Up -Cycling

If you eat cereal, drink coffee and go through peanut butter like we do, then this is for you.  Stop recycling and start up-cycling!

The possibilites are really endless. Here are some of my favorites from tonight's story.. and some extras!

Cereal box magazine file:



Cereal box junk drawer organizer:



Peanut Butter Jar storage:



Shopping Bag's a go-go:





Nutty, Fruity and Yummy!

Watch "What Can Davis Save Us?"

OK. I'm lazy. I admit it. If there's an easy way to do things, I'm all over it. That's why I'm so drawn to nutrition bars. OK. I'm always late, too. That's another reason I love bars. They're easy, and you can eat them while you're running out the door, getting ready for work, driving to work, during work. Whenever, wherever. 


Of course, with ease comes a price. The healthy bars can be pricey: $2 to $4 a bar, depending where you buy them, which isn't bad for a once-in-a-while treat. But when you eat them daily (Sometimes several times a day. I told you, I'm always late), that can really add up. Plus, you have to be careful that you're eating the right bars. You grab the wrong nutrition bar and you might as well be eating a candy bar. Some bars actually have more sugar than the treats you find in the candy aisle!  Not good.  By healthy bars, I mean bars with no high fructose corn syrup (I know. The corn people say it's fine, but I try to have my family avoid it anyway). We're really trying to limit our processed food, so I look for bars with only a handful of ingredients, around 5 or 6, and with words my 8-year-old can pronounce.


That's why I was so excited when I stumbled upon recipes for DIY nutrition bars! Yay! Not only are they less expensive to make, you can put in the exact ingredients you like. Win-win!  The DIY "Lara" like bars are date-based and one of my favorites.  You can find the recipe here at the Wanna be chef. They're just dates, nuts and dark chocolate. If you're kids like peanuts, throw them in there. But if someone has a peanut allergy, leave them out. You can use almonds or brazil nuts or any other nut instead.  The DIY "Clif" bars are just as easy to experiment with. The combinations really are endless. Both brands have flavors like apple pie, lemon, oatmeal cookie, cherry pie, German chocolate. Check out the different flavors available online or the next time you're at the grocery store, and experiment.


What I've learned:


I've been making the DIY Lara bars for a few  months now, and I really like them.  After doing some price-checking, I've found that the bulk bin at Giant seems to be the best buy for the dates and the bulk nuts.  You can also find the dates in bags alongside the raisins and figs. Those are a little more pricey per pound, but you can usually find them 2 for $5 on sale somewhere. The bulk nuts are also usually cheaper than the canned. Take a look at the "price per pound" on the shelf label. That's usually the best way to see if you're getting the best deal. As far as chocolate goes, the darker the better, and the healthier, you can use a bar or chips. I like the 60 percent dark Ghirardelli chips. They're easy to work with and are delish!  


As far as mixing goes, a food processor, a magic bullet or a really good blender are a must when working with the dates. They can be very sticky and big. If you're using a blender or magic bullet, make sure you work in small batches, and always remember to take the pits out! They will not grind up, trust me. I usually blend the dates first. They'll form a big sticky ball of date paste. Remove it from the canister and then do the nuts and chocolate together. Then you can mix the dates and the nut/chocolate combo together by hand in a big bowl and press it into a foil-lined cake pan. The mixture will be kind of dry and a bit crumbly, but you'll see that it will start to hold together. If it seems way too dry, you can add a tablespoon of water before you press it into a 9 x 13 pan. Then just pop it in the freezer for 20 minutes and once it's set, you can slice it into bars. Lara bars are on the smallish side -- about 2 X 3 inches, but you can make them any size you like. I typically cut my slab into 16 nice size bars and wrap them in wax paper and pop them in the freezer.


I tried the Clif bars for the first time for this story. They were easy enough, and you don't need a food processor for this at all. I used a food processor and I think that was a mistake. If you've ever eaten a Clif bar you know that they're a bit on the chunky side. So by hand is probably the way to go if you want that consistency. The food processor made them more fudge-like, which wasn't bad. It just depends on your preference. I followed the recipe exactly except for the wheat flour. I'm trying to cut down on wheat, so I used rice crispees instead. Instead of cocoa powder, you can use the healthy raw cacao or even a chocolate protein powder. That's the great thing about making them yourself. You can change things up to fit your needs. These taste really close to the Clif chocolate brownie bars and they were a big hit with my taste-testers, a.k.a. the newsroom.


I also made a KIND bar. I love these! We didn't have time to include it in the TV story, which is a shame because these were really good.  KIND bars are usually just nuts, seeds and dried fruit, kind of like a trail mix bar. These were also super-easy to make. Just take your favorite nuts, throw in some dried fruit and seeds and mix them up with honey. You can chop the nuts if you like or leave them whole. I left mine whole like they do in the original KIND bar. Unlike the other bars, which go in the freezer, you bake these for 15 minutes. They'll be gooey, but once they cool they hold together and you can cut them into bars with a large, sharp knife. Once again, you can either wrap them up in wax paper so you can grab them and go or store them in an airtight container.


Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to run! Time for work. Luckily, I have plenty of bars in the freezer to grab :)


Here are some links to other DIY bar flavors:








Fish and Chips Shop

The new smell of clean or fish and chip shop?

 OK. So I don't hang out in fish and chip shops that often. In fact, to be honest, I've only ever been in one once before, but I imagine this is what they smell like. (minus the fishy smell). I'm talking about the pungent scent of vinegar.

 If you use home cleaners, you're going to become very familiar with vinegar's sharp smell. That's for sure.  Vinegar is the superstar in the DIY cleaner lineup. It's in practically every recipe because it works, but it also smells.  The good news? It doesn't smell for long.  Really. I think the smell fades faster than the smell of bleach, and vinegar is oh so much safer for you, your family, your pets and your indoor air quality. (Do not use if you have granite countertops though! Vinegar can damage granite. Try this alcohol-based spray instead).  

 If you still can't wrap your nose around the vinegar smell, there is an easy fix.  You can add some lemon juice, like the recipe in this week's "What Can Davis Save Us?" DIY cleaner story, or add an essential oil like lilac or eucalyptus.  Another super-easy way is to throw some orange peels or lemon peels in a glass jar and fill it up with your vinegar, let it sit for a couple of days and magically, the vinegar smell is gone. 

 We featured two of the more popular DIY cleaners in the newscast, but there are tons of recipes out there.  You can make your own disinfectant wipes, glass and window cleaner, dish-washing detergent, shower cleaner, bathroom cleaner. The list really does go on and on.

 Here are a few of my favorites.  The best part? A few of these blogs even provide links to print your own labels! I love labels!  It just makes your cleaners look so nice and organized, plus it guarantees you won't use your toilet cleaner on your counter top or vice-versa. 



 I've been using DIY cleaners for several months now, and I have to say I've grown used to the scent, and I actually kind of like it.  Makes me think of french fries, and that could be a whole new problem.



The Pink Stuff

Pink Stuff. That's what my family affectionately calls our homemade laundry detergent. Obviously because it's pink. Like pink goop really. It may not look exactly like store bought detergent but it works! I've actually been using my batch for about 8 months now and I love it.  We used ZOTE pink soap in our recipe which is what gives it that nice pink color.  It also has a very faint fresh scent to it.

 I mixed up my giant 5 gallon bucket last spring and it's still going  strong!  Remember that 5 gallons makes 10 gallons of detergent because you mix it with equal parts water before you use it.  The best part the first batch (the most expensive) comes out to just over a penny per load! A penny! And the best part is since you only use a cup of borax and a half a cup of washing soda you have plenty left for several more buckets full. All you have to do is buy your $1 bar of soap. So that's $1 for 10 gallons of laundry detergent! You can't beat that.

Here's the recipe I used from  the blog "Just a LIttle Nutty" 


What I've Learned

 First off remember to get a lid for your 5 gallon bucket. (They sell them at Home Depot) That's a must. Also if you have a food processor you may want to use that instead of the cheese grater it will go a lot faster.  Another time saver is using a drill with a paint mixer attatchment. I bought one at Harbor Freight for $4.   It makes the detergent a lot smoother and easier to pour.  I keep my big orange bucket in the laundry room and just refill a half gallon bottle as needed.  You're going to want to break out your drill and mixer before each refill just to mix it all up.


Stars and Sunshine HE Powder

The Frugal Girls 


Interest in Pinterest?

Pinning. It's one of the most popular and fastest growing Internet obsessions, with a reported 10.5 million registered users doing it daily.

So what's the big interest in Pinterest?

According to online market watchers, anything and everything, especially when it comes to DIY projects. Here you can find tips on everything from how to plan your own wedding to how to make your own drain cleaner.

But, do any of these miracle cures, quick fixes and money-saving tricks actually work outside the blogosphere?

"What Can Davis Save Us?" decided to put some of the more popular DIY money-savers to the test.

First up, a healthier lifestyle is a goal for a lot of folks these days, but the buzz words, "all natural," "organic," and "green" can be a real buzz kill when you see the cost: $15 for laundry detergent? $10 for an all natural bathroom spray cleaner? Then there's food. All natural snacks, while good for you, can leave a bad taste in your mouth when you take a peek at the grocery bill.

But according to millions of "pinners," being healthy doesn't have to come with a healthy price tag.

A quick search reveals dozens upon dozens of posts on how to make everything from all natural soaps and cleaners to protein bars and fruit roll ups, and all with products you can easily buy in your grocery store.

  One blogger shows how you can even make your own laundry detergent for pennies instead of quarters a load!

And the trendy, high-end French-labeled cleaners found in those fancy cooking stores?

You can make those, too! Labels and all! Saving the environment, your family's health and money all at the same time!

And most are safe enough to eat!

Speaking of eating, there are millions of pins for all natural snacks for kids and the health conscious. Protein bars, snack bars, fruit chews, granola complete with how-to instructions, once again claiming you, too, can spoil yourself without spoiling your diet or your budget.

While you're cleaning your diet and your counters, why not clean out your cupboards?

Organizing is the best way to clean out the clutter, and studies say living in a more organized home is less stressful and therefore more healthy. Plus, it's easier to clean!

But who needs all of those fancy bins, baskets and bottles from those fancy catalogs and Internet sites?  You got it. You can do it yourself with a little help from some creative friends. That's right! In the DIY world, recycling is being kicked to the curb! Now, it's all about "up-cycling".

Haven't heard of it? Well you will. And odds are, you and even your grandparents have been doing it for generations.  Use old baby food jars for screws? You've up-cycled!  A shoe box to hold old family photos? Yep. You got it. It simply means taking something you might otherwise throw away and using it for another purpose. Move over Martha Stewart, and take your pricey spice jars with you. You can get the same look at a fraction of the price.

All this month, "What Can Davis Save Us?" will help you live clean and green on the cheap. All it takes is a little mixing, chopping, gluing and, oh yeah, pinning!

Who says housework can't be fun?




Still Woozy...

Still woozy from stain vapors…


Well.. “build one” is in the books. My farmhouse bench is finished!  I have to say the plans were really simple to follow (bench plans).   I finished the whole thing in about 4 hours, and that includes the staining. Of course, there were a few hiccups along the way – more on that later – but first I’ll start with what went right. Focus on the positive, right?
(click here to see the story)
Everything on the shopping list was really easy to find. I’m a Home Depot regular myself, but I rarely venture down into the far end of the store where the serious building materials and the serious builders live.  You know, the “lumber” section.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m very familiar and comfortable with the “moldings” aisle. I can tell quarter-round from shoe, chair rail from picture rail. But sheeting from sub-floor? MDF from Particle board? 15/32 from 7/32?  Not quite.  So I was a bit nervous about steering my rickety metal flat bed cart down into that neighborhood. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.  Everyone was very helpful, and my daughter and I picked out the “prettiest” stud quality 2 x 4’s, 1 x 3 furring strips, and pressure treated 1 x 2’s we could find and  $20  later ..we were on our way.

After reading the comments from other DIYers on Ana’s site, I decided to take their advice and do all of the cutting first. That really was the way to go because it made assembly a snap. The cuts were all straight forward, but I did notice a little blip on Ana’s plan. She called for four 16 ½” 2 x 4’s for legs, but you really need eight. So I had to run out and grab another 2 x 4, but other than that, building the actual bench was super easy.

What I learned:
-    Cut all of your boards to size first and LABEL them. This really helps assembly go fast.
-    Check, check and re-check the diagram before screwing or drilling, I put one of my bench legs together backwards. It wasn’t hard to take apart and redo, but it did give me an extra hole I needed to patch up.
-    Always pre-drill a pilot hole before screwing your boards together to avoid splitting. I skipped this step on one board, and let’s just say I won’t do that again.
-    Clean-up any oozing wood glue right away before it dries on the wood because, even though wood stain stains everything: skin, hair, children, tile floors, wainscoting, pets (trust me I know from experience, more on that coming up). wood stain does not stain wood glue.

Now, to the aforementioned “hiccup” portion of the project. I really thought the staining process was going to be the easiest part.  I was wrong. First off, let me say it seems quite obvious to me now that staining furniture in 5 degree weather is not the best plan. Why it didn’t seem so obvious at the time I’m not quite sure. Anyway, I lugged the bench up into my kitchen (better lighting) and decided I’d throw a quick coat of stain on that baby, and wham bam, I’d be done.  What could go wrong?

Well first, anyone who has ever stained furniture knows the fumes are just awful, which is why you need to do it in a “well ventilated” area.  Let me just say, cracking a window apparently does not qualify as “ventilated” at all.  So, I thought, “I’ll just go as fast as I can and get this over with.” Well, in my haste and new vapor-induced wooziness, I wound up knocking over my entire can of stain. Sure, I had an old sheet down as a drop cloth, but stain is like water, and of course soaked right through that sheet in about a second. So, now I had a large black puddle in the middle of my white kitchen floor!

Luckily, I still had enough brain cells remaining to sop-up the mess with the sheet. Some heavy-duty cleanser got the remainder off before I had a nice Jacobean stained floor to go with my new Jacobean stained bench. In the end, I did have enough stain left to finish off the bench, as for the brain cells…

For all of Ana White's designer furniture plans visit her website at : ana-white.com



Dream house come true!!


Is anyone else hopelessly addicted to those gorgeous  'my house will never look like this'  home store catalogs? You know the ones that come in the mail every couple weeks with names like Potterybarn, Ballard, and West Elm?  They have beautiful pictures of those strange foreign-looking family rooms, where everything is in its place.  There are no small toys strewn about, no sofa cushions askew or (gasp!) knocked on the floor by a jumping child.  No newspapers, coloring books or Popsicle wrappers cover the top of the nice chunky coffee table. (Yes, I found a Popsicle wrapper on my coffee table the other day, and it is February.)

I long to live in one of those catalogs. I pour over every page. I tear out the pictures and make notes about paint colors. I even save my favorites in a file folder.  Future dining room tables and bookcases have sat in that folder for years now.  Waiting for a time when they’ll leave that cartoon thought bubble over my head via UPS and arrive in my great room, where my smiling family (with no popsicles in sight) will be sitting on a white couch, eagerly awaiting their arrival.  Then, I notice the price tag that goes along with those perfectly distressed chunky tables and bookcases and POP! Back to reality. That is, until I discovered a lovely woman named Ana.

 Ana, like thousands of other design addicts out there, shares my love for organized bookcases, floating shelves, and storage benches.  The only difference is Ana doesn’t dream of having them one day. Sure, she too rips out the pictures of the pieces she likes and keeps them in a file folder, but she’s never going to buy them. Nope. Ana doesn’t dream of having those chunky tables and bookcases, because the stay-at-home mom BUILDS those chunky tables and bookcases. That’s right. Ana doesn’t have to dream because she can build! And you know what? You can too!! And the best part? You can make most of the pieces for less than $100! Some for less than $20! I get excited just thinking about it!

Coming up in our next installment of “What can Davis save us?” I’ll show you how you too can get the dream-home look without the nightmare price tag!  Only on 69 News at 10.


Spoil Your Sweetie

Syndicaster-20110116155531 Valentine’s Day and red have always gone hand and hand. Red for love and for passion of course,  but now also for the color your budget is in when the holiday is over. Although love is in the air on Valentine’s Day, it sure doesn’t come cheap.  The flowers, the chocolates, it all adds up, especially when the prices are jacked up!  

 Example: a quick shopping trip on the internet to some popular flower delivery services, and whoa! Sticker shock!  A dozen pink roses (red are nearly twice as much, so we’ll go with the more reasonable pink) are upwards of $70 a dozen! Throw in some chocolate covered strawberries for $60 a dozen and cue the Righteous Brothers, because “you’ve lost that lovin’ feelin’.”

 So when you’re a couple trying to save some cash, no one can blame your Valentine for telling you to skip the gifts this February 14th.  I for one can live without overpriced flowers, but what if I told you you could still spoil your sweetie without spoiling the budget?  You can!!  In the latest  installment of “What can Davis Save us?”  I’ll show you how to get those pink roses and that dozen of chocolate covered strawberries at a fraction of the price. (like 80% less!!)  It can be done, and it’s easier than you might think. 

To save on flowers, skip the florist. A lot of grocery stores like Wegman's have a fresh flower section. There you can find roses, tulips, daisies, you name it, all for a fraction of the price.  While you're there grab some strawberries and your favorite chocolate chips or chocolate bar. That's all you need to make those "delish" chocolate covered strawberries.  It's as easy as melting the chocolate and dip, dip, dip!

If you've never melted chocolate before it's super easy.  Here are some links to get you started.  You can do it like our chef Susan and use a double boiler or you can just use the microwave.

How-Cast: How to make chocolate covered strawberries

If you make some of these sweets for your sweetie take some pictures and send them along. We'd love to see them!!!

Good luck and Happy Valentine's Day.


Spoil your Sweetie!

Syndicaster-20110116155535 As I mentioned in an earlier post,  I truly have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s day. I like the idea of a day devoted to showing love for one another, I do. And I truly love the fun colors that go with it -- the reds and pinks that brighten up the gloomy grays and stark whites outside our windows this time of year. Then there's the chocolate. It is hard to find fault with a day where chocolate is flowing freely. But -- and this a big but, and not the kind caused by all that free flowing chocolate. This "but" has to do with the price tag that goes along with all that "love." It doesn't have to be that way, however. Tonight, on 69 news at 10, I have some easy tips on how to spoil your sweetie without spoiling your budget!  And yes, there is chocolate!


Coupon 101

I have to say I’m a convert.

I love a deal.  In fact, I’ll admit I find it hard to pay full price for just about anything. I always wait for the sale, use a 20% off coupon at the department store, 40% off Internet coupons for the craft store, but for some reason I never really was sold on the grocery store coupons. Why do I need to buy two jars of pickles to save a dollar? I want only one. Or most times, even with the coupon, the store brand is still cheaper.

To me, it always seemed like a lot of work, with very little pay off.

Boy was I WRONG!

Jen Carl, the local mom behind the blog “Lehigh Valley Momma” opened my eyes to a whole new world. There are some serious savings to be had out there, if you know where to look. The best part? Her method takes only an hour or two of your time!

Jen was sweet enough to spend her Monday (the day before the big ice storm) sharing her knowledge with me at the Giant in Allentown. Girlfriend walks the walk! Let me tell ya! When it was all said and done, she had a cart full of goodies:  snacks, meat, fruit, cheese, coffee, plus lots of organic products totaling more than $120. But what did she pay? Just over $50 , a savings of more than 50%!! Crazy!! (watch the story here)

Her biggest tip: use the Internet! Let others, like her, do the work for you! Dozens of coupon bloggers out there comb the Sunday grocery store circulars and make a list of “match-ups,” couponer lingo for how to “match-up” a coupon to a sale. That’s the key to scoring big deals and free (yes free) items!

Jen’s a super healthy mom, really into buying organic, which, as many of you know, can be super expensive. She, however, can show you how to shop organic on a budget. She has links to coupons for organic products, plus she has tips on when it pays to “go organic” and when it pays to pass it over. It’s all on her blog, along with an intro on how to start couponing. (a must read for anyone who’s ready to start saving!)

Check her out at www.lehighvalleymomma.com. She made a believer out of me.

other great coupon links:

For the Mommas  ** Weis, Giant deals, and more!
Living Rich with Coupons  ** ShopRite, Stop and Shop, and more!
Couponing to Disney ** Drugstores and other grocery stores!
Totally Target (all Target, all the time)
Organic Deals (Organics)
Saving Naturally (Organics)


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