Tag Archives: green

Another Year! | Keeping it Clean in 2015

31 Dec

 

photo-2As I rise out of the wrapping paper debris and general holiday craze and settle in to enjoy a few days off (without any big obligations), I decided that I should get back to posting here.

In the spirit of a fresh start in 2015, I’ve set out to tackle a few household projects that have been looming over my head for the last few months. The biggest? Cleaning the inside of the oven. We cook a lot in our rental oven and are great about keeping the outside spotless (seriously, it looks brand new) but the inside…well that’s another story. Last year, I began a search for a less toxic way to clean the oven (most oven cleaners contain a bunch of harsh chemicals). I kinda gave up for a bit after striking out online & in local stores.

And then Jess found this post by one of our favorite bloggers. It worked like magic using items we already had in our pantry (baking soda and white vinegar). Seriously! I didn’t have to scrub much but be prepared to get on your knees & climb into the oven for an hour or so.

My tips:
1) Clean the bottom drawer/broiler last (I cleaned it first and had to clean it again because it got bits of baking soda paste in it as I was wiping out the oven) — I just washed it in the sink but I wished that I’d done it once at the end versus 2x.
2) Use a dish cloth or soft cleaning rag that you won’t mind throwing out afterwards. (I could’ve tossed the one I used in the laundry but it was a plain white flour sack towel that had seen better days to begin with so I didn’t feel guilty about throwing it away.)
3) The baked on spatter on the oven window didn’t budge…at all. The Kitchn also has a post about this and recommends a Norwex cleaning product. Hmmm, I might have to investigate.

On another note related to cleaning insides…mine…holiday treats and time off at home without a good post-holiday vacation grocery shopping have me feeling kinda ick. It’s not so much a New Year’s resolution. Rather it comes out of a need to get back to basics and pay more attention to what I’m eating — basically my body is telling me that it needs healthier stuff. I’ve thought about doing a cleanse (I’ve had good luck with “clean eating” cleanses in the past). I’m halfway through the book about Whole30 “It Starts With Food”. It’s super educational but I’m not sure it’s for me. I also saw this in our recent copy of Bon Appetit and thought it seemed like a good option. Ah, options! In the meantime, I’ve got almonds soaking for homemade almond milk (for smoothies) and I added some sautéed kale to my leftover pad thai lunch today. Things are looking up.

Have any cleaning tips or healthy eating favorites to share? Tell us!
Wishing you and yours an awesome start to 2015!

xo

Two For One | Shredded Chicken & Enchilada Sauce

28 Jan

Make it count Monday, two recipes in one blog post. My ever thrifty self has been trying to meal plan on my day off and make the majority of our meals at the beginning of the week in order to have stress free healthy meals during the week when work is in full gear.

I’ve been using these simple principles:
– Cook at least one protein in the crock pot. Why you ask? Here are my tips… I can stretch one protein such as pork tenderloin, boneless spare ribs, chicken breasts, steak tips, etc. into about 2 -3 meals for Kate and I. Of course I get creative mainly because I can’t stand having the same thing over and over. One week we had steak tips cooked in the crock pot that we had with mashed sweet potatoes and kale chips, which then turned into asian spiced steak tacos with corn soft tacos and fresh lime juice.
– Save your money! Using the crock pot to cook at least one meal a week will save you money on utilities. One of my favorite crock pot recipe blogs, A Year of Slow Cooking, listed that there is documentation that suggests that a slow cooker uses approximately $0.02 of power per hour and that the monthly cost of using a slow cooker is $1.17. The slow cooking method of crock pots lends itself perfectly to less expensive cuts of meat that can be tough if not cooked using the low and slow method.
– Save your time! I only make slow cooker meals that require little to no prep ahead of time. That means less prep time, less dishes, and more time to spend with Kate and the pups 🙂

This week I made the recipe below originally posted on The Honest Company Blog.

Easiest Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken
serves 4

Ingredients
3 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (fresh or frozen)

1 16oz jar of your favorite salsa
1 onion finely chopped

Steps
1) Pour 1/3 of the jar of salsa covering the bottom of the crock pot

2) Layer the chopped onion over the salsa

3) Nestle the chicken breasts into the onion and salsa that is covering the bottom of the crock pot

4) Cover the chicken breasts with the remaining 2/3 jar of salsa

5) Cover and cook fresh chicken breasts on LOW for 7 hours. If you used frozen chicken breasts cook on HIGH for 6 hours.

Notes:
1) I used fresh chicken breasts and came out amazing, super moist and tender. Yum!
2) The salsa I used was Spike’s Salsa and it was the medium variety, but feel free to use whatever suits your heat level. I discovered Spike’s Salsa one week when it was on sale at the grocery store, it is really good and costs a fraction of the other bigger named salsa brands.
3) I removed the cooked chicken from the crock pot and shredded it using two forks, it basically falls apart on its own so you could use your hands if you want.
4) To store it, I placed the left over shredded chicken in a food safe storage container, we use these Anchor Hocking True Seal glass containers, then I added about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of the reserved cooking juices that were at the bottom of the slow cooker. Only use enough to mix into the shredded chicken to keep it moist.

sauce
Tonight I’m turning the left over shredded chicken into an Enchilada Casserole using a homemade enchilada sauce I made this afternoon.

Here’s the recipe:

Roasted Tomato Enchilada Sauce
inspired by America’s Test Kitchen

Ingredients
1 TBS canola oil

1 14.5oz can of Organic fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 onion diced
3 garlic cloves minced
1 Fresno chile finely diced, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp sugar
2 TBS salsa
1/2 c water

Steps

1) Heat oil in a 1.5 – 2 QT sauce pan using med/low heat.

2) Start to cook onion, garlic, and chile in the heated oil to soften about 5 mins.

3) Add remaining ingredients and stir.

4) Bring sauce to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer.

5) Simmer covered for 15 minutes.

6) Remove pan from heat, using an immersion blender submerge into sauce and blend until smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender a food processor or blender would work just as well.

7) Enjoy!

Notes:
1) The enchilada sauce recipe is totally vegan and low-fat!
2) It will freeze well in a freezer safe storage container, try using a canning jar just remember to leave approximately 1 inch of room in the jar before screwing on the lid.

 

Weekly Deals | World’s Best Cat Litter Rebate

27 Apr

Disclaimer: Cat appears true to size, no magnification was used in this photo, he’s just big-boned!
Sitar came into my life in 1999, when he was 4 years old. His original owner was a friend of mine from work, who had bought him from a breeder, yes.. an intentional Maine Coon & Siamese mix. He was the only one in the litter that looked the most like a Siamese cat and fit in the palm of my friend’s hand.
Fast forward 4 years later and there I am the proud owner of what most described as a “lion cub!” Owning Sitar has always been a challenge. He is one of a kind, and let’s be real at one point he was the weight of two “normal” sized cats weighing in at a whopping 27 lbs. This leads me to this week’s deal: Litter.

I’ve always struggled with litter and Sitar, whether it be the size of the litter box, being too small of course. Or the fact that for some time I was forced to use a multicat litter for my one enormous cat, ha! Some brands track dust and others have clay that gets everywhere, not favorable in the least, especially in apartment living where we have limited space.
I first read about World’s Best Cat Litter on a local pet sitter’s blog and was intrigued. She had totally endorsed it and had posted testimonials from happy clients that she had encouraged to make the switch.

World’s Best Cat Litter is a natural clumping cat litter made from kernel corn. I’ve found that it is super absorbent and has stellar odor control, even in our tiny apartment office where the dreaded litter box is located. They often offer coupons attached to the bags of litter, online, as well as frequent rebate opportunities.

Currently they are offering a FREE bag rebate for any 7 or 8 lb bag. You just need to sign up on their website, print out the rebate form, include the original receipt, and the UPC bar code from the bag of litter you purchased.

Click HERE to take advantage of the World’s Best Cat Litter Free Mail-In Rebate Offer.
 

Making Inspiration | Scrap Leather DIY

23 Apr

A (totally awesome) friend gave me a partial roll of thick leather when she was “cleaning house” in preparation for a move. It’s still nice & soft & it’s been sitting in the corner of our studio/office, for months, torturing me — visions of potential leather projects dancing in my head.

But what do I really know about working with leather? It’s a little intimidating but after sleuthing the interwebs it doesn’t seem so scary (yay!). Here’s what I came up with for potential projects. I’m most excited about the first three but they are all pretty amazing!

1. leather party decor (perfect everyday decor too!)

2. pretty little leather bow (oh the possibilities!)

3. more decor…leather bowl (for holding a head of garlic in the kitchen or top-of-dresser-items like jewelry & change?!)

4. another painted bracelet treat 
(perfect for adding interest to any everyday outfit!)

5. sweet leather flowers here & here (thanks fleurfatale & Martha!)

I don’t know about you…but I can’t wait to start making!

Recycle…Repurpose…Repeat | Yoga Mat Revival

19 Apr

Earth Day is this weekend so recycling, etc. has really been on my mind recently. And if you haven’t figured it out already, Jess & I are also thrifty/resourceful by nature.

We got a new little rug for in front of the kitchen sink and I was sick of it slipping on the tile floor. I’ve bought non-slip-under-the-rug things from bargain stores but they don’t work that well so I’ve decided to stop wasting money on them — it all adds up! I’m too thrifty to invest in a more expensive option until we have our own house. I figured there had to be an alternative that would work well & possibly offer a little more cushion…then…bing! Idea! Light bulb above head & everything. I remembered seeing my old yoga mat tucked away in the corner of our closet when I was hunting for  my Spring/Summer clothes.

I laid the yoga mat out on the floor; measured a length & width about 1/4″-1/2″ smaller than the rug I wanted to put it under; marked it with a Sharpie marker & then cut it with sharp scissors. It’s been working perfectly & it adds a nice bit of cushion, too (which is great since we’re at the sink every night washing dishes…I can’t wait until we own a home…with a dishwasher!).

I put the remaining piece of yoga mat under a throw that’s on top of a trunk at the base of our bed (the dogs & cat like to use it as a step up to the bed & it’s an antique). It’s holding the throw in place nicely & we no longer have to forever fuss with it to keep it in check. Besides, now the boys have a little bit more of a cushion for jumping, too.

I’m not the only one who has thought of reusing/recycling/repurposing old yoga mats. I found this great link while setting out to write this post. So many awesome ideas!

My favorites are 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 18, 26, 29, 31, 49.
#26 made me wonder if yoga mat would make a good baby changing mat? What about cutting a clean yoga mat down to a smaller size & tucking it your diaper bag? It’s so easy to wipe clean & would make changing away from home a little less stressful.

So…how do you plan to celebrate Earth Day? What things have you cleverly recycled or repurposed?

Decor DIY | The Easiest Roman Shades Ever!

15 Apr

I attempted to make roman shades from scratch once (key words = attempted, once). It was several years ago and I enlisted the help of my friend & fabric whisperer, Andrea. In the end the project FAILED (at no fault of Andrea’s), the mechanics were a total pain in the butt to figure out & I was left with a bag full of fabric, a ½ sewn, lined panel & roman shade guts (little plastic rings, dowels & several yards of nylon cord).

Recently, I found that bag while cleaning out my fabric stash and was reminded of how much I love the look of a roman shade. But they are $$$, hence the reason I wanted to make them in the first place.

Thanks to the interwebs, especially Pinterest, I found a much easier option. And…after finding the tutorial, I excitedly remembered:

  1. I had a few yards of fabric in a bright print leftover from wedding stuff (Jess wasn’t in love with it then for wedding crafts but was okay with it being in our office window)
  2. Our office/studio window had some icky mini blinds in it. They were left by the last tenant & we put up curtains over them & then quickly forgot about them. A note about this: I happen to know that our landlord didn’t supply the mini blinds so they were free game to use for this project. (Yay!)
So this project was essentially “free” to make. Well, truthfully, it was $5.49 because I had to buy fabric glue.

Supplies

Fabric (a mid-weight cotton worked for me but the other tutorials I’ve seen use burlap or heavier cotton canvas)

Mini blinds in a size to fit your window (use old ones & upcycle them or buy cheap ones at your nearest home supply store)

Fabric glue (I used “Liquid Stitch”)

Measuring tape

Heat N’ Bond iron-on hem tape

Fabric shears or super sharp scissors

Double sided craft tape

Iron

Optional supplies:
Pinking shears

Binder clips
Quilting ruler
Thread in a matching color (only if you plan to machine stitch your seams)
Hot glue gun (I didn’t use this but many of the tutorials did)

Instructions

I mostly used the instructions here  & referenced an older tutorial for steps I wasn’t sure about.

Here are a few notes/things I did differently:

:: Prepping the blinds: This was much easier than I thought. I can’t emphasize this next tip enough: BE CAREFUL NOT TO CUT THE LIFT CORD. You think it’s super obvious BUT it’s very easy to get into measuring & cutting & gluing & before you know it, you’re wondering why your scissors are having such a hard time cutting the fabric…& then you realize the lift cord was hiding under the fabric & you almost cut it & ruined the whole project. GAH! So….BE CAREFUL NOT TO CUT THE LIFT CORD.

:: Glue: I had all of the supplies required with the exception of the fabric glue. I bought it at a local sewing store & the brand I used was called “Liquid Stitch”. I used it to adhere the fabric to everything – the mini blind slats, the thicker mechanical bar at the top and the thick bottom slat. So far, it’s holding up just fine. I didn’t use hot glue at all.

:: Fabric: I used a medium weight cotton print. It’s the main reason I didn’t use hot glue – because I feel like it would be less forgiving than a heavy weight canvas or burlap & I didn’t want to see lumps & bumps on the finished shade.

:: Seams & “pattern”:

  • I left a 2.5” border around all of the edges.  Meaning, I measured & cut my piece of fabric 2.5″ bigger, on all sides, than what I wanted my finished shade to be. For the left and right sides, I folded the fabric in 2.5 ” & pressed it with an iron. I folded the flap of fabric under itself, sandwiched the Heat N’ Bond between the layers of fabric & pressed it, leaving me with a double thick seam that measured 1.25″. I did this to give a little more stability to the shade on the sides.
  • I left the top & bottom edges raw so I could play around/easily cut off any excess fabric
  • My pleats (where I glued the slats) are spaced 7.5” apart because that seemed to work the best with the length of my window
  • I used the recommended Heat N’ Bond (no sewing necessary!) for the hem but also used a sewing machine to reinforce the hem on each side to give it nice finished & clean look

:: Finishing:

  • I used binder clips (yes, your standard office supply binder clips) to temporarily hold the fabric in place as the glue was drying on the top mechanical bar & the thick bottom slat. This was a really helpful step.
  • Once the glue on the top mechanical bar & bottom slat was dry, I used pinking shears to trim the excess fabric (to keep the raw edge of the fabric from fraying). As you are doing this, BE CAREFUL NOT TO CUT THE LIFT CORD!!!  I was extra careful not to cut or glue the lift cord in all of the earlier steps & then nearly cut one of them during this last finishing step. OMG! Crisis averted though…phew!
  • Once the finished shade was in place, I put a little piece of strong double-sided craft tape on both sliding pieces of the bracket that holds the top of the shade in place & pressed the top corners of the fabric down (as the instructions in the tutorials state, you have to keep the corners unglued in order to be able to install the shade).

And….voila!…a sexy looking roman shade for less!

So sexy in fact, we thought the trim & windowsill looked too drab after taking down the original curtains. So…I lightly sanded away any ickies, taped it off with painter’s tape & painted it a nice bright white. Even after painting, this project still took just 2 evenings to complete.

Have you ever had a project unknowingly turn into more projects? Let us know how things turned out.

Happy making!

Thrifty Craft | Calendar Envelopes

21 Mar


It’s my natural instinct as an artist to hoard *um, I mean be SUPER resourceful about* materials that inspire me to make them over & use them again. Here’s a fun project that I came up with last year as a way to use our 2010 calendar (I couldn’t bear to recycle all of those cute Boston Terrier PUPPIES!). We are always in need of envelopes for our dog walker’s bi-weekly payment, etc. & we like to keep corresponding fun. These also make a cute gift paired with some pretty colored blank cards & tied up with some baker’s twine.

Materials

1 old calendar (the more interesting, the better!)
1 envelope (small-medium) 
pair of scissors
ball point pen or pencil (for tracing template) 
straight edge (I prefer a cork backed metal ruler)
bone folder or popsicle stick
magazine or self healing cutting mat (to protect your work surface)
glue stick

Steps

1.Disassemble the calendar & cut the calendar pages in half. Set the cover of the calendar aside.

2. Carefully slide your finger under the glued edges of the envelope & pull it apart, smoothing it flat. (If you’re worried about ripping it, steam it open over a kettle or pot of boiling water. The envelope I used — a stray that I found in the bottom of our filing cabinet — came apart just fine without any extra effort.)

3. Take the cover of the calendar (or any other sturdy piece of cardboard or card stock you have lying around), trace the envelope onto it using the ball point pen/pencil & cut it out. This is your “template”!

4. Trace your template onto the calendar pages. I traced the side of the calendar page with the image on it because I wanted to be very intentional about how the image would appear on the finished envelope but you could trace the template on the other side if you’re worried about the pen marks showing up on the finished envelope. Speaking of…I used a Sharpie so it would show up in pictures for this tutorial but I’d recommend using something with a finer tip.

5. Cut out your calendar page envelopes.

6. Using your bone folder (or tip of a popsicle stick) & straight edge, create a crease along each side of the envelope. (Just match up the corners with your straight edge & slide the bone folder along the edge — using the point to create a little invisible line in the paper.)

7. Fold each flap of each envelope on the creases.

8. Place a folded envelope on top of a piece of scrap paper  & glue the sides of the bottom flap. Fold it in and smooth it down (make sure the bottom corners are really glued down!). Repeat for the remaining envelopes.

 

Maker’s note: As I use each envelope, I seal the top flap with a little piece of tape, a swipe of a glue stick or a decorative label/sticker.
If your calendar images are really bold/dark, you might also want to stick a label on the front of the envelope for the address.

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