It all started with a cockroach…

Isn’t that how so many things start?

Something so small and insignificant leads to something big.

So, this morning, I was unloading the dishwasher and when I was 3/4 of the way through, I noticed something rather peculiar in the bottom of the dishwasher.  Please don’t be a roach, please don’t be a roach, please don’t be a roach, I thought.  Upon closer inspection, it was, of course, a roach.  Dead, thankfully.  However, it meant that all the dishes that I just put up had dead cockroach molecules all over them.  Being slightly perturbed (and a lot grossed out), I went outside to tell Jason that we were just going to have to take apart the dishwasher drain thing to get the roach out.  Sighing heavily, he drug out a pair of needlenose pliers and a ratchet.

Naturally, the roach was stuck in the drain apparatus, and with no other way to fully remove the thing, we had to completely disassemble the drain thingy/filter for the dishwasher.  As it turns out, the roach wasn’t the worst thing about the whole incident. The drain and filter/membrane was chock full of total grossness.  I’m talking about food bits, some kind of grey sludge, and something black all caught up in the membrane.  Jason pointed out that we’ve been eating off of dishes that have been ‘cleaned’ with water that goes right through all of this sludge (AKA ‘toxic waste’).

We looked at one another and said, “OUT!”.  So today, the dishwasher was ripped out, with absolutely no plan to replace it.  See, there is no way to pop out the drain/recirculating water apparatus to clean it.  So, all of that clean water is pumped back through that hideous filter thing and sprayed all over your dishes.  Ew.  I wonder if most dishwashers aren’t the same?  So, back to yellow gloves and a drying rack for me.  Yet again we’re ditching a ‘modern convenience’.

Plus, when we ripped out the thing, there were 2 fat cockroaches sitting on the back of the tub, along with a lot of roach poo.  Yeah, that’s what I want in my kitchen!  A cockroach haven.

The good news is that (besides having roach-free dishes) we are going to put some nice shelves back in there to hold more of my baking (crap) stuff.  So, I guess I owe some thanks to that bold cockroach who gave up its life to get stuck in my drain!

Mrs. Frugalpants Vs. Bath Towels

I can’t help it.  I’m a thrift nut.  One of my favorite cooking pans came out of the bottom of a trash can.  ‘Nuff said?  Anyway, I was reading on a Good Housekeeping forum today about cotton bath towels.  A reader had complained about her stinky towels and was asking how to prevent the problem.  Another reader, codenamed “Newlywed” had replied that she “gets new towels from my parents every year to combat this problem (!?!)” She also went on to say that they buy her only Egyptian, spa-type towels.

I thought about my own towel cabinet.  First of all, let me begin by stating that I still have the majority, if not all of, my towels given to me for my first marriage fourteen years ago.  They are a perfectly eggplant shade of purple, which has amazingly held onto its color and fluff factor for over a decade.  (Obviously, this color was chosen in my non-neutral color scheme days).  Yes, the edges may be frayed, but a quick run through my sewing machine should take care of that.  My other favorite towels include a 30 year old towel with my almost 40 year old cousin’s name embroidered on it, and a ‘mystery’ towel which appeared magically one day on my towel shelf.  These 2 towels are as thin as toilet paper, with the Mystery Towel having a foot long hole right in the center of it, just in the right spot to accent your derriere when you wrap it around you.  My newest favorite (about 5 years old) is my ‘freebie’ Texas Lotto towel that I won playing a promo game at a festival.  It is a lovely shade of orange…somewhere between a traffic cone and a jack o’ lantern, emblazoned with PLAY TEXAS LOTTO across the entire shebang.  It’s not likely that you’ll find 100% Egyptian cotton towels in my closet.  Unless my 14 year old towels happen to be Egyptian cotton, I guess.

I have found that the thin, cheap towels are much more to my liking.  Why?  Well, consider the fact that cotton absorbs water fairly well, but also tends to hold onto the moisture longer than some other fabrics like linen.  Thus, you can easily end up with the funky mildew smell on your bath towels especially if the bathroom isn’t well-ventilated.  So, the ‘thin cheapies’ dry quicker whether in the dryer, the clothesline, or on a bathroom hanger.  I hate when you dry off with a seemingly clean towel which has turned musty.  Gag.

Rather than go out and get Mom and Dad to spring for some new towels for you and yours yearly, I’d recommend using thinner towels (I also love our thin beach towels).  Also, when washing towels, don’t let them sit in the washer for any length of time after the cycle’s done, especially on warmer days.  Unless you like musty towels, of course.  I partially dry my towels in the sun to help combat mildew, but finish/fluff them in the dryer since I don’t like trying to dry myself off with something that feels like 40 grit sandpaper.  Every now and then, if they have gotten musty, I will add a very small amount of bleach (maybe 1/2 cup) to the towel load to kill any mildew that may be lurking around.  Yes, I even to this to colored towels, but let’s be honest.  If my unicorn beach towel ends up a little faded, I really don’t care.  So far, I haven’t noticed untimely fading using a bit of bleach.

Bear in mind that using a dryer, sitting in the sun, and bleach are all pretty rough on cotton fibers.  So, eventually one day, you too may end up with your rear end shining out of your towels, but at least your towels won’t be musty, right?

On a final note, if your clothes/towels keep coming out of your washer with that mildewy smell, it’s probably time to wash out your washer.  Different washers have different methods, but usually you will run the longest, hottest cycle with bleach and soap only to try and bleach out any mildew present.  On some front loading machines, there is also some lint traps internally which may be causing you grief.  You’ll have to research to see where these traps are and how to clean them out.  Finally, I’d HIGHLY recommend that after washing, leave your washer door open so that the tub can dry out.  I know that on my front loader if I don’t do this, things get really ugly really fast.  And, be SURE that if you do this CHECK YOUR WASHER before using, as pets can climb in without your knowledge. Yep, it’s really happened before.

One last word…I also love cheap wash rags.  I get new ones in the kitchen section rather than the bath section. I think it’s about 12 rags for four dollars.  I hate uber-fluffy giant rags.  It’s like trying to scrub yourself with a handtowel.

Well, off to the shower for me.  Texas Lotto, here I come.

This vacuum sucks! (well, it should anyway)

I love my vacuum cleaners.  If I had to name the top invention of the 20th century, the electric vacuum cleaner would easily make my top 3 list. I run a vacuum daily around here.  It never ceases to amaze me how much dirt gets in a rug in a single day.  Ever.

Our house is 2 story, and hauling a vacuum up and down a flight of stairs is frankly a pain in the butt.  Plus, I have this vision of myself tripping over the cord while lugging it up the stairs, falling headfirst down the whole flight and getting skewered by the crevice tool.  I don’t really want ‘vacuum cleaner’ listed as my cause of death, so I have been on the hunt for another one.  Since I am still on my debt diet, if you will, it had to be cheap but reliable.

The other day, I was looking around at our local salvation army store and I saw a vacuum.  EIGHT DOLLARS.  I thought surely the thing was broken or something.  Oddly enough, it was a model I was very familiar with because I have the upgraded version of this very model.  I took off the dirt canister and it became immediately obvious why this vacuum had been discarded.  The filters had never, and I mean EVER been cleaned.  This is a major pet peeve of mine.  Maybe it’s because I took auto mechanics in high school.  Maybe it’s because my husband is a hydraulic repair specialist and the name of the game is filtration…I don’t know, but keeping clean filters is just something I’m weird about.

When filters aren’t clean, the vacuum loses suction.  Judging by these filters (and there are 3 total), I’d say this machine couldn’t have sucked up a feather if it tried its best. Another dangerous consequence is that the motor will overheat and it will eventually ruin the vacuum.

I rolled it up to the counter and asked if I could plug it in.  The lady said ‘sure’, so I plugged it in and turned on the switch.  A smoke bomb couldn’t have possibly made more fog than this vacuum did.  Choking on dust, I screamed, “Oh my God!” and switched it off.  The woman, with dusty tears in her eyes, clothes and counter, was probably really glad to see me fork out the eight bucks and leave.

Here are some pics I took:

Another pet peeve of mine is leaving on the stickers.  I had to immediately rip them off.  So here’s the vacuum.  Probably about a 90 dollar model.  Not top notch, but it was eight bucks, so who cares? Next:  Good grief, just look at this mess.  The dust had to be no less than a quarter of an inch thick. Yes, I am touching a stranger’s dust.  Yes, I found this gross and odd after I took these pictures.  I was happy, however to not find pet hair and cigarette smell in the vacuum.  Now how was air to EVER pass through this?

Now, here is the primary, or first, filter. Gag.  I admit that I did not even know the primary filter existed (shame on me for not reading my Owner’s Manual) on my machine.  One day, after about a year of owning it, I noticed that it wasn’t picking up dirt very well.  You can only imagine what it looked like when I re-read the manual to discover there was a primary filter.  Probably something like this:

Finally, here is the final HEPA filter.  GROSS.  This thing was white at one time.  The filters above are both actually black.  Anyway, I haven’t ever seen a HEPA filter so nasty. And air was supposed to pass through this!

So, how did I clean it?  First of all, obviously, it wasn’t plugged in and you MUST do this outside. Unless you want ‘stranger dust’ all up in your house.  Ew.  I removed all of the normally removable parts such as the dirt canister and all of the filters and their housing.

To clean filters, I got a washtub with some dishwashing soap and I DID use rubber gloves here.  I rinsed and rinsed until the water came out clear.  Once the filters were clean, I rolled them up in a clean towel and pressed out as much water as I could.  This can only be done with washable filters in good condition.  Some filters, such as HEPA filters, have to be tossed and replaced. Anyway, I put a drop or two of an essential oil on my filters so that when I vacuum, it fills the house with a nice smell.  Is it recommended? Probably not.  Who knows what EO’s will do to a filter anyway.  If they get really oily, they won’t work.  Maybe the oil will degrade the material somehow.  BUT, since I regularly wash my filters, I take the risk.  So, I am not telling you to do this at the risk of ruining your filters…but I love how it smells.  Anyway…

THEN, I took the vacuum itself and blew it out with a leaf blower.  Good grief, it looked like a dust storm.  Then I blew it out with an air chuck on the air compressor we have.  It was so gross, there are no words.  After an hour, I had it all back together again.  While the filters were not 100% dry (and they really should be), I went ahead and ran it.  It squealed like a banshee and I flipped off the switch. Jason told me to just leave it running to try and just ‘blow out’ the obstruction.  I could just see this eight dollar vacuum erupting into a fiery inferno spewing flames and catching my deck and house on fire.  But, I did what he said and sure enough the second time I turned it on the banshee squeal died and all was normal.

So there is the story of my bargain of the day and also how to keep your vacuum clean and happy.

Country Cleanin’

Well to preface this post, let me begin my revealing my December ‘Mystery Craft’.  It was how to make Christmas Trees out of magazines a la Martha.  You can see them here: Folded Magazine Trees.  Admittedly, mine did not turn out as glorious as Martha’s staff’s did, but who’s checking?  Also, you really need to get Martha’s Bone Folder, which can be found @ your local Wal-Mart for less than five dollars, to make things go along smoothly. 

Ok, now with December out of the way…onto…February? 

My topic today is going to be natural cleaning (read: non-toxic, mostly cheap) products you can make at home.  I starting doing this back in December, when I picked up a neat little book: Make Your Place off of Amazon.  (I also would like her other book, How to Make soap without Burning your Face Off.  Seriously.)  So, freshly inspired, I ran to the local health food store, well, actually I drove because I hate running, but I snagged a big bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap with Almond Oil.  It smells just like a million cherries are crammed in the bottle!  And, over the course of a couple of weeks, I also bought several essential oils: Tea Tree, Lime, Tangerine, Eucalyptus, and Lavender.  Note that these are NOT aromatherapy blends, these are the real, pure pressed oils from the plants themselves.  You can expect to pay about $5 to $12 dollars (or more) for a small  bottle of these products.  And, no, they do NOT carry them in Wal Mart!  ;0)  Anyway, I have fallen in love with essential oils!  Now, how to make your own products and using oils.

For a great, All-purpose general cleaner, I use this recipe:

1 tsp. liquid castile soap

2 Tbsp. White vinegar

1 tsp. borax (you can find 20 Mule Team Borax @ WalMart in the laundry area)

2 cups hot water

1/4 tsp each:  eucalyptus and lavender oil

3 drops tea tree oil

Mix all ingredients together in a spray bottle.  Do not use on glass. 

It also recommends to spray it on, scrub, and rinse off with a clean, damp cloth (which honestly….I don’t rinse it off  *shrugs*)  I also add a couple more drops of lavender oil because I am so addicted to the fragrance!  I use this on my tile floors, countertops, etc. *Shake well in between uses*

Glass Cleaner:

So very simple:

1 part water

1 part white vinegar

This works GREAT.  I mean, a million times better than “the blue stuff”.  Well, to me anyway!  Make Your Place also has this recipe for a Glass Cleaner:

1.5 cups white vinegar

1/2 cup water

4-8 drops of orange, grapefruit, or lemon essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake well.

Let me now add in here that you must, must, MUST use microfiber cloths.  I love my microfiber cloths and can’t imagine ever, in a zillion years, going back to stupid paper towels.  I only use paper towels for grody clean ups like…dog pee.  You know?

So anyway, back to the castile soap.  I have used it straight up as a body wash, as shampoo, and in the kid’s baths.  Also, the label says you can brush your teeth with it.  Did I do it?  Well…let’s just say…do you remember the scene in PeeWee’s Big Adventure where he brushed HIS teeth? (“Mad dog!Mad dog!”) Moving on:

Now for another biggie:

Dishwasher Detergent  (for use in the dishwasher, not the sink!)

1/2 cup liquid castile soap

1/2 cup water

1 tsp. lemon juice

3 drops tea tree oil

1/2 cup white vinegar

Add to squirt bottle container, preferably a recycled dish soap container, right?!?  I personally use about 2 Tbsp with each load, or, 3 good squirts directly in the bottom of the dishwasher. You will need to shake this concoction up vigorously before usage.  If not, it will form this gel-like substance from the reaction of the vinegar/lemon juice to the soap, which, incidentally still works great, but is potent.  I found this out when I added too much of the gel stuff and I had bubbles frothing from my dishwasher!  Lol.  BUT, if you use your dishwasher on a regular basis, like every 2-3 days and keep this shook up, you should not have a problem with the gel formation.  I love this recipe!!!

My only concern would be the breakdown of the fats which are in your dishwasher filter/lines.  I am not sure if this mixture is potent enough to fully dissolve buildup, so you could use your regular dishwashing detergent ever so often if you feel this could be a problem.  Also, I have noticed that it still leaves a thin film on some plastics (like disposable containers) but frankly with the whole Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalate scare, I’m trying not to use too many plastics for food storage anymore anyway.

Now, a word on essential oils.  Essential oils come in varying qualities.  I just use my local natural foods store because it is convenient and I like the oil quality just fine.  Also, essential oils should be considered as possible skin irritants so DO NOT get them on your skin undiluted. If you want to tinker with making your own aromatherapy/massage oils, the essential oils must be diluted in a carrier oil (an oil which is safe for the skin).  Some essential oils are extremely irritating to the skin!!!  I do not know anything about making massage oils and the like, so you’ll have to do the legwork there!

I hope this will help you all save some money and help you to break the cycle of thinking that we MUST buy specific cleaning products for every purpose, which is just silly!  Many more natural cleaning recipes can be found online.  OH, one last tip.  If you ever have stains/burned on food/etc. on your countertops, bathtub, other solid surface, try using baking soda and a damp sponge.  Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and scrub gently with your sponge OR microfiber cloth.  Most stains/food spills/etc, will just vanish.  It is very similar to using a Mr. Clean Magic sponge….but a looooot cheaper!

First Hard Frost

Well, it’s December 4th, and we’re finally, officially going to have our first ‘hard’ freeze around here.  Goodbye Brandywine tomatoes.  Goodbye my Romas and Sweet Cherry 100s who are still producing.  Bye, bye big, lush basil.  Ugh. 

I was going to name this post “Check out my Hooters”, but I haven’t gotten pictures of them yet.  Stay tuned for the madness and mayhem.  Just kidding.  Well, about the madness and mayhem, anyway.

In farmhouse news, I’m ripping apart the interior of ye olde farmhouse and re-arranging things more to my liking.  Now that we’ve been here over a year, I know what I’ll use and where it serves me best.  So, I’ve been “Martha”-ing it up all day today and I only got to 3 rooms.  Oh well.  Feels good to get rid of clutter.  Sorry I don’t have current pics, but my camera is dead today.  I re-re-arranged the pantry, making a ‘maid’s’ corner (yes, that is me).  I love it!  Will get photos soon.

In farm news, today I lost my last female duck. I let her out this morning, and by midday, she was gone.  Just disappeared.  I am almost certain it was a hawk, and well….I’m pretty pissed about it.  I LOVE duck eggs to bake with.  Sigh.  But, here’s some pretty happy news…I took 2 of her eggs and put them underneath a setting hen, and both are developing!  Funny thing: I just was researching this phenomenon (chickens hatching duck eggs) and I found this quote:  ” One good breed of chicken to consider to hatch your ducks is called the Silkie.”  Well, that’s exactly what I’m doing!  I have my fingers crossed that they’ll hatch into two beautiful little females.  I will keep you updated on that.  At any rate, this spring, I will be adding some more female ducks to the farm as well as female geese.  Did you know that ducks are actually as efficient, if not more so, at laying eggs than chickens?  The eggs are also much richer.  Because my ducks do not eat funky stuff in a pond, their eggs do not have any weird, off flavors.  Anyway, I’m down to 2 geese and Mr. Duck. 

Well, time to go sit in front of my fireplace, finish my coffee and work on some crafts!  Hooters coming soon!

Afterthought:  I want to add some pics I snapped of the Christmas tree in our kitchen!  Enjoy!

An ornament for my Mamaw and Papaw circa 1978
A Vintage Japanese Skating Santa with a....skirt???
A vintage Japanese snowman ornament. Isn't he so cute?
A vintage Japanese angel ornament, playing her harp

Givin’ Martha a Run for Her Money

fall09 011
Autumn at our pond

Today was an extremely productive day here on the homefront.  I recently bought Martha Stewart’s huge tome: Martha Stewart’s Homekeeping Handbook, and, inspired by the thought of gleaming vitreous china, floors, and faucets, I decided to make today the Super Cleaning Marathon.  So, I donned my new, super awesome apron (I will be posting about it SOON), and my bright yellow Playtex rubber gloves, I got down and dirty today.  I started at about 10am and did not finish until about 4:45pm.  I hand scrubbed the entire stairway, floors included, as well as my bathroom, kitchen, and hall floors.  Naturally, floor cleaning is reserved for last, so beforehand I had dusted and polished every surface, every facing, every knob, etc. 

But, what I discovered today, thanks to information gleaned from MS’s book, was how to create your own cleaning solutions.  I have been using a product called CitraSolv for the majority of my cleaning, but after reading about        d-limonene in the book, I thought I’d try some of the homemade cleaning recipes, which are supposed to be very safe and effective.  Anyway, I have been using baking soda and vinegar for several years now for various household chores, so I am not totally new to the DIY cleaning department.  BUT, today, I have to brag and tell you that I was MOST PLEASED with the outcome of my window washing solution!  To preface this, I have been getting more and more aggravated with using Windex as it seems like it smears terribly whenever I try to clean glass with it.  Isn’t that it’s sole purpose?  To clean glass???  Did I miss something here?  Anyhoo, today, I used this simple, extremely cheap recipe.  Mix 1 part water to 1 part white vinegar.  There.  That’s it.  No pretentious chemical lists, just pickle maker and water.  I am here to tell you that it left not one streak nor speck of dirt.  OK, I’m totally sold on this now.  Naturally, I used a microfiber cloth in conjuntion with the solution for a lint-free shine.  Also, I found that it literally only takes about a drop or two of this solution to clean an entire 12×15″ window.  So, for pennies, you can have your own super safe, effective glass cleaner, too! (Note: because vinegar is acidic, there are some surfaces you do not want to use this on, but it is definitely safe for glass)

Recipe number two was also super simple and effective.  To make an all-purpose cleaner, take 2 tablespoons of a mild liquid dishwashing detergent (I used a brand called Maison Belle that I snapped up @ Pier One on clearance), add to 2 cups of water, and there ya’ go!  See, how cheap and easy is that?  And, I used that on my painted walls, woodwork, and tile with no residue and it left it so clean.  I actually did not have a spare spray bottle for that, so I just threw it in a little plastic washtub and dragged it around the floor with me. 

So, there are a couple of ways to make yourself some nice, effective, safe, and very cheap cleaners.  Now, let me tell you something funny….

I am an avid window washer.  I can’t stand dirty windows!  If you have dirty windows, I want you to whip up some vinegar/water glass cleaner, throw on your rubber gloves, grab a microfiber cloth and get to work!  Don’t worry…I’ll be right here till you get back.  Done?  Ok, moving on.  So, being a rabid clean window freak, I cleaned most of the easy to reach exterior windows before tackling my window nemesis: the windows in my dining room.  The problem with these windows is that there is a 3 1/2′ wide growth of dwarf yaupons sitting right in front of them. Obviously, whomever planted these things was NOT a window washer.  Anyway, they were by far the dirtiest, so I decided to tackle the task.  Lacing up my apron tightly (yes, I so love my apron) and using a 3 step ladder, I figured the best plan of action was to balance myself on the 3 inch ledge in front of the eight foot length of the windows.  To do so was to ultimately face my fears of heights, falling, and being stung by a rogue gang of yellowjackets (hey, yaupons are thick and scary…you never know what lurks in there).  Somehow, by the grace of our dear Lord (cause I certainly am lacking in that department), I managed to precariously perch my bare toes on the very ledge, while simultaneously gripping the edge of the window.  Now came the hard part.  I had to spray the solution, plus manage to wipe it without killing myself.  Don’t ask me how I did it, but the windows are now nice and clean.  I was able to hook the spray bottle to my apron and buff the windows all while gripping like a deranged spider monkey on a ledge no wider than a credit card.  Probably not a safe thing to do….especially since the number one cause of death in the homeplace IS falling after all, now isn’t it?

Well, shine on, ladies and gents!  I’m hitting the sack!

The Simple Life is the Life for Me

“Use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.”

My mom and I were talking the other day about all her stuff that she has.  It depresses her to know that she has a huge house full of stuff, a storage building packed to the gills with stuff, and a huge barn full of stuff.  What constitutes “stuff”?  I would classify it as nonessentials that are taking up space.  Essentials being food, some household goods, and some clothes. I made the comment that I LOVE the ‘simple’ look for my home.  In other words, lots of uncluttered clean lines.  I also made the comment that the act of simplification is HARD!  For example, when I decorated my kitchen counters, I had to decide what I use on a daily basis.  For the most part, aside from my dry goods such as sugar and flours, if I did not use it on a daily basis, it did not deserve to take up space on my kitchen counter. The most difficult decision was deciding not to leave out my kitchen utensils (ladle, spatulas, etc) which, even though they were tastefully arranged in a vintage crock, were just too much eye clutter for me.  It sounds silly, but I do believe that my stress levels go down when I see ‘clean lines’, that is, not a lot of STUFF laying around!  I also believe in the power of a CLEAN KITCHEN SINK. I swear, it’s better than anti-anxiety medication! 

Anyway, I think this is why I have embraced the vintage country look so tightly.  I have also embraced the saying, “If you don’t love it, lose it.”  If it is an item of considerable worth, I will sell it.  If I can ‘recycle’ it into something new, I will do that.  If I just can’t figure out what to do with it, I run it to Goodwill.  I think this is an extremely valuable lesson for all of us to learn.  Why surround yourself with things that you don’t absolutely love?  This is just simplification of your Life.  Are you, too,  drowning in a vast sea of stuff?

I came upon a website that I fell in love with:  The Farm Chicks blog.  I am going to direct you to her Laundry Room blog.  I saw that blog and it so inspired me that the next day, I took an hour to re-do my own laundry ‘room’. She totally decorates with the same style that I love.  I also spent the rest of that same day re-doing my pantry.  Three hours later, I love it!  I will post pics soon.

In farm news, I would like to brag to you all for a minute.  I had this shirt that I got at Goodwill the other day.  Truthfully, I did not love it.  I will have to admit to you that it was an impulsive, dumb buy for 4.99.  But I did love the fabric.  Well the other day, I decided to do something with it.  I ripped out the side seam of that shirt, and I made each of my girls a prairie skirt/maxidress (why not get 2 uses out of one item of clothing, right???).  Oh, they really turned out so cute.  And, to top it off, the elastic I used to make the skirts’ waistband was an elastic band I had removed from one of my own skirts that I am re-doing!  Oh, please pat me on the back, lol!  See, I’m really getting into this whole ‘repurposing’ thing.  Like, I took some sundresses that I had, where I really LOVED the fabric, but frankly, as sundresses, they made me look like a beached whale.  I whacked off the straps and VOILA!  they became a full-length skirt.  I have gotten many compliments on them, surprisingly not as dresses, but as the new skirts.  So, when I go to Goodwill, yard sales, etc.  I don’t always look at something as it’s original intended purpose.  God bless my mom for buying me a sewing machine 10 years ago!

Yesterday, I made my first batch of refrigerator pickles.  I planted some pickling cukes back in September and they are now ripening.  Boy, are they good!  Here is another reason to hang onto used glass jars!!!  I was wondering what I would do with all of these glass jars that I can’t use for canning.  I can’t bear to toss a good glass jar!  Here is the recipe for those pickles.  I scaled down the recipe to make just one quart jar.  I did this by tasting the vinegar solution after boiling (Hint: Do NOT inhale when bringing the tasting spoon to your mouth.  Bad, bad idea)  I didn’t have enough liquid the first time by simply cutting the recipe down, so I just made some more up, flavoring with sugar and pickling spices.  You can substitute pickling spices instead of all of those spices they use, by the way.  I believe one reviewer used 2 teaspoons of pickling spice for the full recipe, but do add to suit your taste. 

I also made a homemade apple pie!  I picked up an apple slicer, peeler, corer at the flea market the other day for four dollars.  They are usually about 25 brand new.  I had bought one previously for 2 dollars, but I found out it was missing an integral part, so I will have to come up with something to fix it.  Anyway, to peel, slice and core and apple with this doodad takes about 20 seconds.  It is so awesome!  Well, the pie turned out delicious.  Here is the recipe.  You know it’s good when it gets almost 4,000 5 star ratings!  But, I would only suggest this:  Add a teaspoon of cinnamon and a tiny (!!!) pinch of nutmeg.  Also, after you made the syrup, combine it with the apples, THEN pour it into the bottom crust.  That is all!

Well, I ordered 13 books for my birthday from Amazon.  As you can probably guess, most, if not all, are on self-sufficiency.  Well, I did also get some on how to make rag rugs and vintage kitchen linens.  How I love books!  Right now I am reading through the complete Tightwad Gazette.  It is like my own personal bible.  I love it! 

Until next time, learn to simplify!