Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving decorating

Finding a way to decorate frugally for a Thanksgiving dinner can be a challenge, especially after buying the turkey and "all the trimmings." But like the saying goes... the best things in life are free. You can decorate your home practically for free.

Did you rake up all your leaves yet? I hope not! If you don't have any, put some plastic bags in your pocket and take a stroll through a wooded park, down a country lane, or maybe just down your street, watching for the brightest and prettiest leaves and the perkiest dried weeds and plants. Gather them all carefully so they don't get crushed or broken.

Once at home fill baskets or glass bowls or any interesting container with the leaves and put a bright candle in the midst of them. Make bouquets from the plants, tall ones and short ones and in between ones, and put them into a variety of glassware - anything from canning jars to water glasses. Group them in a Thanksgiving centerpiece for the table. If you have a platter or tray that will fit, group them on that, then scatter leaves to camouflage it. Putting it on a platter or tray helps define the decoration and makes for an easy clean up.

Decorate with food: If you live where you can get nuts inexpensively, they're decorative as well as a healthy snack. Forget about using a nut bowl, and put them in a different container - a basket, a small bucket, an interesting bowl, or even a large soup mug. Put the nutcracker upright in the nuts and set it where it's handy. Apples are plentiful this time of year and a simple bowl of bright apples is warm and inviting.

Incorporate childrens' drawings or craftwork into your Thanksgiving celebration. Do it with flair. Decorate a window by stringing cut out turkeys, etc., across it. Cover a wall with art work. If you cut sticky strips from post-it type notepads, it will hold for a day and come off easily without damage to either wall or art.

Weave paper placemats. Use these instructions, but use two or three layers of newspaper instead of construction paper. Decorate by painting or coloring them in Thanksgiving colors, or use the newspaper just the way it comes.

You can decorate without spending much (or ANY!) money and that's part of the fun of Thanksgiving or any holiday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Welfare 101

The economy seems to be in the news and on everyone's mind for good reason. There have been income losses for many and I know it's frightening to find yourself without enough money to live the way you've always done.

I've been appalled, though, at what seems to be the prevailing attitude: Get a handout. Go to the government and get help. Become a welfare recipient without bothering to think about other options.

While there's nothing wrong with getting help when you really, really need it, I see a real problem developing. The government is not Santa Claus, neither is it a parent with unlimited funds.

The money our government has is yours and mine. Governments don't make money, they take it.

The money our government has comes from the taxes it takes from us. When it begins to pay out more money, as in more welfare recipients, the money has to come from... guess where?

All this to say that we've become so dependent that we forget to think for ourselves. We forget that there are things we can do to help ourselves and that we can tighten the belt, get creative, and at least try to meet the challenge.

If you find yourself in this position, do everything you can for yourself first. Cut expenses, then cut again. Learn better, cheaper ways to do things. Find ways to make some money, even if it's just a few dollars. Spend them wisely. Read everything you can about living frugally, and put all of it into practice that you possibly can.

Hang in there. When it gets too tough and you can't hang on any longer, then get help.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Now that the excitement of Halloween and the elections are over, the rest of the winter holidays looms ahead of us. Thanksgiving comes first, and that's where we should put our frugal thinking to work first.

To begin with, turkeys usually go on sale just before Thanksgiving. If you like turkey, why not buy one or two (or more) more? There's more about turkeys here: Best Time of Year to Buy Turkeys. I'm just hoping they have sales this year like they've had in the past.

Food is always first, isn't it??? :) Then comes decorating:
Natural and Free Thanksgiving Decorations
, and then another look at food, this time with history - and savings - in mind. The First Thanksgiving Menu - It Wasn't Your Grandma's Thanksgiving Menu!

What else about Thanksgiving? The leftovers... coming right up.

Thanksgiving wouldn't be Thanksgiving at my house without a lot of leftover turkey. I always buy one much bigger than we need for the meal, because I want to send some home with everyone and I want plenty for myself, too!

Maybe it's because I'm a lazy cook, but I figure that after all that cooking and preparing, I need a break and I'm happy to eat turkey sandwiches, turkey soup, turkey casserole and plain old turkey for days afterwards. Then I boil the carcass, take off any remaining meat and freeze the broth and meat, part of it together, part of it separately, for those times when the snow flies and I need a little comfort. One of my favorite recipes is turkey and homemade noodles.

The noodles:

3 1/2 cups sifted flour
1 TBS oil
5 medium eggs
1 tsp salt.

Beat eggs and salt together and pour into flour, mixing a little at a time. Work and knead until smooth, then cover with a damp cloth and let it rest 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a cup or so of leftover turkey meat in a couple of cups of salted broth. Add enough water to make at least two quarts.

Roll out the noodle dough on floured board, dust lightly with flour (it will be stiff) and cute into 1/2 inch wide noodles. I cut the noodles into about 4 inch pieces but you can leave them long if you want to.

Bring the turkey and broth to a boil and drop in the noodles, separating them as you go. Boil until tender, about 20 to 30 minutes.

I serve this with peas and a spoon! The broth is so good.

Oh, almost forgot. There's a new forum at Dollar Stretcher Community, called "Holidays and Birthdays." Kind of a catch all for gifts, decorating and entertaining. Come and share and pick up some pointers for your own holidays.