January 24, 2009

A Garage Conversion Experience

One reason we decided to close in the garage instead of building a new addition (which we couldn't afford now) was that there wasn't enough turning room to get our pickup into the garage without making a wide turn through the yard. Also, two cars couldn't fit into it at the same time. Another reason was because the garage door didn't fit right, with a big, open gap around it. Might as well have had a big, neon "Welcome Critters" sign blinking on it. It didn't help that we lived on the edge of an open field between two creeks. Every time the wind blew, the attic trap door flapped up and down until it eventually fell to the floor. Then stray cats squeezed through the garage door gap and made their way into the attic. Mice in the attic make very little noise, but a cat in the attic - especially a cat chasing mice in the attic - makes a lot of noise.

The garage interior measures 21x21.5 feet, plenty of room to have living room and office space and then use the existing living room as a dining room. The walls were sheetrocked and had been finished, but had no insulation, shelves and brackets nailed to the walls, and the sheetrock on the ceiling was sagging, probably because of moisture in the attic and no insulation.

I spent one day pulling all the sheetrock off the ceiling, and then heard that a big warehouse near town was remodeling and giving away building materials. I made several trips in the truck and got enough insulation batting to do the ceiling, a couple of flourescent light fixtures, and enough wiring to do a small house. Once home again, I spent the weekend insulating and Hubby pulled the wiring for four can lights. Then one of Hubby's customers gave him a ceiling fan taken out of the house because paint splattered on it. Fine with us, we spray-painted the whole thing with black and installed it.

There had been a leak, like a miniature Niagra Falls, where the roof tied into the garage wall, and when Hubby was in the attic, he found that there was no flashing in that area. Thank you Moe and Curly. So he had to take off some shingles and siding to add the flashing. Leak solved. We also changed the mudroom into a closet and moved the door around to the den. Looking back, I wish we had left the closet door in the foyer even though another door would open against it. I'll talk about that another day.

Other than that, our only costs were new sheetrock, diy blown insulation for two walls, and a gas fireplace for heat. The room was habitable, or shabitable, at this point by Christmas 1997. I don't know why we thought it would be fun to celebrate in here that year because it wasn't.

Since it had been used as a garage at some point in the past, it had oil drip stains on the concrete. We cleaned them with degreaser until water no longer beaded up on it, but the stains remained. Hubby painted them with an epoxy concrete paint, mis-tint of course, and it was clean enough to walk on and put in our upholstered furniture.

We found four flush mount ceiling lights for a couple of dollars in a clearance bin because they were polished brass. A little burnished copper metal finish and they were better.

The next spring, we tore down an old house on my grandparent's farm and used the old boards as wainscot paneling in the room. We had seen this in someone else's house and it seemed so warm and casual. We did a soft faux stucco on the walls and painted, another mis-tint. This is what it looked like the following Christmas.

Dave Ramsey likes to say that when you have no savings Murphy will move in your spare room and bring along his brothers, Broke, Desperate and Stupid, and that's exactly what happened to us, only we had no spare room. It took a couple of years to pull out of that and begin working on the house again, and then it was with an extremely thin budget.

During those lean years when we put our financial house in order, and as I sat in this uncompleted den, I marveled at my grandmother. She lived in that two-room house built in the 1800's where the walls were the thickness of one board, no studs or even sheetrock. The entire house was smaller than the den this wood was now in. She didn't drive and was in this house all day with five children while my grandfather worked the farm, plus the school teacher boarded with them. The walls had newspaper and wallpaper pasted on the inside and pieces of tin and canning jar lids nailed to the outside, all in an attempt to keep out the wind. The wood probably wasn't as dried out and splintered when she lived in it seventy years before, but I can imagine her relief and joy when they bought a bigger house, two story, and with real walls.

The old wood had to go. It was impossible to clean, and spiders liked it way too much. So the first thing we did after booting Murphy out of the house was to tear the wood off the walls, stucco the walls to match what we had done before, and painted walls and ceiling desert tan, not a mis-tint, but a color I actually got to choose off a color deck. We put beadboard trim around the fireplace topped with a mantle Hubby made. This and the trim were painted white.

And then, finally, we bought carpet, a beige berber with brown flecks.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a home for the holidays,

January 23, 2009

A Look at the Past

In doing some research today, I came across this snippet in an 1889 newspaper:

"Into how many classes is mankind divided? Six; being, enlightened, civilized, half-civilized, savage, too utter, not worth a cent, and Indian agents."  (Did you notice that was seven divisions?)

It goes on to say that "enlightened nations are those which have the most wars and the worst laws, and produce the worst criminals."

I'm not sure what "too utter" is, have to agree that some folks aren't worth a cent, and pity the Indian agent of that time if that was indeed the general opinion of the time.

We have come a long way.

Another item in this paper, reporting news from a nearby town: "We are still tormented by the two talking pests. They seem to grow worse and heaven only knows when it will end."

I don't know if that paragraph was a mystery to the readers of that time, or some reference to people everyone knew. Odd, since I've only read positive remarks in this paper.


January 22, 2009

Amazingly Simple Remedies

I received these tips in an email from my mother. My mother, well meaning though she is, falls for every email sent to her. She sent me an email telling me to stop using my swiffer because it makes pets sick. She has sent me emails about a slasher who hides under cars and slices women's ankles so they can't run away, about perps who find an unlocked car door and hide in the backseat waiting for their victim, and those who immitate a baby crying to get someone to open the door. Dial 112 on your cell phone and it will connect to an emergency station anytime, anywhere. Don't answer your cell phone while it is on the charger or it will electrocute and kill you. Oh and be sure to pass these on to everyone you love.

Most of the time, I look up the snopes link and send it back to mom so she doesn't continue sending this stuff to everyone, or more to me. But still, she continues sending them, along with every email with tips in them.

So the other day I got this one. I sighed, and opened it to see what tips about the many uses of dryer sheets I can't live without now, and I decided these tips are worth repeating.

Avoid cutting yourself when slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop.

Avoid arguments with the Mrs. about lifting the toilet seat by using the sink.

For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.

A mouse trap placed on top of your alarm clock will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.

If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives; then you'll be afraid to cough.

You only need two tools in life - WD-40 and Duct Tape. If it doesn't move and should, use the WD -40. If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

Remember: Everyone seems normal until you get to know them.

If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.

Now be sure to send this list to 10 friends in the next 10 minutes, including me so I know you care.

Until next time, may you have blessings and friends who send funnies,


January 21, 2009

The Little Red Wonder That is a Cranberry

I was reading an article in a magazine at the doctor’s office that intrigued me, so I came home to do a little more research on this superfruit. I already knew cranberry juice was good to prevent a UTI infection, but I never knew why.

Long before modern man even knew what an antioxidant was, the American Indian was using them to make healing poultices. And now the cranberry is known because it is high in antioxidants and Vitamin C. The active ingredient in cranberry is the chemical compound proanthocyanidins, or PACs, which keep bacterial infections (including E-coli) from sticking to the bladder wall and thereby prevent urinary tract infections. Cranberries also possess quinic acid which may prevent kidney stones. Some studies have also shown that the proanthocyanidin compounds have cancer fighting properties.

While more research needs to be done, studies have also shown that drinking just one 8 ounce glass of pure cranberry juice will also suppress the growth of ulcer-causing bacteria, and the bacteria that causes plaque. In addition, there is evidence that this one glass can also reduce LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad one) while increasing the HDL cholesterol (that’s the good one).

What might be more encouraging to our aging population are the studies that show that diets high in antioxidants and other phytochemicals may prevent some of the signs of aging we all dread, such as loss of coordination and loss of memory.

For more information on this little berry, visit The Cranberry Institute.

Until next time, may you have blessings and cranberries,

January 19, 2009

Cheap Security Alarm to Prank Friends and Family

I really dislike greeting cards because they are such a waste of money. I resent paying $3.50 for a card to go with a gift, and I really feel bad for the person who gives one to me. They paid good money and stood in line for who knows how long to pay for it, so I can read it for three seconds and then throw it away. I am not one of those sentimental people who keeps greeting cards. I have enough paper cluttering my existence.

However, I received a birthday card last year that I just couldn't throw away. It was one of those greeting cards that plays music when you open them, and I just couldn't throw away something that seemed to have a use. Or did it? I kept it for two months until I thought of something. They can be taken apart to make a gag security alarm. I cut out the part of the card with the chip and speaker and glued it to one of those freebie magnets from the dentist's office. Then I slipped a regular strip of paper under the connection and taped it to the door so it can be pulled out when the door opens.

Actually, I put this on the side of my freezer with the paper taped to the freezer door; it is completely out of sight from anyone opening the freezer. It's been a lot of fun to hear everyone when they open the freezer door and the music starts playing. Unfortunately I couldn't get a picture of it on the freezer so put it on the back door for the photo shoot.

I can think of a lot of fun uses for this, on the cookie jar (of course it would have to be attached to a metal cookie container or attached in another way), on a hotel door, on the tv cabinet, or anywhere else you want to startle people. Watch out though, Brownie almost dropped a glass when she opened the freezer the first time.

Until next time, may you have blessings and fun pranks,

January 12, 2009

Trying Out Recipes: Hamburger Potato Rollup

Monday is usually the day I try out a new recipe. For one reason, it's the day I plan the week's menu and go shopping. However, I was a bit relunctant to try a new recipe today or even this week. We're trying to lower our grocery bill and experimenting can sometimes be expensive. Last week Lil was in a cooking mood, and she likes recipes that are - to say the least - out of the ordinary. Usually her recipes have some kind of meat and fruit combination which I don't usually find too appealing, but can usually eat. However, last Tuesday she made something called Chicken Loaf from one of my cookbooks. I wish I knew which cookbook as it should probably be in the trash.

She used some chicken breasts I had purchased to stretch into three meals, and she spent a lot of time cubing and braising the meat before combining it with all the ingredients that made it a "loaf". Hubby and I were on a conference call so Lil brought some out to us. It didn't look very appetizing, or very loaf-like, in fact it looked like it had been already been eaten and returned to the plate, but we both tasted it.

Hubby's "yuck" and quick dive for a glass of water warned me not to take a big bite, and after I choked down a small piece, I looked at him and asked "Here Kitty, Kitty?" and he nodded. We dumped our chicken in the cat bowl on our way into the house.

When we got back in the house, Lil asked how we liked it, and not wanting to hurt her feelings, we avoided a direct answer. Both she and Brownie ate it, but when we didn't really answer, Lil said it wasn't very good and asked what we wanted to do with the leftovers. Brownie said "Meow". I was swallowing a drink of water when she said that and nearly choked. Hubby burst out laughing and they had no idea what was so funny.

So after that in addition to not wanting to waste money, I was a bit afraid to try out a recipe tonight, but I did. It was a meatloaf with mashed potatoes in the center. It was actually pretty good, and could be any meatloaf recipe, except it had two eggs in it instead of the one I usually put in meatloaf, to make it firm. Spread the meatloaf out into a 10"x10" square on a piece of waxed paper. The mashed potatoes had parsley, thyme and marjoram in it and was spread down the middle of the meatloaf, then lifting the wax paper, the meatloaf was rolled into a loaf shape around the mashed potatoes, ends crimped, and placed in a loaf pan, then cooked as usual.

I thought it would be a good recipe to use up leftover mashed potatoes, so if you are looking for something new or a way to use up mashed potatoes, give it a try.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a stray cat who will eat your mistakes,

My ordinary life, Lil

Amazingly Simple Remedy for Bone Spurs in Feet

This is from my mother-in-law's doctor, so it's not just a folk remedy. She had a heel spur, and I had a spur in my heel and in the ball of my foot and it worked for both.

In the morning before getting out of bed, lie on your back and bend your toes toward your head holding as long as you can. Do this for about ten minutes, doesn't have to be ten continuous minutes though - just hold as long as you can, relax and do it again - up to ten minutes. When you get up, don't go barefoot, even to walk to the kitchen. Wear a shoe with a gel cushion in it; they can be found at any big box store or drug store.

Three times each day (and meal time works great) get an ice pack or a bag of frozen peas, put it on the floor and place the area of your foot with the spur on it. Roll it around on the ice for 15 minutes. Frozen peas work great for this because they are rounder and therefore less painful than ice, and they don't thaw in the 15 minutes they are out and can be reused indefinitely.

This is not a quick process, depending on the severity of your spur, it could take anywhere from three to nine months, but it does work.

Until next time, may you have blessings and relief from heel spurs,

January 09, 2009

Vinegar, Who Knew?

I have had a note on my desk for a long time touting the benefit of rinsing fruits and veggies in a solution of vinegar and water. Since I had long since forgotten where I got the info, I did a quick search and found verification of that fact along with a lot of other uses. One website, Frugal Fun, lists 28 practical uses for vinegar. I especially love the tip about unclogging drains.

The "recipe" I have for the vinegar rinse is 3 tablespoons white vinegar to a quart of water. Other sites have 3 tablespoons white vinegar to a gallon of water, so I guess it's all good.

My note also included a couple of other vinegar tips: 1)Revive wilting veggies by soaking them in one quart cold water with one tablespoon white vinegar, 2)Add a teaspoon of white vinegar to the boiling water you are going to cook your rice in and it will be fluffier and less sticky. I have a recipe that calls for a teaspoon of lemon juice with rice so I guess it's the same principle.

I've used vinegar in the garden for several years as an organic weed killer, and even though I knew it killed mildew, I seldom use it for that purpose. Mom always put a cup of vinegar in the laundry when a wet towel accidently sat in the bottom of the hamper for a week and soured the surrounding laundry. Wonder who could have put that towel there? And I wouldn't be without vinegar when house-training a puppy. It is a wonder on pet stains and odors.

If you think you know every use for vinegar, look at Vinegar Tips.Com for 1001 uses.

I think it's time to add vinegar to my grocery list.

Note added Jan. 11: Instead of using bleach on the mildew in my shower, I tried 5% vinegar. You know that black mildew that forms on the caulking at the base of the shower? I wouldn't say it didn't faze it, but it definitely didn't get rid of it; it just made the room stink.

Until next time, may you have blessings and natural cleansers,