Friday, September 30, 2016

A High School Reunion & a Trip to the Coast

We arrived home today from our annual trip to the NC coast.  It was the perfect time of year.  The weather is still lovely (upper 70's to low 80's), and it's much less crowded, as well as cheaper than in the summer.  The motel we stay at has been run by the same family since 1953.  The kitchenette allows us to bring food from home.  We stay in a room on the third floor, where the balcony looks out on the water, & we can view the sunsets from just outside our door.

Being a dog-friendly property, there are always lots of pups around.  In earlier years, J & I brought Hickory with us.  These days, the pups stay home with a pet sitter, as we're not yet convinced that McNibs would do well if we went out and left him in the room.  I think Guinness would love it, but McNibs is still mischievous enough to be a concern.  I hope he'll mellow out and we'll be able to bring them both with us in the future.

a small piece of driftwood
We always find some washed up driftwood that we bring home for the pups, to share the scent and taste of the sea.  There was a storm with a waterspout, and two rainbows.  I did not catch any of that with my camera, but did catch the sky before the storm.

I always enjoy reading at the beach.  One book was finished and two others started.  I was determined to finish cleaning up the threads on my quilt, being it will soon be needed, and was all ready to celebrate finishing it.  Unfortunately, when I turned it over, I found quite a few more threads on the bottom.  Oh well, I'll just have to keep at it.  I'm sure the first few cool nights will be a major motivator to finish it up.

Just before we left for the beach, we attended my 40th high school reunion.  It was a delight to catch up with lots of people that I don't see otherwise, and make plans with some to connect again.  They were sweet, fun times, for sure.

It was wonderful to spend time at the sea. It's wonderful to be home again.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Happy Fall & Cleaning Windows Simply

a clean window at the kitchen sink
Happy Fall, friends!  Being there was interest in knowing how the new tools worked out in cleaning our windows, I thought I'd share what I did here.  Though it was not my first choice, I bought a ProGrip window cleaning kit.  There are tools out there that combine both the scrubber and the squeegee on the same head, which is what I wanted, and the two I looked at had good reviews.  But when I asked J about them, he nixed them both, saying neither was made well enough to last any time & they would not work well in general.  He chose the ProGrip kit..  He was maintenance supervisor in a few large facilities in previous years, and as my window washing skills were negligible, I went with his choice.  I also bought the 5 ft. adjustable pole and bucket that went with this kit.

As suggested by various people, I put a squirt of dish soap in the bucket, then added water.  I don't think it's terribly important what soap you use.  Brandy used Dawn, but I decided to use the natural dish soap I'm currently using.  It's Seventh Generation which I typically buy here.  I put a rag in my pocket to wipe the squeegee between passes, and changed it out as needed.  The first thing I noticed was the scrubber head was extremely difficult to take back off the pole.  I don't know if mine was unusually tight, or if that is typical of this design, but I ended up turning the scrubber head 90 degrees so it would not line up with the click lock button.  As long as it wasn't locked in place with the button, I could manage to pull the head off.   The squeegee head was easy to put on and take off.   I scrubbed both top and bottom of one window, before switching out to use the squeegee, which worked well.

This method did work quite well.  I did have to go over some spots with the squeegee more than once.  Once I elongated the pole to its full length, I forgot I could shorten it, and struggled working around some furniture when I was inside, so there was a bit of a learning curve there :o).  I could not clean the bottom of the top windows indoors, due to the locking mechanism in the way, so had to wipe this part of each window with my rag.  As the squeegee brought the water down to the bottom of the window, it made it easy to use this water to wipe in this area.  I loved that I only had to get on the ladder to clean 2 windows outdoors.   Even with the 5' pole, they were too far from the ground.  But otherwise, I could reach all with the pole, and it really was quicker and used less resources than my old paper towel and window cleaner method.  It also did a much better job of actually cleaning the windows without streaks and smudges.

I'd love to say it took only minutes to clean my windows, like others I'd read about, but it took quite a bit longer than that.  I didn't think to time it, but it was definitely a few hours.  I should explain that I did more than window cleaning.  If it were window cleaning alone, maybe it would be possible to do it in an hour or so, especially if you have one of the combination heads.  I imagine that would easily cut my time in half.  But screens were also taken down and cleaned, all the sills needed to be wiped down, & cobwebs removed.  Too, all the wood blinds were dusted and the slats wiped down with Murphy's oil soap and water.  It may be a testament to my housekeeping, or possibly heating with wood, or maybe living in the humid south, but dusting the blinds was not enough to get them clean.  Cleaning blinds is a chore I'm glad I don't have to do every week, that's for sure.  I cracked one slat, and broke another, during the process, & J repaired both with a bit of glue and balsa wood.  In taking down the blinds, the little plastic pieces that hold the wood valance up top in place inevitably broke.  As they are meant to have some give when you're putting up and taking down the valance, they could not just be glued and still work, so J found some of those pieces online for .79 ea, and ordered them.  That was definitely a frugal accomplishment.  When we'd searched for them previously, we couldn't find any.  It sure would be a shame to have to replace an entire blind due to a .79 plastic piece, so I'm delighted he was able to find them this time.  Especially since, ahem, a few more were broken this round.  I think that pretty much sums up my window cleaning adventures.  If you've got any tips or experiences to share, I'm all ears.  Brandy has asked that we save our frugal accomplishments posts until October 2nd, so I may take a break in posting until then.  Until then, be well!

Monday, September 19, 2016

The September Garden, Thrifted Treasure, & Frugal Accomplishments

The tomatoes, squash and cucumbers in the garden are winding down.  There are new cucumbers up, which J replanted, so we'll see if we have enough time to get some before frost.  Update- all but one cucumber seedling has been eaten :o(.  I noticed that 4 of the butternut squash were on vines that had died, so harvested them.  J harvested a second watermelon, which we enjoyed.   The others were small and teardrop shaped, which seems to happen often here, and they always rot when they're this shape.  I need to research what causes that again.  I made egg salad with our eggs.  After the late frost that got a lot of our fruit, it looked like we had about 6 apples.  A few weeks ago, we couldn't find any of them, and assumed a critter had gotten them all.  One day walking through the orchard, I noticed an apple on the ground.  It was small but perfect.  I surprised J with it, cutting it up to have with our dinner, and it tasted quite lovely.  Small blessings.

I accompanied J to the salvage yard, and bought a sweet metal pumpkin, as well as two pieces he's going to combine to create a birdbath for me.  I've got a concrete birdbath, as well as a very small metal one, and have plans for this new one, which I'll share in another post.  We then headed to a thrift store that was having a half price sale.  I bought several packages of wool yarn, a flannel pillowcase, a bag of assorted vintage buttons, fall themed tablecloth, silk Liberty of London scarf, floral painting, and an electronic connection that unfortunately does not quite fit what it was intended for.  All of this was $7 and change.  The feed & seed store had a .10/seed packet sale, and I bought 3 packets of marigolds (two types), which I thought showed great restraint :o).  We picked up a few things at Walgreens, & I had enough points to get $5 off my purchase.  One of the items I bought were pens from the clearance shelf.

floral painting from the thrift store, $3 including frame
Laundry was done with homemade soap and hung on the line.  I harvested two tomatoes and gathered eggs from the chickens.  We've eaten our leftovers, though I did forget my box of leftovers one night that J took us out to eat Mexican.  J vacuum sealed all the rice jars, as well as a few other odd ones I'd filled recently with lentils, unsweetened coconut & flax seed.  I shelled another round of crowder peas, and added the pods to the compost.  Three pairs of pants were hemmed, and a sweater, pair of jeans, cloth used to cover kefir & pajama bottoms mended.  While delivering soap to a B&B, I donated 6 books to their little library.  I froze okra.  I harvested four teardrop shaped watermelons, and gave them to the chickens over several days.  Though one of the the ends were rotting, the insides were still white with just a touch of pink.  I cut the ends off & cut them up.  The chickens loved them.

I watered plants several times with cooled down cooking or canning water, and canned 3 pints of eggplant.  I made a quiche using our eggs, zucchini, garlic, chard & parsley, and asian cucumbers on the side, along with risotto from the pantry.  Walked with the pups for exercise.   I have lost 13 lbs this spring and summer.  It doesn't take a lot of pounds to show on a just under 5 ft woman.  It crept up over the last year or two, and I'm happy to be getting back to a healthier weight.  We've been able to turn off the A/C and open the house most nights.   I composted vegi scraps, froze some for broth, & washed plastic bags for reuse.  We were in good shape this week, so I did not stop for groceries while in town for work, but  J picked up milk, bread & a bottle of wine.  I shredded paper and cardboard to add to the compost bin, and used rags to clean spills.  

I strained, sweetened and bottled elderberry syrup.  The dogs got our grated cucumbers, squash and carrots with their dinner, & I used our cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes & arugula in a salad.  The pups got boiled eggs a few days.  I made my Mom's zucchini soup with our squash, tomatoes, onions, garlic & herbs.  I'd been shelling the red noodle beans that got large & saving their beans.  I boiled the beans, and made a bean dip with our garlic to have on bread with the soup, and cooked our okra in the wok.  I spent a good part of the weekend working on windows, using my new tools.  Hooray for clean windows!  I believe I'll do a separate post about that.  I was up a good part of one night, and caught up on almost all of my ironing.  At the time, I thought that was all there was, but then remembered there were several things hanging that need ironing.  Oh well, they'll wait until next time.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

As you can see by these leaves, we desperately need rain.  As I type this, it is thundering and there is at least a hope of some rain reaching us.  Time to head out and do a rain dance!  Be well, friends.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Late Summer Days & Frugal Accomplishments

I'm enjoying these late summer days, and am very much looking forward to the cooler temperatures in the forecast.  We should be able to open up the house every night, which makes me happy.  Last week, I prepared a caprese salad, tomato cheese pie, asian cucumbers and okra with our homegrown vegi's.  I washed laundry with homemade soap and hung it on the line.  I cashed in Swagbucks points for an Amazon gift card, and mended 3 pieces of clothing.  We planted the abelia bush, & the instructions said it should have mulch around it.  It just so happens our pine siding for the new room came with the bark intact, which has gradually been falling off.  J came up with the brilliant idea to break this up and use it for the abelia.  Free pine bark mulch!

After reading Brandy's Frugal Accomplishments post last week, I ordered window cleaning supplies including a squeegee & cloth set, pole & bucket.  Window washing was already on my to do list, and I'd love to have a quicker, more efficient system.  It's not a skill I feel I'm especially good at, and any tips you've got up your sleeve would be appreciated.  We have some tall windows, & it usually takes me the better part of two days to accomplish, removing screens, climbing up and down ladders and such.  If what I read is any indication, these supplies should cut that time significantly.  I bought the supplies on Amazon, and with gift card credit, I spent nothing out of pocket.

On a trip to the discount grocery store, favorite buys were natural peanut butter for $2/jar, an 8 oz log of natural Italian salami for $2 (the cheapest I found online was $7.50), bottles of maple syrup and organic honey for $3 ea, & a bag of sunflower seeds for the birds for $5.  Near the discount grocery store is a gas station with the least expensive gas I'm aware of in town.  Though I usually fill up when I get below 1/2 tank, I decided to fill up there and saved .65 from the one across town.  Every little bit makes a difference.  I used our tomatoes and a cucumber in a salad.

jujubes after drying
Our first stop on my birthday was an international market I'd been wanting to visit for several years.  Though they had quite an interesting variety of produce, I was disappointed that none of it was organic.  I decided to try some jujubes, which were on sale.  I read that they taste like dates when dried, so I put them in the dehydrator.  These really don't have much taste, but it was worth a try.  I'm glad I only bought four.  I put brown rice that we bought at the int'l market in jars . When J has time, he'll vacuum seal them.  I harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, lima beans, yellow squash, red noodle beans, crowder peas, basil, garlic chives and a few hazelnuts.  Canned a batch of red noodle beans, and prepared a squash dish with our yellow squash.  For lots more frugal inspiration, visit The Prudent Homemaker.

A few views from around the homestead last week.  The moth is this one.  Have a great week, friends!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Birthday at the Bicentennial Garden

The garden we visited on Sunday was this one.   There were quite a few sculptures, a man made stream with a waterfall, and lots of lovely flowers and plants.

this pretty grass

The rock garden provided inspiration for landscaping around our new porch.  I will share a post about that in the future.

pretty purples
lots of butterflies
In addition to the main garden, a short walk across the street takes you to the Bog garden.

can anyone ID this for me?

Cypress knees
possibly button bush?

A funny thing is the garden just happened to be the site of Pokemon Go that day.  There was a large crowd around one of the bridges, but otherwise it was a peaceful place to visit.  

Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day Sweetness & Frugal Accomplishments

Last week, I canned my first red noodle beans.  I used the same instructions as green beans, and was happily surprised to find they kept their purple color during canning.  I made pasta sauce with our tromboncino squash, tomatoes, tomato broth & basil.  For a breakfast, I cut up and enjoyed one of our pears and pawpaws.  While in town for work, I ran errands.  After picking up an order at Lowes, I checked the marked down plants, and bought creme caramel & garnet coreopsis, a large red lorapetulum, yellow hypericum, and large kaleidoscope abelia, all for $24.  These will help fill in some of the new areas around the drive, and near the house.  I charged my phone while I driving.  Just pennies saved, I'm sure, but such an easy way to save a few.  I walked with the pups for exercise.  I'm joining in with Frugal Accomplishments today.

prolific red noodle beans
Laundry was done with homemade soap, and dried on the line.  I transplanted the two types of cabbage and collards from one big container into smaller pots.  I want to give them a better chance when planted into the garden of surviving whatever has been chewing on the direct planted seeds.  We harvested our first cantaloupe & enjoyed it.  The chickens enjoyed the rind and seeds.  I picked and shelled lima beans, butter peas and field peas.  Before going out of town, M gave me some walnuts, eggs & a 2# block of cheddar cheese.  I bought groceries, including organic bananas & strawberries, and lemons at Aldi's.  Our Aldi's will soon be closed for renovations for 6 weeks.  It's a tiny one, and they will be adding on an aisle.

I had a birthday last week, and enjoyed several days of celebration, including receiving a large bouquet of roses from my stepdaughter, dinner with friends at a favorite restaurant, dinner at another lovely restaurant with family, a visit to a botanical garden, and gelato.  If the photos from the botanical garden came out well, I will share them in another post.  With temperatures cooling, we've been able to open the house up at night.  I made yogurt, hummingbird food, & kefir.  We enjoyed salads which included our tomato, cucumber and carrot.  Besides the various beans, I harvested tomatoes, cucumbers, pears, hazelnuts & okra.  I continue to gather zinnia seeds as I find dried flower heads.  I bottled and refrigerated the sauerkraut I started some time back, and find it very tasty.  I've been shelling some of the red noodle beans that got a little bigger than I like, saving the beans to cook up and adding the shells to the broth bag.

When J finished the custom table we sold online, we packed and weighed it, then searched for the most economical shipping.  We have been burnt badly in the past by different freight companies charging us significantly more than they quoted us, and even UPS has added $25 to the charge from what we were quoted online.  As every table is different, and we don't know the exact size until the layers of various packing materials are added, it's difficult to know what to charge a customer before building it, especially when the quotes can't be trusted.  We were pleased and relieved, after the final freight company and UPS quotes came in quite a bit more than we charged the customer, that Fedex came in significantly less.  It's my shop policy to refund any shipping overage, and I'm happy to do that.  It's just nice to know we won't be paying any shipping out of pocket.

a garden friend
I harvested parsley, and froze it using Margaret's log method, which has worked very well for me in year's past.  I harvested basil, & for this batch, pureed it with just enough water to blend it, then froze it in an ice cube try.  The house smelled like herbal deliciousness.  I froze an earlier batch of cubes this summer, using oil instead of water.  Other than one or two picked on the way to see the chickens, we've not gotten any concord grapes this year.  The birds have been eating them as they ripen.  Happily last year was a good grape year, & I froze and canned some juice.  I took 3 pints of grape juice from the freezer and made jelly.  I made a batch of Simple Soap, which uses my homegrown herbs of calendula, comfrey and nettles.

This article, shared here, is rather discouraging news regarding bar soap, showing convenience matters more than the mess we leave behind, in some minds.  I'll always prefer simple & simply packaged products, over mass marketed items in plastic.  On a positive note, the triclosan in many antibacterial products, which in studies has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor and a possible carcinogen, has finally been banned from products, never having been proven helpful nor safe.  A sign of true progress in my mind. If you feel the need for an antibacterial product, I've enjoyed using this safe, effective and natural brand for several years.  The small spray bottles make good stocking stuffers, and can be bought in bundles of 6 or 12 on Amazon and elsewhere.  The uplifting thyme scent is a lovely added bonus.

There was almost 1 1/2" of rain in the gauge after Hermine blew past our coast.  The plants look visibly perky after the long dry spell.  Whether it was the change in weather or some other reason, I woke up one morning with a bit of a sore throat and stuffy nose.  To support my immune system, I took some homemade elderberry syrup and fire cider.  These had me feeling better in no time.  I cut a bouquet to enjoy in the house.  The rain had knocked over one of the many branched sunflowers, so I tied it to the fence with twine.  Every few days, I find 3 or so little hazelnuts and add them to my small pile.  We've been keeping our eye on one of the watermelons.  The plan is to harvest and enjoy it for our Labor Day celebration today.  I wish my U.S. friends a celebration that is simple and sweet!