30 September 2013

Easy, Pretty and Practical Food Covers

We had our second barbecue of the season this weekend, with lots of good company and of course good food. And naturally, along with the good food came the hoards of flies and other beasties, buzzing around trying to get their share.

Quite frankly I didn't feel like sharing with them so I pulled out my stash of food covers. Remember back in the late 70's, early 80's, those shower cap style food covers were all the rage? I rather think they really were just disposable shower caps (they looked very much like the complimentary shower caps you get in motels) and they were ugly, disposable (so added to landfill) and expensive.

A couple of years ago I decided to make my own. They are pretty, practical and washable. And they are so easy to make, no special sewing skills required.

You will need:
Scraps of cotton or cotton blend fabric, a little larger than the size of the bowl you want to cover
Matching thread
Bias binding, matching or contrasting colour
Narrow elastic
Sewing machine

Step 1.  Put the fabric wrong side up on your work surface. Put your bowl upside down in the centre of the fabric.

Step 2.  Measure 8cm from the rim, all around the bowl. Using tailor's chalk or a very light lead pencil, draw a circle all the way around the bowl, joining the marks you made. You should have a circle marked 8cm from the edge of the bowl. Remove the bowl and cut out the circle of fabric.

Step 3.  Bind the edge with the bias binding. Then place the circle wrong side up in your sewing machine, with the edge under the presser foot. Lay the elastic  on the edge and sew a few stitches, using a zigzag stitch. Stretch the elastic and continue sewing to zigzag it to the edge, adjusting the elastic and your hand as you sew, making sure you keep the elastic on the edge, until you have sewn right around the circle. Fasten off.

That's all there is too it. They take less than five minutes to make, use fabric scraps you already have in your stash so they are frugal and they are re-usable!

Make them to match your kitchen or your picnic set. Make a set to give as a kitchen tea or housewarming gift. Add them to a picnic set to add a handmade touch to a bought gift.

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29 September 2013

Some beautiful craft patterns, and they're all free!

Here's a list of beautiful craft patterns, sewing, crochet, beading, quilting and more from Interweave - and they are all free!  There is a catch however - you may need to subscribe to a mailing list to get them. It's up to you how you deal with this catch. You can sign up, collect your pattern and then enjoy any newsletters etc you are sent. Or you can sign up, collect your pattern and then unsubscribe when you get your first newsletter (I suggest you get at least one so you can see what's on offer - you may really enjoy it). Either way, having an email folder just for these emails will help keep them under control, you'll always be able to find them and they won't be cluttering up your inbox.

Market and Tote bag patterns

Beaded jewellery patterns

Weaving patterns

Papercraft patterns, ideas and tips

Quilt embelllishment ideas e-book

7 patterns for crocheted gifts

Have a lovely Sunday everyone.

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27 September 2013

Use Old Quotes as a Bargaining Tool When Haggling the Price Down

This tip is for those wishing to undertake some home improvements that we all know with large jobs can be quite costly.

Everyone knows you should get at least 3 quotes before making a decision. My tip takes the idea of seeing if competitors can do better further. We wanted to get solar heating installed for our pool.

We originally obtained 2 quotes after the pool was built and found them to be quite pricey. The first was $2,990 and the second $3,150.00. We simply could not afford this so we filed away the quotes and kept them for when we could .

It has taken us 2 years but we finally have the money so started the quote process again, assuming as it has been 2 years the price had probably gone up. We called out the company that originally quoted $3,150.00 (the company that quoted $2,990.00 was no longer in business) and we showed the original 2 quotes we obtained and was told they could do better than that.

True to their word they quoted only $2,900 - $90 less than our cheapest quote 2 years before and $250 cheaper than their quote all because we asked. What we learned was that companies will better their own quotes if you have it in writing and keep quotes when the cost is more than you can afford as they are a bargaining tool when you have saved the funds.
Contributed by Kay

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26 September 2013

Natural Air Cleaners

With the striving to be environmentally conscious, many homes are now so heavily insulated that the air quality can actually be toxic!

Freshen your home by opening windows and doors wide on mild days. Let the breeze blow through to circulate the air and let some fresh air in.

Another easy and decorative way to clean the air in your home is with plants.  Houseplants are natural air cleaners, turning carbon dioxide into oxygen and absorbing other toxic pollutants such as formaldehyde, benzene, ammonia and others I can't pronounce correctly, let alone spell!

Because different plants absorb different chemicals it's a good idea to have a variety of plants throughout the house. Tropical plants work especially well indoors because they are accustomed to the indirect light and warm environment in most homes.

How many plants to do you need? Research by NASA suggests a minimum of 18 houseplants throughout the average 4 bedroom home.

Do away with horrible artificial air fresheners. Switch to indoor plants and enjoy naturally clean air.

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25 September 2013

How to Avoid Rent

If you are trying to save a deposit for a mortgage, paying rent really slows you down. If you set yourself a time limit to save that deposit, then perhaps one of these methods of saving rent will get you into your own home sooner. 

1.  Find a live-in elder care position and help someone stay out of a nursing home. There’s always someone desperate for reliable help, and often there are no qualifications needed other than compassion. It may be an elderly relative or a complete stranger who becomes a good friend.

  • Sue and Darren lived in the granny flat attached to an elderly couple's home rent free in return for lawn mowing and grocery shopping. In two years they were able to save enough to put down a 25 per cent deposit on their home. It wasn't their ideal living arrangement, but it was temporary and they had a goal with a time limit. Do they miss it? No! Do they regret it? Absolutely no!

2.  Help renovate a house in exchange for lodging. Put your building, carpentry or decorating skills to use to help someone else and help yourself at the same time.

3.  For short-term stays, become a house sitter or pet sitter.

*for house sitting try http://www.aussiehousesitters.com.au/ or http://www.australianhousesitter.com.au/

*try http://www.petsittersguide.mobi/australia/ for pet sitting jobs

4.  For long-term stays, become a caretaker.

  • Barbara has a holiday home on Phillip Island that she uses just six weeks a year now she is on her own. The rest of the time she has a paid caretaker live-in to keep the gardens tidy and maintain the house. The caretaker goes on holiday when Barbara needs the house, a win-win for them both.

5.  Share a house or unit.

6.  Consider living in an onsite mobile home.

7.  Move into cheaper accommodation.

The last three suggestions may not appeal to you, but they are only temporary. You will be motivated to save harder and faster than you've ever saved before to build that deposit for your new home. Think of that future home every time you start to hate where you are living (or who you are living with). You can do anything, even live in less than desirable housing, when you have an action plan.

With the money you save on rent you'll be able to power ahead with your saving and be in your own home sooner.

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24 September 2013

Step-by-Step to Making Up Ginger Beer Part 2

Your ginger beer plant is ready to divide and use to make up your drink.

You will need:
2-1/2 cups sugar
3 cups boiling water
Juice of 3 lemons
Strained liquid from the ginger beer plant
3-1/2 litres cold water
Clean plastic or glass bottles and caps - 2 x 2 litre bottles, 5 x 600ml bottles*

Step 1. Dissolve the 2-1/2 cups sugar in the boiling water. Add the juice of the lemons and the liquid from the ginger beer plant. Add the cold water and stir thoroughly.

Step 2. Pour into the cleaned bottles and cap tightly. Leave in a cool, dark cupboard for two weeks to brew before using.

You will know the ginger beer is ready to drink when you can't push the sides of the bottle in (if it's plastic) or you can see little tiny bubbles forming on the sides (if it's in a  glass bottle). Chill to serve.

Step 3. Take the ginger beer plant and halve it. Put one half in the cleaned jar. Add 1 cup of cold water, 1 teaspoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of ground ginger. Feed every second day. The plant will be ready to divide and make up on the 7th day.

What to do with the remaining half a plant: you can share it with a friend or neighbour, or you can run two plants simultaneously to increase the amount of drink you are able to produce each week. Or add it to the compost.

*Bottles: you can use soft drink bottles and caps as long as they are well washed in hot soapy water and rinsed in very hot water. Alternatively you can buy bottles and caps from discount department stores in the home brewing department (and they can be re-used over and over as long as they are properly cleaned). If you know anyone who drinks beer in bottles ask them to save the bottles for you. You can buy new caps for them from Big W or Kmart or a home brew store.

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23 September 2013

Practical Gift Hampers Cheapskates Style

Take a basket or a bucket or even a tub, pack it with useful, interesting and frugal ingredients and what do you have? A very practical, totally wonderful Cheapskates Style gift hamper!

Pack your hamper with:
A box of Cheapskates washing powder and a copy of the recipe
2 cakes of Stain Removing Soap and a copy of the recipe
A bottle of Miracle Spray and a copy of the recipe
A spray bottle of Super Shower Cleaner and a copy of the recipe
2 knitted dishcloths

For a laundry hamper take a bucket and fill it with:
A copy of the Cheapskates Washing Powder Tip Sheet
1 tub borax
1 packet laundry soap
1 packet of washing soda
A grater

For a cleaning hamper take a tub and fill it with
A knitted dishcloth 
A packet of washing soda
A box of bicarbonate soda
A bottle of Eucalyptus oil
A bottle of white vinegar
A grater
A spray bottle
Vileda Naturals All Purpose Scouring Pads 
A copy of Cleaning with the Super Six 

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20 September 2013

A Non-electric Kitchen

My kitchen is full of appliances (I use them all, they don't just sit there) and many of them are electric. I love my mixer and wouldn't be without it by choice. And I like the kettle for it's speed. The food processor is used almost every day for slicing or dicing or grating or chopping something. And my coffee machine - say no more!

But it's also full of non-electric alternatives that do just as good a job running on womanpower.

Things like my grater. It may be old fashioned but during the no-power challenge it's getting a workout for grating and zesting.

And the whisk. Not just for use as a sifter or for smoothing sauces. It whisks up batters and cake mixes beautifully, again running on womanpower.

Knives have been sharpened for slicing and dicing and are doing a beautiful job.

Wooden spoons are doing wonders beating cake batters. I did ask Mum to share her egg beater, it's older than me, but she won't part with it, even for a Cheapskates challenge. Mum still uses it to beat egg whites and custards and small cake batters.

When we go camping we don't have power and I don't miss it. At all. I happily chop and grate and mix by hand with the very tools I've mentioned above. But when I'm in the kitchen at home it never occurs to me to use them - I have appliances I can use at the flick of a switch.

Until now. The no power challenge is making me very resourceful. I've learned to bring in the camping box and get out those woman powered appliances. I've learned that using them is just as easy as using the powered appliances. I've learned that time-wise they only take a few minutes longer and are much faster to wash up.

I've learned that even without powered appliances I can still make bread, bake a cake, bottle some jam and cook delicious meals for the family. I'm still trying to get the coffee right, but that will come!

Are you like me and use powered appliances because they're there? What non-powered appliances do you use? Why do you like them? Could you survive forever without powered kitchen appliances?

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Spice House v Supermarket - Why Pay 900 Per Cent More?

Most of us buy our spices at the supermarket and don't really think about where they came from or if they're high quality. But the truth is, while these spices are fine, you might be missing out on a real flavour explosion by not learning more about where your spices come from, and how to buy the most flavourful and pure spices you can get. You probably didn't know that even in Australia you can find spice houses. But, if you don't have a spice house near you, you can use the Internet to its great advantage and find the best sources for the spices you love most.

The first tip to buying spices is to start with just a few. Start with what you already know you love, and find the very best source that you can for that particular spice. Once you perfect the spices you already use, then you will want to start branching out to new discoveries. Nothing is more pleasurable than smelling, tasting and experiencing new spices once you've found a good source for the best quality that exists.

Usually supermarket spices, unfortunately, aren't fresh. They stay on the shelves a very long time before someone buys them, and they're not the best quality to start with. Spices don't last more than six months once packaged so if you don't like a spice, it might be due to the quality you've bought. It's important to buy your spices at ethnic markets, spice merchants, or via online sources if you can't get them locally. Once you've chosen your source, then you can be sure of the quality.

Three of my favourite spice houses are:

Truspice Mitcham (there is also a store in Clayton)
20-22, Station Street

The Saucy Spice Co
Based in Pambula so I've only bought online obviously. Offer a flat delivery rate of $13.95

Hindustan Imports
Online or in-store, offer free delivery on orders over $90
50 Greens Rd
Dandenong South Vic

Supermarket prices for herbs and spices are outrageous and up to 1,000 per cent more than you'll pay at a specialist spice house. Prices between The Saucy Spice Co and Hindustan Imports vary by a few cents. I choose which one to order from based on the size of  my order. Obviously if I am stocking up and combining orders with friends then Hindustan with the free delivery is the better choice. Otherwise the flat delivery fee offered by The Saucy Spice Co wins.

If you're not convinced check these prices for cinnamon, a common spice used in so many sweet and savoury dishes.

Coles: Masterfoods Ground Cinnamon - $2.38/28g or $85/kg
The Saucy Spice Co: Ground Cinnamon - $2.30/250g or $9.20/kg
Hindustan Imports: Ground Cinnamon - $4.50/250g or $15.00/kg

As a Cheapskate cook, I do not waste my money buying herbs and spices from the supermarket.

If you buy spices whole and unadulterated and grind them yourself, they'll last longer, and you'll experience the maximum flavour the spice has to offer.  Believe it or not, oftentimes ground spices are contaminated with other things even though the label doesn't say so. But with whole spices you get what it says it is, and only that. Purchasing whole spices from a quality source means you're getting the best product you can afford that will enhance your cooking exponentially. You can use a mortar and pestle to grind your spices or an electric spice grinder.

When you buy whole spices, remember they don't last forever, buy a small amount at a time based on how much you think you'll use in a six month period. Most home cooks do not need to buy bulk spices, tempting though the price may be. Most home cooks need very small amounts of spices. When you cook Cheapskates style you may use more herbs and spices than the average home cook so buying in bulk, or at least larger than the 50g available in supermarkets, makes sense.

This is when buying direct from a specialist spice house will save money, but you'll also know that your spices are as fresh as possible. How many times have you cooked a Christmas cake or a special dinner using last year's spices? Probably often, and the sad fact is, if you used fresher spices your food would taste so much better.

Treat your spices like you treat your favourite perfume. Keep them dry in air-tight jars, in a cool, dark cupboard. Just like your perfume, light, heat and humidity are the enemy of spices too.

There are specialist spice houses all over Australia. Search for the ones closest to you and check out their ran

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19 September 2013

The No Power Challenge

From mid-September the way electricity in Victoria will be priced is changing. There will be peak, off-peak and shoulder periods and the price will vary according to the time of day,  and the day of the week, with the busiest part of most people's day being of course the most expensive. And so I have been thinking.

The off-peak rate runs from 10pm - 7am. This will be the cheapest rate for electricity. I don't know about you but I'm not that keen on staying up at night to do the washing and the floors, and running the dishwasher when the rest of the family is trying to sleep just won't work in our household.

Electricity prices are on the rise. It's a catch 22 situation because our reliance on electricity is also on the rise. Almost every appliance in our homes is electric: stoves and ovens, microwave ovens, kettles, food processors, mixers, toasters, sandwich makers, bread makers, washing machines, irons, clock radios, hair dryers, toothbrushes, shavers, heaters, air conditioners, vacuum cleaners, computers, lighting and the list goes on.

Many of those appliances have a non-electric version that we could just as easily use, but we've been brain-washed into thinking they are too hard to use or too old-fashioned. They're not!

And they slash power use. And that slashes the power bill, saving us all money.

I've been curious as to just how much we use electricity because we have it  at the flick of a switch, because it's too convenient. In August I put out a challenge to Cheapskates Club members: could they live for 48 hours with access to just 3 hours of electricity a day?

The challenge was accepted and the results were interesting. Overall most households managed with a few lifestyle modifications. They all said they wouldn't want to have to live with such limited power forever.

So do you think you can live with access to just three hours of electricity a day? Are you prepared to accept the challenge and see if you really can cut your electricity use and slash that bill without compromising your lifestyle?

Are you up to the challenge? Just two days, 48 hours, and you can choose the days, to try living with access to electricity for just three hours a day.

The rules are simple and more guidelines than rules. You can:
1. Commit to the challenge by leaving a comment below agreeing to participate in the challenge.
2. Spread the word. Talk about it, email it to your family and friends, blog and tweet about it. Encourage as many people as you can to take part.
3. Use whatever appliances you need to during the 3 hours of allowed power time. You could have the TV and every light in the house on if you need too (an extreme example).
4. Break the three hours up any way you want, but once the time is up that's it - no more electricity for the day. We chose 45 minutes in the morning and 2-1/4 hours of an evening.
5. You can use battery powered appliances out of hours.
6. You can use any appliances during the "on" hours.

You can't:
1. Use any appliance that requires a power point or light switch during the 21 hours a day you can't access power, the exceptions being fridges and freezers, wired in smoke detectors and any medical aides that must be used (nebulizers, ventilators etc.).

I'd like you to keep a diary for the 48 hours, recording what you used and what you found you didn't really need to use, the things you missed, how you filled in TV time if you normally watch TV, how the family filled in the evening without power or lights etc. whether or not you were able to stick to the three hours or just found it unrealistic or impossible, and record the actual amount of power you used in total over the six hours.

You can add your diary notes and ask any questions in the comments below.

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How to Clean Your Dishwasher

Step 1.  Place a dishwasher-safe cup filled with plain white vinegar on the top rack of your empty dishwasher. The vinegar will help to wash away the loose, greasy grime, sanitizes, and helps remove the musty odour.

Step 2. Sprinkle a cup of bicarbonate soda around the bottom of the dishwasher. The bicarbonate soda will help freshen the smell of the dishwasher as well as brighten up the look of the inside of your appliance by removing stains.

Step 3.  Using the hottest water available, run the dishwasher through a cycle – except for the cup of vinegar, the dishwasher needs to be empty.

Now that the dishwasher is clean and running right here are a few tips to keep it that way until the next cleaning.

Run a bit of hot water in your sink before running the dishwasher. You will get cleaner dishes if the water starts hot. You can collect the water you run and use it to fill the kettle or for watering plants or other purposes. Run the water until what comes out of the tap feels hot.

Make sure your water starts hot enough. Set the thermostat on your hot water service to 50 degrees Celsius. Water that is cooler than this won’t be hot enough to clean properly and water that is any hotter could scald.

A routine dishwasher cleaning is a good habit to get into. Mark it on the calendar to do regularly each month, the same day you do the drains and the washing machine.

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18 September 2013

Slash Those Home Energy Bills

Every year, most of us spend a huge chunk of our pay packet on energy for our home.  Whether it’s heating, cooling, or powering electrical devices, it makes a big dent. But by taking a little extra time and some small steps, you can decrease your energy use, reduce your bills and, of course, benefit the environment.

A simple way to cut your gas bill is by using less heat. While one degree may not seem like a lot, it can save you thousands of dollars through the year. Try putting on a jumper and slippers.  You can also get a programmable thermostat or just remember to turn down the heat when you’re not in the house during the day.

Cutting your water bill is easy. While it might not seem that high, think of all the energy you’re using to heat the water you use. By cutting water, you’re slashing two bills at once. Here are some quick tips for saving lots of water.

* Don’t water your lawn. If the plants and grasses you’re using in your yard are appropriate for the area you live, you should never have to water your lawn.  Research native grasses and plants and slowly transition your yard as you can.

* Turn off taps. Many of us know to turn off the tap when we’re brushing our teeth, but you can also do this as you shower. It takes a little extra thought, but saves a lot of water.

* Collect running water. When you let your water run so it will get warm or cold, collect it. You can use this later to make coffee, water your plants, do your dishes, wash vegetables or brush your teeth.

Saving money on your electricity bill is probably the simplest step of all: turn things off! It’s simple and easy and most of us forget to do it several times a day. If something is not in use, turn it on. If you have young children make a game of it so they develop the "turn it off" habit.

What’s even better than turning a thing off? Unplugging it. Most appliances use up power even if they’re not on. You can unplug them, or put them on a power strip and turn it off when you’re not using everything.

You can’t live without lights and appliances all the time, but you can switch to types that are more energy efficient. Energy star appliances may be an investment in the first place, but you’ll save in the long run. Even if you can’t afford the upgrade now, you can still make a dent in the electric bill by buying compact fluorescent light bulbs. They use less energy and last longer too.

A fantastic way to cut your energy is to cut how much you use by using alternative energy sources. It can take some investment of time and money to install solar panels or a device to harness wind, but when you see how much they save you, you’ll be happy you made the change.

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17 September 2013

Step-by-Step Ginger Beer Plant

A couple of weeks ago I gave you an almost instant ginger beer recipe (did you try it?). This week I'm sharing my 'go to' recipe, the one I've used for so many years I know it off by heart. I copied it straight of my mother's recipe book years ago, just after we were married. I start a ginger beer plant each spring and keep it going until around Easter so we always have a good supply of our favourite summer drink.

It's made from a ginger beer plant, a starter that you feed for a week, then divide. You use half to make your ginger beer and the other half to start a new plant to make your next batch.

Ginger Beer Plant

4 tsp sugar
2 cups cold water
2 tsp ground ginger
juice of 2 lemons
1 tsp of lemon pulp
8 sultanas

To start the plant:
Mix the above and put in a screw top jar for 3 days with the lid on.

After 3  days feed the plant by adding 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon ginger on alternate days, for 6 days. Remember to put the lid back on after each feeding. Make up on 7th day.

I'll go over how to make up the ginger beer so you can drink it next week, when the plant will be ready to divide.

Sorry folks, it seems a few of you are confused by the idea of a ginger beer plant.

Start your plant and feed it as per the instructions above. On day 7, the 7th day, it is ready to be made into ginger beer and I'll give you those instructions in a step-by-step format next week.

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16 September 2013

Blackboard Herb Pots

These cute little pots are a nifty way to label your herbs and a great gift for a handmade Christmas. Simply paint the  collars of terracotta pots with blackboard paint. When the paint is dry write the name of the plant on the collar in chalk. You can add watering instructions too if you have the space. When you change the plant, just wipe the name off with a damp cloth.

Terracotta pots are inexpensive and available at any garden centre and some $2 and discount stores.

Blackboard paint can be bought in spray cans or in small tins at any hardware shop.

To use these as gifts grow herbs from seed; a packet of seed costs around $1 and you'll get a lot of plants from one packet. If you plant the seeds now the plants will be a good size and ready for giving by Christmas.

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13 September 2013

The Shopping List

Use the pantry, fridge and freezer inventories and the menu plan to start your shopping list. Write down everything you need and the quantities. Unless it is something really important don't be brand precious. Remember, flour is flour, sugar is sugar and there is bound to be one brand on sale most of the time.

Use your junk mail or hop online to find the specials available. If you have something on your list that is on sale, make a note of the price and the store on your shopping list. Then check it with your price book and if it's a great sale price you may be able to add some to your stockpile too.

To make shopping day easier have your shopping list split into sections. Splitting by store seems the easiest method, listing what you are going to buy under each store means you won't miss getting anything and you'll save time not having to search through a long list to find things.

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12 September 2013

A Gardening Update

It has been a very long while since I updated my veggie garden blog.

Not because I've been slack.

Not because I haven't been growing veggies.

But because I have been angry. So very angry. And frustrated, frustrated beyond belief.

But it is time to update, and time to let you know why I haven't updated, what has had me so angry and why I am so frustrated.

Seeds! Those tiny little specks we take for granted, that we drop into the soil, water, fertilize and watch grow.

Those very tiny, very precious givers of life.

My gardening blog is called "My Heirloom Veggie Garden" with the emphasis on "Heirloom" because I believe that the heirloom seeds I use to grow our food are the best, safest and most productive seeds I can use.

The last 20 months have seen me researching seeds, and from them the food I feed my family, and what I have learned at first upset me, then it scared me and then it angered me. I am still angry and now I am also very frustrated.

I am angry at seeds being protected by a patent. I am angry at governments for allowing something that is natural, produced by nature, to be protected by patent. I am angry that governments deliberately changed patent laws to allow this to happen.

I am angry that large multi-nationals the likes of Monsanto (the world's largest supplier (and owner) of seeds), DuPont, Syngenta, Sakata, Bayer and others are allowed to own the right to plant and save seed, that they can be allowed to genetically modify seeds and then patent not only the GM seed but the original heirloom too.

I am angry that if a GM seed pollutes my heirloom seed veggie garden that I am in breach of patent laws and I will have to pay the price. What the? If that isn't totally screwed up logic I don't know what is.

I am angry that we have politicians so weak that our government caves to the pressure of these disgusting corporate giants and leaves us, the citizens of Australia, to suffer.

And we will suffer (if we are not already).  We will suffer with higher seed prices for a start.  Then we will suffer the loss of true seeds. We will suffer the loss of good, nutritious food (that's already happening - over 80% of corn varieties are already infected with GM strains). We will suffer with higher food prices because crops from GM seed are already facing problems with the very pests and diseases they were modified to prevent.

The world is starving and it is starving not because of drought or flood or poor farming practices.

It's starving because just 10 companies own the patent rights to 67% of the global proprietary seed market with the top three companies (Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta) accounting for 47% of that market.

I have been angry long enough. It's time to take a stand and the only way I can do that is by tending my heirloom veggie garden, re-sowing, harvesting and faithfully saving the seed, and by sharing my experiences right here  and on my gardening blog.

If you'd like to know a little more, watch this You Tube clip, Seeds of Freedom.  It is very interesting wherever you stand on growing your own food, GM crops and climate change.     

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A Word About Sponges

Don't! That's the word. Not only are sponges unnecessary in the kitchen and bathroom, but the are the perfect breeding ground and home for germs.  Sponges start to smell off because bacteria are growing on them. It is quite possible that wiping over the bench, doing the dishes or even scrubbing yourself with a sponge is adding more germs, instead of removing those that were there.

You can use anti-bacterial dishwashing detergent and soaps, but while they kill bacteria, they kill all the bacteria, good and bad. They are not so good for your skin or the environment.

Dishcloths on the other hand can be washed daily. I change my dishcloth in the kitchen every morning when I put out a clean tea towel. If it's been a busy day, it may get changed two or three times.  Hand knitted dishcloths are sturdy and last for years and can often eliminate scrub buds from your kitchen too.

Face washers in the bathroom are the same. They can be changed daily, washed and line dried they will be clean and safe to use. Towelling or hand knitted bamboo or cotton, they are a better option than sponges.

Here is the pattern for a basic knitted dishcloth

And here is the pattern for a prettier, patterned dishcloth

Both these patterns can be knitted in cotton or bamboo and used as dishcloths, face washers or general cleaning cloths.

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11 September 2013

Tricks Supermarkets Use to Steal Your Money

Every household in the country knows that the cost of real food, regardless of what we are told, just isn't going down. Ignore the snazzy jingles the ad agencies have come up with - the cost of feeding your family isn't going down, down, down and the food you buy at the supermarket isn't always fresh.

Here are the top five tricks supermarkets use to get you to part with your cash:

1. Pre-portioned food. Those little packs of sultanas have been around since I was a child. They are still expensive. The little tubs of yoghurt, just the right portion for baby, are expensive. Individual packs of crackers and cheese - yes, they are expensive. Compare the price they are charging for each portion with the number of portions and the price if you buy a block of cheese and some crackers and toss them in a Tupperware container yourself. Just be sitting down when you do it, the shock may well cause you to feel faint.

2. Causes. It seems that groceries have become the choice fundraising tool for many charities. This is relationship exploitation at it's commercial best. I have nothing against charities and encourage everyone to be generous (part of the 10-10-80 rule is giving) but I wonder why I need to pay more for my groceries because they carry a logo that implies that a portion of what we spend on the item will go to that charity? Personally I avoid these items like the plague. I would much rather buy the groceries I need for less and send a donation to the charity of my choice from my slush fund.

3. It's healthy. Really? Is it? It seems that everything we eat has a "healthy" counterpart. Yoghurt - good for digestive health, low fat. Added vitamins and minerals into breakfast cereals and bread. Omega 3 fatty acids added to baby food. We pay a premium for these supposedly healthier food options. Before you pick it up, read the label, compare it with other brands and then, if the price is right and it is going to be better for you, buy it. But don't think because it is marked as healthy, organic or in the health food aisle that it really is.

4. Animals are our friends. Before you put that dozen free range eggs into your trolley and pay the extra $2.25, make sure you really understand what free range, cage free and organic mean. The same applies to meat and poultry. Before you pay a premium, thinking you are getting food from animals that have been treated humanely, check. Before you pay three times the price for your food, be sure it really does meat your expectations and standards.

5. It's all included. Everything included is all the rage. Breakfast kits, lunch kits, even dinners come as an all-in-one package: meal, crockery and cutlery. Single serve portions are expensive. Take the breakfast kits. They may include a tiny little plastic folding spoon but they lack the milk! Seriously how long does it take to pour a bowl of cereal? And as for taking it with you - go to bed 10 minutes earlier so you can get up 10 minutes earlier and eat your breakfast. You'll be saving money and not putting a huge amount of money back into landfill.
Marketing companies are constantly looking for new ways to promote the same stuff. They need new gimmicks to get us to sit up and pay attention and want to buy whatever it is they are selling. That's their job.

As a rule the products that get the most advertising are going to cost the company more to sell, so they are going to charge more - and they need you to buy those products so they can maintain their profits.

It's our job as consumers to beat them at their own game. Be aware of the tricks and shop wisely.

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