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Our Aquaponic Journey: Part Four – Choosing Media for Grow Beds and Other Product Selections

aquaponic media grow beds

 

The system I built is from the Endless Food Systems DIY plans. I used untreated pine for all my grow beds, and treated pine for the sump tanks that will sit on the ground, as well as the leg supports. To line the beds, I did a lot of research, and settled on DuraSkrim pond liner. It’s what aquaponics farmers use to get organic certification. I was overly concerned with using plastics and how the leaching could impact the quality of the plants. It’s really hard to get away from plastic, since galvanized metal is poisonous to fish. Unless you have the time to let algae coat all the surfaces, the zinc will be toxic. I emailed a friend of mine in the plastics industry, who happens to have a lot of the same concerns I do, and she recommended I go with the DuraSkrim. I ordered a roll online, but realized later that my local aquaponics store (Brite Ideas in Austin) carries it as well. I could have saved so much on shipping!

 

For the plumbing, I chose to use polyethelyne pipe (aka pe pipe) for the main units. PVC has a bad reputation for good reason. You can have leaching at high temperatures, and the chemicals used in their construction are still controversial. PE pipe has a much higher temperature threshold, and generally speaking has a better reputation. I like that the parts all snap together without having to use toxic glues, and are easy to cut and assemble. As someone with virtually no plumbing experience, I appreciated it! I tried to use 2″ PE pipe to connect my sump tanks, but I couldn’t find the fittings I needed nor figure out how to get the tools to connect them. So, we went ahead with PVC for the sumps. I’m not entirely thrilled about it, but it will do. I’m pleased to say I also did this myself! Hopefully I didn’t lose too many brain cells in the process 😉

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 11.15.23 PM

 

Choosing the media to fill my beds was an obstacle. At first, I planned to only have media in my main grow bed to act as a filter for two raft beds. But talking to a few pros and attending some classes led me to decide to go with media in all three beds. It seems rafts are best for leafy greens only, and if you want fruits or vegetables you need something a bit more sturdy for them. I talked to a lot of folks about different options, and it seemed that granite would be the most affordable and easily available option. At least, so I thought. My dad mentioned he had several cubic yards of decomposed granite on the property that I was free to use. And that was the key word, FREE! I was so thrilled. I set out sifting and rinsing all the dirt, piling it into a tub and filling up my first bed. It took me four hours and something like 200 shovels worth of granite. All to find out that it was too small. Oy. I posted a photo along with a question to the Facebook aquaponics group I’m in, and the consensus was that the rocks were too small to work well as a media bed. Ouch. So I set to work emptying the bed. The good news was it only took 30 minutes. The bad news was my entire body ached to high heaven.

granite aquaponics media

 

I was told to look for 3/4″ granite rocks, and to make sure to do the vinegar test to check for pH neutrality. Basically you drop a few stones into a jar of vinegar, and if it fizzes, you don’t use it. Luckily this passed. I searched for a couple of weeks to find a stone yard that carried the size granite I needed. Finally, I found it at New Braunfels Mulch. They had 3/4″ – 2″ granite for $55 a cubic yard, and offered delivery. I ordered two yards, and it turned out to be exactly enough for my three beds! Considering bags of the stuff at box stores run $6 per half cubic foot (meaning I needed about 100 bags) I consider it a great bargain.

The rough part was rinsing and moving, but I managed. I’m thinking I’ll start a new diet program: Body by Aquaponics! I drilled large holes in the bottom of a five gallon bucket, put in 5-6 shovels of rock, rinsed it then dumped it. Registration offices Several hundreds of buckets later, my beds were filled. Whew! Now I just need to finish up the leak checking, bribe my husband to finish wiring the electrical, and it’s time to fill up the beds! SO CLOSE NOW!

Homemade “Nomato” Marinara – Tomato Free Pasta Sauce!

tomato free marinara sauce

Let me begin this post with a disclaimer: I am NOT a food photographer. Obviously. I’m also not really a food blogger either. But as we travel along the road that is food intolerance, I find recipes that are hits and misses. I had been searching for a good replacement for marinara. Something I can use to replace canned tomatoes in recipes. I found several good options, and combined and tweaked and edited those recipes to come up with this super tasty version.

I have to say, my husband and I were pretty surprised at how easily this sauced fooled us. It tastes just like the real thing! It’s great to make a big batch for the refrigerator and reach for it any time a recipe calls for tomatoes. If you are struggling with acid reflux (from a rough pregnancy, perhaps) this is a great alternative for you. Plus it’s full of fabulously nutritious veggies and healthy chicken stock!

“Nomato” Marinara:
• 1 small butternut squash, cubed (or any pumpkin/winter squash)
• 1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
• 2 beets (8-10 oz, or less if you want a milder taste, beets are very earthy)
• 1 cup chopped mushrooms
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 5 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 1 quart chicken stock (or water)
• juice of two lemons
• 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
• 1/4 cup brown sugar or sweetener
• one splash apple cider vinegar (depending on how sour you like things)
• salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and marjoram to taste

Chop up all the veggies. Heat oil in a Dutch oven, then sauté onion and garlic until translucent. Add all veggies, lemon juice, and balsamic vinegar. Cover with chicken stock. Heat to a boil, then simmer 30 minutes until veggies are soft. Blend, add spices to taste, and enjoy! Tastes just like the real thing!

Nomato marinara recipe

You wouldn’t guess from the beginning that this soup like substance will turn into thick, tasty sauce.

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 1.41.37 PM

The color is so vibrant! It certainly fools the eye, as well as the stomach. If you’ve been looking for tomato-free recipes, I hope you’ll love this one!

DIY All Natural Tinted Lip Balm Recipe

Processed with Moldiv

 

Part of my zero waste initiative of 2015 has been to start making my own toiletries and beauty products. For the most part, I use recipes I find online, but sometimes I tweak and alter them until I have something that fits my tastes. This is one of those recipes. I’ve been trying out a few different combinations of ingredients to get a lipstick like texture. So far I haven’t found it, but this recipe makes a great tinted balm that leaves a good amount of color on your lips.

vintage-revlon-bullet-tubes

 

I started by searching for vintage lipstick tubes. I didn’t want to spend time and money making all-natural products just to store them in plastic. Especially when a big part of zero waste is eliminating plastic completely. I browsed several styles on Etsy, and decided on these vintage Revlon tubes from Frugal Resale. They appear to be brass, and since brass commonly had lead in their composition, I picked up a surface lead test from my local hardware store. They were negative, which means, hooray, lead free! I scraped out the remnants and boiled the containers for a few minutes to clean them. I did have one of the labels fall off, so I’ll be gluing it back on. I’m particularly fond of that “Touch of Genius” shade 😉

diy-natural-lip-balm-ingredients

Many online recipes call for specialty ingredients you have to order online. Since my goal is to hopefully one day source all the ingredients locally, if not completely from my homestead, I tried to find some more basic supplies. Most of this can be found at your local grocery or health foods store. In fact, I ground up dried hibiscus leaves from my HEB bulk section (it was with the spices), and peeled, sliced, and dehydrated and then ground fresh beets into a powder.

grinding-hibiscus-flowersOne tip that I found handy with my hibiscus powder was to strain it through a fine mesh sieve. In this case it was a tea strainer. This keeps the larger clumps and flower parts from getting into your coloring powder, keeping the shade a bit more even. Still, hibiscus is a bit more finicky than the beet root. In the stick, it’s hard to tell a difference.

diy-natural-tinted-balm

Beet root is on the left, hibiscus on the right. I had a bit of clumping there since I waited just a touch too long to start mixing it up and pouring it into the tube. Here is the beet root balm (it appears a bit darker in real life):

beetroot-balm

And below is the hibiscus (also a bit darker and slightly more even):

hibiscus-balm

You can see the graininess that the hibiscus can have. It’s less noticeable in person, and you can rub your lips together and work most of it in. I would also say that while the beet root gives the better color, I like the flavor and texture of the hibiscus more.

Now enough hemming and hawing, let’s get to the recipe!

DIY All Natural Tinted Lip Balm Recipe

• 1/4 t beeswax (grated or pellets)
• 1/2 t shea butter
• 1/4 t cocoa butter (I only had coconut butter, and that worked well)
• 1/2 t olive oil (or sunflower/almond/jojoba/whatever oil)
• 1 t coloring powder (beet root, hibiscus, paprika, cocoa, or a mix of several)
• 3-5 drops essential oil of choice (I chose grapefruit since it’s uplifting and makes me happy)

Melt the beeswax, shea, cocoa and olive oil in a double boiler over medium heat. Be sure not to fill it too high to keep water from splashing in. I used a 1 cup pyrex pouring measuring cup for this, stirring with a wooden skewer. This will take up to five minutes, as the beeswax takes a while to fully melt. Once melted, still in the pot, I add in my color powder and make sure it dissolves and blends well into the mixture. Remove from heat and cool. Once it’s cool to the touch, add in your essential oils. You don’t want to do it too soon while it’s hot or it will denature any of the good properties of the oil, leaving just a pretty scent. Allow it to continue cooling, as the oils and colors can separate. Every few minutes stir the mixture with your spoon/skewer, making sure they stay combined. Once it’s the texture of warm butter, begin to coax it into your tube or container. I like to scoop in a bit then tap it on the counter to make sure it’s compacted. I did this several times until it was full to the top. Allow it to cool and set overnight.

Apply as desired! It also makes for a nice cheek or eye stain as well. It’s a subtle color, that needs frequent application. Hopefully soon I’ll come up with the perfect lipstick recipe to share here as well!

Kids Modern Activity Coffee Table: A How-To

Activity Table Tutorial Every holiday, I feel a strong urge to build something for my girls. Typically, this urge hits within five days of said holiday. Any holiday. This time it was Valentines Day, because, well, why not? I had some leftover Purebond in the garage from Christmas, and it happened to be the perfect size for a table top. So I raided the barn for a few 2×2’s, and went to work!

painted toddler activity table tutorial

This was a really quick and easy build. I spent maybe an hour building it, but at least 9 painting it. Isn’t that how it always goes? But I’m pretty happy with the mural on top, and the girls are too. We have fun building train bridges over the water and putting the little wooden ducks in the water.

activity-table-painted-top Cute, right? I painted the base white, and the top with probably 75 layers of light green. At least that’s what it felt like. Then two layers of craft paint for the details, and this sucker was done. I haven’t gotten around to adding a top coat yet, but I’m planning to use three layers of polycrylic to protect the paint from chipping too much. It’s the perfect fit for these Critter Chairs, as I’ve come to call them.

IMG_5696
Now let’s get on with the build!

Supplies:
• 1/2 sheet 3/4″ plywood (I use purebond since it’s sourced in North America, and is formaldehyde free)
• 4 – 2x2x8
• 2 – 1″ x 1/4″ x 8′ trim pieces
• 8 L-brackets
• 1 1/2″ pocket hole screws

Cut List:
6 – 2×2 @ 35.5″
6 – 2×2 @ 12.5″
4 – 2×2 @ 22.5″
3/4″ plywood @ 35 1/4″ x 48″
2 – 1/4″ trim @ 35 3/4″
2 – 1/4″ trim @ 48″

Step 1:
activity-table-step1

Begin by assembling the legs. I used 1 1/2″ screws and drilled from the outside of the long pieces into the ends of the shorter pieces. You can use pocket holes, but in this case they’ll be better hidden on the outside of the wood.

 

Step 2:
activity-table-step2

Finish the square by adding the bottom piece. Drill from the top again, this will be hidden. Repeat for the other two legs.

 

Step 3:
activity-table-step3

Attach the legs to the underside of the plywood with 1 1/2″ screws. I used three screws per leg.

 

Step 4:
activity-table-step4
Attach all three legs, measuring and centering the middle leg. I added L brackets for additional stability, on the idside of the end legs and on each side of the center leg.

 

Step 5:

activity-table-step5

The last step is optional, but I found that the legs were still a bit too wobbly, even with the brackets. I drilled pocket holes into each end of the 22.5″ piece, and with the holes on the bottom, attached them to each leg at 10″ from each end. You can vary the placement to accommodate baskets or stools. I left room for the “critter chairs” I built for my girls, they’re the perfect fit!

Step 6:
I don’t have a photo of this step, but it’s attaching the trim. I placed it flush with the bottom of the plywood so it extends a bit over the top, keeping the toys and trains corralled on the table. I used glue and 3/4″ finish nails to attach it.

Then it’s just a matter of sanding and finishing! I decided on a bright, glossy white to break up all the dark wood in the room. I think it’s the perfect area for all sorts of playing!

IMG_5701

Why We’re Gluten Free – Food Intolerances in Infancy and Beyond

*This post is completely unrelated to DIY, homesteading, aquaponics, or pretty much everything else I cover on my blog. Today is a little more personal, and hopefully resounds with other parents or food intolerance sufferers who are a bit fed up with the blasé attitude of conventional medicine toward nutrition.*

About this time last year, I was suspicious about food issues with my 6 month old baby, and decided (against my pediatrician’s wishes) to do an elimination diet. Even with Caroline being exclusively breast fed, she had horrible eczema and was just so miserable all the time. She was the classic “colicky” baby. Oh, it was okay if you held her in just the right way, being sure to never ever sit down and constantly pace. She could nap if she was laying on your chest. Sometimes maybe in the swing. Anyway, my mama senses were tingling, so I gave up dairy and gluten. Dairy because I am mildly intolerant so I was suspicious she would be too, and gluten for it’s reputation of causing skin and digestive issues. My pediatrician told me I was wasting my time, that the eczema was genetic and in no way diet related, and I just had to go get prescription steroid creams for my tiny little baby with tissue thin skin and accept that pharmaceuticals were the only answer for her. I declined, and thought, what could it hurt, it’s only food. If I can’t ditch conventional bread and pasta for a few weeks for the sake of my child’s health, what kind of person would I be?! I had more self-discipline than that! So I researched what gluten was and where it was hiding, then completely cut it out to test my theory. Here is our before and after shot, taken 30 days before and after cutting gluten from my diet.

gluten free before and after

Amazing difference, right? It was like this all over her body, but her face was the absolute worst. Now her skin is clear and smooth, with barely a rough patch to be seen. Needless to say, I switched pediatricians. However, my new doctor wasn’t thoroughly convinced about my personal findings. I can’t say that I blame him, because neither was I. I was acting on suspicion, and though it seemed I was right, I prefer to know, you know? I didn’t like depriving her of practically an entire food group simply on whim, as it felt. I didn’t like people judging me for my “trendy” eating styles either. But my doctor kept brushing my concerns aside. “Just avoid gluten until she’s three, and then we can reassess.” That seemed like a very long time for guessing, considering we were at her 1 year well check. I was also suspicious about tomatoes, given her face looked like this whenever she got ketchup/bbq/pasta sauce on her skin:

tomato intolerance skin reaction

He told me it was just because it was an acidic food, that she would grow out of it eventually. She would be fine eating tomatoes, no big deal. I wasn’t entirely convinced. So, I pushed for a few months and got him to agree to an allergy test. Well three vials of blood taken later, they tested 13 measly food items. It did not include testing for celiac or tomatoes. The only item of concern was wheat, which showed no reaction. So, based on the “all clear” phone call I received, I started feeding her (and myself, since I still eliminated gluten in my own diet because of breastmilk) gluten and tomatoes again. Over the weeks that followed, she became incredibly crabby, throwing tantrums over the slightest provocation. Things like a toy falling over would cause her to throw herself on the ground and scream unconsolably. She had a low grade fever more days than she didn’t, around 99.3 degrees. Her digestion was off. She was increasingly tired but slept poorly. Many of these things could be explained away – she was teething, she had mild RSV, she was going through developmental changes emotionally and physically, so she could just be tantruming, etc. But again, I just knew something was off. More than just conventional “baby-ness”. So I talked to Kelsey of Texas Total Health (who I’ve been working with during our nutritional transition and is amazing and wonderful and CALL HER NOW!) She mentioned the Pinner Test, which tests for IgG reactions (vs IgE reactions that show allergies) and can signal food intolerances. These delayed immune responses can take up to 3 days to manifest, and last for as long as you keep eating the foods, which make it tough to pinpoint. They can cause headaches, digestive problems, grumpiness, and more. I signed up right away, and with one measly finger prick Caroline was tested on 200 different foods. And guess what she had a reaction to??

pinner test food intolerance test

To say I was not surprised would be an understatement. I was actually rather relieved to finally have real answers, versus my suspicions. And to have someone listen to me, agree that things didn’t sound or look “normal”, and to help me find those answers. I’m not sure if it’s a problem with most pediatricians to dismiss nutrition’s impact on health, but considering my batting average is a big fat ZERO in that department right now, I’m not feeling very confident. It actually enrages me, to think about how miserable my daughter would be feeling if I had just followed their advice and not looked further into the issue on my own. It’s certainly had me second guessing quite a few different things, and looking around for another pediatrician who will actually listen and address the underlying issue, instead of just throwing prescriptions at the symptoms. Caroline is only 17 months old, so it won’t be a tough transition to take out tomatoes and gluten. I did decide to have a gluten-free home, however, because I don’t want to struggle with the “But daddy is eating crackers, I want some too!” issues. I want solidarity, so she never has to feel like she’s alone and unsupported. It’s actually much harder for me to eliminate tomatoes than gluten! For now, I’m going to research tomato-free ketchup and sauces, and just limit dishes I cook with them, keeping them mostly in mom and dad meals and letting the kids eat modified versions. I’m still trying to get a handle on things, and come up with a game plan for how we’ll be cooking without two pretty major players in US kitchens. It’s challenging, but it could be SO much worse, and I am grateful that we have such a minor struggle. Gluten-free is practically a fad now, so it’s easy to find affordable supplies for baked goods, and cheat every now and then with pre-made crackers or breads. I am looking forward to the challenge. Especially now that I know my baby girl feels healthy, happy, and whole.

 

Our Aquaponic Journey: Part Three – Adding a Ventilation Window to Ana White’s Barn Style Greenhouse

Ana White Barn Greenhouse

 

The plans for this Barn Style Greenhouse don’t include any ventilation. Which in Central Texas, where I live, mean that it could easily get over 100 degrees in a flash, wilting all my plants and killing the fish in my aquaponic system. That can’t happen! So I decided to make one wall of the greenhouse a “window”, and give it the ability to flip and be propped open for air movement. My original method, above, was a bit too flimsy. A mild storm flipped it all the way up and ripped it off my tiny supports. So I built a whole new frame and rigged up a good solid support to hang it. Here’s what I did:

greenhouse-window-support-beam

 

I started by adding a 12′ 2×6 (I should have measured twice before I cut! This was just a touch short, make sure yours goes all the way to the end) by drilling 2 1/2″ screws into each of the trusses.

 

greenhouse-window-frame

 

Next I rebuilt my frame. Before I just pieced together some scrap boards, which made it weak. This time I used a solid 2×4 for the top and bottom. Then I measured the distance between the top of the paneling side, and the bottom of the 2×6. I subtracted 7″ or the width of both 2×4’s, then cut five center supports. I attached them with pocket hole screws, then removed the greenhouse panels from my old frame and put them on the new one.

 

greenhouse-window-hinges

 

I just used a bunch of old hinges to attach the window to the support, pulling back the greenhouse panel a bit so half would be below it. I want to keep the water away from them.

 

greenhouse-window-water-covering

 

Lastly, we cut a spare greenhouse panel in half width wise, then removed some of the screws from the panel on the top, fed the new sheet below it, and reattached the screws. Then we folded it over the top of the window, added more screws, and voila! Easy, water resistant ventilation. Eventually I plan to take down the panels on the other wall, and build another window frame so I can get a good cross breeze going in the summertime. It should also help let pollinators in. Or if pests or critters start being pesky, I’ll add some hardware cloth and screening to keep them out. Whatever it takes to get a happy, breezy system!

Our Aquaponic Journey: Part Two

aquaponic media bed

 

Happy February everyone! I’m not normally one to apologize for long blog absences, as they’ve been happening a lot for the past year. After doing some thinking, however, I decided that it was either time to get back into blogging more, or say my farewells and move on to new things. So, without much hoopla, I’m putting it out there that I plan to be more regular with posting and share more about what it’s like for an everyday “conventional” family to move toward greener living. I’ll do my best to post three times a week, without stressing too much over pretty pictures. I do a lot of “microblogging” over on my Instagram account, so it should be easy to elaborate more with some tutorials and information here on the blog instead of clogging up my feed with long descriptions. Anyway, that’s that.

In aquaponics news, the system is moving slooooooooowly. Very slowly. The cold weather and rain isn’t exactly a great motivator to lug around gigantic, heavy boards and beds. But it’s moving. I finished up the first grow bed, a 4’x8′ media bed over the fish tank. I’m planning to fill it with gravel, and keep this for my perennials. I got a little whimsical and ordered a couple of dwarf banana trees, some coffee plant beans, and berry bushes. Cranberries, actually. I also grabbed a variety of perennial herb plants that are good for teas and remedies, like Anise, Toothache Plant, and St. John’s Wort.

aquaponic raft bed build

 

I also finished up the second grow bed, which I’m planning to use as a raft bed. That means it will be filled up with water and have styrofoam floats on the top, with little baskets for the plants. Here’s where I plan to try out vegetables and greens. I have one more bed to build identical to that one, which will fit on the left side. It’s going to be a tight fit in here! I’m planning on building a frame for each side of the greenhouse and removing the fixed greenhouse panels onto the frames so they can lift up for ventilation and pollination, as well as making harvesting a bit easier. It seems my goal of having it finished on February first was a bit too over-zealous, so now I’m hoping for March 1st to get things moving. I made things harder for myself by jumping into building before watching all the videos and reading completely through the instructional pdf, and now I’ll need to take a break and stain/seal the grow beds from the moisture. It would have been so much easier to pre-stain before installing them! But, at least I figured that out now, so I have a bit of wiggle room left in there. That’s it for now, I’ll be back soon with another update, as well as some more fun homesteading adventures!

Our Aquaponic Journey Part One: Building the Greenhouse

Ana White Barn Greenhouse

 

Have you ever heard of aquaponics? It’s the practice of growing food using fish in a water-based system. I heard about it last year, and have been learning all I can about it ever since. This past year was fine with my conventional garden, but I wanted more. I wanted year-round vegetables, in abundant quantities. I wanted a simple system that was self-sustainable. I wanted aquaponics! After a lot of research, I decided to take the plunge and build a greenhouse specifically for my system. I chose the brightest spot, which happened to be just to the right of our house, in the gravel area we designated as a driveway overflow. My husband was generous enough to give up this spot for the good of the larder. We had just enough money left in our house building fund to cover the costs of the greenhouse, which was just under $800.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 10.47.34 AM

 

It took four days to build Ana White’s Barn Style Greenhouse. We purchased all our supplies at Lowes. The first day was spent digging a foundation in for the cement blocks. We decided to add them into the plan since we get such serious winds around here. They have since been buried, so I’m hoping it will be enough to keep the greenhouse in place. I also decided to make the lower “wall” on the left side, the one covered in greenhouse panels, have the ability to open for ventilation in the summertime. You can see the darker brown frame that I used to attach the greenhouse panels to. I just made sure the uppermost panel threaded beneath the one above it so water wouldn’t get in. I’m planning to add some spray foam to each edge to keep the winter chill out, as well as some pool noodles along the base where it meets the metal wall as there is a 1″ gap due to the frame construction. But overall, it’s nice and warm inside.

Screen Shot 2015-01-05 at 2.06.21 PMThere are thousands of ways to set up your aquaponic system. YouTube is overrun with tutorials, system tours, and the like. It became overwhelming. I knew I wanted to build my own system rather than spend thousands on a pre-built one. So I decided to invest the $40 to get the Endless Food Systems DIY tutorial, which will fit perfectly inside my 10 x 12 greenhouse with a few small tweaks. From what I’ve read, to feed a family of four you would need 100 square feet of grow bed space. My system will have 78 square feet, so it will be close. Couple that with my outdoor conventional garden, and my dreams of food self-sustainability may come to fruition sooner than I hoped! This 300 gallon tank should hold about 30 pounds of fish, we’re planning on starting out with catfish since they’re so hardy in our area. The limestone rock we live on means we can’t bury our tank, so the fish will need to tolerate some temperature fluctuation.

 

That’s it for my first installment of our aquaponic journey! I’m hoping to get our system finished and running before February 1st, so I can get some early spring plants started. I’ll be sure to update each step of the way!

 

Homemade Holiday 2015: Wooden Play Ice Cream Set for under $10

wooden play ice cream set

 

Is Christmas sneaking up on anyone else, or just me? With only a few days left, I’m scrambling to finish. One of my favorite quick and easy projects is this adorable wooden play ice cream cone set. It’s so stinkin’ easy, and fun to customize! I just grabbed a few supplies from the craft store, and after a couple of steps, I had cute cones!

ice-cream-cone-potHere’s my supply list:
• 4 pack of 2″ knobs
• 4 pack of flower pots
• 6″ of 3/4″ dowel (cut into four 1 1/2″ pieces)

Use wood glue and attach dowel pieces to the base of the knobs

ice-cream-base

 

This helps keep the ice cream inside the cone. Once it’s dry, you are ready for paint! It really is that simple. And if you use coupons or go on a 50% off day, this project is even cheaper. I already had the dowel left over from my Tiny Tot Tool Bench project, so I only spent $4 on supplies, making each cone $1 each!

wooden-play-ice-cream-cones

 

I had a lot of fun choosing colors, and adding sprinkles and chocolate chips. You can really go crazy! I have one set painted with a “waffle” pattern on the cones, and another left plain. I think I like the plain set just a bit better.

 

So that’s it! If you’re looking for a fun toddler stocking stuffer, this easy little last-minute project is the one for you!

 

Kitchen Love Story: A Review and Giveaway

kitchen love story

 

It’s no secret that I built my kitchen from the ground up. We did everything ourselves, from building the cabinets to installing appliances. It helped to have a handy spouse, he’s an electrician by trade and a plumber by birth (well, sort of, his dad is a master plumber and he grew up learning the trade). With my history of furniture building, and the invaluable help from the amazing Ana White, it didn’t seem like too much of a leap to try out building kitchen cabinets. Overall, I consider our kitchen a resounding success!

san-bernard-kitchen1

 

I love my kitchen. So, so much. But. There are a few things I don’t love, now that I’ve used it for two years. That’s where Camille Finan comes in. Here I thought I had covered all the angles. I had dozens of magazine tear sheets, hundreds of pins on Pinterest, sketches for cabinets and house plans to study layouts. I got a few things “right”. I’m glad we moved our sink and dishwasher out of the island and onto the wall. Everyone told me that was crazy, that I would want to have a “view” when doing the dishes. Wrong. Doing the dishes means staring at dishes, so who cares where the sink is? I’m happier to have a huge solid space that’s basically indestructible (thank you, stainless steel!) and leave my huge piles of dirty dishes somewhat hidden behind the refrigerator. I’m still quite happy with our open shelving, and we use those island stools just as much as we do our dining table.

 

Before I read Camille’s book, I was happy enough with my kitchen. Sure, there were the annoying things. My trash can cabinet worked okay as long as you didn’t try to pull them too hard. And the uncovered bins did attract a lot of fruit flies. The flip-up drawer front above it where I intended to store paper towels lay empty, as we nixed the paper for cloth rags to save on waste. The baby is constantly opening up the island cabinet doors and pulling out all my jars. My upper cabinet with vertical dividers for baking pans is pretty much a joke since only half of my vintage oven is actually an oven, and I have two generous shelves on the other side for my pans. When I read through Camille’s book, it was like the skies parted. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? I should replace those door with wide, deep drawers! Then, I wouldn’t have to empty out half the cabinet to grab the big jar in the back. I would just pull out the drawer. Now that I don’t need paper towel storage, I can make a drawer for that space to keep our dish cleaning supplies. Adding in a few shelves to the pan cabinet would make several small cubbies that will be great for those odds and ends with no real “home”. Over and over I was hit with new, great ideas every time I finished a chapter.

 

Kitchen Love Story serves as a primer for your kitchen renovation. Gone are the layouts and floorplan examples and confusing jargon. Camille fills you in on the secrets behind the curtain. She shows you how to  “Design From the Inside Out” when planning your kitchen. That’s one key step I missed. She advises to think about every last little detail. It’s great to look at pretty hardware and paint colors, but where are you going to keep the zip-top bags? I have small children, so I need to think up the best way to store sippy cups and snack bowls. What about the bakeware and food storage containers? She explains that those fancy custom cabinets don’t have to be as pricy as you think. And that some of the flashy add-ons are just that, all flash and no real substance. She shares where you should save your pennies, and where you should splurge.

 

Planning a kitchen, whether it’s a renovation or a new build, can be extremely confusing. There are thousands of choices that have to be made. Camille helps guide you through the process, explaining that really, it’s not so scary after all. Each chapter is chock full of great tips on how to avoid the “little lady” treatment from contractors, which I often faced. You don’t have to settle for builder-grade standard options. With a small bit of customization, you can achieve the kitchen of your dreams!

 

So by now you can probably tell that I loved the book, and 100% recommend it to everyone planning to make improvements on their kitchen. The only thing I feel the book was lacking was listing a few of the less standard, creative, or budget options for things. For example she mentioned solid surface or laminate countertops, like granite, marble, corian, etc. My absolute favorite surface hands down has been our stainless steel island. It’s fabulous. It takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’. We’ve processed raw meat, rolled out cookies, made play dough, chopped veggies, and performed basically any and every kitchen task on that thing. It’s a simple wipe, rinse, repeat. I also wish there had been some mention of looking outside the standard procedure for a few items. As an extreme DIYer, I know we saved a bundle by doing things ourselves, getting inventive with materials (open shelving saved us a huge amount) and sourcing vintage and great used appliances on Craigslist. But that’s a pretty nit picky criticism. Many people plan to hire out all the jobs, and Camille has great advice for how to handle things as your own General Contractor. I wish I had read it before trying to work those issues through myself!

If you have any kitchen projects coming up in the near future, be sure to pick up Kitchen Love Story before you get started. And one lucky reader will have the chance to win a copy! To enter, leave me a comment with your favorite kitchen organizing tip. Whether it’s how to stack up the dishes or the best undercabinet lighting you’ve used, I want to hear about it!
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Personalized Holiday Gifts from Zazzle Made in the USA

Happy Holiday Season everyone! I hope all my US friends had a wonderful and happy Thanksgiving, I know we did. This year we chose to stay home and not do any store shopping, choosing to enjoy the family time and quiet. As you know, we traditionally make many of our gifts, but I also like to research for great gift options to give as well. Specifically ones with photos, because who doesn’t love family photos? I know I do! This year I partnered with Zazzle to find some fantastic options. I am so psyched at what I found! So, SO many gifts made right here in the USA, from great folks. I’m looking forward to ordering one for each person on my list. Want to take a look with me?

 

Zazzle Made in USA

Gold jewellery
zazzle.com

This beautiful necklace can be customized with your own art or photo. This would be great for the ladies in your life!

Look at this adorable cake pan! I LOVE IT! Great for pot lucks, you’ll never lose it :) The perfect gift for the baker in your life. They have several different designs too!

Sometimes you don’t need a fancy catalogue to find chic holiday decor. This pillow is made from cotton right here in America.

I know I can’t be the only one who loves to stare at little faces all day long, and this custom pillow would be such a fun gift. You could use photos from travels, portraits of pets, or snapshots of family you don’t get to see often.

Anybody looking for a fresh new tree skirt? Why not personalize it?

Last year I gave all the moms in our family throw blankets with my kids’ photos, and I have to admit I was disappointed to see that “made in China” stamp. Now I can feel better about less carbon emissions from a blanket made nearby, from cotton to boot.

Anybody love American Apparel? Why not add some fun art or text for the scarf lover in the family?

My daughters love to help in the kitchen, almost as much as they love things with their names on them.

Somehow last year my toddler’s stocking was eaten by the dogs (I’m blaming the candy inside) so perhaps this year we will replace it with her very own special one.

It’s so refreshing to see reusable water bottles made and printed in our country. I love to use our reusable bottles, and favor the one with my kids’ photos on it. However I chose another company last time, and the printing is already chipping off. I’m eager for these to come back in stock so I can stock up!

These soft hair ties are so handy, and even better with monograms and cute patterns!

This would be perfect on a keychain, I think I’ll have to pick up a couple for the dads in my life.

So that about wraps up my quick round up of Made in the USA gifts from zazzle. Be sure to check out their home and holiday offerings. But that’s not all! There are so many more on the website, you’ll have to hop on over and check them out for yourself. They carry customizable American Apparel products, which include t-shirts and so much more. Plus they are having a HUGE Black Friday sale, so hurry up and happy conscientious shopping!
*This is a sponsored post. I only choose to work with companies I fully believe in with products I agree with, all opinions are my own.*

Handmade Holiday 2015: Tiny Tot Tool Bench How-To

tiny-tot-tool-bench

Are you ready for a fun, easy, affordable project that will blow your kids (and parents, and friends) away?! Well, today I have one for you! This Tiny Tot Tool Bench is the perfect gift for that little one in your life, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to make it. For about $25 in supplies, you can craft a handmade, solid wood tool-a-palooza for the toddler in your life.

tiny-tot-tool-bench-tools

Every part is hand made, down to the tiny tools! And all you need is a jigsaw. The bench has 12 holes for practicing fine motor skills, and a little shelf that is fun for the little organizer.

tiny-tot-tool-bench-shelf

Seriously, what is cuter than teeny weenie little tools? The saw even has little teeth!

tiny-tot-tool-bench-saw

The screwdriver fits inside the grooves to twist the screws.

tiny-tot-tool-bench-screwdriver

The wrench is perfectly sized for the square pegs.

tiny-tot-tool-bench-wrench

And the hammer is light yet sturdy enough for lots of heavy banging.

tiny-tot-tool-bench-hammer

 

Even though this is a Christmas gift for my one year old, I wanted to make sure it was sized appropriately. I measured a pair of her pants to get the height, but wanted to double check before I wrote up plans. So during one of those midnight “I have to wake up and play right NOW!” sessions (I know you know what I mean!) I let Caroline take a whirl on the bench. She had a BLAST! I was thrilled to see how much she loved it. It is the perfect height. She can reach the tools up top to grab them easily, and bend down to put things on the shelf. I was a little unsure of my decision to leave the screws as flat dowels, but it was a good call. At 15 months she wouldn’t be able to do the screwing motion. Right now she had so much fun just putting the tools and screws into the different holes. She was awake for TWO HOURS! before I could convince her to go back to bed. She was just having too much fun playing!

tiny-tot-tool-bench-test

The height of the table hits right at her hips, which leaves some room to grow. My three year old also had fun playing with the parts while I was building it, so this could be a great toy to last a few years. And much much cuter than those plastic ones from the store!

tiny-tot-tool-bench-play

 

With one month until Christmas, it’s time to get building! Let’s go!

Supplies:
• 1 – 2x2x8
• 1 – 1x4x4
• 1 – 1x2x4
• 1 – 1x12x4
• 1 – 7/8″ dowel @ 4′
• 1 – pack of 4 2″ wood wheels (these will be rounded and about 1/2″ thick, found at a craft store)
• 1 – pack of 4 2.5″ wood rounds (flat 1/4″ thickness, at craft store)
• 1 1/4″ screws
• 1 – pack of dowel pegs for joining
• wood glue
• paint

Cut List: measure and cut as you go, rather than all at once
• 4 – 2×2 @ 13″ (legs)
• 2 – 2×2 @ 5 1/2″ (top shelf supports)
• 1 – 1×4 @ 16″ (apron)
• 1 – 1×4 @ 15 1/2″ (top shelf)
• 2 – 1×2 @ 13 1/2″ (lower shelf supports)
• 2 – 1×2 @ 10″ (lower shelf supports)
• 1 – 1×12 @ 16″ (top)
• 1 – 1×12 cut down to fit inside shelf supports, about 10″ x 8 3/4″
• 10 – 7/8″ dowel @ 2 1/2″ (screw pegs)
• 2 – 7/8″ dowel @ 5″ (tool handles)
• 6 – 2×2 @ 1/2″ (screw tops)
• 2 – scrap 1×4 for tools, 7″ each

 

Step 1

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Attach inner shelf supports to 2×2 legs. I decided to place my shelf 5″ from the bottom. If attaching top with pocket holes, drill them now.

 

Step 2

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Add front shelf supports, lining up with the side supports. Use 1 1/4″ screws and glue. Pre-drilling will prevent splitting.

 

Step 3

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Attach the top, measuring 3/4″ in from the front. I actually used a the 3/4″ thick apron to make sure it would be flush. Measure the side gaps evenly, mine were 1″. I used glue and screws from the top, but you can also use pocket holes.

 

Step 4

tiny-tot-tool-bench-step4

Optional: if you want curved bottom edges, find a round object to trace. I used a small can of stain. Cut with a jigsaw.

 

Step 5

tiny-tot-tool-bench-step5Attach the front apron with glue and screws. They will be hidden with the decorative rounds.

 

Step 6

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Measure from the edge to the inner edge of your legs, and add about 1/2″ and mark the top for the outer edge of the top support. I attached them with glue and a screw from below, though you could use pocket holes. Mine were about 3 3/4″ in from each edge.

 

Step 7

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Optional: If you want rounded edges on your upper shelf, find a round object (a sour cream carton worked for me) and trace it. Then cut with a jigsaw.

 

Step 8

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Attach to the supports with glue and screws.

 

Step 9

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Time for the shelf! Measure your inner openings and cut to fit. Mine was 10″ by 8 3/4″. I used pocket hole screws, but you can pre-drill and use screws on the outside as well, or mount the shelf below the supports, drilling up into them.

 

Step 10

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Hole drilling time! I marked out 12 holes, evenly spacing them. I believe the distance was 3 1/4″ apart, with a little wiggle room here or there.

 

Step 11

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I used a 1″ spade bit for my holes. I also added a 1″ hole on the outer edges of the top shelf for the screwdriver and hammer.

 

Step 12

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To make the wrench, start by cutting a 1/2″ slice of 2×2 for the top. I traced two sides on a diagonal, then added two short straight lines. I used my stain can to make the circle, then freehanded the handle. I should have used a ruler to make the lines straight and then a straight end. The total length is 7″ long and about 3″ wide. Cut out with a jigsaw and sand smooth, making sure there are no sharp edges.

 

Step 13

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To make the center holes for the larger tools, I made two 1″ holes with my spade bit then cut out the center with my jigsaw. I also made the hand saw shape, again 7″ long and about 3″ tall. I used a ruler to make the top line, added a rounded end, then some teeth below. I freehanded the handle shape based on a saw we have. Cut and sand smooth.

 

Step 14 & 15

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To make the hammer, I used a scrap piece of 2×2 and cut one end on a 45 degree angle. For the screw driver, I just used my jigsaw to shave one end into a point and sanded it to about a 1/8″ thickness. I had some scrap 1 1/4″ dowel for my screwdriver handle, but you could use some 2×2 and sand the edges smooth.

To join the tool tops to handles, I used a 1/4″ drill bit into the bases and the tops. Then I dabbed in glue, and used these wooden pegs to join the pieces together. This is the same method for joining the screw pegs to the tops.

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For the rounded screws to be used with the flathead screw driver, I held them by the stem and passed them over my table saw to cut a blade groove. I had to do a couple of passes to get them thick enough.

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You can get creative with the screws! You could use store-bought pegs for the bases instead of dowels so they have a tighter fit that needs to be banged in. Or you could try adding grooves by whittling or with hot glue / putty. I found that for the 12-18 month age range, smooth seems to be best. Just learning to fit them in the holes makes them so happy!

tiny tot tool bench

Once all your tools are made, sand the whole bench and make sure everything is smooth. Then paint or finish as desired. I topped the wood portions with Feed N Wax for a nice subtle sheen, and used Mod Podge on the colored parts to prevent off gassing as well as paint transfer. Once it’s all painted and dried, I attached the decorative rounds (which had one pass over my table saw blade) with wood glue in the center, and a bead of hot glue around the edges to hold it in place while the wood glue set. That’s it! The table is done. The devil is in the details on this one, for sure! It only took about two hours to build, but probably three more on the tools and screws. Then another 5 painting, drying, sealing, and finishing up. But it’s totally worth it! I’m so excited to give my kids a toy I know they will love for years to come, and will definitely be a family heirloom.

Happy Building!

 

*Disclaimer: Build at your own risk. This is a toy, not intended for climbing or rough play. Please use caution and supervision at all times.*

Handmade Holiday 2015: Peg Princesses

hand painted peg princesses

Holiday season is upon us, and for me that means time to swing into gear on handmade presents! This is actually an older project. I made these peg princesses for my daughter Charlie for Valentine’s Day this year. She has been getting more and more enthusiastic about Disney princesses, so I made sure to theme them accordingly. But this could easily be adapted for any character series. Harry Potter, superheroes, X-Men, you name it!

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I purchased two packs of eight peg people from Hobby Lobby, and started looking up character photos. Then it was simply a matter of sketching the dresses and hair with a pencil, and filling them in with craft paints.

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It was a bit tricky to come up with 16 princesses, so I drew from a few less popular movies like Atlantis and Hercules who happen to have two of my favorite princesses anyway, Megura and Kida. Merida and Mulan are also some pretty great role models!

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Of course the 90’s favorites had to be here! Ariel was a bit tricky, but in the end she turned out cute with her little fin and shell bra.

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This was a very affordable project, costing $4 for the pegs (I purchased on a half off day) and then paints I had along with ModPodge for sealing it. I spent about 10 hours painting them though, I am a slow painter, plus I had a wiggly four month old to contend with! But they are so adorable, and both my girls love playing with them. They fit perfectly inside the Melissa and Doug foldable dollhouse my mom gave them.

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Much cuter than the ones that came with it!

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And this is the honest truth, as I’m writing this post Charlie is playing with the dollhouse and princesses while wearing her Merida dress up gown. We’re Disney fans in full force now! I

 

A Holiday with Minted

http://www.minted.com/photo-christmas-cards

How is it already November?! The months are flying by, and before you know it 2014 will be gone. As our family gears up for Thanksgiving and the holiday season, I’m trying to get a jump on planning so I’m not so frazzled the closer we get to Christmas. I research gift ideas, work on a menu for those big meals, and this year, I’m checking out adorable holiday cards from Minted. Have you heard of them? They are a great company offering beautiful products.

 

http://www.minted.com/photo-christmas-cards

http://www.minted.com/photo-christmas-cards

http://www.minted.com/photo-christmas-cards

 

It’s going to be so hard for me to choose! There are so many cute designs. And you can bet that they have some really great environmental initiatives. They offer 100% recycled paper, and also partner with Plant It 2020, which focuses on planting trees in non-logging sites. Minted is planting over 100,000 trees in the next 12 months, which counts for roughly 7 times their annual usage. That’s fantastic! If I’m going to be making purchases this holiday season, I’m going to focus on making sure the company I’m supported is both ethical and environmental. Minted definitely fits this bill. But wait! There’s more!

 

Minted also offers fabric by the yard! It’s designed by independent artists and printed on all natural materials in the United States. As someone planning on making more than a few fabric gifts this holiday season, I’m so excited about this!

http://www.minted.com/fabric?of=no&limit=160

MIN-RRJ-NFC-001_A_PD

MIN-TTR-NFC-001_D_PD

I’m already planning out which fabrics I’ll be ordering. Go ahead and check out the awesome offerings over at Minted, and get going on your holiday planning too!

*sponsored post*

DIY Wood Couch Sleeves from Scraps: A How-To

couch sleeve organizer

I think anyone with small children or a home full of animals can attest that furniture always pays the price. My poor couch has seen much better days. We adopted a second kitten this summer, and he likes to hop up on the couch by the armrest. Which meant tiny little tears in the “pleather”. For some reason it was like a magnet for my baby, who ended up tearing off huge chunks of the fabric all over the armrest. It’s so patchy now, and looks horrible.

 

couch-sleeve-snack

To hide the damage as well as prevent more, I decided to try out using up some wood scraps from the Chunky X Dining Table and make a wood sleeve to fit over the armrest. I’ve seen these go for upwards of 70 dollars, but this one was free, and can be built for about $25 with new lumber. I decided to make mine with “pockets” to corral remotes, wipes, coasters, and my e-reader. It’s so handy to have that all available now! Plus it’s a great spot for a snack and a drink. The good thing is that it’s already prevented further damage, so perhaps I can keep up the illusion that the couch is mostly undamaged. Just don’t look at the cushions. Like, at all. Thanks 😉

These supplies are based on my couch arm dimensions, which is roughly 11″ wide. If you have a thinner arm, replace the 1×12 with a thinner board, like a 1×10 or 1×8, or even smaller. If you have a 1×8 or below for the main components, be sure to also size down the 1×8 outer board that makes up the “pocket” portion of the sleeve.

Supplies:
• 1 – 1x12x6′
• 1 – 1x3x4′
• 1 – 1x8x2′
• 1 1/4″ screws and glue

Cut List:
• 3 – 1×12 @ 23″
• 1 – 1×8 @ 23″
• 1 – 1×3 @ 23″
• 3 – 1×3 @ 6 1/4″

 

Step 1

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Start by drilling pocket holes on one side of each side board. Attach onto the top board with screws and glue.

 

Step 2

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Drill pocket holes going in each direction of the 23″ 1×3 board. Use screws and glue to attach it to the 1×8 board.

 

Step 3

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Use pocket holes, screws and glue to add in your 1×3 dividers. You can always add more, if you would like more pockets. I drilled one into the bottom 1×3 and one into the top of the 1×8.

 

Step 4

couch-sleeve-step4

Typically I like to assemble then finish, but since I had such a narrow space I thought it would be wise to finish the piece out separately before assembling the pocket. I decided not to stain the underside completely, I just covered the edges. It stays unexposed. I also went ahead and let the stain cure and followed it up with two coats of polycrylic since I have messy kids. It’s already been great to easily wipe up yogurt spills and errant markers.

 

Step 5

couch-sleeve-step5

Use glue and screws to attach the pocket to the bottom of your sleeve. Then pre-drill a hole and sink in two screws from the inside of your sleeve, into the top of the end of the pocket section. This way no hardware will be exposed, but the pocket is secured at the bottom and top of those end dividers.

 

wood-couch-sleeve

 

That’s it! You’re finished. Slide it over your arm and enjoy your new hang-out spot.

 

Chunky X Base Table: A How-To

chunky x table tutorial

 

There’s something about 4×4 lumber that makes furniture look amazing. Maybe it’s the sturdiness, maybe it’s the shape. Whatever it is, I love it! A friend of mine recently asked me to build her a new dining table, and I was happy to oblige. She liked the X-Base Pedestal table I built my sister, but wanted a rectangular shape with a heftier top. So I edited the plans a bit to make two straight bases with a stretcher, and used some posts around planked 1×12’s for a beautiful, solid table. It’s certainly heavy enough to last a lifetime!

chunky-x-table-base

The base uses the same measurements from Ana’s plan. I decided to use 2×6’s for the top and bottom to make it even more sturdy looking.

chunky-table-hardware

Another nice change this time was splurging on pretty hardware. I used 5″ lag bolts instead of screws, and it really does lend the table a professional feel.

chunky-table-top

The top was quick and easy to put together. I just have three 1×12’s planked together with kreg pocket holes, and used the same pocket holes to attach the posts. Then a few more carriage bolts on the sides help keep the posts together.

chunky-x-table-and-bench

This is such a gorgeous set, and may be one I have to re-create for my own dining room! I was happy to build for a friend, and love that it will have a good life in its new home. Here is the tutorial to build your own:

Supplies:
 3 – 2x6x8
5 – 4x4x8
3 – 1x12x8
1 – 34.5″ 2×4 or other scrap dimensional lumber
44 – 5″ lag bolts, I chose the 1/4″ width
1 1/4″ screws (to plank the top, you’ll need a small box of 50)
2 1/2″ screws (to assemble the bases, about 30)
scrap 3/4″ pieces for spacers on the top, about 30″ long, as well as extras to add stability under the planked boards

 

Cut List:
– 4 – 2×6 @ 30″ cut at 30 degrees off square, not parallel (top and bottom of bases)
– 2 – 2×6 @ 30″ cut at normal 90 degrees (these are spacers for the top of the table)
– 4 – 2×6 @ 6″ (feet)
– 8 – 4×4 @ 13″ cut on 45 degrees off square, not parallel (these make the x shape)
– 2 – 4×4 @ 21 1/4″ (the center of the base)
– 3 – 1×12 @ 73″
– 2 – 4×4 @ 80″
– 2 – 4×4 @ 34.5″ (plank your 1×12’s first, then measure to make sure your 4×4 is an exact fit)
– 1 – 4×4 @ 61″ (stretcher, cut this last, after the whole table is built)

 

So I forgot to take process shots building the base and tops, so I’m using photos from the bench. The steps are the same, the wood will just look a bit off since I was using 2×4’s and 2×2’s. Sorry about that!

 

Step 1:

chunky-x-table-step1Attach the middle post to the center of the 2×6 bases with 2 1/2″ screws and glue through the bottom and top.

 

Step 2

chunky-x-table-step2

Attach your X pieces. Pre-drill holes for your lag bolts, then drill them in with glue. I also used 2 1/2″ screws through the 2×6 for added stability.

 

Step 3

chunky-x-table-step3

Next up you’ll add the feet. I used a 3/4″ spacing from the edge of each angle.

 

Step 4

chunky-x-table-step3b

Flip it over and make sure everything is attached properly. (Hooray! A real base photo) Measure the top and cut your 2×6 thick spacer, and then cut another spacer from scrap 3/4″ thick wood. I used a 1×8. This is so you will be able to see the base once it’s mounted to the top as well as to add height to the table.

chunky-x-table-step4

Here are the bench bases with their single spacer, for an example. Since the 2×2 is smaller than a 4×4, they don’t need the additional 2×6 spacer.

 

Step 5-7

chunky-x-table-step5-7

Attach your 1×12 planks together using glue and pocket holes. You’ll need five pocket holes on each side of two boards (the center doesn’t need any, unless you just want additional support), and then two pocket holes on each end of all three boards. Measure the width of your planked top and cut the two end 4×4’s. Attach them with glue and pocket hole screws. Measure the length (it should be 80″) and cut your two long 4×4 frame pieces. Use the pocket holes and glue to attach them to the sides, then pre-drill and screw in two lag bolts from the sides into the ends. This will keep the table top nice and tight. I decided to also use some 1×4 scraps beneath the table for additional support on the planks, since this table was going to a family with toddlers. I wanted to make sure it could withstand jumping feet! Also, I used a scrap 2×4 cut tot  34.5″ (the width of the planks) and used pocket holes and 2 1/2″ screws to attach it to the side 4×4’s. It’s not technically necessary, but since the table is so long, I wanted the center to have support so it wouldn’t sag under heavy dishes. You could even double or triple this up if you want a really solid top.

 

Step 8

chunky x table tutorial

Place your top over the bases and adjust to the width you prefer. You can slide them all the way to the end, like mine, or you can fit them in a bit so you can seat people comfortably on the ends. Once you have it in place (the bases will fit snugly inside the top – which is why we need the spacers, so you can see the base below the 4×4) measure for your stretcher. Cut the stretcher, then pre-drill for lag bolts and attach with glue and bolts.

To attach the base to the table, I purposely chose a wider 3/4″ scrap board of a 1×8 so I could simply screw in a few 1 1/4″ into the 1×12 planks. That way, if I need to move the table and it won’t fit in the door, I can quickly pop off the top and reattach it without changing the integrity of the joints. Just be sure not to screw in too far or they will pop out the top!

 

And that’s it! This table took about three hours to build, and $200 in supplies for both table and bench. I should have the bench plans up soon, I just need to make up the cut and supply lists. I hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and would love to see some chunky tables built soon!

 

 

SnapPower Winner!

Hey guys! Sorry I’m a tad late announcing the winner, ragweed allergies turned into an infection and I’ve been lying low and healing up for the past few days. And now for the news, the winner is….

Robyn!

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Thank you all for your great tips and comments! I read every last one and filed away some great green methods to start at our house. I have two woodworking tutorials coming up that I’m planning to post this week, so stay tuned! One is a quick and easy fun project, the other, well, it’s a bit bigger…

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Stay tuned for plans! And thank you again for being such amazing readers!

Man Crates and Man Cave Inspiration Roundup

Hello Everyone!

I have such a fun post up today. Have you ever struggled to figure out what gift to get for the man in your life? I know I have. So when I saw these Man Crates Gifts For Men, I knew it was a great idea! Gift baskets have been around for ages, but how about these cool crates? You can choose from several different packages, from jerky to zombie preparedness!

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There’s even sports and personalized gifts. Oh, and the fun part? They arrive in a crate that has to be opened with a crowbar! Much more fun than a plastic wrapped bag, yes? And you can re-use it. I also love that they send crates to men serving overseas, who I know would appreciate the humorous pick-me-up. As a blogger I get a lot of these PR type announcements, but Man Crates really caught my eye. Especially with my husband’s birthday coming up in a few weeks. Which inspired me to dream big, real big, and come up with a total Man Retreat I think he would love. We’ve been talking for months about eventually building a workshop for him that would double as a storm shelter. So I took the liberty of dreaming that we won the lottery and I got to surprise him with what I think would be his dream “Man Cave”. Let’s take a look!

 

Man Cave

Of course, I wanted everything to be sourced as locally as possible, and everything on my list is made in the USA. Starting with the cabin, which would be a kit from WoodTex. I love all the chicken coops and horse barns I see on their Instagram feed, so it would be great to get our own crew out here to build a log-cabin style shed!
I found this awesome liquor bottle chandelier on Etsy, and love that it’s repurposed and has a cool industrial vibe. The John Wayne poster is a nod to the poster he had in his bedroom growing up, which I know he’s dying to hang up somewhere. And if you’ve been on the hunt for a rug made in America, Capel Rugs has a great selection, including this jute number. I’m drawn to this cushy leather recliner from La-Z-Boy, which I recently found out is entirely manufactured in America. Now I know in real life he would probably want camo fabric, but I have standards! I think the idea of a unique end table like this metal drawer cabinet.
My dad found a great vintage wood stove that’s perfect for winter heating, but here is a great source for American made stoves. And while I’m on a vintage kick, this old cabinet radio would be awesome. And since no room would be complete without something handmade, I’m digging this Emerson Console from Ana White. Oh, and in case you were wondering, there ARE still electronics made in the states! These amazing mirror HDTVs are making me drool.
I’m interested to see what my husband thinks about my Man Cave Inspiration. I have a feeling his would be much more low-brow 😉 I am just excited there are still so many categories of products made here in the US.

SnapPower Review and Giveaway

I am so excited to share this amazing new product with you today! If you’ve been reading my blog for the past few months, you’ll notice that I have been focusing on ways to “go green” and be a more conscious consumer. I’ve been contacted to do reviews and giveaways for a lot of different products, but have turned them down since they didn’t really mesh well with my lifestyle. That was until the amazing folks at SnapPower sent me an email asking me to take a peek at their website. I am SO glad I did!

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You’re probably thinking, “Um…Brooke that’s just an outlet cover. What’s so special about that?” Well, what makes it special is that this simple little cover goes from this…

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To this!

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That’s right! They’re NIGHTLIGHTS! They are outlet covers with LED lights built right in, so you don’t lose a socket to your night light. And in the example above, they’re great for kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, well, everywhere! I see those battery-sucking under-cabinet lights in stores, and though they seem handy I never really liked the plastic, or the cords, or that you push them on and off. With these, I can just pop in a new outlet cover and have automatic backsplash lighting with NO hard wiring required! Plus there is a tiny little sensor that will turn the lights on when it’s dark, and off when it’s light so that you aren’t wasting any power or life-hours on the LEDs. Isn’t that amazing? They’re also ridiculously simple to install. You just unscrew your old cover, press in your new one, add the screw and bam! Light! Want to know the best part? It only costs TEN CENTS A YEAR to operate! And it lasts twenty five years! I’m so pumped about that. It works on all standard outlets (not GFCI) so you really can put them anywhere.

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I kid you not, these are amazing. I put one in my toddler’s room, since her nightlight has already burnt out once, and plug space is at a premium what with sound machines and humidifiers. I also added one in the nursery, and I’m grateful that I did! I’m still feeding my one year old at least two or three times overnight, and it’s nice to have a dim, unobtrusive nightlight that I don’t have to remember to turn on and off. Because let me tell you, it’s never any fun when I forget to turn the nightlight on at bed time and have to fumble around with my phone’s flashlight trying to not shine the baby in the face while I’m getting her out of the crib!

 

I’m already planning to order several more for my kitchen, to make that long walk from my bedroom to the nursery a bit less, um, painful. It will be so nice to be able to find my way without bumping into things or leaving on a brighter light to waste energy. Because who can beat ten cents a year? I urge you to head on over to SnapPower and take a look. And of course, enter the giveaway to win an LED outlet cover of your very own! Enter by sharing your favorite “going green” tip, and follow SnapPower’s Facebook and Twitter for extra entries!
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Sliding Door with Hidden Hardware: An Experiment

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I was lucky enough to go to Round Top for the fall antique shows earlier this month, and WOAH! That place is so intense! It was only an hour and a half drive away, so I think I’ll have to make it a bi-annual trip for sure. I saw so many amazing things, and happened onto this beautiful solid wood old door that just-so-happened to fit perfectly over the opening for our bathroom linen closet. I was thinking of ways I could mount it, with exposed hinges like our vintage pantry door and office closet door…

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But there wasn’t really enough room to add a swinging door in the tight bathroom space. I decided it should slide, but what kind of hardware? Should I do the barn door track like the one in our old home?

 

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Or the pipe and wheels from our current large office sliding door?

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I decided no on both of those, because I didn’t want to have a theme going on, other than my love of old doors of course! I thought I would try out something new. Something crazy. Something like…

sliding-door-hidden-hardware-openDrawer slides! I know, weird right? But so far it totally works! Our door opening was 24.5″ wide, so I purchased heavy-duty full-extension side mount 24″ drawer slides. They’re rated to hold 100 pounds, which is twice the weight of this door. I cut a scrap cedar 2×2 board to fit in the lower part of the door opening and attached it with pocket holes and 3″ screws. Then I mounted the drawer slides to the front of the door opening at the top and bottom, and to the back of the door. It took a lot of fighting and fumbling with it to get it up, but I was able to all by myself!

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I love my “magic door”! It’s so nice that the hardware is completely hidden when the door is closed. And it slides so easily to open, it’s lovely.

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One thing I (and you, if you look closely at that top left corner) noticed is that it does sag if left open. I’m also concerned about the potential of it falling forward off the rails. I’m thinking about mounting a bracket on the top to keep it in place, and possibly a small castor on that lower left edge. I haven’t fully decided yet. Right now I just encourage everyone to KEEP THE DOOR CLOSED PLEASE AND THANK YOU! Which is a good idea anyway because that closet is always a total mess.

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I want to emphasize that this project is still firmly in the experimental testing stage, so I can’t give a recommendation as to whether you should do this in your own home. I just figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it out myself, and see if this crazy idea holds up over time. I will most definitely come back with updates, after a month of use, a year of use, and hopefully beyond! All I can say is right now, it’s working and doesn’t show any sign of falling off. But that could easily change.

On a lighter note, now I want to do something really fun with paint on that other door. Chalkboard? Decorative mural? Patterned paper? I just know that the white next to that pale yellow looks funky, like I tried to match them but couldn’t, or one door just got dingy. I’m looking forward to having some fun!

 






 

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