Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ultimate Cloth – Does it Clean as Green as They Say?

Does your house need a good clean after the holidays? Yeah, mine too. I love a clean house but I don’t want to spend my whole life cleaning it. I also want to clean as chemical free as possible for the sake of my family.

And I’ll let you in on a little secret. I have a mad crush on trying different green cleaning supplies. That sounds like a very strange hobby, because it is.

That’s how I came by the Ultimate Cloth. The Ultimate Cloth is a MiraFiber cleaning cloth. What’s that? Well I didn’t know until they told me either. Instead of being made with fibers that have little hooks that pick up dirt like a microfiber cloth, MiraFiber cloths have open spaces between the fibers that act like tiny scoops that pull dirt into the cloth and hold them.

At first glance the Ultimate Cloth looked like a cross between a glorified paper towel and a chamois - thin, stiff, and flat. I figured this thing would rip when I popped it in the washing machine for the first time. And it’s supposed to clean with just water? No cleaners? Riiiight. Honestly I didn’t have high hopes for this one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Easy Personalized Appliqué Dog Towel

While rooting though the clearance section at Bed, Bath, and Beyond I came across an orphan bamboo towel for super cheap. Not so good for my original purpose - new towels for my bathroom, (so Santa if you aren’t too busy, a little help in that area would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!) but that eco-towel was the perfect thing to turn into a personalized dog towel for Blitzkrieg’s dog cousin Chopper, as a Christmas gift. Before any gifting could happen that towel needed a little spiff up so the little dude knew that it was his to chew on.

This is Chopper. His hobbies are chewing things, laying on the heat vent, and chewing things.

This is a quicker variation of how I made a traditional appliqué dog blanket because I used a piece of felt for the appliqué. Using scrap felt or fleece is ideal for a rounded appliqué shape because fabric doesn’t fray. You don’t have to worry about tucking in the edges to keep the fabric from fraying while trying to maintain rounded edges. Using felt/fleece makes this an easy beginning appliqué/embroidery/sewing project and a good older kid project.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sew Easy Homemade Gifts for Girls and Guys

It turns out that I’m sewing a lot of gifts for Christmas this year. It started innocently enough when I made myself a Buttercup Purse last summer.  I got compliments and requests for Buttercup Bags as gifts.

Many of the girls are getting Buttercup purses. OK actually several of them already got Buttercup bags for their birthday already. I played with the size and details of the original pattern a bit.

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My favorite is the green paisley. It started life a tablecloth that I like but didn’t quite work in my kitchen.

This is a quick little pattern and I was able to whip up of a few of these purses in an afternoon. Pretty purses and a nice stash buster project to boot. All of the buttons with the exception of the skull and crossbones buttons came from Grandma’s buttonbox.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

33 Realistic Ways to Green Your Gift Wrap

I like wrapping gifts. I have quite the reputation as a good wrapper, yo. It doesn’t have to be hard, expensive, or wasteful. I’ve developed many tips and tricks for wrapping beautiful gifts through trial and lots of error. To do this I rely on two essentials:

1. My box of boxes. I have a box full of different size gift boxes, gift bags, and gift tins that are always ready and waiting for me to use and reuse.
2. A box of gift wrap and supplies. Gift bags, wrapping paper, ribbon, tag making supplies, old Christmas cards, gift toppers, scissors, and tape are waiting for me to use and reuse too.

After the holiday I replenish both with items that I can reuse from the gifts we’ve received on Christmas day. How green and thrifty is THAT?

Although most of my recipients don’t realize that the item in their hands is wrapped in a green in your face manner. All they see is a pretty package. And that’s the way I like it.

So what do I specifically use to wrap my holiday gifts in a green, festive, and inexpensive manner? Let’s take a look.

Gift Wraps

1. Save and reuse paper gift wrap from year to year – Well gee that one’s easy, inexpensive too.
2. Buy gift wrap made from recycled paper – If you can find and the price doesn’t blow a hole in your budget, have at.
3. Maps – It’s not like you can fold them back up like you’re supposed to anyway. Why not reuse those vacation maps as gift wrap?
4. Kids drawings – Best for smaller gifts and make sure the kiddos are OK with the possibility of their masterpieces being cut to size during wrapping or ripped during unwrapping first.
5. Brown paper bags – I like the rustic look and use green cloth ribbon or real twine and top with pine cones or seedpods. Very masculine, very green, and very cheap.
6. Newspaper – I don’t use this anymore because I don’t get the newspaper. When I do it’s my local alternative weekly and I feel weird wrapping a gift in the personal ads (unless it’s as a joke for the newly single.) Your mileage may vary.
7. Fabric – Great for odd shaped gifts. I once got a handpainted flower pot and herb books wrapped like a gift basket in fabric because I sew. And yes, I loved and used both gifts.
8. Kitchen towels/cloth napkins, tablecloth, etc. - My mom does this with wedding shower gifts. Last year my father gave wine he had made wrapped in new kitchen towels. Mom said she liked that idea and will do it when she wraps her homemade soy candles as gifts. (Gifts of wine and candles? Oh tell me they aren’t not-so-subtly asking for grandkids, I dare you.)
9. Scarves – Sometimes the wrapping can be an extra gift. Like say wrapping the new winter hat and gloves your husband so desperately needs in the scarf.
10. Put the regular wrapping paper you used in a city recycling bin – Some cities will recycle wrapping paper. If so, great! OK, so it may not be so green on the front end but it is on the back end. Sometimes life gives you circumstances where you just have to punt.

Reusable Non-Wraps AKA Containers so Pretty They Don’t Need Paper Wraps

Slap a bow on top and you’re done. Pretty, quick, and reusable – I like! This is an excellent solution for those of you who are convinced you can’t wrap/hate to wrap gifts.

1. Cookie/popcorn/food tins – Excellent for experience gifts like tickets or membership paperwork because it makes the gift look more significant than just handing over an envelope. If the tin is a little worse for wear, spiff it up with some leftover spray paint first.
2. Chinese takeout style boxes – I found a bunch of new plain white ones in a thrift store, decorated them with stickers and got raves – easy and cheap! Great kid project too.
3. Printed/decorated box – This may not work out so well if you have people who like to peep at their gifts under the tree before Christmas.
4. Gift bag (fabric/paper/decorate a store bag) - I save and reuse gift bags from year to year. In a pinch, I’ve decorated and reused paper shopping bags. This is another excellent kid craft. I use undecorated store shopping bags for pet gifts because Christmas is the one day out of the year that Blitzkrieg is allowed to shred paper and he likes to unwrap his own gifts.
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I can pull my gift out by myself if it’s wrapped in a gift bag. I’m very careful which allows Lisa to reuse my gift bags.

Gift Bag/Box Stuffing

1. Save tissue paper from previous years – If you can. Sometimes it just doesn’t hold up from one year to the next.
2. Use/buy shredded/crinkled paper – Once I found this stuff I switched over to stuffing gift bags with this instead of tissue paper. It’s much easier to save and reuse from year to year.
3. Shred old wrapping/colored paper – A good solution if you have a paper shredder and gift wrap that your city doesn’t recycle or you run out of #1 and #2, the store’s closed, and you’re about to leave for a party. Guess how I know?

Ribbons

I love packages tied up with strings. And ribbons. You can still have ribbons and be green about it too.
1. Natural raffia – You can compost it afterward. Watch out for the plasticy fake stuff unless you think the person will reuse it
2. Paper craft ribbon – Yes, it’s difficult to reuse or recycle in a bin but you can compost it because it’s paper.
3. Colored twine – As long as it’s made from a natural fiber it’s compostable too.
4. Wired ribbon - Easy to refluff and reuse for the following year. I use this a lot because I love topping ribbon with big poufy bows made from more wired ribbon.
5. Cloth ribbon from your sewing/gift wrap stash.
6. Cloth rick rack from your sewing/gift wrap stash.
7. Reuse old video/cassette tape – One divorcee I know used her old wedding video. *Ouch*
8. Yarn from your craft/gift wrap stash.


Bows

1. Save and reuse bows – to save a smashed bow snip through the loops and fluff so it looks a bit like a chrysanthemum. If it still looks a little anemic, tape a second smashed, clipped and refluffed bow inside the first one. Then be cagey when the recipient asks where you bought such cool looking bow for her gift.
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The formerly squashed bow. My apologies for the picture quality

2. Fronts of Christmas cards – I usually do this on gifts I have to mail since bows get smashed during shipping.
3. Make a bow from recycled magazines or chip bags – I’m doing this for Mr. H’s gift this year because he proudly told me that he won an award at school for recycling (you go Mr. H!) I think he’d appreciate the extra effort. Thus clinching the title of World’s Most Fabulous Aunt (trademark pending) for yet another year.
4. Greenery/pine cones/seedpods/leaves – Tie a little cluster with some ribbon and no-one will ever realize that you ran out of traditional gift bows and ribbon. They will talk about your Martha Stewart gift wrapping powers instead.
5. Silk or dried flowers – I have these from old bridesmaid’s bouquets in my gift wrapping box. I pull a few flowers/greenery out and tie them together w/ ribbon. If the silks are a little worse for wear I give them a quick spiff up with leftover silver or gold spray paint and make them festive again.
6. Old garland - Tie a loop of old garland together with string to make a bow – like cluster or use in place of ribbon.
7. Christmas ornaments – If it’s a personalized ornament it doubles as a gift tag! Minimal effort and maximum impact – what’s not to like?

Gift Tags

I’ve never purchased a gift tag. Ever. I use a combination of the following:

1. Fronts of old Christmas cards I received from previous years.
2. Wrapping paper scraps cut into a rectangle and folded over – You can spiff them up or cut them down to size with decorative scrap booking scissors if you have them.
3. Make gift tags from old business cards – I glue 2 business cards together front sides facing in, shape with scissors or a decorative corner punch, and punch a hole in the top to tie to the gift. Easy!
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I make blank gift tags up ahead of time to make wrapping go more quickly.

4. Cut gift tags from paper w/ scrap booking stamps/cuttersRenovation Therapy makes round gift tags by punching out and gluing together two different sizes and types of decorative paper. Pretty!


What is your favorite way to wrap gifts?


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Sunday, December 13, 2009

How to Make a No Slip Microwave Heating Pad

They go by many names: microwaveable heating pad, hot rice pack, bed buddy, aromatherapy heating pad, hot wheat bag, flax seed heating pad, cherry pit pack, hot therapy pillow, herbal heating pad, and buckwheat heating pads to name a few. Basically they are all some sort of heating pad that you heat in the microwave and use to soothe those achy muscles – ahhh!

Husband tried one at a friend’s house while recovering from a torn side muscle. He said that the bag’s size and shape did the job much better than his electric heating pad (which we sadly left at home.)

I decided to make him one but improve the design a little bit by making chambers so the heated contents wouldn’t slip away from the part of his body that needed the heat. By using a kitchen towel for my project he can also use it as a homemade moist heating pad if he likes.

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Toasty warm!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

National Brownie Day is a Real Holiday?

I like to eat brownies. I also like to support local businesses and when those local businesses make brownies, I get an extra happy in my tummy.

Cheryl & Co. is a based in Columbus and they make brownies. Their cookies are the stuff of legend. They invited me their Headquarters December 8th to celebrate National Brownie Day and also to learn about their other companies, The Popcorn Factory and 1-800 Flowers. Which are companies I patronize already and had no idea were part of Cheryl & Co. I accepted their invite much to Husband’s delight.

Tip: I keep and reuse Cheryl & Co. and The Popcorn Factory’s sturdy and brightly printed cookie boxes, popcorn and cookie tins for wrapping small gifts. Experience gifts like tickets or membership paperwork look more significant when they come in a decorated tin. All you need to do is slap on a bow or ribbon and you’re done! Quick, pretty, reusable gift wrap. I like.
I saw how Cheryl & Co. make their famous cookies and brownies. The process is kind of like how you’d do it at home with real butter, eggs, and sugar but on a much bigger scale. I was impressed that Cheryl & Co. doesn’t add extra preservatives to their cookies and that they can still be frozen for up to six months.

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Cookies cooling and waiting for butter cream frosting

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sparkly Glam Recycled Outdoor Christmas Décor

I wanted to do something a little different to shake up my outdoor Christmas decorations this year. I’m leaning towards glitzy glam, because I’m still pining for those shiny silver and red trees I didn’t buy at the Restore. I want to keep it environmentally friendly too. Difficult because sparkly wow! isn’t generally associated with environmentally friendly. Environmentally friendly usually means country burlap. Not what’ I’m looking for this year.

After a little rooting around in the outdoor Christmas décor box, found these sparkly dood-dads. They came as part of a Christmas decoration that a cousin made and gave me that didn’t quite make it to my house in one piece during shipping so I never used it. They will do just nicely on the swoopy parts of the garland on my porch.

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Sparkley!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Holiday Helper: Making Quick Meals From Scratch

I'm so excited that my friend Lisa from RetroHousewife Goes Green offered to do a Guest Post on Condo Blues. Take it away Lisa!

Thanks to Lisa for letting me do a guest post for her! Her blog is one of the first blogs I started reading and I have gotten to know her from the Green Moms Carnival. Be sure to check out my blog Retro Housewife Goes Green as well.

We all know there are days you just don't want to cook. While most of America would just go get some fast food or call for take out, that is often not so green and not very healthy.

A great way to still have quick meals but stay healthy and green is to make some meals you can freeze and heat later. It's like making your own frozen dinners.


I like to take a day that I have very little else going on and make a lot of meals at once. The favorite in our house is pizza. It's super easy! All you need to do to make your own frozen pizzas is take your favorite dough recipe and make enough for however many you want to freeze.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Low Key Christmas Party – a Green Holiday Favorite!

Last year I read an article in the New York Times Style section where the writer boo hoo’ed that because the economy was tanking they had to skip throwing a swanky expensive Christmas party and ended up doing something at home. They were surprised that their downsized party was more fun than the lavish ones of their past, predicted it a huge trend (because of course they just created such a thing), and oh by-the-way it’s a little greener way to go.

Well I suppose that makes my very Midwestern friends Alex and Anne trendsetters! They are way ahead of their time because they’ve been throwing this kind of Christmas party for years. It’s one of the best parties I attend and I’ve been to some swank holiday parties let me tell you.

Funny thing is, if you met Alex and Anne, you wouldn’t say that they were trendsetters at all. They don’t wear trendy clothes or drive sports cars or even a Prius. Their traditional Christmas party also flies in the face of any green cynic who says that Christmas, and parties, and gifting are a wasteful, unthoughtful, consumer-ridden humbug that we should just remove from our yurts completely. Because they are the type of people who, like most of my friends, emphasize people and fun. Although our idea of fun is usually a little kookier than most.

The Party, the Details, the Fun!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mom’s Homemade Soy Candles

My Mom has an addictive new hobby – making scented soy candles. Since I love burning candles and Mom usually gives her creations as gifts to people like say, me, this is one addiction that I wholeheartedly encourage

Might be a Danish thing (Danes burn so many candles that as a nation Denmark consumes more candles per capita than any other country on earth – no lie) might be an inner pyromaniac thing. Either way I find that burning a scented soy candle is a festive way to get rid of cooking smells after dinner without resorting to icky fake flower scented sprays that are full of questionable chemicals. Feh.

Mom’s dealer, source of inspiration came from her favorite candle store The Swan Creek Candle Company. It’s a little candle shop that sells the most fragrant soy candles with lead free wicks. She promises to take me there when I visit her but we end up not going for one reason or another. I forgive her because she gives me candles. Yes, I let her to buy my love because I"m nice like that.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recycled Buttons? Oh Yes Please!

I was shopping at Joann’s for fabric for Christmas gifts. I found myself in the button section, not that I needed new buttons for my project; I planned on reusing some buttons from my grandmother’s button box because of course using what you already have is the greenest practice of all.

Well, that, and I have a ton of buttons in that box. They have sat largely unused because while I was in a costume sewing frenzy during our Renaissance festival performing years, I couldn’t use those buttons because they were plastic*.


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Yes, I designed, drafted patterns for most, and made everything from the skin out and hats on down for Husband and I with the except of the shawl (a gift from Mother-in-Law) and the vintage muff.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Habitat Restore Treasure Hunt

One of my favorite places to shop (and donate) materials for my creative reuse projects is the Habitat Restore. Several readers have asked me. “What’s the Habitat Restore?” The Restore is a thrift store that helps fund Habitat for Humanity so they can build houses for low income people. But this is no ordinary thrift store my friends, oh no! The Restore is a thrift store of home improvement supplies. I put on my Big Game Bargain Huntress pith helmet, grabbed the bathroom fan I replaced and wanted to donate, and hopped on down to my local Restore to poke a round. Here’s what I found.

The first thing to greet me when I walked in the door where these big silver Christmas trees. Love. They are shiny, would look perfect flanking my porch in two groups of three, and remind me of drag queens. Probably donated by the Limited Brands, Gap or some other store that’s based in Columbus. I want!

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Sadly storage is an issue. Maybe I could go with the baby ones? Instead of drag queen trees, I suppose that makes these little gems drag princesses?

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Add a Blanket to Your Bed Giveaway

My furnace is just a touch under the Energy Star rating, is less than 5 years old, and works well so we’re keeping it. However, I am able to make it run more efficiently by cleaning the reusable filter on the first day of the month (so I remember to do it) and by installing a programmable thermostat which sets the furnace to 62 degrees (F) when we sleep. Since I can’t sleep when I’m cold, I like to pile blankets on the bed during the winter. Make that a lot of blankets on the bed during the winter. Because I hate being cold. Hate. It.

Sadly, I can’t cut down on bed blanket bulk with a warm and cuddly down comforter. Husband is allergic to down (drat!) I had to find an alterative. I was surprised to find it in a microfiber blanket. Oh excuse, me a Classic Plush Blanket by Select Comfort, you know the Sleep Number mattress people?
 
I have to say I was intrigued because while I tried (and subsequently loved) cleaning with microfiber cloths I wondered what the heck makes a microfiber blanket any more special than a regular cotton blanket? Of course I realized right off the bat that a microfiber blanket is made with synthetic materials, so it isn’t a green product; however this was in its favor for us because of Husband’s allergy. As always, your mileage may vary.

I took the cotton quilt off of our bed and replaced it the Classic Plush Blanket. Well I must say that this blanket is aptly named
because it is soft and plushy and very, very warm which is surprised both husband and me because Classic Plush Blanket is quite thin. And warm. Did I mention the warm part? Much warmer than the cotton quilt the Classic Plush Blanket replaced (sorry Grandma.) So while the microfiber blanket itself isn’t a green product, it does allow us to do green things – keep our thermostat low during bedtime, use less energy, and not freeze to death. Yay microfiber blankets!

Friday, November 20, 2009

9 Fall Fix-Ups That Lower Your Winter Heating Bill

Winterizing the outside of your home in order to lower your energy use, save money, and lower your heating bills is as easy as a walk around the house, a walk around the outside of the house that is. Let’s stroll outside so I can show you how I seal up outside air leaks to prep the house for winter and keep my natural gas and electricity use - and bill - low.


9 Things You Need To Do To Lower Your Winter Heating Bill


1. Check for gaps outside of my windows. I have efficient double paned windows but even the most efficient windows will leak air because you’re still cutting a hole in your wall to install the window – duh. You can’t see it very well here because I calked the gap where the window frame meets the house with clear silicone caulk. I used clear because I wanted it to blend in and I didn’t want to have worry about finding the right color caulk for each area of the condo I needed.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Green Moms Carnival: Saving Money through Green Means

This month, The Green Moms Carnival takes on the myth that going green means spending tons of money. I’m so excited to host this, my first Green Mom’s Carnival because the topic is close to my heart.
Unlike the message we constantly see in the popular green media, my fellow Green Moms demonstrate that you don’t have to spend exorbitant amounts of cash to green your life. Well, unless you want to, I suppose. Quite honestly, most of my favorite green living tips are the ones that save money as well as the world we live in. Yes, Virginia, you can have both.

Enough of my prattling, on with the Carnival!


Kid Stuff

Monday, November 16, 2009

How to Conduct a DIY Home Energy Audit

Unlike some areas of the United States, my local gas and electric companies do not offer free home energy audits to their customers. After much digging on my gas company’s Website, I found a link to the Energy Star Website that allowed me to conduct a DIY home energy audit using their Home Energy Yardstick. Best of all this service is free. I like free. Free is good.



I entered information about my home from the last 12 months of my natural gas and electric utility bills, clicked Submit and hoped for the best. The Home Energy Yardstick gave me an energy performance grade (Below Average to Above Average) and a score on a ten point scale.

Once I found out how much energy my home used last year, I needed to check the energy efficiency of the structure and mechanicals. Pros do with this inferred cameras and blower door test gizmos. Fortunately I was able to find most of the same information on my own with a flashlight, a candle, and a some poking and prodding around the house.

How to Do a Free DIY Energy Audit in Ten Easy Steps

Thursday, November 5, 2009

6 DIY Recycling Ideas for Non DIYres

It only takes a short drive to go from my city that has a formal recycling program for glass, paper, metal, and plastic to tiny rural town America that tried and failed to make their city recycling program pay for itself. They reluctantly canceled the program.

In a situation like that I would take the DIY approach to recycling and reducing my household waste. But what do you do if you aren’t a DIYer, don’t have the skills, or time? Don’t worry; you can easily recycle items if you put your mind to it. Here are six DIY ways to reuse items even if you are not a DIYer.

Six Ways to Recycle When You Don't Have Time


1. Paint Halloween pumpkins instead of carving and use as food later. This year I painted my pumpkin which means it didn’t uh, self compost early like Husband’s carved pumpkin. The day after Halloween, I cut the pumpkin in half, scooped out the seeds for roasting, composted the goop, and then roasted, drained, and pureed the pumpkin for food. I froze 8 cups of puree from that pumpkin – that will make a lot of pumpkin soup!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Candyland Cake

Little Mr G. had a birthday. Birthdays mean cake. No crappy grocery store bakery cake for this kid. Mr G’s mom made a cake from scratch, plunked it on a clean and reused cake plank, and decorated it to look like one of his favorite game boards.


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Photo curtesy of Mr. G's mom

Candyland!

With real candy, yo.

Coolest. Cake. Ever.


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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Decorate Your Pumpkins with Stencils!

Husband wanted to carve pumpkins this year for Halloween. Intricate carving with stencils kind of pumpkins like the Bruce Campbell/Evil Dead pumpkin our friend carved last Halloween. I wasn’t surprised. He's been talking about  it off and on ever since he snatched up a pumpkin carving kit on super duper mega sale last year after Halloween.

Looks like we’re decorating pumpkins this year.

We gathered our supplies. Pumpkins – check. Carving Kit – check. Stencils – check. Paints – check.

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Can you believe we got these little beauties for $1.99 each?! First we went to the North Market for pumpkins. They only had one and it was a little bigger than a softball so we passed. Then we trucked over to Aldi to grab milk and saw what was left of the Halloween pumpkins for sale. They were the right size and on sale for $1.99. Yes please.

Chances ae the pumpkins were so cheap because they were a little dirty and the backsides are a little mottled but some water, dish soap, and a few squirts of vinegar from a spary bottle took care of the dirt. Using the front side of the pumpkin dealt with the mottling.

Big Game Bargain Huntress score!

*bows deeply*

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Husband plunged a knife into his pumpkin and scooped out its brains!

We saved the seeds for roasting and the stringy pumpkin goo. Husband says the goo is what you’re supposed to use for cooking. I think it’s the rind. Does anyone know for certain?

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I got my spider stencil off the internet and printed it out on the backside of some junk mail.

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I used the stencil to paint my pumpkin because Husband said he can’t trust me with knives (he’s right.) Well that and I wanted to keep at least one pumpkin intact to use for food after the holiday.

Also I can’t draw worth squat without a computer. Hence, the stencil.

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As you can see, I choose to paint my pumpkin in the style of a 5 year old child with no arms and no legs. When I told Husband my plans he shouted, “Like Matisse!” Goofball.

If you’re thinking “Hey that looks a little like the bug that’s on the Method bottle!” you wouldn’t be wrong. I had to use their stencil so I could enter my pumpkin in Method's pumpkin carving contest. The winner gets cleaning supplies. I figure after this little adventure I'll need a slew of cleaning supplies to clean up the leftover pumpkin chunks and goo.Wish me luck!

Husband carved his pumpkin following the lines of a stencil that came in the kit. I think his came out much better than mine.

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You can bet these little beauties will grace our porch on Beggar’s Night.

Updated 11/4/2009: Hey guess what? Method did a random drawing on their pumpkin carving contest entries and I won! My prize is a bunch of Method cleaning supplies. Yay me!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Blitzkrieg’s Balloon Boy Costume!

Blitzkrieg needed a costume for the Capital Area Human Society’s Halloween Pet Parade but what do you do if you dog hates costumes?

Hmmmm…Think. Think. Think.

After watching way too much of the evening news. I got it!

It’s timely.

It’s twisted.

It’s recycled!

I gathered my materials…

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…and used them to create this. A dog Balloon Boy costume!

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I played with Photobucket to make Blitzkrieg's costume stand out in the foreground of these photos since there's so much going on visually in the background.

Husband held the balloon in the parade and I pulled Blitzkrieg in the box I attached to his wheeled carrier.

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"It’s for the show”
Blitzkrieg's Balloon Boy costume was a hit. We helped raise money for one of our favorite charities and Blitzkrieg earned some noms doing it. High fives and tail wags all the way around.

This post is part of  Reinvented's Trash to Treasure Tuesday and A Soft Place to Land's DIY Day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How Much Attic Insulation is Enough?

I wondered exactly how much insulation I had in the attic. It’s a good thing to know because the proper amount of insulation improves your home's energy efficiency, it’s environmentally friendly because good insulation allows you to use less energy from the power plant to heat and cool your home, and it also saves you money.

And I’m all about saving energy and saving money even after I completed the 20% Energy Reduction Challenge Project.

I grabbed a flashlight and a yardstick and climbed into the attic. My plan was to stick the yardstick next to the insulation and find out how many inches deep it is. Then I can determine the insulation’s R-value. R-value is a rating that indicates how effective the insulation is. The larger the number the more effective the insulation.

Turns out I didn’t have to go to all that trouble. My builder had a yardstick of sorts stapled to a rafter. It was easy to see that I have 13 inches of loose fill insulation in my attic.

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But what is the R-value of the insulation in my attic?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Porch Chair Revamp Take 2

I cheaped out on paint and fabric when I revamped the freebie chairs on my front porch. Well, even after living under a covered porch, the weather did a number on them and they looked like this a short time later.

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 Ick.

 This revamp to the second power has been on my Do It Yourself Honey List for awhile. I better do it now before the weather turns too cold to paint outside.

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 I scored a remnant of outdoor fabric at Old Time Pottery for the chair redo. I learned my lesson about using apparel weight fabric for outdoor projects.

Don’t.


Sunday, October 4, 2009

What Are Your Favorite Homemade Gifts for Men and Boys?

OK gang. I need your help. Even though I try to Christmas shop for ideas and gifts all year round, I’m a little behind this year. Yes, I realize that it’s barely October and I should be writing about Halloween and Fall wonderfulness and not Christmas. I will write about that later, I promise.

PhotobucketIt’s just that Crunchy Chicken with her Homemade Christmas Gift Challenge and Renovation Therapy’s making cloth gift bags early, both got me in the mood for making Christmas gifts now. Which is a good idea all the way around. I’m in desperate need for a project. Preferably one that doesn’t involve ripping the kitchen apart like the one I just finished. Projects keep me off the streets at night. You really don’t want a (sort of) suburban girl like me gone wilding now do you? Of course you don’t.

I’m sewing things for some of the ladies on my list. I’ll write about that later after I deliver a birthday gift. I don’t want to ruin the surprise on the off chance she reads my blog (Hi Mom!)

Blitzkrieg and his dog cousin Chopper are set.

My problem this holiday season is I don’t have any ideas on what to make for the guys on my gift list. For the side of the family that does Christmas stockings, last year I helped Santa fill them by making peppermint chocolate bark for the guys and peppermint sugar scrubs for the girls. That might happen again because it went over big last year.

Other than that I’m stumped.

Women and girls are easy, most crafty things are women-centric (soaps, jewelry, scarves, etc.) and being a girl I have some insight on what the women on my list might like. Men are a little more problematic because I have no experience being a dude.

What are you favorite gift ideas for boys and men?

And a couple of the guys are my list are tween boys. They are way past the age of most handmade little boy toys (*snif*.) They’d rather play video/computer games so I usually go with that. They eschew handmade toiletry items because they are, well, boys. And as of this writing girls are still kinda icky so smelling like a manly man for the ladeez isn’t on their radar – yet. Thank goodness! I’m not ready for that.

Are you making anything for the men on your gift list? What is it?

Guys, what was a favorite homemade gift that you received? I’m really looking at you to help me out on this one. Especially if you got a homemade gift that didn’t quite hit the mark. I really like to know about those too. Help a gal out, I’d really like to know. Thanks!


PS: Just so I’m not jumping the seasonal gun too much, here’s a picture of a scarecrow I made last Fall.

Photobucket

Happy?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Corn and Molasses Bread Recipe

I had to make bread for a family reunion. I'm usually asked to bring bread to family gatherings because I make frou-frou type bakery breads. Of course since I make it, I don't have to pay the frou-frou bakery prices AND I get to control the type and quality of ingredients I use - bonus.

I couldn’t decide what to make. Chive Potato Bread or Corn and Molasses Bread? I turned to a higher authority to help me decide – Twitter.

I ended up making both.

Green Bean Dreams from The Green Phone Booth asked me for my corn and molasses bread maker recipe – here it is.



You will need:

Monday, September 28, 2009

2 Ways to Preserve Fresh Herbs

I love cooking with fresh herbs. Unfortunately, when the winter snows come, there goes the fresh herbs I have growing right outside my kitchen door in pots on my patio. This year, I decided to take my cue from the small furry squirrels that are currently gathering nuts for their winter siesta and try my hand at preserving fresh herbs from my herb garden for winter.


The two main methods for preserving fresh herbs are drying and freezing. I’ve done both. Here’s how.

How to Dry Fresh Herbs