So long, farewell...

Been wondering where I've been lately?  Well, I AM still alive, I am well, family's well, life is...good. 

I'm gonna do this the rip-off-the-band-aid-as-quickly-as-possible way and just say...

I'm saying goodbye to Spartan Living.

For lots of reasons.  And I am at peace with this decision. 

Life is a lot of work.  Family is a lot of work.  Marriage is a lot of work.  You know, the good kind of "work".  And blogging is a lot of work.  Especially for one person.

So, I'm sharing the load and teaming up with a dear friend, Sharon, and we'll be gracing you with our crafty innovations over at Two Girls Being Crafty

You see, I still want to write and share--but perhaps in a more manageable way--with a friend's help.  Please, check it out if you're interested.  And if you like what you see, why not be one of our first followers?

Thank you all for your constant feedback and support--you'll never know what it means to me!

(The Spartan Living site will remain up...for those of you who still need recipes, etc.)


Announcing Poinsettia Pillow Giveaway Winner! (and some other "stuff")

We have a winner!  It's a new follower named Hannah. She said:

"super cute!!! I see gifts in my future!"

Well, how 'bout an early Christmas gift in the form of a lovely handmade pillow delivered to your door?

Thank you Spartans for entering the giveaway, and thank you for following!  There are now over 100 Spartans--I never imagined we'd increase so much!

I apologize for the lack of posts over the last week.  I have some new projects I'm working on, and hey, I still haven't mastered time management.  Have you?  Boo-yah!  (But seriously, has anyone mastered time management?  Any great guides out there?  I'm currently reading an e-book from a wonderful blog called Inspired to Action.  Kat, the blogs writer is fantastic--worth checking it out.)

In other good news, the Poinsettia Pillow Tutorial was featured on One Pretty Thing, Craft Gossip, tweeted by The Lettered Cottage and was briefly mentioned on Prudent Baby along with a few other sites.  Daaang.  Awesome. 

Spartan Living was also featured on 5 Dollar Dinners.  I adapted this recipe shared on a guest post at Sew Homegrown and tallied the cost for a $5 Dollar Dinner.  If you check out the recipe on the 5 Dollar Dinners blog you won't see that mentioned, but I included that information in the verbiage I initially sent in.  So, you're reading it here now.  Just trying to give credit where credit is due!

Anyhow, I'm excited to share a few new things with you here in the near future...  Some new furniture in the Spartan house, some new craft-y things, and perhaps even a few other surprises up my sleeve!  (I know my MIL will read this and think, hmm, new baby?  Nope, sorry!)


Poinsettia Pillow Giveaway!

I hope you enjoyed the Poinsettia Pillow tutorial.  Maybe you'll make one of your own... or maybe you're thinking that you don't have time to make one this holiday season.  Well, you're in for a treat!  I'm happy to announce that I'll be giving away a Poinsettia Pillow handmade by yours truly!

Check this out...

By becoming a follower you'll be eligible to receive an ivory handstitched poinsettia on an evergreen damask 12"x16" pillow.  The gold jingle bells in the center will be sure to bring music to your ears this holiday season!

All you have to do to be eligible to win this gorgeous poinsettia pillow is to become a follower (the icon is on the left side of the page.)  Current followers are already eligible.

You can have a second chance at eligibility by simply leaving a comment on this post.  That's it!  Not too hard, huh?

Please be sure that I have an email address to contact you with--or else, I'll simply choose another winner... Thanks!  The giveaway is open until midnight EST on Friday, November 12, 2010! 

Winner will be announced on Saturday, November 13th.

Good luck!

My apologies, but this giveaway is available only to residents of the U.S.

Poinsettia Pillow Tutorial

I cannot wait for Christmas.  The music, the tree, the ornaments, the music, the food, the cookies, the music...  Seriously, the music was worth mentioning three times.  I love it.  I am also excited for Christmas this year so I can legitimately display the Poinsettia Pillow I created for... $3.  Yep.  The inspiration came from a Pottery Barn pillow in the most recent catalogue.  The PB pillow is $29, which in my opinion is expensive for something that can only be displayed for one month of the year. 

Anyhow, want to make your own Poinsettia Pillow?  Here's how:

First of all, you'll need :
1/2 yard of ivory felt  (from this cut 2 16"x16" squares)
1/2 yard of ruby felt 
coordinating embroidery thread
5/8" hem tape (aka fabric tape, fabric fuse tape, etc.)
20 6mm bells
sewing machine (for sewing pillow)
pillow form or poly-fil

And before we get started, here are a few things I'd like to share.  First of all, I did not include my pillow form in the cost of the project because it can be reused year round with other pillow covers. It's a multi-tasker.  Second of all, I bought all items on sale at my fabric store or with coupons.  Stores like Jo-Ann offer 40% coupons frequently and even allow you to use competitor's coupons in the same transaction.  Lastly, the amount of fabric will be enough to complete two pillows, but in order to have enough height to cut the 16x16 pieces needed for the pillow "background" you have to buy at least 1/2 yard.

You'll need 10 small petals, 10 medium petals and 5 large petals. 

Get a feel for how you want it to look--and appreciate how quickly the project is coming together!

Use Elmer's glue to adhere two small leaves to each other for some thickess.  Do this with all of the small leaves so that the 10 you cut out turn into 5 thicker leaves.  Do the same with the medium sized leaves.

Once the glued felt leaves are dry, use your embroidery floss to backstitch up the center of the petal for visual interest.  I think you'll agree that this is a worthwhile step.  It doesn't have to be perfectly straight--in fact it looks very charming with a little bit of veering off here and there.

Cut a 2" circle from your ruby felt and use a running stitch to affix it to the center of one of your 16x16 squares. 

Lay out the first round of petals and adjust them to your liking. 

When you're happy with the placement of your first later of petals, fuse the sides of the petals down with your hem tape.  Leave the center of the petal free of hem tape to make embroidery easier.  (It is next to impossible to stitch through the hem tape adhesive--I would avoid it at all cost!)

Now that you have fused the leaves to the ivory felt pillow front, use the same backstitch method that you used on the small and medium-sized petals to affix the petals to the pillow.

Next, use hem tape to affix second round of petals. Use a running stitch in the center to further affix the petals to the pillow front.  Repeat step for the small petals, too.  Then stitch bells into the center.

Sew pillow as you would any other pillow.  (If you're new to pillow-making, check out HGTV's Pillow Making 101.)

Wasn't too hard, was it?  Please let me know what you think!  As always, your constructive comments and questions are sincerely appreciated.

Interested in having one of these handmade pillows made by yours truly?  Click here for more information about a Poinsettia Pillow Giveaway!


Meal Plan for November

Happy November Spartans!  I am in shock that the month of November snuck up on me so quickly this year.  I am SO excited for the holidays and know that they're creeping up rapidly, too.  In fact, I have already started my holiday shopping and planning.  Have you?  Planning ahead helps me spread out the cost of the holidays and I am able to shop smarter, too. 

You may remember that last month was the first time I planned a monthly menu.  Prior to that I came up with weekly menus.  Let me tell you that I think monthly planning is a GREAT way to go.  It worked out very well for the Spartan household and I hope to fine-tune my tactics even more and share them with you.  Let's just say it saved some time and money, though truthfully the time savings was most significant.  Anyhow, on to what you came here for--November's Menu! 

Monday 11/1 Broccoli-cheese baked potatoes, salad
Tuesday 11/2 Senate Bean Soup (in honor of Election Day), homemade bread, salad
Wednesday 11/3 Pepperoni Calzones, salad
Thursday 11/4 Huevos rancheros, homemade flour tortillas, homemade refried black beans

I'm trying to recreate the huevos rancheros I had on our vacation in Mexico this year--here's a pic I took of my plate... I think the above recipe may be a winner!
Friday 11/5 Popcorn shrimp (used coupons to buy a box... cheating, I know!), crudites, fruit
Saturday 11/6 Breakfast: Bacon, Egg and Cheese Biscuit Muffins, Dinner: Leftovers from the week

Sunday 11/7: Poppyseed chicken casserole, broccoli
Monday 11/8 White bean and kale soup, homemade bread

Tuesday 11/9 Leftover soup and tuna sandwiches
Wednesday 11/10 Ham and cheese quesadillas, sliced apples
Thursday 11/11 Ravioli bolognese, salad  (I make a big batch of Bolognese and keep in in quart-sized portions in the freezer).
Friday 11/12 Cheeseburger soup, salad
Saturday 11/13 Breakfast: Belgian Waffles and homemade syrup, Dinner: Leftovers from the week

Sunday 11/14 We have a church potluck scheduled; I plan to make Hot Chicken Salad Casserole and a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
Monday 11/15 Curried vegetable pot pies, salad
Tuesday 11/16 Calico beef and beans, salad
Wednesday 11/17 Leftovers from Monday and Tuesday
Thursday 11/18 Oven-fried drumsticks, broccoli salad, fruit
Friday 11/19 Split-pea soup (from the freezer), leftover salad
Saturday 11/20 Breakfast: Blueberry muffins (boxed mix 'cause I keep it real and it's in the pantry already!), Dinner: I'm leaving this open for leftovers or a night out

Sunday 11/21 Slow-Cooker Carnitas, taco topping bar, homemade salsa and chips
Monday 11/22 Black bean and corn soup, zucchini hoecakes
Tuesday 11/23 Sweet and Sour Chicken, brown rice, broccoli
Wednesday 11/24 Bean and cheese quesadillas, fruit

Thursday 11/25 Thanksgiving (I won't be hosting, so I'll probably make some homemade potato rolls and my go-to Thanksgiving dessert--a delicious Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake Pie.)
Friday 11/26 Turkey-noodle soup, leftovers we get sent home with ; )
Saturday 11/27 Breakfast: Pumpkin Pancakes, Dinner: Leftovers from the week/Thanksgiving
Sunday 11/28 Slow-cooker white chili, cornbread, sliced apples
Monday 11/29 Broccoli-cheese lasagne, salad, garlic bread
Tuesday 11/30 Country-fried steak with white gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans

**(I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this is our dinner menu for the month.  The only days you'll see a planned breakfast is on Saturdays.  We generally eat small breakfasts--oatmeal or fruit--throughout the week.  Lunches are simple, too--often they consist of leftovers.  No food left behind, right?  You'll also notice that there are several meat-free meals on our menu.  Not only is this healthy, it's also a big money-saver.  We're starting to participate in Meatless Mondays.)

Yumm!  Can't wait for Thanksgiving--how about you?  I hope you've found some inspiration for your menu however you plan it!  There's no wrong way to make a menu--but you're missing out if you're not planning ahead!

Stay tuned this week for a tutorial on how to make this Poinsettia Pillow for $3 (for real!) and for information on a Poinsettia Pillow giveaway!


Beans, Beans...

Beans, beans...
The magical fruit...
The more you eat 'em...
The more your body gets used to 'em... (i.e. less gassiness)

We had a delicious dinner last night of Great Northern Beans with ham and cornbread...  Enough to serve 4 for a total of $3.42.  That's $ .85 cents per delicious serving, folks.  What a winner!


I made the Patterned Paper Wreath, too!

So after Sharon shared her wonderful wreath tutorial last week, I just had to get supplies to make one of my own.  I thought I'd do something with fall colors so I picked out these pieces of paper:

I used the technique and my end result was this bad boy:

Still needs a bow or something... We'll see if it happens!

My project total was the same as Sharon's--just under $5.  But now I see that Hobby Lobby has their wreath forms on sale for 50% off this week, and scrapbook paper is discounted 50%, too.  So, you could make this project for about $3ish if you buy your supplies at Hobby Lobby between now and Saturday!

When Christmas time rolls around (YAY!) I'll just pull the paper off of the form I bought and use new paper on the same form.  It costs about $1 for 5 sheets of paper if you buy them on sale, so you can change out your wreath with the seasons for only a buck!  Now that's what I'm talkin' about!


Custom framing is cuh-razay expensive!

Have you ever had something custom framed?  Man, it is cuh-razay expensive!  If you've read even one of my posts, you'll know that there's no way I'd pay a small fortune to have something custom matted and framed.  Nope.  Not when I can do it myself! 

Here's how it started...

About 5 or 6 years ago, my husband and I were living a pretty cool life.  We had cool jobs and lived in a cool place and did cool things.  While my husband was on a trip to Portugal, he bought some gorgeous hand embroidered placemats for me.  I loved them and therefore could never eat on them.  But because they were so special I knew I needed to do something neat to display them...

So a few years ago, I was inspired.  I decided to get one of the placemats embroidered with our name and date of marriage, and have it framed.  Great idea, right? 

 So this is what the finished placemat looks like.  And after having the embroidery done, I went to have my placemat custom framed.  I spoke to the clerk about how I wanted it double-matted and chose my frame material and mat colors.  And the cost?  Nearly $200.  I'm sure you're not surprised to read that I took my placemat and ran.  Fast.  Then I tucked the placemat away and let my dream die...err, hibernate, rather.

Fast forward to present day.

I snagged the below print from my mom before she added it to her garage sale pile.  Initially it was in Junebug's room, but oh, Spartans, this print has been repurposed.

I removed the print from the frame and custom cut some matting paper that I picked up from the craft store for $3.   I kept the same cream colored mat that was included with the frame, but the backing mat I purchased is a light brown color.  I used fabric tape to affix my placemat to the mat. 

Here is the finished project in all its glory.  It's not exactly what I had imagined to begin with, but for a project total of $3, who am I to complain?? 

So I custom framed a piece of fabric--for $3 after "the professionals" quoted nearly $200.  I showed them, huh? Spartans think outside the frame, so to speak.

One day I'll learn to take a straight photograph. 

I can finally check this off my long decor "to do" list.  My house will one day be a home!!

What's on your decor to-do list?


Sweet Treat of the Week: Unbirthday Cake

I have a bit of buttermilk in the refrigerator that is quickly reaching its time of expiration so I pulled out my favorite Southern Living cake book for some inspiration to use it up.  (No food left behind, right?)  I chose to make a simple cake for which I had all the ingredients on hand.  It's simply called "The Celebration Cake".  In this case, since our cake was not truly a celebration cake, I left the cake in the pan I baked it in and frosted just the top. It's the lazy-woman's way to decorate a cake--what, are you gonna call the food police on me?  But again, the cake wasn't for an actual occasion. Truthfully, it was purely a way to avoid throwing out the remainder of my buttermilk! And I say when life hands you buttermilk, you'd better bake a cake!

Since the cake is for "celebrations", I decided to make it a "merry unbirthday" cake for my husband.  Hey, we all like to feel special every now and then, right?  Why should that only happen on our birthdays?

If you have never made a cake from scratch before, this is a pretty straightforward and fool-proof one to make!

Southern Living's Celebration Cake
Prep: 25 min., Bake: 35 min., Cool: 55 min.
Yield: Makes 24 servings (In my house, it's more like 12 servings!)

2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups cake flour*
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk

Cream Cheese Frosting**


1. Beat sugar and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until yellow disappears after each addition. Beat in lemon juice and vanilla.

2. Combine flour and baking soda in a small bowl; add to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at medium speed just until blended after each addition. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13- x 9-inch pan.

3. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan to wire rack, and cool 45 minutes or until completely cool. Place cake on a serving platter (or leave it in the pan if you're being a lazy bum like me!). Frost as desired.

*If you don't have cake flour in your pantry, don't fear!  You can make some with this simple hint:
For each cup of cake flour use 7/8 cup all-purpose flour (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) PLUS 2 tablespoons of corn starch. The addition of corn starch helps to make cakes light and tender.

**Use whatever recipe you like.  The way I make it is basically a ratio- 1 8 oz. brick of cream cheese, 1 stick of butter and 3.5 cups of powdered sugar.  If you're making a layer cake, just double the ingredients.  Or triple, if you like a lot of frosting.  I won't judge you!

...and a very merry unbirthday to you!

Edited: After reading this post, my mom shared a tip she read about freezing buttermilk (and bananas).  Genius!


Spent $25 on groceries. Saved $40. Boo-yah!

Today I spent $24.62 on these groceries. 

I saved $40.05.

Yes, this is $64.67 worth of groceries for $24.62. 

Can't believe it?  Here's a scan of my receipt:

I took home:

2 half-gallons of Silk Almond Milk
2 large jars of Kraft Mayonnaise
4 Glade candles (I LOVE these--they're an economical choice if you like scented candles)
2 pouches of Bumble Bee Albacore Tuna
2 3-bar packs of soap
1 box of Playtex tampons
10 cans of Del Monte Tomatoes
1 8 oz. tub of Rondele spreadable gourmet cheese (YUM!)

Interested in saving money?  Check out my Coupon Basics for more information!

P.S.  Yes, I do buy produce, but not at my grocery store.  I purchase produce at local produce markets because they often have a better selection and they always have better prices--hands down!
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