Rental-Friendly Faux Roman Shades

IMG_2915Our rental has these great french doors, but for some unknown reason, they’re the only windows in our townhouse that didn’t come with blinds.  Our landlord won’t let us install the hardware needed to hang binds, so I came up with a creative solution using command hooks.

First, I took a trip to my local fabric store and chose a cotton medium weight fabric.  For my two french doors, I needed about 4 1/4 yards.  I measured the window area and added 1 1/2 inches to each side to account for my hems.  Then, I cut my fabric to size.  As you can see, Aurora was a huge help while I was cutting the fabric 🙂

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Then I folded each edge of the fabric in 1/2″ and ironed to form a smooth edge.  This will smooth and hid the “raw” cut edges.IMG_2920

I made a second fold — this time 1″– and ironed smooth as well.  This will form the actual hem.IMG_2922

Once I had creased all my edges, I unfolded the corners. IMG_2926

To form a nice smooth corner, I flipped the fabric over and then folded it into a triangle.  Make sure the big square in the image above is a perfect triangle and all of your creases line up.  Place a pin into the triangle to hold the fabric in place.  the pin should point towards the folded edge just like in the image below.
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Sew right along this pin; from the folded edge to the outer crease.  Make sure to lock your stitches by reversing the sewing machine a few times at the beginning and end of the line.IMG_2933

Your sewn triangle should look somewhat like mine below.IMG_2934

Cut along your sewn line, leaving about 1/4″ of extra fabric.  IMG_2935

Inside-out your corner and refold all the creases.  I re-ironed all of my seams to keep them crisp then stuck a few pins in to keep the fabric in place.  Then, make a single stitch hem around the entire edge of the panel.
IMG_2936 At this point, my panel is done and hemmed.  Now, to hang the panel, I am going to create “tabs” for my rod to slip through.  First, I cut four 2″x3″ rectangles.
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Then, I folded in each side about 1/4″, ironed the creases, and pinned it.IMG_2942

Again, sew a hem around all 4 sides of the tab.IMG_2943

I pinned the tabs at the top of the panel, making sure to space them evenly.  I also wanted two tabs near the left and right edges to make sure to hold the rod in place.  Then, I sewed the tabs in place with my sewing machine.
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Now it’s time to cut my rods.  I used 2 dowel rods.  I laid them on my panel and marked where I needed to cut, making them just slightly shorter than the panels so they are hidden when hung.
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Then, I used a razor blade to cut the dowel rods on the marked line.IMG_2950

Thread the dowel rod through the tabs.IMG_2947

I mounted 2 evenly spaced command hooks at the top of my window (I put one in the middle of the first panel and the second in the middle of the third panel).  I mounted 2 more command hooks about a quarter of the way down the window on each side.  Then, I hung the rod on the top hooks.
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This part’s basically trial and error.  Hold the panel on each side and make a fold underneath.  Then, make a second fold, bringing the folds up to meet the lower command hooks.  Basically, they should look like roman shade folds.  I used a tape measure and chalk to mark where I made each fold.

Then, I cut pieces of elastic to make loops for the second hook.  I pinned the elastic to the panel at my chalk marks and sewed the elastic in place.  IMG_2952

Make sure to double over to ensure the elastic is secure. IMG_2957

Trim the ends. IMG_2958

Finally, hang the panels back up and fold your panels back up.  Hook the loops on the lower command hook to secure them.  IMG_2960

Ta da! Plus, you can unhook the loops to cover the full window.

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Let me know if you try out this DIY in the comments section below.  I’d love to hear how it worked for you!

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Mac and Cheese That’ll Knock Your Socks Off

This is my semi-famous mac and cheese recipe.  It is so good, that my grandma begs me to make it anytime I’m home from school (ironic right?).  It’s also a great dish for potlucks because it’s a little bit different than your typical mac and cheese so even if someone else brings macaroni and cheese, your dish will be unique.  The best part about this mac is the crispy cheese crust it forms, just pure yummy!

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Step 1: Boil Macaroni for 8 minutes then lay into casserole dish.  I like to use a dish with lots of surface area, because that means more crispy toppings!

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Step 2: Combine milk, flour, butter, mustard, salt and half of the grated cheese into a microwavable bowl.  Microwave for 1 ½ minutes, stir, then microwave for another 1 ½ minutes and stir.  If the butter is not fully melted, microwave for one more minute.  It should end up looking like the picture to the right below.

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Step 3: Pour mixture over macaroni, stir to mix cheese in, and then cover with the additional cheese.  Sprinkle pepper and paprika on casserole and bake at 375° for 40 minutes.

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Knock-Your-Socks-Off Mac and Cheese

(makes 4 servings)
Ingredients

2 cups macaroni
1 ½ cups milk
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons mustard
1 ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper & paprika

Preheat over to 375°.  Boil macaroni for 8 minutes, drain, and place in casserole dish.  In a microwavable bowl, combine the milk, flour, butter, mustard, salt, and half of the grated cheddar cheese.  Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring in the middle.  If the butter has not fully melted, microwave for an additional minute.  Pour this mixture onto the macaroni and then mix in.  Coat the macaroni in the remaining cheese.  Sprinkle with pepper and paprika and bake for 40 minutes.

Enjoy!

Celine

Review: Ricki’s Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit

My husband and I love mozzarella, but it’s so expensive to buy in stores.  I kept on finding make your own mozzarella recipes on Pinterest, but I wasn’t daring enough to try one out completely blind.  However, I was definitely intrigued.  So, I decided to try Ricki’s Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit.  It came with basically everything I needed, so I wasn’t worried about buying the wrong ingredients.  And, if it worked, it came out to about $4.50 per pound of mozzarella.  I’d say that was a pretty good deal!  I was a little worried about how hard it would be to find pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) milk, but was happy to find that both Aldi and Trader Joe’s brand milk is fine.

1. Dissolve 1/4 of a rennet tab in 1/4 cup of cool chlorine-free water and set aside.

2. Dissolve 1.5 tsp of citric acid in 1 cup off cool chlorine-free water.  Add to a big pot.

3. Dump one gallon of whole milk into pot and stir.

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4. While stirring constantly, heat mixture to 90°F.  The kit came with a dinky alcohol thermometer.  If you don’t have any other thermometers, I’m sure it would work fine, but I preferred to use my trusty digital thermometer.

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5. Remove from heat and stir in dissolved rennet using an up and down motion. (about 30 seconds)

6. Cover pot and let stand for 5 minutes or until mixture resembles custard (and you can see a clear separation between the whey and the curd).  Mine needed way more than 5 minutes.  I gave it about 15 minutes.

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7.  Cut the curds diagonally.  It says to use a knife, but there was no way I was using metal in my coated pot, so I used a spatula.

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8.  Place pot back on the burner and heat to 105°F while slowly moving the curds around with a spoon.

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9.  Remove from heat and stir for 3-5 minutes.

10. Scoop out curds and strain off whey.  Transfer drained curds to a microwave safe bowl.  I ended up doing this in a two-part process to drain off as much whey as I could.  I used a slotted spoon to transfer curds from the pot to a strainer.  Then after letting them strain, I transferred them to the microwave safe bowl.

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11. Microwave on high for one minute.

12. Fold curds into a single “loaf” much like you would knead bread.  Add 1 tsp of cheese salt and fold in.

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13. Microwave for an additional 30 seconds or in 30 second increments until curds are heated to 135°F.

14. Stretch cheese as you would taffy.  Cheese will become firm and shiny.  Caution — rubber gloves would probably be helpful for this step because the cheese is hot!

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15. Once cheese is shiny, roll into a ball or log then immerse in 50°F water for 5 minutes.

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16. Transfer to an ice bath for an additional 15 minutes.

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17. Wrap cheese in saran wrap to seal and refrigerate or use.  We ended up with slightly over one pound of mozzarella!

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You also end up with quite a bit of whey.  I ended up making some loaves of bread with the leftover whey, but feel free to get creative–there’s tons of things you can do with it!

I wanted to figure out the cost per pound of mozzarella, so I did some quick math:  The kit includes supplies for 30 batches and costs $25.21, so it’s about $0.84 per batch.  A gallon of whole milk is currently about $3.80 in my area.  That comes out to $4.64 per batch.  I got 1.05 pounds of mozzarella in a batch, so that’s $4.42 per pound.

I’ve heard it before, but never really believed it until I tried it myself–homemade mozzarella tastes way better than store bought.  This kit made making my own cheese very easy, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try making their own cheese.  I can’t wait to try the ricotta recipe next!

Have you tried making your own mozzarella?  If so, share your experience below.  I’m also looking for new ways to use the leftover whey, so share any suggestions below as well!

Enjoy!

elyse

Swagbucks Tips and Tricks: A Goldmine for College Students

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Hey guys, here’s my favorite way to earn a little extra spend money even when life gets crazy busy.  It’s Swagbucks and thanks to it I’ve earned over $430 since 2011 in Amazon gift cards with very little time investment.  How much you can make is all about how much time you have to invest, but trust me a little bit can go along way.  Here are my top tips for earning Swagbucks effortlessly.

1. Make Swagbucks Your Search Engine

I use Google Chrome and under “settings” you have the option to change which search engine your omnibar directs you to.  Swagbucks are earned randomly while searching, so by always using Swagbucks you can increase your chances of earning with literally no effort.

2. Get the App

On my iPhone, I’ve installed the Swagbucks mobile app.  This makes it ridiculously easy to answer the daily poll which gets you a Swagbuck daily.

3. Get the SBTV App

This app actually makes me move productive while I earn free money, go figure.  Through this app you can play continuous videos and are rewarded after every 5 videos.  How does this make me more productive?  Well, as an easily distracted college kid I can start videos playing on my phone and am less tempted to check it while working on homework or whatever because my phone is busy making me money.  (Yes it’s playing  movies right now!)

4. Codes

Codes are fast Swagbuck earners so here’s how you make sure to get them all.  First, allow the app to notify you, because it will let you know when there is a code up.  Then, instead of hunting it down on all the different forms of social media it may be on, just go to sbcodez.com and they’ll let you know what the code word is.  You can even enter the code right in the app!

5.  Referrals

Your friends earn, you earn, everyone earns!  Can’t go wrong with that.

*Bonus Tip*

Make your Amazon gift cards go farther with free shipping for college students!

Are you a pro Swagbucker?  Add your tips below!

Celine

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How to Separate Shot Gun Shells

Shotgun shells can be separated and the metal ends can be used in a variety of craft projects.  Here’s the easiest way to separate them:

Materials

Used Shotgun Shells
Two pairs of pliers
Your Stove

Step 1: Heat the metal end of the shell on your stove.  Either use a pair of pliers to hold the metal part in contact with the flame of your gas stove on medium heat or set the metal end on the coil or flat surface of your electric stove on low heat.

Step 2: Heat for about 30 seconds or until the base of the plastic begins to bulge.  Use the pliers to hold the metal end and tug from the top of the plastic end.  If the plastic part does not separate with a slight tug, heat the base longer and try again.

Step 3: Be careful not to let the plastic end melt to anything (It should be soft, but not sticky). Let the base cool and then make something fun!

Some potential craft projects using these:

Fridge magnets
Thumb tacks
Wall art
Jewelry

Let me know how you plan to upcycle the bases in the comments.

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Easy Kale Chip Recipe

Kale chips are a miracle food not only are they cheap, healthy, and easy, they’re also delicious!  This is a great recipe to have in your repertoire.

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Kale Chips

Ingredients

Kale (2 cups per serving)
Oil (I prefer olive)
Garlic Salt

Directions

Step 1: Rinse your kale and dry it as much as possible as this will allow it to get crisper when cooked.

Step 2: Remove all spines of the kale leaves.

Step 3: Coat cookie tray with layer of kale.  The more densely packed, the longer the kale will need in the oven.

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Step 4: Coat kale with olive oil.  I used my Misto which I love, but you can also use any oil in an aerosol can.

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Step 5: Sprinkle with garlic salt.

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Step 6: Cook in 350° oven for 20 minutes or until crispy.

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These chips are best eaten fresh from the oven, but will last longer in an air-tight container.

Nutrition facts courtesy of MyFitnessPal:

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*Note this snack has all of your daily Vitamin A & C!

Enjoy,

Celine

German Potato Pancakes

These pancakes were always a favorite in our house when we were growing up.  Celine used to out-eat every other person at the table when these were on the menu.  One of my favorite things about this recipe is that it is a lot less work than your typical potato pancakes.  Instead of fighting the mandolin (by far the most evil of kitchen tools!)  and grating potatoes, I can just throw everything in the blender.  They’re perfect for dinner or breakfast, and sure to be a hit at your house too!
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Step 1:  Gather all your ingredients.  I forgot the eggs–they were still in the fridge!

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Step 2:  Wash and peel the potatoes.

IMG_4819Step 3:  Chop the onions and dice the potatoes.

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Step 4:  Throw the eggs, salt, baking powder, flour, onion and 1/2 cup of potatoes in the blender.  Grate.

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Step 5:  Throw the rest of the potatoes in and grate until smooth.

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Step 6:  Heat oil in frying pan and drop batter in by ladleful.

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Step 7:  Fry until brown then drain on paper towel.

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Step 9:  Garnish with your favorite topping, and enjoy!  We had ours with sour cream and sautéed mushrooms and onions.

German Potato Pancakes

(makes about 12 pancakes)
Ingredients

2 eggs
1 small onion
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 cups of cubed, raw potatoes (we usually use russets)
Canola or vegetable oil for frying

Wash, peel, and cube potatoes.  Chop onion.  Put eggs, onion, salt, flour, baking powder, and 1/2 cup potatoes into blender.  Grate until there are no lumps.  Add remaining potatoes and grate until smooth.  Heat 1/2″ – 1″ of oil in a frying pan.  Make sure oil is very hot or pancakes will not cook properly.  While oil is heating, line a plate with multiple of layers of paper towels.  Use a ladle to pour 2″-3″ diameter pancakes into skillet.  When edges begin to brown (about 2 minutes, depending on the heat of your oil), flip pancakes using a spatula.  Fry for an additional 1-2 minutes until both sides are evenly browned.  Place pancakes on paper towel-lined plate until ready to serve.  Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

Enjoy!
elyse

Staying Healthy on a Budget

Staying healthy doesn’t have to cost a lot.  Here’s a few tips to guide your path to frugal fitness!

Stock Up at Your Local Farmers’ Market  

Prices are usually significantly cheaper than at the grocery store, and the produce is local.  Plus, many towns have indoor farmers’ markets year round.  Local Harvest has a great search engine to find a market near you.

Shop by Season  

It’s basic supply and demand: in season fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper because they’re easier to stock and usually don’t have to be shipped from other parts of the world.  The USDA has an interactive seasonal produce guide on their site.

Grow Your Own  

It’s much cheaper to grow your own produce.  Plus, you can freeze extras to use during the winter.  Even if you don’t have a lot of space, you can grow many things in pots on a patio or deck.  We usually grow peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and other assorted plants in pots and lined crates.

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Meal Plan — Based on What’s on Sale  

It’s a lot easier to resist the urge to grab that easy pizza on the way home from work if you already have a healthy alternative planned and bought.  Plus, by basing your meals on what’s on sale, you can save a little extra cash.

Brown Bag It

Same deal.  If you already have a healthy lunch packed and prepared, it’s a lot easier to avoid the temptation of ordering out.

Buy in Bulk  

For non-perishable items, shop around.  Many times it’s cheaper to buy healthy grains, protein powder, supplements, and other healthy essentials from warehouse stores or from Amazon.  For example, you can get 2 pounds of chia seeds for $12.

Skip the Gym Membership

Unless you’re a diehard gym rat, chances are there’s a cheaper way to get your workout in.  There are plenty of free workout videos on YouTube.  Can’t live without a treadmill/stationary bike/elliptical?  Check Craigslist.  There’s usually plenty of equipment at greatly reduced prices looking for good homes.  If Craigslist isn’t for you, you can also find good deals on equipment at Amazon.  I recently got this folding exercise bike for $150.  It’s sturdy, quiet, and takes up about as much space as a dining chair.

 

Go Outdoors

Sure this may not be the most desirable option in the dead of winter, but as the temperature begins to rise take advantage of the great outdoors.  Whether you bike, hike, swim, or start a pickup frisbee game, you’re getting your workout in and having fun!  Take advantage of parks and playgrounds in your neighborhood–many have fields and courts you can use for free.

Niagara Gorge

Get Paid to Stay Fit

Check to see if your employer or health insurance provider offers any incentives to stay healthy.  I’ve seen everything from a $75 gift card for scheduling a yearly checkup to a free FitBit to promote a healthy lifestyle.  If you can get something free for taking care of yourself, it doesn’t hurt to ask!

Have a great day!

elyse

7 Valentines Day Gift Ideas for the Man in Your Life

1. Lifeproof Phone Case 

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This is a must for your on-the-go man.  This gift shows that you respect his need for adventure and know how to help him pursue his passions.

2. An Experience

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Whether it’s a concert, sporting event, or weekend away, your man is sure to love the sentiment put into creating a unique experience for him.

3. Sipping Stones

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Nobody likes watered down whiskey.  Your man is sure to appreciate these sipping stones, especially when paired with his liquor of choice.

4.  Beer Brewing Kit

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Has your man caught a case of the “IPA Bug”?  If so, he’ll love feeling like a mad scientist and making his own. *Bonus you get yummy beer too!

5. Google Chromecast

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Is your man tired of watching House of Cards off of his computer screen?  Or messing with lots of cables?  This is the gift that lets him know you fully support his Netflix addiction.

6. Credit Card Multitool

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If your man likes to be prepared for everything this is a great gift.  It conveniently fits right in his wallet, so he’ll never be caught off guard without these useful tools.

7. Fitbit

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How’s your man doing with his New Years resolution?  Fitness couldn’t be easier or more fun than with a fitbit activity tracker.

Have any more manly Valentines day gift ideas?  Share them below!

Happy Shopping,

Celine