Thursday, May 31, 2012

Aprons & Dresses

I realized that I had never posted any photos of my first two sewing projects - aprons.  I had ordered two types of printed fabric and one solid that could be used on both.  First I made a cupcake apron.  I made it smaller since I am petite. 

It was nice, but I wanted the second one slightly larger.  I also made the ties longer so they would wrap around to the front.

I have another "niece" who is about to be a big sister.  In addition to sending a gift for the new baby, I made a pillowcase dress to send to the big sister.  I found a different selection of fat quarters at another store.  I loved the bright colors.  I think it is perfect for a two year old girl.

Both of the previous dresses that I made were for the older little girls in my family.  My husband picked out some fabric for a dress for his sister's baby.  She is the oldest of the four babies in my family.  This dress is a size 6-12 months.  I am actually getting better.  I sewed this in an evening.  It would have taken me less time if I had not had a few issues. 

I have some other projects in mind including a knit top for myself.  I am more comfortable but know I have a long way to go. 

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Use It Up - Egg Roll Wrappers

Earlier in the week I made a batch of Southwestern Egg Rolls (more on that in a future post).  I had about eight egg roll wrappers remaining.  I was left to wonder how to use them up.  As if by fate, I found a post on one of my favorite blogs for Baked Apple Pie Egg Rolls.  I made half a recipe which was perfect for my eight wrappers.  All of the other ingredients were very basic.  They came out of the oven crisp and smelling delicious.  My husband declared that they tasted just like an apple tart.

I was very happy to have found a tasty use for the egg roll wrappers.  We ate all eight of them so nothing went to waste.  A frugal victory!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Beryl has been bringing some much needed rain to my little part of the world.  We have not had any bad weather just a bit of wind and some rain off and on.  It is damp enough to keep us all indoors  for most of yesterday.  Paris took advantage of the rainy weather to catch up on her napping.  I know all of this wonderful rain will help my garden grow.  Stop back by later in the week to see how everything is doing!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Companion Gardening - Marigolds

This is turning into garden week here.  Along with the fern I bought at Lowe's, I also found marigolds on clearance.  To start I had a tray of 18 marigolds marked at $4 in my cart.  A bit more digging found six packs marked at $0.50.  I ended up with 36 marigolds for $3.  This was great since the seeds I planted never sprouted. 

I prefer to keep my garden as organic as possible.  I hate the thought of using chemicals to get rid of pests.  Marigolds are one of the best natural pest repellents.  I used them last year to keep worms and other bad bugs off my tomato plants.  I was thrilled with how well they worked. 

I knew I wanted marigolds in my garden again.  I had enough to put in with my tomato and pepper plants.  I also added them to my mom's plants.  Three dollars for a pest repellent is a bargain!  Even better it only has to be applied once.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Dividing a Fern

Last week my husband and I went to Lowe's for plants for our goldfish pond.  I cannot resist checking out the clearanced plants.  Four carts were full of Boston ferns priced at $4 each.  A couple of years ago I lost all of my ferns to the cold.  This was a good price for a fern, and I knew that I would divide it to get more for my money.

I use a large knife to cut the fern into pieces.  I have one that I keep in the greenhouse for use in the garden.

While the fern was not as root bound as I expected, it was fine to be divided.  I chose to split this one into three pieces.  I simply made cuts to get through the roots and then tore the plant into pieces.

I put one piece back into the original hanging basket.  The other two went into large pots that I already had.  I reused potting soil mixed in with compost from our yard.  I ended up with three nice sized ferns that will fill in over the next couple of months. 

Monday, May 21, 2012


Garden season is in full swing here!  We have quite a bit of zucchini already.  Fortunately we have neighbors who like zucchini but do not grow it.  Still I have been looking for creative ways to use it up.  I shredded some and froze it to make cranberry zucchini muffins later.  I have sauteed it with onions and yellow squash. 

My aunt tried out a recipe for baking slices of zucchini and raved about how delicious it was.  I tried it myself last week.  Yum!  Both my husband and I thought it was delicious, and I will be making it again. 

I sliced the zucchini lengthwise and placed it on a baking sheet.  I topped the slices with salt and pepper, Parmesan cheese, and added bacon bits to a couple.

These were baked at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  I just kept poking them with a fork until they felt tender.  The bacon bits were a nice addition but not necessary.  This is a great way to serve zucchini if you have an abundance this garden season!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sewing: Pillow Shams

This is a photo of our couch.  It is quite comfortable but hot during the summer months.  Last year I purchased a lightweight cover that can just be thrown over it.  It worked well, but we were left with the same pillows. 

This year I decided to sew  some pillow shams.  I measured the width that I needed and added a bit to allow for the seams.

Then I folded up one end of the fabric and measured.  I subtracted one inch to get the measurement from the second fold.

With the right sides folded in toward each other, I then sewed up each side.  (I apologize for the lack of pictures regarding that step.)  I then turned the pillow sham to the right side.  This gave me a nice pocket area to insert the pillow.  I did not hem the ends of the short pieces.  I really only need this to last through the summer as I plan to make a nicer cover for next year.

Here is the updated couch with the pillow shams.  They are not a great match but will do the job over the next few months.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Freezer Cooking - Burritos and Mini Cheeseburgers

I finished up some freezer cooking yesterday and focused on heat and eat meals.  The heating can be done in the microwave so the meals are super quick.  First I made burritos using a recipe from Money Saving Mom.  I used ground venison and made my own refried beans.  I do want to try making my own tortillas and enchilada sauce but decided not to push it this time around.  After everything simmered together, I put just over one-fourth of a cup of filling in each tortilla. 

Then I folded each one up and wrapped them in waxed paper.  I put them in gallon freezer bags.

From the recipe I was able to make 23 burritos.  I was curious to see the cost per burrito.  Here is my spending:

wheat tortillas - $6.42
pinto beans (1lb.) - $0.99 (two cups leftover)
enchilada sauce - $2.76 (with some leftover for next time)
cheese - $2.51
venison - free
onion - free
garlic - $0.25
seasonings - minimal cost

Total:  $12.93 or $0.56 per burrito 

I think making my own tortillas would save a bundle.  Next time I will only need to buy one can of enchilada sauce if I decide not to make my own.  Of course these are made with basic ingredients and lower in sodium than purchased burritos.

Next up are the mini-cheeseburgers.  I baked these.  I sprinkled dried minced onions on a large baking sheet.  I topped that with a mixture of ground venison and beef.  Then I sprinkled on a bit of seasoning salt.

When these finished baking, I cut them in pieces and frozen them.  Once frozen I topped each with a slice of cheese.  I made my own hamburger buns using my butter roll recipe.  I just made them smaller than my usual hamburger buns.

I also wrapped these in waxed paper and put in gallon freezer bags.  I ended up with 18 mini-cheeseburgers.

The cost for these was much less.  The venison and beef were free.  I spent $2 on a package of cheese slices and only used half.  I may have had $1.50 in ingredients for the buns.

Even if I figure high at a total of $3.  That comes to $0.17 per mini-cheeseburger.  I still need to make a few calzones to add to the freezer and will make pizza dough this week.  A little work in advance makes for easier meals later.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Couple of New Favorites

I have a long list of recipes on my computer.  Every now and then I actually get around to trying some of them. 

My mom found some discounted milk at the grocery store last week and shared with me.  By the weekend it was to the point that it needed to be used or would be for the tomatoes only.  I took advantage of it to try a recipe for freezer waffles.  I used half white whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.  My husband is not quite ready to go all whole wheat.  I made a double batch and topped the milk off with just a bit a water to equal the amount I needed.  The waffles were delicious and much better than any mix.  I will be making these again and again.

I am often looking for easy main dish meals.  I saw a recipe for taco pasta and bought the few ingredients I did not have on hand.  I left out the cilantro.  (It tastes like I imagine a stink bug would taste.)  Add in a green salad and breadsticks for a wonderful meal.  My husband ate two helpings of it.  It was spicy but not too spicy.  This recipe is a keeper and a wonderful homemade alternative to the boxed hamburger meals. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Pillowcase Dress

I am every so slowly learning to sew.  I made two aprons for myself.  I found a great tutorial for making a pillowcase dress but had not attempted it. I bought fabric at my husband's insistance as he was certain I could make the dress.  Last week I delivered a present to a new baby girl in my family.  Her big sister looked sadly at me and said, "You didn't make me anything?".  I had already thought about making the dress for her and that was the shove I needed.

I spent a few hours working on it.  Honestly if I had not needed to keep looking at the directions it would have gone faster.  The tutorial had directions for making an elastic neckline.  It was a nice project for a beginning seamstress.  It had a very good sizing chart which will be helpful as I need to make five more of these dresses.  We have many little girls in my family.  I am gaining confidence and having fun too. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

April Daring Bakers

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

I am super late with this.  I made the nazook early in the month.  I thought I had written and scheduled a post, but I obviously did not.  The nazook tasted yummy but looked just awful.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I formatted my memory card - again thinking that I had already added a photo.  You miss out on seeing the mess I made.  I know you are disappointed, but you really were not missing much.  Hopefully May will go better!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Extra Frugal

A reader posted a comment asking for tips for being extra frugal.  As it happens I am trying to be extra frugal this month.  We had a triple hit to the budget in April.  While we have money in long-term savings, this is not to be touched except for a dire emergency.

I think the best way to be extra frugal is to do without.  Each couple or individual has to decide what they are willing to do without.  Here are a few things we do without:

Satellite TV - A little over a year ago, we bought a Roku.  This is a great device that connects to the television.  It streams Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, news programs, and other free content.  There are some additional paid options.  We use our laptop connected to the TV to watch current programs through Hulu.  I was even able to watch all of the NCAA basketball tournament and paid only $4.  Our monthly bill went from around $80 to just $8.

Eating Out - There are not great restaurants near us.  Truthfully we just do not enjoy it.  We also eat at home for health reasons.  Occasionally we will pick up a meal, but these are few and far between.

Paper napkins and other disposables - Several years ago I bought a big stack of cloth napkins on clearance.  I quit buying paper napkins.  I also use old washcloths as cleaning rags.  These get tossed into the washer with other laundry. 

Most convenience foods - I find that I cook more and more from scratch.  This past week I made a double batch of waffles to freeze.  I make my own taco seasoning which can be mixed up for just pennies.  I even tried to go back to the convenience foods and found that the taste was just awful.  There are some convenience items that we enjoy, but most stuff is homemade.

 A few other frugal tips:

Use what you have - See if you have a suitable substitute before you go buy an item.  I shopped in my craft supplies for things to make a baby gift recently.  I planned my menu for this month based on foods we have on hand.

Go meatless - At least once (or more) a week eat a meatless meal.  A few of our favorites are spaghetti, homemade bean burritos or enchiladas, or a vegetable frittata.  If you are not ready to go meatless, cut back on the amount of meat used in a recipe.  I can save by using half meat and half beans in some recipes.

Try a garden - Even if you only have room for containers, you can still grow a garden.  I have plenty of room to grow a huge garden, and I still choose containers many times.  Tomatoes and peppers grow well in large buckets.  One plant will pay for itself many times over.  Lettuce is another great container item.  It can grow in a shallow container.  I am growing lettuce in about three inches of soil right now.  Pick up a packet of mixed lettuce seeds.  A 4-5 oz container of organic lettuce is $4.  A packet of seeds is around $2.  You will come out ahead the first time you harvest.  Leaf lettuces will continue to grow until the heat overtakes them.  

Buy used - I keep an eye on eBay for clothing brands that I know fit me well.  Shop at yard sales.  Remember my $2 four-slice toaster purchase?  A new one would have cost me at least $25. 

Swagbucks - If you only earn one $5 Amazon gift card a month, that is $60 a year that can be used for purchasing items you need or for gifts.  This is free money!

What are some of your frugal tips?  What does your family do without?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Quick Garden Update & The Pineapple

I just wanted to share a couple of updated garden photos.  First are the peppers and tomatoes which also have radishes and carrots mixed in.  A few of the tomatoes have really taken off.  I added in two more.  One will be a surprise tomato type.  The plant sprouted in one of my flower pots which had been filled with compost.  The radishes are very hard to see in this photo as they are at the other end of the raised bed.

Here is the Indian corn.  The other side will be planted with white pumpins at the end of this month.  I wanted the corn to get a head start.

I would have shown a picture of the cantaloupe and watermelon plants.  They were tasty snacks for my parents' ducks.  I have put up a little fence and replanted cantaloupe seeds.  I am giving up on the watermelons.

The pineapple on our pineapple plant is growing very slowly.  I think you can see a big difference between the first post here and the photo below. The top of the pineapple is beginning to form.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Honey Bun Cake

My church had a dinner this past Sunday following the morning services.  I generally use this to test out new recipes.  I do not know if that can be considered brave or a bit crazy.  This time I made a Honey Bun Cake which I found via pinterest.  It was very easy to make - no mixer required.  Since the cake was so simple, I got creative and made a little sign using a bee rubber stamp.  The cake was extremely moist and tasty.  I brought two small pieces home with me so I consider that a success. 
You can find the recipe for the cake here.  While you are there, have a look around.  The Country Cook blog has lots of yummy looking foods for you to try.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


As if our little hobby farm did not have enough animals, we now have rabbits.  We started with three - two boys and a pregnant girl.  One of the boys refused to stay in the pen which consisted of a house and fenced in yard.  The cats and dogs respect anything they are not used to if it is behind a fence.  They are used to the chickens and ducks and never bother any of them.  The wayward boy had to be sold for his own safety. 

The girl bunny now has two adorable, fat, furry baby bunnies.  They are precious beyond words.  As much as I like them, we have separated the boy and girl bunny so there are not more babies.  These two pampered rabbits love lettuce and carrots from the garden as well as radish tops.
The boy rabbit hanging out in his yard
Babies at just over one week old

Babies at two weeks old with Mama rabbit