Tuesday, June 02, 2009

All Knitted Up: Violet Ruffled Shawl

Pattern: Ruffled Shawl by Gail Tanquary

Needle Size: US 10 Needles

Yarn: Lion Brand Cotton-Ease in Violet (5 skeins)

Notes: I could not wait to show you my latest knitted project. I am so proud of this, in fact, that I carry it around in a tote bag with me to showcase to anyone who will talk to me. This truly is my proudest knitting moment to date and I would like to introduce you to my new summer shawl!

The shawl itself was very easy and straightforward. The shawl started with only two stitches and then increased as you went along and grew from that tiny point into the shawl. You then decreased back down until you had a single stitch left on your needles. At this point, you picked up the edge again and knit back into it to create the bell-shaped ruffle. I had no idea how to "pick up" stitches so this required a great deal of assistance from my sweet mother-in-law.

The ruffled edge was a true challenge for me though and each row, on the ruffle, took approximately an hour to complete. I should have used longer circular needles than I had, as the stitches were so bunched on the needles I had no idea if I was doing anything right at all. The ruffle itself took a full three weeks for me to finish and three hours to cast off.

Once I cast off the ruffle though, I quickly realized that this shawl is not intended for a petite girl. The length of this shawl came to my toes. It was intended to be thrown over your shoulder, but my frame is narrow and I could have easily wrapped it three times. I knew if I left it this way, I would never wear it. After that much work, some modifications had to be made.

Pictured here is my modification to the pattern. I folded each side of the corners of the shawl in sixteen inches on each side and seamed it to the top of the neckline. This created a pocket that I can tuck my hands into when I am cold and created a sizing more appropriate to my body type.

I absolutely am in love with this shawl! I chose cotton yarn so that it could be enjoyed during any season and I wouldn’t get too hot. This shawl will be well-traveled and loved. I have pictured myself in it on so many occasions already.

This project was a true challenge, but I am convinced if I can make this, I can do pretty much anything!

Below is a video that explains the process of picking up stitches that you can use for reference if you haven't done this before.


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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Play it Again, Momma: Sponge Ball Fun

It is that time of year again and I will be making another batch of these little sponge balls for the kids. If you don't have a clothesline, these are fun to just squish in a bucket of water or play with in your child's water activity table.

My once-a-year Martha Moment is here! These sponge balls are courtesy of Martha Stewart Kids Magazine (and a double inspiration from Betz White who was featured in one of my notebook entries).

I hit the Dollar Tree and got two packages of sponges to make our creations. I followed the instructions and cut two sponges into fours and then stacked the two sponges on top of one another with alternating colors. If you buy two packages, you will have enough alternating colors to make six sponges with different colors in each. Then, simply tie the sponges off with a long piece of floss and knot it a few times to keep it in place.


Here is my plastic ice bucket filled with these sponges. The colors are so beautiful that I wanted to spend an afternoon photographing this pail of sponges. Do we stop there and let the kids play with them like this though? NO!

You could say that I am even more inventive than Martha this time! Now take an old drop cloth or sheet and use painter's tape, a permanent marker, or paint to make your bull's-eye. Squares are much easier with the painter's tape so we have a nice square bull's-eye for the kids.

Now hang your game up on the clothesline (or wherever else you can find). We weighed the bottom of the sheet down with clothespins. This sheet is also folded in half to give it a little more weight. Of course, when the wind starts blowing, give the kids extra points if they can still hit it.

Not challenging enough? Have one of your kids stand in front and block it.

For some reason, that was one roadblock too many for this toddler.

You can also grab two at a time or a whole handful of them. Make it more challenging by backing the kids up further from the mark. Our point system was 10, 20, and 30 points depending on the size of the square they hit. (PS- I promise I feed my children, they just have extremely high metabolism)

An afternoon of water fun cost us $2 in sponges, but this is a game that I hope we can play many more times together.

What is one of your favorite frugal summer activities?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Notebook Experiments: Can I Give the Gift of Homemade Cleaners?


Experiment: Can I Give the Gift of Homemade Cleaners?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 01.15.09

Materials Needed: Please see Jolly Mom for cleaning recipe ideas and supplies needed.

For each of these little kits I bought two empty spray bottles, a little feather duster, a microfiber mitt for additional dusting, a mini-brush set, and a bill organizer. For making the cleaners, you need only vinegar and a mild dishwashing soap.

Results:
We had two gift occasions coming up this week that I need to make gifts for. My brother just moved into a new apartment and I am attending a baby shower for a new mom who is moving into her first home. What is more practical than a kit for them to tidy up their new digs?

I hit the Dollar General to get the supplies for each of these. The buckets are drink buckets from the picnic supplies, and all of the rest of the goodies were found in the cleaning supplies. I also hit the stationary section and found bill paying organizers that would be perfect for someone moving into their new place with new utilities.


I made two of my favorite cleaning recipes for two spray bottles for the gifts:

All-Purpose Cleaner

Mix together two tablespoons of mild dishwashing soap and two cups of water in a spray bottle and give it a shake. Use these anywhere that you would use a commercial all-purpose spray. This cleaner is particularly great for countertops, bathroom surfaces, and high chairs.

Glass Cleaner

Mix together one part white vinegar to one part water in a spray bottle. Spray this solution on your mirrors and windows and dry your windows with newspaper. The newspaper is great for lint-free drying and is a great way to repurpose some of those old papers you have laying around.

I attached recipe cards tied with raffia to the buckets so that they can make more of these inexpensive and earth-friendly cleaners for their home. My hope is that they will see how easy it is to make your cleaners at home and see that it can save them some money in the process.

Conclusion: This would make a fantastic graduation gift, a sweet gift for a new bride, and a fun gift for a college student getting their first place. I will definitely be making more of these in the future!

Related Links:

Happy Homemaking the Homemade Way

Thrifty Graduation Gift Ideas

********************

I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster's blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can't wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Notebook Experiments: Can I Make Wall Art?

Today is a repeat experiment since I was working on finishing up baby blankets this week. If you haven't seen this experiment, it was a definitely a fun one and I still have the art hanging in our family room and office!

Experiment: Can I Make Wall Art?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 08.21.08

Materials Needed: Please see Simple Mom for the full instructions on this task (originally taken from Mt. Hope Chronicles). I had two places in my house that was in need of some art so I thought I would attempt this craft. I hit a local scrapbook shop and picked out some scrapbook paper for my project. I then headed over to Michael's and picked up Mod Podge and the canvases to do the work on. I also splurged and purchased a circle punch so that I would have nice and even circles. I am lousy at cutting and this made the work go so much faster. I will use it to make our gift tags for Christmas gifts this year and banners for birthdays. See how I can justify any purchase as an "investment opportunity?"

Results: My husband & I put together our design and then I glued them onto the canvas. After gluing them and letting them dry, I used a sponge brush and brushed the entire canvas with the Mod Podge to create a smooth surface. I did two layers of the Mod Podge on top and this created a nice sheen to the pictures and made the project look more finished

I had a window that I wanted surrounded by art and these turned out great. The ones for our family room incorporated the reds in them, and had a little tribute to our favorite date nights together. Can you find it?


The one I created for my husband's office. He loves anything to do with fonts and is a proud collector of them (can you tell I married a web guy?) so I made this one as a tribute to his font fascination.

Conclusion: I absolutely loved this craft and am thinking of all the other art work I could create for our walls. I often feel limited by my crafting abilities so this easy project was right up my alley. Thank you Simple Mom for the great suggestion!
********************

I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster's blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can't wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

All Knitted Up: Sweet Baby Blankets

All of my girlfriends are pregnant it seems and so my knitting needles have been quite content at clicking away on baby blankets for each of my wonderful friends.

Each gift is lovingly wrapped in tissue paper and tied off with ribbon from my craft supplies. I love finishing these gifts off and giving them all of the work and love I have put into them. It is quite an incredible feeling, particularly because I have only been knitting for a year. I would have never dreamed how much I would be able to do with this little hobby and how much it would enrich my life. Truly, if you have a friend who can teach you such a hobby or a class in town that you can take, I encourage you to give knitting a try.

If you are a knitter, I would love for you to be my friend on Ravelry. My username is momadvice and I try to keep my little notebook updated with the current projects.

Here are a couple of the projects that I have been working on:






Lemony Bon Bon Baby Blanket

Pattern: Sweet Bon Bon Blanket by Suzanne Middlebrooks (available as a free download for Ravelry members)

Needle Size: US 9 Needles

Yarn: Bernat Softee Baby Solids (in Lemon) & Baby Bee Lambie Pie (in Snuggle) for smaller pattern between the solid yellow. Only one skein (455 yards) was needed of the yellow and I used only 1/4 of a skein in the Baby Bee yarn.

Notes: I absolutely love this pattern and am planning to make more blankets with other colors like it. It is very easy to follow and also easy to see where you get off track because of the way it comes together. The furry yarn adds texture between the different pattern rows, but it was difficult to work with and stay on track for the kfbf combination when weaving back into the regular yarn. I still would do it again though because I love the texture that it brings to the blanket.

This pattern is still a great one for a beginning knitter and the only stitch I did not know was the kfbf combination, which I found how to do on You Tube. Because of the width of this blanket (a cast on of only 96 stitches) it comes together very quickly and it makes a beautiful chevron pattern with a garter edge.



Project Linus Security Blanket

Pattern: Project Linus Security Blanket Pattern found in, "Knitting for Peace"

Needle Size: US 9

Yarn: Bernat Softee Baby Solids (I don't have the color name, but it was a baby blue with white mix)

Notes: This pattern has been highlighted before, but I couldn't resist sharing another blanket that I made from this pattern. My best friend is expecting her third child and specifically requested this pattern after seeing my pink version for another dear friend. This is the world's best pattern for a beginner in teaching how to do yarn overs. Although it looks complex, there is only one row of "pattern" and then it has a row of purling and a row of knitting. It adds a beautiful scalloped edge to the blanket and looks far more impressive than it really is. It is a larger blanket (with a cast on of 144 stitches for the smaller size) so this one does take a bit of time, but it is an easy pattern to do while watching television because of the two basic rows within it.

Below is the video that I used for figuring out how to do the kfbf combination:

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Notebook Experiment: Can I Make A Pretty Wreath for Our Door?


Experiment: Can I make a pretty spring wreath for our door OR can I attempt one of the most craftiest crafts ever for Mother's Day?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry03.18.09

Materials Needed: Please see A Soft Place to Land for the full instructions. I did everything that was instructed by Kimba to create this beautiful wreath.

Results: This has to be one of the most ambitious projects that I have ever done, but it certainly does make for a great story.

My best friend & I decided to attempt Kimba's infamous lemonhead wreath after I featured it in our notebook. We agreed to split the cost on supplies and each make three of these wreaths- one for ourselves and two for each of the moms in our life.

First, we ordered SIX POUNDS of ping pongs. I swear, the guy that we ordered them from (off of eBay) thought that we were throwing the world's biggest beer pong tournament. I can't say that explaining we were making wreaths out of them cleared up any of the confusion. After we spent $65 to buy enough ping pongs, we then set off to buy the rest of the craft supplies to complete them.

Spray paint, flowers, glitter, adhesive, wreath forms, ribbon, hot glue- another $65 was spent to get these babies yellow and sugared for our front doors. Kimba never said that this was the most frugal craft, but wreaths are expensive and our mom's are worth it so we got the supplies and headed over to my house to start plugging away at putting these together.

Spray painting ensued, 144 ping pongs glued around each wreath, more spray paint, adhesive, glitter, attaching flowers, bow-making craziness. Two days of truly hard work, but my gawd, I was getting this craft done and they were going to be the best gifts in the whole dang world.

After all of the blood, sweat, and still picking the yellow paint out of my fingernails, here is our final look:




And one more picture that is exactly the same, but I deserve it after all of that work:



Conclusion: I am so happy with my wreaths, but trying to tackle three of these might have been a tad bit TOO ambitious. In all seriousness, I am so proud of these and I know my moms will absolutely love them. May I also say that if THIS happens to any of these precious wreaths, you may need to lock me up in the mental institution.

This will go down in history, as the most ambitious Mother's Day craft in the history of my life!

********************

I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Wednesday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster's blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can't wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Play It Again, Momma: Rainy Day Survival Kit

Spring is almost here in Indiana and with it comes those rainy days! I will be working on restocking our little suitcase for those days ahead and I hope this offers a fun idea for keeping your children entertained when the bad weather strikes!

I have been wanting to work on this project for some time, and since it was miserable weather all weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to tackle this project. I went to Goodwill and found a plain leather suitcase for $5. I gave it a good scrubbing, when I got it home, and proceeded to decorate it with some knick knacks from my craft supplies. I tied a big bow on the handle and made it look super cool for the kids. If you have older, children, you could invite them to help you! I applied the buttons and ribbon with my trusty hot glue gun.

Hmm... I wonder what could be inside? Let's take a peek, shall we?

It might not look like much to you and me, but to my kids...well, this is a good couple of hours of enjoyment. Inside here I have coloring books, crayons, a deck of cards, pipe cleaners (yes, I told you it wouldn't look like much to us), a 100 piece puzzle, little spinning princess tops, yo-yos, dinosaurs, a little jewelry set with a crown, board games, quiet instruments, and books. Some of the items were "new" and purchased from the thrift store, some were items that I had been rotating and storing because no one was playing with them, and some of them were purchased from the dollar store. I would say even with the cost of the suitcase, there is probably about $15 of stuff invested here, but it is OH SO WORTH IT!

You could pick activities based upon how involved you really want to be with this. If you are looking for a little sanity break, I would suggest putting things in there that they could enjoy playing with by themselves or with their siblings. If you are looking for a good time to bond with your kids, put things in there that you can do with them like board games or stuff for art projects. If you are super smart, you will have a case of each- momma needs a break suitcase and momma wants to be your awesome friend suitcase.

This is such a hit in our house! Ethan keeps asking if it is wet on the ground because he wants to play with this special stuff. Pretty sad when your kids are begging for rainy days, but it makes me feel like this was a great idea and a great way to keep them occupied! Being a Midwest girl, I am sure I will have plenty of days to really use this. If I lived in Seattle, I might have to have a few hundred of these so they wouldn't get tired of the same old stuff.

Might I just add that this would be a great birthday gift for a child and would be a wonderful addition to a grandparent's house too! I am thinking this would be something fun that I could put together for my nephews or would be a great way to store a little girl's dress-up clothes. The possibilities really are endless.

Related Links:

Spring Break '08 Cost Breakdown

A Drizzly Saturday

Fruity Play Dough

Summertime Planning

Is anyone else looking forward to the spring weather? Do you have any big Spring Break plans this year? Please share!

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Anthropologie Inspired Knitted Capelet Take Two


Yup, I made it again because I loved the pattern that much. I am, in fact, working on a third one and I am afraid that I will never knit anything BUT these Anthropologie inspired knitted capelets again.

This one was knitted with Lion Brand Homespun yarn in a moss green. It happened to be on sale, right after the holidays, and I bought two packages of it for only $4 each! I was able to knit this pattern using only one of the packages so I am sure I will be able to find a good use for that extra yarn. The button was the second in the package of what I had used from before.

Don't be surprised if I never knit anything else again. I am working on one in black and was able to pick through my girlfriend's stash of antique buttons for the next one. You know, because every girl needs a black capelet. It goes with everything.

Details on Pattern: This is the Anthropologie Inspired Capelet from Peony Knits. I used size 11 (8.00 mm) needles and Lion Brand Homespun Yarn in Moss Green, purchased at Michael's. I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it so I bought the inexpensive yarn.

Modifications: I added two inches to the length of the capelet and then added 5 rows of additional ribbing to the sleeves. It is a small pattern. I have a very narrow frame and am petite and this fit me perfectly. I would recommend modifications if you are busty or have a wider frame. This project did require some blocking, but came together quickly with instant gratification.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

All Knitted Up: Dulce Neck Cozy



My mother-in-law is a fabulous knitter so it can be a little nerve-wracking to knit something for a really great knitter. She had mentioned to me one day though, that she would love to have a cowl in a really soft yarn. I ran right out and got the supplies to make this beautiful pattern in a cherry red bamboo yarn. The yarn was so incredibly soft that it felt like a warm blanket and I ended up getting two balls of this so I could make one for her and one for myself.

I thought this would make a fabulous birthday gift for her and made this and a big birthday dinner to celebrate her.


Here is the birthday girl with her new neck cozy! She says the girls at work really loved her fancy new neck cozy and how great it was when she was out in the cold on recess duty with the children.

I am planning to take this with me on my next trip since it is a perfectly portable and easy project. I think it will go perfectly with my furry black coat this season.

Details on Pattern: This pattern is no longer available online, but is available for download on Ravelry. It is called the Dulce Neck Cozy.

I completed the Dulce #2 (Browns) Pattern. This took all 148 yards, but I knitted loosely so I would not have to make the buttonhole. I could have probably used another twenty yards to give it a little extra length, but was under a bit of a time crunch. I opted for one button instead of two and chose a black wooden button to bring the cowl together.

This would be a great patten to take on a trip because it has only one row of real pattern and alternates only between two rows one of purling and one of pattern. It has a herringbone type of look to it and looks far more complicated than it is.

Great project for instant gratification! Wonderful pattern for a newbie knitter in understanding yarn overs.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

All Knitted Up: The Anthropologie Inspired Capelet


This is a proud, proud knitting moment. As I gaze at this capelet, I feel nothing but happiness that I was able to make something that I could actually wear with great pride.

I printed out this pattern a few weeks ago and read it a dozen times, but would immediately become overwhelmed with anxiety. What if I couldn't make anything more than a scarf or a dishcloth or a blanket? What if I was destined to make square flat things for the rest of my life? What if I failed?

I began to knit and what happened was that I began to learn. I made a swatch to check my gauge. I made mistakes, but I ripped them out. I learned what 1x1 ribbing was. I placed markers. I moved things to scrap yarn. I created sleeves. I seamed. I became excited as I began to understand what I was doing.

I knitted with wild abandon. I tried my work on. I tried it on again. I modified it to my personal taste. I sewed it up with a button. I blocked. I collapsed at midnight of the same day and felt quite smug that I had done it. If I could knit this, what else could I knit? I held back from spending the night flipping through patterns with my new skill set in mind. Yes, I must rest.



The next day was the other anxiety filled moment. I wore it out in public. And no one laughed or asked if it was what I made in my Home Ec class. And they complimented me. And there was so much pride.

And now, I know I can do so much more than I gave myself credit for... and that was the best feeling of all! A whole new world of patterns have just opened up for me!

I plan to make this in a couple of other colors and play around with the pattern a bit. It is one that can be modified depending on your style and shape.

Details on Pattern: This is the Anthropologie Inspired Capelet from Peony Knits. I used size 11 (8.00 mm) needles and Lion Brand Wool-Ease Thick & Quick in Fisherman. I wasn't sure if I would be able to make it so I bought the inexpensive yarn.

Modifications: I added two inches to the length of the capelet and then added 5 rows of additional ribbing to the sleeves. It is a small pattern. I have a very narrow frame and am petite and this fit me perfectly. I would recommend modifications if you are busty or have a wider frame. This project did require some blocking, but came together quickly with instant gratification.

The project only took me one day of dedicated knitting and I am a newbie knitter.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Round-Up of Homemade Hostess Gifts

I love to give hostess gifts because they don't cost very much at all, but can say a lot about who you are and the person you are giving it to. In my opinion, giving a homemade gift shows that you care enough about that person that you would devote time towards making something special just for them. The best part about the homemade gift is that you can make it very inexpensively, but leave a lasting message for your recipient.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite hostess gifts to give for the holiday season from our website...


A jar of pumpkin butter with some buttery bread machine rolls.

A snowflake knitted dishcloth with a personalized family tag.

A coffee cup or waffle-weave dishcloth with a bottle of hand soap tied with a little raffia.

A knitted or no-sew scarf with a repurposed container housing some homemade vanilla chai tea or other great drink mix.

A batch of ready-to-bake homemade cinnamon rolls to make your host's morning brighter.

A set of bubbly magnets in a creatively wrapped Altoid tin.

A fresh batch of Oreo Biscotti in a pretty coffee mug.

A mix of your favorite holiday music wrapped creatively in your family holiday picture.

A can of sugar & spice nuts- the perfect holiday treat.

A mini-loaf of deliciously spiced pumpkin bread wrapped with a bow.

A batch of vanilla scented granola in a thrifted jar.

A small box filled with Christmas goodies- don't forget some holiday-esque sugar cookies!


A jar of homemade hot cocoa mix tied with some festive ribbon.


Not enough ideas? Here are some other great hostess gifts to try!

1 hour apron (@ Stop Staring & Start)

A creatively wrapped bottle of inexpensive wine or champagne (@ Martha Stewart)

A paper scrapbook bag (@ Craftzine)

A pan of nut brittle block with a mini-hammer or make my microwave version of this (@ Martha Stewart)

A set of fabric-painted monogrammed hand towels (@ Martha Stewart)

A cinnamon candle with a big red bow (@ Martha Stewart)

A fabric covered journal with a note of thanks (@ Country Living)

A box of paper fortune cookies, but write things you are thankful for about the person you are giving them to instead of fortunes and use holiday paper (@ For the Love of Paper)

A box of festive caramel corn tied with a green bow (@ little momma and co.)

A little hot cocoa kit with chocolate covered marshmallows (@ whatever)

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Monday, December 08, 2008

My Hostess Gifts This Year

I have been working on little hostess gifts to give this year for all of our upcoming holiday gatherings. I wanted something that would be quick to make and also economical. Thanks to my new knitting hobby, I am whipping up snowflake dishcloths for a mere $.75 each.


This pattern was easy to do and only required a bit of concentration when making the snowflake in the center. This is all knitting and purling so if you can do those two stitches, you can totally make these! I used Peaches 'N Cream in red and a robin's egg blue.

I have to say that my favorite part about these is the little addition of our family Christmas picture (courtesy of Brittani Renee Photography). I had a disc of our pictures and I copied the pictures to my computer. I then took one of our holiday photos and plopped it into a Word document. Right click on your image and click, "Size." You can then adjust your image to the size for your gift cards. This was reformatted with width and height at 3 inches. You could also do a smaller gift tag by resizing the image to 2 inches. Type your message below and mount it onto cardstock or pretty scrapbooking paper. This was hole punched and then I used a needle to weave in a strand of contrasting yarn with a little raffia.

I hope those who host us in their home will know how much their efforts are appreciated by this tiny gesture of thankfulness.

What is your favorite hostess gift to give? Please feel free to share your recipes or tips/tricks for personalizing those hostess gifts!

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

All Knitted Up: Project Linus Security Blanket




I am wrapping up my second baby blanket. I think this one is just a tad fancier than the first blanket I did. Although the pattern looks very complex, in actuality the pattern has three rows that just repeat over and over. It is one row of knitting, one row of purling, and then one row of actual pattern. Then you just repeat it until you want to poke your eyes out with your knitting needles.

My favorite part about this blanket is the scalloped edging on it. The blanket looks so beautiful and delicate and it will be going to my best friend's sweet little baby who is on the way in just a couple of short months. I hope it will be a favorite in their collection and I can't wait to send this off for the holidays.

If you are interested in making this blanket, I found the pattern in, "Knitting for Peace" which is a really great book with simple patterns for charitable giving.

It has blanket patterns, chemo cap patterns, infant and preemie hat patterns, and prayer shawls- just to name a few! I can't wait to start doing some charitable knitting and hope to put some really great stuff together in time for next year's holiday. I would also love to do something with Mama to Mama throughout the year. Is anyone else doing anything with this wonderful project?

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Monday, December 01, 2008

A Perfectly Cozy Gift

I have finished my snowy day scarf and it turned out beautifully! I loved how this scarf turned out so much that I decided to make it for a few more gifts for holiday-giving this year. I was planning to finish it with some tassels, but after tying some tassels to the edges, I decided to take them out because I liked it without them more.

Ethan liked this scarf so much that he now wants me to make one of these for his teacher. We headed over to Michael's and he picked out a soft icy blue for the scarf to be knitted out of. It was so fun to see him think so hard about what color he wanted to give to her. He truly loves his teacher. In fact, on his report card it said, "Ethan tells me he loves me every single day." I hope he is always this tender and sweet.

I am saving those tubes that my Crystal Light drink mix comes in to use for my holiday drink mixes this year. I wrapped this one in some holiday gift wrap and wrapped it around the tube, sealing with a little Elmer's glue to hold it in place. I used my handy little circle punch to make a gift tag to label the drink mix and tied it off with a little raffia. I thought it turned out so cute and, best of all, it was something that would have gone into my recycling.

The scarf is wrapped in ribbon I bought at the end of season last year on clearance. I think it looks so pretty and festive with this bow on it.

Total cost with ingredients, yarn, and wrapping- approximately $5!

Back to the knitting needles to replicate this a couple of more times- once for my postal worker who has worked so hard helping deliver boxes to my house all year long and another for our special teacher. If I can squeeze another one in, it will be for one of his bus drivers and the other (a gentleman) will get a special goody box delivery.

What teacher gifts do you have planned this year? What do you do for those special helpers in your life (the mail carrier, the bus driver, the hair dresser, etc..)?

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Rainy Day (or Snowy Day) Scarf




This is one of my latest knitting projects that I have been working on for a holiday gift. Isn't it beautiful? This is the Rainy Day Scarf, but in my case it was the snowy day and sore throat kind of scarf. I think I am going to finish it with some ribbon and yarn tassels in various colors. The yarn was on sale for $2.99 at Michael's and I was planning to pair it with a tin of my homemade vanilla chai tea as a gift. Don't you think these would be cute wrapped up and tied with ribbon together? I can't wait to finish this project and crank out some more of these. This is definitely a wonderful holiday gift on a budget! Best of all, the pattern is easy and can be done parked in front of the television. You have to love that! You can follow my holiday projects by joining me on Ravelry. I have a few projects up my sleeve for the holidays so be sure to join the community and add me as your friend! My login name is "momadvice."

As a side note, can I brag just a little? Don't these photos look so much better? My husband and I worked together on putting together a little light box for me and I have to say I am so pleased with the results. I am still fiddling with my camera and figuring out settings, but this light box will help make my day much easier. I have wasted so much of my day trying to take pictures in good lighting and this will definitely help with my still photography. I used this tutorial to put it together that my friend Janel had shared with me. It was a small investment for a lot of peace. Just imagine holding the entire dinner hour up trying to find the perfect lighting to shoot your food in. Then imagine eating cold food because it took sixty shots to get one decent picture. Obviously, something had to be done.

So, here's to snowy day scarves and fabulous little light boxes! Cheers!

What holiday projects are you working on?

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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dressing Up the Front Step For Fall

I loved the white pumpkins featured in A Soft Place to Land and gained some inspiration from that post for my own doorstep. Of course, I took the lazy and cheap route, but I think they turned out beautifully.

I purchased faux pumpkins at Michael's Craft Store. The were on sale for 40% off this past week. I found two pots to rest my pumpkins in and a bolt of black ribbon to dress up the pots.



I used my glue gun to attach the ribbon around the outside of the pot. With the leftover ribbon from the bolt, I made a bow and then tied it off with a little raffia. The pumpkins wedge perfectly in there.

I am hoping it will be something that I can use each year. I have found most of our guests think they are real pumpkins when they come over and have spent a lot of time thumping and touching them. I am not usually one to pick things that aren't natural for decorating with, but I love being able to store these and use them year after year. If they are fooling people, then that works even more to my advantage!


Of course, if those pumpkins don't last until next year, I have these two little pumpkins that I can set out there on occasion to dress up the step!

What are some creative ways you decorate your home for fall?

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Find An Inexpensive Hobby

In my basement are bins and bins of beautiful art supplies and oodles of crafty fun. I could spend years making things out of the items that I have already bought…and yet when I go to the craft store, I still feel that familiar tug that I really need more. I love to explore different hobbies and I love to craft. The fact that I am no good at crafting doesn’t seem to stop me and maybe you are in the same boat? Have you ever really thought about the amount of money you are spending on your hobbies? Have you ever thought about how most of the really popular hobbies cost lots of money to accomplish? Do you have oodles of craft supplies and still have an urge to buy more?

Hobbies are great for a number of reasons and I think they are important to be shared in this series. For one, if you have a hobby it can be a wonderful diversion from shopping and spending money. Hobbies can cost money, but you can choose to embrace hobbies and use your talents creating things that don't cost much. Although some people might consider shopping a hobby, it shouldn't be and finding things that fill your life in a positive way can have a positive impact on your wallet.

Not only do hobbies keep you away from shopping, your hobbies can also be turned into profits for your family. If you become good at one of your hobbies, you could potentially earn money with the talents that you have. For example, I love to create hair accessories for my daughter and my friend's love the accessories that I have made for her. I wasn't really intending to go crazy selling them, but my interest in making things for her created a small amount of revenue for me.

I can also use my hobbies to help us save our family money. Instead of buying a wreath for our front door, for example, I can make my own out of things in our home or by buying a small amount of greenery from a craft store. Learning to make things that you would buy can help your finances a lot!

Hobbies also have been proven to help people medically. People who are chronically stressed have poor health, while regular relaxation can promote good health. If I relax and really enjoy something in life, I can prevent things like high blood pressure, digestion problems, ulcers, heart disease, and insomnia. Having a relaxed attitude and enjoying the little things in life lead to better health and fewer doctor visits. Who could argue with that?

Hobbies don’t have to be expensive and many hobbies, in fact, don’t even cost a dime. I found a great book on exploring hobbies called (no less!), “Get a Hobby.” In it are tons of great ideas for hobbies that cost little to nothing and can keep you busy for months on end.

Here are some hobbies that you can pursue that shouldn’t cost you a lot of money and will help to keep you out of those craft stores:

Genealogy- Much of your research can come from things that you already have or from items in your relative’s possessions. Try to gather as much information as you can from your family members (names, birthdates, marriages, deaths, significant life events, etc…) and explore this information first. Next, look through old cookbooks, photo albums, newspaper clippings, resumes, scrapbooks, and yearbooks for more family information. You can then begin looking to websites like Genealogy.com or the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Utilize this information to make a family tree.

Tina Barseghian, the author of “Get a Hobby” also suggests creating a living history interview with people in your family. Record them on camera or with a tape recorder and ask them questions about the family and about themselves. (Note: I am going to be exploring this more through another avenue of recording your life history and I can’t wait to share it with you all!)

Journaling & Blogging- To be honest, I have never really thought of my blog as a hobby, but I guess this would be one of the best hobbies I have ever taken on! Blogging and journaling are wonderful ways to preserve memories, to share your life story, or to talk about things you are passionate about.

After I went to a viewing of "The Secret" I began keeping a gratitude journal. For me, this has helped to remind me of all that I have and I also try to do this when I feel the impulse to shop. This has been very therapeutic for me and I feel like it has had a positive affect on my attitude too.

I try to keep all different types of journals that I look forward to sharing with my children. We have a journal of all the funny things that they have said, a Christmas journal, my gratitude journal, and then I do my blogging about things that we do around the house.

You can find beautiful journals at the dollar stores and for one dollar you can begin focusing on all of the wonderful things you have in life.

You can start a free blog through Blogger, My Space, or LiveJournal (just to name a few!)

These are just two examples of great hobbies that you could start today. There are tons others like gardening, cooking, sewing needlework, rubber stamping, decoupaging, or calligraphy.

If you need crafty inspiration, visit the Martha Stewart site and behold her crafting glory! I love to just hunt through the archives and see cool ideas that I can do in my house, that don't require a lot of money.

I also spend lots of time at our local library hunting through books on crafts that I would like to explore. Many times just reading about the crafts gives me a feel for whether or not I would like to try something, without making the time or money investment into the craft itself.

If you want to learn how to tackle new hobbies, check the big hardware stores (Home Depot or Lowes) for free classes that they offer. Many craft stores also offer free or very inexpensive classes, where you can try a hobby out.

Just remember when going into a hobby, that you really want a hobby that will not require a huge financial investment. If it will require an investment, tell family and friends what items you will need to accomplish the hobby or ask for a gift card to the store to buy the items. One year, I used my gift card to take a cake decorating course at our craft store. The time invested has helped me greatly and saved us lots of money on birthday cakes.

Potential Monthly Savings: $20 or more

Sound Off: What are your favorite hobbies? How do you save money when it comes to buying the supplies needed to do these?

*This entry originally aired on August 22, 2007*

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Eat Your Heart Out Martha: Bubbly Magnets

Today I wanted to share a little holiday craft that I have been working on. I have been making some bubbly magnets to go in stockings and as small gifts for those special people in our life.

Remember, I am no Martha Stewart, so any craft that I share is something that a child can do. I am trying to share some little ideas for things that you can make to give for the holidays. Last week I shared my homemade spiced nut mixture and this week I am sharing my magnet craft. Crafting can be expensive, but this craft is affordable and highly addictive!

Supplies Needed:

Flat marbles (These can be purchased at the dollar store or in the floral section of your local craft store)

1/2" or 3/4" Round magnets (These are the most expensive purchase. I believe they are $6.99 for 50 magnets, but you can use the Michael's 40% off coupon in your paper towards this tab)

Modge Podge Adhesive Glue

A small paintbrush

Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Scissors

Pictures for your magnets (you can use photographs, wrapping paper, magazine pictures, scrapbooking paper- anything with a fun design)

Instructions:


Take your marbles and center it over your desired design, just to make sure it will fit perfectly under your marble. Dip your brush into the Mod Podge glue and brush the glue onto your design. Center your marble over the design and stick it to the pattern. Allow the glue to dry for fifteen to twenty minutes. If you are doing more than one magnet, on the same sheet, repeat the process on the paper or move on to your next sheet of paper.

Once your glue has dried, cut around the marbles, as close to the edges as possible. Now take your glue gun and dab a bit of glue on the magnet and attach your marble over the magnet piece. Allow these to dry completely.

Ta-Da! Cute new magnets for your fridge!

* This post originally aired on October 15, 2007*

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Eat Your Heart Out Martha (Or How to Make a Diaper Cake)

Welcome to a Play It Again, Momma week! This week we will be highlighting some of our favorite entries and today's entries will be all about crafting. What could be better than that? I hope you will enjoy these and remember, if I can craft it, your kid can craft it!

If you can believe it, I have been sitting on this blog entry for a year now. I only know this because the cakes that I have pictured were for my nephew and my best friend's son and they are both celebrating their first birthday!

Even though I haven't shared about this, my heart swells a little because I was so proud to carry such a pretty gift into the hospital. I felt even more proud when the nurses stopped me and asked me where I bought it. It was one of my proudest Martha moments because I am not very crafty, but I try oh-so-hard to have those impressive moments in my life.

Making a diaper cake is so easy and the results are extremely impressive! I had seen many companies advertising these on their websites, but they were charging fifty dollars (or more!) for these cakes. I ran a search and ran across this great picture tutorial on how to do it, and decided that it was definitely something I could do with just a couple of small purchases.

For my diaper cakes, I needed to establish a base for them so that I could transport them easily. I found a box in our garage and cut a square of cardboard out of it to rest the cake on. I then covered the cardboard with pretty wrapping paper in blues & pinks.

Next I followed the instructions for making the first diaper layer and used a stretchy headband that I had to bring the base diapers all together, making the first layer of the cake. It had suggested using a rubber band, but I didn't have any that would secure that many diapers together. I then wrapped pretty ribbon around it and tied them together with that, securing them together with white tipped pins, which made it look like part of the ribbon itself. With the next two layers, I was able to use a rubber band to put them together, and then covered the rubber band with the ribbon.

Once you have all of your layers, you can stack them and stick a dowel rod in the center, or anything that is long and will help them stay jointed together.

I went to Target and found little man blazers that would be perfect to go with the cake. I pinned these to the back and stuck a little stamped card in the pocket that said, "Congratulations!"

Next I went to the dollar store to buy some shrink wrap and two sets of wooden blocks (over by the baby supplies). I spelled out BOY on each of them and saved the rest of the blocks for our daughter to play with.

Shrink wrapping is very easy! Take the bag and pull it over your item and hold it at the top. Turn your blow dryer on and blast it until the wrapping shrinks tightly to fit your item. Use the bow that is supplied, or tie off with a bow of your own!

Diaper cakes can have small items tucked in the center of them from the mom's registry or you can go with a themed cake. Remember, the more items you add, the more you add to your cost. If you are trying to keep the cost down, keep it simple.

Here are a few theme ideas:

Bath time Cake- add a baby towel, tuck washcloths in the center and put a Rubber Ducky on top. You can also add small bath toys or bubble bath.

Elegant Cake- Make your diaper cake look like a wedding cake, and surround it with fresh or silk flowers. People will hardly believe their eyes when they see it.

Beach time Cake- This would be for a little later in the baby's life, but you can fill it up with beachy items. Some suggestions are a shovel, pail, baby sunglasses, a hat and some sunblock.

Night-Night Baby- Include a copy of, "Goodnight, Moon" with this cake. Add a little sleeper set, some calming nighttime lotion, and a compact disc of sweet baby lullabies.

The cost for each of these was:

Diapers- Free! they were given to us as a gift and Emily wore cloth so we never used them!
Diaper Cake Base- Free- made out of an old cardboard box we had!
Ribbon- $1.98
Little Man Blazer- Clearanced out for $2.98 at Target! Gotta love those clearance items!
Shrink Wrap & Baby Blocks- $2

Total Cost= $6.96

Sound Off: Would you guys like to see more, "Eat Your Heart Out, Martha!" moments on here? I have one a year, but I am happy to share the few I do have! I hope this gives you another thrifty gift alternative!

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Getting Crafty With Your Kids & Big News

This week on WSBT, I shared my crafty ideas for things you can make with your kids from common items out of your pantry. I had tons of props prepared after doing the Michiana Family Expo (sponsored by Michiana Family Magazine). We spent twelve hours at the mall showing parents some fun crafts to do with their kids and I reused these same props for this segment. For those of you who weren't able to make it out to see us, I hope this will provide a great substitution.

To go along with this fun discussion, please visit our latest article, "Being a Crafty Parent... When You Just Aren't." As a parent who struggles with being crafty and fun, I hope that I can help provide inspiration for you to get crafting with your children. This article contains a few easy recipes that will help get you started on a fun crafting adventure with your kids. Be sure to check our resource list for our top recommendations for craft books and hit your local library.

I have two new articles up on the Kenmore website that I think you guys will really love. The first article is, "Help Kids Earn & Learn." This article focuses on teaching your children how to start a small business or helping them earn money by simply helping you around the house. I worked really hard on it so I hope you enjoy it!

The second article is, "Plan the Perfect Summer Getaway." I meant to highlight this sooner, but had forgotten to. I hope you can bookmark it for planning your next vacation and we share some of our favorite family trips & trips for organized and thrifty traveling.

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Next week is going to be a fun week on our blog because I am going to be be doing an entire Play It Again, Momma week! I am going to highlight some of my favorite entries on here for the week so please join me! I will still be running a giveaway on Tuesday and our Freebie Friday, but everything else will be taking a week off so I can spend some time with my family. If you decide to do a Notebook Experiment, just hold it tight for a week or give yourself two weeks to complete it.

I have never taken a vacation from my blog so this will be a new one for me. I need some time to rejuvenate and refresh so I can bring some new ideas to the table. In the meantime, you can read all of the stuff that I am most proud of so I hope it will be a good compromise!

I will also be busy working on helping with the Eleven Moms gig and have added a new role to my list- Editor of Blissfully Domestic. I have taken over the Family Channel and I have twenty-five amazing writers that I will be working with. Basically, I am not sleeping and that is why I need a week to sleep.

We have two amazing giveaways this week that you can enter- but do not leave your comments here. Head to the provided contest links to leave your entry!

We are giving away a $50 Visa gift card to a lucky MomAdvice reader to relax, recharge, and rejuvente however you choose, be it a spa trip, yoga classes, or some retail therapy. To enter, simply leave your favorite household tip by September 2nd (Tuesday) at 8PM EST. Sorry- only US residents are eligible for this contest. Contest Details

Cetaphil is offering one lucky winner one of every single product from their product line! That is a huge box of loot, people! To enter, let us know one way you save money on your beauty care needs. We love frugal tips so I can wait to see what you come up with! Comments must be left by September 2nd (Tuesday) at 8 PM (EST). Contest Details

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Notebook Experiments: Can I Make Wall Art?




Experiment: Can I Make Wall Art?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 08.21.08

Materials Needed: Please see Simple Mom for the full instructions on this task (originally taken from Mt. Hope Chronicles). I had two places in my house that was in need of some art so I thought I would attempt this craft. I hit a local scrapbook shop and picked out some scrapbook paper for my project. I then headed over to Michael's and picked up Mod Podge and the canvases to do the work on. I also splurged and purchased a circle punch so that I would have nice and even circles. I am lousy at cutting and this made the work go so much faster. I will use it to make our gift tags for Christmas gifts this year and banners for birthdays. See how I can justify any purchase as an "investment opportunity?"

Results: My husband & I put together our design and then I glued them onto the canvas. After gluing them and letting them dry, I used a sponge brush and brushed the entire canvas with the Mod Podge to create a smooth surface. I did two layers of the Mod Podge on top and this created a nice sheen to the pictures and made the project look more finished

I had a window that I wanted surrounded by art and these turned out great. The ones for our family room incorporated the reds in them, and had a little tribute to our favorite date nights together. Can you find it?


The one I created for my husband's office. He loves anything to do with fonts and is a proud collector of them (can you tell I married a web guy?) so I made this one as a tribute to his font fascination.

Conclusion: I absolutely loved this craft and am thinking of all the other art work I could create for our walls. I often feel limited by my crafting abilities so this easy project was right up my alley. Thank you Simple Mom for the great suggestion!
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I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster's blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can't wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Notebook Experiments: Can I Craft Some Bath Toys?


Experiment: Can I Craft Some Bath Toys?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 06.26.08

Materials Needed: Please see plumpudding for the full instructions on this task. I hit our local dollar store and picked up a ten pack of craft foam to use for this project. The craft foam is thin enough that you can cut these with plain old scissors or you could break out your zig-zag scissors from your scrapbooking materials.


Results:
I am not very good at free-hand drawing so I went ahead and looked for a template where I could stencil some really cute shapes out of my foam. I found this handy template from the Martha Stewart website and whipped up several fishes, flowers, and hearts for the kids. These were very easy to trace and took only a few minutes to whip up. My husband also put together some that he drew for the kids.

The kids absolutely loved these and didn't want to get out of the bathtub. I also saved a few sheets of foam for the kids to do finger-painting on. I am planning to use these foam sheets with some of our homemade pudding paints (with only enough water to make a finger-paint consistency instead of a water paint consistency) and then I will just rinse the sheets off when they are done so that they can make brand new creations!

I would recommend making sure to soak the foam before you begin sticking it on walls. The pink color did bleed onto the walls and left a pink shade that is going to take some serious scrubbing to get out. None of the other colors caused this problem, but giving them a good soaking first should prevent this problem.


Conclusion: One package of foam can keep my children entertained for many baths and I can't wait to whip up some more of these for them to play with. I am thinking that these would make excellent stocking stuffers this year and you can't beat the price! Thanks plumpudding for your creative idea!
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I am so excited to open our Notebook Experiments up to everyone and I hope that you will be able to participate this week or in weeks to come! I will be posting this each Thursday so please mark your calendars if you plan to participate. You can post your entries at any time throughout the week and then leave your entry in the links below.

We have this handy banner that you are more than welcome to use, but it is not a requirement! It is just something you can add to add a little sparkle to your entry.

Rules for Participation:

1. Choose anything from any of our notebook entries (past or present) to do with your family. We have hundreds of bookmarked links of crafts, ways to save money, and organizing ideas.
2. Complete an experiment from the notebook and share about it on your blog or website. We would love to see pictures of what you accomplished or a detailed description of how your projects turned out. Please include a link to this entry, a link to the original posting of the entry (at the original crafster's blog), and (to help us relocate the project) the date or link of the notebook entry where you found it. You can use the same formatting as our entries or you can just include that information in your post in your own unique way!
3. Post a link below. Please include your name or blog name & a fast description of your project. Example- MomAdvice (WHO bread)

I can't wait to see what you create and what you find inspiring!

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Monica's Favorite Note Cards

I am so excited to kick off our weekend guest posts with Monica, from the wonderfully creative blog, The Homespun Heart. I consider Monica to be one of my dearest blogging friends and an inspiration to me to be a more creative mother. I do hope that you will check out her amazing blog!

If you are interested in submitting a post on frugal living, creative/crafty parenting, or organizing, you can email your entries to me at amy@momadvice.com. Please include a bio with a link to your site and (if you would like) a picture of yourself to include.




This is one of my all time favorite craft projects to do! An hour or two spent making cards and envelopes is really fun for me.

I start with plain 8.5" x 11" cardstock. I really like this brand from Michael's. They have a package of 50 sheets (which makes 100 cards) on sale periodically for $1.99 making it very inexpensive to make these cards! I have never tried the pre-cut paper, but my sister loves it - so whatever works best for you!

I slice the paper in half on a paper trimmer. Then, I fold each half in half again which makes your blank cards. Simply choose any photo you want to put on the front and attach with double-stick tape. I used to love using glue sticks - but have found the results with double-stick tape to be much better. Even though the tape is more expensive, I think it is worth it!

To make the envelope, select one full page photo from a magazine. Either take apart an envelope you already have that is the right size or print this template. Use template as a pattern and cut out the envelope. Fold side edges in first, then fold bottom flap up. Attach with double-stick tape. Fold top flap down - done!

To mail, tape back closed and use a label on the front for addressing. I love giving a stack of these for a gift, and you can see more of that in the related links below.

There is a step-by-step photo tutorial that I did a year ago, the links are below listed as Steps 1-4.

Enjoy!

Here are some previous posts about this very topic:
Homespun Wrapping
Gifts for Nursery Volunteers
Step One
Step Two
Step Three
Step Four
Christmas Cards

Monica is a stay at home mom to three little ones ages 3, 2 and 6 months! She loves to bake, offer hospitality, create fun memories for family and friends and is an avid crafter! She also loves blogging at The Homespun Heart!

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Knitting Helpers

A package came for me in the mail. They had to ring the doorbell and have me sign for it. My sweet postal worker was so excited to hand me a package from Japan. She said, "I've been wondering what this is?" as she handed it to me. I had to laugh because this little envelope was full of these...

I ordered my knitting needles through eBay and found that I could get an entire lot of bamboo needles (each size between 0 through 15) for only $20, which included the shipping total! It is hard to do projects when you only have one set of needles so I was so thrilled to finally get them. It took an entire month for them to make their way to my house, but they were in surprisingly good condition. Two of the little tops did come off, but with a little crafting glue, I was able to put them right back together. I started using them as soon as I got them in my hot little hand and I plan to order circular and double-pointed needles through eBay as well.


With the kids playing outside almost every day, I am doing the majority of my knitting outside. The wind was blowing my patterns all over the lawn though so I brought my cookbook stand outside and rested my books and printed patterns in there. Mine has a plastic cover that protects the book and I thought it would be handy to jot down where I left off in my pattern with a dry erase marker. This has made it a lot easier to see my pattern while I am knitting!


My mother-in-law also purchased one of these knitting canisters for me so I could take my knitting on the road. I love it because it keeps my yarn nice and clean if we are outside or in the car. I was planning to make one out of a coffee canister with a hole on the top and she ended up buying me one instead. Much more fashionable than my hobo version!


One of you lovely knitters also recommended that I join ravelry and I finally joined! I absolutely love this site for finding patterns and sharing my work. It took two days for my invitation to join the community came, but it was so worth the wait. I am now able to work through patterns on the site and it motivates me to work towards some new knitting goals. My username on this site is momadvice, just in case you want to look me up and be my first friend!

This has been a summer of washcloths for me and the latest pattern I completed was two double-woven washcloths. I am working on these for Christmas and holiday hostess gifts. The next item to work on will be knitting some slippers because I want to put together spa baskets for some of the great women in my life. Hopefully, I can master increasing (which seems to be difficult for me) so I can start making pairs of these to go with all of these cute washcloths.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Sponge Ball Bullseye

My once-a-year Martha Moment is here! These sponge balls are courtesy of Martha Stewart Kids Magazine (and a double inspiration from Betz White who was featured in one of my notebook entries).

I hit the Dollar Tree and got two packages of sponges to make our creations. I followed the instructions and cut two sponges into fours and then stacked the two sponges on top of one another with alternating colors. If you buy two packages, you will have enough alternating colors to make six sponges with different colors in each. Then, simply tie the sponges off with a long piece of floss and knot it a few times to keep it in place.


Here is my plastic ice bucket filled with these sponges. The colors are so beautiful that I wanted to spend an afternoon photographing this pail of sponges. Do we stop there and let the kids play with them like this though? NO!

You could say that I am even more inventive than Martha this time! Now take an old drop cloth or sheet and use painter's tape, a permanent marker, or paint to make your bullseye. Squares are much easier with the painter's tape so we have a nice square bullseye for the kids.

Now hang your game up on the clothesline (or wherever else you can find). We weighed the bottom of the sheet down with clothespins. This sheet is also folded in half to give it a little more weight. Of course, when the wind starts blowing, give the kids extra points if they can still hit it.

Not challenging enough? Have one of your kids stand in front and block it.

For some reason, that was one roadblock too many for this toddler.

You can also grab two at a time or a whole handful of them. Make it more challenging by backing the kids up further from the mark. Our point system was 10, 20, and 30 points depending on the size of the square they hit. (PS- I promise I feed my children, they just have extremely high metabolism)

An afternoon of water fun cost us $2 in sponges, but this is a game that I hope we can play many more times together.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Notebook Experiments: Can I Knit a Birthday Gift?

Experiment: Can I knit my mom a nice birthday gift?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 06.19.08

Materials Needed: Please see Homespun Living for specific directions on how to complete this experiment. I followed the pattern and used Sugar 'N Cream cotton yarn to complete the project.

Results: I really wanted to try this pattern because these washcloths looked so pretty. The pattern was very easy to remember so that I could pick this up and take it with me places to complete it. These took me an evening to complete, but I am beginner at knitting so I am sure others could whip these up a lot faster.

This was also the first time I attempted switching colors, which seemed very easy, but actually was a little difficult with weaving in the new color and staying on track with my pattern. I did my best though and ended up only having one "oops" washcloth for myself.


Since I can actually follow a pattern now, I also made one of these coffee cup patterns too. You know, just to see if I could do it. Do you think it looks like a coffee cup? I hope so!

Conclusion: I plan to make this pattern for other gifts now that I see how well it turned out. I paired these with some White Tea Method Hand Soaps that I picked up at Target for $3.99. Overall, I think my mom is really going to be pleased with her gift and I am proud that I could actually pull this off! I hope she will find the gift thoughtful and will be impressed with her new set of washcloths. Thank you again to Homespun Living for generously sharing her pattern!

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

On the Knitting Needles: Prayer Shawl

I have started working on my first prayer shawl, now that I am starting to get the hang of this knitting thing. My mother-in-law had a beautiful pattern that she was working on so I thought I would attempt that. Unfortunately, six tries left me feeling less prayerful and more frustrated because the pattern was a bit too complex for my novice knitting self. The pattern is really lovely, but was all yarn overs, knit two togethers, and purling. No regular old knitting at all! I am hoping that I can do this in the future, but I needed to find something a little easier for my first shawl.

My mother-in-law brought over some patterns for me to try and I went on some websites and read through some comment threads on prayer shawls. One comment suggested a very easy and pretty prayer shawl that would come together well for a first time knitter.

You can use any size of large circular needles with this pattern and the bigger the needles, the more lacy the look. I am knitting with size eleven circular needles.

Here is the pattern:

Knit 4 stitches
Next Row: Knit 2 stitches, yarn over, knit two stitches
Repeat knitting 2 stitches, yarn over, and then knitting
Repeat this pattern until your shawl measures 60-70"

This is perfect because it wasn't a large amount of casting on and you work from the tip of the shawl and build up with each yarn over. The only thing I have to remember is to yarn over after the first two stitches and then I just knit the rest.

This frees my mind to concentrate on the task at hand, which is to pray for someone who needs prayer. I am praying for a woman who is struggling to get pregnant and has not been able to. She has gone through a lot and I am hoping that this shawl will bring her some comfort. I actually have never met her, but she is a friend of our family and I know that it will mean a lot to her to know that someone is thinking of her.

Here are a few free patterns for prayer shawls that I have found:

Prayer Shawl With Garter Stitch Stripes

Prayer Shawl/Healing Shawl


Alix's Lace Prayer Shawl

Homespun Knit Prayer Shawl

Prayer Shawl Crochet Pattern

Triangular Prayer Shawl

Prayers (can attach and say these prayers)

I am looking forward to making more of these and venturing into more complicated patterns in the future!

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Notebook Experiments: Can I Knit Something Other Than a Scarf?

Experiment: Can I actually knit something other than a scarf?

Experiment Taken From: Notebook Entry 05.15.08

Materials Needed: Please see The Purl Bee for specific directions on how to complete this experiment. I completed the pattern for the Stockinette Washcloths to give as gifts to friends and family. Instead of the yarn that was recommended, I purchased some Sugar 'N Cream cotton yarn, in various colors. One ball of yarn will make about two washcloths. I picked size 9 needles and did 35 stitches on each pattern, no matter what the directions said, so I wouldn't have to buy new needles.

Results: I am really trying to expand my knitting skills and didn't want to get stuck in a scarf rut. These washcloths were great for practicing patterns and stitches, without being committed to a large project. I did find the seed stitch border to be a bit tedious, but with each washcloth, I got a little better and a little faster.

I did look on the internet and tried other patterns for washcloths too. I made this simple beginner dishcloth pattern and this "learn to purl" dishcloth. Of all of the patterns, the one from The Purl Bee was the hardest, but had the prettiest results.

I also got bored and started alternating the patterns... and sometimes I alternated the patterns because I forget to turn it. I actually thought this added a little something special to them so I didn't try and take out the stitches.

Conclusion: I CAN make something other than scarves and it helped me become more familiar with how to read a pattern. These were a great beginner project and are going to make some lovely hostess and birthday gifts for family & friends. Thanks to The Purl Bee for sharing this amazing pattern!

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Another Fast Father's Day Gift


Both of the dads in my life have birthdays around the same time as Father's Day so I ended up doing a combination gift this year to show how much we appreciate them.

Tucked in with a stack of my special music (made just for dad), I included a card for each of them. I used some of our tickets from our giant ticket roll and decorated the outside of the card with them. Inside is a gift certificate for Netflix for two months.

I used the same gift as a graduation gift for a family member so this would make an excellent gift for a college graduate too!

This gift can be as affordable or as expensive as you would want to make it. They offer so many different types of plans and you can pick the plan that fits your budget best. I would love a summer of free movies so I hope they will enjoy this as much as I would!

Happy Father's Day, Dads!

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Fast Father's Day Gift!

Did you wait until the last minute on getting your dad/husband a gift? Don't worry! I have a fast solution that is fun and cheap!

First, pick out some pictures that you truly love of your children and plop them somewhere on your computer where you will be able to find them (Flickr users can link directly through their account to their pictures)

Now that you have your pictures, it is time to get creative with them. Go to Big Huge Labs and choose the CD Cover link (or you can just click directly through here).



This is where I got a little confused so I will try and make it easier by explaining what I did. After you have uploaded your photo and typed in your message, it will take a few seconds and then produce the image. That image is not the size you need, but don't worry! Right click the image and COPY the image. Now open a blank Word document and right click to PASTE the image.

Next, you will need to resize your image. Right click your image again and click SIZE. Change the width on the image to 8.2" and hit enter.

When you see your image, it might look like it doesn't fit- don't worry! It is the perfect size for your compact disc. Print it out (either in black and white or in color) and then cut it out, being careful to cut off those dotted lines so it makes it nice and clean looking. Fold the side flaps, bottom flap, and then the top flap.

You will, of course, need to slip some rocking music in for your dad, but that will be the fun part! I am trying to introduce my dads to some new music, while still staying within their genres and tastes. I find it a challenge to introduce people to music that they haven't heard of before, and it makes me so happy when I can discover a new favorite for someone.


I am giving the dad's in our life a fun mix of my music and some homemade cookies! Not only is it frugal, but I hope it is a thoughtful gift too!
Happy Father's Day, Dads!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Knitted: My First Blanket


Well, I finished my first baby blanket- I am so proud! I have a couple of weeks to spare before our trip to St Louis so I did get this done in plenty of time.

I tied the blanket off with some ribbon and stamped up a little congratulations card to tie on the outside. I spent $8 in yarn (a little more than I maybe should have, but I am still learning) and I know I would have spent a lot more if I would have bought this in the store. This yarn is so soft and irresistible and this blanket was like a little furnace on my knees as I knitted it.

The garter stitch worked well with this bulky yarn, but I was pretty bored with this project about two days into it. It was great to work on though while I watched television and hung out with the kids and was a fun project for a beginning knitter.

The next project I am working on is sets of washcloths for my mom and sister. My mom's birthday is coming up and I thought I would make her some of these to go along with her present. My sister requested some of these because she loves them for my nephew's sensitive skin. Washcloths are a lot more portable than this giant blanket was so I look forward to experimenting with some patterns and different colors. I have been finding some great patterns online and have been adding my own little touch to them. I will be sure to share this when I am done.

Thanks for bearing with me through all of these knitting posts. It feels as though a whole new world has opened up to me and I am enjoying it so much!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Knitting: My First Blanket



I know that I am supposed to be working on my first hat, but some happy news from my best friend changed my knitting plans. She found out that she is having her first boy and I couldn't wait to put my knitting skills to good use and make her a blue baby blanket.

I originally had the intention of knitting my first pattern, but we are planning a visit in a couple of weeks (she lives in St. Louis) and so I need to work a little faster to have it ready in time. Considering how long it takes me to figure out a pattern, the blanket would probably be ready by the time he was thirteen. I figured the simple garter stitch would be the way to go.



I know, it isn't as impressive, but my girlfriend doesn't knit so I think she will be impressed with my modest efforts. It is funny though, if you would have asked me last month if I would be able to knit a blanket, I would have laughed. Now I am knitting a blanket and am embarrassed that I am choosing garter stitch. Kind of funny how quickly one can blow their hobbies out of proportion, which is probably why I give up on things so easily...I am always trying to outdo MYSELF.

I wish the colors of the yarn showed up better in this picture- it is blue and has flecks of green through it. The yarn is so soft, but nice and warm for the winter. I hope I can get it done in time for our visit. Three skeins of yarn- one down...two to go!

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Naughty Stitch- The "Amy Purl"

Requests were made to show you guys how I messed up my knitting. I am not sure if this is genuine interest or an opportunity to laugh at my ridiculousness, but I will pretend like it was to marvel at how inventive I am. Now if this is a real stitch, please tell me. If this resembles something you have seen before and don't believe that I can get a patent on this fabulousness, please let me know. I was hoping it was unique, but perhaps it is not!

Begin by taking your needle in going up into the top of the stitch and hold 'er steady.



Don't panic this is exactly wrong so you are doing great. Now take your yarn (which should be on top and not behind like that old and boring knit stitch) and loop it around on the outside of that knitting needle. Does it feel wrong and inappropriate? It should, especially if you know how to purl the proper way.


Now you are going to take that loop and slip it off on the right needle. You are so wrong! Don't you feel like you need a shower after this horrible knitting tutorial?

Now you can slip that stitch off the left needle and you have completed the naughty stitch...or the "Amy Purl."



If you alternate this stitch with a row of this and a row of knitting, it will look like this. That's right....completely wrong, but completely straight and right-in-your-head.

Do NOT do this stitch if you are not an experienced knitter and can understand just how wrong this is. I don't want to deter you from the path of the straight and narrow.

Hugs and Kisses,
The Stitchery Satan

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Too Much Knitting Confidence

Guess what? I didn't know how to purl. This is not the purl stitch, but I will now lovingly refer to this as the, "Amy Purl."

I showed my mother-in-law this scarf and she had a bit of a confused look on her face. She wanted to know which stitches I had been doing. I explained that this was knitting and purling (I thought she would know that by now) and she had an amused expression on her face. Um....yeah, not so much.

This is the "Amy Purl" which actually looks quite lovely and nice and straight, but is not purling at all. Everything I was doing was completely backwards so now I am learning how to purl correctly. This is a lot harder now that I did an entire scarf the wrong way. It is like trying to reteach my brain and I keep wanting to do things the wrong way.

Instead of our planned hat tutorial, my lesson was on how to purl correctly. I guess I will try hats when I can master the purling. We did talk a lot about all of these crazy pattern techniques, which are so confusing and my head felt like it was spinning after learning all of these abbreviations.

I do want to say though that I am not at all frustrated. Nope, not at all. I am good enough, I am smart enough....

Perhaps, I was a bit too confident in my knitting abilities.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Knitting: Dropped-Stitch Scarf

This is the last scarf I am sharing for the week. This one was done in about three hours and it is my absolute favorite one so far. Since I am a beginning knitter, I checked out this amazing book called, "Teen Knitting Club," by Jennifer Wenger. If you are just starting out to knit, I would HIGHLY recommend this book because it has awesome beginner projects and they are actually cool too.

This is their Dropped-Stitch Scarf and it requires size 15 needles and a chunky yarn (I used medium yarn that my mother-in-law had given me from her yarn stash and it looks amazing).


Here is a close-up picture of what the stitches look like. I just love the way the dropped stitches make this scarf look a tad more feminine.

And this is what it looks like on someone. Isn't it so incredibly awesome looking? I have to say, this is about as proud as I have been with my knitting. I kept looking at it and saying, "I can't believe I am making stuff."


Soooooo proud!

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Knitting: My Second Scarf


Scarf #2 was finished last night- I am so proud! I alternated knitting and purling in this scarf, after practicing the purling on a separate piece for a couple of days. I did not flip it to each side so the ribbing stands out on both sides. I did drop a stitch, but the sizing of the scarf was a lot more consistent than the first one.

I love the colors in this one, but I had something weird going on with the yarn. I would knit and then find a knot where two pieces of yarn were tied together. This happened twice in this one ball of yarn. Is that typical? I didn't like that at all- it makes it look like I tied off in two spots on my scarf.

I will need to start my next knitting project for tonight. I would say that I have definitely found a new addiction to keep me busy for the summer!

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Knitting: My First Scarf

I completed my first scarf last week and I am so proud of it! In the meantime, I just finished up my second scarf today and will have to post some pictures of that too. With this one, I just stuck to the basics and did not attempt any patterns. This crazy yarn camouflaged my numerous mistakes that I had made on it, but did not hide the fact that it was a tad wider on the ends then in the middle. I am still learning though so I will let these errors slip... this time!

This scarf took a couple of weeks, but mainly because I cast on with about 42 stitches and then realized that I was practically making a blanket, not a scarf. My mother-in-law helped me take it apart and put on a more appropriate amount of stitches (about half that) and got me started again. Once I got the hang of it, it became less and less tedious. With each stitch, I started to enjoy doing it a little bit more.

My second scarf, in comparison, took me only about two days. I am gaining speed and am having so much fun learning this new skill! I can't wait to attempt some other projects for our family!

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Knit for a Cause

I am so enjoying learning how to knit and it has been a wonderful outlet for me in the evenings. I have been practicing and learning each day. Progressively, I am getting a little better, but I am no speed demon and certainly am still in the learning stages.

My mother-in-law gave me a big stack of knitting magazines to help inspire me and my knitting projects. As I was flipping through them, I noticed all of the great charities that were listed that take knitting donations. I had not thought of how learning this skill could benefit others, but now I am thinking about this hobby in a new way. If I can learn how to knit, I can benefit someone else.

Our church has a knitting club and I am a little too embarrassed to go at such an early stage, but it might benefit me to sit with some experienced knitters and let them teach me a thing or two. I have also been calling my poor mother-in-law often to brag about figuring out how to purl, how to cast off, and my daily progression on my scarf. She is so sweet to talk to me and encourage me that I am doing well or just to offer moral support when it takes simple things, like learning to purl, an entire day. Talk about slow!

I wanted to provide some links to organizations that take knitting donations. Please list any organizations that you have worked with/for and if you have had any experience knitting for charity.

These lists provide some added motivation for learning this new skill- what a gift it would be to share my handmade efforts with others.

Cubs for Kids

Interweave Knits Charity Knitting List

The Duulan Project

Newborns in Need

Threads of Love - find a chapter in your area!

SusanB's Charity Page

Headhuggers Chemo Hats

Bev's Afghanistan Project Page

"Ray of Hope" UK Charity Knitting

Special Knitting Forces

Stitches from the Heart

Project Linus Baby Blankets

The Daily Knitter Charity Knitting

Red Scarf Project - Norma Knits Blog with info

Guideposts Sweater Project

Afghans for Afghans

Knitting for Veterans

Warm Woolies - Knitting for Orphans and Poverty Stricken Children

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Morning & Night

Now that it has finally warmed up, Emily & I can start taking our walks in the morning again. As soon as I drop Ethan off, we pull into the garage and get that old stroller out. I fill the little compartments with oodles of Cheerios and a cup of milk and we can set off for our morning walk together. Emily takes in the sites while I try and get my body moving again. It has been a long winter of being cooped up so it feels good to be enjoying this fresh air and sunshine.


A little rocket fuel speeds up the pace. For $2, this is a sweet little indulgence to help me go, go, go. I love McDonald's Vanilla Iced Coffees for a morning pick-me-up. A whole heck of a lot cheaper than the Starbucks and just as yummy! A large one can last me an entire day!

What happens at night in this house? A whole lot of this! Can someone be addicted to knitting because I think I have found a new addiction? I am usually wound tight as a spring at night, thinking of all that I need to do, and this little hobby has provided some soothing relief to quiet my brain. My iPod is loaded with soft music and I am clicking away on the couch. Thank you all for your great knitting help and suggestions. I am tackling my first little project and making a scarf. My pace is slow, but my heart is proud that I am doing this.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rainy Day Survival Kit

I have been wanting to work on this project for some time, and since it was miserable weather all weekend, it seemed like the perfect time to tackle this project. I went to Goodwill and found a plain leather suitcase for $5. I gave it a good scrubbing, when I got it home, and proceeded to decorate it with some knick knacks from my craft supplies. I tied a big bow on the handle and made it look super cool for the kids. If you have older, children, you could invite them to help you! I applied the buttons and ribbon with my trusty hot glue gun.

Hmm... I wonder what could be inside? Let's take a peek, shall we?

It might not look like much to you and me, but to my kids...well, this is a good couple of hours of enjoyment. Inside here I have coloring books, crayons, a deck of cards, pipe cleaners (yes, I told you it wouldn't look like much to us), a 100 piece puzzle, little spinning princess tops, yo-yos, dinosaurs, a little jewelry set with a crown, board games, quiet instruments, and books. Some of the items were "new" and purchased from the thrift store, some were items that I had been rotating and storing because no one was playing with them, and some of them were purchased from the dollar store. I would say even with the cost of the suitcase, there is probably about $15 of stuff invested here, but it is OH SO WORTH IT!

You could pick activities based upon how involved you really want to be with this. If you are looking for a little sanity break, I would suggest putting things in there that they could enjoy playing with by themselves or with their siblings. If you are looking for a good time to bond with your kids, put things in there that you can do with them like board games or stuff for art projects. If you are super smart, you will have a case of each- momma needs a break suitcase and momma wants to be your awesome friend suitcase.

This is such a hit in our house! Ethan keeps asking if it is wet on the ground because he wants to play with this special stuff. Pretty sad when your kids are begging for rainy days, but it makes me feel like this was a great idea and a great way to keep them occupied! Being a Midwest girl, I am sure I will have plenty of days to really use this. If I lived in Seattle, I might have to have a few hundred of these so they wouldn't get tired of the same old stuff.

Might I just add that this would be a great birthday gift for a child and would be a wonderful addition to a grandparent's house too! I am thinking this would be something fun that I could put together for my nephews or would be a great way to store a little girl's dress-up clothes. The possibilities really are endless.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring Break Day Six


Can you guess what I learned how to do while Ethan was on break? I can hardly believe it, but I can knit now! For our sixth day of spring break, we headed over to my friend Jessica's for a "knitting playgroup," where she taught a group of us how to knit while our kids played. I never would believe in a million years that I could do something like this, but here is some picture proof that I am getting the hang of it. After struggling through her class, I came home and just kept trying and trying. Thanks to a patient teacher and great first lesson, here is how I am doing.

I realize it isn't perfect, but this is my first try and I am so proud. Does anyone have any tips for a newbie knitter? How to save money on knitting? What are the best first projects? What is the best size knitting needles? You know, stuff you wish you would have known when you first started out! I would appreciate your help!

The kids also had a great time playing with the other kids while we gabbed and Jessica helped each of us with our little knitting projects. Total cost spent on this event was $1.69 for yarn (I borrowed a set of her needles).We spent the evening at my brother's birthday party. What kids don't love a good birthday party? He turned 22 and we headed to his house for a celebration. Mom & Dad got pizza and I made two homemade Key Lime Pies for his special day. Despite the lime shortage at the grocery store, they turned out to be really yummy, although a little thinner on the filling than I had hoped! I spent about $4 on ingredients (everything else came from our pantry). Happy birthday, John!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Incomplete Projects- The Grocery Game & Sewing Classes

I have a couple little loose ends to wrap on a couple of blog projects that I was sharing on. I did manage to complete four sewing classes and this is my finished apron pictured here. I decided not to continue taking more classes because of the expense and the limited time that I have available. The good news is that I learned how to use my sewing machine and I can (sort of) sewing a straight line. My mother-in-law has offered additional classes for me (free of charge) and we plan to make a field trip to the fabric store so I can get over being intimidated by what types of fabrics I can use or what fabrics I shouldn't use for certain projects.

The other project I had been working on was The Grocery Game and how much I could save my family using it.

Here is what I learned:

- My area had a limited amount of grocery stores listed and, honestly, they only offered one store near me that I was interested in really shopping at for the membership (our local Meijer)

- I found that I shopped more often and was spending more money than I typically would on my grocery budget. While I was able to score some great deals, I felt pressured to shop more than my typical bi-weekly or monthly shopping schedule.

- I did not see a big savings compared to my regular Aldi shopping and typical stockpiling of discounted items at stores. This is not to say that the savings weren't there, but for someone who does make almost everything we eat and rarely buys convenience foods, the deals weren't as great for what I needed and rarely beat the great prices at Aldi.

Despite not wanting to continue with the program, I will say that I am more aware of the coupons and am focusing more on my flier research and pricing. I had not been doing that as often and trying this grocery program helped me to get more focused on how much I was spending on foods and helped me get my price book up-to-date.

All in all, both were fun experiences and challenged me as a homemaker! I wouldn't say I failed at the experiments, but I think my limited time really has started shedding light on where I really want to spend my time and focus my energies on.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Progress Report: Day One in the Bathroom

Confession time! I hate throwing away things that I think are "perfectly good" especially when it comes to my beauty supplies. I have a feeling that I am going to be one of those kind of old ladies that saves a lot of "perfectly good" stuff that will drive my children crazy someday.

Needless to say, I had an entire trash bag of stuff to throw out, filled to the brim with old beauty supplies. I had saved stuff even from high school that I thought was worth saving. Obviously, the gravity of my drugstore addictions coupled with my need to save everything created a lot more than an hour's worth of work for me.

Pictured above are my dish tubs that I have used to store everything. I have four of these- Essentials, Bath & Beauty, Hair Products, & First Aid. I had them labeled with my label maker, but the labels kept falling off and they didn't look as pretty as I would have liked.

I used some ribbon and gift tags from my craft supplies and just used a hot glue gun to secure the ribbon around the outside of these. This was a practical solution for making them look cute, but didn't require me to spend any money. I love the look of wicker baskets, but I wasn't willing to spend the money on this investment right now. Besides, the dish tubs are so easy to rinse out if anything gets spilled or if they get dingy.

I made a commitment to myself that I would only keep products that were worth keeping and that would fit in my newly organized space. Three of the bins went into my linen closet, after it been throughly swiped, and the bin of my essential items (stuff I need for every day) went underneath our sink so I could grab it and get ready for the morning.

I refolded and sorted our towels while I was in there and relocated some towels that we didn't need in our closet to make it a little more spacious.

I didn't get to any of the extra credit work because the kids and I all came down with a nasty cold. I was just glad to have gotten these things done and I can't wait to hear about your progress!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Frugal Hacks: Choosing a Hobby Wisely

Each Tuesday, I get the opportunity to guest blog on Frugal Hacks. My specialty is the entertainment category and what could be more entertaining than exploring your hobbies and passions?

It is a goal for me this year to get my craft supplies back in order and really make some time for myself to explore the hobbies that make me happy. I love to do crafts and make gifts, but my family and the website take up the majority of my time and I don't have the time to really devote towards crafting it up.

As you can see in my notebook entries each week, I am constantly fascinated by creating crafts and the people who have made those passions a priority.

I hope you can check out this post and share some of your own tips for organizing your craft supplies and what hobbies you are interested in doing!

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Eat Your Heart Out, Martha: Elegant Photo Albums

Grandparents can be difficult people to buy for because I think as we get older, we began to acquire so much and it can be a struggle to come up with an idea for something they already don't have or can't buy for themselves.

Last year I started doing photo albums for each set of grandparents and it was a real hit, particularly for the grandparents who don't live near us. It is a great way to share with them what we have been up to throughout the year and give them a tiny glimpse into our everyday life. By making each of these albums personal and filling them with pictures from our life, it helps them feel like they are close by and gives them a great brag book to share with their friends.

I found professional-looking albums last year at our local dollar store, but I didn't have any success this year. I decided to head over to Marshall's and found some very elegant albums for
only $3.99 each. Not as good of a deal as the ones got for a buck last year, but still a phenomenal deal.

I found thirty pictures from our year to have printed for each book. I tried to put the fun holiday pictures in there, but also funny pictures from our year and included subtitles for each. How else can you share the joy your husband experienced from getting his hands on one of the first copies of the last Harry Potter book on a midnight run to Barnes & Noble? Those are the moments that I wanted to put in our books.

We included pictures that our son drew for each album...six in all! I decided not to wrap them since they looked so elegant without the wrapping and opted for a gold bow instead. I found the ribbon at Dollar General and plan to use this same ribbon for our treat boxes this year. 75 feet for $5 is a great deal and I love how beautifully it brought these albums together.

I ordered our pictures this year through Winkflash.com. This was the first time I used their photo services and it was a great experience. They had flat shipping of $1 and it was twelve cents per print, which I thought was very affordable! For a complete breakdown on photo deals for this month, be sure to stop by Baby Cheapskate. Angie has a great price breakdown on holiday card specials and coupon codes you can use.

The total cost for each gift was $7.80, which makes it not only a memorable grandparent gift, but also an affordable one!

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Fun & Frugal Adult Halloween Costume Idea

Sometimes the adults have to dress up for parties too and couple costumes can be so outrageous. While deals can be scored on costumes through eBay or by making your own, many costume sets can cost fifty dollars or more for one night of entertainment. That is where creativity and fun can come into play, as we got the chance to do this year.

Above is my husband's handsome milkman costume. (Note: I hope you can click on this picture to expand it to see things in more detail. The lighting was not good so I apologize for the lighting in this!) The hat was purchased from a costume shop and originally was intended as a captain's hat. We took all of the gold roping off of it and made it into a milkman hat. The cost for this was $6.99. I purchased a white shirt for him from Goodwill on half off day which cost me $1.25. The bow tie was made from the ribbon that I had bought from Big Lots this past week for $1.00 per spool.

Although you can't see it, he also is carrying a small grocery basket from our children's kitchen set. We filled it with empty coffee bottles to mimic the old school milk bottles.

The kisses on his collar were free and completed his milkman attire!

As a housewife, I just dressed like I always do (in one of my fun aprons), but rolled my hair and made my make-up a little more reflective of the times. I carried one of our daughter's baby dolls with a little bow tie on it (also from the Big Lots ribbon) that indicated that this was most definitely the milkman's baby.

This was an adult-only party, but our son wanted to be "fancy" like daddy so we made a little bow tie just for him. He wore it for the duration of the evening and I kept joking that he looked much more like the milkman's baby than that silly baby doll.

We had a blast and it was fun to play dress-up for one night. We rarely do things like this and it was a real treat to have a night out like this.

Anyone else go to a Halloween Party? What did you dress up as?

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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Big Lots Deals

I hit Big Lots this week and I am so glad I did. They had beautiful bolts of grosgrain ribbon (5 yard rolls) marked for $1 each. I bought 22 rolls for my ribbon stash. This might sound excessive, but it will be a great investment for making bows for my daughter and for my little side business. Thanks to Meredith for the mention on her blog because now I am filling a few out-of-town orders too! (Note: For all my local friends, I have just started back up since my mom was sick so if you are still wanting to place orders with me, just shoot me an email at amy@momadvice.com. I apologize that I had to take a break, but am hoping to get the ball rolling again).

I bought all the red and greens that I could find, in anticipation of the holiday season, and also bought some pretty autumn colors for my daughter. The ribbon bolts were hidden away in a small box by the gift wrap and gift bags.

Another steal of a deal were the boxes of hair color. Since I run my own beauty parlor over here, $2 for a warm fall shade seems like a reasonable investment to me. They had all different brands marked between $2-5 a box.

It looks like I will have some fun projects this weekend-hair bows and hair color!

The stores are putting their holiday decorations and goodies out this week. They had lots of holiday linens, mugs, gift sets, and lots of other fun treats.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Frugal Hacks: All Things Pumpkin

Today was supposed to be my son's field trip to the pumpkin patch. He had been talking about this for weeks and we had even been doing a countdown to the day when he would get to go to the pumpkin patch.

The morning greeted us with rain and gloomy weather. We received the call that the trip had been canceled, minutes before we were to set out for our day. His little heart was broken this morning and it broke my heart for him. Despite my lack of enthusiasm for braving the elements this morning, I knew how important it was for him.

I promised him that we would take him as a family, provided the weather clears up, and he could pick his very own pumpkin out. He had kept asking if his dad could go with him, on his field trip, but I had explained that he would need to work instead. Now we can all go together as a family and enjoy a day trip together.

A promise of cocoa (with extra marshmallows) when he gets done with school also was helpful in relieving the tears.

In honor of our day at the pumpkin patch, I pieced together anything and everything you could possibly want to know about cooking a pumpkin, decorating a pumpkin, and fun pumpkin projects. You can read more about these ideas at Frugal Hacks. Just visit my entry entitled, "The Great Pumpkin."

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Eat Your Heart Out, Martha: Bubbly Magnets

Today I wanted to share a little holiday craft that I have been working on. I have been making some bubbly magnets to go in stockings and as small gifts for those special people in our life.

Remember, I am no Martha Stewart, so any craft that I share is something that a child can do. I am trying to share some little ideas for things that you can make to give for the holidays. Last week I shared my homemade spiced nut mixture and this week I am sharing my magnet craft. Crafting can be expensive, but this craft is affordable and highly addictive!

Supplies Needed:

Flat marbles (These can be purchased at the dollar store or in the floral section of your local craft store)

1/2" or 3/4" Round magnets (These are the most expensive purchase. I believe they are $6.99 for 50 magnets, but you can use the Michael's 40% off coupon in your paper towards this tab)

Modge Podge Adhesive Glue

A small paintbrush

Hot glue gun and glue sticks

Scissors

Pictures for your magnets (you can use photographs, wrapping paper, magazine pictures, scrapbooking paper- anything with a fun design)

Instructions:


Take your marbles and center it over your desired design, just to make sure it will fit perfectly under your marble. Dip your brush into the Mod Podge glue and brush the glue onto your design. Center your marble over the design and stick it to the pattern. Allow the glue to dry for fifteen to twenty minutes. If you are doing more than one magnet, on the same sheet, repeat the process on the paper or move on to your next sheet of paper.

Once your glue has dried, cut around the marbles, as close to the edges as possible. Now take your glue gun and dab a bit of glue on the magnet and attach your marble over the magnet piece. Allow these to dry completely.

Ta-Da! Cute new magnets for your fridge!

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Eat Your Heart Out Martha: Sugar & Spice Nuts

Christmas is coming, Christmas is coming! It is time to take your inner-Martha to new levels! Get out your crafting tools and let's get to work on some gifts, ladies!

I am going to try and share a gift each week of things that you can make for all those special people on your list. These ideas will be budget-friendly and EASY! I am far from crafty, so if you see a craft here, you know your child can probably do it!

I would also like to say that my instructions are written exactly like I would hope someone would explain the idea to me. I hate when I read instructions and they omit the basic steps for accomplishing something. I am a novice so I offer up novice instructions.

Today we are going to make some Sugar & Spice Nuts. These nuts taste like a little bit of heaven! My husband hates mixed nuts and couldn't stop eating these. That truly says a lot!

These are very easy to make, but should be made when it is not humid out. I made these on a hot ninety degree day and it took an entire night for them to dry. Never. Again.


I bought a can of mixed nuts from Aldi that were less than $2. I then took the label off (very carefully) so that I can use this label as a template for my new label.


The new label can be made out of anything, but I had some wallpaper border that I had bought from our thrift store that I thought would be perfect for this occasion. The border was just wide enough and it was more durable than wrapping paper or other types of paper that I would normally use. It had pretty French writing on it so I just cut that portion off and left the roosters for another project. Too bad I don't know French...maybe someone knows what this says? Hopefully something beautiful and meaningful, but if not...oh well! A whole roll of this stuff only cost me a quarter so that was a double bonus! Take that old label and use that as your template and trace it onto your paper (whatever type you chose!)

Now, take a glue stick and put glue all over the back of the paper. Wrap your new paper around your canister and make sure that the bottom is all lined up, nice and neatly!

Finally, you can tie a bow around your beautiful masterpiece and make your yummy Sugar & Spice Nuts. Follow this recipe for making the nuts and prepare them exactly as instructed.


When your nuts are completely dry, break them apart and place them back in the tin. I also added a piece of wax paper to line the interior of the canister so that they wouldn't stick to the bottom or the sides of the can.

This would make the perfect gift for: Postal workers, beauticians, coworkers, bosses, teachers, the person-who-has everything, and as a pretty hostess gift!



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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Feeling Like a Professional Florist

I am feeling like a professional florist after making this beautiful centerpiece for my dinner table. I found this idea through The Sparrow's Nest and I am so impressed with myself. Her tutorial was so simple, but could it really be that easy? Well, it truly was! I was able to whip this up while the water was heating on the stove for our dinner.

It was also a great opportunity for me to use my new cake stand too. I am so proud of it and love the detail on this piece. This centerpiece was the perfect way to showcase my new piece and add a fall element to my table.
I also made the candles that she had showcased last fall on her blog. I had the jars leftover from all of my Christmas crafting and I am still working our way through all of the popcorn in our house. I actually pulled some of the popcorn out of Ethan's popcorn table for this craft. The candles were the only purchase- two Pumpkin Spice candles at $1.44 each at Wal-Mart. They tie in the pumpkin theme well!

Thank you, Mrs. Wilt, for making me feel like a professional florist!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Day 17: Find an Inexpensive Hobby

In my basement are bins and bins of beautiful art supplies and oodles of crafty fun. I could spend years making things out of the items that I have already bought…and yet when I go to the craft store, I still feel that familiar tug that I really need more. I love to explore different hobbies and I love to craft. The fact that I am no good at crafting doesn’t seem to stop me and maybe you are in the same boat? Have you ever really thought about the amount of money you are spending on your hobbies? Have you ever thought about how most of the really popular hobbies cost lots of money to accomplish? Do you have oodles of craft supplies and still have an urge to buy more?

Hobbies are great for a number of reasons and I think they are important to be shared in this series. For one, if you have a hobby it can be a wonderful diversion from shopping and spending money. Hobbies can cost money, but you can choose to embrace hobbies and use your talents creating things that don't cost much. Although some people might consider shopping a hobby, it shouldn't be and finding things that fill your life in a positive way can have a positive impact on your wallet.

Not only do hobbies keep you away from shopping, your hobbies can also be turned into profits for your family. If you become good at one of your hobbies, you could potentially earn money with the talents that you have. For example, I love to create hair accessories for my daughter and my friend's love the accessories that I have made for her. I wasn't really intending to go crazy selling them, but my interest in making things for her created a small amount of revenue for me.

I can also use my hobbies to help us save our family money. Instead of buying a wreath for our front door, for example, I can make my own out of things in our home or by buying a small amount of greenery from a craft store. Learning to make things that you would buy can help your finances a lot!

Hobbies also have been proven to help people medically. People who are chronically stressed have poor health, while regular relaxation can promote good health. If I relax and really enjoy something in life, I can prevent things like high blood pressure, digestion problems, ulcers, heart disease, and insomnia. Having a relaxed attitude and enjoying the little things in life lead to better health and fewer doctor visits. Who could argue with that?

Hobbies don’t have to be expensive and many hobbies, in fact, don’t even cost a dime. I found a great book on exploring hobbies called (no less!), “Get a Hobby.” In it are tons of great ideas for hobbies that cost little to nothing and can keep you busy for months on end.

Here are some hobbies that you can pursue that shouldn’t cost you a lot of money and will help to keep you out of those craft stores:

Genealogy- Much of your research can come from things that you already have or from items in your relative’s possessions. Try to gather as much information as you can from your family members (names, birthdates, marriages, deaths, significant life events, etc…) and explore this information first. Next, look through old cookbooks, photo albums, newspaper clippings, resumes, scrapbooks, and yearbooks for more family information. You can then begin looking to websites like Genealogy.com or the Family History Library of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Utilize this information to make a family tree.

Tina Barseghian, the author of “Get a Hobby” also suggests creating a living history interview with people in your family. Record them on camera or with a tape recorder and ask them questions about the family and about themselves. (Note: I am going to be exploring this more through another avenue of recording your life history and I can’t wait to share it with you all!)

Journaling & Blogging- To be honest, I have never really thought of my blog as a hobby, but I guess this would be one of the best hobbies I have ever taken on! Blogging and journaling are wonderful ways to preserve memories, to share your life story, or to talk about things you are passionate about.

After I went to a viewing of "The Secret" I began keeping a gratitude journal. For me, this has helped to remind me of all that I have and I also try to do this when I feel the impulse to shop. This has been very therapeutic for me and I feel like it has had a positive affect on my attitude too.

I try to keep all different types of journals that I look forward to sharing with my children. We have a journal of all the funny things that they have said, a Christmas journal, my gratitude journal, and then I do my blogging about things that we do around the house.

You can find beautiful journals at the dollar stores and for one dollar you can begin focusing on all of the wonderful things you have in life.

You can start a free blog through Blogger, My Space, or LiveJournal (just to name a few!)

These are just two examples of great hobbies that you could start today. There are tons others like gardening, cooking, sewing needlework, rubber stamping, decoupaging, or calligraphy.

If you need crafty inspiration, visit the Martha Stewart site and behold her crafting glory! I love to just hunt through the archives and see cool ideas that I can do in my house, that don't require a lot of money.

I also spend lots of time at our local library hunting through books on crafts that I would like to explore. Many times just reading about the crafts gives me a feel for whether or not I would like to try something, without making the time or money investment into the craft itself.

If you want to learn how to tackle new hobbies, check the big hardware stores (Home Depot or Lowes) for free classes that they offer. Many craft stores also offer free or very inexpensive classes, where you can try a hobby out.

Just remember when going into a hobby, that you really want a hobby that will not require a huge financial investment. If it will require an investment, tell family and friends what items you will need to accomplish the hobby or ask for a gift card to the store to buy the items. One year, I used my gift card to take a cake decorating course at our craft store. The time invested has helped me greatly and saved us lots of money on birthday cakes.

Potential Monthly Savings: $20 or more

Sound Off: What are your favorite hobbies? How do you save money when it comes to buying the supplies needed to do these?

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Hospital Hospitality

I am sorry that I have not been posting as much this week. My grandfather had to undergo surgery, this past Thursday, and I have been back and forth to the hospital to be with him. He had an aneurysm that needed to be operated on, and has been suffering some setbacks from his surgery. He is currently in ICU and is needing lots of prayers, so please keep our family in your thoughts. I know he would really appreciate the good thoughts and prayers, as do the rest of our family.

I never know what to do in crisis situations except to cook. Since I knew everyone would be sitting in the waiting room for hours on end, I figured I could make some snacks for everyone while we were waiting. I made some of my granola bars, Rice Krispy treats (with whole grain Cheerios mixed in since I ran out of Rice Krispy cereal), and some of my trail mix.

I save my oatmeal containers since they make the perfect container to put snacks in. When I send treats to college students, I use these containers and decorate them. I really love to give gifts in the oatmeal containers. They make a great presentation for anything containing oatmeal like oatmeal cookies, granola bars or anything else that utilizes this ingredient.

There are a variety of ways to decorate oatmeal containers to pretty them up. Here are some examples of cute ways to decorate these:

- Take wallpaper or gift wrap and wrap the container.
- Crinkle a brown paper bag and cut out a circle to go around the top of the container. Use a wide ribbon to secure the paper bag on top.
- Take a hole punch and punch out two holes on the top of the lid. Loop ribbon through the top of the lid and tie a bow on top. You can also loop a gift tag through it and stamp or decorate the tag with well wishes.
- Get your child involved and have them help you decorate the container. Have them draw a picture on Kraft paper or on construction paper and have them write their name on it. This can make the gift even more special for grandparents.
- Have your child cut out pictures of their favorite things and make a collage on the outside of the container.

The containers themselves make a practical solution for transporting treats, since the snacks are less likely to get smashed, and you will have no worries about leaving the container (unlike your favorite Tupperware).

If you know of a family who will be at the hospital, this can be a thoughtful gift to bring along with you. As someone who has been spending a little more time than usual at the hospital, I can attest to the fact that the days are long and the food is bad, not to mention expensive. Save that family some money and provide some healthy snack alternatives. I guarantee they will appreciate the gesture. There might not be much you can do about the situation, but making it more bearable is appreciated by the family members.

Tuck in some snacks for the family, the newspaper, old magazines and a favorite book. These things can help make the days less long for families and they will really appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Related Readings:

Chewy Granola Bar Recipe

Teaching My Kid to Say Thank You
How to Make Trail Mix
Sharing the Bounty

Sound Off: What are some other containers that you like to reuse in your house? Do you have any hospital hospitality tips to share?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Teaching My Kid to Say Thank You

I decided to do some different types of thank you cards this year. I ran across a cute Martha Stewart stamp set with numbers on it, from the Michael's Craft Store. The set included two sets of ten numbers (0-9) in two different styles for $14.99 for all of the stamps total. I figured I could use these in the future for each of the kid's thank you notes and could also use them as invitations for our parties.

The blank note cards were on sale for $1.50 and included twenty cards. Each of the cards were stamped with the number "5" on it and we wrote out a note of thankfulness for the great birthday gifts he received.

It is important to me to teach my children to be thankful for what they receive. I believe it is the key to getting a lot of what you want in life. People take notice when you are grateful and will want to do more for you because they know how much you appreciate things. For me to just write a thank you note on his behalf, however, doesn't involve him in learning gratitude. I want him to participate in helping with these, even if he can't write yet.

Next to each of my notes, he drew a picture to help with the card. Of course, what he says the pictures are often become more funny than the picture itself. I ask him to explain what each picture is and write a subtitle. For this set of cards, here were some of his subtitled responses:

Picture of a Door: "You Can Always Come to Our House" (This sounded like he could write for Hallmark, don't you think?)

Picture ?: Ethan begins laughing, "We don't know what this is. It is a very strange thing."

Picture of a Mommy with a giant dress:
Ethan: "This is mommy when you have a baby inside you."
Me: (About to PASS OUT!) "But I don't have a baby inside me."
Ethan: "Yes, you do!"
Me: (Getting agitated) "No, I DON'T"
Ethan: "Yes, when you had EMILY inside of you. That is what I am talking about."

Isn't it fun what our children can come up with?

Sound Off: How do you teach your children gratitude?

Related Readings:

Why Being Thankful is So Important
Raising Creative Kids
Raising Financially Responsible Teens
I Heart You!
What is This Secret?

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Gift Closet Part Four: Baby Gifts

Well, we are quickly working our way through this series and I hope that I have offered some creative gift solutions for you. If you haven't been following this series, I had been asked about creating a gift closet to help save your family money. In the first section, I discussed some ways that you could present your gifts. Next, I shared some ideas for thrifty graduate gifts. Most recently though, I discussed some money-smart ideas for wedding gifts.

Today I wanted to share some ideas for baby gifts. What could be more joyous than another life entering the world and what could be more fun to buy than little baby clothes? I find myself really wanting to splurge in this category, just because baby stuff is so gosh darn cute! Who can resist those frilly dresses they have for little girls? I also have a hard time resisting little man clothes- blazers, khakis, and polo shirts are some of my favorite purchases. Unfortunately, this momma is on a tight budget, so I have to hold myself back when it comes to gifts like this.

Here are some of my frugal ideas for baby gifts that will be remembered:

1. Dinners- Meals for new mothers are a fabulous gift to give and cost next to nothing, if you make smart menu choices. I love taking meals to new mothers because I remember how much I appreciated those meals when I received them. You can prepare a meal fresh, or stock up a new mom's freezer with dinners that her family can eat when she is too exhausted to prepare anything. I have some thrifty meal ideas and some tips on how to transport that meal to the new mother in my past entries.

2. Make a Diaper Cake-Be sure to read this entry on how to make a cake. There are some additional great ideas under the comments so make sure to read those too! I love making these and love how impressive the whole package looks when it is done. To me, when someone makes something, that is more special than anything that anyone could buy. It shows that they cared by investing time, that they probably did not have to spare, to make something fantastic just for me!

You could also do different variations on this same idea with a Diaper Wreath (thanks to Jenn for the hint on that one!) for the new mother.

3. Babysitting Services- I love to make gift coupons for people to tuck within their cards and what could a new mother want more than a night away? I love to offer my babysitting services to help a mom out so that she can enjoy a night on the town with her husband or just to go get her hair cut (BY HERSELF!). This is a really good gift for a mom who is on a tight budget and can't afford to hire a sitter or a mom who has more than one child and never gets a moment of peace.

If you wanted to add a little gift to go along with it, try a gift certificate from Restaurant.com. They make a fabulous gift and you only spend a fraction of the value of the certificate. You can read my personal review of these certificates in one of my past posts.

4. Magazine Subscriptions- Ask the mother if she is receiving any parenting magazines and offer to buy her a subscription. Read my post on purchasing magazine subscriptions very inexpensively on Ebay. Many times there are packages of magazines that you can buy with two or more parenting magazines in the package, which make a great gift set. No one will know that you did not splurge for a full price subscription, and it is something she can enjoy all year long!

5. Capture Memories- You can make a beautiful memory box with little or no crafty talent, and it will be a gift that the mother can truly use. Purchase a box from your local craft store (I love to use those Michael's coupons for these types of purchases) and decorate it with paints, ribbon, wrapping paper, buttons- whatever you have around your house. If you are close to the mother, you could tuck your own personal note in about how much you love the child. The mother can store their little hospital ID bracelet, their hat they wore at the hospital and notes from family & friends. It is a wonderful gift and is also a very personal one.

6. Start Saving- One gift that I love to give and receive is a piggy bank for the new baby. What could be better than getting their child on the right foot towards saving money? You could tuck a savings bond in with the bank to get their bank started.

Sound Off: What is your favorite baby gift to give? What was the best baby gift you have ever received?

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Eat Your Heart Out, Martha! (Or How to Make a Diaper Cake)

If you can believe it, I have been sitting on this blog entry for a year now. I only know this because the cakes that I have pictured were for my nephew and my best friend's son and they are both celebrating their first birthday!

Even though I haven't shared about this, my heart swells a little because I was so proud to carry such a pretty gift into the hospital. I felt even more proud when the nurses stopped me and asked me where I bought it. It was one of my proudest Martha moments because I am not very crafty, but I try oh-so-hard to have those impressive moments in my life.

Making a diaper cake is so easy and the results are extremely impressive! I had seen many companies advertising these on their websites, but they were charging fifty dollars (or more!) for these cakes. I ran a search and ran across this great picture tutorial on how to do it, and decided that it was definitely something I could do with just a couple of small purchases.

For my diaper cakes, I needed to establish a base for them so that I could transport them easily. I found a box in our garage and cut a square of cardboard out of it to rest the cake on. I then covered the cardboard with pretty wrapping paper in blues & pinks.

Next I followed the instructions for making the first diaper layer and used a stretchy headband that I had to bring the base diapers all together, making the first layer of the cake. It had suggested using a rubber band, but I didn't have any that would secure that many diapers together. I then wrapped pretty ribbon around it and tied them together with that, securing them together with white tipped pins, which made it look like part of the ribbon itself. With the next two layers, I was able to use a rubber band to put them together, and then covered the rubber band with the ribbon.

Once you have all of your layers, you can stack them and stick a dowel rod in the center, or anything that is long and will help them stay jointed together.

I went to Target and found little man blazers that would be perfect to go with the cake. I pinned these to the back and stuck a little stamped card in the pocket that said, "Congratulations!"

Next I went to the dollar store to buy some shrink wrap and two sets of wooden blocks (over by the baby supplies). I spelled out BOY on each of them and saved the rest of the blocks for our daughter to play with.

Shrink wrapping is very easy! Take the bag and pull it over your item and hold it at the top. Turn your blow dryer on and blast it until the wrapping shrinks tightly to fit your item. Use the bow that is supplied, or tie off with a bow of your own!

Diaper cakes can have small items tucked in the center of them from the mom's registry or you can go with a themed cake. Remember, the more items you add, the more you add to your cost. If you are trying to keep the cost down, keep it simple.

Here are a few theme ideas:

Bath time Cake- add a baby towel, tuck washcloths in the center and put a Rubber Ducky on top. You can also add small bath toys or bubble bath.

Elegant Cake- Make your diaper cake look like a wedding cake, and surround it with fresh or silk flowers. People will hardly believe their eyes when they see it.

Beach time Cake- This would be for a little later in the baby's life, but you can fill it up with beachy items. Some suggestions are a shovel, pail, baby sunglasses, a hat and some sunblock.

Night-Night Baby- Include a copy of, "Goodnight, Moon" with this cake. Add a little sleeper set, some calming nighttime lotion, and a compact disc of sweet baby lullabies.

The cost for each of these was:

Diapers- Free! they were given to us as a gift and Emily wore cloth so we never used them!
Diaper Cake Base- Free- made out of an old cardboard box we had!
Ribbon- $1.98
Little Man Blazer- Clearanced out for $2.98 at Target! Gotta love those clearance items!
Shrink Wrap & Baby Blocks- $2

Total Cost= $6.96

Sound Off: Would you guys like to see more, "Eat Your Heart Out, Martha!" moments on here? I have one a year, but I am happy to share the few I do have! I hope this gives you another thrifty gift alternative!

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Before & After: Dining Room Chairs

Awe-inspiring Meredith, from Like Merchant Ships, is a source of great inspiration when it comes to home decorating. In my opinion, you either can decorate or you can't. It has nothing to do with money, but has everything to do with being creative with what you have. She is one of those bloggers where I shake my head constantly and say, "Now that is a great idea! Why didn't I think of that?"

One of Meredith's claims to fame, in my opinion, is what a whiz she is at making furniture look new again. She has shown the tops and bottoms of pieces she does and with a piece of fabric and a few tucks here and there, she is able to recreate pieces in her home without spending a bunch of money.

In our house, our dining room set had seen far better days. When we bought it, we had no children and never gave a thought to whether plush cushions with ivory fabric would be a good selection for our furniture. After all, we knew how to eat without making a mess.

Countless playdates, hundreds of dinners on those chairs, a Kool-Aid spill here and there... then suddenly these cushions were beginning to show their age. With another child soon to be sitting in those chairs too, I knew that the situation was only going to get worse.

I ran over to the fabric store and did end up spending a mint on a little fabric to recover our chairs. Yes, I could have bought cheaper materials, but as this was my dining set, I really wanted to do this right.

The fabric is vinyl, but it is a nice faux brushed leather. The chocolate color and the wipeable fabric was just what I had envisioned with these chairs.

Spills on my chair? No problem! Greasy fingers? Easy Peasy! The difference in my attitude is night and day. Now food on our carpet is another story....but I am feeling much better about the chairs.

I hope I did you proud, Meredith!

Old Nasty Chair:






















Freshly Covered Chair:


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Dressing Your Kid Like a Celebrity...Or Die Trying


I love to look at pictures of celebrity babies and see what stylish ensembles they are wearing. It provides inspiration to a small-town girl who wants her kid to look cute. I wish I had the money they had to spend on those cute clothes, but I am a woman working on a Goodwill budget so those items have to come second-hand or have to be invented by me.

Here are a few ideas for dressing your kids like stylish stars.. or at least getting them to the fashionable point where they don't stand out.

- I love iron-on transfers. I scored a great deal at Michael's where I got some really cute iron-on transfers for my son to be placed on t-shirts. The black t-shirt was $2.50 at the craft store and the iron-on was $1.00. Super cool, "Rock Star" t-shirt cost me $3.50. If you have a knack for design, you could actually design the transfer yourself and then get the transfer paper from the craft store. Same idea, except an "original" that no celebrity baby will ever have.

The t-shirt pictured here was a hit with my son and his mom & dad. He said he can't be a rock star until he is ten or a hundred though. At least he can look like one in the meantime.

- Check your thrift stores and try and buy when they run sales on specific items. I keep a closet of clothes that actually don't fit our son...just yet. Look for basic items that will never go out of style and start stocking up for the years ahead. Make sure to thoroughly check the items before purchasing them though. Items that are donated could be donated for a reason. Check under the arms of shirts, the seams on the item, the knees of the pants, the bottoms of the pants, make sure the zippers zip, and buttons and clasps are intact. Nothing is more disappointing than bringing home a "deal" and then finding out is, in fact, a dud.

- Make old items new again by embellishing them. Boys jeans can be quickly converted into a little girl pair with a cute heart applique or a little beading or pink buttons sewn on the pockets. A little boys shirt can be made into a girls shirt with a sweet pink shirt underneath it. Try to think outside of the box.

- Work out a deal with friends. I have a great friend who shares her bounty of clothes with me before taking them to resale. I am able to get quality name-brand clothing without having to hunt for it. She sells it to me dirt-cheap and she avoids the consignment shops while I avoid the hassle of running from store to store. Don't hesitate to ask if one of your girlfriends has children that are bigger than yours what they do with their clothing. You might be surprised that they just donate the items and would be willing to pass them off to you or could sell them to you.

- Outlet shop, but make sure it really is an outlet. Have you ever been to an outlet store that had the same or higher prices than the regular store? I have and what a disappointment that is. Know what regular pricing is versus the factory store before doing your shopping.

- Shop the end of seasons, but hold out until the bitter end for the really good deals. At the end of the season, I purchase winter coats for the following year. I never fail to have an amazing jacket for our son, but rarely do I pay more than twenty dollars for it. Check stores that you don't normally shop and hit the clearance section to get a quality jacket for a fraction of the price.

- Garage sales are great for scoring cute clothes for your children. We hit the garage sales all summer and stock up on clothing for our kids. No one knows that the Baby Gap shirt my daughter wore once was purchased in a garage.

How do you make your kid look like a star? Any tips to share with our readers?

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Monday, February 26, 2007

Organizing Ribbon


I have always envied people like Martha Stewart who have rooms dedicated solely to crafting. I think it would be so nice to have a special place where I could do things like this, but our house seems to be missing a room.

When I decided that I really needed a place to dedicate towards doing my hobbies, my husband suggested an area downstairs in our basement.

The former owners had mounted a door onto the wall and used that as a desk. The door knob opening was the perfect place to feed my hot glue cords through and a folding chair pulled up perfectly to my new location.

My crafting collections have seemed to really grow though and the ribbon situation was out of hand. Everywhere you walked, you would step on a roll of ribbon. I couldn’t find anything in the mess and things that should have taken minutes turned into hours when having to hunt for the perfect color.

I went online to see if they had any ribbon organizers that I could buy. Ah, there were many solutions, but not any that fit my price tag.

A trip to Michael’s was equally disappointing as they only had one ribbon organizer. This organizer would have held a fourth of my ribbon collection and at $19.99 the price was way too high for my taste.

In front of our craft table, I had a giant bulletin board so after much thought, I figured out a way that I could mount my ribbon onto the board and still be able to easily access it.

I took dowel rods and fed my ribbon spools through them. Then I took wide ribbon and stapled a loop on each side to rest the dowel rods into them. By leaving plenty of room on each side, I am able to slide ribbon in and out as needed or just pull on a spool to get the ribbon that I need.

If you have a large ribbon collection, this might be a good solution for you. If your ribbon collection is smaller or you just need a place to store ribbon that you use for wrapping gifts or for scrapbooking, this idea from Real Simple Magazine is also a great & thrifty solution. They also offer up a great idea for using a paper towel holder as a place to store your ribbon.

While we are on the subject of creative storage, be sure to read our new article on Frugal Storage Solutions as spring cleaning & organizing time is upon us!

What are some creative ways you have organized your home?

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Frugality Births Creativity

I feel very blessed to have learned to be frugal because it has stirred within me creativity that I never knew I even possessed. The blessings from my thriftiness are endless and seem abundant in our life. When we had money, we did not feel the urge to be creative with our resources. If we wanted something, we bought it. End of story. Now that we are trying to be more careful with our funds, I have found that I am more creative than I have given myself credit for.

I just want to share with you one example of creativity that has helped us financially. Obviously the website has been a great endeavor for me, but there are little things in my life that I haven’t had the opportunity to share yet.

When we found out we were having a girl, all I could feel in my heart was love and a sea of pink. I couldn’t wait to dress her up in pretty dresses, tights, patent leather Mary Janes, and get to have tea parties with her. I love my son like crazy, and was just so excited that I have one of each child so that I can do unique things with each of them.

When she was born, I never knew that a baby could have so much hair. She had this beautiful, thick dark hair and all I wanted to do was put hair bows in it. We started out with the baby headbands and I was disappointed with the selection in our area. When searching online though, I thought the prices were ridiculous and not worth that amount of money.

Fast forward to six months later, and I had completed a spokesperson position with Cascade. We received the money from that endeavor and I turned to my husband one day and said, “I want to invest that money into a little business for myself making girl’s hair bows.” I won’t say that he was jumping up or down or anything, but he said he supported me, if that is what I wanted to do with my money.

I got a book on how to do it and started hording myself in our basement with a glue gun. I researched for hours on ways that I could get these little masterpieces to stick in their hair without ever being removed. I researched the best types of ribbon, where to purchase the ribbon, how to present the bows and pricing on them.

Pictured here is an example of some of my handiwork. These batches of bows were made for my girlfriend and I was so thrilled to put together such fun ribbon selections, chosen by her. When purchasing ribbon for her bows, I also happened upon these really cute Irish ribbons and I grabbed as many as I felt I could afford. We live in Irish Country (Notre Dame University is just minutes from our house), so in other areas this would be a seasonal item. In our area, it is a year-round type of thing.

I have had great success with selling the girl’s hair bows. Although I am not brave enough to put myself out there online, as it is a tough market, I have had great success by just taking my daughter places in her bows and people asking where I bought them. She has been a great little model for me and I have made some good money doing it. This money is being socked away for something special. What that is? I don’t know yet, but I feel empowered knowing that I can help with the finances and to have a little stash stored away for a rainy day.


The lessons I have learned through my latest little business are great…

I have learned that I can be a creative, even though I never believed that I was.
I have learned that a supportive spouse is worth its weight in gold. My husband could have shook his head and told me he thought my idea was ridiculous, but he didn’t. I didn’t say he didn’t think that in his head, but he never voiced those feelings to me.

I have learned that if there is something not out there that you want, or if there is something you want but can’t afford, find within yourself to be creative and come up with it yourself.

I have learned that there are two types of people- those who think I charge too much and those who think I am selling myself short.

I have learned that asking for money upfront is the best policy. I have had people place orders that have never paid or make requests for items that I worked tirelessly on, only to tell me that they changed their mind.

I have learned that one compliment can go a long way with me. Just one person telling me that they liked what I do is enough to push me for an extra week on whatever I am doing.

I have learned that there will always be people who think that they can do whatever you are doing, but better. There will always be haters out there, but the important thing is to not allow their negativity to take the best parts about yourself out of you.

I have learned that by teaching myself new skills, that I can draw from those skills when occasions arise and save a lot of money on gifts for others.

I have learned donating my creativity to good causes makes me feel more creative and powerful than I have ever thought I could be.

I have learned that doubting myself is the biggest creativity buster of all.

I have learned that frugality fuels creativity. Creativity fuels our bank account. Our bank account fuels a peace about what we have. The peace fuels a happy home. A happy home fuels my life. My life fuels my family. My family fuels me.

What are some of your proudest creative moments? What has frugality fueled within you?

For more Rocks In My Dryer Works-For-Me Wednesday Participants, please click here.

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