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Killer b. Designs - Part 2

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.


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:



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.



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:



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 awakens on Diamond Edition Blu-ray, Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere onOctober 7th! To celebrate, we’re giving away an incredible ‘Sleeping’ prize package that’s perfect for your princess’ bedroom. This special promotion was created by and and is valued at over $220!

The Grand Prize (1) giveaway includes:

  • ·         A copy of Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition

o   Disney’s 2-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray Superset (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)

  • ·         Baroque Pink Glass Night Light

o   A handmade item that emits a beautiful and soothing light

  • ·         Princess Bedtime Stories (Storybook Collection)

o   A storybook collection filled with stories featuring the Disney princesses

  • ·         Absolute Ruffle Princess Pink Canopy

o   Sleep like a princess under this princess canopy

  • ·         Colorful Butterfly Night Lights

o   Changes to seven different colors!

  • ·         Girls Sleep Mask

o   Sparkling sequin-trim mask

  • ·         Disney 4 Piece Toddler Bedding Set, Princess Dress to Shine

o   Bedazzled princesses in blue, lavender, pink, yellow and white

  • ·         Pink Princess Throne

o   Now your princess can sit on this polyfoam pink throne!

  • ·         Disney Princess Beauty Kit with Make-Up

o   A fun makeup and beauty kit for your princess

Runner-Up Prize (5):

  • ·         A copy of Sleeping Beauty: Diamond Edition

o   Disney’s 2-Disc Diamond Edition Blu-ray Superset (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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!


Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.25.40 PM


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!




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?




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.




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.




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.



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!




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 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.





Getting Into Routine with Stinkerpants Magnets


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!




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.




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!




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!

Knocked Off: Restoration Hardware Durant Twin Bed for $180

durant bed knockoff

 Update: Find the plans HERE

One aspect of my early childhood that I look back fondly on is sharing a room with my big sister. We didn’t “officially” share one, but we slept in the same bed until I was 10. Now that Charlie will be three (THREE!) next week, and Caroline is edging closer to one every day, I decided it was high time to trade in the Pioneer Bed I built a few years ago and build matching beds for the girls’ shared bedroom.


rh-durant-bedI fell in love with Restoration Hardware’s Durant twin bed the moment I saw it. It was so lovely! The hardware, the doors, the storage! It was perfect. But the $1499 price tag wasn’t, nor was the fact that it was discontinued. So I did what any builder would do, I asked my DIY guru Ana White to help me with plans! And wow, did she deliver. I requested a couple of style changes: that the bed sit on the floor (that tiny gap looks like every parent’s nightmare of lost toys and dust and snacks) and that the overall height be under 13″ so that the bed with a standard mattress would fit under the windowsill.



They fit perfectly in the room! Plus it only took one day to build, sand, stain, and install each bed, so I was able to finish both in one weekend.


durant-footboardI want to take a second to talk about this fabulous stain. It’s Golden Oak by Minwax, and isn’t it just glorious? I’ve used it before, on my Tidy Up Coffee Table, and I’ve missed the rich warmth ever since.  I love that it only took me one pass to get the color I wanted, without being streaky or too grainy. I used half a can on both beds, and am dreaming up new projects so I can finish it off!




Each bed offers loads of storage. I decided to go ahead and put doors on both sides, so I can have the option to move the beds around (or even move one back into the other room, should sharing not work out) and still have them look fantastic. The bed is divided down both centers, so each cubby has two doors so I can store some longer items.




Can we talk about this amazing hardware for a second? When we were originally planning the bed, I scoured the internet for hours and hours trying to find hinges and a latch that could accommodate a full 3/4″ overlay door. The largest I found was a half inch, unless I was looking at $200 EACH refrigerator hardware. Um…yeah…now I guess I see why the bed was $1500, it was mostly in hardware costs! Ouch. So we changed up the plan to feature inset doors, and I found the best hardware ever. D. Lawless carries these reproduction Hoosier Ice Box style hinge and latch sets. They have a 3/8″ offset which made it look almost exactly like my inspiration! The doors pop out just a bit away from the frame. I also love the thickness of the hardware, it feels very solid and durable. Plus the interesting design takes what could be just another cubby bed and makes it into something fabulous. I purchased four left hand and four right hand 4 piece sets for their sale price of $10 each, which is a total steal in my opinion! I could spend that on plain old normal hinges and latches at any hardware store, so scoring these beauties for the same price really got me pumped up.





Since we needed to remove the nightstand to preserve full door functionality, we installed a plug-in adjustable wall sconce for each bed. It keeps that industrial vibe going up on the wall.




For the wall storage, we made a shelf using a scrap 2×8 and some metal flashing and followed Ana’s tutorial over on to wrap it around, and added some sheet metal screws for aesthetics.


durant-doors-openBoth my girls LOVE their new beds! Even our ten month old can open and close the doors to hide things inside.



The plans for these beds should be up on very soon! I hope to see a whole lot of them up in the brag boards soon :)


Disclaimer: Minwax stain was provided by the company free of charge. Having been a Minwax fan for years, I’m proud to endorse it!


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:



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).  Right away we suffered losses. Over the first 3 weeks, we lost 8 of the Buffs. So, that in and of itself meant we wouldn’t raise that breed for meat again. Losses were just astronomical. Five were due to mystery reasons, two were crushed by the larger breed birds, and one poor soul met its end at the jaws of our Red Heeler. We decided to just save the last two and let them live out their lives as eggers. They are now close friends with the Heeler, who seems to enjoy large birds but feels the need to chomp the little tiny ones.

The Cornish Rocks grew like wildfire. They were happy birds, and had about 90+ square feet for free ranging in the side yard we partitioned for them. Everything I read said that the meat would be tough if you allowed them too much movement, but we haven’t found that to be true. When the Cornish were 10 weeks old, we had a harvest day. It was tough for me. We watched a few YouTube videos on how to process the birds, and decided to try de-feathering them. It took two of us four hours to do eight birds. That’s about one hour per bird. Once we got started it got a bit quicker, but our backs sure were aching by the end of the day! The birds averaged about 4 pounds each. Once they were “grocery store ready” we vacuum sealed the whole birds and placed them in the freezer.



The Delawares were still much smaller, so we decided to give them 3 more weeks to grow. Last week they were 13 weeks old, and I was the only one around to get the harvest started. I know it sounds silly to some, but it was a very hard thing to take a life. I did it, because we still are a meat-eating family, and I wanted to be much more conscientious of where our food came from. I knew these birds didn’t suffer in life, and I wanted to do all I could to make sure they didn’t suffer in death either. I held their heads under their wings to put them to sleep, then hung them upside down to keep them calm as I did the deed.

For this round, I decided to forgo the tedious process of de-feathering the birds, and skinned them instead. It was much, much faster. I processed them in half the time. I did two birds on my own, with two more hung up to bleed out when my dad saw me at work and offered to help. Before, I was being very very careful and precise with the knife, only cutting the membranes to separate the skin from the flesh, careful not to pierce any organs or innards. My dad, however, showed me the “old school” way to do things, which didn’t involve a knife at all! Hands were all you needed. Once he showed me the method, we knocked out three birds in 20 minutes. Then my husband came home and we finished up the last of them. We decided to let the last one live and join the buffs as a layer. The Delaware chickens averaged about 2 pounds each. They’re small, but the flavor is a bit more intricate. I don’t know, I’m not a foodie by any means, but it does taste a bit more flavorful than the Cornish. Those tasted pretty much just like store-bought birds. But it was worth knowing that these were free of antibiotics, had happy lives running around, were fed non-GMO soy-free organic food, as well as kitchen scraps and treats. They didn’t suffer and they knew the sunshine.


So, now that all the gab is done, how to they stack up on costs? Well, here’s the break down:

Buff Orpington Chicks: 38.50 for 10 (I ended up leaving this out of the breakdown since most died and the other 2 are layers)
Delaware Chicks: 35.50 for 10
Cornish Rocks: 32 for 8
One bag of medicated starter (to prevent diseases that attack chicks): 10
5 bags of H&H feed: 120

Total Expenses: $197.50
Pounds of Meat: 33.5
Price per pound: $5.89

Not the worst, but it’s still Whole Foods pricing. Our mistakes were buying expensive chicks from the feed store. Next time, we’ll order chicks at half the price. I’m also planning to buy only Cornish birds, so we can harvest them sooner and feed them a bit less overall (10 weeks of feed instead of 13). This isn’t exactly a money-saving enterprise, but it’s no more expensive than what I would buy at the store, and it’s much healthier meat. If all works out the next time around we should be looking at somewhere along the lines of $3/lb. It’s not the worst outcome for our first shot at chickens, it actually ended up quite well. I’m looking forward to doing another round in the fall, so that someday soon this whole “feed the family off the land” thing can be a reality!




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.




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.



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!



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 😉


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!


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.


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!


*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?


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

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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!



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?



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 toddler raccoon chair


Followed by this tiny tiger, for another birthday.





A puppy for Charlie’s Christmas present.




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



And a frog for a boy.



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


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”.  

This is going to be a long, photo-heavy post! Let’s start off with our floorplan:

san bernard edited floorplan


We edited the original floorplan to make a few key changes. 

– We eliminated the half garage, and actually moved the doors around to face the front direction of the house, not the “courtyard”

– We reversed the entire plan, putting the garage on the right instead of the left

– We nixed the faux dormer on top of the house, one less window to clean and I don’t have to do it in the attic!

– I moved the sink and dishwasher away from the island and onto the bonus room wall of the kitchen. I don’t like piles of dirty dishes in the middle of the room. I also opted to use a slide-in range as opposed to a drop in cook top with wall ovens. I looooove my antique Magic Chef and do not regret it for a second!

– Instead of a full wall of rock (the rock is an upgrade from brick) on the fireplace, we stopped it halfway up and drywalled the rest. I liked the flexibility it left for television size (the rock would have boxed it in), and really enjoy the look of the weathered wood fence pickets I added as an accent wall above the rock. It makes a statement! We also opted to save the rock rather than take a credit and used it for the landscaping to make raised beds and a bench, as well as a “dry creek bed” for the washout areas of the yard.

Added a tv to the master bathtub area. This is probably my favorite add-on. My husband is an electrician so he did the wiring for me, adding an outlet and cable line. We mounted a small 19″ tv and I use it almost every evening for a good soak in the tub!


Changes I wish we had made now that we’ve built the plan:

nixed the door in the dining room and gone with another window. The doors in the living room are just a step away, and the dining door crowds the space for having limited function.

Moved the shower head placement in the master bath to the back wall. It points toward the door and doesn’t use the space as well as it could.

Added a light in the media cubby and increased the size of the opening and tubing. They installed a 1″ tube, which couldn’t even fit a power plug, let alone all the other cables. We had to just take it out and use a fish tape every time we add a component.

Moved the thermostat from the kitchen wall to the hallway wall. I think this was a mistake, and it should have been installed on the opposite side of the drywall.

More plugs in the master bathroom. Because you can never have enough outlets!

Upgraded exterior lights. There was a bit of confusion as to the inclusion of lights, and in the end they just popped on the cheapest lights you find at Lowes, known as “jam jar” lights that run about $4 each. I wish we had upgraded to nicer options, so we didn’t need to replace them ourselves.

Now let’s get to the details!


– we chose Sandstone Flag Autumn blend for the stone and Texas Tan mortar, the stucco is Monterrey. 

– Landscaping done by Sagebrush Landscaping.

– DIY brick patio

– Gutters installed by Starr Company with rain barrels from Lowes





– Painted in SW Rivulet

– built laundry platform with rolling drawers

– hand built rustic secretary

– installed 1×4 cedar trim and door frame

– added a freezer and our washer/dryer combo

Our utility room is normally the first room we walk into, entering from the garage. We found a great chandelier on super clearance, and we cut holes in blue mason jar lids and screwed them into the arms using the lids to make it more rustic but still a little glam. I made the Farm Fresh Eggs sign with some old fence pickets and hung them above the old nesting box which acts as a display. I keep my laundry soap in the secretary, which also houses our cat food and dryer lint I use to make fire-starters for camping. I found the old laundry soap sign above the freezer at an antiques store in Gruene.





Bonus Room:

– 1×4 cedar trim

– painted SW Teal Stencil

– salvaged flea market door

– hand built desk bases and pegboard wall

– DIY sliding door

This room is multi-functional and the most used room in the house. We keep an array of toys in the closet, which coupled with the play kitchen mean this is where we spend most of our time playing. The couch is a sleeper, and now that I finally hung some drapes (using old trophy tops as tie-backs) and a sliding door, it’s a guest room as well. The desk bases and pegboard mean it will also work as an office and homework area. We watch a lot of movies in here too. It’s probably my favorite room in the house, and the most unique!

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Living Room:

– living, kitchen, hallway, dining and entry all painted SW Beach House

– 1×4 cedar trim

DIY planked accent wall

– hand built console, bookcase and coffee table

Other than trim, the living room didn’t need much work at all. The stonework and mantle were included in Tilson’s work, so we just mounted the tv and ran the components to the hidden media cubby. I added the barnwood accent wall on a whim and we both fell in love with it. And yes, that’s a working jukebox! It’s such a fun addition to the room.

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Hand built kitchen cabinets (thanks to plans from Ana White!)

Installed IKEA domsjo sink and custom base unit

– Custom stainless steel island top: built a base of plywood and 2×4’s to sit over the hand built cabinets and some turned legs from Lowes.

– Installed outlets in the island for appliances and the microwave

– Installed antique Magic Chef gas range (I had my local gas company come leak-check and adjust the orifices to LP and clean the pilot lights for about $75), we also replaced the oven glass for $50 by ordering a piece of ceramic glass online when the original glass shattered.

– Hand built range hood cover

– Installed open shelving with reclaimed oak and Container Store brackets

– Installed vintage screen pantry door and DIY transom window

This kitchen is my pride and joy. I partnered with Ana White to work on the cabinet plans, and built them with a little help from my husband from PureBond plywood. I absolutely adore them. We have a custom kitchen for a fraction of the cost, and they were so simple to build that I kept waiting to find out what the catch was. There wasn’t one. They’re still in fantastic shape and I expect them to be for years to come. We had a little trouble when the “recoating” on my antique cast iron farmhouse sink was chipping and peeling, so we replaced it with an IKEA model. The open shelving is made from some old reclaimed oak 1×12’s found in my dad’s barn. The recessed lighting was done by Tilson, but we installed these pendants from IKEA with edison-style bulbs. The metal barstools are Pier1 and the wall-mounted faucet is from

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Dining Room:

– Custom extended leaf for the dining table

– 1×4 cedar trim

The dining room was by far the easiest room to finish up. Just a few trim boards, dining set, a light and voila! A finished room. I found the West Elm chandelier at our local Pottery Barn Outlet for $30 and snapped it up in a heartbeat! I hung it with a pendant kit from Lowes. My sister gave me her old table when I built her a new one, and I added in a custom leaf when we couldn’t find the original. The outdoor rug is from SAMS Club and the chairs are Target.

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Master Bedroom:

– painted SW Unique Gray (which reads very lavender, just FYI)

– 1×4 cedar trim

– Interior doors purchased from Lowes

– reclaimed solid oak entry door

– repurposed shutters from the flea market

DIY floating nightstand

Salvaged Junk Mirrors

Our Master Bedroom really had to grow on me. We only had a day to choose paint colors after a spur-of-the-moment decision to hire painters (we realized we would kill each other over painting 2300 square feet of house, which includes 20′ cathedral ceilings! Best home choice hands down) and we already had plans to be out of town so I chose them online. Bad move. We got really lucky with 90% of the house, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about this “unique gray”. It’s very lavender in real life. It’s still not my favorite, but I don’t hate it enough to consider painting it yet! The recessed lighting again was included, and we added the dreaded Southern ceiling fan that’s used basically every night. I found a set of old lockers to store the usual nightstand-type stuff, and set a tree stump by it for Jacob’s phone and such. For my side, I opted to create a long floating nightstand with some plumbing pipes and cedar leftover from construction. The Farmhouse Bed was our very first build together, and it still sits with the Rustic Bench we used as a guestbook for our wedding.

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Master Bath:

– Hand built vanity and medicine cabinets

– DIY “wood” bathtub surround

– Hand built closet doors

– 1×4 cedar trim

– Interior doors from Lowes

– Lights from Home Depot

– TV installation above bathtub

I love our master bathroom. It’s very roomy! We built the vanity from reclaimed barn wood and used talevera sinks we found in Mexico on our honeymoon. I built the medicine cabinet with mirrors as well, and we found these awesome hammered exterior lights at Home Depot for above the vanity. I built the closet doors with salvaged 1×4’s and some metal screening from Ace. The bathtub surround is made from wood-look cement siding, and the chandelier is another West Elm outlet find for $25. I just used a couple of screws and some fishing line to secure it just below the water-safe light Tilson installed. Jacob found the metal cabinet headed for the dump at work, and now it’s the perfect locking cabinet for all our medicines. Keeps those little hands at bay!

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Bedroom 3, or The Nursery:

– painted SW Green Vibes

DIY corrugated metal closet doors

– 1×4 cedar trim

closet organizer

– interior door

I went with a farm theme for the nursery. This was another color I was iffy about, but once the room was decorated it was looking less “lime sherbet” and more pale green. I’ve since moved out the baby swing and play kitchen, but these are the pretty pictures as opposed to the diapers-strewn-everywhere scene I look at daily now that the baby is here.

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Kids Bathroom:

– Hand built vanity

– ceramic tile from Lowes

– closet shelving

– Wall sconces from Lowes

– Hand-me-down wall hung framed mirror

– 1×4 cedar trim

– interior doors

– SW Green Vibes

I love this little bathroom, it’s the most-used in the house despite having a powder room as well. I built a single-sink double-sized vanity with a pop-out stool and shelf storage. We purchased a simple drop-in sink and faucet combo. I found some nice iron hooks at an antiques store in Dallas for towels. The mirror is still a placeholder, it was Jacob’s grandmother’s mirror. Eventually I plan to add a vanity stool, but the little lady has discovered that she can use stools and chairs to climb onto the vanity and get into mischief, so that will have to happen in a few years from now!



Bedroom 2, or Charlie’s Room:

– 1×4 cedar trim

– interior doors

– SW Midday

floating gallery ledges

chalkboard closet doors

Charlie’s room is such a fun room. She loves to play in here. Our plan for now is to trade out the single twin for a corner twin unit and let both girls share a room while they’re young. Once they get a little older and want privacy (or if it’s a total disaster!) we can just move Caroline back into the nursery room. For now, it’s just a cozy little girl’s room full of art and toys.

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Well there you have it! Our completed San Bernard home. This isn’t a great example of a “Tilson Home”, because so much of the interior finishes were ours. If we were given the choice to do it again, I would definitely do it! I love the San Bernard plan. It’s got a great flow, a nice use of space, and the tweaks we made are perfect for our family. It means so much to look all around our home and see memories in different projects. The night we picked up pizza and installed all our cabinets. Trimming out the living room beam 20 feet in the air and praying the ladder would stay steady. Using drawers and doors I installed myself. Smiling every time I walk into the kitchen. It’s worth all the blood and sweat and tears. I am so excited that our kids will grow up in a home their parents put so much love into.

Replacing the Vintage Sink with IKEA’s 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:



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.



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.



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.



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!



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.




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.  Overall I’m quite pleased with the aesthetic of the sink. I was afraid that the size would be overbearing on the wall, but it really doesn’t. And the faucet/backsplash really does fool the eye. I think it will look even better once I have a permanent solution up. (Right now it’s 1/4″ ply sealed with spar varnish to make it water-safe and painted with oil-based white gloss to match the sink) Here’s a look at the new:




And the old:



Two great options, but at least the new one isn’t covered in black mold 😉 I’m toying with the idea of having the old one sandblasted and powder-coated, which is what I should have done the first time if I had known better. Maybe someday I’ll have a little guest cottage to use it in. A girl can dream, right?


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!)

• organic coconut oil (the pasty semi-solid kind you buy in stores for around $10 or less)
• herbs or tea for colorants

Choose herbs depending on the colors you would like to use. *Please be aware that herbs, spices, or teas can cause reactions in different people, so make sure your child does not have a sensitivity to the colorant. Also, use common sense and don’t use reactive spices like cayenne, cinnamon, or chili powder. Test it on yourself first, then on a safe place on your child’s skin, like the forearm, to make sure there isn’t a reaction. * For my pink-loving daughter, I grabbed a small baggie of dried hibiscus petals in the loose tea section of my grocery store. It was 10 cents. This was enough to color over 4 oz of makeup. I also chose lavender, ignorantly assuming it would be purple, but of course turned out green. You could try ground mustard for yellow, or perhaps paprika for red, coffee beans for brown. Again, choose mellow spices or teas, or even try drying petals of edible flowers for this purpose.

Step 1:

Crush or grind your herbs into a fine powder. I used my Baby Bullet with the grinding attachment because of its small size. This could be done with a mortar and pestle just as easily.

Step 2:

Place a large spoonful of coconut oil in a microwave safe container and nuke until it’s a liquid, about 10-15 seconds. Pour your portions into individual jars, then use a spoon or toothpick to mix in your colors. Add more or less to get the color you desire.

Step 3:

Pour the mixture into small containers and allow to set back into the semi-solid state. You can place them in the refrigerator to speed it up if you have an impatient kid ready to play! I re-used some old washed out contacts cases to hold the colors so they’re easily portable and small in size. They have to look like the real thing, you know! I stored the excess in small jelly jars to refill these small ones once depleted.


You can make as many colors as you like, and it’s great for both girls and boys! All kinds of play face-painting can happen. The added bonus of coconut oil is that it’s great for the skin, and edible just in case they get some in the mouth. Plus it makes the makeup a bit translucent, we haven’t had problems with stained clothes or skin. Have fun!

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.

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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?!




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.  If you would like to follow me (and my chickens/cows/garden/saws) you can do so on IG with the @killerbdesigns handle. The Facebook page will be deactivated soon, but if you would like to contact me (I loooooove seeing reader pics and answering questions!) you can do so through the IG messaging system or by emailing me at

Thank you so much for all your comments, support, and for following me all these years. It means so much to read all your comments, especially those lately wishing me well and letting me know I’m missed. Thank you all, you are awesome. I’m excited to be back, and have some great stuff to share!


<3 Brooke

Salvage Yard Mirrors



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




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!




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.




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.



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.




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!



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:



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.




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:

• 2- 1/2″ galvanized flanges
• 2 – 12″ long, 1/2″ galvanized pipes
• 2 – 1/2″ pipe caps
• 1 pack of 4 straight brackets
• 2 packs of 3/4″ conduit two-hole straps
• 2 – 4×8 cedar beams cut at 50″ or desired length

Step 1 



The previous vanity was 28″ tall, so I accounted the 4″ of wood thickness and marked 24″ up on the wall for the center of my flange circles. I screwed them into studs using 2″ screws on the top and bottom, and the left and right were just 1 1/4″ as they only struck drywall.


Step 2



Then you just twist in the pipes nice and tight.


Step 3

floating-nightstand-step3Next you pop on the pipe caps.


Step 4



Then I cut my two beams and attached them to each other with four straight brackets.


Step 5



Once they were together I used the pipe straps to hold the pipe to the wood. This helped to add stability as well as make sure the wood doesn’t slide around on the pipes. It’s a good, solid hold.




That’s it! It took maybe 15 minutes to put it all together. I like that the beam in the front is weathered and worn down to a “live edge” finish. But it would also look good with straight new wood too. You could also use a wide slab of wood from a sawmill. Wouldn’t that be lovely?




This added just the right amount of modern, rustic simplicity that I was looking for. I put a couple of large baskets below to hold pillows and blankets and that sort of thing. I’m not going to pretend to be an interior decorator, but I’m happy with the arrangement of the lamp, tray, mirrors and little frog luminary. I’m sure it will change a dozen more times, but for now I’m pleased with it. And I think I should remedy the gray paint situation on my husband’s grandmother’s vanity and restore it to its former wood glory.



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.



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.



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.



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



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.



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!



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.


• 5 – 4x4x10 cedar fence posts
• 4 – 2x2x10 cedar
• 2 – 2x4x10 cedar
• 30ish 6′ cedar fence pickets
• 1 stump, at least 20″ in circumference
• 15 – 6″ hex screws (the hex top helps prevent stripping)
• 2 1/2″ decking screws for base
• 1 1/4″ decking screws for siding


Step 1



My plan was still pretty fuzzy at this point. I wasn’t sure how to attach the square posts to each other at the top. We cycled through a few ideas, then settled on attaching them to a center stump. Jacob found a 3′ section of a rough cedar post so we used that. To come up with the angles, I cut the bottoms of each post at 20 degrees off square. Then I placed them on a 2×4 to keep them flush, and placed the stump in the center. Once I had it all lined up I used a square and another 2×4 to create a center cross and mark the angle for the top that I needed to cut. (and yes, I realize this looks like some sort of strange occult practice here! I had to take a photo of my strange triangle markings and the great sun flare 😉 )



You can see above that the left post has been cut at the top, and I set my 2×4 to mark the post on the right.



Both angles matched, so I marked the rest of my 4×4’s and cut them all the same.



Step 2



Now it was time to attach it all together. I decided a tripod would be the easiest way to start. My stump was exactly 25″ in circumference, so I marked 4″ for each post (cedar is typically true cut, so a 4×4 really is 4″ x 4″) and left a one inch gap in between them. I screwed the first two in laying on their sides, and then it was time for the third post. I was assembling it alone, taking advantage of nap time. So I propped up my post with cedar fence pickets. Probably not the safest idea, but I like to live on the edge sometimes. I used two screws per post just to set them in place.



Just as I had finished screwing the posts in my mom pulled up to head over for Charlie’s Christmas program at school, so she helped me tip it up and set it into place.


Step 3


Once I had the three legs set where I wanted them, I propped up the last two and stood on a stool and screwed them in. As I was building it in place on very unlevel ground, I was more concerned with a solid foundation rather than a wobbly “level” structure. So each post is set at a different level. Once they were all in where I wanted them I added another screw for stability.


Step 4



Now to keep those posts from moving. I tried to get all my sides evenly spaced, but somehow I got off on my measurements. I cut five 2×4’s at 45 degrees off square, 65 1/2″ from long point to long point. I set them into place and adjusted my posts as needed. It turns out that the four walls are even, and the front entry side is slightly larger, which worked for me.


Step 5



Next I attached them with 2 1/2″ screws toenailed into the 4×4’s. Three screws on each side. It was quite sturdy. It was starting to look like a real teepee!


Step 6



Now it was time for the 2×2’s. The sides needed a center support for the fence picket siding, to keep them sturdy and not bowing or warping over time. I cut the base at 20 degrees off square like the posts, but since I bought 8′ sticks instead of 10′ they were too short to reach the stump. So we had to improvise. Dad to the rescue!



Since you will be smart and buy 10′ sticks because you learned from my mistake, you can just mark the sticks where they need to be cut instead of having to do our crazy jig. My dad (who is the king of rig-em-ups) had these metal strips with holes in them. I’m not entirely sure what their original purpose was for, but we made them work well enough. We bent the metal in the center and screwed them down into each 4×4 post from the front, then made sure the 2×2 would be flush by holding a fence picket over it, and added a screw in from the metal behind the 2×2. Confusing? You bet. Functional? Yup! Whatever works, right?


Step 7



Time for the picket siding. I had built the entire frame all by my lonesome during the day, but now the baby was awake and my husband came home so it was his turn. He was in charge of the siding. He held up a picket starting at the bottom and used a pencil to mark the angles. He attached the siding with two screws in the center and one on each side. We may go back and add more later, but we ran out of screws!



He just used a scrap piece of 2×4 to make a spacer so they would all be even. But since the sides weren’t exactly level, they don’t line up perfectly. They’re all slightly off from side to side, but the evenness of the gaps tricks your eye into thinking it matches.


Step 8



Once we got five gaps up, it was time to stop spacing. And break for some air guitar on a picket. Because that’s what the cool kids do. Anyway, we wanted to keep it closed at the top to give it a more “official” teepee look. You can keep with the slats if you like, and just make the gaps smaller. Or whatever. It’s your teepee! The beauty of DIY is making it however you like it. We stopped at the top once the 2×2 ran out. I like it because it gives a bit of air venting and there won’t be any water pooling up at the top to rot out the wood.


Step 9



Finish out all four sides with the pickets. Looks pretty legit now, right??


Step 10



Time to finish out the front. He used some scrap 2×4 to bridge the gap in the front to create a brace. Figuring out these angles is tough, so I wish you luck. Ours aren’t perfect, there’s no double bevel, just a single cut at 30ish degrees. Then we cut a scrap 2×2 at 20 degrees at the base and marked the top. These are attached with 2 1/2 inch screws.


Step 11



Next there was more marking, cutting, and screwing in pickets. Hooray!


Step 12



To gussy it up we found a skinnier cedar post for the lintel of sorts. Jacob just pre-drilled a hole and used some giant nails from my dad’s shop to drive into the 2×4 support beam. The bark was flaking off so I decided to just go ahead and peel it all off so it wouldn’t look like a shedding beast.



And then we called ‘er done!



It took two days, building during nap times and the brief hours after work before sunset. So maybe 15 hours total. We spent about $250 on the project, but costs will vary with the price of lumber. You *could* go a bit cheaper with treated wood, but personally I don’t think it’s worth it. Not only for the chemicals, but that treated wood needs to set for a while and can warp quickly because of the pressure treatment drying out. Besides, cedar is a lot prettier! And delicious to smell. And is a natural deterrent for pests and bugs.


So if you’re looking for a fun addition to your yard this spring, I highly encourage you to think about a teepee! I like our version as it’s not permanent. It’s not set into the ground, nor does it have a platform. So if one day our kids grow out of it or we’d like to move it all we need are five or six strong backs to do so :)  And we saved so much money by doing it ourselves, not to mention the pride we get seeing our daughter’s happy face (and soon faces, once our baby Caroline gets big enough to enjoy it along with her sister). Even if Charlie does *sob!* seem to think only daddy built it for her. Her toddler memory decided to get a bit selective and forget the day mom worked on it while she played outside. Ah, well. At least she knows one parent built something for her, that’s good enough for me!


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.



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  6.5″ tall and 3.5″ wide) to create a back rest of sorts. I don’t recommend allowing your children to lean back on them very far, however, because kids like to tip out of chairs. Or maybe that’s just mine?

Ready to see just how easy it is to make this amazing little chair? Read on!

– 2′ of 1×10 pine or scrap plywood (I used leftover PureBond plywood since it’s formaldehyde free)
– optional: 3′ of 1×2, or you can cut down your scrap 1×10 to size for the legs
– pocket hole jig and 1 1/4″ screws


Step 1 – Cut Pattern



I had a square of plywood leftover from my End Play Table project, so I used that for my template. The seat is an oblong shape, a little wider in the front. Mine is 11 1/4″ wide (the width of a 1×12) by 9″ deep. I drew one ear, 6.5″ tall and 3″ wide. I cut both shapes out with a jigsaw, then used the ear to trace another shape so they would be nearly identical. You can make templates if you like, but I like the charm in the irregularities.


Step 2 – Legs



My legs are 7″ long, cut 5 degrees off square on both ends, parallel (which means you don’t have to do any flipping, just cut your first angle, slide the leg down 7″, and cut your second). This gives the legs an outward splay so the stool is sturdier. My bunny stool (which was my prototype) has straight legs made from scrap 2×2’s, and they’re not as strong and sturdy as the angled, thinner legs. It’s still good, but the splay and thinner width is better. My pocket holes were able to be tighter on the 1×2 width. I only needed one hole per leg. Use a 1 1/4″ screw and glue to attach. You can get even fancier (and sturdier) and add a 5 degree bevel so the legs splay out to the sides as well as front and back, but I tend to get confused when I attach them and they don’t sit correctly.


Step 3 – Ears




Each ear has two pocket holes, attached with 1 1/4″ screws and glue. They are very sturdy. NOTE: Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT have your ears come to a point like this. They are very sharp. Round them off slightly so they are not pointed. I’ve already poked myself in the shin passing by, and Charlie poked her cheek picking up the chair. So do yourself a favor and blunt those tips!


Step 4 – Paint



This is the really fun part! For the bunny, I just used water with a bit of apple green RIT dye so the grain would show through. For the fox, I used a sample of Valspar paint I had on hand, Terra Cotta Red, also diluted with water. I like that it acts more as a stain than a paint. After it dried, I used Olympic No-VOC untinted semi-gloss white paint and applied one coat for the ears and fox face, as well as the bunny’s eyes and whiskers. I kept it to one coat so it’s a bit streaky, because again, I like the charm. Sometimes when I try to get too perfect it looks forced. Which is also why I didn’t add edge banding to the plywood. I decided to use black for the fox’s face and it was a great choice! This stool is so stinkin’ cute I want to make an adult sized one just for me!



So let’s talk size. The total height is 14″, with a seat height of 7.5″. Perfect for my two and a half year old. You can easily upsize it by adding leg height and increasing the seat width just a bit, as well as enlarging the ears. You can shrink it down the same way. It’s really a customizable piece with a lot of wiggle room. I tried really hard to get a photo of Charlie sitting in them, but she’s getting really possessive of things and didn’t like me moving “her” stools around! So the best I could do was snap one of her rearranging them.



And here’s a nice fuzzy Instagram of her carrying it around and sitting in it, for scale.



I’m really excited to make even more! We mailed off the Bunny chair for our Secret Santa kiddo exchange, and my little miss is already asking for a puppy chair to add to her lone fox. I’m hoping to make some for friends and family as I get scraps, because it seems I always have some scrap lumber lying around, begging to be turned into something useful. I hope these inspire some of you to make chairs for the munchkins in your lives this holiday season! If you do, please share some pictures! I’d love to see all the fun animals and creations.


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