers. Go here and tell me which pair you like best, and chances are good that I'll be able to accomodate you. (Guide: it goes Animals, Girly-Girl, Solids, Plaids, Stripes, Argyles, Boyish, Christmas, Misc.)

A homemade taggie blanket - as you can see, it's pretty gender neutral. It is seafoam green minky fabric and ivory fleece. There is one pink ribbon and one blue ribbon, with the rest neutral.

A homemade bathtub fishing game - directions on how to make your own will be in an upcoming Frugal Friday post! The foam sticks to the tub and floats so your little fisherman or fisherwoman can catch them with the included homemade net (with no handle, so no one will be in danger of losing an eye). Goose tried hers out last night and had a pretty good time.

The fairy wings still aren't quite done. I have redone them, but I still can't quite figure out how to put them together. No worries, I'll enlist my MIL's help on them if I don't come up with something and they'll rock your socks. You'll have to stitch them on something your fairy already has. I'll update again when I do get them finished. And, if you happen to not care for my flowers, they're SUPER easy to re-do - I'll let the winner know how.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding: Sixth Revised Edition. There is a 7th edition out, but this one still contains TONS of great information. (Happy World Breastfeeding Week to any nursing mamas!)

Better Homes & Gardens Patchwork Projects - 15 Full Size Patterns, including ones for each season. The quilt pictured is the only one included, I think, so lots of other stuff!

The Woman's Day Book of Granny Squares and Other Carry-Along Crochet - with 31 projects, a section "all about granny squares" and 50 ideas for using granny squares. Whoof!

Avon's Beautiful Holiday Ideas (apparently collaborated with Better Homes and Gardens on this one!) - with chapters on Deck the Halls, Share the Fun, Open Your House, Enjoy Tradition, Wrap it up, and Celebrate the Day (recipes). Use the make-up tips from 1980 at your own risk! :>)

Better Homes and Gardens Homespun Christmas Crafts - includes stuffed fabric small animal ornaments, fabric mantel bells and a garland, weaving straw, embroidered stockings, wreaths with natural items, quick and easy wreaths, a VERY CUTE storybook pillow, and painted fabric ABC blocks.

Selected Tips from Heloise - chapters are Creative Cleaning, Sprucing Up Your Home, Tackling Laundry Days, In The Kitchen, At Your Leisure, On The Road - And Off, and Personal Best.

A set of repurposed tins - I picked these up at the thrift shop and covered them with scrapbook paper (from this reading the whole internet post) Disclaimer - to get the lids to come off and go on easily, I had to trim a bit of the paper, so some of the old design shows near the top when the lids are off.

So, how do you win??? First, please have a US shipping address - it doesn't even have to be YOU . . . but I don't have the budget for international postage, sorry! (Unless you want to paypal me the shipping charges, I guess . . . ) Then check out the categories in my sidebar and tell me which of them is your favorite or that you'd like to see more posts in. It's that easy! To make things a bit more complicated, though, I'll let you CHOOSE what you'd like to win - up to three things. I'll number your comments and use to pick numbers. The first number will get their first choice. The second number will get their first choice if it's still available; if not, they'll get their second choice - and so on.

Want more entries? Do one of the following and leave an additional comment or comments:

* blog about this giveaway (please include the link)
* tweet it if you're on Twitter (please include the link . . . I don't do Twitter but I'd like to see it anyway!)
* share this on Facebook (honor system since I wouldn't be able to see it)
* subscribe to me in a reader or via e-mail (again, honor system . . . and believe me when I tell you it took me ALL of one day's LONG naptime - thank goodness it was long - to get the subscribe by e-mail box here) or follow me from your blogger profile.

It's your choice as to whether you list the same thing(s) that you want or change them up in subsequent entries . . . but what you have listed in the comment number comes up is what I'll go by to award the goodies.

The giveaway will end Thursday, August 20 at noon central time. Winners will be notified via e-mail and I'll post it, too, so you can see who the lucky people are.

Please PLEASE make sure there is a way for me to contact you, either via your blog, or leave an e-mail address (you can use the cryptic form of yourname at domain dot com if you wish), and please indicate what you want - up to three things, and leave separate comments if you help me publicize this as noted. If you have a question about something that I've made too complicated or would like a bit more info on any of the prizes, please feel free to e-mail me at the address in my sidebar.

And seriously, I have a big stack of fun vintage craft books earmarked for giving away but one of my proofreading paychecks is going to be blown on the postage as it is. Maybe I'll give away one a month or some such . . . any suggestions?

You probably have already forgotten, but at the beginning of the post I was mentioning my small successes. The others are:

2) I have managed to stay relatively calm while the toddler insists the ceiling fan (last night) and light (this morning) in her room be OFF! then ON! then OFF! then ON! accompanied by lots of crying and thrashing about. Believe me when I say I'm *thisclose* to yanking the whole thing out of the ceiling.

3) I scored some very fun things at the rummage sale yesterday for a grand total of $7.70. They can be found here.