Brownies Get a Makeover


I take my job as a homemaker very seriously. I view it as a profession and therefore try to handle it professionally. I research every area seeking out how to do things more efficiently, and more beneficially.

One thing that benefits my household is good nutrition. We are not perfect. We love our treats. However over the last few years I have found a few ways to make those treats a bit more beneficial to our well being than they once were.

One such recipe is our families favorite brownie recipe.I wanted a brownie that tasted just as good as my families favorite but had more nutrients and fiber and less fat.

I have messed with various low fat to no fat alternatives and finally found a 50% reduction in butter worked best. I have tried replacing that 50% with yogurt, applesauce and finally pumpkin.

I also found that replacing all the flour from unbleached white to white whole wheat, works without any taste difference.

By replacing 1/2 cup of butter with 1/2 cup of pumpkin you are saving 772 calories (for the entire pan)  and adding  in vitamins E, C, A and K, magnesium, copper, potassium and iron (see this article for more details)

By replacing white flour with white whole wheat flour adds 4.5 times the amount of fiber as using unbleached white flour as well as increasing the amount of antioxidants, essential minerals and vitamins.

Sure there is still a lot of sugar in this recipe but it is treat and not a meal nor a main snack of the day, and hey well all deserve a treat now and then.

How about you? Have you ever given one of your families favorite treats a makeover?

Brownies Get a Make Over


  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • (replace chocolate chips with walnuts if your family likes them as they would add in omega’s and protein)


  1. Mix together melted butter and pumpkin.
  2. Add sugar and cocoa to the melted butter and pumpkin. blend well In a separate bowl beat 3 eggs well.
  3. Add to the rest of the mixture.
  4. Stir in flour and baking powder. Followed by the vanilla and lastly the chocolate chips (or nuts).
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
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This post is linked to Delicious Dishes at It’s a Blog Party and Tasty Tuesday at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam


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4 Weeks to a More Organized Home: Day 16

For all of you who are numerical order freaks like myself you are going to notice that the series “4 Weeks to a More Organized Home” skipped Day 15 and went right to Day 16.

Money Saving Mom had a very busy and limited internet type of day Friday, so she never did post Day 15. I was actually very glad to have the day off as I was out of town most of Friday with my oldest son fetching my race packet for my marathon Saturday and doing a few out of town errands.

Now however with the marathon behind me (well at least that one I have a new one already scheduled for October), I am looking forward to getting back into routine again for the week.

Day 16 Assignment

1.Get dressed in something that makes you feel great:

Jeans with stretch and a T-shirt and today it does make me feel great because I am aching all over from post marathon pain.

2. Sit down with a cup of coffee or tea and make a list of weekly goals:

I usually have several  fitness goals I link up to Money Saving Mom’s goal list but this week I have one goal and that is to rest my body till it feels recovered from whatever damage I did to it Saturday.

3.Complete your morning routine.

I listed my morning routine back on Day 2. If you read that day you will see that I get the laundry going each morning. Recently we moved the laundry from the main floor to the basement to make room for a guest bathroom remodel. This morning I grumbled rather loudly about that decision all the way down the steep stairs  as my quads felt like they were about to explode with each step.

4.Set the timer for 15 minutes and quickly pick up your house and put things back into order after the weekend.

I tidied up the home the best I could ( I was so sore yesterday if it was on the floor it stayed there) before I went to bed Sunday, and my husband was sweet enough to pick up what I couldn’t when he got home from work. So I once again spent the time on our master bedroom. Once I hobbled up the stairs I discovered my man had made our bed! (he is too good to me). I spent the 15 minutes picking up the clothes and putting them away, and then dusted our bedside tables and washed the inside of one window (there are 3 in our room).

One of my goals when I decided to join Money Saving Mom in her spring cleaning series was to have a completely spring cleaned master bedroom by the end of the 4 weeks. I am so happy to say, just a bit of window washing, and dusting the top of the curtains (or taking them down and washing them, but they seem so clean otherwise and that seems like more work than necessary, oh the decisions) and our bedroom will be 100% deep cleaned.

5.Clean your vents.

Our upstairs vents are the old cast iron in the wall type, I managed to get our bedroom one off but the other ones I just dusted the outside of.

This is how much dirt I got in just one swipe, yuck. I am thinking I will get my husband to help me get the other bedroom ones off the walls to clean behind very soon.

The downstairs vents are you typical plastic vent covers. They popped out easily and I washed them up and then vacuumed out the hole, and gave the inside of the vent a wipe down.

6. Find 7 items to get rid of today.

My daughter was home today, so I worked with her to go through the last of her puzzle collection and give up those that she was too young for. I then started in the boys room going through some of their books, as you can see 1 book is in today’s pile.

Now it is 2 pm and I am upstairs writing and drinking my Moe’s vanilla cherry coke (my hubby and I squeezed in a quick lunch date). My husband is helping the kids with their school work.

I love those new coke dispensers popping up at restaurants where you can make over 100 different combinations. I am not a big pop drinker indulging maybe once a week but I really do love trying out all the different combinations.

How about you? Does your town have one of these new 100 flavor coke dispensers? If so what is your favorite combination?


Weekly Fitness Goals: Rest Week

Saturday’s Marathon, was the toughest of the 3 I have done so far, yet I felt the strongest mentally and cardiovascularly.

I got to the race late with a full bladder and a long porta potty line in front of me. By the time I got out of the porta-potty all the other runners expect those behind me at the porta potty were already through the start line.

Amazingly this really did not phase me. I knew from years of racing that my race would not start until my timing tag crossed the start line. It did mean I had to do a bit of passing, but the route was wide enough to do so without problems.

I felt really strong, and managed to work my way up to running between the 4 hrs and 45 min pack and the 4 hrs and 30 minute pack using my ratio of 4 minutes running and 1 minute walking from Jeff Galloway’s plan.

Then at mile 12, I started getting twinges of pain down the side of my left leg. I was okay on the flat portions, but even a slight up hill was becoming painful.

By mile 14 I felt some relief and picked up a bit of speed again but by mile 18 the pain came back and it was horrible.

Right between mile 19 and 20 I tried to call my hubby but he apparently could not hear his cell ring in all the race commotion. I got hold of my red head runner (my favorite running buddy) and told her my dilemma.

She told me to stop and stretch and see if I could perhaps walk it but if that was too painful I should stop. I decided I would walk 5 minutes and shuffle (running was not an option) 5 minutes.

At mile 20 my husband got a hold of me and the ER nurse in him tried to convince me to stop, but as my husband of almost 17 years he knew me better, and finally said, “just walk it” .

So I gave up trying to run at all, and just concentrated on keeping up a good walk. Shortly after mile 20 the 4 hour 45 minute group past me, which was mentally a bit hard as I really wanted to make it to the finish line with them, and to know I lost them with just 6 miles to go was so disappointing.

At mile 24 I saw the face of my hubby, who then walked the rest of the way beside me on the side lines with constant “come on honey you can do it” “looking good not much further now”.

Two medics at one water stopped approached me asking if I was going to be okay, and I muttered “yes” under my breath and kept walking.

With just 200 yards to go I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I picked up to a shuffle and crossed in 5 hours 15 minutes and 40 seconds. My worst Marathon time yet, but yet I am the most proud of it.

I did it, I finished the race. Despite great pain, I gathered up the courage and strength to push through it and finish.

I pushed pride to the side, that was screaming “you are not going to make your goal so why not just give into the pain, and stop now” and I completed the race, one painful inch at a time.

48 hours later, I am still feeling physically beat up. My husband and I believe I am experiencing sciatic nerve pain, as it seems to radiate from my lower back and down my legs. During my third pregnancy my daughter pinched that nerve badly during my last trimester, and the pain I experienced then was a lot like the pain I experienced Saturday (and am still feeling two days later).

But this pain is not going to stop me. I am going to continue inching forward in my physical fitness. I am simple going to rest a while, before picking up pace again.

With that said, I am not listing workouts this week, because I won’t be working out.

My main workout goal this week

To rest completely until I feel no muscle or joint pain. Then for 7 days after my first pain free day, I am going to do nothing but walk for 30 minutes to an hour each day.

How about you? Is there something in your life you are just proud you finished even though it didn’t go as planned?

This post is linked to 10 goals for this week at Money Saving Mom


Sunday Reads:Crazy Love

On Good Friday, Crazy Love By Francis Chan was free on kindle, along with his books Forgotten God, and Erasing Hell. I was ecstatic as I had been wanting to read Crazy Love for a long while.

I don’t own a kindle, but I do own a netbook. I like to use the kindle cloud reader to store all my free kindle edition books on, then I read them on my netbook. That way I can sit and knit and read all at the same time.

Lately I have been working on a very big knitting project, so being able to load my kindle cloud reader with 3 great titles for free was such a blessing.

Crazy Love, didn’t take long to read, just a few one hour evening sessions, but the information within its pages, opened up an area of my heart that has been a bit closed lately.

Chan in his book, goes into great depth in describing lukewarm Christians and how in his understanding of the bible, he believes them to not be true believers. He talks about how all of us should be on passionate in our love for the Lord.

One thought of his in particular I cannot get out of my mind.

“If a guy were dating my daughter but didn’t want to spend the gas money to come and  pick her up or refused to buy her dinner because it cost too much, I would question whether he were really in love with her. In the same way, I question whether many American churchgoers are really in love with God because they are so hesitant to do anything for Him.

When was the last time I did something for God, beyond reading my bible and praying daily. Beyond pasting a verse that struck a cord on my heart to my Facebook page. Have I been holding back my love for Him in areas.

In chapter 10, his words pierced my heart again

“I urge you to consider and actually live as though each person you come into contact with is Christ.”

Wow, to think of my neighbor with his 4 barking dogs, his poorly kept home, and his love of running power tools at midnight as Christ, that’s tough.

Yet we find at the end of  Matthew 25 verses 41 to 46 these words of Jesus “Truly, I say to you as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me”. If I refuse to be kind to my neighbor, I am refusing to be kind to Jesus.

I don’t have to accept power tools at midnight, but I do have to approach the subject with a Christ like attitude remembering that even my very loud neighbor is one of God’s children.

 If you feel like your heart has been a bit closed to the works of God lately, I highly recommend purchasing and reading Crazy Love. It may no longer be free, but as of this writing the kindle edition in only $2.24.

How about you? Read any books lately that caused you to think about your attitude?

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Fitness Fave: Garmin Forerunner 205

Since this Saturday I  running  the Carmel Marathon I thought it would be the perfect timing to share a Fitness Fave of mine with you. Shopping Saturdays will return next week.

When you start off running I suggest just buying a simple Timex sport watch. One with a timer for timing overall run time. If you want to know how long your run was, use the website Map My Run. If you want to figure out your overall pace, download the app Log My Run Pacer to your i-touch or i-phone.

I still race often with just my Timex watch I find it helps me to enjoy the race, instead of getting caught up with my pace and time, but once I caught the running fever, for training I wanted a watch that does it all.

What are the signs of the running fever? You are crazy enough to sign up for race after race. You hit the open roads 4 to 5 days a week. If its been over two days since your last run you might have this feeling deep within you that you just can’t explain that is begging you to get out there and run.

When I started to experience those running fever signs a few years back, I decided to spend my birthday money on a Garmin Forerunner 205.

My model of Forerunner is extremely outdated. Their are new smaller sleeker models that I will admit I envy over. However, my Forerunner 205 is in perfect working order and does all that I need it to do, so for now I will hold off upgrading.

What I love about my Forerunner, is that I am free to run wherever I want and know that I have hit the mileage needed to keep on track for my marathon training schedule.

It also helps me pace myself better. On long runs I try to go out slower. On short runs I keep the pace faster.

I also love knowing just how many miles are behind me and how many miles I have ahead of me.

What I don’t love. Is when it dies half way through the run. However, that is due to me not pushing the enter button once before I turn it off at the end of my last run to sneak a peak at the battery charge bar. If I got into the habit of doing that one simple act, I am sure I would never experience it dying mid run again.

How about you? What is your favorite running watch?

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Building a Home Library Inexpensively: Part 1

Building a home library inexpensively part 1

I grew up in a family where money was tight. My family was frugal, we drove our vehicles till they fell apart, we wore second hand clothing, we gardened, we canned, but I remember we were also a family with a closet full of books.

Sure it would have been more frugal to stick to library books only, but having those books available to me 24/7 instilled in me a love for them. I may not have read as much as others when I was little, but I remember many a summer day curled up under the shade of a tree reading a book off the shelf.

Now that I have children of my own, and we are a homeschooling family I feel the need to make sure I also make owning a collection of our own books a priority.We have two book cases, one filled with non fiction books and the other with works of fiction. We also have a shelf full of comic books, and stacks of magazines lying around here and there.

I build our library frugally. Having books does not have to be expensive. If you are absent minded like me, it may even be done for less than what you pay your library in over due fees every year (okay maybe not less but some days it sure feels like it).

I originally planned this as a one time segment but when I started typing about how many different ways to save money on books, magazines and audiobooks the post became too lengthy, so make sure to come back the next few Fridays, to read part 2part 3  and part 4.

1. Yard Sales

Yard sales are my number 1 source for inexpensive books. In fact when I walk up to a yard sale they are the first things I look for.

Most soft cover story books are between .25 to .50 cents in my area. A current bestseller  hardcover work of fiction might go for $2. I usually come home with a stack full of books every community sale I hit.

Thrifty tip: If you have a stack of titles you want in your hand, total their value in your head and then haggle with the seller for a discount. I usually say “I have $5 worth of books here would you take $4″ rarely do I get turned down.

2. Second Hand Book Stores

If I am looking for a particular title, I might head into a second hand book store. Prices are more than yard sales but still significantly cheaper than new.

Thrifty tip: Bring your own books you no longer read with you and trade them for store credit.

3. Thrift stores

Thrift stores vary from town to town as to how many books they might have. Prices will also vary from store to store as well as selection. The key is to drop in once or twice a month to see what is new on the shelves.

Thrifty tip: Often thrift stores will have a regular half price day. This is a great way to get your books for even less.

4. Kindle

Kindle edition books are often less expensive than their paper cousins but what I love about Kindle the most is the free titles.

I highly recommend getting yourself a free kindle app. account. You don’t need a Kindle to download the books (although my husband loves his kindle fire).

I love to read my free Kindle books on my netbook, through my kindle cloud reader account. I also download a few for on the go reading using the kindle app. on my iPod.

Thrifty Tip: 100′s of classic titles are free on Kindle. If you are not into classic titles, try punching in the words “best sellers” into the kindle store section of Amazon. What should pop up on your screen is a list of the “Top 100 Paid” as well as a list of the “Top 100 Free” titles right beside it.

The blog Money Saving Mom also lists great free kindle titles. I suggest checking out her free e-book page which can be found in the freebies and giveaway tab at the top of her site.

5. Second Hand Curriculum Sales

Even if you don’t homeschool you may want to check out the second hand curriculum sales in your area. They are a treasure trove of non fiction and fiction books. The prices will be comparable with what you will find in second hand book stores, but the selection for children will be better.

Thrifty tip: Often if you go during the last hour of the sale, you will find people slashing prices, since books are heavy and they don’t want to lug them all back out to the car. However, selection will be slimmer than if you go early, so it really depends on how badly you want particular titles before you consider doing this tip.

These are just a portion of my tips on how to build an home library in a frugal way. Please come back next Friday when I will list  more tips on building a home library for less.

Other Titles in this Series

Building a Home Library Inexpensively: Part 2

Building an Home Library Inexpensively: Part 3

Building a Home Library Inexpensively: Part 4

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This post is linked to The Weekly Round Up at It’s a Blog Party, Hip Homeschool Hop at Hip Homeschooling Moms, Tackle It Tuesday at 5 Minutes for Mom , WLWW at Women Living Well, WFMW at We Are That Family , Proverbs 31 Thursdays at Raising Mighty Arrows and Frugal Fridays at Life as Mom, The Mommy Club at Crystal and Co.

Three Places To Find Great Books For Little To No Cash, 5 eBooks for $7.40! Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap.tyndale 125 button

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4 Weeks to A More Organized Home: Day 14

Day 14 Assignment from Money Saving Mom

1.Get dressed in something that makes you feel great.

I got dressed today in a skirt and a tank top, unfortunately no one is around to snap a picture. But I did! honestly!

2.Make a list of no more than 5-7 specific things you want to accomplish today.

I made a list just for me today. I didn’t make the kids one since they are spending the day with their dad at one of our rental homes helping him cut down a tree.

3.Complete your morning routine.

Mine was a bit different this morning. Last night before I went to bed I decided I would get up and bake the children and my hubby some of my chocolate chip cookies, and pack them in the cooler with their lunch.

From the looks on their faces when they went to place their sandwiches in the cooler I would say the extra effort on my part was worth it.

4.Set the timer for 15 minutes and clean the mirrors and glass doors in your house.

I cleaned the back door first.

Then I did the windows of the front door.

5.Clean out your utensil drawer(s) (those with serving spoons, ladles, spatulas, etc.) in the kitchen and your junk drawer(s). Take everything out, throw out the trash, get rid of extra clutter, wipe out the drawers, and re-organize the contents as you put them back in.

I just cleaned out our utensil drawer not to long ago.

However, we have 4 junk drawers.

Two are my husbands.

Two are my daughters.

I did my best to bag up like things together and to contain all the small tools in one area.

I managed to free up one drawer to hold our portable speakers and charger cords.

I gave my daughter just one drawer for her art supplies as she really was not using two. She does most of her art work upstairs in her own room now.

6. Find 7 items to get rid of today.

I found these in the bottom of one of my china cabinets. There are 7 plates in all. I was intending to get them hung on my daughters wall back when she was 4 or 5 years old. She is now almost 10 and they are a bit young for her.

So I put them in the attic to sell on Craigslist with the huge mirror that matches (which also never got on the wall). Luckily both were yard sale purchases, so I won’t be out any money even though I never used them.

Lesson learned, go out the same day your purchase something to hang on the wall and buy the supplies you need to hang it and do it right then and there.

How about you? Do you have any good intention articles lurking in your home that have not been put to the use you intended?


Thankful: Ice Cream Date

Dad’s at work. The boys have a youth event at church. It’s just me and my gal.

Gas has gone sky high! Money is tight.

My little one says “mom lets go for ice-cream”.

My frugal mind cringes.

It adds up the cost per mile of the gas. It calculates how much homemade ice cream I could make for the same price as the two bowls we would get at the ice cream parlor.

But then, my thoughts turn. How much time do I have left? She is 9 already? She wants to be valued, above gas bills and groceries, and she deserves to be.

So after dropping of the boys, the SUV takes a right and not a left.

Excitement builds in the back seat till it bursts “mom are we going to the ice-cream store”! “Yes baby we are”.

Because how many years do I have left before someone else refers to her as baby, and how many years do I have to instill in her that she is worth being valued. No she is to be beyond valued she is to be  treasured.

Thank you Lord, for the precious gift of a daughter. May I never put her need to feel special below gas and groceries.

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant, harvest, or gather the harvest into barns. Yet, your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? “(Matthew 6:26)

This post is linked to Finer Thing Fridays at The Finer Things In Life.


4 Weeks to a More Organized Home: Day 13

I cannot believe how routine daily cleaning is becoming thanks to Money Saving Mom’s “4 Weeks to a More Organized Home” series.

Just this morning, I entered my master bedroom to sit down and work on my blog, when I noticed the bed was still unmade. Instead of my normal bad attitude, I found myself saying “it will only take a minute, might as well attack it” and I did, and it did only take a minute.

Day 13 Assignment

1.Get dressed in something that makes you feel great: Failed. Its 1:30  in the afternoon, and I am still in the t-shirt I wore to bed and a pair of comfy shorts that I pulled on this morning. My excuse is I am going out to run this afternoon with my son so I will shower and dress after that. Horrible I know.

2.Make a list of 5 to 7 things you want to get done today: I made one for myself and  a chore assignment list for the kids also.

3.Complete your morning routine. DONE (well except the get dressed part)

4.Set the timer for 15 minutes and do a quick-clean of your bathroom. DONE. I did the upstairs bathroom top to bottom in 12 minutes,thanks to spring cleaning it not to long ago, and now having cleaned it the past two weeks with Money Saving Mom.  I spent the last 3 minutes giving the downstairs bathroom a little love.

5.Clean the top of your kitchen cupboards (if there is space between them and the ceiling) and the top of your refrigerator. If you have clutter on the top of your refrigerator, go through it and see if you can get rid of it or find a new home for it. Wipe down the outside of your kitchen cupboard doors.

Back on Day 2 I decided to give our worst cabinet a good scrub (that’s chipped paint you see at the top of the cabinet, hoping to fix that soon).

However in general, just like floor cleaning, cabinet door cleaning is a job I assign to my children about once a month (except in cases where the dirt has become a stain, like above, then I attack it personally). So I divided up the kitchen into 3 sections and put that assignment on their afternoon chore chart.

One of the benefits of buying a just under $10,000 home is that when you are rebuilding it from the ground up you get to decide the layout.

I knew I wanted to make my house clean itself as much as possible. One way I figured to do that was to avoid space between the tops of the kitchen cabinets and the roof. I also had my husband build the fridge into the wall, so no clutter or dirt gets on the top of it either.

Yes I know white cabinets seem to go against the whole clean itself kitchen attitude. I was hoping that they would make me more aware of dirt and therefore clean them more often, instead they are becoming a thorn in my side, and since the paint is sadly chipping in areas anyways I am thinking of stripping them and staining them a more dirt friendly color.

Since I want to maintain the habit of one small project a day, I took it upon myself to clean my kitchen window inside and out, as well as giving the  trim and sill a good scrubbing.

6.Find 7 items to get rid of today. I found one more book to put in the secondhand curriculum sale, and then worked with my daughter again to reduce her games and puzzle collection.

I am thinking tomorrow I am going to have to move on to another area to find my 7 items to toss. I have done the shoes, the fiction book case, and my daughters puzzles and games, hmm….what area to hit next?

How about you? Are you doing any major spring cleaning this month?


Crafting With Courtney: Making a Drawstring Bag

Back in the baby, toddler and preschooler days, I use to carry along my knitting inside my diaper bag, or my large purse that was acting like a diaper bag, or the back pack I was carrying for the outing we were going on that day.

I found that with all that transferring  from  bag to bag, my knitting was getting tangled and often grabbed by the little ones I was towing along with me whom pulled it off the needles with big grins on their faces (lets face it unraveling is fun for a toddler).

In desperation I grabbed a cloth drawstring bag that had come free with some clothes I had ordered and  placed my knitting in it. I then placed the drawstring bag in whatever bag I was carrying for the day. I found it worked quite well. I soon had other knitting moms envying my bag.

Cruising the Walmart clearance aisle one day I found large printed bandannas marked down from $1 to .50 cents. With their finished edges and pretty prints my creative mind started whirling and my knitting on the go bags were born.

To prove to you how simple these are to make, I enlisted my 9 year old daughter Courtney to make one alongside with me.

You will need one $1 bandanna, a small amount of thread, a sewing machine, and a piece of ribbon or string.

1.First you need to iron the bandanna flat.

2. Fold over what will become the top edge of your bag just enough for your ribbon to go through easily. I used the blue edging design as my guide.

3. Fold your bag in half with the casing seam for the ribbon facing you.Iron it once more.

4.Thread your machine, unfold your bag and sew along the top edge that you ironed down to hold your ribbon.

5. Now refold your bag in half and sew along the bottom and side of the bag.

6. Make sure to stop your side seam right where the casing for the ribbon begins. Have the needle go back and forth a few times to reinforce the seam.

7. Turn your bag right side out. Now you are ready for the ribbon. Cut it approximately 3 times the width of your finished bag so you have plenty left to hang out the edges. I like to pin a safety pin on the edge of my ribbon to make it easier to thread through the casing.

Using the safety pin trick made it super easy for my 9 year old to get her own ribbon in.

8. Use your fingers to tie a knot in the ribbon about one inch away from the bag.

With you knot tied your bag is complete

Here is Courtney’s. She doesn’t knit (yet), so she decided to use her’s to carry her bible and notebook in for church.

These bags could also be used as a green alternative to gift bags. I am sure that one could think of many other uses for them as well.

How about you? Have you ever been creatively inspired by a clearance find?

This post is linked to Show Me How at It’s a Blog Party

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