Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thrifty Letters "N and O" with Vicki Lansky

Nail Polish, Clear

1  Spread over special decals that you wish to make permanent.
2  Use to keep ends of ribbon or shoe laces from fraying.
3  Cover areas on new shoes that are prone to scuffs, preventing the problem ahead of time.
4  Fill small holes in windows or windshields.
5  Stop runs in nylons.
6  Seals some of the holes in an over zealous salt shaker.
7  Prevent rust on the screws of your toilet seat.
8  Cover the bottom of the can of shaving cream to prevent rust spots in your shower.
9  Make wobbly drawer knobs more snug when you dip the screw tip in polish.

Nail Polish, Color
1  Will brightly mark the ounces on Baby’s bottle.
2  Red dot on the hot water faucet for the learning toddler.
3  Mark poisons in the home with a red “X.”
4  Mark the “9” and the “1” on your telephone.
5  Fill in the color of your faded old jewelry.
6  Mark your golf, tennis, racket balls.
7  Mark hard-to-find arrows on your medicine dosage cups.
8  Mark measuring cups with lost marks.
9  Dip the end of thread for easier threading.

Nail Polish Remover
1  Remove burns on wood furniture; dip cotton swab & rub carefully, scrape gently with dull knife. Fill in with clear polish.
2  Remove scuff marks on floors.
3  Remove bumper stickers.
4  Remove paint on windows.
5  Remove superglue from fingers.
6  Cleans scissors.

1  Usefor patterns to preserve the original.
2  Use as garden mulch (clean up at the end of the season).
3  Use as litter.
4  Use for packing.
5  Wrap green tomatoes at frost time - they’ll ripen beautifully.
6  Dry newly-washed windows.
7  Gives traction on the ice.
8  Helps to remove odors from plastic containers.
9  Removes cleaner residue.

1  Old nylons great for “breathable” insect jar covers.
2  Thread wire coat hanger through old nylon to make a pool skimmer.
3  Use to collect seashells when beachcombing.
4  Makes a good bungee.
5  Use the top as a large binder: think trash can or newspapers.
6  Layer as twice thickness and fill with dried fragrant herbs, use in the dryer for freshness. Better for your sensitive skin.
7  Cover your vacuum nozzle when you’ve lost something valuable that’s hard to find.
8  Center a bar of soap and knot on each end, use for a back scrubber.
9  Store your plant bulbs.
10  Make good tomato ties.

Old Bottle Nipple
Use baby’s worn bottle nipple for piggy bank that’s lost it’s plug.

Old Safety Gate
Works well as a drying surface for your sweaters.

Old Drawer Shelves

I found this idea on the Funky Junk Interiors blog site.  This photo is from their post "Old Drawers."  They're using this old drawer as a tray for popcorn night. 

It got me thinking, "This could be cute and practical." 

For some of us, practicality isn't just a wise option.  It's a necessity.  Be it space, budget, curious tiny fingers, or what have you, many of us admire decorating from afar. 

But we don't have to.  We just need to be clever.  Obviously, as adorable as this old drawer tray is, it isn't practical.  Where are we going to store it?  How often would we use it?  I live in a small house and must consider these things.

So my wheels have been turning.  These posts are such wonderful inspiration!  And this is why we blog (that, and nobody chides us for starting a sentence with "and", or "but").

I had some old sewing machine drawers that I've used for organizing various things from desk essentials to kids' watercolors.  I thought they would be a good size for shelves instead.

It turns out that they're a nice depth as well.  These are made with a very hard wood so they're quite sturdy.  You just want to be sure that your hooks are secure enough to hold everything you'll be placing onto your shelf.

As per my usual "decorating" habits, I have the pretty mixed together with the practical.  I have a handy spot for my papers, pens, lip balm, scissors, even a candle.  But I can also display my treasured elephants (Lego pachyderm opus masterfully crafted by two of my sons working together).

If you happen to stumble across some old drawers that have, unfortunately, outlasted their frame, this makes a handsome application.  If they're sturdy but lack luster, go ahead a give them an "up-do." 

Most of all, make it your own and enjoy!

How Much Are My Donations Worth?

It's a little late in the tax season, but we haven't hit the big April 15th yet.  I want to share with you some valuation guides for your donations throughout the year. 

These are extremely helpful with your tax deductions, be sure to familiarize yourself with this process if you're not already.

The Salvation Army, who takes all sorts of donations from accross the country offers a handy website.

Goodwill does, too.  Both these companies will give you a tax deduction form, you may need to remember to ask.

There are so many local thrifts that are happy to accept your clean, gently used items.  Ask for a donation slip and use an updated valuation guide.  You'll find things moving along smooth as butter when your tax appointment comes up.

Lentils and Cheese Dumplings

This is a favorite with our little ones.  I pulled it out of that "If You Don't Know Beans" cookbook that I talk about in an earlier post.  It uses basic ingredients, which is nice.  I just need to be sure I have enough cheese on hand because I double the dumpling recipe for my ravenous crew. 

Lentils are one of the earth's healthiest foods.  They're mild and somewhat nutty, and easier to cook than dried beans.

This recipe makes the perfect "comfort food."  These little guys are full of fiber, B vitamins, and protein, but very low in calories.  You love'em already, don't ya?

1 c. dried lentils

4 c. water

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 c. carrots

1 c. any leftover veg in your fridge

1 c. celery, sliced

1 med onion, chopped

2 Tbsp. oil

1 1/2 c. milk

Don't forget to sort and rinse them.

In a 4 qt. pot, combine lentils, water, and bouillon.  Bring to a boil.  Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.

In a med. skillet, sautĂ© your vegetables in oil until they're tender.  Stir them into your lentils.

Bring them to a boil; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer until lentils are tender. 

Stir in milk.  Cook until hot, but not boiling.  (Flavor with salt & pepper.)

Prepare dumplings.  (see below)

Drop into hot soup.  Cover and simmer about 15 min.

Cheese Dumplings
6 Tbsp. butter

3/4 c. cheese, shredded  (cheddar, mozzarella, colby...)

1/3 c. flour

1 egg

1 tsp. prepared mustard

In a small bowl, cream together butter, cheese, and flour.

Stir in your egg and mustard.

Dust hands with flour and shape rounded little teaspoons of dumpling mixture into small balls.  (I skip this step - too messy - I use the "drop dumpling" method.)

Lentil Soup

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rhubarb Muffins

Here's another easy recipe for your rhubarb collection.  You'll love the moist, tart bits inside this sweet, soft muffin.  Who doesn't love a good muffin?

4 c. rhubarb, washed & trimmed into 1-in. pieces
1 stick butter, softened
1 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 large egg
2 c. flour
4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. milk

Preheat your oven to 400°F.

Cream together your butter, sugar, and vanilla.

Beat in your egg.

Sift together your flour, baking powder, and salt; then stir in half your milk.

Fold in your rhubarb.

Bake in the center of your oven for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out relatively clean (considering there is rhubarb inside).

You may want to eat one or two of these piping hot with melted butter.

Thrifty Letters "K, L and M" with Vicki Lansky

Key Ring
Attach to child’s zipper tab to ease zipping.

Kitty Litter
1  Fill old nylons and use as odor-eaters in basements, closets and sneakers.
2  Layer a couple inches at the bottom of the trash pail.
3  An economic absorbent for vehicle leaks: apply heavy layer, let stand for a day, sweep, clean with strong detergent, rinse.

4  Gives traction to stuck tires in snow.
5  Helps keep pet cages odor-free when lining the bottom.

Laundry Basket
Use for beach toys.

Lemon Juice
1  Whitens and freshens chopping boards.
2  Whitens ivory handles.
3  Get more juice from your citrus when warming it for 30 seconds.
4  Helps remove fruit and berry stains.
5  For a sour cream or buttermilk substitute, mix 1 Tbsp into 1 c. milk.
6  Add to your wash to remove rust from your cottons.
7  Removes ink spots on cloth.
8  Whiten your sock in a pan of boiling water with a slice or two of lemon.
9  Cleans brass and copper, just salt ½ lemon and scrub.
10  Eliminates odors in your humidifier, use ¾ capful.
11  Whitens nails: soak 5-10 min. brush with equal parts vinegar & water, rinse.

Life Savers Candy
Use for candle holders on birthday cake.

1  Tack your recipe card to a handy spot while you cook.
2  Affix to the inside of your bathroom cabinet for safety pins, hair pins, and other small objects.

1  Helps remove white rings from wood furniture: let stand 1 hr. before removal. For stubborn spots, rub gently with fine wood ash added.

2  Apply to dry, brittle hair 1x week as a conditioner. Leave on for 30 min., shampoo out.
3  Good for removing tar.

Mister Bottles
Dampen microwave; heat 5 seconds, wipe down - easy cleanup.

Muffin Pans
1  Stabilize baking potatoes, peppers, and apples in oven.
2  Pour Jell-O into foil cups.
3  Freeze broth cubes into handy sizes.
4  Let the kids serve drinks in a muffin tin “tray.”

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Good Rot

Back in the late 90's our city was promoting composting by 1. giving away "Backyard Composting:  Your Complete Guide to Recycling Yard Clippings" by Harmonious Technologies, and 2. Offering a sweet deal on a compost bin.  If I recall correctly it was a $60 bin that we could purchase for $15.  I for one was hooked.

Now, I'm not a tree-hugger.  I don't wear patchouli.  It has to be below 0°F before I don woolen socks, and then you won't find me in Birkenstocks.  They're great sandals, but meant for nice days.  Finally, I would rather be bald than sporting dreadlocks.  Just sayin.'

I am, however, frugal.  I admire well-placed economy.  It's certainly a skill and a lifestyle, to some an art.  To further clear the air, it stands to reason that being "cheap" is not synonymous with frugality.  Obviously, this finer point is highly subject to opinion.  I hope to show the difference in my "Home Grown," "Frugal Equals Green," and "Bless our Vittles" posts. 

Today I introduce composting.  Lots of people are doing it, but to many it still seems odd.  What is it?  Why do it?  Isn't it gross?  Stinky?  I'll start with the topic of stench, the concern of which evokes the most aversion in compost conversation.  Frankly, it can.  If you're not composting dead leaves raked-up in the fall, and only putting rotten produce in your bin it's gonna smell.  Bad.  The key is balance. 

The dead stuff is carbon.  The rotten stuff is nitrogen.  Mix a bit.  It ain't picky.  Et voilĂ !  You have compost.  There are these little bacteria that are chompin' at the bit to feast on this stuff.  You love these little guys.  They will work their magic in your seeming trash heap, and before you know it you have humus!

Wait, what?  Yea, weird, I know.  Humus (he-yoom-us) is compost.  It's fertilizer, and far superior to anything you can get your mitts on in the garden center.  It's super nutritious stuff for your garden!  Use it on almost everything.  It beefs up weak, sandy soil.  Loosens hard clay soil (like mine).  Over time regular composting transforms your garden soil - whatever you've got - into rich, fertile earth.  If you were a hollyhock you'd grow to a tall, strong, profusion of color.  If you were a cucumber, your little vines would droop low with heavy fruits.

The only thing left to do is add your 1. Dead fall leaves, and 2. Scrap kitchen produce.  That's it.  A bin is tidy, but unnecessary.  Like the book says, "Compost unfailingly happens."  You'll be amazed with your trash reduction.  As a family of seven we fill only one trash can each week.  The hardware store type, not the enormous waste disposal unit type. 

One final note, never compost meat or bones or dairy (eggshells are great compost, however!) that would be stinky and attract creatures.  Also, avoid seeding weeds.  You'd be surprised at their virility. 

Save on Gas

I remember, not so long ago, when gas stations wouldn't take $100 dollar bills.  Now we're scrambling for money-saving ideas.  I am, too.  Here are a few I've discovered:

1.  Be sure your air filter is clean.  Use a performance air filter instead of the paper kind, which is restrictive to airflow.  You want oxygen to reach your engine.  This gives you better gas mileage.

2.  Trucks, cover your bed for better airflow with a tonneau cover.  Gives extra security and takes 30min. to install.

3.  Truck owners not interested in covers might consider air-flow tailgates.

4.  Consider a performance air intake for outstanding airflow.   Air is delivered faster and in significantly higher volumes.  Check it out. 

5.  Know the quickest route. 

6.  Performance exhaust frees your exhaust flow, virtually ending turbulent back pressure that can hold your vehicle much the way drag does.  The average improvement to gas mileage is between 1 and 2 mpg, which varies by vehicle.  Improves horsepower, too.

7.  Choose aerodynamic roof storage for long-distance travel.

8.  Deflectors let the outside breeze into your vehicle, which makes it easier to leave the air conditioner off.  Your AC can be quite the power hog on your system, dragging down gas mileage as much as 10%.

9.  Tire Pressure:  if your tires are under-inflated, your vehicle has to work that much harder to spin them.  The friction caused by these flabby tires could be sucking your gas mileage by 2mpg or more.  Not to mention the premature tread wear that will cost you serious cash down the road.  Just remember that over inflation is just as bad.

1.  Take it easy.  Hard driving is bad fuel economy.

2.  Don't idle.  Contrary to popular belief, having to restart your car isn't worse for your fuel economy if you're going to idle for longer than 1 minute.

3.  If you have "Overdrive," use it.  It's the most efficient operating gear, more so than standard "Drive."

4.  Don't carry heavy cargo unnecessarily.

5.  Don't use your lights in the daytime, unless it is warranted.  Anything that causes extra strain on your system will affect gas mileage.

6.  Keep on top of your tire pressure.

7.  Keep your tire alignment in good order.

8.  Get regular oil changes, tune-ups, and inspections.

1.  Fuel additives.

2.  Fuel system magnets.

3.  Warm-water ice-removal.

4.  High-octane fuel.

5.  Coasting on neutral.

Old Stoves

We don't think of it today, but our great-grandparents didn't measure their oven temps.  Their recipes didn't tell them to bake their cakes at 350°F.  They had to operate their ovens like we do our stove tops; warm, moderate, and hot.

I find this old stuff fascinating.  We have to admire our hearty kin. 
They worked hard and they had to know things. 
Today, we've traded that in for different stressors.  I'm not so sure they would've traded with us if they knew what we given up.

I have two of these old books. One is a "medical" book, if you can call it that.  It's an entertaining read, our family gets a few kicks and giggles from it on a "boring" winter evening.  The other is a cookbook.

We don't appreciate our obsolete volumes.  They're old and, well, obsolete.  But that is the wonder of mankind!  What does "obsolete" mean?  It means out-dated, old, aged, antique.

From where do we think our "living museums" glean their information?  From antique journals, aged medical books, out-dated cookbooks, old ledgers, etc.  These are enchanting and exciting places to visit, especially with children.

I'm always glad to find these antiquated books at thrift shops and garage sales.  It means that someone thought it too valuable to throw out, and I agree.  There are always those of us who enjoy them, and yet others who know how to benefit and educate the public.

Of course, at one time these stoves were sold as brand spankin' new and as shiny as Daddy's Sunday shoes.  They sure are a lot prettier than our modern, drab stoves today, however accurate.  But we must appreciate the ease with which we can toss in a cake, to which we've only added water.

I'd like to share an excerpt from this old cookbook that I'm sure you'll think is a stitch:

"Third - this is the most difficult task of all, and it is knowing how to manage the oven.

"If I say 'a moderate oven,' that may mean one thing to me and another to you.  The same is true of any other temperature and nine-tenths of the failures in cake making come through not understanding the proper relation of heat to the cake in the oven.

"Oven thermometers are coming into common use and will no doubt prove very helpful.  There is no such thing as luck in cake baking.  There must be accuracy in measurements with all the other qualifications named [ingredients and mixing]. 

"Cake baking is a science.  Science is exact knowledge.  Know the very best ways of doing, follow your recipe accurately and with some knowledge of the laws of heat in the oven and success is assured."


c.1910 stove and icebox


Renoir 1912

Rhubarb Bars

More for your collection.  It doesn't seem like it with our depressingly prolonged and very snowy winter this year, but spring and rhubarb are coming!  This recipe is wonderfully simple and simply delicious.  Just keep a box of strawberry Jell-O in the pantry.

1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
1 egg
1 Tbsp. milk

Combine the first three ingredients, then cut in your butter.
Add your egg and milk, mix to a dough consistency.
Pat evenly into a greased 9-in. pan (11 x 7" works, too).

2 c. rhubarb, cut into small pieces
1 3oz. pkg. strawberry Jell-O
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour

Spread your rhubarb over your crust, then sprinkle Jell-O evenly over that.
Cut butter, sugar, and flour together, then spread atop your rhubarb.
Bake at 350°F for 30-40 min.

These are perfect for potlucks and picnics!

Thrifty Letters "G, H, and I" with Vicki Lansky

Garden Hose
1  Punch several holes into it and use it as a garden soaker, losing less water in evaporation.
2  Cover metal tool handles during winter use.
3  Protect young tree trunks.
4  Store over saw blades.
5  Protect extension cords from traffic and weather.

Hair Dryer
1  Removes old contact paper, use dryer set on “warm.”
Remove crayon marks from wallpaper using the “hot” setting, wipes off with a damp cloth and a bit of oil soap.
Clear up baby’s painful diaper rash at changing time, set on “warm” and hold at least 6” away.
Remove that annoying bumper sticker, just warm up a few minutes.
Blow baby powder into an itchy cast for relief.
Loosen a screw.
7  Warm frozen winter car locks and carburetors.
Clean screens with the “cool” setting.
Dry your salt shaker with the “cool” setting before refilling.
10  For gently releasing photos from magnetic album pages, use the “warm” setting.

Removes ink spot stains
Removes lipstick stains
Rids African Violets of plant lice; place your infected plant into a plastic bag, spray into the bag (but not the plant) then tie shut for a day.
Helps preserve dried flowers.
Use as a fixative on chalk drawings.
Preserve precious handwritten recipe cards.
Helps to thread your needle.
Immobilizes the wings of pesky wasps and hornets.


Hanger, Wire
Bend into a large circle to make extra-large bubbles.
Twist to hold your paint can up onto your ladder.
Use as plant stakes.
Stick into a dried corncob for feeding the birds.

Ice Cubes
Remove candle wax by hardening with ice cube, then scraping with table knife.
Remove carpet indentations from heavy furniture, let an ice cube melt into the pocket and the fibers will plump with moisture.
Press an ice cube into undesired gum mishap until it becomes brittle.
Numb the skin prior to splinter removal or eyebrow-plucking.
Place into a soft, clean sock for soothing teething baby‘s gums.


Ice Cube Trays
Freeze baby food in ice cube trays.
2  Freeze black coffee for your iced coffee drinks.

About Me

My photo
As long as I'm on this journey, rambling through life's exhilarating highs and trudging heavily amongst it's incapacitating lows, I might as well share whatever may be gleaned from my little bits of wisdom and my many missteps. No room for judgment from this broken mama. I'm writing from my heart: raw, open, messy, but saved. And I'm still thanking God!