Monday, March 31, 2014

Royal Flush: The Story of an Upgraded Throne

This is one of those projects that I never really planned on, but just sort of fell into.  Let me re-phrase that.  Sometimes sh*t happens.  Er...

My toilet broke so I had to fix it.  And I am utterly powerless against obvious puns.

(I'm done now.)

It wouldn't flush!  Simple fix.  I lifted up the tank to discover that the chain attached to the handle was broken into two pieces, just as I expected.  So I got in my car and headed to Home Depot.  You're never going to see me complaining about making a trip to Home Depot.

I went straight to the plumbing aisle, quickly picked up the chain that I needed, and proceeded to meander around the rest of the store like I do.  I didn't get very far when I noticed this box...

I decided to take a chance on this kit that would forever change my toilet into a dual-flush, potentially saving me over $100 each year.  The box also boasts that this can be installed in 10 minutes and without tools...

We shall see!

Here's a peek inside at the existing inner-workings of our lovely throne.  I won't lie to you, there is no eye candy ahead.

I took everything out of the box.  Not a whole lot of parts to it and they even include a little troubleshooting guide (this came in handy.)  I followed the included instructions which were quite alright.

You adjust how much or how little water you want used with that green switch on the side and a blue one on the front.  Blue controls the amount of water used for a "Quick Flush" (number 1s) while green controls the water used for your full flush (number 2s.)

I didn't really do the water testing like the instructions tell you to.  I moved both switches to the most water-saving setting, tested it, it worked, I left it there.  That worked for me, but every potty is different so you might want to follow the manufacturer's instructions to make sure you get the most savings in water!

You can start out by shutting off your water and letting the tank drain out so that you aren't fishing around in cold toilet water.

Once your tank is clear, go ahead and remove the handle and flapper!

My handle was easily removed by simply unscrewing a plastic nut on the inside.  The little arms on the flapper part just snapped on and off.  Easy peasy.

Then I took the big cylindrical piece and twisted the "Upper Housing" until it unlocked from the "Base" so that I had two separate pieces.

I slid the base down over my overflow tube in the middle until the blue silicone bottom sat right inside of my flush valve.  It fit onto the overflow tube perfectly so I didn't need to tighten anything but if it hadn't, they include an extra piece ("Cam Adjuster") to fill the gap and a zip tie.

Slide the black rubber ring over the top to make sure that everything stays in place.

After that I could re-attach that upper housing to it's base by twisting and locking it back into place.

And last, but certainly not least, that cute little dual-flush button!  I just popped it into my old handle's place, got it positioned where I wanted it, and tightened it by hand.

Popped the white control box into place by holding down that blue button and inserting it onto the back of the flush button, then releasing.

There you have it.  Magic potty time and for way cheaper than buying a whole new one!  This kit only cost me $20 and it really was easy to install.  You might have to mess with the settings a bit to get it flushing just how you want it, but overall I say it's a great $20 well spent!  Especially if this contraption holds up it's end of the bargain and saves me $100+ on my water bill yearly.

Here's a shot of the new set-up inside the tank.

As you can see I still have a - no laughing - "ballcock style" fill valve.

Hey, I said no laughing...

If your toilet has one of these you may need to upgrade to a newer one or purchase their other kit for $5 more which includes one.  The dual-flush converter is big and could get in the way of this fill valve doing it's job.

I might do this for the downstairs bathroom and see how it goes.  I'll stick with my old fill valve for now since the converter actually isn't obstructing it.

Out with the old...

...In with the new!

Oh, the simple things...

betty signature

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kitchen DIY: Veggie Broth From Scraps

This is another great kitchen DIY that you can tackle whenever you have some spare time.  It only requires a few minutes of actual hands-on prep time and it's basically free.99!

I love knowing where my food is coming from.  I'm always trying to whittle down my kitchen rituals and recipes to the bare minimum and most simple, fresh ingredients.  This is good for the health and the wallet.

It can be a bit pricier to buy all organic, but I get what I can manage and use the "Dirty Dozen" and "Clean 15" lists as a guide.  These helpful lists let you know when you should try to buy organic and when it's unnecessary.

With this DIY I am getting more for my money.  By making your own veggie stock you'll be reducing your household's food waste by using the produce scraps that you might normally throw in the trash and getting a quality product out of that waste - FOR FREE.

So why not?!  This process is so simple and I really hope you'll give it a try!

I start off with a decent sized tupperware bowl that has a fitted lid.  Every time I find myself cutting up veggies for dinner, I just have my bowl out next to my cutting board and throw the scraps in that instead of in the trash can.

Throw everything in there.  Just make sure that you rinse your produce well beforehand.  I end up with mainly carrot, celery, and onion because they are such a great base in so many recipes.  I use them A LOT and always have some in my fridge.

In this batch I have celery ends and leaves, green onion ends, carrot tops and peels, onion and garlic pieces and peels (yes even the 'papery' outside,) and the tops and seeds from bell peppers.  Seriously, you can use everything!  Maybe not jalapenos, but that's up to you.  ;)

Chances are you're not going to fill up your bowl right away.  After I add my scraps to it, I keep it in the freezer, taking it out to add more any time I have more veggies to cut up.  When the bowl is filled it's time to make stock!

You'll need a big pot to boil it all in.  Anything that will hold at least a gallon of water will work.  I use this stock pot with the hole-y insert for easy straining.

Just dump all your veggies right in!  You can adjust your flavors depending on what you've got in your veggie collection.  I usually decide to add more garlic so I smashed 5 extra cloves and tossed them in, paper and all.

Then I added some simple spices that I have on hand: bay leaf, salt, and pepper.  Adjust these to your preferences.  I used about 2 teaspoons of each.

Next, fill your pot up with about a gallon of water.

Bring your veggies to a boil and then turn the heat down a bit and let them simmer.  I let mine go for about 3 hours.

And that's all it takes to get your homemade veggie stock started!  It takes awhile to boil, but throw it together in a few minutes and then forget about it while you get other things done around the house.  It's that simple.  Great for a lazy Sunday or day off ritual.

After 3 hours of simmering, I have this:

Turn the heat off and forget about it once again until your stock is cool enough to safely handle.

Strain it into another bowl using a colander.  This will take care of all the big chunks of vegetables.  I use a spoon to squeeze as much liquid from the leftover veggies as possible.  Don't want to leave any flavor behind!

Once I have all the bigger pieces out, I use my glass measuring cup to carefully pour the stock through a fine mesh strainer and into my plastic containers.  (You can use a cup, ladle, or just try pouring straight from your pot!  Work with whatever you have on hand.)  This takes care of any remaining little bits that are in your stock.  If you don't mind them, you can always skip this step.

Here's an example of what I had leftover in my strainer after pouring the whole batch through it.  This just takes care of the bay leaf bits and any seeds or small debris leaving a pure and smooth broth.

And that's it!  With what I would've tossed in the garbage, I now have 4 quarts of simple, healthy veggie broth on hand for practically NO COST and little effort.  There's no beating that.

I keep them in the freezer unless I know I'll be using some right away.  That way I always have some on hand.  It's great to have a stash when I need it and can be a lifesaver when I want a quick dinner fix.


I'll be trying out this delicious sounding sauce from Pinch of Yum for tonight's dinner, using my homemade veggie broth as the base!  I can't wait to try it.

Is this something that you'll start doing?  What would you make with your homemade veggie broth??  If you have a great recipe, feel free to share!

Thanks for reading!

betty signature

Monday, March 17, 2014

Goodbye Dear Friend; Hello Sweet Guest Room

A good friend of ours and roommate has recently moved on to bigger and better things.  Therefore, I now have a completely empty room in my house.

This is pretty much unheard of.

I'm so very pumped to finally start creating the guest room haven that I have always dreamed of having to offer!  So many years worth of Pins to implement...

The bookshelf will not be staying, nor will the lava lamp.  Sorry, dudes.

I definitely have a vision for this baby.  The first thing I did was start pulling various items from other spaces of my house that I know I can use in here.  I have so many things.  Some might say too many things (my husband.)  If I can de-clutter other spaces and reuse what I have before grabbing new stuff, that is the way to go!

The first thing I wanted to add was this lovely little mustard chair that's been floating between the living and dining area, waiting for a purpose.  I scored this for $20 at the Salvation Army!  So worth it.  The fabric is in pretty great shape and surprisingly clean.

I originally grabbed it thinking it would be the perfect candidate to try my hand at painting upholstery, but then it grew on me as-is.

The artwork will go up on one of these walls.  I love the contrast that they bring to the area.  The full moon art is something I diy'ed from a $0.60 scrapbook page and a $1 secondhand framed print.  I just took out the old art and painted the frame black, also painting the mattes with some white spray paint.

The bamboo magazine holder was also a super cheap thrift find.

Since I'll probably end up keeping some of my closet's overflow in this room's, I decided to throw in this wire dress form with my favorite red cape for an interesting pop of color.

I want to build a sectional-style daybed for the corner to the right of this window.  Using a couple twin mattresses as the seat and a simple frame so that extra seating during the day can easily transform into two beds (or one bigger bed) at night.

The old wooden Budweiser crate, long ago stolen from my dad's collection of odds and ends, can be used for storage and double as a side table.  Extra linens or blankets possibly?  I'd really like to add some casters to it also.

I want to have an empty dresser available for clothes storage and this one really fits the bill.  I love the purple-ish gray with the mustard color of the chair too.  Really thinking about some different pulls for it, but I don't have anything particular in mind.

I'd love some kind of contraption on the wall above the dresser as a quick catchall for jewelry and other little goodies.

The mirror is a really old (broken) cheapy from Wal-Mart.  I'm thinking about taking off the rest of the blue trim and trimming it out in something a bit more substantial.  Paint it a nice blush color and mount it on the wall.

Also placed in here my little basket of sample goodies.  I've got everything from shampoo to facial moisturizer!  Such a pack rat...

And obviously I made a little mood board...

I can't wait to keep working on this idea and add to it little by little!  I'm obsessing over that cow pattern rug.  Gotta have it!

Thanks for reading!

betty signature

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Spring Break

So I've taken an unintentional spring break vacation away from my blog.  Curious as to what I've been up to for the past week?

Here's a sneak peek:

I wish that I could say 'vacation' and actually mean it.  Really I've been sick and trying to rest up.  Not working out for me so well, seeing as how my idea of resting consists of ten minutes on the couch and then up I go.  Pacing around the house picking and prodding at everything.

You know, ripping up pieces of flooring and the likes.  I know I'm not the only one...

I ended up using my new favorite stripper, Cinnamon CitriStrip.  Good stuff.  It ate through several layers of paint and carpet adhesive.  Probably at least 4 layers total.

Yes, there was once a hideous layer of extremely dingy old floral print carpet that somebody clearly did not want coming up.  If I manage to find an old photo I'll update the post so you can see what you're missing.  I tore that up years ago out of sheer frustration before I even had a plan for this floor.  Sometimes you just can't stand to look at that stuff for




So here is what the upstairs hallway has looked like for a couple years:

Not great.  I used my little shorty paint brush to slap on a generous coat of CitriStrip to a small patch.  I wanted to see if it would actually work on both the paint and adhesive before I wasted too much.

(Oh, what's this?  A little glimpse into my soon to be re-decorated guest room?  Perhaps...)

After letting it sit for 30 minutes, as per the instructions on the bottle, I came back and was able to scrape through every layer with my plastic paint scraper!

I painted on more stripper, working in small sections at a time.  About 4 or 5 boards.  I knew that it would be unrealistic to try and strip the whole hallway at once.  There was a ton of scraping and scrubbing ahead of me and I have bad wrists.  Not a good combo, but do-able with patience!

After scraping off all of the goopy paint, I used a steel wool pad and mineral spirits to clean up any leftover goop (technical term) and stripper.  I went through 2 of the steel wool pads total.

And here is where it got me!  A beautiful wood floor that I thought was beyond repair just a few days ago.

Why didn't I try this sooner??  I'm definitely the type that has to put things aside for a while before coming back to them with the right solution.  It pays off to give yourself some thinking space.

Once I had the boards cleaned up, I went over everything with an electric sander and coarse sandpaper. 

So here's where I'm at thus far...

Right down to the bare boards with only a small patch of floor left to strip.  I've made it kind of a drawn out process, but it's really paying off to have some patience and work bit by bit.  My hands and wrists are thanking me and I'm always ready for another session of scrubbing and sanding instead of getting burned out on the first day.

My hopes are to get this baby down to bare wood, then stain and seal it to match the wood tone of the surrounding floor.  You see my supervisor there?  Making sure I don't clock in any overtime.

I can't wait to finish and share this little makeover!

Stay tuned!

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