Shoestring Travel - Are We There Yet? Inexpensive ways to beat boredom on the road.

Are we there yet? Such a familiar phrase. As children we said it to our parents and as parents we hear it from our children. Living 30 some miles away from town, I'm often tempted to say it myself. For many families, summer is the time for car trip vacations. I recently saw a segment on a morning news show about toys to buy your kids to keep boredom at bay during long drives. The toys were bright, electronic and expensive. With gas going up again and a price of a hotel room and road food it's hard to imagine spending hundreds of dollars on toys that they may or may not play with.
Here's some time tested games and ideas for your next car trip that cost very little or, better yet, nothing at all:
These are games that my mother played with us when we traveled and are still a hit with kids:
I Packed My Grandmother's Trunk
This is a memory game base on the alphabet.
  • First person says, "I packed my grandmother's trunk with...(and then names something that starts with 'a' - apples, apes, apricots, anvils, etc.)
  • The next person says, "I packed my grandmother's trunk with... (whatever the first person said and then names something that starts with 'b')
  • The game continues on with each person naming the items that were said before them and then naming an item that starts with the next letter in the alphabet.
  • The goal is to be able to pack grandma's trunk with something from every letter in the alphabet by the end of the trip.
  • This is a real memory stretcher and the more that you play the better you get.

This game teaches counting by fives and is a great pre-multiplication skill builder.
Starting with one, each person counts the next number in order, until you get to the number 5 or a multiple of 5. For each multiple of 5 you say, "buzz".
So, it sounds like this - one, two, three, four, buzz, six, seven, eight, nine, buzz, ect.
Continue counting until someone misses. Then start over. The goal is to get to 100 with no mistakes.
To challenge older kids count by other numbers, 3's are fun and 9's are especially tricky.

Sing Rounds
Singing really does help pass the time. Start with an easy one like Row, Row, Row Your Boat then try some trickier rounds. Here's one of my favorites:
(second part starts after first part sings,"old gum tree")
Kookabura sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh Kookabura, laugh Kookabura
Gay your life must by.

Kookabura sits on the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookabura, stop Kookabura
Save some gum for me!

Read a Favorite Book Together
When we were traveling from Arizona to Idaho one summer we read aloud all of Charlotte's Web. There's nothing like sharing one of your favorite books with your kids and a continuing story gives everone something to anticipate.

For more fun car trip games and activities check out 101 car travel games and ideas for kids. Laurel Smith has an amazing list of things to do on car trips. A few of my favorites on her list are Make a Trip Journal, Have Bubble Gum Blowing Contest, Counting Cows (I love this game!), and Aluminum Art.

So, what does your family do to beat the Are-we-there-yet blues?
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Summer Coffee Time - Cool Iced Coffee

I am a lover of hot coffee. Even when we lived in Phoenix and it was over 100 degrees, I would still crave a cup of rich dark hot coffee for afternoon Coffee-Time. When people would question my preference of hot over iced I would always say that hot coffee had a cooling effect. It's probably completely unscientific and people rarely believed me, but I thought that it worked.
Recently, though, I have come to appreciate a tall cool glass of iced coffee on a hot day. When you add a little sweet flavoring it is an inexpensive Coffee-Time treat. Here is my favorite way to make iced coffee. What's yours?

Woodsedge Iced Coffee-Time Coffee
  • One pot of strong dark coffee, cooled (strong is the key word here if you are a real coffee lover)
  • Half and Half
  • Torani syrup, flavor of your choice
  • Frozen coffee cubes (freeze double strength coffee in ice cube trays. Remove and store in freezer bags until ready to use.)
  • Tall chilled glasses

  1. Place 3 or 4 frozen coffee cubes in each glass
  2. Fill each glass about 2/3rds full of the cooled strong coffee
  3. Add half and half and your favorite Torani flavor to taste
  4. Give a quick stir
  5. If you want a sweeter treat, top with a dollop of whipped cream or cool whip

The key to this iced coffee treat is the frozen coffee cubes. They will chill your coffee without diluting it. If you want to cut down on calories, you can use a lower fat choice of dairy and a sugar free Torani. But really, it's Coffee-Time and Coffee-Time is meant for a little indulgence to help make you smile through the rest of your day.
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Shoestring Parenting - School's Out! Now What Do We Do?

School is officially out in my neighborhood. Is it in yours? Even though my kids are older and are quite independent in the summer with jobs and friends, I still find myself looking out for creative fun ways for families to spend time together and for kids to fill those empty summer hours.
Of course the down time after all those hectic school days is wonderful and necessary but it is still a good idea to have some plans to keep the boredoms away.
Here are a few great summer activities that will motivate creativity, sportsmanship, family and friend time.

For Families
  • Go Bowling: Bowling centers all over the country are offering a Kids Bowl Free summer program. When you register for the program at your participating bowling center you will be emailed coupons weekly that allow your children to bowl free for 2 games a day. That is a great deal! They also offer reasonably priced family passes for up to 4 adults so that you all can bowl together. Go to the website for a list of bowling centers near you and for more information on how to register.
  • Go To the Movies: Regal Entertainment Group is offering a Free Family Film Festival; nine weeks of family friendly movies for kids and parents to see together for free. The movies are shown on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting June 16. You can buy the tickets at the box office of participating theaters on a first come first served basis. Some of the movies that will be showing are: The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, Horton Hears a Who, Nims Island, Inkheart and Evan Almighty. For a list of all the movies and to find a participating theater in your area go to

For the Kids:
Drama Camp: Many community theaters offer summer drama camps and classes. Most are quite affordable and a few, like the one in my neighborhood, are free. Another local community theater in my area, The Pend Oreille Players Association, is offering a very affordable drama camp in August. If you are in North Idaho/Eastern Washington check out their website, and click on the newsletter for more information. Even if your kids aren't into acting, drama camp is a great place to grow creativity, build confidence and learn relational skills that they will use in school and all through their lives. Plus, it's Great Fun!

  • Sports Camps: Your local Parks and Recreation is the place to look for affordable sports activities. I also googled sports camps in Spokane Washington (or your city) and found a variety of camps available form different organizations. Professional teams often offer sports camps in the summer, so check out the website of your local professional team. Be sure that you check the ability level required for each camp. Some camps are geared toward kids with advanced skills while others are open to beginners. It's very important that you find a program that is a good fit for your child so that they have fun and don't get discouraged. Sports camps are a great way to get them involved in a new sport that they may want to play for years to come.
  • Visit Your Local Library: The library is one of my favorite summer places. It's cool, calm, full of great reads and information, movies and music. Best of all- it's free. Almost all libraries have summer story time and reading programs. They offer fun ways to encourage reading, get to know other kids and parents, make crafts, write stories and learn to love the library.
  • Go to VBS: The summer schedule is crammed with churches putting on Vacation Bible Schools. Most VBS's usually last a week and, if you're smart at scheduling, you can fit one or two VBS weeks a month into your summer list of things to do. A typical VBS day consists of energetic music, crafts, stories, games and snacks. Most churches will advertise their Vacation Bible Schools in the paper so keep your eyes open for this fun opportunity. Remember that most programs always need help so, if you can volunteer, give them a hand.
  • At the Y.M.C.A.: I grew up going to Day Camp at the Y. Fun memories! Swimming, crafts, field trips, new skills and lots of friends. To find a YMCA program near you go to

Do you have some free or reasonably priced summer activities to suggest? Share in the comments.
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Shoestring Gardening - Home Recipes for a Beautiful Flower Garden

It's time, it's time, it's finally time!!! After months of grey days and cold weather, the sun is finally shining and the weather is warm enough to plant flowers. Our Woodsedge bulbs and perennials have already made their appearance, first the tulips and daffodils and now the purple columbine. I love our perennial garden because we always forget what we have planted in it so it's a fun surprise to see what's coming up. We also plant lots of annuals. The sunflowers and marigolds my great gardening husband starts in the greenhouse, but we still enjoy browsing through the gardening centers looking for the best deals on other annuals to fill the flower boxes and empty garden spaces that are crying out for color.
This year we are saving money on buying fertilizer and plant food at the store by making our own. Our homegrown gardening resource is Jerry Baker, author of Flower Power! Amazing tips, tricks, and tonics for a beautiful, bloomin' garden all year long. Jerry is billed as America's Master Gardener and he is a the go-to-guy for natural, organic, affordable gardening tips.
Here are a few of his gardening tips and tonics from the book Flower Power! that I think we should try in our Shoestring Garden:
Soil Prep: before you plant prep your soil with 1 inch of peat moss or compost and 1 inch sand. Then saturate the soil with this Soil Prep Mix (pg. 83)
  • 1 can beer
  • 1 can regular cola
  • 1/2 cup liquid dish soap
  • 1/2 cup of chewing tobacco juice (since I'm not a chewer, it's a mystery to me where I will get this ingredient)
Apply with 20 gallon hose end sprayer.

Timely Tonic: Use this to feed your flowers twice a month (pg. 20)
  • 1 Cup beer
  • 1 oz fish fertilizer
  • 1 0z liquid soap
  • 1 oz ammonia
  • 1 oz whiskey
  • 1 Tbl clear corn syrup
  • 1 Tbl gelatin
  • 4 tsp instant tea
Dissolve all in 2 gallons of warm water

Late Summer Rejuvenating Tonic: apply liberally to annuals in August to get at least one more full flowering (pg. 43)
  • 1/4 cup beer
  • 1 Tbl corn syrup
  • 1 Tbl shampoo
  • 1 tsp of 15-30-15 fertilizer per gallon of water
Mosquito trouble? Plant Marigolds to keep mosquitoes and other bugs away. (pg 40)

Feeding Formula for planting perennials -I had to read this recipe twice to see if he was pulling my leg. Apparently it works great (pg. 92) :
In a five gallon pail, mix:
  • 2 lbs dry oatmeal
  • 2 lbs crushed dry dog food
  • 1 handful of human hair
  • 1/2 cup sugar
Work a handful of the mixture into the soil before planting.
Black spots on roses? Try this tonic:
  • 1 Tbl baking soda
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbl liquid dish soap
Combine in a gallon of water and spray every 7 - 10 days.

I'm also a big fan of Horce Glump's creative organic gardening tips check out Horace Glump on Gardening.

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Shoestring Savings - Everyday Time Savers

Oh my goodness how time can get away from me. My goal is to post twice a week on Shoestrings End and here I only posted once last week and this week is almost gone. My excuses are: that I've had a wonderful time visiting with my parents who have braved chilly North Idaho in exchange for hot hot Phoenix and my son is getting ready to travel to another country and my brain is too crowded right now.
Since having enough time to get everything done seems to be an issue with me lately, I thought that I would post on a few Shoestring time saving strategies for everyday life; time savers that I have done, that I should have done, and that I will be doing.

Plan ahead: I have such a hard time getting things together when we have to go somewhere. When the kids were little I always put their school clothes out, prepared their lunches and made sure that everything was in the backpacks ready to go the night before. It always made our school mornings so much more pleasant. I need to adopt that strategy for myself. So, I will plan my wardrobe ahead of time. That way I will not be standing in front of my closet 10 minutes before it's time to leave yelling that I have nothing to wear. I will also anticipate my needs for the day and put my purse, cell phone, keys, water bottle, etc. on the table ready for me to grab as I run out the door.

Multi-task: If I think about it, I really can organize two or even three things (three things are really my limit) to get done at once. For instance, while the coffee beans are roasting I can start a load of laundry and wash a few dishes. While I'm coloring my hair, I can clean the bathroom and fold laundry or give myself a pedicure. While I'm talking to my good friend on the phone I can run a dust rag over things and straighten the living room. The secret to multi-tasking, for me any way, is to keep the tasks somewhat related. If I'm doing a household something I pair it with other household tasks. If I'm working on something professionally oriented then I pair it with professional tasks that will move me ahead on my to do list.

Cook double recipes: It makes sense that if I'm already making something, I may as well make twice as much and save the rest in the freezer or fridge for another meal or lunch the next day. That saves future cooking time.

Store cookie dough in the freezer: We like cookies at my house but I find baking an entire batch of cookie dough to be very time consuming and I don't always have the time to devote to it. Making the dough, though, is very quick. So, we make the dough and then just bake one sheet of cookies. The rest of the dough we roll into a log and wrap in wax paper and a freezer bag. That way, the next time we want cookies, all we have to do is preheat the oven and slice and bake. I'd always rather have fresh from the oven cookies at coffee time.

Learn while I drive: I spend so much time in the car. It's easy to relax, listen to music and let my mind unwind and often that is exactly what I should be doing. But car time is also a great time to learn something new - Listen to a book, memorize scripture or music or lines for a play, play a language CD and learn a new language. My husband checked out a learn Swedish CD from the library and we listened to it in the car. We didn't really learn much but we had a great time trying and laughing at our terrible Scandinavian accents.

Make lists: I am by nature a list maker. Lists help me to keep organized and keep my brain from being too cluttered with helpless oh-my-gosh-what-do-I-do-next thoughts. When I make my list I prioritize and mark what tasks can be combined. At the end of the day I congratulate myself for completed list items and just move the unfinished tasks to the next day's list. The key to list sanity is to not hold on too tightly but to let go of things that just wont get done and, most importantly, to be flexible. Life is full of changes that invade the list. Be ready to put the list aside and play in the sunshine if that's what the day requires.

A few ways that I save a little time here and there. What are your time savers?

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Mother's Day Present Good Reminder to Keep Emergency Water

My happy Mother's Day was really very happy. I spent much of the day with my mom and received flowers and gifts from my children and husband. One of my favorite gifts of the day was completely unplanned - I got to take a shower before the water pipe under the house broke. We were sitting in bed drinking coffee and BANG, an explosion-like sound shook our bedroom wall. We rushed outside and didn't see anything wrong. We wondered if it had been a fluky earthquake (We don't have many earthquakes in North Idaho). Then my husband noticed that the water pressure was down. Rushing back outside we could then hear the sound of rushing water under the house. My wonderfully talented DIY husband was able to turn off the water and repair the pipe but we were without water for a good part of the day, which made me question our emergency water supply. The answer to the question was that, if this was a real emergency, we didn't have enough water stored.

In an emergency you can survive quite a while without food, though stocking your pantry shelves with emergency supplies is still important, but you can only survive a few days without water.
Here is some simple information for storing emergency water:
  • How Much Do You Need? For personal use, a minimum supply of 3 gallons of water per person for 3 days. Other sources that I have found suggest storing a minimum of 6 gallons per person, enough to last one week. Each person will drink about 1/2 a gallon per day and use the other 1/2 gallon for brushing teeth, washing hands, etc. You will also need to store water that you can use to flush toilets and do dishes and rinse out laundry. Don't skimp on that water. I know from experience that it is really a blessing to be able to flush your toilets.
  • What Containers to Use to Store Water? For personal use water use any food grade plastic or glass container. A food grade container is any container that has held soda, juice, bottled water, punch, etc. You can also buy food grade water containers from sporting good stores. I use milk jugs for water that I wont be cooking with or drinking (toilet flushing water).
  • How Do You Clean the Container? Always clean and sanitize your containers before filling them with water, even if the containers are new.
  1. First wash the container out with hot soapy water. Use a bottle brush to scrub the inside and be sure and clean the outside of the container and the cap. Rinse well.
  2. Next sanitize the container with 1/2 tsp of bleach per quart of water, so if you have a gallon jug use 2 tsp of bleach. Fill the jug with water, add the bleach and shake. Rinse again with clean water.
  3. Once the container is well cleaned and sanitized fill with drinking water from a clean source of drinking water. To be on the safe side, it is recommended that you ad about 1/8 of a tsp of chlorine bleach to your water to kill any bacteria that may have been missed in the sanitation process.
  4. For your non drinking water be sure and clean and sanitize the container as well. It will store better and you never know what you might be using that water for.
  • How To Store Emergency Water: Be sure and store your water in a cool dry place, heat and direct sunlight will weaken plastic containers, and store away from gasoline and chemicals. Mark each container with the words "drinking water" and the date. You also need a strong shelf to hold a large supply of water. Once again, I know this from experience, wimpy plastic shelves sag and break. We have also stored some emergency water in the freezer. That way if your power goes out your frozen water helps to keep your food cold. Just be sure and leave a little room at the top to allow for expansion. Rotate your stored water after a year. Use it in the garden, your plants will thank you.
Here are a some sites that have good information on Emergency Water Storage:
Mississippi State University Extension Service Aid
National Terror Alert

Thankfully, for many of us, emergencies are few and far between. But doing a few things to prepare ourselves and our families for just-in-case is easy and inexpensive and worth the piece of mind.
I'm thirsty, I need a drink of water.

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Breakfast in Bed, A Mother's Day Delight

Sunday is Mother's Day. I'm sure that you know that already but, just in case, let me remind you again....Sunday is Mother's Day. Sometimes Mother's Day can be a very stressful time for young children (and their fathers). Little ones want to do something special for Mom but don't always have the funds or the transportation or the ability to purchase a gift. Breakfast in bed can be a creative money saving solution to this dilemma.

I love breakfast in bed. It always makes me feel pampered and special. I like the feeling that for these few more minutes I can wrap my hands around a warm cup of coffee and hold off the day a little longer. A few minutes of bliss is a good way to start Mother's Day. Here are a few easy and affordable breakfasts that your kids can make on their own.

To make this process as easy as possible do a few things the night before:
  • Set out the ingredients, cooking utensils and serving plates.
  • If you don't have a serving tray cover a cookie sheet with a pretty cloth napkin or towel.
  • Get the coffee ready so all the kids have to do is push the on button. (VERY IMPORTANT)
  • Pre-cut anything that needs slicing.

Strawberry Croissants
This is one of my favorite special breakfast treats.
  • On Saturday buy fresh croissants from the bakery in the supermarket, strawberries and Cool Whip.
  • Saturday night: slice the strawberries, slice the croissants in half and place them on the serving plate(s), cover tightly with plastic wrap.
  • In the morning: turn on the coffee, spoon the sliced strawberries and the Cool Whip on half of the sliced croissant and cover with the other half. For extra colorful yumminess top with a spoonful of strawberries.
  • Serve with love and don't forget to do the dishes.

Fruit Salad and Cinnamon Toast
  • On Saturday night: slice Mom's favorite fruit and place separately in covered bowls. In a shaker combine one cup of sugar and 1/2 tsp (or to taste) of cinnamon. Put out the bread and the toaster.
  • In the morning: turn on the coffee, Combine the fruit in a pretty bowl, if you wish sprinkle the fruit with chopped nuts for a protein crunch, toast the bread and then butter and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Have an older child or an adult cut the toast into pretty triangles and arrange on a serving plate.
  • Serve with a smile and don't forget to clean the kitchen.

Jamberry Muffins - You will definitely need an adult to help with the oven.
On Saturday night: Read Jamberry by Bruce Degan. Set out pre-measured ingredients.
You will need:
1 3/4 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cooking oil
jar of favorite jam (if you would like berries in your muffins instead of jam use 1 cup blueberries)

  • Sunday Morning: Start coffee. Set the oven for 4oo degrees. Spray the muffin tin with cooking spray or grease well with shortening.
  • In a mixing bowl combine dry ingredients. In a liquid measuring cup combine the milk and the oil add the egg and beat with a fork until the egg is mixed in. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the liquid into the well. Stir just until moist ( there will be lumps). (If you decide to use blueberries instead of Jam, add berries to batter now.) Fill each cup about 1/3 full with batter. Add 1 tsp of your favorite jam to each cup then cover the jam with more batter so that the cups are about 2/3 full.
  • Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove muffins from pan and allow to cool so that the jam doesn’t burn any mouths.
  • Serve with a hug and don't forget to load the dishwasher.

If the kids want your Mother's Day breakfast to be a surprise, have all of the ingredients of your favorite breakfast on hand and ready to go. Then casually suggest that such-and-such for breakfast would be a wonderful treat on Mother's Day. Dad or an older child can help with the preparations while you lounge in bed smiling at the sound of your kids in the kitchen and anticipating your love filled breakfast in bed.

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Shoestring Parenting - Let's Go Fly a Kite

When our kids were younger we liked to put kites in their Easter baskets. Spring days usually offer breezy kite flying weather and here at Woodsedge there are no power lines to get tangled up in. As the kids would work to get their kites in the air I would think about Charlie Brown and his hopeful but often disastrous experiences with his kite. If you haven't heard the kite song from the musical "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown", you should check it out, it's so funny and true to life.
Anyway, back to kites. Kite flying is such a fun Shoestring family activity. You don't have to buy the really expensive kites to have a successful kite flying experience. You can make your own. What a fun way to spend a weekend together, making and flying your own kites. To get started, read this beautiful picture book, Henry and the Dragon Kite (below is an excerpt from my post on Wondersome StoryTime about this award winning book.)

Henry and the Kite Dragon
written by Bruce Edward Hall
illustrated by William Low
Laptime: kindergarten - elementary
Story Circle: kindergarten - elementary

This 1920's story takes place in Chinatown in New York City. Mr. Chin, also called Grandfather, makes beautiful kites that he and the Chinese children fly from the rooftop of his building. Grandfather Chin can make the kites fly as if they were alive but one day the Italian boys from Little Italy start to throw rocks at the kites. Why would they do such a mean thing? Find out how the kids from Chinatown and the kids from Little Italy resolve their differences and bring peace to the sky over their neighborhoods.

This story is inspired by a man named Mr. Chin who lived in Chinatown when the author's father was a little boy. The book won the Jane Addams Children Book Award in 2005 given by the Jane Addams Peace Association for its depiction of peaceful resolution of conflict. Award winning artist, William Low gives us beautifully intricate and vibrant illustrations. I particularly enjoyed looking at the faces of the children; each face seemed familiar.

After you enjoy a storytime together, it's time to create your own kites. If you google kite making you will find lots of sites with directions. Here are two of my favorite sites:
How To Make a Kite Out of a Plastic Bag - I have piles of plastic grocery bags at home so I thought that this would be a great reuse idea. The site has clear instructions and lots of pictures. Along with this Wikihow article is a list of other articles on kite making and kite flying.
Make your own Kite - This site is the result of somebody's Independent Study Project for a physics class. The instructions for making your own diamond kite are clear and there are accompanying illustrations. What I really like about this site is all of the extra fun information - the history of kites, how does a kite fly, and kite flyers. I found the FAQ especially helpful.

Learn the lyrics to the song Let's Go Fly a Kite from the movie Mary Poppins and sing while you fly.
Let's go fly a kite
Up to the highest height
Let's go fly a kite
And send it soaring

Up through the atmosphere
Up where the air is clear
Oh, let's go fly a kite
Let's go fly a kite!

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Shoestring Decorating - How a Seattle Couple Saves Money on Home Furnishings

This guest post was written by my friend Stuart Grinnell. He and his wife live in Seattle and have found creative ways to furnish their home. Stuart is a professional photographer and that artistic creativity has given him a great eye for seeing potential in shoestring furnishings. Take some time to visit Stuart's website Stuart Grinnell Photography.

Shoestring Furnishings for your home
By Stuart Grinnell

As a young married couple, my wife and I are always looking for ways to save money. One such way is avoiding the cost of new furniture. With a little time and elbow grease (and a tiny bit of flexibility), it is possible to furnish your home with used pieces that do not compromise style or assault the senses.

Broaden your search

Time to start your search. Thrift stores are usually picked over, but are always worth checking out. Craigslist is a great resource, but always take someone with you. Garage and estate sales can be gold mines if you arrive early enough. Be sure to barter a little with the seller. Start of a little below what you would like to pay, but not so low as to insult them. They are usually just looking to get rid of the furniture, and are most likely willing to drop in price. If you do not find anything your first few forays, keep looking! Your patience will eventually pay off.

Look deep

Part of the key to finding usable pieces that will fit your home is looking beyond the current state of the furniture. This applies to most everything, save upholstery, which is very difficult to modify or restore unless you are a professional. That being said, sometimes all and old armchair needs is a good cleaning and a unique throw pillow to jazz it up. Ugly stains or pealing paint on wood can be easily changed. Don't waste time with laminated particle board that often makes up entertainment centers and cheap desks, as there isn't a whole lot you can do with it. Be open to repurposing furniture from it's original intended use, i.e. an old stool can be used as an end table or night stand.

Grease your elbows

Once you have found a piece that is worth working on, it's time to decide what changes need to be made. A good place to start is color. Are you going to be repainting or staining? Try and choose colors that could potentially fit into another space or theme as wells as something you won't get sick of after a few months. I suggest water based paints, as they are easier thin down, as well as clean up.

If you are going to be simply repainting, be sure to gently scrape off any loose material, then sand lightly with a 220 or finer grit sand paper. If you want a really clean look, I suggest using a chemical stripper to remove everything. The pieces in our home are more vintage looking, so I don't usually fully remove the previous coating. For the clean look, use a primer before painting and light sanding after the primer dries. We shabby chic most of our pieces, so a primer isn't necessary. Invest in a good paint brush if you plan on doing multiple projects. Give the piece a good coat and allow to dry. If you want a unique shabby chic look, one method is to layer on different colors of paint, then sand and distress to bring through the other colors below. I usually just do a few coats of one color, sand and distress it, then give it a good layer of protection with a satin polycrylic finish.

For staining, you will want to be sure to remove everything down to the bare wood. Chemical strippers as mentioned before are good for this. Be sure to always follow the guidelines for safety, cleanup and disposal on all of the products you use. Like before, a good stain brush makes a world of difference, so invest a little and really take your time when applying the stain.

With metal items like file cabinets, the process is similar. If there is any rust, be sure to sand it out as best you can, then coat the entire thing with an aerosol rust stopping primer. Sand again lightly, then apply two or more coats of your choice in spray paint. If you want it to look really new, give it a final coat or two in a glossy finish. The spray paints cost a bit more than your wood paints, but are still cheaper than buying new. Don't forget to wipe clean any sanded debris during any of these projects, as it will come back to haunt you later if you do not!


Be sure to have fun while searching and restoring! After all, your saving money, and that makes everyone smile. Happy hunting!
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Shoestring Meals - Turn Leftovers into a Delicious Peasant Meal

Do you ever have one of those crazy days when you rush in the house from a busy day and realize that you haven't given a thought about dinner? Those are the days that I like to do leftovers. But I don't like to call them leftovers, that's boring. You need to sell a leftover meal, give it some appetizing interest. I like to turn Leftovers Day into a Peasants Meal (don't ask me where the term peasants meal came from. I just like the way it sounds.) To make a Peasants Meal you take out all of the leftovers that are in the fridge, warm them up and serve them with fresh bread, cheese, and whatever fresh fruit and veggies that you have on hand. It's kind of a free for all. Everyone gets to eat what they want and everyone's happy.
The fresh bread is really the anchor to a successful Peasants Meal. Fresh warm bread makes everything taste better. Here is my favorite bread recipe to accompany a Peasants Meal. It is hearty and delicious and best of all quick and inexpensive.

Quick Honey Orange Wheat Bread
You will need:
  • 1 1/2 C wheat flour
  • 1 C white flour
  • 1/2 C oatmeal (quick will work but I like the texture of the regular cut better)
  • 1 Tbl oatmeal
  • 1/4 C brown sugar (cut this to 2 Tbl if you want less sweetness)
  • 1 Tbl orange zest
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 C buttermilk (or sour regular milk by adding 2 Tbl lemon juice or vinegar and allow to sit for 2 minutes.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp honey

Easy directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray 1 1/2 quart casserole dish with cooking spray and sprinkle 1 Tbl of oatmeal in pan. Turn the pan to coat.
  3. Combine flours, oatmeal, Brown sugar, orange zest, baking powder, soda, salt. Blend with a wire whisk until well combined.
  4. Add milk and egg. Stir until moistened.
  5. Pour batter into baking dish.
  6. Bake 50-60 minutes.
  7. Cool 10 minutes then turn onto a cutting board.
  8. Brush top with 1 tsp. honey.

This bread is great when served warm. If you do end up with left over bread, enjoy it toasted for breakfast - Oh, so good!

How does your family like to eat leftovers?

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City Kids Living the Country Life thanks to the Fresh Air Fund

I received information from the Fresh Air Fund asking me to post their informational press release. Being a city girl who moved to the country, I can't think of a better way for kids to spend their summer than hiking and riding and gardening and other county style things. I found an interesting series of articles about the Fresh Air Fund on So take a look at this project and let others know about it, too.
About The Fresh Air Fund

THE FRESH AIR FUND, an independent, not-for-profit agency, has provided free summer experiences to more than 1.7 million New York City children from low-income communities since 1877. Nearly 10,000 New York City children enjoy free Fresh Air Fund programs annually. In 2008, close to 5,000 children visited volunteer host families in suburbs and small town communities across 13 states from Virginia to Maine and Canada. 3,000 children also attended five Fresh Air camps on a 2,300-acre site in Fishkill, New York. The Fund’s year-round camping program serves an additional 2,000 young people each year.

Fresh Air Fund History

In 1877, the Reverend Willard Parsons, minister of a small rural parish in Sherman, Pennsylvania, asked members of his congregation to provide country vacations as volunteer host families for children from New York City tenements. This was the beginning of The Fresh Air Fund tradition. By 1884, Reverend Parsons was writing about The Fund for New York’s Herald Tribune, and the number of children served grew. In 2008, close to 10,000 New York City children experienced the joys of summertime in Friendly Towns and at five Fund camps in upstate New York.

News Facts

In 2008, The Fresh Air Fund's Volunteer Host Family Program, called Friendly Town, gave close to 5,000 New York City boys and girls, ages six to 18, free summer experiences in the country and the suburbs. Volunteer host families shared their friendship and homes for two weeks or more in 13 Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine and Canada.

The Fresh Air Fund needs hosts for the Summer of 2009

The Fresh Air Fund relies on donations to raise the funds needed to give these children the experiences they deserve.

Host a Child

Thanks to host families who open up their homes for a two weeks each summer, children growing up in New York City’s toughest neighborhoods have experienced the joys of Fresh Air vacations.

More than 65% of all children are reinvited to stay with their host family, year after year.

Fresh Air Fund Host Families

There is no such thing as a "typical" host family. If you have room in your home - and your heart - to host a child, you could be one too.

Learn More

Fresh Air Fund Children

Fresh Air children are boys and girls, six to 12 years old, who reside in low-income communities in New York City and are eager to experience the simple pleasures of life outside the city.

As one child says, "I can’t wait to get on the bus every summer so I can see my family and go swimming and hiking!"

Friendly Town Locations
The Fresh Air Fund NEEDS hosts for this
Summer in these states

Click on the map to inquire about hosting

You can give a child the experience of a
lifetime with your gift to The Fresh Air Fund!

Every year, The Fresh Air Fund gives thousands of inner-city children the priceless gift of fun – and opens the door to a lifetime of opportunities.

Whether it's a two-week trip to visit a volunteer host family, or a fun-filled and educational stay at one of our camps, our programs make for unforgettable memories – and open a world of new friendships and fresh possibilities.

We are a not-for-profit agency and depend on tax-deductible donations from people like you to keep our vital programs flourishing.

Donate online now

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Shoestring Beauty - Your own personal trainer for free

Spring is here! Hooray!! Bathing suite season is almost here, quick run and hide! That's how I always feel this time of year. I usually seem to put on weight during the winter. It starts at Christmas, (who can say no to all those cookies?), and then just gets worse in the cold and dreary days of January and February. For me, winter days just seem to lend themselves more to snuggling with coffee, cookies and a good book than vigorous exercise and healthy eating. I do go out for an occasional walk in the snow but that's not really enough to keep me in shape. So, here it is almost bathing suit season and I need motivational weight loss help.

A health professional recommended this site to my friend Gayle and she shared the link with me.This site offers tons of just the kind of help, information and motivation, that I need to get me back on the beach this summer. The site is called a Healthy Me,, and it's like having my own personal trainer for free.
The site gives information on all sorts of health issues for adults and children. Two of the areas that I found the most interesting in terms of losing the pounds and getting healthy are the Personalized Home Page and the Cool Tools section.
  • Personalized Home Page: When you register you fill out a simple profile clicking on your areas of health interest. For me I chose areas that had to do with weight loss, exercise, herbal remedies, high blood pressure, heart disease, and healthy eating. Now when I log into my home page I see information on my chosen topics. I also chose to receive a personalized newsletter each week based on the health topics that I am interested in. I can go into my profile and change the topics whenever I want.
  • Cool Tools: I love this part of the site. Have you ever wondered what your body mass was or how to calculate your body fat? How about how many calories you are supposed to eat or what your fitness level is? Cool Tools offers calculators for just about any health issue. You can also take assessments to assess your lifestyle habits, your daily nutrition, your personal risk factors for heart disease, obesity and diabetes, etc.. Each assessment then suggests steps that you can take to improve your health. There is a Nutrition Toolbox that gives information on the nutrition of over 30,000 foods and a whole list of printable health diaries.

I also loved browsing through the offerings of the Medical Library. In the Library you can find information and answers to more health questions than you can probably think of asking. They even have an Ask the Experts section. Of course, a website is never a substitute for a Doctor but it's a good place to start.

Check out a Healthy Me and get your plan for a fit and healthy you. If you need a great exercise plan that you can do right from home without paying for a health club membership, check out my post Shoestring Beauty - 52 Card Workout.

I'll see you at the beach.

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Shoestring Meals - I really should be on the Food Network

Friday night is pizza night at our house. Some times I make the pizza, I have a fantastic pizza crust recipe that I'll share in another post, but most of the time we buy a take and bake. Last Friday buying a pizza was not in the budget and I didn't have the ingredients on hand to make my own. If we lived in town, I might have fudged on the budget and bought a pie anyway but since we live far enough out of town to make a quick pizza run impractical I was forced to say, "Well what's in the cupboard?" The philosophy behind pizza night is that it's a simple, yummy dinner that everyone enjoys and it can be eaten with our fingers as we watch a movie together. What could I find that would still fit that criteria?
Here is how my thought process went:
Looking in the cupboard I saw that I had potatoes - we all like potatoes - so I pulled those out. Hmmmm, what could I do with potatoes? Baked Potatoes are good but sound boring, certainly not a substitute for Pizza. I wondered if we had cheese - cheese is good with potatoes, we all like cheese - so I head to the fridge to look for cheese. Yes! we have cheese and we have bacon. Now the wheels are turning.....what else is in the fridge? I found some green onions and bacon ceasar dressing. I placed everything on the counter and looked at my ingredients thinking that What's in DeeAnn's Cupboard should be a show on the Food Network, I could be the star. Light bulb. How about Twice Baked Potatoes? My family loves them and we can eat them with our hands as we watch our movie.

Here is the recipe for Terrific Twice Baked Potatoes and how I worked in the ingredients on hand to make them extra yummy.

Twice-Baked Potaoes:
4 medium sized potatoes
1 cup shredded medium or sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 milk
1/2 cup sour cream (I didn't have sour cream so I substituted the bacon caesar dressing)
3 Tbs butter
salt, pepper, onion powder or garlic powder
4 strips of cooked bacon 2 green onions

1.Preheat oven to 450. Wash and prick potatoes. Bake them for 1 hour or until the insides are soft. To make the cooking faster start by cooking the potatoes in the microwave on high until slightly soft, about 10 min. Then transfer to the oven to finish them off. When the potatoes are finished baking, change the oven temp to 350.
2. Take the potatoes out of the oven and allow to cool. When they are easy to handle, slice sideways and spoon out the flesh into another bowl. Leave about 1/4 inch of flesh in the skins. Arrange the shells skin side down on a baking sheet and brush them with 1 tbls of melted butter or olive oil then return them to the oven for about 15 min.
3. While the shells are in the oven - finely chop the bacon and onions or, better yet, take them for a quick spin in the food processor. Then mix together the potato flesh, cheese milk, sour cream(bacon caesar dressing), rest of the butter, salt, pepper and onion or garlic powder (leave out the onion or garlic if using the dressing) and bacon/onion. I use my mixer but a hand held potato masher also works.
4. Remove the skins from the oven and spoon the potato mixture into each skin. Return the stuffed potatoes to the oven and bake until they start to brown up. Let cool a little before you serve them.

The Twice Baked Potatoes were a hit. I even got a, "These are just like the potato skins at the restaurant.", compliment. Maybe I should turn pizza night into potato night......nah.
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Be A Shoestringing Princess at the Prom

It's prom time already. I can't believe how fast this school year has gone. My daughter is past her prom years but I still love looking at the dresses in the store window. However I do not enjoy looking at the price tags. Oh my goodness! How do girls afford to go to the prom anymore? I don't think that you should have to take out a second mortgage to help your daughter go to the prom.
There are lots of ways to Shoestring it at the prom and still look like a princess.

  • Make your own dress: For me that's an impossibility, I really don't sew at all. But I have met mothers and daughters who have had a great time working together on a dress and have saved money by buying the fabric at a discount. One girl that I know made a dress out of colored duct tape - very cool. I love the idea of making your prom dress your own personal work of art.
  • Shop discount: Stores like Ross and T.J. Maxx usually have a good selection of formals at this time of year. I found one of my favorite little black dresses at Ross for $16.99.
  • Look online: My daughter bought her first formal online. The price was right and the quality was good. When I googled, discount prom dresses I found pages of sites. If you like auctions, ebay is a great place to look. When I searched prom dresses I found about 42,000 auctions and buy it now opportunities. The prices look good with many starting bids under $20 but be careful not to get carried away with auction fever and stay within your budget. Remember to figure the shipping into your total cost. I actually have listed on ebay a lovely special occasion dress left over from my daughter's wedding , if anyone is interested......
  • Check out Vintage Dresses: We have a really fun and unique vintage clothing shop in the Spokane area called Finders Keepers. They specialize in vintage jewelry and fashion. Formals, shoes, hats, gloves, glitz they've got it all. I recently went to an amazing vintage clothing store in downtown Glendale, Arizona. I can't remember the name but the prices were fantastic. I could have easily restocked my closet from that store. Always try a vintage dress on before buying it because sizes tend to run small. If you are going to buy online be sure and double check the measurements of the dress.
  • Do a dress swap: There are so many formal dances and events - concerts, Christmas Dance, Spring Formal, Prom, etc. Why not have a dress swap party? Invite your daughter's friends from her school and other schools and ask them bring the formals that they've worn to other events. Have a big try on session and end with a fashion show. Chances are the girls will find dresses that they will want to trade. If not, everyone gets to have a good time getting together.
Prom season is a good time to teach our daughters lessons in economy. It's important for them to know that they can be a princess and have an enchanted evening without emptying the castle treasury.
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Shoestring Decorating with Vintage Advertising

I've often noticed that people who are willing to live a Shoestring Lifestyle have the most unique decorating sense. Shoestringers have an eye for the unique and fun. We understand that a little paint, a new shade, a new purpose can turn something that is old and boring into new and exciting. We are the champions of the recycle reuse decorating technique. I believe that Trash to Treasure and Shabby Chic have their roots in the Shoestring Lifestyle. Today I have a guest post from Horace Glump about a unique decorating idea. Please share your Shoestring Decorating experiences in the comments. It's great to learn from each other.

My friend Horace Glump from has a unique sense of decorating. He is an artist at heart as well as vocation. Today Horace offers his take on Decorating with Vintage Advertising Art.

Print advertising mediums began in earnest in the 19th century, but spread like wildfire in the 20th century. Each print advertisement became a mini time capsule recording the popular pulse of whatever period in which they were printed. They almost appear to be alive and ever evolving with the twists and turns of society. The more time that passes from the original publication date, the more ironic or down right hilarious the message becomes as it is viewed and read today.
Though some may write off advertising art as kitschy and too commercial to be considered "real art", I beg to differ. You'll find many great artists such as Norman Rockwell, Frederick Remington and Le Roy Neiman, just to name a few, who have contributed to this medium. So as with other pieces of art, why not decorate your home or business with the fanciful advertisement art of yesteryear? Best of all decorating with vintage advertising art is relatively cheap. Where else can you get a emotion-provoking illustration by Norman Rockwell graced with a rich,one of a kind patina from gentle years in storage all for under $10.00?

The Possibilities Are Endless

You'll find vintage advertising available that was pulled from old magazines, packaging, labels, mailers, matchbooks or just about anything that could be printed. Decorate a laundry room with old detergent ads, Frame some old food product or kitchen appliance ads for the kitchen. For the bar or study, find an old whiskey ad. For your bathroom how about razor blade or soap ads? I'm sure you get the idea. I especially like to use the World War II era advertisements because they evoke a feeling of "we're all in this together" and some of the propaganda undertones are quite thought provoking as viewed through the lens of time.

They Make Great Gifts Too!

These old ads also make great gifts for people with special interests. For example, give the seamstress a framed Singer Sewing machine ad from the 40's or how about an old "Desoto" ad from the 50's for the car buff. The possibilities really are endless.

Visit Horace's other Blogs for wit, wisdom and insight into Gardening, Business and Life's Journey.
Horace Glump on Gardening
Horace Glump on Business
Horace Glump
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Would You Like to Plant a Miracle? Plant a Garden.

"There's a mini-miracle patiently awaiting in every seed." Horace Glump

The sun is shining, finally, the soil is warming and the greenhouse is toasty. It's time to put away the seed catalogs that we've been pouring over all winter and get dirty. Gardening is a big thing this year, even the First Lady turned over a shovel full of dirt. I remember when we first moved to the edge of the Northern Rockies we lived next to a very accomplished gardener. Being a city girl, I really had no idea how vegetables grew. I didn't even know how to plant a seed. My neighbor took me under her wing and allowed me to share her garden. She taught me how to prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water and weed. She taught me which plants went well together and which ones needed to be kept apart so they wouldn't fight over the good nourishing stuff in the dirt. It was amazing! I discovered where green beans come from and how to tell when a carrot was ready to pull. Since we gardened organically, I could pull nutritious veggies right off the stalk or right out of the dirt and eat a salad. (A little dirt never hurt anybody. Just ask your three year old). Soon after, we planted our own garden and then my husband caught the gardening bug. Now, he is the master gardener and I help harvest - my favorite part anyway.

There are a lot of resources out there to inspire gardeners of any level. My favorite gardening site this season is Horace Glump on Gardening. My friend Horace (pictured below) is from our area and he has learned some valuable lessons in outwitting our finicky summers - we've actually lost an entire garden to a hard frost on the Fourth of July. Along with a good dose of gardening know-how Horace gives tidbits of wisdom in his Glumpisms. Give Horace a visit and share with him how your garden grows. Here are a few of my favorite posts:

Lasagna Gardening Glumpism "Growing a garden is good for your soul, harvesting a garden is good for your stomach."
My Tomato World Turned Upside Down Glumpism - "Unlike a garden, a fertile mind requires no manure."
Leftover Lasagna Glumpism - "Gardeners are the only people I know who enjoy dirty looks."

If you have never gardened before, this is the year to start Shoestringing it in the garden. It's good for your family, it's good for your pocketbook and it's good for your soul.
Leave a comment and share your favorite gardening method.

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Reading About Vegetable Shortening Helped the Time Slide By

I recently went on vacation. One of my vacation indulgences is to buy a magazine to read on the plane. I know, that doesn't sound like much of an indulgence, but really how often do we get to take the time to read through an entire magazine? This trip I bought a copy of First for Women, healthy living made easy, the March 2009 issue, Bauer Publishing. I learned many interesting things about losing weight, easing back pain, how to sleep better, exercise more efficiently, suppress a cough with dark chocolate (dark chocolate is amazing!) and of course I read dozens of recipes. But the article that really caught my attention was about a substance that I have in my cupboard all of the time - Vegetable Shortening. I had no idea there were so many uses, other than cooking, for Shortening.
The article is titled 10 Brilliant Uses for Vegetable Shortening by Dana Squilla.
Here are 4 of the shortening strategies that I'm anxious to try:
  1. Remove ink stains from vinyl upholstery - Put a little vegetable shortenting on a clean dry cloth. Gently dab at the stain with the cloth until the ink is gone. Rinse with a soapy sponge and let dry. It seems that the palm oil in the shortening, "seeps into the materials fibers, attracting the ink's oils dissolving the color residue, so it washes away without a trace." Cool!
  2. Wash automotive grease and oil off of your hands - Before you wash your hands rub them with the shortening. The shortening should dissolve the grease so that it will easily rinse away.
  3. Soften Winter heels - Cracked winter heels? Before bed give your feet a soak in warm water and then massage them with shortening. Wear cotton socks to bed and rinse the shortening off in the shower in the morning. The result - softer feet.
  4. Vegetable shortening face paint - In a small cup, I think that a Styrofoam egg carton would work perfectly for this, combine 2 Tbl corn starch, 1 Tbl shortening, 3 drops of food coloring. Mix a different color in each cup. For applications, use paint brushes, make up brushes or Q-tips. This will wash off with mild soap. I like to use baby shampoo.

I was a little disappointed that they didn't mention my favorite use of Vegetable Shortening - pie crust. Here's a recipe for the way that my family would prefer that I use shortening:
Double Pie Crust
2 Cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
1/3 cup unsalted butter (if you use salted butter adjust the salt to 1/4 tsp)
6-7 Tbl ice cold water

Combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. With a pastry cutter, cut in shortening and butter.
Start by sprinkling 3 Tbls of water over flour mixture. Toss with fork. Add water one TBl at a time until dough barely holds together. The key is to not overwork the dough. Turn the dough onto a well floured pastry cloth or clean counter top. Divide in half and roll out with floured rolling pin.
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Be Old Fashioned, Post Through the Post

I recently had a conversation with a friend who reminded me of something that I have let slip in my life. I spend so much time at the computer, as so many people do, that I forget that email and twitter and facebook can't really take the place of personal communication. My friend mentioned how nice it is to get a handwritten message, a card or a letter, in the mail. Especially now days when every mail delivery is met with apprehension about what bills will be waiting for us in that little box. What a joy to find the treasure of a message from a friend hidden between the bills and junk mail.
When my husband and I were dating, we lived far enough away from each other that calls were long distance and we were only able to see each other on the weekends. So, each week we wrote each other one letter. I remember the excitement of rushing to the mailbox when I got home in hopes that there would be a letter from him, the excitement of seeing his return address on the envelope and my name written in his handwriting. Yes, I was (and am) very much in love. But the point, for this post, is that the communication in those old fashioned posts was not a hurried email but a carefully thought out message that added growth and excitement to our relationship.
My heart still smiles when I get a card or a letter in the mail. Really, what an inexpensive way to make someone's day a little brighter, just .42 for a stamp. We don't need to buy expensive cards, note paper will do or keep your eye out for cards that your friends can frame or reuse. My mom does a fun thing, she sends one of her beautiful cards* with her note written on a separate piece of paper so that I can reuse the card. I get a smile and then I can send it to someone else to make them smile.
So, I resolve to send treasures in the mail much more often. I will step back in time, grab a pen, paper and stamp and post through the post.

*My mom, Kay, is a watercolorist. She often turns her lovely paintings into cards. Visit her blog Joy To You - Inspirations of hope and joy in art and scripture.
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Making New Shoestring Friends

Do you ever feel the need to justify your Shoestring Lifestyle? Do you ever feel as if you are the only one hanging on to the aglet (that's the plastic thingy at the end of the shoestring)? Actually, we are in excellent company in the world of frugality.
Here are some of the great money saving blogs that I visit regularly:
  • Freebies 4 Mom - This blog lists free stuff, coupons, sweepstakes, give aways and good advice. I love Freebie Friday!
  • Rather Be Shopping - Great coupons and financial tips. Practical and up to date.
  • Frugal Hacks - Different contributors add to this blog administrated by a mother of 9 who has the frugal lifestyle down to a science. You can even add your own frugal hacks (ideas) to the mix.
  • eBay Selling Coach - This blog is written by a mom who is an eBay power seller. She shares her advice on what sells, how to navigate eBay, and other ecommerce resources.
  • $5 Dollar Dinners - Erin Chase shares her menus and recipes for dinners that cost $5. A yummy resource for Shoestring meals.
Check out these blogs and make some new Shoestring Friends.
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Shoestring Meals - Overnight Lasagna

A couple of posts ago I posted a recipe for Easy Italian Herb Focaccia Bread. This deliciously easy bread is a great compliment to the recipe that I'll share with you today, Overnight Lasagna. My friend who first served me the Focaccia Bread also served this mouthwatering money and time saving lasagna (thanks, Tana!)
One of the things that makes this dish unique is that you don't cook the noodles and yet they come out perfectly tender. I have tried lasagna recipes that call for uncooked noodles only to find that the end result is chewy underdone pasta. The secret to this recipe is a nocturnal rest in your fridge. Plus it is so easy to assemble the night before so you can relax when your guests or family arrive.

Overnight Lasagna
You will need:
1 lb ground beef - brown and drain the fat
32 oz jar of spaghetti sauce or 4 cups of homemade
salt and pepper
16 oz cottage cheese
1 egg
1 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1tsp Basil
1 pkg of lasagna noodles

  • Add sauce to browned ground beef and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Combine cottage cheese , egg, mozarella cheese and basil to make cheese sauce.
  • Layer in 9x13 pan (I would spray the pan with pam for easy clean up),
1/2 cup meat mixture
layer of noodles
1/3 cup cheese mixture
1/3 cup meat mixture

  • Continue layers ending with meat mixture and topping with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese.
  • Pour 1/2 cup water around sides of pan. This is a very important step.
  • Cover with foil and leave in the fridge overnight.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
  • Let stand 15 min. before serving.
  • Enjoy!

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Shoestring Cleaning - Quick, Simple, Cheap

Friday is the first day of Spring. Woohoo! The nearness of spring always put me in a cleaning mood. When I think of spring cleaning I think of moving furniture and deep cleaning corners that no one ever sees and polishing things until they shine and beating rugs (I know, nobody beats rugs anymore but that's what I think of). The problem is that I just don't have time for that. I need some quick ideas that give the semblance of a spring cleaned house without the time spent.
Here are a few quick ideas that will clean quickly, simply and cheaply:
  • Make your bed. Even if your room is a mess in other ways, a made bed transforms a room and gives a feeling of order. I timed myself - it takes less than a minute and a half to make my bed. We all have a minute and a half. Time your kids when they make their beds and challenge them to beat their best time.
  • Pick things up. Clutter is my middle name (actually it's Arlene). I like to have my favorite stuff around so I tend towards a cluttered house. Clutter doesn't have to be messy if there is a place for things. It's when things are not in their places that a room looks messy. When you walk through a room, always look for something that's not in it's place and put it away. It's amazing the cleaning satisfaction that you experience just by putting one or two things away and it only takes a few seconds.
  • Make things shine. Take a cloth and buff your door knobs, wipe your dishwasher and oven doors with a damp dish towel after you do the dishes, quickly spray and wipe windows and mirrors. When things are shiny they give the impression that the spaces around them are clean.
  • Wipe your bathroom down every time you get out of the shower. Take a damp towel and wipe down your shower door and walls, moisten a paper towel with rubbing alcohol to shine and disinfect your sink faucet and handles and quickly wipe down your toilet. I timed myself on this one too - a quick bathroom wipe down takes 2 minutes.
  • Sweep and vacuum just your high traffic areas. Once again, when the areas that people use the most are clean the rest of the house seems clean.
  • Keep the laundry area clean. Whenever you wash towels dampen the last one to go into the washer and wipe your washer and dryer before you start the load. Keep a trash can lined and handy for dryer lint and trash from pockets. Have laundry baskets ready and waiting to hold clean loads and for sorting dirty clothes.
  • Keep cleaning wipes (or bleach water and paper towels) handy so that you can quickly clean up a dirty spot when you see it. If we don't have the tools handy we tend to put off a job. If the wipes are right there on the counter you just need to grab and wipe the finger prints on the door, the chocolate sauce on the cupboard, the muddy dog prints on the floor. If you see it, wipe it up.
  • Dust. I hate to dust, but a quick swipe of visible surface areas with a dust cloth can really brighten up a room. So I must force myself to do it. I bet that I can dust my living room in less than 5 minutes.

Of course, these quick clean ups don't take the place of a real spring cleaning but until you have the time to devote to a top to bottom clean up give them a try.
What are your quick clean up tips? Leave a comment and share.
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Shoestring Beauty - Homemade Beauty Products

I'm a sucker for beauty products but they can be so expensive. Here are some ways that I found to indulge in fun products and still hang on to the plastic thingy at the end of the shoestring.
  • Look for your favorite make up and lotions at Big Lots. I often find a brand that I like or that I've wanted to try for a fraction of the cost at Big Lots. The inventory changes quickly so you have to check often.
  • Two other great discount places for lotions and perfumes are Ross and TJ Max. They carry many of the face creams that you find in high end department stores at a huge discount - $5.99 for a 29.00 face cream. Now, I would never pay 30ish dollars for face cream, but I would try it for 5ish.
  • I have often found name brand make up like Maybelline and Cover Girl at Dollar Tree and other dollar type stores.
  • There are also homemade beauty treatments that are cost effective and fun. offers a whole list of recipes for your homemade spa using ingredients that you probably have in your kitchen. Being the coffee lover that I am, I found the Invigorating Coffee Scrub very intriguing:
    • 3 T Coffee grounds (organic-caffeinated)
    • 1 T Salt (optional)

To Make: Brew a fresh pot of coffee. Enjoy a cup, if you like. Put grounds (and salt) in a small bowl. Use grounds within 20 minutes of brewing before oxidation occurs.

To Use: Scrub mixture over entire body while in the shower. Rinse. Tone. Moisturize.

  • If you are thinking green these days, Planet Green gives a whole list of homemade beauty products and suggestions: 3 ways to make your own shampoo, vegetable oil as a hair conditioner, homemade vegetable toner - just to name a few.

  • has a section on homemade facials, masks and soaps. They even have a recipe for Coffee Scented Kitchen Soap and a yummy Orange Yogurt Mask.

Cosmetics and Creams are fun but remember that beauty comes from the inside. A loving heart, giving hands, a mind stayed on the One who created beauty in the first place will shine through to true loveliness.
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Shoestring Parenting (or anyone who shares their lives with children) - Hunkin's Experiments

Do you have children in you life? Are you a parent, grandparent, teacher, homeschooler, neighbor, babysitter, aunt, uncle? No matter what our station in life it seems that there are always children about somewhere. Which means that almost everyone is faced upon occasion with the question, "What can we do to entertain these kids?" I know, for parents that is an everyday, minute by minute worrisome thought. Well, here is one solution to keep those wonderful little brains and hands busy - Hunkin's Experiments (over 200 home experiments).

The author of the site, Tim Hunkin ( is a trained engineer and cartoonist. He drew the cartoon the Rudiments of Wisdom for the Observer newspaper and then wrote and presented the television program, The Secret Life of Machines. Currently he works for museums building interactive displays and exhibits. Mr. Hunkin has put together a site with experiments that cover just about anything that an inquisitive kid could want to know (inquisitive adults, too). Accompanying each experiment is an imaginative cartoon that details the instructions. What makes this a wonderful shoestring activity is that almost all of the experiments use everyday household objects. No going to the store to buy extra stuff!
Some of the Experiment Catagories are:
Food experiments
Mathematical experiments
Biological experiments
Electrical experiments
Experiments in the office
Sound experiments
Hobbies experiments
Clothes experiments
Experiments with objects

Mr. Hunkins shows how to do the experiments but he doesn't explain the science behind them. If you are a homeschooler or public school teacher you'll have to do your homework to use this as a teaching tool or addition to your science curriculum. Otherwise, these are some cool and entertaining activities to fill a rainy day and get our brains, both young and old, working beyond TV and video games.
Haven't you ever wondered how to - balance a chair on a broomstick? get an apple into a milk bottle? do Russian multiplication? pull a string through your neck? use a watch as a compass?
change the color of a goldfish?......

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