DIY

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Swiffer Cloths

We have hard flooring throughout our house here.  Tile in the kitchen and bath and wood floors everywhere else.  There is a great tool for keeping those floors clean, most of you know it; the Swiffer.  But those Swiffer cloths get expensive.

My solution: mirco-fiber towels.  I have a couple of micro-fiber towels that will fit perfectly onto the head of my Swiffer.

And when I need to spot clean something with a mop?  I just get the cloth wet, wring it out and poof! – a Swiffer wet mop.

Micro Fiber Cloth

Go forth and attack your dust bunnies!

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Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Patching Kids Jeans

I used to buy all of Henry’s jeans used and then I passed them on to E.  But there comes an age when you can no longer find any used jeans in your son’s size.  It starts around 4T and there is a virtual jean desert until… well, H wears a 6 slim and I still can’t find them.  Because boys this age are HARD on jeans.

I have not been able to pass jeans down either.  By the time one boy is done with them, there is only enough jean left for shorts, if I’m lucky.  Besides that, E is determined to keep growing and seems to be catching up to his older brother.  They are only one size apart now.  Some things fit both of them.

All of this is to tell you that patching jeans has become an important skill in this house.

Here is a quick tutorial of how I keep my boys’ knees covered through the winter.  This method give the jeans that popular “destroyed” look, except they are hole-free and will hold up for a few more months.

Here we have a pair on holey jeans…

Holey Jeans

I have yet to buy a patch, instead I have cut “patches” from the lower legs and backs of jeans that were too holey to be repaired.  I use pinking shears to cut a piece of denim large enough to cover the hole.  If you don’t have any jeans to cut from, you can buy jean patches at a fabric store.

Pin your patch to the inside of the jeans, with the pins on the outside so you can pull them out as you sew.

Pin patch to inside

My sewing machine has this crazy stitch.  All machines are different, but select the craziest stitch you have.

Select crazy stitch

Next I remove the accessories box that allows my machine to have a free arm…

Free the arm

And then I slide the leg of the jeans over the arm.  This is so that I can stitch the patch on without sewing through the whole leg, closing it on accident.

Slide leg over

Now start sewing.  You are going to stitch all over the hole and the patch.  Back-stitch is your friend, because with the jeans over the arm like this you can’t turn them at all.

Crazy stitch all over the hole

I found it helpful to stick my left hand in the top of the jeans and use my right hand to operate the back-stitch lever.  Now sew, sew, sew.  Cover the entire hole and all around it.

Back stich a lot

Almost done.  Sew like crazy.

view from inside

After the patch is covered with crazy stitches, slide the jeans off the machine arm, turn inside out and trim any excess patch away.

All done!  A little extra life with a rough and tough patch for your kids’ jeans!

All done

Depending on the thread you use, you can really make the patch stand out with contrasting thread, or disappear if you can get a good color match.  I have about four different blues.  I try to get close, but thankfully, my boys are at an age where they really don’t care either way.

Do you patch kids’ clothes?  What tips do you have?

Categories: DIY, Thrift | 6 Comments

What to Expect from the Lazy Homesteader in 2013

I’ve thought pretty hard about the “resolutions” I want to share on the blog for this year.  I’ve had a hard time thinking of specific goals, and I’m not really into the “lose twenty pounds” type of resolutions.  I’ve decided that instead of goals I wanted to focus on some themes that are both personal to me and yet very applicable to the homesteading way of life.

This year, you can expect to see posts (hopefully weekly, realistically a couple of times a month) having to do with one or two of the following themes.

Rick hikng with C on his backCommunity – In 2012, I established a monthly potluck to help build community.  I made some new friends and built connections.  In 2013 I want to do this more.  I want more connection, more real relationships.  I have realized that no one can live this life alone.  We need each other and I want more of it.  I have a challenge in mind for this theme this year.  I’m excited about it, though it’s going to be a tough one.

Preparedness – Colorado had the worst wild-fire of all time in 2012.  There were hurricanes on the East coast.  For much of the country, there were record heat waves and drought.  Across the country there were poor harvest and food prices are on the rise.  I’m not a panicky or prepper or anything like that, but I have started thinking about the benefits of being prepared in a real emergency.

Thrift – Expect to see more DIY posts this year.  From homemade to making-do to doing without, I plan to share more thrifty ideas this year.

Food Connections – This is the thing that sent me down the homesteading path all those years ago; being connected to our food.  I have plans to share about sustainable food sources, processing your own meat (including wild game and hunting), and of course the garden.  This year I am going to explore as many aspects of food connection as I can.  I hope to close some of the gaps we’ve had in our own food sources as well.

Grace – This year I plan to go easier on myself.  You guys know I love a crazy goal.  But I also need a little more balance, and my kids certainly need a sane mommy.  So I plan to cut myself a little slack this year.  I’ve realized that this journey to being green and crunchy and self-sufficient is just that, a journey.  I don’t have to do it all at once.  It’s ok to take small steps and find what is feasible for our family.  I’m not throwing the baby out with the grey water or anything, but I am going to focus more on things like simplicity, peace, and well, the categories mentioned above.  :)

I’m really looking forward to 2013 and what it will bring.  And I’m excited to share our homestead with you as always.

Categories: Community, DIY, Simple Living, Thrift, Top 5, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stitching Up Stocking Stuffers

Hey, did you guys know that I have an etsy shop?  I do!  I’ve been cooking up a couple of little handmade stocking stuffers for the holidays.  There is still time to get them before Christmas, if you’re interested.

Wool Mistletoe

Felted wool mistletoe (not poisonous!), a reversible coffee cozie…

Birds & Butterflies Coffe Cozie

And, some reusable cloth food bags (two in a set), perfect for bulk items at the store.  These hold about 2 quarts each.

Bulk Food Bags

Have you been making any gifts for Christmas?

Do you have a shop on etsy?  Please share your shop in the comments!

Categories: DIY, Simple Living | 9 Comments

Ax Skills for the Homestead & Wilderness DVD Winner

Drawn by a random number generator….. Cass is the winner!  I will email you, Cass, with instructions on how to get your DVD.

If you didn’t win, make sure you visit oldfedco.com and order a copy for yourself.   Thanks again to Alex and Old Federal Ax Co. for this awesome giveaway!

Categories: DIY, Giveaways, Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Giveaway: Ax Skills for the Homestead & Wilderness Survival DVD

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Alex Leavens, a survival instructor in the Portland, Oregon area, asking if I would review his DVD, “Ax Skills for the Homestead & Wilderness Survival.”  He thought that my readers here might be interested in his DVD.  After checking out his website, OldFedCo.com, I agreed.

The Review:

I’ve never seen such a detailed “how-to” DVD.  Alex meticulously covers everything from safely handing an ax, chopping wood and making kindling, to sharpening your ax and replacing an ax handle.

I really loved how clear he was about safety.  The graduated 4-Her in me also couldn’t help but think that the instruction on the DVD would really help in the making of a blue ribbon, Grand Champion 4-H project.  I would be totally comfortable having Henry watch this DVD  because it is so thorough and emphasizes safety so well.  This is actually not that surprising though, since in his bio, Alex states he was an Eagle Scout.

I was totally impressed with Alex’s accuracy in splitting and reading wood.  Since it’s easy to impress a beginner, I brought Rick in to watch the DVD with me.  Rick has chopped a fair share of firewood.  He’s not an expert on axes, but he  knows a bit about sharpening tools and safety.  I wanted his point of view on the accuracy of the information presented in the DVD.

It was cool watching the chapters on sharpening and safety and hearing Rick pipe up with plenty of “Yep! That’s the way,” as well as having him tell me what he was learning as we watched.  I liked the chapters on hanging an ax (replacing the handle) because my grandpa gave Rick all of his old tools and this DVD will be a great reference tool on caring for and maintaining them.

It is obvious while watching the DVD that Alex really knows his stuff and is also passionate about teaching.  The DVD is extremely thorough.  There are great close-ups of what he’s doing to sharpen his ax, as well as shots from many different angles showing exactly what is happening and how to do it yourself.   It made me feel like I could choose and buy an ax, use it with confidence and maintain it myself.  Check out some of the clips of the DVD on Alex’s site for some examples to see what I mean.

The section on using an ax in the back country was really cool.  I liked seeing how he set himself up using what was in the woods to split wood, make kindling and make stakes.  He even shows you how to make an in-field sharpening station.  Plus, I loved that even in the woods, he was very consistent and followed all his own safety rules.

Alex makes sure to cover every aspect of one topic before moving to the next.  There is no rushing through anything, and the pace is good for a newbie.  The chapters on the DVD are organized in a logical way, and once you grasp a skill, it’s easy to skip forward on the DVD to the next skill if you are ready to do so.

In the end, while pressing the eject button on the DVD player, Rick commented that he was pretty happy to have a good reference tool on the shelf next time he needed it.  I’m excited to use some of the skills I learned about sharpening and maintaining hand tools on Vera, my grub hoe.

The Summary:

This DVD would be great for:

  • Beginners, new to homesteading and/or hand tools.
  • Those who want to add to their skill set, especially sharpening and maintaining their own tools.
  • People with a wood-burning stove or fireplace.
  • People with a giant wood pile.
  • Youth clubs like 4-H or scouts.
  • Homeschoolers interested in teaching traditional skills.
  • Survivalists, backpackers, hikers, hunters or others that spend time in the woods.
  • People interested in hand tools, restoring old tools, reusing instead of buying new, and/or geeking out with their grandpa’s hand-me-down tools.
  • People who are intimidated by using and maintaining an ax.

This DVD would not be good for:

  • Our great-grandparents who grew up learning these skills.
  • People who are into “more power” or using a chainsaw for everything.
  • People who want to do things quickly instead of correctly.

Disclosure: I received a free DVD from Alex to write this review.  The thoughts and opinions expressed here are honest and my own.

The Giveaway:

In addition to being an authority on axes, Alex is a wilderness and survival expert.  He is a former backcountry ranger, firefighter, and survival guide.  He teaches classes in the Portland area, as well as offering ax sharpening services for locals.

Did I mention generous?  Alex promised to give away a copy of the DVD to one lucky reader!   

To be entered into the contest, please post a wilderness or survival question in the comments here before midnight, MST on November 21, 2012If you are new reader here at The Lazy Homesteader, or have been lurking for a while, this is your chance to come out of the woodwork.

I’ll double your chances if you ‘Like’ Old Federal Ax Co. on Facebook and share this post with your friends (tag @The Lazy Homesteader or use one of the buttons at the bottom of this post).  Come back here to leave a second comment telling me that you did so. 

I’ll announce the winner in a separate post, so make sure to subscribe to the LazyHomesteader.com/feed or follow me by email or on Facebook/Twitter by using one of the buttons on the sidebar (above, right).

You have two weeks to enter and spread the word.  Ready, GO!

The giveaway is now closed.  Thanks to Alex and Old Federal Ax Co., and congrats to the winner!

Categories: DIY, Giveaways, Hunting, Recommended Reading, Simple Living, Urban Homesteading | Tags: , , , , , | 22 Comments

Bathroom Redo or How I Made Peace with Pink Tile

Over the last few years, we’ve slowly updated things in our old, dated bathroom.  A new light fixture here, a sink faucet there, new door pulls on the vanity.  That sort of thing.  We never were ready to shell out significant dough to redo the bathroom.  But over the last few weeks, we’ve managed to give the place a fairly major facelift for under $700.

It started off the way most of our projects do; with a “really easy” change.  I wanted to change out the old tub faucet and handles from who knows when (the 40’s maybe?) to some that were NOT corroded, actually turned and had a diverter that didn’t leak.  And, I wanted to replace the towel bar with a rack of five hooks (since we have five people that use the bathroom).  Two really easy things, right?

Except it took TEN trips to various hardware stores to find some handles that fit our tub.  No joke.

Only the faucet/diverter and the handles themselves are new.  The plate is original(?) and could not be replaced.  We just cleaned as much corrosion off of it as possible and searched and searched and went on an epic quest until we found handles that fit.

But the shiny new chrome made the recessed soap dish look so bad.  And, well, the painted tub from some prior refinishing job has been peeling for almost nine years now.  So…. we finally broke open the piggy bank and dove in.

We literally had to rip out the soap dish.

And when we did, we were unsurprised (but discouraged) to find wet wall board.

So after two days of drying it out, Rick cut away what couldn’t be saved and patched the hole.  And I re-tiled and re-grouted with tiles we found in the crawl space that matched (thank the good Lord for that find!).

It looks bad, but it was only nine tiles.  I was also replacing some loose and missing grout.  What do you think of all that pink tile?

While the grout dried, we started in with the paint.  Rick sanded the window frame and sill and I gave it a few new coats of paint.

It’s no secret that pink tile was never a dream choice of mine.  So when we moved in, I painted the bathroom blue to match my blue towels and held onto the hope that one day, we’d replace the tile.

Here is the original wall color under my old towel bar  (look pink grout lines on the floor too!).

And here is the old storage for the other various bathroom items:

And this is the new version:

All those containers were just sitting around the house.  Yay for free!

I finally wised up and realized we were not going to be replacing that pink tile anytime in the near future.  Besides, it is cheaper to buy new towels.   So we painted this sandy-cream color and installed my hooks.

And got a nice fluffy, girly rug to match my pink grout lines.

Don’t worry, I have a solid tan one that I can swap out.  I do have two little boys after all.

So, what about the horrid peeling tub?  You just know that baby was originally pink, right.

Well, here is the before in all its pink and white glory:

And here it is now:

I can’t even believe the difference.  It’s so amazing.

But it’s not even my favorite part.

Here is the only before picture I could find showing how the pink tile extends out of the tub/shower area to behind the toilet and sink all along the wall.  In it, you can also notice, just barely there, at Rick’s elbow, the old faucet handle.  And some random piece of hardware screwed into the shower wall, half-way up.  And, of course, blue paint and towels.

Here is the after shot.

With the new paint job, the girly bird-motif hand towels, and my planned chocolate brown bath towels, my bathroom actually looks good in pink.

I truly can’t decide which I’m more pleased with; the paint/towel/tile combo or the shiny new tub finish.  But either way, I’m one happy camper.

Oh, did I mention this is our only bathroom?

Yeah.  It was about time.

Categories: DIY | Tags: , , | 14 Comments

Bee Birthday and Easy Mason Jar Drink Lids (with Tutorial)

This weekend we celebrated C’s first birthday.  I ordered cupcakes from a wonderful, local, all- organic bakery that makes a to-die-for flavor called “Bee-titude.”  It’s a lavender cupcake with honey-lemon butter cream frosting, and it was the inspiration for C’s party theme: honey bee.  The party colors were yellow and lavender, and it turns out that this was a really fun theme to put together.

I also made a few discoveries for decorating this party that eased the green-guilt that sometimes comes along with me decorating.  I found spools of colored tulle at the craft store that I can easily roll up and reuse for another occasion instead of the crêpe paper streamers I usually use.  And I bought two yards of inexpensive broadcloth for the table-cloth that would match the party theme.

I used various glass plates and jars to decorate and filled a vase with lavender and chamomile flowers.

I have a gorgeous bee skep-shaped drink dispenser that my mom bought me for Christmas last year and I filled it with honey-lavender lemonade.  I was surprised that the lavender flowers turned the lemonade pink!

And I used my canning jars as glasses.  Pints for the adults with ribbons and tags to write names on, and half-pints with lids for the kids.  And here was my eureka moment.  Ball jelly jars are durable and their lids don’t leak.  And I used a HOLE-PUNCH to make them into drink lids.

Here’s how:

First I traced old jar lids onto patterned paper and then cut out the circles.

I used double-sided tape to stick the paper to the top of the lid.

Then I used a regular old hole-punch to punch holes in the tops of the lids.  This was surprisingly easy.  I did it with one hand and minimal effort.  The punch still worked great on about twenty paper tags after punching six lids.

I used a cheapy plastic straws with about an inch cut off the end to make the kids’ tumblers complete.

Not a single jar got broken between six, three- to seven-year-olds.  They even took them outside.  I wrote each kiddo’s name on the top of their jar, so there were no mix-ups.  It was really easy and completely free, since I had all these supplies lying around the house.  Henry even helped cut out the circles.

I plan to just swap out the paper circles and straws for the next party.

Categories: DIY, Simple Living, Thrift | Tags: , , , , , , | 14 Comments

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