Cozy Comforts and Frugal Luxuries

"There is nothing like staying home for real comfort" 
~Jane Austen

Many people confuse luxury with opulence.  To understand luxury we must look at the true sense of the word.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines luxury as "something conducive to pleasure and comfort" indulge in true luxury you need only to focus on what brings you pleasure and comfort.   

Does luxury have to mean diamonds and servants...or can it be a plump down comforter on a cold night...or a bowl of wild blueberries picked at the peak of that fruits' brief season?

Thoreau wisely stated, "I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor."  At this time of year cold winds are blowing. The prospect of venturing away from home and hearth is less than appealing, yet, it is the ideal season to cultivate cozy comforts and frugal luxuries. 

During cool weather I like to create strategic comfort by arranging furniture (comfy chairs, specifically) away from drafty windows to create cozy corners.  These spaces are ideal for nestling into with a good book...a cup of tea...and a luxurious (definitely not frugal) cashmere throw like this's very similar to one I inherited from my great aunt Evelyn several years ago.  I don't need to tell you that this is definitely an investment piece.  That being said, perhaps I should point out again, it will last a lifetime...or two.  
Note: If the budget doesn't allow for a new cashmere blanket/throw you might put "cashmere throw" on your tag sale, thrift shopping list.  

Another cozy comfort we appreciate even more in winter is the soft glow of basic candlelight to warm a dark day or brighten an ordinary evening.  For weekends and more special occasions we enjoy a well crafted candle with soothing scents such as the delicious smelling Fireside candle from Parachute Home  (these make a perfect addition to the gift pantry).

If you've never experienced the wonder of wearing woolly socks during the winter then you are in for a treat.  In fact, every time the weather turns cool I invoke their magical properties. Wool is an excellent insulator and keeps your feet warm and toasty and retains its insulating properties even while wet.  Wool can absorb sufficient amounts of moisture (a third of its weight) before it feels wet and it dries much faster than cotton or synthetics. Finally, wool fibers are naturally anti~bacterial and thus odor resistant.  So yes... truly kind of magical and... such a cozy comfort during the cold season.  

While there are many individual definitions of comfort and luxury I'll never be convinced that these simple pleasures do not truly define the words.

Sending love and good thoughts as always.


Successful Living...Simplified

My Life Goals...

"To laugh often and much; 

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; 

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; 

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; 

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; 

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. 

This is to have succeeded."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson


Stocking the Gift Pantry with Uncommon Goods

Recently we were invited by Uncommon Goods to stock our holiday Gift Pantry with three items from their inspiring, eclectic catalog. In the interest of full disclosure, this is my very first sponsored post (although we've been approached numerous times since the 2008 creation of this blog) . Why now?  Why Uncommon Goods? Because as a longtime customer,  I am an admirer-er of the fact that they make it their mission to provide a platform for artists and designers.  It also is impressive to me that most (not all) of their items are made right here in the USA.
 At the core of the company is a great respect for the integrity of the creative individual, this is evident in the uniqueness of their retail offerings!  It's always a delight to browse through their catalogs and I must confess that confining my choices to just three Gift Pantry items proved surprisingly difficult ... the offerings are varied and inspiring! However, after perusing their online catalog for far too long, I finally allowed the three choices to be dictated by my own Christmas gift list and thus have every intention of sharing our Uncommon Goods with family and friends.

First Choice:
The 60 Hour Candle $30
(NOTE: refills are available ... of the coiled candle only... for $18)

This sturdy and unique candle is about the circumference of a salad plate.  It's a generously sized candle with an ingenious design.  It pairs a sturdy copper holder with a 100% beeswax candle coil that's fed in small increments through the candle clip--simply advance more candle as it burns. A three-inch section burns for approximately an hour, while the smart design
ensures a better use of wax than traditional shapes. The copper-finish plate and clip bring a warm touch to your home. Refills are also available for $ you might want to let your gift recipient know these are available!  This charming candle has been sitting on our kitchen island for a week and everyone who comes in comments positively on its unique look! 

It's been very, very, very hard to resist the temptation to light it up!  Luckily for him, but not so much for myself, it's been earmarked as a holiday gift for a family friend.

Here is a picture of what it looked like after we took of it out of the box 
and threaded the candle through the clip-like holder on top.

Here's a closer look at the clip-like holder.


 Second Choice:  DIY Lip Balm Kit  ($40)

 DIY kits can actually be a good, and often economical, way to dabble in a new skill to see if it's something you like before investing a lot of time and money in the necessary supplies.

I realize that, at first glance, DIY kits don't appear to be the most frugal of investments.  Especially to frugalites such as myself.  I've always been the sort of person who says "I can make that...or put that together...myself" and usually I can (and often do)  for less money.   That is ... if I have the time and inclination to gather all the diverse components to complete the kit ... and the packaging as well.  While this philosophy can work in saving a little cash...especially for genres that contain easy to obtain (and reasonably priced when buying in small quantities) such as the  "Office (supply) Kits",  "Cupcake Kits" and "Craft Baskets" the time invested is sometimes extensive.  That being said, I've also wasted money ambitiously buying individual ingredients and packaging materials to create my kit. Truth be told,  they often add up to much more than anticipated.

According to the Uncommon Goods website, Karen Lee and Mary Kearns' DIY kits allow you to become familiar with a new skill while pampering yourself with all-natural emollients...the best part is that supporting this kit  provides valuable job-skills services for women in the Washington DC area. Assembling these lovely kits provides ladies living in transitional housing with the opportunity to build their resumes, develop basic job skills, and participate in a structured social skills program. This is how I like to spend my money. 

Each kit includes everything you'll need to make your very own moisturizing lip balm from Fair Trade cocoa butter and organic spearmint essential oil, for a delectable and refreshing fusion of chocolate and mint. Inside the recycled box, crafters will find a vibrant, soy-ink-dyed recipe card and valuable information about the contents of their lip balm to be, including cocoa butter, sunflower oil, beeswax, and organic essential oils. Every kit makes five tins of mint-cocoa balm, making it an ideal endeavor for a rainy day or a fun task to take on with a group of good friends. Made and assembled by hand in Washington D.C. Each is composed of biodegradable materials and makes five, one ounce tins of lip balm.
Check out the gift lab of the DIY Lip Balm Kit on the Uncommon Goods' blog! 


When we opened it is what we were delighted to find!

As I am not set up for this particular type of kit or craft, 
it would take me quite a bit of time and not a small amount of money 
to source and gather all the materials for a kit like this.
(As well, packaging everything always takes me longer than I anticipated.)
Especially considering they include five types of essential oils to flavor your balm!


Lovely how-to/recipe cards for future use ... printed on heavy card stock and very wipe-able!


Third Choice: Recycle a Bottle Plant Nanny Set: 
$19.95 (for a set of four made from terracotta).
These are NOT just for when you go off on vacation and need someone to water your plants; they're also IDEAL for Forgetful~Frugalite Gardeners like myself with an environmental conscience. 

 The Uncommon Goods catalog tells us that each ceramic stake is specially designed to release just the right amount of water into the soil via recycled wine or plastic bottles, making your gardening endeavors a little bit easier as greener. Create a reservoir with the inverted bottle of your choice, attach it using the drip-free adapter, and the terracotta stakes will quench your plants' thirst on your behalf. As your plants absorb moisture from the soil, the stakes will automatically release water directly into the soil, rather than on the surface, ensuring that root systems receive an adequate drink.

NOTE: Sets sold separately... you will need to order one set of four plastic or one set of four terracotta Plant Nannies... no mixing and matching.

See the Plant Nanny in action by checking out the gift lab video on the Uncommon Goods blog.

Here's what it looks like in a planter.

Okay, I LOVE these.  Last summer I tried to order a plastic version of these self-water-rs from Amazon but they were sold out and I've been unable to find them reasonably priced ever since ... that is until now!

I can't tell you how excited I was to find them offered at Uncommon Goods in plastic as well as terra cotta!  Obviously, the plastic versions cost a few dollars less than the natural terracotta Plant Nanny but I will eventually get both...the natural (terracotta) will be used for edible plants such as container gardened herbs, fruit trees and the like.  The plastic will, obviously, be used more for the non edible planters such as my favorite ivy, ferns and potted roses.  In the meantime ... I have full intentions of including this set in a small gift basket, along with a freshly potted miniature rosemary tree and a nice bottle of organic Merlot!    
Here's a picture I snapped with the ceramic Plant Nanny next to an average-size wine bottle. 

 The website tells us that a water filled wine bottle will water plant for approximately 7-10 days depending on the plant and environmental conditions.
Typical 12oz plastic bottles, when filled, will water plant for 5-10 days depending on the plant and environmental conditions. Larger plastic soda bottles (2 Liter), when filled, will water plants for between 14-21 days depending on the plant and environmental conditions.

P.S.  If you sign up for their email list they'll send you info on "secret sales"!

BOOKS: "How Frugal is the Chariot that Carries the Human Soul"

"It is an ancient art.  Its practice has been recorded as far back as the time of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates (about 399 B.C.).  Its nurture or neglect has influenced the rise and fall of nations and civilizations.  Abandoning it has been the ruin of fortunes.  Embracing it amplifies wealth and can dispel the state of poverty."

"What is this mysterious seemingly elusive art of which I speak?  Frugality.  A humble word, it is derived from two ancient Latin words, frugalis and frux, both meaning... "success".
You may also call it by other names such as prudence, spariness and thrift.  
Whatever your choice may be, it always means the unwillingness to squander goods or spend money unnecessarily.  It is the careful use of materials or resources."

"The quality of being frugal is one so powerful as to change lives and affect history.  Each of us possesses the ability to exercise it.  Frugality allows you to govern your destiny and produce in your life a lovely, fertile garden of material and intangible wealth.  Without it, you may be tossed upon the waves of circumstance, at the mercy of your unorganized whims."



A Frugal Reader's Dream Realized!
(An UNsponsored Post.)
My favorite online bookstore is Thrift Books.  If you're not yet familiar, Thrift Books is a used bookstore !  To quote their site...

"Innovation in processing and selling used books has allowed for Thrift Books to provide the internet’s cheapest prices without sacrificing our commitment to providing quality used books. Its entire process of selling used books was developed internally using the latest technology and supply methods.

Thrift Books has been featured in many publications including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Seattle Times, Puget Sound Business Journal and The Software Development Times for their pioneering methods in online used book selling. 

Thrift Books’ commitment to using technology in used book selling is based on the desire to fulfill their motto to customers: Spend Less. Read More. Just seven years after its founding, the dividends are already apparent. Today, you can purchase Charlotte’s Web from Thrift Books for even less than the day we started our company: $3.95 with free shipping anywhere in the USA.

"Thrift Books has emerged from its modest beginnings to become the nation’s largest online seller of used books with a growing international presence. The Thrift Books’ marketplace has grown to include third party vendors such as Green Earth Books, Motor City Books, the Atlanta Book Company, Books Squared, Yankee Clipper Books, Blue Cloud Books, Silver Arch Books and Free State Books. A national presence and anticipated future growth will ensure a continually growing selection of used books and even faster shipping to Thrift Books’ customers."


A garden is a grand teacher.  
It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; 
it teaches industry and thrift; 
above all it teaches entire trust.
~Gertrude Jekyll

Chris associate for the Home Depot writing our guest-post today.  Chris very generously created the planter pictured below.  He wrote this post in response to my interest in learning more about Sub Irrigated Planters a.k.a. SIP's.  Mike and I currently are in the process of building our own raised bed planters...thanks to Chris's influence...and will post photos when they're planted and producing!  Thanks again to Chris and to Home of my favorite places!

Garden Liquidator: Simple Sub-Irrigated Planters
When it comes to gardening, the phrase "less is more" just doesn't apply (unless, of course, you're talking about bad things like weeds, bugs and plant diseases...). For the most part, more is going to be more. After all, who doesn't want more produce, more natural goodness and more days enjoying the fruits (and vegetables!) of your labor?
And the plants agree: they want more water. Fortunately, establishing a sub-irrigated planter (SIP) is a quick and easy way to make the most out of your crop.
By injecting the water under the surface (as opposed to the traditional method of watering above ground), more of it gets directly to the roots and you use much less water than you normally would. Since it is a closed system, there is no runoff and little overflow.
And the best part is that building one isn't as difficult as you might think. All you need are a few supplies, a good pair of gardening gloves, and a couple of hours and you've got an operational, sub-irrigated raised bed garden.

Bed Basics
The key to this super-efficient underground method of gardening is the use of perforated corrugated drain pipes. The little perforated slits that cover the pipes provide the entry and exit points for the water; there is no need for a wicking material because the soil surrounding the pipes serves as the capillary go-between that transmits the water to the roots.
*Tip: While you can also use an inverted nursery flat or a plastic food container with holes (basically anything similar with holes that won't corrode), the larger, rounded shape of the drain pipes fills up the bottom of the planter better and takes up more space in the box, resulting in the ability to use less filler or soil than average.
Plus, the little notches in the corrugated drain pipe provide just the right amount of air/water needed to aerate and properly water the roots.
The other major material component is a fill pipe which, as its name implies, is the means through which you fill the pipes with water. Your fill pipe can be as simple as a plastic water bottle, inverted and with the bottom cut off, inserted directly into a hole you have cut into the top of one of the pipes. You can also use an extra piece of drain pipe in a corner, (as shown), that just extends to the bottom of the planter.
Finally, don't forget about an overflow drain hole - the bed's protection against overwatering - that you can cut directly into the planter.
*Tip: Although you can build your SIP directly into a wooden planter, you will greatly extend the longevity of the lumber by lining the entire inside of the box with plastic before inserting any other materials. This moisture barrier will keep the lumber's porous surface protected and will result in a much more successful, watertight raised bed garden.
And if you do go the lumber planter route, don't forget to cut an overflow drain hole into the lumber. Drill a ½" circular hole into one of the boards the planter 4" up from the bottom and insert a piece of ½" OD round vinyl tubing into it, extending it to the bottom of a pipe to ensure proper drainage. When it's time to water, just keep adding water until a little bit starts to weep out of the overflow. Refill it again the next day and you will be good to go for quite some time.
*Tip: Just remember that if you decide to go the direct-to-lumber planter method, do not use pre-treated lumber as it contains harmful toxins that can kill your plants before they have a chance to grow.

Quick Construction

Step 1: Gather the necessary materials. In this case, an SIP was constructed out of a large pontoon boat before it was placed into a lumber housing unit.

Step 2: Insert the pre-cut lengths of ventilated pipes into the container.
*Tip: When you place your pipes into the planter, be sure to space them apart evenly as these spaces form the soil wicks.

Step 3: Pour soil into the planter and cover the entire lengths of the pipes.

*Tip: When you add the soil mix to the planter, be sure to pack it down into the spaces between the pipes to ensure good capillary wicking action.

4: Insert an upright length of pipe into the planter with one end exposed above the surface to serve as your fill pipeOnce you have completed your planter, you can construct a lumber "housing" unit to dress up your SIP like this one here built out of 2x4 boards stacked in a "Lincoln log" type formation (alternating parallel layers bolted together).

*Tip: Whether you build your SIP for use directly on the ground or raise it off the floor, it is important that the bed of your planter is flat and level. Otherwise, you are going to end up with uneven distribution of water.

Now, simply plant, water and watch as your new nursery blooms before your very eyes!
What are you planning on planting in your new sub-irrigated raised bed gardens?

Chris Long, a long-time store associate at a Home Depot in Illinois, writes on lumber products for the Home Depot website. He also enjoys writing on underground irrigation projects for gardens and lawns.

Photos:  Chris Long


Simple Sowing: Herbs and Greens ~ The Garden in Winter

"A garden is a lovesome thing...
The veriest school of Peace."
--Thomas Edward Brown

I've been busy planning and working on the herb garden this past month... inspired by the image of a simple yet fascinating circular herb garden I saw on Pinterest (above center left...all the other photos are my own).  The viewing thereof prompted cravings for fresh mint and tangy thyme in our daily salads... not to mention that elusive lemon-y/yet not lemon-y flavor of French sorrel in our soups in lieu of spinach.  If the truth be told I began in late December after a visit to the 99-Cent store where I literally stumbled upon a group of lonely looking herbs (bottom right picture in collage) while putting away the basket in front of the store... sage, chives, oregano huddled together on a small rolling cart... all in need of a nourishing, nurturing home and, of course, they were adopted by me (bottom right collage photo).

A few weeks later found me planting more green, herbal goodness that I found for a few dollars each at our local nursery, Brita's Old Town Garden.  Parsley, Purple Kale and Cabbage, along with a lovely Lavender bush found earlier that week at Trader Joe's (top photo of collage) joined the existing baby rosemary bush by the garden gate and the other plants populating our tiny herb garden.  

As gardening was heavily on my mind, I bought an extra Lavender to plant at my Dad's house... it will eventually replace the cherry tomatoes that (while very spindly and sparse) are still producing about half-pint per week (bottom left photo of collage).  


Purple Kale for use in our morning juice (thank you Manuela for the good advice!) as well as use in other recipes such as soups, stews, sautéed dishes and salads. Kale and other lettuces will grow as a perennial in our mild climate if we harvest only the outer leaves and leave the center intact.

Cabbage for juicing, sauté's and the like...
like the Kale I will try to keep this as a perennial by harvesting only the outer leaves.  The herb pot in behind the cabbage was bought for under $4 from Trader Joe's.  

A potted semi~dwarf Kumquat tree we bought last week from Costco of all places for a mere $19.99!

Even our Rose tree was in the mood for spring... communicating this to us by offering its' generous blooms in late January!

Robert Collier tells us to "See things as you would have them be instead of what they are."  I'm finding that garden planning is a perfect exercise for mastering this.  What are you seeing for your garden and world?  
Sending love and good thoughts to always.

Tracey and Family x0x


The original "FRUGAL LUXURIES" ~ Based on the books by Tracey McBride ~ Established 1993

A warm Thank You to all kind souls and kindred spirits who generously take the time to leave a comment...your encouragement, trust and support are deeply appreciated...please know that we read each and every message and will respond as time allows.


Frugal Luxuries
is a registered trademark.


"FRUGAL LUXURIES: Simple Pleasures to Enhance Your Life and Comfort Your Soul" was written by Tracey McBride and published by Bantam Books, NY, in 1997. It was the first of its genre to synergize the elements of simplicity, frugality and gracious living.

After more than a decade, FRUGAL LUXURIES has never been out of print and is now more relevant than ever.

"It's our hope that a new generation, faced with a teetering economy, will also find this information helpful and enlightening."

Sending Good Thought to Our Special Band of Kind and Kindred Souls!

Frugal Luxuries Book I

Frugal Luxuries by the Seasons Book II

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