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Archive for the ‘Frugality’ Category

This past Sunday our Sunday Photo post focused on “Flour Power.” Well, flour has definitely taken on power, and new meaning for me in the past five years.

On my journey to rid our kitchen of processed and pre-packaged food, I have also taken some detours and now local food plays a very important part of this journey as well.  Granola Bars 1

Flour, also gives me freedom. The freedom and power to make things like bread and pizza dough. Crackers and muffins. Sour dough starter and white sauce. I know where my flour came from and I know what the ingredients are in the things I make. Not only do I know the ingredients, but making these things is also frugal. I know it costs a lot less then buying a loaf of bread at the market.bread dough

In Sunday’s post Alexandra talked about finding local flour in Wisconsin a few hours from where she lives. I finally found a source for wheat in Texas that is about 500 miles away. YIKES. Texas is fifth in the nation in wheat production, and it is hard to find wheat or flour locally. Hmmm. Fran talked about flour and its connection to communities.KPMF on toast with asaragusOn any given day, I usually eat something that I eat that has flour in it. Toast made from homemade bread to go with my morning eggs. Maybe a granola bar in the car on the go. Last week for dinner I made a mushrooms in a white sauce using flour, served if over toast and topped that off with steamed asparagus.

Flour is one of the staples that I would never want to be without in my cupboards because it plays an important part in our meals. I am grateful that I have the time to make these things at home.

What part does flour play in our kitchen and life?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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I have vivid memories of the different sets of salt and pepper shakers that our family used when I was growing up. I have a few of them at our home and it is fun to use them, but there are a few that go unused because I haven’t been able to find a cork or rubber stopper the right size to fit the opening at the bottom.

The Danish salt shaker I used growing up

The Danish salt shaker I used growing up

Pepper shaker - cork won't fitA few months ago, I had another one of those “ah-ha” moments.

I went into my dresser drawer and pulled out a fresh set of expandable foam earplugs. It was the perfect solution!!!

I didn’t use the whole foam earplug. I cut it in half, lengthwise and was able to make two stoppers out of it and use half in another shaker. Use a clean ear plugWhat a deal!

One of the great things about using the expandable foam is that it will fit any size opening, unless you have an opening that is rather large.

If you head over to Sincerely, Emily you can see another cute salt and pepper shaker set that I used as a child.

Have you found a source for the plastic stoppers or perfect size cork to replace the ones that break on your salt and pepper shakers?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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The celery leaf plant that I grew in the winter of 2011/12 did so well that this past winter I planted four of them. 4 nice celery leaf plants in the garden.

Celery Leaf Feb 2013

Celery Leaf Feb 2013

It was very easy to grow and I used it a lot in our green salads. stir fry and egg salad.

When the weather starts to warm up  I usually let several plants go to seed so I can collect the seeds to use the next year. The celery leaf was no exception. In fact, it is still sending up flower heads even though I haven’t been watering it. The bees and the butterflies continue to appreciate it.

Some of the seed heads have dried up and a few weeks ago I went out and clipped a few to collect the seeds for planting again this fall. The others, I just left out there. I had plans to get it pulled up and in the compost tumbler, but just haven’t gotten around to it. I am glad.

The one thing I didn’t connect the dots on was celery seed is celery seed! Not sure how I missed that…. but luckily some of my brain waves were firing last week when I was making up the dilled green cherry tomatoes . Celery seed was the one thing I added to Nancy’s recipe… so I guess it was in the front of my mind. Celery seed is celery seed.

Celery seed

Celery seed

I dusted off one of the screens for the drying rack and I marched back out to the garden with the clippers. I clipped several stalks of celery leaf with lovely mature seed heads. We had a sprinkling of rain that morning so those seed heads are quite wet. They are now resting on the drying rack, drying out a bit. I left several mature stalks out in the garden and will let them dry naturally before I cut and bring them in to dry out a bit more.

I have been watching the celery leaf go to seed for a few months. Somehow I never connected “celery seeds” to “celery seeds”

Am I making any sense?

Has something every stared you in the face for a while before you had the “ah ha” moment?

Sincerely, Emily

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The three water gardens we put in a few years ago are doing really well. In the one that is lower to the ground, we have frogs and toads using it and singing happily on various nights. The little minnow-type fish all also happy and multiplying in all three water gardens,  keeping them clear of nasty mosquito larva. I also have one open 55-gallon drum that catches water from a leaky rain gutter that I have also put those little fish in and they are working hard in there too.

Last spring when 2 mama deer decided our fenced in backyard was a perfect spot to have their babies. They thought it was great. I thought something completely different. since then there are a few deer that frequent the back yard every day…. munching their way through this and that (including all the native and “deer resistant” plants I have back there.

Oh Deer - water garden

I know there is never a guarantee to the “deer resistant” things, what makes me so mad is that things were going along great until these two mama deer had their brilliant idea.  While these deer make their daily and nightly visits one of them favorite treats seems to be the lily pads and water lilies!  Well, I fixed that. I put a piece of hardware cloth over each water garden. HA! it isn’t the prettiest things, but the lily pads and water lilies are able to grow  and do their thing.

This was a great quick fix. One of the water gardens has a metal cage around it and the hardware cloth is raised up above the water lever about 7″ giving the water lilies room to pop up out of the water and flower. The hardware cloth on the other water garden sits right on the top and the water lilies try to come up and bloom, but are scrunched and squished. So my husband built a quick little frame that would raise the hardware cloth up a bit so there is enough room for the water lilies to bloom.

watergarden project 2

What is great about this little renovation is that everything we already had everything that we needed sitting around waiting for just such a project! We didn’t have to buy a thing – that is always a great thing.

watergarden project 3My husband built a PVC frame that would raise the hardware cloth up higher and then he bent it down on two of the sides and trimmed excess off one end and added it to the front. That enclosed three sides so the deer couldn’t nose their way in between the top of the frame and the water garden to get at those scrumptious lily pads! So far, so good, The water lilies are able to pop up and bloom with all the room they need and we get to enjoy them.

One very small REAL Renovation success for us!

Do you have to protect something in your yard from deer or dogs? What is your solution?

Sincerely, Emily

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Yesterday I posted about some free wood scraps (cut offs) that I got from a neighbor. Today I wanted to show you the benches that I made using similar scraps of wood.

Another, taller, bench

shorter bench -1I originally saw this bench design at my next door neighbors. He is the woodworker that I have posted about before (over at Sincerely, Emily) who makes wooden toys and the bus. He is very handy, and builds a lot of other things that they need or want around the house/property like a tall, large tripod to hang large wind chimes in or trellis for any vines. He also built a pergola off their screen porch and aviaries for their doves and another one for a parrot. Small scale or large scale, he has his hands in it and he has always had a pile of scrap wood to use along the way.

What is so great about these benches is that you can make them any height and any length. You just build them to fit the space you need to fill or the area you want to use them.

scrap wood

Using scrap lumberNot only can you make them to fit your space, but the scarp wood you use for the horizontal pieces on top can be mixed and matched. They can be 2×2’s, 2×4’s, 2×6’s, etc. I am definitely not picky and do not need them all to be the same. I love using the 4×4’s for the legs. They make the bench very sturdy and will take the weight of a lot of plants or a person if you are making it to sit on. The smaller tables my step-dad made for the laundry basket near the clothesline and the compost tumbler where made using 2x’6’s for the legs. Those tables do not need to support a lot of weight, so it was good to use the lumber scraps we had and save the 4×4’s for the plant benches.

Small table at clothesline

I put a piece of concrete under each leg (look at first photo) to keep it off the ground and away from moisture so the leg won’t start to rot. Our ground has not been moist or wet very often over the past few years here in South Texas, but if I can help the legs of my benches last just s little longer, I will.

The pile of scrap wood I hauled home in November still sits and waits for me. I had planned to get a few benches made this winter, but that is one of those things “on hold”  until I get better and can do my own things again. (JD is you happen to be reading this, feel free to use that beautiful scrap lumber and build me a couple of benches!)

I have talked about how strange things get me excited, like free horse manure and free mulch. Well, you can add scarp wood (or cut offs) to that list.

What kind of neat free stuff have you picked up along the way?

Sincerely, Emily

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This is a post I had started over on my personal blog a few years ago, but it just kept getting pushed further down the posting list until it was out of sight. Alexandra commented on my post last week about getting the recipe…. just the push I needed I guess.

I found this recipe back in 2010 over at Living on a Dime and I have been making them ever since then. This is what my husband has for breakfast every day. They make a great snack and they freeze well.  I always grab a few to take with me when I head out to run errands for the day. Having them with me keeps me from making a bad decision (fast food drive-thru) when I start to get really hungry.

I stack them in a pint canning jars to take in the truck.

I stack them in a pint canning jars to take in the truck.

The base of the recipe is great and then you go off in the direction you want to with your special ingredients. I substitute honey for the granulated sugar in this recipe. I know honey still has calories just like granulated sugar, but I am not focusing on calories here, I am focusing on my ingredients and where they come from along with the benefits of the things I add to them. Also, I think I am getting a healthier granola bar then the ones in the store that are full of additives and preservatives that I am working so hard to stay away from.

mixing up granola bars

Homemade Granola Bars           Adapted from website Living on a Dime

Cream together (I use my stand mixer or hand-held mixer)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

Add to mix (use electric mixer)
2 Tbsp. honey or corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Peanut butter (optional)

Add to mix (I still use that mixer)
1 cup flour
1 T cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Stir into mix

Add dried fruit, nuts, coconut, etc.

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Add to mix
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups crispy rice cereal (I use an organic puffed rice or puffed millet)

Press firmly into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. (I use the back of a spoon to press the mixture into pan.)

Bake at 350° for 30 – 35 minutes. (looking for golden brown – but not crispy

The bars will firm up as they cool.
Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting.
Makes 24 bars.

Here is what I add to mine:
Ground flax seed
Sunflower seeds
Peanuts
Coconut
Raisins or died cranberries or dried apricots

Granola Bars - done

A few of my notes:

  • I don’t tend to measure the ingredients when I am making these up, other than there is always a 1 cup measure in each jar of flour that I have and 1/4 cup measuring cup in both my oatmeal and my puffed millet. I have found when using honey in place of the granulated sugar that I need to add more flour to the mixture. Since I am not measuring, my granola bars can come out either quite chewy gooey or quite firm and crunchy.
  • Another thing to keep in mind when using more honey in these bars, is that if you bake them at 350F like the original recipe calls for, they will brown and burn more quickly and the bars won’t be completely cooked, so I turn down the oven to 300F to bake them slower and a lower heat setting. They still brown up more, but they don’t burn as quickly.

I cannot count how many times that I have passed on this recipe and everyone that has made them has been thrilled with the results.

I make two batches at a time and always keep them in the freezer.

Do you make your own granola or granola bars? Feel free the share your recipe or a link to it in the comments.

Sincerely, Emily

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Over the past few months I have helped a some friends start making up liquid laundry soap. Now that they have seen how easy it is they are asking more questions about additional recipes. One that keeps coming is is Dishwasher Detergent.

Dishwashing powder

My journey to the current dishwasher detergent recipe that I use has been a long one. Mainly that of trial and error. And then more trial…

The original basic recipe that I saw over and over was this:

  • 1/4 cup Borax
  • 1/4 cup Washing Soda (not Baking Soda)
  • 1/8 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/8 cup Citric Acid

Use 1 T per load in detergent compartment.
You can see some discussion on this during the Real Clean Roundup over at Not Dabbling in Normal from May 2011. Same recipe as you see listed above

Well, that basic didn’t seem to work for me and there are several variables that seem to make this either; sort-of work, work really well, or not work at all. I have been through all of them.

The Big variable is the water. It is amazing how much difference there is in water. We all know about soft water and hard water, and then there is everything in between. All those “everything’s” are huge variables, apparently, in making your own dishwasher detergent.

In all my trials, what it came down to was the amount of citric acid in my recipe and the amount of homemade detergent that I actually put in my dishwasher each time. Here is the recipe that is working for me.

  • 1/4 cup Borax
  • 1/4 cup Washing Soda (not Baking Soda)
  • 1/8 cup Kosher Salt
  • 1/4 cup Citric Acid

1 T per load in the compartment (no more, no less)

If my silverware and glasses come out cloudy – that usually means I got carried away and added to much detergent mixture. If it happens, I am more careful about measuring it out next time I do the dishes.

For a Rinse Aide:

I use regular white vinegar in the rinse air compartment or a citrus infused vinegar (made by taking the peel (no rind) off any citrus and letting it sit in vinegar for several weeks.

Now that I have been making my own dishwasher powder for a few years, there is still one more things I have struggled with; the mixture getting hard in the the jar.

chipping away at itEvery time I wanted to run the dishwasher I would have to chip away at the jar of dishwasher powder to get some of it out. I am a pretty patient person, so I didn’t get too worked up about having to chip away at it, but the final straw was when I couldn’t get it broken up with a spoon like I normally did and I used a knife.

Not only did I chip away at the dishwasher powder, but I took a big chunk of glass out of the bottom of the canning jar it was in. Opps! This patient person reached her limit. Time for a change.

My quick fix to this problem was just to keep the ingredients separate. Ya, that means opening four jars to just get the ingredients out, but each ingredient isn’t clumping up anymore. No chipping away at it. It is working great.

Now instead of 1T out of a big jar I measure out just shy of 1 teaspoon of each ingredient per load and things are working great. No more clumping. No more chipping away. yes, I have to open four jars, but I still think that I am ahead of the game when it comes to frugal and environmentally safe.

Do you make your own dishwasher detergent?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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