15 October 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is the day when bloggers around the world (and the web) unite to focus on just one very important and relevant issue: the environment.

When it comes to the environment I try to do my bit. I recycle, have a compost heap and a worm farm, use companion planting rather than pesticides in the garden, walk or cycle whenever possible, we have switched all our light globes over and I've finally nagged the children enough that they know to turn lights off when they leave a room and to turn all appliances (except the fridge and freezer - go on, ask me how I know this) off at the wall rather than using the remote.

But I am sure that there is a lot more that I and my family could be doing. Nothing groundbreaking, but simple, everyday things that can become habit. I know that the "green" habits I have developed have and will continue to save us money, just the thing for a Cheapskate.

Using environmentally friendly cleaners used to sound expensive and hard work (to me anyway). Guess what? I use environmentally friendly cleaners and the work is no harder than it was with the smelly, dangerous chemical cleaners. You know the ones with the "pine forest fresh" scents and the "no scrub" action.

Commercially made, chemical-based household cleaners can eat up a large chunk of your household budget. There are cleaners for windows, mirrors, bench tops, cupboard doors, walls, sinks, enamel cook tops, ceramic cook tops, ovens, stainless steel appliances, wooden floors, vinyl floors, ceramic tiles, carpet, bathrooms, toilets, kitchens and laundries. You could almost fill a small supermarket with just cleaning items.

These days I use bi-carb, white vinegar, washing soda and pure soap to clean everything in our home, from the kitchen sink to the floors, bathroom and windows. I even use these ingredients to make my own washing powder to clean our clothes. Instead of spending $1,000 a year on cleaners, I spend around $60 and I'm not adding to landfill, or water pollution and I'm saving plenty of money.

Instead of spending your hard-earned dollars on these things, just a few simple, safe and cheap everyday items will clean your whole house.

The environmentally friendly and cheap ingredients I use are:

Bicarbonate soda a gentle, moderately alkaline, non-toxic abrasive which cuts through grease and oil because it reacts with the fatty acids to form a mild detergent. Use it to clean, deodorize and buffer (you can even clean your teeth with it).

Lemon juice is a natural bleach which can be used for stain removal, deodorizing and mould inhibiting. And lemons are free if you have a lemon tree or if you know someone who does!

Salt is a natural and gentle abrasive and disinfectant, that's useful for clearing drains and scouring utensils. It is very cheap and readily available.

White vinegar is a moderately strong acid that can remove bathroom scum and hard water deposits as well as discolouration from metals such as aluminium, brass, bronze and copper. It can also remove rust stains on iron. White vinegar will clean moss off bricks and concrete, just remember they are porous and it is an acid. Rinse well with water after cleaning.

Eucalyptus oil removes stains on carpet. Simply put eucalyptus oil in a spray atomizer, spray generously on the stain, and wipe with a clean absorbent cloth. It is also very useful for getting sticky stuff off almost anything.

I use these ingredients to make up these cleaning products for use in our home:

Window and Mirror Cleaner
1 part vinegar, 3 parts water

Put vinegar in a spray bottle and fill to top with water. Spray on surface. Rub with an old cloth nappy, lint-free rag, or sheets of newspaper. For outdoor windows use a sponge and wash with warm water mixed with a few drops of liquid soap. Rinse well and squeegee dry.

Vinyl Floor Cleaner
½ cup vinegar, bucket of warm water

Mop with a mixture of ½ cup vinegar in a bucket of warm water. The vinegar odour will go away shortly after the floor dries.

Copper Cleaner
1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon salt, water, vegetable
oil (optional)

Mix vinegar and salt (a tablespoon of each) and apply to surface with a rag. Rinse thoroughly with water to prevent corrosion. Apply a little vegetable oil with a cloth and rub for a shiny appearance. Do not use this cleaner on lacquered finishes.

Drain Cleaner
½ cup bicarbonate soda, ½ cup vinegar, boiling water

This recipe will free minor clogs and help prevent future clogs. Pour bicarbonate soda down the drain first, then the vinegar. Let it fizz for a few minutes. Pour a teakettle full of boiling water down the drain to clear it. Repeat if needed. If the clog is stubborn, use a plunger.

Washing Powder
This has to be the cheapest and best value laundry detergent around.

1 bar soap, grated
1 cup washing soda (Lectric Soda)
1/2 cup borax

Mix together and store in a sealed container. Use 3 scant teaspoons per load for a top-loader and 1 scant teaspoon per load for a front loader. You can use up the small slivers of toilet soap you collect if you like, ordinary bath soap or laundry soap. This recipe is ideal for using up all the leftovers you collect in the family bathroom. This detergent won’t produce masses of suds, but it will get your clothes clean.

Give the washing powder an extra boost if you wash really dirty or greasy clothes by adding one small box of bi-carb soda to the mix.

All Purpose Cleaner

Combine in a clean spray bottle:
Two teaspoons of borax,
Two teaspoons baking soda,
1 quart water

Spray on, wait a few seconds and then wipe off with a damp cloth.

08 October 2007

So Long, Farewell

At 7.30am yesterday morning I said goodbye to my best friends and their two gorgeous babies as they walked into the Customs hall at Melbourne Airport to fly out to live in America. I am going to miss them like crazy. Even if we didn't see each other every week we still talked almost every day about everything going on in our lives. The last words I heard were "We'll be on Skype in about 24 hours" and they cheered me up no end. We have used Skype to chat for ages and it is just brilliant and free so I'm looking forward to chatting to them as they settle in their new home. Just have to remember the time difference (and I hope they do too, I'm not the most lucid in the middle of the night!). One good thing about the rise in the Aussie dollar is that visiting them won't be quite so expensive (I hope). The Internet will be very handy when it comes to researching cheap airfares, accommodation and car hire and I already have the specials page at www.disneyworld.com bookmarked :)

It was another early start this morning too, 5.45am, to get Hannah up and ready for her school trip to Canberra. Thank goodness I organized breakfast and her lunch last night. We were told that there would be no eating on the bus (fair enough too) and only one stop before lunch so I wanted her to have a really decent breakfast because of the early start and the long wait until she could eat. Crockpot porridge, and pancakes with peaches and yoghurt should have filled her up. Freshly squeezed orange juice (I used the left-overs in an orange cake)finished off her huge breakfast. Actually the boys had exactly the same as they had to get up at the same time. There was no way I was going to make two trips to school this morning, so the boys had to come with me at 6.30. There's a Golden Arches close by so we sat there reading the paper until it was time for them to walk to school.

I'm planning on getting her room spring cleaned this week. It will be so much easier without Miss Hannah putting things back as fast as I put them in the op shop pile. She has a favourite shirt, miles too small for her, that must be part boomerang. I put it out at least twice a year and next time I open the drawer it's back! Anyway the op shop pile will be huge this time, she's had a growth spurt that seems to have lasted for 3 months and nothing fits anymore. Thank goodness for friends with daughters a year or so older and their spendthrift ways. Hand me downs are fine and it's a bonus if they are recognized brand names and labels according to my fashion conscious almost a teenage daughter. Good thing I say.

The mending pile didn't go away while I was away unfortunately so I still have pants to hem, buttons to replace and even a necktie to re-stitch. It seems the only fairies that visited during our holiday were the dust ones. Did you know that you can remove a hem mark with white vinegar? The tip is in the Tip Store. Another great idea is nail polish to keep buttons on - this is one I will definitely be using when I tackle the mending tonight.

01 October 2007

Fish & Chips

I've been slack about blogging the last few days. I seem to be well and truly in holiday mode at the moment and thoroughly enjoying it. It's hard to believe that we've been away a week already and have hardly put a dent in the holiday budget! There are so many fun things to do in Sydney that don't cost an arm and a leg. Our biggest expenses so far have been petrol (duh, it's school holidays here now and it's reflected in the price of petrol) and the motel in Cowra (and we found that on wotif.com.au and saved a bundle too).

I don't care what the oil companies say, petrol prices go up for the weekend and then up again for any holidays and school holidays are no exception. I am so glad I have been saving the fuel dockets - even an extra $2.80 in my pocket is something. Shopping at Aldi and the markets fuel dockets are hard to come by but Wayne's mum shops at BiLo (I miss BiLo) and Coles every week and she has very generously passed a half dozen on to us. Wayne still checks out the price at each service station and buys it where it's cheapest. Even on holidays he's a Cheapskater.

Today was glorious, sunny and hot, really hot! Our excursion today was up to Brooklyn, on the Hawkesbury for fish and chips - yummy. Because it was going to be so hot we packed extra bottles of water and took a second cooler bag with us and we were all grateful by mid-afternoon. My legs are a little sore from all the walking we did. Hannah, Mum and I followed the path around the water's edge for an hour or so and then back again while the boys went off to take photos and look for some trains.

They were waiting on a particular freight train to come through, apparently Wayne doesn't have a photo of the loco in his collection and it's one he needs to complete it. Another 67 photos taken today, thank goodness for digital cameras and only printing what you want. I shudder to think how much it would cost us in film processing. We buy the most amazing photo paper from a $2 Shop at Kmart Plaza in East Burwood and it's only - you guessed it - $2 a pack of 24 A4 sheets. After spending up to $30 a packet while we were working out which paper was the best I can tell you that the $2 is brilliant and we have even converted a couple of avid photographers over to it.

We had our fish and chips for lunch and boy were they nice. The fish was expensive but the chips were reasonable - a huge box for $5.80 and the 7 of us had some with plenty leftover. I'd buttered a loaf of bread and packed tomato sauce and tartare sauce (homemade of course) and some fruit so we had a feast under the palms until the wind came up and made it unpleasant. We took the old Pacific Highway home and stopped at Pie in the Sky for pies for dinner. They were delicious and I picked up some ideas for different pies to try in the pie maker. I'm pretty sure I could make 4 pies for the price of 1 from this very busy pie shop but we're on holidays and treats are part of the fun and what holiday budgets are for.