Saturday, January 30, 2010

Packaging Free Grocery Store

How great would it be if there was a grocery store right down the street that straight up refused to sell packaged items? What if you could just walk in with your own bags and containers and buy just the right amount of whatever you needed and not have to worry about the rest going bad?
Good news: You can!
Bad news: You have to live in London...

The store is called Unpackaged and you should check out their site here.

I first read about Unpackaged this morning here at

Friday, January 29, 2010

Trader Joe's wine #6 Renwood

I liked the label better then the wine this time.  It wasn't bad, it just wasn't that great.  We drank half the bottle the first night and then the second half the following night.  Firefly and I both agree that this bottle of wine was definitely better after it had a chance to breathe overnight.

I was a little bummed because we had just had an excellent Barbera wine (our first) at a wine tasting during our Seattle trip.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Reusable straws

I found these via Green Phone Booth. They are in our Amazon cart waiting until we order a few more items to get free shipping.

Trader Joe wine #7 Fife

We've had this one in the past and I remember liking it then as well.  We had the 2007 Max Cuvee (another blend of 5 grapes) from the Fife vineyards in Hopland California.  This wine contains the following grapes:
  • Petite Verdot
  • Syrah
  • Petite Sirah
  • Grenache
  • Carignane
Last time we had this wine, we shared it with friends so it only lasted one night as where this time, we allowed it sit out over night.  The second night it was just okay in my opinion.  It tasted really thin and watery to me the second night. Firefly just said she thought it was better the first time around as well...our advice,  save it for a night with friends or a night when you both need two glasses!

Trader Joe wine #5 Dr. Jebediah Drinkwell

This was a great wine!  We had the 2007 Meritage* from Paso Robles, California which is a combination of these 5 different grapes:
  • 60% Cabernet Franc
  • 27% Merlot
  • 11% Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 1% Malbec
  • 1% Petit Verdot
The combination of all 5 grapes gives this wine a unique taste that we all really enjoyed.  I think I'll have to ask Firefly to pick up a few extra bottles of this next time she goes to the store.  We might have just found the first wine for our wine collection.

Bonus points...there is a drinking song on the back of the bottle:

*Meritage is a word used to distinguish wines that are made in the style of Bordeaux but without infringing on that region's legally protected appellation

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How much is your Garden worth?

Curious how much your garden is worth? Find out here

We didn't keep track of how pounds of each produce item we harvested last year but it might be fun to do it this year.  Maybe we too can turn our $26 worth of seeds into $2000 in veggies!

If you are up for it, I think it would be fun for everyone to keep track of how much they havest and post their numbers at the end of the season.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

TakeOut WithOut Challenge

I don't know about you but I HATE getting that little styrofoam container as a doggy bag when we go out to eat.  That's why I am really excited about the TakeOutWithOut movement going on right now.  You can check it out via the above link or find more information at the Green Phone Booth (this is where I first learned about it)

Here's the deal in a nutshell:

   When you eat out and you need a doggy bag, grab your own container instead of asking for a styrofoam box or a bag.  This is as simple as bringing your own Tupperware containers or a wrap-n-mat type deal.

I have thought about bringing my own containers for a while now but I never do.  I think what will work best for me is to order less food (portions out are so big anyways) or split a meal with Firefly so that there are no leftovers.

What do you think?  Is this something you might want to try?  What would be the best way for you to say no to doggy bags?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Free Homesteading E-books

I was surfing the internets last night and I happened to stumble onto a great website with dozens and dozens of free homestead related e-books.  The best part is that they are all free to download.

Here is a list of the categories:
 You can visit the site here.  Happy downloads!

There is a lot of information on the site so if you find something worth sharing, please do.  Please either leave a comment here and I'll share it or post it on your own blog so I can link to it.

Free e-books on Gardening, Wild Foraging, and Self Sufficiency

Monday, January 18, 2010

Trader Joes wine

The first row is down and here are the results:

I thought the Gold Rush was a bit to sweet, but Firefly enjoyed it.

I'm not really into describing wines in terms of color, aromas, and tastes so I decided to rank the wines with a simple pass/fail system.  Pass (checkmark) means that we would buy the wine again while fail means that we would not buy it again.  Future wine results posts will include a little more information such as type or wine, year, and location. 

Really good wines might even get two checkmarks...these would be wines that we want to buy more of and save in our wine cellar (bottom part of our linen closet next to the extra blankets)

Volunteer Park Conservatory

Pictures from our visit to Volunteer Park Conservatory


(Click here if you cannot view the slide show)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Wanted: Name for VW Bus

I have wanted a camper bus for years and years...10 years to be exact.  10 years later, I got my bus and I couldn't be happier about her.  She is a 1978 type 2 VW Bus poptop and is beautiful inside and out! (I'll post some good bus pictures soon).

The one thing she still needs is a name.  Firefly has a poll up on her blog and I think I'll post the same poll here as well.  We want a hippish name so I came up with Daisy (because she is white and then I can drive Ms. Daisy).  The other names in the running are Sunny and Willow or any other names that people leave in a comment.

Here is the story behind the bus:

Like I said, I have wanted a poptop bus for the last ten years.  I lived in Germany for three of those years and still never found exactlly what I wanted.  I came home, Firefly and I got married and the search continued.  Slowly over the next 3.5 years Firefly came around to the idea of owning a bus and even camping in it.

I have been searching craigslist posts in Washington, Oregon, California, and Nevada (with the help of but I still hadn't found the perfect bus.  Then I met a guy at Firefly's cousin's wedding and he told me about a site called The Samba... this was the beginning of the end of our search.

I went on the site the next day, found the perfect bus and made the phone call.  The bus was living in Vancouver at the time but was going to be in Seattle the following weekend.  My brother in law (who lives in Seattle) took her for a test drive and then inspected her from top to bottom, inside and out for any problems.  I called the owner after I got his report and told him i wanted the bus, Firefly then wired him a $1000 deposit.  We were already going to be visiting Seattle two weeks later so we changed our tickets to one-way, and drove her home to Reno.

Here is how Firefly describes the trip home:
The bus did great making it from Seattle to Reno. The ride home went something like this: 750 miles, 10 cups of coffee, 4 states, 4 gas stations, 3 rest stops,  2 blankets, 2 times running out of gas, one overnight stop in Eugene, OR (and a partridge in a pear tree).

(we did get the heater working the next day...after I read the directions)

Click above for pictures of our trip home and below for random Seattle Pictures

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Trader Joe's wine

Firefly and I like to drink wine.  We don't really have a favorite wine and we tend to buy wine based on the label...I actually think this is how most people buy wine.

While we were at Trader Joes picking up potatoes for firefly's amazing potato soup, firefly asked me what kind of wine we should get next so to be funny I said, lets just drink them all!  We both laughed and then she said "ok."

How are we going to keep track of the ones we've already had?  After a little debate, we decided that we would buy them one column at a time working our way down the column left to right, top to bottom, only buying reds under $10.

I'll post a little note about each bottle as we drink it and let you know if we think it's worth buying again or not.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Tape Measure Skills

Something to try when work is slow

Heater from a Candle...Update

Well, I stand corrected.  After burning for several more hours, the heaters really started to put off some good heat.  I'm still waiting to test it out as a camping heater before I give my final stamp of approval but I am satisfied enough to encourage others to make one for themselves.

We were about to build each one for less then $9.  Here is the cut-away view again...

this was helpful for us while we built the first heater.  Again, we used a 6", 4", and 2" flower pot.  We then picked up some 2" jar candles (they seems to last for about 10 hours).  I am going to test some different candle and other heat source to see what works best for us.  I'll be sure to let you know the results after the tests.

Happy building!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Heater from a Candle...I'm not impressed

Like the title says, I'm just not impressed.  They look nice and do put off a little heat but not enough to warrant spending $30 on one.  I think we are just going to use ours as a candle holder...they are kind of fun and do give off a nice glow.

We are going to keep burning them for a bit longer and see if anything changes.  The website did say that they needed to be lit for at least 6 hours to dry out the pots before heat will come off.  We ran them for about 5-6 hours last night so maybe this evening they will work better.  I know its not going to heat the house but I was hoping it would at least raise the tempature in the bathroom a few degrees.

The final test will be in a few weeks.  The main reason for wanting to build this little heater is to see if it can keep the vw warm over night while we are camping.  I'll be sure to post an update with those results.

The building was pretty easy.
 I used the following:

  1. a 6", 4", and 2" flower pot
  2. a 7" bolt (I ended up cutting off 2" so I would use a 5" bolt next time) You want this to be the fattest bolt that will fit through the hole in the bottom of the 2" pot
  3. a handful of nuts that fit the bolt
  4. a handful of different sized washers
I ran the bolt through the 6" pot and secured it with washers and nuts on each side. Then I added the washers and nuts in somewhat random order...I only went one or two washers before adding a nut.  Slide on the 4" pot making sure it is pretty even with the 6" pot -I made sure the 4" pot was not sticking out from under the 6" pot.  Add more washers and nuts and then the 2" pot.  Finish off with more washers and nuts until the final nut is even or just shy of the 6" pot.  The bolt should not stick out from under the 6" pot.

I pretty much tried to copy the cut-away picture from the last post...You can try different sized pots or even shallow or deeper pots.  Please let me know if you have better results with yours if you decide to make one.

The first stand we used is just a 6" candle holder we found on sale after Christmas.
We made the second stand from several "L" brackets (4" and 1" "L" brackets and a 4" straight piece)
The third stand is made from left over chicken wire.

We like the industrious look of the second stand about you? Which stand do you prefer?

If you decide to make one of these candle holders, let me know and I'll be sure to link to your post.