Made to Order

Over the summer, Greg, my dad, & I spent many hours working on revitalizing our backyard. Out went the old garden box, in went lovely shrubs, and more sod than I want to think about.

IMG_5515This post is not about that.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped at Lowes and Home Depot which began our solar light obsession. We went from zero solar lights to sixteen solar lights. Yes, sixteen! Three color changing orbs in the front, nine little ones in the ground out back, and four on the deck rail.

Side note: They make taking Hazel out so much better because we’re not totally dependent on the flashlight to see her.

Today we’re going to talk about the deck rail lights. You see, the house came with busted up lights wired to something or other. We don’t know how they worked nor did we want to invest the money in figure out if they could. Solar lights seemed like the perfect solution.

deck lightsOne trip to Home Depot later, we had four fancy pants post lights.

deck lights-3Side note: Lowe’s had a non-existent offering of post lights whereas Home Depot offered about four different options.

We spent (and by we, I mean Greg) about an hour removing the old light fixture while I put together the new lights.

deck lights-8Fine– they came premade but I did remove the sticker over the battery.

They looked amazing and provided great light in the backyard until a friend whacked one with a chair at a BBQ causing the internal piece holding it to the base to break.

deck lights-7Ugh.

We had little urge to spend another $50 to replace the light.

Every time Greg walked past the busted light, he would launch into his 3D printer cause. If he had a 3D printer he could print the piece blah blah blah. Then I’d tune him out because he’s not getting one.

Side note: At $2000 a piece, he’s only getting one if we win the lottery or if he get a job that pays him double his current salary.

Now it’s time to eat crow (he’s still not getting one) but for $13, he had the piece printed. After drawing the part in SolidWorks, he sent it out to bid on and a local person with a MakerBot at home printed and shipped the part.

IMG_6285How did it compare to the original piece?

deck lights-11Pretty well, don’t you think and it fits too.

deck lights-12Five minutes later, our light was back in it’s home.

deck lights-18And Greg glowed over his 3D printed part.

deck lights-16




Let It Go

I’m not going to lie, Let It Go is on my current running playlist. It’s a great song from a wonderful movie but no one seems to love it as much as the under six crowd . . . Judging from my Facebook wall. Frozen is everywhere on my favorite sites from Etsy to Pinterest. Anna & Elsa are completely dominating the internets which has slowly worked into my brain.

So now you’re wonder why am I talking about f*cking Frozen and not some house project or delicious recipe. Here’s why– it’s craft time and craft time today entails crocheting your very own Elsa wig.

DIY Elsa Wig

Full disclosure: this was not for me to wear but for someone in the under six crowd and to force Hazel to wear for a picture.

What You Will Need

  • One skein Red Heart Yarn
  • One smaller skein of a white silver yarn
  • Crochet hook
  • Snowflakes (I used scrapbooking stickers)
  • Yarn needle
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Sequin tiara

1. First I crocheted this cap. It took about an hour/ hour and a half. Red Lion no longer has the pattern I used available. You can use this one but either stop once you get to the second color (otherwise the cap will be too low) or test on your child before deciding how many more rows are needed.

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig2. Cut twelves pieces of Red Heart yarn about 8″ long.

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig3. Find something about 4 feet long. I used our coffee table.

4. Start wrapping your white yarn around it (about 12 times) to create a “hair ball.”

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig5. Wrap your silver yarn around about 5 times.

6. Tie one of the 8″ pieces of yarn on the end (opposite of where your yarn ends are.)

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig7. Cut the other end to create strands.

8. Set aside and repeat 11 more times.

Now comes the fun (and some homemade graphics.

9. You’re going to attach the 12 “hair balls” at each dot.

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig10. Starting at the front, open the hair ball and tie it to the cap on the underside using the 8″ threads. I found working with the cap on my knee helped manage the yarn. Also, work with the crochet hook to pull it through.

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig11. Work down placing them pretty close together.

12. For the top of the “T”‘, I liked to work from the center out.

13. Now all your threads are hanging out on the inside. Using your crochet hook, pull them to the outside because they’ll get woven into the hair.

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig-1314. Find a model for this next stage. I used Greg but a pitcher or child will work too.

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig15. Start arranging the hair into a braid. This can take a bit of time because you’ll be moving hair around to cover any bald spots (aka the crocheted cap.)

16. Tie your braid off and trim the ponytail end to look neat.

17. Laugh at your husband because he looks funny as Elsa.

18. Taking a long thread and the needle, start sewing the hair in place. I tried to work with sewing it into the braid or around the edge but you need to sew it in the back too.

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig

For example, sew where the arrows are to help stabilize the yarn.

For example, sew where the arrows are to help stabilize the yarn.

Side note: don’t worry about people noticing the stitches because you can cover with snowflakes.

19. Attach tiara, I removed it from the headband and tied it to the cap.

20. Start glueing your snowflakes on.

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig-1121. Get a beer because you completed the Elsa wig!

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig-16DIY Elsa Frozen Wig-15

DIY Elsa Frozen Wig-14

MIAMM: Pineapple Upside Down Cake

I’ve been with Greg for almost six years and I’ve spent just as long trying to find something his  family will eat. My family pretty much eats whatever you put in front of them with the exception of me (no mushrooms, blech) but his family is a different story.

Then you throw in the one time I make brownies with black beans and the picky eaters start fearing your delicious looking desserts.

Side note: Know your audience before bring black bean brownies to try or else you’ll have to preface all baked goods with, “There are no mystery ingredients.”

So back to my dessert, after thinking about what foods I’ve seen them enjoy, lightening struck– Pineapple Upside Down Cake! Pineapple Upside Down Cake This recipe made two cakes so I sent one off to my family with the secret ingredient of bacon and a plain one for Greg’s family. I knew we had a hit when they didn’t even suggest us taking the leftover desserts home.

This cake was easy to make and offered more taste complexity (a good thing) than making it with just a boxes cake.

The Crowd Pleaser Pineapple Upside Down Cake (from Jam Hands)



  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 14 sliced pineapple rings (which is 1 1/2 20 oz. cans)
  • 14 maraschino cherries
  • Bacon crumbles (optional)


  • 2 cups flour (Or 1 1/2 cups flour + 6 Tbsp. cake flour + 6 Tbsp. ground almond)
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
*Not this makes two cakes
1. Remove you two cake pan for storage (aka your car trunk) and clean.
2. Assure husband they haven’t been their since you moved four years ago (maybe?)
3. Start making the topping by melting the butter and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until all melted and tasty looking.
pineapple upside down cake4. Place pineapple rings and cherries in the pans.
pineapple upside down cake-25. Top with the sugar/butter mixture.
pineapple upside down cake-36. Cream sugar and butter in your mixer.
7. Add one egg at a time while beating (crack into a separate bowl and then pour in to prevent shells getting into the cake).
8. Add the vanilla. Beat.
9. Add half your dry ingredients, half the sour cream and beat. Then incorporate the remaining dry/sour cream.
10. Pour batter over the sugar/butter/pineapples (divide batter in two to help make them even). You’ll have to spread it out a bit.
pineapple upside down cake-411. Put both cake pans on a cookie sheet to prevent anything dripping on the oven. You’ll want to do this otherwise you’ll set the goop on fire another time you use the over . . . not that it happened to me. PS- baking soda quickly puts out a fire.
12. Bake at 325 degrees for 35-40 minutes.
13. Remove from oven and let sit on a rack for 10 minutes.
14. Turn cake on to platter and enjoy!
pineapple upside down cake-5

The Marie Project

For as long as I can remember, my grandmom always had a plant of some sort rooting in a glass on her kitchen window sill. She must likely learned this trick from my Nonni who knew how to root her azaleas.

Side note: for those of you who don’t know what rooting is, it’s growing a plant from a clipping of another plant.

Well, yesterday I started my own rooting project with a few baby hostas. We have a massive hosta in the front which sprouts baby hostas all over the place. A few weeks ago, we were able to separate 12 hosta plants from three hostas in the front with seven transplanted hostas coming from the monster hosta.

Fast forward to yesterday and our much needed weeding day. Everywhere I turned there were little three inch hosta plants growing and I knew we would have homes for them by the end of the summer. So I did what Grandmom and Nonni would have done– gently removed the babies and placed them into pots.

Plus it’s thrifty and they were all about making due. By transplanting our 12 hostas and not buying new, we probably save about $120, since they run about $10 a piece.

Five pots and a few hours later, we had a weeded front yard and The Marie Project. It’s Day 2 of the project and my baby hostas are still alive! Let’s see how they fare by the end of the summer. Wish me luck!


A Change In Our Regularly Scheduled Program

Dear Readers,

Over the past few months I’ve been struggling with my work/life/blogging balance and I’ve come to the conclusion I can’t be a regular blogger anymore. I love sharing our project and meals with you but the time required for each post overwhelms me due to the fact there is only 24 hours in a day. The time required to processing photographs, write, and edit a typical post is roughly four hours.

The biggest sign I needed a break came when I made a ton of new recipes for our BBQ and I didn’t photography any of them.  Just thinking about the time to edit the food pictures on top of editing the office project pictures made me want to hide under the covers.

Please know that I will continue to share our projects with you but not on a twice/thrice weekly basis.  Probably once a week or so.

Side note: I do have a fabulously pineapple upside down cake to share with you next week.

So what will I be doing with my new found time? Well, I loaded up my Nook with some great books to read, started watching Orphan Black, walk Hazel more, and promised Greg not to completely load up our weekend with plans.

Happy Friday!

Love, Diane

Chalk One Up

Close your eyes and imagine a frame with potential but an ugly punctured canvas inside.  Have that image?

Good, because I’m an idiot who erased all the before and during images from this project.

A local thrift store hosts a monthly half off everything sale and for $5, we couldn’t go wrong with the frame (due to all the potential).  I knew it would make the perfect chalkboard sign for our patio and it would only take a few steps to achieve the desired results.

Chalkboards have been popping up everywhere from weddings to birthdays. Our patio’s cabinets have chalkboard contact paper on the top for when we have parties.  Why? Well, we tend to serve all drinks from the cabinet and it’s a great way to label what we are serving and where the beer is.  A framed chalkboard for above the bar has even more uses—during our Phillies Challenge (one beer/one hot dog per inning), we can keep tally on it, for Hazel’s third birthday we can write fun facts on it.  For our upcoming BBQ, it lists our libations.

DIY Chalkboard frameThe only reason I am willing to add so many chalkboard to my life is due to Chalk Ink.  Chalk Ink removes the need for old school chalk.  It works like a marker but is easily removed like old school chalk.

DIY Chalkboard frameSo let’s get started!

What you will need

  • Chalk Ink
  • Foam Core
  • Chalkboard paint or contact paper
  • Frame
  • Staple Gun
  • Spray paint

1. Remove any print/canvas that might be in your frame.

2. Spray paint it the color you desire or keep it as is (depending upon your frame).  I was aiming for a more Tuscan red but ended up with apple red.  Oh well.

3. Cut a piece of foam core to fit inside the frame.

4. Paint with chalkboard paint according to the can’s instructions.

5. Staple gun into the frame.

6. Chalk it up!

DIY Chalkboard frame