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This has been a busy week of organizing and rearranging.

We organized both girls' rooms, the pantry, four closets, the bathroom cabinets and drawer where I store our toiletries, another bathroom drawer, and the cabinets under two bathroom sinks. Organizing the toiletries gave me a much better idea of our needs; some things I thought we needed, we don't. I also pulled out several sample items that we had and we started using them up.

We changed around both girls' bedrooms, as we got bunk beds this week in both rooms. 

I took all the pictures down from the walls in their rooms, and then looked at what frames we had, including some that I had in a box and was currently not using. I came up with a plan to change around frames and hang pictures in different places. Some pictures I reused (but hung in other places); for others, I reused the frames and will be putting something else in them. 

I moved two orchid plants that had started to rebloom into prominent areas in the house in order to better enjoy them.

Easter Printable The Prudent Homemaker

I printed a free Easter printable from here and put out a small porcelain rabbit that belonged to my great-grandma to make a small Easter arrangment.

Elsa in the Garden The Prudent Homemaker

I used fabric that I had been given to make a skirt and cover a headband for Elsa for her birthday. This is the same fabric I used to make her doll a dress at Christmas.

Eiffel Tower Cupcakes The Prudent Homemaker

I made cupcakes for Elsa's birthday (she wanted another Paris party like two years ago, so I made them like before with homemade chocolate Eiffel towers on top) using this eggless chocolate cake recipe.

I mended a towel. I cut the buttons off a shirt that I was tossing and added them to my button jar.

I planted seeds for chives, larkspur, and hollyhocks in the garden.

I dug up and divided my lilac bush into three bushes, and transplanted them into a spot where they'll get more spring sun, but still have summer shade (without it, the leaves burn in the sun here).

I took cuttings from my lilac bush, from a star jasmine vine, from a hibiscus, and from a rosemary plant to hopefully start new plants.

Olive Tree The Prudent Homemaker 

I divided a potted peppermint plant into several plants and planted them in the garden. I then used the pot to plant a small olive tree.

I picked lettuce, and cut green onions, Swiss chard, and dill from the garden. I juiced lemons from the garden and froze the juice, as well as used some fresh in several meals, including lemon dill chicken.


What did you do to save money last week?

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Ivory's Blue and White Birthday

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Ivory Birthday The Prudent Homemaker

About a year and a half ago, I found a beautiful piece of fabric on Black Friday. It was just a little bit (a yard and 3/8) and there was enough to make a dress for Ivory if I made it while she was young.

This piece of fabric became my theme for her party--blue and white, which seems fitting for a blue-eyed girl named Ivory!

Ivory birthday dress The Prudent Homemaker

The dress is made from the Pascale pattern. This pattern is my absolute favorite pattern; I use it for everything! It has so many variations. I have a copy from the inside of Sew Beautiful magazine from years ago. It's a basic bodice dress with buttons in back. I used blue buttons I bought on a 50% off sale at JoAnn's. The collar is made from white muslin. The dress cost me under $9 in supplies.

Ivory Bracelet The Prudent Homemaker

I made her a matching bracelet with beads I bought on 50% off sale last year at Michael's. This was super simple; I strung the beads on a piece of clear stretch elastic that you can find in the bead section.

Ivory headband The Prudent Homemaker

Her headband is one I recovered (I cut off the original covering). The ribbon that you see is a ribbon that I bought on clearance many years ago. The bottom part of the headband is a navy blue grosgrain ribbon. I cut out two pieces for the bow and sewed it by hand, and then sewed it onto the top ribbon by hand. I then sewed both ribbons together down the sides, leaving the ends open. I slid this over the plastic headband. I folded the ends over twice near the inside bottom of the headband and sewed them closed by hand.

Ivory Imp The Prudent Homemaker

She loves headbands. I made her another one for her birthday too (not pictured) from white grosgrain ribbon. I put a bow on that one as well.

Blue and White Table The Prudent Homemaker

For decorations on the table, I went really simple: blue glass bottles I've had for years with a single stem of snapdragons cut from the garden, and the blue and white vase I found at a garage sale last fall (for $2) filled with more white flowers from the garden, all on a white table runner.

White Flowers in Blue and White Pot The Prudent Homemaker

Ivory giggles The Prudent Homemaker

Tagged in: Birthdays Flowers
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Elsa birthday The Prudent Homemaker

I have had a lot of readers commenting and emailing lately about unemployment and other financial difficulties. I know many of you are struggling to make ends meet. 

Everyday money challenges are difficult enough, but then a child has a birthday, and you're left wondering what you can do to make their day special, when you don't have a penny to spare.

Our own budget is very tight right now. For my five-year-old's birthday, I planned food, decorations, and presents using what I already had on hand.

My daughter is named Elsa, and I wasn't surprised when she wanted to have a Frozen-themed birthday party.

 Frozen Birthday detail The Prudent Homemaker

I put down a white table runner on the table. I used two mason jars with epsom salt and little trees in them that I made at Christmas. I found some ribbon in my stash that was just the perfect colors that I tied around the tops of the jars.

I repurposed some Christmas boxes that were given to my husband years ago with candy in them that were perfect for the theme, and I put her gifts in these.

I trimmed some branches that I have had indoors for forcing and put them in two blue mason jars that I have.

I had some pinecones left from Christmas (we gathered these for free before Christmas) that I used on the runner as well.

Frozen Birthday The Prudent Homemaker

I hung a white doily banner that I made a few years ago for my older daughter's birthday.

Winter, my 13-year-old daughter,  made Elsa a castle using supplies (paper, paint, scraps of foam board, and glue) that we had on hand folowing this tutorial

Winter also printed and enlarged (on our copier) an Olaf picture for the children to play "Pin the nose on Olaf."

She also made her cake, which was actually brownies topped with powdered sugar. (Warning: we have had cake with powdered sugar sifted on top before, but I won't do it again on top of a birthday cake; when the child blows out the candles, they also blow off a lot of the sugar!) Elsa requested brownies and I wanted something super simple, but if not, I could have made her a myriad of cakes using a large number of Frozen cake tutorials on Pinterest.

Winter styled Elsa's hair for the day like Elsa's coronation hairstyle in Frozen, using this tutorial.

Lollipops The Prudent Homemaker

I made some lollipops. Lollipops are Elsa's favorite candy. I had sticks that I had gotten for free last year using a $10 off $10 purchase coupon (plus the sticks were on clearance). I used this recipe to make the lollipops. I added blue food coloring at the very end. The sugar turns golden when cooked, so the color turned out perfect with just a few drops of blue. I sprinkled some sugar sprinkles on top before they hardened. If you don't have lollipop sticks, you can make hard candy in a sheet pan instead, and crack it for "ice."

A couple of things that I didn't have time for but thought about doing (and could have done with supplies on hand) were making and hanging paper snowflakes, and making snowflake sugar cookies. 

Elsa got to pick the meals for the day. She picked chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, and pizza for dinner. I made both of these from scratch. 

My parents took her out for lunch. They have recently started taking each child out, individually, for their birthday, as part of their gift to each child, though usually they do this later and put a note in their card about the birthday date (where they are going, which sometimes includes a movie). My mom picked a place for lunch that had a deal going right now that included ice cream for $6. My parents gave her their gifts there; an Elsa nightgown (bought on sale), a Frozen coloring book, a puzzle, a Highlights Hidden picture activity with stickers (this came in an advertisement in the mail) and a necklace.

I made her presents using fabric that I had on hand.

Elsa birthday skirt The Prudent Homemaker

I made a skirt for her. Elsa loves skirts and has been asking me for more of them. Watching her open this one was so fun; her eyes lit up, she gasped, and just like Olaf, she said with excitement, "I love it!"

Elsa Birthday doll dress The Prudent Homemaker

I made a doll dress for her baby doll, using a pattern, fabric, and thread that I had on hand.

Elsa Birthday Dress 2 The Prudent Homemaker

Elsa requested that I made a pink dress for her. We talked about what she wanted. I had almost enough fabric for the entire dress, and was just short the front bodice piece lining. I used a piece of white cotton for the that piece, since it is inside.

Elsa Birthday Dress Detail The Prudent Homemaker

I drew a tree on the front and embroidered it in bloom, just like our plum tree is in the garden right now.

Because I sew, I buy fabric on sale and have some on hand to use later, but even if you don't have fabric on hand, you can repurpose something (on old sheet of shirt) to turn into a birthday gift. A doll dress takes a tiny amount of fabric, and could easily be cut from another item of clothing.

Even if you don't have any money to spend, you can still make a wonderful birthday for your children using items you have on hand and a little creativity!

Need a good idea for a birthday gift? Read What Your Children Really Want for Their Birthdays.

Other gifts you can make for a little girl using what you have on hand include printing paper dolls, making homemade play dough, and cutting hair ribbons from ribbons you have on hand. Check Pinterest for a myriad of links for free printable paper dolls and play dough recipes.

Also check out my other Birthday posts and my Gift a Day series for ideas on inexpensive gifts to make.

Elsa Birthday Dress The Prudent Homemaker



Tagged in: Birthdays
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Mint Chocolate Frog Ice Cream 4 The Prudent Homemaker

Note: This post contains affiliate links.

Cyrus turned 11 last week, and requested a Harry Potter birthday.
This is the second time I've had a Harry Potter birthday for him, and I've had one for Ezrom as well. With 7 children, I doubt it will be the last time we have a Harry Potter birthday party; in fact, Liberty has already requested a Harry Potter birthday for her birthday in September. With that in mind, I decided to invest a bit of time, as well as money, for items that we can reuse every time a child requests a Harry Potter birthday (as a bonus, a few of these items will be useful to make gifts the next time one of my children is invited to a Harry Potter birthday party for a friend!)

Using fabric scraps that I already had, I sewed a bunting in the colors of the Hogwarts houses. I had every color but yellow in my fabric scraps. I used a bit of yellow fabric dye that I had leftover from another project to dye some cotton muslin. I sewed the whole thing onto black grosgrain ribbon that I purchased by the spool at Michael's.

I swapped out our family pictures for some Hogwarts travel art. I purchased these on a half-price sale on Etsy from here, using money I earned from taking surveys. I had them printed at Sam's Club for $2.87 each (they are 11" by 14" each). I can use these again for future parties, and since the art is a download, I can print more as gifts for friends in the future, should I desire.

Since Cyrus turned 11, Winter made a Hogwarts acceptance letter for Cyrus (using a free font from here), which she put in the window with the snowy owl that I bought for him years ago. I sealed the letter with sealing wax I've had since I was a teenager, and this Hogwarts School Badge Wax Seal Stamp (which was $16 when I purchased it).

She included a Hogwarts train ticket that we found here.

Ezrom folded purple paper airplanes from construction paper and hung them above Cyrus' bed for some Ministry of Magic inter-office mail first thing in the morning.

Ezrom also made a howler that he hung from the ceiling with fishing wire over Cyrus' place at the table, but unfortunately I didn't get a photo of it. He did a fantastic job.

I used the seal on some white fondant, that I used to top several small cheesecakes and one medium cheesecake for him. My original plan was to put these on cupcakes, but he wanted cheesecake, so I made some adjustments. I brushed the white fondant with edible gold dust powder. I would love to do this for a future party with a darker color fondant, but I purchased the white as it was the least expensive. I have plenty left over to use for another birthday or some other treats. I purchased the fondant and edible gold powder from Michael's with coupons.

For the homemade cheesecake, I made graham crackers for the crust.

I also used Amazon credit to purchase this chocolate frog candy mold. I already had this larger chocolate frog mold that I had purchased years ago to make chocolate frogs for Cyrus' last Harry Potter birthday. I made him a large frog as a birthday gift, but I needed the smaller frogs to make some mint chocolate frog ice cream. I also used them to surround his cake.

Mint Chocolate Frog Ice Cream 2 The Prudent Homemaker

The ice cream was made with mint from the garden. The chocolate was purchased a couple of years ago on after-Christmas clearance at Sam's Club, but you can also find it on Amazon, here.

Mint Chocolate Frog Ice Cream The Prudent Homemaker

You can find the ice cream recipe here.

His gifts included a Harry Potter Wand Pen that I purchased with Amazon credit, and a water color set. I also gave him a set of Harry Potter Uno cards that I found at a garage sale for $1 earlier this year! Winter gave him the last Harry Potter book, which she found hardcover at the thrift store for $3 (wrapped with a Flourish and Blotts label that I made). He now has his own set of the books, all of which were purchased used over a couple of years. Wren gave him some candy, which we wrapped with brown paper and a Honeydukes candy shop label that I made. Winter made the Ollivander's paper, cutting some brown paper the right size to send through the printer. We used the Hogwarts seal on some of the gifts.

I printed some Hogwarts bookplates for him, and made him a large chocolate frog. I printed out the Harry Potter prequel for him (the one that J. K. Rowling wrote on a napkin). He didn't know about that, so that was a fun surprise.

For fun, the children played a couple of Harry Potter games that I also purchased at a garage sale earlier this year for $1 each (they are each worth over $100 on Amazon right now, as they are no longer being made!)

I had several other ideas in mind that we didn't get to do, but that's okay--I've got another Harry Potter birthday to throw in September, and it will be fun to have some new things then!

If you're looking for more Harry Potter gift ideas, check out some of the other Harry Potter themed gifts I've given him in the past:

Harry Potter pillow

London and Medieval Bookmarks

I've also made a Harry Potter Party board over on Pinterest with links to several ideas Winter and I found while planning his party. Some are ones I used and some I'll be using in the future.

Tagged in: Birthdays Harry Potter
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Wren turned 6 last month. We had a simple birthday at home with some handmade gifts.

She loves both yellow and pink, so we had a yellow and pink birthday party, with yellow daffodils and pink stock from the garden on the table. I hung up the pink bunting that I used at Elsa's birthday (the one I made several years ago for Liberty's birthday from scraps and an old pillowcase and sheet). We hung some paper lanterns that we had and Ezrom and Winter make and hang these birds.

I made her a yellow polka dot dress with this fabric that I purchased from Fabric.com and buttons that I purchased from Wawak. I made the dress without a bow in back, since she prefers it that way. The dress cost me $12 to make.

The necklace was one that I had found on Pinterest. You can find instructions here. For the beads, I used a couple of wooden beads that we already had; one from an old abacus and one from a wooden bead stringing set. I sanded off the glossy finish so that I could paint them with acrylics paint. We had the strip of leather already that had been given to us.

(Winter and Cyrus were invited to a birthday party for two sisters, ages 12 and 9, shortly after Wren's birthday. Both of them painted beads for their friends in colors that their friends like and we used some cord that we had to make the necklaces. These were a big hit).

I embroidered some socks like the ones I did for Elsa for her birthday. To match the yellow dress, I used embroidery thread that I had on hand. I used the entire six strands at once to crochet a chain stitch on the top of a new pair of socks (the socks were purchased last year at Target).

Wren had been wanting me to embroider a pillow for her bed like I had done for her sisters, so I made one using some linen/cotton fabric that I bought many years ago (it's the same fabric I used to make pillows for the other girls. I printed her name from the computer, traced it with a blue Mark B Gone pen, and embroidered it by hand. Unlike the other pillows I made, I actually used a pillow insert for this one, as my mother-in-law had given me one a few years ago.

Parents magazine recently did a survey to find out how much the average family spends on birthday parties (just the party, not the gifts). The amount? $200 a party! The only party expenditures I had for this party were 5 sheets of cardstock (for the birds) which I already had, and the cake ingredients, which were ingredients that I already had in my pantry to make a cake and icing, and came from my regular grocery budget. The flowers came from the garden; those are daffodils that I planted years ago that return every year. Most years they bloom after her birthday, but this year everything in the garden bloomed a month early.

Have you made any gifts for children's birthdays lately?

Tagged in: Birthdays Gifts
Last modified on

Eiffel Tower Birthday

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 This post contains affiliate links.

Elsa fell in love with the Eiffel Tower last year after Winter had her French party with her sisters. A few months later, we bought her a dress at a garage sale that was an all-over Eiffel tower print, and she loved it.

For Christmas I made her this Eiffel Tower purse.

On New Year's Day, we took the children to see the Bellagio Fountains downtown. Across the street is the Paris hotel with the reproduction Eiffel Tower ("the small one in Las Vegas" as Gru says in Despicable Me. In the movie its shorter than he is, so Elsa didn't think that the "small" one downtown would be that big--and was delighted that it was much bigger than she thought!)

She told me that she wanted an Eiffel Tower birthday.

We decorated the table with cut miniature daffodils from my garden in blue Mason jars. I put the Eiffel Tower statue that I purchased for Winter's 11th birthday on the table as well. Winter made her a banner using this free image from The Graphics Fairy. (She also printed her own wrapping paper with it to wrap her present to Elsa).

Elsa wanted an Eiffel Tower cake. I had found these Eiffel Tower chocolate molds by accident when I was looking for this Eiffel Tower cookie cutter. I had planned on making cookies originally, but this turned out to be a simpler project, and it met her request of having an Eiffel Tower cake.

I used Ghirardelli melting chocolate that I purchased in January 2013 on clearance after Christmas at Sam's Club. It came in a huge bar. Last year they switched to selling melting wafers. You can purchase the Wilton brand melts all year long at Joann's or Michael's; they go on sale around each holiday.

I found it best to melt just a small amount (around 1/3 of a cup) at a time (larger amounts burned on me). I heated them for 30 seconds in the microwave, gave them a stir, and then heated them for 30 seconds more. I then stirred them again. I used a small spoon to fill the chocolate molds. I then tapped the mold on the counter a few times to remove any air bubbles. I needed to melt chocolate a few times in order to fill all the molds, but working with a small amount at a time gave me the best results.

I made cupcakes from scratch and made cream cheese frosting for them (using cream cheese I purchased in November on sale). The cupcake wrappers were a gift from a reader who was moving out of state. Amazon has several different colors of polka dot wrappers.

I put the chocolates on top of the cupcakes and pushed them down slightly into the cupcakes to get them to stay. If you're going to make these, I suggest putting the chocolates into the cupcakes after you've moved the cupcakes to the table where you will be displaying them, to keep them from falling.

I had this dress designed in my head since October. This pattern (Pascale from Martha Pullen) has become my favorite pattern and it's almost the only one I use anymore. I love the vintage styling and the lined bodice.

I made the dress from poly/cotton broadcloth bought several years ago at a Black Friday sale at Joann's. It runs around $2 to $2.50 a yard that weekend, and I bought several yards in colors I knew I would use.

The black was a scrap from my grandmother's fabric. The buttons on the front were vintage ones that were my grandmother's and the ones on the back were purchased for 40 cents when I bought the fabric (60% off). I always stock up on embroidery thread when it goes on sale. I used 2 strands to embroider the entire thing and it used very little thread; around 1/4 of a skein.

I made the piping using the tiny drapery cord that you can get at Joann's (last time I bought it was .20 a yard) and covered it with bias strips of the same black fabric as the collar.

I traced the Eiffel Tower image (the same one we used above from The Graphics Fairy) on the skirt of the dress using a blue Mark-B-Gone pen. I've found these to be less expensive regular price at Walmart then getting them 50% off at Joann's. When you're done embroidering your design, you just get it wet with water (not soap; that will make it turn brown and be permanent) and the marker disappears. Every once in a while it takes a few times to wash it all out, so I always check it before wrapping the present.

The dress cost me $3.50 in materials.

The socks are Circo brand from Target. They fold over once. I used some black crochet thread that I've had since I was 9 (we used it to string a marionette that I made) to crochet a simple chain stitch on the edges (5 chains and then I went into the sock, repeat). I purchased these last year with the intention of doing a few for gifts for the girls.

I used my Amazon credit  (I earn a small amount of affiliate credit from purchases made through the links on my blog and website) to purchase this sweet book for Elsa, Adèle & Simon. I found this book at the library last year and we really liked it. Elsa smiled really big when she opened this present and she has enjoyed having it read to her several times already.

Elsa also really likes scarves right now, so I used my Amazon credit to purchase this pink Paris scarf for her. She put it on right away after she opened it.

She specifically requested that I make her an Eiffel Tower necklace like her sister and I have. When I purchased the charms, jump rings, and chains for these, I purchased 12 chains and a package of 6 charms, so I had one left over for her. These are similar to the ones I made with Big Ben and English telephone booths. The charms are from this Etsy shop. I saved the money I made from taking surveys to order supplies from Etsy. 

I've seen necklaces like this one for sale for as much as $40. It cost me $1.50 to make this.

Totally unrelated to the theme was this dominoes set that I purchased for her at a garage sale for $2 last October. It was supposed to be a Christmas present for her, but I hid it somewhere apart from the other Christmas presents, and I didn't find it until the end of January! This particular set seems to be discontinued, but eeboo has several other beautiful ones.

I also printed the travel-sized version of Paper City Paris for her on a sheet of cardstock.

A few other fun things if you want to have your own Eiffel Tower/ Paris themed party:

Watch Betty in Paris. You and your children will love it (season 3 episode 16 of Olive Us).

Need some ambiance? Try some 1930's Charles Trenet.

You can print and construct a 3-d cardstock Eiffel Tower of your own for a table decoration. If you are having a party for children older than 4, you can print one of these for each child to construct at the party. (Click to the next page for the second page of the tower). You'll need two sheets of cardstock per tower.

This post is linked to Make and Love It.

Tagged in: Birthdays Gifts
Last modified on

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