Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm baaaack...

Here I am after nearly a week of dealing with the stomach flu, still reeling from its effects.  I was checking my email with the thought in the back of my mind that maybe its time to give up on the blog because it is not turning out how I planned.  As I looked through my gmail inbox (full of notices from the most irritating site on the web) there was one gem amidst the clutter.  Some woman wrote ME an email praising MY blog.  She said she was super-impressed with the format and content of my blog and wants me to contribute to another blog that she works on.  Well, I know this is probably bullshit, and a troller at that, but it was enough to make me smile knowing that SOMEONE (or computer program) found me. And, it was enough to break me out of my self-pity to get me back in the mindset.  So: the blog is on. 

Unfortunately, I do not think that the Home Made Christmas Challenge is gonna go exactly the way I planned, so I will be changing it a bit.  Instead of making twenty gifts in twenty days I will take you through my shopping/crafting experience and show you how I saved money (and my sanity) this Christmas season by using the philosophy I wrote about in my first entry.

I was in Savers this weekend and I got in line behind a woman who happened to know the the woman checking out in the line next to us.  When the woman in my line asked what she was doing at this store, the second woman shrugged and asked pointedly, "do you really think I am gonna go out and blow a bunch of money on Christmas?!"  She had a salad spinner (still in the package) and a bunch of really cute aprons and things for around the house.  She spent less than twenty dollars. 

This is why I am such a big fan of thrift stores.  You do not ONLY have to get used things when you shop there.  You would be surprised how many things I have found at Savers or Goodwill still in their original packaging.  At savers, they have a select color tag everyday that is half off and on certain days you can go and one tag will be only .99 cents.  Besides saving you money, shopping at thrift stores helps save the planet.  When you buy something that someone else donated, you just keep that item out of a landfill.

So this is my philosophy, and I will be back tonight with either more harrowing (but true) tales of shopping before Christmas, or an ACTUAL CRAFT!!!!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ok, so I know I am now two days behind on my Home Made Christmas Challenge.  I just wanted to stop in and apologize for not posting.  I have had a long couple of days.  I just got an order for four sets of burp cloths (I sell these on Craigslist) so I am stressing about that.  Perfect timing, I am already behind.  But I am not one to kick a gift horse in the mouth, I can use all the extra money I can get. 

In other news, I received an email from the editor of Honolulu Magazine today.  I sent them a resume about a month ago, and today I found out that they want mt to pitch a story.  How exciting is that.  So keep your fingers crossed for me.

So, I apologize again, but I promise I will be back tomorrow... (not that anyone is really reading this)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day One: Play Doh

 Well, today I had planned to start off with a bang by making these really cute sushi magnets made out of felt and yarn.  In preparation for this project, I went shopping and bought every color of felt except the black I needed for the sushi's nori.  Then, my sister who promised to pick up said felt couldn't bring herself to get out of the car when she pulled into Longs' busy parking lot.  When she got home, I rushed back to the store.  Of course, they close early on Sundays.  I arrived at 7:03 and the door was blocked by the hulking she-male security guard, so I figured I'd just go with my back-up plan.

Play-Doh is one of those gifts that just about any kid under a certain age will get a kick out of.  It costs pennies to make, and the Home Made version comes out just as well as store bought. 

Home Made Play-Doh

1 cup flour
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp cream of tartar
1 tbsp oil
1 cup water
food coloring
essential oil (optional)

The directions I got off the net said to mix all of the dry ingredients together, add the water and then heat to medium, stirring until the mixture forms a ball in the middle of the pan.  I did this the first time I made play-doh for the boys.  Briana (my sister--who I will write of often) said that she thought the Home Made was a tad grittier than the store bought.  She hypothesized that this was due to the salt not melting all the way during the cooking process. 

Tonight when I made this recipe, I first put the cup of water and the salt in the pan and turned the heat to high.  As soon as this began to boil I added the food coloring (around 20-30 drops if you want bright colors).  I then set it aside to cool while I mixed the remaining ingredients together in the measuring cup.  After they were all mixed together I added them to the salt and water and began to stir.  Using this method, the Play Doh does not form a ball, but looks more like a dry-ish rue.  I took it out of the pan and let it sit for a minute before kneading it for a few minutes.  Doing it this way, I noticed an improvement with the texture.

I also noticed the last time I made this that after a while it began to smell oily (I used vegetable oil) so this time I added some essential oils to the dough.  I did this during the kneading and was pleased with the results I achieved with about three drops to each batch.  So what I ended up with was something akin to those markers we had as kids--you know the ones that all smelled like a different fruit.  I did lavender for the purple play doh, rose for the red and spa therapy for the green.  Now that I think about it, however, I probably could have avoided the whole thing by using baby oil.  I swear, sometimes I am so slow. :)

Anyway, I am happy with the way the play doh turned out.  Add a couple of cookie cutters and a rolling pin and you have a complete gift that any kid will have hours of fun with.  I found a rolling pin at savers for $2 and bought a tub of 101 cookie cutters from Ben Franklin for $10.  Add the flour and other stuff and you are looking at a gift that costs less than $5. 

This is a pic of the first batch I made because my lame ass cannot find the cord to upload pics.  So, I apologize for my lack of organization and with that I am going to turn in.  Tomorrow, I will be back with some sushi for your asses!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Now I've Gone and Done It.

Welcome to my blog.  Like many other things in my life, I have been planning this for a number of years and putting it off for just as long.  I have always been too busy, or not quite sure what form this space should take.

Enter this little movie called Julie and Julia.  I watched this on Netflix the other night and found myself completely inspired.  Not the kind of inspired where you sit back and go, "I wish I could do that."  This is more the, "I am gonna get off my ass and make a difference in my little corner" kinda inspiration.  There is a lot in this movie that captures the disconnect and angst that many young people feel today.  As one of them, this movie really spoke to me.

Like me, the heroine Julie, is a writer who is not writing.  And like me, she took a detour after college and never quite made it back to the main road.  She begins the movie working as a "government drone" for the City of New York.  She is nearing thirty and all of her college friends are successful.  One of them, a "writing" writer, publishes an article in which she basically calls Julie the biggest disappointment of their graduating class.  Julie is devastated and immediately starts searching for a way to begin writing again.  She decides to cook her way through Julia Child's famous cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  Julie aims to complete the book's entire 526 recipes in 365 days.  As you may have imagined, the blog was successful; it has now become a Hollywood Motion Picture. 

So, in the spirit of this uplifting movie, I will embark on my own crazy journey and I will live to write about it.  Am I going to cook my way through some famous book?  Not quite.  Instead, I am going to align this blog with two of my biggest passions, frugal living and crafting, and I am going to take (make) the first ever Makaha Mommy "Home Made Christmas" challenge!

In light of our stalled economy (and the fact that I am utterly broke), it doesn't seem right to spend thousands of dollars on consumer gifts this holiday season.  In addition to being better for your wallet, I believe that a Home Made Christmas is better for the soul.  How many times have you scrambled for weeks to make sure it is the "perfect Christmas," only to feel a sense of depression as soon as the presents have been opened?  How much did you really enjoy waiting in mile long lines to buy stuff that will probably end up in a landfill?

There is nothing like the sense of accomplishment one gets from watching a person open a gift that was made especially with them in mind.  The act of gift-giving itself is all about bonding with another person.  When the gift is store bought something is taken out of this connection.  A Home Made gift, however, shows love and appreciation on a different level.  Rather than saying, "Yeah, I care about you enough to plunk down my credit card," a Home Made gift says, "I care about you so much I gave up my evening, weekend, etc. to make this for you.

Unfortunately, for most, homemade gifts are often seen as cheap.  This is because many of them are made quickly and without attention to detail, so they end up looking, well, homemade.  That's where the Home Made thing comes in.  A Home Made gift does not look cheap or amateurish.  A Home Made gift that is made right looks like it came from a boutique, and was therefore, rather pricey.

This year I have vowed to make the majority of my presents by hand.  Of course some gifts will still be bought (like the underwear in the kids' stockings), but the goal is to take the impersonal aspect out of this most personal of holidays. Since, I like Julie, have a problem finishing things (even before I had two kids in diapers), I also am giving myself a set number of projects and a deadline by which to complete them.  Below are the "rules" that will guide this project.

Makaha Mommy Home Made Christmas Challenge:

20 gifts in 20 days-Starting December 5th

Looks (and functions) as well as, or better than what you would find in the store.

Relatively quick and easy to make.

Use upcycled Materials whenever possible.

Use no new wrapping paper. (leftover or secondhand doesn't count)

If any of you would like to join me, I would love any feedback or pictures you may want to share.  See you all again on Sunday.  I can't wait to get started!