Monday, July 28, 2014

Wedding Gifts and Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments


This post contains affiliate links.

Last week Winter cut and brought in grapes from the garden. The Thompson's seedless grapes in the basket above weighed 20 pounds! We have filled that basket more than once this year from the same grape vine.

She also brought in some seeded grapes from the garden.

A friend of mine called and offered me 2 baskets full of tomatoes from her garden. This is the friend I mentioned previously who has a greenhouse with a swamp cooler to keep her garden cool during the summer. This was a wonderful blessing, since it is getting too hot to get many tomatoes from our garden now.

I cut two Armenian cucumbers from the garden. I don't get many, but since they are so large, they go a long way!

I made yogurt, banana bread muffins, French bread, chocolate chip cookies, and pasta salad last week.

I used $29 in coupons this week to purchase toiletry items on sale at Target, plus I received another $30 in gift cards to use on a future visit. I am set for several months with some of the items that I purchased.

I also bought a few back to school items on sale this week, and used another $5 in coupons for those.


We attended my brother's wedding last week. I made this burlap pillow for them (just like one his wife had pinned on Pinterest!) using burlap, muslin, and stuffing that I already had. I transferred the words with Citra Solv.


I also gifted them a set of kitchen towels, which I had made earlier. I transferred the image of two birds onto them with Citra Solv. Their wedding had both burlap and birds as part of the theme. 


I also finished making a purse for myself to take to the wedding! I used a leftover fabric scrap that I had from modifying my dress to make a purse that would match. I had just enough fabric to make the purse and the lining, as well as a little pocket inside. I had some thin batting on hand that I used in between the layers. I used this purse frame. I added the purse chain from another purse I already had. I may leave this chain on it, or get another one at some future date, or else I will just keep it as a clutch, which was my original plan. The purse cost me $3.95 to make (including tax). I will use it many more times, starting with taking it to church.

My brother and his beautiful bride
What did you do to save money last week?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Mint Chocolate Frog Ice Cream and a Harry Potter Birthday Party


Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Cyrus turned 11 last week, and requested a Harry Potter birthday.

This is the second time I've had a Harry Potter birthday for him, and I've had one for Ezrom as well. With 7 children, I doubt it will be the last time we have a Harry Potter birthday party; in fact, Liberty has already requested a Harry Potter birthday for her birthday in September. With that in mind, I decided to invest a bit of time, as well as money, for items that we can reuse every time a child requests a Harry Potter birthday (as a bonus, a few of these items will be useful to make gifts the next time one of my children is invited to a Harry Potter birthday party for a friend!)



Using fabric scraps that I already had, I sewed a bunting in the colors of the Hogwarts houses. I had every color but yellow in my fabric scraps. I used a bit of yellow fabric dye that I had leftover from another project to dye some cotton muslin. I sewed the whole thing onto black grosgrain ribbon that I purchased by the spool at Michael's.



I swapped out our family pictures for some Hogwarts travel art. I purchased these on a half-price sale on Etsy from here, using money I earned from taking surveys. I had them printed at Sam's Club for $2.87 each (they are 11" by 14" each). I can use these again for future parties, and since the art is a download, I can print more as gifts for friends in the future, should I desire.



Since Cyrus turned 11, Winter made a Hogwarts acceptance letter for Cyrus (using a free font from here), which she put in the window with the snowy owl that I bought for him years ago. I sealed the letter with sealing wax I've had since I was a teenager, and this Hogwarts School Badge Wax Seal Stamp (which was $16 when I purchased it).



She included a Hogwarts train ticket that we found here.


Ezrom folded purple paper airplanes from construction paper and hung them above Cyrus' bed for some Ministry of Magic inter-office mail first thing in the morning.

Ezrom also made a howler that he hung from the ceiling with fishing wire over Cyrus' place at the table, but unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it. He did a fantastic job.




I used the seal on some white fondant, that I used to top several small cheesecakes and one medium cheesecake for him. My original plan was to put these on cupcakes, but he wanted cheesecake, so I made some adjustments. I brushed the white fondant with edible gold dust powder. I would love to do this for a future party with a darker color fondant, but I purchased the white as it was the least expensive. I have plenty left over to use for another birthday or some other treats. I purchased the fondant and edible gold powder from Michael's with coupons.

For the homemade cheesecake, I made graham crackers for the crust.




I also used Amazon credit to purchase this chocolate frog candy mold. I already had this larger chocolate frog mold that I had purchased years ago to make chocolate frogs for Cyrus' last Harry Potter birthday. I made him a large frog as a birthday gift, but I needed the smaller frogs to make some mint chocolate frog ice cream. I also used them to surround his cake.



The ice cream was made with mint from the garden. The chocolate was purchased a couple of years ago on after-Christmas clearance at Sam's Club, but you can also find it on Amazon, here.



You can find the ice cream recipe on my website in the desserts section.



His gifts included a Harry Potter Wand Pen that I purchased with Amazon credit, and a water color set. I also gave him a set of Harry Potter Uno cards that I found at a garage sale for $1 earlier this year! Winter gave him the last Harry Potter book, which she found hardcover at the thrift store for $3 (wrapped with a Flourish and Blotts label that I made). He now has his own set of the books, all of which were purchased used over a couple of years. Wren gave him some candy, which we wrapped with brown paper and a Honeydukes candy shop label that I made. Winter made the Ollivander's paper, cutting some brown paper the right size to send through the printer. We used the Hogwarts seal on some of the gifts.

I printed some Hogwarts bookplates for him, and made him a large chocolate frog. I printed out the Harry Potter prequel for him (the one that J. K. Rowling wrote on a napkin). He didn't know about that, so that was a fun surprise.



For fun, the children played a couple of Harry Potter games that I also purchased at a garage sale earlier this year for $1 each (they are each worth over $100 on Amazon right now, as they are no longer being made!)

I had several other ideas in mind that we didn't get to do, but that's okay--I've got another Harry Potter birthday to throw in September, and it will be fun to have some new things then!





If you're looking for more Harry Potter gift ideas, check out some of the other Harry Potter themed gifts I've given him in the past:

Harry Potter pillow

London and Medieval Bookmarks

I've also made a Harry Potter Party board over on Pinterest with links to several ideas Winter and I found while planning his party. Some are ones I used and some I'll be using in the future.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Embroidered Bees and a Giveaway

Note: This post contains affiliate links.


I came across a beautiful whitework embroidered bee on Pinterest. I was fascinated by it.

The pattern was created by Sarah Homfray. Sarah has achieved one of my life-long desires in attending the Royal School of Needlework in England. She teaches embroidery classes in England. You can see more of her work, and sign up for her classes on her website, SarahHomfray.com.


I ordered the pattern for the bee from Sarah on Etsy (using money I had saved from taking surveys) and I made the lavender sachet above. I embroidered the bee using a combination of a single strand of white pearl cotton thread, and a single strand of white embroidery thread. The entire thing could be stitched with two strands of white embroidery thread for the most frugal option. I love whitework and have recently started stitching with DMC pearl cotton in size 12, as I like only needing to cut a single strand and not having to separate the threads. I bought mine with a 40% off coupon at Joann's; Amazon has it for close to the same price I paid.

I embroidered it on a 5 inch scrap of linen, and transferred the pattern with a blue Mark B Gone pen. The pen disappears with water when you are done stitching. I left one end open and stuffed it with lavender buds.



I then used the pattern again to embroider a handkerchief for myself. This time, I embroidered the entire thing in pearl cotton, and I spaced the buttonhole stitches much closer together on the body of the bee.

I am envisioning several other ideas with it; I've pinned several bee embroidery ideas on my embroidery board on Pinterest, which I may make using this same pattern. I also think it would be beautiful on a girl's dress.


Today, I'm giving away a copy of this pattern to one lucky reader! The reader will receive a pdf pattern of this bee with stitching instructions. This giveaway is open to all readers worldwide!

To enter, please enter in the Rafflecopter box below, and leave a blog comment telling me on which embroidery project you currently are working/are planning to work on next!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments



We celebrated Cyrus' birthday last week. There were a lot of fun details there, and it deserves its own post, but the simple things I did certainly should be part of this one. He wanted cheesecake, which I made for him. I made graham crackers and made a graham cracker crust for the cake as well.

I sewed a birthday bunting for him, using fabric that I had on hand and some ribbon that I had purchased at Michael's the week before.

I cut mint from the garden to make a batch of mint ice cream. I will be writing more on that in the details of Cyrus' birthday post, but I now plan to expand the mint area in my garden.

I cut and froze several quarts of peaches from the garden. The frozen peaches will be used in smoothies.

I made a batch of peach pie popsicles.

I canned 3 pints and 7 half-pints of seedless grapes from the garden. These will be added to canned fruit salads in the winter.

I used the seeded grapes from our garden to make grape juice, and canned 7 quarts of grape juice. I used reusable canning lids for these and the 3 pints of grapes.

We also enjoyed plenty of peaches and grapes fresh from the garden.



I picked Mission figs from the garden.

I cut two Armenian cucumbers and one zucchini from the garden. I hope to have more zucchini again in October; the plants are not flowering now as it is too hot. The cucumbers only make a few in the heat, but they are big (bigger than zucchini!) and thus go a long way. We enjoyed cucumbers in vinegar several nights with dinner as well as in pasta salad.

I used water from rinsing fruits for canning to water the potted trees. I also collected water from the air conditioner, though it has slowed down again to less than a gallon a day. I continued to collect water from the shower as well for the potted trees. With those three things, I had enough water for all of the potted fruit trees and plants.

I cut green onions, chives, and basil from the garden. I made pesto one night with the basil, and threw in a few small tomatoes from the garden.

I cooked a ham from the freezer and sliced it for sandwich meat.

I watched a few more episodes of Foyle's War for free on Hulu.

Back to school deals have just started here. Before I went shopping, I evaluated what I already had and saw that I would not need to buy as much of several items as I have in the past, as I still have quite a few things left from last year's purchases. I made a list of the school supplies I'll need. I picked up a few items last week on sale, and I will purchase a few more as they go on sale.

I also picked up a few toiletries while I was there, including a free bag of cotton balls. I used 3 $1 off printable coupons that were off the store brand (this was at Target). Two of those things had recently had the price reduced; one was more than $3 less than it had been, making my price 60% off the regular price after the coupon.The same store had a buy a container of mustard, get a free container of barbecue sauce for free, so I got both of those for the cost of the mustard. I took reusable bags with me and thus received 10 cents off my total.

While I was there, I also refrained from using a few more store coupons on store-brand items, because they were not on sale. I expect I'll be back at that store as the back to school sales continue, and there is a chance that those items will go on sale during that time, so I will look to see if I can use them then. The coupons don't expire for a month, so I'll wait and watch to see if I can get a chance to purchase store-brand items on sale with a coupon at a later date.

What did you do to save money last week?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Simple Blessings From the Garden: Last Week's Frugal Accomplishments



Note: This post contains affiliate and referral links.

The garden's abundance this week was wonderful. I picked peaches and figs from the trees. I cut grapes and cucumbers from the vines, picked tomatoes, cut green onions, parsley, and basil.


I also dug my garlic (later than I should have!). Being spring planted, the garlic is small; I will keep it to plant again in fall for a harvest next spring.

I shared grapes with a couple of neighbors.

A friend, from whom I won a basket of tomatoes at the service auction, had such an abundance in her greenhouse that she gave me 3 1/2 baskets of tomatoes, plus a small head of cabbage and a few small cucumbers. I canned 11 quarts of tomatoes and we ate the rest fresh.

I made sauerkraut  (with the cabbage I was given) for the first time. It was incredibly easy. I am going to let it ferment a little longer still; the Ball canning book says to let it sit 3-6 weeks before canning. I may can it or I may end up just refrigerating it. I have been wanting to try making sauerkraut for a long time. This was so easy that I will definitely make some for canning in the future.





I made 17 pints of dill pickles with the Armenian cucumbers from the garden.



I canned 12 quarts of peaches and  9 quarts of grape juice.

I planted some more seeds in the garden in blank spots.

My husband and I celebrated our anniversary with a nice meal at home. We used a gift card that we were given years ago to go to lunch later in the week.

Williams-Sonoma was across the street, and I needed to replace my silicone spatulas (I really like their spatulas and the ones I had for a decade finally wore out). I had received an email in the mail for 15% off my entire purchase from them (since I hadn't bought anything from them in so long!), which was perfect timing, since I had planned to stop by while we were across the street. When we got there, I found out that the spatulas I wanted were 20% off. I was able to use the coupon on top of the sale to get 3 spatulas for $16.51 with tax. I use these every day and I was thrilled to get such a great deal on them.

I used some Zulily referral credit that I had to order a couple of Christmas gifts for two children for nothing out of pocket.

I needed a couple of items from Michael's to make some things for Cyrus' birthday. I went on their site before going to see if they had a 40% off coupon that I could print. They had a 50% off coupon that was for that day only! When I clicked on it, I saw that they had some other coupons as well for a few of the items that I needed. I purchased some bulk paintbrushes with a 40% off coupon on brushes. These will be used for art assignments for the children.  I purchased some  stretch beading elastic with a 40% off jewelry making supplies coupon, which I'll use to make Christmas gifts for the girls.They also had a 20% off Wilton baking items, which helped with the cake decorating items I was buying.

I combined that trip with one to Kohl's, where I used a $10 off $10 coupon to get some underclothing for a daughter for $2.16 out of pocket.

I did not purchase any food or toiletries last week.

The electric company sends me weekly emails telling me how much my bill is so far and how much (based on my usage so far for the month) they think my bill will be for the week. Last week brought several "cooler" days (only 101º!) with cooler mornings. I keep the house at 79-80ºF. It was 77º outside (and 79º inside) several mornings when I got up, so I turned off the air conditioners for a few hours and opened up the house. It made a difference; the electric company was predicting a bill of $454 this month according to the first week's usage; this week it lowered that estimate to $428. (For those of you who are wondering, our electric company has been raising rates every quarter for over a decade.When we first moved here, our first summer bill was $520. I made several changes: I turned off the desktop computer at night, turned the air conditioner up to 79º from 77º, turned the ceiling fans (of which we have 10)off when we weren't in the room, and turned off the kitchen lights, save the ones over the table, during dinner, which reduced our bill to around $323. I've kept it that low through last summer--7 years--despite the increases, by continuing to find small ways to cut our usage. In summer we only turn on the lights for an hour or less. This year the rates have started to catch up with me, but I am grateful to have made the changes, so that our bill is not several hundred dollars more.)



Our cooler weather was also much more humid than the rest of the year (but normal for mid-July here). I was able to collect 4 gallons of water a day from the air conditioner. That, combined with water from the shower and from cooking/rinsing fruits and vegetables, was enough to water the potted trees and plants without needing additional water.

Sunday the weather returned to normal; it was 115º yesterday on my mom's back porch (she lives next door; her back yard touches our side yard). This morning it was 88º by my front door when I got up at 5 a.m. I'm grateful for the break in the weather that we had last week!

Our compost is breaking down and while it is not ready yet, I can see that this time we will be successful. My husband purchased another trash can for me to use to start some more compost. I started with some shredded advertisements, peach skins from canning, and some grass clippings. I am excited to be able to add compost into the garden.

I watched a couple of episodes of Foyle's War for free on Hulu.

Ivory watched several episodes of Little Einsteins on Disney Junior. (I had no idea when I worked for Disney Online that one day my children would use it!)

I printed coloring pictures and activity pages from last week's Dover Sampler for the children to color.

Sources: Graham Thomas roses from David Austin. Small mint julep cups from One Kings Lane. Glass jar with lid containing cotton swabs from Target. Cut glass jar with lid containing cotton balls, 50 cents at a garage sale. Blue bottle from my mom; I refill it with my lotion. Silver tray from a garage sale, $5. Blue lidded box was a Christmas gift years ago. 

I cut roses from the garden to put in my bathroom.

Sources: Casa Blanca Lilies from Van Engelen, clock from Pottery Barn. Glass jar was a gift from a friend. The Jesse Willcox Smith image is a card I purchased years ago, in a 50 cent garage sale frame. Lamp was purchased 15 years ago.


I cut lilies from the garden to put on my beside table.


I got a clock working that we had had trouble with. I bought this clock years and years ago and the alarm was constantly going off (user error, I'm sure!). Sometime after that, the knob to set the alarm and the time got lost (since I had to take the clock back off in order to get it to stop going off), and it had been sitting unused in my bedside drawer for at least 9 years. I used a pair of tweezers to set the time, and was able to turn the alarm portion off. I can now enjoy it at last!

What did you do to save money last week?

Monday, July 7, 2014

This Week's Goals

Congratulations to Lisa on winning the garden seed giveaway!

My plans for last week changed completely when I found out we were having overnight guests, so all of last week's goals were moved to this week.



Gardening:

1. Pick peaches

2. Pick the rest of the plums

3. Harvest grapes

4. Harvest a few cucumbers

5. Figure out how much wood I need for a garden project and purchase the wood and staples to complete the project

6. Do a little weeding

7. Harvest anything else that is ready (beans, green onions, tomatoes, etc.)

Canning:

1. Can peaches

2. Cut and freeze the rest of the plums (for smoothies)

3. Can grape juice from table grapes


Sewing:

1. Start working on Cyrus' birthday gifts and decorations

2. Hem shirt sleeves from my husband. He purchased some new shirts a few weeks ago and the sleeves are a bit too long.

3. Cut out and embroider handkerchief


Blogging:

1. Write giveaway blog post

2. Write two more blog posts

3. Put plum sauce recipe up on the website


Family Goals

1. Celebrate my anniversary

2. Edit and order pictures of my husband and I, as well as the family picture for our wall. Also order 3 other images to put in a frame that I already have. I'll get these from Sam's Club.