Keep Calm and Paint Your Nails

I bet you thought I’d abandoned the blog (and to be honest, I myself contemplated it), but I have not. We are now officially home owners! And with that comes a good deal of crazy stuff I haven’t even thought about! For the first few weeks, every day brought a new surprise (i.e. not enough room for washer AND dryer in the laundry room; non-working electrical outlets; and an industrial extension cord required to run the dishwasher), but most of those quirks are now either resolved or have a plan for resolution. So back to fun projects I go! I am super short on time so this will be a photo heavy post with just a little explanation.
Background: I work in the beauty industry in real life and have found myself the owner of a large amount of nail polishes and no good way to store them. In our old house I kept them in a 3 drawer plastic bin under the bathroom sink, but our new house doesn’t have quite as large a space under the sink. I’d been on the hunt for something like a spice rack to display polish bottles for a while, and a couple of months ago I found this:DSCN0671I have no idea it’s original purpose, but I saw potential greatness.  So I ripped it apart:DSCN0673and put it back together like so:DSCN0676DSCN0677DSCN0680By the way I plan on patenting my “can weight” system.  I think I’m onto something here…DSCN0681This is what I ended up with.  I painted it black to go in our new Mickey Mouse themed bathroom.  And hubby just got it up today for me! Voila!nail polish shelfI can rule the world with a bottle of Gorilla Glue, and so can you.  What cool stuff have you made lately??

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Hey everybody (all five of you who read this)!  I’ve been crazy busy lately, so the blog has taken a backseat.  I assure you it will continue but the posts may be a bit sporadic.  I hope to have lots of new fun things to share really, really soon; like my homemade nail polish display that I repurposed from a second-hand what-not (I’m not exactly sure it’s original purpose).  But first I will share my day of jamming. (You can’t tell me that Marley isn’t playing in your head right now :) )

What better way to spend a busy three-day weekend than standing over an open flame, stirring a bubbling pot of fruity napalm??  Not much in my world.  That is the hallmark of a good time for me.  It was a very long weekend, not including the canning party on Monday.  I will spare you all the details, but I will say that Saturday morphed into something out of a bad B-movie, ending with a late night trip to Home Depot to rent an electric snake.  For the sewer.  Blech.  Thank goodness for working showers and anti-bacterial soap.

Anyways, back to the good stuff.  My friends brought home a huge flat of strawberries, some blueberries and raspberries from the roadside stand on Sunday.  The strawberries smelled so amazing, we had to beat the kids off of them.  And they tasted divine; so sweet, juicy and delicious.  They were practically demanding to be made into jam, and since I am not one to tell fruit no, jam it is!!DSCN0685

My assistant (I’m enjoying having my own personal assistant, by the way) washed and prepped the berries (and only ate one or two).  We decided we wanted a very chunky jam, so we used a potato masher to very lightly break up the fruit. DSCN0684

Then using the recipe provided in the Sure-Jell package (Sure-Jell, from my years of experience, tends to set better than other pectins.  Just my opinion, but I’ve done a lot of jelly/jam making and it’s been the most consistent for results) we be jamming.  I am a Virgo, and possibly a perfectionist, so I always follow the recipe to a “T” to ensure a proper set.  Now, having made that statement, I will also reveal that I am a kitchen rebel, and I deviate from said recipes when I’m itching for some specialty jams, and when processing my jellies.  I love Ball®, and I do believe they are the authority for canning and preserving, but sometimes, I just don’t like to play by the rules.   With that said, this post is about the regular Strawberry Jam, not about my amazing Blueberry Port Jam (the recipe for that will be in another post), so follow the recipe!DSCN0682DSCN0689

Add your fruit and pectin, bring to a full rolling boil (which means it can’t be stirred down, it’s still bubbling).  Add sugar.  Bring to a full rolling boil again and boil for one minute.  That’s it.  That is how easy making jam is.  You could absolutely eat it just as is (don’t forget about the boiling napalm part, though; it’s SUPER hot) or you can choose to preserve it, like we did.DSCN0698DSCN0700

This should go without saying, but I will say it anyways: always use super clean jars and utensils for canning.  The purpose is to keep this in storage for at least a year.  Bacteria is our enemy at this point, so keep a kosher kitchen (not strictly, but it does need to be clean).  Pour the hot jam into clean mason jars.  Fill to ¼ inch of the top of the jar. Use new lids (I have not used the reusable Tattler lids, so we have to keep buying new ones.) and clean rings to seal.  This is where my rebellious side takes over.  I don’t waterbath my jams and jellies.  I know.  Ball says you need to, but I don’t.  Never have.  Over 15+ years of canning, I’ve lost maybe one or two jars processing this way.  I feel this is a safe method.  The fruit is hot, the jars are filled hot, the lids are kept warm, and I flip the sealed jars on their lids for about an hour and then turn them over and wait for the sweet pinging sound of sealed lids.  This is called the Inversion Method and was used almost exclusively for high acid foods for years.  It’s how my grandparents taught me and how I’ve always done it.  Please don’t send me hate mail telling me I’m poisoning my family.  I’m not.  If I decide to start selling my homemade goodies in the near future, I will process them as is required under California’s Cottage Industry laws.  For me and mine, this is how we do it.  You do as you see fit.DSCN0706

And that’s the secret to amazing strawberry jam.  There is no secret.  Just a hot day in the kitchen, some fruit and sugar.  I love that I am feeding my family real food, and I love keeping a time-honored tradition of preserving foods alive.  I’m happy to share my knowledge with others so that they too can feel the awesomeness of making your food from scratch.  I can’t wait to share the Blueberry Port (yep, boozy jam!!) with you!

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Second-hand Saturday

Hello my friends!  Apologies for the hiatus.  We have been diligently working for what feels like a eternity now to purchase our very first home, and it has proven to be an overwhelmingly large time-suck.  All my free time for the last few weeks has been dedicated to inspections, mortgage brokers and a mountain of paperwork (oh the horror of paperwork!)  It’s been my full time job.  But we are on the downhill side of the transaction and everything is looking good, so I can take a breather and come back to the blog.

My finds today are slim, and I mean slim.  It’s sooooo windy today that there were few sales to be found.  And what sales I did hit didn’t have much to my liking.  I started my morning at a local church’s rummage sale which is the largest of it’s kind in town.  They host it annually to help send the youth to camp each summer.  Even though I do not attend the church, you can bet I’m happy to support the kids and browse every year.  But this year was not as good as previous (in my opinion).  I did manage to find a  paper grocery bag nearly filled to the top with canning rings.  Two bucks.  Score!  The lady checking me out actually asked me what I was going to do with them… I don’t know what other people do with them, but I can yummy fruits and veggies and the like.  When I told her canning, she looked at me like I had a third eyeball or an extra head.  Guess I’m still in the minority.DSCN0664

At another sale a found a few pieces of clothing for Kid No. 2, who refuses to quit growing.  I have begged and pleaded for him to stop, but he just won’t listen!!  But that really is the entire list for today.  Nothing fantastic or exciting.

Because it’s a pretty sad post I decided to share an older project that I did this winter with the intention to sell them, and I still might, but for now they are sitting in my garden window in the kitchen (the only thing I will miss about this house is that window).  I will make it quick, because it’s a really basic little project anyways.DSCN0661

I had two of these beautiful reproduction Blue Willow cups and saucers, but no real use for them.  As much as I love Blue Willow, I have never collected it.  So I grabbed some Hens and Chicks succulents from my mom’s and potted them up.  I think they turned out cute.  Next time I will drill a hole in the cup for drainage and glue it, with a spacer, on to the saucer for a more permanent planter.  I may even make up some like these for our new house as bird baths.  Lots to think about and do for the new house!  I’m looking forward to sharing many more projects.  See you next time!

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Second-Hand Saturday

Well looky there! I actually followed through with something! Woo! Second-hand Saturday is on a roll!
While I spent the afternoon cleaning the house and being all-around domestic, I got to spend the morning doing one of my favorite things – yep, sale-ing. Yard sale-ing. And today was the annual community sale at one of our local gated communities (not the hoity-toity kind of gated community, though; I don’t think they have yard sales). SO MANY SALES! I love to be able to get all of my thrifting done in a reasonably contained area. With minimal driving and everything pretty much grouped together, it was like yard sale mecca. I may be exaggerating (especially since I think the sale year before last was much better) but I found some amazing deals!
I found this little industrial gem at the very first place I stopped. I hemmed and hawed over it for about 5 minutes. I think the guy just wanted me to leave. He gave it to me for two dollars!
I found this adorable little cloche hat and I couldn’t walk away without it. And at a quarter how could I? I think I will wear it when hubby and I go wine tasting next weekend for our anniversary.
Merrell hiking boots for me, brand new! I would doubt that these have ever been worn, and Merrell makes excellent boots. They will hopefully get a good workout this summer.
I was thrilled to find this tent for $20. There was a mishap with our tent last year and it lost a battle with a can of chili. Now I can toss what’s left of the old one, and incorporate this onto our camping supplies.
This will replace my nearly 40 year old crock-pot, which will get retired to my spa to live out it’s life as a towel warmer (I do skin care in real life).
This is by far my favorite for the weekend. A Vita-mix. I’ve been working hard at changing my diet and was having trouble getting more vegetables in every day. With this, I can pulverize whole fruits and vegetable into delicious smoothies. It’s so amazing! I can’t wait to try out some new combinations.

I found a few more things that we needed for the house, and some baby clothes and toys for my uber-cute nephew, and some things for the kids, but those are the stand-out buys for me.  Just about everything I bought will be replacing something else (or in the case of the Vita-mix, two things, the blender and the juicer).  I love to be able to make life easier or better on a tight budget.

So that was my day. I hope yours was fantastic as well!  Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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Second-hand Saturday

Hello everyone! I apologize for my absence. Between trying to buy a house, the end of winter and the beginning of spring, the blog has definitely taken a back seat. But I’m back! And I’m ready for a fantastic season full of amazing bargains and with any luck a new home to be decorating!

I’m keeping it short and sweet today with (what I hope) will become a weekly thing. Since I’m an avid thrifter/junker I wanted to share some of my finds. Hence the title “Second-hand Saturday”…which may become “Second-hand Sunday” if I can’t get the post ready in time for Saturday. Regardless, I also love to see your yard sale finds as well. So feel free to share!DSCN0585
I found this little beauty first thing in the morning at the first house I stopped at. Five bucks!! It’s a nice solid piece, and will replace hubby’s pathetic bedside table.

New champagne flutes. I never have enough flutes for New Year’s Brunch, and now I will. And from Pottery Barn, no less (the only thing in my home from PB).

What self-proclaimed geek’s kitchen would be complete without beakers?? I’ve been wanting some of these forever, but they were usually a bit too expensive for my budget. But I scored these for a dollar each. I love them!

I found several canning jars, four are antique, and I got a great price for them. The same cannot be said about the super cute milk jugs. I completely over paid for them. But I underpaid for the antique jars. I’m calling it a wash. I love them all! And I even found a cleaver to replace the fallen soldier from last fall’s pumpkin slaughter.

All in all, a really great day. I think April will be an excellent thrifting month…now if I can just sneak everything past hubby I will be good! Have a fantastic rest of your weekend!

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Take a Hike

Here in Nor Cal we’ve been having some gloriously beautiful weather lately, interspersed with crazy cold snaps. But I did take a hike a couple of weeks ago with my parents and Kid Number 2.

The day before was surprisingly cold, which is to be expected in December, so we layered on the clothes, packed beanies and gloves and set off. Little did I know that we’d be stripping all those layers, sweating and even a little sunburned by the end of it.
We hiked in one one of my favorite places in the entire world. It’s a beautiful, shady oasis with cold clear water, mossy rocks and a waterfall that was the centerpiece of many childhood adventures. Sadly, last August, a devastating wildfire tore through the wooded acres and destroyed much of the vegetation. It’s still a lovely place, but not like it was before. The only good thing about the fire was that it burned so much of the overgrowth of blackberry brambles and shrubs we could walk in areas that were not exposed much before. I was able to see rock formations I’d never seen before. It presented a new beauty to behold. This one is picture heavy and word light, but with everybody somewhat under the weather here, this was the best I was going to get this week.

New Year, new writing goals!  Keep an eye out this week for a quick at -home project that I’ve been working on.  It’s plant oriented, because I have Spring Fever!  Can’t wait to move past these winter blahs!

Now go take your own hike! Enjoy!


Mossy and beautiful

Mossy and beautiful

Blake's first look at the falls

Blake’s first look at the falls

Rainbow over the falls

Rainbow over the falls


Blackened rocks behind the falls

Blackened rocks behind the falls

A rare self-portrait

A rare self-portrait


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Trying to De-Funkify

Myself, that is. I’m in a funk and I’m not feeling too creative lately.

That’s not to say I haven’t been busy. This week alone I picked the last of the peppers from my grandparent’s garden, drying and canning those, cracked and shelled 75 pounds of English walnuts, made two cute little planters out of old teacups and succulents, made a Dutch Crumble Apple Pie, worked a bit on another writing project, and started the arduous task of house hunting. So how on Earth can I be feeling unmotivated? That’s the sixty-four thousand dollar question, isn’t it?

Holidays have a tendency to drag me down. You will notice my blog is NOT filled DIY Christmas projects. I don’t generally decorate for Christmas at all (we haven’t even put up the tree this year, just not feeling it, ya know?), and this year I feel especially unmotivated to be cheery. Maybe it’s the uncertainty of our nation’s financial situation. Maybe it’s that I just really, really wanted to move out of this house before winter and that didn’t happen. Maybe it’s that I am far too busy to take time to work on the blog (nah, that’s not it). I’m just not making it a priority like I need to.

I will try to not let my scrooginess affect anybody else, I promise. The new year is coming up and my one big goal (other than pay off some debts and buy a house) is to get the blog shaped up. I am not going to let a lack of finances stop me from being crafty – I will just have to be craftier. I’m definitely on a “use what you got” kinda kick and I’ve got a lot of junk treasures. I will make a “to-do” list for each month and try to add more recipes. Considering I have to cook every day anyways that should be the easy part. And I have my animals for comic relief – they are always doing something humorous.

So that’s that. Goal: be more purposeful with my blog and posts. I think it will help kick-start my creativity to have to report to all of you. And if I don’t mention it before next week, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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