Monday, October 31, 2011

Spider Cake

One bundt cake.  4 cupcakes in the middle hole.  1 down and 3 squeezed in the top.  Frost over everything to make the body of the spider.  1 more cupcake for a head.

8 chocolate Twizzlers.  8 Hershey's Hugs for helping the legs stay put.  2 M&Ms for eyes.  And a Reese's peanut butter cup for fangs.

I like the fangs most of all.  ; )

Woodland Fairy Costume

So what do you do when your daughter announces that she wants to be a "woodland fairy" the day before her big Halloween party?

Raid your thrift store sweater stash of course!  I just cut the arms off and made a new neckline and jagged waistline.

I saved the arms and cut them into tapered strips.

A pick of silk fall leaves and a glue gun and we are ready to go!

Just tie strips of tulle around an elastic waistband for the skirt. (Go here for a tutorial.) Then start gluing on the green tapered strips and some more fall leaves.

Here was my inspiration.

A few more scattered leaves......

And we are DONE!!!

2 dollar-store fairy wings in coordinating colors rounded out the costume for a very happy teenager!  Happy Halloween Birthday Dear Daughter!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hunger Challenge: Week 4 (We Cheated!)

We survived week three with flying colors.  Partly because I found great deals last week and partly because WE CHEATED.  Yup.  One night we went to Costco and bought pizza.  Even though I had the ingredients at home to make one.  Lucky for us, we are not really on food stamps.  And not really on 1/2 food stamps!

Since this is my last week on the "hunger challenge,"  I thought I would spend a little time writing about what I have realized and felt since going on it.

I started out doing this challenge because I read an article about people doing a similar "food stamp hunger challenge" for just one week in the month of September.  The people who had tried that challenge mostly complained about how hard it had been and how very pitiful the people who are on food stamps must really be.  But I was surprised at how MUCH money was allotted for the average food stamp user.  Then the news of the riots in Greece regarding their austerity measures only furthered my desire to see what a certain amount of austerity measure would do to our family.  And how such a thing would affect our country if we ever came to that.

No one likes to have their standard of living reduced.  No one does.  But if you are out of work, or living off of someone else's generosity, or if you need to save money for another purpose, or if your entire country is having financial difficulties, reducing your standard of living is necessary.  It just is.

One of the most heart-wrenching concepts that people can think of is a child going hungry.  We are just terribly upset about that concept.  With good reason.  If we are told that children are starving somewhere, we are apt to do everything asked of us to relieve that suffering.  It is an emotional trigger button to turn on our charitable feelings.  It can be used to manipulate our donation decisions and our votes.

But ARE children really starving in America?  The answer is yes.  But who are they?  Are they children in families that are receiving food stamps?  Perhaps.  But is it because there isn't enough "money" given through food stamps?  I think not.

When you also consider that children in families with low incomes also receive free breakfast and lunch at school and that mothers and babies can receive WIC food and formula, (all in addition to food stamps) then the amount of food possible really starts to add up.

Why then are so many children and families going hungry?  I do not know.   I cannot address illegal immigrants and the plight of children in those families.  I cannot address those who are not eligible for food stamps for one reason or another but also have no or a low income.  I cannot address those who are mentally ill and/or homeless and somehow falling through the cracks of the system.

But for those who are IN THE SYSTEM, I do not believe there is any reason to worry about their ability to obtain healthy and adequate food.  There is plenty of money there.  Our family has been living on HALF the average food stamp allotment.  We are not going hungry.  Not at all.

I feel like this challenge has left me with the ability to not be manipulated by politicians who want to use the "hungry children" card to push their agenda further.   More and more social programs and higher and higher taxes is not the answer.

When you look at how in debt our country is and how our economy is is trouble--I wonder if some reduction or redistribution of funds would be better.  I would rather see families receive 1/2 the amount of food stamps and better health insurance.  Or maybe 1/2 the amount in food stamps and transportation help.  Or 1/2 the amount of food stamps and safer and more affordable housing.  Or whatever else is needful.

The future goal would be for the family to get OFF of food stamps.  There are those who must be on food stamps and social programs for life.  But for many families, it should be a temporary situation.  If people become spoiled on a program and never learn to shop carefully, prepare their own food, or plan ahead, they will be very disinclined to get off the program.  It becomes a golden handcuff.  It is just too hard to get off the program.

As things are currently, our family would eat easier and better than our norm if we were to go on food stamps.  Lucky there are some other things we enjoy about being employed and making our own way.

These are my thoughts and discoveries.

Friday, October 21, 2011

"Dyeing" to Try This

Since I started felting again and being interested in all the fiber arts, I have been dying to try dyeing something!  This leftover beet juice seemed the perfect opportunity!

There are numerous blogs and websites out there that teach about how to dye wool or silk or cotton with natural pigments.  Most all of them recommend having a mordant.  A mordant is a substance that allows whatever dye you are using to stick to your fiber.

I didn't have any alum.  That is the most common mordant used in home dyeing.  But I did have some cream of tartar.  I sprinkled a little into the beet juice and then soaked my piece of wool roving in it overnight.  (This is not actually the proper method.)  When I rinsed it clear in the morning, I was expecting a lovely shade of pink or purple.  What I got was the lightest flesh tone.  But it took!

Check out these websites from those who really know what they are doing:,_Carding,_Spinning,_&_Dyeing_Wool_(Using_Natural_Dyes)_for_Weaving_Navajo_Rugs.htm

And keep watching.....I'm going to be doing more of this in the future!  It's just so fun to see what colors you can get!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rocks and Fall Colors with Charlie!

This week, I went on a hike with Charlie.  Just the two of us.  To find the fall colors!

Charlie LOVES rocks.  So a hike up "ROCK Canyon" was the perfect idea of fun.

There were little rocks to pick up.  Big rocks to sit on.  And giant rocks that made up the mountains!

Charlie was happy to forge the path ahead of me.  We started looking for "orangey" trees.

We stopped at a mossy green rock to rest.  The moss was soft and fuzzy.

Then on to the colors!

"Orangey-pink LaLa."


So many pretty colors.

I let Charlie walk up a little path all by himself.

He found a most splendid treasure!

He couldn't WAIT to get back down the path and show me!

"Look LaLa!"

"A ROCK!!!"

Yup!  That's what we do.  Hike up Rock Canyon, dance in the colored leaves, and pick up ROCKS!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hunger Challenge Week 3

We survived Week 2 of the Hunger Challenge!  We had a really busy week and I wasn't in the mood to make everything from scratch--so we suffered a little bit.  I spent my extra money from the previous weeks on another gallon of milk and some apples and bananas.  I'm not sure why we ran out of milk.  Must have been thirsty!

But I did make homemade tortilla chips and we had some yummy Mexican food with guacamole one night.

Another night, I made a big pan of scalloped potatoes and that lasted us for several meals.

Scott and I were overjoyed when we found a small bottle of soda in the back of the cupboard!  (Yes, I know it's silly---but soda is not really a necessity of life and so hasn't been on the grocery list.)  But we were very happy to split this one!  

We were also THRILLED to get invited to dinner at our daughter's house.  Thanks Elizabeth!

This week, I am hoping to be more on target of eating well and also staying within budget and NOT feeling sorry for ourselves.  

Same 3 gallons of milk for the week.  $5.13  (yay!)

I found some awesome deals at a different grocery store.  Frozen REAL and NAME BRAND juice was on sale for 79 cents a container!  I bought 8.  As we have been missing juice a lot!  And I found hamburger cheap and little sirloin steaks.  Two loaves of really nice bread for $2/loaf.  I also bought some ice cream.  And some pepperoni in case we want a pizza!  ; )

We've spent $45.35 so far.  That leaves $4.65 left which I will probably spend on some more produce tomorrow when a certain store has a special Wednesday sale.

Our planned menu for the week goes like this:

Breakfasts:  Cold Cereal (still have lots from last weeks great deal,) Oatmeal, Toast, Eggs

Lunches:  Sandwiches (found a great deal on bistro deli meats (plus a coupon on the package for 55 cents off!) , Applesauce, Ramen Noodles, Leftovers

Homemade Chili and Cornbread
Pumpkin Curry (I have a great recipe out of a current magazine and lots of orange squash)
Tomato Soup (homemade--very easy) and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Steak and Baked Potatoes
Breakfast for Dinner--probably bacon and pancakes
Oven-fried Chicken
Sweet and Sour Pork (never did this one last week)

I might change one of these out for a pizza night.

We will supplement meals with bananas, apples, green beans (still coming from the garden), squash, and potatoes.

So far no one has gone hungry!  And remember we are eating off of HALF the average amount given to people for Food Stamps!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Felted Witch!

"Bwahh Haa Haa!"  And "Cackle Cackle!"  I just finished felting my Halloween Witch!

And boy is she CREEEEEEEPY!  I love it!  She has a pet shrunken head that she bounces like a yoyo and a broomstick for getting around town!

She started out like this.  Just some wire and some wool batting.

I continued wrapping her.  Then needle felted on some skin color and some hands.  Her head was needle felted separately and then attached after I put her dress on.

I even gave her some witchy underwear---and a witchy bellybutton.  ; )

She's WATCHING you!!!  Her dress and hat were made by wet felting around a resist.  Her face and hands were tediously made by needle felting.  Notice her chin hairs.

And a rather large mole on her wicked nose!  Her hair was made by wet felting some dreadlocks.

 As was her shrunken head's hair.  But the shrunken head is also needle felted.

The broom was manufactured from some dry branches in my backyard and a little bit of homespun yarn.

Happy Halloweening!!!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

In the spirit of the Hunger Challenge, I have been looking for ways to not be wasteful.  Here are three examples from this last week:

1.  Crab Apple Syrup

I didn't have to look any farther than my own backyard for this one!  Our neighbor has a beautiful old crab apple tree.  One large branch hangs over into our yard and in the spring blooms bright pink and beautiful.  But in the fall, it drops hundreds of crab apples onto our ground.  I went out back with my husband and picked all the crab apples that were still on the tree.  There weren't many left, but there were enough to make one jar of crab apple syrup.  I had never done this before---and it required a "jelly bag."  Which I didn't have.   But I was able to sew one up out of some leftover muslin I had.  And it worked!  In no time at all, I had a lovely fragrant jar of syrup.  And it tastes heavenly over French toast!

2.  Clementine Tea Cakes

What to do with rotten bananas and ancient clementines?

This is what I started with.  You would think I would just throw them away.....but I had an idea from those lovely people in NYC at 30 Bucks a Week.  A clementine tea cake!

I followed their recipe, only doubling it.  Boiled the little dry oranges for 45 minutes, then added the other ingredients.

As they were baking in the oven, the whole house filled with the luscious smell of orange.  I put one loaf away in the freezer for another week.  The other one was gobbled up fresh by my family.   A warm slice with a little cream cheese on top was just heaven!

3.  Warm and Toasty Croutons

We bought a weird loaf of rye bread the other week.  It just didn't have a very good texture.  Or flavor.  And no one was eating it.  Normally, it would have ended up in the garbage.  But not this month!

I snipped up the leftover slices with my kitchen shears.  Spread them out on a pan and sprayed olive oil cooking spray on them.  Then threw on a few spices.  Seasoned salt.  Oregano.  Garlic powder.

Popped them in the oven until they were toasty brown!

We had some on a salad that night (best croutons ever!) and I saved the rest in a bag in the freezer.

My thoughts:  We wouldn't have died without crab apple syrup, clementine cake, or croutons.  But our quality of life was improved by my attention to this concept.    We were able to re-purpose items slated for the garbage.  It's a mindset.  "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  Only it can be your own trash turned into treasure!