Saturday, December 31, 2011

Frugal Living Challenge 2012

I recently came across this amazing blog -Frugally Sustainable. 

This blog is chock full of ideas on living and enjoying the frugal life, learning forgotten skills and all things related to sustainable living.

Learn how to live frugally and crave less in 2012.  Join in the 23 day challenge. What a great way to start the new year !

Homemade Gift Series #1 : Preserves

Now that Christmas is over, I can start posting the gifts I made and have started a little series on gift making.   I decided to try to make most of my gifts this year and as promised from a previous post on "Mall Shopping - Not !" would start posting them after Christmas to not spoil the surprise for the receivers. 

The first idea was a box of homemade preserves, wrapped in homemade dish cloths.   The pattern for the dish cloths are posted here.  Check out my various posts on preserving and canning for ideas on homemade preserves and some recipes.

For my hiking and camping friends I dehydrated various fruits, vegetables, tofu jerky and wrapped up nicely into a box for their next trip.   

Stay tuned for more ideas in posts to follow.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Winter Gardening - Growing Sprouts

Mung beans


Now that winter is upon us it's too cold to grow anything outdoors.   You can, grow an indoor winter garden - SPROUTS !    See my post on how to grow your own sprouts.   Sprouts are great in salads, soups, omelets, sandwiches and I've added them to my homemade bread (sprouted bread).   I grew mung bean, lentil and alfalfa sprouts in a bright spot on my kitchen counter and the pictures of these sprouts are just five days old.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Homemade Christmas Series #6 : Cinnamon Rolls

Cinnamon Rolls are a favourite in our house.   When the kids were younger I would bake them regularly.  Now I just bake them for special occasions - ie Christmas morning breakfast.    I bake them ahead of time and warm them up just before serving and add a nice cinnamon glaze.

The dough for these cinnamon rolls was made in the bread maker and finished in the oven.   This dough recipe is for 1 1/2 lbs. 

Cinnamon Roll Recipe (makes 12 rolls)
8 oz milk
3 tbsp water
1 egg
1/4 cup butter
3 1/3 cups white flour
3 tbsp sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp quick rise yeast
Put above ingredients into bread maker in order according to manufacturer's suggestion.

Filling and topping:
Chopped almonds (toasted) - optional
Brown sugar 1/4 cup

Ground cinnamon - 1 1/4 tsp
Butter softened - 2 tbsp

Glaze :  Combine 1/2 cup sifted icing sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and enough milk (2-3 tsp) to make gaze of drizzling consistency.    I also add a bit of cinnamon to make a cinnamon glaze. 

When dough cycle is complete, remove dough from machine to a lightly floured serface.  If necessary, knead in enough flour to make dough easy to handle  If dough is too elastic, cover and let rest for 10 minutes before shaping.  Meanwhile, for filling, stir together almonds, sugar and cinnamon.
Roll dough into a 12 x 14 inch rectangle.  Spread with softened butter.  Sprinkle with filling mixture.  Beginning at long end, roll up tightly as for jelly roll.  Pinch seam to seal.   With sharp knife, cut into 12 equal slices. Place cut side up in a greased 9 x 13 inch baking pan.

Cover dough and let rise in a warm, draft free place until almost double in size, 20-30 minutes.  Bake rolls at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until done.  Cool slightly and remove from pan.  Drizzle glaze over warm rolls.  Serve warm.   Enjoy !

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Homemade Christmas Series #5 : Christmas Baking

This year's Christmas baking included shortbread, fruitcake squares, almond pressed cookies shaped like little Christmas trees, whipped shortbread and a family favourite church windows.    I like to bake a variety of cookies that will look nice served on a platter for company. 

The secret to good tasting cookies is to use quality ingredients and real butter. 

I also put together a selection of home baked Christmas cookies into decorative Christmas tins and give as gifts to seniors who don't bake anymore.    One senior friend starts hinting to me in the fall about how much she loves my shortbread !

Friday, December 16, 2011

Knitting for Charity - Christmas Update

At our last Knitters Guild meeting of the year, everyone brought their handmade knitted/crocheted items to be donated to Charity.   The items filled a long table with mitts, hats, scarves, socks, sweaters, blankets.   So many beautiful items were donated.  Our Christmas Guild project this year was to knit for a local charity  - Links2Care.  All the items will be distributed into the various Christmas Hampers Links2care distribute to families in need this Christmas.   Check my previous post on our Guild's Christmas project.

I also, as well as other Guild members, took part in another charity program  "Blanket Halton"  This year the program donated over 120 handmade blankets for three local agencies.    The clipping from our local newspaper shows the amazing mountain of blankets that will be distributed to those in need this winter.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

To Coupon or Not to Coupon ....

Do you ever watch those "extreme couponing" reality shows?   I have a couple of times.   Some people do go to such extreme measures and often buy so much that they will never use, just because they have the coupon.  For instance, on one show a couple of girls had bought shelves of disposable diapers and didn't even have any children.  Another single fellow bought an entire skid of toothpaste, more than he will ever use in an entire lifetime.
I have used coupons, and yes I do collect them, but only for the items that I would normally use and when the item is on sale.   I don't spend a lot of time collecting, as they do on those extreme reality shows.  In Canada, you'll never be able to extreme coupon as you can in the United States.

At the office I started a "coupon swap".  In the small kitchenette I put a small box with a little sign on it - saying ....
 Coupon Swap

Take what you need

Add coupons you don’t use

Throw out any outdated coupons

Just for fun, I've tracked for a year what I have saved in using coupons and only buying an item when it's "on sale".   Why pay full price for an item when you can get it for a much lower cost.   It has added up to substantial savings.  Every little bit does help keep the budget in line, especially during these economic times !

Friday, December 9, 2011

Homemade Christmas Series #4 : Mall Shopping – Not !

I am not a “mall” person and don’t enjoy shopping for the fun of it and avoid it when at all possible.  It has been a while since I was in a big shopping mall.   When I shop I go with a list, get what is needed and go home.   The other day, I needed to go to a particular store which was situated in one of the largest malls near where I work.   I thought, by going mid week, during my lunch hour I could avoid the crowds.   Wrong !

When I got there, I had trouble finding a parking spot and ended up walking a bit of a distance to get to the mall.  I didn’t mind the distance or the fresh air – but it’s the crazy drivers in a mall parking lot which is unnerving.  They are impatient, in a rush, not really looking where they are going and intent on finding that perfect parking spot.   When I got into the mall I was overwhelmed with the number of people going in every direction, the lights, displays, and congestion.   You really have to be on the alert on where you are going so you don’t bump into anyone or thing and watch out so that someone else doesn’t run you over not looking where they are going.   When I finally found the store I needed and found the item needed,  I stood at line at the cash for what seemed a long time, the bright lights were hot, people in line were impatient and when it was finally my turn the cashier wasn’t in a good mood either.    Needless to say, I was glad to get back to my car and leave.   It was a good reminder why I don’t like mall shopping or large big box grocery stores either.    I much prefer to shop locally in the small shops near where I live, where shop keepers are friendly, polite and remember your name !

This Christmas, I am not shopping at the big malls.  Instead the majority of my gifts are handmade.  I’d post you some pictures of what I made this year, however some of my family read my posts and I don’t want to spoil the surprise !    I will post pictures after Christmas which may inspire others to hand make gifts for next Christmas.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Homemade Christmas Series #3 : Christmas Cards

Making your own Christmas cards is a fun activity.  All year round while I'm out on a hike or in my garden, I'm taking photos.   I use my photos for making cards.

The winter scenes have been made into cards as shown in the photo - adding coloured paper, some ribbon.   Card stock comes in a variety of colours.  I've even used black card stock and written inside the card with a gold or silver pen.  Inexpensive stamps, using various coloured ink pads can also be used to decorate both the card and envelopes. 

My daughter's cat "LBC" (short for Little Black Cat), decided she was going to help me make cards the other day.  She has quite the interest in ribbon - mostly red ribbon, and had to keep an eye on her to ensure my ribbon didn't disappear.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Homemade Christmas Series #2 : Hand Knitted Dish Cloths

Looking for a quick gift to make?  Need a hostess gift ?

Knitting dish cloths is one of those small projects I do in between larger projects.   They are quick to make and don't require a lot of concentration.   In fact, I can practically knit them with my eyes closed now.   Knitted dish cloths is a small portable project which I can carry in my purse and knit any time I have to wait while out on errands or a passenger in a car.    They are a great project for those learning to knit, with quick results.   I usually have a stash of knitted cloths on hand as they make great hostess gifts and bazaar item for craft sales.  I have also given them as shower gifts at bridal showers, keeping in mind the new bride's colour scheme for her kitchen.    They are a very practical gift and once they've served you well in the kitchen, they can be used as cleaning rags for the rest of the house.

The cotton yarn comes in a variety of colours to suit everyone's taste. You will always have a little bit left over of yarn once your dish cloth is complete, but I save them and once I have enough left overs I can knit up another colourful dish cloth, so nothing is wasted.

The free pattern for the dish cloth is usually on the inside sleeve of the ball of yarn, but just in case it's not, I'm posting the pattern here.

Basic Dish Cloth Pattern 

1 skein colour of your choice of cotton
(4 ply worsted weight);
Knitting needles : 1 pair 6:00 mm (U.S. 10, U.K. 4)

Cast on 4 sts.
Row 1: K, across
Row 2:  K2, yo, K to end of row
Repeat Row 2 until there are 43 sts on needle.
Next Dec. Rows:  K1, K2 tog, yo, K2 tog, K to end
Continue working dec. row until 4 st remain.
Cast off remaining stitches

Abbreviations:  K = knit, St(s) = stitch(es), Tog = together
YO = yarn over, Rep = repeat, dec = decrease

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Homemade Christmas Series #1 : DIY Christmas Planters

Growing up the Christmas lights were magical to us as kids.  We would play outside for hours in the cold evenings under a big spruce tree in our front yard decorated with the lights.  With the cost of electricity, we don't put lights outside anymore, but I do make my own decorative planters outside.   I have a black urn at the front door and window box which I decorate for each season.

At Christmas it has fresh evergreen boughs and red sticks from gathered the woods, decorated with Christmas flowers and ornaments from the dollar store.    I made my own bows with ribbon purchased after Christmas last year (on sale for 80% off).

In the spring, before it's warm enough to plant flowers outside, it's decorated with spring flowers and greens from the dollar store.  In the summer I put living plants in the window box and urn (perennials from my garden and annual seeds I saved from the previous year).    Come Fall, flowers and decorations from the dollar store, along with fall flowers I have dried are placed in the pots.   You can get quite an assortment of artificial flowers from the dollar store that you can reuse year after year.

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