Thursday, September 29, 2011

Frugal Luxuries: Hair Cuts

image source
One of the best purchases that we've made as a family is a hair trimmer. Hubby hasn't had to go outside of our home for a haircut in... close to ten years now. With the little length attachments it makes it easy. (those are the little plastic pieces, they go on the blade part to make sure you don't cut shorter than you intended)

How I do it (Hubby's version):
  1. Use the 3/4" along the top of the head down to where it starts to really angle down.
  2. Use the 1/2" for everywhere else.
  3. Use the 1/4" for trimming around the ears and along the neck.
Hairdressing Scissors has a good diagram with the different parts of the head and explanations. According to the diagram I do...

3/4" - Top, Parietal Ridge, Upper Crown
1/2" - Lower Crown, Upper Nape, Temple, Side
1/4" - Lower Nape, Hairline, Sideburns

I also cut my grandfather's hair (after the barber increased his rates to $12/cut from $10/cut grandpa decided to take his chances with me in protest, then he decided he likes my cuts well enough). With grandpa I add a step 4 where I use the razor with no attachment to shave those random neck hairs.

Now, with Max having a really nice head of hair, I've been cutting his hair too. He got his first cut with the trimmers today - prior to this it's just been scissors. I used just the 1/2" and trimmed up to the crown, leaving it long on top so he can have bangs and the rest will spill over to the sides.

We're on our third set of trimmers in almost ten years, and at $20-$25 each we've definitely saved money on Hubby's haircuts!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Practicing my ABCs

image source
A while ago I read a post where the author typed each letter of the alphabet (individually) into the internet address bar and noted what came up. I don’t remember where I saw that otherwise I’d link over, but here’s what I’ve got…

A: Amazon
B: Blogger
C: Craigslist
E: Ebay
F: Facebook
G: Gmail
H: The DIY Show Off
I: Facebook
J: my Pinterest account (Jessie:Pinterest)
L: Love on the Bookshelf via Wordpress
M: Mommy’s Middle Ground
N: Netflix
O: OfficeMax
P: Pinterest
Q: SurveyMonkey
R: Pandora Radio
S: Ebay…
T: Facebook…
U: Facebook?
V: Amazon
W: Facebook again, jeez
Y: Yahoo

It’s interesting that not everything is really related to the letter, but that the letter comes up in the description or extended address. And apparently everything leads back to Facebook. EVERYTHING.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

31 Days of Change

Nester is hosting a month-long party - 31 Days of Change - where every day for the month of October you write about just one topic that you are passionate about. One topic for one month. Can you do it? Can I do it??? We'll see! I have an idea in mind... but you'll have to come back on Saturday to find out what topic I choose!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Green Tomatoes & Basil Dressing

not the prettiest picture - but they're tasty!
I <3 basil. (BTW, the <3 is a heart. I just figured that out a few months ago. Yeah, I’m slow.)

Anything with fresh basil just tastes like summer to me, and this recipe is no exception. Green tomatoes taste vaguely like a somewhat tart cucumber with a hint of tomato flavor. The closer they get to ripening, the stronger the tomato flavor. We all know that tomatoes and basil are a winning combo, and trust me it still applies when the tomatoes are green.

What with fall coming on strong, this was a nice treat - and used up some of the green tomatoes still on the vine and some of the basil that will be frost-nipped all too soon!

Green Tomatoes & Basil Dressing

Green tomatoes, sliced
1 cup   Fresh basil leaves
¼ cup  Cider vinegar
¼ cup  Red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar)
¼ cup  Olive oil (optional)

In a blender or food processer, combine 1 cup packed basil leaves, ¼ cup cider vinegar, ¼ cup red wine vinegar and ½ cup olive oil. Blend until the basil leaves are finely chopped. Layer sliced tomatoes in a bowl. Pour basil dressing over tomato slices and toss to coat.

This is best after it has marinated in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Grapes - Because I'm Exciting

I went to a vineyard with my dad a few weeks ago and learned a lot about grapes. He's the one who's into it, not so much my thing but I'm always up for random gardening related knowledge. After doing the tour, listening to the presentations, and talking to the experts, I think I'll stick with pruning the wild vine out back and maybe allowing one domesticated one to climb up the shed. None of this fussy business, I have enough fussy things.

But those grapes sure are pretty!

And tasty! Not that I ate many any... uh huh.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Night Stand - My Moment of Zen

Sometimes you need to do something pretty just for you. Not for the kid(s). Not for your spouse/partner/cat, or anyone else. My night stand was that something just for me. I started out with a desk that my grandparents made and that my mother used and passed on to me, and a cute little antique chair I got at a yardsale.

I added my absolute favorite table runner that my grandmother had embroidered many years ago.


Then the necessities: a lamp, the alarm clock, and my *new* jewelry tree (that holds 3/4 of my earrings).

The jewelry tree got some bling, I set out my perfume bottles, and a chunky bracelet that I especially like.

Of course it wouldn't be a very good vanity without a mirror...

Nice, right? I sit/stand here to put on my makeup in the mornings, which is so much nicer than leaning over the bathroom sink.

Of course, it never stays like that. Realistically, it looks more like this...

...and that's on a good day. Generally there are also articles of clothing draped over the chair and bits of paper here and there.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Free Wood!

It feels like we're constantly demo-ing something in our house. One such project was to disassemble the beanie baby shelves (they were everywhere) that were too small to put anything else on. You know, besides beanie babies.

Rather than rip them apart and toss them in the kindling pile, I salvaged the wood and put it in my reuse pile.

I think that stack of boards actually ended up going to a neighbor - he's retired and likes to putter in his workshop so he gets pretty excited when I start hauling things to the scrap bins. (Yes, we have more than one scrap bin at chez Gray House). And, of course, once he introduced himself and asked so nicely if he could have the scrap wood I started being more careful in my disassembly.

Out of the two or three shelves I was able to give him at least a dozen good boards for his projects. Of course my dad fussed about me giving away perfectly good wood - but what goes around comes around, and this neighbor helped plow out my grandparents last winter. So it's all good, he can have all the scrap wood out of my house that he wants.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Revisiting Cloth Diapering

one of the home-made diapers before they started leaking
I admit: I totally fell off the cloth diapering train. But it’s hard. Not because the cloth diapers are hard to use. Or because they’re hard to wash. Or because of anything to do with the cloth diapers themselves. It’s hard because I’m the only one who will use them on Max. Hubby won’t. My parents won’t. His daycare provider and her helpers have good intentions, but in reality don’t.

On top of that, all of the cloth diapers that I had lovingly crafted for my little boy started leaking (ALWAYS use the good PUL – the PUL I originally got lost its waterproofing in less than 6 months). I got the supplies together to make more… and he started crawling and made sewing impossible for a few months. I didn’t want to purchase any new diapers since I had all of the materials to make them.

So I used disposable diapers for… around six months. It wasn’t horrible, and it was convenient. But. It did cost more. And there’s a lot more trash. And, well, I just prefer cloth diapering I suppose.

So I sucked it up, admitted that I wasn’t going to be sewing any new cloth diapers any time soon, and went on Ebay and found a great deal on 10 new cloth diapers. Which still haven’t arrived (it’s coming from China and apparently can take up to a month to deliver).

In the meantime I got a great windfall from my cousin – a whole bunch of cloth diapers that had lost their waterproofing that I re-waterproofed. (the ones I made were not good candidates for re-waterproofing) So I’ve been using those and I’m back on the cloth diapering train!

It’s actually been nice, I hadn’t realized how much I’d missed cloth diapering or how much I really do prefer it. As an added bonus – since Max can now feel the wet, he’s been inspired to start using the potty! Woo! He figured out how to take diapers off by himself a few weeks ago (cloth or disposable), and since then I’ve been using a Snappi to help hold the cloth ones on. He’s unimpressed with my innovation, but it works. As young as he is (less than 15 months) he’s showing definite signs of wanting to actively potty train, and that works for me!

Especially once I get the new diapers in (and confirm that they fit correctly and won’t leak), I’m hoping that I can get at least Max’s daycare provider back on board with the cloth diapering. By the time we do round two (we plan on having another baby at some point) maybe I can convince others as well. If not, well, at least I’ll be on board the cloth diapering train.

Have you fallen off the cloth diapering train? Have you gotten back on? Have you managed to stay on track the whole time?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Freezing Blueberries

The blueberry season has almost passed, but we managed to pick a few pounds the other weekend. Max “helped” me the whole time… He quickly figured out the whole, “Mommy drops the blueberries in the bucket, I can reach in the bucket, and blueberries can be smooshed in my mouth as fast as possible,” thing. I didn’t think that he could eat that many blueberries without getting a massive stomachache – but he managed just fine. That kid has a stomach of steel.

Even with the help from Max, hubby and I managed to pick three and a half pounds. We ate a bunch fresh, and the rest I froze. First I spread them out on old baking sheets, picked over them for stems, and froze directly on the sheets. Then I transferred the frozen berries to a quart sized freezer bag (yes, that’s all that was left). The freezing in one layer on sheets keeps them from sticking together, and makes it much easier to portion out without thawing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Zesty Blueberry Muffins

What do you do on a really hot day? Make pickles, pudding, and muffins? Yeah, me too.

The cucumbers needed to be picked before they spoiled, the kid needed fattening up, and I told my boss I’d make muffins. But at least there was a breeze out.

The muffins turned out great. I used the basic muffin recipe and added ½ cup blueberries, ¼ tsp ginger and ½ tsp dried orange zest. Viola! They were a hit, and had just a little tang, or zest if you will. Heh. Zest.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Chocolate Chip Pudding

What with Max’s recent illness and all, he lost some weight. So, in an effort to fatten him back up (and because I like desserts) I made pudding. From scratch. For the first time. And it was awesome.

I used the Best Ever Pastry Cookbook’s recipe for chocolate/vanilla/coffee layered pudding. Instead of making three different flavors in three separate batches, I just made all of it at once and flavored it with almond extract and chocolate chips. <homina, homina> That’s a sexy pudding, right there. I used whole milk, and it calls for three egg yolks, and almost a stick of butter. I stirred in chocolate chips while it was still hot so they got all melty and wonderful... 

I didn’t realize how pudding works when you cook it. I knew in theory, but it’s one thing to know the theory, and it’s a whole other thing to watch the pudding set as you’re whisking. Like set in 5 seconds flat. I put it all in a bread loaf pan (yeah, the photo is after we ate some so it’s not that pretty) and portioned it out in pretty bowls for consumption. It looked awfully fancy.
the not-fancy look

Besides a good source of calories for the youngin, it’s really sugary. It wasn’t such a good idea to give this to Max for dessert after dinner, since he ended up getting a sugar rush and stayed up too late. <sigh> And it gave me a stomach ache since I helped him eat the rest of his portion as well as my own. But it was worth it.

So. Worth. It.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Re-Waterproofing Cloth Diapers

Recently I got a huge windfall. My cousin, who cloth diapers her two children, gave me a bunch of pocket diapers that had lost their waterproofing but were otherwise in great condition, figuring that I could use them for parts. After staring at them for a week or two, dreading tearing apart otherwise perfectly fine cloth diapers, inspiration hit: I was going to re-waterproof them by sewing in new waterproof fabric (aka PUL) on the interior of the diaper.

I grabbed the massive amount of PUL fabric that I’d bought (check out Celtic Cloths for a great explanation of the type of PUL to purchase - trust me, don’t get the other stuff) and set to work.

Just to be clear: These are instructions for pocket diapers, not all-in-ones. I still haven’t figured out how to do it for the AIOs… when I do I’ll let you know.

Materials: Cardboard, Marker or Pen, PUL (1ml or 2ml), Sewing Machine, Thread, Scissors, LOTS OF PINS

First: Make a template. I suggest using sturdy cardboard. (I used a pizza box because I'm classy like that.) Take the diaper and trace it on the cardboard, making sure to stretch out the elastic so you have an accurate size for the fabric. There is no need to adjust for a seam allowance, just trace the diaper exactly on the cardboard.

Second: Trace and cut the PUL. Using your template, place it on the PUL and trace. Cut out your PUL. Again, there is no need to adjust for a seam allowance, just trace exactly. Keep in mind the interior of the diaper when tracing the PUL – for example, I did not cut out the tab areas since the interior of the diaper has a seam there and the tabs don’t need to be waterproof.
notice the lack of tabs on top

Third: Insert the PUL and pin. Insert the PUL into the pocket of the diaper and pin it in place around the edges, stretching the elastic and making sure to get the PUL right up to the interior seam, all the way around the interior of the diaper. It’s very important to get the PUL right up to the interior seam to ensure that there are as few leaks as possible. Remember – any spaces between the PUL and the interior seam are potential leak areas.

Fourth: Sew. Put your sewing machine on a wide and long zigzag stitch. (4, 4 worked for me) Carefully sew around the edges of the diaper, making sure that you are sewing the PUL. Stretch the elastic areas as you sew. Remember to backstitch at the start and end of your zigzag seam. After you have sewn and removed the pins, double check that you sewed all of the PUL down by either turning the diaper inside out or by inserting your hand in the diaper and running your fingers along the inside of the seam you just made.  Trim your thread ends.

That should do it! I’ve found that was all I needed to re-waterproof the diapers. I still make sure to change the diapers often like I would with any cloth diaper, and I haven’t had any leaking issues (beyond the normal Max-pees-like-a-mighty-waterfall thing).