A Simple, Elegant Hair Style

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Patsy has the most beautiful, long red hair.  It has the slightest bit of curl in it, but is primarily straight.  For Christmas Eve, we wanted it to look special, without taking hours to comb and fix.

I gathered up a small amount from each side into a ponytail and put in an elastic band.  I left it rather loose.  Then, I took the tail and lifted it up and over the elastic band and pushed it down into the center and through, into a fishtail.  I did this process 3 times, adding another layer of hair each time.  At the bottom, I gathered it all up into yet another ponytail holder and added a hair ornament we have had for years and matched her Christmas dress perfectly. The rest of her hair hung as a ponytail down her back.

She looked lovely and special, and it stayed neat and tidy for hours!  Win-win for everyone.

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Saving Money–Week Ending December 27

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Our Christmas turned out to be very meaningful and delightful.  We were able to keep the hustle and bustle low, while still getting to enjoy several holiday activities, and we felt very satisfied with the season.

We were also able to come through the season feeling satisfied that we were able to give gifts to people we loved while not overspending.  We did, however, cut things back quite a bit from years past, because of Rob’s job loss.  One thing we cut back on was giving small gifts to friends.  We just did not give them this year, and I’m sure everyone understood.  Instead, we used that money on the girls.  Even though we never gave costly gifts to friends and co-workers, teachers, etc., it adds up and we simply wanted to use the $ elsewhere this year.  Next year, I will make some extra jam, or relish, or whatever I can figure out—I’ll just plan for it differently.   Sometimes life just takes unexpected twists and turns and plans have to be re-adjusted.

Family members got turkeys, a plan that had been in the works for months.  When they were butchered right after Thanksgiving, they were delivered. That sure took a lot of pressure away from the week of Christmas. A few people received zucchini relish I made last summer from our over-abundant crop.  It tastes just like regular sweet relish.  I also made some potholders.

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I gave away a few dish towels and pillowcases I had embroidered.  One set of pillowcases is not in the picture, but it had flowers on it as well.  The towels were purchased at Walmart in a big bundle and stamped with Aunt Martha’s iron-on embroidery stamps.  The stamps can be used over and over, so most of the stamps were some I’ve had for years.

We do things differently than most.  We open our gifts at home on Christmas Eve, after church, and then go to my sister’s on Christmas Day  to celebrate with extended family.  And, we don’t hang the stockings.  We put the things in them and put them in a row on the couch.  Why?  I’m not sure.  It probably got started years ago when we didn’t have anywhere to hang them.  We put fewer things in the girls’ stockings than usual, but we made sure each item was of higher quality.  So, a chocolate Santa from See’s candy, a small gift card for Starbucks, the obligatory orange that MUST be there, etc.  They were very pleased.

They got gifts they had asked for and really wanted, just slightly fewer than some years.  Again, they were very pleased.  Rob and I gave each other a few things we needed.  I got some tea, a can opener, a couple of sweaters for work, etc.  He  received a coffee maker from the girls with some help from me.

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On Christmas Eve, we all dressed up and went to church.  It was a very beautiful, meaningful, candlelight service.

We had several times during the week when we ate somewhere else other than home, or had people over here.  This comes with having such a large, complicated family.  I was able to shop sales for extra food items I needed, and use many items I already had at home as ingredients as well.  We took one son out to breakfast one morning.  In the end, we were able to get together with 7 out of 8 of the children, no small accomplishment!

We received the good news that some close friends were able to slip over here (they live 8 hours away) for the night, so enjoyed making dinner and visiting with them as well.

We used wood heat.  We used decorations we already had and the centerpiece we were given–the only thing I bought was a poinsettia a few weeks ago.  We wore clothes we already had to church and holiday events, with the exception of Patsy and Ja’Ana– they each got a new Christmas dress as usual, bought on sale, of course.  I believe Patsy’s was either 60 or 70 % on Thanksgiving Day (Rob had to take Lovana to work at Fred Meyers for a few hours that day, so picked it out while he was buying the $20 boots for each of them).  He is an amazing shopper!

We chose free activities such as church choir concerts, etc.

We watched shows on our Kindles, using Prime.  We also used Prime for free shipping for the items we ordered from Amazon for Christmas.  For us, since we do on-line shopping, Prime pays for itself in shipping savings, and we get the shows as a bonus.  We do not have cable, or even free tv that works at our house, so it’s Prime shows and library movies for us.  We were given the $ to go to the new Star Wars movie, now we just need to find the time!  We were also given a slew of various gift cards by different people, and are very thankful and excited to use them after the new year.  We were also blessed with a couple of sizable cash gifts.  We do not know who one gift is from, so, thank you very much, whoever you are!  We are very grateful.

 

 

Merry Christmas

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We attended a wonderful Christmas Eve service last night and then had our immediate family Christmas celebration.  Everyone ended up happy and joyful–it was awesome.  Today, we are going to celebrate some more with extended family–an all-day affair involving lots of food, laughter and love.  I hope all of you have a wonderful day!  Merry Christmas!

Allergy Friendly Holiday Meal

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A simple table setting

Last night, our oldest daughter, Abbie and her husband, Keith, and Maddie and Carter came over for dinner.  We had a very nice time visiting, and eating together.  The visiting part is easy.  We could chat for hours!  The eating part is a little more challenging.  I cannot eat gluten at all, not even one crumb, or I get very sick.  Abbie can eat gluten, but cannot eat eggs, dairy, beef, watermelon, blackberries and more.   She will break into hives if she does and get migraines.  So, between both of our needs, it takes a little planning to get a meal we can all enjoy.

We started by thawing one of the chickens Rob raised.  He also got out a package of steak, because Keith loves steak and we love Keith.  (Seriously we do–he’s a great son-in-law–nice to our daughter, good sense of humor, etc.)  He doesn’t get it much because Abbie can’t have beef.  Rob barbecued the meat with Lowrie’s Seasoning Salt, because we can eat it, and put nothing else on it.  He also baked plain potatoes on the grill as well, wrapped in foil.

I boiled home-canned green beans and home-canned corn, with salt and pepper only.  I put home-made dill pickles and bread and butter pickles into a divided glass dish.  We put out little dishes of butter, sour cream, cottage cheese (for the potatoes), barbecue sauce, other sauces we had on hand, and just let everyone fix up their exceedingly plain food the way they wanted it and could have it.  It was a simple, plain dinner served on china and fancy glass dishes.

I wanted something a little fancier for dessert, but not too fancy.

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I decided to make chocolate cupcakes that were gluten-free, dairy-free, soy free, and egg free.  I used a recipe I found in a free Kindle cookbook.  I had to change quite a few things to make it work, so I won’t be posting it unless I have a chance to re-work it a little more.  Sometimes I think the different flour mixtures work differently and recipes have to be fussed with.  I used Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 gluten free flour mix.  It’s my favorite one for most things and includes xanthum gum in the mix.  I used a combination of coconut milk and almond milk and it called for a little cider vinegar, so I put it in.  I made chocolate frosting with Earth Balance dairy-free spread, cocoa powder, powdered sugar, almond milk and vanilla.  Then I topped them with some decorations that looked  “safe” but left a few undecorated just in case she didn’t want to take the chance.  I was pleased with the results and the whole evening.  We exchanged gifts, except for the turkey we gave them as their gift.  Rob had delivered it the day it was butchered and they have already cooked it.  They have other plans on Christmas Day, so we were glad to spend some time last evening.

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No Bake Mountain Bars

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These are so easy to make.  Patsy and I whipped out a batch early Friday morning.  When I packaged them up for gift giving, I put a layer of waxed paper in-between the layers.

1-1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cups cocoa

1/2 cup milk

1/2 cup butter

3 cups quick oats

1/4 cup chunky peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil sugar, cocoa, milk and butter in a large pan for 1 minute.  Add remaining ingredients.  Drop by teaspoon onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with waxed paper. Decorate with sprinkles or mini M and M’s according to the holiday it is, or the color scheme you want to match.  We often leave them plain if it is not a holiday.  Refrigerate until set.  Makes 1 cookie sheet full of cookies, if you put them pretty close together.

The amount you get actually varies according to how big you make them.  I’ve had the recipe for years.  It came from a home-school math book a long time ago.  They are gluten-free as long as you are sure to use gluten-free oats.  Some people cannot handle oats, anyway, no matter what, but I can, so enjoy these occasionally.  I’d check with the recipient if you are unsure if they tolerate oats.

 

Saving Money- Week ending on December 20

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As I was stitching some last minute embroidery projects, I realized I was getting low on green floss.  I remembered Rob’s mom telling me that she had been given some x-stitching supplies, by someone who was moving, to share between his sisters and myself.  I asked him to stop by and see if there was any green in the mixture.  He brought home a couple of boxes of supplies and I got to choose whatever I could use.  It ended up being about a gallon of floss of all colors, including green! I chose the loose floss and a few tubes of x-stitch fabric.  I sent back the rest and I think we will let the children use it for bracelets and crafts after people take what the can use.  I am very excited to get so much floss.  I like to do embroidery and work on projects all year long.

We were invited to a friend’s house for dinner and enjoyed ourselves very much.  I was able to make a mixed-berry crisp and use up several little baggies of frozen berries that needed to be used while they were still tasty.  It turned out very good and had raspberries, blueberries and a few blackberries in it.

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We attended Ja’Ana’s choir concert Friday night and a church choir presentation with singing and drama last night.  They were both beautiful and put me in a Christmas mood.  After J’s concert, we wanted to celebrate with her, so we took her to the store and let her choose any kind of ice cream she wanted.  While we were doing that, I saw a pizza sign indicating that pizza was $5 for the take and bake “special” of the day.  Lovana ran over and got one, and to my surprise, it was for a fairly good sized one.  I already had sandwich ingredients prepared at home, so we had a combination of sandwiches and pizza and ice cream for our celebration!  (The pizza was not gluten-free, so it went farther since I can’t have any).

Rob accidentally broke the glass in the wood stove when he was loading it up so he could leave to drive Ja’Ana to choir practice.  I was giving a piano lesson, and my student and I heard this big sound of breaking glass.  The house filled with smoke, the alarms went off, and it was quite exciting for a while as Rob carried flaming logs out and threw them off the porch into the soggy flower beds.  All the while, I’m trying to carry on like there is nothing unusual about him pouring water all over the hearth (and my kitchen floor),putting out the flames on one log, carrying out others, and trying to get the glass to not fall out of the frame where it was hanging in the balance.  Ja’Ana got the smoke alarms to quit wailing, all was safe, and she and Rob took off for the last choir practice.  I got back to my lesson, and  finished with that student.

Meanwhile, my phone was bringing in texts, asking if there was some confusion about Rob picking up J’s friend.  I answered, “no-he’s on his way” and I went on with lessons. The house phone kept ringing and I continued ignoring it, as I do when working.   Half-way through the 2nd lesson, Patsy was supposed to get off  the bus with another boy who was coming for a lesson.  He came.  She didn’t.  I start frantically texting Rob, asking him to call the school.  In the meanwhile, student #2 is playing away and I’m pretending to listen.  She’s one of my older ones, and was not fooled for a moment, but was gracious while I had my mini-crisis.  I finally get a quick call–everything’s fine–she missed the bus home–he would drop the girls at choir and then go get her.  Whew– because I surely can’t leave someone else’s child home alone at my house while I go get her–and there were 2 of them there by then!  On with lessons.  Never a dull moment at my house–that’s for sure.

The stove door was fixable.  It cost us $125.  We had to run the furnace for 2 days, which will be costly on our next power bill.  In the big picture, though, this stove has been a real money saver.  We use it constantly for heat, using firewood we get for “free,” with our labor and fuel costs being the price we pay.  It was a discard from someone else years ago, and we have used it all winter for heat for the last 8 years.  A new one would be over $2,000 and our power bill would be astronomical.  Afternoons like Wednesday are frustrating (but funny afterwards), but it’s the price we pay for using things that are second-hand, old, wearing out, etc. It’s worth it to us when we look at the big picture.

Rob got bread for the pigs–the back of the van full for $25.  We paid the girls a little something to unwrap it all and it is ready to feed the pigs.  We also have been giving them melons we got last week.  They were spoiling when we got them–they are awful now, but the pigs still seem to love them.  They are almost all gone now.  They are mostly raised on a natural feed from a local feed store, but the do love their treats!  They are growing nicely and so far, all 7 have survived.  (We got 2 more than the original 5 when people indicated they wanted to buy them.)

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Patsy had a birth-mom visit last week.  We made these mountain bar cookies together and took some along.  They were easy, quick and fun for Patsy to decorate with the mini M and M’s I got on sale for $2/bag a while back.  We also took a few other modest presents and ate fast food together while we visited.  I thought it went well.

 

 

A Nice Surprise

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Today, we received a nice surprise in the mail.  My aunt sent us a greenery centerpiece.  We both love it.  I watered it according to the directions, and set it in the middle of my table.  It’s going to add another fresh layer to our Christmas decorations.  I love texting.  We were both able to send her a “thank-you” right away and she was able to know right away that we got her lovely gift.