Friday, March 23, 2012

fuzzy friday: lucy goosey

The last three weeks have been a whirlwind of gardening, packing, vacationing, unpacking, and further gardening.  But I'm back and refreshed!  To prove it, I managed to snap off a few pictures of my newest charge, Lucy, a three-month-old Swiss mountain dog.  She doesn't stop moving if someone is looking at her.  YOU try taking a picture behind your back and see how it turns out.
 Can't you just feel the pent up energy that's about to erupt? 
Nanoseconds later, she jumped and almost took out the camera

So far, Lucy is afraid of: the sidewalk, rustling leaves, cars, car alarms, car doors, lawn-care workers, and on occasion, the wind.  It's normal for very young puppies to go through a scaredy-cat phase.  Until it's over, I'll just keep quietly enjoying being the person she hides behind during her morning walk.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

it's beginning

Seeding is stressful.  After all that work, you're left with trays of labeled dirt to tend for weeks, wondering if anything will come of them.  I fuss over them every day.  But hope springs eternal for my broccoli which has already germinated.  
Thanks broccoli!  Keep fighting the good fight!

Friday, March 2, 2012

fuzzy friday: oodles of wrinkles

It's been an interesting week. Business picked back up after school vacation week and I've been bone tired.  Thanks in part to Bubba, an English bulldog who looks like a tough guy but really just wants to be loved.  
Next week, I'll be posting two stories that developed during this busy week: my new doctor-imposed dietary restrictions and how we canceled cable (!)  Till then, have a restful weekend.  That's what I plan on doing

Friday, February 24, 2012

fuzzy friday: house guest

One of the dogs that I walk daily slept over at my house last weekend.  She's a six-month-old Golden Retriever named Molly.  She is the most mellow puppy that I know.  Unless there's another dog present that she could potentially make friends with.  Or she's playing tug-of-war.  Or you have food in your hand.    

Wishing you a mellow Molly sort of weekend.  I'll be back early next week with pictures of the mountains.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

how to reuse beer bottles for your home brew

We're heading to the mountains tomorrow for a little weekend getaway with friends.  I'm packing the essentials: flannels, boots and home brews.  Since Beau moved to kegging instead of bottling, there's a real shortage of bottles around the house.  So how are we going to get the beer up north?  Per usual, I raided the recycling bin.

I started by soaking the bottles for about half an hour.  The labels will become waterlogged and be easier to rip off.  Return them to their kiddie pool for awhile and the adhesive will get easier to scratch off.  I used a leftover bread clip to spare my nails.

Eventually, the labels will come off with a bit of scrubbing (OK - some will require a LOT of scrubbing).  The labels on the brown bottles above were made of metallic paper and the adhesive was apparently super glue.  A little vegetable oil helped convince them to leave.  I used to swear by Goo Gone, but now I'm inclined to think it makes Al Gore and the polar bears cry.

Next up, the bottles went into a sink full of scorching hot water and dish soap.  They soaked for awhile before I scrubbed the residual cooties off of them.

Once they'd been rinsed and dried, Beau filled them up with home brew.  He used a bottle capper and some fresh caps to close them up.

Lastly, I slapped on some labels made by the Beer Labelizer to distinguish between the IPAs and the ales.  

Thanks to the scavenged bottles, we pulled together enough containers to have a proper taste test this weekend.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

spring wardrobe

I'm not a fan of shopping for clothes anymore.  I used to be.  My wayward teen years were spent as a mall rat in New Jersey, mostly rummaging around in Wet Seal and Hot Topic.  Sometime during college, this hobby began to lose it's luster.  Now, my personal vision of hell is the mall on a Saturday afternoon: competing with other women for the last jeans in my size, waiting 10 minutes for a dressing room, paying full retail for anything.  No thank you.  

My closet has gotten harder to ignore lately as my wardrobe began to dwindle from weight loss and irreparable wear.  Add together my frugality, impatience with stores, and the strong desire not to support retailers who abuse foreign garment workers' rights, and you're left with few options for replacing things.  To begin supplementing before I reach the barrel-as-outfit level of clothing poverty, I ordered some new patterns during McCalls $1.99 Sale (going on till tomorrow).

1: M4769 2: M6396 3: M6506 4: M6167

First up will be #4 in (what else) plaid followed by #1 in blue chambray.  Stay tuned!

P.S. If anyone knows a good source of organic, discount fabrics made by fairly treated workers or cheap upcycled/vintage fabric, I'd love to hear about it.

Linked to GNOWFGLIN's Simple Lives Thursday Blog Hop.

Friday, February 17, 2012

fuzzy friday: funny face edition

Bruce's mug makes me smile every afternoon.  I hope you're smiling now, too.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

something from nothing

I find two things VERY  exciting in the picture below.  Can you spot them? 
First, the most obvious thing is that Beau rigged up a makeshift grow light for me!  It's just an old fluorescent light fixture that used to be above his father's work bench.  Now it's hovering over my seed starting trays, just waiting for the broccoli that I'll be planting in a few weeks.

The second bit of upcycled excitement in that photo is a little harder to spot than the light.  Here's a hint.
The weird boards that used to box in the space over my cabinets were never thrown away when the kitchen was renovated.  They sat patiently in the basement until Beau had time to turn them into badly needed shelves - one for the brewery, one in the garage for gardening supplies.
As you can see, this one is approximately a mile long and has already been filled with all manner of man space paraphernalia.  

P.S. This entry is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

my first purse

I finished upcycling my old purse into a new one this weekend!

I adapted a tutorial from Obsessive Crafting Disorder to create the perfect size for dog walking.  Big enough to fit what I need but compact enough to stay out of my way.  I also used a tutorial from U Handbag to learn how to insert the zippers on the front.       

The hardware, bright pink lining, and zippers were poached from my beloved old purse which had seen better days.  The button has been sitting in my stash for ages.  It probably popped off of some fancy winter coat once upon a time but since I didn't remember it, I consider it free game.  Really sorry if any of my house guests DO recognize it.  I promise to give it a good home.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Like many other gardeners, my January was about planning for springtime.  A slightly obscene variety of organic heirloom seeds were ordered.  A garden plan was drawn.  Some seed starting equipment was purchased to make sure my frequent weekends away don't kill the tender little guys.  But still, there was a major hole in my plan: containers.  My garden is an 80 square foot cement slab so, yeah, containers should be a priority.  

Per usual, the Internet, sweet mistress of inspiration, suggested a frugal, greener option than going to Home Depot to fill a cart with brand new plastic: check your local grocery store.  It took me two tries at customer service, lots of polite smiles and a little hutzpah, but after my weekly visit to Shaw's on Monday, I walked out with a lot more than food.  Behold my haul!  

They gave me 16 food-grade 5-gallon buckets from their bakery.  I'm going to use this tutorial to turn them into self-watering pots (which, by the way, usually start at $50 a pop).  These ones were free, upcycled, and best of all, they smell like heavenly buttercream frosting.  I'm in little gardener heaven. 

P.S. This is my weekly entry at the Barn Hop.  I get tons of ideas from there. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

superbowl defeat eats

On Sunday morning, I woke up early, painted on my eye black, and got to work in the kitchen.  We spent all day prepping our Superbowl snacks just like last year, the main difference being that I made little food labels this time around.  Beau just sorta shook his head.  He does that sometimes.   
Bill presented the artichoke dip

Buffalo Boston Wings in Beau's own teriyaki glaze

Gisele shivered on the chili that our guests brought (WELL, I CRACK MYSELF UP)

Ever popular fried pickle chips

Addictive baked onion rings (I made these twice last week)

And my personal favorite: Brady jalapeno poppers

Things didn't turn out quite as planned for the Patriots but it didn't really matter in our living room where everyone was knee deep in snack food, beer, and good times.

Monday, February 6, 2012

weekend highlights: not all was lost

Like most other New Englanders, Sunday was consumed by the Super Bowl.  But Saturday saw some excellent crafting that made me even more eager for a spring garden.
Foster pup Jesse got in on the crafting action before his new family picked him up

Beau finished my new vertical gutter garden!
I can't wait to fill it with lettuce and radishes.

Got into football for the first time in my life

I'll be back tomorrow with the many snacks we made for the game.  Naturally, I found a way to girl up the manliest event of the year.

Friday, February 3, 2012

fuzzy friday: too much of a good thing

I'm exhausted.  The type of exhausted that makes you shuffle around with stiff limbs and fall asleep on the couch at 8 pm.  Part of that is due to a lovely boom in business (YAY!). The other part is due to the foster pup I picked up from Forever Home New England on Monday.  His name is Jesse and he is supremely adoptable.       
Jesse enjoys ice cubes, destroying raw hides, long walks in the park, and snuggling.  He also worships Beau.
Hope there's something as enjoyable as ice cubes planned for your weekend.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

weekend highlights: bride's slaving

This weekend was full of secretive wedding planning for two of my best friends so I can't share many of the photos.  I'm a bridesmaid (or as we like to call them in my circle, bride's slave) though there's no bride.  This wedding has two grooms.  Beau's a groomsman but he was spared the agony of dress shopping on Sunday.  He manned the homestead while I was out playing.  

 wedding inspiration

the land of fancy dresses

Beau waxing his Gouda

On an unrelated note, it looks like I'll be getting a new foster dog today.  Keep an eye out for her on Fuzzy Friday.

Friday, January 27, 2012

introducing fuzzy fridays

Thanks to the dogs I work with, I have an impressive stash of adorable photos.  What exactly is the point of that if I can't share the cuteness with someone else?  So, to help launch your weekend with a smile on your face, I'll be posting one every Friday.   
This is Brody.  He's a three-month-old lab who loved sticks above all else until he met snow last week.  Now his favorite activity is plowing headfirst into snow drifts.  He's the reason that I'm looking forward to the next winter storm.

Happy weekend all!  Hope it's full of whatever you love best.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

is that a diet coke in your purse or are you just happy to see me?

I finished my very guilty pleasure, a Diet Coke, on the Boston-bound train platform this afternoon and suddenly, I was saddled with an empty aluminum can and nothing but garbage bins for disposal.  For convenience sake, I could have dropped it off.  It's just one can after all.  But I couldn't shake the thought of it sitting in a dump for at least the next 80 years.  Instead, I tucked it into my purse for the day until I found a recycling bin (it ended up being the one in my kitchen).  
We face small choices like that one every day: take the easy road, or accept a minor inconvenience for the betterment of something bigger than ourselves.  What's an afternoon in my purse compared to a lifetime in a landfill?        

Monday, January 23, 2012

weekend highlights: homebodies

afternoon with my bread bible
first real snow of the season
ripping seems for my upcycled bag
second keg installation
french onion soup

Six inches of snow really isn't a lot by New England standards but it gave me an excuse to spend the weekend puttering around the house, making things, and chattering at my husband.  My new purse is coming along and should be done by the end of this week.  The pain ordinaire carême that I made on Sunday afternoon came out perfect with a crackly crust.  No pictures of that though - we were too busy devouring it.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

where the homesteading happens

When we bought our condo in 2009, it was after half a year of searching and no fewer than 100 real estate appointments.  Our demands weren't outlandish - just a modest home with good bones that needed some TLC.  Instead, we saw houses that reeked of gas fumes, that were sheltering squatters and angry raccoons in the basements, that had black mold filled attics.  Finally, we found our little gem in the suburbs.  It was the least maintained condo in the complex but it was structurally sound.  The inside was a sea of beige 80s decor that we gladly looked past. 
Over the past few years, we've renovated one of the bathrooms, redone the front hall, and painted the bedroom.  This past fall, we tackled the kitchen and finally, FINALLY, it's the kitchen of my dreams.
Instead of sending the cabinets to the dump, we gave them new life with a fresh coat of paint and some simple hardware.  The wood that used to enclose the top portion was pulled down, opening up much needed storage space.  Beau's turning those scraps into shelves for the basement
The appliances have been replaced with all energy-efficient models.  The hideous microwave from the late Cretaceous period was exchanged for a hood that keeps me from smoking out the house when I cook dinner.  We picked basic subway tiles for the backsplash.
We hung up a pot rack and magnetic knife strip over the extended countertop, which is now my official bread making headquarters.  After much deliberation, we went with granite instead of the recycled glass counters that we both love so much.  In this case, resale value won out over environmentally friendliness.  Sigh.  Next time, Gadget...      
The walls got a fresh coat of non-beige paint.  The floors are bamboo, a quicker growing alternative to regular hardwoods.  The counters and floors were the only parts that professionals helped with.  The rest was accomplished in our spare time.   We still spend most of our free time in the kitchen actually.  It's our favorite bar, restaurant, and hang out.  Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get back in there.

Friday, January 20, 2012

the hannibal lecter of accessories

Have you ever loved a purse so much that you refused to let it go, even when it clearly needed to be put out of its misery?  I have.  The pockets!  The color!  The cowboy-chic hardware!
I can't remember how long ago I found it at Marshalls, but the important part is that I did and it was only $20.  If I saw it in a store today, I wouldn't buy it.  First, it was pleather and I'm working on reducing my plastic intake.  Second, it was made in China and if the manufacturer doesn't have a clear, public policy on labor rights, I tend to assume that the people making it abroad weren't paid a fair wage.  That sort of limits my options for replacing it, so I've been holding out for eons, unable to mend the pleather without breaking my sewing machine.  Meanwhile, the handles continued to catch on doorknobs, stick shifts, and bannisters, and my beloved purse ripped a little more every day.  
Finally, I got the message.  My mother-in-law bought me a beautiful new leather bag for Christmas that will last for ages.  Too beautiful to carry with me while dog walking.  As if my family members already knew that, my sister-in-law picked out some great sturdy fabrics for my stash.  All I need to turn the fabric into a purse is some hardware and lining fabric.  Guess where I found them.
Yep, I cannibalized my favorite purse.  Bags must tell urban legends about me - that girl who'll show you a good time and then steal your kidneys zippers when you least expect it.  The pleather has been deposited in the garbage, but these bits will live on.  

P.S. A warm welcome to anyone joining from the Homestead Barn Hop!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

upcycling a wall calendar into a monthly planner

**I originally posted this entry over on the Crafty Christmas Club back in October 2010.  I've made a few changes here.**

At the end of each year, I get a slew of wall calendars from charities.  And every year, I ask them to take me off their mailing list to save paper and funds.  There's already a chalkboard wall in my kitchen that I use for my calendar so these unsolicited ones usually end up in the recycling bin.  What I really needed at the end of 2011 was a book version to keep track of appointments for my new business.  So, when I received the wall type from the Nature Conservancy, I decided to convert it into a hardcover monthly planner.  Here's how I did it:  

Wall calendar
Glue stick
Corrugated cardboard
Water activated paper packaging tape
Clear packaging tape

1) Start by cutting up a wall calendar into individual pages.

2) Fold each page in half so that the calendar part is on the inside and the picture is on the outside.  Stack them in chronological order.  

3) Glue the back right side of each page to the back left side of the next one.  When you're done you should have something that looks like this:

4) Now it's time to start the cover.  Cut three pieces of cardboard: one for the spine that is 0.5" x 8.75" and two for the covers (each 5.5" x 8.75").  Fold paper packaging tape over the edges to finish them as shown below.... OR... hop over to this awesome Instructables tutorial for an even better version of book binding that will make a more finished looking product.  

5) Put the three pieces of the cover together to form a triangle (see photo below).  While they're in this position, use a strip of clear packaging tape to connect them.  I centered the strip on the spine and pressed it down on either side.  It's important to do this step in this position to make sure the book opens and closes properly.   

6) Open the covers so that the side with the clear packaging tape is facing down.  Put a strip of paper packaging tape down the center of the spine to connect it again to the covers.  Before activating it with water, I made two creases in the tape where the covers would bend.  You can see the creases on either side of the spine in the photo below.

7) Time to add the pages that were put together earlier.  Glue the back left side of the January page to the front cover.  Open and close the book a few times to see where the back page should sit.  Once you've found a good spot, glue the back right side of the December page to the back cover.

8) I used an extra page that was left over from the wall calendar to pretty up the cover a bit.  Just make sure you glue it on while the book is closed.  

And done!  Mine is now filling up with dog walking appointments and dinner plans instead of languishing in the recycling bin.

P.S. I submitted this entry to the Patchwork Living Blogging Bee.  Bee sure to hop over there for other great ideas! (Oh now, that was just an uncalled for pun...)