Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tula Pink Prince Charming Tote

When my niece was home for Easter today, we whipped up a quick tote back in Tula Pink's Prince charming fabrics.  We only had about 40 minutes and we had to work fast.  She seemed pleased with the results, but the perfectionist in me is not happy.

We guessed at the measurements and I feel that the tote is too long (the picture does not show the whole length).  I did not have time to show her how to box the bottom corners and I feel like that is where things went wrong.  If we would have had time to do that it would have cut about 3 inches of the length and about 3 inches off each size of the width.  It would have also given the bag a flat bottom and a more professional finish. 
I already have a plan.  Next time she is home, I am going to pull the lining out and cut an inch off the bottom of the lining and the outside of the bag.  I will then sew across each and leave a few inches on the lining for turning.  I will box the corners, and put the bag back together and that should fix it!

Mickey Mouse Tote

I made this tote last summer before we went to Disney.  It has a layer of fusible fleece and a layer of insulbrite (like you would put in a potholder).  I wanted a thicker liner to keep bottles of water cooler longer.  It worked ok, but it was just so darn hot when we were there.  It also has a magnetic closure and the pink and orange Mickey on the front is a pocket.
I wasn't blogging at the time I made this and I gave it to my niece when I got home.  When I saw her for Easter today, I thought I would snap a picture for the old blog!  I received a lot of compliments on it when we were at Disney.  My niece and I whipped up another quick tote when she was here today.  It will be an upcoming post. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Basket Tutorial


My sons are in high school and seem a little old for the traditional pastel Easter baskets, so I went ahead and made them each a new one.  My youngest loves Penn State so that was an easy choice for him.  My oldest seemed to be drawn to the flame/guitar material, so that is what I used for him.

The dark blue Penn State material is 9.5 in by 16 in.  The white is 3 in x 16 in.  Sew the white and blue pieces together with 1/4 in seam allowance and then iron fusible fleece to the back of each piece.

Pin the 2 exterior pieces, right sides together and sew around the left, bottom and right sides with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Next I cut 2  12 in by 16 in pieces for the inside from the blue pawprint material and ironed fusible fleece to the back.  Pin the 2 interior pieces, right sides together and sew around the left, bottom and right sides with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.  Leave a few inches unsewn at the bottom in order to turn the project right side near the end of the project.
Box the bottom corners of the interior piece and exterior piece to help the final project stand upright.  My purple line (shown above) is 5 inches.  I sewed across this line 3 times for strength. Cut off the excess point about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the seam line to eliminate bulk.
Cut 2 pieces of 3.5 in by 9.5 in fabric for the handles and iron fusible fleece to the back of one piece.  Put right sides together and sew a 1/4 seam down one of the 9.5 in sides.  This is where I forgot to take pictures.  Iron the piece open.  Fold the 2 raw edges to the inside all the way to the other side and press like crazy.  This will give you a handle about 1.5 in wide.  Sew down the side and it should end up looking like the picture below.  Repeat this process as you need 2 handles.
You will now have 2 handles and you are ready to put the basket together!

Next put the 2 pieces inside of each other, right sides together.  Tuck the handles down inside, making sure they are not twisted and pin like crazy!  Hint - put your pins pointing down, not pointing up like mine if you want to avoid stabbing yourself repeatedly while sewing! 
Sew around the perimeter with a 1/4 in seam allowance, pulling the pins out as you go.
Pull the project right side out through the opening you left in the bottom of the lining.

Press the raw edges from the whole you left for turning under and iron well.

Sew the whole closed.  I did a line of straight stitching and a zig zag stitch because I am a little OCD.
Tuck the inside into the bag and press well.

I finished up with a row of top stitching a 1/4 in from the edge.  Now you should have an awesome basket!


Monday, March 11, 2013

Noodlehead Divided Basket

If you read my blog often, you know how much I love Noodlehead patterns.  This is Anna's pattern for a divided basket.  I am in a secret sister swap for Easter and this is part of my gift.  What better for Easter than a basket which will be filled with goodies?
Anna's patterns have step by step color photos.  What more could you ask for?  I hope the recipient will enjoy it.  I don't think they read my blog, but I guess I better not say more, just in case!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Finance Friday - How We Budget

My husband and I are both paid every other week and I think many others work with this common scenario.  We used to be paid on the opposite weeks, but for the last several years it has been on the same week.  This means that 10 months of the year we get paid twice a month and 2 months of the year we get paid 3 times a month.  Many people are confused about what to do when they are in this situation.  What follows is a description of what we do.
I make an excel spreadsheet for the calendar year and make a column for each payday, which for us is 26 columns.  I aim to balance out all of our bills over those 26 columns for the year.  Many people with biweekly pay, pay half their bills from the first payday and their other half from the second payday of the month.  This leaves them with 2 "Free Checks" per year.  I personally am too tempted to spend that huge chunk of extra money twice a year, so I prefer not to do it that way.  I would rather save smaller chunks of money all year long than to think I am going to save those extra checks, only to have them slip through my fingers.
Our biggest regular expense is our house payment and it is automatically withdrawn from our bank account on the 6th of each month.  We don't look at 3 pay months, but instead look at which 2 months have 2 paychecks between our house payment withdrawls.  For example, March is a 3 pay month for us (3-1, 3-15 and 3-29), but we don't actually benefit from it bill wise until July.  Our March house payment comes from our checks on 3-1 and our April payment comes from out checks on 3-29.  This doesn't put us ahead for March.  Instead we need to look ahead until June and July.  Our June house payment comes from our 5-24 pay and our July payment (would) come from the 7-5 pay.  The interesing twist is that our house will be paid off with the June payment (WOOHOO) so it doesn't really matter this year.  Assuming we still had house payments that extra money would be budgeted for our annual homeowner's insurance which is due in July since we would have had an extra paycheck between house payments.
Some months we have 2 checks between our house payments, sometimes we have 2 checks between our life insurance, sometimes it is 2 checks between a utility or 2.  This helps to spread the bills out and better balance the budget for us.  I started this method about 2 years ago when we began to automate our bills.  I wanted to make sure I had money in my account to cover all bills as they came out automatically.  I know what day of the month each bill comes out of my checking account so that I am never caught off guard. 
Having  spreadsheet for the year reminds me about all those irregular bills, instead of just having them creep up on me.  Income tax preparation is in February, property taxes are March and September, homeowner's insurance is July, vehicle registrations in March, car insurance is March and September, etc.  This spreads everything out and I can see the whole year at a glance.  When I know a pay period is going to have a huge amount of extra bills (like September and March) I budget to carry money over from the prior paychecks and extra paychecks to fill the gap.  I am budgeting carefully so the big ticket items don't creep up on me.
Now I bet you are thinking, so she just spends everything and saves nothing, but that is not the case.  I believe I am saving much more than I would if I saved the 2 "Extra" checks per year.  I also budget my saving throughout the year.  Every month we save regular, set amounts for college and car replacement and a set percentage for retirement.  Hopefully our next vehicle will be our first cash only purchase.  We have a set total for bills on the spreadsheet each pay and an amount for variable spending and expenses.  Several pays exceed this amount and the balance from those pay periods are also added to savings.  Since I am saving smaller chunks (versus whole paychecks) all year long, I can see my balances grow, which is very rewarding.  This in turn inspires me to continue saving. 
You know Dave Ramsey says to start by paying off your smallest debt first, even if it isn't the highest rate.  Mathematically it doesn't make sense, but the inspiration of paying off that small debt fuels the fire to help inspire you to keep in it for the long haul without giving up.  I see my savings strategy the same way.  Seeing those account balances creep up monthly inspires me to keep saving.  It is also harder to take the money out because you know it was a process to get it saved.  Those big checks are hard to put away and maybe it's even harder not to be tempted not take them back out for a splurge because they feel like found and/or free money.
Maybe this isn't for everyone, but it is what works for us.  I can't wait until the house is paid off in June so we can really ramp up the savings.  Our biggest longterm goal of having the house paid off before the kids start college is coming to fruition.  This postions us to help the kids more, even though they will still need to take out some loans.  In a society that is obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses I am sure we seem weird!  I guess nobody informed society that the Joneses are clueless!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

More Freezer Cooking

So I was able to get boneless skinless chicken breasts for $1.39/ lb yesterday and I bought a lot! I cut some up with beef strips and put uncooked into freezer bags.  This will make a quick stir fry or fajitas.
I also made 4 chicken and stuffing casseroles.  (2 shown above after baking).  I made 5 boxes of store brand stuffing and put them as the first layer in casserole dishes sprayed with Pam.  I made 2  9 x 13 and 2 8x 8 pans.
I cooked chicken, cut into pieces with garlic and onion in olive oil and then added 4 cans of cream soup and 1 3/4 cups of milk.  That was the next layer.
Next I added corn to all 4 pans and mushroom pieces to the large pans and finished with some grated cheddar cheese. 
One of each size went into the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 and the other 2 headed off to the freezer.  We didn't eveneat half of it.  The rest will be leftovers and lunches for the week.  I have frozen these before and they come out great.

I also cooked some more chicken in olive oil, onion and garlic for adish I have not tried before.  Hopefully it will freeze ok.  I am calling it Chicken Penne Pasta bake.
I added 3 jars of alfredo sauce and 1 1/2 pounds of cooked penne. It went into 1 8x8 pan and 1 9x13 pan.  I also added some mozzarella and parmesan cheese beforeheading it off to the freezer. 

Tomorrow's dinner will be grilled chicked salads and the rest of the chicken I bought will be prepared for freezing.  Our freezer is now stocked pretty well after emptying it in January.  These casseroles are not necessarily the healthiest, low calories options, but we only use them about twice a month in lieu of ordering out which is never healthy either.  Sometimes you just need a quick go to meal. 

Sunday Goals

1.  Cut and organize coupons.
2.  Make bibs to go with the blanket for a baby gift.
3.  Lesson plans for the week.
4.  Make 3 chicken casseroles - 1 for dinner and 2 for the freezer.
5.  Cook more chicken for the freezer.

I was able to get boneless skinless chicken breast for $1.39 a pound today, so I picked up about 20 lbs.  I could not believe the price.  We spent January trying to use up what was in our freezer, so I spent February starting to restock the freezer.  I will continue to do the same this month by cooking bigger batches and a few items at a time to freeze.  This makes dinner easy on those nights when we just don't feel like cooking.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Saturday Sewing

I made my niece 2 matching pillowcases today.  She loves anything with peace symbols and also loveslime green and purple together so the color choices were a no brainer.  I used this awesome tutorial from the Missouri Star Quilt Company.  I have made many of this and they are fun and easy.  I did French seams so I didn't have raw edges anywhere!

I also made a large receiving blanket for my son's teacher that just had a baby this week.  It is mint green on the back even though it looks white.  I will make a few bibs to add to the gift and send it on it's way this week.  Finishing these items means I also finished my to do list for today!
I took 2 pieces of flannel, put them right sides together and sewed around the perimeter.  I left a gap of about 4-5 inches for turning it right side out.  I turned it right side out, ironed it, and sewed around the perimeter again sewing the gap closed.  It doesn't get any easier that that!

This is a very large blanket.  It was 1 yard by the width of the fabric.

I walked out of Walmart and left a full cart of groceries by the register!

So I really dislike Walmart.  I used to shop there all the time.  I live in a quite rural location.  We have 2 small groceries stores and a couple of dollar stores.  My family and I used to make a trip to the nearest walmart (about 40) minutes several times a month.  It was like a family outing.  Fill your cart with groceries and a bunch of other stuff you don't need, go out for dinner or lunch and go back home.

There were so many things wrong with this picture that I don't know where to begin.
1.  Gas for the trip
2.  Excessive shopping and spending because you don't know when you will be back.
3.  Eating out.
4.  Supporting a business that drove all the little guys out of business.
5.  Indirectly teaching our kids that shopping is a recreational activity.

In the past several years I have learned a few things.
1.  Almost everything as far as groceries and household supplies are cheaper elsewhere.  Pick up things when they are on sale and use a combination of manufacturer and store coupons.  Get enough to last until the next sale.  Walmart has never given me free toothbrushes, toothpastes, pastas, etc. but I can do this at other stores with a combination of coupons.
2.  I can buy things like printer ink, books, movies, etc. cheaper online even when accounting for possible shipping costs. 
3.  Walmart has made my shopping more difficult, so why should I reward them with my hard earned money?  For example, I love to sew.  Each of the small towns about 40 minutes away from me used to have a Joann fabrics.  Walmart came in and pushed them out of business with a craft section.  They then proceeded to  eliminate the fabrics (and almost all of the crafts) in the stores near me.  Now I have 2 choices an hour and 10  minutes away to go to a Joann's.

This week I was in Walmart in Warren, PA and they made me so mad that I left my full cart by the register and walked out the door.  This store is notorious for making you wait an excessive amount of time in line.  It was 8:55 am and they had express and one other lane open.  I took my cart to the only line I could and was the 4th full cart in line.  A girl was putting stuff in a bag for the cashier and I went and asked her if they were going to open another line and she said "No we just have this one open right now."  So I said, "I am leaving my full cart and shopping elsewhere, you might want to put the stuff away soon because I have lunch meat in there."  She just let me walk out the door.  She couldn't have cared less.  What supercenter in the world refuses to open a second non-express line at 9 in the morning?  It's not like I was shopping at 5 am.
This might sound horrible to you, but it happens every time I am in this store.  I figured they could pay someone to wait on me or pay someone to put my groceries back on the shelf.  

Saturday To Do List

1.  Cook Dinner - meatloaf, mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli - the youngest has his lower braces put on yesterday, so soft food is the order of the day.
2.  Grocery Shop -  Save-A-Lot is having a weekend sale with some rock bottom prices.  I walked out of Walmart yesterday but that is another post that will be coming shortly.  I really hate that Walmart does not respect me as a customer!
3.  Drop a raffle ticket off at my uncle's house.  My brother sold him a $10 ticket that includes admission to an event next weekend and I want to get it to him.
4.  To Do List Post
5.  Walmart Post
6.  Declutter my sewing room.  Clutter has gotten in the way of me going in there and I love to sew.  This was on my January list and my February list.  GRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!  I can be such a slacker sometimes. 
7.  Start sewing something!  This creative outlet really lets me decompress and I have been quite stressed lately.  It is an issue that I really can't blog about.  Let's just say double GRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Financial Friday - Claiming Home Interest Is Not a Good Thing!

There is something I just don't get....  Why do people get excited when they can claim their home loan interest on their tax return?  Am I missing something?  Who gets excited about paying a bank say $10,000 in interest so they can get $2800 back on their taxes (assuming 28% tax bracket)?  Isn't it better to pay so little in interest that you have to take the standard deduction?  That means that you are getting to claim more than you actually wasted in interest on some home loan.
Maybe it's just me, but I get so confused every time I hear someone say something like this...  I will give anyone $2800 in exchange for $10,000 that is willing to do it!  My Uncle Sam has a high cash flow, maybe I can get him to fall for it.