”I’m participating in the Spend-Less Holidays: Saving While Savoring the Season Blog Carnival, hosted by The Frugal Fil-Am and Dainty Mom. We’ll be sharing our tips on how to spend less this holiday season, so that we can have a more meaningful Christmas. Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.

Now that 'tis the season for gift giving, I find this as a wonderful opportunity to hone my super powers. As you may not know (because I rarely use these alter egos) I am THE BUDGET-ER, THE RECYCLE-R and the DIY-ER!!!!

One way to make sure I use my abilities (and not to let it dry up, like so many other missed opportunities) is to use them through the GIFT WRAPPING CHALLENGE!

The Gift Wrapping Mission: 
(1) Save: not to buy gift wrappers & use cheap materials, 
(2) Think: use creativity, personalized is always more special, 
(3) Recycle: Use stuff around the house which might as well be trash or dust collectors.

The Super Saver Materials : 
(1) Leftover Japanese paper from my previous craft endeavors
(2) Erasers from the lootbags of M (he is too young to use them anyway)
(3) Xacto Knife
(4) Markers / Paint
(5) Pencil
(6) Leftover craft twine / wire / string
(7) Scotch tape

Crime... er... Expense Fighting Steps:
(1) Turn the eraser into stamp. With a pencil draw desired Christmas design onto eraser. Using Xacto knife carve out the design.
this is the eraser and the carving tools you'll need to begin with
testing the stamp and marker
(2) Use a marker / highlighter to coat the carvings with ink. You can also use paint :)
(3) Wrap gifts using japanese paper. You can use any leftover paper you have from previous crafts or kids project. Using crepe paper, construction paper or cartolina is also a favorite of mine. Then, stamp away!
(4) For DIY ribbons, still using japanese paper (or crepe), cut strips of about 1.5" thick x 8 feet long (it doesn't have to be continuous). 
(5) Fold them as in picture below, then tie craft wire at the middle. You can also use a string, as long as it is not too thin.
(6) Pull each sheet upward one by one, very gently. This is to give the ribbon that puff.
(7) Install ribbon with tape. You can cut more stips to tie (or glue, in my case) around your gift
Tada! Try it for yourself, make the most of this season as discover your own creative super powers. Make sure to have lots of fun and to make it as personal as possible! Why add personalized gift tags while your at it, you can cut up old folders and use that brand new eraser stamp you have! Exciting times! Happy gift wrapping!

Check out the rest of our Spend-Less Christmas Carnival participants!

Now that M is 1, his curiosity is just growing in leaps and bounds! The perennial problem of parents is to find that right balance between safety and freedom. Just as safety is a must these days, it would also be just criminal to cage them in a bubble and let that curiosity dissipate.

I have no intention of discussing where to draw the line between these two, because admittedly, I really do not know and it is still a constant issue of mine.

Instead I will share a DIY project related to it. (Yes, on to lighter things!)

In my quest to make a child proof space for M (even just 1 area where I can let him safely explore independently), I went hunting for cabinet safety locks. I came across several locally distributed ones from Safety First. But either they're too expensive or they just won't fit these particular cabinets. As much as I just want him to open away, there has been some incidents of bumps, scrapes and a whole lot of mess which husband will surely not approve of.

So the solution came in mind easy, I'll just make 'em! The idea is so simple and so much cheaper that I just couldn't believe how I didn't think of it before!
Steps and materials :
These are all the materials you'll need
Just stick the hook on the other corner beside the opening of the cabinet and then tie a string like so
Tying the string this way gives you the end knot as a lock. Brilliant eh?
Now I don't have to constantly put the weight of my hands on the doors to keep him from opening them (he gets upset when I do that) nor do I need to keep chasing him and removing him from this particular area. He would just learn that there are some things you cannot get into yet. :)

What are your ideas on child proofing your house?
The thing with living in the city is that you really have to work on integrating nature into your living space. We live in a townhouse, in a compound, smack in the middle of Tondo. The view from the window would be your neighbor's window, if you must visualize. I remember a friend's 3 year old, wanting to open our window so she can see the birds, I just had to tell her, madumi, no birds. So sad.... Ever since we have been trying to rehabilitate the view from that particular window. 
Potted Plants

I decided on planting Ampalaya! I'm sure this is not the best looking or the nicest smelling decision, but if it does work, it would not only provide good coverage, but also give M fresh veggies to eat. I've seen some, wildly growing on the neighboring walls. So I know that the conditions here at our place would be conducive. Also, since I have no experience in "gardening" starting off with easy to acquire and low maintenance plant seems to be a good idea. I really hope they climb well on the railings, that serves as border / enclosure to the little outdoor space we have.
Baby ampalaya plants. Seeds and pot brought from nearest grocery store.

Bird Feeders

Husband's idea. Next goal is to have some nice tweeters to sing to the baby in the morning. Also, we are able to use our creativity in recycling milk cans, we seem to have quite a collection right now. Since its installation, I have yet to see actual birds on them myself (The nanny says she has seen one). One achievement though, I have been HEARING the birds more now compared to before. Maybe they're just shy. I'll give them more time.

Here is how I made one of the feeders:
materials : cardboard, empty milk can, stick, acrylic paint, cutters, tape and pencil
trace cardboard with half the curve of the milk can. then, cut slits on the outer portion. this is so we can tape the cardboard following the shape of the can
tape the cardboard like so, with th eslits and tape "inside" the can. this will serve as holder for the bird feed
punch holes at the bottom of the can using a nail and a hammer. this is so you can tie the bird feeder on a branch or on a railing
decorate the can, here I gave it a more natural look by painting leaves on it. afterwards, insert the piece of stick on the cardboard (I just taped it again inside) so the birds will have somewhere to perch on
hang the feeder using some wire or sturdy string. Don't forget to add the bird feeds inside!
It is still  work in progress, but there are already some major improvements. Hopefully we can find success for our little patch of green dream.