Ocean in the Middle of Iowa

“This post brought to you by Derek!”

Derek got out the boxes of summer decorations and cobalt blue glassware that the doctor ordered me not to move! One was on the bottom of a stack of boxes.

Decorating this month reminded me of two things:

  1. Buying out of season makes it feel like Christmas all year-long, and
  2. I’m an Iowa girl.

Last week, I shared my inspiration for my August decorating. I talked about the “whale lights” I purchased earlier. Only, they aren’t whales, they’re dolphins! I also bought a glass dolphin, not a glass whale!

I unpacked my box of summer decorations and found a candle embedded with shells! Surprise! I purchased it last fall on a clearance rack and packed it in my summer box right away. Finding it was like opening a Christmas present!

It became the centerpiece for my kitchen table. I put my clear glass dolphin on one side of it and my new cobalt blue, glass dolphin in a vase on the other side. I didn’t have a cobalt blue table runner and pulled a scarf from my closet to use instead.Glass Dolphins and Seashell Candle "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.orgOverturned vases are the platforms for my glass fish and a crystal oyster. My china cabinet is on a side wall. I try to have two layers of decorations in it because you are not looking at it from the front. I put a large starfish in front of my cobalt blue plate for that reason. The plate with a beach scene was a gift from Aunt Lesta! The candle in front of the plate is fish-shaped.Glass Fish and Crystal Oyster in China Cabinet "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.orgI hung “dolphin lights” in my front window and put my three largest shells on the windowsill. I used shells everywhere!Dolphin Lights in Window "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.orgShells fill my blue vases and I put a layer of small shells in the bottom of my glass block. On top, I put cobalt blue marbles and a few blue glass stones.Shells, Marbles, and Glass Rocks in Glass Block "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.orgEven my wreath has shells on it. I opened up the blue bandana bow and wrapped it around the base of my wreath as an ocean. I added two white bandanas for the sea-foam on each side. I reused the material I used on last year’s wreath for the sky, see here. The rest of my seashells are in a net that I tied and wired to the bottom of the wreath.Ocean Themed Wreath "Ocean in the Middle of Iowa" frugalfish.org

The best way to shop is at the end of the season or in the opposite season. I buy summer clothes in July and winter clothes in January. The stores are trying to make room for fall clothes in July and drastically mark the spring and summer clothes down.

My next shopping trip I will be looking for patriotic and beach decor. I will pack them up and surprise myself again next summer. Of course, that means I have to pass on the items I no longer love to make room. It’s how you survive living in a small house.

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Towel Animals, Not Just For Cruises

When I took this picture, I thought it would be a sneak peek to my summer decorating. But then I helped my husband move a china cabinet and when he told me to let go – I didn’t. :(

China Cabinet: 1,  Frugalfish: 0

The doctor told me not to exercise for 3 weeks and to limit physical activity for 6 weeks. (Wait. Exercise isn’t physical activity?) He was trying to tell me to take it easy. I figure moving boxes of decorations and dishes would be considered physical activity.

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Participating in a “Coffee and Canvas” with my mother and sisters inspired my August decorating theme. When they gave us the paint I thought, “I would never put those colors together!” But the beach scene turned out better than I expected – after I painted over the mossy green in the ocean. ;)

In my summer decorations box, there is a glass dolphin, crystal oyster (complete with a pearl), and a cobalt blue, glass fish. I decided to pull out my cobalt blue dishes and use them in my summer decorating.

I found some cobalt blue whale lights at “Joanne’s” and a cobalt blue, glass whale at “Hobby Lobby.” I had my theme and colors chosen. (Then I moved the china cabinet.)

Looking at suggested pins from Pinterest while eating breakfast one morning, I saw directions to make a swan out of hand towels. I folded two white hand towels into a swan and secured the two towels together with white, bead head pins. I found two black, bead head pins and used them for eyes. They also keep the head of my swan at the correct angle.

Layering several shades of blue towels on a towel rack, I placed the swan on top. The fish pin is now swimming underneath the swan on the blue towels. I added the picture I painted at the “Coffee and Canvas” to the wall.

Towel animals are not just for cruise ships!

Swan Made out of Towels "Towlel Animals, Not Just For Cruise Ships" frugalfish.org

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No Oven April to October

Tomorrow is a big family reunion. David’s mother had 9 brothers and sisters, who married and had a few kids, and those kids are now grandparents. It’s a pretty big reunion! One cousin always brings homemade berry pie. (I try to get a piece every year.)

Since he has the pie covered, I bring a different dessert. One of my favorites is “Cherry Delight.” The only problem is, you bake the crust in the oven and I don’t like to use the oven from April to October. The last time I made it, I experimented baking the crust in the microwave.

Normally, I cook it 20 minutes in a 350° oven. This time I cooked it, on high, 30 seconds at a time in the microwave for a minute and a half. It didn’t get brown but the flavor was the same.

Cherry Delight Crust "No Oven April to October" frugalfish.org

Cherry Delight

1 Cup Flour

1 Teaspoon Sugar

1 Stick Butter, cut up

1 – 8 Ounce Cream Cheese

1 Cup Powdered Sugar

2 Cups Frozen Whipped Topping, thawed

1 Can Cherry or Blueberry Pie Filling

Stir flour and sugar together. Cut butter into mixture using a pastry blender or 2 knives. Press firmly into 9 x 13 glass pan. (I used and 7 x 11 pan because my microwave is smaller.) Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or 30 seconds at a time in a microwave on high for a minute and a half.

Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar, and whipped topping together. Spread over cooled crust. Spread pie filling on top of cheese mixture. Chill and serve later. It is best made a day ahead.

Cherry Delight "No Oven April to October" frugalfish.org

I may try lemon bars in the microwave next. Has anyone else used the microwave for their baking?

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Goodbye Disco Balls

I play in a worship band three times a week, except for one week in June when we have a Faith Conference. There are services with different speakers for four days. This year, I played for two of those services.

I wanted to look my best and I actually put together outfits for each service the week before – right down to the jewelry! One day I wore purple/white and on another day cobalt blue/white.  I wore my favorite combination of colors on the other days – black and red.

I had two newer black and red necklaces I wanted to wear on those days. I couldn’t decide on earrings to wear with the second necklace.

(As a keyboard player, I only wear my wedding band without my engagement ring. Rings and bracelets weigh my hands down when I play. That is why I normally wear a statement necklace and earrings.)

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I picked up this pair of earrings on clearance because of the red and black beads. I called them my “Disco Earrings” because the last bead looked like a “Disco Ball.” I rarely wore them because they were heavy and a little flashy for me.

Disco Earrings "Goodbye Disco Balls" frugalfish.org

But, I liked the red and black beads. I decided to take them apart using needle nose pliers.

Took 2 bottom beads off of earrings "Goodbye Disco Balls" frugalfish.org

I reattached the second bead using the bottom wire. (I did keep the “Disco Ball” beads. You never know when they will come in handy!)

Attached 2nd bead with bottom wire, "Goodbye Disco Balls" frugalfish.org

I loved the look of my “new” black and red earrings with the statement necklace David gave me on my birthday.

My Refurbished Earrings with my statement necklace "Goodbye Disco Balls" frugalfish.org

If there is something that you don’t like about a piece of jewelry, take it off. :)

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Same Bandannas, Different Wreath

Last year, I shared my version of a patriotic, bandanna wreath. This year I used the same bandanna pieces on my new grapevine wreath. When I made the first wreath, I cut the blue bandanna in half but didn’t cut both halves again. I used the uncut half to make a ribbon. I just folded it into a bow and tied it with a matching thin ribbon.

Patriotic Bandanna Grapevine Wreath, "Same Bandannas, Different Wreath" frugalfish.org

The lighted glass block has red glass stones and blue glass marbles. I wrapped the copper lights around the base to reflect through the red stones. Instead of adding something white on top, I stuck silver stars on the outside of the block. (I found the revolutionary war soldiers at the Bargain Box.)

Patriotic Glass Block, "Same Bandannas, Different Wreath" frugalfish.org

I made the centerpiece for my table with items from at the Dollar Store. The star-shaped, flameless, votive candles fit nicely in the star-shaped dishes. I found three of them at Goodwill a few months ago.

Dollar Store Patriotic Tablescape "Same Bandannas, Different Wreath" frugalfish.org

I put a fourth star-shaped dish in the china cabinet behind a resin cardinal that I picked up at Dollar General. I found another cobalt vase at Goodwill and used it to provide symmetry on my vignette.

Patriotic Cardinal and Strawberry Candles "Same Bandannas, Different Wreath" fruglafish.org

Happy Independence Day!

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Save on Senior Pictures

My nephew, Brayden, played “Pomp and Circumstance” for the last time on Sunday. Next year, he will be marching down to receive his diploma! There are many things to do before that last march on the football field and the first one is best done this month.

When my youngest graduated from high school, we couldn’t decide where to get his senior pictures taken.

We had three options:

Photographer 1 took the senior pictures of my first two children.

Photographer 2 is a close friend of the extended family. So close, that her family has attended our family reunion for decades.

Photographer 3 is a relative of my daughter-in-law. She took a family picture of us after their wedding.

They all are excellent photographers and we worried about hurt feelings. Then I remembered the deal I made with Photographer 1.

My oldest son graduated in 2005. I saw a picture of a 2004 graduate that captured her personality, taken by Photographer 1.

When I called, I told the photographer I had a senior and a junior. I asked her if she could make me a deal if I had my daughter’s pictures taken there the next year.

She offered me two free family sittings. I used the first free sitting for my extended family in 2004. I never used the second one.

I called Photographer 1 and reminded her I still had a second free sitting. I asked her if we could use it for my youngest sons’ senior pictures.

She said, “Yes!”

They base sitting fees on the different outfits worn for pictures. In his case, it was $25.00 per outfit. Derek wore a baseball uniform and three other outfits for his pictures. That saved me $100.00 in sitting fees.

Derek's Baseball Picture "Saving Money on Senior Pictures" frugalfish.org

Top Ten Tips

1. Book your appointment in June. Most photographers will have a reduced rate or throw in free pictures for early bookings. My sitting fee for my first son was 75% off because I booked in June. Every photographer has their own incentives.

2. If you have more than one child, ask for a deal and have all of them photographed by the same one. The pictures will have a similar feel because each photographer has their own style.

3. Limit the outfits your child wears. This is especially hard with girls!

4. Ask if the photographer has a “Participation Bonus”.  You get a free gift or picture when your child is wearing a uniform: band, sports, even FFA.

5. Have your child be a model for the photographer for a free or reduced sitting fee.

6. Order the minimum number of pictures needed. Make a list of all the relatives you are buying for and write the size of the print you want for them next to it. Buy a large print for yourself and an 8 x 10 or 5 x 7 for your child. Don’t order hundreds of wallets. Derek graduated with 129 other students. I ordered 100 wallets for Luke and had a stack left over. I ordered 88 wallets for Laura and used them all. So, I ordered only 88 for Derek and used them all.

7. You may get more opportunities for free pictures later in the year by writing a review.

8. In January they go on sale. They contact you to see if you need more photos, sometimes at reduced prices. You can also get a copy of your child’s portfolio or picture DVD at a reduced price.

9. Some photographers throw in a free bonus picture if you pay in full when you place your order.

10. You can also get free photos and other freebies based on the amount of money you spend, i.e. spend $200.00 – get one freebie, spend $300.00 – get two freebies.

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If your photographer is a family member . . .

  • do not expect a free sitting. This is how they make their living. Be willing to pay full price and be grateful if they offer you a discount.
  • do not expect them to clear their schedule to accommodate you.
  • do not cancel at the last-minute, unless it is an emergency, and pay them the sitting fee anyway.

Being frugal is not about being cheap; it is about making the most of your money!

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Another Perfect Gift

David and I had a misunderstanding. He wasn’t ready to talk about it but I was! What do you do when frustrated? You call the only one who understands – his sister.

She dropped everything and went shopping with me. We went to the Farmer’s Market for fruit and I came home with a Huckleberry pie . . . and a cinnamon roll. Even after loading up on Amish baked goods, we went through the Women’s Club’s Cookie Walk.

She went with me to 3 consignment stores! She is the first one I call. When I ended up in the ER before emergency surgery, she was the one who took me there. She understands when I am irritated at David because she lived with him, too!

The Women’s Club had a plant sale along with their cookie walk. Melinda mentioned she was looking for a Snake Plant. Her birthday was Monday and I gave her the perfect gift – a snake plant.

I have a huge one and I dug one of the plants out of it. (I broke two of my “houseplant tools” in the process.) I had an extra pot, potting soil, and aquarium gravel on hand. I use aquarium gravel on top of the soil of my houseplants because it keeps mold from developing.

I like to fill a need when I give a gift. Sometimes, the perfect gift is already in your home.

Snake plant "Another Perfect Gift" frugalfish.org

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Tricking My Sweet Tooth

I had a high metabolism. I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight. Life was good until I went to the dentist.

“Which is worse on my teeth, Mountain Dew or Hershey’s Kisses?”

“Both!”

All the fun ended when I hit that birthday beginning with a 4. The metabolism slowed down, and even worse, I had to take regular rounds of Prednisone. When you take steroids, you don’t feel hungry but starving!

I will never forget the day I went to the doctor and the nurse told me I lost 5 pounds. I replied, “It only took 10 years.”

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My mom loved to bake. We had dessert at lunch and at dinner – or is that dinner and supper. Anyway, I liked having something sweet at the end of a meal.

When I stepped down from my job and my clothes no longer fit, I had two reasons to give up Mountain Dew: 1) I couldn’t afford it, and 2) I couldn’t afford new clothes. I switched to sweet tea instead.

I took my coffee with 2 scoops of sugar and 2 creamers for years. I cut back there by using a dollop of whipping cream and 1 teaspoon of sugar. (There are natural sugars in the cream.)

Now that I had my drinking under control . . . ( No, wait, I never did acquire a taste for alcohol – just sugar) . . . I decided to curb my desserts. I switched to eating dessert at lunch and a few pips of a Hershey’s candy bar at supper. That took self-control that I didn’t really have.

I started making homemade trail mix. There are enough M & M’s in it to satisfy my sweet tooth and I measure it out, one-fourth a cup, in snack size bags for portion control.

My biggest weakness – well after chocolate – is ice cream. I loved having a big bowl at lunch, preferably on top of a banana! I started getting ice cream cones and reduced my consumption by two-thirds.

I was also buying yogurt, but it would spoil before I could get it all eaten up. I came up with a plan. I scooped one-fourth cup of Yogurt into muffin tins and froze them.

Freezing Yogurt in Muffin Tins "Tricking My Sweet Tooth" frugalfish.org

Then I removed them from the pan and placed them in a plastic ziplock bag.

Individual Frozen Yogurt "Tricking My Sweet Tooth" frugalfish.org

I put one in a bowl in the refrigerator 3 hours before lunch to partially thaw. Then I make a frozen yogurt cone! It is much cheaper freezing it myself and healthier than eating ice cream.

Homemade Frozen Yogurt Cone "Tricking My Sweet Tooth" frugalfish.org

Last night I made David some green tea. I brewed it on the stove and my son suggested I add honey to it. That could be my next step!

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Gift from the Heart

I have purchased and wrapped many wedding gifts but I only remember one. The bride was into recycling and loved retro items. She wore a 1930’s dress and used vintage handkerchiefs at her place settings. There was even vintage linen used for valances on the small windows in the hall.

I watched this bride grow up and I wanted to give her a special gift. Unfortunately, she married right after I had to step down from my job. I worked for a nonprofit which meant no unemployment. We were down to one income and there were no funds for extras.

I looked through the bridal registry and realized she liked the same pattern as I received at my wedding. I registered at the finest gift shop in town and never dreamed I would receive the mixing bowls, canisters, and cookie jar I had selected. My aunt and my favorite cousins pooled their resources and purchased them for me. (That is how to buy a wedding gift that is out of your budget.)

Years later, I saw a matching domed cheese plate at a garage sale. I knew the lady holding the sale and found out we married the same year. It was the only thing she received with that pattern. It thrilled me to get it at a fraction of its original cost.

I displayed my cookie jar and canisters but the mixing bowls had to stay in the cupboard. You have seen my small kitchen. There was no place to display the domed cheese plate. I ended up putting it in a box and only used it once.

I decided to give the cheese plate as a wedding gift. I pulled out a guest towel that was similar to the pattern and used it as wrapping paper. I had a cloth ribbon with an attached bow that I wrapped around it. The bride loved my recycled gift. I gave her a little piece of my heart.

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Saturday I attended a bridal shower for Kat. Kat was in the worship band with me for a few years. I wanted to get something special for Kat. We have another thing in common – pie.

I make pies with the flakiest crust. They practically melt in your mouth. Kat’s pies are a work of art. They are so beautiful that people do not want to cut them!

I planned on ordering pie plates, a pastry blender, pie crust protectors, and a rolling-pin. That would be boring. Instead, I went to Wal-Mart and picked up 2 pie plates. I got out the etching kit my sister, Cheryl, gave me for Christmas and planned on etching her new last name – “Smith” – on them.

The only problem is – there are a million Smiths! I decided to etch “Kat” on them instead. There is only 1 Kat!

Unfortunately, the liquid you put on the glass before you etch it was almost gone. I used every last drop. I painted it on in the garage and we had a cold spell. I put 2 coats of etching liquid on them.

They still looked clear! I brought them in the house and let them warm up. I put on 2 more layers. Then I noticed on the bottle, “Do not put on too thick.” Great!

The day before the shower, I cut out the letters I stuck to the pie plates. Some of my “etching” came up. I pressed it back down and hoped for the best. I warned Kat that the “etching” might come off the first time she washed them and she just laughed. After all, it’s the thought that counts.

Etched Pie Plate "Gift from the Heart" frugalfish.org

Sunday is Mother’s Day. I planned on taking her out to eat. I know that is not necessary and there is probably something she would like better. I guess I will have to put my thinking cap on. I want to give her a piece of my heart.

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Displaying Precious Artwork

“The clock that’s hung in our kitchen for 15 years, that our daughter crafted at kinder when she was three, has finally been taken down and relegated to the garage.

It was such an imperfect clock with childish numbers misaligned and it was never easy to tell the time. I loved it.”

outanabout.com

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I read this post from Outanabout.com, (Melbourne, Australia), and realized I had relegated my children’s artwork to the shelf on the stairway. She proudly displayed her daughter’s clock for 15 years! I received most of the clay artwork as gifts on Mother’s Day. This year, my decorating features the artwork from my children’s school years.

It started when I made my wreath. I wanted to put the nest with three eggs on the wreath and the only way I could attach it was with brown yarn. I used 2 paper flowers my daughter made when she was young to hide the yarn.

Mother's Day Wreath "Displaying Priceless Artwrok" frugalfish.org

Not all of my Mother’s Day gifts were homemade. I received this plaque last year from my daughter and displayed it in the hall with a gray whale my youngest son made.

Plaque and Clay Whale "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

My daughter’s softball statues found a home in the china cabinet behind two tea cups and saucers. All three of my children made clay bowls displayed here and on the tables.

Clay Art in China Cabinet "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

I balanced the big clay bowl with a teapot made by my oldest son and a heart made by my daughter. I used two tart pans painted with roses as the centerpiece for my tables. This one has a black bowl filled with roses. Our youngest son made the marble plaque.

Clay Bowl, Teapot, Heart, and Marble Plaque with Roses Bouquet "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

Upstairs in the kitchen, I used a green, glass bowl filled with pink, rose-shaped candles. This green bowl always reminded me of my mother because she had green vases, pitchers, and glasses. On each side are homemade clay bowls.

Bowl of Roses with Clay Pots "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

I think of my Grandmother when I look at the glass block, cat, and kittens. The cat and kittens were a gift from my grandmother on my 8th birthday. The package to the right was given to me by my daughter with instructions to never open it because it contains all her love. I filled the glass block with three ingredients found in my rose potpourri and pink, glass rocks.

Cats and Mother's Day Glass Block "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

I even included a reminder of something I made when I put a pin on my roses towels. Those footprints are the size of a baby’s feet at 12 weeks after conception. Yes, my greatest blessings do call me Mom.

Roses Towels with Baby Feet Pin "Displaying Precious Artwork" frugalfish.org

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