But I resisted. Why? Mostly because I'm shopped out. I've done more shopping these last few weeks than I have in a long time. (That's okay, though. Savings tend to come clustered around here.)
Another reason I resisted, though, is because I didn't want to "invest" any more money into my Walgreens gift card. I goofed last month and didn't request my rebate in time. They processed the rebate for me, but it was for a check instead of the gift card (which means I didn't get the extra 10%). So this month I "reinvested" the amount of the rebate check to keep things going.
I haven't had to put money into my Walgreens purchases since November of last year. Unless something is free, I do technically take it out of the appropriate category, but in practice I haven't spent a dime outside of my gift card in nine months. I like that kind of business!
Anyway, I said all that to say this: I was exhausted, there was work to be done at home, and I didn't really need any of the deals I was passing up.
Sure, that camera would have made a great gift - IF my store had any, which is very unlikely since those kind of deals sell out within the first few hours around here. And that extra $10 on next month's rebate items would have been nice, too, but I'd have to invest another $30 (at least) into my gift card to get it.
So I resisted. Instead, I stayed at home, washed my Squeezo and juiced my garden tomatoes that were about to attract fruit flies.
It was a good feeling to get that done. It was hanging over my head all week while I had company, but I didn't want to take visiting time to do it.
I also worked on clearing out some of the clutter from my craft room. Mostly it had to do with going through old magazines, clipping the few articles I really want to save and tossing the rest.
Then I took a little bit of time in the evening to make a small gift. I'll post about that on Monday.
This was a "regrouping" kind of day.
The original plan was to go to the beach and see the wild horses. But Mom woke up feeling pretty badly (she has a heart condition), so we changed plans. She thought she could handle thrift stores, so that's what we did today.
My grandmother is also visiting, and she absolutely loved going to all the thrift stores with us. She picked up a few things and was so delighted that she had so much fun and spent under $2 the whole day!
My parents scored some good deals, not the least of which was a Baby Born "drink and wet" doll in a fairy dress that looked brand-new (the doll and the dress). The price: $0.25.
I'm a little disappointed that our local Salvation Army will stop accepting and selling toys in a few weeks, but I did enjoy the "75% off all toys" sale going on! I got some Discovery Toys pre-reading games, a child-sized Hot Wheels puzzle (62 pieces and complete!), two Tonka truck Easter baskets, a fancy N-Strike Nerf gun (complete with a clip) and quite a few "$0.10 bin" items for under $1 total.
We had a picnic lunch at the park. It was fun, even though the yellow jackets were trying their best to steal our soda in cans! I made two subs out of French rolls (from the discount section at Wal-Mart), and they were the best homemade subs I've ever had. I cut the rolls down the middle and spread them with salad dressing. Then I added some of my home-sliced ham, cheese, shredded lettuce, salt and pepper. The French roll must have made the biggest difference!
My husband made supper for us so I wouldn't have to cook on my birthday. Hey, hot dogs and baked beans sounds pretty good when you get a break from cooking! :)
You owe it to yourself to read the post. She talks about how popcorn and soda parties were the result of unfortunate incidents when she was growing up ... but her mother never let on, and actually made it a fun experience. She had a wonderful mother!
But you know what? I had wonderful parents, too. Let me tell you my story.
Before I was born, my father worked at the railroad and made good money. In light of the good salary, my parents bought a house and a nice car before I was born. But one month before I was born, the unthinkable happened. There was a massive flood in the town where my dad worked. The railroad was wiped out and the nice car was totaled. Dad lost his job as a result, but we count ourselves fortunate that he was able to get out of town on the last road that was open.
When I came along, the picture was totally different than when my siblings were born. Work was hard to come by and sporadic at best. I think we lived on unemployment more often than not. But my dad is a proud man and a hard worker. If there was work to be had, he would do it, even if it was just sweeping streets.
As a result, money was pretty tight for most of my childhood. But you know what? I have such wonderfully happy memories of that time. I'm sure there were plenty of worries on my parents' side, but not much of that got transferred to us.
I remember many winters when we would move our beds to the basement and pretty much live in the basement simply because we couldn't afford to heat the whole house. It was such a fun experience! Mom and Dad made it an adventure - like camping out. The only trick was that we couldn't tell our grandparents that we were doing it. Whenever they might come over, we went upstairs and pretended everything was normal. Why was that? Because my parents were determined not to take handouts if they could help it.
Another thing that comes to mind is something I didn't know until I was an adult. One year money was so tight that Mom and Dad knew they weren't going to have much for Christmas. So that summer they scoured yard sales for like-new toys that they knew we'd enjoy, and we had our usual big Christmas. You know what? Even after they told me, I couldn't figure out what year it was. They were so good at it that we had no idea. (Not that we would have minded!)
Those are the kind of memories I'd like for my children. No, not memories of hard times; memories of creative fun inspired by the not-so-fun realities of life. My parents were very good at it! (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
I've been feeling under the weather today (I caught a bug that's going around), but my husband went to get a haircut this morning and stopped by our favorite small-time local thrift store to donate a bunch of stuff.
I've been trying to get into that place all week to drop off the donations, but either the parking has been all taken or it was closed every time I went by. So after he dropped off the donations, my husband stopped in to take a quick peek and look what he found ...
I have no idea who makes this children's activity/train table. I've been searching the web for 15 minutes and haven't come up with anything that looks just like it, and there is no name on it anywhere. That's okay, though. I discovered that, no matter who makes them, these things are pricey to the extreme. What we paid was a steal.
Now before I tell you the price, let me tell you one of the really cool features: it shrinks and expands. That middle panel can come out and we could shrink the table down to just the outer two panels, if we needed or wanted to for space reasons. Expanded all the way, it's just as big as the Thomas tables I've seen at Toys 'R Us.
Now are you ready for the price? How about one dollar?! I could not believe it when my husband brought it in. For the price, I was expecting something that was falling apart, definitely not something this nice!
So here's what we did with it:
It was perfect to set up my son's Ertl and John Deere farm. It keeps all these tiny pieces off the floor (where they had been set up), and there's a bonus of extra space underneath to store accessory pieces. How cool is that?
But wait, that's not all he got at that thrift store. Did I ever mention that I have the Pfaltzgraff Tea Rose dinnerware? We use it for everyday and for company since I didn't want to have to store two sets of dishes. It's durable enough for everyday but pretty enough for company.
Anyway, my parents got me set up with a complete 8-piece place settting and a few accessory pieces before I got married. Then two years ago my husband and I found over $200 worth of accessories (many of which I had been wanting) and spares at a yard sale for $40. Since that time, I've picked up a few spare pieces here and there as I find them (and need them).
This is what he got me today:
These aren't the cereal bowl size, nor are they the vegetable bowl size. They're somewhere in-between. I love the basketweave look, but I don't have a lot of those pieces, so I welcomed these two additions.
Since they are discontinued, I had to check eBay to see what they're going for. I found two exactly like mine going for $23 and $24 each, when you added in the shipping. And that was just the beginning bid!
My husband didn't even pay a tenth of that. No, he got them for $0.25 each.
Even though I'm feeling terrible, this has been a profitable day! :)
It's full of helpful tips and ideas that I've never heard anywhere else. Tips like:
- If you keep plastic wrap in your refrigerator, it won't cling to itself when handled.
- To keep bugs out of your flour canister, put a stick of spearmint gum in the flour and it will be bug-free.
- After making pies or pastry buns, sprinkle the counter with salt. The counter wipes off easily and the dough does not stick to your washcloth.
- Add cold water immediately to pans, dishes and utensils that were exposed to raw eggs, hot milk, cooked cereal or other sticky starches.
- Pot holders protect against cold as well as heat, so wear your kitchen mitts to protect your hands when rearranging food in the freezer.
And those are just my favorite tips from two pages of my current re-reading!
There are chapters on organization, food preparation, the kitchen, storage, cleaning, the garage, the laundry, the automobile, finances, time savings, raising children, good health, sewing and crafts, plants and the garden, beauty, moving, our wardrobe, and safety.
In short, this is a 337-page treasury of useful tips. On a scale of five stars, this gets the full five. If you don't have it, you need it!
Of all the "Cousin Camp Celebration" activities (ring toss, water balloons, etc. for prizes), I think the obstacle course was the favorite. This was my sister's brainchild, and it was absolute genius! [Did I ever mention that she and I are a lot alike? ;)]
She did a farm-themed obstacle course this year. Some ran on foot, others wanted to use their bikes. We let them do what they wanted, and it (surprisingly) didn't seem to affect the scores much.
First they ran through a lane made of two boards and zig-zagged through orange cones.
Then they loaded a 5-gallon bucket of hay onto a wagon and guided it through another narrow lane made of bricks and a series of zig-zagging cones.
Then they pumped four times on the water pump (for effect only - the watering can was already filled with water since the pump no longer works).
Next, they loaded the watering can onto the wagon and pulled it over to the cage that housed several stuffed animals. Here, they shelled an ear of corn for the animals,
fed them some hay from the bucket,
and poured water from the watering can into their bowl.
When they were done with that, they hopped onto this toy 4-wheeler and raced across the finish line (a rope held by two other cousins).
Here they are in the order of finishing times (quickest time on the left). Surprisingly, it didn't go in age order! Notice the Olympic-style "medals"? I got those at Dollar Tree and they all seemed to like them.
Then my brother-in-law brought out their miniature horse and, just for fun, took him through the obstacle course. Dusty made the worst time of all, but we all had fun watching!
(And no, he didn't actually get on the 4-wheeler!)
Later in the afternoon, we visited my brother-in-law's parents' farm just up the road. They have a dairy farm with a soft ice cream machine on the premises. You can guess that we accepted the offer of free ice cream cones!
This is one of my favorite pictures of this niece. It was taken at the same farm, where there was a batch of newborn, just-opened-their-eyes kittens right outside the front door. This niece is absolutely crazy about cats, so this picture is a great reflection of who she is at this point in her life. Can you believe I didn't even have to pose this one? I just looked over and saw it, whipped out my camera and was fortunate enough to catch it while it lasted!
This is my 14-year-old nephew, just to give you an idea of how big this tricycle was. He enjoyed it, and I joked that this would be a blackmail picture in a few years. :)
This cart is similar to golf carts, except they use it to get around the farm. The kids all enjoyed taking rides in it.
And lastly, when we got back to my sister's farm, we had a "candy shower." My brother-in-law stood on the balcony and rained candy down on them. They had a blast, and the candy was fairly evenly distributed (can you believe it?).
We ended the day - and Cousin Camp - with a pizza party. All in all, it was a great success, even if the weather didn't cooperate and we had to change plans a few times.
Next year, we're having it at my house. We're still trying to figure out how to get everyone here, but we're going to make it work!
We started with these:
Everyone went through old magazines looking for pictures, sayings, anything that said something about them. Then we cut them out and glued them collage-style onto the outside (and some even put some inside) of the boxes.
As you can see, some of them really got into the project, while others went with minimal decoration. It was all okay, since it really says a lot about their personalities either way. :)
However, in hindsight, I would recommend making a sample of any craft projects so they have a better idea of what the finished project should look like. They weren't familiar with the idea of a collage, so a sample would have helped tremendously.
The afternoon was spent in indoor games, none of which went very well. The launcher broke on the first try for one game, and they didn't seem to be in the mood for the competition involved in the other two games. Oh well! I'll have to try to remember to stick to non-competitive games in the future.
That evening, we hid the treasure stones. I put erasers inside the girls' rocks and army men inside the boys' rocks, so I had to distinguish between the two. I decided to use my paint pens to place either a blue dot (for boys) or a red dot (for girls) on top of each stone so they'd know if it was for them or not. Also, I put a limit on how many stones they could collect, just to be fair to everyone.
Once they had found the stones (not an easy feat, since I hid them in the grass and they look just like rocks), I told them to break them apart. They knew there was something special about them from the beginning (why else would I have them search for rocks?). The reactions ranged from a, "Cool," reaction to a "Wow! Look at this!" reaction. I think they really liked the concept.
I also think my youngest nephew (seen above) thought I was a little off my rocker putting these army men inside stones. :)
At the end of the day, we had Chocolate Yummies for our snack. I can't recommend them enough! We ate the whole pan, and we could have eaten another. (Good thing I only made one pan!) This is the yummiest treat I've had in a very long time!
My grandmother came to the rescue by offering to pay our way (and all of the kids') if we could come up with an alternate place to go.
We decided on a local coal mine that had been shut down and turned into a museum of sorts. We rode "cars" down into the mine, got out and toured a small portion of the mine on foot, and then rode the cards back up to the surface. It was very interesting, and the kids seemed to enjoy it a lot!
Afterward, we had a picnic lunch under a pavilion while it rained harder than I ever remember in my life. (We got wet even sitting under the pavilion!)
Later on back at the house, we had our treasure hunt indoors. Beginning with the youngest and working to the oldest, each cousin got a clue that told where the next clue could be found. Once the oldest figured out his clue ("where every teenager wants to be" - the driver's seat of my sister's van), they distributed the goody bags (candy and gum) amongst themselves.
They enjoyed the goody bags, even if one of them had just had a root canal and couldn't have any of the candy inside. (We had a hard time convincing her to save hers until later, but reason finally prevailed - once we hid the bag on top the fridge.)
At the end of the day, we enjoyed homemade soft pretzels before turning in for the night.
The first day was a harbinger of things to come. We had good enough weather to get our group pictures, but that was about it. That was okay, though, because the cousins were having fun catching up with each other again and exploring the farm.
Another great surprise is that my grandmother was able to join us for Cousin Camp this year! I wish I had known sooner because I would have made her a t-shirt. We're planning something special for her as a keepsake, although we're not entirely sure what at this point. (I'm thinking I might do a photo book.) She was a special blessing when it came to cleaning up and doing dishes!
So here are our group pictures with Cousin Camp t-shirts. Notice that from this distance you can't tell how badly some of the transfers were peeling! :)
This year I did a front view ...
... and a back view!
I try to do this on a regular basis. Her kids are like mine - they don't care where the toys came from or if they're brand-new or used. They're just grateful to get something they really like. Just last month my sister and her husband were able to give their youngest son the motorized 4-wheeler he has been asking for. We found it secondhand for $5, and it works perfectly. You couldn't find a happier birthday boy!
Anyway, the only thing that came to her mind this time was a dollhouse for her daughter. She has been asking for one.
Would you believe I actually dreamed about finding her one at a yard sale for a terrific price? When I woke up, for a few moments I couldn't remember if it was just a dream or not.
Then last week I found a Fisher Price house at a thrift store for $6. I almost bought it, but then I saw that the top floor was cracked badly. So I passed it up, hoping I hadn't made a big mistake.
Fast forward to last night. A lady from church called me and asked if I'd like two dollhouses and accessories for my daughter - not just one, but two! They had been given to her, but her granddaughters aren't "into" dollhouses, so she thought of my daughter. Would I like them for free to put away for Christmas? Absolutely!!
Tonight she came and we sneaked them into our house while her granddaughters played with (i.e., distracted) my kids. They need a little cleaning up, but I couldn't wait to share this wonderful answer to prayer!
First of all, the Playskool Victorian Dollhouse from the front:
And the back:
Then the Little Tikes Place dollhouse from the front:
And the back:
And here's the big bag of accessories that came with it:
I can't wait to root through the accessories some more! I found quite a few dolls in there - something like three sets. Now I need to go through and match the furniture to the dollhouses. Oh, and I need to wash them, too!
God is so good to our families!
There's a farmer down the road that plowed up his potatoes recently. There are bunches and bunches of potatoes left on the ground and he said anyone was welcome to take what they want once the machines have gone through the field. (Is it any coincidence that my mother just mentioned that she'd like to get 50 pounds of potatoes? I don't think so!)
A friend from church knows the farmer and stopped at one of the fields (yes, there are several!). He got several bushels and shared a bunch with us. He said I'd have to pick through them because there were a few bad ones in the bunch, but I haven't found a bad one yet. These look better than anything I've ever bought at the store.
Here's part of the first batch that I finished yesterday:
Five quarts and twelve pints - about 11 pounds. You can't beat FREE!
I decided to can them so they'll keep until my parents get here at the end of the month. The idea is that they can just open a jar, heat them and make mashed potatoes (which is what they usually make). Most of the work is already done.
I have probably twice as many to process tomorrow (or the next day, since we're getting company). I'm thinking about making some French fries for the freezer. I'll let you know how that goes.
I also canned two more quarts of pickled banana peppers (from my garden) and froze two quarts of freezer pickles (from a friend's garden).
Someone asked about how I do the actual canning. I could do a lengthy post, but I might omit something and you'd end up with botulism. :) How about I refer you to my online source for canning instructions? You can find the instructions for potatoes here. They have lots more instructions on their site. Maybe someday I'll break down and buy the Ball Blue Book, but right now free Internet instructions suit me just fine.
(By the way, do you notice the pressure canner in the instructions? You know, the really expensive one? That's the kind I got at the auction for $3!)
First of all, you can add a ribbon to tie it shut, like this one:
Or you can add a ribbon for a bookmark like this one:
This is one I made for my son to take along to week-long church events like revivals, when he tends to get antsy:
You can also use silk flowers with the stems cut off like this one:
Or you can make a sermon notekeeper like this one that I made for my mother, which incorporates a few charms and a ribbon bookmark:
Want to try it for yourself? Here's how:
1. Get some Mod Podge (I use school glue thinned with water), a sponge applicator brush, two 8.5x11" sheets of decorative paper and a composition book.
2. Cover the front cover with Mod Podge - I only covered to the black spine if I wanted to do the spine in a different color.
3. Line up the straight edge of the paper with the black spine and press firmly to "set" it.
4. Give it a minute or two to rest and then use scissors or an Xacto knife to cut around the outside curve of the book (do this from the back of the cover).
5. Repeat for the back cover.
6. Measure the dimensions you need for the spine cover (if you decide to cover it - black looks good with some things), cut and paste just like you did the covers. I started at the front and molded the paper around the book using the tabletop as my hard surface. I also placed some clips at the top, bottom and the middle to make sure it wouldn't come away from the edge while it was drying. (I had no problems, but I'd recommend it just in case.)
7. Embellish away!
If you give it a try, I'd love to see your creations!
Thank goodness they still had "John Deere green" casting material! This cast goes 3/4 of the way up his arm and will stay on for at least six weeks instead of the three I was expecting. Hopefully we can still start homeschooling on time! (He's my right-hander.) And thank goodness I had one short-sleeved shirt in his drawer because his long-sleeved pajama shirts are all too tight with the cast on.
On a completely different note, here's my little dirt magnet:
Isn't she the cutest? I have never met anyone who attracts dirt like my little girl. Of course, she thinks nothing of getting into dirt-slinging contests with her brother while I'm working in the garden. I think I might have a challenge making this one into a proper lady. :)
Cousin Camp went alright, even though we were rained out for 2-1/2 days (it lasted 4 days total). We changed plans and ended up having fun anyway.
But then came the weekend after Cousin Camp when I stayed at my parents' house with my two kids -- without my husband. (He had to come back home to preach for Sunday services.) My kids missed Daddy something awful! Added to that, my son started into a fever on Saturday night. He and I were up until 2:00 in the morning trying to get him some relief.
On Sunday afternoon, I had just laid my daughter down to change her diaper when something came crashing down from the top bunk of the guest room bed. It glanced off me and my daughter and hit hard on the floor. It was my son - complete with the side rail that, by all accounts, shouldn't have come off.
It took a half hour to calm everyone down, and my son favored his right hand the rest of the day. I was a little worried about that, so when he woke up the next morning still favoring it, I took him to the emergency room. After two hours and four x-rays, they determined that his wrist was fractured (a buckle fracture). They splinted it and sent us back to church camp with instructions to have it casted when we returned home ... So now you know why I said "break" describes this little nightmare of mine.
But wait ... It doesn't stop there. Let's back up a few hours to Sunday night. My mother dropped us off at church camp that night. My husband missed us so badly he left our house right after the Sunday evening service and projected he'd be at camp by 2:30 in the morning. That meant I was putting the kids to bed by myself. That's not usually a problem, but for some reason, camp brings out the worst in my kids.
I started trying to get them to sleep at 9:00. My son was tired enough he would have gone right to sleep, but not my daughter. She didn't crash until 11:30. And "crash" just about describes what the process sounded like, too. I pitied those poor older people in the room beneath us -- and all the people within earshot of us on the second floor (which I later discovered was pretty much half the dormitory). I have no idea what got into her, but any mother can well imagine that I was on the verge of tears myself before it was all over.
But wait - it doesn't end there. Remember I said my son was running a fever on Sunday? It didn't go away. He was burning up for three days. He was complaining of excrutiating jaw pain. And he had what appeared to be intestinal flu (he still has it, so we're going to the doctor as soon as we can get in).
Needless to say, I didn't get into many of the camp services. There are three services a day. We were there four whole days. I got into 2-1/2 services. Not exactly what I'd call a break, but what can you do when sickness strikes?
Added to all of this, my mother went in for a Transesophageal Echocardiogram and cardioversion on Tuesday. They were hoping to confirm the extent of her mitral valve leakage and correct her atrial fibrillation (which is causing congestive heart failure). We had mixed news. The good news is that her valve is not nearly as bad as many previous tests had indicated, and it won't have to be replaced. The bad news is that the cardioversion didn't work. But there are still options, and I'm grateful I was able to be there with my mother that day.
So you see that this week and a half went nothing like I had planned. Most of the time, I felt like I'd lose my mind if one more thing happened.
But you know what? I made it. I'm home, and it feels so good. Even if we do have to take my son to have his arm casted, his teeth checked, and his diarrhea diagnosed (to three different doctors) in the next few days.