Friday, November 30, 2012

Tomato final haul

This is the final, final, last time this year that I'll post about our tomato plants. Final.

This photo is what I called 'final harvest 2012'. It was taken in October. After a nice summer and getting cool fall I did a final harvest before the frost comes. I plucked all the green tomatoes I could find to ripen indoors. Pretty decent haul.

right?


'final' harvest #1 - October 2012

then this happened...


the final harvest #2 - November 2012

Woah! Where'd these come from?

I left the tomato plants to themselves for a few more weeks (yikes more?) and kept meaning to tear them down for the season. Turns out the temperature wasn't that bad. I thought I'd find a couple more tiny tomatoes stuck in the depths of the plant (seriously the thing was like a jungle in there) but had no idea I'd find all these!

It was a bounty surprise miracle! Albeit all green, but wow.

Also I realize that all miracles would be surprises. Less maybe you're God.


Now that half have ripened up we're going to make another batch of tomato sauce. Great way of using all these mixed color/texture/quality tomatoes. Who says you can't have local tomatoes in December?

To read about the drama of these guys see here & here too.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Shutterfly for the Holidays - a Giveaway!

**This giveaway is now closed** Congrats Debbie!

What's your favorite part of the holidays? Besides the family, food, festive music, gifts, and overall together-ness? One of mine is the cards. Yes old school snail mail Christmas cards. I have to personally make mine every year. As a child I remember always buying British Charity cards to mail. I remember my brother and I each choosing our favorite nativity scene. Not much selection back then... Now that I'm married (and living in here in the states...) I've had pleasure of making personalized cards 2 years in a row (slipped one in the first year of our engagement!) and lately have been scouting around for the 2012 edition.

I'd thought I'd add an old school photo here that pretty much should have made the card that year. Although as mentioned we didn't do photo cards back in 1991. How did we survive? Such cute kids we were.

Up on the agenda - Shutterfly! I'm going with their Photo Christmas Cards this season. What better time to start planning than Black Friday? I quickly found a bunch I would like to use this year online.

Black Friday code: BLACKFRIDAY 11/22-25, 10 FREE cards*

for special offers http://www.shutterfly.com/special-offers

*Offer valid for one-time redemption per billing address and valid for 10 free 5x7 flat stationery cards OR 10 free 5x7 folded greeting cards only. Customers must choose only one of the two offers. Taxes, shipping and handling will apply. Offer ends November 25, 2012 (11:59 P.M. PST).

Here are some of my favs for 2012:
(cute kids not included)

Giveaway Time!
One lucky Our Semi Organic Life reader will win:

Prize: $50 off order of $50 or more on Shutterfly (excluding tax and shipping & cannot be combined with any other promos - expires 12/14/2012 – no extensions)

To Enter: Comment on this post with your favorite part of the holidays and your email address (so I can find you!)

Giveaway Closes: Saturday December 1st 2012 at 1pm EST.

Number of Winners: one



**This is a sponsored post but all thoughts and opinions are my own.**

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

2nd blogiversary

This week I celebrate my 2nd blogiversary! It's officially been 2 years writing this thing! Who knew I'd be still at it 2 whole years?! Not I.

My highlights from the last year...

The time I blogged about a hair product (soo not organic) and it was a hit. It continues to be a huge hit... no clue why. See my hair go from way to straight. Thrilling stuff.

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The time I re-blogged about said hair product and it was even less thrilling... yet was a blog hit. Huge. Should I be doing a hair/makeup blog here people?! Unless you want to hear about how I never wash my face and bought a new hair brush at Kroger this week that's the extent to that topic.

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The time I blogged about making homemade Sriracha Salt. This came in at # 3 for the year. It probably started the section 'stuff I made from Pinterest' in the blog menu. It was a hit. Still lives in our kitchen... although strangely faded to white. I continue to add to the Pinterest section. Latest should be DIYing our headboard.



What have I learned in the last year? If you're going to blog, do it for yourself. Do it for your own memories, not for the fame, or blog hits or the money, or perks. Sometimes you'll get lots of hits and comments, others not so much. Don't blog about it if it's not important to you. Also blogs need photos. That should be a rule. I've learned that not everything can make it online, and taking photos for the blog/our memories is just as good.

The stats:
Months: 24
Published posts: 319
Comments posted: 814
Followers: 107

Google AdSense money earned: still less than $100.00

Other 2nd year favs: I finally hosted my first blog giveaway with Worlds Best Cat Litter back in June. I hit 100 followers. I attended my first blogger meet up with some locals, and successfully blogged about food more than 50% of the time. I'd say it was a winning year.

See back to my year one here.

Also for fun here are some neat recent photos from the Amato's:


Paper mache white rhino head in the works...

cool house with a 1/2 number we see on walks 

delicious chocolate orange scones

Cornelius being a cat
  
me with the bag I almost bought at REI.

Me with my new bag

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bedroom redo - DIY a headboard

This is part 2 of the 'YHL inspired us to get a move on and redo our bedroom' series. It's a mini series. Remember part 1 - the free mirror project? Probably only 2 parts, post production secrets up for grabs.

Here we have the before shots. We had these curtains I painted a year ago, the dresser I painted in our old place, lovely accessories all typical of a bedroom but all messy. Classic before shot. It should be slouching and frowning with no make up. Check - it is definitely not made up in this before shot.
before


Notice the mis matched lamps, lack of headboard and mirror that reflects the closet.

before

Now we skip along to more exciting shots. Blogs are all about the photos I know. We went shopping for curtains. After Lowes and Bed Bath Beyond having good choices we took both home and liked the creme ones better. 20% off with BBB coupon they were $65 for the pair (if my memory and math is right).

Since we're still sorta short on budget we just put one curtain up per window. This window here doesn't even open (fire hazard), it's paper mini blinds are permanently shut/down behind a sealed winter plastic insulator - from last winter. So the usefulness wasn't high on our list. Attractiveness - yes, productivity from this window? no.


Now the real fun begins.

We decided to DIY a headboard for our bed. We followed Young House Love's directions as well as using other blogs and our own common sense. In a nut shell - build a frame, cover it with batting, cover it with fabric, & mount on wall.


Here is how we did it: We actually bought the items in reverse order. We first picked up the fabric. It was actually a tablecloth on sale for $12 at Bed Bath Beyond. It was the perfect color and texture we were going for - grey with slight cross hatching/stripes. Considering it was more than 2 yards and well more than we needed - $12 was a great deal.

Next up building a frame. Blogs say to go to a true art store and buy a frame used for wrapping canvas. That didn't work out for us (we got a quote of $154!) so we built our own. Not sure what art store Sherry goes to but it was not the one we went to!

We went to Lowes and found a 6 pack of 1x1" stakes for $7. We had them cut for free to the size of 2 @ 54" and 2 @ 24" pieces in store. You'll find them near the lumber section maybe one aisle over. Probably for putting up construction fencing or something. We also got a 4 pack of small brackets to put the wood together, our first staple gun, staples & a few items for mounting it on the wall. See budget breakdown below.

At home we laid the 4 wood pieces together, marked and pre-drilled holes and attached the brackets to make it a box. We used some staples as well on the frame - not sure what structural support that will provide - but it was my first staple gun experience. Loved it.


We bought a big bag of batting at AC Moore for $17 (our most expensive item) and cut that thing to size once we had our frame. We ended up doing 3 layers. Cut the batting slightly larger than your frame then staple down on the back.

Prep, cut and iron fabric.


Staple fabric to headboard. The first few staples should be at 12, 3, 6 & 9 o'clock for an even pull. Work your way around the headboard stapling all the fabric down. On the corners wrap and fold like a present and add extra staples. Make sure it all looks good from the front.
still during... notice mis-matched lamps, messy room
Hold up the headboard and bask in your late night achievements.

Finally - mount headboard to wall. We also picked up a couple items to mount the headboard at Lowes. We used 2 small D-rings and mounting hooks that clip. Since the headboard is light this was the best solution. We had to find a way to drill the holes through our now complete headboard. The drill was twisting the material and we didn't want to ruin what we just made. Tony busted out some medical gear such as this spreader. Ended up working fine - you can just make a little gap in material and then attach your mounting gear. We attached the D rings about 3/4 of the way up the headboard on the back. 





We secured each D-ring to the wooden frame through the material and stapled around it just in case. Next we attached the hooks to the wall. They were similar to picture frame hooks but with a secure clip so it can't be lifted up and out. Kinda like photo frame mount meets carabiner. 


This beauty is another medical device taped to one of those spare stakes used for the headboard frame. In it's previous life it was some sort of level used in a neuro ICU. Now it's a level for hanging thing in our house. Of course hang the headboard level


Also we slipped in some new lamps, rearranged the frames & mirror on the wall and de-cluttered the place.


budget breakdown
Wooden frame $7
cutting the wood = free
fabric $ 12
batting $17
brackets $2
mounting supplies $2
Staple gun $10
staples $5
Total = $55
(without staple gun = $40)


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bedroom Makeover - mirror


After going to see YHL speak we decided to get a move on and improve our bedroom. I was home from work with a maintenance man Friday so I figured I'd start on a simple free project. It just came to me spur of the moment and as soon as I thought of it I thought - why did I not think of this before? One of those things.

I decided to paint a full length mirror. It was a nothing special long mirror probably from Target from Tony or my college years. Boring white. Back in August I got a free promotional quart of Clark + Kensington paint + primer in one from Ace. I wasn't chosen or anything fancy like that. They were just doing a free quart of paint to the first x number of customers one Saturday. I printed out my coupon and went in early. I chose a grey color even though I had no project in mind what to do with the paint. So it sat on my shelf for 4 months until this past Friday when I decided to paint the mirror.

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I wiped it down with my homemade multi purpose cleaner, caulked some of the corners, then covered it with paper and taped the edges of the glass.

This was an entirely free project since I had the mirror and all the supplies already. Yay for zero dollars.

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Yes the free paint is flat paint - but gotta work with what you got.

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3 coats of paint later and it's done! Remember to peel the tape off while the paint is still wet. You'll get a better, cleaner edge than waiting until it's dry.

Beautiful after! So much better leaning against our wall than the boring white version. There may be some more gray making an appearance in our room soon (hint).

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Friday, November 9, 2012

I met Sherry & John of Young House Love

Last night we had the pleasure of going to a special local event to see some pretty special local bloggers. John & Sherry of the DIY/home blog Young House Love made a stop on their book tour - at home! The event was the 5th annual R Home for the Holidays. I finally got to meet my favorite bloggers in real life!

I was lucky to snag 2 tickets to this event early before they sold out and I was super excited! I dragged invited Tony and he was a great sport. This was a unique stop on their tour since it was a paid ticketed event with some fancy local catered wine and hors d'oeuvres.

We also had the pleasure to meet famous food blogger Adam Roberts who was so awesome to hear speak! His new book Secrets of the Best Chefs: Recipes, Techniques, and Tricks from America's Greatest Cooks is on my Christmas list now. Cooking tips I learned from him:

  • add salt
  • add pepper to your food at the end, not the beginning
  • use your senses to cook
  • add salt
  • taste as you go
  • clean dirty dishes & the kitchen as you go
  • don't be afraid to cook at high heat
  • try lemon or vinegar for a punch in food like soups
  • add salt
  • YHL = The Beatles (it's true, he said that!)

Then John & Sherry took the stage and had a cute presentation that was really funny and inspiring. 7 tips - of course - about home decor, DIY and more! The place was packed in the sold out event. I did even spot John's parents in the row in front of us.

On the way home we already were inspired to redo some parts of our bedroom. As John said - better try and make your room a 7, rather than being scared and keeping it at a 2. For the record, our bedroom isn't a 2, maybe a 4. Anywho... I already busted out the paint this morning. #wastenotime






I got my booked signed, and S & J were really nice and down to earth. Some fan brought them a gift of a Justin Timberlake bobblehead. So Sherry and I thought it'd be fun for him to photobomb our shot. So random. Also Sherry said I smelled nice. Totally random guys.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

CSA Cancelled

Yep it's true. We're CSA box dropouts.

We had a great time with our Dominion Harvest CSA local, organic produce box this year. We got it every 2 weeks and each time it was like mini Christmas wrapped in a farmers market.
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It was especially great when we loved and ate all the fresh food. Horray! I love fresh peaches, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, lettuce, goat cheese and more! It was not so grand however when we were 'ehh I don't particularly like kale' or 'lets take 3 weeks to figure out how to use these radishes'. Worst yet when 'oops we forgot to eat the un-shelled black eyed peas'.

whomp whomp.

What's worse than wasting food? Wasting organic local expensive food. narf.

After about 6 month of biweekly produce kicks we decided to stop. It's not that we didn't like the service. I loved it; usually. Except when I didn't. I knew it'd be a fun adventure eating all the stuff we don't normally pick up for ourselves. It'd be cool to get local free roaming eggs and other fancy stuff like local honey, molasses, & jam.

For the record here are the things that we got (that some farmer worked reallllly hard for) but we either weren't great fans, wasted some or all, forgot about in the back of our fridge, or didn't eat fast enough thus went soft/hard/gooey/bad. This is so hard. #guilty
  • kale
  • radishes
  • black eyed peas
  • turnips
  • strange greens
  • more than one type of cheese
  • pears
  • arugula
We did really have fun trying on many things. Often there are things you'll eat if given but wouldn't really go out of your way to buy it at the store. for us ie. some types of squash, swiss chard, mustard greens, pears, some apples, okra, yellow string beans, persimmons, figs & even watermelon.

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Those things are just not in our normal repertoire of food dishes. It's not like I can't cook with them. I'm just not used to. And that hesitancy often meant it'd take a while for me to muster enough umph to getting around to those ingredients. Which often meant they'd gone bad. Bad chef Amato's.
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On top of all that (it really wasn't that much, I'm making it seem worse than it was) we paid almost $40 every 2 weeks for this luxury. With our budget that meant we'd played this CSA game for enough time. It was great while it lasted.

We would definitely recommend Dominion Harvest to locals. They are great! They provided recipes for each week and let us cancel or even pause any time we wanted. No contract required. The quality of the stuff was great too! Everything came on time and in good condition, with not a single egg cracked! Maybe next year or in the future we'll try again with more committment (and budget hopefully!).

It's almost the end of the season anyway. So last week was our last. We'll turn our trusty red box in soon along with its' cooler pack and remnant farm dirt.

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