Sunday, December 27, 2009

Link Roundup - Snowed In Again Edition

We had a lovely Christmas Blizzard here in Nebraska, and it was all we could do to get to Christmas dinner a mile away in the 4 wheel drive pickup. Now we're just digging out and waiting for the county to do their part to dig us out - and we're very thankful the power stayed on. We had lots of blinks and blips that made me hold my breath, though!

That didn't stop me from collecting a big pile of links - not quite as big as some of the piles of snow outside, but I did the best I could. :>)

Unfortunately, Christmas Mass was cancelled for us (the priest was not able to make it from the nearby town) so I took advantage of the extra time to make a Poinsettia Hair Clip for Goose, as found at Skip To My Lou. Mine is a bit different as I only had an alligator clip (poing!) sort of barrette. I wanted to cover the end so it didn't snag Goose's hair - I'd have used green felt to make a stem if I'd have had any upstairs. I didn't, so I just used red.

Matching painted peg doll necklaces at Chasing Cheerios would be a fun tradition to start - and they double as ornaments.

Martha Stewart has some interesting homemade dime store games. I am a fan of homemade, but I'll admit I don't quite get some of them...

Here are some Green Christmas Crafts from No Time for Flashcards.

This I-Spy baby quilt from Chasing Cheerios would be a fun project for a special baby.

Half MAKE and half EAT (but all CUTE!) are these tiny gingerbread houses that perch on the rim of your mug from Not Martha, and their variations.

My head just exploded over the 100 Holiday Crafts at The Long Thread. (I'm so crafted out from my Handmade Christmas and yet I can't stop looking!)

Remember this hat that was mine and now belongs to Goose? It's getting too small, but she loves it SO MUCH. My friend Camilla (not to be confused with my cat Camilla) sent me the link to this very sweet ruffled hat, but I'm going to have to get a LOT better at knitting before I'm ready to give it a shot...

A thank-you to Zimms Zoo for pointing out this tutorial on how to transfer inkjet images to wood. (You may remember her as the one who does way more of my projects than I do! :>))

Admittedly, I have so many pizza crust recipes, I'll probably never be able to try them all out, but that hasn't stopped me from collecting more on my quest to find a crust that we actually like. The latest addition is this homemade pizza recipe from DarwinCatholic.

I've only eaten Fried Ravioli once in my life - I'm guessing I don't make it at home because it wouldn't be prudent for me to EAT THE WHOLE BATCH like I want to.

Unfortunately I completely blew off making these overnight cherry danishes for Christmas morning breakfast but the cinnamon rolls I picked up were still delicious. :>) I think I'll make a point to whip these up for Hubs's birthday in a few weeks.

I'm a big fan of blueberries and could lose a LOT of time checking out Yum!

Elsie Marley has some neat printable Advent coloring pages.

Cute holiday printables (tags and whatnot) over at Skip to My Lou. Because Christmas is coming again next year! Start getting ready now, and maybe you can avoid some of the stress that seems to accompany the season. :>)

Katie at Kitchen Stewardship makes an connection that never occurred to me between the Eucharist and the manger in which Jesus was laid after His birth in Christmas Food Brings Us Together.

While this is more of a LEARN type post, I'll put it here because of the author, it's another post by Katie from Kitchen Stewardship. Katie had a guest post on ProBlogger with Rookie Lessons for New Bloggers.

There is a great article on Welcoming Baby Jesus within our own daily tasks at Faith & Family Live - music to the ears of this snowed-in, cabin-fevered mama...

Wondering just what these O Antiphons are that everyone keeps talking about? Find out at Advent Ends On a High Note at Faith & Family Live.

One of the things I love about Karen Edmisten is her predictability! (Trust me, she'd be OK with that.) She re-ran a couple of great Christmas posts here, my favorite of which is the second one, Christmas Christians. It's a really good reminder for this time of year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

"Hail, and blessed be the hour and the moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. In that hour, vouchsafe O my God, to hear my prayers and grant my desires, through the merits of our Savior, Jesus Christ, and His Blessed Mother, Amen."

--St. Andrew Novena

I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and many blessings in the coming year!

(image credit)

Almost Ready

We are having another round of lousy weather - just in time for people trying to travel to be with their loved ones. Prayers for all who are en route! We'll be celebrating Christmas Day with Hubs's extended family and then heading out on Saturday to see my brother's family. (Hopefully we'll have good weather! I think it's going to be too windy for Hubs to to fly us, but we'll see.)

In case anyone is wondering how to protect a Christmas tree from a two-year-old and two inquisitive cats, wonder no more...

This is the beauty of having a fake tree. I only put the branches on to halfway down. The toddler actually hasn't bothered the tree very much - and the ornaments on the lower branches are pictures of her cousins, so they are touchable. It's the white thumbed creature that keeps things exciting around here. I've caught her standing up on her back legs and swiping at anything that she thinks is within reach . . . and I've seen more than one dive at the piece of fabric I use as a tree skirt. That's when it actually happens to be under the tree, though. Usually Goose is using it as a wrap or a blanket to tuck in her Nappies.

I have really been enjoying Goose's love of Christmas things, and I'd like to think she actually is excited that it's Jesus's birthday. After her nap (since it's getting dark about the time she wakes up - or after she gets up if she doesn't fall asleep), we plug in the tree and flip on the outside lights, then we light the Advent wreath. I've been singing "O Come O Come Emmanuel" to open our prayers, and when she heard the song elsewhere this week, she told me it was time to light the candle. :>) She's especially looking forward to lighting the white candle, which I told her we can do on Christmas.

I'm *almost* done with my Handmade Christmas items, though there are a few that just aren't going to be done in time. And I'm OK with that. (Especially since we aren't celebrating with Hubs's immediate family for another week - that buys me some time!) I have a few more things to update at that post, and a few more posts to put together and link up. I think blogging about stuff takes almost as long as making it! Hee. But I'm really pleased with all I've done, and I hope the recipients are, too.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Holy Amazon Sales!

These are too super not to share! has some AMAZING deals on board games and Melissa & Doug toys. Those links will take you to a deal blog I enjoy very much, Want Not. The links are affiliate links for her - she works hard getting us fab deals, and deserves the bit that Amazon will send her way from them. No idea how long the prices will last, so grab while the grabbing is good!

Another note - my nieces and nephew are taken care of for gifts for a very long time. So, for my mom and sisters-in-law, here's a picture to enjoy instead of clicking through:

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Laptop Spill

A while back, I linked to an old post at The Simple Dollar with instructions on what to do if you spill liquid on your laptop computer. Am I ever glad I did! Last weekend, I went to look something up on my computer that was sitting on the kitchen table, and I realized a glass of water had gotten knocked over on my laptop. After an initial OH MY CRAP moment, I quickly shut my computer down, remembering that was the first step. I made sure the battery was not connected, unplugged the power cord, and dumped out as much water as I could. I then headed downstairs to pull that post up on Hubs's computer.

Thankfully what I spilled was actually filtered water, so I was able to skip some of the steps. I put my computer in a spare room (away from a certain inquisitive Goose) and directed a fan on it. I waited 24 hours to power it back up, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief when it booted right up. The keyboard was a little quirky for a bit and has quirked a time or two since then, but for the most part, it was hardly a blip! (Breathe another sigh of relief.)

Valerie at Frugal Family Fun Blog noted that setting the victimized computer in a bin of rice may also be helpful as the rice will absorb moisture. I'm thankful I didn't have to try as most of my rice is currently wrapped up for Christmas presents.

The moral of the story here is be super careful with stuff around your computer, and know what to do or where to find help if it happens to you! A big thanks to Trent for linking back to that post several weeks ago - I'd have never known otherwise...

Link Roundup - No Nap Edition

Chances are decent that I've had a "no nap" edition before, but let me tell you, it's been a bit dicey around here lately. Goose has missed three naps this week, and I can tell she's tired.

Last night, I tried putting her to bed at 7 to help her catch up, and after much wailing and gnashing of teeth and crying (on both sides of the door), she finally honked off around 8:30. I had a brief chat with her at 5:00AM about it not being time to get up yet, and she slept in until about 9:15. I always wake her if she sleeps much past 8 so that she can get a nap in, but upon Hubs's advice, I let her sleep this morning. That means no nap, I'm sure, but it's a crap shoot as to whether she'd take one anyway...

So, let's go on to fun topics, links! (And feel free to commiserate with me in the comments, or leave anecdotal info on how you transitioned your toddler from the crib and/or from naps to "quiet time".)

A week or two ago, I linked to a crystallized snowflake at Chasing Cheerios that was VERY pretty. Another commenter linked to an article regarding the toxicity of borax and that it may not be a good idea to let your little one handle it. I did some searching around last night, and found this article at that says Epsom salts will work in place of borax, so I think I'll be adding it to the craft-a-day box I'm giving my nieces for Christmas.

This falls between "make" and "do" since it's easy peasy but I think you'll find it as cute as I do - no-sew blanket with yarn fringe at Craftzine.

I seem to have a thing for crayon rolls and holders (I've linked to several!) but this one from Skip to My Lou is cute cute cute. (I think it's the flower that pushes me over the edge.)

Can't say that I've ever heard the Five Little Snowmen song (Five little bunnies, yes. This is entirely different.) but thanks to Emily and Valerie at Frugal Family Fun Blog, I have an earworm. (anybody want it? :>) The accompanying Five Little Snowmen playset is too cute and too easy - way to go with the sharpie, Valerie! I'd have taken 45 minutes of my life that I'll never get back to embroider some mis-shapen dots. There is a video at the end if you've not heard the song either - my favorite part is at the end where Emily offers to sing it again. Tee hee.

Also falling between "make" and "do" is this long-awaited how to make a napkin doll guest post on Frugal Family Fun Blog by Valerie's hubs, Mark. I'm thinking it'll take a little practice . . . and I can't remember the last time I was at a restaurant with cloth napkins, so I'll have to hit the thrift shop for some if I want to try it any time soon. :>)

Tidy Mom has some homemade sugar scrub recipes that sound delicious. I mean, pampering and heavenly. And delicious. This is the first place I came across it, but a number of bloggers have posted about Domino Sugar's gift ideas section of their website. Sounds like some neat ideas over there.

There is a really pretty snowflake garland tutorial at Curbly. I'll admit I usually skip watching videos (I'd rather read about it) but this was cute enough that I persevered. And it turns out it's really easy.

These snowman candy bars would be quick and easy (and cute) if you wanted to do something special for not a lot of $$$. (@ It's Been A Hard Day's Night)

I'll admit I'm sort of an ADD crafter and shy away from things that take a while - though plenty of my sewing projects have taken place spread out over multiple naptimes, so I don't know what my hangup is. That said, I'm incredibly intrigued by this Handmade Santa Plate and if nothing else, the porcelaine paint pen for ceramics fascinated me - as did the method for getting the writing on the plate. Well done, Just Something I Made, very well done!

This felt flower clip tutorial at A Hoot and a Holler looks like a fun thing to make for my nieces . . . I'm thinking April birthdays, though, 'cause I'm on the verge of getting a bit crafted out for Christmas.

Ordinary Life, Extraordinary God has a fun holiday twist on homemade play dough. I've never thought to scent it with her suggestions - and I'm sure they're yummy!

I'm loving this felty button tree at Scrumdilly-do but I'm not sure I could stand to just let my little one make it - I'd have to make one, too!

There just might be a flock of these felt snowmen from Simply Handmade for a certain sister-in-law this year for Christmas. (So don't click through if you're her!)

I really like this toy storage bag tutorial by The Domestic Notebook - especially the handles! Though I'm thinking I'd tweak it and put gussets in the bottom, kind of like I did in my Halloween treat sack (that I'm still using to carry Goose's stuff to church).

(Edited to add these two:)
Many Little Blessings turned lemons into lemonade with these paint stick Christmas trees and they're right - painting them made all the difference.

These homemade lotion bars from Little House in the Suburbs sound reasonably easy and really cool. Though I'll admit, I'm a sucker for yummy smelling lotion. I'm sure with a bit of experimenting, they'd be easily adapted.

I'm not sure that Goose is at the age of being impressed by green chicken, but I'd like to give this Slow Cooker Green Pepper Chicken recipe a try, from A Year of Slow Cooking.

Katie from Kitchen Stewardship wrote a guest post on Catholic Mommy Brain on Healthy Holiday Treats, and don't worry, she doesn't tell you to just avoid everything. :>) My favorite part - "try to cut down on the sugar by 1/4 cup at a time until I reach system failure (i.e., the treat no longer tastes like a treat)."

More gift wrapping ideas, from Tip Junkie this time.

Faith & Family Live has a great post on using an Advent jar to help keep your family watching and waiting for Jesus's birth.

I'm pretty sheltered, so I've not seen this new Lego/paper phenomenon. I'm kind of glad, so I could be super impressed by Filth Wizardry's DIY Lego and hole punching card version.

Just Like Martha has an easy tutorial for a recycled magazine Christmas tree. That'd keep some little hands busy for a while!

Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has some great ideas on Decreasing Holiday Disposables.

This lovely tea in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe is quite an inspiration by Jessica at Shower of Roses. And, baby Rose is here!

Stacey at Almost There has a great summary of why NFP Isn't Just Another Birth Control. (That's "Natural Family Planning" in case you don't know...)

The Unclutterer has a thought-provoking article on Teaching Children to Fight Clutter.

There are tons of use for vinegar around the house, and Trent lists 15 of them at The Simple Dollar.

Happy clicking, and, if I don't see you before, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!" (that last part is especially directed at my Goose . . .) :>)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Flannel Burp Cloths

Burp cloths, burp rags, swipers - whatever you call them, they're pretty handy when you have a little one that is an urper, and they all tend to urp for a while at least. I used the heck out of plain prefold diapers for burp cloths and they work well. But I found some fun flannel printed ones that I used as my "goin' to town" burp cloths. (For those of you who aren't country folk, you save your nice stuff for trips to town.)

Thanks to this tutorial at Paper Dolly Girl, I was inspired to make some flannel burp rags and I was very pleased with how they turned out. As I noted in my post on how to make your own taggie blankets and embellished burp rags, I cruise the reminant bins at Wal-Mart and Hobby Lobby pretty much every time I go and pick up anything that catches my eye. Because of this habit, I tend to let the piece of fabric dictate the size of my final project. That is, I'd rather have a some bigger and smaller burp rags than have them all uniformly sized and a big pile of scraps. (Not that there's anything wrong with scraps!)

My method also differed in that I used flannel on both sides, and I stitched down the flannel in the middle. Some of my scraps were a bit short, and I didn't want them migrating around in the wash. I also sewed some scraps together for the middle piece. Initially I was concerned that the seam might feel lumpy between a sleeping baby's face and a loving adult's shoulder but I could barely feel the seam.

I was so pleased with how these turned out! I will be giving them as gifts for sure, and I also listed some in my Etsy shop (with more to come) if you'd like to give a special tiny one the gift of handmade flannel burp cloths but don't have the time or sewing skills.

For more frugal ideas, visit Life as Mom. You can also check out my handmade gifts section and see what I'm making for Christmas if you'd like!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Preheating Quickly

Tammy wrote a post a while ago about saving energy while preheating your oven. When I came to the part about it taking five minutes for her oven to get to 350 degrees, I thought "lucky her!" Mine takes around ten minutes. So often, I don't bother to preheat, I just turn the oven on when it's time to put the food in and call it good. Occasionally I need to add a few minutes to the cooking time, but it works out.

Sometimes, though, I need the oven to be hot when I put food in. That's when I use my broil function to preheat! I found that it can get up to 350 degrees in just a few minutes that way. Of course, I don't recommend you do that with a pan in the oven unless it is a broiler safe pan - I don't have my pizza stone in there while it's on broil, for example. My stoneware was not expensive, so I fear they'd crack at high temperatures.

For more kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Our Cloth Diaper Journey

While pregnant with the Goose, I became fascinated with cloth diapers. Something I read really sealed the deal for me, though - a mom said that she didn't have to worry about running out of diapers and needing to pack up the kids and go to the store, she just threw in a load of laundry. We live about 25 miles from stores where I'd buy diapers (small town grocery stores are *really* expensive on that sort of thing!) so that comment really stuck. (I love this pic of Goose, wearing her cow leg warmers and reading a nappy book. :>))

I wasn't sure where to start, though. Luckily I had some acquaintances (now friends :>))in the Nebraska Friends of Midwives that use cloth, so I was able to garner a number of opinions. One mentioned that she purchased several different kinds of diapers at first, figured out what she liked, and then went with those. I did a crazy amount of searching and clicking around - about that time, I was experiencing some anxiety (which I'm going to have to cover once I get caught up on writing some about me posts!) and thinking about cloth diapers helped soothe that, for whatever reason.

Please note that none of these links are affiliate links, nor have I utilized the companies - they are just links that I found helpful.

Were I to start from scratch, I might try something like one of these sampler packages. If you try doing a search for "cloth diaper starter kit" or "cloth diaper sample package" or something like that, you'll likely find more. Ooh, I found a bunch of links that I stumbled across a long time ago, you can find more sampler packs here, here, here, here, and here. Note that some of the returns are for credit.

My decision was mostly made from the start, because Patty, one of my NFOM acquaintances (now a dear friend), was a retailer for Happy Heineys. She was also expecting a baby about the same time I was expecting the Honker, so we had a fun time comparing pregnancies. Hers was baby #5, though. :>) In addition to the Happy Heinys, I also bought some Fuzzi Bunz and a couple of Bumkins All-In-Ones (AIOs). I didn't even try prefolds and covers after hearing Patty wax poetic about pocket diapers.

If you want to learn more about cloth diapers, there are tons of great sites. Some that I found helpful include the diapering forum at, Diaper Pin, Pinstripes and Polkadots, and Punkin Butt. Though I'll admit I've not read through them in quite a while! If you really want to kill some time, visit Diaper Swappers. You can learn tons about diapering and a lot of other natural family practices, and there is also a huge marketplace for gently used and some new diapers. It moves FAST though!

I didn't like the AIOs because Goose felt wet right away. With the pocket diapers, I could go about up to 2 hours between changes (unless she was dirty, of course). A pocket diaper has two layers in itself - in the case of the Happy Heinys and the Fuzzi Bunz, the outer layer is waterproof PUL, and the inner layer is fleece. You then use something absorbent as an insert.

Both Happy Heinys and Fuzzi Bunz make a one-size diaper. Goose pretty much fell off the bottom of the growth chart (though she has always been perfectly healthy) and I didn't care for the one-sizes for her. But every baby is different. I preferred the cut of the Fuzzi Bunz diapers and the way they fit Goose, but I liked the aplix (velcro) closure of the Happy Heinys better.

When Goose was tiny, I used cotton washcloths. Then Happy Heinys came out with a microfiber insert which I really liked at first. But eventually I had trouble getting them clean and they got stinky. I really liked the absorbency of the microfiber, though, and so I switched to microfiber towels, which I purchased in the auto department of Wal-Mart. Note that they should never be put directly on baby's skin, though.

I'll post later on our routine and the important part - washing diapers! [edit - you can read it here.]

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Link Roundup - Post-Cabin Fever Edition

Goose and I were happy to have spent some time out of the house yesterday, after three full days of being cooped up.

I have a question today - has anybody seen a Nativity set pattern or how-to for making a fabric or felt set? I've done some clicking around and searching but have yet to find anything that I think will work without major modification or significant going out on a limb. Thanks!

Anyway, if YOU happen to be snowed in, here's some pretty things to keep you busy - (not the least of which is Skip to My Lou's suggestions for Snow Day activities)

Remember the wreath made from book pages a while back? The Shabby Nest has a well-read Christmas wreath that is a Pottery Barn knock-off that will knock your socks off.

Laura at Heavenly Homemakers posted a simple, cute (and cheap!) Angel Ornament.

Another ornament - a crystallized snowflake one this time, at Chasing Cheerios.

And yet another - Skip to My Lou has a guest post on Alpha Mom on how to make surprise ball ornaments. These look like a lot of fun!

Aaaand A Slob Comes Clean (hee - I'm gonna hafta click around over there some!) has instructions on how to make personalized ornaments for the ones you love. GREAT idea!

Goose isn't into fairies yet, but the day is coming, and I will be prepared with this Felt Fairy House at Frugal Family Fun Blog.

I pink puffy heart my Ergo baby carrier but if I didn't have it, I'd be tempted to try this mei tai at Blissfully Domestic.

Mrs. 2nd Lieutenant has an awesome post on Liturgical Gift Giving, and make sure you click over to her St. Nicholas day post to see her CUTE and appropriate for toddlers Advent wreath and calendar.

Cakes are not my strong point, so these tips on frosting cakes from Tipnut will come in handy for Goose's next birthday. (Yup, that's how often I make cakes.)

Trent at The Simple Dollar has some *excellent* - and easy! - tips on Finding the perfect gift without spending too much. Though I'd add that once you do find the perfect gift, run a search for it using and then sort by price low to high. The downside is that you have to click through to the site and hunt to find the shipping fees, which can be pretty high in some places, but I've had reasonably good luck with Froogle.

Jessica at Shower of Roses has a link to a printable manger for baby Jesus.

Tipnut has an enormous roundup of wrapping, embellishing, and tagging ideas, my favorite of which is this fun with fonts idea from Bugs and Fishes by Lupin.

Happy surfing!

Friday, December 11, 2009

7 Quick Takes - Snowed In Edition

I've been so busy working on my handmade Christmas stuff and posting for Frugal Fridays that I haven't done a Quick Takes post in forever! Let's see what I can pull together before Goose gets up.

We got about a foot of snow this week. The first wave was Sunday night, the second was Monday night to Wednesday early early morning. Temperatures have been around zero.

The two-year-old and I did not poke out so much as a toe from Monday at noon to Thursday at 3:30 PM. That was getting a bit rough!

Aforementioned 2YO has taken to chucking most to all of the stuff out of her crib at naptime or bedtime, then hollers for mama to come pick it up.

#3 is a problem because her wall-mounted space heater isn't working well enough to keep up with the COLD temps, so we've had to move in another space heater that sits on the floor. Since Goose is a lousy sleeper, I don't peek in on her much for fear of waking her up. You'd better believe I've been peeking in, though, to make sure there isn't a pillow or blanket or stray Nappy resting on the space heater, waiting to burst into flames . . .

Goose started potty training back at the end of September, and after about a month or so, she seemed to have the hang of it and wasn't having too many accidents; and if she did, she was able to stop she'd holler "put the tinkles in the potty!" and we'd take care of it. After about a month of that, I decided it was time to stop telling her when to go potty (unless it was obvious - when she got up, before nap, etc.). After a few days of doing reasonably well, she started having accidents again. And, she started wetting her diaper in the morning and after naps instead of waiting for me to get her up. I'm kind of bummed, but since we've gone back to my telling her every 2 hours or so, it's been better. Except the diaper thing, which is a bummer because I'd been re-using her disposables since they weren't wet... I'd love to go back to using cloth for $$$ reasons, but I fear that since they're bulkier, they'll encourage her to wet.

(Note to self: now that Goose is mostly out of diapers, I *really* need to get a post written on our beloved cloth diapering methods.)

I've linked to Faith & Family Live a number of times - did you know that they have a magazine? It's an excellent read for Catholic families. I've been a subscriber for over a year now, and I really enjoy it. I've also read the website since its inception - it is both a blog for a handful of very insightful moms (with an occasional dad and/or priest thrown in for a guest post) and there are occasional articles as well, some crossing over from its sister publication, the National Catholic Register (also an excellent publication). Good stuff! If there's a mom on your Christmas list that you're not sure what to get her, this is a sure bet. You can subscribe here or get a gift subscription here. You won't be sorry!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Link Roundup - I Smell Popcorn Edition

You know, it's moments like this that keep a mama going. Goose is two, right? While it's pretty even keeled around here most of the time, she has her moments. Like last night's wrestling match in church. And screams during the closing prayer. But tonight, as I was tucking her in (AGAIN), she said "popcorn, mama? I smell it!" Yup, she figured me out. Some moms pour a glass of wine when the kiddos are tucked in, I pop some corn.

So, in an effort to make YOU happy, how 'bout some links? :>)

Abbi at Proverbs 31 Living posted some very fun baskets made from paper grocery bags. They look really neat!

HURRY HURRY HURRY! Dana at MADE has a tutorial on So You Think You're Crafty on how to make a turkey dressing skirt. You gotta see it to believe it, and she's going to take it down TONIGHT and have it available in her shop.

Chocolate on My Cranium has a super roundup of handmade stocking stuffers.

More felt food by Creative Mom x2. And more at

How cool is this? How To Make Homemade Stickers, from Skip To My Lou. Turn anything into a sticker!

Homemade Gifts for Kids at Kitchen Stewardship.

Her husband claims it's good enough to sell - Banana Coffee Cake with Chocolate Chip Streusel at Buns in My Oven. (Tee hee on the blog name!)

King Arthur Flour's Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake, including a suggestion for those who like a bit less filling and more cake. I don't know why you would want to do such a thing, though.

Need a coffee cake that you can grab and go? Check out Eating Out Loud's Blueberry Apple
Coffee Bake

(Why yes, Tipnut did feature coffee cakes this week. Why do you ask?)

Make It Do's peppermint popcorn is just about enough to make me want to stray from my Parmesan cheese. Maybe.

I didn't get it done this week, Katie, but I'm hopeful for next week - Soak Your Oatmeal Monday Mission at Kitchen Stewardship. (Want to know why I want to soak my grains? Read Katie's post here.) (And read what Katie has to say about whey here.) (Ack! Too many parentheses! Too tired to fix!)

Shopping for the seasonal stuff in the produce section has been of interest to me for a while, but I still don't pay enough attention. Trent at The Simple Dollar has a great post on Seasonal Food Sales that might help.

So pretty! Epsom salt "snow" and candles at The Inspired Room. (and *ahem* cheap) :>)

Faith & Family Live compiled a list of Go-To Family Games just in time for Christmas.

Valerie at Frugal Family Fun Blog instructs how to make a Salty Snowman Picture. Very festive!

Katie at Kitchen Stewardship has put together an Advent Daily Dose. My favorites from the week - A Gift for Baby Jesus, Clean Out Your Heart For the Light of Christ, and The Jesse Tree. But seriously, go here to see them all.

How Elizabeth Foss, mom of 8, is finished with Christmas shopping already.

OK, so this isn't quite Advent but close enough - Jessica at Shower of Roses has a post from earlier this year on their 12 Days of Christmas Lapbook. More recently (and actually for Advent) - Jesse Tea, plans for the O Antiphons and the O Antiphon House.

See what the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops put together for Advent here.

Silent Monks Singing The Hallelujah Chorus on YouTube. Watch it here.

Danielle Bean pretty much sums up how I feel about Tiger Woods at Inside Catholic.

Here's hoping I don't ever need to know this - you, either - but just in case, Light and Momentary has excellent information on lose your head lice without losing your mind.

Sigh. I had a spider plant that was an offshoot from my grandmother's, but it went to be with Jesus and Grandma, so to speak. I'm hoping my cousin will keep hers going long enough for me to get a piece back (I'd given her a shoot from mine), and I'll pay close attention to these spider plant tips at Tipnut.

And with that, I'm off to bed on this cold, snowy night. Happy clicking!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Toy Giveaway - Bonus for Big Families!

Raising Olives is having a neat toy giveaway from Pioneer Pastimes, you can go here to enter. The fun kicker is that if you have less than 5 children, you get to choose one. If you have 5-9 kids, you get to choose two. And for the mamas blessed with 10 or more, they get to choose three! Isn't that neat?

Friday, December 4, 2009

One of Those Days . . .

Today is "one of those days" where things aren't quite going my way, and although I'm able to recognize that it's *me* that is the problem, that doesn't seem to help all that much. :>) I finally took a minute to open the e-mail I get every weekday from Word of God and it was awesome enough to raise goosebumps and make me write this post immediately.
God is our refuge and strength. (Psalm 46:1)

O Lord, support us all the day long,
until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes,
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over, and our work is done.
Then, in your mercy, grant us a safe lodging
and a holy rest, and peace at the last.

Ven. John Henry Newman, 19th century
Yup, my day is looking up already. Thanks, God! If you'd like to sign up to receive these e-mails, you can click the link above.

I-Spy Bags

Yet another of my gifts for this year's Handmade Christmas is I-Spy Bags. I tucked away the link from Peculiar Momma on how she constructed hers, and I was heavily inspired by Pondered in My Heart on the items she included in her I-spy bottles, and especially the drawings that Kimberlee's daughters did of the items!

Here are some things that I considered when thinking about bags versus bottles:

Using bottles would certainly be easier than constructing bags! We don't use bottles like Kimberlee's though (I'm guessing they're from sports drinks . . . though I'm realizing that a glass jar would work fine - doh!). With bottles, I think it's more of a shaking action, and with bags, you do more manipulation with your hands - plus you can feel around for things that you can't see. With bottles, the entire thing is a "window" and with bags, you only have the little spot to peek inside.

Because my four nieces range in ages from 10 to 5, I made the bags more difficult for the older one and easier for the younger one. Some ways that they differ from oldest to youngest:

* Window size - smaller windows for the older niece, bigger windows for the younger
* Size of bag - bigger bag for the older, smaller for the younger
* Shape of bag - the youngest got round bags so nothing could get lost in a corner, and the olders got rectangles, I even made one long, skinny one for the oldest with the window on one side, so there's a lot of real estate that she can't see
* Amount of filler - I tried to put less rice in the youngest's bag so it would be easier to manipulate and more rice in the older's bag
* Size of items - the older the child, the smaller the items
* Color of items - I tried to have several different brightly colored items for the youngest, but the oldest got nearly all green items (different shades) but that makes it more difficult because it's not like you see a glimpse of red and know it's the pony tail holder, you see green and don't know if it's the button you already saw or the bead you're trying to find
* Similar items - the youngest got all very different things, but the oldest got a few things doubled up, like paper clips in different shades of green
* As I was finishing the post below, I realized that it would be more difficult with different colors of filler items. Colors pop more when you see something orange in the all-white rice, but if you had white rice, red beans, green lentils, yellow corn (etc.) things aren't going to be as noticable. I mixed together a bag of bean soup mix, a bag of red beans, pinto beans, black beans, lentils, split peas, popcorn, and maybe field corn. (remember that I have a LOT of bags - and I still had extra mix left over.) I then opened up the I-Spy bags, emptied them, removed some rice, added the beans, mixed it up, refilled them, and stitched them back shut. Whew!
* Kimberlee's children also made it more difficult by finding the items in the order of the list - i.e. if you see the wheel but are looking for the flat purple bead, the wheel doesn't count yet

To make the bags, as usual I based a lot of things on the size of my fabric scraps. :>) (You can see here how I pick up fabric on the cheap.) If possible, I tried to make one edge the fold so I would only have to sew three sides, but that's just me.

I'll admit, sewing in the windows gave me some fits. What finally worked for me, was to carefully cut the vinyl (which is sold on the big rolls by tablecloth kind of stuff and pretty inexpensive, even without a coupon) and make it a good inch larger on all sides than I wanted the window to actually be. Then I carefully cut a corresponding shape out of the fabric. First I traced the vinyl, then I took a ruler and measured an inch and an eighth (just for extra security, I guess :>)) to the inside of the window tracing. You should be able to click on the picture to make it larger. I ended up with a home plate shaped window because it first was a triangle and I didn't like that at all.

Next, I cut out the mini window out of the fabric on the lines I made. I then carefully made a 1/2" snip with scissors toward the corners, and folded the pieces back then pressed them down. (that's my ironing board cover you see peeking through. A new one is on my Christmas list as it has some major issues - not the least of which is some navy fabric left an enormous stain when I pressed it with some steam. It's cute, though - it has pictures of different clothing items scattered about. You can see the socks peeking through the window.)

To stitch the vinyl on, I found I HAD to use a piece of paper to get it to feed through my machine, otherwise it stuck and made a huge mess. I also found that I had to make sure it was well-sewn onto the fabric. The first one I did was a circle shaped window on the round orange bag, and I was so proud to have one all completed . . . until the first thirty seconds I field-tested it. The vinyl pulled loose and I had rice everywhere. I'll tell you that one of my nieces is likely to find the cure for cancer someday, but until that day comes, she's going to take apart everything in her path. So they needed to be K-proof, and that definitely didn't pass. It was then that I figured out (with a bit of help from Shalet at Peculiar Momma!) to cut the window out of the fabric smaller than the vinyl and fold the pieces of fabric back so the vinyl really had something to hold onto when stitched down.

So, after cutting the window from the fabric and pressing the little flaps back, I then laid the vinyl over the opening in the fabric, and put a piece of paper over the vinyl. I found it impossible to line them up with the right side out so I could pin them. So I left the right side of the fabric down (so the order from bottom to top is table, fabric right side down, vinyl, paper) and put two or so pins in from the "inside" or wrong side to hold it while I flipped it over. I then pinned everything together with the pins on the right side of the fabric and removed the two pins on the wrong side after it was anchored from the top. (Clear as mud?)

To make sure that it caught, I zig-zagged around the window three times and then did kind of a wandering zig-zag over all that a fourth time. The needle holes make a nice perforation in the fabric, so it's easy to tear away the paper. I did the outside first, then bent along a seam and picked a bit at the paper over the actual window and it tore quite easily as well. I didn't worry one bit about the bits of paper left underneath the stitches - I don't think there's a good way to get it out anyway.

Before I stitched the bag shut, I made up the list of included items and sewed it on. Because I ran out of plain fabric, I used some yellow print that I just turned over and wrote on the back. To start, I used a ruler and pencil to make faint lines, then I used a fine-point sharpie to write the names of the items and draw the little pictures. I know art is NOT my strong suit, but I thought I did well enough that the non-readers and new readers would be able to figure out what they were looking for without too much difficulty. I also used markers to color in bits that I could to help even more, though some of them worked better than others. :>) And, I didn't have a pink marker, which would have gone a long way with these items, so I just left those blank.

Please note that you should stitch the list on BEFORE you sew the sides of the bag. Go ahead, ask me how I know . . . I can also tell you that if you forget, you can get away with hand stitching it on carefully using the opening you left for pouring in the filling, but it takes a while and isn't nearly as pretty. So stitch your list on (I just pinked the edges and didn't worry about folding under and pressing then stitching, but I guess you could), and then stitch your bag *making sure to leave an opening into which you can pour your filling stuff*! (again, ask how I know . . . I try to remember to use a sideways pin - or six - to remind me to stop.) I found it much easier to leave enough room to use my canning funnel as rice doesn't move well through a regular funnel. When turning your bag inside out, use the point of a closed pair of scissors, a choptick, or something along those lines to poke your corners out well. I didn't bother with pressing my seams because it didn't seem to matter since they get filled with stuff.

Finding items wasn't as hard as I feared it might be. I kept an eye out at the thrift shop, and found a surprising number of items in my own house:

From the thrift shop:
* Small owl salt shaker (which I stuffed tight with a piece of fabric since it didn't have a stopper to keep other items from getting lost in there)
* Miniature tea cup
* Pumpkins and gourd from fall “spray”

From my craft stash:
* Beads of larger various sizes and shapes
* Small corks
* Buttons of various sizes
* Googly eye
* Jewel beads
* Jingle bells
* Mini clothes pins
* Metal bobbins that fit my sewing machine but don’t work very well

From toys:
* Marbles
* Bouncy balls
* Wheels from a toy motorcycle something or other (from a rummage sale, actually)
* Pats of fake butter, plastic bacon, small carrot
* Small Garfield the cat
* Small plastic triangle
* Small action figures
* Small plastic key

From the bathroom:
* Small terry pony tail holders
* Flower off cheap barrettes that fell off the first time I tried them
* Cheap barrettes (alligator clip/poing style)
* Safety pins (various sizes)
* Bobby pins
* Plastic barrettes

Pieces of field corn (could also use different types of bigger dried beans)
Paper clips, various sizes and colors (and I thought about mini binder clips but didn't need them)
Large nut, smaller bolts

I was thought about some sort of pom-pom, but I didn't want to use a homemade one (reference above K-proofing). Same with silk flowers. I didn't look for any, but I think a multi-pack of small erasers in different shapes would be excellent. Some things were included in each bag, some were one-of-a-kind.

So. Window is firmly stitched, list is stitched on, and bag is sewn except for a hole. To make seven bags, I used approximately 23 pounds of rice. My bags are MUCH bigger than Peculiar Momma's - she used about 6x6" bags and 10-20 items depending on size. The size of my bags varied greatly - the round ones are the size of a big dinner plate, the square ones are perhaps 10x10. I used probably 14-16 items per bag. There are a number of different things you could use as filler - Kimberlee used bird seed, I thought about using field corn kernels, dried beans or lentils would be good - just go with something cheap and plentiful! I'd caution that you try to avoid using items for them to find that are too similar in color to the filler . . . unless you're trying to make it more difficult, that is! Actually, I think that multi-colored stuff like bird seed, or perhaps a variety of filler materials would make it more difficult to find things. If you see a peek of yellow among the white rice, for example, it really stands out. But if you have white rice, yellow corn, red and black beans, green lentils, etc - colors aren't going to stand out as much. Hmm . . . I might be opening some of these back up . . . :>)

Peculiar Momma (I think?) used a creamer pitcher to fill her bags, but I really liked using the canning funnel. To keep things spread out, I tried to put in a few scoops of rice, then a couple of items, then a few scoops of rice, couple of items, etc. With the bags, make sure you don't fill it TOO full - I finished filling then pinned the opening (using several pins so it didn't leak!) and then gave it a try and nearly every time, I took out the pins and removed some rice. Hand stitch the opening shut (I used a blanket stitch on a few, since it seems to be the year of the blanket stitch!) and try it out yourself.

If you'd like to see what else I'm making for Christmas, please visit my Handmade Christmas post (provided you're not on my Christmas list!), and for more frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom. This is also linked to Proverbs 31 Living's Handmade Christmas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Frugal Advent Wreath

Friends, I will try to get a better picture of my Advent wreath. But I really wanted to get this post written and published before Advent is over! :>) Here's how I made it on the cheap, nine years ago:

Go to your local craft store (mine happened to be Hobby Lobby) when they are offering Christmas garland on sale. Purchase a 9' piece that you like. You may be able to tell that mine has berries and silver and gold eucalyptis. Also purchase nine purple candles and three pink ones. Tapers happened to be on sale, many people prefer pillar candles that will last the entire season - your call.

Oddly enough (you may have noticed), taper HOLDERS were not on sale at the time, so I bought votive ones and use a piece of fun-tak (ticky-tak, whatever you call it) to hold them in place. Works great - and this should be out of the reach of little ones anyway.

Optionally, you may also include a white candle, which I place in the middle, not only because the holder does not match the others. :>) It is lit on Christmas and represents Jesus. Jessica has some neat ideas on Advent overall, but I especially like the idea of draping the white candle in blue, which represents Mary. (Scroll to Dec 7 and 8.)

Hack the garland into three more or less equal pieces, and twist the ends together to form a circle. I just bent one end over the other on mine and it's held (quite well) though you may wish to use a piece of wire or something to keep the ends together, depending on your garland.

So, now you have three Advent wreaths, one for your home and two that you can use to bless others. When I gave them as Christmas presents to two friends nine years ago, I also included a booklet with Advent devotions. But that was when I lived near a Catholic store. :>)

Blessings to you this Advent season of preparation - and for more frugal ideas, visit Life As Mom. This is also linked to Proverbs 31 Living's Handmade Christmas.