Friday, December 28, 2012

DIY: Crochet Dish cloths

Now that Christmas is over with and you have extra yarn laying around, what are you going to do with it? Well I had several little balls of yarn and had no idea what to do with it. One day it dawned on me, why not make some simple wash cloths. I needed new dish cloths anyway so I why not make a few. I didn't need anything fancy since it is just for scrubbing dishes. 

I just took my left over yarn and started experimenting. I just made it the width to match the washcloths I already had. You can use whatever stitch you prefer. I prefer the single crochet because it makes a much tighter stitch. 

They work great and cost me nothing. I used every bit of extra yarn I had. I don't care if there is different colors of yarn. I like being able to use what I already have to make something that I need. Whenever I can save money, even a few dollars, I try. It does make a difference even if you don't see it.

For all you beginning to crochet here is a great pattern to practice on (great for young kids first learning to crochet):

Simple Crochet Washcloths

G size hook or (whatever you have close to that)
Leftover yarn  

I started by chaining 31, but if you want your washcloth bigger or smaller adjust to the size you want

I prefer to use a single crochet to make it tighter but you can use any stitch you like. 

Single crochet in each chain across (30), chain one, turn

Single crochet in each single crochet (30), chain one, turn

Continue until finished

(If you are looking to practice all your stitches or even more complicated ones, vary your rows by doing a different stitch on each row. You can practice and get something practical in the end.)


Here are more great patterns if you want something more complicated to try for yourself or as a gift:
Ball Hank n' Skein 
Creative Jewish Mom


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guest Blogger

I am looking for some guests bloggers. My plan is to feature one each month and as interest increases, I may add more.There are some specific things I am looking for but am very much open to more ideas. As a stay at home mom, I want to make my blog everything about being a mom (I'd love to feature a few dads too)

Your blog post must consist of at least two paragraphs describing your topic idea, any recipes, directions, or links to sites where you got information, two or three sentences describing yourself, a picture of yourself, and any pictures to enhance your post.

Topic Ideas 
  • Quick and easy meals that are family friendly
  • Crockpot meals that are family friendly
  • Crafts for preschoolers
  • DIY anything for the house
  • Money saving tips  

You don't need a blog, but if you do that's great. If you are interested email me your idea(s) at wilsonheather03@gmail.com and I will answer any questions you might have. I hope to hear from you soon.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

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I want to take a chance and wish you all a Merry Christmas. I pray that you all are having a blessed holiday with family and friends. 

Thank you to all our families who are missing someone because they are serving our country and protecting our freedom. Not only are they heroes but also the families who wait at home for their return. Your sacrifice means so much to me and my family THANK YOU! 

I pray for those missing someone this Holiday season. There are those who are hurting and morning the loss of someone they love. Let's be there for them and love them as this time is hard for them. 

Thank you for all of you for reading my blog. I love being a housewife and stay at home mom and sharing about my experiences with you. MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Friday, December 21, 2012

Organization: Bill Paying

If you are anything like I used to be when it came to bill paying, you need help organizing your bills. I didn't often mail things late but the bills would sometimes get lost. I would stack them on the counter and then my husband would look through them and they would never be put back the same way. The envelopes would be missing and I would have to sift through everything to find them again. 

We tried an organizer, which quickly got filled up with just about everything. Bills would be scattered from the organizer, the entry way table it sat on, to the kitchen counter. It was just never organized and it was costing us money for those times we were late becuase the bill was misplaced

Finally I found something that really helped me out. Echoes of Laughter gave a really easy way to organize and make sure all bills are paid. I took her idea and made it work for us.

I took an old binder left over from my college years and some left over page protectors. The front cover I put the check book, all unpaid bills, and Post It's in case I need to write down anything. 

I picked up a free calendar from our utilities office to write down when everything is due. Since I use the Gazelle budget from Dave Ramsey, I write down any bills that we have automatic bill pay in addition to those I have to write checks for and when I need to apply for my husbands unemployment (he is seasonal so it is only for a few months and I sometimes need that reminder). I sit down every Monday and pay all bills that are due the next week or two and fill in our Gazelle budget. Once they are paid I use my highlighters to cross it off, so I can just glance and know what needs to be paid.

The page protectors I use to orgainze our paid bills. Most bills only need to be kept for a month. I put last months bills in the burn box and it keeps my filing cabinet cleaned out. The back pocket has everything that does need to be kept and filed. You should keep pay stubs, receipts for taxes, charitable donations for taxes, and one to three months of bank statements.

This has been so great. I feel so organized and we have not misplaced any bill since starting this. It is so simple and takes a few minutes every week to pay bills.




Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Guilty Pleasures: Baked Rice Pudding

Everyone has a guilty pleasure. Mine tend to be desserts. One of my all time favorites is rice pudding. Not just any rice pudding but the old baked recipe found in my mom's old church cookbooks. Some of my favorite recipes come from those old church and community cookbooks. 

I have made this recipe a few times as a young adult, but when I got married and started collecting recipes I love, I tried to find this recipe again and failed. My mom and I both looked through all the old and worn blue cookbooks and came up empty handed. This sent me on a quest to find the recipe online. After serching everywhere, I finally came across the recipe from Paula Dean. Finally I light at the end of the tunnel!

I cannot tell you how excited I was to try it out and even more excited that it actually turned out! Nice warm bread pudding right out of the oven on a cold winter night is such a great joy.

Baked Rice Pudding from Paula Dean

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch glass baking dish.
In a large bowl, stir together first 7 ingredients. Spoon into prepared baking dish. Place baking dish in a large pan; pour water into the pan to a depth of 1-inch. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until lightly browned and set. Combine cinnamon and nutmeg; sift over top of pudding. Cool slightly and cut into squares to serve.

(I stir mine every 15 minutes or so as I remember the original recipe called for so I can't cut into squares but scoop it out.)


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cookie Cutter Christmas

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is cut out cookies. It is usually the one thing besides decorating the tree that we do together. It takes most of the day to mix, cut, bake, decorate, and clean up but the memory makes it worth it.
This year I tried a new recipe I found through Pintrest. My husband loved it. It uses cake mix and since I know he loves Funfetti cake and cookies, I chose that cake mix.
 I of course had to make the cookies I have made every year and my mom made every year since I can remember. It's an old family recipe from one of those old church cookbooks sitting in my mom's kitchen. These are my all time favorites.
 So grab your kids, make some cookies and while you are at it, make some memories.


Cake Mix Cut-Out Cookies from Goodnessgracious.com
  • 1 Box Cake Mix
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Stick Slightly Softened Butter (Not Margarine or Light Butter)
  • 1 t Vanilla
Instructions
  1. Mix ingredients well.
  2. Chill dough for 2 hours (Edited to add: Freeze for one of those hours for best results).
  3. Roll out on floured surface and cut with cookie cutters.
  4. Decorate as desired.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes on a greased/lined cookie sheet

Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup margarine
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
5 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp vanilla

Cream shortening and sugar. Add beaten eggs and vanilla to sour cream. Sift flour, baking powder, salt and soda; add alternately with liquid to creamed mixture. Chill thoroughly. Roll out and cut. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

(Any dough you are not using, put back in the refrigerator. Keep it chilled for best results.)


Frosting from Allrecipes.com

  • In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, confectioners' sugar, and milk until light and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and food coloring. Spread on or between cookies.









Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rice Crispy Houses

Gingerbread houses can be a lot of fun but not an easy activity for preschoolers. I saw pictures all over Pintrest of making rice crispy treats into houses instead. What a fun activity for little ones. I decided to try it with my girls. I thought it would be a fun daddy/daughter activity. It was of course a hit with the girls and also the daddy. 

 This was so super easy to prep and do.
  1. Make rice crispy treats. 
  2.  Gather candy and other goodies as you would to decorate a gingerbread house.
  3. To make it easier for my 2 and 3 year old, we frosted the entire house
  4. Decorate!
  5. Take pictures of your moments
  6. Eat it up!!!!    
Rice Crispy Treats 
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 package (10 oz., about 40) regular marshmallows
  • - OR -
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 6 cups Kellogg's® Rice Krispies® cereal 
1. In large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.
2. Add KELLOGG'S RICE KRISPIES cereal. Stir until well coated.
3. Form into little houses.

Frosting from Allrecipes.com







Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Crafts for Preschoolers: Mooseltoe



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 One of my favorite Christmas books is Mooseltoe by Margie Palatini. It's about a Moose that in the hustle and bustle of Christmas makes the mistake of forgetting to get a Christmas Tree. The idea of the perfect Christmas is sadly disappointing until he realizes that he can be the Christmas Tree for his children.

There are a few lessons that you can teach your kids (and remind yourself) from this book. The first is that a perfect Christmas is one you spend with your family. The memories you make are so much more important. The second lesson is that we need to slow down and enjoy Christmas instead of trying to do so much. Family and memories are again more important. 

After reading Mooseltoe, we decorated our own moose. I strung popcorn. Used some leftover beads as Christmas lights. Took apart some tree decorations Grandma gave the girls (they had already pulled most of it apart). I just looked for things I already had. My three and two year old had so much fun. It took some prep for me to get this activity ready, but it was so worth it to spend some time having fun with my girls.

What you need:
  •  Scissors
  • glue
  • odds and ends decorations for your moose (anything you can find just laying around the house)
  • popcorn
  • 6 pieces of brown construction paper
  • A moose 
    • I used 6 pieces of brown contruction paper and free handed my moose. 
      • 2 pieces for the head
      • 2 pieces for the moosetache
      • 2 pieces for the antlers





Friday, December 7, 2012

Adventures in Budgeting: Month one



 Unfortunately, the word budget has gotten a bum rap – it is basically just a PLAN. When you budget, you're spending on paper, on purpose, before the month begins. But many people view a budget as a straight jacket that keeps them constrained. Freedom and budget just don't seem to go together. --Dave Ramsey



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December starts the first month of our family budget. I've wanted to do this for awhile and finally got motivated to jump in and get it started. We have debt but thankfully we've been pretty good and only have medical bills and student loans to pay off. If we stay on track we will be able to be debt free in a few years.

Getting started wasn't the hard part, Dave Ramsey has great tools that make it easy to set a budget and keep to it. I love the Gazelle budget. Everything is online and I can just roll over and make minor changes month to month. It lets you know what you've spent and what is left in your budget. There are also guides for how much should be spent on each catagory. 

The next awesome tool is the debt snowball. All debts except your house is added to the program. For each debt you input the total debt, minium payment, and interest rate, then by using their system it will have you debt free in months or a few years depending on the amount of debt

Talking about a budget with your spouse is probably the hardest part. My husband didn't see the need because we've always done fine. I asked him to give me three months to see how it's working. The whole point is to know where our money is going and what we might be wasting money on. The combination of the Gazelle Budget and Snowball program lets us have a real plan. The debt snowball gives us motivation to keep paying down our debt and get on the track of investing money in our future and the future of our kids. 

In the coming months I will share with you the ups and downs of our family budget and I hope you will be encouraged to take the journey with me. I'd love you hear from you. Let me know how your journey is going and we can be an encouragement to each other. 

Dave Ramsey's Total Money Maker Over

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Decorating on a budget

Decorating has always been hard for me. I love a decorated house, don't get me wrong. I just hate walking out of a store paying way more than I wanted to. 
My mom has always been a big decorator and I my house is boring compared to hers. My mom has several tubs full of decorations and I have one. Half of it is hand me down Christmas odds and ends from my mom. After realizing that, this year I have decided that I need to decorate just a little more. I don't need 4 or more tubs full, but pieces I actually like and use.  
I started by pulling out things I had and reusing them in different ways. I can't spend much this year so I will use what I have first and see if I can get by spending a few dollars here and there to get my house festive.

Here are my tips on decorating for Christmas on a budget.

1. Don't over do it. Sometimes a few simple things is all you need. The houses in magazines may look nice but the cost to decorate for that photo is enough to purchase a new car. 

2. Your tree is your main decoration, make that the focus. It will be what your guests notice most. I picked blue and silver for my tree colors 7 years ago and have added to it since. We have an open floor plan so I try to stay with blue and silver with anything in that space.



3A little touch here and there is all you need. A scented candle in the bathroom will remind visitors of Christmas (sight isn't the only sense we have). Get seasonal dollar store towels for your kitchen. They may be cheap but they don't look too bad.




 4. Think small, not big. Add one thing every year or change something you already have. If your tired of that old wreath, take it apart and redo it. A trip to a craft store and a few dollars will make something look new again. 

5. Everyone loves holiday dishes. Instead of buying a whole set, (which you probably don't have space for anyway) get a few dishes for entertaining. A couple cookie plates or bowls are more than enough. They can also be used as decoration by hanging them on a wall or putting them on a shelf.

5. Craft stores like Hobby Lobby have all Christmas craft items on super clearance, often 70%, just before and right after Christmas. (I got Christmas balls for my tree one year for less than $1.00 for a pack of fourGet pieces that can be used in anything. The picture below is an example. It can be used in just about any craft project and will stand the test of time.  
Invest in a quality wreath. Hobby Lobby, JoAnne's, and Michaels are great places to get your wreaths or swags. They are much better quality than you can find anywhere else. They are also at least 50% off before and after Christmas. These will stand the test of time when you are continually pulling them apart and redoing them.



The most important thing to remember when you are decorating is to keep things simple for you. The more you have in decorations, the longer it will take every year to put up and take down. As a mom of three little ones, I don't have time to spend hours decorating my house. My goal is to just make my house inviting not overwhelming and not go in debt over it. Sometimes less is more.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Christmas Crafts for Preschoolers: Nativity

Idea found on ScrapWarrior.com


The nativity is always a great teaching tool for kids when it comes to explaining the birth of Jesus. I love setting mine up every year and love that my oldest likes to ask questions about it. I came across this wonderful nativity set craft and knew it was a wonderful opportunity for my children. 

What you need 

This does take a while to finish since there are many pieces to color and cut out. Next year I plan on breaking it up and doing it several days. This will give up a better opportunity to talk about how God used many different people to welcome Jesus into the world. 

To break it up here are a few ideas: 

Day 1: Stable, palm tree, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus
Day 2:  Angel, Shepards, sheep, and donkey
Day 3: Wise men and camels 




Books to read with the nativity:

    The Christmas Donkey by T. William Taylor (a childhood favorite of mine)

         The Cripled Lamb by Max Lucado

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Let us know what your favorite Nativity Books are. I love adding to my book list.