1/2 Hour Easy Travel Pillow

With about 45 hours of sitting in the car ahead of me, what did I do an hour before we left? Whip up two travel pillows, of course. I cringed when I told Josh that I was going to make travel pillows while he was running back and forth, busy packing the van. His responding look spoke volumes, but seeing that we were not pressed for time and that I was positive it wouldn’t take too long, I pulled out my sewing machine and supplies.

Here’s what I did:

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I started with a basic square pillow form that I had in my stash. I measured around my neck to get an idea of how big to make the circle, and then I drew the circle in pencil and cut it out.

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Next, I pulled all of the pillow stuffing out.

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Then I cut out the same circle on the bottom half.

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My pillow form was already inside out for some reason, so I sewed all along the circle that I had just cut out, leaving a gap in one section to put the stuffing back in. I then turned the pillow right side out in order to stuff it.

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I stuffed the pillow with the former stuffing, which surprisingly fit quite easily in.

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I then sewed up the gap and the pillow was done!

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Time to sleep!

 

Here are some takeaways:

  1. The pillow was super easy to make and I think it’s comparable in size and comfort to what I saw at the store for a whole lot more money.
  2.  But, I wish the pillow was even poofier. Josh really likes travel pillows (instead of regular pillows) in the car, but he preferred to use both of the travel pillows at once to give more support.
  3. If I were to make it again, I would place the circle more off-centered so that at least one side would be bigger and give more neck support.
  4. Also, a darker colored fabric would be better. The pillows stayed white, but if we had stained them with food, it would have been obvious.
  5. In the end, because we traveled so far, the pillows were worth it and added a little extra comfort. I can see myself using them in the future for shorter trips to Canada as well.
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Found: A Printer Table (with a quick makeover)

In my last post, I showed the computer desk that I had refinished and then talked about getting some kind of printer table to put next to it. I wanted something that would contrast with the desk (not something wood and boxy) and more industrial looking.  Well, I hit the publish button on that post, left to do some errands, stopped at an antique shop, and saw something that would fit the bill! I whipped out my measuring tape, and yes, it would fit nicely beside the desk.

IMAG0068 It’s actually an old record player stand that has a wire rack below to hold albums. But who can’t re-purpose things? So I bought it and got to work with a quick makeover.

IMG_0049 I ripped off the old vinyl covering (which had a few holes in it anyways) and discovered smooth plywood underneath. I left the plywood and spray painted it a deep blue. The wire rack got turned into a cookbook holder, since I don’t store them in the kitchen.

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The blue ties into the dining room lamp and tablecloth, which is right across from the desk and printer.

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Here it is with the printer on it next to the desk:

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Although it’s not everyone’s style, I personally love it and think it’s fun and unique. In the future, I might refinish the top in another way, spray paint the legs, and use the bottom wire rack to store something else (music books? magazines? stationery?).  But for now it looks pretty good to me!  :)

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Desk Makeover

This desk makeover is special. After my mom immigrated to Canada at the age of 19, this was the first piece of furniture that she bought with her hard-earned money. Since its purchase, many people in our family have used the desk over the years. My dad added the leaf on the left when my mom used it as a sewing desk. But recently it’s been relegated to a humbler use: stuck in my parents’ basement storage room, basically used as a surface to collect stuff on. I wanted a solid small desk and so it was time to let it shine again! After some stripping, sanding, staining, and painting, it’s now back to its rightful use: a functional desk.

Before:

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After:

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My favorite feature is the little ledge that pulls out: perfect for coffee time!

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The only final touch that I have to work on is what to put the printer on next to the computer. It’s a huge printer, but it was free and has served us very well!

Right now it’s on a file cabinet:

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The file cabinet is cute but I don’t use it anymore. Ever since I’ve read about Alejandra’s method of using binders to store information, I find it so much easier than files and I don’t use files anymore. So I’m thinking of purchasing some kind of industrial looking cart to put the printer on (and maybe store paper, etc).  If we ever get a wireless printer I won’t have to store it next to the computer desk, but for now we do.

I was thinking of something like this:

Any suggestions?

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Garlic, Hornworms, and Baby Birds

Harvesting in the garden……

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In mid-July, we dug up our mature garlic

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Sometime you gotta improvise when you don’t have a proper drying rack

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3 kinds of garlic: Chesnok Red, Music, Belarus Purple Stripe

 

Trouble in the vegetable garden….

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You know you’re in trouble when a bunch of your tomato branches have been stripped of leaves! Time to start looking for….

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….a tomato hornworm! These huge (4-5 inch) green caterpillar-like creatures have massive appetites and can do a lot of damage! They are very hard to spot and it can take quite some time to find them. Can you see it?

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Look at its massive mouth!

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Josh spotted a tiny one, which was great because it hadn’t had much time to consume our plants!

 

Second batch of house sparrows…

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It’s so cute to hear their little cheeps as I walk by the birdhouse!

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Homemade Ricotta: Couldn’t Be Easier!

What a delicious problem to have: too much raw milk. We were getting raw milk from a local farmer for about five months (which has since been cancelled due to our overreaching Michigan bureaucracy) and although we couldn’t seem to drink enough of that creamy deliciousness, on occasion we couldn’t keep up. And so I made yogurt and……drum roll……ricotta cheese! The yogurt was tasty, but the ricotta cheese? SO GOOD and super easy to make!

My recipe came from a “Cook’s Illustrated” cookbook, but there are a lot of recipes online that you could follow. I haven’t made it with regular homogenized/pasteurized milk yet, but I can update you once I have since I’m now back to store-bought milk.

Here’s how easy it is:

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Ingredients: milk, salt, and lemon juice

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Heat up the milk and salt to a certain temperature, mix in the lemon juice, and watch as it all curdles.

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After letting it curdle, drain it through two layers of cheesecloth in a colander and then refrigerate.

A great way to enjoy the ricotta cheese is to mix some pesto through it and then spread it on New York Style Bagel Crisps. Very addicting!

But my very favorite way is to once again mix it with pesto and then serve it on Penne alla Vodka. The ricotta warms up and slightly melts on the pasta, making it a perfect combination.  YUM!

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Bon Appetit!

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Perspiration Pays Off

Gardening requires lots of water — most of it in the form of perspiration.

But Josh loves to garden,

and I love cooking with fresh-picked vegetables,

and so we gladly perspire (most days).

2012:

today:

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Yes, we still have more perspiring work to do. We need to make a gate at the entrance. We need to trench in a line for water, so that we don’t have to drag the hose back there. We need more wood chips to cover the bare soil. We’re still working on our plants around the outside border.

BUT!

We have come so far! Here are a few pictures of what took place in spurts between Spring 2012 and Spring 2016:

One more look at what we started with. The only items that stayed are the four blueberry bushes that we planted behind the little spruce trees.

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First, we got rid of all of the old junk, cut down the scrubby trees, and then leveled the ground. It’s amazing how much perspiration is encapsulated in that simple sentence!

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Next, we planned how large to make our garden (the bigger the better, we thought), and then put in the four corner posts, using string as a guide to make things square.

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Still using the string as a guide, Josh dug the remaining fence post holes. We spaced everything out to work with our boards so that we wouldn’t have to cut any of them once we built the fence.

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That’s one way to get a workout!

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With all the fence posts in, it was now time to dig a trench, put up the metal fencing to keep out the snacking animals, and nail up the rails.

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With only half of it done, the wild turkeys could still wander in, looking for a meal.

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We buried the metal fencing at least 6 inches down, which was a good thing because we’ve had critters already trying to dig underneath it this Spring.

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Last Fall, all the fencing was in place, but we still needed to finish staining the wood.

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Here it is this today. We added copper solar light caps to the corner posts, and hope to add some kind of cap to the other posts.

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My mini herb garden

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On the left we have three rows of potatoes (red and yellow) with tomatoes (roma, cherry, beefsteak) further in behind them. In the center is my herb garden, and behind that we have peppers and different kinds of squash (spaghetti, cucumber, and zucchini).

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On the right side of the garden, we have three rows of corn near the front, four blueberry bushes behind, and rhubarb at the back.

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The blueberry bushes are loaded this year!

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We transplanted the rhubarb this Spring and it seems to be thriving!

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My herbs: mint, chives, rosemary, thyme, oregano, cilantro, parsley, lemon basil, and basil.

And we still have the raised garden beds on the top of our hill that have raspberries, garlic, onions, beans, and lettuce.  🙂  We are certainly blessed!

Two bonus pictures:

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My gardening companion who one minute is licking himself….

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….and the next is spazzing out as he chases his tail.

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Update on Grocery Shopping Binder

I put together a grocery shopping binder near the end of January and promised I would let you know how it’s working out. Well, it’s five months later and here’s my verdict in one word: excellent!

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I use it almost every week, and on the weeks that I don’t, I pay for it.  For example, yesterday I went to the grocery store three times for items I forgot! Three times! When I use my binder, I never find myself making a quick run to the store.

The positives are still there:

  1. It’s easy to organize and actually use coupons.
  2. It saves me a lot of time.
  3. It’s quite easy to upkeep and I’ve never had trouble with it getting disorganized.

The negatives are still there too, haha:

  1. I still have to meal plan.
  2. I still have to clip coupons.
  3. I still have to keep it up, although the work is minimal.
  4. Using expo markers is still the best choice, in my opinion, but it does require erasing your items with water and paper towel, which isn’t a big deal but still a little annoying.

After reviewing my binder, I made a few tweaks to make it even better:

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I changed the order of some of the categories down the right side of the page to better fit how I shop at Meijers. I also added two columns at the top titled NOW! and SOMETIME! For the “NOW!” column, I list the items I need to purchase this week. For the “SOMETIME!” column, I list items that I’ll need in the coming weeks, so I can keep an eye on sales.

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I once again changed the order of the categories on the left side. I also made three columns at the top titled “exp. date”, “items”, and “amount”. In this way, I can see at a glance all the expiration dates as well as the amount of the coupon. 

If you want to make a similar binder, here are a few tips to consider:

  1. Use expo markers for all of your labels for the first few months so that you can change things around. Now that I’ve used the binder for almost half a year, I switched my titles to permanent marker so that they won’t erase with the other things that I want to erase.
  2. Take your expo marker with when grocery shopping and cross off the items as you purchase them.
  3. After putting your groceries away, take a moment to erase any items that you purchased from your grocery list and online coupon list (if you have one). This will start you off with a clean slate for the coming week.
  4. When you sit down to meal plan, flip through your coupons and take note of which items you might be able to use.  Also, fill in your shopping list as you look through your recipes.
  5. Just before grocery shopping, quickly glance through your coupons and pull out any that have expired.
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