Pickles!

How can you not smile, at the very least, at the word “pickles?” Seriously. (It also brings me back to the early days of Nick Toons…) Say it three times. Feel good?
Awesome.

And who doesn’t love the taste? My husband. That’s who.

Regardless, he was enamored with the pickle-making process. I threw these together the day before our mini-vacation (is three days a mini-vacation, including driving? Or is it a full-blown vacation?) to use up a bunch of the cucumbers we’d been hoarding from our weekly CSA boxes. Of course, we still have more, but I figured 6 pints would do us just fine and help with the glut of cukes.

You can make these refrigerator pickles and make this quick as well as easy. But, nope, in the midst of cleaning, doing laundry, packing, and the usual toddler-watching rigmarole, I undertook the delight of washing and sterilizing mason jars, rings and lids. Silly girl.

It really wasn’t that bad. I’d call it “easy” if you follow the steps. Just not quick. And, of course, I went rogue, so we’ll see how they turn out in the end!

I used the recipe blogged about on Elephant Journal, but made some adjustments. I left out the green onions (more room for cukes! Shove ’em in until you can’t shoves no more, folks!) and tried one with more garlic, another with some habanero pepper. But, when it was time to process the jars in hot water, I’m afraid I might’ve ruined the texture of ’em — one site I read said to process for 5 minutes after reaching a boil, which meant that NONE of the jars sealed. Attempt #2, they all sealed. However, that means that the final pickles will probably be a little limp. If they taste good, though, I’m happy. 😉

I’m thinking about giving the green and yellow beans I’ve got a “dilly bean” treatment. Can you believe I’ve never tried ’em? I know. Bad, BAD natural mama.

Oh, and if you’re wondering: Hadman loves pickles. He’s been picky about a lot of veggies lately (fruits, however, he could survive on, so thank goodness for small victories), but I think if I continue to preserve and save – and I totally mean in a “zucchini muffins” way – them in ways like these, he won’t know what hit him.

Mwahaha.

So, here’s my version of the recipe…

Homemade Dill Pickles (for 6, 1-pint containers)  

– 6-8 cucumbers, washed and sliced (however you like them, but the bigger they are the better texture they’ll have)
– dill seed (NOT weed), about 1 tsp. per jar
– lots of garlic, smashed, 3+ per jar
– red pepper flakes, pinch per jar (or more)
– ground pepper or peppercorns, 1/2 tsp. or so per jar
– thinly sliced jalapeno or habanero pepper, optional

Put spices in the bottom of each jar. Tightly fill with cucumbers (and pepper, if using). Pour following brine to cover cucumbers, cover with lids, and seal.

Brine – Simmer the following until dissolved: 3/4 c. apple cider vinegar, scant 1/4 c. white vinegar, scant 1/2 c. water, and 3/4 T. salt PER JAR {for me, this came to about 4 1/2 c. ACV, between 1 1/4 & 1 1/2 c. white, about 2 c. water, and 4 1/2 T. salt total}. Slowly pour into each jar before processing.

So, who else attempts pickling? What’s YOUR favorite recipe? I’d love to try different ones out.

Cheap (or Free!) Ways to Embrace Trends

Be they fashion, decor, technology, or anything else, “trends” can be kind of negative. And, to some extent, I agree. When a few years fly by, we find ourselves laughing or rolling our eyes at what we once thought was “cool.” However, I’ve realized that it’s up to us to decide which trends are worth our time (and money) or not. As with all things in life, we have to be true to ourselves and always go with our own individual interests and tastes in the end. I wholly believe that.

But, it doesn’t mean that we have to completely ignore the world outside our own minds. Some trends help to light a spark inside you that can help freshen up your life, fill you with inspiration, or put a spring in your step. I’ve discovered some of my favorite colors and prints after seeing them used in a really fun, creative way on a blog or store display. As long as it’s not ethically immoral (say, fur or a demeaning message), I’ll always give something new a little consideration. Sometimes I immediately know it’s not for me. Other times, I fall in love.

Says the girl who once adamantly brushed aside the latest fads for Punky Brewster mismatched clothes, a Peter Tork haircut and tie-dyed tees, and a short-lived ’50s James Dean (like, guy clothes) wardrobe. Take what I say with a grain of salt. I’m clearly not a fashionista. (Even that term is outdated.)    

Anyway, even as a girl who considers herself to be pretty eco-friendly and minimalist, I feel greatly that while we purge, we still need to surround ourselves with joy…simply.

So, today I’m sharing a few simple ways to embrace trends without totally breaking the bank and completely overhauling your own uniqueness. (After all, that’s what’s most important in the end.) Some of these ideas are to spruce up your surroundings and others are wardrobe-related. All are just a little inspiration to try to mix up the old with some new-ish styles.

Cheap Accessories Help Layer in the Fun – This chevron print infinity scarf is a great example of one of my favorite things about trends: they clearly failed history class because they keep repeating it. For only $15 (or on sale if you’re lucky), you can brighten up your bland wardrobe. This is honestly the only chevron print I’ve seen that isn’t overdone (it almost looks like diagonal stripes), so my attention is less on the print and more on the vintage-inspired colors. Oh, and a great pair of sunglasses (I grab mine at TJ Maxx for the cheapest options) helps bring it all together.

Put Some Spring in Your Step with a New Shoe – It may seem subtle, but switching out your usual flip flops for a cute sandal with fringe detail can bring you happily into the warmer seasons. The rest of your outfit may be a slouchy old t-shirt and capris or skinny jeans (yes, I’ve jumped on that bandwagon, too; don’t tell my 15-year-old self), but an inexpensive (this one’s about $20) shoe can help wake it up.

Try a New Style of Pant with Subtle Details – Trying a new style can be downright frightening. (Almost as scary as bathing suit shopping. Eep.) So, if you’re a little shy, try to keep to a solid color. If you’re a touch more daring, try for a very subtle pattern, like this gorgeous colored (they say it’s red but it sways towards my favorite “new” color, coral) with dots. The fact that these pixie ankle pants remind me of Laura on the Dick Van Dyke Show makes me want to run, not walk, to my closest Old Navy. No, seriously. Oh, and I tend not to pay $35 for pants, so I’d suggest waiting for a sale (they’re currently on sale for $30…still iffy, but better).       

Pillows, Pillows, Pillows – One of my favorite ways to include some new trends around the house is with the use of throw pillows. I usually buy mine at TJ Maxx (yes, again), but Target and World Market are great alternatives for inexpensive pillows. I usually pay between $10 – $15, but even upwards of $20 is worth it for a pillow if you fall in love with it. This World Market pillow uses the southwestern/tribal motif while the Target pillows follows more of a geometric, ’80s color vibe. (Okay, who am I kidding? The ’80s are back. Cue clapping and cheering from my husband.)

Do It Yourself – This is one of my favorite ways to get a trend you love without breaking the bank. While I haven’t done any projects lately, I always keep an eye out for super inexpensive (but good quality) pieces to transform. I actually have a couple of super old, super inexpensive (like $20 for both) wooden chairs that need to be stripped, and I’m giving serious consideration into doing the paint-dipped look like Remodelista shows here. 

Bonus:
#1 – Buy Vintage – What’s old is new again! Hit up your local thrift shops and antique stores to see what once-scary item might serve a new purpose.

#2 – Free Printables – Depending in your style, there are free printables available from a ton of blogs and sites. Just Google your taste or check by your favorite blog and see what comes up. I’m loving this calendar from Vintage Revivals that uses the geometric trend wonderfully but in a fun, easy (and free!) way:

So, what are your favorite trends lately? Do you skew “classic”, “trendy”, or somewhere else? (I’m definitely all over the place, myself!)

(There are actually no affiliate links in today’s post, despite the links. Just wanted to share some thoughts and inspiration. No kick-backs. :-))

Essential Oils – How We Do

A Star for the Tree

It’s the height in hilarity at our house that the second Hadley saw our finally upright tree after his nap (after shouting “Christmas tree!!! Goody, goody!!!”), he insisted that it needed a star on top.

Huh. Yeah. We didn’t have one.

As kids, we had our own hilarious time making fun of our omni-drunk angel tree topper (um, she was always crooked, no matter what we did or shoved up her dress to straighten her out). I guess we weren’t a star family back then, and I didn’t think I was part of a star family now.

It’s even more ironic since we’re a pretty non-religious group. We feel that we’re spiritual and insightful, but don’t relate to one specific religion. We’re all baptized Catholics, and at times (usually around Christmas), I feel the pull of mass, but all-in-all, we’d like to educate our son about morality more than doctrine. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

So, there he was, sweetly demanding a star topper, then again later that night, then again in the morning. After seeing some crappy store versions, I turned to Pinterest (clearly my real religion…that’s a joke, guys) to see if I could figure something out.

During my star search, I also heard a sweet story about my grandmother, who would annually cut out a star out of cardboard that came from my grandfather’s starched shirts, cover it in tin foil, and cut a hole in it. She’d stick it on top, pull a light up through the hole to let it “shine” and call it a day. Classic, sensible and creative. Apparently, everything my grandmother was.

So, I got to work. I cut a cereal box up to expose the two large sides. After printing off a star shape, I traced it onto each box and cut them out. Then, I creased inside each point for some dimension and glued each side together. (Before it was fully dry, I trimmed it further and pressed it together again.) Finally, I glued an empty toilet paper tube to the back.

You could paint the star, cover it in glue and glitter, or put foil on it. I decided to keep it natural this time. I’m not sure if the best part is the fact that it was totally free, that it appeased the little guy’s craving for a star, or that it was a pretty old-school way to handle the issue. And not to mention eco-friendly up the wazoo!

Oh, and while I’m at it, I thought I’d share another tree that has taken up residence at our house. It’ll probably be up until Valentine’s Day, with how long it took me to finally toss it up.

I just cut out a tree shape from a large piece of green felt, then a textured piece for the trunk and a “skirt” from red. Then, I cut out random shapes, including a little snowman and present, and of course a star for the top. I used Command strips (the poster kinds) on the back and the “ornaments” and such attach without any adhesive (one of the best parts of felt). I’ve also made a felt board for pretend play as a Christmas gift, a “piece of pie” to add to his collection of fake food, and may make another piece if I find the time before Christmas eve.

Felt = the perfect toddler plaything!

So, what type of tree topper do you use in your family? We’ve used bows in the past, and even a scarf last year (I’d LOVE to find an old antique top hat with holly berries!), but we’re always willing to change if the little guy dictates a better idea.
 

Welcome Back, Red

In the early days of my blog, I had a lot of red decor in my house — and I HATED it. So, over the years I neutralized things with a white slipcover, a switch-out of pillows/curtains, and (the best part) a freshly painted no-longer-crimson dining room. I had a huge bias against anything and everything red.

But, now it’s Christmastime again, and I decided to pull out some candy cane colors…mixed with some traditional neutral, vintage and woodsy items, of course. It’s how I do.

I’m a great believer in picking a theme every year. It makes it way easier when I’m looking at the bins of decorations, deciding which to use (can’t possibly use them all in our tiny house). It also helps me flex my creative juices, which I always find fun. I even found a few minutes to string some white and red pom-poms onto some red threat for a homemade garland (to add to a banner that I made in the fall and totally forgot to share with you…so let’s pretend that’s new, too, mkay?).

One of my favorite things is that everything except for that new garland (which was super cheap; under $5 with plenty of materials leftover) were free from our stash. I’ve had a stack of vintage Christmas cards that I bought in VT years ago that my husband loves as much as I do, so I love that I was finally able to pull them out and find a purpose for them. With all of the old-school movies were tend to pull out this time of year (okay, and throughout the year), it’s very “us” to use these, with messages and images that harken back to those lovely, simpler times. 

I’ve added a thing here or there since these crappy cell phone pictures were taken, like building up the greens more (had to trim the tree) and I realized that the chunky trim above our built-ins is PERFECT for displaying Christmas cards, like a free ledge shelf.

So, here’s a little view of our Christmas cheer this year.

Hard to see, but here’s some detail…


The tree is super simple this year (it’s a Toddler + Cat Tree). Looking through the pictures, I realize how many are personal touches. I grabbed some red books from our upstairs shelves and mixed them with my winter magazine collection. The beautiful, rustic blue painting in the dining room is one Dave did in high school (I know, right?!). We mixed antiques and chalkboards (did a quick reindeer sketch on my $1 board and a surprisingly simple drawing of Nest of Posies’ printable) and some of my favorite all-season accessories (like mercury glass candle holders and switching out vase fillers).

I like to think this mix makes the house feel fun and festive but in a cozy, hint-of-the-modern way. Oh, and I only decorate those few spaces, usually. (No bathroom or even kitchen decor here this year.) What about you guys? Do you decorate the same way every year? Do you try new things or find comfort in the tradition of your favorite pieces? How does your place look this year?

And I totally know I don’t have a tree topper. I’ll actually be talking about that later this week. 

The Thankful Post

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everybody! Things have finally died down here, with the Book Fair complete for another year and a few days off to enjoy the holiday. I get to hang out with the little guy today while Dave works one more day, then tomorrow it’s time to watch the parade (one of my favorite parts of the day! Especially the Broadway performances), eat a big breakfast, then head off to eat with our families for the “big meal” and dessert.

We’ve talked to Monkey about what this special holiday means, and it’s been a great opportunity to open his mind to the idea that we’ve super lucky (and some people aren’t). It looked like I nearly blew his mind when I explained to him that we’re so very lucky to have a house and food, and that some people, even little two-year-old boys, DON’T. *kerpow*

I thought it’d be fun to share a couple of simple, last-minute ideas for the holiday to help friends and family get hands-on sharing their thankfulness this Thanksgiving. This year, we’ll just be having a family talk or two about the things that we’re lucky and happy about, but I can’t wait to try some of these out in the future!


Some of these are simple enough to throw together in less than fifteen minutes, and will help you and your guests remember – amid the craziness of getting a meal together and trying to pull everything together – that the day is about more than perfecting your recipes and using your best china. And feel free to use these as jumping off points; do whatchya can!



Thankful Tree

Brown Paper Thankfulness

 
Gratitude Jar (and Chains)
(With free printable! Couldn’t be easier, really.)



Thankful Chalkboard Wall
(Could also be brown paper on the wall, easy peasy!
And I’d suggest using an old chalkboard if you have one, but that depends on if you’re cooking a turkey and have the time to make one from scratch. ;-))


Thanksgiving Light
(You could also do this on a white paper bag half-filled with sand. Just insert a candle and light. Luminaries always make me cry, but that’s another story!)



Frame of Blessings


Or, after discussing your blessings, have a “did you know” session about the history of Thanksgiving. Watch this brief video for a bit of the background. (They didn’t have pumpkin pie or sweetened cranberries due to the lack of sugar in the “new land.”) It’s also a good reminder of the original natives who were trusting enough to help the Puritans settle and successfully plant in their new, treacherous conditions. Anyhoo, we’re weird; we watch a different, lengthier documentary every year (sometimes twice) about Thanksgiving (and Halloween and Christmas, for that matter.) You could turn it into a Trivial Pursuit type game, if your guests are into it!

However you celebrate, whether you’re giving thanks openly (saying “grace” always made me terribly nervous as a kid!) or just using the holiday as an excuse to enjoy a great meal with your favorite people, my family and I wish you the happiest of days!

Eco-Decor

It’s no secret that I enjoy home decor stuff. While I love simplifying, parenting, eco-tip, and humorous personal blogs (I’m talking about you, Roo and Christine), the DIY and home decor ones clog my daily feed.

Ha. That sounds like a personal problem. Pshaaaahaaaa! Ha! Ha.


Ahem. Anyhoo. I’m pretty sure I got the bug from my mom. While we don’t really match in taste (she’s more country traditional, although she’s veering into the simple transitional realm lately — love it), I’m more into straight, modern lines and eclectic mixes of old and new (and, yes, transitional, too). But, her general enjoyment of freshening up her spaces and buying a few new pieces here and there (not to mention a great fondness for antiques), I totally get.

Being on a budget and being of the opinion that the Earth needs looking after, I’ve had issues here and there considering my purchases and their environmental impact. We can’t all afford to look for a sustainably harvested chair with organic linen upholstery when shopping. It’s a big enough purchase as it is, right?

But, there are plenty of small ways to surround ourselves with beauty inside our dwellings with friendly consideration for the beauty outside. See if you’re already doing any of these…

Thrift and claw your way. Okay, I honestly use a lot of excuses when it comes to thrifting. We don’t have the room to buy a lot of furniture (which would need to be stored until I could refinish or upholster, then use it). We only have two thrift shops that mostly stock broken Target furniture (which is what we use for our TV console) and too-traditional stuff. I also don’t find a lot of time to visit them. 

But, when I need an emotional lift or creative boost, I stop by on a whim. The Goodwill store is literally a minute drive (I drive ‘cuz ya never know when you need to haul a big piece), and the Sally Ann’s (or Salvation Army for those not in the know) is two towns over. I find the best accessories and frames (keep an open mind; the art or filler pictures usually suck, but a frame for 50 cents? Get out!) at Goodwill. Sometimes you can even find a brand new blanket, curtains, or pillows here. Yes, seriously, unused. I used a mix of frames from Goodwill for our nursery’s wall collage.

Our Sally Ann’s is best for furniture. I don’t find the mod pieces I wish I could get, but there are super cheap, rehab-able stuff, like this bench (which I’m thinking of rehabbing again) and this chair I love for a bit of the unexpected.

Side note: I also shop these stores for my theater costumes. Our theater has a huge attic of clothes but somehow I hardly seem to find what I need. There are only so many ballgown roles, y’know? So, this is the best costume selection for the price. Same goes for DIY Halloween costumes!

Craigslist is a great alternative. Again, since our area is stuck in the land of country traditional, there aren’t always great finds to be had. But, it’s nice to check and see what’s out there. I’m not giving up hope that I’ll find some awesome pieces one of these days. And, in case you don’t notice a trend here, one of the eco-friendliest ways to furnish and decorate your space is to reuse items that might otherwise end up in the landfill.

Don’t scoff at hand-me-downs. If they’re in your style realm, or you think you could transform the piece into something you might love, go ahead and kindly accept the offers from friends or relatives. I know my stepfather has offered us many items (he has worked for tons of sweet elderly folks who don’t need their stuff anymore) for F-R-E-E! It’s how we got Hadman’s awesome dresser, which we painted a cheery yellow and changed out the hardware for something more modern…and, come to think of it, all of our dressers are current hand-me-downs. Not only is this cheaper, it keeps these pieces from ending up in a junk pile.

Oh, and if you’re not a fan of the piece, itself, don’t write it off. Dave brought his old bachelor-ish blue couch, which I’m still not in love with, but adding an inexpensive white slipcover gave me the look I craved without having to drop a buttload of money into a brand new piece of furniture.


Find a piece of history. What’s better than giving new life to an antique? Some of our favorite items were picked up at antique shops. Rustic tables, awesome accessories, cool kitschy kitchen stuff — you never know what surprise you’ll stumble over.

Our all-time favorite antique is our dining room sideboard (you can see it on display in this post). We found it while antiquing on our honeymoon in Vermont. Not only was it cheaper than any new versions we had found, it was full of art deco character and history. Oh, and that $#&! is solid. Way better than press board. Blech.

The best thing about antiques is that they fit so many tastes. If you’re into mission-style stuff, there’s an antique for that. If you’re into mod, there’s an antique for that. If you’re into quirky, there’s definitely an antique for that. If you’re into romantic…well, you get the point. Antiques got your back.


Know whatchya like. Take quizzes and visit Pinterest, Houzz, and blogs to determine what your style is. I take outdated magazines that would otherwise end up in the trash (and that teachers or art classes overlooked) home from school; my faves are Country Living, Good Housekeeping, and Real Simple (which I, admittedly, buy), and my mom passes us This Old House from time to time.

I love that the mags get a second life, sometimes even living IN my decor, as well as helping me find what I love. The inspiration helps me think outside of my comfort zone as well as determine what fads are for me, might be a long-term thing I can get lots of mileage from, and what would just make me buy new crap which would end up being discarded sooner than later. I’m still 50/50 on chevron.

Knowing your style definitely helps you but less crap and only what you know can find a home with you for the long haul.

When buying new, try to be cognizant. Sure, not every item you fall for will be eco-friendly, and that’s okay, but the sustainable seal of approval is becoming more and more mainstream. After coming to know my style, I’ve stumbled upon some stores (mostly online) that accompany my tastes. And, what do ya know? Some of my faves happen to have some sustainable options!

I sign up to find out when sales are popping up and always keep in mind what my needs are. Just because something awesome is for sale doesn’t mean I jump at it. Ain’t nobody got time money for that.

For example, lately I’m on a hunt for rugs. Yes, plural. I know what I’m willing to spend, so when I get an email that, say, West Elm (which has a good mix of eco-friendly products), I check out the site. I also keep an eye on discount stores and remember to look at eco-friendly materials (generally wool/cotton/hemp/jute vs. poly-something-or-other).

What matters most to you? A big purchase like a fridge or bed might be more important for you to find to be Energy Star approved or organic; or not. Maybe you’d rather have all-organic sheets instead. Or eco-friendly pots and pans.

Since none of us is a Rockefeller (right? You’re not a Rockefeller?), it’s unrealistic to buy all eco products all the time. Just figure out what matters most to you, and you’ll be doing just fine. It’s not a competition, after all. Don’t stress.

Bring the outside in. Not only is it beautiful, but bringing nature into your surroundings is super zen. Rocks around candles on a plate, geodes as paperweights, plants to clean the air, flowers to add some color and texture, water features to provide a calming white noise; nothing’s off limits. Just think about what makes you happy and hook yourself up. I know I’m into the succulent trend right now, actually (although who else but moi can kill frickin’ succulents? Seriously).

If you have pets, just check into what greenery is safe for animals. Because…y’know…they like to nibble. Mine do.


If all else fails, DIY it. I haven’t got a lot of experience in building things from scratch, but I dipped my toe in with this desk. It’s not perfect, but it works for us, and was way cheaper (and more creative) than a real parsons table. 

My best suggestion for you is to check online for plans if you want to undertake this type of endeavor. Start with something simple but that you truly want around your house. My favorite site to search is Ana White, in case you’ve lived under an Internet rock. Apparently she has a new gig on HGTV, too (speaking of living under a no-cable-induced rock). Can’t wait to catch some eppies online.

And keep an eye out for sustainably farmed or reclaimed lumber, and low- or no-VOC paints and stains to keep the off-gassing to a minimum. ‘Cuz off-gassing sounds gross enough as it is without actually dealing with a gas bomb in your living room.

There are also a bunch of tutorials out there for inexpensive ways to decorate your house. If you totally adore a how-to craft project or a pillow tutorial, go for it! Use whatever materials speak to you, and add your own pride into a job well done that you love seeing everyday.

Do you think about what you fill your house with and where it comes from? What’s your decor style? Any tips you’d like to add? 

Oh, and that graphic? Not my house. Just an awesome royalty-free pic of a space I admire, just so ya know. 😉

Expletive DIY

I love DIY blogs. They’re totally one if my favorite ways to kill half an hour day. They’re as bad as Pinterest.


So, so much to love. The impeccably photographed eye candy. The inspiration to change your own space for the better. The Wonder Woman “we can do it” attitudes (because, let’s face it, 95% of DIY bloggers are chicks…maybe 99%). The fierce full steam ahead perfectionism.

Okay, that last one is a generalization, and while I prefer the usual eye candy “you can do it, stick the landing!” posts, I’m relieved when a DIY fail is shared.

‘Cuz dat be me.

Small 2-step projects turn lengthy and take 70 roundabout troubleshooting steps. More intensive projects take months (or years) and downright threaten relationships. A house of 90 years seems to deeply enjoy throwing constant curveballs, making the simplest task turn into HELL. 

We recently learned a tip after years if “doing it the hard way” (this is easier but not perfect) — drywall screws. The hardware that accompanies, well, most items is often cheap. Namely, all the screws we have ever used to hang curtains or a picture anything decorative, really.

This is what happens, particularly in our old, walls-and-woodwork-as-hard-as-cement house, with those crappy screws —


That’s our most recent DIY fix-up. I had found some inexpensive blinds at Lowe’s to help with our privacy issues in our front room/sun room. They’re not perfect, but since this isn’t our forever home and they’re going to stay with the house, it’s all good. I much prefer darker bamboo blinds, for the record. 😉


This is what we were dealing with. The sheers are window-length (vs. floor-length) and came with the house. A previous owner splattered a tiny bit of paint on them, but I just haven’t had it in me to replace them. So, this has been our view:

 
 I’ve grown to dislike the metal white curtain rods like these. So, I also grabbed four oil-rubbed bronze (almost black) curtain rods to switch the sheers onto. That said, this whole project (which should’ve taken 2 hours, tops) took half a day…plus.

First things first. Take down these annoying things. (And, yes. This is currently our cat room. When we stage it one day, the cat pans will hit the basement and kitty towers will say buy-bye. Until then, we are slaves to our cats.

 
Thanks, hon. Oh, and I have a spot I just patched near the roofline that needs painting. Just waiting for one of those afternoon energy surges to hit to get those small but annoying projects done. 😉


While we were at it, we took out any and all extemporaneous hardware — some from the 80s, some from the 40s, and these…original brass screws. God knows what these blocks of wood were actually for.

Next up, measuring, marking, drilling, screwing in brackets, and hanging the blinds. I hemmed and hawed over whether to get white or this tone (again, a deeper I would’ve liked more) and I’m still iffy on these. Eh, they’ll do.


We have two double-width windows on each end of the room, and three windows in the middle (long) wall. So, no matter what, I couldn’t get the correct size (even putting two together wouldn’t work). But, since I knew we’d have the curtains up over the blinds, it didn’t matter! Whew.

The other thing that actually worked out well (aside from broken drill bits and a handful of other headaches) was that I was able to use two curtain rods to create one full-width one for the large window. I just used the smaller “insert” one, took off the finial on the end, and inserted it into a second rod. Plus, we got an extra rod out of the deal, so that made my day.

This story told, we still keep at it. While I thought the whole thing was frustrating and upsetting both of us by the end of the process, Dave ended up glowing over how “well” it went, and how he really enjoys fixing up the house together. So, maybe he won’t roll his eyes the next time I discover a project I want to try… 

One-Ingredient Bathtub Fix

For as long as I can remember, I couldn’t find a product to clean all the years of built-up grime from our tub. I scrubbed as much as I could, so I resigned myself to pretend that it was clean enough for us. Y’know. The surface grime was “clean” so the guilt wouldn’t overtake me when I threw my 2-year-old in. *gulp* Seeing that written, I feel guiltier and guiltier about that.

Well, since my plumber-extraordinaire stepfather’s coming up with ways for us to deal with the horrible bathtub walls, I figured I should make another attempt at scrubbing it. He had suggested a highly toxic solution we’ve all heard of and a razor blade. Seriously. I’m nothing if not lazy, so I wanted to try something else first.

And it totally worked!

Yup, that’s all it took. After wetting the tub, I dumped in the baking soda. (Note that mine’s a generic brand. Use the cheapest you can find.) Be sure you toss it everywhere — sides, especially. You don’t need a HUGE amount, but be sure it’s thick, especially where any grime is particularly caked.

Allow it to sit. Since I was busy chasing a little one around, I let it sit for about 1-2 hours, but less may work, too.

Then, I got a green scrubby (technical term — you know the kind, not TOO rough, but enough friction to work) wet and added a little more water as I scrubbed. Most of it got loosened on its own, but the rough spots needed some good scrubbing. This took about 15 minutes, tops, for a HORRIBLE tub. Sorry I didn’t have a “before”, but I guarantee it’s as clean as it could possibly be. LIKE NEW.

I was worried I’d have to break out the white vinegar, too, but it wasn’t necessary. If you find that you’ve scrubbed (or don’t feel like scrubbing THAT much), do a wipe-down and rinse again, and throw some more on for another hour or so.

Just know that if you leave it too long, it’ll cake on and might be tough to scrape off. All you need is a little water to loosen up the situation and scrub your cares away.

And, now it’s time for the hubs and my stepdad to attack the walls. 😉 I have a feeling I had an easier job.

Do you have any cleaning projects that you’ve been putting off *gulp* years to finally tackle? I can’t be the only one…can I?

Anti Clorox Wipes

In a house full of cats and an active toddler around, messes are inevitable. Namely, messes of the bodily function variety.

That’s right. Cat pee and potty training smears.

It happens. Daily. Gross, but it’s kind of a moot point when you’re in love with those little rascals.

So, when we recently ran out of my OCD-ish husband’s favorite clean-up tool, disposable Clorox wipes, I found myself hesitant to buy some more. I knew full well that it was contributing to an eco-hater status, which I cringed over every time we wiped a potty seat. Plus, the nasty chemical makeup of the wipes bummed me out.

Of course, I did what every mother does when faced with a dilemma: I took to Pinterest.

There actually wasn’t as much as I thought I’d find, but I really only needed to find one great pin. And I found an awesome resource for you guys at Live Renewed. You’ve got not one but TWO recipes for a natural disinfectant.

I decided to take her Castile soap (ahem, I hope you all know we mean Dr. Bronner’s when we say that, right?) and tea tree essential oil recipe and run with it, mainly because I had all the ingredients on hand.

Side note: My essential oil experience has been a fun experiment that’s working out quite well so far, and I still haven’t ordered my replacement lemon (and any new ones I’d like to try out, so any suggestions for new “flavors” would be welcome in the comments!), which is why I didn’t try the other recipe. I’m loving the quality and non-pressure system that Native American Nutritionals has in place compared to others.

Anyhoo, back to the wipes. Here’s how I put this shebang together:


 
For the reusable wipes, I just cut up a couple of (*cough* too small *cough) soft old T-shirts, which gave me…like…maybe 16-20 wipes per shirt, depending on how big you make your wipes. You can also use old cloth napkins (I cut up a few of those for the days I’m out of T-shirt rags) or your husband’s old boxers or whatever. Just check first. Let’s just say I’m waiting for mine to give up on a couple of crappy white tees to sacrifice for the cause. I’m not sure if color really matters or not; it’s not like I care whether they get stained since they’re rags, but I’ll be sure to update you if the color runs. (That said, if you have something white to cut up or use, um, choose that. Probably best.)


Here’s the stuff I mixed up. Per her recipe, I used about 10 drops of tea tree oil (which actually SMELLS like it’s disinfecting, I kid you not! Like Lysol, but natural!), two tablespoons of Dr. Bronner’s, and a cup of water. I ended up splashing a little more water in to moisten all the wipes, but I think it’s because I put the solution on the bottom of the container instead of pouring it over the top.

Doubt that this stuff works as well as Clorox? Behold…doesn’t this look all disinfecty? If that were a word, of course…

Right?? So, I put the solution at the bottom of my empty, de-labeled and washed Clorox container…

Sexy. Anyhoo, this is the point that I cut up my reusable wipes. I wadded them together, kind of in a roll, and pulled them up in the middle (I didn’t end up using the old white napkins on the outside since there wasn’t room in the tube)…



Don’t overthink it. Just shove it in and pull in the middle. It works. Okay, this is probably the point I should have poured the solution over everything, but I had already put it in the bottom hoping that it would seep upward. I’m sure it probably would have seeped just fine, but I’m an impatient mama and love to see results. So, I splashed a bit more water on the top and shook the thing. Here’s our final product:


Yup, I grabbed a marker and labeled it with a cheeky description. It also has the recipe in small lettering on the other side, just in case my husband feels like whipping some up next time, or in case my incredibly shoddy memory fails me. Again.

I’m keeping them where we kept our old wipes, under our bathroom sink. It’s where we dump Hadman’s potty and where they get used most frequently. This also happens to be where our laundry hamper lives, so it’s perfect. If I think it’s gross to toss these in with the laundry, I’ll grab our old wet bag from cloth diapering days and keep them in there ’til all the rags and linens need to be washed. No big deal.

Whatchya think? Would you try reusable wipes, or are you addicted to your current method of disinfecting? No judging here.

(By the way, there’s an affiliate link or two included in this post. Just a warning. It won’t blow up your computer, and if you purchase anything off of Amazon after clicking through my links, even if it’s not a product I listed, you’ll be helping to run this here little blog. Which is awesome of you and earns you a gold star for the day.)