Cheap renos that look great

I like to call my home a cabin, when yes, it is clearly a trailer. A cozy, comfy trailer. Cabin sounds more romantic for a home in the mountains. But with being an older trailer, our goal with renos is as cheap as possible or free (best).

In part 1 of my summer update, I posted 3 cheap and cheerful projects.  For part 2, I'll share renos I'm proud of & a garden update.

1. First the garden

Big changes including a taller fence (4' plastic chicken wire. It's fantastic). Expanded the size by more than double. All the grass will be gone soon and next year black mulch around the beds. The fence is a must for both the cats as well as deer.

I especially love the gate. All built with reclaimed wood!

Will these tomatoes ripen already!? Things are looking pretty good but it's the end of August and only had 10 ripe cherry tomatoes thus far. Drastic measures need to be taken soon.
Things are looking wild in the boxes with flowering peppermint and oregano. I can't keep up with production. I don't use oregano for anything it seems. Red potatoes growing everywhere too. Lettuce mix is in the front of the first box, hope to be eating it in another couple weeks. 
Planted more peas after the deer fiasco with the first pea planting of the season. 

2. Cabin renos
I showed you this 'before' a while ago. Craig and my brother took down the rotting deck about a week ago. Still some deck work to be done. Except the paint and stain, the materials were free or bartered for.
The lean-to project was done last year, all except for painting and staining. What a world of difference it makes! (the project next door is our neighbours workshop). 

There were so many more projects done and more still that need to be done. But the summer is short and we also get out in the camper and do fun stuff. Here we are heading out on the way to Nakusp then Nelson, BC.
What's the best thing you've done so far this summer?

Beautify on a budget: simple, easy and useful projects

Summer is winding down, but we're been making the most of it around here with renovations, family visits and craft projects. It's been busy! So busy that I'm diving this post into two parts. Today, part 1, I share some fun projects I've completed that cost $$ peanuts, are useful and help beautify your surroundings. 

1. Oversize kitchen chalkboard 
Using just leftover cedar scraps, Craig created this awesome board with lots of room to write recipes, grocery lists and inspiring quotes like 'seize the day!' Cost was minimal using all leftovers including chalkboard paint from this super fun project. There are some great versions made with old picture frames too. Makes me want to make more...although I have literally no more wall space.

2. Custom rain chain
Craig had just finished some fixing up of the eavestrough and we needed a down spout.  I did some research because I love the look of rain chains. This one we came up with after scouring the local dollar store. 12 plastic cups at $0.50 each and a length of chain from the hardware store for $10. Craig had the nails and pushed them through the cups and chain after drilling holes. The bottom of each cup has been drilled out too. When it rains the water just trickles down, looking all sparkly, leading to a bucket filled with rocks. Saves water from splashing all over the dirt. 

3. Write-on banana pepper vase
Making more use of chalkboard paint (a little jar goes a LONG way). I took one of those huge pepper jars from costco, cleaned up the label area with goo gone then taped off a square where I painted 2 coats. I found some old ribbon to tie around the top and done! I can't imagine the cost was more than $4 (if that, and that includes buying the huge jar of peppers). 

Stay tuned for exciting part 2 where I'll show you our recent cabin renos and garden updates. 
What have you been up to this summer?

5 indispensables in the kitchen

Lists are fun...I don't do enough list on the blog, so here is one today. First, I don't think I have to say, but this is not an exhaustive list. Just 5 things I'm loving and use all the time. Can't image not having these 5 in my kitchen. 

1. Big knife
Maybe it's wrong to use this knife for everything, but it works for almost everything...great for chopping veggies, nuts, fruit, bread. I keep it sharp with a knife honing steel.

2. Silicone baking mat

A Christmas gift that keeps on giving. I love it. It gets whipped out whenever I use a baking sheet. I don't have a proper sized baking sheet (half sheet), but I make it work and wedge it in there. Nothing sticks to it but over time is gets somewhat stained and greasy.

3. Silicone moulds for chocolate making

Since I started making raw chocolate, one of the best tools I've bought are silicone moulds. I think they make the chocolate taste better too. My first attempt though, was a bit of a gong show.

4. Citrus juicer
Juicing by hand is totally fine, but after getting a citrus squeezer ($5 at ikea), the job is easier and I waste less. It gets used more for volume orders like zippy lemonade pops.

5. Jar funnel

This was bought on a whim at Princess Auto (Craig's store not mine). Only $1. Makes filling mason jars less messy.

What are your indispensable 5?

2 gluten-free, sugar-free ways to use almond meal (from making almond milk)

I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when I found commercial (sugar-free) almond milk. But with all my blissful consuming, pouring almond milk over everything, I had overlooked the ingredient carrageenan. There is research showing its potential harmful effects including gastrointestinal inflammation and it's in the brand I was drinking (Earth's Own). It's often found in other milk substitutes too. Not sure how I feel about that, so until I find a better alternative I make my own.

My almond milk recipe: 1 cup (soaked overnight) raw almonds + 3-4 cups water whirred like crazy in the Vitamix (you can add a little maple syrup and or vanilla if you wish). Squeeze the milk through a cheesecloth. What you are left with is lovely creamy almond milk and what-the-heck-do-I-do-with-it, almond meal.

These leftovers can be guilt inducing; expensive ground up almonds, what to do with them? Sure you can just eat them, or hide them in smoothies. Something amazing would be better. A search turns up many options including dehydrating (I might try that). But I discovered some tasty alternatives this weekend and wanted to share.
These muffins are the perfection in my quest for the perfect apple muffin. After creating many litres of applesauce last fall, I've been honing several variations. These are made with xylitol and taste truly amazing. Moist, fluffy, sweet (enough).

Sweet & spice apple muffins

Yield: 12 muffins

1 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1/2 cup xylitol
1/2 cup almond meal
2 tbsp coconut oil (or extra virgin olive oil)
1 cup gluten-free flour (I use Bob's)
1/2 tsp zanthan gum
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice

1. Mix applesauce, eggs, almond meal, coconut oil & xylitol in a medium bowl
2. Mix flour, z-gum, powder, soda and spices in another bowl
3. Add dry mixture to wet mixture and mix until well combined
4. Spoon into lined muffin tins (parchment is best)
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes (until pressing gently on the top of muffins feels slightly firm)

Try spread with: coconut oil, peanut butter and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Ok, on to the next thing......Almond meal crackers
Seed crackers. A little garlicky, crunchy and totally savory. Would hold up to dips, spreads and pretty decent on their own. The recipe is from the I Quit Sugar cookbook by Sarah Wilson.

Very, very good. I would recommend trying them at least once. Kind of addictive.

1⁄2 cup each chia seeds, sunflower and sesame seeds
1⁄2 cup almond meal 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon dulce flakes (optional)
1 cup water
2 teaspoon fresh herbs (I like sage for these)
2 garlic cloves, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine the seeds and meal in one bowl, whisk the rest of the ingredients in another. 
3. Pour the liquid mixture onto the seeds and stir until thick and combined.   
4. Spread the mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper until it’s 1⁄2 cm thick.  
5. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool a little. Slice into crackers, flip over and bake for another 25 minutes

2014 Update: another idea, Snicker balls! 

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