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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Well good morning there!

Last night Jack chose a "sleep party" (where I sleep on the floor in his room) as a reward for good behavior.  I went to bed at 7:45 pm on a Friday and had some crazy dreams.  One of the dreams was that there was a gang on the street below us that initiated people by making them, um...excited the gang's mascot which was a bulldog.

I didn't have to do this, but I did have to make the shirts for the people who passed the test.  I kept having to silkscreen "I pleased the pooch and all I got was this lousy shirt" logos on to purple shirts (their gang colors).

Then I had a dream that I woke up and logged on to my blog.  And that one of my posts had exploded on Pintrest.  And that I had a lot of new Facebook and Google followers.  And that people had left such nice comments that I puffed up like the peacock that lives on my street and shits on my front porch.

Phew, what a crazy bunch of dreams, right?

If the dream about the the Pintrest explosion had been real, I'd say a huge thanks to whomever first pinned my Homemade Vicks Vapor shower disks.  And to anyone who has repinned it, thank you!  And to anyone who has just found my blog because of it, I'd say I hope you stick around, like what you see, and share it with others.  Because eventually I'd love to make blogging a full time job, and growing this site by word of mouth (word of Pintrest, Facebook, etc.) is how that gets done.

But if that doesn't happen, I'll be ok.  I always have my fallback business of making tshirts for newly inducted gangsters.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Water kefir soda - revisted

Back in August, I told you how I had been making water kefir soda.  It's been over ten months, and we're still loving the stuff.  Rarely does "regular" pop come in to our house, and drinking this stuff saves us mucho dinero.

Today I wanted to talk about a few of my favorite flavors.  This post is for my friend Ruth was quite enamored with the water kefir soda that she tasted at our house last Saturday.

Top 5 fav flavors of water kefir soda (in order of awesomeness)
1) Blackberry soda.  Um.  Yum.  I get "Blackberry Crush" or something similar to that cheesy name at Trader Joes.  It's a 100% juice blend of blackberry, pear, apple, and a few other flavors.  Good stuff.

2) Mojito.  Lime and mint.  Nothing could be more refreshing in the middle of summer.  The mint in my garden is currently hibernating, so I'll have to wait until later this year to enjoy this drink again.

3) Mango lemonade.  If angels had tears, it would taste like this.  We buy the organic mango lemonade from Trader Joes.  It is 100% juice and deeeeeelightful!

4) Blueberry pomagranate.  Also 100% juice from Trader Joes, and full of antioxidants and other good buzzwords.

5) Grape.  Nothing too fancy here. 
Do you make your own water kefir soda?  If so, what is your favorite flavor?  If no, why not?  And Anne, please don't comment "because your hippy ass needs to come live with me and make it for me".  I'm on to you ho.

I've shared this over at Frugal Fridays and Fight Back Fridays.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to build a "super" raspberry support system

Before we get started on how we built a raspberry patch at home, I need a huge favor.  I need you all to send this post to 5+ friends or family members.  Troy said if I put these photos on my blog, that I need to "keep his bulge out of the frame, and this better get like 3,000 page views".  I've never gotten more than 2,000 page views, so I really need your help!   Because as my friend Angela said when she saw the pictures "that right there is a real man".  Troy needs the praise and page views for being so ballsy by letting me put these pictures up.  That's what she said.

I came home from Lowes last Saturday morning to find Troy and Jack in Superman costumes.  For the record, it wasn't known to me that my husband of almost eight years owned said Superman costume.  I immediately directed them outside to the front yard with camera in hand, and demanded they build my raspberry supports.  Right then and there.  In costume.  I'm nice like that.

So, here is how our family builds raspberry supports.  In style.

You'll need
Two 2x4x8s (weather treated, or painted)
One untreated 2x4x8
8 eyebolt thingys (Troy assures me those are real words)
2 bags of pea gravel
4 Nails
Saw of some kind

Saw the untreated 2x4x8 into four pieces.  Two of the pieces should be longer than the other two.

At the top of one of the treated 2x4x8, hammer two nails to connect one of the larger untreated pieces on to the top of the treated piece.  Add the shorter untreated piece about 2-3 feet below that.  Repeat for both treated 2x4x8s.

Check for quality control.
Using a power drill,  drill 8 total holes in to the untreated pieces of wood.
Insert the eye bolts in to the holes that were just drilled.

Preparing the site for installation

Using a post hold digger thing, dig a deep hole.  At least 18-24 inches deep if possible.
Such a terrible picture!
Put the post in the hole.
Look around for an extra pair of hands.  Where did your helpers go?  Oh right...

Steady the post with one hand, and while trying not to give yourself a hernia, fill the hole with pea gravel.  Give it a good shake to help it settle, then add more pea gravel.  Repeat with the other post.
Dig your holes for your berry plants, add compost, then the plants, then fill the holes with compost.  Water, and then cover with the mulch of your choice.  This is easiest done using your child's wagon that he just received as a birthday gift from his Auntie Anne.
Voila.  We'll string the wire once the berry canes add a bit of growth.  The wires will be used to support the canes as they continue their upward growth.
And here is a random picture of one of the wild peacocks that lives on our street.
So, again, please forward this post to at least 5 friends.  Get Troy his page views!  Don't let his public humiliation go to waste!

Total cost for this project - $43.40 (that includes 4 bags of compost even though I only used 1 in this bed).  I tried for months on get free lumber on Freecycle, but I couldn't find a darn tootin thing that was being given away.  The raspberry bushes were free from my aunt and uncle from thinning their current patch.  The cost of organic raspberries at the market?  At least $4 per pint.  So assuming we can get 11 pints out of this in the next 1-2 years, our break even point will be under 24 months.

Shared at: It's a Keeper Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, and Frugal Fridays.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

No spend March - week 4 update

This week was decent.  Not great, but decent!

I forgot that last week I spent $4.72 as part of a group gift sending flowers to a friend.
This week Troy spent $33.15 on crap - pure crap.  Buying gross food for a study session (when had I known about it in advance, I could have just made something), buying dinner at a teriyaki place that was so nasty that there was a sign in the bathroom saying not to put toilet paper in the toilet.  So yeah...

He carpools with a group of guys to training, so when they go out to dinner, he's kind of trapped.  For the record he said the dinner was delicious.  For the record, I slept on the couch that night to avoid the invasion of the cockroaches that I assumed would be bursting forth from his stomach.

I spent $24.98 at Lowes this past weekend, but I'm not counting it because I used cash that I set aside each month for my gardening fund.  I bought compost and pea gravel for our new raspberry patch.  Check back tomorrow for more details!

So, let's call it "$37.87" spent this week.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Homemade "Vicks Vapor shower disks"

Have you seen the commercials for the Vicks Vapor shower disk thingies?  You put one of these disks in your shower, and voila thanks to the vapors in it, you're magically healed, your cold is gone, and your face is shockingly free of snot.  I always used to watch the "Noxema girl" splashing water on her face and wondered how she was able to wash her face without being completely overrun with boogers.  I'm the only one?  Yes?  Ok, moving along then...

Regardless, Vicks makes these things and I'm sure they're super expensive for something that is just going to wash down your drain.

You know where I'm going with this, right?


I made them myself.

The idea started a few weeks ago when my sweet little nephew Parker came down with Croup for like the 1,438th time.  My sister mentioned that they were taking long steamy showers with him to try to clear out his lungs.  My brain started churning and I thought "surely there can be something they could add to the shower to help him even more".  Homemade Vicks Vapor shower disk thingies were born.

And they couldn't be any simpler.

Sarah's Homemade Vicks Shower Disk Thingies
-Baking soda
-Essential oils: eucalyptus, rosemary, and lavender.
-Muffin tin
-Muffin liners

1) Add baking soda to a mixing bowl.  Updated to add - I don't really measure.  Maybe 2-3 cups?
2) Slowly add water until you've made a thick paste.  Updated to add: add just a little water a time.  You'll want the mix to feel like putty.
3) Add 15 drops of each essential oil.
4) Spoon in to a muffin tin, and let sit out for 12-18 hours.  You can also bake these, but I just left them out overnight.
5) Pop these suckers out of the paper liner, plop it in your shower, and let the essential oils steam away your stuffy nose.  Edited to add: put them anywhere on the floor of the shower; it doesn't matter where! 

Added 4/7/12 - for anyone who is having issues with these being "crumbly", try using 1 cup of baking soda and 1/3 cup of water (plus maybe a few tbslp more) and baking for 20 minutes at 350.  THEN add a few drops of each essential oils to the cooled "puck".  That was a suggestion from a commenter and I tried it this morning with great success!  I'm a quick shower taker (less than 5 min), and my "disk" was only about 1/3 gone at the end of the shower.

Additionally, I'm not a doctor (nor a butcher, baker, or candlestick maker), so if you have any medical conditions, contact a medical professional. 

Added 10/2/12 - if you're not using a silicone muffin tin, remove the liners before the pan has completely cooled.  And yes, you need to remove these from the liners in order to use.   You can store these in an plastic container, mason jar, etc.

I've shared this over at: Fat Tuesday, Frugal Tip Tuesday, and Seasonal Celebrations Sunday.
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Monday, March 26, 2012

Tip of the week - reduce your garbage/recycling costs

Before I get started, I know lots of people who take their garbage to the dump because it is cheaper, or they (gulp) burn it.  We're not those people.  We don't have time to make an extra weekend errand run, and I would never set fire to garbage because of the environmental impact.

That being said, we have managed to reduce our garbage and recycling pick up to every other week which saves us money and helps us be mindful of what we are tossing.  So, how do we do it?

1) We're now accountable for our trash and recycling.  We've always lived in apartments with community trash, so we were never fully aware of what we were tossing out.  Now that we're in a single-family home, no one is filling up the cans but us.  It's easier to see our impact.

2) We're able to compost a lot more.  In our Los Angeles apartment, Troy built me a worm compost for my birthday.  Ladies, he is all mine!  It was my request for a gift, but he truly went all out.  It was so fancy and lovely that he etched "The Red Wiggler Lion" on to the top.  This thing was high class.  But it also couldn't handle all our scraps, so lots went in to the garbage.   Some lucky "freecycle" subscriber got it when we moved out of California.

In our last apartment, we purchased a basic compost tumbler (check Costco this time of year for a better deal), and while it was helpful it isn't meeting all our current needs with yard waste, the garden, etc.

Last weekend I found an old garbage can left by the old tenants and have converted it in to our second compost.  Now I can let the contents of the tumbler "finish" converting to compost, and add the extra stuff to our garbage can composter.

2013 will hopefully bring us a few chickens which will then convert all our extra scraps that we don't currently compost in to wonderful chicken poop fertilizer.  Fingers crossed this happens, because I had been planning for 2012 and it just didn't work out.

3) Now that we have more space for storage, we can buy even more things in bulk.  Now that we order from Azure Standard so much, most of our food staples (rice, beans, wheat berries, salt, etc.) come in bags that are able to be recycled.

4) My garden and bulk ordering from our local fruit stand produced enough canned items that we're not buying things like canned tomatoes, applesauce, or chicken broth.  Having those things in reusable canning jars has increased my dishes workload, but has greatly decreased our garbage and recycling output.

Also, if making a side dish simply means walking outside to pick lettuce, or green beans, or strawberries, I'm not bringing home packaging from the grocery store.  That also reduces the amount of waste that is filling up our cans.  (that's what she said).

5) Thrift stores.  Oh Goodwill, how I have missed you during the "No Spend March Challenge".  Purchasing items from a thrift stores means that usually the items you're bringing home aren't wrapped in packaging like boxes, bubble wrap, and plastic.  Someone else had to dispose of that waste, and you're helping the overall waste stream by not contributing more packaging from new items.

6) We used cloth diapers.  So this doesn't save us any garbage costs currently (Jack has been potty trained since 22 months), but we weren't tossing out crap wrappers multiple times a day when he was wearing diapers.  Additionally, the diapers we have now will be used for whenever (if ever!) we have a second child.  The initial diaper investment will diaper two children for the cost of using paper diapers for one child for half a year.  Got that?  The cost of cloth diapers for TWO kids is the same as disposable diapers for six months for ONE kid.

7) Lunches get packed in reusuable bags and containers.  Jack has a laptop lunch box, and one of these thingies, so lunch almost never involves Ziploc baggies or other one-use packaging.  Troy's meals are usually in a man lunchable, and I take my food in either canning jars or the Snapware glass items from Costco.

8) Cut out soda and other bottled beverages.  I occasionally will buy pop as a treat, but it's very rare.  For one thing, it's not good for you, and for another, my husband has a horrible soda habit.  He turns in to a giant child when it is in the house and drinks as much as he can while he can.  It's not worth having it in the house.  Not buying it saves us a ton of money and keeps the cans out of the recycling bin.  We now almost exclusively drink water kefir soda.

Financially, the switch from going to every week to every other week isn't a huge difference.  But it is still a savings, and the act of doing so has helped make us more mindful about our waste and consumption lifestyle.

What are your favorite tips to reduce garbage and waste? 

I've shared this over at Monday Mania.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Meal plan for March 26th - April 1st

You should see my fridge right now.  I'm pretty sure I have over 100 eggs in there.  The milkman deliver my normal order (3 dozen) even though I cancelled it.  I didn't realize this until AFTER I went to the farm where I get our milk and also picked up eggs.  Given all the eggs, you'd think I would be having eggs every since night for dinner this week?  Not necessarily so! 

We do however have a frittata on the menu.  That damn frittata shows up every week and never gets made.  Why?  Because I keep putting it on a Friday.  Come Friday, I never want to actually cook, so Jack and I make popcorn, and have popcorn and fruit on the couch and watch a library DVD.  Going forward I'm just scheduling popcorn for Fridays!

Here is what we'll be eating this week:

Monday::  BBQ chicken pizza on homemade whole wheat pizza dough, salad, and fruit

Tuesday:: Weeknight chicken parm, salad, and fruit

Wednesday:: Pasta faguoli (I never know how to spell that) in the crockpot, paninis, and salad

Thursday:: Frittata and fruit

Friday:: Popcorn and fruit

Saturday: Matzo ball soup, dutch oven bread, salad, and fruit

Sunday:: TBD

This week I spent $41 on groceries (holy hell matzo meal is expensive!!!!) and $18 on raw milk and eggs.  $4 of that was for eggs for my aunt and uncle.  I accidentally also spent $12.98 on eggs delivered from the milkman.  Whoopsie.
Someone Troy works with did a huge favor for us.  As a "thank you", Troy told him that I'd make him his favorite dessert.  The guy said he likes pie and vanilla wafers and Nutella.  Not a lot to go on there!  I put the vanilla wafers (pictured above) in a food processor to crumb them, and slowly added melted butter until it became a dough.  I pressed that in to a pie crust, and filled it with this recipe.

Perhaps one of the unhealthiest things I've ever made.  But, when you give me a list of random things you like, I have to get creative!  Did you notice the EIGHT egg yolks that recipe called for?  Good god!  I couldn't let those egg whites go to waste, so I made these last night with the leftovers.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My mother-in-law's "cabbage thing"

Creative title, right?  Please keep in mind that I'm writing this post at night and I'm off my ass on a Tylenol PM.  So, kindly tell that unicorn in the corner to shut up and eat his glitter hay, and cut me some slack on the recipe title.

And, basically, this is a cabbage dish that my mother-in-law makes.

This side dish is stupidly easy, and wickedly cheap - especially right now considering how stores discount cabbage around St. Patrick's Day.  It also comes together in about 10 minutes which makes it perfect for a weeknight.  I tend to cook up a batch of bacon and put it in the freezer, so that makes this recipe ever more workday friendly.  I also shredded/cut the cabbage over the weekend.

Cabbage thingy
4 strips of bacon, diced
2 celery stalks, thinly diced
Half of a head of cabbage sliced somewhat thinly
half of a small onion, sliced
1 tblsp sesame oil
2 tblsp olive oil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

In a frying pan, saute the bacon.  Cooked thoroughly if using uncooked bacon, or just warm if using cooked bacon.
If using cooked bacon, add 2 tblsp of olive oil and 1 tblsp of sesame oil.  If using uncooked bacon, just add the sesame oil.  Add the celery and onion.
Saute the celery and onion until softened.
Add the cabbage, and saute for about 3-4 minutes, or until softened.

Season with salt and pepper, and serve hot.
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mother's day idea that you need to shake your tail feathers if you want to gift it this year

Shake a tail feather.  Funny story about shaking tail feathers since you all brought up Tina Turner...

Back in the day a Seattle radio station used to play a game where they listed three things and you had to figure out what they had in common.  You could call in and win "fabulous prizes" if you could figure out the connection.  In 6th grade, I thought up a question, called in (no email in those days) and left a message with my hilarious question.

A few weeks later they used it.

And I called in.

And I won.

You're dying to know what my three were, aren't you?  Ok, ready?  Remember...this was the 90's.

Question:  What do music stores, courthouses, and Tonya Harding all have in common?
Answer:  They all have records.

Tonya Harding joke, whaaaaa? 

The fabulous prize?  A VHS of What's Love Got to do With it.  The Tina Turner story.  Super appropriate for an 11 year old.

What were we talking about before you starting pestering me about Tina Turner?  Oh yes, Mother's Day gifts.

This year, I'm giving my mother-in-law a vat of homemade vanilla extract.  She pretty much used a ton of mine up when we live with them briefly last spring.  She also has everything she could ever need, and I know this is something she'd actually want.  I'm going to get a pretty bottle for storage, and attach this note to it:

A mother-in-law is like a great batch of vanilla
They add flavor to things
They make life delicious
They're 97% booze

My mother-in-law likes her a little bit of wine.  She always puts me on notice to cut her off after half of a glass, or things get crazy!  Usually the fourth or fifth kiss on my cheek and snuggles is a glaring clue to hide her two buck chuck.


Anyhoo, if you'd like to gift this to your mother-in-law, you best get started now so that it is ready by the big day!*

*Confession, I had to call it the "big day" because I don't know when Mother's Day is.  May something or other?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

No spend March - week 3 update

If anyone else doing this pledge?  How are you doing?

This week I spent the following things outside of my normal budget:

$20.81 for rain boots for Jack.  He had worn his through and the heels actually seemed to act like sponges and soaked water in.  Rain boots are essential in the Seattle area, and are probably on my kid's feet about 75% of the time.

$11.87 at Lowes for a door flap thingy.  Troy is straight up convinced that one of these days, mice are going to invade our home through the garage door.  I've told him I've never seen a mouse in this house until I'm blue in the face, but he is not convinced.

$1.00 for a tip at the coffee stand.  I had free drink coupons, but still wanted to give a tip.  The $1.00 came from my car's change tray.

$18.56 at Lowes, but this money came out of my "gardening" fund that gets $20 a month deposited in to it.  We bought two 2x4x8, another piece of wood that I don't know the measurements of, and some hook thingies.  I'm FINALLY getting supports for the free raspberry bushes my aunt and uncle are giving us after paring down their own patch.

Total spent over my traditional budget: $52.24

But you know what I didn't spend a dime on?  Girl Scout cookies.  I'll never do another no-spend month in March!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pardon me while I make out with a plate of mashed potatoes.

Back when we lived in Los Angeles, I headed up recruiting MBA candidates to join our firm.  Part of the recruiting included throwing these crazy $60k weekends with wining and dining and general indulgence. 

Saturday night during the big weekend included a huge expensive dinner followed up by limo rides to some club that was featured in the previous week's episode of The Hills.  Given that I don't drink, and generally liked to go to bed at say 9:30 pm, Saturday nights were torture for me.  I usually ended up being in charge of "skank patrol" at the clubs - keeping slutty chicks and their lower back tattoos away from our bottle service.

I led a charmed life.

Anyhoo, the best part of Saturday night was a dinner at Asia da Cuba at the Mondrian Hotel on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood.  It was a big family style dinner with over-priced but delicious food.  The highlight of the dinner was Asia da Cuba's "wasabi mashed potatoes".

And you know what?

I cloned those mo'fos last weekend.

Yes I did!

Knock-off Fancy Pants Wasabi Mashed Potatoes
2 tblsp cream cheese
2 tblsp butter
1 tsp wasabi paste
Half and half or cream

1) In a large pot, boil quartered organic potatoes.

2) Using a ricer, and following these directions, and "rice" the mashed potatoes.

3) In a bowl, add 2 tblsp of cream cheese, 2 tblsp butter, and the 1 tsp of wasabi paste.  Stir to combine.

4) Add the half and half or cream if the potatoes seem a bit dry.

Serve with anything that needs a delicious side dish.  Or just sit on the floor of your kitchen and eat the whole bowl with a spatula.  No judgement if option #2 tickles your fancy.

I've shared this over at Fat Tuesdays. Real Food Wednesdays, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.

Tip of the week - an awesome little known use for coconut oil

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you know that I'm a huge fan of coconut oil for cooking and crafting.  Just when I think I've found all the cool uses for coconut oil, BAM, I find something else that rocks my world.

At my optometrist appointment last year, my eye doctor expressed concern for little bumps I had on the rims of my eyelids (yum).  I wear contacts, and he said that the bumps along with my contact use could eventually impact my vision.  He prescribed me lots of "hot compresses" and pressure on my eye to clear up the bumps.

They didn't budge.  Stupid bumps.  The optometrist said that he would have to prescribe me something to clear those up.  Um, no thanks!

I started using coconut oil to remove my eye makeup at night, and after about a week's use, the little eyelid bumps were gonzo.

Bye bye bumps.

My bumps.

My bumps.

My lovely optical bumps.

I've shared this over at Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Frugal Tip Tuesday, Real Food Wednesdays, and Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways.
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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Meal plan for March 19th-25th

Let me tell you a mistake I'm never making again.  Suggesting that Jack and Troy accompany me on errands on a Saturday.  First, it took us forever to get out of the damn house because Troy was on the phone, so we ended up leaving like 2 hours later than I would ever leave.  I hate crowds, and leave as early as possible!  When we lived in Los Angeles, I would leave the house at 7:30 am to hit up Target, Trader Joes, and Costco and could get home by 9:15.  Then freaking Costco went and changed their house and ruined my whole plan!

But I digress.

The trip to Lowes took about 45 minutes longer than expected for Troy to pick out the perfect door flap thingy.

Then, we get to the grocery store and discovered that Troy had taken the list out of my purse to add something, and then hadn't put it back.  Jack spilled a cup of water all over the floor while we were trying to find rain boots, and generally the boys were just all up in my space.  At one point Troy said "Jack, this is why mommy likes to go to the grocery store by herself".  I was ready to choke myself out with the child restraints in the cart by the end of it.


Despite the forgotten list, I got everything on my list expect 3 items.  I have a fairly good memory.
Not too shabby if you ask me!

Here is what we'll be chowing on this week:

Monday:: working late.  Having what we were supposed to have last week - home canned tomato soup, quesadillas, salad, and home canned fruit.

Tuesday:: Steak salads, rolls, and home canned fruit.

Wednesday:: Crock pot Lentil soup, rolls, and home canned fruit.

Thursday:: Cashew chicken over brown rice, and home canned fruit.

Friday:: Frittata (didn't get made last week), and home canned fruit.

Saturday:: crockpot French onion soup (it's so good and wicked easy) and salad.

Sunday:: family dinner at my parent's.

This week I spent $44 on groceries and stayed within my budget.  No picture this week because I was just trying to get out of the grocery store without choking out my son and husband.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012

DIY toddler dinosaur hoodies

I saw these hoodies and knew that I could give it a try.  I found a screaming deal on toddler hoodies at Fred Meyer for $4 each.  I have quite a few birthdays coming up this spring, and these are perfect and inexpensive gifts to give.  They may not be expertly-made, but they're definitely made with love.

You'll need
-straight pins
-sewing machine, and scissors (obvious ones)

1) Start by tracing and cutting a diamond in the felt.  Then use that as a guide to cut out the other diamonds.
2) Pin the middle of the diamond over the seam of the hoodie.
3) Sew a standard stitch down the middle of the diamond and do your best to keep the seam on the seam of the hoodie.
4) Bring the diamond together and stitch along each side of the triangle.  Repeat for all the other diamonds.

Then, go outside and enjoy your new hoodie!!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No spend March - week 2 update

This week was definitely not as strong as last week!!

I spent $22.74 at Target for stuff for Troy's training (shorts, special socks, etc.).
I spent another $11.67 at Safeway for misc. items.
I spent $61.98 at Costco for some food and two fire extinguishers.  Ours were expired, and frankly, safety is more important than a challenge.

Total "out" of budget spent this week: $96.39

In the "win" category, I dropped off items at Goodwill without walking in to the store to browse.  I'm finding that just staying out of the stores is saving a boatload of money.  I know, quite the epiphany, eh?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Seed starting 99 (because I don't have enough expertise to teach a 100-level course)

Welcome to remedial seed starting.

I've started seeds a few times, but it was always when we lived in Los Angeles.  I had nothing more high-tech than a window, and probably had a 95% germination rate.  Oh, my how easy it was to garden in Los Angeles.  Well, except for the watering - goodness I hate to water!

Starting your own seeds is very cost-effective, and lets you grow many unique plants that you won't find at your local nursery, Lowes, or other big box store.  Side note: my favorite tomato is "flame" and I can't find seeds for them anywhere.  If anyone knows where to get flame tomato seeds, please shoot me an email!

This will be my first seed starting experience in the great Pacific Northwest.  I guarantee nothing other than I gave it my best shot!  I returned to the book that I used when we lived in Los Angeles, to help guide me through this process.

Technically you don't need anything fancy to start seeds, but I need something brainless since I'm not home often enough to babysit these little guys.  I had an older version (circa 2006 or 2007) of  this seed starting kit from, but my system came with a little water indicator thingy.  I lost most of the parts in our various moves, so I splurged for the new system this year.  I love that it came with the coconut coir brick.

Many seed starting "soil" recipes include peat moss.  Peat moss is a nonrenewable material that is super harmful to the planet when it is harvested.  Plus, someone told my kid that peat is decomposed dinosaurs, so buying a bag of "Buddy, Shiny, Tiny and Don" from Dinosaur Train would not be popular in my house.  Rather than destroying my child and the earth, I'm giving coconut coir brick a shot this year!

Making seed starting soil
You'll need:

Perlite (the white fluffy things in store-bought soil.  You can find it at any garden store) ~$4.50
Seed starting soil (I used Miracle Gro organic because I couldn't find anything else at my store) ~$5.25
Coconut coir brick
*I tried to find worm castings to use in this, but they didn't have any at my store.  I'll fertilize in a few weeks to make up for the loss of castings.

1) Place the coconut coir brick in a bucket, and add some water.  Let it soak a bit, and then break it apart.  Keep adding water and breaking it apart until it is damp and loose. (too obvious.  I would feel cheap if I even added a "that's what she said").
Owl hat made with love by my aunt.

Jack informed me that it was better to "stab" the coir than to stir it.
2) Add some of the seed starting soil, and mix until the coir and soil have combined. 

3) Add water to the mixture if needed.  Grab a handful - it should form a ball that feels like crumble chocolate cake.  If it ball holds its shape (hee hee) when squeezed (OMG), chances are the mixture has too much water it in.  Let it dry out a bit.  If the mixture doesn't even form a ball, you'll need to add more water.
4) Add a bit of the perlite, and mix that in.

5) Let your finished soil sit for about an hour or so.

Assembling the seed starting materials
These are all the pieces that came in the seed starting kit.
The black tray (reservoir), is the base and will hold all the water for the seedlings.

Wet the white sheet (it feels like felt) and place one side flush with the top of the spiky mat, and the other end should be fitted under the spikes.

Place that in the black tray.
Put the white plastic tray on top of the white sheet.
Fill with the seedling mixture.  I like to put shovefuls of my seed starting mixture in the middle, and work it in to the compartments by hand.  You'll want to push the soil down so that each compartment is full, but you don't want to compact the soil in too much.
Planting the seeds
You'll need:
-seeds (no brainer)
-a pen
-a stick, tape, or something to mark which seeds are which

In the past I've always used Baker Creek Seeds, but Erika over at Northwest Edible Life recommended Territorial Seeds, so I thought I'd give them a shot this year.  So basically if my garden sucks, it's her fault - not mine! ;-D

Write out the markers BEFORE your hands are all covered in dirt.
Most of the seeds that I ordered this year don't need to be "started" or shouldn't be started this early, so I may have "over-sowed" a bit this year.  Oh well, I can always give them away when they're bigger, or just go nuts with planting and hope for the best.  Given that I have so many holes in the tray, and so few seeds that needed sowing, I only did one seedling per "cell".
I simply sprinkled one seed per cell and then lightly covered with more soil.
We have tons of windows in this house, but most face north.  I chose a sunny southwest facing sliding glass door for these babies.  Lay a towel down to protect the carpet.
I like to let the seedlings think they're relaxing on a sunny beach.  Helps with germination.
Cover the seed trays with the plastic domes and rotate them each day so that one side doesn't get more sun than the other.  I put a towel against the door at night so that cold air isn't blowing on the trays.  Once the seedlings come up, I'll remove the domes and place a grow light that I bought using Amazon giftcards that I earned via Swagbucks, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to afford it.
Make sure you add water to the reservoir once the water level drops.  It's best to water the seedlings from the bottom instead of overhead watering.
Now, assuming I don't kill these seeds, we'll have another post in a few weeks about up-potting and stuff.  I'm sure you're all on the edges of your seats!
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