Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Guest Room Detail

As we work on our guest/spare bedroom, I've been scouring Pinterest and the blogosphere for some fun ideas on things to make it more homey. 

For the past several years (um, eight years) this room has really been a storage/catchall room with a bed buried somewhere within.  It's time to turn it into a real room and get rid of some of our junk!

Today I just wanted to share with you a quick, fun, super cute idea that has been floating around Pinterest lately!  And did I mention it was cheap?

Most folks have Wi-Fi these days and it's common for home owners to share their passwords with friends or family staying with them.  At least I think it is.  We do it.  Currently, our password is written on an old envelope in my husband's lovely chicken scratch and stored somewhere in the office/dog room.  Convenient, right?  No.

Begin by finding a frame from your stash or visiting the dollar store to pick up a cheap one.  I chose this lovely gold frame with the beige and gold matting.  It cost me one dollar.

There are actually two separate mats in this frame. I took it apart and sprayed the frame with white primer, then laid out the two mats and sprayed one a pretty aqua color, and the other gray. I neglected to take photos of that process because... well, because I'm lazy. And I had to make a cheesecake. Which I ate.

While that dried, I jumped on the computer and pulled ideas from several Pinterest projects. Some clip art and some fancy words in Excel and it was ready to print! I used my label maker with clear tape to print the password and placed it where I wanted it, then put it in the frame and voila!

Now guests won't have to watch me wrestle my office into submission while I hunt down the old envelope. I am hanging this guy on the wall in the guest bedroom and they won't even have to ask me for it!

Does Pinterest rock or what? This project could be free if you already have some frames on hand, or you can pick one up at the dollar store and make it any color your heart desires!

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Easy Homemade Applesauce for Canning

Last week, my father in law's apple tree lost a very large section of the tree due to the weight of the apples growing there.  I saw that it was down as I left for work the next morning.  As soon as I got to work, I sent my husband a message to not let his dad remove the branch until I could collect the apples!

That evening, we collected two huge bins full of small green apples!

Given the amount of apples, the easiest way to preserve them seemed to be to make applesauce. So, that's what we did! Here's how we did it.

Wash the apples.  Easy peasy.

We did so by filling a sink with water and dumping them in.

By the way, the great thing about applesauce is that there really isn't any sort of recipe to follow.   I've never made applesauce before this, and there was no rhyme or reason to the way we measured just how many apples to prepare.  Do however many you want!

One thing worth mentioning, however, is that at this point, if you do not plan to use a food mill, you will need to peel these babies.  Every single one of them.  If you DO have a food mill ($25-50 at a fleet farm) then you do not have to peel.

Next step was to cut them up. We cut them into quarters, cut out the cores/seeds, then cut those pieces into halves.

I had read that if you put the apple chunks into salt water for a few minutes that they won't turn brown, so I had to test that theory out for myself. It worked! It kept the apples nice and crisp and white until it came time to cook them!

Next step: Cook them!

You'll need a couple of large pots for this.  Put a couple of cups of water into a pot full of apple chunks and bring it to a boil.  Make sure you stir it every few minutes until the chunks become noticeably soft and almost mushy in appearance.

Once cooked, I dumped them into the food mill and cranked away.

We had cut enough apples to fill this white bowl full of sauce!

Here's why you don't really need a recipe.  Once you have your raw applesauce, you can begin adding sugar and other ingredients to suit your own tastes.   Need more sugar?  Add some!  Since our apples were not quite mature and green and bitter from literally being a backyard apple tree, we had to add sugar.   But if you are using sweeter apples like the varieties sold at the store or in your local orchards, you might not need any.

We ended up using white sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg.  My husband and I continued to taste and add until we both loved what we had!

Next, it was time to get to canning.  My favorite part!  We used a water bath canner.  It's basically a large pot with a rack inside that you fill with water and boil.  It's not much more complicated than that.  We had boiled fresh lids and clean jars so that they were heated and ready.  Using our funnel, we filled pint jars with the sauce, wiped off the rim of the jars, applied the lid and put the rings on.  The jars went into the canner and when the water was boiling, we started our time.  Appx 20 minutes.

Then they were pulled out of the pot and set on the stove to sit and seal for the next 24 hours! You'll know that they have sealed when the very center of the lid won't budge when you push down on it.  (Remember the Snapple commercials?) 

I think one of the most satisfying parts of canning is after you have removed the jars, for the next few hours you'll hear the seals popping, meaning they have successfully been sealed!

Now, at this point, I feel that it's only fair for me to point out a few things to you.
As I mentioned, I had never made applesauce before this, and a few things happened that I would have loved to have been told before I tried it for the first time. 

* Most of the blogs and online sites that go over canning will mention that you need to screw the rings on 'fingertip tight' which really isn't that tight at all.  Understandable because you aren't trying to force the seal, you want this stuff to seal on it's own using heat.   In the case of applesauce though?  Forget fingertip tight!  Screw those rings on tightly!  Apparently, apples are made up of appx 25% air, and as you are mashing and grinding it, you're adding more air to it.  This air, in turn, will expand when it gets hot.  See those seven jars up there?  Only three of them sealed naturally.  The other four couldn't hold up to the expanding and ended up popping their tops and oozing sauce out all over my pot.  I had looked up at my hubby and exclaimed "See, I knew I could smell nutmeg!"  I ended up having to clean them up, put new lids on and re-process them in the water bath again. 

* The easiest way to prevent this exploding, which I will certainly keep in mind for next time, is once you have added your extra ingredients to the sauce, put it in a pot and bring it to almost boiling.  This will cause it to expand in the pot so that you can ladle the already expanded sauce into your jars, put the lids on and then tightly apply the rings.

* Make sure you take a butter knife and push out all of the air bubbles.  You'll see them through the jars.

*Get a buddy or two to help you chop and peel.  I didn't have to peel, but even the chopping and coring took a very long time even with my hubby's help, so some entertainment during the process is muchos helpful!  

Of course, always use caution when canning.  You're dealing with sharp knifes and scalding hot water and jars, so it's important that you take care.  Make sure you set out all of your supplies and ingredients beforehand.  This is my second year canning, and it always seems like I have to scramble and use speed to get things where they need to be.  But trust me, you can SLOW DOWN.  Don't hurt yourself trying to do things too fast.

Feel free to ask questions if you have any!  I'm no expert by any means, but this was a fun project that I will definitely do again!

*One other note:  I have a glasstop stove.  I have read on every single canner I've ever come across that you cannot use them on glasstop stoves.  After some research, I discovered a few things.  The reason why they do not recommend it is because of the size of most standard canners.  They are much larger than the stove's round element, and the glass above the element is treated differently then the class outside of that circle.  I bought a 'mini' canner, which I believe is an 11.5 QT canner.  I am able to fit 7 pint jars in there, and it's a safe size to use on my particular glass stove top.  Every one is different, so you'll want to do your own research before trying it on your glasstop.  However I have not encountered any problems at this point with my glasstop stove and my canner. 

Hope this is helpful!


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Monday, July 28, 2014

Our Garden

This is the first year that I've planted my own vegetables... and have succeeded in actually getting veggies from the plant!  I've attempted several different ways to grow plants from seeds and never even make it to putting them in the ground because they die. 

This year, I gave up the seed growing thing.  Apparently, seeds aren't my thing.  So I went on a shopping spree at our local everything store (they have everything... literally) and raided their greenhouse! 

For my wedding gift last year, I asked my hubby to build me a raised garden bed.  I wasn't confident enough in my gardening skills to start digging up our lawn to make a garden, and various gardening blogs told me that raised beds were relatively easy to maintain, so it seem like the best option.  I love it and I couldn't wait to get started this spring.  In may, after picking out my plants, this is what we had.

I thought I'd spaced everything pretty well. Turns out, I hadn't. I'd gone way overboard, especially on the tomatoes. But I would remain blissfully unaware of that until about the first of July when they began growing out of control! It's all still working out alright though. I transplanted my poor pepper plants into containers so that the tomatoes quit looming over them and they have taken well to the move.

Today, our little garden is a green mass of giant leaves and vines, and everything we've planted is bearing fruit!

Our zucchini plant is growing these things like crazy. I printed off several recipes that incorporate zucchini so that I can begin harvesting them and not letting them go to waste! Looks like I'm going to need to learn how to can a lot more than I currently do!

Oh, and yesterday, our first red cherry tomato!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Super Fast Covered Storage Box

I turned 30 recently.  With my age came birthday cards. 

I'm the sentimental type who keeps birthday cards and Christmas greetings, just because I think it's fun to look at that stuff down the road.  I am also the type who gets really annoyed when I come across these old cards randomly while I'm cleaning and have no place to put them, yet when I want to look at them, I can't seem to find them.

I finally solved that the other day.  I got new running shoes and was left with this perfectly good empty box.  I decided then and there that I would use that box to corral my cards from now until forever. 

I grabbed a roll of contact paper that I'd recently found at the local Target.

You can find it online here. I love it so much that I'm lining/covering everything with it.  
I wonder if it would work on my truck... Just kidding.  Maybe.

Anyways, some quick measuring and cutting and bam!  Pretty covered box to store stuff in.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Year of the Cardinals

When I got home from work yesterday, I was already in the throws of a very bad mood.  I was crabby for no apparent reason and didn't feel like doing a damn thing.

My hubby came in and we chatted about our day.  He always manages to make me chill out.  He told me that earlier he'd heard a bird chirping so he kind of wandered around until he found the window it was coming from.  He pulled back the curtain and startled a female Cardinal building her nest, right outside our bathroom window.  Like, not even a full twelve inches from his peering face, on the other side of the glass.  

They must have each been as surprised as the other, because they both froze and just stared at each other before she finally bolted and flew away.  He said that didn't know if they would see her again, he'd really startled her and his disappointment in that possibility was so adorable that I couldn't help but cheer up. 

I hoped she would come back, too, but wasn't holding my breath. 

This morning, as I did my girl thing in the bathroom and got ready for work, I heard her.  I knew right where she would be and I was not going to scare her away for good, so I peeked through the cracks of the curtain and saw her with a small twig in her beak.  I watched her until she placed it and flew off to get another one, then I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture. 

I did some reading on Cardinals this morning so I could familiarize myself with our new guests. I learned that there are four layers to a Cardinal's nest and that it can take anywhere from 3-9 days for the female to build it, depending on how helpful Mister Cardinal is in bringing her supplies. This is only the first layer according to what I've read, so I am excited to watch the progress!

I am picking up some Cardinal friendly feed today in hopes it helps them stick around. Stay tuned and I'll continue to post on behalf of Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Struggles of a Rustic Color Palette

I've got a bit of a color struggle here.  One of my favorite things to do when I have some down time is to visit all of my other blogger friends out there and see the awesome projects they have been posting or catch up on the latest design/tool/pattern/color trends. 

I see so many things I'd like to recreate in my own home, but one thing stands in my way.  The color struggle.  Our home is not the bright white, clean-line filled with natural light type that is seen on most DIY blogs.  Don't get me wrong, I love that style.  I heart it a lot!  But my husband and I both tend more towards the warm, rustic, north woods theme and with that comes more natural wood, yellow/earthy tones and to make matters worse, the windows that let natural light into the main living space are on the north and south sides of the house.  We all know the best natural daylight is on the east and west!  So there is a lack of that beautiful lighting.  Plus, did I mention that our home was built in the eighteen nineties???

When I see a design method that I want to bring into my own home, I often battle with the color differences.  It just doesn't turn the same result when you don't have the white trim, gray walls and gorgeous natural daylight!  I've got ugly tan carpet (like, the industrial type) and our trim is natural pine (which I LOVE).  The walls were repainted last year in colors that I love, but we're still missing the beautiful daylight. 

Here's what' I'm talking about.  See this incredibly lovely bedroom? 


It's so beautiful. That striped ottoman, I want to reach into my monitor and take that baby home with me! 
This bedroom perfectly demonstrates what I'm talking about.  Gorgeous lighting, clean lines, and lots of versions of white.  Yes, I certainly could switch over to these colors.  Except I have dogs.  And a cat.  And a hubby who work in the construction industry and does outdoor/fishing activities in his spare time.  White isn't an option.  This gorgeousness isn't an option for me. 

To give you a better idea, here is the basic color palette of our home:

We've also got some sagey greens going on in the living area, however Wordpress decided not to acknowledge the colors I choose and turned them lime green upon loading.  So... yeah.  No lime green here.
I have yet to find more DIY blogs that host the same taste as we do so I can follow along.  But it's a bit of a dance around the internet!

The trending geometric patterns that I see floating around right now are wonderful and I heart them.  (Chevron and Damask are my favorites!)  But they just don't merge that well with black bear, moose and knotty pine. 

I won't give up my search for blogs with similar rustic tastes!  And in the meantime, I'm happy to enjoy the bright white folk, even though I have trouble replicating their gorgeous ideas.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

DIY Bird Feed Seed Can - Tutorial

We are one of those couples who enjoys feeding the birds, especially through the winter.  For the past several years, my feed has been living in the bag we buy it in.  In my kitchen.  Flap folded over, kept closed with a chip clip.

I'll just give you a moment to let that image sink in.

So last trip to Goodwill with my lady Blanche, I grabbed a perfectly squat Christmas tin for 99 cents.

Goodwill rocks.

The feed couldn't live in a Christmas tin of course. (Except it did... for like 6 months until I got around to this project) So, I grabbed my trusty spray paint!

Originally I was going to spray it white, but as I reached for it the pretty blue caught my eye and I thought "hmmmmm". And that's how that happened.

I broke my own rule and bypassed the primer, because I was out of primer and eager to get this done!

So eager, in fact, that I over sprayed and got drippage. Drippage sucks.

Anyways.  Don't judge.
So while that dried, I grabbed the decals I'd had made last fall.

I searched the net high and low for that perfect bird silhouette for my feed can.  The bird that I saw when I pictured the finished product in my head.  I finally found that bird on an Etsy site 'Wilson Graphics' and knew it was the one.  I contacted the owner, explained my idea and he helped me size and customize the decals so that they were perfect for my project!

Once the paint had dried, it was finally time to carefully apply the decals.  And voila!  My dream bird feed can!

For the decals, the can and the scoop I found at the dollar store, this project came in at less than $10! And if you think about it, the peeps at Wilson Graphics sent me a couple of each decal so I could, in reality, make another can to give as a gift. That really puts the total at only about $5 a can.

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