Saturday, May 2, 2009

on the 'net and wool coasters winner!

  • please visit rhian's blog and support her and the leukemia and lymphoma society as she runs a half-marathon. she was inspired by mollie, the 5 year old daughter of a friend of mine. check out either of their blogs for more info and to see mollie's sweet photo!
  • just another shout out about mike's 1967 cougar blog. man, am i married to a resourceful guy! lala loves "working"/"supervising"/painting/"helping" dada now while he is in the shop or working on the car. i love what she must be learning!
  • meredith at like merchant ships posted a delicious tea sandwich tip, using pumpkin bread and orange cream cheese. yum.
  • see create studio's homemade gift ideas post
  • i am so inspired by the simple green frugal co-op blog right now. in particular, flashbacks to childhood with this post on making your own pasta. (we only make some specialty pastas, now.) also, how to be more self-reliant and gardening as if there is no store
  • foodspiration has the recipe to those darn tasty lacy cookies.
  • the long thread had three different posts with links to eco-crafting tutorials! (see 1, 2, 3)
  • speaking of the previous blogging on making my own snack bags....
  • two more pillowcase dress tutorials. i am amazed at the variety of options for making a simple dress from a pillowcase! from maya made and from red instead. my version for lala, in the photo above, is following maya's steps. it was super easy. for reference, i only cut an inch off the closed end of standard pillowcase and it is a bit long on lala, a 42 inch (or so?) tall 4.5 year old.
  • a gorgeous (diaper) bag from a mingled yarn. might be beyond my sewing skills, though....
  • sew, mama, sew has 2 free project tutorials: a spring bag and a spring top

and...the winner of the random drawing for the upcycled wool coasters is: #4, melissa, who said:
I'm glad you found me b/c now I've found your blog! What a smart coaster idea-- I'm always looking for new ideas for my wool scraps.

Friday, May 1, 2009

april, in review

don't forget to make a comment on monday's post for a random drawing for upcycled wool coasters. comments close tonight.

our personal check-in for april on how we are meeting our goals this year.

for january through march, i have made sure to admit to all the items we have bought new, regardless of whether or not they fell into our "acceptable bought new" category (most have!). but i have only written a little bit about what we have acquired used. i thought it would be fun to make a list this month.

acquired used:
  • carpet remnants (free, new, neutral color. we cut up and are using as door mats in the spots i have been wanting rag rugs for. used rag rugs are impossible to find!)
  • leap frog leap pad cartridge
  • buggy board for stroller (most expensive item on this list.)
  • 3 adult sweaters
  • 2 adult pairs jeans
  • toddler sleep sack
  • toddler shirt
  • 1 basket
  • 1 DVD
  • 4 kids books
  • 1 toy
  • 2 pairs kids snow boots
  • 6 pairs jammies for lala
  • 1 large sheet (aka "vintage cotton fabric" for sewing)
  • 1 skirt for me
  • 1 infant sweatshirt
  • 2 pairs kids rubber boots
  • 4 pairs tights
  • piece of fleece for sewing
  • toddler slide
  • climbing structure
  • bouncy ball
  • shoes for lala
  • crocs for finn
  • blow dryer
  • 4 tank tops
  • cotton bedding to be used for sewing
  • 2 snack cups
  • kid swim goggles
  • adult swim goggles
  • child sized chair
  • 2 pr kid pants
  • coat for lala
  • sandals for finn
  • 2 toys
  • leather bag for me
  • drum
  • keyboard
  • pillowcase
  • 3 board books
  • cotton crib bumper
  • gifted to us new: an outdoor shirt for me, 2 pr tights and a set of hair bands for lala, as well as a plethora of easter basket goodies from granny, grandma and nonno, and aunt K and uncle B. (the only new goodies from us were wooden toy foods, which i bought and admitted to last month!)
total spent: $168
a lot of these items were free. (thank you, thank you, oh generous people!)
many of the items i bought used were brand names and actually new, with the tags still on.

wow, honestly, that is way more stuff brought into our home than i realized (although very little spent given the items listed). perhaps i should also keep a list of all the items given away?! that list was significant as well. i have a box under our bed that is used to collect all items to be freecycled or donated. it is full....again.

bought new:
  • another work-at-home-mamma made cloth diaper for finn at night time
  • klean kanteen (why do they use K instead of C? drives me crazy!) water bottles for the kids and one for me (since i seem to decant mine into theirs quite often). we decided we ought to try the stainless steel route when 1) lala kept asking for one like her friends and it has a pop top, finally moving her away from sippy cups, and 2) water bottles make a frequent entry in our childrens' mouths, and while our current cups are theoretically BPA and pthalate-free, they are still plastic. (i go back and forth on my worry about this. a whole other topic i have already dipped into, but i don't think plastics are evil.) anyway...these were bought using christmas gift cards. thanks, nonna A!
  • a replacement part for the used buggy board we bought (and that thing is great! we are loving it!)
  • underwear
  • sewing items: a pattern and some wool felt (wish i had remembered to buy needles for my serger!)
well, of course april hosts earth day, so this often serves as my barometer of how far we have come. so far, so good! see my april 22nd post!

grocery budget:
as mentioned before, i would love to get this down to $350 per month for the 4 of us, but i budget $400 per month, on average. this really is more realistic since we eat out very little and are unwilling to give up expensive items such as some organics, nuts, salmon, and occasionally wine. this month we came in at $522. last month was $326.27, so we are slightly above average budgeted. oops. must make next month lower again to bring my average back down.

still working on this. i am inconsistent. mike has been better, despite a stressful work schedule. the new gym is helping and he has his bike back on the road part of the week.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

getting out

don't forget to post a comment on monday's post to be entered in a random drawing give-away for upcycled wool coasters!

this week has felt slow and low for me. the woes of the world are hitting close to home. our neighbor was attacked and robbed last week, in the middle of the day, resulting in an ambulance trip to the hospital. he is going to be fine, but it left me feeling scared and vulnerable here at home during the day. and the swine flu spread is frightening. a large number of the cases are in our state. it makes me think back on the SARS and bird flu epidemics. and this leaves me feeling scared and vulnerable. (notice a trend?) it seems we are finding ourselves in a time where the economy is so beaten, that some people are turning to violence in desperation. and if the boogymen don't get you, you are worrying about infectious diseases, cancer, global warming, and drought. i have blogged about this feeling before, weltshmerz.

so what to do? distraction, life, nature, children, family, food...

one of the wonderful things about the area in which we live is all the natural beauty, the (big) parks, places to go, and easy access - all mingled with or within a stone's throw of an urban environment. earlier this week, we went on a walk and picnic with my mom at a nearby state park. it was like having a vacation. i remember that is how i felt the last time we went, too.

and of course...we came home with rocks. lots of rocks.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

corner view: transportation

two posts in one day?! (check out my new "friend" in the post, below.)

jane of spain daily has included me in her weekly "corner view." from her beautiful blog, you can link to other blogs from around the world, all showing their corner view of transportation this week. here is mine.
(also, since it fits with this theme, another shout out for mike's blog, which has updated tales of reconstructing his 1967 mercury cougar.)

nibbled and nobbled

don't forget to post a comment on monday's post to be entered in a random drawing give-away for upcycled wool coasters!

we received a care package from rhian! gifts for the head, heart, garden, and diet (soul, really). hawaiian kona coffee, books for the kids, an inflatable garden gnome (this is unbelieveably funky cool!), and (swoon) hob nobs. (i was nobbled long ago!)

thank you, rhian!

incidentally, the package prompted me to look online for a hob nob recipe. not yet tried by me, very british, but i am sharing, nonetheless...

Hobnob Recipe

8oz self rising flour
8oz sugar
8oz porridge oats
8oz margarine
1tbsp golden syrup
1tbsp hot water
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

Mix the flour, oats and sugar, melt marg, syrup and water in a pan. Stir in bic soda and add to dry mix.

Then mix well and make into smallish balls which you then put on a greased tray and flatten slightly with a fork. Put in the oven at 180 degrees C for 15 mins... and cool on the tray. The aim is to get them golden in the oven not brown.

recipe found on

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

one ripped bed sheet...

don't forget to post a comment on monday's post to be entered in a random drawing give-away for upcycled wool coasters!

one ripped sheet leads to:

toddler pajama pants (complete with elastic removed from one sheet corner)

a body pillow case

a pocket for a doll diaper bag. i sewed the bag to replace a vinyl one lala had
incidentally, the bag didn't come out quite as i had intended. it was too long, so i had to chop at the bottom, since i had already done the zipper. and the zipper was my first zipper ever, so there was no way i was redoing it! it came out fairly well considering i had no zipper foot. (long story. newish-to-me machine, had zipper foot, didn't fit.) the pocket doesn't look centered in the photo, but it is. and the recipient? she loved it and toted it around all day!

and yes, i think all that white is a little....empty. i wanted white for the pillow case, but the PJ pants i might dye. and the doll pocket? well, i don't embroider (yet?), but i could let lala fabric paint or i could try freezer paper stencils for the first time.....

Monday, April 27, 2009

the humble coaster & a give-away

apparently, finn thinks our cork coasters are tasty.

so we needed new ones. new is all relative.

i made these from scrap, felted* wool leftover from the diaper covers i posted about earlier.

the hearts were sent to someone special as a care package.

the squares went on the dining room table.

the cork ones went into the compost bin.

as a thank you to all of you who find entertainment in reading my blog, i have a stack of upcycled wool coasters to give-away. they are grey/black stripe square, very similar to the set pictured here. (same sweater!) to enter, just leave a comment here telling us about your favorite material to recycle. and if you want to link to which name? from your blog, please do! i will choose randomly from the respondents on friday night, may 1.

*to felt wool, simply wash it on hot and dry it in a dryer on hot.
it is that simple.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

weekend musings

our weekend has been a little of everything. we saw two sets of friends from out of town yesterday (and i forgot my camera, both times!), which was lovely. the kids behaved so well for both visits, but before, between, and after, both were alternately tantruming or melting down. (i awoke to a tempter tantrum outside my door yesterday!)

so today, we needed to chill out a bit. images from today....

homemade bread (and homemade pizza). mike is an exceptional bread and pizza maker. (we also had home grown artichokes and i so wish i had taken a photo. they were gorgeous. and delicious!)

diaper rash led to a quick sink soak for finn, but lala didn't want to miss out on the fun!

and thrifting! you cannot tell me the saltwater sandals (i had pair after pair of these growing up) and the red coat are not adorable. aren't they cute? and only 25 cents, each! the child sized chair ($2) was a find. i have been looking for several months and was nearly about to break down and buy one new.

yard sale season starts early and ends late in our area, so i have been at it for awhile. (my post later this week that will review april will include a list of all the used items we scored this month.) the trick i use these days is to skip individual yard sales. instead, i favor school, church, and organization-supporting sales. usually, these are bigger, with more loot to sort through. i always have a list of items i am in search of (because i also thrift shop and use our local buy/sell list) and i bring that with me. i often have one or more kids in tow, so i usually pick a couple items from the list i am going to focus on trying to find first. and if the kids are with me, i always expect to walk away with a little something for the kids, that isn't on my list. so far, this has worked well!

the items above are from an elementary school sale, where i had the pleasure of meeting an acquaintance i made several years ago on a frugal forum that i once participated in. she and i have recently been exchanging emails, during which we shared our in-search-of lists. from mine, she brought a small piano keyboard and a toy drum. the very toy drum i had been eying new. and both kids love it! (thanks, lisa!)

Saturday, April 25, 2009


over at FIMBY, renee has reviewed an intriguing book, woman who speaks tree, by linda tatelbaum, and is offering a signed copy in a give-away. while i have not (yet) read the book, so cannot speak to it, renee's review and her own words about nature resonate with me so strongly.

wishing you a nature-filled weekend.

Friday, April 24, 2009

friday (internet) finds

a happy birthday shout out to genevieve!
have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

breakfast, anyone?

some more sewing fun....felt eggs for the kids' cook set.

this is a toy sized baking sheet, by the way!

and earlier this week, when a hot, sticky, whiny day threatened to tip us over the edge before bedtime, i decided breakfast for dinner was in order and added food coloring at lala's request. (we clearly take a "just add" approach to food coloring as well as water!) amused calm was restored. this would be red eggs and green pancakes, of course. (and yes, you know me, i added broccoli (and cauliflower) to the pancakes since they were green anyway. they went entirely unnoticed.) calm was restored, but in the end, the colored food was way beyond finn and he wouldn't touch his eggs until a new, normal batch was presented to him! (i agreed with him. i ate the leftovers and they won't be a repeater for me.)

speaking of breakfasts, check out a day that is dessert for a breakfast around world photo project that was done yesterday. (her post includes links to others.)
as for us, we usually enjoy some combination of oatmeal, fruit (including applesauce), yogurt, cottage cheese, homemade granola, eggs, whole grain toast (preferably homemade, often with peanut butter or almond butter), homemade muffins, and/or cream of wheat.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

happy earth day!

oh, such an important day for me. of course, i think we should all make earth day everyday, but april 22 serves as my personal check-in on our family's environmental goals and status. i do it each year, as can be seen here (posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and here (1, 2).

last year, we made a list of things we wanted to do for ourselves and our environment. we have done them all! additionally, back in early october, i had several posts (1, 2, 3, 4) about making changes in our health and beauty routines to be more eco friendly to ourselves and our environment, while still striving to be frugal. a check in on these? nearly 7 months later, we are still using all of these products. the same bottles and everything, except the body lotion, which finn and i used up over the course of 6 months and just replaced. in fact, that expensive kid shampoo is only half way gone. $9/yr for safe kid shampoo is so worth it! i purged a number of our less safe free-after-rebate shampoos and soap. (via freecycle, not down the drain!) the remainder, mike and i are using until they are gone (which tells me that before the purging, we had at least a 5 year supply!).

so where do we go from here?

we are ~4 months into a no-buying-new challenge ( = the Compact, more or less). we want to continue this for at least 8 more months, but so clearly to me, at least, it has already changed the way we shop and think about our purchases. i think and hope we are committed to this for the long haul. our state is in a severe drought, so we continue to be conscious of water usage. i hope that this year, we can set up some sort of water collection and storage system. perhaps even a grey water set up for our washing machine, too. "new" cars (plural!) are becoming a reality for us soon, too. we have always bought used cars and our no buying new challenge would dictate this as well. however, we are doing our homework, and it may be more economical and ecological for us to purchase a new, high efficiency vehicle. regardless of whether or not we break our challenge for this purchase, we will make our decision highly based on environmental factors as well as use needs.

i hope today you, too, pause to think about what it means to live on our planet. we are here for the short term. i hope to leave it as intact as i can for my children.

i hope you have fun in the process. here are some green links to keep you occupied! (this week marks TV turn off week so some of these activities may need to wait!)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

man made versus natural and more diapering obsession

a little more sewing. okay, so boring to the rest of you, but i made more fleece diaper covers for finn (using scrap fabric given to me). and 3 different types of wool covers; felted wool soaker, wool pull-ons, and wool shorties. the three wool covers were made using 2 wool sweaters. i can still get another pair of shorties from one of the sweaters, but in a smaller size than finn will fit. (GCW, you want a pair for O?) i made some of them for lala when she was a babe, but since passed them along, as i wasn't keen on dealing with wool care. since then, i now have an even more sensitive babe, more time, and i wonder if the natural material might pull us further from diaper rash episodes. we shall see how they work. i have yet to lanolize any of them (so have yet to use them) and i know the unfelted ones may leak, even once lanolized.

all this diapering research and diaper making got me thinking about man made versus natural materials. while i love natural things (i always have...i don't want to be put on the "green is in" bandwagon), i also have an appreciation for some man-made items. so many of us are down on plastics, but i feel there is a time and place where plastics are more appropriate - superior, even - to more natural materials. fleece, for example, is made out of recycled plastic, and has wicking and warmth qualities that leave a person dry and warm, even when wet. it is my warmth layer of choice any day over wool, because i happen to have eczema and be allergic to lanolin. fleece diaper covers have been a vast improvement for finn, as the leg cuffs are so soft and don't need to be tight fitting.

i feel the same about organics, actually. one reads everywhere that we should buy and eat organic produce, if we can afford it. while i agree with that statement, i also trust the chemical engineer in our family who says that plants, when under distress from natural pests, create toxins, which can be worse for us than the pesticides used to treat those pests. i buy some, but not all, of our foods organically. i have been striving in the past year to streamline our personal care products, to be better for us and less harmful going down the drain. (the same could be said for cleaning products, although we were already quite limited and eco friendly with those.)

where am i going with this? no-where specifically, but i have been thinking about all things "green" this month, as we will be honoring earth day tomorrow. being green is so "in," that i worry it will be a short lived trend. and green info is everywhere, much of it contradictory, so in any given situation, it can be very difficult to determine the best choice.

and i am still finding my own personal eco-eco battle. how does one live a truly economical and ecological lifestyle?

what are your thoughts?

edited to add: we have a friend with severe chemical sensitives. he wrote a moving post on his blog about it this week. please take a look. it made me want to come back here and and direct you all to read his story, but also made me want to clarify that i was not intending to sound pro-pesticides. in our own garden, we try to be as organic as possible. i agree with katie (in the comments) on the order through which to go when buying food. in general, while we try to be more organic in most areas of our life, it is incredibly difficult to get away from chemicals. they are everywhere! and sometimes, i don't know exactly what think. there is so much contradictory information out there from reliable and educated people (some of whom are in my family!) that i simply have to make one decision at a time and be open to new information and changing as i go.

Monday, April 20, 2009


at the risk of sounding mayberry, this weekend was darn near close to perfect. family time, sun, blue skies, gardening, ice cream, sticky faces, sticky fingers, yard sale shopping, "new" climbing unit from a very generous family on the local list serve, "new" tire swing a la dada, friends, homemade pizza (twice), project time. lovely.

how was your weekend?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

national hanging out day

project laundry list
has declared today national hanging out day. (as in laundry, people.) no problem there...we are a line drying family, for the most part. how about a little humor to go with it? this funny is borrowed from their website. and...what a perfect way to kick off the week that hosts earth day (april 22.)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

for my mom

a brief note to thank everyone who has continued to inquire about my mom's health. she had her most recent scan this week (after returning from a month long trip with my dad to cambodia, thailand, and vietnam!) and remains tumor-free. (insert happy jig in here.) the photo is for my mom. while not the best photo, i love it. it is the kids dancing their hearts out, decked in outfits my parents brought back for them (and the birthday crowns i made them). and man, they were having fun!

Friday, April 17, 2009

corner of my home

despite spring being in full swing around here, our table that seems to collect little bits from outside is looking very simple right now. calla lilies and rocks. rocks, because, well, lala and i love our rocks. calla lilies from our garden. why none of the other gorgeous, colorful, detailed blooms we are seeing? mostly because my little nature collector tends only to pick up what has already fallen (with the exception of oxalis, which was in plentiful bouquets in our house a month or two ago).

what's in your nature corner right now?

Thursday, April 16, 2009


okay, one thing missing from the things i am loving right now list...

mike and i are having a mini love affair with a show called chuck. this always seems to happen to us, but apparently, yet another favorite show is at risk of being axed. now, those of you who know we have no television reception are wondering how we can watch said show? hulu, of course, meaning we make no money for NBC and our virtual "vote" doesn't count.

so this is my mini request that all of you who do have TV please check out chuck. nbc on monday nights at 8pm. it is just plain good fun that has something for everyone (except kids!).

for a mini preview of what you are missing, watching this short video.

and for those of you who didn't want a TV show ad for a post, click back later! have a great weekend!

right now's love list

i am loving....

the rocks i found in my little zippered capri pants pocket. treasures i have left in there since collecting them on mike's birthday, one year ago, at a beach in san simeon. (needless to say, they are very clean.)

a stack of chick lit. nothing like some girly levity to chill with at the end of the day. and anyone loving this kind of light reading should pick up some sophie kinsella. i even had mike laughing at the part i read aloud to him.

finn's punkin doodle diapers (the newest, pictured below). i strive to be as good a sewer as kayla, the creator! and olive oil. i mean really, olive oil must be the magic syrum. it makes things taste delicious and sooths tender bums. what more can you ask for?

the generosity of kind souls. in our efforts to buy nothing new, i have taken to posting a used item in-search-of list on our local buy/sell/give/receive parents network. my latest posting knocked 5 items off the list, including PJs, tights, and rubber boots for lala and fleece to sew diapers for finn, all given to us by a stranger who was just happy to have them go to a wanting home.

vietnamese coffee, in vietnam called ca phe phoan (pronounced cafe "finn." appropriate, eh?). this batch brought to us by my parents, made for me by my sweet husband, and presented in my humorous pessimist's mug. (it has a line on the other side with the label "this glass is now half empty." it can be found with other funny things, here.)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

updating pants

so i continue to struggle with taking photos of myself, as you can see below in the poor quality of today's photos. (any tips? i only have a point and shoot, so lighting is always a problem, especially with mirrors.)

but...i have been putting the sewing itch to good use. below, before. a pair of pants i used to love, but the elastic was shot and they now seem too dated.
but, after, with some snipping, stitching, and new elastic, they make a cute "new" pair of capris, don't you think?
(hey, GCW, recognize these from one of our formerly annual new year's sales? the store just went out of business.)


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