SoBo Mama's Tips & Tricks

This past spring was horribly difficult in the House of Cheaptitude. I would prefer to never have a repeat. However, everything happens for a reason, and I feel like part of what I went through brought me some amazing experiences with the monkeys that I otherwise may not have taken the time to enjoy.

Easter weekend was a real bonding event for us this year.  We worked hard, played hard, and had a lot of fun.

The monkeys have always enjoyed digging in the dirt.  My front flower bed needed some serious attention, so I Tom Sawyered them.  We went to a plant stand, where I thought we were just getting a few flats of annuals. Nope, my babies wanted knockout roses!
I did get my annual flat of impatiens….

When we came home, the work really began. Pulling shrubs and trash from the flower bed, deciding where to move some perennials, choosing places for the new additions…

The monkeys were such a help with cleanup!

It was hot, grubby work!
image image

Monkey #1 wanted his roses by the garage, dressing up the driveway a bit.

Monkey #2 preferred the front flower bed.

She also “helped” with my annuals.
Once our $27 worth of plants were in the ground, the rest of the front needed some clean up.

My monkeys had a great time in the yard, but were even more excited to dye eggs.

I hate to spend money if I don’t have to, so we consulted Google, and figured out how to dye eggs with food coloring and vinegar. The smell was on the atrocious side, but it was a lot of fun.

image image The colors were so vibrant!

I was present pretty much in a supervisory capacity. The monkeys picked out the food coloring, concocted the dyes, and colored the eggs. I was there to keep them from coloring my kitchen – or each other!

Exhaustion set in kind of early that night. Monkey #2’s biggest concern as she went to bed was if Pioneer Woman came to help with the bathroom, she needed to be very careful not to run over the Easter Rabbit. The baskets on the table and eggs in the yard the next morning were proof enough.
image image

They were absolutely enthralled with all of the goodies!
Used to hunting the plastic eggs, the monkeys got a kick out of searching for eggs they’d colored themselves.
Monkey #2 wasn’t much of an eagle eye….

image She repeatedly walked past several eggs.
image Thank goodness big brother was there to boss direct her!

image image

It took over an hour for them to locate all of their Easter eggs. By the time they were finished, they needed a big breakfast to refuel for church.


(I love sunrise service for Easter, but Pioneer Woman convinced me to try out St. Mark’s midmorning.)
Grizzly and the monkeys did Easter dinner with his family, while I slowed down enough to watch the skiers from Pioneer Woman’s back patio and have dinner with her. All in all, it was a successful weekend.

What tips do you have for quality family holiday weekends without breaking the bank?

~ Katie

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I woke several mornings this week to frost on the pimp-mobile.  Ironic feature to the 2013 Altima: the dashboard warns me that the outside temp is dangerously low.  Really?  Had to share that one with Jeepnmom.

Nesting mode has kicked in.  The holidays are coming, I’m totally homesick, and my crafty side is kicking in.  I called my mom, because I remember my grandma Bet’s tree being covered in homemade salt-dough ornaments.  Of course she doesn’t have the recipe and told me to call Aunt Sus.  Whose phone was busy.  So I called Gram.  Who doesn’t have the recipe and told me to call Sus.  Whose phone was no longer busy and whose voicemail picked up.

Mind you, there are recipes all over the internet and and Pinterest. Unfortunately, none of them are the one from Aunt Sus.

Eventually, my Facebook messenger alert went off on my phone and there was the recipe from Aunt Sus! Apparently, it came from a magazine years ago, and the yellowish color isn’t from old age but mustard powder. Go figure!

Grizzly and St. Yoda had a hunting date the Saturday during Thanksgiving, and I knew Real Chick would be yanking her hair out, so I invited her to bring the girls for an artsy morning. Then, because we’d tried unsuccessfully forever for a crafting date, I also reached out to Gifted Teacher, who had never heard of salt dough ornaments.

A trip to the grocery for flour and salt, and I was ready to create! Before the rest of the crew arrived, I had filled a huge bowl with dough.


I think the grown up ladies had as much fun as the little monkeys. Our only problems were how long to bake them at what temperature, and I totally overdid the dough! There is still a big bag in my fridge and Christmas has already passed.

I didn’t get picture of them after painting and Real Chick’s oldest made a tree I truly love, but I think you get the idea. This was such inexpensive, fun, monkey entertainment that I see us trying again on a rainy day.

Here is the recipe:
Cookie Clay Recipe- Sus
4 Cups flour
1 Cup salt
2 teaspoons mustard powder (there’s your yellow!)
1 1/4 Cups water

insert your wire hangers into the ornaments before baking.

bake at 300 for 2 – 3 hours, or until a toothpick can’t go into them any more. start at 2 hours, and if they are still softish, go for 3.

Thicker ones will take longer.

After cooling, use acrylic paint to add color if you want. Let air dry about 24 hours and spray with clear coat.

The ornaments on my tree, Sus made when I was a baby. These can last for a looooong time!

I’ve contemplated different cookie cutters for different seasonal ornaments, as well as magnets.

What do you think? Have you tried salt dough?

~ Katie

Crazy Math Lady and I have been friends and colleagues since 2007 when we were both taking a Classroom Management course for our alternate certification program for teaching.  We make quite the odd couple – she’s single, no kids, and does not see herself as creative at all.  I’m kind of the opposite.

We are a dynamic duo.

I love crafting and re-purposing – and teaching.  I’m forever trying to get CML involved in some project or another.  We’ve made some serious progress over the years.  We’ve created cupcakes for Cub Scouts, concocted some amazing cookies just because they sounded yummy, and one night I even convinced her to scrapbook with me (the math chick in her loves the different shapes of the punches!)

In the Fall of 2011, we were both invited into one of those most sacred of southern societies – a Bunco Group.  As neither one of us is the most social ladies, this was a huge step for both of us.  And it’s been an interesting, amazing journey.  We’ve made some incredible friends, including Pioneer Woman, the Little General, the Higher Authority, the Realest Chick I Know….I could go on and on.  It gets us out of the house once a month, socializing with other ladies, and have a good time.  Each month has ended up with a different theme (mine is always pajamas, with some kind of crockpot meal – I’m lazy like that.)  We’ve had Easter Bonnets, White Trash, and Tropical Islands.  We were witches in October and formal with our Little Black Dresses in December.

This month, in honor of Pioneer Woman’s deployment, Rebecca decided our theme this month is Cuba.  Personally, I don’t know a lot about Cuba except that their cigars are quite coveted. How does one dress for a Cuban party?  Crazy Math Lady and I were clueless.  I asked the Realest Chick I Know if we should all dress as cigars.  To which she said we’d look like, and I quote, “Twelve giant turds.”

Maybe not a great plan.

On the phone with CML the other night, we had kind of decided just to go tropical. The I remembered that somewhere in my craft stash I had iron-on transfer sheets for my printer.  Why couldn’t we make cute t-shirts with Cuban postcards?  That would work.

Except in my decluttering/re-organizing/re-purosing, I’ve misplaced my transfer sheets *sigh*.  Remember how I am such a huge proponent of inventory lists?

Crazy Math Lady went to Family Dollar yesterday to get t-shirts and back up outfits.  Let me just say, the back up outfits are super-cute.  But we still wanted to try the t-shirt idea.  I showed CML some of the postcards I’d found on flickr and we proceeded to create our own versions with handy-dandy puffy paints:

Our version of "Somebody in Cuba" loves Me"The Original Cuban Missile" - I know, it looks like a turd....

I think for a few hours’ work, these turned out okay.  And they fit with the “Cuban” theme, right?  What do you think?

And I’ll probably let you all know tomorrow how I feel about Cuban food.  I told the RCIK that my only experience with Cuban food is watching a pig roast on The Real Housewives of Miami last year….

Any tips??

~ Katie

Over the Labor Day holiday, I stocked my freezer with meals.  I could not see letting all of those perfectly good cans go to waste, so I ran them through the dishwasher to be repurposed.  MaMaw requested some, the monkeys hot glued crayons to some (pencil holders for favorite teachers, of course), and the rest I put with my crafty stuff.

During the Christmas Break, I decided to repurpose the hall closet.  I discovered many, many half-finished and never-started projects.  I organized the supplies to make room for the closet’s new inhabitants and promised myself to complete some projects as time allowed.

Today, I finally figured out that DROID’s cord connects perfectly to my Kodak Easy Share camera, and I found pictures of one of my projects!  One of the things I found in that closet was a Ball Canning Jar Decorating Kit that I’d picked up at the craft store years ago because it was on clearance for 25 cents.

I will not waste a good canning jar.

I will however repurpose a soup can.  Here are some pictures of what I did:

Project January 5, 2013 - Repurposing a soup can

Project January 5, 2013 – Repurposing a soup can

This kit was intended to decorate a Mason jar, but I can't bring myself to use a jar in that manner!

This kit was intended to decorate a Mason jar, but I can’t bring myself to use a jar in that manner!



This is the soup can after both layers of paper have been glued on.

This is the soup can after both layers of paper have been glued on.





Here is the end result. Not exactly like the kit, but hey, I upcycled!











I think it turned out cute.  I tied some raffia and wooden tags on it and its set aside in the gift stash till needed.

Do you repurpose cans?  How do you use them?

~ Katie


Monkey 2 desperately wanted Santa Claus to bring her a dream house for Christmas.  Along with a variety of accessories for her doll and the desired house, of course.  Her daddy and I explained that Santa can’t do everything he used to because so many of the elves joined the union and their hours are much shorter.

No lectures, please.

I remembered when I was a little older than Monkey 2 and really into my fashion dolls.  My grandma made lots of clothes for my dolls but I really wanted a house for them.  My dolls had a sweet silver Corvette and a four-wheeler (it really worked!) but they didn’t have a place to live.  My mom’s friend was really crafty and made an amazing dollhouse from some cardboard boxes, wallpaper samples, and corkboard.

It was the best dollhouse ever.

I had told Monkey 2 about it and she decided that, although she still wanted the elf-made version, it would be pretty cool to build her own dollhouse and decorate it the way she wanted.

Good save!

This morning, I woke at seven and started grading essays and inhaling coffee.  Typical Saturday.  But Monkey 2 started rustling around early today, too.

“I’m ready for a grown-up lady craft,” she told me.  “I need a box.”

Looking up from a pretty decent essay, I waited for her to explain further.

Barbie needs a house,” she said, thrusting a mylar mini-skirted diva at me.  I convinced her to give me thirty more minutes with my essays and then we would start.

So this is what Monkey 2 and I crafted today and how we did it:

We took a box from the meat processor, probably 14x14x30 (but remember, I’m NOT a math person).  We cut out a window first thing from the bottom of the box, which would now be the back wall.  Using duct tape and glue, I tacked down three flaps to the box, leaving the fourth as part of the dollhouse floor.  The outside has not been painted or papered at all, because I think we’ll be adding an “upstairs” so that Monkey can have an elevator.

Then we got into my scrapbook stash.  Monkey 2 would have liked to use the same Valentine patterned paper that we used on her hair bob holder, but I only had one more 10×10 sheet, so she settled on some blue flowered prints and green dotted swiss.  We glued a smaller print to the “back wall”, a larger print to the sides, and the green forms a chair rail and flooring.  Monkey 2 scotch-taped all of the seams.

We haven’t made curtains or rugs yet but I have some fabric that will be great.   I also have yet to address furniture.  I can see a battery operated string of Christmas lights around the “ceiling.” This will be an ongoing project. Obviously.

No pics yet, but I’ll edit my post and add them in when we take some.  Monkey is so proud of this project and keeps telling me I’m the “best dream house builder, ever!”  I’ve always said this kid is just as happy with a box as an expensive toy.

This was a quick and easy way to bring some sunshine to my baby – and I exercised my cheaptitude muscle, wasted not, and had the chance to be creative.  Do you have any crafty projects going this weekend?

~ Katie


{December 16, 2012}   Making Christmas Merry and Bright

Money has been tighter than ever this year.  On the news, I’ve heard the economy is recovering.  Well, I can’t believe it until I see evidence in my bank accounts.  Construction is not the ideal field work right now. Unless you have a rich in-law subsidizing your business or something….just sayin’.

So, like I posted before, I’m trying to get a little more creative this Christmas.  Our gifting will consist of our children, little kid cousins, and our parental units.  We’ve not even discussed buying for each other this year.  So that is pretty much it.  And if I can figure out things that I can make, that people will appreciate and use, even better.

I can’t post pics yet, just in case any of the parental units actually reads my blog posts.

My picture frame venture has turned out super cute, but I cannot locate my Mod Podge.  I need it to seal some of the foo foo I’ve added.   As a crafter, my Mod Podge is on the same level  as my Soft Scrub Spray for cleaning.  I love it and use it for every project possible (Mod Podge, not Soft Scrub).  So where is it?  Probably hiding in the misplaced  holiday tote with my stockings.  I found a recipe, but it’s not worked out the way I like.  Thank goodness it’s easy to find at Michael’s or *shudder* Wal-Mart.

For the little kid cousins, I’d love to start ornament collections.  By the time I married, I technically should have had enough ornaments to decorate a good-sized tree.  I didn’t, due to storage issues beyond my control, but should have.  Even now, every year, my mother goes to Bronner’s and buys each of us an ornament that either reminds her of us or she thinks we’ll love.  Most of my ornaments are handmade and have a lot of memories attached.  The exceptions include Mother’s finds from Bronner’s, Hallmark ornaments from Grizzly’s mom, and of course, Aunt Pat, the angel on top of my tree.  I want my own kids to have a respectable start on their Christmas ornaments, and I think it would be a neat tradition to start for the little kid cousins.

That might not be the kind of thing the in-laws appreciate, so I probably will go out and buy them some kind of toy or book.

As for the monkeys, they wrote down their 4 things, but were pretty silly about it (really, I’m going to buy a 12-year-old an iPad???) We always try to do something “big,” and after some tense discussions (I called Grizzly materialistic at one point), we’ve agreed on some electronic devices – that I can get on sale.

Monkey 2 needs bedding since she’s moved to a queen-sized bed.  I’ve taken a crack at locating a plain old pink comforter, to no avail.  I considered sewing a comforter cover, but have had the most unfortunate time crunch this year.  Grizzly found some pink camo bedding at the sporting goods store, so that is the direction we’ll go with that.  I’m will design her some “hair bobs” (Rhonda Belle’s term) and maybe some little beady jewelry.  She’s also begun to express an interest in her fashion dolls, so maybe I can make some doll clothes.  Pinterest, here I come.

Monkey 1’s room is terribly crowded since I took his bunk bed apart, but it’s a  small amount more difficult for him to make such a nasty mess. So he could use some kind of organizers.  And he loves art.  Santa always manages to bring some kind of art supplies, and I’ve seen the coolest handmade caddies on Pinterest.  I imagine he’ll also be getting some video games, if I have enough room on my handy-dandy gift card and I can find them for a good price.  Honestly, he’s not asked me for much.  Except the iPad.  Tweenagers are a little difficult to Christmas shop.  We’ll see.

On top of doing Grizzly’s and my shopping, Rhonda Belle sends money for me to do her shopping.  Every year, I fuss that I don’t have enough ideas.  Every year, I get a lot of bang for her buck.  I think she and PaPa Mac get tickled at my shopping adventures – and I give them details, from the minute I cash the check. Monkey 1 will be going to martial arts classes and Monkey 2 needs a bigger bicycle. To quote Phil Robertson, they’ll be “happy, happy, happy.”

I also do MY grandma’s shopping.  In her Christmas note every year, she thanks me for lending her a hand with the shopping.  She’s funny.  The kids get new jammies or sneakers or some other clothing items from their great-grands.  The monkeys always love what they receive.  I’ve learned to make it easier on myself than I used to!

The one thing I’m really excited about for the monkeys this year is a journal.  I found the idea in a blog or on Pinterest or something and have seen several variations.  It’s a “Mom and Me” journal.  As kids get older, it’s kind of embarrassing to discuss certain things with parents and sometimes writing helps.  I hope so.  I’m interested to see how this project works out.  I’ll probably cover that one in a separate post, with pics and all.

Note: Last night, Grizzly and I went back to Wal-Mart.  In case you’re counting, this means I’ve been to that awful place FIVE times in one year now.  Ugh.  We did get Monkey 2’s bike and a new helmet to match from Granny and PaPa Mac.  It is safely stashed at my dad’s house for now, because both monkeys are horribly nosey.  From the Great-Grands, Monkey 2 is getting 2 new pairs of sparkly jeans, a pair of sweat pants, and three shirts.  I’ll still have to shop for Monkey 1, because all I found for him was a pair of PJ pants.

At least I’m finally making progress.

How are your holidays looking?



et cetera
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