Friday, December 30, 2011

Visit A Park For Family Fun

Today my family spent our morning walking and playing at our favorite nature park, Hammock Park in Dunedin, Florida.  We live in a densely populated county, but we are blessed with quite a few nature parks.  If you are lucky enough to live in the country I hope that you are nature walking everyday.

Nature Trail At Hammock Park

Almost all of our local parks do not charge an entry fee, so we can enjoy ourselves without spending any money.  DH and I got our exercise and DD was happy to play in the woods and on the rustic playground.

One rule we have is to turn off the cell phones so we can concentrate on each other.  Our children (and adults) need to learn that it is not necessary to have social media at our fingertips at all time in order to be happy.  In fact, we are emotionally healthier without it.

God bless,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My Birthday Ruminations

Today is my 55th birthday.  It doesn't particularly bother me to be getting older, except for the aches and pains.  I would much rather be 55 than to be reliving the angst and uncertainty of being 25.  When you reach my age you know what you like and don't like without confusion.  Also, you begin to "suffer fools" badly.

I have always wanted to age gracefully.  There is something slightly embarrassing about an older woman wearing the makeup and clothing of a much younger woman.  At this point my grandmother would say something about putting makeup on a pig or some such old saying.

My big goal has always been to be Aunt Bea when I get older.  You remember Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith Show?  Here's a picture in case you don't.

Aunt Bea reminded me of my grandmothers and great aunts.  She exuded comfort and a satisfaction with her life.  She was kind and did nice things for others.

I also like the way Aunt Bea was beautiful, but you always knew her true age.  She dressed well, with modest dignity.  She took a certain pride in being clean and nicely put together.  I want to just hug her and smell the scent of Cashmere Bouquet.

Sigh.  One of the other things that comes with age is missing the old days and the people that have passed.  Well, "no regrets" is all that I can say about my life so far.

God bless,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gardening Can Be Emotionally Healing

Gardeners have long known that a few hours spent digging in the dirt can improve their moods.  The sun, the focus on natural life, productive work; all of these things make us feel better about ourselves.

But a recent study shows that microorganisms in the soil have the ability to improve our brain chemistry, acting as an antidepressant.  One more reason we should let our kids and ourselves play in the dirt.  Perhaps our super sanitary way of living is harming our mental health.

So, get out the seed catalogs and start planning the garden.  A little dirt therapy is in order this Spring.

God bless,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas Wishes From The Frugal Mennonite

My house is clean and the food for tomorrow's family gathering is ready.  I made a batch of marshmallows and will put together a gift basket for my in-laws with hot chocolate mix, marshmallows and cookies.  Tomorrow I will make the deviled eggs and green salad, then wait for my guests.

For the rest of today I get to rest, read and enjoy my family.  This is what a frugal life is about; not exhausting yourself trying to achieve an unrealistic, media fueled, corporate sales produced fantasy.  Instead we should live a comfortable, sparsely material, emotionally healthy and faith filled life.

Happy holidays!

God bless,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Easy Christmas Cookies

Looking at all of the Christmas ads and magazines with highly decorated and varied (read time consuming) cookies a frugal person could get a complex.  Unless you are giving cookies as gifts there is really no reason to make more than two types of cookies.

First of all, give up the idea of beautifully iced (with royal icing) and shaped cookies.  Find a basic sugar cookie recipe and buy two kinds of decorative sprinkles.  When you wake up in the morning lay out your butter and forget about it until later in the day.  Mix up your dough then divide it equally onto two pieces of plastic wrap.  Form into rolls and put into the refrigerator overnight.

The next day, when you have time, slice the dough.  You can just lay it on the pan on parchment paper.  Or you can roll each piece into balls.  Lightly oil (only once) the bottom of a glass, dip in sugar, then use the glass to press down on the dough.  Keep dipping it in sugar between cookies.

Slice Dough

Use Glass Bottom To Shape
Before you bake your cookies press some of the decorative sprinkles into the tops.  Line your pans with parchment paper to prevent sticking.

Parchment Paper Prevents Sticking
After baking cool the cookies on a wire rack.  Never box up warm cookies.  You will lose those nice crisp edges.

Change your sugar cookie recipe to a ginger cookie by replacing some of the sugar (about a 1/4 cup) with molasses.  Replace the vanilla with 1 tsp. dried ginger, 1 tsp. grated ginger and 1 tsp. diced candied ginger.

Two lovely cookies baked while you are cleaning house or wrapping presents.  Neither type takes much time or expensive ingredients.  The sprinkles add that festive air.

God bless,

Monday, December 19, 2011

Easy Christmas Menu And Celebration

We are hosting a small family get together on Christmas Eve.  I wanted to have a menu and setup that allowed my husband and I to relax and enjoy our family; not hidden in the kitchen cooking.  I also wanted to have people eat what they want, when they want, in an informal setting.

A small buffet table set up in the area between the dining and living areas will allow us to migrate to where we are most comfortable.  Covered with a red table cloth and a few small, unbreakable decorations the buffet table can be festive and utilitarian.

We don't have a dishwasher and I don't want to spend Christmas Eve washing dirty dishes, so I will be using decorative disposable plates, plastic dinnerware and paper napkins.  Next year I hope to have the time to make fabric napkins from Christmas fabric.

Our menu consists of food meant to be picked at:  Honeybaked ham, potato or macaroni salad, green salad, and deviled eggs (DH's special request).  On the side will be pickles, olives and cookies.  The macaroni salad can be made and the eggs boiled a day in advance

Guests will be able to sit at the dining table to eat (required for the children) or sit in the living room.  Christmas music playing and lots of conversation will make this a fun, not stressful, Christmas gathering.

Entertaining during the holidays doesn't need to take a huge amount of work or money.  Remember, family and friends really just want to be with you and yours.

God bless,

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Random Thoughts For The Week Before Christmas

Yesterday I was out in the yard rewiring our intrepid and old light up reindeer.  He is well worth the relighting effort; well made out of steel and probably going to last another twenty years or so.  DH was threatening to throw him out if we didn't use him this year (he is heavy to drag out of the attic), which horrified DD and I, so he is now resplendent with twice as many lights as before.

Not Our Deer, But Just Like Him

Another of our outdoor lights went out last night, which is always difficult because who really wants to climb back up on that ladder to replace them?  But who wants to look at a big blank space in the Christmas lights?  The good thing is that this is an excellent time to buy Christmas lights.  They are well picked over, but most stores still have them on sale.

Speaking of sales or rather, the lack thereof, this is not the week to be buying Christmas items.  Stores have marked their prices back up because they know that people who wait until the last minute to shop are desperate.  Wrapping supplies, gifts and candy are at their highest price right now.

The week after Thanksgiving I bought Hallmark gift paper 3 rolls for 99 cents, 3 Scotch wrapping tapes for $1.99 and ribbons 2 bags for 99 cents.  Now they are 1 roll for $1.99, 3 tapes for $2.99 and 1 ribbon for 99 cents.  This is a good time to think about the fabric wrappings or have the kids decorate some craft paper to use for wrapping.

Pillow Pets were marked down to $12.99 two weeks ago, but have been repriced to $19.99 this week.  Men's cologne was $10 off last week, but this week is full price.  And I am not seeing the 99 cent stocking stuffers that were available a week ago.

On line stores just love last minute shoppers.  They get to hit you with hugely inflated shipping prices.  Considering that Priority Mail prices are fairly reasonable and the boxes are free from the Post Office, it is a slap in the face to pay over $15 dollars for "expedited" shipping.

Well, these are the random thought that have been running through my mind the last day or so.  I hope you are hunkering down, baking (with supplies you bought 3 weeks ago) and not doing any last minute shopping.

God bless,

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Those Christmas Disasters

Life doesn't stop happening just because it is the holiday season.  Nope, life just keeps moving along dealing us the occasional blow to keep us paying attention.  The best laid plans must be pushed aside to fix an insistent problem.

Today I was feeling pretty sassy.  I had managed to get into see my doctor early and I drove home knowing that I had plenty of time to finish some holiday projects.

When I got home I went into my kitchen to make some granola and noticed a puddle on the floor.  I opened my cabinet under the sink to discover a wet mess.  One of my shut off valves had developed a steady drip; it must have been dripping since Saturday when I fixed a leaky faucet.

So, I began emptying the cabinet and emptying the cabinet and emptying the cabinet.  Some things were thrown away because they were sopping wet.  But I was amazed at the amount of cleaners, polishes, detergents and sponges that I had accumulated in this one cabinet.

I had a decision to make now that my cabinets are drying out and I am waiting to clean my kitchen up:  Should I feel awful and defeated or should I enjoy what remained of my morning.  People will be fine if they go one year without my granola and why should I allow my joy to be diminished by the plumbing.

Bad things happen during the holidays.  Bad things happen for no reason to good people.  It is not what has gone wrong that should form us, but how we react to it.

God bless,

Monday, December 12, 2011

Frugal Christmas Crafts: Hand Made Silhouette Plates

Recently Tipper at Blind Pig and the Acorn showed some striking decorative plates she had painted of crow silhouettes.  I decided to translate this craft to a Christmas craft.

You need two things:  white plates from the thrift store and Martha Stewarts paint.  I like the MS paint because it is only $1.99 and can be painted on many surfaces, including glass and porcelain.

Print Christmas silhouettes off the internet by Googling for Christmas Silhouettes.  Print on card stock, then cut out.

My Favorite Silhouette

Trace the silhouette onto a plate using a sharpie marker.  If you can, use a sharpie that matches your paint color.

Three Simple Templates

Paint the outline of the silhouette, then fill in the center.  With the metallic paints you will probably need several layers.

Let cure for several days.  Then they are ready to decorate your home on plate holders or hangers.  Have fun!

God bless,

Friday, December 9, 2011

Frugal Christmas Trees At Lowes

We had decided that this year we would be unable to mail order our Christmas tree from a northern tree farm.  The costs for both the tree and the shipping would have been $85-90, which is way out of our budget, but we still wanted to have a live tree.

Our idea was to go to a local church that sells trees every year as a fundraiser.  They order one load of trees each year and when they are sold, they close down the lot.  I drive by their lot on the way to DD's school.  On Monday I was surprised to see that they had completely sold out of trees on the first weekend of December.  Oops.

My next idea was to go to Lowe's hardware to see what they had.  They receive new shipments of trees on a regular basis, so I reasoned that the trees would be fresh.  They had two types of fir trees, Douglas and Fraser, from 4' to 7' tall.  We chose a 6' tree, which was fresh, with moist, flexible needles and branches.  We thought that the cost would be similar to the tree lots; probably around $35-40.

Surprise!  Our bill was $21.28!

Now I was going to show you a picture of the tree, but I can't find my camera.  DH and DD are spending the weekend at Disney, so I think they may have packed it.  I also had photos for a Christmas craft, so that post will need to wait until next week.  I will photograph our tree after it is decorated and share it with you.

God bless,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

My Week As An Elf

I had the pleasure this week to spend three mornings working as a shopping elf at my daughter's school.  Each year the school has a holiday store where the children can shop for family and friends and have the gifts wrapped.  This costs a minimal amount due to some smart elf shopping.  The children enjoy themselves and are proud to have gifts for their family.

Well, this middle aged elf was pooped at the end of each morning.  My respect for elves everywhere and, especially, the school's elves is high.  Thank you.

In the evening the elves search local stores for reasonably priced gifts to restock the store.  I found some wonderful gifts at Walgreens in the cosmetics area.  They have small gift sets, holiday soaps, nail polish and lip gloss on sale.  Some of these are not advertised specials, so ask the cosmetics counter employee to point them out to you.

Unfortunately, men are being short changed when it comes to inexpensive gifts.  It is always hard to fill my DH's stocking and this year is one of the worst.  Keep your eye out for discounted itunes cards where you are given a store gift card for buying the itunes card.  Earbuds are always needing to be replaced.  A small LED flashlight is useful in the car (I keep them around the house in case the electric goes off).  The Flylady has the Hey Tom car duster, which is a great, water free way to keep the inside of the car clean.

Store elves need lots of wrapping paper, tape and bows.  Once again, Walgreens to the rescue.  They have gift sacks eight for 99 cents, a three pack of Scotch tape for $1.99, Hallmark wrapping paper 2 rolls for $1.99, BOGO ribbons for 99 cents and tissue paper for 99 cents.

Good luck on your frugal Christmas shopping.

God bless,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where Are The Holiday Food Deals?

I've notice that for the last few weeks that there is a serious lack of food items on sale that correspond with coupons.  Usually there are several BOGOs with coupons that allow me to renew my food stores.  I don't know if the stores have made this decision just for the holidays or if it is a permanent change (I certainly hope not).

When I went shopping for a half gallon of organic milk I was shocked at the price (over $4.00)!  It seems as though even the basics are becoming difficult to buy.  I stopped buying convenience foods years ago, but now I'm seeing myself compromising on buying the basics I need to make meals.

Walgreens has been the best place for me to find baking goods this holiday season.  I have stocked up on flour, sugar, baking powder and chocolate chips using a combination of their store coupons and manufacturer coupons.  But they have stopped offering these deals as we get closer to the holidays.

I am trying to come up with ways to get around buying the expensive basics.  Perhaps using reconstituted dry milk for baking would be less expensive than buying liquid milk?  I need to start looking at web sites that sell food for storage to see if their products end up being less expensive for every day use.

I have also compromised on the food gifts that I make for the holidays.  Oatmeal was on sale last week, so I will make my world famous granola instead of a large number of cookies or candy.  Packaged in a pretty bag with a nice tag it makes a great gift.  I had the recipe on the blog last Christmas and it was a hit.

If you have any food shopping strategies for this holiday season please share them with us.

God bless,