The Versatile Cookie Cutter

Recently I took my annual mother/eldest daughter trip downtown.  This summer tradition began years ago and is something we look forward to.  Our downtown area isn’t large (neither is our town), but it has some interesting shops.  One of our stops is always into a local kitchen shop.  We look at pretty much everything, and while looking I spied a hummingbird cookie cutter.  Now, I bake enough to know that this is not a wonderful shape to actually use for cookies.  The long beak will break off.  My mother taught me that cookie cutters are for much more, however.

What are they for if not for cookies?  Mom uses them as patterns for quilting.  She made a quilt for my son with dolphin fabric and used a cookie cutter to quilt dolphins on the solid blue fabric.

Use them for outlines for crafting or to help the kids make special greeting cards.  Use them for other baking cut outs.  My kids love when I use them for biscuits.  I usually go for the simpler outlines on biscuits as they puff up and won’t keep the same detail as a sugar cookie.

Of course, once I found the hummingbird I kept looking.  I snagged a simple polar bear that will be added to our Christmas cookies.  It’s a stretch, but he’s cute.  Then I saw it.  The hippo (don’t make me spell the whole word!).  At first, I wondered who would want a hippo in their cookies.  Then a song popped in my head.  (My husband teases that I have  a song for everything.)

The kids and I love the “I Want a Hippo. for Christmas” song, and suddenly I knew I had to add a hippo cookie into the Christmas mix.  My oldest started laughing.  She’ll keep this a surprise.

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Frugal Happy Dance

Last week, DD2 and I found several Yankee Candle items on clearance, and decided to tuck four packs of tealights away for a Christmas gift.  DD2’s sensory-ness loves to smell their candles.  She happily picked out her candles and I was thrilled to be saving 75%.

When I got home and went to break the receipt out for DH (who tracks expenditures on the computer), I saw that we had been overcharged for three of the packages.  Today I got that corrected and now, since you get extra money back on overcharges, we have purchased four dozen tealights for the sales tax on 1/4 the original price.

Watch your receipts!

Life is good.

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An Ending and Other Stuff

4H is almost over for DD2.  All that is left is picking up her fair projects Sunday morning and letting the group leader and sewing teachers know.  DD2 decided that after six years, she was ready to be finished.  She’s a senior this coming school year and also hopes to get a job with a vet clinic.  She doesn’t want to have to ask for time off for the meetings or the fair obligations.

I know that is the right decision for her.  This past week has seen her do more crafting than I’ve seen in the past six months.  Her joy is back, and that’s the main point to most things in life.  She’s learned tons about sewing and gotten a start on knitting and crocheting through 4H.  She even taught her siblings how to knit.  This last week saw her pull out her quilling (paper curling, to put it very simply), knitting, smocking (a form of embroidery), wool felting (a kit she received two Christmases ago), and painting.  Whew!

We’re not telling the leaders until after the fair as there is enough on their minds right now.

Today I took the kiddos for hair cuts.  DS was shaggy before we left for vacation.  He never likes his hair after it’s cut and often wears a ball cap for a few days, but today he’s actually okay with it.  Of course the girl who cut his hair is done at the end of the week.  We took pictures from every side to work from next time.  He doesn’t really know how to describe what he’s looking for and hasn’t found a picture to show it.  We went through tons of pictures trying to find something close, but if this works, great!

I think I’m finished going through the kid’s clothes now.  I pulled several pair of socks with holes out of DD2’s drawer.  She gets attached to her clothing and has a really hard time seeing things leave.  She’s got quite a few socks, so she got one new pair for each two thrown out.  She had chosen the new socks already and we have a couple more pair waiting in the wings.  Two old pair of socks are on deathwatch.  I didn’t want to shock her system too badly!

The end of summer is quickly approaching and there are coupons to be used from the library reading program.  I hope we can fit them in.

Home school planning needs to be done.

The house needs a thorough cleaning – still.  That’s pretty much a perpetual thing.

Sewing needs to be looked after.  Still.

Sigh.  Oh well.  We’ll just keep moving and see what happens.

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Back to School Shopping…Ugh

I’m tired and a bit overwhelmed at the receipt totals.  Others would look at those same receipts and wonder why I see anything awful in them, but I look at them and wonder how so many people get by today.  Perhaps they don’t – they just live in debt.

My kids have been raised to gladly accept looking through the clearance areas first.  We have a regional chain that almost every year has had a good selection of tennis shoes in the clearance aisle.  My kids see the original prices and their eyes get really big.  I just point out that’s why we shop the way we do.  Even with clearance and sales, it’s been a bit of sticker shock.

The kids don’t get new clothes and shoes simply because it’s a new school year.  We usually shop this time of year because of sales and to try to make sure things fit all school year.

This year my son grew four inches and needed all new jeans.  We had been buying his jeans at WalMart (low cost, didn’t hurt as much that his size changes so often).  But no 30×34 jeans were to be found and we had to look elsewhere.  The difference in price hurt but could have been much worse.

The kids all have worn out shoes by this time of year (DD1 has a large hole in the side of her shoes that I hadn’t seen before vacation), and thankfully two of the three found new ones for at least half price, if not a bit lower.  It’s really helpful that my kiddos don’t look for particular labels unless it’s because a certain brand fits them well.

My girls are 5ft 9in and 5ft 10 inches tall.  They can’t just buy jeans any old place anymore and have them be long enough.  It would be great if more places offered varying inseams for girls, but for now you just have to go to the pricier retailers.  I bit the bullet and bought Land’s End jeans for my oldest.  I’ve had their jeans in the past and they are of good quality.  Thankfully they had a fit for her on clearance, but it was still $30 a pair.  Here’s hoping they last a few years.

I could shop the thrift stores and reduce my bills further.  Frugality, however, does not always mean taking the cheapest option.  Some people find great deals at the thrift store and I applaud them.  Some even find items with the tags still on them.  It takes frequent searching to find those special deals, however, and my two youngest would rather be home than shopping 99.9% of the time.

I guess I just think about how much the costs all add up, even with most items being half price, and wonder how other families do it.  I think about how much worse the total bills would be if we shopped like so many other families around us, and it overwhelms me.

I’ll just have to be thankful that my kids aren’t addicted to brand names or trends, and don’t care if their items were full price or discounted.

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La Quinta: That Was a New One

While on vacation, we spent a couple of days in Connecticut.  The state was a new experience, but the hotel where we stayed will live in our memories forever.  We stayed in a LaQuinta for the first time.

My mantra was: It’s very clean.  And it was.

Our room reservation was not as expected, but we worked through that.  Then we went to use the bathroom and there is only one hand towel.  Not several bath towels with wash cloths to match and one hand towel.  One hand towel was the total number of towels given to us.  I literally was swiping towels off of the housekeeping carts as they got clean ones.  Yes, they were still cleaning rooms at 8pm… two of the three nights we were there.

I also had to swipe soap.  We had no soap of any sort when we checked in.  Why did I feel the need to swipe soap and towels rather than just ask for them?  I did ask before we went to dinner.  We still didn’t have them when we came back from dinner.

Night number two.  We returned from a day spent sight seeing, tired and arms full to find that the room keys don’t work.  I took the two keys to the front desk to have it fixed.  No one was there.  The desk clerk could easily be doing something, so I hung out.  After a couple of minutes, I started to click the plastic keys together to make noise and nicely alert the clerk to my presence.  No response.  I made the doors open, thinking the noise may get the clerk’s attention.  Nope.  I wandered around the lobby, breakfast area, pool, etc. looking for the clerk.  No one.

I started to call, politely at first, “Is anyone working the front desk?”  Still no response.  I’m tempted to go behind the desk and see if anyone is in the back of the office.  I call louder, then louder still.  I go bang hard on the office door and start to scream quite loudly for help.  I’m feeling foolish, but DH is texting to find out what’s taking so long and I’ve been here about ten minutes already.  Finally, a long haired clerk (dark and straight, if you happen to see her) comes out from the back office rubbing her eyes and telling me that I really need to pound on the door so I can be heard over the washing machines, and muttering that she was the only one on duty.

I wish I had gone behind the counter and gotten a picture of her napping, which she obviously had been doing.

She fixes the keys and tells me not to keep it by credit cards ( the key had spent the day in my pocket far away from phone and credit cards).  I take the keys upstairs and they don’t work.

DH takes the keys back down to the desk and she’s gone again and the phone is ringing off the hook.  He found her outside talking to the driver of the casino shuttle bus.

The kids went swimming and although they were the only ones in the pool each night, we had to ask for pool towels each time.  They only brought four each time they were requested.

The breakfast buffet the first morning was being stocked by the desk clerk.  I’m using the term “stocked” loosely as there was almost no food.  I went out to the car and grabbed our emergency Pop Tarts.  Thank Heaven we had them!  I couldn’t even get a glass of juice.

The room keys had to be re-coded our third night there as well, and the long haired clerk was still a chatty flake whenever we happened to see her.

I’ve never had to yell in a hotel lobby to get a desk clerk before, and then be told that I had to “really pound on the door” so she could hear me.

We’ll be laughing about the napping clerk forever, but will probably never stay in a LaQuinta again.


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Feeling Inspired

Walking through the garment district in New York City was a lot of fun for me.  The rest of the family was mostly tolerating it for my sake, so I drank in a lot through store windows and didn’t pester for time to browse endlessly through the shops.  Visiting Mood was fantastic.  Where I am, JoAnn Fabrics is the happening place to buy fabric.  What fun it was to see the mountains of variety in fabrics!  The lace fabrics alone were mouth watering, then you throw in the trims and appliques.  I’m just a home sewer, making clothes for myself and kids, but it was Heaven to see all of those beautiful fabrics.

My mom laughed to hear that all I bought was a book.  What she doesn’t understand is how high my stack of projects currently is, and I have the materials for each one already.  To purchase fabric would have been foolish, though it was incredibly tempting.  The book I purchased was on creating patterns.  I may never create a pattern from scratch.  That said, the more I learn about how patterns are created, the better I can tailor an existing pattern for better fit, or just tweak it for personal preference.  I already make small adjustments to suit our tastes, so it would be good to know the proper way to do so.

After visiting Mood and lusting after all of the fabric, I started paying attention to the clothing around us.  I am not a fashionista.  Never have been, never will be.  That does not mean, however, that I don’t appreciate fun/cool/pretty/flattering clothes.  I also have two teenage daughters whom I love to make pretty clothing for.

Yes, my girls do like my home-sewn garments.  They aren’t fashionistas either.  My sensory daughter likes things make with crushed panne fabric – a knit which looks a bit velvety and is often featured for Halloween costumes.  She loves it because it is comfortable to wear, and has a texture pleasing to run her fingers on.   You can’t walk in to the mall and find clothes in this fabric.  I first made Renaissance dresses for them with crushed panne, then used the leftovers for a shirt pattern with a peplum for each of them.

One year, my oldest and I found a denim with silver metallic thread all through it (on clearance!) and she flipped it to the back side and liked it even better.  The front was more navy and the back more silver, so of course the back side had to be the “right” side used.  That threw me off a few times in the construction.  That is such a favorite skirt of hers that it has a name.  (Mithrial – for you JRR Tolkien fans)

So, paying attention to the clothing around me brought ideas to mind.  There are many many new projects floating around in my head.  Most of which are for the girls.  I need to buckle down and get some sewing done so I can get to new projects.  My sensory gal is getting her fancy dress this year, and chose Galadriel’s outfit from the Hobbit.  It’s a simple, silky dress with applique near the neckline.  JoAnn’s did not have any appliques which seemed right, so I’m going to attempt beading my own.

DH thinks I’m nuts.  I never said it will be easy.  Yesterday, my daughter and I looked at several outlines and design ideas and came up with one which isn’t too large and doesn’t seem too complicated.  Fingers crossed!  I’ll be beading on tulle, tracing the pattern on with a Frixion pen.  I think I spelled that right.  Heat makes the ink dissolve.  We’ll just let the creativity loose and have fun.  It’s all about the process, right?

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Recovering from Vacation

This is day two after returning from a twelve day trip.  The trip began with an absolute delight: a black bear tore across the highway in front of us (and created no accident).  That’s never happened to us or to anyone we know.  The vacation began in  New York City, then Connecticut, then Rhode Island.  We had a good time, but I could have come home sooner than we did.

I need to start with saying this: I’ve heard many times over how rude New Yorkers are.  Don’t believe it.  Both New Yorkers and the people of New Jersey (where we stayed for monetary reasons) are friendly and helpful.  Drivers are a bit nuts, but that’s why you take mass transit.

New York City included a lot of tourist stuff and some tv fan stuff.  We went to Mood (for me) and the kids scratched Swatch’s belly as he slept and snored (Project Runway’s fabric source).  We went to Kleinfeld (Say Yes to the Dress) where my oldest was treated as if a bride already.  You can’t go on the sales floor without having an appointment, but you can see a few other areas, and you can peep in from the lobby.  My son wanted a picture of Carlo’s Bake Shop (Cake Boss) to tease his home ec. teacher, so we stood him one better and purchased dessert.  Then we took his picture inside the bakery and saved the box, string, and bag that our purchase came in for him to give his teacher.

Can I just say that thinking about our three days there still can make my feet hurt?  DH was keeping track of steps and mileage and told us that we walked nine miles the first day and ten miles the second.  That’s even with a couple of subway rides.  I chose to sit down whenever possible.  DD1 and DS sat with me while DH and DD2 went in the World Trade Center.  We fed pigeons and DS had a ball naming them and trying to figure out how to take one home.  I will say that when you really take time to look at them, they’re pretty.  I never knew how many varieties of coloration these birds have.  The 911 Memorial area was a great spot for us to rest/wait and there was even a drinking fountain station.

The Connecticut/Rhode Island portion of the trip slowed down a bit.  Thank Heaven!  We were able to sleep in a little and walk less.  Now I’m infinitely thankful to be home.  We all have our own beds with no kids whispering their disputes in the bed next to us – DD2 actually chose to sleep in the large closet we had our last night on the road, just to be somewhat alone.  We are all thoroughly tired of french fries.  I love not having to cook dinner, but eating out becomes old quickly.  The week after a trip, I always try to cook things you can’t/rarely find in the restaurants, or things that are just particular to our family.  I even appreciate being able to do laundry without quarters again.

Now it’s back to real life.  Appointments galore next week, the fair soon after.  Getting DD1 ready for college in the fall.  Home school plans.  Nothing major.

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