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Apple Cider Vinegar: Is It Really a Magic Cure-All?

Posted by on Sep 18, 2016 in Frugal For Everyone, Health | 36 comments

apple cider vinegarI first learned about Apple Cider Vinegar from my readers when I posted Salad Dressing Doesn’t Require Chemicals. The salad dressing recipes included used plain white vinegar but several commenters suggested using apple cider vinegar instead, claiming it was a superior product.

Apple cider vinegar’s greatest claim to fame is its alleged health benefit. However, as with many natural health products, there have been few in-depth scientific studies done to support that. Any claims made are mostly based on folk medicine. That doesn’t mean they don’t work – many old-time remedies are very effective, something world health organizations are starting to acknowledge.

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As always – if you have chronic health problems or are taking any kind of medication, do not take ACV without checking with your doctor first.

Apple cider vinegar is not a cure-all but rather, when used right, an effective way to maintain the body’s pH balance in order to prevent disease.

Unless advised to do so by a medical or homeopathic doctor, apple cider vinegar should not be used to treat disease.

Do not overuse. Start slow with ½ to 1 tsp. per day and slowly work up to no more than 2 Tbsp. a day (although I personally think for long-term use 1 Tbsp. (3 tsp.) a day should be the maximum, but that’s just me – I tend to err on the side of caution).

Always dilute apple cider vinegar. Drinking it straight can lead to loss of tooth enamel and burn the mouth, throat and esophagus.

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Apple Cider Vinegar Health Benefits:

  • Leg cramps. I can personally vouch that this works. I add 1/2 tsp. to my cup of honey-lemon tea twice a day, once just before bed.
  • May help balance blood sugar levels.
  • High blood pressure – has been shown to lower blood pressure.
  • May lower cholesterol which in turn reduces risk of heart disease.
  • There is some evidence that apple cider vinegar may slow the growth of cancer cells. More studies are needed.
  • Weight Loss. Believed to suppress appetite if taken before a meal.
  • Sore Throat. Gargle with a diluted solution. Try a warm drink made with 1 cup warm water, 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar, add honey to taste.
  • Upset Stomach. Make a mint tea and add 1/2 tsp. of apple cider vinegar to settle the stomach. Honey may be added.
  • Can get rid of that bloated feeling.
  • A honey-lemon-apple cider vinegar tea works well to clear congestion and get rid of phlegm.
  • Helps rid the body of toxins.

Apple Cider Vinegar Precautions:

All natural products used to promote good health should be taken with the same care as prescription medicines. Apple cider vinegar is no different. This is not a product where ‘if a little works, more will work better’. It won’t and excessive intake can create serious health problems.  

  • For anyone taking diabetic medicine or insulin, apple cider vinegar can lower blood sugar levels too much, leading to hypoglycemia or even insulin shock.
  • Patients taking diuretics may be monitored for low potassium. Apple cider vinegar can lower potassium even more.
  • DON’T USE it straight as a tooth-whitener or a mouthwash. This practice can do serious damage to tooth enamel and mouth tissue.
  • Apple cider vinegar can help balance your body’s pH level which should be around 7.45. Overuse can disrupt this balance and actually create health problems. It’s easy to check pH levels with an inexpensive litmus test, available at Pharmacies.

What kind of Apple Cider Vinegar should you use?

When using apple cider vinegar to promote good health and prevent disease it just makes sense to buy the healthiest product – organic, unfiltered, unpasteurized and containing the ‘mother’.

I use Filsingers’ Organic Apple Cider Vinegar, which is Unfiltered, Unpasteurized and containing the ‘mother’. Bonus for me – Filsingers Organic Orchards are only about 20 miles away which supports my commitment to the 100 mile rule – that is, whenever possible buy products produced within 100 miles of where you live.  

How to get Apple Cider Vinegar into your diet:

The safest and easiest way to use apple cider vinegar is in everyday cooking. Adding ½ to 1 teaspoon to several dishes throughout the day will more than likely provide all you need to maintain a healthy pH balance and strong immune system.

  • As mentioned, add it to a tea
  • Add it to apple sauce
  • Makes a great salad dressing – I keep some in a spray bottle and just spritz some on our salads
  • Give soup or stews a little tang – especially those with tomato or beans
  • Add to baking – pie crust, pie fillings, muffins, etc.
  • Makes a more flavourful marinade for meat than white vinegar
  • Rub it on poultry for roasting
  • Use it with fish in place of lemon
  • Make a habit of replacing lemon juice or white vinegar with apple cider vinegar in recipes
  • Come up with your own ideas as to how to use it in cooking and baking.

Organic apple cider vinegar is substantially more expensive than white vinegar and should only be used to maintain the body’s pH balance in order to prevent illness. Using it for tasks where the much cheaper white vinegar works as well, such as for household cleaning and deodorizing, is simply a waste of money. 

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Twitter Basics: Know These to Twitter Smarter

Posted by on Jun 19, 2016 in A frugal Life, Frugal For Everyone | 38 comments

Twitter Basics

Image courtesy of Master isolated images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve been a Twitter user since January 2014 and since that time have sent out roughly 5500 tweets, am following 675 Twitter users and have 785 followers. Rather amazing since all this time I had no idea what I was doing. Definitely time to correct that.

Besides learning the Twitter Basics I also wanted to learn how to promote My Etsy Shop on Twitter without spamming. Library staff directed me to Lynda.com, an online video training business, where they believed I could find the right answers. They were right.

I’m not normally a fan of video training but this was different. The instructors used a conversational tone and this, along with the clarity of the audio, made learning easy. During the free 10-day trial period I devoted all my time to it and was able to complete the following courses:

  • Twitter Basics
  • Twitter Essentials
  • Twitter for Business
  • Advertising on Twitter
  • Up and Running with Canva
  • Selling on Etsy
  • eBay Essential Training for Sellers
  • Pinterest for Business
  • Learn Instagram – The Basics

Now I can’t possibly be the only person not knowing the Twitter Basics therefore I’m sharing  a few of the highlights from my Twitter training, focusing on those things I didn’t know – quite a lot as it turned out.

  1. Navigating Twitter:
    • Home – always returns you to your timeline (the constantly moving stream of Tweets)
    • Notification – keeps you updated about replies to a tweet, retweets, direct messages
    • Clicking on the profile photo activates a drop-down menu for profile view, lists, help, keyboard shortcuts, Twitter Ads, analytics, and settings
    • The Who to Follow column lists people Twitter thinks you may want to follow
    • On the top left is about you – profile photo, header photo, Twitter name, number of tweets, number of people you follow and followers
    • Under that is the Trend bar which contains hashtags and topics everyone is talking about – good idea to check some out and even add to the conversation.
  1. The importance of the Twitter Profile:
    • Use keywords in your bio
    • Add a header customized to match your other online sites. I used Canva for that
    • Clicking on @name on your home page will bring up the edit profile button to update your bio:
      • add a real photo of yourself or your business logo (400 x 400 pixels)
      • add your header (1500 x 500 pixels)
      • give your location if you want
      • insert your website URL
      • change the theme colour.
  1. Twitter Etiquette:
    • includes no blatant self-promotion
    • no adding affiliate links
    • no using all CAPS
    • never use negative commentary
    • no details – less is more.
  1. Hashtags are nothing more than Keywords with the pound sign in front of them. You don’t have to use hashtags that already exist but can use any searchable keyword. Find these at: https://twitter.com/search-home or https://www.hashtags.org/ (lists trending and popular hashtags). Using more than two hashtags is not recommended.
  1. Timing Tweets. To get the most out of Twitter, Tweet no less than twice a day at least 4 hours apart. 2-5pm EST is thought to be the best time to tweet. Sundays 1-5pm. are better for tweeting than Saturdays. After 8pm everything pretty well closes down.
  1. Scheduling Tweets. There are scheduling tools available.
  1. Twitter Tools and what they do:
  • http://www.tweriod.com/ Tweriod analyses the tweeting habits of your followers and suggests the time when it makes the most sense for you to tweet.
  • https://www.twellow.com/ Twellow allows you to find users that have the keyword you entered in their profile.
  1. Twitter analytics provides 28 day summary showing changes over the previous period for
    • Tweets – Impressions – Profile Visits – Mentions – Followers
    • Also shows top follower, top tweet, top media tweet and more.

A different free measurement tool is @Kred which scores you on your social influence and outreach.

  1. Tweeting Tips:
  • Use fewer than 120 characters so others can add comments when retweeting
  • When adding comments to shared tweets, place the cursor at the beginning of the tweet 
  • Use link shorteners.
    • https://bitly.com/Shortens links, optimizes them across every device and marketing channel, tracks individual link analytics
    • http://tinyurl.com/ – Shortens links, also has link editing, detailed click statistics, and custom Domains
    • http://ow.ly/url/shorten-urlShortens links, shares files and tracks visits. Pair with Hootsuite to get deep analytics with each link you share

A shortened URL in an unknown user’s tweet doesn’t let you know where the tweet originated or if this is a link you want to follow. You can expand the URL by using http://longurlmaker.com/

  1. Deleting, Pinning and Sharing Tweets:
  • You can’t edit tweets so you will need to delete and start over – to do that you click on the three dots underneath your tweet where you’ll see delete listed in the drop down menu
  • Other things you can do by clicking on the three dots:
    • Share by direct message;  Copy a link to a tweet;  Embed the tweet;
    • Pin the tweet to the profile page where it shows up on top of your timeline and stays there until you unpin it or it’s replaced by another tweet
  1. Clicking on the three dots under another user’s tweet allows  you to:
  • Share their tweet via DM to another Twitter user
  • Copy a link; Embed it on a website
  • You can block or mute the user’s tweets

Hover your mouse over the user’s profile photo to the left of the tweet to see details about that person.

Only follow people that share your interests, those you can learn from, or someone whose bio appeals to you. Don’t just follow for the sake of following.

Always respond to anyone who shares a tweet, retweets or otherwise interacts with you.

Once you know the Twitter Basics you can find this information for yourself. But without Lynda.com I would not have known where to look and still be wondering what to do and how to do it. Now all I have to do is get busy and apply what I’ve learned. 

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Blending Edible Plants with Ornamentals

Posted by on Jun 12, 2016 in Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Green Living, Herbs | 29 comments

Designing a beautiful landscape can feel overwhelming to non-gardening experts. But designing a landscape that seamlessly integrates edible plants? That may seem unrealistic—but it’s not.

Here’s a great place to start: Understanding the basics of line and form in your outdoor spaces. There are different types of lines—curves, straight, vertical, horizontal—as well as forms. Those work with structures and plants to create pleasing visuals.

And while many people assume that most fruits and vegetables must be planted every year, there are edibles that grow multiple years in a row. That can help when designing a landscape that has consistency from year to year.

Although many people plant edibles for the harvest, there are considerations of height, color, leaf structure, and more to consider, and how those can accent the plants you have already in the landscape. In addition, many edible have flowering times, which can be a great complement to other blooms in the yard.

Whatever your approach to landscaping, this graphic can help you integrate more plants to harvest in your yard.

 

Edible plants
Source: Fix.com Blog

When I was asked to publish this infographic on my post I was delighted to comply. It’s exactly the kind of information that’s great to share. Instead of adding it to the sidebar I decided that the infographic would be the post. Attractive, colourful and loaded with useful information to make blending edible plants and ornamentals easy. What’s more, we all know the cost of fruits and vegetables have gone way up and from all reports, will continue to increase. Isn’t this a beautiful way to control those costs?

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Lavender Sachets: Victorian Air Fresheners

Posted by on Jun 7, 2016 in Frugal For Everyone, Herbs, Lavender | 22 comments

Lavender Sachets

Lavender Sachets, Victorian Style

I’ve been researching Lavender use during the Victorian Era and this has turned into a fascinating project. Queen Victoria was passionate about lavender and insisted on having it used throughout the castle. She believed lavender meant cleanliness and that it purified the body and spirit – we now know she was right on – lavender does indeed have antiseptic, antibacterial and restorative properties.

Of course this meant that lavender was used in lots of different ways – for cleaning, grooming, fragrance, cooking, medicinal, and lavender sachets. With all these items using lavender to choose from, I decided that My Etsy Shop would only feature items based on Victorian products, starting with lavender sachets.

Lavender Sachets – Victorian Style:

Lavender Sachets were an effective way to keep homes free from bugs and smelling nice. A gentle squeeze of the sachets was enough to release the fresh, clean lavender fragrance.

  • SachLavender sachetsets were hung from doorknobs in all public rooms to freshen the air;
  • Decorative ones were hung from the arms of chairs for the same reason;
  • Small sachets were slipped between the sheets in linen presses for the clean fragrance and to deter insects;
  • They were a required item for the bedroom:
    • Several were tucked in with the bedding to deter bed-bugs;
    • One or more were hung from bedposts to clean the air;
    • Small sleep pillows were placed on or under pillows to ensure restful sleep;
  • Sachets were placed in wardrobes and drawers to keep insects out;
  • Quite often a small sachet could be found in a woman’s reticule;
  • Daring young women would tuck little lavender sachets in their cleavage;
  • Small sachets were often tucked in with a lady’s stationery.
Lavender Sachets

Lavender Sachets Victorian Style

Lavender lost a lot of its appeal during the mid to latter part of the 20th century when cosmetic companies developed their chemical products and clever marketing encouraged the consumer to buy. Fortunately we are becoming aware that chemical is not the way to go and many of us have returned to natural, homemade products.

I’m enjoying the research into Victorian times and find it interesting to design products for today based on items from the past. Another item is already on the drawing board which I’ll share with you next month. For now it’s lavender sachets because they are as useful today as they were in Victorian times.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Mosquitoes Bugging You? Banish Them

Posted by on May 29, 2016 in Frugal For Everyone, Health and Safety, Herbs, Lavender | 28 comments

mosquitoes

Mosquitoes –  Image courtesy of chatchai_stocker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mosquitoes  are no longer merely summer’s party-poopers, they have turned into dangerous guests. While we know that many mosquito-borne viruses have been around for centuries there are two serious ones that have impacted North America in recent years.

  • West Nile Virus: Symptoms range from very mild to encephalitis/meningitis to death. Transmitted to birds, horses and humans. Most at risk – the very old and the very young.
  • Zika Virus: May cause neurological defects in babies, muscle weakness, paralysis and death. Most at risk – pregnant women.

It is therefore essential that we do what we can to prevent mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes – Preferences:

You know how you’re hiking with a group of friends and the mosquitoes like one person best? There is truth to that. Some people do attract mosquitoes more than others.

  • Carbon Dioxide attracts mosquitoes and of course we emit carbon dioxide when we do anything – breathe, talk, walk, or eat. Breathing is rather necessary but maybe we could talk or eat less while outside?
  • The more you sweat, and the older the sweat is, the more mosquitoes you will attract.
  • Exercise produces sweat and panting (release of carbon dioxide). For the very active person a strong mosquito repellent will probably be necessary. (See the Consumer Report Paragraph at the end of this article).
  • For some reason mosquitoes like people with blood type O while anyone with blood type A will be last choice.
  • Anyone with high uric acid levels tend to attract mosquitoes. If you fall in this category, up your Vitamin C and Citric Acid intake. A couple of tablespoon apple cider vinegar added to citrus juice/fruit salad/salad dressing will help balance things out.
  • For many people beer is the drink of choice during the summer. Unfortunately, unless they want to get bitten, they may have to change their beer to lemonade, at least while they’re outdoors.

Mosquitoes – Prevention:

While it’s impossible to eliminate every mosquito from your yard, there are steps we can take to make our yards less appealing to them.

  • The most obvious one – remove all standing water. This includes empty planters, wheelbarrows, old tires, bottles, cans and other containers left laying around, unused wading pools, pool covers, bird baths. Keep gutters/storm drains free from debris, cover rain barrels with fine mesh.  Any water features should have a pump to keep water moving.
  • Add lots of mosquito repelling plants to the flowerbeds and along walkways – Lavender, Lemon Balm, Basil, Marigolds, Lemongrass, Citronella, Catnip, Spearmint.

Banish them while you’re enjoying the outdoors:

  • Throw a few Rosemary stems on the BBQ. This adds flavour to foods while keeping mosquitoes away.
  • Place a variety of pots with mosquito repelling plants around the deck or patio and use one as a centrepiece(s) for your patio table. 
  • Add a few drops of pure Citronella oil to beeswax candles. Do not buy the cheap citronella candles or rings found at Dollar stores. They are ineffective and toxic.
  • When sitting outside, place a fan behind you. Mosquitoes are very light and the breeze will just blow them away.

Ways for you to be less appealing to mosquitoes:

  • Wear light colour clothes – the darker the clothes, the greater the chance mosquitoes will find you.
  • Mosquitoes have a great sense of smell and are attracted to scents. Best not to use anything scented – perfumes, soap, shampoos, etc.
  • If possible, wear long sleeves, long pants, hats and socks. Don’t wear baggy clothes that could trap mosquitoes and so be carried indoors.
  • Use the right kind of mosquito repellent applicable to the situation.

Mosquitoes –  Repellents:

Mosquitoes like the early morning and the hours around sunset best. If you’re going to be outside during those times take extra precautions.

There are a number of homemade Mosquito Repellents that work for around the patio and in the backyard. For camping, hiking and other outdoor activities where mosquitoes are in abundance stronger products are recommended.

Homegrown Mosquito Repellents: Some of the safest mosquito repellents for use around the home are the ones you can easily grow in your garden. You can also use these on pets.

Mosquitoes

Table Planter – Lemongrass, lavender, basil, marigolds

  • If you don’t have lavender growing in your flower bed, window-box or herb/vegetable garden, now is the perfect time to plant a few. To use as a mosquito repellent, just rub your hands up and down the lavender stems a few times to transfer the oils, then rub the exposed skin areas with your hands. Pin a sprig of lavender to the back of your hat.
  • Lemon Balm, an easy to grow, attractive perennial suitable for any garden site is another great mosquito repellent and used the same way as lavender. Rub the leaves, then rub exposed skin. You can also pick a large bunch, boil it and strain it into a spray bottle. Add a drop of apple cider vinegar if you like. Lemon Balm smells nice and refreshing.
  • Basil is an easy to grow annual that can be used in the same way as Lavender or Lemon Balm.
    1. Place a few stalks on the grill when barbecuing.
    2. Bruise a basil leaf and rub it on exposed skin.
    3. Bruise a leaf and pin it to shirt sleeves or hat.

Homemade Mosquito Repellents:  Not for use on children under three:

  • Mix Avon Skin So Soft with an equal quantity Witch Hazel. Pour into a spray bottle. Be careful to avoid contact with mouth, nose and eyes. Shake before using. Must be re-applied every 2-3 hours.
  • Mix 1/8 cup Pure Lemon Eucalyptus Oil with 1 cup Witch Hazel. Pour into a spray bottle. Be careful to avoid contact with mouth, nose and eyes. Shake before using. Must be re-applied every 2-3 hours.

Purchased Mosquito Repellents: These are stronger than the homegrown/homemade versions but make the most sense if you’re camping, hiking, etc. in mosquito territory. When using strong mosquito repellents containing DEET, it’s best to spray your clothes, hat and shoes/boots, rather than directly on your skin.

  • StealStreet Brookyo Mosquito Repellent Bracelet: These microfiber bracelets and patches will stay fresh for up to 7 days with pleasant smell of natural essential oils that bugs are repelled by – great for adults, teens, kids, safe for babies and even dogs

  • Sawyer Picaridin: Chosen top insect repellent by Consumer Reports. Effective against the Yellow Fever Mosquito, which can transmit the Zika Virus; Insect-killing repellent for your clothing is effective against ticks, chiggers, mites and mosquitoes; as effective as 100 percent DEET; Lasts up to 6 weeks (or 6 washings). Ideal for hunters, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
  • Off! Deepwoods: Not oily or greasy; Repels mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, chiggers and gnats; A must-have for camping, fishing, hunting and boating; repels mosquitoes that may carry West Nile Virus.
  • Before buying any mosquito repelling gadgets do a thorough check of the product. Most of them have little value and some are just plain annoying.

The following information is quoted from Consumer Reports  To read more, click on the link.

“ The most effective products against Aedes mosquitoes (the ones that carry the Zika virus) were Sawyer Picaridin and Natrapel 8 Hour, which each contain 20 percent picaridin, and Off! Deepwoods VIII, which contains 25 percent deet. They kept the mosquitoes from biting for about 8 hours. The Sawyer product was our top insect repellent overall. It was the only one that also kept Culex mosquitoes, which can spread West Nile disease, and deer ticks, which can spread Lyme disease, away for at least 8 hours.”

While I’m all for natural non-toxic mosquito repellents, sometimes they do not provide enough protection and I would rather use a strong repellent than take a chance on catching a mosquito-borne virus.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Best Father’s Day Gifts -Unique AND Useful

Posted by on May 22, 2016 in A frugal Life, Frugal For Everyone, Smart Shopper | 24 comments

Father's Day Gifts

Best Father’s Day Gifts
Image courtesy of Naypong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I truly enjoyed this search for the best Father’s Day Gifts. I had no idea that all these fascinating and unique products were available so it was quite an eye-opener. Who would have thought of watches with wooden bands or a computer mouse that looks like a car or a golf bag attachment that let’s your phone/tablet record your game? What amazing choices there are and how lucky the dad who will receive one of these gifts.

Before I get started with the list I do need to explain a few things. My search took me to Amazon simply because Amazon has many thousands of products which meant all the searching could be done on one site. As the saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words”. I agree and have therefore added the images below. Clicking on any of the thumbnails will take you to the Amazon site for enlarged views of the product. Think of it as browsing a Father’s Day Gift Catalog. Be assured that clicking does not mean buying.

On that note, I am an Amazon associate and if you do decide to buy from Amazon, I would be delighted if you would order through my site. No cost to you but I will earn a small commission.

The Best Father’s Day Gifts:

  • Starting off with one of the neatest items, at least in my opinion, is this wooden watch handcrafted from high quality natural sandalwood with no two pieces of wood exactly the same. It includes a day/date calendar. Definitely a huge step-up from the tie and sock gifts of yesterday.
  • Craft beers are all the rage these days. Wouldn’t these beverage chiller sticks be the perfect accessory for dad’s favourite craft beer? All you do is put the stick in the freezer for 45 minutes then insert into a bottle of beer (or other beverage) to keep the drink cold.
  • Father’s Day is the one day to go all out spoiling dad and I can’t think of a better way than with this folding chair. The chair has a detachable insulated cooler, an electronics pocket, a fold-out side table to hold books, tablet, camera and drinks, etc. keeping everything within easy reach. Perfect for keeping dad comfortable on the beach, park, or the deck.
  • How about this portable BBQ suitcase? You have to admit, this one is very unique. Easy to carry around, this stainless steel charcoal grill can accommodate cooking for 2 people and includes a convenient mess-free ash catcher.

  • If dad is into thrillers, “Make Me (with bonus short story Small Wars): A Jack Reacher Novel” by the #1 New York Times Bestselling Author Lee Child will be super appreciated. Of course, it will probably mean he’ll become too engrossed in the book to be able to take time out to BBQ. Best make other plans for dinner.
  • I love this nifty Mobile Printer w/ZINK Zero Ink Printing Technology that is compatible w/iOS & Android Devices. It prints 2×3 colour photos directly from Mobile Phone or Tablet via Bluetooth or NFC Technology. Great for dad – lucky him.
  • The PhoneSoap 2.0: UV Sanitizer & Universal Charger, as seen on SHARK TANK, isn’t only unusual, it’s also extremely useful. Phones are covered in disease-causing bacteria. PhoneSoap 2.0 safely kills 99.99% of germs utilizing bacteria-zapping UV rays. The germ-killing UV-C light used by the PhoneSoap 2.0 is scientifically proven to banish bacteria found on everything from door knobs, toilet seats, toilet handles, dirty laundry, and more. Fits and charges any phone or tablet and has a universal phone charger w/USB port. 

  •  For the car enthusiast, how about this Corvette Wireless Optical Mouse (HP-11CHCZRXA)? This is an officially licensed product with a unique 17 digit V.I.N. It has functional headlights with on/off switch and a built in automatic timer shut-off. A totally different way to cruise the web.
  • Bird-watching is growing in popularity all the time and this 8 X 35 BAK4 Prism Optical Waterproof Binoculars is perfect for that. Of course, it can also be used for other purposes like Concerts, Hunting, Hiking, or Stadium Sports.

  • Isn’t this stainless steel Multi-Tool the handiest thing you ever saw? It functions as pliers, knife, screwdriver, bottle & can opener, scaler, ruler & filer and comes complete with a nylon sheath and belt loop for easy access. For the active dad this little carry-along will save the day time and again.

The Best Father’s Day Gifts for the Sports Enthusiast:

  • For the avid golfer, this Golf Bag Video Recording & Mount System with a telescoping pole can be inserted in any bag and includes universal phone/tablet holder clamps that works with any device model smart phone or tablet. Drop the 54″ pole into your golf bag to provide an easy way to use your tablet or phone for swing recording, video review, and training purposes. Universal Phone or Tablet Clamp attaches to the Aluminum Extension Pole, extends out of your bag, and provides a secure hold on your phone so it will stay in place. Easy to view the screen and review your swing.
  • Even if dad hasn’t time for the course, he can still work on his game with this Portable Golf Putter Travel Practice Putting Set. This portable executive putter set comes in a zipper bag, includes a ball return cup, a screw together golf club and a golf ball. Lets dad perfect his swing anywhere. Perfect for any golf fan.
  • This Portable Bluetooth Speaker with Best-in-class sound goes wherever you go. It is the ultra-light, ultra-rugged and ultra-powerful portable speaker. It gives you 5 hours of battery power so you can take the music with you where ever you go, plug it in or play it wirelessly using its Bluetooth functionality, streaming your music with no strings or cables attached or talking hands-free with the speakerphone function. Now that’s useful.

  • For the active dad, how about these Hifi Stereo Bluetooth 4.1 Sunglasses (Polarized Black+Yellow Lens), MP3 Glasses Supports Music, Handfree Calls, Camera Shutter Remote. It’s easy to connect with high-fidelity, CD quality sound effect, able to connect more than 1 bluetooth devices and compatible with 99.9% bluetooth devices. A good mate for drivers, cyclists, runners,etc.

  • Soccer IQ: Things That Smart Players Do, Vol. 1, #1 Best Seller. Soccer IQ was named the #1 book for Soccer Players and Coaches by Football.com. and named Top 5 Book of the Year by the NSCAA Soccer Journal. It includes links to free Soccer IQ companion that brings the lessons to life.

There you have it. I hope you enjoy browsing these unique and useful Father’s Day Gifts as much as I enjoyed finding them.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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Compost Tea – Perfect for Suburban Gardens

Posted by on May 15, 2016 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Green Living | 25 comments

compost tea

Compost Tea – Strained and ready to use.

Compost tea is an inexpensive, easy-to-make, fast-working plant food that results in nutrient rich soil and strong, healthy plants. Every book or article written about organic gardening includes the need for adding compost to the soil. Easy enough to understand why since compost truly is a marvelous soil amendment – it improves nutrient retention of the soil while adding many beneficial organisms making for a more productive garden.

However, most municipalities have bylaws that prohibit homeowners from having compost piles in suburban areas which makes compost tea such a great alternative.  A compost pile isn’t required. With compost tea only one or two purchased bags of top quality compost will do. Add non-chlorinated water (rain water is free and perfect for this) and the right size pail and you’re set to go.

compost tea

Before getting to the Compost Tea recipe, there are a few things to know:

  • Compost Tea does not keep – when it’s ready you need to use all of it so make it in batches small enough to meet your immediate needs. There’s no sense wasting any.
  • The finished tea should not bubble or have a foul odour. That may mean it could be anaerobic and not much good can survive in that. If it has become anaerobic, throw it out and try again.
  • Make a test batch. A large coffee can or similar size container is ideal. Fill the can 1/3 full of compost, then fill the container with non-chlorinated water. Stir well with a stick, really move all the ingredients around. The stirring is extremely important as it aerates the tea and adds oxygen. Stir well several times a day for a week.
  • After 5 days to a week strain through a cheesecloth or strainer, rake the solids into the garden and pour a cup of the tea around each of the plants you want to feed.
    Compost Tea

    Adding the compost

To Make the Compost Tea:

  • Work only with clean materials. You can use any size container depending on the size of your garden although a five gallon pail or garbage bucket is used most often. As in the test batch, fill the container 1/3 full with compost, then fill the pail/bucket with non-chlorinated water. Stir well. Place in a handy location so you don’t forget about it.
  • The compost will settle on the bottom of the pail so stir 3 or 4 times the first day, making sure to move all the compost around, it needs to be well-mixed, then stir several times a day for the next week. Check often.
Compost Tea

Stirred and brewing

  • After 5 days to a week, strain the tea. The easiest way is to line a cheap colander with cheese cloth and just empty the tea into a very clean pail or bucket.
  • Dump and rake the solids into the garden. Use all of the tea to feed your plants, about 1 cup per plant.
  • Strain some of the compost tea into a spray bottle, add 1/2 teaspoon of dish detergent and spray on plant leaves to deter foliar disease.
  • Feed your plants and leaves every couple of weeks all summer long. This can also be used once a month on houseplants.

Note:  You can increase the nutrient value of the tea even more by adding powdered seaweed or worm castings to the finished tea.

Start a new batch brewing a week before you need more or better yet, split the garden up, feed half one week and the second half the second week and keep a continuous batch of compost tea brewing.

Both the finished compost tea and the discarded solids will add valuable nutrients to your soil, keeping your plants strong, healthy and producing abundantly.

Talk to you again next week,

Lenie

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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