Monday, September 30, 2013

Pictorial Evidence that Compost Works

As my loyal readers may remember, we had basement flooding issues soon after our return from Croatia.  Rather than buy fill dirt, we regretfully used compost to fill in the place where my husband had reshaped the landscape to encourage proper drainage.  It seemed silly to buy dirt when we had plenty.  The Magician also seeded a patch in our yard where the grass had died.

Where we had used compost, we have decently growing grass.  You can just barely see the "trench" in the middle of the photo.

Where we did not use compost, we have a (slightly improved) bald spot.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Weekly Round-Up:

This week ....

- J. finished a freelance article on Croatia.  That's another $100 toward the mortgage.  (Some of our readers are probably thinking, "Wow, so much!" while others are thinking, "Who works for so little?"  If you are in the latter camp and want to hire me, just send me an email!  My handle is jpariodesigns and my public email is through gmail.)

- We had our good friends Gen and Doug over to help us light up our firepit for the first time.  They brought little Madeline and we all had a cozy time.

- We made $17.77 from our Amazon portal.  Thank you to all our readers who start at the portal when they shop Amazon!
-J. was featured on Recyclart!
- The Magician started his new job.
- J. attended the African Gala to Support Global Education at the Quilt Center.  (She wrote a publicity article and the organizer graciously gave her a free ticket.)   It was to raise funds for study abroad fellowships for students from the Home Ec college (which is now called something else).  There was a drum circle, Africa dance, an auction, students modeling clothes designed with authentic African fabric, and cuisine from Africa, adapted and served by culinary arts students.
Also attending: The first lady of Tanzania and Joe Ricketts, Nebraska native and founder of an organization that supports education in Africa.  J. got to hear them both speak.
J. did not take nearly enough pictures!  But it was fun to get dressed up and to go out.  Almost everyone was either rich or a student, and she got mistaken for a student, which was heartening.  (At least I'm assuming, "Did you make that?" meant "You must be a fashion design student" and not "What a weird purse.")  It was a very good time.

 Some of the fashion designed by students.
- And The Magician finished painting the garage, for which J. is very grateful!

Friday, September 27, 2013


Strange things blow in my window on the wings of the night wind and I don't worry about my destiny.

-- Carl Sandburg

This quote is beautiful.  It makes me sigh and smile and dream.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Wedding Present with a Flat Bow ... plus Frugal Gift Wrap

You know how you put a pretty bow on top of a wedding present and then you get to the gift table and there’s no place to put said present without squishing someone else’s pretty bow?

Here’s my solution.  I punched four circles out of one color of wrapping paper, plus one for the center of the daisy out of matching wrapping paper.  (The paper itself had seen better days, but I was able to find non-wrinkled spots.  It’s a good way to re-use wrapping paper that has already been used once.)  Ta-da! A flat but classy bow.  (The card goes inside the gift.)

Other frugal aspects:  The wrapping paper is butcher paper from Hobby Lobby.  (Not the best deal in the world for wrapping paper, but better than a $3 roll that's only 10 feet long.) The ribbon is from a VCR tape.

Paint and Vacations

The Magician got a new job!  He's going to be working at a bigger academic institution with hopefully more room for growth, challenges, and maybe even upward mobility.  (Plus there is a great tuition discount!)

His last day at his old job was yesterday and he starts his new one on Friday, so today he is:

Weekly Round-Up

I had a great weekend!  Here are some pics to share:

I priced Mac Minis.  Still pondering.  If using a Mac wouldn't cause problems with my writing and editing business, I'd promptly join the Apple Army of Mac Zealots....

I enjoyed listening to Marcia of Marcia's Musings at the Gratitude Cafe:

I went to the Applejack Festival in Nebraska City, a nearby town of about 7,000 that welcomes 20,000 visitors every year as it celebrates the apple harvest.

 I totally want to make some of these!  They are plate flowers, made with metal stakes, a screw through a hole in the first plate, and then lots of good glue.
I had never seen a portable ATM before....
 This house on the grounds of the Arbor Day Farm was set up to be 1800s, the era focused on in grad school
 A 17-year old boy made this:
 This chair converts from a stroller to a high chair in about three seconds.  Super cool!

I LOVED the quilt show!  We met the featured artist, Chris Taylor.  From our conversation, I gathered that she mostly quilts for the love of fabric, color, texture, and beads, but she does do a few commissioned pieces.  If you are looking for a one-of-a-kind piece, she has a yahoo email account with the handle "ct5919".
 The background isn't a painting.  It's a quilt.  Seriously.

It was a really great little road trip!  Thanks to Aunty M for inviting me and to the lovely young bride Jen S. for coming along :)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunday Thoughts

This week I was sitting in church, killing time while waiting until the stores where I needed to do my errands would be open by writing in my journal.

I wrote a letter to God that ended something like: "Just tell me what you want me to do and I will do it.  Love, J."

And then I wondered if that was the answer: "Love, J." 

In other words, "J., I want you to love.  That's pretty much it."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Don’t Throw Away…. Old Plastic Milk Jugs

 We compost.  We used to leave a Tupperware container on the kitchen counter but it inevitably got Nasty, Moldy, and Gross Beyond Description.

Here is our disposable solution.  It even comes with a handle.  (I’m not really into disposable, but I’m not into trying to clean up black mold and all its kin, either.)

Friday, September 20, 2013

Henna Head

I used Rajasthani Monsoon “Ancient Sunrise” pure henna mixed with lemon juice to dye my hair yesterday.  (That’s it.  Just two ingredients.)  The website was recommended by my friend Elizabeth F., who does red hair with style and panache.

Here’s how it works:

BEFORE: Red commercial dye that didn't wash out as advertised.  Roots at least an inch.  It looked pretty awful, frankly!
 After mixing with lemon juice and leaving in the fridge over night it looked like dog poo.
 After adding more lemon juice so that it could be put in my hair, it looked like yogurt.
 Yes, it really looked that green!  Plus it started to harden into mud fairly quickly, so it got stiff.
 My seran-wrapped head.  I put towels over and under my pillow and went to bed like this.  It was still damp in the morning when I washed it out.
 Here it is!  Much better, I think.
It is supposed to settled down to a less dramatic hue after about four days of oxidizing.

Here is what it looked like four days later.

I like the rich burgundy color. 

My verdict on henna – more hassle, but prettier and chemical-free.  I’d do it again. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mosaic Box Finished! (+ Mosaic Tutorial)


Here’s the final result:

And here’s a sort of Before and After, using a box I haven’t done anything with yet:

Here’s quickie tutorial.

1. Paint your box.  Better yet, start with a box that is already white and use paint to touch it up.  Plain old cardboard soaks up paint like thirsty roofer soaks up water, as you can see from the box on the right, which my not-picky niece decided to mosaic.
2. Cut and paste.  In this case, I cut up Christmas cards left over from another project.

TIP: Work with one color at a time.

TIP: If you don’t want to work with one color at a time, put your bits on little folded cardstock trays to move them out of the way.  That way you don’t have to re-sort them by hue and size again.

3. Mod Podge the final project and you are done!

TIP:  Make your pattern stand out more by using different shapes for different colors.  The green stripe stands out more on this side because it is all squares amid blue triangles.

The green stripe doesn't stand out as much this side because it is a mix of squares and triangles.

TIP: Keep your pattern simple!
TIP: Be open to surprises.  The stars on the lid were originally going to be flowers.

I’m really happy with my final result and it cost nothing but time as the Elmer's Glue I had on hand, and the Christmas cards and box were intercepted on the way to the trash and consequently were free.  If you try something similar, please let me know how it goes in the comments.

Happy creating!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to Remove Experation Info from Jar Lids

So I’m in love again.  Jason, the maintenance guy at work who shakes his head every time I swoop down and claim something from the discard pile, introduced me to GoofOff.  (I swear this is not an ad.  Although if Goof Off wants to send me a check out of sheer gratitude, I will promise I will spend it on buying some.)
 I want to make some gratitude jars to sell.  (I know I swore off making crafts for $ because it wasn’t lucrative, but….)  Ok, maybe they will be for gifts.  (Wanna buy some?  Just let me know!)  Anyway, they look like this:

The idea is that you put a slip of paper in there when something happens that you are grateful for, and then at the end of year you read through them and remember the good things that happened that year.
 But it’s hard to find good lids.  So I loved this batch of (mostly) empty pickle jar because of the simple gold lids.  I was just going to ignore the expiration date stuff printed at the top.  But the Goof Off took it right off!  Super cool!  
(There's a little smear, but that might come off, too.  Anyway, it's much nicer looking than the original.)

  And happily, I have a whole box now that I can work with.

Speaking of boxes, I also worked on my mosaic box this afternoon.  I need to get that done so I can move on to a baby shower gift that is going to be fun but time-consuming.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Croatia: A Local Festival

The name of the town where we stayed on the island, Supetar, is a corruption of “Sv. Petar,” or St. Peter in Croatian.  We were there for the annual town festival on the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29.  It was pretty cool to take part in the celebration that has probably been going on for at least a thousand years. 

The festivities included a market, a soccer tournament, a free concert on the village green, and procession through the streets of town carrying a life-sized statues of St. Peter and St. Paul, along with smaller statues of St. Roh and St. Benedict.  We were informed by reliable sources that the locals were going to party until 6 a.m., although we had to take this on faith as we were too old and boring to stay up that late.