Sunday, October 24, 2010

Great Fall Gift Idea for Neighbors

One of the things I miss about living in a house is the consistency of neighbors. Apartment living, at least in our area, can be very transitional. You may have neighbors for a couple of years, but they move out and new ones are on the way! It makes it harder to get to know those who share your walls. So as a way to connect and break down the barriers, we like to leave little seasonal "Thinking of You" gifts on our neighbors' doorsteps. For the fall season small pumpkins make an appearance. They can be used for Halloween and then flow right into Thanksgiving...frugal, and versatile all in one (:

We purchased the pumpkins this year from my church's yearly pumpkin patch (the money goes to support missions) and they only cost $.75 if I remember correctly....a frugal gift that keeps on giving. To create the cards I simply found a design online that felt like fall, added "Tis the Season..." on the front of the cards and included a little message on the inside, then printed them out on cardstock.

The cards were simply tied onto the pumpkins with coordinating ribbon and voilĂ ! Instant cute (: They also make wonderful place card holders that add tablescape interest during times of celebration and can be something for your guests to take home to remember the event.

So if you're looking for ways to reach out to neighbors and aren't quite sure what to do...leave a little "Thinking of You" gift and see what doors it will open (:

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Linking to: My Romantic Home, The Shabby Nest, Remodelaholic, Finding Fabulous, Just a Girl, Fingerprints on the Fridge, Chic on a Shoestring Decorating, Frou Frou Decor, Fun to Craft, Funky Junk Interiors, Tatertots and Jello, Craft Envy, Be Different Act Normal, 30 Handmade Days, It's a Hodgepodge Life, Pumpkin Seed Productions, Frugal and Fabulous Design, Sassy Sites, Momma's Kindacrafty

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Learning to Knit

Is there something you've always wanted to do but had no idea where to start? Knitting has been that elusive craft for me. The very idea of yarn and needles conjures images of warm cozy nights with family sitting by a crackling fire as children play games or read books...ah, the sheer delight. Neither of my Grandmothers knitted nor aunts or cousins...not even close friends or colleagues enjoyed this zen-like skill of creating, but I wanted to learn.

I hopped online to see if there might be a local group willing to educate this novice. Sure enough I found a few ladies who met once in a while to teach newbies and my first class was under way. A scarf was in the works, but soon things got busy and these new found techniques just became foggy and faded away.

I was eager to begin again, but hoping to find something closer to home that met more frequently. Sure enough...ask and ye shall find! Turns out my church has a prayer shawl ministry!! A group meets every Sunday afternoon to knit shawls for those in hospice and they were willing to teach! I was so excited...not only am I learning to do something that I've always wanted to do, but I'm also able to give back in some way. Here's my first prayer shawl in process...

Hopefully by next year I will have gained enough experience to knit gifts...I can see scarves, stuffed toys and baby blankets in the future (:

So if there's something you've always wanted to do, go for it!! No time like the present (: Look for those who know how to do what you want to learn and ask if they might be willing to teach. There are tons of videos on You Tube teaching so many things (even knitting) and it's a great resource to get you started. So jump in and enjoy the learning process (:

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Linking to: My Romantic Home, Remodelaholic, Finding Fabulous, Just a Girl, Fingerprints on the Fridge, Chic on a Shoestring Decorating, Frou Frou Decor, Fun to Craft, Funky Junk Interiors, Tatertots and Jello, Craft Envy, Be Different Act Normal, 30 Handmade Days, It's a Hodgepodge Life, Pumpkin Seed Productions, Frugal and Fabulous Design, Sassy Sites, Momma's Kindacrafty

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pumpkin Sausage Pasta - A Fall Delight

Pumpkin Pasta night is the most awaited night of early Fall. I came across this recipe several years ago on Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals show, made a few tweaks and it soon became a seasonal favorite to rival any comfort food. The Spinach Apple Salad is the perfect add for a well rounded meal.

Because we're a gluten-free household, brown rice penne pasta is used in place of wheat pasta and of course raw cream instead of pasteurized.

Pumpkin Sausage Pasta
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil or butter (I prefer these healthy fats when cooking)
  • 1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage (if you'd like more of a kick go spicy!)
  • 4 cloves garlic, cracked and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
  • 4 to 6 sprigs sage leaves, cut into chiffonade (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine (if you don't have wine, just replace with another cup of chicken stock)
  • 1 can of pumpkin (or 15-16 oz if you're baking a fresh pumpkin)
  • 1/2 cup raw cream
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground or freshly grated cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg
  • Coarse salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound brown rice penne pasta (al dente)
  • Parmigiano Reggiano for grating


Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil or butter to the pan and brown the sausage in it. Transfer sausage to paper towel lined plate. Drain fat from skillet and return pan to the stove. Add the remaining tablespoon oil or butter, then garlic and onion. Saute 3 to 5 minutes until tender.

Add bay leaves, sage and wine to the pan. Reduce wine by half (about 2 minutes). Add stock and pumpkin and stir to combine. Continue stirring until sauce comes to a bubble. Return sausage to pan, reduce heat and stir in cream. Add cinnamon and nutmeg and salt & pepper to taste. Simmer mixture 5 to 10 minutes to thicken sauce.

Place drained pasta on serving dish. Remove the bay leaves from sauce and pour sauce over pasta. Garnish with lots of shaved cheese and sage leaves.

Spinach Salad with Apple and Red Onion:

  • 1 pound fresh spinach
  • 1 small Golden Delicious apple, quartered, cored, and sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (a couple of splashes) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon (a good drizzle) of raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • Celtic salt and black pepper to taste
  • A sprinkle of Parmigiano Reggiano


Toss spinach, apples, onions, walnuts and cheese in a salad bowl.

Pour oil, vinegar, mustard, honey, fennel seeds, salt and pepper in a small jar or container with a tight lid. Shake to combine dressing for about 1 minute. Pour dressing over salad, toss and enjoy!

Yields 4 servings

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Linking to: Skip To My Lou, Tools Are For Women Too!, Simpsonized Crafts, Tip Junkie, Bobbypin's Boardwalk, Today's Creative Blog

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Madsen Cycles in a Hue of Blue

Aren't these the cutest EVER?!! And now Madsen Cycles has my favorite! Bikes are great gas free transportation, but what about those days when a little basket on the handlebars won't do? The Madsen is the perfect solution. You'll be able to haul the groceries, plants, goodies from the hardware store or even a pet or two!
Right now they're having a giveaway for the 2011 model and I couldn't resist entering. It's bike love day (:

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Linking to: Tip Junkie

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cupcake Love - A Thank You Gift

We've all had parties or gatherings where the beloved cupcake has made an appearance. These fun, compact bites of goodness can be decorated in oh so many ways, but the challenge comes in their transportation. There are tons of containers created specifically for this purpose, but some how, some way they never quite worked for us.

Then one day I came across a blog (can't remember which one) that suggested placing the cupcakes in clear cups and plastic wrap. Why did I not think of this before?? Genius!!! Such a cute idea, so easy to transport and makes a neat little "thinking of you" gift! You can even attach a note with a special message on the stick (which also comes in handy to get the cupcake out of the cup). Can you imagine the smile on a co-worker's face if one of these little guys showed up on her desk? What about a teacher, the mailman or even the lady behind the counter at the dry cleaners? Cupcake love is a neat way to show others you care.

Several days ago our complex had the roof shingles replaced. Notices were placed around the grounds to be cautious of falling tiles and debris as we entered our common areas. My first thought? Oh, this is going to be a mess! Ten buildings, not a lot of parking and things flying off the roof? Yikes!

One by one each roof was repaired, but I noticed something very different about this job. The workers were taking great care in what they were doing. We've had many crews come in for updates and maintenance over the years, but this group was different. Shrubs and bushes were carefully draped with canvas to protect the plants, yellow caution tape surrounded the areas that might be unsafe, plywood sheets covered windows that were near "throw zones" and any time we needed to enter our apartment we were greeted with the utmost of graciousness.

But the most amazing thing came at the end of the would never have known they were there! Actually, the place looked better than before! Sidewalks were swept, mulch was arranged and I swear even the pine straw looked as if someone had fluffed the needles!

The guys were here for about a week and each day their dedication showed through. We wanted to thank them somehow to let them know the hard work they gave was much appreciated. Mom suggested making cupcakes to take during their break so we asked the foreman if that would be okay. "What? You want to give us cupcakes?" He looked as if he were in shock. "Ma'am, no one has ever done this for us before. In the 15 years I've been in construction no one has ever said thank you. Thank you so much for thinking of us!"

My heart sank. No one had EVER thanked them? This simple act of thankfulness was so rarely received that the foreman wanted to take a picture of us and the crew together...holding our cupcakes (: He said our gift was so kind that he wanted to send the photo to show his boss because he would never believe him. You never know what simple cupcake love can do (:

How often do we go about our day without even considering those around us? Have we become so consumed by our own world that we've lost touch of relating to others? It's so easy to see those in a service role as just someone doing a job...maybe that's why customer service isn't the same as it used to be.

So the next time you're out and about and notice someone that needs a lift or is doing a good job, offer encouragement, give a smile...or maybe even a cupcake (:

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Linking to: Under the Table and Dreaming, Funky Junk Interiors, Tatertots and Jello, Perfectly Imperfect, Be Different Act Normal, A Lovely Little Blog, Today's Creative Blog

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stuck in the Studio

This Pottery Barn room idea is the inspiration for my studio woes. It's a small studio with LOTS of stuff (much of it unnecessary) and over the last many months I've been purging, organizing and imaging the day when I can walk in and use it as a functioning space. Who knew it would take this long!!

Now that the busy season is well on its way, this project has been placed on the front burner. A work zone that works for me, not against me is the target (;

I love this office too with the neutral tones and touches of red...the light alone in this shot makes we want to crawl in the photo and begin working on new designs! Wouldn't it be great if we could just blink and our rooms would be ready for use? But alas...what would be the fun in that, eh?

This green is the same shade on my walls right now. Because the area is so small, it makes things quite dark. I'm adding beadboard in white to lighten it up just like they have here, plus it serves a function - a place to hang and organize items.

So, are your spaces organized and ready for the holidays? How does your work zone fare this time of year? Do you have any tips or suggestions...I'd love to hear them (;

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Linking to: Simpsonized Crafts, Tip Junkie, Bobbypin's Boardwalk, Today's Creative Blog

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Frugal Wreath Made of Weeds

I love decorating for the holidays, but prefer decor that can pull double duty and this wreath is a perfect example. I found it on sale for a couple of dollars...probably due to its simple nature, but knew there was potential in this neglected little guy. On the surface it seems plain and uninteresting, but by adding just a few odds and ends gathered from outside it can be turned into something pretty special.

What most people consider bothersome weeds, I regard as beautiful design. The colors and shapes alone make my heart sing! For Fall I like to use delicate grasses and goldenrod and then during Christmas the substitution of evergreens and holly is made. One wreath, two great options.

The longer pieces of grass are used as a backdrop and seem to extend the size of the wreath. It doesn't look like much at first...but we're building (;

Goldenrod is tucked in to add color, dimension and interest and over the next few days the bright yellow becomes a deep golden tone that lets you know fall is on its way. Not bad for freebies gathered from the forest, eh?

I so enjoy making these wreaths each year. The collections of weeds, grasses, flowers, berries and evergreens are always different so no two wreaths are ever the same. There's just something about the process of being surrounded by God's beauty and letting nature inspire you.

Decorating for the holidays doesn't have to cost a lot of money. So the next time you find something simple on sale, embrace the plain and turn it into something spectacular! Let nature inspire and enjoy the beauty (;

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Linking to: Funky Junk Interiors, Tatertots and Jello, Perfectly Imperfect, Be Different Act Normal, A Lovely Little Blog, Coastal Charm

Friday, October 15, 2010

Kale - Another Superfood Staple

With the cold and flu season fast approaching it's so important to eat foods that boost the immune system and Kale is the perfect superfood to add to your arsenal of raw veggie favorites! My previous post discussed how to store ginger in the freezer and how to enjoy it as a tea. Today I'll share a favorite Kale & Ginger Salad recipe and the benefits of each ingredient.

This is a salad we love to get at our favorite organic, whole foods restaurant, but being the frugal gal that I am, wanted to see if I could duplicate the recipe to make it at home. I don't usually write down my recipes since I do everything by taste, but this should get you started...tweak as needed and organic when possible (:

  • 1 big bunch of kale

  • 4 Tbs gluten-free tamari

  • 3 Tbs toasted sesame seed oil

  • ¼ cup sesame seeds

  • 2 Tbs fresh ginger

  • 1 ½ Tbs fresh garlic

  • Celtic sea salt to taste

Use a microplane to grate the ginger and garlic - it helps them to blend effortlessly into the dressing. If you don't have fresh, dried works just as well.

Mix the ginger, garlic, tamari, sesamee seed oil and salt with a fork in a cup to create the dressing.

Place the torn kale into your bowl, pour the dressing over the kale, sprinkle sesame seeds on top, toss and serve!! Now you have a power packed food that makes a great side to any meal!

Here's a little info on the health benefits of these immune boosting ingredients...

Kale is loaded with nutrients and compounds that ward off's packed with beta-carotene, vitamin C, iron, manganese, calcium and potassium. Like most things, we eat it raw which is why a salad application is preferred or throw a handful in your morning smoothie!

Kale does contain goitrogen, a naturally-occurring substance which can interfere with the functioning of the thyroid if you have thyroid issues, you might want to avoid kale.

Sesame seeds are a good source of manganese, copper, calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1, zinc and fiber. It also contains sesamin and sesamolin, both of which have been shown to have cholesteral-lowering affects, prevent high blood pressure, increase vitamin E supplies and protect the liver from oxidative damage.

As mentioned in my last post, ginger is used for the prevention/treatment against the common cold, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and various other muscular disorders caused by inflammation. It can also calm an upset stomach, relieve bloating and gas, aids in digestion, helps to lower cholesterol levels, prevents the formation of blood clots, can quiet a cough, and soothe a sore throat. Ginger is very popular as a way to treat nausea, particularly in the form of seasickness, morning sickness, motion sickness and the nausea side effects of chemotherapy.

This is one of the many ways we eat the it off with a fresh tuna salad and baked sweet potato medallions sprinkled with fresh grated cinnamon. Sweet potatoes are essentially a perfect food. They're high in fiber, vitamin A, C, B6, potassium and manganese.

The cinnamon isn't just for's a great source of manganese, fiber, iron and calcium and can lower LDL cholesterol, regulate blood sugar and even provide significant relief in arthritis pain.

So if you're looking to try something new, add a kale & ginger salad to the menu...your immune system will thank you (:

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Linked to: Make It Yours Day,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ginger - The Miracle Root

Now that the weather is on its way to the cooler side of things, cold and flu season isn’t far behind. One of the tools in my herbal pharmacy chest is ginger root and I always have some on hand. Not only is it a spicy treat, but it offers lots of healing power as well.

Ginger contains anti-viral, anti-toxic and anti-fungal properties, is used for the prevention/treatment against the common cold and also acts as an antihistamine to aid in the treatment of allergies. Its anti-inflammatory properties can be used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and various other muscular disorders caused by inflammation.

Ginger has carminative properties (anti-spasmodic) and can be used to calm an upset stomach, relieves bloating and gas and contains special enzymes responsible for catalyzing the proteins in your food, thus aiding in digestion.

It’s been proven to help lower cholesterol levels and prevent the formation of blood clots, helps stimulate the secretion of mucus which can quiet a cough and soothe a sore throat. It’s been used to treat feelings of nausea, particularly in the form of seasickness, morning sickness, motion sickness and the nausea side effects of chemotherapy.'s a great thing to have on hand, but what do I do with it? Let me have great intentions, buy a nice chunk of root only to have it sit around and shrivel up? Well, I've got a great tip. Once you get the ginger home, chop it into manageable sized pieces...

...peel off the skin, pop the pieces in a Ziploc baggie and toss them in the freezer!! They keep forever and you never have to worry about wasting another cluster of ginger again.

The next time your recipes call for this beloved root, simply pull out a piece and grate it with a microplane. When you get down to the very end of the piece and find it hard to grate, save those little bits of goodness to use in your morning smoothies.

Ginger tea is an everyday favorite around here and it's so simple. Use the microplane to grate about a tablespoon into the bottom of a cup, then pour in boiling water and voilĂ ! Instant ginger tea! Add a touch of honey if you like something sweeter and some cinnamon is a neat add too (:
Adding ginger to your diet offers so many benefits. Have some each day and keep the cold and flu away (: Enjoy!!

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Beautiful Simplicity of Paring Down

I'm very careful about the products used in my home and on my body and Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap has been a favorite for years. So versatile that it not only works for bath and body needs, but for home cleaning as well...simplicity at its best. As I starting thinking about all of the many uses of this soap and the inherent simplicity, it encouraged me to rethink many of the other items being used in my home.

I began to take a closer look at the things around me. Is this a true reflection of what I believe? Do I really need/use this? Does it add to my life or just take up space? Can it be used in multiple applications (versatility)? Is it just hanging around because it might be used one day or does it serve a purpose?

One by one as things left cabinets, drawers and closets, rooms weren’t as cluttered and organization was a new found appreciation. The funny thing? The process left my bathroom with VERY few items.

I have naturally curly hair that can lean on the frizzy side if the right product isn’t used and for years TONS of mousse, hair gels, shampoos, conditioners and hot oil treatments lined the shelves. After taking a good look only a few things were really needed...
  • Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap - serves as shampoo, hand soap, body wash, jewelry cleaner, makeup remover and bathroom cleaner.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar - makes the perfect conditioning hair rinse, a wonderful balancing/conditioning facial toner and bathroom cleaner.
  • Olive Oil - great for a weekly hot oil hair treatment, a deep conditioning cuticle treatment, a wonderful lip conditioner and just the right thing for those extra dry patches.
  • Rose & Hibiscus Facial Cream - the best face cream ever!! Made from organic aloe vera juice, hibiscus flower extract, coconut oil, rosehip seed oil, vitamin E, rosemary and neem oil. Technically a facial cream, it’s light enough for all over and I always keep some in my purse.
  • Hairspray – made from lemon wedges, water and alcohol.
  • Mousse – made from gelatin and water.
This paring down process has also made a difference in the daily routine. After hopping out of the shower cream is immediately applied to face and body, a few drops of olive oil massaged into cuticles keeps them soft with the excess applied to lips, only a dab of mousse is needed in my hair because the vinegar conditions so well and then I’m ready for makeup!

In the evening I simply soak a washcloth with warm water and add a few drops of Dr. Bronner’s to remove makeup/wash my face, rinse the cloth in cold water, add a splash of apple cider vinegar to the wet cloth and apply it to my face. No cream needed at night because the vinegar conditions! Not only had this simplified my space and routine but it saves the pocketbook as well.

So how have you pared down your spaces? How has simplicity made a difference in your everyday routine?

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