Monday, July 30, 2007

Beautiful Frugal Presents

Apparently I am not the only one in my family who has developed a trash picking habit! My brother saw two vintage yellow desks on the side of the road. They have cast iron legs and pencil trays on top and a hole for an inkwell. He immediately thought of me as I live in a 1930's era home, love history, and am married to a history teacher. The other desk was in worse shape than this one on the right. The seat was not even attached properly. (Of course I didn't know this until tonight)

Tonight when I arrived at my parents home, he gave me the yellow desk as a birthday present. My dad proceeded to tell us both how ugly it is and how my brother really needed to do something about it. (I thought my dad was being exceedingly rude!!!)

My brother thought for a minute and then pulled out this beauty for me! You can't possibly tell how beautiful this desk is unless you are right next to it. It's sanded and stained beautifully. It's practically shiny! It's stable to sit on. It's all in one piece! It matches my dining room. It even smells nice! My heart ached when I saw it because I couldn't believe that someone would spend that much time and effort on such a beautiful gift for me.

And he knows me! There is a circle of ink on the inside of the desk under the opening of the ink well that was stained with ink. He left it for me because of it's tie to the others who have used this desk before me. How cool is my brother?

And I'm getting another one! (Desk, not brother)

After 3 weeks of restoring this desk for me I think he may be sorry that he actually picked up both desks, but I told him I would take the other one for Christmas this year!

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Roadside Finds

Yesterday as we were taking a walk, I came across these great items that someone was throwing out! (not the plant). It's really quite amusing as I recently told my husband I wanted a white plant stand from Wegmans and I have been wanting a graniteware pitcher for some time. (I guess the universe threw in the chamber pot as a bonus?!?!?)

Yes, it's true. I can't pass a pile of garbage without taking a discreet look inside. Most often it's just garbage. But sometimes you hit pay dirt! My best finds to date have been:

-The sideboard that I made my husband carry home from my mother's neighbor's house. He is really uncomfortable with taking other people's garbage so this was a real test of wills. I sanded it down and painted it red and use it in my dining room!

-A big pale yellow armoire that stands in the corner of my living room and holds games.

-4 vintage windows that I never did anything with but passed onto someone who would.

-A red Radio Flyer wagon that sits in the garden.

-A wicker plant stand

-Various planters and a birdhouse

Recycling at it's finest! Bearing in mind my own love of other's garbage, when I have something to get rid of I put it out well before trash day with a free sign on it. More often than not, it's gone before the garbage men get here. Whoever said one mans trash is another mans treasure was right! And what did I do with my new finds? The plant stand is on the porch and the graniteware is on top of my trash picked armoire in the living room!
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Friday, July 27, 2007

See What Your Town Has To Offer!

This historic building sits on the grounds of the town hall in my town and is open to the public FREE of charge ever Thursday evening (during the Farmers Market) and Sunday afternoon and by appointment. It is staffed with the very knowledgeable people from the historic society who are more than happy to tell you anything you want to know about the house, or the history of our town, in general. These people are excited about what they do. Its exciting to talk to them.

Did I mention it was free?

How many of pass up opportunities for enrichment that cost nothing simply because we don't even know they exist. I not have know this gem was around if I didn't visit the Farmers Market at the same location. They also have weekly free concerts at the town gazebo.

This has spurred me on in looking for more lost cost or free activities offered by my town, as well as the surrounding towns. I have found that most of the towns where I live have their own website with information about all of the events that you can attend. Your mileage may vary, as I love historical attractions and there seems to be a bunch in my area.

Thursday Evening at the Farmers Market

I am lucky enough to live, literally, 2 minutes from our town's local Farmers Market. June-Sept from 4:30-8pm on Thursdays, the town hall hosts about 30 vendors who range from local growers, a local gluten free gourmet, gourmet pasta seller, plant and flower vendors, regular bakers, a local restaurant that runs a concession stand, and crafters. It's a small affair, really, compared with the one downtown ever weekend. There you can visit literally hundreds of vendors and see THOUSANDS of people. No so with my little, peaceful Thursday Night Market excursions.

I can't stress enough how much I think people should attend these and support your local growers. The food is reasonable. You know where you food is coming from. Its Fresh. You can find growers who use farming you approve of. It's Fresh. Your food isn't traveling from California, or even China. Also, did I mention, it's fresh.

I have to admit, my local Wegmans does do a darn good job of featuring food from local growers. However, this way, when I spend $3 on a quart of blueberries, I know that the farmers gets to keep the whole $3.

Its also a heck of a lot of fun. You get to meet the people who GROW YOUR FOOD, which I think is really a hoot. (So does my daughter who loves to "SEE FARMERS" though, unfortunately none of them really look like the farmers in her "Little People" Video) You get to see your community out and about. It's something to do. It's fresh air. It's free! I take only $20 a week with me and see how much I can get. (Today's bounty was only $13 and that includes the $3.50 I spent on gourmet pasta) That's pretty cheap entertainment when you consider I get to eat or enjoy everything I bring home and that I would have to buy something at the grocery store anyway!
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Read Books Via Email!

If you think you're too busy to read you may want to try DAILYLIT You can have an email sent to you every day that contains a small installment of a book-Some are classics some are not. My first inclination was to re-visit Wuthering Heights for about the 10th time but I decided against it. I'm currently receiving The Secret Garden by installment as I somehow missed it when I was younger. Each installment takes about 5 minutes to read. Also, you can can schedule what time your installment is delivered to accommodate your need for an after lunch pick-me-up before returning to work or an early morning read to fuel your mind for the day. Best part-It's all free!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Zoo Pass!

I am fortunate enough to live 5 minutes from our city's zoo. While the cost is reasonable for a day trip, ($8 per adult, $5 per child) that makes a visit $21 for our family.

My parents bought my daughter a zoo pass for her birthday. It was $49. It's good for a year and we can go as many times as we like. Actually the pass allows me as well as another adult (It doesn't need to even be my husband) and as many children as we bring, so this is a nice thing I can do with friends with kids as well.

The nice thing is that being so close to the zoo we can go and pop in for an hour and then be home for lunch without having to spend an entire morning there to get our money's worth. We also don't buy any of the unhealthy overpriced lunch items they sell in the cafe as we never eat there. (although there are some nice picnic places there as well.)

So if there is a place you visit often (or would like to) looking into a family pass is a great way to save money. It was nice to go this morning and not have to spend a dime!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What can I say about Harry Potter and The Order of The Phoenix. The best movie yet in the series (and my favorite book).

Spent $14 for 2 matinee tickets today and I want to go again TOMORROW. I won't, of course, but I want to.

Harry is older, more tortured, and angry. The special effects are amazing. Dumbledore is certainly the most powerful wizard around and Voldemort is as scary a villain as I thought Darth Vader was when I was young. (And that's scary!)

I can't imagine seeing these movies without first reading the books as there is much of the back story and subtle humor that is missing. This is also not a stand alone movie. You could not possibly watch this movie without having watched the prior movies and made and sense of this one. If I was a 15 year old girl again I would have a crush on Harry Potter. OK, maybe I already do.....

Freshly Brewed Iced Tea

Whenever I eat out with my friend Jen, she orders "Freshly Brewed Iced Tea" and she says it like that. It always sounds so elegant, so refreshing, so southern.... I order it too because of this. One time we got freshly brewed raspberry iced tea that came with a side of simple syrup in a little glass pitcher. We were sitting on a pier in Greenport NY and it was wonderful. Those iced teas cost us $5 each! (it was worth it for the atmosphere though.)

So began my journey into "Home Made Freshly Brewed Iced Tea". How hard could it be I wondered. Not hard at all actually! Now I make a pitcher almost every day. Basically all you need is 4 tea bags (These days I favor Celestial Seasons Decaf Mandarin Green Tea) 1 quart of boiling water, and a little time! Boil your water, pour it over the tea and let it steep for about 10 minutes. Chill. Drink. If you have lemons or oranges you can add those. Fresh herbs make a nice addition also. None are necessary though to make a great cup of iced tea, considering all of the different tea flavors there are to choose from.

1 Box of tea is $2.49 for 20. Each pitcher costs me only $.48!

Cleaning With Vinegar

Since I have been loving my homemade counter top spray I decided I would look for another home remedy for my dirty floors. (I had tried the spray on the floor but the soap component made it kind of sticky.)
I looked online for a few different recipes but it seemed that I was missing at least one ingredient (usually ammonia.) I saw one recipe (if you could call it that) that suggested adding 1/2 cup vinegar to 1 gallon of water and using that and that alone to clean the floor.

Truthfully, I've heard of this before. I've always hesitated because once when I used vinegar to kill the weeds growing up between the bricks in my patio my husband said he felt like he was sitting in a salad bowl later that day. I've thought it might smell even worse in an enclosed space. I decided to add a few drops of essential oil. It worked GREAT! The tile floor in the bathroom is really clean, does not smell like a salad bowl and I didn't have to buy a single thing that I didn't already have to clean the floors. I'll be trying it on the kitchen tomorrow.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Try Line Drying

Since I posted yesterday about my failed attempt saving money and energy hand washing my dishes, I figured I should balance it out with something I know to be cost effective and good for the planet! Line drying.

I just recently installed this outdoor clothesline between the garage and a big tree in the backyard. It cost $14.99 at Home Depot and took less than 10 minutes to hang with a power drill/screwdriver.

I think the clothes look beautiful drying outside by the flower garden. My husband thinks it looks "A little too Brooklyn," whatever that means. (His Grandma's Brooklyn I would imagine) Having never actually been to Brooklyn I can't know for sure, but if people in Brooklyn are aiming to save money, resources, and experience the thrill of fresh line dried clothes, then I'm all for "Looking a little too Brooklyn"

Also, for me, there is something tactile about hanging the clothes that I don't get when I use the dryer. I feel calm. I feel like I'm living the peaceful life I want to have. I feel like I'm saving the earth. I feel happy that my daughter will know the feel of fresh line dried clothing. I feel all smug and homespuny.... My Laura Ingalls dreams, a reality.

This picture looks exactly like what I pictured my life to look like. And believe it or not, when I took it I could hear birds singing!
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Defending My Dishwasher

Recently I started hand washing my dishes. I reasoned that we only generate enough dishes for one load per day and that by washing the dishes after each meal the workload would not be bad and I would also be saving water. A boon for the environment and for my wallet!


Today I did a little research on exactly how much water my dishwasher uses. I have an Asko dishwasher (purchased by the previous owner of my home.) Apparently this is some kind of high end Swedish dishwasher that is designed to be very quiet (which it is) but also to use very little water. (4.6 gallons per load for normal wash and 3.9 gallons for a light wash)

I figured out I use between 2-3 gallons of water each time I wash and at 3-4 times a day I am using 6-12 gallons of water to wash dishes every day rather than the 4.6 gallons to run the dishwasher once.

In addition, the dishwasher has a temperature boost so I can actually turn down the hot water heater a bit to save energy and still have clean, sanitary dishes!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Magazines on eBay!

If you know me you know I love eBay-buying and selling. Up until now I never thought to buy magazine subscriptions there.

I love Country Living magazine and have been coveting my own subscription lately. The other night, at Jeannine's I took a subscription card out of her Country Living Magazine. $24.99! Ouch! Ok it was 50% off the cover price but still, since I usually get them from the library it seemed excessive.

I looked at the Country Living website (which has a very nice gallery of homes by the way) and their special price was $12 which is 75% off. I almost stopped there. I mean $1 an issue is pretty good, considering the newsstand price is $3.99.

Something told me to look at eBay and behold, I found a one year subscription from a magazine publishing company's eBay store and it was $8 a year, 84% off!!! Yes. for the cost of 2 issues I could have it delivered to my home and actually get to keep the magazines rather than have to remember to take them back to the library!

Country Home, which is currently selling on their own website for $21.97 for 2 years can be had on eBay for $6.95 for 3 Years!

Paint Something!!!!

When we moved into our house I fell in love with the wonderful molding and architectural details that give it it's character.

This shelf in my living room is one of my favorites. The curve of the top matches the door frames in the living room and the bottom molding gives it exactly what it needs to really make a statement. I proceeded to fill it up with pictures and library books. One of my favorite nooks had turned into a bland bookshelf.

Enter 1 quart of Robins Egg Blue Paint. Was I even allowed to paint a shelf that color??? Deanna assured me that I was. Jeannine came over and moved things around a bit for more interest.

The painting took one afternoon (2 coats that took maybe 30 min each and time to dry in between) and cost $10 for the quart, of which I have a bunch leftover to use elsewhere!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Homemade Countertop Spray

I Love Method brand products, the countertop spray, in particular. It's $3 a pop and I go through it every 3 weeks. This equates to $52 a year on countertop spray! I used to always make my own but got away from it when I was sucked into the sleek Method bottle with wonderful grapefruit smell. So I've revisited this practice and now have a lovely lavender scented spray at much less cost.

The recipe is simple:

-2Tbsp Castile soap-I like Dr. Bronners. I used the Lavender scented. $.047 (I bought it at my local Wegmans in the Organic section)
-2Tbsp White Vinegar $.05
-2tsp Borax Powder $.02 (In the laundry section)
You can also use a few drops of essential oil if you have some. If you use the scented castile soap there is no need to do so.

Place vinegar and Borax powder in container. Fill with very warm water. Pour in liquid castile soap and shake gently to mix. (I also use one drop of yellow food coloring to be able to discern this from the bottle of water my little girlie uses to spray water with outside.)

Some might argue that making your own countertop spray is NOT simple. I beg to differ. In fact, it's probably more simple than having to remember to buy it every 3 weeks. Creating 17 plastic bottles for the landfill or recycling center over the course of a year is also not simple in terms of environmental costs. My spray is environmentally safe, cost $10.18 to for enough supplies to last a year and takes less than a minute to make!
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Homemade Popsicles!!!

-1 Cup Stonyfield Farms Plain Organic Yogurt: $0.81
-1/2 Cup overripe strawberries crushed: $.035

Eating Mommy's first ever batch of homemade popsicles: Priceless!!!!
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When Life Gives You Lemons....

Well technically speaking, life didn't give me lemons. I bought them at the local farmers market, 3 for $1. (I also bought the depression glass juicer at a tag sale for $0.25 but that's another story.)

However, having said lemons in hand, I made my favorite most wonderful salad dressing (and used the juicer for added tactile satisfaction!) I can't credit this as my own recipe. My friend Arlene, who is my go-to gal for just about anything you want to know (Need a tailor, ask Arlene. Need a great new place for dinner, she'll steer you right!) gave it to me. It's easy, fresh and can be adapted many different ways.

Lemon Garlic Dressing
-Juice of 1 Lemon ($0.33)
-1/4 Olive Oil (I like extra virgin because of it's big flavor) ($0.57)
-1 garlic clove minced (I'm assuming you have a garlic clove, in a pinch I've used garlic salt. You can use more depending on how much you like garlic)
-Salt and Pepper to Taste

Place garlic in the bottom of a bowl. Mash it around with some salt and pepper (a pinch of each will do). Add lemon juice. Pour the olive oil into the bowl in a slow stream while wisking with a fork. There. Done. This is so simple it's almost not even a recipe. If you have fresh herbs, add some. If you have dried, don't bother.

This recipe makes enough for 4 salads so you can make more or less if you need to. Recently I made pasta salad for 4 with this dressing and 1/2 lb lemon parsley pasta (also from the farmers market) grape tomatos, a handful of baby spinach, feta cheese and kalamata olives (I had all the stuff laying around in the fridge.) It was devine. You can also marinate with this but I suggest upping the lemon juice to olive oil ratio.
For $0.90 you can have your own homemade fresh salad dressing in minutes!
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