Crochet A Newborn Flower Blanket

Filed under: DIY — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:35 am on Friday, January 10, 2014

I love this Flower Baby Blanket. The pattern costs $9.

However, I bet you can figure the pattern out yourself with a little bit of sleuthing. I’ll get you started: here’s a free tutorial for How to Crochet A Flower.

Low-Calorie Blueberry Tarragon Cocktail

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:50 am on Thursday, January 9, 2014

This being the time for weight loss, I didn’t want to make a cocktail that was too heavy. On the other hand, I didn’t want to not have a cocktail. So DIY Cocktails and I came up with a compromise: a low-calorie cocktail that is light, refreshing, and sophisticated. And it has blueberries!

Most low-calorie cocktails use artificial sweeteners. This cocktail uses good old-fashioned sugar, but just a little bit for sweetness. It also uses natural ingredients like tarragon and blueberries. I’m not going to go so far as to call a cocktail healthy, but you could do much worse.

Tarragon is one of my favorite herbs, and it goes great with blueberries. In fact, if you aren’t much of a drinker, you can skip the vodka here and make a great-tasting drink all on its own (65 calories a serving).

If you can’t find tarragon, you can substitute thyme, or just skip it and add more blueberries.

All and all, the Low-Calorie Blueberry Tarragon Cocktail comes in as 160 calories. If you want to add only 1 teaspoon of sugar, it comes down to 145 calories. That’s close to a glass of wine, but stronger. The recipe:

Low-Calorie Blueberry Tarragon Cocktail


    1.5 oz vodka
    1/3 cup blueberries (one large handful)
    2 tsp sugar
    2 tsp tarragon
    1/4 oz lime juice
    Club soda to top


In a cocktail shaker, muddle everything except the club soda. Pour into a highball or another 8 oz glass. Add ice. Top with club soda. Enjoy!

Cut Your Dryer Bill With This Simple Trick

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:29 am on Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Here’s a trick that’s supposed to cut how long it takes to dry your clothes, at least according to eHow: add a dry towel to the load. The towel is supposed to pull some of the moisture out of the wet laundry and speed up the drying process.

If you make a habit of this, it can cut the amount of time your dryer is working, and thus cut your energy bill.

I’m going to try it!

ETA: So I tried it and I’m not convinced this worked. I tried drying a load on a lower heat with the towels in the dryer and saw no difference. However, this is a good trick for drying towels that are only a little damp from a shower instead of letting them hang to dry.

What do you think? Did this trick work for you?

Which Fruit Tree Should I Plant?

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:27 am on Tuesday, January 7, 2014

I realize that most of the country is covered in snow right now, but winter is the time to plan for your garden, so let’s do it!

I have room for one or two fruit trees in my yard. So far I’m growing lemon, orange, nectarine, fig, and cherry trees.

This being bareroot season, I’m thinking about what to plant. Here’s what I’m considering:



    Apples are one of my favorite fruits.
    They’re versatile: you can use it in savory and sweet dishes.
    They’re easy to store: you can freeze, dry, and juice apples.
    They grow great where I live.
    I never get tired of them.


    Apples are cheap.
    Store apples taste as good as homegrown apples.
    I often get free apples from friends and neighbors.
    It’s a bit of a boring choice.



    Another favorite fruit of mine.
    The fruit tastes better off the tree than in the store.
    It’s an expensive fruit, so it would make economic sense to grow.
    You can freeze, juice, and dry plums.
    The tree grows great here.


    Plums are not very versatile.
    Plum trees are messy and can attract pests.
    I’m under the impression that plum trees are fussy.
    You can only eat so many plums.



    It would be nice to have some protein growing in the yard.
    Walnuts are expensive.
    Walnuts are versatile.
    Walnuts are easy to store.
    The trees grow great here.


    Walnut trees are huge! I have never seen a dwarf walnut tree, although they may exist.
    Walnuts can be messy trees.



    These trees are delightful! They are really lovely plants.
    Mulberries are delicious.
    It would be nice to have something different/exotic growing in the yard.
    I think mulberries are versatile: you can dry them, freeze them (?), and make wine from them. (Hey, why not?)


    Mulberries attract birds. Will I get any berries?
    While I know mulberry trees grow here, I don’t know what they need or how fussy they are.
    I don’t know that much about mulberries, to be honest.

I just don’t know… Advice?

Use A Shoe Organizer To Organize Cleaners

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:16 am on Monday, January 6, 2014

Here’s an interesting way to organize your cleaners: hang a shoe organizer on the back of a door and store cleaners in them instead. This is especially useful if you have a pantry or a closet for cleaning supplies.

This can also keep cleaners out of the reach of the kids–just store the nontoxic things like sponges toward the bottom.

Alternately, you can use a smaller shoe organizer and do the same thing on the back of a cupboard door, like so:

A Good Organizing Tip

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:54 am on Friday, January 3, 2014

This William Morris quote has long been one of my mottoes, so I was pleased to see it illustrated by the awesome artist Lisa Congdon.

What around you does not fit into these categories right now?

8 Tips For Saving Money

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 9:45 am on Thursday, January 2, 2014

This savings plan is floating around the Internet. I like it because it showed how incremental savings can add up.

When my son was born in 2012, I started saving $300 a month for his college fund, adding it to a small savings account we had previously used for travel. The money didn’t seem like much, but it was better than nothing. And I figured we could increase the amount later on. After all, he’s just a baby.

Today, my son isn’t even 2 years old and he already has enough for his first semester of college.

I’m shocked how quickly that $300 a month added up. If we keep this up, he should have plenty of money for college when he graduates. And since I save the money as soon as we get paid, we never feel the $300 going out.

For most of us, it doesn’t work is to be too ambitious with savings goals. Last year, my resolution was to save 40% of our income every month. Of course we didn’t get anywhere close to that number. It was too big of a goal.

So this year, I’m dialing it back. My plan is to save a regular, doable amount every month. I would still like to save 40%, but I need to work up to that number. Slow and steady wins the race sometimes.

8 Tips For Saving Money

Pick A Small Amount To Save Every Month. A good rule of thumb is 10% of your income. If that’s too much, pick a regular amount–$300 a month is better than nothing. Heck, $50 is better than nothing. The trick is to save that amount, no matter what.

Pay Yourself First. It really does work to take the savings off the top of your paycheck before you deal with anything else. You won’t miss the money if you don’t know it’s there. You can even set up an account to automatically save the money for you.

Don’t Touch Your Savings Account.
This should go without sayings but: unless it’s an emergency, like you’re going to lose your house if you don’t, make it a rule to never take money out of savings.

Put Extra Paychecks Directly Into Savings. Whenever we end up with extra money, like a big tax return or freelance work, it goes into savings and not the checking account. This is a great way to beef up the savings account without even noticing it.

Cut Your Bills And Put Extra Into Savings. Say you call your cable company and decide to go from $150/month satellite service to a pared down $60/month cable plan. That extra $85 now goes into savings every month. Do this with all your bills and see how big the number can get.

Sell Extra Stuff. Put that stuff cluttering your house on Craigslist, Ebay, or Amazon, or hold a yard sale. Put the money into savings.

Track Your Spending. Keep a price book for a month or two and track all your spending. Look for places you can cut back. Do so. Save!

Don’t Beat Yourself Up. I’m not crying in my soup over not making my 40%-of-income goal. I simply adjusted my expectations and moved on. The point is to keep trying. It all adds up in the end.

Want more?

Here’s to a much bigger savings account at the end of 2014!

10 Tips To Lose Weight

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:59 am on Wednesday, January 1, 2014

I’m no doctor and I don’t claim to be stick thin. That said, since it’s the beginning of the year and we’re all trying to lose weight (yet again!) I thought I’d share some tips for weight loss that I know work.

They’re common sense ideas that can be summed up as: only eat when hungry, cut out the extras, and move around. Here they are:


Ignore the time of day or when you think you should eat and wait until you feel physical hunger. That’s your body telling you it’s ready for food. If you eat when your body isn’t hungry, it will store that food by turning it into fat. So don’t be afraid of a little emptiness in your belly.

COUNT CALORIES. Counting calories turns losing weight into a simple math problem. If you’re under the calorie count, you will lose weight. No more worrying about gluten or carbs or how many points things have–just add a row of numbers and stop when you hit the limit. There are even online programs to help you. You can calculate how many calories you need to get to your desired weight here and then keep track of what you eat on sites like Livestrong or FitDay.

REMOVE SNACKS FROM THE HOUSE. Getting control of snacking is essential to long-term weight loss. The way I got out of the habit was to stop buying snack food—no more chips, cookies, ice cream, or even healthy snacks like dried fruit or vegetable chips. When it’s not in the house, I won’t eat it.

EAT MOSTLY FRUITS, VEGETABLES, AND LEAN PROTEINS. When I’m losing weight, I choose foods like salads, fish with a vegetable side, chicken breasts, fruit, vegetarian sandwiches, and so on. Since fruits, veggies, and lean proteins are lower calorie, simply opting for them means you’re more likely to lose weight. Plus, they’re good for you.

EAT SWEETS ONLY ONCE A WEEK. I know this is tough for some people, but there does seem to be something to the idea of sugar being addicting. If you have dessert every day, your body comes to expect it. Once a week is plenty of sweets for me, and it makes having dessert into something special.

DRINK LOW-CALORIE DRINKS. I mostly drink no-calorie beverages like water, diet soda, coffee and try to keep regular soda, juice, and alcohol to a minimum. Wine in particular can creep up on me—one 5-ounce glass of wine has 130 calories, which is almost like drinking a can of Coke. That can add up fast.

WATCH FATTY EXTRAS. Examples of “fatty extras”: mayonnaise, aioli, pesto, whip cream, ranch dressing, tarter sauce, peanut butter, and hollandaise sauce. You know what I’m talking about. When eating out, I always get these sauces on the side so I can control how much goes on my food. Or better yet, skip it altogether. (Or substitute avocado.)

EAT AT HOME. Sad to say, but eating out makes you fatter. You’re just not as likely to layer on as much butter and grease as a restaurant is likely to do. Plus, eating at home saves money.

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY SIGNALS. I haaaattteee feeling too full and will go to great lengths to avoid it. When I’m eating, I notice when I’m getting full and start to slow down. Even if I’ve only eaten half my food, when I get the signal I’m full, I stop eating. If I never overeat, I never feel gross after a meal. Learn to recognize that signal in your body—it’s there.

MOVE! You don’t have to get a fancy gym membership to lose weight. Go for walks, kick a ball around, ride a bike, plant a garden, drag out the tennis racket … in other words, find movement that is fun for you, and try to do it a couple times a week. If more people had fun with exercise, more people would do it.

Weight loss! That’s what works for me. What works for you?

New Year’s Jar 2013

Filed under: Cleaning/Decorating — Savvy Housekeeper at 11:36 am on Tuesday, December 31, 2013

My New Year’s Jar

Almost a year ago, I mentioned I was going to make a New Year’s Jar. You write down things that happen during the year and put them in the jar. Then on New Year’s Eve, you read the notes in the jar.

Well, I’ve been doing it:

Tonight we read the notes. I’m looking forward to it.

What about you? Did you keep a New Year’s Jar for 2013?

Turn Your Christmas Tree Into Spruce Beer

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 10:46 am on Monday, December 30, 2013

Don’t throw out your Christmas tree–make beer from it first. Supposedly, you can recycle some of the needles into Spruce Beer, according to this article.

Those who have a living Christmas tree can harvest the fresh new growth from their tree to make the following drink, which has been adapted from an 18th century recipe. It is also possible to use the needles from a dead Christmas tree, as long as they haven’t dried completely out and are still pretty green.

In fact, Spruce Beer is a very old drink. According to NPR, “Ancient Scandinavians and their Viking descendants brewed beer from young shoots of Norway spruce, drinking the beer for strength in battle, for fertility and to prevent scurvy on long sea voyages.” I suppose ancient Scandinavians had more access to spruce needles than the grain we use to make beer today.

Well, why not give it a try? Here’s a recipe from Andy Hamilton:

Spruce Beer


    5 litres of water
    100g spruce needles
    20g hops
    One thumb-sized piece of bruised root ginger
    600g malt extract (alternatively molasses, treacle, or honey)
    1 packet ale yeast (available from home brew stockist or online)


Bring the water to the boil and add the spruce, hops and ginger. Boil for 30 minutes. Stir in the malt extract and boil for a further 10 minutes. Strain into a fermentation bin or food grade bucket and, when cooled to room temperature, add the yeast.

Leave in a warm place for one week. Siphon into bottles. Will be ready to drink immediately.

No word if there is such a thing as Douglas fir beer yet.

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