Feeling Scrappy

 

So, this is a project I’ve been thinking of making for a little while. I just had to get up the nerve to try it. You see, I can’t bear to throw away scraps of fabric that are left over from various sewing projects. Unless they’re itty bitty, I usually keep them. The problem is, I now have a huge bag full of scraps–everything from flannel, cottons, denim, sweater pieces, you name it. And there’s a huge variety of colors and patterns too. I’ve tried my hand at some basic patchwork quilts that were very matchy matchy, but had never thought of making a crazy quilt.

One of my previous creations.

When the scrap bag started overflowing, the idea appealed to me more. So, I went a-searching online for some basic instructions (maybe you did the same thing and that’s why you found this site) and got a good enough idea of how to pull this off. Hey, I figured, if it turns out to be a disaster, at least I didn’t have to buy anything to make this project. I even had a nice piece of medium blue flannel large enough for a backing. Sweet! Wanna see how I made it? These are the basic instructions I used to make my own brand of crazy quilt:

 

*Cut muslin into 12″ by 12″ squares. How many you cut depends on how large you want your quilt to be. For example, I wanted to do a 36″ by 36″ quilt, so I cut out 9 of these squares.

12" squares of muslin. If you don't have muslin, I'm sure a plain colored cotton would work fine.

 

*Sort through your scraps. If you’re making something smaller, like a doll quilt, you may want to use small scraps. Since it was my first project, I chose my medium to larger scraps. Also, decide if you want an actual color scheme or if you want to do the real “crazy” version, throw caution to the wind, and use every type of fabric and color. I got a little history lesson in my online¬† search and that’s how they’re supposed to be anyway. Ladies back in the 1800’s were just using up whatever they had around

My eyesore of a scrap bag. I literally dumped it all out to sort through my scraps. Though messy, it was fun to look and remember what projects I used certain ones for.

 

*Starting on one 12″ block of muslin, lay down one scrap of fabric anywhere on the square, right side facing up. Choose another piece to go beside it and lay it right side down on top of the first piece with one edge of each lined up. Sew through all 3 layers of fabric (both scraps and the muslin) and then flip the upside-down one over. This is called the “Sew & Flip” method.

Not the greatest pic, but hopefully you can tell that one piece is right side up and the other is facing down with one side of edges lined up.

 

*Choose another scrap piece and follow the same method using one of the free edges. Keep doing this until your square is filled up. Flip the square over and trim any excess pieces that hang over the edges of your square.

 

*Sew over each seam using different types of stitches. I used all white thread for mine, but using different colors would add lots of visual interest to your piece. I also played around with some of the fancy stitches on my machine, using ones I don’t normally stitch with.

 

*Fill all squares up using the same method.

 

*Arrange finished squares in a way that is pleasing to you.

Laying everything out...

 

*Sew finished blocks together, row by row until quilt top is completed.

One row of 3 blocks.

 

*Cut a piece of fabric to use as the backing. You do not need batting for this project! Sew the top and bottom pieces together. Since I wasn’t using quilt binding around the edges, I sewed these with the right sides together, leaving about 3″ open. Then I flipped the whole thing right side out.

 

*Top stitch all around the edges (making sure to seal that open 3″ area), or sew binding on around the edges if that is what you prefer.

 

*Stand back and admire your new piece of artwork!!

The end result. I might be biased, but I think it turned out cute.

 

I have to admit, I had SO much fun doing this project. It was sort of like putting lots of puzzles together, then combining them to make one big puzzle. After I made this I gathered all of my scraps with red and white in them and did a table runner, which turned out pretty. I put a small dent in my scrap bag, still have lots to use up…

Recipe for Saltine Treats

Looking for a new easy-peasy dessert or snack recipe? Well, you are in luck my friend, because I have a new simple recipe for you. This one uses only 4 ingredients and is a snap to make. Also, it is a good one for kids to help put together. I got this recipe years ago from a Penzey’s spice catalog and hadn’t made it in quite some time. To me it has the perfect blend of sweet and salty with the right amount of crunch. Wanna make some? Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers
  • 2 cups chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place saltines side by side on the parchment until it is covered.

1 sleeve of saltines

Melt butter and sugar together and pour over the saltines. Bake for 10 minutes.

And did I mention that this recipe is really healthy too ūüėČ

Sprinkle on chocolate chips and return to the oven for 1-2 minutes so the chocolate chips will stick to the crackers.

The final step...

Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then break apart before serving. I used regular sized chocolate chips for this batch, but the mini size actually works even better. Another variation that I have seen is to melt the chocolate chips entirely and pour in a layer over top of the crackers, then chill. Bon Apetit!

Ways We Save $

 

As a stay-at-home Mom I feel that since I don’t earn an income, one thing I can do is look for ways to save our family money on a monthly basis. You can’t control unexpected expenses like a big auto repair bill or doctor bills, but you can have a bit more control of what gets spent on groceries, gas, energy, TV, cell phones, etc. Just for the heck of it I put together a list of ways that our own family saves each month. Here are some of the basic things I could think of off the top of my head. I’m sure some of you do the same things in your home, but here’s my own personal list:

 

1. Hang laundry out to dry. I’ve read that it costs 50 cents to over $1 to run one load of clothes in the dryer. One of the best things my husband has done for me over the years is set up this pulley-style clothesline (or in our area, called an Amish clothesline) that runs from our deck landing to a tree. I can literally stand in one spot with the wash basket and clothespins and hang out all the wash. For our family, it holds about two days worth of laundry. Not only is this a more green way to dry your laundry, you will save money on your electric bill by not running the dryer. With the exception of refrigerators, dryers eat up the most electricity. Except in the wintertime and very rainy weeks, this is what I try to do. As a bonus your laundry smells great and has a crisp feel.

A day in the life...

 

2. Run the cold cycle. Unless I have something extremely nasty to wash, I typically run the cold water cycle on my washer. It still does a great job and keeps your hot water heater from having to fire up so much. (Just a plug for Maytag–we have had a Maytag washer and dryer for over 12 years and haven’t had a single issue with them.)

 

3. Make my own laundry detergent. One of my first posts featured the recipe I use for this. I make the liquid variety which usually lasts us for several months and costs less than $2 to make. (And it works great!) Occasionally I will buy some, but only if I see a really good deal and have a coupon for it.

 

4. Clip coupons. Up until last year I thought coupons must be a waste of time. Then I kept hearing about and seeing all these people who swear by couponing to save on their grocery bill, among other items. I subscribed to the Sunday paper, started clipping, and haven’t looked back. Yes, it does take a bit of extra time to clip and shop with coupons. However, I find it to be well worth the effort. And no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not one of those crazy people who stock up on like 50 bottles of mustard just because I have a million coupons for them. Some of my favorite websites dedicated to couponing: moneysavingmom.com, forthemommas.com, couponmom.com, hip2save.com, and thefrugalgirls.com.

My lovely coupon binder.

 

5. Make dinner homemade. Eating out is oh-so-convenient if you’ve had a hectic work day or are running kids from one activity to another. However, just taking everyone to Mickey-D’s can really add up. We like family dinners at home whenever possible, though it’s fun to splurge once in a while. Plus it’s so much healthier to eat homemade and having time around the dinner table as a family is priceless.

Dinner last night--Mom's homemade thin-crust pizza.

 

6. Leftovers please! I still remember my brother talking in disbelief of a family that he discovered threw out all their leftovers every night. What a waste! We usually indulge in leftovers for our lunch and if we have quite a few left, on hectic days, I will serve up a leftover smorgasboard for dinner. One of my favorite blogs, thefrugalgirl.com, does a post on food waste every week to challenge others to reduce food waste. Using up all your leftovers also saves on those grocery bills.

 

7. Cut our boys’ hair at home. Little kids’ haircuts can run anywhere from $5-$10, sometimes more at a barber shop or hair salon. My husband has cut his own hair with a pair of clippers for many years and we do the same for our boys. Daddy is the barber and lines all 4 of ’em up in the bathroom. They even have a contest to see who is the most shaggy. I’ve also cut my daughter’s hair many times at home and get mine cut every couple of months, just a cut and no other services.

One of the twins getting clipped the other night.

 

8. Buy secondhand. If you’ve read even a few of my postings before, you know I love to shop secondhand. Hey, I find really great stuff for my family this way and figure I pay a small percent of what I would at a department store. Just as an example, several months ago I was wanting to buy different curtains for my daughter’s room. Hers were still pretty babyish and I was on the hunt for something a bit more grown-up looking. I happened to be at Goodwill looking through the household linens and found a pair of awesome purple curtains for $2 that just needed to be hemmed. Ebay and Craigslist are also great sources if you’re looking for something specific.

Part of Heidi's purple paisley curtains, one of my Goodwill finds.

 

9. Take advantage of the season. I feel so incredibly blessed when I open up my freezer or go down to my basement and see the plethora of fruits and veggies we have canned or frozen for the year. We usually make this a family event and get the kids in on the action. As they get older they really can be good helpers and learn to appreciate where their food comes from. Some of the items we regularly can or freeze: sweet corn, peas, lima beans, green beans, peaches, applesauce, tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, salsa, grape juice, jellies and jams (all kinds)….

Purty green peas.

 

10. Don’t pay for TV. Really, is there anything good on anyway? We stick to the old-fashioned antenna and are quite content with that. Mostly the kids watch PBS and a couple evenings a week there’s a show or two we may watch, but that’s about it.

 

11. No gym membership. I have comfy sneakers, a bicycle, weights, an exercise mat, balance ball, and some exercise DVD’s. Honestly, if I can’t get a good workout with those items around it’s my own darn fault.

 

12. Programmable Thermostat. This is something my husband just installed at the beginning of last winter. I think it cost around $30 and you can set it anyway you want during the day and night. I can’t pinpoint how much it saved us yet, but from what I’ve read it can really help you save on heating and cooling costs.

 

13. Basic cell phone. I tell people that I have an old person’s cell phone. Actually, I sorta do. It has the most basic functions and no bells or whistles. I’m sure if I got something new and fancy-schmancy I would probably enjoy it, but so far that hasn’t been necessary for me. And, can I be quite honest here? I am annoyed by people constantly chatting, texting, and whatever else on their phones. I know, I know, I sound like an old fuddy-duddy. Mine is about $10 a month which suits me fine and my husband gets his provided through work.

 

So, I’m curious, how does your family save in this crazy economy? I would love to hear from you!

Reasons to Love Living in a Little House

Some days my house drives me nuts. Usually it’s on the days when all my kids are underfoot. It just seems that when everyone is home, we simply are low on space. But are we really? People living in many other countries would probably think I live in something akin to a mansion. By US standards, it’s certainly no mansion, but I am learning to love and be content in my little house. You see, I don’t take the concept of contentment lightly. Like probably many of you, I have struggled with contentment, wrestled with it even, many times. The world out there shouts out to us in so many ways about what we “need”–and of course it has to be bigger, better, faster, fancier, etc. Once upon a time, when we first purchased our home, it really did feel like a palace. Of course there were only 2 of us living here then–now there are 7 bodies living here! That is a huge difference. I have found that when I struggle with contentment, not just with my home, but with other things as well, I have to ask God to help me with this issue in a big way. I pray for Him to give me the contentment in my heart that I so desparately need. And guess what? Mercifully, I do receive it, and usually in a big way. I find myself looking at my surroundings and situations through the lens of thankfulness. Thankful for what I DO have, which is a whole lot–a lot of which I really do not deserve, but God has provided for me anyway. So, in the spirit of thankfulness, here are the reasons why I enjoy my little house:

* Less to clean.

Given some time with no little people underfoot, or just with little people occupied, I can seriously clean my home top to bottom in less than 2 hours. Or, if I feel particularly energetic, less time than that. You gotta love that.

* Lower mortgage.

My Pop-Pop used to use the term “house-poor” or “car-poor” in reference to someone who bought a house or vehicle that is way beyond their means. We were fortunate enough to buy our home 12 years ago, right before house prices in our area went throught the roof. Even then we chose a home that wasn’t at the top end of what we could have spent and went for a 20-year mortgage. There have been many months when I have been so thankful that our mortgage isn’t some crazy amount. As a bonus, it will be paid off before our oldest is out of high school.

* Lower utilities and maintenence costs.

Yes, I have been known to complain about my electric bill or heating costs. However, the bigger the house, the more it costs to heat and maintain.

* Less room to clutter.

I have just spent the morning de-cluttering my house, or as I more fondly call it, de-junking. Should I not do this on a regular basis, I can’t imagine the piles that would accumulate. With 7 people in our home, it forces me to keep the clutter to a minumum. It also forces me to be more organized!

* More togetherness.

As I confessed earlier, this does make me crazy sometimes. However, it is also conducive to having to get along with one another. Yes, my kids have their share of arguments and squabbles. On the whole, though, they usually play together and are creative in coming up with all types of pretend games. We have a 3 bedroom Cape-Cod style home. 1 bedroom is for Mom and Dad, the smallest upstairs bedroom is for Heidi and doubles as a home office. The 3rd and largest bedroom is shared by all 4 of our boys. Rarely do they complain about sharing a room and even though we have beds for everyone, they still choose to sleep together many nights and enjoy just being close. I have heard the expression “Love grows in little houses” and I have found that to be true.

I’m sure I could come up with more items in this list, but these are the main points I wanted to share. If you also live in a smaller home, I commend you. If you live in a bigger home, don’t worry, I’m certainly not berating you in any way. The reason I am posting this is because I wanted to share my own struggles with contentment and how God has helped me to be thankful for everything I have, the big things and the little things. Also, a house is just that–a house. It’s who is in it that makes it a home ūüôā

Kids on a Mission…How Refreshing!

As my two youngest boys are currently sleeping, I just had to do a post on what we did today. The reason they are exhausted is that it is VBS week at our church, and they are getting to bed a bit later than usual. True to form (for my kids, at least) they were all up at a little after 6 in the morning. Then, late this morning, we finally went up to Water Street Ministries in Lancaster to donate our Hope Totes, a project we’ve been working on for a few months. My Dad, who is a men’s chaplain there, also had lunch with us and gave us a grand tour of the facility. As we pulled out, my oldest kids commented on how good it felt to just give things away. Yes, it does, I agreed with them. Then a prime “teachable moment” struck me. The theme for our VBS is Water to the World, and also teaches that if you refresh others, you will be refreshed. I was able to relate what we were learning in Bible school to what we experienced by giving to others. Though our gift was very tangible, you can refresh others by giving of your time, talents, or spiritual gifts. In this way you can not only bless, or refresh others, but be refreshed yourself in the process!

A trunk full of Hope Totes. We ended up with @30 to give.

For the back story on our Hope Tote project, check out my Couponing for a Cause post from several months back. I plan on continuing to collect items as I get good deals with coupons and sales.

Posing in front of the WSM sign.Posing with Grandpa in front of a cool mosaic.

Chaplain Jim (aka Grandpa) was our tour guide for the day, showing us all around the WSM campus, including the donation center and warehouse area. I was amazed by the volume and variety of items people donate to this organization. The need is great, however. In fact, when I had pulled up my van to the donation area, a huge line of people had formed to get into the food pantry area and were watching us unload.

Mama and her brood on the loading dock.

I am actually a little conflicted about posting this, but I’m going to anyway. The reason is I don’t want people to think I’m just some do-gooder who is giving themselves a big ole’ pat on the back. Here’s why I am sharing what we did–to inspire others to give in some way, whether it’s giving of your time, talents, or treasures. I can guarantee that if you choose to give and choose to honor God with your gift, whatever that may be, you will not only refresh others, but in turn YOU will be refreshed.

The back of our VBS T-shirt reads: Water to the World. Refresh Others. Be Refreshed.