26 September 2011

Pinterest Project: Indoor Garden

A bit ago, I pinned this on Pinterest.
Pinterest inspiration
I love it.  I usually keep a couple of herbs on my kitchen windowsill in the colder months (and I argue with the cat over them, too), but I especially love these in the old tea tins.  They look loved and vintage, which makes me love them even more.

I've been keeping my eye out for old tea tins, and then, lo and behold, I found one in my mom's basement!  Even better, it's red, so it matches my kitchen!  I also found an old tin for hot chocolate that is also red, though it's a bit small.  Despite that, I decided to give it a try.

This weekend, at my local garden center, I stopped in for some fall decorations (mini pumpkins and gourds), and I discovered that they still had some herbs left.  Even better, they weren't large or rangy, which I definitely did not want for the small tins.  I ended up with a small rosemary and a small thyme.

Here's what I started with.  Yep, the plants still look a lot bigger than the tins, especially the hot chocolate tin on the left.  Contrary to how it looks, though, they did both fit.

I was worried that the tins would hold water, but I was also worried that if I poked holes in the bottom, the tins would rust.  To help with drainage, I put some loose smaller rocks in the bottoms of my tins (which I may or may not have gotten from my gravel driveway...)

After that, it's just like planting anything else in a pot.  Just in case you've never done it:

* Put potting soil in the pot (tin).  It's important to use potting soil for, well, pots rather than regular old outside dirt. I use organic potting soil when available. (The small tin didn't actually need any extra soil for the most part.)
* Take the plant out of the pot it came home in.
* Loosen up the root ball (the dirt part) a little bit.  You can just kind of massage it a little.  You don't really want to tear the roots; you just want to loosen them from each other a bit.
* Put the plant in your new pot (tin).  You want the top of the dirt to be level with the top of your pot (tin), and you don't want any roots to show.
*Fill in any extra space with potting soil.

Here's a terrible picture of my new herb tins on my windowsill in my kitchen.
Pretty awful, but I only had my phone to take pictures today.  Here they are close-up to help.
Thyme in Hot Chocolate Tin

Rosemary in Black Tea Tin

I've been after more tea tins similar to the one I used, but it seems like a lot of the companies have changed their tin styles.  I used one from Harney & Sons, and theirs are different, and my Pinterest inspiration pic using Twinings, whose tins are also different.  If anyone has any stashed anywhere or knows where I can get them, please give me a heads up!

P.S. - The huge mass of greenery outside of my kitchen windows are actually my tomato plants.  They've gone ca-razy this year because we've had so much rain.  It's a disaster...and a separate post for another day.

14 September 2011

Stencils, Ahoy!

In my apartment, I have an open living space that combines my living room, entry, and dining room.  The long wall of my dining room is quite long, about three-quarters of the total length of the apartment, and when I moved in, I knew I didn't have any art big enough to fill the space, nor did I have lots of smaller art to fill it.  When I moved in, I threw some self-made art on the wall as a temporary place holder....which (embarrassingly) lasted 10 months.
You don't really get the full scope of the wall from this before shot, but suffice it to say that this felt lost on the wall.

Finally, this summer, I figured out what I wanted to do.  The least expensive (and also probably the coolest) option was to do a stencil.  Art would have been nice, but unless I win the lottery (and so far I've been quite unsuccessful at that), there was no way I could afford enough art for that wall.  Plus, I was intrigued by the idea of a subtle tonal stencil that would be delicate but that would also make a statement.  

You can sort of tell by the (rather terrible) picture up top that my walls are not pure white.  They're off white, but my trim and doors are white, so the color I chose for my stencil was also white.  Also, my walls are flat, so to add dimension, I chose an eggshell paint.  (I went with a quart of Benjamin Moore's no-VOC Nature line, in eggshell, in Super White.  A quart was more than enough.)

The stencil I found came from Royal Design Studio (the pattern is the Large Endless Moorish Circles).  It is a $44 stencil, but it is large, which is a good thing.  No, it is a very, very, very good thing.

I've never stenciled, but the directions that came from Royal Design Studio were pretty clear about using a dry brush.  They even suggest dabbing paint off your brush onto a paper towel before using it on the stencil.  They're not kidding, either.  You really want a dry brush, or the paint can glob along the rim of the stencil or worse, get under it and mess up the design.  
My general method was to dip just the tip of my brush (a stenciling brush about an inch or 1.5 inches in diameter) in the paint, and then to dab it several times onto paper towels before going anywhere near the stencil.  That seemed to work best.  Also, stippled (a fast up-and-down motion) rather than strokes worked well.  But let me tell you, it is time consuming.  You can see the size of the stencil in the above picture, where I had done three rounds, and it was at this point that I thought, "what the heck have I gotten myself into here?"  No lies here; it took probably 8 or 10 hours over three days to do, and my wrists were not happy about it.  

Was it worth it in the end?  Heck yes!  I love my stenciled wall.  It is just what I wanted; it's subtle, tonal, and adds a sheen and interest.  The stencil was $44, and I can't remember how much my quart of paint was (but it's already seen two other projects, and there's still lots left); quite simply, there is no way I could have found any art to fill the space as successfully as the stencil does.  Especially not for under $100.  And even if I had found art that was big enough for under $100, I probably wouldn't have liked it as much as this.  

Here it is up close.  You can kind of see that not every stencil is perfect, but from far away, it all looks uniform.  Plus, its imperfection adds character (something I, a perfectionist, would never thought I would say.)  When you get close enough to see them, the small variations definitely scream, "hey!  I'm a hand-painted wall here! A little respect?!"  
It's pretty much the most perfect solution. 

09 September 2011

Things That Rock - Jess Edition

We're soggy and wet out here on the east coast....I've never seen so much rain!  All the rivers are swelling and flooded, and my rowing lesson for today has been cancelled.  The river is too fast that it's dangerous!  However, in some places, people are canoeing down the streets.

What's better to do on a rainy, soggy Friday than look at virtual lovelies?  Here are this week's Things That Rock.

07 September 2011

Easy-Peasy Game Day Chicken Tortilla Soup

This recipe is from my friend Sean who happens to be a sports reporter.  That is why I titled it "Game Day" Chicken Tortilla Soup.  It's super quick, super easy, made in the CROCK POT (yay!) and, it's even boyfriend approved!


2 lbs chicken breasts
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can pinto beans (rinse)
1 can black beans (rinse)
2 cans corn
1 can Ro-Tel tomatoes (mild or regular)
2 Envelopes of Taco Seasoning
1 Envelope of Ranch Dressing Mix

Put the chicken breasts in the crock pot.  Put in enough water to cover them and then add ONE pack of taco seasoning.

Cook the chicken on high (4 hours) for about an hour or so, until it is cooked through.

Pull apart chicken - pulled pork style.

Put the pulled chicken back in and add all the remaining ingredients, including juices.  Set on the medium low cooking setting for a few hours.  

You can top it with avocado, sour cream (or my cousin Jill's low fat version of sour cream - plain Greek yogurt), shredded cheese, corn chips - whatever!

Seriously, it's that easy-peasy.  No lie.

Eat and Yum!

06 September 2011

Cat Toys and Four-Strand Braids

The other day, I bought my cat, Anna Poo, new cat toys.  (I may or may not have vacuumed up one of her favorites...).  Anna is only a year old, so she is still kitten-ish, and she loves her toys, especially long ones that drag and smaller ones she can carry around in her mouth.

Anna also has a weird love of water.  She loves to play in it.  I swear, I have cups with lids and straws, because she'll stick her paw and head in my glasses if I don't use those!  One thing she loves to do with water is to drown her toys.  It's gross, I know, but I can't exactly make her stop.

The other morning, I woke up, and Anna's bowl had black water in it.  Black.  It was gross.  With a capital G.  I briefly panicked until I picked up her new, zebra striped toy; it was soaking wet, and there were black sploshes of water coming off of it.

Her new toy was bleeding color.  I picked up another new one, that had also been recently drowned, and blue water was coming off of it.  It got me thinking that if water makes the color run, does her saliva do it, too?  Is she eating the color on the toys (toys which are most likely made in China)?

I promptly threw those in the trash, and I set about making my own toy for her.

This is by no means rocket science, but here's what I did.

I took some cotton yarn that I have in my stash (it's yarn that I know is 100% cotton).  It's white, so it's most likely been bleached, but there shouldn't be any color to run (I know it's Lion Cotton in a worsted weight, but I don't have the actual wrapping to tell me how the yarn was colored).

I took a long piece, about the length of my arm, to make a toy that was long for her to carry around, since I know she likes these.  Then, I using the first length to measure the rest, I cut 12 total lengths.

Next, I took three lengths and braided them, leaving a longer stringy part at the top and bottom than I would have done if I were making, say, a friendship bracelet (I used my trusty friendship-bracelet-making method of a clipboard to hold the pieces, which I loosely knotted at the top and bottom when finished.  I wanted to hold the braid but be able to take the knots out later).

I did this four times total, making four separate braids, and then I took the one side of the loose knots out and tightly knotted all four braids together at the top.  I took my four individual pieces and braided them together in a four-strand braid.  (Initially, I was going for a three-strand braid, but when I started it, it seemed a bit too thin for Anna's liking.)  When I got closer to the bottom, I took the other loose knots out, and when I was finished, I made another tight knot to hold them together, making sure to leave the stringy ends out.

A four-strand braid is easy to do; there are lots of tutorials out there, and I looked for some to include, but they were all more complicated than needed.

If you think of a three-strand braid, your basic motion is over-under (or under-over).  That is, you take one strand over the next and under the third (or under the next and over the third).  To do a four-strand braid, simply add another step: over-under-over (or under-over-under).

Anna approves!

One other trustworthy source for buying cat toys (if you're not motivated to make your own), can be found at Marvelous Melissa's shop at etsy.  Anna hasn't had one yet (Santa Claws may deliver this year), but other cats of mine have, and they definitely get two paws up!  Add a tail in there, too, because Melissa upcycles old socks into some of her toys.  Keeping things out of a landfill always gets smiles, and meows, around here!

(Note: Marvelous Melissa didn't pay or perk us (or Anna) in any way...we just happen to be big fans of her toys around here!)