Category Archives: Thrift

A Handmade, No-Spend Christmas

That’s my goal. We’ve been hit hard with car repairs and other expenses, as well as runaway inflation, so our plan is to either make all our presents by hand, trade, maybe use a few low-balance gift cards we have and just generally make this a different kind of Christmas. When I mentioned this to some of the family, I included that Dollar Tree gifts or gift baskets could be done, but I don’t expect to do them myself. It’s just an option if anyone wants to.

Josie, on her Cedar Creek Homestead youtube channel is talking this week about having a simpler Christmas. She tells a wonderful story about a Christmas during her childhood when all she wanted was a rocking chair, but knew there was no money for one and didn’t expect to get it. But out in the barn was an old rocker that had belonged to her grandpa. It was in rough shape.

But unbeknownst to Josie, her parents had plans for that chair. While she was at school during the day, her mother had been going out and sanding, repairing and staining the chair. On Christmas morning, there it was waiting for her. She was so surprised and pleased. Josie had a love for old things, so it was a double blessing.

This story reminds me of a couple of things. One was the story in Mark 14:3-9 about the woman who anointed Jesus with the ointment. She was criticized but He defended her saying “She hath done what she could.” What marvelous praise!

Another thing Josie’s story reminded me of was something my mother used to say: “It’s what you do with what you have that counts.” I’m not responsible for what’s impossible, but what I’m able to do.

My parents were a young married couple during World War II. This was before toys were mostly made from plastic, and metal was being used in the war effort, so new toys were scarce, and tricycles even scarcer. Daddy found a used one, and like Josie’s mother, cleaned it up and gave it a new coat of paint. And that was what my brother got for Christmas that year. Strangely enough, it was the start of his life long love of everything on wheels; everything from bicycles to motorcycles to race cars. I even saw him ride a unicycle once.

So, I plan on looking around at my assets and take stock of what I can do this December. I don’t have the talent of my sister to knit and crochet, or my friend Abby to bead or do paper engineering, but I can sew a little, bake and do a few other crafts.

Our home is full of books and magazines with projects and ideas.

One thing I tried this past year was making my own potpourri. We had a lot of oranges that needed to be used, but were past the eating stage. I sliced the nicest looking ones, put them on a cookie sheet and set it under our wood stove to dry them. I couldn’t believe how nicely that worked. For the others, I scooped out the pulp and dried the peels on the window sill on brown paper bags. Our back pasture is full of wildflowers, which my husband picked and brought to me later in the year, along with some berries (I have no idea what kind they are, and it didn’t matter since they weren’t for eating). After drying the flowers, I mixed it all together with the orange peel. No, it doesn’t smell as lovely as the store-bought kind, but essential oils or cinnamon oil can fix that.

I really like the chunky kind of potpourri, and was able to have some for free. True, it wasn’t nice enough to give for a gift, but it’s in the Making Do category.

I hope to do what I can, with what I have.

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Filed under Christmas, Christmas, Crafts - Cheap, Free, Holidays, Making Do, Thrift, Thrift, Vicissitudes of Life, Wildflowers

Life in Hard Times – Children’s Indoor Activities

This post kicks off a series here on Carla-at-Home of especially thrifty crafts, hints and activities, because even after the quarantine is over, I suspect that many people will be looking for thriftier ways to do things.

Families with children living in cities may be feeling the pinch of something for them to do besides watch television and play electronic games.

I remember rainy or cold Easter Sundays when I was a child. We weren’t a picnicking family, so bad weather didn’t affect dinner. If it was sunny, I could wear out a basket of dyed, hard boiled eggs in one afternoon by hiding and hunting them out in the yard. But sometimes when the weather moved us indoors, my mother would hide the eggs for me in our living room; over and over, bless her heart. In truth, it was probably much easier for her that way. She’d developed heart trouble when I was only 3 years old and had very limited energy. (In truth, I don’t think any of the mothers in our neigborhood did. They were very busy ladies.)

She still spent a lot of time with me, just not doing physically active things. When I was younger she read aloud or we played lots of word games, cards, Hide the Thimble, I Spy, etc. When I was older, we played Scrabble, Password, Scribbage (a Boggle type game), You Don’t Say, Jotto, and watched classic movies together on television. That was back in the days when cable hadn’t been invented and only 3 channels were on the dial.

Ebay has a ton of these classic games. Thrift stores and garage sales are excellent resources and a lot cheaper. Hopefully, the stores will all be open soon.

This link to an article on The Dollar Stretcher gives several indoor activities for families.

The Dollar Stretcher is one of my favorite websites and has been since 1997. It is a free massive compilation of advice on how to get out of debt and cheaper ways to do things, started and edited by Gary Foreman. Most of the content is reader submitted. Kind of like an online Amy Dacyczn collection. I encourage anyone who’s looking to save money to visit the site. You can sign up by email to get updates or simply go to http://www.thedollarstretcher.com. New content is added at least a couple of times weekly.

Just because we’re stuck at home doesn’t mean we have to turn into tech zombies.

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Filed under Children, Free, Fun, Games, Internet links

Made in the U.S.A. – ornament hooks

2012-12-20 08 (copy).18.50

We needed ornament hooks in December. It was so disappointing when I went to Wal-Mart and all of the ones there were made in… you guessed it: China.

So I thought I’d check out the paper clips and Bingo! Made in the U.S.A.

It just took a little bending and now I have good, strong, American made ornament hooks.

When I packed away the tree decorations this month, I put the hooks in the same can with them.

Next Christmas, I’ll know where they are.

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Filed under Christmas, Made in the U.S.A., Making Do, Thrift, Wal-Mart, Wal-Mart

Made in the U.S.A. – Christmas Cards

Christmas Cards 2012-5

This is a good time to buy Christmas cards for next year. I bought several boxes at Wal-Mart yesterday.

They’ll probably be reduced even further, but I wanted to choose mine while there was still a good selection.

I chose primarily Religious ones, because Christmas without Jesus is rather hollow.
Christmas Cards 2012-9 scaled

Christmas Cards 2012-10

Fantus and Paper Magic Group cards were both made in the U.S.A.

Christmas Cards 2012-6
Christmas Cards 2012-8

Some of them are a bit plain, so I plan to use Stickles (another made in the U.S. product) or some glitter and glue to gussy them up.

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Filed under Christmas, Ephemera, Made in the U.S.A., Thrift, Wal-Mart

Mini-Scrapbook, Patriotic Style

One of the swap paper projects that my sister (Fran), our friend (Abby) and I did a couple of years ago were altered books/scrapbooks for each other.

This is the one that I made for Fran.

My goal was to make it more than just a graphic collage, as most of my projects have been. I wanted it to be read, not just looked at.

* The black smudges are poorly executed distressing, not mold. ugh.

And once again, my theme involved found (or re-purposed) materials. They included:

church bulletin cover
junk mail
used postage stamps
magazine clippings
old poster board
punched stars
saved string
scraps leftover from a previous 4th of July project

and a few shiny stars and rubber stamps

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Filed under 4th of July, America, Crafts - Paper, Ephemera, History, Mini Scrapbooks, Using What You Have

March Blooms

Bradford Pear

Just had to stop and capture the beautiful Bradford Pear trees in bloom at the city complex in Grapevine on Sunday.

All this beauty is free, but temporary.

Blossoms were already gently falling on the breeze; it was like something described in a Jane Austen book. I took a video, but it doesn’t really capture the feeling.

Bradford Pear Blossoms

The white petals were pooling around the base of the tree.

Lovely!

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Filed under Free, Springtime, Texas

Letters to Keep


Every day when we open the mailbox, don’t we all hope to see an envelope with our name handwritten on the front?

I hope for it every time, but the actual occurrence is rare now that my mother is in heaven.

For many years, my mother wrote me a letter every Monday. At least that’s the day she mailed it; it always arrived here on Wednesday.

Mama was a letter writer. She stayed in contact with her lifelong friends and relatives chiefly by correspondence. Long distance phone calls were usually reserved for my siblings and me. For most of her life, long distance phone calls were a rarity, and were charged to one’s bill in 3 minute increments; veritable luxuries.

Until I was an adult, all calls except local ones were placed through an operator; either person-to-person (the most expensive type but the only way you were guaranteed that you wouldn’t be charged if your intended recipient wasn’t home) or station-to-station. The only times long distance calls were placed or received from our house was when there was important news (usually a death) or an impending visit. I remember one costing $2.47. Converting 1963 dollars to current values, that would be somewhere around $15.00. Even in these freewheeling days, I don’t make $15 phone calls.

We lived in the same city as my parents during the first year of our marriage, so of course, she didn’t send letters then, but I received many in the ensuing years, when we were farther apart.

I don’t know at what point I began saving them, but I’m glad I did, because just seeing one of those familiar envelopes in her handwriting makes me feel good. She had lovely penmanship and wrote chatty, friendly little missives even after macular degeneration made it difficult to write on the unlined paper she preferred.

My mother had many, many admirable qualities. One was taking the time to give of herself and making sure that a loved one had something personal in with their delivered mail.

Because isn’t that what a letter is?

A gift of our time.

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Filed under Ephemera, Family, Thrift

Upcycled Tablet Case

“Goodwill kid’s shirt + bubble wrap + retired flexy plastic cutting board + duct tape, and a little sewing machine action…viola, custom case/sleeve for my tablet.”

Lance, my husband’s nephew, posted his project on Facebook, and with his permission, I share it with you.

Clever fellow.

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Filed under Crafts - Textile, Making Do, Thrift, Using What You Have

Paper Houses

First the caveat: Please, please do not put a real tea light in these. They’ll catch on fire in a New York minute.

Found the pattern and instructions here on Just Something I Made. These are the easiest ones I’ve made; they go together very quickly, although I didn’t go to as much trouble as Cathe did. No bottoms in mine and I didn’t cut the windows, etc.

Mine aren’t Halloween houses; of course, the pattern can be modified many ways. Instead of using decorative paper, I mostly used stiff magazine pages with large areas of graphics. The gold colored house was a Godiva chocolates ad.


My favorite, I think was the one made from a book page. It looks particularly good with the battery powered tea light because the paper is more translucent and it sort of glows.

To make the chimney, I folded another piece of paper into a square, using a glue stick to affix the edges. Then I folded it in half, opened it back up, cut little slits in the bottom, folded the little cut strips down and glued it onto the roof. The smoke was made by glue-sticking two pieces together, cutting them into a curved shape, then gluing it down into the chimney.

At Just Something I Made, she cut the windows, but since I didn’t want the haunted house look and didn’t want to figure out my own pattern for regular windows, I just cut little squares of paper and glued them onto the sides.

The front door is just snipped up, then across.

Next I think I’ll try enlarging the pattern about 35% and making a little village, altering roof lines, putting on a little gingerbread trim, etc.

These would look great for a Christmas theme. Or with the bottoms glued on and a hole punched in the top for a string they’d be cute tree ornaments, or on a string of fairy lights.

Hutch Studio has some very cute ones for sale if you prefer to buy them in a kit rather than make your own patterns, etc.

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Filed under Book Page Projects, Crafts, Crafts - Cheap, Crafts - Paper, Internet links, Using What You Have

Autumn Altered Book, Part II

Next steps … but still in progress.

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Filed under Altered Books, Autumn, Books, Crafts - Cheap, Crafts - Paper, Ephemera, Thrift, Using What You Have