Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Works For Me Wednesday: Homemade table napkins

While I still had the sewing bug from making those cute curtains for my laundry room, I also tackled a project I had been longing to do for a really long time--

Making table napkins!

And, yes, from a bed sheet, of course. ;) That seems to be a good way to get material, as evidenced by my kitchen curtains and my laundry room curtains. (Click on those links to see what I did.)

My aunt graciously allowed me to cut to pieces use one set of queen-sized bed sheets she had recently given us. They were a kind of burnished orange color, which I figured would be perfect to camouflage the inevitable tomato sauce stains. I measured the flat sheet and found that I could get the best results with cutting the pre-sewn napkins to 19.5 inches square, and made 25 napkins with just the flat sheet (finished size: 17 inches square). This left a narrower strip of cloth along one side, which I cut into 19.5 inch lengths to make "snack-sized" napkins (finished size: 17 inches by 9.5 inches). I also made some even smaller "snack-sized" napkins from leftover material from one of the white bed sheets I used to make my kitchen curtains (finished size: 10.5 inches square).

Since I already had in mind that I wanted to make my own table napkins, I had previously searched online for directions on the best way to make them and found tutorials on how to sew mitered corners. (Click here to see one way to sew mitered corners on napkins.) However, I consider myself fairly new to sewing on a machine and prefer to keep my sanity, so I kept it simple. This is what my simple corners look like:

I highly recommend ironing the seams before pinning them--this simple act made pinning and sewing the napkins a breeze! Also, if you are using a bed sheet, determine whether or not it is worth your effort to rip out existing seams. I used the side and bottom seams, but if I had this to do over again, I would not have ripped out the seam at the top of the sheet. This project took about one day to complete. I now have a good supply of table napkins to replace the...well...t-shirt scraps we had been using for napkins. I still have the fitted sheet and/or the pillow cases if I want to make more, but 25 table napkins (plus the few snack-sized ones) seem to be a good amount for us.

Total cost: Virtually free, since I had matching (albeit really old) thread on-hand that was from my mom's thread collection...and that works for me!

By the way, as an update to my previous Works for Me Wednesday post, Saving Money on Your Electric Bill, my most recent electric bill was $15 less than the previous month! YAY!!! :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Overheard: Just an Ordinary Child

Grace (age 5) was delighted to see Jason's truck in the parking lot of Staples as we walked to the entrance of the store. She pulled at my hand and told me, "Daddy's here! Daddy's here! I'm gonna surprise him! I'm gonna walk up behind him and smack him on the bum!" She giggled and giggled over this scandalous thought, and practically pulled me into the store so she could find him and sneak up on him. When we found him, she gasped and ran off down another aisle, trying to keep me in sight and trying not to let Jason see her. We had arranged to meet at Staples, so it was no surprise to anyone except Grace. The boys and I stood talking to Jason while Grace planned her strategy. She finally went two aisles over, came up behind Jason, and smacked him on the bum. He pretended to be surprised, and then we all nearly doubled over laughing as Grace did a little victory dance, struck a pose and said, in a sing-song voice,

"Just an ordinary child!"

...As though it were just an ordinary child who had come up behind Jason to smack him on the bum, because that's what ordinary children do in stores. ??? Naturally, that's become our newest random phrase.


Grace walked into the bathroom just after Jason had taken his shirt off to examine his range of motion after a recent shoulder injury. Her immediate reaction?

Grace [in a taunting voice, looking up at him as he looks in the mirror]: You're not strong.

I suppose she thought he was "making a muscle." Of all the people to say this to!! (Jason is a weightlifter and without a doubt the strongest person I know.)


Grace decided to make her own money this week. Jason asked her what she would use the money to buy.

Grace: I'm gonna buy a bulldog!

Josiah (age 9): An English bulldog costs about $1000. Do you have that much?

Grace: [pauses as she considers this crucial piece of information] Then I'll buy a Spanish bulldog!

I've checked--There really is a breed referred to as the Spanish bulldog. No, we're not getting one, and no, Grace didn't know about this breed.


While Grace and Josiah were playing together today, I heard Grace refer to herself again as being "just an ordinary child." Josiah's reaction?

Josiah: An ordinary child? Not hardly!

I agree! Would "just an ordinary child" teach her baby doll Emily to read and help her sound out the words?

Well...perhaps. But how many five year olds do you know who have a job as a Mail Girl...

and take that job very seriously?

I only know one, and trust me...she is no ordinary child.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Saving Money on Your Electric Bill

I've been implementing some money-saving ideas this summer since the summer (actually, it was still spring) kicked off with some horrendous heat. Since it's going to be hot for a while and I'd like to be able to keep the house reasonably cool without running up the electric bill, I've gotten a little more serious with the penny-pinching ideas.

One thing I've done for over a month now is to use a clothesline. During that time, I've avoided using the dryer with two exceptions. (Oh, and I've unplugged the dryer since I'm rarely using it.) Even though it's a really short line (I think it's 17 feet long, and the space in between the two lines is really small), I can hang an entire load of laundry on it, with the exception of a load of whites since there are so many small items.

I've already mentioned here on my blog that I covered cardboard and posterboard with aluminum foil to reflect the sun and heat. Now you get to see a picture of it:

Very classy, I know. But, seriously, it works, and works very well! All summer long (and well into October), our bedroom tends to be stifling hot--but not after I put the aluminum foil up in the window. Even with only about half of the window covered, we have enjoyed noticeably cooler temperatures inside. This window faces our backyard so really y'all are the only ones to see it. Since it's on the other side of our blinds and hidden behind our room-darkening drapes, we don't see it unless we're in the backyard.

When I told my father about this idea, he said that if you use cardboard to make sure the pleats run horizontally so they don't trap any heat.

Something I've been doing for a few years now is to put a piece of tape along the side of the thermostat to prevent little fingers from setting the temperature lower than what Jason and I have set. This year, I also put a piece of tape above the "upper limit" of what is tolerable in the house. This makes it easier to raise the temperature on the thermostat without, shall we say, going too far. I like to prevent mutiny when possible.

I move the tape when we are going to be out of town for several days or when the seasons change--adjusting the temperature boundaries is very easy.

Have these changes saved us money? This is a highly mathematical analysis, but going from one month with slightly-above average temperatures to the next month with horrible, way above average temperatures, our electric bill increased by only $25. Everyone I've talked to about electric bills reported a significantly higher increase in their bill.

See? Highly mathematical.


What tips can you share about how to save money?
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