inexpensive tips

  • Grinch Kabobs!

    Grinch KabobsI can think of nothing more effective in chasing away the Grinch-like attitudes around the holidays than bright, cheery food. And, if that food can be healthy, all the better, right? These Grinch Kabobs will make even the most grumpy, Christmas-spiritless person smile or at least get a little healthier while remaining in their grouchy world. :)

    Pretty easy stuff here today....all you need to make these are:

    • Strawberries
    • Green grapes
    • Bananas
    • Mini marshmallows
    • Wooden skewers

    The only real instructions you need are to make sure you immerse the banana slices in some kind of citrus. Pineapple juice works just as well as lemon juice and tastes better I think.

    These would make really fun little treats for the kids after school, for those last minute treats for the school party that you find out about the night before, or for any other holiday gathering for that matter. They'd also be fabulous on the Christmas Dinner table either as dessert or as a sweet appetizer. Very versatile. Very easy. Very good.

    Take that Mr. Grinch.


    Photo courtesy:

  • Wine Glass Christmas Centerpiece

    Wine Glass CenterpieceIn a perfect world, we would all have created a Christmas Notebook back in July, we would have been gathering ideas all year long and filling said notebook and all its various categories and sections. AND, we would have been busy creating all kind of handcrafted beauties for the people we care about and want to give to so that when the day after Thanksgiving rolls around, we can smile with confidence knowing we've got it all under control. Even the Christmas Day meal would already be organized, invites would go out early, lists would be made and cross referenced with other lists. Is it like this at your house too?

    Wait, who are we kidding?! My world is not perfect and I suspect that unless you are Martha Stewart yours isn't either. But, that doesn't mean we have to sacrifice elegance and charm, especially when it comes to the centerpiece for Christmas Dinner.

    I so so so love this idea. And, one of the best parts is that this is not just for Christmas. By switching out the color of the bulbs, this elegant centerpiece can be used many times over for New Years Day, Valentines Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving! Even for birthdays and anniversary parties, all you have to do is choose a favorite color of the one you're honoring and you've got such a gorgeous display.

    Simple. Easy. That's how we roll around here.

    Merry entertaining!

    Photo credit:

  • Just a Bite of Sweet

    choc soft serveI seem to have developed an insatiable affinity for chocolate soft serve ice cream. You may be wondering what took me so long. I like ice cream, I don't think I know anyone who doesn't. But, it's never been a food that I dream about while on a strict diet, crave or have trouble saying no to. That is, until recently.

    When I go to work, I drive right past the joint. Or, I should say joints ~ two fast food national chains right next door to each other, both known for these frozen delights.  Anyway, long story short here, there are mini versions of these treats that I have discovered work just fine to satisfy a sweet tooth without causing too much caloric damage.

    chocolate dipped marshmallowToday's little treat is along the same line....look at these cute li'l dipped marshmallows! You've just spent a long day at work, and arrive home just as the kiddos are coming through the door after school. Christmas is upon us and as such there are a million and one things on your list to do this evening. The cookies you baked the last couple of nights are reserved for the cookie exchange with  your girlfriends tomorrow night, but the kids are eyeing them. Heck, you are eyeing them. What to do. Well, here's an idea:


    1. a bag of large marshmallows,
    2. a bag of semi sweet chocolate chips,
    3. and a package of sprinkles on your way home.
    • Over a double boiler (or, who am I kidding, in a microwaveable bowl) melt the chocolate chips, stirring.
    • Dip one end of the marshmallow in the melted chocolate.
    • Immediately press the chocolafied marshmallow into a flat bowl with the sprinkles.
    • Place upright on a plate.
    • Watch them disappear.

    Now, you can enjoy your evening. :)

    Photo courtesy:

  • DIY Snowy Ball Ornaments

    snowy ballNobody here in the upper Midwest has spoken the "S" word yet, but we all know that these beautiful autumn days are numbered. Despite our best attempts to bribe the gods, winter will come, the snow "S" will fly and we will do what we hearty Minnesotans do in these situations: embrace it complain. I moved here from Washington state 10 years ago, and have never stopped being amazed at how long a Minnesotan can discuss the weather when they don't like it, lol. So it is with great hesitation that I show you this very doable, fun DIY project today. But, never mind the naysayers, here we go!

    This project has been posted on Pinterest from several different people, but I think the idea may have originated with the ever lovely Martha Stewart. I love the look of these, they look so lacey and sparkly, and the fact that it uses common crafting supplies is a big bonus in my book.

    So, let's get started. The gist of this project is that the snowy ball is made out of string that is wrapped around a small water balloon and then dipped in watered down glue. A wise suggestion would be to make just a couple of these to see how it goes before delving into the 100 that you will undoubtedly want once you see them. Okay, slight exaggeration, but maybe not. I love the idea of giving these as gifts to coworkers, extended family, girlfriends, etc. It is a small, thoughtful and very creative gift that anyone would love to receive. That said, there's also nothing wrong with  making these for ourselves, right?


    • small package of water balloons
    • tacky glue
    • plain white string
    • glitter
    • ornament hooks
    • water
    1. Blow up your balloons so they're about 2" in diameter and tie a knot.
    2. Without cutting a piece of string off the roll, attach the end to the knot on the balloon.
    3. Then randomly wrap the string around your colorful little sphere. Isn't this fun?!
    4. Squeeze some tacky glue into a 4" bowl and add some water so it's pretty runny.
    5. Roll your string-wrapped balloons around in the glue until all the string has been coated.
    6. Sprinkle on glitter to your hearts content.
    7. Attach a twist tie to the end of the balloon and twist the end closed to form a small loop.
    8. Using a small piece of string, hang the twist tie loop on your shower curtain rod.
    9. After 48 hours, pop the balloon using a pair of tweezers, and remove the balloon.
    10. Wrap it up in a pretty box or hang on the tree!

    Project credit

  • Dressing Up Your Chairs For Christmas

    take a bowI don't know what your dining room chairs look like, maybe they are really really fancy to start with. But ours, well, they are just ordinary, comfortable dining room chairs. We like them, but they aren't really anything to write home about if you know what I mean.

    The holidays are such a great time to take something ordinary, like regular ol' dining room chairs, and transform them into something eye-catching, remarkable, showy. I bring to you this simple idea of the casually linen-wrapped chair with a bow.

    What you will need:

    • Square linen tableclothes (or just fabric)
    • Wide ribbon cut in 6 foot lengths
    • Safety pins

    ribboned chairDrap the fabric over the chair so that the back is gathered and flows. Then just wrap the ribbon around, tie in a bow and secure on the underside with safety pins. So elegant looking, so easy.

    Or consider an even simpler option. Pick your favorite ribbon in your favorite color, tie it around the top of the chair securing it with tape on the underside. When you attach a pretty ornament on the back, you have essentially remade your entire dining room look, all for a very small price!

    I am sooo doing this for Christmas this year!


    Photo Courtesy

  • Dog Days of Summer

    Here in Minnesota we cram as much as we can into our summer months, such as our summers are. During the March blizzards and the April snow storms, threats are issued to the first person to complain about how hot it is once summer arrives. We love love love those hot summer day even if some of us voice less than positive opinions about them!

    I don't know how these hot, sultry days became known as "dog days", but since we're on the topic of dogs, it's the perfect time to think about DIY gifts for our furry friends. Nice segue, eh? :) Here's a few ideas:

    My step daughter, Monica has a Newfie name Sirius. Sirius weighs in now at around 140# and gets very very hot in the summer months. So to help, Monica fills a bucket with water, puts it in the freezer, and then gives the resulting ginormous ice cube to Sirius to play with. If there is a doggy heaven, Mr. Sirius is clearly in it whilst demolishing that hunk of ice. It's very adorable. He's about 6 months old in this picture.

    Recycle old t-shirts that are stained or too worn to wear into this easy fetch-or-chew toy. Using two t-shirts, cut 2 or 3 inch wide slits along the bottom edge of both. Then tear the fabric, and you've got perfect sized clothe strips. Gather the strips in a bundle, and tie off one end into a knot.  Separate the  strips into 3 sections and braid. Tie off the end and trim any excess strips. So easy.


    And last, a toy for the dog who loves that crunchy sound! Use a large (empty) water bottle for a large dog and a smaller one for a small dog. Find a sock that is large enough to hold the water bottle, and put the bottle inside of it. Tie a knot in the end. Man's best friend will drive you nuts with the noise, but will also likely stay out of trouble too!


    Happy dog days of summer to you!


    Photo courtesy: Basset Hound, Braided toy, Crunchy toy

  • The Gift of Time

    It's Friday morning, the very last day of the work week, the day many have been looking forward to since Monday. We drag ourselves out of bed, stumble to the coffee pot and go through our morning rituals. Thank God it's Friday!

    This morning, in a most uncharacteristic manner, I bounded out of bed at 5am. Why, you ask? I had a coffee date with a good friend to get to! These java sipping events are one of the great pleasures of my life; they are the times when we talk about our lives, what's important to us, what's happening within our families, etc. It's also a place where dreams can and do spring up and are spoken out loud, sometimes for the first time.  My date this morning was with a good friend who has walked with me through it all . . . the happy, glorious days, the painful, unsettling and uncertain ones and everything in between.  Who wouldn't get out of bed early for that!

    The gift of time. There is nothing like it. You can't go to the store and buy more when you run out, you can't ever take it back once given. It is not a renewable resource; how many times have we said in frustration "that's an hour I'll never get back"?

    Giving time is a pretty special thing. I read a story this morning about a family who planned a birthday party for their 90 year old father/grandfather/uncle. It took an enormous amount of time emailing family members,  arranging and paying  for travel, setting up accommodations to host the family, preparing food,  packing and traveling.

    When the day for this grand event finally arrived, the 90 year old guest of honor had  a dozen or so family members on the edge of their seats, telling the stories of his life! Celebrating it all! Talk about memories! Small memento gifts were given, like a box of chocolates, a bottle of champagne, but the best gift of all he received that day was, without a doubt, their time.

    Next time I are tempted to run out to the store to purchase a gift, I'm going to stop and remember this story and the coffee chats that mean so much.  Maybe save a little gas and money, and pick up the phone instead.

    You with me?

    Photo credit

  • Christmas on a Budget

    December is an expensive month, is it not? Christmas gifts are the most obvious expense, but there are often clothes to buy for the parties, at which there is food. Or photos (in possibly a different set of clothes) for holiday cards. Decorations, a tree, charitable giving, etc. - it adds up quickly!

    Whether you need to cut back on spending, or just want to rein in the madness, there are many ways to do so without feeling like Ebeneezer Scrooge. Here are a few angles that you may not have considered.

    Writing at Simple Mom, Tsh reminds that planning ahead is the key to staying within a budget at Christmas. That includes setting money aside each month for the bigger bills in December, and also being mindful of the many little expenses that come up in this season. She offers this free Christmas budget printable to help you plan.

    A Christmas tree is another big expense. I realize that some of you just questioned my promise of non-Scrooginess because cutting down your own tree or picking the best one from the corner lot is your very favorite Christmas tradition. But for others, this may be a fun way to change up your holiday decor. I was definitely looking for tree alternatives in the years when my boys were toddling around precariously! Check out these creative options for inexpensive Christmas tree alternatives.

    This is probably my favorite list, and I may accidentally leave a printout where my husband will find it...10 Holiday Dates. There are a couple of splurges like tickets to the Nutcracker, but most of the options won't put a dent in your bank account. Brett at The Art of Manliness puts the list in a romantic context, but nearly all of the options could be adapted for a group of friends, a family or even an office get-together. Another bonus is that most of them are interactive, perfect for forming lasting memories.

    Remember that you can start with just one or two areas to cut back your holiday spending - Pinterest is a great resource for this. Try entering a search like inexpensive Christmas gifts or whatever suits your holiday budget style. You're sure to find a way to save a few dollars this season!

    What are your best money-saving tips at Christmas?




  • Timeless Gifts to Help You Save

    One of the most often suggested tip for saving when buying Christmas gifts for your friends, family and loved ones is to buy way before the Christmas rush starts. Shopping for Christmas gifts in January is not too far out. The only way to do this is to hoard gifts that are considered timeless. offer these suggestions on what to get your many friends and relatives for Christmas 2011, as early as now!

    1. Get Creative! If you have the talent to paint or draw, you can probably create some masterpieces that you could give your loved ones. Paint their portraits, houses, favorite places, children. The ideas of what to paint are endless. It all depends on what you want him or her to remember or knowing what he or she cherishes the most. This is also true if you are interested in needlework, cross-stitching or other crafts. Starting now, it is very possible to be able to give each and every friend or relative a unique gift that came from your hands.

    2. Start a savings account for your kids. A great way for you and your kids to bond and teach them a little something about money. Instead of encouraging your kids to list down their most wanted list from Santa this year, tell them that they can buy anything that they save for come Christmas time. What's more, you can match their savings to make it more attractive for them. Say you can match it 1 to 1 or 50 cents for every dollar.

    For example, you can tell your kids that for every dollar they put into their savings account, you would also deposit a dollar. So if he or she deposits $10 now, he or she would have $20!

    3. Give them something very useful for them. If you know your loved ones very well, you have an inkling what they need the most. It could be an article of clothing, a tool or materials. For example, if your mother loves to bake, then you can certainly buy her baking materials or pans when your local retailer has a sale. You can buy umbrellas at half the price during summer. It's all a matter of timing!

  • More Ways to Have Fun with Old Christmas Cards offers you more ways to make use of old Christmas cards. Now you do not have to throw them out and still have fun with them! Talk about re-purposing!

    6. Create your own unique bookmark. Christmas cards are made of thin yet very sturdy cardboard, making it a great bookmark material. Cut out the graphics and punch a hole in it. Run a ribbon, twine or string through the hole and voila! you have a great looking bookmark!

    7. Reuse them as Christmas postcards. For those Christmas cards where the inside front are left without any writing, cut out the front of the card and use the card as a postcard. For added effect, draw a line down the center of the card. Then you can use the left portion for your message and the right portion for the recipient's address.

    You can also use these postcards as a thank you card for all those gifts you have recieved!

    8. Turn old cards into scrapbook material. If you keep a scrapbook, the graphics on these old Christmas cards can provide the best background for your Christmas page. You can create picture holders, stickers and frames using old cards.

    9. Old Christmas cards make the best Christmas ornaments! Simply find a figure or graphic that you can cut out from old Christmas cards. Have a card with a particularly cute Rudolph or an endearing Santa Claus up front? Then cut it out and tape a looped string behind it. These would make your Christmas tree a lot more interesting and bursting with variety.

    10. If you enjoyed turning your Christmas card into gift tags, you can probably use the larger designs as accents for your gift wrapping. Next Christmas do away with simple gift wrappers by gluing cut out graphics on them.

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