Handmade and Homemade Gifts

I hope each and every one of you enjoyed your Christmas holiday immensely by eating too much and making some great memories all the while remembering the reason for the season!  I know we did just that ourselves, and had a great time doing it.

Now it’s time to clean up things a bit and think about the New Year to come!  Wow, I really can’t believe it’s already almost 2014!  This year went fast, but it was a great year filled with many memories.

This year for Christmas there were many handmade/homemade gifts given that I wanted to share with you.  Not only are they sometimes a more frugal option to store bought gifts, but they can also be personalized for the receiver for a very special memory.

Next year I plan on getting started earlier so that I can include more handmade/homemade gifts and the girls can too!

present snowmen

My sister put together these adorable snowmen from the presents she got for the girls. They were so cute and loved by all.

I made each of my girls one of these flowered headbands after seeing these in an Etsy store for $16 each.  I knew by looking at them that I could make the same thing (pretty much) for much less.

I also have the materials to make them each one more in a different color combination.  I just didn’t get them all done in time.

headband 2

They turned out so very pretty.

Tomorrow I will be posting the directions to make your very own!  It’s not only easy to make, but very frugal.  I bought the headbands at JoAnns for $1.00 each, paid $.25 for each sheet of felt (need at least 2 different colors) and used embroidery thred I already had.  That’s a total of $3.50 for 3 headbands!

My oldest (Big Girl) painted a canvas for each of her sisters’ rooms.  They are so pretty and will definetly add color to their rooms!  The best part of the pictures is the personalization of each and how they really represent who each girl is!

canvas art

canvas art 2

Big Girl also made some really pretty scarves for her aunt and sisters.  They are so cute and soft!  You can learn how to make them by watching the video here.  They literally only take a few minutes to make and the only thing you need is the yarn (Red Heart Swerve) that she purchased at Walmart and your hands.

hand chain scarf

Grandma made each of the little girls a backpack for carrying things on their trips.  The neat thing about these is that she made them to match purses (that fit their Kindles) she had made them for their birthdays.  The bonus was that they also got a doll outfit for their American Girl dolls made from the same matching fabric.

backpacks and doll clothes

K also made her sisters gifts this year.  She purchased these plain wooden frames from Hobby Lobby (using coupon of course) for about $5.39 each.

unfinished frame

I helped her paint them with spray paint we had on hand (the yellow is what I used on my door and rocking chair).

We then went through pictures so that she could pick out pictures of her with each sister to make collages.  We made these online (Walgreens) for less than $4 total (yep, had a coupon code) and picked them up when we were out.

She then added the writing with a paint pen she also purchased at Hobby Lobby with a coupon.

painted framesThey turned out so pretty and even made some people cry!  Not naming any names or anything.

The best thing is that she thought up the idea all by herself as well as bought it all with her own money.

The Last Princess chose to purchase gifts for her sisters with her allowance money.  She did a great job on picking out the best small gifts!  She bought earrings for Big Girl from Target because she loves earrings and a “water” Barbie for K because she says she always plays with hers when they take a bath!

The girls and I made cinnamon rolls and cookies for some friends.  We also included jars of blueberry jam that we made this past summer.

cinnamon rolls

I froze some of the cinnamon rolls (before rising and baking) to cook Christmas morning for a delicous sweet treat.

They were awesomely delicious and I cannot wait to share the recipe.

sugar cookies

italian sprinkle cookies

We had a great time planning, making and receiving these handmade and homemade gifts as well as the other great gifts we received.

It was a great time to be with and share with family and friends.

Hope you had a great holiday as well.

What did you make for others this year?  Have a favorite gift you gave or received?

 making a habit out of living frugal…..

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{this moment}

I’m joining SouleMama for {this moment}.

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

sister sleepover

brownies

homemade brownies

…..and just in case these absolutely wonderful homemade brownies make you wish you had the recipe, here’s the link to my favorite bownie resource 50 Brownies (I use # 11 most).

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Our No Stress, Frugal Christmas Decorations

Nothing takes the spirit of the season out of a person more than stress over getting things done.  The last few years I have scaled back on making everything “perfect” and have taken a more relaxed approach to decorating at Christmas.  It sure has helped me to be able to relax more and not stress about getting things done.

It’s also budget friendly when you can use things that you already have in your home, or parts of nature that are just outside waiting to be used.

A big part of our Christmas decorating is done by the girls now.  Once the tree is up, they start getting the ornaments and decoartions out and get right to it.  Of course they sometimes ask me where something should go, but for the most part I just relax and enjoy watching them get creative.

You must forgive the low quality photos.  I am now down to just a camera phone until after the first of the year.  

We went to a different place to get our real tree this year and while we were there we got to visit with Santa!

santa 2013

The girls did a really good job getting the tree decorated.  They even put out some presents left at our house by their Uncle and Aunt.

2013 tree

I used some of the branches that we had to trim off the bottom of the tree for some decorations around the house.

canning jar decoration

small canning jar decoration

yellow chair

porch decorations

As usual, the girls and I hit the woods in search of their nature tree for the year.  We finally found just the right one.  We cut it down and put it in a flower pot of dirt from off the deck.

nature tree

 The next day we found the dining/school room full of ants around the flower pot!  We had warmed them up and they were starting to travel.  After getting them all cleaned out and kicking the flower pot back outside we decided to use the galvanized pail that I had for porch decorations.  We put in a couple bricks and then filled around it with small rocks.  No ants!  I think the pail added greatly to the nature tree.

nature tree 2

popcorn cranberry garland

garlandI had been meaning to paint these candlesticks I have been collecting, so I finally jumped on it and got it done.  I wanted to make them all the same color so that I could display them in a group or alone.

DIY painted candlesticks

I used my favorite ORB paint to make them all the same color.  Now I can put in inexpensive candles along with some other decorations or maybe some cute ribbon for a simple decoration that I can change throughout the year.

DIY candlesticksThat’s pretty much all I have for you guys today.  I hope you enjoyed seeing our frugal and simple decorations.

How do you decorate your home?  

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Warm Weather, Broken Dryer and DIY Dryer Repair

It was only a week ago that the weather was darn near 80 outside here in Arkansas.  We all enjoyed spending a great deal of time outside playing, sitting, reading and for me, hanging out a bit of laundry.

fall chickens

I like to hang out laundry whenever I can as part of my quest to be more frugal, but I also love it for the great scent it fills my clothes with, the scent of pure outdoors.

The other day the breeze was just enough to not only fill the clothes with a great scent, but to also dry them quicker and softer.

laundry

Normally I wouldn’t have dried my clothes outside on this day since I had family at my house, but a couple days earlier my dryer quit getting hot and we had an impending ice/sleet storm heading our way.  I wanted to get as much laundry done as possible so we would have all our “warm” clothes clean.  So I hung out two loads that day.

….. and I commenced to figuring out what was wrong with the dryer with the help of my visiting brother.

I began by doing a quick internet serch of the problem with my dryer and my model number.  It brought me to Repair Clinic where I was able to find out information about what could be wrong with my dryer and I could see tutorials on how to get to the parts and how to check the 5 possible parts of the dryer that could be suspect.

My brother grabbed the tools needed and we set out to test each of the 5 parts with a multimeter, which was a really easy process.  All 5 of the parts were testing good, so it came down to one last part that is the least common problem (as well as most expensive).  The tutorials and information I read stated that it is not common for the timer to be the problem, but since my dryer originally quit getting hot a few months ago on one side of the dial, I figured it was very likely.  Of course the timer is expensive , but not near as expensive as paying a repairman to fix it or a new dryer.

dryer timer 3

I was able to order the part for $83 and some change including shipping, but I had the part in about 2 days.

whirlpool timer

My brother had already gone home at this point and since my hubby’s job keeps him away home for long hours, it was up to me to put the part in.  Never a problem here, I’m a pretty independent person and will try to accomplish things on my own if possible.  Anything I can get done allows hubby time to do other things on the weekends.

whirlpool timer 2

It was as simple as unplugging wires from the old part and plugging them into the new one.  I did this one by one so that I would know where each wire would go without getting them mixed up.

I placed the new part back in the back of the dryer and screwed the screws back into place.  I then put the back piece back on the dryer by putting in and tightening several screws.

And that’s it!  The dryer worked and got hot on all sides of the dial!  It literally took me less than 20 minutes to fix.  The hardest part was putting the air vent hose back on the back of the dryer (in the small space) and pushing it back against the wall.

Just in time for the big sleet/ice storm that didn’t really pan out.

So in case you need to do a little appliance repair and love to save some money, I recommend these places to get you going:

Repair Clinic – great tutorials, parts and a great return policy

Appliance Parts Pros – repair tips, support, parts and a great return policy

Midwest Appliance Parts – competitive pricing on parts, but return policy is a little tighter and more of a hassle (I only read it, didn’t have an experience needing to return)

Be sure to check retailmenot for coupon codes.  I was able to save 5% by using a new customer code I found for Midwest Appliance parts.

None of these are affiliate links, just linka to help get you started on your very own DIY repairs.

How about you, have you fixed something on your own lately?

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Thanksgiving, Shopping and Ebates

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving with your loved ones and were able to celebrate the many things you are grateful for.

We had a great Thanksgiving as we traveled to the north part of the state to eat dinner and spend the night with my Dad and Step-Mom.  I was very thankful that the whole family could be there.  My brother and his wife are on a visit from the Chicago area, and my sister was off work all day.  We were able to take a family picture with all 10 of us in it!  (I wish I could share it, but my sister has the pictures since I am still without my good camera right now)

If you decided to brave the black friday sales, I hope you got everything you were after.  I’m not a big shopper (I like shopping from my laptop), so I just slept in a little and enjoyed my visit with my family.  I will admit that I did make a run to Best Buy with my sister on Thanksgiving night for a TV she wanted.  Nobody wanted to go with her, so I went to keep her from having to go alone.  I’m pretty sure I will never do this again (but I do love you Amanda) as it seemed ridiculous to get in line outside to get a ticket that guarantees you the TV, only to stand in another line inside for well over 2 hours waiting to pay for it!

We spent our weekend by visiting a local festival, relaxing, cooking by fire and visiting the lights at a nearby botanical garden (we have a membership).  It was not only a pretty frugal weekend, but it was quite a bit of fun!  I mean who doesn’t like festivals, food, bonfires, s’mores and Christmas lights?

Today I did do a little shopping with some of the great Cyber Monday sales that were taking place.  I made sure to use Ebates to earn a little extra cash while shopping online.  If you have never shopped through ebates before, I highly recommend them as a great way to earn back a percentage of what you spend at many online merchants.  Don’t worry if you forget and get a cart full of purchases.  Log into or sign up for an Ebates account and search for your store.  When you click on the link through ebates, your items will still be in your cart.  So far this year I have earned $54.78 through ebates ordering things online that i was going to be ordering anyways.  You can still use coupon codes just like you would any other time.

ebates

*I do get a bonus for each person I refer to ebates that makes a qualifying purchase, but I promise I do highly recommend Ebates and use it regularly.  

I have my lists for each girl made out and I try not straying from them, because it will only lead to over spending.  Each year we tend to get a little more simpler with our gifts, decorations and plans, but we get a lot more back to the real reason for Christmas, so I tend to try to keep this in mind when thinking about and planning for Christmas.  It’s amazing how much these things can lower your stress levels.

I’m enjoying this last week with my brother and sister in law at our house, seeing some great sights, and cooking some great food for them.  I hope to send them home well rested, well fed and with loads of pictures and new recipes!

windrift hill soap

Before I go, I wanted to tell you about a product I recently purchased and fell in love with. It could be just the gift idea you were looking for!  Not long ago I went to a craft fair and purchased a couple bars of goat milk soap from Windrift Hill Soaps, hoping that the soap might help with the dry skin problems I have this time of year.  I also have sensitive skin and allergies to perfumes and strong scents, so I was weary of many of the soaps at the craft fair.  I thought these soaps might be great for me because the scent was not so over-powering and artificial, but more natural smelling.

Now all I can think about is getting some more of this soap!  I recently used the last bit of the last bar, and I can say I love this stuff.  The scent is great, it doesn’t make me itch and it seems to not dry me out like many soaps do.  I had purchased 2 bars of the Montana Huckleberry and the girls each purchased a bar, but I can’t remember what scents they got.  So if you think this might interest you, take a minute and check out the site.  I think you will enjoy their product just like I did, and I’m not being paid or reimbursed to tell you that :-)

How was your Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday?

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The Blog Article That Got Me Thinking

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I read Dear Mom on the iphone and then Feeling Pepless (somebody was feeling just like me) and I instantly knew that I had to make a few changes.  These articles seemed to be speaking to me, and even about me.  They made me cry!  It was like somebody knew exactly where I was at the time.  Two articles had spoken to me so personally on the same day.  A wake up call of sorts.

Think

photo credit

I don’t have a problem with my phone; I have a problem getting easily distracted.  I have a problem managing my time.  I have a problem trying to multi task (and it doesn’t really work).  I want to spend quality time with my family.  When it’s school time I want to be doing school. I want to be less stressed so that I can be more productive and a much more relaxed person.

I had tears in my eyes when I read these articles.  They both summed up how I want to spend my time with my family.  They are really growing up so quick and I want to create more and more memories with them.  I love my family and enjoy all the things that we do. I want to make sure I am not that mom with the “iphone” or some other distraction.  I want to be all there for my family.

I was in a bad place at the time.  I just couldn’t seem to get anything done, and didn’t know what I wanted to do.  I could however manage to sulk over not getting things done and feeling like I was failing my family.  I just had to have a little time to me, a little time to feel sorry for myself (or my family) and most of all a little time to pray for His guidance.

It helped.

I spent the past couple of weeks thinking about things I could change to make me feel better about things.  I have thought about changes to blogging, our schedule at home, commitments and how much I will expect myself to get done each day.

Blogging has been one of my biggest challenges.  I love to blog, love sharing with you guys, and love hearing from you guys, but I often stress myself about getting blogs posts up, or getting the right blog post up.  I am sure it’s a common problem among bloggers, but I am working on my solution.

I don’t like to write my blog posts ahead of time (I very rarely do this), as I like to blog about what’s on my mind today, or something I just recently did.  It’s just the way I work.  Since I came to this conclusion, I have decided to do my blog post writing in the evening.  Many evenings my girls are with their Daddy practicing softball (they play on competitive teams), so I have some quiet time to myself.  This will be my blogging time.  I probably won’t get a post written every day, but I know you all can understand that.

I have also decided to write more about myself and my family.  Things we do, things we try, things we learn and things we experience will be the topic of many more posts.  I have often worry that people may not want to read about us all the time, but as I was watching one of my favorite shows (Alaska: The Last Frontier) the other day, I realized that I like to see what The Kilcher’s are doing, how they do things and how they make do, so maybe my readers will enjoy more of that as well.

As far as my school time, that was easy.  I decided to not allow myself, or plan for myself, to do much more than fold clothes or cook while the girls are doing school.  This has made things so much easier and less stressful for me.  It also allows me to be all there for the girls.  We also can get school done in a more timelier manner.

I am learning to trim my “to do” list down (and not assign myself more than possible for a day) and not get disappointed if I cannot get something done.  I just move it to the next day and go on.  The winter months will also make it easier for us to get caught up around here, which in turn will shorten the “to do” list.

I find things each day that lessen my stress and help me become more relaxed, which in turn makes me a better person.  I am very thankful for the little wakeup call I got.

I hope everyone will take the time to read both of these blog articles.  Think about that “iphone” that may keep you distracted.  It may not be a phone, it may be something else. Could this be you?  If it could, I encourage you to make some changes in your life.  It will make you a much happier person.  At the same time, know that things will get better. Tomorrow is a new day.

Have you been the mom on the iphone?  What did you do to change?  What has worked for you?

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Practicing Frugal Daily: Sewing, Mending and More

Join me as I share what I have recently done that was frugal, not so frugal or even a frugal flop. I want you, my readers, to join in and comment on what you did that was frugal, not so frugal or just a plain frugal flop. Even if it was nothing but cutting the end of a tube off or rinsing the fabric softener bottle with water to get all the softener (yes I do that), it’s worth mentioning.

There’s a chance that you or I do something that others have not thought about. There’s a chance that we can learn from each other’s flops as well.  It can be a fun filled learning experience for us all.

Practicing Frugal Daily Times

The past couple of days I have been putting my purely non-professional sewing skills to work.  No I’m not highly trained or highly skilled, but I manage to get things done.  I definitely wouldn’t be able to sell any of my works, but I can make our clothes last a little longer, saving them from being cut up to rags or being discarded, and saving my wallet from buying more.

sewing & mending

The other day we were getting ready to go somewhere and K found a small tear in the armpit of one of her shirts, knowing she really wanted to wear it right away; I grabbed some thread and a needle and fixed it right up in less than 5  minutes.  This quick fix reminded me that I had a few other things to fix and a skirt I wanted to make for K.

The Last Princess has 2 pairs of yoga pants that have an extra-large waist, requiring them to be rolled a couple times to even make them look like they fit.  Since she has gotten a bit taller, rolling them leaves them a tad bit on the short side.  So I tackled these babies in hopes of making the waist smaller.

Keep in mind that I am not a seamstress and my way of getting things done does not involve ripping out seams or taking things apart.

I stitched the waistband on the yoga pants up 1/2 an inch on both sides, trimmed the excess and then ended up with a bit of a bump or overhang on the bottom portion of the pants.  Knowing this could be a tad bit oncomfortable as well as the funny look it gives the pants, I decided to make things right.

altering waist

No problem, I just marked and measured both sides, ran the sewing machine across them both, cut the excess and voila!  I think they turned out great.

yoga pants

The Last Princess is already wearing one pair and says they fit great!

Big Girl had been waiting forever for me to fix a pair of her “pretty” jeans.  To be honest, I was a little worried about how I was going to fix these jeans as they ripped real close to the seam on the seat.  If they had ripped anywhere else they might work right in with fashion, but this rip requires a fix.

ripped jeans

I finally decided to fix them the old fashioned way with patches and my iron.  Knowing that the patches will not stick long, I added a small zig zag topstitch in a dark thread all the way around the ripped area. I left the ragged threads to cover the patch and make everything stay dark. I then ran my sewing machine across the ragged thread area in a couple different places to help hold the ragged threads in place.  Told you I’m no professional!  I do see a need though and manage to get it done.

patching jeans

ripped jeans fix

The jeans look pretty darn good if I might say so myself.  I didn’t expect them to look perfect, but maybe now that the ripped area is camouflaged a bit, it will be fine.  I know Big Girl will be glad to get them back.  They were practically brand new when they ripped.

She will also be getting her sweatshirt back that had a small rip in it.  I just put a few stitches in it by hand.

My last project was to make a maxi skirt for K following this Girls Knit Maxi Skirt Tutorial.  I will say the tutorial is great, but my mind couldn’t process the instructions for folding the fabric in four and cutting.  So I just folded twice and cut the normal size.  I guess it was from having worked the night before, but I couldn’t figure out how it was going to work for me, without wasting a bunch of fabric.  Call me simple or ….. just tired.

K is really happy to get her new skirt, and it will be adorable with a black or blue top and her black boots.

Aside from all the mending and sewing, I also managed to keep the refrigerator clear of leftovers, pack my meal for at work and made a great homemade pancake mix (I added blueberries of course).  We have also cooked all our meals at home this week except one inexpensive lunch we ate out after an appointment.

I have also printed quite a few new coupons for my next few grocery shopping trips. Don’t forget I have a premanent link on my menu bar for printable coupons.  Using this link helps support this blog.

Now we are in the process of gathering all the unwanted and unused items hanging around here for a yard sale we are having Saturday.  I didn’t really want to have the sale, but the girls want to have it to make a purchase together, so here we go.  It will be a great way to clean things out a bit.

What frugal things are you doing?

making ahabit out of living frugal…..

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