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Totally Together

Backyard Container Composting

March 5, 2014 by · 5 Comments 

Make a backyard composter out of 3 stacked wooden crates -- can be found at Michael's or garden supply store. No tools needed!

You’ve heard of container gardening, but how about container composting?

I’m on a writing deadline, which naturally means that I am procrastinating by spending way too much time looking up gardening stuff on Pinterest. (that makes sense, right?)

wait. Don’t answer that.

We have a bit of a blank slate with the backyard in this new house, and I’ve been pinning up a storm on my small garden ideas board, and came across a pin for a container composter made from 3 stacked plastic milk cartons– the thick plastic cubes that the dairy provides to ship the milk to the store.

I was instantly intrigued. I’ve wanted to compost (I can use that as a verb, right?) for a few years but only wanted to do it without involving my husband. I liked the idea of the compost bins made from pallets but knew that even if I could find a pallet (and pinterest makes it seem like there are pallets lying around all over town, but even if they were, wouldn’t they belong to somebody?) I’d need Adam to use the saw and make it for me, which defeats my purpose of wanting to do EVERYTHING all by MYSELF.

(I’m sort of like a preschooler that way….)

Anyway — back to the milk cartons. I liked how they were stacked three high, and I liked how no sawing or nails or anything mathematical was involved. But I couldn’t get past the whole stealing them from the back alley behind the grocery store thing—-  so I went to Office Depot to buy some crates.

The only types they had were made out of terribly flimsy plastic and the bottom was solid, which wouldn’t work for what I wanted. I wanted the bottom to be open so worms could get in and for airflow between the stacked bins. Bummer.

plastic milk crate

In a pinch, I figured those could work, but I’d need holes drilled into the bottom, and my worry was that the plastic would begin to wear out pretty quickly in the sun.

I went across the parking lot to Orchard Supply Hardware and looked at their plastic crates. They had some pretty durable ones, plus they had some really cool cubes made of plastic-coated wire that would have worked. The cubes were $14 each, which are a bit pricy, but they would have worked.

And then I saw the bulb display by the door leading to the outdoor garden. In these beautiful wooden crates there were daffodil, garlic, and tulip bulbs for purchase. I didn’t want the bulbs, though, I wanted the display crates. I found three empty ones under the table and brought them to the front of the store. The lady at the counter wasn’t sure what to tell me, and didn’t know if she could sell them as “miscellaneous merchandise.” I was asked to wait about 20 minutes until Sam came back from lunch.

So I did.

The kids and I used the potty and daydreamed about patio furniture. We also picked out a few new paint chips (I limit the kids to 3 chips each — I think it’s wrong to take every color for an art project, but I see that kind of stuff online all the time…  but that’s just me. I got hit pretty hard with the ethics stick.)

When Sam tracked us down, he said that I wasn’t the only person to inquire about the crates and that I could just have them. He said his manager told him yesterday that they had no use for the crates in the store.

wooden crates from Orchard

SCORE!

The funny thing is, that I totally would have paid for them. I had already decided while I was waiting that if they wouldn’t let me buy them I’d go get wooden crates from Michael’s.

I got the crates home and the kids and I got to work rather quickly getting the crates ready to go outside. I wanted the bottom slats to be uncovered, but used garden fabric that we had leftover from our old house to line the 4 sides. This keeps dirt from falling out of the cracks, protects the wood a bit, and keeps the compost ingredients insulated and warm to get them to “cook” faster.

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I cleared a space in the backyard against the fence and stacked the three bins. Since the dirt wasn’t perfectly level, I ended up propping up the front of the bottom bin up with two bricks. Not only did this make my stack pretty darn level, it also provides a bit more air flow to the bottom bin. Compost breaks down faster when it gets more air.

I’ve been reading an awful lot about composting and this stack method seems to work well when you don’t have a bunch of square footage available in your yard. To use, simply place your yard trimmings and kitchen scraps in the top bin, and once it’s full, move it to the bottom. Continue rotating the bins until all three have been filled, and hopefully by the time you are ready to use the first one again, the yardwaste and scraps have broken down enough to get incorporated into your garden. Your compost is fully “cooked” when it’s super dark and looks like a moist crumbled chocolate cake.

make a compost pile out of three wooden crates

make a backyard compost stack out of three wooden crates

I ended up putting a small piece of plywood that I had lying around in the shed for a top, and put a heavy terracotta pot on top. This is to discourage the cats or raccoons from digging through the compost and to keep rain out of the bins. You can help break down your kitchen scraps and yard clippings by adding worms to the pile. If the worms don’t find you on their own, you can purchase worms from a fishing supply or garden store, or simply go on a puddle walk with the kids after a rain!

I’m excited about this project — it was something that I really wanted to do for quite a while, but kept getting bogged down with the details. This method is simple, and if I run out of room, I can easily make another one on the other side of the yard.

I go through so many produce scraps when I’m cooking and since we no longer have guinea pigs (they lived a good long life, and were terribly well-loved!) I am happy to be able to put the scraps to good use.

DIY 3-part container composter in the backyard. No tools needed; crates can be found at Michael's or a garden supply store

 

 

 

Easy Way to Clean Silver Jewelry

January 26, 2012 by · 16 Comments 

how to clean a whole box of jewelry in just minutes!

 

I’m not that much of a girly girl, but am realizing that I can get away with wearing the same plain shirt and jeans quite often if I switch up my jewelry. Recently, my friend Jennifer’s (yes, I realize ALL my friends are named Jennifer..) mom started selling jewelry, which means I’ve started to buy more pieces.

I love my new jewelry, but find that real silver tarnishes much too quick for my liking, and I stop wearing it completely after a few months. After a bit of googling, I discovered the quickest and easiest way to wash it all at once to remove the tarnish: a salt water bath with aluminum foil. The hot water and salt loosens the dirt and grime, while the aluminum foil attracts the tarnish (for the super-geeky, this is an ion exchange), and it then wipes away from the jewelry (or silver pieces) easily with a soft towel.

This wiki post intrigued me, but it was the testimonials from this message board that won me over.

I would not use this method to clean jewelry with precious stones. All the stones I dropped in the solution were made from glass.

The Ingredients.

tarnished silver jewelry, silver pieces (flatware, etc) (I also threw in a hammered copper pendant, which cleaned beautifully)

aluminum foil

1 tablespoon table salt

hot water

glass container or jar

 

The Directions.

Fill a glass jar or container with hot water, and stir in a tablespoon of table salt. Make sure the salt has dissolved completely, and throw in a few (I did three) 1-inch aluminum foil strips. Add jewelry. Let soak for a few hours, stirring every so often to remove dirt (the water will get brownish in color).

Dry jewelry completely with a soft towel and store in a silver cloth or tarnish-free tissue paper to keep this from happening over and over and over and over and over again. Sigh.

 

The Verdict.

This worked much better than I expected it to– the dirt and tarnish just wiped away with the towel. I found some of my really badly tarnished chains needed to soak longer, but they still were ready to go in a few hours. I only wish I was gutsy enough to tie the crockpot in with this one…

Write On / Wipe Off Chore Charts

January 8, 2012 by · 10 Comments 

It’s 2012. I’ve spent the last four years of my life on the internet, and I love how I continue to learn new things. I developed a slight addiction to Pinterest over the holiday break (what? it was only supposed to last a week and I stretched it into a month? shhh. don’t tell anyone.) and learned that you can make ANYTHING into a white board with a cheap dollar store picture frame and a dry erase marker.

I think I’m in love.

The above frames were made in about 37 minutes. It took me a while to figure out the actual dimensions of the frame– 8 x 10 means that if you’re using a power point presentation you should size your project for 6.6 x 9.

You’re Welcome!

Another Thing to Note:  the glass at the dollar store breaks really, really easily. I broke the glass on each of these frames, and ended up going out into the shed to find old pictures to steal the glass (one might of been from Adam and his college friends. oops.). I’d maybe find cheapish frames at Kohl’s or Target that match instead.

My kids don’t seem to care that I’ve written a housekeeping journal/planner, or have developed a clever acronym for decluttering. They also don’t care that I get thank you notes every day in my email box which continues to perplex my #butIhelpotherpeoplewhydoesntmyownfamilylisten crazy brain.

it’s okay. I’ve come to terms with it.

Anyhow, I wrapped these chore charts up and handed them to my 7 and 10-year-old daughters (their names are on the charts, but I’ve covered them with tape because I’ve promised Adam I won’t exploit the kids on the internet) as New Year’s presents.

My 10 year old rolled her eyes, but my 7-year-old was uber excited and got to work checking things off her list immediately. If you’re looking for a guideline for age-appropriate chores, this list is a good one. Our picture frame chore charts have now been in action for exactly one week, and so far so good.

How was your New Year’s? Any big ideas for 2012? Did you make a vision board?

it’ll be a good year. I promise.

Back to School, back to work

August 26, 2011 by · 9 Comments 


Photo inventory:

1 basket of clean laundry, unfolded and dumped on the living room floor

1 basket of clean laundry, folded and left on couch

2 “used” baby socks

2 brand-new shoes still bungee corded together

1 too-expensive rolling backpack

45 whole crayons; 3 broken

1 broken blue bead necklace (hanging from the couch cushion)

3 empty Target bags

and when I swivel away from the living space to look at the table:

Photo Inventory:

1 new lunchbox that is supposed to be used FOR SCHOOL ONLY

2 new BPA-free water bottles

1 water bottle ‘cozy’ that came with the lunchbox (completely unnecessary)

random leftover lunch stuff: sliced turkey meat, cut up apples, tortilla chips & hummus

1 abandoned laptop and 3 notebooks

1 very cheeky 19-month-old baby (helping herself to hummus)

106 new gray hairs

I mistakenly thought I could get some work done while the children played peacefully inside or frolicked in delight outside (isn’t that what children are supposed to do? Frolick?) . Yeah. I know.

delusional.

But you know what? This is real life. Not a glossy magazine. Stuff happens. Mistakes happen.

Life happens.

and it’s okay.

Give yourself a hug—- you’re doing a fantastic job. Already.

 

School begins for us on September 6th. I loved having everybody home with me for the summer, but I’m done.  How are things going with you?

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