Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Getting the most out of bone-in chicken

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are great for times when you are in a hurry. They are a convenience item. That said, whenever bone-in chicken breasts are on sale for $0.99 or whole chickens are on sale for $0.59 I scoop up as many as I can fit in my freezer! The things you can do with them are endless. Smoke them, bake them, grill them, fry them, roast them, etc.....

This past Sunday I defrosted a package of bone-in chicken breasts. There were 4 breast halves in the package. I used a filet knife and removed the skin. Then I cut the meat as close to the bone as I could to get as much meat off as possible. After the meat was off the bone I seasoned it and sauteed it in a pan over medium heat with some veggies. The breasts were fairly large and my family of 3 consumed 2 of the breasts for supper that night.

The next day for lunch I cut a leftover breast into small chunks and we ate it on a green salad with almond slices, mandarin oranges, thin sliced onion, and a homemade vinagrette (olive oil, red wine vinegar, orange marmalade, and sugar to taste).

The last breast was used in fried rice with small pieces of chicken, mixed veggies, and egg. Top it off with a good soy sauce and make some egg drop soup (chicken broth, a few veggies thinly sliced - bring to a boil and drop in a couple eggs that have been beaten). Yum!

The bones I simmered on medium - low heat for a couple hours with 2 carrots and 2 celery stalks. After everything simmered and the broth had a nice rich color I strained the chicken and veggies out, saving the broth. I picked off whatever meat was left on the chicken bones and diced the cooked carrots and celery up into very small pieces. I returned the broth, chicken, carrots, and celery to the large sauce pan and added 1 bouillon cube (needed a bit more chicken flavor and some saltiness), some black pepper, and some thin egg noodles. I brought the ingredients to a boil and cooked until the noodles were done. Delicious! (If you had left over fried rice you could make chicken and rice instead.)

The package of 4 breasts had cost $2.84. I got a total of 4 meals out of it. Those 4 meals equaled 11 servings (3 the first night, 2 for salad, 3 for rice, and 3 for soup). That means that the chicken cost about $0.26 per serving. Who can't afford that?!?!?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

More Uses for White Vinegar

Fill a spray bottle with full strength vinegar and spray on weeds or grass that is growing where you don’t want it too. It will kill all plant life where you spray it, so make sure you don’t spray it anywhere that you don’t want to kill anything that is growing. You may need to apply a few times to effectively kill weeds/grass.

Are you looking to plant acid loving plants like blueberries, rhododendrons, gardenias or azaleas? Add 1 cup of vinegar to a gallon of water and pour into the soil. The vinegar will release iron in the soil for the plants to use.

Want to keep that beautiful bouquet of flowers fresh longer? Add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons white vinegar into a 1-quart vase of water. Trim the stems and change the water every five days.

A teaspoon of white distilled vinegar for each quart bowl of drinking water helps keep your pet free of fleas and ticks.

Use vinegar to help remove the stain and odor of fresh pet urine. (You may want to test the fabric before with a small amount of vinegar to make sure it’s colorfast.) Sprinkle distilled vinegar over the fresh pet accident. Wait a few minutes and blot it with a sponge from the center outward to soak up the urine and vinegar. After most of the moisture seems to have been removed blot it with a dry cloth. This procedure may need to be repeated for stubborn stains.

Wet your stinky dog down with fresh water. Mix 1 cup of white distilled vinegar and 2 gallons water. Pour this solution over your dog; making sure their coat is completely wet with the solution. Dry the dog off without rinsing. The smell will be gone!

How many times do you go to use a paintbrush and it’s become hard and stiff? All you need to do to soften it up is soak the paintbrush in some hot white distilled vinegar. Then wash out with some warm water and dish soap.

Need to clean salt off of your leather shoes? Make a solution water and white vinegar (1:1 ratio). Dip a cloth into the solution, and dab it over the salt-streaked parts of your shoes. (Use sparingly.) You may have to repeat the cleaning process a few times before all the salt is removed. Salt actually can damage leather, so it's best to clean shoes as quickly as possible. Don't let the salt stains build up.

Wash your filthy fireplace with a 1:1 ratio of water and vinegar to remove the blackened soot on glass front doors. You can also use the solution to clean soot off of the brick.

Pour a small amount of white vinegar on a clean cloth. Gently rub the area of lime staining with the cloth until the stain is gone. Test a small are first to ensure no discoloration.

Do you have a DVD that is worn and freezes up on you? Before you throw it away try wiping it down with white distilled vinegar and a soft cloth. Make sure the DVD is completely dry before re-inserting in the DVD player so you don’t ruin your player. This won’t always fix the freezing-up problem with DVD’s, but it’s definitely worth a shot!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Uses for White Vinegar in the Kitchen & Bathroom

One of the cheapest cleaners available is simple white vinegar. Here are some great frugal ideas for you to use in your kitchen and bathroom.

Use white vinegar to wash no-wax floors. Just add ½ cup of white distilled vinegar to a half-gallon of warm water. And you don’t need to rinse!

Mix 1 tsp of white vinegar, 1 teaspoon of liquid detergent, and 1 pint of lukewarm water to remove stains from carpets. Apply the mixture to the stain with a soft brush or clean cotton rag and gently rub. Rinse with a towel moistened with clean water and blot dry. Repeat this procedure until the stain is gone. Then dry quickly, using a fan or hair dryer. This really only works if the stain is not oil based and if the stain isn‘t old.

Wash your windows with a mixture of equal parts of white distilled vinegar and warm water. Dry with a soft cloth. This solution will not leave the usual film or streaks on the glass.

Did you know that you can use a vinegar mixture to clean your woodwork? Well you can! Simply mix 1 cup ammonia, ½ cup white distilled vinegar and ¼ cup baking soda with 1 gallon of warm water. Wipe this solution over woodwork with a clean sponge or cloth and rinse with clear water. Dirt and grime comes off easily and the solution will not dull the painted finish or leave streaks. (You can also use this solution to clean walls and blinds.)

Remove the rings resulting from wet glasses on wood furniture by rubbing with a mixture of equal parts of white distilled vinegar and olive oil. Rub with the grain and polish for the best results.

Freeze vinegar in ice cube trays and run through your garbage disposal with cold water to keep your disposal clean and odor free!

Run white vinegar through your coffee maker to clean it of any mineral deposits that build-up from hard water. Just fill the reservoir with the vinegar and run a complete cycle. Make sure you run a couple cycles of plain water after the vinegar cycle to rinse the reservoir and automatic dripper completely.

Boil a solution of 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar and 1 cup of water in the microwave. Will loosen splattered on food and deodorize. (Boiling plain water may work if the microwave debris isn’t real bad.)

Wash appliances with a solution of equal parts water and white distilled vinegar.

Looking for a natural way to get rid of ants or fruit flies? Place a bowl filled with ½ quart water, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. cider vinegar and a couple of drops of dish soap to attract the fruit flies. To get rid of ants (or keep them away) simply wipe down your cupboards, counters, etc with full strength vinegar. Of course it’s always best if you can eliminate whatever is attracting them, (ripened produce, etc).

To keep your stainless steel appliances clean all you need to do is wipe them down with vinegar and a soft cloth. This will keep them streak-free. (Try in an inconspicuous place first to make sure it will work good on your appliances.)

Use 1 ½ cup to 2 cups white distilled vinegar in the bottom of dishwasher, along with regular dishwasher soap and wash full cycle to keep your glassware streak free.

Bathtub film can be removed by wiping away with full strength white distilled vinegar and then with baking soda paste (mix baking soda with water till it forms paste). Rinse clean with water.
Rub down shower doors with a sponge soaked in full strength white distilled vinegar to remove any soap residue.

Stubborn toilet stains can be removed from the toilet by spraying them with white distilled vinegar and brushing vigorously. You can also deodorize the bathroom by pouring a cup of white vinegar into the toilet and letting it sit for half an hour.

Soak your showerheads in white distilled vinegar overnight or for several hours to loosen debris and hard water build-up.
Check back later this week for more uses for white vinegar!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Everyday Uses for Witch Hazel

A couple months ago I hit the jackpot at our local Walgreens and bought 2 massively huge bottles of Witch Hazel for $2 each. I've been using witch hazel off and on for a year or more as a facial astringent and at $2 it was a deal I couldn't pass up.
The bottle I've been using was less than half the size of the two bottles I bought on clearance. (I've been using the same bottle for that entire time and it's still half full! Talk about an economical staple!) I decided to start doing some research to see what else I could use witch hazel for since I now had an abundance of it and if I would only use as an astringent it would probably last until I'm close to 100. Here are some of the other uses I found for witch hazel.

* Apply Witch hazel to a cotton ball or pad and gently apply to any blemishes to help reduce the inflammation on a pimple.
* Use witch hazel on baby’s bottom if your infant has a rash. Witch hazel will heal the rash quickly.
* Apply witch hazel to hemorrhoids to help soothe the discomfort, itching, pain, & inflammation. If you want something that is more like a cream or gel mix witch hazel with aloe or petroleum jelly before applying to the hemorrhoids.
* Use witch hazel to reduce and soothe bags under your eyes. Pour some witch hazel onto cotton pads or a cold compress and lay or dab on your eyes. (Do NOT pour witch hazel into eyes.) For best results apply a cold compress with witch hazel and let it sit on your eyes for 10 minutes.
* Witch hazel can also be used to soothe and reduce the inflammation from chicken pox.
* Take witch hazel on your next camping trip. Apply it to bug bites, poison oak, and poison ivy for immediate relief from itching and swelling. Just pour some into a trial size shampoo bottle that has been cleaned for easy packing. (Also soothes sunburns! Talk about being multi-purpose!)
* Witch hazel has been rumored to help heal bruises and the discomfort of varicose veins. Apply several times throughout the day for best results. Soak some gauze in witch hazel and wrap it around the problem area.
* Apply witch hazel to areas prone to razor burn (bikini area!!) before and after shaving to help prevent ingrown hairs and itchy redness.
* Witch hazel is supposed to help your skin stay moisturized when applying it immediately after showing. (Moist lotions, oils, etc will give you the most benefit if applied within a few minutes of getting out of the shower/bath.)
* You can use witch hazel to clean and heal cuts. It will help heal the cut quicker and will help protect it from an infection.
* You can also make your own deodorant. I have never tried this but am considering trying it just because - assuming I can find all the items listed without too much trouble. I’m not real sure of using a liquid as deodorant though. I have enough problems with wet arm pits right now as an aftermath of my hysterectomy! Here is the recipe:

1 tsp high proof vodka

10 drops geraniun

10 drops cypress

8 drops bergamon

5 drops neroli

4 drops lavender

3 drops black pepper

4 tbsp (40 ml) witch hazel

2 tbsp (25 ml) cornflower water

2 tbsp (25 ml) orange flower water
1. Measure the vodka into a 4 oz (100 ml) glass bottle with a spray attachment.

2. Carefully add the essential oils, one by one.

3. Shake vigorously to dissolve the essential oils.

4. Pour the witch hazel into the bottle, using a funnel if necessary, followed by the two flower waters. Shake well.

5. Label the bottle and the deodorant is now ready to use.

6. Before you use the deodorant each time, give the bottle a good shake to ensure the essential oils are fully mixed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Source for Gift Cards

I love gift cards. More than that - I love FREE gift cards. Is there anything better? Many stores that have pharmacies offer free gift cards with a value of $10-$25 for a new or transferred prescription. Over the past year I have acquired over $150 in gift cards from Target and our local grocery/pharmacy store. One thing I do recommend though is that you have all the prescriptions for an individual be at ONE pharmacy. The reason for that is because a lot of medications can interact with other meds. If you have prescriptions filled for yourself (or another individual in your family) and you don't fill them at the same pharmacy then pharmacist can't know if you are on something that will interact with the medication you are currently trying to fill.

That said, if you do have multiple pharmacies running a program for free gift cards with a new prescription and you have a second family member that is on medications you can take that persons prescriptions to the 2nd pharmacy to take advantage of their gift card program.

I am currently on 2 medications that I have to take daily. One of these has to be written by the doctor and hand delivered to the pharmacy and had to be filled with a new prescription each month. (No using the new and handy software programs for filling prescriptions with this one!) So I have the potential of earning $120 a year just with this prescription. My daughter is also on 2 prescriptons daily for her allergies.

This last year we saved our gift cards and used them to complete a good portion of our Christmas shopping. Although we did use about $30 worth of them to buy our child's jeans for school.

Sometimes the pharmacies will have printable coupons on their websites, often though the coupon is only in a printed advertisement for them. Some stores that offer gift cards for prescriptions are Target, Shopko, Walgreens, CVS, Hy-vee, Rite Aid, & Kmart. There may be others, these are just the one's that come to mind.

I filled a prescripton today and picked up our first $10 gift card for the new year. This will be put away for Christmas shopping next year. It's never too early to start saving up for Christmas is it?!?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Stock up on Gifts

A couple days ago I had to go to the local Wal-mart to pick up a few things. As I walked to the various departments to find what I needed I noticed many clearance racks throughout the store. What a great time to start picking items needed for gifts throughout the year!

Everything from clothes to toys to household goods were on clearance. I was able to pick up a couple shirts from April for $1 each which will fit her this year and most likely next winter also.

I love to hit huge clearance sales like this. It gives me a chance to replenish my "Oh crap I need a quick gift and don't have time to shop" drawer. I keep a decent variety of items in this drawer for various occasions, along with some wrapping paper, colored bags, tissue paper, and small blank cards. I try to stay away from bags and cards that are occasion-specific so I can use them for ALL occasions. I usually pick up the bags and wrapping after Christmas. Red, green, blue, gold, and silver are top colors at Christmas and are great colors for any occasion and age. I do stay away from anything that looks too Christmas-y. Keep in mind though that you can add stickers and ribbon to your package to make it look less like a gift that was forgotten under the tree.

Here is a list of things that I like to keep on hand: candles, pretty journals or notebooks, spreaders w/ decorative small plates, books (good for various ages), puzzles, coloring books w/ crayons

Toys are one thing that it's pretty hard to stock up on because the "what's hot" toys change constantly. Although you are almost always safe buying Barbies for girls and superhero figures for boys. Another good choice to pick up for your "emergency stash" is games - if you come across a great deal anyway.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sorry I've been gone

I swore I was going to do better. And really I am going to do better. This last week I've just been under the weather. First I had a sinus infection. Now I have bronchitis. I just started antibiotics today, hopefully tomorrow or the next day I'll feel more like spending some time on the computer.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Storing and Displaying Your Child's Artwork

Anyone who has a child or has had a child knows how much artwork children bring home from school and/or daycare. The preschool and kindergarten years produce enough artwork to fill a gallery.

When my daughter was young I thought or maybe I wanted to save everything she did. i quickly filled one of those 'under the bed' totes that is long enough to hold wrapping paper. Periodically I've gone through that tote and was able to part with enough things that I haven't yet had to buy another tote. Not that the things in there are any less cute now than they were then, it's just that now I keep something because it was particularly wonderful or (most importantly) it had a story that I remember from it. A tote of that size or shape may not be ideal for everyone. I started out with a big one but will probably not have to buy another one to hold her artwork for years if not forever. For us this option was a good one simply because it can be stored under a bed since we do not have large closets or much space in our home for storage.

Another option is to use plastic 12x12 scrapbook paper storage boxes. I had seen some in the Sunday ad for Michael's for $5 each. These would be a great option if you were only going to store papers (they are not deep enough to store craft items). Each school year (or a couple of years as they get older & you have less to save) could be put into each plastic scrapbook storage box.
April always wants us to hang up the pictures she makes in school. This is another common problem for parents. How can you display them besides by just taping them to a wall or sticking them on a fridge?

One option would be too find some hangers that you usually use to hang slacks (either the kind with the clamps or the wooden slat); paint the wooden part (if that the hanger type you chose want) a color to match your decor or leave it wooden if you choose. You can decorate the base of the hook, the clamps, or even wooden part with bows, beads, ribbon, etc. Then hang your child's artwork from the hanger. You can change the artwork as frequently as you want without ruining the picture or the walls with tape or tacks.

Another option for hanging the artwork is to hang some yarn, rope, or lightweight wire across the wall & use clothes pins to hold the artwork. You can decorate the clothes pins by gluing embellishments on them to match the room it's in or decorate clothes pins according to the season. Hang the artwork like you would hang clothes. The good thing is that whatever you are using as the "clothes line" doesn't need to be straight; actually it would look better if it weren't straight. Again you can change the artwork as frequently as you want without ruining your walls or the artwork.

Yet another idea to display your child's creative pictures is to display them in frames. To do this use some decorative frames, remove the glass (optional), add your picture, & hang the frames randomly on the wall. You can find affordable frames at craft stores, second hand stores, or even yard sales. Always make sure you check the corners to make sure they are good shape. Seems like all too frequently when I find a frame I like the corners are separating!
Do you have any ideas for storing or displaying your child's handiwork?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Storage Idea

The house we live in was built around 1920. This means the rooms and especially the closet space is pretty darn small. We have struggled since we had April to fit everything she has into one of the small bedrooms. It would be difficult with a good size closet, but with a closet that is literally only 6 inches wider than the closet door (which is a single door by the way) it is almost impossible. So her things flow into the other rooms also.

One idea we had thrown around was to replace her current bed with a loft bed so we could store things underneath. Of course we'd have to get one that wasn't very tall. I had mentioned a bunk bed some time ago but Layne didn't think that would work for us because we wouldn't gain any storage.

Then a local furniture store had this bunk bed on sale in their ad last weekend:

Soooooo.......... my idea is to buy this metal bunk bed, have April sleep on the top & use the bottom portion for storage. To do this we will put a piece of plywood (or something sturdy) on the bottom bunk to keep from having anything fall through the slats. Then we can stack totes, boxes, or even use the plastic drawer sets on the bottom bunk. If my daughter should have anyone sleep over we can remove the storage items and put an air mattress on the bottom bunk.

The next question is how to keep the bunk bed from looking junky & cluttered? Well, I've thought about this. What I have decided to do is to buy a cute shower curtain and shower curtain hooks & install them on the bed to "hide" the storage items. I thought it would be a cute way of incorporating some color & a cute design into her plain pink & purple room. : )

We ordered the bed on Friday and it is on backorder for now. We should receive it mid-February. I may buy a shower curtain before then, but will wait on the shower curtain rings - just to make sure that I get some that fit. If the bottom rung is too big in diameter we will have to get creative and find another way to hang them. (I'm thinking those office supply rings that you can get in various sizes perhaps.)

Where to go with this blog

I've been thinking for quite some time about what content I want to include on my blog. I guess the more I think about it I really want to get away from some of the personal "journal" type entries and perhaps go with something that is more of an interest to me.

So what have I decided I want to blog about? I think I really want to write about various tips. I don't want to limit myself to just household tips, althought that will probably be a frequent subject.

I know that one thing I am always looking for is a "tip". An easier way to do something or an alternative use for household products. I love coming up with new ways to use something & am always on the lookout for alternatives for storage or cleaning - as well as ways to save money & lose weight. So while my content will still be random it will also provide a tip or solution to a particular problem. This is really where my passion is - I think. : )

I have a binder full of tips that I have collected over the years. Some are from magazine cut-outs, others are just notes I've jotted down. I haven't blogged regularly over the past few months because I didn't know what I wanted to write about. The one thing I always came back to was "helpful tips" or "helpful hints".

When I first started this blog I included a tip each day. For some reason I quit doing that; I really think that's what I need to get back to. It's what I know, it's what I like. I want to write a blog that I would use & look forward to reading.

I guess I don't know if anyone even reads this blog anymore. If you do get ready for an exciting change! I'll be posting tips that everyone can use & benefit from. I'm very excited about this change & I hope you will be too. I won't change the name because the things I post will still be a little bit of "This & That". Check back later today for my first post!

Monday, January 11, 2010

My weekend

This weekend was really good. Especially considering it didn't start out so wonderful. My husband was going to have to work all day Saturday, which sucked. And our cold water pipes in the kitchen froze up, which also sucked. But (here's where the weekend starts to turn for the better) Layne only had to work 1/2 a day because they finished significantly quicker than they thought they would. When he got home he put a heater in the area of the basement where the kitchen pipes are and had water pretty soon (so they couldn't have been frozen up to much. Thank goodness!

I got all of my cleaning done on Saturday so that on Sunday all I had to do was a couple loads of laundry. It was a great feeling!

Layne & I signed up for a couples membership at a local gym. It's less than a mile away and it's open 24 hrs so it will be very convenient for us. He initially suggested it and honestly I didn't want to spend the money (it's not a lot of money, but still...) since we have a treadmill & a somewhat functioning bowflex machine in our basement already. I changed my mind when I went and spent 20 minutes jogging on the treadmill and still didn't even break a sweat because it was so cold down there. I'm one of those people who doesn't feel like I've exercised unless I have sweat running down my butt-crack. So working out in a freezing basement wasn't going to work for me. (And I'll never lose the remaining 10 pounds that the doctor tacked on at my last visit if I don't work out.) Luckily for us we didn't have to sign a yearly contract, it's just a month-to-month plan and since we signed up online there were also no membership fees. Our monthly fee will be $50.

Yesterday I decided to go check the gym out, wondering the entire way if we had made the right decision. I walked inside and honestly was a bit intimidated by all the equipment. I decided to start off with a treadmill (all the treadmills have TV screens on them - how cool is that!) since it would help get me warmed up and I already knew how to do those. : ) After walking and jogging on the treadmill I decided to move on to the weight machines. Each had a diagram and written steps to ensure you knew how to use the machine and did it properly. I was in heaven!!! I used to lift weights in high school (during cheerleading competition season) and loved it then. I forgot just how much I liked it. I did an amount of weight on each machine that wasn't too much and I didn't do too many reps because I knew I'd pay for it. When I left the gym I was excited that we had joined.

April and I played a game called Shut the Box last night. She borrowed the game from my mom, which honestly I wasn't happy about because I don't usually enjoy playing games too much and I didn't want another box sitting around on one of our tables collecting dust. Well, I was wrong to think it wouldn't get used! I think we played a dozen games last night and it was really a lot of fun. Some of the games went by fast and others seemed to take forever! I was so glad later in the night that April had borrowed the game. It gave us a chance to play something that wasn't difficult, didn't have a lot of pieces, and most of all it gave us a chance too enjoy each other - which was the best thing of all.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Things I'd like to work on in 2010

This year I have quite a few things I want to work on and improve in myself. I don't really want to call them resolutions, but quite honestly resolutions are made to be broken. Here are the things I want to work on/do:

1. Work harder to make sure I get my daily devotion in.
2. Lose another 10 pounds - recommended by the doctor, not simply just me getting carried away with losing weight.
3. Blog more frequently. These last couple months I have been terrible about blogging. Things were so busy and quite honestly blogging wasn't at the top of my 'to do' list. I've really missed it though.
4. Enjoy my family more and try not to stress so much when we are together.
5. Work on being more spontaneous. This is a huge struggle for me. If you want to really freak me out or even piss me off then show up and demand I do something spontaneous with you. This is something that I have rarely ever been.
6. Spend some time every week getting rid of clutter and trying to organize my house.
7. Be more patient with my daughter and do more fun things with her. This weekend we spent time playing legos, doing puzzles, and other things and we both enjoyed it so much and spent a lot less time arguing.

I know there are more things I want to do or to work on but I think these are the ones I really care about.