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Archive for November, 2010

Oh happy day!

View out our front door looking out to the driveway (and yes that's our road even higher up); we live on the side of a mountain hence the fact that our house is lower than our driveway which is lower than our road; it's a steep road I tell ya!

The view from inside our house looking out the side picture window

This sign hangs right to the left of our door and pretty much sums up our sentiments re: snow

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Sorry it’s been crickets around here lately.  My folks come out to Colorado once a year and their visit is timed around the week of Thanksgiving so I wanted to spend as much time as possible with them while they were here.

During their visit, it was  brutally cold – single digits and lower on many days, accompanied by howling winds and certainly not comfortable for my thin-blooded parents who came up from Florida.  They don’t like to visit museums or go shopping, preferring to spend time outdoors; however all my plans for outdoor fun was squashed with the cold weather, save for a few quick walks with the dogs.

Luckily for us, we have a favorite past-time when we get together, a time honored tradition that goes back many generations in our family that prevents any chance of boredom: playing cards and board games.

As a child when we would take a quarterly trip up to Quebec most of what I remember were the aunts, uncles and cousins convening at my grandmother’s house to play cards.  It was serious business, but still a fun tradition.  As the only family in our clan (save for one uncle) that had moved to the states, I was the only one that couldn’t speak much french, but all language barriers were awash when playing cards.  It was an opportunity to feel welcome when I otherwise felt like an outsider.

I remember throughout my childhood and early adult years playing games on weekends and when company was over at my parent’s house.  To this day, we all still joke about a funny thing that happened while playing the board-game version of “Family Feud” nearly 30 years ago when my French speaking mother confidently gave the answer “Tonka!” when asked to list the top truck companies.

To this day, my sister and her family often have family/friends over to play cards and board games on the weekends and it’s such an easy way to socialize, bond and have fun.  Not to mention uber cheap.

While my parents were here, we enjoyed relaxing days full of cooking/baking (my mom’s favorite thing in the world to do and a likeness that we share in common), while David taught my dad how to play Wii (also a fun game, though not quite the same as the low/no-tech games to which I’m referring here) and they talked investments (my dad’s favorite thing to do and a likeness that he and David share in common).  We took brisk walks with the dogs, my mom did some crafting with me while I filled a few orders all the while making her some goodies to take home with her and we even caught up on a few shows that we collectively like (Oprah and Biggest Loser that had recorded).

However, after dinner, we followed the same routine: cleaned up the place and then sat down to a night of games.

We laughed…and laughed…and laughed.  My mother, who is usually a serious and stern person, would often melt into a heaping pile of laughter and seeing her this way really softened her.  I love to see her in this silly state and it was quite infectious.  My dad, usually a silly and easy-going guy,  goes in the other direction and gets serious and focused, though certainly not enough to refrain from the laughter.

It’s strange that today’s generation rarely gets together for this kind of activity, oft preferring to talking, drinking or partying…or seeing an event that ceases all communication, like a movie.  Now there’s nothing wrong with seeing a movie or a show, but there’s nothing like bonding over a table while playing a board game or a game of cards.  Even David and I have made a concerted effort to turn off the TV once or twice a week in the evenings and playing games instead.  And though it’s easy and enjoyable to sit down in front of the boob tube, we’re always so glad that we played a game instead.

Only seems fitting that I would insert a certain cliche commercial here:

Simple snacks – $5

Softdrinks – $5

The opportunity to spend time laughing and bonding with family & friends – PRICELESS

What are your favorite games to play?  How often do you play and if not as often as you like, consider turning off the TV tonight or this weekend and dust off the games that you love.  You’ll be glad you did.

Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving!

 

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Sale update

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and being thankful for all my customers and all my blog readers…I’m offering 20% off from Thanksgiving 11/25 through to Cyber Monday 11/29.  See below for all the details and info on how/where to get this discount.   Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!  xo

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Hey all, as you know the Monday after “Black Friday” is now known as “Cyber Monday” – when people make major holiday purchases online.  So I’m joining in on the fun and offering 20% off at 3 of my shops:

To get the discount, you just need to enter the coupon code “CyberMonday2010″ (all one word) when checking out (only valid on Monday, 11/29 so don’t postpone!).  So if you just need some simple, handmade, unique gifts, please check out my shops and get a discount while you’re at it!

Thanks everyone :)

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We set up our Christmas tree this weekend in anticipation of family visiting for Thanksgiving.  After a little tousle RIGGIN’ UP THE LIGHTS which never seem to remain fully lit from year to year (why is that?!), we hung up ornaments and giggled over early handmade ornaments, reminisced over memories of the past and remembered why it’s important to go through this tradition year after year.  Reminds us where we came from, what we’ve done, where we’ve been, who’s in our life (and sadly no longer)…

I remember one year on college break, I went to visit a friend at his house and his mom had a tree with nothing but crystal ornaments.  I love seeing Christmas trees when visiting people and hearing the stories behind the ornaments, but this one was just 50 of the same thing.  Silly for me to judge how someone likes to decorate their tree but I was saddened not to see handmade macaroni and glue ornaments from my friend’s early years, no silly/tacky santas, no mementos of the past.  Nothing but random/impersonal crystal ornaments.

Since moving to Colorado and my parents snow-birding it, I haven’t seen the ornaments of my childhood and am dying to get my hands on them and bring back to our tree (though my mom swears they don’t have much of them anymore – *sniff*).  So meantime, David and I started from scratch and have been creating our own memories from the past 10 years.  And each year when we unwrap them, they’re like little presents that we’ve forgotten about but are so happy to see…kinda like finding that favorite lip balm or money in your winter coat from last year, but better!

Our first year, we bought a lot of the generic ornaments but each year, some of those have been making their way to the Goodwill donation pile as we bring in more personal ones.  Here are just a few of the ones that give us pause…

 

This is the first personalized ornament we got for our first Christmas - it gives me such twinges of bittersweet nostalgia when we take it out (and it always gets a coveted spot at the top of the tree next to our star)

This is one of David's favorite and we jokingly refer to him (David) as being a "Bumble" (aka the abominable snowman) sometimes when he's grumpy

When we travel to a new place, we try to remember to grab an ornament; I spent months in New Mexico for work 2 years ago so we bought this during one of his trips to visit me there; I try to remember to write notes on the front (or back) of the ornament or at the very least, the year purchased (will help to jog the memory 20 years from now!)

This one I hold dear - it was the wedding favor given out from my college roommate Karyn's winter wedding 3 years ago, just 2 months before she unexpectedly passed away. I always get a little lump in my throat when I hang this one up

This one I made with my nieces years ago while we spent an afternoon crafting; holds warm memories of all our times crafting together when they were young. Now the youngest one is spending time in France right now as a foreign exchange student *sigh* - how time passes

This one makes me giggle - David loves hockey and we both have an affection for moose; we also have some Snoopy ornaments that David brought to our marriage which also make me giggle

This one we bought to commemorate the purchase of our first home (though we bought the house in 2006, I was in a really bad place at work/emotionally so we didn't put up a tree or get any new ornaments that year); hopefully no more years like that!

At some point during our tree-decorating process, David pointed out that we have yet to get an ornament or two for this year, oops!  I’m hoping to decorate one with one of my whimsical girls to commemorate the year I discovered painting and a whole new life took hold!  I am forever grateful for this change in my life.

So tell me, what are your favorite ornaments?  What stories do they tell?  What tree traditions do you hold dear?  I’d love to hear!

 

 

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Time for winter squash!

Big, fat seeds from a Banana squash

Last week I mentioned that I had failed miserably on keeping up with my CSA shares.  However, I was very happy to see winter squash slowly coming in and was sure not to waste these seasonal gems.

Over the course of a month, we’ve received 2 baby pie pumpkins, 2 baby butternut squash, 2 spaghetti squash, an acorn squash and a giant banana squash (which I had never seen before but is similar in texture and taste to butternut squash).  I spent 4 hours cooking away but was able to roast all the squash and make:

  • pumpkin puree which was used in making pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies
  • butternut squash risotto (haven’t made yet, but plan on using this recipe)
  • a spaghetti squash dish with feta cheese, tomatoes and black olives
  • roasted squash bisque (which I used the acorn and banana squash, recipe here)

These 8 pieces were enough to create several meals, vegetarian at that (which we need to do a better job of eating more often as we eat way too much meat in this household!).

Now, to make use of the bushel of apples we have on hand (I’ve got apple crisp, muffins, turnovers, pie in the works…anything else you recommend so I don’t waste more food?)

What are your favorite uses for winter squash?  Please share!

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Say no to mass-producers this year by supporting a local crafter or handmade artisan when purchasing your gifts this holiday season.  You’d be amazed at what you can find on Etsy (I refer to it as the handmade version of “Ebay”), have it shipped to your door and know that you’re supporting a small business in this world of mass-produced bleh.  And the prices are really good (sometimes too cheap for the amount of work that goes into a handmade product in my opinion)!

You can go to Etsy and type in any keyword and be sure to find a unique/obscure item you wouldn’t find in the big box stores.  Have a family member that is a fan of monsters, hedgehogs or computer geekery?  You’ll find plenty of options at Esty.  Have a friend that just loves smell good soaps?  They have thousands of soap makers.  Wanna support your local economy?  Click on the “shop local” button on the lower left hand side and find crafters and artisans in your local area.

Here are some member-curated treasuries that I was featured in recently, so here’s a good start on some fun gift ideas out there (click on any picture to get a better close-up at these veritable gift guides):

This treasury, “A Colorado Christmas” shows off some local talent in this beautiful state and includes my Inspired Girls print:

To show your gratitude, here are some great items that give thanks from this treasury called “Simple Acts of Gratitude), including my Gratitude Girl bookmark:

My Harmony Angel note card is included in this lovely treasury titled “You’ve Got Mail” which encourages people to go back to the old days of writing snail mail:

All the shops and items in this treasury-  “Gift that Give” – give away a portion of their proceeds to non-profit organizations and includes my Brave Girl print:

This cool blue treasury aptly named “Dreaming in Blue” feature my Lovely Angel ACEO/art card:

 

I am particularly fond of old, vintage buttons and was thrilled to have my button hair pins included in this fun “Today is Button Day” treasury:

 

This eco-friendly treasury, “Eco Gift for Women” is a personal favorite and features recycled/upcycled/repurposed goods including my music sheet bow:

And once you get your gift, these items from the “Accent your Christmas gift with…” treasury to top off your gift (and also included my music sheet bows):

Alright; that ought to get your brain going on unique gift ideas.  Thanks for taking a gander at my fellow Etsians!  :)

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So here’s the 3rd of 5 free giveaways sponsored by the awesome group I belong to, EcoEtsy (a team of Etsy sellers who make/create handmade goods made with recycled/reused/upcycled goods).  The current giveaway is called “Home Sweet Home” and features assorted home goods valued at $95.  It’s free and helps to promote my fellow teammates.

See the eco-friendly awesomeness here:

Ends soon so don’t miss out!  I’ll post the next 2 giveaways here when they post.  Thanks for supporting my awesome team!!

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No limes were wasted in this experiment...

I recently picked up a book that I reserved from the library called American Wasteland by Jonathon Bloom.  It’s about food waste in America and I hear it’s a good one.  A real stop-and-make-you-think-about-it read.  I think it’s the kick in the pants that I need.

I’m ashamed to admit that while I’m usually very mindful of food waste in our house, our participation in a CSA this year caused me to waste much more food than usual.  First let me say that I think CSA’s are incredibly valuable and work for most people.  But for us it didn’t.  We have CSA burnout, we received too much of the same things (we don’t even like kale or chard all that much, never mind every week) and I swear I probably won’t eat another apple for an entire year as we’ve had too many of them – I’m talking hundreds.  I really thought that new foods would encourage me to research and cook new recipes, but I got lazy and by the time I had the gumption to create something, they had already turned.

More recently, we’ve been unloading our unwanted veggies into the community bin and only take what we really want but the excitement of picking up our goods has slowly waned and now we’re just waiting for it to wrap up (in a couple short weeks).

In an effort at being totally honest, I’m sad to report that about 25% of our CSA food spoiled and I know I should have donated it in some way or made use of them before they spoiled.  And to have paid $700+ for this service only to have wasted some of it is awful, I know

*Sigh*

Not to mention I didn’t buy any other produce the entire summer because I felt like we were already paying so much for what we were getting so it had been months since we had things like grapes and bananas, tomatoes (they only came into season in late September) and broccoli.  I appreciate that we should eat close to our source, which in high-altitude, cold night Colorado means that we don’t have a ton of variety.  It was admittedly challenging.  Perhaps if we move to a more humid climate on either coast where we can get a wider variety, we’d be more inclined to try this again.

I’m glad we tried it and supported a local farm in the process, this I do not regret.   But next year we’ll go back to visiting farmer’s markets, purchasing local food from our grocery store (who does a really good job of advertising “Colorado grown”) and only buying what we like and use.

I’ll report back on what I read in the book and can hopefully help someone out there from the same fate we brought on.  Food waste is just wrong on an economic, social and environmental scale and I hope to not repeat these mistakes again.

Anyone else out there looking to reduce food waste?  Check out The Frugal Girl’s Food Waste Friday’s where everyone comes clean and holds themselves accountable for their food waste in an attempt to do better.

Here’s to admitting wrong-doing and making a commitment to do better…

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One of my favorite bloggers, The Frugal Girl, wrote an excellent post responding to a reader who asked how to start a frugal life.  Kristen gives some excellent pointers but the 60 comments that her readers contributed were just as valuable.  Although I’m pretty frugal these days, it helps to read these to remind me of other ways to cut down on spending so that we can continue to live on one income.

Recently, we’ve had a series of expenses that have given us serious pause.  Because we recently bought a “newer” used vehicle when our old Volvo died, we now needed to buy snow tires and chains for them.  We live on a VERY steep, switch-back road that is treacherous during the dry summer, nevermind the snowy/icy winters and we don’t have any road services on our road (i.e. no plowing/sanding) so it requires us to have 4WD/AWD, very hearty snow tires and chains.  No way around it.  We live on a “goat trail” as our neighbor refers to it.  As such, the tires and chains cost $700+.

Then, one of the neighbors gathered everyone on our road to pitch in to put recycled asphalt on our road as the storms this spring/summer severely washed out our road leaving huge holes and boulders exposed – not a fun trip to get out of our road.  However, Natural Gas just installed lines down our road this summer and did a good job of laying down some fill and grading the road.  Yet our neighbors still pursued this plan to lay down recycled asphalt on the top half of our road, at the tune of $240 each household.

We first told them that it’s tough economic times right now, we’re going into the holidays, and the road is in pretty good condition considering where it had been and could we maybe look at this later?  The neighbor came back stating that most households were contributing and each one that doesn’t now costs everyone else more.  *sigh*  So we succumbed to the “peer pressure.”  We don’t want our neighbors to have ill feelings toward us because our decision to say no cost them more especially since we’d benefit from the work done on the road, though we really wish everyone else would have been in agreement with us.  Nonetheless, we are now out $1000 in just a couple weeks.  No bueno.

So we look for more ways to shave our budget down even more so that we can continue to build our savings.  Almost a year ago, I wrote this post about how we were able to save $27K in a year by making some smart choices which help to offset the loss of my income (as my lil’ business is still in the red from start-up costs, so I’m not yet making a net profit).

Recently we were joyful when our 2 year Verizon contract ended and we were able to find another cell phone company that gets reception out here (not an easy feat) for much less.  It’s a pay-as-you-go plan, no contract, the phones suck and there are many limits, but the benefits are that we get unlimited talk/text for $60 less/month (combined for both our phones) than we were paying before!  Huge savings ($720/year – basically the cost of our snow tires/chains) and kudos to David for doing the research to find this plan.

I’m trying to stay away from the stores (even the thrift store!) as much as possible to avoid temptation and leaving the house even less to avoid spending money/gas recklessly.  And though I know this would drive most people crazy, it suits our homebody lifestyle.  Not to mention it’s a very small price to pay to be able to stay home and do what I love.

So if you’re feeling like you need to get some inspiration on how to cut corners and spend less so that you can save more, pay down your debt or move toward a lifestyle that requires you to work less, then check out both posts.  It’s often the little things that when added together make a big difference!

What changes have you made to your life/spending habits that have made a difference?

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