Wednesday, January 31, 2018

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Make-It-Do Home Crafts

Curtain Tieback Ideas
You can make your own curtain tie-backs from almost anything, as long as it fits the theme or style of your decor. Even items you would not normally use make interesting tiebacks, giving them a new purpose and keeping them out of landfills. Match utilitarian items to kitchen, shed or garage windows, while saving dressy or fancy items for the living room or your boudoir.

Making Metal Hooks
You can make your own hooks to hang your favorite decorations or keep small items off your counters. Recycled coat hangers provide the material, you provide the effort.

Steel Picnic Table Design Considerations
Steel-frame picnic tables pair well with the sleek lines of modern-style homes and public buildings. Steel’s strength and durability ensure that the tables can withstand heavy use in public settings. Steel allows you to break away from the straight, utilitarian lines of the traditional rectangular table surface and narrow, attached benches. Its flexibility and malleability allow you to create intricate shapes and textures. Use scrap steel and you create a useful, beautiful and environmentally friendly picnic table.

Three Simple Welded Garden Project Ideas
It is possible to make a decent living making and selling welded garden implements, tools and lawn ornaments. Everything from plant supports to whimsical creatures can be made from round or square steel rod stock, sheet steel, expanded metal or recycled metal parts.

Flower Garden Shortcuts
There is no shame in taking shortcuts to create an eye-catching flower garden. Whether you want a fast-start raised-bed container garden full of trailing petunias, a no-maintenance weed barrier for your tulips and gladiolus or instantly fertile soil for your favorite self-seeding annuals. A flower garden is meant to renew your spirit and relax your mind as you rest from the toil of the day, not strand you in a marathon wrestling match with Mother Nature’s evil stepchildren.

Outdoor Decoration Ideas
While Christmas, Easter and Halloween dominate the holiday decoration market, Mardi Gras, September 11 and Valentine’s Day are additional opportunities to exercise your creativity with outdoor decorations. While many outdoor decorations require hours of assembly and can be crushed or bent during storage, these simple-to-assemble life-size cards can be painted in a few hours and stored flat in minutes.

Beer Bottles to Beads: Junk to Jewelry
Green and brown glass bottles can be made into beautiful glass beads for jewelry, using a few inexpensive items that may already be lying around the house. Glass bead making can keep tons of material out of local landfills.

Make a Heart-Shaped Lap Loom
Weave a heart-shaped doily to give to someone you love, using their favorite colors. Making and using a lap loom helps develop fine motor control, finger dexterity and concentration while teaching children basic principles of geometry, measurement and construction.

Crafts for Kids: Woven Heart Crafts
Weaving crafts help children develop hand-eye coordination and learn to follow directions while developing and practicing fine motor skills. A simple way to introduce kids to weaving is through woven heart crafts. A fun follow-up activity for a classroom lesson on love, the woven hearts can also double as gifts or decorations for Valentine’s Day.

Making Twine and Rag Rugs
"Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without." Housewives from the 1800s through the late 1950s made old fabric, garments, rope and string into other items. Twine rag rugs are an Appalachian and frontier heritage craft. Frugal wives saved bits of string from grocers and variety store owners and even braided flax and hemp into twine over the course of a year or more.

Under the Sea Mobile
Recycle those wooden paddle spoons from ice cream sundaes into an undersea mobile for your garden. Hang them where the breeze can tinkle the bells to create a multi-sensory meditation garden. Make more than one mobile with your choice of undersea creatures to build a scene.

How to Make Lollipop Party Favors
Make these cherubs, snowmen, spiders, cats and ghosts as favors for your next holiday party. Keep a basket of the spooky favors next to your front door for the month of October, and switch to the heavenly and winter favors for the month of December.

Get Froggy with These Centerpiece Ideas
Get your party hopping with an everlasting or edible frog centerpiece. Edible frog centerpieces can contain fruit, vegetables, ice cream, gelatin and cake, among other ingredients. You can even help girls in Africa and around the world escape from poverty and abuse if you choose the right frog centerpiece.

Make a Kwanzaa Swag
Dr. Maulana Karenga created Kwanzaa in an effort to connect the broken threads linking black America to a Pan-African cultural heritage. Part of that heritage was the tradition of handmade crafts and community celebrations. Homemade Kwanzaa swags can be made with any combination of materials that symbolize the food, culture and traditions of the African experience.

Canned-Ham Herb Garden

Rather than throw away shredded office paper and empty cans, turn them into an attractive herb garden. Kitchen herbs add flavor, color and nutrients to home-cooked meals. Herbs draw beneficial insects and animals to your garden while repelling pests. Arrangements of fresh herbs in decorated tins make eye-catching, informal table decorations.

Wash 6 to 10 canned-ham containers in hot, soapy water and scrub them with a kitchen brush. Store them upside down until they dry.

Use a high-speed, hand-held rotary tool to grind away any burrs and sharp edges on each can.

Lay the cans upside down on a plastic tarp. Apply bright-colored rust-inhibiting spray enamel to the outside and bottom of each can, using short bursts of paint fired from 6 to 10 inches away. Allow the paint to dry overnight.

Fill each can halfway with shredded office paper. Fill the remainder of the can with compost or worm castings. Sprinkle herb seeds of your choice in each can. Paint craft sticks green. Create a label for each container by writing the name of each herb on one of the sticks, using a paint marker.

Water each herb container and place it in a sunny place. Cut your herbs as you need them, or hang them to dry. Use the lids to make a wind chime pest scare.

Equipment Needed:
Cans and lids from canned hams
Kitchen brush
High-speed, hand-held rotary tool
Wrap-around eye protection
Ear protection
NIOSH-approved respirator
Plastic tarp
Bright-colored, rust-inhibiting spray enamel
Shredded office paper
Compost or worm castings
Herb seeds of your choice
Craft sticks
Paint marker

Always pull your hair back into a bun or hair net when using a hand-held, high-speed rotary tool, whether you are male or female, if your hair is longer than chin length. Long hair can wrap around the spinning end of the tool, causing severe and permanent injuries.

Always wear eye, ear and respiratory protection when grinding or polishing metal or when carving or sanding wood.

Finding Your Seed Corn

Whether the nation's budget woes have trickled down to your family or you prefer being as frugal as possible, take heart. You can live well without clipping a single coupon, whether you have a garden or not, with far less money than you previously thought possible. Frugal living means doing more with what you have, not making do with nothing. It means identifying your seed corn and deciding how best to use it to give yourself and your family a creative, abundant life. 
Everything you own and everything you can make or do is your seed corn. Cast it around and it brings you the means to live as you wish without being enslaved by the things you own. Hoard your seed corn in closets and bins, garages and money-sucking storage units and you create a never-ending cycle of spending to acquire stuff, followed by even more spending to store things that do nothing to enhance your daily life.

If you have a garage or shed filled with garden tools, lawn mowers, and weed trimmers, you have the makings of a landscaping or furniture repair business. If you own a computer and a scanner, you can sell photos, greeting cards, posters, and postcards, or create educational game materials such as word bingo flash cards. Sports equipment means you can coach or rent used sports equipment. A well-stocked kitchen and a van are the starts of a home catering service or baked goods shop, selling homemade bread, ham salad, lavash sandwiches and other delectable dishes. That video, book and CD collection makes a good start on an entertainment rental business. 

Inventory one dresser drawer, closet or storage space at a time. Make a list of what you have, what condition each item is in and how many of each of them you have. Cut up old blouses and skirts to make camisole tops, winter hats, courier bags or drawstring backpacks. If you can't wash, paint or repair something, give it a toss. If you have more than two to four of something, sell them or donate them to an individual or organization that you know will put those items to daily use. Calculate the annual cost to store your things versus the cost to buy those items again the next time you need them. If the storage costs more than twice what the items cost to replace, take them out of storage and use, sell or give the items away. ~Jack V. Sage

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Economics of Shake and Bake

We enjoy a childlike approach to life, so we eat a lot of kids' meal-type foods such as chicken fingers; shaped fish nuggets, and cracker-and-spread snack foods. Switching to our veggie and fruit-based diet almost overnight meant that we sometimes found ourselves stubbornly wishing for our high-fat, breaded favorites. It seemed like a good idea to make our own nuggets so that we could control the fat content and eliminate the high fructose corn syrup and salt in most commercial coating mixes. Convenience won this week, so I found myself hunting for Shake and Bake so that we could try making some breaded tofu chunks.

I had a case of sticker shock when I realized that I was about to pay $3.99 for a 5-ounce box, especially when I saw that it was just bread crumbs, spices, and high fructose corn syrup. Near the Shake and Bake, I saw that seasoned bread crumbs were just $1.39 per pound. I wanted barbecue flavor, though, so I looked at the spice aisle and found A-1 dry spice rub for $2.99 for  a four-ounce bottle. I mixed the two together and wound up paying just under $4.50 for a full pound of spiced coating mix. I would have paid close to $12 for 15 ounces of Shake and Bake.

Kid-fu tofu chunks
Photo by Jack V. Sage 12/04/2016

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mini Chorizo Meat Loaves

Food City had chorizo for 1.50 off per package, making it 69 cents per 12-ounce package, because they were due to expire the next day. I bought 10 packages and put them in the freezer as soon as I got home. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, keeping food continuously frozen extends its shelf-life almost indefinitely. For best quality and flavor, however, they advise using the product within one to two months.

I decided to make mini meat loaves, using one package of the chorizo and 1.5 pounds of ground beef. I added 1 cup of chopped celery, one whole chopped green bell pepper, and two chopped onions, along with about 1 tablespoon of basil. I mixed everything together, patted the meat into 10 individual rectangles about two inches by four inches by one-inch thick. I covered each loaf with some four-cheese spaghetti sauce and sprinkled additional basil and chive on each loaf. They are baking in the oven as we speak.

Photo by Jack V Sage, 06/29/2015

Because I have a wall oven, it is hottest near the back, so I turned the pan around after 30 minutes at 350 degrees F, then cooked them for another 30 minutes.

Photo by Jack V Sage, 06/29/2015

One of my writing friends -- Toastmaster and Caffeinated Entrepreneur Lee Rowley -- asked me how they turned out. I could have doubled the chorizo or used less ground beef. The chorizo flavor became a pleasant undertone, and the loaves stayed juicy and delicious. I should have made some mashed potatoes or riced some cauliflower to go with them, and maybe added a side salad for a complete meal.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Best Things Are Free

One of many ways I cut corners in my food budget is by taking part in product sampling. BzzAgent will send you free products (or coupons for free products) in exchange for writing about what you think of the product after you have a chance to #GetItFree or get it with a deep-discount coupon. All they ask in return is that you try the product, then give your honest opinion of whether it is good enough to buy again, whether it serves the purpose it was intended to serve, and what qualities make it a product worth recommending or not.

Last week I tried this:

Looks good, huh? Well, it tasted even better. Only a New York cheesecake from a bakery could possibly outdo the creamy, smooth cheesecake-flavored yogurt swirled with smooth, decadent strawberry sauce. The sidecar compartment on this one holds granola, and the nifty fold means you can tip the entire contents into your yogurt without spilling any.

I #GotItFree at Fry's Foods, part of the Kroger family of stores, thanks to #BzzAgent, and my friends and coworkers got coupons for $1 off on two Müller® Dessert Inspired Yogurts.