Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!


May the new year find you reaching heights you never dreamed possible!

See you in 2012!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

This holiday season...







...do yourself a favor and make time for stuff you love!  Even if it doesn't necessarily fit into your schedule of shopping/cooking/cleaning/baking/wrapping. Today we attended church and completed our family art project and I feel satisfied and complete.  Tonight's feast will just be the icing on the cookie.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wishing you a Merry Christmas


Happy holidays, bloggy friends! I am skipping fabulous frugal Friday this week because it's Christmas crunch time and it's all pretty much a frugal FAIL, lol!  But it's all good, because St. Nick arrives tomorrow night and I will have a house full of people, a tummy full of cookies and  cup of good cheer!

So I am shutting down the old computer for a few days to enjoy the season.  I wish you all the best!

xoxo
Shannon

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Musing


I'm thinking about a lot of things this holiday season.  Wondering how is it that I have more than enough, but still struggle for contentment.  Thinking about how the fast pace and busyness of the holidays can swallow you up if you let it.  And how even the good stuff---stuff like sipping warm drinks and reading to the kids and making things and baking cookies and planning activities with friends and family---how that can end up just more stuff on the big to-do list.  I feel almost numb to the endless classic holiday hits on the radio.  And no matter what I do there is yet another gift I've forgotten or something left to wrap or another detail missed.

And then the prospect of yet another holiday season passing without my parents is rough too.  I pull out the ornaments my mother gave me, I hear certain songs, I make my mother's cheese ball, I have a Buckeye and think of Dad.  I think of how small the kids were the last time they spent Christmas at Pa-Pa's, and sigh at how Nathan never even met Ma-Ma at all.  (And I marvel at how he sees her photos and thinks he remembers her!)  I fight the urge to feel jealous of those who have their parents and loved ones.  I feel a chill come over me, a disconnect.  I force myself to make it nice for the kids, but then I quietly sob at sappy Christmas songs and movies, and generally feel sorry for myself.

Then I saw this woman who nearly made me cry---she was standing in Meijer, gazing, deciding between two pairs of holiday socks.  I thought of my mom, who never failed to put a pair of festive socks into the stockings for me and my sister.  I suddenly saw it, in the midst of our misguided hustle-bustle: love.  Love.  Love is all around us.  The lady with the socks and the nervous young guy at the perfume counter and the packs of BFFs in their jammies, sipping peppermint mochas on Black Friday and the single mom making her last payment on the layaway---all of us---all just doing our best to think of some tangible, imperfect way to show our love to our fellow people.   I consider how my mom worked so hard to get us the perfect gifts, and how my dad struggled to get her the perfect gift too.  I consider our Heavenly Father, or as my kindergartener calls Him, "Our Big Friend Up There," figuring out the perfect gift for His children.  A son, a child, to come live with us; to teach us how to love each other.

So I'm done with this year's round of feeling guilty about buying too much or not doing enough.  I've cried my allotment of tears for my parents, well, at least for now.  Today I'm sipping ginger tea and watching the candles burn in the early solstice sunset and enjoying our tree.  The boys are alternately annoying me and enchanting me with their play.  Ken is due home early for work, and we'll have a simple meal.  Today I just feel glad.

Use it up Wednesday


Kale.  I hate kale.  But seeing as how it is still growing like this, on this freakishly warm December day, I have no choice but to harvest it and cook some up.

The big use-up project of course is to finish up the odds and ends of everything in the fridge: lunch meats, yogurts, fruits and vegetables.  We must make room for the Christmas feasts!

Using anything up in your neck of the woods?

Monday, December 19, 2011

6 Days to Go...


How's the holiday preparation going for you?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Family Baking Day


Once a year we dive in and bake our hearts out.  Today was the day.  Unplanned.  In fact, most years it just sort of happens.  I was ready with the needed ingredients, and what we didn't have we improvised.  My Nathan was really into it, as his kindergarten teacher had just done a unit on The Gingerbread Man. Zack, at the tender and complicated age of 8, was not so into it.  I noticed that neither kid was all that interested in he mixing and rolling of the cookies this year either.  My husband got into decorating with us, and we four made a gingerbread family.  The eating was fun.

I held onto the moment today.  My boys are growing, and a lot of these simple childhood delights are losing their appeal to them.  Even their gift wishes have evolved: Zack wants a toolkit and skateboard and Nathan wants battleships he can build himself.  Zack is asking to help wash dishes and make dinner and fix things around the house,  and Nathan loves pushing the lawnmower with his dad and sweeping up the clippings.  It is good and right, but still I'm glad when anyone wants to curl up and read a book together.  Now that I have one reader and one almost-reader that is becoming rarer too.
I just hope they don't outgrow everything.

What about you?  How have your family traditions grown and evolved with your family?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fabulous Frugal Fridays


My fabulous frugal find this week was getting a gently-owned Kindle for $50!  This was a great example of what many authors, including my hero Amy Daczyzyn calls "putting out the word."  I had mentioned to several people that my son had been asking for one, and voila, one appeared.  Another little victory was that we talked ourselves out of going out to a potentially expensive dinner last night and cooked a really good meal at home.  Instead of spending $50 for the four of us to go out, I made barbecue salmon (that I had purchased on sale at Meijer) couscous and peas.  We estimate that the meal cost no more than $8 for all of us, and was much much better than anything we would have ordered in a restaurant, plus we got to be home together instead of fighting the traffic.  I have to remind us that every time we say no to a dinner out we are saving at least $30, depending on where we go.

My fabulous frugal failure for the week can just go under the umbrella of forgetfulness.  I have had to go out to the stores four times to pick up this, that, the other, and the other again for the boys' holiday parties and other such things.  Each time I'm doing this, I am remembering two or three things besides that I "need" and picking them up without research.  I really had higher hopes for December, especially considering all the shopping was done beforehand.  I feel like I'm doing the planning, but still losing ground.  Perhaps next December we need to just add a budget line item called "forgetfulness."

Last but not least, the above photo was from a surge of inspiration on the part of my friend Erin.  While we were sitting in her kitchen, talking about different cookies and treats, she got this brainstorm: Hershey white chocolate peppermint kisses on pretzels.  And she made them.  Just like that.  You basically put the kiss of your choice on a pretzel, bake for just a few minutes on a 300 degree oven until they are soft, and you're done.  It is probably safest to wait for them to cook, but they are delicious when they are still a bit warm.
Any tips for saving in the midst of the crunch of the holidays?  Easy treat ideas?  Do share!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Use it Up Wednesday



Now that I've given up peddling vintage things on Etsy, I find myself with a surplus of, well, vintage things.  That said, several lucky folks will be getting vintage greeting cards this year.  Makes more sense than leaving them sit in a bin, unused and unloved.  Besides, they are stylish and classic.  In the coming year I am planning a massive purge of the house, so I plan to either bring my vintage goodies into use, or find good homes for them.  I have a bad habit of collecting---or curating, if you rather---pretty things then never using them.  I am like a little old lady with a drawer full of bubble bath and salts she's "saving."  

In the kitchen, we will use more of the freezer beef to make hamburgers for dinner, plus use up a head of lettuce for salad before it goes south.  We are trying so hard not to let this crazy, busy season chase us to the fast food joints.

Do you have things you are saving for "someday?"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Same Blog. New Look.

I decided to make a few changes around here, and in the process it's sort of re-igniting my desire to continue blogging!  I've also been inspired  by several fantastic bloggers to just change things up.  First I did change the blog title.  Frankly I always meant "SupermergentroidGal" in a tongue-in-cheek way, a reference to a favorite movie of mine called "Swingkids," but nobody got it.  And "LifeArts" just sounded good at the time, but in retrospect it comes off as a little pretentious.  When I thought about how I could change the tone of this space, I kept coming back again and again to something a dear friend said once about her social networking sites: she said for a stay at home mom, the internet is like the back fence.  A place to yak about what's for dinner and what the kids are doing and what's on your mind.  I feel the new banner gives you a better idea of what you can expect.

The content will run the gamut of things I like: frugal living, simple living, crafty things, decorating, cool thrift store finds, gardening, food, and the odd pretty picture.  Some things I want to do more of are sharing links with you that I love, waxing philosophical and actually posting recipes rather than just describing some odd concoction that I threw together.  I'm loving Use it Up Wednesdays and Fabulous Frugal Fridays, so I will keep up with those. Things I won't be doing include starting up a bunch of features I can't keep up with or posting things that aren't so great just to have something to post. 

Also, you'll probably see a bit less of my kids.  Yes, they will still be around, and will show up from time to time.  But they are getting older and really need a little more privacy than they used to.  Another issue, and I'll probably do a blog on this, is that I was starting to feel a bit disingenuous setting up situations to make a pretty picture of domestic bliss.  And I was feeling I had to have the camera with me always to capture every moment for the blog, which was starting to just feel weird, and anything but authentic.  Authenticity does not require photography 24/7!


Mostly I think I want to share more about myself.  And I want to learn more about you 23 lovely followers!  (And maybe draw a few lurkers out of the woodwork.)  I'm sort of embarking on the next phase of life---next year my younger son will be in school full time which will leave a big chunk of the day to fill.  I have already been struggling to imagine the next steps.  Do I stay home?  Do I go back to my old profession?  Do I try something new?  I'm hoping to share some of that journey with you here at the back fence.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Fantastic Frugal Fridays


A new idea I'm trying: "Frugal Fridays" where I let you know how my quest for a leaner, more frugal household goes.

This week's Fantastic Frugal Find was at Aldi.  I was able to find Marzipan logs, a staple in our Austrian-American family each Christmas, for 89 cents a piece!  They usually go for nearly $5 a bar at the specialty import stores.  So I bought ten.  :-)  Also the bags of pistachios, another beloved family holiday treat, were under two bucks.  Big score!  Aldi always has everything I need, it is easy to get through their stores because they mainly only sell their own brands of things, they are comparatively small and I usually finish my shopping in about fifteen minutes, they always have great deals on seasonal items, and I am seldom tempted to buy things that were not on my list.  I would add that I've been happy with their wines and beers, which are all reasonably priced. This is needed during the holiday entertaining season. All that, and they are a German company, so they always carry the German/Austrian goodies we like in our family.  If you have an Aldi near you, check it out!  Be sure to take your own bags because they charge, cash or a debit card (no credit cards,) and a quarter for the cart (you get it back at the end.)  ***Not a paid or compensated endorsement, just showing my love for one of my favorite stores.***

This weeks Fantastic Frugal Failure involves my outdoor Christmas lights.  I did succeed in using only what we had and making a nice little light display.  Where I went wrong was in using the wrong kind of extension cord/power strip.  Apparently it was indoor only. (Husband says "just because it's green doesn't make it outdoor safe!) I learned all this Monday when the alarm system battery failed.  We realized that the outdoor lights, the alarm and the deep freeze were all on the same plug in the basement.  The pouring rain shorted out the lights, which knocked everything out.  The good news was the meat in the deep freeze was still solid, as was most of the food.  Additionally we learned of an obvious flaw in our electrical system, which may have created bigger problems down the road.  The bad news---had to pay out $35 to replace the alarm system battery.  Moral: use the right stuff the first time.

Any Frugal Finds or Failures????  Share!!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Use it up Wednesday, a 5k and bloggy life stuff




First order of business is I have to brag on us a bit.  My elder son, who is part of his school's "walking and running club" begged to sign up for our Jingle Bell Run/Walk in downtown last weekend.  A 5k is the LAST thing on earth I ever thought I would do, but I went ahead and plunged in and signed the whole family up.  The bummer of the day was the husband got called to France for a week and had to miss it, but the rest of us went forward, and finished the race in just over an hour!  Not too shabby, especially for the saggy housewife (myself) and a kindergartner, who told me at the 2nd mile that he had "no more stamina, Mommy, all I can do is keep walking!"  

Secondly, it's time for USE IT UP WEDNESDAY!  Basically my mojo is all off this week, due to the husband's having come home from France with the flu on Sunday, then a late start to the school day today.  But I perservere---dinner is a beef steak from our freezer stash, and I'm mashing up the rest of the Thanksgiving potatoes, and cooking up some limp but green broccoli.  Owing to the shortened days as solstice approaches, it's not even worth it to photograph.

Lastly, I'm feeling a bit discombobulated with regard to the blog.  A blogger I have loved, and who really inspired me to step up my game on my own little space here in cyberland, suddenly announced  today that she's through with the blog.  I can totally relate to some of her feelings, as I've had them myself.  She has her own issues; like me her kids are growing up and she's ready to figure out the next step.  For me, I'm realizing my kids are getting older and really need more privacy.  I also feel that I crave "authentic" experiences, and how hard it can be to really live those experiences when you are basically setting up a pretty picture or creating a story to tell on your blog.  It is too easy to post up pretty pictures and make you all think my life is just amazing.  Even my blog title, "supermergentroidgal" was really meant to be tongue-in-cheek, but might come off as being a bit over the top.
  It all hit home because I've been thinking about making some changes here, cleaning up the place a bit, and maybe shifting the focus of my blog.  Well, as I've not had much focus, maybe creating a focus: I like gardening, I like kids' crafts, I like art, I like cooking, I like decorating, I like writing, I like photography, I like thrift, I like vintage stuff, and most of all I like just sharing cool things.  However, again and again I'm wondering what the point is, and is it worth the time I give it.

So, hang with me if you will, while over the next few weeks I experiment with a few things, and generally rethink the focus of my blog.  I've never considered myself a "blogger" in the strictest sense of the word.  To borrow a phrase from a friend: this space is my back fence, and you're all invited to stop over and yak with me.  :-)

Friday, December 2, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by Soulemama.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Use it up Wednesday

This week's use-it-up energy is being applied to gift wrap and decor. I have made two solemn vows this year, one, no new gift wrap purchases, and two, no new decor purchase. I've only broken each one once, lol. :-)

I bought a single roll of "Santa" giftwrap which is different from the rest of the wraps and bags, for the sole remaining believer in the house. *sigh*

New candles for the Advent wreath. And yes, one broke on the way home. Oh well. Advent has quickly become a special family tradition.

I'm digging to the depths of the big container of wraps and ribbons, most saved from previous years, some scrounged from yard sales and thrift stores.

I may use some of the boys' large easel paper drawings and dress them up with ribbons.

We always have a supply of gift bags. It's become a family tradition to carefully fold up the gift bags for the next year. My MIL calls them "heirloom bags." We've also received several reusable gift bags made of felt, which are fantastic.

For decor I decided to only get out things I love...things I made or things my mother gave me or things like my vintage Shiny Brites.

I wanted everything to feel simple and clean this year.

Our door wreath; a first year of marriage purchase from Target. I drool over all the magazine ideas for new wreaths, and I even made one of those fancy ornament wreaths one year (which fell apart miserably despite gobs of hot glue.) But for things we use once a year, I'm just sticking with what we've got.

Our stockings. I remember doing the names on the first two, the "Mommy and Daddy" ones the year we found out we were having Zack. And when babies were coming I bought a new stocking to add as we went. I also remember my mom getting rid our our worn out stockings when I was a kid and replacing them with these knitted character things she got in a store. It was never the same! I've vowed not to ever EVER change out these stockings.

Soon we will put our tree up---fake tree due to my allergies---with all the home made and saved ornaments from over the years. I love that it is all coming together quickly and simply. If time permits, and if we have a few strands that still work, we'll put up a few lights outside. If not, we have the wreath and some greenery. I might make a Christmas bunting from fabric scraps, and I might not. I'm doing a cookie swap with my book club next week, so I should be set for holiday sweets. With the kids, we'll probably think of some little craft to make or draw something. I am just all around loving this vibe of not beating myself up if things aren't perfect, AND not spending needless money in the process.

Anyone using anything up this week? I'd love to hear about it!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Use it up Wednesday and Thanksgiving Prep



Today's use-it-up energy was directed toward the annual eating of the random foods in the fridge to make room for the Thanksgiving food tomorrow. We all had something a little different for lunch---a pb&j wrap, an onion bagel and cream cheese, a couple of hot ham-and-cheese sandwiches, assorted fruit, and a big side of spinach for everyone.

My use it up theme extended into the decor. I scavenged every little pumpkin I've picked up from the thriftstores over the past two years to make my "pumpkinscape." I also found a way to incorporate my favorite vintage tablecloths which are too small for our tables, colorful candlesticks my sister-in-law made, and our everyday Fiestaware and cloth napkins, because we don't have the cash or the storage for fancy holidays-only plates. We had to bring out a card table and every available chair in the house, which really makes it feel like Thanksgiving!

Tonight we honor a nuclear family tradion: the eating out at our favorite Mexican joint, so as not to mess up the kitchen. Whatever your traditions, I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Use it up Wednesday

I've noticed on Wednesdays I am at my peak of creativity for the week. I'm over the hurdles of the Monday-reclamation of the house when everyone else goes back to work and school. And I'm not feeling the rush of trying to get ready for the myriad weekend activities. So I've taken to using my Wednesdays to dig to the bottom of the freezer, pantry, cupboard and closet in search of forgotten ingredients or supplies for food or craft making magic.

Ingredients: half an onion from the fridge, a bunch of slightly bruised apples, a butternut squash from a farmer friend that has sat on the counter for over a month, six eggs that are about to expire, limp broccoli, and the bottom of the Craisins bag.

Transformed into: a broccoli quiche and a mix of roasted squash, cranberries and apples, roasted with just a sprinkle of salt and a touch of honey. Yeah the crust was a bit overdone, but all in all it's pretty good.

Now if I can just get the kids to eat it...





Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cleaning up






Today I hunkered down to help Zack do his 3rd grade service project. The kids all had to think of their own project, and his idea was just to pick up litter along a local watershed by our house. It was probably the last nice day we'll see for a while and it was so nice to talk while we picked up litter. The main conclusion we reached is that buying less disposable stuff is far superior to trying to pick it all up later. We enjoyed the walk home through a grove of trees where I snapped a photo of the kind of fall "litter" I like to see on the ground. I was very very proud of him today.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Use it up Wednesday


In a stroke of energy I ended up having a thrifty-goodness kind of day. First I decided to use up the leftover cooked oatmeal from breakfast on an experiment creation that turned out pretty good: oatmeal cranberry pistachio biscotti. I basically tinkered with a biscotti recipe until it looked right, and voila! Best part was I was ready to throw out the pistachios because they were a bit stale. It's really pretty good, and of course I have no recipe, as I was tinkering and eyeballing (and wishing and hoping) my way along. I would say the easiest way to incorporate oats into baking is to substitute no more than 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour with oats. If you're adding cooked oats, you'll want to use less of the wet ingredients called for in the recipe of your choice.

Also I rescued some soup bones from the dregs of the deep freeze. They came with the hunk of grass fed cow we bought from a farmer friend last fall. They have simmered all day on the stove top, and now I will add some frozen veggies from the summer garden and other odds and ends from the freezer to make a simple soup for dinner.

This all goes together with a new goal we've set for ourselves: we will not buy any meat, other than for holiday entertaining if needed, until 2012. We are blessed with a full freezer, and anyway we don't need to be gorging ourselves with meat. Likewise we have a lot of grains, cereals and ingredients in the pantry, and I'm going to do my best to keep us well fed and out of restaurants! So as part of this, at least once a week or so it will be my mission to scrounge the freezer and the recesses of the pantry, flex my creative muscles, and come up with bits of culinary genius. Or, at least something edible.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I don't know why they call it Indian Summer






...but I like it. My first walk to school in over a week, feeling good though taking it slow. Took the kids in to vote with us. Remembered to take my camera. Thoroughly enjoyed the walk home. If anyone needs me I'll be sipping some tea or cider and enjoying some good reads on the front porch this day while the kiddos ride bikes. Cheers and happy voting!!!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Things are looking up

(My neighbor's crab-apple tree)

Home from the hospital and feeling better. I'll be home all weekend resting but hopefully back to the blogging desk mid week sometime. I've missed the beginning of NaNoWriMo and I don't know if that's going to happen for me this year or not. All in all, I'm just enjoying the sunshine as it streams into my house today, and a little quiet while the boys are out with their dad.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween






Funny that I said I'd be scarce this this week, and yet blogging more than ever. Ha ha, blogging is more fun than doing the laundry. Hope your All Hallow's Evening was a good one!

Monday, October 31, 2011

We thought we'd put our skulls together...


...and wish you a Happy Halloween from the Supermergentroid Family.