Upcycled shades into DIY solar lights

I L♥VE vintage light shades. Whenever I see them cheap at garage sales or the ReStore, I buy them. These shades cost between fifty cents and a dollar each.

I knew I wanted to repurpose them in some way and this is what I came up with.

I bought some inexpensive plastic solar lights ($10.11 for 8 lights) from Amazon and just used the solar lids. The lid has the solar panel, light bulb and battery compartment.You could also buy outdoor solar lights at the dollar store, but they never have them at mine. In the past, I’ve used old solar lids off of broken/weathered lights. It’s easy and inexpensive to replace the batteries if they’ve stopped recharging.

I measured the bottom inside of the shades, then used a compass to mark circles on scrap wood and cut them out on the band saw. They don’t need to be perfect, just approximately the right size, as long as they fit under the shade.

Then I sprayed the wood circles with adhesive and applied some aluminum foil to the circles. You need to spray adhesive both the wood and the foil, then let dry for a few minutes until tacky. As you can probably tell, I also recycled some used foil, instead of using brand new. The aluminum foil helps reflect the light off of the soil under the shade.

We live in a very windy area, so the caps need to be attached somehow. I  applied silicone to the tops of the shades, placed the solar caps on top and weighted them down while the silicone dried. I used silicone so that I would be able to remove the lid when the batteries wear out and need to be replaced.

One of my favorite parts of this project was getting to use an antique compass that belonged to my grandfather!

Place the foil wrapped circles on the ground (foil side up) and place the shade over the circle. The light will reflect off of the foil and light up the shade.

The lights turned out wonderful. I placed them around our yard and near the entrance gate.


They look good during the day and awesome at night!

These DIY solar lights cost me about $8 for all four. $1.26 each for the lights lids and $3.00 for all of the shades. I had everything else in the shop. Plus, I still have four more lids to use in the future.

What do you think? Do you like them?

Vi snakkes! (“See you later” in Norwegian)

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Frugal Fridays

Frugal Hardwood Flooring Find!

A few weeks ago we were shopping for plants and soil at Home Depot and we found the best bargain ever. Well, my hubby, Mike, saw it first and pointed it out. At first, we thought it was mislabeled or the wrong boxes were in the wrong shelf bay… or something. It’s always something.

We’ve been looking for quality (but not too expensive) flooring to replace the ugly blue carpet in our family room. We started looking when we first moved in 11 months ago, but we hadn’t found anything worth buying yet. The rest of our house has the original oak hardwood flooring from 1935 (I posted about it here)and we had been trying to find something similar.

We read the label carefully and then checked the labels on the boxes and were shocked to find out that this was really the price for actual, real oak hardwood flooring:


I took this picture because I fully expected to get to the checkout and have it ring up as a different price! This sign says it was $3.98 sq. ft., but the sign on the samples said it was $5.98 sf. ft. I whipped out my smart phone and checked the price on the HD website and it said this flooring is $5.98 sq. ft.

We got all excited for a second and then thought “Wait! This box covers 20 square feet, so we need 18 boxes for the family room.” So, we counted the number of boxes and there were only 13! Of. Course. Then Mike started looking around and up, and he spotted more of the same flooring at the very top of the shelving!!


Bruce Gunstock Oak Flooring @ Home Depot

Bruce Flooring @ Bruce.com

We found a HD employee to get it down for us. He ran off to get the forklift and we were standing there not so patiently waiting. I mean, it was a great deal and I was fully prepared to park my butt in front of the price sign, so no one else would see what an AWESOME deal it was and try to buy it first.

Finally, the HD guy came back, cleared the aisle and brought down the other boxes. Mike helped him unload the boxes from the pallet and we loaded our 18 boxes onto a cart. Mike and the HD guy were discussing what a great price this was and the guy takes out his little scanner and scanned the box… and the price was right.

We couldn’t believe what a great deal we were getting!

It was actually 99¢ a square foot and it was supposed to be $5.98 a square foot. So, instead of $119.60 a case, it was $19.80 a case. It sounds even better when I say that to cover the entire family room it would’ve cost $2152.80 and we bought it for $356.40!

The last of the ugly blue carpet is on it’s way out! I can’t wait.

What awesome deals have you found lately?

Vi snakkes! (“See you later” in Norwegian)

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Handmade Cat Scratch Ramp

Our cat, Coco, loves to keep her claws razor sharp.

She was feral for the first year of her life and she’s still a wild child at heart. She plays with a lot of energy. She throws her toys in the air, catches them, and then throws them again while running around the room… over and over again. She plays with her toys like she’s trying to kill them.

When she sharpens her claws, she does it with the same intensity. Lucky for us (and for her) she is a very well behaved cat and only sharpens her claws on her scratching ramp (and once on the tree when she was able to escape outside).

When we adopted her, I bought her a scratching ramp made of corrugated cardboard. It was relatively inexpensive. It was kind of like this one, but it was in the shape of a wave.

In true Coco fashion, she liked to climb up on it and get her whole body into the action. As you can imagine, this ramp didn’t last long and she broke it into about 4 or 5 pieces that looked like this:


Of course, being the awesome cat that she is, she kept using it (well, them, since there were several pieces) as her one and only scratching implement. I appreciated that, but not the little pieces of shredded cardboard everywhere! I mentioned to my sweet and handy hubby that I was planning to buy her a new one and he told me that he would make something for her.

He had a 4×8 sheet of cardboard that was leftover from a recent lumber delivery (It doesn’t get any better than free!). He cut it up into 3” wide strips, rolled glue on both sides and then clamped it all together. He then made a pattern on a piece of scrap wood and, using the band saw, cut the cardboard to match the pattern. He cut some arts and crafts style legs and since she’s a “climb-aboard” scratcher, he reinforced the span between the ramp and the legs with some more corrugated cardboard and scrap wood.

Sorry, since he didn’t know I was going to do a post about this, I don’t have any photos of the building process.






This ramp is so nice! It’s cute, heavy-duty and the cat LOVES it.

She’s been using it for over a month now and it’s holding up really well to her abuse, much better than the old one!

What kind of scratching post does your cat prefer?

Vi snakkes! (“See you later” in Norwegian)


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Making a new crate look vintage by staining with tea

I picked up a new, inexpensive crate on sale at Michael’s for only $3.99. I wanted it to look old, so I surfed around on the internet for a good, non-toxic way to stain it. I’ve heard of staining wood with tea (black tea contains tannins, which can darken wood), but I’ve never tried it before. I thought I’d give it a whirl. It turned out wonderful and it was so great to do it all without gross, toxic chemicals!


First, you take a little steel wool and soak it in some white vinegar (enough to cover the steel wool) for a few days. I let mine sit in a mason jar (with the cap just sitting on top) for 3 days. The steel wool will partially disintegrate, but not completely.


Second, you need some used tea bags. I make a 3 quart pitcher of iced tea every day, so I saved the used tea bags in a bowl for about 5-6 days. That means I had about15-18 family size tea bags all together.


When the steel wool/vinegar mixture is ready to use, place your tea bags in a separate container or bowl. Boil some water, pour the hot water over the tea bags and leave to steep for a few hours.



Discard the tea bags. Brush the tea mixture onto your entire prepped wood project. The tea contains tannic acid that is transferred to the wood.The tea mixture does not need to stay hot for this to work. The color will not really change, it will just look wet. Let the wood dry.


After the entire piece is dry, brush the steel wool/vinegar mixture onto your piece, the color will immediately start to change and will continue to darken as it dries. Let it dry completely. You can sand it afterward (to lighten the color) or leave it as is.




While I was at it, I also stained a little star sign that I picked up at Michael’s for.. you guessed it… $3.99. The star was pre-aged, but the little sign was plain, unstained wood.




Wear gloves.

Cover your work surface (if you care about it)

I’m planning to sand the crate just a little and then add some character to it (not sure what yet). I’ll post an update when I do.

Vi snakkes! (“See you later” in Norwegian)

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Look what arrived in the mail!


Last month, I entered a giveaway for a Kreg Jig Jr on The Quaint Cottage and I won! The other day, the Kreg came in the mail and I can’t wait to use it!

What should I make first? I’m thinking of making a little bed for the cat to sleep in on the laundry room window sill. She likes to sleep in any laundry basket that I walk away from for half a second… especially clean, warm clothes.

Or, maybe I should make the wooden planter I’ve been admiring on PinterestMaybe I’ll make both! Anyway, thank you Karen for the giveaway!

Also, you may have read my post about my rosemary seeds growing into a cilantro plant. Well, Burpee sent me a replacement pack. Wasn’t that nice of them?

I love getting good stuff in the mail! Don’t you?

Vi snakkes! (“See you later” in Norwegian)


We have… cilantro??


I love the smell of rosemary. At one of our prior homes, the previous occupant had planted rosemary and mint, and both of the plants were huge. I loved it.

So, when I happened to come across rosemary seeds at my local home improvement store, I bought them. I was planning to plant only heirloom seeds, but I caved in and bought these seeds anyway. My reasoning was that, since we rarely cook with rosemary, this plant would be purely ornamental. Lame excuse, I know.


I planted the rosemary seeds… or what I thought were rosemary seeds over a month ago. As the plant started sprouting, I thought to myself “That doesn’t look like rosemary”. It continued to grow and it is indeed NOT rosemary, it’s cilantro! I pulled off a leaf and it is very tasty cilantro, but not at all rosemary. I’ve never had this happen before. Have you?



The goods news is that we do a LOT of cooking with Cilantro! I now have rosemary growing as well.



Happy Planting,

Regrown Veggie Update

Sorry, I haven’t posted in a while. My mom came for a visit and I didn’t post while she was here. After she left, I was busy with Spring Break, yard work, going to garage sales (Fridays and Saturdays!), and everything around the house.

Anyhow, I wanted to update you all on our vegetable regrowing efforts.

Green Onions: We LOVE having green onions always available in the kitchen! It’s so great to just grab the kitchen shears and clip some green onions for a salad, baked potato, or whatever. It’s really handy.

Napa Cabbage: The plant has grown very tall and has really pretty yellow flowers. I haven’t seen any seeds to save, but I really enjoy having this beautiful plant growing in my kitchen window. I’m going to keep regrowing these.

Green Cabbage: The first green cabbage has regrown leaves (as you can see below). I’m not sure where we are going to end up, but it’s also a pretty windowsill plant just the same. The second one has just started growing new leaves.

Celery: We’ve been regrowing 3 different celery bases. They are growing slowly, but you can see the celery stalks growing. This afternoon, I saw a post somewhere and the person had buried and completely covered the celery base in soil. It seemed to be working better. I’ll try that next time.

I hope you had an awesome April,

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Cauliflower Gratin

I’ve posted this recipe twice on Facebook and I had another friend ask me for it again, so I’m posting it here on my blog. It’s a popular recipe.

It’s a wonderful side dish on cold, snowy nights or chilly, windy Spring evenings when you’re chilled to the bone. It’s way better than Mac N’ Cheese and lower in carbs.

If you have an aversion to goat cheese (I love it myself), I’ve read that you can use Ricotta as a substitute. You can also cut back some on the butter, if you prefer.

Cauliflower Gratin


1 Head of cauliflower

1/2 of a small yellow onion, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

5 tablespoons unsalted butter (cut into TBSP pads)

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Fresh ground nutmeg (ground over sauce for 10 seconds)

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups grated parmesan

1/2 lb. grated Monterey jack cheese

6 ounces goat cheese (cut into small pieces)

salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Preheat over to 400 degrees

In a large saucepan, melt the pads of butter over medium heat.

Add the onion and minced garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.

Add the flour to the pan and stir, using a wooden spoon to form a blond roux.

Do not allow the mixture to brown. Cook roux for at least 1 minute to remove the raw flavor.

Add the heavy cream to the pan, very slowly at first, and whisk until smooth.

Increase the eat to medium high and bring to a slow bubble.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, or until thickened, smooth and creamy. 

Remove the pan from heat and add the nutmeg and grated parmesan cheese, stirring until melted.

Pour evenly over the cauliflower in a shallow casserole baking dish.

Sprinkle the grated jack cheese and the goat cheese evenly over the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.

Adapted from a recipe by George Stella.

Cauliflower Gratin


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Reduce, Reuse, Recycle… and Regrow Veggies?

Have you ever read an article entitled “10 ways to save money and the planet” (or something similar)? Then, as you read the same old suggestions such as “Change all your bulbs to CFL’s” or “Don’t buy bottled water”, you think “I already do ALL of this stuff! (and who doesn’t??)”. I do that all the time. I’m always looking for something new… and then I heard about this.

Did you know that you can regrow certain veggies? I didn’t, until recently. As soon as I read about it, we started experimenting and it works.

We started with green onions and romaine lettuce. The onions grow like crazy. Just cut off the root end of your onion. We don’t use the white part of the onion, so we cut it off right where the green turns white.  Some people cut them almost all the way to the roots, so whatever works for you. Soak the onion root ends in a bowl, glass or jar of water. You can do this for a few hours or a few days, whatever works for you. The onions will grow in just water, but do way better after being planted in some good potting soil. We had some in just water for a week, some for a little longer and some for just a few days before being potted.

If you hover your mouse over the photos below, you’ll see how long these had been growing.

After 1 day

After 2 days

After 3 days

After 5 days

As you can see below, we also experimented with Napa Cabbage (in the Tropicana bottle) and Romaine Lettuce (in the Greek Yogurt container).  You can see where they were cut and the re-growth so far.  In this photo the lettuce and cabbage were about 9 days along. The onions on the left have been growing for 8 days in that glass, the onions on the right for one day in the bowl.

After 8 days

After 22 days (inner) & 15 days (outer)

As you can see the inner onions aren’t as long or big around as the outer onions, which grew for 7 days less. I’m not sure if it’s because the onions soaked in a bowl of water, as opposed to a glass, or because the first bunch wasn’t as fresh when I cut them. The roots were pretty intertwined from being in a small glass, so I planted them close together. I have noticed that the third bunch I’m starting seems to be doing very well in a bowl of water.

The romaine has been doing okay. It grew pretty fast (as you can see), but it was tall and there were only a hand full of leaves. I just cut off the re-growth last night and planted the base in soil. I had been waiting for it to have more root growth, but I read yesterday that most people just soak for a short time and then plant in soil.

After 22 days

Trimmed and planted

The Napa cabbage has also grown into a tall shoot and flowered. I read more about it and when Napa Cabbage gets cold, it “bolts”, which means it goes to seed. I was waiting for roots to grow and they did, but it shot up at the same time. I don’t think it would do any good to plant it now. I’m going to try to save and use the seeds. Wish me luck!

Napa Cabbage Bolted

Napa Cabbage Flowers/Seeds

Napa Cabbage roots

These celery roots soaked in water for 14 and 20 days, respectively. They weren’t growing any roots, so I read more about it and decided to pot them in soil. We’ll see how they do.



We’ve also just started experimenting with good old Green Cabbage. Nothing to report so far.

We gave the green onions a trim last night and used them in our dinner. We had Chinese Chicken Salad and it was extra delicious. I think that may be because we used something that we actually grew ourselves… sort of!

I’ll post the recipe for Chinese Chicken Salad soon.

Happy Growing,


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The Homestead Barn Hop

Cheesy Chili Chicken

This is a favorite recipe in our house. Even our son, Z Man loves it (and those of you who know him, know what I mean). It’s one of my go-to recipes and I like to make it on days when Mike is working late in his shop. It’s also great on cold days when you want to warm up the house. We usually have cornbread and a veggie with it.

Cheesy Chili Chicken (adapted from a recipe by George Stella)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (plus a little extra for the garnish)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 tablespoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 clove garlic, chopped

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup red bell pepper, julienned

2 tablespoons diced red onion

1 medium plum tomato, diced

8 ounces sliced mushrooms

6 ounces shredded colby-jack cheese

Preheat oven to 400°

Whisk together the oil, chopped cilantro, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic, and cayenne in a bowl, add chicken and toss to coat.

Transfer chicken to a baking dish and arrange the bell pepper, onion and tomato over each piece. Roast until the largest piece is just cooked through and thickest part reads 165°. (about 30-40 mins).

While chicken is cooking, saute sliced mushrooms in a pan with a little olive oil and butter. After they’re mostly cooked through, add a little cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste.

Remove chicken from oven and top with mushrooms and cheese. Serve as cheese melts. Garnish with cilantro.


Have a great weekend,

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