Archive | March, 2012

The DIY Life: Homemade Fabric Softener

26 Mar

Let’s face it. Gas is almost $4 a gallon here in my neck of the woods. So being frugal and making my own fabric softener to go with my homemade laundry soap isn’t really a far fetched idea. This recipe is cheap, easy, and you can customize it to your liking by picking whatever scent conditioner you like! Don’t worry, your clothes won’t smell like vinegar. Depending on what scent you choose, you can’t even smell the vinegar!

What you will need:

6 cups hot water

3 cups white vinegar

1 15oz bottle sauve conditioner (in the scent of your choice)

Container(s) to put the finished softener in

Place all 3 items in a large bowl and mix together with a whisk to incorporate the conditioner. Place it in mason jars or any other reusable container and have it ready for the next load of laundry! I use one “scoop” worth in the fabric softener compartment of my standard washing machine, and fill it the rest of the way with water. The scoop I use is one left over from the oxy clean that I add to my homemade laundry soap. My clothes are static free, softened, and do NOT smell like vinegar. They just smell clean. Like clothes should. The cost for all of this fabric softener? Under $3.

The original version for this recipe is located over at Frugal Girls so go on over and show them some love!

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The DIY Life: Keeping Chickens Series

20 Mar

So we bit the bullet and got some chicks the other day. Golden Laced Wyandottes to be exact. As well as 2 mallard ducks – the hubs said if they had ducks, he was getting them. Here is to hoping that they are a male and female so they can be mates!

But anyways, back to the chicks – and what got us to the point where we wanted some of our own.

I have been on a mission to eat as organically as possible, in the only true way I believe you can know you are eating organic – from your own garden or kitchen. With so many things out there today labeled “organic” it’s become hard to pinpoint what truly is organic. So i’m cutting out the middle man in as many cases as possible and either baking, cooking, or growing it myself.

Now onto eggs – any egg labeled organic happens to be around $2-3 MORE than the regular eggs at the grocery store where I live. “Free Range” can sometimes only mean that the chickens were allowed outside of their coop for an hour per day. Chickens getting an hour of free movement doesn’t really seem like a good justification to charge almost double for eggs. Not to me anyway. It sounds more like prison.

So last year, our friend who keeps chickens was always having a surplus of eggs. Way more than he and his wife could consume. So they started giving us dozens of eggs. The first ones I cracked open to make eggs over easy had me hooked. That dark, sun colored yolk. That clean, yummy taste. I wanted more. I wanted my own chickens.

The hubs and I talked about it for a months. We read about various breeds. We needed cold hardy birds that could survive the winter here,  and birds that were friendly and sweet. We wanted good layers. So we narrowed it down to Orpingtons, Plymouth Rocks, and Wyandottes. Between mid March and Mid April, Tractor Supply has what they call Chick Days – where all the stores carry chicks, ducks, and geese. They never really know what they are gonna get so we called around to all of them within a 40 mile radius. The hubs found Wyandottes at one nearby and we scooped up the last 6. The only problem with these little chicks is that they are a straight run, which means they have not been sexed. On average, it’s a 50/50 ratio. Since we only want hens, we’ll have to figure out what to do with any males once we can tell what’s what.

But for now, it’s just entertaining to watch them kick around the litter, eat, drink, and get into shenanigans with each other.

We are new to chicken keeping, so I have refered to a book (as well as internet sites specializing in chicken care for the backyard keeper!) called: Keeping Chickens with Ashley English: All You Need to Know to Care for a Happy, Healthy Flock.  I actually won the series of Ashley English books from Kate over at Hip Girls Guide and am so glad I have it as a point of reference. It covers all the basics and more, kind of like an idiots guide to chicken keeping, but told like you were hearing it from a friend. Check out Ashley’s blog over at Small Measure. Lot’s of great reads on getting back to the basics. Because getting back to basics is becoming a big movement. For me, keeping chickens is the next part of my getting back to basics.

Now, i’m planning on doing this as a sort of series. This first part, AKA Phase 1 –  now that i’m done going on and on, is about preparing yourself for keeping chicks (or ducklings if your husband REALLY just has to have them!)

We needed to set up a brooder for the chicks. Since there is no momma for them to snuggle under, the brooder provides them with that nice environment while also keeping them safely confined. Since we only have 6 chicks and 2 mallards, I decided to use a large clear plastic tote. I sanitized it with a bleach/water solution and dried it out. In the bottom, I put about 3 inches of “litter” made out of wood shavings to provide the chicks with soft material to move around on as well as something to catch all their waste.

We also purchased a feeder and waterer for the chicks so they had acess to fresh food and water all day. We change the water daily and swap out the food if it’s been contaminated. Litter is changed daily to keep the chicks in a clean, healthy environment and to keep our house from getting stinky! I placed the tote in one of the upstairs bedrooms so that they can have quiet and be segregated from the rest of the house (and the dog). Originally I had them in the kitchen but was concerned our little pup was going to traumatize them so they have since been relocated. I did this without the dog being around because last night, he was up every 2hrs trying to listen for them and wanting out of the room. Oh what a night. Merr.

Soooo….baby chicks require the use of a heat lamp and temps of 90-95 degrees for their first week. This temp can be decreased by 5 degrees per week. The heat lamp is a red bulb that provides them warmth since they are so small and have no momma for snuggling. I also learned that the reason it is red is because it prevents the chicks from pecking at each other. Well then. Good to know! The room they are in gets alot of sun and light and when it gets dark I can have the light on in the room for the few extra hours they need light without it bothering us as we mill about our house.

So far the chicks and ducklings seem to be thriving. They are eating, drinking, sleeping and exploring. They’ve already started ‘foraging’ even though there is nothing for them to find. so this is great news. Now lets hope that most of them are girls!

Stay tuned for more updates on our journey into the world of chicken keeping!

The DIY Life: Another use for candle scraps

13 Mar

I’m always looking to save money, but there are some things I don’t cheap out on. Candles are one of those things. There is a distinct difference in the amount of scent a candle gives off when you spend $5 on it or $20 (unless you got that $20 candle on sale for $5 of course!). I don’t mind the cheap candles for outside, or for a big party and you want candles all over the place. But for my centerpieces I like to buy the more expensive ones that will scent the whole room. And I burn those to within an inch of their lives. Well actually, to about 1/2 an inch. Of their death. That means that there is 1/2 in of wonderfully scented wax left at the bottom not getting put to good use.

So me, being frugal and wanting to get every penny out of my candles does this:

I pop the wax out of the bottom of the jar with a butter knife – sticking it right in the center of the wax usually releases it. I then break it into 4 pieces, remove the wick holder(s) and voila – a new lease on life as wax for my tart warmers! I store them in a baggie and put them with my other tarts to use as I want. It means I don’t have to buy tarts at $1 a pop because out of one candle I got 4 tarts! And once the scent dies? I add in a couple drops of some scented oil in a similar or complimentary smell and extend them even more!

My take on the Shrimp Toast Appetizer. Verdict? Delish!

9 Mar

Shrimp have been sometimes referred to as the cockroaches of the sea. That said, if cockroaches of the land tasted like shrimp, I would eat the hell out of them. I do not think that is the case though. Google it…it’s not as gross as you think. Lobster is lumped in there too. That’s some expensive cockroach if you ask me.

Now that I have sufficiently grossed you out, onto the shrimp toasts. I have always seen these on the menu at chinese restaurants but have only ordered them on one occasion. They were good, don’t get me wrong. But they left me feeling heavy and unhealthy because they are fried in oil. So I was on a mission to make a slightly healthier version of the shrimp toast. My own version. The end result? DEVOURED. I’m not really sure that hubs allowed anyone else to try too many of them. And I’m not gonna lie – I ate a big helping of them myself. They are addicting.  Next time I make them, I’m making a double batch for sure.

Ingredients

12oz raw peeled, deveined shrimp with the tail off – fresh or frozen (if frozen, thaw)

1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped

2 green onions, trimmed

2tbsp shaved or shredded parmesan

a couple shakes of red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp kosher salt

1 baguette – sliced into rounds

1/2 cup olive oil mixed with 1/2 tsp kosher salt for brushing the bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Rinse your shrimp under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.

Place all of the ingredients up to the baguette into a food processor, and pulse until it looks well combined. You do not want any big chunks of shrimp.

Brush one side of each of your baguette slices with the olive oil and salt mixture. Place olive oil side down on a rimmed baking sheet.

Once this is done, spread some of the shrimp mixture onto each of the pieces of bread.

Place in your preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until the shrimp mixture has turned pink. Switch oven to broil and place under the broiler for 5-10 minutes, until the tops are bubbling and beginning to brown.

Serve immediately.

Review: Sorel Women’s Joan of Arctic Boots

5 Mar

I decided that 2012 was the year I was going to buy a decent pair of snow boots. Not only decent in the snow, but cute to look at too. I have had a pair of legit snow boots from another company that has been around for as long as I can remember. However, they suck. They don’t keep my feet warm. They were fine for running out to the car, but if there was any legit walking through the snow, my feet would be freezing by the time I took them off. And they were pleather/vinyl so they are now doing that lovely peeling thing pleather likes to do. I refused to face another year with those as my snow boots!

Onto the Sorel boots – I own another pair of them that go to about mid-calf. They aren’t super duper cute(like these ones!) but they serve their purpose for getting through the snow and keeping my feet warm. And they are easy to get on or off rather quickly since they are slip on and zip up. Since they do hit at mid-calf, they do make my calf sore after wearing them for any extended period of time since they are so stiff  (as snow boots should be!) and I wanted a cute pair.

I searched around and looked at a lot of different brands. The ones that stood out for me with great reviews and a really nice look were the Sorel Women’s Joan of Arctic Boots. They are fun with the faux furry tops, they are practical with the rubber boot base, and they are stylish because they come in a variety of colors to fit whatever floats your boat. And they are LEATHER!  I’ve had them for about a month now and just got the chance to try them out. Figures I go and purchase some snow boots and we don’t get enough snow in Pennsylvania to break them out! But last weekend, I got my chance.

I wore these all day for getting my grocery shopping done, bringing in firewood for my gram, shoveling sidewalks, and then in the evening for going out. After all of that, I can honestly say I think it’s a great boot. My feet were never once cold. They lived up to their waterproof advertisement. They were what I felt is true to size for a snow boot. I wear an 8, ordered and 8, and they fit perfect. There is room to wear thick winter socks, so that means they do run a little big but you want to be able to wear thicker socks in the winter so the extra room is a plus. They were slightly hard to walk in at first, as with any snow boot. But I got used to it right away and was no big deal. While these boots are pricey, they are worth it. I don’t see myself ever needing to purchase another pair of snow boots again because these things are built to last. And still be stylish 10 years from now.

Wanna check them out? Go here. I purchased mine from amazon for about $40 less than the advertised price. I got them in the Taffy/Port Royale color. love it!!!