DIY Seed Growing Mat: Part 2

Continued from the previous post, here are a few more things you will need to finish your seed growing mat (very sorry about the delay in posting!!):

I love my new box cutter from Hubby!


  • beginning of pad from Part 1
  • duct tape
  • box cutter or knife
  • cardboard boxes
  • waterproof cover
  • seeds
  • seed growing pods
  • potting soil

With your lights settled into the channels, lay down and tape together your deconstructed cardboard boxes. They should reach edge to edge on your mat surface so you don’t get plastic melting onto a light bulb. Then, cover the whole set up with your water proof covering–I had a medical tarp and it works perfectly. Then all that’s left to do is fill your pods with soil and seeds and give it all a gentle spritz with a water bottle. This is where I really have to practice a lot of self-control, but a very helpful post from The Country Basket taught me that the soil just needs to be moist or damp–NOT WET–for the seeds to sprout and take root. Later comes the actual watering, but for now just spritz the soil to keep it damp.

The materials I have used for this project were all free minus the pack of foam. Sure, you could make a really awesome version with all brand-new and longer lasting materials or buy manufactured heating pads, but if you already knew what you were doing, you wouldn’t be here reading my blog would you? Cardboard combusts at around 475 degrees Fahrenheit, Styrofoam is around 375, and standard indoor Christmas lights only reach 240 degrees if you have a ton of them strung together. I only have four strands and since the surface only gets about as warm as the top of my dryer in the middle of a cycle, I’m not too worried about leaving it on overnight. To be safe, I keep all other combustibles away from the unit and I swear on all things beautifully handmade that I will remove this post and warn all posterity in the event that anything catches fire. That being said–happy sowing everyone!!





P.S. Since drafting this post, I had a question on the safety of chemicals being leeched into the air from the Styrofoam heating up. I dug around a bit and although I could not find any substantial evidence on temperatures and toxicity, I do recommend that you keep your growing mat out of living areas. Mine is in front of the basement patio door and the door leading upstairs is always closed during the cold weather.

P.P.S. While using this unit, my seedlings grew in a very reasonable amount of time, all healthy and normal so this is definitely a Tried-and-True project!


DIY Seed Growing Mat: Part 1

Gosh I love the smell of melting styrofoam in the morning!….

Okay, not really. In fact, its pretty awful. But the upside of the horrible smell is the by-product.

Months and months ago I started planning my garden down to the minutia. But my enthusiasm subsided when the research brought to mind the wilted and often brown attempts at growing anything. Most of the time I over-water. In certain circles, I’m even known as the Cactus Killer! Other times, the poor things just don’t get enough heat or light. Lots of trouble shooting things gone wrong in the past took me to the millions of folks recommending a heating pad (with and without the assistance of a grow lamp–its up in the air on that one). But they’re SO expensive! No way I’m shelling out $25 for half the size of something I can make for free.

So, how can I up-cycle items already in my possession to generate a heated plank of water-resistant something-or-other?

The design is not my idea of course, but rather inspired by the other MacGyvers of the interwebs. So take my plan and make it your own!

You will need:

  • base sheet of foam/insulation plus one more sheet for the sides and rows
  • sharp knife/box cutter
  • old Christmas lights
  • duct tape
  • hot glue (I went through 8 standard glue sticks) and glue gun
  • tape measure
  • marker
  • coffee
  • 2 assistants (one fussy, the other furry)

My base was a sheet of 1/2 inch foam from Little E’s crib box (you never know when a giant sheet of foam will come in handy). Because the hardware store’s insulation was a bit too large for such a tiny project, I bought a pack of foam sheets that measured 48″x14.5″x3/4″.

I cut my sheet to fit a standard folding table at 55″x18.5″. With my pocket knife (because I can never keep track of a box cutter for some reason) I sliced a handful of 1.5″ wide strips from my foam pack. Here’s the layout after they’ve all been glued down.


But when I set the lights into the channels, it was a pain in the butt to get them to lay flat. And since I already had the sheets of foam it just made sense to make another layer. So, here we are with another layer and all the lights lay delightfully flat!


To be continued…

Move over, Clorox!!

“Move over, Clorox!” That’s what I shouted in my head when I first made these bad boys 5 months ago. Going off of all those other tutorials that tell you to cut a roll of paper towels in half and then stick the darn thing inside a wipe-dispenser container (which TOTALLY DOES NOT WORK), I decided to do the silliest thing I could and do it myself the hard way.

After cutting the roll in half with a bread knife (be careful, folks!!), I unrolled the whole bit and folded it accordion-style. The mixture of ingredients I used are adapted from a few different recipes. With a messy husband, two dogs and myself being a very messy cook, I’ve had plenty of time to get it right. WP_20151204_16_16_07_Pro

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 3 tablespoons Dawn dish soap
  • 7-10 drops essential oil

WP_20151204_16_22_09_ProNow make sure you do what I didn’t—mix the ingredients BEFORE you pour it in the bag of towels. Just a quick whisk or stir and you will be set to shine! I make a double batch of this and keep them in the Ziploc baggie until I need them. I keep the batch I’m using in an old Swiffer pad refill container and with all the extra water in there, I’ve never had them dry out.

**A quick note on essential oils: this recipe has a very strong smell to it, and not a pleasant one. Although I feel that the counters get plenty clean, the smell is overwhelming. I have tried to mask/alter this with some essential oils, but Thieves and Purification are the only ones that I feel work well with the combination of cleaning solutions. I tried lavender, lemon and lime in the past and very sincerely DON’T recommend them in this recipe. If you know of any others that work well, please let me know!

Have you tried anything like these? Do you get yours to fit in those darn canisters? What’s the trick?!




My lip gloss is poppin’!

Well, not its not poppin’, but it is pretty cool. And handmade because I’m resourceful like that. When I started running out of the Burt’s Bee’s chapstick I had stockpiled a few months ago, I broke into the kind I made myself from this recipe. Of course I didn’t think to use sugar scrub to ease my lips into transition from one chapstick to the next so I figured an ultra-nutritive gloss would help.

Back when I made my own hand lotion, body butter and lotion bars, I got some sweet almond oil and jojoba oil for when I wanted to make some other stuffs (that I never got around to). Turned out to be pretty handy in a pinch! All I needed was the Vitamin E which I got on sale at the local grocery. Now because I got the capsules on sale doesn’t mean you need to. If you’re going to be making a lot of this stuff, I would strongly recommend you splurge the $11 and get the bottle of Vitamin E oil. Its super for your lips and I’ve heard some ladies use it around their eyes to reduce lines (certainly not this chick, I love my laugh lines).

So, with all of my ingredients together, all you need is a tube with a roller ball or a cleaned lipgloss tube with the felt applicator. I don’t ever use those things, but if you’ve got one, that’s easier than buying the tube I did. Mine is a pretty blue though, and that’s cool.

Measure 10 drops each of jojoba oil and sweet almond oil into your tube. Pierce the capsules until you get 10 drops vitamin E oil (each capsule gave me about two drops but you’ll likely get some on your fingers). I topped that off with three drops of YL peppermint oil just to make it like my chapstick. I love that fresh minty tingle! Shake gently or swirl the tube before each use and you have a lovely lip gloss!

All come to total, this project cost $69.03 minus tax and H&S. Where I saved money and can defend this as sustainable on our budget is that the oils were an investment. The roller balls I don’t see myself using too frequently besides this and maybe a diffuser perfume blend, but the others will certainly see repeated use. So, if you go by unit for this little project if you consider the ingredients “investments”, the cost is really $2.53. Can you see where I’m coming from on this? I know the ingredients are pure, I know exactly what is going on my face, and I can make it myself so I stay out of trouble.


My mother in law was recently made the godmother/sponsor of a friend’s daughter for the girl’s quincenera. A quincenera is traditionally a Mexican celebration of life and family on the fifteenth birthday of a young lady. It is her coming-of-age and therefore a very big deal. And being the sponsor of this young lady, my MIL’s gift needed to be perfect. The gift needed to represent both the family’s prosperity and the maturity of the young lady. It had to convey respectability and elegance. And, once again I stress, it had to be perfect. The mother suggested to pick between paying for the ($600+) dress or the invitations for roughly 30 families. Seeing as the budget wouldn’t quite afford such an extravagant dress, my mother in law elected to make the invitations–by hand!

Look at our lovely little workshop!

She came to me for an extra pair of hands (and I never turn down a crafty project, its a true weakness) and I couldn’t have been more excited. But then she described all of the fancy details with all these ribbons and tucks and curls and boxes and me-oh-my my head started to spin!! I thought for sure I had gotten myself into it now. But the next day she brought over a couple of mysterious bags full of these ribbons and boxes and it all came together! Believe it or not, the hardest part was to make sure we had all of the information correct and proof-read in Spanish by three different people, just to be ultra safe.

The idea was to make some elegant scroll-like announcements so we needed some WP_20150711_10_56_45_Proreally ritzy stuff. I volunteered my parchment-style resume paper to print the invites on. Who uses pure white these days anyway, right? Then I trimmed them down a bit to fit onto little dowel rods making sure there was enough room for the ball ends to go on afterwards. A little smear of glue tacked the paper to the dowel, and then it had to dry. While the glue dried on those, I set to work experimenting with the sealing wax. I knew those would be the last to go on, WP_20150711_13_55_36_Probut since neither of us had used something this tricky in a long time I wanted to be safe rather than sorry while we still had time. The wax was really easy to use and the results were stunning! The hardest part was that you had to hold the stick just right or the flame went out and was a pain to relight.

Keep it all organized!
Keep it all organized!

Next, another little smear of glue down the line stuck the paper to the entire side of the dowel. Trust me on this, the Tacky Glue was the best option. I tested with Rubber Cement and Elmer’s–both curled the paper horribly (even though RC shouldn’t) and neither stuck well enough. Then these had to dry (again). I tried to keep all of the balls with the ends that they were formed to with our handy-dandy pliers, but they liked rolling and wobbling all over the place. While the papers were drying for the last time, I started cutting the ribbons that we needed. This was a bit tricky because my math is awful! We ended up running out of ribbon twice, balls twice and dowel rods once. Thank heavens that between the two local Walmart’s and one Hobby Lobby we were able to match things together.

WP_20150711_16_58_18_Pro WP_20150711_16_58_49_ProWP_20150711_17_19_16_Pro

In any case, here is the assembly of our bows. I got a nice little line-up going after a while and (thank heavens to parchment paper) didn’t ruin a single box. After all the spider webs of hot glue were removed, I have to say these little puppies were better than either of us expected!

WP_20150713_19_26_35_ProWP_20150713_19_31_40_Pro WP_20150713_19_32_59_Pro WP_20150713_19_33_08_Pro WP_20150711_13_55_09_ProWP_20150711_17_31_51_Pro

A few words of advice though:

  • Always do the math twice and buy just a little more than you need–it will save on gas in the long run so you’re not all around kingdom-come trying to match ribbons and dowel rods together
  • NEVER trust that you have enough in your “stash” that will match. If she hadn’t insisted on checking the math, we would have started making the invitations and been unable to match one of the narrower ribbons we originally picked out.
  • Clothes pins are definitely your friend!
  • God bless hot glue guns and Tacky Glue

The invitations got great reviews from all of the friends and family. A friend is talking to us about wedding invitations for next year possibly!! I had no idea this would go to our heads, but we’re already talking about making a business out of it! Not sure I’m cut out to be a business woman, but I’ve gotten pretty darn good with assembly lines….

Have you done any hand-made invites? How did they go? Got any other tips or suggestions?