Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

Sarah: DIY Faucet Fix…sort of March 2, 2014

Filed under: DIY Projects — suburbanpioneers @ 10:19 pm
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a temporary sink handle using 1/4 inch stainless steel tubing

a temporary sink handle using 1/4 inch stainless steel tubing

This is what happens when you’re too cheap to call a plumber and your partner is an electrical engineer who builds flow systems using stainless steel tubing.  Some might call it a nuisance.  I call it ingenious.

When your two choices are to spend a few hundred dollars to call a plumber about a broken faucet or to wait until it’s not the middle of the work week to fix your sink, I’ll take the second any day.  Besides, this look is a vast improvement over the previous option:

sad, broken sink

sad, broken sink

Cheap is not always better.

Cheap is not always better.



















You might not be shocked to discover that we are in the market for a durable faucet fixture.  We are taking recommendations now.  My next challenge: what to do to reuse a 1/4 inch stainless steel tube when it is no longer needed as a handle?  Also taking recommendations on this.


Lauren: How to Turn a Stick into a Work of Art February 18, 2013

There’s an empty space on my dining room wall that’s really been bugging me. I had wanted to hang a work of art in that space–a somewhat abstract portrait, possibly done with oils. So far, I haven’t been able to find the picture in my mind’s eye, at least, not one within my budget. After almost five years of an empty space, it was time to execute a backup plan.




Supplies Needed:


Clothespins (amount depends on length of stick)

Wood Finish Stain

Polycrylic Protective Finish


hooks, nails, or fishing line

Step One: Procure a stick. Luckily, our tree in the backyard sheds sticks whenever there’s a thunderstorm. . . and on windy days.

Step Two: Scrape, peel, rip, and/or sand the bark off. My stick had been sitting outside for a while so half of the bark came off very easily. The other half I had to work for.  Have I ever mentioned that our power sander is my favorite tool. of. all. time.


Step Three: Wipe off the dust and dirt with a cloth. In the direction of the grain, apply wood stain with cloth or brush. I bought my stain at a Habitat for Humanity resale shop for $1. I did about three coats. (Follow directions on stain can to see how long to wait between coats). Stain clothespins as well.

You could enlist a helper at this point, but beware that wood stain. . . stains. And that helper might just rub it all over his face.


DSCN1477 DSCN1478


Step Four: Apply the polycrylic (another $1 Habitat purchase) onto stick and clothespins. I did another three coats.

Step Five: Attach clothespins onto stick using superglue with the spacing you desire.

Step Six: Hang onto wall (or get a handy man to do it for you). We hung our stick with white hooks on our crown molding and fishing line and by “we” I mean my husband. Sometimes its very convenient to be married to an eagle scout who remembers how to tie weird knots and stuff.

Clip up pictures, children’s art, or anything else that you want displayed.

And there you have a functional work of art for super cheap!

Total Project Cost:

Stick: Free!

Clothes pins: $1

Wood Stain: $1

Polycrylic: $1

Superglue: $3

Fishing Line: $6

Total: $12


Lauren: How to Turn a Pillowcase into a Scarf! January 31, 2013

I am often cold in the winter so you’ll rarely find me without a scarf wrapped around my neck to keep me warm. I came across some scarves that I liked at a store (which shall remain nameless), but price tags that I did not: $14.99! I couldn’t part with that much money for a long rectangular piece of fabric. . . especially when I have a sewing machine at home.

So I made my own. I found three pillowcases from a thrift store and paid around $2 each. Two are Egyptian cotton and the other is jersey. All of them are super-soft  which is a requirement of mine for scarves. It only took me about a couple hours to make three.

Step One: Go rummaging through your linen closet or the local thrift store and find some pillowcases (king size is best).


Step Two: Cut it to the size you would like. I cut about an inch and a half off one side. I also snipped off the bottoms of the Egyptian cotton ones (near the open end) because they looked too pillowcase-y.

Step Three: Fold over all the edges and iron. You could either fold over twice and hem or fold once and use an overcasting stitch. I did some of each.

Step Four: Sew around all the sides on the fold. You made a scarf! Add embellishments if you’d like. To the jersey one, I added prints of keys.


Step Five: Waste twenty minutes of your life watching YouTube videos of people tying scarves in all sorts of different ways. (I know I’m not the only one that has done this; there were 300,000 views. . . )




Lauren: Salted Caramel Mocha / Hot Chocolate December 12, 2012

This is one of my very favorite treats. I like the homemade version even better than the Starbucks one- and so does my wallet, which also makes my husband happy. It’s a win-win-win!


Shout out to my incredibly talented sister-in-law who made the mug!


2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp honey

1/4 cup water

2 tsp caramel (Try to find some at the store with only five or six ingredients. They are out there! Or make your own!)

generous pinch of sea salt (not coarse)

1 cup milk

Homemade whipped cream (see below)

caramel and salt (for drizzling and/or sprinkling)

Microwave Directions: 

1. Add cocoa powder, honey, and water to a mug. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Add caramel and sea salt. Stir until dissolved.

2. Microwave milk in a seperate glass for one or one and a half minutes. Slowly pour into chocolate sauce while stirring. Top with whipped cream, caramel, and salt.

Stovetop Directions:

1. Add cocoa powder, honey, and water to a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until honey is dissolved. Add caramel and sea salt and stir until both are dissolved.

2.Add milk. Heat until hot but not boiling, stirring occasionally.  Pour into your favorite mug and then top with whipped cream, caramel, and salt.

For the more caffeinated version:

Reduce milk to 1/2 cup and add 1/2- 3/4 cup strong coffee. Pour in the coffee at the same time that you add the milk in the recipes above.

Homemade Whipped Cream:

1. Chill the mixing bowl for about fifteen minutes. Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract to the cold bowl. Mix on medium speed until soft peaks form (about five minutes). Don’t leave it too long or you’ll make yourself some butter!


Sarah: Join us for Deprocessed December! December 6, 2012

I don’t know about you all, but I find December one of the harder months to resist…


In fact, I’d better just admit the dark (or milk) chocolate truth.  I love most sweets.  And chocolate is pretty much at the top of the list.  I would eat it for breakfast.  And lunch.  And dinner and dessert, too.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I have eaten it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert in various forms (and quite possibly on the same day).

The down side (apart from cavities and possible weight gain)?


The problem is that, in December, the chocolate pie, the chocolate chip cookies, the hot chocolate, and all the other sweets that end up getting passed around the office or at a potluck or with family are often processed.  And that’s pretty much because we all think we don’t have enough time to make actual food with real ingredients.

That’s why we’d like to invite you to join us on a winter adventure: Deprocessed December. Let’s kick the intake of chemicals, preservatives, refined sugars, and hydrogenated oils this month.

That doesn’t mean we won’t eat sweets or snacks or other delicious comfort food at all.  No, indeed!  That’s not possible for me in December (or any other time, really).

Instead, we’ll look at all the things we could easily be making with real food, without additives.

Every few days, we will post a recipe for snacks or food that we often buy prepackaged that just isn’t that difficult to make at home.  Here’s our promise: as few ingredients as possible.  No refined sugar or prepackaged items.  And as fast as possible.  The above stipulations are necessary because we’re both busy people with children who scream if we are in the kitchen too long.

So…this might mean spending just a few extra minutes in the kitchen before the office holiday party or the family gathering. But our bodies, our scales, and our wallets will thank us for resisting the over-processed and instead taking responsibility for the process.  Who’s in?

And to start us off, here’s our first recipe:

Replace this   Protein Bars which not only contains exciting ingredients such as Organic Oat Syrup Solids and Vegetable Glycerin in addition to the ever-mysterious “Natural Flavors,” but also costs $1 per bar

With this:

Homemade Protein Bars

2 c. flour (+ more if needed)
2 c. rolled oats
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. peanut butter (all natural…no sugar, no oil)
1 c. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. molasses

Those are all the necessary ingredients…the fun part comes when you add extra goodies:

1/2 c. flax seed (this just makes it healthier, but if you omit, you might need more flour)
1/2 c. slivered almonds or walnuts or any other nut you desire
1 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract (or none at all if you prefer)
1/2 c. raisins, cranberries, chocolate chips, or any other goodies

Combine all dry ingredients (flour, oats, salt, baking soda, flax seed, nuts, and dried fruit/chocolate.  Then stir in wet ingredients (peanut butter, maple syrup, and molasses).  Press mixture into a 9×13 baking dish and bake 20-30 m. until a fork stuck in it comes out clean.

Screen Shot 2012-12-05 at 10.43.31 PM

A 9×13 baking pan will yield about 12 thick and delicious bars.  I eat them for breakfast.  Or lunch.  Or dinner or snack, as the mood strikes.

And…to give credit where credit is due, I would like to thank Terry Walters’ book Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source for inspiring me to bake without butter and sugar.  Her “Teff Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies” on page 275 were a revelation.  The purchase of the entire book was worth it for that one recipe!


Lauren: Colors to Dye for. . . well, sometimes November 14, 2012

Filed under: DIY Projects,Natural Dyes & Fabric Crafts — lkcook20 @ 1:46 am
Tags: , ,

I dubbed this past Saturday and Sunday  “dye weekend.” I’ve begun to dip my toes into the waters of natural dyes for fabrics. The process is similar to dying Easter eggs naturally (Regular food coloring and egg dye have petroleum-based ingredients in them. See future post). The fun part is that there are no harsh chemicals and a virtual color surprise lurks behind every pot.  And yes, I mean a literal pot.

Everything I’ve read recommends that separate pots be used for food and clothes, so I went out to a thrift store and bought a $5 pot– a little pricey, but I got it anyway because I wanted to get started right away– a $.75 wooden spoon, a white pillowcase, and a white shirt to go with the undershirt I’d already stolen from my husband’s drawer (shhh. . .). 100% cotton, wool, or silks take the dye the best.

First, I soaked my garments in a “fixative,” which helped the dye adhere to the garment.

The “fixative”: just regular ol’ table salt

I chose the pillowcase as my first victim. Warning: what follows is the most unappetizing recipe I’ve ever typed.

Combine 12 cups of water and 3/4 cups of salt. Bring to a boil, add fabric, and simmer for an hour or so, stirring occasionally. Then rinse in cold water and you’re ready to dye.

Then I put the pillowcase in a turmeric bath.

Combine 12 cups of water and 4 Tbsp of ground turmeric, bring to a boil, and simmer 15 minutes. Then add fabric, simmer (stirring occasionally) for 45 minutes, then turn off heat and let it soak for as long as you want. Rinse, hang to dry (preferably outside b/c if you hang it in the bathroom, it might drip and form a yellow puddle that looks suspiciously like urine and your dog might get in trouble unnecessarily).

This is what the pillowcase looked like after the dye bath:

A bright yellow with a slight orange tint

After one cold rinse and then a cold wash cycle it looked like this:

It’s virtually almost the same color. It really did not fade nearly as much as I thought it would, but it still has a faint turmeric smell so I’ll have to wash it again.

When I bought the pillowcase, I had ideas of turning it into a scarf, but now I think it might make a nice little girl’s dress.

I also conducted two other experiments: one, with pink coneflower leaves and the other with shredded potato. Yes, I used an actual potato. The pink coneflower leaves turned my nice white shirt a b.o. stain brown.


After- hard to see the subtle difference, but it’s just enough to make me never want to wear the shirt


The shredded potato did make a grayish design on my husband’s shirt, but it doesn’t look as cool as I had hoped.

Hope my husband was done with this shirt. . .

And, after leaving the shredded starch on the shirt overnight, the potatoes seemed a little gross and moldy in the morning. I suppose every scientist has some failed experiments now and again.


1. Don’t try to use the natural dyes to cover up stains. The fixative and then the dye seem to emphasize stains all the more.

2. You may want to plan to have a freezer meal or takeout for dinner on a “dye day” because with dyes and “fixatives” simmering for hours, it’ll feel like you’ve already been slaving over the stove and you won’t want to cook–at least, that’s how I felt.

I have more schemes for future dye attempts with other ingredients I can find around my house. Pioneer Thinking has a great list of natural dye sources. And, my husband has a whole drawer full of more potential test subjects. . . who says undershirts have to be white anyway?


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