Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Yard Tea Party!


I am always on the lookout for a cheap yet attractive project.  I ran across this on the Hometalk page and had to share it.  It looks cheap, easy and really really cute!

Super easy way to get that pouring tea pot/kettle into a teacup look for your backyard.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
You will need:

A tea/coffee pot of your choice (Thrift Store)
Candle holder stand (Thrift Store)
Tea cup and saucer (Thrift Store)
Plastic crystals (Hobby Lobby)
Garden hook (Dollar Tree)
Silicone or outdoor adhesive of your choice.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Silicone your tea cup and saucer together to make them stable.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Silicone your cup and saucer onto your candle holder.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Silicone your plastic crystal into place on your tea/coffee pot.

Let all silicone dry completely before bringing outside.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Place your garden hook in the ground and hang your tea/coffee pot on it.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Place your tea cup and saucer stand under the "drip" of the pot.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
If you want the tea cup stand to be more solid, dig a little hole and bury the stand bottom in the ground.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Please join me on Hometalk's Facebook Live show on April 11th at 7pm EST to see me make this and more tea cup projects!

Monday, May 1, 2017

DIY Concrete Planter Idea

I love unusual planters.  But unusual planters can be super expensive.  So what do you do if you want them but don't want to take out a second mortgage on your house in order to have them?

You make them!  Yep.  It's not as difficult as  you have think.  Below are step by step instructions and pictures.  Make sure you read the tips at the end of this article.  They can save you a lot of money, time and frustration.  





Aren't these just the cutest planters?  Now onto the instructions!

Materials

All you’ll need for this easy DIY project is 

A dust mask, 
A safety pin, 
Bag of rapid dry cement, 
A couple pair of rubber house cleaning gloves, or old garden gloves and 
A big bucket to mix your concrete in. 

Of course, once everything is dry you’ll need an assortment of flower or succulents to fill it with, of course. Put this concrete planter in your home or adorn your garden with a collection of these.

Instructions

Before starting this project make sure you are working in a well ventilated area. Protect your hands with disposable rubber gloves and your nose/mouth with a dust mask. Avoid breathing in any of cement particles. In a medium size bowl, carefully mix your cement and water. Follow the instructions on the package, mix until the cement is smooth.
Take your gloves and using a safety pin carefully poke holes in the fingertips. This will help remove air pockets. Place the gloves in a tall container to help hold it upright.  You can use a bucket, an empty clay pot or even a bowl.  It all depends on what you have on hand and what fits best.  
Carefully take your cement and pour it into the gloves. If the cement is too dry and difficult to work with, add a small amount of water to smooth it out.  It should have the consistency of oatmeal or pudding.  Carefully push the cement through the gloves, distributing throughout the gloves evenly. Gently tap your rubber gloves to remove any remaining air bubbles.
Once you have filled your gloves with the cement, you can keep them in the shape you want them to be when they're dry by using bricks, rocks or even votive candle holders and place them under the fingers or wherever you want.  If you just want the fingers to be curved in a  natural position, place them in a plastic bowl.  

Create a 2nd cement hand for a larger two hand planter. To merge your hands together carefully create a cut on your gloves where the two pieces meet. Scoop out a small amount of cement to merge the two pieces together. To create a bowl shape, place a piece of plastic wrap over the exposed cement and place a small bowl over the plastic wrap to create the bowl shape.
Let your cement cure for at least 24 hours. Thicker cement will require more time to dry.  If you live in a very humid area or it has rained recently, it might take longer than 24 hours.
Once your cement has dried carefully remove the rubber gloves. Strategically cut the rubber gloves off. Avoid applying too much pressure to the cement when removing the rubber gloves. If a finger is broken during the removal process, reattach it using E6000 glue.

Use small pliers to help remove the small stubborn left over glove pieces.
Once our hands are completely dry, all you have to do is add potting soil and small succulents.  You can also add pieces of preserved moss to decorate your planter. Water accordingly with a spray bottle.

TIPS

1.  Always wear a dust mask whenever pouring dry concrete or cement.  You cannot avoid the dust that blows up and you most certainly do NOT want to breathe any of it.

2.  When buying your materials for this project, BUY CEMENT - NOT CONCRETE.  Also makes sure it states on the bag that is can be used for casting.  Rapid set cement is what you want to buy.  Below is a picture of the bag.  You can see it states it can be used for casting.

3.  My last tip is to let you know that while this is a really easy project, the most difficult part of it will be getting the cement down into the fingers.  It will take a little patience and a lot of squeezing to get it down there but after the first finger or two, you will get the knack of it and the rest will be quick and easy.

4.  If you want a little color to your project, you can either add cement coloring to the cement when you are mixing it, or wait until the hands have completely cured (dried) and then simply paint them.  I have used left over interior wall paint, spray paint and even fabric paint on concrete planters and have had excellent results with all of the above.

Enjoy!!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Re-growing veggies you buy from the supermarket

Did you know there are several veggies that you can grow from scraps?  Yep.  How much money would you save and how much quicker, tastier and healthier would your dinners be if you could just step outside and pick whatever you needed?  Let's look at a few veggies that you should never have to buy from a store again.

Garlic

You can grow a new bulb of garlic with just one clove. Plant a clove in some potting soil with the roots face down. Now in case you're new to gardening, there is a difference between a garlic bulb and a garlic clove.  I have included a photo below to show you which is which. Keep the pot in direct sunlight and cut the shoots back once they get established. This will help encourage bulb growth. After the bulb has reached maturity, take a clove and repeat the process for more garlic.

Bean Sprouts

You can get a new batch of bean sprouts with as little as a tablespoon of scraps. Soak the leftover sprouts in a jar with a little bit of water. Leave the mixture on the counter overnight and drain in the morning. With the sprouts back in the container, cover with a towel and rinse them the following morning. Repeat the process until the new sprouts reach the right size.

Celery

Celery might be the easiest vegetable to regrow. Simply cut the base of the celery stalk and place in a bowl with warm water. Keep the container in sunlight and you will start to see the stalks thickening and growing from the base. Once this happens, transplant the veggie into soil to finish the growing process.

Avocado

Regrowing this superfood takes just a bowl of water and some toothpicks. Wash the seed thoroughly and suspend it over a bowl of water with some tooth picks inserted into the seed. The water should cover about an inch of the seed. Do not place the bowl in direct sunlight, but keep it somewhere warm. Add water on a daily basis as needed. A stem and roots will begin to appear, but it might take as long as six weeks for this to happen. When the stem gets to six inches in height, cut three inches off. Place the plant in soil once leaves start appearing.

Sweet Potatoes

You need half a sweet potato to regrow a new plant. Suspend the half of the potato with toothpicks over shallow water and wait for roots and sprouts to appear. When the sprouts hit about four inches, break them off and put them in a bowl of water. Once the roots in the new bowl reach an inch, it’s time to transplant to soil.

Potatoes

Like the sweet potato, regular potatoes are a resilient plant that can be regrown with just a few peelings. The trick is to make sure the peelings have eyes and are cut into smaller pieces. Now you might say....what's an eye?....I have included a photo of potatoes with eyes.  Notice the bumps that stick out on the potatoes?  Those are called "eyes".  You may have to do a little searching at the store to get potatoes with eyes these days as a lot of potato producers have them rubbed off before shipping (I don't know why).  They rub off super easily.  Each section should have about two or three eyes. Let the peelings dry overnight and then plant them in soil to a depth of about four inches. In a few weeks, you will begin to see a new potato plant sprouting leaves.  

Lettuce (practically any type) and Cabbage

It's easy to regrow lettuce and cabbage with just a few scraps. Pour a small amount of water in a bowl and place the lettuce scraps inside. Make sure the bowl gets a lot of sunlight and mist the lettuce a few times a week. In three or four days, you will begin to see new roots and leaves growing. At this time, remove the lettuce or cabbage from the bowl and place in soil.


Onions

Onions take a bit of a different approach.  I have included a link to a site that gives very good step by step instructions on how to regrown onions.  Short article with great step by step photo's and great information.  Well worth a read.



http://www.anktangle.com/2011/03/growing-sprouted-onions.html

For other sites that offer even more veggies that you can regrow, try these:

https://www.davidwolfe.com/stop-trashing-your-scraps-16-produce-items-to-re-grow-at-home/

http://freshorganicgardening.com/search/window+sill+onions/

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Air that You Breathe

Renter's have a special problem and that's air quality.  If you are a renter, the chances are great that you aren't the only person who has ever rented that space.  There have been others.  That brings up a multitude of questions.  Did the people before you own dogs or cats?  Just because your landlord doesn't allow pets....doesn't mean there weren't any living there. Also, just because a pet owner swears their pet NEVER has "accidents" in the house....doesn't mean they haven't.   Did the former residents smoke?  Again, just because the landlord says they didn't...it doesn't mean that's true.  Even if they didn't smoke, you can never be certain that their visitors didn't smoke inside the house.

Was the carpeting replaced before you moved in?  If it was, was the subfloor resealed? Was the space painted and if so what kind of paint was used?  Is there a chance that asbestos, lead based paint or oil based products were ever used in your space and that there might be a trace of it still?.  These are a likely possibility if the space you're renting is older.  How is the ventilation in your rented space?  If it's an apartment, the chances are you have fewer windows and the ones you do have are probably smaller and seldom opened.  

Bad air quality can not only cause a plethora of health issues over time, it can greatly aggravate existing health issues like asthma, COPD, allergies, even migraines and sinus infections.

How do you handle poor air quality?  The first thing to do is clean.....everything.  Maybe your landlord had the carpets cleaned before you moved in....maybe not...maybe they just vacuumed.  Best to err on the side of extreme caution and head down to the local hardware store and rent a carpet cleaner.  The thing to know about cleaning your carpets is that the water will soak into your carpet pad to some extent.  If that isn't allowed to thoroughly dry, mold will grow.  Now it's not going to be the horrible black mold that everyone is so afraid of, but it will be mold and any type of mold can cause an unattractive odor.  It can also aggravate your sinuses or asthma so the best thing to do after cleaning your carpets is to put out fans and make sure everything is dry.  

Once that's done, it's time to clean all the other surfaces no matter how clean you think they look.  Even if your landlord hired professionals to come in and clean it top to bottom, you still have to wonder what products they used.  Cleaning products like bleach and/or ammonia are super cleaning products in that they will kill about any germ that they come into contact with.  However, they are also not at all user friendly in that their chemical components can linger for days even weeks after they've been used.  While you're cleaning, don't forget the ceilings.  Remember smoke rises and the ceilings will collect it all.

Once your rental is spotless and you're feeling great about how clean it is, the next step to living a clean life is to get plants that actually purify the air.  Of course, you can buy an air purifier but how pretty is that?  

Plants are cheaper than purifiers, lower maintenance than purifiers, they don't wear out or break down and best of all, they're prettier than purifiers.  Some studies suggest that having plants in your house can actually help lower your blood pressure.

Let's look at some indoor plants that make great purifiers.

English Ivy

These plants are super easy to care for and control.  Because they're an ivy, they will trail. All you have to do is train them to trail where you want, or snip off the growth.  Kinda like giving your plant a haircut.  They don't require a ton of light or a ton of water.

The dense foliage of the Ivy absorbs formaldehyde - a chemical that is extremely common in the making of carpeting.  Formaldehyde is the most prevalent indoor pollution of them all and is present in glues, pressed woods products such as some flooring, kitchen/bathroom cabinets, pressed wood shelving, wall paneling and even some furniture.

Peace Lilly

Some people call this plant the funeral flower.  This is another easy to care for plant that requires little light, little water and little maintenance.  I would recommend whenever you dust your furniture, to dust the leaves of this plant, while you're at it.  A thick layer of dust on any plant will prevent it from breathing and from absorbing pollutants.  I recommend putting a large dollop of olive oil or pure vegetable oil on a clean cloth or paper towel, then using that to clean the leaves of your plant.  It not only gets all the dirt off your plant but give them a shiny appearance.  Warning:  some plants don't like to have their leaves cleaned with oily products so google before you oil a plant if you have any doubts. 

This plant is one of the absolute best plants to have in every room of your house.  This hard worker gets rid of VOC benzene which is a carcinogen found in paints, furniture waxes and polishes.  It also sucks up acetone, which is emitted by electronics, certain cleaners and adhesives.

Lady Palm

The  Lady Palm is a hardy plant that can tolerate semi low light.  It's best to keep this one near a light source.  I have one that I've kept beside a floor lamp in my not at all sunny living room and it does fine.  This plant can get up to 6 feet tall but it is a very slow grower so you have plenty of time to figure out where to put it once it's that tall.

She is not only gracefully built and easy on the eyes, but she actually rids your air of ammonia which is a super villain of the respiratory system and is a major component of certain dyes, textiles and cleaners.

Boston Fern

The Boston Fern is such a beautiful plant.  However, it can be a picky plant and I've never had good luck with them.  I've known others who have tremendous success with them....but not me.  These plants have a need for constant moisture and humidity.

They are actually one of the best air purifiers known.  They remove formaldehyde which is present in glues, pressed woods products such as some flooring, kitchen/bathroom cabinets, pressed wood shelving, wall paneling and even some furniture.  There have been studies that show this plant even removes toxic metals such as mercury and arsenic.

Snake Plant (aka Mother in Law's Tongue)


If you can't keep this plant alive.....you don't need to have plants...at all.  This plant is so easy, it's crazy.  The only plant that is easier to keep alive is a plastic plant.  Once in a while dust the leaves and give it a small drink when the soil is dry.  That's it.

This is maybe the best plant for a small space.  It grows up - not out - and it tolerates low light or bright light.

This easy fella does his work at night.  During the night, he will absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the room.  He's one to have in every room of your house - including the bathroom.  Put more than one in your bedroom for a boost of oxygen while you sleep.

To make him even more invaluable, he also sucks in benzene and formaldehyde. 

Golden Pothos


Every live plant that I've ever received from a florist has this little ivy in it.  It's a medium growing ivy, it tolerates low light or bright light, it can go long periods of time without watering....it just likes to be dusted from time to time.  If you don't know whether it wants a drink, look at the leaves....when it's really thirsty, the leaves curl up and begin to look wilted.  Give it a good drink of water, and they will unfurl and look good as new. Like the English Ivy, you can trim it if it reaches further than you'd like and it's easily trained.

The Pothos suck in formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and Benzene.  Triple threat with this one!  This plant can be found anywhere that live plants are sold and it is the cheapest houseplant around.

Wax Begonia


If you have a sunny location and want some color in your plant choices, this is the one for you.  It has lovely leaves that look as though they've been waxed and the plant comes in a variety of colors.

This beauty cleans benzene and chemicals produced by toluene, a liquid found in some waxes and adhesives.

Red Edges Dracaena 



Beautiful plant that can actually get up to 15 feet tall, loves a sunny location and is compact enough to fit into most sunny corners.  Moderate to bright sunlight.  Requires little water and you will love the red edges on each frond.

This plant will take care of gases released by xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde, which can be introduced by lacquers, varnishes, and sealers.

Spider Plant


Another easy to care for plant.  You can use it as a hanging plant or in a pot atop a pedestal or table.  It is a prolific reproducer so if you want more of them, it's not necessary to go out and spend money on more plants.  All you have to do is wait until the plant grows "mini" spider plants at the end of it's leaves.  Pick one off and sit it atop some soil, it will root and grow.

This is a another plant that absorbs formaldehyde and benzene.  

Between the cleaning and these plants....you will have a super healthy indoor environment!

As always, enjoy your space!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dark Boring Apartments....What to do?

You find an apartment in the perfect location at the perfect price and you jump on it only to discover after you've moved your stuff in, that's it might be a bit small, a lot darker and with far less storage than you'd remembered.  I think we've all done that a time or two.  Now you're stuck in a lease for at least a year....how are you going to make this work?

With just a little creativity and imagination, that small, dark apartment will work without breaking the bank.  Let's take a look at some great ideas from Better Home and Gardens as well as a couple from Pop Sugar.

Kitchen Storage

Kitchen storage is usually the first thing sacrificed when developers build apartments.  I guess they think apartment dwellers never cook anything more involved than a frozen pizza.  Depending on your sense of style and the style of your apartment, you have tons of choices in a free standing "pantry".  Head down to the nearest thrift store, garage sale..or if you're flush with cash...a big box store that sells shelving.  Keep in mind that closed in shelving such as bookcases with closed in sides and backs are heavy to the eye and tend to close in a space even more than it already is.  Ornate shelving does the same thing.  You don't want ornate moldings or ornate metal work on your new pantry.  You want clean simple lines preferable in a material that reflects light.  Chrome works best in my opinion.

Helpful tip:  Keep all the less pretty items hidden in your cabinets and only put the pretty items on the open shelving.  Canned vegetables, boxes of pasta, your cat food really needs to be hidden away.  Instead free up valuable cabinet space (for the ugly stuff) by putting your wine glasses, decent dinnerware, colanders and the like on this shelving.  Anything that isn't super attractive can be placed in nice baskets or wooden crates and placed on the shelving to keep it handy but out of sight.  I think this is also a great place to store those pasta pots, roasting pans, mixing bowls and bakeware that never seems to fit into the cabinets of an apartment kitchen.



Windows/Walls

What about those windows?  Most apartments made between 1980 and 2000 have fewer windows which are smaller and without casings.  While this gives you more wall space to hang your prized artwork or photographs and it helps keep the utility bills down a bit, it also tends to make a room dark and feel a bit closed in.

One way to combat this problem is giving yourself a wall of curtains.  Now, curtains can be pricey.  Especially since you are putting them from one end of the wall to the other.  The solution?  Fabric shower curtains.  One shower curtain is the equivalent of 2 to 2 1/2 panels of curtains and usually cost about half of what 2 curtain panels would cost.  Nowadays fabric shower curtains come in a huge assortment of colors and patterns.  

The beauty of this trick is when you move, you take the curtains with you versus painting where you are out of pocket for the price of paint and supplies yet when you move not only will you obviously have to leave your investment behind but you just might lose your deposit as well.

Another beauty of this trick is the fact that fabric will add color, pattern, texture and movement to your room not to mention that if your tastes or furnishings change, it's easy to swap out.

Helpful tip:  Hand the curtain rods higher than the top of the window.  This will give the illusion that your walls are taller and the window larger.  Curtain rods can be pricey.  A cheap alternative to those rods are copper tubes usually used for plumbing.  Measure the length you need, head to the hardware store, have them cut what you need and then purchase the brackets at a discount store.  If you don't like copper, get aluminum pipes or even wooden dowels.  If all else fails....go to the dollar store, buy a few brooks with wooden handles and use those.  You're only going to see a few inches of the rod when the curtains are opened.  Otherwise the rods will be covered.  Last tip on this subject:  If you don't like the color of the broom sticks or pipes, spray paint them.  Problem solved.





Lighting

Some people are okay with dark rooms.  They like the cozy, cave like feel of it.  I do not.  I like light and bright.  If you like light and bright rooms what do you do if your room only has one window or maybe more than one window but they're facing shrubbery or trees or another building is blocking a lot of the light?

What you do is invest in lamps.  Table lamps, hanging lamps and floor lamps.  Lamps of all types.  In a previous post, I wrote about transforming ugly, garage sale lamps into gorgeous "new" lamps.  There's no need to break the bank buying lamps.  Head out to the thriftstores and garage sales and grandma's attic and redo them for a fraction of the price of new ones.  Here is a link to that post http://stagingdecoratingonthecheap.blogspot.com/2016/07/forget-paying-top-dollar-for-lamps-and.html


A floor lamp in a dark corner will immediately make a room feel larger.  To keep the electric bill down and prevent the room from being over lit, try to limit the bulb wattage to 40 or 60 watts per lamp.  You will still achieve a dramatic difference without making the room or a particular area in the room appearing overly lit while keeping the electric bill down.

Rugs

Lots of apartments come with standard, builder's grade, boring carpet.  Usually beige.  The best way to combat this is by investing in room sized rugs.  Again, this is a fix that you can take with you when you move so it's money well invested.



Rugs aren't the expensive luxury they once were.  The best thing about the price is if you get tired of the look or it becomes stained, you can throw it out and replace it without getting a second mortgage.

Texture, pattern and color aren't the only benefits to having a rug.  Rugs also offer insulation not only from the weather but also from noise which is a great benefit if you live above another apartment.

Mirrors

Mirrors can open a room almost as much as a window.  Well placed mirrors will bounce light around a room and will also trick the eye into thinking there's another window in the room.  If you find a mirror whose frame isn't really the color that you like....spray paint it.  There's precious little that spray paint won't improve.



Ugly Dated Bathroom Tiles

Sometimes you just have to wonder what the contractor's were thinking when you look at some of their "design" choices.  Especially when you see some of their tile choices.  An otherwise perfectly fine bathroom can become a real eyesore in the blink of an eye when you look on the wall.  

Ugly tile isn't something that you can easily remove or paint over.  BTW it can be painted over with the right technique and products.  But I doubt your landlord would allow it.

What to do this case?  Try to tone it down.  That's really all you can do.  The picture below shows a bathroom with yellow tile that was toned down using a lot of green accents.    Pink tile was all the rage for a while.  Black, gray and white are all good choices to tone down that pink.  Ugly tiled bathrooms would be the one time that I'd beg a landlord to allow me to wallpaper and/or paint the walls.  Sometimes the tile simply has to be toned down in order to live with the bathroom.


Below is a pink tiled bath left alone and another of a pink tiled bath that has been accented with a nice gray upper wall and accessories. Notice how the additions of a gray upper wall and black accidents tones down the pink?



The following bathrooms are, in my opinion, beyond toning down.  They are too wild for any accessory to cure.



Apartment living can be frustrating in that you can't really make dramatic changes to your spaces.  However, you can make changes to how you live in those spaces through your accessories, furniture and lighting.  That can make all the difference in the world!  

As always, enjoy your space!