Archive for the ‘Make It Myself’ Category

Jon and I decided early this year that we wanted to use every available bit of space to garden this year.  Living in a townhouse community, our actual land ownership is quite limited and, as I’ve told you before, it is governed with an iron fist by our homeowner’s association.  This meant that our garden was going to have to be housed in containers on our patio.  Enter an impulse purchase from BJ’s…

I have a big problem walking past large tables of books that are on sale.  I have an even bigger problem walking away from said tables without books to purchase.  On one such experience at BJ’s, I discovered The Vegetable Gardener’s Container Bible by Edward C. Smith.  This book has been a great resource for us and really got us yearning to make our own self-watering containers.

As I mentioned in my potatoes in a half barrel post, we had already bought a few half barrels.  Our next feat was to make them into self watering containers, which we accomplished last week.  I held off writing this post until we found out if they worked and… eureka!  They work beautifully.

DISCLAIMER: I hesitate to call this entry a tutorial as we are new at this ourselves.  Please just consider this the steps we took to create our half barrel self-watering containers.


Wooden half barrel

Plastic tarp

3” PVC piping

1” PVC piping

Rubber stopper

Quart size yogurt containers or Ziploc containers

Weed prevention fabric

Heavy duty stapler



The bottom of our half barrel had a diameter of 20”.  Our first step was to cut our tarp in a 30” circle. 

We placed the tarp flat on the bottom of the barrel and stapled the extra to the sides. 

Jon drilled holes throughout the pipe using his largest drill bit and then cut it into 8” sections.

Meanwhile, I cut the quart size yogurt containers to 3” high and poked holes throughout.

In the bottom of each barrel, we place 3 section of pipe in a spoke design and 2 yogurt containers for water wicking.  In the remaining space, we put 1 small Ziploc storage container to provide extra stability.

Next, we cut the 1” pipe to the height of the barrel, then cut one side on an angle.  The angled side got place into the side of the barrel.

We cut the landscaping fabric in a large circle, roughly 30” in diameter, and placed it on top of the pipe and yogurt containers.

I cut an X in the fabric above the 2 open yogurt containers.

We then filled the yogurt containers with soil then filled the rest of the barrel.  We also forgot to keep taking pictures.

Once the soil was in, we filled the water in the basin by pouring it in the 1” pipe.  We used the rubber stopper the plug the pipe to prevent mosquitoes from moving in.

To date, our garden is flourishing and we’ve only had to refill the barrels twice!

Happy Homesteading,



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This weekend we had company for dinner.  I was excited to cook for our guests.  Unfortunately, during the week, our oven decided that it was going to operate at 500° regardless of the temperature I requested.  This came to my attention when it burned through my silicone mat in less than 7 minutes.  Since this is not the first issue that we have had with this range, we decided to cut our losses and purchase a new one.  However, it was not going to arrive in time for me to prepare our meal.  We had already planned to grill most of the fare, but I needed to come up with a dessert.  After racking my brain, I decided upon pudding. 

I love chocolate pudding.  However, I don’t love the ingredients in the boxes of cook & serve pudding mix.  Don’t even get me started on the ingredients in the instant pudding mix!  So, to fulfill my pudding desires, I turn to homemade.  Surprise, surprise.

Many recipes for homemade pudding use lots of cornstarch.  But this little gem uses flour as the thickener.  As I’m not a huge fan of high fructose corn syrups kissing cousin, cornstarch, this recipe is perfect for me.

Also, I’ll be honest, since this recipe contains eggs, it technically would be considered a custard.  Tomato, tomahto.  Regardless of its official title, it’s delicious.


¾ c. sugar

¼ c. flour

1/3 c. cocoa powder

2 2/3 c. milk

4 egg yolks – beaten

1 Tbs. butter

2 tsp. vanilla

Combine sugar, flour and cocoa powder in a saucepan. 

Stir in milk.  Whisk over medium heat until bubbly.  Cook and stir for 2 more minutes.

Remove from heat.  Temper egg yolks by slowly stirring 1 cup of chocolate mixture into beaten yolks.

Return egg mixture to saucepan and return to heat.  While stirring, bring to a gentle boil.

Cook and stir for 2 more minutes.

Remove from heat.  Add butter and vanilla.  Stir to combine.

Pour into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Chill.

When it comes time to serve, I say go big.  A dollop of fresh whipped cream and a grating of chocolate.  Yum.

Happy Homesteading,


Tips & Tricks:

Hershey Special Dark Cocoa is fantastic in this recipe.

Source: Better Homes & Gardens The New Cookbook (1999)

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been using a shampoo made from castile soap, coconut milk, olive oil & lemon essential oil.  To my untrained eye, it’s been great for my hair.  My hair is clean and easily managed.  This shampoo also suds well, better in fact than commercial shampoo. 

I’ve been eager to share this update with you as I know some of my blogging friends have been looking for such a product.  But I wanted this shampoo to prove its worth to one of my friends… who just happens to be my hairdresser.  Hairdresser?  Does that make me sound like I’m 60 years old?  Should I say stylist?  Or does that make me sound like I’m a contestant in The Hunger Games?   But I digress…

My stylist has been my friend for nearly 12 years.  She knows my hair very well.  She was patient with me when I had her “unhighlight” my hair the day after I highlighted it because I asked her to be too bold for my liking.  She was patient with me when I was growing my hair out for my wedding and hacked my own bangs 2 months before in a moment of insanity on a bad hair day.  She was also patient with me when I showed up the day of my wedding with a freshly shampooed head, despite her asking me not to shampoo that morning, to do it the night before.  Every time, she rolled with it and fixed me right up.

Today, I had a haircut for the first time in a few months.  And guess what?  She complemented the condition of my hair!  She said it looked nice and healthy.  For me, this is a ringing endorsement for my homemade shampoo. 

Happy Homesteading,


Tips & Tricks:

I use Mountain Rose Herbs castile soap & essential oil.  I’ve also purchased my shampoo bottles from them.

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The other day I learned that a fellow blogger, Lightly Crunchy, had attempted a similar version of homemade shampoo and had the same icky results that I did.  Hearing about her shared disappointment reignited my desire to find a shampoo recipe I could live with or, dare I say, enjoy.

Nearly two weeks ago, I found a shampoo recipe on One Good Thing by Jillee that looked like it would fit the bill.  However, I was hesitant to have another go after my first homemade shampoo debacle.  But, today I strengthened my resolve and went for it.


½ c. castille soap

½ c. coconut milk

1 tsp olive oil

20 drops lemon essential oil

Pour all ingredients in a bottle.  Shake to combine.

So far, so good.  I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Homesteading,


Tips & Tricks:

I needed to use about 1 Tbs. of shampoo to get my desired amount of suds.

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Ah, bachelors.  They’re so cute… or is it cunning?

When we met, Jon had been living on his own for quite some time and had his certain methods of doing things.  A man of routine, he had established a meal plan from which he rarely deviated. 

Breakfast: 2 eggs – scrambled with cheddar cheese & hot sauce, banana, apple, yogurt

Lunch: salad – lettuce, mushrooms, almond slices, homemade dressing, banana, apple, yogurt

Dinner: can of soup

Dessert: chocolate milk

That was it.  Nearly every day.  Please keep in mind, this was not a fitness diet.  While it kept him fit, this was a bachelor diet.  All I could think when we started dating was how much he needed some kitchen love.

As our relationship progressed, I took over some of the domestic tasks that he viewed as chores but I enjoyed.  Making his dressing was one of those things.  Until that point his dressing consisted of white vinegar, olive oil and garlic powder.  I remember the look of skepticism on his face when I produced a bottle of balsamic for his daily dressing needs. 

“I’m fine with the white vinegar.”

“I know.  But you might enjoy this a bit more.”

With reluctance but ever the good sport, he gave it a try.  He loved it!  From that point on, I was free to do whatever I wanted to do in the kitchen.  I became the queen of his kitchen.  I did all of the cooking.  He’d offer to cook, but I’d quickly say “No, honey.  I’ll do it.”  Often, I’d surprise him with fancy dinners and decadent desserts that he’d fawn over.  I just knew I had to marry him.  He needed me, for without me, he’d surely starve.

Fast forward 7 years.   I still somewhat make his dressing.  I prepare a large jar of dry spice mix, to which he adds vinegar, oil & water.


2 Tbs. garlic powder

2 Tbs. onion powder

2 Tbs. sugar

2 Tbs. dried oregano

1 Tbs. dried parsley

1 tsp. salt

2 tsp. black pepper

¾ tsp. celery seed

¼ tsp chili powder

Combine 2 Tbs. of mix with:

2 Tbs. warm water

¼ c. vinegar

2/3 c. canola oil

He scored a woman who loves to feed him.  Well played, Jon.  Well played.

Happy Homesteading,


Tips & Tricks:

This mix will make about 7 batches of dressing.

I stir the water and the mix together before adding the vinegar and canola oil to dissolve the salt & sugar.

We’ve tried all types of vinegar with this mix, even rice wine.  They all work very well, but white wine is our favorite.

Adapted from: allrecipes italian dressing mix

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For those of you with an Italian heritage, you know that many family activities include eating.  My father, who at the time was the only non-Italian in the group, once said “this family doesn’t do anything without consulting their stomachs”.  Although that statement was met with guffaws and glares, it was true and we knew it to be true.

Many of my memories of my grandfather revolve around food.  I remember how he used to peel peaches for my grandmother because she got chills every time she touched their fuzz.  I remember that he could make amazing, new meals using ordinary leftovers.  I remember that he would cut pieces of fruit and pass them around the table after a meal.  I remember how he would pack pieces of walnut into dried figs at Christmas to create “Santa sacks”.  But more than anything, I remember how he would make pizza every time they’d visit.

Grandpa’s pizza was a source of great excitement.  Like any kid, I loved pizza.  I still do.  I could eat pizza almost every day of the week.  But Grandpa’s was different.  The crust was thin and tender.  The sauce was homemade.  The cheese was fresh mozzarella with a sprinkling of pecorino romano.  Each component was delicious in its own rite.  Together, it was heaven.

When he was gone, I missed that pizza.  Of course, it was the man that I missed most, but that pizza was a connection to him.  About 7 years ago, I got the recipe from my mom and started making memories with my own family over Grandpa’s pizza dough. 

I’d like to share his recipe with you.


3¾ to 4 cups flour

2¼ tsp yeast

1 tsp salt

1 Tbs sugar

1 Tbs olive oil

1½ c warm water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, kneading dough until smooth.  Pour a drizzle of oil into the bottom of the bowl.  Roll dough ball in oil to coat. 

Cover the bowl with a cloth.  Let the dough rest in a warm place for 1½ hours.

Remove cloth and punch down dough.

Replace cloth and let rise for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400°. 

Split dough in half.  Gently stretch dough to cover a cookie tray.  Repeat with other piece of dough.  Top with desired toppings.

Bake for roughly 16-20 minutes.

Here’s to making memories.

Happy Homesteading,


Tips & Tricks:

I don’t warm the water to a specific temperature.  I use water that is warm on my wrist when coming out of the tap.

My grandfather always made this dough by hand, as did I until I had an 18 month old who learned to climb whenever Mommy’s hands were doughy.  I now use a food processor.  Combine all ingredients and flip the switch.  Much easier and I can pull my little one off of the furniture while it’s kneading.

Grandpa always used a tomato sauce that he didn’t cook.  No one quite remembers exactly what he did but the taste is very similar to this sauce on Annie’s Eats.

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I got this recipe from a friend many, many years ago.  While I enjoyed baking and cooking, at the time, I still consumed plenty of processed foods.  In retrospect, I think this recipe could be considered my “Patient Zero”; the recipe that started my aversion to process foods and my mission to avoid food out of a box. 

This is an easy way to start eliminating the boxes from your pantry.  Aside from Cheerios and Rice Krispies for our little one, we haven’t bought a box of cereal in ages. 


4 cups old fashioned oats

4 cups quick oats

1 ½ cups roasted sunflower seeds

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch allspice

½ cup canola oil

½ cup honey

2 tsp. vanilla


Add Ins:


apricot chunks


Preheat oven to 300°.  Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. 

Heat the canola oil, honey & vanilla in the microwave for 1 minute.  Pour over the dry ingredient and stir to combine.  Divide oats between the two prepared baking sheets. 

Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir oats.  Return to over and continue baking for 20 minutes. 

Allow granola to cool.  Pour into a large container.  Add raisins and apricot chunks.  Close container and shake to combine.


Yield: approximately 11 cups of granola

Happy Homesteading,


Tips & Tricks:

This recipe is easily adaptable and can accommodate different ingredients.  I’ve used nuts instead of sunflower seeds, maple syrup instead of honey, cranberries instead of raisins and dried pineapple instead of apricots.

We use blueberry or wildflower honey.  The darker the honey, the more antioxidants and vitamins.  The honey flavor is also more intense than common clover honey.

I like using both old fashioned & quick oats because of the difference in texture.  This is purely my preference.  Using all old fashioned oats will give a chewier and heartier texture.  Using all quick oats will give a weaker but crunchier texture.  In this picture, you can see the difference between both types of oats.  Quick oats are on the left, old fashioned on the right. 

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