Tuesday, August 31, 2010
This little pillow has taken me almost 6 months to complete. Not because it was horribly difficult or terribly intricate, but mostly because it was a pain in the butt. The center of the circles consists of lots of little french knots and as I've mentioned before, these are not my favorite embroidery stitch (if you can even call that a stitch). So why did I decide to do a project that was almost entirely made up of dreaded french knots. Because I was copying this. I loved how the design looked and wanted to recreate my own version.
I started out by hand drawing on the circles. To make the circles a little fuller I did an outline stitch all the way around and covered that with a satin stitch. Then came the painstaking process of making 5 Billion tiny little knots. I did this project a little bit at a time. I normally like to sit down at the end of the day and watch some TV and work on whatever embroidery project I have going on. Most nights though, I would look at this one and think "Yeh, right".
In the end I finished it and sewed it into a pretty little pillow that sits in one of my favorite chairs (reupholstered for me by my mom when I was around 14). I do hope those darn knots hold up and this pillow lasts a long time!
Total cost= my blood, sweat and tears :)
Sunday, August 29, 2010
This little project was inspired by my mother. A few years ago, she covered a bowling ball with shiny pennies gave it a home in the garden where it adds a little glam. I started out making this as a gift for a friend, but after I figured out how hard it was to get everything looking perfect, I decided this one could be practice. This entire project took my about 2 hours to complete (plus drying time). I used premix adhesive grout to make things a little simpler.
I discovered that I am not an expert with grout, by any means. I've watched Adam put up tile before and thought it looked like a piece of cake. But after trying to stick little stones on a round surface, I have gained more respect for his skill. I also ran out of stones half way through and had to go buy a couple more bags, which ended up being a little different in color. But oh well, like I said, this is my practice ball.
I left the bottom clear that that it could easily sit in a stand (which I still need to go buy). If you look closely, you can see where a few of the marbles fell off. So, for the next, non-practice ball, no marbles and have lots of extra stones. Oh well, even though this little project wasn't a complete success, it still looks pretty tucked in among my hydrangeas!
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
1/2 Cup Oil
1 1/4 Cup Sugar
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
2 Cups Shredded Zucchini
6 TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/4 Cup Margarine
2 Cups Powder Sugar
1/4 Cup Milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat Oven at 350 degrees. Mix oil, sugar, and vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Add to sugar mixture. It will be very dry at this point. Fold in zucchini. (this will add some moisture). Spread evenly into a 9 x 13" pan and bake for 25-30 min or until brownies spring back when gently touched.
Frosting: Melt margarine and add cocoa. Set aside. Mix powder sugar, milk and vanilla. Add cocoa mix and blend well. Spread on cooled brownies.
In the 30 minutes after breakfast this morning I made this little dress for Maya. I was inspired by this post from Soulemama.com to turn a mom sized skirt into a new dress for my little one.
I picked this skirt up from a second hand store a while back for less than a dollar. I kept coming across it in my fabric stash and thinking, "Oh, it would so easy to turn this into a dress". But I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to do it until I read the post at Soulemama.
I started out by sewing the pockets closed and then cutting them out completely. Then I used a seam ripper to take the side ties off.
The waist of the skirt had a bit of stretched out elastic in it already, so I left that in place and used it as a guide for my top casing. I folded the elastic towards the inside of the skirt, creating a casing for my new elastic. I stitched around, leaving about a 2 inch opening to insert the elastic through. Then I used Maya as a model to measure the elastic around her chest (about level with her armpits). I cut about 2-3 inches off the elastic so it would be tight enough to hold the dress up.
I put a large safety pin through one end of the elastic and fed it through the opening in the casing. When it was all the way through, I overlapped the ends and stitched them together. I then sewed the opening in the casing closed, enclosing the elastic.
For the straps, I used the ties that had originally been on the skirt. I had Maya try on the dress and decided where I wanted to place the straps and how long they needed to be. I stitched the straps on the inside of the dress, sewing over the casing seam and criss-crossing them in the back.
All of this took less than 30 minutes and the total cost of the project, less than $1! Not to mention this skirt was saved from a possible life at the dump, thrifty and green!
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
These sweet little rocking chairs were $5 yard sale finds. Both were good looking as is, but I thought they needed a little color to fit in my little girls' bedrooms.
The blue chair with pink polka dots belongs to Maya. The polka dots are rub on decals that I had left over from Maya's headboard. I love the touch of whimsy they add. And the purple chair belongs to Wren. Who currently loves to climb up and rock with a good picture book. The stickers on hers are wall decals that will come off easily, but they take a little paint along with them. In hind site, I wish I would have used a rub on decal, like on Maya's. But this is what I had on hand. It still looks cute, as long as Wren keeps her little hands off them (so far so good).
All in all each chair cost less than $20. They are both nice, solid wood chairs that will hopefully last forever and can be passed on through generations. That's more than most $20 chairs can say.
Monday, August 23, 2010
I found chalkboard contact paper online. I tried a couple different brands with poor results (it all fell down within a day or two). I finally used Contact Brand and it has been holding up beautifully for a few years now. It cost around $12 a roll and it took about 3 rolls to finish both sets of doors (with some left over for future use). Maya loves to draw on them and leaves messages for Wren in her room. And when they are older and want a change it will be a piece of cake to tear it all down!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
I have this little pile of clothes in my room that I don't ever wear but I'm not ready to get rid of. I re-use some for fabric, some end up as cleaning rags, and then there are pieces that with a little cutting and sewing turn into "new" clothes, breathing life into my wardrobe.
I recently came across this tutorial from Tea Rose Home and had to try it ( I am a sucker for a good online tutorial). So I dug through my clothes stack and found two similar white t shirts that were ready to be ruffled.
Here is the end result. I'm not normally one for ruffles, but I think I'm liking this one. So, with only about 2 hours of cutting and sewing time, we have one cute "new" shirt for the cost of my hard work (okay, it wasn't really that hard). Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, & Ruffle :)
Friday, August 13, 2010
If you have a special place in your heart for yummy waffles, try this recipe. This is what my mom made for us when we were kids and it was one of the first recipes I requested from her when I started my own family.
1 Cup Yogurt (flavor of your choice, or plain)
1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Canola Oil
1 TBSP Baking Powder
Mix eggs and yogurt. Add both flours. Stir in oil and baking powder, and mix until blended. Cook in a waffle iron until golden brown.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
I bought this dress pattern off Etsy for next to nothing. I love shopping for patterns on Etsy. They are typically very affordable, and I like knowing that I'm supporting others who are making a living from their creativity. And speaking of Etsy, I'm in the midst of opening a little Etsy shop with my mom and sister called Fabric Covered Bon Bons. Be on the lookout for future updates!
Here is my little bird in her completed kimono dress. This little ditty only cost me a few dollars to create, but I'm pretty sure the cuteness is priceless.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
My oldest daughter, Maya, starts kindergarten in a few weeks (!) and we took advantage of the our state's tax free holiday and did some school shopping this weekend. I had a minor freak out to start with, worrying about all of the things we'd need to get and how much that was all going to cost. But after taking a quick inventory of what we already had, I was able to breath a sigh of relief. Stored in an under-the-bed tote was a wardrobe fit for almost an entire year of school! How did this happen? No, there aren't any helpful little elves that stock up on clothes around here (but wouldn't that be so wonderful?). This nice little stash of clothes was the result of ongoing thrifty shopping.
I am always on the look out for nice, low-priced clothes for my kids that are a size or two ahead of what they're wearing right now. I keep the seasons in mind, especially for Wren. An 18 month winter outfit isn't going to do us much good when she's in a 2T during the cold season. I also try not to buy too far ahead, for a couple of reasons. One being storage. Although we have a decent sized attic, I don't want to cram it with a couple dozen totes full of nothing but clothes. A second reason is I'm just not sure what my kids are going to want to wear when they are that much older. Sure, right now Maya would wear anything with Hannah Montana on it, but in 2 years this phase might be over (oh please, let it be sooner).
I shop for these clothes mostly at yard sales, second-hand stores, and on clearance racks. I keep quality in mind when I'm shopping second hand. I can usually repair a rip or tear, but if it is stained, faded, or just not looking so good, I pass. We are also very lucky to have cousins who are a few years older and give us great hand-me-downs.
As I collect clothes, I sort them into totes that are labeled by size and kept in my attic. I keep the next season/size under the girls' beds, for convenience. I also hold on to all Maya's clothes that make it through unscathed, so that Wren has a nice base wardrobe to start with.
As the youngest of 4, I realize that hand me downs and second hand clothes aren't always what a kid wants to wear, especially when they get a little older. So I try to make sure our clothes are in good condition and are something that my kids would actually want to wear. I also buy my girls some brand new clothes as well. Clearance racks are great, especially if you are shopping for the seasons to come (same thing with shoes!). And every once in a while we buy a new outfit for special occasions, like the first day of Kindergarten!
I'm not sure what the total price tag is for my kids' clothes, but what I can say for sure is how nice it is to pull out a tote from the attic and viola', an entire wardrobe appears! I only wish it were that easy for my clothes!
Saturday, August 7, 2010
We have been slowly cutting back on our meat consumption around here. We've completely cut out red meat and mostly eat poultry and fish. But even then we try to have at least a few completely vegetarian meals each week. We've done this for a few reason, the two main reasons are health and cost. I try to keep our weekly grocery bill for a family of four to less than $50 (this doesn't always happen). Meat is definitely one of the more expensive items on our grocery list, so by cutting back and cutting it out, I save a lot of grocery money.
I've never been a big meat eater to start with, but I have a weakness for burgers. We made turkey burgers every once in a while, and I've just recently started making black bean burgers. I came by this post from Everybody Likes Sandwiches. It is a southwestern black bean burger that includes flax meal, oat bran, and wheat germ (some of my favorite healthy ingredients!). The burgers were incredibly easy to make and got rave reviews from everyone at my house (which is uncommon). I've had them on a bun or if I'm going gluten free (ahem, Gara), I have it on a corn tostada with some fresh salsa and a dollop of plain yogurt (in place of sour cream).
I know not everyone wants to go in a meat free (or reduced meat) direction, but these black bean burgers are so yummy, that a beef lover could appreciate them! Who can't appreciate a meal for a family of four that cost less than $10!?
This little beauty was dirt cheap, but it took a bit of elbow grease to really get it to shine. I picked it up at an auction for $1. No one else even bid on it. It was rusty and dirty, and the poor thing was barely standing! I brought it home and took it all apart and cleaned it up first. I sanded down the shelves with fine sand paper and then gave them a few coats of high gloss spray paint. One shelf was so rusted that I couldn't really get it smooth, so it ended up on the bottom where it is now covered by a tote full of toys.
The chrome sides were also pretty rusted. But I learned a while ago that S.O.S. pads work wonders on chrome. So a box of S.O.S pads and a pretty big mess later, these legs were gleaming! All that was left was putting it all back together, finding a spot for it as a side table in my family room and throwing a few accent pieces on.
This sweat little cart cost less than $10! I'm planning on keeping it around forever. I can imagine it in several different spots throughout my house. Who knows maybe someday it'll even make its way to my kitchen!
Another quick and simple project involving spray paint. This first mirror came from an auction. My lovely friend Cathie bid on it while I wasn't paying attention and then found out I had had my eye on it and gave it to me. She's my most favorite auction buddy. The frame is made from a plastic material and was originally 1970's gold (can you dig it?). The mirror itself had a few latches on the back that allowed it to come right out from the frame. With about 15 minutes and couple of coats of Krylon Outdoor Earth spray paint, I put the mirror back in the from and it was beautiful. It eventually found a perfect spot in my hallway.
This mirror came from a garage sale. It was originally a dark brown wood with some water damage on the bottom. This mirror had latches too, so it took just a few seconds to take it off the frame. And after a few coats of Krylon Rich Plum, viola, a cute little girly mirror for Wren. (the wall stickers were $1 at Dollar General Store).
Each mirror cost less than $10 total. I really love both of them. They have character and like all mirrors, they instantly brighten up a room. Very nifty, and oh, so thrifty!
I started with simple things, like bags or pillows, but at some point I just decided to dive in and learn by doing. I think it was seeing all the patterns at the fabric store and realizing that I could create something of my own, something unique and one of kind. And that inspired me to really learn the craft.
The first project I did for myself was this dress. I had a friend's wedding coming up and I just wasn't finding the dress that I wanted in the stores. So I decided to attempt to turn my idea into a reality. I started out by trying to design something from scratch, but quickly gave up realizing that I wasn't quite ready to design. So I found a pattern that was close to what I wanted and fabric that was similar to my vision.
It took me about a week to get it done. I was worried about fit and getting the lines just right. I had to call my mom a few times and get a little help, but in the end I had a dress that I loved. I even found shoes to match for $10 on clearance! The only thing left was a clutch. Again, I couldn't find what I wanted so I made my own. I tweaked the pattern just a bit and ended up with this over sized clutch. (Apologies for the poor picture quality)
All in all, I spent around $25 for the entire outfit (I'm including shoes here!). About $10 for the dress fabric (with a coupon), $1 for the dress pattern (on sale!), $5 for the clutch fabric (on clearance), $1 for the clutch pattern (also on sale!), and $10 for the shoes (holy clearance)! I think I'll keep this dress forever. Even when it doesn't fit me anymore, it will still mean more to me than anything I could have bought in the store.
When Maya was born, I wouldn't even consider using cloth diapers. I had this vision in my head of a 1940's mom scrubbing nasty diapers by hand, doing a million extra loads of laundry a day, and safety pinning awkward bunches of fabric around my wiggling baby. I felt like I was a busy college student that didn't have time to deal with any more than I already had on my plate.
Fast forward 5 years and we are using cloth diapers almost exclusively (except for at this moment Wren is running around butt naked). When Wren was around 6 months old I stumbled across this post at simplemom.net, and after looking into things a bit decided that cloth diapers sounded like the right choice for us. In the 4 years between Maya and Wren, my life had slowed down and I had grown up. I felt a need to go back to my roots in many ways and live a simpler (and greener) life.
Today's cloth diapers have evolved into a simple, economic and environmental system. Simplemom.net does a great job of breaking everything down so I won't go into details. But I can testify that my experience with cloth diapering has been a simple one that has saved us a lot of money. The initial cost was hefty (around $200-$300), but I bought one or two diapers at a time until we had a good stash. We've saved over $500 already and will continue to save the entire time Wren is in diapers (the estimated total savings is around $2,000). It may not be the right choice for everyone, but it was the best choice for us. But most importantly, Wren's little tush looks beyond adorable running around in the super cute diaper covers, and that my friends is priceless.
It is a tradition around here that every Friday night is Pizza and a Movie Night. This has evolved over time, it started out as a going out event, we would catch an early show and grab some dinner (this was when we only had one child and lots of eager babysitters). Then as Maya got older and Wren came along it became a stay at home night where we would order a pizza and rent a DVD. Now that we are living on a one income budget, we either borrow a movie from the local library (they have a pretty decent selection, believe it or not) or we get something from Netflix and make our own homemade pizza. There is even the occasional blanket fort that is built in the living room and popcorn every once in a while.
Maya looks forward to this night all week long. I don't think it has much to do with the movie or the pizza, but for her, its more about the special family time that takes us out of the ordinary day to day. In fact, we all love this tradition and I love that it has evolved into something thrifty.
Our made from scratch, whole wheat pizzas are much healthier than the delivery pies we used to devour. And they cost a fraction of the price. Simplemom.net is a great resource for all kinds of thrifty advice, and their post on pizza making got me started in this money saving direction. These days I mostly use a whole wheat pizza crust recipe (follows) with Tsh's recommended homemade pizza sauce. So yummy!
This beloved family tradition now cost us less than $10 a week! Compare that to the roughly $50.00 spent going out for dinner and a movie or even $30.00 for ordering delivery and renting a flick. Oh, how I love thriftiness!
Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
2/3 Cup Milk
1/4 Cup Oil
1 1/4 Cup Flour
3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1 tsp. Salt
Pre-heat oven at 425 degrees.
Mix Dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Add milk and oil to dry ingredients. Stir with fork until mixture forms a ball. Mix with hands and then knead 10 times on a lightly floured surface. Press into a 14 inch pizza pan. Add toppings and back at 425 degrees for 12-14 minutes.
Here is another one of my favorite projects. I love that it is so thrifty and simple. I found the idea for this in a Better Homes and Gardens DIY magazine. I had the place mats lying around but it was about two years before I finally found the right spot in my house to hang them .
When I did finally put everything together it took my maybe 5 minutes. I used 3/4" binder rings, which I bought for about 25 cents a piece at a local print shop. To make the holes for the rings I used an antique leather punch, but you could probably find something around the house that would work. I measured in a few inches on each side and punched a hole, connected the mats with the binder rings, and voila instant thrifty wall deco.
I loved this project so much that I did it again in my daughter's room.
All in all, this entire project cost less than $15.00! I paid around $2.00 a piece for place mats and about $2.00 total for the rings. Oh, so thrifty!
I made this little messenger bag as an Easter gift for my daughter, Maya. She digs it and now uses it to carry her library books. It took me a week or two to finish, but most of that was done in the evenings while I was watching television. That is what I really like about embroidery, I can do it while I'm watching television, relaxing on the porch, or just during some downtime. It doesn't take my full concentration.
I picked up embroidery as a hobby this past Winter after my mom showed me a very old Stitch Sampler that my Great Grandmother had made. This bag was my third or fourth embroidery project. I drew the design on by hand and then used my Embroidery Stitch Bible to figure out a few of the stitches. The Embroidery Stitch Bible was what I used to teach myself embroidery, I'd strongly recommend it if you are trying to learn.
I used a Satin Stitch for the name, which took the longest. It is kind of tedious, but I love the way it looks.
And then a chain stitch for the side and a stem stitch for the stems. The empty stem, used to have a tulip shaped bead stitched on, but after being drug around for a 5 year for a few months it is long gone. I'm surprised this bag is still even in one piece at this point!
For the circles in the corner I used buttons, satin stitch and french knots. The French Knot still kicks my butt a bit. I am currently working on an embroidery project that has about a thousand of them in the design. I'm not sure why I did this to myself, maybe it was for the sake of practice, but I'm pretty sure it was just because I'm crazy.
The messenger bag itself (no, I did not sew it) cost about $1.00 (on clearance!) and the embroidery floss was free (a hand-me-down from my mom). All in all, it was pretty thrifty Easter gift that will hopefully be around longer than the plastic Easter toys that mostly have found their way to the trash.
Friday, August 6, 2010
I really love fabric. I mean really, really love it. But it can set you back a few bucks if you aren't careful. To keep my love of fabric from sending me into bankruptcy, I do a few thrifty things.
- Don't pay full price for fabric unless it is a necessity (sometimes a really awesome print = necessity!)
- Use coupons. Several fabric chain stores (such as Jo Ann's) have weekly coupons, for up to 60% off a cut of fabric.
- Shop clearance. Try to stroll through the clearance section at the fabric store every time you go. And keep an open mind, just because you're shopping for fleece doesn't mean that the 75% off sheer fabric wouldn't be perfect for curtains.
- Shop thrift stores. I have found some great vintage prints at my local Salvation Army. I also keep a look out for sheets, curtains, and dresses that have prints I like.
- Utilize what you already have. Look through your fabric stash before buying something. You might have something you forgot about that would work perfectly for what you need.
- Re-purpose. This kimono dress was made from a halter dress that wasn't working for me. It now has a new life as an outfit for my one year old, Wren. Old curtains, dresses, shower curtains, blankets, etc. all can find a new use with a little creativity.
- Share. Just because you don't like that yellow polka dot fabric anymore, doesn't mean that someone else couldn't use it. Check with your crafty friends, family, and neighbors to see if you can do a fabric swap.
- And finally, always be on the look out. I can easily get tunnel vision when I'm working on a really inspiring project, but I try to keep my eye out for thrifty fabrics that be of use later. If you see something that inspires you or maybe just something that is on sale for a wildly low price, pick it up. Just be sure use at some point.
I have warm and fuzzy memories of helping my mom make this granola as a kid. We ate it constantly and I still do. Although I've made a few changes to the recipe, it isn't too far from the original. My mom adapted the recipe from an old vegetarian cook book and made it so often that everyone referred to it as Bonnie's Granola. It ends up as a chewy sort of granola that has big, delicious chunks of goodness throughout. I'm not sure what the calorie count is on this. But, it is made from whole, healthy ingredients and it has got to be healthier than most store bought granola.
Making granola from scratch will most certainly save you some grocery money. And if you are able to buy your ingredients in bulk it is deliciously thrifty. I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I have!Bonnie's Granola
5 Cups Oats
1 Cup Dry Milk
1 Cup Flax Meal
1 Cup Oat Bran
1 Cup Wheat Germ
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 TBSP Cinnamon
1 Cup Chopped Nuts (I use slices almonds)
1 Cup Canola Oil
1 Cup Honey
1 TBSP Vanilla
1 Cup Dried Fruit (I use dried cranberries)
Preheat oven at 250 degrees F. Mix dry ingredients (except dried fruit) in a large roasting pan. In a medium size bowl, mix oil, honey, and vanilla. Pout liquids over dry ingredients and mix well.
Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. When its done, remove from oven and add dried fruit. Let cool completely. Store in an air tight container.
These 70's style church pews are a favorite yard sale find of mine. I paid around $15.00 for the set and they fit in my front porch so well it seems they were meant to be there.
I wish I had taken before pictures of these, but unfortunately I wasn't thinking blog at the time. When these lovely benches first came in to my life they were upholstered in a true 70's church pew hue of copper orange. The wood is fairly cheep and looked it, so I started out by taking the seats off and spray painting the wood with Krylon spray paint in Earth.
For the seats, I enlisted help from my mother, who (lucky me) re-upholsters furniture for a living. We decided to leave the original material on and cover it with my new fabric. Normally you would remove the old fabric and use it for a pattern. Instead, I laid out my fabric (right side down) and placed the seat on top. I measured out a few inches from each side, leaving enough fabric to pull around and staple the the bottom of the seat (have I lost you yet?).
This is a view from the bottom of a bench. To staple the fabric evenly you start by putting a staple in the center of each side, making sure the pull the fabric tight and smooth out any wrinkles. You then work your way outward, stapling every inch or so, stretching and smoothing the fabric as you go. Stop a few inches from each corner.
The tricky part for me was the corners. This is where my mom came in. I warn you before hand that these directions might not be 100% clear, but I'll try my best. You have to smooth the fabric out and staple one side of the corner down (like you have all the way down the bench) and then fold the other side,making a neat crease like above. Cut any excess fabric in the fold that would bunch and staple down that end, careful to keep things smooth, and repeat on each corner. It sounds simple, but to achieve a neat crease you must get it just right.
This project cost around $40.00, including fabric, paint, and the benches themselves. We use these benches everyday (as you can probably see from the piles of shoes underneath) and I love how they turned out. I also feel the need to point out that the porch that these benches live in has yet to be "re-done" so it still has the not so Nifty green outdoor carpet you see in the pictures. Someday soon we'll replace it (crosses fingers).
I love a quick, easy project that cost less than $20 and can be done in under an hour! These hanging circles are made from embroidery hoops that can be purchased new for between .50 cents and $2.00 a piece. Or if you want to be really thrifty, you can often find them at second hand stores for around .10 cents a piece!
My inspiration for these came from something like this. For my own variation I spent around $5.00 for the embroidery hoops and used left over spray paint. If you don't have any spray paint lying around that you'd want to use, it would really only take around 3 cans, depending on how many different colors you want to use.
I didn't make these circles adhesive because I didn't want to damage my walls with tape. These are hung with tiny nails, and can easily be rearranged if the mood hits me. Although, I didn't make any solid circles, but I'm sure with a little ingenuity and creativity you could easily come up with a way to do that!