Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Stowaway - A Portable Roof Rack

This post is not sponsored, nor am I receiving anything for posting about it. I just bought one earlier in the campaign and realized it was something worth sharing here.  The Stowaway is a portable roof rack that sets up in minutes and is smaller than a shoebox.  What?!  I know, right?

I have spent many hours cramming boards and plywood in and on top of my car leading to various levels of unsafe driving.  I kept thinking about getting a roof rack, but that seemed like a pain.  I knew I'd never have it on me when I needed it.  Plus, they're expensive as all get out!  The makers say it's durable...I don't know.  Unfortunately, I won't know until after its ship date of February 2017.

Check it out (FYI I can't get the video to work on Chrome, but it's fine on other platforms.  If you're having an issue, just click the product link and watch it on Kickstarter.)

I'll come back and post a review after I get it. In the meantime, if you want one for yourself, there's only 4 days left to order it. You can find it here on Kickstarter.

Friday, July 29, 2016

The 2017 IKEA Catalog is Here!

We stopped into IKEA, just to stop in.
As I walked into the entrance, there on the left were huge boxes....
of catalogs!  I almost died.  I grabbed two copies.
I have one coming in the mail, but whatever.

BTW, I have every IKEA catalog since 1998.
I had all the extras and mini-booklet things (for kitchens, offices, closets, bathrooms, etc.)
I threw most of those out, because I realized I was out of control.

I'll post some pics of our IKEA visit soon.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

IKEA Spice Drawer Organized with Mason Jars

I have been on a mission to deal with the messes in my house.  I've been working mostly on the upstairs.  Room by room, taking care of projects and throwing out crap I don't need.  The kitchen is mostly okay, I just have too many things stuffed into everywhere.  Marie Kondo is right, keep the stuff that brings you joy and throw out or donate the rest.

For example, I have more spices, vinegar and oils than the average person.  My spice/vinegar/oil collection would never fit on a rack.  I have them crammed into this three drawer pull out cabinet, as well as on shelves in my pantry.  I do a lot of international cooking, and you need different things for Sri Lankan, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.  So, I keep everything on stock.  Everything.  Unfortunately, this resulted in mass chaos in my spice drawers.

This is the top shelf.  These are my frequent, but not everyday stuff.

The middle has the larger bottles, mostly oils, cooking wines and vinegars.

This bottom drawer holds my more generic stuff, like garlic powder, paprika, etc.

I had this idea of using mason jars to store my spices.  I was reluctant mostly because people are using mason jars for everything now-a-days and I find that irritating.  The truth is, they were the cheapest, well made glass jars I could find.  I paid about $7 for a case of 12 of  the smaller jar 8 oz. mason jars and about $10 for the larger 12 oz. mason jars.  I bought two cases of the small and two cases of the big jars from Walmart, which I hate to shop at, but they had everything in stock and they had the best price.  Four cases of jars later, now my drawers look like this.

Big jars on the top drawers.

Small jars on the bottom.

You can comfortably fit 7 jars down and three across in an 18" IKEA Akurum cabinet.  You can put 4 jars across, but it's a tight fit.  I only used four jars across in a few rows, and left space for things that didn't make sense to pour into the new jars, like baking powder, white pepper and vanilla extract.

It's amazing how having the same jars, as opposed to multiple shapes in sizes, allowed me to put in so many more spices into these drawers.  Doing that, cleared out the oil/vinegar drawer of spices.  Now everything's arranged neatly, and I cleared out half a shelf in my big pantry.

I used the smaller jars in the bottom drawer.  Again, 7 deep and 3 across.  Four across is snug, but doable.  I also needed some jar-free space for little bottles of cream of tartar, pre-ground weirdly hot black pepper and my Old Bay seasoning.

One thing people seem to get hung up on when organizing is how to make it pretty.  Listen, I don't have time to sit around with a label maker.  I use masking tape with a Sharpie marker for everything.  I used them to label these jars as well as my pickles and ferments.  It's inexpensive and easy to maintain.  If you had dig out your label maker every time you had to label something, chances are you'd stop putting labels on anything.  It's too much work!  If you don't have a system that's easy to maintain, you won't maintain it. 

 I like the tops labeled not the sides, so when I open the drawer it's so much easier to find what I need.  Sometimes I cut out the label from the bag, and tape it on top.  Even easier.  I have a feeling the kitchen will always be a work in progress due to my appliance obsession.  Just a note to all my fellow hoarders, do it in small steps, so you don't feel overwhelmed and be proud of every accomplishment.  It took a long time to get disorganized and cluttered, it won't get cleared up overnight.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Garden Tour - June 28, 2016

Why haven't I posted on here since April? Yeowza. I've been all sorts of busy.  I actually fried almost every one of my seedlings.  Accidents happen, life goes on.  Instead, I restarted by just putting seeds in the ground.  So far so good. 

I have a lot of zucchini growing.  Plus, the mystery squash...

What's mystery squash?  You're guess is as good as mine.  They were growing in the compost bin, and I assumed they were pumpkins.  Apparently, I was wrong.  Any guesses?

I don't know what happened with our peas, but only about half sprouted.  And of that half, a very large groundhog made an appearance on our deck and ate half of them.  It's okay, I'm happy to share with our backyard wildlife.  We still managed to shell a few cups worth of peas.

We have three types of beans in addition to the shelling peas....I think french string beans, snap peas and a weird purple one my mom gave me that changes color when you cook them.

We're growing two types of melons and bunch of pickling cucumbers.  We're trying a new trellis system this year, made out of repurposed parts of our old garden fence.

This is supposed to be a melon, but it looks like a cucumber.  I am starting to think I mixed up some of the seedlings.  Much like the mystery squash, only time will tell.

Hey!  What's that next to the cucumber trellis?  Are those tomato plants?

Why yes, they are!  So is this.

And this.  So, yeah....after I fried my seedlings, I picked up a bunch of tomato seedlings from a lovely lady on freecycle.  After planting them, I noticed some small tomato plants growing in my garden.  We usually get five or six every year.  This year, it went from a few here and there, to about thirty unplanned tomatoes.  All in all, I think we have around 50 plants, more than ever before.  Thank goodness I know all about canning.  We'll have tomatoes well into the next growing season.

I also bought some new, fancy red lettuce seeds.  Unfortunately, I was entirely too lax about watering them, and and only one sprouted.  That's disappointing.  I might throw in more seeds this week.

Every year, the mint comes back by itself.  I brought a huge bucket of it to work, and you couldn't even tell I noticed any from my yard, that's how much I have.

The cilantro reseeded itself from last year.  Just like last year, I didn't cut them in time to clean and freeze them.  Also like last year, I will instead, harvest the coriander seeds.  For right now, there are a slew of beautiful, tiny, white flowers attracting all sorts of beneficial bugs.

The carrots are doing well.  I bought a weird stubby type that should do well in clay soil.  The beets...I don't know what's going on with them.  I have to start new beet seeds I think.

I'm doing just a few basil in a pot.  I probably should have used a bigger pot and planted more seeds.

The pears are back of course.  The squirrels and groundhogs will be happy.

I wasn't sure how big that broccoli was going to get, and didn't harvest it in time.  It flowered and now went to seed.  I'm just going to sprout the seeds to add to salads and sandwiches.  Right now it looks like a crazy mess.  I'll start new broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower seeds soon.

And this wild mess?  It's the kale.  That kale plant has taken on a life of it's own.  We had an aphid infestation, but thanks to my trusty new sprayer, I wiped it out.  I'll explain later.  The kale also went to seed.  Since I have seeds from last year, and this one plant produces so much kale that I don't need to plant more, I'll sprout these seeds too.

A few kale leaves are starting to pop up.

I have a lot more to tell you.  I'll try to post more this week.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Are You Vermicomposting?

I have always been fascinated with the idea of vermicomposting.  What's vermicomposting?  Basically, it's like having worms as pets.  You feed them your scraps and they produce worm poop, because, as we all know, everybody poops.  Then you use that worm poop, a.k.a. vermicompost, as compost for your houseplants or garden.

A great source of information, believe it or not is a little paperback book originally printed back in 1982 (back in 1982...ha!  I was in elementary school back then...I am old!).  Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof is like the bible of vermicomposting information.  Before you run out and buy the book, check your library (it makes me sad that libraries have become such an underutilized resource) or read this article she wrote on Mother Earth.

I know some people are weirded out by the idea of worms in your home.  Get over it.  Bugs are everywhere, that's life.  If you live in a warm climate, you can keep them outside.  I've read some posts from people in colder climates that insulate the crap out of their worm bins, so they can keep them outside.  Some people even repurpose old refrigerators to use as outdoor worm bins.  The average person is not doing large scale worm bins, I don't plan on it.  If I did, they'd have to go in the basement, where they would eventually get neglected.  I feel like, if I'm going to do it and maintain it, then it needs to be somewhere I can see everyday.

You can buy a worm bin, obviously.  A lot of people do, and it seems a lot of people like the ease of these systems.  The Worm Factory DS3GT 3-Tray Worm Composter is a very popular one, with a lot of good online reviews.  You could also DIY it with a simple Rubbermaid container setup.  Red Worm Composting has a lot of information that is pro-Rubbermaid worm bins.

Personally, I don't like the cost of the commercial ones, nor am I into the plastic in general.  It's not breathable and from I understand, harder to maintain temperature and moisture.  Compost Junkie has some great info on why you shouldn't use plastic, and general vermicomposting information.  But, to each their own.  A quick search of the interwebs will show a slew of people that love their plastic bins, so do your research and decide for yourself.

There are also a lot of people that love The Worm Inn.  I could have sworn there was a video of how to use it from a very enthusiastic man on the site explaining the benefits, but it's not there anymore. I will say, but like the plastic bin set ups, a lot of people seem to love these too.  Many have DIY'ed it with pants, but there have been people reporting mold issues.  The non-DIY version is comparable in cost to the commercial plastic bins, and you have the option of buying or building a stand.  I just don't think I want that in my kitchen, mostly because I think the Ninja Attack Cat will destroy it.  I also think the DIY wood bins just look better.  

I did come across the Uroboro Domestic Vermicomposter by Marco Balsinha. I am obsessed.  Unfortunately, it was his master's of product design thesis, and as far as I know, not currently available for sale.  I was trying to figure out how to diy it by cutting off the bottoms of terra cotta pots, but the more I researched doing that, the more I thought a wood box is easier to make.  I am still considering it though.  IKEA terra cotta pots are inexpensive and I think you just need an angle grinder and a diamond blade...  It looks like a marriage of the two bins I talked about, where they stack, but there's no screens on the bottoms needed like the The Worm Inn.  I bet the terra cotta is more breathable, but you'd have to really stay on top of the moisture situation.  I also bet because it's so breathable, you wouldn't have a big leachate issue like you do with the plastic bins. We'll see....

In the meantime, I thought I might build a box.  I've been busily pinning things I've found.  Ana White has one on her site...of course, she has plans for everything you can imagine and then some lol.  But I liked this version on the Friendly Wom Guy's site. No building plans, but looking at the pic, I can figure it out.  (There were more pics, but the site doesn't seem to be working now).

I am still on the fence.  We even went to a vermicomposting seminar, me and my tiny human.  She took notes, and asked questions.  I was so proud of her.  I've been mulling this over for the past few years, but I think this is the year.  And if you're looking for worms on a budget, my understanding is you can buy the right type of worms at Walmart in their fishing department.  They reproduce quickly, so I wouldn't be concerned with buying a million of worms to start.  You can also purchase them online, but read the reviews carefully.  There are a lot of complaints with various companies, so do your due diligence finding a good source.  

Monday, April 11, 2016

We Finally Have Purple Broccoli!

Yesterday, as the Hubby was trying to get that stupid 6 foot deer fence taut (it is not as easy to do as you'd think), I took a stroll around the garden.  As usual, onions, onions everywhere.  Funny-ish story, I ran out of onions the other day and was irritated I had to stop at the store on my way home from work.  I'm an idiot.  I should've just walked into the backyard...yeesh.

The kale is doing well, no sign of bugs.  Yet.

Next to the kale, is a plant that also survived the winter.  I haven't had a clue what it is.  Then as I peered down at it, I saw it...a purple head of broccoli!

I am not sure if it's a Purple of Sicily cauliflower, but I'm pretty sure it's an Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli.  I think.  Whatever it is, I'm excited.  Perhaps, the key to growing these is to start them in the winter, so I can put them out in our mini-greenhouse very early in the year.  

I started new broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and brussel sprouts seeds last month, and instead of leaving them inside to sprout, I left them out in the greenhouse so they'd get exposure to the cold weather. Hopefully, between this method plus my new sprayer, (knock on wood) it'll be a more successful year for my brassica family plants.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Do You Have a Ladbrooke Soil Blocker?

I am fascinated by the idea of these soil blockers.  I've been thinking of buying the Ladbrooke Mini 4 Soil Blocker.  I like the idea of the soil blocks in lieu of the trays I use now, but I'm not sure I'm convinced they work.  It just comes across like an As Seen on TV type of gadget.  I wish they had them in stores, but it seems like you can only buy them online.
I like the idea of not having to save my plastic trays.  I also really like the idea of not disturbing the roots of the seedlings when I transplant them. You can get the Micro 20 Soil Block Maker that insert the larger blocks. In theory, this all seems great.

Now, I'm usually a DIY kinda girl, but after I saw this guy's video, I realized that DIY soil blockers are a little too labor intensive for me.  

So I was on the fence.  Is it better to buy it?  Then I found this video:

And you see how much faster it is than the DIY.  I think when you factor in the time to make it and how it's not as fast to use, I think it's better to buy it.  I mean, this isn't cheap, per se, but it's not going to break the bank either.  At around $30, to have a lifetime of not buying trays....seems like a worthwhile investment.  I am a little concerned about making these soil mixes.  I think I'll have to do more research.  Anyone who's used these and wants to chime in, I'd appreciate it.