Sunday, February 26, 2012

Winter Sowing: Grow Beautiful Flowers and Plants Cheaply

winter-sown zinnias
If you're suffering from a case of spring fever, or just want to enjoy some pretty flowers cheaply come summer, then I highly recommend trying winter sowing.

What is winter sowing? Well, it's a cheap and simple way to grow plants from seeds without needing any fancy equipment, like seed trays and grow lights. Nor do you have to dedicate precious space inside your home or spend time watering, turning, hardening off, or kitty proofing your precious seedlings. Winter sowing only requires some used containers (I prefer milk jugs), potting mix, seeds, and space outside. Not only is winter sowing an inexpensive way to grow new plants, it's also a way to grow things that may not be readily available at your garden center. Specifically, winter sowing works for seeds that need cold stratification, things like perennials, and self-sowing annuals.


Why bother winter sowing when you can just direct sow seeds in the garden? If direct sowing seeds works well for you, then by all means go ahead, but it was a giant flop in my garden. In contrast, when I create these little ghetto greenhouses, as I like to call them, I'm able to cheaply grow plants that are hard or expensive at the local greenhouse and my winter sown seedlings are father along, have higher germination rates and are ready to be planted earlier.

Sweet William
Now most of the yearly additions to my garden are winter-sown flowers. I've had success growing zinnias, rudbeckia, columbine, cerinthe, nasturiums, cleome, bachelor buttons, sweet alyssum, Sweet William, poppies of all kinds, cosmos, coneflowers, monarda and more using this method. It's still a little early to try any tender annuals yet this year, like cosmos and zinnias, but I've already sown poppies and Foxgloves so far before I ran out of containers.

So if your game, here's a step-by-step guide to winter sowing. First, the best resource for any and all winter sowing info is There you will find seed lists by gardening zone, FAQs and more.

Once you've studied up, you'll need to gather some supplies. You'll need translucent containers; recycling previously used containers is encourage. Gallon and half-gallon milk jugs are my favorite, but you can also use two-liter bottles, juice containers and whatever else you find handy.

You'll also need fertilizer-free potting mix (not potting soil). The only place I've found this is at a gardening center and I have good luck with Pro-Mix brand. And, of course, you'll need seeds. Once you have your supplies you're ready to get started.

First, punch holes in the bottom of your container to allow for adequate drainage. I use one of the boyfriends pics to do this, but I've also used a drill for heavier plastics. If you're container has a cap you can discard it at this point because you're not going to need it.

Next, if using a jug, cut the top most of the way off, leaving a hinge between the body and lid. At this point I label the inside of the lid with a number. If you label the outside it tends to fade away by planting time and you'll be left with a mystery plant. Next fill 2-3 inches with potting mix, moisten the mix and let it drain. Then add seeds, cover them lightly with mix, and tape the container back together.


Now all that's left is to put your container outside, in a place where it will receive rain and sun, and sit back and relax until spring. Snow on the way? No worries! Your seeds will know when to sprout.

my collection of ghetto greenhouses

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

But It's a Collectors Item!

This barely used VHS copy of the Lion King would have been purged months ago, except for one little phrase that stopped me from adding it to the garage sale pile with the rest of my tapes.

"You'll make more money if you sell it on eBay. It's Disney! It's a collector's item!"

My trusty advisors had me at "more money." So back in the keep pile it went. And if the Lion King on VHS is worth more money, then surely the complete collection of Tori Amos videos was worth a mint! Into the keep pile it followed.

Several months (or has it been years? Time flies when you're decluttering!) later I finally got around to checking the completed listings section of eBay to see exactly how much of a windfall I could expect from my valuable tape collection. Afterall, it's value would only increase as more time goes by, right? As the search results loaded I held my breath in anticipation. Finally, the page loaded: $0.99 per tape. If they sold. Many didn't.


I was shocked. You mean people aren't lining up to buy used copies of 17 year-old movies on VHS? How could it be?

This paltry sum is hardly worth the aggravation of selling something on eBay. The listing, the packing, the trip to the post office. No thanks. So, once again, my preferred method of donate it and forget it turns out to be the best for decluttering. I should have known. The value of collectors items goes way down as soon as I purchase them.

This isn't even the first time I've had this experience. There was the DVD stand I refused to sell for $5 at the garage sale and instead kept to sell for more on Craigslist. It was finally donated months later. I really showed that bargain hunter!

What are you hanging onto because it's worth big bucks? Are you sure it's really valuable?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Good Reads: Loving Living Small

Piggy says, take a load off, let's chat!

Is it just me, or was this week chock full of some extra good blog posts? Here are some of my favorites:
  • I spend as much time, if not more, checking out design and decor plans and looking at pretty pics. The Sweetest Digs' Colour Me Pretty: Bright White is chock full of them.
  • I love Shoebox Dwelling's post on Living Small in Seattle which showcases a stylish small home of 600 square feet.
What were your favorite posts this week?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Declutter Fix

I finally got back on a decluttering kick a few weekends ago. I've probably mentioned this before, but I've become addicted to decluttering. But I haven't been able to get my fix around here. The easy stuff is pretty much gone and searching for a hour or more and coming up with just an item does not satisfy. So I've had to satisfy myself by watching Hoarders and reading about other people's decluttering. As you can imagine this doesn't quite cut it.

Easy target: The catch all cabinet. And yes, those
are my stuffed animals, thank you for noticing.

Reading this post provided some much needed inspiration and I finally went to work. First I hit this catch-all cabinet in the basement and found 22 items that could go. I've been there many times before, yet I always seem to find more. Then I went upstairs to the attic. This should be more easy pickings, but again I've been there before. This time I found a snowman tealight holder, a vase, some t-shirts I'm never going to wear and a stuffed bear I'm finally ready to part with. I added a few more items from the closet.

In total I ended up with a full box to donate and a total of 30 items gone. Mmm, mmm that's some good decluttering.

 Tell me, am I the only decluttering addict around here? How do you get your fix? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy V-Day!

My participation in Valentine's Day is hit or miss, but this year I felt the urge for a change. This weekend Alex the cat and I spent some time baking. Then the boy and I delivered cookies.

They were tasty. Did you celebrate?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Why Don't We Teach Girls to be Handy?

Let's face it, owning a home can be stressful. But owning a home when you're not the slightest bit handy? Well that can be a nightmare.

Luckily, I have a handy boyfriend. He's completed more repairs and projects around this place than I can ever remember. Just this week he replaced the garbage disposal and fixed a water leak in the toilet. If not for him these repairs would have taken longer to get fixed, been way more of a pain for me to deal with, and cost much more.

Before I met the Boy, any little issue with the home would send me into a tailspin. Instead of seeing a dripping faucet, I saw my money dripping away. My first thought when anything broke was great, how much is this going to cost me? My second thought was to freak out. I'm also lucky to have a handy stepdad who has made many 1.5 hour drives to help with my house crises, but with two houses to maintain already and a full-time job, I feel guilty whenever I need his help. I'm much more calm now that I know the Boy can handle most things, and does so without complaint.

I'm an independent woman in every other area of my life, and was taught to be so. But when it comes to fixing or improving my home and car, I have to depend on others. And I hate it. I'm lucky to have people who are dependable, trustworthy and willing to help in my life, but I've often had to put my trust in strangers, many of whom let me down.

We rarely expect women to do things like fix their own leaky faucets, change their oil or remodel their kitchen. Sure there are women who buck this stereotype and you can find them all over the internet, but in my real life, I don't know any. All the women I know depend on their husbands, boyfriends and fathers for help. I think we're doing a real disservice to women when we don't teach them, or teach ourselves, how to handle some of these tasks on their own. Afterall, we expect men to know how to cook, do laundry and clean these days, so shouldn't we also expect women be able to handle tasks that were traditionally done by men?


Of course I'm not blameless in this situation. Today we have more tools than ever at our fingertips to help us learn these skills on our own, but I haven't taken advantage of them. Nor do I stick around when the Boy is repairing things to try and learn from him. I prefer not to have to deal with these things, but I can't have it both ways. I think its high time I learn how to do more DIY repairs.

What about you, do you think we should teach girls and women how to basic repair and DIY skills?

Monday, February 6, 2012


Ever do something you know is a bad idea in the long run but you do it anyway? Like, say, I dunno, window shopping for houses when you have one and aren't planning to purchase a new one.

The Boy and I have been going to open houses on and off for years when the mood strikes. I knew I was tempting fate, but what better idea to find examples of what looks good in my tiny house than to see others of the same size? Instead of lusting after these other houses, I've only felt grateful that I purchased the home I did.

Until yesterday.
I saw it on our walk: a two story, brick house with a two car garage. Something about the bit of the inside I could see from the curtain-less picture window made me twinge inside. I had to see inside this house, and what luck, there was an open house that very afternoon! As soon as I walked in the front door I knew. This house had the EXACT same layout as the house I grew up in. A house I  had hated when we moved into it because I didn't want to leave our home and my friends in the country, but loved by the time I graduated high school. A house I'd almost decided to buy from my mother when she finally moved on, but luckily didn't.  This house had the exact same hallway closet (a hallway closet people!) and overall layout. The kitchen was different, better really, and the laundry shoot wasn't dry-walled over. That hallway closet was just the beginning, in all there were four regular closets, two linen closets, built ins in the office and a storage closet lined with shelves in the basement. It had over 500 more square feet than min hus. It feels like a grownup house, I told the Boy. I was in love, love I say!

It didn't take long for me to develop a raging case of house lust, which only increased when I went home and found out thanks to a handy mortgage calculator that this house would only cost $40/month more than I currently pay now. $40!!
Alvhem via Pinterest
I started dreaming wildly. I could fix up min hus, sell it and buy my new dream house! Sure I'd take a bit of a loss on min hus, but undoubtedly they were doing so with the dream house, so that was practically a wash, wasn't it? And, sure, min hus would need a couple of grand in fixes before I could even put it on the market, but that was doable. Home insurance would go up, and utilities would be more expensive with 500 extra square feet, but how much more could that possibly be?  I began rationalizing like crazy. The current taxes on the dream house were the same as I was paying now. Yes, the dream house needed paint in every room, a bathroom reno (my head almost hit the ceiling in the shower, but we could rip that out!), some kitchen fixes, Manland II upgrades, landscaping, etc. I would certainly need some new furniture, if not lots of new furniture, but we wouldn't have to do that all at once. I thought you loved living small, the Boy asked. Well, yeah sorta. But maybe that was only because I didn't think I could afford something bigger. I certainly couldn't when I bought min hus.
from Pinterest
Would we really even use the extra space, he asked, we're kind of hermits. Of course we would, I enthused! We could easily have people to dinner in the dining room, or play games at a table, unlike now. And, ok, I never used the second bedroom when it was set up as an office, but if I made the third little bedroom in dream house a reading nook, then, by golly, I'd use it all the time.

By the time I was getting ready for bed I had remembered the added expense of closing costs, realtor fees, house inspection fees, etc. A thousand here, a thousand there adds up, not to mention how much longer it would take to pay the mortgage off on dream house. Was this really a smart move for me? Didn't I believe in only having as much house as you truly need? Didn't I want less debt, not more? Re-reading the housing section of The Heart of Simple Living: 7 Paths to a Better Life by Wanda Urbanska and asking myself the questions below helped me escape the few remaining tentacles of house lust.

Tips on avoiding new stuff lust:
  1. Avoid temptation. Don't go to the store to browse. Avoid malls like the plague (and thrift stores, and garage sales if those are your vices). And for heaven's sake, don't go to open houses. This is fine advice if it fits your life, but I would rather learn how to cope and stick to my goals despite temptation.
  2. Learn to cope with "gotta have it" syndrome. You know, I'm not going to stop going to open houses permanently any more than I'll be able to only set foot in Target for needed purchases and not browse the home aisles. Instead of practicing pure avoidance, I'd rather learn to be able to face temptation head-on and still walk away. Some ways to do this are below.
  3. Take a timeout. When caught in the grip of lust for something new, commit to walking away and giving yourself some time to cool off. Implement a 30-day waiting list for new purchases.
  4. Cross examine yourself. Before buying anything ask yourself if you really need it or really, really, really want it? Do you love this item? Can you really, truly afford it? Will you use it? Do you have space to store it? Does it meet the goals for your life right now? What about in a year? Five years (for really big purchases)?
How do you cope with temptation? Have you ever caught a case of raging house lust?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Simple Moments

And now, something rather different.

One of the things about simple living that seems most important, is savoring the moments, big and small, happy and sad. Today, one of those moments came floating back to me and I had to share it.


The memories of my grandma’s illness are fading, and for that I am grateful. In their place, some of the happier moments from that dark time are coming back to me.

See, long before grandma became physically ill, her dementia had stolen the woman we knew and loved from us.

The next morning after my aunt called to tell me she was in the hospital, and that it was serious, I jumped in my car and drove seven hours. The first place I stopped upon entering that little mountain town was the hospital. It was late, well after dinner. She was asleep, and it was shocking how thin and frail she looked, worse than I‘d ever seen her. With trepidation I woke her, gently, and she smiled the smile I knew so well. The angry stranger was gone.

We tried talking a bit, but she would start coughing such hard, racking coughs that I knew had to be painful. Obviously her talking was out. I have always been a better writer than talker, especially in times of stress or distress. I couldn’t think of what to say. Luckily, thankfully, I had brought a back-up plan.

I went to my car and got it, Whimsey: The Talking Pony, one of the books she had read to me over and over when I was little.

“Look what I brought.” I held up the front of the light green cover so she could see it.

“You thought we could read it one last time?” She smiled.

My throat tightened. I didn’t want to think this could be the last time for anything. I didn’t respond, I couldn’t. “Do you want me to read it?”

She nodded.

As I started reading bits of the story started coming back to me. I felt a bit self-conscious sitting in the small room, nurses occasionally walking by in the hall. I read somewhat loudly so she could hear me over the coughs of other patients and their monitors beeping down the hall. She stopped coughing as much and soon her eyes started to close. I read another page or two then stopped. She obviously needed her rest.

The second I stopped her eyes popped wide open. “Why did you stop?”

“I thought you were asleep,” I told her.

“No,” she said. “Just resting my eyes and enjoying the story. Keep going."

So I continued reading, occasionally stopping to check that she was still awake. I only got through a third of the book before she finally did fall asleep.

That was the last time grandma and I ever read Whimsey.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Good Reads: Get Your Simple, Decluttered Living On

Via Pinterest from

Today was the craziest first day of February I can remember. I spent all day at work with my window wide open, and my back door is still open now, at 8pm at night! Surprisingly, I'm hoping we get at least one good snow before this supposed winter ends.
Last night's surfing was majorly productive; I found some awesome new-to-me blogs and other good reads to share.

  • Won't you take the Kanelstrand blog's simple living challenge with me? New-to-me blog Kanelstrand looks super awesome, even better, is her simple living pledge which includes 23 days of 3 weeks of "Come February 1st, we are starting a Simple Living Challenge on the Kanelstrand blog. Together we will take 3 weeks of simple living where we will discuss different aspects of simple living and will challenge ourselves to see our simple decisions through! You are welcome to participate with insights, advice or sharing your general thoughts on simplifying.

  • EcoKaren post on Simple Scandinavian Design (by none other than Sonya Kanelstrand of the Simple Living Challenge above) is write up my alley. It explains why Scandinavian design appeals to me so much. It also gave me a great new idea on how I might be able to progress with decluttering by keeping the goal of having a Scandinavian style home decor in mind.

  • I love looking at small homes, even though I think min hus is as small as I'd like to go. I love ShoeBox Dwelling's post on what this homeowner was able to do with just a one-car garage.

  • Do you fear you might regret getting rid of something while you declutter? Be More with Less is Busting Your Biggest Decluttering Fears.


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