Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Problem Solvin' Mom's Cobbler

I have to agree that this is probably the easiest fruit cobbler ever, although I want to share my version of it with you.

Sub Trader Joe's chunky cinnamon apples for the 2 cans of pie filling
Sub any GF mix you like (biscuit with a little added sweetener, TJ's GF brownies, whatever you have on hand) for the box of yellow cake mix
Vegan margarine for butter (although I don't melt it, I fling slices of it around on top and it does just fine)
The chopped nuts remain optional as are my sprinkle of cinnamon or vanilla sugar on top.

I highly recommend you give it a try. Each combination results in something tastier than the last it seems!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

From Boxer Shorts to Pajama Bottoms

One of the easiest refashions ever is converting an unused pair of men's boxer shorts to a pair of ladies' summer pajama bottoms; all you need to do is sew the fly shut. My hubby never wore these and I can always use an extra pair of PJs, so I spent less than five minutes at my sewing machine, closing up the fly with a simple straight stitch.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Need to Save 10% on the Purchase of a Walt Disney World Annual Pass?

Along with the latest Mickey Monitor we received coupons for 10% off the purchase of up to six annual passes. The giver (me) gets a $25 gift card for redemption of the coupon, their incentive for us to give them away I suppose.

We have eight of these coupons, which expire July 31, 2009. If you'd like me to mail some off to you please comment with the number of passes you need to purchase so I know how many to send. Feel free to pass this offer along to others. I will edit this post when the coupons are gone.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Best Produce Bags You'll Ever Use.

I made these produce bags and quite a few more from a remnant purchased from my local fabric shop (not the big, chain place, the Mom & Pop place) for $2.70. Oh, how I wish I'd purchased more of it!

The fabric was a not very attractive looking mauvey-pinkey gauze with lots of space in the weave. Whatever it was intended for, in the pre-washed state it wasn't very pretty and was just a bunch of pulls waiting to happen. For all I know it might have been intended to be waste fabric, because it certainly couldn't have stood up to much. But one of my favorite things to do with fabric is to buy things that aren't intended for washing and wash them to see what I end up with. This turned into a lighter pink, seersuckerish gauze that makes a bag intended for a large bunch of carrots with the tops still attached weigh about .07 on my postal scale!

I didn't make them with concern for weight since their intended use was for our organic farm share pickups but once I discovered how well food kept in them I continued using them once the farm season was over. Cashiers often panic or get annoyed when they see them, thinking they have to take the produce out of the bag to weigh it for me. I solve this in two ways - use the self-service line and avoid the cashier totally or tell them right off that I'm using fabric produce bags (as well as fabric grocery bags) and that there is no need for them to remove the produce to weigh it. I had a young guy in his 20's get a little annoyed with me, trying to convince me they weighed too much and I shouldn't be 'charged' for them each time they were used. I told him how much they weighed on my scale and that I'd also weighed a store plastic bag and found a difference so small I was willing to take it.

Produce stays so much longer in these bags. The moisture that icks up produce in plastic bags is absorbed by the cloth bag, keeping the fruit and vegetable surface nice and dry. If the food isn't used right away, I'm told the moisture captured in the bag keeps it moist. Whatever it is, I love these bags! Just like my cloth napkins, they're tossed into the laundry allong with our towels. They take up next to no room in the wash and come out nice and fresh every time. They cost so little it won't bother me at all when it is time to toss one on the compost.

I haven't found that great fabric again, but I have invested in twenty yards of a similar fabric in white. I plan to make a good supply of these to offer to folks who might want to have some. Can anyone think of a fun drawing I might run here?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mending, Even the Quick-and-Not-So-Perfect Kind, is In These Days.

When I started this job two years ago I was issued a wool overcoat. It is decently well made, but it gets worn in the car on long commutes, has the quilting zipped in and out of it, gets thrown in and pulled out of lockers, closets, on and off coat hooks and chair backs. You get the picture. It is mistreated. Well, mostly the liner is, because when I'm tossing it here and there I do fold it inside out to protect the outside. It is lined with typical flimsy acetate which isn't meant to be, for instance, snagged on coat hooks. So naturally it is torn in a few places. Today I decided to spend five minutes less-than-neatly fixing the liner by trimming off the threads and giving it a quick fix on my serger.

Let me explain two things - first, this coat costs $150 to replace and we only get a $200 allowance toward clothing each year. I refuse to spend the bulk of it on an unattractive coat that only marginally keeps me protected from the elements. Second, you'll rarely see me hand sewing and this is because it hurts to do so. Rather than spend all my day off in pain I chose the easy way out and did a quick and dirty serging rather than a nice, neat and proper job. Perhaps someday I'll be motivated to do it right, but for now I just wanted to stop further damage and save $150.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Share What You Have With Those Who Need.

I have long understood the value of giving. Each person will know in what manner they can best give: time, money, skills, goods, legacy, what have you.

The group that has been my favorite for a good six or seven years now is Online Angels, a 501(c)3 charity. Please take a moment to look around the site and consider getting involved. There are many ways to help OA, whether it be by purchasing a raffle ticket, sending in school supplies, crocheting a love-ghan. You donate it and Mary, Royce and family will get it to the person who needs it plus you'll get a tax deduction for it! I donate all sorts of things, from auction items, to school supplies, to a box of new clothing and toys for a specific child at Christmas. That's the thing about OA, with very few exceptions, everything given to recipients is new, with much of it being lovingly handmade by a good soul with a prayer in their heart. Of course you don't have to be religious to give to OA, but you might find yourself feeling spiritually fulfilled by doing so!

This cute little hat was made on the pictured blue Knifty Knitter loom with yarn donated to me by another volunteer who couldn't use it. You can get Knifty Knitters at most any crafting store these days. The pink and brown is very stylish right now and it took me but about ten minutes to make the 18 rows necessary for this preemie sized cap. The tool is from Craftsman, sold in a 4 pack of different shapes for about $5 in the tool department at Sears. Basic loom knitting such as this is easy and almost meditative. If you'd like to learn a little more about it, check out the Livejournal community Loom Knitters or help out OA by going to GoodSearch, selecting Online-Angels of Pottsville, PA as the charity you'd like your searches to be credited to and using their Yahoo powered search engine to learn more about loom or board knitting.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Value of Cloth Napkins

Wise Bread asks, What can we buy to help us thrive in this recession?

I say one of the 'investments' you should make is cloth napkins. They're both environmentally friendly and budget boosting. Of course they're cheaper still if you make your own from no longer usable clothing or linens or from some fabric purchased long ago, but even if you have to make an 'investment' and purchase them outright, they're worth it. Quite often you can get them for .25 each at a thrift, donated by a non-frugal person who didn't stop to think that it doesn't matter if they match your decor - you only use them for a few minutes while eating then toss them into the laundry with the rest of your towels and kitchen linens.

Cloth napkins take up almost no space in the wash and add nothing to your regular laundry bill but you'll save the cost of purchasing that pack of plastic wrapped, disposable paper napkins you routinely toss into the shopping cart. You'll also save the cost of disposing of them, including sending them to the landfill.

Don't feel locked in to linens designed for use as napkins, either. You can use bandannas, washcloths, dishcloths, whatever you find at a good price or whip up from a no longer usable shirt or sheet. Last Memorial Day I brought a large bag of napkins I'd made to a barbecue to share. I displayed them in a basket and invited all in attendance to take home as many as they liked. Some folks were quite surprised to hear what the previous form of their favorites had been, most especially the palm tree decorated set that had been a 3X shirt from prior to my 80lb. weight loss that I just couldn't seem to part with. It was great to see someone fall in love with its second incarnation as much as I had!

So folks, let's all break the paper napkin habit, get hooked on cloth and save!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dishonest Telemarketers Present Peril for the Uninformed.

Today I chose to answer a call I received a from a number I didn't recognize. It turned out to be the annoying experience that can usually be, but for the uninformed it could spell disaster.

The number showed up in my caller ID as 1-850-386-1643.

Generally, my policy is to hang up on any pre-recorded spiel simply out of the principle that my time is as valuable as anyone's, so if you want to speak to me do not lay out a computer generated hook then place me on hold until you've got an agent available. Today I broke that policy because like most folks who have lives that involve more than answering calls trying to get me to buy vinyl siding, I'm on the National Do Not Call List and they said right away that they were calling about my credit cards. Since I've long since abandoned using credit cards other than an Amex we've had since 1984, I was really curious to speak to someone and find out where they got my number.

The agent who answered launched into his speech; at his first breath I asked "Where did you get my number?". He gave me the scripted answer, mentioning all the big name credit cards, telling me how much my credit card company appreciated me making all my payments on time and how they wanted this company to help me get lower rates.

The next time I worded the question slightly differently. "Which company gave you my number?" was answered with the same scripted response, words varying only slightly, referencing all the major credit card names and how much my creditor thinks of my great payment history and how it wants to save me money.

This time I varied my response a little too. "Sir, I have no problems paying my bills, so if I wanted my credit card rate lowered I would call the company myself. I am on the National Do Not Call List. I'm asking you again, which company gave you my number?" to which the guy on the other end started SHOUTING that not everyone was out to get me and that I shouldn't be so paranoid. Then he hung up on me!

I guess I should tell you how I work in a field that requires me to be ultra-polite to many, many folks in a day. It is also a profession where a number of those folks can be in the middle of being inconvenienced in a big way and who are being anything but nice to me. Most of the time my colleagues and I keep our heads, reminding ourselves that regardless of what the person in front of us is saying or doing that it's a temporary situation and there's no need to let them cause us a meltdown similar to what they're having. So I probably shouldn't be as entertained by the fact that my simple, calm, politely presented questions to some wannabe identity thief caused him a meltdown, but I am.

What I also am, though, is sad for anyone who is in a situation where they might be sucked in by these scammers. Educate your parents. Educate your children. Educate anyone who might fall victim to them.