Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What You Really Need to Start Canning

I procrastinated about canning for almost eight years. I was afraid. Older women told me it was a lost art. Teachers told me it was dangerous. The FDA or AMA or somebody official told me to not even try-- the risk of botulism was too great. But then my Dad started doing it.

My Dad and I are competitive. We can't help it. It's the way we were raised. ;) He enjoyed gifting me with canned pears, peaches, and boiled peanuts. Yessiree, he loved the look on my face when he revealed his new skills. And then he gave me an even better gift. You know the saying about how if you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day, but teach him to fish... Yeah.

Okay, so this is really all you need to get started. Canner (comes with wire rack and instruction booklet), pressure canner (comes with instruction booklet), canning kit (jar funnel, jar tongs, magnet-thingy to lift the lids out of hot water, and a stick-thing to let the bubbles out). The Ball Blue Book came from Lowe's, I think. The rest came from WalMart. If you live in the city (as I do), you may have to go to Ace Hardware to get your canning supplies. My neighborhood WalMart doesn't carry them. All of this cost about $75 to $85, one-time expenses. You don't need the Ball Blue Book because both canners come with instruction books with recipes. But I prefer the Blue Book. It has lots of recipes, tips, and pictures. I'm partial to pictures.

Other than that, you need jars. At first, just buy the box of jars-- they come with lids and screw-tops. After the first use, you'll need to buy more lids. I don't bother with labels. Simply write the contents and date on the lid-- you can only use it once anyways.

If you have your own garden and produce to can, Great! If you don't, make a trip to your local farmer's market. The prices are superb and you'll find plenty of fresh produce to can and preserve.

Have fun, my fellow ants!

Friday, August 27, 2010

I'm So Excited

My guest column printed today in The Beaches Leader. I am so excited. My very first publication!

Of course, now that I've seen it in print, I'm second guessing myself and wishing I had edited it a few more times. You guys should have no problem understanding me, since you've read my blog. But for all the other Leader readers... I'll just have to hope for the best.

It's a little bittersweet since they misspelled my name. Laine Fekula is a Jacksonville Beach resident. Laine Fekula lives the Beach Cheap life and loves it. Laine Fekula is wondering if maybe she should have chosen an easy-to-spell pen name. Heather? Kelly? Amber?
Ah, well, for better or for worse, I am Lainie Fekula.

And if you locals read The Beaches Leader, be sure to write a short note to Editor Kathleen Feindt Bailey letting her know how much you LOVE my column. Maybe she'll let me write more.
She can be reached at: editor@beachesleader.com

Friday, August 13, 2010

Farmer's Markets!

I adore food. I love it. And I really really love buying it on the cheap.

Sweet Vidalia onions. I am blessed to live close to Georgia.

Yummy peaches. 20 pounds for $6. Yep, that's right. $6.

And my tomatoes. I have a confession-- I am a tomato freak. Always have been. Probably always will be. I love them. I eat them like apples, halved and salted, broiled, sun-dried, boiled in a soup, juiced, in salsa and in sauce.
I bought 75 pounds of tomatoes (I washed them all and had to use the dishwasher as a drying rack!) at the Jacksonville Farmer's Market on Beaver Street for $36. Of course, I spent three days processing them and cooking the sauce. Then I canned it all. Well, all that I could get away from my family.

I also visited the Beaches Green Market.

The "beach" in me loves the Beaches market; live hippy-esque music, organic foods and natural soaps, fresh-baked bread and homemade granola. Yum!
But the "cheap" in me couldn't stand it. I was amazed to see people buying the expensive produce. It's overpriced because the vendors travel to bring their goods to the beach and the venue charges rent for booths. I understand this, but, for me, it just isn't worth it. You'd be better off to shop in air-conditioned Publix.
I have heard of another beaches market that is starting up in Atlantic Beach. They are not charging booth rent, so the atmosphere should be more grass-roots. When I get more information, I'll report back.

So, if I was Beach Chic, I would ride my bike (or drive my future Prius) to the Beaches Green Market. And the downtown Farmer's Market is certainly cheap. To make it Beach Cheap, carpool with some friends. The 30-minute drive will be more fun, and you can buy in bulk to get the best deal and then split everything up later. Make sure you take a minivan to haul all that loot away.

Happy farmer's marketing!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Beach Cheap

I decided that since we no longer live in the efficiency, I needed to change the name of my blog. "Life in the Efficiency" just doesn't fit anymore.

A few weeks ago, The Beaches Leader advertised for guest columnists. I was terrified almost to the point of not even trying. But I did. I wrote three sample columns. The editor, Kathleen Feindt Bailey, agreed to publish one. WooHoo! I will post again when it prints. Believe me, I'll let everyone know!

The one she liked was titled "Beach Cheap." I happen to know a few things about living cheap. Just ask my husband- I can make a penny scream. And I hope to one day achieve "Beach Chic" status. But for now, I am simply and contentedly Beach Cheap, and I have lots of tips to share with the readers of The Beaches Leader. Hmm, maybe the editor will allow me to submit another column.

In the Beach Cheap spirit, I have gone over all my previous posts and pointed out the Beach Cheap tips. Please "follow" my blog for more tips. If you'd like to share my blog, you can click on the share buttons below, or give your friends the link: http://beachcheap.blogspot.com/

Friday, July 2, 2010

HomeMade Play-Dough

Beach Cheap tip-
Make your own chemical-free Play-Dough. It's so easy.

We poured 2 cups of white flour, 1 cup of salt, 2 cups of warm water, 2 tablespoons of canola oil, and 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar in a pot and stirred it up. Then we heated it on low. I stirred it until it was cooked all the way through. When it pulls away from the sides of the pot and forms a lumpy ball in the middle, it's done. Just dump it out on the countertop and let it cool. Then you knead it until it becomes silky soft. Lyliana and I kneaded it together. We had a blast rolling the dough into a ball and punching it flat again.

Divide the dough into 4 or 5 balls. Spread one ball flat and squeeze some color on it. Then gently rub it in.

By the time I finished with the blue, Lyli had squished all the rest together.
We had a great time!

By the time she made it to the table, she had worked all the colors into one big blob of green.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

3 AM Musings

I've been reading more of Linda Lael Miller's McKettrick books.
And I was musing, "I wonder, if I practiced enough, if maybe I could learn to concoct a tale that rouses such emotion. Or if I could start a business that would grow into a successful company. I wish I had a family legacy that would tell me what I'm capable of.
McKettrick-tough. McKettrick-true.

But I don't... Well, of course I do!

I am the daughter of the King. I am part of the most thoroughly researched family of all time. The Bible contains my family history. God is my Father. Jesus Christ, Lord of all creation, is my Brother. The Holy Spirit is my guide and comforter.

'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' "
And so can you.

And blessings to you all.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Garden Update {part 2}

My Bag Garden. From the left- corn, zuchinni, watermelon, cucumbers. Some were purchased, but most were traded or given.

From the top-- mulberry tree (a gift from a neighbor), watermelons in the bag (gift from a friend), cherry tomatoes (gift from my Aunt who is also a neighbor), sweet potatoes and golden potatoes that sprouted in my kitchen while waiting for me to eat them. I planted them instead.

Beach Cheap tip-

Restaurants buy their food in bulk, and sometimes this leaves them with an abundance of 5-gallon buckets. The green buckets above once held dill pickles. I asked the restaurant manager if I could get the buckets before they were tossed into the dumpster (for free, of course). I not only saved money, I also reduced the amount of garbage going into our landfills.

I drilled some holes into the bottoms before filling with soil and planting.

Some zuchinni.

Some squash.

My garden. Complete with little black squirrel repeller!

Garden Update {part 1}

Here it is. My Beach Cheap Garden. I ran out of room in my raised beds and started adding pots and buckets. In addition to my concrete-block herbs, I now have rosemary and thyme in the clay pots. Aloe in the white pot.

I couldn't resist taking a picture of my dill and peppermint. I love them both.

An up-close look at a gorgeous chives bloom.

My tomatoes, which are currently being attacked by hornworms. Every day, I transform myself into Lainie the Hornworm Killer, at least once, sometimes twice.

And my yummy-to-the-tummy Box-O-Lettuces. We've been harvesting and eating the outer leaves since we got these guys in February. You can see that by the super-long stems. We lost the red leaf a couple of weeks ago. So sad. The sap has started running now, and I expect they'll bolt soon. But we've had months of delicious salads, so I'm not complaining.

Beach Cheap tip-
Grow foods that you already eat. And if you're limited on space, choose the veggies that are pricier in the store. That's why I chose to grow bell peppers and tomatoes. We love them, and they're quite expensive.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

My Crafty Side

has been showing itself lately.

I keep my calendars and daily notes in a standard one-subject notebook that I bought at WalMart. But the covers are usually not my taste.

I found this gorgeous fabric on sale at JoAnn's and sewed a notebook cover. Now I can buy the cheapest ugliest notebook and it will be beautiful!

On the Dave Ramsey plan, we're supposed to shop with cash only, and keep said cash in envelopes. After 18 months on the plan, I still have not implemented the envelope system because I fear losing cash and coins from the envelopes. I needed a zipper! So I took an old shirt that my Nan (grandmother) had given me and made a really cute change purse. It's wide enough for the bills to lay flat (this was very important to my "Monica Geller" side). And my pennies are safe.

Beach Cheap tip-
(adapted from Dave Ramsey)
When you spend cash rather than swiping your debit card, you spend less. Yes, I know, I doubted, too. But when I finally implemented Dave Ramsey's envelope system, I spent less money. At the beginning of the month, take your monthly grocery budget in cash. Put it in your envelope/change purse. When you run out of money, stop spending. So simple. But it really works- because it hurts to spend cash. It is actually painful to part with cash money. Try it. It'll totally change your spending.

Monday, March 15, 2010

My Garden

My two raised beds. I lined the ground with wet newspaper, then filled with soil. I reused the wood from a broken fence panel. On the right are squash, zuchinni, onions and garlic. In the left box are peppers, tomatoes, brussels sprouts, onions and garlic. The cinderblocks are filled with basil, peppermint, dill, chives, and oregano.

My box-o-lettuce. I planted romaine, buttercrunch, bibb, red leaf, and lakeshead along with some swiss chard. YUMMY! Ben frequently requests "the best salad in the world."
I'm planning to move the box indoors when the weather heats up, hopefully keeping the lettuces from bolting.
Here's a better view of the oregano and brussels sprouts. They're doing fantastic. I'm really excited, ya'll; this is the first time I haven't killed everything I've planted! WooHoo!

Love at First Sight

I saw this darling parked in front of Goodwill on Saturday evening. We were on our way to my Mother-In-Law's birthday party, and I squealed when I saw her. My wonderful husband immediately turned into the Goodwill parking lot so that I could take a picture. This is my dream car. Except that I want the camper-van with the pop-top.
Isn't she beautiful?

The Reason

The reason for it all...
Lyliana's Room.

I put glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling, wall, and ceiling fan.
Can you see my attempt at Orion on the right?

Lyli's Christmas gift from Daddy was $20 for me to spend on her. We took a trip to the Dollar Tree, and I let her pick whatever she wanted. She chose a bunch of "babies"-- a horse, a lizard, and a monkey. I purchased some butterfly stickers for the walls.
The Jesus plaque hung in my childhood room, and I've passed it on to my daughter.

This table was a scavenging find-- it was abandoned in a storage unit. I was thrilled to get it at the storage-unit-foreclosure-sale. It's fantastic. Solid wood. Decent shape, although the insert was a bit ratty. I painted the insert with chalkboard paint, and it covered the ratty edges really well. I painted each side with leftovers from the kitchen cabinets. Lyliana really enjoyed helping me paint it. She would walk around it chanting, "Purple! Blue! Pink! Green!"

Beach Cheap tip-
Storage units often go unpaid. The storage company runs public notices in the classifieds for units they are forced to foreclose on. Then the company sells the contents of the units. You can pick up some terrific finds this way. Check the classifieds in the Beaches Leader for ads.

And the tent. I used the curtains from our Live Oak house and a hula hoop. I was going for a private nook for reading and playing quietly on the princess rug. Lyli, however, has no time for quiet reading, so it is now a sleeping-place for all her "babies."
A few pictures...

We have an office space! With room for my favorite books, sewing machine, crochet and knitting projects, and pictures. YeeHaw!

Our own bedroom! With some of my very favorite books (way up high out of toddler reach) and some paper lanterns that I got on sale from Target. I love the "we're on vacation" feeling.

We even have room for my records and record player.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Kitchen

My kitchen is a very happy place. We painted every cabinet door a different tropical color. Now, when Ben asks, "Honey, where's the...?" I can respond, "It's in the green cabinet." It eliminates confusion and exasperation. ;D

I love my mermaid. Can you see her above the window? My Aunt Dianne painted her for me.

The removal of some cabinets really helped open up this room. And painting it all white and tropical brightened up the previously cave-like space.

And now I have room for my coffee cup collection (in the tiny green cabinet) as well as my new projects. I have a jar of cucumbers pickling in the corner of the countertop and some yogurt incubating in the oven. I have counterspace now, so I can roll out homemade crackers, pizza dough, bread dough, and pie crusts. I'm glad to have the space. It's nice to have extra room for personal indulgences such as the ancient percolator on the stovetop. Can you see it? I just perked some coffee for my afternoon cuppa-comfort.

Beach Cheap tip-
A fantastic cookbook- Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon includes information and recipes about lacto-fermentation, my favorite way to make pickles. I've made some terrific garlic-dill pickles (cucumbers) and fabulous ginger-carrots. YumYum.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Big House

We finally finished repairing my Mother-in-Law's house. The broken windows have been replaced. The rotted door has been replaced. The holes in the floor/ceiling/walls have been patched. The kitchen has been opened up (we removed some cabinets and moved the fridge to the opposite wall- technically the dining room wall). We changed the tiny master bathroom into a laundry room. (I'd rather share one bathroom than have to chase my three-year-old around a laundromat!) We painted. Now, every room except the kitchen is the same color (the kitchen is white). We resurfaced the bathtub and tile, but it wasn't sealed properly and came off the tub almost immediately.
And we have learned:

1). Your family will always be there for you.

2). Husbands and Wives MUST be on the same team!

3). How to repair the handyman's repair-work. (I learned to install the proper stove receptacle- he installed a dryer receptacle. And I also learned how to install a ceiling fan- he wired it wrong. Ben learned how to repair the bathtub faucet and light switch. There's more, but I think you get the idea: handyman=bad.)

4). It's just a house. {Material things will rust, rot, burn. Thieves will break in and destroy. Build up your treasure in Heaven-- not on Earth.}

Ironically, the best thing about living in this house, is the back yard! Lyliana loves her tire swing and way-too-many toys. I love having my glider to sit on and drink coffee while I watch my garden grow. And our four-legged baby, Coal, loves to be outside. (That's him lying by the fence behind the tire swing.)

Beach Cheap tip-

Scavenging! Our beaches neighborhoods are filled with people who buy new things and put their old things by the road. Just a few weeks ago, our next door neighbors bought a new plasma TV and put their old cathode-ray TV out by the street. They even taped the remote control to the top of the television.
And check http://craigslist.org/ for things you need. We found two doors on craigslist for a great price. Buying local helps your neighbors. I also made a new friend during this process.
I would like to recommend the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, which is basically Goodwill for building supplies, but I must include this caveat: take someone who knows about building with you to the store. I purchased a ceiling fan that did not include a mounting bracket. I couldn't use it and they don't accept returns. Let the buyer beware.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

My Favorite HandMade Journal

I made as many hand-made-from-scratch journals as I could for Christmas gifts for the women in my life. As it turns out, I could only get eight done. And my absolute favorite went to The Sister I Always Wanted my sister-in-law Genevieve.

I used a gorgeous purple suede halter top {that I bought in college but never wore} as the cover. Isn't it pretty?

I hope you see this, Lori, I owe so much to your advice. Thank you!

An Efficiency No Longer?

We have begun repairing my Mother-in-Law's house. The main house (of which our efficiency is a part) is about 800 square feet, according to my brother-in-law. And he should know; he has one of those laser-measurer-thingies. So our family will move into the main house, and my Mother-in-Law will move into this mother-in-law-suite.

The list is long, and it is taking awhile. But I think this will be worth it. Every few days, Lyliana and I take a trip into the main house to visit "Lyliana's Room." She is super-psyched about having her own room. Last night, she grabbed her Thomas the Train blanket and said, "I want Lyliana's Room." I grinned in anticipation of my three year old sleeping in her own room. WooHoo!

So here's the basic list:
  • replace broken windows and door

  • repair broken wood floor (it's a little piece, but a danger to our toes)
  • repair damage under kitchen sink
  • remove some of the kitchen cabinets to make it more roomy

  • add a couple of ceiling fans
  • resurface the pink tub and blue tile in the bathroom

    • repair the plumbing in the bathroom, clean, and re-grout
    • replace the broken and missing fence panels in the back yard (our four-legged-baby will appreciate this)
    • patch various holes in walls and ceilings and repair old water damage
    • replace broken blinds and remove some wallpaper and paint
    • replace kitchen floor (When we removed the old cabinets, we found that the floor under them was not tiled. So we had to remove the old tiles and redo it. Of course, I didn't really mind because the old tiles were very dark brown, and I'm more of a beige or gray kinda girl.)

    Whew! That sounds like a lot. Thank goodness for talented friends and loving family!

    And Lyli isn't the only one who's excited. I will finally have counter space! I will be able to bake and cook and roll out my pie crusts and pizza dough. And a bedroom that is separate from the living space... *sigh* that is going to be great! And a back yard! Lyli loves to be outside, and I want to have a garden super-seriously bad! This spring is going to ROCK!