Friday, December 30, 2011

Resolution Recap

Last January, I declared that my New Year's Resolution would be to USE IT UP.  To finally use the piles of laundry detergent, lotion, soap, and other consumables that I have been collecting over the years.  Looking back, I think I did pretty well.

I started out the year by cleaning out the bathroom closet, disposing of old medications and other things that were just past their "good use" days.  We also took boxes and boxes of miscellaneous things to Goodwill.  About a month into the year, I realized that I am just not a lotion person, so I kept the two bottles that I actually use and took the others (about 15 bottles or so, if I remember correctly), to work to be used by women living in a residential addiction program.  I started using up the fancy shower gels and such that I'd been saving.  I have no idea what I was saving them for - it's not like a shower is ever going to be a special occasion!  

Then, somewhere along the line, my resolution shifted.  My hubby has been waiting to be laid off for about three years, and sometime in late summer/early fall he got the word that he will definitely be out of a job by the end of June, 2012.  He's hoping that Unemployment will pay for school, so he's not looking for a job for the time being.  So, my priority has shifted from "use it up" to "stock up on stuff that keeps when you find it on an awesome sale".  Thanks to my Kindle with Special Offers, I got a great deal on shampoo and soap products from Amazon.  I also found a deal on my favorite laundry "soap", Econuts, so I have accumulated a three year supply of that.

So, essentially, I've eliminated a lot of excess things while building up a good supply of other things that I know we'll use over time.  I think, in the spirit of my resolution, it's all good. 

Handmade Holidays

We were craftier than normal this Christmas.  Most of it was done very last minute, but all of it turned out pretty well.  Here's some of what we did:

Sequined gift tags (except none of them were actually used as gift tags, because my three-year-old made four of them and declared that they were ALL HERS).

Felted soap

Salted Caramels

Preschooler art magnets

My daughter's garland (super simple, made from ribbon and aluminum foil)

My garland (got the idea here)

Felt Christmas tree ornaments

Thanks to the magic of Pinterest, I had about 103,000 ideas for this Christmas.  Most of which didn't pan out, but I can start early on next year!

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday season full of grace and love.  Thank you so much for reading my blog over the years.  Here's to a fabulous new year!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Garden Planning

My first garden catalog appeared in the mail this week.  I was a bit surprised I hadn't gotten any sooner, but this is the only one that matters to me - Territorial Seed. It's the only company I order seeds from (though I do usually end up picking up a packet or two of something at the grocery store or Home Depot every season).  I don't order their plants, though I am considering buying an olive tree this year, just because I have three empty half-barrels in my yard and I think it would be fun to play around with curing my own olives.

This is the time of year when I start feeling completely ambitious about the garden - you know, when it's pouring down rain for days on end and I don't actually have to go outside and do any of the work!  So here I sit, poring over the catalog, thinking about how much food we'll be able to harvest, how this will be the year I finally get into year-round gardening, and all that.  Usually, by July, all those plans have crumbled to dust, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming anew the following winter.

The other day, a link on Pinterest led me to these plans for building your own cold frame from a sheet of plywood, some plexiglass, and some hardware.  I'm seriously considering it this year.  We love salad and I think it would help get us a lot closer to growing our own lettuce year-round.  Of course, what I'd *really* like is a greenhouse, but since I can't get my hubby to lower his expectations on that little purchase, and I don't have $2,500 laying around, I'll improvise. I haven't used a power tool in a long time, but I did take shop class once upon a time.  I can always ask hubby if I need help with something, too.

So here I sit, dreaming.  In a couple of weeks, it'll be time to start the onions and leeks.  I have a perfect sunny window with a wide windowsill for this - the only plant-friendly space in my house.  Is it strange that I have no houseplants except for during seed-starting season???  Everything dies in here.  Even the cacti.  Maybe I'll start a little herb garden in that window this spring.  My daughter would love it.  Of course, she'd probably eat everything I plant, but really, that's ok.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas week to-do list

My brain is refusing to accept the fact that Christmas is now less than a week away.  There is so much still to do!  Thought I'd better get it all written down in one place, someplace that can't be recycled by my husband (as so many of my lists are) or erased by my daughter (who thinks the white boards are her personal art studios).  So here we go!

 - Bake cookies for the neighbors (we made the dough yesterday)
 - Decide on appetizers for Christmas Eve (I need to take two)
 - Grocery shop
 - Make meatballs
 - Make spaetzle
 - Make appetizers, whatever they are

 - Finish ornaments for all the kids (I'm making 10 of them for all the nieces and nephews and my daughter - fortunately they're all identical, and fairly easy. I'm about half done now)
 - Make the gifts for my work friends
 - Make the gifts for my parents and inlaws from my daughter (I'll blog about these later - I'm hoping they're going to be amazingly cute)
 - Inventory what's come in and what's still in transit (I ordered almost everything from Amazon)
  - Buy the last gift from my mom for my daughter
 - Wrap, wrap, wrap!
- If there's time, finish up a felt tic-tac-toe set for my daughter.  This is just a little extra I thought would be fun, but if I don't get it done, she can get it any time. 
- Have my daughter decorate gift tags for the gifts (I bought tree-print scrapbooking paper, and I'm going to cut it into tree shapes and let her glue on sequins.

 - Address and label Christmas cards

I think that's about it.  Just a couple of things, right?  My daughter just turned three, and I think this is going to be our most magical Christmas yet.  She's so excited about Santa Claus that she's been known to get up in the middle of the night and ask what time he's coming on Christmas Eve.  I can't wait to watch the magic unfold!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Menu Plan December 12 - 16

Life has gotten a little crazy lately, and we've gotten away from a menu for a week or two.  Every time I do that, we end up eating out a lot more, which proves to me the value of my menu planning efforts. 

Here's the plan for this week:

Today:  Hamburger casserole
Tomorrow:  Spanakopita pie (using up leftover spakakopita filling from my daughter's birthday party)
Wednesday:  "Little Smokie" chili (using up leftover Little Smokies from the party) and cornbread
Thursday:  Bulgogi and sesame rice
Friday:  chicken corn chowder

Have a great week, everyone!  And remember to visit for more great menu ideas!

Sunday, December 04, 2011

December Grocery Challenge

The other day I was putting away a pile of groceries that had been accumulating on my kitchen floor, when suddenly I realized WHY I hadn't been eager to put them away - my pantry is FULL!  I've been doing a lot of stockpiling lately, since the grocery store I frequent just finished a remodel and was having some fabulous "grand reopening" specials.  I took full advantage of them - let's just say I have enough Annie's mac and cheese to last my daughter about six months! 

Compounding that, my freezers are so packed that things fall out if I open the door.  Not only have I stocked up on some great meat bargains lately, but much of our garden harvest went straight into the freezer. 

December is an expensive month for us.  Not only do we have Christmas and New Year's Eve and all that they entail, but also my daughter's birthday is this week, and this year we provided food for a special birthday party for my dad. And so, with all this in mind, I decided to embark on a grocery challenge for the month. 

This month, I will limit my grocery shopping for family eating to just fresh food - produce, dairy, eggs, lunch meat.  No "dinner" meat, no frozen food, no pantry food.  We have four loaves of bread in the freezer, which should be enough for sandwiches for the month.  As I write this, I am realizing that my darling daughter may mutiny on me if she doesn't have chicken strips, so I may have to pick up a bag of those if I can find a good deal on them.  Otherwise, the only other food I will buy will be for gatherings and gifts.  Much of what we will need can come from the pantry, but I may need to do some restocking on specific staples if, say, the homemade hot buttered rum mix uses up all the brown sugar (which may, in fact, happen). 

And now, it's time to start thinking creatively about meals, and how best to use all this abundance!