Monday, April 27, 2015

Homemade Granola!

We may have more hours of sunlight in our lives, but there was no denying that lovely orb's descent towards the horizon.  After a day of client drafting, kid drop-off and pick-up, delivery and supervision of kiddo swim lessons, and a dinner to prepare, I found myself starring at the wall calendar.  Circled in red, April 28th, Class Snack.  Yes, after a full day I still need to prep 22 snacks for a kindergarten class room.  "Rooster [not his real name] do you mind if I skip making the banana-chocolate chip muffins and go with, easier?"  Thankfully he was not overly wedded to the muffins and agreed.  Pushover Mama you think?  No, just a realistic one, trying to conserve energy and avoid the irrational temper of a tired and hungry 6 year old.  Success - the muffins are not a must!  But no what?  A quick scan of the pantry revealed homemade granola was doable, and thanks to the recipe of a dear friend, easy as pie!

This will make a double recipe (just enough for 22 plastic ziplock "snack" bags:

  • mix 9 cups old-fashioned oats and 1 cup nuts (we used sliced almonds and pecans today)
  • in a small sauce pan heat and mix 1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice, 1/2 cup maple syrup (real), 2 tablespoons canola oil, 4 teaspoons cinnamon, and 1 teaspoon salt.
  • pour mixture over oats and nuts, bake for about 25 minutes, stir every 10 minutes, at 350 degrees.
  • once cooled, add 1 cup coconut, 1 cup raisins, and in our house 1 cup chocolate chips (Ghiradelli).
Easy, fast, somewhat healthy, and gentle to both the earth and my food budget!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Good-bye HP Calculator: The purge of 2015 continues!

As a steady spring rain falls outside the window I hit sum on the spread sheet titled "2015 Purge". With a click  I learn we have purged 1,034 items from our house since the first of the year.  Yes, we passed the 1,000 mark, inching our way closer to 2,015 items gone by years end!  It was looking like a small increase this week until yesterday, when I tackled by home office, purging binder after binder of outdated materials.  Papers went into the recycle bin, binders boxed for a Goodwill donation.  Yet it was one small item whose departure was most husband's 20 year old HP graphing calculator. Turned obsolete by the power of computers and more recently phones (apparently there in as app to mimick the calculator) he posted it on Ebay.  To our delight it was sought after, fetching $152 on the auction site.

1,000 items and change gone, but there is still plenty to relocate here in our frugal home.  Thanks for following along, and have a frugal weekend!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day & A Question

"May I ask you a question" asked my husband, standing a few feet behind me.

"Sure" was my response, mentally preparing myself for something in depth - maybe a question related to the allocation of our retirement funds or the rate on our mortgage.

"Do you have a theory about hanging wet towels?" he asked, his eyes lifting over my head, focused behind me on the chocolate brown towel I had just draped over the shower rod.

"Um, no.  Why?" was my response, caught off guard by his question.

"You put them up there, scrunched together.  I keep having to straighten them out so that they dry evenly.  It puts off washing them just a bit longer.  Saves money.  Might make for an interesting blog post."  And then he walked away.

Yet, I cannot argue with him.  An evenly dried towel is less likely to smell musty, delaying its washing and the use of resources to turn it clean and fluffy once again. Life with an engineer; efficiency jumps out at him everywhere, and usually saves us money, treads a little more lightly on the earth, and or improves our health.  As we celebrate Earth Day, founded by Wisconsin's very own Senator Gaylord Nelson (an aside, my husband advocated for naming our son Gaylord, he is that big of a fan of the environment and Wisconsin, but the name did not end up on the birth certificate....) I will leave you with a few of the ever efficient quirks I have picked up in the nearly nine years of marriage to an engineer.  Give them a whirl if you find yourself on a frugal path in life:

  • always cover the lid when a pot is on the stove -- this reduces the amount of time, and energy, required to bring it to a boil, etc.
  • when using stainless steel pans, turn the burner off a few minutes before the item is done cooking.  Those pans hold a "great deal of thermal mass".  Stay tuned, my better half has brought home a multi-meter (I think that is what it is called) to measure the amount of energy held in a pan on a burner that was turned off -- future post in the making;
  • never run a fire place when the temperatures are too cold, you are just sending heat up the chimney.  His formula (of course there is a formula!) is not to use the fireplace when the outside air temperature is 20 degrees colder than the inside temperature (we keep ours at 62 degrees, so no fire when it is 41 degrees or colder  outside), and your fireplace does not have a heatilator;
  • run the air conditioning, with the windows open, when the outside air temperature is colder than the inside air temperature; and
  • hang damp/wet towels evenly and near a vent air source when possible!
Have a wonderful Earth Day, and keep it frugal for the other 364 days of the year too!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Celebrate Earth Day 2015!

Wednesday, April 22nd of this year marks Earth Day, how are you going to celebrate?  No sure what to do?  Here are a few suggestions from our frugal house -- all of them honor Mother Earth, plus help out your health and budget to some extent.

  1. Go on a trash pick-up.  Pick your favorite walking path, shoreline or city park.  Bring a two bags, one for recyclables in your area, the other for trash.  Gloves may be wise as well.  Bring along some friends and make a contest out of who can find the most bizarre item!  Perfect for kids or adults;
  2. Thrift Shop.  With mother's day, father's day, weddings, anniversaries and summer parties just around the corner challenge yourself to buy 2nd had gifts. Think garden pots (add some packs of seeds), frames you can fill with a photo, jars filled with scented Epson salts, be creative;
  3. Go vegan or at least vegetarian for 1 or all 3 meals of the day.  If it is damp and cold where you live, try this Greek stew we adore, Fasolia Gigandes;
  4. Plant flowers, veggies or even a tree in your yard or a pot on your patio; and
  5. Leave the car at home, use public transit, a bike, your feet, or try telecommuting for the day.
Those are just a few suggestions.  Need more ideas?  Look through past posts on this blog; the upside of frugal shows how a frugal path in life is good for your budget, your health and the planet.  Be well, and Happy Earth Day to all!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

National Parks Free This Weekend - April 18th and 19th

You can thank the Twitter feed of a frugal friend, which alerted me to the fact the US National Parks are free this weekend!  Too late to plan a last minute trip?  Check out this web page from the National Park Service for additional free days this year:

  • August 25th;
  • September 26th; and
  • November 11th
Two the the three coincide with either summer break for the kids or my birthday.  I'm thinking some day trips will be in order, weather permitting.

Share a picture if you make a trip!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Closing in on the half-way mark - the Great Purge of 2015

Drum roll of today our family as purged 963 items from our home since January 1st! Yes, we are closing in on the half-way mark!  Accomplishments this week are due in large part to being party-poopers.

Not so long ago we threw several parties a year at our home -- a fall celebration, a Pi Day party in March, and then a gathering for the free Opera in the Park just around the corner.  When the number of guests swelled, we opted for a once a year Hello Summer party at a local State Park.  It was nice, but instead of an annual event, it will be a one and only.  The reasons are complicated, but boil down to time.  We have little free time and opt to focus on smaller, more frequent gatherings with a smaller group of friends over the once a year bash with those we rarely see.  One day we'll go back to hosting parties, but for the near future, lights out.

With that decision comes the realization we no longer need the plates, cups and utensils we'd bought at Goodwill. The idea was to use things over and over, washing after each party.  A frugal and earth friendly approach to entertainment.  Into the Honda trunk went the supplies, and off to Goodwill they will go.  Should we decide to through a party where we need lots of plates and cups there is never a shortage at our local thrift stores.  No need to store them here.

With this great purge comes the desire to clear out cabinet and closet space, allowing us to give permanent places for the items we treasure and opt to keep.  A great mantra I've read was never put something down, put it away.  To do that, everything needs a home.  And even though we are 963 items fewer here, we still have a lot of things that need a Nikon for one!

Check in next week to see if we cross the 1,000 mark.  And there will likely be intermittent posts -- our local farmers' market season starts Saturday.  Our chest freezer is empty of all items from last season.  No, not used up, just small enough to fit into the fridge freezer for easy access and contemplation over recipes.

Thanks for reading, and keep on being frugal!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Frugally Fit: Bikes and Yardwork

Ever chase a 6 year old learning to ride a bike?  Hands down more enjoyable than pounding away on a treadmill at the gym.  That membership we gave up at the end of February -- not missed once! Both kids are learning to ride, at the same time, which means lots of after dinner trips around the neighborhood.  With each day they get more confident, a little stronger, and a wee-bit faster.  From a walking by their side, we now do a nice jog.

Then there is the yard, beckoning me with rake and clippers in hand to uncover the beauty of Spring. Questionable workout?  Tell that to my aching arm muscles the day afterwards!

How long until the training wheels are gone?

No gym can beat this view!  Goodbye CNN on TV screens, hello Spring Bulbs.