Friday, July 26, 2019

Ben's Banana Cake

When we have overripe bananas I usually make smoothies or banana pancakes out of them. This time my intention was to make banana bread instead so we could enjoy it for breakfast in the morning. But my son had other ideas, so I lured him into the kitchen to make this banana cake from scratch. We don't like a cake heavy on frosting, so we ate it bare, but I'm thinking we might try a light cream cheese frosting next time. A few mini chocolate chips mixed into the batter might be another yummy variation.

Ben has been helping me in the kitchen since he could stand. He's also taken a couple of kids cooking classes. He especially loves baking. He's known how to measure and level off flour since he was about 5. I love that he has these skills to carry him into life. He may not make a career out of it, but he'll be able to cook for himself.

The cake is light and moist with a banana flavor that's not overpowering.

Tip: If you don't have sour milk, add about 2tsp of vinegar to the cup of milk and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.

Ben's Banana Cake

  • 1/2 c salted butter
  • 1 c sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup mashed banana. 
  • 1/4 c sour milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Preheat over to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs and mix well. Stir in dry ingredients. Add mashed banana, milk, and vanilla. Mix thoroughly. 

Pour batter into two 8 inch pans lined with parchment. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out nearly clean. 

Let cool before removing from pan. If desired, frost or lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The Lost Art of Making Do

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Make do - v. to use what you already have, to manage to get along with the means available.

It seems that in this hyperconsumerism driven culture, we've lost the art of making do. Probably the last time we as a society collectively practiced making do was during the Great Depression and World War II. It was a survival skill that was quickly forgotten amongst the disposable world we live in today. Don't get me wrong. There are still people out there who know a thing or two about making do, mostly out of necessity. But the majority of our society has fallen into the mindset of discarding and buying new. Using something until it has no use left in it is a foreign concept.

We are bombarded with commercials that tell us what we need to buy. Products are manufactured with disposal in mind. Big tech companies make it hard to repair their products, thus it becomes easier if you have the funds just to purchase new. Most things these days are manufactured to appear to become obsolete within a limited time, manipulating the consumer to buy the latest computer/phone/shoes, etc. And many items are manufactured for single usage.

The clothing industry is a good example. Except for the rare knee patch on a kid's worn pair of jeans, most people no longer mend clothing or have the skill to do so. Unfortunately, most clothing doesn't even get to that stage before it's discarded or donated. Fast fashion has created a highly wasteful market. While I think it is important to donate and shop used, the used market has been overwhelmed as well. What we need to go back to is using up, mending, repairing. That is where the impact is going to make the biggest difference to the environment and to the current market.

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This past week I made a realization about making do when it comes to food. Money is tight right now. Really tight. I've been keeping us fed by making do and using up food staples I already have on hand. I'm amazed at how much food I have even though it doesn't feel like it. We get so accustomed to being able to make our weekly or monthly grocery shopping trip and when it doesn't happen we feel like we are lacking. In truth, most of us here in the U.S. have plenty in our pantries that we can use up before truly going hungry. We may be eating lots of boring rice, dried beans, and pasta, but we are not going hungry. When you are hit with hard times a well-stocked pantry and the ability to make do are a life saver.

How can making do improve our lives? What if we learned to appreciate the fine wear of our shoes, the slight pull of a thread on our sweater, the miles displayed on our car's odometer, the harmless chip on our coffee mug? What if we saw the beauty in how much use an item still holds instead of allowing ourselves to be pulled in by the desire for something new? What if we learn truly be grateful for what we already have by using it up or wearing it out?

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Making do can make a big impact on our environment. We'll buy less stuff, which in turn means fewer resources will be used up and less pollution created during the manufacture of new items, as well as less of an impact from discarded items. Our money will go further and we can spend it on things that are truly fulfilling, like time with friends and family, traveling, or pursuing the things that feed our souls. It pairs nicely with minimalism in that we aren't going out and filling our homes with more unneeded stuff. And I suspect it encourages greater respect toward our possessions that lead us to care for them better so they will last longer.

Do you have a story of making do? Was it by choice or for survival?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Can You Use Dish Soap to Wash Your Laundry?

Quick Frugal Tip:

Clothesline, Little Girl Dresses, Laundry, Hang

I have spent my grocery budget for the week and I'm out of detergent. The dirty clothes pile was looking very intimidating yesterday. Mainly because the kid had been hoarding his dirty laundry in the closet. I don't have any washing soda or ingredients to whip up my homemade detergent, but I do have a big bottle of Dawn dish soap someone gave me. I don't use that brand for dishwashing. I've mainly been using it to bath the dogs. So I Googled it. Can you use dish soap to wash your clothes? Yes and no. It depends on which type of washing machine you have. After reading several articles, it appears you can use it in a top loading machine but it's not recommended for the fancy front loading machines. One article recommends using 1tsp per size of the load. For a large load, you'd use 3 teaspoons of dish soap. 

Having a giant pile of clothes to wash, I gave it a go this morning, adding 3tsp to the first load. I was worried about excess sudsing but there wasn't any more than usual. After going through the entire wash process and loading them into the dryer, I am happy with the outcome. They are clean and smell fresh, even my son's smelly t-shirts. 

Verdict: the next time you run out of laundry detergent, give it a go in your top loading washer only. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

5 Things to Buy At The Thrift Store (and a couple you should avoid)

Shopping at the thrift store for me is part necessity, part adventure. I always feel like I'm on a treasure hunt. If I find something I need without paying full price for new, I am a happy camper. We have a thrift superstore nearby that I can spend a good two hours exploring, much to my son's frustration. I go there often and I also donate things that I no longer have a use for. It's always amusing when I see something familiar on the shelves.

It's even better when I can make it on one of their super discount days. Certain days of the year they mark everything in the store down by 50% and they mark down certain color-coded tags throughout the year. Most thrift stores also give military and senior discounts. I am so used to thrift store prices that when I go to a store like Target I'm usually in sticker shock. You want how much for a new pair of shorts?

Thrifting also has the added benefit of helping the planet. It saves a lot of usable merchandise from going to the landfill and puts a dent into the big problem of fast fashion, which has a lot of big environmental and humanitarian problems. If you'd like to read more about the perils of fast fashion, you can do so here.

As a long time thrifter, I want to share the five things I buy at the thrift store as well as a couple I don't, and the reasons why.

1. Picture frames and framed art

As a photographer, I'm always looking for nice wood picture frames for prints. Sometimes they have a less than attractive print already in them or need a paint job, but I have found some really beautiful frames that needed no attention at all at the fraction of the price you would buy new. 

While I would classify most of the art as cheesy or quaint, there are treasures to be found, so if you are looking to decorate some blank walls or change up your looks, the thrift store is a great place to go. You can also take a canvas that someone painted with an amateurish portrait, slap some gesso on it, and paint your own masterpiece. 

2. Clothing

While I purchase most of my clothing used, the big deals are for formal wear or designer jeans. You can save a bundle on prom dresses, cocktail dressed, and other formal wear that was likely only worn once. I've seen some beautiful wedding gowns as well. Designer jeans are another item that is expensive to purchase new and can easily run $100 or more. While I look for fit, comfort, and lack of wear over brand, I have picked up a pair of designer jeans for $12. That's quite a big markdown. I generally spend $5-7 for a pair of jeans at the thrift store. 

3. Books

Any more I skip buying books for the library, but occasionally there is a book I'd love to have on my shelves or I stumble across a cheap paperback I'd like to read that I can later pass on. I've also found popular titles of children's books in like new condition. 

4. Kitchen Items

Dishes seem to be another item besides clothing that people donate in large quantities. If you are ever in need of coffee mugs, the shelves are usually lined with them. My son's favorite mug, an obvious Colorado souvenir someone decided to part with, came from thrifting. I've also found canning jars in excellent condition, nice looking wine glasses, table linens, and occasionally a rare treasure like a cast iron skillet or Le Creuset pan will show up. Avoid any old pottery or imported items that may contain lead.

5. Furniture

The quality can vary, but you can save a bundle buying furniture at a thrift store. I tend to look for older wood pieces like end tables, small hutches, or chairs. As I've downsized, I've gotten rid of large furniture pieces like the two tiered corner office desk that took up half of any room and blocked a window. My current desk is an old vintage metal desk that is maybe 3'x1'. I spray painted the legs black and the sturdy top that golden yellow color that is so popular right now. I'm typing this blog post at my little desk right now. 

What do I avoid buying?

Most used shoes are a big no for me, unless they look new/hardly worn. I have read that shoes adapt to the wearer's feet, so they can be painful for someone else to wear. They can also harbor bacteria, especially shoes like flip flops or sandals. I have accepted used dress shoes from friends that I trust, but I doubt I would buy them from a thrift store. In fact, the only shoes I have ever purchased from the thrift store were a like new pair of North Face waterproof boots I wear in the winter when I'm doing chores and a pair of like new kid's shoes for my son when he was smaller. 

I also don't buy underwear or swimsuit bottoms because, well, it's gross. You never know how the previous owner viewed personal hygiene. 

Stuffed animals, pillows, and upholstered items that may carry bed bugs. Apparently, those suckers can hide for up to a year. I really don't want to bring home what appears to be a steal to find out I've instead got a problem on my hands.

Big no's are any items that may be a safety hazard, like iffy looking lamps or electronic items that might be fire hazards, old cribs, infant car seats, etc. 

The bottom line, thrift store shopping is a lot of fun and can save you a ton of money if you know what you are looking for and what to avoid. You can feel good not only about your pocketbook but about recycling and reusing items that still have a lot of use in them. 

Let's go shopping!

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Hippy Home Needs Your Help!

!!!Update: I need to raise $325 immediately or my lease will not be renewed!!!

Dear readers,

I'm asking for help keeping The Hippy Home up and running.

The last three months have been hard for me, my son, and my little homestead and I am at risk of losing everything. I've lost income sources that have left us struggling and I'm falling behind on rent. For seven years I've worked on my own to keep this little Hippy Home of ours and creating our safe place in the world. I'm not quite sure what the next step would be if we lost it, especially so close to the end of this dark tunnel, but I'm not giving up yet.

The Hippy Home is growing. This Thursday I'm excited to be hosting the first free Hippy Home bartering event for local followers. The Facebook page and the blog have both grown in visitors. I'll continue to write informative articles for the blog so all of those new visitors can continue to find new content. I'd like to get some guest bloggers on board as well. All of this is awesome, but I need some financial support to keep it going.

This is where you come in. What is my blog worth to you? $1 $5 $25? If you find value in what you read here, I ask that you click on the image link below to contribute toward growing The Hippy Home. It will take you to Paypal. It's quite OK if you don't. You may be in a place where it is difficult to contribute. You may be a skeptic. Maybe you think everyone should be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps with no help from strangers. That's OK. But if you have found real value in anything I've posted, please consider a contribution that will help me keep this blog alive and my little backyard homestead together.  I'll even send you a postcard of Princess Lea the chicken from San Antonio, Texas with a big thank you from me, the boy, and our menagerie of animals.

I'm also looking for business sponsors who would be interested in advertising on the blog. Contact me and we'll see if you are a good fit.

Thank you,
The Hippy Home

Click Image Below To Donate:

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Sustainable Ways To Use Up Food Scraps

There are many things you can do with food scraps to cut down on food waste besides the good old compost pile. Some of them will help your budget, too, so they have the added benefit of being frugal in addition to sustainable practices.

Orange Peel 

Make an orange cleaner by filling a glass jar with orange peels and pouring white vinegar over them. Let the mixture sit in a dark, cool place for 2-3 weeks. Mine is under the kitchen sink. Use it full strength for tough cleaning jobs or dilute with water for an all-purpose cleaner. 

Freshen the air by boiling orange peels with cloves, cinnamon sticks, and a couple bay leaves. I especially like doing this around the winter holidays. 

Toss some down your garbage disposal to freshen it up. Or at the bottom of your trash cans. 

Add it to tea for a bit of orange flavor. 

Coffee Grounds

I generally add mine directly into my garden, but coffee grounds as they contain many nutrients, but they can also be used as a body scrub to exfoliate the skin, make a great addition to homemade soap, and can replace baking soda in the refrigerator for odor control. You can even use them as a base to grow mushrooms in or start a worm farm.

Vegetable Scraps

Outside of composting my vegetable scraps, another great idea is to freeze them until you have enough to make vegetable stock out of. When you have about 4 cups of vegetable scraps, boil them in about 12 cups of water. For added flavor, throw in some fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme, or sage. Avoid using too many scraps from strongly flavored vegetables like cauliflower and vegetables that have gone bad. 

Egg Shells

Egg shells are another item I add directly into the garden. Not only do they add nutrients to the soil, but they are known to keep snails and slugs at bay because they don't like to crawl over the crushed shell. 

If you raise chickens, add the finely crushed eggshells into their feed as a calcium supplement. 

Stale Bread

Unless it's gone moldy there is no reason to throw out stale bread. Use it to make bread crumbs or croutons for salads. Make a yummy bread pudding or french toast. Other recipes that are great for using up stale bread include French onion soup and the Italian recipe, Panzanella. 

Avoid feeding stale bread to birds. It's not healthy. 

Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron on Unsplash

Sour Milk

I've been buying fresh milk from a local food co-op. Sometimes if I don't drink it fast enough it starts to go bad. I don't want to drink it, but I don't want to throw it away because it is expensive. As long as your milk hasn't gone chunky on you, there are still ways you can use it up. Use it in place of buttermilk or yogurt in recipes. It's also great for making homemade yogurt and cheese. 

It's also great for skin care. Apply it to your face for softer, firmer skin. 

Mix it with water and spray it onto garden plants inflicted with powdery mildew. It works wonders. 

This is just a few ideas on how to reduce food waste. I'd love to hear from you. How do you reduce food waste in your household?

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Honey Butter Biscuits for a Saturday Morning

The kid and I needed a slow Saturday morning with a big sitdown breakfast of eggs, bacon, and homemade biscuits. The last few weeks, with the exception of my daughter's beautiful wedding, have been rough. It seems like there has been one challenge after another since mid-February. But spring is here and the garden is starting to fill out. South Texas is blanketed with wildflowers. The days are longer. There is much to be grateful for.

Sleeping in is hard around here. If it's not the dogs demanding to be let outside, the cat wants his breakfast or the chickens are cackling to be let out. So I was up by 7:30, which technically is sleeping in for a whole hour by weekday standards. I let the dogs out, fill the kettle so I can make coffee, dish out the dog food and cat food, and slip on some shoes to head out to the coop to let the chickens out for the day. By the time I head back in the house, I'm making coffee in my coffee press and starting breakfast.

We have eggs just about every day in some form or another, especially with the girls laying pretty frequently now, but I rarely make biscuits. This particular recipe was shared by my friend Bryan. We both enjoyed cooking together while he lived with us. He was in charge of the biscuit making while I made soup or something to go along with the biscuits. Ben calls them Bryscuits, so forever more they will be known in our household by that name.

A note about biscuit making. We were having some trouble getting the biscuits to rise nice and fluffy and after some investigation, I think I may have solved the issue. Apparently, according to the King Arthur Flour blog Flourish, when cutting biscuits it is important to use a sharp biscuit cutter or knife otherwise the dough pinches, preventing the biscuits from rising. Clean edges equal high rising biscuits.

Bryscuits (Honey Butter Biscuits)

  • 2 Cups plain flour
  • 3 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small cubes
  • 2/3 cup milk
Preheat oven to 425F. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add cold butter and using hands, work into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Alternatively, you may use a food processor. 

Add honey and milk, mixing in with a wooden spoon or spatula. Gently knead dough and roll out to about 3/4" thick onto a lightly floured surface. 

Using a sharp knife or a biscuit cutter to cut biscuits into the desired shape. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until brown.

Serve warm with butter and plenty more honey (or your favorite jam). 

Monday, February 25, 2019

My Little Urban Farmstead: Raising Chickens and Gardening in the City

I would like to show you around my little backyard homestead.

Growing up in Ohio I was always used to putting in the garden around early April and almost ignoring it while still getting a good crop of vegetables. I've struggled with having a productive garden here in Texas for the last couple of years and I think it's mainly because I start my garden too late in the season. The plants don't have a good start before the heat sets in. This is the earliest I've ever planted a garden. It's in the spot where my original chicken coop used to be for the last few years so it's quite fertile. I'm feeling hopeful that this year I'll be able to harvest plenty to feed my son and me, and maybe even a little extra to share.

I planted tomatoes, romanesco (if you don't know what this is, Google it. It is beautiful), lettuce, carrots, zucchini, cucumbers, dill, basil, spinach, thyme, and beets. I always plant marigolds to repel pests. The dill usually gets sacrificed to caterpillars. Five days from now I should have little sprouts coming up from the seeds I planted. I never cease feeling excitement and wonder at the little sprouts pushing up towards the sky. Life renewed.

My old coop was a disaster and I worried nightly about predators getting in. One night a young opossum did get in and cornered one of my hens. Luckily I woke up to hear the screams my poor frightened girl was making. If you ever hear a chicken scream in fright you will never forget it. I ran out barefoot, scooped her up, and herded everyone into the kitchen where they spent the night. Everyone has kept chickens in their kitchen, right?

The new coop is much nicer, but it was quite the challenge...

I was excited to be the first in line when this coop came up as a freebie on a chicken group I'm in. The catch was I had to move it. The original person who was supposed to move it for me had a nice trailer and all of the equipment to properly move a building this size but he backed out last minute. I posted on Craigslist and found someone else who promised he could move the coop on the back of his truck. Moving day came and he was late meeting me at the site to pick it up. When he finally showed up he's driving an older pickup with a small bed. I had a bad feeling.

I wish I'd saved the photo of the coop loaded onto his truck. It looked like Beverly Hillbillies moving into town. It was a disaster waiting to happen, but he and his partner insisted that they didn't need to take it apart to move it. It didn't sit properly on the bed of the truck and it towered over the road. We didn't even get a half mile down the road when the wind caught the door and whipped it off, sending it flying directly at me and my son who were following in my Jeep. By sheer luck, it didn't hit us or anyone else and instead shattered all over the road. They had failed to properly tie down the door. I was a nervous mess the rest of the way home. 

Somehow we made it the 30-minute drive to my house. We passed a police officer and it was with great relief he didn't pull them over for having an improper load. I explain to them where I want it to go. They unloaded it at the side of the house but insisted they couldn't get it to the back yard because of a low hanging tree. By this time I was done with them, so I told them to just go and I'd figure out something on my own. I might have muttered a few curse words under my breath as they left. 

The coop sat there with the roof off and no door, totally useless to me, for four months. I had to stare at its behemoth teal form every time I stood at the kitchen sink. It was with the gracious help of a friend that it was moved in to place and the door another friend gifted me installed. If it wasn't for his help I'd probably still be staring at the darn thing out my window. Now that it is all set up where it is supposed to be and my chickens are all settled in, this hippy girl is happy. I have four hens contently roosting in the coop and now that the days are longer all four are gifting me daily eggs. 

As I told my friend, I'm quite content being the neighborhood crazy chicken lady.

Monday, February 18, 2019

I'm Back and I've Missed You

Moonrise over Seminole Canyon State Park, Texas

It's been about a year since I've written a blog post. I had posts I wanted to share, but it just didn't happen for a couple of reasons. One, I was overwhelmed with life in general and two, I was putting everything into growing my photography business. But I have so many things I want to share with you. Things about my little urban homestead (I'm up to four chickens now and am currently planning my garden), favorite recipes, and home and garden tips.

A lot has happened in the last year. I replaced my original chicken coop and raised a chick who is now a part of our flock of laying hens. Her name is Poe, after the character on Star Wars. We thought she was a roo because of her attitude. Oops! She's just a spunky hen. She also happens to be gorgeous. Here she is:


We also added another family member. Luna came to us after a dear friend of mine passed away from cancer. After a little bit of adjusting, she's now settled into life in our home quite well. She is the diva and loves soft surfaces as well as eating the leftover chicken food. She's also quite the little trooper and hangs just fine with us and our big dog, Julius when we go on adventures.

Luna Enjoying a Hike

I've also made some new friends, refocused my photography business, and watched my son grow taller every day. When I first started this blog he was just a little guy. Now he's a year and a half away from middle school. Ugh, time really does go by too quickly.

Anyway, its good to be back. My goal for the year is to find a balance with running this little hippy home, my photography business, and this blog. I'm not going to lie, finding balance is hard when you are pulling the single parent gig, but I wouldn't trade this life I'm living for anything.