Monday, December 12, 2011


As a family, we enjoy making gingerbread houses.  I thought I would share my recipe.  It takes longer that sticking graham crackers together, but it's cuter, and you can make your own shapes.

5 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 tsp powdered ginger
1 cup solid white vegetable shortening (such as Crisco)
1 cup unsulphured molasses (such as Grandma's)

Melt shortening in saucepan.  Add sugar and molasses and mix well.  Make sure the sugar is fully dissolved.  Sift all the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and ginger together in a mixing bowl.  Add shortening 
mixture to dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Add a little water if mixture is too dry.  After it's thoroughly mixed, divide the dough into two equal parts and shape each part into a ball.  Put each ball onto an ungreased cookie sheet.
Roll each dough ball out to 1/4" thickness and cut each house piece with form, removing excess dough.  (A damp towel under the cookie sheet will keep it from sliding while you are rolling out the dough).
Bake on these cookie sheets in preheated 375 F oven for 15 minutes or until lightly brown.  Let stand on cookie sheets until completely cooled.

Just a few candies, purchased in bulk, and royal icing will make everyone happy!

Royal Icing
1lb powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
3 Tablespoons meringue powder
6 Tablespoons water

Place all ingredients in mixer bowl.  Mix on low for 10 minutes, until icing has lost its sheen.  You can also make royal icing using egg whites, but the experts say that you shouldn't eat it because of the raw eggs.

For the houses this year, I cut out 6 squares: 2 3"x3", 2 2.5"x3", and 2 3.5"x3".  Have fun!

Sunday, December 11, 2011


This is one of the things I'm grateful for this year.  A few months ago we were exploring phone options for my husband's from-home accounting business.  We didn't have a lot to spend, but he really needed a SmartPhone - something that would keep track of his appointments (we'd managed to forget a few here and there), get good reception throughout the area (he travels anywhere in the Ogden area), and work reliably.

We decided to try Cricket, since there were offering a free Android phone with sign-up.  It had all the features we wanted, but the call quality turned out to be terrible, and the phone was driving him crazy.  He couldn't type anything correctly - all the letters were mixed up!

Then I heard about RawData.  I was very skeptical at first.  I first saw it on an add on KSL.  Could you really get a SmartPhone for only $40 a month?  At that point there wasn't much on the web about this company - a Facebook page, and a survey (but only if you had a link - I couldn't find it through a google search).  Now, they have a better web site:  The idea is that, in exchange for greatly discounted phone service, they put a program on the phone that collects data about your reactions toTV and radio ads.  They also occasionally send text messages to gather more data.  The phone coverage is through Sprint, and is unlimited.

My husband has loved his phone (we paid a little more to get a Nexus S).  It gets reception almost anywhere.  The phone responds well to his typing (many fewer typos).  He's been able to use it to patch an internet connection for his laptop when he really needs it.  The text messages aren't too many, and sometimes it's even amusing.

I understand that RawData is now taking "Panelists" across the country.  If you decide to check it out, let me know - they're also giving a referral fee, which I would love to have!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wax Paper and Crayon Ornaments

I forgot to take pictures of these before they were mailed to Grandma, so use your imagination!

First, I had the kids shred their old broken crayons using crayon sharpeners (pencil sharpeners are generally too small for crayons).  They put the sharpenings on wax paper, in a thin layer.  Then I put another layer of wax paper over top and ironed them until the sharpenings melted and ran together.  (Be sure to put an old rag underneath the wax paper and another over top of it so that if any crayon gets out, it won't get on your iron or ironing boards.)

Then the kids used cookie cutters to trace Christmas shapes on the wax paper (markers work best for writing on it), and cut them out.

Joseph did find that you can use a pen to score white lines on the paper, unfortunately, it tends to make the layers of paper and crayon separate from each other, too.

Even Michelle made a couple - she didn't get the sharpener bit, but it still looked good just with stripes of crayon that she had drawn on (the wax paper will stick to itself when you iron it, so don't worry about having holes in the layer of crayon).

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Wreathe Ornaments

This was a fun one in my list of low-expenditure crafts. Some time ago, I decided to get rid of a couple of much-loved, but worn out maternity shirts. Then I realized that they were classic Christmas colors, so I hung onto them just in case they could be useful.

First, the kids helped me cut the shirts into strips, and then into approximately 3/4 in squares. (This was very approximate, neither shape nor size being an issue.)
After that, we took floral wire and strung the pieces of fabric onto the wire. To get through the fabric easier, I cut the thicker wire on an angle to give it a point, and I used a file to sharpen it a little. For the thinner wire, I found a large sewing needle and threaded the wire through it, using pliers to pinch it together just under the needle. Neither method was perfect, but my three-year-old was able to get the fabric onto her wire alright.
After we had about 8-9 inches of fabric on the wires, I wrapped them around in circles and twisted the two ends of wire together, being careful not to leave sharp ends sticking out. For two of them, I cut the ties off of one shirt and used a tie to make a nice bow at the top.
Voila!Mini Christmas wreathe door hangers (or Christmas tree ornaments)!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas of Thanksgiving

In an effort to extend the meaning of Thanksgiving into our Christmas celebration, (and in consideration of our tight financial situation this year) we decided that we would put a moratorium on extra spending this year. We have plans for small one gift for each child (for example, our 6 year old will be getting a scooter that has been in storage at Grandpa's since it's original owner out grew it) from Santa, but that will be all from us.

(We also splurged for a Pass of All Passes for each of us so that we can enjoy the fun center and water parks next year. They were on a great discount at that I couldn't pass up. )

My husband and I also agreed that we would continue to spend the normal amounts on gas and groceries. This is mostly for me, since I've got a new baby and am already struggling to figure out what's for dinner each night. Anything that doesn't fall into the grocery or gas category, has to be discussed between the two of us before it is purchased.

So, Christmas will be made from things we have already. I'll try to post about some of the creative crafts that we come up with - we've already made wreathes from old t-shirts and Christmas ornaments from wax paper and used crayons. Many of our family will be receiving magnet boards, made from scrap metal from our shed and covered with fabric scraps.

My hope is that by focusing on what we have, I will learn to be more grateful for or comfortable circumstances, and less upset about things that we don't have. After all, while that new set of Pyrex that's on sale might be nice, we already have enough dishes to have a fully functional kitchen. So, all the adds are going in the recycling bin immediately (rather a sacrifice for me, since I normally love pouring over them to find the very best deals)!

Wish me luck!

Gratitude Trial

We had a trial run for our Christmas of Thanksgiving this week!

Thursday, the entire area was hit with a tornado-level wind storm.  Billions of dollars of damage was done, and 50,000 homes lost power.  We were lucky enough not to be one of the areas where the schools lost power in the morning and sent all of the kids home!  But, by 3:00pm, we were out of power, too!

It was rather nice to realize that we aren't too tied to the electrical line.  The first sign that something was wrong was when the wireless internet quit working.  My husband simply switched to using his phone to connect to the net, and assumed that our router had gone on the flake again.  He asked me about it eventually, and I gave him instructions for re-setting the router.  Then I went to the bathroom.  When the light switch didn't function, my mental light bulb went on!  We were out of power!

I had to switch the planned Christmas craft (we were supposed to do one the required an iron).  The kids and I enjoyed that, until the sun started going down and I realized that I was going to have to get creative with dinner!

We pulled out the Coleman stove, set it up outside, grabbed a bunch of bottled goods, and made taco soup.  I didn't have to open the fridge.  Then we set the table for dinner by candlelight (electric tea light, to be exact:))!

I was grateful that we are accustomed to going camping.  I was grateful that my children are accustomed to occasionally eating in the dark.  We were grateful for a laptop with a great battery, and a SmartPhone, so that my husband was able to continue working un-interrupted.  I was also very grateful that the power came back on before bed.  I wasn't looking forward to figuring out how to keep everyone warm (especially the new baby) during the night!  But we would have done just fine!
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