Category Archives: Fun and Free Ideas

A Happy Mother’s Day…

I hope all the moms out there had a great Mother’s Day; I sure did.  After working in the working world for a week, and trying hard to get that new routine nailed down, I got to spend Sunday relaxing.  I even had time over the weekend to do a blog project with Son.

We began with some coloring pages Son brought home from school, and since he had done such a nice job, and they were flowers, I thought they would make great Mother’s Day gifts for his grandmothers.  I asked Son to cut out his pictures, and then I broke out my cutting tools, and a cutting mat.  The only problem I had, was that I didn’t have any nice paper to mount his pictures onto.  So I recycled…

That’s right, I used some old shopping bags from Ann Taylor Loft.  The paper the bag was made of, was thick, and textured.  The only issue was the word LOFT written across it.  So I worked everything so that the drawings covered the logo.  I used a glue stick to glue the pictures to the paper, and then cut the paper to fit into an 8×10 frame.

Lastly, I asked Son what he loved about each grandmother, wrote it on the paper, and had him write his name, and the last word of each paragraph.

First, the one he did for my mother…

And the one for my Mother In Law…

Obviously, the way to a man’s heart truly is through his belly, even when he’s just a four year old boy.

I hope the grandmothers like the gifts.  They still haven’t received them…


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Filed under DIY, Fun and Free Ideas, Parenting, Save my Wallet, Save the Earth

From Bags to Bedding…

Once a week, I volunteer at the local high school library.  Typically, I sort through books, and help with students, but for the last two weeks, I have been helping with a completely different mission.  The head librarian has enlisted her library aides, and myself, to work on a recycling project, turning old, plastic, shopping bags into ropes that are then crocheted into sleeping mats for the homeless population.  Observe…

First, we take the bags, and lay them out nice and flat, and cut off the bottoms and the handles…

Then, you cut the bags in half,

and then cut those halves in half…

So the short version, is that you cut the bag into fourths.

Then, you begin linking the loops together – I had a student demonstrate.

Slip one loop into another…

Then, holding both ends of the same loop, pass your right hand through the end of your left…

And pull gently, until tight…

After a while, you will have a long chain…

which I rolled into giant yarn-balls…

The one thing you will want to remember, is to try to keep similar bag sizes, and thinnesses together.  (I realize that “thinnesses isn’t a word.)  You could also get fancy, and keep your bags sorted by colour as well, so that when you crochet, you can have stripes, or other designs.  Since I don’t crochet, I can’t show you a final product on my own.  I just made the “yarn,” but I did find a video that explains what we’re doing, and may be a bit more understandable than the still images I shared.

What I really like most about this project is how it uses something that would otherwise be filling up our landfills, and polluting our oceans.  I don’t use plastic bags too often, but I know someone who has enough bags to outfit a shelter, Mom.  And if you’re one of those, at least now you have something more to do with them than packing them with dirty clothes….



Filed under DIY, Fun and Free Ideas, Save my Wallet, Save the Earth

Dyeing For Easter…

It’s somewhat of a tradition to dye eggs for Easter.  We always did it when I was growing up, and this year, I decided it was finally time to share the fun with Son.  Since I’m a DIYer, I decided I’d come up with my own way of dyeing eggs, that, and I forgot to purchase a kit.

Obviously, the first thing you need to do is boil your eggs.  I don’t know how it happened, but I am a master egg-boiler.  Seriously.  I never have any grey on my yolks, and Son loves to eat the hard-boiled eggs plain.  So I must be awesome.

To get perfectly hard-boiled eggs, you need eggs, and a pot with a lid.  Begin by placing your eggs into your pot; I chose to do six this time.

Then fill the pot with enough water to just cover the eggs.  The more water, the longer it will take to boil.

Place the pot onto the stove, uncovered, and turn the heat on high.  Bring water to a boil, and allow it to stay there for ONE minute.

After one minute has passed, remove pot from heat, and cover.  Allow to stand for 10 – 12 minutes.

I like my eggs with a darker yellow center, so I only let mine sit for 10 minutes.  If you want them lighter yellow, but still without the grey, go for longer, but no more than 12 minutes.  Then simply drain off the water, and run cool water over your eggs.  This is where I would normally peel them, but since I wanted to dye these for Easter, I didn’t do any peeling.

To dye your own Easter Eggs, without the kit, you will need the following…

  • A bowl of hard-boiled eggs
  • Something to protect your surface
  • Vinegar
  • Food coloring
  • Enough containers for each color
  • Something to fish your eggs out with
  • Some white crayons
  • A happy, helpful kid

Fill your vessels with vinegar so that the eggs will be covered when submerged.  Then, drop food coloring into each until you have it as dark as you’d like.

Your dye vats should look like this when you’re through…

Of course, that is assuming you used Red, Yellow, Blue, and Green.

To dye your eggs, just dip them into the vinegar.

You can use the crayon to draw designs on your eggs, and the area will remain white when the egg is dyed.  The longer you let an egg sit in the dye, the brighter the color will be.  Allow the eggs to dry before hunting them.

Can you tell which ones I did?

So just in case you forgot that Easter is in TWO DAYS, and you have yet to buy your egg dyeing kit, or if you’re just too cheap to buy a kit, you now have the power to make your own.  And of course, you will also have perfectly boiled eggs for your future salads.   Yum.

Happy Easter!


Filed under Cooking, DIY, Fun and Free Ideas, Parenting, Save my Wallet, Save the Earth

Man Your Stations….. (and a gift!)

Er, I mean stationary?   Leave me alone about my terrible title, or no gift for you.

A few days ago, I suddenly needed to write a note to the moms of Son’s classmates.  There was just one problem, I don’t have any note paper.  I don’t even have a notepad, much less actual stationary.  How bad was I going to look scribbling out a message on random scratch paper like I do with my grocery lists?  I decided I couldn’t be that lame, and so I devised a plan.  I figured I could quickly draw up my own stationary design, and print it from my home printer.

So I looked through the internet for inspiration, and decided since it was spring, and since I just got to know my dandelions, I’d go with a dandelion theme.  The next step was to find an image I could work with.

Whenever I do image work on the computer, I turn to Google Image search to get me started.  I searched for dandelion, and then narrowed my search to “line drawing.”  Once I found an image I liked, I saved it, and pulled it into Illustrator.

I played with my images, and moved them around until I had them where I liked it…

Once I had my flowers in place, I drew very faint lines across my paper to divide it into quarters.  My next step was to print.  Luckily, my printer can do border-less printing.

I chose to print my new notecards onto cream colored cardstock left over from my wedding 5 years ago, since it was what I had on hand.  Then, I had to cut it.

This is why I drew the faint lines.  With them, and you can almost see them in the photo above, I knew just where to place my ruler and blade.

When I was finished, they looked like this…

Not bad for free stationary, huh?

So the gift?  I thought I’d share a PDF of my stationary file, you know, in case you have to write 9 notes to fellow moms, or something prettier for your grocery list….

Dandelion Note Cards


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Eating the Yard, Part II…

Two days ago, I posted how overgrown my yard had become, and that I wasn’t going to let all my weed crop go to waste.  Instead, I harvested what was good, and made dinner.  (More on that here.)

Dandelion leaves weren’t the only things I plucked.  I grabbed a few wild onions while I was out there.

Of course, wild onions aren’t exactly sparkling clean when you pull them out of the dirt…

So I took them to the sink, washed off the dirt, and pulled off the brown and outer leaves, exposing the clean bulbs beneath.

Then, I chopped them finely, and added some to that dandelion salad, and then rubbed the rest onto some pork chops that I had covered with olive oil and chopped garlic.

See, once they’re clean, wild onions look just like the green scallions you buy at the store, but they’re free!

I was going to grill the chops outside, but we ran out if gas!  So instead, I cooked them in a pan on the stove.

Just the same, it turned out amazingly, and the only thing I paid for was the pig.

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Filed under Cooking, Fun and Free Ideas, Gardening, Save my Wallet, Save the Earth

Eating My Yard…

As I mentioned earlier, we recently left our house for a week, and headed to my Dad’s place for Spring Break.  After we returned, it rained heavily for the next week, and come Yesterday, my yard looked like this…

It was rough; you don’t have to tell me.  I couldn’t wait to get at it with the lawn mower.  But just before I did, I decided to harvest some of my bountiful crop.

No, really.  I served it up with dinner!  I walked around and picked leaves from my dandelion plants, and then pulled a few of my wild onions.  You see, we don’t treat our yard with weed killer, as the above photo attests, and so all our plants are safe to eat, providing they are edible plants, of course.  Dandelions are edible, and of course wild onions are.  Just the same, I did some research after I picked my salad.

According to Wild Man Steve, dandelions are not only safe, but also very good for you.  I even came across a French recipe for Cream of Dandelion soup, and we all know how the French are about their food!

So here’s the dirt on dandelion picking…

Dandelion leaves are slightly bitter, like arugula, and as they age, they increase in bitterness until after the first frost.  Since it’s spring here, I don’t have to worry about that.  The leaves also taste better before they begin to flower, but are still palatable until that pesky white seed ball forms.  The only issue with harvesting from your yard, assuming you don’t use any chemicals on your grass, is the imposters.  Observe…

All the leaves shown came from my yard.  All of them came from plants that have yellow flowers, and white, puffy seed balls.  But, they are not all dandelions.  Dandelions keep their leaves close to the ground, and don’t get very tall.  Remember those knee-high weeds in my yard photo?  Not dandelions.  Dandelions also only sprout one flower per plant, at a time.  So you see that plant above with the three flower buds?  Not a dandelion.  And finally, dandelion leaves are soft, and leafy.  They aren’t hard, waxy, or spiny.  If you see a plant with a yellow flower, and the leaves prick you, then pull it out, but throw it away.  All the dandelion look-a-likes are thistles, and not the delicious kind of thistles, like artichokes.  No, you don’t want to eat these.  But the real dandelion leaves are tasty.

I turned mine into a salad, with a bit of oil, vinegar, and wild chives.  I even added some pepperoncini and shaves of parmigian for a little kick.

So the next time someone says weeds, remember, it could just be a salad, waiting to happen.

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Filed under Cooking, DIY, Fun and Free Ideas, Gardening, Home Making

Trash to Treasure…

Several weeks ago, we inherited an old computer monitor.  Husband and Son quickly gutted  the machine, looking at how it worked, and keeping what spare parts they thought they could use for other things.  Then, the shell sat in the kitchen for weeks.  The more I looked at it, the more I thought it looked like something other than a computer monitor shell.  So I finally took it, and got to work.

Of course, I started with a simple shell…

But when turned face down, I thought it looked like a fortress….

So I grabbed my xacto knife, and cut up some cardboard…

to make some cardboard floors.  And since there were two floors, I needed stairs.  I made some of those, too.

(forgive the photos, the flash broke.)

Son loved his knew toy, even with the make-shift floors…

But I knew the floors would never stand up to his boyish playing.  So I took them out, and using the cardboard as a template, I cut new floors from some scrap pressboard.

Over spring break, after seeing I was spending all my time cleaning dear ole Dad’s house, I asked him to take over securing the floors in place, and making some stronger steps.  He obliged, and after a while spent cutting up a blue plastic barrel, and stapling it together, he had completed my little project.

Here are the finished results…

While I’d love to add things like railing to the balconies, I know they’d never survive.  I also want this new fortress to be a toy, not a model, and so I don’t want it too perfect.  Some day, Son will tire of it, and out it will go.  We won’t save it in the attic like some of his other toys, and I’m ok with that.  I want to be ok with that.  But for now, he has a place for his Army Men, Ironman, and the rest of the Avengers to scheme in attempt to save the universe, and it didn’t cost me a thing.


Filed under DIY, Fun and Free Ideas, Save my Wallet, Save the Earth, Toys