Monday, September 28, 2015

Decorate Naturally and Frugally

Far from being a time of decay and ending, autumn usually gives us a sense of refreshment, of starting over and looking forward. In that mood, our minds often turn to decorating our homes, or at least putting on a coat of fresh paint. Decorating naturally and frugally not only it refreshes our surroundings, but it refreshes our minds and changes the moods of our homes as the seasons change.

A little creativity goes a long way in getting the natural look and feel you want without having to spend much, if any at all. Half the fun of decorating is in rediscovering something you already have, inside or out, and using or displaying it a new way.

Decorating with naturally occurring colors, shapes and textures is so frugal that you can afford to experiment - or change your mind every week.

    1. Think natural.

  •      Flowers wake up a room anytime; in the fall, gather winter bouquets, grasses and weeds that have seeded out and have attractive colors and shapes.
  •      In the spring, gather wild flowers (even if your neighbor calls them weeds).
  •      Small pieces of weathered wood, varnished against splinters, make interesting paperweights.
  •      Gather large baskets of pine cones and just put them on the floor.
  •      Fill baskets full of anything interesting - wood, dried flowers, rocks...

    2. Think color.

  •      Find a new color that won't clash with your floors and walls, for a quick makeover of any room.
  •      Paint a wooden chair, add an inexpensive throw, or use brightly colored napkins under lamps and on coffee tables.
  •      If you don't want to change your color scheme, find another color that goes with it, or deepen (or lighten) the color for accessories.
  •      Add a bright throw rug or two, and don't limit them to the floor. Put them on the coffee table, on the back of the couch, on the wall.

    3. Think fun.

  •     Small rocks, arranged on a tray or plate, in some sand with a miniature house or animals make a fascinating coffee table display. Use a small mirror for a pond and get creative with the scene.
  •      Display kids' art prominently on a bulletin board so you can change the artwork frequently. Add your own flair with cutouts or small objects you can pin up.
  •      Have vintage clothing, or almost antiques? Display them! Hang clothing on hangars on wall pegs. Teddy bears? Old toys? Lamps, dishes, whatnots - group them for impact.

    4. Think recycle.

  •      Old picture frames look new with a fresh coat of paint or gilding.
  •      Dye your own curtains a deeper or different color, or embroider them.
  •      Use an old trunk for a coffee table.
  •      Use an old freshly painted dresser for a hall table or sideboard.
  •      Use an empty can for a planter, covered with fabric or spray paint.

Monday, September 21, 2015

7 Uses for Extra Tote Bags

Have you managed to gather more tote bags than you think you need? They can carry a lot more than just groceries from the store. If you have more than a few of them, don't just put them in the closet and forget about them. Bring them out and make use of them! How? Try these ideas.

1. Carry knitting, crochet or other needlework projects in one. Most of them are big enough to carry several skeins of yarn along with needles, pattern, scissors and any small tools you may need. If you use a box or small plastic bag for your tools, you won't lose them in the bottom of the tote bag.

2. The kids always want to take toys along with them no matter where you go, right? Just grab a tote bag let them put their toys in it and away you go. They can put the toys in the bag when they're through playing with them and everyone is happy. If you go to the pool or beach, a tote bag can hold wet swimsuits as well as toys.

3. When you're traveling, tuck a tote bag in your suitcase to hold dirty clothes as you change. An extra bag is great for holding extra shoes so the rest of your clothes stay clean.

4. Washable tote bags are great for bringing in garden produce. Put the dirtiest root crops in the bottom and fill the top with lettuce, beans or other clean crops.

5. Take one to the farmer's market, of course, but don't stop there. Keep an extra one in the car for those unexpectedly found roadside stands.

6. You can store any number of things in them if you put the handles around the neck of a hanger and hang them in your closet. Use one for scarves, gloves and hats or even socks and underwear!

7. If you don't need them for clothing items in your closet, put one in the hall or guest room closet and use it to store such various things as extra soap, electric cords, Christmas decorations or whatever else you need to store.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Uses for Old Pantyhose

I'm of the school that says "Never throw anything out if it can possibly be used for something else." With that in mind, here are my favorite uses for old pantyhose:

Cut appropriate size lengths and put a simple knot in one end. Fill the resulting sack with herbs for a bath or potpourri for a dresser drawer and tie the open end closed.

Use them as Halloween masks. They will flatten your facial features and make you unrecognizable, but you can breathe and see through them - the perfect mask for a small child.

Slit the side and cut a piece the right size to stretch over a small embroidery hoop. Fasten securely and use it as a strainer.

If you have several, make a washable, soft throw pillow from them. It's easy!

  1. Cut off the waist bands of panty hose and discard or find another use for them (use them like huge rubber bands - hold flowers together in a vase, keep mail or papers together, etc.).

  2. Cut two cloth rectangles the size you want the pillow to be and sew three sides.

  3. Stuff the pillow with pantyhose until it's full.

  4. Turn under the open edges and whipstitch or blindstitch the pillow closed.

  5. To help keep the pantyhose stuffing in place, use a large needle with yarn or small ribbon and make a single stitch in the center of the pillow, leaving both ends of the yarn or ribbon loose. Draw these up and tie in a bow.

Make a granny doll with one leg of an old pantyhose:

  1. Start at the toe and stuff the first two or three inches with another piece of old pantyhose. Tie a string around it, then stuff another section, this one four to five inches, with yet another pantyhose piece. Make yet another section about six inches long, but before tying off the last section, put something heavy at the very bottom so the doll can stand up. A few washers or nuts, sinkers or a handful of small pebbles will do the trick.

  2. With a needle and thread, make a firm running stitch up the center of the last section, making "legs" for the doll. For the arms, make a running stitch about a half inch from either side of the body section.

  3. To make the face, using a needle and thread, enter the doll's body from a point several inches away and bring the needle out on either side of where a nose would be and draw the thread firmly back into the face to make an indent. By using the needle and thread, you can create a facial shape, indenting where eyes and mouth should be.

  4. Using yarn, embroider eyes and mouth. Add yarn for hair and dress granny in an old fashioned doll dress or let your imagination run with it.  You can make a dress for the doll by cutting a circle large enough to drape from shoulder to toe. With needle and thread, tack along the inside of the arms and around the waist, gathering the excess material to make a full skirt. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Gas Prices and the Economy

I'm sure you've noticed gas prices at the pump, going down and down. According to Bankrate, "The lowest prices may still be on the horizon."

Good news, right? In the short term, yes. It costs less to fill your tank when prices are so low. In the long term, the picture may not be so bright, however. 
The fact is that gas prices are tied to the overall economy of our nation and when they go down this far, companies lose their profits, causing workers lose their jobs, causing retailers lose sales, causing more workers to lose their jobs... When enough workers lose their jobs, it affects the housing market negatively and it affects savings rates and retail sales, all of which have powerful effects on the overall economy. 
Just in case you wanted to be happy about saving money at the gas pump... really, I don't like to be negative about everything, so enjoy your savings. But remember that one person's gain is another person's loss and be ready for it to boomerang. We're all in this together. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Saving Seeds

One of the things a frugal gardener does is save seeds from year to year. Not only does it save money, each year your seed becomes more and more acclimated to the unique conditions in your garden, so that they become hardier and more reliable.

Saving seeds for most things is fairly straightforward and simple. Let a plant to to seed, pick it off and save it. Here are some radish and onion seeds I have been working on saving. The radish seed here will probably be sprouted this winter rather than planted because the crop was disappointing. I don't want those genes to reproduce, but they do make some fine salad and sandwich material once they've sprouted.

The onion seed (on the paper) are not quite dry enough yet to remove, so I will leave them out for a couple of days. Since onion seeds only last one year and they're not nearly as reliable as onion sets, I'm going to experiment with winter sowing a few, keeping a few just as they are and planting next spring and keeping another few in the garage to bear the freezing temperatures of nature.

We shall see what happens next year!

I have lettuce seed saved already, from an heirloom type that I've had for around four years now. There is still seed from tomatoes, peppers and a few other things. Okra is on a string drying right now.

There are a few things that I've not had good luck saving seeds from, though. Summer squash and sweet peppers never seem to work out. If you know how to do either of those, let me know!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Packing School Lunches

If you pack your child's lunch for school, or plan on doing so, do you save money over the school lunch program? I know there are other reasons for packing school lunches over using the programs - nutrition or special nutritional needs, for instance, but for the purpose of this blog we're talking money. Actually, how to save it.

What to send

First, think about how your child eats. If he never eats more than half a sandwich, only pack half a sandwich. If he won't eat it, don't send it. Ask him to bring home the portions of uneaten lunch from school instead of throwing them out. That way you can see what he is really eating. Don't waste money in providing things he won't eat.

Making sandwich spread is far cheaper than buying it. A food processor or a blender can be used to chop leftover meat finely, then add cut up pickles, onion, cheese, and mayonnaise or whatever you prefer, and continue to blend/chop until the mixture is very fine. Chicken, ham and beef all make very good sandwich spreads. One leftover chicken drumstick can yield enough meat for two sandwiches this way.

If there's a particular kind of sandwich spread you buy because you like it, look at the ingredients and try to duplicate them. (Some things, like preservatives or hard to find ingredients, can be skipped!)

Don't get stuck on sandwiches. Send crackers and cheese or crackers and peanut butter, boiled eggs, cold fried chicken, slices of ham or roast, olives, peanuts, raw vegetables, muffins or cornbread with baked in hotdog chunks. Keep a notebook or computer list with ideas as they strike you. Combine foods differently. Carrot sticks and crackers combined with a slice of beef roast makes a good and frugal school lunch!

Don't fall for the prepackaged "meals" you find in the store. They're a very poor buy and they are not nutritious. It doesn't take much time to put your own together and you can add real food to them and spend far less.

How to send it

Send soup or leftover main course in a wide-necked thermos to vary the menu. If the meal starts very hot, it will be just right by lunch time. Don't forget the plastic utensils to eat with!

Keep cold lunches cold by using an insulated lunch pack and/or sending drinks frozen. Frozen drinks keep the rest of the lunch cool, but will be thawed (or mostly thawed) by lunchtime. Find or buy a drink container with a snug top - a soft drink or water bottle can be recycled this way. Buy juice or fruit drinks in large containers and refill the bottle each evening and freeze for the next day's lunch. (Leave enough headroom for the liquid to expand!)

It's easier to pack school lunches, or at least the basics, the night before. If leftovers from the evening meal can be used, you won't have to put them away, then get them out again. If you need to change the form (pick the meat from a piece of chicken; add to a salad, etc.), you'll have time to do that.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What if There Was an Extended "Bank Holiday"?

On February 14 of 1933, the state of Michigan declared an eight day bank holiday. Other states followed, trying to keep everyone from withdrawing funds at once. On March 9, newly sworn in President FD Roosevelt declared a nation wide bank shut down for four days.

Without access to their own money, the Great Depression eventually left many homeless and hungry.

Could it happen again? It could. Whether it will or not is another question, but if if did, what position would you find yourself in?

When the banks close for an extended period of time, debit cards are useless and checks are just pieces of paper. Bills that can't get paid will add late fees.

Would you be out of cash in a day's time? Would you have enough gas to do what you need until the banks opened again? Most stores would be closed, so very little would be available to buy. All commerce, except that which could be conducted by cash, would stop.

Not only would many people be doing without critical things, there would very probably be some panic to deal with.

Of course, this is a theoretical scene, but it's taken from history and history is what we're supposed to learn from, so let's see if we can learn something.

There are a few things that some people did before the crash that helped them survive.

They had cash on hand. It would have taken a lot to survive the entire Great Depression, but even a little, used very carefully, helped.

Food and other needs were already stocked up and/or available. Pantries were naturally better stocked then than now, when a lot of people canned and dehydrated food for the winter. Most families even in cities had a backyard garden and many had a small flock of chickens.

Families didn't need disposable paper products and very little medicine they couldn't create themselves. Wardrobes were smaller and more practical than most now and expenses for makeup and "personal hygiene" items were minimal to nothing.

Bartering skills were already established and a lot more common than they are now, so people traded a lot. Services for goods and goods for services and any combination of those two kept people going.

How do you compare, theoretically speaking? How long would you survive? It might be time to think about it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Save NOW for Christmas Decorations

Nope, I'm not too far ahead of the season. If you want a wonderful and frugal Christmas, you have to start ahead of time, so here goes...

Things you can save to make ornaments and decorations for Christmas:

Old keys. Spray paint them gold, silver, red, green.... glue glitter all over them (or both) and insert a chain, ribbon or wire for hanging on the tree.

Card Stock. As in, greeting card backs and things like paperboard from tablet backs or cereal boxes. Cut shapes like stars, bells, angels, trees, gingerbread men, houses or wherever your imagine and preferences lead you. Spray paint and leave as is, or cover with salt, sugar, baking soda or glitter.

Aluminum soft drink cans. With a pair of tin shears or heavy duty scissors, you can cut shapes of any kind. Wear gloves and be careful because the edges are sharp. These are great for outdoor decorations.

Jewelry. If you have costume jewelry of any kind that you don't wear, use the parts to create one of a kind ornaments. A big roll of florist's wire is inexpensive and goes a very long way to thread old beads or fasten decorative pieces together. 

Styrofoam. As in the kind that meat is packaged on. These are great to use as trays for small displays like tiny villages or skating scenes. Use a mirror, surround it with baking soda and create a scene with whatever you can find.

Pine cones, weed seed heads, dried grass. You will find many uses for these. Pine cones can be spray painted or used as-is, weed seed heads can substitute for trees or bushes in miniature displays and dried grass makes an awesome bed for baby Jesus (which could be a roll of white cloth with a wooden bead or something similar for a face).

No, it's not even close to Christmas, but it makes sense to think ahead and be ready to do it up right, frugal style!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Appreciation of the Small Things

I had an apple tree. I even got an apple from it and it was so amazing that I blogged about it.

The relativity of an apple harvest

What was true then is true now. All things are relative!

Never did the lesson ring so true as it was today when I gathered five tomatoes. The garden was late this year due to rains and a cool spring and early summer so the tomatoes are just now getting started.

Yes. I know it's September 1. I'm hoping the predicted early frost will hold off, but if it doesn't? A small harvest will be greatly appreciated and well taken care of. I won't waste one small tomato and I will eat each one (and the tomato sauce I make from them) with much appreciation.

How's your harvest this year? Are there things you got little of that you really appreciate?

Yeah, I love those tomatoes!