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It’s pumpkin processing day! It is a day that I love and loathe. I love it because it means FALL IS HERE and the yield is great! I loathe it because it takes a long time to cut the pumpkins, roast them, cool them, peel them, process, can up the puree, roast the seeds, and then clean up. OK, OK, if you’ve been over to my house, you know we pretty much never get the dishes done the same day. But, sometime in the next week (or two), Dave or I will have to do those dishes. Over the years, I have gotten better at the whole process (almost 8 years to the day, I wrote this post about my first attempt), but now the complicating factor is three adorable little helpers/distractors. 

Today, though, the stars aligned and the children played outside amazingly while I worked inside on this. I like to cook with the kids, but Baby T (16 months) is a wildcard with cooking right now. He loves to shove his brothers off of step stools, climb the Learning Tower and put his fingers where the knife is cutting or throw ingredients on the ground, etc. My go-to of wearing baby on my back doesn’t always work well with this one. He likes to be IN THE ACTION and will start clawing at my back and pulling my hair to get down. Needless to say, any sort of cooking is just hard right now. Yet, enter today! The lovely fall weather just made everything work out. I was able to keep the back door open to the screen porch and let Baby T play in the dirt pile along with V (5.5) and E (4) while they played away. In the morning I asked if they would like to go to the library, and for the first time ever I got a no. “We want to play a complicated construction game today, and we will need all morning–like hours,” V told me. Sure enough, they got intently into digging and arranging dirt, bricks, and streams of water into some sort of kiln-like structure. They shared tools and trucks peaceably for hours. It was amazing and rare! I still am shocked about it, and so, so grateful. It was needed after a ton of sibling conflict recently.

With them happy in the backyard, I excused myself to the kitchen. The weather was perfect for leaving the back door open to the screen porch so I could still hear all of T’s pips and babble and watch the three of them team together. Usually T has to stay in the porch or house  when I am in the kitchen (and then screams at me) because he gets into everything in the yard: climbs up the swing set ladder, picks mushrooms, etc. But, today he was happy to stay at the dirt pile and perfectly within sight and sound of me. Flitting in and out of the house to help him as needed, get everyone de-mudded and fed, etc. throughout the day actually worked well because it gave me breaks in the midst of the long process.  I actually think it was the most pleasant pumpkin processing day I’ve had! 

For the past few years, I have used “neck pumpkins” (Pennsylvania Dutch Crookneck Squash) rather than pie pumpkins (or even jack-o-lantern ones). They have such a sweet flavor and are comparatively easier to cut into than the super-thick-skinned orange variety. Plus, the slender, long neck is all flesh with no seeds so it yields a lot of puree. These two came from Great Country Farms

Neck Pumpkins Read more…


Cork Flooring Review – 1.5 Years Later

It is hard to believe that we finished our basement remodel almost a year-and-a-half ago! We hemmed and hawed over many decisions, but picking eco-friendly flooring was especially difficult for us. Ultimately, we picked USFloors/Natural Cork.  We went with their Greenguard Certified Almada line, which is click-together planks (so it needs no off-gassing glues to install it). Not only is it made in the USA, but they use solar at their facilities. Win, win, win!

Though our contractors had never used it before, they installed it easily over an underlayment of  QuietWalk Floating Floor Pad. They put double layers of the underlayment in places where our floor wasn’t completely flat.

It turned  out beautifully! But, would it endure? Would it work as well as it looks?


Almada Cork Floor in Basement

Almada Cork in Marcas-Areia

The answer, thus far, is yes! Here’s the rundown on our observations:

    • It is naturally warm under our feet and has a bit of bounce, which is great for my back issues. Even in the winter, I could walk on it with bare feet comfortably.
    • Our basement has moisture in the air (which a dehumidifier takes care of) and this low-level of humidity has had no negative impact.
    • It hides dirt very well, but is cleaned easily with sweeping when needed.  We’ve used a variety of green cleaners on it without issue (vinegar and water; diluted Murphy’s Oil Soap; or all-purpose cleaner with borax and castille soap)
    • The only thing that has damaged it was dropping a 50 pound table top. The corner of the table knocked out a small chunk of cork. (I suspect tile or cement would’ve cracked or chipped in same this situation.) The divet hasn’t grown since it happened (which was shortly after installation…boo). Though we haven’t yet replaced the damaged plank, our contractors replaced a defective plank for us with relative ease.
    • The kids drag baskets, push baby stollers, ride rocking horses, and propel themselves on ride-ons without issue. Almada is a higher-end cork floor, but we learned that cork is a product where you get what you pay for. The additional layers of protective coating on this brand are worth it!
    • We have one small section of mild buckling , but this is probably due to the nature of our uneven floor rather than the product. The cork deals with the slight unevenness fabulously. It isn’t visible, just a small rock when I step on a particular intersection of planks. This is like a squeaky spot on a hardwood floor, except this doesn’t squeak.
    • The color is holding true. We’d read that one concern with cork is that it fades. We don’t have much direct sunlight in the basement, so this is something I’ll not really be able to test down there. That said, we have leftovers from our basement project, and we plan to re-floor our kitchen with it down the road, and we do have a sunny kitchen.

Almada Cork Floor in Basement

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Let’s get this out of the way first: spray paint itself isn’t eco-friendly. You’re left with that pesky steel bottle and it’s rather stinky stuff, too. There, I said it.  Now that we’ve agreed on  that, let’s move on to the idea that spray paint does have green value in that it can impart new life to things that otherwise might just get dumped into a landfill. Here are five ways that we have used spray paint for home improvements:

1. Our old fireplace doors went from smoke-stained and outdated  to simple and lovely.

2. Our retro kitchen cabinet doors had layers of chipping paint and lacquer, loads of decorative trim, and possibly lead paint on them, meaning that sanding was out of the question. Textured spray paint was an easy way give them a new lease on life until we have a more defined plan for the kitchen.




3. When we bought our house, we had to refinish every single thing (as everything was covered in filth and roach droppings). To minimize cost and waste, we decided to wash and spray paint hinges and hardware rather than buying a whole-house’s worth of new ones.

Leftover floral foam works well for holding screws.

4. For the basement remodel, we freshened up old door handles purchased at ReStore so they would match our oil-rubbed bronze vibe. (We would have been wise to add a coat of lacquer.) (Painting helpers: a shipping pallet and the same trusty piece of floral foam, three years later.)

5. Going with flush-mount lights rather than recessed was one way we could save money on the basement remodel. Finding six matching, attractive, amply-bright lights for cheap was tough, though. Enter Craigslist. We found a lot of lights with a nice motif for a mere $35, but they were a terracotta orange-ish. Once again, spray paint came to the rescue.

There you have it: five ideas from our home. But, there are tons of other possibilities. What is something you saved with spray paint?