Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Holiday gifting when you're under the weather

Merry Christmas everyone! 

Christmas is the season during which we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  It is a beautiful time of year with lots of caroling, beautiful church services, and time with family and friends.  For some, gifts are incidental to the meaning of Christmas.

Nevertheless, for most of us, Christmas also includes gifting, even if it's a small gift.  If you are organized about your gifting, you probably had Christmas gifts all bought and wrapped last July.  But if you're like the rest of us, well, you didn't.

Okay, so now you're going to need gifts for family and friends, but you've been down with the crud for over a week and time is drawing short.  In addition, some of the gifts have to be mailed across the country.  What about the baking and the decorating??What is a mother to do? 

I'm in this exact situation this year--I'm slowly getting better, but Christmas is 8 days away and I still need to get a few gifts.  Here's my plan:

1.  Lower the bar  There is no law that says that Christmas has to be this all out theatrical production every year (or any year!)  Give yourself to permission to do less or even nothing if you're too sick.  I usually bake sugar cookies with the kids (my "kids" are 17 years and older!) but maybe this year we won't.  Or maybe we'll do slice and bake cookies.  Or maybe they will bake them and I'll "supervise".

2.  Have the kids decorate  Give up a little control and let the kids do it--they will get more joy out of it (unless they're sick, too) and you can practice your "letting go" skills.  You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

3.  Log on  The internet makes it darn easy to do nearly all of your shopping from home.  Log on to just about any store and you can choose your gift, have it wrapped and delivered in no time.  Include gift receipts so that picky family members (you know who you are...) can return them after Christmas.

4.  Gift cards  Honestly, gift cards are so easy to do these days.  You can buy them anywhere and many times you even get discounts off the purchase price if you buy a minimum amount. 

5.  Postpone Christmas  It might sound "Scrooge-y" but it does work if you get everyone to go along.  You can postpone your gift exchange for a week or so after Christmas.  We've postponed Christmas by a few days before when the kids were little and we had relatives who had to work on Christmas.  It worked out great.  PLUS you get the clearance prices on gifts if you haven't finished all your shopping.

6.  Focus on the reason  Use this time as an opportunity to focus on God's gift of his only son, sent to redeem us from sin.  Reflect on what that means to you and your family.  Read the story of the birth of Christ in Luke's gospel.  Count all the blessings you've had in the past year.

If you have other ideas for enjoying the Christmas Season when you're not feeling well, I'd love to hear about them!


Shop DaisyLu Designs for beautiful and affordable Christmas gifts!             






Friday, October 4, 2013

Extreme couponing

I remember watching my mom clip coupons from the Wednesday paper to use at the grocery store later in the week.  I don't think she did it a lot and she definitely wasn't "extreme" about it.  But she did clip them once in while.  Back then coupons had values like $.07 (7 cents!) or $.15  Maybe a $.25 coupon once in a while.  But of course, grocery prices were lower then, too (so were incomes).

I started using coupons while I was in graduate school.  Anyone who has put themselves through college knows just how poor a college student can be!  Some of my friends teased me about clipping coupons, but I figured a few cents here and there added up and at least covered the cost of my gas to get to the store.

Throughout my married life, I have clipped coupons.  I tend to do it in spurts, sometimes being very faithful about clipping and organizing and other times not.  It does get to be  a hassle if you clip them and keep them in a folder in your purse.  Constantly missing coupons before they expire or standing in the aisle looking for a coupon to match the on sale item you just found. 

Recently, though, I watched a bunch of youtube videos on couponing.  One of my favorites to watch is "love2coupon2save".  This adoreable young wife and mother from New York goes over her latest couponing successes in detail so you can see how she came up with the deals she did.  I just love her videos.  Anyway, I decided to give it a try.  I looked at the recommended websites (couponmom.com and krazycouponlady.com) followed their suggestions.  It can be a little overwhelming at first, so follow their advice to start small and don't try to do some mega shopping spree the first time (or first dozen times!) you go. 

Here's some of the tips they suggest:

  • Save the entire insert from your Sunday papers and date them.  Don't clip anything until you decide what you want to buy with them.
  • Get more than one set of inserts if you can.  Either buy a few Sunday papers or see if you have friends who will give you their inserts.
  • Read the coupon blogs for leads on good deals with coupons.  For example, yesterday I went to Rite Aid and bought 2 bottles of Colgate mouthwash for $2.99 each.  I had 2 $2.00 off coupons which made each bottle only $.99 each.  PLUS Rite Aid gave me two "Up Rewards" of $2.00 for each bottle, which I can spend later on anything I want.  This makes the two bottles of mouthwash not only free, but actually I made $1.00 on each bottle!   Next week I will use those Up Rewards to pay for the out of pocket costs on another deal and probably get more rewards.  It kind of keeps snowballing so you can keep the rewards coming and stock your cabinets with things you use every day for free or nearly free.
Am I now going to become a hoarder and have storage units filled with stuff I don't need?  Absolutely not.  However, I will keep an eye out for things that are a super good deal and stock up when I can.  If I have more than I need, I'll donate the items to the foodbank or to the shelters which can always use donations.  I don't have babies anymore but one of my ideas is to keep an eye out for really good prices on diapers and donate them to the shelters.  They are always needing diapers for families that use their services.

Anyway, that's my idea for the day--happy couponing!

Here's a coupon you can use right now!  Enter the code BLOG2013 at  
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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

"Unplugging" by seeing a movie

Tonight my daughter and I went to see the movie "Runner Runner" starring Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck.  I won the tickets to the movie through a contest on a local radio station.  The movie was pretty good, and I probably wouldn't have bothered to go if it hadn't been free.  Ben Affleck looked stunning in the movie and it was a good story.  I won't spoil the ending for you, but if you're looking for something to see this weekend, I recommend it.

Anyway, after we got back home, I realized how nice it was to take a break from the world by going to the movies.  I hadn't really thought of it that way  before, but it really is.  You get to sit in a dark theater and you are not allowed to use your phone (!).  It's too dark for me to crochet or anything like that while I watch, so there is absolutely no multi-tasking going on.  I think because you can't talk during the movie and it's dark, you have two choices:  watch the movie or sleep.  Before I know it, I'm engrossed in the movie and not thinking about anything else, really.  The the movie's over, the lights come on, and  I'm back in "reality".

It really is a nice way to create some "space" in our day to day thoughts once in a while.  The cost of movie tickets is kind of high, but if you can resist the over priced concessions, it's not a bad way to pamper yourself a little.


Going out?  Wear something beautiful!   
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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Fried chicken!

I love good fried chicken.  Who doesn't?  A couple of years ago, my son came home with a recipe for fried chicken from his high school teacher.  She had made it for the kids as part of a class project and they raved about it.  My fried chicken has always been kind of mediocre, so I asked for the recipe.

2 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon (yes tablespoon!) salt
any other seasonings you like 
2 large eggs
a little milk
Large frying pan (I prefer cast iron)
About 1" deep vegetable oil in pan

Turn the heat under the pan to medium high to get the oil good and hot.

In one bowl, combine the flour, salt and whatever seasonings you like.  In a second bowl, beat the eggs and add a little milk to make it liquid-y.  Take a piece of raw chicken and dip it into the flour mixture.  Then dip the floured piece into the egg mixture.  Then dip into the floured mixture again. Then put the chicken piece into the hot oil.  Repeat for remaining pieces but don't crowd the pan too much (4 to 5 pieces per average size frying pan).  Once the chicken is all in the oil, turn the heat down to medium.  (Safety note:  throw away or compost any remaining egg and flour mixture.)

Let the chicken fry in the oil for a few minutes and then use tongs to turn the pieces over.  Keep turning the chicken every few minutes as it cooks to get an even browning on each piece.  If chicken starts to get too dark before its done, turn the heat down more.

Let chicken continue to cook for about 20 to 25 minutes.  Check a piece to make sure it is cooked all the way through before taking all of the pieces out.  I do this by taking a piece out and actually cutting it with a knife to check.  Some say to just pierce the chicken and if the juices run clear, it's done, but I have not found this to be a reliable way to check, so I just make a cut into the largest piece to see if it looks done. 

When the pieces are done, use tongs to remove from the hot oil and plate on a plate with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.  Serve with rice or potatoes, salad, and of course, sweetened iced tea and call everyone to dinner!  My husband, who is not a big fan of chicken, absolutely loves this meal!

In addition to being a family favorite, this is a very budget friendly meal, especially if you get the chicken on sale.  I personally like the convenience of the pre-packaged drumsticks and thigh cutlets for making fried chicken, but you could get a whole chicken and cut it up if you're so inclined.

Bon appetit!

Reward yourself for a job well done!  
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Use code BLOG for 25% off  your purchase of $10 or more!



Friday, September 6, 2013

Menu making for stress relief

"Just for today, I will have a program. I may not follow it exactly, but I will have it. I will save myself from two pests: hurry and indecision. "

I'm a menu maker.  I have been one for quite a few years.  It helps me to plan my grocery shopping trip and reduces my stress during the week about what to fix for dinner.  Home economists have recommended making menus for decades because it tends to prevent the "let's just eat out" tendencies and helps to keep food budgets under control.

When my husband and I  married I had two teens and he did, too.  Suddenly my life was much busier with day to day things and believe me, having four teenagers at once will keep you busy!  Add into that a full time work schedule and a husband who likes to eat out for any possible reason, and believe me you will need a plan!

At first I continued my habit of making a weekly menu.  But it seemed like the weeks went by so fast I was making menus all the time.  Fortunately I had saved several of my menus in a drawer and decided to make a menu for TWO MONTHS at a time.  That's right.  Two months.  

Here's how I did it.  I took those weekly menus that I had been saving for a few months and put them into a calendar format, choosing menus from the ones I already had.  I tried to keep them interesting (not always successful) and sometimes they were pretty redundant, but at least I had a plan.  I created the menus on my computer and saved them in a folder on my desk top.  When the two months were about up, I created another two months worth of menus, because tastes tend to change with the seasons.  I've been doing this for a couple of years now and have a collection of menus that span over two years.  Here's my most recent one:




As you can see, this is not gourmet fare.  It is also not set in stone.  Sometimes I switch things around because suddenly it's not going to be possible to make chicken and dumplings and it's going to be a grilled cheese and tomato soup night.  The point is to have some kind of plan.  You also will notice that every Tuesday at our house is "skip" and Fridays are "leftovers".  This has kind of evolved over the years.  My husband and I started having date night on Tuesdays and the kids can cook for themselves whatever they like (they were all in their late teens when we started this).  Fridays have evolved into leftover nights because usually it's just hubby and me for dinner since everyone else in the house has plans.  We often eat whatever is leftover or go out for a quick bite.  Yes, we still eat out too much (at least I think so) but we do it a lot less then we would if there was no menu.

I definitely encourage giving a menu plan a try, even if you start out with just a one week at a time menu.  Don't worry about getting it "perfect" and don't worry about whether you'll stick to it exactly.  You won't.  If you don't know where to begin, start by asking everyone in the house (including yourself) what their favorite meal is.  Look at the ads in the paper to see if there's something in there that catches your eye.  The point is to just START.  Once you get going, it's really not hard at all!

Done making your menu?  Surf on over to 
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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bumbershoot: Things I learned

Well, the Bumbershoot event is over and while I didn't make thousands of dollars, I did have a nice time and got some good exposure. 

Logistically speaking, things went amazingly well.  We went over and set up the booth on Friday, the day before the Festival started.  It took us longer to get to Seattle Center than it did to set up, thanks to very heavy traffic.  I took two of my kids with me to set up and we were done in less than 90 minutes. 



The next day was the first day of the event and I was nervous!  I picked up Judy, who I hired to help me and we were on our way.  Getting down there was smooth sailing at 8:30 am on a Saturday morning and we got in and set up pretty quickly.


The first day I was still trying to figure out how to display things and the wind was blowing pretty good, so things looked a bit messier than I wanted.  One thing I did the first day that I did NOT repeat was putting candy all over the table:





Initially this seemed like a cute idea, but it became clear as the day wore on that this was a mistake.  The little kids would see the candy, start whining to get some, and the parents would drag the kids away from the table.  I think I actually lost a sale because a mom who was looking at some bracelets got fed up with her kid picking up the candy so she left.  I decided later that evening not to do that and it worked out MUCH better!

So, how were sales?  Well, the first day was really depressing.  I think we had four sales total all day (thank you to the customer from Chicago who made a very large purchase!)  The next two days went better.  The second day we had 20+ sales the third day we had about 25 sales.  I got a lot of compliments on the items, and from looking at my photos I can see that improvements need to be made in displays (which I think I did get better at on days 2 and 3).  I talked with several vendors who said that sales were down from years prior for them, so at least I wasn't the only one with low sales.

The people I hired to help me were fantastic.  They all showed up on time, worked hard, were customer friendly, and reliable.  I don't think one dollar was misplaced or lost.  I definitely recommend interviewing and checking references if you hire people you don't know because it definitely worked out well for me.

I'll write more about specifics later, but I'll end this post with this photo of some cute young men who offered free services at Bumbershoot:


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bumbershoot!

Wow, it has been a looong time since I wrote last.  Oh well, no time like the present!

This weekend, DaisyLu Designs will have a booth at Bumbershoot in Seattle, WA.  Bumbershoot is a HUGE performing arts festival held every year in Seattle since I don't know when.  There are a lot of big name and new name bands, comedians, performers, etc.  Lots of people, entertainment, food, and of course, merchandise.

I have done one craft show to date.  One.  My husband encouraged me to try doing Bumbershoot.  I figured if it wasn't meant to be, I wouldn't be able to get a booth.  Well, I guess the Lord thinks I should do it because I got in!  I have been making items all summer long.  I have had a ball doing it, but man it's a lot of work!

Frankly, I'm terrified.  I'm worried I won't have enough items.  I'm worried I'll have too much (i.e., not sell anything).  I've set up my booth in the yard and gone through everything, but I'm worried I've forgotten something.  I have hired people to help me, but I'm worried it won't be enough.  Aye yi yi yi yi....so many things could go wrong.  It's very scary!  

So what will be for sale at DaisyLu Designs?  Bracelets, earrings, necklaces, and a few keychains!  There's lots of variety and a pretty wide price range--there's even some items for the kiddos.  Be sure to stop by and check it out!

If you can't get to Bumbershoot, stop by my Etsy shop and make your purchases there!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston: Look for the helpers

So, it has happened again.

Some lunatic set up some home made bombs to hurt a lot of people.  On what should have been a day of rejoicing for completing a huge goal, a single event turned the day into tragedy and horror. 

As a result of a couple of garbage cans filled with flying debris, 3 people are dead and many others are injured.  Several have lost limbs as a result of the injuries.  It's not as grand a scale as 9/11, but it's terror just the same.

There's a quote that floats around on Face book at times like these that is attributed to Mr. Rogers.  Here is a YouTube clip of an interview with Mr. Rogers:


Folks, this is what we have to focus on.  Let the police do their work.  The perpetrator(s) will be found and brought to justice.  I have no doubt about that.  But instead of wringing our hands and saying "there is no hope", or blaming politicians you don't like, or just throwing up your hands in despair, focus on the helpers.  For every bad guy out there, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands who are good guys.  We've seen footage of people who stopped at the moment of the explosions at went to help.  People who kept running past the finish line, an additional 5 miles,  to the hospital to donate blood.  People who are praying without ceasing for the dead, the injured, and the families and friends. 

People of every faith know that there have been evil people in the world for as long as the world has existed.  And there have been good, righteous people, too.  People who obey the Lord, who pray for forgiveness, who try to do the right thing.  Whatever your religious views, there are accounts, both scriptural and secular, of those who have done evil to others.  Those accounts always include people who did good, courageous things.  Always.  The helpers are always in the picture. 




Saturday, April 6, 2013

Photography

I've been busy the last few days creating new items for my DaiyLu Designs shop on etsy.  It's really weird how I can go through day after day trying to create a new piece and being unhappy with everything.  Then all of a sudden it's as though I get a breakthrough and I know exactly what I want to make and how to go about it.  Suddenly I'm happy with everything and want to just keep going, and going, and going....

The creating stuff part is usually fun (except when I'm blocked).  Photographing the items part has been a bit of a challenge for me.  I have struggled over the past 9 months with taking photos that I'm happy with.  I know how I want things to look in the photo, I just couldn't seem to do it.  I did what I always do when faced with a challenge:  I read what other people do!

Turns out that little setting wheel on my digital camera means something.   For instance, I found out that the little flower icon is the "macro" setting that is good for taking close up photos of small items (like jewelry!).  Let me tell you, it really works!  Using the macro means getting really good, sharp detail in the photo, which is really what I'm after.

I tried also using a tripod, but I felt too restricted with it.  I was having  trouble getting shots from the angles I wanted with it.  I decided to try just holding the camera, but of course, sometimes that results in some camera movement when the button is pressed.  I have found that by holding my breath when I take the shot, I don't have near the problems with moving. 

Finally, I have played around with different photo editing software to clean up the photos.  Photos are so vulnerable to lighting conditions that it helps to have a program that can transform your photo to look like it did when you took the photo and not like some odd, yellowish colored thing that makes the colors look like mud.  I tried photo shop and that was okay.  Someone online suggested Gimp, which is a free software package (that is complicated as all get out!) that is darn good.  I have to look at the instructions a lot, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it. 

Anyway, I think my photos are getting better.  See what you think:


DaisyLu Designs has new items on the way!  Come on over and check them out!

 

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Easter time

Easter is such a wonderful holiday.  As a kid I loved it because I got a basket filled with candy.  I also enjoyed coloring the eggs and eating them.  It was like a milder version of Christmas.

I still enjoy Easter.  I love the time of year, the flowers in bloom, and yes, I still love the excuse to eat the candy!  We still decorate eggs at our house, too, although I am often the only one who does it.  As an adult, however, I am more attendant to the real reason we celebrate Easter, which is to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Sunday after He was crucified.  

At my church on Easter you will hear people saying "He is risen!", followed by the response "He is risen indeed!"  It is such a joyful day for me.  I always know that Christ is alive but the celebration makes me more mindful of Him.  I think attending the Good Friday services helps to drive it home, as well.  I honestly feel depressed when leaving the Good Friday service.  Not in a major way, but just sad that Jesus had to go through such an agonizing time in order to save us from our own sin.

At our church we have had the "Carnival of Eggs" on the Saturday before Easter for many years.  I have attended the church for 16 years and it has been going on even longer than that, so it's quite a tradition in our neighborhood.  We put it on for the neighborhood and have egg hunts by age group (so the little kids have a chance to get some treats!) as well as games and activities.  It's a really great time.  We honestly do it just to connect with the community and kind of say "Thank you" for putting up with us.  We do, however, always hope that maybe someone will decide to come check us out.  I don't know how it is around your area, but in Seattle, a lot of people think of Christians as kind of harmless "freaks".  They think we mean well, but we're just a bit weird and not at like them.  Except that we are.  I always hope that the Carnival of Eggs will help someone to see that we are just like them in many ways.  I hope that they will see that we are not going to "ram religion down their throats" if they come talk to us.  I hope they see that we don't intend to judge or condemn anyone.  I hope they see that we have a little "something" that they would like, too.  Maybe they'll be just curious enough to find out more.  Maybe not at our church, but somewhere.

I'm rambling now, but I just felt like getting that out there.  Our pastor recently said that we should "tell our story" of how we became Christians to others.  I think I will do that pretty soon.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Crocheted Baby Blanket

I love to crochet.  I really do.  I find that I can listen to someone talk or watch a TV show or wait at the dentist office much more easily if my hands are busy.  Over the years I've made hats, scarves, dish cloths, afghans, vests, etc., etc., etc.

My most recent project was a baby blanket that I made for a friend who is expecting her first baby in May.  I've made several baby blankets using a different pattern, but I found one on ravelry.com that I just fell in love with.  I had to try it. The link to the pattern is here.

The first one I made was for another friend who recently had her second child.  I made hers in an apple/lime green to go with an alligator motif she had in the baby's room.  It turned out really cute.  Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it in full length, but here is the baby enjoying his new blankie.



The most recent one is an orange/peach color with a little bit of the green from the last one on the border to add a little interest.


The thing I love about this blanket is that it is soft and thick.  I may make myself a full sized afghan one of these days with this stitch.

Once the baby is born I'll try to get a photo of him/her with the blanket!





Friday, March 22, 2013

Messenger Bag Project


I carry a small messenger bag from timbuk2 that I bought last year.  I use it as my purse and I love it, but frankly, I was getting tired of the "look" and thinking I'd like a newer one.  Unfortunately, I'm a little strapped financially and those bags are expensive!  So, I decided to start looking around for a pattern to make one.  

There are tons of patterns online that can be had for free, but the best one I found was at mmmcrafts  It looked nice, didn't seem too complicated and I decided to go for it.

I ended up spending more on fabric than I wanted to, but that's only because I went to the pricier fabric store.  I thought about getting some old jeans and up-cycling them, but since I had not done this before, decided to go with new fabric to make it less complicated. 

I cut out the pieces last night and then got up this morning raring to go!  It took me about 3 1/2 hours but I can honestly say I enjoyed every minute of it!  I was really happy with how it turned out--take a look!


I made this one a bit on the small side, so I suspect I will make another one that is a little bit larger.  Maybe I'll even get adventurous and try using old jeans the next time.  Anyway, I'm really loving this one!


I love making jewelry, too!  You can see some of my creations available for purchase at DaisyLu Designs!  You're sure to find something just right for you!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

How to make a Facebook Cover


I just learned how to do something new and want to share my new skill!


As you know, many of us small business people have special pages on Facebook to get exposure for our business.  As you also probably know, Facebook has these new-fangled things called "covers" that are an opportunity to kind of dress up your page.  Up until today, I had a Facebook cover for my DaisyLu Design Facebook page, but it looked kind of, well, sad.

Until today!  I finally got it all figured out!  I knew what I wanted my  "cover" to look like, I just didn't know how to make it happen!  Today was the day!  So how did I do it?

First, I went to my photos on my etsy page, DaisyLu Designs and selected one of my better photos.  I downloaded it to my computer (I'm on a different computer than usual today).  Then I went over to pixlr.com to do some adjusting to my photo.  Pixlr is an awesome online photo editing program that you can use for free.  I'm not very experienced with it, but I found it pretty easy to navigate in no time at all.

Once in pixlr.com, I uploaded the photo I had selected and then selected the "Adjustment" option at the bottom of the screen.  Then another menu pops up and I selected the "resize" option.







Next I put in the dimensions needed for the Facebook Cover to fit correctly on my FB page, which is 851 x 315 pixels.  It is important to click the box "Keep proportion" so that the "0" is showing, otherwise, it will proportion your photo and won't keep the values you enter.  Once you're done, be sure to click "apply".


So now I had my background for my cover.  But I also wanted to put the name of my shop on the cover.  There are options in pixlr to put text on your photo, but I wanted to use the banner I've been using in my online shop.  To make my banner, I went to another great website, Etsy Shop Banner Generator .  This site is so easy to use it doesn't even need explanation!  Go to the site, choose the banner you want, fill in the text and save to your computer.  Easy peasy!

I decided I wanted to add my etsy banner over the photo, so next I clicked on the "add image" button.   This brings up a small menu with a "browse" button so I went back to my computer and uploaded the etsy banner that was saved as a .png file.  This brought up the banner and then I could move it around until I was happy with the placement.  Finally, I clicked on the "save" button, saved the new photo image to my computer and was ready to go!


The last step was the easiest part!  I went to my Facebook page, click on the "change cover" button and uploaded my new cover.  Voila!  A much prettier cover!  Now that I know how to do it, I will probably play around with different images a lot more often.


I'd love to hear what you think of the cover or these instructions (or both!)



DaisyLu Designs has some beautiful new items available!  Be sure to visit and find something special!