Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finally Settled

We've been in our new house for almost four months now! (Sad that when I started this post, it said "two months"--that's how long it takes me to get things done around here!!) As per usual, I can't believe that time has flown by as quickly as it always does, and there's also the usual guilt about not posting in, like, forever. (I think 4 months qualifies as "forever" in the blogosphere.)
I have been thinking that I haven't done a lot that's blog-worthy, and then I realized that, with as much time as I've found for sewing, there's got to be something I can chat about for a minute. So, here goes! A little bit of everything--mostly money-saving projects and ways to simplify.
(Are we noticing a pattern here?)

Hmmm, let's go back. Way back to the beginning of April. Prom season. Our church in Iowa did a dress drive, as the area is economically depressed and there was quite a call for formal wear without the cha-ching. I agreed to help, and ended up remaking a David's Bridal bridesmaid's dress for a girl with a more edgy style.

I shortened it, added a gunmetal gray taffeta pleated ruffle along the scalloped edge that ran from the waist to the floor and to the top edge of the dress (I took the straps off to make it strapless), and turned the top 8 inches or so into a corset-style lace-up back (it was a hidden zipper that wouldn't quite close). I think we were all pretty happy with how it turned out.


after--back, everybody's favorite part!

Just another reason our old church--First Cristian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Keokuk, Iowa, was the most fantastic place I could imagine to bring up a family and get involved in the community. How we miss it!

Hmm, what else have we been up to?... There was a good idea from Tight Bod With a Pod that has proven quick and fun that I thought I'd share. We call it French Waffles.French toast on the waffle iron...

One happy French-Waffle-eatin' boy!

All you do is whip up french toast ingredients and soak the bread, but instead of frying it in a pan, you just lay it on the waffle iron. It's simple, easy, and if you're making waffles anyway, it's one less pan to wash. And I'm all about less dishes. :)

I'm also all about quality. So often quality comes at a reduced price when you're making your own stuff. Vanilla extract may or may not be one of those things, but it's certainly not as expensive as you'd think. We LOVE using our own vanilla extract! And if you've ever thought about trying your hand at it--or just eliminating the gazillion tiny plastic bottles and questionable origins and ingredients of store-bought vanilla--go for it! It's as easy as chopping up a vanilla bean, putting it in a glass jar with some cheap vodka (or bourbon, or whatever strong alcohol you find on sale), keeping it in a dark place for a couple of months, and shaking it every day or so.

Okay, so that sounds like a lot when I have to type it all out, but all you do is save the glass bottle from your last Snapple purchase, visit
for some very reasonably priced beans (hurry--I think she's almost done de-stashing!), adding 1 cup of alcohol for every three beans, and setting it in the cabinet in front of your coffee or cereal or whatever you get into every day so that you see it and remember to give it a quick shake. Try it. You won't be disappointed. And if you don't use much vanilla extract, then hey! Vanilla vodka! I'm on board with that. Anyway, read more here.

Here's a re-purposing project I recently tackled. I could see this skirt in my head, based off of a bunch of lace scraps and some old fabric of a beautiful ecru color all given to me by a good friend at our old church, and I was absolutely tickled with it when it came together. Little Miss wanted one when she saw mine, so I made her one to match. I do not usually approve of Mommy-and-Me outfits, but I'm not dressing like a toddler and she's not dressing like an adult, so I was okay with this. They're beautiful, unique--I just LOVE how they turned out! And they were completely free to make. Think of all the possibilities! Take a tube of fabric that is bigger than your hips, your ribbon or trim scraps, elastic or a drawstring for the waist, and get to stitching! If anybody tries this, I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see your results!

We are making a conscious effort to follow an even tighter budget. I thought I knew what we were spending. I thought. Then I re-thought. And I got even more creative! Here are a couple of ways I've spent less and avoided extra trips to the store (a very valuable thing, now that we live 20 minutes, and not 5 from it.)

Homemade syrup! This is a FANTASTIC idea, especially if you have your own berries to pick. We use it on waffles, pancakes, smoothies, to flavor our homemade yogurt... infinite topping possibilities. I use this recipe as a guideline and use whatever pureed fruit we've got. Dear Husband is a big fan of raspberries, and I'm a big fan of Dear Husband, so we usually have homemade raspberry syrup in the fridge. Y.U.M.

I very seldom buy candy, and we don't feed a lot of it to our kids, so when DH went to a wedding and brought home a few favor bags of kisses, I saved them from a long, cold imprisonment in the freezer by making kiss cookies. Okay, so I know this qualifies as "feeding my kids a lot of candy" that day because they were gone immediately, but WOW they were good! I used this recipe as a guideline, but did a mix of equal parts of brown, white, and confectioners sugar. It's a mainstay in the recipe folder now. You know when DH is grumpy because he didn't get enough before they were gone, it's got to be good!

Brace yourself: this is a little personal! Since I cloth diaper, I'm not afraid of kid pee. I mean, come on. Just deal with it. Spring water, right?? lol If you saw Little Miss taking "enough" tp after a tinkle, you'd think she was headed to the resident neighborhood crotchety old man's house on Halloween. So I took a receiving blanket (one that was hers, so it was pretty and girly instead of the sea of blue we've been swimming in for the last 2 years) cut it into squares, serged the edges, and now we have reusable wipes! We also have greatly reduced paper goods bill and paper waste, and she gets dryer without any lint. They go straight into the diaper pail which sits in the bathroom, and everybody's happy! Mom, most of all.

We also found ourselves in need of kitchen cloths. Being in a rental (not to mention, a rental that is painted in a completely different color temperature than any room in my old house, so we have no matching decor!), decorating and coordinating is VERY slow going and tedious and... well, interior decorating just isn't my thing. And I'm NOT going to spend $$ on something like dishtowels, which SHOULD match something else--anything else--in the kitchen, which doesn't have a color scheme or theme, and will get stained up and overused and abused and heavily laundered. Not when I have a length of crazy-printed retro terrycloth, also gifted by a friend in Iowa, that was too unique to throw/give away but (previously) too ugly to do anything with. It's the right color temperature for the walls, so now it's my new set of dishtowels and kitchen cloths! You just can't go wrong with a serger, I'm tellin' ya!

In need of a small storage space for a few kid distractions in the upstairs living room, I whipped up this cheery little fabric bin out of an old table cloth that someone gave me. The insides are those plastic grid sheets that you get at craft stores that you can do yarn hooking with (no idea how to explain that further--I don't indulge in that activity). It's pretty flimsy, but when we retire it upstairs, it'll be good for trim scraps in the craft room. I think it took less than an hour to make. I used this tutorial as a guide, which I found on

A few other things I've been working on (and not likely to be done with any time soon!):

Baby Oliver is almost 8 months old! He is fantastically happy, and LOVES LOVES LOVES his brother and sister! They love him, too, which provides for some pretty cute kid interactions around here. And some scary ones, too, as hugs can be very tight and not-so-well placed. But all in love.

Why does it seem like during summer time, when there are the most daylight hours, you have the least time for anything?? Since we live in the country and no neighbors have a view of our back yard, my kids have been bathing on the deck! Just another clever way to multi-task! We fill up the baby pool with bubble bath, they play and get clean at the same time, and when it's time to come in we pour a bucket of water over them and voila! Bath time AND play time are done! Now, don't ask me how many time I have to throw all the bath toys and floaties back up over the railing from the yard, but it's totally worth it. And my aim is getting much better. :)

And here's what DH has been up to. This was taken a few weeks ago. My loving baby-daddy has been harvesting zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, and a pepper here and there, for a week or two now. And the tomatoes are coming in. Bring on the pasta sauce! Food budgeting just got a lot easier!

This is where I'd like to remind you of the best zucchini bread recipe I've ever encountered. And some tried and true "improvements": reduce the sugar to one cup, replace at least half the oil with applesauce, replace 1 cup of the flour with whole wheat flour (or more than 1 c if you're using white whole wheat). And adding in some nutmeg makes it a little more Christmas-y, which I love, but DH prefers it less spiced.

The homemade things I checked off my to-do list yesterday could make another 4 month long blog post... mayo, jam, breads, cookies, pillowcases... but I won't put you through that. Not when I'm so dangerously close to finishing this book!

1 comment:

AmberRay said...

Love all of your projects you have been up to. Thank you for updating us. I love seeing your talents and ideas :) Your youngest is about the same age as mine. My baby will be 8 months on July 26. I can see you have been busy and creative :)