Thursday, February 28, 2013

7 Reasons Etsy Newbies are Spoiled

This month, I celebrate five years on Etsy.  Does that make me an old timer?  Because I don't feel old!

My shop has evolved and grown so much over five years, and I never dreamed it would be where it is today.  Well, I dreamed, but I didn't think it would come true.

Not only has my shop changed, but so has Etsy.  Here are just a few ways you young'uns are spoiled these days!


  1. Back in my day, it took five pages to list an item.  Five pages!  By the time you were on page 3, you forgot what you were listing!
  2. Etsy hadn't released it's API to anyone, so there weren't any cool tools to help you run your shop.  Nope, you had to do it all by yourself.  
  3. Coupon codes?  Yeah, right!  You had to go in to Paypal and refund the money.  And Etsy took their commission off the full amount.  Nice, huh?
  4. There were no stats, and definitely no Google Analytics.  You just promoted the heck out of your shop and crossed your fingers.  
  5. There were no iPhone apps.  Heck, I didn't even have a phone that could check my email back then.  I didn't know I sold anything until hours later!  And there definitely wasn't a cha-ching
  6. We couldn't mark an item as shipped.  So if you packed orders out of order for whatever reason, you had to make sure you went back and packed it later.  
  7. If you wanted to make a treasury, you had to wait for hours or days for the treasury list to drop below 333.  Why 333?  Who knows.  Probably had something to do with the dinosaur computers back then.  
I'm celebrating by offering coupon codes all month long, so check my shop announcement.  They will change throughout the month.  

Right now, I am offering $10 off a $50 purchase in my shop with code FIVEYEARS.

Thanks for a great five years!
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Monday, February 25, 2013

Frugal Valentine's Day Gift Ideas for Couples


If expensive gifts aren't in your budget this year, don't despair. You can create a romantic evening for your spouse or loved one without breaking the bank. These frugal Valentine's Day gift ideas will help you show your love without spending a lot of cash.
Handmade Gifts
By making a handmade gift, you not only save money, but you can also personalize the gift. If you aren't crafty or creative, many photo-printing services offer collages that let you create a professional-looking photo for a wall in your home or the desk at your office. Or, you can check your local craft store for kits that include everything you need to make a one-of-a-kind gift.

A handmade gift doesn't have to be something physical. You can write a poem or song for your loved one, or you can serenade your date. If you write a poem or song, consider printing a copy and framing it as a keepsake of the evening.

Frugal Valentine's Day Gift Ideas for Couples

Gourmet Dinner
Even with coupons, a nice dinner out is expensive. If you enjoy cooking, make your own gourmet dinner at home. You'll spend more than you normally would on dinner, but it will be a lot less than paying for a restaurant. Use grocery store coupons to help make the date even more affordable. Make preparing the meal and dessert part of the date, and you'll share quality time as well as a delicious dinner.
Spa at Home
A day at the spa relaxes the body and mind, but it is an expensive date. Make your own spa at home with scented candles and a relaxing oil massage. You can purchase massage oil inexpensively at most drug stores, or you can make your own with jojoba oil and a few drops of fragrance oil or essential oil. Play some of your favorite romantic songs to set the mood.
Valentine's Day gift ideas don't have to be lavish or expensive to show your love. Just spending time together on the holiday is enough for most couples. If store-bought gifts aren't in your budget, challenge each other to see who can come up with the best frugal idea. You'll both have fun planning the date and spending precious time together.
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Do Big Box Stores Save You Money?


Big box stores advertise everyday low prices and claim that you can save money by doing all of your shopping there. Their prices are lower than smaller, specialized stores, but do you really save money? That depends on your shopping habits.
Sales
Money
Stores that advertise low prices every day rarely offer sales, and when they do, the sales are not significant. Other stores charge higher prices every day, but they also offer great savings on several items each week. By stocking up on items when they are on sale, you can spend less than if you shop everyday low prices.
Coupons
Most big box stores accept coupons, but some do not. Many high-priced smaller grocery stores double or triple coupons all the time or during certain times of the year. Although the shelf price of the item is higher, using a coupon often makes the final price lower, especially when the store doubles or triples coupons, especially if there are two or three of them.
Other Deals
Smaller stores often match sales with other promotions from manufacturers. When you combine a sale with coupons and a rebate, you can see significant savings on your groceries. Stores may also offer a free item with purchase or an in-store coupon for your next shopping trip.
Stocking Up
Because only certain items are on sale each week at grocery stores, you need to stock up on items when they are priced low. Most stores follow a 12-week cycle with sales, so as a general rule, plan to buy three months' worth of an item to last until the next sale.
Time
If you run out of an item at home or don't have time to clip coupons and visit multiple stores each week, big box stores may be a better choice for you. Prices are fairly low on all items every day, so you can save money if your grocery store does not have the item on sale.
Do you shop big box stores for deals?
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Sunday, February 24, 2013

How to Make Suet For Birds

I'm pretty sure that we have the fattest birds around.  The blue jays and cardinals here are so fat, I'm not sure how they can fly.  The farm is more of a animal sanctuary than a farm.  Birds and other critters come here because they know they will be well fed and safe.  I feed my birds suet in the winter to give them some extra fat and protein.  This was so easy to make, and my 5-year-old even helped!

How to Make Suet For Birds


I used lard in my recipe, but you can use shortening.  Lard is better for the birds, but if you can't find it or are vegetarian, substitute with Crisco shortening.

Homemade Suet Ingredients

Directions

1.  In medium saucepan, melt lard over low or medium low heat.  When almost melted, add peanut butter and stir well.

2.  Add flour and cornmeal.  Add the oats, seeds, dried fruits.  Stir well.


3.  Pour in to 8x8 pan lined with waxed paper. Place in fridge or freezer.


4.  When hardened, cut in to small chunks or a square to fit your suet feeder.  I was making plugs for my log feeder, so I cut them in to chunks.   Store in freezer or fridge.


Good things to add are raisins, dried apples and other fruit, old-fashioned oats, and crushed egg shells.  I used egg shells, sunflower seeds, cut up raisins, and peanuts just because its what I had on hand.  That's another great thing about this recipe: you can use what you have on hand!

Freeze for about an hour until set up.  Then cut in to chunks and place in a bag or container to freeze until ready to use.  It does get messy when you cut it.  I took the bits that fell off and squished them together to make a few more plugs.    

Let me know if you try it!
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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Upcycled Ribbon Holder For Craft Room

I love ribbon!  Since I didn't have a way to store it, it ended up in a drawer never to see the light of day again.  I saw this idea on a blog a few years ago and decided I needed it for my room.

I found the shelf at a garage sale for $2!  It is just a simple wood shelf, and the shelves are about 6 inches apart.  My husband drilled holes on the end to slide a dowel rod through to hold ribbon.  You can use any size shelf you can find or make.  Just make sure you have enough room between the shelves for the ribbon to roll.

I stuck a pin in the end of each spool of ribbon because they kept unraveling.

On the top, I store small pieces of ribbon or ribbon that did not come on a spool.  I found the containers in the dollar zone at Target, which is why one has a white lid.  They were on clearance, so I only paid 25 cents or 50 cents per container.

On the side you'll see a bunch of ribbon hanging.  They are organized by color or theme on plastic pieces I cut with my Cricut and stuck on a smaller dowel rod.  Eventually, they will hang below the shelf.

And the bird is just cute.  It was scrap from a glass etching project, so I stuck it on the wall to make me happy.


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Friday, February 8, 2013

Crock Pot Broccoli Cheese Soup

This is a great dinner when you have some time to prepare dinner in the afternoon and you will be busy at dinner time.  Yesterday, we had girl scouts right after school and cub scouts at 7.  I needed something that would be ready to eat from the Crock Pot without any additional prep work.

This is the best broccoli cheese soup ever.  My husband hates soup and hardly considers it a meal, but he loves this soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 16 ounces broccoli (fresh or frozen)
  • 8 ounces thin noodles
  • 2 pounds Velveeta cheese
  • 6 cups of milk
  • salt, pepper and garlic salt to taste
Directions

 1.  I used my homemade chicken broth, which is not all shown in the photo.  If you don't have broth on hand, you can use 6 cups of water and  bullion cubes, but we  prefer it with homemade broth.  Place broth and noodles in the Crock Pot and turn it on high.


2.  Meanwhile, cook celery and onion in butter over medium heat.  I like to start the celery first to give it a few extra minutes.  They do not have to be completely cooked because they will finish in the slow cooker.


 3.  Add cooked celery, onion, broccoli and cheese to slow cooker.  Cut the cheese in to 1" cubes to help it melt faster.  Stir a little bit.  Noodles will soft but not fully cooked.
4. Let cook on high until cheese is fully melted.  This took about an hour and a half for me.  Just keep an eye on it and stir every half an hour or so.

5.  Add up to 6 cups of milk.  I normally add 4 cups because we like a thicker soup.  You can always add more just before serving.  Turn Crock Pot to low and let simmer at least two hours.  Add salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste.

Yummy!  Serve with homemade bread, croutons or crackers.   

If you cook it longer than two hours, it will still taste great, but the noodles will be very, very soft.  Leftovers freeze well- if you have any leftover ;)

Let me know if you make and and like it!

Linked up with Kathe with an E!
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