Vee’s Electricity Bill Reducing Tips

Winters coming thick and fast, I’ve just got the bed sheets out of the washer to hang outside, Mark told me while I was half-listening half-asleep yesterday that today was going to be lovely… well – its misty with a speck of sunshine coming through. Not any good for drying the washing.  Our last power bill came in at $140 for the month, which is close to our average over the warmer months now.  Long gone are our $60-100 bills! from when we lived in a house almost half the floor area of this one and no one was home all day.  Also our electronics and our data usage is gone through the roof with my addiction to youtube tutorials, the kids owning a couple of devices each and the salons sound system running spotify 🙂

How times change so quickly.

Here’s my list of what I do, what I know others have been successful doing, and things I will do this autumn/winter and I hope something in it helps you to save some cash during our NZ cold months.

1. Invest $90 to get yourself a day/night smart meter installed by your power provider.  We’ve done this type of electricity plan from the get go.  When we lived in the village during our rebuild, the power bills were crippling! on just a one-rate 24/7 plan.  This will save you so much money on your biggest costs: water heating and heating. More on that in a minute.

2. Invest in either a heat-pump or devise ways to get firewood in for your house super cheap or swapping for something you can do of value for someone else.  My dad for example mills forests on farms that want clearing work done, he charges them no invoice, he keeps the wood and his church is using the funds from that sold wood to do ministry and missionary work.  My older sister does a day every now and then with her kids and collects pine cones – who remembers doing this as a kid? It doubles up as a zero-cost family outing. win-win.  If neither of these are an option, get yourself some manual timers you plug into the wall to plug your electric heater into so that you can set it to turn on at 6 am to heat up your home on the night-rate.

3.  Set your heat pump, or manual timer to turn on at 5 or 6am (our night rate is 9pm-7am) so that you get the most expensive heating done on the cheaper power rate.

4. Have your hot water cylinder temperature checked (someone handy, the hubby? brother? yourself if you’re a clever wifey!) to make sure your water isnt any hotter than you really need it to be and have it HARD WIRED to your NIGHT meter when they install it.  If you already have one of these meters just call your provider and have your plan changed to night rate and then organize an electrician to make sure your cylinder is only heating during those hours.  They will tell you when you call that the savings of night heating aren’t that great and that they’re going out of fashion.  Nice try! I had a spreadsheet of comparisons handy when I called and gave them a figure or two I tell ya!!

We also have an electric califont shower, this has been both a blessing and burden with young kids because while you never run out of water…. you never…. run out of water.  I have to yell at them to get out of the shower, and sometimes I forget! so there goes half an hour of instant water heating on DAY RATE arrrggghhhh! little mites.

I have my own shower after 9pm, and often the hubby showers well before 7am so its only the kids showers on the day rate.

5. For those with labour intense working hubbies, fill the washer and soak clothes in it a day before you actually wash them.  Sodium Percarbonate is my newest bestest friend! available at bin inn! its the best part of napisan and keeps all the fibres of clothes lovely and lush, its also what hotels and motels have used for years on their luxury linens.  I put 2 Tbsp of this in with every wash as well as a scoop of regular washing powder. Do NOT use fabric softener, it gunks up clothes fibres and makes your towels crunchy. What!? Seriously… trust me. Do all washing on a cold wash or warm wash if you have enough water in your cyllinder for showers+washing on warm in the coldest of months.  I don’t feel my clothes come out clean when the water is ice cold.  Add half a cup of washing soda crystals to your water in the winter.  Put your washing on just before 9pm so that you’re using the last of your cyllinders hot water before it starts to heat up again.  Get it hung up before you go to bed beside an ajar window or with your heatpump on dehumidify… this is optional but you’ll thank me later when your home doesn’t smell musty or mildewy.  In the morning place the washing in the sunny spots of your house, sun kills germies 🙂 and by that evening I would be throwing it into my clothes dryer at 9pm to finish it and fold it.  This has cut my dryer time down to needing 1/3 of the time in the dryer.  If you have a hot water cupboard you can place the towels in there to get the absolute last dampness out of them instead of the dryer if you really have to 🙂

6. Open your house windows first thing in the morning for half an hour then close them back up.  Do it while you do the school run so when you get back you’re not freezing your ass off.  Its so important to keep the house moisture free.  Use a fan in the bathroom and I have that window open/ajar 24/7 as well as our toilet rooms window and I just keep both those rooms doors closed.  Yep its freaking cold in there in winter, but its clean and healthy and doesn’t impart moisture into our living rooms or bedrooms.  We’ve all seen the ad’s on tv that prove its easiest and cheapest to heat a dry moisture free home.

7. Dedicate towels to people and wash them just once a week.  Hang your towels in a sunny spot of the house each morning and return to the bathroom just before everyone arrives home in the avo/evening.  Make everyone wear their outer layers of clothes at least twice before they throw them in the wash.  Wash bed sheets once a fortnight if not weekly and mist your pillow each morning and your whole mattress lightly when you do change the sheets with a DIY alcohol/lavender spray to help keep germs away.  Change your pillowcases weekly or every few days if you’re a drooler!

8. Use a slow-cooker for meals.  You’d be surprised at how many meals can be converted to being done in the slow cooker.  Hit up google for meal conversions and recipe ideas.  Make double sized meals so you can do re-heat nights.  Also do your baking at 9pm, that is if you’re still awake at that time! I’m up til 11pm each night and out of bed at 7am so it works well for my sleep cycle.

9.If you’re a stay at home mum, keep yourself busy with clubs, groups and if it works for your house…. a part time job.  This means you’re not needing to heat your home with everyone out for the day.

10. Keep a record of your power consumption and work out where your moneys going.  I used to download the excel spreadsheet but now our meter sends the data to my cellphone.  It’s really interesting to see how changing your lifestyle habits a little can save you so much.  It’s not so much about being frugal and pinching pennies for me now a days, its more that I’d rather ensure my household isn’t wasteful with our income and that we put our income to better life happiness increasing uses – such as trips and vacations!

Have you got any tips to share?  Add them in the comments below!

Vee

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Curried Kumara (sweet potato) Soup

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I’ve been craving starchy soups the last fortnight.  Mark brought home three bags of fresh (well as fresh as store brought gets!) kumara and potato soup the other night, it was so yummy!!  So this is my recreation of it without the preservatives, added salts and stocks (and $15 for a meal of soup to feed 4 price tag ouch!) I’m really pleased with how it turned out and my DIY cost of course!  I’ll try roasting my veges next time and see if that changes the flavor at all 🙂

Ingredients:

2 peeled and diced carrots

1 large peeled and diced kumara (I used orange)

2 onions

1 medium potato

2 rashes bacon diced into bacon bits size

1 Tbsp mild curry powder

2 tsp crushed garlic

2 tsp dried parsley

2 Tbsp butter

Splash of milk

Boiled water to water down.

Method:

Melt the butter in the pot and add the bacon, garlic and onions and fry until the onion is clear.

Add the curry powder to fry it off then add the diced vegetables and enough boiled water to just cover it all.

Stir every few minutes as you put the groceries away and section up the meat for the freezer 🙂

Yep that’s what I was doing, does anyone else do this these days? buy meat in bulk and section it up to freeze?

As the mix boils down just add a bit more water little by little and use a potato masher near the end to mulee it up.

We like our soups chunky. Mmm so flavor dense.  You could get out your stick blender if you want to be a baby about it.

Serves 4 but if you like your soup watery it could be stretched out.  If you do stretch it out I’d add some extra flavor in via stock, salt and pepper as it will dilute with more water.

Just before serving I splashed in around 1/8 c of milk into each of our bowls to cool the curry and add more creaminess, but you could skip that too if you want, ooh or try coconut milk! anyway its quite creamy as is with the potato starch.

It must have taken around half an hour to an hour all up to do this soup and was a great hit with the hubby and Ella,  Brook is away on camp –  I hope he’s having a blast!

Enjoy!

Vee x

Savory Scones and Cinnimon Raisin Twist Bread

Brooklyn goes on his first school camp tomorrow!

I’m feeling quite ill about it since its so close to his slingshot to the eye accident and having only newly started his school.

The teacher and our friends are all being so kind about me being such a pansy about it.

He will have the best time ever!

We had to send baking so it’s been a blessing in disguise to busy myself in the kitchen today.

I made three batches of cheese scones and one absolutely beautiful cinnamon fruit twist specialty bread all with my bread maker doing the hard yards.

I set to making the other batches and oh boy when the bread came out of the oven the kids were trying to tell me it was too nice to be sending to camp!

The savory scone recipe is just the Edmonds one but using your machine for mixing etc

3 cups plain flour

6 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

pinch of mustard

pinch of cayene or paprika

1 heaping tsp of dried parsley

75g butter

1 to 1 1/2 cups milk

200g grated cheese (1/5 of a 1kg block)

Method:

Preheat the oven to 200’c fanbake.

Put the flour, baking powder, butter chopped into 1cm squares, paprika, mustard, salt into your breadmaker and get it to knead it all up,

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then pause the machine and remove your breadpan and get your hands in there to rub the butter through making it into a breadcrumbs like texture, put the pan back in your breadmaker, add 3/4 of the grated cheese and continue to knead it and add 1 cup of milk…. wait for a bit, then add little by little as you see fit until it looks clumpy, dryish clumpy so it wont’ stick to you while you knead it.

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Remove the pan from the maker again and toss it onto your floured bench

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and knead until there’s no cracks in it, make a circle about 1″ thick and cut into 12, brush with milk all over, sprinkle cheese on top and bake for 10 minutes.

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Cinnamon Raisin Sweetbread Twist:

2 cups plain flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp bread maker yeast

3/4 cup milk

3 T canola oil

1 cup re-hydrated raisins,
My friend Rachel’s Mum; Jenny taught me to do this, it stops your baking being dried out by the dehydrated fruit sapping the moisture into itself.  All you do is fill the cup of raisins with boiling water and leave on the bench until you need them.

filling: 1/4 c brown sugar, 1 T cinnimon

2 T melted butter to paint it once rolled out

1 egg yolk to glaze it

Method:

This needs to cook for 20 mins hot and fast at 190’c fanbake (so if you’re doing scones while this rises twice you’ll be working smarter with your electricity bill) If you’re not doing any other baking, wait until half way through your second rise to preheat your oven.

Put flour, yeast and warmed milk (30 sec in the microwave) into the bread maker pan and select your dough setting to knead and rise your dough for you.  This takes around an hour so expect to have other stuff to do around the house while you make bread (like make scones or dinner or crafting!) it really is a day long activity.

If you don’t have a breadmaker, sit the yeast in the warm milk then mix in once frothed up and hand knead your dough (100x turns) and cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave in a warm place for around an hour to double in size.

Once your dough has risen, drain out the raisins and add them in, then give the dough a “punch down” (couple of kneads to get the air out) and roll out to a 9″ x 12″ square to cut into three long strips.

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After painting the strips with the melted butter, mix the sugar and spice and sprinkle down each strip, then roll up and pinch each strip to make three sausages.

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Plait them and tuck the ends under then cover with a tea towel to rise one last time

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Placed on a grease poof paper lined tray and cover with a towel and in a warm draft free area to rise for around an hour.  The dishwasher after doing a load while its still hot and humid in there is PERFECT!

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as is the back seat of your car, the hot water cupboard… the glasshouse? lol I’m sure you’ll find somewhere 🙂

Once risen brush it with one egg yolk mixed with 2 tsp of water and bake for 10 mins at 190’c then cover with a tinfoil tent to stop it browning further (shiny side up) and bake the last 10 mins.

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Ice with 1/3 c icing sugar mixed with some milk once its warm to touch.

Gardens 2015

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Here’s a wander around our yard for the start of Autumn here in Christchurch, NZ

It’s been a slightly windy and wet day here, so was perfect to transplant a loved ones roses into my front yard, I’ve been told to never do it in the heat of the day as the plants don’t cope.

These spent the last 24hrs soaking in our massive wheel barrow full of water, a much needed relief since its been such dry weather and drought up on the hills and much of the country actually.

I’ve got one of them to still prune once the little yellow flower blooms – just couldn’t bare to prune off a branch with life still so bright at the end of it. Precious little yellow flower.

Very sentimental and emotional moment planting each and every one of these rose bushes.

Yesterday I got a text from Mum (Marks Mum) saying if I’d like to come and dig out the roses up the hill at Grandma and Grandad’s… funny I still call it that since Grandma passed away a couple Christmas ago.

Miss her dearly.  I was closest to her of all of Marks family.  Told her all my secrets 🙂  She didn’t even tell Grandad! Believe me when I say I’ve tested him during conversations.

The secrets were that good huh.

Yep.

Taken to the grave.

Thanks Grandma xxx

So….

Grandma and Grandads house up on Cannon Hill Crescent, Mount Pleasant was damaged much to the extent of our own home in the February 2011 Earthquake, the difference being they were declared a repair rather than a rebuild, why – I have no idea, would have made a beautiful rebuild.

Anyway, Grandad is done dealing with the insurers and is now tidying up the landscaping to sell the property with the repairable house and the prime section of land up on the hill as is (I think this is correct but may be wrong or it may change) so much to my delight I’ve been gifted these beautiful roses to home on my own section which as you’ll know if you’ve been reading a while is fully rebuilt after the February 2011 Earthquake declared our home a uneconomical repair, thus a rebuild.

Here are some photos of the roses, as I pottered away…

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Mark came and pinched the top of the soil for the grass to transplant in patches out the back yard, oh and tell me how to dig a hole etc etc

*Bugger off already! she thinks, as she nods and pretends to appreciate being told how to dig holes*

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I’ve laid them all out and got the potting mix and rose food fertilizer all ready

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Marley is such a great companion and look at him sitting there so well behaved even though the gates open to freedom!

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All done! they look beautiful.

Bella say’s Hi!! and as usual steps over the boundary – she’s always been an exception to the rules

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While at the garden centre we found a good heavy duty mat for our front door entrance finally.

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This is my new view to be blessed with blooms each morning 🙂

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Back Yard from left boundary fence (Kev’s side) to right boundry fence (Lorraines side) oh and Lorraine is getting her home rebuilt too! the insurers finally made a decision.  So excited for her.

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Well I’ve well earn’t my cuppa, hope you enjoyed the update and cross your fingers the roses cope with the transplant for me.

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Bye for now

Vee x

Patience Patience DIY Easter Egg How-to

Here is how the DIY easter egg session went in my kitchen over four hours last night.

20150312_105851I was inspired by sped up, easy peasy looking you tube videos saying to just drop a load of melted chocolate into the mold then swirl it around, then up-end it to empty out the excess and leave that way to dry, after a few minutes in the fridge it miraculously just falls out of the mold, then melts beautifully on the oven tray and sticks together first pop.  No cracks, so patch ups required. Beautiful.  So simple.  Childs-play! Right?

This was a disaster and I spent four hours of fifteen minute attempts to fix it that resulted in learning the below tips, that lucky for you I’m willing to share instead of just posting pretty pictures and omitting how mentally challenged this made me.

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Make sure you look at the store eggs, ingredients and their prices and weigh up first and foremost if you have enough time and patience for this, then commit to it, you’re going to make a FANTASTIC egg with way better ingredients, fair trade ingredients! awesome toys or treats inside instead of love-less mass made cheap ingredient overpriced fillers. So… no matter how long, or how many attempts or how messed up your kitchen and utensils get commit to the challenge.  You can do this!  If you’re first egg turns out like mine you will want to give up, this is why you must commit to an awesome egg before you get to bail out stage.  Oh and you will have several people, mostly those who aren’t scared of you when you’re sleep deprived tell you…. oh [this store] sells eggs cheap, cheaper, or why don’t you just buy eggs on sale at the end of the season and save them for next year.  Those kill-joys will NOT be getting an Easter egg from you this year!

My tips:

  1. If purchasing firm plastic molds make sure your molds have the inverted decorations on the surface you’re NOT coating.  Here’s the ones I brought:
  2. DO price it up and keep each egg under $5 including packaging, here’s my pricing
    500g of whittakers 72% cocoa @ $3.60 per block x 2
    Divided by 5 half-egg molds x 2 to make one whole egg = $2.88 for your chocolate
    One 12×12″ piece of cardstock & some curling ribbon to package naked style in a box = .30
    Subtotal for one egg incl packaging excl fillings or inserts = $3.18

20150312_110422You now have $1.82 left to fill it with whatever you want

  • Stickers, a handful of lollies and a dollar store toy of some sort for children
  • A recipe, a easter bible verse, a poem, an affirmation
  • Home made hokey pokey, fudge, cookies
  • A coffee sachet, tea sachet, hot chocolate sachet
  • Nail polish!! ok ok… you’d have to re-gift as this won’t fit the $1.82 budget and no way would I recommend gifting crap branded polish, you could spread the cost over four eggs with this set this is the brand I use in the salon… It’s the best I’ve come across for ease of application and durability 🙂

3. DO spray the mold with spray oil even if it says not to.
The egg WILL just pop out of the mold when its ready, Unless you skipped #3 and if that’s the case.  I told you so! :p

4. I used a cleaver to finely slice up two blocks of chocolate and melted in a glass pyrex bowl (the glass holds the heat for ages after leaving the microwave too) for two 30 sec lots then stirred with a spatula to let the remainder solid chocolate melt manually this is important, don’t be tempted to just keep blitzing it in the heat of the microwave and melt it all down lazy-styles, as you’re finished eggs won’t set up glossy and nice, they’ll set up with matte or worse – white patches.

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5.  I painted just TWO coats with a silky like pastry brush and if you do so too, you will be able to use my costings above.

20150311_214759Put into the fridge upside down with a drip catcher under (yes you can remelt that!) between coats to harden, especially let the first coat harden up well so the warm-ish second layer during painting doesn’t melt and destroy your outer beauty of a finish.

6.  Do keep the coats thin and even and leave it in the fridge to harden, just gently pull the two opposite edges to help with the airlock releasing and the egg will pop out.

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7. Do NOT repeatedly touch the egg with your fingertips, it will leave imprints everywhere, keep to touching the inside of the egg, the edges and use a serving spoon/s to transport it around as you put the two halves together, sit it on a wide glass upright to tie the bow on and to leave until your packaging box is ready.20150312_111325

8. Heat an oven tray lined with foil and have that ready to place the eggs on to melt the edges so you can glue it together.  Personally this drove me further closer to joining a mental institution and since mine have MUST-SEE treats inside I just tied it up with a ribbon, its going to get pried apart anyway.

Any questions? Comment below 🙂

Enjoy!
Vee x

Baby Milestone Cards $30!?! What!! (free pdf download)

Here you go!

Baby Milestone Cards

I’ve just whipped this up in MS Word and made it blue because there are three baby boys due in our circle of family & friends… you could easily change it to pink or just attach it to pink DSP or card, or yellow embellishments if you don’t know the gender.

I’ve also been working on a few cards and will add the photos of those in here once they’ve been given out, so as to not spoil the gift giving 🙂

Anyway print this out, round off the corners and glue stick it to some cute cardstock or paperstock then cardstock, make sure they’re big enough so that mom can place the card infront of the camera as she snaps that memory.

Too easy!

Fantastic idea and if you do want to throw thirty bucks at a set of them here in nz, try this place:

http://www.notsocks.co.nz/milestone-baby-cards