Sunday, July 26, 2009

Nothing but a hound dog

We have two spoiled-rotten, dang-near worthless dogs living at our house. Rowdy and Lexus. Justin had them both before I came along, but they've adopted me as their mama. And, of course, I help with spoiling them.

They like to help when I'm in the kitchen, which means I spend a lot of time yelling at them to get out of there. So they sit in the living room and pout.

Yesterday I made Justin some of his favorite cookies (oatmeal chocolate chip), and when I was done I looked up a recipe for dog biscuits.

We had to go to the store for a few ingredients (plus some other things we didn't need -- which is a recurring theme here) before we could get started. The total baking time for the biscuits is four hours, but we stay up late anyhow. We dove right in after dinner.

And this time, Rowdy and Lexus were welcome in the kitchen.

We had already mixed up the dough and Justin was rolling and cutting it before I remembered to grab the camera.

Rowdy is all, "Yum, these are mine."

And Lexus wishes Rowdy would get out of the way.

I brushed the biscuits with egg and Worcestershire sauce.

And then there was nothing to do but wait.

The biscuits bake for two hours at 300 degrees. Then we turned the oven off and kept the treats inside for two more hours. Rowdy and Lexus were more patient than we were. The treats were finally done around 1:30 this morning. When we were sure the treats were cool enough, we gave one to each dog. They immediately made a run for the living room, where they crawled under the coffee table to eat their snacks.

I woke up this morning to a text message from my friend and former roommate Ashley. She was bringing her dog, Lillian, to the Bark Park not far from our house. So I bagged up about half a dozen of our homemade biscuits and went to meet them. Lillian also gave our cookies rave reviews.

And Rowdy and Lexus? They can never get enough of anything.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Squeaky clean

A couple of weeks ago my friend Stephanie and I put in an order for some soap-makin' supplies. Justin and I were on furlough from work today, so we went to pick up our share of the lye.

We were going to make soap at some point in the future. But if you know my husband, you know the suspense is always killing him. He likes to do stuff NOW, and I like that about him. He's not afraid to try anything at all and he usually lets me help.

So after we procured a few things we'd need (and a few we didn't -- I'm looking at you, Justin, and your Snickers bars!), we were ready to make soap.

Disclaimer: This is not a soap recipe, although we did follow a tried-and-true method while observing all the safety precautions. To make your own lye soap, please familiarize yourself with the correct ways to handle lye.

My friend Eleanor says all the best Southern recipes begin with the phrase, "First, you get some lard." If it's good enough for cornbread, it's good enough for soap.

In a 13-quart stock pot, Justin combined lard, coconut oil and olive oil.

Then in a separate container, he measured distilled water, to which he added the lye. Working with lye is incredibly dangerous. Its fumes alone can just about knock you out. So we moved outside for that part of the operation.

Safety first!

Here he is adding the lye and water to the fats. After this, we were ready to move inside and start blending!

When the mixture reached its trace stage -- resembling a thickening pudding -- I threw in a handful of rosemary and about 40 drops of eucalyptus essential oil. Then it was time to pour our soap into the molds (for now, inexpensive plastic drawer organizers).

Then we covered them in plastic wrap, cleaned up the kitchen and had tacos for dinner. We are some crazy mo-fos over here. Within 24 hours or so, the soap will be firm enough to cut. Then we will let it cure for several weeks.

It already smells wonderful, although Justin says it smells like a hippie. Regardless, we'll keep you posted on how it turns out.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Happy accidents

Although I've been absent from the blog lately, I have been busy making stuff. Last night I whipped up a brown wool hat and now I'm working on a pair of wool maryjane slippers for my friend Megan. Last weekend we did a little bit of traveling and I was able to take a pair of pink cotton maryjane slippers to Justin's sister. I don't have pictures, but I think I've mastered the slippers. They work up in less than two hours and they are so freakin' cute. I'll take pictures of Megan's pair and post them.

A few weeks ago, though, in an effort to fend off idle hands, I found a ball of yarn and thought, "Hmm. This would make a nice lightweight hat."

Actually, I had put my hands on some of Justin's beloved alpaca yarn (which don't come cheap) and I lost interest in the project before it became a hat. I had seen tons of felted bowls on Etsy, and the not-a-hat was holding a nice little bowlish shape.

I soaked it in hot water and then, at Justin's suggestion, took our Shark steamer to it. Then I tossed it in the dryer with a load of towels.

Rowdy doesn't see what all the fuss is about.

Since that first bowl, I've made a few more out of less expensive wool. I even took one to work to keep bobby pins and whatnot in. And to think I figured it out by accident!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Some time ago I promised a post about a homemade composter, and here it is. We will start with what I had been using as a composter.

I had bought this at Tractor Supply years ago. It is a trash can with holes punched in it.

It doesn't rotate or mix, just basically a passive way to compost. Once I filled this up, I would haul it to a little corner of the yard and dump it in another passive pile.

This pile more or less was the catch-all for yard waste, limbs and table scraps. Limbs don't really compost unless they get shredded so I got a chipper to take care of those now. Anyway that is how everything was going down. With Meghan cooking and eating more vegetables than I did as a bachelor, I needed something faster so we could process more in a shorter period of time. So in comes the big blue barrel. Just like the barrel I used for the rain barrel (which is continually full because I think Seattle moved to Arkansas), 55-gallon with a removable top. I started with some simple math to make a stand (must not have been too simple because I made it a little too short). I screwed together some treated 2x4s at about a 45 degree angle. Then I used a piece to screw them together at the bottom. Grabbed a one and a half inch dowel that was in the garage (although I would recommend getting a piece of metal such as a round fence post or something) and cut a hole in the center of the barrel. You want to make sure that both holes are as close to center as possible so it will be easier to turn.

Then I spent a good half hour randomly drilling holes in the barrel to allow for easy airflow. I put holes in the lid, but not in the bottom so I could better control the moisture. If I don't want anymore water, I can turn it upside down and it will not collect as much rain. This also lets any extra moisture drain out. This brings me back to the "I didn't build it tall enough." Allow extra space underneath so that you can put a pan or something to catch the draining water because this is the ever popular compost tea that is great for plants inside or out. Here is the finished barrel. I put it in the front of my house to the side because it will eventually drive my neighbors crazy.

I filled this up with mainly grass clippings a month or so ago and here is a photo of what it looks like now. For a while, I turned it a few times when I left for work and a few times when I got home. This is the biggest advantage to this type of composter, you just grab it and spin it a time or two to add in the air it needs to stay active.

As you can see it has composted down to less than half (that is the support pole through the middle) of what it started. As always if you have any questions, comments or the like let us know and we will try our best to help.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Building the Rain Barrel

So yesterday I said I would share a little about the construction of the rain barrel. I only built one, and it cost me about $15 and maybe thirty minutes of my time. Of course that isn't counting the time it took me to find tools in my disorganized garage turned shop.
Anyway, that is a savings of $25 compared to the barrel I found for $40, and most cost around $100 or more. Here is a photo of the barrel attached to my downspout.

You can see it is a basic 55-gallon drum from a food manufacturer. I asked what it was used for and they had received diced tomatoes in it, so no nasty chemicals or anything. I started by rinsing it out. I then used a 1/4 wood bit to drill a hole in the bottom to attach a garden hose. I purchased a 1/2 inch boiler drain from the hardware store and with the 3/4 bit, it made a hole slightly smaller than the threads, so all I did was screwed the valve in the hole and let the threads sort of self tap their way in. I wasn't sure if it would seal, but it did. If it ever breaks the seal, I'll probably just unscrew the valve (after draining the barrel) and apply some Teflon tape to the threads or use some caulk or something to give it a good seal. Here is a bad photo of the valve and bit.

Once it was hooked up to the downspout, it filled up and was overflowing with a 1/2 inch of rain, so I followed the same steps to install an overflow valve at the top. I am not too worried about the seal on it and have a hose running to a nearby tree/bush.

So, why use a rain barrel in Arkansas, where our rainfall is evenly spread out? Well, my thinking is that by using only natural water on the vegetable garden that plants may grow a little better. The water from the local water authority is fine, but it does contain some chemicals (chlorine, flouride, etc.) and it is pretty cold out of the tap. Also, we get charged for the water and sewer even though our outside water is headed straight for the good old water cycle. And on the "green" side of things, every little bit of water that we don't pull from the public water supply will decrease demand and make life easier during the rare drought conditions.

If you have any questions or suggestions, leave me a comment. We are supposed to have a little more cold weather here in Northwest Arkansas, but once that is finished, I'll try to show you how to make one of these big ole barrels into a composter. It is all ready done, but trapped in my garage.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Preparing for Summer

So the last few days have been very busy with guests and extra work to be done around the house. During the middle of everything I decided to take on a couple of extra tasks.
First on the list was to make some rain barrels. I had been trying to find some 55-gallon plastic barrels to use on the garden and everywhere that normally had them was out of stock whenever I called. I picked up a pre-made rain barrel, complete with hydrant at a local farm store for about $40. That was the cheapest I had found them, but I kept hunting for more. I finally lucked out and found two 55-gallon plastic barrels at a local food manufacturer and the lids were just right that I decided to create a composter out of one of them. Each barrel cost $8.
Once I found the barrels, I went to the local family owned hardware store and bought a couple of hydrants to hook up to a water hose. They installed pretty easy and only cost $3 each.
I also installed 20-feet of guttering on the back of my house so I could collect more rainwater in the barrels and rushed around to get that done on Sunday before a storm rolled in. The storm held off until Tuesday morning and I was very happy to see when I woke up that the barrel was allready full with only a half-inch of rain.
For those that are interested, I'll post more on the construction part later.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Looking for motivation

I spent my first week of unemployment diligently searching for work, cleaning the house, tending to the laundry, preparing meals and attempting to edge out the crazy that wanted to take over my head any time I let my guard down.

Every day was a new set of challenges. And I didn't get too much of anything done. No finished crochet projects or anything.

Wait, that's not entirely true.

Faced with financial uncertainty, Justin suggested we make our own laundry detergent. Thanks to a nationally know local family, we knew right where to turn for a recipe. We found all the ingredients at a nearby grocery store and we picked up a five-gallon bucket at Lowe's. The total investment was $13. With that $13, we got the bar of soap, the washing soda, the Borax and the bucket. The bucket, by the way, was the most expensive part. A five-gallon batch actually makes 10 gallons of detergent. Ten gallons gives us enough detergent to wash 640 loads of laundry (we have a front-loading washer). We do an average of five loads a week. One batch of detergent -- ONE BATCH -- will give us enough for approximately 128 weeks of laundry. Because of the small amounts of washing soda and Borax used in the recipe, when we run out of detergent in 2.5 years, the only thing we will need for a new batch is a bar of soap, which costs about $1.50.

I've washed a couple of loads with the new detergent (we still have some store-bought stuff to finish) and our clothes came out clean and soft without being over-fragranced.

And that was our craft for the week.

On Friday, I was offered a job at the paper where Justin works. I accepted. He will be in a different office and we will have different hours, so hopefully being married co-workers will not make us crazy. In hindsight, I wish I had enjoyed my time off a little more. But I was afraid to. Things worked out pretty well, though. I told Justin that I was buying a spinning wheel with my severance, but he said it was best to put that money into my savings account. As usual, he is right.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

J-Flo, your order is ready for pickup

It's amazing what you can get done in a day when you don't have a job. Like take pictures of custom orders for your etsy shop.

Here's the set Justin made for our friend Jennifer over at Ophelia McPhee.

Justin and Jennifer worked out a trade -- he'd make gloves and a hat for her if she would do a painting for him.

When she asked what he wanted, he said without hesitation, "A painting of Dog the Bounty Hunter."

Um, OK. We at Teapot Hollow may need to go into negotiations about that, but this trade has nothing to do with me so I don't see how I can win.

However, we both hope our friend Jennifer will enjoy her foxy new accessories. If you'd like a set -- or even just the gloves or hat -- we would be more than happy to work that out for you.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Oh karma, you are the boss of me

Remember just a few hours ago where I wrote a big post about work? Too much work? Waaa waa waa?

I was "laid off" today. So. More time to crochet, I guess.

It's enough to drive you crazy if you let it

Back in December, I had the good fortune of a freelance job landing in my lap. I wasn't looking for the extra work, but when my boss was contacted by a former hometown football hero looking for a page designer, my boss recommended me.

The work comes along once a month -- almost like other annoying things that show up on a monthly schedule -- and it's always a big, stressful mess. As much as I like to pretend that I can fly by the seat of my pants, the lack of organization and structure involved with the work makes me want to punch someone in the neck.

I shouldn't be complaining, right? I have not one but two jobs in a time where work is scarce. People are losing their jobs every day, but I have plenty. But there are so many things about the freelance that just make me want to cry -- being a big old baby in general the least of them. You can ask Justin: I'm not happy unless I'm busy. Most of the time I am literally unable to sit still. I have to clean and tidy and sort and organize morning, noon and night. And when I do give myself a break from all of that, I want to spend ten minutes crocheting or updating the blog. So it would make sense that having more work to do would be just the thing for me. But it's not. In addition to all the learning on the fly we're doing with the start-up publication I freelance for, it seriously cuts into my at-home time. And after many years of being a social butterfly, flitting from one place to the next in false eyelashes until sunrise, home is where I want to be most of all. With Justin and our dogs and our yarn.

This is why I want etsy to work for us. We both really enjoy creating things and brainstorming about new projects and encouraging each other. We would be making things with or without an etsy shop, but our coat closet simply cannot hold one more scarf or hat.

Yesterday, while I worked up hundreds of photographs while also doing my "real" job, Justin made me a pair of sky blue fingerless gloves. With spring on the horizon, we've talked about things we can do to keep our shop stocked with things folks will want year round. I found an awesomely easy pattern for the cutest mary jane slippers on and Justin is considering socks. I still have lofty goals in the sewing department, too.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I spend enough time working. And I want my spare time (and Justin's) to be filled with work that truly makes us happy. Like fingerless gloves and unfinished mixed berries scarves (which I will be able to finish now because Justin scored more yarn for me yesterday!) and cute little cloth napkins. And I guess it will be, because it always has been.

Right now, this is the most-viewed item in our shop. It's very nice, no? Justin made it himself and it is lovely. We've reduced the price on it to $15. It's 100% wool, and it's soft, not scratchy.

This is one of the gloves Justin made for me yesterday. We don't have a pair listed in the shop yet, but if you'd like to have your own, let us know. He just finished a custom pair in orange for Ophelia McPhee. We will list the gloves and matching hat in our shop as a reserved item if you would like to see more photos. We aim to have that done in the next day or so.

This is Rowdy. He is not for sale and he doesn't freelance. Sorry.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Thawing out

We survived last week's ice storm. My sister-in-law X told me today that her parents are still without electricity! We were lucky enough to have kept our electricity throughout the whole mess, but we did lose our cable briefly Thursday night. We went out for pizza and returned to cable and Internet. It was a close call.

I spent the ice storm working on the mixed berries scarf. Of course, I had to go to work for a few hours every day but being on early deadlines gave me plenty of time to crochet when I got home.

Sadly, I ran out of yarn while I was doing the edging on the scarf. I could have pulled it out, made it a few rows shorter and been OK. But for now I'm happy to leave it unfinished.

Justin has whipped up a pair of arm warmers for our friend over at Ophelia McPhee. He's working on the matching hat now.

I finished a hat and scarf set. They remind me of a box of Valentine chocolates.

I also managed a set of pink and black coasters. I'll be working on a custom order of brown and red coasters for X, and some wash cloths are in the works, too. Have you tried a wash cloth crocheted with cotton yarn? You don't know what you're missing.

My husband wanted me to mention that I've hogged the can of mixed nuts while I was writing this. Someone has to eat all the cashews.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snow day

Or, more accurately, ice day.

When I left for work Monday afternoon, the bad weather hadn't hit yet. It wasn't even raining! But about an hour after getting there, the situation outside had skipped bad and just went straight on to worse. A co-worker brought me home. I left my car at the office and Justin and I spent the day at home today.

We also stayed up late "crafting." Justin has ventured into the realm of knitted mittens. Once I finish something, I go through a restless phase. I start something, tear it out, start over on the same thing. Tear it out, find a new skein to work from, tear it out. Read two pages in a book. Go back to the original ball of yarn and THEN settle into the next project. Justin usually likes to see something through when he starts on it. I usually get about halfway through a project and start thinking, "Hmmm, I'd like to look at a different yarn for a while!" Needless to say, last night I tore out a scarf I was working with the new yarn I bought at Knit Wicks on Sunday. I flitted around for a while trying to commit to a yarn, a pattern, anything, before I went hunting for some yarn Justin bought me a year ago. Since I'd already started projects with it before and tore it apart, I was able to settle in and start making a scarf. About two hours passed and I said, "Oooh! You know what I want to do? Make a white popcorn scarf!"

And perhaps I will, but for now I'm determined to keep working on my mixed berries scarf.

Tomorrow we will have to venture out to work, but we're really lucky to still have electricity and Internet in all this icy mess.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Spinning yarns

Every once in a while, I get to go with Justin while he works. It's rare, but on days like today, it's a matter of getting two birds with one stone, so to speak. While he was at the yarn shop earlier in the week, the owner told him there would be knitting gathering this afternoon. And because sometimes news photos are hard to come by, he decided to go back today and get a picture of the knitters.

By the time we got there around 2 p.m., the place was packed with men, women and children. Some were knitting, some were spinning, some were making polymer clay buttons. Everyone was having fun. Justin got a spinning lesson from a really awesome woman named Diana, who has been spinning for 25 years. She also makes her own drop spindles. She was really patient, but also really passionate about wheels and fibers. I think spinning is something Justin would like to explore, but a spinning wheel -- no matter how basic -- is a costly investment. Like everything he tries, he took to it like a duck to water. When he was done, Diana rolled up his yarn (maybe half an ounce) and gave it to me. She suggested putting it in a shadowbox with a bay leaf to keep the moths away.

Needless to say, he got some great photos of a 6-year-old girl learning to spin with Diana, a lot of great information and a better-than-average Sunday afternoon at work. I bought a set of bamboo crochet hooks -- a life-changing experience -- and two balls of wool. Some of the ladies at the yarn shop inspired Justin to venture into the realm of knitting socks, but he's currently giving a shot at a pair of wool mittens for me. Although I was always better at crocheting than knitting, the ladies also convinced me that knitting a pair of socks was a breeze. I bought a few new books today, too, and although I can't promise I'll ever try it, I have an arsenal of information within arm's reach if I ever decide to.

I finished the red and black acrylic scarf today and listed the pea soup scarflette in our shop today. So, for the week, I've done two scarflettes and one regular scarf. Plus a handful of wash cloths and face scrubbies. I also finally mailed Candy's scarf to her, which is another goal met for the week.

This is the "Brick is Red" scarflette with the birds-eye maple button. I haven't listed it yet, but you can look for it tomorrow or the next day.

Friday, January 23, 2009

What we're doing now

Yesterday I spent my time before work hanging out with Justin's mom. She was passing through the area on her way to another place, so we got to spend some quality time together doing our favorite things: Eating and shopping. Justin's mom bought me a fabulous new mirror in a cheerful yellow frame with red flowers all around. She and I had seen it in the shop about a year before and I loved it then. The shop girl told us it was on sale yesterday, so my mother-in-law had them wrap it up for me. Now I will have to pester Justin until he hangs it up.

Anyway, spending time with my mother-in-law was a nice little break. The night before I'd finished another little scarflette in brick red and Justin made another button for me in birds-eye maple. While I was out playing yesterday and not worrying about the etsy shop, he was able to stop at the local knitting hangout and picked up some Peruvian wool. He also went to a library's used books shop and found an old instructional book about knitting and crocheting. He came home and taught himself a new stitch. He is currently working on a basket weave cap. I, however, am taking the easy way out with a black-with-red scarf from the stash of acrylic yarn I've been hanging onto for years. I doubt there will ever be a shortage of acrylic yarn -- in the world or in my home -- so I might as well do something with it.

I joined the ARETSY team on Wednesday for etsy sellers in Arkansas. I want to link to their blogs here and I hope I can start working on that tonight.

But, my goal for the day is to finally mail the scarf I made for my friend Candy. I told her probably two weeks ago that I had made one, and then I got swept up in getting the shop ready. I'd made it to surprise her anyway, so if I hadn't told her about it she wouldn't know how long I'd put off mailing it. Maybe she'll forgive me when she sees it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's on like Michelle Kwan

I'm going to be late for my 'real' job if I don't give the shop and the blog a rest today, but I thought it was worth mentioning that has officially launched. I'm glued to it because each item has been viewed and we even got a 'heart' from someone we don't even know! Someone we didn't even FORCE to heart us. I feel a little bit like I'm sending a kid off on the first day of school -- nervous, excited, hopeful, terrified.

But it's out there now and we can keep working on the things we'd be working on anyway. I would like to sew some cloth napkins, but I think that is still a ways off. For no other reason than we have a pretty busy weekend ahead this weekend and next.

If you are an etsy seller, leave us a comment and a link to your shop. We'd love to see what you're doing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My, what a big mouth you have

After creating some truly lovely items to sell on etsy, and after being unable to meet up with our "model" over the weekend, I said to hell with it and told Justin that I would just let him take pictures of me in the hats and scarves.

If you ever want to feel truly great about yourself, try looking a closeup photographs of your face and chins. Justin is going to roll his eyes at me for writing that, but I also felt that I looked super angry in the photos. And for once, I wasn't! I knew that I could not be the Teapot Hollow model any longer than was necessary. So I found this crazy-ass beauty on eBay, did a little dickering with the seller, and got quite a bargain.

Knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting and knitting

And crocheting, too.

Getting ready to open a shop on etsy has been a lot of hard work already. I finished a new pea-soup colored 'scarflette' today and Justin whipped up a handmade rosewood button for it. The button is my favorite part.