Hot Gifts for Christmas!

I may have mentioned that I’m a bit frugal. This frugality could not be better represented than by showing you one of my most beloved possessions: my flat iron.

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It’s been my hair tool of choice for seven years, saving me from my naturally big, wavy hair. It succeeded where other flat irons before it had failed, and I can only assume the price you pay for a flat iron directly relates to its ability to smooth wild, coarse hair. $125 was a steep price to pay, but it was worth every penny.

See that hair?  That was in the morning.  It only gets bigger as the day goes on.

See that hair? That was in the morning. It only gets bigger as the day goes on.

Unfortunately for my flat iron, it has suffered greatly in these seven years. About six years ago, my then 3 year old son came to me with a black cord in his hand. (While it was unplugged, thank the Lord,) he had cut the cord purely out of curiosity. After I had a bit of a freak out over cutting cords and using scissors and a whining “Why did it have to be my super expensive flat iron?!” moment, my husband calmly informed me that he could repair the cord. Well okay then.

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It’s worn out a bit after six years.

Next, the plug decided it had had too many violent meetings with the floor and cracked open. At that point, the plug was replaced.

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After years of use and abuse (mostly from kids pulling it off the counter,  the flat iron began to crack and chip, pulling my hair every time I used it.

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And finally, just a few months ago, the wiring came loose inside the iron, so every few sections of hair, I’d have to shake the iron to make it turn back on.

Despite the amount of time I spend with my flat iron, I just couldn’t justify spending that much money again. Sure it had lasted seven years, but it wasn’t totally dead yet.

My husband, being the incredible gift giver he is, knew I wouldn’t buy one for myself and surprised me with a new flat iron. Luckily for me, he’s big into researching and knows my hair is difficult to work with. He found a great replacement, one I wouldn’t have purchased for myself, and it already showed off today.  I didn’t have to shake it to keep it hot, I didn’t have any hair pulled out from it getting caught in the cracks, and it’s even dual voltage, so it can make an international trip with me next month!

I did say gifts.  My husband’s gift this year came from http://www.mancrates.com. He has yet to find a spicy food he doesn’t like, and he’s apparently building up an immunity to spicy foods in general. I decided to test his taste buds this Christmas with their Hot and Spicy Crate.

You know the sauce is hot when the company hangs little skulls from each bottle and puts the hottest of them all in a coffin.  The shipping speed was incredible, and the guys at http://www.mancrates.com even took time to research ingredients while I was on the phone to make sure they didn’t contain MSG (they don’t).  My husband loved that he had a crate and a small crowbar under the tree and couldn’t wait to see what was inside.  This website is seriously my new go-to site for man gifts.  My dad is getting an Exotic Meats Jerkygram, but my husband loved the crate idea so much that he transferred my dad’s jerky into the crate and resealed it.  It’s sort of payback for my dad doing crazy things with gifts, like wrapping them in umpteen layers of duct tape and not allowing scissors to be used to open them.

What about you, did you have a great Christmas?

Oh, Christmas Tree(s)

Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, we drive to a Christmas tree farm to choose, cut down, and bring home our tree.  The kids race across the hills, desperate to be the one to find the perfect tree.  Bickering over whose tree is better is part of the fun, and eventually my husband and I choose the winning tree.  (I may or may not actually bring a measuring tape to make sure the tree is the right height for the room before declaring a winner.)

This year, my 11 year old daughter found the tree, a lovely Leland cypress.  It was the right height for the room, didn’t have any brown spots, had a nice even shape, and would fit nicely in the space I had in mind.IMGP9835

 

Despite frequent watering, our Christmas tree quickly became our Crispy tree, and there were more parts of the tree on the floor than on the tree.  This is the second year we’ve lost a tree so soon, after three years of having trees that I’m certain I could’ve left up until February.  My husband suggested that maybe the house is too dry, and no amount of watering can make up for that.  He and I agreed that the hassle of the real tree isn’t made up for by the fun of our tree hunting adventures, so we decided to look for an artificial tree after Christmas.

My husband’s mother works for a large nursery and landscaping company, and their artificial Christmas tree selection is unrivaled (in both quality and price).  When she heard we were looking into artificial trees, she made it her personal mission to find us a tree.  I nearly gagged when she called to say she found a tree, which carried a retail price of $1,195.  Specifically, it’s a Weeping Canadian Fir Christmas tree.  Before I totally blew off the idea of this tree, she assured me that the discount may make me reconsider.  Over 75% off, so the tree would pay for itself with five more years of bare-too-soon trees, not even counting the gas to drive to the farm and back home each year.  We wouldn’t find a better deal after Christmas, so we went to pick up our new tree.

Because we’re hosting four Christmases in our home starting Christmas Eve and continuing through the rest of the week, I decided to undecorate the nearly bare tree and decorate the new tree.  Even removing the ornaments made the rest of the needles fall off, and our kitchen trash can was nearly full with just our sweepings.

I’m guessing we’re the only ones who have already undecorated and then redecorated this year.  But it’s finished, and I think the new tree is beautiful!

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Tasty Traditions

When I was a little girl,  I loved spending the weekend at my grandparents’ house. Every December, my grandmother would set out the ingredients for my favorite treat,  adding each item from memory, the recipe long ago memorized.

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I’m not sure what I enjoyed more – getting my hands sticky with melted marshmallows from shaping the wreath or eating it almost as soon as we finished!

Now that I have children of my own, it’s a tradition I began with them. We make popcorn wreaths to share with different people each year, whether it’s neighbors, my husband’s coworkers, or close friends. (We always make one extra to eat as soon as we finish the last wreath.)

I thought I’d share the recipe here, as a fun (and a little messy) Christmas treat inspiration!

8 cups popped unsalted popcorn
1 cup miniature marshmallows
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
10 drops green food coloring
1 jar maraschino cherries, halved
1 10-inch cardboard cake circle

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Put popcorn in a large bowl.  In a medium bowl, add marshmallows, powdered sugar, and butter. Microwave on high for 4 minutes, stirring twice,until sugar is dissolved and marshmallows are melted. Stir in food coloring until mixture is bright green. Pour over popcorn, tossing with a large spoon to coat evenly. Drop by handfuls around the edge of the cake round, forming a wreath shape. Press firmly with hands to mold. Garnish with cherry halves arranged in threes. Let stand about 30 minutes until set. Store loosely covered in a cool dry place up to 2 weeks.

Do you have any fun traditions?

An Early Christmas Present

When we listed our house for sale in October,  we weren’t expecting to sell anytime before the new year, accepting that this was not only a slow market, but also the slowest time of year. After four showings in ten weeks (two within the first three days and two in the last week), we just accepted an offer! To say I’m ecstatic is a gross understatement, and the timing is incredible!

We should close in about 60 days, and a new family will begin making their own memories in our beloved home.

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Merry Christmas to us!

Dressing Up for Christmas

I love Christmas.  Favorite holiday, hands down.  The foyer of the new house was a blank slate, because there’s no foyer in the old house.  I began shopping, picking up a table for $25,

a few terrariums,

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and some Dollar Tree Christmas village pieces.

A can of white spray paint and a can of metallic spray paint helped with the projects, transforming a red table and a sad little village into a crisp white entry table and decorative accents.

Two of the three terrariums and the orb came from Marshall’s.  The third terrarium came from a local resale shop.  The silver tray was a gift from a friend.  The lamp and shade were purchased at Walmart.  The small cloche at the back of the table was found it in an art shop in Sofia, Bulgaria, and is one of my favorite decorative pieces.  It’s always been tucked away in my bedroom, but I wanted to have it on display in the new house!

The ornaments were clear glass, so I poured a little baby oil inside, swirling to coat completely, then poured in a bit of glitter, swirled and shook to coat the inside.  And done.  Glittery ornaments with no glitter mess!

I filled each of the terrariums with some expired epsom salts, for a realistic snowy scene, then placed a Christmas village piece inside.  All very simple and very clean.  My kids love that some of the village pieces are out, and they’re constantly moving them.  For $1, they can play all they want!

I even said I wasn’t going to do garland on the banister this year, but I had one piece left after hanging garland outside, and it was just the right length!

I decorate a little each day, so things are always changing.  What about you?  Do you decorate all at once or is it a slow process?

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Who’s the best bargain shopper of all?

Me?  Oh yes!

After we replaced our bathroom sink, I was on the hunt for a new mirror.  The plain mirror was just sort of there, very blah.

Just a basic mirror, nothing fancy.

Just a basic mirror, nothing fancy.

Being the cheap-o that I am, I began scouring facebook yard sale pages.  One day, I found it.  The loveliest mirror of them all, a Bassett Furniture (local to me, by the way) mirror with the $179 price tag still on it, and the seller asking $20 for it.  Come. To. Mama!!!

I had no idea when I agreed to buy it what the actual dimensions were, I just knew I liked this mirror and would make it work somewhere else in my house if it didn’t work in the bathroom.  Well, I couldn’t have shopped in a mirror store for a mirror that fit the sink better in size or style.  The exact width of the sink, the same curve along the top of the mirror and the front of the sink… perfection!

What a beautiful “after,” even with price tag residue still on it.

For all of our heavy hanging items, we use E-Z Ancor 75 lb. Twist and Lock anchors.  I measured and marked each of the places to put in the anchors, triple checking that the marks were level.  I had a very happy level bubble after getting the mirror up on the wall!

This mirror has two hooks with specific instructions on the back NOT to use wire to hang, so we’ve got 150 lbs. of holding power on a 40 lb. mirror.  We’ve tried other anchors, and nothing works as well as these.  These anchors have saved many a towel bar from my kids’ constant tugs, they have held up to kids standing on wall-mounted baby gates, and they’ve held very heavy pieces on the wall.

Now, with the new mirror up, I can decide on a towel ring and toilet paper holder!

Any other facebook/Craigslist shopping wins out there?

Live and Learn

A small drip started from the ceiling in the new part of the house on the night of a fairly heavy rain.  My husband checked the roof for popped up nails and didn’t find anything, so he asked me to call the realtor to see if the contractor would come out since it was still under warranty.

The contractor who put the roof on came out, asked to borrow my ladder because he didn’t have one with him, checked the roof, then asked if he could use the ladder to check the attic.  I said sure and, after he came back down from the attic, informed me he found the problem, but it was with a pipe not capped properly, and not the roof.  Since he’d diagnosed a new problem, it was a service call, and my bill due was $75.  That he can’t get his kids through college without charging for things like that.  Now, if we wanted him to fix it, it’d only be another $50 or so.  I told him if we needed help we’d call our plumber, but we were quite capable of fixing it ourselves.  (There was more discussion on his part about our plumber charging us a service fee and me responding that he’d be out the door with the issue fixed for less than this “service” fee.)

I will NEVER again not go the DIY route with diagnosing and fixing issues.  We are intelligent people, but we didn’t check this out thoroughly enough.  It was a lesson learned, and money unexpectedly down the drain.

Fantastical Frozen Fun

Because of the uncertainty with our adoption travel dates (thinking early January now), I didn’t buy tickets to take my three girls to see Frozen On Ice.  I even missed an opportunity for discounted tickets with our homeschool group.  The girls were hearing about their friends going, but I just didn’t have $60/ticket in my budget to take them while also shopping for Christmas and paying for plumbing and other fixes at the new house.

Last week, a friend of mine asked if she could give us tickets to see the show.  To say I was overwhelmed with gratitude is an understatement!  I kept the tickets a secret from two of the three girls, which was hard to do with so many people randomly asking if we were going to the show!  When we got to the coliseum for the event, we realized just how close we were sitting to the ice, and I may have shed tears over the incredible gift we were given.

The girls finally understood that we were going to see the REAL Anna and Elsa, and they went crazy!  Sadie, my four year old, even asked if we could crawl under the turnstiles and go in early!

I was so excited over watching the girls’ excitement I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to watch the show or watch them watch the show!

It was incredible to hear all the kids singing along with the songs, and to hear the parents joining in, too.  We definitely have Frozen Fever in our house, and I don’t think it’s going away anytime soon!

I had a pooped princess by the time we got home!

Anyone else still have Frozen Fever after all this time?