Wednesday, December 27, 2006
I also got the turkey stock made up today. Hubby is begging for turkey soup, so I will probably make that up in the next day or two.
Tomorrow I will probably try and unbury the house a bit more - I have to figure out where to put the massive quantities of art supplies the boys received as Christmas gifts!
I've also started making a list of items to pick up using the gift cards hubby and I got for Christmas (HBC, LCBO, and Home Depot). I need a good pair of jeans and khakis (have not been successful finding a good-fitting pair of either in the last couple of years of thrift store shopping) and some new undergarments, hubby needs some boxers, we need to restock the liquor cabinet with rum, Sherry, and Bailey's and pick up a faucet aerator and low-flow showerhead to help reduce our water usage. I will probably think of a few more things before we head out on our shopping spree!
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
I stayed in bed until 10 a.m., spent a lot of the remaining morning reading a novel, puttered around the house a bit, watched The Chronicles of Narnia (again, watched it yesterday too - the boys got the DVD for Christmas from my dad), listened to the Barenaked Ladies, ate "turkeyovers", took an after-dinner nap, and surfed the net somewhat aimlessly. In other words, a perfectly divine day. The boys were busy most of the day playing their new Gamecube games and watching Madagascar (another new DVD) so I had a lot more time than usual to myself, although we did get some group snuggles in today too.
By the way, our "Hundred Dollar" Christmas was, by and large, fairly successful. All of our friends and family seemed pleased with the gifts we gave, and the boys were thrilled with the fishing rods - there's no doubt they will see lots of use. I would have preferred to have a couple more presents to give my hubby (and okay - maybe a couple more to unwrap myself if I'm entirely honest) but all in all, considering that we spent just over $100 for our *entire* Christmas, it was very successful. I was quite impressed with everything we managed to pull off with that small amount. My gifts from my hubby, by the way, were a birdfeeder (built by him), homemade truffles, and a coupon book filled with certificates for goodies like a foot massage and a "get out of dishes free" card. I don't think I would voluntarily choose to do a strict $100 holiday again, but it was definitely a worthwhile experience, and has helped to clarify what the most meaningful and important parts of the holiday are for all of us. Hopefully our budget won't *require* us to do this again next year, but we certainly won't go hog wild with the spending next Christmas even if we can afford to.
I finally got around to uploading the photo I took of the gift baskets I made up for some of our friends:
the treats included a Norwegian "Julekake" (traditional Christmas bread), candied peanuts, toffee butter crunch (tastes like a skor bar), pumpkin loaf, and a jar of cran-raspberry jam. I then filled an orange crate with their personal gifts (all knitted by me!): a scarf for Jenn, socks for Bruce, a cube-shaped stuffed toy for Paige, and a CD of Christmas music for all of them. I also made them a "birdseed wreath" to give to their feathered friends by dipping a grapevine wreath into a mixture of melted shortening, peanut butter and cornmeal, then coating with birdseed and refrigerating until firm.
My dad got pumpkin loaf, peanuts, butter toffee crunch, a birdseed wreath, and another classical music CD to add to his collection.
My nan (grandmother) got cran-raspberry jam, pumpkin loaf, a knitted sachet filled with peppermint (from my garden) and rosemary (heavenly scent!), and an SPCA calendar featuring lots of cute critters.
Boxing Day is now officially over as the clock on my computer says 12:02 am so I'm going to head to bed!
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Things look good so far. I think all the necessary shopping has been completed, and the grand total as of this afternoon was $103.43. This does *not* include food and food gifts, which are coming out of our grocery budget. I'm fairly impressed (and yes, excited!) that I was able to accomplish this feat.
As far as actual expenditures, this is how it all played out:
$ 8.00 on miscellaneous stocking stuffers at Dollarama
$13.53 mailing packages and Christmas cards
(I only mailed 4 cards - to England - everyone else is getting e-cards)
$10.55 for a book for my nine year old son
$ 4.77 for stocking stuffers at Shoppers Drug Mart (I used a $10 gift card here, otherwise the
total would have been $14.77)
$11.39 for a Simpsons puzzle for my 7 year old son
$30.19 for 2 fishing rods for the boys at Canadian Tire (my hubby used $20 of CT money as well)
$15.00 for a cheque for my teenaged nephew
$10.00 for our Christmas tree (actual cost $50, but we had a $40 gift certificate)
That makes a grand total of 103.43. In case you're thinking that looks like a pretty skimpy Christmas, there is a *lot* of other stuff that's either from yard sales (in new or nearly-new condition), food gifts, or other homemade gifts to round the above mentioned items out. There are also a lot of CDs I squirreled away from when I recently rejoined Columbia House and got 12 for 1 or something like that.
For our immediate family, it's going to look something like this:
Hubby-handknit hat (to match the scarf he got last year), Barenaked Ladies CD (he's a big fan), stocking which includes dark chocolate sticks, fancy shampoo, chapstick, bar soap and some other yet-to-be-determined "free"items
Noah (9 yo) - from Santa: stocking, peg puzzle (garage-saled) ,Frosty/Rudolph songs CD, Sudoku puzzle book; from us: Build Your Own Inuksuk book and fishing rod
Nathan (7 yo) from Santa: stocking, kids card game book (garage-saled), Simpsons jigsaw puzzle, Sudoku puzzle book; from us: Petsitters book (1st one in the series-garage-saled) and fishing rod
That's all I can think of right now, although I might have left something out. I will write more about some of the gift baskets I am putting together for family and friends in my next post.
Saturday, December 9, 2006
The not-so-thrifty adventure of the day was the trip to the post office. Mailing 4 little cards to England and one small package to elsewhere in Ontario cost over 13 dollars!! Goodness. Thankfully that is all my Christmas mailing for this year (the bulk of my Christmas greetings are being sent via e-card).
Although I'm quite a bit late for this year, I thought I would post a couple of advent calendar ideas that are an alternative to the buy-it-every-year-and-throw-it-away type. You can always tuck them away for next year!
This first one (an Advent Quilt) was a gift made for us by my close friend Jenn a few years ago. You can't see it very well in the photo, but at the base of the tree there are little pockets (numbered 1 through 24 of course) that each contain a mini ornament to hang on the tree above. You can see we've already got a bunch hung since it's already December 9th. I love this idea since it's both lovely and practical - you can reuse it forever!
The second reusable calendar is also cloth, with larger numbered pockets. In previous years I have filled each pocket with candy treats for the boys. This year I decided to try something new and put a written note in each pocket with a family activity we could all do together. I love this idea as it ensures we get some family time during the busy-ness of the season, but it has also made me feel a little stressed some days trying to come up with a suitable activity that I know we'll be able to fit into the day. Today's was "Go get our Christmas tree"; other days have been things like do a Christmas craft, bake a Christmas treat, take a walk to see all the Christmas lights. Others over the next week will include things we do for others (like take gifts to our neighbours, make a gift for the birds, etc).
Monday, November 27, 2006
As a bit of an antidote to the Christmas stressfest I've been giving myself, I have been reading Choosing Simplicity:Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World by Linda Breen Pierce. I'm really enjoying this book - it's interesting to see how varied the choices are that different people have made in their quest for a simpler life. I find myself identifying with bits and pieces of almost every person's story. I would definitely recommend this book to almost anyone who has a simpler, more peaceful existence in mind.
Monday, November 20, 2006
I rescued this chair from the curbside (luckily it was only a couple blocks from home as I had only one hand to carry as the other hand was holding doggy's leash!) At first I thought there was nothing wrong with it except a couple of small stains on the fabric. I wasn't too concerned about that as I was already planning to recover it. Upon further inspection, I discovered the seat is no longer attached, and furthermore, the seat is cracked almost in half (only visible from the bottom, of course!) I consider these all minor problems, as the rest of the chair is still quite sturdy (in like-new condition, really). It will fit in nicely with all the other pine furniture around here. I already have the fabric to recover the seat and back (from a very large set of curtains from our old apartment). I was also toying with the idea of putting some small casters on the legs as I really want a chair with swivel capacity for our office (I have an "H" configured work area, and it really needs a swivel chair - the (very) old one broke!) I'll have to consult my hubby to see if this idea is at all practical or not. I also need to get him to make a new plywood seat for me to cover over!
Sunday, November 19, 2006
The small, thin package on the bottom is a Vivaldi CD (one of the get-12-for-the-price-of-one deal when I recently rejoined Columbia House). My dad really enjoys classical music but doesn't own much (I think my mom-who passed away last year- overran their music collection with country selections, and I don't think she liked classical much, so it's about time my dad had some of his own stuff!) On top is a package of Candied Peanuts (which my dad LOVES). The peanuts are in a clear milk bag trimmed up nicely and tied off with some ribbon. I then lined a 28 oz tin can with (reused) tissue paper and wrapped the tissue paper over and around the outside to cover the can. I then placed the bag of peanuts inside, and wrapped the whole peanuts-and-CD shebang with clear cellophane and more ribbon. Turned out pretty well, considering as how I spent about 3 1/2 minutes coming up with a wrapping plan!
[Side note re: tissue paper - I've found that you can return really-crumpled looking paper to crisp, virtually-new looking by giving it a quick ironing (careful not to get the heat too high!)]
The Candied Peanuts are one of my tried-and-true, loved-by-everyone (except those with peanut allergies!) gifts. They are also incredibly easy and quick to make, and I always have the ingredients on hand. This one's saved my skin as a last minute gift *many* times!
The recipe I use is from a tiny self-published book called Nifty Nibbles. I don't want to post copyrighted material here, so here's one that's quite similar (from goodearthpeanuts.com) - my recipe calls for some butter and no water:
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups peanuts
1. Bring 2 tablespoons water and 1/4 cup sugar to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.2. Add the peanuts and stir often until water evaporates. Continue stirring until the sugar begins to harden on the nuts. When the sugar on the nuts begins to turn light brown, pour them onto a plate to cool. Be careful not to cook the nuts too long or the sugar will burn.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
Okay, it's really "beginning to feel a lot like Christmas" around here. I have been busy finishing off a couple more gifts these past few days.
This scarf (a really lovely leaf motif lace pattern) is my first knitted lace. I had a lot of fun knitting it and I can't wait to give it to my friend. Photos never really seem to do a knitted piece justice - it is so much more detailed looking in real life. I love it so much I'm making myself one once my Christmas gifts are all finished!
Below is the first of a pair of socks that are intended for my friend's husband. I finished the first one while the weather was still nice enough to take an outdoor photo. I finished its mate yesterday. The pattern (for all you other knitters out there) is Melanie Falick's "Magic Spiral Tube Sock" from Kids Knitting.
I have also finished the scarf for my long-suffering husband (it was meant to be last year's Christmas gift - he ended up with a box of yarn and a promise under the tree). I also mostly finished a matching hat (just have to sew the seam!) I'm now working on inventing a knitted block toy for the new baby's first Christmas. I would just love to finish all my knitting projects before the last minute. Right now I feel like it's possible - but who knows what craziness will ensue in the next few weeks.
We also had a fun family outing this afternoon - the local Santa Claus Parade. It was a great parade and we came home with a bunch of free goodies - tons of candy canes, about 1/2 a dozen apples, a toothbrush, and a couple pads of sticky notes.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
I've already written about the contents of the gift earlier (the wrapped gift is the hat/mittens/booties). The embroidered linen cloth in front of the basket was draped over the basket when the gift was presented to the proud new parents.
The whole thing was a big hit when I gave it to my friends yesterday (and the baby was adorable, of course!) I love the fact that, even though finances are particularly tight for us right now, I was able to pull together a fantastic gift for very little cost. I spent less than $5.00 cash all told. The time investment was considerable - several hours, including the knitted gifts. I also added a few fancy finishing touches (the handmade tag on the wrapped gift, as well as a handmade card). I keep a box of old greeting cards, scraps of fancy paper, etc around to draw upon when I create these sorts of items. I also have a great pair of craft scissors that produces a fancy, rippled edge effect, which I use a lot when working on these types of projects.
The most satisfying part is knowing that I have really put a piece of myself into the gift, rather than just walking into a store and slapping down my credit card for the first item I see. Frugality at its finest!
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
I finished the knitted portion of the gift today!! I am so excited to see how everything looks on the tiny recipient. Making little tiny baby items can be very fiddly - I think in this case, the finishing work might have taken me longer than the actual knitting.
I also picked up some fennel tea to add to the basket while I was out grocery shopping (it is the main ingredient in all the "nursing" teas, and it's a lot cheaper to just buy plain old fennel tea!)
Tuesday, November 7, 2006
What I'm putting in:
-a couple of good "natural parenting" books (generously received through freecycle!)
-a knitted "outdoor ensemble" - hat, mitts, booties - that matches a baby blanket I gave her at her baby shower (I'm still not quite finished - will post a pic hopefully tomorrow!!)
-a couple of baby bath mitts
-"almost instant" dinner (ingredients for a quick soup & cornbread dinner)
-cranberry orange bread
-a baby book
-a list of suggested books for the new mom to read
-a handmade card
I think that's everything!!
I know I've done a good job on a gift basket when I can't wait to give it, and I'm bursting with excitement about bestowing this one on the new mom and babe.
Sunday, November 5, 2006
Spaghetti with meat sauce (made scratch sauce with crushed tomato base, used ground turkey bought for 75% off)
Homemade breadsticks (I used the Refrigerator Dough recipe. I rolled the dough out into a very long rectangle, sliced into thin strips, let them rise, brushed with garlic butter, and baked. These were a HUGE hit!)
We still have enough leftovers of everything (except breadsticks!) for our family of four to have again another night, so I guess technically this could have fed 15 people, or $1 a person.
I often find it a challenge to do a kid-birthday menu that pleases the birthday boy *and* all of the adults. This time it was definitely a success!
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
Our Halloween was very frugal - we purchased two large pumpkins on sale for 1.49 each, and the rest were from the Night Hike (see my earlier post if you don't know what I'm talking about!) The boys both reused favourite costumes from last year, and I bought about 150 treats on sale (I got the best per treat deal I could find) - we had to turn our lights off early as we were cleared right out!! All the other decorations were either homemade or reused from previous years.
How was your frugal Halloween?
Monday, October 30, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
On Saturday night (despite a distinct lack of improvement in the weather), we attended the Haunted Halloween event at Westfield Heritage Village. Again, lots of fun (in this case, spooky old-fashioned creepy kinds of fun). We had bundled up well, but were still eager to make hot chocolate and popcorn when we got home!! Of course, the popcorn was air-popped and the hot chocolate was of the cocoa-and-sugar-in-hot-milk variety (which I think tastes a lot better than anything out of the expensive little packages anyways).
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Hopefully I will manage to pace myself better than I have in other years to avoid that holiday burnout feeling!
Sunday, October 22, 2006
This weekend's menu:
Breakfast: Puffy pancake with apples (this recipe is in the Tightwad Gazette), orange juice, coffee
Lunch: leftover quiche and cooked carrots
Supper: Perogie casserole, peas (from frozen), gingersnaps, milk, coffee
Brunch: "Puffy Muffins" (this has been a Sunday special at our house for years - it's basically eggs mixed with cheese and seasonings piled on an english muffin half and baked in the oven - almost like a mini-quiche!), coffee, orange juice
Snack: apple, gingersnap, coffee
Supper: my dad took us all out to Red Lobster for dinner (this was to mark the first anniversary of my mom passing away Oct 21/05). We made sure to get doggy bags to enjoy tomorrow!
Friday, October 20, 2006
-sliced up about 1 1/2 dozen green peppers and put them in the freezer (in reused large freezer bags)
-made some homemade pancake syrup (I tried a new recipe from one I used previously that I wasn't happy with, this one seems thicker and more "syrupy", less runny)
-took a bunch of bread heels out of the freezer and made breadcrumbs
-baked a loaf of bread (this one was pretty effortless, I had already made refrigerator bread dough earlier in the week and just had to shape it, let it rise and bake it)
-baked a bunch of winter squash and pureed it for the freezer (I got about 5 cups total; I froze it in reused milk bags - the inner bags that the milk is actually in, not the larger outer bag!)
-baked a batch of gingersnap cookies for the boys
-did some more mending (still not finished yet - two boys and a too-long-neglected mending pile)
-continued working on my knitted gift project
I'm still working away at my re-read of the Complete Tightwad Gazette as well.
Breakfast: muffin and coffee
Lunch: leftover pasta with peanut sauce, apple, glass of milk
Supper: quiche (the ultimate way to use up little bits of stuff lurking around in the fridge - in this case some Swiss Chard I had given to me by a friend and a bit of leftover broccoli went in the mix - it turned out very tasty) slice of homemade bread, tossed salad, coffee
That's it for today - time for me to go to sleep!
Thursday, October 19, 2006
-worked on a knitted gift
-mended clothes while watching TV
-started rereading The Complete Tightwad Gazette (not sure how many times I've read it now!) for some creative thrifty inspiration
Breakfast: muffin, orange juice, coffee
Lunch: chicken sandwich (made with a leftover chicken thigh from last night) on homemade bread, leftover sweet potato fries, glass of chocolate milk (on sale for cheaper than white milk!)
Supper: Spicy Peanut Pasta (a peanut and coconut milk-based sauce, sounds weird but very yummy!), broccoli, carrots, glass of milk
Today was also grocery shopping day. I spent $110.56 CDN. This was on the high side (I'm trying to keep it under $85/week). We were all out of a lot of staples like sugar and mustard. I also grabbed some extra bread, bagels, and cream cheese because they were on sale. The last couple of weeks I've spent above average; there have been a lot of really good sale prices on foods we use a lot. My freezer is almost full to the top and that hasn't happened for a while. My second fridge in the basement is almost full too! I don't think I will need to buy much for the next couple of weeks except milk and fruit. I'm also annoyed at myself for making a really novice sale-shopping mistake. I knew a particular brand of flour tortillas was on sale but I couldn't remember the price (I forgot to note it on my shopping list!), and it wasn't marked on the display. I only grabbed one since they only had one package of whole wheat. As it turns out the deal was 2 for $4, and you only got the sale price if you bought two. I realized this when I was double-checking my receipt in the parking lot - I probably could have gone back and gotten another one, but at that point I just decided to cut my losses and go home (I was really annoyed that I ended up paying $3.59 for *one* pack of tortillas though!)
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I've been reading a lot of different frugality blogs lately, and many people have been doing a "25 Things I Do to Save Money" list (started, I believe, by Dawn over at Frugal for Life). Since I'm going to be writing out a list of all (or at least most) of my frugal activities every day, I thought I'd start off by doing a list of 10 Things I Do Every Day to Save Money so I don't have to keep writing them out every day. A few of these are so ingrained in my daily habits, I had to thing for quite a while before they occurred to me!
So, here goes:
1. Walk/bike instead of driving, about 90% of the time (possibly even more). As we live in a very walkable neighbourhood (one of Canada's first "planned communities") this is actually pretty easy, and it also allows us to keep only one car for our family of four. We were previously car-free for 3 years, but due to hubby's career change it's now pretty much impossible for us to be totally without a vehicle.
2. Cook at home, using inexpensive (and healthy) unprocessed/minimally-processed foods. We eat out so infrequently, I can probably count the number of times we've done so in 2006 on one hand (that includes take out and fast food, too).
3. Only eat until I'm full, not stuffed (cuts down on both food expenses and my waistline!)
4. Keep the thermostat set as low as we can tolerate in the colder months (18 degrees Celsius daytime, 15 degrees Celsius at night) and use fans/shades/windows to cool during the warmer months.
5. Exercise at home or outdoors instead of going to a gym.
6. Don't throw my clothes in the hamper until they are actually dirty and/or smelly (less wear on the clothes, less laundry soap and water used).
7. Wash baggies - yup, I admit it, I'm a fanatical baggie washer. I buy the more expensive name-brand freezer bags, as I found they withstand much more wear and tear and I can get a lot more uses out of each bag. If I wasn't a baggie-washer, I'd buy generic.
8. Keep lights turned OFF as much as possible (although the kids seem dead-set on foiling me on this one!)
9. Read books and magazines from the library, instead of buying them. Most of the DVDs we watch come from the library as well, and when I'm in the mood for some new music, I'll check out their CD collection too.
10. Express gratitude for everything I *do* have (even though, I admit there are some days when there are some things on my "wish list"). I do appreciate that I have much more than most others in the world, and I am truly thankful for that.
I'm sure there are some other things I do every day, but can't think of right now!
On to today's frugal happenings...
-I blanched three heads of cauliflower (from our local CSA) and froze them for later use.
-dh baked muffins for breakfast
-I started thinking about Christmas gift possibilities involving a free $25 gift certificate from Chapters (which I am going to redeem airmiles to get!) and the almost $30 in Canadian Tire money we have accumulated (someone on my list might get a wrench for Christmas, lol!) I want to stretch these out as much as possible, so I might use them towards some of the kids' gifts as I already have a lot of almost-free or food gift ideas for the adults in my life
I can't think of anything else "noteworthy" at the moment.
Breakfast: High Fibre Carrot Muffins (tried and true standby from Anne Lindsay's Light Kitchen), coffee
Lunch: leftover lentil and sausage stew (a great way to feed four people with only 2 sausages!), leftover cornbread, glass of orange juice
Supper: barbecued lime-garlic chicken thighs, sweet potato fries, broccoli, glass of white wine (leftover from a bottle brought by company; we have a stash of brew-your-own as well), coffee
That's it for today!