Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Classroom Valentine's Day Cards

Yes, I know it's not even February.  The thing is, if your plans involve a kid helping, you have to snatch that help when they are willing to give it, so plan early!  Spencer loves art and craft activities for about five minutes at a time, and you never know what time that will be.  

I had two things I was trying to include in our Valentines this year:  Spencer’s drawings, and bubbles.  My sister got married this past August, and my mom still has about 30 of those little send off bubbles to get rid of.  I looked around in my craft cabinet, and made a plan.

You will need

Bubbles (gifted from my mom and sister, free)

Paper board (came in boxes we moved with, free)

Construction paper (about 4 years old, free)

Markers (about 4 years old, free)

Hole punch (from high school, free)

Yarn (left from my first knitting project ever, free)

Scissors (ancient, free)

Glue (came with a plane kit Spencer got, free)
Please ignore the poor kid's hair, it was my first time trying to cut it and I didn't realize he has a cowlick in front!

Draw a heart on a piece of scrap paper.  If it looks lopsided, fold it in half, and cut out the good side.  Trace the heart onto the construction paper and cut it out- we made 13, one more than we needed.  Let your kid draw on the hearts.  Lay one of the hearts on the paper board and trace around it, making it large enough to leave a nice boarder around  the construction paper.  Trace this larger heart onto the paper board and cut it out along the inside of the mark, leaving all the marker off your heart. 
It looks rough now, but you can clean it up as you cut it out.
Matching up which picture is for which friend.  He was very specific about this!
Write your message on one side of the paper board.  I like to keep it very simple.  I thought for a second about some cheesy “you blow me away” but I remember as a kid thinking those lines were so ridiculous, so I go with a sincere “Happy Valentine’s Day (name)!”

Glue the hearts together.  Once the glue is dry, punch a hole in the heart, thread the yarn through the heart and the bubbles, and tie a bow that a preschooler can untie.  

Look at that focus! Spencer picked out the yarn color.

Try It

Using all things I found around the house, this project was free)

Buy It

I happened to see Goodwill has class sets for $.25!


I saved $.25.  Not an impressive savings.  It was fun to get Spencer involved this year, he really liked drawing and deciding who each one was for, and he got into threading the yarn into the holes in the hearts and bubbles.  I say Try It- I still believe what I said last year- it’s a fun project to get me into the spirit of the holiday.  I also just like the idea of using what I’ve already got!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


In my last year of college I made a friend over biscuits.  Sloan made fresh biscuits every morning, and shared them with his dorm and passersby.  Sloan was the first person I knew that made EVERYTHING from scratch (and made it well!)- he homebrewed, made his own pickles, cheese, pizza dough, pasta, tomato sauce, and anything else you can imagine!  He never used a real recipe for his biscuits, and while the ones I made from his instructions were decent, I never could reproduce the magic Sloan put in those things.

That was TEN years ago!  These days I use the recipe from How to Cook Everything (with a little extra butter!), and they’re delicious.  Scratch biscuits are at least 5 times more satisfying than canned biscuits, and I always have these simple ingredients on hand.

You will need

2 cups organic flour, plus extra for dusting ($4.99 per 5 lb, $4.99/80 oz = $.06 x 11oz = $.69)

1 tsp salt (($.47 per 26oz, $.47/30.69tsp = $.02)

4 teaspoons baking powder ($1.79 per 10oz, $1.79/59.06tsp = $.03 x 4tsp = $.12)

1 teaspoon baking soda ($.31 per lb, $.31/94.5tsp = less than $.01)

4 Tbsp cold organic butter, cut into pieces, plus 1 Tbsp extra for brushing ($4.79 per lb, $4.79/32Tbsp = 
$.15 x 5 Tbsp = $.75)

7/8 cup organic milk ($5.99 per 128fl.oz, $5.99/128fl.oz = $.05 x 7fl.oz = $.33)

I've been using fewer tools lately. This is just as easy as a blender!

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl.  Add the butter, and cut in with a pastry blender or just mix it with your hands, squishing the butter into the flour mixture.  Blend the butter most of the way in, but keep some chunks and lumps.  Add the milk and mix AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE, just until the dough becomes cohesive.  

The dough looks a bit rough, but it's better to look rough than to taste tough!
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and pat into a rectangle.  Cut the rectangle into pieces (I like square biscuits because the dough left from cutting circles gets tough when it's rerolled).  I like big thick biscuits, so I get about 8 biscuits, total.  Brush a baking sheet with butter, and arrange biscuits.  Brush biscuit tops with additional butter, and bake for 7-9 minutes.  
Finished! (and check out my robot potholder that Spencer made me!)
Okay, this might be a bit much on the butter...

Tea and jammy biscuits all to myself!  What a treat!
Try It

$1.91 for 8 biscuits.

Buy It

$2.29 for a can of 8 Pillsbury Grands .


Try It.  You won’t be disappointed!  They’re tender and buttery and take very little time. 
(Note- since I didn't weigh the dough or biscuits, this isn't a perfect price comparison, but I'd Try It even if they were more expensive!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sweet Tea

I guess I thought everyone knew how to make sweet tea, but a friend of mine has asked a few times for my recipe.  It's pretty simple!  My friend Morgan and I used to drink a gallon of tea about every three days in college, but I made it much sweeter back then.  So here's how I do it, which is only a slight variation on my mom's method (who is from NY, though you wouldn't guess it except for her disdain for the southern use of Ma'am).  Once I run out of tea bags I'll be switching to loose leaf tea, but until then, I use Red Rose tea- the tea bags aren't individually wrapped, it has a great flavor, and it comes with a random little statue in each box. 

You will need

3 tea bags ($3.95 per 100 tea bags, $3.95/100bags = $.04 x 3bags = $.12)

1/3 cup sugar ($2.99 per 5 lb, $2.99/80oz = $.04 x 2.5oz (1/3cup) = $.09)

water (free)

1/2 gallon pitcher

This is a 2 qt saucepan, but it doesn't really matter the size.

Bring the pot of water to a boil.  Tie the tea bag strings together, and pull off the paper tags.  Once the water is boiling, remove from heat, and add the sugar and tea bags.  Give it a stir, and let it sit until it's cool.  Remove tea bags and pour into pitcher.  Fill the pitcher the rest of the way with cold water and ice.  Stir and refrigerate.

My mom poured the boiling water into a plastic pitcher and mixed everything in there, but I prefer a glass container which doesn't do so well with rapid temperature changes (plus I just finished reading Plastic-Free, and I'll never put hot things in plastic again!).

Try It

It's a whopping $.21 for a half gallon of tea, or $.42/gallon!

Buy It

Harris Teeter sells sweet tea for $2/gallon.


If sweet tea is your thing, definitely Try It!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

recycled pants

Anyone with small children will tell you that preschoolers go through pants at lightning speed.  I was lamenting to my mom a few weeks  ago that Spencer was down to three pairs of pants without holes in the knees when he came around the corner with a whopper in one of his last remaining pairs!  While we are extremely fortunate to be part of a wonderful cycle of hand-me-downs, there comes a point where all you get is shirts, everyone has already worn their pants through!  So I have finally developed a strategy to get a little more use out of what we’ve got:  Sort the damaged pants by color, and patch the knees!

The boy goes though pants faster than he does tissues!

You will need

2 pairs of rough looking pants (free, hand-me-downs)

Matching thread (free, left over from previous projects)

Cut the bottoms of one pair off.  Snip the back of the bottom off and iron flat.  Iron all the sides over so it looks neat around the edges.  You now have two pieces that will roughly follow the legs of the other pair of pants.  Pin them into place on the other pair and sew down your patches.  Now you have a pair of pants and a pair of cut offs! 

Chop one pair and use the back side, the fabric isn't as worn on the back.
Make sure you iron them so the outside of the pant faces out when sewn so the color matches.
I just eyeballed the placement.
From this distance you can barely tell they're patched!
Try It


Buy It

New pants cost around $12 at Target or Kohl’s


Try It!  I was hoping to hem up the second pair into shorts, but the holes were above the cargo pockets.  They’re not perfect, but the whole project took my half an hour, cost me nothing, and brings our grand total of pants without holes in the knees to 4 (I bought a pair last week in desperation).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cream Soda

I really like soda.  If I didn’t know how bad it is for me, and I wasn’t so cheap, I’d probably drink it all the time.  Most of the time I can quench my soda craving with seltzer and juice, but sometimes that does not do the trick.  On those days I do one of two things:  Buy a Dr. Pepper from the nearest store, or mix up a quick cream soda.  By that I don’t mean a fancy Italian soda that has cream mixed in, I mean an A&W style Cream Soda.  It's a great treat!  The amounts I use are for a very sweet soda like the store bought stuff, but I usually use about half this amount.

You will need

8 fl.oz Seltzer or club soda ($.79 per 33.8fl.oz, $.79/33.8fl.oz = $.02 x 8fl.oz = $.16)

2 Tbsp homemade vanilla syrup ($.03 per fl.oz)

1 Tbsp Caramel Syrup ($7.99 per 25.4fl.oz, $7.99/25.4fl.oz =  $.31 x.5fl.oz = $.16)

Mix these three ingredients together, add some ice, and drink.

It doesn't look like much, but it's delicious!

Try It

$.35 for a 9.5fl.oz glass, or $.04/fl.oz

Buy It
$1.99 for a 2 liter bottle, or $.03/oz.

If you don't want to invest in the caramel syrup it's still quite tasty without it, and it would be a lot cheaper.  If you're an occasional soda drinker like me, Try It, it'll hit the spot and the cost is close enough.  I was thinking over New Year's Eve that it would also make a festive non- alcoholic toast.