Archive | September, 2008

I Might As Well…

September 30, 2008

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I’ve gushed about my new baby kitten on my other blogs, I may as well gush about her here, too!

I cannot believe how nuts I am over this kitten. I am spoiling her rotten. :S Already she drinks out of my tea, eats scraps from my dinner, and sleeps in the crook of my arm. I must be getting old or something. :S I never even treated my kids so well, lol.

We’re looking into teaching her how to be toilet-trained. I just HATE the smell of cat litter. I already have some Austin Air air purifiers (or something like it) running at night, because the slightest pungent smells wakes me up at night. I know next to nothing about toilet-training a cat (it was hard enough with kids). Anyone have any tips? Any of you accomplished cat owners out there have any advice? What age do I start her? She’s so tiny right now that I’n afraid she’d fall in and go down through the sewer system or something! Like this poor cat, lol.

You do realize that’s a parody. right? 😉

ANYWAY, I’m not quite sure how to go about this…. will take much study.
Opinions?

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Know Your Contractor

September 30, 2008

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Every year, hundreds to thousands of homeowners get ripped off by unscrupulous contractors. New York State’s attorney general has compiled a database of hoodlums and crooks who have been reported by homeowners. The state is encouraging homeowners to add to the database if you are burned by a crook.

Office of the Attorney General provides New Yorkers the tools they need to make informed decisions when it comes to hiring a home improvement contractor. You can search to see which contractors have been subject to legal action, and which contractors have had substantiated consumer complaints filed against them.

Additionally, you can access helpful tips that will assist in selecting a reputable contractor, and links to state and county agencies which offer consumer assistance and the ability to check the status of a contractor’s license. Home improvement professionals can find information on New York’s laws and procedures that govern the industry.

If you are the victim of an unscrupulous contractor, we encourage you to notify our office, just click on the “File a Complaint” link.

So once again, the web comes to the rescue. You can see the link to the site here. There are plenty of reliable and honest contractors, handymen, businesses, and moving services in New York. But it’s nice to know that we have a voice should we wind up with a rotten apple!

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Great Goobers, Batman!

September 30, 2008

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Here’s something I know we have ALL desired to do: grow some great goobers! I just love saying that word: goober. Never heard it until Jimmy Carter made it famous. Up north, we call them “peanuts.”

I never knew we northerners could grow peanuts– er, goobers. But we can! Here’s a cute little site that has more information about them. Goobers are extremely nutritous and make an excellent staple food.

Nutritionally speaking, peanuts are packed with protein, fiber and vitamin E, plus the kind of fat that lowers cholesterol rather than raising it. In the garden, peanuts are solar-powered wonders that fix their own nitrogen, and you can feed the plant tops to animals or use them as mulch, after you harvest the nuts. Peanuts themselves can show up in any course on the table, from salad to dessert. No wonder we eat so many of them. The average American consumes six pounds of peanut products per year…

I’m looking forward to trying to plant goobers. I’m attempting to expand ny garden variety every year. Last year I planted a grape vine, and before that apple trees. I can’t wait to try the great goober!

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Chicken, Shrimp, and Pasta

September 30, 2008

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I have a great recipe for you! It’s a “cheap” recipe, too. I haven’t made it in so long, and decided to do it again this week. So I thought I’d share, because sharing makes you feel good inside, HA! :D.

Chicken, Shrimp, and Pasta

Will serve a small army or 3-4 Italians

4-5 chicken breasts, deboned and skinned
5 pounds of pre-cooked shrimp (frozen bags of cooked shrimp are perfect- just thaw before using)
i bag (10 oz) frozen string green beans
chopped fresh basil or dry basil
olive oil
2 pounds spaghetti, cooked
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Throw in a large wok with enough olive oil to coat the chicken.
Throw in the green beans and shrimp. Add more olive oil if mixture gets too dry.
Add basil, and salt and pepper to taste.
When chicken is done and the beans and shrimp are cooked thorough, toss into spaghetti and mix.
Serve with salad greens and bread!

It’s a yummy meal and so easy to make. You can even get varied and add other ingredients.

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Suburban Homesteading

September 28, 2008

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So it has a name. The thing I’ve been slowly attempting to do for the past 5-6 years. It’s called “suburban homesteading”! Yeehaw, I have a name! I found this terrific blog, The Little House in the Suburbs, and found someone else who is doing everything I want to do. What a great blog!

But I’m a poor homesteader; I’m more like a wannabee homesteader. I don’t can, I don’t make soap or paper, and, worst of all, we have no chickens! (But I’m still working on convincing the husband about that). I have two fruit trees, a large vegetable garden and am learning about energy conservation and healthy cooking, though! And I am definitely a conserver and not a consumer. And Little House in the Suburbs says that this lifestyle is COOL right now. Well, well!

I found a book in her Amazon library list, and it looks great. It’s called “How to Survive without a Salary” by Charles Long. It looks like a good book.

Being chained to a salary is probably the biggest obstacle to my homesteading adventure. We are in debt, and I feel we are slaves to our salaries. We must work to pay off the debt, and all the while, that time spent working keeps us from renovating the house and from building a small farm off which to live. Right now, we can’t break out of the cycle.

So I’m going to get the book. And like the good conserver that I am, I’m not going to buy it. I’m going to borrow it. It’s available through my local library system, and should be here in a few days. 😀

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Handheld Water Sterilizer

September 24, 2008

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I saw this neat little gadget at HipCompass. It’s a handheld water sterilizer, called the “SteriPEN Adventurer Handheld Water Purifier.” When swished around in a glass of dirty water, it’s supposed to destroy the DNA of nasty microbes. It uses ultraviolet light to do so. Interesting! I don’t know if I’d be so brave as to try out the water to make sure the gadget works. And it’s $78 at Amazon, gulp. 😐 So next to travel insurance, this could be quite the expensive little carry-all. They have bigger filtration systems, too.

Water filtration is on my mind because Health Nut Wannabee Mom had a great post about bottled water versus tap water. She wrote about the benefits of tap water versus the expensive bottled water. And I agree, tap water can be just as good or better than bottled water. But it really depends on your source. If you live near a bunch of landfills or toxic waste dumps, you can be assured that bottled water is a better choice than tap water. I wrote in the comments:

Tap water has so much junk in it. It’s basically sewage liquid, run-off water, and ground water that goes through a treatment plant. My tap water is loaded with chemicals. I know there’s flouride, chlorine, and lead in it, and God-knows what else. In Arizona and Nevada, there’s tungsten in the tap water which has led to a leukemia epidemic there. The water in Albany, NY, was recently tested and was found to have exceedingly high levels of Cialis in it. How on earth did Cialis get in the public water supply? The water is treated WASTE water– people who took Cialis (and I guess there are a lot of men in Albany who do) pass the drug into their urine. The urine goes through the septic system, to be recycled and treated for our drinking water. The chemical treatments might remove cholera and typhoid, but not a lot of the prescription drugs that people take.

There are increasing levels of chemicals — purposely added, and some are there from industrial waste run-off that I just don’t trust tap water…

I’ve been puttering around, looking at water filtration systems and wondering if I want to install something when we redo the kitchen. I guess I just don’t trust the tap water anymore. More to think about…

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Anyone Can Cook

September 24, 2008

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“Anyone who can read, can cook,” my mother used to say. She had the best cookbooks, too. 🙂 So I’m always on the prowl for good recipes. Because my family is getting tired of Baked Ziti and Tuna Casserole, lol. I did a stint with Mexican recipes for a while (always popular in the summertime), but as autumn comes upon us, I am looking for comfort foods. And oh wow, did I hit the jackpot! Someone linked to Pioneer Woman Cooks. Holy cow, how did I ever not see this blog before. The lady who runs the site is hilarious, too. I am in love with her brisket recipe.

Going to try it tomorrow. 😀 I’ll try to remember and take photos. But if you’re looking for some great ideas and recipes, or just want to read some fun and entertaining blog posts, check out her blog. It’s a hoot!

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I am SO Glad I Installed Cat5!

September 22, 2008

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When we gutted the living room, money was really tight. (It’s always tight, though). Yet, I gritted my teeth and decided to shell out the additional $70 to buy materials for Cat5 installation. Cat5 is wiring for ethernet– DSL internet. Previously, we simply had long ropes of ethernet cables strewn across the living room from the DSL router to each computer. I tried to hide them, of course, but they still looked awful, like a big black spider web of cables. And in some cases, I couldn’t use Cat5 for a computer because I couldn’t string cable across a doorway. I’d use wireless for the computer, but if we use the cordless telephone in the living room, that computer would lose it’s connection. Grr.

So… back to gutting the living room. OK. We pulled out the walls and some of the noggin (bricks between the studs, my post about it is here). I installed electrical wiring, telephone wiring, and ethernet Cat5 wiring (my posts where I blogged about it are here). Here are a few visual aids:

Learning HOW to install it was harder than the actual install. That took some time. When I felt confident enough, I made a total of four connections for the living room (we use four computers for our homeschool lessons)

This is the finished project for the connections at the work station. At each computer work station, there are more modems, ready for Cat5 ethernet cables to be plugged in.

Well, anyway, today the kids and I moved the furniture (well, they moved it) and we dusted and organized the room to prepare for school lessons. And we also shifted the computers around. I had to unplug all the cables and create new workstations. And BOY OH BOY am I thankful I didn’t have to lace ethernet cables all across the floors and walls this year!! I am slapping myself on the back for it. I am SO glad I paid that $70 for the wiring and installed it.

Moral of the story– it is true, it’s better to do everything you can while the walls are open rather than regret missing the opportunity later. I am so elated that I did something right this time, lol!

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How To Save $ This Winter

September 22, 2008

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It just occurred to me that for all my life, I have lived in old houses. By old, I mean pre-1920. My current home was built in 1855, before electricity, modern plumbing, modern central heating, and even before insulating walls became common. Very little of my house has been updated. The only insulated areas are the attic and the living room (which I renovated last summer).

02 home sweet home

The house is a balloon-frame house, which means there’s a lot of chilly air circulating between the walls, and the windows are over 100 years old. So my house gets coooooold. I’ve come up with a little system that helps take the bite out of the utility bills. Here are a few things I’d thought I’d share; maybe you can glean something from it.

1. Hang heavy curtainns or blankets over windows.
Windows are a huge heat loss, especially old ones. I open them when the sun shines, to let the heat in, but as soon as the sun starts to set, I close them.

2. Hang heavy drapes or blankets in doorways.
I essentially cut off 2/3 of the house during the day. The kids and I work in the living room and kitchen, so blankets keep the heat in these rooms. I also have my heaviest drapes over the stairs (I have an enclosed stairwell).

3. Close off all doors but one.
This can be inconvenient, but it does same money. I have three doors that lead to the outside; in winter we use one. For these doors I hang plastic sheeting around the door frame, and then a heavy blanket.

4. Utilize your vestibule, or air lock.
My old home has a formal front entry hall. This is great, because it creates an air lock, preventing cold outdoor air from coming directly into the house.

5. Put all the computers and electronics into the same room or area.
Computers generate heat. I keep all the computers in the living room, where we work most of the day, and it creates a warmer room than if everyone had their computers scattered throughout the house.

6. Use draft doggies.
Draft doggies are rolls of fabric, filled with stuffing or dry beans. I use rolled-up towels and put them in front of the door threshold. This keeps drafts from entering the house.

7. Use a space heater.
Space heaters can sometimes cost you more to run, but if you are like us and really only need to be in a few rooms, running a space heater can keep you from running the furnace, which heats the entire house.

8. Dress warmly.
The kids are NOT allowed to wear t-shirts and shorts and then whine that the thermostat is too low. We actually have a pile of extra blankets in our work room, for them to use of they are feeling chilly. I also make sure they have clean, solid slippers that fit.

9. Bake and cook.
I do a lot of baking and cooking in the winter. This makes up for the very minimal cooking I do during the summer. There is just something about apples, cinnamon, roast turkey, and coffee that makes you feel warmer.

10. Insulate your house. Or, insulate what you can.
I cannot insulate my house walls, because we have bricks in between the studs. (*sigh*) However, the attic is insulated, and so are the rim joists in the basement. The rim joists are the wood frame pieces that sit on the stone or concrete foundation of your home. There’s a huge amount of heat loss here. I had my rim joists insulated, free of charge, from a weatherization grant offered by my county. See my post about it here.

Rim Joist 1

So this is my method for surviving the winter and it’s bills. I know that having drapes over the doorways isn’t very pretty, but we’re talking survival here! If you have any helpful tips, feel free to add them in the comments– I’d love to know!

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Nasty Scrapers

September 22, 2008

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Has anyone else noticed an exponential increase in scraping sites? (FYI: scraping sites are sites that re-post your blog posts, sometimes without giving you credit. They are run to make money). I login to my blogs’ admin page where it shows who is linking to me, and 5 out of 6 are always scraping sites! This, plus the huge increase in comment spam, is getting a little out of hand. Whoa. How can these sites be allowed to remain????

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