Monday, January 30, 2012

Vegetable Garden

I didn't think I'd get around to it this year, but somehow I managed to get a bed ready for our spring vegetable garden.  There was already a pretty large flowerbed in the back of the yard when we moved in. It had three bushes in it, all of which died during the summer drought, and a lot of weeds.

After clearing out the weeds and mulch, I ran a soaker hose across the bed, securing it in place with garden staples. For now we have the garden hose running across the yard and set up on a timer. Eventually we'd like to dig a trench from the faucet to the garden bed and lay some pvc pipe, so we don't have a hose to move every time we mow.

Ideally I would like to move it away from the fence about a foot so there's room to walk behind it, and square out the front edges, but that will have to wait until next year...or never. I'm not sure I want to do that much digging.

I'm trying to do better at square foot gardening this year, so I can maximize the space. To help divide the bed, I staked out a 12" x 12" grid and marked it off with twine. I pulled an old laundry drying rack out of the donate box, and used a miter saw to cut it up into a bunch of little pieces, which I used for the stakes. It looked a little something like this before I chopped it up.

Our next door neighbor has bamboo, which makes its way under our fence and grows up in the corner of our yard. Zach chopped it all down so we could use it to make bamboo teepees for our climbing plants. I used hand pruners to cut all the smaller branches and leaves off, then stuck a few pieces in each plot and tied them together with twine. Zach also built three wire trellises using garden fencing and scrap wood.

I also started some seeds indoors, for tomatoes, basil, broccoli, and peppers. We've got a pretty fancy indoor green house- a shop light hung across two closet rods.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dream Foyer Contest Results

Thanks to everyone who voted for my Dream Foyer pinterest board. I won third place and a $100 gift certificate to Layla Grayce!!!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Accent table

I've spray painted many things, but never a piece of furniture. I've always thought it was a bit of a waste of money, especially when we always have extra latex paint leftover from painting walls, doors and trim. I finally decided to give it a try with the pedestal table I purchased last year, which is now in our bedroom.


I thought spray paint would be a much quicker and easier way to paint the table, since it has such a curvy base. Ordinarily, I would sand the table down with sandpaper, but took another shortcut and bought liquid sander. I figured the liquid sander along with a coat of primer would help the paint adhere well enough, plus the table top would be protected by glass.

I've heard Heirloom White spray paint mentioned on just about every home decor blog that I read, so I thought I'd try it out. In addition to the liquid sander, I purchased two cans of Heirloom White and 1 can of primer.

After wiping the table down with the liquid sander and letting it dry for 10 minutes, I applied a coat of primer. I then applied two coast of Heirloom White, which used about 1 1/2 cans of paint. The Heirloom White is actually a very nice shade of white, not too bright, not to creamy.



I think the color helps the table tie in better with our headboard and nightstands, which are also white, and keeps it from blending in with the dark wood floor.

I spent about $15 to repaint this $25 resale find, for a total of $40. Spray paint worked great for this project,  but it probably won't be my first choice for future projects. No doubt it's easier and quicker than brushing or rolling on paint, but in the end it's a bit more expensive and not quite as kind to the environment.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Vote for my "Rustic European" Fantasy Foyer

Last week I created a pinboard for Layla Grayce's Fantasy Foyer contest and was chosen as one of the top 5 finalists!!! If you have a moment, please vote for my "Rustic European" foyer.

The winning entries will receive:

1st Place: A choice of any item you pinned valued at $500 (or less)
2nd Place: A choice of any item you pinned valued at $250 (or less)
3rd Place: A $100 Layla Grayce gift certificate.

The winner will be announced January 25th. I've really got my eye on that chandelier...

Go here to vote.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A healthy baby gift

I found a cute bicycle print flannel at my local fabric store and bought a couple yards with baby gifts in mind. It's a fun print and could work for a boy or girl. Part of it got made into a baby blanket, gifted along with a plush granola bar.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Our New Robot

Zach asked for a robot for Christmas. It only has one job but it's very efficient at what it does. It's a Litter Robot.

We bought it refurbished online and have been using it for about a month now. For the first 2 days our cat refused to use it, opting instead for the the laundry room rug. So we left him in the laundry room, just him and the robot, and within 24 hours he had completely transitioned to the new box.

Here's a video on how it works:

Automatic pet feeder? Check. Automatic litter box? Check. Now all we need is one of these:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Grocery bag holder

I made my mom a grocery bag holder for Christmas using this quick and easy tutorial from make it and love it. She's got tons of great ideas and her tutorials are very easy to follow.

This holder doesn't take up a lot of space but holds plenty of bags, and can be hung anywhere. And all you  need is fabric, elastic, and a bit of ribbon.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why we make our own corn dogs

About two years ago Zach and I decided to make a big change in our eating habits, specifically what kind of meat we eat. In the past I didn't give much thought to the type of meat I purchased. I had two criteria: price and freshness (i.e. the "Best by" date was still in the future). Pretty basic.

But the more we thought about it, the more we realized the importance of knowing where our food comes from. What really solidified the decision were two documentaries, King Corn and Food Inc., followed up by some online research. Another big factor in our decision was our Christian faith. For us the decision was less about improving our health and more about moral responsibility and the impact of our food choices on the environment. In essence, it was about being good stewards of what God has given us. (Relevant magazine published an article on the ethical food movement in their July/August 2011 issue. If you have time, you can read an excerpt here.)

So we decided to only purchase and consume meat that was both sustainably and humanely raised. Simply put, for poultry this meant free-range, and for beef it meant free-roaming and grass-fed. We also made the switch to buying our eggs from the farmer's market or purchasing only those marked as free-range at the grocery store. We also eat fish but make sure that what we are buying is marked "sustainable".

Because grass fed/free range meat is more expensive, our meat consumption has dropped way down. We eat meat about once a week, and because of this have added a lot more tofu, eggs, quinoa, and beans to our diet as sources of protein. Besides cost, there are also other good reasons for eating meat less frequently.

Most of the time when dining out I order a vegetarian dish, unless the restaurant carries meat that is specifically labeled as grass-fed or free range. You'd be surprised how many restaurants offer vegetarian options. I've only been to one restaurant over the past two years that did not have a veggie option, and I ended up with fried catfish. Even most BBQ restaurants offer a veggie side-dish meal....although I would love to find a BBQ restaurant that has grass-fed beef.

On explaining our new "diet", I've been surprised at how many times I've received the response "So you're a vegetarian now?" No. We're not vegetarians. We may order vegetarian dishes when we go out, or request a vegetarian meal if you invite us to dinner at your house. But we like meat. Meat is great. Especially bacon...

And that brings us to the title of this post, why we make our own corn dogs. Zach enjoys corn dogs but the poor guy hasn't had one since 5 years ago at the state fair. Let  me tell you how easy it is to find corn dogs made with grass-fed beef. Nearly impossible. (If you know of a source, let me know. That and BBQ.)

So I decided to make homemade corn dogs, using The Great Organic Hot Dogs. Thank you Applegate for making a grass-fed hot dog!


2 2/3 cups yellow cornmeal
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting hot dogs
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ cups whole milk (I used 1% milk)
Vegetable or peanut oil, for frying (about 2 quarts)
12 hot dogs

In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Stir in eggs and milk. (You will have about 5 cups batter.) Fill a large heavy pot, Dutch oven, or deep fryer with enough oil to submerge hot dogs; heat until a deep-fry thermometer reaches 360 degrees.
Meanwhile, pat hot dogs dry, and insert a 10-inch bamboo skewer (I used chop sticks) through each lengthwise; roll in flour to coat.

Pour batter into tall mason jar. Dip 1 hot dog into batter, turning, until completely coated; let any excess batter drip off, and wipe away extra batter using your fingers so that hot dog is coated evenly. Lower hot dog into hot oil. Immediately repeat with 2 hot dogs. (I found it helpful to turn the jar on it's side and roll the corn dog in the batter).

Cook corn dogs, turning to cook evenly, until deep golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined tray, turning to blot oil. Working in batches of 3, repeat with remaining hot dogs and batter.
Serve with yellow mustard!

After I finished frying each corn dog, I put it on a pan in the oven at 250 degrees to keep warm while the rest of the dogs were cooking. You can also freeze these and reheat later in the oven.

I got this recipe from a magazine but don't remember which one, so if anyone knows the source let me know.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Frosted Glass Door

We wanted to add a little privacy to the back door leading in to the laundry room, which gives a direct view into the living room. I didn't want to block the light coming in and didn't want something bulky like blinds or curtains on the door since we open and close it so frequently.

You'll have to use your imagination for some of these photos. It's hard to take a good picture of a window!


Seven7h House on the Left has a great post on "frosting" glass with contact paper, and you can even download their template for free.

What you'll need:

window cleaner and a rag (to clean the glass)
clear contact paper
x-acto knife
fine tip permanent marker

I already had a roll of clear contact paper so all I needed to do was print the template. Because our window has four panes, I had to scale the template down to 85% so it would fit better.  When I got to the edges I used an x-acto knife to cut off the excess contact paper.


If you've got a few hours and a roll of contact paper, this is a quick and affordable project to dress up any window. And if you ever get tired of it it peels right off. We're pretty pleased with  the result so I think it's here to stay.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vintage Gingerbread House

Christmas has come and gone and now you're probably wondering what to do with that elaborate gingerbread house you spent hours making. Maybe you're curious just how long a gingerbread house can last. I know one in particular that's been around for two decades:

That's right. I made this gingerbread house 20 years ago. Twenty. Years. And it's been stored in my mom's freezer ever since.

We finally convinced her to say goodbye to it this year. Farewell gingerbread house, you had a good run.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Number 1 or 2?

Zach has been making some plumbing upgrades to the bathrooms, all of which started with a clogged sink.

The sink in the master bathroom had been backing up so Zach decided it was time to replace the old galvanized metal p-trap with a new one made of PVC. While he was replacing the pipes, the sink stopper from the old faucet fell apart. We've been planning to redo the master vanity and sinks, and have been slowly replacing the mismatched fixtures with heritage bronze ones. Since we'd already purchased new faucets, we went ahead and installed one of them. Zach also replaced the p-trap and faucet in the guest bathroom, using the faucet we took out of the master bath. It was still in good condition and the lever style handles are much easier to use than the old faucet that was in there.



We also picked up two BlueSource Total Toilet Repair Kits (featured on lifehacker) for each of our toilets. For $25 and 30 minutes of your time, this kit lets you convert a regular toilet into a dual-flush toilet. 



We've only been using them for about a week but so far they seem to work well. According to the manufacturer, you can supposedly recoup the cost of the kit within a few months of water bills and within a year you'll save enough water to fill a swimming pool. Hopefully we'll see some savings on our next water bill.