November 28, 2011

The Best $2.99 We've Ever Spent

The Mr and I were at Goodwill a few weeks ago, and he spotted this...thingy. I have no idea what its original use was, but it's a magnifying glass with two clamps attached to it, for working on tiny things. I imagine. Anyway, he cost $2.99. I soon stole him and called him Arnold.

Arnold is dejected. 

Arnold says TOUCHDOWN!!!

Arnie boogies on down. 

Arnold is aghast. 

Arnold has attitude. 

And Arnie takes a bow. 

$2.99 for endless entertainment? Yes, please. 

Keep Reading "The Best $2.99 We've Ever Spent"

November 25, 2011

How to Make Laundry Detergent

I began making my own laundry detergent a few years ago. This all came about because:

1). I have a pathological need to try everything I read about on the internet that involves making things that most people purchase.
2). This saves money. Seriously. This detergent costs pennies per load.
3). It cleans just as well as the storebought stuff.

People used to do laundry with bar soap (often homemade) before the advent of powdered detergent. Then liquid detergents came along and the rest is history. Am I a complete nutcase to wish we were back in the days of washboards and laundry Mondays? I am? Oh ok. Thanks for clearing that up.

Want to make your own? Here's how.

You'll need:

2 (1 gallon) milk jugs (or a large empty detergent jug)
1 bar Fels Naptha or any other bar soap
1/2 cup borax powder
1/2 cup washing soda (washing soda, NOT baking soda)

Fill a pot with about 4 cups of water. Grate in 1/3 bar Fels Naptha, or 2/3 bar regular soap. Heat until the soap is melted, try not to bring the water to a boil.

Fill your milk jugs almost full with hot water - the 4 cups of water/melted soap will be divided between the jugs, so leave enough room in each jug for an additional 2 cups of liquid. (This is not an exact science. Estimation is fine. It will not blow up or turn into an alien if you don't use exact measurements.)

Divide the soapy water evenly between the 2 jugs. Divide the borax and washing soda between each. Tightly cap each and shake to dissolve the powders.

Let sit at room temperature overnight and that's it. You are ready to rumble, my friend. If your soap gels too much and comes out in big blobs, that means too much soap was added. Just shake the jug to break up the blobs and use as usual. Use the same amount of this stuff as you would storebought.

By the way, white vinegar is an amazing fabric softener. And you're clothes will not come out smelling like a pickle, I promise.

Have fun!
Keep Reading "How to Make Laundry Detergent"

November 21, 2011

How to Have a Happy Thanksgiving

My husband has this week off work, so posting may be a bit thin on the ground 'round these parts. (As long as I'm on the subject of Thanksgiving and weeks off, lemme tell you something you might find interesting. The local school district here gives students and faculty Thanksgiving week off. For deer season. No joke. The gun deer season always coincides with Thanksgiving week, and because no one would show up if school were in session, there's a week-long break. My husband's place of employment also follows this tradition.)

Anyway. Because I'm going to be scarce here for a few days, I thought I'd leave you with Beth's Tips for Having a Happy Thanksgiving!

1.) Start training today for Turkey Day. Eat salads, drink lots of water, and get that stomach in shape for turkey-and-stuffing overload.

2.) If you are hosting your family's Thanksgiving meal, figure out your seating chart. People that can't stand each other must go at opposite ends of the table. Those that are truly repulsive must be placed at the kiddie table.

3.) No sharp knives on the dinner table. This will keep those good-natured family squabbles from ending in emergency room visits.

4.) Wine. Lots of wine.

5.) Allow no one to be late, fashionably or otherwise. The house should go on total lockdown at a pre-approved time. This keeps Great-Aunt Agnes from glaring at Uncle Bill for the duration of the meal and muttering under her breath about him being late.

6.) Do not, under any circumstances, complain about the food. The turkey is moist and flavorful, and the canned yams are delightful. This is very important, because those who complain often receive the smallest slices of pie.

7.) If you live in an area like mine where deer season week coincides with Thanksgiving week, ladies, you have my heartfelt sympathy. Consider this a widow's week and go out and have fun.

8.) Refrain from calling anyone a &^$*, (@&$*$(#*, $#@, or anything that begins with 'douche-' or ends in '-bag.'

9.) Keep all electronics on lockdown during dinner. It's Thanksgiving. No texting, and do you really need to check Facebook during dinner? No. Didn't think so.

10.) And above all, have fun, and be thankful for everything you have in this life.

Wishing everyone a happy Thanksgiving,
The Black Spruce Hound Gang
Keep Reading "How to Have a Happy Thanksgiving"

November 18, 2011

Victory Rolls - A 10 Minute Hairstyle

Okay, so here's the thing.

(Don't you just love it when I start a post like we're old friends in the middle of a conversation already? Oy vey.)

Anyway. I cannot do traditional victory rolls to save my life. Like these, as shown in a video by the lovely Twila Jean. (By the way, if you have no clue what victory rolls are, it's a good idea to watch the video first, to get an idea of the basic style.)

Every time I do victory rolls like that, it looks like I've got horns growing out of my head.

So. I bring you victory rolls done my way. This will work on any length and thickness of hair, but it's good for those of us with enough hair on our heads for three people. The trick here is that you use smaller sections of hair, creating smaller rolls that don't look like gigantic doughnuts balanced on your head.

This is the finished result.

You'll have to excuse the quality of the rest of the photos - they were taken in my bathroom, which has little natural light. I'm not jaundiced, just under artificial light.

For this style, you will need bobby pins and hairspray. That be it.

First things first! Part your hair on a left or right part, whichever side you prefer. The part should line up with the outer corner of your eye.

Then take a section of hair from the part going to the the corner of your other eye. This section should be about 2 inches thick. Note: If you have bangs, do not include them in this section of hair.

Wrap this section of hair around your first two fingers, tucking the ends underneath. Then slide your fingers out, keeping the hair rolled into a circle. Roll the hair down to your scalp as far as it will go. When you get to your scalp, turn the curl so you can see it from the front. Secure the roll with bobby pins and hairspray.

Now we do the other side. Take a section of hair from the tip of your ear up to the part. Do the exact same thing with it. Where you place this curl depends on personal preference. Instead of rolling it all the way down to my scalp, I like to place this curl higher on my head, near the first curl.

If you have bangs, now would be the time to do something with them. You can leave them down, curl them under, etc. I swoop mine across the top of my forehead, then pin them out of the way.

Now, you have the rest of your hair to do whatever you want with. You can curl it, braid it, roll it, whatever. I like to put mine in a bun.

Pull hair into a low ponytail, twist, and roll into a bun on the back of your head. If you have long, thick hair, here's my recommendation. Take two roller pins (which are sort of like extra-large bobby pins) and secure the hair with these pins first. Because of their size, they act as anchors for the hair. If I do a bun with regular pins, it usually falls in a few hours from its own weight. With roller pins, it stays in place.

To secure the hair with roller pins, insert them at the bottom of the bun, going upward, crossing them in an X. Finish securing the rest of the hair with regular bobby pins, also crossed in Xs.

Ta-da! That's that. It took me less than 10 minutes to do this style. Don't worry if victory rolls seem daunting, they get easier and easier with practice.

Have fun!
Keep Reading "Victory Rolls - A 10 Minute Hairstyle"

November 16, 2011

Black Acrylic Blouse Revisited, with Pendleton Skirt

This outfit is also known as The Librarian.

I talked about this blouse previously, here, when I held forth about the mysterious seam-in-the-front. The wonderful duffylou solved that mystery for me, and mentioned that she used to wear these blouses tucked into skirts.

I'm sorry I said 'held forth.' I use that phrase whenever I get the chance. It's like 'pontificating.' Also a good one.

Anyway. With that as my inspiration, I give thee The Librarian.

I paired the blouse with a vintage gray wool Pendleton skirt, black socks, and my can't-get-over-how-much-I-love-these-shoes Kenneth Cole pumps. 

I didn't get a good close-up picture of how the collar of the blouse buttons up to the neck, but that's okay. I'm sure I'll be revisiting this one again in the future, and I'll do a better job focusing on the collar then. In the future. Right. 

Black acrylic blouse - Goodwill
Pendleton skirt -
Black trouser socks - dollar store
Kenneth Cole Reaction pumps -
Keep Reading "Black Acrylic Blouse Revisited, with Pendleton Skirt"

November 11, 2011

Bloomer Time

A while ago I cleaned out my underwear drawer. Yes, this is pertinent information. Bear with me.

I restocked with regular old cotton undies and called it a day, because I'm too cheap to pay big bucks for underwear. While mass-produced clothing isn't exactly known for standing the test of time, I figured these would last awhile, at any rate.

One pair of my brand-spanky-new undies went through the wash twice, and most of the elastic came out after the second washing. It's such fun untangling tiny strands of elastic from the rest of your laundry isn't it? Let me just say, Fruit of the Loom, that you can go suck a bag of  #*$&^. Hell hath no fury like a woman whose underwear have fallen apart. Hell hath no fury, I say!

So what's a frugal girl to do? Sew your own damn underwear!

The pros of sewing my own underwear are:
1.) Using a nice sturdy cotton fabric that won't fall apart in a few months.
2.) Using thick pieces of 1/4 inch elastic that won't come out of the seams in a few days, Fruit of the Loom!
3.) Using thick, sturdy seams and reinforced stitching so they can withstand repeated washings.

The cons:
1.) It's weird to sew your own underwear.

The pros totally outweigh the cons in this scenario, so onward!

I found a free pattern from Colette Patterns, called the Madeleine Mini Bloomers. Yes, bloomers. Word.

First, I had to find my sewing machine. Help.

Oh hey, there it is!

Much better. After that I printed out the pattern, all 22 pages of it. If you have an inkjet printer, my sincerest apologies go out to you. But you can see the finished product in the photo below - nice and cute little bloomers.

This is the first pair I made, following the pattern directions (almost) exactly. 

This is the second pair, in which I took a few detours to save time and my sanity.

Those look huge, don't they!? Like Paul Bunyan's mother's underwear.

All in all, this was a very easy sewing project. It took me about an hour to make one pair. The main things I want to point out are:

- They are HUGE before you insert the elastic into the waist. Fair warning. Bloomers are, by definition, voluminous, but holy wow. Don't panic.
- The pattern calls for several pieces of elastic to be sewn into the waistband. I just used one piece.
- I found inserting ribbons into each leg to be rather more time consuming than necessary. And, it involves making buttonholes, which are the bane of my existence. (1st photo.) For the second pair, I used elastic in the legs as well as the waist, and it saved a considerable amount of time.
- Overall, I prefer wearing the pair with elastic sewn into the legs. The elastic keeps the legs from riding up, so they're actually quite comfortable to wear with jeans or a skirt. The pair with ribbons in the legs bunches/rides up and can be uncomfortable under jeans. They are lovely to wear as pajamas, however.

In case you missed it above, here's another link to the pattern: Madeleine Mini Bloomers

Sew on!
Keep Reading "Bloomer Time"

November 9, 2011

Oh Dear

Oh Scouty. Look at you.
Keep Reading "Oh Dear"

November 7, 2011


This time of year, tamaracks are the only trees with any color remaining on them. Unless you count coniferous trees, which remain green. And I don't count the conifers.

By the way, I just looked up 'tamarack' on Wikipedia, and the name comes from an Algonquian word meaning 'wood used for snowshoes'. I found that fascinating and had to share it.

And does anyone else say the word 'tamarack' and immediately think 'tamarack-ack-ack-ack-ack!' and get that Billy Joel song stuck in their head? No? Just me? Thought so.

Anyway. There are plenty of tamaracks around the house, and I managed to get a few pictures of them before all their needles fell off.

While I was outside traipsing around I took some pictures of the rose hips - they are still bright red this time of year. But soon, alas, everything will be covered in snow, and then you'll all get to hear me complain about winter. Fun times ahead!
Keep Reading "Tamaracks"

November 4, 2011

Yellow Dress, for Autumn

I love this dress. I truly do. I think it really needs a petticoat underneath to achieve full awesomeness, but as I don't have one (yet) it will have to do without.

We had quite a cold snap here, and it finally warmed up enough again to break out what is probably the last dress of the year. And it gave me an excuse to wear my new (to me) vintage slip underneath that I scored at a thrift store for $0.50. As the air was warmer, but still chilly, I paired it with gray knee socks and a blue cardigan. I forgot to take pictures of the cardigan, of course, but just use your imagination.

I call this my 'prow of ship' pose. <---- Dork.

The shoes are also new to me, and we are going to be very happy together.

Vintage dress -
Vintage white slip - thrifted
Kenneth Cole Reaction 'Mello Dolly' pumps -
Keep Reading "Yellow Dress, for Autumn"
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