DIY Christmas Wreath & A Center Piece – $12 well spent

Last weekend on  a hike we noticed someone had cut back  a pine tree and its limbs laid on either side of the path.  The gears got going and within seconds I was asking Bart if we could carry some out to make a wreath.  He was on board so we took several trimmings home. A neighbor of ours has a lovely tree that has dropped all of its pinecones, so I happily gathered what I needed from them.  I then went to the store and purchased:

1- Can Metallic Silver Spray Paint $8

1- package mini red Christmas tree bulbs $4

I tied the pine trimmings together with green garden wire that I already had and this is what we wound up with:

DIY Wreath Christmas 2013

We had extra pinecones and bulbs so I made a center piece for the table:

 Christmas 2013 Centerpiece

Dear Jesus, I pray that this easy diy project will encourage others to get festive too.  Thank you for walks with my hubby and our boys.  Your creation is SO beautiful.  Amen.

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Charlotte’s Blueberry Garden, Free U-Pick

My buddy Janae, invited us out to pick blueberries yesterday.  We met up at this AMAZING blueberry garden with a few thousand large bushes!  Yes thousand.  We saw lots of people leaving with full, brimming, burgeoning buckets and tubs.  There is a nice paved path that runs through the garden so you can bring a stroller if need be.  We went with our kids in tow, and still made out like bandits.  I let the boys eat blueberries to their hearts’ content. 🙂

Sign at the entrance, "Charlotte's Blueberry Farm".

Sign at the entrance, “Charlotte’s Blueberry Farm”.

Hank and me picking blueberries

Hank and me picking blueberries

Oopsie we dropped some.

Oopsie we dropped some.

So many blueberries!

So many blueberries!

Janae and Declan

Janae and Declan

The berries we took home.

The berries we took home.

Dear Jesus, thank you for such awesome and free treats.  Thank you that the boys all enjoyed it too.  Lord, it was fun to catch up with Janae and have Hanks’ help picking.  Amen.

 

A Boy And His Daddy’s Boot

A man passed away leaving his bride behind.  Somehow he’d amassed a rather large collection of work boots and cowboy boots still in their boxes with receipts!  Bart stopped over a few nights ago and took a look.  The gal said she’d take whatever for them and that they just needed to be sold.  Bart wound up with two pair cowboy boots and 3 pair work boots!  When he arrived home the smell of real leather filled the house.  It was like a really nice Christmas and everyone was excited.  Bart pulled each pair out of their packaging to show the boys and me.  Hank took a particular liking to a pair that Bart said, “If I only got these I would be happy.”

Hank and the Boot

Hank carried that boot all around the house yesterday.  In this picture he was just holding it while watching a show.  When I put Gideon down for a nap, Hank (who I thought was washing his hands) filled that boot with water in the bathroom sink!

Oh dear!

When I found him I just said, “Oh no!” several times.  Hank looked concerned too and said, “Don’t worry momma we can get another one, there’s two.”  🙂

Sweet little boy.

I explained that I hoped it wasn’t ruined and then we agreed we should pray.  I prayed that the boot would be ok and that Hank would remember not to put water in it.  Then Hank closed the prayer saying, “Amen.”

I just love Hank SO much!

Here are some more shoe pictures:

cowboy boots #2

My favorite ones that he got.

My favorite ones that he got.

Hank and Bart's favorite pair.

Hank and Bart’s favorite pair.

leather office shoe

Dear Jesus, thank you for the abundant blessing on Bart.  I am amazed that someone nearby was selling new boots in Bart’s size for so cheap.  They are good shoes and should last Bart a really long time (provided they don’t go swimming anymore). 😉  Amen.

The New Sandbox, Frugal Thursday’s

For this week’s Frugal Thursday I am delighted to share pictures of our new sandbox! This dandy activity station was the fruition of my husband’s imagination earlier this week when I was ill. He is one frugal dude, no wonder I married him. 😉
In our garage, Bart had left-over supplies from building a raised vegetable bed a few years back. He dusted them off and cut them to make a raised sandbox for our boys. Next he cut out the sod laid in landscape fabric and poured sand on top. The boys loved it so much they couldn’t wait. As you’ll see below they started playing in it before there was any sand. Yesterday, the boys and I bought buckets and shovels at the Dollar Tree. The other toys were gifts. All together this was a pretty inexpensive and awesome idea. Go Bart!

Today’s frugal tip: The Dollar Tree accepts manufacturers coupons! So if you have a coupon for Reynold’s Wrap (foil) just to name one, head on over to the Dollar Tree to get it for really cheap!

Here are photographs of the boys and the sandbox:

frame with grass hank in fram playing in dirthank curly hair landscape fabricbart pouring sand boys in picsand and one truckhank in fram playing in dirt Hank wiht toys sand in box giddo close-up 2 giddo close-up 1

Gideon "washing" himself off with the hose.  All wet!

Gideon “washing” himself off with the hose. All wet!

Dear Jesus, thank you that it didn’t take Gideon long to figure out that he shouldn’t flick sand in his face.  The first night he played in the sandbox we were all a little worried.  Thank you for giving me  a creative and fun husband who loves his boys and serves his family well.  Thank you for the new sandbox too.  Amen.

Hank’s First Band-Aid

  Hard as it may be to believe, until two days ago, Hank never had a band-aid. While grocery shopping last week Hank picked out his very own Cars (the movie) themed band-aids. He happily carried the box around the store. I didn’t have the heart to put them back on the shelf.

So what is today’s frugal tip?

Spend your money in a way that is worth every cent.

In this example Hank got the more expensive themed band-aids and I think it’s totally worth it. It turns out he hates to wear band-aids. But, these themed ones seem to stay on a little while. It was almost prophetic that he wanted them when he did because just a few days later he cut his finger.
I snapped some pictures to share. I think their super cute especially since the band-aids are so little that they fit his finger well. Awesome that he made it past three before this day came!

close up 2 the box close up

Dear Jesus, thank you for your timing that we just bought band-aids.  You are a truly thoughtful Lord.  Thank you that Hank held still so I could get pictures too. Amen.

Being Frugal Can Mean Leaving Your Pride At The Door, Frugal Thursday’s

I have read that with couponing you should aim to get one copy of the Sunday paper for every member of your household. Not so y’all can read your respective copy simultaneously. Rather so you have an equivalent number of coupons to the number of people living in your home. I have shared before that I don’t wish to buy newspapers. Maybe one day I will but not today.

Every Friday a car drives through our neighborhood and flips the local paper into our driveway.

Everyone gets a copy.

Even if you don’t ever read it.

Even if you just drive over it and avoid it like the plague.

Meanwhile, couponers like myself note that you never collect your copy. Every time I see my neighbors across the street drive over their abandoned copy of the local paper I would think, “Oh man! There’s coupons in there.” Then for weeks I would tell Bart that I really needed to get the courage up to ask them for it. Well after I thought about this “big” step for way too long, I finally walked over and knocked on their door. I asked, “Do you want your copy of the local paper?”

To which the gal replied, “NO! We just drive over it anyway.”

I explained that I coupon. She happily agreed that I can take their copy right off their driveway anytime! Golly, all the nervousness and fretting. For weeks. In just a few minutes time I was walking home with more coupons. She even went through their copy of the Sunday paper and gave me the coupon inserts from it!

Today’s frugal tip is to lay your pride aside and go meet your neighbors.

I found having this simple request made for a great excuse to say hello and chat a bit. It was really fun. 🙂

Dear Jesus, thank you for your patience with me. Thank you that my neighbors don’t mind sparing their coupons for our benefit. Amen.

Coupon Burn Out, Frugal Thursday’s

I have been thinking a lot about the way I shop. Any way I slice it we need food and other products like shampoo and soap. A $0.75 off coupon looks good but does it really add up? I have been couponing for a little over four months now and found my feelings went something like this:

Month One– Excitement but little actualized savings

Month Two– Less excitement and a few good deals

Month Three– Tired of organizing and feeling like it’s pointless

Month Four– Things click and you start seeing essentials stock up

So my advice as a coupon newbie myself is to stick with it. At first it feels like a huge time commitment. To be honest, it is, at first. Any time you are learning a new skill you’ll start slow then fine tune your new art form over time. At first, I wanted to “coupon” only once a week. Then months two and three I didn’t want to mess with it at all so I waited a few weeks in between clipping coupons. Now, I spend a little time each day on it. What I am realizing is that there are several approaches to being frugal with coupons. Try them all and see what makes sense for you. When I went a few weeks in between clipping coupons I noticed it took a while to clip them all in one sitting and that was not very manageable. Now that I do a little almost every day I can do just that, a little. I can see settling into a few minutes two or three times a week. I still really like scanning the ads and circling in marker store deals that jump out at me and then clipping coupons accordingly. I have made a change though, now I clip coupons that I would use if the price is REALLY good. Sometimes the stars align and things are free or nearly so. If you have coupons to go along with a screaming store deal or a clearance item you can get it for pennies. If it’s something useful but not necessarily something you want/need you can add it to the box of things to donate to the local food bank!

If you tried couponing and found it was super tedious and time-consuming then quit, but wish you didn’t, then I encourage you to reconsider your approach. Could it be tweaked to fit your needs? Now that I am saving so darn much, I cannot stand the idea of paying full price for anything except organic produce. It actually bothers me that others are spending so much when I know they could save too. I see savings of 60% to 80% regularly! Two weeks ago I planned my shopping trip so I only bought what we needed from the stores that were running a special. It took two hours to go to the different stores and get everything. You know what? I saved $90.00! Instead of paying $240 I paid $150 for everything. Essentially paying myself $45 an hour to buy groceries. So yes, it took time. Grocery shopping always does. But, for me with couponing, time is money made. :0)

p.s. If you get to a store and find the products you have coupons for are out of stock ask for a rain check. This will extend the store deal 30 days for you so you can come back and get it when they restock. I just did this at Albertson’s because they ran out of Barilla pasta. The store deal was buy 10 and pay $0.49 each! That is such a good price. And I noticed a perk to buying after they restock. The store deal pushes product off the shelves and when they restock you get newer product.

Dear Jesus, it seems to me that sticking with new skills pays off. Too bad it’s so tempting to quit before it gets good. Thank you that we are seeing results. It is fun to see we can make full meals now off everything we’ve bought frugally. Thank you. Amen.

When Couponing Gets Really Fun, Frugal Thursday’s

Every year just before Mothers Day, Food Lifeline distributes sacks in partnership with the local post office.  You may have gotten one last week too.  Until now I have looked at that sack and thought maybe another time.

Well, let me tell you what makes couponing really fun:

Giving Good Brand Name Things Away!

Donation

We have been couponing for about four months now and to my delight we had enough to toss some goodies in that blue sack.  That makes couponing so awesome.  It enables us to have what we need and give to others.  Did you know that God say’s the more we give the more He will give to us?

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 say’s, “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all-sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

This is so exciting! 🙂

If you are local then here are a few places you can give:

The Food Lifeline

The Des Moines Food Bank

Or you can always go global!

World Vision Donation Page

Just a heads up if your new to this, they need non-perishable food and personal care items.  Think canned vegetables, soups, cereals, soap, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo and conditioner. And of course, monetary donations are super too!  If you look around and think, “I wonder if I can donate this?” Give the folks at the local food bank a call and ask if they need it.  Chances are they do.

Dear Jesus, I am so thankful.  You have blessed us.  Thank you that I am now able to bless others out of the gifts and treasure you have given us.  You are faithful and mighty.  Thank you for moving my heart.  Amen.

Self-Watering Tomatoes, Tips and Tricks (You’ll want to Pin this!)

It’s time to plant your tomatoes!

Here are some tips and tricks I have learned along the way that save money and help your tomatoes grow:

  1. Tomatoes need to be very warm.  I recommend potting them or if you plant them in the ground, cover them with a cloche.
  2. Whenever possible put your potted tomatoes up against the house in a very sunny location.  Your house will emit additional heat and draw the sun toward your plants.
  3. In the Pacific Northwest I’d recommend a determinant variety for your slicer variety of tomatoes.  I’m growing Early Girl Bush Variety!  I got this tip from a master gardener.  Determinant means they set fruit all at once and the plant grows more like a bush.  A stout plant is easier to manage and supports larger fruit better.  Setting fruit all at once may seem like a bad thing but it isn’t if you want ripe tomatoes.  A few weeks before you want to harvest start depriving the plants of water and they’ll focus their energy on ripening the tomatoes already on the vine instead of making new ones.  You may also want to pinch off tomatoes that are small and have no chance of maturing in time.
  4. Watering evenly and regularly is how you get smooth large tomatoes without rot or cracked skins.  If the skins crack it’s because they went with too little water then had too much and they grew too quickly for their skin to keep up.  Like people, the skin is the last to get the benefits from water.  Hmmmm… that makes me thirsty. 😉
  5. For cherry tomatoes I recommend an indeterminate variety because smaller tomatoes ripen easier and this way you’ll be able to harvest throughout the summer.  Keep in mind indeterminate varieties grow tall and will need staking of some kind for support.
  6. Tomatoes can get blight.  If you see signs of blight carefully remove the infected parts of the plant taking care not to touch healthy parts afterwards. Blight is a fungal infection that makes them black and icky.  This happens because they are wet or have poor air circulation from being planted too close together.  Poor or infected soil (or planters) can cause this too.  I bought new soil to pot mine.  I use organic compost although I am seriously considering Tagro.
  7. A very good way to avoid blight from wet plants is to water your tomatoes at the ground so the leaves don’t get wet.  And remember moist soil is good but wet is bad.  Stick your index finger in the dirt up to the first knuckle.  If it comes out dry you need to water.
  8. A super easy way to cloche a potted tomato is to put up stakes then wrap around the outside of the stakes with plastic wrap.  I bought plastic wrap from Costco so I have plenty to spare.

Self-Watering Tomatoes on the Cheap!

You know those 4″ black plastic pots your tomato starts (or other plants for that matter) come in?

Don’t throw em out!  Instead bury them a few inches deep next to your tomato plants and add a little dirt to slow the drainage.  Then just add water to them as needed. The water will seep out through the drain holes into the soil. 🙂

Close up 1 close up 2 Close up 3

Here’s what the boys did while I was setting up my tomato’s. 🙂

It's bright outside!

It’s bright outside!

Hank and Gideon playing in a kiddy pool.

Hank and Gideon playing in a kiddy pool.

This Week’s Store Deals (Frugal Thursday’s)

Fred Meyer

  • Ore-Ida Frozen Potatoes (fries, hash etc.) 2/$4 plus manufacturer coupon makes it just $2.50 for 2!
  • Fred Meyer brand sour cream 16 oz size is $0.99 each limit 4
  • Pilsbury Grands are 10/$10
  • Country Time lemonade (several varieties) are 10/$10
  • Personal Size Watermelon and Whole Pineapples are on sale 2/$5
  • Post Shredded Wheat Cereal is on sale for $3.87 add the $2 off 1 manufacturer coupon to get this cereal for only $1.87 per box!

Albertson’s

  • Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast’s are $1.88/lb at the butcher!
  • Kraft Dressing Packets are $0.88 use the manufacturer $0.25 off 1 and you pay $0.63 each!
  • Garland Jack’s Secret Six BBQ sauce is 10/$10

Safeway

  • Hormel Natural Choice Lunchmeat is on a buy one get one free deal (BOGO)  It works out to $2.50 each which is a fair price.
  • Tillamook 2 lb block cheddar cheese is on sale $3.99 limit 1.  I’ve seen Albertson’s run this same price with far fewer restrictions in the recent past.
  • Hefty Trash Bags scented 54 count store deal $5.99 add the manufacturer $0.55 off 1 and you pay $5.44 each! Limit 3.
  • Kellogg Frosted Mini Wheats and Honey Nut Cheerios are on sale for $1.88 and $1.99 respectively.
  • Kraft brand BBQ sauce is on a store deal for $0.79! Limit 1.

Dear Jesus, please bless our garden and thank you for sunny days!  I pray this post will help others. Amen.

Frugal or Stingy?

Are you frugal or stingy?

Would someone describe you as miserly?

What happened to the man who filled his store houses with grain?

If you store it up what use is it?

Frugal with regards to couponing means buying what you need without becoming miserly and selfish.  God is faithful to give and take away.  For this reason I ask myself, how much will we use?

Frugal means knowing how much your family needs of something so you can buy enough to last you.  Not till Armageddon but perhaps until that item goes on sale again.  Think of your families eating habits.  How many jars of pasta sauce do you use in say a 4 week time period?  Well, then you’d better buy that many especially if you shop at Albertson’s.

barilla sauce deal 5-1-13 Albertson'sThat’s $0.50 per jar!

If you don’t shop at Albertson’s take heart, I have noticed in watching the various store ads, that stores compete.  This means that while Barilla brand pasta sauce is on a super deal at Albertson’s this week it is likely to be on a great deal at a different store next week.  So, check all the store ads and know that the deals will come to your store so you can plan.  Couponing hasn’t changed what I buy so much as when I buy it.

Also, I noticed the local paper, The Mirror had a $10 off $50 for both Albertson’s and Winco!  So, while your busy buying things on store special with your coupons go ahead and max it out by using one of these dandy $10 off coupons.  Keep your eyes peeled.  It took me 10 seconds to clip a coupon that saved me $10! That is a good use of my time. 🙂

Today I went to Albertson’s for groceries because they had a buy one get one free event on meat.  Combined with the $10 off coupon and the $0.50 pasta sauce I felt it was worth my time. Here’s my receipt showing the savings of $54.67! Wahoo!

Albertson's Receipt 5-1-13 closeup

Dear Lord, this couponing thing seems like quite the learning process.  Thank you that not only is it possible with very little time commitment but that I really do save money. I pray I will use this gift to be frugal and steward the money you give me well.  Amen.