Friday, 31 December 2010

My Little Veggie Hanger

by Sadge, at Firesign Farm
After seeing yesterday's post from my co-writer Amy, I now have serious pot rack envy. I could really use the cupboard space freed up by hanging a few pots and pans, for food storage instead. The ceilings in our house are so low, though. Even a pot rack with a very low profile might be more in the way than useful; maybe look too cluttered. I think I'll tape up some paper cutouts first, to see if a permanent installation is what I really want.

I thought I'd share photos of a hanging rack I do have installed in my kitchen, though - one I designed and hubby built. My husband had taken out a piece of the wall between kitchen and living room, opening up our small space and allowing for better airflow inside (with no central HVAC system, open circulation is important for both our summer cooling and winter heating). I thought the wall cutout would make a perfect space to hang foods to dry: chiles, corn, beans, garlic, items from southwestern cuisine that grow well in my high-desert climate.

The rack is a two-foot piece of one-inch wooden dowel. Aries made a couple of end brackets, then stained everything to match our existing woodwork. Brass "S" hooks were threaded onto the dowel before installation, the open ends facing my kitchen for easy hanging access (the hooks slide easily, but can't be removed). Attached to the top of the cutout, it's attractive, decorative, and useful - perfect!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

My big, homemade pot rack

This pot rack is roughly 4 feet by 2 feet and made of galvanized piping.
by Amy of My Suburban Homestead

My dear husband made me this big pot rack for Christmas this year. 

Our house was built in the 70′s and has very low ceilings. I’ve attempted to put up a potrack before, but the pots hung way too low and had to take it down. And our house is very small–only 1,100 square feet, and hardly has any storage space, so we’ve had to be pretty creative with our storage.
A decent potrack is so expensive, and a few days ago my husband decided that he could make a big potrack out of galvanized piping from Home Depot. In all, he told me he spent around $100.
For the hooks, we’re using a couple different types of shower curtain rings, also available at Home Depot.Here is a link to his blog, which lists more about his construction and a list of the materials he used.  I think its a keeper, what do you think?
He purchased the pre-threaded pipe, but said you can cut the pipe to any size you want and have it threaded at Home Depot.
If  you have a small  house, what ways have you found to save space? 

Monday, 27 December 2010

Frugal guilt

by Throwback at Trapper Creek

With the new year about to begin, the yearly urge to purge is coming on. Always with good intentions I bolt out the gate in January and fizzle out in a month or two. I want to be organized and finish all my projects, and sail through the year. This year will be that year, I hope... .

Another thing that comes with the year end is the self-assessment we all do. Did I live up to my goals and ideals? Or can I do better? I always think I can do better. But one of the worst areas I struggle with is frugal guilt. Growing up with older parents, who were adults during the Great Depression, I grapple with being frugal enough. As you can see, I am cutting the buttons off one of my husband's work shirts. Handmade, with whimsical pocket flaps and buttons I had already recycled, I am now cutting off the buttons, again, for the button jar. My husband has done his job, he has worn this shirt until it is so frayed, it won't do too much duty in the rag bag. In this case, I'm doing pretty good.

Other areas of the fabric nature, not so good. See, I grew up in the material culture of making all my clothes because it was much cheaper than buying store-bought clothing. I started sewing at age 8 or 9 and haven't stopped. I admit I was a very frustrated seamstress, but once I started quilting I was off to the races. Patchwork freed my mind, and a funny thing happened during that time, sewing became much more expensive, and clothing at the store came to be inexpensive. I would look at a dress on the rack, and do a mental tally: pattern - $5.00, fabric - $10.00+ per yard, notions - $5.00-$10.00, and none of that included the day at least that it would take to make the dress, making the rack purchase cost less. Now I know it doesn't really "cost" less due to all the issues surrounding the present day garment industry. I haven't came up with a cure for that, but I do dress differently too - work jeans, and sweatshirts from the Goodwill are the norm for me these days.

I'm not saying quilting is cheap either. Especially if you're a collector. I never could afford antique quilts, but I could sure afford antique quilt tops which took up much less space, and in some cases were as crisp as a newly minted dollar bill. But many were made from scraps, and some were made of soft, well-worn pieces of fabric. My favorite has some tiny pieces put together just to make a piece large enough to fashion a tiny one inch triangle. Now that is frugal! How easy I have had it, I grew up in a time where it is normal to buy large pieces of yardage and cut them into small pieces only to sew them back into a large piece of fabric! I dad-gum-goll-guarantee you that my quilting antecedents would ban me from a quilting bee these days.

But in my defense I would have to say this is where the generational guilt that we all carry comes in. My experiences are different than my forebears. I have to deal with the cards I have been dealt. I don't know for sure, but suspect that they carried guilt pertaining to their times too. I have never had to make a blanket out of patched together pieces of old clothing, but if I had to, I could now. So with that in mind, I sorted through the snippets and scraps I have been saving for years and I whittled the pile down to strips and pieces I thought I might use (quilt bucket list) someday...and I sent everything else to the Goodwill, where someone may find the scrap bag and give those pieces of my past sewing some life.

I guess what I am trying to do is justify my wasteful ways, many times we don't rise to the "occasion" if there has not been an "occasion" in our lives, yet. Life is a series of baby steps, taken one day and one project or learning curve at a time.

Do you have struggle with frugal guilt pangs too?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

One Hundred Ways To Save Money in 2011 Part I

By: Notes From The Frugal Trenches

Happy Holidays to you & yours! As the Holiday Season closes and the New Year approaches, I've been thinking a lot about the frugal life in 2011. Saving money can feel like a long hard road and while it certainly takes determination, sacrifice and motivation to get out of debt and save, there are hundreds, if not thousands of ways we can live more frugally! Here are my own 100 suggestions for ways to cut back spending in 2011.

1. Join the library, go visit, order some books and pledge not to buy a book this year!
2. Cut your magazine subscriptions or ask for them for gifts or even share one between friends.
3. Stop buying cleaning products and instead purchase baking soda and vinegar. Great cleaning solutions and ideas can be found here
4. Stop buying paper towels and instead designate certain tea towels for cleaning the floors, counters etc.
5. Use reusable toilet paper.
6. Buy or make reusable feminine products.
7. Use reusable nappies.
8. Use reusable baby wipes
9. Hang your laundry out to dry.
10. Do not wash things just because you have warn them once except for undergarments!
11. Turn your heat down a few degrees and wear socks and a sweater instead!
12. Turn your air con down a few degrees and wear thin clothes that don't reflect the sun
13. Always either make cards or stock up on packs of cards. You can make or find packages of eight cards for the same cost of 1 card in some shops!
14. Keep a gift drawer in your house and stock it with reasonable items
15. Make homemade gifts
16. Keep cookies, squares and soups in the freezer to give as gifts!
17. Swap names for the holidays instead of buying for everyone.
18. Give charity gifts - a donation to charity and gift in one!
19. Ditch the gym membership.
20. Take up walking, hiking or running.
21. Find free hobbies like joining a choir or book group
22. Nominate two days a week as vegetarian days then build to three
23. Nominate two days a week as no spending days, aim to get used to it (maybe for a month or so) and then increase it to three days a week.
24. Nominate one evening a week as soup night. Soup + veggies + a roll (or crackers) is a very frugal family meal
25. Box up leftovers before sitting down to dinner so that you don't pick at them or have second helpings.
26. Pack a lunch for work each day
27. Always keep water and snacks on hand.
28. Pay cash for your groceries and only take that amount with you to the store.
29. Always shop with a list and a menu planner.
30. Plan your meals, even if you simply plan which meals you'll have over the course of the week.
31. Nominate one day a month as freezer cooking & baking day.
32. Join a food co-op.
33. Grow your own fruits and veg, if you don't have a garden look at a community plot or growing herbs indoors.
34. Make a list of local activities that are free.
35. Nominate one weekend a month as a no-spending weekend.
36. Set yourself no driving days.
37. Combine shopping trips to limit the petrol you use
38. Walk to shops, friends, school, work as much as possible
39. Ride your bike
40. Shop at second hand stores
41. Join freecycle
42. Have a rule that if something comes into your home, something must leave it.
43. Get a slow cooker and nominate one day a week as slow cooker day
44. Repair items that are torn or broken
45. If you are going to purchase something make yourself wait 48 hours
46. Ask yourself if something is a need or a want and calculate how many hours work you would have to do to pay for it.
47. As much as possible drink water
48. Give up soda.
49. Give up candy
50. Set yourself a mad money limit each month which you can spend on what you want, $20 can let you splurge on some new music or some treats or a trip to the movies. But when it is gone, it is gone! :)

Part II will follow on my next posting day!

What are your money saving tips for 2011?

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Waxing Cheese

by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

As I make many different cheeses, and post video tutorials about how to make them, I thought that in this post that I would show everyone how to wax a cheese.

The cheese wax is a special formulation and is not the same as paraffin or candle wax.  That type of wax is too brittle to be used to coat cheese, as the cheese needs a solid yet flexible covering to keep the air and bacteria out of it and to keep the remaining moisture locked in to help with the maturation process.  I received a kilogram of red cheese wax with my kit and it is about AUD$15 per kilo.  It lasts for quite a while, because you can reuse the wax again after you have eaten your cheese.  I have even used some wax that Ben 10 collected off of his baby bell cheeses!  He was very happy to contribute.

So firstly, I set up a double boiler a small pan with about 5 cm of water.

Cheese Wax 001

On top of the pan use a stainless steel or glass container that you can reuse specifically for cheese making.  Once you melt the wax in the container, it is very difficult to get it back out again.  Once the water has boiled, keep it at a simmer.  This temperature will be sufficient to melt all of the wax.

Cheese Wax 002

Don’t try and put the entire block of wax in like this because you will be there for a month of Sundays!

Cheese Wax 004
Cut the block up into smaller pieces and it will melt much quicker.

Cheese Wax 005

After about 15 minutes, this is what you end up with.  A nice smooth consistency, just ready to dip the wheel into.

Cheese Wax 007

So here is the cheese before, nice a dry with no visible liquid.  I turned it about three times a day so that the remaining whey would drain out evenly.

Cheese Wax 003

Now the tricky part, and unfortunately no photos, because I had my own safety to consider and the wax was very hot!

Firstly, place the wheel in the freezer for 5 minutes to cool it down.  This way the cheese wax cools very quickly on contact and it is an easier way to finish the job without too much fuss.

Grab the wheel firmly and dip it into the wax so that it is half coated.  Without dropping it, let it dry for about 1 minute, rotate 180 degrees, then holding by the waxed side, dip it again.  Hold for another minute and allow to dry.  You will find a very thin layer of wax over the entire wheel.  Repeat the process about 3 to 4 more times, ensuring that you don’t hold it in the wax too long, as you don’t want the cheese to melt.  Check for an even coating, and if you are satisfied that it is dry enough, rest the wheel on some baking paper and place in the normal fridge to harden and mature.  This is what it should look like.

Cheese Wax 006

It has no holes in the wax, and is about 3mm thick all over.  After about 20 minutes place it back in the cheese fridge for the designated maturation period.

Here is the finished cheese after the maturation time of 3 months.  This is a Wensleydale with sage. 

It was absolutely one of the best cheeses I have ever made and tasted.  There is nothing quite like home made cheese.  If you would like to learn how to make Wensleydale, have a look at this post on my blog titled "Wensleydale Cheese Making Tutorial"