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Posts Tagged ‘Frugality’

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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I really enjoy giving handmade gifts (like the fabric napkins that I posted about last December.) Those gifts are usually made by me. One of my nieces has a birthday at the end of November. In fact it was just a few days ago so I had to wait until it was passed before I posted about her gift this year.

Since she was very very young I have always made her pillowcases. A pillow case for each season plus summer, winter, fall, spring themed ones as well. I can still look into my magic ball and see more pillowcases in her future, but wanted to come up with something different for this birthday.

As I was snooping around a thrift store a few weeks ago, I saw a small jewelry box. It was pretty plain (sorry, I completely forgot the “before” photo) but it had potential. I knew I could give it a facelift, but it also appealed the the frugal and thrifty side of me as well.

My original plan was to paint the entire jewelry box white and then “white-wash” it with a metallic silver to give it some pizazz and sparkle. I started with the white. I found a can of white spray paint in our garage and decided to use it to make quick work of covering the whole box. It needed two coats and even then the spray paint wasn’t covering the wood very well.

not covering the wood very well at all

I decided to get out my acrylic paints and go for better coverage with those. That worked a lot better, but the spray paint left a glossy finish and the acrylic paints left a mat finish, so I knew then I would need to apply a clear glossy top coat in the end.

Once the paint was on it was time for the silver metallic “white-wash.” I started wiping the silver on and instantly was not happy with the look at all! It was not looking all shiny and sparkly like it was in my vision. As I wipe it off for the full “white-wash” effect, it even looked worse. Again, sorry, no photo because at this point I knew I wanted to get as much of the paint off as I could and needed to work quickly.

So I just took one huge step backwards and needed to paint those surfaces white again and come up with another plan. By the way, this was Tuesday and I intended to mail the box on Wednesday. Nope, that didn’t happen! Not with another coat of white paint, plus dry time, plus what ever design I was going to paint, plus dry time, clear coat, dry time – you get the picture. I knew if I wrapped it up in one of my fabric gift bags before it was completely dry that the bag would be stuck to the box when my niece went to open it – not good.

The jewelry box did have a cut design into the wood so I felt I was a bit limited and so I decided to follow that pattern with dots. Dots are super super easy to do, if you know the trick. Use the end of your paint brush – the end without the bristles. Dip it in your paint and then touch it the surface you want the dot on. The size of the end of your brush will determine the size of your dot. Be sure to do a few test dots before you do this on your actual project and depending on the medium you are using you may get 1-2 dots before you need to reload the end of your brush, or you may only get 1 dot. The silver metallic paint I was using was pretty thin, and I wanted a substantial dots with a sparkly impact, so I needed to dip the end of my brush in the paint for each dot.

I did get the front and top of the box done and was going to move onto the sides, but time was not on my side.

I hope that my niece will like her new jewelry box.

Have you ever given something old a much needed facelift?

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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While reading Xan’s post yesterday about the benefits of being frugal, I started to think about how different a lot of our Christmas decorations are compared to most other people we know.  While we have purchased a few things, a majority of our holiday decor is inherited, hand made, bought on clearance at the end of the season, or a “treasure” taken from trash that belonged to someone else!  I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you.

It’s big, and I’ve not seen anything like it,  but it’s one of my absolute favorite Christmas decorations.  We inherited this beauty from the husband’s Nanny several years ago…

Another decoration high on my favorites list is my grandma’s nativity set.  While I would prefer a Willow Tree nativity (as far as looks go, it’s much more my style), this one holds a great deal of sentimental value.  There are definitely a  few chips and nicks on these figures, and one of the wise men is missing a hand.  We just say it adds character!

We have received many handmade gifts and decorations over the years, but one of my favorites is this set of stockings.  A very kind lady from church made these as a wedding gift for us.  What a thoughtful gift.

Now, here is the disclaimer for the rest of this post…. the husband has some decorating favorites of his own!  He is all about the cheese factor.  He has been an avid Coca Cola memorabilia collector for as long as I’ve known him.  Several of “his” decorations have literally been saved from the trash.  We have a few of these grocery store cardboard “Santa Coke” advertisements scattered throughout the house.


While I was off on maternity leave with #2 (during the holiday season), the husband picked up a job cleaning a few banks in the area.  He found this “treasure” in the trash… new and in the box!  It was several years old, but had never been taken out of the box.   So of course it came home with him.

This sign is proudly displayed next to his full size leg lamp from “A Christmas Story” every year.  I will spare you that picture!  Another image I will leave to your imagination is the massive amount of garland he has strung all over the place.  It was all bought for pennies on the dollar at after Christmas clearance sales.

While we obviously have two distinctly different styles in decorating our home for the holidays, we make it work with a little compromise here and there (I decorate part of the house, he decorates the other).  The boys love it, and will always have great memories to share as they get older.  Best of all we spent little to no $$$ on any of it (except the leg lamp)!

How do you decorate your home for the holidays?

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Frugal

I spent the afternoon altering pants for my “foster mother” Lynn, who is battling cancer and finds herself with fingers so tender she can’t hold a needle.

Lynn found these pants at her favorite thrift store. Two pairs of corduroys, brand new from all appearances. Total cost: $6.

Not that I needed much teaching, but Lynn taught me a lot about stretching a dollar. She’s how I learned to appear well off on a poor to middling salary. How we sent our kids to private schools and small liberal arts colleges with next to no loans.  It isn’t hard. It’s just a matter of stuff, or really of understanding how little stuff you need, and how much stuff that you do need can be gleaned from other people’s discards. So we do a lot of thrift store shopping, home-making of food and clothes, dumpster diving and other staples of a frugal lifestyle.

I’ve never been one of those people that hunts down bargains. (Talk to my brother in law, who once drove 30 miles to buy milk at $1.59 a gallon. In his defense he bought enough for everyone, and I mean everyone.) I don’t clip coupons, mostly because they tend to be for name-brand extras that I don’t use anyway.

We make a decent living. Yes, we’re trying to put two kids through college with cash (one down, one to go), so that takes every dime of discretionary money, but the point is, we have discretionary money. If I buy an extra skirt, it’s not going to put our mortgage in arrears.

Here at the start of the holiday season, it’s important to remember how your consumption affects the planet. Think about every plastic toy, every extra tchotchkie, every brand new candy dish that you buy for your mother-in-law because you have never had the slightest idea what to get her. Every single thing you buy that you don’t need ends up in a land fill, depletes the precious resource of fossil fuels, and adds pollution to the air, not to mention that you’re running out of storage space. Give your loved ones things they’ll use, not just piles of empty promises. Resist the pressure to buy more and more and more.

It isn’t hard to be frugal. In fact, it takes more effort to spend money. Go to the store, go to the mall, stop off on the way home. Even entering all that initial info for “one click shopping” on line is often more effort than I’m willing to put in for something that I don’t need.

Which gives hope for everyone. If you’re not naturally frugal, and you’ve got money to spend, you can still avoid the beast just by remembering that shopping is a pain in the ass.

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