Valient Viewers of Braver Homes and Gardens

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Self Built Spice Rack

Even with my husband visiting family out of state over Labor Day, I know how to keep things spicy in our house.  Ha ha.  Actually, I've been dealing with this, since before we were married:

Keep in mind, this mess of a spice cupboard is four jars deep and four jars high.  There's one wire rack holding some of them, but needless to say, because I cook with herbs and spices a lot, there's always digging, things fall out and into the sink, there's no way to keep good order. 

We have 51 jars of herbs, spices, & special mixes with more on the way as I continue to grow new herb plants in the garden.  One of those cute little spice racks just won't cut it for us. 

And boy did I try! My first attempt, (no picture) was to make a spice shelf big enough to be mounted on both cabinet doors. This required me to reduce the depth of the two shelves on the inside to make room for the mounted shelves- staining new wood, drilling out new holes for the shelf supports and everything.

I was careful to buy wood the correct width of the half-pint jelly jars that I store my herbs & spices in.

I was careful to see how many jars I could fit across a shelf. 

I was careful enough to make sure to allow enough height to get the jar up and over the shelf rails that I inteded to add.

But alas.  I failed.  First, although I love working on my Gramma's old kitchen table, the top is all crooked.  I kept getting frustrated that all my measurements ended up being off by about 5/16th of an inch and then finally the lightbulb went off - even a slightly crooked work surface will yield an ever increasingly crooked finished project.  DUH!!  Even after straightening out the crookedness, the wood shelves were simply too heavy to be mounted on the cabinet doors.

Attempt #2 was to accept defeat.  We need an orderly cupboard and fast.  After two months of marriage, I was getting irritated that we still weren't "moved in" yet and living in chaos.  A copout was in order.  I'm quite not ashamed to admit it.  We bought two of these racks from the Closet Maid line:

Yea, it's pretty clear that these will not even come close to being able to hold all 51 of our spice jars but we could at least keep the wire ones mounted for other stuff, right?  Nope.

Extract jars would slip right out, the salt, starch, and boullon jars are all to big.  Back to the store they went.  Time for Plan C. 

I headed back to the Orange store determined to find new wood and somehow find a flat, level work surface.  Down the aisle from me was one of those Earth Mother type women looking for wood.  She just went right up to the rack, grabbed two boards and threw them in her cart. 

Even my 8 year old niece knows better than that.  You need to eye them to make sure they are straight!!! 

And readers, the thought of spending hours in the store looking for straight pieces of pine almost made me cry.  Better woods like oak and mahogony are far more reliable, but you pay by the FOOT.  And I needed a lot of footage.  Too rich for my blood.

Then I spotted MDF.  And, on impulse, I bought some "boards".  (If you're interested in MDF, I'll post my notes tomorrow. Do read before you buy.  There are definate pros and cons).

I loved working with the MDF!!   See how nice and straight it is.  Cutting was a dream!

The super smooth surface made painting a breeze.  I used some leftover egghsell from when I repainted the kitchen walls:

Assuming you measure carefully, assembly was a breeze!  You do have to use screws - coarse drywall screws, which I never would've guessed.  And you need to pre-drill the holes with a coutersink.  But that was a snap:

(I was still a little intimidated by the countersink.  You can see here that the screwheads were still a little too close to the surface.  I made this side the unseen side and did a better job on the side that would be seen).

But, oh, that crooked table!  It was while framing this attempt that I had my lightbulb moment.  I screwed in the right sides of all the shelf pieces then I decided to mount the frame before screwing in the left side, just so I could lay my level across each shelf and double check for accuracy.  Smart move!  You can see I also used L brackets across the top, bottom and middle shelves for added stability.

To keep the jars on the shelves, I made rails out of lath, painted to match.

And here's the finished product!  All 51 jars and room for a few more or for bigger pint jars.

I couldn't get a ful front picture - there's a bookshelf across from it.

I do need to redo my jar labels soon.  Some of them got covered by the lath. 

The Conductor was very impressed.  I didn't tell him that this would be my project so it was kind of serendipitous that he brought home a particular gift from my mother in law:

Onion garlic spice mix - too cool! 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Yellow Challenge

I've been meaning to take on some of the weekly sewing challenges at the Sew Weekly.  Last week was the first one that I looked at and it was a challenge to sew using the brightest of colors - yellow.

I found five pieces of yellow fabric in my stash.

I carefully contemplated each one.  Then I came to the conclusion that I HATE yellow.  I don't look good in it and I don't know why on earth I ever bought these pieces.

Without regret, I threw them all in the Goodwill donation pile. 

And that's about all of the "sewing" I did this weekend since I wasn't feeling very good.  This week's challenge is to sew something having to do with music.  Maybe I'll have better luck with that. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Polka Dot Wedding Dress

Faithful Readers!  I've been married a month now and, whew! what a whirlwind.  We're still settling in, still getting The Conductor's stuff moved in and put away, trying to squeeze it all in between working our dayjobs and tending the garden.

I don't want to overload this post with tons of pictures of people ..and this is blog mostly about sewing and home ownership so I'll post a few that show off, what else? The Dress!

First, my bouquet.  I made it all out of buttons!  I didn't start out with a theme but ended up doing most of our stuff in polka dots and buttons went right along with the motif. 

Here's The Conductor and I with our parents. 

 And no, you're not seeing things!  My dress isn't completely white!  At the start of wedding planning, I was just getting inundated with all of the "you have to do this" kind of comments.  And I thought, "Why?  Who says so?"  I stumbled on The Offbeat Bride's site.  There are some *really* offbeat brides out there, let me tell ya. I love how the site just gives you permission to be...offbeat. 

In particular, I found this dress made by Princess Lasertron totally inspring.  I don't like her color choices, but I LOVED the idea of incorporating a print.  And I knew I wanted a vintage style skirt, pouf and all, so I was drooling over her colored crinolines underneath.

Here's our party people.  You can hopefully see that the bridesmaids are wearing the darker, watermelon pnk, from the polka dot fabric.  My nephew, our ringbearer, is wearing the sea green, also from the polka dot fabric, and the same color as my crinoline.

Here's us at the alter afterwards.  You can see that the colored parts go all the way around and the green peeks out from the bottom.  I also wore green shoes which was a fun surprise for my mom and step-mom (I wore white ones to practice in at the rehearsal so as not to blow the surprise).

Here's a back view.  I used Vogue 1172 for the skirt pattern and self drafted the top.  I wanted to make sure that no bra straps would show.  I also wanted to make sure that the sleeves were loose enough to allow air flow (it was HOT that day) and be long enough to cover my not so flattering upper arms. 

I also wanted a sweetheart neckline like the one in my grandmother's dress and my bust area  is large so I needed to make sure I got the chest fit right.  I've never self drafted a pattern so that was the most chllenging part.  It was all I could do to just finish the dress, so I didn't take very many technical pictures, which I'm now regretting.  I have no documentation of *how* I arrived at the final dress, or the mistakes I made along the way.  Oh well.

   I think this picture gives the best view of the bodice.  The bust area had a perfect fit, I assure you.  The fabric is just floppy because it was hot!  And our church has no air conditioning. 

This was right before I walked into the church and I was already roasting. 

This view gives the best idea of how the skirt spread.  Vogue 1172 is an AWESOME pattern to use if you want a very full skirt.  With two godets in front and two in back, a good petticoat or crinoline is essential.

(I'm holding my baby niece, V, here with her face whited out in case that is confusing anyone, by the way).  Wanting a crisp hem, and less work, I sewed the polka dot to horsehair braid and then sewed the other end of the horsehair to the dress, flipped it up, and machine stiched again.  (I am only wearing this dress once, no way in heck was I hand hemming!!  Who'd even notice?)

But before you can get a crisp hem, you need to make sure it's straight.  Fortunately I have a dress model that has my figure which I had been using the whole while to fit the bodice correctly.  After sewing on the skirt, I marked the hem using purple grosgrain ribbon and put the dress back on good old Grace.   

Then I simply cut along the top of the ribbon.  The fabric was actually bridal satin so my shears mostly slid around the ribbon, making for quick work. 

As you can see, my other objective was to ensure that the hem was short enough that the colored crinoline could peak out.

By the way, I actually wore two crinolines.  One was a simple one made out of nylon that I used in place of lining to make sure nothng (i.e. my undies) showed through the dress itself.  I also wanted a piece that I could wear again and again, as opposed to something permanently attached to a dress I'm only wearing once. 

The second crinoline was made out of - catch this - 24 yards of netting!!!  I had no idea it would take THAT much netting.  I made 7 trips to the fabric store just for netting becauase I kept thinking I had enough.  I made most of it white with just one strip of green around the bottom.  Again, I wanted to be able to cut off the green and use the main part again and again. 

I'm STILL sick of  the fabric store, all because of this crinoline.  I never thought I'd ever get sick of the fabric store.

So, that's the story of my wedding dress.  Next post I'm hoping to share a few pics of the honeymoon and show you the start of my next project. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

But Will Gramma Like It?

My wedding is just days away and I really miss my blog!  I just don't have an ounce of free time!  But I thought I'd take a quick minute to share another of my favorite wedding DIY projects.

I was visiting my Grampa one day.  My Gram passed away in 2008 and left behind a box that said, "Do Not Touch", which, of course we've all touched since then.  I was digging through the box MAD because some dirty rat took her wedding dress out of the box.  I loved it and always thought that if I got married, I'd love to copy it. She and Grampa married in 1955 and the full skirt and sweetheart necklines were popular then.  I love that look.  Plus that dress looked perfect on her and I have her figure so, surely, it'd look perfect on me. 

So I was talking out loud to my late grandmother, telling her how mad I was that her dress was gone when I stumbled upon this:

I may not have my Gram's dress...but I do have some of her wedding pictures and I recognized this instantly.  It was her cake topper!!  But remember how I said that she was married way back in 1955...

....yea.  The thing was pretty nasty.

Ew!  The base was plaster and must've sat right on the cake.  It was all brown and there were clumps that I could scrape off of the bottom - either 57 year old cake crumbs or 57 year old plaster bits.  I couldn't even tell which.  And the lace and flowers had yellowed as well.  Who'd want to eat cake with that on top? 

And yet, I  loved the idea of incorporating something of my grandmother's.  I decided to try and pop the wirework off of the plaster base, spray paint it white,and glue it onto a new base made out of a food-safe item, like a saucer or something. 

But with one twist of the wire....

Oh no!  The base cracked.  I could almost hear my gramma cursing, "Pshah clef, helety poss koodney!" in Polish.  Well, now I had to get creative.  In the meantime, The Conductor and I firmed up our cake choice which included a very teeny tiny cake - way too small for a topper of this height and size.

And was hers...and I still wanted it in my wedding somehow.  Time went by and I realized I hadn't yet made a ringbearer pillow. 

Crud!  After five months of sewing muslins, the dress, the underlining, the petticoat, and fitting and refitting....the thought of sewing a simple pillow was just too much.  That's when it hit me!!   The doves on Gramma's cake topper are holding rings in their beaks.  Why not convert the cake topper into our ring bearer's presentation piece.  Who says you need a pillow? 

I drilled a hole in a dowel rod and painted it white. 

I took the wirework and soaked the lace and flower parts in a tub of OxyClean.   (That stuff gets the stains out of anything!).  I rested it atop a ceramic elephant to keep the metal on the rings from being exposed to the soaps.

Don't threy look like they're swimming on his back?

Then I attached it to the dowel with wire and covered up all the wire with some ribbons and wha-la:

I just have to tell our ringbearer, Q-boy, to hold it up high like a staff so his Great Gramma in Heaven can see what became of her cake topper.  I hope she likes it. 

In an added burst of coolness, we're working our grandparents into the whole weddiing tradition of...
Something Old - The Conductor will be using his grandfather's cufflinks
Something New - This "new" ring presentation that I made from my maternal Gram's cake topper
Something Borrowed - A pin belonging to The Conductor's Grandmother
Something Blue - A rosery & pouch from my paternal Grandmother

How cool is that?? 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I'm Sick of My Own Wedding

Is that a terrible thing to say?  The Conductor and I are getting married in just 10 - TEN days.  We're both sick of our own wedding. 

By the way, thank you to those who still check up on this blog in my absence.  Amazingly, I got two new followers:

Super mom Rustown Mom of The Canneary Family.  She's got a fig tree!! The only figs I've had are from Newtons.

And the lovely Revi of Revisionary Life.  She's painting all her furniture a shade of white.  For as SICK OF WHITE as I am after five months of making my wedding dress, I do love how relaxing her house is starting to look as she goes neutral. 

Every bit of free time for the past six months has been given up to wedding planning and chasing around and hashing out piddly details.  We never wanted to take the quick way out and elope or just have a civil service.  It just wouldn't be the same.  And yet....we just want to get it over with already! 

I'm sick of having to steal a quick ten minutes here or there in the garden instead of being able to play outside for hours. I"m sick of stepping into my sewing room and thinking it's Wintertime because the whole room is a sea of white fabric.

I think one of those blobs ofwhite is my dress.  There's so much white in that room I can't even tell anymore.

I'm sick of every surface of my house covered in DIY wedding projects. 

I"m sick of the Tumbleweed...aka my petticoat...blowing all over the place.  This is it, piled atop the sewing table and trailing all over the floor and over the chair:

And I'm really sick of everyone asking me, "Are you neeeerrrrvvvvous???"  No.  I'm not.  I've never been this sure of something in a long time.  These same people almost seem confused that, at 10 days and counting, I'm not a crazed out Bridezilla....and they also seem kind of disappointed by that.   Which I find kind of a sad statement in a way. 

But for as much as we're just ready to be Married ...I have been enjoying the process.  Here's some of my favorite things.

First, the Insipiration...
I didn't intend to have a Theme.  As long as everything matched, I'd be OK with that.  But I kept passing this piece of fabric at the store.  It's a printed chiffon from the Sew Sweet line that JoAnn FAbrics had with dots of watermelon, dusty rose, sea green, and lime:

I'd pass it and be so bummed that I had no way to use it.  I"m not crazy enough to be making my bridesmaids their dresses.  We're not having a flower girl.  It's too big a print to scrunch up into hairthings or bouquets.  Oh well....and then it hit me.  I love the colors.  I love polka dots.  Like dots, wedding rings are circles....why not make the fabric my theme?

From there, I chose the watermelon color for the bridesmaids dresses and the dusty rose for their shoes.  Dots of these colors will appear on variouis things all over our wedding.  More details to come...

So there it is....the theme for the wedding of a seamstress inspired by....fabric.  Who'd'a thunk? 

One of my favorite DIYs so far are the boutonnieres.  The Conductor made it clear that he didn't want to "wear a craft project" and he wanted flowers because they symbolize life.  But he's marryng a here's what I did.  I found small round-shaped flowers in watermelon and lime and some white buttons.  I used a dusty pink dot-printed cotton to make some fabric covered buttons to round it out.  Ran wire through the backs/shanks, wound fabric tape all around with a safety pin at the back...

... and these are the finished boutonnieres:

They are so stinkin' cute!!!   They match the inspiration fabric colors....they are a mix of real flowers for The Conductor and artsy-flowers for me...yet they stil look like a manly boutonniere. 

I even used the watermelon flowers to make matching hair clips for the girls:

So there's a teaser for now.  Hopefully I can squeeze in one more post before the wedding.  Thanks for sticking with me Readers!  And now, I must catch the Tumbleweed Petticoat and sew on the last tier. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Start Something that Matters - GIVEAWAY!

Do you have a message to spread or a mission to accomplish but don’t know how? Have you ever wondered if it was possible to help your community or solve a societal problem while earning a living at the same time? Or do you have the next Big Idea but have no idea how to go about implementing it? Is the economy forcing you giving you a chance to reshape your own goals or lifestyle?

My sister, Carrie, and I just finished reading a book that might help. Ever hear of Blake Mycoskie, founded TOMS Shoes? You buy a pair and a pair gets donated to a child in need. “One for one”, he calls it.

His book, “Start Something That Matters” tells the story of how the company was founded and its social mission. Mycoskie also goes on to inspire us to take our passions and DO something with them. Everyone is passionate about something –social justice issues, their faith, a political issue, a favorite charity. We all have great ideas that we’d love to turn into profitable products or a message we’d love to spread.

Carrie has been working in the community service field and decided to enter the corporate world. Here are her thoughts on the book:

"The book was an easy read and very thorough. After reading the book, I found I was comforted in a way I did not expect. My work in the non-profit sector was ending and I was headed for a commission-based job. I thought that non-profit work and corporate sales required two different frames of mind. But I was wrong. When I learned more about Blake and his life journey, I could see the connection between the two. He showed that it is entirely possible to cross back and forth from a steady corporate job to helping start or grow a movement. We can be of many mindsets! There can be balance.

I will say that the tone was, at times, a bit pompous. And some examples were redundant. But if you are in a quandary about whether to stay in the corporate world and you think that doing so means that you can’t do non-profit work or support (or even start!) a good cause, this book will show you that this simply isn’t so!"

As for me, I’m an accountant so I read this like a business book. My take on the book is, if you don’t need yet another self-help, motivational book than skip this one. But if you are looking for a guide for how to begin turning your passion into something that matters, this is a great book. Whether you’re looking to do this as a non-profit/mission based venture or you’re looking to launch a business that is for profit, yet meaningful this book is very helpful.

Although he writes about his social mission of getting shoes to kids who have none, this is really a great explanation of how to market your idea, how to find resources when you’re on a shoestring budget, and how to build trust and rapport, both with your staff and with your customer base. He really explains how to make your mission resonate with others.

I do agree with my sister, though, that the tone is a bit pompous. In all honestly, I haven’t ever bought TOMS shoes and probably won’t. We Americans tend to think that all we have to do to “help” is just throw money at a problem. As in “Hey I just bought a $60 pair of TOMS shoes…now I don’t have to feel bad that there’s kids in the world who don’t have shoes!” Not quite.

This blog is about being brave as a homemaker and a homeowner. Part of why I started my blog was reading the sites of so many “mom blogs”, "hobby blogs" and “homemaker blogs” started by women who just wanted to share what they know with other women! But some of them got a little brave and turned their “mom passions” and “homemaking or hobby passions” into cookbooks, sewing books, or even their own TV shows. If you’re looking to get brave and turn your passion into Something that Matters, check out the book.

Mycoskie’s “one for one” mission works here, too. You buy a book and he donates a book to a needy child. Can’t beat that!

Want a free copy? I’m giving one away. To enter the giveaway just:

1. Become a follower of this blog over on the sidebar.

2. Read any other post on this blog and leave a comment

3. Do something today that matters. Even if it’s just doing the dishes.

The giveaway will stay open through April 19th. I’ll draw a winner randomly.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Braver Than Storebought: Swifter Dust Mop Sheets

When I bought my house there was nasty flattened used-to-be white-but-now-it's-grey carpet in my living room.  I told Dad of All Trades that I was going to rip it out and refinish the floors.  "Beeeee careful", he warned in his Dad voice.  "You might not like what you see under there". 

Well, I ripped up the floor anyway with as much pleasure as a little kid gets from ripping off a scab.  And, sure enough, wood floors underneath!  I wish I had before and after pics. 

Anyway, I LOVE my wood floors, although next time, I'd hire a professional to do it.  That floor sander is hard on a girl's arms, let me tell ya!   With no carpeting in the house, I go through a LOT of Swifter floor dusters.  I love them, but it gets expensive. 

But why dust floors when you can sew, right?  Except that sewing generates a lot of scrap fabric.  Like this pile of waste from this project and a pair of pj pants that I made:   

It pains me to have to toss out such big scrap pieces.  Then inspiration struck.  Expensive Swifter dusters....lots of fabric scraps....aha!!  I can make my own duster cloths! 

This was a great project to do in front of the TV since it requires absolutely no brain power.  Added bonus, my husband to be was sitting next to me watching me be so resourceful.

I will, of course, remind him of this resourcefulness when we get in our first fight over how much money I'm spending on fabric. 

I laid out a real Swif*er dust cloth on top of a scrap and cut around it. 

The I did it a zillion times more til my whole pile was cut to the size of dust cloths. 

As you can see, it works famously! 

Of course, not all fabrics would work.  The yellow was fleece and the pink was flannel, both of which will generate enough static to pick up dust.  Satins and other polyesters won't work as well.  But hey, using up some scraps is better than tossing them all in the trash, right!  And it's FREE.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I'm Back

Wow. My last post was February 7th. That's just sad.  But not because I don't want to blog anymore.  I've just been incredibly BUSY.  My June wedding is fast approaching so I really have to use every ounce of free time wisely and, unfortunately, blogging has taken a seat in the way-back.

(When I was a kid, my family had a station wagon and the coveted seats were in the very back.  And they faced backwards.  You could do all kinds of screwing around back there and Dad couldn't see a thing. It was great!).

So, here's a summary of some of my business:  In the last two months I have been:

Working on carving out some of this mess here - -
 - - into some space for The Conductor to move his things into once we're married.

I planned and hosted a baby shower for my sister.  We did a "First Lady" theme since she was expecting the first girl in our family.  Princesses are SO overdone, if you ask me.

I also welcomed my new niece, Vee.

I went with The Conductor to the wedding of a good friend of his.  Isn't her dress pretty?  She wore her late mother's headpiece, too.  I'm so jealous of them - they live in a city (Grand Rapids, MI), but they get to have chickens!!!

 Isn't her tablescape pretty?  The plant in the glass vase next to the name tag was our party favor. It's an air plant which I've never heard of.  But they really do live just on air.  They don't need water or dirt.  Crazy cool!

Speaking of plants, I've started a bunch of seedlings.  I'm trying not to plant anything that will need much attention come late June since I'll be getting married and honeymooning than.  Most of what I'm starting are flowers and herbs that won't really need me or things that can stay underground for a good long time.

And I've been working like mad doing my wedding stuff.  I'm doing a lot of DIY type things but we're moving at a good clip.  We also finished one of the two classes required by our church.  The first one is a survey to see if both of us are on the same wavelength.  Except for a few "no big deal" kind of differences, we really are in focus. 

So much so, that we can predict the punchlines of each other's lame jokes. 

I'm also working feverishly on making my own dress.  Sewing it will be a breeze.  The hardest part is finalizing the design.  Essentially, anything I see, I could conceivably "do".  So, I can take the neckline from one, the bodice from another, the sleeves from that one, a sash here, a train there, a ruffle from that one, an overlay from over there....and before you know it, I'll have the tackiest dress ever.  It's been hard to edit but I think I'm there.  In the meantime, the petticoat is coming along nicely. 

And, as if I don't have enough on my plate, I had a terrifying encounter with this:

I know....I'm a gardener.  I garden barefoot where bugs are.  I pick plants that have bugs on them.  I've brought produce inside and found bugs on it. 

Bugs are a part of life. 


Yea.  This thing was just.....there....on the middle of the floor.  I have no idea where he came from.  It's still wintery here so there were no windows open or anything.  I don't bring food in there.  Where he came from and where he was going, I have no idea. 

Look at him!  As big as a bobbin.  I am not kidding when I say I spent the next three hours freaking out that he was in there because he's the kind of worm that likes to eat fabric. 

I can handle bugs of any kind in any situation - - but not near my fabric stash.  Ugh!

Anyway, I did get a few more projects done which I will hopefully post about soon.  I'm here, my dear 12 followers!  I've just been crazy busy!