Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Homemade Disinfecting Cleaner

If your family is like mine; the winter crud is about to start! It never fails, I just get life back in order after the holidays, and someone will invariably come home with the stomach flu, a nasty head cold, hacking cough, or any combination of the above. Needless, to say, it will go through the whole family (one at a time, of course). I do try my best to keep most surfaces wiped down with disinfecting wipes and Lysol, but it gets expensive fast! I found this recipe for disinfecting wipes on the Living On A Dime blog (conveniently located to your right), and have been impressed with it.

Homemade All Purpose Disinfecting Cleaner

2 TB ammonia
1/2 cup alcohol
1/4 cup vinegar
3 1/4 cups water

I add the first three ingredients in a quart spray bottle then fill it up with water. I keep one in both bathrooms. It is great for cleaning sinks, hard water on tile, toilet seats, kitchen counters, most hard surfaces, and greasy fingerprints off of doors. I even use it as a mirror and window cleaner (no streaking). To make disinfecting wipes cut a small roll of Bounty paper towels (no substitutes) in half (with a serrated knife). Place each half roll in a plastic container (if you use the 110 count tubs of Lysol wipes save the empty ones. The rolls fit in them perfectly). Pour 1/2 of the solution over each of the rolls. Give the paper towels a few minutes to soak up the solution, and then pull the card board out of the center. Much cheaper than the commercially made ones, and as long as you keep a supply of the ingredients on hand, no having to run to the store to get more when you run out!

Monday, December 28, 2009

More Garbage Recycling

Okay it's another quickie idea, again! I swear, after the holiday's I will sit down, and produce some quality frugal ideas. Unfortunately, right now the house is still not clean, and HOLY COW, the laundry is pouring out of the laundry room door! If I don't get on top of it today; child #3 and #4( both boys) will be wearing their sister's Hello Kitty underpants tomorrow!

I am a bread baker (and also a bread snob). Unless I can find a great deal on good quality bread at the store I like to bake my own. When I do find good sales I save the plastic bread bags to store my homemade bread in (right now Fred Meyer has been selling the Country Oven brand for $.79 - .89 a loaf. It's at its sell by date, but throw it in the freezer and your good to go. I have been finding it back by the dairy piled in shopping carts). After a while those bags start to pile up; making a mess of my pantry. Well, today as I was picking up an empty Kleenex box to toss in the trash I realized they are the perfect thing to store my bread bags in! Kleenex boxes would be great to store plastic grocery sacks, or washed out Ziploc bags, too. They hold a ton of bags, and they stack great. I have also been known to cut the tops off the boxes, and use them to organize my bill drawer. Just make sure you label your box, so someone doesn't try to blow their nose on your good reusable bags!!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Reuse Those Mesh Bags

Okay it's just a quickie hint today because if I don't clean my house soon the Health Department's going to shut me down!! Save those mesh bags that the Cutie Clementine's come in. There have been some great sales on them at Fred Meyer's lately, and they are the perfect kid friendly fruit. My kids love them. Anyway, the mesh bags make great storage bags for tub toys. Have the kids put the toys in it when bath time is over, and hang it from your shower caddy to drip dry. If your in a pinch for a pot scrubber. You can scrunch it up, and scrub away! When your done toss it in the trash. You can store bread bags in them, too. Hang it from the pantry wall with a push pin, and your bags are easily accessible. Let your imagination be your guide!!!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Breakfast Idea

As I was digging through the fridge this morning to make French Toast for Christmas breakfast, I had an ah ha moment. There was a quart of Eggnog with not quite a cup left in it, and some heavy cream leftover from fudge making. Rather than let it sit in the fridge and go to waste I substituted the Eggnog and cream for the milk in the recipe. After I whipped up the eggs I added in the Eggnog and cream with a teaspoon of vanilla. It was HEAVENLY (and the Eggnog haters didn't even notice). I bought Cinnaburst Bread from Great Harvest because it was a special occasion, but making French Toast is the perfect way to use up old bread, or odd and ends. I have even sliced leftover rolls into thirds (slice lengthwise), and used those (the kids had mini French Toast that day). Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top while it is cooking for extra flavor.

And while we are on the subject of breakfast. Here is a yummy recipe for homemade syrup.
It is so much cheaper to make your own syrup; especially if you go through it quickly! Even my picky third child (and yes I do remember his name today) who is a syrup snob loves this.

Homemade "Maple" Syrup

2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 tsp. maple extract (Mapleine)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup corn syrup (to prevent the syrup from crystalizing)
1 cup water

Stir ingredients together in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat stirring occasionally until it comes to a boil. This is the important part WATCH YOUR SYRUP CLOSELY!
Once it comes to a boil it will boil over quickly. As soon as it starts to boil and the sugar is dissolved take it off the heat and let it cool. The syrup is thin while it is hot, but once it cools it's thick just like store bought syrup. Pour into an old flip top syrup or ketchup bottle and store leftovers in the fridge. It will stay good for a month in the fridge, but ours never lasts that long!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

I am so tired tonight from trying to wrap up all of the last minute holiday to do's that I can't even think straight. Most of my plan A's are now down to Plan C or D. The rolls are store bought instead of homemade, the brownie cups (which I was going to wow everyone with on my blog tonight) stuck and look like misshapen UFO's (unidentifiable food objects), the fudge is grainy, the popcorn popper exploded (because SOMEONE was chit chatting and forgot to put the measuring cup back on top of the popper) and there is popcorn everywhere, the new toilet for the guest bathroom is sitting in the garage instead of in the bathroom (I have 17 people coming for a Christmas Eve party at noon tomorrow), the dog has had way to many holiday treats and will probably be sick tonight, the house is dirty, I couldn't even remember my 3rd child's name a little while ago ( he was called all of his siblings names, including his sister, and three of my brother's names before I got it right), and I think I'm coming down from my Diet Coke induced high. I am definitely NOT going to earn my Martha Stewart merit badge this year! But you know what, none of that matters because it's CHRISTMAS (yeah!)! Tonight I have nothing productive, clever, frugal, intelligent, amusing, or noteworthy to say other than MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone! Thank you for being wonderful people who support me, and love me despite myself. You are all truly a blessing! I love you all! Have a wonderful holiday!!!!!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gift Tag Idea

Today's tip is the product of desperation. I needed a last minute gift tag to tie to a gift bag (one that I am reusing from last year, of course). As I dug through my gift wrapping box I noticed a Christmas card that had been saved from last year. It had a cute picture on the front of the card so I used a tree shaped cookie cutter as a template and traced around the picture. I cut it out with a pair of scrapbook scissors. After punching a hole on the top of the "tree" tag; I attached it to the handle off the gift bag with a piece of Christmas ribbon. I hate to use sticky tags on gift bags because the person receiving the gift can't reuse the bag. Plus so many cards have such darling pictures on them I hate to throw them away when the holiday is over!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Decadent Cocoa

My mom gave me this idea a couple years ago, and I thought I would share! If you want to make a cup of hot chocolate extra yummy place two Hershey kisses in the bottom of the mug with the cocoa mix. Pour boiling water into your mug and stir until the kisses have dissolved (make sure to let it cool a little bit if serving it to kids, or add a dollop of leftover whipped cream to cool it down). It tastes like pure heaven! My favorite is two cherry cordial kisses in Stephen's milk chocolate cocoa. A container of cocoa and a bag of Hershey kisses is another great idea for neighbor or friend gifts this year (add a tag that says Wishing you a Merry "Kissmas" Love the ---). Kisses come in tons of great flavors during the holidays so watch the after Christmas sales, and stock up on discounted bags! Milk chocolate will last in your pantry for six months to a year. Save your candy canes too! My kids love to stir their hot chocolate with a candy cane, and I don't have to wash spoons when they are done. (Heads up! Stock up on mini candy canes on the after Christmas sales I have a darling Valentine's treat to make with them that I will post in February!)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Little Toilet "Humor"

My goal for this month was to post blogs with ideas and hints to help get through the holidays, but since we have finally resolved the "Great Plumbing Drama of '09". I had to share. For everyone who is intimately involved in my life you will know that for the last 5 - 6 months it has been an ongoing debate (argument) between Andy and I on the best (and most economical) way to fix the leak in the kitchen drainpipe, and our slow flushing toilets.

Every time I ran the dishwasher or drained a sink full of water a puddle would form on the basement floor below the kitchen. Annoying yes, but thank goodness the drainpipe is located in a non vital wall in the basement, and we were able to cut the sheet rock away and expose the pipe. I put towels all around the pipe to catch the flooding, and with close monitoring it has been manageable. As for the toilets that is another story entirely!

Any one who has children knows that on the best of days you may get two of your four children to flush (just once mind you) after a visit to the powder (bath) room. That's is 50% or a C if you are being graded. I could almost live with that, but with our slow flushing toilets it would require anywhere from two to twelve flushes to do the job properly. Needless to say, after months of this, my positive attitude on the subject was going south...FAST for a number of reasons:
1. Once a child is potty trained I don't want to know the nature of their business (unless they are sick and I have to clean it up).
2. Amount of toilet paper being used to weigh down the" offenders" so that it would go down
was cutting into my grocery budget big time.
3. The extra flushing was not helping our water bill.
4. It was getting embarrassing when we had company over, and you had to explain flushing protocol before they could use the bathroom.
5. Cleaning the toilet bowl once a week is bad enough, but two or three - UNBEARABLE!
6. I was catching myself standing over the toilet getting ready to clean it, and chanting under my
breath "please go down" with every flush.
Well, to cut this long story short I finally convinced my husband that with the holidays looming; it was time to fix the problem!

We called the plumber on Monday; he came on Tuesday and gave of us a bid that seemed reasonable, Friday he came and fixed most of the problems. The pipe had a split at the neck under the subfloor, he cut out the old and replaced the whole section. The plumber also replaced our main shut off valve that had rusted shut ( very bad if a pipe bursts!!!!). The toilets were a bigger can of worms. We thought our sewer line was clogged. Bless the plumber, he shot air through the line to dislodge any clogs (a much cheaper alternative to snaking the line). Unfortunately, the line was clear, it seems both toilets are shot(they had been manufactured in 1981 making them 28 years old or 228 in toilet years). Andy and Brian spent Friday night installing a new toilet in the master bathroom. It works like a charm! We are going to have to order the toilet for the hall bath because my tub and tile surround are light tan (got to love "80's decor) ,and it's cheaper to pay $25.00 more for an almond toilet than to pay for a total bathroom remodel.

Later last night as my family huddled around the new commode, their eyes shiny with anticipation; waiting for the heavens to part and the light shine down while angel choirs sang in the background, before the first "courtesy" flush. I took a moment to reflect on what I learned from the experience.

1. A plumber can be your best friend. Thank you to Ray at Holeshot Plumbing ( or call 208-589-1304) they were reasonably priced, upfront,
and honest. They are based out of Idaho Falls, but they are more than willing to travel throughout Southeast Idaho. I was very impressed with them.
2. Ask if there is a discount if you do the demolition work yourself. If you like your plumber refer
them to your friends; if he can get more work from your job you may get another discount.
3. If it a basic task do it yourself. It was cheaper for us to buy the toilet ourselves and install it.
If you are nervous there are tons of do it yourself books on home repair and plumbing at the
library or look on line.
4. All toilets are not created equal! It is better to buy a toilet from a plumbing supply store that
is specialized than Home Depot or Lowe's. It may cost little more, but the quality is better.
5. If your only option is a Home Depot potty check them throughly. Rub your hand around the
base and inside of the toilet to make sure there aren't any rough areas ( to avoid potential
clogs). Check the internal workings to make sure they are sturdy and made from stainless
steel or sturdy plastic (so you are not constantly replacing parts). Ask about how well it
flushes and how much water it uses.
6. Check to make sure there is a wax ring included with the toilet. If not, remember to buy
one (prevents profanity and pulsing veins halfway through the installation).

Now, I think I'm going to go and admire my "Merry Christmas" toilet. Happy flushing everybody!!!!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Waste Not Want Not

Now is the time that my kid's love to eat all the fruit that I have canned throughout the fall. I hate to pour the leftover juice down the drain since I had to pay for the sugar to do the canning. I have discovered that I can use it in my cooking and baking. You can replace it for the liquid called for in quick bread, muffin, cookie, or cake recipes. If the recipe calls for milk use powdered milk (1/3 cup of dry milk + 1 cup of liquid equals 1 cup liquid milk) and the amount of juice needed to equal what is called for in the recipe. You can also decrease the amount of sugar by a tablespoon or two. I have also used leftover juice from pineapple in place of water or milk when I am making a pudding based salad. It is also great to add to juice or kool aid(pour it through a mesh strainer into the pitcher if your family isn't big on floaties) to make it stretch a little bit further. When in a pinch I have even used leftover juice from peaches, blueberries, or apples as pancake syrup. Pour into a saucepan and add a little almond extract and cinnamon or nutmeg. Bring to a boil; stir in 1 tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with 1/4 cup juice or water. Return to a boil stirring constantly until it has thickened. Make sure you let the "syrup" cool a little before you serve it.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Creamsicle Fudge

Here's a twist on traditional fudge. Give it a try this holiday season. A neighbor shared this recipe with me several years ago, and it was an instant hit with my family. It is now requested every year by my husband, son, nephews, and co workers. It is easy to make and it will keep well in the fridge for several weeks ( if it lasts that long!). Happy Holiday cooking everyone!

Creamsicle Fudge

3/4 cup butter
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 package (10 - 12 oz.) vanilla or white chips
1 (7 oz.) jar of marshmallow creme
3 tsp. orange extract
12 drops yellow food coloring
5 drops red food coloring

Grease a 13x9 in pan with 1 1/2 tsp. of butter and set aside. In a heavy saucepan combine the sugar, cream, and butter. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in chips and marshmallow creme until smooth. Remove one cup of fudge and set aside. Add orange extract and food colorings to remaining mixture. Stir until well blended. Pour into prepared pan. Drop the reserved fudge mixture by teaspoons full over the top. Cut through the mixture with a knife to swirl. Cover and refrigerate until firm. Cut and serve. Yields 2 1/2 pounds.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Gift Idea

Here's a darling idea for an inexpensive gift to give to a teacher, neighbor, visiting or home teaching families, or friend this holiday season. You will need a large candy bar; they are on sale right now at Smith's or Fred Meyers for around a dollar. Copy and paste the image below into your Print Artist program, and print it off onto white printer paper. Wrap the the paper around the candy bar, and tape in place. Next take a knit glove (you can find them in a two pack at the Dollar Store)place it on the "snowman", and tie the fingers together with a piece of holiday ribbon (a great way to use up scraps)to create a "pompom". Take another piece of 3/4 to 1 inch wide ribbon, and tie it under the face to make a scarf. Place the other knit glove on a square of colored tissue paper; bring the corners together. Tie them together with a piece of curly ribbon; it should look like a little bundle or sack. Tape the bundle underneath the scarf.

When your done it should look like this:

My kid's gave these to their teachers and friends last year for Christmas. They were a huge hit! Who couldn't use a chocolate fix and an extra pair of gloves this holiday season!


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