Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Hot Water Heater

Our house turned 26 years old this year, along with the hot water heater. Although still heating pretty well, it was far from efficient. Our high gas bill was proof of this. So when we heard about the Texas Trade Up Appliance Rebate Program this past spring, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to replace our hot water heater.

Our water heater is in an interesting location. It has it's own little closet on the exterior of our house, about 4 feet up from the ground.


Zach removed the old water heater and prepped the space. First, he insulated the interior of the closet and sealed everything off with silicon caulk. The kitchen pantry shares a wall with the hot water heater closet, and this has helped quite a bit to keep the heat out and the pantry cool. 

The old water heater didn't have a pan, and the plywood platform it was sitting on had rotted over the years from small drips here and there. Zach ripped out the plywood and reframed the base before adding a new platform.

We upgraded from a 40 gallon to a 50 gallon size and our friend Shiva (Z: the manliest man this side of the millenium) came over to help Zach lift the water heater up in to the closet. They got creative and built a platform to make the job easier. I stood by ready to call 911 in case anything went awry.


On the surface, it's not the most drastic transformation, but we've really noticed a difference in both our gas bill and the extra hot water the new heater provides.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Free Four Star Dinner and Other Anniversary Surprises

Z: I've been working on a few time intensive carpentry projects such as a custom craft table and wall shelves. Essentially these were Sarah's anniversary gifts, but I still wanted to give her something with that romantic lovey-dovey quality attached. I used a short birch log that we already had, cut one end square so it could stand, and then carved our names with a heart around them. You would think that means that we love each other, and you would be correct. Since this is a common symbol, and I think I'm too good for common, I had to make it a bit more unique by adding our anniversary date and three hashmarks to count off our third anniversary. The "Special Edition Commemorative Anniversary Branch" as I'm calling it will serve to record our time together as we add a hashmark to it every year. Cue the marital bliss.

S: Wednesday night for dinner we went to Jeffrey's in downtown Austin. We started our meal off with an appetizer of crispy oysters and complimentary gruyere cheese bread. The manager stopped by our table to greet us and our waiter was friendly and attentive, making sure we had whatever we needed. For the main course, Zach ordered quail and I ordered BBQ shrimp. Just as I was about the start eating, I spied  something long, black, and curly in my dish. Yep, it was a hair. Our waiter was very apologetic and offered us a complimentary dessert. Then about half way through our entree the waiter came back and let us know that my entree would be taken care of as well. For dessert we ordered ice cream sandwiches made with homemade banana ice cream and vanilla wafers. By this point I was stuffed but I managed to eat two ice cream sandwiches. Pleased with the service, and satisfied with our meal, the waiter brought us our check, which came to a grand total of.....$0.00!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Eco-Cheap Mom: Composter & Rain Barrel Giveaway

Eco-Cheap Mom is giving away a 52 Gallon Compost Wizard and Rain Barrel Hybrid from Hayneedle. The giveaway ends August 30th, 2010 at 9:00 p.m. EST.

This would be perfect for our new garden!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Weekend Project: Garden Bed

S: Zach and I have been thinking about putting in a vegetable garden for some time, so when we heard about an online promo for a raised-garden bed kit at a ridiculously low price, we ordered one right away. Unfortunately, the deal was too-good-to-be-true, and we received an email later that week notifying us that our order could not be fulfilled.
Undaunted, we did a little online research, and with plans in hand, headed to the home improvement store the following Saturday. As is often the case with DIY projects, we were able to accomplish something bigger and better for a lot less money.

We purchased all the supplies needed to build an 8' x 4' cedar garden bed for just $37 (We already had a few items on hand, like the wood screws and metal strap). A 4' x 4' kit, which is half the size, will set you back $38.

Three 2"x6"x8' cedar boards
One 2"x4"x8' cedar board
One 10 foot 1" PVC pipe
Two 10 foot 1/2" PVC pipe
Metal strapping
Wood screws

Z: As you can see, its a rectangle with legs. The construction was fairly simply. One of the 2x6x8 boards, must be cut in half to yield two 2x6x4's. The four 2x6's are then screwed together to make a rectangle. The remaining 2x4x8 is then cut into four 2 foot long sections. Each section is screwed into the corner to add stability to the corner joint and to provide a post to secure the bed into the ground.
The 1" PVC is cut into four 6" long sections and attached to the inside of the bed using the metal strap and screws. The 1/2 PVC is cut into 8ft long sections and fitted into the 1" sections to make the looped frame for netting.

S: The four corner posts sit about a foot down into the ground. We've got a lot of limestone in our yard, so clearing the space and digging the holes was a lot of work....and we have a bent pick axe to prove it.

Z: We added some left over gravel and sand around the edge to provide better drainage and keep the wood from rotting. It'll also protect the bed when doing the lawn as now I won't have to beat the wood up with my weedeater.

I made these decorative endcaps using my router just for fun since I had some scrap cedar laying around

S: So far we've got a row of herbs in and hope to plant some vegetables soon!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dolly Donations

I was checking out the Dolly Donations blog yesterday and saw my doll on the homepage! There's still plenty of time left in the current drive if you're thinking about making a doll!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Homemade Jam

My friend Jenn hosted a canning party last Saturday. This was my first time to can anything, and although it's a lot of work, it's definitely worth it!

We each chose a recipe to make, then divided up the flavors. I chose Raspberry Fig Jam:

1-1/2 cups sugar
1 1.59-oz pkg Ball® Simple Creations® Freezer Jam Fruit Pectin
2 cups crushed raspberries
2 cups peeled finely chopped figs
2 Tbsp candied ginger, finely chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Plastic Ball® (8 oz) Freezer Jars
We also made peach jam, blackberry jam, jalapeno jelly, lavender infused strawberry jam, and regular strawberry jam. (You can visit Ball's website for more recipes.)

The raspberry fig and lavender infused strawberry were freezer jams, and were the easiest to make. Unlike traditional canning, there's no cooking or boiling required. You simply prepare your ingredients, add a special pectin designed for freezer jams, then freeze. Freezer jams are good for up to one year in the freezer. Although simple to make, they can't be stored at room temperature, so they're not very convenient to give as gifts.

I don't think these are going to last very long...

Monday, August 2, 2010

July Book Club

It's no secret I love books, but it's probably a lesser known fact that I am actually a member of a women's book club. I joined in April and overall it's been a positive experience. It's given me the opportunity to meet new people and to read books that I otherwise would have never considered. I hosted book club at my house this past week. Here's a photo of us with July's book, The Host.

Yes, this book was written by the same author who wrote the Twilight series. And yes it's also science fiction. But unlike its teen counterpart, it was written for adults and the general consensus was that it was a good novel. Up next month: Firefly Lane. I'm already about half way through this one and am enjoying it so far.

Speaking of Twilight, what do you get when you combine Twilight and Mystery Science Theater?