Monday, September 30, 2013

Five money saving tips for this Christmas

1. Invite your friends to a Christmas D├ęcor trading party in your home. Set the date for early December. Have each guest bring 1-5 decorations that they’ve outgrown or that no longer suits their taste. Serve light refreshments. Each guest gets to exchange their decorations for an equal number of items.

2. Explain that each child in your household will receive three gifts, the same number that the baby Jesus received.

3. Trish Berg, my co-author, submitted this one to our collection of ideas, and it can create family fun and strengthening of relationships with little expense: Several weeks before Christmas collect your children’s favorite books or maybe those which rarely get read. Check out a few library books and buy one or two inexpensive new books. Wrap them and place them in a basket under the tree. Let your children choose one from the stack each evening for you to read as a family.

These next two hints are things that will help you next year.

4. This season, watch for Nativities that are on sale, buy up a few and gift those for wedding gifts this next year. Hint: you could add a copy of A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts for the newlyweds’ first Christmas.

5. The final tip is to buy supplies to make Christmas tree ornaments, three different ones, on sale of course, after the holidays or any time. This fall when you see your children growing weary of autumn activities, bring out one of the ornament projects. Next season, you’ll have a collection of handmade ornaments that they can gift to Bible class teachers, friends, or other people they want to give a gift to. Be sure and save a set for each child and you, too.
Written By Cathy Messecar

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lemon Crumb Muffins Recipe

Here is the recipe from The Pine Tree Barn Restaurant. I have these baking in the oven right now, and they are so yummy!

2 c. Butter (melted) 4 c Sugar
2 c. Sour Cream 6 c. flour (we use Softex Pastry Flour)
8 Eggs ¾ t. Baking Soda
2 T. Lemon Juice ¾ t. Salt
5 Fresh Lemons Cooking spray

1 ¼ c. Sugar
1 ¼ c. Flour
1/3 c. Softened Butter

Sift sugar and flour together. Add butter. Work into dry ingredients until crumbly. Yields 2 ½ Cups.

Lemon Glaze
½ c. Sugar 1/3 c. Lemon Juice
Stir together until all of the sugar is dissolved.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together in a medium bowl. Grate rinds of lemons and set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, then add sour cream, butter, and lemon juice. Continue to whisk until smooth. Fold lemon rinds into egg mixture. Fold all dry ingredients into egg mixture. Blend well. Spray muffin tins and fill with batter. Top each muffin with 1 tablespoon streusel and bake for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove muffins from oven and immediately poke each several times with a toothpick. Drizzle top of each muffin with a scant ½ tsp. lemon glaze.

Yield: 24-30 muffins ***Note: Batter can be kept up to 1 week in the refrigerator.
Posted by Trish Berg.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

East way to make no sew fleece pillow cases

Not only am I a Word Quilter, I'm also a Quilt Quilter. Hmmm. That sounds funny. One of the best places to find fabric for quilting or crafting is in the remnant bin. I love finding treasures. It is there that I suggest you look for some fleece for this no-sew pillow project which is a great gift for just about any age. You will need two pieces of fleece-3/4 yard each. Or two pieces of fleece that measure 25" X 25" for a 14" pillow. (Pictured here are several fleece patterns from JoAnn Fabrics online.)

Here's the list of supplies:

Two pieces of fleece 25"X25" (be sure you don't include the selvage in that measurement)
One 14" pillow form
Sharp scissors


  • Place the two 25" squares (no selvage) "wrong" sides together if you can figure that out. Some fleece looks the same on both sides. Secure with a few pins.
  • Cut a 5"X5" square out of each corner.
  • Now cut 5" long fringe that is 3/4" wide on all four sides. It might be easiest to measure the five inches in from the edge and place a strip of masking tape there to use as a cutting guide.
  • Tie a piece of back fringe to a piece of front fringe all around three sides. Make the knot right at the 5" mark. Some fleece tends to stretch more one direction than another so you might want to turn one of your layers so that a stretchy side is matched to a less stretchy side.
  • Insert your pillow form and finish tying the fourth side. It may be easier to tie every other one and then go back and finish the inbetween knots.
  • Voila! A beautiful pillow ready to be wrapped and given to a beautiful person on your gift list. And if you can find remnants and/or sales, your pillow should easily be less than $25!
[Posted by Karen Robbins]

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hostess Gifts at Christmas or for Any Occasion

Ivory Soap bars, some holiday designed napkins, and a little parafin can make beautiful decorative bars of soap for the bathroom and make lovely hostess gifts as well.

  • Find napkins that have some small decorative designs you can cut out that fit the size of the top of the Ivory Soap bar.
  • Melt some parafin in a small shallow aluminum disposable baking pan. You can do this by placing the aluminum pan in a larger pan of water on low heat on the stove.
  • Using only one layer of the napkin (some have several layers of paper), place the cutout on top of a slightly damp soap bar. It should stick but if it doesn't, you can brush on a bit of the melted parafin to help it stick.
  • Carefully holding the edges of the bar of soap, dip the bar design side down into the paraffin just far enough to coat the design and about 1/2 the edge of the bar of soap.
  • Dry design side up on a piece of wax paper.
  • When thoroughly set, wrap in colorful cellophane paper for gifts.
  • You'll find that the bars of soap last longer as well with the wax coating.
  • Post by Karen Robbins

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Gift bags to make now for Christmas

One of the best gifts I ever got was a pretty fabric bag to store all the plastic bags I seemed to collect from grocery shopping. Plastic bags come in handy for all sorts of things from transporting wet bathing suits to packing shoes in a suitcase to keep them from soiling the clean clothes. Here's an easy way to make one:

You will need a piece of cotton fabric-about a half yard, 6"-8" of 1/8-1/4" wide elastic, cording about 18"-24" long, sewing machine, thread, scissors, safety pin. The "about" measurements allow for you to use up scraps or hit the remnant bin at the fabric store.

Put two sides of material right sides together and sew a seam so that you make a long cylinder leaving the seam open two inches at top and bottom. At the top sew a hem or casing for the cording to pass through. Tuck the raw edges in to finish off the opening where you will pass the cording through using a large safety pin. Tie the two ends of the cording together (if you want to get fancy, you can add a large wooden bead here as well.

At the bottom, make another hem or casing and pass the elastic through. Either tie the ends together tightly or sew them. This should close the bottom enough to keep the bags inside but yet allow you to pull one at a time out of the bottom. If you give it as a gift, be sure to put some bags in it to demonstrate its use.

Another gift idea is to make reusable grocery bags either from scratch, or buy some inexpensive ones at the grocery store and personalize them with your own appliqued designs either sewn on or by using iron on appliques.

[posted by Karen Robbins]

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cheap Finds

Bargains are in my blood. Generations of Porters and Bentleys have haggled over pennies at flea markets and yard sales. My own parents bought freshly ironed and starched dresses for their baby girl (me) from garage sales in Highland Park, near where Southern Methodist University (SMU) is located. Cost: 25-50 cents apiece!

I conditioned my kids from an early age to spend Friday mornings driving around town, occasionally venturing into neighboring cities for hidden treasure.

Armed with Cheerios® and Capri Sun®, they quickly learned how to stretch a dollar—their allotted amount—into something special. The boys usually bought action guys (their term for boy dolls) or balls of any kind, while Molly spent her money on books or stuffed animals. We uncovered fabulous finds, some of which are still in our lives.

In today’s post, I get to share a few of my “Favorite Finds” with you. Sorry, gang, but no way could I limit this to just one! Here’s my short list:
• A yellow stepladder splattered with paint. I bought this from my friend Sarah Walker for $2.00. Today it houses candles and a basket filled with hand towels in our guest bathroom.
Baby-Sitter Club® books. For $5.00 my daughter Molly enjoyed hours upon hours of fun, wholesome reading material.
Black leather pants. They looked like they’d never been worn. It costs me more to send them to the cleaners than it did to purchase them! Price: $2.00. No kidding! I didn’t even negotiate. Though I rarely wear them in Dallas, they’re a godsend on ski trips.
A car bed. The toddler-sized homemade racecar lasted through both of our boys, helping them make the transition from crib to bed. Cost: $25.00. We used it for more than three years, then sold it at our own yard sale for $15.00!
A Coca-Cola® thermometer. I paid the “full price” of 50 cents and gave the vintage thermometer to my sister-in-law who collects all things Coca-Cola®. Imagine my surprise when I found the identical item—priced at $50.00—in an antique store.
A short wood shelf. Though it’s final coat is navy blue, light sanding revealed myriad colors underneath. All this $5.00 treasure took was a little sanding, then a wipe clean to make it suitable for our main hallway of our rustic, hill country-style home. (Hint: A rustic or shabby-chic decorating style makes it easy to incorporate garage sale and flea market finds.)
A piano keyboard. For $50.00, my daughter has been able to practice piano for going on three years. Would you believe the organized owners still had the operations manual, and the price included a portable stand?
• My all-time favorite: A Onesie® sleeper that looked like a tuxedo. We dressed both boys in it for their baby dedications at church. Both times, the outfit—inhabited by squirming, smiling baby boys—elicited grins and chuckles from church congregations.

At Charlie’s dedication, our pastor briefly “interviewed” us about the significance of our role as parents and the importance of that day. To my surprise he commented on the outfit, “This is certainly a special outfit. What can you tell me about it?” Like a deer in headlights, I froze—unable to come up with anything but the truth. “I bought it at a garage sale for a quarter,” I blurted out. The congregation roared. So much for coming off as a Spiritual Giant—ready to lead her young son into deep scriptural truths. Instead, I showed my true nature: Finder of a Good Deal!

Perhaps bargains are in your blood as they are mine. You detest paying retail—even if the item is on sale. Instead, we smart-shopping, bargain-hunting deal-finders resist the urge, letting somebody else buy it and break it in. Then we can swoop in and buy it at their garage sale the next season.

OK, now it’s your turn. What’s the all-time best bargain you found at a flea market, garage, yard, estate or tag sale, or a resale shop? Brag away!
by Leslie Wilson

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tips to Simplify Christmas


1. STORY TIME - One of our favorite traditions is to read 2 Christmas stories. On Christmas Eve, we all gather around the tree and read Twas the Night Before Christmas. The kids love eating a Christmas cookie and listening to the words flow. Then, on Christmas morning, before a single present is unwrapped, we gather around the breakfast table and read the TRUE story of Christmas, of the birth of Jesus. You can start with Luke 2:1-20 or Matthew 1:18-2:20. This truly helps your family focus on the fun side of Christmas, and yet cherish the real gift of Jesus.

2. MAKE AHEAD BREAKFAST - Take the time on Dec 23rd or 24th to make your Christmas morning breakfast ahead of time. That way Christmas morning, you can simply enjoy eating and not have anything to do. 2 fantastic ideas are Sausage and Egg Casserole, or Sunday French Toast. For those and more great breakfast recipes click here.

3. SLOW DOWN - We tend to be in such a rush to "get done" with opening gifts and celebrating Christmas. I enjoy slowing the day down. Maybe open a few gifts in the morning. Let your kids play with those gifts, have lunch, and then open some more in the afternoon. Spread it out, take your time and enjoy the time together. Don't rush out the door to grandma's house, instead, stay home as long as you can and relax and enjoy watching your children play with their gifts.

4. CUT IN HALF - If you are a to-do list kinda person like I am, write down everything you think you need to do between now and Christmas Day and then...CUT YOUR LIST IN HALF. Christmas is Christmas not because of anything you do, it is Christmas because God gave us the gift of Jesus. Celebrate that, and don't worry about getting it all right..or all done. Celebrate what you have, thank God for all in your life, and let the rest go.

5. GIVE TO SOMEONE - Nothing will make you feel more joy than giving to someone else. Take hot cocoa to the Salvation army bell ringer at Walmart. Bring cookies to your gas station attendant or a tin of Chex Mix to the local fire or police station. Give to someone who does not expect you to give to them, and you will feel the true joy of Christmas.
posted by Trish Berg

Friday, September 13, 2013

Christmas Stockings Add Pizzazz to Any Room

Christmas Stockings Add Pizzazz To Any Room

In a family Christmas photo, the stockings are handmade by me, from felt, sequins and glitter.
I have a few extra Christmas stockings, in addition to the five that we hang on the fireplace mantle. By the way, why five stockings for four folks? One for each of our sons, one for my husband, Will, one for me, and the fifth one is for our cats to share. They don't mind sharing! Each Christmas morn they hope for a can of tuna (sold for human consumption, not cat food grade) and a bit of organic catnip, grown by my sister Sky in Wisconsin. Our cats are not disappointed, since they are VERY good kitties.

My easy decorating tip involves colorful Christmas stockings. One year at a dollar store I found a pretty red stocking that says “I Believe”. I bought several as gifts for friends, and an extra one for my family, and now each year I take a push pin and hang this Christmas stocking in the bathroom. Every year, at the end of the season, stores put Christmas stockings on sale, so that is a great time to buy more for your next year's decor, and keep a look out at craft fairs for stockings that appeal to you.

In the same bathroom I hang a handmade colorful stocking that I bought at a fund raiser. The person who stitched it created a very cute stocking, including a sleigh loaded with gifts and real ribbons. Hanging a few holiday stockings is such a quick way to add a Christmas glow to any room, even the sometimes overlooked bathroom.
By Terra Hangen

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Easy Decorating Tip for the Craftfully-Challenged
A simple one I learned from my mom:

Doesn’t matter how many ornaments or decorations you have, everything has a greater impact if it’s grouped together with similar items. To that end, I set up all my Santas on a baker’s rack by our fireplace. A good friend collects nativity scenes; she has 15+ from as many different countries. Think angels, snowmen, small Christmas trees. Spread a square of gold or silver tulle on a small card table, set up your collection, and you’ve made a statement.

A more complicated one, but hands-down my kids’ favorite:

At the Wilson house, we set up a Christmas village every year. My boys have been a tremendous help with it because they have the analytical minds. They like planning and laying the groundwork (strings of lights underneath the layer of “snow,” designing city streets and surrounding hills). My daughter likes putting on the finishing touches: the people (ice skaters or carolers), animals (deer feeding in the “woods”), and everything that glitters (sparkling confetti, plugging in the lights). I just asked each of them, and the response was unanimous: They prefer setting up the Christmas village to decorating the tree!

Do you have a favorite decorating tip? If it's an easy one, all the better!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Brenda's Quick Deco Tip
How are my favorite readers? Have I a tip for you! Grab your dog (or kid, if you don't have a dog) and put on his Santa hat then snap some shots. Here's a pic of "my boys" Andy & Opie. I raised Andy then gave him to my older daughter. Opie (the one in the back with space eyeballs) is mine. They love Christmas because of the extra crumbs of food that fall to the floor while I'm baking or the extra guests who come to our home. Of course the dogs thinks people come just to see them!

Seriously, remember your pets during the holidays. Include them in family pictures or take them in the car when you drive around to look at pretty Christmas lights. Because dogs today are domesticated, they really aren't meat eaters like their ancestors, so you can "treat" them with a baby carrot, an ice cube to gnaw on, a piece of fruit or small piece of cheese. But don't overfeed your dog. . . or you may be cleaning up a mess you don't welcome in your home! Dogs have simple digestive tracks so they do not require a diet of variety, rather one of routine.

Here's one more pic of Andy and Opie . . . awwwwww

AND for your four-legged friends at Christmas, try this Doggie Biscuit recipe:
  1. 3 Eggs, slightly beaten
  2. 1/3 Cup milk (can use leftover chicken broth)
  3. 1/4 Cup molasses
  4. 2 Tbs cooking oil (use leftover chicken fat)
  5. 2 2/3 Cups whole wheat flour
    In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, molasses and oil (or fat). Gradually stir in flour to form a stiff dough. Place on a floured surface and roll out to 1/2 inch thickness. Cut with bone-shaped cookie cutter or any preferred shape. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. To make treats harder, leave in oven with heat turned off for additional 1/2 hour. Place your treats in an airtight jar or in a plastic freezer bag and store in the freezer.
Now it's your turn. Share how you involve your pets in the holiday hoopla.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Wrapping Your Holiday In Lights

I LOVE Cathy's tip about decorating your kitchen in little white lights. In fact, I am, what you might call, a little white light addict of sorts. I hang those bright strands all over our century old farmhouse - on the banister; on top of my kitchen cabinets; on the barn beams in the high ceiling kitchen. Everywhere. AT night time from Thanksgiving to New Year's we are like Motel 6 - We'll leave the light on for you...literally. It is never dark here at night.

I shared in my comment on Cathy's post another neat idea, about making a lighted Christmas gift out of a glass block (like a single glass block from a basement window), a strand of lights, and a bow. I purchased one at a craft show, but they are so simple and inexpensive to make.

I wanted to share a picture of this awesome Christmas decoration. And also give you the link with the instructions:


And my ultimate favorite, simple Christmas decoration tip is this: If you decorate with an artificial Christmas tree, as you assemble the pole, wrap little white lights tightly around the pole, all the way up, as many as you can fit.

Then put the branches on as normal, and string the lights as normal on the branches. Your tree will have a 3 dimensional look,and will glow with lights. There will be no empty or bare spots, because the pole lights are top to bottom. It almost plays a trick on your eye, and make the tree look more beautiful than you can imagine.

And yes, I know, I need to seek help for my little white light addiction. My husband grew up with those huge colored lights on his childhood tree. So bless his heart, he lets me drape the tree in white lights anyway.

Which leads me to a question. Do you decorate your Christmas tree the same way your mom and dad did? Colored or white lights? Live tree or artificial? We tend to stay in our comfort zone, so I bet most of us do.

And what happens when you like white lights and your sweet hubby likes colored ones? Or he like artificial trees and you like live ones? Who wins???

We have solved that problem in the Berg house by using an artificial tree that we can put up the day after Thanksgiving and I can drape it with white lights. Then we purchase a very small live evergreen a couple of weeks before Christmas and put colored lights on that one. The kids then get to decorate it with homemade decorations, like paper ornaments, popcorn strings, paper chains, etc...

Both are unique, and both are beautiful.

And however we decorate our homes, what is even more important is how we decorate our hearts. Are we kind and loving? Forgiving? That beauty is beyond compare.

Boy, it's only September and I am so ready for Christmas already!!!! I wonder if there are any little white lights I can grab from the attic and......

Oh, no, here I go.....

Enjoy the journey-Trish

Monday, September 9, 2013

Frugal Christmas Decorating Tips

This week the Word Quilters will share simple Christmas decorating tips. The tips I've found most helpful over the years are the ones that yield lots of splash without much effort or money spent, so I have two for you today.

The first tip is to invest in a few flocked poinsettias. I bought two at least eight years ago--they still look great. Mine are traditional red. I store them in a closet with the bracts covered (plastic bag in climate controlled closet or old pillow case if in the attic).
I set them out early in December to decorate the hearth because our Christmas tree doesn't go up until mid-month. Terra, my verdant-thumbed friend, are you cringing that I don't have the live plants? Some years I do add a few live ones.
The second tip is to place a string of colored or white lights in a not-so-usual place in your home. My favorite place to plug in color is in my kitchen (decorated in red for 40 years, even our new home we're building--kitchen is mostly white and a bit of red again.) In my current home, my kitchen counter top is port wine Formica. On two wooden shelves of teapots, I weave a multi-colored strand of lights and then cover them with holly-type greenery. On the opposite long countertop, I place a multi-colored strand behind my canisters, coffee pot, bread box, etc., and cover it with ivy like greenery, allowing the cheery bulbs to show through.
A friend, who had a similar kitchen with ample counter space uses white lights and greenery, placing her Christmas miniature houses and figurines among the lights.

When you plug in strands of miniature lights and turn off overhead lights, even a small dwelling or a tiny dorm room will usher in Christmas ambiance.
If you have a frugal holiday tip, please post it for our readers.