Thursday, July 19, 2012

An Adjustable Belt In No Time!

Part of my son's school uniform is a belt.  In fact, he is required to have his shirt tucked in every day so the belt will be showing so there will be no cheating!  LOL!

The uniform store had some belts but none that were adjustable.  So what happens when he hits a growth spurt?  I get to buy more belts?? I'm just too cheap for that...

I got the idea how to make an adjustable belt when I saw a dog collar that didn't have an opening, just a slide to adjust the size.  So you just adjust the collar to put it on Fido, then make it smaller so that he can't get it off.

Insert light bulb turning on here.

I found all of my supplies from different Etsy sellers - 1 yard length of 1.25" wide cotton webbing here in this shop; military style belt buckles, matching end caps, rectangle loops, and three bar moveable sliders here in this shop.  I first planned to sew the webbing, but I just happened to have my glue gun out so I thought, "hey, why not glue it?"  Lazy, I know...  but it works!

Step One - Cut 3 inches off of one end of your webbing and insert it into the part of the belt buckle that just clamps down and holds it in place.  You may think like I did that this may not hold the webbing tight enough and that it could come undone but I pulled on it quite a bit and it stayed in place.

Step Two - Put the other end of the 3 inch piece of webbing in the rectangle loop.  Put a thick line of hot glue on the end and fold it over.  Hold it in place until it dries.

Step Three - Take the other piece of webbing and put the three bar slide on it so that the middle bar does not show.

Step Four - Turn it over so that the middle bar DOES show and slip the rectangle bar over the end (make sure that the buckle is up-side-down).

Step Five - Fold the end over and tuck it under the middle bar of the three bar slide.  Pull enough through so that you can glue that end over the middle bar.

Step Six - Put a thick line of hot glue on the edge of the end and fold it over the middle bar.

Step Seven - Fold the end cap over the remaining raw edge of the cotton webbing and hammer in place.

Now you can adjust the belt as big or small as you need it to fit.

Cotton webbing comes in different widths and lots of different colors.  I originally wanted to get a stripped pattern in red, khaki, and navy, but mine have to be plain.  :-(  School rules!  Oh well, at least I won't have to buy my son any belts for a while.

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Vegetable Garden Journey - Leave Your Troubles at the Gate

"I think you're going to lose interest...".  That's what my hubby said when I told him that I wanted a vegetable garden.  And I don't mind him saying it - we have a strict honesty policy in our house - because he knows that I don't really enjoy flower gardening or landscaping.  My mother could spend hours outside in her flower gardens, but not me.  I didn't like getting my hands dirty and I had other interests that required me to be inside in the air conditioning, like shopping or scrapbooking.

I assured him that I would not lose interest.  "I want to grow my own food", "It will be fun for the kids to plant seeds and watch things grow for us to eat", "It will be like therapy for me with the added bonus of fresh tomatoes".

Then I mentioned renting a tractor digger thing from Home Depot to dig out and level the garden spot in the back yard.  He made some Tim Taylor type grunting noises, and then it was game ON!

I am so lucky to have such a handy husband...  there is very little that he cannot do!  He did all the tractor work and installed the retaining wall with my brother's help.  And here are some before and after pictures -

 Here is "the island" before the tractor dug out the area for the retaining wall.  We call it the island because the ground around it is all grass and that makes it look like an island.  For seven years we've been covering it with pine straw and just ignored it.  It's also a section of our yard that gets a lot of sun AND is pretty close to the house.

The completed retaining wall allowed for a level area measuring 20' long x 8' wide.  Next year we will have to install a small retaining wall at the bottom of the island to keep the dirt from flowing into the lawn.

 The cedar raised bed kit being installed (that's my brother in the photo).  It is only 7" deep so I had to dig in to allow for plenty of root growth.  If you can't tell from these pictures, this is what you call Red Georgia Clay which is LOTS of fun to dig in...  by "fun" I really mean "Royal PITA"!  Really, I thought I was going to die but I just kept reminding myself how much I was going to LOVE having my very own home-grown vegetables.

About the kit - it was the most affordable way to be able to use cedar which is naturally resistant to rotting.  Pressure-treated lumber was not an option for obvious reasons and non-treated wood would not have lasted very long here because of the termites.  If I ever build another raised bed garden, I will probably use something else.  This kit had a few badly warped boards that were un-usable and it was really just too shallow.

 Fast forward a few months - the garden today with a bunny fence and straw mulch.  The straw makes it a little more comfortable to kneel on the ground around the garden.  Oh, how I used to love watching those bunny's hop into the yard from the woods to eat the clover in my lawn...  now when I see them I want to let the dog out to chase them away but we don't have a fenced yard so we'd probably never see him again!  Thankfully the weeds in the lawn keep their bellies plenty full and they have not ventured into the garden.

I utilized "companion planting" for my square foot garden which is planting certain plants near others to either help deter pests or enhance flavor.  Dill and cucumber, tomato and borage, peppers and parsley, etc...  I often referred to this site for its recommendations -

Outside of the bunny fence, the island slopes down into the lowest part of our yard.  Next year I plan to condition some of the soil here on the hill to plant my zucchini and squash since they need more room than my small square-foot garden allows.  On the far right of the fenced area, there is just enough room for a potato tower.  Here's how I plan to build one next year -  

My zucchini

My cucumber

 Rutgers Tomato with some lemon grass in front

Zucchini again

While I am enjoying the harvest of my summer veggies, I am already planning my fall/winter crop of carrots, spinach, peas, and squash to name a few.  Here in the Atlanta area we have a nice long growing season so there is no reason to not have this garden producing for most of the year!  If you're interested in planning your garden on your computer, I highly recommend this site -  Their online planning tool has a low yearly fee of $24, with a free 30 day trial period.  You can save several different plans, make notes, and draw out your entire yard!  It also tells you the best times to start seeds indoors, move plants outdoors, and when to harvest depending on where you live.  I've had a lot of fun playing with it.

So, have I lost interest?  No.  Absolutely not.  I go into the garden almost every day.  I love to see how much my plants have gown.  I look at it and think about how to do things differently next year like planting a lot more green beans and making the cucumber trellis taller.  I watch the breeze gently move the leaves on the cucumber vines and listen to the bees as they hum from flower to flower.  It's like a small refuge that gives me some "me time" to really be present in the moment.  When I'm in the garden, I am thinking about the garden.  Everything else gets left at the gate.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Time for a Face Lift

For my blog, that is!  I haven't had a lot of time to write and post what with a new job and a baby... but that's all going to change now.  I have a couple new hobbies that I plan to share - Vegetable Gardening, Vermicomposting, and have gotten back into sewing.

I looked back through my past posts and there is a lot about couponing.  Honestly, I thought about deleting them, but it is a reminder of where I don't want to go again.  I do still use coupons, but not on the same scale and not for crap non-food.  I spend our food budget more at the farmer's markets now and I have a lovely vegetable garden that is starting to produce healthy food for my family.  So, in short, I'm OVER IT!

What you can look forward to - interesting recipes using healthier ingredients, gardening and the joy it has brought into my life, and fun creative up-cycle sewing projects for me and the kids.  As they say in Japan - ikimasho!  Let's GO!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Scrapbook in Seven Hours

I broke a record here I'm sure... a 8"x8" scrapbook completed in just 7 hours. I also didn't spend a lot of money by using greeting cards, gift bags, and party decorations as embellishments!

When my son was born 4 years ago I already had scrapbook pages laid out and ready for his pictures. So when my daughter turned 6 months old last month and I had not even begun her first book I started to feel a little guilty! I certainly did not want her to see her not-finished baby book compared to my son's TWO elaborate books when she is older!

Thankfully my church has a crop-club that meets once per month for 6 hours to work on scrapping. I took my pink 8"x8" and all the stuff that I saved from my baby shower, pictures, and paper and got to work. The 8"x8" books that I make for my kids are their sonogram, decorating the nursery, me pregnant, and baby shower pictures.

This first page is made using 8"x8" craft paper and two cards that I got at my baby shower. The larger card has an outline of baby feet on it that's hard to see in this picture. The only thing I bought for this layout is the background paper!

Here we have baby girl's sonogram pictures. The butterflies and green flower came from some hanging decorations from my baby shower. I bought the baby bottle embellishment in the lower right corner.

Decorating the nursery! That's my darling hubby painting and my little guy making an appearance. There are lots of store bought embellishments on these pages but they were a gift!

Pictures of me pregnant! The rattle and heart I cut out of a gift bag.

More prego pictures and embellishments from the shower decorations.

Here are the baby shower pictures with store bought embellishments which, again, were given to me.

Since I had a few extra pages I filled them with cute cards that I got, the shower invitation, and more cut-outs from gift bags.

More shower pics, more decorations-turned-scrapbook embellishments.

Two more cute cards. Love that Kangaroo!!

Here is a mini-card on the top of the right hand page. I always save these to use in my scrapbooks.

And the final page - a sweet little card with stitching detail and a flower from the shower decorations.

By saving things like wrapping paper, party decorations, ribbon, and gift bags you can create a really nice memory book for very little money. Now I will begin her 12"x12" baby book documenting her growth and milestones month by month. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Publix Shopping Trip 8.24.11

Got some great deals today...

4 Resolve Spray - $.50 each with coupon
2 Lysol Spray Cleaner - $.85 each with coupon (and rain check from last week's sale)
16 Beechnut baby food jars - $4.40 with coupons
4 Smart Balance Peanut butter jars - $1.29 each with coupon
4 Mahatma yellow rice - Money Maker with coupon! Publix actually paid me $.11 per package to take these out of the store.
Etc.... (see pic below)

The only things that I bought that I did not have a coupon for was the flour and the raisins.

The bottles and sippy cups should have cost me $18 but I paid $10 after combining Target, Publix, and Avent coupons.

Everything here cost me $62. I saved $64.

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Couponing Secrets....

Maybe you're totally new to using coupons or a seasoned vet with over 20 years experience... here are some tips to help you save at least 50% off of your grocery bill (hopefully more!!). I save at least that much when I pair coupons with the weekly sales of several different stores and here is how I do it!

Step 1 - Collect Coupons! I buy them with my Sunday papers. I buy two "bundles" which is 4 papers from my local Publix. Each "bundle" costs $3.50. A "bundle is two Sunday papers that did not sell on Saturday so when the paper delivery people come on Sunday morning they "bundle" all of the Saturday left-overs. In order to take advantage of lots of sale items you will probably need to collect coupons for 4 to 6 weeks. These bundles sell fast so you better buy them before 10AM.

Other ways to get coupons -
  • Clipping Services - they sell already clipped coupons and mail them to you.
  • Print Coupons from the Internet.
  • Magazines - Lots of women's magazines have coupons in them but All You which is only sold at Walmart is one of the best.
  • Friends and Neighbors - Ask them to save their unused coupons for you. In my neighborhood we get a free circular tossed on our driveway every Thursday that usually has a coupon insert in it and since a few of my neighbors don't coupon they give me theirs.
  • Join or Organize a Coupon Trading Group - Maybe your church or PTA has one. I'm currently working on this for the Kennesaw, Canton, Cumming area... more info will be posted about this soon.
Step 2 - Organization! You need to come up with a way to organize your coupons that works for you. If you can't find them, you can't use them! I use a big zipper binder with plastic pocket dividers and clear baseball card holder inserts. I put them in the following categories - Frozen Food, Cold Stuff (like cheese), Grocery (which is everything else), Baby Stuff, Paper Products, Cleaning Supplies, Laundry, Personal Care (like shampoo and razors), Rx, and Pet Food.

Step 3 - Get On Line! There are lots of couponing websites but this one is the best for lists of sale items already paired with current coupons - It's not the most "user-friendly" because of all the darn ads (just my opinion) so here is where you should click -
  • Create a login and password
  • Click "login" (far right corner, blue square)
  • Enter your login which is your email address and password
  • Click on "Grocery Deals By State" (left side, blue square)
  • Locate the drop down field on the right side of the page. It will say "Click the arrow to find your state and click GO"
  • Choose your state and the store where you plan to shop OR pick one of the national stores listed at the very top of the list.
  • Click GO
  • This will open a list that can be sorted in several different ways - by the manufacturer coupon date, alphabetically by item name, sale price, final price (after coupon amount deducted), or percentage saved. I like to sort by percentage saved so that the best deals are at the top.
  • Click the check box of the items that you want to buy.
  • Click "Display Selected Deals" which will give you your list that will give you your shopping total.
  • Print your list!
After you have printed your list you can match up your coupons. For example, the 7/24 Smart Source coupon insert had a coupon for Speed Stick Deodorant which is on sale at Publix until 7/28. If you bought a paper you may have this coupon so all you need to do is clip it and bring it with you. Keep in mind that coupon inserts vary by city and region. Some regions may have a coupon with a different amount on it or may not have it at all.

Another website I like is called Members can post their deals, trade coupons, and chat about all different kinds of sales. It's also helpful if you are just getting started or need to understand how certain stores operate (like drug stores).

Step 4 - Know Your Coupon Policies - Some stores double, some don't. Some stores will give you an "overage" (when the coupon amount is more than the sale price of the item), some won't. If your coupon is for $.50 off or less it's best to use it at a store that will automatically double its value. My local Publix, Kroger, and Ingles stores will double $.50 cent or less coupons every day. My local Target, Walmart, and drug stores do not.

Step 5 - Go Shopping! It's probably best to stick with one or two stores at first so that you don't burn out. If you're in Georgia I would start with Publix buy-one get-one free items (BOGOs) and Kroger's Mega Sale Events.

Extra Tips -
  • Collect even numbers of coupons for BOGO items (I usually have 4 or 6 of each Sunday insert coupon)
  • Only clip the coupons that you will use and file the rest. This will save you a lot of time! At first I clipped everything but after a while I figured out which coupons I use and the ones that usually get tossed in the recycle bin.
  • Have your coupons ready BEFORE you get in the checkout line. I move all of the coupons that I plan to use to an insert page in the very front of my binder and when I put the items in my cart I put all of those coupons together.
  • If you have any coupons that the clerk will need to write on (BOGO coupons), tell him or her in advance and put all of these items together at the beginning of your order.
  • Stick to your list! You will save more if you avoid impulse buys that you do not have coupons for.
  • DO NOT clear the shelf of a sale item that you have coupons for just because you can. This is considered rude in the couponing world. Be considerate and leave some for the next shopper. I mean really, do you NEED 40 bottles of hand soap???
  • You do not need to build your stock-pile in 30 days. Buy a little at a time and watch it grow!
I'd love to read your comments and will answer any questions so please post them here. Happy Couponing!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Publix Shopping Trip 7.24.11

Everything here cost me $20.17

Best deal of the day - FREE Deodorant! It was BOGO $1.97 for two sticks and I used 4 $.50/1 coupons which made them free plus a couple cents.

Unexpected deal - the baby food here was on the clearance shelf for $.30 each. I paired two $1/4 stage 1 food jars with this clearance deal totaling $.40 for 8 jars of sweet potatoes.

Kinda ticked off about the Smucker's sale... it specifically excluded the grape jam and jelly. I guess Robert is going to have to get used to strawberry jam on his peanut butter!

The Soft Soap was 2/$4 and I used my $.35/1 coupons. The Kroger sale ad showed the smaller Soft Soap as part of their 10 for $10 this week but the coupon said "8 oz. or larger" and the smaller bottle is only 7.5 oz. So I paid $1.30 for each bottle.

Total saved - $52.31.