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Archive for the ‘frugal tips’ Category

Two years ago the Cottager and I made a trip to Portland for our anniversary. On the way we stopped at a Cabela’s near Olympia, and purchased a pretty bonnet ceiling light complete with seeded glass, from a clearance shelf for just under $US 12.00. And then it sat around waiting for a purpose.

Recently I found a YouTube video for a recessed light conversion kit, available from Home Depot. Together these became my solution for a truly ugly recessed light at the cottage. Here it is, as was.

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And here is the conversion kit.

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And here is the  light in its new and improved version.

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Total cost was about $50, including a rather expensive old fashioned incandescent light bulb that casts a lovely, yellow candlelight-like glow over the table.  Not task lighting, of which there is more than enough, but very atmospheric. And in my view a big improvement. Love it when I find a use for something this way.  We have a couple of recessed lights in our home which we will also now convert, including one situated between our bedroom closets that does not manage to cast any light into either one.

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My sister made this. I am very jealous. She was always the artistic one. I have strong artistic impulses but no real eye or talent. She found this beat up and broken glass insulator in the boathouse of our family cottage near Nelson. Two pieces of driftwood and two nails later, she had created something I would pay to own. So cool that it perfectly holds a tea candle, making it both beautiful and useful.

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Went to look for this recipe on my blog today…and it’s not there. Let’s fix that!

Super easy, feeds a crowd and perfect for a fabulous weekend like this one.

Five ingredients, one pot, 10 minutes until its in the freezer. Caramel. Do you need more persuading?

INGREDIENTS

Two squares margarine or butter (1 cup)

1 cup brown sugar

7 cups rice krispies

1 – 2 litre carton vanilla ice cream

Caramel ice cream topping

Optional: sliced strawberries or bananas

METHOD

In a large pot on the stove top, combine margarine or butter with brown sugar and melt while stirring constantly but do not bring to boil. Remove from heat and stir in rice krispies, a cup or two at a time.
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Spoon half this mixture into a 13 x 9 inch pan and press down gently with back of spatula to smooth and compress into a smooth layer.  Unwrap brick of ice cream – no need to soften – then use a heavy chef’s knife to slice it into approximately one inch thick slices and cut to fit neatly in pan as required.
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Smooth briefly with a spatula, then pack remaining rice krispies mix on top and press down gently. Drizzle cake with some prepared caramel sauce to garnish, but not too much. This dessert is quite sweet already. Cover with foil and freeze at least six, and, ideally, 24 hours.

Best served with some lovely fresh fruit to give the impression it is good for you.

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Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, so why not pass on getting sucked into the commercial hype of it all and show your love with a unique breakfast treat.

This looks great just out of the oven and tastes even better. I adapted this slightly from a recipe given to me by Mary Wallgren, from the Idaho branch of my mom’s family.

You will need a blender and also a cast iron skillet. If you don’t have the skillet, perhaps you should? Next thing you know you will be making frittatas and oven-fried chicken.

If you are really frugal, pick up a grotty cast skillet at Value Village and recondition it. There are instruction for this process on-line. It is a bit of a dirty job.

INGREDIENTS

Filling:

2 apples, peeled,cored, sliced
2 T brown sugar
2 T butter or margerine
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)
1/2 tsp cinnamon, or to taste

Batter:

3 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp orange peel zest (optional)
3/4 cup milk

3 T butter or margerine
confectioner’s sugar for dusting

METHOD

In a bowl, stir together apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and lemon juice until apples are coated.

Melt 2 T butter or margerine in a regular skillet on the stove top, add apples and saute until apples are tender – at least 5 minutes. Turn off heat and set this skillet aside for now.

Place your 11 inch cast iron skillet into cold oven, and set to 400 degrees.

Now, into blender put your three eggs, and blend really well.
Reduce blender to low speed. Add flour, salt, granulated sugar and orange zest.
Then slowly add milk.
Stop blender and scrape down sides to ensure all flour is being combined.
Blend again for one minute.

Carefully remove cast skillet from oven using two oven mitts.
Place on cold stove top and add 3 T butter or margerine, moving it around with a spatula until melted but not browned. Carefully add batter from blender, then distribute cinnamon sugar apples on top and return to oven using two oven mitts. Bake 25 minutes, until edges are puffed and brown. Test centre with finger to ensure fully cooked.

Dust with icing sugar, cut into wedges and serve with maple syrup.
Caution: Don’t forget and touch the pan. Hot!

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Second bathroom is taking shape. Never a moment to blog it, but here is a sneak peak at our new master bath.

BEFORE

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AND AFTER…

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Everything you see in this picture was a smashing deal. Tub was a floor model marked down 75% and included taps and all the plumbing parts necessary for install – the latter often priced separately and the former always!

Tile was discounted and Jenn Brown’s recommended tile installer did a fantastic job at a terrific price – though we had to wait weeks to get on his work schedule.

That fabulous barn board floor? Vinyl, my friend. Warm, soft on the feet, water proof and easy-care. I found it at NuFloors at $4.69/sq. foot. Jenn Brown found it elsewhere for $3.29/sq. foot.

The art work was 20% off and then a further 50% off that. The vase also 75% off. Full disclosure: These were my picks so if you don’t like them, its my taste you despise.

Moral of the story: It simply takes a little longer to pull it together when trying to get what you want and a deal.

Everything has been operational since a few days before Christmas, but we continue to work away at mouldings, paint touch ups and other final details. I keep waiting and hoping I will find a spectacular deal on a tall, 300 watt towel warmer, but will soon give up on this dream and just order one. You can’t rush it, but sometimes you need to be finished.

Once I find the right frame for a particular photo, I will post Before and Afters of the third bathroom.

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Its tough to find time to blog when you are trying to move a project along and tend to the business of work and family at the same time. I’d hoped to post pictures as we progressed, but here, in short, is the first bathroom we demo’d, in its new glory.

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Only missing is the back splash tile, which will be installed in few weeks, when we will have a few jobs for the tile layer to complete at once.

I had some professional help with this, by way of a friend who is a professional designer: Jenn Brown Interiors

Most importantly, she gave me the kick-start I needed. I just didn’t know where to start, and so she arrived with a ton of samples and helped me clarify needs vs. desires, priorities and a vision of the style we wanted.

Our family home is simply that. It is full of the stuff of our lives and will never look like a magazine house, nor would we want it to. We live here, and have done for two decades, so things get worn, and even when we can keep up with repairs and touch ups, things get messy and sometimes just plain dirty. We love our pets, but they take a toll on things as well. So we were looking for an update to our old pink bathrooms that incorporated practical solutions for better organization; reduced visual clutter, and easy clean and hard wearing surfaces. And a reasonable price point, of course. Because we are frugal.

And so far I would say we are hitting it out of the park in terms of getting what we want and need.
One of the nice things about Jenn is that she listens well. If you want her to just design and create a new space for you, she will do it. But we wanted to make our own choices and do a lot of the work ourselves. It gives us a great sense of satisfaction when it works out, and we learn stuff when it doesn’t. She was able to go with the flow, and our rather slow pace.

She knows a lot about various products, and was especially helpful at things like picking out tile, which is, frankly, overwhelming. She is also a very frugal person, and knows lots of ways to get a great look for less. Her fees were easily offset, in my view, in savings that directly resulted from her advice and product sourcing. So a great value and highly recommended.

Now that we are well on our way, we are mostly using her as an occasional resource, and for referrals to trades people she has used and trusts. Once our bathroom projects are completed, I’m going to enlist her advice to refresh our bedroom and the front hallway, and maybe re-stage our living room too. Project creep!

More and better photos, information about the products we chose (and why) and a rough cost break down for this first bathroom to follow shortly.

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With the kids gone, its the perfect time to update our bathrooms.
There are three, all identically kitted out in faux terracotta (aka pink) tiles, “pearl” (aka pink) oak cabinets and lights and mirrors you might expect to see in Broadway stage star’s dressing room.

Twenty-one years ago these bathrooms were the height of lower-end developer chic. But now, they gotta go.

So here is the plan:

ONE- Bust up the middle sized bathroom technically belonging to the absent urchins, and then make it up better ourselves.

TWO- Once it is functional, that becomes our bathroom, and we demo the other two.

THREE -The “powder room will have some professionally laid tile, but we will do the balance of that one ourselves as well.

FOUR – Most of our budget is going into the master bathroom, which will have some higher end finishes requiring considerable tiling, an electrician, a plumber and who knows what else.

Hold on tight now. Here we go.

The first pink bathroom as it was for two decades

The first pink bathroom as it was for two decades

And what it looks like now.

And what it looks like now.

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