Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wrapping outside the box

Do you still have gifts to wrap? I'm almost done, but I still have a few to go. I am finishing up a few handmade gifts right now, and I'm waiting on one more thing to come in the mail!

Recently, I found some great inspiration for an adorable and quick candy pouch from Peppermint Plum. Be sure to check out her tutorial! 

I used a brown paper bag from Trader Joe's and cut out some shapes

And sewed them together on my sewing machine. I left a little gap to stuff in the candy, and then finished the last bit on the machine.

I made a few stocking shapes and a few circles!

It was amazingly simple and super cute! If you have a few minutes, I bet you can whip up a few of these too, just using things that are already in your house! And while you could dress them up a bit more, I love the simple "wrapping" of the brown paper.

Next wrapping: a clementine box and some newspaper.

In this case, the newspaper is actually homemade firestarters (inspired by Whole Living). I used a pinecone and some pine cuttings inside.

I also dipped the pine in some wax melted from an old candle.

Wrap it up and twist the ends

Tie with twine (I used ribbon that can be easily cut off before burning!) and place in the clementine box. Beautiful!

To make your gift card gifts a little more snazzy, check out some of these ideas.

Make a snow globe out of an old jar (via The Creative Mama)

I love this idea for a Starbucks gift card from Saucy's Sprinkles.

Since I didn't want to make a trip to Starbucks just for an empty cup, I used a box that had Starbucks VIA packets in it...very cute, and much easier to wrap!

I decided to print out some free Christmas sheet music and use it to wrap an iTunes gift card. I just picked a Christmas song, but you could print out lyrics to a song on a particular album the gift card recipient wanted, or a photo of the album cover. The creative possibilities are endless!

Have you wrapped anything in a new or creative way over the last few days?

Monday, December 19, 2011

If I had all the time in the world...

By nature, I'm an implementer more than a creator. I do come up with some ideas of my own from time to time, like our Advent Calendar, but mostly I like to copy the ideas of others. The trouble is, there are way more ideas out there than I could ever accomplish! And my time is limited because of normal tasks of life (my family wants to eat, wear clean clothes, oh, and I have small kids, right?!). 

So, if I had all the time in the world, here are a few projects that I would love to do. I'll pick one or two, and maybe you will also!

There's no way I can do elaborately decorated cookies, but these melted snowmen from Crazy Domestic are too cute!

These homemade gumdrops would be fun to make any time of year. I've got to do it sometime! (via bakerella)

I'm a minimalist when it comes to decorating, and I love how clean this box Christmas tree looks! (via Better Homes and Gardens)

In a similar vein, check out this beautiful window decoration from Room Service - pine cones, ribbon, and greenery.

The colors in this yard wreath are so bold, especially against the blue door. Love it! (via Better Homes and Gardens)

I really wanted to craft these adorable snowmen from peanuts, but I think that might be a project for next December. You can buy them from RawBoneStudio on Etsy, but they are a little pricey. Of course, they look way better than mine would!

Do you have a fabulous project that is on your someday list? Post the link in the comments; I'd love to see!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Giveaway Winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered to win a copy of The Money Saving Mom's Budget by Crystal Paine!

The winner is Eunice B who said, "We line dry out clothes, unplug appliances when not in use, combine trips to town, don't have TV, use coupons, and walk in the neighborhood instead of pay for a gym membership. :-)" Congratulations, Eunice! You've been emailed!

I really enjoyed reading the different ways that each of you save money...I'm inspired!

You can still pre-order a copy of The Money Saving Mom's Budget through Amazon. I highly recommend it!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Food Waste Friday

I've been MIA from Food Waste Friday for several weeks now. For the most part, the good habits I've cultivated over the last 2 years (wow, that long!) of posting about food waste continued even without the accountability. I'm back today for what may prove to be my last food waste picture, at least for a while. I think with the business of December and the family events of the start of a new year, it is best for me to focus my time elsewhere. 

I'm still committing to use up leftover, not overbuy (especially produce), and to be purposeful with menu-planning, and I think I am much better equipped to succeed because of the habit of food waste Friday!

On to this week's food waste. Or really last week's, because I'm pretty sure all of these things were destined for the trash then too. I have one watermelon radish, one white (yes, it used to be white) radish, and one (head? stalk?) of fennel. All of these are from our CSA, which makes them 3 weeks old at least. The radishes simply got forgotten and the fennel I knew I wouldn't use because I'm not a fan. It was in a pre-packed box, otherwise I would not have chosen it!

Have you ever worked to reduce your food waste? When I first started taking pictures of ours, I was shocked at just how much we were throwing out. A lot of the time, I was buying to much of something, or not planning to use leftovers well. If you are looking for some inspiration, be sure to visit The Frugal Girl as she records her food waste each week and provides a linky for other bloggers to participate as well!

Also, today is the last day to enter my giveaway to win a copy of The Money Saving Mom's Budget. Check out Money Saving Mom too!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Cookies

One of my favorite parts of getting ready for Christmas when I was little was baking cookies with my family. My sisters and I loved getting to help mom in the kitchen, and surprise dad with his favorites when he got home from work. I have a few favorite recipes that I've been making for so many years, I couldn't imagine this time of year without them!

My very favorites are Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies. Lots of people make these different ways, but I really think rolling them out in long ropes instead of lots of little balls makes them way easier. They have a wonderful moist texture too!

I've really enjoyed making biscotti the last few years. Its a nice treat with my morning coffee, but also a gourmet gift that is pretty easy to make. I really like Cinnamon Sugar Biscotti because it tastes like a Snicker doodle cookie! And a fun Christmas-y biscotti recipe is Candy Cane Biscotti.

Two other cookie recipes I've posted in the past include Molasses Sugar Cookies (soft, chewy, and savory), and Chocolate Crinkles (so good!).

In addition to some old favorites, I have a few new cookies that I plan to try this year. I have a Christmas cookie pinboard with some recipes to try.

With the number of ideas on the internet for Christmas decorating, recipes for cookies, and fun activities, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and too busy. If making one batch of cookies is perfect for your family, then don't feel obligated to make six. If you don't have storage for ton of decorations, then its probably best to not buy a ton even if they are on sale. And all the activities and experiences are unimportant if your family is stressed from being constantly out of the house. Do what works for your family and keep your priorities in order. I think that is the key to having an enjoyable and memorable Christmas.

With that being said, I'm getting ready to try a new cookie recipe!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Review and Giveaway: The Money Saving Mom's Budget

One of my favorite money saving blogs is written by Crystal Paine. Crystal's first book, The Money Saving Mom's Budget, comes out in January 2012, but I was given an advance copy to review.

As someone who reads her blog regularly, I was familiar with a lot of the material in this book, but it didn't seem redundant or boring. I think a big part of that is the different feel of reading a book versus a blog post, or even series of posts. A book can go into more detail than a single blog post, but it is also constrained by the physical nature of the book. Blogs allow for unlimited posting, but books make you pair things down, and I think that's the beauty of this book in particular.

This is a quick, easy, and encouraging personal finance often do those qualities go together?! It was also much more than a book about money. The principals concerning being careful with your finances extend to all aspects of purposeful living - at work, at home, with children, living on your own, or in college. 

The chapter on eliminating chaos and clutter was especially helpful for me. I have plenty of days where I feel like I am busy all day, but didn't accomplish much. Crystal's suggestion is to create a Time Budget. Instead of having to-do's like "clean the upstairs, do the laundry, put away the kid's clothes" she recommends setting a specific amount of time for each task.

I could work all day "cleaning the upstairs" and still not be done because the task is too broad and the goal too far-sighted. Budgeting a smaller amount of time (de-clutter for 20 minutes, then put things away for 10 minutes) will help me get a lot more accomplished in a smaller amount of time. And really, I only have small chunks of time in my days right now anyway! 

I really appreciated her observation: "The Time Budget puts you back in control as the master of your minutes. You will no longer end your day with nothing to show except exhaustion. When you tell you time where to go, not only do you have a lot more time, but you also have a lot more peace and order in your life" (The Money Saving Mom's Budget, p. 25). I am challenged to now budget a specific amount of time for certain tasks and focus fully for that time, instead of getting distracted by several tasks all at the same time!

Crystal gives step by step instructions on how to pair down your budget so you can live within your means, while still giving generously to others. She advocates not using credit cards at all, and even going without debit cards for a time so that you can get accustomed to a cash-only system. We use credit cards for most everything, though we are careful to pay the bill in full each month and not carry a balance. I don't see our family switching to a cash-only system anytime in the near future, but I am challenged to start small, perhaps with the grocery budget, and see if only using cash really can decrease our spending.


Crystal is a huge advocate for everyone (yes, everyone!) using coupons, and gives some great beginner and then more advanced couponing tips. Of course, she covers coupon tips much more extensively on her blog, but the basic concepts are really important too. There are also chapters on ways to spend less on groceries without using coupons, strategic splurging (loved that chapter), and an appendix on ways to make a little extra money.

Most importantly, she reminds us to be content - not envious of what others have or comparing our situation to others who have more. The contentment chapter was the perfect conclusion to the book. "A cheerful attitude can go a long way in less than ideal situations; you can either complain about the thorns or you can savor the roses that bloom in their midst" (The Money Saving Mom's Budget, p. 170). After reading this book I see a number of new ways for me to savor the roses I have instead of complaining about the thorns. Thanks, Crystal!

My book is a pre-release copy, so when the book comes out in January I will be sent the final edition. BUT, I thought it would be fun to give that copy away to one of you! (Hey, my book still reads fine!) So...

Win it!

Leave a comment on this post telling me one way that you save money. I'll start...I save money by making my own laundry detergent! Please make sure that your Blogger profile is enabled or that you leave your email address in your comment. I need to be able to get in touch with you if you win. The giveaway will be open for one week, at which point I will choose a winner at random.

If you are not the lucky winner, you can still pre-order a copy of The Money Saving Mom's Budget on Amazon (the price is $11.09 right now). If the price lowers after you pre-order, Amazon will give you the lower price too.
I was given an advance copy of this book by the author in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are 100% my own.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Half Price Cold Stone

Groupon has a sweet deal today...get $10 to spend at Cold Stone Creamery for just $5.

This would make a great stocking stuffer gift! Be on the lookout for other great deals from the daily deal sites over the next few weeks, but make sure you are checking something off your list. Its only a good deal if its a good deal for you!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thrifty Living's Advent Calendar

Now that our daughter is old enough to understand about Christmas and get excited, we wanted to have an "official" advent calendar planned for the month of December. Thanks to my Christmas board on Pinterest, I've come across a ton of different ideas for homemade advent calendars. 

My favorite is this Kaisercraft Advent Calendar. It comes plain, and there are so many awesome decorating ideas. I really like the colors and decorations in this one.

I recently found this advent calendar from Target, and I love it too! 

But, both of these are a little pricey ($25 and $40, respectively), so I'm going to check after Christmas to see if I can get one on sale.

Instead of buying something that I didn't love while I try to find a good sale, I decided to use jars that I already had on hand. I easily came up with 25 beautiful glass jars! Most of them are Ball 4 oz canning jars and 1/2 Pint canning jars that I've been using for homemade yogurt, along with a few odd baby food jars, Herlocher's jars, and a spaghetti sauce jar.

I wanted to have us read through the Christmas story as we go through our jars, so I divided it up from the Gospel of Luke. This way we only have one verse to read each day. Depending on how it goes, we may read the previous verses as well as the new day's verse all together. I printed them out and cut out each verse, gluing them to colored construction paper.

Pinterest also helped me to find a ton of Christmas activities to include in our jars, but most of them didn't seem quite right for our family, so I ended up making mostly my own list there also. This was a lot of fun because I got to really personalize our advent calendar!

Here's the complete list of our advent activities:

Decorate the tree
Make paper snowflakes
Sing carols at home
Make handmade ornaments
Bake cookies
Make a popcorn garland
Dance to Christmas music
Watch Elf
Make hot chocolate
Read ‘He’s Here!’
Read ‘The King of all Kings’
Merry Christmas! Open gifts!
Pray as a family
Build a snowman
Write a letter to Santa
Go see Christmas lights
Go get the Christmas tree
Deliver cookies to neighbors
Read ‘The light of the whole world’
Make Christmas cookies
Color a Christmas picture
Read ‘The night before Christmas’
Wrap gifts

I am so excited for how the advent calendar turned out and can't wait until tomorrow to get started opening our first jar!

Here are some close-up peeks at a few of our jars.

(This jar is full of marshmallows and toothpicks...our snowman building materials!)

The Christmas Day jar.

Do you do an advent calendar with your family? I'd love to hear what you do!
Related Posts with Thumbnails