Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thinking outside the box.... Jams & Jellies without added pectin

Sharing a few links that have rocked my jam-making world this season....

... and a quick nod to canning safety, for those who are new to the process...

So far I have used this method successfully with Strawberry-Rhubarb jam, Saskatoon-Cherry jam, and an off-the-cuff, use-up-the-fruit-NOW Saskatoon-Cherry-Rhubarb jelly with a shot of Chiraz added.  They all set up very nicely.   The trick seems to be hitting that elusive 220 degrees... which, I'll tell you, takes some time and a whole lot of heat.

I also made a strawberry jam using pectin (that semi-set) and a strawberry jelly using pectin (that turned into syrup).   Go figure.  lol

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Redecorating on the Cheap - Girl's Bedroom

Redecorating on the Cheap.

We're in this cute little house now, a 1960s bungalow on a corner lot in a decent part of town.  It's also an older part of town, which means it has more than a closet-sized yard.  YAY!   Unfortunately, someone got the great idea that brown is a good neutral color to paint an entire house in.  And also got the great idea that textured stucco would make a good wall surface.   We will tackle THAT later.

The first project is our oldest daughter's bedroom.  Eight year old girl, blah brown bedroom.  Messy closet.

She likes the sort of French country look, sort of shabby chic.... ish... we settled on blue & pink and I ran with it.

Thrifted inspirations....

Pillow $0.50, basket $0.25, linens total $5.00

$2.00 per roll - score!

Old bed frame gleaned from FreeCycle :o)  I strongly considered painting it a bright pink, but opted ultimately to leave it white.

The shade of blue we chose, color-matched from the wallpaper.  This, I paid full retail for.

This is going to be so much brighter!!! 

Aaaaahhhh.  I love it.

Another thrifted goodie - $2.00 for both shelves.

With a coat of Krylon white spray paint, and a few inexpensive brackets, we now have bedside shelves instead of nightstands.

Bed set up, shelves installed, and a $2.00 mat.

Duvet cover from Ikea (brought out of hiding in the back of the linen closet) and a clearance duvet from Zellers' closing sale.

Shelf from FreeCycle - all it needed was a bit of cleaning up :)   I backed it with the wallpaper to tie it together with the room.


Closet makeover, step one.

Sort of lacking in progress photos as I went, but with the closet I papered the walls, painted the hardware with Krylon white spray paint, then (after this photo was taken) I reinstalled the upper shelf.

Cara's finishing touches.  ;)

The most expensive parts of this room were the gallon of paint from Rona ($39.99), and the duvet from Zellers ($29.99).    I spent under $15.00 for all of the various little decor pieces.   So ultimately, this room makeover came in under $100.00.  I'm happy with that.  Next up, five year old's bedroom.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Save Money on Your Heating Bill

Dress appropriately and not for your own comfort. So many people wear short sleeve t-shirts around their homes in the dead of winter. Wear flannel shirts and sweaters or, even better, wear 2-3 layers of clothes and include them all. It isn’t unusual for me to wear a tank top, long sleeve t-shirt, flannel shirt and a sweater on top of that. That’s 4 layers.

Practice the same habit at night. Stop wearing just a t shirt or your summer jammies. Get out the flannel nightgown (your husband will love you anyway). I even wear a long sleeve t-shirt under that. When things were really bad and I had no heat at night at all (amazing I lived to tell about it), I would wear a stocking hat because so much heat goes out of the top of your head.

Of course, if you have babies or elderly family members you will have to set the heat higher but you might not need it as high as think. When my kids were young, we had sleepers made out of blanket material. You have the same thing now but are more often made of fleece or something similar. Instead of using sleepers for pajamas, we would put on a onesy or t shirt, heavy pajamas, socks and booties and then top it all with a sleeper, which was more like a blanket than pajamas.

In some cases, we would top the sleeper with what we called a sleeping sack, which had little mitten like things for their hands. Then we topped it all with a cap. Boy, that made it fun changing a nighttime diaper, especially one that had leaked. Like I said, these ideas are not for the faint of heart.

Wear socks and slippers. Put on 1-2 pairs of socks and a warm pair of slippers.

This may seem obvious but use throws and shawls. Sitting in the evening, I can get chilly. Just laying a throw over my lap and feet can instantly warm me up. I have trouble with snuggies. They seem to get in my way, so I find that a throw and a shawl over my shoulders works better. I know your big he-man husband or son could not handle a shawl, but keep a warm zip up sweat shirt handy for them.

I love wearing mittens without the fingers. When I first started doing this, I was surprised how something so small could warm me up so much. At times I have been so cold I was going to turn up my heat but instead I put on my mittens. These are especially great when using the computer, hand sewing, reading and other tasks where you use your hands frequently.

Drink a warm drink. You might have heard this tip over the years, but it really does work. Sometimes, in the evening, if I start to feel really chilled, I will make myself some coffee or tea. Even holding the hot mug before I start drinking warms me right up.

Close off rooms. I mean, seriously, close off all the rooms you can. At one point, we had no gas, so we had to move into two smaller rooms of the house– the kitchen and another 9×9 room next to it. The kids slept on pallets on the kitchen floor which we had to pick up each morning and move. I slept on the couch in the small room. We had a door that shut us off from the rest of the house. It was a mad dash each morning to the cold part of the house to grab the clothes we needed for the day or anything else from back there but, once again, we lived.

(If you don’t need to use a bathroom and you close it off, be careful about closing off bathrooms where there is plumbing on an outside wall because if your house isn’t well insulated and it’s super cold outside you don’t want to risk having it freeze. That would cost more than your savings! )

Most of you won’t have to be quite as drastic as we were, but I tell you these things to let you know that even if it is inconvenient to shut off a room or two, you won’t die from it. If your rooms are more open and you have no doors, then hang blankets across doorways.

Decorate with darker or warm colors and lots of heavier, fuzzy warm fabrics. This doesn't make things warmer but mentally it really makes a difference.

What not to do:

Be careful using small electric heaters to warm small areas, thinking you are saving by using those. Depending on where you live, the price of your gas or electricity in the area and the age of the heater, it might cost you more to run the electric heater in that one room than to heat the whole house with gas. Like I said, it depends on where you live. For example, in Idaho, electricity was much cheaper than in Kansas so I could heat my whole house inexpensively with a little heater. When I moved back to Kansas and tried that, I almost had a heart attack after I received my first electric bill.

Note: Besides the cost and energy savings, there are a few added bonuses when lowering your heat:

Less static electricity

You usually don’t have to use a humidifier

Your nose and throat aren’t usually as dry all the time, which is supposed to help prevent or reduce sinus infections and other respiratory problems

Your lips and skin won’t get as dry

Your eyes won’t get as dry. Recently, when I was visiting family, my eyes became red and hurt so badly that I thought I was going to have to go to the eye doctor when I got home, but it turned out they hurt because they were dried out.

I know different areas of the country are more humid than others and that other factors affect dry eyes and sinuses but, no matter where I have lived, I have had less difficulty with these issues than friends and family who lived in the same area.

Jill Reed

For more easy and practical ways to save money and get out of debt, check out Dig out Of Debt and learn more about how to keep more of your money.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Tips for Reducing Electric Bills

Keep your thermostat at 78-82 in the summer and 60-65 in the winter. For most people, this is the other way around. If you currently keep it much lower than this, try changing it over a couple months so you can get used to it.

Move down to the coolest part or up to the warmest part of the house. In the summer move all your beds and/or the TV down to the basement. In the winter your upstairs room maybe the warmest so move up there. Don’t move everything twice a year. We have a bi-level house and immediately after moving in, we realized that even though a bi-level has bedrooms on both floors, it works better for us to live during the day all on one floor. We moved all of the sleeping arrangements downstairs, even though it meant that we used the downstairs family room for our bedroom.

In the summer, open windows in the opposite corners of the house to “draw” the air through first thing in the morning. Then close them later before the heat of the day hits.

Use fans instead of central air or even air conditioners. We don’t turn on the air conditioner unless it is more than 80° F (27° C)

Put fans in your windows backwards to draw hot air out. If you want the cooler outside air to blow across you in one room, place the fan in a window directly across the house to suck air out. Then, the cooler air will be pulled into the window where you are.

Use attic fans to draw hot air out too. Don’t underestimate how much an attic fan can help. Consider that a 125° attic next to a 78° house can raise the temperature, even with good attic insulation. It can literally drop your homes temperature’s several degrees.

Do things that require you to be up and moving around during the coolest part of the day (dusting, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom).

Do the things that are less physical and more stationary in front of a fan during the hotter part of the day (washing dishes, folding clothes, paying bills).

Plan ahead for baking. In the summer when it’s hot, only bake on the cooler days, ideally when you don’t need the air conditioner and can keep the windows open. If you can plan ahead for the week, bake what you can in advance so that if a really hot day comes, you can avoid using the oven that day.

Keep an eye on your appliance operating costs.

Sometimes, you will save money on energy use by replacing an inefficient appliance. Most of the time, it will take a while for the cost of replacing the appliance to make the energy savings worth it, so don’t replace something expensive just to save on your utilities unless you do the math. If you find that you need to replace an appliance soon, replace it now if you can save on energy costs since you will have to incur that cost anyway.

Our air conditioner costs us about $150 per month to cool our 1600 square foot house in the summer which is twice that of a friend with a similar sized house in town, but because of the high cost to replace one and the relatively few number of months we use it each year, we will probably wait another couple years to replace it.

Test your power usage if you can. There is a company that makes a device that is like a plug adapter that you can use to test the power usage on any appliance that plugs into a wall. Test any appliances you can. I thought that our refrigerator was using a lot of power and then I discovered it was actually the lights.

Don’t use appliances that you can avoid using. I like line dried clothes because of the fresh smell, so I try not to use the dryer much. This helps keep the cost down and also saves money because the dryer reduces clothes’ life span. For some appliances, reducing your use won’t save much. Unless you own a malt shop, go ahead and use the blender as much as you usually do.

Consider using fluorescent light bulbs if you use a lot of lights. There are lots of newer style fluorescent bulbs that don’t put out that nasty color and quality of light that we associate with older fluorescents. We replaced most of the light bulbs in our house all at once and our electric bill went down $40 right away. Where we live, our electric bill has gone from $100-$110 per month without the air conditioner down to $60-$70. Fluorescent bulbs can be expensive compared to incandescent, though and if you don’t use your lights very often, it could be more expensive to change them than the short term savings. We keep a lot of our lights on much of the day, so it was worth it for us. Also, the fluorescents tend to last a lot longer than incandescent bulbs (about 10 years). If you decide to try fluorescents, try one or two at first. They have different color and quality characteristics and you’ll want to make sure you find bulbs you like before spending the money to replace a lot of them.

Tawra Killam

For more easy and practical ways to save money and get out of debt, check out Dig out Of Debt and learn more about how to keep more of your money.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A yummy way to use that juicer pulp

The one thing I dislike about juicing is the pulp. What do you DO with it? Especially if you're making a lot of juice, that leads to a lot of pulp... I have fed a lot of it to our vermicomposters, but while that's useful it still seems like a waste. Enter light-bulb moment, and some inspiration from Hillbilly Housewife... this turned out to be really good! I didn't have any white flour, just multigrain bread flour, and it still turned out (I used just one cup instead of 1 1/3). I also used pre-mixed gingerbread spices instead of cinnamon and cloves. I would (and will) definitely make this again. Sorry for the lack of photo - I have misplaced the charger for my camera battery. :/

Juicer Pulp Sweet Bread

1/2 cup sugar (white or brown)
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp vegetable oil, mashed banana, or applesauce
2 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract (or lemon or almond)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups pulp from juicing

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan or small cake pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, milk, egg, oil (or banana or applesauce), honey, vanilla (or other) extract), cinnamon, and cloves.

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the milk mixture, then the pulp from juicing. Stir with a wooden spoon until combined, but do not overmix.

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and cool on a wire rack or cut your cake into pieces. The cake is especially nice with cream cheese frosting! Enjoy!

Add 1/2 cup cocoa powder to the dry ingredients for deliciously moist chocolate bread!