Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry, Merry and Happy, Happy from Kentucky!!

Be back January 3rd!
   Time to turn my full attention to beloved family from out of town that we will be lucky enough to get to see this week. For that reason, taking a little hiatus from the Web until January 3rd, 2011.
   As I am addicted to reading everyone's blogs, I can't wait to see what I'll have missed. But meantime, maybe if I'm not staring at my computer screen I'll enjoy even more the blanket of snow that covered our countryside last night...about two inches of the snow-globe-perfect white stuff and just below freezing temps here in our region of Kentucky.
REPURPOSING: Greeting cards to gift tags
   I'll be saving all the holiday greeting cards to cut off any portions usable for gift tags. Sometimes I get lucky with a holiday card that can be used as a tag for a birthday gift, like this one pictured here above, on a gift for our young niece's birthday. The majority of our card fronts (holiday, birthday, whatever) get saved for the local veterans' association, as they collect and send them somewhere for re-use.
BAKING: Mini Pecan Tarts
   FINALLY made some goodies yesterday morn to send via Hubby to our neighbors up the hill. She gifts us with her homemade peanut brittle each year (YUM!) and then I return her container with something from my kitchen. Last year it was Mexican wedding cookies, but this year I decided to go with little pecan tarts.
   Found online at the exact recipe I use for these little pecan tarts called Tea Time Tassies, which will keep me from having to re-print it here. A good thing since I've got to go get ready for this wondrous day of family, family, family, food and fun.
   Wishing the same for you & a VERY Happy New Year too!!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Make over: CocaCola bottle to dish liquid dispenser

   When all those decorative bottles filled with flavored oils became ubiquitous in the retail shops, I got the idea to use a similar dispenser for dish washing liquid, so I could leave the soap out all the time rather than stashing it under the sink.
   I found the little spout at a kitchen shop and Hubby carved the rubber stopper part down a bit to fit the opening of an old CocaCola bottle we had on hand. The chrome spout originally had a little metal ring around it that corroded--I thought it looked great on the antique bottle, but evidently Hubby thought it just looked corroded, 'cause he tore that part off one day before I could stop him.
   Incidentally, on the windowsill are a couple of arrowheads found by Hubby in his childhood and a chicken wishbone that Hubby recently gleaned. Gonna have to remind him to break that one day with one of the grandkids, so I can stop looking at it!
   Until he saved this one, I had forgotten all about breaking wishbones for people still do that? Well, anyway, best of luck on all your last minute holiday shopping!!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Make do: Homemade brass cleaner

May be wicked of me, but I decided to put some bells on the grandkids' Christmas packages. (Decided to give them their gifts early, so they won't get lost in the shuffle of the next two days.) Not sure what time to expect them this morn, so I was in a hurry to clean a couple of bells I've had on hand forever. Quick surf of the Net located a recipe, which I downsized to suit the task at hand. Approximated the ingredients and coated the bells with the mixture. Left the coated bells to sit for 10 minutes before rinsing and buffing. Worked fine. The little bells on the right are much improved, as compared with larger, much tarnished bell on the left.
   Anyway, ho, ho, hope your Christmas is polishing up fine too! Jingle bells, JINGLE BELLS!
Homemade Brass Cleaner
1/2 c flour
1/2 c salt
1/2 c powdered detergent
3/4 c white vinegar
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir in the liquid ingredients. Mix well.
Transfer the cleaning mixture to a glass jar. Close the jar tightly and label it.
To use the cleaner, shake a small amount onto a cloth and rub it into the surface of the copper, brass, or bronze object. Use a toothbrush for hard-to-reach areas. Rinse with water and rub dry with a clean cloth.
Recipe source:

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Mock ziplocks save me money!

   A myriad of products come in mock zip-locks these days. Seems plastic packaging is inevitable, especially for those of us in areas without stores that allow you to "bring your own" packages to fill. Best I can do is re-purpose the plastic packages we do buy (and buy in bulk when possible).
   As of last night, all four of these packages are now filled to the brim with just sliced, freshly smoked pepper-crusted Christmas ham that my uncle gifted to my dad. (yum--can't wait!)
   Did you manage to re-purpose any other types of packaging recently? Always looking for ideas!!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rise and shine--waffles got me out of my warm bed this morn!

   Made waffles part of my goal to not waste the zest of the oranges we just bought from a high school band's fundraiser. The zest of only one orange makes an enormously tasty addition to a waffle recipe. Froze the leftovers to pop into the toaster oven whenever a hot breakfast is the ticket. Though my recipe is from a Good Housekeeping cookbook from the '80's, just found a recipe for a make-ahead pancake/waffle mix on the Good Housekeeping site, which might make the whole process even quicker. MUCH cheaper and easier and yummier than buying store-bought frozen waffles!
   Hope you had something good for breakfast today?!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Counting blessings: Grandgirls and handprint Santas

Had a simply MAHvelous day... One of our grandgirls spent the day with us. Our daughter, E's stepmom, made the Santa ornament (top) when she was a little schoolgirl. Today, sweet little E made a couple of versions of her own. Merry, MERRY!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Make do: Re-arranging turns old into new

   Ever get tired of looking at the same ole, same ole at home? When that happens, the temptation can be to buy something new. Instead, try switching things around to make the old SEEM new.
   The quilt pictured here graced one or the other of our beds for ages. Made by my mother, this quilt is one of my most prized possessions. Which is why I'm tickled pink to enjoy it now in its latest incarnation--as a wall-hanging in our family room.
   Do you like to shake things up in your home decor?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Crash Course In Resilience by Sarah van Gelder — YES! Magazine

Just read: Crash Course In Resilience by Sarah van Gelder — YES! Magazine. This line hooked me in to this great article: " In quiet conversations, many admit that they are learning to grow food and wondering how their children will survive life on a very different planet." Sarah van Gelder
----Please feel free to share a link to similarly intriguing sites-----
(Now watching Calidore's recommended link: Peak Moment on YouTube. Makes me feel so hopeful for our future!)

Making cooking easier means no excuses for take-out

   When I first set up kitchen, they didn't have all the fancy ceramic or wooden salt boxes. In my neck of the woods, they didn't even have kitchen stores like Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma (still don't!). For years, when a recipe called for salt, I poured salt directly from the box, over the sink of course, to catch the inevitable spills. Don't know why it took me so long to think to put salt into a little jar instead.
   Having salt readily accessible is just one of the many little ways to make cooking easier. Quick and easy means no excuses. No need to eat lousy, polystyrene-packaged take-out food on the run when it is just as quick, more delicious and much more comfy to eat at home.
   No need to buy a fancy salt box to make salt readily accessible when an old canning jar has just as much character. And for all those who have never suffered the frustration of trying to pour salt from the original container's little metal spout onto a little measuring spoon, why didn't someone tell me sooner?

Friday, December 17, 2010

This is on my mind...time to prepare for Old Man Winter!

This pic reminds me that it is time--well, past time even--to prepare for whatever THIS winter has in store for us. And despite the fact that these pots made it through the winter pictured here, I have since learned that I really should empty my pots and store them in the garage because extreme cold has been known to break pottery left outside. In this case, being frugal means taking tender care of all possessions, so I won't have to spend money to replace them.

Thanks to SouleMama and down---to---earth for inviting me into their Friday photo sharing. Join me in leaving a link to your moment of show n tell here, on SouleMama or on down---to---earth. TGIF!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Frugal's archenemy: LAZY!

   Sometimes the most frugal things we do are those things we DON"T DO.
   Pictured here are the many cooking utensils that do NOT get put away in our kitchen. And behind the little slow cooker containing our lunch (veggie soup) sit other items that also stay out all the time: a bottle of olive oil, a pepper grinder and three flavored vinegars.
   What may seem an eyesore to some represents the best method I've found to counteract my natural tendency to be lazy. By leaving everything within easy reach (thanks, Julia Child, for the idea!), cooking becomes less time consuming. Caught a segment of Moneywise with Kelvin Boston last night, and "not eating out" ranked high on the list of ways to save money. For that reason alone I can justify a little clutter on the counters.
   Our kitchen cabinets are even spaced to leave room on the counter-tops for the food processor, blender and stand mixer to stay out as well. Cooking is less of a chore when everything lies within easy reach!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Make over: from plate and candlestick to cakestand

   Just came across a great, inexpensive, home-made gift idea--a cute little make-over!
   Having stumbled upon the site Cooking in Mexico, I loved her post: Holiday gift idea: make a cake stand for your foodie friend. (She credits Wandering Chopsticks with the original idea.)
   The many variations presented on the two sites encouraged me that I could find a plate and candlestick combo around my own home. Imagining a pottery candlestick with an ironstone plate... Time to go look around!

Make over: Chip clips from broken hangers

   Ever break one of those plastic skirt/pants hangers that everyone seems to have? My mom, the ultimate frugalista, breaks off and uses any unbroken clips as chip clips. Well, monkey see/monkey do, so now I do too. But as you can see, the clips work for marshmallow bags too.
   Of course, I've had my hot chocolate this morning, which is why I thought to remembered to take this pic. The idea for this post was generated by a post over on Frugal Girl.
   Here in Kentucky, we're bracing for an ice storm to hit sometime this afternoon. In preparation, I filled my car's gas tank last night. Good thing too, since today's paper contained an article about preparing for frigid temperatures that stated, "...when drivers only have a quarter tank of gas or so...that leaves room for moisture [to build up in the tank]." Evidently, putting "fuel dryer additive" into your tank will help prevent the moisture from affecting your gas/car.
   Hubby is stacking more firewood on the porch for easy access. We'll be nice and cozy regardless of the weather. Hope the same for YOU!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Gotta love this woman!

TreeHugger article: Woman has used the same Christmas tree every year since 1928!

Frozen homemade cookie dough--like money in the bank!

   Just baked a batch of cookies. So good--they're gone in a flash! Looking to restrict your kids from overconsumption of your homemade goodies? Or maybe save YOURSELF from eating to many? Best way to do that is by freezing the cookie dough.
   To freeze, I use a cookie dough scoop to scoop out all the homemade dough onto a baking sheet, with the dough-balls spaced close together but not touching (dough pictured in the pan here is spaced far apart for baking). A few hours in the freezer until the dough is frozen enough to keep from sticking together and then all the dough balls can be tossed into a freezer storage container.
   No need to toss those store-bought, high fructose corn syrup laden, pre-packaged cookies into the grocery cart when freshly baked cookies can be had at home.
   After thawing the dough a minimum of 10 minutes, I made the mistake of baking a whole tray of cookies last night, which meant I ATE too many cookies last night. Sooo much better when I bake myself just a couple of cookies at a time in the toaster oven. Saves me calories AND money!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Stove-top popcorn easy & MUCH cheaper than microwave

   In my effort to bring home less packaging, I stopped buying microwave popcorn awhile back. And besides also saving me money, cooking popcorn on the stove-top vs. microwaving seems to have a health benefit. Just ask Oprah...switching is a good move if you're concerned about inhaling the nearly four dozen chemicals that waft up from each freshly popped bag of microwave popcorn.
   What I didn't know is how little oil is actually needed to make stove-top popcorn: only 1 teaspoon per 1/3 cup of popcorn!! I thank Southern Living magazine for this recipe that is even cheaper and has fewer calories than what I'd been doing. Their recipe's just as easy as listening for the bag in the microwave: Norman's Stove-Top Popcorn. (If in the mood for kettle corn, just add a tablespoon or two of sugar when you add the unpopped kernels.)
   Hate to think of all the money I've wasted on microwave popcorn through the years!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

I'm frugal, not cheap

   There are numerous ways that I live "on the cheap," because this is what's best for my wallet and the environment. I drink water in restaurants, take navy showers, reuse aluminum foil, etc., etc. Because I do MANY little things, I have the money to splurge on what matters to me, even if it's $11.64 per pound imported cheese.
   Conscious of the carbon imprint of shipping foreign goods here, I have given up foreign wines, Nutella, avocados from Chile when they're out of season here, Bonne Maman Preserves and any number of other AMAZING products.
   Though I still crave it like mad, knowing Nutella contains palm oil, the production of which is decimating rainforests, makes it easier to give up. Abstaining from avocados in the off season just makes them that much more coveted when I can get them from here in the states. And I now make my own preserves, without high fructose corn syrup, that are pretty durned good (but not as good as Bonne Maman...sigh). Aside from an occasional bottle of liqueur, the Parmigiano Reggiano pictured here is my last holdout.
   I will use every little smidgen of this block of cheese--even the rinds, which will help to flavor soups. And I will doggedly continue to search for high quality US products, preferably made right here in ole Kentucky. Regardless of the price.
   When it comes to food, quality outweighs expense with me. BUT I've found that the expense of quality foodstuffs is sometimes comparable to the cheap stuff, because one little scoop of DELICIOUSNESS is far more satisfying than a whole heaping bowlful of MEH. Know what I mean?

Friday, December 10, 2010

This is on my mind...broken but no need to replace

The right tine on our pitchfork is missing, but it still works fine, especially for turning over and agitating the organic waste in our compost bins. So, I propose an amendment to the old adage, "If it ain't broke..." How about: If it ain't broke enough that you cain't use it, why replace it?

Thanks to SouleMama and down---to---earth for inviting me into their Friday photo sharing. Join me in leaving a link to your moment of show n tell here, on SouleMama or on down---to---earth. TGIF!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Foraging for nuts & wishing I had guts!

   Oh, how lucky am I to have a Hubby who will go out foraging for pecans, hecans and hickory nuts. He even takes the time to crack them and meticulously work to pick out all the little pieces. Then we store them in the freezer. I get the easy, less time consuming part: baking the nuts into brownies, cookies, breads, cakes and pies. And I don't have to go out into the cold for my part.
   David Lebovitz has a recipe on his site today for Chocolate Persimmon Muffins. I can't imagine eating persimmons, but there are some trees around here we could forage from, if I just had the guts to try!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Best pancakes EVER!

   In my mom's copy of Southern Living 2010 Annual Recipes, I found the best pancake recipe I've ever tried. If interested in the recipe, click here: Pam-cakes.
   Pancakes are just another one of those things that are so easy to make from scratch, why buy a mix? Scratch-cooking means spending less money AND less packaging to go into a landfill. See below for a pic of my cooked pancakes ready for the freezer, separated by re-purposed butter wrappers and part of a cereal box liner.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Barefoot Contessa's Mocha Icebox Cake

   Some friends & I (in our own kitchens, in our different cities) are cooking our way through the Barefoot Contessa's new book, How Easy Is That? This was our 2nd recipe. My conclusion: MEH; Hubby: "It was all right." In all fairness to the Contessa though, Hubby is not big on whipped cream, and I've never been big on icebox cake. I mean, where's the icing??
   Pic below depicts the cereal box liner that I used instead of parchment paper to line the bottom of the springform pan. Also, in my effort to buy less aerosol spray cans, I now use a brush dipped into oil instead of Pam for greasing pans, etc.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Many Faces of Frugal

Seems each of us has different takes on what it means to be frugal. One day, Sis-in-law3 jawed about the money people waste on pre-cut "baby" carrots (guilty) before she reached for the Minute-Rice, something I wouldn't waste my money on, since long grain rice is che-e-eap, takes only minutes to cook and comes out perfect every time. Because of this conversation, I try to remember that what works for one doesn't for another. And I am ever thankful for all my frugal mentors who have helped to shape the frugality that works for me:
  • Thanks to my yard-sale-lovin' Mom, who grossed younger-me out by doing things like washing used aluminum foil and adding water to near-empty ketchup bottles to shake into soups. Tho' not a hoarder, Mom saves EVERYTHING that might have future value. Pictured here is a picnic quilt she made recently. See the swatch on which she practiced machine-embroidery back in 2003?
  • Thanks to Dad, who made me taste EVERYTHING he cooked, even weird stuff like hot Chinese mustard ("here, tell me what this needs") and thus nurtured my own home-cooking from the broad spectrum of ethnic cuisines. By guarding his $$ wisely, Dad retired at 55, paving the way for my hubby to make the same choice a week shy of 49.
  • Thanks to my in-laws who raised Hubby to be a can-do kinda guy. With all the great food options available at the state fair, this frugal couple chose hotdogs for lunch, cheapest thing available. Caused me to rethink spending when eating-out. I love trying new foods, but now when I have to eat somewhere crummy, like fast food or a joint where the food isn't site-cooked, I'll choose the very cheapest option, often soup, sometimes a hotdog. To this day, Mother in law shamelessly hangs her undies on the clothesline for all the world to see. (Following in her footsteps, I hang-dry laundry, but our skivvies get hidden on inside lines between other laundry.)
  • Thanks to Grandmother & Granddad, who talked to little-girl-me about baking salt-risin' bread and frying chicken, as if I could actually one day do those things myself.
  • Thanks to Mamaw & Papaw. When Papaw died, his grown children dug up the $10,000 dollars he had buried in mason jars down in their dirt cellar. When I visited these folks as a child, I bathed in a mere two inches of water in their clawfoot tub, was awed by their collection of 30 or so packages of toilet paper bought on sale, and slept on a pillow Mamaw made and stuffed with dry-cleaner bags. Mamaw once crocheted a doily out of tangled kite-string scavenged from the top of a neighbors' trashcan. Nuff said!
  • Thanks to my two great aunts; both lived to be 96. Great Aunt M sat on an inexpensive, padded lawn chair every morn' to read her newspaper, preventing her beautifully preserved rosewood furniture from getting dirty. Great Aunt Sr. T took a vow of poverty at age 17, as an Ursuline religious sister. When Sr. T gave us one set of twin sheets for a wedding gift, everyone laughed, but I knew she had chosen the very BEST thing she had to give.
  • Thanks to my Uncle J, another early retiree, who clipped coupons and scouted all the BEST deals. He was a real scratch-my-back/I'll scratch yours kinda guy. His widow, beloved Aunt K, is holding off buying a new furnace unit until someone can find her a good used one.
  • Thanks to Amy Dacyzyn, author of Tightwad Gazette, for helping me to verbalize to Hubby just WHY I must fill every hidey-space we own with bulk buys.
  • Thanks to the sites/blogs that educate me, nudge me toward greener, more organic options and keep me from feeling alone in this quest for a more frugal, sustainable lifestyle: Sites like TreeHugger (mish-mash of all things green) and David Suzuki (great, non-toxic recipes), and blogs like Frugal Girl, The Non-Consumer Advocate, and The Frugal Ima, who let me look over their shoulders as they make conscientious choices about daily living, and others I'm only just discovering that espouse extreme frugality humorously: Life After Money and Frugal Queen.
What is FRUGAL so often turns out to be green. And of the EVER SO MANY frugally green influences on my life, these are just a few of my influences, the Many Faces of Frugal.

Friday, December 3, 2010

This is on my and tell

   Captured on a recent trip down the Natchez Trail, this pic reminds me of my love of secret gardens. How can I create one in my own back yard? I dream of incorporating berry bushes, fruit and nut trees, and veggies into a xeriscape of what is now a big expanse of thirsty green lawn. UPDATE: It has since come to my attention that maybe permaculture is a more appropriate word for what I am shooting for with our yard. Permaculture: my favorite new word.

   Thanks to SouleMama and down---to---earth for inviting me into a new concept of Friday photo sharing that one calls "{this moment}" and the latter "This is on my mind..." Above is my pic and what I hope it inspires me to do. Join me in leaving a link to your moment of show n tell here, on SouleMama or on down---to---earth. TGIF!

Lip balm withdrawals get me voted off the island!

Every time I stumble upon that Survivor reality TV show, I cringe. I just know that if I were EVER to go on that show (as if!), I would be the first voted off the island--for whining about not having any lip balm. Pretty sure that without feeding my chapstick addiction, I would end up with a hideous fever blister so revolting that people talk behind my back and scheme to vote me off first. In a previous post, there is a pic of some balm that I found on clearance, but on the blog A Sonoma Garden there is an even better, more frugal option: MAKE YOUR OWN. For just about 50 cents each! Just discovered this blog this morn, but anxious to read more. Seriously gonna have to wean myself off this insidious addiction. Meantime, courtesy of Sonoma Garden, let's make our own lip balm, shall we?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

$100 debt at age 14 changed my life!

   On my 14th birthday, my folks got me the beautiful, incredibly white 10-speed bike-of-my-dreams. Oh, how I had begged for that bike. At $125 bucks, it was $100 bucks more than they usually spent on us kids for birthdays, but I would pay them back the difference. Really, I would! I could babysit and I could...
   So on my 14th birthday, when they wheeled in that bike, I was ecstatic!! Then my mom handed me the store contract for purchase that showed I still owed $100 dollars for it. I thanked them and wheeled that oh-so-cool brand spanking new bike into my bedroom. Then I read that contract. And then I cried. Cried my eyes out. How would I EVER pay off 100 DOLLARS?
   Guess what? That was the last time I took debt lightly. 
   That's why this year on my birthday, when my husband and I go out to buy me the latest bike-of-my-dreams, this time it'll be paid for in full--with CASH!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Make do: Turn old into new

   When my 96-year-old great aunt died in the 90s, I inherited this box of ornaments, tied with the same string shown here. This keepsake, which comes out every year at Christmas, reminds me of my beloved aunt, but it also reminds me of her frugal ways:
  • Want little
  • Buy only what you love
  • Buy quality goods that will last
  • Take tender care of all possessions
   In an effort to keep Christmas decorating fresh each year, I do not put every ornament I own onto the tree. Year before last, we had a red-n-white tree. Last year we downsized to a smaller tree (purchased on clearance after the previous Xmas), and I chose to use only clear glass/lucite ornaments to decorate the tree (love the way they catch the light).
   This year, I am decorating the tree with my predominantly white ornaments...ones in which white draws the eye first. A couple of ornaments from this box made the cut, as did this little one-armed white wooden snowman. Don't know what happened to his other arm...don't even know where I got him. But I did use him this year...even though he fell into two pieces when I tried to hang him. A little Elmer's glue fixed that! He doesn't look great on his own, but he kinda recedes into the ambient "white Christmas" feel I am going for.
   Because I don't have oodles of white ornaments (let my daughter take all ornaments she wanted when she moved into her own home last year), I will also use this year the 100+ little hand-blown Czechoslovakian ornaments I bought for 3 bucks at an acquaintance's yard sale.
   I love these little ornaments, but I would soon hate them if I put them on every year. So, by changing things up, the old becomes new again. And I am satisfied without buying something new! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have 75+ more t-tiny ornaments to place on our tree.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Oh, the little things we do...

Again in the interest of "mind the nickels and dimes and the dollars will mind themselves," I used a black marker to highlight the "normal" load amount on my laundry detergent scoops. Otherwise, it would be too easy to just guess...and end up using more than is necessary. I ALWAYS wash in cold water these days, but for loads containing sheets, towels and undies, I add a scoop of non-chlorine bleach alternative. Laundry detergent is yet another of those one-time-use products that I have always tried to spend as little on as possible, but these days there is evidence it's even hard on the clothes to use too much detergent. According to the WSJ article "The Great American Soap Overdose," too much detergent makes our "clothes dingy and our machines smell." And gotta love the quote in the article that says for many loads, we could do without soap altogether!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Proof homemade cookies easier than buying store bought

Yeah, saltine cookies are some of the quickest homemade cookies around and very versatile. Much quicker than a trip to the store for a cookie fix...especially since it takes awhile to read the labels looking for cookies without high fructose corn syrup. From a number of recipes on, I modified this batch to suit what I had on hand:
Saltine Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter (I was out of salted, so I added 1/4 tsp. salt to unsalted butter)
1 cup sugar (I prefer brown sugar, but I was out)
1 pkg. saltine crackers

1 to 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (sometimes use 1/2 chocolate, 1/2 peanut butter or butterscotch chips)
1 cup chopped nuts (I used raw almonds, coarsely chopped in the food processor)
1/2 to 1 cup craisins or raisins (optional, not shown here)

   Combine butter and sugar in saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and then boil 3 minutes. Meanwhile, place one package of saltines side by side, salt side down, in a single layer in a jelly roll pan...can add a few crackers as needed to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Pour and spread the cooked butter/sugar evenly over the crackers. Sprinkle desired toppings over the top of the hot, coated crackers.

   Place pan in 350 degree oven & bake cookies 15 minutes. Cool 5 to 10 minutes in pan on rack; immediately move to plates, with crackers separated. Beware: leave these cookies too long in the pan and they will harden into one huge, hard to remove cookie!
   Cookies are pictured here in one of my favorite ways to save money by NOT buying cling wrap: a Tupperware pie keeper. Though I am phasing out plastics for storing our foods, foods placed in this container are generally on another dish, e.g., a pie plate or plate.
   I mentioned in an earlier post that I reuse cereal box liners, as a way to NOT spend money on one-time-use cling wrap. Pictured here is my bread rising in the pans, covered with a cereal box liner that had been cut open & then greased. The liner keeps the rising dough from getting stuck to the towel used to cover both loaves as they rise, further preventing their tops from drying out. Sometimes the dough will not much touch the liner paper, in which case, I wipe off any little bits of dough, fold the paper and place in freezer to use yet again; next time it'll already be greased.
  Looking for recipes for homemade cereals (flakes), so one day I'll have to think of a replacement for the cereal box liners!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Pug recycles!

thanks to Practically Green for tipping me off to this cute little video!

Frugal things I hate but do anyway

Okay, in the land of remote controls, what can be more annoying than having to get UP to turn on the TV, because the batteries in the remote are dead. Add to that the indeterminable WAIT for the batteries to charge, and well, just another thing on the list of things to hate. But gotta love not spending the bucks I used to spend on AA and AAA batteries, plus less batteries taking up space in some landfill. Yeah, gotta love that. Oh, how I wish I had bought rechargeable batteries back when I first noticed they existed. Think of the money I could've saved! Even e-How says rechargeables save money.
This was a dry summer which twisted our homegrown sweet potatoes into little, sometimes big, squigglies that are flippin' hard to peel. So very annoying peeling and cutting around the nooks and crannies. BUT gotta love the part where I don't have to spend the $$ at the grocery store for some pesticide sprayed sweet potatoes. Yeah, gotta love that.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Make do: Newspaper instead of paper towels

Cooked up a mess of kale and collard greens yesterday...perfect antidote to the rich foods of the day before. Even though it may not look like many greens, the skillet was heaped high with greens before they cooked down.
   Wish I could remember which frugal blogger(s) keeps a supply of cut newspapers under the sink for cleaning up messes. Was it Frugal Hacks? Practical Parisomony? that gave me the idea to try newspaper instead of paper towels for draining bacon?
   Used five layers here and there was even some grease on the bottom layer. Next time, I will use 1 paper towel on top (we use a brand that tears off in half sheets), but I'm pleased to not be using 3 paper towels. May seem trivial as far as savings go, but buying one-time use products is NOT a good use of my money.
   We do take the newspaper, but for those who don't have papers lying around, clean rags work well. Tried this myself, but our front load washer doesn't clean the grease out of rags as well as I'd wish. I've also placed napkins accumulated from take-out foods under a clean paper towel, but we don't eat fast food often, so we don't collect many paper napkins.
   I do save paper towels that have been used to clean up condensate or other non-food substances. Once dried, I save them in a drawer and have used them to soak up bacon grease, with a clean paper towel on top, directly under the bacon. I could live without meat, I think, but I'd sure miss bacon!
Kale with Garlic and Bacon
1 1/4 lbs. kale (2 bunches) --I used a mix of kale and collards, washed and stems removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 slices of crisp bacon, with largest sections of fat removed
1 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp & remove to drain. Drain off much of the grease from the skillet before sautéing garlic 30 seconds then adding the greens. Cook covered until greens are wilted as desired, 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with bacon, kosher salt and black pepper. For more complete instructions, see the original recipe on The Other White Meat website.
   Incidentally, according to Mayo Clinic, kale is a good source of calcium!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Make over: cloth bag to clothespin bag

Thanks to a conversation about reusable bags over on Practical Parsimony, I got the idea to use a freebie reusable bag I had on hand to revamp my 28+ year old clothespin bag. I'd made the original bag out of some scrap of fabric hand sewn to a clothes hanger, and after all these years, the thing was literally falling apart.
After snipping the handles off a reusable cloth bag, I just scissor-cut some slits in the top of the bag. After untwisting the wire coat hanger, I threaded the (original) hanger through the slits and then re-twisted the hanger shut.
Sewed the bottom of the bag a little shorter, so I wouldn't have to reach to the elbow for the clothespins. And wahlah, my new clothespin bag!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Broccoli glut!

Help, I am being overrun by broccoli in the garden. With only the two of us to eat it, we can't keep up. And sadly, we have already worn out the willingness of family to take the excess. Last night, I cut some fresh broccoli into a stir fry, but there are legions of these florets left for me to use up. Time to get creative! With the accumulated stems, I think I will today make this broccoli soup from Martha Stewart's site; looks easy enough. Now to figure out how to use up the rest of the surplus...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stocking up saves $$

One of the best ways to save money is to stock up when prices hit rock bottom. My favorite chapsticks run right at 3 bucks, so when I stumbled upon this closeout sale at the grocery store, you can bet I bought all they had. Sealed, there is little to no chance these will go bad before I get around to using them all up. As for groceries, recently highlighted concerns over the plastic from can liners leaching into the foods has turned me from stocking up on cans to searching for products in glass. Also bought at closeout prices, the expiration date on these bottles of lime juice is soon, but I will have no problem using them up before or soon thereafter in margaritas and lime pies.
Make-ahead Margaritas
8 oz. unsweetened lime juice
8 oz. powdered sugar
8 oz. tequila
8 oz. triple sec
4 cups crushed ice
Blend in blender until ice is completely crushed. Store in freezer; take out to thaw 15 minutes on counter before time to serve. Stir mixture completely and pour the slush into glasses rimmed in salt, if desired. This mixture, once frozen, becomes the perfect slushy margarita when thawed. Add more crushed ice if a less strong margarita is desired.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Make over: Entertainment center to bar

I consider our entertainment center, bought years ago when we upgraded to a 35" TV, one of my most well-thought purchases. Even as we were upgrading our TV set to what we thought was whopping big, I could tell from all my reading that bigger screens were on the horizon. For that reason, we spent a little extra to buy an entertainment center with doors, one that actually looks like an armoire when those doors are closed. Of course, now like so many others, we have an even bigger television, but the entertainment center didn't stay empty for long. I loaded up the TV shelf with assorted liquors, and Hubby installed wire racks from which to hang our inexpensive bar glasses. Up on the shelf that formerly housed a VCR sits a variety of other glasses. A wooden picture now graces the wall behind the hole that allowed the TV breathing room in the former entertainment center. Yup, pretty proud of the way this makeover worked out!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Make over: utility closet to pantry

Converting wasted space to usable storage space is no small feat, but the payoff is often tremendous. Here, what started as the closet for the furnace, water heater and a few brooms has become my pantry. Caveat: despite the energy-saving blanket on the water heater, the thing still warms the space, so I do have to be conscious of this raised temperature in an enclosed space and not store chocolate there, for instance. Some might not like having to move the rolling cart to reach items toward the back of the wall selves, so don't store things out of reach that you often use. Advantage of the rolling cart/shelving unit is that if we sell, the cart goes with us. Anyway, this is another of my favorite makeovers. Now, where else might there be unused space...

Friday, November 19, 2010

Make over: tabletop to vanity top

This is one of my all-time favorite makeovers. Hubby and I found the top from an old table out in the yard of an antique/junk store. Paid all of $5 bucks for it, though we did pay a small additional amount to have the rough, weathered surface planed off just enough for it to be level. Then Hubby carved out an opening in the center of it, installed an under-mount sink, and the former wood tabletop now beautifully gives some class to our t-tiny mudroom bathroom. Btw, this half bath is only as wide as the vanity! A pocket door made it possible for us to squeeze this in next to our washer/dryer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Make over: 2nd uses for product packaging

Loving a site I recently stumbled across: An Exercise in Frugality, and especially felt affirmed by her post on plastic free lunches in which she touches on reusing product packaging, like cereal box liners.
   This is one of those things I do but pretty much thought I was the only one these days to do so. I cut open cereal box liners, brush with oil and use to cover my bread dough as it rises in a bowl. Previously, I'd used cling wrap, but Fake Plastic Fish had me rethinking all plastic purchases. Since then, I especially try to avoid one-time-use plastics like cling wrap... This is the low-hanging fruit of reducing plastic consumption. AND I spend less money on cling wrap and other throwaway products leaving me more $$ to spend on what I really value.
   My freezer is now a mess because I am too lazy to wash all these package liners. Just store them in the freezer after shaking them out or brushing out crumbs, whatever. On the day I use them, I figure they are just as fresh as the day I shook out the cereal, and I don't hesitate to put them to certain reuses, particularly separating foods that are to be refrigerated or frozen.
Examples of packaging that can be reused: 
  • Chocolate baking squares papers=great food dividers, like keeping leftover pancakes or waffles from sticking together when freezing
  • Butter wrappers=food dividers but first the butter left on them can be used to grease a pan
  • Cereal boxes=cut open and use as a table protector for messy art projects, e.g., when gluing or painting. My Mamaw, deeply affected by the Great Depression, saved just about everything. When I was a kid, she handed out cut up cereal boxes for us grandkids to draw on the cardboard insides. 
  • Cereal box liners=once opened, perfect for covering the bread dough as it rises in the bowl. Unopened, perfect for wrapping and then twist-tying off to seal non-compostable kitchen waste, to keep it from stinking up the house until the waste can gets filled.
 That's all I can think of for now, but I'm sure there are more re-uses out there if we put our minds to it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Green Behavior Develops through Peer Pressure" but let's be nice, people!

   Oh, peer pressure...sometimes it becomes a runaway train! I am stunned at the outcome of the debate over at Non-consumer Advocate, one of my favorite frugal sites. I jumped into the long queue of comments by replying to one of the early comments, but how I wish I had read them all before posting anything. I returned to read the comments a few at a time (stepping away to dust mop one room after another, which is my way of feeling like I am not totally whiling away a morning reading and not doing anything productive). I was so surprised at the turn of the comments which culminated in an excellent blogger wanting to call it quits.
   We must remember in our efforts to live more sustainable lives that just walking the walk without judging others is enough. It has taken me too long to educate myself about the ethics/economics of buying organic foods, shopping at certain stores, and I certainly have SO MUCH MORE to learn that I have no right to judge others. While this article on Planet Green has a good, green point Why Leading By Example Matters: It's in the Science - Green Behavior Develops through Peer Pressure, we must be careful that peer pressure doesn't come across as personal or character assaults.
   Where I live there are so few people who seem concerned with green issues that I find myself on the defensive often. I will have to make an even greater effort to be sure that defending myself doesn't end up sounding snarky towards others. Katy of Non-Consumer is way ahead of the curve, FAR ahead of me, and I thank her for sharing her knowledge and hope she soon returns to blogging.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Make do: Groceries instead of toys

Bought this little metal shopping cart at a garage sale many moons ago...bought it as a safe landing for my teenage daughter's curling iron. These days it is my newly acquired step-granddaughters' favorite toy. They set up the "grocery" on a kitchen chair, load up the cart, and then go through the "checkout line" with me, their friendly cashier. Only real groceries from the pantry will suit now, though taped empty boxes satisfied the kids in the beginning. Bags of lentils do NOT make good groceries to play with...we learned this the hard way. Best part is the checking out, because they use real money (mine) to "pay" for their groceries. Great way for the kiddos to learn to distinguish the coins and bills and potentially learn how to count money. And the real bills and coins are more fun than play money. Real money instead of play money--real groceries instead of play groceries. By making do because we had no real toys on hand, we stumbled on the favorite toy box of all: the real world.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Plastic Bag Pollution

yikes, we've got to get serious about using LESS plastic!!

Make over: leftover hotdogs

When the weather turns off cold, why fire up the outside grill when the fire in the wood-burner can cook your hotdogs on the hotdog roasting fork you use for camping? And for those days without a fire, a Crockpot will turn the trick. Just put the hotdogs into the crock, cover and cook them on High for 45 minutes to an hour. They cook in their own juices and taste better than those cooked by boiling on the stove.  
Leftover hotdog makeover: Italian-seasoned sauté
Leftover hotdogs, sliced on the diagonal into 1/4 to 1/3 inch pieces
Green pepper, halved and sliced to desired thickness
Onion, halved and sliced to desired thickness
Dried oregano (1/2 to 1 teaspoon depending on how many hotdogs)
Dried basil (1/2 teaspoon or less, optional)
Ground pepper to taste
(No salt needed: hotdogs are pretty salty to begin with.)
Olive oil, 1 tablespoon or less
Directions: Combine the dogs/green pepper/onion; sprinkle with seasonings and sauté in the oil in a non-stick skillet or seasoned cast iron pan just until heated through and fragrant. Serve hot.
   Recently discovered that Hebrew National brand has no fillers. A hotdog is about the only beef I eat, but I'm still searching for a decent vegetarian alternative.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I HEART: my local library

Rather than purchasing songs or buying CDs, I get a lot of my favorite tunes from the library. So easy to play on my computer or iPod. Wish I could remember the minimalist who suggested downloading all your CDs onto your computer and then donating those CDs to your local library. I have done this with the majority of my CDs...a win/win for both me and my community. Makes me feel GOOD to know others will enjoy my CDs. And slowly paring down my belongings will simplify my life as well as increase my storage space. Though donated and now in my library's collection, every time I need a kick in the pants I can still listen on iTunes or my iPod to my audiobook CD of Larry Winget's You're Broke Because You Want to Be: How to stop getting by and start getting ahead. (Though I disagree with his stance on couponing and other small ways to save, I totally agree with him that desire combined with effort pays off in shaping our finances.) The iTunes was a free download and my iPod was gifted to me by my brother. Not wanting to pay the $100+ bucks for a new one, I'd asked if he knew anyone who might have a used iPod to sell, and he said he had one lying around that he didn't use. Free for the cost of a new pair of earphones!
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