Spending Freeze Day 8: Getting Creative

Having money to spend gives choices.  Sometimes having too many choices can make it harder to make a decision.  During our spending freeze, we have the ease of few choices :).  Example to follow:

We had to take down our Christmas decorations this month.  Sniff, sniff.  I didn’t get some of them up until December 23rd…..we were kind of slow.  So taking them down right away seemed too fast.  I wasn’t emotionally ready for Christmas to be over…..

…until I was.  Then I imagined red hearts everywhere and thought, “Why not take Christmas down and put some Valentine stuff up?”  Never mind that Valentine’s Day is 38 days away, or that we have never decorated for Valentine’s Day before.

Add that we are in a spending freeze and don’t have any decorations from previous years….because we don’t decorate for anything but Christmas.

I smelled a challenge.  Not to win a spot in Better Homes and Gardens….bwa ha ha ha….No.  What you are about to see definitely doesn’t rise to that level.  I just wanted to make the place feel festive for the kids.

I found a foam wreath form that used to have cotton balls hot glued to it.  It looked cute on pinterest, but it looked dumb when I did it.  So I pulled the cotton balls off and ended up a wreath form covered with hardened glue and fuzz.  It was too expensive to throw away and too ugly to sell at a garage sale so I put it in the pile that makes my office look really trashy.

I had a spool of pearl edged burlap ribbon left over from a wedding shower and wrapped the wreath.  My plan was to just wrap it up and hang it up…but I ran out of ribbon :(.  My first though was to run to the store and grab another spool.  At most it was going to be $2…..but spending freeze.

IMG_0307.JPG

Not enough ribbon….so the remnants of glue and cotton balls still shows.

Aak.  So I looked around my office to see if I had anything red.  I found some long strips of polar fleece left over from a blanket project.

IMG_0310.JPG

Without measuring I folded it over to be able to cut a semblance of a square

IMG_0311.JPG

Rounded the edges

IMG_0312.JPG

 Cut a spiral

IMG_0313.JPG

And rolled it up (starting with the outside edge) to make roses.  At the end, the round part in the middle glued over the bottom to hold it all together.  Then I spent about 20 minutes making a bunch of them.  It went fast, because I didn’t measure anything. The un-uniformity of it all made a nice effect.

IMG_0315.JPG

 

I love how it turned out!

 Valentine Entry Wreath

I hung it in my entry over a piece of fake Ikea fur and a couple of candles.  This pic doesn’t do it justice…

IMG_0304.JPG

 We found small bits of Valentine candy and thought to make centerpieces out of some Dollar Tree candle glasses I had on hand.  But the tiny amount of candy looked stupid.  And then the boys ate all the candy.  So we tried something else.

IMG_0320.JPG

Black eyed peas with a votive nestled in. A scrap of burlap ribbon and a hand stitched felt heart.  It isn’t what we’ve always dreamed about as far as decorations go but it was 100% from stash and is a little bit festive.

IMG_0303.JPG

To add to the festive, we added some of the same hearts to our Ikea plants over the stove.

IMG_0301.JPG

 

These are my favorite.

If I can find some red construction paper, I’d like to make these.

Valentine Snack Mix


DSC_2478

We made Valentine Snack Mix this week, just because. The kids each have a basket to hold their personal snacks for adding to lunches and for grabbing on the way out the door.  I thought these would be a festive and unusual addition to their baskets.

DSC_2469

This was a big deal to the kiddoes, a much bigger deal than I thought it would be.  In my last post, I mentioned that kids spell love T.I.M.E.  And my letting them help with the snack mix was time together that made them feel extra loved.  That and knowing that I was going through the extra trouble just for them.  (Ever been cleaning and have your kids ask who was coming over?  This was a moment kind of like that.)

We bought the frosted cereal, MMs and plain and dipped pretzels at Aldi.  The teddy bear crackers and iced animal cookies were from Dollar General.  The treat bags, red hots, and sweethearts were from Dollar Tree.  I didn’t really run all over town grabbing stuff for the mix.  If I was running another errand, I looked around to see what was affordable that might fit the theme.  It ended up a very sweet mix–so I kept the portions small.

DSC_2471

All we did was open all the bags and throw it together in a huge bowl.

DSC_2474

After which Grant said, “Mom!  Look over there!”

DSC_2473

And filled his mouth full.
DSC_2475

We gave it a little stir and scooped it into treat bags. (The smaller bits tended to fall to the bottom, so I kept it stirring with every scoop.)
DSC_2476

 

Easy, delicious, fun!

DSC_2477

 

P.S. There are healthier mix options if you’re into that.  Freeze dried strawberries, yogurt covered raisins, and smoked almonds would be delicious!

 

25 Ways to Date your Mate

My friends Stacy and Jenna have been joining me all week for a frugal date blog hop.  And now it’s my turn.

The idea was for DH and I to take a super fun and creative date, photograph it and then post it here for inspiration.  Bwa ha ha.   We were able to sneak in one “leave the house date” in January.  It was basketball tournament night, so we took all our kids to the basketball game, stayed long enough to cheer our son on to the end, and drop the little ones off at the babysitting exchange.  From there we made our way to the church, where the college youth had a nice chili supper waiting.  We enjoyed a meal with them and then gave a little class on financial stuff.  (I don’t know about them, but I had a blast.) They changed direction after we left to a game night.   We thought about staying for that….but we’re so old, we didn’t want to cramp their style.  So, we drove around town wondering what on earth we should do for the next half hour before we had to officially pick up our kids.

Ice cream?  Nope, I’m stuffed.

Window Shopping?  It’s on the other side of town…

Home for some fun?  Not enough time….

So we went to pick up our kids early and visited with the Mama for a while.  We’re boring like that.  But happy :).

That was a pretty exciting date night for us.  Our date nights typically include a run to Chipotle, and then a trip to the hardware store, and home for a Netflix movie.   Yawn.  It’s pretty satisfying being dull.

If we had a super cool list of surprisingly cheap date nights then we’d have more of a chance a chance at being creative… Oh lookie here!

Winter Dates

1.  Swimming at an indoor pool

2.  Blindfold date: Blindfold the non-driver then take them somewhere and have them guess the location.  Suggested destinations:  library; ice cream parlor; favorite shop at the mall; bowling; mini-golf; park…Remove the blindfold and have some fun at the first location,  Then swap.

3.  Have a progressive fast food dinner.  Picking up a different item at each restaurant.

4.  Play racquetball at the local YMCA.

5.  Take a class together at continuing education services at the local High School.  They typically offer ballroom dancing classes, art classes, cooking, and computer stuff too.

6.  Go to an art museum (our big one is free.)

7.  Give each person $10 and split up at the grocery store.  Assign each person a vague list of items such as “meat” “dessert” “Side Dish” “bread” and let each person pick whatever they want.  Go home and cook it up together.

8.  Build a snow family to greet the kids when they come home.

9.  Bake cookies together, then deliver them to widows and widowers from church.

10. Write down 10 of your favorite things about each other, then read them aloud:  My favorite outfit you wear; Your cologne I like best; My favorite way you do your hair; My favorite thing to do together; My favorite memory; The thing I first noticed about you; The thing I miss most when you’re away; My favorite place we’ve been together; My favorite way you touch me; My favorite talent you have.

11.  Write down 10 of your favorites and see if you can guess them about each other.  Each item you guess right, gets rewarded with a kiss :).  Favorite:  Color; Food; Ice-cream flavor; Soda Flavor; Decor style; vacation spot; movie; song; book; car…

12.  His/Her Spa night; bubble bath, candles, massage

13.  Learn to Dance at home (via youtube)

14. Double date and have a game night

15. Formal night:  Surprise him in your nicest gown then go someplace just for fun (Taco Bell, Frozen Yogurt,  or the Mall Food Court)

16. Lift weights together, following up with protein smoothies and a muscle rub down

17. Plan your dream house or vacation

18. Talk about your 1, 5, and 10 year goals and make some plans to reach them.

19. Ice Skating

20. Watch your Wedding Video (via Imperfect Homeaker)

21.  Browse an ethnic grocery store and try something new

22.  Build something together from Ana-White.com

23. Write a bunch of post-it love notes to your kids and hide them in their stuff (inside their socks, school bag, bathrobe, book etc.) (While your at it, sneak some into your spouse’s stuff too–but don’t let him see you!)

24. Pass it on:  Do a bunch of random acts of kindness around town.  Leave a quarter in the cart at Aldi; shovel someone’s driveway; drop off baked goods on a neighbor’s porch, ring the bell and run; pay for someone’s order behind you in the drive thru;  etc

25.  Hot and Cold:  Give each person $5 and tax and buy gifts from Dollar Tree.  Go home and hide them around the house and play hot and cold until each spouse finds them.

Ground Rules for Babysitting Exchanges

In yesterday’s post, I promised to introduce you to Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents.

smc-headshot Official

 

Stacy is a young mother of 2, living in Virginia who is famous for her healthy crock pot recipes. She has published several books and is currently working on a new cook book with nothing but creative oatmeal recipes. They are living a debt free lifestyle and appeared on the Dave Ramsey show with their debt free scream in 2011.  I love her blog because of her great sense of humor and it’s practical information.  Here’s Stacy’s mission:

We aim to teach families to live on less than they make, live free from the bondage of debt, live well while eating well, and have fun while doing it – all for the glory of God.

Stacy has posted today about her creative Scavenger Hunt date with her husband, Barry.  You can read all about it here.

ground rules

Yesterday, we also talked about getting free babysitting for your date night by trading babysitting with another family (or forming a babysitting coop.)  In order for this to go smoothly, the parents need to sit down ahead of time and set up some ground rules. It’s way easier to talk about these things before incidents happen then to find an awkward situation where you have to confront someone.

Here are my recommended rules/things to discuss:

a.  The babysitting mother cooks for all the children on date night.  Every mother needs a night off from the kitchen once in a while.

b.  Decide on a starting and end time for the date and make it the same every time.  Then stick to it.

c.  Decide ahead of time what will happen if a child disobeys.  What kind of discipline is acceptable?  At what point should the babysitting family call and interrupt the date? How should you handle a picky eater?  A fussy baby?  A homesick child?

d.  What is pick up procedure?  If the date ends at the same time every time and the ending time is respected, make sure the children have their shoes on and things by the door, so the parents aren’t delayed longer than necessary to get them home and into bed.

How to Choose a Coop Family:

Not every family with children makes a good babysitting partner.  I wouldn’t be able to trade with a mother who:

Was brutally honest (no tact) and obviously had a bias towards her own children.  I know my children aren’t angels all the time, but I’ve been with families who had children who could do no wrong so any conflict was obviously my child’s fault.  I definitely want to know if my child has been a problem, but there’s always a gentler way to say it.

Had no idea how to handle children.  I don’t want her to call me for every little thing….just the emergencies.  Like if an ambulance is on the way, or someone died.

Is a yeller/screamer.  My children need it firm and consistent, but they will cry and stay awake all night  if terrorized.

Also, it would frustrate me to agitation if I picked up my children from a date night, and they weren’t offered any dinner.  (Totally different if they were served dinner and refused to eat it.)

Another bad match is a family with values so different from ours that I would worry about what my children would be exposed to.  Unsupervised access to the internet or cable TV would be a problem for us.

It takes a special family to even consider trading with us.  We have 6 kids, and that can be overwhelming if they aren’t used to it.

Prepare Your Children for The Trade

Tell them to use their manners * Say, “Yes Ma’am, yes Sir” *  To not beg for food (or juice, or soda…) * To be content and never say the word “bored.” * To keep a stiff upper lip since Mama will be back at 9:00 * Help the younger ones * Clean up after yourself *  Say, “I’m sorry.” * Keep your stuff by the door. * Don’t beg to play with special toys (the ones the owner REALLY cherishes.) * Don’t tattle unless someone is being bullied/about to be hurt. * Own up to your fault in a conflict. * Be quick to forgive. * Share, but don’t cause a scene if someone isn’t sharing with you (the stuff all belongs to them any way.) * Don’t bring anything that will make you sad if it gets lost or broken. * If they are watching something you know you aren’t allowed to watch, find something to do in another room. * If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. * Eat what you are served * Remember you are mine * Have a good time :).

The Glue For the 2 of You

Nope this isn’t a craft post.  It’s about marriage.  Some say the glue for a marriage is love, but I disagree.  Romantic feelings come and go and sometimes you just don’t “feel” it.  But that’s not a reason for a marriage to fail if it’s held together by commitment.

Copy of Darren kissing Angela filtered

Marriages are breaking apart all around us and that’s enough to make DH and I hold on tight to each other and pray. We’re no strangers personally to conflict in marriage, some of it serious. It scares us when people we’ve been close to and love dearly suddenly split apart.  No only do we grieve the death of their family, but it feels close. Like if we aren’t watchful and purposeful it could happen to us.

One drive home from school my youngest daughter asked me, “Who do you have your eye on next?  You know, for when you get tired of Daddy?” As if it was inevitable that we would split one day and I would move on as she had seen so many other parents do. It was all I could do to keep the car on the road and I said, “Honey, that is one thing you will never have to worry about.  Your Father and I promised before God and 400 witnesses to stay married until one of us died. That doesn’t mean that we will never disagree or always be happy with one another.  That doesn’t mean that one or both of us won’t mess up badly. But we will never quit trying. Do you understand?”  I drove with my peripheral vision as I looked at her in the eyes.  “I give you my word, that I will never leave your Daddy.”  A that moment, something inside her finally felt secure.

Copy of We're in love

There are seminars, books and dvds on how to have a happy marriage.  I’m pretty sure my dad has a copy of everything in his home library and uses them weekly as he works as a lay counselor.  There’s lots of good things to read and watch and learn,  but if you only do two things today, try these:

respect

1.  Honor your husband daily.  Men need honor more than love.  Gasp when you meet him at the door after work like he’s the best thing you’ve ever seen in your life. Think of things you value about him and tell him.  If you know there is something you could do to please him, do it. Does he prefer long hair?  Why cut it short?  Does he have a preference for food?  For s*x?  Work it in. If you honor him, he will start to treat you even better.  But don’t honor to get something in return.  That ruins the effect.  Just freely, sincerely, honor him.

Date Night

2.  Plan for a weekly or bimonthly date night.   This could be as simple as a Netflix movie at home and some “cuddle” time. Or as elaborate as a theme date from the Dating Divas.  If you have young children, you can put them to bed early and start a home date after they are asleep. Even better, find another family that you can trade babysitting with.  We’ve been doing this for 5 years and works great as long as there are ground rules and each family respects them.  (I’ll share my ground rules tomorrow :).)

smc-headshot Official

Stacy from Stacymakescents.com

In honor of Valentine Season, I’ve partnered with 2 other bloggers to bring you some inspiration for some fun but frugal Date nights.  Tuesday, I’ll introduce you to Stacy from Stacy Makes Cents.

verticalsidebarprofile_zps322416c2

Jenna from Rainonatinroof.com

And Wednesday you’ll meet Jenna from Rain on a Tin Roof.

Thursday and Friday, I’ll share my ideas for creative dating on the cheap.

Be sure to subscribe to Feedburner on the right to make sure you don’t miss a post.

Happy Valentine’s Day– Now go date your spouse!

I blew it last week.  I had planned to share with you an amazingly creative post each day on a frugal date that would dazzle your spouse.  But instead I crawled into my shell and studied about affiliate software, computer programming, and other equally boring things.  All those invisible hours will become something beautiful to announce in the future–It will glitter.

To be honest, I didn’t have a lot of my own ideas to share with you.  Darren and I love our date nights.  We get one every other week by trading babysitting services with his cousin and her sweet children.  But we usually do the same thing each time–dinner out, movie at home through Netflix, and then the rest I can’t really talk about here :).  We’re boring, but we love it. 

If we don’t do that, we work on some home repair project without squabbling children underfoot.  Or plan to go jogging, swim laps, or just lift weights together. It’s not romantic, but it is refreshing.  I love to talk and Darren is a willing listener in quiet moments.  And sometimes he has quite a bit to say himself.  Because of nights like these, we know each other really well.  We aren’t afraid of the time when the children are grown and gone, because we’ll still have each other–and we’re best friends.  So what I’m trying to say, is time together is more important than your creativity.  So if making a production stresses you out (like it does me) don’t.  Just plan to be together and see where the night leads.  (Later you can name the night Brandon or Grant–like we did, Bwa ha ha!)

Here are some actually creative ideas from other bloggers:

 

Source: self.com via Angela on Pinterest

 

Valentine–won’t you be mine?

It’s not too late to do some simple homemade valentine’s this year.  This is one time DIY will cost you MORE than buying a box of licensed cards from Dollar Tree, but not much more.

Caleb and Dub are taking these: (Click on the photos to go to the source.)

Purplepatchparties star wars valentines

 

or these

star wars valentines 2I really like the “Yoda One for Me” saying.  Bwa ha ha.  And Yoda is my favorite.

Glow stick bracelets are 5 for $1 at Dollar Tree.  $4 for 20 students.  And color copies are $.59 each at Kinkos if you bring your own card stock. $1.19 on their cardstock!  Or print at home.  We bought a printer this year at Costco that takes their refillable ink cargtridges.  1 cartridge refills for $8 and there’s a $2 off coupon in the mailer that starts tomorrow :).

 

Heather is taking these S’more Valentines.  We bought the supplies tonight and made the top part.  We’ll package it all up the morning of, since I’m afraid the marshmallows and graham crackers would do bad things to each other if stored together long.

The snack size Hershey’s are 8 for $1 at Dollart Tree or $1.29 at Target.  The Heart Marshmallows are $3.99 for a huge bag at Target.  We had the paper and flower punch on hand already. We’ll also need some graham crackers ( in our pantry) and sandwich baggies (also in our pantry) and some tape or glue dots to put it all together ( in stash).

Here are some of my other favorites:

Source: lilluna.com via Angela on Pinterest

Source: momontimeout.com via Angela on Pinterest

What are you doing for kid Valentine’s? Link or describe in the comments below :).