Bzzzzzz

I’m a BzzAgent. What’s that? I signed up here, filled out surveys and now get stuff free in the mail to try out. The products I get are based on the surveys I take, so they are catered to my tastes. I then review the products on the BzzAgent website and Bzz about it on Facebook and Twitter. It’s pretty fun! I’ve only been a part of a few “campaigns”, but so far, I’ve had a blast. To Bzz about the latest campaigns I’m in, I’m writing a blog post to share two cool products I’ve had the privilege of trying out.

Do you like candy? I do. I love M&Ms with peanuts and Snickers bars.

Do you like artificial coloring, hydrogenated stuff, corn syrup, preservatives and GMOs? Me neither.

Good news! There is a company that doesn’t have any of that junk, but tastes just like the top candies available at CVS and other major stores! Incredibly, this company doesn’t use artificial food coloring in their products. Check out the color wheel they have provided on their website. It compares where they get their colors from verses where other candy companies get their colors from. Fascinating!

You can always get “healthy” candy at health food stores, but now this wonderful option is available at places like Walgreens, CVS, etc. Want to know where you can buy it near you, click here.

I’m really thankful for Unreal. Junk is just not necessary. So their taking it out.

So here is their promise to you:

GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT UNREAL AND WE’LL KEEP UNJUNKING YOUR FAVORITE JUNK FOODS.

Thanks Unreal!

Campaign #2: Glade.

I bought two oil diffusers from Target (for free with coupons provided by BzzAgent) and put one in the reception area at my office and in my bathroom at home. The office now smells like sweet apple pie and I am constantly hungry. From the moment I put the air freshener out, I’ve received non-stop comments about how good it smells in the office now. I’m not much of an air freshener person. I was raised by a woman that can’t stand perfume. But, these scents are actually very genuine and refreshing. I don’t get a headache with these. :) I have two huge books of coupons to try these for free, so if you are interested, leave a comment.

Like I said, we love joe.

Phillip and I have decided to take our love of  joe to the next level.

We bought a roaster from Sweet Marias. OK, so it’s nothing major, but we dropped a little dough and bought this little toy to try our hand at home roasting. We purchased a sampler of green beans with it. Friends and family, if you are interested in “testing” our new roasts, leave a comment. ;)

First, a note about home roasting and the value of Sweet Maria’s website. It is an exceptional site full of information for home roasters! I mean, just look at this menu!

Pretty cool, huh?

Sweet Maria’s guides you through all the ins and outs of coffee roasting. After some roasting, I looked into how to make coffee blends, because it seems like that’s what every coffee roaster does. Here’s what I discovered (long quote, but worth it):

“Blending is done for several reasons. Presumably, the goal is to make a coffee that is higher in cup quality than any of the ingredients individually. But high quality arabica coffee should be able to stand alone; it should have good clean flavor, good aromatics, body and aftertaste. So one reason coffees are blended in the commercial world might be the use of lower-quality coffee in the blend. Another reason might be to create a proprietary or signature blend that leads consumers to equate a particular coffee profile with a particular brand image; consumers don’t often call Starbucks by the origin names used in the coffee but simply as “a cup of Starbucks” as if the dark carbony roast tastes were somehow exclusive to that brand. Coffees are also blended to attain consistency from month to month and crop year to year. This is done with major brands that do not want to be dependent on any specific origin flavor so they can source coffee from various (or the least expensive) sources and attain a consistent flavor. Such blends generally reduce all the coffees included to the lowest common denominator.”

So, I don’t think our goal is to create coffee blends at all, just to stick with learning how to roast single origin coffee the best we can.

Want to try your hand at roasting, but don’t want to drop the dough? Try a Whirleypop on your stovetop! Here’s a pdf of directions from Sweet Marias.

We purchased the Fresh Roast SR500. It’s small, similar in size to a coffee pot or a popcorn maker. In fact, it functions just like a popcorn maker, using hot air to roast the beans. Larger, more industrial style coffee roasters are often gas powered and now even using infrared technology to roast the beans.

The next most important tool, so I’ve read, but not actually tested the difference yet, is your grinder. I’ve written about the importance of using  a burr grinder in an earlier post.

Phillip and I are both avid coffee drinkers, but for some reason neither of us has ever learned the difference between coffee origins (like Guatamala versus Sumatra) and the different roasts (French and Italian).  I used to scan the selection of beans from Trader Joes and not know what I was looking for, other than a coffee that was dark and full of flavor. I’d imagine it’s easy to go your whole life without ever knowing the differences.

Our love affair with coffee, fed by the fact that it is a common interest between the two of us, has bloomed into an ever increasing search for knowledge about the second largest traded commodity in the world next to oil. It’s been encouraged along the way by things like the Chemex, to which I was introduced by a good friend and single origin coffee, thanks to Ritual and Four Barrel in San Francisco, two local roasters we visited in San Francisco on our honeymoon. Slowly but surely we’ve gotten here, to buying our own home roaster and seeking to understand all there is to know about coffee. Along with our roaster, we also got a variety pack of green beans from Sweet Marias. We’ve been making our way through the different beans, roasting to different lengths and looking for flavors.

Below is a picture of a peaberry. Normally a coffee berry has two beans inside, but once in a while only one will develop into a bulb shaped single bean with no flat side. This is a peaberry.

When I make a pot of coffee with my Chemex, this is how it makes me feel.

Like brewing beer or drinking fine wine, there are always gadgets and gizmos galore! How much you want to geek out about coffee is up to you. Phillip and I have definitely chosen the coffee geek path. We have a number of other coffee purchases on the horizon. One being Chemex’s new best friend, the Kone. Only, it’s $60! What? Did I just say $60? OK, it will be a while before we are able to buy this…

Kone Stainless Steel Conical Filter

Another great product is the Clever Coffee Dripper. Might I say, a much more affordable product too.

“It differs from a normal filtercone by way of a stopper added to the bottom: water only drains once the filtercone is placed onto a cup. This design features more durable plastic, and is easy to disassemble for cleaning. In essence, the Clever Coffee Dripper combines the best features of French press and filter drip brewing, eliminating the drawbacks of each. With French press brewing, you have control over steeping time, but heat loss and sediment in the cup can be a problem. Brewing with a paper filter is easy and convenient; the problem is lack of control over steeping time (i.e. the coffee begins to drain immediately). By adding a stopper to the filtercone, the Clever Coffee Dripper combines control over steeping time with a sediment-free cup. We call this a “full immersion brewing” method.”

Clever Coffee Dripper - LARGE

It seems that coffee culture is blooming, pun intended, and I’m really excited that Starbucks is finally taking a back seat. It will always sell a ton of coffee, but now really great freshly roasted coffee is soon to be had everywhere! Similar to the home-brewing movement, knowledgeable consumers will seek out good cups of coffee.

Kickstand Coffee from Dear Coffee, I Love You. on Vimeo.

We didn’t know about this farmers market when in San Fransisco, but this would definitely be worth the stop. Pour over coffee and everything! http://jessgibbsphotography.com/2008/cities/ferry-plaza-farmers-market-san-francisco/

A Love Affair with Mason Jars.

I love mason jars. Who doesn’t? No really, I want to know, do people exist out there that don’t love mason jars?? Ever since we used them as our glassware for our wedding reception, I’ve tried to use the leftovers for everything possible. I’ve begun storing all of my beans, rice, oatmeal, coffee and everything else in my kitchen in these well sealed, quaint little jars. Most recently my husband and I started roasting our own coffee in small batches and we store the roasted coffee in mason jars. Problem was, we couldn’t figure out a way to mark them so we knew what they contained. Recently, a blog I follow offered really cute labels to print, cut out and glue to the lids. So I printed them out, bought spray glue and went to town. Unfortunately, the paper ripped and the ink faded within a week. Bummer. Also, for the more temporary roasted coffee, the labels need to constantly change.

Growing tired of less than sticky post-it notes and writing with permanent markers on less than sticky plastic wrap, I devised a solution. Paint the lids with chalkboard paint!

Whether you have a ton of empty mason jars readily on hand or have to go buy some (they are super cheap at any grocery store, feed store, walmart, etc. or try craigslist!),  these jars are a great way to get organized or keep stuff fresh. Now you have an efficient way of labeling your jars too!

We had some chalkboard paint leftover from another project, but you can buy it at any home improvement store. While you’re there, pick up a can of spray primer. In fact, I’d buy the spray paint version of the chalkboard paint and spray primer. Spray works easier because just imagine painting these little lids with somewhat sticky, heavy paint with a paint brush. They slide all over the place and whatever paint you got on the surface you’re painting on beneath the lid, will get on the underside of the lid (although, if you use a piece of tape on the other side, it should help). No bueno, but not a huge deal.

Let the paint dry and color the whole painted side of the lid with chalk. Rub the chalk all over and you’re done! You have to do this step to “primer” the chalk board surface.

Now I have neatly labeled coffee jars. If I really wanted to get fancy, I could write on them with chalk markers…

Because I store everything in mason jars, I spread the love around the whole kitchen. I sure wish my handwriting was cooler.

The possibilities are endless! Let me know what you come up with: oururbanfrontier@gmail.com.

Enjoy!! <3

Being a good wife.

I’m not very good at remembering birthdays and neither is Phillip. All that’s about to change. Now that we are married adults, it’s high time we get with the program and start sending gifts/cards for birthdays and anniversaries. I only regret that it’s taken me 7 months to get on the ball. Wanna know what I did to solve this dilemma?

I finally created a perpetual wall calendar! Have you ever traveled in Europe and seen one of these in someone’s restroom? Kind of strange place for them to be I know, but a good place to have reminders posted. Perpetual birthday calendars are calenders of just the days of the month, without the days of the week. Write someone’s name on the date and presto, a birthday calender that never has to be thrown away! Well, that is until it starts turning yellow and ripping… then you might want to replace it.

I’ve shopped around for years and I’ve tried to create one in the past, but have never completed it. The options online just aren’t very appealing, because they are either too girly or too bulky. So I decided to just do a really simple one and maybe play with the design in the future. Most likely I’ll have to update it every so often, so it will be nice to have it in a word document that can be updated easily or reprinted.

Here’s what it looks like:

For those of you who are trying, like me (key word: trying), to be frugal and responsible, I’ve created a pdf that you can print and either staple or just pin to a cork board. There are many crafty things that can be done with this, but I’ll leave that up to you. I’ll share with you my end product and hope to see how crafty you can get with this too! Shoot me an email with a picture of your final project: tunaranjamedia@gmail.com.

Click for your new Perpetual Birthday Calendar!

Enjoy!

Viva España!

It’s the question, the question you always get asked after a trip and aren’t sure where to start: “How was your trip?”

For starters, Phillip and I made it safely to and from Spain with a brief trip (5 days) to Morocco. We spent some good quality time with Philip’s sister Amy and her new husband Gabriel. Gabriel is from Spain and they were recently married last August. They put us up in their swanky Europad (I’m not kidding, it look like an IKEA catalog! Amy you’ve done a wonderful job!). Phillip and I started our trip off on the right foot, circling Madrid in our rental car a few times before figuring out which freeway to take to go south. In Spain, the freeways don’t use cardinal directions, instead they use major cities, e.g. if Barcelona is on the same road that your destination is on, then you look for Barcelona on the signs. The problem is that you have to know that vital information before setting off on your road trip or have your trusty co-pilot tell you. Unless of course your trusty co-pilot a) can’t pronounce Spanish towns so you can understand or b) you have to look at the map to help her find the cities so much that you might as well not have a co-pilot. That pretty much sums up the driving portion of our trip, which was quite a bit.

One of our first stops. The Windmills of Don Quixote!

We spent the first couple of days with his sister and her husband, enjoying traditional Spanish dishes prepared daily by Gabriel’s mother. At 2 every day we were served a multi-course meal, always with bread. We tried everything from Paella to lentil soup. It was amazing! In Spain, the main meal of the day is lunch, Comida. Everyone stops what they are doing and heads home to eat or heads to a local restaurant to enjoy the Menu del Dia. The Menu del Dia is set menu at a discounted price. Then it’s siesta time, which mostly consists of hanging out at home for a bit, then slipping off to work again. Then it’s a snack and dinner is at 9 or 10 PM. Nothing much, just a light meal. Tapas, wine and beer are often enjoyed in the evening with friends. We gathered with Phillip’s friends around several tapas and glasses of wine. In fact, I’m not sure if I could count how many glasses of wine or beer we drank.

Tapas y churro con chocolate!

Another thing we did a lot of was drink coffee. 3 times a day was our goal. Yes, we had a goal of how much coffee we wanted to drink. Not just any coffee… cafe con leche and cortados. We even visited a small local coffee roaster, which is not very common in Spain. Most of the coffee industry is dominated by larger roasters. Not many people drink drip coffee, mostly just espresso.

Cafe on Leche, Cortado (espresso ‘cut’ with milk), and Cafe Solo (no milk), the top three coffee bevs in Spain.

ValdCafe coffee roaster! Viva cafe!

Completely unmarked. Just a guy who loves roasting coffee and doing his thing.

After hanging out in Valdepenas, we headed south to Granada and Sevilla.  The southern state of Spain, Andalusia, is the home of heavy lisps and Flamenco. Rather than catch a dinner show for tourists, though I’m sure they are great too, we walked the streets late at night hoping to get invited into a gypsy cave for a show. We had no such luck, but were invited by some climbing friends to a local bar outside of Granada for a small show being put on by one of their friends. It was amazing! Flamenco is such an emotional dance and song, originally from the gypsies of Spain. The Mezquita of Cordoba and the Alhambra of Granada, both remnants of the Moors who dominated Spain for almost 1,000 years, wet our appetites for our Moroccan leg of the journey.

All of the colors and textures of these buildings were amazing! Granada was a beautiful old city and was by far my favorite! Picturesque and bustling with food and dance! I’ll post a video and pictures of the Flamenco show later.

Next post: Moroccan adventures! Get your mint tea ready! Need a tutorial? I’ll post one of those too!

Spain, Morocco, and Portugal

Planning a trip is always a mix of stress and excitement. I actually enjoy the process of learning all about the place I’m about to visit, long before I ever get there. If I visit other countries, I try to make an effort to learn basic conversational vocabulary and history. It helps me dive into the place rather than just glance at it through a window, as it were, as I pass by. Guide books, maps, and blogs are especially helpful to become acquainted with your destination. I rely heavily upon TripAdvisor for hotel and restaurant recommendations, because the plethora of reviews that are provided are very thorough. Blogs serve as a journal entry of an individual’s journey and give a first hand account of their experience. You can get a better sense of what an average day of travel is like in that particular place and what sort of atmosphere to expect.

All that to say, I haven’t done any of that for our quickly approaching trip to Spain. We are leaving on Monday, 5 days from today. I’ve pretty much left all the planning up to Phillip, because he’s so knowledgeable of Spain having lived there for a couple years. Problem is, he hadn’t really started planning until this week. This is our first major trip together, so we are learning. As soon as I realized just how loose his plans were earlier this week, I warned him that I might panic at least twice during our trip. He promptly bought a calling card to call Amy, his sister who lives in Spain. He wrote up a rough itinerary (which was bouncing around in his head, but he just hadn’t really hashed it all out) and got to work. The problem is that he knows the country so well that he doesn’t think we have to do much research until we are there. This makes me nervous, so I am going to do research along the lines of his rough itinerary. My first task was looking into side trips.

First side trip: Morocco. Morocco is a hop, skip and a jump from Spain via ferry or plane. A short Rian Air flight from Sevilla to Marrakech, Morocco for two was about $160. There are three main cities in Morocco that get the most air time: Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech. From what I read, Marrakech sounds like an exciting city full of shopping and food! The Medina, the city center, is a giant street market called a Souk. This is what Wiki had to say:

Marrakech has the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco and also has one of the busiest squares in Africa and the world, Djemaa el Fna.[4] The square bustles with acrobats, story-tellers, water sellers, dancers and musicians. By night food stalls open in the square turning it into a huge busy open-air restaurant.

This time of year Marrakech is about 88° F, so it’s gonna be hot. My priority is finding a hotel that has a decent pool and is near the city center. TripAdvisor had a listing of around 350 hotels in Marrakech, so I read through the reviews of the top hotels and narrowed my search down a little based on price. So far, the only way to book the hotel is to send your inquiry to the hotel on their website and then hope they get back to you. That or call Morocco. Whoa. That just sounds crazy. I’ll probably confirm arrangements before we head out. It seems that the best thing to do in Marrakech is soak in the surroundings of the busy square. The shops that line the streets look amazing with all the Moroccan style lanterns, brightly colored fabric and spices! I’m going to need to exercise some shopping restraint, but I’m going to take pictures to my hearts content! So far my impression is that Marrakech is safe for tourists and is a frequented spot by Brits and the French, so my initial fear is gone. I’m super excited to visit Morocco.

Second side trip that I’m looking into is Porta, Portugal. We were planning on cutting through the top portion of Portugal to get to the north of Spain to visit a friend and guess what happens to be in the north of Portugal? Port wine! Apparently there is a valley of wine in the north that is a must see and a new destination for wine lovers. This region has steadily grown in popularity over the past 10-20 years. I’m going to have to exercise some shopping restraint, yet again.

So these are my two projects for now. I’ll probably look into more Spanish destinations as we drive around Spain. We’ll have lots of car time as we are driving from Madrid toValdepeñas, a town 1 hour south of Madrid where Phillip’s sister lives, to Granada, a few hours south of there. Then from Granada to Sevilla (insert side trip to Morocco) and on to the white hill towns of the south. This will include a trip to Jerez de la Frontera, the home of Sherry! According to Spanish law, it must come from this region to be called Sherry. From there, we’ll drive back up toward Madrid and head West to Portugal, hitting up towns along the way. From the north of Spain we’ll head East toward the Pyrenees mountains and the border to France. We’ll make our way to Barcelona where we are arranging for a photography session in the city. Then finally we’ll head back to Madrid.

As we plan out our trip, a month now doesn’t seem long enough. The crazy thing is that Phillip’s aunt and uncle did this same trip in two weeks! So it’s possible. We’ll be climbing along the way and visiting with friends. We’ll be hanging out with Phillip’s sister and brother-in-law for the first week, which is going to be great! I’m looking forward to practicing my Spanish. :)

I can’t wait for the endless coffees, food and the sights of Spain! I’ll be sure to post pictures via Instagram and Facebook along the way. If you’d like to follow along, follow me on Instagram @TuMediaNaranja.

Vamos a Espana!

Where the heck have I been?! I know, I am guilty of blog neglect.

Between Phillip finishing up tax season and all of our house projects, life has just gotten in the way. The plus side is I have a lot of things to write about and share with you! Unfortunately, I need to carve out some time to do that and I’m not sure when that will be. My goal is to update the blog with pictures and project progress before we leave for Spain.

Yes, Spain! We will be taking off to Spain for the month of June. We will be visiting Phillip’s sister Amy and her husband Gabriel. Also, climbing is huge there so we’ll be climbing like crazy. We plan to split the trip up between sangria, tapas, the sights and climbing. Boy am I gonna have some fun stuff to blog about when I get back! :D So, hang in there and I’ll be posting again soon. Thanks for following our blog, we love sharing about our lives and our experiences here on the ranch (and abroad!).

Do you have a blog? We’d love to follow it. Post a comment with your blog address and we’ll be neighbors.

 

Grow Your Own. Life on the Ranch.

Living on a ranch has it’s down sides.

The Generator.

The Genorator

Whenever I we drive up to it, I see this…

Remember this furnace in Home Alone? Kevin is a child left behind (on accident) to fend for himself while his family goes on a Christmas vacation. His arch enemy in the house is the basement furnace that periodically laughs and heckles him. It’s quite scary. Until finally Kevin gets fed up with his childish fear of the furnace and yells, “Shut-uuuup!”. Immediately the furnace becomes inanimate and Kevin nods his head approvingly as he calmly walks back upstairs.

That’s how I feel whenever I’m in the presence of the generator.

It’s really loud.

It’s really smelly.

It’s basically the equivalent of a semi-truck engine and you have to start it with a little switch located on the generator. Yikes! The worst part is that starting it is the only way I can run my space heater and come summer, the AC. Fortunately, we installed a propane heater for the time being, but there are times when it needs to be started. Most of the time the ranch operates on a battery bank. Think 10 car batteries. A few hours in the morning and a few hours at night my father-in-law starts up the generator to charge the batteries and to provide more electricity so we can do things like the laundry and vacuum. The batteries just aren’t strong enough to power those things without being completely drained. It’s happened a few times so far, where I’ve been home on a Saturday and left the lights in the shop on and the batteries were drained. The lights in the house start to pulse on and off to let us know that they are low. Only thing to do is either turn off all the lights… or start the generator. Which one do you think I do? Someday I will have to face my fears, but that day is not today. But I promise to get video if it ever happens.

***

Now onto the sunnier side of ranch life. We are finally starting to get projects done, even during tax season. With Phillip working 6 days a week (CPA), it’s hard for me to get any projects done around here alone. I do as much as I can without the muscles and the know-how, but I don’t get very far. I’d like to say that I’m the brains and he’s the braun of this whole operation, but that’s not true, he’s really both.

We accomplished two raised beds in our front yard for easy access, because we have no door out to the back yard. We planted 2 types of tomatoes, 3 types of onions, 5 types of lettuce, bell peppers and herbs. I wanted to make cinder block raised beds, because I’m a little obsessed with cinder blocks at the moment, but we still had a lot of broken concrete available. It’s free, so we went with that. Normally raised beds are made with wood, but cinder block is $.80 a piece. Wood is expensive.

Here’s are examples:

Instead of going to buy cinder blocks, we decided to use up the rest of the concrete pieces that we used to make our patio. We didn’t use any mortar, just piled them and filled it with dirt. We threw a railroad tie on their for good measure. We also used the bathtub that housed the kegs for our wedding, as our herb bed. We used regular soil from around the ranch, but we put mulch on top. I’ve done a small amount of gardening in my life, mostly herbs, so I’m planting this garden while asking as many questions as possible and consulting a garden book. Phillip, on the other hand has been gardening for a while and knows way more than I do. He explained that Mulch helps keep the moisture in, especially with raised beds because they tend to dry out quickly. Make sure to use mulch that has been sanitized, because you don’t want to plant veggies in cow manure. Ew.

Inspired by a recent article in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, where a garden was featured with a small raised bed of different types of lettuce. So we planted six different types of lettuce, from Kale to Radicchio! They are a cold weather crop, so we are taking advantage of whatever cool weather we have left here in SoCal. It usually stays pretty moderate until June/May.They can be planted pretty close together and will look really neat when they are all full and different shades of green and purple.

Herbs in a tub. I’m going to add to this, but these basil and cilantro plants will become big bushes soon. I’m going to continue to plant around the tub to make it look good. Right now it just looks like a tub, in the dirt.

While at the local nursery, I also caught a glimpse of something we could make for our garden area. Bird houses!

Raised beds

I also began making concrete planters. First it started with a pin on Pinterest… it always does. Then Phillip told me how to do it. Then I did it and it came out perfect. Now I want more. I recently bought a big bucket from Target and I’m going to make a huge planter with it. The equivalent of this in a ceramic or terra cotta pot is over $100. Cement is cheap, easy and you can dye it colors! I’ll show you what I have so far, keep your eyes pealed, I’ll post on how to make them soon. I’m trying to find fun and creative things to use as molds, to pour the concrete in. Let me know if you have any suggestions.

20120326-091650.jpg


DIY concrete pots.

On another note, we bought more chickens! We are now up to eight! Our neighbor gave us an old chicken coup so we are in the process of fixing it up a bit. As soon as the little chicks are big enough, we’ll put them outside with the rest. Our goal is to be able to have an abundance of eggs to give away and/or sell. These chickens get to run around and eat grass and bugs all day… don’t they sound delightful? Really, they produce some of the richest colored egg yolks I’ve ever seen! See the comparison between store bought yolks and ours. The egg on the far left is from one of Phil’s mom’s chickens.

A local feed shop had a “chick” day, where they sold 1,000 chicks on a single Saturday! Tis the season!

20120326-091758.jpg

We have also started construction on our climbing wall for the inside of our garage. Yes, it seems disjointed to have a rock climbing wall on a ranch, but that’s the way it goes. We are urban dwellers living in the sticks remember? Going to the climbing gym all the time is a good way to work out, but it gets expensive and time consuming. We plan to put up a “traverse” wall in the garage so we can get a quick work out in. We can also arrange the climbing holds in various ways so we can work on particular movements/weak areas. We don’t know how much we are going to put into the wall, but for now the plan is just a short traverse wall so we can climb back and forth to get a good workout. I can’t wait to post pictures.

Climbing wall construction begins!

I’ve got so much more to talk about, but it’s best in small doses, no? I’ve got a ton more lined up and many projects underway!

***

Update: I did it!!

Repurposed. Worth it?

I must admit, “re-purposing” or “DIYing” stuff sounds like a ton of work and not worth the outcome. However, we’ve recently finished a couple of projects and it has reinforced my opinion that it’s totally worth it! Sometimes it’s hard to navigate what tools to use, how to use them and when to use them if you are unfamiliar with the medium with which you are working. The good news is there are so many resources online that make it possible to pick a project, do a little research and come out the other side pleased with your project. You’ll have the joy of creating and might even spend less money than buying your project new.

Remember the old door head board we wanted to do? Well, we finished it and we think it looks great! Before the wedding, as we were cleaning out the shop, we scored an old closet door. It came complete with an old door knob and key hole! We set it aside to use as our headboard way back in October and finally finished it last month.

How about you? Have you recently begun or finished a DIY project? I’d like to see what you’re working on. Show me your DIY project photos on Twitter or Instagram. Tag them with ‘#mydiylife‘ in the comment or caption section. Look for this hashtag if you wanna see what other people are doing too. It’s just getting started, so be sure to tag your pictures.

If you have an iPhone, you have to check out Instagram. It’s a free, photo sharing app that is a lot of fun. You can create your own “page” of Instagram photos: http://Instagrid.me. Here are all my Instagram photos: http://instagrid.me/tumedianaranja/. Once you tag your photos in Instagram, check out the album http://instagrid.me/tag/mydiylife/. Fatmumslim has created a cheat sheet for Instagram. Fun. You can also participate in her March Photo-a-day project on Instagram. I just learned about it and I’m excited to start! Today is “a smile”, so keep your eyes pealed for a good shot. :D

Old Door Headboard
Old Door Headboard

Old Door Headboard
Old Door Headboard

How to make the door headboard:

Project time: 3-4 hours.

Cost: $50-90

Door. See my old post for tips on how to get a great old door cheap or free.

Electric sander $35

Primer $10-15

Paint $10-15 (see below for tips on how to get paint for cheap)

Sanding sponge $5

Mounting hardware $15

1. Sand. We used this electric sander. It’s one of the cheapest sanders you can buy at Home Depot, but it works to lightly sand surfaces in order to prepare them to be repainted or stained. Down side is you have to buy special Velcro sandpaper pads made for the shape of this sander. Other more expensive sanders have clips so you can attach regular sandpaper. One project blows through one or two of these pads, so buyer be aware. We also used a sanding sponge for harder to maneuver areas, such as grooves, holes, etc. It’s a very handy tool that works better than trying to do the same job with a flimsy piece of sandpaper.You don’t need an electric sander, you can just use 100 grit sandpaper. It will double or triple the time it takes to sand the surface. Sanding took about 1 hour for the whole front side of the door. I left the back as is, because no one will see it up against the wall. We wiped it down with a damp cloth to remove the dust from sanding.

Old Door Headboard

2. Primer. You must paint your surface with primer for a number of reasons, some of them outlined here. Use a quality latex primer. They also have spray primers available that make the job a little quicker, just spray light and even so it doesn’t drip. Let it dry for maybe an hour or two, depending upon how dry and hot it is where you are, it may take longer in wetter areas.

Old Door Headboard

3. Paint. Use a semi-gloss paint if you want it a little glossy and a flat paint if you want it to have a more matte finish. We used a semi-gloss interior latex paint (left over from a bathroom I painted years ago). Check garage sales, Craigslist and “Oops” paint at home improvement stores for used paint. Once we picked up 5 cans of paint in an assortment of great colors off of someone’s lawn (it had a “free” sign on it, FYI). You can’t simply throw away paint, so many people try to give it away to avoid dealing with it. My experience with oil based paint is minimal, because it smells bad so I stick with latex.Let it dry and attach your mounting hardware.

4. Mount. Now here’s where you have to decide if you want it to attach to the wall or the bed frame. I decided that the wall was a better option, because it’s a heavy door and would probably be more stable attached to the wall (and it’s easier). We purchased 2 wall mounts to secure the door to the wall centered above our bed.  You can probably use just one of these mounts with some stick on bumpers to prevent the door from wobbling.  Done! Take a picture and make sure to show me how it turns out! :D

Old Door Headboard
Old Door Headboard

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A friend and I also started a couple wood spool coffee tables that are just about complete. It was really easy to do, but took a lot of sanding. I’ve always wanted to make a wood spool coffee table and one of the first project questions I ever asked Phillip was whether his dad could get a wood spool for me. Recently a friend of mine pinned a really clever spool coffee table/bookshelf idea on Pinterest and I got the bug again. A friend of ours is an electrician and knew of a local business that deals with heavy cable and wire. We name dropped and got access to a whole back alley full of these industrial spools. There were spools of all sizes, some coffee table size and some dinner table size. I imagine that if you are looking for a spool, ask around and see if you can’t find an electrician in the area that can locate some for you.

Here is a sneak preview of the project. I’ll post the complete how-to in a week or so.

Table 1: Stained.

Spool Coffee Table

Table 2: Painted (just primer in this shot, it still needs paint).

Wood Spool Table

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Last but not least, I have some plans to re-purpose some thrift store finds. I have a few things already, but I’ll be making a thrift store trip soon. I’m crossing my fingers that I find either some flowy dresses or skirts. Keiko Lynn’s got the idea here (also notice the abundance of rings). Love it.

Thakoon Addition skirt(see more long skirts)

Here’s my latest thrift store find that I’ll be altering soon.

Blue Dotted Dress

Phillip looked at me like I was crazy when I bought this, but I have big plans for it. The buttons on the back are my favorite part.

Dotted Blue Dress

Sourdoughs.

Sourdough Starter

The nickname for Alaskan homesteaders. Do you know why? Because supplies only came to these settlers once or twice a year and bread was a staple. The solution was to carry with them a sourdough starter to keep the yeast going for their bread. Either that (my recipe explains) or these old timers resembled the “indomitable sourdough starter…” That part made me laugh, because I can’t see myself calling a rough and tough homesteader a sourdough, because dough is too squishy.

There’s a tradition here out on the ranch, pancakes every Saturday. Rain or shine. Mom makes pancakes. Really good buttermilk pancakes. Since Phillip has been raised with this fantastic tradition, it’s just a way of life on Saturday morning to make pancakes. Recently, however, his mom gave me a whole packet of information on how to make a sourdough starter, pancakes, muffins, etc.

I’ve always wanted to make sourdough. When I was young, my parents owned a pizza parlor in Fallbrook, a small town up the road from where we live now. It was called Sourdough Pizza and they got their starters on a regular basis from bakery in San Fran. The pizza was delicious and everyone in Fallbrook loved it. I recently learned that it closed down, which is sad. My parents sold it a while back, but it had a good run.

Have you ever wanted to make fresh sourdough at home? Sourdough is unlike regular bread where you can just dump yeast in warm water, add salt and flour and go. Sourdough needs to be made from a starter that has been soured. I always thought you had to get a little batch from a very long standing strain of sourdough, but that’s not true. It’s nice to get a starter from a strain of sourdough that goes back 100 years, but if you’re like me, you don’t have any connections that good.

Actually, sourdough starters are easy! Not only are they easy, but when I made a starter, then next morning I had enough left over “sponge” to make sourdough pancakes. I didn’t know that you could make sourdough pancakes and it’s a shame because they are fantastic both in texture and flavor! Here’s a website that describes how to naturally start a sourdough starter and it’s a little more involved. We’ve started two starters, one using the method below and one using the method from this site. They use natural yeast that is always in the air, making the bread more resilient to mold and probably has a more sour taste (which I think was missing from the starter below, but it might need time to acquire that sour taste). If you’ve ever had a sour ale or brewed your own beer, you are well acquainted with this kind of yeast and probably try to stay far away from it because it tends to contaminate your brewing gear.

Here’s how to make your starter from a package of yeast. The starter itself will only be 1/2 cup of this stuff, the left over mixture will be enough to make a batch of pancakes or bread…

In a bowl mix well:

2 cups flour

2 cups warm water & 1 package dry yeast

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

It will look like this.

Sourdough Starter

Put this into a container (I used a corning-ware dish and plastic wrap to cover). Leave this at room temperature over night. This is now your “sponge.”

Side note: It’s important not to use anything metal in this process. (Stainless is probably OK for mixing.)

In the morning, put boiling water in a clean glass or ceramic container (mason jars work great) to make sure the container is sterilized and dump it out. Take 1/2 cup from the “sponge” and put it into your clean mason jar or container. Cover either with plastic wrap or the mason jar lid, but don’t tighten it. The starter will let off gas and expand. Put it in the fridge. This is your starter!

Sourdough Starter

Sourdough Starter

Now make pancakes with everything that is left!

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Here’s the sourdough pancake recipe:

Serves 3.

The left over sponge, after you have removed your starter (should be about 2 cups)

1 or 2 eggs

1 Tablespoon oil

1 teaspoon soda dissolved in 1 Tablespoon water

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon sugar

Beat with a fork and blend in all ingredients, except soda and water mixture. If you like, add a Tablespoon of milk to the recipe as well. Add the soda and water mixture right before baking. Bake on a hot griddle and only turn once (like any other pancake, but it’s worth repeating).

You can also add 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, cornmeal, wheat germ or branflakes to the batter (two eggs will provide the liquid for this addition).

Sourdough Pancakes

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To use your starter later:

Create another sponge, by adding the starter to 2 cups flour and 2 cups warm water (just like the starter recipe, but no need for yeast now). Let this sit out, covered over night.  Then save a 1/2 cup of this sponge as your starter, just like before. Use the rest (should be about 2 cups) just as you did before in the recipe above.

Enjoy!

I hope to make a few loaves of sourdough bread this week and to experiment with muffins, sourdough wheat bread, sourdough french bread, etc. I’ll keep you posted if I find some good recipes.