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Showing posts with label Fun things. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fun things. Show all posts

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Upcycling Pillow Slips

by Amanda of Live Life Simply

I made a couple of grocery totes from vintage pillow slips during the week. They were quick to sew up, use an entire pillow slip (no waste), are durable being double layered and roomy enough to fit plenty of farmers market goodies inside!



The pdf pattern for this tote can be found at Spiderwomanknits .It is a free tutorial and is very easy to follow. I did however make a small change to mine and I top stitched the edges of the handles.


I like that these bags are super simple, thrifty and green. I'm making more of these this week!


There are many more ways to upcycle pillow slips. I designed a pre-fold nappy last year from a flannel pillow slip and it is still going strong. I have also cut embroidered pillow slips down into a square shape and made them into simple cushion covers


Here are some more ideas for pillow slip upcycling that I am adding to my list!

Pillow slip into a:

Pretty top
Apron
Little Dress

There are plenty more ideas out there and I would love to hear if you have made something out of a vintage pillow slip too. I have a collection of slips waiting to be transformed into useful things!

Amanda x

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Herbal Play dough

An easy to create play experience for kids is homemade play dough. It is so simple to make, stores well in the fridge and is much cheaper and kinder to your child than the store bought stuff! This is one of my tried and true recipes.

PLAIN PLAY DOUGH

1 1/2 cups of salt
3 cups of plain flour
3 cups of water
2 tbsp of cream of tartar
3 tbsp of olive oil


Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan.





Warm gently over low heat on the stove and continue to stir until mixture thickens and starts to form a ball. Allow to cool slightly then knead on a protected surface until nice and smooth.



I cut mine up into portions, wrap in baking paper or greaseproof paper and store in an old tupperware container in the fridge. The play dough should last this way for a very long time, unless exposed to air. Mold can occur over time if bacteria is present in the dough...just let your nose and eyes guide you there. I have read that a tablespoon of vinegar added to the batch can hinder mould growth, but I haven't tried this as yet.

At home I mostly make plain colour play dough and let the kids experiment with texture, colour and fragrance using things from around the house and from the garden. I particularly love making Herbal Play dough as the textures and fragrances are very stimulating. I place a few bowls of plant items for the children's own selection and they help themselves to make their own smelly shapes. Dough with raw plant pieces doesn't last that well, so you may like to portion off small amounts from the original batch and just toss after a couple of days.



Other aromatic dough suggestions:
  • Spices eg. ground cinnamon, ginger or allspice or try colouring with turmeric
  • Essential oils for aroma (taking into consideration the age of the children and safe quantities per recipe)
If you have children with allergies or a food intolerance you may like to try a recipe that excludes the trigger items. There are plenty of rice flour and gluten free recipes on the internet for you to try. There are plenty of no cook and microwave recipes too! Do you have a favourite family recipe?

Amanda

PLEASE NOTE: As with all children's activities it is best to supervise and do ensure that dough and plant pieces are not consumed.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

Creating


 By Aurora@Island Dreaming


This months project has been soap, led by the example of a good friend. So excited have I been by the knowledge that I can make yet another necessity of life at home from three simple ingredients, that I made two batches and have been melting them down and adding things to them, just to see what can be done. Exercising my creativity and personal preference, in this instance, to make a soap that soothes, or at the very least does not irritate, my problem skin.

I am not what you might call traditionally creative – I am no artist, unlike many of my relatives. I have long loved the idea of setting out as a creator of musical works, as a dancer, as a sculptor, as a creative force, putting in my 10,000 hours of hard slog to then reap and sow the rewards of mastery. But I am a tinkerer and have never found anything to so catch my imagination that I could invest 10,000 hours in it. Yet I create in many ways – I am not artistic, but creative.

There was a time when not only did I not create, but I consumed with abandon. It was a short period of my life where I came to have disposable credit and the marketplace was eager to furnish me with worldly goods - in every flavour of synthetic vanilla that I could handle. The consumer economy does a nice line in convincing us that we can have the perfect life, if we just buy x. And then the new improved version of x a few months later. But ultimately everything that is mass produced is designed with an average imaginary customer in mind.

I never did find a mass produced soap that didn't inflame my skin. I never found the perfect sofa to fit in our small lounge. I still to this day would love to find the perfect pair of jeans, but I know that they will have to be made, not bought. The mass market can furnish us amply with things that almost meet our true needs. If you have unlimited time and money, then your chances of finding a match between need and product offered increases, but for the rest of us we often make do; and we may be called to compromise not just our personal tastes and preferences, but our ethics also. Whilst the market for 'ethical' goods expands, it is still hard to furnish the necessities of life from its offerings; and whilst the pursuit of perfection is futile, the reality of flimsy or poorly designed products can be infuriating.

As consumers of raw materials, as creators of finished products, we ultimately arrive at something more meaningful and more personal - if often roughly hewn - than the mass produced could ever offer. As salvagers and renovators we reject synthetic vanilla and one size fits all to find the best imperfect solutions we can. We use what we have to create something worthwhile. We make do, in the very best sense; and it is inherently rewarding.

I am almost over soap, for the time being at least (and we now have enough to ride out a few years cleanly!). There is sauerkraut fermenting on the side, making best use of an extra cabbage picked up for pennies last week. This is weighed down by a demijohn of pomegranate wine made from bottled juice that was on offer. There are bath bombs waiting to be wrapped and given as gifts and a pile of DIY and craft books stacked high on the solid side table that was once a wobbly chest of drawers. It isn't artistic, it isn't beautifully staged, but it is a very creative space.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Upycling Christmas Cards

by Amanda of Amanda Brooke

I receive Christmas cards, as do my children from their friends, despite the fact that we rarely send cards ourselves. There are many ways to recycle your received cards and I started up-cycling mine yesterday into decorations for the tree next year.


Start by cutting 8 circles from your card fronts. They can be any size (larger circles are easier to handle for small children).


Trace a triangle shape with equal sides, that fits neatly (with the points against the edges of your circle shape) and cut out.


Trace around the triangle onto the back of each circle and fold the drawn edges towards the printed side of the circles.


Start matching the folded edges together (see image above) and join with glue or use double sided tape. Join two sets of four circles together and then join the two halves.


Leave a small opening at one end to thread a knotted piece of string through so the paper ball can be hung.


Easy, whimsical and a great way to up-cycle your cards! This is also a simple enough project for kids get involved in these school holidays.

Hope readers here had a lovely Christmas and I will back writing on my blog later this week.

Amanda

Friday, November 11, 2011

Childhood Joy Rediscovered (Again)

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
As a child, I couldn't wait to learn to ride a bicycle. First on the grassy hill in front of the house, then out on our little suburban street - my dad jogging along behind, holding onto the seat, exhorting me to "keep pedaling", until suddenly I left him behind. I kept pedaling, and the world was mine!

I had wheels, and my boundaries grew - from my street, to my block, to the neighborhood defined by the "busy" streets. The bikes grew too, from that first little bike soon passed down to a younger sister, to a bigger one, with fat tires, coaster brakes, and a basket. It was great! As an avid reader, I was overjoyed once allowed to ride to the library on my own - I could get more books whenever I wanted! I taught our little dog to ride in the basket, and the two of us had our faces in the wind every day. Whoopee! I had wheels!

By high school, I had traded up once again - getting a Schwinn 10-speed, and a job. My boundaries had expanded too. Even the steepest hills were no barrier now, and I was old enough to be allowed out after dark. I could now ride for miles, and did. Oh, the fun I had! When I went away to college, that bike did too - providing plenty of exercise along with my new-found freedom.

Once out of school, my commutes got longer (and I was making more money). I got my first car, and the bike gathered dust in the garage. About 20 years ago, I sold that old 10-speed to buy a mountain bike. It wasn't suitable for in-town riding, but made for some fun weekends. As I got older, it got harder to ride the hills - it wasn't as much fun anymore. Eventually that old mountain bike was pretty much just gathering dust in the garage. I still liked being out, and on the move, though. I live in a gorgeous part of the country, with plenty of trails and paths nearby. Hiking and walking was more my recreational speed; with the car for work and errands about town.

I believe in living as "green" a lifestyle as possible. In order to put some effort behind my beliefs, I joined a local organization advocating for pedestrian and bicycle safety. I went to a lot of public meetings, met with a lot of elected officials, and kept speaking out that transportation need not mean only cars. Over the years, and through our collective efforts, we now have a pretty good start on a bicycle-friendly community (and a nascent bus system, too).

And this summer, I figured it was finally time for me to stop merely advocating and "walk the talk" - put my muscles where my mouth is, so to speak. I'm old enough to need my comfort, though. The old mountain bike out in the garage never did work very well other than recreational. I saved up my money, and went shopping for something I could ride about town. I'm amazed at the advances technology has made in bicycling. I was thinking a little-old-lady cruiser-type bicycle, but eventually decided a hybrid would better suit my needs and riding style.

And it does - it's perfect! It has the suspension (oh, what a concept!) in seat and handlebars, and upright sitting and wide, padded seat of a cruiser. But then it has the gearing and brakes like my old mountain bike (definitely a plus, as my house sits up on a hillside). I never liked strapping my purse on the back rack, or wearing a backpack, so I love having a bike with a front basket once again (and now they make detachable baskets - I just lift it off and use it as a shopping basket in the store, and then carry it in the house to store my helmet, water bottle, and lock). And a bell - I had to have a bell! - I'm a town rider now, I wanted a bell :-) I've also found that an Ipod - turned down very low, so I can still hear traffic noises - makes riding so much more enjoyable (I always have the radio on in the car - why not enjoy my music while out on the bike?)

I've rediscovered the simple joy of having the wind in my face once again. I use the bike for running errands about town, even bundling up to keep riding as the weather has gotten colder. I've noticed I can get a little farther up the hill to my house, before having to get off and walk, each time I go out. Before, I'd started having problems with my knees, feeling like I was kneeling on gravel. The doctor said I needed to strengthen the tendon that runs under my kneecap. When I get out on the bike regularly, I've found I can once again kneel without pain. And need I even mention the savings in gas money, or the benefit to the environment? That I'm losing weight and getting in shape? All that aside, it's just plain fun!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sowing Seeds for the Future

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

Incorporating children into garden and farm plans is a investment in our future.

Not everyone farms, I know, but many people garden and sometimes I see gardens that are only planted with delayed gratification plants, like tomatoes, corn and potatoes. All good, but to a child whose attention span and grasp of time is different than ours, waiting for a tomato to ripen can take forever.

If I had a wish it would be that gardeners with small children would do more succession sowing so that kids get the idea that the garden can actually feed you. Eating daily from the garden, even just one thing, plants the idea that you don't go to the store all the time for your food. It may take some time to find out the combination of what to plant for kids that they will eat on a regular basis, (my teenager eats greens) it may be salad, peas, cherry tomatoes, or mild salad turnips.

If I had another wish it would be that you let your children help you in all aspects of gardening, not just eating, but soil prep, planting and weeding, and finally harvesting. Allowing your children to help will give them more of a stake in the garden. Gardening is a huge opportunity for learning about plants, and insects, and the 3 R's too. Reading seed packets, writing labels, and calculating how much to plant take the boredom out of "school" type activities. Little hands become deft when handling the big job of planting tiny seeds. Sure, they will make mistakes, planting, weeding and harvesting, but it won't be the end of the world.

We have to be careful about what message we send to our children about work and self-worth. Do you go to the health club to work out, or do you stay home and weed your garden and exercise all your body alongside your child? Do you pay someone else to do your "dirty" jobs while you take vacations? As long as we keep our children isolated from the real work of gardening and farming we limit their chances of being successful gardeners or farmers if they choose to follow those pursuits.

Farming and gardening may not be in your child's future but the skills and life lessons they pick up along the way will stand them in good stead in any profession.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

No sew doily scarf

by Eilleen

Hello everyone!

Well, its proven to be a cold winter here in Australia's capital. While the temps have been around the 10 degree celsius mark (about 50 degrees farenheit), freezing winds with a chill factor of about -1 C (or 30 F)have been sweeping through much of the southern east coast.

Anyway, I thought I'd share this easy, frugal (and green) idea for a scarf. Basically, grab a few doilies together.


Tie the doilies end to end with a ribbon.


And voila! A scarf.


I wish you all a fun weekend ahead. :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Making Music

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
I learned to play the accordion when I was eight years old. I was really interested in the piano, but that was financially out of the question. When my parents found a used accordion they could afford, they convinced me to learn that instead. So I took a couple year's worth of lessons, learned to read music - both bass and treble clef, and eventually learned how to play an instrument where you can't see what your hands are doing.

After a couple of years though, I got interested in other things, and stopped taking lessons. I grew up, and eventually moved out on my own. For a few years, that accordion sat in my parents' house, but I never would let them get rid of it. Eventually, when I'd matured enough to be a bit more stable in my living arrangements, I took it back. It's since made every move with me.

Even though I didn't play it for months, even years, at a time, I never did think about selling it. Every once in a while, I'd pick it up - just to see if I still remembered anything, and to make sure it was still playable. And now, recently, I've started playing it regularly again. I found an old guy nearby that did accordion repair, and had him fix a broken strap bracket and one stuck reed. He blew the dust out of the inside, and said my accordion is still in fine shape - I'd obviously taken good care of it over the years.

Having learned to play so young, the muscle memory came back quicker than the mental exercise of reading music. But that's coming back to me too. As a kid I had to play polkas, waltzes, and marches, but recently got myself some zydeco and movie soundtrack sheet music. I've even started to think about memorizing a handful of tunes and trying my hand at busking downtown.

So I'm just wondering: how many of you out there play a musical instrument?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Little things

Aurora at Island Dreaming

This has been a fraught week, for me and for just about everyone I know – as if something has wafted in on a breeze, determined to mess with even the best laid plans. No matter how much you try to simplify your life, unforeseen stresses will still come calling. There are a myriad of options for dealing with everyday stresses, the supreme one being distraction; doing something out of the ordinary to take your mind off of the situation in front of you.

Immersion in meaningful work might help - sometimes sitting down with a craft project, violently kneading bread dough or maniacally cleaning the kitchen on a whim is just the ticket to make you feel more centred. Then again, sometimes it is a recipe for more frustration, stress and exhaustion. In the midst of the dramas, I didn't have the energy to think of any distractions that would bring me respite, which meant that I resorted to the premier distractions of our age – mindless TV and mindless Internet browsing - both of which distracted me with very little effort on my part but left me feeling as stressed and even more lacklustre than before.

Life has calmed down again, but in preparation for the next bad day that comes my way, I have written a list of little things to take my mind off of things. All of them are things that bring me joy but are certainly not routine for me; some of them are productive, some are completely vacuous, all of them require very little effort, money or energy expenditure on my part:

1)      Go for a solitary 20 minute walk down to the sea and paddle awhile, before meandering back via the ice cream stand.
2)      Take a solo trip to the allotment with a flask of tea, to sit and stare and perhaps pull the occasional weed should the mood strike.
3)      Paint my nails a cheeringly antisocial colour (or several), take time to wear my hair a new way, wear makeup or get overly dressed up for an otherwise routine day.
4)      Ignore all but the most essential routine housework and throw myself into the more interesting tasks that I never quite find the time for – painting the front door or learning to make soap, for example.
5)      Buy a magazine or a book, something I rarely do these days; and devote time to reading it, even if that means the laundry stacks up.
6)      Take a small but solid step towards one of my long term goals; a step that can’t possibly be justified amidst all the day to day dramas – but which ultimately moves me in the right direction.
7)      Try a new recipe, probably for something sweet and desert like – and eat a lot of it, of course.
8)      Take my son to a big wide open space; and watch him run around contentedly like a crazy thing until blissfully worn out and ready for bed. A little hands-off parenting when mental energy escapes me.

I will add to this list no doubt as I remember the little things that bring me peace. What little things bring you joy when life goes a little crazy?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Top Travel Worry

By Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

Hey everyone!

I hope you are all well and having a good weekend. I have just finished a major deadline at work and as I sit back now planning out my work year, I have realised that I will need to, once again, travel for work at the end of the year. This put me in mind of an older post that I wrote in my personal blog and I thought I'd share here. Note that this post was written during an intense period of work travel....

During my travels, it occurred to me that I had a particular worry that many other travellers don't have and thought I'd share:

Number 1 Worry: that my home crafted stuff will somehow have traces of bomb-making ingredients...

[Regular readers of my personal blog] would know that almost all of my crafting uses 2nd-hand materials. In fact, I can't remember the last time I used brand new materials to make something. Normally, this is not a problem for me. In fact, I really enjoy making stuff out of old stuff.

Unfortunately, when you're travelling and working a lot, crazy thoughts start spinning in your head arising from the fact that:

a. my materials have passed through many many hands before coming to me; and
b. it seems I come across too many articles citing how "easy" it is to make a bomb out of household materials.

So a few days ago, I get stopped at the airport for the random search of all my stuff. I was fine with this until the man said something along the lines of: "...traces of explosive materials...".

And that's when my confident smile slipped and quickly turned to "uncomfortable".

They scanned my handbag...
Made from an old book bought at a second-hand shop. Fabric and thread are also sourced second-hand.


They scanned my shoes....

Op-shopped shoes recovered in second-hand fabric.

They scanned my luggage...

My home crafted luggage using second hand curtains, an op shopped lawn bowls bag, and op shopped thread.


Hell, even the clothes inside my luggage were second-hand!! And as I smiled my uncomfortable smile I kept worrying that "uncomfortable" was coming across as "shifty".

It was with great relief when they finally let me go and I could rejoin my workmates.

I was not alone in my worries though! As I approached my workmates at the airport lounge, I was greeted with: "Oh thank god there were no bomb traces in your stuff!!"

...yep they all know that I made my own stuff using second hand...

At least now I know that some of my home crafted stuff is safe to travel with.

I might stick with the same travel luggage and wardrobe for next few times - I don't think I can handle the worry of my other stuff coming up with traces of something that might end up deporting me... :P

I hope you are all well.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Greening a textile habit

By Aurora @ Island Dreaming

Learning to make for yourself the everyday objects that you need is liberating in a world where few people are engaged in any form of manual labour. There is something therapeutic about being able to craft something useful and beautiful. My go-to craft is crochet, but I am capable enough across a range of other needle crafts too. I know that in the past my stash building habits haven't been particularly green or frugal and I am working on changing that by using up the yarns I already have before buying any more.

Yarn crafts don't readily lend themselves to the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra. If you have the patience, old knitted items made from good quality yarns can be carefully unwound and the yarn washed and reused (a detailed set of instructions can be found here). The yarn from old cotton sweaters is particularly good for knitting and crocheting dishcloths. One of the projects I am currently working on is a rag rug, using inch wide strips of fabric cut from old sheets and crocheted with a large hook. This is a fairly fabric intensive technique, but the result is a hard wearing rug; thinner strips would lend themselves to pot holders, shopping bags and cushion covers.


Something else I have been experimenting with is felting (by experimenting, I mean that I accidentally shrank a jumper in the wash and then decided to go the whole hog)  - garments with a minimum 80% wool content are washed on a hot cycle with detergent or soap, which causes the fibers to shrink and mat together. It isn't an exact science - it may take several hot washes to fully felt a garment, colours may run and seams may mat together, but the result is usually a durable, insulating, non fraying fabric.


I am fully aware that a skilled sewer could have got a lot more mileage from those old sheets than my fabric strips; and that I need to get over my sewing phobia. Most of the raw materials that surround me lend themselves to cutting and stitching more than any other technique.  The world is awash with cheap, disposable fashion - an awful lot of fabric waiting to be taken out of the waste stream and turned into something useful. I am starting small - a drawstring bread bag made from an old tea towel and a felt pincushion are all I have managed so far, but now that I have a little confidence in my ability to (crudely) stitch two bits of fabric together, I am saving the old jeans and shirts that were previously destined for the textile recycling bank for some bigger patchwork projects.

By making things ourselves of course, we reduce the length of the supply chains that furnish us with goods and we have greater control over the ethical impacts of the objects we own. We also get to express our creativity; and the process of making things in itself can be a form of relaxation. One of the greatest advantages of making things yourself is that you can utilize a vast array of valuable resources that would otherwise go to landfill.

So, how does recycling and reusing fit into the crafts that you do?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Eggs for 18,000, Please

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
With Easter coming up, you might be thinking about dying some eggs for your family. But what if you'd like to host an Easter egg hunt for the whole town? Here's a post from my blog how to go about it:

My fingers are orange. I've been dying Easter eggs. I've been dying a LOT of Easter eggs. Sixty-three cases, holding 24 dozen each, equals 18,144 eggs; plus the 2,000 plastic eggs we filled with candy, and a select few more with vouchers for bigger prizes.

Those whose egg dying exploits are limited to a household dozen or so might be curious about procedures for Easter egg production on such a scale. First, you send out a plea to the community for helpers on the Saturday before Easter. Find an egg source, and some sort of refrigerated space. Then, figure out how you're going to hard-boil all those eggs. In years past, the Nevada National Guard has helped by bringing out their emergency response cooking vats to boil our vast quantities of eggs, but their services and personnel have been stretched too thin to help the past few years.

So, you ask the community to lend their deep-fat turkey fryers. I didn't count, but we probably had at least 15 lined up and cooking. Get the water simmering, and add lots of salt to keep any broken eggs from sticking to the rest of the batch. Make egg baskets out of chicken wire, two per cooker. Set up an unpacking station - taking the raw eggs out of the cartons and filling the baskets. Each basket holds five dozen eggs.

Start boiling. Cook each basket of eggs about 30 minutes. Normal cooking time at our altitude would be around 20 minutes, but adding that many eggs to the water cooled it down some, and no one wanted to take a chance with an undercooked egg breaking in a child's basket. The cooks would test-crack an egg to check doneness, so there were plenty of eggs for snacking. In the meantime, get your hot dog crew to start setting up - these volunteers are gonna want some lunch soon. Having a beautiful spring day for an undertaking of this size is a definite plus.

Set up your dye vats with cool water and plenty of vinegar. We use food coloring dye by the pint and vinegar by the gallon. Do your primary-color dye batches - red, green, yellow, and blue - first. When you have enough of those colors start some mixed and diluted batches to get orange, purple, apricot, pink, and yellow-green.

Dip and dunk and swirl and tip the baskets of hot eggs in the dye until the dye chiefs are satisfied with the color. Take the eggs over to the packing station and dump them (carefully!) into that color's tub. If you're working this station, an old shirt and latex gloves are a necessity - those folks are very colorful, to say the least. Repack the eggs into single-color cartons and pass them over to the people packing the cartons back into the cases, also labeled by color.

The cases are then wheeled over and packed back into a refrigerated truck, for delivery to the Sunday egg hunt the next day. Get more volunteers to scatter the eggs, line the kids up, and turn 'em loose!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Sweetest Time

Here at Chiot's Run the first warmup in the spring signals the start of sugaring season. Early last week we had a day that warmed above freezing so we went out and put taps in all of our maple trees (about 25 taps total). Our predictions were correct and the sap started flowing in some of the trees immediately.
A Little Valentine's SweetnessA Little Valentine's Sweetness
Tapping your maple trees is a wonderful way to get back outside in the spring weather. The season starts before you can do much of anything else in the garden. It really helps cure my cabin fever. Many people think that you can only tap sugar maples, but that is not the case. Most types of maples can be tapped. You'll get a little less syrup as the sap has a little less sugar in it. None of our trees are sugar maples, and our final syrup is fantastic! Of course you have to live in an area with the right climate and you have to have days above freezing and nights below freezing.
A Little Valentine's Sweetness
If you're interested in sugaring your maples I'd recommend it. It's really not that difficult, basically you collect sap from maple trees, boil it down, finish to a certain temperature, strain and enjoy. I'd highly recommend getting a book like Backyard Sugarin' to read through before you begin. I'd also highly recomend reading the book Sugartime: The Hidden Pleasures of Making Maple Syrup, it only the how to of making maple syrup, but some history and an explanation of the beauty of the process. OSU has a great article about hobby maple syrup production that is very in depth if you want to get started right away and don't want to get a book (and it's FREE).
A Little Valentine's Sweetness
You can purchase supplies at on-line, if you don't need tons of supplies Tap My Trees is a great place. I go my local Lehman's store to purchase what I need, you may also be able to find a local store if you check around. There are a bunch of places on-line so search around, I'm guessing if you live in an area where you can tap your trees you'll be able to find supplies locally.
Finishing Off Maple Syrup
We already collected 25 gallons of sap, then the weather turned cold and the sap stopped flowing. It will start again when it warms and we'll keep collecting sap until the trees bud out. Last year we were able to get over a gallon of syrup from our 10-15 trees, hopefully this year we'll get more if the season is longer!

Do you or have you considered tapping your maple trees?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Rejuvenating Popcorn

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

It's hard to grow corn reliably in our cool, mountain setting but we do love an occasional bowl of popcorn as a treat. So it is one of the things we buy to stock the pantry. However, not using popcorn too often usually results in un-popped corn or old maids as we call them. I'm getting a little long in the tooth, so finding one of those by mistake while watching a movie with rapt attention could mean a trip to the dentist.


But, there is a way around that and still have your popcorn too. Dry storage is great for items that need to be dry, but popcorn needs a little bit of moisture to pop properly.

To rejuvenate our popcorn, I just pour water in a clean storage jar, pour it out completely so it just remains damp and pour in the corn. Over a few days, the kernels will absorb the moisture and will be ready to pop. Store in a cool dry place or refrigerator and you're good to go on movie night.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Make Your Own Brown Sugar

by Chiot's Run

There are lots of things you can make at home for much less than you can buy them at the store. Not only does it save money, but it saves time as well. No more quick trips to the store to get brown sugar when you start baking and realize you're out. I've been making my own brown sugar for quite a while, mostly because it can be difficult to find organic brown sugar when you live in a rural area and it's pretty expensive when you do actually find it! I definitely couldn't get organic brown sugar for less than $1.50/lb, which is about what this costs me.



To make your own brown sugar all you need is white sugar and molasses. I use organic evaporated cane juice sugar (not Sucanat) and unsulphered organic blackstrap molasses. The general recipe is 1 cup of sugar and 2 Tablespoons of molasses. You can adjust the molasses amount or use a different kind of molasses to suit your tastes. I'm partial to blackstrap or sorghum molasses. I also like to use at least 2 Tablespoons or a bit more, since I like really dark brown sugar and a pronounced molasses flavor.



After adding the molasses to the sugar all you have to do is mix. This can take a while, you can use a mixer if you're making a large amount, the whisk attachment works very well for this task. Mixing by hand is also fine and I have found much quicker than using a mixer, I like using a fork for this method. Don't worry if you have small lumps of molasses in the final product, I usually don't mix until completely combined.



Another added benefit to making brown sugar at home, is that it's always fresh. It smells wonderful and it's always nice and soft. It has a much deeper flavor than store-bought brown sugar, which I really appreciate! I usually make up just enough for my recipe, but during the busy holiday baking season I might make a batch to keep on hand.



Now you can add this to the growing list of things you can make at home. You'll have a constant supply of fresh brown sugar for baking all kinds of delicious goodies.

Have you ever made brown sugar at home? Any other great things you make at home you'd love to share?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Simple Green & Frugal Dating/Date Night

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches






















Who says a good date isn't apple picking?


I am very blessed to have friends from a variety of different backgrounds, who live in a variety of different ways. Recently the topic of money & dating/date night (for partners/married couples) came up over dinner and it was interesting to see what the priorities and ideas were about what constituted quality time together and how much people felt that would cost! On the one hand, I have friends who are just preparing to marry and have (in all these months) spent a grand total of $6 on dating - going out for 2 frozen yogurts. The rest of their dates have involved home cooked meals with family and friends or walks in the park. They have decided to forgo eating out, flowers, gifts, movie or theatre tickets or anything which costs money. On the other hand other friends shared that for them date night costs at least $100 + by the time they've paid for dinner, two movie tickets, a large popcorn and 2 drinks. Other friends shared their dates cost upward of $500 a month because they like to do something to really relax like go to the theatre or get a massage. The consensus was that dating and romance is expensive!

Like most things in life I'm both somewhere in the middle and I do like dating to reflect my simple, green & frugal values! I don't think you have to be as extreme as never spending money (unless you want to!), but I also think most people don't realize that you don't need to spend money to have a good date or a good night out.

Here are some ideas:

Long country or seaside walks - it's quite easy to find out about good walks in your area on your local government website or via a guide book at the library. Pack a picnic and you have almost a whole days entertainment!

Coffee and dessert - this is generally cheaper than having a meal out and you can still choose a coffee house or restaurant with a nice atmosphere!

Last minute tickets - Many theatres and concert halls sell off their available tickets for the matinee or evening performance that day for a fraction of the cost of a regular ticket bought in advance! I know in London, England I can usually get theatre tickets for 25% of the cost by buying the morning of the performance! Obviously seating can be more restricted!

Make date night a "different" night - My local cinema offers dinner & a movie for $15 on a Wednesday and my local movie theatre has a movie for $5 (instead of $12) on a Tuesday. It may not be Friday or Saturday night, but for the budget conscious it works!

Volunteering together - Whether you work on a conservation project like planting trees or counting wild animals, there are plenty of things you can do together that are unique, simple, green & frugal!

Making something for each other or doing something for each other - It can be as simple as making a meal, giving each other neck massages or knitting slippers or socks for each other!

Using airmiles and reward points for more expensive options - This is a great way to afford a more elaborate meal out, cinema tickets, rental cars, hotels, spa days or travel. Saving them up for Anniversaries and Birthdays can be an extra special way to treat the other person!

Make use of things that are free - Many museums and art galleries offer free admissions or at least free admission one evening a week. Add to that festivals, city fairs, book readings, concerts in the park and farm open days and pretty soon you have many new options that are budget friendly!

Do something unique - a local community centre and vintage theatre offer an evening once each week with a variety of local musicians who want to perform, there is no cost for admittance, they simply ask you buy one drink. The atmosphere is stunning (the building is over 100 years old) and the lighting and acoustics are beautiful. For the cost of $8 for two drinks, it is a wonderfully romantic night out! Other unique ideas include visiting animal sanctuaries (my local one is free, another one a bit further out is $4) or going apple, blueberry or strawberry picking! There are so many ways to enjoy some quiet and fun time together when you think outside the box!

I think the key is variety, maybe once a month you do something with a higher budget like dinner out and the other times you stick to low cost romance like walks, coffee out or volunteering. I've learned that being frugal doesn't mean no romance and it is pretty easy to transport your simple, green and frugal lifestyle to all areas of your life!

I'd love to hear from you! Do you have any simple, green and frugal ideas? Do you budget each month for dating and romance?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quick Herbal Bug Bite Salve

by Chiot's Run

Several years ago I read about the wonders of Broad Leaved Plantain, a "weed" that grows everywhere. It's also known as: Bird's Meat, Common Plantain, Great Plantain, Rat-tail Plantain, White Man's Foot.

I have it growing all over the gardens here at Chiot's Run and I'm quite happy about it. It comes in very handy when I'm out working late and get bit by mosquitoes or if I get stung by a bee.

All you have to do for a quick salve is grab a leaf or two, chew them up and apply them to the bug bite. I often do this while I'm out working if I need to, but I prefer to make a poultice with some baking soda as it stays on better and I think it works better. (as with all wild plants, make sure you know exactly what you're picking & using!)

What I usually do is take a few leaves, cut them finely, add a pinch or two of baking soda and a little water. Then I grind them to a wet paste in my mortar & pestle and apply to the bug bite. It instantly works to get rid of the itch or sting and keeps it coming back.

This salve is also very beneficial for using on cuts and scrapes, I often add some turmeric and comfrey when I'm using it for this purpose as turmeric helps with inflammation and pain and comfrey speeds healing.

Plantain has medicinal uses of all sorts: bites, cuts, scrapes, rashes, skin problems, intestinal pain & issues, worms, boils, bronchitis, coughs, colitis, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, dysentery, vomiting, bed wetting and incontinence and many other things (for more info read this and this). I have yet to use it internally, but I use it often for bug bites, stings and cuts. I'm trying to make plantain oil for using medicinally. Since it's an herb with no known side-effects I definitely want to try using it more often.

Have you ever used plantain? Do you use herbs/weeds for medicinal purposes?

I can also be found at Chiot's Run where I blog daily about gardening, cooking, local eating, beekeeping, and all kinds of stuff. You can also find me at Not Dabbling in Normal, and you can follow me on Twitter.