Monday, August 9, 2010

Recycled Wine Bottle Torch

I want to make these for my own backyard!! Our current torches are wretched, useless things, and these wine bottles are so much more attractive.

Full disclosure: this post is a shameless steal from Erik Anderson. You can read his complete post (with assembly instructions) here:

Recycled Wine Bottle Torch How To

Materials Needed:

1. Empty Wine Bottle (You can use any bottle you like as long as it’s glass and the neck is 1” in diameter. Be clever!)
2. Teflon Tape 1/2”
3. Copper Top Plate Connector (threaded for 3/8”-16 thread rod)
4. 1” Split Ring Hanger (threaded for 3/8”-16 thread rod)
5. 1/2” x 3/8” Copper Coupling
6. 1/2” Copper Cap
7. Two Hex Nuts (threaded for 3/8”-16 thread rod)
8. Two #10 x 1” Zinc Plated Wood Screws (if you’re mounting it to wood)
9. 3/8”-16 Zinc Plated Threaded Rod (I bought a 3’ rod and cut it down to 8, 4-1/2” rods with a hacksaw.)
10. Tiki Replacement Wick
11. Torch Fuel (For safety reasons, only use fuel made specifically for outdoor torches. i.e. Tiki brand)

Safety Note: This is for outdoor use only. Tiki brand recommends that the wick never be set higher than 1/4-inch, and I recommend that you exercise the same discretion and common sense that you would with any small open flame. Never leave your torches unattended.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A few new bags ...

... all with an interior zipper pocket!

Hope you like them as much as I do.

Monday, May 31, 2010


May has been a crazy-busy month for me! So I'll squeeze in one last post here with a look back - and forward - at Comfest.
For anyone who doesn't know, Comfest is the Columbus Community Festival - 3 days of music, activists, street fair vendors, and drum circles. My mom actually worked security at the very first ComFest over 25 years ago! I've been going for pretty much my whole life, and I'm really looking forward to being a vendor this year. I'll be sharing a booth with the talented Amy N. of Sweet Stella Designs & Patrice Lehockey.

This is a picture from last year, when 3 friends showed up wearing their 'Oh Sheet!' bags. From left: Katy G., me, Cece C., & Robin B.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rain Barrel Part 3: The Watering System

So the rain barrel is set up and ready to use! The final challenge of installation was to make an easy to use, practical system to water our vegetable garden. So in addition to the rain barrel, I also bought a hose splitter and 2 pre-measured lengths of drip tape.

The tricky part? Getting hoses the right length to carry the water from the rain barrel to the start of the raised beds. Fortunately, the hardware store has all kinds of neat tools and tricks.

I needed 2 lengths of garden hose - 1 about 7 ft, the other around 14. I bought one 25 ft hose and two hose end replacements, one male and one female. *Make sure you are buying the same size of hose and replacement parts!!*

Next, I cut the hose to the right length. It's important to make this cut as straight as possible!

Wiggling the hose replacement part into place is a little tricky, but it can be done! Remember to put the outer part (silver in these pictures) onto the hose first! Otherwise, you'll have to smack yourself in the head - just like I did.

Tighten up the screws, and you should be ready to go!

The great thing about the drip tape system is that we can turn it on and walk away for an hour. Our plants will get a slow, steady & gentle watering, and we won't be watering anything we don't need to be (like the weeds between the raised bed and our fence.)

Big thanks to The Rain Brothers for delivering my rain barrel and giving lots of advice! If you live in the Columbus area, I highly recommend them!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Rain Barrel Installation: Part 2

Ok, so we have a stand. Next step, actually hooking up the rain barrel to the gutter. We started by getting the stand where we wanted (and leveled) and then put the rain barrel on top. The next step is to get a hacksaw and cut the downspout at least 12 inches above the top of the rain barrel.

So far, pretty easy. Now, we have to trim the cut-off part of the downspout so that it will fit back on to the diverter. We followed the directions for size, but we actually used regular scissors to cut the gutter.

Next, we slipped the diverter onto the hanging downspout.

Then we placed the cut off downspout onto the overflow and strapped it back down, using the gutter strap that was already there. The kit came with about 3 ft of white tubing to connect the diverter to the rainbarrel, so we had to trim it down.

And that's it! The rain barrel is ready to use.

In the final episode of "Rain Barrel Installation", I'll tell you about the watering system I'm using for my veggie garden.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rain Barrel Installation: Building a Stand

It's a beautiful Sunday morning in my backyard - the birds are singing, the lilacs smell amazing - and I can see our newly installed rain barrel. While it was a big project, now that it's all done, I feel that I can say that most people would be able to get this done with a little help from a friend. Doing a project together is always more fun than going it alone anyway.

So, the first step to installing a rain barrel is building a stand - unless you live on a hill. Since rain barrels have no water pressure, elevating them uses gravity to push water through the hose. We decided to make our stand about 2 ft high.

1 - 4" x 4" x 8'
2" x 4" (we have a bunch of these that were used for a project & then disassembled. We ended up using about 28' worth.)
Outdoor rated screws - 3" long
Wood stain/treatment - we used a color called Canyon Brown
Table saw
Measuring tape
T-square (or something that helps you see when things are at nice 90 degree angles)

Unfortunately, Lowe's can't cut 4" x 4"s. We used our table saw, but quite possibly you could find a local lumber yard that would be willing to help you out for a small fee.

First, we built the base. Obviously, the 4" x 4"s were the legs.

We left the front bottom open because eventually, overflow from the gutter will end up coming out there. Our cuts weren't perfectly straight, but they were close enough. Even though we used our angle checker thing-a-ma-bob, we still had to tweak it a little - but that was easy enough.

Then we added the top. We left spaces in between the 2" to keep the weight down a little, and to keep water from puddling up on top. I'm sure you could use 1" x 4"s instead, we just have the 2"x 4"s already, and we like to reuse.

Finally, we stained the whole thing - we want it to be pretty water-resistant & last a long time, so we covered the stand pretty thoroughly.
Huge thanks to Steve for all of his work on this project. He is patient & thoughtful, and I couldn't ask for a better partner for any kind of project!

Up next: Installing the rain barrel!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Earth Day Sale from the Etsy Trashoin Team

To promote environmental awareness and celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day,
the Etsy Trashion Team is having a sale on Etsy for just one week:
April 16th through April 22nd.

The Trashion Team is a group of artists that creates art, jewelry, fashion and objects for the home from materials that were leftover, discarded, or found, and sell them on Etsy.

Trashion Team members will run promotions in their Etsy shops ranging from free shipping, to free gift with purchase, to up to 20% off. Visit these shops on Etsy for specific details about each participating artist’s sale:

Help promote environmental awareness. Visit the Etsy Trashion team blog
and the team Facebook Fan page during the Earth Day Sale Event April 16-22.

Trashion is all about bringing out the beauty in unconventional objects and materials. For team members, recycling is an art and an ideal. The Etsy Trashion Team is a group on Etsy for those interested in trashion. Etsy is a website which provides the general public with a way to buy and sell handmade items as well as vintage items and craft supplies.

Friday, April 2, 2010

An eco-tip that's a little ... batty.

Yesterday, my honey and I installed a bat box! (And by 'I', I mean that I handed him tools while he was 10 ft. up on the ladder.) We are really excited about this because in past summers, our yard has been overtaken by mosquitoes. Since we live in an urban area, it's hard for us to control things (like standing water) that encourages mosquito breeding.

A few bat facts ...
Most US bats eat insects. A single bat can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in one hour.
Fewer than 0.5% of bats have rabies. Since 1960 there have only been 40 reported cases of humans getting rabies from bats.
Bats like to come out to eat at night around dusk. Bats flight pattern is much more erratic than birds so look for this pattern.

We bought our bat house at Lowe's, but there are plans to help you build your own! Here's a link to several plans:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Toilet flushing is responsible for about 30 percent of all water used by the average American household, which means that almost 44,000 gallons of quality water is flushed away per family every year.

Upgrading to a high-efficiency toilet would be ideal, but since you & I live in the real world, there are some simple things you can do to improve your current model.
I've used something called a tank bag to reduce the amount of water my toilet uses per flush. It's basically a plastic bag that you fill with water and hook to the side of the tank. You could also submerge a filled water bottle - but add some rocks or sand for extra weight, and place them carefully!

Don't use a brick - this will degrade over time and can harm the toilet.

A leaky toilet can waste up to 200 gallons per day! To see if your toilet is leaking, drop some food coloring in the tank & wait 15 min. If the color shows up in the bowl, you've got a leak. There are some things you can do to fix it, but you might need to call a plumber.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Eco Tip #3! Recycled Paper Products

Conventional paper products use massive quantities of trees! Here's the facts on replacing virgin fiber products with recycled:

Toilet Paper
If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber toilet paper (500 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 423,900 trees.

Facial Tissue
If every household in the United States replaced just one box of virgin fiber facial tissues (175 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 163,000 trees.

Paper Towels
If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin fiber paper towels (70 sheets) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 544,000 trees.

If every household in the United States replaced just one package of virgin fiber napkins (250 count) with 100% recycled ones, we could save 1 million trees.

Of course, cloth hankerchiefs, rags, sponges, and cloth napkins are even better than recycled paper - but there are some messes you just don't ever want to think about washing off a rag. (I'm sure other pet owners know what I mean.)

Easy to find brands (using at least 60% PCW (post-consumer waste) and processed chlorine-free(PCF)): Whole Foods 365, Trader Joe's, CVS Earth Essentials, & Seventh Generation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Eco tip of the week - Biodegradable soaps

Start replacing conventional soaps & detergents with plant-based, biodegradable ones. Biodegradable products of any kind will break down into elements found in nature within a reasonable amount of time. 'Conventional' products are made with petroleum and chemicals that will take years to break down, and also contaminate our water supply.

Fortunately, biodegradable soaps are easy to find these days at just about any grocery store. You do need to look a little more closely - and be sure to read the labels. If a product claiming to be biodegradable doesn't have an ingredient list, it almost certainly includes unpronouncable chemicals.
EXTRA CREDIT: look for products that use recycled plastic for their containers - especially those that are using some Post-Consumer-Waste (PCW).

Some easy to find biodegradable products include: Method, Mrs. Meyer's, Ecover, and Seventh Generation. Trader Joe's also has biodegradable cleaning products.

It's easy being green, baby!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Eco tip of the week

I'm trying to start a new weekly feature here - one simple thing that one person can do to make their home (and planet) a better place to live.

Up first, my most recent eco-upgrade - a smart power strip! Like a regular power strip, you can plug multiple electronic devices into the strip, and it protects from power surges. Unlike a regular strip, it can block energy drain from devices that aren't on. It also automatically shuts down connected devices.

So, you plug your main device into the 'control' outlet (for me, this is the tv). The DVD player, speakers, & gaming system get plugged into the 'automatically switched' outlets. The DVR goes into a 'constant hot' outlet. When the tv gets turned off, everything except the DVR automatically gets shut down too.

This is great because, according to the National Resource Defense Council, TV's, stereos, etc, all drain as much power as a continuously burning 60-watt bulb - even when turned off!

I got my Smart Strip from They run between $25 -$40 dollars.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Handmade is the new black

... is the new black

Upscale shoppers are embracing artisans’ wares over those mass-produced. Score one for the American entrepreneur.

By Laura Vanderkam

Like many parents, when Joe and Amy Sharp of Columbus, Ohio, had their first son years ago, they soon found themselves "disgusted" by constant recalls of his cheap plastic toys. Unlike most parents, though, Joe, a carpenter, did something about it. He began making simple wooden rattles and blocks, discovering, says Amy, that "kids like using their imaginations if parents will let them." Friends clamored for the toys, too. And so, when the Sharps faced two mortgages after an investment property failed to sell, they wanted to turn this hobby into cash.

But how? Opening a store required capital. Selling at fairs took time. Maintaining a website necessitated skill — plus marketing expertise to draw traffic.

Fortunately, there was another option: launching a store on Etsy, an online portal founded in 2005 to sell all things handmade. The Sharps opened Little Alouette on the site in late 2007, uploading pictures and prices into the system. Within two years, with sales rising 600% from 2008 to 2009, it had become their full-time business.

They're not the only success story. As retail overall has been flat, Etsy's sales have risen fast enough (more than 100% in 2009 to $181 million) and enough other players, from BigCartel to and,have entered the craft portal space to suggest that consumers who still have disposable income increasingly want items like the Sharps' toys — that is, goods with stories behind them.

Buying in a 'special' world

"There's a little bit of a big-box backlash going on," said Jennifer Perkins, host of the DIY network show Craft Lab (and proprietor of the Naughty Secretary Club story on Etsy). It is, in some ways, simply a redirected snobbiness in an era when, as designer Tory Burch said recently, "it's not cool to be excessive anymore." But since the lust for all things handmade is giving American artists a real chance to make a living in these bleak times, it's far preferable to wanting to tote the same Louis Vuitton purse everyone else has got.

Etsy — founded by 20-something Brooklyn guys with eccentric tastes and sharp business instincts — and its brethren arrived at a fortuitous time. Consumers have grown accustomed to having high quality goods available whenever they want, and so, next, "we are increasingly engaged in making our world special," noted economist Virginia Postrel in her 2003 book, The Substance of Style. Corporations have obliged by, say, letting you choose the design on your credit card. But what could be more special than a handmade item? It truly is one-of-a-kind, a trump card in the ongoing game of signaling one's individuality and values. If you get bragging rights for serving your friends fair-trade coffee, you'll get even more bragging rights for serving said coffee in ceramic mugs hand-spun on a wheel by Alina Hayes, a Los Angeles-area artist whose work has been displayed at the American Museum of Ceramic Art in Pomona (and is also on Etsy; $37 for two cafe au lait cups). "More and more people want to connect with the person they're actually buying the goods from," said Hayes.

At the same time, Americans like Hayes, who did medical billing before heeding her calling as a potter, increasingly want to do creative, fulfilling work. That desire coincides neatly with a widespread need, in tough times, to augment the family budget. Throw in technology platforms that are relatively cheap ( and Etsy both charge 3.5% commissions, well below the 50% galleries often charge) and nearly idiot-proof, and soon you have hundreds of thousands of people listing their jewelry, pottery, wall art, hand-knit scarves and sweaters, and clamoring for inclusion in a weekly feature on Etsy's blog, The Storque, called "Quit Your Day Job" featuring sellers who've done just that.

Growing more hands

Of course, the majority of sellers on craft portals such as BigCartel or Etsy don't make enough to turn their decorated salt shakers or embroidered picture frames into livelihoods. Even the successful ones soon bump into the reality that we transitioned out of a handmade economy back in the 19th century for a reason: It's beastly hard to scale up.

Brandi Nelson and Brent Koby, whose Kukubee line of cartoon-covered pouches ($12 each) has been another top Etsy seller, told me that they are struggling with this question — how to meet burgeoning demand while staying committed to making affordable handmade goods. Koby joked that Nelson, the company's seamstress, should get a "six-arm implant." More realistically, "for us to expand, we will eventually need to bring in people who share the same passion for handmade as we do." The Sharps likewise plan to add staff to their workshop in Columbus, where they continue to crank out heirloom teethers and rattles ($12-$24)made of wood sourced from a farm 45 minutes from town. That's great, except that hiring Americans is expensive. That's why many manufacturers eventually outsource production to overseas factories. Long run, it will not work for Etsy to bill itself, as it has in puzzling fashion until recently, as a place for bargain hunters.

But that's not a bad thing — no one needs anything sold on most craft portals anyway. Instead, they're a great alternative for recreational upper-income shoppers who, as Saks CEO Stephen Sadove recently said, want to "get something they can't get elsewhere." He wanted them to fill that need at Saks. It would be better for America's growing artisan class if shoppers filled that need at places like Etsy instead.

Laura Vanderkam, author of the forthcoming book 168 Hours, is a member of USA TODAY's board of contributors.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Now on Twitter ...

I finally caved and started Twittering. I didn't really want to start yet another form of electronic communication to keep up with, but I figured I'd give it a shot.

Now, of course, I'm really liking it - I'm following some of my favorite local resturants/bars, the North Market, and lots of local artists!

Feel free to follow me - or make suggestions of other fun Twitter-ers I should be following!