Wreath made from the pages from a discarded book

I no longer do a lot of decorating for the holidays.  I try to keep things simple and choose just a few ways to make the holiday season special and memorable.  This year I’m making some decorations from deconstructed books.

Wreath made from paper cones

My first project was this wreath made from the pages of a discarded book.  First I rolled several pages into cones, and then I stapled them onto a wire wreath form.  I started with three cones in a row, and then overlapped the next three cones, and so on, around the form.

Standing trees made from discarded paperback books.

Detail of folded trees

Each of these standing trees was formerly a paperback book.  I didn’t use a pattern, just began cutting with a scissors — starting with the horizontal cuts — and then trimmed and folded each page to get the desired shapes.  I hope to end up with a small forest on our fireplace mantle.

I’ve written about other holiday papercraft projects over the years.  If you’d like to see more, check out these links to past posts:


Packages of tinsel icicles

I can’t see silver icicle tinsel without thinking of my mother and the Christmas trees of my childhood.  All nine of us kids would help decorate the tree, fighting over who got to place favorite ornaments, and sharing the job of laying icicle tinsel, strand by single strand, over the needled branches.  I soon grew weary of the tedious task of decking our tree with tinsel.  It was so tempting to apply it in clumps because strand-by-strand was soooo slow!

My mother was so frugal that she saved tinsel from year to year.  That meant that once the holidays were over, we’d have to carefully remove the tinsel, and drape it over our hands so that the strands wouldn’t get tangled. . . another laborious job.

I don’t know why my mother bothered.  Surely a package of icicle tinsel cost less than 50 cents back in those days.  But it is definitely an indication of how I was brought up to “waste not, want not.”  My mother saved bread bags to re-use in lieu of disposable sandwich bags and for freezing butchered chickens.  She saved rubber bands and twisty tabs.  We had a stash of used boxes under the basement stairs.  A roll of paper towels lasted for more than a year.  Heck, we kids even took baths in turn, youngest to oldest, re-using the bath water.  (I used to have fun playing with the scum that floated on the top of the water by the time it was my turn in the tub!!)

I’m a rather frugal person myself.  I guess I am like my mother in this respect.  But I doubt that, if I used icicle tinsel, I would take the time to save it for next year!  I concede that my mother was the Queen of Frugal.

Candy canes for sale

The day after Thanksgiving is, for many Americans, the start of the Christmas and holiday shopping season.  This will be a frugal Christmas at our house, and while I resist the messages to buy, buy, buy, I want to keep a positive attitude rather than sink into a dispirited, Scrooge-like miasma.  I can go a long way with a thankful heart.  And it helps to keep words like the following in mind as I go about celebrating the “real” gifts of this season:

     “The Earth offers gift after gift — life and the living of it, light and the return of it, the growing things, the roaring things, fire and nightmares, falling water and the wisdom of friends, forgiveness.  My god, the gift of forgiveness, time, and the scouring tides.  How does one accept gifts as great as these and hold them in mind?
     Failing to notice a gift dishonors it, and deflects the love of the giver.  That’s what’s wrong with living a careless life, storing up sorrow, waking up regretful, walking unaware.  But to turn the gift in your hands, to say, this is wonderful and beautiful, this is a great gift — this honors the gift and the giver of it. . . . Notice the gift.  Be astonished at it.  Be glad for it, care about it.  Keep it in mind.  This is the greatest gift a person can give in return.”
     — Kathleen Dean Moore, Wild Comfort:  The Solace of Nature


Theater on a Budget

May 20, 2010

Pay-What-You-Can performance at Intiman Theatre

Some of the professional theater companies in Seattle offer Pay-What-You-Can performances from time to time.  Wednesday was my day off work, so I was able to go to the Intiman box office at noon, when the pay-what-you-can tickets went on sale for the latest show, The Thin Place.

I’m so appreciative for the opportunity to attend the theater at a price that fits my slender budget.  The evening was an especially nice rare “date” with my husband. Thank you, Intiman Theatre!

Plug Repair

May 9, 2010

Old plug, a melted mess

The old, derelict electric lawn mower melted the plug of the extension cord before we noticed that it was over heating.  I’m unpracticed at tinkering and fixing things that break, and I had pretty much decided just to buy a new extension cord.  I knew from a few minutes of online research that a new 100-foot extension cord would cost about $25 with tax.  Before spending that kind of money, I thought I’d try to repair the old cord by replacing the plug.

I am inordinately proud of myself for figuring out how to replace the plug all by myself!  I found instructions online at http://www.ehow.com/how_5832458_replace-female-plug-extension-cord.html.  And now I have a usable extension cord that works like new!  I hate being part of the throw-away culture, and I’m frugal at heart, so this little project was definitely a rewarding experience for me.

New replacement plug. Just open it by unscrewing it.

Cut off old plug, then remove 2 inches of the outer covering and insulation. You'll reveal three wires: white, black and green.

Strip 1/2 inch on each wire to reveal bare copper. Attach one wire to each of three screws: black wire to gold screw, white wire to silver screw, and green wire to green screw.

Slide screwed wires back into plug case and tighten the outside screw. You now have a working plug!

Please note this IMPORTANT information, submitted by an alert reader: “Wires are supposed to be wrapped CLOCKWISE around screw heads so that when tightened, the wire is pulled with it.

When they are attached counter-clockwise the screw pushes the wire off the terminal when tightened, which can lead to shorts, overheating, fire, fraying of the stranded wire, etc.”

Wear It Out

November 12, 2009


Packing away the sleeveless summer tops

“Use it up.
Wear it out.
Make it do.
Or do without.”
     —  New England proverb

I’ve packed away my summer shorts and sleeveless tops.  It’s time to admit that summer is over; sometimes it already feels like winter is just around the corner.

I had been looking through an old photo album and recognized the sleeveless pink top in a photo from 1989, twenty years ago.  I still wear the top.  I can’t remember exactly when I bought it and a black top of the same style.  They have a Nordstrom’s label, and they’re still in good shape after twenty years — slightly faded and missing a button — and I still like to wear them.  I packed them away to use again next summer.


Here I am in my pink top, over twenty years ago!

I do tend to wear out my clothes eventually.  After the collars or cuffs start fraying, I still wear old tee shirts for jogging or yardwork.  After my running shoes sport holes, I delegate them to my “running in the rain” shoes, and then to the shoes I wear to mow the lawn, before finally discarding them.  I suppose many of my clothes are so old and worn that even Goodwill wouldn’t want them, but I still find them wearable.

When I was growing up with eight brothers and sisters, we learned to take care of our clothes because replacing them was not an option.  We didn’t get new clothes very often.  I remember the rare joy of picking out fabric from the Sears or Montgomery Ward catalogues — corduroy for jumpers and pants, flannel for pajamas, or cotton solids and prints for shorts and summer tops — which my Mom would sew into new clothes for us.

My life is much simpler because I don’t need to spend time shopping for clothes or deciding what to wear every day.  The old proverb “Use it up; wear it out; make it do; or do without” quite easily fits my chosen lifestyle.

Rotisserie Chicken

November 7, 2009


Rotisserie chicken from Costco

I find the rotisserie chickens from Costco a great convenience on days when I don’t want to cook a big dinner.  It feels like a pricey indulgence compared to cooking a chicken from scratch, but stretching the leftovers into another meal or two turns the purchase into a good buy.

Here are the meals we enjoyed from our most recent rotisserie chicken:

  • We ate everything but the breasts for our first chicken dinner, served with homemade corn bread, green beans, cranberry salad, and apple pie for dessert (dinner for 3). 
  • I set aside a few slices of white meat for sandwiches for my lunches (3 lunches) 
  • I used the rest of the leftover breast meat in a stew made with garbanzo beans, cauliflower, and a bit of diced pepper, all cooked together in Trader Joe’s masala simmering sauce. I served the stew over quinoa (dinner for 3). 
  •  And finally, I poured hot water over the jellied juices at the bottom of chicken platter from the store , and then I froze this broth for soups at some later date. 

The first big meal of chicken


Sandwiches with leftover sliced chicken


Chicken stew in masala simmering sauce