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Friday, December 31, 2010

Resolutions and HAPPY NEW YEAR to you

I don't think so
I don't make resolutions. It seems that is just an invitation to failure. My goals do not have to result in continuous guilt or be completed to perfection. I cannot fail. I refuse to feel guilty.

However, I do have goals. Mostly, they are the same each year. If not the same, I will add a goal and drop another, so that over time the goals seems consistent.

The older I become, the more important it is that health matters are at the forefront. Even without health insurance, I have managed to keep a check on certain health issues. In some areas, all is excellent. I have managed to avoid high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and thyroid problems. On the other hand, I need to continue monitoring all these. Now, I have insurance.

*MRI on 1-3-11 for knee
*visit to dermatologist (skin cancer runs in father's family)
*further thyroid checks (half of thyroid taken out few years ago)
*lose weight
*tests for other issues

You might wonder why I did not list losing weight as a resolution or goal. I didn't because excess weight is a health issue. Even with all my excess weight, I have managed to avoid through my own efforts and extraordinarily good genes many of the health issues associated with being overweight. This could all change with the next test I have.

Even as I make little progress on income, I still try to make the most of my financial resources. My goal is to increase my monthly income by $300 each month this coming year. Another financial goal is to further decrease spending.

*get paid for my writing elsewhere
*craft more resumes for people
*ramp up my use of coupons to maximize savings
*sell more of my possessions that need to go
*drive even less

It never seems right to just try to make more money or just to spend less. Both efforts will more likely assure success in the financial area of my life.

House repairs
This is long overdue and beyond the scope of my wallet or hammer

Clutter control
My clutter is not my slovenliness or hoarding. Things were salvaged from one huge wet area of my house to just three rooms, making living not fun. Right now, just organizing is the goal. Throwing out or selling what I find is secondary and must move higher on the list of to-dos.

Hen House
My pretty hens need a secure house outside. They do not like it when I sleep until 9:30 like today and they must be confined to a small crate in the house with me. Besides, they pull chest feathers, don't get enough sunlight to lay eggs, and are just frustrated all around. I have been very ill for the last week, so getting up and taking them out is not high on my list of priorities right now.

Grow more food
This should be an easy goal since my health last year coupled with my procrastination precluded my growing much. Plus, I needed to guard my plants. Chickens will destroy them if not protected. I can do better!

*organize pots, seeds, and supplies early
*germinate early
*garden in the shrubs
*use chicken wire

My goals all need to be broken down into naturally occurring sequences. But, that is what's on the agenda for the next year. Some of the goals do reoccur each year, not because I do not attain the goal, but because I strive to do better or continue with success. For example, I will never take "health" from my list of goals because I either need to improve my health or make sure it continues as is and does not deteriorate.

Since I am ill, tonight will be a night in with a bag of chips and dip and Diet Coke. That is not a good use of my resources or a way to improve my health, but it works for me right now.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Free book: In The Trenches--Financial Survival During Times of Hardship

Go to In the Trenches--Budgeting for Financial Survival and Recovery to obtain a free ebook copy of  In The Trenches--Financial Survival During Times Of Hardship.

Carol Schultz has graciously offered this book as a gift for the New Year. I have the book, started reading it and misplaced it. Her story of financial recovery during times of hardship has hardships I could never imagine. You will be mesmerized. Her writing is very accessible. You won't have to figure out what financial terms she is using.

Between the Holidays--A Man on a Bike

As you may have read, I was in bed with a fever on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. But, by Monday I was on the mend. Then, on Tuesday night I took a turn for the worse. Now, I can tough it out for two more weeks or I can succumb to the desire to be well much by NYE! So, I went to the doctor. I. Have. Meds. Yay! I will not have to spend New Year's Eve and New Year's Day in bed with a fever!

I was sitting in my car outside the doctor's office, reading the report given to me by the nurse at my request. A guy was sitting on his bike at the bread store across the small side street. He ate some goody he had purchased from the bread store, carefully folded the paper, and stuffed it into something he had--backpack or something. Then, he rode his bike across the street near me and started smoking. Surreptitiously, I watched to see what he did with the butt. He had parked his bike right in front of the building entrance, and I wondered why. Soon, I saw. He parked within arm's length of a receptacle for butts and he used the receptacle. Good guy! Twice he did not litter.

Mrs. Green at My Zero Waste wrote a blog post about littering today. Her little girl, Little Miss Green, is adorable and oh so conscious of green matters, waste, and loves buying used.

Picking up litter can be rewarding on many levels. Finding completely usable or reusable items is my favorite perk. Getting paid for recycling cans is a favorite with many people who actually depend on recycling cans to live. Leaving a place free of debris is like decluttering and cleaning your house. Okay, since I have not done either, I just used my imagination of that one. Just knowing you have done a good deed for the earth is another reward.

When a friend and I took a shortcut through a country area I had never visited, we went for one purpose--I wanted to find discarded old wooden broom and mops in order to get the sticks for a craft project and to get any water hoses we found. Okay, that is two. But, the one purpose was scrounging things from a place another friend said had turned into a dump for people unwilling to pay the landfill/dump fee.

Although we found useful things to fill the bed of his pickup, we both found the scenery lovely and horrid.

The isolated road was winding but paved. At the edge of the pavement, literally, the bank went almost straight down for fifty or sixty feet, maybe more. Below was a lovely stream, meandering along over big rocks, rocks that ranged from basketball size to microwave size on up to rocks half the size of a Volkswagen. The sound of the creek, the flitting and singing of birds, the rustle of the green leaves, the fresh, earthy smell all added to the charm of the site.

People took sofas and recliners, refrigerators and microwaves, toys and cleaning supplies, took them and shoved them over the edge of the road. Some were stopped by the saplings that lined the bank. So, the litter of furniture was completely covering the bank. Other household items managed to make it to the creek bed. I wanted to cry. It was hard to really look at the creek with the trash distractions we found. Whole households of furniture were dumped.

As I gingerly looked through some of the boxes on the side of the roadway, I noted that contents of a whole kitchen was in a stack of boxes. Other boxes in the stack were the contents of bathroom cabinets, linen closets, and toy boxes. No, I don't think this was a mother decluttering.

I will not litter the roads and byways. However, I do throw trash in the floor of my car--my answer to littering. I really freak out if someone throws anything from my car. As a matter of fact, I get upset if I am with someone who starts throwing even one item from his or her own car window. There are stiff penalties for littering in most places in the US.

In my neighborhood, homeowners pick up litter in the streets and curbs. Of course, I live on a corner and am treated to many cans thrown up over my retaining wall and into my yard. Lovely............

Downtown, the city just installed attractive trash cans on every corner. Oh, they ripped up sidewalk to landscape. The idea is not only to beautify, but to deter any litter being thrown on the streets. We will avert any problems with serious crime. This is a small, Southern town, but someone planted a pipe bomb about two weeks ago, in a car wash of all places. I digress.

People in Alabama have an Adopt-A-mile program. A person, family, church, civic group, Boy Scouts, a business or whatever commits to keeping one mile of country roadways free of litter. They even put up signs noting who was doing the litter picking. I have not noticed any signs lately. Maybe I have seen them so long that I not longer see them.

Mrs. Green said people don’t litter in an area free of  litter. Also, research has shown that littered streets have more crimes committed in those areas. I searched with swagbucks and typed in “litter and crime” and got this research report. There are other articles available in the same search.
Since it is dark now, I won't be putting a picture of litter on tonight. Maybe tomorrow?

Your turn
Do you pick up litter like Little Miss Green? Does your area accumulate lots of litter.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Did you notice anything funny about this picture?

This is not a repost.
There is a mystery I discovered in the picture. I need help.

What do you see in this picture that is out of place? What do you see? Snow. Bare limbs. Wait a minute, do you see the leaves at the top of the picture? Green leaves on my dogwood tree? Does anyone have an explanation? Usually leaves remain on a tree because the tree is dying or that limb is dying. Hmmph!

This was originally a pink dogwood, but turned white. THEN, the only flowers were on these limbs next to the window. Seeing flowers while I washed dishes, from across the room, or just standing in the kitchen made me think the tree had bloomed. Oh, no...just the branches next to the window, just like this branch with leaves still.

Your turn
Does anyone have a clue as to why these leaves remain green?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Easy eggnog ice simple

My method
Aha! And, you thought I was going to give you a frugal recipe, a simple, homemade delight? Uh, no, no, no, no!

No picture?
I ate it before I finished the post! Maybe I will insert one later.

Eggnog ice cream
Buy your favorite quart or pint of eggnog. Pour into a coffee cup enough eggnog to fill the cup 3/4 full. Take the cup and put it into the freezer part of your refrigerator. Easey peasey! Make sure it won't fall over or get spilled when frozen food slides down and bumps the open cup of eggnog. Ask me how I know this could happen.

I am not sure how long I wait, but let's make up something. How about 15 minutes? Okay, it's settled. About every fifteen minutes take the cup out and stir the frozen part around the edges of the cup. Make sure you stir the bottom of the cup. You will need to scrape more often after the first two times of scraping. Don't take a sip of this every time you stir. Otherwise, you will have maybe a spoonful of eggnog ice cream at the end. Okay, ask me how I know this.

Really, just go stir the cup of eggnog often until it is a stiff mush. Have you ever heard the phrase "stiff mush" in any recipe? I thought not. I just made it up. If you let it get too hard, little glass shards form (water crystals). That is not my preferred consistency. Of course, if you taste it every time you stir, you will know when it is perfect for you.

Solid state
The other day, I allowed the cup of eggnog to freeze to solid ice-cube state. Not fun. Not good to eat. So, I just kept jabbing it with the spoon until I realized it was not turning back to mush anytime soon. Well, I knew that from the first jab, but I just had to torture myself by poking and wishing! Eventually, it sat beside me while I typed and was at least partially mush/partially hard ice. You just have to eat it as it thaws.

No frozen fingers
Using a cup is perfect because it has a handle so that you can use a potholder to grip it so you won't freeze your hands. Ask me how I know how bad cold cup handles hurt? Corelle cups are best because they help the eggnog freeze faster. Nope, I have no scientific proof about Corelle and cold. It is an observation.

My eggnog, frozen or just chilled, has nothing alcoholic in it. I am not sure how that would work if you froze it with alcohol in the eggnog.

Do not taste it every time! You really want that surprising taste when it is mush. Tasting it often takes away from the final finished product if you are tasting it for an hour or so.

Your turn
Have you ever frozen eggnog? Have you ever had real eggnog ice cream? (I have not.) When you try this, tell me what you think, please.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"Austerity" is Word of the Year

We had a Word of the Year?
Merriam-Webster Announces "Austerity" as 2010 Word of the Year. Economic conditions have pushed this word to the top of the Top Ten Words of 2010.

"Enforced or extreme economy" is the definition Merriam-Webster gives for austerity. In economics, spending on social programs, benefits, and social spending are cut in order for the government to to cut deficit spending.

Personal Austerity
In our lives and personal economies we should reduce spending when it outpaces our income and ability to pay our debts. In 2010 Greece, Italy, Ireland, and Japan, amongst others turned to austerity programs. Should we not do the same? I think so. Actually, we should cut our spending even when we can afford the spending we are doing. Since nothing is assured about most our jobs, cutting back and saving for a rainy day if possible should be a priority. Cutting back on spending should not be a knee-jerk reaction to a hard situation--for governments or persons.

Austerity or Parsimony?
My own austerity measures aka spending less seem extreme to some folk. I talked about cutting up a used Christmas for reuse and how to save on all the little Christmas supplies--tags, cards, wrapping paper, and ribbons. Today, I went out late for an errand. At the stores I browsed the leftover Christmas trappings marked at 60% off. Where are the 90% off items like other years? Never mind. I looked at the gift tags, 24 for $2.99! That is ridiculous. These were actually folded, a miniature card.

Am I that old?
Okay, so I am showing my age, but I can remember when the little oblong tags with strings were ten cents for several dozen. Yes, I would cut up a Christmas card to save a dime. You wouldn't? Shame on you! Would you cut up a Christmas card to save $2.99? Well, if you would not, today you could have those 24 gift cards for $1.19 on sale. Let's see: $1.19/24=$0.05...that's 5 cents, folks.

Yes, my parsimonious self will stoop so low to save 5 cents. That would be two cards cut up to make 24 new things, saving $1.19. The card gets used once more before going to the landfill. Okay, so disregarding the good effects on the earth, it's still money that we work for that we are not spending.

Food austerity measures--dumpster diving, foraging, getting market scraps, gleaning, and food banks. Yes, I am money-challenged. No, I never get in the dumpster. And, please, let's call it safari from now on.

Christmas present austerity--giving old but new looking items to grandchildren and friends; using Coke rewards for magazines subscriptions for gifts; using Office Max recycling for getting an almost free 12 mega pixel camera for 9 yr old granddaughter; taking used Matchbox cars offered for grandchild; crocheting doll blanket; giving 25-year-old Cabbage Patch Doll; giving yard sale infant seat for doll; making doll clothes; fringing free fleece baby blanket for doll blankets. I cut the baby blanket into quarters, so I can make blankets for other grandchildren. I did have to purchase some pesky farm animals that I asked for on Freecyle before buying them.

Clothing austerity--took a used fleece coat to wear (yard coat) when it was offered; wearing another coat I made; wear two, cute, nylon coats/jackets that are 20-years-old; resisted buying a really warm coat that I need; bought 8 sweatshirts for $1 each on sale last year (all purple--ick!); wear only leather shoes but for a long time and take them in for repairs. Up until recently I made all my clothing including bras and panties. Nope, they do NOT look homemade.

Paper austerity--all greeting cards and envelopes are bought at yard sales. (450 business envelopes for $.50) I moved the printer away from me so that I must unplug my laptop and go to the printer, uncover the printer, plug in the printer, plug laptop into printer, balance the printer while I print. Consequently, I find very little need to print.

Fashion austerity--not about clothing exclusively--the latest gadget, latest car, newer model washer or dryer, and going where everyone else is going just to keep up. Hey, we have a term for that, "keeping up with the Joneses."

I just don't buy many things, preferring to fore go what it seems others have. For my silliness, I am able to afford things that a person in my income bracket should not be able to buy. I wear lots of sweatshirts in the winter, often two at a time. I hate purple, but these were a bargain. Who will see me in the house, in the yard, or in the bed. Yes, some nights I wear a sweatshirt to bed.

Buying quality does not mean being cheap. Austerity does not rule out quality purchases. I have just learned how to be soooo parsimonious that my money goes farther. Okay, sometimes it cannot be stretched a bit more, even if I need something.

Some of my friends chide me for not using paper towels, paper plates, and plastic utensils when I entertain. They call it foolishness and silliness, and say I should not have to wash all the permanent items, substitutes for disposable in their minds.

Governmental irresponsibility
Do you think governments would have deficit spending if they handled money like KatyDonna, or Carol  do now?

Life plan austerity
My austerity plan is a life plan, not just cutting back as the means to getting by right now or until I have more disposable income. I wonder if governments will be as careful with money after the crisis facing many governments around the world. I doubt it since most governments are cutting salaries or not giving raises.

Your turn
Did you turn to money-saving measures when you discovered that more money was going out than coming in? Even if we ignore the fact that many money-saving measures are green and good for the planet, do you think people would be so willing to take on the same projects just to save money. Oh me, oh my. Isn't it sort of crass to be doing silly things like gleaning just to save money. Gleaning is hard, sweaty work.  We must have a nobler cause, helping the environment, before some of us will turn to methods that do save money. Right? Yard sale Christmas cards? For such a glorious celebration? Shouldn't they be new like the Child some adore? Okay, this seems like a rambling post now that I have read it over. What say you? Let's not talk about the government problems. What is your take on personal austerity?

Christmas Memories

As I lay in bed, ill on Christmas Day, I thought of my three children and their early Christmas experiences.

When my son was three (almost 43 now) and the world swung into Christmas mode, I explained what Christmas was--Jesus birthday. Soooo, from right after Thanksgiving until around New Years Day, we were compelled by this little cherub face to sing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus at every meal BEFORE we ate! At first it was adorable. After two weeks, I was really tired of it. He took all this very seriously!

The year before he jumped right into the greeting and leave-taking "Merry Christmas" that he heard us and others merrily say as we met and left friends and total strangers. His version was to exhort all a "Merry Christmas Tree." We tried to straighten him out, to no avail. It was a two-year-old thing. You know how that is. So, it was "Merry Christmas Tree" from him to the world for the Christmas season--the day after Thanksgiving until New Years Day..

When my younger daughter  (35 now) was 15 months old, she experienced her first walking Christmas. She went from light to light on the tree, touching each bulb and quickly pulling her finger away. "Hot!" "Hot!" "Hot!" Round and round the tree she went, day after day, confirming that each bulb was, indeed, hot. She performed this ritual at my mother's house, much to their chagrin, fearing she would really burn herself.  Back then, there were no cool bulbs.

The older daughter, second child, (almost 41 now) found a rubber/plastic Kewpie Doll ornament that came on a package. She was only 5 months old and suddenly very mobile when that doll appeared on her radar!  It was cherubic and cute--her and the ornament. She took the doll ornament from my hand and chewed on the shock of hair on top of its head. She was a peaceable child, not given to temper tantrums. But, for this doll her wrath grew each time she was denied it. Putting it high on the tree just made it more dangerous in my mind. She did not like the tree's feel, but I never knew when she might give a good yank and pull it down. Finally, one day the kewpie doll "disappeared." I kept that raggedy-headed doll because of the strange hairdo my baby gave it by chewing vigorously on the hair and drooling. It still makes me smile every Christmas.

When my son was almost two, someone gave a fruit basket to a member of my mother's family. My son did not try to get the candy. He immediately grabbed the banana. Somewhere, I have a picture where I captured that little chubby hand getting the banana. The child is like me, he loves bananas.

So, that was Christmas this year!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas--SNOW!

White Christmas in Alabama--2010

Not white enough or deep enough? This is great for Alabama! Not scenic enough? I opened the kitchen window to take this so snow would not hit the camera. The flakes you cannot see are huge and wet. How much snow can a camera take? Can you see the swing just beyond the picnic table and the blue and white umbrella that should have been taken down? Evergreen trees, cherry laurel and pine, keep some of the ground free of snow that is falling straight down.
I put the hens still in their cage out of the house. Sometimes, I just open the door and let them exit their cage from inside the house. Today, I placed the cage out on the porch. They stayed there thirty minutes, just looking upward at the falling flakes, not daring to venture out into the yard. Maybe those flakes could be white birds ready to pluck the hens up. Hmmm? Finally, I had to be the brave leader, rushing them through the snow to the safety of their pen. They ran along beside and behind me as though the white sky birds might swoop down and carry them off.

It is now after 11:00 AM on Christmas morning, and I have been awake since 4:30 AM, waiting on Santa to come to my grandchildren in New York. Finally, my daughter called, saying they were going to open gifts from me. My granddaughter got clothes from me and seemed thrilled with them. My daughter told her she would have plenty to choose from. I am sure she has clothing to choose from...just a little girl thing. Grandson tried on the coat I sent and liked it AND it fit. Both liked their cameras! So, it was a good Christmas morning in spite of my lingering and worsening fever which means forced isolation today.

As I lay in bed at 4:30 AM, feverishly clutching my cell phone, making sure I did not drop it and not hear the ring if I went to sleep, I thought back to the many mornings of my own childrens' childhood when I had only a few hours sleep before they were bounding into our room, wanting to go tackle the presents under the tree.

At our house Santa delivered nothing in a box or with tags that had any indication of a factory other than the North Pole, all left unwrapped under the tree. Only gifts from people were wrapped. I like the way it looked in my childhood, a staggering array of gifts. Okay, I remember it as a staggering array even it was modest. It seems that people in the South more so than other parts of the country, unpackage Santa gifts with manufacturers' wrappings and leave no sign of anything that smacks of a store bought gift. My children never had a Santa who left wrapped gifts either.

Okay, below is a view from the back door, the exact opposite of view from kitchen window. Sooo pretty. If it keeps this up, I may scoop some up and make snow ice cream. Yes, I will eat snow.

Christmas 2010 in Alabama
Since I took both these pictures, the snow is even deeper. This picture is take on the opposite side of the house from the kitchen view. I cannot move the Adirondack chairs to the basement, so they are out and in the picture. That is three chairs, stacked. Last summer, I got all three plastic chairs for $4 and a dozen fresh eggs. I digress.

Merry Christmas

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thrifty Gifts given and received

I had this thrifty gift to give a new friend, just a token gift. I forgot to give it to her yesterday, so I decided to do a frugal jazz-up today and deliver it. I managed to wake up Christmas Eve with a fever, so I will miss my holiday events today. I am in the mood for cheer, so this will be it for today--embellishing the gift. My gift will be left on her doorstep so as not to spread whatever I have!

How cheap can I be?
The gift started with a new but free frame. I cut a picture from a new Christmas card--the embellishing and jazzy   I bought a box of Christmas cards at a yard sale for 25 cents, maybe two dozen cards in all. Yes, I sniffed them for mustiness. Smells nice! There were religious and secular cards, so I chose one that would please her.

This is the front of the card. I had to sacrifice the wording, but that's okay.

Okay, the sleigh, ummm, I mean, the Malibu is packed. Off I go.

Gift to me from my new friend
Yes, it is sitting on my computer and is full of oj. I just don't feel like going any farther for a picture.

Merry Christmas
from Practical Parsimony

Thursday, December 23, 2010

What will Santa Bring?

Over at Almost Frugal she and commenters have many good ideas about Santa gifts. I know my son asked for a remote controlled something every year. He never got it, ever. I warned him before Christmas that it was not something Santa would bring. And, "No." I was not going to buy it either because it needed batteries and would break soon. When he was old enough to understand why Santa did not bring him everything he wanted, he never complained to me if it was not under the tree because he knew the Actually, he never complained at all.

If he were wistful about not getting what he asked for, I asked him if he would trade one of the treasured gifts he DID get that was not on the list. He emphatically did not, so that was that. I ended it matter-of-factly.

My children never got anything that I would not have bought or was too expensive. As they became aware of Santa's true persona, they just knew better than to ask. Some years, they just put down something forbidden, hoping against hope that they might get lucky.

He received walkie talkies, bike, rink skates, tinker toys, pogo stick, frisbee, socks, clothing, books, Snoopy, Tonka and Ertl metal toys. These were the huge metal toys, mostly for the yard. I was also big buyer of Fisher-Price. He received Matchbox or Hot Wheels every year, tracks, garage, all sorts of things. Oh, the socks were in his stocking, and he hugged them, and said, "Socks." He really needed socks, and I could well-afford them. I just decided they would wait for Christmas. Silly mama. I was crushed and so ashamed.

My child was grateful for socks with a pile of toys at his feet. I will never get over that. But, it was the first time in his life that his socks had gotten shabby and he had not gotten new ones. He was only 8 or 9. He knew how the Santa thing operated, so he knew I was supplying him what he needed, just a tad late.

When I say "pile of toys," there were maybe two large things, something he would never think of, and the little cars, blocks, books, or flashlight. He had two sisters, so all the toys in the accumulated pile were not for him. I also believed in giving something that was an addition to what he already had, making the old toy suddenly something he enjoyed with new fervor. For example, he had many little metal cars by different makers. One year, he got the Hot Wheels tracks and we lived with them strung all over the house for years. Another year, he got the garage from Fisher-Price. So, all of a sudden the old, little, metal cars were "new" things to play with.

I really don't like the idea of getting everything from the child's extensive list. My son would never have thought of the huge metal toys because he was seeing ads on TV and everywhere about toys--the latest, greatest, hottest, and most-desirable toys! Even when he did not see something on TV, he had friends who did and spread the word.

None of us get everything we want. Maybe in your world that happens, but not in mine. We survive.

Right now, I am hoping Santa has an elf along who will wash my car when they pass this way. Oh, yeah. Elves don't come along for the ride.

Your turn
Did you try to get all your child desired? Or, do you set limits? Have you ever discovered that the unexpected gifts that Santa chose were better than what the child wanted in terms of play value?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chickens are taking over the world here

I had a nightmare last night. Thelma had a huge, swollen foot that made her hobble horribly. Waking up at 5 am is not my idea of rising time. So, I lay there worrying for two more hours as I tried to sleep. When I finally gave up, got up, and uncovered their cage by the back door, I had to examine Thelma. She did not like me picking her up and turning her sideways. But, her foot is fine. Thinking I might have gotten the name wrong, I examined Louise and Fancy, also. Night claimed by hens.

After I set the pen right outside the door with the lid propped open, I left the backdoor open for a bit. I heard the three jumps accompanied by lots of beating wings, rattling of cage, and three  landing thumps. They usually hang out on the porch and talk a bit, discussing danger or lack thereof before they venture far. It suddenly occurred to me the chicken chatter was too loud. HA! This time, instead of jumping onto the porch, they jumped back into the house. House claimed by hens!

At dusk if I am not fast enough, at least one of the hens sits on the porch railing, the area about 8 inches from the doorknob, soulfully begging to be let in. Oh, the guilt I feel. The begging was so soulful. Emotions claimed by hens!

I know that sounds so country/hick and gross when I say the hens sit on the porch rail and actually come into the house, but unbelievably, they have only pooped on the green, plastic, grass-like door mat once and never on the porch or railing. Soap and water and a broom took care of the 4 times of poop on a step.

The hens have learned to hide from me. They like to be under a huge bush in the front yard, right next to the porch and in full sun now that there are no leaves on the tree.  I can see them stand very still, and they don't know I see them! Usually, I shake the bush or throw sticks under it to flush them out. Today, I walked all the way around the house before I saw them. I had oats to entice them back inside their boundaries of the backyard. So, I went on into the back yard with the plastic pb jar of oats. I just shook it a bit, and all three stuck their heads through the glossy green leaves of the bush. They made little sounds, as if to say, "What did she have?"

I left them to their hiding and eventual scratching. Now, I am trying to think like a hen. Brain claimed by hens!

Hens have me trained well.

Buying in Bulk

  Allergy Solution
Yes, this is a medical thing. Since I was a child, I have had itchiness from lips to past my tonsils from some allergen. It's torture. Nothing seems to help--except this.

Wasted time
Yes, sometimes we value our time as much as we do our money. I try not to waste my money. I try not to waste my time on futile pursuits.

Six months
. . . is a long time to pursue something, driving from groceries stores, to drugstores, and on to gas stations.
Only, I find that the person who told me on the phone that they had Pep-O-Mint Life Savers shows me breath mints, Breath Savers or Starlight Mints. Then, when I am disappointed, the person is upset. "It's all the same--peppermint." "NO, it's not." And, so it goes!

Yes, I do "let my fingers do the walking," but then I drive and waste gas on a wild goose chase. Now, I NEVER have to pull the car off the road, get wrong information, or do without. Okay, some day I will run out but not soon.

These Pep-O-Mint Life Savers are the only thing that works. Besides, the other peppermint items are too sweet.

Bulk Cost
These 20 packs cost me $10.20 by buying bulk. If I had bought them one pack at a time, the price would have been $17.90. I asked the guy at my favorite station if he would get these for me, and agreed to buy the whole box. I don't know how much profit he made. But, he does not have to sell them one pack at a time.

Driving Aid
When I must drive and feel myself fading away or know I am not as alert as I should be, I eat these and never nod or feel drowsy. If I have a passenger, the passenger must peel these off and place into my hand. Otherwise, I have to fumble around peeling and finding the roll. I discovered this perk one night when my lips were itching and I was drowsy from too little sleep and school all day.

Any Peppermint?
Maybe, but these are not sickeningly sweet. I ordered my GED students to consume these during their tests, expecially the during the tests later on in the day. One girl reported it did not help. Oh, yeah. She got Butter Rum because she loved them.....sigh. Take your chances, but others assure me this brand and flavor do the trick for itchy mouth allergies and for keeping a driver or test-take alert.

Buying in bulk
Yes, lots of people buy canned  food in bulk, toilet paper, and frozen food. I have a friend who buys cases of gas additive.

Your turn
Lots of people have the itchiness in the mouth from alleries. Do you? Need a cure that will not be a med? If you drive, do you use something natural to keep you awake? Yes, I drink caffeine, but it only works so long before I am shaky. Other than food, what do you buy in bulk, something we would not expect, something as bizarre as Life Savers?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Save on Gift Wrapping, Ribbon, Tags, and Cards

Salvaged card and 13 reuses or re-purposes
 Long ago and for many years, I wrapped dozens of gifts. Now, maybe half a dozen. Through the years I have devised means to cut costs, conserve earth's resources.  The day after Christmas I stocked up on all my Christmas supplies.     NO MORE!

Christmas cards re-purposed
First of all, I now send so few cards that a box of 20 lasts me for several years! Now I buy all Christmas cards at yard sales or thrift stores after they pass the sniff test for mustiness. Often there are extra cards or extra envelopes. With my stash, neither situation bothers me. I will always have cards and envelopes. One drawer is dedicated to cards of all types. Oh, I sniff most things from thrift stores or yard sales.

Card above, top left is the original card. I used another card to cut apart for reuses: the front of the card for a new greeting card or enclosure or as a gift tag. Using a hole punch completes their usability.

Top left is all that is left of the card. Plus several name tags on top of the leftover. The stiff, white, glossy card could still be used to make white gift tags. See, I quit too soon. Okay, I was just in no mood to cut more since I could find only a child's pair of blunt-nose school scissors that could really have been more useful is sharper! If you have a pair of scissors that makes a scalloped edge, that would be nice, too.

Bottom right is the center of the card mentioned above, having several potential uses. Candy cane and greeting were both on the inside of the card. Green rectangles are the outer part of the card, each unique for gift tags. I think the random stars are really cool.

Reuse paper
I refold all that is salvageable or wrap it all around the same cardboard tube and secure it with a rubber band. Even wrinkled pieces might have a small area where enough paper can be reused, not wrinkled, just begging for a second chance, a chance to be used on a small gift.

Reuse boxes
Most gift boxes fold. I folded them and stuffrd them all into a bag or box where they remained flat enough to not take up more room. Every year, I rescued folding, white or decorated gift boxes that were destined for the trash. Now, I don't because I cannot use them all like I once did.

Use other boxes
Several years ago I wrapped a small gift stuffed into a toilet paper roll and another in a toothpaste box. The grandchildren receiving these were unaccustomed to frugality and were a little stunned. Oh, well! Besides, I had to mail those gifts and wanted them as compact as possible in the large box.

For my male friend's teen daughter I wrapped a piece of luggage in a fan box. She was mortified and exclaimed in horror. I told her I really thought she needed a fan. My tone of voice should have alerted her that I was teasing. But, no, ten minutes later she was sitting, pouting, teary-eyed, glaring at the fan box. She was old enough to know better--15. But, you might have to alert some people more pointedly, telling them there is no fan/vacuum/heater/toaster in their box, that you just found a box the right size.

Reuse ribbons
Some of the pre-made bows survived the holidays long ago and were put in a box and stored with Christmas ornaments and decorations to be reincarnated the next Christmas. If the ribbon was tied, I just rerolled it and used something to keep it in a roll. Tie it with string in several places or wrap around a toilet paper roll and secure with a bit of tape.

Skip the gift tags
So many times, several gifts lost their tags.  I had orphan gifts. We were at our destination and I had no idea whose presents they were. Finally, I taped the tags securely. Nope. Not right yet. Some people use a rectangle of the wrapping paper to fold and make their own tag. Too much trouble for me. At last, I just took a pen and wrote the name of recipient and the giver. No one complained. No name ever fell off the box or got wrinkled again. Use a red or green pen to make it seem more

Reuse gift bags
Okay, some people write names on these. A pretty Christmas sticker covers it right up. Or paste a picture from a Christmas card over the other names and make that your gift tag. I get gift bags all the time. If there is a ribbon and tag, I just cut the ribbon off and the names are gone.

Buy wrapping paper, ribbon, gift tags at yard sales or thrift stores
For some reason other than thrift, I began to think that curling ribbon is the prettiest ribbon for gifts any time of the year...could it be my age? When I was a teen, ugly old curling ribbon was used last. My sensibilities have changed. Nope, this is not a thrifty move. I just love the playful sweetness of the curled ribbon.

I have bought rolls of wrapping paper for all occasions and curling ribbon in all hues of the rainbow at yard sales. Most of the colors, about a dozen, could be used on Christmas paper. I looked at the paper and suddenly I could see all the colors in the curling ribbon box on various patterns on different rolls of paper--shades of reds and pinks, different shades of green, some lavenders and purples, even some turquoise...shocking, and all in Christmas gift wrap. Actually, I use very traditional wrap and would not have found these un-Christmasy colors in the gift wrap if I had not looked closely. Yellow and orange were the only colors not in my dozens of rolls of gift wrap. Multi-colored curling ribbon is best if using pink or lavender ribbon. Maybe not!

Use squares of fabric to wrap gifts. If you hem them for napkins, they will be useful all year long. I often take a lone napkin with me when I take a lunch. Others might appreciate a napkin or two that was not part of a set to take with them with no fear of losing it and spoiling their set of napkins. Christmas colors or prints will just appear before your eyes. Even a pink square tied with a green or red ribbon will look Christmasy under the tree, but not this summer.

Make reusable tote bags to present the gift. Then, the person actually has two gifts! Consider using fabric napkins instead of tissue paper to make the pretty pouf that hides the gift.

Wrap many gifts in the same box
I know my daughter wraps Christmas packages to look very pretty. Last year, I suggested she use the PO boxes that I used for shipping to wrap all gifts from me. I suggested she put the boy's gifts in one mailer box and the girl's in the other box. That made two boxes, three, counting her gift, instead of fifteen or so to wrap. She seemed greatly relieved, asking me if I was sure it was okay. Really, I could not see her using her time, energy, and cash for all that wrapping. Plus, she would not have to buy gift boxes or scrounge for them at her house. She didn't even have to think about which box to use. And, she did not have to buy boxes. Yes, there were some toys they wanted and hair doo-dads for the girl. Most of the items were clothing I bought on sale, so I could give them more and sort of make up for postage by buying cheaply. Yes, I made some things and some were free-to-me or thrifted. This year, I told my daughter to do the same thing--put all gifts for a person in the same box. She is a single mother, working full time and has a part-time job. Time is one of the things she does not have in abundance.

Reuse Christmas cards
Cut off the front to make postcards. (Check with the PO about sizes you can mail.) Trim the card to meet the PO rules. Or, use the front of the card only to put in a gift or send to teachers at school. They won't even notice or won't care if they do notice. Cut a portion of the card, like a tree on the front of the card, to use as a gift tag if you really want gift tags. Use old cards for a collage. The inside greeting can be cut out to use on a gift or for the collage. A little glitter and glue or colored pens can bring new life to even a dull card. If you cut and must include someone else's writing, use a colored or sparkly pen to make more swirls and camouflage the writing.

Odd sized gifts
Large pieces of fabric can be wrapped successfully around a bike. Large bags can be made to contain something too difficult to wrap. Then, fabric or bags can be reused next year.

Consumption of paper
Many of these ideas reduce consumption of paper=trees. They all save your wallet. If everyone reduced their consumption of paper products, tree-huggers like me would be happy, trees could be left untouched, and a polluting, water-consuming industry would do less harm to our earth, our only home.

Christmas Spirit
I am not talking about a religious holiday. I am talking about joyfulness, religious or not. These methods I have listed do not lessen the Christmas Spirit at all. Joy is what we make. Buying paper to throw away does not make me at all joyful.

Next year
I already have my eye on some velvet things I have. Some are scraps. Others are garments of velvet I bought for reuse as yardage at a garage sale. Hold me to this! Gift bags of velvet with either drawstring or ties will be used for all gifts next year.

Strings of beads, fake pearls (uncovered just today), will be used for some of the handles...we will see. But, in my vast store of sewing notions, surely I can find enough to avoid buying fabric or handles/ties/drawstrings.

My daughter reuses gift bags, but she will go buy them if she wants a gift bag and has none. For all occasions except for Santa's gifts to her children, she uses gift bags. I am going to ask her if she will use cloth bags if I make a dozen or so and send to her for occasions all year long. Velvet will be saved for Christmas! Okay, just the reds and greens.

Most of these ideas take a bit of time. How much time does it take you to earn the money to buy these items. Add that time to the time to drive, walk, shop, stand in line, bring it home and figure out where to store it for a few days until you need it all. You could spend your time sitting in front of TV, cutting up cards. You could spend the time to show grandchildren or children how to reuse instead of buying new. You could have a stiff drink while you work. Not me! I would cut off my fingernails, cut holes in my clothing and could cut nothing that remotely resemble a straight line if I had a drink.

You have more time than money, you say? Then, this method of not consuming at Christmas might appeal to you.

Your turn
I know many of you can either use these tips or share your ideas. Let's hear what you have been doing or what you will begin doing next year. What do you do to cut down on wrapping, ribbon, tags, and card costs?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Chip Clips? Buy them no more!

My original Chip Clip
Proudly, I can say I never bought a Chip Clip. When I first saw them years ago, my frugal self was irate that someone would sell such a frivolous item. Really, no matter how cute they are, my parsimony jumps in. Being parsimonious is not a bad thing when I can really save money.

Since I married in 1966, I have used clothes pins to keep certain opened items closed. In the picture you can see some of the many things I keep fresh with a clothes pin--a mix to coat potatoes, crackers, rice, and Hershey's miniatures. Okay, so around my house the miniatures won't go stale. But, they will spill out. Even the Wheat Thins are put back in the original box, all clipped with a clothes pin to keep them fresh and just in case a pest might venture their way.

Child's play
My daughter wrote her name on a clothes pin from a kitchen drawer about 31 years ago as she sat at the kitchen table. She was into enhancing anything with pen, pencils or stickers, further encouraged by kindergarten. They probably decorated clothes pins at school. She proudly presented it to me. I cherish that clothes pin. I knew she had a pencil and was writing on something, but did not realize what she was doing--decorating one of my "chip clips." I was also proud she was not applying stickers to whatever happened to be handy, usually something inappropriate.

Over at Better Me; Better World dmarie has a post from another blogger about using the clips from broken pants hangers to make chip clips instead of purchasing them. That post inspired me to share my chip clips. I just threw away an expensive hanger that had a broken hook. RATS! I have two more I was going to donate to a thrift store. Maybe not!

On Etsy I saw clothes pins with sayings on them. Google decorated clothes pins or painted clothes pins for ideas.

Just now, I took out four clothes pins, used Sharpies and sort of decorated them.

No, I don't want to start a painting project. I want to finish this post. You have the idea. You are crafty too. Right?

Don't use paint that is not edible in case it chips off.

The cost of a bag of clothes pins is about the same as the cost of one chip clip. They are plastic. Sure, the others are from trees destroyed somewhere.

In my opinion, wooden clothes pins are a more frugal choice and a greener choice.

A set of six decorated clothes pins (aka chip clips) would make a frugal gift. Of course, you will want to do a better job than I did with the Sharpies.

By the way
Those Sharpies were one-cent or ten-cents at Office Max during a back-to-school sale. Otherwise, I would own one black one. I mailed about 40 of the Sharpies to my daughter for her children's school projects and her home-based, part-time work.

Your turn
What do you use to clip your chips shut? Clothes pins?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Who is that knocking at my door? (warning--chicken talk)

The shopping/making/mailing of gifts is done!
Today, I will not see the inside of a retail store...let's see. MIlk...check....Cokes....check...chocolate...check....bananas...check. There is nothing I need or want. I have enough stocked to eat for a bit. The four items above are not stored! I don't want to run out of those!

So, here I am relaxing. Who is at the door?

My breakfast--banana and milk
Wake-me-up--real Coke with caffeine and sugar
Lunch--cheese and bread
I'm hungry!
Planned dinner--chicken, salad greens, apple, blueberries
Later--potatoes, onions, carrots, cabbage in pressure cooker.
Okay, two dinners instead of candy, okay?

Who is at the door? 

Earlier, I sat a bit in the bright warm sunshine to get my daily D.

Who is knocking at the door?

I am  petting (just not walking)  my knee and the ankle that now hurts from limping. Only lately have I thought I might like a recliner.

Who is knocking at the door?

It's after 3 p.m. There is not much to do that I can actually do. I really want a nap.

Now, I will see who is at the door. Actually, I know who is at the door! I was hoping Fancy would lose interest in gaining my attention. Oh, NO! Lately, she is much more persistent.

I have begun to carry my camera with me at all times. When I swung open the door, Fancy leapt inside, just like she has done several times today.
The broom is lying there because she knocked it down. Before I could speak to her, she was happily cleaning the carpet scrap inside the door.

Fancy is now quiet and happy.

Thelma is quick, too. She joins Fancy. When I tried to push both out the door, both just started climbing over my foot, trying to come further into the house.

They love me? How sweet!

It is time to feed them. They seem to be starving. I open a can of food, pour it over two opened rolls so as to retain the liquid in a form they can eat. Sometimes, I put the liquid in a bowl and they drink it.

Laying time
I carried the pie pan of food to their pen. Oh, NO! I locked them away from their water. The pen door is always open when they are pecking around the yard, but no so today.  Obviously, Fancy and Louise need to lay an egg, too. I suppose they were going to lay one in the house. Both hens went straight to the food, took a bite or two, and leapt into the same nest. So, that was not love? They needed to lay? I do believe they would have layed their eggs behind the door. I sometimes find a hen sitting on their shower curtain cover for their cage when I don't realize a hen  is in the house.

For an hour or more I had heard the hens knocking over things or rattling around on the porch. I had finally gotten my knee in a position that would not hurt, so I did not want to move.

Hens are so clever and so dumb. Fancy was not talking her usual talkative talk. Her plaintive voice told me she needed something besides conversation with me!

While I am not an animal lover, I would never mistreat an animal.. I love my hens and am horrified that they could not access water! There is no excuse for denying them (chicken) potable water.

4 P.M.
On an overcast or rainy day, Fancy, Thelma, and Louise would be talking to me about cleaning their cage and installing new paper, whining and complaining. Today, the sun is bright. So, conceivably, They could be out another hour. Hope not--I fell asleep just now, sitting straight up!

4:09 P.M.
2 eggs--they must have been suffering when they were whining and hitting the door with their wings as they tried to settle in on the outer edge of the door. Pretty girls, please come into your cage so I can take a nap!

Your turn
Have you ever accidentally neglected your animals? How did you train yourself not to forget? Now, this was my first forgetting, but I fear forgetting them in the future. .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm giving an old AND homemade gift

Maybe an heirloom in the making? I finished this needlepoint monogram in 1980. Since I divorced in 1981, I did not frame it. Now, stretched, matted, and framed, it is a Christmas gift to my son and daughter-in-law.

Old, you say?

Homemade, to boot? And. Cheap?

Old or homemade does not mean inferior quality or a dowdy gift. I am in awe (not in a good sense) of the people who don't like homemade gifts. I feel sorry for the people who make things with love and then are faced with detractors, complainers, critics.

My son knows the framed piece is coming. He has no idea what it looks like. But, subdued though he is, he is still excited. A mother can tell!

It is not like I used a milk jug to make a piggy bank. Or, that I wrapped an orange juice can with wallpaper or cloth scraps and rick rack!

I had found an excellent frame for this, only fifty-cents at a yard sale this fall. Last week, I looked at the needlepoint and realized that I had bought a square frame for a rectangular piece! Bummer! It was too late to look for another frame. My knee keeps collapsing, and walking is not my best feat right now. So, I went from a cheap to more expensive frame. The cost to me--I took back the small, cheap artificial tree I had bought so I could have a tree this year. Instead, I gave this framed piece to my son and his family. I will never tell him! He thinks I managed to get a tree.

The inexpensive frame was from a frame shop with a framed quote in it. So, I have an excellent frame and nothing to put in it!

There is no frame of reference in the picture, but the dimensions of the frame are about 13" x 15".

I gave this identical framed gift to my two sisters in 1980. However, I gave them initials of their first names. And, I had theirs framed, too. My homemade gifts, as you can see, are not shabby at all. Even without the frame, it is a nice gift. If it were matted only, the cost would be so much less that even the most frugal or money-strapped person could afford matting in order to present this as a gift. I washed the piece and blocked it right here at home. So, that cost was avoided.

Keep your fingers crossed that it makes it 1000 miles, unbroken.

Your turn
Do you give homemade gifts? Are they appreciated? If not, shame on the recipients. Do you use your talents for gifts?

Does anyone know where I can obtain more letter patterns like this one? I cannot.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

One little tip for staying well

Staying well?
Do you actively avoid becoming ill? I thought so--mixed results. Some of you do nothing. Others try to stay well. No one wants to become ill, lose sleep, productivity, work, and spread it to the whole family. But, how do you actively avoid becoming ill? Vitamins? Exercise?  Adequate sleep? Avoiding crowds? Not drinking and eating after sick people? Even family?

All alone?
I am single, so there is no one to become ill in my household if I contract even a cold. That means there is no one to spread germs to me. Most importantly, no one is here to take care of me, to feel my feverish brow, to comfort me, fetch water and sustenance, medicine, nothing.

Nip it in the bud
I do take generic sinus medication and chest congestion medication as soon as I need to instead of waiting until I have an infection that needs a trip to the doctor and an antiobiotic OR two weeks to run its course.

This one habit I have, one little tip, keeps me free of flu, strep, and other nasty stuff.


Carry and use your own pen.
I don't care how silly it seems, but I always dig for my pen. No, I don't care how long you wait behind me in any line. Why? Because you are not going to pay my bills or soothe my feverish brow when I am sick! You will not entertain me, pick up a prescription, drive me to the doctor, or tell me how sorry you are that I am miserable.

If you mumble, I will still dig for the pen. If you sigh or complain, I keep looking. Yes, I know you are back there rolling your eyes, shooting poisoned arrows and darts into the back of my head. Do you want to know how much I care? Really, you want to know? I don't care at all. Why? Because you will not come to my aid when I am too ill to care for myself. You will not pay for the antibiotics I might need.

So, you might ought to spend the time waiting for me to fish out a pen by fishing out your own pen to use. Yes, I know I should have had it out ahead of time. Well, sometimes I do have my pen ready! So, there!

Mostly, I just remember that I am going to need a pen and slip one in my pocket so I won't have to search in my purse. I do try not to be a pain and hold up the line. But, I will be a pain if I must.

Okay, so I am sorry sort of, apologize sincerely, and try to hurry. Bottom line--I will keep searching for my pen.

Yes, some illnesses are airborne. I do the best I can with the pen avoidance.

Where do you stand in line and use a pen outside your home?

doctor's office
grocery store
food stamp office
courtesy desk
health department
gas station
child's school (eeek)
attorney's office
Post Office
sweepstakes forms on counters
customer service desk
co-worker's pen

(Remember, even an orthopedic surgeon or periodontist will have some people who are ill. It takes only one person leaving germs to make you ill.) Okay, I would not worry too much about some places like the orthodontist, but lots of people have handled the pen.

You could probably add twice this many to my list. How many people use the pen that is provided? If only one person does and that person transmits germs to the pen, oh well, you are liable to catch something.

Sometimes when I do forget to get out a pen and must dig for a pen and hold up a line, I have seen and heard people in the line behind me talking. "That's a good idea." "I am going to use mine, too." "Why didn't I think of that?" Then, there is the inevitable digging and scratching around for a pen.

Which group would you be in--the grumbling, hateful eyerollers or the grateful group who will dig for a pen to avoid germs?

This is not a flu season pecadillo of mine. I will hold up a line in July!

At the doctor's check-in window/counter:
Receptionist: after watching me dig and mutter that I had a pen, "You can use this one."
She planted it firmly in the place it lay before as though I might be blind.
Me: "No, I have one of my own."
Receptionist: "Everyone else uses it."
Me: "That's the point."
Receptionist: "Oh, okay, I understand."
At this point, a receptionist will often offer me her personal pen or say, "Here's one that no one has used today." She will give me one from her stash beyond the glass window.

Your turn
Do you think about how many people use that community pen? Do you think any of them were ill? Did they all wash their hands after going to the bathroom? Do you think I am silly and paranoid?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas Idea: junk box

The measuring cup below is like ones I put in a "junk box" gift, wrapped nicely at Christmas. The potholder is one I found yesterday on sale that is so sweet--not part of long ago (1970 ?)gift. However, if I found the Christmas potholder on sale for a dime back then, I would have put it in the box!

I gave a "real" present at Christmas, bought or made, to my mother and two sisters. However, they got an additional gift from me. For about 14 years, I filled a box every year with odds and ends found on sale and gave one to my mother and also to two younger sisters as they set up house.

Surprisingly, this shirt box filled with "junk" was a hit. We referred to it as the "junk box present" because it was filled with junk--small items. The name was my idea, sort of self-deprecating to soften the blow to my family. One year, someone gave it to my sister to open first. I begged her to open her "real gift." She laughed and said she always liked the junk box and looked forward to all the things in it.

Rarely did I spend over a dime on any one item. I found stainless steel scoops, 1/8 cup, I think for a dime. Okay, so they were measuring cups. They were a dime, so I bought four, one for me and each of the three junk boxes. Actually, I believe I have three of them still. So, I purchased three or four just for me. I don't measure with them, just leave them in flour, sugar, different places to scoop with. It was always a mystery to me as to why there were only 1/8 cup measures!

Then, there were the packs of emery boards, just on clearance. SCORE! The junk box could hold personal or household items, all nestled together.

It's been almost twenty years since my mother died and we no longer have Christmas together, so I have forgotten the odds and ends, all useful, that I saved all year for the boxes. I know that one year I made potholders with loops on the loom she bought me when I was eight-years-old and put one in each box. There was never anything just purchased as cheaply as possible for filler.

I have never, ever had too many scoops (usually, measuring cups in 1/4. 1/3. 1/2 increments) or too many emery boards. I do use all sorts of little measuring cups and scoops just to dip out dry items, like oats, cornmeal, flour and sugar. The scoop stays in the food for next time.

All year long, I filled a corner of a drawer with these items. At Christmas, I got out three shirt  boxes boxes and divided the loot amongst the three boxes.

It may be too late for this kind of gift now, but for next year, if you keep your eyes open, things might appear. The junk box is not choosy as long as you choose wisely.

Okay, so this may be a silly hint. But, it brings back fond memories of a tradition I started and my family enjoyed. I lived too far away to share these items as I found them, so saving them and transporting gifts by car worked for me. Every time I look at the measuring cup above, I know my mother used one for many years, one exactly like mine, given to her by me. (And, I call it a scoop because that is how I use I am reminded of the tradition of finding and saving things for my family.

My brothers never received this gift!

Your turn
Does this seem like an idea you could incorporate into your gift-giving? This was an almost-free assemblage, not a plan for buying anything specific.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Water Heater for Hens' Water--tutorial

Waterer on heater I made on the cheap
My frugality does pay!

Need to keep pet or chicken water from freezing? Do you want to make your own heater? I did.

I love to make instead of buy
I am all about frugal, making instead of buying, reusing what I have, saving my money. Here is this project from beginning to end. Your supplies may differ from mine. This is my experience that can be duplicated with changes.

Clear and level the ground. For my water container, the surface must be level. 

I bought this in order to have a more solid barrier from ground moisture and to retain heat from the bulb and the sun. I could have used bricks I already own, but this is a better vapor barrier.

50 foot extension cord bought years ago at 90% off sale. Maybe--$1?

Knife and duct tape I already owned.

Old popcorn tin--$0.50
Friend holding it just right for a picture of the pretty scene--polar bears pulling a sleigh.  Any old bucket might work for this inner piece.

Floodlight bought for $0.33 about seven years ago at 90% off sale. Leave the cord coiled. Place the whole thing and the extension cord plug under the outer, galvanized cover to keep water from it.

Old minnow bucket with a hole in the bottom serves as insulation. It looks like a dog chewed on it. I found it on the side of the road in a trash pile.
For six months, I searched from the car, looking for the inevitable tossed minnow bucket that I see every year. Finally, about September, I found this one, just waiting for me. I often wonder what people think when I pick up something useless looking, like the minnow bucket with a hole! Watching and waiting pays off. FREE!

Minnow bucket needed to be shorter. The hole is taped shut. Actually, the diameter was too large to fit. I cut it too short and made the diameter too small!

Large Stones to help hold heat from the bulb. These were in my yard. I had to hurry and get up the styrofoam before the hens ate it!

Stones in styrofoam in popcorn tin
The galvanized outer part will go over this as the popcorn tin sits on the step. See, I cut too much of the styrofoam bucket off at the top. It needs more stones, lots of tiny ones.

Outside of heater
For some reason this galvanized "bucket" was in my basement. I believe I bought a whole pile of pots for plants, and this was amongst them. It is open on the end on the ground. Around the upper or lower edge, whichever was you orient the "bucket," there are four evenly spaced holes. This hole had to be enlarged to insert an extension cord.

Chicken waterer purchased last year for $21, onetime purchase. I had tried lots of things for water, and the hens stood on and pooped it them. A beautiful antique bowl that I used cracked when it filled with ice. So, I was out $45 right there. This only has to be refilled every four days to keep water for the hens. Of course, if you want fresh water for hens, this needs to be refilled more often. There are instructions on the internet on how to make one of these, but I don't think I could make one.

1--place stepping stone where heater will go
2--place popcorn tin on stepping stone
3--put styrofoam minnow bucket into the popcorn tin
4--place large stones in styrofoam
5--wire floodlight assembly into top of outer galvanized container
6--put extension cord into the galvanized container and plug into floodlight
7--insulate the opening around the extension cord with plastic and duct tape
8--place glavanized, wired assembly over the popcorn tin
9--plug in the extension cord (outside plug is GFCI), so no problem with rain

Further instructions
use only wattage the floodlight assembly uses
use incandescent bulb for the heat
place plastic under the concrete stepping stone

Improvements needed in my design
*Place plastic under stepping stone.
*Paint the galvanized bucket black.
*Place a bucket of small pebbles in the styrofoam minnow bucket for better heat retention.
*Make a crude, wooden shelter that only has bottom and front open to further keep chill winds from the water heater.
*Use a level to get this really level so that draft from the double-sided waterer will work properly.
*Use washers instead of duct tape to cover the three extra holes that came with the galvanized container!

Finished, Assembled, with filled waterer on top. Price in the store for heater--$45 + tax. My cost=$3.71 + things I had purchased years earlier on sale.
Last year
The heater I made last year lacked--stepping stone underneath for heat retention and a water barrier; popcorn tin and minnow/bait bucket and rocks for heat retention and insulation. This year's version is an improvement! I did reuse the outer galvanized "bucket," the extension cord, and floodlight holder. The last year version was basically just the galvanized "bucket" and the floodlight holder.
Your turn
You will probably not have the identical items that I used. But, any substitution that suits the purpose will work. You may have a better setup than I. What can you come up with? Does this give you ideas?  

Do not copy this. Link to my blog, ONLY.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Turnip Experiment

I received these turnips in the chicken food from the market. They were starting to sprout.

My plan
Cut off the tops of the turnips, leaving 1/2 inch of turnip and plant. No, someone threw the rest of my scavenged turnips to chickens, except for these three. These have never seen the hens. I would have had chicken and people food.

I really love turnip greens but hate the turnip. My hens feel the same way.

See the roots at the bottom? The bowl has a bit of water. I put a bit more in several times a day. The potholder keeps the water to one side so I don't have to soak the whole turnip. You cannot see it, but the turnip roots (I thought turnips were the 'roots.') are tucked down to get water. Otherwise, two of the three stick right up out of the water.

Your turn
Has anyone done this? One week after this picture, they are still thriving. It is cold out, but will these grow outdoors if protected under glass? What would you do? Are you getting sick of my yellow counter?  LOL

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crackers and Cheese

I love a sale. I LOVE a sale coupled with coupons.

Okay, so this not water crackers. It's also not brie. But, it is good and cheap the way I bought the two.

Wheat Thin Crackers
I found $1 coupons everywhere and took a few off each pad until I had an even dozen. Bummer! The Wheat Thins, formerly $1.98 were marked up to $2.99. When things like this happen, I dig in my heels--too expensive in light of their former price.

Waiting Game
Linda will wait and check out the crackers several times each week in two or three stores.

Wheat Thins were marked $1.98/box. I bought flatbread, large Wheat Thins, Original, Sindried Tomato and Basil, Fiber Selects Five Grain, and something with cheese or some sorts in the name. Okaaay, I am not sure how you would go about sindrying a tomato, but it might make for interesting musings. I really bought Sundried Tomato and Basil. See, it is in the picture.

Kraft cheese in the picture fluctuates in price quite often. Look again! Look closely! This block of cheese is "20% more free." Plus, you know I had a coupon for $1 off. Yessiree!

Kraft cheese is $3.89 in one store, $3.39 at another, and often $2 at the third store. Yes, that is Walmart. Since I have noticed the price fluctuation at Walmart, I buy about 6 blocks of cheese when it is cheap. I refrain from buying when it is higher at Walmart. But, I will pay $2.50 at WM if desperate. Sometimes, Kraft cheese is 3 for $5, making a chunk or bag $1.66.

Yes, I realize that other people are not eating Kraft cheese at all and may not have options for any cheese. Call me shallow for saying I am "desperate" for cheese! "My name is Linda, and I am addicted to cheese."

Crackers and Cheese
This is such a delicious, quick, almost nutritious and easy snack or meal. Add a piece of leaf lettuce to munch on plus and apple or banana and my meal is complete. Okay, the crackers could be replaced with a better option.....sigh. Except for these, I have bought few Wheat Thins.

My Plan
Since I have Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese, 8 ounces for $1, bought for $0 because I had a $1 off coupon for this brand, I have a plan. I believe I have 6 packages of cream cheese. There will be occasions during Christmas holidays when I will take something to a party. There are artichoke hearts bought on sale, cheese to grate. Does anyone else feel a dip coming together? I have coupons for sour cream, too.  Whatever I decide to take, my free and almost free food will play a huge role.

Your turn
Have you found any fabulous sales and coupons to help with entertaining?

Easy Craft Supply Present

Craft Studio
Copy this?
As I was strolling along, rolling along, that is, I saw a product that could easily and cheaply be duplicated.

Unpaid advertising?
Okay, I am giving credit where credit is due. I was in a Walmart Super Center and this is a Simplicity product that costs $8. So, I have advertised. Really, I am presenting this as something you can do for a little child for Christmas. I took three examples of color combinations to a pattern cabinet and took a picture to show you. The end ones are turned around to give you a better idea of color combinations.

Craft and sewing scraps
Now, let's consider how you can make this at home from scraps. If you are frugal like me, you save two inches of ribbon or lace for use in other projects. (that one googly eye!)

The jar
The jar can be replaced by a plastic jar you wash out after the product is used--mayonaisse and peanut butter come to mind. The jar on the shelf is larger than a quart. But, even a small, plastic peanut butter jar would work for lesser supplies.

The jar contained ribbon, felt stickers, pom poms, and all sorts of items I don't remember. There was a chunky plastic bracelet in at least one of the jars. I have barrettes like I decorated many years ago. (Remember the bows that were wired onto barrettes, They had many loops on each barrette.) If you notice, the jars on the shelf are color coordinated. That is not necessary. But, it works if you want to do so.

I suppose you can choose what best suits the child, the craft supplies, and the mother of the child. Maybe washable glue would be best. An older child who owned a glue little, cheap, cool glue gun might just use it for this jar of crafts.

May birthdays for girls
Both my granddaughters have birthdays in May. They will be ten- and four-years-old. I think I will copy this idea for each of them. As I find bits of ribbon or appliques, I will stash them in one of my canvass bags to sort into jars for each of the girls.

April birthday for a boy
For the younger grandson's birthday in April.  I might make one for him, too. I have some elephants, camo things, brown ribbon, green ribbon. So, he might just make a collage instead of jewelry. The boy will be six. Maybe collecting plastic bugs from yard sales will work for him. Of course, I will let serendipity and synchronicity guide me.

February birthday
If you can think of anything that would work on this order for a sixteen-year-old boy, clue me in. Since I get all the markers he and his sister need for school, and crafts are probably not his thing right now, I just cannot thing of anything. Since I am giving him a camera for Christmas (bought for less than $20--one of my deals), he will only get a bathrobe. The robe was $70 and I paid $10.

Camera for his sister (I digress)
With my Office Max cartridge and toner recycling, her $100+ camera will be less that $10. Still, they will be informed that this is a combination Christmas/birthday present. They just cannot expect this caliber of gift (camera) from me on future gift-giving occassions. The ten-year-old will get a box of summer clothes bought on sale ($1-$3), used, and free-to-me items. My daughter won't need to buy many summer clothes!

Your turn
Kind of glue? Idea for sixteen-year-old boy jar? Confess! You have a ton of scraps, right?