Category Archives: Domestic skills

Just what the Doctor ordered

“An N95 respirator is the safest thing to put between myself and a virus, but it is by no means the most interesting.”
— The Third Doctor, probably

As a courtesy to everybody he interviews this week, Ron has been following the governor’s advice and covering his face.

With a bandanna.

Which makes him look as if he is planning to rob a stagecoach after deadline.

I couldn’t let him run around like that, so I rummaged through my craft closet tonight and let him pick through my fabric stash to find something he could handle wearing. He chose a blue fabric with Our Lady of Guadalupe on it. He could do worse than to have the Mother of God standing between him and everybody’s cooties, I suppose.

I, of course, insisted on geeking it up. It would take a pretty audacious virus to try to get past twelve Doctors. (This fabric predates Thirteen by a couple of years.)



P.S.: Ron also has an N95 respirator to go with his stylish cloth mask. I found it in my craft closet tonight while I was searching for elastic. I think I bought it to ward off migraines while I was painting the kitchen in Cape, so if you see him in it, don’t side-eye him too much. I’m pretty sure the people fighting the pandemic didn’t want a slightly used mask that’s been rocking around in the bottom of a craft bin for three years. o__O

Eco-Saturday: Stove scrub

Ceramic cooktops are pretty. In the showroom. Where nobody has actually used them. In a kitchen where they get daily use, ceramic cooktops are a pain in the arse, because every time a pot boils over or something gets spilled, it chars a ring around the burner that won’t come off with ordinary cleaning, and you can’t just scrub it off with a pot scratcher, because you’ll scratch the stove. Gaaaah!

Fortunately, baking soda and a moderate amount of elbow grease will take care of the problem without destroying your skin or the cooktop.

For this project, you’ll need:

Baking soda
Four rags
A spray bottle filled with water
A spray bottle filled with vinegar
A Scotch-Brite pad (the off-brand is OK)

Start by spritzing down the cooktop with water.

Spray the stove down with water.
Spray the stove down with water.

Sprinkle baking soda over the dark rings around each burner. Lay a rag over each burner and spray it down with vinegar until it’s completely damp. The baking soda will fizz and bubble when the vinegar hits it. This chemical reaction will help loosen the charred mess that’s stuck to the burners.

Lay wet rags on top of the baking soda.
Lay wet rags on top of the baking soda.

Leave them on there for a half-hour or so while you go do something else, then remove one of the rags and take out after the rings with a Scotch-Brite pad and more vinegar as needed to keep the baking soda fairly wet and fizzing.

Use some elbow grease.
Use some elbow grease.

Wipe off the vinegar and baking soda, then wipe down the stove with a damp cloth to remove any residue.

Clean and shiny.
Clean and shiny.

The front burner you see above is the one on the right in the “before” picture below.


Feel free to gloat over your handiwork when you’re done.


You’ll have to scrub a little bit, but no more than you would if you used a commercial scouring powder, and this method is cheaper and easier on the environment.


Eco-Saturday: Canning salsa

Homemade salsa makes a great Christmas gift, and it’s nice to have on hand for unexpected potlucks and such.

OK, so canning salsa isn’t really much different than canning pickles, which I showed you how to do a few weeks ago, but tomato season is winding down, and if your garden has been very successful at all, it’s really worth taking an afternoon to learn how to put up salsa so you can have a little taste of summer when the sleet starts coming down. (Alternately, you can buy tomatoes at your local farmer’s market or make friends with a gardener.)

This post is kind of long and detailed, so I’m putting the rest behind the jump to keep from scaring off the tl;dr crowd.

Continue reading Eco-Saturday: Canning salsa

Soap update

So my boss let me take today off because Labor Day fell on my regular day off, and we’re supposed to get an extra day off when that happens. You might think I’d spend the day relaxing, but you’d be wrong. Instead, I went out and got a kitchen scale and some olive and coconut oil and started a batch of soap. I managed to do it without maiming myself or damaging any kitchen surfaces, so we’ll put that in the win column. It’s in a cooler in the basement now, setting up overnight. I’ll check it tomorrow, and if it’s set up properly, I’ll slice it into bars, wrap it in waxed paper, and ignore it for a month and a half while it saponifies.

Once I finished my soap project and got the kitchen cleaned up, I brought in some tomatoes and pecans from the garden (the neighbor’s tree has thrown a few nuts into the far corner of the garden) and transcribed an interview for Zaphod before heading out to pick up groceries.

I really don’t understand the concept of rest, apparently.

In unrelated news, remind me next week, and I’ll post a different sort of Munchkin Tuesday. The kids redeemed some of their coupons the other day, and we did an awesome science project that needs to go at the top of your to-do list if you have any children in your life. If I still taught, I’d be finding an excuse to do this with my sophomores — possibly as a sensory-language exercise or something. It was that cool. 


Canning season

I will never get tired of hearing the soft plink! of canning-jar lids sealing as they cool.

Put up 14 pints of salsa tonight, made with heirloom tomatoes fresh from the garden and good New Mexico chiles.

Meanwhile, I picked up a jar of lye at the feed store Saturday morning and spent part of my Sunday afternoon researching Castile soap recipes. True Castile soap is nothing but lye, water and olive oil, but I’m reading that it’s slow to trace and unconscionably slow to saponify, and I think we all know I don’t have the patience to fool with that. It’s really taking all the restraint I have to stay out of my cider while the yeast does its work.

I swear, this house is turning into one endless science-fair project. So far this year, I have made my own laundry detergent, yogurt, beer, pickles, salsa and apple cider, and I’ve got a batch of hot sauce started on the counter.

Miss Loretta Karen Moomaw the barn cat disappeared Tuesday and hasn’t been seen since, but I noticed her food bowl was empty this morning, and I’ve found only one bird-damaged tomato this week, so I’m pretty sure she’s still around. That’s fine with me. She’s cute and seemed to enjoy being petted, but if she doesn’t want to be anybody’s full-time pet, that’s her decision. I’ll keep refilling her food and water bowls as long as she’s using them.

I think that’s all the news from the hippie cottage this evening.


Eco-Saturday: Clean and green


If you’re looking for a quick, apartment-dweller-friendly way to save a boatload of money and do something nice for the environment, here’s one: Clean up your cleanups.

It’s always creeped me out that the health department dings restaurants a point or two on their safety inspections if it catches them with a bottle of bleach or other cleaning products out on the counter in the food-prep area. This is what they’re using to sterilize the table where they fix my food, but the health department isn’t cool with keeping it near the table? Something ain’t right here.

About 15 years ago, I learned that cider vinegar has antibacterial properties. It’s also much cheaper than Lysol (about $4 a gallon) and easier on the environment. Fill up a spray bottle and use it undiluted for tough jobs or cut it half-and-half with water to make it go further for ordinary use. Even at full strength, it’s cheaper than commercial cleaning products, and — because it’s basically food itself — you don’t have to worry about spilling something dangerous into your food if you happen to knock over the bottle while you’re cooking.

I recycled an old Windex bottle by filling it up with cider vinegar and using it for everyday cleanups. Vinegar is also handy for neutralizing pet odors (especially urine, as the acid in the vinegar neutralizes the alkaline ammonia in the urine).

I’ve also taken to using cheap washcloths in place of paper towels. Catch a sale, and you can get them for a quarter apiece or less. If they get hopelessly nasty, they’re cheap enough that you can toss them without feeling too guilty, but they hold up well enough that you can wash and reuse them for years. I don’t use them for everything, but I keep a few on hand for quick kitchen cleanups, so we end up using fewer paper towels — which is good for both the environment and our bottom line.



Eco-Saturday: Draft stopper

Last week’s Eco-Saturday project was a great investment, but it was also a pretty big investment, in terms of both time and cash, and it was the type of project you’re not likely to do unless you actually own your home. This week’s project is cheaper, takes just a few minutes and can be done in just about any sort of dwelling, from apartments to mansions, with good results.

You will need:

Half a yard of fabric (I used twill)
Sewing machine (or a plain old needle if you don’t have a machine)
Tape measure if you want to be precise
Yardstick if you have one
Thin cardboard (grab a box from the recycling bin)


Choose a door you want to seal up. Cut a strip of fabric about six inches wide and one inch longer than the door. Fold it in half so that the printed side is to the inside and pin it in place so it doesn’t squirm while you’re sewing.

Using a sewing machine or a needle and thread, stitch down the side and one end, leaving a half-inch seam allowance.

Turn right-side out. (If you have a yardstick handy, you can use it to help with this process.)


Make a cone out of a thin piece of cardboard, tape the edge securely to keep it together, and snip off the pointy end to make a funnel. Slip the funnel into your fabric tube and use it to fill the tube with rice, leaving the top two to three inches empty.


Turn in the raw edges, tuck them under, and sew the end shut, making sure to reinforce your seams so they don’t come loose and spill rice all over when you use your new draft stopper.


Lay your draft stopper on the floor against the door. I made several at once, using a yard of twill I found on sale at the fabric store. Instead of custom-measuring each door, I made all of them the same length and just left a little empty space at the end so I could distribute the rice as needed to get a good fit.

You can make four or five of these in an hour if you have a good sewing machine.


How I spent my day

Thanks to a winter storm, Ron and I had today off. Thanks to the same winter storm, we couldn’t leave the house, as my car (which was blocking our other vehicles in) was so thoroughly glazed with ice that I couldn’t open the door. The scraper was inside the car, so I couldn’t chisel it out, either.

Not to worry — I found plenty of ways to amuse myself.

Here is some of my handiwork:

The bedroom desperately needed to be decluttered, as you can see from the “before” pictures, but I just hadn’t been able to find the time to do it. Being trapped in the house all day, I had plenty of time on my hands for such pursuits. It sort of looks like a boutique with all that stuff hanging on the walls, but at least I can see what I have now, and I won’t have to go searching all over the house every time I need a scrunchie or a hairclip.

While the bedroom cleanup was probably the most useful and satisfying part of my day, it wasn’t the most entertaining. That honor goes to my KISS Army Gnomes:

I painted the Paul Stanley one last summer, but then I got so busy with school projects that I didn’t have time to finish the others.

In addition to decluttering the bedroom and painting lawn gnomes, I made lunch (omelets) and dinner (broccoli casserole with part of a leftover veggie tray from Braum’s on the side); cleaned the kitchen; cleaned the bathroom; and started a project that involves taking a picture of the backyard every hour, on the hour, for 24 hours. (I will be finished with this project at 9 a.m. and will post the results sometime thereafter.)

I have one more gnome left to paint. I’m thinking he might end up being Jerry Garcia’s doppelganger….


Busy Sunday

I had hoped to go horseback riding today, but the weather was icky, so I just stayed around here and got some work done. Lots of work, actually: I scrubbed the bathroom, bleached the shower, replaced the shower curtain, cleaned the fridge, and cleaned the kitchen counters — all before church — and then I worked in the nursery at church, attended a committee meeting afterward, cleaned the living room, cleared the table, took a nap, cuddled the cat, decluttered the car, washed and vacuumed the car, installed a new seatcover in the back, wrote nine lesson plans, uploaded them to my classroom blog, did a small project my principal had requested, and went out for dinner.

I have to finalize grades, go to the dentist, take the cat to the vet, write an article, and enlarge several pictures for a bulletin board tomorrow. If time allows, I might get out my watercolors and work on a painting project, too … but only after I’ve soaked in a bubble bath and spent an hour or two curled up in the Fortress of Solitude with a book and a decaf cappuccino.

Hope your weekend was productive, wherever you are.


Phase One

I couldn’t talk Ron into buying me the 1963 Karmann Ghia I found on The Samba the other day, but as an alternative, he has agreed to let me do something even better:

I am turning the Fit into an art car.

I have wanted an art car for years, but I have been hampered by the unwritten rule that requires a car to be at least 10 years old before you start decorating it with anything more permanent than bumper stickers and seatcovers.

This week, I am breaking that rule. As of today, the Fit has begun its (hopefully rapid) transition from ordinary, practical, utilitarian commuter vehicle to psychedelic fantasymobile.

Phase One was pretty modest: patchwork curtains made from colorful fabric featuring peace signs, flowers, flames, VW Beetles, and — of course — honeybees. Simple, yes, but I think they’re cute, and they make the car feel less like an ordinary vehicle and more like a vintage VW. Nobody’s likely to mistake me for the ghost of Bob Waldmire (who is, truth be told, the main inspiration behind this project), but still … I’ve always wanted curtains in my car, and now I have them.

Next up: a set of peace-sign-print sun visor covers with built-in pockets for stashing maps and whatnot; a gearshift-knob cozy; and some new seatcovers. I tried to find monster fur to cover the dashboard today, but nobody had any. If I can find some chenille fabric in the right colors, I’m going to make the front seats look like the yip-yip Martians from Sesame Street. I’ll probably velcro a Rolodex to the dashboard and take out after all the flat surfaces with a paintmarker, too.

Once the interior is finished, I’ll get to work on the exterior, which will be getting a paint job worthy of Janis Joplin’s Porsche, John Lennon’s Rolls, or Kelly Killion’s Vanagon.

Stay tuned. I am beyond excited about this….