Home Hair Cuts

img_0278I am a big proponent of home hair cuts. We’ve done them for years.

They save money and time and generally turn out great – especially when it’s Grandpa giving our young sons military style hair cuts in the shop.

Things get trickier when those little boys become teenagers. They don’t want a hair cut any more – they want a hair style. And Grandpa is smart enough to not touch it.

Me – not so much.

It sounds easy when they say, “Hey mom – could you just take a little off the sides? ”

How hard can it be?


There’s undercuts and side burns and ears to trim around.

All with an electric trimmer.

They expect me to cut their hair holding a piece of vibrating metal with moving blades on the ends?! While wearing bi-focals?!


Do they realize that the difference between perfection and a gaping bald spot is approximately 2.1637 seconds?

Not that I know this from personal experience or that any of my sons have ever, or are even now walking around with gaping bald spots…just hypothetically speaking of course.


Grandpa always tells them the difference between a good haircut and a bad haircut is about a week.  l think it’s longer for bald spots.

I have only drawn blood on one occasion but nothing that required emergency medical attention. He didn’t really need that ear tip anyway.

You would think that after a few bad cuts they would stop asking, but I guess I raised some really frugal kids.

I do make them promise that they will love me no matter what it looks like when I’m done.

Which is good, because quite honestly, you get what you pay for!



Lunch Box Surprises

I pack my husband’s lunch every day.

Not only is it cheaper and healthier – it’s also faster for him.

That gives him time to call me every noon.

Ulterior motives. 🙂

When I’m really on top of things I get his lunch ready in the evening so I just need to pull it out and put it in his lunch pail in the dim light of early morning.

It’s when I’m not with it that things get interesting.

Like the time I grabbed a container from the freezer thinking it was left-over lasagna. It wasn’t.

My poor husband got a frozen hunk of left-over pinto beans.


But even when I have things prepared – my mental capacity isn’t always the best first thing in the morning.

I few weeks ago I had his lunch prepared – but I grabbed the wrong container. I sent him a frantic text at noon when I opened the fridge and saw his main dish was still inside.

I asked him what he had for lunch.

His response – the yogurt was good.


In recent days I’ve sent him an over ripe banana, stale pretzels, and the container of left-over smoked turkey meat instead of the smoked turkey sandwiches I had made for him.

But the one he really laughed about was the plastic container of dry, uncooked noodles that I grabbed from the cupboard in the haze of early morning thinking they were peanuts.

Poor guy.

And he never complains. (Well – except for the pinto bean incident!)

He should get a medal, that man of mine.

Of Teens and Ticking Time Bombs

promSometimes our kids drop bomb shells – but this this time Pedro gave us a ticking time bomb.

He told us months ago that he had agreed to bring a friend to her senior prom. I registered the information and quickly forgot it.

So did he.

Until this week when he realized the event was Saturday night.

After mentally kicking myself for missing this one, I took a deep breath, then started firing questions (as only we mothers can do!)

Me: “But son – you are scheduled to work Saturday! And did you get her a corsage? And what are wearing?”

Pedro: “What’s a corsage? And I’m wearing jeans.”

Oh my.

Me: “First – a corsage is an arrangement of flower that girls wear, they expect the guy to bring it when he picks them up. It should match her dress.”

Pedro: “Where do I get one and is this going to cost money?”

Me: “Yes, this will cost money. First find out the color of her dress and we’ll go from there. Oh and ask about the jeans. I don’t think that idea will fly.”

He started texting. A few minutes passed.

Pedro: “She said NO to the jeans. Now what I’m going to wear?”

I am not surprised.

But still – this is a problem. The kid doesn’t own a suit. His dad has a very nice suit – but Pedro’s at least an inch taller.

It’s Thursday. The nearest men’s store is 2 hours away. Ditto for a  place to rent a tuxedo. Not that we wanted to spend much money on this.

Why, oh why didn’t I remember this date!

Then I remember the two suits I picked up at the thrift store over a year ago for the Valentine Banquet. One was too big and one was too small. They were in the boxes that were supposed to be donated last Friday – but the thrift store was closed.

Divine intervention?

He found them and tried them on. One suit coat was much too big – but the pants could be taken in.

The other coat fit well – but the pants were so tight he couldn’t even button them.

Not to worry! I could let out several inches in the waist.

He could now get them buttoned – but still couldn’t breathe. He thought breathing was important – so I let even more out – taking it to the very edge.

He could now breath and speak – but only in a high shrill voice.

This wasn’t going to work.

I took a few minutes to study out the situation.

There was no way I wanted to tackle altering the suit coat from suit number one. No way. But the pants I could easily take in.

And then it hit me! What if he wore the pants from the first suit and the suit coat from the second? They were both a dark gray pin strip and the the strips were almost identical.

Almost – but not quite. But still – you would have to look pretty close to find the difference.

And it would be at night.

Who would notice? Right?

I tested my theory with both of his sisters and it passed.

A ten minute sewing job and the kid had a suit that would pass on prom night.

We’ll just keep that switcheroo our little secret – okay?

Now onto the corsage.

But first – I need chocolate.

And a secretary.

Homemade Greek Yogurt

Have you tried the Greek yogurt that’s all over the store shelves now?

I must admit that I’m really addicted!

But buying Greek yogurt can be pricey – at least double the price of regular yogurt.  Talk about budget busting.

DSC_0004So when I discovered that the fancy pants Greek yogurt in the stores is actually just plain yogurt with some of the whey drained off – I started researching ways to make it myself.

I could buy a large container of plain yogurt and strain it – but that would only save me a few cents. I wanted a lot of yogurt -cheap.

Like $1.39 gallon of sale milk – cheap.

And easy, too!

And I found it!

All I needed was a heavy bottomed pot, a thermometer, 2 quart sized jars with lids, a small cooler, a strainer, a bowl and a dishtowel.

So far – so good.

The actual yogurt is just 8 cups of milk – any kind. Whole milk makes a really rich and creamy yogurt – but everything works right down to skim.

And 4 tablespoons plain yogurt with live and active cultures.

That’s it. No fancy weird stuff you can’t pronounce.

Put the milk in the heavy bottomed pot and heat to 180 degrees, stirring regularly so that it doesn’t scorch.

As soon as the milk comes to temperature, take it off the heat and let it cool to 110 degrees.

Then add your plain yogurt and whisk well.


Pour this mixture into two quart jars and screw on the lids. Place this jars in the small insulated cooler and pour 120 degree water into the cooler until the jars are submerged nearly to their lids.

Then close the cooler, set it aside and don’t touch it for at least 6 hours. (The longer you leave it in the cooler the more tang your yogurt will have.)

Viola! Six hours later you can remove the jars and have 8 cups of perfectly set plain yogurt.

Now – to make it into Greek yogurt – place the dishtowel in the strainer and set it over a bowl. Pour the yogurt into it and put it in the fridge for several hours. (I have left it on the counter before and it was fine – but don’t tell anybody!)The whey will strain out leaving you with a thick delicious Greek style yogurt.

DSC_0003Whole milk will have less whey and leave you more yogurt while the skim will reduce up to half but will be the equivalent of the 0% fat Greek yogurt you buy at the store.

The longer you let it strain, the thicker the end product.  I’ve heard that if you let it go for 24 hours you will get a product with cream cheese consistency.  You can add a little salt or spices and spread it on a bagel.

I normally go 4-6 hours, depending on when I remember it.

Some people use the whey in their cooking – but I choose to turn it into pork chops and feed it to the pigs. 🙂

So easy!

Heat the milk. Cool the milk slightly. Mix in the yogurt as a starter. Put them in jars. Incubate in the cooler. Strain. And bingo – you just saved yourself some serious cash.

Happy day!

Paper Bag Popcorn

brown bag popcornI love popcorn. I mean, I really, really love popcorn.

I could eat it every day and sometimes do!

My favorite way to make it is on the stove in coconut oil with my vintage white mountain popcorn popper. Then I cover it in melted butter and popcorn salt and indulge.

Sometimes I even share. 😉

But – let’s admit – this way of popping popcorn does leave a bit of a mess and is slightly caloric. 🙂

While we love the ease of microwave popcorn – they are pretty expensive and I’ve heard some talk about unhealthy preservatives.

My solution? Brown bag popcorn.

I saw this on Pinterest and was skeptical – but trust me – it really works.

And it’s so simple!

Just take a brown, lunch size paper bag and pour 1/4 cup of popcorn in it. Fold over the end and put it in your microwave on high for 3-4 minutes. Just listen carefully for the popcorn to stop popping.


I told you it was easy!

Of course my kids always pour their popcorn into a bowl and cover it with melted butter and salt And then they pass the bag on to the next kid in line – because one bag can pop multiple batches of popcorn.

I just bought 100 brown paper bags for less than $2.00. With several batches per bag – that sure beats the price of regular microwave popcorn! And there’s no popcorn popper to wash.

And that my friends is a winner!


My Tea Addiction

TeaI think it’s safe to say that I am slightly addicted to tea.

Every day I drink several super sized mugs. And I do mean super sized. My nieces called them “Aunt alinna’a BIG tea”.

The problem with a tea addiction is that one tends to buy a lot of tea.

And that tea soon takes over the cupboard.

I have Christmas teas from two years ago.

Three kinds of Chai teas from one of Dagmar’s past obsessions.

Green tea, black tea, white tea, and herbal tea.

A little bit of this.

Three bags left of that.

Enough already.

I have decided that from now till Christmas I will drink up the tea in my stash and clean it out. Even if they aren’t my favorites.

I will drink Chai tea.

I will drink sugar plum fairy tea.

I will drink the little bit of this and the little bit of that in my tea cupboard.

And I will like it.

Then – I will start restocking with all my favorites. 🙂

The kettle’s boiling – anyone want a cup of tea to help me out?

The Lord Will Provide – Christmas Costumes

Can you believe it’s November already? The countdown to Christmas has begun!

First on my priority list – costumes for this year’s Christmas program. Dagmar made all the costumes for me last year – but this year she’s been working double shifts at the hospital. When she is around she is either sleeping – or should be!

Looks like my it will be my sewing machine that is humming!

This year’s program takes place in 1910. Yep. A period piece.

Boys in knickers with argyle socks and sweaters. Girls in jumpers and aprons with big hair ribbons.

Plus 4 piglets, a horse and a traveling salesman.

The lesson taught in this year’s program is that God always provides. And He’s proving it to be true even now.

We’ve been combing the thrift stores for pieces that could be altered – like a set of dark green curtains that became a jumper or a plaid ladies jumper that yielded enough material for a skirt.
We’ve found pairs of black shoes – even some boots for the girls – all free.

Boys dress pants in the right sizes – ready to be cut off below the knee and elastic added to make knickers.

Sweaters, socks, blouses, flannel shirts.

We’ve even found pig snouts for our piglets.
I have pattern pieces in my dining room, stacks of material on my floor and costumes spread out over the futon in the library.

But it’s coming together!

Bit by bit. Piece by piece.

There are several important items that I’m still praying for –  including the horse!

But – to borrow a line from this year’s script – “Remember what Grandpa says, God always provides!”

I can’t wait to see how!

Stinky Situation

The outrageous price of gas has caused us to drastically rethink every car trip. We’ve put off trips – combined trips – and skipped things all together.

One area that we have been putting off was bringing in the recycling.

Since we live out in the country – there are no plastic recycling buckets to set out for the garbage truck every week .  We wait till we have a bunch and then take them into town ourselves.

But now, due to budget restraints, several of our closest small towns no longer have the large community recycling bins.

Except for one. Although it’s only about 20 minutes away, we have no reason to go there, except to recycle.

So the pile of cans and jars kept growing until Jan decided that with a little detour from our regular route – we could go right through that small town on our way home from church, thus eliminating a separate trip.

It seemed like a good idea at the time – and actually worked pretty well during the winter months.

But then spring arrived. One beautifully bright Sunday morning Jan and the boys loaded the recycles in the car and we left for church. I didn’t notice anything peculiar on the way there – just some really quiet kids.

But as soon as we got in the car after church and shut the door, an almost overpowering stench hit me.

It smelled like something dead was in the van with us. Like maybe a mouse had crawled into one of the cans and died. Then – as the car sat in the heat of the sun for the 3 hours we were in church – it ripened.

I quickly rolled my window down and hung my head out – feeling sorry for the poor kids in the back seat of the van whose eyes were watering and didn’t have a window.

The 2o minute drive to the recycling bins took forever as I rode with my head out the window like a dog – just lapping in the fresh air.

I really wonder what people thought as they passed us?

Jan kept looking at me with a sheepish grin and saying, “I guess I’m in the dog house this time.”


Let’s just say that they are sometimes you can take thrifty just a little too far!


You know the outrageous price of gas can cause people to do strange things.

Take my brother-in-law…

Tractor 1
He modified his IH 240 tractor with two Swisher off-set mowers. When you factor in the 60 inch belly mower already mounted on the tractor – he can now cut a swath 15 feet across – with one pass.
Tractor 2He named this invention “The Mozilla” and can now cut the lawn in two rounds – although if the garden was up – he would have mowed down half of it.

Tractor 3He’s not sure how many acres an hour it will cut, or how much gas it takes – but it sure causes the neighbors to slow down and gawk when he’s out mowing!

Homemade Laundry Detergent

SoapOkay – I’m  jumping on the band wagon.

While I’ve seen recipes for homemade laundry detergent all over cyber space for some time – I never quite got my act together to make some.

Until now.

Yes – this country gal finally found the right ingredients – had them all on hand at the same time – and made a batch of laundry soap.

Believe it or not – it was easy. And uber-cheap.

My friend Kimmer sent me this recipe. She got it from her friend Cindy – who found it at Thy Hand Hath Provided.

Homemade Laundry Soap
This recipe makes 5 gallons of concentrate which equals 10 gallons of ready-to-use laundry detergent. 

1 five gallon bucket (clean and with a tight fitting lid)
a long handled spoon
an empty (used) laundry detergent container (or juice or vinegar container, clean)
hot tap water
1 Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap Bar
1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda)
1/2 cup borax

Grate the Fels Naptha laundry soap bar we used a cheese grater (Well, actually, it was Buddy who used the cheese grater. This was the most time-consuming part of the entire process making it the perfect job for an 11 year old boy. If you don’t have one – you could borrow mine- but he does eat a lot.)

Add the grated Fels Naptha to a medium sauce pan along with 4 cups of water.  Heat over medium high heat while stirring occasionally until the soap has melted completely. (The funny thing is – the grated soap looks like amazingly like grated cheese – causing some puzzled looks since we heated it up as we were making lunch!)

While it’s melting, fill your five gallon bucket half full with hot tap water. (At this point your house will be smelling very – well – soapy. Pedro commented that our house hasn’t smelled this clean since Matt got the air freshener for graduation!)

Once the bar soap has melted, add it to the bucket along with the washing soda and borax.  Stir it well until everything has dissolved.  Add hot tap water to fill the bucket and stir again.

Cover tightly with the lid and let sit overnight to thicken.  Stir well (it will gel and separate a bit).  You have just made concentrate.

When you’re ready to use it, stir the detergent well, then fill your empty detergent container half full with the concentrate.  Fill the rest of the container with water.

Shake before each use.  Use 1/4 cup per load for a front loading machine and 5/8 cup per load for a top loading machine.

 I must confess that I had trouble mixing the concentrate the next morning. It was pretty globby (is that a word?!) and I finally gave up on using a spoon and used my hands to squish the globs.
Finally I measured out enough to half- fill my empty laundry detergent container into a large container, added that much water and used my immersion blender to mix it up. Perfect!
Also – if you are needing a good bucket and lid – I would highly recommend using a 5 gallon bucket and a Gamma Seal Lid . These plastic lids fit tightly on the top of the bucket but easily screw on and off. I love them!
Happy washing!