Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
I'll be adding to this category from time to time so check back in. For now, here are a couple of ideas:
THE 50 CENT GIFT BASKET
I recently bought some multi- packs of the new light bulbs, (the cheapest I could find) and noticed that each bulb came in its own little unmarked box. What a discovery! I knew they would come in handy some day.
The apple mugs were $.25 each at a yard sale and the little basket was free. I took a picture of the apple on a mug and printed it out for a homemade card, the label on the Spiced Cider Mix (in the light bulb box) and the tag on the candle (left over from last Christmas). I will need to buy some cinnamon sticks but for the purpose of getting a photo to you, I just grabbed some twigs from the woods and tied them together with raffia.
The finished basket will make a nice gift for an autumn birthday, a mother whose child is headed off to school for the first time or someone who is under the weather. The mugs could also be given individually as teacher gifts, filled with cinnamon candies, and wrapped in cellophane gathered at the top and tied with a red bow.
The Gardener's Pot is a breeze to put together, a little more costly but a thoughtful gift when visiting over the summer. The pot was $.50 new at a yard sale. The spiral bound book is blank inside for a gardener's notes. Hand tools and garden gloves are extremely inexpensive as are a few packets of seeds. The little spray bottle contains Listerine with a handmade tag that explains its use a mosquito repellent and the card is made using one of my old photographs. Everything is coordinated in the recipient's favorite color - blue.
Remember that a gift is always more memorable, appreciated and special when it reveals that you actually KNOW something about the recipient - a favorite color, activity, struggle, leisure, flavor, etc. So, make your gift giving lists now and keep your favorite people in mind, looking for ideas as you go through your days, read magazines, watch television and roam the aisles of stores. And visit here often for more ideas.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Tallying the amount of money required to keep our household afloat each month can result in a rude awakening. When we look at the very basic expenses, after all the frills are stripped away, and realize that the need is greater than our income, we can be overwhelmed by a sense of doom, depression or even panic. We can feel helpless and hopeless because we have no experience of or instinct for survival.
WELL, CHEER UP!!! I've been down the survival path.
There really are ways to spend significantly less – even on essentials. This blog is dedicated to all of us who are making the most of what we have and still enjoying life to its fullest measure. Solutions to financial challenges presented on this blog can range from modest to extreme so be warned that you might not even consider some of them. But, not to worry, along with suggestions
of cold showers and dimly lit rooms come warm recipes and inviting decor. In truth, this blog is a hodge podge of ideas from someone who has lived an adventure from seaside to mountain top, from poverty to plenty and has had a blast through every minute of it. So I hope you find things here that will help you or inspire you or at least fill a few moments of your day.
Sunday, July 5, 2009
I began doing the family laundry somewhere in the vicinity of 1957. My brother, sister, father and I each wore socks. Assuming we each wore one pair a day; my Saturday laundry included 56 socks. By the time I reached my personal peak, with eight children at home, my weekly sock laundry had advanced to a staggering 140 a week. I thought for a moment that I would do the math and calculate my lifetime sock washing total – not.
For most of the years, our socks were hung on the line to dry. That may seem a reason to groan in sympathy but after giving it proper consideration; I think it might actually have been easier. Because hanging the laundry was a common practice, laundry baskets were more ‘user friendly’. They had cross-legs, like a TV tray, held a canvass basket with pockets on each end for clothespins and folded to almost nothing for storage. Hanging clothes didn’t require bending over. While hanging laundry, single socks could be draped over the edge of the basket until the proper mate surfaced and then they were hung in pairs by the toe.
Eventually, we stepped into the 20th century and I was blessed with owning a clothes-dryer. I think that might have been the origin of my hatred for the task of sock mating. Almost immediately, there appeared a basket of clean, dry socks demanding the grueling process of mating as baskets and bags of unmated socks began to accumulate. I’m sure the dryer didn’t come with a warning that it ate socks but I am equally certain that all dryers do. The only solution to the missing mates problem seemed to be the purchase of more and more socks while waiting for lost mates to magically surface… someday.
I found another site with additional old sock usage ideas and a wealth of other information. You may want to check it out.
Because new equipment can be expensive for first time campers and camping itself can range from absolutely free to quite expensive, I've put together some tips, ideas & suggestions.
They are all related to the following 7 very important rules:
(Rules 1 thru 6 are links which will take you to much more information on each subject.)
Rule #1 Don’t go crazy. Any lawn chairs you already have that will fold for transport are just fine. Buy as much gear at Yard Sales and Thrift Stores as possible.
Rule #2 Adults NEED to sleep comfortably. Kids, when tired, will sleep any place.
Rule #3 Plan for too much sun & too much rain.
Rule #5 Eat well
Rule #6 Get creative
Rule #7 Maintain daily schedules: mealtime, naptime, etc.
I generally keep 100 or so servings of meals in the freezer but it is looking pitifully bare these days. To say I’ve been preoccupied or busy is putting it mildly. In the past 30 days, I’ve been out of town for 10, gotten a book finalized for print, started this blog (from a position of total ignorance), put together a marketing plan for a new company, held 5 art classes, refinished a table and kept up with the house, garden, lawn, laundry, etc…well you know the grind.
Not only do I need to replenish the meal supply in the freezer, but within the next week, I will be hosting a cook-out Sunday and expecting overnight guests mid-week. So…here are the problems and here is the plan:
Shop tomorrow AM at 1 store buying items on my list - only.
Spend 1 hr in kitchen to put away groceries and start cooking.
Later, prepare, package & freeze main dishes
And...Post results, cost, time, etc.
Here’s my grocery list. Wish me luck.
PRODUCE—Cabbage, Field Greens, Tomatoes, Grape Tomatoes, Avocados, Green Peppers, Potatoes, Bananas, Apricots, Blueberries, Peaches.
DAIRY—Organic Milk, Shredded Parmesan, Cream Cheese, Flour Tortillas
CANNED GOODS—Peas, Mandarin Oranges, Lemon Curd
BAKERY—Hot Dog & Hamburger Buns
MEAT—15 Lbs. Ground Beef/Turkey, Beef Roasts (2), Chickens (3), Boston Butt (2)
MISC—Potato Chips for cook-out & Ice Cream for hubby
This is continued on the "Shop & Git 'er Done Day" post.
As I’ve already said, I give 4 of my grandchildren art lessons once a week. I started with the oldest, a year or so ago, and decided to add her two little brothers this year. As winter began to fade, I felt bad about leaving the little one out and invited her to join us. I was thoroughly prepared for fidgeting and boredom and paint in places that paint should not be. However, I was not prepared for her light, gentle handling of the brush or her innate understanding of washes or her ability to transcend the literal.
A few weeks ago, taking out lessons to the deck, I asked for definitions of spring. Having been given ample answers covering new growth and warmth, I asked what spring smelled like, felt like and what impressions of those senses would look like. Asking the children to paint, not “things” but feelings and impressions, 3 hesitated but the little one went right to work. I would like to share some of those impressions with you.
This is her
Link to the children's Mercy & Truth Necklace project.
This unique, stylish and personalized table which now resides in a family den, began life as simple discard. Details of its rescue can be found at this link.
With the final finish of several coats of non-yellowing polyurethane, a family heirloom was born.
I’ve been baking bread steadily for almost 20 years. In Alaska, my Sourdough began with a starter passed down since the Alaska Gold Rush. It was baked in my kitchen and on campfires from the Denali to the Deshka, from Ketchican to Klutina. I’ve used old recipes, new recipes, fairly simple ones and labor intensive ones but never have I had such repeated success as I have with the basic recipe found in the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and it is incredibly simple. No kneading, no punching down, no waiting hours and hours for rising and a second rise.
I suppose it’s nearly impossible to defeat this recipe. Surely, I have tried. In my first batch, I substituted a cup and a half of oat flour – no problem. I infused sunflower seeds in the second batch and rolled an additional loaf in poppy seeds. Since the three loaves pictured, I have substituted with half rye flour and added cocoa powder for color and caraway seeds for flavor. We ate it before I could get a picture. It was wonderful. Twice we have used the dough for pizza and as soon as I lose a little weight, I’m going to start baking the amazing sweets…all variations of the same simple dough.
I made pizza for dinner tonight using an amazing Artisan Bread recipe. Seems I just make it a habit these days to keep a batch in the refrigerator ready for any passing whim.
Tonight, as I piled our pizza high with a shameful amount of pepperoni for my husband and artichoke hearts, black olives and mushrooms for me, my mind wandered back to a less plenteous time. I was counting my current blessings when it occurred to me that a long ago pizza had also been a blessing.
I was a single mother with 6 children at home and had not only lost my job but lost our home and every belonging to a fire. The children and I were scattered in two dingy, single bedroom apartments carved from an old ramshackle house. The quarters were quite temporary but that didn’t lessen the blow to my pride. As our resources were finite and dwindling, mealtime was a heartbreaking challenge.
One day, while job hunting, I noticed a sign on a local eatery, “All you can eat salad bar $1.99 – To-Go $.99”. I stepped inside to see what was offered and how large or small the To-Go boxes were. My mouth began to water and an idea began to form; Cheeses, Mushrooms, Peppers, Cubed Ham, Pineapple Chunks and PEPPERONI. I filled my dinner sized container so completely that it almost wouldn’t close, paid my 99 cents, of course plus tax, and hurried to the grocery store. With a 79 cent box of the “Chef’s” pizza mix in hand, I smiled all the way home.
There in the kitchen, smaller than my closet, the children and I waited breathlessly for the dough to rise then pulled and patted and stretched it as far as we possibly could. We spread and sprinkled and layered. And then we baked. The minutes ticked by so slowly. The sweet fragrance of our pizza, as the temperature rose, was almost more than our patience could bear and we warned ourselves not to burn the roof of our mouths with the hot cheese, though I’m sure a few of us did. Never-the-less, it was a pizza I will never forget, one that I will never forget to be thankful for and one that can never be matched, no matter what the price.
+ Tent to fit your family for sleeping and waiting out rains if necessary.
+ Chairs – Anything that folds will do. They don’t have to match but comfort & durability are considerations. Take chairs for the children…Depending on the number, sometimes a stack of small molded chairs will take up less space than a bunch of folding ones.
+ Table – Park camping always includes a picnic table at each site HOWEVER, having a card table along that can be set up beside the fire pit or grill will keep all of your cooking needs on hand without overrunning your eating and game playing space at the picnic table.
+ Coleman Lantern – with extra mantles and an ‘electric match’ (butane lighter)
+ Cooking supplies – see #5
+ Cooler(s) – see #5
+ Sleeping Bags – inexpensive and washable for children, good for adults. IDEA Using old sheets, make covers for the children’s bags just like pillow cases except that one side should only be seamed half way up. In hot weather, the sleeping bags can be zipped closed and slipped inside the cases so that the children sleep in top of the bag and under a single layer of sheeting. In colder weather, the case will fit inside the sleeping bag to provide both a bottom & top sheet. The cases can also be used as stuff-bags to hold the sleeping bags.
+ Sleeping Mats – whether using an air mattress (get an air pump that plugs into the car lighter) or foam pad, remember that adults are cranky when we wake up aching. Seriously consider your own comfort. Take your pillows & sheets if you like. 2 Adult sleeping bags can be zipped together for less confined and more familiar sleeping.
+ Plenty of bungee cords and small diameter rope for suspending overhead tarps.
+ Extra tent stakes for securing ropes that support & tie-down the overhead tarps.
+ Hatchet for driving tent stakes.
+ $1 plastic Ponchos are close to ‘disposable’ but take up almost no room and can save the day.
+ 1 or 2 large ‘golf’ umbrellas, in case they are needed to attend the restroom in a downpour
+ Sunscreen, lip balm, aloe
+ Rainy Day Games – You never know when the worst camping trip for the adults will be the very best camping trip for a child. Remember every word game from your childhood. Take cards and balls and bean bags. Take family favorite board games for rain or shine and a story book for bedtime.
+ Medications – be sure to take enough for twice the number of days you are planning. You never know when something unexpected will alter your plans ALSO keep medicines out of the reach of children, even lock meds in your vehicle.
+ Check the children each morning & night for Ticks.
+ Bug bites & bee stings – recipe for success: 1 part Ammonia, 1 part Adolph’s Meat Tenderizer, 1 part Baking Soda. Mix in sealable, airtight container. When needed to stop itch or detoxify a spider bite or neutralize a bee sting, shake container to suspend the particles and rub solution into affected area.
+ Cell phone – If you have two (2), keep one turned off to save the charge in case of emergency.
+ Near water with children, have all children wearing life jackets. If you are near running water, tether the children to a nearby tree or other stationary object, with enough line to be active and comfortable. Better to have onlookers think you are strange than to watch your little one vanish around a river bend in a rapid current.
+ Plan all meals ahead of time. Always plan meals for an extra day, just in case…and let them be of the non-perishable kind: granola bars, fruit wraps, string cheese, summer sausage, crackers, canned beef stew, etc. You never know when something unforeseen will delay your departure OR maybe you’ll just be having such a good time you want to stay an extra day.
+ Cookware. You can spend unnecessary funds on cute little cooking ‘kits’ containing pots & pans that don’t serve their purpose very well. The best bet is to purchase thrift store items that will stack comfortable inside one another. You will need a skillet, a large pot with 2 handles and a lid and a small pot with a bail wire handle and a lid. Nothing needs to match; they just need to stack. With these three items, you can cook anything.
+ Utinsels. No need for the fancy grill-master sets. You will need a good turner, a set of tongs, a 2-tine fork, a large spoon, a slotted spoon, a large sharp knife, a paring knife, a can opener, (a flat grater and a potato peeler if you have use for them).
+ Silverware. You may as well pick this up at a yard sale or thrift store as well. Unless you plan to throw away plastic at every single meal, you’ll be washing silverware anyway. Why not let it be a permanent part of your camp gear?
+ Tablecloths??? – Certainly. Take a couple of $1 plastic ones. Use one to cover the cooking supplies on your card table. Put another on the picnic table so that it can be wiped clean as needed.
+ Dishes – You will possibly leave me here. I never used paper plates and I didn’t use the cheap plastic ones sold every summer, either. I bought melamine plates at a thrift store. 1) They are substantial enough to take the abuse of a steak knife. 2) I never paid more than $.25 for one. 3) They are thin and a stack for my entire crew took up less space than paper plates for that number of meals would have. Same thing with bowls. I made sure everything nested and included a size for mixing/salad, serving (veggies), and one each for single servings.
+ Cooler(s) – It is best to have two; a larger one that contains items to be used in meal preparation and will be opened seldom and a smaller one for drinks, etc, which will be opened more frequently.
+ Cooking Tips & Meal Ideas in a future post.
My Spice Box contained all the small necessities and conveniences we depend on at home. It’s hard to believe so much can fit into so small a space but keeping an eye out for bottles and jars and plastic containers will allow the contents to fit together like a Chinese puzzle. When time permits, I will make a diligent search for some old photograph to illustrate the magic of the Spice Box.
Mine contained: Forks, spoons and a potato peeler and can opener standing in a jar, knives and my tongs lying in the back pocket, sharp knives, the spatula and large spoons were tucked under elastic straps fitted to the inside of the lid. Spice jars of salt, pepper, garlic powder and steak seasoning. A plastic jar, with sections and a lid that ‘dialed’ to provide an opening over individual sections, contained strike-anywhere matches, toothpicks, the little tooth-flossing picks, safety pins, multi-vitamins and aspirin. A small plastic box contained a bar of soap and a bottle with a flip-top squirt lid held dish soap. A scrubbing pad lived in a zip-top bag as did a couple of dish cloths. My ‘silly’ jar contained mascara, lip gloss, hair clips & scrunchies, nail clippers, a file, toothpaste and toothbrushes with the handles cut short enough to fit. There was a container for baking powder and one for baking soda and a bottle of ‘insect-bite-relief’ mixture and a bottle of peroxide for everything from cuts & scrapes to sanitizing toothbrushes. I had a folding hair brush that stood in one corner. There was also a box of Dominos, a couple decks of cards, a jar-candle for romance and my own personal bottle of bubble soap. Dish towels and 2 hot pan holders were folded on top of everything else or double-folded to fit into awkward gaps.
My spice box was truly my home away from home and its first opening on any camping trip always felt a little like Christmas.
+ The Camp Box – Just like the spice Box, we always had a ‘camp box’ ready and waiting to be loaded for spontaneous outing. My husband built mine out of 5/8” plywood making the box itself heavy. Today, there are any number of plastic bins with handles on each end that would work just as well. Mine was about 30” long, 16” wide and 18” deep. To keep me from having to bend so low to the ground to access contents, we usually sat it on a couple of logs or big rocks.
Like the Spice Box, the contents of the Camp Box were chosen, winnowed and replaced to achieve close to a perfect fit. Some of the items contained were, by their very nature, dirty (like the fire grate) and were dealt with accordingly. I made a bag for the fire grate and the bellows out of an old plastic tablecloth. Pots and pans with soot laden bottoms had paper plates placed between them as they were stacked and the large (bottom) pot, containing the others, was slipped into a plastic bag before being returned to its position inside the plastic dishpan. My large skillet also lived in a plastic bag.
My Camp Box contained the following items: fire grate, bellows, fire tongs, 1 large and 1 medium sized skillets (with a collapsing handle), large enamel (canning) pot with lid, smaller enamel pot with bail handle and lid, a large enamel coffee pot, steamer basket, 2 cutting boards, a large bottle of cooling oil, 6 Melamine plates, bowls & mugs, 1 large and 1 medium plastic mixing bowls, 2 plastic table cloths, a plastic rectangular dishpan, a folding wire dish rack, a plastic dish drain board, a bag of ropes of different lengths & diameters, a bag of bungees, 2 Frisbees, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, misc. sized zip-top bags, a roll of paper towel, rolls of toilet tissue (flattened & fitted into zip-top bags), misc. plastic bags to contain and carry away our trash, a Coleman lantern, a tiny Coleman single burner stove (for quick morning coffee), a larger 2-burner Coleman stove, a collapsing camp oven (for baking bread), a 3-foot length of heavy plastic carpet protecting runner (used as a clean surface for feet when bathing in the wilderness) a light-weight door mat (for the tent entrance), our camp sheets, towels and washcloths, books identifying wild flowers and mushrooms, mosquito nets and head nets, rain gear, my favorite camp hat, a ‘made for camping’ hammock and a collapsing toilet seat.
Keep in mind that we were wilderness campers in Alaska, miles off-road and even more miles from basic services. People camping in National or State Parks or campgrounds surely do not need as much equipment as we did. But, between our Spice Box and Camp Box being kept at the ready, we were able to load up and take off with very little advance notice or preparation.
+ Phone book. Take along a phone book so that you and the children can collect and press wild flowers. Some of the tiniest blooms have incredible detail. Later, the pressed flowers can be sandwiched between 2 small pieces of glass and sealed with black electrical tape around the edges. The little framed flowers can be placed on a stand, in a frame, or hung in a window. They can be beautiful reminders of a wonderful time.
+ Kids Light up the night. Remember to take glow sticks and dollar-store flashlights for the children. They will tuck-in earlier (leaving some ‘adult’ time) if they have something to occupy them in the tent. Reading under the covers and telling stories with a flashlight under your chin are usually good enough aides for triggering children’s own imaginations.
+ Catching Bugs. A canning jar with a 2-part lid is perfect for containing insects long enough to examine them. Either punch many holes in the flat lid or, better yet, replace the flat lid with a circle of window screen wire held in place with the screw-on ring. Take along an insect identification book and a magnifying glass. Insist that the captured insects be released once they are identified and the information is shared.
+ Paper Plate Art. A box of crayons and a stack of the least expensive paper plates can keep children busy at the table while meals are being prepared. They can color the back sides and still be able to put food on the plate. The plates can also be decorated and used as Frisbees or can be made into masks for dancing around the evening fire. Add a bottle of white glue and the children can decorate the plates with leaves, tiny pine cones and bits of moss to make their own ‘naturescapes’.
+ Creating Safe Water Play. Any body of water of water is enticing for children. Young ones don’t understand the issues of safety; they only know that the water is there and they want to get to it. We once solved the problem of a little one feeling left out with a tarp, some driftwood and a LOT of hauling pots of water. Remember that imagination is a great thing to take on a camping trip.
+ Imagination & Adventure. Children love to explore and create ‘grand adventures’. Camping is a great time to introduce then to Davy Crockett, Daniel Boone, Tom Sawyer, etc. Consider combining daytime adventures with evening reading.
1—Make Coat Sleeve Snuggies – Using only the ribbed top part of a pair of socks, sew the cut edge of each sock to the inside of each coat sleeve, far enough inside the sleeve for the finished edge to just peek out from the coat sleeve.
2—Make Coat Sleeve Extenders – When a child’s coat is perfectly good and fits properly except for the length of the arms, make the arms longer by sewing only the ribbed top part of socks to the ends of the sleeves. These can be cuffed and if well matched, will not even look like a retro-fit.
3—Leg Warmers are Back in Style. Use only the ribbed tops of mated socks, sewing the ‘tubes’ together to the desired length. Sew cut end to uncut end for all of the additions except the last one. For the last one, sew two cut ends together. That way there will be a factory-edge at both ends.
4—Silly Leg Warmers. Using the same method as above, mix different colored sock tops together for fun, stripped leg warmers. It isn’t necessary for the two legs to match.
1—Theraputic Heat Wraps. Fill a tube sock half full with uncooked white rice and either knot or sew the open end. Microwave for 60 sec. for a good 20 minutes of soothing heat. Wonderful across the back of the neck, over an aching shoulder and between garments for low back ache.
2—Sevin Dust Applicator. I don’t know if there is a downside to this or not so I am only sharing a story and expect you to do your own research regarding health and safety. In the mid 1970’s, an elderly woman taught me to garden. She was an advocate of Sevin Dust for pest control. She would fill an old sock with the powder, knot the end and walk the rows of her garden, swinging and shaking the sock over and around her plants leaving them covered with a fine layer of white dust. The dust would also have covered her shoes had she not used the following hint:
3—Shoe Covers. Large, old, unmated socks are great protectors when pulled over shoes before working in the garden or doing messy jobs like painting. The gardener (above) always covered her shoes before going into the garden and washed the dirty socks under the hose.
4—Garden Tool Storage. My elderly gardener friend had been using the same garden tools since she was a young bride. They lasted because she took care of them. After the gardening season, the metal parts of each trowel, spade and hoe were carefully cleaned, sharpened, scrubbed with steel wool, rubbed down with linseed oil and covered with an orphan sock. Thus protected, they were stored away for the winter.
5—Thistle Bird Feeders. Fill a long tube sock with thistle seed, knot the open end and hang it from a tree branch. The sock thistle feeders are unhandy for squirrels but are a serious attraction for thistle feeding birds like Goldfinches.
6—Moth Ball Bag. Simply fill a sock with mothballs, knot the end and hang in your winter storage closet or toss into your blanket storage chest or plastic bin.
7—Cedar Bag. If you buy sweet smelling cedar chips for a pet’s bedding, why not fill unmated socks and hang them in your closets?
8—Candle Holder Caddies. Tired of cleaning brass and silver candle holders only to have to clean them again the next time they are used? After each use, while still bright and shiny, give the candle sticks a quick wipe with your favorite polish, put an old sock on each hand to avoid finger marks and place each holder in its own sock for storage.
9—Packing Glassware. Old and unmated socks provide perfect protection for drinking glasses whether they are being packed for a move or stored until the next holiday or to make room for other things.
10—Cold Drink Koozies. For yourself, or the children, slip a glass, can or bottle into a sock. It will absorb the condensation as well as provide personal identification of drinks.
11—Bean Bags. Sock tops make perfect beanbags. Simply sew the top closed. Cut the foot from the sock, fill with dried beans and sew the cut edge together. Need something to do with all those unused sock ‘feet’? Get creative. Use them to fill soft toss-bags or make a soft toy by sewing or painting faces on the heels, fill the foot part (body) with other sock feet and sew the opening closed.
12—Quieting Dice Cups. If you play a board game that requires shaking dice in a plastic cup and the noise drives you crazy, cut as much of the top of a sock as will be needed to line the cup (bottom & sides) and glue it into place. Enjoy the silence.
13—Wicking Water for Plants. Over water or under water houseplants? Here’s a trick. Cut the rounded top-part off of a water or juice bottle so that you have a container the shape of a drinking glass. Hang a sock inside the container and fold the top over the edge to make a cuff an inch or two wide. Carefully dig a hole in the dirt beside your plant and insert the bottle deep enough that the sock ‘cuff’ will be partly buried. Fill the container with water. The water will wick up the sock and into the soil. When the sock is empty, it’s time to refill with water.