Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reduce Christmas Costs by Planning Early

I heard on the news that it looks like practical purchases will top shoppers lists this Christmas season. No reason not to take that one step further to make sure we get the biggest bang for the smallest buck.
$35 - Slouch Jacket
One way to do that is to think "vintage". There is quite a difference in vintage or antique items and "used"ones, particularly if the used ones weren't great when they were new. I've known for years that you can buy antique furniture for less than new and, more often than not, the older things will be made better, with better materials and better craftsmanship.
$55 Leather Bomber Jacket
But it just dawned on me that you can do the same things with personal items and buying "vintage" is very different from shopping at a thrift store.

$10 Vintage Doll Stroller
Since I opened my online store on
m, I've been getting acquainted with the site. It's fascinating. Oh, sure, you can spend big and really, really big but you can also pick up incredible bargains. I searched in the "Vintage" section for just a few minutes and found these items as an example. $12.50 '60's GE Mixer
I'm not suggesting that you run to the site and start buying. I'm just giving you an idea of the variety and cost. There are tons and tons of items on etsy and, I'm sure there are other sites out there as well.

$20 Size 5 Coat
So, the task, while we wait for Thanksgiving, is to start thinking about Christmas and about the needs of our families. Make a list and start checking things out online and don't forget to look for "vintage" items.$5.50 - 2 Hardy Boys Books

Sunday, October 24, 2010

You Can Turn "Making Do" into "Best of All"

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed when reality comes crashing into our images of the perfect event we'd like to plan. Sometimes we don't even plan them assuming that our space or money or time constraints make such gatherings impossible. If you fit into any of these categories, please listen. I watch the same cooking and decorating and party planning television shows that you do. I've even pulled off one or two of those elegant events in my time. But I now have the advantage of age and hindsight and the events that I remember most fondly were the ones where heart was the most abundant commodity...the ones where friends and family gathered without the tensions of propriety and perfection.
Almost 20 years ago and recently released from the hospital into a wheelchair after a terrible accident, I was to host Thanksgiving, my favorite of all holidays. Unfortunately, since I couldn't navigate the stairs, our big bed had become the centerpiece of the living room/dining room. I suppose could have canceled but that has never been my way and I'm so glad I didn't.
If we could fit 17 people comfortably into such a small space, you can too. And, because the guests decided to help with dinner by each bringing a dish, the cost was inconsequential for each of us. Instead of mindless, small talk over pre-dinner cocktails, the men busied themselves with moving furniture about and fabricating my make-shift table while the gals organized things in the kitchen, tasting each others dishes and laughing about I don't know what.
My dining table was even too small to set up for buffet service. But, we solved that problem with a series of boxes and paint cans under the table cloth. The serving dishes were then staggered, like houses up a mountain, with their edges overlapping and the children got a kick out of decorating the "empty" spaces with mountains of kale and fresh harvest vegetables.
A sheet of plywood was placed across the foot of the bed in the living room and covered with a table cloth. To seat 12 adults, 2 long benches were brought in from outdoors, seating 6 adults along the 8' side and 3 chairs were placed at each end. (I had my lovely chair on wheels) The coffee table was moved to the dining area of the room and provided seating for the 4 children.
I can smell the turkey, the sweet potatoes and pumpkin pies and feel the warmth of that evening as I write this. There was a fire crackling in the wood stove, new snow on the ground, a moose wandering through the yard, giggling children, hot cider and more time spent around that table than any other before or since. It was my favorite of all Thanksgivings and it could have been among the very worst.
A couple of ideas that I came across recently include, removing a door to open up space and placing it on an ironing board to use as buffet space AND use two table runners along the edges of a table instead of placements or a table cloth.
Here are three links to additional small space entertaining ideas. Particularly, read the comments at link "one". ONE, TWO, THREE

So much of life's goodness is wrapped up in the attitude we bring to it. Of course, I wish you prosperity, but health and love and simple sharing are the keys to happiness and I wish you those things most of all. May you and yours be blessed as we move into this holiday season.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cute, Versatile, Inexpensive, Fall Decoration

I saw one of these someplace but don't remember where. At any rate, I don't want to take credit for coming up with it, only for passing the idea along.
How simple!
If you have firewood or access to someone who cuts it, all you need is a slice off of a log. Mine is about 2 1/2" thick and about 6 1/2" to 7 1/2" across. The handle is made of 25" lengths of grape vine but I suppose any vine would do. Wire the two ends of the vine together, bend it and attach it to both sides of the log slice with screws. What a pretty little centerpiece for a fall table.
And, my daughter had the idea of setting up a small nativity scene on it for a rustic themed Christmas. It would also be great with a fabricated bird's nest filled with colorful boiled eggs for Easter. If you have any other use ideas, please leave a comment.

I also put a couple in my ETSY Store.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I Miss Autumn in Alaska

OK, so I complained about the heat and finally got some cool weather. Even bought some mums and made an effort to bring a little Autumn color to my front porch. But then...a little foot surgery has kept me sitting for a week or more when I would like so much to do something Fall-ish... like, maybe rake leaves...all 50 of them. Ha!
Actually, I can't do much of anything right now except wax nostalgic so I took the plunge and started going through old photographs. Came across this picture of my "old" back yard in Alaska and wanted to share it. I can smell the wood smoke and feel the chill in the air just looking at it. What a great time we had in that old log house. I'm thinking about including our projects there as a part of this blog. We did so much for so little. For example, in the photo, the deck around our fire pit was free, as a neighbor offered it when they changed from a boardwalk to a gravel path at their cabin. My little potting shed cost less than $150 following my plans for using every square inch of a few sheets of plywood. Once it was built, we faced it with beautifully aged, discarded fencing.
As much as I like going forward, I also get a kick out of looking back and think I WILL share some of my Alaska projects right here. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fall - Money & Time Saving Reminder

What a treat it was to wake up this morning with a little chill in the air. It looks like Fall finally fell. That got me thinking about all the wonderful comfort foods that accompany the season and I needed to spend some time in the kitchen today anyway.
I have a couple of time and money saving tricks that I've used for years. The one that serves me best is cooking in bulk. Since I'm having a small surgery tomorrow and might not feel like cooking for a few days, today was the perfect time to pull out all the stops. I only spent 45 minutes in the kitchen but here's what I've done:
  • The crock pot is doing its own thing with a massive quantity of stew
  • The stove top cooked a pot of rice while I got chili cooking in another pot
  • The oven whipped out a pan of brownies, 18 muffins and a pone of cornbread
  • The refrigerator now holds a good supply of chicken salad for sandwiches or stuffed tomatoes or stuffed avocado halves
And, I'm out of the kitchen until later on when I'll package meal-sized portions for the freezer. I love cooking like this because mealtime becomes just a matter of heat and eat and the cost savings is huge. Here are the links for my chili recipe and the crock pot stew. The chicken salad is outstanding and really quick to put together. Here is that recipe:

Chicken Curry Salad
  • Chicken - 1 can - 9.75 oz - drained
  • Granny Smith Apple - 1 - washed, not peeled - diced small
  • Celery - 2 stalks - chopped fine
  • Mustard - 1 tsp
  • Curry Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Mayonnaise - enough to moisten
That's it. Mix it all together. Makes great sandwiches or serve as salad on tomato flower, avocado half, pineapple rings or lettuce leaf.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


OK, so I've neglected the blog for a little while but it's only because I've been so busy doing so many things that I will be telling you about. First and foremost, I'm in the process of setting up a shop on For someone who knows so little about computers, that's a daunting task. In fact, when I started this blog, I barely knew more than how to turn the computer on, send and receive emails and type documents. So, the blog has been a learning experience, so much so that I think I'm ready for another one. We'll see.

If all goes well and my brain doesn't short-circuit and the computer doesn't explode, I should have the shop online and open within the next day or two and you will be the first to know.

So, what is it that I will be doing there? Pretty much what I do here. Well, not cooking but all the other stuff. I have a habit of making things and a house that will not hold them all and children who are probably tired of trying to find places to put the things I pass along. My choices were to stop making things - oh no - or to find another place for them. An online shop seemed a natural and was certainly in keeping with my theme of "still finding cash".

That having been said, I'd better get back to work. Just wanted to let you know that I haven't forgotten you. Psst...did you notice the picture of my little angel? Isn't she an a-door-able door decor?