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Feeding the Hummingbirds

Capturing one of our visiting hummingbirds in flight - Photo by Laura D. Field

Capturing one of our visiting hummingbirds in flight – Photo by Laura D. Field

One of our favorite past-times that both my husband and I enjoy, is that of feeding the birds that frequent our home.  Over the last couple of years, we have discovered that the hummingbirds have found comfort in our backyard.

A variety of things that we have done in our yard has created a safe haven for these tiniest of birds.  We have planted plenty of flowers in areas that provide shade, shelter, water, food and security (a safe place to escape if needed).   In addition, we have varying trees that include honeysuckle, lilacs, low bush plants such as holly and a variety of plant height.

Plenty of space is provided so that they can hover and navigate the different flowers.  Among the flowers we have hummingbird feeders at different levels as well.  In addition, we have different height bird baths as well as a running water within a small pond.

Capturing one of our visiting hummingbirds in flight - Photo by Laura D. Field

Capturing one of our visiting hummingbirds in flight – Photo by Laura D. Field

Today as I was out taking pictures, they often came close in flight, allowing me to take some great photo’s of them.  This was unusual, but then I realized that my fushia blouse might have been the cause of this attraction.  Bright colors attract these amazing birds with them being mostly attracted to red, which is why you will see red on most hummingbird feeders.  These bright colors help them find their food, as they do not have a good sense of smell.

Capturing one of our visiting hummingbirds enjoying the natural nectar of Bee Balm - Photo by Laura D. Field

Capturing one of our visiting hummingbirds enjoying the natural nectar of Bee Balm – Photo by Laura D. Field

Flowers that we have in our gardens include bee balm, columbine, daylilies, and lumpine.  We also observed that they were attracted to our red roses that I keep pruned, which was exciting to see.  Additional flowers that they are attracted to are foxgloves, hollyhocks and many other annuals with bright colored flowers such as petunias, impatiens and cleomes.

I do enjoy having the feeders available for the hummingbirds, but one must replace the feed every two weeks, in order to keep it from going bad.  There are products available that one can purchase with the red color, but we have found that it is much more affordable to make our own sugar water feed.

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Ingredients:  Water and sugar – that’s it!!  It is not recommended to add red food coloring as it is not a healthy product for the hummingbirds or orioles.  Yes, orioles are also attracted to this sugar water.

  • Hummingbirds:  4:1 – water:sugar
  • Orioles:  6:1 – water:sugar

NOTE:  Do NOT use honey!!!  Honey attracts bees and can grow black fungus that will cause a fatal liver and tongue disease in hummingbirds.

2 cups water: 1/2 cup sugar. Boil water then add and stir in sugar until clear. Cool before filling Hummingbird feeders.

2 cups water: 1/2 cup sugar.
Boil water then add and stir in sugar until clear.
Cool before filling Hummingbird feeders.

  • Boil 2 cups of water (we use the microwave)
  • Add 1/2 cup of regular sugar to the hot water, stir and mix until it is no longer cloudy.
  • While mix is cooling, throughly clean the feeders, removing all dirt and any mold.
  • After it has cooled to room temperature, stir again.
  • Pour into the feeders.
  • This mix fills two feeders.  We do not fill the feeders to the top, but 1 cup provides plenty for each feeder.
  • Watch over the course of a month, changing every 1-2 weeks, to see how much is consumed.  If you find that more than half is left in your container, consider reducing the amount you put in your feeder to save the cost of sugar.
  • Unused feed can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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We have been at our current home for 27 years, and one of the things we have enjoyed as the plants, trees and shrubs have filled in, is the comfortable space for our own enjoyment, but also that of the birds.  It is rewarding to hear the sounds of nature, abundantly making music as we step out into our backyard.

~ Enjoy ~

Laura

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

Popcorn – An Affordable Snack

Popcorn is an inexpensive and healthy snack.  Well, that is when not saturated in butter, salt, etc.  Even more when cooked fresh vs. the theater and individual packages.

Also, I recently discovered that although 90% of corn is GMO modified, popcorn is made using a different seed which is not GMO modified.  Yet, I would still recommend using organic popcorn to be sure that your supply was not sprayed with pesticides.

So, lets get started:  Simple, easy, low calorie (31 calories per 1 cup of air popped) and a great substitute for many of the higher calorie options.

Two options:  Air pop or microwave.   Both options are simple.  The air machines are self-explanatory where you fill the cup area, turn the machine on and as it pops, it fills your bowl.  Microwave is just as easy if you do not have an air popper.

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Needed items:

  • popcorn
  • paper bag
  • microwave
  • serving bowl(s)

 

 

 

First measure 1/4 to 1/2 c of popcorn and place in paperbag

FrugalValueLifestylepopcorn2Next close bag by folding over two times and place into microwave

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Set the microwave for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes.  We find that 2 1/2 minutes works best.  It leaves a few kernels, but it also avoids the potential risk of burning.

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As the popcorn cooks, the bag expands and depending on how many kernels you use or the size of your paperbag, it will begin to open, potentially popping out.  Don’t worry, it is fine.

Make sure you do not let it cook too long!!!  When the popping slows down, where five seconds pass without another pop, you know that your snack is ready.

NOTE:  Since every microwave has a different wattage level, you might want to start out on the lower end of 2 1/2 minutes to prevent burning.  If this timing does not cook sufficiently (or you do not mind the smell of burnt popcorn) you can try the longer popcorn time.

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A 1/2 cup of popcorn is more than sufficient for both my husband and I.  Personally, I prefer to eat my popcorn plain.  My husband adds salt.  Others will add their own seasoning options from butter, olive oil, parmesan cheese, etc.

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Low calorie, simple to make, and a low cost snack that can be purchased in bulk.   Even a small bag will last you longer than a pan of brownies, a batch of cookies, or other snack.

  • It costs less to purchase than most other snacks
  • Makes multiple servings from a single purchase
  • Due to its lack of sugar, prevents one from having the craving for additional servings, allowing even the dieter to enjoy it.  This allows this single purchase to last longer in your kitchen cupboard than one would have from a package of brownie mix, cookies, etc.

Keep things simple, keep things healthy, and stretch those food dollars on serving sizes you can control.

Enjoy!!

~ Enjoy ~

Laura

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Under Warranty – Returning the Bug Zapper

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One benefit that some manufacturers provide is the limited warranty at no additional charge to the consumer.  Rarely do we hang onto the boxes “just in case” or many times we either toss that little receipt or have it filed away.

Fortunately, the bug zapper that we received as a gift last summer is something where my husband held onto the box so that it could be stored in during the winter months.  So, after a few months of having it hang, my husband discovered that our work horse of last summer, was not taking care of the mosquitoes and other insects that can cause one to start swatting ones arm uncontrollably at anything resembling an insect that might bite.

FrugalValueLifestyleLimitedWarranty3In reading the box I saw that it had a 3 year limited warranty.   I mentioned to David that I was going to call the company on Monday to ask them about this limited warranty.  To my surprise, even without a receipt, they took my complaint seriously and after asking a few questions provided me with a return authorization number.

Two negatives to my initial communication was that they were not able to provide a return shipping label, and instead of taking the initiative to share the address to return the item, I was forwarded to a recording where it was impossible to clearly understand some of the address.  So, as to not allow the discouragement to take hold of my day, I decided to send an email to the customer service department, sharing that it would make things much easier on the customer if they provided a return shipping label via email, and/or at least have a human communicate the address so that one could be sure that the item was being returned to the correct address.

I decided to send an email, not really being certain whether someone would respond.  I was totally pleased with the quick response.  Within three hours, I heard back from their customer service specialist Catherine.  Understanding my concern for the costs that I would incur in returning the product and my dissatisfaction in not having a clear understanding of the address to return the product, she provided me with a location closer to home saving me on postage as well as a faster turnaround experience.

FrugalValueLifestyleLimitedWarranty2So, today the box was packed and shipped out.  We spent $8.09 on USPS shipping, in its original box verses the potential replacement cost of $50-$60.  For us, even though our preference would have been to have a free paid shipping label, the cost difference in savings was worth our shipping back to the company for a replacement.  They share that it is a 2-4 week turn-around, which we will wait and see.

I am not suggesting that one build a shed to store boxes and receipts, but I am suggesting that when you are purchasing a product with a warranty, that you consider how you might return it if it needs to be replaced along with maintaining the receipt.  For us, we did not have a receipt, as it was a gift but Kaz Incorporated worked with me on this.

In addition, do not toss your money away when a product does have a warranty.  Utilize this benefit.  They realize that many will not take advantage of the offer, but if it saves you $40-$50 or more (depending on the product), do you not think it would be worth it?  You save gas from having to go back out and shop for a replacement, the full replacement cost, etc.  It took me a matter of two minutes on the phone, 1 minute to write an email, and maybe 5-10 minutes to prepare a label from home utilizing USPS.com

  • FrugalValueLifestyleLimitedWarranty4Clearly label all documents with the return authorization number.
  • Be sure to maintain copies of all communications and receipt of your return shipment.
  • Make sure you select tracking confirmation on your shipping selection.
  • Follow-up in two weeks, with your return authorization number if you have not received any communication or the return of your product.
  • And, always, be kind to the customer service representative.  If they are arrogant and/or rude, ask to speak to a supervisor.

I am anxious to receive the new replacement and hang it in place so that we can enjoy our evenings outdoors.  I am trusting that Kaz Incorporated will follow through with a brand new replacement before summer is done.  Yet, I will definitely follow-up on this post to share the results of this return experience.

Be mindful of your money and how you spend it, utilizing the warranties a product you purchase carries.

~ Enjoy ~

Laura

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor

 

Quality VS Price – Clothing

"Everyone has the ability to spend wisely.  It is just a matter of choosing to do so."  ~ Laura D. Field ~

“Everyone has the ability to spend wisely. It is just a matter of choosing to do so.” ~ Laura D. Field ~

Yesterday I made the introduction to shopping, asking whether you shopped for quality or for the bottom line price.  With that in mind, I would like to further the topic to shopping for clothing.

I personally love to find a great bargain, in reality, who doesn’t?  But, I’m not talking about purchasing the lowest priced shoes on the market, but rather a higher quality item for a lower cost.   So, I am going to be transparent and share a little of how I shop.

In reference to shoes, clothing and undergarments.  It is extremely rare that I will purchase them at Wal-Mart.  No offence to those who purchase there.  When our daughters were little, where they would grow out of the shoes within a few months, it was worth it.  Yet, as our daughters got older, along with the needs for my husband and I, Wal-Mart is not the answer.  The same applies for undergarments, jeans, shirts, dresses, etc.

When purchasing these items, I look for support in the shoes as well as bra’s.

Think about it this way, the $20+ dollars you save could affect your overall health.  A poor arch support is bad for your posture.  I had to invest in expensive insoles because most shoes today, even the expensive ones, do not have the support our feet need.  Fortunately the cost has covered itself for how long that I have had them.  It is time for me to replace them, but I currently need to wait until the resources are saved.  And, if you work for a hospital or health care facility, ask the store if they provide you a discount.  Some provide this, as they know that you are always on your feet tending to the many patients you see throughout the day.

Poor bra support is not only bad for your posture but also affecting the muscles in your chest, resulting in saggy breasts.  Personally, at the young age of 52, I really enjoy the fact that although not as perky as they once were before breast-feeding they are healthy and holding their own.  Why?  Because I choose to exercise as well as wear supportive bra’s that do not pull up in the back causing the breasts to sag, from either a poor fit or poor construction.  This, unfortunately comes at a cost, yet does not need to break the bank as they can be found on sale.  So it is never necessary to purchase full price if you can time your shopping.

So, how do I purchase my shoes, underwear, socks & bra’s on a limited budget?

For shoes, I know what feels comfortable, what my feet need, and what fits.  In addition, I do not purchase shoes for a family member without them being with me.  Why spend the cost of gas on an unnecessary trip back to return them?   Although I do not shop very often, when I am out, I keep my eyes open for sales.  I have been known to purchase two pairs of sneakers for either myself or a family member, even when we only need one.  Not because I love to hoard excess of what is needed, but rather because I know that in six months a replacement will be needed and we might not at that point have the resources to replace them.  So, if I can find $50-$75 sneakers for $20-$30, and I have the resources to purchase, I don’t think the penny miser will be chasing me out the store for a poor purchase decision, unless of course I end up starving my family that week.   In addition, I wish to share with you what my Orthopaedic MD shared with me “Those over priced shoes are just a hype.  Purchase a good pair of name brand sneakers that do not have all the bells and whistles, and your feet and joints will thank you, as will your budget.”

Underwear and socks are an essential product we all need, yet why would someone who has limited resources choose to pay more money for thick hiking socks, sport socks and dress socks that are worn daily?  Maybe it is because of my seamstress background, but I know quality fabric when I see it and feel it.  I immediately make a decision to either accept or reject.  Socks wear out, and they wear out quickly.  Yet, the cheap and inexpensive ones develop air conditioning sooner than I wish to return to the store for replacements.  I have had a few wear out after a couple wearings, which really annoyed me, as it felt as if I flushed the cash down the toilet.  Although I do not like the pricing of the better quality socks, one can generally find them on sale, which is generally the time in which I replace them if needed.  I have socks that were purchased over 4 years ago.  In reality I have saved money because I have not had to replace them so frequently.

Bra’s are a personal choice ladies.  For the small chested women, who do not need support, they can generally get away with the bra’s that do not have the same lift and support features.  It goes for the sport bras as well.  A good supportive sport bra will cost more, but will keep you in place during your workout, without pain, and look much more attractive for a long time.  Again, choose these garments for support and longevity, not because you can get three for $15.  And, you do not have to purchase the highest priced item.  There is always a price break between quality and price.  And, if you are able to watch sales, know what stores carry the brands you like and when they have sales, you have the opportunity of obtaining a product you will enjoy wearing at a price you are comfortable paying.

How do I shop for clothing in general, supplying my husband with shirts and jeans for work, clothes for myself, etc.??  First, when we have the resources and our bills are paid with the savings growing a little, meaning I have available money to spend, I will step out and check out the stores to see what they have for sale.  And, I always check out the clearance aisles for classics that never go out of style, even if out of season.  For my husband I have found $50 jeans in his size for $10-$15, in which I purchase 4-6 pair at once.  I have purchased some beautiful $30-$50 button down shirts he enjoys wearing off-season for less than $10.  I also purchase long-sleeved shirts and shorten them to short sleeve as this is his preferred way to wear them.  Clothing for my husband is not generally purchased to wear “now”, although he does select a few so that he can have something “new” to wear right away.  But, during times where the resources are extremely limited, he has new jeans, shirts, socks, etc., available to update and replace his worn out clothing without it affecting our current situation.   Plus, I always love that he looks nice no matter what our financial situation might be at the time.

This same philosophy applies to shopping for myself as well as my daughters when they are/were home.  There is nothing more rewarding than finding items we need at a fraction of the price.  We generally purchase staple items that are classics, with the occasional item to spruce up our wardrobe.  And, if while we are out shopping, we see something that catches our eye with a price tag that says “think about it” we will try it on to see if it works, and decide if it will go with other pieces within our wardrobe.

A quality winter coat lasting the years without boredom.

Winter coats and other winter wear.  My favorite of all savings was when I purchased two Kenneth Cole Wool Winter coats for less than $75!!  Yes, you read that right!  These coats had a joint SRP of $500.00!!  Talk about a savings!!  The best part was that I was in need of a new winter coat, and I was able to purchase a short coat and mid-length coat together within my $100 budget.  The fun part is that I continue to get compliments on them, even three years later.  And, I love wearing them!!  Kenneth Cole makes exquisite clothing, so I am humbled to have found such a savings.  It was all about the right time, at the right place.

The benefit of having sewing skills is that I can mend what we wear without having to pay someone else to do the work, or toss and replace otherwise good clothing that still has some life left.  In addition, I am able to create from fabrics I purchase on sale, using materials to create something others will not have.

Please understand, there are times when paying full-price works and is rewarding.  But, for me, it happens when I am free to do so, with no worry about bills and a savings account that has some reserve.  And usually it is for something I might have been searching for quite some time.

In addition, when we find we are tired of an item that is in good condition, we take them to Salvation Army or other charitable organization where we are able to obtain a receipt for our donation.  We use this towards a tax write-off at the end of the year.  Some years it is worth it, and other times no so much.  But, for the amount of time it takes to list things out, it is worth having the document on hand at year-end for tax preparation, and rewarding that we can pass along to others what we no longer have use for.

Regardless of what your clothing need is, sometimes it is a wise idea to shop in your closet before heading out.  And ask yourself, what you actually need and what colors and styles would compliment what you already have on hand.

Be wise with what you are blessed with.  Think twice before you spend your hard-earned resources on what you really need.

~ Enjoy ~

Laura

Laura D. Field
Reflective Tapestry of Life
Writer, Blogger, Proofreading & editing, Freelance contributor