Zero Waste Bulk Shopping at HEB

zero waste grocery shopping

This Zero Waste thing sounds good in theory, but how can you take the principles and easily adapt it into your every day life? That’s the challenge, and today I’m here to help with one of the biggest offenders of packaging and single-use plastics: The Grocery Store. Just think about it. They have handy little plastic baggies to separate and weigh vegetables. Sometimes they even have each individual vegetable vacuum packed in it’s own plastic! Meat comes on styrofoam platters wrapped in plastic, which takes over ONE MILLION YEARS to decompose. Yes, one million. I wish I had learned that little fact earlier in life so I could have avoided it sooner! Things just continue down the line as you progress further down your grocery list. Boxed pastas, bagged flours, individual containers sold in larger groups. Then you get to the checkout and things are placed into plastic sacks for easier carrying. Do you know how many of those bags are recycled? Less than 5%. Considering we as Americans consume over 100 BILLION bags per year, that’s a lotta bags in the landfill. I like to save the ones that cycle through our house, but over time I hope to completely eliminate plastic bags from our home and use completely. Anyway, you get the picture. Conventional grocery shopping practices are incredibly wasteful, and over time we’ve adapted to it since it’s the only thing we’ve known how to shop. I grew up with the bags, and boxes, and cans. But! Here are a few very easy ways we can do things differently to make BIG changes.

 

 

First up: the reusable bag. I know, I know, I forget them sometimes too. But I’m able to do all my shopping in just four bags, which get wiped down or washed in between uses. I haven’t had to use plastic bags from the grocery store in over a month since taking more time to plan out my trips. I have a few different cloth bags collected over time (you know the drill, from handouts, conventions, random goody bags and such) but you can also try to source eco-friendly commercial bags or totes, or even make your own from worn out fabrics and belts! Even produce bags. I decided to go with these Earthwise produce bags to completely cut out the flimsy plastics when I’m grabbing mushrooms or peas. There’s also a lot of great tutorials on how to make them from old t-shirts. But you’ve all heard about reusable bags for a while now. Let’s move on to the fun stuff!

 

The Bulk Section.

heb-montrose-bulk

Image from Swamplot

Most HEB stores will have a bulk section. I’ve also seen them at Brookshire Brothers, and other grocers in Texas. You may be wondering, why should I buy in bulk? Well this is where you’ll want to go to reduce your packaging consumption. You can also adjust your sizes and not be tied down into whatever portion the manufacturers decided for you. So, if you need one cup of beans, you get one cup of beans. If you only think you’ll use a tablespoon of some random, obscure spice, you can get that! The bulk sections vary, but they tend to have a wide selection of spices, nuts, beans, grains, and treats. I can usually find gluten-free flours like coconut, almond, and even arrowroot. There are so many different organic and natural options too! I can’t usually find organic beans in the aisles, but they’re here in the bulk section. Along with raw nuts, which are great for paleo eaters because I can make my own preservative-free almond milk and cashew cream. This does require a bit of planning, because I need to pack jars and reusable baggies for weighing and storing. So now I make my list and pack my “grocery kit” the night before, which has my bags, produce bags, jars, and weighing baggies as well as a wax pencil for any marking I may need to do.

Things work a bit differently than some other stores, and it took some trial and error to find a good system. At first, I weighed my jars, marked them, filled them, re-weighed them and marked the filled weight then subtracted the tare and wrote and circled the net weight. Um…yeah. Not only was that a lot of math, but the cashiers and managers HATED me. I still feel bad about that. I’m notorious at the Dripping Springs store as “That Hippie Girl” who lost them a whole bunch of money one day when the cashier gave up in exasperation and just entered in random numbers for all my bulk goods. So, don’t be like Newbie Me. I was learning my way. Now, however, this is my “Manager Approved” method:

bulk-step1

 

First I fill up my jar with the item I need. This time it was black pepper. (please excuse my horrible photos, but I didn’t also want to add “that weirdo blog girl” to my reputation with a big camera taking photos in the bulk section, so I just sneakily snapped pics with my phone) I bring my own reusable bag. This is a Neat-Os bag, which is pretty darn awesome (and means I don’t have to buy zip lock bags ever again!) Now I’ll be honest with you. The tare weight of the plastic baggies is .001 and my Neat-Os bag is .004 so there is a tiny, tiny difference in price. If you are a stickler for saving money, you can pick up one of the provided plastic bags and reuse it for all your bulk weights and bring it home and wash it to use next time. But I find that difference to be so minuscule that I would rather go with my easy, more durable Neat-Os. If I’m weighing larger items like chocolate chips or nuts, I just use the lighter produce bag. Okay, moving on.

bulk-step2

 

I pour the contents of the jar into the bag. Why? Because it’s obviously lighter in the jar. And while it may seem like it makes sense to just fill and weigh the bag, THEN pour, I want to make sure I have the correct amount in the jar first and it isn’t over or under filled. So, I fill the bag, enter the code, weigh it, and put the printout sticker on my jar. There’s just no way out of the stickers at these stores, sadly. It’s the only way the cashiers can ring up the purchases because they would have to add the weight of your jar at the register. But a small piece of paper that can biodegrade is better than a larger baggie, so I take what I can get at the moment. Once that’s finished, I pour the contents back into the jar from the bag, and then start over with my next item.

Now, you may need to bring a few bags to prevent cross-contamination. I try to plan things in order and do solid items like beans first, then flours, then spices. It takes a few tries to figure out the system that works for you. But don’t be discouraged! Once you get into the swing of things it goes by very quickly and you’re no longer spending an hour in the bulk section 😉

 

The Meat Section:

heb-meat-market-services-250X194

 

Now as I mentioned before, most of the meat sits in coolers on display, where you casually walk by and grab pre-packaged goods. In an effort to A) eat better quality food and B) reduce my consumption of packaging and styrofoam, I decided to stop first at the meat market to get individual cuts. Now, Bea recommends bringing glass containers and asking them to put the meat into the glass instead of the paper. But I haven’t called up the courage for that just yet, so I have the meat packed in freezer paper which I then toss into our “dirty” compost pile out back to decompose. (note: I don’t use meat-tainted materials in my garden. It’s more like an open-air recycling area where things can break down without being packed into a landfill) Sometimes I can’t avoid the packaged meats, but I’m trying to work out alternative sources for them. We’ve already run out of our home-raised chicken, so occasionally I buy a package at the store. You don’t have to go all-or-nothing on your first round with Zero Waste. I’m treating it as a process. We are striving to go completely packaging-free, but in the mean time I’m not being heavy-handed about it. This is just supposed to provide a jumping off point for others who are also interested in bringing Zero Waste practices into their homes. It can be intimidating and overwhelming to try and find an answer for every problem right away. So this is a learn-as-we-go blog series. I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into the methods of my new madness, and hopefully it inspired you to make a few changes in your grocery shopping trips as well!

 




Sleeping Beauty Diamond Edition Celebration and Giveaway!

With no encouragement from me, my toddler has become a Disney Princess. Full stop. So we’ve been watching many of the classic Disney movies, with favorites like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. But one film we don’t have yet, but are anticipating the release, is Sleeping Beauty. To celebrate the upcoming release, I participated in a fabulous giveaway with Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. I was tasked with choosing a few Princess themed products for the perfect little princess bedroom along with several other bloggers and these were curated into a prize pack that will please any little lady in your life. I encourage you to enter and check out Sleeping Beauty when it releases next week!

Sleeping Beauty

Why We Love our Rainbow Play System

rainbow play system

 

When we moved to our new home, we moved more into the country than into another subdivision. Our kids have dozens of acres to eventually roam, but it’s not close to any playgrounds. At our old home, we lived in a subdivision near parks within walking distance, and that was a lot of fun for us. But now, going to the park means packing up both kids and driving over 10 miles away. Which isn’t very sustainable in the long run. So when my mom brought up the idea of a swing set for the girls to grow up with, I jumped on it! I spent a little time researching different options, and found a Rainbow Play Systems dealer in the nearby town of New Braunfels.

 

homefield showroom

 

We started out by visiting the “showroom”, which was like heaven for Charlie! And somewhat of a nightmare for me because holy cow some of those systems are TALL! But she ran around playing on all the different styles while my mom and I sat with Caroline on a picnic table and leafed through the catalog. We asked several questions, because they have a few different “levels” when it comes to their systems. There is the bottom tier, which is new, and not something I was interested in. The wood was from China and while it was manufactured somewhat in the US, it’s not truly made here. The reason I chose Rainbow over a cheaper set from a big box store was because their higher tiers use native redwoods, quality sealing products, and are fully manufactured in the USA. The cost is higher, but the quality is much better and the end result means a swingset that will pretty much last for life. Their swing chains are all coated, their hardware is as well, and overall it’s just an incredibly solid, durable set.

 

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.23.03 PM

 

They’re also chicken friendly 😉 You can see the coating on the swing chains in this photo. Another reason I loved this system was that it’s so customizable. Did we want a wooden roof or a fabric one? Monkey bars, yes or no? (no for us, sorry kids, I’ll keep those bones unbroken! haha) Even the trapeze bars! We decided to take out the bar on the back and use that space for an infant swing, which Caroline definitely appreciates!

 

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We spent about a week studying the catalog and deciding on the basic system we wanted. We chose the Sunshine Clubhouse Package II, the 49B spacesaver. It has more than enough to keep the kids entertained for hours, and heck, even our dogs and chickens! They like to climb up into the clubhouse for a great lookout spot. It’s fabulous when it comes to barking at the cows. Promise. We made several changes to the original setup, and love what we ended up with. So far it’s survived its first blistering Texas summer unscathed. I’m looking forward to fall when we can play outside all day and not just at dusk.

 

So if you’re in the market for a swing set, I highly recommend taking a look at Rainbow, either at a dealer or searching your local sales boards for someone looking to re-home theirs. They also have a Facebook page.

 

 

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Our dealer sent out an email that a review on the system in exchange for their chalkboard learning system, which I was planning to purchase as a Christmas gift. And since I’ve been planning a review, it was perfect timing! I stand by this product and would 100% purchase it again. As well as plan on purchasing other accessories in the future, like that really fun looking see-saw swing!

 

 

Scrap Pile Presents for a Zero Waste Birthday

pig and deer critter chairs

 

Both of my girls have a birthday at harvest season, and I had such a great time making presents for them this year. To challenge myself even further, I decided to focus on using materials I already had to make really fun, useful gifts. One of the basic “rules” of Zero Waste is to eliminate not only packaging, but to minimize your consumption of plastics and other mass produced toys and items. Basically, try to focus more on your needs, and look for fewer, quality possessions that focus on ethical and ecological production methods. So, that meant staying out of the toy aisles with their factory produced junk, and hand making gifts. For Caroline, who turns one this week, I decided to fill out our Critter Chair set and make her two animal stools: a little deer and a piggy. I looooove the deer! I was a bit worried the antlers would either be too insubstantial to provide a backrest, or look too clunky to be believable antlers. I’m so glad I was wrong! The look very cute, and I think they could even be bulked up a bit at the base and center to make moose antlers. If you’re interested in building your own, I have a tutorial for them here.

 

Greta rag dolls

 

For the second half of her presents from mama, I made her four of these precious Greta dolls. I purchased the pattern as a digital pdf on Etsy from Retromama. She also has a Hans pattern that I bought as well, for gifts later on. Plus like six other patterns I’ve bookmarked, you need to check out her shop! Anyway, the only materials I needed to buy were felt for the hair and shoes, and a skin-toned cotton. I chose felt that was eco-friendly and made in America, and surprisingly found at WalMart of all places. I decided to try out the “old-school” method of filling these rag dolls with, well, rags. And it really did work! Two of these dolls were filled with leftover PolyFill, and two with fabric scraps. Can you tell which? I bet it will surprise you! I decided that from now on I’ll only use scraps to fill the dolls, as they felt much more durable than their puffy counterparts. It’s a great feeling to watch my once-huge scrap stash diminish down to almost nothing, as well as help out other sewers shrink their stashes! I made four of these dolls, each inspired by a different season. The Autumn doll uses scraps from the baby sling I made and carry Caroline around in since birth.

 

play food donuts

 

Charlie, however, got a lot of play food! I made these donuts by cutting circles out of a scrap fence picket with my jigsaw. I used a belt sander to get them smooth and to make the edges look more handcrafted. Then I painted them with some soy-based craft paints found at Hobby Lobby. They are so stinkin’ cute!

 

play-petit-fours

 

I also used up some pieces of 2×2 leftover from other projects to make petit fours, which are a big hit around here. Apparently cake is popular with toddlers, who knew?

 

play-breakfast

 

One of our favorite things to do together is to make pancakes on Sundays, so I whipped up a little breakfast kit at the last minute. Using som old 1/4″ ply, I cut circles for pancakes and then irregular circular shapes for syrup and fried eggs. The syrup and pancakes have iron-on velcro so they can detach.

 

play-roast-chicken

 

This roast chicken set is possibly my favorite of all the play food! I found something similar online, and used a piece of 2×6 for the center and freehanded the shape, cutting with my jigsaw. Then scrap 1×4’s became the wings and drumsticks. A little more iron-on velcro and voila! A wooden play roasted chicken to practice cutting.

 

play-pup-tent

 

Lastly, daddy decided to whip up a quick pup-tent using scrap wood and Ana White’s simple plans. We had these Mexican blankets sitting around in my parents’ storage area, doing basically nothing. Wouldn’t you know, they’re the perfect fit! We stapled them on, and once again had a no-cost, no-purchase gift that my little girls love.

 

And that finishes up the round up of this year’s Presentpalooza! We spent (almost) nothing but time and sweat to make thoughtful, adorable presents for our 3 year old and 1 year old. It required more thought and planning than simply popping into the store and plopping down a few bucks, but I’m so glad we did. I think they’ll enjoy these gifts for years to come, and it’s so amazing to hear Charlie tell her friends “Mommy and Daddy made me this!” with excitement. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

 

 



Zero Waste 2015

zero waste shopping materials

 

Over the past several months, I have expressed my desire toward different homesteading ventures. Gardening, raising meat chickens, preserving and building have been on my radar for quite some time now. It’s just been over the last year or so that I’ve begun to execute those goals. Yet it still seemed a bit scattered, in my head. It didn’t seem like the articles I read or people I followed espoused all the different facets of “going green” that I was interested in. Then I found out about the Zero Waste movement. Have you heard of it? It’s fantastic! I purchased Zero Waste Home on my eReader, and encourage everyone to check it out as well. Basically the author strives for a zero waste lifestyle, which means eliminating all packaging like single-use plastics and not buying into the consumerism of today’s society.

 

garden-plan

I was so inspired by Bea’s writing that I decided we were going to do it. How could we not? We’re already halfway there! I’ve been cloth diapering for almost two years now, and we haven’t had paper towels since we moved to our new home. I feel like I’ve been slowly making my way over to Zero Waste before I even knew there was a name for it. So, what does this mean for the blog? Well, the focus will basically stay the same. I’m still going to build and write about our projects. Because of course building your own furniture is economical and ecological. I also plan to write more about our self-sufficient adventures, like gardening (that’s my garden diagram above, with over 50 varieties!). And the new aquaponics setup we are currently building. We’re paving the way to providing most of the food we require ourselves, and I think that’s a great journey to chronicle. But it’s not necessarily one everyone can feasibly do, so I want to cover other things. Things like…

 

fabric scrap rag dolls

 

Making holiday gifts out of scrap materials. These rag dolls are gifts for Caroline’s first birthday, and I used fabric remnants along with some new, made in the USA eco-friendly felt and stuffed them with tiny scraps of fabric and all those unmatched baby socks that seem to multiply. I’m really excited to share about these!

 

stevia-extract

 

Making my own pantry staples that used to be all store-bought and full of preservatives. Like this stevia extract I’m steeping with my home-grown organic stevia plant and local vodka. I have several great recipes and tricks I’ve found online, so I think a regular round-up post would be beneficial.

 

freezer-mealsfreezer-meals

 

Freezer cooking, and making my own “ingredients” like enchilada sauce and tomato paste. And of course the hardest part, Zero Waste Shopping. I’ve been hitting up the bulk aisles and toting my recycled jars to and from the grocery store long enough now that I feel I can share my methods.

 

So, there you have it! A new, bright focus for Killer b. Designs that truly has me fired up again. I have been struggling for a while with the consumerism of DIY blogging, as well as sponsor partnerships that didn’t seem to mesh with my new personal goals. I’m very excited about the months to come.

 

 

 




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Getting Into Routine with Stinkerpants Magnets

stinkerpants-logo

Anyone with a toddler (or older children!) can tell you that transitions are difficult. Routine can be hard to establish, and every day can be a challenge. Even the little things. Especially the little things! You may be familiar with Weddingbee, the wedding planning blog I participated in four – whoa four! – years ago before my wedding. Well one of my fellow bees started a business selling charts and magnets to help little ones settle into new things and accomplish goals and tasks. Sounds great right? Well it is!

 

charlies-magnet-chart

 

Stinkerpants is an organizing solution for children provided through magnets and charts. For Charlie, who just turned three, I chose a reward chart and a morning/evening routine chart. The most difficulty we have is getting ready for bed, followed by a close second of getting ready for her Kids Day Out program twice a week, which starts up again in just a few days!

 

stinkerpants morning evening routine magnet chart

 

The best part is that the sets aren’t one-size-fits-all, you can choose any magnets you like! I went with the ones that followed our routine, which are pretty basic. But instead of books before bed, we sing songs together, which is what the music notes stand for. These magnets have changed our lives! From struggling every morning to get ready for school, and fighting tantrums every night, we’ve gone from a fun, playful routine because my daughter is excited to move each magnet into place.

 

stinkerpants reward chart magnets

 

The reward chart, though, is my favorite. During potty training, we tried out candy first, and it quickly spiraled out of control. I hated using food as a bribe, especially sugary sweets. Then we tried stickers, but I hated all that waste. So it was perfect to find these magnets! They’re reusable, durable, and fun. I had a great time picking out the rewards, and the images make them flexible for their meanings. Obviously the lollipop is a sweet, and the tablet is for iPad time, but the puzzle could mean a trip to the museum, the tv could be going to the movies, and the rainbow could mean an outdoor activity like the zoo. Once she fills up a row she earns that activity. So far we’ve done great with the potty and staying in bed, and that’s awesome! We’re still working hard on putting toys away and cleaning up.

 

IMG_4978

 

As far as placement, I rigged up a magnet board inside her closet so it’s easy to access, but can be closed up during the day so baby sister doesn’t accidentally try to eat one or something. I used some scrap flashing my dad had lying around in his shop, and some quarter round trim from the barn. Easy, no-cost, and simple to assemble! I just pre-drilled holes and attached the flashing with 1/4″ screws and the quarter round with 1 1/4″ screws right into the plywood door. It’s not going anywhere!

 

back-to-school-magnets

 

Sara just introduced a new weekly calendar that’s perfect for schedules full of activities, and I can’t wait to order some! Charlie has recently started picking up on days of the week and what they mean for her, and it will be even more important once she starts back up with her KDO program as well as music and dance classes.

So if you’ve been struggling with your toddler, or know someone with a pre-schooler (or even grade schooler!) check out Stinkerpants and check out her amazing magnet solutions.

 

 

Disclaimer: I was provided the magnets and charts free of charge in order to test them out and give a review. All opinions are my own, and I am very much looking forward to buying a calendar magnet set as well!

Our First Attempt at Raising Chickens for Meat

meat chicken harvest day

 

I have a 10 Year Plan. It’s nothing fancy, but it is a big one. In 10 years I want to be able to provide all the food our family needs from home. Last year was my first garden, and this year is my first “big” garden. Yet while the herbivore side is being taken care of, what about the carnivore portion of our diet? Previously we relied on venison my husband shot during hunting season, along with some wild hog here and there, and then shopped for chicken and pork. But that just isn’t enough anymore. In order to cover *all* our previous grocery store bases, we needed to try our hand at chickens. I didn’t want to replicate the CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), I wanted to grow happy, healthy chickens that were free for their brief lives. Here is a quick rundown of what the past three months were like:

delaware-meat-chickens

 

We started with 10 Buff Orpington chicks, 10 Delaware chicks, and 8 Cornish Rocks (it’s half of what the Cornish Cross breed is, designed to grow well for meat but not so quickly their legs break and their organs/quality of life suffer).

Otomi Stencil on Chalkboard with Liquid, Paintable, Washable Chalk

cutting edge stencils otomi closet doors

 

Does anyone else have a toddler girl obsessed with Frozen? I’m guessing yes! Charlie is obsessed with all things Anna and Elsa. When I saw this Otomi Cutting Edge Stencil design, I had the absolutely perfect idea in mind for where to put it! It’s been over a year (yikes!) since I’ve drawn anything on Charlie’s chalkboard closet doors, so why not give them a fresh look? Bonus points for a design that’s very Frozen-esque! She told me they looked just like Elsa’s door, while she was hugging them. I’m serious. She was so happy with her new doors that she hugged them.

 

otomi-closet-full

 

So, you might be thinking, how does one use a stencil on chalkboard? Does it involve lots of tedious tracing and coloring, taking hours of work? Nope. No it sure doesn’t. It involves a rather ingenious recipe from Crystelle Boutique.

ef186840b12b7bda48063ce52f181444

 

I was a bit nervous at first, what with the whole latex paint thing. That stuff isn’t exactly known to be very washable. But you know what? It WORKS! Like magic! It’s fantastic. I mixed up the amount in her tutorial (about 2 cups of paint) which was more than enough for this project. I poured it into a paint tray and used the small roller that came with the stencil. The stencil was about 5″ wider than my doors, which made things slightly difficult because of the raised wood framing them. Should I bend it? Cut it? I was hesitant to potentially damage such a quality stencil, I have so many other great projects in mind for this design! In the end, I decided to enlist my husband’s help as an extra holder so I could get a flat seal on the doors. I also didn’t use any adhesive on the back to hold it in place, because I didn’t want to have a residue that might impede chalk usage down the road. I really, really love how it all turned out!

chalkboard-stencil

 

It’s so cute! The edges are clean, without being too sharp. I still wanted things to look like traditional chalk, as if I were a master chalk artist on the sly 😉

chalkboard-stencil-detail

This is actually the closest to the true color of the liquid chalk. I used a color called “butter mint” for the paint, and it works well with her yellow room. the edges are just a touch fuzzy, which I love. If you want a sharper edge, make sure your stencil is flat across the entire surface and steady on the wall.

 

Now let’s talk about that whole washable thing. It says you can wipe it off, but can you really? Will I be standing there with a scrub brush for an hour trying to wipe it all down? Nope!

stencil-drip

See that drip? I got a bit messy on my hand-drawn scroll detail to fill up the gap at the bottom of the door. I waited until it was good and dry to fully test things out (over 24 hours) then wet a rag and gave it a quick scrub.

stencil-clean

The drip is gone! It rubbed right off without damaging the chalkboard paint below. I’m so excited! It’s such a great way to use up leftover paints (and lingering cornstarch) and opens up a whole new world of chalkboard designs. Did you know that Cutting Edge Stencils has a new line of smaller stencils? They say they’re for greeting cards, but they would be so fun on little chalkboards!

cutting edge stencils card stencil line

 

 

And of course there’s still all of their amazing larger wall stencils. So if you have a chalkboard in your life, take a fresh new look at it and consider painting on a chalk stencil!

otomi-stencil-chalkboard

*disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. Cutting Edge Stencils provided their stencil in exchange for a review.

 

I Took the Made in USA Challenge, Will You?

masterlist2

Happy “Made in the USA Day” everyone! According to my Facebook feed (where all the hard-hitting news is, donchaknow) it’s Made in the USA Day, celebrating products and brands made in America. In our home, we’ve been striving to be more mindful of our consumption and waste. For my New Year Resolution, I decided to take the Made in USA Challenge. Care to hear the “rules“?

Look for items made in the United States first. If what you’re looking for can’t be found, then research companies who have ethical and sustainable business practices. Another great option is to buy used. The goal of the entire project is to be more mindful of ALL of your purchases.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying everything made overseas is bad or should be avoided. But we as a family have been inundated with so much “stuff” on a daily basis that we needed a good way to step back and readjust. By choosing companies and products that manufacture in our home country, we can support healthy working conditions, environmentally responsible practices, and a lower carbon footprint with less shipping. I try to source as many local items as possible.

Yes, it can be more expensive at times. But this helps us not fall victim to the shopaholic addiction. Do we need 20 different sippy cups? No. We only need 4. It means more washing, but that’s okay. I don’t need to constantly update my wardrobe with all the latest fashions. If I would like a fresh look, I try to find a great graphic tee from a local artist.

This has been such a freeing experience! There are more selections than I originally thought there would be, like Lodge cast iron and Fiestaware dishes. I do have to take more time to research a company, but it helps prevent me from making impulse purchases. Overall, our spending hasn’t increased, I just buy fewer quality items.

I encourage you to take a look at the Master List, and check out the companies who manufacture the products you buy. It’s such a great feeling to know I’m supporting companies I believe in.

 

Saving Alaska with Ana White on HGTV

saving alaska logo

Have you heard the news? Ana White, homemaker extraordinaire, has a new show on HGTV! It premiered last week with two pilot episodes. I finally got a chance to head over to my mom’s house to watch the recorded shows (we cut the cable cord 18 months ago, so I’ve been sadly lacking in HGTV). I can tell you without a doubt, it was AMAZING! I loved it. It’s probably my favorite new show on tv. I had the great pleasure of meeting Ana on her book tour a couple of years ago, and can say that she truly is that genuine and enjoyable in person. It’s been so much fun to work with her on plans for the past few years, as well as build the ones she’s worked on with others!

 

But the best part? I love how involved her family is with the show. As a mom of a toddler and baby myself, it’s incredibly refrishing, if not jaw-droppingly inspiring, to see her wear her son in a baby carrier and tote him around on the job site. It’s such a strong message for women, to not only see a woman working with power tools and building amazing furniture and rooms, but to also see a mom doing all these things with young children in tow. I just loved that! It goes to show that the work/life balance can truly exist for the modern woman. Even one wielding a hammer!

saving-alaska-screencapture

 

So if you’re looking for a great new show to watch, tune in to Saving Alaska. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they network picks up a full season and more episodes will be aired soon!

 

*This is not a sponsored post. Simply one mom’s enthusiastic recommendation for some quality entertainment!*





 

 

Toddler Animal Stool Painting Ideas

Welcome to new readers from Domino Magazine! I feel ridiculously honored to be featured in their article today with the “big dogs” in the DIY blogging world. I’m still pinching myself. Anyway, back to business.

Remember these DIY Toddler Animal Stools I built last year?

animal-toddler-stools

 

I’ve had a flurry of “orders” from friends requesting their own, and have had so much fun coming up with new ways to paint them. This little raccoon for a birthday party is probably my favorite.diy toddler raccoon chair

 

Followed by this tiny tiger, for another birthday.

 

tiger-chair

 

 

A puppy for Charlie’s Christmas present.

 

puppy-chair

 

A pony (or donkey?) for a friend’s little girl.

horse-chair

 

And a frog for a boy.

frog-chair

 

Admittedly my cow needs a little work. I’m working on some horn ideas.

cow-chair

These stools are amazing little gifts. Less than $5 in lumber, and a few hours time to build, sand and paint and you have a unique gift sure to impress!

 

 



Building San Bernard with Tilson: The After Photos

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In May of 2012, we began work with Tilson to build their San Bernard plan on our property outside of Austin, Texas. It is a 2331 sq ft plan, with 3 br / 2.5 ba and a bonus room. This was an 80% build, which meant they fully finished the exterior, and took the interior up to the texture on the drywall. We were responsible for finishing out the home ourselves, which included: utilities (well, electric, septic & gas), paint (we hired a local contractor, Martin DeLeon who I highly recommend), flooring (another contractor, stained concrete by Artistic Impressions who I also highly recommend), plumbing fixtures, tiling (we hired a friend to do this for us using tile purchased at Lowes), cabinetry, appliances, electrical fixtures, interior doors, trim, closet organizers, and landscaping (contracted to Debbie of Sagebrush Landscaping). It’s now May of 2014 and it’s finally to the point I can take “after photos”.

Replacing the Vintage Sink with IKEA’s Domsjo Sink

ikea-domsjo-sink

 

 

Back when I was planning out my kitchen, my heart was set on a vintage cast iron sink. I searched Craigslist for months looking for just the right one. And I thought I found it. It was $50, and had a bit of rust damage, but my FIL recommended a guy he worked with (he’s a professional plumber) who refinishes cast iron. So I paid $225 to get it refinished. It looked stunning, for about two months. Then it started doing this:

sink-damage

 

The “new finish” was chipping and flaking and mold started growing beneath it. It was turning brown and smelling. The drain often clogged and dishes piled up. My husband loathed it. After months of pestering me, I finally agreed to get a new sink and take this one out. I will be honest, I cried a little. I really liked this sink! My compromise was that we would be keeping the wall-mount faucet. I needed that much, at least.

sink-demo1

 

We started by taking out the old sink. Some of the paint came with it, as you can see. We decided on the IKEA domsjo double bowl sink. The catch was even though the overall dimensions are shorter than the vintage sink, the actual bowl size was significantly larger. It would be more than a simple quick change. I had to take out my veggie bin, move the refrigerator, remove the countertop, and move both cabinets 9 inches to the left. We built a custom base from scrap wood to be hidden behind the curtain. After dry-fitting the sink, I re-attached the cabinets to the wall and we measured for the new countertop cuts. The old sink was a drop in, and the new one was not. So we cut the counters and set them in place.

sink-demo2

 

The connections would be an issue though. As you can tell, the plumbers were quite enthusiastic. To keep my wall mounted faucet (and to limit just how much renovation we would tackle) I made a faux backsplash to cover the holes and paint damage until we decided on either a full-wall backsplash, or a custom order ceramic piece to fit behind the sink.

kitchen-domsjo-sink3

 

There was a surprising amount of work involved to fix everything up so it looked nice again. I needed to add face trim to the new base (which was made with barn wood, so not a match at all!), we had to re-route the plumbing and install new drains, we added a disposal (yay!) and needed to extend the lines for the reverse osmosis filter and dishwasher. Then there was the caulking, cleaning up the caulking, sanding down the imprints of the old sink on the counters and re-sealing them, and the backsplash. So more steps than I thought, but it only took a week of working on and off. I’m very happy with the switch, it was definitely worth it!

kitchen-domsjo-sink5

 

As far as the veggie cabinet, I decided to hack it up and rebuild it rather than do something new. I had about 6″ of space left. It was built with pocket holes, so I simply removed the screws and used the same sides. I used the table saw to slice the back board in half and the chop saw to halve the shelves. It made for the perfect wine cubby! I have 10 slots for bottles, and a taller top that’s the perfect size for glasses.

 

kitchen-domsjo-sink6

 

I’m very pleased with how the sink looks with a wall-mounted faucet. I won’t lie though, it’s not a perfect solution for this huge sink. But I had to keep the aesthetic I fell in love with, and it works for me. The faucet reaches about 1/4 of the way into each bowl, so I can still fill up big pots and clean the sinks. To fill the original faucet hole, I grabbed a soap pump kit at Lowes specifically for this person. I love this little thing! It’s so handy. I use it for hand soap since I also enjoy my Fiesta dish soap pump my sister gave me to match my dishes.

DIY Organic Play Makeup for Pennies

organic play makeup for pennies

 

My oldest daughter is nearing three years old, and has recently discovered the joys of Mommy’s “make ups”. Yet even though I strive to buy natural, organic products, when I was looking at the ingredients there were still so many things I couldn’t recognize. Did I really want this stuff going into my daughter’s mouth and eyes? Heck, did I want it going into my own mouth and eyes? Not really. So I did some digging in the treasure trove that is Pinterest, and cobbled together an idea from other methods using conventional products like vaseline and corn starch. My method has TWO all-natural ingredients. And it’s so easy you can whip up a palette of colors in an afternoon for pennies! Here’s what I did (and I apologize for no process photos, this was an experiment that I haven’t repeated yet because it made so darn much that we won’t need more play makeup for 20 years!)

Ingredients:

Taking a Break, and Readjusting

Wow, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I didn’t plan to take such a long, unannounced blogging break. I’ve been having a bit of burnout for a while now, trying to figure out exactly what blogging meant for me. Did it mean income? Sharing? Validation? I felt myself trying to fit into the DIY Blogger mold and found I enjoyed the experience less and less. It wasn’t until having my second daughter that I decided to just take a step back and let it breathe for a little while. I’ve still been busy though, plugging away on the house (I’m *thisclose* to taking “finished” photos to post in a series about building the San Bernard plan from Tilson) and fun builds for friends.

raccoon critter chair killerbdesigns

I’ve been doing several “Critter Chairs” as I’ve been calling them. Free plans for them here.

 

I also decided to sell my flea market booth, because it was so much harder to do with two kids than I expected. Which is silly, really, because of course it would be! I didn’t really plan on how I would balance nursing/pumping during shows. And since breastfeeding meant more to me than a few sales at market, I decided to sell the booth and try it again another year. Besides, that just frees up our camping weekends this summer!

From a family standpoint, things are great. I’m loving spending more time with both of my girls, and can’t believe it’s already been 7 months since I became a mom of two. We’ve had a lot of adjusting to do, figuring out some diet restrictions for Caroline and me. We’re now both gluten/dairy/rice free, and possibly eliminating even more because of some sensitivities and eczema she’s suffered. It’s been a really big learning curve, and I haven’t had more than 3 hours of sleep at a time since she was born. I kind of forgot just how intense all that sleep deprivation is, when you’re waking up 3 or 4 times at night. That was probably the main reason for my blogging break, trying to catch up everywhere I can at home because I’m lagging in energy so much. But we’re finally getting into longer sleep stretches, and I’m feeling the upswing. Someday I’ll feel rested again, right? When they’re teenagers maybe?!

 

chicken-boxer-love

 

Blog Changes

As far as my blogging focus, there’s going to be a slight shift. Now that our home is mostly “finished”, I don’t plan on posting too many improvement type projects. I’m sure I’ll still have loads of furniture builds and outdoor things like the teepee we built for Christmas and I’m hoping to add a reclaimed-materials greenhouse to the yard this summer. But one major shift in our personal lives is going to come into larger focus here on Killer b. Designs, and that’s homesteading and sustainability. We’ve taken major steps to become greener and more mindful of our consumption, and I’m excited to share that progress. We’ve got our small backyard flock of hens (4 now, two production reds, an Americauna and a Barred Rock named Elsa, Anna and Christoph), 30 chicks we’re raising for meat, and a large yard garden I’m excited to manage this season. It’s very much a work in progress, but it’s my 10 year goal to be able to produce all the food our family needs. We’re not quite to the off-the-grid level of intensity, just wanting to reduce our footprint a little. So, the blog will mostly be projects still, but just not the “check out this cool tchotchke I redid!” sort.

Also, privacy. I’m planning to limit how much my kids are on the blog. There will still be photos from time to time, simply because a lot of my builds are kid-centric and I need my little model for scale 😉 But I don’t want to overdo their exposure online at such a young age. Which is also why I made the old Instagram account locked, as so much of it focuses on my kids. If you already follow and we interact, awesome! I’m planning to keep it that way. But if you found yourself randomly “out”, it’s simply because I decided to pare down my “followers” to people I regularly interact with or “know” online. I’m have a dedicated public account to blog-appropriate things like projects and country life, and keep the personal kid stuff out of it.

Salvage Yard Mirrors

salvaged-mirrors

 

Sometimes it takes failure to see things in a new light. In this case, it was a mirror. This mirror.

 

salvaged-mirrors-setp1

 

I’ve had it for about five years now, back when I was a bachelorette living in a Dallas apartment. It was cute, but not really my style anymore. Plus, I didn’t have a place for it in my house. So I tried to sell it. FIVE TIMES. And nobody every showed the slightest interest in it, even for $10. And then one day I decided to take it apart. I’m so glad I did!

 

salvaged-mirrors-setp2

 

I walked over to my dad’s shop and found some tire rims. I placed two of the mirrors inside and found that the larger circle was a perfect fit! It was fate. So I went scrounging around and found other things they might look good on. Like some farm equipment gears.

 

tire-rim-gear-mirrors

 

I loved it! They’re unique, and exciting, and best of all, reuse old things in a beautiful new way. So, how to get them up on the wall? Well the tire rim was the easiest. It had a hole on the back, so I just drilled a large bolt into the wall stud and hung the tire on the bolt. For the gears, things got creative.

salvaged-mirrors-setp4

 

I used a two hole strap intended for conduit to keep the gear on the wall stud. I tend to over-engineer when it comes to hanging things on walls because I don’t want them falling and bashing my babies. Or my toes. So after I hang things I give them a good yank and slam the doors a few times to make sure they really stick.

 

salvaged-mirrors-setp3

 

This gear already had a hole in the center, so I used a screw with a locknut and a washer to keep it on the wall. You can see I missed the stud the first time and had to move it over just a tad. To attach the mirrors, I mixed up a quick setting two-part epoxy and spread it on the high points of the gears, then placed the mirrors on them and held them in place. It was quite the arm workout. But after five minutes I had a good long hold and things were great!

salvage-yard-mirrors

 

Now I have a unique mirror display on the wall that opened up a whole new world of projects for me. I’m looking at tired castoffs with new eyes to try and envision what they could become!

 




Floating Cedar Nightstand

diy floating cedar nightstand

 

Hi everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday and New Year! I kept myself busy working on a few projects, and now have a chance to share one with you. It’s been just over a year since we closed on our home, and we’ve done so much to it already. I’m trying my best to finish up my to-do list of house projects so I can finally call it “done” and take some after photos and post about the entire process. As if I didn’t have enough on the list already, I had to go and add another thing by building this “nightstand”. The last time I showed you my master bedroom, it looked like this:

master-bedroom-vanity

 

It was pretty, but as I started adding more and more rustic, reclaimed pieces, it looked too pretty. Once I hung a few rusty reclaimed mirrors (with a post to come!) it sealed the deal. I wanted something different by the bed.

 

cedar-floating-nightstand

 

A quick tour of the barn showed me these two cedar 4×8 pieces, which I attached together with a few straight brackets and hung on the wall using galvanized pipes. Here’s the quick and dirty:

Supplies:

Cedar Play Teepee: A How-To

cedar play teepee killer b designs

With only a few days left until Christmas, we finished up our biggest present just in time! I knew for a while that I wanted to build a playhouse for my girls, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it should be. At first it was a traditional playhouse, then I decided on a teepee. But, what kind? I thought cloth wouldn’t be durable enough. So I set out to research how to build it out of wood. All I found were finished images, no tutorials. A little brainstorming with my husband led us to this design.

cedar-play-teepee-tall

 

For a durable, sturdy outdoor structure I chose cedar. I’m not a fan of treated wood, especially when there are little ones involved. This was simple enough to construct with cedar 4×4’s, 2×4’s, 2×2’s and fence pickets. Things you can find at your local hardware store or lumber yard.

cedar-play-teepee-play

 

So, how big is it? I wanted it to be large enough to feel spacious and real for the kids, and something an adult can stand in too. The entrance is just tall enough that all you have to do is duck your head a bit to get inside.

cedar-play-teepee-inside

 

I even made a little fire ring with some rocks and firewood. Dad’s teaching Charlie how you warm your hands by the fire 🙂

cedar-play-teepee-back

 

You may be wondering, why the slats? While the structure itself is very solid and heavy, we do get some heavy winds here in Central Texas. These will allow the gusts to blow through without providing a solid wall of resistance. Hopefully this will keep it from toppling over during a bad storm.

cedar-play-teepee-inside-top

 

We also left gaps at the top for even more circulation, and to hopefully prevent too many wasps from nesting in here. Also, you know, stargazing!

cedar-play-teepee-setting

 

I placed it in Charlie’s play area, by the dry creek bed we made with leftover rock from our house siding. It was an area that washed out during heavy rains, so instead of battling the moving mulch we just covered up the bald spots with rock. I love the setting it gives. A little teepee by the creek.

Anyway, enough babbling. Are you ready to learn how to build one of your own? Here we go!

*disclaimer* I am not a professional builder. I am a novice. A mom with some tools and ideas. This is not a guaranteed plan. This is just me sharing how I built something for my family, in hopes it can inspire you to do your own. So if you see any flaws, please share. And build at your own risk.

 

Supplies:

Toddler Sized Animal Stools: A How-To

Fox and Bunny Toddler Animal Stools

 

Are you ready for a crazy adorable, super cute project today? I hope so! Last week I saw an image online that inspired me to make some sweet little stools for Charlie. They’re just her size, and just so darn cute. And again, the best part? They’re made from REAL wood! Scrap wood! The kind you have hanging around your garage so you can build these little suckers for free. But, if you don’t have wood just lounging around your home like I do, you can easily make two stools for less than $10 and 30 minutes. Including painting.

animal-toddler-stools

 

I didn’t include a pattern, because the charm is in the imperfections. The “template” for this project is so that you can customize it any way you like. I chose to make a bunny and a fox, but you could easily use those round ears for a dog, the pointed ones for a cat, maybe even get a little crazy and try out some antlers for a deer? Or rounder ones for a squirrel. Or bear. You get the picture. Change up the shape of the ears and get decorative with the paint and you’ve got an endless array of possibilities ahead of you!

 

animal stools

As you can see, you’ll need to keep the ears large (each about