Archive for the ‘Does It Work’ Category

Organic Turkey and Trimmings Worth the Price?

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

Thanksgiving snuck up on me this year.  We had just moved the week before and the sewer backed up in our house 3 days before Thanksgiving.  I told the hubby that there was no way no how that we were cooking turkey this year.  After several “but, but…” and “no turkey?” I felt like the Grinch who stole the roast beast and caved in.  Where or where was I going to find a thawed turkey with 30 hours to go until Thanksgiving?

Why Whole Foods grocery store of course!  According to their website, Whole Foods Market is “the world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods.”  I bought a nice 11 pound organic/free range turkey, organic yukon gold potatoes, organic cranberries, organic green beans, and organic stuffing for our feast.  The price of waiting till the last minute to shop?  Pretty hefty. Close to a hundred dollars.  Other than the purported health, environmental, and humane benefits, was it worth it?  Or simply put, Did it taste good???

Well, everyone loved the mashed potatoes.  I don’t know if it was my cooking method or because they were organic.  (BTW, did you know that potatoes were on the Dirty Dozen list of things food you should buy organic due to pesticide contamination?  Anytime I see little icons of babies wearing diapers under the heading “Developmental and Reproductive Toxins” I get a little worried!)

Poor Evelyn was very sick over Thanksgiving and couldn’t try any other dish.

Oliver dug the green beans, but we couldn’t tell a big taste difference from their non-organic buddies.  The homemade cranberry sauce ROCKED, but then again, it always does… (I’m posting the super easy recipe tomorrow so you can make it for your next holiday feast.)

As for the roast beast, er Turkey,  I have to give it a thumb’s down.  Being free-range, the turkey got plenty of exercise and the meat was very, very lean and muscular.  The turkey was 11.5 pounds, but was just a little bigger than a basketball.  It was very dense and the dark meat was very, very dark.  I know that Butterballs and other cheapo turkeys are injected with all sorts of flavors and liquids, so maybe the answer is to brine the free-rangers before roasting.  For $2.99/lb I’m happy that we had a happy/healthy bird, but I need to work on the recipe.

So the verdict for Thanksgiving 2011?  Other than the turkey, we couldn’t tell the difference in the taste of any other food we ate.  The turkey, with a simple herb and salt rub didn’t taste all that good.

Debating the health benefits is another post all together!  As for being frugal?  Organic food is usually always more expensive than their non-organic counterpart.  One can argue that paying more now on organic food will save you in cancer bills down the line, but that’s a story for another day.


Does It Work – Spray Paint Brass Chandelier

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

I love scrounging around at the Habitat for Humanity ReUse Center for great finds for the house.  In our home renovation project, we’ve replaced all the lights with modern brushed/satin nickel/steel/shiny silver looking stuff except for our old school brass chandelier in the dining room.  I went to the Habitat Center to see if I could find a nice used chandelier and they had on display 2 spray painted “Look What You Can Do With Brass” chandeliers.  Apparently, they have a glut of brass that no one wants, so they primed a couple and spray painted them to look like more modern.

I figured what the heck!  I taped off the light sockets and hung my lamp outside.  I used a grey metal primer and went to town on everything. 

I sprayed on a couple very light coats following the directions on the can.  Since the chain was brassy and the wire was a yellow/gold color, I even spray painted those…

After the primer thoroughly dried, I gave everything a couple of coats of a fancy hammered finish spray paint.  I have two table lamps that have a hammered finish and in comparison, things were looking promising with the chandelier.

Voila!  Here’s the final product.  I bet you can’t even recognize the original brass fixture!

Actually, here’s how the chandelier turned out – which is why we went and bought a new one from Lowe’s.  Once the paint dried it took on a matte finish, which looked really bad.  The spray painted chain and electric cord also looked strange.  When you add the weird fluted glass shades, the entire project went downhill. 

As far as technique, the spray paint adhered flawlessly.  Maybe if we had chosen a different finish and had some nice white alabaster shades it would have looked better.  If you try this, I would not suggest painting the chain.  Chain is cheap.  Go buy a length in the color that you need.

All in all, the spray paint cost us $5 (both cans were from the Habitat Center).  It was worth the gamble to see if it would work.  The new light fixture was the basic $42 model from Lowe’s.  Home Depot had a less expensive one for $37, but it looked a bit strange.

I would have to say that, technically, you can spray paint a brass chandelier.  Whether you should or not depends on the color and finish that you choose (go for something with a gloss).

Does It Work: Homemade Liquid Laundry Soap

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010

As you can see, I have used about 1/2 a gallon of my homemade liquid laundry soap.  That works out to 8 loads so far.  And the burning question on everyone’s mind?

Does it work?

Sort of.  I’ve done whites in hot water, whites in cold water, colors in cold water, and 2 loads of baby clothes in cold water.  Here’s what I’ve found:

1 ) The clothes all smelled clean, as in not funky.

2 ) For the most part the clothes looked clean.  I noticed that the whites looked a tad grungy – not bright, and that some stains merely faded rather than went away.

3) It takes more effort to use than conventional liquid detergent.  You have to really shake the jug up to break up the goo inside and then it slops and splashes into your cup.

4) The recipe used produced almost 3 1/2 gallons of soap.  That’s alot of soap to store and we don’t have much room in this tiny house.

Will I do this again?  Not with this recipe.  Perhaps the Coco Castille soap is too mild to be used for the laundry.  I could try again with Fels-Naptha, which is a true laundry soap bar.  On the other hand, making, using, and storing liquid soap takes more effort than using my tried and true powdered detergent recipe. 

The verdict:  I was not crazy about the liquid soap and how it cleaned.  I love my powder laundry soap recipe and the results I get from that.  I don’t see any reason to make the liquid soap again.

Magic Jack It!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

While looking for ways to save money on our utility bills, I decided to give magicJack a try for home telephone service.

magicJack is a USB device that has a USB connector on one end and a phone jack on the other.  The device plugs into your computer’s USB port and then you plug your standard phone into the other end.  The entire device is about 4 inches long and 2 inches wide.

The magicJack provides free local and domestic long distance calling using Voice Over IP technology.  Instead of using the telephone lines to transfer your calls through, you use your internet provider.  magicJack also offers 911 service, caller ID, and has voicemail.  The device costs $39.99 and includes 1 year of service.  Additional years are only $19.95 per year.  There is a complete money back guarantee for the first 30 days.

Does it Work?

I purchased it from Radio Shack, brought it home and had it setup within 10 minutes.  The software self-installs when you plug the device into the USB port.  I chose a local telephone number and skipped through a bunch of screens asking you to buy more features or pay for more years up front.  I did spend $1 to get the 1 year warranty where magicJack will replace my device for any reason whatsoever.  Personally, I think the $1 pitch is just to get your credit card info on file so that they can auto-bill you when your year is up.

I hooked a cordless phone into the magicJack and everything seems to work okay.  There was initial confusion answering calls from my hubby where he couldn’t hear me.  I solved that by clicking answer using the magicJack software on the computer.  My cordless phone sometimes has a little static, but the people on the other end don’t hear it.  When I got too close to the microwave, the static picked up.  Not sure if it’s my crappy phone or the magicJack.    I can call any telephone number in the United States – cell or landline – and anyone can call me.

As far as the cost, I’d say it is a good deal.  Bell South offers local and unlimited nationwide calling for $40/month.  That’s $480 per year.  I only have to pay $39.99 for the first year and $19.99 after that.  That’s extremely competitive if you ask me.

The Catch:

The magicJack sounds too good to be true.  There has to be a catch right?  Yep.

1) You must have High-Speed Internet Access for this to work.
2) Your computer must be ON for this to work.  If your computer is off, all incoming calls will go to voicemail.  You will not be able to make outgoing calls, even for emergencies.
3) 911 is not guaranteed.  e911 will only work if your computer is on and if you have the right address, etc… in the magicJack software.
4) The magicJack desktop console must always be running.  They do have a nice option to minimize it to your system tray so it is not taking up space on your task bar.
5) The magicJack desktop console will always pop up when your place or receive a call.  This hasn’t been a big deal for me.  In fact, when I have the microphone hooked up I can actually answer the call while at my computer using the computer speakers and the microphone.

We are still in our 30 day trial period.  I’ll let you know if we decide to keep it!

Frugal Tip of the Day:  If you purchase your magicJack from a store, you don’t necessarily need to purchase the store’s warranty (ie. Radio Shack or Best Buy’s additional consumer warranty).  When you set up the magicJack you will be asked if you want to purchase a 1 year warranty for $1 that will cover the cost of replacing the device under any circumstance (ie. lightening struck it, the dog ate it, etc…).

Does It Work: Homemade Powder Laundry Soap

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

I made a batch of powder laundry soap a little bit ago and have used it for about 10 loads of laundry: colors in cold water, whites in hot water. We use an old formula scoop, which equates to 1.5 tablespoons per load. The load is extra large. The soap dissolves easily, within seconds, in both hot and cold water. There has been no staining that I can tell, no lingering funky odors, and the dirt appears to be lifting from the clothes. There is a very slight Fels-Naptha scent to the wet clothes, but that disappears after a turn in the dryer.

Does it work?

Here are the results of the Norton test:

I took two old t-shirts and gunked them up.

The Gain t-shirt:

Everything but the ketchup and mustard came out.

The powder laundry soap:

Everything but the ketchup and mustard came out. (The arrow says “This is paint. Not dirt.”)

Side by side results:

The homemade soap cleaned just as well, if not a little better than Gain. The mustard on the Gain t-shirt is more vivid than the other mustard stain. In person, the ketchup is also slightly more vivid.

My verdict:

This money saving idea is a winner in my book. Since the ketchup and mustard did not come out in the Gain t-shirt, I say that my soap worked as expected. The soap takes 20 minutes max to make and costs pennies per load. We are happy with the results.

Now, does anyone know how to get rid of ketchup and mustard stains??

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