Monthly Archives: December 2008

Late night with coughing child

I’ve been up with my 8 year old daughter, who was coughing repeatedly until she threw up, so I didn’t have a chance to post tonight (I guess it’s officially last night by now, since it’s almost 2 am).  I gave her tea (with mullein, lobelia, apple cider vinegar, and honey), I gave her homemade cough syrup, I gave her a hot water bottle to keep her chest warm, I gave her a homeopathic remedy – no luck.  She kept coughing so hard that she wasn’t keeping anything down for more than a couple of minutes.  I think all of those things would have been helpful if I had heard her coughing earlier in the evening, though. 

Finally at 12:45 am, I told her to get out of bed and into a nice hot bath, which she did.  I wanted to give the steam a chance to relax her chest and give her a break from all the coughing.  After she was in for a while and I told her she could come out, I gave her Vick’s to rub on her chest.  (I was so happy to find it – I was hunting all over the house for it this entire time and getting annoyed that I couldn’t find it – you know, ‘where is something when I need it!?!’- when I opened my kids’ medicine cabinet, and what do you know?  It was sitting right there all along – it didn’t even occur to me to look where it was supposed to be!)

After she finished getting dressed, I rubbed more Vick’s on her neck, and covered it with a scarf that I designated a while ago for this purpose but never used since then. Then I put some Vick’s on her feet, and had her put socks over it. 

After all of that, I gave her a refilled water bottle, brought her to my room for the night (where I can keep an eye and ear on her if she needs me), and propped her right in front of the heater to relax.  I gave her some easy chapter books to choose from, and put on the classical music station in the background, after covering her with a nice thick blanket.  And just in case, I put a container next to her in case she feels like throwing up again. :)  I left her there cheerful and relaxed, and told her I needed to finish cleaning up the kitchen and a couple more things, and would be right up.  Which is where I’m going now.

So that’s why I couldn’t post earlier, but I wanted to get here before I get to bed and say hi!


Weekly menu plan

Last week I had several dinner changes because of leftovers or food that we had that I wanted to use up, so I’ve moved a couple of the dinners we didn’t have then to this week.

Sun – breakfast – buckwheat pancakes with agave nectar, milk; lunch – sorry, can’t remember – yesterday was so far away and I hadn’t yet written my plans down :), dinner – latkes, applesauce (homemade with apples picked and preserved by us), ricotta cheese (planned to have sour cream, but I froze it and it didn’t defrost to the consistency desired)

Mon – b – buckwheat pancakes (I made eight times the recipe yesterday instead of four times the recipe, so I had enough for two meals – it was a good thing the kids liked it!); d – veggie stir fry (garlic, orange peppers, cabbage, celery, endives), brown rice, meat, roasted zucchini

Tues – b – french toast; l – cream of cauliflower soup, marinated tomato salad; d – broccoli calzones, corn, grilled veg, tomato sauce

Wed – b – warm millet with milk; l – sandwiches or leftover soup/calzones; d – vegetarian chili

Thurs – b – cream style grits; l -chili, rolls; d – salmon patties, kasha

Last week my menu was a boon for the entire family, since my sleep schedule was totally off and several mornings I woke up too late to fix breakfast in time.  (This week is already off to a better start – my solution?  To ask dh to set the alarm for me so I don’t rely on myself!)  My solution would have been to make something quick like oatmeal, but my dd14 (the first day of Chanuka, today, was her birthday!) just looked at my menu plan and took the initiative to make breakfast as planned.


The first night of Chanukah and my present :)

Last night was the first night of Chanuka, and sooo nice!  We had eight different menorahs being lit, and gave our six year old his gift – the new menorah – before lighting so he could use it.  He was so excited – it was very sweet to watch him; he kept going back to it after he lit and stroking and touching it.  After we light the menorahs, we sing, and then my husband dances together with all of the kids; it’s been our ritual for many years, at least since my oldest was three.  Then we give presents, if there are any to give that night.

The kids and my husband all liked the taffeta gift bags that I made to put the gifts in – most of them hadn’t seen them yet.  We try to organize things so that on each night, each person doesn’t get more than one gift, everyone gets one, and everyone gets to give one.  That’s a lot more complicated than it sounds because of the number of people involved – last year I remember thinking seriously about making a chart to keep track of who was doing what, each night!

But this year because we’re simplifying even more than usual, the kids haven’t gotten each other too much, which is good.  My oldest son, 15, gave me my Chanuka present from him last night – a beautiful solar oven!  He’s spent 20 – 30 hours building it – I knew he was building it, but I had no idea how nice it would be.  When he initially asked if there was a link of what I wanted that he could look at, I gave him a site to check out ( – the oven at the top of the page).  But he made some improvements that really added to the look of it, like making an adjustable prop for the lid, painting the outside black, and building a bumper so if the lid slammed, the mirror wouldn’t break (important keeping in mind how things go around here :)).

When we redid our kitchen last year, we replaced our regular oven with a double oven, each of which is much smaller than a standard oven, and my turkey roaster no longer fit.  I didn’t give it away, though, because in the back of my mind I thought it would be the perfect pan for a solar oven since it’s black (the recommended pot color for solar cooking because it absorbs heat).   That was the pan he based the size of the oven on – most solar ovens are too small for our needs.

He recycled as many materials as possible – the plywood came from the neighbors who remodelled their basement three months ago, the plexiglass for the lid from my inlaws (it wasn’t quite the right size, so he built a frame for it so it would fit), the mirror was one we had in the house that we weren’t using, and the insulation was newspaper and cardboard.  He used some leftover black foam pipe insulation to frame the top lid. The main costs were: black bbq paint – $8, aluminum flashing for the interior – $8, aluminum tape – $3.50, hinges – $3, and having the mirror cut down to the size we needed – $10.  He’s planning to put wheels on the bottom, since it’s pretty heavy, due to the weight of the wood, glass, and mirror.  So whatever that costs will get added to the total, but in any case, it’s a bargain!   (If you’ve ever priced solar ovens, you’ll understand how pricey they can be.)

Today was freezing – the wind chill factor brought it down to below zero early this morning when the boys walked to shul (synagogue), and though it warmed up slightly, it wasn’t exactly a toasty day.  Since there was sunlight, the kids wanted to try out the solar oven, despite the low temps. I don’t know why they decided to fry an egg, but it wasn’t the best choice – slow cooking is the watchword for solar cooking, and frying eggs is a quickie dish.  The cooker steamed up and the edges of the egg cooked, but it was so cold that the kids quickly lost the desire to go outside and readjust the mirror so it was angled toward the sun (since obviously the sun is always moving), so the egg didn’t end up fully cooked.  Like I said, it wasn’t the best day or best food to try to cook, but we’ll try again when it’s a little warmer.  For the sake of the people involved, not the cooker – apparently what matters is that the sun is out, not the temperature of the air.

I wanted a solar cooker for when the weather is hot, because it seems like a shame to have all that natural energy of the sun wasted, and have the house heated up when extra heat is the last thing you want (unlike today, when we wouldn’t have minded extra heat!)  I also like the idea of having a back up cooking source that isn’t dependent on store bought fuel.  When it gets warmer, we’ll get busy experimenting!

And as nice a present as it was (and it really is nice!), what touched me most was the love and thought my son put into it, to make something I would enjoy and appreciate.


Gifts in a jar

My kids were brainstorming things they could give their grandparents for Chanukah, and finally decided to make them food gifts in a jar.  Since one set of grandparents are trying to avoid sugar, it knocked all their plans for homemade breads, cakes, and jams out of running.  So they needed to think more creatively.

Today they decided on holiday bean soup mix, and cornbread mix. They layered ten different kinds of beans in a quart sized jar, and are going to prepare the seasoning mix and put it in the top in a small plastic bag.  On top of the jar, they wrote the name of the recipe, and then instructions for how to prepare it.  When their grandparents are ready to have it, they’ll have to soak the beans overnight, then throw all the ingredients together with a can of tomatoes, and they’ll have a nice healthy and filling pot of soup.

For the cornbread mix, the kids mixed all the ingredients but eggs and oil together (using powdered milk instead of regular for this purpose), and again, wrote up instructions and taped them to the top of the jars.  The jars look very pretty and I think that they’ll be enjoyed.

For the jars, I used some jars that I recycled from matza ball soup and gefilte fish (I put them aside a couple of months ago, thinking they might be useful for holiday gifts).  When I first washed them out and noticed that the jars were’t the size of a standard canning jar, I thought that it seemed like a waste (a lot of spaghetti sauce and mayo jars are).  But then I realized they’d be perfect for gifts in a jar, and I wouldn’t have to give away the canning jars that are so useful for me but which would probably be thrown away by the recipients after one use.

If this is something that interests you, there are loads of possibilities out there!  You can make drink mixes – coffee, tea, cocoa; soup mixes (with dehydrated veggies added, or with instructions to add the vegetables afterwards); cake or cookie mixes; candies (I love the idea of making candy – like fudge and sour cream walnuts – but think it’s almost unfair to give anyone something so irresistably good :)).  And if you know how to can things, then you can give canned soups or stews that are ready to eat.

Food gifts are nice because they are useful, attractive, and are appreciated by just about everyone, particularly when dietary concerns are taken into account.  It also doesn’t confer a huge feeling of reciprocal obligation by the recipient – it’s not a very expensive gift, despite being attractive and being enjoyed so much!

One son is starting to make some cinnamon rolls right now – I have an amazingly good recipe that I think my mom will love.  Another daughter is brainstorming more ideas; she doesn’t want to give something very similar to what some of the others are planning –  I don’t have the ingredients in the house or she would make up a vanilla coffee mix for her grandfather.   At the moment of this writing (things can change quickly here), they’ve decided to give a joint gift basket from all of them – with a bread, a jam, a soup, a side, and a dessert.

I have some chutneys that I prepared in the beginning of the fall for my husband’s coworkers, and will probably bake something to send along with each jar.  I have other things that I’ve canned with the intention to give them as gifts also, but I have to go through the shelf where I stored them all and remind myself what I have. :)

I found this link after we finished preparing our jars, but I think they give some good ideas for how to decorate the jars so that they look festive – I’m a big believer in the value of presentation (you know, the nicer something looks, the better it is received!).

Happy Chanukah!


Get rid of your credit card debt NOW!

Okay, I know that getting rid of credit card debt is a suggestion that every financial guru makes, and hardly anyone follows those suggestions.  Getting rid of credit card debt is a hard sell, because using a credit card is easy, it’s convenient, and to be honest, it helps a lot of people live in a manner they really can’t afford.  But I’m going to share a little about my current concerns regarding it now, because I want to help anyone who may be affected by the following be as prepared as possible. 

To be open on our credit care usage, I do have and use one credit card – we got one because we were having so much trouble getting a mortgage without one – but we pay it in full every month, and I try to use it as little as possible.  The truth is, I’d rather not use it at all, because it’s too easy for it to be a crutch, and I’m very glad we didn’t have one for the first twelve years of our marriage, because there were times we struggled so much financially that it’s hard for me to look back with confidence and think I wouldn’t have reached for credit to make things a little easier.  

Credit card debt is expensive, because if you’re making your minimum payment, you’ll still be paying for today’s purchases in fifty years.  And there are huge late fees for being even a day late in your payment- prior to online banking this year (which I love and highly recommend!), twice my snail mail payment arrived a day late to the c.c. company and we were charged a $40 fee plus interest for all of that month and the next on the balance.  (And both times I had the fee waived, something they’ll sometimes do when they see you’ve never been late and want to keep you as a customer, but I still had to pay the interest fees for those two mistakes – we were fortunate that our balances were so small that we only had to pay about $10 total.)  But these aren’t new concerns, and many good books have been written about the dangers of credit card debt, as well as the best way to get out of debt (Dave Ramsey is a good starting point), which will give you a lot of specific advice and support.

Since the fact that a significant percentage of the population is grossly overextended on credit isn’t new, why am I bringing it up now?  Because I’ve recently heard of many people across the country, those with problematic credit and those with longstanding perfect credit, having their credit lines suddenly and unexpectedly slashed or totally revoked.  When I think about the connotations of this, it’s of serious concern to me.  If you’re living within your means and your credit cards are paid off every month, it would only be an inconvenience if this happens to you.  But – if you’re depending on your credit card to carry your lifestyle, what will you do if you get sudden notification that you’re one of those whose credit is being shut down?

This is a very real situation a lot of people are encountering, but by being prepared, it doesn’t have to cause you economic distress.  Gas prices are down, food prices are somewhat stable, most people still have jobs – take advantage of this opportunity to pay off your credit cards as fast as possible.  Most of us have areas in our budgets that we think are non-negotiable, expenses that we would insist we can’t minimize, but the truth is that all of us have places were we can cut down (yes, even me!). 

I’ll be open about my expectations of the next few years (which I very much hope turn out to be wrong), even though I try to be a positive person – we’re in for a long, hard haul, and most of us are going to be forced at some point to reevaluate our spending and lifestyle choices.  Changing your priorities and thinking about how and where you spend your money can be challenging, but it’s so much more pleasant to make these changes because you want to, than because you’re forced to.  And by making the changes before you’re forced to, chances are that you won’t find it necessary to make so many adaptations later on, and in any case, you’ll be a lot more mentally prepared for whatever we’re going to encounter. 


Nearly Instant Biscuits

This morning I had biscuits scheduled for breakfast, but was feeling under the weather and ended up sleeping in (I kept waking up and saying I would be right down, and falling soundly asleep three minutes later :) – I ended up waking up at 1:15 pm, and felt a lot better when I did!  Fortunately for me, this is the one day my dh is home in the mornings, so he was able to supervise everyone – otherwised, I would have dragged myself out of bed).  I didn’t prepare the dough last night before I went to bed, and when my dd14 checked my menu plan, saw what was scheduled, and didn’t find the dough in the fridge, she decided to make a different biscuit recipe so that breakfast would be on time in spite of me not being involved.  I asked her later on what recipe she chose, and she told me this one, the only other biscuit recipe that I have in  my notebook except for the one I already shared with you.  The reason I keep this is because it’s quick, and that’s just what was needed this morning!

Nearly Instant Biscuits

  • 6 c. flour
  • 3 T. baking powder
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 c. shortening (I use butter or coconut oil)
  • 2 c. sour milk (or 2 c. regular milk with 4 t. vinegar added, or 2 c. of plain yogurt thinned to milk-like consistency)

Mix the dry ingredients.  Then cut in shortening.  Stir in liquid until dough is soft. You can roll the dough out about a half inch thick or so, and cut it into circles with a biscuit cutter (or a glass, which you’re more likely to have around).  Or you can do what I do, which is take small amounts of dough, roll it between my palms into a ball, and then slightly flatten it.  Put the biscuits on a greased pan, and bake at 425 – 450 degrees for ten minutes or until golden brown.

This makes a nice amount – a recipe like this was enough for our family breakfast with just a couple left over.  It makes about 30 – 35 medium sized biscuits, or 20 large biscuits.


Buying holiday gifts

Last year I planned to write about this, but at first it seemed too far ahead of the holidays to write, then it was too close and it seemed it was too late for the suggestions, and then the holidays were over and it seemed way too early to think about the next year.  This year I had the same thing happen, but I’ll share some thoughts on this now.

We keep things very non commercial.  I really dislike the focus on buying, buying, buying, and feel strongly that having so much attention paid to presents shifts the focus away from the true meaning of the holiday.  I think it’s unfortunate that so many people feel they need to put themselves deeper into debt to fulfill the expectations of those around them.  As I try to do with other holidays throughout the year, I space the extra expenses over time so that it’s not a burden at one time (though Chanuka expenses are quite low in our house, and it’s more of a help in terms of not putting pressure on myself last minute to pull a rabbit out of a hat).

Another point that I think is important to be aware of, so you can avoid it, is that the more you spend, the more those around you come to expect, so everyone ends up less satisfied all the time.  And it spirals every year as everyone comes to expect more and more.

To deal with the aspect of not getting caught up in large sudden expenses, I keep my eyes open all year round – if I see something at a great price that will make a nice gift for a family member, I get it.  At the beginning of January tends to be a good time to buy gifts from retail stores, and takes the pressure off for later on in the year because you have what you need by the time the holidays are here!  But you can look at thrift stores, yard sales, wherever – no one outlet has a monopoly on great deals.

I have a box in the attic where I put all of these finds during the year, and a few weeks before Chanuka go through it and get a sense of what would be appropriate for whom.  But I really don’t spend a lot per person.  And since I’ve too often seen how little use some gifts get, I decided this year to suggest to all of the kids that they think of gifts they can give that are either free or very, very low cost.  My kids like to all get things for each other and for us, and it ends up being a lot of stuff, even when done simply and inexpensively.

What kind of things do I get my kids?  Well, they have plenty of games and there’s not much to add to in that area.  We haven’t found a large variety of toys useful – though there are some we have in large amounts, like K’nex, so toys are usually only for the younger kids.  For the past couple of years, we gave homemade coupon books, which the kids really like.  The only problem with that is that they like to save their coupons, and all of a sudden now, they’re rushing to redeem them now from a year ago, before they expire!  Dh had fun taking them all out for donuts and hot cocoa this week, one of their coupons!

I try to get a mix of practical things I know they’ll appreciate, and something a little fun. My ds15 and ds9 have been letting me know they’d LOVE a membership to the JCC, and dh and I decided this will be the big family gift for everyone – a year’s membership, which I know they’ll all get a lot of use out of (we live a five minute walk away).  This year I got them all new gloves, earmuffs, and scarves, but it got cold so early in the year that I gave them the gloves and earmuffs early.  But I put aside the beautiful fleece scarves for my dh and ds15.  I bought hot water bottles ($35 total) for everyone, to keep them toasty on cold nights, which they’ll appreciate since our nights are cold and we keep the house temps low- I’m planning to make individualized covers for each of them sometime in the next week.  Even though it’s something I would have given them anyway (like the JCC membership), by saving it for Chanuka it adds to the fun.

I bought card games, a couple of board games (for the younger kids), a craft kit, science kits, alef bais cookie cutters, another Gears kit (to add to the collection we already have) and that will be distributed to whoever it’s most appropriate for.  Then I have miscellaneous items – like for my husband, he told me about a video (Seabiscuit) he found inspiring that he saw at someone’s house when he was away – so I got him the book, found at a book exchange (therefore free).  And he mentioned recently that he wanted to try to find some peppermint oil since ten years ago he found it soothing to add to his tea.  I got two small bottles for him, which I know he’ll be quite pleased and surprised that I got.

For the 8 and almost 10 year old, who love listening to audio books together in the afternoons, and both have a very high level of comprehension and similar tastes, I’m giving an unabridged recording of the first book of Lord of the Rings (10 cents at the library sale – that’s five cents per child for 20 hours of guaranteed entertainment each!).  Dd14 will get an apron, and a special lip balm (she always borrows mine and says it’s the only one that helps her chapped lips.  Dd12 will get a crafting book and a special box for supplies, ds6 has a beautiful new picture book, the little ones will get that ride on solid wood airplane I mentioned.  I’m thinking of baking each of them a bear bread with a ribbon around it’s neck, just as a fun little thing.

For our parents, I’ve bought nice moisturizers (that I got for free by shopping wisely and using rebates), and will give them some homemade jam and probably loaves of bread wrapped in a gift basket that they’ll enjoy.  Our parents can spend much more on themselves than we ever could, so I try to think about what I could give them that they can’t buy.  I think that except for the JCC membership and hot water bottles, I spent a total of less than $20 for everyone combined.

Oh, I almost forgot that all of our kids (ages 5 and up) light their own menorahs – the older kids each have their own special menorah, but the younger ones use the standard cheap ones.  Right after Chanukah last year, I bought the next child in line a beautiful menorah on clearance at Target; I think it was 50% off so $12.50 (that’s not included in the above number).  It’s not like they expect to be given one, because it’s not a standard gift from us, but I know the child I have in mind will be very happy to have his own unique menorah.  Just unpacking the menorahs and preparing them each night is fun!

None of my kids mind if something was purchased brand new or not, or at top dollar or not – it’s more important to match their interests with the gift, and this takes more thought than just buying the newest and latest gadget.  They are all very appreciative kids, but some things have been harder for them to muster up excitement about than others.  A couple of years ago they received gifts that were costly from a set of relatives, but not suitable at all (like a 12 year old who got a craft kit appropriate for a 6 year old, an almanac for a child who didn’t read much, etc),  and I was glad to see they were able to enthusiastically cover up their disappointment so the givers felt happy the gifts had been well received.  But they told me afterwards they so much would have rather been given ten dollars that they could have spent as they wanted, than to know so much money was spent on things they got no pleasure from and would never use – they felt it was almost worse than getting nothing because they had the feeling of missing the chance to get something they wanted for the money spent.  Fortunately, this is very unusual, and they are almost always happy with whatever they get, from whoever they get it from.

The kids asked me what I wanted, and I said I would appreciate something that would take me time to do/make, but would be wonderful if someone else could do so I wouldn’t have to.  My oldest son has been building me something, working on it for hours – I’m looking forward to seeing the final results.  I know a couple of kids started sewing something, but then the sewing machine jammed so I don’t know what’s happening with that.  As I already mentioned, I encouraged them to also think in terms of doing for each other rather than buying for one another this year.

I think the reason we can get so much enjoyment out of such simple presents is that we keep the focus on our time together and on the holiday – it’s about so much more than presents.  Everyone benefits by keeping expectations low – there’s more joy in giving, more joy in receiving, and more joy in just being with each other!


Calzone recipe

This is a recipe for spinach calzones that I’m planning to adapt to make into broccoli since I have a lot of broccoli around this week, but I’ll include the measurements for spinach, as well.

  • 1 – 10 oz box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry (I’ll use the broccoli stems, shredded and sauteed with onions – I save the stems for things like this, and measure it after it’s cooked)
  • 1 1/4 c. ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 8 oz mozzarella cheese
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 lb pizza dough (I’ll include my recipe for this further down)
  • 2 T. milk
  • 2 c. marinara sauce

Mix spinach, ricotta, egg, cheese, and spices.

Roll dough into a large square, cut into four equal pieces.  Roll thin so each square is 10 x 10 inches.  Cut square on diagonal to form triangles.  Place scoop of filling to left of center of triangle.  Fold in half to form small triangle.  Seal edges. 

Transfer to baking sheet (I cover a pan with parchment paper).  Cut two slits on top of each, brush top with milk.  Bake at 425 degrees until golden, about 15 – 18 minutes.  Serve with marinara sauce.  I think you can easily adapt this to whatever flavor calzone you like by switching the ingredients you want to use for the spinach. 

Pizza Dough – I have two recipes I use – I’ll share this one now since it’s the one I plan to use when I make the calzones

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2 t. honey/sucanat
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 t. salt
  • 4 c. flour – I use all whole wheat, but you can mix the proportions according to your taste
  • 2 1/2 t. yeast

Mix all ingredients, and let dough rise.  You can make this early in the day when your child is napping or you have time and energy to spare, and put it all together later on in the day.  This can be rolled into eight individual pizzas or 1 – 2 regular sized pizzas.  If you’re making pizza, spread sauce on top, add toppings.  Bake at 425 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes, until crust is golden. 


Weekly menu plan

Here’s the menu for this week:

Sunday – breakfast – oats and milk, fruit; lunch – sandwiches; dinner – chicken noodle soup with veggies, leftovers from Shabbos

Monday – b – apple cinnamon pancakes; l – veg soup, Cuban bread; d – spicy beans and beef

Tuesday – b – biscuits, eggs; l – cauliflower cheese casserole (this was a hit last week); d – vegetarian meatloaf

Wednesday – b – polenta; l – sandwiches and veg soup; d – broccoli calzones

Thursday – b – pumpkin bread; l – leaving this open, I like to use any leftovers from week by this point or have sandwiches; d – chili and cornbread

As you know if you’ve been reading for a while here, I supplement the lunches and dinners with vegetables, but don’t plan that in advance.  Breakfast almost always includes milk and fruit, unless we have yogurt for breakfast (not scheduled for this week), in which case that’s in place of the milk.  Though officially I schedule dinners so that one meal is meat, one is dairy, and three are vegetarian, since we have so much meat on the weekends, it frequently ends up adapted to be two meat meals instead, and most vegetarian meals include chicken stock as a cooking ingredient.


Making fabric gift bags

Have you ever noticed after Chanuka, it takes much more time to wrap the gifts up nicely than it does to unwrap it?  Around here, it seems like it’s destroyed in about five seconds once the gift is opened, leaving a mess of paper behind!  When I was thinking about it this year, it seemed wasteful of time and resources, and I heard about a solution that would save time, money, and look nice.  What was it?  Fabric gift bags!

After making the one time investment of time, I’ll be able to use them year after year, while giving a gift in an attractive and festive way.  You know me, the queen of frugality :), of course I didn’t run out and buy some fabric for this project idea (and it’s fine if someone wants to do that!).  No, though it would be cheaper in the long run to make these from brand new fabric than buying rolls and rolls of wrapping paper over the years, I found yet another way to economize. :)

Here’s what I did.  Several months ago, I sorted through our costumes, and put several aside to donate.  But they never got donated, because I wanted to give them to a costume g’mach (clothing exchange), not to a typical second hand store, and that meant a separate trip, and I kept forgetting about it since the bag is down in the basement out of sight.  One of the costumes was a beautiful green taffetta and black velvet gown that I remade from something I was either given or bought at the thrift store for a few dollars.  I decided this would be perfect to use for the gift bags, since the fabric is great quality, and looks elegant and festive.

I took apart the gown, and cut several different size pieces from the taffetta.  That was so that I would have different sized bags, suitable for various sized gifts.  I sewed these into basic rectangles, and left the top gathered but open.  Then I took apart the velvet from the gown, and cut/sewed it into long thin strips.  I attached the black velvet strips to the top center of each bag, so that it could be easily closed (initially I was going to use a ribbon, but knowing the reality of our family, it would be lost very fast).

They look really nice!  I made a total of seven, since that’s what I could squeeze out of the gown, and I think that will be enough.  One is very large, two are pretty small, and the other four are a standard medium size.  What’s nice about it is that if necessary, I could use the same one more than once in an evening, for two different people, since once a family member opens the gift, they don’t need it anymore.  The kids who have seen them think they look great, and I put them away before the other kids came home, so that they’ll have a little bit more of a surprise when we pull them out to use them.

I didn’t watch the clock, so I don’t know how long these took.  It seemed to go extremely fast, with the velvet strips taking the bulk of the time – it was definitely under two hours from start to finish, but I can’t be more precise than that.  My 8 year old daughter enjoyed helping me, and since I was in the middle of where my kids were and interacting with them as I did this, it was like keeping my hands busy while I was hanging around with them, so I wasn’t conscious of it being like another thing I needed to do.