Do-It-Yourself

Lovage: Budgetwise Plant For Health and Taste

Posted by on Jun 25, 2017 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Health, Herbs, Recipes | 21 comments

Lovage: Budgetwise Plant For Health and Taste

Lovage is such a useful herb yet it is seriously underused. Known in Holland as the Maggiplant it is a perennial herb that once planted keeps on producing forever, basically giving you a celery type product for free. It smells somewhat like beefy celery and makes a fabulous substitute for celery in soups and stews besides having a myriad of other uses, including cosmetic and medicinal. Growing Lovage: As lovage plants and seeds are difficult to find locally it makes more sense to buy a plant from a Herbal Garden Centre. (One plant is all you’ll need.) It is easy to grow, requiring average, moisture retaining soil and a sunny spot (some shade in hot climates). It is a tall plant growing to 5-6 feet (2 metres) so should be planted at the edge of the garden or at the back of the flowerbed. It is one of the first plants to appear in the Spring and one of the last to die in the Fall. Lovage can be harvested throughout the growing season. Like all herbs, pick after the dew has dried. Cut the stalks and pull off the leaves. It is best used fresh but can be frozen – simply chop the leaves and stalks and freeze in ice-cube trays covered with water or, even easier, place the leaves and stalks in freezer bags.  Lovage – Medicinal: Lovage will deliver its many health benefits either as a tea or when added to food. Lovage Tea (tastes like a broth): To make: Add 1 tsp. finely chopped lovage leaves, root or rhizome (underground stem) for every 1 cup of boiling water. Let steep for 5-10 minutes or to taste. Health benefits: Boosts immune system; Coughs, colds and bronchial problems – contains eucalyptol which soothes irritated tissue; it is an expectorant which helps loosen phlegm and mucus; Boosts kidney health – encourages healthier urination which decreases the risk of kidney stones; helps prevent urinary tract infections; Menstrual relief – can relieve menstrual pain including severe cramping and bloating; may also act as a mood booster during this time; Digestion aid – as an anti-inflammatory, lovage tea will help reduce irritation of the bowels, reduce bloating and flatulence, soothe upset stomachs; may improve appetite; Anti-allergenic – contains quercetin (histamine inhibitor) which reduces allergic reactions, itchy eyes and runny nose; Anti-inflammatory: Relieves migraine headache pain; Improves blood circulation; Relieves arthritis, rheumatism, gout and other joint pains. As with all herbs, lovage must be used with care. I believe strongly in the adage “All things in moderation”. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid lovage. Anyone with chronic health issues, especially kidney or heart disease, should NOT use this herb without prior approval from their doctor. Lovage is an aquaretic which stimulates healthy urine flow without losing electrolytes. This increases water loss when fluid retention is a problem. However, to prevent excessive water loss, anyone taking water pills should avoid this herb. There have been some reports of increased photosensitivity associated with lovage use. This could increase risk for sunburn and skin cancer which makes sunblock and protective clothing a must.   Lovage – Cosmetic/Medicinal: Leaves applied directly to skin can: Reduce the itch and redness from psoriasis; Help control acne. A decoction used as facial wash or added to the bath can: Increase blood flow to the skin which improves skin tone, making skin feel and look smoother and healthier. To make a decoction: Place a ¼ cup chopped lovage leaves in small pan, add 4 cups cold water, cover and place on low heat to slowly simmer for 1 hour. Strain...

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Gardening for Seniors – Adjusting to Limitations

Posted by on May 21, 2017 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Gardening, Green Living, Health, Herbs | 19 comments

Gardening for Seniors – Adjusting to Limitations

  Adapting to limitations has to be the gardening senior’s biggest annoyance in addition to being an ongoing challenge.  Just when you’ve adjusted to accommodate one problem another one pops up and you have to try something else again.  Seniors come with a bunch of different physical or mobility problems so for them to continue to garden safely means adjustments geared to each individual. I’ve had to adjust many times the older I get. I started with “in the field” gardens, moved on to raised beds set on the ground and next moved up to the current garden beds raised to table height.  My gardens have also become smaller each year. This year I won’t grow any vegetables as I did in the past but concentrate solely on my salad and herb gardens.    Garden size becomes another limitation.  Seniors often downsize and move into smaller townhouses, apartments or condos where they feel they no longer have the room to garden, so they quit. Gardening is such a healthy activity with both physical and psychological benefits that seniors should be encouraged to carry on. Putting one of the methods shown below in place allows the small size gardener to continue. When my parents moved from their country home to a city apartment you could tell where they lived from a mile away – mom’s balcony was a blaze of colour, flowers of every kind growing in pots and placed everywhere, even hanging from the balcony rail. The smaller area certainly didn’t stop her from enjoying her flowers. Gardening for Seniors – Adjustments: Most seniors find bending over difficult which makes the garden beds raised to table height ideal. The beds can be built any size, even as small as 1 or 2 feet wide by 3 or 4 feet long. For details about raised bed gardens, click here. The senior should be able to reach the centre of the garden without leaning on the soil to prevent compacting the soil. My gardens are 4 feet wide but that is because I can walk all around them and easily reach the centre from both sides. For anyone able to access only one side or for those less mobile, 2 or 3 feet wide will be the better choice. All walkways should be kept clear to prevent falls and to never obstruct safe movement, whether walking, using a walker or in a wheel chair.  Gardens should be placed in the most convenient locations – especially salad and herb gardens which should be close to the kitchen door for easy harvest. If space is limited any of the gardens shown in picture 2 are an attractive alternative. A previous post “vegetable gardens for small space gardeners” details how easy it is to adopt the alternative methods. When large patio pots are used they should first be placed on wheeled platforms. We seniors are a determined lot and if we don’t like where a planter is situated we’ll do what we can to move it. Having the wheeled platform will help avoid muscle strains, damaged backs or worse. A super idea is to wrap the handles of garden hand tools with bright coloured duct tape. This serves two purposes – it makes it easier to keep track of the tools and also provides a better grip for arthritic hands. Electric tools shouldn’t be used. Older hands can’t always be counted on to do what’s required and they may let go at the most critical times which could lead to serious injury. Instead use manual tools – not necessarily specific garden tools either. A couple of...

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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  – Perfect for Suburban Gardens

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. 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. 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. 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...

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Wine Making – Just For Fun

Posted by on Oct 18, 2015 in Do-It-Yourself, Recipes | 34 comments

Wine Making – Just For Fun

Wine making is normally considered rather a complicated affair, requiring special equipment and ingredients. But for the non-connoisseur, wine making can sometimes be easy and fun, using standard household equipment and easy to find ingredients. The first time I tried this, it was done more for the fun of doing it than for expecting great results. As it happened, the wine turned out much better than expected. Of course, you can’t expect it to compare to the high quality wines prepared by wine producers and aged for years, but I personally think it compares favourably to some of the more inexpensive wines you can buy. Wine Making 101: Sterilize a gallon container – glass preferred, stainless steel second choice; Gather the ingredients together; 6 cups sugar 1.36 L (about 1.2 quarts) bottle of Grape Juice – white or red 1/3 cup raisins 7 – 8 cups of cold water Heel of a loaf of bread 1 yeast packet Pour the grape juice into a stainless steel pan and add the sugar. Over medium heat, bring to a boil, stirring until it becomes a light syrup; Remove from heat, pour into the prepared gallon container; Add the 7-8 cups cold water; Add the raisins; Place the bread heel on top of the liquid; Sprinkle the yeast on top of the bread heel; Cover lightly, DO NOT CLOSE TIGHT; Set the jar in an out of the way, preferably dark corner, and leave it alone for a week to 10 days – you’ll see little bubbles forming along the top of the jar; Line a colander with a double layer of cheese cloth, then place the colander over a large glass dish or stainless-steel pan; Pour the contents of the wine jar into the colander to strain; Rinse the wine jar to get rid of any sediment; Return the strained wine back to the clean wine jar1 (gallon container), cover it and refrigerate for a day; 1 You can also pour some of the strained wine into the empty grape juice container – just don’t fill it overfull – and close it with the cap. And that’s all there’s to it. Now enjoy – CHEERS!! Talk you you again next week,...

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Snackin Cake: Back to the 70s

Posted by on Sep 6, 2015 in Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Recipes | 41 comments

Snackin Cake: Back to the 70s

I don’t know how many of you remember the Snackin Cake Mixes that were so popular during the 70s. All you had to do was mix all the ingredients right in the disposable pan that came with the mix. We loved those mixes and with good reason. They were low-cost, easy to prepare, tasted good and basically no cleanup. Of course, anytime a commercial product hits the market, someone is smart enough to create a homemade version. That’s what happened here and the homemade Snackin Cake Master Mix soon made the rounds. This homemade version was even better than the original – it cut the cost of the snackin cake in half, tasted just as good or better and provided a lot more variety. Recently I came across a binder that still contained a large number of my old-time recipes, including this one. SNACKIN CAKE MASTER MIX:                           9 cups flour 6 cups sugar 5 Tbsp. baking powder 1 Tbsp. salt 1 lb (454g) shortening In large bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Keep mixing until everything is well blended. Cut the shortening into the dry mix with a pastry blender until it resembles coarse cornmeal. Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place for no more than 2 months.  Makes approximately 18 cups mix. Snackin Cake RECIPES: The directions for the snackin cakes below are all the same. Mix all the ingredients (except the topping ingredients) in an 8-inch cake pan until well blended. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the pan and to smooth out the top of the batter. If a topping is chosen follow the directions given. Bake in preheated 350F oven for 30 minutes or until cake tests done. I used non-stick pans and to prevent damaging them I used a plastic fork to stir the batter and my plastic lettuce knife to cut the cakes. Basic Cake:  2 cups mix 1 tsp. vanilla 1 egg, slightly beaten ½ cup milk Topping (Optional): 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/4 cup flour 2 Tbsp. butter Topping: Mix the brown sugar and flour, then using a fork mix in the butter until crumbs form. Spread over top of the cake batter before baking. The basic cake became a banana-chocolate chip cake by making minor changes. Milk was cut back to 1/4 cup, vanilla extract was replaced by banana extract and 2 mashed bananas and 1/2 cup chocolate chips were added. Yummy. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Spice Cake: 2 cups mix 1 egg, slightly beaten 1/4 cup milk 1/4 cup strong coffee ½ cup raisins 1 tsp. cinnamon ½ tsp.  each ginger, nutmeg and ground cloves ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~  Chocolate Cake: 2 cups mix 1 egg, slightly beaten ¾ cup ice water ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa 1 tsp. vanilla   ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Coffee Cake: 2 cups mix 1 egg, slightly beaten 2/3 cup milk 1 tsp. cinnamon Topping (Optional): ¼ cup brown sugar ½ Tbs. cinnamon 3/4 cup ground nuts Topping: Mix topping ingredients together and spread over the cake batter before baking. I turned this into an almond coffee cake by adding 1/2 cup chopped almonds and 1 tsp. almond extract to the cake batter and used 3/4 cup ground almonds in the topping. It was really good, not overly sweet. You can be quite creative with these snackin cakes simply by adding different ingredients. For instance, to the basic cake you could add 1 cup finely chopped apple and 1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon or 1 cup grated carrot and ½ Tbsp. cinnamon.  For the coffee cake, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped nuts (the same...

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Do More With Everyday Products A-Z

Posted by on Jul 5, 2015 in Common Products - Uncommon Uses, Do-It-Yourself, Frugal For Everyone, Green Living | 16 comments

Do More With Everyday Products A-Z

Do More With Everyday Products A-Z, is a bit different from my usual list posts. Those focused on one specific product -this one has tips for how to do more with everyday products A-Z. No need to run to the store when you run out of something. Take a look around and you can probably find what you need right in your own home. Do More With Everyday Products A-Z: Aluminum Foil – Line a paint tray with aluminum foil and clean-up is a cinch. When finished painting, simply grab the foil and discard. No washing the tray. No need to buy liners. Bottles – Trap those pests. Partly fill a large soda bottle (2 litre) with a mixture of ½ cup sugar, 2 cups tepid water and 1 cup apple cider vinegar. Put the top back on and shake to mix really well. Cut a one-inch hole near the top of the bottle. Wrap a string around the neck of the bottle and hang from a tree or other place where yellow jackets and wasps congregate. Once it’s full of pests, discard and replace. This does the trick without resorting to chemical sprays. Cooking Spray – Lightly spray a grater with cooking spray before shredding cheese to make cleanup much easier. Dental Floss – Use this to slice cheese. Simply place a piece of floss under the cheese and slowly pull up. Emery Boards – Use to lightly sand the outer shell of seeds before planting. This speeds germination and allows the seeds to better absorb moisture. Freezer – Place musty smelling books in the freezer for a day or two to eliminate the bad odour. Garlic Press – The perfect gadget to smash up hard-boiled eggs. Hair Spray – Give your recipe cards a good shot of hairspray to protect them from grease and food splatters while you’re using them.  Ice Cube Trays – Bought extra eggs on sale and don’t know what to do with them? Freeze them in ice cube trays. Each cell will hold one egg. Once they’re frozen, remove them and store in freezer bags. Jar Lids – Keep one handy on the stove to use as spoon rest. Keys – Don’t throw those extra, unused keys out. They can be used as fishing sinkers or plumb jobs. Lemons – Add one or two tablespoons of lemon juice to the water in the humidifier. This doesn’t just deodorize the humidifier, it also adds a pleasant natural lemon scent to the house. Repeat as needed. Mayonnaise – Soften your elbows and feet by rubbing mayonnaise on them, leave for a little while, then wipe fairly hard (not so hard it hurts) with a face cloth and finally rinse off. Newspaper – Let wet boots or shoes keep their shape by stuffing them with newspaper while they dry. Oatmeal – Soak your cares away. Grind one cup of oatmeal in a blender and add 5-6 drops (more or less, personal choice) lavender essential oil. Put the mixture in a bath bag, old pantyhose or sock and tie closed. Hang from the tap as the tub is filling with lukewarm (not hot) water. Then just lay back and enjoy. Panty Hose – Cut in strips and use to tie plants to garden stakes. The ‘give’ in the hose won’t hurt the plants. Q-Tips – These make great little dusting tools for your keyboard, remote controls, and other delicate instruments. Rolling Pins – Place a hand-washed sweater between two towels then roll across the top towel with the rolling pin to squeeze out extra moisture. Remove the...

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