Grilling Adventure

I totally meant to expand on my Wordless post from yesterday, but then life and work got in the way. Well. I shouldn’t say they got in the way, like it IS life. Busy is life. This morning I got up, wasted as much time as I could trying to talk myself out of going to work out at the “Y” and finally succumbing to what I already knew: I wasn’t talking myself out of it.

Made it, did it (treadmill and bike), sweat like a pig in heat, took a shower, got my work clothes on and zoomed off to work. Did everything that needed to be done (bulletin done on a Thursday – what?!). Home. Took oldest boy freak to driver’s ED. Home. No clue what I did, then. Picked oldest boy freak up, took him to his friend’s for the night,  dropped the other freaks at “Y” for a bit, picked up Frank, got in a car accident (nobody hurt, not my fault, another entry will explain), picked up kids, got ice cream, went to Walmart. Home.

And now I write a Tell Me Thursday about my Wordless Wednesday, because, I’m just on top of things like that.

So it was just an impromptu grilling adventure. Nothing to do, but wanting – NEEDING – family time. Packed up what we had and set off to have an impromptu picnic with our grill. The main course was turkey burgers, but we also had a bagful of corn. The goal was to find a park with a permanent grill where we could cook the corn, and then we’d make the burgers on our smaller portable grill.

The boys grumbled for the first portion of our “adventure” as we drove around like blind mice looking for a permanent-grill-rendering-park. Finally I turned on the GPS, much to Frank’s disgust (he’s anti-GPS). He remembered a little park tucked away and we plugged it in. By this time, it was pretty much going to be the tucked away park or nothing, and if they didn’t have a permanent grill, we’d trash the corn.

One baseball diamond, a whole bunch of grass, long driveway, a shelter, park, horseshoes (for crimminy sake) – it was just too perfect. Oh, and – a standalone grill. Oh, and a bathroom. With soap pumps. We hadn’t been to the park in years. I was so glad we revisited it. We basically owned the park for the duration of our visit. It was great.

Frank grilled, I watched the boys beat each other up. Dinner was served, and everyone enjoyed the family time despite being initially bent on trying NOT to enjoy it and label it a completely fruity idea.

THE CORN: We put it on the grill, in the husk, over ready coals for about 30 minutes or so. I don’t mind a few darker parts. It adds to the flavor. Seriously, I could have just eaten the corn it was that good.

The boys played, ran, kicked balls, kicked each other, ate, laughed. The food was super simple and fantastically delicious. It was nice to just be alone, as a family, encapsulating some time for us together, even if only for a few hours. A mini-vacation here and there among the regularity of the days, weeks and months, doesn’t always have to be jetting off to another country or even visiting another state (a luxury that right now, we simply can’t afford). An impromptu picnic in the park does just fine.

Using Scissors to Save Money Around the House

Save money using something you already have — a pair of scissors!!

What?! You say?

Yes. Below are five simple household items you can take a scissors to to help you save money.

1.) Sponges. Take your regular sponge or green scrubbie at the kitchen sink and chop it in half, turning your 3-pack into a 6-pack, doubling your money. Half a sponge lasts and cleans just as well as a whole one. Really.

2.) Hair. OK. That’s an easy. But, if you have four boys like I do, you can save yourself $75  each time you’d visit the barber by cutting their hair at home by yourself. I did this for years. Now my husband shaves his head, and half the time the boys get a cut once a year, letting it grow out the rest of the time. That’ll save ya money, too.

3.) Old towels. Out with the old, in with the new – well don’tcha dare throw away those old bath towels until you’ve ragged them up. You heard me. Rag’em up!! You can get a good 12 rags out of 1 bath towel. Store these under your sink (or wherever you keep your cleaning supplies).

My biggie is cleaning the toilet. Between cutting up towels or junked clothes, I’m usually stocked with throw-away rags. If I’m out of rags, I use paper towels. I just can’t get down with using something that is not disposable, because toilets are plain grodie – you feel me? It doesn’t seem clean to me unless I throw out whatever I used to clean the stinky critter.

rags

4.) Dryer sheets. If you really want to save money on those sheets, cut them in half. This is hard for some people, because some of ya’ll actually use TWO sheets per load. So I understand cutting down to a half of one might not be your thing. But if you’re not a dryer sheet lover, then you really CAN go down to half a sheet. Try it.

5.) Your yard. Yuppers. You heard me right – cut your grass with scissors. Better yet, get the kids to do it, if you have them. Believe me, an entire day of hands-and-knees grass cutting will wear your kids OUT. Free, non-polluting and so easy a child can do it. Can’t ask for more.

I’m KIDDING. Pick your jaw up off the floor. OK. Here’s number five for serious.

5.) Houseplants. Yes, houseplants. They’re called “stem cuttings.” You can fill your entire home with houseplants by employing a little patience and a few generous friends (or a mom, in my case) who won’t care if you take a scissors to their plants.

Basically you cut a few 6-inch stems off of the established potted plant, take off the lower leaves and plunk the cuttings into an bottle/jar of water for a while until the roots grow, then plant them in a pot. It isn’t rocket science. For a black thumb like me, it also isn’t a huge comittment. If it works out, great – if not, not a biggie. HGTV has some easy but more expanded instructions on reproducing houseplants from stem cuttings, if you are so inclined.

There you have it. Five super easy ways to save money around the home using a pair of scissors (and I didn’t use “coupons” as one of the examples). Do you have anything you use scissors on to save money? Let me know, I’d love to hear it.

Make Your Own Kid’s Detangling Spray

loreal-kids-conditionerI’ve got five kids and they’ve all got temperamental hair. One’s got a ‘fro, one’s got straight thick hair, another curly lion’s mane… so I’m always needing to wet their hair down before I comb it. When my daughter was young (she’s got the nappiest hair of them all), I would stock spray detangler like it was a main food source for our family. Needless to say, that gets expensive.

So I started mixing my own detaingler for my kid’s hair. Got a squirt bottle and did a 5:1 (5 part water, 1 part conditioner). Works fabulous and is cheaper than buying detangler by the case. I’ve used all kinds of conditioners, but through trial and error, I figured out that the L’Oreal Kid’s Conditioner (or Suave Kid’s Conditioner — basically a kid-specific conditioner) works best, and it smells good.
Now watch them come out with a “concentrated detangling solution” that you mix with water. Don’t act like you didn’t see it here first!! And they best be sending me a case of conditioner, since I’m talking them up like that. And they best not discontinue this conditioner or I’m going to be shaving my kid’s heads.

(c. 2005)

Cold-Brew Coffee Concentrate (Homemade)

In 2006 I wrote about a Cold-Brew coffee concentrate that you could easily make at home. After switching over to WordPress, it got buried. But it is one that is worth re-visiting…

After reading a magazine about cold-brew coffee, I thought it would be an interesting project to try. The article boasted of a less-acidic/bitter brew, yet still strong and tasty – but noticeably smoother. With a multiple batches under my belt, now, I am ready to share some information.

I knew there was an appliance (called the Toddy Maker Cold Brew Coffee Maker) that I could purchase to make the coffee, but decided to take a more rustic approach. If I can accomplish a decent cold-brew coffee without spending any money or cluttering up my house with yet another appliance – I’d be a happier woman.

coldbrewcoffee.jpg There’s instructions out there, most conflicting. Here you will find instructions to how I made cold-brew coffee with success.

COLD-BREW COFFEE INSTRUCTIONS

I put coffee grounds (nothing special – store bought ground OR your favorite whole bean [set your grind to percolator]) into a glass measuring cup. The ratio I used was 3:1, water:coffee. (You can simplify by doing 1 pot-worth of grounds to 16 oz. water, if you’d like.) I stir mine, though others will say not to. I don’t see how letting dry coffee sit on top of water is going to do anything for you, hence my decision to stir the mixture, making sure all the grounds get wet.

After stirring the mixture, I covered it and placed the container into the fridge for minimum 12 hours.

After the waiting period, I give it one more stir; filter it to get rid of the grounds. (I use a mesh tea-strainer to filter the grounds out. I’ve also had success with first filtering through with a veggie colander, and then using the mesh filter.)

To prepare the coffee I used a similar ratio, but that will depend on your own tastes. I put the concentrate in my mug, and put some fresh water on the stove to warm. I didn’t heat it to boiling, but to the point where steam is escaping. Poured this over my concentrate.

That’s it. Very simple. Generally used 1 cup coffee to 3 cups water and it makes enough concentrate for a day or two. Obviously depending on your ratio of concentrate, you will need more or less to make your coffee. The more times you do it, the better you will be able to make the mixture to suit your own preferences. You can store this in the fridge for up to a week.

Bottom Line:
I really like cold-brewed coffee. It is a simplified, less wasteful way to make coffee (I don’t like coffee that has been sitting on a heating element) and the smooth taste very much appeals to me. This would be a great way to make coffee while camping or traveling.

Misc. Findings:

– Preferred type of coffee grounds used is a percolator-coarse ground, the better the coffee, the better the end product
– “Brewing” coffee more than 12 hours (I went as far as 22) did not alter the taste of the concentrate
– “Brewing” coffee at room temperature rendered a more bitter coffee, though some might like this more, I preferred the refrigerated version
– To strain I used a tea strainer, you can use cheesecloth or whatever strikes your fancy

If you have suggestions or tips, feel free to contact me.

Cheap Gas, Cheap Lunch

Our livingroom table has turned into a classroom. Franny has a tutor (who comes once a day for two hours), being taught mostly while on his back on the couch. He was progressing to sitting up, but then had the surgery and was on above the heart leg-elevation orders again. Tomorrow he should be able to sit up more again.

school and homework materials

It has also become a place where I do my work. Although, it was that way before, too. Calculators, box of writing materials, reading books, sticky notes…

more school and homework materials

My mom came over today while the tutor was here so that I could get into work for a couple hours. I also needed to gas up our van, which I was actually excited to do, since I would get it for 90 cents off per gallon due to Fuelperks. Work was methodical and predictable, which was fine with me. I stayed a little longer than I thought I would, and by the time I was ready to leave my stomach was completely obnoxious, begging for something to fill it up. A tootsie roll from my candy dish did not suffice.

I did save a nice chunk of change, but the savings didn’t fill my tank (limit of 20 gallons, the tank is 30). But I was still a happy lady. But on the way home, I was wracked by the temptation to stop (anywhere!!!) and get something quick to gobble down, my hunger was so atrocious. I passed one, two, three fast food restraunts. I knew if I could hold out for the last one, I would be fine, with no more options. I reminded myself of the turkey and salami I bought from the deli two days before.

Make a sandwich, make a sandwich.

Willpower prevailed (this time), and I did not spend money on lunch. Instead I had my new favorite mix (Sierra Mist and cranberry pomegranete juice) and a sandwich.

cranberry and sierra mist

With hunger manning the ship, I used about double the turkey I normally do. It was still very good.

turkey and salami sandwich

If I were really smart, I’d make another one of these for myself to either take to work tomorrow or to eat right when I get home. Mmm.

Land’s End Squall Jacket Bargain

Do you see a difference between these two jackets?

At the beginning of the winter season, Frank’s aunt purchased a jacket for Carlito from Land’s End ($70). A very nice jacket, perfect for his ski trips, daily use, sledding, etc. She got the jacket with matching hat and gloves – very nice, practical gift. He wore it thorough most of the season until the zipper broke, and we had to exchange it for another one. It was an easy exchange, I’ll give Land’s End credit for that.

Twords the middle of winter, though, Sal’s jacket broke. He had been using a hand-me-down from Carlito, but that was too snug. Well, during one of my Goodwill trips, I found a duplicate of the jacket Carlito’s been wearing – in Sal’s size and in excellent condition – at a fraction of the cost ($7). I picked it up, checked the zipper, looked for tears… nothing. The only difference was the name label inside was cut out. I could definitely work with that. Score.

Sal’s jacket is the smaller, on the left; Carlito’s is on the right.

20 Ideas For Re-using Dryer Sheets

You may or may not have seen this already, as it circulates the inboxes. But maybe you’ll find another way to re-use your dryer sheets.

1. Use it to dust your television screen. The anti-static chemicals in a dryer sheet will help to repel dust and lint.

2. Use old dryer sheets to easily wipe up talcum powder, flour, and other messes of this type.

3. Used sheets usually have enough fragrance in them to freshen up other areas in your home. Stuff them in tennis shoes, place them in closets, in laundry hampers and in pieces of luggage – anywhere your house needs a little “refreshment.”

4. Run a sheet over a piece of thread when you’re doing sewing tasks. The thread won’t tangle up as easy.

5. Have pet hair on your clothing? Simply wipe it off with a used dryer sheet! Also works great on cloth furniture too!

6. Keep dust and other contaminants off your glass computer screen by carefully wiping it with an old sheet.

7. Did you purchase some old, musty books at a garage sale or thrift shop? Make them smell good again! Simply place the books in a sealed plastic bag with a used dryer sheet. Allow the bag to sit undisturbed for a day or two, then remove the contents. The musty smell will be gone!

8. Got a problem with mice? Find where they are entering your house and stuff the hole shut with a used sheet. Mice won’t chew through the smelly material.

9. Place a used dryer sheet in the bag of your vacuum. Sweep your house, and, once you’re done, the air will smell as fresh as your clothes do.

10. These wonders of the 70’s are also said to repel mosquitoes as well as other annoying, flying insects. Don’t rub it on you. Instead, stick a used sheet in your belt loop.

11. You can use dryer sheets to clean and polish the chrome on your vehicles.

12. Is there a build-up of soap scum on your glass shower door? Simply use an old dryer sheet to eliminate the mess.

13. Is the interior of your car or truck smelling a little stale? Forget the pine tree on a string! Place a few used dryer sheets under the seats of your vehicle instead!

14. Use sheets to clean and polish the glass lens of your eye glasses. They’re not recommended for plastic lens, though!

15. Is your hair dry and full of static electricity? Gently wipe a used dryer sheet over your head to get rid of it.

16. Dryer sheets make great dusting cloths for your wooden furniture.

17. Help keep dust and other contaminants out of your house. Simply place a used sheet inside every furnace/AC register in your house. Make sure it covers the openings and replace once they are dirty.

18. Keep your window blinds clean longer by wiping them periodically with used dryer sheets. The anti-static properties of the product will actually help to repel dust and dirt.

19. Are your scissors not cutting as smooth as they should? Wipe the blades clean with a used dryer sheet to remedy this problem.

20. Used dryer sheets make great little cloths for quick shine ups in the bathroom and kitchen too. Just use one on each of your chrome faucets and see how brightly they shine!

Cheese And Vino

Last night I sat down with Frank and had a late evening snack of cheese and vino.

I used our “new” wine glasses. They’re “new to us” second-hand finds (Goodwill). I loved them because, well, I had the same glasses years ago, so they were nostalgic, but also because the glasses of today are fun, but ridiculously humongous. These little baddies remind me of Italian spaghetti house vino glasses. Simple.

Charlie’s Soap Review

Groovy Mom Review I have in my possession something I’ve been wanting to try for a very, very long time. Charlie’s Soap.

1 – Laundry Powder
1 – Laundry Liquid
1 – All-purpose cleaner

My main interest in Charlie’s Soap is the powder since HE “friendly” laundry powder is not the easiest to come by. Though I had the products in my hot chubby hands a couple months ago, it took me a bit to get around to thoroughly testing the powder. For one, I needed to get my soft water in order. I tried it with hard water and was not too keen on it. Though I’ve heard the Charlie’s Soap people are ready and willing to help troubleshoot for those with hard water, I decided to wait. I wanted to give it a fair shot in my “normal” laundering conditions, and that included soft water. I will note that, for me, Charlie’s Soap in hard water with the addition of Borax powder seemed to do an OK job. I have no idea if that is the protocol for hard water people. But, in my moment of compulsive laundering techniques, I thought I’d give it a try. However – on one load of laundry (gym clothing), there was still odor after washing. That was when I stopped testing with hard water.

Soft water status attained, I cleaned my washer, as instructed to do before using the soap. Again.

A double dose of either of our Laundry products, along with some old towels or shop rags, will be more than enough to loosen these deposits from your tub. After this first load, remove the towels and your machine should be properly prepped for use. – Charlie’s Soap FAQ

I did this before with the hard water situation, but decided it couldn’t hurt to do it again. For the past week, now, I’ve used Charlie’s Soap (1 T.) in my top-loading HE washer, in every load. No detergent has touched my washer during this time. At first I used the soap without any softener, but the static cling was insane. So I use about 1/2 cup of white vinegar (YES it works splendidly with any laundering soap/detergent and NO it does not smell in the finished product) per wash and that has helped tremendously.

As of my 1-week trial I am happy and satisfied. My clothes… smell clean. They look clean. I’m a bit surprised, as I am quite accustomed to heavily-scented, stark blue liquids and the implication that being stark blue and perfumed it will clean better. I’m also accustomed to liquid, but very much enjoy the powder. Less mess and flat out easier. The little 80-use bag takes up way less room than a jug of detergent. I was 1/3 way through it, though, before I realized it came with its own little green measuring scoop. It was tucked down inside.

I’ll admit I’ve used a dryer sheet a few times (when I’ve forgotten vinegar). Though I like scented things, I also like the smell of simply clean fabrics and knowing that I’m not wearing a chemical factory on my body. So really, I don’t mind that much that the laundry smells just less like a cuddly teddy bear and more like… clean laundry. It is somewhat reminiscent of line-dried clothing. “Just clean clothes,” as they say.

I will continue to use the soap until it is gone and report back if I have anything more to add. But so far, all is well. Even on my four boys dirty wrestling and soccer gear. Being that it is winter around here, I haven’t been able to put Charlie’s Soap to the test of muddy soccer, football and baseball gear. That might be another update. But from what I’ve seen it has handled all of the food stains that we have managed to put through the wash.

I’m not sure yet about the laundry powder “bringing out the stains of past” but it is dealing with the present ones just fine. I am very happy with it.

Also good to note – nobody in our family has developed a rash or skin irritation from the product.

Bottom line: Simple, safe, economical. Really liking it. So far my rating for the laundry detergent is:

So far my rating for the all-purpose cleaner is:

I will quickly say that the cleaner works well on counters, on my dirty fridge, bathroom… (again, will report back again when the bottle is empty). I give it two stars rather than three at the moment because I’m still evaluating and deciding.