Cleaning Quick Tip — Hateful Windows

I never buy the spray bottle kind of window cleaner. What a waste of money!

Try buying windshield wiper fluid or vinegar in the gallon size. Which one? Whichever costs the least. If you are trying to go “green,” get the vinegar.

Pour it into any clean spray bottle and your off.

Save money on paper towels by using newspaper or a lint-free rag. I find that really ancient t-shirts — the kind you literally need to hide from the family member that has worn it to the state of indecency– make the nicest lint-free window rags.

Now when you wash your window, pick a direction. What am I talking about?

Well, for inside surfaces I squeegie back and forth and outside surfaces, I squeegie up and down. Then if there’s a streak, you know which side to buff.

(Neighbor Nancy pushes away from her computer, retying her cleaning apron and is off to squeege)

Yes, I do suspect I made that word (squeeeeeege ) up, but it has such a fun sound to it. Go ahead say it out loud. You know you want to.



Join me Friday afternoon for the 1st edition of the Neighborly Advice weekend magazine. A few neighbors and I have gotten together to share some beginner articles on backyard livestock, preserving, cooking, baking, knitting, etc. Join the fun as we challenge you to learn a new skill.

Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 5:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Gardeners: What To Plant Now — Very Comprehensive

(Neighbor Nancy peeks over her massive stack of gardening books)

Oh, hi! I didn’t see you there.

(As Neighbor Nancy tries to stand to greet you, her towers of books tumble loudly about her feet)

Oh, for pity’s sake!


You know, I’ve been gardening for about a decade. First, a little indoor apartment gardening, then, a few tentative doorstep tomatoes, on to a parking space sized plot and so on.

This year we are trying wheat and oats for the first time on top three big veggie, soft fruit, herb and orchard areas.

And still… still… I have to poke through books each spring struggling to make sure I’m putting things in at their optimum planting time.

Then today, accidentally misfiled in my SPAM folder, I found this treasure from Mother Earth News.

If you’re impatient, the link is at the bottom.

It begins with a map, so you can click on you region.

Then, through the magic of internet, appears the most glorious monthly chart.

Indoor sowing, out door sowing, transplanting for vegetables and herbs, a list of the top ten producers for your region, articles with seed starting tips, etc.

I think I’m getting a little hot under the collar.

That link below is just down right sexy… well … to a gardener, at least.

Click here for What To Plant Now

( As Neighbor Nancy steps over her mess of book to see you out, she stumbles, throwing her apron and skirt over her head, exposing her granny pantie clad bottom. )

*String of curses deleted for the more delicate reader*

See you next time. I’m going to check on my bubbling bean pot of sour dough starter.

Join me Friday afternoons for the latest edition of the Neighborly Advice weekend magazine. A few neighbors and I have gotten together to share some beginner articles on backyard livestock, preserving, cooking, baking, knitting, etc. Join the fun as we challenge you to learn a new skill.

Where are you headed?

Sour Dough Challenge: Batch 1 R.I.P.

I missed it! I actually missed it.

The recipe said wait 48 hrs. So when it was bubbly and foamy last night, I should have used it. But it said to wait so I did.

It stopped bubbling and went flat.

I stirred it. Waited. Nothing.

Fed it with more flour and sugar. Waited. Nothing.

I have killed my sour dough starter.

No Oregon Sour Dough Starter for me.

Tomorrow, I begin again.

Rest in peace, stinky dough starter. You were fun while you bubbled.

Well, at least I’m learning. New kitchen adventures can be so scary sometimes.

How has yours been doing?

Did you miss it? Bake with it? Refrigerate it for another day?

Sour Dough Challenge: Waitin’ and Peekin’

Good morning. I’m so glad you could join me today.

Grab a cup of coffee and a warm muffin from the basket and join me to peek at how the sour dough starter is coming.

Well, I lifted the cloth to take a peek. It almost has the smoothness you might see in a brand new tub of cottage cheese. Almost lumpy, but still flat. Okay, and beige, instead of white.

Also there is a bit of liquid on the surface, slightly brownish in color. Anyone know if that’s okay? I mean the color of the liquid.

Most importantly, it smells like yeast. I didn’t stir it (am I supposed to or not?), but did move it to a warmer location in the living room, I noticed the area it was in for about 7 hours was around 72 degrees instead of the recommended 85.


Dear Santa,

I have tried to be a very good girl and would like a camera for Christmas.


Anybody have any thoughts on what I’m seeing?

Did you start yours?

If so what is going on with it?

If you have a picture, please e-mail it. So I can put it in the next post.

At 23 Hours: Okay, everything is beige and bubbly. It now looks how I thought it might. I have had a beast of a time keeping the darn thing warm enough. Temp came down, stopped bubblin’. Temp at 85, happy starter. Very strange creature is this sour dough. I guess we will see tomorrow night.

Gave it a little stir since it looked a little… separated.

At 29 hours: Beautiful beige whipped cream that you are blowing bubbles in with a straw.

Post mortem note:

There, right there at 29 bubbly, frothy hours. That is where I should have used it or refrigerated it.

(Neighbor Nancy ties on her black apron to mourn the death… or perhaps, murder of her lovely sour dough starter.)

SourDough Challenge — Phase 1

(Neighbor Nancy holds out a warm pan of Philadelphia Sticky Buns to any cook with some hints for our little neighborhood learning challenge.)

Ok, so my dehydrated sourdough starter came in the mail today. I headed back over to the site to get the re-hydration instructions

Click here for re-hydration instructions

Oh, you didn’t know about the free sour dough starter? Click here to get yours and join the fun.

Although any starter recipe you want to try is welcome. We are all learning here.

At the suggestion of a friend, I used a ceramic bean pot. I measured the 3/4c flour and 1 t. sugar into the bean pot. Then dissolved the stuff in the 3/4c of 90 degree water.

Well, it didn’t completely dissolve. I stirred and stirred and ended up just dumping it into the bean pot. Then stirred it until it was smooth.

I covered it with a warm damp rag to begin, because I can’t find just the right place to put it in my house. I don’t have a gas stove so, no pilot light and my oven doesn’t have a light.

I ended up placing next to my tomato seedlings that are on a table in a sunny window above the baseboard heater.

I guess we shall see what we shall see.

Maybe, I should have left this up to the “peanut.” He could have used it for the science fair.


Stepping outside of my kitchen comfort zone is very nerve racking.

If you have any advice for our little neighborhood of bakers please comment, email me ( or look for the green “available” in the Meebo instant messanger at the right.

Same is true for questions and concerns. We’ll share the experience.

Remember, it doesn’t have to be the freebie starter… that was really for the fun and history of it. Please join us with any starter recipe you can find. I know there is one in the Encyclopedia of Country Living. In the comments below Kaela references a recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads cookbook. Poke around your favorite recipe site.

Join me Friday afternoon for the 1st edition of the Neighborly Advice weekend magazine.  A few neighbors and I have gotten together to share some beginner articles on backyard livestock, preserving, cooking, baking, knitting, etc.  Join the fun as we challenge you to learn a new skill.

Let’s get sour dough started.

Did you start it?

How’s it going?

Cookie Emergency — When a Recipe Just Looks Like That Much Fun!

I am abandoning my post.  I am not writing anything new or informative. I must go get Super chunk peanut butter just to try this recipe.  A cookie emergency.

Going Flourless: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

(Neighbor Nancy pushes away from the computer and actually
leaves. No good-bye, no muffin for you…just leaves)

Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 11:01 am  Leave a Comment  
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Waiting-for-Payday Recipes: Another Stale Bread Dinner — Wisconsin Strata

Good evening. Join me for a cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin, while I dig out the recipe for tonight.

Oh, this is a good one.

Remember, if you don’t have the ingredients to make it this time there is a whole waiting-for-payday recipes category to the right.

Wisconsin Strata


8 slices of bread


plain old prepared yellow mustard — like the stuff you would put on a hot dog

1 pound of sliced ham

1/2 pound American or Swiss cheese

3 eggs

2 cups of milk


1. Using the bread, ham, cheese, mayo, and mustard, make 4 ham and cheese sandwiches.

2. Cut them crosswise into 4 triangles each

3. In a pan about the size of a sheet of paper… the closest I have is 7 1/2 by 11 1/4…it works fine.

Where was I?

Ah yes, stand each little sandwich triangle so the point without crust is up.

4. Beat together the eggs and milk and pour them all over the sandwiches.

5. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

This is so the sandwiches soak up the egg milk mixture.

6. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit ( a medium oven ) for about 40 minutes until puffy and golden.

Serve hot.

Due to the appearance, this recipe took several dives out my childhood bedroom window, before I would even try it. However, once I tasted it, I learned to make it myself and still make it frequently. So filling. So warm and good.


If you don’t have enough stuff to make a whole pan or you are just cooking for 2, cut the recipe in half and bake it in a bread loaf pan.

Don’t forget a veggie and fruit to balance out your meal.

Cleaning Quick Tip: The Janitor’s Scuff Mark Secret

There is one really obvious way to remove a simple floor scuff mark that is always overlooked.

Remember when you were in school and the janitors were psychotic about “only gym shoes on the gym floor?” I always wondered if they were off fuming somewhere every time a school dance was held in the gym. Were they off pouting and cursing in some distant supply closet? These are the kind of questions that just roll about my mind all the time… even when I’m trying to concentrate on important things. Is that healthy?


How to clean scuff marks:

This tip is from Mr. Neighbor Nancy, my true love and a career janitor.

“Well, you could get down on your hands and knees and “erase” it with an art gum eraser, but why make so much work out of it?

Wearing any rubber soled shoe, except black, erase the scuff with your heel or toe, whichever is more comfortable. That’s it.”

My husband says new black rubber soled shoes leave a new scuff mark, but once you wear them down a bit, they work, too.

Come back tonight for a new waiting-for-payday recipe or visit the category on the right if your hungry now.

(Neighbor Nancy reties her apron and heads back into her cozy kitchen.)

Looking Pulled Together While Wearing Swiss Cheese Underpants

If you are currently wearing a thong that started out as a pair of granny panties, chances are the rest of your wardrobe is a bit tired, also.

Note: This is a repost ’cause the original was posted when it was pointless. Were you really gonna run mark your calendar? I think not.

When I was growing up in the Seventies, one of my best friends came from a very humble home. Her life was like Ellen Foster but with more characters.

One Christmas Eve, her father feeling rather festive held a gun to her mother’s head. After he passed out in his drunken glory, her mother grabbed the gifts, some clothes, my friend and her 3 siblings and left. They had nothing. Four years later, as they were getting on with their lives, the house burnt down. Again, they had nothing.

About four years after that, my friend told me one of her secrets to looking pulled together when you are not…a good overcoat.

Her theory:

Aside from the room or office that you work in, the rest of society sees you in your on-the-way-to-somewhere-else clothes. Therefore, you could were a jacket or coat .

Now is the time to look for winter coats. Great prices and still a chance your size is there. Buy two sizes up for growing kids.

Buy the absolute best quality you can afford in the off season. Buy a trench coat in December and winter wool no earlier than March. Choose a fabric that can take a beating. Fleece, for example, is always,by far, at its best…in the store. Try a figure flattering classic shape that won’t go out of style.

As for color, your can’t beat navy. It takes a much longer time for navy to show wear than any other color. Period.

In Spring, Summer and Fall, my friend wore a beautiful olive trench coat with a removable lining. She used second hand scarves to keep the look fresh. In winter, she wore a full length wool coat in a charcoal herringbone. Black would get linty, white would get dirty, camel would show wear. Again, she changed her second hand accessories to give each year a new feel. She chose buttons over zippers, because they were so much easier to repair.

These two particular coats lasted her for more than the first decade of her young adulthood. One time we calculated the cost per wear. It figured to somewhere under a penny per day.

She always looked very pulled together, even though her life was eternally in chaos.

An overcoat. An overcoat that is on you when you shake hands and introduce yourself at that crucial, visual first impression phase of a job interview or meeting your kid’s teacher. An overcoat that hides your tired clothes for just a moment, until you can dazzle new people with your wits. Smart.

( Neighbor Nancy models her new fully lined wool walking coat, asking you to note the chunk hiding…I mean figure flattering princess seams )

Oh, and remember by the time you are at 80% off, you are paying less than the store did. Yippeeeee!

What is your favorite frugal fashion tip?

The Fresh Chef: Swiss Chard — Widowsill or Garden

Last year, I discovered the most wonderful thing. In cooking, swiss chard can be substituted for spinach. Always. The rib part can be cooked like asparagus, steamed topped with a little butter. Delicious!

Swiss chard just isn’t really available in the average grocery store here. I have no idea why.

Unlike spinach, swiss chard can tolerate the summer. It prefers a little shade in the hotter months, but it just keeps on growing either way.

Swiss chard is a mega source of vitamins K, A and C, a respectable source of iron. Plus one serving of Swiss chard contains  considerably more potassium than a serving of banana. Who new?  Got a leg cramp or recovering from heart surgery, eat some chard, baby!

There are two basic kinds that I am aware of: white-stemmed or colored stemmed.

The most common white stemmed seems to be “Fordhook Giant.” We tried this one last year and it seemed to survive the cold and heat better than the colored varieties. I can’t recall a flavor difference between the white and colored stem varieties, but there might have been one.

The color varieties I seem to bump into are “Bright Lights” and “Rhubarb,” which other than color is no relation to the rhubarb plant as far as I know.

Little kids always prefer the colorful kind. Plus, it is easy enough for their own little garden, tabletop or outdoors.

Anyway, the colored variety are so cheery they really would make a great addition to your windowsill garden. Or perhaps, as an edible ornamental outside.

Here’s how I would plant either kind indoors:

Outdoor folks must wait their turn.

In a long planter, like a window box, plant each seed about 1/2″deep (a little more than a centimeter.) Each seed should be a bout 4″apart ( 10 cm.) If quarters are tight, it may help to stagger them.

When the leaves are about the height of your hand span, it’s time to harvest. Carefully, with a sharp knife cut the tallest of the outer leaves. Oh, around 55 to 60ish days.

How to plant either kind outdoors:

I like a foot (30cm) wide row with the seeds slightly staggered. So your big row is 3 mini rows wide. Plant them no closer than 4″( 10 cm ) apart. Harvest around 8 weeks when they are as tall as your hand span, between 6 and 9″( 15 to 23 cm.) Carefully, with a sharp knife cut the tallest of the outer leaves. Keep them cut and they will keep producing.

To cook: Remove the leaves from the main rib.

Treat the leaves like you would spinach. Personally, I love it creamed. Yum! ( Yes, I will eventually get around to posting that recipe. )

Cook the rib as you would asparagus. Steamed, a little butter or olive oil, maybe a handful of blanched almonds on top.


Now, how did a gardening post end up making me hungry?

Anyway, give Swiss Chard a try. It is a great beginner plant. So easy. So nutritious.

See you next time…

Are you going to plant the white stemmed, colored stemmed or both?

(Neighbor Nancy grabs a slice of banana bread and flies out the door, letting the screen bang shut behind her.)

See you next time.