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...)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

hangover homesteading

I was not very productive on Sunday.  Not unless you consider watching five back-to-back episodes of Lost productive.  Dinner with friends on Saturday night snowballed into a few more drinks than I had intended.  An extra glass of wine always looks like a good idea until the next morning.

Late in the afternoon, I peeled myself off the couch and puttered around the kitchen looking for something to redeem myself with.  Lo and behold, I found two wrinkly jalapenos in the corner of the produce drawer that were begging for a little attention.  Instead of relegating them to the compost bin, I pulled up some quick instructions on how to pickle the little guys.  

Less than 10 minutes later, I popped the jar in the fridge and started planning an excellent night of falafel sandwiches.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

you're welcome, pancreas

Did you hear the terrible news about bacon earlier this week?  Or was I the only one quietly sobbing over my breakfast?  Well, misery loves company, so let me be the first to tell you that a daily dose of bacon has now been linked with a 19% increase in a person's risk of developing pancreatic cancer.  Now we're both sad.

Turns out the study isn't new.  Similar information was released in an article in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute way back in 2005.  And it actually finds a correlation between higher risk of pancreatic cancer and a daily dose of any processed meat.  Thankfully, most of us aren't in the habit of eating bacon or sausage every day.  But cold cuts, that's a different story.  Those innocuous looking deli meats were a lunch staple in my household.  Were.  Meet my impeccably timed Christmas gift from Beau.  It's a meat slicer.

Last weekend, long before I'd openly wept into a bowl of oatmeal, my husband and I spent an afternoon turning a $12 turkey into about $45 worth of groceries.  Every shred of dark meat was ground, the bones were boiled for stock, and the breast was slathered in herbs and roasted.

When they emerged from the oven, they were the first pieces of meat to go through my new slicer.  Inaugural sandwich meat.  That's a noble calling, in my opinion.

After a quick five minutes of concentrating on not cutting off my thumb, we had a platter full of delicious, homemade cold cuts, free from nitrates, added sugar and bucketfuls of salt.  

Isn't it beautiful?  This is a new tradition that will keep my pancreas and mouth happy for a long time.

P.S. Welcome to anyone hopping over from the Homestead Barn Hop and the Patchwork Living Blogging Bee!  Do you guys and girls make your own cold cuts, too?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

the things i made

Is it too late to still be talking about Christmas?  I'm still getting over my crafting fatigue and this is the first I've felt like broaching the subject.  I haven't been able to look at my sewing machine in the past three weeks without whimpering a bit.  But it was all worth it!  This year I had an almost entirely handmade Christmas.  A few items I blogged about over at the Crafty Christmas Club (links to those entries are below).

A patchwork tote for my mother-in-law

Sailor's knot bracelets for some of my favorite ladies

A restaurant review journal for my sister-in-law

A rocket ship tent for my nephew

 Also completed:
     - Three pairs of men's PJ pants
     - Christmas themed photo album 
     - Man's toiletry case (using this tutorial) 
     - Beer coozies (pictures and tutorial to come)
     - Another tote bag with a felt applique 

Though starting a small business has drained my resources, I desperately wanted to have a normal-ish Christmas.  Instead of shopping my wallet dry, I spent almost two months making things for my friends and family.  I think my hard work paid off in spite of the paper cuts, pin pricks, and that one little temper tantrum.  The presents might have been smaller than usual this year but while I made each one, I spent the entire time thinking about the person I was making it for.  I think that's what Christmas is really all about anyway.       

Monday, January 2, 2012

who cut the cheese?

Taking down the Christmas tree is always depressing.  A whole year before another one takes its place.  To cheer ourselves up after sweeping out the pine needles, we opened one of the presents I bought for Beau: a cheese making kit!

First up: gouda
Two gallons of whole milk heating up

 Poor little Miss Muffet.  Curds and whey are not appetizing.

 Finally found a use for those old textbooks.

And when those inevitably toppled, we switched to unused exercise equipment

In a few months, we'll have our first two pounds of home made cheese.  I plan on making crackers to go with them.  What type goes well with gouda?