Monthly Archives: July 2013

Hey, Do We Have Any Basil? Why Yes, We Do!

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A mediocre meal becomes a masterpiece with the right balance of herbs and spices. Every herb has certain properties and flavor that when used properly, really makes the dish. Of course, on the flip side, you can't just throw in herbs willy nilly and hope they work. You can ruin a meal that way. I know lemon isn't a spice, but it used for flavoring, so I'm going to use it to make my point. Our kids were cooking spaghetti and were trying to follow our example of adding some flavoring to the canned sauce. Instead of peppers (which they don't like), onions and some select herbs, they decided to add lemon juice. They've seen me add lemon to flavor other dishes and figured, what the heck!? Commence vomiting! It was nasty!!

You can buy whatever herbs you want in expensive little bottles. The herbs are decent, but not great. It seems the bottled herbs lose a lot of flavor in the processing and packaging. If you really want to wow the dining table, you've gotta use fresh herbs. There is no comparison. You don't have enough room in your yard for a garden you say? You don't know how to manage soil ph levels, compost, bugs, watering, and fertilizer. Lame. That's right, lame. Stop being a whiner and build yourself this hanging herb planter.

I used some more of my grandpas's barn wood and some of the other materials I talked about in my barn wood mason jar wall sconce post to include the large hose clamps and mason jars. With your board hanging vertical decide how far apart you want the mason jars to hang. Nail the hose clamps on and start to prep your mason jars. Use potting soil you can get ready mixed in a bag and pick the herbs you use most. I decided to grow basil, cilantro, and chives. Plant the seeds in your jars and then secure the jars in the clamps. Figure out a way to hang your little herb garden. I used an eye bolt as you can see in the video below. Turn your jars at an angle toward the sun and all you have to do is water when it gets dry.

One note about using mason jars has to do with the watering. There is no drainage, so if you overwater or don't have a good sunny spot, you may start to get some moss and/or mold growth in the jar. You have to keep an eye on the dampness of the soil. But if your garden is hanging on your front porch anyway, you'll see it every time you walk into your house. That's so much easier than trying to remember to go into the backyard to water!

When your plants start to get too big for their britches, no problem. Go ahead and trim your plants and prep a spot in your kitchen to hang them upside down to dry. Home dried herbs can be saved and used during the cold winter months when nothing is growing, making your garden a year round affair. And home dried herbs retain much more flavor than those store bought bottled ones. As an added bonus, hanging drying herbs looks cool in your kitchen.

So check out the how to video below and make your own mason jar herb garden. Don't worry if you don't have barn wood. You can find a cool piece of driftwood at the beach or just use a nice looking board. No excuses!

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

So You Want to Make Money Online

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You gets ads in your email inbox all the time telling you how much money you could make online. You see guests on the daytime talk shows you watch while filling out resumes. They talk about how they make $10,000 a day online and you can too. You’ve read blog entries and tried websites. You’ve taken surveys online and have some great ideas for YouTube videos that you are sure will go viral. Well, I’m here to exhort you to enthusiastically pinch yourself awake and get a life. Can you make money online? Absolutely! Will it be quick or easy? Not a chance.

If you were starting your own business, you wouldn’t expect to show up on your first day, unlock the door to your newly rented office spaces, and have a line of customers around the block. You wouldn’t print your own diploma, put it in a nice frame and start seeing sick patients! OK, so maybe you would, but I’m hoping the majority of my audience is made up of better stuff. So why do people think going online is any different? Why do people think it takes less effort to be successful online? It’s like the Internet makes people stupid.

I am here to tell you that it takes time, energy, and hard work to make money online just like it does in real life. I am going to dedicate a series of posts to online money-making ideas because I dabble in a few. I don’t expect to make big money and I haven’t really put in the time or investment to do so. I do it more for a little extra cash now and then. Some of them could be bigger money makers if I really invested the time, but I have a good stable job and I don’t depend on my online activities to pay the bills. If I can make a few bucks doing what I enjoy, then why not!?

I will dedicate the first entry to my Zazzle store. Zazzle.com is a website where you can submit your own designs and they will print those designs on a multitude of different items to include shirts, hats, bags, stickers, key chains, iPhone cases, speakers, coffee mugs, plates, clocks, etc, etc; you get the idea. You take your designs and manipulate them on the Zazzle template specific to each item and then post your creation for sale in your own Zazzle store. You can design and post each item separately or do a bulk creation. There are pros and cons to each. Separate creation takes time. You have to create the template for each item, choose the color, write the title, write the description, pick a store category, pick a Zazzle category, and choose tags. But each item is uniquely designed to look its best. With bulk creation, you get your design onto a lot of products quickly, but your image may not be positioned where you want it and the colors or text may not be just right. I’ve done both and greatly prefer individual creation despite the added time commitment.

You earn money by getting paid a percentage of the cost of the item. You can even choose your percentage. For example, you can increase your profits by electing to receive a higher percentage. However, the cost of the item will go up, thus potentially reducing the number of sales. Zazzle takes its cut no matter what, as it should.

The trick is to find a unique design that has wide appeal. Create a niche product so that anyone searching for your tags will be taken to your store. For example, one of my best-selling designs is of Sicily. There are a few other sellers of Sicilian themed items on Zazzle, but I spent a long time in Photoshop creating a unique and high quality graphic. Sicily may not be one of the most common search terms on Zazzle, but whenever it is typed in, my designs pop up close to the top.

Zazzle items are high quality and worth their cost. There is real money-making potential. They add new product lines all the time and it takes time to keep up. If you want your design on every available product you are going to spend hours and hours. Add a second or third design and compound your time accordingly. Zazzle submits a payment as soon as you reach the minimum threshold of $50. You will then get the money deposited by the 15th of the following month. You can also choose to keep the money in your Zazzle account or spend it on Zazzle products. Zazzle sales go up dramatically during the Christmas holiday and there are smaller peaks for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, and other special occasions.

As a member you get frequent email promotions for great discounts. I have used my earnings and discount codes to buy some awesome gifts.

I’ve had a store on Zazzle for about 4 years and have made around $1500. I have, in spurts, worked on and created a few graphics, but really haven’t consistently invested that much time into my store. I’ve also spent very little time promoting my store through connections with other Zazzle retailers or through social media or websites. I’ve selected a more passive role in just letting users find my store through search terms. If I can make fifteen hundred bucks doing essentially nothing, think what I could do if I really started promoting my store!

Check out my Zazzle store, search through the products they have available in other stores, and try your hand at creating a product to sell. Who knows, with a lot of work and time, you may just beat the odds!

Tell me what you think in the comments.


See other gifts available on Zazzle.

Lazy Summer Days on the Porch

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The front porch, a place to sit with a glass of lemonade, talk to the neighbors, and watch the kids zoom up and down the street on their bikes. It's a perfect place to watch a summer lightning storm or read a good book. If you are lucky, you have a large wrap around porch complete with a porch swing. If you have spent a little time creating the perfect porch, maybe you have a cooler and some speakers to blast summer hits from the Beach Boys.

Shift scenes to a city park. You have all seen the iconic pictures of old men playing checkers or chess in the park right? Ringers sit and wait for unsuspecting challengers. Old men while away the hours until their wives call them home to supper, talking about the good ole days and swapping stories and jokes. People walking their dogs stop to watch the action and say hello to the regulars. Runners wave as they pass and skateboarders zoom by with headphones blasting deep bass beats.

How about combining the scene at the park with the relaxing atmosphere of the front porch? Create an outdoor checkerboard the perfect size for your front porch and discover the secrets of lazy days shouting “King me!” and scoring multiple jumps. For this checkerboard, all you need are pieces of scrap wood, preferably a 4×4, some paint, and some patience. Don't worry about your board being perfectly level or smooth. You are going for the outdoor homemade look. You want something that would sell for big bucks at a folk art store and would be the upscale envy of any Cracker Barrel customer. A steady hand and some paint complete the board.

So what, pray tell, would you use for pieces? You could always steal pieces from your game closet, but what fun is that? Instead, collect some bottle caps of your favorite beverages. We went with the epic battle of cola vs root beer. You could do Coke vs Pepsi or even use caps from something a little stronger. The best thing about it? Someone just has to drink the sodas so you can use the caps. Tough life eh?

Check out my how to video below and then fire up the saw. Summer's half gone!!

 

 

 

Oh No! They Found Out You Have Tools…and Skills!!

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You've been working diligently to hone your DIY skills. You have tackled seemingly impossible projects and emerged victorious. You have made too many trips to the hardware store as you learned the hard way what materials you actually need. You have had to tear out your work and start over because it just did not turn out the way you envisioned it in your head. And during the course of all of your hard work and hard earned skills, you have acquired tools. If you are like me, many of your tools can be attributed to a certain project. For example, I built a set of mudroom lockers and to join boards together finally invested in a biscuit joiner. I had always wanted one and will use it forever. I just needed a justification to pull the trigger. As you build more and more projects, you will eventually have a workshop full of tools.

What is one of the greatest joys of DIY? Why boasting about your new skills and showing off your work of course!! You love it when people ooohhh and aahhh over that repurposed coffee table you just built or that barn wood wall sconce you just put together. It feels good. There is a sense of accomplishment and pride. Maybe you recycled or repurposed something and you feel great about that. Or you accomplished something you never thought you would be able to do. You learned by doing and are proud of it!

So your friends come over and are inspired by your creations and they get motivated to DIY. Of course, they don't realize that you had a lot of little projects and failures leading up to this latest accomplishment. You've invested hours and hours of hard work, sweat, and saw dust to get to where you are now. But they see you as an average joe (or jane) and they say to themselves “If he can do it, so can I!” You are happy for their new found excitement to DIY, but you dread what is inevitably coming…the phone call. “Help!!”

Your friend decided to read “War and Peace” before working his way through “Dick and Jane.” And you get to pick up the pieces. You have two choices: you can assume the role as mentor, or you can let him learn the hard way, throw him into the deep end to sink or swim. Why should you help when he hasn't paid his dues? He needs to learn to start small! Are you willing to snuff out the DIY flame you so recently kindled? At some point in your DIY career, someone helped you. There is a mentor in your past who took the time to give you pointers and help you out. Now it's time to pay it forward.

This is my take. I want to help, but I also want to make it worth my time personally. I'll get satisfaction and blessings from helping of course, but I can also take the opportunity to learn or try something new myself. Try a new joining technique. Use a new tool. Try different fasteners. Hone your skills. I recently had a friend ask me to help build cabinet doors and shelves. Have I built doors and shelves before? Yes. Did I agree to help anyway? Yes! In fact I used the job as an excuse to finally build the portable router table I have always wanted to build. It made the job so much easier! I also tried a few different techniques. I learned something, my friend learned something, and we were both satisifed with a job well done. As an added bonus, he gave me all of the scrap wood when the job was finished. Score!!

I used to be the personal computer repair person for a group of friends. I just happened to know a little bit more than anyone else, so I was the go-to guy. I got a t-shirt that said, “No, I will not help you fix your computer” and wore it whenever they asked me to come over and troubleshoot. It was aways good for a laugh. My secret was I learned something new everytime I fixed their issue, keeping me always one step ahead of the curve. The same can be applied to DIY projects.

Take the time to be a mentor and help someone obtain your hard earned DIY status. Woodshops, autoshops, and metalshops are disappearing from our schools. The burden has fallen upon us, the American handy men and women, to pass along our knowledge to future generations!!! OK, so that was a bit dramatic, but you get the point!

 

Vinyl Record Wall

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Old vinyl records are the best. Growing up I had a bright orange hard cased record player. It had a handle like a suitcase and could travel with me from room to room. I had the adapter for 45s or could play full size records. We had read along books where it would ding when it was time to turn the page, just like the old film or slide projectors. One of my favorites was Davy Crockett, to go along with the greatest Disney adventure movie ever! Records would scratch or melt in the sun and cassette tapes slowly took their place before cd's, digital downloads, and streaming music came along.

I am also from a very musical family and love all types of music. There was always some sort of music playing the house, be it instrumental, vocal, or store bought. Music filled the home. I believe music is very powerful and can be used to great effect. There is a time and place for classical, spiritual, country, rock, alternative, folk, bluegrass, broadway, and maybe even rap.

Our current home has a huge front room with vaulted ceilings. We decided to make the front section of that room our music corner. The piano is there and a violin and banjo hang opposite along with a print of a violin painting I first saw in the Smithsonian. But the wall above the piano was empty. It was too tall for a painting or picture.

So I decided to create a vinyl record wall. Using old records I got from the thrift store, and after much thought on how to execute, I used black nylon webbing straps. I bought a roll on Amazon, measured it to length and burned holes using a soldering iron. I attached the records with paper fasteners. I attached the bands to a strip of molding and mounting the molding to the wall. You can see the complete how to video on my YouTube channel.

It has been great fun to have people come over and look at the records. I have all genres and there are always a few that bring back a memory or two. Let me know what you think in the comments.

How to Make a Vinyl Record Wall