Any suggestions?


I just don’t know what else to do to get the kid to clean her room.

Holiday Crafting

Happy holidays everyone!
We finally got seasonal weather up here in the North Country, and the weather today was positively delightful, so we went out and played in the snow. Missy and Charlie (the dog) had a ton of fun.


Missy and I built this baby snowman. “The snowman” asked us to build his dad, but the snow wasn’t packing well so we will try again soon.


We went on a quest for a sled, which were nearly sold out everywhere. We did find one though, and Missy played with it a little. Tomorrow if the weather is nice we will go to the hill.


We did inside stuff too! I made a big batch of gingerbread, and we went to town with icings and sprinkles.


We made a lot of them. 😉


I also made a gingerbread house! We put tree and man cookies outside on the lawn, too. There’s also a couple pies lurking in my kitchen, and a fruitcake in the oven.


Last but not least, check out these stockings! I made them! I’m really proud of them.

I truly hope you are all safe and happy and warm tonight, and every night. Happy holidays if you are celebrating, and joy to all the world.

Fabric Bombing! And Garden Progress

I have a vague desire to win the Yard of the Month contest here in our neighborhood. (Pay no attention to the husband; he *claims* that it’s “all I talk about” but he’s full of it.) The contest doesn’t go on nominations – the community employees drive around and take notes and decide that way. Our building is structured kinda like a U, facing the street, with our “yard” and some stairs to the second floor in the middle. As such, it’s hard to see my lovely little garden from the street (especially since a neighbor is often parked on the street in front of the building).
We were sitting outside enjoying the air the other night when I had a brainwave. If I decorate the tree in front of the building, it’ll be easier for them to notice my yard! I didn’t want to do just a plain bow – they get floppy in the rain. I went inside and hunted around a bit and finally came up with a half-yard or so of striped “patriotic” fabric (quite fitting since it was Memorial Day weekend and we live on a military post).

I packed my pockets with a long needle, a spool of thread (I chose white at random, and there was a bit of brown already on the needle), a pair of scissors, and some sturdy pushpins, and went back outside.

I cut the fabric into three approximately-equal widths, wrapped them around the tree, and pinned them in place carefully.

Sewing it on was a bit of a workout, but not too bad. (Please ignore the over-processed photo, ugh – Jonathan changed the settings and this photo turned out strange.) (But feel free to check out my kickass TARDIS shirt.)

Here’s a slightly-better photo of the bands being sewn. I did large basting stitches, making sure to double back so it’s secure. I chose an especially long needle so I could put it through the fabric and come back out, since I can’t flip the cloth, obviously.

And here’s what it looks like, all sewn. I put the seam on the back, and I was quite careful not to stab the tree. I only pushed the pins in a little tiny bit.

This is a view of the tree from the sidewalk. I’m off to the side a bit because the truck is parked in front as usual. (And there’s my husband with his sexy post-surgery sling.) I like the look of the bands a lot. It reminds me of the “yarn bombed” trees that knitters have been creating. I guess this is a fabric bombed tree?

While we’re out in the garden, would you like to meet my pet ‘mingo? I got him 2 summers ago and he’s spent some time in the sun. I prefer to think that he just needs to eat more shrimp.

My daughter also provides much-needed decor to my yard. Most of these pictures are “Ponies,” but there are other things too.

For good measure, here’s a photo of my garden again. I did rearrange it, as I expected. (And it’ll need it again soon, when those peppers need to size up to bigger pots.) I took these photos five days ago, and as I was selecting for this post, I was amazed at how much my plants have already grown! My cucumbers, in particular, are growing like weeds! I’ve also got sprouts in my lettuce barrel!

I’ve been watering them liberally (they get a lot of direct morning sunlight and are always dry by afternoon), and every other day or so I give them all a good bath with some coffee-infused water. I save the grounds from my coffee maker and let them dry (I’m saving the filters for a project as well). I filled up a storage tub with water and tossed the grounds in and let it steep. I was unsure if it’d do any good but it seems to have! It has the added benefit of letting all the chlorine and whatnot in the water dissipate as it sits out in the tub.

Do you have Yard of the Month aspirations? Have you ever yarn-bombed? Do you keep your coffee grounds? And what do you think of my ‘mingo?

Garden Planting – Year Two

Last year was the first time I ever had what could be called a “garden.” I bought a wholllle bunch of pots, a whole bunch of dirt, a lot of seeds and a couple plants, and threw ’em out in my front yard. I was a bit overambitious and grew some things that I shouldn’t have bothered with, but I learned a lot. I really enjoyed it.
Clearly I’m just a pioneer girl at heart. Last post was homemade butter, and now I’m going to talk for an hour about vegetable gardening. Haha.

So now, it’s time for Year Two. (We live in zone 4a according to this new Hardiness Zone map, which is why my planting is so late in the year.) I’ve got all the pots from last year, which is nice because pots are expensive. While Jonathan was having his shoulder cut open (the surgery went well by the way), me and Missy went home. The house was stifling me, so I decided to go out for some retail therapy, lol. The lovely weather reminded me that it is finally planting season, so I ended up at the local nursery. Sadly, they didn’t have much selection on veggie plants (they focus more on flowers and shrubs and fruit trees, it seems), so I went to Home Depot.
I did try to start some seeds earlier in the year, but those failed spectacularly. Whatevs, I bought some plants.

Jonathan found this little baby on the curb on trash day a few weeks ago. It’s missing its bottom and some of the staves are loose, but it’s still good. 🙂 It’s got “character.” I am very grateful for it, because I’ve been wanting one but they cost like 40$.

As you can see, my front yard, such as it is, is rocks. If I just fill this half barrel with dirt, it’ll all wash out. :/ I did some research and decided that burlap would serve well here.

I had these pieces of burlap left over from making an (awesome) banner for my Halloween party last year. I dug them out of my fabric box, cut them into pieces, and applied them thusly:

I put two squares of off-white burlap on the bottom, and put strips of black around the edges. Seems pretty secure to me. (By the way, the pictures in this post are going to look super weird. The light was odd when I took the photos, and while I managed to take away the overexposures and the weird blue tint on some of them, I still ended up looking like Instagram Gone Awry. Oh well.)

Next I had to fill it. I had already decided this is going to be the home of my lettuce crop (which doesn’t have very deep roots as far as I know), so I didn’t need to have the whole thing filled with dirt. I put a nice layer of mulch in the bottom, which I think will also help keep my dirt in the barrel.

This year, I got some fancypants ~organic~ dirt! 🙂 Last year I got Miracle Gro. I’ve learned a lot about that company in the last year and I really didn’t want to buy anything from Scotts (their parent company). I’m not totally committed to organic gardening, but I do what I can. I had already planted all my other plants (see below; I do things backwards sometimes), so I dumped all the rest of my potting soil in. I’m starting the lettuce from seed (it’s pretty much just grass), so I added a layer of organic seed starting dirt that I had left from my ill-fated seed starting earlier in the year. Then I sowed the seeds and watered thoroughly. Sure hope I did it right, lol.

What about the other plants, you say?

You mean these plants? 😉

The two green bushes on either end and the one in the middle (in front of the watering can) are part of the standard landscaping here and I don’t have much choice in them. Actually the one in the middle should look like the others. I think it’s dead because I think the green leaves there are just a weed. I’m not sure if you can tell, but there are random weeds that grow up from the rocks as well. Clovers, mostly. I like clovers though, so I just leave them.

I’m not sure if that little table is going to stay permanently – we shall see. What do you think? On it, I have 6 small pots: two mints, a basil, a curly parsley, a bee balm, and a stevia. The bee balm and stevia are new to me, but I’ve done the others before.

Before I talk about these plants, I want everyone to notice my pallet. I want you to notice it because I dragged its heavy ass ALL the way home from the playground on King Loop (probably half a mile) by myself. It’s missing one plank on this side, but that’s okay with me. I like it because it’ll keep the rock-dwelling weeds from climbing up onto my pots.
In the front, you see two windowboxes with marigolds in them. I’m hoping to attract bees. (One day I’d like to beekeep, and also I need some bees to pollinate one of my plants.) I was hoping both of those would fit neatly into the space left by the missing plank, but alas. Oh well.
The three medium-size pots will eventually be replaced with bigger pots. I only had 6 of the bigger pots, and these three plants were all small anyway. I’ll get more large pots in a few days. Those three are all peppers – the ones on the left are bells, and the one on the right is jalapeno. I’ve grown both before.

My largest pots now: I have a cherry tomato variety, a “Patio” tomato, and two heirloom tomatoes – one is apparently purple, and the other is pink. (Yes I know these are indeterminates and shouldn’t be in pots. Leave me alone.) There is also another bell pepper plant, and a pot of cucumbers! I’ve grown tomatoes before but actually all of these species are new to me. I tried cucumbers from seed last year and they didn’t thrive, largely because I don’t think they were pollinated.

When the peppers in the medium size pots get repotted, I’ll need to reconfigure my layout here. I wish I could score another pallet, but they don’t fit in my car so they have to be within dragging distance (lol). Cross that bridge when I get to it, right?
I applied a layer of red mulch (I was forced to buy a Scotts-made product for this – my hands were tied by the selection at the store. Boo.) to each pot. I chose red because I read last year that tomatoes like to have red mulch for some reason. Maybe they see it and think “oh okay I’m supposed to be that color”?

Do you garden? Why or why not? Do you consider gardening to be a creative pursuit? Do you think I have a chance of winning Yard of the Month? If you have any suggestions or ideas for me (like ways to lay out the garden, for example), I’d love to hear them!
(Remember! I’m still doing TWO giveaways this week! Number one is here, and any comment on my blog all week counts as an entry. If you’d like to comment but not enter, just say so and I’ll exclude you. Number two is here – if you’d like to enter it, follow my blog and leave a comment on that post telling me how you follow me! BOTH giveaways close on Friday (today) May 25 at 5 pm PST. That’s 8pm Eastern. Any comments after that time are welcomed but not eligible for entry. I’ll announce the winners sometime on Saturday.)

Tiny Shelves

I really like to build things. Like, a piece of wood and a saw and a screwdriver kind of building. It makes me feel all “hear me roar” in a Rosie the Riveter kind of way (not a power-hungry Lannister kind of way). I once took an old set of shelves, deconstructed them, cut them up, and reassembled them into a different set of shelves (yes I know that sounds weird).
This project is not nearly so hardcore as that, but it’s still pretty satisfying. I wanted a way to display and store some things in my bathroom, and I couldn’t find anything suitable at the stores. Also it’s a lot more fun to make it.

I didn’t take an “ingredients” picture this time, but here’s the list of what I used:
– narrow wooden boards, cut to size
– hot glue sticks and gun
– Gorilla glue
– small metal brackets with screws
– paint

I already had most of the supplies I needed for this project. The boards were originally for a different project that didn’t pan out. The paint is from a furniture refinishing project I did last year. The hot glue and gorilla glue are always good to have around. The only thing I bought specifically for this was the little brackets!

The first hurdle I had to jump over was creating a “lip” on the edge of the shelves to prevent things from falling off. This is especially important for delicate objects or on a wall that may shake (like next to a door that can slam). I think a skinny dowel rod could also serve this purpose, but I decided to go free-form and create the lip with hot glue.

Just get it nice and hot and begin applying the glue, as close to the edge of the wood as possible. I use a mini gun, so the glue is pretty small. I did one pass, let it cool, and then stacked another line of glue on top of the first. If you use a standard glue gun, you may only need one line.

Now it’s time to break out the hardware. These brackets were like a dollar a packet at Walmart. I like Gorilla glue better than any of its competitors, but you can make your own choice there.

Figure out the placement of your brackets. Since this wood is so narrow and bendy, I definitely needed to make sure this thing was securely supported. When you’ve got the placement, apply a small amount of Gorilla glue to the bracket and press it firmly into place. Hold for a few moments. When it’s secure, move on to the next and repeat until all your brackets are placed.

Let them sit, unbothered, for a while, to make sure they’re secure.

I wanted to make double-sure that the brackets were strong, so I got out the hot glue again. I filled in the screw-hole and went around the edge of each bracket.

Now it’s time for paint. I went with a medium-dark grey, but of course you can choose any color your heart desires. I painted the glue, the wood, everything.

Once they’re dry, all you have to do is attach them to the wall! The brackets should have come with screws, so go to it. NOTE: you need to take care that you don’t place anything very heavy on these shelves. I’ve built them strong enough to hold quite a bit of weight, but the drywall can’t handle it. If you ARE going to load your shelves up, get some wall anchors and do it right.

I really think these turned out good. They serve exactly the purpose I wanted them to serve, and look cute in my bathroom. I could have found or made a “traditional” nail polish shelf, of course, but I needed these to be a bit more multipurpose. I’ve got that art print, for example. These bottles on the shelf by itself were only there for the photo – now I’ve got another print there. I have also been known to prop my Kindle Fire up there so I can listen to Pandora while I clean.

I have a vague desire to drape some lace or something from them, partly to mask the brackets. If I were making these again, I’d invert it so that the brackets were attached to the bottom, but extended UP, so the contents of the shelf would hide them. Live and learn, people. 🙂

Where would you put them? They’d be great for holding collections of small things, like maybe some Matchbox cars or Lego minifigs. Are you afraid of power tools? I challenge you to get them out and get brave. 🙂

Laundry Soap

April from Red Dirt Mama is one of my closest friends. A few months ago, one of her blogfriends made laundry soap, and she decided to follow suit. Her post about it is here. When she made it and raved about it, I decided to take a spin of the wheel.

This “recipe” is really easy. Actually, it’s pretty much idiot-proof. It’s also a million times cheaper than store-bought, pre-made laundry detergent. It has a lovely “clean” scent, not an nauseating fake floral or fruit scent. It also seems to be non-irritating. My daughter and my husband are both sensitive to certain kinds of laundry soap, and both of them are doing just fine.

One of my fears about making it was that it wouldn’t be worth the effort – that I’d have to make it every week (or make a ton of it at one time), or that it wouldn’t smell good, or wouldn’t work as well, or something. Let me tell you – it’s definitely worth it. I put in about 20 minutes of work, and got a good supply of it. I made it almost a month ago, and I’ve barely made a dent in it.
This is suitable for HE and standard washers. Anecdotally, my washer smells better too – it doesn’t have that gunky smell that front-loaders are notorious for getting.

Here’s what you’ll need:
Super Washing Soda – 1 cup
Borax – 1 cup
1 laundry bar soap (Fels-Naptha is common)
Baking Soda – 1/4 cup

I also added a cup of Oxy-Clean to the mix, but it’s not necessary, and not pictured.
I also should mention that I still have a TON of the baking soda, Borax, and washing soda left. Next time I make this, I’ll only need to buy the bar of laundry soap. All these items (except the baking soda) are found on the laundry aisle of your store.

You’ll also need a container. I buy those dishwasher “pod” things, and I had an empty tub from those that works just fine (yes I am one of those crazypeople who saves every container, but I really do use them), but you can use whatever. An empty peanut butter jar, whatever.

Here’s the hardest part – you have to grate the bar of soap. Just sit on the couch with your favorite show and get at it.

Watch your fingers when you get it down to a little nugget.

This is what it looks like when it’s done. Reach in there and crumble it up a bit.

Get out your measuring cups and dump in the other ingredients, and stir it up with your hands. (If you shake it, all the soap will work its way to the top – just stir.)
I always add a bit of Oxy-clean to our laundry, so I made my life a bit easier and added the Oxy-clean to the soap mix.

This is what it looks like. I put 1/8 cup (that’s 2 tbsp) in the soap compartment of my washer (I have a front loading HE washer, by the way). Our clothes are clean and smell great, and none of us have itchy skin! Not to mention how nice it is to not have to buy it so often.

Do you make any of your own cleaners? Why, or why not?

Weekend Quickie: Pantry Shelf

I’ve been busy making things and taking pictures this week (and this weekend’s been busy), so my roundup is, once again, tardy. However, I invite you to welcome a new feature: The Weekend Quickie! Just a quick weekend post. This week, it’s a fast & easy home project, but other weeks it may be anything! I created and installed a shelf in an odd spot in my kitchen, giving me a great convenient spot for my pantry staples.

I wish I’d taken a “before” picture – I was in the middle of post-project cleaning.

Take a gander at this awkward spot in my kitchen. It’s across from the door into the garage. My kitchen is narrow and rectangular, with very little counter and cabinet space. The “pantry” is in the laundry room – literally as far from the kitchen as it’s possible to get inside the house.

You may know that I like to buy in bulk and I like to bake, so I always need several bags of flour and sugar. While my brown sugar and “specialty flours” fit into normally-available containers, it wasn’t until Saturday that I finally found some big ones. These 40-cup airtight containers are by Snapware and I only paid 12$ for them (yay outlet mall!). I can’t get the giant industrial-size bags of flour and sugar, but I can at least get the larger-than-supermarket ones at Sams. Also, this is a great excuse to get King Arthur Flour. (Only brand at that size at Sams, lol.)

All you will need:

  • Measuring tape. Measure first. Measure twice. Double check your measures.
  • 1 inch x 12 inch board, cut to your measured length
  • Screws, 1 inch long
  • Screws and wall anchors
  • L-shaped brackets
  • Level
  • Something to mark the wall with
  • Someone to help hold it steady
  • Paint

First, first, first, measure the space you want to put the shelf into. Measure it again. Then go to the hardware store and get your things. If you’d like a narrower shelf, adjust the size of your board and brackets accordingly. If you don’t have your own saw, many hardware stores will cut your wood for you.

When you’ve got all your stuff home, paint your board however you like. Mine is just plain white, but maybe I’ll add a stencil later. Let it dry. Then lay out your brackets, making sure they’re evenly spaced. Screw them firmly into place. If you could look closely, you’d see that mine are slightly misaligned. Be better than me.

I did, in fact, put on the brackets first. I thought I was gonna leave it natural brown and then changed my mind. It’s not a fatal error to paint after attaching, but it’s not “correct.”

Now, get a friend and have them hold the shelf steadily in place. Check that you’re happy with the placement, and check that it’s level. Now, grab your pencil or marker or whatever and mark the position of the screwholes in the brackets, on the wall.

Follow the directions on your wall anchors (I’ve used a couple different kinds, but generally this will involve a hammer), making sure to place them correctly to line up with the marks you made. Double check your marked positions if you have even the slightest doubt.

You can also have your “friend” do the screwing for you. 😉

Get that friend back and have them hold it again while you insert some screws. One on each side should be enough to hold it securely while you do the rest, so they can rest their arms after that. Make sure you put a screw in each hole for maximum security, especially if you’ll be placing heavy things on your shelf.

You’re done! Line up your containers (or whatever) on your new shelf! Total time involved in this project was about an hour and a half, not including waiting for the paint to dry. I did get a cramp in my hand from the screwdriver, but otherwise this is an easy and painless project, with a highly useful product, especially for those of us who live in storage-light homes!

There is a legit reason why my cardboard and paper bags and plastic bottles are stacked as tall as my microwave stand. I promise.

This project freed up precious space in my pantry, as well as on top of my microwave. It also filled this thus-far-empty corner, making the room look much better. Where would YOU like to have a shelf added?