Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas: Decor Made Easy

Avoiding the high cost of pre-made decorations and the endless hours of making displays yourself can be avoided by adding simple festive touches to things you already have. My favorite bowl of seashells changes with the seasons - apples in September, pumpkins and gourds in October and November and ornaments in December. This year they were white and gold. Last year they were eye-popping red.

The homemade table at the edge of my porch is one of my most useful items. During Winter, it gets turned upside down to hold our firewood. A wad of colored lights draped over the top of the wood is nearly invisible by day but looks dazzling at night. The large ornaments are hung by mono-filament line which has coin-sized mirrors attached using double-stick foam pads. In the spring the table holds a basket of garden tools, plants and a candle or two. For a recent baby shower, we covered it with a table cloth and filled it with colorful toddler toys with streamers and a decorative, shower umbrella suspended above. In the Fall, it provides a display surface for pumpkins and fall mums. (Some of these photos are available elsewhere on the blog)

Mantle decoration, this year, was another instance of simply adding small touches to items already in use.

The little blackboard I made for Fall made a Christmastime statement as it was hung in front of an existing mirror. Silvery twigs were added to the existing vase of natural twigs and a round, crackle-glass vase was filled with a string of clear lights to provide illumination for a dark corner.

The total cost for me was nothing because I had the ball-ornaments from previous years but even if they needed to be purchased, they are the least expensive of all decorations and the time to decorate (and un-decorate) was very, very minimal.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Quick Pumpkin Spice Dessert - Fantastic

I got this note from my daughter and granddaughter this evening and couldn't wait to share it. I haven't tried it yet but know how wonderful it must be because I know the original recipe it's based on and will make it as soon as I get to the store for ingredients. (The original recipe follows Cindy's note.)
Hannah and I came up with a delicious holiday dessert that you might use on your blog. It's a take-off from our "Chocolate Chip Cooler". We used Ginger Snaps in place of the chocolate chip cookies. Then folded together a prepared box of Jell-O Pumpkin Spice Pudding with a bowl of Cool Whip. Dunk the cookies quickly in milk and layer just like the cooler. If you fold the pudding and cool whip gently, not thoroughly, it makes a "marbled" look which can be swirled into decorative patterns on the top. It's beautiful and delicious! I've attached a "Mother's Blog" style picture!! :-) Love you!

Original Chocolate Chip Cooler
1 bag Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 lg. container of Cool Whip
1 c. Milk

Put the milk in a bowl large enough to hold a cookie. Using 1/2 of the cookies, dip each one quickly in the milk and layer them in 9" X 13" casserole. Spread 1/2 of the Cool Whip over the layer. Repeat with second half of the cookies and Cool Whip. Refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Spoon into bowls or onto dessert plates and enjoy.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Soda Can Carolers

Go from this
to this
with very little time and even less money.

Make a bunch to decorate an entire tree, give as gifts, tie onto packages or use as favors for guests leaving a party...or even better, after an evening of caroling.
INSTRUCTIONS: Wash cans, remove pull-rings, tuck the tabs tight to the underside of the lid. Note: there will be a small semi-circle of pull-ring metal remaining around the "nose" button. This can easily be removed by grabbing it with pliers and pulling. Allow to dry completely. Paint a solid background color on the can sides, rim and bottom using spray paint, interior latex wall paint, even craft paint. Pre-sanding may be done but is not absolutely necessary (I don't). Paint your decorations on the can sides using ordinary craft paint. After everything is painted except the face, crush the cans. Inside the mouth can either be painted black or a small piece of black felt can be inserted and secured with a dot of glue. Paint the face simply. Remember that craft paint can be mixed with latex wall paint for color variations. I add a little brown craft paint to white wall paint to get a flesh color for painting the faces. This can be as light or dark as you like. Add decorations: pom poms, bells or bows to the hats...pipe cleaner "fur" around their faces, bits of greenery or berries salvaged from years past or thrift store bargains. 

Attach hooks and hang on tree or other decorations.

Snowmen Centerpiece

These little snowmen add a touch of whimsy to any table during the holidays. They are quick, easy and inexpensive to make and (the best part) they are edible.
They made their first appearance here as Halloween Ghosts and are made by dipping pears into Almond Bark. Click HERE for instructions.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rainy Day Blessing

Sometimes blessings come in very small packages.
My Tuesday began with frustrating disappointment. It was to have been an eagerly anticipated flurry of activity but waking to tornado warnings and heavy rain completely devastated my plans. Taking my favorite first cup of early morning coffee to my favorite porch to sit in my favorite chair, I intended to listen to the wind in the trees and watch the sheets of rain march across the pond, and thoughtfully rearrange my busy schedule. But that, too, was eliminated as a possibility. My chair was occupied.

There, in the chill and damp, deposited in the center of the seat cushion, a tiny ball of kitten had taken refuge from the storm.Now, it's not that I'm not a cat person; I am. It's just that a dozen or so years ago, I developed allergies that make their proximity to me very unpleasant, so my coffee cup and I reluctantly went back indoors. No sooner had the door closed behind me than I worried that the shivering little fellow was being soaked by the windblown mist. At first, I moved the chair to a more sheltered location and decided to spend the day attending kitchen chores that I might keep an eye on the porch and its intruder.

Before long, a box filled with towels heated in the dryer found its way to the porch, eventually followed by a saucer of warm milk. As the day progressed, the unlovely eyes were tended with diluted antibiotic drops.My hands were washed a million times with antibiotic soap and rinsed with peroxide as I braced for the aftereffects of having touched a CAT...Eek! I busied myself in the kitchen, put on a pot of soup and checked the kitten, set a loaf of bread to rest and checked the kitten, did the dishes and checked the kitten, cleaned the refrigerator and checked the kitten. In the dim light of early evening, I stepped to the porch yet again and was startled to find the scrawney mother cat positioned between her baby and me. She hissed once, jumped off the porch and turned to stare defiantly. I went back inside and watched through the side-light as she returned and hungrily finished the kitten's milk. Ugh, I thought...'if I feed her, she will stay' and I couldn't deal with that. On the other hand, she was hungry. Throughout the evening, mama cat stayed close, was given warm milk and tuna. By bedtime, the wind and rain had moved on to other places and mother and baby were comfortable curled together and sleeping in my favorite chair. And as I curled comfortably in my own bed, I smiled, realizing that it had been a very satisfying and productive day.

At first light, the two of them were gone. My favorite spot for morning coffee had been returned to me but it seemed like a lonely place on Wednesday morning so I had my coffee at my desk.

White Bean Soup

Bean soup and fresh baked bread - the perfect meal to warm a chilly, rainy day. A ham, even a small, half ham can be the basis for several meals.First: Baked ham slices served with "Sweet Potato Pone"
Second: A "Scalloped Potatoes" casserole with diced ham
Third: Sliced ham for breakfast, omelets, sandwiches or pizza
Fourth(and best of all): A big pot of White Bean Soup!
1 lb. Dry White Beans (cover with water and soak overnight)
1 Ham Bone
3 Onions - coarsely chopped
1/2 bunch of Celery - finely chopped, include leafy tops
1 Tbsp Garlic - minced
1-2 c. Instant Mashed Potatoes
Salt & Pepper - to taste

Rinse beans that have soaked overnight. In a large pot, bring beans, ham bone, onions, celery, garlic and 3 quarts of water to a rolling boil. reduce heat and simmer for 3 hours. Remove ham bone and cube the meat. Add the cubed ham back to the pot with enough of the instant mashed potatoes to bring the soup to the consistency (thickness) you would like.

Wonderful served with warm, homemade bread. My favorite rustic bread recipe and method comes from Artisan Bread in Five, makes up in a matter of minutes in a single container, doesn't require kneading and goes from last night's refrigerated dough to warm and ready to eat in one hour and ten minutes. Yummmmmmmmmmmm.

Sweet Potato Pone

From the first time I saw the old movie "The Yearling" I have been curious about "Sweet Potato Pone" and have researched it for years. Long before I ever baked my own hundreds of pones of cornbread, I wrapped many a slice or square in a napkin to take with me outdoors to play, just as young Jody did with his sweet potato pone in the yearling story.
The recipes I have found, vary greatly but inevitably result in a dense, custard type pudding, much like cooked pumpkin pie filling. Surely, that is not appropriate for a little boy's pocket. So, I've been experimenting and am getting closer. When and if I ever get it right in my own mind, I will share the results. In the meantime, the recipes found through the following links provide an inexpensive and mouth-watering accompaniment to ham.
Recipe #1 at Cooks.com - Recipe #2 at Gumbo Pages - Recipe #3 at Bella Online - Recipe #4 at Ambergriscaye

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween - Impromptu Centerpiece

No money. No time. Or completely forgot?!?!

Try a nest of little ghosts for a quick, easy, inexpensive and even edible centerpiece. Melt Almond Bark according to package directions. I used the microwave and it took only 90 sec. Dip washed, unpeeled pears in the melted Almond Bark and set on wax paper to harden - only a few minutes. Use raisins or cloves for the eyes.

Thanks to Michelle for this fast, fun and frugal idea.

Autumn Harvest Cake

This is the best cake I have ever tasted in my life...my very favorite sweet flavors.
I'm sure that somewhere there is an actual recipe for a cake similar to this but I don't have it. All I got was a phone call from an excited daughter who loves the combination of dark chocolate and orange as much as I do. She rattled off ingredients but had no measurements or instructions so I made a couple of adjustments and experimented. Here's what I came up with and it worked perfectly.
Autumn Harvest Cake
1 box Devils Food Cake Mix
1 can Libby's Pumpkin - to replace the oil called for on box directions
3 Eggs - according to box directions
Water - according to box directions
Zest of 1 Orange

1 jar Orange Marmalade
1 can Dark Fudge Frosting

Mix according to package directions except: Omit the Oil. Add the can of pumpkin and the Zest. Bake as sheet or layer cake. Split in half to double the number of layers. (I cut a sheet cake in half & split each half to make 4 layers) Spread marmalade between the split layers and frosting topped with marmalade between the two actual halves. Frost the entire 4 layer cake with the remaining frosting. Enjoy...and, by the way, it's even better the second day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Egg-ghoul-y Eyes

Hard boiled or deviled, for the children at home or for a party, these blood-shot eyes fit right in with the season.Crack, but do not peel, hard boiled eggs. Add a good amount of red food coloring to water and soak the eggs for a couple of hours. Rinse, peel and prepare as usual. Top with an olive slice. Although I used a larger leaf of lettuce for the purpose of this photograph, it occurred to me that you actually can cut egg shapes from lettuce leaves and place them on top of the deviled eggs before turning them over on a serving plate. That way, the good egg filling will not be left behind as guests serve themselves.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Chicken Enchiladas - Our Way

Yes, half a chicken can serve 12...and, the colors are right for FALL!

Once upon a time, in my days as a single mother, when money was scarce and hungry mouths were many, I often threw together just what we had on hand. One result became our family-famous, signature meal - Chicken Enchiladas, our way. You will not find these in restaurants or the recipe anywhere online but they are served from Florida to Alaska and many states in between. My sons have taught their wives. My daughters have them requested again and again for church functions. they are quick. They are easy. and, yes, they are a bargain.

2 c. Cooked Chicken (2 - 5 oz cans may be used)
2 - 8 oz blocks Cream Cheese
1 or 2 cans Green Chilies - chopped (2.25 oz)
1 or 2 cans Sliced Black Olives (2.25 oz)
1 Onion - chopped
Salt - to taste or as you see fit
12 - 16 oz Grated Cheese (Cheddar, Colby, Jack or a blend)
Flour tortillas - 10 - 12 large or 20 - 24 small
1 - 8 oz can Tomato Sauce
Salsa - 8 oz of your favorite

Can't believe I left the onion out of the photo :(
Put the first 5 ingredients into a bowl; add salt as if salting French fries. Add 1/2 the grated cheese. Mix thoroughly (we use our hands).
Mix the Salsa and Tomato Sauce together and spread a very small amount of the mixture in the bottom of a greased pan. 9" x 13" works well for taco sized tortillas. I used a broiler pan for these burrito sized tortillas.

Form a small "rope" of mixture along the center of a tortilla, roll it up and place it in the pan. When all are made, spread the remaining sauce over the top. (This process is more like basting bar-b-q sauce than pouring liquid.) Top with the remaining half of the cheese. Bake 20 min at 425.

NOTES: Amounts are not critical. You can use more or less of almost any ingredient. However, if you make only half this recipe, still use 1 can of tomato sauce with perhaps a little less salsa.

When made with smaller tortillas, my husband generally eats two and one is quite enough for me. At this size, we discovered that one was quite enough for him and a single half did it for me. So, after the enchiladas cooled, I cut the entire pan-full in half, separated and wrapped each one individually for freezing. With 21 halves in the freezer, I am ready for last minute meals for 2 or 10 or more with only 30 sec. in the microwave on "Defrost" plus 1 minute on "high".

Serve with chopped lettuce & tomatoes topped with sour cream or with refried beans or try this easy

Spanish Rice recipe:

2 c. uncooked white Rice
3 c. cold Water
1 - 8 oz can Tomato sauce
2 Tbsp Yellow Mustard
1 - 2 tsp Salt

Combine in saucepan with tight fitting lid. Cover. Bring to a vigorous boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 20 minutes. Do not lift lid. Remove from heat and let rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir before serving. (Leftover rice may be packaged and frozen for later use.)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fall - It's all about Pumpkins

Pumpkins range in color from almost white to a deep rust with all shades of yellows and oranges in between. From the winter fruit that grows to 1,300 lbs in Alaska to the tiny ones we tuck into a bowl of apples for a centerpiece, the pumpkin is truly versatile. Pumpkins are nutritious, loaded with Beta Carotene (Vitamin A) and Vitamin C and loads of fiber. Check this link to Heritage Farms for more in-depth nutritional information.

The small "sugar" pumpkins which are used commercially for pie fillings have a stronger flavor than the large "cow" pumpkins we carve for Jack-o-lanterns. they are actually, and were originally, grown as feed for livestock. However, the large pumpkins are certainly usable for pies and breads and by increasing the amount of spices recommended in recipes calling for canned pumpkin, I doubt that anyone could tell the difference.

Today I'm decorating with pumpkins.
I've been dragging out these very inexpensive, orange, plastic pumpkins for years and decided to so something different with them this season. I started with thoughts of Halloween...a simple matter of masking and black paint.

Mid project, I visited one of my favorite decorating blogs which was making use of white pumpkins and it caused me to do an immediate about-face. Fortunately, I also have white paint and liked the results so well that I took a brush to my larger pumpkins, too.

This great shaped squash got nothing more than a couple coats of white paint.

Considering the possibility that there might me such a thing as too much stark white, this plastic pumpkin was "antiqued" by simply rubbing it with Old English furniture polish and rubbing off the excess.

My oldest daughter surprised her sister and me with a craft day of making these adorable little pumpkins.

They are made from 2' lengths of clothes dryer vent hose, the two ends wired together with floral wire. They are first spray painted solidly with orange and then sprayed lightly with a dusting of a burgundy color. The stems are corks and the silk, fall leaves add the finishing touch. It occurred to me that these would make a really cute topiary, threaded onto a dowel, secured in a terracotta pot and dressed with moss.

A note about blackboard paint...

It is said that a touch of black always adds class. That is fine and appropriate for the decor of many of my friends. But my look is so very Florida Casual that I worry about things like that. Blackboard paint has become my bridge between two worlds. Too much white, or "light" IS boring and the addition of a touch of black does give the eye a place to "rest". My shabby frame was cheap, cheap, cheap...simply painted and distressed. The original (and ugly) picture inside was painted over with the blackboard paint. The freshly painted piece of slate, only yesterday displayed a blue and white, Made in China family of snowmen. I bought it at a yard sale for a quarter. Now it makes a statement and serves as background for the little pumpkins.

And, speaking again of pumpkins...in a couple of days, I'll be cooking fresh pumpkin, roasting seeds, making pies and breads and will share methods and results with you.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fall: A Time for Treats & Comfort Foods

As the nights begin to cool, activities around my house have always turned toward favorite Autumn activities so I'm beginning a whole new category called "Fall". In the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting decorating ideas, old Halloween favorites, crafts and of course, treats and comfort foods. This week, I'm experimenting with variations on popcorn balls. It should be fun.

In the meantime, try your hand at making lollipops. It is a fascinating process for children to watch. Quick. Easy. And inexpensive. Sure, you can go to the expense of buying molds and sticks or you can try some thrifty alternatives. The ones pictured were simply spooned onto a greased cookie sheet. A great and thrifty source of safety sticks is cotton swabs, with the cotton removed.

Be creative. Have fun. Here's the recipe. Feel free to copy & paste:

1 c. Sugar - 2/3 c. Water - 1/3 c. Light Corn Syrup
2-3 drops of Food Coloring - 2-3 drops of Flavoring
(oil extracts give more intense flavor)

Mix first three ingredients in pan and cook, stirring only until sugar is melted and temp. reaches 260 degrees. (Or until a few drops of mixture become brittle when dropped in cold water.)

Remove from heat. Add color and flavoring and stir only enough to mix.
Quickly pour hot mixture into greased molds or spoon onto a greased, flat pan. Remove lollipops from mold or pan as soon as they are firm. If allowed to remain too long, they may crack while being removed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Is Your DEBIT CARD Busting Your Budget?

Because so many of us find ourselves in positions where each dollar is becoming more and more important, when I found this article, I knew the information needed to be passed along.

Often deposits - even "direct deposits" take days to clear a bank. A deposit to our accounts on the 1st may not show up as available funds to our accounts until the 3rd or 4th or even the 5th. Unfortunately, the checks we write or the debit card we use, withdraw funds from our account immediately. We think you have money in the bank. The bank says we do not.

My Wells Fargo bank charges a $35 fee for every transaction involving "Insufficient Funds". That means that a $5 purchase can cost me $40 so you can see how a couple of inexpensive purchases can result in the loss of hundreds of dollars.

This September 9, 2009 New York Times article by Ron Leiber and Andrew Martin details just such banking practices, is quite and eye-opener and provides ample motivation for us all to sit down for a policy discussion with our bankers. The information I gathered actually inspired me to move my accounts to a small, local bank.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reducing Utilitiy Usage

We hear rumblings from Washington that would cause our Utility Bills to double or even triple. That’s the last thing my household needs or can even withstand. They are already 50% higher than two years ago, so I’m making plans of my own right now concerning electricity in general, lighting, temperature control, hot water, and laundry.


#1 – Unplug.

If it produces heat, it’s using electricity even when turned off: computers, televisions, chargers, etc.

#2 – Lights.

Determine one or two work areas in your home: one for adult activities and only one for child activities. The dining table is a good place for children to gather for their studies. In these areas, provide substantially adequate, low-glare light. In all other areas of the house, make drastic changes. Where possible, reduce lighting to one single bulb per room and reduce the bulb wattage. It may be dim but it won’t be dark. Tickle the kids, tell them it’s romantic and you love them and move on. Put sensor night lights in the bathroom(s) and kitchen so that they are never totally dark and avoid using the more powerful lights as much as possible.

#3 – Temperature Control.

A programmable thermostat is useful and will save electricity but you can achieve the same effect if you will: A) Adjust the thermostat to be 5⁰ less than ideal as you go to bed and 10⁰ less comfortable as you leave the house for more than an hour. B) Keep an outdoor thermometer outside a north-facing window. When the air outdoors approaches an acceptable temperature, turn your system off and open the windows. You will even be healthier for the fresh air. C) Get in the habit of wearing sweaters or sweats and slippers in the house in the winter and using fans to cool and circulate the air in summer. D) A wet towel clothes pinned to the front of a fan will help cool dry, hot air. E) Search your memory for movie images from the 1930’s and 40’s. Doorways, especially broad, expansive openings between rooms were most often flanked by heavy draperies. This was more than a decorating trend. Unused rooms were most often closed off from the active areas of the home. Consider closing heat and a/c vents in and doors to rooms that are seldom in use. Formal living rooms and dining rooms can be tastefully closed off using the drapery techniques of days gone by. F) Windows, even thermal pane windows fight against your temperature control efforts in both summer and winter. Heavy or thermal-lined drapes are a necessity if you live in an area of temperature extremes and they will make a difference in your utility usage. Fortunately, flat panel drapes are very much in style and nothing could be easier to make or to hang. Inexpensive white fabric, even used, white, flat sheets can be used as liners so that the drapery fabric is protected from sun-fade. They also provide a uniform ‘look’ to your windows when viewed from outside your home. And when using the clip-ring method of hanging, they don’t even need to be sewn to the drapery fabric. The liners can simply be clipped together with the drapes and easily removed from each other for separate washing.


We think of it as a necessity. It isn't. My parents thought of it as a luxury. How did they manage?! They told tales of the wash tub in the kitchen warmed with pots of boiling water from the stove and of the children taking turns starting with the least dirty. Extreme? You bet but not impossible. Am I advocating this? Of course not but take heart, you could do it if you had to and even make a game of it. But, in the meantime, here are a few more practical ideas.

HEATER BLANKET - Spending money to save money - not necessary, but...you can wrap your hot water heater. Insulating blankets are available at home improvement stores.

TIMER - Install a timer on your hot water heater so that it will not be reheating water continuously even when you are sleeping or at work.

BREAKER - Flip the switch. Your electric panel box has a breaker designated especially for the hot water heater. Keep it turned off for 20-22 hours out of every 24. Give your tank 1 hour to heat up and your family 1 or 2 hours for usage. Determine to get all household members bathed, shampooed and ready to face the world in one or two hours each day. Inconvenient? Yes. Impossible? No.

DISHES - Washing dishes without hot water? No, but without using the hot water heater. Here's how it's done: (For starters, forget using the dishwasher except as a rack for air drying.) Scrape the dishes, rinse in cold water and stack. Partially fill a sink or dishpan with cold water and add boiling water from a pot on the stove and add detergent. Fill a second sink or dishpan with cold water for rinsing. Cold water actually removes soap better than hot water. Wash glasses and cups first, plates and bowls second, silverware and pots and pans last. As each item is washed, give it a pass through the cold water rinse and set to drain. Towel dry or leave items to air dry.

BATHING - Bathing used to be a family affair. children were tumbled into a single tub, scrubbed by an apron-wearing mother and rinsed while standing as Mother poured a pitcher of warm water over their heads. Husbands were usually assisted by their wives and the wives were pretty much left to fend for themselves. (In case the thought of wearing an apron, triggered something in you, HERE is a link to aprons and apron patterns available online.)

The labor intensive full-body bath was most often a Saturday evening affair ensuring a squeaky-clean and sweet-smelling family attendance at church on Sunday morning.

Cleanliness over the remaining six days of the week was achieved primarily through cold water rinses of the hair, frequent soap and water washings of the face and hands, foot baths in a small wash tub before toddling off to bed and a mid-week sponge-bath, with which we are all familiar.

In my recollection, it wasn't until the 1970's that the weekly routine of shampooing ones hair began to change into a daily task. Coincidentally or not, it was during that same time period that commercial hair products hit their heyday. Salon formulations of products became available in retail stores and hair, as the crowning glory of one's person, became a social obsession. The population preference of he bath began to give way to a rising preference for the shower. For the man, a shower was quick. For a woman, it provided the perfect environment for the ritual shampoo even though water consumption was greater, it took longer, eliminated the relaxing properties of the "soak" and presented the challenge of shaving while standing on one leg.

Whether you hold to your habit of showering and adjust only your timing so that it fits into the hours you've chosen to have hot water available or opt for an entirely new approach to bathing - a great deal of money will be saved when the high cost of hot water is conquered.


WASHING - Simple solution: wash everything in cold water. If you feel you absolutely must do an occasional load in warm water, try this: After the last bath or shower, turn the hot water heater off by flipping the breaker. Then fill your washing machine using the 'hot' setting. that will make use of all the hot water remaining in the tank ant the water will simply run cold once the hot water is all used.

Click HERE to access a U-Tube video with recipe and instructions for making your own Laundry Soap for 40 cents a gallon.

THE DRYER - The clothes dryer is a huge consumer of electricity. Make sure your lint filter is always clean and clean lint from every area that you can access.

DRYING - the best way to conserve electricity (or gas) is not to use the dryer at all. Proper hanging methods will be covered in a later post. In the meantime, make a point to hang all heavy items like jeans and sweats. When using the dryer, dry items of similar weight fabrics together. If your dryer doesn't have a moisture censor, set the timer and check the load every 20 minutes. Soon you will determine the necessary drying times for different weight fabrics in your particular dryer.

IRONING - If you are in the habit of ironing items as they are needed, try to change the habit and set aside a weekly ironing time. Your iron uses more electricity in the time it is heating up than it does in the same amount of time once it reaches temperature. If you can plan ironing on laundry day, you can save drying time, whether on the line or in the dryer, by ironing tiems while they are still slightly damp.

CLOTHING - Reduce the amount of laundry you do by limiting needless changes of clothing. Just a couple decades ago, we owned far fewer clothes. School clothes were removed and hung immediately upon arrival home and would be worn again several days later. Play clothes were then put on, to be removed at bath/bed time and folded for the next afternoons use. Unless they were particularly soiled, they were expected to last a couple of days before going in the laundry. Underwear was changed daily. Socks were required to be rolled into pairs as they went into the hamper. Yes, that meant they had to be unrolled as they went into the washer but it ensurred that there were no unmated socks.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reader Response to "Find Cash in Your Kitchen"

I'm a Stay at home mom. Well, I was until I decided to go back to school because being a military wife gives my resume' more holes than Swiss cheese. But how was I going to do it? Things were already tight financially with three people living on one income (less than 30K). How was I going to afford the extra expenses of child care, gas, tuition, books, uniforms. Thank God I was able to apply for scholarships to go to school but that still
didn't cover the extra $335.00 a month for child care or the extra gas I would be using. But with the extra help of your book, I was able to cut my grocery bill by HUNDREDS every month!
My usual grocery list consisted of a hungry, busy, stressed, and broke mom trying to remember all the things I needed to buy for a weekly family menu. So I travel up and down all the isles getting all the things I "need" including meats that I have no recipes for, veggies that usually go bad, and snacks (because I'm starving by this point!).
So my mom gives me your book and I am so tired of running around like a chicken with my head cut off but getting nothing done that I'm willing to try anything. I dive right in. I want to know how to shop, what to get, how to prepare everything, and save time doing it.
First I write my list based on the recipes I'm going to make when I get home, a few more meals I will prepare later, and the essentials (milk, bread, etc). Second, I need a crock pot. It's payday so I take my "half" of the money that's left over after bills and buy a crock pot. And I'm thinking I better use this thing because those pink stilettos have been eying me since last week and if it weren't for this crock pot they could be mine! Third, I go shopping and get ONLY what is on the list. I don't go down the snack isle because there is nothing there on my list. No chips, no sodas, no cookies, just what i need. I check out and I'm about to faint. My grocery cart is loaded with fresh foods but my grocery bill is $50 less than usual. And I'm thinking "But there's so much more than usual, how is it less?" And the savings were enough to cover the cost of the crock pot!!!
SHUT-UP!!!!! : )
I hurry home and I'm ready. I had cleaned my kitchen before I got home so "it's on"! I don't bother putting away the unrefrigerated things. I get straight to work on the meats. I pull out the new crock-pot and put in my onions, 2 whole (washed) chickens and set the timer. I've never used a crock pot so I'm worried. But practice makes perfect right? Next I'm browning ground beef and making spaghetti sauce. I'm working on 4 meals and it's only been 5min!!! OMG!!!
The sauce is done so what am I going to do with it. Lasagna with 1/2, and freeze the other for spaghetti. I've got the oven going and I make the lasagna. Well I've got an extra pound of uncooked ground beef I had gotten, so I save a little time (and electricity) and make a meat loaf. The lasagna comes out, meat loaf goes in. Once these have cooked and cooled they go in the fridge so they can set and I cut them into smaller portions and freeze for meals on the go or a 5 minute home cooked meal!!!!
I check on the chickens a while later, de-bone, split the broth, chicken and dumplings with one half, chicken salad with the other and I've got extra homemade broth to make soups or use in other recipes.
Thanks to your book, FIND CASH IN YOUR KITCHEN, after 4 years, I feel like I can really do my part to help the financial stability of my family and still be able to do things I want to do like going back to school. I may not be working, but I can stretch that dollar twice as far as my husband can, which means we can save more.

Thank you Cia!!!!
Mallory - a proud USArmy wife

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Follower's Suggestions for Cost Cutting

I came up with an idea for your next blog (or one in the future). How about
"Stop using Consumables when non-consumables will work"
Here's the idea...
1- Emery boards cost money and you use them up. A metal file does the same job and lasts forever.
2- Exfoliating creams and lotions have to be replaced. A good loofa or buff puff does the same job.
3- Paper towels cost money (although good for SOME stuff). A drawer full of rags (made from cut up old towels) can be rinsed and reused over and over for quick spills as well as scrubbing needs. Toss them in the wash.
4- Cloth diapers used even one day a week, can cut down on disposables by a considerable sum over the course of the diaper-years......Etc.
I'm sure you can come up with TONS more suggestions. These are just some of the ones I came up with. In addition, the loofa used prior to shaving, can get a MUCH closer shave and prevent the "chicken skin" problem. You can end with something funny like "Toothbrushes need replacing every 6 months, but a good wire brush is forever!" Hee hee! - Cindy

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

BUDGET SHOWER - Baby or Bridal

I’m sure it’s possible to host a shower with virtually no cost at all. Those on the guest list who are family and close friends can participate in bringing different elements of the party – assorted decorations, food, drinks etc. and yard sale goodies can provide delightful favors and game prizes.


For those occasions when something less casual is desired, a LITTLE inspiration can replace a LOT of cash.

My total cost for this shower with 12 guests was $51.10.

$15.10 Invitations and all Decorations

$19.00 Snacks, Food, Drinks, Cake and Favors

$17.00 Games & Prizes and Grandmother Gifts

Here are the components and how they came about:

THEME – Because I wanted to demonstrate versatility, I chose a ‘color only’ theme; this one is blue (because it’s a boy) and white. A bride’s color selection can easily be substituted. And, just as easily, a new mother’s theme of teddy bears or trains & planes or little princess, etc. can be simplified and incorporated using stencils or rubber stamps or homemade sponge stamps.

INVITATIONS – My computer graphics capabilities are non-existent so I had to rely on personalization and the old cut and paste method.

WELCOME – Since we live in a rural location and some of the invited guests had never been to our home, I wanted to give them the assurance that they were at the right place before they actually knocked on the door. Additionally, the borrowed umbrella, toddler toys and 50 cent streamers helped set the mood upon arrival.

DECORATIONSTable Cloth is simply a length of fabric which will be washed and later sewn into crib sheets. Placemats and Napkins were diapers, a gift from the maternal Grandmother. A blue punch was served in Glass baby bottles, also a Grandmother gift, and the bottles were wrapped in $2 worth of bulk washcloths for koozies and tied with blue ribbon. The cake and games prizes provided centerpieces and my white everyday dishes were topped with 50 cent clearance cocktail napkins and homemade Mint or Nut Cups.

FOOD – The diaper shaped mint or nut cups were filled with a really good trail mix topped with a couple of Jordan almonds. We found blue Hawaiian Punch and mixed it half and half with 7-UP and it was actually acceptable. The mid-afternoon main offering was a Baked Shrimp-Crab Salad, one of my favorite Paula Deen recipes, served on a bed of field greens tossed with grape seed oil and balsamic vinegar, fresh ground black pepper and sea salt and accompanied with whole grain rustic crackers. We chose cupcakes over a layer cake for convenience sake...(and click HERE if you want some real cupcake inspiration.) The small carrot cakes, the expectant mothers favorite, were topped with premixed cream cheese icing into which a full block of cream cheese had been whipped. They were decorated with the standard Lifesaver and Jellybean pacifiers and wrapped with theme-painted, homemade cupcake wrappers. The cupcakes were served with fruit cups.

GAMES – Our games were outstanding. We played four.

First Game: the guests were greeted at the door with bracelets of cord strung with 10 decorative, plastic diaper pins and pacifiers. At that point, the word “Baby” was banned from conversation. Penalty for getting caught saying “baby” was to relinquish one of your pins or pacifiers to the person who ‘caught’ you. This was a marvelous ice breaker and the source of a great deal of laughter. The winner was the person who accumulated the most.

Second Game: Charades. The Place Cards were folded in half and held closed by sandwiching them between the fork and spoon in the napkin bundle. Inside each place card was a word or phrase pertaining to mothers’ activities with new babies. (For the duration of this game, the ban against saying the word “baby” was suspended.) Phrases included things like ‘singing a lullaby’, ‘a stinky diaper’ and ‘tickling baby’. We started with the expectant mother and circled the table in such a way that the guests who were least familiar with the majority of the guests would be last, so that they would feel most at ease. Each player, in turn, was to act out her phrase. The person who guessed the correct phrase first was awarded the actors’ place card. The player who ended up with the most place cards at the end of the game was the winner.

Third Game: I had printed columns of alphabets on cardstock and cut them into strips. We set a timer for four minutes and each player wrote down a baby-related word that started with each letter of the alphabet. After the timer went off, we went around the table for each letter, with each player announcing their word. When two or more players had come up with the same word, they were eliminated from play for that letter only. Of the remaining players’ words, the expectant mother had to choose which word she liked best. Each player kept count of how many times they had submitted the winning word. The player with the most winning words won the game.

Game Four: Bingo. I was thrilled to find this site. It provided me with these adorable printable Bingo Cards. In addition, it is filled with ideas and even a “Shower Etiquette” listing of the proper ‘order’ of activities.

GAME PRIZES -- Were self-indulgent, token gifts, a candle, body butter, etc., placed in blue and white plastic take out containers, loosely tied with sheer ribbon and were actually left with the mother-to-be.

GUEST FAVORS – were not as time intensive as they appear. My homemade Praline Pecans are elegant and deceptively easy and fool-proof using this old family recipe. The organza bags were purchased in the bridal crafts section of a discount store. The tiny tags are just a page of cut & paste on the computer, printed on cardstock. The over-wrappers continue the super-simple blue brushstroke theme and I was able to cut two at 11” long from a single sheet of cardstock.

ADDL. IDEA – Because my kitchen is open to the dining area, a blue table cloth was used as a drape which provided a backdrop for suspending two framed photographs of the parents-to-be. They were presented to the two expectant Grandmothers.

Click on the following links for instructions:


Diaper Shaped Mint/Nut Cups

Wrapers for Favors

Praline Pecans Recipe

Life Saver & Jellybean Pacifiers

Also, Check This Site for Cupcake Inspiration