Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Free Money Management Ebook

I have been using CalendarBudget.com's free budgeting software for about a year now and I am not disappointed. I moved over to this one from my favorite 9.99 software Budgeting for Dummies that I used for YEARS before it finally stopped working with the newer computers. It was actually a struggle to keep my windows 98 computer just for this reason, I liked and used it so much. However, calendarbudget works just as well with the added uploadable bank transactions feature. However, I digress. When I went to sign in today, I found that they have a money management book for sale there and also saw that they give you the first 6 chapters in audio form for FREE! Feel free to visit them at http://powerspendingbook.com/advanced-power-spending/food-savings for info on the book and lots of other free resources (IE lifehacks) and get the free audio chapters here: http://powerspendingbook.com/advanced-power-spending/food-savings

Friday, May 16, 2014

New use for homemade toothpaste and repellent success!

On my facebook business page I mentioned how I insanely forgot to use my own repellent when out in the garden lightly raking for 30 minutes, and immediately got another tick bite;it was just like the one I wrestled with the effects over for months last summer. I was bummed and very angry with myself.
However, this weekend I was 2 days in the garden (read machete style, up-to-your-armpits in brush for 6 hours each day) WITH repellent and not one creepy crawly from my now famous Lyme yard; I was doubly impressed and immediately did a happy dance. Happy dance revealed my very disgusting hands and feet after a day of burying them in the sweet smelling soil, and soap was NOT getting out the ground in dirt; it was not going anywhere without a fight. I was about to head to the kitchen for some coffee grounds (which has had only partial success in the past) when I spied my fluoride free toothpaste sitting there. Since the baking soda and peroxide do such a great job cleaning my teeth, I scooped some out and scrubbed my hands. "Scrubbed" is actually a harsh term, because it all came off so easily and my hands were so SOFT! Another AHA moment in the Bilotta household. I will now keep an extra jar with my garden tools :) If you have not found a great recipe for either repellent or toothpaste yet, I have some ready to go at the Etsy shop link below :)

Friday, May 2, 2014


I know many of you are familiar with the site, but are you familiar with selling on it? I recently put my handmade products in a shop, as a start to my business, and I wanted to test the Etsy culture. It was easy to set up, used my paypal account that I already had set up, and the options to offer coupons, discounts, and various mailing options made it fun to plan. I love the favorite sites that help me to get a glimpse of the world of Etsy, and the amazing artists that call it home. It is not an expensive option, compared to hosting my own site and cart. If you have a talent for making tangible items, no matter what they are made of or their function, consider spending an evening putting together a site for it, and you might just find those creative juices flowing again! See my store here.... Thingsthatwork Go for it! Start your own store here

Monday, March 31, 2014

Gel fireplace tools

Looking for better ways to do things with less money, sometimes takes ingenuity and a striking piece of luck.  I found how to make my own gel fuel in a previous post, saving 1/2 to 3/4 of the cost.  But to put those babies out, especially quickly, while meddling with a hot ceramic log in front of them, warm grate panels, and high flames, was more of a challenge.  I used my sister's idea of long handled pliers and the sterno tops to smother the flames, however, I am not as dexterous as she, it appears.  I dropped the tops to the side, back, and in between of the pots before I ever put a single one out- and that was in a moment of anxiousness because I lit 3 at once and the flames were dangerously high with all three going at once. I had an aha moment when I realized my wide mouth lids for canning offered much more surface area for both snuffing and holding.  However, I still was not great with the pliers; it felt much too clumsy if an emergency happened.  Looking online I found the real snuffers for gel fireplaces and was resigned that my ineptitude was going to put me out $20 for the sake of safety.  Being the procrastinator I am, I also didn't order it right away, and that was a blessing in disguise.  While gathering jars for my next home business project, I saw a neat little magnetic tool that was always on the shelf to lift lids out of boiling water. It turned out to be the perfect thing to pair with the large lids for snuffing needs, which is rare now that we usually shed a tear when the fire burns itself out on its own.  The best part?  It cost me all of 98 cents!  WOO HOO.  I love a deal!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Homemade Gel Fuel

I received a wonderful gift from my sister to use her gel fuel fireplace for a while in my home.  I have secretly wanted a portable fireplace for the longest time, though I knew nearly nothing about them.

After a quick primer, I set about looking for an affordable gel fuel source and was disheartened they were so expensive, relatively speaking.  This was why my sister was willing to give it up for a while.  I experimented with some Sterno, similar to the gel fuels available- just not as high-flaming, to get a feel for the thing.  It is a bit intimidating to say the least.  However, after more research online, I found I could make my own gel fuel. All I could think was is it safe? Is it legal? Will I die trying?

I read and read and read about what the 'real' stuff was made of and realized it was the same and not any 'safer' per-se'.  I followed the directions found here. As fragile as most articles made the process sound, it actually worked exactly right the first time.  I was shocked and thrilled.

Here is what I did:
1-Rinsed and roasted 6 eggshells at 350 for 30 minutes, then pulverized in my blender
2-Added the powder to a loaf pan and added 5% vinegar to about 1/3 up the loaf pan, then stirred for a while to get the reaction going.  I did this occassionally over an hour or so. I then let it rest overnight undisturbed.  In the morning, I dehydated this in the oven at 355* for 40 min (was making breakfast at the time in the oven), then opened the door another 30 (which wasn't working as fast), then closed it another 30 minutes to concentrate it to 1/4 the original depth.  There was white crusting along the top original edge.
3-I strained this through a napkin and sifter to remove the solids and let the liquid cool for 30 min.

4-I measured this remaining liquid (1/3 c) and placed it in a plastic bowl. I measured 9 parts 91% isopropyl alcohol and added this to the bowl. I stirred and added 2 drops blue food coloring, in order to see it better in containers and for possible spills.
5-I was undecided about the safety of adding the vegetable oil yet, so I dug out my essential oils; the mixture was already gelling in the bowl. I put in 4-5 drops of cinnamon, cedarwood, and juniper, figuring that it might be enough to elicit the crackling.  It did not give off a smell, but did cover over the alcohol smell some.
6-I poured this into used sterno cans. It gelled randomly and was watery everywhere else as I was pouring. I forgot to add the salt or borax for flame color, so I just sprinkled some table salt on top and moved it a bit around with a chop stick. The mixture re-gelled in a few minutes.

6-I lit one for a test. It burned without a 'whump' and immediately with a bright white/yellow flame.  It flickered nicely and produced a 5 inch flame.  When I lit 3 in a row, it made a very nice real looking fire behind the fake log.  The flames joined over the middle and grew to 7-9 inches at times.  This was enough to convince me to leave it at 2 cans at most.  I did not burn them fully today, but they should last 2.5-3 hours.
7-after snuffing and cooling for 15 minutes, the mixture remained fluid.  I am leaving one uncovered to see if it will re-gel better covered, uncovered, or at all, after burning. Will post update next time.

Some things I will do differently:
1-add oils, color, scent immediately, then pour while liquid to set undisturbed in cans.
2-burn only 2 cans at a time for flame height/heat reasons
3-add more scent and maybe experiment with additional vegetable oil for crackle.  There was some sizzle noises 10 min into the burn.
4-definitely use a bigger snuffer- NOT the sterno covers.  I will use a large mason jar lid or purchase a sterno snuffer online.  Using plyers was awkward and I dropped the lids in the back or on the side multiple times, due to the size and heat of the flames.  NOT good in an emergency.

This product was EASY to make, just a little time consuming.  However, the store bought product retails for $3-$4 a can.  Mine cost MAYBE $1.75 for 3 cans and most items were already on hand.

NOTE: Another noteworthy product was an aeresol can of extinguisher from walmart, on same shelf as the regular red canisters. It was cheaper than buying an additional conventional extinguisher, yet it was advertised to spray longer than the 2 leading ones by almost 2/3 time.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Baby Food Maker

I had a moment of nostalgia in Walmart yesterday doing my research job. I ran across this item from Nuk that reminded me of a similar item I received when my youngest was a baby. I was just beginning to spread my wings from the uncomfortable mold that the market placed on new mothers; it stated we only had store bought options to rely on to feed our children.  If we had any doubts about the sources they used or the quality of the ingredients, our only option appeared to be to brand-hop.  I was starting to use my blender to process simple fruits and cooked vegetables on my own, but it was hard to do in smaller batches.  Not a problem though, since this was also about the time I discovered month-ahead meals anyway.  However, this little item found its way into my hands, and I was thrilled to be able to take a spoonful of whatever meal I had prepared and put it through the mill.  It was not the awful gelatinous consistency of processed baby food (how DO they get food to resemble nothing of what it once was, and look like everything else aside from color, anyway?)  It was ground, real food that I knew the origins of.  I LOVED this item and the kid did too. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Sports equipment rentals!

I found myself at Eastern Mountain Sports in the local mall yesterday.  Over the course of conversation with the staff, I found out that they rent snowshoes ($15/day), x-country skis, tents, packs, kayaks, etc. They also have occassional excursions in regional country areas to learn how to do things like mountain climbing with guides and equipment. Now there's no excuse for you NOT to get outside, even in these temps (below 0 here) and IF you can unbury yourself, New England.  I believe other sports equipment stores may also offer similar options, if you are not in this area or cannot find an Eastern Mountain Sports near you. Give them a call first, its warmer :)