Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Kid's Art Display Rail

No clue where I found this, but it's a cute idea. Probably less expensive than the wire systems I've seen people use.

Basket Rack

I need to clean. And organize. School is kicking my ass and my house is falling apart. I think a smaller scale version of this Basket Rack would be great near the sliding door to my backyard. I could hang jackets and store towels to wipe the dog's paws off. Hmm...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Sad NJ Garden

I haven't disappeared. My daughter was away for a while and then I had my tonsils taken out. During this time, I severely neglected my garden. The weeds were three feet tall. That's not a joke. I'm not even going to show you a picture. It's really that bad.

While the weeds were taking over, grubs invaded my garden and ate all of my spaghetti squash. And some of my tomatoes. And cucumbers. The birds ate all of my raspberries and blue berries. My strawberry plant leaves turned red and produced a scant handful of strawberries. The jalapeno and serrano chili plants...produced some, but since I neglected to water them and the herbs, they all died. The carrots and beets did well and so far haven't been eaten by anything.


This has not been a good gardening year for me.

Monday, May 18, 2009

My Garden, the Second Week in May

The spaghetti squash is looking good.

The blueberry bush may not have a lot of leaves,
but it has a ridiculous amount of blueberries growing.

I planted these chive seeds last year and nothing.
This year they appeared all on their own.

This is why I'm no longer weeding my garden.
I have a lettuce, carrots and possibly tomato plants appearing mysteriously.

My corn is just so pretty. It makes me smile.
Birds? Someone pulled out a few of the smaller stalks.
I've started some more corn seeds.
The leaves on my strawberry plant are three times bigger than last year.
This is the first strawberry I spotted. There are many, many more to come.
I am incapable of properly pruning my dwarf pear tree.
I tried last year after reading and researching how.
It didn't work. It's super extra big and bushy now.
I wonder if the squirrels will steal all my pears again this year.
I picked up a raspberry and blackberry bush on clearance.
They looked very sad. I never got around top planting them in the fall.
They stayed inside. Leaves grew. They were happy.
Then they got infected with some little wormy things.
Yuck. I put them outside. The bugs died and so did the plants.
They started coming back and it was warmish, so I planted them in the yard.
Then it got extra cold and they died again. These poor plants.
But hurray! The blackberry leaves have emerged.
The raspberry, not yet, but I have faith.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Week of Rain Isn't So Bad

All my seedlings were outside for about a month now still in their cups and egg cartons. Probably not the best idea, since a big chunk of them didn't survive.
But amidst the survivors were these Long Bearer Tomato seeds that never worked before but magically sprouted in my ziplock bags. I really thought there were defunct. They've been growing nicely with the rain.
The majority of corn has taken nicely. The rest, not so much, but I had replacements in the waiting that are now planted. The joy of not removing plants that have bolted is that you get things that appear on their own, such as the carrot below. We also have random lettuce and arugula all over the place.

I didn't realize the strawberry plants would come back to life on their own, yet here they are. They've almost tripled in size with the week of rain.

I just took this picture. My haphazard garden with uneven beds. The one center front was suppose to be for lettuce and spinach. It's still just a mound. My daughter thinks it's her plot. She digs and rakes it. She splashes around in the bins of water.

I've decided to build shallow planters for the salad greens and allow her to keep this as her plot. My daughter has gotten weird about veggies. She told me the other day that she no longer likes peas...information based on absolutely nothing other than a whim. I found this knowledge a little disconcerting since I planted a boat load of peas just for her.

So my thought tonight as I sat in front of my garden while my dog ran around barking at the night, is that maybe if I let her pick things to plant, things that she'd be responsible for, plants she could pick that I would tell her, if she grows it she has to eat it, that maybe we can get over that anti-vegetable phase.

With my luck she'll tell me, "No thank you," and decide to keep to a mound of dirt.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Container Gardening Potatoes?

Well, not exactly. But have you seen this Seattle Times article, "It's Not Idaho, but You Can Still Grow Potatoes."

Apparently, with a couple of pieces of lumber, some seed potatoes and a careful eye for watering, you can grow 100 pounds of potatoes in a 4 square foot box. Obviously, something a little more rot resistant would be a good idea if you wanted to do this for years to come. But, I'd say if you were trying this for the first time, why not use wood from pallets. Free and abundant on Craigslist.

Anyway, the end of the article mentions using a container or stacks of tires, but it won't be as easy to harvest potatoes from the bottom. Plus...my yard is still looking a little crazy since all the renovation last year. I don't think a stack of tires is going to help at all aesthetically.

"Free" Grocery Store Seeds?

I've said for many years, that I don't understand why I can't grow potatoes and what not plants and seeds from the grocery store. I know, I know...hybrids, disease, blah blah. All the people that tell me that haven't actually tried it. And I haven't tried it because I've obviously been swayed by the naysayers.

Then I read this over at A Better Home & Garden.

I think I'm going to try it...maybe this year, definitely next. Although, I'll probably go somewhere that I can buy local, organically grown stuff.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Growing Grapes in NJ?

I hesitantly picked these up from Lowes yesterday. My daughter advised me it was a good idea. I take her advise quite seriously...she's usually right. It's a little annoying.

Then I get home and start reading up on Mars grapes. They're hardy and disease resistant. Apparently thick skinned, not thrilled with that, but I guess that's part of why they can survive well here.

The problem I'm having is how to trellis them. I had wanted to build an arbor or pergola but that's just not happening this year. So I thought a simple grid type trellis would work.

Some sites say yes, some say no. Some say I need a trellis with posts 8 feet apart! I have the room...but really? I'm very confused. Anyone out there know about grape growing?

The Problem with Newpaper Seedling Cups

I started germinating the seeds in wet paper towels in ziplock bags. That went much better than I anticipated. Seeds that I was sure were gonners, actually turned into seedlings. I was a happy camper.

But as they got bigger I realized they needed soil, air and sunlight. So I decided to make some newspaper cups. The origami ones didn't even kind of work for me, so I used this one instead:

How to Create Seed-Starting Pots From Newspapers -- powered by eHow.com

And they were great and easy to make. Then this happen:

I'm not sure why I didn't realize that the newspaper would slowly start to develop mold. So I decided to go to the local Dollar Tree and pick up a couple of packs of large plastic cups. $3.21 later, I had this:

Perhaps in the end, this is a more green option. I can reuse the cups every year. And since I don't really read the paper anymore (all the news I need I get from Perez) I don't have to worry about buying the newspaper. At least I got to compost all that moldy newspaper.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

DIY Rain Barrels

I blogged about this setup that Lowes had on their site...but then the link vanished. Now it's back!

The problem with the green movement is that they (the infamous They) try to make you think you need to spend money on all sorts of expensive crap. You don't. You know who really started the green movement? Poor people. Reuse, recycle, repurpose, gardening, food sharing, conservation of resources...yeah...when you don't have a lot of money, this is all your normal way of life. Don't let people con you into believing you have to be rich to be green. I'm not about to spend a hundred dollars plus for a barrel to hold water. What a crock.

Stepping off of my soapbox.

I like Lowes DIY Rain Barrel setup. Although, their old one didn't involve that aerator thing to attach the leader to the garbage can...I think they just cut a hole or something last time. Also...I don't think the overflow holes at the top are the best idea. You don't want water running down around your house. I'd think some tubing of some kind (a hose probably isn't thick enough...maybe more pvc) attached to the top and placed to pour out away from your house is probably a better idea. And definitely mesh on any opening. You don't want mosquitoes getting in.

Once I find someone getting rid of some large, preferably heavy duty garbage cans, I'm going to use the leftover pvc I have laying around and build these.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Great Seed Experiment Continues

The seeds are doing a nice job germinating in the paper towels. As they've been getting bigger and growing leaves, I've transplanted them into these plastic egg cartons with covers. (The seedlings that were covered did much better than the ones that weren't.) Kind of a mini-greenhouse type thing going on.
Here are a couple of pea plants and a spaghetti squash plant.

Of the six cantaloupe seeds that germinated, only this one survived being moved to the carton. I stuck five more seeds in here. I can't only have one plant. We eat a lot of cantaloupe.

The corn seedlings got too big for the egg cartons. I had to make some newspaper cups to move them into so they have some room to wiggle their toes. They seem much happier. Part of me felt like this was more work and the other part of me felt they'd transplant better into the ground if they were bigger and stronger. Plus it's too cold to move them outside just yet.

Allegedly, last frost in my neck of the woods is somewhere between April 3 and 15...depending on where you look and who you ask. My gardening friend said to wait until Mother's Day.
I'm fascinated by Pearl Fryar. He made a comment in the documentary about him that botanists keep telling him that you shouldn't be able to do what he's doing. And he said, "I didn't know I shouldn't be able to do that." So I'm going to listen to his message and do what I'm doing, break the rules and trust my own instincts.
I'll keep you posted.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Veggie Trader

Alas, another great idea I thought up and never did anything about, and now someone else did...story of my life.

Veggie Trader "your place to trade, buy or sell local homegrown produce."

Kinda like craigslist but for produce. I haven't tried it yet. It's still to cold here in Jersey to start planting. But, I am fascinated by this concept. I just hope the focus is on sharing and trading as opposed to selling and buying.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another Year...Another Seed Experiment

Last year, I dumped a ton of expired seeds in pots some time in April. Wound up with a million plants and a handful of pots with nothing going on and in the end a pretty impressive garden. We called it the Great Seed Experiment.

This year, we're attempting another seed experiment. I don't do the seed starting thing. Seriously, I don't have the energy to put away the laundry or find the floor underneath the layer of toys that have made their way into my living room so the thought of trays, seeds and florescent lights just ain't happening.

Then I remembered an experiment we did in school a million years, germinating seeds of some kind in wet paper towels inside Ziploc bags. So that's what I did. Some new seeds, some old, some expired and some saved from veggies we grew last year.

Most of the packets said the seeds would take 7-14 days to germinate. So far, in under a week, the carrots, corn, peas, cantaloupe, Roma tomatoes, spaghetti squash, and the Serrano chili seeds have sprouted.

I started to worry about how long to leave them in the paper towels. I'd imagine they need sun and nutrients from somewhere, so I transplanted the corn, cantaloupe, peas, spaghetti squash and a fourth of the carrots into egg cartons.
I read somewhere that tomato seeds don't usually do well with the paper towel method (apparently, this was not an original idea) so I wound up planting some seeds in the egg cartons. I guess I am officially doing some seed starting...albeit, half-assed. I was at Home Depot and the seedlings seem to be a lot more expensive this year. I'm cheap. And broke. It seemed worth it to try it this way.

I'm super excited about the corn. Last year didn't go so well. Hopefully this year will be better.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Wanna Save Money on Paper and Printer Ink?

Check out this site: Print What You Like

Ever try printing out a recipe or a...well, anything...and there's a million ads and pics and garbage you don't want to waste your printer ink on. Not to mention you always wind up using that one extra page for some stupid one line web address non-sense that you didn't even need printed.

Well, this site allows you to magically delete all that crap out and just print what you like...hence the name.

You don't have to download anything. You just go to their site and plug in the URL of what you're trying to print.

I'm in the middle of an annoying situation with American Standard. The toilet I bought leaks from the vent hole...apparently, a lot of people that bought this toilet during the time I bought it, had the same problem due to an internal defect...they never put out a recall of course. So I printed out all their complaints and saved me a ton of paper using this site.

Thought I'd pass it along.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Planting Peas on St Patty's Day?

I tried growing peas last year. I had about two pods of incredible little peas. I think they were called petite pea wonders or something. Then it shriveled up and died. I was rather upset.

This year my friend mentioned planting them on St. Patty's Day. So I googled it and found a wide variety of opinions on this. Yeah, I know, surprise surprise.

Then I thought about my mom. She tells me all sorts of crazy Sri Lankan remedies and I always pooh pooh her...and of course, she's always right. So maybe there is something to the old wives tales. Why not try?

I planted them today.

Although, as my mom was the dispenser of all knowledge weird and random, my dad on the other hand is a scientist. Perhaps in honor his profession I should take this on as an experiment and do the wet paper towel sprouting of the seeds and well as a couple started in a egg carton with the other seedlings I intend to plant...ya know, eventually.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

IKEA Summer 2009

Why do I always have to find IKEA brochures on various sites that aren't actual IKEA sites? And why aren't they mailing them out or using them as newspaper inserts anymore? As someone that worked in marketing I have to say that hiding your advertisements so almost no one sees them is kind of a waste of time, money, energy and resources. I'm just saying....

Check out IKEA's 2009 Summer stuff at Grassroots Modern.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Making Roman Shades From Cheap Blinds

Holy crap. This is the best DIY project I've seen in a while. I saved the old mini-blinds from my bathroom pre-new windows thinking I could do something like this....nice to see someone actually did it...and it's freakin awesome!

Check it out at Little Green Notebook

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why Cleaning is Like Dieting

Everyone knows the secret to losing weight. I did it this way, so stop whatever you're doing, do it my way and you'll be skinny. Eat less. Exercise more. No carbs. All meat. No meat. Go vegan. Go raw. It's your fault your fat, you just need to do what they tell you.

If you are either a slob or have a hoarding OCD, you get the same crap from people all day long. Just throw everything out. Once it's clean, just maintain it. Everything has a place. Pick it up now, not later. What's your problem, just do what they're telling you.

Yeah. Because it's just that easy.

What it comes down to is that we're all wired differently. And what works for people that are capable of keeping their homes spic and span without breaking a sweat is not going to work for us cleaning challenged people. It just doesn't. Neat People, take a deep breath, don't say "But..." Really and truly, it's not that easy for us.

So I've created for myself a plan that I will not try to convince anyone will work for them. But I'll share it with you in case you find something amidst my new found plan that might work for you.

  • Trial and Error. You buy a box, you put a specific group of stuff in it. Then all the crap you put in it winds up back on your coffee table and not in the box. Don't keep trying to coerce it back into that box...it doesn't want to be there and you'll wind up with the same results. Round them up and find them a new home as many times as it takes to relocate them. Eventually you will find the right place for them to be in.

  • Clean Up Should Be Easy. I had a big plan about building a shelf for my daughter's stuffed animals. Above her window so she can reach it from her loft bed. The more I thought about it, I realized she was never going to carry them back up and put them up there...it would take forever. So instead I threw a couple of bins on the floor next to the loft. Now she can easily toss them in from the floor or from her loft after a tea party. Not neat, pretty or perfect...but it works!

  • Specialty Containers Don't Work. I know the Container Store looks so pretty. I know IKEA sells lots of inexpensive options. Heck, even the dollar store is apt to have containers just right for what you need. Don't buy them. Seriously. Just don't. I bet that you already have plenty of containers. Use them. And if you don't have enough, it's because you have too much stuff. See the suggestion below.

  • Throw it Out. Seriously. I know it's hard. But organizing things is good. Organizing crap you don't need isn't...why? Because it will never really have a home ever and will always wind up cluttering up your house. Force yourself to throw aways things that you don't need. If it makes you feel better, freecycle it, donate it, or sell it on ebay. I have a chair who's cushions are mangled. It's over thirty years old. I was going to fix it...why? I have no place for it. It's killing me but it's going out on garbage night. You have to learn to let things go. It gets easier the more you do it, I promise.

  • If You Can't Throw it Out, Use It! If you're a hoarder like me, then you understand this. I needed to use a wire tie today, but almost didn't because I thought I should save it for when I really need it. I've had these wire ties for years...I'm talking over twenty years. You're saving it to use it, so use it. Maybe there'll be some better life or death moment to use it, but I doubt it. Just use it already. If you get absolutely nothing else out of this, I hope you're using the stuff you're holding onto.

  • If You Can't Throw it Out, At Least Make it Organized Chaos. Clean house people will tell you to throw things away as if it's some magical notion you never thought about. If you have a hoarding OCD, your brain will actually fire off pain receptors when you throw away stuff, so don't feel like crap because it's hard for you to do. A big problem is the theory that whatever it is, is still good and you're going to xyz it. Well, get some big boxes, those huge ziplock bags or a shelf in your basement and designate it to be freecycled or ebay-ed. If you plan on donating, put it in your car and as soon as your truck it filled, go drop it off. Sure the crap is still in your house, but now it has a home somewhere.

  • Stop Banging Your Head Against the Same Wall. For many years, I've tried to get my house cleaned based on what I thought I was suppose to be doing...much like my efforts to lose the baby weight. And guess what? I got the same yo yo not very effective results. If the methods people tell you are suppose to work, don't work for you, then stop doing it. Find out what works for you. Keep trying new things. Eventually you'll find your grove.

  • Don't lose faith. And don't lose your mind over this. Sure. You might feel better if you're house was cleaner, but don't stop living to do it. Let your kid fill your house with artwork. Play with the playdoh. Paint without inhibitions. Your kids are only kids for a little bit. Don't trade off your happiness for an ideal other people want.

But don't stop trying. You don't want your kids to be embarrassed to bring their friends home. And you don't want the legacy you leave you kids to be a house full of crap no no wants. You can do it. We can do it. One day, some day, eventually. We'll figure it out together.

Monday, February 9, 2009

More IKEA Seize the Day Specials

This weekend...
Friday, Feb 13 - free breakfast
Saturday, Feb 14 - $10 any size jonaker 4 piece sheet set
Sunday, Feb 15 - $20 any size mysa stra down alternative comforter
Monday, Feb 16 - $40 malm 3 drawer dresser

check out the flyer

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Extra Tileboard?

I had some extra tileboard from the island project in the previous post. So I cut them out and inserted them behind the pantry doors. Some fit super snug and others...well, I mismeasured somewhere along the way. But a couple of strips of double sided tape were an easy fix.

Now I can keep inventory of what's the cabinets, or write myself notes of things I need to pick up because we're running low.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Alternative to the Standard Kitchen Island Cover Panel

Anyone that knows me, knows that my life revolves around my daughter. And as an artist myself, I'm happy to help encourage her artistic tendencies. Which is why I didn't want to do the usual cover panel backed island. It just felt so...well, everyone does it...and I'm pretty anti-follow the crowd. That's when I decided to cover the back of the island with tile board.

Tile board is the poor man's dry erase board at only $10 for a 4'x8' piece at any of the big box stores. Super easy to cut. And I've read some people complain out shadowing from markers, I've had no problem. I use name brand dry erase markers (I bought ones with built in erasers) and the dry erase spray solution for clean up.

I'm also big on keeping old material and finding new uses for it. I'm sure there were things I could have bought that were fancier but I'm more about reuse and recycle than spending money I don't have on crap that I don't really need. Thus my choice of trimming out the tile board.
I installed laminate hardwood in the family and had these pieces from the transition strips left over. So I stuck the metal piece from the transition strip onto its plastic backing and using double sided tape, stuck it to the top of the tile board so I could display her artwork with magnets.
Then using some industrial Velcro, I ran the plastic tooth part down the side of the island and wrapped the fuzzy part around each marker.

Then using the other part of the transition strips I didn't need, I nailed on two pieces about a foot apart. As you can see in the pic below, it has a nice little grove in it.

Now I can place her artwork in between the the rails. Why display so much art on over the tile board? Because my daughters too young to want to draw big murals, so the back of the island is often very white and plain. This is a simple way to dress it up.
When she's older and outgrown this, I'll probably take down the rails, arrange her artwork in a big collage and secure it behind a piece of plexiglass. Of course, we have a long way before that happens...maybe I'll decide to run with the crowd and buy a cover panel...

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Got Wavy Walls and Gaps Behind Your Countertop?

Apparently, the original not so good contractors thought the terms level and flush were just suggestions, but not something to aspire too. So my kitchen walls are wavy...very wavy in some spots kinda okay in others.

Now when you install cabinets, everything needs to be level and straight, which means if you have wavy walls you must shim the cabinets (put small pieces of wood behind them so everything winds up straight). This will leave with a gap.

In my case, the gap was barely noticeable in some spots, but in others were closer to an inch...if not wider. Fortunately, it's not something you notice...especially since I don't have a backsplash. But the problem is, things fall in between the wall and counter more often than you'd think.

First I thought I'd buy a piece of laminate and cut and glue the appropriate pieces necessary to cover the gap. That was before I realized a sheet of laminate was almost $50. Then I had a blast of inspiration. Backer rod, aka Caulk Saver.

Basically, it's this foam that you shove into big gaps and caulk over. This way you're not using a tube of caulk every five inches. Here is one of the smaller gaps behind the counter...see, not so noticeable, just very annoying.

Now when you put in the backer rod, it doesn't necessarily have to be a perfect snug fit all the way through. I tucked it in at one corner, then held it up along the gap as I caulked. Once there was enough caulk on it, it held in place.

I didn't take any pics with the caulk in, because it's still drying. If you have to use the ginormous amounts of caulk I did, it'll probably take a few days to dry. Use clear...unless you're able to find another color caulk that'll blend into your counter.
As for the inch plus sections of gap, I used foam pipe insulation. I cut it in half, tucked it in and caulked right over it. This whole easy fix cost me around $10 of material I already had. Definitely cheaper than the laminate and involved a lot less work and time on my part.
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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Got Extra Supplies? Need to Trash Old Cabinets? Why Not Get a Tax Write Off to do it?

Wish I knew about this last year....apparently Habitat for Humanity runs Habitat ReStores where they sell all sorts of furniture and building supplies at a fraction of the cost to help raise money for their cause.

Why get a dumpster for those kitchen cabinets...donate them! Sick of your appliances and want to upgrade...donate them! You get the idea, now go check out their site:

Habitat ReStores