Merry Christmas! (And a Quick Recipe)

Christmas KatnissI know that many of you are rushing to finish your last minute holiday preparations, but I wanted to wish you all a very merry Christmas this year.

And if you’re needing a quick homemade gift or just a dessert for the family, here it is:

Quick Pecan and Marshmallow Holiday Bark

If you have mini-marshmallows, then you’re ahead of the game! Otherwise, cut a bunch into pieces. Mix the cut marshmallows in with chopped pecans (or any other type of nut you have on hand) to prevent the marshmallows from sticking to each other. Then melt chocolate and mix with coconut oil just to make the chocolate last a bit longer. Combine that chocolate-y goodness in with the marshmallows and pecans and spread into a greased pan. Cut when firm and eat!

I will be having a quiet day at home this year, but I hope that you enjoy your holiday.

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Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds

slowcookercinnamonalmondsAfter a disastrous candy-making attempt before Christmas last year, I decided to do a “dry run” for my various holiday recipes in October. My father taught me to “prepare, prepare, prepare,” and I can assure you that having a batch of goodies fail the night before a family get-together can be a very bad thing. One extra bonus of trying the recipe this early is that my family can enjoy the recipe now and look forward to it again in December.

I therefore made a batch of Slow Cooker Cinnamon Almonds yesterday. I was a little worried about making this recipe in my crockpot as it always seems to run a bit hot. Despite my diligent stirring every twenty minutes, just as the recipe directed, there were still some areas that seemed a bit over done. Generally they came out just fine, though, and made the house smell wonderful.

Once I took them out of the oven, my husband walked in the kitchen and asked, “So do I get some?” When I replied, “Of course,” he grabbed a handful and eagerly chomped down. With a satisfied sigh, he then took a bowl and scooped up a bunch more. From his reaction, I would say that this recipe was definitely a success.

One tip for making this recipe frugal is purchasing the nuts in bulk. Buying nuts at the grocery store can be an expensive venture, making even homemade Christmas gifts not worth the effort. I buy my nuts from Bulk Foods, an online store. In order for this to be worth it, you will need to make a large purchase so that you can take advantage of the low shipping. However, we have never had any problems with the products from this store and have found that making twice yearly orders is quite worth the effort. We get our food at a lower cost from this company than anywhere locally.

So what will you be making for Christmas? Please share so that I can get more ideas!


Preparing for Holiday Crafting

preparingforholidaycraftingAs money is a bit tight this year, I will have to make all of our holiday gifts for family and friends. Although purchasing a lot of crafting materials is tempting, I just can’t do it at this time. To make the crafts truly frugal, we’ll have to make do with what we have on hand. And doing that often requires a bit of patience as well as preparation. Today I’ve begun preparing the materials for two holiday crafts.

dryinglavenderleavesThis past spring we purchased a lavender plant. It has grown to be quite healthy and big, but there were not enough blossoms to harvest for any project. I therefore did a bit of looking around on the internet, and I discovered that I could also use the leaves from the plant. I picked the leaves from throughout the plant, providing me with a modest amount for drying. These I scattered over a piece of newspaper placed in an old pie tin; that was also covered with another piece of newspaper. I am hoping that this configuration will allow the leaves to dry properly as long as the tin is shaken each day so that the leaves dry completely.

makingplasticyarnAdditionally, I also began creating some plastic “yarn” from bags that we had lying around the kitchen. I have been crocheting with plastic bags since 2005 and have used several different methods for creating yarn. I have found the method below to be the easiest, and it also results in the strongest yarn possible.

First, simply lay the bag flat on the ground and cut off the top and bottom of the bag. Next, cut the remaining bag into loops, giving you several loops from one bag. These loops will be connected by threading them together. After you have connected the loops, you can wind the “yarn” into a ball, just like regular yarn. This method should give you a double-strong yarn that will withstand some tugging when you crochet. Just continue adding loops on to the free end to make the “yarn” longer or add new colors.

Finally, one caveat if you have cats. They love to “help,” especially with the yarn. My little helper particularly enjoyed stealing the ball of plastic yarn and running away with it. As these crafts aren’t compatible with kitty kittieslovetohelpassistance, then I would highly recommend doing them when they are sleeping or otherwise occupied. Also, be sure and store them somewhere the cats will not be able to access.

Although these tasks may not produce very flashy results as of yet, they will pay off in the long run. Making use of what’s available is certainly a frugal way to create crafts for holiday giving. Being creative and resourceful allows us to participate in gift exchanges, even on a small budget. Too, these crafts are environmentally friendly as they utilize materials in a new way.