Monday, June 29, 2009

Our Primary Colors are 1, 2, 3

We made a fresh (double!) batch of our favorite play clay this morning (found by way of my new favorite make-a-mess-with-your-kids blog, Filth Wizardry). It made enough to make three really good sized balls of clay for our primary colors!

Ernie was rather hesitant when I handed her small balls of clay and told her to smash them together, but once she saw the results she had TONS of fun doing this!

We made a grid, labeled with our possible color combinations, and she drew pictures of what she made. Choosing a marker helped her decide what color her clay had turned.

We talked about what the primary colors are, and how ANY color can be made by mixing these together. Next time I'm hoping I can help her choose a marker, and then she can decide which colors she'd need to mix together to match.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Beautiful Life: Checking In

Welcome to another week of Beautiful Life! I wrote this letter to my Dad and sister yesterday, hoping to make up for the fact that I hadn't spoken to them in a little while. Re-reading it, I'm so grateful that I can be home with my children, that we have a home to be in, and that I have such a wonderful family.

What are you doing today?

Just checking in- my phone is acting up, so it's plugged into the wall.

We spent the morning eating breakfast, making swords and shields, "fighting" (Ernie kindly put my head back on after she very carefully cut it off ALL THE WAY AROUND. By the way, if ever you need to re-attach a head, simply place your sword on the victim's neck and slice around the opposite direction. If you're the victim, remember to ask nicely.) We also slew a dragon, woke the sleeping beauty cabbage patch doll (who is currently wearing a newborn-sized sleeper), and I had to send Ernie to trick the Fates (sisters) into giving her a berry from the fire bush to bring me back to life. She brought it back quite easily- I asked her where it came from, and she said "the store. Take off the wrapper." We have a little gardening-education to instill yet! But I think our Medieval history/fairy tale "school unit" (HA) is coming along nicely, don't you?

We went to the library-- I got a book on container gardening and another on home cheese production-- and then the girls split a Top Ramen for lunch. [The painter] should finish painting the house trim (and touching up the siding) tomorrow- the girls have gotten used to seeing him and his son out of ALL our windows, at various parts of the day. I run around trying to shut curtains before he gets there!

My visiting teachers come in 20 minutes, Wonder Daddy is at a baseball game this afternoon, and our CSA box came in yesterday so we'll probably have beet greens with our dinner.

I'm reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle- the story of a family who moved from Tucson back to the family farm in Appalachia and tried their hand and eating ONLY local food for a year. Their 3rd-grade daughter has just received shipment on 24 poultry chicks, for her egg and meat business. This is hard-core :) At the very least, I've learned that I was at least 2 months late starting my potatoes, broccoli, onions, and beans. (And, as I just reminded Wonder Daddy and myself, this year's garden is 1000% better than last live and learn. We'll get there eventually.)

I know I posted about this, but Ernie's party was VERY fun- she couldn't have been happier. The kids played nicely, and everything went well. The moms were impressed with my homemade french bread and butter...which is ironic, considering how little time they took. Now the FLOWER crowns- why couldn't those have inspired any adulations? :) They were fiddly and difficult!


Thursday, June 25, 2009

Did He Pass?

Yes he did!

So, you know how some things are just SO huge that you don't even know how to say it?

Wonder Daddy passed his test.

*cue the triumphant fanfare*

We are one ethics test away from full and complete CPA-dom!
I had no idea that sheer tension was keeping us upright- we're somewhat akin to puddles at this point. But, we're very HAPPY puddles.

Wonder Daddy, I love you and I am SO proud of you!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Princess for a Day

Today was Ernie's very first birthday party- what a fun thing!

We're currently in a "fairy tale" unit, with lots of princesses, knights, role-playing, and stories. Lots and LOTS of stories. I thought it only fitting to have a fairy tale birthday party.

The girls made princess hats (and our lone boy made a king crown...but he thought the streamers were so pretty, he requested two. Pink, please. Atta boy!)

There were flower crowns for the girls to take home (thanks, Su!)

And a dashing felt hat for our boy.

A lot of our ideas came from the book Days of Knights and Damsels: An Activity Guide. Our library has "kits" you can check out- our first kit was the "knights and castles" kit- it included books, a CD, a movie, and a puppet! So, so much fun. We've especially loved this book- it's full of ideas of medieval foods, crafts, costumes, games, and art. The flower crowns and felt hat were all inspired from this book, as well as some of our games (Blind Man's Bluff, anyone?) and our lunch (poached chicken, cheese, fruit, and crusty french bread with fresh butter...someone please confiscate that butter? It's SO good. Thanks.)

We also sent all the kids home with hobby horses- you know, horse heads on sticks? A VERY lucky find at the dollart store yesterday- all down time during the party was consumed in a constant parade of kids on horses, screaming "neigh! neigh! neigh!" as they galloped through the kitchen, hid behind couches, and generally showed the joie de vivre that only 3 and 4-year-olds can.

Does anyone remember their first birthday party? I'm not sure I do, but I remember that my mom always threw the best parties for us. They were so ORGANIZED. My mom is the queen of lists.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Simple Skirt Tutorial

This is, honestly, the easiest skirt you'll ever make.

You'll need a bit of fabric, selvedge to selvedge (those are the woven edges, not the cut edges.) I like to cruise the remnant bins at my fabric store- anything over a 1/4 yard works great as a skirt for my oldest daughter!

You'll also need either ribbon or a bit of elastic. The ribbon should be about 18 inches longer than the waist, elastic should be 2 or 3 inches shorter.

Hem or finish both long (cut) sides of the fabric. Fold the top edge over 1 inch and sew to make a casing. (On this skirt I used biase tape on the bottom edge, and serged the top.) If you're using elastic, fold the casing to the INSIDE of the skirt, if you're using ribbon fold it to the OUTSIDE.

Sew both short (selvedge) edges together, starting UNDERNEATH the casing.

Thread the elastic or ribbon through the casing- if it's ribbon, you're done. If it's elastic, sew the ends together, and hand-stitch the casing shut.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Getcher Hot Pasta Here!

Head over to The Chow Review for a brand-spankin' new recipe!

Can I get a nom nom?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Frugal 101: Making Stuff

I am SO sorry I left you all hanging- I know you just can't rest until you see the rest of my Frugal 101 series (right??)  I tried.  I really did.  I had part two- all about making stuff, and fun and easy gifts.  I had at least 15 hyper-links embedded, to show you tutorials and examples.  I was starting to put in pictures.  Then...I don't know, exactly.  My font went to about 36 pica, the lines were double-spaced, and it wouldn't auto-save.  I shut down and hoped for the best...and the post is still there, and all the links and pictures are GONE.  Sigh.  *whine moan complain*

OK, that's out of my system!

Seriously, I think this is a HUGE part of living an abundant and frugal life.  I love giving gifts and making people happy, and feeling like I don't have enough to spare to give a nice gift makes me feel so wretched.  I think that's why I started making as many gifts as I could.  But, make no mistake: it takes time, so plan ahead!

Homemade goodies are great, because they're inexpensive, appreciated, and you can make MULTIPLE gifts at the same time (a huge boon in the holiday season.)  Make jam in the summer, and package in small containers for easy holiday gifts.  Cookies and candies can be fairly easy to whip up- I think my favorite holiday treat so far to pass out was these pretzel bites.  They're so tasty, and my 2-year-old was able to help.

Check out my sidebar for tutorials- crayon rolls, purses, small home items, etc.  

Another favorite gift of mine is jewelry- with a few skills (how to open and close jump rings, how to use crimp beads, how to...string beads on wire, string, or pins) you can make an astonishing number of things, for sometimes pennies on the dollar of what you'd pay at the store.  

Honestly, the hardest part of jewelry-making so far has been figuring out what materials to use, but you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly after using a few tutorials online and seeing how different pieces behave.

Embroidery is another easy, inexpensive skill to learn, that makes ordinary gifts "special."

What about you?  What do you make for your family or friends?  Do you think it saves you money?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Frugal 101

Last Friday I taught a mini-class I called "Frugal 101" at our annual women's retreat.

Since it covered so much of what I try to practice in my own family, I thought it would be a good thing to post and see if anyone else found it useful!  It's kind of long, so I'll publish it in a series.   (The food section is the longest.) 

Enjoy!  (Oh, and you DO want to follow those links to The Chow Review.  Seriously good food over there!)


Frugal Food

The first thing that comes to mind to save money on food is coupons.  They can definitely save you money, but they can also ruin your budget.  Remember- manufacturers want you to buy their product, and they want you to buy a lot of it.  If you have a "great" coupon for something that wasn't on your list, the remaining price is money you didn't intend to spend and probably shouldn't have.

Good sources for coupons are newspapers, online, and community coupon books.

So, the first way to save money is coupons for things you already intended to buy.

The second way to save money on your grocery bill is to NOT spend money on overpriced processed foods.  Packaged and processed food is one of the most expensive methods of getting calories and nutrients, and the least healthy.  Focus on purchasing ingredients, in their most natural state.  The less packaging, marketing, product-placing, cooking, shipping, chopping...the better!  

The best to way to save money on food, that I've found, is to buy real food.  Most coupons are for boxed, packaged, processed food. 

So, the second way to save money is to not purchase processed foods.

The third way is to buy in bulk.  Our Relief Society has talked a lot this year about food storage, and how to rotate and use it.  We've talked about "pantry meals."  Make pantry meals your BASIC meals.  Things like wheat, white flour, canned tomato products, rice, noodles, and pinto beans.  

The cannery is open for bulk purchases without an appointment- call for hours.  Other bulk items can be purchased at local stores.

So, our third solution is to purchase basic ingredients in bulk and use them as the basis of your meals.
Fourth, eat less meat.  It's very expensive!

In the "Word of Wisdom" the Lord tell us:

12 Yea, aflesh also of bbeasts and of the fowls of the air, I, the Lord, have ordained for the use of man with thanksgiving; nevertheless they are to be used csparingly;
  13 And it is pleasing unto me that they should not be aused, only in times of winter, or of cold, or bfamine.
  14 All agrain is ordained for the use of man and of beasts, to be the staff of life, not only for man but for the beasts of the field, and the fowls of heaven, and all wild animals that run or creep on the earth;
  15 And athese hath God made for the use of man only in times of famine and excess of hunger.
  16 All grain is good for the afood of man; as also the bfruit of the vine; that which yieldeth fruit, whether in the ground or above the ground—
  17 Nevertheless, wheat for man, and corn for the ox, and oats for the horse, and rye for the fowls and for swine, and for all beasts of the field, and barley for all useful animals, and for mild drinks, as also other grain.

Eggs and fish are healthy alternatives to four-legged animals, and very budget-friendly.  In addition, beans and rice both contain partial proteins that, remarkably enough, complement each other perfectly to form a "complete" protein when eaten together.  

Here are some other complete protein combinations (source:

Sources of Complementary Proteins

BarleyBeansSesame seeds
BulgurLentilsSunflower seeds
CornmealDried peasWalnuts
BuckwheatChickpeasPumpkin seeds
RiceSoy productsOther nuts

Combinations to Create Complete Proteins

Combine Grains and LegumesCombine Grains and Nuts/SeedsCombine Legumes and Nuts/Seeds
Peanut butter on whole-wheat breadWhole-wheat bun with sesame seedsHumus (chickpeas and sesame paste)
Rice and beansBreadsticks rolled with sesame seedsTrail mix (peanuts and sunflower seeds)
Bean soup and a rollRice cakes with peanut butter
Salad with chickpeas and cornbread
Tofu-vegetable stir-fry over rice or pasta
Vegetarian chili with bread

   Also, by adding small amounts of animal protein (meat, eggs, milk, or cheese) to any of the groups, you create a complete protein. Here are some examples:

  • Casserole with a small amount of meat
  • Salad with beans and a hard cooked egg
  • Yogurt with granola
  • Bean and cheese burrito
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Oatmeal with milk

So, our fourth method for frugal eating is to "eat meat sparingly" and include varied plant proteins in our diet.

If our #3 way of saving money is to not buy processed foods, our fifth method is to build skills to feed your family.  Learn to make basic breads, goodies, soups, stews, stir-fries.

Learn to make some of your own dairy products.  Yogurt is expensive at the store, so take about 10 minutes of hands-on time to make some at home.  (Warm milk, stir in a little store-bought plain yogurt with active cultures, then set in a warm place over night or until thickened.)  You can sweeten and add fruit, or use this as a marinade for chicken, or add to baked goods.

Ricotta cheese is expensive, and also very easy to make- the basic process is to make a simple farmer cheese with milk, salt, and lemon juice.  After you've strained the curds out and set them aside to drain and press, you re-process the leftover whey.  You're "recovering" the remaining proteins, which is why it's called ricotta cheese.  

Basic white cheeses (paneer, mozzarella) are very easy to make at home.

Granola cereal is another very expensive grocery item, often "over packaged" in very small containers and over-priced too!  With some bulk oats, your favorite dried fruits, a little sugar, oil, and salt, and some spices like cinnamon you can make very good and inexpensive home made granola.  Make a large batch on a Saturday morning- it will need about an hour in the oven, so choose a time you'll be home for about an hour.  And remember, granola with yogurt is a complete protein!

Bread is another over-priced item at the grocery store, and often filled with unnecessary preservatives, sugar, and salt.  Bread is very easy to make- I make bread every other day for my family with an extremely simple recipe: flour, salt, sugar, yeast, oil, and water.  

Bread freezes well, either as dough or as a loaf.  There are almost countless ways to make bread, but once you get the hang of what a dough should look like, you'll be comfortable making almost any bread recipe.  Wish a basic bread recipe you can make plain loaves or fancy loaves with add-ins like seeds, nuts, cheese cubes, fruit, cinnamon and sugar, jalapenos, or anything you can think of.  You can shape it into rolls, twists, pizza crust, or filled braids.  With the bread, you can make sandwiches or eat it hot with butter.  Remember, wheat bread with peanut butter is a complete protein!  

Specialty breads are a great place to save money- english muffins, bagels, french bread, and crusty artisan loaves are all simple to make, and cost less than a quarter of the worst tasting factory-produced kinds!

Day-old bread is perfect for toast, french toast, and bread salads like panzanella.

If you have any left on the third day, you can make croutons or bread crumbs to thicken soups, sprinkle toasted on beans, make breading for meat, or add to meatballs or meat loaf.  To me, wheat truly is the staff of life!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Madwoman of Chaillot

My three youngest siblings attended a small private school- it's a wonderful school, with a very nurturing outlook and great arts program.  All three have participated in fencing, art, and especially drama.  It's a tradition that the seniors always get the leads in the school play- since Bert is THE ENTIRE graduating class, she was transformed into the Madwoman of Chaillot.  

The kids did a phenomenal job.  Bert, as the Madwoman, was phenomenal.  (But perhaps I'm biased?  Noooo.)

Since this IS a crafty blog (sometimes!), here are the earrings I made as a graduation present.  (Umm..yes, Nana.  They look very familiar- I had to shorten the beautiful necklace you made for me, and the beads and chain were just too fun to NOT make into wacky earrings!)

The graduating class!  The ceremony was held directly after the play, so her hair is still sprayed.

Closing bows.  You know, with that gorgeous salt-and-pepper hair...she looks like our mom!  

Everyone did a phenomenal job, but these girls really stood out.

Clapping during individual bows.

And because I was trying to be kind and not use my flash, those are all the pictures that turned out!  (Uncle R, I hope you put the big snazzy camera of yours to good use last night, because my little "mom camera" didn't quite cut the mustard :)  

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Day is Done

It's 11:30, and I'm home, typing on the computer instead of going to bed, BECAUSE I'm pretty sure if I don't go to bed, I will never have to wake up in the morning and teach nursery.  I'm that scared :0)  

It's been a busy week- my class went well last night, I'll post details when I get a chance.  Yesterday and today was our neighborhood garage sale- a MAD house!  We didn't sell much, but I made some great finds around the neighborhood (immersion blender for a dollar?  Abelskiver pan for TWENTY-FIVE CENTS?  Ummm...yes please!  I think that second item is my absolute best thrift item to date.  The woman who sold it was just pickled pink that I knew what it was.  Nana, I need your recipe!)

My little sister,  the one Aunt LoLo and I waited through TWO brothers for (I love you guys!)....well, she graduated high school tonight, and I couldn't be prouder.  This past year she has just blossomed- she's confident, beautiful, and so talented.  She acts, draws, paints, writes poetry, plays guitar, and is Personal Super Hero to countless kids at her school who otherwise go slightly un-noticed.  She's always there for the little guy, always there for the deep discussions, always there for us.  We love you, Bert :)  You did good.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My News

So perhaps this doesn't quite live up the HYPE I seem to have created among certain family members (who...already KNEW) but I have a new calling at church!  In our congregations, we're each assigned tasks by our Bishop and call these "callings."  

For a little over a year, I've been in charge of music in our congregation (ward.)  I pick the hymns for Sacrament Meeting, make sure there are special musical numbers each week we need them, and act as support to other musicians in the ward with training, music selection if they need it, and generally substituting as organist/pianist for whatever organization needs help that day.  It's been a fantastic calling- I'll really miss it.  I especially loved picking the hymns each week and sharing my testimony that way.  Music brings the Spirit to our meetings, and I was honored to be part of choosing that music.

But my NEW calling is going to be so much fun!  I'm the new music leader for our nursery classes- I'll teach three twenty-minute lessons to our little ones.  

I'm excited to sit with them, help them learn the gospel through music, help them develop their own musicality, and help them learn to LOVE music.  They're such wonderful little kids- I sat through the former teacher's last lesson today and observed.  Such sweethearts, and I'm going to need SO much energy!  I think that's what I'm most concerned about- running out of steam half-way through the second group.  

We have thirty-one kids in our nursery- they come in at 18 months and leave the January after they turn three.  We'll get more as the year goes on, before the three-year-olds leave in January, so I'll probably end up teaching four lessons every Sunday by the end of the year.  

So, here's where I need your help: what would you do with these children?  What kind of instruments would you bring in for them to play with in our music circle?  What songs would you teach them?  Any fun "movement" songs?  The youngest children don't sing along- I noticed the previous teacher had good luck handing out rattles and bells so they could shake in time to the music. I won't even mention what else they've done, so I don't cramp your style.  That way, you can tell me...

What would  YOU do?  I'm all ears!  

Friday, June 5, 2009

Garden Update

The storm passed, and my garden is still standing (well, except for one onion, but I think it wasn't long for this life, anyway.)

Come on a tour with me!

Here are my little basil plants- I've already pinched them back to four sets of leaves, and made a yummy pasta salad with the tops.  I'm amazed how fast these can grow- I pinched them off on Tuesday, and if you look carefully you'll see that they already have TWO sets of leaves on top. 

 (Quick pinching reminder: pinch plants back to just above a leaf set, to create a bushier specimen.  If you look carefully, you'll see two little dormant leaf buds above every leaf set.  Pinch back to that spot, and they'll grow!)

 Wow- look at the ground cherries!  I hope they're tasty, because I'm going to have a LOT of these!

 I love the flowers, and so do the bees.

 Anybody want some chinese green beans?  Ack!  I've planted ten, and I think I have more than twenty left- they're so matted, it's hard to count.  What am I going to do?!?

 My absolute easiest crop- the potatoes are going gang busters.  I've dumped more dirt in there, and will fill it to the top with straw in a day or two, then just wait.  When they flower, I can dig out new potatoes if I want, when they turn brown and die I'll dump the whole thing on a tarp and pull out all the spuds for storing.

 Sweet little swiss chard- I wish I'd thought to plant this earlier.  These are a cool season crop, I could have planted them MUCH earlier.  Live and learn!
 Oh help.  Really, what was I thinking?  These are turnips.  I use 2 or 3 every winter.  WHAT WAS I THINKING?

 Hello.  You're not squash, are you?  Sad, because you're the only thing growing where I planted all those seeds.

Raspberry canes from my mom's yard- they're already fruiting, I think they'll bear this year!  I love raspberries.

Hello sad little onions.  I bought you at the store, chopped off all your green goodness, and stuck you in a glass of water to see what would happen.  Then, poor things, you smelled so strong that I stuck you outside!  (Note: I planted lettuce seeds in here too.  Lettuce does not like onions, apparently, and NONE of it sprouted.  The neighboring pot of lettuce is doing nicely.)

 So there you go- a quick tour!  Here's hoping this is the year I don't kill everything in July!

The Cloth Revolution

OK, so it's not a revolution (because...there was no fighting) but it's a change for us.  I'd been thinking about cloth diapers for a while, and had some money in my PayPal account from an Etsy sale- seemed like a perfect time to order some diapers and see what it's all about!

I ended up ordering five "all-in-ones" from CrazyCloth.  She has a GREAT price for "AIO" diapers.  These are, as far as I can tell, the most "friendly" diaper- great for dads, grandparents, babysitters, etc.  They're just like disposable diapers, but you throw them in the wash bucket rather than the trash.  I'm still getting used to how often I need to change these-- every 2 or 3 hours, rather than 2 or 3 times a day-- but so far I really like them.

Funny thing, Tsh of Simple Mom, has having a diaper BONAZA this week!  Seriously, so much information- it's been great.   One thing I came away with was that prefold diapers (the ones we use as burp cloths) are a GREAT diaper option.  They're absorbant, cheap, and easy to clean.  I also realized I have a dozen of these on hand!  So, I'll be ordering some snappis and finding diaper covers and we'll be in business.  

Oh, and I'll be ordering some flushable liners from Imse Vimse- little strips of rice paper you stick in the diaper.  If it's wet, throw it in the wash (can go through a few washes).  If it's dirty...throw it in the toilet!  Catches a good portion of the yuck, and biodegradable, so definitely a good idea!

Being as this is Friday, she has a giveaway lined up- it's HUGE, lots of diaper-goodness up for grabs.  

So go over, check out the information!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Thursday Ramblings

(Isn't this pretty? Wonder Daddy took this shot during a bike ride near his parents' house.)

Can I just vent for a minute? Thanks! (I'll take your silence as...willing assent?)

1) I am IRKED at a certain etsy gal. She asked me for beaded pins, I MADE beaded pins...and then she disappeared. It's not that I'm out of a lot of money, because I'm not. It's not that it took a long time, because it didn't. It's just...well...she ASKED for them! A month ago! Where is she?

2) I am also irked at piano students who do not show up. And I'm irked at myself for never enforcing (or really mentioning, beyond the "hello, it's Fall and we're starting up again" letter) that I CHARGE FOR NO-SHOW LESSONS. Would they miss a baseball game or karate class? Not likely! *phbbbt*

Ok, that's it. Other than those two things life is ROSY! (I'll have some more good news next week...but until then it's a secret!*)

We have had some amazing weather this week- 80's to 90's, and my little patio garden is loving it. My raised bed...hasn't woken up enough to notice. Seriously, not even my radishes have done more than make weak 2-inch-tall seedlings. My zucchini failed entirely to sprout (or the birds ate ALL the seeds), and there are a few brave chard seedlings coming through. My turnips, however, were planted in three very dense rows and are having a hey-dey.

(As I write this, some wicked winds are blowing through- if there's anything left in the morning, I will take pictures and add them to a "Beautiful Life" post!)

On the plus side, I've been assigned a "garden mentor" from a great blog I follow, Down to Earth (Rhonda is a homesteader in Australia- chickens, organic garden, knitting, almost entirely off the grid...yeah, she's hard-core) so we've been e-mailing back and forth this week, chatting about what's growing and the crazy weather. I wonder, though: does it offend people when I won't give my name or location? "Hi- I'm Myrnie! I live in the Pacific Northwest!" I hope not. But then again, I think my family's anonymity is more important than alienating someone on a computer half-way across the country...or maybe that's just me?

So anyway, this is me checking in! Thanks for all your input on my upcoming class. I had to laugh today- I finally talked to the woman in charge, and I was completely wrong: she wants me to talk about cheap food. Stockpiling, cheap recipes, budgetting, couponing... totally not what I thought I was talking about! My dad teases me I could feed 100 people on $10. So I guess I can do a frugal cooking class!

I'll be posting later about a super-cute skirt for Ernie- seriously, the simplest thing you ever saw, you'll all want to run and make one right away, I'm sure!

Till then-


*No, Mom. I'm not pregnant.