Wednesday, January 28, 2009


does the water dispenser on my fridge stop working when it hits the negative temperatures? It's on an interior wall and dispenses only cold water and ice. It starts working again when the temperatures rise. Any ideas?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Saving Money through Cooking

Lately, we've been saving money with our kitchen and time. We've been making a lot of the things we used to buy prepackaged, saving money and chemicals and packaging! It's a lot healthier, and we are able to create foods with less added fats and preservatives that taste better, too.

Fat "Free" Granola:
I love this granola recipe. It is basic, healthy, and yummy! We like raisins and almonds in it, but you could do any combination of dried fruits and nuts. It keeps well; I have granola that is 3 months old in the cupboard. A final note... bake for only 15 minutes, then stir. It usually only takes 30 minutes total!

Pancake Mix:
I haven't made this mix yet, but plan on doing it soon! It looks nice and yummy. We enjoy blueberry pancakes on weekend mornings, but are too lazy to make them from scratch in the morning. Mix is getting expensive AND they have stopped making the Oat Bran pancake mix we liked!

Whole Wheat Bread:
We are "cheating" and using a bread maker. It is so convenient, however! Our basic recipe is 100% whole wheat, with only 5 ingredients:

1 cup - 2 tbps warm water
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp sea salt
3 cups sifted whole wheat bread flour
1-1/2 tsp yeast

Add into bread machine in the order above (or as recommended by your machine). If you are at a lower altitude than 5,000 feet, you may need to add ALL the water and not leave out the couple tablespoons.

Ciabatta Bread:
We love Ciabatta bread... full of flavor, nice and chewy. It costs a lot at the store, however, so I dug up a bread maker version.

Instead of buying packages of cookies, we've been making bite sized cookies of our own. One of our favorite recipes are these lowfat peanut butter cookies... I quadruple the vanilla and add a teaspoon of cinnamon to them for extra flavor.

Having received a yogurt maker for Christmas a few years ago, we've made our own yogurt. This does save a lot of money, and you can make it in any flavor you want!

Take a 8 quart pan, heat a tbsp or so of oil in the bottom with three kernels of corn. When they pop, add a cup of popcorn. Shake constantly on the burner until it is all popped. (Keep the lid on, obviously). Or, buy a Whirly-Pop...
You can make microwave popcorn with a paper bag and a staple, too... but I've never tried it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Video Tour of the Tiny Old House: The Beginning

While sorting through old videos today, I discovered this gem: a 5 minute tour of the Tiny Old House a few weeks after moving in!

It's fun to see what has changed over the years. There are actual flowerbeds, new siding, paint in colors besides white, a new kitchen, and more! I'll post this in the sidebar for "permanent viewing".

Thursday, January 22, 2009

House Refinancing

One of our New Year's Resolutions is to refinance our house. We have an ARM (Adjustable Rate Mortgage), which will adjust in August AND an interest only HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit) which will come due in August and will need to be paid off in full, or refinanced.

Here's the run down:
The HELOC comes from our house purchase. We did not have the full 20% downpayment, and so financed 10% of the downpayment with the HELOC instead of paying mortgage insurance. The payments on the HELOC were cheaper than insurance, and we've had the opportunity to make them even cheaper by paying it down bit by bit. We are almost halfway paid off by now.

The ARM comes from our thoughts that we wouldn't be in the house long. Without getting into details about jobs and education choices and such, it's funny how life throws you curves! We are happily staying now... but have run out on our ARM.

IF (BIG if) our house appraises for what we bought it for, we will own about 20% of our house. BIG if. Of course, we have massively improved the property since then... new kitchen with maple and granite, new siding (well, siding removed... but brick is SO much nicer), fenced yard and stone patio, front yard landscaping, etc. We are hoping that those might offset to some extent the probable drop in housing prices.

Here Was Our Plan:
Our plan was to refinance into a 15 year mortgage. I found this excellent calculator for figuring out the cost and benefits of switching an ARM into a fixed rate mortgage. It helped me sort out the options. I also used the loan quoting service on I was pleased with the quality of the quotes I received from several of the respondants. The plus is that no one has YOUR info until you choose to give it to them, unlike other loan quote sites.

After reviewing the information, we realized that it may not be the best time for us to refinance. The odds that we can pass the 20% barrier are not spectacular, and coming up with $3000 for closing costs after we've been working so hard to pay off the HELOC this year will be tough. If we finance the closing costs, we'll definitely have to pay the insurance... which we don't want to do.

The Current Plan:
We're going to wait, and pay down more principle on the HELOC. Maybe even pay it totally off before it's due. We can weather adjustment on the ARM, as it has pretty strict limits. Even though the rates are at historic lows, it just doesn't make sense for us to do it right now.

Additional info... we will likely move in 2 or 3 years when we have children, as there isn't much room for children in our house with the two music studios! That complicates the money issue even more!

Friday, January 16, 2009

New Year's Resolutions 2009- Waste Not Edition

Here's our resolutions for lessening our environmental impact, saving money, and wasting less. We made many big improvements on this last year, including building our compost pile, getting glass "tupperware", trading our huge water sucking washer for a used energy efficient front loader, using a push reel mower, etc. Here's a few more goals for this year!

1) Grow a Garden
Not just a flower garden... a VEGETABLE garden. One that we can eat from! I'm envisioning squash and peppers foremost. I'd LOVE tomatoes, but haven't ever had luck with them. We'll go from there!

2) Continue to Use USED Materials Whenever Possible
Pretty self explanatory! We've had good luck so far.

3) Make Insulating Curtains
I'd like to further insulate our windows by adding quilted window shades to keep heat in.

4) Reuse and Repair Everything Possible
From darning socks to re-glazing our windows!

5) Make Homemade... gel, bread, household cleaners, snacks and cookies, etc

6) Compost EVERYTHING Possible!
Well, except dog poo. We're not going to try that yet. I want to compost most of our waste paper instead of sending it to the recycling and make sure that we don't throw out any food matter this year!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Year's Resolutions 2009- Home Edition

It's time for the Home Improvement Edition of New Year's Resolutions. Lots to do this year, and only one year to do it in! I'm sure you will notice a few repeats from last year... thus is life!

1) Refinance the House
Our ARM resets in August. Not much else to say! Look for some refinancing posts to help clear the murk around mortgages and similar.

2) Paint!
The exterior wood on our house needs new paint. Preferably in a color besides white!

3) Repair/Replace Porch
In addition to painting, our front porch needs some attention. We want to replace the rotting square columns with original style turned columns, replace a few rotten boards, and finish the porch ceiling.

4) Finish Bathroom
I mean it this year. I really mean it!

5) Flooring?
Perhaps I will see what is under the carpet and plywood...

6) Finish that Master Suite
The imaginary one that we've been dreaming about for YEARS. The one where we take the back room, and split it into a bedroom and bathroom/walk in closet/laundry. Oh, and where we get to sleep in a bedroom with walls and have a closet that isn't a cheap particle board stand-alone!

7) Tackle the Windows
The original wood windows are in serious need of repair. I'd like to reglaze at least a couple before next winter. Wish me luck!

Just like last year, I am sure that life will intervene and give us more important things to do... but we will start here!

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Cheney Talking Machine

Over Christmas, a few family members managed to retrieve this from the crawlspace of my in-law's house.

It's a Cheney Talking Machine!

It is in need of a lot of work, but oh-so-cool.

Here's a few more pictures:


And a quick movie of a 1920's dance tune!

They want to restore it, but are unsure of how to got about this. There is substantial water damage to the finish on the top, the legs are very shaky, and the entire unit is bowed down in the middle (so you can't close the lid). Any advice on how to restore something like this, particularly with the detailed paintings?

We are on the search for our very own Victrola... we want a small one with a hand crank. What a neat sound they have!