Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review- The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb

Hello, darling readers!
Back in the fall, I did a review of Melanie Benjamin's Alice, I Have Been, and I wasn't too thrilled with it. For some reason, I don't seem to learn my literary lessons and I keep reading books by authors whose writing style I'm just not too fond of. Maybe it's because I keep holding out hope that I'll find one I like, or maybe it's because I've already decided I'm going to read it, so I make myself do it. Either way, it happens, and I end up not being so fond of the book (surprise, surprise). Such was the case with Ms. Benjamin's second book, The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb.
Ms. Benjamin certainly picked an interesting character to write about and she did a very good job of fully developing Lavinia "Vinnie" Bump. I had no idea that Tom Thumb and his wife actually existed, so the book (and subsequent Wikipedia searches) introduced me to something with which I was unfamiliar. Not only that, I was completely unfamiliar with mid-19th century life, let alone "freak show" (I hate that phrase) workings. So, to state the obvious, the book was an eye-opener.
Let me start with the positives. Melanie Benjamin does a very good job of developing her characters, even her peripheries; she does so in such a way that you get interested in them and have emotions towards them (I'l get to that one later...). She also does a very good job of sticking to historical facts and her research clearly shows in the her writing. I appreciated that Ms. Benjamin decided to make PT Barnum a likeable character, which not many would. He was genuinely caring and respectful, and I was impressed with how he was written.
I would also say that her books are easy to read and can be finished in a weekend; I do feel, however, that this one you do need to read through, rather than skip a few chapters like I did with the prior novel.
Now, the negatives. I'm not so sure it's possible for Ms. Benjamin to write a character that I like and sympathize with. At first, I genuinely liked Vinnie; I understood her feelings of being out-of-place and wanting to experience the bigger world. However, she quickly turned into a self-righteous, selfish woman who blamed others (particularly PT Barnum and Tom Thumb) for her troubles. Not only that, Vinnie did a complete reversal towards the end of the book and decided to become a master of self-pity and self-hatred, which was just as annoying. I would rather have seen her accept any unfortunate events are others' choices, rather than events that revolved around her.
Also, while I don't find Benjamin's writing to be terribly difficult to follow or her work too long to get through, I just don't like how she writes. I can't put a finger on it, but I always seem to get irritated with her novels and her characters. She does a lot of research and really thinks out what she does, but for some reason, I just can't enjoy it. So maybe I'll learn my lesson this time. We'll see.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Austentatious Crochet

Hello, darling readers!
As any crocheter knows, it is VERY difficult to find a nice crochet pattern book that doesn't involve outdated/lumpy clothes, baby blankets, or just pictures of stitches. Seriously, it sucks. The knitters out there get tons of pattern books for anything from toys to bags to clothing to you name it. Don't believe me? Go to your local book store, find the craft section, and compare the knitting shelves to the crochet shelf. Just because I'm not coordinated enough to handle two needles doesn't mean I don't deserve pretty patterns too! So, this past November/December, I learned to thank the heavens for Melissa Horozewski.
I doubt her name is familiar to you, although if you're a dedicated crocheter, you've probably seen her patterns appear in many magazines. However, you should learn to love this woman and thank her for one of the best crochet books ever created: Austentatious Crochet ( Do you love Jane Austen? Do you want to make items that are useful, pretty, and don't make you envious of knitters? BUY THIS BOOK (or do what I did and tell Santa Hubby that I needed it).
This wonderful creation has at least two dozen Jane Austen-inspired patterns for women's wear, men's gifts, baby/child items, and items for the home. Not only that, they're beautiful and don't look lumpy! I've had the book since Christmas and have made two lovely projects from it, with many more planned on the way (especially the beautiful pajamas!). The patterns have large photos throughout, showing the item from various angles, and sometimes they zoom in enough that you can really see stitch detail. The directions are typically very easy to follow, but if you have any issue, you can contact Melissa directly on her facebook page and she will be kind enough (and very prompt) to answer you- yes, you read that right, the author will personally respond to you! Also, she has all sorts of tutorials and videos on her website ( to help you along the way.
I honestly cannot praise this book and this author enough- do yourself a favor and try something from it! And, for you jealous knitters, nana nana boo boo!

Here are the two projects completed:
The Barton Cottage Rug
used: 4 skeins of Lion Brand Wood-Ease super bulky (two skeins of two colors)
This took me about a week to do.

The Regency Hat
used: 2 skeins of Loops and Threads Charisma
*please note- the pattern calls for a flower pin to be made and attached- I didn't do it- if you choose to, it will be two skeins of a worsted weight yarn (one in green, the other in a color of your choice)
This took me about a day to do.

Grocery Budget Part Two

Hello, darling readers!
Here is the second installment of how we eat well on less than $60 a week. I truly hope these tips are helpful for you!
7- Don't be afraid to make things from scratch. It might not turn out well, or it could rock. We've found so many delicious, affordable recipes online that would never have entered our recipe box had we been afraid to try and cook. If we were nervous about baking, there would hardly ever be cookies in our house (which would be wrong).

8- We use a giftcard to the grocery store we visit and put $240 on it each month. Our policy is that once it runs out, it runs out. It has never run out.

9- A grocery budget of $60 a week does limit what we can buy. That means alcohol is a rare treat. It also means no soda or premade drinks (we make tea, lemonade, and such here- OJ is the exception). Frozen desserts, cookies, and name brand cereals are also very rare treats. Avoid impulse buys- they really do kill your budget.

10- You don't have to shop at just one store. Hubby and I realize that one store sells certain items at a lower prices than our favorite store, so we go there too. Sometimes Target has items at a better price than the grocery stores, so we'll shop there.

11- Sometimes coupons really don't save you much money (shocking, I know). Really look at what you're thinking about buying, how much it is regularly, how much you need to buy for the discount, and then how much you'd save. Sometimes, it's just not worth it.

12- I would say that one of the best things we have done is seriously limit how often we go out to eat. Yes, some nights it is much easier to go out and have someone else cook for you- that's when we use our one-night-out a week. That also means we brown bag lunches and try very hard to only go out for lunch once a week as well. Sometimes, it's rough, but the more we eat at home, the more we save long term by not overpaying for meals and by eating what we purchase.

Again, I really hope these tips help and I would LOVE to hear some of your suggestions!

Book Review- Tales of the Jazz Age

Hello, darling readers!
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I got a Nook Simple Touch for my birthday and have been reading on it constantly. However, even at a discount, Nook books add up a little too fast for my student budget. So, I have found a plethora of wonderful classics at Project Gutenberg (, a site that collects book editions whose copyrights have expired and puts them out for people to download and read. It's pretty awesome and I'd like to share a review of my first download from the site.
I love F.Scott Fitzgerald- I've read all of his major novels, so when I found Tales of the Jazz Age on Project Gutenberg, I knew I had to read it. While I'm glad I did, it is certainly very different from his full novels. Tales of the Jazz Age involves about a dozen short stories (10-20 pages in length), varying from social commentary, to humor, to drama. The collection is great if you want to read on communutes or for short periods of time because the stories do not take long and are not interconnected. However, when you are used to Fitzgerald's character and plot development in his larger novels, it is a bit of a shift.
Also, I quickly realized why the stories are not recommended reading for high school- they are racist and crude. In context of the 1920s-1930s, the stories do a great job of capturing period life, slang, and opinions. However, when you read them with a modern mind, the language and attitudes are shocking. As I've said prior, I've read Fitzgerald's works; while I am by no means an expert, I can assure you that this collection is the only time I've seen such language and attitudes (the racist part, not the crude part).
Overall, I recommend them to fans of Fitzgerald- if you don't already love his work, I doubt you'll enjoy the complete selection of stories. However, no matter your fondness of the author, do yourself a favor and read "The Camel's Back"- it is hilarious!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Grocery Budget Part One

Hello, darling readers!
I know that I've mentioned it in a prior blog (Skillet Beef and Asparagus- read it, cook it!) that my husband and I live on a tight self-imposed grocery budget. We're students, so we have a fixed income that we want to make stretch as far as possible. We like to travel, we like to go see shows and movies, we like to do weekend projects, and we like to go eat out. With so many likes coupled with necessities, we have to budget everything. While certain expenses we can't exactly plan for (like the cost of gas each week or emergency vet visits because our dog ate a rock), we can plan for groceries very well and have successfully eaten very well on $60 max a week for the past year and a half. Here's how:
1- We have a KrogerPlus card. Not only does it give us some discounts each time we shop, we get points to take some cost off of our gas bill. Giant Eagle has a similar program, as I'm sure other stores do as well. Kroger also frequently sends us coupons for the items we frequently buy, so we've gotten free grape tomatoes, free ice cream, free cereal, discounts on our pet food, etc. Example of our Kroger card being awesome: last year, we saved almost $500 off of our grocery bill.

2- We make a menu and actually use it. The day we go to the grocery store, hubby and I sit down and pick out 6 meals, leaving one day open for either eating out or using up leftovers. We try to have meals that use the same ingredients each week to prevent buying tons of extra ingredients (ie- chicken nuggets one night, chicken and sausage gumbo the other). Having a menu planned helps prevent impulse buys (such as frozen meals). We also try to use the spices, oils, and vinegars we already have; while over the long run the price per use goes down, if we buy a ton at once, it gets really expensive. Our goal is to have our total meal for the night come to less than $5.

3- On the topic of frozen meals, we really try to avoid them unless they are on special or we have a good coupon for them. Aldi does have a very good garlic chicken and veggie frozen skillet dinner for less than $3 (feeds two very easily) that we like having in the freezer, but there are no frozen pizzas or frozen PF Changs unless we can get it at less than $5. We've found that frozen meals tend to be more expensive than what we cook, as well as taking just as much time to make. That also means we tend to not get "dinner in a box" items (The exception being gumbo or jambalaya- I can't do those from scratch). They're expensive and they really aren't all that healthy. Plus, they take just as much time to cook.

4- When we menu plan, we leave wiggle room on the veggies portion (I'm big on veggies with every meal). Unless the recipe requires a specific veggie, we leave the veggie item blank to account for some being on special. There have been times that broccoli has been twice the price of asparagus, or we've found green beans for 29 cents a pound. Hubby and I like a variety of veggies, so it's not a big deal to us to swap out one for the other. If we really need to purchase the more expensive veggie, we make sure to use it again that week (as in, this week we had a recipe call for asparagus, so we used it for that and as our side veggie for another meal).

5- We buy meat when it's on special (BOGO kosher hot dogs are an awesome deal), stock up, and freeze it for later. Back in January, my parents were kind enough to purchase us 2 lbs ground beef and three packages of chicken breast; I preportioned it, froze it, and that stuff lasted us for almost a month and a half. On that note, BUY HAM! If it's presliced, you can preportion it out (we tend to do about 4 slices) and freeze it, and it lasts forever.
** This also applies to other items. We really like Annie's organic mac n cheese, which is regularly $2 a box (ouch). We buy it when it's on 10 for $10 special, and it lasts us for months (by which time it's on sale again).

6- It kind of goes with the preportioning meat, so I'll say it here: PORTION CONTROL. Hubby and I have found what portions of meat let us feel pleasantly full (not stuffed, which is unhealthy)- that tends to be a 1/2 lb of ground beef (tacos, etc), 4 slices of ham (2 each), and one large chicken breast (nuggets, gumbo, etc). Because we tend to have a side dish with our meals, the smaller portion of meat works very well.

Now, this has gotten rather long, so please look for the other things we do in part 2 of my grocery budget post!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Card Album

Hello, darling readers!
So how many of us like to keep the cards sent to us for special occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, holidays, etc? I imagine I'm not the only one with a giant box filled to the brim with the cards I've received over the years- they are too special to just throw away! I wanted to figure out a way to show off my lovely wedding and engagement cards, but they didn't fit well in my albums, so they've been sitting in my card box, unlooked at and unappreciated. Until today, that it!
I'm just going to say it now: Pintrest is the devil. I've spent so much time browsing the cute things my friends post and my poor husband has become a guinea pig for all the recipes I've found. There are so many cute craft ideas floating around and I'm so glad I found this one to show off my wedding and engagement cards.
Here's where I got my inspiration:

Items needed:
1 sheet of scrapbook paper sized cardboard (12"x12")- 59 cents each
2 sheets of scrapbook paper, color of your choice (12"x12")- 69 cents each
Brads (two)- $1.79/ box
Metal craft rings- $1.99 for two (found in the cross-stitch section)
Spool of wide ribbon, color of your choice- $3.99
Single hole punch- $5.99 each
Elmer's glue (I had on hand, but I think it's about $1). glue dots, or craft glue
Total time: about two hours

Here are some of my items. I've already cut the scrapbook paper to size.

1- Outline on the cardboard your largest (tallest and widest)- you'll need two pieces. Cut them out.

Here's how the cards and the cardboard will fit together.

2- There are a couple ways you can handle using the colored paper. My inspiration used two halves of the colors; I used a whole piece of each color, with one on the outside and one on the inside. Either way, you'll need to trace out two pieces of the colored paper to match the cardboard shape. Glue these pieces onto the cardboard (this is where I used the Elmer's- my inspiration used glue dots). If you use Elmer's or craft glue, set aside for a few hours to allow to dry.

2.5- Once everything is dry, trim off any excess you have.

3- Punch holes in the upper-left corners of the cardboard pieces and your cards, large enough that the metal ring through. Don't put on the ring yet!

4- Cut a length of ribbon long enough to wrap around the two cardboard pieces, all of the cards, and to tie a bow in the front.

5- Place two holes in the middle of the back piece of cardboard (I used my craft scissors to do so). Put two holes in the middle of the ribbon length that you cut (I used my hole punch) so that they match up to the holes on the back piece of cardboard. Attach with the brads.

Here's how it will look on the outside (the back of the album)

Here's how it will look on the inside of the album.

6- Place everything on the ring- back piece, cards, front piece. Tie ribbon and voila! A pretty, accessible card album!

*My inspiration made letter to attach to the front using more scrapbook paper. I was given a stamper as a present, so I used my stamper to place a letter on the front. You can leave yours blank, or attach whatever you would like to the front.

I love how my project turned out and I found it to be rather easy and inexpensive. Here are some front and back pictures of the final product.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Hello my darling readers!
As people learn in conversation with me, I lived in New Orleans for several years. After getting over the initial culture shock, I grew to deeply love the city, its people, its food, and its celebrations. And by love the food, I mean became a gumbo snob. Moving away broke my heart and devastated my taste buds.
My husband (then boyfriend) and I took a road trip to New Orleans in May 2010, partly as a graduation present to me and partly because he had never been and really wanted to go. It didn't take long before he fell in love with the city (although the history buff in him loved different things than I did).

Me at a French Quarter cafe

Hubby learning how to eat crawfish from my Nanny Holly

We got engaged a month later and after a few months of tumultuous planning, decided we wanted to up and move the whole thing down to New Orleans. Not only was our wedding a blast, people got a really fun vacation out of it.

My second-line dance at the beautiful Edgar Degas House
(photo by Matthew Weissman)

So, honestly, it goes without saying how much fun I think Mardi Gras is. It's absolutely crazy, you act like a complete fool for some plastic beads, drunk people surround you, and it's a complete blast. Each Mardi Gras, hubby and I get a little sad that we're not down in NOLA celebrating. It's a sad replacement, but we watch the pictures our family posts and make the next best Cajun food we can (lemme tell you, boxed Zatarin's is a poor replacement for the real stuff). This year, I decided to spruce it up with some homemade bread pudding, a local dessert. I love it because all of the ingredients are right in my pantry. Hubby says it's the best thing I make- I'll let y'all decide :)

Bread Pudding
prep time: less than 10 minutes
cook time: 40-45 minutes
total time: less than 1 hour

3 eggs
2 cups milk
1 cup brown sugar
4 slices of bread (white or wheat sandwich bread works just fine).
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract (if you are allergic to nuts, it's totally okay to leave this out)
2 tbsp. butter
about 1-2 handfuls of chocolate chips (totally optional)

Whisk the eggs until combined in a bowl. Add the milk, brown sugar, extracts, and chocolate chips and stir well. Tear up the bread into large chunks and spread in a 1 qt. baking dish. Pour the mixture over the bread, making sure the chocolate chips get spread around well. Cut up the butter into small pieces and plop into the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until the top is slightly browned (40 minutes works just fine for me- not under-cooked, not over-cooked). Let cool for about five minutes, serve warm.
I've served four people comfortably with this (meaning, people had seconds and there were leftovers). So, I would guess this serves 4-6 people generously.
If you don't finish it all at once, you can store it in the fridge, and as my hubby will tell you, this dessert tastes really good reheated.

Hubby wanted a picture of it plated.

I've had several people try this recipe and everyone has loved it. It's a great party dessert and wonderful to make when you need a dessert quick (seriously- start it before you start dinner and it'll be ready just as you're sitting down to eat, cooled just enough by dessert time).

I would love to hear how y'all have modified the recipe!

I got my inspiration for this recipe from,1940,155168-242204,00.html

A Nook review and the Appalachian Prison Book Program

Hello darling readers!
Did you know that libraries have a limit on the number of books you can check out at one time? I learned that by the time I was in kindergarten. To say I love reading is an understatement. To me, something isn't quite right if I don't have a book that I'm progress. I always have a pile of to-read books laying around. I love the smell of books stores and the feel of a new book in my hand. Luckily for me, I married someone else nerdy enough to think that going and reading at bookstores is a completely acceptable date idea.
And so, when e-readers first came out, I was not happy. It seemed sacrilegious to me that people would carry around little tables containing thousands of books, reading their pages on a screen rather than flipping pages. Not only that, as someone with poorish eyesight, I was concerned about the eye strain. My technogeek husband laughed at me and, much to my bewilderment, bought a Kindle last Christmas while I insisted on sticking to my hardcopy books.
However, I began to notice this summer that he who reads slower than molasses was finishing more books than me. I couldn't understand it- he and I were both working full-time, with the same responsibilities outside of work, and yet he was going through more books. And the more I thought about it, the more curious I became about the answer: while I was not bringing a book with me to work because it made my purse heavier, he was carrying his Kindle around with him and able to get in more reading time.
I was a little uncomfortable with this fact and even more uncomfortable with the idea that I might want an e-reader.
So, I spent several months looking at the e-readers, with none of them fitting what I required if I was going to commit heresy. I wanted something that would easily fit in my purse, was an e-ink screen (no glare!), only did books, was touch-screen, no ads, and under $100. And of course, with those standards, nothing made me happy.
That is, until I found the Nook Simple Touch. I wanted that thing within five minutes of playing with it.
This e-reader is amazing. It has the e-ink screen, so I can read it anywhere, has a VERY easy to figure out touch screen (as well as inconspicuous side buttons), and the only ads I see are for books at the BN store. It (and its matching Vera Bradley case) fits perfectly in my purse or bookbag and turns on super fast for when I only have a few minutes to read. Plus, when synced to Facebook, it connects to my Nook friends automatically, so that I can see which books I can borrow from them. Once I purchase books, I get them within seconds, and the BN store has a copy of my wishlist right on the device. This toy is amazing and I can honestly say that I read more with it, partly because it is easier to carry around the tiny e-reader than an average-sized copy of Anna Karenina (which I recently finished, BOOYA!).
Yes, sometimes I feel guilty about having gone to the dark side, but I realize that having an e-reader doesn't make me love hardcopy books any less. I enjoy reading them just the same as my Nook, with the added bonus of them getting to stay safe and clean at home, rather than risk getting beat-up in my bags. And yes, I have purchased hardcopy books since the purchase of my Nook.

I would like to end this blog with a final charity appeal. All of my book-loving friends understand the joy it is to share a book with someone, especially when they might not have been able to get the book otherwise. Reading is super-important to me and I'm a big supporter of programs that target populations that might not be getting the reading materials they need or want. So, when I found out about the Appalachian Prison Book Program at WVU, I thought it was a fantastic idea. The organization collects new or gently used books to send to prisoners who have written in requesting materials; the prisoners are then encouraged to share the books they receive with others or donate them to the prison library. The program also accepts donations to fund shipping the books, as well as to purchase more. Not only does the program help feed their souls, there are studies that show higher reading levels in prison help improve morale and behavior. So, rather than donating your books to the thrift store, consider finding a similar program near you- you really will be helping to improve someone's life.
Here is the link to the APBP, if you would like more details on the program or how to donate:
They are also on Facebook:

Explanation- Welcome Back?

Hello Darling Readers!
So, remember a few months ago when Crafty Mountainer went AWOL and nothing was showing up? As it turned out, my gmail account had been hacked, Google got a little pissy with me, and somehow deleted my account! Or, so I thought....
One day, I was trying to access my blog to link it to another website, and I discovered this one was back! Seeing as the majority of my followers were linked to this blog, and I had more posts on here, I decided to keep this blog, copy over my old posts, and delete the other blog. So, that's why there is an explosion of posts from me with some statements that might not make sense for the season.
Thank y'all so much for hanging in there with me and hopefully the Crafty Mountainer will stay online this time!

Charity Feature- The Snuggles Project

Hello darling readers!
I'm so sorry it's been a time since I've written- the holidays made things crazy and then the new semester started, and on and on and on. So, on top of my many New Year's Resolutions, being more prompt with this blog is one of them (let's hope my delay doesn't signal anything...).
I'd like to do one more charity feature, one which is particularly near and dear to my heart: The Snuggles Project

Two of the several Snuggles I have hanging around the house...

I found the Snuggles Project about a year ago when looking for a new charity project. It's purpose is to create blankets, toys, and little pillows for animals in shelters to help calm them down and feel less scared. The idea is that if they are less scared (and thus more friendly), they'll be more appealing for adoption. As a proud Mommy of three shelter animals, and a strong advocate for adopting from shelters, this instantly caught my heart.

My first shelter baby, Mollie- a BIG fan of the snuggles

I know you hear me say this on a lot of my crochet charity features, but this time it is especially true: these items are a great way to use of extra yarn and wonderful for ANY level of crocheter or knitter (even beginners)! There are patterns written (and clearly labeled) on the website for each expertise level, with pictures showing how the stitch should turn out.
There are also patterns written for many different weights/types of yarn, so they really do help you use up those extra bits hanging around. You really don't need to go out an purchase anything more to create these items; plus, each project requires only as much yarn as you want to put into it. I know that it's not always pretty to create something with multiple colors, but guess what- animals don't care! To them, having something soft and smelling like a person to sleep on means the world (just ask Mollie- she tries to lay on everything I make).
The website also has a link for finding shelters in your area to donate to. If you don't find one, you can also google search local shelters- just ask them prior if they accept blankets, because some may not have the washing facilities. And when you go drop off the blankets, please consider donating a bag of food, a thing of litter, some treats, or even some Clorox bleach- shelters are really in need of these items (especially food, litter, and bleach).
For patterns, please go to
For a list of shelters in your area that are already confirm as accepting snuggles, please go to
The Snuggles Project can also be found on Facebook:

Charity Features

Charity Features
Hello darling readers!
Things have been absolutely crazy in the Crafty Mountaineer household. Unfortunately, two family members passed away in the weeks before Thanksgiving, so between our losses and my very crazy school schedule, blogging has fallen by the wayside. However, I promised that I would show you some great ways to give back these holidays and I still intend to do so! Here is a triple-feature for your patience.
1- Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child ( I did this lovely, simple, budget-friendly project throughout high school and college. First,go to the above website and choose a child in the given age ranges. Then, go purchase a variety of the requested items, which is the fun part. I tend to go to the Dollar Store with a set budget (I typically do about $10-$15). Just make sure the items aren't dangerous, aren't war-related, and can't melt. Once you get home, wrap the upper and lower parts of the box separately (not like you would a large present- wrap two individual pieces). Then, pack everything neatly into the box- mainly, just make sure the box isn't overflowing. Drop off the box with $7 for shipping at a local collection center, who will then send them down to the main collection site in Boone NC.

2- Being Santa for Nursing Homes- This is a project my husband and I are doing this year- we saw it featured on our school's message board and thought we would give it a try. We simply e-mailed the contact person, were given a resident's wish list, and asked to drop off the requested items by Christmas Eve. If you don't have an easily accessible contact, you can call local nursing homes and ask if they have such a program going on, or if there are any general needs for residents (such as hard candies, shower caps, etc) that you could bring by and donate.

3- Angel Tree- I started doing this project during college and it has become one of my favorite! It's so much fun to pick out an "angel" and shop for him or her- I always enjoy imagining the joy each one will have when the presents get opened. If you chose an angel through the website, the wishlist includes clothes and toys. However, various organizations have different wishlists for the angels, ranging from toys only, to hats, scarves, and mittens, and to complete outfits, so angels can be as budget friendly as you need them to be. You then wrap the items in gift bags and drop them off at the collection site. If you do pick an angel through JC Penney and order your items online, you do get free shipping to the angel.

Please let me know if you participate in any of these activities and let me know how they go!

Charity Feature- Donating Magazines

How many of us have piles of magazines hanging around the house? Or buy all sorts of weekly gossip magazines that we toss in the garbage as soon as we're done reading them?
How much does it suck too sit in a doctor's office or a hospital waiting room and have to read boring, outdated magazines? Or, even worse, sit in those waiting with nothing to read and having to watch really bad tv?
And how many of us want to be green?
A great way to get rid of the magazines (and delay their placement in a landfill) is to donate them to local hospitals. Volunteers at each hospital search through the donated magazines, ensuring that they are within an accepted timeframe (here, it's three months), and then divide up the magazines to bring to various waiting rooms. If the magazines aren't within the acceptable timeframe, then they are typically sent to a backfile of sorts that supplements any waiting rooms that are low on magazines.
To donate, call the main office and ask where you can donate the magazines. Normally, you will be told to bring them to the main desk or to the volunteer's office. Simple as that.


As anyone who knows me is aware, I love pumpkins. LOVE pumpkins. A ridiculous amount. Like, one of my favorite days of the year is when the pumpkin spice latte comes out at Starbucks- it's pretty much a holiday in my household. I love pumpkins so much, my family nickname is pumpkin. Want me to eat something? Tell me it has pumpkin in it. Want to make my day? Get me a pumpkin. My fall is literally, pumpkin pumpkin pumpkin.

So far this fall, I've had 4 different pumpkin lattes, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin soup, pumpkin frappicinos, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin cookies. My plan is to make pumpkin monkey bread in the morning and share that joy with you.

I would like to share a rather yummy recipe I found through stumbleupon for pumpkin shortbread cookies. I tried this recipe tonight and it worked out really well, especially for never having made shortbread before. I don't have a shortbread pan, persay, so I used a square brownie pan instead and it worked out great. The cookies are super easy to make- honestly, I found them easier than chocolate chip! They would be great at any time during the holiday season and can be made into very pretty hostess gifts!
Here is the direct link:

The Lazy Girl's Guide to Being Eco-Friendly

Hello darling readers!
The majority of us want to be eco-friendly (although I do have a friend who is openly anti-environment). I like the idea of being eco-friendly, but I really don't like having to put a ton of work into it; also, it can be expensive (the special lightbulbs, the appliances, etc). However, I realized the other day that in our attempts to live in a less-expensive way, my husband and I have some easy eco-friendly techniques. What we do has not changed our lifestyle and the majority is intended to save us money.
1- We keep our thermostat a little cooler in winter (between 65-67 degrees) and a little warmer in summer (about 74 degrees). This makes our heaters and coolers work less to provide warmth and coolness, but we still live comfortably. I'm not going to lie, 65 degrees in the West Virginia winter can suck, but I also really hate high gas bills, so I keep it cooler and make sure blankets are within easy reach.
2- We turn off the lights if we are not in a room and try to only use the lights we actually need. This does save energy, but our motivation is to keep electric bills down.
3- We unplug anything we're not using, or put our bigger items on surge protectors. Leaving your cell phone charger, laptop charger, coffee pot, toaster, etc plugged in still pulls electricity, even if you're not using the item or your item is done charging. This keeps our electric bill down as well as preserves our items' batteries (if you keep the item plugged in too long, it overwhelms the battery and wears it down faster). No kidding, we put this into effect last winter and saw our electric bill go down. It saves energy in the same way that turning off lights does.
4- We use plastic water cups (mine's from Starbucks, husband's is one of those aluminum ones) rather than buy bottles of water. Not only does this save us money at the grocery store, but it also cuts down the garbage bags used to put all the empty bottles in. And less bottles in the garbage bag means less in landfills. My water cup has also served as a conversation piece (Tervis Tumblers are great for that).
5- Husband insisted I talk about our Brita. I'm not sure it really is eco-friendly, except maybe in that we don't let the water run until it's cold enough for drinking. Ask him about that one.
6- We buy Homestead Creamery milk. Not only is it great quality milk, but it comes in really awesome glass bottles that you return for a $2 refund. The company disinfects and reuses the returned bottles. Every week we buy Homestead milk is one less plastic jug that goes in landfills.
7- I buy my cat litter from Petco, who has refillable jugs that you get a discount on when you refill them. As in, I bought my litter for $14- when I go back to refill it, I'll pay $11. So, I'll get cheaper litter and one less plastic container will go in the trash.
While this isn't a comprehensive list of all the easy eco-friendly things to do, it does cover the major things husband and I do to save money and use up fewer resources. I'd love to keep what others do- my budget is always looking for more wiggle room!