August 3, 2015

Walnut + White Metal Plant Stand

I recently inherited a lot of plants, which has been stressing me out because I am a notorious plant-killer and these leafy new friends of mine are deeply sentimental because they help me feel connected to the loved one who passed.  I think about her whenever I tend to them, so it will just crush me if they don't make it.  Among the ten or so new plants that now call Lake Superior home, there are five (!) orchids.  Many other orchids were re-homed, so I really only got part of what was an outstanding collection.

I wanted a nice spot to grow them, so I scooped the perfect plant stand from my grandfather, the welder.  The simple welded plant stand he made fits the spot to the right of our wall unit perfectly, but it needed a little TLC.  The glass shelves had broken long ago and the white paint job was a bit dingy and rusted.  In a pinch, I grabbed a leftover piece of old melamine shelving and placed it precariously on top.

Such a good look, right?

I didn't want to pay to have new glass shelves cut, so I used some walnut-veneered plywood left over from another project (details soon!) instead.  Despite my constant nagging to buy one, Hubs and I don't have a table saw.  Both of our Dads have one, though, and this time my Dad got the pleasure of helping me (and feeding me - I timed my visit for pizza night).  He cut two pieces to fit perfectly into the plant stand and then we did a little work reflection.  I thought I might need two pieces per shelf, laminated together with wood glue and edge-banded, but one shelf seems to do the trick and because it's inset, you don't see the edges at all.  So we agreed that less work is always better and called it a day!

My Dad observed that it took longer to find his table saw than it did to cut these pieces.  I just love it when a DIY project is easier than anticipated, because that's such an anomaly.  Normally it's just a lot of hair pulling and I end up covered in paint or glue.  I scurried home with my new shelves and, after a couple of applications of Danish Oil, the walnut was a beautiful, rich hue (on the right):

The plant stand got a light sand and a few coats of Rustoleum Universal Pure White Gloss (I love a primer + paint in one).  This spray paint is good for metal and plastic (in addition to wood, glass, concrete, wicker, etc.), so I even sprayed the plastic feet.  I like them better white than black.

The plant stand just looks fresher now that it's about ten shades whiter and I loooove the walnut shelves (thanks Dad!)

The living room definitely has more life with some beautiful plants and I'm enjoying the leafy new additions - which is good, because there are many more (not pictured) that have been spoiled with fancy new pots and refurbished plant stands.

Having plants is a lot of work!

You might have noticed my weird little orchid pots?

When I brought them home, the orchids were in an assortment of plastic and terracotta pots, one of which Szuka had already knocked over and cracked.  I wanted to replace the hodge podge with five identical plants and I did a lot of research about the kind of pots orchids like.  I learned that a pot which offers a lot of ventilation and good drainage is ideal.  This carousel pot seemed really innovative and I liked the modern look - plus the 5.25" size fit the planter shelves perfectly - so I ordered five in the pearl finish (it comes in aqua too!)  They are available on Amazon, but I ordered mine right from Repotme and saved some money.  They are pricey (especially when you need five), but they seem to function really well (and you can find coupon codes online for Repotme to save a bit of cash).

The bottom tray clicks off easily, so I water them in the laundry room without the trays and let them drain a bit in the laundry sink before putting on the trays again.  So far, no water on the walnut shelves and the orchids seem to be doing okay.  Plus, if Szuka decides to do her best Bull in a China Shop routine, hopefully the plastic will withstand the fall...

Although I'm still a little apprehensive about the responsibility of caring for these orchids, I'm also excited for the remaining orchids to flower - apparently one of them has an amazing scent.

Wish me luck!

Disclosure: thanks to an ongoing friendship with the folks at Rust-Oleum, I've received cases of spray paint and other Rust-Oleum products to use and review on the blog.  I continue to be completely satisfied with the quality and coverage of Rust-Oleum paint, but I was not prompted or paid to provide a positive review.  I just have a spray painting addiction, and Rust-Oleum is my enabler ;)

July 29, 2015

DIY Dog Treats

Because Szuka is such a large pup (weighing in at 95 pounds these days), people always ask us about our food bills.  Everyone assumes we're going broke buying dog food and treats for such a sizable pup.  The thing is, she's pretty low energy so she doesn't eat as much as we expected.  Her cute, mod bowl always has kibble in it and she'll graze throughout the day, but she never eats more than four or five cups a day - often only three.  She's a really picky eater and isn't very food motivated.  Even when I finally find a snack or treat she favors, she will still turn it down if she's not in the mood/distracted/angry with me/guarding the house/too tired/lazy. 

Cheese is her only weakness.  She also really likes freeze dried liver (we buy Pure Bites), but only if we dole it out sparingly.  Too much, too often, and it looses its appeal.

That girl has willpower to spare!  I, on the other hand, recently swerved the truck and hit a gravel shoulder so hard I created a dust cloud that engulfed us, and five cars behind us, in pursuit of roadside pie.

Because she is so picky, I often bake Szuka dog treats and these homemade treats gets ranked pretty high up there - just below cheese.  I call them "kitchen sink cookies" because I don't use a recipe.  They end up being somewhat budget-friendly too, because I usually use leftovers from our own cooking/baking.

Excellent DIY Dog Biscuit Ingredients:
  • Shredded carrots
  • Unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • Bits of bacon
  • Bacon grease (secret ingredient she salivates for)
  • Chicken broth
  • Bouillon cubes
  • Unsweetened peanut butter (she finds peanut butter very agreeable)
  • Shredded cheese (her weakness!)
  • Oats
  • Dried Blueberries
  • Mushed banana
  • Apple pieces

For ideas, I look at the ingredients on the wholesome doggy biscuits I've bought her (ones she didn't turn her nose up at).  Of course, I don't add any ingredients that are harmful or poisonous.  I'll pick a few ingredients from the list above, then add an egg or two, some flour (whole wheat, preferably), a little chicken broth or bacon grease, and mix until the dough is firm enough to roll out onto a floured cutting board.  I use a cute, dog-approved set of cookie cutters and bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned (usually about 10-15 minutes).  Easy! 

I like experimenting with different ingredients.  The batch pictured has pumpkin puree, oats, peanut butter, flour, eggs, and a bit of water.

She must recognize her cookie cutters because when I'm baking for her she seems to know it, and she'll watch the oven the whole time.  Because she's so blasé about her food, it makes me happy to bake her something she actually likes!  We don't feed her table scraps, so maybe it's the thrill of getting to eat something made in the human's kitchen that makes these cookies such a win for her.

If you've got a picky pup, I encourage you to try your own "kitchen sink cookies".  It won't take long before you land on a magic ingredient that appeals to your own pup.  But if you're not a fan of winging it, I found a few great-looking recipes to help get you started: 

If you've got a recipe of your own (or a secret ingredient), I'd love to hear it!

July 24, 2015

Three Tries: The DIY Catnip Toy That Took 8 Hours

When Handy Hubby was in high school, a teeny, scraggly stray kitten found her way to his childhood home.  He and his Dad welcomed her into their lives and, some 15 years later, Wido Piddy continues to melt hearts.

Her small stature leads many to believe that she's still a kitten; an ever-kitten.  She now lives in my father-in-law's woodworking shop, along with another kitty and some canine companions.  In the spring she started excessively grooming and essentially pulling out her beautiful fur in tufts.  Apparently cats groom to soothe themselves and stress can often result in this obsessive grooming.  One of her doggy buds passed away around the same time and that might be the trigger.  In an effort to help soothe her, I decided to make her a catnip toy.  After an afternoon of our own hair pulling, my Mom and I finally made this adorable catnip-stuffed felted fish:

But first, there was some trial and error (you can skip to Version Three if you just want to know how we made the little fishie).

Cat Toy Version One

We originally made a catnip-stuffed toy out of my favorite cowboy fabric ;) 


I cut out one of the lone cowboys, leaving enough fabric for a half inch seam allowance.  Then I cut out a corresponding shape from a plain, colour-coordinating cotton (for the back), and two pieces of fusible interfacing to match the shapes.  (My Mom thought that interfacing would help give this toy some strength against sharp kitty claws).  I ironed on the interfacing, as per the instructions, and the two shapes were ready for sewing.

After pinning the right sides facing each other, we sewed along the edge, leaving a half inch seam allowance and a small opening under the horse's belly.  When the edges were sewn, we tied off the thread and snipped the edges to make the curves easier to shape once they're right side out:

Then, as I spent a good twenty minutes struggling to turn this tiny cowboy right side out, I wondered why I didn't just buy a $5 cat toy.  The complicated, small shape, and the stiffness from the interfacing, made it a struggle but eventually I got it.  Using a small spoon to help poke and prod everything into place helped.

Triumphantly, I stuffed it with loose catnip, stopping periodically to make sure the catnip was worked into the legs, head, and tail.  Once it was packed full of the good stuff, the bottom was sewn shut by hand.

Cat Toy Version Two

  • Scrap Fabric
  • Thread
  • Catnip (10-20 grams)
  • Sewing Machine
  • Needle
  • Scissors
When we were done with the cowboy, I wanted to experiment with a simpler shape - and no interfacing - in the hopes that it would be easier to make.  I cut out a little "mouse" shape from scrap cotton and we sewed the edges again.  After we snipped the edges, I turned it right side out with more ease.  I stuffed it full of catnip and things were progressing fairly smoothly, although it was still piddly work. 

Then my Mom and I had an argument about whether it was a mouse, rat, or parsnip.  She wanted to sew a bunch of leaves on the top and call it a day, but I fought hard.  We ended up adding a braided string tail, some whiskers and beady eyes.

It's a mouse, dammit. 

Cat Toy Version Three - THE WINNER!

  • Felt
  • Catnip (10-20 grams)
  • Sewing machine
  • Needle
  • Thread
  • Scissors
Totally dejected by our weird little cat toys, but figuring Piddy wouldn't care what they looked like because she'd loose her mind for the drug inside, I started fiddling with some felt earmarked for another project (little felted fruit and vegetable toys for play kitchens, actually).  That's when it dawned on me that felt would be much easier to use for a cat toy too, because we wouldn't need to flip it right side out.  Because it doesn't fray, we could just sew the shape on the right side.

I cut out a simple little fish shape from two pieces of felt.  I cut out pairs of smaller and larger circles for eyes and then cut out little fins.  I hand sewed on the eyes with a few stitches and then we attached the fin at the base with the sewing machine while the fish body was still in two pieces.  We pinned the two fish sides together and sewed around the edges, leaving the tail open.  I tied off the threads and stuffed the fish body with catnip, leaving the tail empty.  Once it was stuffed, we sewed the bum shut and did some decorative stitching on the tail.

SUCCESS!  It turned out to be so stinkin' adorable.

This version was faster (think minutes, not hours) and so, so easy.  Plus, it looks infinitely cuter than the rat/turnip and cowboy.  If you don't have a machine, you could even do a simple blanket stitch around the edges - felt is so forgiving.  If you use felted wool - and not a synthetic felt - you could even needle felt some designs or details onto a simple shape. 

Because I was gone for so long, I have yet to present Wido Piddy with her gift(s), but hopefully we can see Hubby's family soon.  I'll let you know how nutty she goes...

A note on catnip: I found catnip locally, in a shop that sells loose leaf teas.  But you can also track it down on Amazon: this listing seems like a good deal.  I used 50 grams for all three toys, but the amount you need will depend on the size and quantity of toys you make.  You can also mix in some catnip with some batting, if you only want to purchase a small amount of catnip.  I looked at store-bought toys and some boast 100% catnip filling while others have a mix of batting and catnip - you might have to test it out and decide what amount you can give your kitty with her going totally batty.
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