Living A Simplified Life!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Christmas Crafts

Christmas Ornaments

I like to give a special Christmas ornament to each of my grand children every year. This is a great tradition to start with your children or grandchildren. That way, when they get grown up and leave home, you can pack up their personal ornaments and they can have them and all the memories that are attached to them to put on their very own first Christmas tree.

One of my favorite places to visit for ideas is Better Homes and Gardens website. Not only do they have wonderful color photographs of what your finished product will look like but step by step instructions on how to make the project.
As for where to grab supplies for your projects, look around the house first, you most likely will find objects that you can recycle to make many of the items.  If you don't, you can find what you are looking for at Hobby Lobby or Michaels as well as your favorite fabric stores, like JoAnn's and Hancock Fabrics.

Clear Ball Ornaments
Take clear ball ornaments, and fill them with metallic shred and then write the child's name and perhaps the year on the outside with acrylic puff paint or use Elmer's glue to write their name and sprinkle over the top with colored glitter. Tie a ribbon bow at the top of ball.

You can also take off the cap, pour inside your favorite color of acrylic paint or poster paint. Swirl it around and dump out what doesn't stick. Let it dry thoroughly. Write  a name on the ornaments as in above instructions.

Etching cream is also fun to use. Use a template and tape it to the outside of the ornament. Apply the etching cream according to instructions.

Take some wire and lace it through the top of a pinecone to make a hanger. Use Elmer's glue on the tips of the pinecone an then dip in glitter or artificial snow. Tie a colored velvet or grograin ribbon at the top.

Salt Dough Ornaments
These are fun to make but have a tendency to disintigrate over time, even when coated with a protective finish. If you want something that is quick, fun and inexpensive to make but not worried about having it last for years and years, give these a try.

Decopage Ornaments
White styrafoam ornaments, medium to large sized work best
Lots of Elmers glue
Any type of lightweight paper that you can rip into medium sized pieces.Old vintage type papers or floral work great.
Start by applying glue to a section of the ornament. Apply the pieces of the ripped paper to it, smoothing it as you go. Continue until the entire ornament is covered with paper. Let dry thoroughly.
When dry, use a small foam paint brush to apply several coats of Elmer's glue on top of the paper, letting it dry between coats.

Small embroidery hoops
You can actually get two ornaments out of this one, using each hoop separately
Using a hot glue gun or Elmer's glue, apply pretty ribbon, covering the wooden hoop outer edge
Using jewelry craft beads or crystals, make a string of them to hang down in the center of the hoop, using filament wire, such as for jewelry making or fishing line.You may wish to put a heavier bead at the bottom so that it will hang straight.
Make a loop out of the same filament wire at the top of your hoop to use to attach to the tree. Make a large bow for the top of the hoop and attach it.

Preparing For Another Cold Winter

You've probably heard the term "colder than molasses in January" if you live in the Midwestern states or Eastern states of this country. Last winter, it seems that we had an unusually cold winter with lots of wind and blowing snow and ice. This wasn't really typical weather for the middle of Oklahoma for sure. In years past we seemed to get snow that might stay on the ground for a couple of days, the sun would come out, things would warm up and it would be gone. Not this past couple of winters.

Not only did the ice and snow stick around, but there were many areas of the state who were without power for many days because of downed power lines. I had friends up in Tulsa who were without power for 11 days. Luckily they had a fireplace where they could improvise cooking and for some heat.  They were eventually able to borrow a generator but others were not so lucky.

I was one of the fortunate ones, never lost power, but did feel trapped inside my home and felt like I couldn't get the house warm enough as the winds blew and the snow continued to fall. I have vowed that I am going to be better prepared this year.

I will be stocking up my pantry with canned goods and sterno heat that I can use to heat things up with if I lose power. I don't have a fireplace so having a way to heat food will be necessary if I lose power. If you don't already have a fully stocked pantry, now would be a good time to start buying some extra items each month, along with some bottled water, so that you at least have a month or two worth of goods on hand just in case you are housebound that long.

While you are at it, grab some batteries for flashlights, extra candles and oil for some oil wick lamps to provide lighting. If push comes to shove, you could always use your solar powered yard lights by bringing them inside at night to light your house.

I also plan to have de-icer on hand as well as plenty of extra cat litter to sprinkle on the sidewalk and driveway. Trying to shovel wet heavy snow and break through solid sheets of ice is not easy when you get up in age.

Before the cold weather arrives, take time to check your doors and windows and make sure that the weather stripping is good as well as check to see if they might need to be recalked.

Have your furnace inspected to make sure it is in proper working order. Grab enough filters to last you several months because you will want to change them out at least once a month during the cold winter months. With you house closed up, you are going to find that dust and dirt will accumulate on them much faster than they did during the summer.

The other thing I plan to do is make some extra heavy curtains for my windows. Back in the olden days, Grandma used to take a bed quilt and drape it up over the curtain rod as an added layer to keep the cold out and the heat in. I am going to basically use this idea but modify it.  I am going to either make my own quilted material to use or see if I can find some second hand quilts at one of the thrift stores. I am going to cut them to the size of my window opening, make a placket at the top and bottom to run pressure rods through. Then I will put them up so that they fit snuggly inside the window frame opening, and they will have the rods at the top and bottom of the window frame. With the extra quilt batting between the material, this should help with insulating for warmth.

Once again this year, I will close off rooms that I don't use, either by closing doors or using drapes. If there is space under the bottom of the door which will allow drafts, I am going to make "draft dodgers" this year. Using a piece of material, the length of the door about 10-12 inches wide, sew it into a cylinder and close off one end.  Take rice and put it inside a plastic bag and work it down into the cylinder. Sew the other end of the cylinder up. You could also make these for window sills if you didn't get new weatherstripping installed.

Chances are we are all going to be looking for ways to keep our utility bills down this winter as the cost of heating is expected to be on the rise. You can dress in layers, open up the curtains during the day to let the sunlight in to warm the house and close them as the sun goes down.

By preparing now you can avoid having to run around gathering things together when the first weather reports come out that a storm is on the way. It never fails, the weatherman can be predicting that snow or ice storms are headed our way but everyone seems to wait till the day before or even up to just a few hours before it is expected to arrive to go get their supplies in. Nothing is more frustrating that to go to a store and find out there is nothing on the shelves that you need. So plan ahead this year especially because it is my guess that stores won't be as well stocked as they have been in the past.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas

I know, here it is 105 degrees out there and I am thinking sleigh bells and snow along with Christmas gifts.
But as you know, many of us with the best of intentions of making homemade gifts don't always start our lists or our creations as early as we should in order to have them all done, wrapped and ready to go under the Christmas tree.

Some of us are lucky enough to know how to crochet beautiful items and then there are those who are like me, can only make granny squares for afghans.  A friend of mine forwarded this website to me and I just had to share it with you, especially if you have little girls or granddaughters who would appreciate some darling handmade crocheted clothes for their dolls.

The website is called and is owned by Deanne Eckert. She has some darling items to offer and for those of you who are talented enough, you can also get a free pattern by logging into her website,

I fell in love with the little girls in her logo and the darling outfits they are wearing.  She has given me permission to share them with you.  You can actually click on the logo and it will take you to her website.  If you decide to go, be sure to come back here often for more gift ideas because I am going to start putting some up between now and Christmas so you can be ready.

In the meantime, try to stay cool in our blazing summer heat..... think about jingle bells and snow flakes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Elaborate weddings are they worth it?


After reading the article in my mail about one of the stories they are doing tonight on ABC News Nightline about people spending so much money on weddings, I thought I would do a short article here about my thoughts on the matter.

Do people think that if you spend a fortune on a wedding that it will insure that their marriage is going to last? After seeing the multitude of lavish weddings all they way from royalty in foreign countries to super stars in Hollywood who spend a fortune I would have to say my answer to that is no.

I wonder how many people years later, whether they stay together or divorce lament over the fact that they wasted all that money on a lavish wedding. That money could have been put to a much better use on something that would have lasted over the years. Spending money on a fancy wedding all you have are the memories and the wedding album filled with pictures of that fairytale day.

It is possible to spend under $5,000 even spend under $3,000 for a very nice wedding that will be filled with wonderful memories and not have regrets about wishing you hadn’t spent money so foolishly by spending more money.

Both of my daughters had beautiful weddings, each of them costing under $3,000 and I can tell you this, both of them have been married now for a long time and neither of them wishes that they had spent any more than they did.  As the mother of the brides and being a single parent, I appreciated their conservativeness. Granted they also helped financially with their own wedding, which is another thing common today, the bride and groom helping to pick up the cost themselves. Back in “the old days” it was the responsibility of the bride’s parents to foot the bill for the wedding and the groom’s family paid for the rehearsal dinner.

One way a bride can save money is to look for a used wedding dress in a thrift store where she is able to actually try it on and see the condition of the garment, or she can make a purchase off the Internet from many bridal websites, e-bay or Craig’s list. Often you can find what you want and if you so desire, can actually do some alterations to make it custom-made just for you.

One way many brides are reducing the cost of their weddings is by going to a more casual style of wedding. Instead of bridesmaids all wearing identical dresses, they now are going to ones that are more individualized but similar in style and within the same color palette but not necessarily all the exact same hue. The girls are purchasing them off the rack at a department store, rather than at a bridal salon or having them custom made. The men are choosing to wear suits of the same color and forgoing the formal tuxedos.

Instead of formal bouquets, brides and her bridesmaids are opting for just a gathering of flowers tied with a pretty satin bow, or the stems totally wrapped with satin ribbon and no bow.

Wedding cakes are extremely high priced nowadays but with some ingenuity you can actually make your own tiered cake. If you are uncomfortable doing that, use tiered glass plates and fill it to the brim with cupcakes decorated with lush creamy frosting, like butter cream , whipped cream, or smooth fondant. Another alternative is to have a small wedding cake and then use sheet cakes for serving to your guests. Many weddings still include a groom’s cake and it is usually a sheet cake which will also help determine the size wedding cake that you need.

When it comes to the reception, depending on where you have it, perhaps some of your family can help by supplying different types of finger foods for the buffet table. If you have it catered, a large portion of your wedding budget can be spent on food alone. Setting up a buffet table will be less expensive than a sit down dinner reception where you must also pay for serving staff.

When it comes to a honeymoon, many couples will now just take a weekend to get away after their wedding since both parties usually work.  If they were lucky, they might have been able to plan ahead and get vacation time from their employers and take a week long honeymoon. There are numerous places right here in the United States where you can go and have a wonderful time without spending a fortune.

Your guests will have a wonderful time at your wedding and have no idea how much you actually spent on it. They came to share this exciting moment in your life, not sitting there with a calculator trying to figure out how much it cost you. You will have a beautiful wedding, reception and honeymoon with money leftover in the bank for which you will be very thankful to have for future purchases like a home of your own, a car or to splurge on that new addition to your family.

Just so you know, the picture above is of  my daughter and that wedding did cost us under $3000!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

My Next Garden Winter Crops

As I've sat here and watched the efforts of this year's garden withering away in our triple digit heat, I've been depressed over my first attempts at gardening. I've made it a point to go out and water everything after 7pm at night in the hopes of pulling everything through. After the tomato plants get a drink of water, they usually will stand up, sometimes not straight and tall but at least they try. Many of their leaves are now turning brown and wilting from the sun. So far, there have been three ripe Roma tomatoes, and something has managed to put holes in every one of them. There are still two green ones on the vines and I am watching them closely.

The cucumber plants had little blossoms on them but so far I'm not seeing any development of cucumbers yet. I would have thought there would be some by now. I'm afraid the jalapeno peppers are toast!  there is but one plant that may make it, but the others appear to be either dead or dying.

It looks like only one of my pumpkin vines has survived as well and that is the one I planted in a pot! The ones out in the ground have either just shriveled up and died or something decided they were good to eat. As for my herbs, well, no cilantro, Basel, or mint for me! They are all gone too!

I guess I'm not alone, I've been hearing complaints from many of those with lots more experience than me saying they are having the same problems.  I guess we will all be looking at planting some things here shortly for winter crops in hopes that we can end up with some produce for all our efforts.

I do know one thing, I am going to order an AeroGarden or one something like it, that I can use to grow salad fixings at least in the house this winter. has some fantastic prices on them!

The picture of this garden is for the Gourmet Herb seed kit, but you can grow tomatoes, lettuce, even flowers in your AeroGarden. They offer a variety of types of seed kits that you can order for all kinds of things! 

I am doing an experiment which will be interesting to see if it works or not. I read where someone grew potatoes in a pillowcase, so I figured I have nothing to lose at this point, might as well give it a try.  I've also heard of using old car tires and plastic trash cans, but there there was some discussion on one of my yahoo groups about how that might not be such a good idea because of toxins possibly leaking from either the rubber or the plastic and contaminating your potatoes. So far I am getting sprouts shooting up!  Of course every time they break the surface you are to cover them up with more dirt, compost and natural mulch. I may actually end up getting some potatoes out of my efforts anyway!

I think next year, I will attempt to do some hanging tomato plants on the edge of the patio where they will get less direct sunlight. Either that or I am going to have to devise some methods of putting up a tent structure with garden netting over the tops of my beds so that if we have as hot a summer next year as we've had this year, I am able to provide some shade for them.

So now I am looking to see what fall crops I can grow in zone 6 & 7 for Oklahoma that I like and will actually eat. I guess I'll try putting out some Cilantro again (that burned up also along with my basil) and more cucumbers for sure along with some more tomatoes, summer and winter squash, more bell peppers and jalapenos and try for a few more pumpkins!  I see where they say you can grow several types of beans, as well as sweet corn and egg plant, but I think I'll pass on those.

Beets. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Irish potatoes, lettuce, onions, garlic, and spinach are all considered semi-hardy for another crop. It looks like the onions and garlic wouldn't be ready to harvest until next spring and June so we'll see about doing those.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

1895 8th Grade Final Exam

I had a friend send this to me the other day by email and I wanted to share it with you.
It made me realize that we often are critical of our ancestors because they had "just an 8th grade education." 
I challenge you to go ahead and try and answer these questions.  Don't cheat by googling the answers either. It will really make you appreciate their 8th grade education a whole lot more!

We need to remember that back then, many of our ancestors lived on farms and there were times of the year when crops needed to be planted or harvested, there were chores to be done and animals to be tended to. So early in the morning, the children would get up and tend to chores before heading off to school. Then when they got home after school, there were the evening chores to be done. Often school studies were done by lantern light or candle light. 

We are so fortunate in today's world.

1895 8th Grade Final Exam
Take this test and pass it on to your more literate friends..

What it took to get an 8th grade education in 1895...
Remember when grandparents and great-grandparents stated that they only had an 8th grade education? Well, check this out. Could any of us have passed the 8th grade in 1895?
This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina , Kansas , USA .. It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina , and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina , KS - 1895

Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph
4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of 'lie,''play,' and 'run'
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6 What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.
Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. Deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. Wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?
3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at 50cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. For tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. Coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft.. Long at $20 per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?
10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt
U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1 Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton , Bell , Lincoln , Penn, and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800, 1849, 1865.
Orthography (Time, one hour)
[Do we even know what this is??]
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography, etymology, syllabication
2.. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.' (HUH?)
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi, dis-mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell, rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks
And by syllabication.
Geography (Time, one hour)
1 What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia , Odessa , Denver , Manitoba , Hecla , Yukon , St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.
Notice that the exam took FIVE HOURS to complete.
Gives the saying 'he only had an 8th grade education' a whole new meaning, doesn't it?!
Also shows you how poor our education system has become and,  NO, I don't have the answers-Google them:-)