Archive | January, 2013

November & December Reads

15 Jan
I love reading.

I love reading.


Grace Transforming by Phil Ryken:  As someone who tends to be a bit performance-driven I found this book so helpful.  It really isn’t about what we do but instead it is all about Jesus and what He has done for us.  Phil Ryken is the president at Wheaton College-a college known for producing great Christians such as Billy Graham and Jim & Elisabeth Elliot.  The book itself is very small and only about 100 pages.  I personally love little books as they are great to carry around in my purse.  This book would also be perfect for the person  who is easily intimidated by the average theological book.  Although I would claim this book is filled with great theology I wouldn’t call it a theological book.  It’s really a simple book that it’s all about what Christ has done for us and not what we have accomplished.  Excellent!  One I hope to revisit in the future.

The Air We Breathe by Christa Parrish: This book is about a 17-year-old girl whose life is ruled by fear.  Although she wants to break free from her past she is held back until a former friend finds her again six years later.  The only thing I disliked about the book was how it switched back and forth in time and with chapters involving three different characters.  It was definitely confusing for the first couple of chapters.  Overall I really liked this book and look forward to reading other books by Parrish (this was my first).

What Your Husband Isn’t Telling You by David Murrow.  I should have known by this book’s title that it wouldn’t be one of my favorites.  Although he does make some good points he is completely off base in other areas.  Way off base!  I discussed parts of the book with my husband and he agreed this book is crazy.  I would not recommend this book at all!  Please note I did receive a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers.  

Past Darkness by Laurel Woiwode: Hands down this was my favorite book I read in the past couple of months.  It chronicles the life of fifteen year old Chicago native Gabrielle Larson who is forced to relocate to rural North Dakota when tragedy strikes.  The book follows her as she learns to cope with the various trials that come her way.  I really enjoy reading fiction and usually read Christian fiction (in order to avoid anything spicy).  This book was refreshingly unlike most “Christian Fiction” books you will find at the bookstore.  It is not preachy or tacky in any sense.  If you enjoy reading fiction I highly commend this book to you!  Please note I did receive an advanced reader copy in exchange for my review from Crossway.  Unfortunately it won’t be released until April but it is available for pre-order.  I cannot wait to read more works from this author!

Rocks, Dirt, Worms & Weeds: A Fun User-Friendly, Illustrated Guide to Creating A Vegetable or Flower Garden with Your Kids by Jeff Hutton.  When I came home with a stack of books from the library a couple of weeks ago this was the book I was looking forward to reading the most.  It was also the biggest disappointment!  The title is catchy but the information throughout the books makes me wonder if the author has ever planted a realistic garden with his kids.  I’d pass on this one!

Dirt Cheap Gardening: Hundreds of Ways to Save Money in Your Garden by Rhonda Massingham Hart.  This book was such a welcomed respite after reading the previous book.  It was really good and did exactly as the title says-provide lots of ideas on saving money in your garden.  The book also includes helpful lists in the first few chapters about plants and various growing conditions.  There are a number of ideas in this book that apply to landscaping, and flowers.  I’m hoping to grow a large variety of flowers in my garden this year.

The Sound Mind Investing Handbook by Austin Pryor.  I have always felt that I am clueless when it comes to investing and planning for retirement.  This book was incredibly helpful for me and I was so thankful that my hubby bought it for me.  (I shared the highlights with him.)  I really appreciated the author’s Christian perspective on managing your money from a biblical perspective.  The book is very well researched and laid out.  It answered a number of questions that both Brandon & I had about money.

50 Ways to Master Your Sewing Machine by Linda Denner.  Although dated (the book is 17 years old) it holds a wealth of information that is still relevant today.  It was packed full of helpful hints.  I learned so much and I have been sewing regularly for 15 years!  My biggest take away was the encouragement to really use all of the features that my machine has.

I’m still working on my list of books to read this year and would love your suggestions!  

Sew a Pocket Apron: Simplicity 2272 Review

11 Jan
I love the fun look of View C.

I love the fun look of View C.

While I have been cleaning and organizing my sewing room, I ran across a box of fabric with some fun winter prints.  I love snowflakes, snowmen, and aprons so I thought I would combine all three into a lovely project!  I found Simplicity 2272 in my stash and knew at once I was going to try my hand at view C.  It was very simple.

The one major mistake I made was getting confused about whether the contrast would be on the outside or the inside (it is on the outside).  I ended up switching the fabrics from where I wanted them to be but it still turned out nice I think.  Piece 7 is the Inside of the Apron and Piece 8 is actually the overlay contrast piece.

I only made one change to this pattern.  I skipped the outside rick rack for step four because I ran out!  I never just run out to the store when I run out of something I just make do.  😉  Instead of trimming seams I serged them.  I also serged the top of the waistband in step 7 and then folded it down 1.5″.  I did not slip stitch the waistband in step 13.  (I dislike slip-stitching by hand.)

Now I'm already to whip up some homemade hot chocolate and a plate of cookies after sledding!

Now I’m already to whip up some homemade hot chocolate and a plate of cookies after sledding!

My only complaint about this project was the sizing of the apron.  I made a size Large (18-20) but in my opinion this size would be more like a (12-14).  If you are looking for a nice plus size pattern I would recommend McCall 5720.  It has been my go-to pattern for years.

Overall this was a great pattern that was a cinch to whip up.  It would be great for a last-minute housewarming or bridal shower gift.

Frugal Things I Did Last Week

10 Jan
The delicious mixed berry sauce I made.

The delicious mixed berry sauce I made.

I made a fruit sauce topping for pancakes that keeps for a couple of weeks.  We enjoyed it over leftover pancakes and in plain yogurt.

I bought the hubby some indexes with tabs that he uses for work from  They were half price and they were delivered right to our door!

I printed free Thank You cards for Elijah to send for Christmas gifts from here. 

I turned a red flannel shirt into a bolster pillow.  The shirt was given to me by my mom and I had stuffing on hand that I stuffed it with.  It has a nice rugged man look to it so I ended up giving it to my brother.  I also cut all of the buttons off of the shirt but they ended up getting spilled and I think my little helper vacuumed most of them up.  Oh well!  I do need some sort of better storage for the buttons that I cut off of shirts.  I’m thinking it would probably be worth investing in some tiny bags with a zipper.  If I cut buttons off of a shirt I really want to keep them all together in one place verses throwing them in a jar.

I printed cute New Year’s Eve decorations and even little covers for Tick-Tacks.

I made homemade Auntie Ann pretzels when my sisters came over to hang out.  One sister even helped me make them!  This is my second time making them and I am definitely getting the hang of it.  😉  I’m thinking I may try to make them for the young adults at our church sometime soon.

I also made popcorn as a snack another night.  Popcorn is a fast, easy, inexpensive snack!  I purchase our popcorn at a bulk foods store and pop it in a popper.  (I can’t stand microwave popcorn.)  Did you know you can even make it without a popcorn popper?  One of our favorite ways to eat popcorn is Peanut Butter Popcorn.

My mom has been cleaning out her basement.  Yeah for me!  😉  She gave me some fabric (cotton and some nylon tricot-perfect for making a slip!), a beautiful set of embroidered pillowcases that my great-grandmother made,  and four hardcover sewing books.

We received samples in the mail!  (I love samples!)  I received a five-day trial of Loreal Moisturizer.  This should be enough to last me all through the winter!  We also received Probiotic Gummies, and coffee.

I used my Cricut and blue vinyl I had on hand to cut out a sailboat for Eli’s room.  (I purchased the vinyl from vinyl expressions off of amazon.)  It is right above his toddler bed.  I am also planning to add the word “Elijah” across the boat.  I just haven’t been able to get the font to my liking yet.

I made chocolate zucchini bread.  It is delicious but much more like a dessert!  😉  We have LOTS of zucchini in our freezer that I would like to use up in the next couple of months.

We had the tires on our car rotated for free at Tire Discounters. We always purchase our tires at this store since they offer a free alignment when you purchase them and free alignment every 5,000 miles.  They also give a warranty that your tires will last as long as they are supposed to if you are faithful to get them rotated often.   They also commonly catch repairs that need to be made in the future which I find very helpful.

I used a coupon to get the oil in the van changed for 19.99.  (Actually this should fall under Brandon’s list of frugal accomplishments since he took the van for me.)

I returned a bunch of sewing notions that I didn’t end up needing to Hancock Fabrics.  I always check the remnant rack when I am there and came home with fabric to make gifts.  They also have their fleece remnants on sale for $1.25/yard.  (This is super cheap!)

I made a baby shower gift using fabric I had purchased the day after Thanksgiving.

What frugal things did you do last week? 

Rice Cooker Mac n Cheese

4 Jan
Easy Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

Easy Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

My hubby LOVES macaroni & cheese.  Really I think he is just a big kid at heart!  We are spoiled rotten in the fact that we get to have lunch together almost every day!  Macaroni & cheese is probably his most requested meal.  We do occasionally eat boxed mac & cheese but I try to make this simple recipe instead.   There are no preservatives and I can tweak the ingredients to make them even healthier.  You actually cook the macaroni in a rice cooker!  It is beyond easy and contains only 4 ingredients.  😉

In a rice cooker combine:

  • 1 cup Chicken Broth (I use 1 cup water and 2 t. chicken broth powder)
  • 1 c. uncooked pasta.  It doesn’t even have to be macaroni!

Turn on the rice cooker and allow this to cook.  It usually takes my rice cooker about 20 minutes which is the perfect amount of time for lunch preparations.  🙂  (Be careful not to leave the cooked macaroni sitting for a long time or it might burn on the bottom.)

After the macaroni is cooked add 1/4 cup milk and 1 cup shredded cheese.  Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes and serve.  I like to place the lid back on so that the cheese can melt quickly.  Enjoy!



Dermagist Skin Care Review

3 Jan

clarifying system for acne prone skin by dermagist

I was really excited when a representative from Dermagist contacted me about doing a review of one of their products.  For the past two months I have been trying out a new skin care line called Dermagist.  I must say that I am pretty impressed with how their products have helped to balance out my skin tone.

I used the Clarifying System for Acne Prone Skin which included the Detoxifying Cleanser with Resveratrol and Clarifying Cream.    The results were really good and I think my skin looks better than it has in a couple of years.  I will say that I hated using the cleanser.  Usually cleansing my face is one of my favorite parts of my hygiene routine.  The Dermagist cleanser smells AWFUL. I really prefer my cleanser to have a pleasant smell.  I guess that is what comes of years of using Smell Good Face Washes.  😉

Still the clarifying cream smells great!  In the past I have shied away from using creams or moisturizer because I worried that they would make my skin oily and more prone to breakouts.  This stuff is AMAZING!  It smells great and works wonderful.  There is something that just makes me feel pampered when applying face cream.  🙂

The product is sold as a 45-day supply but I am confident mine will last at least 3 months or more.  They are a little more expensive than what our budget usually allows for skin care items so I am not confident yet what I will do when my supply runs out.  I have never tried ProActive (which was insanely popular when I was a teenager) so I don’t know how Dermagist compares.  I found that the results were similar to using the prescription Clindamyacin in conjunction with a good skin care routine.  If you want to avoid prescriptions and need good results this might be a good thing to try.

Right now Dermagist is offering a couple of specials.

Please note I did receive a free 45-day supply of the Clarifying System for Acne Prone Skin from Dermagist in exchange for this review.  The review did not have to be positive.  All opinions are my own.  

Sew a Knitting Needle Case: McCalls 4728

2 Jan
My sister's knitting needle case.

My sister’s knitting needle case.

There are so many wonderful sewing projects out there that would be perfect to sew for my younger sister.  I mean have you seen pintrest lately?  It was very hard to determine exactly what to make her for Christmas.  I finally settled on sewing her a knitting needle case.  She has really gotten into knitting in the past couple of months.  It would be easy to come up with your own pattern for this but if you can catch McCall patterns for 1.00 why bother?  The concept is very similar to a number of projects I have made in the past: a crayon rolls, a drum stick holder, colored pencil roll, and a crochet hook case.

I did use a pattern MCalls 4728 for this project that I would highly recommend!  I had made it in the past for a good friend of mine so this pattern was a cinch to whip up!  I had all of the materials on hand so I’m not sure where they came from.  😉

I did add the following notes to my instructions for sewing Case A or B.

  • At Step 12 you are sewing back sections right sides together.
  • At Step 13 I would recommend first trimming the corners before turning right sides out.  This will reduce bulk in the corners and make a nicer finished project.
  • You could trace the stitching lines onto the material.  I don’t though!  Instead I mark the first one and then sew a total of 10 lines each 1″ apart.  Then I sew 4 more lines each 1.5″ apart.  I just try to keep my material straight and sew along. You could also measure it at the bottom.  I have found that when sewing the pockets if you begin at the bottom the finished project looks much better than if you sew from top to bottom.
The knitting needle case has pockets perfect for storing all of your knitting needles!

The knitting needle case has pockets perfect for storing all of your knitting needles!

Overall this was a wonderful project that I highly recommend!  If you can’t sew and would be interested in purchasing one please let me know.  I would love to make one for you.

Frugal Things I Did Last Week

1 Jan
Just some of the appetizers and treats served at our Christmas party.

Just some of the appetizers and treats served at our Christmas party.

Christmas has come and gone can you believe it?  I hope you all had a blessed Christmas celebrating our Savior’s birth!  I have been crafting and sewing like crazy this past month.  🙂  I am so thankful that I was able to sew more Christmas presents this year than any year yet!  I had a great time blessing my family in this way.

I made my sister a checkbook cover using this tutorial.  I used scrap material leftover from other projects so this project was practically free!  I couldn’t get the ruffle part of the tutorial to work out for me so I appliqued a K on it instead.  I am so pleased with how it turned out.  I might just have to make one for myself.  🙂

Katelyn's checkbook cover.

Katelyn’s checkbook cover.

I made the hubby a homemade vanilla milkshake instead of him heading to Sonic.

My handsome man modeling Bekah's new hat.

My handsome man modeling Bekah’s new hat.

I made my sister Bekah a fun fleece hat using this tutorial.  I used scrap fleece fabric I had on hand.

We ate soup for three meals last week.  I made Sneaky Potato Soup (with broccoli instead of cauliflower) and Crock Pot Tortilla Soup.

The eyeglass cases literally took minutes to make!

The eyeglass cases literally took minutes to make!

I made my mom and sister eyeglass cases out of a Vera Bradley purse (the zipper was broken beyond repair).  It literally took minutes!

I made a nightgown for my cousin Katie for Christmas.  I also made a matching one for her American Girl Doll and a sleep mask, sleeping bag, and pillow.  I hope she enjoys playing with it as much as I enjoyed making it.  I can’t believe how many creative sewing and DIY ideas there are out there for American Girl dolls.  🙂

Our Christmas open house was so much fun!

Our Christmas open house was so much fun!

We had a Christmas open house at our home that was lots of fun.  Besides the shrimp that we purchased everything else was homemade.  As shown in the picture above we served vegetables with Red Pepper Hummus (both from Aldi).  I also made a cheese tray using fancy cheeses and crackers from Aldi.  (Aldi continues to be such a blessing to my family!) We also served: deviled eggs,  popcorn balls, yum-yums, Pecan Tarts, Peppermint Kisses, Chips & Dip, Potato Chips, cupcakes, m&ms, bacon wrapped water chestnuts, fudge, and nuts.  For drinks I served: homemade hot chocolate (kept warm in a Crockpot), water, and punch (my late Poppie’s recipe).  We ended up with lots of leftover cookies which I froze and took to my parent’s house for Christmas.  (They still tasted great!)

I made Elijah a fleece no-sew blanket with fabric I purchased on Black Friday.  He loves it!

About half of the Christmas presents were purchased or made before the month of December.  I hid the majority of them on the tallest shelf of my closet.  Anytime I would find something at a great deal that I thought a family member would love I picked it up and added it to my stash.  By purchasing presents at stellar prices I am able to minimalize our Christmas expenses while maximizing our giving.  🙂

I sewed a Christmas sleeper for my son Elijah.  This wasn’t an incredible savings but such a fun memory!  I made my first sleeper for Eli-pictures coming soon!

How did you save money this past week?