a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The "Coop" ---- Almost Literally!

In yesterday's post I mentioned our kids having "flown the coop" ---
left the nest ----
moved out ----

And the significance of that term hit me.

Many posts ago I included a picture of me and my pet chicken (when I was four or five). I didn't realize that laying dormant all those years was my love of the feathery critters.

Fast forward many years to the home that was finally large enough to hold our brood----and you'll see what I mean.

When we bought this house it was in "like-new" condition. Windows had never been opened during a storm --- the ledges lacked rain drop spots! This house hadn't lived.

It was great looking --- normal and formal --- neither of which described us but, we were determined to conform until . . .

one day, a couple of months later, when I came home from a shopping trip with a roll of wallpaper that was on sale for 50 cents. "Please, Dave," I begged. "Can I at least paper the basement laundry room with this?" One look at the paper  ----- A second look at the price ----- A return to the store and the house became our home!

This wallpaper was so realistic people
would actually come right up to it to see if it was real.

A wide variety of chickens (and other farm-type stuff) followed. We had so many chickens Dave had a friend of mine cross-stitch "I've never met a chicken I didn't like" for me to roost among the others.

The house had lots of dark paneling and cupboards.  The chicken wire lead to their demise.  We painted the wall white and then used a well-worn whisk broom to streak it with country blue. You can see a little of it on the left side of the above photo. The cabinets also became country blue--although it looks brighter in these pictures.

Looking through the living room into the dining room
These two photos are dark and difficult to see but I have included them because
I want to point out a couple of things.  It was a busy home (walls and people) and no one could
enter without having an opinion ---- good or bad.

  • I mentioned in yesterday's post that many rolls of toilet paper were stored under our couches. This is the couch. 
  • In the dining room, on the right of the kitchen door, is an old wooden file cabinet. The finish was terribly worn so we just painted it black and added an old wooden church hymnal holder (also painted black) on the side to hold our phone book. Four card catalog drawers filled the top section of the cabinet----absolutely perfect for recipe cards and address cards! The next three were full size file cabinet drawers. It was a wonderful and cheap find.
  • Across from the file cabinet, flanking the other side of the kitchen door is a solid oak unit divided into sections. In it's previous life it hung horizontally in an old doctor's office (the office was old, I am not sure about the age of the doctor) to hold patient files.  It was $5 at a country yard sale. I wouldn't tell Dave what I wanted to do with it but I knew exactly. He trusted me.  He liked the price ---- I loved the cabinet.  It held mugs, plates, tablecloths, napkins, etc. perfectly!
  • Hanging on the chicken wire on the back wall is an old pair of size 0 Levis.  My parents had five granddaughters before their first grandson was born. That was back in the days when wee sizes of adult clothing were very rare. My dad was usually stoic but he was so excited to have a grandson that he brought these to the hospital!  My sister and brother never produced a son but the four little boys that followed Romm in our family wore these in turn. The seat and knees were out when Brin finally inherited them. They hung on this wall until Romm had his first son and now they hang in their home. We bought six pairs and stored them away for our kids' boys who have now passed them down in their families. 
I don't know if this has been fun for you but digging out these old pictures sure has been fun for me. 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

#13 What If. . . ? If you can't "hide" your food storage then . . .

Flaunt it!

That's what we have done, occasionally, throughout the years. And we think it works! 

If the ideas seem unusual or weird --- remember the blog you are reading. I am Simply, Gail: the Creative Cheapskate. I love the challenge of making do . . . of making the most of what we have.

Here are some of our ideas for your consideration. . .

Many posts ago I  suggested the many benefits of having a small wooden rocking chair in the kitchen. If you can't remember the benefits I listed at that time, I am sure it won't take you long to come up with your own list.

The kitchen, in our 900 square foot home, was too small to hold the table, but that smallness was a blessing in disguise when we brought in the rocking chair.

Another issue was lack of cupboard space. We found a large wooden bookcase for cheap, painted it and used it as an open cupboard.  It held numerous kitchen goods in a variety of baskets and fun containers, as well as small groupings of canned foods. (Nothing ever got lost in the depths!)

Fast forward many years. The children have flown the coop and we are once again in a small home with minimal cabinets and storage space. There is a small dining area off the kitchen with two corner cupboards (with glass doors on the top half) --- pretty useless in to us since we aren't currently into "show" shelves --- and were never into china and crystal.

Since I use much of our "food storage" on a regular basis, I wanted it convenient. So off came the glass doors and up went the #10 cans---staples and dehydrated vegetables.

The photo at the beginning of this post are cans that I prepared as a wedding gift for one of our kids--- in the event their first home didn't have storage to hide them away. I made theirs before I made ours.

Some of the cans in the top photo are #2-1/2 cans for things that aren't used as often or items I wanted to "introduce" to the newlyweds. "Elliott" holds biscuits for their dog.

How I Did It

I covered all the cans in scrapbook sheets I found in variety packages on a clearance table. Some of the cans are covered in horizontal "stripes" from the leftover pieces.

You can use whatever suits your decor---you are limited only by your imagination. (We have papered a kitchen wall with pages from a reproduction from an old Sears catalog and a border in an early bedroom for our daughter from colored construction paper--covering them with "Modge Podge" coating.)

Back to the cans: I made the labels on the computer...and instruction labels for the back of the cans that needed instructions.

Lastly, just to help them last, I covered the covering with clear no-name-brand "contact paper."

I purchased the white plastic lids and put them on both ends of the cans so the metal wouldn't leave rust marks on any surfaces. It was a bonus that the bottom one added to the overall look.  At least I think so!

Yes, it was fairly time-consuming but it was simply great fun and quite cheap.

  •  The ones we have in our corner cabinets are only covered 2/3 of the way around (only the part that shows) and the left-uncovered-part is where the directions are.
  • The ones that aren't used as often are unadorned and out of sight.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Six months ago I didn't know what a blog was and honestly, I wasn't interested in knowing. How things have changed!

Blogging, for me, has become an international friendship --- a means of reaching out and helping one another. Sharing. Learning from one another.

It doesn't matter that our situations differ, our customs differ, our environment differs, and the way we worship differs. What matters is that we are all striving for the same fundamentals --- peace and safety, raising righteous children, having shelter and enough to eat, good health, and happiness. We all love and need to be loved. We all want to serve and to be served when the needs arise. Blogging allows us to connect and I hope we are.

We are all children of a Heavenly Father who also wants these things for all of us, even if our individual situations have us doubting at times. He is always there. We just need to prayerfully and sincerely seek Him. And live as best we can so we can hear Him when He reaches out to us. His is usually a still small voice, feeling or thought.

His help usually comes through others. I have mentioned before that I do not believe in coincidences. I have been taught that coincidences are helps from Him when "He wants to remain anonymous." As 2011 draws to a close, try to take a minute to reflect on all the good that has come to you --- even among the sorrows and the bad. When you do so, can you recall "coincidences?"

Before we say good-by to 2011 and hello to 2012 I want to take a minute to "tie up some loose ends."

  • I want to thank all of you who have taken the time to make comments. I try to respond to all of them but some have come in the form of e-mails without easily identifiable-identification! and I haven't figured out how to respond. I answer personally when it is something I know how to do and until I learn, please know that I greatly appreciate your remarks.
  • I welcome your input and suggestions.
  • I was away from the computer for a few weeks in October and I prepared the posts ahead. It went smoothly and I was pleased with my accomplishment. When I was back posting on a daily basis I found I had forgotten how to do a couple of important things----what is amazing (at least to me) is I can't remember how I did the pre-posting!!! 
  •  I also forgot how to add the recipes I put in the blog to the list on the right hand side resulting in a bold Pie: Eggnog Pie --- from December 5th --- and nothing since. They are listed below in case you want to find them. 
  • I will work on how to list them correctly---all over again. I think it will also be helpful  if I can learn how to put them in categories also.
December 7th - Homemade Potpourri (simmering, dry, and price comparisons of spices
December 8th and 13th - Substituting one ingredient for another
December 12th - Four-layer, four-flavored "Rainbow" cake
December 14th - "Speciality" pancake syrups
December 16th - Cooking equivalents
    When you reach my age, retention and memory are not what they used to be and while I have twice the amount of time I used to have---it takes me three times as long to do anything!!

    What If . . .? Posts
    I started the "What If . . .?" preparedness posts as Tuesday and Thursday regulars---13 of them! After the first of the year, I will just post them whenever they come up, not waiting for a specific day of the week.

    Obviously this blog is a work in progress. Thanks for your patience.

                    Simply, Gail

    Tuesday, December 27, 2011

    #12 What If . . .Making Room for Food Storage

    Yesterday I presented bagging ideas for toys. Since today is the day for a preparedness post I am continuing with the storage theme ---- this time for storing the extra food you are hopefully acquiring for a time of need.

    Continuing the series to prepare you for a time when the store
    shelves are empty and you have to get by on what you have on hand.

    Over the years I have collected storage ideas from a variety of Internet sites. Today I am going to present some of them. Hopefully they will give you good ideas or spark other ideas to meet your own needs.

    Storage Ideas from the Internet

    My son (the only boy among a gaggle of girls) also has his own room. Some of the extra space is dedicated to a large shelf filled with cans and boxes.

    A few cases of food can take up some less-than-necessary-room under a desk.

    I have decorative shelves near the ceiling in my great room. Many houses have such shelves. On these shelves, I store sugar in #10 cans (one gallon). I put decorative wallpaper around the cans. In front of the cans I have placed greenery and white "Christmas" lights. Several guests have commented on my pretty decorations. They are always surprised to find it is disguised sugar. I use sugar since it stores for a long time and takes heat well. (Note from Simply, Gail: While this sounds really cute, I would worry about earthquakes or other incidences that could cause the cans to topple---and cause serious injury. Can you think of something lightweight that you store and disguise in a similar way? Toilet paper?)

    I am a professional organizer. One of my specialties is food storage. I have found that lack of space is usually not the big problem many people think it is. Once I help my clients realize what they value most and why, they typically find or make space for what is important in their lives.

    Pull a dresser or couch away from the wall a couple of feet and you can fit lots of cans or buckets behind it where they won't be seen too easily. We put food in Mylar pouches in rolling boxes that go under beds and in giant 55 gallon metal drums in the carport (the drums keep the insects/rodents/critters away from the food. Make a table with a board on top of a couple of cases of canned goods and cover it with a cloth. I've stacked 2-liter pop bottles, cleaned and filled with water, horizontally between my filing cabinet and the wall.

    Identically-sized boxes fit nicely between the wall and my couches. Every piece of furniture in my living room and family room has boxes containing food storage behind it. I stack them about three boxes tall, and then extend them as long as the couch. It leaves just the perfect amount of space between the wall and the furniture---nobody would even guess there was anything back there. (Note from SG: Cover it with a cloth or a finished board and it will appear to be nothing but a regular table that is designed to go behind couches.) Boxes can also be stacked to form a table---my telephone sits on one such table. It's just boxes with a cloth over them.

    We converted our coat closet into another food pantry. Since this closet is not directly in the kitchen and it is carpeted we store our #10 cans, case lot sales items, and items purchased in bulk. I stock my main pantry from this converted coat closet. Also the coat closet had a built-in shelf above the rod so that shelf is for unopened boxes of food like our case of tuna and our 72-hour  kits (grab-and-go kits near a door exiting the house).

    We put short bookshelves in our son's closet and use them for food storage. Since his clothes are small they fit great over the top of the boxes. We also stacked boxes of #10 (one gallon) cans in the ends of the closets. Just make sure the boxes are labeled with what's in them and put the things you will need to get into most often on the top or it can be a real pain to find things.

    What I am planning on doing is curtaining off two feet or so along one wall of the dining room (Ikea has curtain rails you can mount on the ceiling) and putting all my food storage on shelves behind it.

    If you have a couch that has a "skirt" to the floor, you can store a lot of toilet paper unseen!

    Have any of these ideas given you ideas? 

     “We have no room” is the excuse voiced most often. An excuse is exactly what it is. 

    The comment from the professional organizer says it best when she wrote "once I help my clients realize what they value most and why..."  

    Unfortunately, sometimes it needs to be what they should value most and why. You can't eat stuff in an emergency, and since I am simply cheap I'll add --- 

    you shouldn't need a professional organizer! 
    • Be creative
    • Organize your space yourself 
    • Use the money you would have paid for the advice to--- 
    • Buy the food to store in your created space!

    And, one final thought, if you do not have one inch of space to disguise a minimum three-day supply of food, will that prevent you from being prepared?  Should that prevent you from being prepared?

    Being prepared "just in case" provides immeasurable peace. Even though it will take some money to be prepared, it is highly probable that no amount of money can help you---at the actual time of need.

    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Tidying up Toys

    I hope yesterday was a wonderful day for you, no matter how you celebrated. Unfortunately, if being completely honest, it was probably also a day for collapse---after all the preparation!

    How's that for an introduction to a periodic confession, from long ago (approximately 1964--1993), I am now going to admit to. . .

    While "wifehood" and motherhood are of immeasurable worth, there have been occasions, usually at the end of a particularly long, hard day, when I have told Dave that "I am tired of this game!"

    On a more positive note, with the new year approaching ---- along with our goals for getting organized looming---- I thought this might be the appropriate time to let you know that I have been known to exclaim that I was . . .

    While I no longer have to deal with the yearly challenges of where do you put it all , we saw the predicament through grandparent eyes --- and it brought it all back.

    • Bags are one answer to the clutter of things and stuff
    • When toys and games are sorted and in place, it is easier to play with them
    And, most importantly     
    Visual elimination of stuff is a huge aid to a mom's peace and tranquility!
    Bags can be stitched up in almost any fabric---new or old, in all sizes, for a multitude of out-of-sight purposes.

    Don't sew? No problem!
    Use your imagination-----and your grocery bags, mesh vegetable bags, baskets, ice cream buckets, or whatever you have that will hold and hang safely. Or, trade some simple chore with a neighbor who does sew in exchange for having her stitch up a few straight seams.

    Creative individuals can identify bag contents with applique, embroidery, or fabric paints. The rest of us can make do quite well with marking pens or pictures cut from magazines or---keeping in mind that kids can remember anything they want to--- just let them memorize the contents of the various bags.

    The key to the success of this method is finding the proper location for this container assortment, and that is-----out of the children's reach. (Unless you have exceptional children that automatically pick up one toy before playing with another --- in which case you wouldn't even be reading this post!)

    I had Dave make a "shaker rail" out of a pine board and some cut-from-dowel pegs, and hung it fairly high on the wall. If you are not up to making such a thing, or have no one to make it for you, they can be purchased unfinished at a hobby store quite reasonably (especially if it is on sale or you use a coupon.)

    Any type of hooks or nails will work. Even those multi-hook holders that fit over a door do the job.
    Don't want hooks? Sort the toys into boxes, baskets, or other containers and place them on a shelf out of reach.

    I admit it is a little bit of work retrieving bags for the kids throughout the day but I can use the exercise and I prefer that workout to bending over picking up the toys or working the jaw muscles with frequent pick-up requests. As the kids get older and learn (unfortunately getting older and learning aren't necessarily synonymous), the containers and be moved to where they are more accessible for them.

    Additional Benefits. . .

    • With this method you will probably find that some toys are played with more than when all the individual parts had to be dug out from among everything else in the toy box.
    • On the other hand, I must admit that some toys weren't played with as much as they were previously---
    • And that was okay with me, too, since they were hanging neatly on a hook and not strewn all over the floor.