Prepping Better Than Bouillion Jars For Crafting

No, I don’t make home made stock as much as I would like. I have to cut myself a break on a few things, and stock is one of them these days. There can only be one Martha Stewart in the world, and it ain’t me. But there’s no great loss without some small gain, as Laura Ingall’s Ma used to say. And that gain is that I have quite the stockpile of Better Than Bouillion jars. They are absolutely perfect for so many things – storing herbs and spices, or making soy candles. I use them for both. They’re also great for small quantities of things I buy in bulk, like baking soda and bread yeast.

In order to make them completely usable, the labels need to come off. There’s an easy way, and a hard way to do it, and I figured it out by trial and error. So you to can re-purpose these great little jars too, I’m sharing the method with you.

It seems that the folks at Better Than Bouillion use two different types of label adhesive – one type for the jar label, and another for the lid label. They both react very differently to heat and water, so you’ll have to remove them separately. I like to do a quick washing of the insides of the jars to remove any remaining food residue, and then remove the labels in bulk when I have a mess of them to do. Do not run them through the dishwasher with the labels on! The labels will more or less fuse onto the glass and become next to impossible to remove properly.

For the lids – slowly peel the labels off while they’re dry. No soaking in hot water – it does something weird to the adhesive and you’ll never be able to the things off. If you peel the label off slowly, all of the glue residue should come with it. If not, scrape it off with your fingernail or a bamboo spatula. Using a butter knife or other metal scraper will like scratch up the lid. Not a huge deal if you plan to cover it with another label or use it in your own pantry, but you’ll want to be careful if you plan to use the jar for gift giving.

For the jars – soak them in soapy water – the hottest that you can stand – and peel the label away, scraping off any glue reside as you go. If you need to, give them a scrubbing with the rough side of a dish sponge.

And that’s it – cute little jars with plain gold or black lids that are perfect for gift giving or using in the pantry. Start saving them, and you’ll have a nice little collection, saving them from the landfill and stretching the dollars you spent on them in the first place a little further.

DIY Easter Egg Garlands – Dollar Tree Decorating

Yep, after completely ignoring Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day here on the blog (though I promise I did decorate for both of them in real life!) I am posting copiously about our Easter crafts. If, like me, you are a seriously lacking in the Easter decor department, festooning your house with ropes upon ropes of Easter egg garlands is probably the easiest way to go.

Here are just a couple of shots of the garlands we have up around the house (trust me, we have many more – especially in Little Man’s room, where we used brightly colored eggs). Also, sorry for the bad photo quality. I’m hoping that a poor photo is better than no photo at all.

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The paper mache egg stakes I picked up at 40% off at Hobby Lobby – I think I paid $1.20 for each of them. The wooden bunny cutout is from Dollar Tree, and the green egg “terrarium” is simply filled with leftover Easter eggs (the terrarium is from Dollar Tree too). Hint, hint – stay tuned for another Easter egg terrarium craft later this week.

Making the garlands is unbelievably easy, and each one costs less than $3 to make. You’ll need white fabric ribbon, 2 packages of eggs (I like the medium-sized ones, shown above) and a tapestry or candlewicking needle – one that’s big enough to take the ribbon through the eye, but small enough to fit through the holes in either end of the eggs. Speaking of the eggs – make sure you do pick up the eggs that have small holes in each end. Most of them seem to, especially the ones available at Dollar Tree, but not all of the ones on the market do. I happened to pick some up at Hobby Lobby recently that didn’t, so they got relegated to other purposes.

Assembling the garlands simply requires threading the needle with the ribbon and “sewing” the eggs together. I like to thread them onto the ribbon before I cut it from the spool, to make sure I have enough length to use a full two packages of eggs (which gives the best amount of drape for the space I’m decorating) without having to be fussy and measure the ribbon first.

Once I have all of the eggs on, I tie off the loose end in a loop for hanging. Don’t thread the eggs too tightly; you’ll want a little play in the ribbon so you can drape it and hang it how you like. Once you have the loose end situated, tie a loop in the ribbon still attached to the spool, and then cut it free. And that’s it! This is a great craft to make with kids. Older kids can do it entirely themselves, but even toddlers can help with this one – they can choose the color sequence of the eggs, and it’s a great memory/color recognition game to repeat the color sequence as you go along.

We’ve made at least half a dozen of these so far (and I still have another four packages of eggs left!) and they’ve instantly brightened up the house and made it feel festive and fun.

DIY Easter Bunny Wreath

Before this year, I had hardly any Easter decorations. Before having a kid, it just wasn’t a big ticket holiday at our house. But I like to make holidays festive and fun for Little Man, so adding to our Easter decor (affordably!) was a must this year. As usual, I started my quest for Easter projects on Pinterest, and found this awesome little number -

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Really cool, but a little bit out of my price range. More importantly, I wanted to be able to make something with Little Man. So when I found cute little brown bunny ears at the Target One Spot, a light bulb went off. I could make my own interpretation of the bunny wreath!

Supplies were pretty straightforward. Little Man and I picked up the following haul at Hobby Lobby (with the exception of the bunny ears, which we found at the Target One Spot) -

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Since I already had a glue gun and glue sticks on hand, the rest of the supplies only cost $10, and that’s a price I can afford for home decor. Assembled the wreath was super easy.

First, I hot-glue the bunny ears to the back of the smaller wreath. Then I made a ribbon loop for hanging and tucked it in between the bunny ears and wreath, hot gluing it in place.

One the glue was dry, I affixed the larger wreath to the smaller one by using the wire to lash them together. And that’s it!

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Pardon the slightly blurry photo; I was in a bit of a rush to take it. I’m still toying with the idea of embellishing further with a bow, but I think I kind of like it in it’s simple, rustic form. And the best part was the time that Little Man and I spent together to make it – he was an excellent helper!

Spring Cleaning the Home Made Way

I’ve dabbled in home made cleaners, but never really got into it too much. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit more recently, since it looks like spring might finally be here, and it’s time to get spring cleaning underway. Spending a ton of money on harsh and abrasive chemicals increasingly doesn’t sit right with me, so I figured – I’m going to go all in and give home made cleaning supplies a fair shake.

So it seemed providential that I should receive an email a few weeks ago from Adams Media, the publisher of a new book called The Organically Clean Home by Becky Rapinchuk. I must say, I did receive a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes, but you all know how picky I am about endorsing stuff. So I have absolutely no problem saying that I am in love with this whole book, and it’s completely changed the way I’m going to clean my home. It’s got a really great format, making it easy to read – broken down by room, there’s a cleaning recipe for just about every situation you could imagine.

And as a serious deal seeker and couponer, the notion of saving loads of money on cleaning supplies really got my attention. After reading the whole book in a day (yes, I couldn’t put down a book on cleaning…) I settled on a handful of all-purpose recipes to start with, and made a shopping list. This is what I came home with -

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All of the supplies above came in at about $25. I did have the castile bar soap and rosemary essential oil on hand, but if I’d had to buy those, my total would’ve still only been $30. The other two essential oils pictured are tea tree and lemon. Also included in the total are another gallon of vinegar and two plastic spray bottles from the dollar store. And this stuff will probably last me about six months, at least.

As I learned from the book, you can pretty much clean every single thing in your home (and clean it effectively!) with everything shown above. And while you still want to treat home made cleaners with respect and caution and keep them on a high shelf away from kids and pets, I’m feeling a lot better about having this stuff sit on my counter than some of the other stuff that’s lurking in my closet.

I chose four recipes to start with – Lemon & Peppermint All-Purpose Cleaner, Disinfecting Toilet Bowl Cleaner, Carpet Spot Remover and Lemon & Clove Powdered Laundry Soap – Small Batch. Tinkerer that I am, I did make a few adjustments (which the book actually does encourage with listed variations for many of the recipes) and was seriously excited about the results.

The Lemon & Peppermint All-Purpose Cleaner is a dream. I switched the peppermint essential oil for lemon essential oil, and omitted the fresh lemon juice in order to make it shelf stable (the version with fresh lemon needs refrigeration and to be used in about a week). I used it to clean my god-awful glass coffee table and it actually came clean, with no streaks. And interestingly, it almost seems to be repelling nastiness since I’ve used it – Little Man has played on it all afternoon, which usually means it’s covered in fingerprints and toddler grime, but it’s still looking good. I also used it to wipe down the kitchen counters and sink, and the stainless steel is positively gleaming. And everything smells clean – not chemically. And for those of you that are put off with the idea of cleaning with a very pungent product like vinegar, please try it! The addition of essential oils makes the scary vinegar smell go right away.

The Disinfecting Toilet Bowl Cleaner was equally impressive. This is a one-time use product, meaning you mix it up right when you want to use it, as it won’t store. It’s just as simple as the all purpose spray – in the toilet bowl mix vinegar, baking soda and tea tree oil. Let it sit for a bit, then scrub the bowl as usual and flush. And our toilet is the worst – it picks up (and holds onto) stains like you wouldn’t believe. The strongest off-the-shelf cleaners barely got it clean, and it was not a fun job to get in there and scrub it. I could scarcely believe my eyes using the home made stuff – the stains just bubbled away. A quick run around the bowl with the brush, and my toilet was clean! I have to admit, I’d buy the book for these two recipes alone!

Next up was the carpet. We have a cream-colored carpet with a toddler, and coming off of one of the dirtiest, yuckiest winters we’ve had in a long time. The carpet is gross. The biggest offense (and I really hope my landlord isn’t reading this…) is the toddler pouch food that got dribbled in various places and not noticed for a little while (possibly about a week…), so that the butternut squash puree basically got super glued into the carpet. Please don’t judge me. So Little Man and I made a game out of “let’s find all the spots” and made the rounds of the living room treating each one with vinegar and baking soda, as instructed in the Carpet Spot Remover recipe. It felt good having my son “help” me clean without any fear about him being around the products too. And while the spots didn’t come out 100%, then came out about halfway. Since they were so far gone, I was actually impressed they came out at all, so I don’t fault the recipe on this one. Simply means I need to pull out the big guns this week and try the Carpet Disinfectant recipe – which is basically soaking the stain in vodka.

And the one recipe that I mixed up but haven’t tried yet is the Lemon & Clove Powdered Laundry Soap, though once again I tweaked the recipe a bit. We have very sensitive skin, so I omitted the essential oil for an unscented version. I can’t wait to try it though. I have high hopes for it – it looks like what a powdered laundry soap should, and it smells clean. For the first time in my life, I might actually be looking forward to doing the laundry.

 The book is also loaded with some great tips and tricks on not only cleaning, but organizing and establishing a routine. And the list person that I am also appreciates the checklists and and plans in the back of the book. The author, Becky Rapinachuk, also has a great website called Clean Mama where you can purchase all kinds of printable home and life organization charts, lists and planners. And she’s got a good selection of basic ones that you can grab for free as well! She also have a nice selection of DIY cleaner recipes posted if you’d like to try out a few before buying the book. But I do encourage you to get it – it’ll be the best $12 you ever spent. The book officially releases on April 18th, but you can pre-order at Amazon if you don’t want to wait.

Seedlings & Struggles

We are now well into caring for our first batch of seedlings this “spring” (apparently it’s supposed to snow again this weekend!). The peas are robust, and every one of them germinated. Most of the tomatoes and peppers have germinated, so we’ll have a good showing.

The challenge, however, is in the lighting. Every time I start seedlings, they tend to get really leggy because I never seem to have the lighting set up correctly. I thought I had it figured out this year – I used the top shelf of my kitchen bookshelf, and mounted an under-cabinet grow light to it with those picture hanging strips. They’re supposed to hold 35 pounds, but I swear I never get these wall hooks and strips to work. Ever. The light weighs maybe three pounds, and one day it just came crashing down on the seedlings. But apparently we’re doing a good job with them, because only one of them was damaged. Robust little things, fortunately.

So now they’re sitting on the kitchen table in front of a south window, with a desk lamp supplementing light. So… hopefully they actually keep growing well. Though if all of this snow keeps up who knows when we’ll be able to garden this year!

The Seeds Are Started!

It snowed this morning, again, but we decided enough is enough. Spring has to arrive eventually. And when it does, we want to be ready. So Little Man and I hydrated a coconut coir brick (an amazing sustainable seed-starting medium that’s affordable and easy for apartment dwellers to store) and got some seeds started.

We did three varieties of tomatoes – Rutgers, Golden Nugget and Principe Borghese. We also did two types of peppers – Big Red sweet and Jalapenos, as well as some Tom Thumb peas. He really got a kick out of digging in the soil and poking the seeds in. And when spring does eventually decide to show up, we’ll be ready.