Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Basement Bedroom Finished

Finished the kid's bedroom in the basement.  Bought a better space heater (lower left corner) and a wardrobe rack.  Added warm bedding.  Not a lot of difference than before, but it will work a lot better and give her a private area for the 5-6 weeks that she's home in between semesters.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Cheap and Easy Basement Laundry Room Fix

The basement of our post-WW2 bungalow/cape cod is unfinished and stark.  We have no desire to invest time and money into finishing it in the near future but sometimes we need to be in the space.  Occasionally we have overnight guests or parties where we need a place INSIDE where people can gather besides the living room.  Having 3 kids, ages 15-22 means they like having a place to hang out that doesn't feel like a dungeon and isn't a bedroom. I also don't like ugly in my house.

We hung 1/2" conduit with brackets from the floor joists for a curtain rod to hide the washer, dryer, sink, water softener, and hot water heater. About $6 for two 10-foot lengths and $2.50 for the brackets.


Bought cafe clips ($6) that I hooked to sheets that I already had (zero dollars). Now we have a space that is still unfinished, but with furniture and rugs, feels warmer and more comfortable without spending more than $20.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Chocolate Graham Clusters

This is crack.
This is a knock-off of a candy called "OMG clusters" that I saw on television a few weeks ago. 

2 cups Golden Grahams cereal
1 cup almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc.
1/2 cup toffee bits (I used Heath candy)
Meltable chocolate, about 8 oz.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave in 30 second increments, stirring each time.  Should take about 2 minutes.  Pour that over the mixture and try to coat it all.  Press the chocolate mix into an 8 x 8" wax lined pan and let set up (I put mine in the fridge for a few minutes to hurry it along).  Break into big chunks once hard.  You may want to double or triple the recipe, depending on how fat you want to get.

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies

I found this recipe in 7th grade.  I wanted to make cut-out cookies one afternoon and my mom told me all cut-out cookie recipes require you to refrigerate the dough for a few hours.  I found one that didn't.  This cookie is a thicker, cakier cookie that is tasty enough eaten plain, without frosting.

Cut-Out Cookies

3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter/margarine
1 tsp. vanilla or lemon extract

Mix  together dry ingredients in a small bowl.  Set aside.  In a larger bowl, cream butter and sugar.  Add beaten eggs and extract.  Add dry ingredients to wet.  Mix until the dough comes together.  Pat into a ball and place on well-floured surface.  Roll out to desired thickness and cut shapes.

 Bake cookies at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. 

Sometimes I sprinkle sugar on the cookies before I pop them in the oven for "lazy" decorating.  Today I decorated with homemade icing.

I have no recipe for my icing.  It's just powdered sugar and milk, whisked to a thick consistency.  Maybe 2 cups of powdered sugar to a tablespoon of milk.  Add the milk in very small amounts, a teaspoon at a time.  Adjust down the milk if you add any extracts.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Holiday Fail

I am behind in all of my holiday preparations.  The tree was dragged home yesterday and trimmed today.  My holiday cards are half-addressed.  The baking is barely started.  I still have packages to mail to family.  I blame the chest cold that I've had for 9 days. Fingers crossed that today is the last of it and I have my full force of energy tomorrow. 

As someone who thrills in simple, organic, homemade living, not being able to go full strength into the holidays has been a challenge to say the least.  I am someone who has many projects going at once: baking, sewing, gardening, crafting, painting, yoga-ing, reading, writing, fixing, parenting, wife-ing...being sick added NAPPING, COUGHING,EATING, and NOT DOING for most of a week.  Sigh.

As soon as this entry gets published, I'll be back verbing the heck out of the next week.  The winter solstice is 2 weeks away and I have a lot of stuff to get done.  I hope all of your  holiday preparations are on track and going well.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Basement Bedroom

"Bedroom" space
I'm not thrilled with how this "bedroom" space looks.  I'd prefer walls but sheets and a staple gun were cheap and easy. However, I think the "room" looks pretty good so far.  I have to fix/sew the broken lime green chair on the left and empty out the dresser (it has linens in it). The bed is the trundle part of her sister's bed.  Keeps the mattress off the floor. I'll have to get a space heater and some warm bedding. 

The laundry area and stairs are on the other side of the white sheets. If we finish off our basement, this is the area that we would use.

Ignore the mess

 This shot faces another similar sized area where my super old treadmill, weights, etc. live on rubber interlocking tiles, surrounded by shelving.  Behind the shelving on the left, is where I have my cold room (under the front stoop) where I keep potatoes, etc.

I think I just need to remind myself that she is a college student and this basement area is still much better than most college rentals. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Urban Garden Planning

Our new backyard has a chain link fence enclosing it and the fence is UGLY.  Our yard had no flower beds in the backyard, and only 2 overgrown beds of shrubs and mint flanking the front door.  Whoever planted all of that mint and barberry will burn in Hell one day.

After mulching 4 feet out from the fence, I moved two possible hydrangeas from the front yard.  I say possible, because they had to be severely pruned last spring and didn't bloom.  Then I pruned them this fall so I could move them-they'd grown 5 feet-so they probably won't bloom this spring either.  I also moved 2 Japanese Lilacs to the mulched beds.

Currant bushes from our old house made it into the beds as well as some blackberries that I bought.  An apple tree was planted and the squirrels promptly scraped off much of the bark; hopefully it survives.  Damn squirrels.  I'll remember to wrap trees next time.

December and January are when I begin planning the next year's garden.  I have a long list in my head that I'm puzzling over for the spring.  Our backyard is somewhat shady-lots of mature trees in the neighborhood.  My plan is to get in another apple tree, a cherry tree, and maybe a pear.  I'd also like to plant 3-4 filberts(similar to hazelnuts) along the fence. I need to figure out where to plant a raspberry patch, and how I can fit in some evergreens.

Fruit and nut trees are always something I like to get planted the first 1-2 years because they usually take 3-4 years to bear fruit.  However, with our somewhat shady backyard, I didn't want to plant too much because you really need to live in and observe your yard for a year to see where the sun hits at different times of the day and the year.

My front yard is where I grew my vegetables and herbs this past summer and that will stay the same. I had turned one of the overgrown shrub beds into a 6 x 14 foot vegetable garden. Lots of sun, concrete to absorb and radiate the heat of the day back onto plants at night gave me the biggest bell peppers that I've ever grown. 

We put up a picket fence in the front yard which will hide the garden from the street and give me more room for vegetables on the house side of the fence bed.  This year I didn't can or preserve much.  Just salsa and herbs.  Next year, I plan to be back in the full-on urban farming gig.

And maybe get some honeybees.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Finding Space in the Basement

Our new-to-us home is a post-WW2 Cape Cod without the dormers. We downsized when we moved into the city, trading space for bike paths and mass transit.  However, having 3 kids who are in college and high school and want their own space when home has been a challenge.

We are in the early stages of looking at the unfinished basement and turning part of it into a temporary bedroom, cheaply, for the middle kid when she's home on breaks.  It definitely won't be a "legal" bedroom as the windows are not usable for evacuation.  The kid doesn't care.  She just wants her own space away from her older sister whose very existence can be dramatic.  I just want my kids to be happy and to want to come home.  So now it's up to me to find a way to make a comfortable bedroom in an unheated, unfinished basement for very little money. 

Previous owners had painted the floor joists, wiring, walls, etc. white.  Probably to grow weed as there were a dozen florescent lights in one small area when we moved in and not one flower bed in the yard.  So the ceiling has an industrial feel to it. I have already hung chocolate brown sheets over some of the while cement walls to soften the starkness of the basement in one corner.  I put down those interlocking rubber tiles onto the floor so that people don't have cold feet.  However, she'll need more than just sheets stapled to a floor joist for the other wall. Puzzling it out is driving me a little nuts.

The room needs to be done before she gets home on the 19th.  That gives me less than 3 weeks to figure it out.   I'm hoping I get some inspiration soon.