Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mason Jar Pincushion

This was easy. It makes a great gift for a friend who sews yet requires no sewing on your part!

Materials you will need:
Mason Jar (any size) and two part lid
Circle about 6-8" diameter
Polyester stuffing
Stiff cardboard circle, same size as lid
Paper cut from decorative paper, same size as lid
Hot glue gunPlace the stuffing inside the fabric circle. Shove it through the rim.
Now push the flat part of the lid under the stuffing as shown.
Pull the fabric as tight as possible around the flat part of the lid. Fold the extra fabric into the middle and glue it down. (Post-production note: it might have been best to have cut the fabric off. The lid doesn't actually screw down onto the jar if you don't.)
Next, glue down the cardboard and then the decorative paper to cover the fabric.
Replace the lid on the jar!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Grilled Pizza

Yes, you read that right. We've been making this for a few years now and really love it! I like to make my own dough but you can use the frozen stuff, too. (I've also heard you can actually grill a whole frozen pizza, but I haven't done it myself!)

This is what we do:

1. Light the grill (my husband loves charcoal grills and likes to put wood chips on the coals to add flavor to the food).
2. Make the dough or thaw the dough.
3. Shape it into small pizzas.
4. Grill just the dough for about 3-4 minutes per side. Ours got a bit charred, the charcoal grill is harder to control the heat and it got too hot.
5. Bring it back in and add your toppings, including cheese.6. Grill again, just til the cheese melts. About 2-4 minutes (you obviously don't flip your pizzas this time!)
Enjoy. We sure did!


We have a garden. Our soil is just "builder's soil" meaning it's mostly clay and not that great for growing things. Composting is great for helping improve it so our tomatoes and peppers grow better!

Starting a compost pile is easy. Just designate a part of your yard (preferably away from where you spend your does attract bugs...) as the 'Compost Area' and dump your vegetable and fruit scraps plus eggshells, coffee grounds and filters, and other things there. Also, pile on the grass clippings and leaves.

You could also purchase a "Gastro" (a name my parents gave their outdoor plastic compost bin) but I didn't, so that isn't very Monkey See, Monkey Do-esque. Or frugal. But my parents got theirs for free, so it was frugal.

Things That Do Not Belong in a Compost Pit or Bin:
Cooked Veggies
Tomato Products*
Citrus Fruits*

*These things change the pH of the compost.

Edited to add: I was recently sent a link to this site with an extensive list of other things you can compost! I was excited to see that many of these things are just everyday household items. Some are paper-based, so make sure you don't let them blow all over your yard (add them under other things that will wet them to weigh them down). So check out Backyard Boss for surprising suggestions.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Decluttering Regret

I just saw this project and am feeling regretful that I tossed a few canvases from a home decor project gone wrong.

Please reference my article on becoming a pack rat. I really need to draw a line between saving everything and the urge to get rid of things! Maybe I just need a spot to keep things that could be useful for my next crazy craft idea.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Generic Products

This blurb caught my eye on Yahoo today. We buy a lot of generic things (ie the store brands). Almost every store has store brand items from ketchup, cereal, tomato sauce, diapers, soap, shampoo, you get the picture.

I was disappointed in their list of 5 suggestions for generics. In my opinion, it wasn't extensive and it also wouldn't save a ton of money.
Cereal, sure.
Rx drugs, you may not have a choice since your insurance may require you to choose generics. If there is a generic, you usually walk out of the store with it and don't get a choice... this is because the pharmacy has a higher profit margin on generics, anyway. They're usually manufactured in Puerto Rico. (Former drug rep here.)
OTC meds. They're usually sold by the name of the actual drug (ie acetaminophen is the ingredient in Tylenol. Tylenol is just a brand name.)
Basic Baking Products. Not sure I buy enough of any product to save significant money, but I do buy generics.
Fresh fruits & Veggies. I don't recall getting much of a choice for produce. I buy what's there. Usually there are different varieties of tomatoes or apples, but not brands.

So. What would our household's list contain? I am actually going to name some store and brand names, to my chagrin. I'm not being paid for this.

-Diapers. Target Up & Up brand when we're not using cloth.
-Milk. Walmart, Giant Eagle & Aldi store brands are much cheaper and don't contain the growth hormones or antibiotics.
-Toilet Paper. Kirkland @ Costco is good as is Target's.
-Paper Towels. When we're not using rags, I really like Costco's store brand.
-Cereal. Kroger has the best generic selection, in our opinion. Trader Joe's is good, as is Wal-Mart now. Watch for high fructose corn syrup!
-Oatmeal. Marc's usually has some off-brand. Giant Eagle has their own brand, too.
-Cheese. Marc's has it for $0.99/8 oz un shredded. Giant Eagle has a store brand as does Wal-mart.
-Ice Cream. I did recently splurge on Ben & Jerry's since I had a coupon, but we've found Aldi has good stuff. Kroger, too.
-Applesauce. Target, no sugar (or substitutes) added, is cheapest and just as good as a brand name.
-Frozen Fruits & Vegetables. Trader Joe is wonderful for these! So much less expensive but they are better. Tons of varieties, too.

What types of things do you buy in generic form?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"A Dress A Day" Blog

Check out this idea!

The girl took an ugly dress that she got for $1 and recycled it into something wearable.
Every day. For a year.

And she has a blog.

I'm inspired.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Why I Am At Risk of Becoming a Pack Rat

I love this idea. So cute. Similar to the cropped t-shirt shrug I made a month or so ago.

I would have loved to have made a sweater I shrank into this bolero idea. But sadly, I donated it awhile back. I give away so many things that I don't think I want or need. Then I see an idea for a craft project.

Do you think it is worth the extra closet/drawer space to save all the sweaters, jeans, sheets, towels, and boxes that otherwise have lived out their intended use? I used to give a resounding "NO" to that question.

But I'm starting to reconsider.

Quick Sleeve Alteration

I am quite sure this is not the 'proper' way to alter a sleeve. However, most people don't have the problem that I have: coats with sleeves which are just too short.

A friend of mine gave me two nice coats she was going to give away. Both fit fine except for the sleeve length. So what I did was remove the hem of the sleeve and just sew up the very edge. This is what it looks like now:
As you can see, I need to press the sleeve a bit, but you get the idea: It doesn't look bad from a distance.I did this once with a pair of pants, too. I thought about adding a ruffle or something to make the sleeve longer, but 1) didn't want to spend the time or money to go to the fabric store and 2) didn't think I'd be able to find fabric to match perfectly.

Any other ideas for lengthening sleeves or pant legs?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

T-Shirt Yarn Project

Wondering what I made so far with my t-shirt yarn?

A basket for some of our little guy's toys:
crocheted basketI used a very large crochet hook. Size Q? Not sure. It is plastic. The basket doesn't have a lot of body (the sides cave in if it is empty) but it works great if it is full.

This project cost me $0! So excited about that. I asked friends for t-shirts they were giving away (I used 10 t-shirts for this basket) and so it was free. To make this with yarn would have cost a lot.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Chicken Tortilla Soup

This is one of my husband's favorite recipes. I make it in the slow cooker. It requires very little prep other than chopping a few veggies and opening a few cans and smells good while it is cooking all day!

Chicken Tortilla Soup
1 onion, chopped
1 Bell pepper (any color), chopped*
1 28.5-oz can of diced or crushed tomatoes
1 14-oz can tomato sauce
1 cup salsa, any intensity (we usually use medium)
2 14-oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 t cumin
1 t basil
3-4 crushed garlic cloves
3 or 4 uncooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine all ingredients, add one cup of water, and stir in your slow cooker or Crock-Pot. Turn the slow cooker on 'low' for 8-10 hours. At the end of the cooking time, shred the chicken breasts with two forks (they will be very tender).

I like to make rice to go with this soup. We also like to add sour cream, cheese, and fresh cilantro to top off the soup. I sometimes make corn bread or corn muffins to round out the meal.

*I added Banana Peppers from our garden when I made this yesterday! You can also add canned corn or fresh corn cut off of the cob.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Finishing the Unfinishable Project 6--Car Seat Harness Covers

These things looked SO easy to make! But I just couldn't get the edges finished in a way that looked good. At first, I bought bias tape that was too narrow. It was 1/2". Then I tried to use a ribbon, which didn't work out at all:

I finally had to go buy some 1" bias tape.

They cover the straps on the car seat. Or in the bike trailer.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Making Yarn from T-Shirts

Do you have lots of t-shirts you'd like to repurpose into something fun? If so, this is how to turn them into yarn. You can then use that yarn to make lots of fun projects with your crochet hook.

Maybe knitting needles would work, too, but I don't know how to knit, so it's all crocheting here!

The goal is to have one long piece of t-shirt fabric. Smooth out the shirt on your cutting surface.
I folded mine in half because my cutting mat is tiny.
Now cut the bottom part off. (You don't have to use a rotary cutter. In fact, I ended up using scissors to clean up the edges mine left.)Now cut the shirt off below the printing. You can't use the printed part of the shirt for this project, it doesn't curl well.

Flatten it out if you've folded it like me. Cut 1" strips but stop about an inch from the top. If you don't stop you will be sorry!Now, place the strips over your arm. It will look like some crazy '80's style fringe. You are going to cut from the first strip diagonally to beyond the second strip. Then you can disconnect the first strip to start making a long strip. (If you screw up the first one, no big deal. I had a few accidents.)
You will hopefully have one long strip.
Take the strip and pull it between your hands to make the edges curl.
Wind it into a ball and you're ready to start your first crochet project with your t-shirts!

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Do you receive Groupon emails every morning in your inbox? (Go to for an explanation if you have no idea what I'm talking about!)

I've been getting them for a year now and just ordered my first one today. It is a deal for Gap; you spend $25 and you get $50 in merchandise to use in the store only. I don't know if this is being frugal or not.

Though I do keep my clothing purchases to a minimum, sometimes I have to buy something! So hopefully this will help me purchase a new fall item for a reasonable price.

My husband considers things like this 'impulse buys'. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Want to Make: Dusting Alternative

Ok, that title may be misleading. This isn't an alternative to dusting.
(Maybe you could just run a fan on every surface and that would save you from dusting.)

But instead of buying a Swiffer duster, make one yourself! I am doing this sometime soon, for sure! I already made my own Swiffer dust mop cloths.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Easy Idea for a Throw Pillow

I always see place mats I like at Target. Pier 1, too. This is a great idea for using a 2-layer place mat in a different way.

All you have to do is stuff a 2-layer place mat with stuffing and sew it back together. So easy!
I haven't completed this activity yet but I sure have big plans!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cereal Prices Going Up?

I just read that cereal prices will be rising due to smaller wheat crops around the globe (but excluding the US).

I recommend not relying on cereal as your main breakfast source anyway (it is a highly processed type of food, full of simple sugars, and expensive). But if you are a cereal addict, you'd best stock up now. Try to find some coupons if brand name cereals are a must. If not, try checking out off-brands at Wal-Mart, Aldi, or Trader Joe. It might save you time to stock up, anyway.

You could say "No" to big cereal's alleged rising prices by branching out and making your own cooked breakfast cereals like oats or Bulgar and adding dried fruit or honey to make them palatable.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Want To Make: Ironing Board Cover

If you sew, you understand the importance of an ironing board cover. So would understand why I need a new one if you were to see a picture of my current one. I just need a whole new ironing board. Ours no longer folds up. That's what happens when you buy the cheapest one at Wal-Mart.

I might like to use my old towels and sheets to make the cover and padding underneath.
tutorial 1
a pictorial tutorial.
super cute, but seems like a LOT of work for just an ironing board!
if you have a small ironing board
this one seems really easy!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Want to Make: Vintage Bathmat

Check this out! I saw this idea in a book and googled it. I have some linens that were my grandmother's that would be perfect for this project....

I had a lot more but unfortunately gave them to Goodwill. I'm trying not to be a pack rat.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Powdered Milk

We've been using lots of whole milk at our home lately since that's the only kind toddlers are supposed to consume. But when I cook, I hate to use it (calories!) and also we seem to go through it so fast I don't like to 'waste' it.

So I started using non-fat powdered milk in my baking and cooking excursions. I had a big box I used for my DIY Frappiccuino which is taking up space in my pantry. The instructions are on the side. Baked goods seem to turn out well when I substitute the reconstituted milk for the regular milk.

It is far cheaper and has less calories and fat than using whole milk. Also, if you were out of milk, it saves you a trip to the grocery store!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Finishing the Unfinishable Project 5 -- Travel Blankets

I mentioned that a friend and I bartered...she drew up a legal document and I made her son some travel blankets. Sounded easy enough; she wanted me to cut a store-bought blanket into quarters and put some satin bias tape around the edges.

Well. I apparently don't know how to do bias bindings. I made up a way to do it. I know you're supposed to do a continuous piece of trim.
But this is what I started with:

So I did just do one edge at a time. They aren't perfect. But I think they'll meet the needs of my friend's little boy!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Blueberry Bread

Looking for another great way to use some yummy blueberries? Make this yummy bread.

2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup milk
3 T oil
3 cups flour
1 t salt
4 t baking powder
1 cup blueberries

1. Beat eggs; mix in sugar. Add milk and oil. Mix well.
2. Stir dry ingredients together. Again, do not over mix. (I just added them to the egg/sugar/milk/oil mixture to save time and washing another what you will.)
3. Carefully fold in blueberries.
4. Spray pan with cooking spray. Pour batter into a 5x12" loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes. Cool in pan but turn it out of the pan before it is completely cool.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Electronics & Water

Everyone knows electronics and water don't mix. But I have countless friends who have dropped their cell phone in the toilet, washing machine or had another expensive device meet some other untimely demise.

I have an history of electronics and water. When I was a sophomore in college, I broke my elbow. Really badly. I had surgery to implant 17 pins and 3 plates. Then I had a huge cast for a little while.

A week after I broke it, I was trying to water a plant in my dorm room that my wonderful boyfriend (now my husband!) had given me for my birthday. I managed to spill the water on my laptop. I made the cardinal mistake of panicking and turning it back on right away. It never worked again. I was so upset. Luckily, my parents felt bad for me with the whole elbow thing and thought I was a trooper for even going back to school that soon.

Fast forward to this past month...I was at the beach and I had my camera. I left it on my chair and the tide came in. The camera was underwater. So upset!! This is how we handled it:

1) Did NOT turn it on.
2) Removed the battery.
3) Put it in a bag of rice for a few days.
4) Turned it on and it works pretty well. A few problems.

*Sigh of relief*

Saturday, August 7, 2010


I've seen several articles lately talking about bartering and how it was popular during the Great Depression. I am currently the beneficiary of a barter. (Not sure if 'barter' can be used as a noun. Any opinions?)

I needed a legal service. A friend is an attorney. She helped me out and saved me approximately $150/hour. I am making her some 'travel security blankets' for her little boy. (More on those in another post. I'm still working on them.)

I think more of us should be open to offering a service we're good at and enjoy doing as payment for other things. Some ideas besides legal services and sewing:

-Gardening or other lawn care
-Cutting down trees
-Oil changes or mechanical skills
-Cake baking
-Ancestry Research
-House Cleaning
-Tailoring (I consider this way different than just sewing!)
-Refinishing furniture

Any other ideas out there?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Make Giant Crayons

I love craft projects. I love colors.
It is only natural that I want my 14-month old son to learn to color.

I went to Target to buy him some crayons last week. I was shocked at how much the giant crayons cost. So I bought the skinny kind instead.

Result: He loves to throw them and try to put them in his mouth. He gets upset if I try to make him even tough the paper with one, let alone grab his hand and help him make marks on it!

After conferring with my mom, we've determined that his chubby little hands need the fat crayons. So I decided to make my own.

All you need is an oven, old crayons (or broken, paperless ones), and an old muffin tin.

I went to my favorite grocery store and bought two packages for $0.49 each. (They were on sale with the school supplies.)
I tore the paper off and broke them into pieces. I like things to match, so I grouped them by shade (but you don't have to do that):I put them in the oven at 215 degrees F for about 20 minutes (keep checking them...) They melted completely. Now let them cool and harden. Then dig them out with a knife. I ran a knife around the edges before they got too hard but I don't think I really needed to do that.
I'm not sure this project was worth the trouble. My son tried to eat these, too.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Best Muffin Recipe

There were blueberries on sale for $1/pint today at my favorite grocery store. I just had to make is my favorite recipe with some added instruction.

Best Blueberry Muffins*

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder1 teaspoon salt
6 T butter, cold
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 cup blueberries

1. To make your buttermilk (my grandmother taught me this!) you place 1 tablespoon of vinegar in a measuring cup. Fill the rest of the 1-cup measurement with milk. I even used non-fat dry milk to make these muffins and it turned out well. Stir; let the milk and vinegar sit for about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

3. Take the butter and cut it into small pieces. Then use a pastry blender or two knifes to chop it up and make small crumbs. My grandmother taught me that, too. Many pastries are made this way. This is what a pastry blender looks like in case you weren't sure you had one! See the crumbs?
4. Add the buttermilk (if you made your own with vinegar and milk it is actually considered "sour milk") and after beating the egg, add it, too.

Now this is another key instruction. My mother, who used to teach the cooking part of home ec, says not to overmix muffins. Over mixing can cause toughness. Just mix the ingredients together until combined.

5. Fold in the blueberries. I'd need to put a video up to demonstrate the proper folding technique, but I'm pretty sure it means 'mix gently so you don't smash the blueberries to smithereens'.

6. Bake in greased tins or paper-lined tins for 23-25 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from tins and cool on a wire rack.

*I got this muffin recipe from a friend. I think she got it online somewhere. I love the fact that it contains butter instead of oil. I like to bake with butter as I think it tastes better.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Saving on Health Care

It can be done. Our insurance has us pay 'co-insurance' in addition to the deductible we're responsible for each year. This allows them to only discount medical services members of our family receive, leaving us responsible for the discounted amount.

We've had some pretty hefty bills recently. Kids go to the doctor a lot. Vaccinations cost a lot. One ER visit can really add things up.

So I called the hospital and told them our insurance wasn't covering any of the remaining portion and asked for a discount. The worst they could say was 'no'. But they said yes. And I received a 25% discount on one bill and a 35% discount on the other.

Just ask.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


If you are a regular reader, you realize by now that I use plastic grocery-store bags for lining small garbage cans in bathrooms or bedrooms. I was organizing my pantry today and getting frustrated with the mess that saving bags creates.

So instead of spending $5-6 at the least on a "Grocery Bag Organizer", I made my own!
I hardly feel this project needs instructions. If you read my blog, you're obviously not an idiot.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ask a Friend!

Three questions to ask a friend:

1) "Do you have ______?*" Quit buying stuff a friend might have in his/her basement and be willing to let you borrow, sell for cheap or give away for free? (Example: shelving, mattress, camping equipment, grill, plastic storage containers, pots & pans...) I'm getting a free mattress from my aunt. Plus, she's sending along sheets and a mattress protector! I had to buy a frame. Had I asked enough friends, I may have come up with a free one!

Our digital camera met an untimely partial demise (short version: the auto function no longer works, but the manual one does, but that takes bad picture; take home message: water and cameras don't mix) and I happened to post this on facebook (that I was mad I had ruined the camera) and a friend is supplying us with their old one! Talk about being glad I asked a friend...

2) "Would you like to clean ______?" I would rather clean someone else's home than my own. Swap cleaning with a friend!

3) "Are you free ______?" Swap babysitting with a friend!

*We've been able to help others with several things: a coffee maker (we got a new one), a GPS (I had been given one as a gift after purchasing one, so we had two), and I let a friend borrow some baby gear needed during the newborn stage that we barely used.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Getting Rid of Ants

I hope you don't have ants. But if you do have some ants marching 1x1 or 2x2 around your house, you can sprinkle some Borax or boric acid along their trail. It will help get rid of them and is less expensive than buying something special from the store to get rid of them.