6 Reasons to Make Your Own Yogurt

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1. Cost

A gallon of Milk cost me 2.19 and a quart of yogurt cost me 3.89. I’ll be able to make about 3.5 quarts of yogurt (I strain my yogurt to get a greek consistency) – and I can use the whey to make sandwich bread.

2. Ease

That’s right. I said it. It’s easy. So easy that the most labor intensive things I had to do were check the temperatures (I used a thermometer with an alarm, because that’s even lazier) and stir in the yogurt cultures.

3. Taste

When you make your own you get to control what flavors you put in. That means you get a more authentic-tasting product that doesn’t have all those extra ingredients that alter the taste

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4. Ingredients

Speaking of ingredients, have you ever actually looked at the ingredients list of some of these yogurts? Chemicals I can’t spell and have no idea what they are, and just a plain old lack of good quality simple food. You also get to choose exactly what milk (including maybe your own!) you want in there.

5. Whey

The manna from the gods which is used to make so many things, like bread, oatmeal, etc. You need this in your life.

6. Cheese

That’s right, you can make your own cheese from the yogurt, you just have to strain it, creating that wonderful byproduct: whey.

I’ll be bringing you my follow along recipe soon!
-Aster

Poppy’s First Quilt: Choosing a pattern.

Okay. I’m starting my first quilt. This is cool, right? WRONG. It’s terrifying. I don’t even know why. I’m just convinced that whatever quilt I make, I will ruin badly, and it will be a waste of fabric.

Crazy, right?

I need to get over that, like, yesterday. I’ve wanted to quilt for years. No more excuses.

Step One: Choosing a Pattern. 

I’m going to do patchwork squares, because I like them. Now, this is simple, right? Well, no. Do I do big squares? Tiny ones? Medium-sized? Do I do them randomly, or in a pattern? Do I have an overall background color? Do I go totally random? Do I assemble them nine-patch style, or do I sew the squares into strips and then sew them together?

There are so many questions, guys.

This is what I had in mind at first. Georgina Giles has a great tutorial for exactly what I was planning on doing, and doesn’t it look great? Really impressed with it. Nice big squares, put together simply, to become so much more.

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I found this quilt I really adore at Sweet – Unwrapping Life. Doesn’t look like the blogger has been around since 2012, but she can certainly make a lovely quilt. I had pretty much decided not to have any white in my quilt, but she totally unmade my decision. I’m questioning everything now.

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I’ve ruled out smaller squares, even though I love them, because damn – just too much work for my first quilt. I need a more instant-gratification project, to prove to myself that I CAN DO THIS, you know? I found this great example from Film In The Fridge. The larger the squares, the fewer I’ll have to do.

See? There are too many choices. I think I’ve settled, though – a randomly-placed strip-piece quilt with 8″ square blocks. Probably. We’ll see.

6 Ways to Save: International Food Stores

After drooling over the pastries Poppy took on her family’s get together, I started thinking about international/ethnic food stores. Indian, Korean, El Salvadorian, they may hail from all over the world, but the truth is… they can save you a lot of money.

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(These ones, don’t they look amazing?)

How can we save money?

Produce

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Produce is must cheaper than a grocery store.
And it is often fresher, too. The people who frequent these stores still cook in the “old way”, using real ingredients. Produce is not just a “luxury” item. It is an everyday way of life.

Spices

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Many of these stores have aisles of spices by either large packets, or by the pound. This is so much better than purchasing from a grocery store where you get a little shaker filled for five to ten dollars. I stopped buying “brand name” spices and never looked back. I know, by going to the local markets, that I am purchasing spices that my neighbors and friends have used their entire lives. My cooking and my wallet thanks me for it.

Ditch those “luxuries” from the “international” aisle in the chain grocery store

Many times those “luxury” simmer sauces, snacks, and treats are inauthentic and overpriced. If you go to the international store of origin, you can save over half the cost! A good example was the curry paste I purchased just yesterday at my local Asian grocery. It was ten dollars for 36 oz. The same curry paste, at a national chain, was five dollars for 4oz! If I purchased 36 oz worth I would pay almost forty-five dollars. That’s insane! (Tip: If you buy curry paste in bulk, you can freeze it to make it last longer.)

Pantry staples

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Beans, rice, masa, all of those things are staples in my pantry, and they are much more affordably priced at international food stores. I have several around me, Asian stores, Indian stories, Latin American, and even Russian! They are close enough together that I can get them all in one day, making sure my pantry is beautifully stocked.
Reduced Produce

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Poppy and I purchase reduced produce whenever possible at high savings. We immediately use it to make things like pies, and sauces. This can save us more than 90% of the retail price of canned goods in the store, and it just plain tastes better!

International Cookware

Need a wok or a rice cooker? You’ll pay a premium if you go to that big box store. But if you check out the aisles of your favorite ethnic food market you’ll probably find a good deal. And you could even get a talking piece for parties!

I hope that I’ve inspired you to go forth and save!

Sewing – Designing A Project!

There’s a project I’ve been mulling over for a while. There’s a serious gap in my wardrobe: I need a comfortable, versatile skirt. Doesn’t everyone? Well, everyone who likes wearing skirts.

As soon as I make my son new curtains and take down his old ones, I will have a large amount of a lovely grey flannel, not too heavy. Perfect for a skirt for half the year here.

I had a pretty clear vision about this skirt. I was going to make a tiered patchwork skirt, a DIY version of something like this from a UK site. Found it on Google Images when I was looking for inspiration – mine would be a little darker and not have a drawstring, but same basic idea.

You know, though? I might be changing my mind.  The flannel is just heavy enough that I think it would give the look of a simple wool skirt, without the itchiness. I could sew up something and flared, in a style I could dress up for nicer occasions, without being fussy or sacrificing comfort…

Garment design isn’t exactly my forte, though! Let me know what you think!

Frugal Splurging – Pastries!

Being frugal is important to me. It’s not as important, though, as family.

My parents invited us to go out and spend the morning at a local lake with them at their campsite, enjoying one of the last warm weeks. We took our son, and he had a wonderful time splashing in the lake and stealing our bacon and eggs from us.

We also took pastries, an indulgent array of them for only five people.

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If we’d stopped by a large grocery store chain for these, they would have cardboard-y and oversweet. Hell with that. The local bakeries, though, are way outside our budget.

So, on our way out to the lake, we stopped by a hispanic bakery. This ridiculous bounty was six dollars and fifty cents, all told. $6.50. Can you believe that?

Madness.

Delicious, delicious madness.

Being frugal isn’t about denying yourself luxuries, or not bringing your fair share to a brunch… it’s about stretching the money you spend, spending it wisely.

We had a blast, and James spent time with his grandparents, exploring the world and the dirt – covered in pastry crumbs.

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Five Best Frugal Sewing Tools

At $5 or less, these sewing tools pack a big punch. I don’t want to throw my money around, but I want to use it wisely, spending small amounts here and there in ways that I think can lead to greater efficiency or less frustration. Sewing can easily be a really expensive hobby, where you pick up $50/yard wools and $100 pairs of sewing scissors… but it doesn’t have to be.

5 Pieces/lot New Clippers Sewing Trimming Scissors Nipper Embroidery Thrum Yarn Fishing Thread Beading Cutter

Thread clippers. $2.08 for five – including shipping – at the time of writing is basically impossible to beat. I might have to order another pack, because I love having them stashed everywhere. There’s even a set that is dedicated to my purse! I use them for trimming threads at the end of a project, slip them into my embroidery kit, and keep a set by my machine to trim anything that feels awkward with my good scissors.

Bulk seam rippers! $2.13 for six right now. Like the thread clippers, I really don’t know anyone who sews who can’t use these. I don’t care if you quilt, make stuffed animals, or are an expert dressmaker… everyone needs to rip a seam sometimes.

Okay, yes, this loop turner is a one-trick pony. If you don’t sew things that require turning long tubes, I don’t think you’d ever want or need one of these, even if it’s only $4.49. When I’m sewing up bag straps or anything else long and narrow, though, this turns a forty-minute exercise in hair-pulling frustration into a ten-minute exercise in hair-pulling frustration. It has earned a spot on this list ten times over for me.

No, I’m not sponsored by Dritz. I’m just a sucker, apparently, for their thoughtful and affordable products. If anyone from Dritz reads this, please contact me, as I would happily mention you on this blog every week in exchange for various sewing doo-dads. This double-sided pen is of course amazing for embroidery, but I also use it on a near-daily basis when sewing, to help me match seams and so on. Confession: It’s currently $5.27… can we call it close enough?

You’re killing me here, Amazon. When I started this list, this pincushion was under $5, but it just jumped in price fifty cents. Can we pretend it didn’t? Please? You can definitely buy one in person for under $5, so I’m counting it.

When I first started sewing, I didn’t have one of these. Meh, I thought. No big deal. No one actually needs one, a good, old-fashioned pincushion is good enough for me.

I was so wrong. Having a magnetic pincushion is so much easier to work with. I store my pins on one side and my needles on the other, so they don’t get all mixed together. Definitely one of the best tools you can buy.

Hop to the comments – what are your favorite frugal sewing tools?

Saturday Book Review – Anne Of Green Gables

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If I had to choose one favorite author of all time, it really, really might be L. M. Montgomery. I have great heaping piles of her books, gathered from thrift stores and yard sales. I’m re-reading Anne of Green Gables for the thousandth time.

When I was younger, I most identified with Marilla – yes, really – but now I think I’m shaping into more of a Mrs. Rachel Lynde. Embroidering while dictating novels is the new knitting cotton-warp quilts and keeping an eye on the neighbors, right? Passing cheerful judgement over everyone, ruling my household with an iron will and a can of preserves. I like it.

Okay, okay, that’s a little silly, but my problem here is that I have no actual idea how to review this book. This isn’t just a novel, it’s an institution. If you haven’t read it, I’m totally baffled as to why, and I don’t know how to convince you. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, it’s sweet but Marilla’s sarcasm saves it from being entirely saccharine, and it has a lot of little domestic details that you can really delight over.

If you have never read Anne of Green Gables, give it a try, and if you have, do yourself a favor. Pour a cup of tea or cocoa and curl up under a quilt with it. Read your favorite scene or three. Maybe, unlike me, you’ll be able to stop there…