Tag Archive | frugal

Christmas gifts: warm hearts, warm hands

We’re on the last batch of homemade Christmas gifts now with Rana’s contributions. It is fun doing this with a little bit older child since she is capable of more. Since she jumps at the chance to use the sewing machine, I chose a project with some easy sewing: pocket handwarmers.

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For each of the kids’ projects, I took little videos where they explained what they were doing and who their recipient was. After Christmas, I shared those videos with our families. But Rana’s video is so funny because she goes into full-on TV hostess mode. And she explains the project as well as I can, plus, she’s cuter. Take it away, Rana! (The picture below will link to the video. Click it!)

Click the picture to be taken to the video.

Click the picture to be taken to the video.

After adding the lavender and rice to the little handwarmers, we sewed up the hole and called it good. But then I started thinking that maybe the recipients needed something to store them in during warm months when handwarmers aren’t needed. I whipped up some little pouches while Rana was at school, but let her choose the ribbons for the drawstrings. There! Now they were ready to send off to cousins. Just a few seconds in the microwave, pop them into their coat pockets, and they’ll have toasty fingers.

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The mother of invention

It’s been quite a week here in Frogland. We had two first days of school, a kindergarten parent-teacher conference, and said kindergartener’s 6th birthday. Whew! All that stuff takes planning and preparation leaving me not much time to do anything crafty last week. But I did squeak one thing in…

Rana has an aqua-colored t-shirt that is in fine shape other than the very dark purple and obvious popsicle drip right on the front. I really try hard not to send my kids to school in stained clothing and we really needed her to have this shirt in her clothing rotation (anyone who hasn’t been following awhile should know that our financial circumstances are… well, let’s just say you’d be surprised at what this family of 5 lives on). What to do? Somehow we needed to camouflage that stain. What better solution than painting over it?

Not a big stain, but it's hard to miss

Not a big stain, but it’s hard to miss

T-shirt painting is a lot of fun to do and I love the results I get from a method I found several years ago. It’s a multi-step process, but in the end it looks screen-printed rather than the t-shirt painting you are probably envisioning from your junior high years. No neon puff paint here, my friends. Unless that’s your thing, in which case, by all means, puff paint away.

First order of business is to choose your design. You don’t want anything overly complicated unless you’re a whiz with an X-acto knife. Line drawings tend to be the easiest to work with. You can do a little photo editing on a real picture if you want or, as I did this time, just go straight to clip art. I found a cute little bunny that I knew would make Rana’s heart melt and printed it out in three different sizes. If you are not lazy like me, you could probably measure your available painting space and then size the picture accordingly. But darn, if that t-shirt wasn’t all the way across the cabin and I didn’t want to walk over there to measure it. Besides, I tell myself, that sheet of paper was going to get printed one way or another; may as well fill it up.

Next is time to gather your supplies. (Note: If you don’t already have these items, this wouldn’t necessarily be a frugal solution to hiding a stain. If I had had to buy all these things just for this project, I’d have been better off just buying a new shirt. As it is, though, this was a great way to make use of things I already had)

  • your picture
  • craft knife
  • freezer paper
  • masking tape
  • cardboard or some other surface you can cut on safely
  • fabric paint and small paint brush
  • iron
Freezer paper is NOT the same as wax paper or parchment paper, although it should be found in the same general vicinity

Freezer paper is NOT the same as wax paper or parchment paper, although it should be found in the same general vicinity

Rip off a piece of freezer paper just slightly bigger than your printed design. With the masking tape, tape your design onto the matte side of the freezer paper (that means the shiny side is down, folks). Slide the cardboard underneath and begin carefully cutting out your design. Here is where a little forethought comes into play. You need to decide if your final painted picture is going to be merely the outlines or a filled in picture. This makes a huge difference in where you cut. Whatever you cut out is what the end product is going to be. In my case, I wanted just the outline of the bunny, so I had to cut out the line; that also included the dots for the eyes and the little nose and mouth.

Cutting out the black line itself

Cutting out the black line itself

If you are cutting the outline, save all the little pieces from the interior of the design because you will need these to reconstruct the picture. For me, that meant hanging onto the little feet and tail, body, and the head (minus the eyes and nose). You will also need the “frame” of freezer paper around the design. I guess I should clarify there — you won’t need to save any of the printer paper (unless you want it for reference); it’s the freezer paper pieces that you need to hang onto.

Alright, once your design is cut out, carefully reconstruct it on the t-shirt, again with the shiny side down. That’s important! Check that you’ve got it placed right where you want it. You can undo it if you have to, but it’s better just to get it right the first time. Since the whole purpose of me painting this shirt was to hide the stain, I strategically placed the bunny so that its soon-to-be-painted ear would cover the popsicle drip.

Purple stain will be hidden in the line of the bunny's ear. Little feet pieces carefully placed.

Purple stain will be hidden in the line of the bunny’s ear. Little feet pieces carefully placed.

Now, you’ll need your iron. I turn mine on to “3” which is the setting just below where the steam kicks in, so whatever that corresponds to on yours. Once the iron is heated, carefully lower it straight down onto the freezer paper design, being careful not to fold over any edges or shift any of the little pieces. If your design is bigger than your iron plate, you’ll want to carefully lift and set down in any areas that weren’t covered. It only takes a few seconds for the freezer paper to adhere to the fabric. Once the pieces are stuck on, you can do a couple quick swipes of the iron to make sure that all the edges are really pressed down; you don’t want paint leaking under the edge.

Just prior to ironing -- you can see how the pieces don't quite lie flat, but they will once the iron hits 'em!

Just prior to ironing — you can see how the pieces don’t quite lie flat, but they will once the iron hits ’em!

After all that, NOW you are ready to paint! For painting, I really recommend the “soft” fabric paint. It will stay flexible with the fabric and won’t peel or chip off, even after several washings. Case in point: a t-shirt I made for Mr. Gren several years ago. He wears this every week, so it has seen the washer many, many times. Still looks great!

That there's a movie quote.

That there’s a movie quote.

I used three thin coats of paint to get good saturation and color for this little bunny. I didn’t wait the “recommended drying time” — just a couple hours in between. I did, however, wait a full day between the last coat of paint and removing the freezer paper. I didn’t want to take any chances that late in the game. The paper removal is very satisfying. The larger pieces rip up without any problems whatsoever. The tiny pieces may require the use of tweezers, but once you’ve grabbed a hold of them, they come right off, too. Genius. I don’t know who to credit for the freezer paper method, but it’s brilliant.

Peel away

Peel away

One cute bunny t-shirt where before was a stained t-shirt!

As far as she's concerned, this is a major improvement

As far as she’s concerned, this is a major improvement — bunny trumps plain shirt any day.

And just for bonus fun, did you know that you can bake a cake in a bread machine? We’ve had many interesting iterations of birthday cake since we moved to the cabin (no oven, peeps) as I’ve experimented with different ways to conjure up something that the kids would accept as suitable birthday cakeness. I used a regular cake recipe, removed the mixing paddle from my bread machine, and poured the batter in. It seems like a lot, but it does all fit and it doesn’t overflow during the baking process. My bread machine is an Oster — nothing fancy — but it does have a 1 hour “bake” setting (supposedly to set jam? Dunno). The cake took two hours to bake, which wasn’t a big deal other than I didn’t start early enough and had to stay up til midnight to babysit it. Of course, it comes out in loaf shape, but the taste and texture are great.

Loaf o' cake. Beautiful pink frosting achieved via beet puree.

Loaf o’ cake. Beautiful pink frosting achieved via beet puree. Mr. Gren took this mid-way through the icing process, so forgive the unevenness.

So what do cake and t-shirt have in common? It all goes back to that saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” If we had a more substantial cash flow ’round these parts, I wouldn’t have been forced to come up with creative solutions to everyday “problems.” Have you ever been forced into creativity out of necessity? How did it turn out?

A stitch in time

“A stitch in time saves nine.”

I never understood this proverb when I was a kid. I think it was the “in time” bit that threw me. I was thinking of it in “A Wrinkle in Time” kind of context. Which then leads to all kinds of questions: Why are we stitching time? What happened to it? Saves nine whats? I don’t know when I finally figured out what it really meant — that a small repair made early would save time and work later. But now I get to live it. With the ability to sew comes the responsibility of repairs. Often, little rips and tears need to be addressed by hand and, as most of you know by now, I hate hand sewing. It’s tedious enough as it is, but then to do something uninteresting like sewing up a hole? Ugh.

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Granota came to me yesterday with a tear in her winter nightgown that I had made a few months ago. She has a habit of sitting with her legs pulled up under it and then anchoring her toes into the fabric. Eventually, her toes weakened the fabric and drilled holes right through it. Lucky for me, this was a fix I could do on machine. I didn’t have any more of the penguin flannel left that I had used to make the nightgown, but I did find a scrap of plain blue flannel. I sewed it to the inside of the nightgown, covering the weak area of the fabric. On the outside, I zigzag stitched the tears closed so that they won’t rip any further. With damage like that, there’s not really any way to make it pretty.

Other items in my repair pile include three small stuffed animals: an elephant needs its tail sewn back on; a whale has a hole in its side; and the triceratops, well, I don’t know what it’s there for, but the kids brought it down. I’ve noticed a seam separating in my own flannel pajama pants that I made several years ago, not to mention the elastic seems to have lost its stretch. And speaking of elastic, do you remember that peasant top I made last spring? I made the elastic too tight in the sleeves and hate to wear it; it’s been in the pile for months. Now that the weather is warming up to where it’s actually conceivable to wear that shirt again, I need to address the elastic issue there, too. Rana’s coat is missing buttons. I could probably spend a whole day making all these little two minute fixes. I guess I should get to it before those solitary stitches increase to nine.

Warm fingers

A couple of years ago, I knitted sweet little woolen mittens for the girls. They were pink and chocolate brown variegated yarn. I felted them down so that they would be nice and dense. And then, Rana proceeded to lose every one of them over the next couple of months. At school, at a park out of town, who knows where else. I think we ended up with one mitten; it was the designated spare as it had turned out a slightly different size than the rest.

Since then, the kids had been wearing those little stretchy dollar store gloves. Those are fine for chilly days, but when it starts getting cold, they’re just too thin to be of any benefit. Besides that, my kids managed to lose one glove from each of about six pairs.

Rather than spend money on new mittens, I dug around through my yarn bin and found most of a skein of Lion Brand Wool-Ease in an odd sage green color. I don’t remember buying this. I can’t think of what I have used it for in the past since it wasn’t a full skein. Why do I have this? Where did it come from? And what happened to those few yards of it? There are no answers.

Utilitarian mittens.

Wool-Ease is an acrylic-wool blend (70%-30% I think, but I don’t know because the wrapper was also missing). I won’t be able to felt anything with this, but I am hoping that there is enough wool content to keep small hands warm and dry. In all of my crochet patterns, I couldn’t find one for child-sized mittens. There were baby mittens and adult mittens, but what about for a five-year old girl? Nada. I didn’t want to use the knitting board pattern again because, without felting, the stitches are prone to snagging (learned that the hard way with a pair of tiny mittens that I made for Konik). I found this pattern via Crochet Pattern Central. It works the mittens in one long, continuous piece, forming ribs the length of the mitten. It looks very crocheted and homemade. Stylistically, it’s not my favorite, but the pattern was easy to do and easy to size up, since it turned out to be written for baby size (where are the kids’ sizes?!). It may look cuter in a better color.

To make them a little more “fancy,” I stitched X’s up the middle rib on the back of each mitten using crochet thread. Granota protested about me crocheting a string to keep the mittens together. She may not like it, but I’m going to do it anyways. I don’t need any more lost mittens!

They look huge, but her fingers really are that long.

Next up, mittens for Rana. We’ll see what I find in my yarn bin!

Saturday in Spain III

After our little bus adventure through all the outskirts of Valencia, some walking, a helpful policeman, and another bus ride, Mr. Gren, baby Rana and I ended up at our hotel, Hostal El Cid. The lady who ran the hotel immediately fell in love with Rana. “¡Que muñeca eres!” Apparently she was the most adorable baby in Spain because everyone we met ended up proclaiming her doll-like cuteness. We were led up the stairs to our room where we could finally put down the suitcases we had been lugging for hours. It was a small room but clean: a bit cramped with two beds in it, a small shower in the corner and a sink next to it. The toilet was down the hall. After we had had some time to settle in a bit, we realized that there were no towels. Looking back, I don’t know why we didn’t just go down and ask. I think we must have chickened out, thinking that perhaps we were supposed to have brought our own? Obviously, we hadn’t. We decided we’d just have to go buy a towel from somewhere. Again, don’t look for logic in any of this. Baby Rana also needed diapers and we may as well go explore the city a bit.

While we were winding our way through the city streets to get to our hotel, we had noticed a tourist information center not too far away, so that’s where we headed this time. I asked the lady at the information desk if there were a store around where we could buy diapers and bath towels. She whipped out a map and highlighted a department store a few blocks away called El Corte Inglés. Off we went!

We found the store and then ended up walking all the way around it trying to find the door. They didn’t make that easy. We had been hoping for something in the Target price range. This store ended up being more in the realm of Macy’s. Have I mentioned that we were on a shoestring budget? Maybe even less than that. More like, half a shoestring or dental floss budget. Our eyes popped out when we saw the price tags on the bath towels. But our other options were 1) air-drying after a shower, or 2) not showering for ten days. Neither sounded appealing. There was no way we could afford regular sized bath towels, so we looked at the next size down which were about the size of a welcome mat. At 10 euros a piece these would have to do.

You know how new towels have that fabric softener stuff all over them to make them nice and fluffy in the store and virtually impervious to moisture? Yeah, we had failed to take that into account. After the first shower, using our little towels we discovered that there was not a lot of absorption going on. “Drying off” consisted of wiping the water down our bodies with our oversized chamois cloths, leaving us nice and moist. Ok, not so nice. Mr. Gren and I are pretty good at making the best of things, so we continued toughing it out with our tiny towels and damp skin, hoping that eventually they’d start absorbing more.

Need more coverage.

A few days into our trip, a set of bath towels magically appeared in our room. Apparently, it had just been an oversight all along. Towels were provided! We felt a little bit silly then, but it was a relief to finally be able to get dry.

We still have our little overpriced towels and, after multiple washings, they still don’t really absorb. But I doubt we’ll get rid of them — they’re one of our few Spanish souvenirs after all.

Necessity trumps desire

I suppose that’s just how life is, huh? Yesterday I had plans to crochet. I’ve been working on a jumper for Granota for… an embarrassingly long time. That will be a post for another day. After breakfast, I was checking my messages on the computer  before picking up my hook and yarn, when Granota came downstairs. She presented me with an object that can only be described as a miniature turd and said she had found it in her bed. It was disgusting. I hustled her off to the bathroom and we washed our hands, then I went up to change her sheets (after a quick internet search on animal scat which revealed nothing resembling her discovery. Still a mystery). As I stripped her bed, I noticed that one of the wings on her butterfly quilt was nearly torn off.

Actually, I should say my butterfly quilt. I think my mom made it; if not her, then it was one of my grandmothers (help me out here, mom). Either way, I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. When I look at all the different fabrics used on the butterflies, vague feelings of familiarity skitter through the shadows in my brain. I have a hard time pinpointing exactly where the various scraps came from, but cloudy impressions of baby dresses and kitchen curtains sometimes surface. It is altogether familiar to me, both in quilt form and from its previous incarnations. It’s dingy as heck, but I love it. Granota started using the quilt when she graduated to her big girl bed just before she turned 2. She can’t remember using anything else and she also loves it.

I brought the quilt downstairs and traced the wing shape on a piece of tissue paper. I knew exactly which fabric from my scrap bag I would use: it is a yellowish-orange with a darker orange floral print. It felt right to me since the wings I had to replace were yellow with orange and blue circles. The new fabric was from a hospital gown that I made for my best friend at her request. She has delivered two babies while wearing that bright yellow gown. I told the story to Granota and she grinned and began asking me about the other butterflies, and I did my best to recall.

I spent the entire afternoon and a good chunk of the evening hand-sewing on two butterfly wings. It was a little tedious and I wished that I could have been crocheting. Yet, I did enjoy reflecting on the history contained in all those scraps of fabric. It made me think of the book “The Rag Coat” by Lauren A. Mills that I read to the girls last summer: it’s about a little girl whose mother makes her a coat of fabric scraps collected from the community. At first the other children make fun of her funny coat, but when she is able to relate the story of each patch of fabric, they begin to see that she has something rather special. It’s something that quilts nowadays are lacking. They may be masterpieces of geometry and color, but gone is the history of an entire household bound together in one place; gone are the concepts of preservation and creativity borne from thrift. It’s kind of a shame.

So as I sat sewing on yellow butterfly wings, the idea of cutting away an old layer and adding on a new story for a new generation made it worth my time.

Christmas decos, Forest Edition

Are you feeling strapped this Christmas? Want a little Christmas cheer without the cost? I’ve got more ideas for you! (Please excuse the date stamps on some of the photos. Rana got a hold of my camera last night and I didn’t realize she had changed the settings until after I uploaded the photos.)

It all started with a windstorm the week of Thanksgiving. Granota and I were outside the day after and noticed all the branches that had blown down into the yard and my wheels started turning. What makes better Christmas decoration than fresh evergreen boughs? We collected several and laid them up on the porch to dry and give the bugs a chance to escape. Just down the road there was a bush with perfectly round, perfectly white little berries (snowberries, aptly named). We ran and got a bucket and picked several. I thought they might make a pretty garland strung together, especially if we could find some red berries. So we kept on walking to see what else we could find. We did find some red berries, but they seemed too mushy to use for a garland. A little farther on, we crossed a tiny stream and on the other side, we found what appeared to be miniature pine cones littered all over the ground. At first, I couldn’t figure out what tree they had come from, but then I found some cones with a leaf attached. A leaf? Later, when we got home, I did some searching online and found that they are from an Alder tree and are actually called catkins. How cute, huh?

Tiny little alder catkins, less than an inch long

I was still on a quest for red berries for my garland. Anytime we drove anywhere, I was scanning the roadside for red berry bushes and making mental notes of their locations. I knew exactly where to find holly and other red berries in Tacoma, but I just wasn’t having much luck out here. Then, I ran across a Norwegian blog that deflected my mania from red berries to apples. Take a look at what she did. LisemoresHave Don’t worry; I don’t read Norwegian either. Yet.

Soft red soopollalie berries are too mushy for garland

So you’ve looked at the Norwegian blog now, right? How easy is that?! Apple trees grow wild out here. I’ve been noticing for weeks the many leafless trees still clinging to their apples. Now all I needed was a chance to get out and pick some apples! Problem was, we had just one working car and it’s a stick-shift, which I can’t drive. That meant I had to wait for a time when Mr. Gren could take me out apple-hunting. Finally, that occasion came last Saturday! It’s a good thing, too, because apples were all I could think about for days. The girls had a Christmas VBS to attend, so it was just Mr. Gren and Konik sitting in the car waiting for me. We stopped at a tree close to home and I ran across the highway with my trusty bucket. Little bit of a problem, though: The apples were all too high for me to reach. But, if you know me at all, you know a little thing like that won’t stop me.

Wild apples, freshly whacked from the tree.

First, I attempted to climb the tree, but you know what? Wild apple trees are really gnarly and scraggly. I got caught on branches a few times before I decided to change my course of action. There was a long, straight stick on the ground which ended up serving me quite well in knocking down loads of apples. All the while, there were horses in a pasture across the road who were very interested in all this activity. So I knocked down a few extra apples for them and they were very appreciative. I have new friends!

What I had collected thus far and the infamous bucket

On Sunday, my quest for red berries was satisfied. On the way to church in Olympia, I saw several holly bushes; I had my bucket but no pruning shears. I might be unorthodox, but I’m not crazy enough to attack a holly bush with my bare hands! However, I did see some other bushes with nice smooth leaves and lots of pretty tiny red-orange berries. As far as I can tell, they’re some kind of hawthorn or firethorn. Once again, I made Mr. Gren pull over and let his nutty wife out with her foraging bucket. In the middle of town.

Clusters of hawthorn-ish berries

Over the last couple of days, I’ve been working on my own version of Lisemore’s beautiful decorations. First, I worked on making little apple wreaths. I borrowed a screwdriver from Mr. Gren (I promise I’ll wash it!) to skewer the apples and then strung fishing line through them. Easy!

Is it still a wreath if it's not round? We'll call it an apple hanging.

I don’t have all those pretty galvanized buckets like Lisemore does, so I had to use empty flower pots of varying sizes. This literally put a hole in my plan. If you see in her photos, she filled her buckets with water and let it freeze and then was able to lay the evergreen branches and apples on top of the ice. Obviously, flower pots aren’t going to hold water because they have drainage holes. Ice wasn’t going to be a real practical option, anyways, because it doesn’t stay below freezing here through the winter like it does in Norway. I needed something to build up the level to where the apples and branches would be visible. What else do we have in abundance here? Where there are fir trees, there are fir cones. And lots of them. Once again, the bucket and me. After I had harvested a few pounds worth, my back was killing me so I called it good, even though they didn’t quite fill up each of the pots. I just padded it up with extra evergreen. By this time, though, I had used up all my good big apples in the wreaths and all I had left was a handful of tiny ones. Mr. Gren didn’t seem real keen on taking me out on another apple-picking excursion, so I did what I’m getting good at: Make do with what I have. And what did I have? Little red berries.


You remember that there is still a garland yet to be made. I think I’m going to save that project to do with the girls. The alder cones may appear there since my red berries were called into duty elsewhere. I’ve enjoyed foraging for my Christmas decorations so much that I might try to do this every year, cabin or not. It felt good to make use of natural things and for free! It also made me feel kind of Celtic, gathering alder cones and hawthorn, which are both used in traditional healing and that sort of thing. I really needed some holly and mistletoe to round it out. But hey, Christmas isn’t here yet, and I know I’ll be passing a holly bush at least once before, so there’s still time to get my Druid on. And, with any luck, Mr. Gren won’t have to drive me that time!

 

Cinnamon Cabins

Every year, Mr. Gren and I get our kids a new Christmas ornament just for them. Sometimes we let them choose, other times we surprise them. Either way, they always look forward to seeing their new ornament on the tree. We didn’t want this year to be any different just because Mr. Gren is unemployed. The kids have already missed out on a lot this year because of it. The hitch is, we can’t buy ornaments this year. When we moved, I didn’t bring my full crafty equipage, which limited my options for DIY ornaments. Basically, I have yarn or fabric. I wasn’t feeling it, though. Mr. Gren suggested that I make something that would remind the kids of the year we had Christmas in the cabin. Last week, I was browsing around etsy for fun and happened across some cinnamon clay ornaments. Cinnamon clay… hmm….

I did a search for a recipe and found several sites all giving the exact same recipe. I don’t know where it originated, but apparently it’s the most popular recipe on earth because it was everywhere, from women’s magazines to homeschool groups to pagan & Wiccan forums. Try that for a conversation starter, sometime. Or maybe the opening line to a bad joke. Anyways, this recipe, in addition to copious amounts of cinnamon, also called for equally generous quantities of applesauce and glue. This struck me as odd since I knew there were plenty of homemade play-doh recipes out there that never included so much as a drop of glue. “Kneading” said dough also seemed a dubious proposition, although it must work somehow given the pervasiveness of this particular recipe. Still, I wasn’t sold. The next day, I did another search and, miraculously, the first link that came up was a question by someone looking for a cinnamon clay recipe that did not include applesauce and glue. And somebody actually had an answer! She referenced this site: The Holiday Zone. It has both versions of cinnamon clay.

Just a little bit of paint for the finishing touches.

I copied down the recipe and then realized that this was going to make a lot of dough. I only needed to make three ornaments! With Mr. Gren’s help, because I am pathetic at math because he loves me, we reduced the recipe by a third. I’m going to reprint it here so that the unadulterated version of this recipe will live in at least one more place on the web.

Cinnamon Clay

3/8 cup flour
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
1/3 cup salt
1/2 Tbsp ground nutmeg (optional)
1/2 Tbsp ground cloves (optional)
1/3 cup water

Mix dry ingredients with water to form smooth, stiff dough. Sculpt as desired or divide dough and roll it out flat between two sheets of wax paper to 1/4″ thickness and cut out with cookie cutters. While dough is still soft, use a straw to poke a hole near the top for hanging. Bake at 350 F for 15-20 minutes to dry.
This recipe makes four to five 2.5″ ornaments.

Some notes from my experience: It may be better to dissolve the salt in the water rather than mixing it with the flour and spices. The salt wanted no part of this. While I was kneading the dough, grains of salt were abandoning ship left and right. Thank goodness for the wax paper that made cleanup easy. Also, this dough puffs up quite a bit when you bake it, so take that into account when creating your shapes.

Look close and you can see the salt.

I don’t have a house-shaped cookie cutter, so I had to form my own little log cabins. The puff-effect distorted their shape a little, but it doesn’t matter because the kids were enchanted by their very own little cabins. And that was the goal.

All three little cinnamon cabins

Thrifty crafty Christmas

Slowly but surely, we are getting the cabin decorated for Christmas. We weren’t able to set out most of our decorations designed to sit on a table; there just weren’t the places for it here, and my three little people can barely leave things alone. Really, the prime place for Christmas decorations is the great stone fireplace. Problem was, I really didn’t have much to put up there. At the time that we began our Christmas decorating, we were having terrible windstorms, so we didn’t want to hang the wreath outside. Instead, we made it the focal point on the chimney. But it looked kind of lonely up there. We had a few strings of silver beads (originally table decorations from our wedding) that I laid across the mantel to give it some sparkle. But we still needed something else. Embarking on our ninth month of no income, we’re not in a position to purchase new decorations, but I’m not letting that dampen my crafty spirit. Some soup and green beans later, we had new decorations. What, you don’t measure time in increments of food?

Ready, set, tin-punch!

It’s such a simple craft. The supply list is short and easy to come by: a hammer, a nail, an empty tin can, and a scrap of paper for your design. I did fill each can with water and then set it in the freezer overnight. The ice gives the can some structural integrity while hammering the nail through. Then, once the design is punched, run some warm water through the holes to melt the ice block just enough to slide out. Let the can dry, then pop a candle in it and you’re done! I think it was on Martha Stewart where they spray-painted the cans gold or glittery silver to dress them up a bit. That’s nice and all, but I don’t have paint and I’m trying to do this for free. Maybe next year I’ll paint the cans, but for this year, I think they look pretty good as is.

More cheap-as-free decorations to come! Granota and I took a walk in the woods the other day and collected a few interesting things to use. I have one more item on my forest foraging list before I can start that project. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find it in the next day or so! Stay tuned… you just never know what I’m going to come up with.