Brita® Back to College Giveaway!

Do you want to send your kiddo off to college with a good Brita® water habit while Back to College shopping? Yes? Good! I am giving away a $25 gift certificate. Click here to enter! The Brita® Back to College Giveaway runs from August 21 to August 29, 2014.

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.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Reverse Trick or Treat: Green or Just Mean?

I’ve tried writing this post for two weeks. The subject turns one of the happiest times of my year into a depressing stress ball of emotions. I’m talking about Reverse Trick or Treat.

Here’s the deal. A kid comes up to your house, takes the candy you give them. They give you a flyer about how Fair Trade chocolate makes sure that cocoa farmers sell their crops to chocolate companies for a fair market price, it isn’t grown with forced labor, is sustainably grown and how you should be giving it out instead of whatever you are giving out. Sometimes they give you a piece of Fair Trade chocolate.

Some folks think that coming into a stranger’s house or doorstep and automatically judging them and assuming that they are jerks because they are not giving out or obviously caring about Fair Trade chocolate is a perfectly OK way to spread the word.

I don’t.

Why don’t they focus on encouraging people to GIVE OUT Fair Trade chocolate at their own homes instead? That’s less antagonistic and could sell a lot more Fair Trade chocolate which is the goal or if it isn't it should be, supply and demand and all.

I’d also like to see them work harder at getting more Fair Trade chocolate for sale in regular grocery stores especially the fun size/Halloween type candy. The only type of Fair Trade chocolate I can buy locally are full size bars of chocolate. Even though I love them and I want to support the cause, I can’t just blow the entire month’s grocery budget on buying full size Fair Trade chocolate bars to give out to the army of Trick or Treaters that knock on my door.

It kills me that there is an organization out there that thinks that I should and is encouraging children and their parents to judge me in my own home if I don’t.

Reverse Trick or Treat also assumes I don’t care when in fact, I do care. While I don’t blog about it much (and maybe I should) everything I bring into my home I think about. Hard. In fact, last year I agonized over the Halloween candy decision, got depressed, and gave myself a migraine trying to think of something that was also allergy free, vegetarian, plastic free, cruelty free, low waste, organic, local, and isn’t a toddler choking hazard.

Reverse Trick or Treat assumes that I’m not aware the issue. Wrong again. I visited cocoa, coffee, and sugar farms in the Dominican Republic. I’ve seen with my own eyes how the “rich” family who owned the farm lives in a house with a dirt floor and has the luxury of a 13” TV hooked up to a car battery because they do not have electricity.

I can’t fault the cute little munchkin with the flyer on my porch or their parents for being the only one full of wrongful assumptions. In my research for this article, I found that when it comes to Fair Trade chocolate, the Fair Trade chocolate industry isn’t always fair to it's farmers. It’s not just the Fair Trade coca industry either. In some countries Fair Trade collectives do not pass the extra money they get from selling their coffee at the higher Fair Trade price back to the farmers in the collective which is what Fair Trade is supposed to be about.

 That’s right. I assumed that when I buy Fair Trade chocolate that someone is watching the watchers to ensure that Fair Trade stays that way. I was wrong.

This feels like a punch in the gut. Now I know how Dorothy felt when she pulled back the curtain and found that the Great and Powerful Oz wasn’t a wizard at all but just an old man.

This doesn't happen in every country or with every Fair Trade collective but it is apparent to me that the discussion about Fair Trade chocolate and how to make sure as a consumer that I’m buying something that is as Fairly Traded as the name implies is much larger than a doorstep conversation. And trust me, it’s a conversation I’ve had and it’s not very easy to verify either way.

So like a lot of questionable things, I’m going to try to limit my consumption. I’m not going to stop buying Fair Trade chocolate or Fair Trade goods altogether because there are many countries and collectives where the Fair Trade system works as it should. But I am going to be even more selective about Fair Trade items and start asking a lot more questions especially when it comes to chocolate because a Fair Trade chocolate farmer and workers being treated fairly varies widely depending upon the country.

Of course, as always, your mileage may vary.

What is your take on Reverse Trick or Treat? Green? Mean? Or otherwise?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Have a New Friend, Her Name is Alice.com

Alice.com is a web store where you can buy household cleaning and sundries online and have they shipped directly to your door. Their free shipping has appeal. I thought it was a great idea but I honestly doubted that I would use it.

Until now.

Husband over trained for a race and has to take it easy for a bit so his sports injury will heal. He understandably doesn’t want to nor should he do the 4 shop power hop with me for groceries. It was a good time to try out Alice.com.

Alice.com the Experience

I bought a bunch of stuff (with my own money, thankyouverymuch FTC**) from Alice.com. They didn’t know that I was considering writing about my experience until after I got my delivery because I asked them some questions about what I got and how I got it for this article.

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The Good

I have no hang ups about shopping online, I do it all the time. But the thought of buying cleaners on line when I can easily buy them from a nearby store felt weird at first. I guess it’s because I like to flip bottles over and read ingredient labels because I’m like that. I was pleasantly surprised that this information was available on Alice for each product they sell.
  • You can search for products by Category and then sort by: Best Match, Alphabetical, Coupons offered, High Price, Low Price, Green/Organic (I really like this one!), Premium, Bargain Hunter (also a favorite!) You can also search for products by brand name. 
  • If you don’t see a product you want for sale, you can email them and ask them to carry it. I asked them to sell bars of laundry soap since they already carry 2 of the 3 ingredients I need to make powdered HE laundry detergent. I got an email back a few days later saying that they would consider it. Knock me over with a feather! A++ in the customer service department.
  • I was surprised at the number of environmentally friendly products for sale, some more mainstream, some I had not heard of before. I took the opportunity to buy a couple of items that aren’t for sale at my regular grocery stores (cross fingers that I like them.) 
  • Alice really thinks about their packaging and how the orders are shipped. The packing materials are lightweight pillows (#4 plastic) and are also made from recycled plastic (yay Alice!) Being so lightweight, the pillows cut down on the package weight and in turn reduce cost and amount of fuel needed to deliver the package. When I asked Alice about their packaging, they described it much better than I can. They said:
“When you receive your box, you’ll notice we strive to ensure that our packaging not only looks good, but is good for the earth as well. Each Alice box is made of 66% recycled material and is 100% recyclable. The inks used are non-lead, water-based inks, and the air pillows inside are a sustainable packing material alternative that can be recycled repeatedly.”
I’m very impressed that they use lead-free ink. Being friends with The Smart Mama, I’m learning that lead is in a lot of unexpected places. She makes me think. Alice makes me think. Geez, and here I thought I was just buying some borax to clean my toilet. Who knew?

  • You can use coupons. Husband needed shaving gel (In the interest of martial harmony this is what the guy likes; he can’t be persuaded to use something a little greener, so this is what I buy.) Alice automatically applied the coupon to my purchase. Thanks for saving me .55 cents Alice!
  • Alice is fast. I placed my order after 9:00pm on a Thursday. Early Friday I got a confirmation email that my order shipped. It arrived on my doorstep Monday morning.
  • They randomly give out free samples! I was lucky to find a bag of free samples with my order. Funny thing is, I considered buying Dropps but decided against it. Now it looks like I’ll get to try them out after all.
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The Not so Good

  • You have to order at least 6 items from Alice.com at a time. It makes perfect sense, because they offer free shipping. I didn’t think I needed 6 items so I asked a friend if they wanted to add a couple of things to my order. Turns out I ended up ordering 6 items for myself anyway. Oh well. (Yes, I split the free samples. I’m not greedy.) 
  • The packaging is one of those environmental double edged swords. There are a lot of plastic bags involved in the packaging. The bottles were taped and in zippered bags. I understand why because I’ve had toiletries leak all over my suitcase when I fly (not fun!) This could be a concern if you don’t like plastic or don’t have a place to recycle the plastic pillows. This isn’t an issue for me. I either reused or recycled the packing materials from my order. As always, your mileage may vary.
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I can see how Alice.com comes in handy when time is short or when I don’t want to go from store to store to buy all of the environmentally friendly products I’d like to try. I really wish I had Alice.com when I was a college student because lugging bags of groceries home on a city bus stinks. Will I use Alice.com again? I think I might. What about you?



**By the way FTC, I didn’t get any money from Alice.com to talk about their service or from the companies or products shown in this post. My readers are smart enough to know this since I said  I bought everything with my own money, but since you’re busy being the Fed and all I thought I’d spell it out for you. You’re welcome.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I’m an Outlaw, a Craftin’ Outlaw That Is

Last Saturday I went to the Craftin’ Outlaws craft fair. It's a far cry from the doily covered craft fairs I went to as a kid with my Grandmother. Many of these artists use reclaimed materials, are a bit edgier, or artier, and the show itself was held at the Lodge Bar. Yep, shopping’ for crafty things in a bar on a Saturday afternoon.

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Not that I’m judging. It was one of those things that's weird and makes sense all at the same time. Especially when you find out they had a Craft Corner DeathMatch contest (Yes! Just like the old TV show!) during the craft fair.

Husband and I took the opportunity to do a little Christmas shopping, although quite honestly, I saw many more things I wanted to take home for myself. I’m going to be cagey about telling you what we bought because, well, I don’t want to spoil the surprise for anyone on my gift list.

I have a thing for handmade jewelry. There were several jewelry artists there including Gypsy Rabbit Industries who does enamel work.

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I amazed at how Once Lost Jewelry colleges old watch parts together into necklaces and rings. Kinda Steampunk, kinda reto/Victorian, kinda I- wish-I had-one-of-everything please.


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There were a lot of vendors selling plushies of all types. I gravitated towards those who featured cute monsters. These cute little goth girls from Tragic Stitches & Tragic Adornments  were there just in time for Halloween. My inner Wednesday Addams loves them.

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Oh, there was food there too. Husband and I got a free taste of Ohio made Velvet Ice Cream from the CD101 ice cream truck. CD101 is our local alterative radio station

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I’ve had vegan baked goods before and well, most have been, uh, interesting. Decent, but kind of dry.

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Do you realize that these little lovelies are VEGAN?!

Not these! In the interest in of wanting to scarf down some delicious looking baked goods help stimulate the local economy and support local businesses we bought goodies from Pattycake Bakery. We had no idea that the moist sugary goodness of our pumpkin whoopee pies was vegan until after we got home and checked out their Website. Vegan or no, I don’t care, their stuff rocks. We WILL be back!

After inhaling our snacks we checked out the soap vendors. Squeaky Queen  makes glycerin soaps, many with little fun things imbedded inside like Pieces of Eight  (these make great stocking stuffers for the kiddos) and some seriously cute little top hats. Period or no, I wish I had a historical gig coming up just so I could sport one of her kicky little top hats.

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Yeah, I have a thing for hats too.

On the more subversive soap front was Stinky Bomb Soap.

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Not only do they make soap, but they also make the soap molds.


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Nothing says twisted clean fun than washing up with soap molded from a baby doll head found at the thrift store!

We bought one.

There was also quite a bit of art for sale as well as craftiness. I fell in love with these birch lamps from Kirkiture.

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I think the drum shade may work over our kitchen table but dang it I didn’t have the measurements to be certain. I grabbed his buisness card for a possible future purchase.


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This piece drew me over to the Open Door Art Studio booth. Because hello, if there’s giant monster attack, it makes perfect sense to call on giant robots to defend the city.

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What I didn’t know is that Open Door Art Studio is a nonprofit art studio that offers art classes for MR/DD individuals. Some of the items on sale are created in their studio and some are from local artists (most of who volunteer) on consignment to help fund the organization.

It was a great way to spend a frozen Saturday afternoon.

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Updated 10/26/09: In my orginal post I incorrectly indentified who made the enamel jewlery pictured in this post. Gypsy Rabbit created the jewlery pictured in this post and not Pieces of 8 as I origially wrote. My apologies.

**Neither Craftin’ Outlaws nor did any of the vendors paid me or gave me things to mention them in this post.**

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?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

HairZing Winner!

We have a winner to my Hairzing contest. I used a randomizer to select the winner...

Catherine!



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Photo courtesy of HairZing

Here's Catherine's winning comment:

I like the silver metallic one!

Congratulations Catherine!

If you wish you won this little hair accessory you can buy one from HairZing. The holidays are coming up and they make great gifts! (Husband, I'd like to find another one in my Christmas stocking this year. Hint, hint.)

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.

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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: