Monday, April 15, 2013

DIY Farmhouse Table & Benches Part 1

Quick catch up: It's been a while since I've blogged. We've been doing a lot of un-blog-worthy-stuff. We moved from one coast to the other and have been settling down ever since. One big change that's happened is that we've found out that we are expecting another addition to our family. The little one's arrival is less than a month away and I have to say, it's impending arrival has been the most traumatic of them all. Yes, I used the word traumatic! Before any of you mom's go off the deep end and decide to have three or more kids, you need to face the harsh reality that number 3 is going throw you off the deep end. Example #1: We had to get a new car... not just any car... a car with 3rd row seating... a freakin' mini van. I've dreaded the mini van for many, many years, and now we have one. Example #2: Going out to eat will never be the same. "Table for 4", that's pretty easy, "Table for 5" means you have to upgrade to a table of 6, making your restaurant wait double. Catchin' my drift? Now this brings me to our latest project...

I'm sitting at the dinner table enjoying the beautiful faces of the kids and Mr. Wonderful all around the same table. I'm thinking about how perfect our little family fits here, there's a spot for everyone... Wait! Don't forget baby #3!! Damn it! ... Damn it! Ugh! ... No. No. No!! We're so freakin' screwed. *Fast forward* We're at World Market: "Honey! Look at this table! Oh my god! It's amazing! ... We HAVE to have it... Where's the price tag? ... Oh dear god! NO!" Needless to say, $1,000+ was a little out of our dining room table budget. Luckily, I had even more expensive taste when we were looking at the Anthropologie website... No big deal, just $2,000. We have that in pocket change <insert eye roll here>. Word from the wise: When you find yourself stuck, it may sound counter productive, but quit thinking about it for a while and a solution will hit you. And that's just what happened... I found THE MOST AMAZNG BLOG IN THE WHOLE WORLD on Pinterest! Ana White... I like to daydream about how awesome she must be... could you imagine walking around with that much awesomeness radiating off you? Yea, me either. Ana (I feel so close to her after all of this that we could be on a first name basis) works with some other bloggers, Shanty 2 Chic to name one, to make knock off furniture. Of course, Ana had plans to the World Market table AND the Anthropologie table... See? AWESOME!!

Alright, alright, enough chitter chatter, here's what I'm bloggin' about: The Fancy X Farmhouse Table and Benches. You can follow the link for the plans at Ana's site. I'm not going to be doing the full out how to, but I'm going to fill in some of the gaps and give some tips for how we did ours. Got it? Good!

Tools and essentials: These were all of our favorite tools. (Left to right: Dewalt 1/4 sheet Palm Sander, Hammer, Screw Driver, Basic Carpenter's Square, Hitchi Miter Saw, Kreg Jig, Gorilla Wood Glue, Snap On Drills.) We already had some and had to buy some, but this project would have been near impossible nor as much fun without these guys!

Shopping: I went to every major hardware store within a 40 mile radius to price this project out. Lowe's was hands down the winner in the price department and a no contest in the selection. We spent a total of $250 for all of the lumber (basic pine for both the table and benches), nails, screws, paint, paint brushes... everything! The only thing that we didn't have to buy was sandpaper. The estimates that Shanty 2 Chic provides are pretty spot on accurate for lumber cost, nothing more. Tips: 1. If I could go back, I would have bought self tapping screws for the whole project. We got regular old wood screws and ended up tossing them and using the heck out of the Kreg screws. Those things are awesome! 2. If you're a first timer, buy a couple extra 2x4s.

Cutting: This was the fun part! Please note: The miter saw is a must! I really wish that we could have afforded one with a laser, but this baby still got the job done and we love it! So easy. Tips: 1. Cut all of the large cuts first. We tried to cut the smaller ones first and ended up having to go back to the hardware store. 2. Double check yourself. Look at the pictures. Have someone double check your work. And if you're unsure, stop and take a break.

Sanding: After we cut all of the pieces, we thought it would be best to sand them all before assembly. I'm glad we did too. It was a tedious job watching Wonderful do it, but someone had to. (I love how Dexter tries to make an appearance in almost every picture I took. I think he's trying to take credit or something.) We sanded 60, 150, and then 220 grit. Tips: 1. Find a good looking man to do all of your sanding for you. It's really boring and takes a really long time. It helps to find him a companion too. He might get lonely  2. Keep yourself busy by making a town, house, or garage out of the scrap pieces while said man is sanding. This will help you kill time and the kids are so creative!

Steps 1-5: This is the bulk of the project, building these Fancy X's. I thought we would never get it right! We cut those cross things at the wrong 45 degree angle and had to go back and do them again. When it came to attaching everything, I threw out the idea of measuring everything perfectly and tried to fit everything together by eye. This really works for me but may not be for everyone. We used countersink holes and screws to attach the cross things, self tapping screws will get a tighter fit. For attaching the two pieces, we used finishing nails, Gorilla Wood Glue, and clamped the two pieces together until dry.

They ended up looking great even though we struggled through and kinda messed up in some areas. These plans are idiot proof!!

Step 7: This step was so simple and easy! It was the first time that we got to use the Kreg Jig and I'm so impressed.

Step 8: Things got a little tricky here. In Ana's plans, she just says to attach the cross braces. Thank goodness step 7 made us Kreg Jig pros because we had no trouble thinking up a way to discreetly attach them. We made pocket holes on the spacer 2x4's at the top and bottom of where the cross braces attach. Just 1 in each side should do. Check out the pic below for reference.

How fancy!!

Rest: This next step is very important. If you've over worked your husband, it may be time to let him take a little nap. Just lay the pre sanded boards on top and have him lay down. It also makes for a great size reference for the table. I would say this table is 1 and a quarter Wonderful ;)

Step 9: We broke the rules here and added 2 2x4s to the underside of the top panels. I wanted to be able to remove the top so that we can get it in the house and back out again when we move. Secondly, I didn't want to put any holes in the top of the table. The 2x4s were attached from the bottom with countersink holes and screws, placed to fit snugly on the outside of the two legs and drilled in from the inside.  Tips: 1. Use a belt sander for these bad boys, it'll save tons of time. 2. We did not make this to be an outdoor table, so I wanted the pieces to be close together and uniform. Before attaching the support pieces, I used a ratchet strap to keep the boards close together.

Beyond step 10... Wonderful used the belt sander to sand down the top of the table. After it was completely assembled and dusted, Twinkle Toes inspected it for quality.

Finishing: I followed Ana's finishing instructions for a grey stain finish. We let the stain soak for approximately 15 min and had the most stellar results!

After staining. It turned out absolutely amazing. We took it in and did 3 coats of the polycrylic on just the top. Wonderful suggested that we let the bottom age naturally and get some cracks and dings in it for character. He's so smart!!

Stay tuned! We'll have the benches finished soon and there will be a part deux!

Monday, August 27, 2012

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth...

I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, it's just been one heck of a summer. I found peace through a 200 hour yoga teacher training, which was life changing! One of the best parts was that Wonderful got to be the house wife-- I can say that after 2 1/2 weeks, he truly appreciates me now. I feel like every couple should do this, switch roles. As soon as I finished that, my mom treated me to a trip to Hawaii for a family reunion. I'm so lucky that she sent me because I would have never been able to afford such a luxurious trip on my own. Of course it was just me and the Wild Things. For 3 days, they were perfect angles and for the other 3... we're just lucky to have made it home in one piece. Let's just say, I'm never riding an airplane AGAIN! Once I unpacked my swim suit, it was time to start packing for the big move to the West Coast. So, I'm sitting here surrounded by boxes, the whole house in shambles, kids bouncing off the walls and Dexter needs to be right next to me at all times (he's almost the size of a horse now). I think the word I'm looking for is chaos. -- I'm escaping to the computer again. Theres a rule in the house now that when mommy is typing, no one is talking... I can dig that.

In other interesting news, we've been trying out veganism. We aren't 100% yet. I'm not going to lie, I still like meat, and the cravings seem to rear there ugly head about once a week. I really want to do a blog post about veganism, but I'm still in the research and development phase. One thing that I can conclude is that I feel amazing and I look amazing. I'm not in it for the animal rights, even though what slaughter and dairy farms is horrible, I'm doing it for the health reasons. We're veganizing the kids too. Twinkle Toes has transitioned wonderfully, but Wild Thing is on a veggie strike, he'll only eat bread. I guess he's finally hit the age where veggies are gross. I'll keep trying. Since going vegan we had to get rid of the chickens. We had a non vegan friend who was more than happy to take care of them, and he's doing a great job!

I'm looking forward to getting moved and unpacked. I've got some projects in my head for redecorating the new place and I can't wait to blog about them all. I'm always so happy that people are reading my blog and it makes me feel so important. Thank you to everyone reading, much love to all of you! See you soon!

Friday, June 8, 2012

DIY Upside Down Wine Bottle Planter

My wine bottle fascination came when I pinned the following picture from Pinterest. I looked all over the internet for a tutorial and couldn't find one anywhere! I wasn't about to give up, so I looked at the picture really close and tested it to see if it worked. Well, I figured it out and I want to share how to do it. It's really simple really, I made a post a while back about making a Hydroponic Wine Bottle Planter and it uses a similar technique. Feel free to look at the previous post to fill in the gaps.
Pic from Pinterest.
What you'll need:
  • Cleaned/empty wine bottle
  • Bottle cutter
  • Ice
  • Candle & Lighter
  • Sand paper
  • Small plant -- preferably a vine or something that grows well upside down.
  • Moss
  • Drill with small glass drill bit
  • WD-40
  • String or twill
Cutting: 1. Using the wine bottle cutter, you want to make a score line. Just go around once or twice with medium pressure. 2. Run an ice cube around the score line until cold. 3. Hold the score line about half an inch above the candle's flame and rotate until warm. 4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the bottle splits. 5. Sand the edges of the bottle until smooth.

  1. Cut as directed except at the very bottom of the bottle. Be patient, sometimes it takes a couple tries. Throw out the bottom and sand along the edge of your cut so that it isn't sharp.
  2. Using the drill and small glass cutting bit, carefully drill 2 small holes, big enough to fit your string through, at the very top of the neck, preferably where it's very thick. Spray some WD-40 while your cutting it to cool down the temperature, it get's hot!
  3. Dampen the moss and stuff it up into the bottle. *When the moss dries, it will expand.*
  4. This is the tricky part, take the small plant out of it's container and size it out for the opening of the bottle, you may have to shake off some dirt. Wrap the damp moss around the dirt/root system and fit it tightly into the bottom of the bottle. You want a tight squeeze!! It surprisingly holds. I was pretty shocked!
  5. String it and hang it up! It'll look cooler as the plant grows.
The ones that we made.
Care tips: To water them, take it down and water them from the bottom. Let them sit *upside down* with the neck in a glass to drain. Don't try to hang them back up when they are soaking wet, they'll drip all over the place and I even had one fall out once.

Fun With Colored Rice

My friend Schi-Schu, as we call her, taught me how to make colored rice and the kids LOVE it! They play with it for hours, even the big kids that come over here can't keep their hands out of it. I'm not going to lie, when everyone is in bed, I even enjoy a little hand dipping in the grains. It's super easy to make, so easy in fact, I let my 3 year old wild thing do it.

First you'll want to run to the store and get these things:

  • A big old bag of the cheapest white rice that you can find.
  • Food coloring
  • Bowl
  • Measuring cup
  • Spoon
  • Cookie sheets
  • A big bin
  • Measuring cups and spoons (for the kids)

It's so simple! Fill up a bowl with the rice and pour on some food coloring. Stir it up to mix in the color. Spread the rice onto your cookie sheet and put in the oven at 250 for about 30 min. This lets the food coloring dry. You could also let it sit out in the sun. -- I mixed all of the colors in the bin to make a rainbow of rice, I've seen people do separate colors in cute little bowls, but let's be real here... I have a wild thing. We've got to keep it simple. Here's my 3 year old making colored rice:

Pouring the rice in the bowl
Stirring in the food coloring
Putting it on the cookie sheet
Blue and greeen :)
In the oven
And in the bin
He loves it!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Homemade Laundry Detergent

This is a pretty standard recipe for making homemade laundry detergent, you can find it anywhere online, so it's nothing original. It works very well, makes about 10 gallons and costs only a few dollars to make. First, you'll need to go to the store for the following items.

  • 1 Bar Fels Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Soap (I looked everywhere and finally found it at Wal-Mart for 97 cents.)
  • Borax (1/2 cup) (I found 4 lbs and 12 oz for $4)
  • Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (1 cup) (Again, you may have to look around, but my grocery store had 55 oz for $2.50)
Start up cost: $7.47 -- But let's break it down because you can use the washing soda 6.5 times and the borax 7 times. Each recipe: Super Washing Soda $.38 + Borax $.57 + Fels Naptha $.97 = Total $1.92 Per Recipe **Each recipe yields approximately 640 Loads (Front Loader) or 180 loads (Top Loader) Since math is just so fun and we have a front loader, it costs $.003 per load -- uh... that's like a fraction of a penny... Hello? AWESOME!

Grate the soap
Heat soap with 4 cups of water on medium, stirring constantly until melted.
Fill a bin with 2.5 gallons of hot tap water. (That's 40 cups)

Add melted soap, 1/2 cup Borax, and 1 cup Super Washing Soda. Stir until all of the powder dissolves.

*All mixed*
Add another 2.5 gallons of hot tap water (40 cups)
Let sit overnight and it will turn into gel. You have 2 options: 1. Fill up an empty laundry detergent container halfway with the concentrated mix and half with water and do this as you go. 2. If you have a large enough container, add another 5 gallons of hot tap water. -- **Note: Be sure to shake the container or mix before every use as the gel and water will separate.

Front loader washing machine = 1/4 cup per load
Top loader washing machine = 5/8 cup per load

**Note: You can add essential oils if you want. I've heard about 10-15 drops is good and to add it after it's cooled.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My 10 Best Mom Moments

  • When I'm going to the restroom and everyone has to witness the act. They all crowd in there like a packed nightclub, I might as well dim the lights and install a disco ball.
  • How saying "Don't drop that" triggers an immediate dropping response.
  • Getting settled into a hot bubble bath to relax when my son walks in with his big tug boat full of bath toys, strips down and gets right in.
  • How as soon as he gets into said bath, he immediately pees in the tub.
  • When flow comes to town, of couse everyone needs to be in the bathroom, my son lays down on the floor, looking up between my legs, "Mom, are you dying?".
  • Getting to the check out, pulling out my wallet, only to realize that my credit cards have been swiped by a 2 ft. tall kleptomaniac.
  • Sharing my water, only to get it back cloudy and with food particles left in it.
  • Poop. The amount of it and how it always manages to get on my hands.
  • Enjoying a nice hike in the woods or fishing by the river and my son looks up at me, "Mommy, I have to poop."...
  • When my son is spazzing out and I go to grab for my coffee cup, but it is magically empty.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Spend Wisely - 10 Money saving tips for a family of 4

Spend Wisely - 10 Money saving tips for a family of 4 + Some baby saving tips.

There are 2 things to remember when it comes to spending wisely: 1. Time is money - You can buy so many things to save time. If you want to cut back on your spending, you need to be willing to put in the time. 2. You can have everything. Just not today.

** Updated 5/17/2012 
I just  wanted to share a little bit about using credit cards wisely. Using your debit card for purchases and bills can be dangerous. If you get mis-billed or double billed, which happens, it can drain your bank account and can take weeks to recover, leaving you high and dry. It is wise to find a credit card that provides good protections and rewards. There are 3 benefits: 1: If you get mis-billed or double billed, you can contact your credit card company and the transaction can be put on hold for investigation without wiping out you bank account. 2: Some cards provided an extended warranty on your purchases. So, if a buisness won't honor your refund or exchange, your credit card company can protect you. 3: Building rewards. You can collect points for flights, vacations, and sometimes even cash back rewards. Now, it's very important to not carry a balance. Set a limit on your monthly spending so that you can pay it off every month. By not carrying a balance, you do not accrue intrest charges. 

  1. Eliminate waist and re-use: It seems like you can get just about anything in disposable form these days; ranging from paper towels, paper plates, disposable diapers, wipes to make up remover pads. Think about everything that you just throw away, it's money down the drain. Try switching to washcloths for cleaning, using the plates sitting in the cabinet, cloth diapering and wipes are big savers too. Instead of throwing something away, try to re-use it or find a new purpose for it. *We dedicated a month and to see if we could fill up our big kitchen trash can once after watching No Impact Man. We weren't able to pull it off, but it brought a lot of attention to how much we were just throwing out. We've reduced our waist 10 fold since then. Now we have a closet where we put stuff to re-use, ex: coffee containers, wine bottles, cereal boxes, etc. We actually have a blast making things out of trash!*
  2. Make it, don't buy it: I just love Pinterest! Have I said that before? You can find a DIY tutorial on there for just about anything. Need a set of stackable outdoor chairs? Make 'em. Baby mobile? There's a million ways to make those. *We've proudly made our kitchen table, coffee table, side table, and a wall shelf by using discarded wood and furniture. Our kitchen table was once someone's workbench.*
  3. Garden and buy local: Grass looks nice and all but it doesn't really serve much of a purpose... Take half of your lawn and grow a garden. Try using heirloom/open pollination seeds, you can get years of use out of just one packet. It's great to get the kids involved too. *My Wild Thing loves to go sneak lettuce and kale out of the garden for an afternoon treat. I'm not sure that he would want to eat those things if he hadn't watched them grow from little seedlings.* If you don't have a lawn or your city folk like us, urban gardening is the way to go. You can use anything as a planter; shipping crates, an old wheel barrel, bowls or cups... I could go on all day here. Also, buying local produce from farmers markets or joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) not only helps your wallet but it also helps the economy. Support small business. These guys are family farmers that put their blood, sweat, and tears to grow quality crops. Local is better than organic.
  4. Cook from scratch: Everyone knows that you will save tons on money by eating at home, but you can save even more by making everything from scratch. You could buy a loaf of bread for $2.99 or make one from scratch for 25 cents (p.s. you don't need a bread machine to make bread). Everything that is pre-made, in the box or bag is going to cost you a premium. *I would say that our family of 4 eats about 75% organic fresh produce and non-processed foods... sounds expensive? Our monthly grocery bill runs us about $450.* Aside from the money that you are saving, eating processed foods (even when they have that cute little organic label or a picture of a pretty hillside farm on the front of it) is loaded with unnecessary calories and sodium. - Don't have the time? Eat it the way nature intended to. Eat it raw, eat it simple. You don't need fancy recipes to feed your family a well balanced diet.
  5. Take hand me downs and buy used: Kids go through clothes so fast and sometimes, they only wear them just a few times. Don't be afraid to take hand me downs from a friend with an older kid or buy used at a consignment shop or garage sale. I'm not just talking clothes here; furniture, toys, kids gadgets like swings, bouncers etc. I'm also a big fan of curb finds. People will throw something out for the slightest imperfection. Hello? Crayon washes out! When it comes to furniture, you want to look for something that has potential. It may look crummy on the surface, but if it's solid wood, you can sand that baby down, put on a new coat of varnish and voila! looks like new!
  6. Make a budget and track your spending EVERYDAY: Don't just spend freely without knowing where it goes and you can't just ignore you're account balance. When you're making your budget, be realistic. Maybe you eat out once a week *we do*, maybe you like to go see a movie once in a while... put it in there. Don't pretend like it doesn't exist or it will sneak up on you later. Map out your spending and see where it's going. You may be surprised to see that you are spending a lot on eating out or buying frivolous things. When you break it down, it's easy to see where you can change your spending habits. After all is said and done, see how much you have left over, (I know that some of us don't have a lot) and try to block out a portion of that to save. If you end up having a bad month, then at least you left yourself a buffer.
  7. Find those extra expenditures and cut them out: Think about your monthly expenditures and ask yourself if you really need it all. Cable can cost a fortune. An antenna will cost you about $60 and is free to use indefinitely. You can watch all of your network shows and prime time TV in HD with an antenna now a days. Do you need a smart phone? Better yet does everyone in your house need a smart phone? *Wonderful and I decided that we did need one, but that it wasn't necessary for us to both have one.* The service on each smart phone costs an additional $30 on top of your contract. Gym memberships that your not using... a home phone that just rings with sales calls... find out what you don't need and cut it.
  8. Be a loyal customer: Loyalty will get you a long way with your insurance company, cell phone company, internet provider, and your bank. Your insurance rate goes down the longer your with a company and your bank is more likely to give you a better interest rate after you've been with them for a while. It also gives you the leverage to say, "Hey! I've been with you guys for 10 years, you owe me a better deal.". Bouncing around can get expensive with early termination fees, start up fees and deposits. *Wonderful said that I should give the disclaimer to still shop around for a better deal. He's right. You can take that deal and go back to your people and say, "These guys are offing me this. Will you match it or beat it?". If they can't, maybe it's time to move on.*
  9. Buy smart and take advantage of the freebies: First of all, always make a shopping list! Never, ever, EVER buy anything off the list before going home and sleeping on it. That's what you call an impulse buy. 9 times out of 10, you'll realize that you didn't need it the next day. When making a big purchase, ask yourself a few questions first: How long do I expect this item to last? What's an appropriate amount to spend on something that is going to provide X amount of use when I make X amount of money? And give yourself a spending cap before you price out the item. *For example, Twinkle Toes is almost 11 months, and she needed new summer clothes. I knew that they aren't going to last for very long and I'm just going to end up giving them away in a few months, so, I gave my self a $75 spending cap before I went in the store.* Most importantly, don't buy cheap! It'll just fall apart and you'll have to buy another one. Buy something that is well made and durable so that you only have to get it once. Don't forget to take advantage of your freebies: I don't have a long list here because... well... I grew up with the Texas Republican Agenda in my ear. I'm not talking about welfare or food stamps, ok. I'm talking about your local library and special deals... This is tough to explain... *for example, the children's museum out here does half price if you go after 4p. The aquarium is free to locals on the 3rd Tuesday of every month.* Get savvy on that stuff. Living Social and Groupon are pretty cool too.
  10. You can have everything that you want, you just can't get it all today. Spread out your spending. *We leave a "free spending" section in our budget for things that we "want", but once the limit has been reached, it has to wait til next month, even if we have the money for it.*
Baby saving tips: (I can add more of these later too, because there are tons! *I'm always telling people that we have "free" babies.)
  • Breastfeed
  • Cloth Diaper
  • Make your own baby food
  • Don't buy toys. - They really don't need them, a measuring cup and a wooden spoon has brought more happiness to my children than any toy that I could have ever bought them.
  • Be minimalistic. Kids really don't need much. Just you.