Friday, January 30, 2009

Frugal Friday: Food

Last year around Earth Day I made a commitment to waste less food. I have been trying really hard to see different ways to use up the fresh produce in our fridge that for one reason or another isn't eaten right away.

So when we bought a HUGE box of blueberries at Costco 2 weeks and got home only discover that most of the berries were mushy instead of firm, I let them sit in the fridge for a week. And just when I thought I would give up and throw them out, I got the idea to make jam with them.

Now we have 5 jars of blueberry freezer jam in the freezer (which is a good thing, I was down to the last jar of raspberry jam from this summer), and Jack declared "Mom! This jam is even better than the other one."

We also buy those huge boxes of organic spinach at Costco. We use a lot of it in salads, but as we get down to the bottom 1/3 of the box it is starting to get wilty. Rather than tossing it I have taken to blanching it and then popping it in the freezer to use in cooked recipes later.

It's a small change, but it does all add up.

On a slightly different note (this certainly does affect my wallet), there was an anon comment this week asking me about the CPSIA .

If you haven't educated yourself about this yet, you should.

As soon as I heard about it I started contacting my local government rep (who happens to be completely useless, I am starting to think he is thick) to let them know that this was going to be a killer not only for handmade artisans but for parent's pocketbooks.

As I am sure you know, we buy almost all of Jack's toys and clothing exclusively from the secondhand market. I also sell his outgrown clothing at a big consignment sale twice a year to make enough money to rebuy him new clothes twice a year. If I were truly unable to buy from secondhand sources I am not sure what I would do about buying things for him, it would definitely hurt.

And while I don't sell handmade toys anymore, I used to.

So I absolutely can get behind the outrage of this foolishness.

Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't argue with the "spirit" of the law, but the reality of it is just a big mess if you ask me. (And on so many levels: from the amount of garbage created to putting small business out of business and so on.)

It's too late the write letters, D-day is Feb 10th, but you can still work your telephone and let Washington know that this absurd.

And I highly encourage you to do so. There is big talk in the world right now about making a difference, and your voice certainly will add to the chorus.

(EDITED: I had to take Jack to school, but I do want to mention that yes, they have said thrifts and resellers will be exempt, HOWEVER, the wording is such that if a thrift/reseller is caught selling something that does not meet the new standards, they are still subject to hefty fines and penalities. The same is true for chain stores with existing stock. Clearly the problem is not solved.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Right now I am totally smitten with:
This bias tape I found in a bag for 25 cents at the thrift sometime last week. It is the perfect shade of pink and I love the dainty print on it.

Next week I plan to do a bit of a "bias tape week" here, where I hope to show you at least five different projects made from that one roll of bias tape. Fun for all of us, I hope.
These peg dolls I made for my girlfriend and I. I have been wanting to make them forever, and I was finally able to thrift up all the parts I needed to make them.

They are unbelievably sweet.
Watching Jack play in the snow. We took him sledding yesterday even though we barely had 3 inches of snow. He has been DYING to go sledding for so long, and I loved watching him be so brave and just jump on the sled and go down that huge hill.
As luck would have it it started to REALLY snow last night. Inches and inches and inches of the most beautiful sparkly snow ever. It's like a million diamonds on the everything and it reminds me of when we lived near the ocean and the water under the causeway would glisten every morning in the sunshine.

And, of course, Jack is loving every chilly minute of it.
My super cheap after Christmas clearance paperwhites blooms.

It's like a little bit of spring in the house, even if I do think they really stink.

(Jack loved watching the greens sprout, then the flower buds form, and finally the flowers appear. It was a neat thing to do with a kid in the middle of winter.)

Ok then, the corn chowder on the stove is calling me. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Valentine tree

Well. I just spent more than an hour digging around in the pictures on my computer because I KNOW I took photos of this tree earlier this week when the sun was shining, but I cannot find them.

So these pics will have to do.

At least my photo folder is cleaned up now. LOL
Jack is dying to get in there and take all the ornaments off!
I happen to think this is the best Valentine tree yet. (I don't know why I cannot seem to find previous trees in the archives, but usually I just put strawberries on them.)
This year we have our cupcake valentines, Jack's beaded hearts, the strawberries made from walnuts, and old school valentines (which I finally figured out how to hang without making a hole in them!).
It's nice and full of fun stuff.

A bright, cheerful spot of pink and red when everything around us is gray and white.
We were supposed to get "big time snow" today. We barely have 2 inches and Jack is DYING to go sledding.

Where is all of our snow this year?

Massive bummer when you are 4 years old and just want to wear your snow pants and go "up and down the mountain." (Ha! We don't have any "mountains" really.)

Speaking of Valentines...the Valentines for the heart to heart swap are starting to arrive and oh man, there is some super fantastic stuff sitting in my sewing room right now.

I am like a kid at Christmas, I can't wait to see the rest of them!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On my mind: serendipity

I've been thinking a little about how the universe seems to respond to me when I "put things out there." In November of 2007, I gave away these 2 quilts on the blog. My cabinet was starting to overflow, and I was very happy to see them go to new homes.
And then, much to my surprise, 2008 brought 14 (!!!) vintage quilts to me.

I have been collecting quilts for a long, long time, but it is usually slow going. 14 in one year is totally, completely unheard of.

Then just before Christmas we were tossing around ideas of what to ask "Santa" to bring for Jack. We started tossing around the idea of a Smart Cycle , but man are they expensive. Not even a week later "santa" found one in the Goodwill, with extra games even, for $40.

Yesterday was the kicker though. I asked you all last week what kind of skillet to cook with, and for the most part you all agreed that stainless is the way to go. Last night I had the irresistible urge to go to Goodwill, where I found 2 brand spanking new, nice T-Fal Stainless skillets for about $12 for the both of them.

Before I found those in Goodwill I had no idea how I was going to afford to replace the very expensive, totally worthless Green Pans.

David's job laid off 15% of their workforce last week, and there will be no raises or 401k contributions or bonuses or any of that nice stuff this year. While we do feel very, very, very lucky to have made it through the layoffs with his job intact, that "extra" money is what I usually count on in a new year to replace the things around the house that need replacing.

Obviously this year, like all of you, we are holding on tighter to every penny.

Finding the pans felt especially serendipitous.

Anyway, all of this has me thinking about it seems like just when I really want something, or we really need something, it somehow manages to find it's way to me.

Maybe it is in the act of just putting it out there in the universe? Maybe it's pure luck? Maybe I have just learned to appreciate some of the smaller things in life? (Certainly I have put much bigger things out there and have found myself very much without what I had been wishing for.)

What are you hoping for/wishing for/in need of that you would love to stumble upon right now?

Let's all just "put it out there" and see what happens, shall we?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wanna vote again?

Gah, I am sick again and on a thank you note deadline.

Want to vote for a thank you card design?
Berries (I like the idea, but I think it needs a different background. Totally out of ideas though...)
Marshmallows on bench
Jack's chalk handwriting (Pretty sure you will all have a sweet spot for this one)
Marshmallows on concrete
And probably the best "picture", the wreath, but hard to crop in their designer and not as creative.

Thank you!
EDITED: Ok, one modification and one idea I had forgotten while trying to entertain Jack.
I will embroider thank you in that empty hoop (and probably rearrange the hoops a bit).
And the berries on a different background.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I had the chance to go out on Saturday with a girlfriend and just wander childless. I am pretty sure we both think anything childless is bliss sometimes, but it just so happens I had a bit of luck too!
A big pile of glass garlands in hot pink, bright green and silver. (It looks gold in that light, I know.)

I want to get another big glass jar (or maybe empty one that I have ornaments in right now), and just pile it high with glass garland.
An older Charlie Brown puzzle. Yes, Jack is well beyond this type of puzzle, but it makes a cute Valentine decoration, and we are crazy about Charlie Brown over here.

We've already started watching the Charlie Brown Valentine DVD, and it is one of my favorite things in life when I get to watch Jack crack up over that crazy Snoopy.
And some really good vintage fabrics. This flower cart one is my favorite. Maybe my favorite one ever. Not sure I can ever cut it up. (I think it might be a feedsack, but I can't find the stitching holes.)
A super cute flowery feedsack.
A small piece of blue plaid that is the same blue as the sky.
And cute tiny purple flowers.

I stayed up WAY too late watching Michelle and Barack dance the night away. They are just so sweet together.

When the newscasters started getting slap happy and asking everyone "who they were wearing" we had a little conversation of our own:

Dave: So honey, who are you wearing?
Me: Wal-Mart.

LOL I'm a regular Roseanne Barr.

Happy Wednesday all!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Happy Obama day!

"Hey mom, do you know what today is? Happy Obama day!"

Yes indeed. Happy Obama day. I got the itch to make something to commemorate this historical moment 2 days ago. I spent most of yesterday stitching, stitching, making a patchwork flag for our big picture window today.

Who knew I had all those great red, white and blue prints in my stash?
(The date at the bottom is a bit hard to see from a distance.)
We will be glued to the tv as much as possible, watching history in the making, and wishing we were standing out there in the cold, clapping our hands and celebrating in DC.
(And Jack is convinced we should have a parade.)
I am sure there will be a joyful tear or two on my part.
Of course we can't have a party without cupcakes.

And music! Here are a few favorites:
We are the ones,
This land is your land, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen and Tao Rodriguez (I think there might be an issue with HBO removing that version, but good old Woody Gutherie versions are out there too)
And America's Song, via Oprah, various artists , which you can download for free until 5 pm today.

Now go watch history in the making!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Can we talk about cooking?

Ok, I need help.

I know that some of you are "foodies." And certainly some of you are more like me, i.e. "I can do it if it is simple and I can find everything at a not very sophisticated grocery store otherwise forget it."

And I have a bit of a kitchen crisis. Last year I bought a set of Green Pans . They worked for like 30 days. Last month one of them blew apart, literally, on my stove. The large skillet is COMPLETELY unusable already.

We are eating at home 6 days a week now (my husband has high cholesterol, and frankly, it's cheaper), so I really NEED new skillets. But I have to be honest and tell you I have no clue on earth what to buy.

The choices make my head spin: stainless, teflon, enameled cast iron, matte enameled cast iron, regular old cast iron, caphalon, super special caphalon, million dollar caphalon, copper, etc.

I wanted to like the Green Pans because I am nervous about the chemicals in teflon.

And I want to like some of the other choices, but, let's be real here. I need something that can go in the dishwasher. And I am NOT a chef, I need it to be easy to use. I do not foresee myself having 3 different skillets and using one finish for eggs and one finish for meat, etc.

My cooking bible is Rachel Ray's 365 No Repeats , so we are not talking Julia Child or Martha Stewart complicated here.

Maybe I should just go back to teflon?

Help me out. What do you use for skillets?

My second small problem is tofu.

Me? I kinda like tofu. I like veggies though. My husband? Generally not keen on tofu. Jack? He LOVED tofu as baby, wouldn't touch it for a few years, and surprised me by eating it for dinner tonight. (He thinks it is fresh mozzarella cheese I think. Same texture.)

My Rachel Ray cookbook only has one tofu recipe in it. It's a good one, an Indian spinach and tofu over rice deal. But since tofu is crazy cheap compared to everything else here (cucumbers were a $1 each this week! and $4 for 3 bunches of green onions, $4!!!!) and it's good for Dave's heart, I want to use more of it.

Anyway, to the point, maybe you have a favorite tofu recipe you would like to share?

Your help is greatly appreciated by this frozen pizza junkie. :-)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cupcake Valentines

Earlier this week Jack and I sat down one afternoon and turned some cupcake wrappers I had in the cabinet into little Valentines. I plan to hang them on our Valentine tree, and I really love how they turned out.
This is my favorite of Jack's, sweet and simple.
Although I do have a soft spot for this deer which he cut from a vintage playing card too. ("Mom, this deer lost some of it's legs," he said.)
And this one he insisted was "just like yours!"

How about a few of mine?
I made a froofy bow with some old seam binding for this one.
I put some German paper roses on top of a tiny doily for this one.
This one is my FAVORITE, old velvet millinery flowers and leaves and glass glitter oh my!
I have been saving these birds since Heidi sent them to me many moons ago. They were perfect for this type of craft.
Oh my, the bee. The bee was the end of lovely crafting with Jack time. We had quite a row over the bee. LOL

Honestly, I could have made these all day.

The possibilities are totally endless. I just pulled out the boxes I keep all sorts of paper crafting odds and ends in, and we went to town. Stickers, labels, bows, flowers, hearts cut out of paper, glitter, wallpaper, doilies, playing cards, ribbons, buttons, pearls (I still have one idea kicking around that MUST.GET.OUT of my head), and so much more.

Ready to go dig out the cupcake wrappers yet?

The complete set of them will be up on Flickr, link over there on the right hand sidebar.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A riddle

"So Jack, did you watch a video at school today?"

"Well yeah. It was a man and a monkey. But not the same one that is on tv every morning. The man was naked. No shirt, no pants. Just spotted underwear. Underwear with spots."


Figured out what they watched yet?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Smockin' good time

More than 2 years ago I made myself this smock from a thrifted sheet. I loved that smock.

And I wore that smock to death.

So earlier this summer I bought myself new fabric to make myself a new apron. I had grand plans of mama sized smock of a different sort. I drafted a pattern, I measured two and three times. And finally last week I cut it out.

And it totally
I loved the feedsack reproduction fabric way too much to give up though, so I did a modified version of the first smock with what I could salvage from the mess.

(It's blowing in the FREEZING cold wind there, but you get the idea.)
I added a pocket this time too.

Way more fun than all the ripping of stitches involved in making this thing was Jack locking me outside in the FREEZING cold when I went out to take these pictures.

Smockin' good times indeed.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Laughs and Preschool crafts

We have had a crazy busy day. I am exhausted already and it's only 4 pm!
I really love handmade Valentines so, to keep Jack busy while I have been working I have had him threading beads onto pipe cleaners to make heart ornaments for Valentine's Day.

I was NOT going to do a Valentine tree this year (I am enjoying the post Christmas sparseness), but I need a place to hang these. Hopefully I can get a small tree up by Weds, as I saw another super cute Valentine ornament to make him with tomorrow.
He has really taken to playing outside for an hour a day, no matter the weather. I thought I had better snap a shot of him in his little car before he is way too big to ride in it anymore. I am not even sure how he manages now?!?
And this scene out the backdoor while I was working on the dishes cracked me up.

I think he is working on a career in exterior illumination.

Or maybe it's a lifetime of gnome domination? (He has them all lined up there, you can't see some of them behind him.)

Friday, January 09, 2009


When I was emptying my sewing room of all the Christmas related stuff I rediscovered these tiny yo-yo's I had stuck in a jar when I bought them at the flea market this summer.
Since I was on a "finish it up" sewing kick, I spent some time putting them together into a little mat.
They are tiny things, she made them not much bigger than a quarter. And I love the 1930's-1940's prints.
A happy little mat in the winter sunshine.

P.S. Did you hear that Country Home is the latest magazine to stop publishing as of March 2009? Major bummer. And the February issue was so good too. Sigh.