Merry Christmas! (And a Quick Recipe)

Christmas KatnissI know that many of you are rushing to finish your last minute holiday preparations, but I wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas this year.

And if you’re needing a quick homemade gift or just a dessert for the family, here it is:

Quick Pecan and Marshmallow Holiday Bark

If you have mini-marshmallows, then you’re ahead of the game! Otherwise, cut a bunch into pieces. Mix the cut marshmallows in with chopped pecans (or any other type of nut you have on hand) to prevent the marshmallows from sticking to each other. Then melt chocolate and mix with coconut oil just to make the chocolate last a bit longer. Combine that chocolate-y goodness in with the marshmallows and pecans and spread into a greased pan. Cut when firm and eat!

I will be having a quiet day at home this year, but I hope that you enjoy your holiday.

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Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds

slowcookercinnamonalmondsAfter a disastrous candy-making attempt before Christmas last year, I decided to do a “dry run” for my various holiday recipes in October. My father taught me to “prepare, prepare, prepare,” and I can assure you that having a batch of goodies fail the night before a family get-together can be a very bad thing. One extra bonus of trying the recipe this early is that my family can enjoy the recipe now and look forward to it again in December.

I therefore made a batch of Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds yesterday. I was a little worried about making this recipe in my crockpot as it always seems to run a bit hot. Despite my diligent stirring every twenty minutes, just as the recipe directed, there were still some areas that seemed a bit over done. Generally they came out just fine, though, and made the house smell wonderful.

Once I took them out of the oven, my husband walked in the kitchen and asked, “So do I get some?” When I replied, “Of course,” he grabbed a handful and eagerly chomped down. With a satisfied sigh, he then took a bowl and scooped up a bunch more. From his reaction, I would say that this recipe was definitely a success.

One tip for making this recipe frugal is purchasing the nuts in bulk. Buying nuts at the grocery store can be an expensive venture, making even homemade Christmas gifts not worth the effort. I buy my nuts from Bulk Foods, an online store. In order for this to be worth it, you will need to make a large purchase so that you can take advantage of the low shipping. However, we have never had any problems with the products from this store and have found that making twice yearly orders is quite worth the effort. We get our food at a lower cost from this company than anywhere locally.

So what will you be making for Christmas? Please share so that I can get more ideas!

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Will You Be Celebrating Halloween?

Will You Be Celebrating Halloween?

As October is upon us, many have begun planning their Halloween celebrations. Some, though, do not observe the holiday for various reasons.

I’m curious as to how many of us will be celebrating Halloween this year. Also, if you want to share anything else about the holiday–whether ideas, concerns, recipes, whatever–then that would be most appreciated.

I’d love to hear from you!

Lighting Your Home with LED Holiday Lights

lightingyourhomeSeveral years ago, my husband decided that we would purchase holiday LED lights and use them for general lighting purposes in our house. He knew that it would be a cheap way to utilize the efficiency of LEDs without purchasing what were then extremely expensive LED bulbs.

I was less than enthusiastic about the idea. “What?” I asked. “Holiday lights for every day? Isn’t that a bit too festive?”

Still, we proceeded with his plan. He hooked up some lights in our bathroom and elsewhere in our house. I admit that I was immediately impressed. Although you could not read by the light of the LEDs, you could easily maneuver through the house and do most tasks. Too, one thing that I particularly appreciated was that they did not destroy your night vision, and so nightly trips to the bathroom were made much easier by LED light.

LED light strings might utilize as little as 4 watts of electricity. This is about as much energy as would take to power an old incandescent night-light and yet still provide significantly more light. Additionally, solar-charged, battery-powered lights could be used if there is an available window nearby, thus providing light even in an emergency when the power is out. Those holiday light strings are therefore much more useful and efficient than you might have thought.ledsolarlights

With the fall and winter holidays coming up, this is a perfect time to begin looking for LED holiday lights in the stores. By purchasing them on sale, you can be frugal, green, and smart. I will caution, though, that we have found it difficult to buy them after each holiday as the stores often remove them from the shelves the next morning. Too, they are becoming more popular and so harder to buy in quantity. Still, if you are eager for some LED lighting, you can almost always find them in stores during this time of year.

ledglassblockAlthough they may be a bit unconventional—at least for old fogies like myself—LED holiday lights can be a positive way to light your home year round. They provide good general lighting while consuming far less electricity than other bulbs. Too, if they are bought on sale, then they can be a frugal purchase with long-lasting benefits.

Preparing for Holiday Crafting

preparingforholidaycraftingAs money is a bit tight this year, I will have to make all of our holiday gifts for family and friends. Although purchasing a lot of crafting materials is tempting, I just can’t do it at this time. To make the crafts truly frugal, we’ll have to make do with what we have on hand. And doing that often requires a bit of patience as well as preparation. Today I’ve begun preparing the materials for two holiday crafts.

dryinglavenderleavesThis past spring we purchased a lavender plant. It has grown to be quite healthy and big, but there were not enough blossoms to harvest for any project. I therefore did a bit of looking around on the internet, and I discovered that I could also use the leaves from the plant. I picked the leaves from throughout the plant, providing me with a modest amount for drying. These I scattered over a piece of newspaper placed in an old pie tin; that was also covered with another piece of newspaper. I am hoping that this configuration will allow the leaves to dry properly as long as the tin is shaken each day so that the leaves dry completely.

makingplasticyarnAdditionally, I also began creating some plastic “yarn” from bags that we had lying around the kitchen. I have been crocheting with plastic bags since 2005 and have used several different methods for creating yarn. I have found the method below to be the easiest, and it also results in the strongest yarn possible.

First, simply lay the bag flat on the ground and cut off the top and bottom of the bag. Next, cut the remaining bag into loops, giving you several loops from one bag. These loops will be connected by threading them together. After you have connected the loops, you can wind the “yarn” into a ball, just like regular yarn. This method should give you a double-strong yarn that will withstand some tugging when you crochet. Just continue adding loops on to the free end to make the “yarn” longer or add new colors.

Finally, one caveat if you have cats. They love to “help,” especially with the yarn. My little helper particularly enjoyed stealing the ball of plastic yarn and running away with it. As these crafts aren’t compatible with kitty kittieslovetohelpassistance, then I would highly recommend doing them when they are sleeping or otherwise occupied. Also, be sure and store them somewhere the cats will not be able to access.

Although these tasks may not produce very flashy results as of yet, they will pay off in the long run. Making use of what’s available is certainly a frugal way to create crafts for holiday giving. Being creative and resourceful allows us to participate in gift exchanges, even on a small budget. Too, these crafts are environmentally friendly as they utilize materials in a new way.