How-To

Use a walnut to fix scratches in wood

Posted by on Jan 5, 2012 in Hippie Stuff, House Stuff, How-To | 0 comments

I ran across this tip on another blog recently but figured I’d never have an opportunity to try it out. So imagine my conflicting emotions when I came across a scratch on our brand new bamboo floors (oh no!) that was a perfect candidate for this treatment (woo hoo!). Ray must have thought I was crazy when I pointed out the scratch and then hopefully asked, “do we have any walnuts?”

We just happened to have a bag of walnuts leftover from the grain-free pumpkin pie, so I grabbed one and took it for a spin. I simply rubbed it firmly along the scratch, then gently wiped away the oily residue. Two seconds later, the scratch was practically gone! The scratch was pretty minor to begin with, but I actually had a hard time locating the scratch for the “after” photo.

Before:

After:

Excited, I crawled around the room, secretly hoping for more scratches. I found a few more offenders that my walnut took care of.

Magic!

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Hallway Makeover and Twine Pendant Light

Posted by on Apr 30, 2011 in Crafts, House Stuff, How-To | 4 comments

Hallway Makeover and Twine Pendant Light

We’ve neglected most of our home projects recently, but the chandelier I made for the bedroom had me energized to get moving again.  The hallway seemed like a manageable space to tackle, so I started with a few paint swatches.

This is Marlboro Blue, Buxton Blue and Hemlock, from Benjamin Moore.  At this point I realized that the initial green wasn’t so bad for such a small space, but there was no turning back now!

The paint sample sizes only come in the classic Benjamin Moore formula, so they always look shiny and weird and make it hard to evaluate if you really like a color.  We finally decided on Hemlock and I had it mixed in the flat version of Benjamin Moore’s Natura formula – i.e., the best, most expensive paint ever.  But seriously, you could probably paint it on with a mop and it would still look amazing – no shine, rich color, total coverage.  That sounded like an ad for makeup. Most importantly, it has little to no VOCs – you can hardly smell the paint even if you stick your face in can.  Not that I ever tried that or anything.

I painted the inside of the shelves, too.

Next, I found these awesome switch plates with snap-on faces that hide the screws.  If you’re like me you never noticed that switch plates even had screws.  But once I knew that I could get this slick non-screw version I got way too excited about it.

At this point the only thing left to tackle was the sad, bare lightbulb on the ceiling.  I had removed the ugly cover when I painted the ceiling so all that remained was a brown base.  Enter the DIY twine pendant.

Still flying high from my wax paper chandelier experience, I decided to finally make this round twine pendant that I have had on my craft list for no less than 2 years.  It was super easy.

Step 1: I found a kids’ play ball that was the perfect size.

Step 2: I made a mixture of 4 ounces of white glue, half a cup of corn starch, and half a cup warm water.  I set up shop in the bathtub and perched the ball on a small colander.  I just unraveled a good amount of twine into the gluey bowl, then started wrapping the twine around the ball, squeezing out the excess glue as I went.  Then I cut the twine and tucked the end piece in.

Step 3: After the twine was dry and hard, I popped the ball with a needle and then had to cut the rubber out in pieces.  I used a chop stick to gently separate the ball from the twine.

Step 4: I purchased a clamp light sort of like this one without a shade and removed the clamp.

I also purchased a phallic, CFL light bulb.

And a ceiling cap, meant for closing off unused light fixture outlets.

Step 5: This is where I got really lucky.  I didn’t have a plan for how I was going to attach everything together.  I wanted to collect all of the supplies first and then just see what happened.  Amazingly, there was a small gap in the twine that allowed the light bulb to slip through and the front part of the light fixture to squeeze through.  The pendant is so light that it can hang by this snug fit, no hardware required!

Step 6: The last step was to cut off the end of the light cord, drill a hole in the ceiling cap, use a zip tie to catch the cord behind the ceiling cap, and attach it into the ceiling wires.  Ray helped again.

I like the shadows that it casts on the hallways walls.

That linocut print above is from The Big Harumph on Etsy – it’s a Mark Twain quote.  I knew I had to have it the first time I saw it because of the way it made me feel – simultaneously inspired and terrified and in awe of everything that is possible in the world.  To be honest I’ve stopped noticing it after a few days of hanging in the hall, but I hope I manage to inspire and terrify future guests with it.

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Buckwheat Hull Pillows

Posted by on Nov 18, 2010 in House Stuff, How-To, Wellness | 3 comments

Buckwheat Hull Pillows

Ever since I read about buckwheat hull pillows I’ve been wanting to try them out – craftiness and ec0-friendly, toxic free living combined into one project?  Yes!

So a couple of months ago I purchased some organic cotton and followed this zippered pillow case tutorial.  I ordered my organic buckwheat hulls from Mountain Rose Herbs.  I used about 2 pounds in my pillow (I like really flat pillows) and Ray’s pillow is sitting around 3-4 pounds.

They took some getting used to, but we’re both loving our new pillows.  Buckwheat hulls are great because they offer firm but flexible neck support.  You have to dig a little divot for your head, and they’re kind of loud when you roll over – but it feels great to be sleeping on something organic and sustainable.  Plus, the cases are fully washable and the hulls can be aired out during washings.  These will last us for years and years!

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Pies in a Jar

Posted by on Aug 18, 2010 in Cooking / Baking, How-To | 1 comment

Pies in a Jar

In my last post I talked about how this post about pies in jars was meaningless in light of my uncle’s passing.  But I really like pie, and Randy did, too.  And then I realized something that stopped me in my tracks – the first time I ever tried making pies in jars was when Randy came over to install my dishwasher.  While he worked, I baked, and I sent him home with his own jar of pie.  He was one of my first taste-testers, so this post makes sense after all.

I taught my sister-in-law how to make pies in a jar a couple of weeks ago.  What I love most about these little beauties is that you can freeze them in their single-serving jars, and the next time you’re craving a piece of pie, you can just whip one out, bake it, and in no time you’ve got freshly baked pie!

Baker's apprentice.

Some of my favorite childhood memories are of making blackberry pie with my mom.  In the memory that stands out most in my mind, I am six years old.  My mom and I had just spent all day picking blackberries in White Center, and baked ourselves a gorgeous pie.  We left the pie cooling in the kitchen while we walked to the store for vanilla ice cream.  When we came back, our dog Max had knocked the pie to the ground and all but eaten the entire thing.

This recipe is for blackberry pie, but you can sub-in any type of berry.

Make sure you get the half-pint, wide-mouth jars. The traditional ones just aren't as cute.

Jars
6 – half-pint, wide-mouth canning jars

Pie crust (double-batch)
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening

Pie filling
4 cups blackberries
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons tapioca balls (not pudding)
1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice
2 tablespoons butter

1. Make one batch of crust by mixing half of each ingredient (1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup shortening) in a food processor with the pastry attachment.  Mix until dough resembles coarse crumbs, then gather into a ball.

2. Press dough into the sides of each jar.  I don’t put any crust on the bottom to create a nice filling-to-crust ratio.

3. Mix all of the filling ingredients except the butter in a mixing bowl. Divide the contents evenly between the 6 jars. Make sure the filling isn’t mounded over the top of the jar, so that the lid will fit back on. Put a small pat of butter on the top of each jar.

4. Create another batch of dough using the remaining ingredients. Roll the dough out on a clean, floured countertop with a floured rolling bin. I like to do a lattice top, but you can also use the jar lid to cut out a round top, just be sure to cut slits for steam vents.

5. Add the seal and jar lid and freeze.

When you’re ready to bake the pies, remove the lid and seal, put them on a cookie sheet to catch any filling that bubbles over and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. Try to let the pies defrost for a bit before baking if you can. If you simply can’t wait, you’re supposed to be able to put the jars in the oven directly from the freezer without them cracking.

Pies in a jar make a great gift. You can even add a colorful piece of fabric or paper in between the seal and lid.

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Homemade Laundry Detergent

Posted by on Aug 4, 2010 in Hippie Stuff, House Stuff, How-To | 6 comments

I’ve received a few requests lately for our homemade laundry detergent recipe.  We’ve been making our own laundry detergent for a few years now and we absolutely love it.  There are two main reasons why this stuff is awesome:

1. Its less toxic than commercial detergent. Typical soaps leave behind a lot of crap that can be absorbed through your skin, and our bodies are in constant contact with things that have been washed in detergent – underwear, sheets, towels, etc.  Don’t get me wrong, our stuff is plenty toxic, but it washes pretty clean.  Your clothes don’t come out smelling like a spring rain lemon lavender rain forest.  They come out smelling like nothing, which is what real clean smells like.

2. It’s dirt cheap. We spend about $10 a year on detergent supplies and they last forever.

For the skeptics out there, I swear, this stuff just works. Here’s how I know.  I spent a week in Spain several years ago and practically lived in my Patagonia puffy coat.  It also served as a blanket/pillow on trains.  When I got home the thing was filthy, especially the collar, where there was this gross sheen of makeup and grime.  I doused it in Shout and then washed it once in whatever commercial detergent we were using at the time, and it came out of the washing machine looking exactly the same.  I was bummed and threw it in the closet, only to be worn when doing yucky yard work.  A few weeks later we made our first batch of homemade detergent, and I decided to wash it again.  That jacket came out clean as a whistle and I was sold.

We’re able to find all of the ingredients at our local Fred Meyer:
One bar of Fels Naptha soap
1 cup washing soda
1 cup Borax
1/4 cup OxyClean (optional)

Step 1. Grate the Fels Naptha on a cheese grater.

Step 2. Mix in the other ingredients and you’re done!

Don’t worry about the mixture being homogeneous, just give the container a shake before each use.  Use 2 tablespoons per load.  We add the soap first and start the cycle on hot for about 60 seconds in order to allow the soap to dissolve a bit, then switch to the desired water temperature.

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