Dec 19, 2008

Its all in the face

We had a busy and hectic day. On the way back from Salt Lake we spent 2.5 hours in the car stuck behind five consecutive snow-related accidents. As soon as we got home we "helped" Toby clean off the driveway. Robbie's face clearly shows the evidence of a hard day; cookies I fed him to keep him happy in the car, snot crust from having no tissues in the car, you name it.

And Jack's just says "?"

Dec 16, 2008

Take My Picture!

We were cleaning out the basement last night when he climbed up on a bar stool (in my studio) and asked to have his picture taken in his favorite pajamas.

Dec 8, 2008

Christmas Food Gifts For $1

Continuing the series of one dollar gifts, this post is about food gifts.

For neighbor, coworker and acquaintance gifts, food is always a favorite choice. It's neither to personal nor too expensive. I used to make a lot of candy for gifts but, considering the glut of treats floating around during the holidays, I think foods more suited to year-round use might be better received.

Infused Oils
Here is a great way to use up your garden herb surplus. Save interesting bottles through the year or collect them at low prices from dollar stores and places like Ikea, Oriental Trading, etc. Dry sprigs and cuttings of herbs from your garden. Add a mixture of compatible dried herbs to a large container of olive oil. (shop sales or buy a huge jug at warehouse store). Set aside the most attractive dried specimens. Then strain out the herbs from the jug of oil and discard. Fill your smaller bottles with the strained oil then add a few of the sprigs you set aside before capping and labeling the bottles.
Oils do have a rather long shelf life but because you'll be exposing the oil to air twice and adding foreign materials before gifting it, it's a wise idea to include a note on the label to indicate it should be refrigerated.
If you have a source for lots of small bottles, you can give a trio of three different oils.
Approximate cost: $1 for an 8 oz. portion if you have the bottle already. $2 if you buy a bottle.
See more exact instruction on flavoring oils here:

Herbed Butters
Let butter (not spread or margerine) soften on the counter and then whip with a standing mixer or hand mixer. The butter will lighten in color and become fluffy. Add diced herbs like chives, dill, or combinations of herbs and spices like rosemary and garlic or lemon pepper. Use an icing tip and piping bag to make small, decorate "pats" on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Pop the cookie sheet in the freezer until the butter hardens. Package in a glass jar or a cello-bag with ribbon. Keep frozen until you're ready to gift them. These make great spreads and are also very handy for cooking. Include your favorite recipe on the card.
Approximate Cost: $1 if you use existing herbs in your cupboard or from the garden.

Pancake Mix
Store bought mixes are, to be honest, a total rip off. Pancakes are the easiest and cheapest thing in the world to make and a mix is even easier. All the ingredients are dry except the milk and egg.
To make the mix a step easier for the user, replace the egg with soy flour in the mix. Add one extra tablespoon of water to complete the soy flour egg substitute. Add powdered milk to the mix and adjust the ingredients to call for water to make it a complete "no brainer" for the culinary impaired.

Basic Pankcake Recipe
1 C flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 C milk (don't add to mix)
1 egg (don't add to mix)

Make the mix more interesting by adding your favorite embellishments like mini chocolate chips, coconut flakes, cocoa powder, finely chopped macadamia nuts, etc. Package in a zip lock bag and then place that into a cloth bag you have sewn or saved. Include instructions for adding the milk and egg.

Approximate cost: $0.50 (with no extras and using their milk and egg). $1.00 with some embellishments for pizazz.

Dec 4, 2008

Christmas On a Shoestring

At our house, we decided almost a year ago this was going to be a light Christmas - the economy has little to do with it. Last year we got very excited and went completely overboard - spending far too much on one little boy. He was overwhelmed and we realized ten minutes into the holiday that we'd gone too far. This year we're spending about 25% of what we spent last year on Robbie and we're limiting him to two presents (from us) and his stocking.

Additionally, we're not buying anything for each other. We want to finish our basement - so the more money we can spend on that, the faster it can be done. A new studio for me and a new rec-room for Toby is all the present we want. That doesn't mean we aren't getting each other gifts - we just can't buy anything.

It seems everyone is being impacted by the economy right now. Almost everyone I know has suffered a drop in income to some degree and those that haven't are at least bracing for it. So, many of us are holding back on Christmas spending. In my research to come up with no-cost gifts I came across so many great ideas. For obvious reasons, I can't describe here what I am actually making for Toby so instead I'll list some other great ideas we've done before and ideas I may do in future.

First up....

Car Kits
How many times have you been in the car and needed a pen? A wet wipe? Hand sanitizer? A piece of paper? One day I got sick of not having what I needed and made Toby and I both car kits, each in a 1 gallon zip lock bag. Think of them as a mobile version of a 72 hour kit. The great thing is all these items are laying around the house - the gift is in the the thoughtful organization and presentation. Zip-lock bags fit well in the glove box but you can get more creative and decorate a box or even sew a little roll-up organizer with little pockets for it all.

Suggested Contents:
A pen and pad of paper
Scissors (if you've ever bought anything in clam-shell and wanted to open it, you'll understand)
A $20 bill for when you leave your wallet at home (or a decorative envelope for one if you want to keep it n0-cost)
Four quarters (for parking meters)
A blank check
A laminated list of phone numbers that you could use if you lost or broke your cell phone
Hand sanitizer
Fingernail clippers
Chap stick
Cheap sunglasses
Single doses (in envelopes or baggies) of pain killer, allergy medication, antacids, or whatever things your sweetie is prone to using
Breath mints or gum

Optional extras for those with kids. These are a life saver if you forget the diaper bag.
Small toy
Small Suckers
Sandwich sized zip-lock bag of wipes and a diaper
Rags, cloth diapers or paper towels
CD of lullaby music
Children's Tylenol or similar

It's also a good idea to print up a little inventory of the kit and place it in the bag, facing out. Then sweetie can glance to see if the bag has what he needs before he stops at 7-11 and pays $5 for a handful or wet-wipes.

Dec 1, 2008

Road Warriors

We spent Thanksgiving in Vegas with family. Robbie was pretty insistent on carrying his own rolling Thomas The Tank Engine suitcase. He looked like quite the seasoned traveler as he expertly navigated the hallways to find the elevator, pushed the call button, made way for other passengers and then found the exit.