Friday, August 31, 2007


I posted this to my other blog, "17 Ways From Sunday," then thought I should put it here, too:

I've been inspired to start a series of short, short stories of growing up on the ranch in Wyoming, where my Dad was the hired hand. These stories might read like something you'd expect from a hundred years ago, instead of a little over fifty years ago, but this was very rural, rough country. I loved it then and I love it now.

I posted the first story before it occurred to me to write more. It's called "Mouse Story." The second one is actually the first in the series, called ""The First The First House: The Beginning."

I am writing them because I enjoy bringing up the memories, but I hope you find something to enjoy in them, too.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Candle Stove

By request, here are the instructions for making an emergency stove from candles:

This is a simple emergency stove that will boil water, cook a stew and provide a small amount of heat. You'll need an empty, clean paint can or something of similar size, hammer and nails, and candles.

Find a board or other solid piece that just fits inside. The idea is to keep the can from bending or collapsing as you put several holes in it, one to two inches from the bottom, with a nail and hammer.

Turn it upside down, and put three to five nails through the bottom. These will hold candles upright.

Set the can upright again, and punch several more nailholes about an inch or so from the top, then remove the board.

Spear the candles on the nails at the bottom, and using a twisted or folded length of paper as a torch, light them all. When they're burning well, place a pot or bowl over the open top of the can. If the flames go out, punch more nail holes at the bottom; then if they still go out, punch more at the top.

Trial and error will get it right, so spend some time on it now instead of waiting until you really need it.

A variation of the candle stove is to place candles in a row or group on some nonflammable surface and make a reflector of foil behind them. This puts out an amazing amount of heat, but be very careful with open flames. You'll need to watch constantly with this method in case of accident. Keep water nearby.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Baking bread

Now that the days are getting shorter, I think ahead to making those wonderful winter time foods. One of them is home made bread. I enjoy making it and eating it more than any other food I can think of. It's frugal, too. Homemade bread can cost much less than store bought and it tasted much, much better.

I've been baking bread for around 50 years now, so changing a recipe, adding or subtracting ingredients doesn't bother me. That's part of the fun of it.

Start with a good basic recipe and once you've mastered that, you can make some changes. A word of warning: Don't make too many changes all at once. Try just one thing and if you're satisfied that it works well, then make another change.

Here's the very basic recipe:

1 cup milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fat (any kind you prefer)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon or 1 package dry yeast
3 - 4 cups of flour

Mix sugar, salt and yeast in a large bowl. Warm milk and fat until it's about the same temperature as hot tap water, add to the bowl and mix well. Let it set for a fee minutes for the yeast to become active. Add flour, a little at at time, stirring.

Keep adding flour until you have a dough that's too hard to stir. Turn it out onto a floured board or table top and knead flour into it until it's smooth and not sticky. Cover and let rise, then punch down and place in greased bread pans. Let rise a second time then bake at 400 about an hour. It will be done when the top, when tapped with your knuckles, sounds hollow.

Have fun!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

How they get us

The first cake mixes were complete failures because they had all the ingredients in them. Housewives felt guilty using them, so they wouldn't buy them. When someone realized this, they made mixes that needed to have oil and eggs added - and their success was assured.

This is a good example of how marketing evolved over the years. They've come a long way since then - at our expense. Pun intended.

You can now buy cakes, pies and more ready for the table. All you have to do is thaw them out. My, how much we have learned.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Freebies and freebies

Frugal confession: Some time back, my daughter worked at a 7-11 store and when they cleared out some old merchandise, she brought home a very small clipboard type of thing that had edible sheets of "paper" (I know, it sounded weird to me, too). The paper was pretty useless, but I still use the little plastic clipboard and fill it with free note size paper from junk mail.

I tear the paper into eighths and it fits perfectly.

Yep... that's my stubby little pencil, about 5 inches long now. :)

Blame the article about junk mail on Dollar Stretcher for this post.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Cooling down

It seems like the thermometer got stuck. It was on 70 when I looked at it not long after I got up this morning; it's still on 70 nearly 4 hours later.

A little cool rain; a little mist... after all the heat, this seems like heaven. It sure has me looking forward to cooler days ahead, and that has me thinking of warm clothes and bedding. I've been working off and on (more off than on) through the summer, on widening a knitted blanket that I made last year. It's wide enough to keep me warm, but it would look nicer if it were wider.

Isn't that silly? It's a blanket, for heaven's sake. It's going to be under the bedspread where no one will see it! But I can make it nicer and I'm going to, just for me.

There are other things no one sees but me, and I don't care about those things... but this blanket is mine through the virtue of many hours spent creating it. There's just something about creating an item that makes "ownership" take on a whole new meaning. It's a peculiar kinship with the created thing.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bounty from a little garden

"Almost" in one day... the two small raised beds and a 4 X 4 corner of the yard is yielding well this year - better than last year, when it was all new.

Plums, chocolate mint, tomatoes, dill seed, green beans and squash (I cheated; the big zucchini isn't mine, but I couldn't resist because it fit so well - the acorn squash is mine, though) are coming on now. There is still a bit of lettuce besides green peppers, garlic, chives, one onion and a few potatoes.

Oh, and a couple of enormous radishes that won't go to seed. Same kind as last year... I'll get a picture of them this year.

The beans were from an old package that didn't look fresh enough to eat. They grew well, though. The squash was a "2 for 1" deal I got at the nursery late in the season. Potatoes were from the potato bag this spring. Lettuce was old seed from last year as were the radishes. I bought the tomato plants at full price when they were about 4 inches tall. The chocolate mint escaped from a pot last year and settled in comfortably this year. Garlic is from a forgotten bulb I dug out of the pantry when I cleaned it this spring. The onion is one of a bunch of green onions I couldn't eat fast enough.

A pretty frugal garden, if I do say so myself. :)

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Extremely Frugal #3

Here are a few more frugal tips I came across that some find "extreme."

Don't throw away a plastic coated table cloth. Although it may not be good enough for your table, you can still use it for picnics, or drop cloths when painting, or cut it up and make place mats from it. Make bowl toppers by sewing a length of elastic around circles of various sizes cut from it and you have frugal, reusable covers for bowls or plates.

Rather than buying cheesecloth to tie spices in when cooking stews or other dishes, use a teaball. Even if you have to buy one, you'll save the cost many times over, since it should last you a lifetime.

When coating chicken or other meat to fry or bake, an old trick is to put the pieces in a paper sack along with the coating mix and shake. However, a vigorous shaking can rip the bottom out of today's wimpy paper sacks. For a frugal substitute, use an empty (washed or not) chip bag. They're much sturdier, and when you're through, you can roll it tightly closed and tape or tie and freeze the remainder for the next time.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Bloggers do the darnedst things

And this is one of them:

Over at Ashwin’s blog, you will find one crazy blog owner!! You can win $2500!! To enter just copy this text and paste it in your blog!! But hurry, this competition will not last long! So get posting!

I just pasted that from his blog. If you've got a blog, why not get in on it? If you don't, you can wish me luck. ;)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Frugal Thoughts About Dish Soap

Do you buy generic or thicker name brand dish detergent? Which really is cheaper? It's a serious quandary for a frugal soul!

I decided to sacrifice a few dollars and get one two-dollar bottle of name brand and one one-dollar bottle of generic dish soap to experiment with. My conclusions may not be absolutely right, because part of it depends on how hard your water is, how greasy your dishes are, how fast you wash them and hot the water is.

Washing dishes quickly in the hottest water you can stand will complement the qualities of any dish soap, but if you have very hard water, you're going to use more - there's no way out of it. Unless you soften the water with a little baking soda. A half teaspoon per dish pan or sink should be enough.

Rule of thumb: If the generic is less than half the price of brand name thicker dish soap, the generic is cheaper, even though it will take twice as much to do the job. If the generic costs more than half the price of brand name, the brand name is cheaper. If the generic is exactly half the cost of the brand name, take your pick; they'll both cost the same in the long run.

That's IF you discipline yourself to use half as much of the thicker liquid. A simple way to do this is to pour half of it into another container, then mix each half with the same volume of water - in effect, creating your own, cheap, generic version.

So... that was my frugal piddling around for the weekend. How'd yours go?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Solar Powered Clothes Dryer

If you'd like to help save the environment and save money for yourself, this technology should interest you. It's a new/old idea that if no other state than California of the continental US would embrace, would save so much in electricity that we could shut down part of our nuclear and coal fired power plants.

Not only will this solar powered clothes dryer help clear the air from the pollutants of those power plants, it kills germs on your clothing and linens as it works, providing a far healthier method of drying them than traditional clothes dryers.

It's even been said that in places where this solar power technology is used, the common cold and influenza are experienced at a low level, depression is lifted, and it helps with weight loss and general physical fitness.

That's a tall order, but studies have shown that these claims are true.

What's even better news is that a clothes dryer that does all of this, has a price range that's within the reach of at least 90% of Americans. As a matter of fact, it costs less than traditional dryers and lasts longer, with only a few inexpensive parts that may need to be replaced over time.

Are you excited yet? Solar powered clothes dryers should be approved by environmentalists soon, now. Hopefully, they'll help to sway local governments and housing associations to change laws to allow more solar powered technology.

Until then, just be frugal and use your clothesline anyway.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

It's Raining!

Ok, so that may not be so thrilling to everyone, but it is to me. I love rain and we haven't had much of it here lately. Rain and snow are known as the "poor man's fertilizer" and it really is.

Gardens and lawns don't do well without a rain now and then, no matter how much treated water you pour on them. Tap water has chlorine in it, which isn't good for plants, so they don't grow as well as they do when they get rain water.

Besides that, it's cheaper.

How's that for a frugal take? ;)