Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Year of Living Frugally--Introduction

So I've been dabbling in this world of saving money..(what? People DO that?) and I'm rather enjoying it. November 1st starts my true Year of Living Frugally. I hope to chronicle how it goes, share the tips and tricks, and STICK WITH IT! A little backstory:

We are a one income family and have been for nearly 4 years. We could absolutely benefit from me working full time, but at this point it's not a viable option. After I paid for daycare and other work costs, the profit would not be much and having a child with Autism at home, it's an even less a viable option. You don't just put your child with special needs in just any daycare. Both boys will be in full time school within 2-3 years so we can certainly reexamine the situation then (or if a sudden opportunity comes up before then).

Right now we are blessed with me being able to stay home with Eli. However that doesn't mean we don't need to pinch pennies! It seems everywhere I turn in my life, friends are suffering from illness, job loss, and needing to save money or just weather the storm. (I'll refrain from discussing the political angle of this for now) I can't help but wonder, how long before I'm next?

So I've been experimenting for some time now with saving money. Thus far, here are some things that have worked for me in the area of running your day to day household chores.

*Making my own laundry soap. The materials are fairly inexpensive, and the costs vary. I purchase cold process soap from CosmicCleanBody and the rest of the materials from local stores. Just google "How to make laundry detergent" and you'll find a ton of resources!

*Line Drying Clothes: This is a less oft used solution for me because living in the deep south leads to great humidity which apparently does not do great for line dried clothes. But as we are FINALLY getting cooler I plan to start drying on the line again .When I do tumble dry clothes, I do several loads at once so once the dryer has heated up once, it doesn't have to work so hard at drying the next few loads.

*CrockPot Cooking: I have no data to back this up, but I highly suspect that crock pot cooking saves money. Not only do you generally make a meal that lasts for days, and gives you leftovers to freeze, you aren't running your stove/oven for hours. So I've got no actual cents on this one, but I think it saves money. It definitely saves time!!

*Planning your Menu  This seems like a no brainer to me but I am shocked to hear how many people do not plan their menu. Now this is not to say I stick to it religiously. There are plenty of days where I forget to thaw meat or something, so I shift to another days schedule..but because I have a menu and I purchased my groceries based on that, I have the items there to make the planned meals. I combine this with coupon clipping, looking at the grocery ads (that they throw in the free sample paper 1-2x a week), and basing the menu off whats already in the freezer/pantry. And while we're at it: Keep your freezer/fridge Full: This keeps the air circulating just so and your appliance doesn't have to work so hard to pump out cold air. Just don't pack it TOO full or it'll not be able to move the air freely.

*Cleaning: This is an area of our lives that people probably waste a lot of money in. Quite honestly there isn't much in this world that can't be cleaned with vinegar, baking soda and a lemon. But just assuming that's not your thing, here are some ways we save money cleaning. 
  • Reusable Cloths: I do buy paper towels for some things but for cleaning, I try to keep with reusable cloths. Now, I sew, so I have in my possession, a wide variety of fabrics. I make my own cloth flannel wipes, reusable Swiffer Wet Jet Pads, grocery bag holders, laundry bags, etc. I so firmly believe in this lifestyle change that I run Micro Mops with my fellow penny pincher, Dee :) You can keep a stack of cloths in your drawer and just throw them in with your regular laundry. Don't sew? Check out my shop or head to Sam's or another big box store and buy a giant pack of terry cloth el-cheapo towels.
  • Refilling Cleaning Solutions: Chances are you can use far less of the amount listed on cleaning solutions. Or you can refill them when you think you can't. Use a Swiffer WetJet? Well when the solution runs out, simply hold the bottle upside down so the top is submerged in very hot-boiling water for just a minute. This loosens the glue so you can remove the cap and refill with your fave cleaning solution. Continue this until the bottle is too grimy to use anymore! If you use liquid hand soap, look into buying in bulk, or the larger refill bags, you can reuse the same container and just refill with the liquid when it runs out. 
  • Washing Items in Cold Water: You REALLY don't need to wash much in Hot water unless its really dirty (like soiled towels/sheets) or the care label specifically says to wash in hot. Save your money and energy and wash in cold, with homemade laundry soap and then line dry! Laundry on the cheap! 
  •  Clean from the Top Down: Dust from the top down...wipe from the top down...pick up from the top get the idea. It's just silly to clean something you already cleaned. Let your solutions do their work by spraying and letting them drip down mirrors, tubs, etc.
  •  Stick to Cleaning Solutions You Trust: I do spend the extra bucks for some items. I personally love Mr Bubbles bathroom scrubbing bubbles cleaning sprays/solutions. I find they work extremely well, I spray, let sit for a few minutes and let it do it's magic...and viola, I can WIPE the tub/sinks/toilets/etc out without killing my back. It's beautiful.

Routines are my friend. I try to stick to routines and when I get off base from them I find myself easily distracted and things don't get done. Of course I am an easily distractable person, so routines are against my better nature, but if I don't force myself to stick to lists and routines, I'll put off EVERYTHING and then get stressed trying to do it all at once.

Of course I'm blessed that both my husband and I are realistic that we don't want or need to live in a Martha Stewart house. Children do not remember how clean the house was, how fine their things were, but they remember the time spent with them. So that is what I aim for every day, a healthy balance of kids, house, spouse, fun and time for me.

I'll be back soon to share more of my tips and tricks and some experiments. I'll conclude with an ongoing list of what I want to accomplish to save money/time.

*Cut down on paper usage: towels/napkins/paper plates
*Line dry 3-4x per week
*Cut more Coupons--while analyzing if they're really worthwhile!
*Plan menu based on the sale papers, not on what we want...perfect this plan
*Utilize the things we have memberships to: Audubon Zoo, Children's Museum, etc.
*Keep track of daily money going out that I alone spend. Strictly limit that
*NO fabric/supply purchases unless necessary for a pending order!

Do you have frugal tips? Feel free to share them!!

~~Mama Amy

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Semi Wordless Wednesday--Support Fleurty Girl!

In honor of the fact that a bully is trying to shut down local businesses over use of the words "WHO DAT" when those word clearly belong to the fans of the New Orleans Saints...I have one thing to say to Mr. Steve Monistere

I bought my little piece of WHO DAT from FLEURTY GIRL not you Steve!

Go to to get yours!!

(Northerners and those not familiar with the Who Dat controversy, it's okay, I still love you.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Plurkies Unite! Where to find lovely items from lovely people...

On a little social networking site called Plurk. It's like Twitter's really cool cousin from college.

If you are a plurkie, feel free to leave your URL in the comments section of this blog! I'll be adding a widget you can steal to share this great list, but in the mean time, just link back to this blog post, or copy it and keep your own list up for all the world to see! 

In No Particular Order:

Mama's Little Monkeys and Other Personalities

Sunny Days Embroidery/Aunti Franni:

28Sides Designs

Designs of Avalon:


Butterfly Crafts:
Simply Smiss

C Turtlez Oddz n Endz


Stitches in Cotton

SewHappy Designs

Positively Charming Things


The Beaded Branch


Pegasus Soaps

Rose Garden Fibers


Elfling Creations


Social Networking Break Review

Day One:
So, when you read this I'll have completed my social networking break.

I'm already somewhat failing! Due to checking my email once a day (I do have businesses to run here!) I see Facebook I HAD to reply to one on my page about Amos Lee's new album coming out Jan. 25th..I mean come on...AMOS! I'd have that man's babies for crying out loud.

But I digress....I have mostly avoided social networking today....just that quick facebook check, one quick plurk and done. It was easy this morning....I was running errands with my father! It's not so easy now with the computer RIGHT THERE and kid asleep. BUT I am on a mission. I must reconnect with myself, my disorganized house, my pile of fabric and naturally my children.

Etsy team chat tonite for my Handmade Louisiana team so I shall pop in there for a bit (I am the boss after all..) I have to admit...this is harder than you realize. You don't realize how much you depend on the internet and social networking until you don't have it. As a stay at home mother many of my friends are far away and the net is the only way for us to communicate. But, I grew up without social networking, I can do it again!!!

Cheerio my friends, thanks to my SN boycott I will hopefully get the following things accomplished this week:
* Girls night in with a friend
* Trip to children's museum with Eli
* Sewing and craft show prep done
* Purging the children's ever multiplying toys
* Visiting local antique/craft show this weekend

So I'm off to listen to Pandora (Lionel Richie/Neil Diamond station...I AM that awesome...) and get some cleaning done!!!

Day Two:
I had to substitute so I didn't really have time to worry about the net...although I did cheat and check facebook while the kids were sleeping.... But I kept busy that afternoon and night cleaning, creating, etc! Success!

Day Three:
Ran errands with my dad....cheated and checked plurk daily (had to to keep my karma up right!??) Only checked Facebook when I got an email from them...darn emails. Kept up with the shops...started to feel the distance.

It's weird but social networking really does help you feel connected....I really don't think I could stay home all day with out. I mean, I'm no party animal, and I do like my hermit times, but I am generally a people person and like to run my mouth...a facebook, plurk, twitter, etc helps me do that and not feel alone while at home with a 2 yr old!

Day Four:
Caved....couldn't take it anymore....Had cool stuff to show my friends and gave in...but I made it 4 days on a semi break and I could do it again. I did learn that what you need is not allow online time to overshadow human time....never push people away because you want to check facebook just ONE MORE TIME....

Read a book while you wait in your kid's car line, chit chat with a stranger at the store instead of talking on the phone. Social networking and technology has it's uses and we enjoy it, but don't forget the real good stuff in life too!
~~Mama Amy

Saturday, October 16, 2010

(Mostly) Internet Free's break time again!

Wow, over 300 posts on this blog! I'm impressed with myself!

It is that time where I take a social networking break. It won't be a total internet break because I do have to tend to my shops and business doo dads...but I will not be on plurk, facebook, twitter, etc for a bit. Hopefully I can make a week...not sure if my perserverance is that strong! I like to step away, refocus on thoughts, create, read, etc and take a break from the little addiction known as the internet...

Soooooo, I hope you all have a lovely few days...I shall hopefully be spending time, reading, creating, rearranging shops and focusing on the upcoming craft fair. I also have to do some much needed cleaning, purging, and things to do for the children!
I will still check email once a day so you can catch me there! :)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Impatient Craftaholic Series---Upcycle Baby Shirt Pillows

Helloooooooooo I'm back! It's time for another Impatient Craftaholic tutorial! This is a super fast craft for anyone with even simple sewing skills!

Let's make this little fella!

Old baby/kids shirt or onesie.
Sewing Machine (not required)
Thread (coordinating or contrasting the neck hem color)
Hand Sewing Needle

(Helpful links are found within the steps.)

Step One:
Lay out your shirt on your cutting mat. If it's a onesie, you can cut a straight cut at the bottom of the shirt to open the onesie snap seam. Smooth and flatten the shirt so you can line it up as you wish.

Step Two:
Turn the shirt inside out and again smooth it so the design is centered (if you'd like).  Pin along the bottom seam so you can keep things even. Don't be frightened if the fabric is a stretchy knit. Tips for sewing knits at the bottom.

Step Three:
Straight stitch (or serge if you have a serger) along the bottom seam. Since this is a finished piece of clothing, you can use the hem stitches already there as a guide if you'd like!

Step Four:
Sew a straight stitch (or serge) along the open ends of the sleeves. You are sewing up all openings EXCEPT the neck. So now you have an inside out, nearly sewn up pillow!

Step Five:
Flip your shirt right side out and push out your corners and seams.

Step Six:
Head for the stuffing!! I love Morning Glory Polyester Fiberfill, but you can use whichever you like.

Begin stuffing the shirt through the open neckhole.

Step Seven:
Continue stuffing the "body" of the shirt with fiberfill, filling to the size you want...whether you want a thin vs. thick pillow. Be sure to sort of fluff the fiberfill before you shove it in the shirt or it will bind up and make little balls. Stuff and fluff to the desired size of your pillow. Be sure to stuff the little arms too!

Step Eight:
So now you have a stuffed pillow with an open neckhole. Here is where you need to hand sew the opening closed. Thread your needle. Hand sew your neckhole, shoving the fiberfill in so it doesn't catch in the needle and thread as you sew. You can grasp the neckhole closed with your hand, or by pinning it. The type of stitch you use is up to you. I used a blanket stitch. You can find more stitches here.

I used a contrasting thread that matched the body of the shirt but added some color to the neckhole. You choose your thread!

That's it, you're done!! You've just sewn a baby shirt pillow in no time flat! Even with hand sewing and stuffing I made this pillow in less than 30 minutes!

This pillow was a onesie with long sleeves! I cut off the longer sleeves and cut a straight line at the bottom for my hem!

The good thing about this pillow is it doesn't need to be perfect! When sewing with knits here are some tips:
*Pin or clip frequently.
*Use a microtex or ball point needle
*Use a walking foot if the fabric is really thick.

Enjoy!! Feel free to share this tutorial!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Home Again....New Directions, Cleaning and another Addiction...

Hello friends! I am home again after a recent trip to Gulf Shores, AL. It was beautiful, and a great trip for spiritual and family renewal and I am grateful we take such a trip every year!

I shall reopen my shops hopefully on the 10th. I'll be evaluating where I want certain items to go. I took advantage of the Artfire 5.95 a month deal and would like to refocus my energies on selling on Artfire for 2011. So we shall see how that goes as I reopen, move things around and put certain items on SALE :)

I'm still blogging also at Daily Handmade Picks if you've not taken a gander over there. I'm enjoying it, simple, short and to the point!

Our trip also brought me home with a new computer since our old one was slow as molasses, and that also brought me back to memory lane---I got Sims 3. I forgot how addicting that game is. So if ya'll don't see me make new stuff for awhile, you know why, I'm spending all of Eli's naps in Sims land! Nahh I don't have an addictive personality!

I also tried a nifty technique today. See, I am determined to get my household ORGANIZED so I can better focus my time on kids, house, work, creating, bible study, and fun. So today I tried my friend Dee's tip of cleaning for 10 minutes at a time. I decided to do 15 minutes every hour. So on the 45 of every hour I will clean, tidy, put away!

It is amazing how much you get done in that uninterrupted time! In 15 minutes I was able to load dishes, wipe down counter, make bed, pick up toys and clothes, sweep and still had minutes to spare to change a diaper!! :) I will not do the plan during Eli's nap which is my "work" time...sewing, creating, photographing, listing, etc. But I'm hopefully that I can keep it up. I'm guessing if you need a major DEEP clean you should do that first, then this is a great method at KEEPING things clean!

So what's new with you guys? How is your fall going? Fall is my favorite time of year! Cooler weather, football, hurricane season ends! Its also a time to clean out, decorate for harvest time (we don't do Halloween or Christmas but I love to prepare for Thanksgiving and fall season!) and just enjoy the beautiful weather!

And on that note guys, hot chocolate calls me!!


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