I think Pinterest was created for two groups of people: people who love to decorate and people who would love to figure out how to decorate. I have never had the decorating knack. I was not naturally inclined and never really saw someone who was passionate about decorating. Disclaimer: That doesn’t necessarily mean there were no decorators around; it just means, if they were, I never really noticed.
I say all that to say that since getting married, I’ve had more of a desire to figure it out. So, in the last couple of years I’ve begun taking baby steps. Baby steps for me and for our home.
I’ve been taking baby steps in the living room. And, my latest attempt to liven up our space is by adding some color to our couches.
BEFORE: Here’s what they have looked like for a few years.
I first experimented with pillow covers made by using hem tape. And, when I did, I realized I had just tapped into a whole world of potential. I got so excited that I shopped around and bought a sewing machine. These pillow covers can be made either way. Here’s what I did.
Measure The Pillow
Mine are 19″. In order to account for a 1/2″ hem all the way around, I added an inch to that number when cutting the fabric.
Cut the Fabric
I cut three pieces of fabric. The first was 20″ by 20.” Then, I cut two smaller panels for the back of the pillow (the goal is that they would over lap in the back. So, the directions I found said that I should cut two pieces 4″ inches shorter. However, since my pillows are fairly flat, I adjusted the numbers so that I could get the most use out of my fabric. I cut one that was 20″ by 14″ and another at 20″ by 12″.
Here’s what that looked like.
Then, I lay the two smaller ones face down on the big piece, just like a pillow cover turned inside out.
Then, I pinned it all up…and got so excited that I was so close to the finished product
Then, I sewed a seam about half an inch around! Then, I just turned the whole thing inside out and stuffed my pillows in!
The goal was to turn them around and sew a half inch seam in the front for a little character. However, I didn’t get very far, as I realized that I’ll need a different needle for my sewing machine. Yes, I’m a total newbie at this!
I’m now on a mission to find a print fabric to accent these. There are a couple I love. However, they cost approximately an arm and a leg to purchase. So, I’m waiting for the right fabric at the right price. Meanwhile, we are taking baby steps in the right direction around here
What DIY home decorating project have you done lately?
My baby girl turned 4 years old last week! Four! Boy, time really does fly. If you have a child at about the same age (or remember what your children were like at that age), then you know that their imaginations are blossoming at this time. So, every couple of weeks, my daughter would choose a character (based on a book we’ve read or a show or movie we’ve seen) and declare that she IS that character. The list is extensive: Angelina Ballerina, Lightning McQueen, Rory the Racing Car, Cinderella, Snow White…you get the picture. I say that to say that I thought we had already decided months ago that I would make her an Angelina Ballerina birthday cake. I was wrong.
When the time came to actually make her cake, she was no longer in her Angelina phase. She was now Cinderella. I got a little nervous about that because it seemed much more complicated to make a princess cake than it did to make an Angelina cake. On top of that, when we looked at examples online, she like the doll cakes, and not any of the flat cakes. The best compromise I could get was that our princess cake could be pink, rather than Cinderella blue.
The reason I needed it to be pink and not blue is because I don’t use artificial food coloring. And, I couldn’t think of the right food or combinations to make blue. But, I knew we had strawberries and they would easily make pink frosting.
So, I did it.
First I bought a Wilton cake pan to make the dress/skirt part of the cake. I had a Hobby Lobby coupon. So, I paid about $13 for it.
Then, I baked the cake. I actually didn’t fill the cake pan all the way because I wanted to layer it. So, I baked some of the cake in the Wilton bowl/pan and then two other small layers. Incidentally, I made a chocolate paleo cake, made with coconut flour, cocoa, coconut oil, eggs (lots) and honey. Delicious and healthy!
Next, I made the pink frosting. I cooked a few frozen strawberries in a little bit of water and thought that using the liquid could be enough. Instead I ended up pureeing the strawberries and mixing them into the butter and powdered sugar mix I had prepared as frosting.
Putting it all together was the most fun. It may not look as fancy as the one on the box. But, everybody thought it was beautiful and yummy!
What kind of cakes have you made for your children’s birthdays?
I realize that the title of this post could trigger whatever the modern-day version of “duh” (I realize that dates me). However, I’m not sure if it’s merely the discovery aspect of an unadvertised deal or if unadvertised deals are somehow inherently better deals. Whichever they may be, they are of my favorite kinds of deals to score. And, there’s a corollary to this principle. This applies to all stores, even the ones you may consider “pricey!”
Stores like Walgreens and Target usually have clearance items marked with red tags and placed at the ends of the aisles. However, once in a while, clearance items are left on the shelves. At my local grocery store recently, I found some organic whole bean coffee, which normally sells for $12, marked as clearance for $4. At first I thought that maybe it was old and something was wrong with it. So, I only bought one as a test. It was just fine. So, I went back and stocked up. The price is back up again. I’m sure they were just clearing out stock. It was good timing for us, good pricing for us…and delicious!
I’ve heard some people say that they won’t shop at Whole Foods because it’s just too expensive. I wouldn’t tell anyone to go to any store that’s out of their way to browse aisles and shelves for deals. However, if it is a relatively easy stop for you, it would be worth it. I happened to be browsing the aisles at Whole Foods last week and found the Garden of Life probiotic that we give our children that I normally order online for about $18 (the best price I’ve found anywhere) for $16.99. So, saving a dollar is nice but nothing to write home about. It just so happens that the Whole Foods website has a $5 off coupon for any Garden of Life probiotic. Yep! What they normally sell for$24.99 and what I normally buy for $18, I bought for $11.99 last night. Now, that’s a deal!
What’s the best unadvertised deal you discovered recently?
For most of my adult life, I only utilized libraries around tax season when I needed tax documents or information. However, I rediscovered the public library as a mom. I became very familiar with the children’s board books and took my daughter to “Toddler Time” every week. Over time, I got to know the librarians and was requesting books online to pick up at my local branch every week.
The joy, adventure and discovery of reading remains the biggest thrill of visiting the library. However, over time I branched out (yes, pun intended!) when I visited the library.
First, one of the librarians told me that all of the libraries have a “friends of the library” section where they sell–uh, practically give away!–books. It’s like a mini-library. They always have children’s books (which sell for $0.25 at my branch) and they have adult classics, cookbooks, reference books, fiction, new york times best sellers. I could go on. Suffice it to say, I’m sold…I cannot go to the library without visiting that section. I’ve already bought part of my son’s birthday present from there. I got it early; I have about a month before I’ll need to have it wrapped
We have also started borrowing movies from the library too. I take my kids to go pick out a movie most weeks. Sometimes, we’ve ended up with a video with a bunch of Clifford or Angelina Ballerina episodes. They are great entertainment. But, sometimes, we pop a big bowl of popcorn and we get a movie like Cars. Even Mommy and Daddy are thrilled with the “movie night” movie! As a matter of fact, Mommy and Daddy were both holding back tears as Lightning backed up and pushed the King across the finish line! Ok, that’s a tangent. But, a good one. You can have a legitimate family movie night that is fun for all for free!
The library is not just about borrowing books anymore!
How do you utilize your local library?
“Mommy, do you want some coffee?” (My 4-year old daughter, holding her toy tea cup)
Me: “Sure! What did you put in it?” (because she knows I don’t drink my coffee black)
My daughter (smiling): “Coconut oil!”
That’s a true story. And, that conversation has taken place (just as stated above) on multiple occasions. But, don’t blame my daughter… I started adding about a tablespoon of coconut oil to my coffee when I was working on losing the last few lingering pregnancy pounds a few months ago. Apparently, taking 3-4 tablespoons of coconut oil per day (one tablespoon before each meal) helps boost metabolism to burn more calories throughout the day. It also fills you up so that you end up not eating as much. While I am still looking to drop a few more pounds, I put the coconut oil in my coffee more because I really do enjoy the flavor and because of the other health benefits it offers.
Benefits Of Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is naturally antibacterial and microbial, which essentially means it is a natural antibiotic. It’s also full of disease-fighting antioxidants. As I mentioned above, it helps boost metabolism for weight loss. It lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease and improves cholesterol levels. There is SO MUCH more. But, that gives you the tip of the iceberg on this amazing and delicious superfood.
Other Uses for Coconut Oil
Cooking: I cook with coconut oil just about every day. I use it in place of butter (sometimes along with butter) and in place of any other oil or fat. I use it to saute veggies and to sear beef or chicken; and, of course, I bake with it!
Hair Conditioner: Coconut oil is great for deep conditioning. The fatty acids in the oil penetrate easily into the hair and make for better conditioning than you can get from most store-bought hair conditioners. Coconut oil has become my hair conditioner
Skin Care: The other thing my daughter may think everyone else does is put coconut oil on boo boos and bites. Its healing and anti-inflammatory properties help skin to be replenished and restored. I also just use it as lotion when my skin is dry.
There are so many more uses. But, we can always talk more about those later over some coffee!
What do you do with your coconut oil?
It is one of the mottoes in our home. We want to eat as healthy as we can afford to eat. And, by healthy, we mean whole, fresh, unprocessed foods produced organically (and, ideally, locally). That goal pushes us financially. But, it’s worth it. You’ve heard the cliche about food being a decision to either pay the farmer now or pay the doctor later. We really do believe that. So, we don’t do it perfectly, but we make it our goal.
Here are just a few things we do to help us practically reach that goal.
1. Shop Seasonally. It’s fresh foods that are the most costly. You don’t see a lot of meat or produce in the carts of those “extreme couponers” do you? So, when I make my shopping list for produce, sometimes I actually write out “bananas” and “apples.” But, I usually just write “fruit” and “vegetables” and buy what is on sale or least expensive in the organic section.
2. Grow A Garden. Every year we have expanded our garden. A few years ago, we essentially had just tomatoes and cucumbers (which was wonderful)! This year, however, we had green beans all summer and into the fall. Same with our sweet potatoes. So yummy! And, we are still eating broccoli now. We also had tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, parsley and cilantro. Can you say, “money-saving?!” And, tasty and fun!
3. Buy Frozen. The other day at my local grocery store, a bundle of spinach looked like it was about 1/4 of the size it normally is and about 75% wilted and, for lack of a better word, beat up. I simply could not bring myself to put one of those pathetic bundles in my basket. Sometimes, the produce looks just fine but our bank account is what looks a little wilted. So, whatever the reason, I have no problem heading right over to the frozen food section and buying frozen fruit or vegetables.
There are many more ways to save. But, if you want to do better with what you’re eating and are, like most of us, living on a budget, you can still do it.
How do you save money on organic foods?
Our family loves popcorn. It’s a fun, easy and, can be, relatively healthy snack for almost any time of the day. Well, because of the holidays, one of the books I’ve been reading with my children is called Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia. We love it. What I did not expect is how much my daughter would talk about making popcorn balls, just like Amelia Bedelia! So after dinner last night, I thought I’d attempt a surprise pre-Christmas trial run of popcorn balls.
A Healthy Treat
I didn’t like the recipes I found online because they all included refined sugar. I did not want to add any refined sugar to the popcorn. So, I threw a couple of ingredients I feel fine about giving my children after dinner and, ta-da, we had popcorn balls.
Here’s what I did:
1. Pop your corn. Since this was a trial run, I only used a little bit. I probably popped about 1/4 cup of kernels and gave some of that popped corn to the children to eat so that I could work on the rest.
2. Set the popped corn aside in a bowl.
3. Then, I melted about one tablespoon of butter, a couple of tablespoons of honey and the equivalent of about 3 tablespoons of water in a saucepan over low heat.
4. I had it simmer for a few minutes (but, I’m not sure how necessary that is. I may just have everything melt next time.) It worked fine. I’m just thinking about keeping that honey as close to a raw state as possible (for health benefits).
5. Pour the honey mixture over the popcorn and mix. A few minutes later, once it has cooled off, rub a little bit of butter on your hands and form the popcorn into balls.
There you have it! Easy, quick, healthy and even Christmas-y treats for the whole family! Who knows, we may make some to hang on our tree next week, just like Amelia Bedelia!
What’s your favorite holiday treat?
It’s that time. If you’re not going to wait till the very last minute, that is. (If you do wait till the last minute, I won’t judge you because I have done that before too!) Time to donate if you’re going to submit for 2012 tax deductions.
Although you wouldn’t know it by walking into my house right now, I’ve been on a bit of an organization via donating this year. I’m planning on making my last big donation drop off this week. I’m actually excited about clearing things out; however, I’m thrilled to be able to feel good about the charity to which we donate.
This picture is being circulated on Facebook this week.
Research Your Preferred “Charities”
Snopes says that the information on the chart is outdated. Though the poster, however outdated it may be, makes a valid point for any time of the year. Whether you are donating cash or in kind gifts, you should find out what that organization will do with your donations. If there were any truth in this chart regarding the Good Will, you’d probably want to find a different place for your donations (which isn’t the truth, see Snopes and Goodwill’s About Us Page). Basically, if it’s more than just a tax deduction for you and you want your donation to the most good, you may want to double check just how your donation would help people through the charity you are donating to.
Aside from researching the larger national/international organizations, research smaller, local organization which may be doing great work in your community. Smaller organizations tend to not have the funds to do very much advertising at all. So, you have to seek them out! That’s what we do. Give locally. Support organizations whose work and values you can respect and be proud of.
Where do you donate?