Thursday, April 28, 2011

Laundry Soap and Liquid Hand Soap

So easy and saves me oodles. Last week I did the math and this soap costs less than two cents a load. I use the kitty litter bucket when I double the recipe.
2 gal. water
1/3 bar of Fels Naptha -- finely grated
1/2 c. borax
1/2 c. Washing Soda (NOT baking soda)

Bring 1 gallon of water to boil, toss in grated soap. Stir and continue boil until fels naptha is completely melted.

Take off heat and add borax and washing soda. Stir. Add 1 gallon of water. Stir. Done. If I'm storing my laundry soap in plastic milk jugs, I wait until the soap as cooled. The soap will "gel up" over night. Stir before each use. 1/4-1/2 c. per load.
This is a low suds soap so it is HE friendly!

I started making my own laundry soap not only to save money but also because I could. :)  I started to look at products that I used/consumed and asked myself, "Can I make that?" It's amazing the stuff I've learned over the past couple of years just because I asked this simple question. I also make my own liquid hand soap....I know, you can buy a big container to refill your soap dispenser for cheap at Sam's Club. I haven't done the math, but I'm guessing that my homemade soap is still cheaper. Besides, there is a bit of satisfaction in not relying on some big chain store. 

I've had to play around a bit with liquid hand soap. During my first attempts I reused a foam dispenser...Dial or something like that. This worked well until the dispenser wore out, resulting in foam puffs flying everywhere. I did buy a pump dispenser on Amazon which worked well....for awhile. The best recipe for pumps is simply Dr. Bronners Castille Soap (liquid) mixed with equal parts water.

Athome America Soap Dispenser
A friend of mine, Keri, sells Athome America and I was thrilled when I found this dispenser. It's cute and it works well.
However this dispenser doesn't work well with my castille/water combo recipe. The soap is just too liquidity....it's like trying to drink water out of a cupped hand and much of the soap was getting wasted as it spilled out onto the counter or sink. So, after months of hand cupping, I decided to play around a bit. I still haven't perfected the recipe but I'm on the right track. Progress, not perfection, is good enough for me.



I had some soap crumbles that were just waiting to be used. These crumbles were acquired when a friend and I made soap over Christmas break. As we cut the soap into bars, some of the soap crumbled. We had made two pans of soap that day so my crumbles have a wonderful mixed scent of sandalwood and lavender. As I was shaving the pieces so that they would melt better, I decided to give my coffee grinder a whirl. It worked perfectly! My coffee may now taste like soap though.

While I was grating the soap, I brought 1 cup of water to boil. Once the water was boiling, I added 1/3 cup of my finely grated soap. (These amounts need to be adjusted a little. My hand soap turned out a little too thick so I think next time I will use 2 cups water to 1/3 cup soap.) Once the soap melts (doesn't take long at all!), remove pan from the heat and blend. CAUTION: The hot soap will splatter. Although this is great for clean up, it's not so great on bare arms...or my bare face. Next time I will use a deeper pot. The blending will cause some foam but that's OK. I blended a bit, let the mixture rest a few minutes and blended some more. I repeated this about 5 times. I waited for the mixture to cool before pouring into my soap dispenser. The mixture will thicken but it takes a few hours to do so. If it becomes too thick, add water and blend. Mine looked good but after 24 hours it thickened a little too much. I just added a little water to my dispenser and shook vigorously. Love it! I love that my hands don't feel completely dried out after I wash them. (Has anyone ever felt so dry after washing your hands -- usually at public places - that you feel a strange desire to lick your hands? Maybe not. Anyway, I hate that!) And I love the sandalwood/lavender scent. Happy soap~making!

 *Readers, if you have a favorite soap recipe, I would love for you to share!!*

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chicken Update


Mr. Rooster

Henny Penny and Sis
Gizmo












Last week I struggled with collecting eggs as a very protective hen guarded not only her eggs, but also the eggs of her housemates. I've since learned that this phenomenon is called "brooding chicken" or as my Grandmother put it, "The hen has turned clucky." My plan was to separate Henny and a roo so that she could fulfill her maternal desires....until two more hens decided to become her accomplices. So after doing the math:
1 egg laid each day x 3 clucky hens x 27 days (this is approximately how long it takes to go from egg to chick) = 81 eggs    ...that is a lot of eggs sacrificed to one clucky hen.

On Saturday I entered the chicken coop, determined to show those hens that I was boss. I decided I could no longer be afraid of my sinister hens. I must be bold. It worked. I fooled myself and the hens. They haven't messed with me since. Yesterday, all the chickens rushed to me when I came with my ice cream bucket full of treats (they love my vegetable scraps) and no one followed me into the hen house. I was able to gather the eggs without fearing for my life.

In case you are wondering...the secret to my confidence and success? A pair of gloves.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Joys of Wallpaper


Layers 1, 2 and 3
Wallpaper is not my friend. Especially when I'm facing six layers of this dreadful stuff. A couple of weeks ago I decided to embark on a project that I've wanted to do for years - paint the office/playroom. This room has always been "blah". Not horrible but not great. I want it to scream, "Kids play here!"

Envisioning bright, lively walls (and looking for any excuse to avoid working on my taxes),  I took the plunge and began ripping off wallpaper. I'm still working on these walls....and all six layers of wallpaper. Taxes did get completed, I had no choice, yet the walls are only a little more than half stripped.

My house was built in 1905 which is one of the many things I love about it. However when it comes to a remodeling/redecorating project, I seem to always run into headaches. I have found that if I use a steak knife at just the right angle, I can get some of the wallpaper to peel off. For the more stubborn areas I have been using a spray bottle filled with vinegar and warm water. The process consists of scraping, wetting, scraping, wetting...multiple times for just a small area. The process is quite time consuming. I was hoping to have this project done by now but alas, life still continues to move and so this room must wait.


More layers....and look what's underneath - plaster!
 On a positive note, the plaster is in fairly good condition (those six layers of wallpaper must have protected the walls for the past 100 years).  My darling husband would like to knock out the plaster and put in sheet rock however the cost is not in the budget for my "cheap" room makeover. We found paint for the pink wall in the "oops" section at Walmart. I am hoping to find some free paint, preferably in my color scheme, at the recycling center this weekend. Warm orange, bright pink, sky blue and grassy green...or something like that.


Everytime I start a "little" project I realize that "little" projects don't exist.  Little and simple are not compatible to old houses. Or maybe it has little to do with the old house and more to do with an old woman who takes on too many "simple" projects at one time. Or maybe it's a little bit of both. :)

 I love my old house anyway and am looking forward to the end result. My daycare kiddos are pretty excited too! Pictures will be shared when ( or if) this project is completed.




Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Naughty Henny Penny

Raising chickens has been such a learning experience for me. Three or four years ago, when my son and I incubated those first eggs, I thought it was going to be a great science project. Little did I know that I would continue to learn so much more about chickens. My newest discovery is that hens can turn into aggressive, egg hoarders which I just learned are called by the name of a brooding hen. I have named my brooding hen Henny Penny.
Gizmo (black rooster) and Henny Penny (golden hen)

Henny Penny is not only protecting her eggs, she is hoarding the eggs of her housemates. When I advance towards her she puffs up, both her neck and her rear, yet somehow she stays firmly planted on "her" eggs. Without moving, she skillfully lashes out with her sharp, quick beak. Last night, shielded by my scrap bucket in one hand and the scrap bucket lid in the other, she still managed to peck my finger. This did not please me. After several attempts I grabbed the shovel...don't worry, I only THOUGHT about whacking her on the head. Poking at her with the handle end of the shovel did no good. She ferociously pecked the handle. I was scared she'd fill the shovel handle with holes. I tried the other end of the shovel, gently nudging underneath her. She didn't budge. The only thing she did was make noise as her beak tinged on the metal shovel. Ting, Ting, Ting. And between the tings I could hear the scratch, scratch, scratch. Behind me stood Gizmo, the beautiful yet feisty man of the hen house. Gizmo didn't like that I was ruffling his favorite girl's feathers and scratched the ground like a bull preparing to charge. My hen house is no longer safe. Gizmo may be sharing space in the stew pot with Henny.


This weekend I will try to separate Henny and her beau. I'll be equipped with long, thick sleeves and work gloves. I'm wondering where I can find a welder's mask (or whatever they call those things). The thought of Henny Penny leaving puncture wounds all over my face is a bit frightening. Or maybe I'll just send The Boy in to do my dirty work. I could sell it as a "great adventure"....and maybe offer him some cash. In their separate home, I will be safe to gather the eggs from my other ladies while Henny and Gizmo can make some babies for me. I love baby chicks.


Please pray for my safety. I will try to take a few pictures....if I am courageous enough to carry the camera - I may need my hands to cover my head! ;)



Shared ~
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Making Yogurt

 I make yogurt not only because it saves me money, but because it is so much healthier than store-bought yogurt. The typical store-bought yogurt is filled with extra garbage, not to mention the loads of high fructose corn syrup....and in case you didn't know, high fructose corn syrup is a bad word in my house.


There are many different ways to make homemade yogurt and I have tried quite a few. Sometimes with success, but sometimes quite unsuccessfully. Yogurt making has been a trial-and-error experiment. There are so many factors such as the milk used (skim, whole, raw), yogurt culture (always use plain yogurt with active cultures), temperatures, "incubation" factors and consistency (which I must admit, I'm not very good at). The following recipe has been tested multiple times. Only once did it not turn out great - the yogurt was good but very runny which was excellent for smoothies!


Above is a picture of the equipment that I use. The stock pan is filled with water which will be used to sterilize my recycled jars AND the water will be "recycled" to fill the crock pot. NOTE on recycled jars: I LOVE the short and fat salsa jars, they are the perfect size. However, they need to be cleaned well or the salsa smell will taint whatever you are storing. Trust me, salsa flavored yogurt is not good. I usually wash the jar and then fill the jar with vinegar (I let this soak a bit) and rewash. Sometimes it takes multiple washing.

The orange pot is filled with 1/2 gal. of milk. A thermometer is very important in yogurt making. To kill bacteria (if you wish to do this, there are arguments that say this will also kill good bacteria so cater this step to your own preferences), milk needs to be heated to 180* (I only raise mine to the temp of 160*). When you add your yogurt culture to the milk, the milk should be at 110*.... any higher and the good bacterias found in your starter will be killed, therefore killing the chance of making yogurt.
Next to the orange pot is my yogurt starter. Most recipes that I've tried call for 1-3T. of starter (either homemade or store-bought yogurt - make sure that store-bought yogurt has active cultures and is not flavored) BUT I have found better success if I increase this amount to 1/2 cup of starter. Set yogurt on the counter to bring to room temperature.

The crock pot will be the incubator for the yogurt, which will need to incubate for AT LEAST 7 hours. Make sure that all the jars will be short enough to fit in the crock pot with the lid on. Large kitchen towel is needed to keep in the heat.

DIRECTIONS:

  • Heat 1/2 gallon of milk. I prefer to heat the milk on low/med.-low so that I don't burn the milk (This temp could be increased but keep a good eye on your milk.). Stir occasionally. It takes quite awhile to heat milk to 185* so make sure you allow yourself plenty of time.
  • Next I plug in the crock pot to "heat it up" and set out my starter on the counter.
  • While milk is heating the milk, fill big pot with water, jars and lids. Bring to a boil. Remove jars and lids. Dump water into crock pot. I leave the lid off until the water in crock pot reads 115-120*. My goal here is to get the water to a consistent 110*.
  •  
    Cooling Milk
    
  • Once milk has reached desired temperature, it is now time to bring the temperature down to 110*. This can be done several ways: simply remove from heat and wait (this takes awhile!), or place pan in an ice bath. I have a small "side sink" in which my wok fits nicely into. I fill my wok with a handful of ice cubes and cold water.
  • When temperature of milk is 110*, scoop out 1-2 cup of warm milk and add to your 1/2 cup of yogurt culture. In the background of the picture on the left is my culture (yogurt from my previous batch). Stir briskly and return this mixture to the rest of the milk. REMEMBER: 110 is necessary for the yogurt to grow and "breed" but temperatures over 110 will kill your yogurt!
  • Incubating
  • Fill your clean jars! I leave a little "shaking" space of 1/2 inch.
  • Check temperature on crock pot. If necessary, add ice cubes to cool crock to 110. Add jars. I keep the water level just below the jar lids.
  • Wrap crock pot with towel and unplug. At this point I have to write down the time on my refrigerator white board or I forget when the yogurt is done (even then I sometimes forget...last time my yogurt incubated an extra 4 hours but luckily it turned out just fine).
  • 
  • Leave incubating yogurt in an out-of-the-way place for 7 hours. The longer it's left, the thicker and sometimes more tangy tasting. The crock pot should be turned off or it will get too hot for yogurt. Many things could be used in place of the crock pot as an insulator. I have a friend who uses a cheaply cooler.
  • After 7 hours, give the jars a little shake and leave in the refrigerator over night.
Viola! You have yogurt.
 Learning the tricks of yogurt making has been a huge learning experience for me, with a lot of ups and downs. If you have a few unsuccessful attempts, try again! Once you get the kinks worked out for YOU (because really, it's about learning to make it your way), you will have more successes than failures.

~As I edited this post, I noticed I repeated myself a few times. I'm leaving my redundant statements because you may be like me. I scan directions, rarely reading every important step...which leads to many flops. Redundancy in directions is good for me. :)




Monday, April 11, 2011

Kefir Brews

Separating kefir grains from kefir
Kefir
Full of probiotics (good bacteria) and good for you! Kefir is often tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant. Other benefits of kefir include regulating digestion, regulating blood sugar and boosting immunity. Kefir is similar to liquid yogurt. I use kefir in my morning smoothies and in making bread. If the batch is particularly tart, I add a little maple syrup in my smoothies to sweeten it up. Kefir is available in the dairy section at many whole food markets, Trader Joes and I've even seen kefir at Kwik Trip. However, it's usually overpriced and often over-sugared. Or worse yet, sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. I'd rather regulate the sugar content myself.
I bought my kefir grains (both dairy kefir and water kefir - more on that later) from a "friend of friend" at http://www.savvyteasandherbs.com/ Savvy Teas also has a wonderful selection of teas and strainers that work perfect in kefir making.

Kefir Recipe
 **Make sure that jar and equipment is clean. Store in glass NOT plastic or metal. Do not use metal utensils in your kefir.
  • Needed: kefir grains, glass jar and milk
  • I use a 1/2 gal. ball jar however any size will work.
  • Fill jar with kefir grains, top with milk, filling jar 3/4 full.
  • Cover with a thin cloth - I use a coffee filter, secured with a rubber band.
  • Place jar in a dark place for 12-48 hours. Normally 24 hrs. but adjust to preference and room temperature. The warmer it is the fast it "brews". If you like your kefir more thick and tart, brew longer.
  • Strain grains and start a new batch or store. Grains can be stored by freezing (something I haven't tried) or top grains with milk and place in the frig. Strain and add fresh milk every week or two.
Kefir Bread

3 cups kefir
3 cups whole wheat flour
~Mix in a bowl. Cover with a towel and leave on the counter overnight/24 hours. I usually mix this after lunch and make it the next day after breakfast.

After the kefir/flour mixture has "fermented". Add:
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 1/2 T. honey
2 T. melted coconut oil (short cut: I melt the oil, pour into my bread pans, after sides and bottoms are well-greased I pour the excess oil into the bread mixture)
3 cups flour (spelt works well in this recipe but sometimes I just use whole wheat)

Mix well. This bread dough is very sticky...don't expect to roll into loafs, it just doesn't work. I pour the batter-like substance into two bread loaf pans.
Set on counter, cover and let rise for 15-45 minutes (Don't be surprised, this bread doesn't rise much.)
Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.


Water Kefir is also a good-for-you-probiotic. It's a great substitute for soda as the fermenting process creates carbonation. The sugar is used to "feed" the grains.

Water Kefir
**Important to use very clean jar and equipment
  • Most recipes call for filtered water (do not use distilled water as it's missing important minerals) however I boil my tap water. It helps dissolve the sugar. BUT remember to let water cool before adding kefir grains. The grains can be killed by water that is too hot!
  • Add 1/2 cup sugar in 1/2 gal. ball jar (or adjust accordingly, depending on the size of your jar)
  •  Fill with water until 3/4 full. Stir to dissolve sugar. Let cool. (Add additional fruits if desired)
  • Once cool, add kefir grains.
  • Cover with a lid. Store at room temperature for 24-42 hours. Strain and bottle.
Notes:


  • Optional: fruit can also be added at the beginning of brewing process. I've used lemon slices, ginger, blueberries and raisins. The extra sugar from the fruit will add in the brewing process but I've made water kefir without the fruit and had no problem.





  • Do not use honey. Honey will damage the grains.





  • Do not fill brewing container or bottles full or your container may burst due to the carbonation.





  • Like my dairy kefir grains, I store my grains in the frig. when I'm not brewing. I change the sugar water every few weeks to ensure that my grains are being "fed".





  • Molasses can be added during brewing process to "plump up" the grains. I don't care for the taste of molasses kefir so I usually only use molasses during my storing stage.




  • Featured on Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade

    Reading to my Son

    I love to read to my son. I've been reading to him since he was a baby and even though he is now eleven and very capable of reading to himself, I still read to him. Reading is our nightly bedtime ritual and I wouldn't trade those precious moments for anything. Many of the books that I read to him when he was little are still ingrained in my mind. I can recite many lines from memory.  Phrases such as, "It's time for bed little mouse, little mouse. Darkness is falling all over the house." and another all time favorite, "I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living my baby you'll be." And how many parents can finish this sentence from the classic "Good Night Moon" by Margaret Wise Brown; "In a great green room lived a telephone and a red balloon and a picture of......."?

    As Isaiah grew, our bedtime readings changed. He loved the adventures of "The Chronicles of Narnia", "The Hobbit" and "Moby Dick". When he was in kindergarten he was fascinated with everything pirate so we read Robert Louis Stevenson's, "Treasure Island". We've read about Cleopatra and The Trojan War. We've read Homer's "Odyssey", "Oliver Twist", "The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", "The Call of the Wild", "Tom Sawyer" and "Robinson Crusoe". Along with some of these classics, we've also enjoyed the Hank the Cowdog series. My favorite part is the southern drawl that I get to add to Hank's lines or stuttering like Junior, the dimwitted buzzard. (I love adding voices. During student teaching first graders, story time was my favorite part of the day and I aspire to someday be the storyteller for my local library's story hour. Seriously, it sounds like great fun.)

    I love that as I list these titles of books we've read, that I can remember the age my son was at the time of the reading. I can vividly remember the interests of my boy. I remember that while we were reading "Treasure Island", Isaiah had a pirate birthday party. Our guests wore eye patches and made treasure boxes which we filled with loot. The cake was a pirate ship and completely armed with malted milk ball cannon balls. I remember Isaiah wanting to raft barefooted down the Mississippi as Tom and Huck had done. I remember his eyes wide, half in fear and half in anticipation as Captain Ahab hunted down his enemy, Moby Dick. I remember our tears as Buck was beaten by the dog trainers....OK, maybe I was the only one that cried.

    I hope that Isaiah remembers these things. He may not remember the details of each story but I hope he remembers that we read. I hope that he continues to love reading. I hope he has great adventures in his life, similar to those we have read about. I hope that when he is a father, he spends those precious moments before sleep to read to his son or daughter. If nothing else, may he remember being very loved by his mom.

    
    My favorite adventure has been raising my son. (Summer 2006)
    

    The Reading Mother ~ Strickland Gillilan

    I had a mother who read to me
    Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea.
    Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth;
    "Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath.
    I had a Mother who read me lays
    Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
    Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
    Which every boy has a right to know.
    I had a Mother who read me tales
    Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
    True to his trust till his tragic death,
    Faithfulness lent with his final breath.
    I had a Mother who read me the things
    That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
    Stories that stir with an upward touch.
    Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
    You may have tangible wealth untold;
    Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
    Richer than I you can never be --
    I had a Mother who read to me.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011

    Wildtree




    Over the last couple of years, I've been more conscious of the foods that I eat and serve to my family. I know that our health is directly correlated with what we eat. Little by little, I've been making changes. Eating more fruits and vegetables, buying more organic and watching out for GMO's and high fructose corn syrup. Sure, we still occasionally eat things that we shouldn't (my husband has a love for donuts and store bought cookies) but change for the better is still change.
    Last fall, after a few years of using Wildtree products, I decided to become a Wildtree Representative. Wildtree offers products that free of additives, food coloring, MSG, and preservatives. This is important to me as I strive to feed my family "real" food.

    My favorite Wildtree products are:




    Guamole Seasoning Blend
    Smash an avocado or two, add 2-4 T. of the seasoning blend. BEST GUACAMOLE EVER! I make a lot of seasoning blends but have not been able to reproduce this one.



    Italian Dressing Seasoning Mix
    Mix with some balsamic vinegar, Wildtree Zesty Lemon Grapeseed Oil and Wildtree Roasted Garlic Grapeseed Oil. AWESOME! I love it not only as a dressing but also as a marinade. I dice up cucumbers and tomatoes, smother with dressing and keep in the refrigerator. Easy to toss on top of a salad. I've also used it to marinate chicken breasts.




    Wildtree Lemon Rosemary Blend

    Sprinkle on chicken breasts and saute in either Roasted Garlic or Zesty Lemon Grapeseed Oils. Also good in rice.







    If you are interested in Wildtree, please checkout my Wildtree website.  mywildtree.com/19419

    Saturday, April 9, 2011

    Assumptions

    A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were sitting on the front porch enjoying our after-dinner coffee. As we chatted, a man and his son walked by. The man, in his early thirties and a tad overweight, was pushing his son, who looked to be about three years old, in a stroller. The father, with his elbows resting on the stroller and walking at a very slow pace, didn't appear thrilled about this activity. From his posture I formulated a judgement (I know, shame on me). Possibly he was tired out from his day at work. Perhaps he was lazy and unambitious. As I contemplated his "story", I decided that his wife had came home from work, shooed the boys out the door so that she could prepare dinner and this man was grudgingly fulfilling her wishes.

    Sometimes our assumptions, or judgements, can be so off base. It's impossible to read into any one's story. I have since witnessed this man, always accompanied with his son, on a couple more occasions and have decided my assumptions may not have been so accurate. A couple of days ago, I saw the father and son duo at the grocery store. The boy was pushing a kid-size cart and the father was filling the cart and chatting with the boy. In this moment I saw a father's patience.

    Today as I sat on the front porch, listening to the birds singing, I heard a man talking. The man hadn't came into my line of vision yet and from the tone of his voice (I couldn't hear exact words) it sounded as if he was having a conversation with a friend. When I was finally able to see the speaker, I realized that it was this same man, walking hand in hand with his son. Today I saw a father's love.

    "Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are  your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come it." ~Alan Alda

    How great it would be if we all learned to put a positive spin on our assumptions...or not make assumptions at all.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    Frugal Resources

    I caught myself thinking the other day, "If I get money back from taxes (This is highly unlikely. I'm fantasizing here, as I know I will be paying in), I'm going to buy an ipad and one of those cool litter boxes (you know, the ones that do the scooping for you)." Funny how the prospect of receiving unexpected money changes my mindset. Instead of using the money to pay off a credit card or to finally get the roof fixed, I'm ready to spend it frivolously. Why is it that we I think that "extra" money should be spent on wants?

    For months I've been debating about getting rid of the monthly internet payment so why would I need a new computer? In all honesty, I have decided that I would die without being able to check my email daily so the internet stays. However, my sometimes-trusty, old computer works most of the time. No need for a new computer. So as long as my computer continues to work, an ipad would fall under the category of a want rather than a need.

    And that ultra cool litter box? One of my frugal motto's is, "Don't pay someone else for a job that you can do yourself"....but I HATE cleaning the litter box. This is a job that I'd pay for someone else to do.  Each time I longingly admire those poop-scooping models in the store, I talk myself out of it because they are expensive. As are the filters and the disposable tray which needs to be replaced every few weeks. Not only does the self-cleaning litter box continue to cost money but it also adds waste. I guess I'm stuck with the poop scooping job...and Kitty.



    Kitty, the smelly pooper. If only I could get train her to scoop her own box.










    Before I make purchases I ask myself the following questions:
    • Is this a want or need? Careful here, many wants masquerade as needs. (My detest for the litter box almost creates a need for that kitty box)
    • Will this product save me money? (Um, no.)
    • Will this product require additional purchases? (Liners and filters for the kitty box)
    • How does the cost relate to monthly bills? (Kitty box costs $100. That is equivalent to two months of student loan payments or one month of electric bill. Hmm, I rather have electricity than a kitty box).
    • Do I have something at home that could be used for the same purpose? (Yeah, me and an old scoop).

    Two frugal blogs that I happened upon this morning. I will need to revisit later to get a closer look.

    http://frugalhacks.com/2009/01/06/frugal-homemaker-plus-gets-a-little-personal/ The Frugal Homemaker regarding re-usable feminine products (something I haven't tried...yet. Still debating this one.).


    My other favorite frugal resources are:
    http://www.debtreduction101.com/
    http://www.tiphero.com/ sign up for weekly tips
    http://www.stretcher.com/index.cfm This site has a huge amount of resources which includes simple, everyday tips, debt calculators and more.

    Monday, April 4, 2011

    Ah, Spring

    In the early morning, before the daycare children arrive, I like to sit on my front porch with a cup of coffee. This ritual helps me to prepare for the day as I run through my head my list of to-dos, a menu plan for the day and which activities we will be running off to when the work day is done. But this morning, with the delicious smell of a spring rain and the sound of singing birds and the light pitter-patter of rain, I just sat and relished in the thought that spring has indeed arrived. Ah, I love spring and the sign of rebirth.

    I searched this morning for a perfect poem to describe the early onset of spring. Just as I was about to give up change my google search to "How to write poetry" (I am not a poet), I stumbled across the following poem. Unfortunately I was unable to locate it's author.

    peace is in all that surrounds us
    as the gentle spring rain dances
    on soft velvet petals
    birds are softly singing
    while a butterfly lands
    listen to nature's sounds


    gentle breezes blowing
    hummingbirds frolicking among
    the bright red blossoms
    open lush grassy fields
    linger a little longer to savor
    the peaceful surroundings

    the grace and beauty of the garden is
    illuminated for all to see
    bringing a message of hope
    to those who are listening


    This week I'll be writing about real food, doctors, feet and pedicures on a budget. I will also share my pictures and instructions on making yogurt, cheese and kefir.

    Saturday, April 2, 2011

    Minor Accomplishments

    Just a few things that I managed to accomplish this week (some weeks are more...or less productive than others). I made six meals out of one package of fryer chicken and one beef roast.
    • Saturday - Baked Chicken. I baked the chicken seasoned with Wildtree Lemon Rosemary Blend. Served with baked potatoes and salad.
    • Sunday - Chicken and Rice. I cut up some of the leftover chicken and added it to rice and vegetables.
    • Monday - Roast. During the day I threw the rest of the chicken and bones in a crock pot filled with water. In another crock pot I cooked the roast, seasoned with Wildtree's Rancher Steak Rub, and added potatoes and carrots.
    • Tuesday - Beef Stew. I made a roux (melted butter and whole wheat flour) added a little left over broth from Monday nights stew and a little milk. Cut up leftover meat, potatoes and carrots (from Mondays dinner).  Served with homemade whole wheat buns (see earlier post).
    • Wednesday - Chicken and Dumpling Soup. Picked meat off the chicken bones, diced up carrots and celery.
    • Thursday - Chicken Fried Rice. Scrambled a couple of eggs in the wok (I love my wok), threw in the leftover chicken/rice and the left over chicken soup (dumplings are my kids favorite part so there were none remaining (thankfully) for my final "leftover" dinner).  Added a handful of frozen peas and carrots, little soy sauce, a couple shakes of ginger, and roasted almonds (I love the added flavor and crunch of almonds).
    I think the final meal was my favorite.



    I have a "reject" container filled with lavender. The container was meant to be a soap dispenser, which I had purchased at an Athome America party, however the soap dispenser broke. As always, I had a difficult time throwing the jar thinking that I could use it for something. The "lid", which I also couldn't bear to throw, has an permanent opening for the dispenser. I decided that I'd house my lavender in this container and because it doesn't completely "seal" it would double as a room freshener...until the other day when I decided to sprinkle my carpets with baking soda. Just as I was about to sprinkle the baking soda, the lavender caught my eye! Now my room deodorizer is also my carpet deodorizer. The recipe is 1/2 c. lavender flowers and 1 c. baking soda. Sprinkle on carpets, let sit for 15-30 minutes. Vacuum.....and/or put in a pretty vase or open container to softly scent a room. :)




    This morning, after scrubbing my bathtub tiles, I realized that I needed to make some everyday shower spray. I haven't made this is a long time. The last time I ran out I kept putting off making more and eventually forgot all about it. It's so easy to make and not as stinky as the store bought stuff.
         
         SHOWER SPRAY
    1/4 c. rubbing alcohol
    1/4 c. peroxide
    3 drops of dish soap
    (I also added 2 drops of lavender essential oil - can you tell that I like lavender?)
    12 oz H2O
    

    Green Freeze (as seen in Rochester Magazine)

    http://rochestermagazine.com/laurie/byrne/green/freeze/story-837.html

    THRIFTY OR GREEN? I don’t know which desire came fi rst, but striving to be a “non-consumer” has led me on a journey. With my small efforts, I know that I am not only saving money but also saving the planet.

    I’m practical in my dress and keep a simple wardrobe. Most of my clothing comes from consignment stores, Goodwill, or garage sales—but I buy pieces that look brand new.

    In the last couple of years, I’ve been experimenting with making my own beauty and cleaning products out of simple ingredients, such as baking soda or vinegar. My window cleaner and all-purpose cleaner costs so little and is free of stinky, harmful chemicals. I save over $100 a year by making my own laundry soap. I also make my own shampoo, conditioning rinse, and lotion (which doubles as facial moisturizer, hand cream, and body lotion). Not only do I save money, but I also save many bottles of plastic from ending up in the landfi lls because I store my homemade products in recycled glass containers.

    I also save money by figuring out how to do things myself. I get my hair cut once a year. I cut my dog’s hair—a long-haired, furry Labradoodle—and refuse to pay to go to the groomers. (Are you kidding, I don’t even spend that kind of money on my own hair!) I cut my husband’s hair— and, sure, it might not always look the greatest, but it grows and he doesn’t seem to mind.

    I make my own bread, yogurt (which saves over $100 a year), and all of our meals from scratch. I’m learning to garden, and every year I become a little more successful. My husband and I fi gured out how to make a rain barrel last year and were able to do most of the summer’s watering from its water reserves.

    Last month, I tried a “spending freeze” by paying only for necessities. I paid all of our necessary monthly bills, allocated $50 to fuel my vehicle, and cut back on my grocery spending. I love to cook, so the grocery store is the place where I tend to overspend. Under “the freeze,” though, I created interesting, and, yes, yummy meals from food in the pantry or hidden in the back of the freezer. All month, I remained successful in not spending money—unless, of course, you count all those Girl Scout cookies. But I couldn’t tell those sweet little girls, “Sorry, it’s Spending Freeze Month. Could you come back another time?” I’d be risking the chance of Samoas being sold out.



    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Exasperation

    Today I stumbled upon the following essay which I wrote just over a year ago. I remember this time period well. I was often exasperated...or maybe I should be down right honest and say that I was ALWAYS exasperated. My husband was on his fourth month of unemployment (his company relocated and we decided not to follow) and the job outlook was bleak. I was like the Israelites. A big complainer. Yet God continually showed his faithfulness. He is always faithful to lift those burdens for us when we are unable. I continue to learn the importance of leaning on my Heavenly Father.

    EXASPERATION

    The definition of exasperation is the state of being exasperated; irritation; extreme annoyance.
    Are you annoyed or irritated by the responsibilities in your life? Are you tired of doing everyone’s laundry or making sure that your family is fed even when you do not feel like cooking? Are you tired of picking up after your kids/spouse? At your workplace, do you feel that you are carrying more than your fair share of the workload? Are you overwhelmed to extreme annoyance of your responsibilities to your family, your employer, your friends, etc? I know if I was being asked those questions I would be vigorously shaking my head saying, “Oh, you know I am!” If allowed, I would probably even spend a few moments complaining about my burdens.

    I am studying Numbers 11:10-15 and Moses’ cry to God during his moment of exasperation. Moses is fed up with his responsibility of leading the complaining, whiny Israelites. In Numbers 11:14, Moses cries out to God, “I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me!” Wow, I think I have felt those sentiments before. In fact, I felt this way yesterday. How easily we forget that we are NOT carrying our burdens alone. God is there! In Phil. 3:13, Paul writes, “I can do all things through Christ who strengths me.” Paul writes this after enduring many hardships, beatings and imprisonment. How much greater were Paul’s burdens than mine….and how much greater still was the burden that Jesus carried as he suffered the cross for MY sins.

    Yet I complain, as the Israelites did. How we must exasperate our Father! Has he not proven himself faithful? Does he not always provide? In Numbers 11:10 states, “and the anger of the Lord was greatly aroused”. At this point God has provided for the Israelites everything they needed; however, the Israelites have grown discontent. God has freed the Israelites from the slavery of Egypt, he parted a sea for them, he provided food to nourish their bodies and yet they want more. God had given them a promise, a hope for things to come and yet they grumble and complain rather than wait patiently for God’s timing. I am feeling a bit humbled as I compare my complaints with those of the Israelites. God has provided all of my needs and even promises to continue providing for me. Yet, I must admit, with my head hung in shame, that sometimes my attitude of discontentment inadvertently claims that God’s provisions are not good enough. Shame, shame on the Israelites and shame, shame on me.

    In Paul’s letter to Timothy we read, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1Tim. 6:6-8). Paul also says in Phil. 2:14 to “do all things without complaining and disputing”. Once again, this is coming from a man who could have so much to complain about. I have been reminded today that sometimes the burdens in our life can be very heavy however, I must find comfort in knowing that I do not carry this burden alone, I can find hope in God’s promises, and I can rely on a faith that is based on the provisions God has provided in the past. I am also reminded to use my words to praise God rather than participate in bitter complaining. He has given me so much, not to mention the sacrifice of his son. I am learning what Paul means in Phil. 4:9, “in whatever state I am, to be content”. May God help you find contentment in whatever state you are in today.