Tag Archives: gift ideas

Merry Christmas & Happy New Years!


Wow!  2015 has really flown by.  I believe I speak for the majority of the north east if not the USA when I say; how in the heck is it nearly Christmas!  Totally snuck up this year.  The spring-like weather, while totally amazing, don’t get me wrong, I love 50/60s in December, has us all in a kerfluffle over it not feeling… well… Christmas-y.  Those who now or have always lived in warmer climates may not agree, but to those of us who are used to white Christmases, it is not quite the same feeling when it’s dreary & raining…

Also it seems like this year has had a higher than usual number of negative events.  Almost every person I talk to has had an illness, a job loss, or a death in the family.  People have not even decorated, grocery shopped, or bought gifts yet, let alone wrap them!

Amidst my own personal battle with what turns out to be an atypical sinus infection and a job transition, I have at the least accomplished gift-buying, but sadly neglected my writing. What seems like years (though in reality has been just over two weeks) of sore throats, incessant coughing, complete lack of sleep, and stuffy nose was caused by rude little bacteria, not the virus I suspected.  Though prudent in my desire to not abuse antibiotics, turns out in this case I needed it!  I am slowly on the mend, but about to get even busier.  So forgive me, but I will be taking a break from the blog for the holidays.

As such, please enjoy this lovely anthology of holiday articles past!

General Christmas/Holiday articles:

Christmas Cooking & Baking:

Gift Ideas & DIYs:

You will find plenty of last-minute, frugal, and/or DIY gift ideas for everyone from your artistic aunt to your rugged hunter cousin, recipe and cookie ideas to delight and nourish the family and friends, and plenty of history and reflections to ponder in your few precious moments of down-time.

And don’t forget the most important part of the holiday season: Love!  The love of friends and family, the love of community and neighbors, and love for yourself.  May your holiday season be restful, rejuvenating, and filled with love and laughter.

Merry Christmas dear readers! See you in 2016!

Gift Idea: Altoids Survival Tin


With Christmas mere days away, the panic of gift-giving may be setting in.  It is unfortunate that a holiday meant to be about love and family and reflection has instead become a race through the mall and price-comparing online… but I digress.

For anyone who has a friend or family member who is “that guy” (or girl), you know the one, super hard to buy for, they have everything they already want, or they don’t really want anything, I have a solution that will make both them and you happy!

The Altoids survival tin.


That’s right folks, a harmless little $1 or $2 tin of mints can be transformed into an actually useful, potentially even lifesaving gift with just a little time and creativity.  Based on what you already have laying around your own house, it may even end up being a free gift!

And it will certainly be unique.  (Unless your giftee is a hard-core preparedness and/or survival expert, then they probably have a few dozen kits like this, and much fancier. But it is still the thought that counts, and I’m sure they are never mad about extra prepper gear!). You can get kids involved too, they love to come up with fun ideas for tiny, useful items, and tetris things together until they fit.  It becomes a game of how much can you stuff into this tiny box!


For these kits, all you need is a small Altoids tin (or any other small, sealable metal tin) and an assortment of survival related items. There are infinite sites around the internet with suggestions and recommendations on what to add to these kits, ranging from meds to tarps to fire starting equipment.  Some even show youtube videos on how to turn the tin itself into a knife or saw, which you should only attempt if you are educated on how to use the tools to do so.

It is best to take into consideration the personality of the person you are creating this kit for, and the likely scenarios in which they could need this.  It could be a beauty emergency kit for a female friend, in which case you would want to include things like hair bands, bobby pins, safety pins, oil blotting papers, Q tips, and maybe tiny samples of makeup or makeup remover pads.  It could be a “Bad Day” emergency kit, and contain things like a mini bottle of wine, pieces of chocolate, and uplifting sayings on pretty paper.


For the preparedness/emergency kit, you want to include things like pain medications, matches and candles, ways to collect or purify water, and items that have multiple uses like string.  Keep in mind that even things used to hold together other items, such as electrical or duct tape, string, or rubber bands, can themselves be useful too.

The kits shown above contain:

  • 3 matches taped together with electrical tape
  • 2 small birthday candles
  • 3 feet of string tied with a twist-tie
  • A toothpick
  • A safety pin
  • 1 antibacterial moist towelette
  • 2 Band-Aids
  • 200mg ibuprofen tablet
  • 1 ml of bleach in a sealed plastic tube
  • 1 small trash bag (to hold water to add the bleach to, or provide a tiny bit of coverage from rain or sun)
  • 1 stick of gum
  • 1 packet of lettuce seeds
  • A rubber band to hold it all together


The beauty of this kit is that it is tiny enough to fit into a pocket, so for something as simple as a road trip or a camping trip or going to work in the city, your recipient can know that they have a small advantage should the S hit the F.  Happy gifting!


Have you made a survival tin like this before?  Do you have other things you would add or take out?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

Dark Chocolate Cherry Popcorn


If you know me at all, you know I’m a total popcorn addict. Like for reals.  A night without it feels weird.  I can eat about a dozen cups’ worth and not think anything of it.  I prefer stove-top to bagged, but in a pinch it will do.  Don’t even talk to me about weird toppings, I want my good old-fashioned salty delight.  Until.

Until Christmas rolled around, and I wanted to give my family I’ve been tutoring with for a long time a heartfelt gift.  In my list of last-minute gift ideas I included peppermint popcorn, and thought that might be a great idea.  But I didn’t have peppermint at the time, and y’all know I’m frugal, so I try to use what I already have.

In my cupboard, I had some dried cherries and several bits of different dark chocolate bars.

Bingo. Dark Chocolate Cherry Popcorn.

This was created on a whim, but turned out absolutely splendid!  You can of course customize it with other dried fruits or types of chocolate, for example a white chocolate apricot might be tasty, or try adding in some nuts or seeds for extra crunch.  It looks adorable in a clear plastic baggie with some colorful ribbon or a bow.



  • 3 cups popped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate
  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp. dried cherries
  • 1 oz amaretto liquor (optional)
  • Sprinkle of salt and sugar

Step 1: Soak the dried cherries in the amaretto 1 hour.  This softens them enough so that they aren’t hard and chewy later.  If you don’t want to do this step, it is optional.

Step 2: In a microwave-safe bowl or double boiler, add the chocolate and oil. Microwave on high in 30-second bursts, stirring each time, until melted. Or use a double boiler, but do not bring to a boil.

Step 3: Pop your corn on the stove top or in an air popper if you have one.


Step 4: In a large bowl, pour your popcorn and cherries. Slowly pour in the melted chocolate, stirring with a spoon or spatula, to coat all of the popcorn. Finish with a sprinkle of salt and sugar, and you’re done!

Now your homemade snack is ready to be packed into a cute tin and given to someone you care about for Christmas, Valentine’s day, birthdays, or just because. Or you can just eat the whole thing, I won’t judge.




How to: Make a “Door Snake” or “Draft Stopper”

Want to know a great way to help your budget in the colder months? Winter-proofing your house or apartment.

If you live somewhere that experiences temperatures below 60 degrees (which is much of the world) your skin and wallet will thank you for taking some simple steps. Winter-proofing is beneficial because it can help your heater work less hard (due to plugging up drafts and beefing up insulation), keep your living areas warmer, decrease your energy needs, and decrease your energy bills. All good things.

Some tips will not apply to you depending on what type of structure you live in and how much space you have to heat. A quick Google search brings up Yahoo’s list of 12 Ways to Winter-Proof Your Home, Women’s Day’s Guide to Winter-Proofing Your House,  and UK Money’s How to Winter-Proof Your Home and Beat the Big Freeze

A common thing among all winter-proofing lists is insulation.

Regardless of whether you have a 5-bedroom home in the suburbs or a one-bedroom apartment in the city, insulating your doors and windows will keep drafts at bay and heating bills manageable.

One way to insulate windows is to use plastic window cling or bubble wrap. I mashed several layers of bubble wrap over the bedroom window and duct taped it in place. There is definitely a noticeable difference in how much cold gets through the window now.

This guide is to show you another simple way to avoid under-door drafts: by making a door snake!

It may seem intimidating, but my friend B and I made two gorgeous draft stoppers in under 20 minutes.


You will need:

  • 1 sewing machine (or needle, thread, time, and patience)
  • Material approximately 1 yard by 1 foot (use thicker cloths to stand up to more wear)
  • Approximately 6-10 cups filler (rice, beans, sand, salt, kitty litter, etc)

Step 1: Lay your fabric pattern-side up, and flip it over onto itself so the ‘inside’ faces out. Pin along a straight line.

Step 2: Use a basic stitch to sew along the pins from end to end. You can measure the length of your doorway, leave an extra 2 inches per end. This doesn’t have to be super exact.

Sew all the way along the length. This will create a tube with open ends on both sides.

Step 3: Sew up one end of the tube. Make sure the two sets of stitches overlap to fully close that end.

Step 4: Now flip the tube inside-out so that the stitches are on the inside and the pattern is on the outside.

This is one of B’s 2 cats, she was very interested in what we were doing. Mostly the parts involving string.

Step 5: Measure against your door frame to make sure you fill the tube to the right length. Cut off the extra, leaving a few inches on the un-sewn end.

Step 6: Take the filler material, and hold open one end. Fill the tube up until the length of your door frame.

B proudly holding our first filled door snake. =) This is before cutting off the extra end material and sewing up the open end. Also of note, kitty litter is cheap but very dusty. Maybe try rice in yours.

Step 7: Fold the ends in by about 1/4 inch so that you have 4 layers of material. This puts the frayed, cut ends on the inside and creates a cleaner look & hemline.


Step 8: Sew along the double fold at the end. Make sure it is nice and tight, and goes all the way to both sides of material. You don’t want filler bits leaking out on your floor.

Step 9: Make sure your door snake is the right size for your door frame, and admire your hard work.


There you have it. A simple solution to cold wintry drafts that saves you from needing to double-sock and saves you some cash. You can re-use these for years, depending on the type of material and your level of sewing prowess. I’ve even heard of people sewing extra washable covers for these so they can wash the cover when it gets dusty/muddy/gross.

What’s your favorite money-saving craft idea?