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Barbecue Buying Guide – Types and Options

Posted by on May 8, 2016 in Frugal For Everyone, Product Information, Smart Shopper | 25 comments

BarbecueBarbecue season is here and with that in mind I decided to check the best time to buy a new barbecue and types and options available.

The time to find the biggest savings on a new barbecue, gas grill, smoker or outside oven is at the end of the summer, namely August and September, when retailers clear out their inventory to make room for winter products.

However, with barbecue season starting not everyone will want to wait to buy or replace their barbecue until summer is over so they’ll be pleased to know that June will also offer some good bargains.

Below are the most common types and features to be found at retail outlets.

Buying a Barbecue:

What’s available?

Barbecues have come a long way since the little Hibachi grill. I checked out a few at a home improvement store and found barbecues in all sizes, from small portable ones that are perfect for balconies or to take along on day-trips to extra large ones that are fancier and more involved than the most up-to-date kitchen appliance. But no matter the choice, there are certain things to consider before buying.

Choosing the right heat source is one of those things to think about – do you want convenience, flavour, easy start, fast heat, etc.? 

  • Electric (great for apartment or condos)
  • Natural Gas (need to be hooked up by a professional – easy start, even temperatures)
  • Propane (easy start, even temperatures, can be converted to Natural Gas)
  • Charcoal (said to provide the best flavour but takes longer to get started and heat up)
  • Smokers (requires logs – slow cooking)
  • Pizza Ovens (very expensive – limited use)

Each of the heat sources provides a different flavour but whether it makes enough of a difference to pay more for any particular heat source is not something I’m convinced about. Other than the smoker, which would definitely give a unique flavour, I doubt most of us could identify the heat source in a blind taste test.

The size of the grill matters. Unless you do a lot of entertaining it is recommended you choose a size that meets your normal requirements – how many people will you normally be feeding? What size meals will you be cooking? What type of meals? Looking at the grill you should be able to picture how many burgers, chops, steaks or other food you’ll be able to barbecue at any one time. A grill that’s too small will turn out to be time-consuming, a grill that’s too big will waste fuel.

All grills, no matter the size or heat source, should accommodate the different heat temperatures requiremed for searing, cooking and finishing.

Do you need a side burner? I have one on our barbecue and wouldn’t do without it. It’s used for all kinds of purposes, frying onions, cooking corn on the cob, heating chili to making soup. The side shelf is another convenient feature that I wouldn’t want to do without as it holds everything within easy reach – from tools to dishes to condiments.

Grates: Here you want to know how well and even grates hold heat, how easy they are to clean and how well they will stand-up under normal use. Grates are available in:

  • Cast Iron – long wearing as long as they don’t get damaged – holds heat well to ensure even cooking.
  • Porcelain Coated Cast Iron – most popular- food doesn’t stick, heat is evenly distributed, and these grates last longest of all the grate types.
  • Porcelain Enameled Steel – food doesn’t stick to grate – must be carefully handled because they may chip. They will also erode over time. It’s recommended that hard scrapers not be used on these type of grates.
  • Stainless Steel – may not stand up well unless coated with Teflon or porcelain.

Other Considerations:

  • Stability – how stable is the unit?
  • Access – how easy is it to access the tank on a propane barbecue? To add logs to a smoker?
  • Starting – what’s involved in starting the unit?

Most barbecues are not assembled when you buy them so it’s important to receive clear instructions as to how the unit goes together. I checked 12 barbecues – 7 were manufactured in the USA and 5 were manufactured in China. The instructions that come with the ones manufactures in the States are pretty clear. However, ours was manufactured in China and the instructions were impossible to follow. We ended up guessing what went where which took a great deal of time along with some strong language. Do yourself a favour and review the assembly instructions with the sales person before you leave the store.

Finally, a note of caution. Do NOT buy a cheap barbecue brush. The bristles may come loose and attach to food, causing serious injury if swallowed. This is one area where you truly don’t want to skimp.

If you’re in the market for a new barbecue, I hope this information will help you find the unit that perfectly meets your needs.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

Stop Fraud – Recognize. Prevent, Report

Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Frugal For Everyone, Smart Shopper | 34 comments

Stop Fraud

Stop Fraud Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This post “Stop Fraud” was prompted by a couple of incidents that happened to me recently.

I was having some website issues which somehow seemed to leave me vulnerable to pop-ups. When I signed in to my bank account, there was a pop-up, very professional with the Bank’s logo, asking me to complete a customer service survey. I decided to go ahead and complete the survey – I was then given a choice of FREE products, all I had to do was pay shipping and handling. For that they needed my credit card information, which of course I wasn’t prepared to give them.

That was as far as I went with the survey but I did call the bank’s Head Office to report this, changed my passwords and did a deep virus and malware scan.

The second scam was one we’ve all heard about but this is the first time I actually experienced it. I received an email from someone who had money to invest in our country and wanted to partner with me. I don’t know what the rest of the email said because as soon as I saw that the email was deleted. It should actually have been forwarded to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre but I wasn’t thinking, I just wanted to get rid of it.

The third scam happened a while back via my phone. I received a text message that I had won a $1,000.00 Walmart gift card. The Red Flag here was that I had never entered a contest so failed to see how I could win. I did call our local Walmart to inform them and they were already aware of this scam going on.

Seeing as the scammers are out in force I decided it was time to renew the scam alerts. The only way we’re going to stop fraud is to recognize it and be aware of the latest scams. Scammers approach in different ways: by phone, pop-ups, email, snail mail or door-to-door. There are two things they want – access to your money and/or to your personal information, including your social insurance number. If you don’t know who you’re dealing with, before giving out any information, call one of the numbers at the end of this post to verify the person/business’ identity and legitimacy. 

From the Competition Bureau:

“Fraudsters are professional criminals that know what they are doing. Fraudsters rely on some basic techniques to be successful. These include:

  • developing professional-looking marketing materials;
  • providing believable answers for your tough questions;
  • impersonating government agencies, legitimate businesses, websites, charities, and causes;
  • pretending to be your ordinary supplier;
  • hiding the true details in the fine print;
  • preying on areas of vulnerability, including those needing help with loans or finding employment;
  • asking for fees in advance of promised services;
  • threatening legal action to collect on alleged contracts;
  • falsely claiming affiliation with reliable sources, such as legitimate news sites to support their products or services;
  • and exchanging victim lists with other fraudsters.”

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The most popular scam right now has scammers calling by phone impersonating Revenue Canada/Internal Revenue agents. They may tell you that you are getting a refund (of a large amount), all they need is some personal information and your bank account number in order to process it, or, on the flip side, that you owe them a lot of money and you need to pay right now.  They may tell you a warrant for your arrest is being prepared as they speak and will be activated immediately if you fail to pay.

They may give you a phone number or website to ‘confirm’ but ignore that – it just cycles back to them. If you really want to confirm you can call any of the numbers at the end of this post, NEVER use the number or website they provide.

Even if you’re not Canadian it’s well worth reading “Don’t Get Scammed” published by the Canadian Revenue Agency – http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/scrty/frdprvntn/scmhndt-eng.pdf

There are many scams operating at any one time, too many to list here, but most are listed in a great resource – a booklet called “The Little Black Book of Scams – Your Guide To Protection Against Fraud”. It’s free and loaded with information that has universal application. It’s downloadable as a PDF file and I encourage everyone to either download it or at least view it. 

http://www.competitionbureau.gc.ca/eic/site/cb-bc.nsf/vwapj/Little-Black-Book-Scams-e.pdf/$FILE/Little-Black-Book-Scams-e.pdf

CONTENTS Include information about the following scams:

  • Lotteries, sweepstakes and contests
  • Pyramid schemes
  • Money transfer requests
  • Internet scams
  • Mobile phone scams
  • Health and medical scams
  • Emergency scams
  • Dating and romance scams
  • Charity scams
  • Job and employment scams
  • Small business scams
  • Service scams
  • Handy hints to protect yourself
  • Scams and you: What to do if you get scammed!
  • Getting help and reporting a scam

GOLDEN RULES – Knowing and remembering the following golden rules will help you beat the scammers and stop fraud.

  • Always get independent advice if an offer involves money, personal information, time or commitment. Don’t let anyone push you into accepting ‘You must act now”. (As a matter of fact, those words are usually a red flag and should be enough to stop you right there.)
  • There are no guaranteed get-rich-quick schemes— the only people who make money are the scammers.
  • Do not agree to offers or deals right away. If you think you have spotted a great opportunity, insist on time to get independent advice before making a decision.
  • Do not hand over money or personal information, or sign anything until you have done your homework and checked the credentials of the company that you are dealing with.
  • Do not rely on glowing testimonials: find solid evidence of a company’s success.
  • Log directly on to a website that you are interested in rather than clicking on links provided in an email.
  • Never send money, or give credit card or online account details to anyone you do not know and trust.

Embarrassment at being caught in a scam sometimes stops people from notifying the authorities. Don’t let that happen to you. Thousands of people of all ages and from all walks of life are defrauded each year. If you spot a scam or have been scammed, don’t hesitate to call to report it and/or get help.

Canadian Contacts:

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre 1-888-495-8501,

The Competition Bureau 1-800-348-5358

Canadian Revenue Agency 1-800-959-8281 www.cra.gc.ca/fraudprevention

The Better Business Bureau or Your local Police Service.

American Contacts:

Federal Trade Comm (202)326-2222 https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov

FBI – (no phone # provided) https://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud

Internal Revenue Service – Fraud Hotline 1-800-829-0433 or https://www.irs.gov/Individuals/How-Do-You-Report-Suspected-Tax-Fraud-Activity%3F

The Better Business Bureau or Your Local Police Service.

Scammers are imaginative and manipulative. They know how to push your buttons to produce the response they want. The only way to stop fraud is for you to be alert, giving them no opportunity to push your buttons.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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The Cook’s Herb Garden

Posted by on Apr 24, 2016 in Bookshare, Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Herbs | 28 comments

The Cook's Herb Garden

The Cook’s Herb Garden is another DK book that I’m delighted to share with you. Now is the perfect time to prepare the summer’s herb garden and this book is filled with step-by-step pictorial instructions for choosing, growing, harvesting, storing and using herbs.

Herbs are probably the easiest plants to grow since they really don’t like a lot of fussing. Most grow best in a 50-50 well-draining mix of sand and soil, require regular watering and an occasional feed of liquid fertilizer in summer. That’s it, couldn’t be easier.

Images below from: The Cook’s Herb Garden – copyright 2016 Dorling Kindersley Inc – used with permission and with thanks. 

The Cook's Herb Garden

Front row, from left to right – Cilantro, Silver Queen Thyme, Flat-Leaf Parsley. Back row, from left to right – Sage, Purple Basil, Oregano

The Cook’s Herb Garden – Everyday Essentials:

While basic growing, harvesting and cooking instructions are attached to each herb listed in the comprehensive herb catalogue, everyone of those topics is described in greater detail further on in the book. 

One of the things I really like about the section on using herbs is the recipe section. There are some super recipes that I haven’t heard of before but can’t wait to try: Cream of Herb Soup; Watercress Butter; Chimichurri (Argentinian Meat Sauce); Black Currant Cordial; Mixed Herb Pesto, shown below; plus many more.

Suggestions for using the Everyday Essential Herbs shown in planter:

Cilantro: Use fresh, chopped leaves in salads, with coconut, citrus, avocado, fish and meat. The dried seeds are spicy, sweet and mildly orange-flavored – use them in Indian and Asian dishes.

Thyme: Add to any savory dish or use to flavor poultry, pork, and fish dishes; add to stuffings and vegetables.

Flat-Leaf Parsley: Both the stems and leaves can be added to a multitude of savory dishes; from omelets to stews to baked fish.

Sage: Chop very fine and use in small amounts. Add toward the end of cooking to risotto and pork, veal and venison dishes; pick a stem for bouquet garni; use dried leaves for stuffing, poultry, fish, potatoes and carrots; use flowers to make summer teas.

Purple Basil: Basil is best known for use with tomatoes. Basil’s flavor intensifies when cooked. For a more subtle taste use it raw or add it at the end of cooking. For more ways to use basil check out Basil does it all

Oregano: Oregano’s pungent, spicy flavor gives a unique lift to Mediterranean ingredients and dishes – pizza, pasta, fish, meat beans, tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini.

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The Mixed Herb Pesto recipe, from The Cook’s Herb Garden, uses basil, oregano, flat-leaf parsley, and garlic – all herbs that you can easily grow yourself. Toss the pesto with pasta, stir it into rice or use as salad dressing (whisk 1Tbsp. balsamic vinegar or lemon juice into 3-4 Tbsp. pesto.)

Serves 2 Prep 15 MINS Cook 20 MINS

The Cook's Herb Garden

  • 3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped basil
  • 2 tsp. coarsely chopped oregano
  • 3 Tbsp. coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Coarse sea salt
  • 1 ¾ oz (50g) Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 3-3 ½ oz (90-100ml) fruity olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

10 oz (300g) dried pasta

1 Tbsp. heavy cream (optional)

  1. Put the herbs in a large mortar, reserving 1 Tbsp. to finish. Smash the garlic with the flat of a knife, peel and add to the mortar. Sprinkle in a little salt. Pound down onto the mixture until it is mushy.
  2. Add the Parmesan a little at a time and beat vigorously to blend. Slowly beat in the olive oil until you have a thick coarse paste, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Drain, reserving 2 Tbsp. of the cooking water. Stir the water into the pesto to loosen it slightly. Return the pasta to the hot pan and pour in the pesto. Toss to coat thoroughly. Stir in the reserved fresh herbs. If using the cream, stir it in and serve immediately.

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I find Theme Gardens fun to put together and The Cook’s Herb Garden includes designs for the following Gourmet Theme Gardens that you can grow anywhere – window-box, wall-garden, deck or patio, or wherever else your imagination takes you:

  • Salad Herbs
  • Mediterranean Pots
  • Middle Eastern Herbs
  • Hardy Herbs
  • Herbal Teas 

Browsing through the book I kept thinking “I’m going to try that” or “what a great idea”. Even if you aren’t the least bit creative or knowledgeable about herbs, the pictures will guide you in designing a unique herb garden that is truly to your taste, in more ways than one.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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The Great Canadian Ketchup War

Posted by on Apr 3, 2016 in Frugal For Everyone, Product Information | 19 comments

 Ketchup

Great Canadian Ketchup War

The Great Canadian Ketchup War has turned into the best unintentional marketing ploy ever. It all started when Loblaws, the largest Canadian food retailer, decided to remove French’s Ketchup from their shelves, allegedly to boost sales of their own President’s Choice product.

When I first heard about it I didn’t pay much attention, after all, since we no longer have children living at home ketchup is not something we use much anymore. But then things turned interesting and became fun to watch. Customers weren’t going to put up with the loss of French’s Ketchup no way, no how and let that be known loud and clear. They threatened to boycott the Loblaws stores and turned to social media to voice their displeasure.

At that point Loblaws had little choice but to accept defeat and replace French’s Ketchup back on their shelves. But the war wasn’t over.

Since 2008 there has been a lot of  ‘Buy Canadian First’ promotion in order to keep our economy moving. Well, it seems the consumer has been taking this to heart and  the next question became – which of the Ketchups is the most Canadian? This turned out to create some confusion because:

  • French’s Ketchup uses tomatoes grown in Leamington, Ontario but is bottled in Ohio
  • President’s Choice Ketchup uses tomatoes grown in California but is bottled in Ontario

Since French’s uses Canadian tomatoes, which of course is the main ingredient in Ketchup, consumers declared French’s the winner in the most Canadian category.

French’s meanwhile took advantage of the free publicity and kept the feud going by declaring they were going to be bottling their Ontario grown tomatoes in Canada within the next couple of weeks. A big win for them.

But the consumer still wasn’t satisfied and the war moved on to which of the two Ketchups has the best ingredients.

I still had some President’s Choice Ketchup leftover from last summer’s barbecue season and decided to buy a bottle of French’s Ketchup in order to compare the two.

The results:

  • French’s Ketchup ingredient List:
    • Tomato Paste (Made from fresh ripe tomatoes)
    • Liquid Sugar
    • White Vinegar
    • Salt
    • Onion Powder
    • Spices
  • President’s Choice Ketchup ingredient List:
    • Tomato Paste (Made from fresh ripe tomatoes)
    • Liquid Sugar
    • White Vinegar
    • Salt
    • Seasonings

It was difficult to base a winner on that – other than a bit of difference in wording, the ingredient list is pretty well the same.  

We have often heard that people from other countries consider Canadians the most polite people and this was amply demonstrated during the Great Canadian Ketchup War. In the final analysis there were no losers since the entire war was ‘fought’ with grace and humour. French’s and Loblaw’s received a lot of free publicity which will no doubt lead to an increase in sales; the consumer found power in speaking up and were treated with respect and listened to. And of course, French’s Ketchup will once again take up space on the Loblaw shelves.

This post was not written to promote any one product or supermarket chain. As a matter of fact, most Supermarkets carry French’s Ketchup right alongside Hunt’s Ketchup, Heinz Ketchup and their own store brand. I wrote this post because I got a big chuckle out of our Great Canadian Ketchup War and simply wanted to share it. Hope you enjoyed it as well.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Earth Day Awareness Leads April Sales

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016 in Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Green Living | 30 comments

Earth Day

Earth Day Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Earth Day, which this year falls on April 22, sets the stage for month-long sales of energy-savers and conservation products. This makes it an excellent time to find great bargains on anything ‘environmental’, including garden and landscape items of all kinds.

Look for great savings on:

Earth Day

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Energy Saver Products:

  • Energy Star Appliances: 
    • Air Conditions, Ceiling Fans, Microwave, Refrigerator, Toaster Oven, Washer/Dryer, Water Heater
  • Energy Saver Devices:
    • Power Bars, Night Lights, Thermostats
  • Other Energy Savers:
    • LED lights, Solar Phone/Tablet Chargers, Solar Yard Lights

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Earth Day Activities – Conservation:

Many Conservation Groups will be offering trees and plants for sale to promote Earth Day Activities. You may need to pre-order to get the best deals. If you can’t find any Conservation Groups in your area, call your Municipal Office and they should be able to help out.

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Earth Day

Image courtesy of Supertrooper at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Patio, Lawn and Garden:

Clearance of last year’s models which need to go before the new models arrive. This could mean some really great prices for the consumer on:

  • Barbecues and Accessories
  • Lawnmowers and other Garden Equipment
  • Patio Furniture
  • Planters
  • Composters

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Earth Day

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Spring Cleaning Supplies:

  • Vacuum Cleaners
  • Cleaning Supplies – in keeping with Earth Day, look for EcoLogo, Green Seal or EPA Safer Choice or  Make Your Own
  • Paint and Wallpaper, Home Improvement Products
  • Organizing Products

 

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To stay with the environmental theme of the month, April Sales will also include Organic Foods and Soybean Products.

Other Food Items:

  • Eggs and Olive Oil
  • Produce: Asparagus, Broccoli, Rhubarb, Sweet Potatoes, Tomatoes. Avocado, Citrus Fruit, Kiwi, Lemons, Pineapples.

Earth Day, April 22,  does prompt some really great bargains, but it is also the day when everyone is asked to participate in an ‘Act of Green”.  Let’s celebrate Earth Day – plant a tree, clean a roadside, turn off the lights, or contribute in any other way that matters to you. Make it fun and think of the environmental benefits – totally Win, Win.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Save the Bees – Those Little Buzzers Keep Us Fed.

Posted by on Mar 20, 2016 in Bookshare, Green Living | 41 comments

Save the Bees

Bee on Cranesbill from DK – The Bee Book

Anyone who is at all environmentally conscious is aware of the rapid decline of the bee population. Until I wrote a previous post Bring back the pollinators I was aware of it but didn’t really feel it was my problem.

What weird thinking. Much of our food supply depends on being pollinated by bees therefore the problem definitely concerns all of us. Actually, while no one has pinpointed the cause(s), I believe we home gardeners are partially responsible for the decline with our insistence on manicured, weed-free lawns and flowerbeds.

When we spray plants with pesticides/herbicides the pollen collected by the bees is poisonous. When they carry this back to the hive it either kills the developing bees or weakens their immune system making them more susceptible to disease and predators. Therefore if we’re part of the problem, it only makes sense that we become part of the solution.

Please share this post with all your social media friends and help save the bees. Alone our efforts are limited. Together we can make a huge difference. Let’s do it. The bees thank you.

The following Information is “Excerpted from The Bee Book – copyright Dorling Kindersley Inc. / Used With Permission”.

How can we help to save the bees?  

Bees have some kind of internal mapping system and will return to the most bee-friendly yards. Therefore a good place to start is to make your yard a place where bees want to hang out. Bees prefer yards with a variety of plants – trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables and herbs. By also providing them with plants that bloom at different times throughout the season they’ll be more than happy to stay around. They will need a water source and since they don’t like standing in water they should have shallow water dishes with a dry place for them to land. The dishes should be cleaned and filled with fresh water daily. And of course, no spraying of chemicals.

Save the Bees

1.California Lilac; 2. Apple; 3. Orange-ball Tree; 4. Culver’s Root;  5. Bergamot; 6. New England Aster; 7. Giant Onion; 8. Anise Hyssop; 9. Meadow Cranesbill; 10. Lavandin; 11. Sea Holly; 12. Bowles’ Mauve Wallflower; 13. Orange Coneflower; 14. California Poppy; 15. Thyme; 16. Phacelia; 17. Field Poppy; 18. Lamb’s ears. Mid-height spring-flowering plant – Hellebore and Low-growing spring-flowering Crocus.

 

Not all bees live in hives. There are thousands of different species and some, like the Mason Bees (very effective pollinators), find other places to nest. Unfortunately, because of built-up areas and landscaped lawns they are having a difficult time finding suitable places. We can help them out by making nesting sites for them. The book displays a variety of them – a Clay Bee House, a Wood Block Bee House and even a Pallet Bee Hotel but I was mostly intrigued by the Bamboo Bee House below. It looks neat, is very simple and inexpensive to make, and can be hung anywhere out of the way.

save the beesBamboo Bee House – To Build:

  • Measure and mark 8″ (200 mm) from one end of a piece of 4″ (110 mm) diameter PVC pipe – cut the pipe with a handsaw
  • Cut bamboo 1/2″ – 5/8″ (10-15 mm) shorter than the PVC pipe. As you cut the bamboo make one of the cuts close to a ‘node’ (the knuckle-like joints found at intervals along bamboo canes) so that each piece has an open and closed end.
  • Mark 2 points halfway along the PVC pipe at roughly the 10 o’clock and the 2 o’clock positions when viewing the pipe from its end. Drill holes at both these points.
  • Cut a piece of string about 12″ (300 mm) long. Tie a large knot in one end of the string and thread the free end through one of the holes, from inside to out. Pull it through and insert the free end into the other hole. Tie another large knot in the free end. The string should now form a loop with knots inside the pipe at either end.
  • Insert the bamboo pieces into the pipe, taking care to avoid damaging the knots. The closed ends of the bamboo should all be flush with the same end of the pipe, forming the back of the bee house. Keep adding bamboo pieces until they are packed in tightly and do not move.
  • Different hole sizes will attract different species of solitary bees, but they will not nest in holes over 1/2″ (10 mm). Avoid mixing sizes in the same bee house since pests and diseases can jump between different species that cohabit.
  • Hang the bee house on or close to a sunny wall facing south or southeast, at least 3 ft. (1 m) off the ground, with no vegetation obscuring the entrance.

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We can join a conservation campaign to learn more about the problem and maybe even help plant new habitats. Citizen scientists (that means you) can monitor invasive pests or log the range of a species right from your own backyard.

April is Volunteer Appreciation Month – a perfect time for you to join a conservation campaign. Any Conservation Group would be delighted to have more volunteers on board.

The book has a large section on Beekeeping and anyone thinking they might be interested in becoming a beekeeper would be well advised to read this book to find out what is involved.

***

On a different level – if we lose the bees we would naturally also lose the bee byproducts, most of which have valuable health benefits, not to mention the economic contribution made by the bee-producers. All in all, the loss would be devastating in many different ways. 

Save the beesCOLD SOOTHER.  A combination of honey and cider vinegar is an old traditional remedy for colds and sore throats, and with the addition of spices it makes a very palatable hot drink. From “Enjoying Bee Bounty” – The Bee Book.

  • 1-in (2.5-cm) piece of fresh ginger root
  • 3 cloves
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder (or 1 tsp freshly grated turmeric root)
  • 4 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Lemon slices (optional)

Makes 1 Drink

HOW TO MAKE:

1)Peel and grate the ginger; the easiest way to peel ginger is with the edge of a teaspoon. Place the ginger in a small pan with all the other ingredients, except the honey. Add ¼ cup (60ml) water, bring to a boil, and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

2)Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the honey until dissolved. Strain into a mug and drink while still warm, adding a lemon slice, if you like, for vitamin C. Enjoy it three or four times a day to help relieve a cold.

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If only one or two of us make changes in order to save the bees and other pollinators we won’t make much of an impact. But if we spread the word and thousands of us do then we can make a tremendous difference, and who knows, we may even be able to help reverse the trend. The bees are in crisis – it  truly is much more important that we stop the decline and do what we can to help to save the bees than it is to remove every weed or dandelion.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

Please share with all your social media friends and help save the bees. Alone our efforts are limited. Together we can make a huge difference. Let’s do it. The bees thank you.

Would love to have you follow me on Pinterest  or  Twitter or browse my Etsy Store

       

Are Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies Really Safer?

Posted by on Feb 28, 2016 in Green Living | 40 comments

EcoLogoAre the Eco-friendly cleaning supplies you buy safe enough to warrant extra cost? Probably not. Most commercial cleaners, including many carrying eco-friendly labels, contain hazardous ingredients believed to contribute to many of today’s diseases, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, ADHD, autism, and more.

You can trust any product showing the Green Seal (USA) and EcoLogo (Can). More about them later in the article.

Many ‘Eco-friendly’ terms used by manufacturers to promote their products are marketing words meant to mislead:

  • Green – Unless the product carries the EcoLogo and/or the Green Seal, the only thing the wording is good for is to make you think you’re buying a safe product;
  • NaturalOverused and totally meaningless – there is nothing regulating the use of this word;
  • Non-Toxic – Same overuse as ‘natural’ and just as meaningless;
  • Organic – Food and Herbs may receive Organic Certification – CLEANING SUPPLIES MAY NOT. Therefore the only purpose in applying organic to cleaning products is to mislead you;
  • Biodegradable – Worthless wording – Does it tell you how long it takes to decompose?
  • Eco-Friendly – When you saw Eco-friendly in the title, didn’t you think it meant products that were free from dangerous ingredients and safe for the environment? We’ve come to accept the term to mean that, but when it’s used on labels it’s misleading because it means zip – again, no regulation to govern use of this term. 
  • Finally, how about this one? A certain product states “they are the leader in high-quality, environmentally “safer cleaning products”. ” What exactly does that mean – safer than what?  

Look for the following certification seals to ensure the cleaning product you buy truly is green and safe for your family and the environment.

EcoLogo
 
EcoLogo was founded in 1988 by the Government of Canada. The Canadian EcoLogo (also known as Environmental Choice) helps you identify products and services that have been independently certified to meet strict environmental standards that reflect their entire life cycle — from manufacturing to disposal. EcoLogo standards are designed so that only the top 20% of products available on the market can achieve certification. More than 7,000 products — from paint to paper — carry this logo.

For more information, visit the Underwriters Laboratories website.

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Green Seal – A cleaning product that contains this seal has gone through a certification program to ensure it is green. Green Seal is a United States not-for-profit organization devoted to environmental standard setting, product certification and public education.

“Green Seal is a pioneer in promoting a sustainable economy. In 1989 there were no nonprofit environmental certification programs in the US. During this year, our founder had the foresight to recognize the need for a tool to help shoppers find truly green products. Green Seal was developed as a nonprofit to stand for absolute integrity. Over the years the reputation of the Green Seal brand has grown to symbolize environmental leadership, and it continues to represent proven-green products and services.”  Green Seal Products and Services

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The safest Eco-friendly cleaning supplies are still the ones you make yourself with vinegar, baking soda, lemons and lemon juice. They are also the least expensive of all cleaning solutions.

Home-made Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies:

eco-friendly cleaning suppliesBaking soda is a great all-purpose cleaner – it doesn’t scratch anything, naturally deodorizes and, combined with vinegar, does a superior job of keeping toilet bowls and drains clean and odour free. 

To use as an all-purpose cleaner: Dissolve 1/4 to 1/2 cup baking soda in 4 cups warm water.

For tougher jobs mix baking soda with water to make a non-runny paste and apply with a spatula or brush.

Vinegar can be used as a safe cleaner for glass, floors and bathroom fixtures. It deters mold and mildew. When lemon juice is added, it gives the vinegar some extra cleaning oomph.
  • All-Purpose Cleaner, mix together 1 1/2 cup vinegar, 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1 1/2 cup water – pour into spray bottle;
  • For a Tile/Vinyl Floor Cleaner, mix 3 cups vinegar, 1 cup lemon juice and 8-10 cups warm water;
  • For a Glass Cleaner, mix 1 cup vinegar to 4 cups water.

Note: According to a laminate floor installer, the safest way to clean laminate floors is with a spray bottle of clear water and a barely damp mop. You can’t get much safer or cheaper than that.

Commercial Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies:
There are times when the homemade products just aren’t strong enough to do the job. That’s when it’s good to know that you can buy commercial cleaning products that meet the EcoLogo and Clean Seal standards, such as the Sustainable Earth products by Staples:
  • Sustainable Earth by Staples, All Purpose Cleaner
  • Sustainable Earth by Staples, Glass Cleaner

Many of the eco-friendly cleaning supplies meant to clean our homes are actually polluting them. Know what the labels mean – don’t take a chance on your family’s health by being taken in by creative marketing terms that are absolutely meaningless.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Vegetable Gardens for Small Space Gardeners

Posted by on Feb 14, 2016 in Bookshare, Gardening | 34 comments

vegetable gardensWith small suburban lots and condo living having become the norm, there are many people who feel they don’t have space for vegetable gardens. It’s not that they wouldn’t like to grow some of their own herbs and vegies, they just don’t see how they can. Well, guess what? Vegetable gardens are not only possible in the smallest spaces, done right they can add a lot of visual interest to their surroundings.

I recently discovered this DK Book at the Library – Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet. This 255 page book is basically a step-by-step pictorial guide showing in detail how one or more small vegetable gardens can be placed in, on or against all kinds of unusual spots.

No doubt you’ve heard it said “A picture’s worth a thousand words”. Looking at the images below, don’t you agree that they show what can be done better than any words could? The only thing I did was add a bit of supporting information and a few helpful suggestions.

All Photos below from: Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet – copyright 2016 Dorling Kindersley Ltd – used with permission and with thanks. 

Vegetable Gardens for Small Spaces:

Vegetable Gardens

Wall-Mounted Planting Pockets

Anyone having access to a wall will be able to use the wall-mounted planting pockets to grow herbs and salad greens. The one shown is hung from a bamboo pole to avoid drilling a lot of holes in the wall. It’s easy to see that this unit can be placed against any wall – house, garage, garden fence, etc. Consider filling one with herbs and salad greens, then hanging it outside the kitchen door, convenient for picking salad fixin’s when you need them. The unit shown above contains: Thyme, rosemary, sage, viola, chives, strawberries and Microgreens

The Microgreens post, which was written for indoor growing, can easily be adapted to outdoors. Just plant the seeds in the pockets and cover with vermiculite. Don’t let them dry out. Instead of harvesting at 2-3 inches, I would let them grow to 4-6 inches, before cutting them. 

Vegetable Gardens

Companion Planting in Patio Pots.             Tagetes Flowers, Tomatoes, Basil and Thyme

Companion planting is one of the better things you can do, both for the garden and for the environment. Here’s a very simplified description of how it works. Peas and beans add nitrogen to the soil which helps flowers grow bigger and better. Flowers return the favour by attracting pollinators needed for proper vegetable growth. Chamomile increases the fragrance of aromatic plants attracting even more pollinators. Pollinators plus the fragrance put out by different plants deter pests. No effort required but by using companion planting methods you save work for yourself and do the garden and the environment a world of good. As shown above, companion planting works as well in pots as it does in window-boxes, flowerbeds, vegetable gardens, or combinations.

vegetable gardens

Vertical planting with reclaimed, recycled or upcycled ladder shelves ideal for garden vegetables, herbs and fruit.

I love the idea of using reclaimed or recycled materials to grow food. Doesn’t that sound just so ‘green’? It wouldn’t be hard to find materials for the above unit at yard sales, flea markets, thrift stores, or possibly even in your own garage. It is simple to put together and doesn’t require tools. What I really like about it is that it can be placed anywhere – on the deck, patio, balcony, tucked in a corner of the backyard, placed in full sun, part shade or protected from wind. This is another great idea for growing ‘frequent harvesting’ produce like salad greens and herbs since it can be placed wherever it is handiest. 

vegetable gardens

Fruit trees and berries in selection of recycled tubs, including, apples, blueberries, strawberries

It’s not only the standard herbs and vegetables that can be grown in small spaces. Apples, blueberries and strawberries are all on the ‘Dirty Dozen’ list, the foods with the most harmful pesticides, yet in their natural, non-toxic form they are considered superfoods. Now imagine growing those products yourself without any harmful chemicals. It can easily be done by growing them in containers and placing them wherever there is a spot available. Not only would the fruits and berries be safer to eat, fresh picked home-grown produce is a thousand times tastier than anything you can find in a supermarket. Well worth finding a little bit of space for, right?

By thinking outside the box and being creative it is possible to have vegetable gardens in the smallest spaces – if not outdoors, then by growing microgreens indoors.

For anyone interested, the book is available from Amazon. I have just become an Amazon associate and will receive a small commission on any books sold through my site. I love books and this just happens to be one of the most enjoyable and informative gardening books I’ve seen in quite some time.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Organic Food Label – What’s Valid, What’s Not

Posted by on Jan 31, 2016 in Green Living | 38 comments

Organic Food Label

Canada’s Certified Organic Seal.

Is it worth paying extra for products with an Organic, Natural, Farm Fresh or Premium Quality Organic Food label? The last time I was buying bananas at 57 cents a pound, organic bananas were priced at 97 cents a pound. Was this organic food label really worth paying an extra 40 cents a pound?

Once I started looking into the labels I discovered that the one sure thing about having organic or similar wording on a label was that it instantly increased the price of the product. Many producers saw this as an opportunity to cash in by creating a variety of labels designed to make the consumer think they were paying more for better quality, organic products, when in fact they weren’t.

Shown below are some of the labels used to market food products. It’s all very impressive but let’s just take a look at what the labels really mean.

organic food label

canstockphoto15408693

The Organic Food Label – What’s Valid, What’s Not:

100% Organic or Certified Organic – This is the real deal. A product with this label meets the standards for organic certification set by the country of origin. Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced by many nations. (Wikipedea).

Organic – The label ‘organic’, without showing certification, can be applied to products that are 70-95% organic. Since the bananas only said organic – not certified organic – they would fall into this category. 

Made with Organic Ingredients – This is pretty meaningless and not acceptable as it is not clear how much of the product is made with organic ingredients. Products with 70-95% organic content must declare the percentage of organic content on their label. Products with less than 70% organic content may only indicate which ingredients are organic in the ingredients list.

Premium Quality Organic Food – Since it doesn’t claim certification, but does claim organic, means the product must contain 70-95% organic ingredients.

Natural or All Natural – This means that nothing was changed in or added to the product itself – it does not say anything about the growing conditions or whether synthetic pesticides and/or herbicides were used. A good example here would be non-organic apples, which are all natural but on the EWG’s ‘dirty dozen’ list because they contain high levels of chemical residue.

No Hormones/Steroids Added – This label may sometimes be found on poultry products where it is absolutely meaningless since the addition of hormones and/or steroids to poultry and pork has been prohibited in Canada for the past 30 years.

Pure or 100% Pure – Can only be applied to one ingredient products. For instance, maple syrup can be 100% pure while peanut butter made with peanuts and oil (2 ingredients) can’t be.

Farm Fresh or Farm Grown – This label doesn’t explain growing conditions and, in the case of animals, what additives were given.

Grass Fed. Animals have access to outside where they graze or are fed hay. This leads to healthier, leaner animals resulting in better quality meat. Since this is not a certification we have no way of knowing what additional supplements or additives were given.

Non-GMO. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) have been thought to increase serious allergies in children and may be the cause of many other serious health problems. Non-GMO means the products are free of these organisms.

Thanks to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for much of the above information.

I have always considered myself to be knowledgeable about reading labels and deciphering what they really mean but seeing this in black and white was still an eye-opener.

As for the bananas, they’re labeled organic, not certified, which means they are up to 30% non-organic. To me, that isn’t good enough to pay extra for and my organic designated dollars are better spent elsewhere.

Buying food under the organic food label means you are willing to pay extra for top quality, non-toxic products. Don’t be deceived and pay extra for creative organic food labels that mean absolutely nothing at all.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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CHRISTMAS – My favourite time of the year.

Posted by on Dec 13, 2015 in Frugal For Everyone | 30 comments

Christmas has always been my very favourite time of the year – a time that renews and recharges me for the coming year. For this post I’m sharing some well-loved quotes that I find help set the mood for the perfect meaningful Christmas.

Christmas - My favourite time

Image courtesy-Prawny at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11 

“I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round, as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.” ~Charles Dickens

Christmas! The very word brings joy to our hearts. No matter how we may dread the rush, the long Christmas lists for gifts and cards to be bought and given — when Christmas Day comes there is still the same warm feeling we had as children, the same warmth that enfolds our hearts and our homes.” ~Joan Winmill Brown

It is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.” ~Charles Dickens

Christmas gift suggestions: To your enemy, forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to a customer, service; to all, charity; to every child, a good example; to yourself, respect.” ~Oren Arnol

“The festive lights and the gifts and the ornaments are fine, but they are only a setting for the real jewel: the birth of a Baby that marked the descent of God himself to mankind. That’s where the true meaning of Christmas lies.” Norman Vincent Peale

Now I would like to send this message to all of you – During this time of faith and family, may the true meaning of Christmas fill you with joy.

Christmas - My favourite time

Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Talk to you again next year,

Lenie

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