Friday, July 29, 2011

A Friday Link Roundup: Places I've Been...

I thought about only having the one link because it's so exciting:
I'm listed! On someone else's website! By someone I don't know! (Sorry Regan, this is cooler) Alina listed me in her awesome roundup of sewing tutorials for my couch cover. Sweet!

It's been a busy week what with the new job and all. As in - I'm brain dead from memorizing years worth of information in just a few days and during my downtime I can't handle reading anything more taxing than picture books. Which works out great for Max. So I'm very light on my link roundup, but that's ok. I know you'll forgive me.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hot Hot Weather = Cool Cool Iced Tea

Do you brew your own iced tea? No? Why not? It's easy.

Step One: Gather jars.
Step Two: Boil water.
Step Three: Put tea bags in jars.
Step Four: Put hot water in jars.
Step Five: Let them sit for a while.
Step Six: Put jars in fridge.
Step Seven: Enjoy!

Be a little wild - make passion fruit iced tea. Mint iced tea. Earl Grey iced tea (my favorite). Loose leaf tea that you can strain when you pour (or end up with bits of tea in your teeth, which of course I've never done...). Make a bunch of jars at once and you won't have to boil water as often. You know, if you're lazy like me. Or be even lazier and make sun tea (cold water & tea in a jar set in the sun), no boiling required.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Max has officially jumped the curve and is at the 50th percentile for height. Woo!!! That's tall for our family!

Just check out those legs...

Hee hee! He's so cute!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bye Bye Tree

Part of the yard remodel involved removing a volunteer tree from the flowerbed. I'm not sure why the previous owners let this tree grow in the flowerbed... but whatever. It's gone now!

bye bye tree!
The newly tree-less area:

The tree was right behind the variegated hosta, next to the fence post. Now it's in the brush pile, waiting to be chipped into mulch.

Slowly but surely, the yard is coming along...

Monday, July 25, 2011

My Free Chair! Awesome!

Check out my free chair! As in, I got it for free - don't think I'm giving this away, this is MY chair! Curb picking can totally pay off, and the guy giving it away got a free sketch comedy show as I tried to shove it in my car. It didn't fit in the front seat or the back seat. The trunk was a bit of a stretch, but that's why I keep a coil of rope in my car. You know, for curb picking emergencies.

Isn't it awesome? Look at those slightly curved arms, the solid walnut frame, the vintage awesomeness. Serious, it's just awesome. <sigh> I've been wanting a chair like this for years...

Just the one teensy tiny little problem - the upholstery is crap. No, really, it's disintegrating. When I loaded it into my trunk I tipped it upside down with the back rest hanging out so the itty bitty foam pieces (think foam dust) could fall onto the road instead of in my car while I drove it home.

Once I get up the courage to reupholster this baby I'll tell you all about it. Until then it's hanging out on my front porch, adding a pop of color and awesomeness to my humdrum gray house.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Busy, Busy Week... and PLANTS

It's been a crazy week. At work I'm starting a new position on Monday so I'm wrapping up my old position, creating dozens and dozens of pages of how-to manuals (since I did a lot of never-done-before-in-this-company database-esque stuff), and trying to pack my office. Ha. At home, it's been hot. Yeah, that's about it. Sitting around and sweating is about all we've managed this week. But it's craziness, I tell you.

I'd anticipated this and written posts in advance for MTW, forgot about Thursday, and today I'm going to tell you what I did last weekend. With no photos, sorry. It's too hot to try and find the camera and download pics. But I'll give you a gratuitous random photo of my bachelor buttons (and hosta and iris). But I don't feel too bad about an un-productive week at home, because last weekend was super-productive.

Things I did last weekend:
  • Watched HARRY POTTER (duh)
  • Returned unused paint stripper for store credit
  • Used store credit to get garden hoses and connector thingies
  • Bought tons of perennials at a local greenhouse for less than $30 including tax (by tons, I mean 30 4” pots at less than $1 apiece)
  • Stole Procured plants from my parents garden
  • Planted the procured plants
  • Re-planted a lilac bush that something dug up during the night
  • Used compost from my own bin and grass clippings to transplant said plants, which worked fantastically (who knew you could transplant stuff using grass clippings?)
  • Mowed the lawn and sweated profusely admired my new plants
  • Tested out my new DIY bug-repellant spray, which worked BTW
  • Took a nap (this is a rarity for me, I have trouble sleeping during the day)
  • Took a walk
  • Spent quality time with my baby boy
It was a plant-heavy weekend. I’m totally blissed out on plants right now. Seriously, I could just go sit outside and stare at my leafy bounty. I haven’t though. I've stood and watered them the whole time that I stared. Daily, with this heatwave I don't want them turning into little crispy chips.

My Plant Bounty Parental Contributions:
  • 2 lilac bushes (purple)
  • 1 peony (I know they don’t transplant well, but it was dying from two overcrowding bushes)
  • 2 daylily chunks (one white and one peach)
  • 1 hydrangea bush (like this one)
  • A few hydrangea stems (like this)

Greenhouse Purchases:
(totaling 45 plants – I got a flat of 15 a few weeks ago as well that has populated my potted front garden…)
  • Daisies – two varieties, both white
  • Tickseed – two varieties, one all yellow and one yellow with a reddish center
  • Feverfew – white
  • Delphiniums – blue and white
  • Balloon Flower – blue and white
  • Blanket Flower – orange/red

The greenhouse purchases will be going into my renovated flower bed… once I reno it that is. Yeah. That’s my project for when I’m on vacation in a few weeks. I need to line up someone with a tractor to come and level things out once I remove the plants from the old bed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Thrift Finds - the College Edition

A local college has opened a little thrift store - sweet! It's run by students, so it's barely ever open - not so sweet. BUT, when it was open, I totally scored on some awesome finds:

1: Women's small, green striped button down shirt - to convert for Max
2: Women's small, black cashmere sweater with silver buttons - will become a stuffed toy
3: Boy's medium t-shirt - a new nightshirt for Max
4: Women's small t-shirt - another nightshirt for Max
5: Women's small cashmere and wool blend sweater - will become a stuffed toy
6: Women's size 12 dress - will become a tunic shirt for me
7: Women's wool skirt - Max clothes... probably overalls or pants

All of that for $9! Granted, the clothes are almost all size small or medium as they're cast offs from college kids (who are all tiny for some reason) so I can't wear them, but for converting to Max clothes it's golden.

check out that tag - cashmere for $1!

The dress needs some help - it's pretty ugly. Well, not ugly... but very conservative/matronly. But with the help of my seam ripper it's getting a lot better. The before picture below:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Strawberry-Banana Jam

my strawberry bounty
I’m in love with this jam. Holymoly.

Here’s an instance where catering to my husband’s picky eating has resulted in absolute fabulousness. (don’t tell him I said that, or he might think he can be picky all the time)

We love yogurt in our household – in particular the stir from the bottom kind that is super-sweet and is a bit rough on the pocketbook. I’d like to make our yogurt (which is much less expensive), but it’s not super-duper sweet and doesn’t taste of strawberry-banana (which is the only kind hubby will eat without complaining).

As I was driving home the other night I was pleased because it wasn’t raining so I could go pick strawberries from the garden. I was thinking of how I would use those strawberries. I then got thinking about the other things that need using up, such as the three ripe bananas on my counter.

Hmm. Strawberries. Bananas. With a future in the yogurt arena.

Yup. No brainer.

After my son ate one of the three bananas, here’s how it went down:

Strawberry-Banana Jam

4 cups sliced/diced fruit
(I used just over 2 cups strawberries and just under 2 cups ripe bananas, aka 2 bananas)
4 to 4 ½ cups sugar
1 cup water
3 Tbsp lemon juice if you plan on making this shelf stable – I didn’t bother because it went in my fridge

sliced and diced
Combine all ingredients in a pot or large saucepan over medium heat, stir well.

in the pan, not frothy
Stirring frequently, bring to a boil that can’t be stirred down. As in, cook it until it gets frothy and when you stir it stays frothy.

in the pan and frothy
Reduce heat to medium-low/low and simmer until it thickens. Judge the thickness by drizzling a little bit on a plate and cooling the plate in the fridge. If that little bit thickens up to your desired consistency, you’re golden.

Skim and discard the foam if desired. I kept the foam and just stirred it in. Pour into canning jars, allow to cool. Refrigerate. Or if you want freezer jam or shelf-stable jam, process accordingly. Makes 4-5 cups.

I got two of these beauties, plus a little extra
I found this jam to be super-sweet, which is awesome because I’m using it for yogurt. My coworker also found it super-sweet, and agreed it’d be awesome in yogurt. Hubby thinks it’s awesome as is and could possibly be sweeter. So… yeah. I’d say it’s a normal sweetness, bordering on the more sweet side. Keep in mind my bananas were ripe – yellow peels with just a few small brown spots. If you use greener bananas your jam will be less sweet. If you use browner bananas your jam will be more sweet.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Posts Worth Reading: Frugal Beauty: How to Look Good on a Budget

image source
Frugal Beauty: How to Look Good on a Budget by Sierra Black on Get Rich Slowly. (BTW - if you haven't checked out Get Rich Slowly and you're at all interested in personal finance, you obviously live under a rock. Go. Now.)

To summarize: Sierra talks about how she saves money by not spending a lot on personal care products. The comments get pretty funny - the occasional dirty hippie reference, some back and forth commenting on whether or not to wear makeup, etc. The article itself is not that expansive and normally I'd just put it on my Friday roundup. However, the comments make it worth the special mention.

It also gave me an opportunity to round up some of my personal care posts. If you've been reading for a while, you probably know that I don't spend much money on personal care and I try to DIY it, but I do care about looking (and smelling) good. As long as the surface looks/smells ok, who really cares about how you got there? Whether it's expensive products or baking soda it's all smoke and mirrors...

  • I clean my face with the oil cleansing method and exfoliate with sugar
  • When I don't wear makeup, I clean my face with a homemade toner
  • I use minimal makeup when I do wear it (I don't like looking half-dead at work, so I always try to cover up those under-eye circles)
  • I dye my own hair using henna
  • I often (but not always) cut my own hair, and I'll try to extend the time between cuts
  • I let my hair go curly or pull it back to disguise a funny cut or white hairs
  • I am a moderate no-poo-er
  • I use sunscreen when I'll be outside (but not all day every day)
  • I shower every other day to every two days unless I get sweaty or dirty - in the summer that can easily to up to twice a day
  • I make my own deodorant
  • I use natural soap "seconds" that are funny shaped but still work just fine, and are a lot cheaper
  • I don't shave my legs very often, I just wear pants a lot (which also hides my ridiculously white legs that refuse to color which looks really funny when the rest of me is summertime tan)

Hubby stays pretty on the cheap too -
  • He has a beard (which I adore) which cuts down on razors and shaving cream costs
  • He shampoos his hair once or twice a week
  • I cut his hair
  • He's considering trying out one of my sugar scrubs to keep those beard follicles stimulated
  • He likes particular brands of deodorant, shampoo, and soap, which is fine since we can get them at Costco for less $
  • He wears spray-on sunscreen which doesn't get goopy with the beard
  • He wears a long-sleeve light weight jacket all summer to keep from burning when he doesn't have sunscreen on

So, what do you do to look/feel like an acceptable member of society? I won't judge if you don't. Just, please, don't be stinky - and yes, too much perfume counts as stinky.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Friday Link Roundup: Places I've Been...

think happy thoughts... like the rainbow over my backyard
It's been a long week - I won't bore you with the details. Except for this one: Who on earth drives a really loud something or another (I think probably a riding mower, but I didn't get out of bed to check) that you can hear for 1/2 mile (seriously, I could hear it when it made certain turns and went over the hill by the way the noise changed) at 5:45 in the morning. When I'm sleeping. Or at least trying to, while ignoring my pounding headache and sinus pressure. And, it woke up the baby.

Bastard. (the person making the noise, not the baby of course)

I've since treated my allergy "hangover" with sudafed, ibproufin, and copious amounts of coffee. I think it's the coffee that does the most good. I love coffee. Really, truly, it makes my mornings worth waking up for.

Happy Friday, and I'll see you next week!

The pillowcase over the broom tip is new to me:

Be more mindful in your purchases and you might not have to declutter your house so much:

5 natural baby care solutions:

Planting and pruning fruit trees for small spaces:

Homemade cleaners:
I tried these out, and they work really well. The grease cutter worked particularly well on cat vomit stains, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Not-Backyard Gardens

The idea of raised beds has recently had a big resurgence around here - particularly with all of the rain we had earlier this summer... and the year before last. Too many people lost too many veggie plants because of drowning, so now they're building raised beds. I did a little walk around the block a couple weeks ago and took a few photos:

side yard garden
This neighbor doesn't have a backyard - their house is built on a hill leading down to a gully. So they put this raised bed in their side yard.

The rest of their side yard has this gorgeous peony and a few trees - perfect for a swing for their granddaughter.

front yard garden
This neighbor's house backs up to a river - so again not much going on for a back yard. So they used their front yard for a garden! The raised beds are new this year.

front yard garden #2
They've had this part of their front yard as a garden for at least a few years now, and it looks fantastic. Since I've taken these photos the plants have gone nutso growing and look fantastic. I really should take another photo for comparison...

I've definitely noticed that front yard gardening, small space gardening, container gardening, etc, have become a major trend (ugh, I hate trendy, but I'll accept this one) in the blogosphere and such, but it's nice to see it happening at home too. Have you seen more gardens popping up in your neighborhood?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Should You Shave Your Legs?

image source

I'll add: If you have mosquito bites on your legs and don't want to result in injury. That's my current excuse.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cloth Diapering

6 or 7 months - cloth diaper 2.0
I don't cloth diaper 100% of the time. In theory I'd like to - there are so many benefits of cloth diapering. But...

  • My husband gives me an eyebrow and grabs a disposable.
  • My mother, who watches my son one day a week, is so not going there.
  • My daycare provider uses them when she can, but she has her hands full enough without the extra hassle.
  • My son is like a mighty waterfall and pees through his cloth diapers unless he’s changed every hour and a half to two hours, minimum. Sometimes sooner. I have three cloth diapers that will hold up to overnight if I add half of a microfiber hand towel folded up, but rotating those three doesn’t necessarily work through the week when I don’t do laundry more than twice a week.
  • And, I've run into a manufacturing problem. MY manufacturing.

cloth diaper 2.0

I made most of Max's diapers (see photo), but I ran into a few problems. 1.0 was too small around and too tall in the tummy area. So I modified and came up with 2.0 which has a pretty good fit for up to 25lbs. I liked the idea of putting a cute fabric on the outside of the PUL because PUL gets boring - except that the cute fabric wicks the wet from the inside of the diaper to the outside. I'd put so much time and effort (though not too much $) into these diapers that it just killed me that they didn't work. I tried to salvage them by cutting off the outside fabric (cloth diaper 2.5), but then the PUL crapped out and started leaking.

cloth diaper 3.0

So, I got some new PUL, modified my design, and tried again, aka 3.0. That one works much better, and should go through potty training size, but still leaks/wicks around the legs. So I modified the design in my head and was set to try again... when my sewing machine got fussy. So I got a new machine. It just arrived and I unpacked it, but I haven't fired it up yet.

Max has been wearing disposables full time for over a month. I'm not super happy about it, but I've gotten complacent. I don't like sewing in the heat, I like gardening in the heat. So I haven't been in any hurry to make new diapers. But last night a little someone asked to wear a cloth diaper instead of a disposable. He's just so stinkin cute. And really, who am I to deny him his diaper preference? I dug out one of the three that still (mostly) fit and can handle an overnight. He was happy, I was happy (if feeling a little guilty), and I'm motivated to get some more diapers sewn up.

I'll keep you posted on the progress, hopefully I'll have the machine up and running tonight.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Weed by Any Other Name

orange tickseed and yellow trefoil
A weed by any other name - or in particular tickseed and trefoil - is a bouquet in my house. Isn't it pretty? Tickseed isn't a weed here, but I've heard it's a common wildflower/weed in other parts of the country. Where I live, trefoil is considered a weed, but in other places it's actually planted and desired. Lucky for me I have a ton of volunteer trefoil cheering up my garden right now.

When I do my flowerbed reno I'll be saving both of these weeds. Do you have any "weeds" that you love?

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Friday Link Roundup: Places I've Been...

my "front yard" - it's very European
Every purchase you make is a trade-off – an expansion of the author’s point that you can have anything you want but you can’t have everything you want.

As someone with no front lawn (seriously, I have a 4-6” wide strip of dirt between me and the asphalt), this article made me feel better. And, honestly, having lived with it for two years I now prefer having no front lawn. Because who really uses one?

Tips on writing – mostly from non-fiction writers/researchers, but plenty of it still applies. (I have visions of eventually selling a manuscript)

Amen. My mom still gives the look like no other.

What I did (looked at) instead of writing like I promised myself I would:

I wish I lived in Denver and had access to thrift stores with amazing clothes like these:

Ok, I’m putting this link on here for Jessie's Raised Eyebrow Award: yuppies go “green” and spend too much $ to do so. <le sigh> I’m going to pick on this article a little bit, not out of malice but out of a desire to better inform.
1: Milk Jar – unless you’re getting your milk straight from the bulkhead, there’s no reason to transfer your milk to a jar. By the time you get your milk from the store potential chemical leaching will have already happened, negating the usefulness of putting it in glass when you get it home.
2: I don’t think I’d pay $7 for a reusable sandwich bag, but I prefer wrapping my sandwich up in a napkin anyhow.
3: $20 twine dispenser. $20 twine dispenser. No further comment.
4: Again, a napkin works too. If you want, you can soak said napkin in oil for a bit, wring it out and voila! It’s semi waterproof. Or just, you know, throw it in the wash and skip the oil etc.
5: $14 for two canning jars that don’t have a button-seal and therefore aren’t as safe to use in canning. OR you can spend $14 and get a dozen jars that are FDA approved. Just sayin.
6: So tiffin means lunch in Indian English, or a lunch container. I’m not sure how I feel about metal lunch carriers, so I guess I’ll leave this alone. But if anyone wants to get me a lunchbox, I prefer vintage TMNT.
7: Sure, it’s cute, but an actual paper berry basket or a colander works just as well.
8: And, finally, why on earth would you pay over $5 apiece for cloth napkins?
OK – I’m done now.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Birthday Month Part Three

don't freak out if the frosting on the cake melts - go with it
You shouldn’t do it all.

You can do it all, but you shouldn’t. The point of a party is to enjoy yourself, right? So, take some of the stress away and don’t do it all.

I recruited some help. I let some things go. I realized that it’s a special day for me too and that I can’t do everything and still enjoy myself. So:

  • I decided that it wasn’t worth my time to make potato salad when the deli makes it better than I do anyhow.
  • I bartered with my mom’s friend (who is a professional photographer) to come take photos of the big day – and some formals while we were at it. I didn’t even bring my camera. This was totally awesome – and totally worth it. If you don’t know a pro, recruit a few friends. You don’t want to be bothering with a camera when the cake comes out!
  • I used things from around my house to decorate – the paper cranes were given to me a few years ago, the bug is one of Max’s toys, and I used coordinating serving pieces from my cupboards. I frosted the (made ahead and frozen) cupcakes in colors coordinating with the decorations. Small effort, but big impact. I didn’t bother with balloons or streamers. I considered making a few buntings, but it wasn’t necessary. No one cared, and I don’t think people even noticed.
  • I had my dad grill, and had my mom and MIL on appetizer/side/drink refill duty.
  • Mom did a lot more too.
  • Mom and dad hosted it at their house - which was huge all on its own.

So, during the party itself, what did I do? I talked with my friends. I ate. I chased my little boy around and gave him kisses, when he wasn’t being snuggled by his adoring fans. I enjoyed myself, and tried to make sure I didn’t have food/snot/dirt on my face for when RD came around the corner with her camera.

AND – I accepted compliments on throwing a great party with tasty food, cute decor, and a laid-back atmosphere. Mission: accomplished.

Now, check out the birthday boy smashing his cake, and then realizing that he could eat it. Time lapse: less than 5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Birthday Month Part Two

the invite postcard - info was printed on the back
Prep, prep, prep.

Prep the Invites:

If you’re sending out evites, kudos to you, that’s even easier. I wanted something that the grammies and grampies could hold on to as a keepsake, and while I was at it I sent an invite to everyone. I designed a collage style postcard on picnik and had a local printer make them up for me – only 50 cents each. Woot!

Papa frosted these cupcakes
Prep the Food:

Making food in advance when you have time to be leisurely and cook (haha) is so much easier than trying to fit all of the cooking in on one or two days. This isn’t Thanksgiving folks, it’s a birthday party. Did you know you can freeze cupcakes? And cake? And rolls (that never made it to the table)? And baked beans (read about that here)? And lots of other stuff too, but these are the things that apply to our party.

The key to freezing cupcakes: Let them cool thoroughly. Don’t frost them. Put them in a gallon freezer bag, making sure they’re all standing up. Don’t just toss them in there. Then suck out all of the air from the bag. If you happen to make a lot of cupcakes (<cough> six dozen <cough>), stack the individual bags in the on cooling racks in the freezer.

(In case you don’t know this trick: seal the bag almost all the way, leaving ½” open. Press out as much air as you can. Then pinch your fingers around the ½” opening and suck out the air, quickly closing the opening when the air is gone. Try not to pass out. Practice first, it’s not always as easy as it sounds.)

The key to thawing cupcakes: Take them out of the bags to thaw. If you leave them in the bags they’ll get soggy and gross. I thawed them on the counter at room temperature the morning of the party. Worked like a charm.

I made two pans of rolls, taking them out of the oven after they had cooked but not browned. I froze/thawed in the same way as the cupcakes, and warmed them at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. And then promptly forgot about them, so the guests never saw the rolls. Back to the freezer they went.

paper cranes, a bug, and the cupcake tower
Prep the Decor:

I kept the decor for the party simple: little paper cranes sprinkled around the food table. That’s it. The rest of the ‘decor’ was using pretty serving pieces, a white tablecloth (aka a white sheet), and keeping to a color scheme. Simple and effective. I didn’t even have to make the cranes, a co-worker gave them to me years ago. The color scheme was determined by what I have: lots of white, with green, blue, and yellow. Yay me and my awesome vintage Pyrex collection! See what you have around the house, can you make a color theme out of it? Will a tablecloth tie it all together? Good!

While you’re at it, if you can do different levels on the food table. If you don’t have a cupcake tower or cake stand no problem – collect a couple of boxes and put them on the table but under the tablecloth. Caterers do this all the time and it looks fantastic.

Prep Your Helpers:

Don’t forget your trusty helpers. Enlist help, even if it’s as vague as, “I’ll need you to do something, but I don’t know what yet.” Once you do know what it is you want them to do, let them know ASAP, especially if it involves making food.

For example, my mom’s duties for birthday party day:
  • Provide a macaroni salad (made the day before)
  • That morning, drive around Max and the out-of-town great-grandma (Mimi) who had never been up before so that Max can have a nap before the excitement and so Mimi can see the town
    • As an aside, Mimi’s duty was to give Max cuddles and kisses and assist in the getting him to sleep business. She’s very good at it. This may seem like a silly duty, but with Max phasing out his morning naps the extra help was essential.
  • During the party, make sure that the pretty drink pitchers are kept filled from the not-so-pretty drink pitchers
  • Clean up duty – actually, I was going to clean up but instead I cuddled with Max and chatted with a friend while he napped. Mom’s just awesome like that.

My other helpers and their duties (I apologize if I forgot anyone):
J sprinkled the cranes on the food table
Hubby cut up veggies (assisted by dad)
Dad grilled burgers and hot dogs, and frosted the blue cupcakes
V photographed the whole thing, and she frosted some cupcakes too. Frosting cupcakes is really, really fun, btw.