Saturday, December 6, 2014

Winterizing Doors and WIndows

     Gaps in doors and windows, tiny gaps can let cold air in, warm air out and blow the top off your electric bills.  Closing these gaps, insulating windows and doors can keep the home a constant temperature in your control and reduce payments to energy companies.  Seriously, if you don't own stock in power corporations, why put money in the pockets of those who do?  

     I always recommend taking first steps at home with items you may already have or can obtain at a very low cost before calling in the glaziers.  Double paned windows are a great investment.  They are energy efficient but replacing existing windows is costly.  

     Start by caulking all windows and doors.  Fill gaps that allow air to pass through.  Use a silicone that stays flexible and if you have already painted the walls, use the clear caulk.  While you have the caulk and gun handy, caulk the baseboards as you go from window to window.  I have titled this post "winterizing windows and doors" but you will find that this one little step of caulking and sealing the doors windows and baseboards will also pay you in the summer as it keeps the air you have cooled in the house with you.  

     I have posted this tip to add insulation to windows with bubble wrap.  It's so easy and affordable it wants to be posted again!  I have also found that Dollar Tree (so, almost any 'everything for a dollar" store) has an office supply aisle with shipping materials.  You can get a roll of small bubble green packing material for a dollar!  The color adds a glow to the room during the day and as well as insulation, adds additional privacy in case your curtains are drawn.  The best part is, it actually works.  

     Windows can be insulated with window tinting used in cars.  I have personally used aluminum foil one year as a back drop for our family Christmas tree.  The neighbors went wild.  They thought it looked ghetto.  Then they saw the living room from inside and said yes, it was lovely reflecting the lights, but they still were in a fit about how it looked from outside.  So, I suggest you may find window tint at your local hardware store, but Limo tint is what you want when you want no one to see in at all.  A black back drop is just as stunning as the foil, but it allows you to see out.  As a side note, the tinting will spare all furnishing and drapery from the destructive rays of the sun.

home sewn drapes
     So, while we are on the subject, don't overlook insulating the door.  Many doors have a widow or glass side panels or are actually mostly glass.  If you are concerned about what the neighbors may judge when they see your front door covered in insulating material, it doesn't have to be bubble wrap.  Windows can be insulated with Glass tint, usually seen on car windows, curtains and something I just found online called door dressings. is a new website that makes custom sewn door coverings.  The coverings hang to the outside to amuse your neighbors and express who you are.  They hang over the top of the door and are weighted on the inside to stay put.  I met Mitzi the other day at the local Hobby Lobby.  I think she has a clever idea that turns out to be more than just another pretty face.  These door dressings really are unique and lovely but they are also multi purpose as they insulate and give privacy to those windowed doors.  Give her a click see, she does custom fabric work!

Friday, November 28, 2014

There are baskets and gifts everywhere.
     Look around your home.  There are baskets and gifts everywhere.  Why wait until after the funeral for the will to be read?  Give the kids the inheritance now while you can all still enjoy it together.  Box up the china tea set they have loved since childhood. Fill the cups with a selection of different teas.  wrap liek the one here or box it up and add a bow.
     If you have tea cups that have no sentimentality attached, make them into a bird feeder for the gardener.  This is an easy craft.  this blog offers instructions.

     Share some of those salt and pepper shakers you got from your grandmother.  For your prepper, you might want to give a bag of salt and a big box of pepper with the shakers.  You can jump start someone's collection and free up some shelf space while giving a gift that reminds the receiver of someone past.   A gift that gives more than it's contents is more than a gift.  

     Maybe you have some large apothecary bottles filled with colored water.  Empty them, wash them and fill them with peppermint hard candies or butterscotch or even M& Ms. tape the lid on securely and add a bow.  It's a gift "basket".  No wrapping needed.  

I found two of these stackable aluminum 'lunch boxes' at different yard sales for no more than a dollar.  You can get them online on Ebay or Etsy or this site to the right.  Gift baskets don't have to be wicker or even a true basket.  Imagine receiving a gift stacked in one of these containers.   You can use them to make an emergency med kit or a sewing kit to go.  Maybe you plan to do some massive baking.  Stack the containers full of goodies and add a bow.  Get the kids in on the fun and use up some of the stash of stickers you may have, letting them decorate the gift container.  

     Clear out your craft room.  Bag up some of those opened packages.  If you are a crafter, you know the ones I mean.  You bought a pack of 200 sequins because they only come in packs of two hundred and you used around fifty.  Put the remainder in these little zippered baggies and give them to a friend.  Make several packs in similar colors or at least enough to create n ornament.  Maybe you can type up instructions and give enough pieces parts to make an ornament or other project.  Give home made craft kits as you thin your excess.  


Friday, November 21, 2014

Old Timey Cold Relief

     My niece called me tonight asking for "old timey"tips when you wake up from a nap with sudden symptoms that feel like a cold.  She was out in public today and people were sneezing and coughing around her and after a nap at home she felt achey and had a slightly sore throat.  Not wanting to come down with a full blown cold, she called for some "old timey" tips.  She's in New York, out of arms reach and she's thirty, so who is she calling old timey??  lol

     So, let's begin with Midol.  Midol is a staple in her medicine cabinet and once a month is not the only time to take it.  I have had guy friends who swear by Midol as a reliever of hangover pain.  It's all around better for aches than just an aspirin, so start there.  

     If you have a problem with Naproxin, there is an inexpensive alternative at stores like Family Dollar and Dollar General, Target also has a $4 bottle of the same combo pain relief.  A generic or store brand combination tablet.  This is a tablet with aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine.  

     For the sore throat, do not over treat.  Too much spraying and squirting can burn the throat.  Start with a gargle of antiseptic mouthwash.  Dilute it if needed to keep from stinging the throat.  Pain is not gain in the soft tissue.  IF you are very tender, put a good dollop of honey on a spoon.  Deliver it past the taste buds of the tongue to rest for as long as you can hold it at the back of the throat.  

     Follow the germ killing treatment above with throat soothing tea.  You can make peppermint tea by dissolving a peppermint hard candy in hot water.  Keep some peppermint hard candy nearby all winter long.  If you have a sore or itching throat take a peppermint.  There is no point using cough drops to soothe an itch if you don't have a cough.  Why medicate a symptom you don't have?

If you are staying in and want a relaxing tea, dissolve a peppermint in a cup of chamomile tea.  Chamomile can ease a tension headache.
    If the cold keeps coming on or if you start coughing, find a bottle of birch beer or a botanica.  Birch beer from the bark of the birch tree is a fun remedy, Fanta makes it and so does Polar.  First, it doesn't taste bad, it's served cold which is refreshing to the sore throat and the birch bark is a natural source of acetaclyic acid (aspirin) and dextromethorphan.  Yup!  the cough suppressant from mother nature.  If you can't get birch beer locally, find a botanica or an herb shop and get yourself some birch bark.  You can make birch bark tea.  Also, be prepared to take a nap, and do not drive while under the influence of birch bark.
There is no difference between the name
brand and a generic except the price

Get yourself to a dollar store.  In the medicine area they offer a blue ice product for slathering on to sore muscles.  Blue ice is just menthol.  It is made to dissolve into the skin so it is quite light and just smells wonderful.  Take a drop on your finger and apply inside your pillow case to inhale as you sleep.  You can apply some to the corner of a bandanna and seal it in a zippered bag and keep in your purse or briefcase.  You can use this bandanna folded in a triangle and tied around your face just like a robber in the old west movies.  While you are breathing in sinus opening vapors, you are placing a fabric barrier between you and a cold harsh wind or a subway train full of coughing wheezing sickos!  Also, when the other passengers smell the menthol they will think you are sick and steer clear of you, so it can also put distance between you and germy people.  I roll my bandanna and hang it around my neck in the evening at home or if I want to vapor while I sleep.  

     Since my niece lives in New York City, I know it is cold outside.  I suggested she buy orange juice or cranberry juice in glass bottles.  She has a window in her bedroom on the opposite wall from the radiator, so the window area is cold.  A glass bottle on the window sill touching the exterior glass will keep the contents cold through the night.  I suggested this so she didn't have to go to the kitchen ( I know she's barefoot) to keep herself hydrated with fruit juices full of vitamin C.  I feel we are all better off taking our vitamin C through fruits and juices than pills.  Just don't drink from the bottle.  A:  That is just gross and B:  Germs breed even in cold so, just don't.  

Thursday, November 20, 2014

More gift baskets for the Prepper
Seed Baskets: 
Gather a selection of non hybrid seeds from your collection.  Label them, best by hand, and put in a basket.  

This gift allows your prepper to share in the bounty of your garden and to help spread the wealth of heritage seeds.

Add a few garden tools to bulk it up!
Make it an all around garden starter kit.

Tip:  If you are using seeds from your personal collection, make sure to package them in brown paper bags or letter envelopes.  Do not vacuum seal them.
If you really LIKE the recipient, add some of the fruits of the garden to the basket like some preserved fruits or vegetables!
I like the example above.  The one in the brown box just screams to the crafter in me.  Use a shoe or boot box instead of a basket.  If you have the joy of children at home, let them decorate the box.  This is not only a craft time for them during the long winter break from school, but a sweet part of the gift, when the box is reused to store ornaments or other items.  

To trim the size of your gift and the costs, use a nice coffee mug as the gift basket.  It makes a small In order to put together a great gift basket when you don't garden.....Trade a gardener for seeds.  Maybe you make soap and everyone you know has soap.  Find a gardener, or prep farmer and trade your soap for some of their seeds or preserves to make a garden gift basket.
The example on the left ( I found on pinterest) is an indoor herb garden.  Who knew you could do your Christmas shopping at the Home and Garden Store?  You can.  For the home cook, an indoor herb garden might be fun.  Purchase a seed starter kit  or put one together yourself.  Purchase the coconut seed starter pellets or cups, a bag of potting soil and seeds.  With a red bow, it's a Christmas gift.  With a pastel bow, it's a birthday gift.  

Make a gift basket with The things you do or the things you make.  If you are a candle maker, make a candle basket or a basket of raw supplies with hand written instructions for your prepper to learn a new skill.  If you do a lot of sewing, make sewing kits in several sizes.
For an example, make your own emergency mending kit.  Take a piece of card stock and wrap it with a selection of camouflage colors.  Pierce the stock with two good hand needles and maybe stitch a couple buttons on the card.  Add a pair of small scissors and place it all in a zipper bag with a bow.  You can get a lot in an altoids can.

Remember, a gift basket doesn't have to be a basket.   A gift basket can be a candy tin, a Mason jar, a shoe box, a recycled jewelry gift box. a coffee cup, a toilet paper roll, or even a rolled up magazine.  Roll up a catalog from a preppers store like Major Surplus or Emergency Essentials and stuff it with the gift item (seeds, ammo, supplies).  If you have the extra, add a gift certificate.  

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Apartment/Condo Prepping Winterizing Tips

        My niece and I were talking a few days ago and the subject of prepping for the next cold wave came up.  I was surprised she had forgotten a few tips she had learned growing up.  It happens.  She's only just thirty years old and caught up in her life and living, she had forgotten a few things that would have made her winters in New York City a bit less harsh. 

     She forgot the water can on the heater, the bed liner the plastic on the windows and the instant scarf.  We always placed a large coffee can which we had plenty of on the back of the kerosene heater filled with water.  The windows were lined with plastic, the beds were made to keep the heat in and a blanket was sometimes a poncho or a scarf and a poncho.  

     Often in winter we can suffer from dry sinuses, dry throat, headaches  and dry skin. Fire, heat, any concentrated source of heat, dries the air. Water in the can evaporates and replaces some of the moisture the heater dries out.  For dry skin, we use a light moisturizer.  Something like Oil of Olay or its generic cousins.  A heavy cream can weigh down the skin outdoors and cause more damage than a little dry air.  for the headaches, colds that some from viruses lingering on dry nasal passages and sinus pain and headaches, the preventive measure is water.  

Old Stoves on Pinterest | 108 Pins
     Add moisture to the air by providing moisture.  A humidifier is the modern just-plug-it-in solution.  But since the days of my Gram and the kerosene heater,we always had a can of water on the top of the heater.  The water was checked daily to keep the level high and to teach us the science of evaporation.  Yeah, we were shown the water levels and we even measured the rates of evaporation throughout the day.  (Nerd families!)

     There are a few other things you can put on a clunky old radiator to help your winter comfort.  Try a large pot used for making coffee.  Yup!  place the pot on the radiator at night before bedtime.  Make sure it is full to the brim.  Get up in the morning and you have water hot for tea, cocoa or coffee.  Acquire a piece of ceramic tile or fire brick.  On top of a radiator, it won't burn or melt and you can use it to keep your coffee warm.  Do NOT try to balance a cup, pan or muffin there!  The cup will spill, the pan will drop and the muffin will burn.  

Home Collection...
     The next tip she forgot was the bed liner.  You can buy a mattress cover for any price from twenty dollars to eighty.  Or, as I told my niece who is always strapped for cash, the everything for a dollar store offers a single layer of cover which is perfect for protecting the mattress from young bed wetters or insulating the mattress to keep your body heat from wicking away as you sleep.  If you can't find this item easily, try the bathroom department and choose a shower curtain liner.  It is a soft pliable plastic that won't make noise when you roll over on your mattress.  Place it on the mattress and below the sheet when making the bed.  I reminded her how we both hate to hit the sheets and be sandwiched in cold sheets waiting for them to warm up.  My trick to heat the sheets is to settle in, then I raise my foot about eight inches and suddenly drop it.  This releases my body heat into the bed, and creates a warm bed of air under the covers.  I do the same wit my arms.  I just raise them enough to clear my body but not enough to raise the top of the covers letting cold air in.  I heat up almost instantly and fall asleep.  

     Now, for the plastic on the windows.  We insulated drafty old wood framed farmhouses from the cold by stapling plastic to the interior of the windows to stave off drafts.  But, I have found a better easier tip.  It's bubble wrap!  It goes on easier than the old method involving staples and/or tape and it comes off better to be used again.   My niece pointed out it probably doesn't sound like a garrison flag flapping on the back porch.  We laughed. Our back porch made so much noise in the wind, a sudden draft against the loose plastic sounded like a gunshot!

     Every Christmas season there is a long line of non sewing geniuses trying to teach their children to make a gift instead of buying one all lined up at the fabric counter in my local fabric store.  They buy fleece to cut into fringed edges and give lap blankets or double lap blankets as gifts.  Splendid!  Extra fabric ready to make into an emergency poncho, a scarf or a head wrap and scarf.  It's just a wide strip of fleece cut and wrapped around the head or neck.  And, thanks to this years British fashion designers, a blanket over the shoulder is now urban cammo.  Stay warm and fit right in, it's no longer a sign of poverty fighting the cold.  It's fashion.Who knew?  


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Fire, Fire, Get the Fire started.

     Obtaining lighter to quick start your winter fire is easy.  You know in your heart, if it's something you want, Amazon is selling it!  But, you can obtain it yourself and store for use when needed. 

Product Details

Fatwood Firestarter 9951 

1.25 Cubic Feet Fatwood 

for Fireplace in Bulk Box, 


     Lighter or "easy light", also called "grease wood", "fatwood" or "heart pine" occurs when a pine tree is cut, knocked over, struck by lightning or in some way damaged above the roots.  The roots continue to send resins up to the wounded area of the tree that has been broken off. That resin contains highly flammable turpens.   
     A simple walk in a pine forest could net you a supply of pitch.  If you find a stump, it's as easy as putting a knife into the heart and scraping out the resin.  Caution:  It's Gooey! Sticky, Gooey!

     You could also plan ahead for pitch by taking the wood for your fire in stages.   Cut branches and leave the pitch to leech out for later harvesting.  Later, cut the pine trunk leaving the stump and mark it for your return for further pitch harvesting.  

     If using the fire for cooking, please allow all the resin to burn off before grilling or exposing food to the flames.
     You can make your own fire starter sticks by cutting curls in a shard of lighter.  You can also make dryer lint and candle wax starters or use wood scraps and sawdust held together with the melted ends of old candles.  

DIY Pinecone Fire Starter | POPSUGAR Smart Living
Another method for fast starting the indoor fireplace is to gather pine cones from the ground.  The pine cone is already easy to light but you can make it light faster without having to blow on it or fan the flame by dipping the pine cone in scented or non scented wax. 
     Those left over candle stubs com in to play here.  Use materials you have on hand.  But, stop by this blog that shows a step by step dip and dry method in pictures.

     Now you have your source of pitch, your starter sticks and waxed pine cones, you also have a source for the multi useful pine pitch for everyday use.  

     Pitch was used to waterproof boats throughout the history of man.  It is also the stuff of medieval warfare legend.  I have another post titled Pine Sap and it's uses you might like, but today I'm thinking Fire, Fire, Get the Fire started!