Home Improvement

Great tips for Everyday living.

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How awesome is this?  Great tips for making your kitchen life easy.  Who says there is nothing worthwhile on Facebook?

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Give the Gift Of Flavor

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Flavired Oils and Vinegars

Okay, Okay, I have been yammering on and on about saving money by giving a holiday gift that you can make. I have offered a few links to a few sites but have not really shared with you an idea that anyone can do at any skill level.  Well here it is flavored oils, vinegars and rubs!  You see these in specialty stores all the time and shop owners can charge some hefty prices.  This year, you can give these über chic gifts for just a fraction of the cost.

First things if first, let’s round up those empty wine and beer bottles. Run them through the dishwasher and use some peanut butter to remove the excess gunk from the labels.  Let’s start simple with a basic herb oil, most people will choose a thyme.  I like to use fennel.  I pulled this recipe from Allyou.com.

Ingredients:

Springs of Dried Thyme, 2 teaspoons of peppercorns, 1 1/2 cups oil (vegetable or olive)

Preparation

Place all ingredients in a pot. Warm over medium-low heat.  Using a candy thermometer, check oil until the thermometer reads 165ºF. Allow the oil to cool, then strain; reserving thyme and peppercorns. Pour into bottle. Add thyme and peppercorns. Cork; chill for up to 1 month.

Pretty simple isn’t it?  Now let’s really go poo-poo Chi-Chi with some rubs for steaks and chops.  I usually make my own instead of paying the $4.50 a jar from the shelf brands.  If I make my own I can also monitor the sodium content. Here is a simple recipe.  I also like to use the little jars for preserves. Prep time for this simple gift idea takes about 5 minutes and this recipe only makes about 2 jars.

Ingredients

1/3 cup cumin                          3 tablespoons allspice             4 teaspoons garlic powder

4 teaspoons cinnamon           1  1/2 teaspoons cayenne        1 tablespoon salt

2 teaspoons pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl, mix well and then distribute evenly in jars. Seal jar tightly and add ribbons of cute labels. I found some really regal labels on the Microsoft.com template page.

And last but not least, herbal vinegars.  I picked this little recipe up from Colorado State University.  These require a little more work and know how, but once you learn the technique, this is a gift that can literally keep on giving.

Herbal Vinegar

  • 4 cups red wine vinegar
  • 8 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon sage leaves

Thoroughly wash herbs and dip in solution of 1 teaspoon household bleach in 6 cups water. Rinse thoroughly under cool running water and pat dry. Place herbs in sterilized quart jar. Heat the vinegar to just below boiling point (190 F); pour over herbs. Cap tightly and allowing the vinegars to stand in cool, dark place for three to four weeks, shaking occasionally. Strain out herbs. Pour vinegar into clean sterilized bottles with tight fitting covers. Add a fresh sprig of cleaned and sanitized parsley, if desired. Store in the refrigerator.  This recipe makes 1 quart.

Check back with me later in the week as I start to tackle those New Year’s resolutions you have been thinking about and know you are not going to follow.  Hopefully, I can help you plan some new resolutions that are doable.

Get Crafty This Holiday Season

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This holiday season, you save yourself a few dollars by making some Christmas gifts. I know, I know who has the time? That is the wrong question. The right question is who has the money to buy that many gifts? This nice wreath is made out of Coffee filters. The total cost for this project is about $10.

    There are many simple projects that you can do that can either upcycle items already in your home or those items that need to leave your home. However, before we get to upcycling, let’s get back to those talents that you have that you can use to give or make gifts. Get your mind out of the gutter, you may be good at that but you can’t give it to your Nana!

Are you good at making cakes? You can make cake pops delivered in a nice basket from the Dollar Store. Are you good at making brownies, jams, cookies? All of these items make fabulous Holiday gifts. My neighbor makes a tin of cookies for us each year. The whole cul-de-sac knows when she is baking and we sit around like children awaiting our deliveries. I have another neighbor that makes fudge. I am not a fudge eater but am always glad for a gift that someone took the time to craft for me.

There are many projects and creative ideas available to you for free if you know where to look. I receive a free magazine from Lowe’s Home Improvement called Creative Ideas. It was choked full of so many great ideas that it inspired me to write. I am hoping to inspire you to try something different this year to save money and truly live better. This month’s issue takes you through easy steps to make wonderful holiday wreaths, headboards and upcycling home items. Upcycling takes recycling to a whole new level by recovering or repurposing items you already have in your home. Take that hideous chair that your Mom sent over to your new place. You don’t want it, but you can’t hurt her feelings. Give it a coat of paint, and add some studs and viola, you have upcylced items that you were going to throw away. You have reduced your carbon footprint, reduce landfill input and given that piece of furniture a reason to feel useful again.

I think the most exciting thing about the holidays is the decorations. Each year, we look for that special ornament to add to our tree. Have you thought about making ornaments out of every day simple items or really putting the décor into decorating? I went to visit my favorite crafter’s website, Martha Stewart. I have always considered her to be the McGyver of crafting. I saw where you can take mini picture frames and turn them into cute ornaments for the mantle or the tree.

Many of the websites have free newsletters, Blogs and magazines that you can have sent right to your home. It doesn’t matter what your skillset, there is something you can do that someone else admires. You can make a box of custom greeting cards. You can lay out a few pages in a scrapbook for a family member. You can buy a set of stencils and create a personalized box for a night stand. You just have to try.

Here is your starting point. Here are some Thanksgiving place cards along with the template courtesy of Ms. Stewart.

Happy Crafting!


I’ll Buy That for a Dollar!

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Next June will mark my 22nd wedding anniversary. Hubby and I are planning a really cool vacation and I plan to fully enjoy myself without cumbersome worries of how are we going to eat when we get back from this lovely little trip. I have begun to save large chunks which mean there is little room left for play money. I thereby had to put myself on a cash diet. I can only use my credit card or debit card for emergencies. This past week I have truly learned the value of a dollar. I have also learned that there are something’s that I will not buy, not even for a dollar!

As I previously stated in one of my early post, I have begun to coupon. I am now a step below extreme couponing and hovering around extreme value shopping. I have become, what I consider, to be very clever. I am recycling everything from pieces of left over roast, which are transformed into taco night, or in this weather, a hearty stew. The stews are great to also use up the leftover peas and carrots in the fridge. I am even stocking up the pantry and deep freezer. Let me tell you how.

As I was leaving the house to start my bargain shopping, I noticed the planters on the front porch needed fall plants. Normally, by this time, I would have added some Mums, but I wanted to stretch what I have until it is time to put in the Icicle Pansies. I head over to my friendly neighborhood Lowes. Instead of shopping in the front, I head to the rear of the garden center to THAT rack. Yes, the rack of shelves with sad, lonely, and deserted plants. I have found the ones on the ends are the healthiest and easy to revive. I picked up two hanging Tahitian Bridal Veils for $1 each. They need to be repotted so next I head to Roses. Instead of purchasing the name brand bags of potting soil for five bucks, I opt for the local no name bags for $1. Hey, it’s dirt. I am going to add some plant food when I repot them anyway. Now it’s time to get really busy.

I am headed to the buy one get one sale at Food Lion. I have already added the sale coupons to my MVP card buy downloading the digital coupons to my frequent shopper cards. The hard copy of manufacturer coupons in hand, I have a $1 off of two boxes of Cheerios, which just happen to be on sale for buy one get one. Armed with my sale ad in hand, I pick up bags of chicken breast, shrimp, Doritos, and a large 39 oz container of coffee. I save $1 on the coffee, which I purchased for $7.99. I am on a roll. I purchased high end ice cream at buy one get one along with high end butter crackers. Zesta Whole Wheat Crackers at buy one get one box is great deal; grabbed two of those.

I load up the mama mobile and make my way to Kroger. They are having a ten for $10 sale. Here, you have to be very careful. Last week, the same store brand vegetables I got for $.88 per bag are now in the 10 for ten sale; this is not good friends. I did pick and choose which items were a good deal for a buck, but Lipton Rice mixes are a dollar anyway, so this is not really a good buy. Staples purchased, I now have my local independent grocer’s ad, or the local IGA. These stores are great for pantry items. There is a five for $5 sale going on so I stock up on two pounds bags of rice, hot sauce, ketchup can goods and dry beans. I also grab a ten pound bag of chicken leg quarters for $6. I do have a freezer safe bags in the trunk for my cold items. These wonderful bags keep food cold for 3 hours.

My last stop is to the local Bakery outlet. Tuesday and Friday’s at the John Derst bakery outlet has bread on sale for $.79. Wheat bread, cinnamon raisin bread, Kaiser Hamburger buns and hot dog rolls are all for $.79; with no buying limits. I have found that you can freeze bread for up to 3 months and when you defrost, it is good as new.

    My pantry is stocked. My fridge and freezer is full and my bank account is not empty. I have a full tank of gas, my hair is done, and I have a few bucks left in my working account for just in cases. I did all of this today, including my hair, for a mere $160.00. It’s okay, you can say, “ooohhhh!” I know I did.

    I must close out now because my new issue of All You arrived in the mail. The cover says there are $94.55 worth of coupons inside. I have work to do.



Marriage Vows vs Home Improvement Projects

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The other day while watching DIY or HGTV, I witnessed something beautiful. I saw a married couple working on a home improvement project and they were laughing, smiling and feeling proud of their accomplishments. I found myself smiling and feeling euphoric as well which lead to my latest disaster, and next big question, should marriage vows be changed to include home improvement projects? Does death do us part include the completion of a home improvement tasks?

Our son has hit that age where he still is a resident, but does not officially reside in the house. It was time to redo the room of a teenager and make it the residence of a man. A fresh coat of paint was needed as well as new crown moldings, dual functioning furniture, and an extra bedroom in case of guests when he was away. It started nicely enough, but by the end of day one, I had evolved from Suzie Helpmate to Seaman Foulmouth. Day two ended with me as a full rear admiral and swabbing the poopdeck. I can vaguely remember a sentence that started with an F word and ended with you, the horse you rode in on, his stable master, the groom and your cockeyed brother! Allow me to explain.

My husband is a real man. If it breaks, he can fix it. He can buy it, install it, rewire it, remove it, grout it, caulk it, seal it, and make it dance should it require such. However, no matter how big, or small the project, he has to tear up every room in the house. It is utter chaos, which leaves you swearing to all that is unholy just to find a pair of panties and a matching sock. This project was no different, but to paint the room it had to be emptied.

Emptying this room meant he had to store the items somewhere else which usually meant sticking them all in my space. Never fear, we just need to run to Lowe’s to pick up an item or two. We did go to Lowe’s. We went to all three Lowes. By now the only thing I felt Lowe’s and I could build together was a hostile relationship.

We went to both Home Depots and the angry woman in me wanted to know, when did they become some F*****ing helpful? We went to three furniture stores, and when I began to become snappy and crabbish, we went to lunch. Discussing paint colors and finishes of door knobs and handles evidently appeared to be fascinating to our waitress who decided to add her two cents. I think that will be the last time she ever does that again! My questioning of the origin of my friendship with her sans the eyeball rolling and neck gesturing, still had the same affect especially when my sentence ended with “we aren’t friends, I don’t know you, get out of our conversation and bring me another Diet Coke!” Hubby stopped talking to me for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, back on the home front and the beginning of day two, my paint trimming was not up to hubby’s standards and he decided to give the trim a fresh coat of paint that morning. The carpet installers commented on the paint still being wet. Over the rim of my cup of coffee, I provided a quick retort of something close to “Lay the F***ing carpet, I have another can of paint,” which came out in a militant soul sister sneer that did include eyeball rolling and a neck gesture. Hubby went outside to work on his truck, the carpet guys went out there with him and the cat hid under the table.

So what did I learn? I learned my son has hoarding tendencies as evident by the two bags of rocks, his favorite cowboy boots when he was three and the 14 gym bags. I learned that I am a control freak that likes to move in an orderly fashion and chaos blocks my mental chi. After going through bag number three of my son’s belongings, each sentence was ending with “WTF is that?” clued me in on the idea of having son boy finish the task I assigned him. But, what I learned most importantly is that my husband not only loves me, but he also likes me. We have completed in the past three weeks, four home improvement projects to include installation of new carpet and appliances, and he still wants to talk to me. He may want to wash my mouth out with soap, but we will not have to alter our marriage vows to include til death do us part this home improvement project.


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I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.—Albert Schweitzer: