Friday, May 31, 2013

Reversible Wrap-Around Skirt

Yesterday Jen S. (soon-to-be a blushing bride!) joined me standing in a long line at the opening of a local Jo-Ann fabric store.  We were among the first 100 people in the door, so we each got a gift card.  Mine was for $20, so I picked up some ribbon for my current sewing project and I'm pondering what to do with the remaining $18.

This is my starting point. I need one skirt to match the three tops in the middle.  I'm going to be backpacking this summer, and if I can get two sides of one skirt to match all the tops I'm wearing, that's less I have to pack.

I'm making it mostly out of discarded sheets.

Here's part of my progress:
Hopefully soon I can show you the finished project!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rain Barrel Hiccup

Cue music:  "I just love a rainy, love a rainy night!"

Last night we looked out the window at a downpour so torrential that we could hardly see and listened for tornado sirens, when we noticed that the rain barrels overflow were hardly trickling.

The rain barrels have been full for weeks. (We have two.  We need more.  The next class isn't until August.)  So any water that goes in should promptly go out the overflow.  What gives?

Making Do with Shoo Goo

One of my favorite blogs has this motto:
“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”
The blog is called the Non-Consumer Advocate, which I think is an awesome title as well as an awesome concept.

This post is about the "make it do" tactic.  Rather than buying new shoes, The Magician has applied Shoo Goo, which he assures me is nigh onto miraculous.

I see reindeer when I look at this picture.  Anyway, I'll let you know how well it actually works.  I'm really hard on shoes for some reason.

Update: The Shoe Goo worked just fine.  I certainly gave it quite the workout, walking constantly in rocky Croatia!  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Rain Barrel Update

Forget cats and dogs.  It's been raining elephants and hippopotami!  (Especially a couple of nights ago when thunder woke me up at 3 am so I could watch the lightning and wonder if there was water in our basement because we have no idea how to work the sump pump thingy that came with the house.)

Our rain barrels are full and we haven't needed to use them yet since it has rained at least once a week since we set them up.  (I know you are supposed to use the water to avoid mosquitoes and algae, but since the water pours into the barrel before spilling out through the overflow, I figure it hasn't been stagnant enough to create a suitable environment for those unwelcome guests.  If I'm wrong, I'll let you know....)

The only hiccup was that the intake got clogged with tree debris and had to be cleaned out to keep water going into the barrel.  But that didn't turn out to be a big deal.

I haven't gotten a chance to paint the second barrel, though, because it's been constantly full!  So that blog post won't be any time soon.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weekly Round Up

This week I...
-- continued my summer job, which I love.  It is part-time, extremely flexible, and I work with the nicest people ever.  I am at the Chancery, and I've moved from helping to organize the audiovisual library to entering baptismal records.  I would probably hate it if they did it all day long, but three hours at a time in the mornings is perfect.
-- set up a new gallery page for Painting on the Ceiling, which I also love.  I tried to use Google+ since this is supposed to interact seamlessly with blogger, but after an hour and a half of not being able to answer the simple question "how do I set up an album?"  I decided to look elsewhere.  I had uploaded a bunch of photographs to Shutterfly so I could print them and make a physical artist portfolio, so I decided to work with Shutterfly. Quick and easy.  I hope you like it.  If anyone would like to try out the comments feature they are, I would appreciate it.  (Particularly if the comment says something nice!)
-- went out to the farm on Friday to help Aunt Earlene sort through Grandpa and Grandma's estate.  The family reunion is coming up, and that is when many of the items will be divided up among family members.  It is dusty work and there is so much stuff that it is rather overwhelming, but we did make really good progress.  I ended up spending most of the day out there, but I was glad I did.
-- Marcia from Marcia's Musings came over last night to play Scrabble.  It was great fun, and we are quite evenly matched, so we are glad we found each other and hope to do it again sometime soon.
-- Doug and Gen came over to do some planting.  We are loaning them our garden plots since they are going to be traveling this summer and want someone to water are strawberries and mow the backyard.  I got to see their beautiful daughter Madeline Therese, which is always a treat.
-- The Magician and I did not contrive to flood the basement.  But we came close, anyway.  The washing machine drains into a large utility sink which then drains into the floor drain.  That was how it was set up when we bought the house.  I had used a rag, and draped it over the edge of the utility sink to try, but somehow it fell down into the sink and clogged the drain.  Fast-forward to one out of The Magician's laundry-binges. Out of the corner of my eye when headed up the stairs I saw soapy water spilling over the edge of the sink and onto the floor, rushing towards my precious boxes of fabric.  I screeched, "the basement is flooding!"  This brought The Magician down the stairs in a hurry.  Fortunately, we caught it before it did any damage.
-- The blog had 15 hits from a new country this week: Finland!   

Hope all my readers are doing well!

My Mysterious Upcycling Project Was.... A Backpack Purse

I finished this yesterday, and I'm delighted with how it came out.  Usually how I envision the end result and what actually happens don't match so closely!

This is the purse I wanted to duplicate:

Sunday Thoughts

I didn't actually think this today; it came out of a discussion I had on Tuesday after going with Marcia C. to see Scott H.'s directorial debut.  But I've decided to post something in the general realm of the spiritual on Sundays, so...

Religion, organized or otherwise, is not a box which contains God, but rather a window letting us see part of the endless vista of God.  

I once saw a bumper sticker that read, "My God is too big to fit into a religion."  Who tried to fit Him into anything?  By asserting that what we believe is true, we in no way claim that what we believe is all there is.

Friday, May 24, 2013

How To Make A Garden Hose Extension or a Really Short Hose

I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to add end pieces on to a piece of cut hose.  Not a big deal, as it turns out.

We did this so we could leave the short hose hooked up and not be taking it on and off constantly.  Eventually, whatever gets the most screwing and unscrewing is going to wear out, and this little hose piece will be much easier to replace than the value at the bottom of the barrel.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

DIY Water Bottle Holder for Your Bike

Brilliantly simple or utterly redneck?  You decide.... Either way, I can now bike off to my summer job without worrying about my water bottle rolling off down the street.

Here's the "before":

 You can't really see it in the above photo, but the water bottle holder was broken in 3 places.

Yup-- two zip ties, one plastic cup, and a drill was all it took.

 And the "after":
The water bottle is actually in there more securely than it looks.  I biked 2 miles and back to work today without a problem.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A Blogging Milestone

Today we had our 2,000th visitor :).

I know that's not much in terms of the vast reaches of the Internet.  We still have just an obscure little blog.  But it's our obscure little blog! 

Thanks for reading!

Creative Upcycling Mystery Project

Yes, I’m recycling blue jeans again.  

 What do you think this is going to be?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Life Hack #4: Check Out Your Workout

You know how you get bored with your workout DVD after about three weeks?

That's how long you can check out DVDs from library in my town.  Yup--I've been checking out the DVDs instead of buying them.  Since we are regular library patrons, it's quite convenient.

Right now I'm enjoying Crunch - Fat Burning Dance Party.  It's not that hard, but I'm still panting when I'm done, and it's broken into sections so I can just do twenty minutes, forty minutes, or the whole thing for 60 minutes.  (Yeah.  That hasn't happened.  It's a theoretical possibility.)

The trick is to not get discouraged if you can't keep up or don't get the steps right.  Glory in your own imperfection for a change.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Painting A Rain Barrel

The rain barrels we made in the rain barrel class are a bright blue.  And while it's a nice color, it doesn't really go well against the side of the house.  So... we decided to experiment with painting one to see how it would turn out.  And every learning experience for us is also of benefit to you, our dear readers!  So here is the account of how things turned out.

In the rain barrel class were told that there are really are two options for painting a rain barrel:  1) put down a primer first and then your paint on top of that or 2) use Krylon paints as they have a type that works on plastic without the need for primer.  We went with option 2.

I took a paint chip from the bottom of the garage door (it needs to be re-painted this fall and that'll be a project we'll blog about, too) to match up paint colors:

We went with this lighter shade of Krylon Fusion Satin For Plastic paint.  It actually turned out to be a perfect match as the gutters and drains were the lighter shade anyhow (we didn't think to actually check the gutter color as for some reason, in our minds, it was the same as the brick and house color...).

The next step was to add a strip of painters tape down one side.  The reason for this was so that we could still see the water level in the barrel once it was painted.   A plastic bag was placed underneath as a drop cloth and we elevated the rain barrel on some bricks to make it a bit easier to paint.

And the painting begins.  When painting, be sure to do so on a sunny day that is not too humid and one with less wind.  The key is to move the spray evenly to get a consistent coat.

When we were in the store, we wondered how many cans of paint would cover one rain barrel.  We estimated that one would not do the trick and so we bought two cans.  We were right as one can only got us to 2/3 of the way around.

Then it was time for the outside of the lid:

and the downspout extension (which was originally green):

We then had to let the paint dry for 15 minutes.  One could then touch the paint but you were supposed to wait another hour before moving the painted item.  So we set the timer and waited.  Here's the final, painted rain barrel:

Looks nice, no?  And a glimpse at the side of the rain barrel with the blue peek-a-boo stripe:

Ok, now here's a few extra items of note regarding our project:

 A.  We decided not to paint the metal lid ring.  One can do so but we figured the paint would just scratch off too fast from anytime we had to open the lid.  So we skipped it.  But you can do so if you want.

B.   The extra cost of the two cans of paint came out to an additional $11.98 plus tax ($5.99 each).

C.  You can seal the paint with an extra coat or two of sealant.  We chose not to.

D.  Even though the paint adhered to the plastic well, it isn't really scratch proof.  In fact, it can still scratch pretty easily.  We wonder if sealing it would make it hardier for wear-n-tear?  So be careful when moving it back into place so you can keep your paint touch-ups to a minimum.

We're not all that jazzed about how easily it scratches, actually.  Ellen from the class said, "sand first," and even though the paint can said "no sanding or priming," Ellen was right.

For our next barrel, we're going to try priming because J. Pario wants to use some acrylic paint in places. Yes, my wife is going to paint flowers all over hers....

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rain Barrel Class Part II

This morning The Magician and I took the rain barrel class again.  We were delighted that the instructor used our blog post about installing our rain barrels as part of the class!  (Click here if you missed that post.)  The blog has been useful!  Hooray!

This afternoon we spray painted the first rain barrel.  It would have made sense to paint them all at once, yes?  But I want to do stencils on mine and so that will take a bit longer than we have time for today since we are taking Grandma Rose to Saturday evening Mass in Crete.  So we just did one. The Magician will write the post for that tomorrow.

Parade of Homes

The Magician, Aunt Monica, and I all went to the Parade of Homes in Lincoln yesterday.  I suppose it is positively un-American not to envy one’s wealthier neighbors, but I’m having a hard time doing my patriotic duty.  The cheapest house we saw was $290,000.  The square footage of that one was roughly the size of our house.  Our lot size is much bigger, our hardwood floors are real, and we can walk or bike to all kinds of places.  Yes, a two-car garage would be nice.  But the biggest difference is newness and zip code.  For an estimated $1,400 a month, that house would be paid off in 30 years.  But we can pay less than that and have ours paid off in about 7 years, and we’ve only been here 3.5 years.    

I don’t want a zip code that badly! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Creative Recycling: Sturdy Winter/Picnic Blanket

This baby is warm!  (My husband fell asleep under before I even got it finished.)

This sucker is thick!  (I have high hopes that it will rid our picnics of the "what's poking me?" problem.)

Normally, I'd post this under "Don't Throw Away...." but this project is a wee bit harder than it looks.  Still, it was fun, and result is something useful for our family.

I started with this:

 And ended with this:
For step-by-step instructions, check out my post on Cut Out + Keep.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When Ninjas Do Their Laundry

Subtitle: How to Make It Rain

It's been so long since I did laundry, I actually have a load of all black.... Yup--school's finally out.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Poop Is Educational and Other Info from the Zoo

Happy Mother's Day!

For Mother's Day, my sister Chrissy organized a multi-family trip to the zoo for my mother, who loves zoos.
Here's a few snapshots:
I love zebras.  You just can't go wrong with black and white.
Next we saw yet another idea for our backyard garden also known as the Who Likes Mowing Anyway? project:
I learned that scientists value things the rest of us don't:
And that flamingos sleep with their head on their bodies, requiring their necks to be twisted back in a fashion that just makes me think: "ew!"

Weekly Round Up

  • We decided to postpone making our raised beds, in particular since our design ideas keep changing.
  • We scooped up three free 5 gallon buckets via Keep Nebraska Beautiful's Materials Exchange program.
  • We found a tiny gluten-free bakery whose products don't taste like grit or sawdust: Easy Eatz.
  • Our wedding gift to our dear friends Jen and Michael is going to be DJ-ing their wedding reception and we are almost done with the music!  All that is left is burning the CDs.
  • I worked on the denim picnic blanket, which is also almost done.
  • I found some temp summer work.  I'm not sure how long it is going to last as it is culling, organizing, and moving an AV collection.  Could take four hours, could take two weeks.  I'll find out tomorrow morning, but I'm just glad to bring in some extra income.
  • On Wednesday Mom and I went to Omaha to pick up some dresser drawers and see my godson Alex's Mother's Day program at St. James/St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  (The dresser itself was too beat up to repurpose into anything, although some day I want to turn a discarded dresser into an entertainment center. 
Anyway, Kindergardeners are just inherently cute.  Afterwards we went out for ice cream.  Such is the sweet stuff of life:

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Your dividend of happiness may derive from the simple things unnoticed by most people.
-- Alexandra Stoddard, from Open Your Eyes: 1,000 Simple Ways To Bring Beauty Into Your Home And Life Each Day

I love this quote because it is a reminder how accessible happiness is to most of us now. Where I sit, right now, I can see beauty.  The light coming through blue and green curtains that I made myself.  The glimpse of green and our neighbor's tree, graceful with white blossoms, that I can see out my window.  The art on the wall, like the papier mache-embellished mirror I decorated or the orange flowers in a pot I painted with my mom at an art class we took together for Mother's Day.  And then there is my husband snoring contently on the couch....

I have so much because I have enough.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Our First Rain Water Collection

It rained .18 inches last night I estimate we have a total of 27 gallons in our rain barrels.   
(The plastic isn’t completely opaque and there are stripes that divide the barrels into thirds, making this calculation possible.)

Math + small business idea = reality check

Last night The Magician and I priced rain barrel fixings at two hardware stores.  (The class included a handy list with photos, which was a huge help, as was Marthy at Menards.)

Here is the scoop.
The barrel itself, from Jones Barrel Company in Omaha, NE = $19
Note: We don’t live in Omaha.
Costs per barrel (the fixings for the intake grate, overflow, and spigot) = $35.33
One-time costs (mosquito screen, caulk, zip ties, and two bits for an electric drill) = $29.34
1st barrel = $64.67
2nd barrel = $50.00
3rd barrel = $45.11
4th barrel = $42.67
5th barrel = $41.20
6th barrel = $40.22

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rain Barrels Installed

We didn't get to the store to price parts for more rain barrels yesterday and instead we got ours put into place.  Rain is coming!  But my mother ("hi Mom!") has a vehicle big enough for three barrels and she is headed to Omaha tomorrow so I hope to snag three of them tomorrow.

~How to set up rain barrels.~

You will need:
  • Something to elevate the rain barrel. (We used two cinder blocks.)  Remember that a full barrel weighs 440 pounds and plan accordingly.
  • A brick or rock to weight down the barrel so it doesn't blow away like an empty trash can
  • A hack saw to cut your drainpipe
  • Something to convey the water from the cut drainpipe to the opening of the water barrel
  • zip ties (depending on the item above)
  • screws (again, depending on how you are connecting the downspout to the opening of the water barrel)
  • Someone to take pictures of you because you are cuter when you use tools


Nothing like a little Bassa Nova music and nice beach video.

Monday, May 6, 2013

More Rain Barrels?

Today I found a supplier in a town about an hour away that sells used/refurbished barrels for what I thought was a pretty reasonable price.  They're only open M-F, 8-3:30, though, and neither of our vehicles will hold more than one, so there are some logistics to work out. 
This evening the Magician and I are going to price parts and see if it is cheaper to make our own or take the $49 class again.  We're also going to try to get them set up in the yard, now that the epoxy has dried.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Rain Barrels in the Making

Saturday morning my beloved and I went to a rain barrel making class.

It was a matter of mathematics.
Rain barrels at the local hardware store = $100
Rain barrel class, all supplies included, at the local community college = $49

I'll take learning over buying any day, especially as my dear one has plans for an elaborate linked system of rain barrels.

The upside--they are much easier to make than I thought.  You don't even need special tools.
The downside--the barrels themselves are getting harder to find.  But we will not be defeated!  (And we'll keep you posted.)

So, here's how we made our rain barrels.  (We'll post more detailed instructions if/when we make our next batch.)

You need an opening for input:
 The Magician is screwing down the grating over some mosquito wire. The plastic of the barrel is such that you just use a screw and screwdriver.  The grading already had holes in in, and the screw goes directly into the blue plastic without even the need to pre-drill holes.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

O frabjous day!

Today is graduation!

Actually, today is a bit nuts.  The magician and I are taking a class on building (rain) water barrels from 9-11, then I have to head out to school (in another town) for the graduation lunch at noon which will be followed by Mass and graduation, then we have a block party from 4:30 onwards and finally I have to go to a homemade cookie-tasting party which starts at 7pm..

Happily, all of these items are fun!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

It's May, right?

This morning I admired two red and yellow tulips from our garden that my husband had put in a vase on the living room coffee table. 
Then I looked out the window at our snow-covered lawn....

Who knew?

The name of "Oz" came to author L. Frank Baum when he noticed that the drawers of this filing cabinet were marked A-G, H-N, and O-Z.

The above tidbit is quoted from the book Who Knew? Things You Didn't Know About Things You Know Well by David Hoffman.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Budget Numbers for April

The bad news:
Interest rates went down.  Passive income this month = $2.90.
Based on this month's expenses,we're still about $220 short of being able to live off of the larger of our two incomes.  Hats off to families living on one income so a parent can stay home with the kiddos. You are amazing. 

We live so simply: no cable, no eating out, no new clothes, etc.  We walk to church and our entertainment tends to involve the library, the outdoors, or socializing.  So why are we putting less than $1,000 in savings lately?

The good news, though, is that we were able to put money in saving (more than last month, even!) and we were able to pay extra on our mortgage.   Our savings would last 7 months if we had no income. 

As always, we are looking to find that balance between frugality and living life right now instead of imagining living it in some future financial vision.