Thursday Tip: Tomato Tags

Every year, we try new varieties of tomatoes.  They are, by far, my favorite thing to grow in our garden.  But we’ve had a few problems over the last couple of years keeping everything straight as far as know which tomato is which.

I’ve tried sticking the little plant tag in the ground next to the plant, but inevitably the tag gets broken or lost over the summer, never to be seen again until we are tilling in the fall.  I’ve tried writing it down, so we can keep a record of the varieties we love and don’t love quite as much.  But sometimes I forget.

This year, we have fifteen tomato plants, in thirteen different varieties. I’ve decided to try something new.  I think it’s a good idea and wanted to share it with you.

I’ve taken all the tags that came with each little plant, punched a hole, and zip-tied it to the tomato cage of each plant.  I’m hoping we can keep better track of the tags this way (no getting stepped on and broken, or lost in the foliage).  Wish us luck!

Categories: Garden, Thrift | 5 Comments

Handmade Halloween – Bat Tutorial

Since last week I posted a tutorial for sewing a homemade garden gnome costume, I thought I’d share how I made H’s bat costume for this Halloween as well. This costume was also very inexpensive to make, and very easy.  It took me about 2 hours total, including trying to keep E distracted from pushing the stitching buttons on the sewing machine and away from the straight pins. Click the pictures for close-up views.

I started with a black jacket from Goodwill ($1.99) and took it with me to the fabric store.  Using the jacket as a reference, I bought 3/8 of a yard of black felt ($1.58) .  With the material folded in half, I had H lay on the felt with his arm outstretched and used straight pins to mark his wrist, elbow, armpit and waist.

Cut a wing shape using these measurements.  You could mark the felt with chalk, make a paper template, or freehand it (I just eyeballed it).  With the jacket zipped up, pin felt to the arm and side seam of the jacket.  Flip the jacket over and trim away any extra felt.  (I love that this jacket has a reflective patch on the back hem – good for trick-or-treating).

Unpin the felt from the jacket, but keep the pin marking the elbow in place.  You now have one wing that is two pieces of felt.  Use this as a guide to cut another two pieces of felt for the other wing, and mark where the elbow will be on the second wing.

Working with one wing at a time, twist together some pipe cleaners (77 cents for 25).  I used seven for each wing.  Center the… uh, stem(?) of the pipe cleaners at the pin that marked the elbow, between the two layers of felt.  Pin the pipe cleaners in place.

Bend pipe cleaners so that they make lines out to the points of the wings and pin securely between felt pieces.

Top-stitch both pieces of felt together, starting with the outside edges.  Then top-stitch on either side of each pipe cleaner. It might be fun to use contrasting thread so you can see the stitching.  Repeat this on the second wing.

Now you will secure the wings to the jacket.  You could sew them in place, use hot glue, or if you want to reuse the jacket later, use safety pins.  I used safety pins.  I pinned the jacket at the wrist, elbow, armpit, waist and hem.  Then I had H try on the jacket, adjusted the wings as needed and added more safety pins.

For the bat ears, I cut two pieces of felt in the shape of an ear.  Make sure they are big bat ears, not little cat ears!  You could do double layers of felt, top-stitched together here too, but I was running out of nap time and patience with Emmett, so mine are only one layer thick.  Pin and stitch pleats into each ear.  You might want to experiment with one or two pleats, etc.

Pin the ears to a black knit hat ($1.50 new).  Flip the hat over a stitch the ears on.  Alternatively, you could hot glue or pin the ears in place.

Ta-da!  A bat costume for $5.84 plus tax.  If you’re keeping tally, that’s $9.53 for two Halloween costumes this year.  If you could find a black hoodie at Goodwill instead of a jacket and a hat, that would save you even more.

When the 31st rolls around, H will wear his costume with black pants too.  He loves his costume – just what he wanted.  What are you doing for Halloween?  Do you dress up?  Are you making homemade costumes?  Carving pumpkins?

Note:  Please feel free to share this tutorial on your own blog, just include a link back here!  Thanks!

Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

Handmade Halloween – Garden Gnome Tutorial

Last year, we found the funniest costume and we really wanted it for E (who has earned the nickname “Angry Elf”).  But we couldn’t find it in E’s size.  This year, Target is carrying the costume – for $20.

Basically these are brown and plaid, super-thin pajamas with a felt hat, fake beard and felt booties.  TWENTY dollars!?!?

So, I tried my hand at making it myself.  E already had hand-me-down green corduroy overalls and a red plaid shirt from H, so that part was easy.  Turns out, the rest was easy too.  Click the pictures for a closer view.

I got four pieces of 9×12″ felt for a dollar at Hobby Lobby.  Make that seventy cents – since it was my lucky day and the felt was 30% off.  And a piece of white craft fur for $2.99.

Step one: using two pieces of felt, trace and cut out hat shape.  Make sure to leave a seam allowance and that the brim will fit your babe’s noggin, plus a little wiggle room since the beard will be sewn into the hat.  I had to sew in little extra felt triangles since E needed just slightly more than 18 inches (pictured later).  Trace a beard shape on the back of the craft fur and cut out.  I suggest making the beard at the bottom of the piece fur so that you won’t accidentally cut the hair that hangs down at the bottom too short.

Step two: Cut two eyebrows from scraps of the craft fur.  Trim them to be a bit shaggy and then pin them to the front of the hat.  Sew eyebrows on.

Step three: If you need to add a bit of felt to make the brim fit your little one’s head, sew triangles to the back piece of the hat.  You can see my little triangles already attached where the beard is pinned.  Cut a six to seven-inch piece of thin elastic (I had some of this left over from a earlier project).  Center, pin and sew the elastic to the inside of the back hat piece.  Pin and sew the beard ends to the ends of the elastic.  Note that I sewed them as shown in the picture, but if I had a do-over, I’d turn the beard ends out before sewing them on so they’d lay more naturally when the hat is worn.  Details, people.  😉

Step four:  Pin the right sides of the hat together, sew and trim up any threads.  Turn right side out.  Voilà!

For the shoes, trace and cut a sole, a tongue and two sides of a shoe that will fit your kiddo on two pieces of felt (or on one piece and cut both pieces at the same time).  Give the sides a nice curl, so when it’s put together the toes will curl a little.  Cut two 1.5-2-inch pieces of thin elastic.

Sew the backs of the shoe sides together, right sides out/wrong sides together.  The seams should be showing on the outside of the shoe.  Next sew the elastic to the inside, centering with the center of the back of the shoe.  Then sew the sides to the tongue, again, wrong sides together.

You’ve just made the “upper” of a felt elf shoe.  Although, the story books would usually have it happen the other way around… the old shoemaker would be proud.  At any rate, they should now look like sole-less shoes.  Pin the soles to the upper, again, with the seams showing on the outside.  Sew the soles on.

All done.  Little gnome shoes.  Not the best to use in a house with hardwood floors, unless your gnome can’t walk.  But they will do for one night on the streets, begging for candy and creeping out old people.

Finally, dress the Angry Elf as a happy garden gnome.  And laugh all the way back to Target to return that ridiculously over priced costume.  You just made yours for $3.69 plus tax.

Note:  Please feel free to share this tutorial on your own blog, just include a link back here!  Thanks!

Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: , , , , | 17 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Cereal Alternatives

This week I have a quick Thrifty tip I thought I’d share… alternatives to breakfast cereals.  Most of the cereal you buy in a colorful box is not only not very good for you, since it is highly processed and often contains lots of sugar,  but it is usually very expensive.  A couple of great alternatives that we’ve found are eating whole grains like oatmeal, or for something crunchy, granola, from the bulk bins instead.

Oatmeal is generally .79 cents a pound, sometimes less when it’s on sale, and we usually buy granola in bulk for about $1.99 per pound.  These are very inexpensive compared to prepackaged breakfast cereals, and they are much more versatile.  You can add almost anything to your oatmeal in the morning.  Try berries and cream, cinnamon and brown sugar, maple syrup, milk, honey and almonds, dried cranberries, bananas, apples, lemon juice… you name it.  And oatmeal can be used to make muffins, cookies, breads and more.

Granola comes in many flavors with all kinds of different whole grains, nuts, or dried fruit, or can be made from scratch.  It’s great over yogurt, or in a bowl with milk (like you would eat regular cereal).  It usually holds it’s crunch pretty well, taking a long time before it gets soggy.  It’s much healthier for you than breakfast cereal, and much less expensive.  H loves it like this. He also loves it as part of a home-made trail mix with pretzels and dried fruit.

Categories: Food, Simple Living, Thrift | 2 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Reusable Produce Bags – for FREE!

Here’s a quick one that occurred to me as I was emptying the mandarin oranges into the fruit bowl last week.  Although I’ve been bringing my own reusable bags to the store for a while, I always cringe at the amount of plastic bags I still use for produce.  Luckily I grabbed the camera and now I can share an easy, no sew, way to have a reusable produce bag!

Step one: Empty your mesh bag of the produce that came with it.

Step two: Cut off the labels, including anything that has a bar code (don’t want your store checkout person to get confused).

Step three: Using an old piece of ribbon (this scrap came from something I was going to throw away anyway) to lace through the mesh around the hole you made to get the oranges out.  Tie the ends together.

Step four: Remember to bring with you to the store do you can reload you new/old bag with new produce that doesn’t roll around the cart all by its self any more!

Categories: Simple Living, Thrift | 3 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Good Trades

Here’s a quickie this week.  I know I’ve mentioned and Craigslist before, plenty of times.  But here are a couple more swapping sites to add to your thrifty lists:


Trade a Favor is a Facebook application.  Just add it to your Facebook page, list what favors you are willing to trade for (services, skills, items, etc.) and find a match.  This is a high-tech version of bartering people! 

Swap Thing is very similar.  Sign up is free through the site, and you can trade your things for someone elses things (or services), and you can use cash to offset the differences if your services is more or less valuable than theirs.

Categories: Thrift | 1 Comment

Thrifty Thursday: Be Mine, Valentine!

Looking for the perfect V-day gift?  Consider getting your Sweetheart a certificate for a massage or spa day instead of roses and chocolate.   Roses are marked up nearly 30% or more around the 14th, but spas often offer a 20-30% discount for first time customers.  Can’t skip the flowers?  Go for my favorite… tulips!

Need a great vintage card?  Click the valentine to the right to get FREE vintage valentines you can print yourself. 

Do you like to spend a nice night out to dinner?  If you can put off your celebration for one week, you can hit up and see all the amazing meal deals for $52.80 per couple during Denver’s Restaurant week!  This is one of my faves (and I shared this tip last year too), since our anniversary always falls in this week… the 22nd!   Spend some time on the site and you’ll find hotel and B&B deals, and much more.


Categories: Thrift | 1 Comment

Thrifty Thursday: Warranties and Repairs

This tip came to me from Genny, former TTT girl and blogger, and oddly at  a time when my other friend, Jenny, was sharing similar events with me. 

Taking advantage of warranties.  Genny recently had an immersion blender stop working.  But instead of throwing it out and buying a new one, she called the company.  For a small fee they shipped her a new part, and the blender was able to be repaired. 

Jenny’s story: someone had bought her daughter a toy for her birthday.  Jenny didn’t get around to putting batteries in it to properly try it out for a couple of months, when she did, she discovered that it didn’t work.  😦  She tried to take it back to the store with the gift receipt she had, but too much time had passed and the store would not take it, and it was no longer stocked there.  They told her to contact the manufacturer.  When she did, the manufacturer (Hasbro) agreed to send her a new toy.  She expressed her that it was a defect in the toy (since the store no longer carried it), and Hasbro agreed to send a similarly valued toy for the appropriate age of her daughter.  At no charge.  She did not have to send anything to them, or pay any shipping. 

And as I write this I realize that I’ve had similar experiences myself.  Once with a part for my pressure cooker, and once I broke one of the crystals on my chandelier in my bedroom.  Both times the makers sent me the pieces I needed for little or no charge. 

So a great way to save money – contact your manufacturers, save those warranties, and make those repairs.  Much less expensive than buying new!

Categories: Thrift | 4 Comments

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