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Category Archives: Projects

Puppy Brittle and Pumpkin Beer Biscuits

It was a long night, but the house smells great.

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Late in the afternoon yesterday, I came into possession of about 20 pounds of spent grains from a local homebrewer.

I had been hoping to get into this situation ever since I heard that you can make dog treats from the leftover mash from beer making.

The catch is, you have to use the soaked grain mash pretty quick or else it gets moldy.

While I haven’t yet used up all 20 pounds, I did whip up quite a few biscuits, bars and cookies for my pups (and pups of my friends and family) last night.

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These biscuits, which utilize an edible product that would have otherwise been thrown out or composted, are great treats for dogs who don’t have grain allergies.

I tried the basic formula for peanut butter spent grain biscuits that is all over the internet. I also experimented a little for pumpkin and bacon beer biscuits.

My results varied in shape, texture and dryness.

The key to beer biscuits is getting them super dry (and consequently super hard) so that they have a shelf life longer than a couple days. However, to get the biscuits that dry and mold-resistant, they need to be in the oven at least three hours.

I got one batch just about perfect by spreading the batter out thin on a cookie sheet and cutting it into squares before baking. It’s so crunchy I’ve dubbed it puppy brittle. The dogs loved it, and I even tried a little with my own breakfast. It tasted peanut buttery yet wholesome.

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Apparently, granola bars for people can be made almost the same way. I’m going to try this recipe from Flying on Jess Fuel.

Have you ever made people or pup treats from spent beer grains?

Don’t have access to spent grains? Try these recipes: easy baked peanut butter dog cookies and no-bake meat and veggie treatballs.

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Reading Material as Home Decor

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Have you ever wondered what to do with a wine rack if you’re not storing wine in it?

Research related to my ongoing office transformation project revealed a clever solution that also helps me mitigate paper clutter.

Turn the empty wine rack into a magazine rack!

I have a hard time parting with magazines, especially ones that contain an article I’ve written, so I have amassed a rather large collection. Fortunately, they roll up nice and look pretty good tucked into the places where wine bottles could go.

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In case you’re wondering where my wine bottles do go, the answer is in our kitchen and dining room.

If you’ve been following this blog for long, you might recognize my wine rack as the base of last year’s seedling nursery.

While I opted not to start any seeds this year, I do have a few houseplant cuttings incorporated into the scene.

And because I love books, I’ve also turned them into part of the decor.

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Have you ever used a wine rack for something besides storing wine?

Come back tomorrow to learn why the main shelf of my wine rack looks a bit like a shrine to Charlie Machete.

The Beginning of a Spring Transformation

There’s a room in my house that the dogs are obsessed with.

creepy door

A ghost or a Charlie Machete wanted in.

Actually, I have long tried to keep them out of the room with a closed door that also helped me avoid thinking about the disorganized mess within.

Officially, the room is my office, but it has always been more of a repository for stuff I didn’t want to deal with. Like paperwork and mail I couldn’t decide if I should hold onto or toss and clothes I couldn’t cram into in my primary closet.

But last weekend, my friend Shelley came over with the sole purpose of helping me turn this cluttered room into a functional space that would bring me peace and inspiration – without spending any significant money.

Truth be told, I was a little scared and embarrassed that the room had gotten so out of control.

But Shelley has a way of bringing out the fun in life.

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“Trust me,” she said. “We can fix this.”

Our project isn’t finished yet, but thanks to our progress so far, I’m now as eager as the dogs are to spend time in that room.

Every morning this week, I have even invited them to join me there as I get ready for work.

It is the very best way to start my day.

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I think they just love carpet.

Do your pets supervise your morning routine?

DIY Collar Accessory for Party Dogs

Tell me if this has ever happened at your house.

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Someone arrives with a pack of beer. Maybe it’s super special handcrafted brews, from the Lagunitas (which has a pit bull on the cap), Boulevard (Kansas City-based, yo) or Deschutes breweries. Maybe it’s Corona.

Either way, you can’t crack the seal on those bottles without an opener. And dang if you can’t remember what happened to your bottle opener.

Solution:

Turn your dog into a hooch pooch.

It’s easy. All you have to do is find a small bottle opener with no sharp edges and a keyring attachment. Then, you attach it to his collar.

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Ideally, your dog won’t even notice that he’s wearing an extra piece of bling.

And you will always know where your bottle opener is. In fact, it will now come to you.

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Always eager to please, Luke enjoys how being a hooch pooch makes him an even more popular guy at the party.

However, since canines can’t consume alcohol, this golden party dog is hoping someday someone will show up with a bottle of Dawg Grog just for him.

Have you ever attached something functional to your dog’s collar?

There’s still time to enter the Love Note Valentine giveaway.

For more gifts Luke and your dog would love, be sure to check out the Wayward Dogs Valentine’s Gift Guide!

Best DIY and Food Posts from Last Year

I know we’re already three days into the New Year, and I should be thinking ahead.

But, darn it, I’m still feeling nostalgic over 2012!

I love dogs so much that I blog about them nearly every day. But in between networking for adoptable dogs and taking infinite photos of the canines in my house, the fellow residents of Wayward House (both dog and human) and I also enjoy tasty foods and beverages and the thrill of making things ourselves.

I try to post about these experiences in the hopes of inspiring my lovely readers.

Memorable food and DIY posts from 2012:

homemade barking dog stopper

1. Homemade Barking Dog Stopper  – Charlie Machete’s new worst enemy went viral on Pinterest and generated the most single-day hits ever for this blog.

speedy stitcher sewing awl

2. Sew Your Own Dog Beds – Zach’s solution for sturdy, cost-effective and comfortable (as far as we can tell) dog beds involved the use of a nifty tool I have still never used – the Speedy Stitcher Sewing Awl.

No bake sweet potato cookies.

3. Sweet Potato Peanut Buttery Frozen Goodness – This no-bake dog cookie recipe is super healthy and helped me use up some sweet potatoes leftover from the 2011 harvest.

Image copyright Stacy Ideus Photography 2012.

Image copyright Stacy Ideus Photography 2012.

4. Don’t Shop, Swap! – I like looking good as much as the next girl, but I hate to spend on fashion. Whenever possible, I trade clothes with my friends.

diy household cleaner

5. DIY Citrus-Scented Household Cleaner – I followed another blogger’s lead on this and managed to give up Windex forever.

diy detergent

6. DIY Laundry Detergent – We pass up the harsh chemicals of the commercial stuff and save money by mixing up our own sudsy soap for our clothes (and stinky dog beds).

gentle leader dyed with RIT dye

7. DIY Dye Project for Collars and Leashes – Zach turned a pink gentle leader into a macho camo green for Charlie Machete.

Volunteer lemon basil.

8. Basil Mint Tea – This refreshing recipe helped me deal with extra herbs from the garden and put an old pickle jar to good use.

king louis

9. Remedy for a Good Time in Kansas City – I was stoked when a new restaurant that values homemade and homegrown food opened up in my neighborhood.

Lemon Vodka Gingerade and Ginger Syrup

10. Lemon Vodka Gingerade – After my friend Lisa the DIY Gourmet gave us her homemade ginger syrup, we put our first two homegrown lemons to tasty use.

Have you tried a DIY project recently? Tell me about it in the comments!

Come back tomorrow for one more post full of 2012 reflections. After that, I promise to get on with 2013!

A storm is brewing

How’s the weather where you are?
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It’s blustery and cold in Kansas City with a stormy forecast.

It’s a good day for Luke to wear his new Thunder Jacket for Dogs! (Look for a full review of this product next week.)

I’m crossing my fingers that the cold and stormy front doesn’t interfere too much with all of our pit bull-supporting weekend plans!

Reminders:

If you are in Kansas City, please consider joining me at Saturday’s Coast to Coast Bully Walk with KC Pittie Pack and Sunday’s Fashion-a-Bull Fall shopping party and Midwest Adopt-a-Bull fundraiser at Madewell.

Be sure to buy a raffle ticket from me if you can! We are just over 1/10 of the way to the $500 goal!

You can also still enter the Retro Vixen giveaway no matter where in the U.S. you live!

Come back tomorrow to learn more about Midwest Adopt-a-Bull!

Raffle Tickets for Sale

“Wanna buy a raffle ticket?”

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That’s the question you’ll be greeted with if you interact with me in person this week.

And I have no shame. In my quest to collect lots of dollars for rescue dogs, I will be pushy. I will guilt-trip you if you hesitate.

“Come on, it’s just $5.”

Every cent collected will go directly to Midwest Adopt-a-Bull, the rescue organization that enrolled Charlie Machete. In tomorrow’s post, you’ll get to learn more about some of the other dogs in the group. For now, suffice it to say that every dollar matters. Midwest Adopt-a-Bull dogs come from shelters, the streets and abandoned houses. Two animals linked to our group have recently undergone amputations.

My goal is to raise at least $500.

Winners need not be present, but the raffle drawing will occur on Sunday, October 28, at the end of the shopping party Katty Delux and I are co-hosting at the Madewell boutique in Leawood, Kansas.

Everyone who attends that event will also be entered in a free drawing for a Madewell gift card and enjoy complimentary refreshments and an available shopping discount. The first 20 attendees will receive a free goodie bag.

Weather permitting, the event will begin with a parade of costumed doggies, including a doggy resident from Our Waldo Bungie, the awesomely obedient labradoodles from Kennel Creek and more.

You can check out some of the raffle prizes in the Fashion-a-Bull Fall at Madewell photo album on the Wayward Dogs Facebook fan page.

Here’s a list of some of the things we’re giving away:

-Custom doggy sweater from Tiennot Knit Sweaters
-Leash and collar sets from Waggiwear Dog Collars and Leashes
-Gift Certificate to The Barking Lot Grooming Salon
-Gift Certificate to Simply Grooming by Gia
-Gift certificate to Pete ‘n’ Mac pet resort
K9closet handmade collars from Simply Grooming by Gia
-Handmade Doggie Bows by Styled by a Milk Tooth
-Handmade Retro Accessories from Lucky Lucille
-Handmade Sunnglasses from Tumbleweeds Odd Shop
-Handmade pit bull magnets from Kathleen Henn
-Gift Certificate for a tree three-night stay at Kennel Creek Pet Resort

All above items will be grouped into two monster prize packages.

So, are you going to buy a raffle ticket?

Unfortunately, gambling laws made me too nervous to accept online payments for raffle tickets. So, if you are in the Kansas City area and want to buy one, let me know in the comments or email me at crystalwayward@gmail.com. We’ll figure out how to get your tickets to you!

I will have raffle tickets on hand during the Coast to Coast Bully Walk and at the shopping party on Sunday.

If you don’t live in Kansas City, but still want to contribute to the cause, feel free to make a donation directly to Midwest Adopt-a-Bull. Let me know in the comments if you do.

And don’t forget to enter the Retro Vixen giveaway. No purchase is necessary for that – just give a Like to some worthy Facebook fan pages. (That giveaway is open to all U.S. residents.)

What prize from the list most excites you?

Making choices toward a happier and less hectic existence

Sometimes the rhythm of life gets a little out of whack.

Small dog at 5 a.m.

Why aren’t we in bed at 5 a.m.?

That happened to me over the past few days, and it’s why I had to take a three-day break from blogging. Although I’ve never come right out and said so, my goal for Wayward Dogs is to post new content a minimum of five days a week. Seven would be fantastic. (Some weeks that actually happens.)

Unfortunately, such bold ambition kind of goes against my other current goal of streamlining my life and dropping any responsibilities that I just don’t have time for – with the ultimate hope of gaining more time to spend relaxing with Zach and the dogs, exercising or hanging out with friends.

This is a topic I expect to be thinking about quite a bit more in the next few days, while I’m reading Happier at Home, author and blogger Gretchen Rubin‘s follow-up to her inspirational bestseller The Happiness Project.

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin

We could all be a little happier, couldn’t we?

Although she lives in New York City, Gretchen is from Kansas City and will be back in a town for a reading later this month.

Interviewing her by phone was one of the tasks I accomplished over the weekend. Gretchen is the subject of a freelance article I’m writing for a local publication.

In addition to blogging for myself and for my employers, I write stories on a variety of topics for magazines, newspapers and other websites pretty often. Because I like writing so much, this is fun for me – and it helps me put a little extra money in the bank.

But freelance writing is time-consuming and effectively means that I spend extra hours each week “working.” Although I don’t see myself ever giving up freelance writing, it’s a point I have to remember whenever I review my life and consider which commitments I can step away from.

As a chronic overcommitter, it’s difficult for me to say no or disengage from any cause or activity I believe in or enjoy.

But one of the life truths I’m getting familiar with in my 30th year is that when you stretch yourself too thin you can’t cover any of your bases very well. (Case in point: my neglected garden.)

It will take a while for me to figure out all of the ways I can lessen my load, but a couple things will be toned down soon.

December marks the end of my two-year term as an executive board member for the Thomas Hart Benton Group of the Sierra Club.

I intend to still participate in Sierra Club activities, such as serving lemonade at the annual Santa Caligon Days festival in Independence, Missouri (which I did over Labor Day weekend).

Thomas Hart Benton Group of the Sierra Club at Santa Caligon Days

Want some fresh squeezed lemonade?

But I have to be honest about the fact that I don’t have time to be a great leader for the organization right now.

Other areas where I’ll be backing off: gardening and dog fostering.

It’s safe to say that Wayward House will always be growing fun things in pots and in the ground. But next year’s garden will certainly be smaller in scope and, ideally, easier to maintain.

We also intend to be a two-dog household, at least for a while, after Charlie Machete finds his real forever home.

To that end, he attended another Midwest Adopt-a-Bull adoption event over the weekend. No one showed much interest in him, but he did get to meet the man who loves pit bulls for the first time in real life.

Charlie Machete in a cage.

Adopt me?

Midwest Adopt-a-Bull’s founder Mike Kitchens agreed that Charlie Machete is a very handsome boy who just needs to work on feeling comfortable in a crate. By the end of the event, my foster dog was as big of a fan of Mike as I am, and he showed it by covering the man in friendly pit bull/lab/chow kisses.

Even though Charlie Machete is likely to be our last foster project for a while, I do plan to always contribute to the animal rescue movement in other ways – by promoting adoptable animals and worthy organizations on this blog and by stepping up in the many small ways that can make a huge difference (walking shelter dogs, assisting with transports and fundraising).

I know there are other things I can do to streamline my life to ensure I’m giving my best to every project and relationship in which I’m involved. I’ll be sure to share as this endeavor unfolds.

Have you ever made a point to simplify your life? What did you cut out? What other advice do you have for me?

Want to adopt Charlie Machete? Apply to make him yours through Midwest Adopt-a-Bull

black dog on a walk

Best. Running. Partner. Ever.

Easy basil mint tea in a pickle jar

We love jars.

Pickle jars, mason jars, jelly jars, olive jars, old Kombucha bottles. If it’s glass and it has a screw-top lid, the Wayward House is loathe to let it go – even to the recycle bin.

The bigger jars are really fun. I like to use the biggest mason and pickle jars for making slow brew, cold brew or sun tea. It’s still hot enough in Kansas City for the latter, and because volunteer basil is among the things thriving in my shabby garden, I have been getting creative with my jar-brewed tea.

Basil sprigs and tea bags brewing in the sun.

A fresh take on sun tea.

For this batch, I used all three of the basils we have growing this year: Genovese basil, lemon basil and, the one we have the most of, Thai basil. I also used some of the wild peppermint growing in our backyard (being careful to pick the freshest sprigs that seemed untouched by dogs).

I picked an amount of herbs I thought would fill up the jar, about equally split between the basil mix and peppermint.

After rinsing the sprigs under water, I broke them up a bit and stuffed them in the jar along with two bags of green tea and poured filter water over the top. Then, I set the concoction on our porch for about eight hours.

Basil sprigs and tea bags in pickle jar.

Just brewed basil mint tea.

When I brought the jar inside and removed the lid, a lemon-y, minty, basil-y fragrance emerged.

The next step involved separating the tea and the herbs. For this, I placed a funnel into the mouth of a juice pitcher and covered the top of the funnel with one layer of cheesecloth.

DIY cheesecloth tea strainer

Cheesecloth + funnel = no-strain straining.

Lucky for me, I picked the right juice pitcher. It held almost exactly the same quantity of liquid as the pickle jar.

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Perfect!

After taking this picture, I chucked the used herbs into the yard to decompose.

The tea stays good refrigerated in the pitcher for about three days – if you don’t drink it all in one day!

I like to separate my batch into single servings that I take with me to work. Of course, I reuse screw-top glass bottles for that!

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Reused kombucha bottle.

This recipe is adapted from one I received from a Sierra Club mailing list. View the original here.

Do you ever make your own tea? Share your suggestions and ideas in the comments!

Potted pineapple project

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This might look like a dwarfish, dying yucca plant, but it’s actually my own living piece of paradise.

Pinterest recently led me to an amazing idea. You can plant a pineapple top in a pot and get a whole ‘nother pineapple in 24 months (aka two years)!

I realize that’s a really slow rate of growth on this project and not a very big harvest. But, as I already covered in the Tiki Dog food review, I am a sucker for anything that reminds me of Hawaii.

So, add the pineapple to the list of exotic plants growing in containers at Wayward House:

Want to pot your own pineapple? The steps are easy.

1. Cut off the stem, leaving about half an inch of flesh.

2. Place this pineapple crown in a shallow dish of water, covering only about half of the flesh, and let it sit in a sunny window for a few days.

3. Plant the crown in a mixture of regular potting soil and cactus potting soil.

About two weeks in, this potted pineapple project seems easier than the other exotics. The pineapple I started with was already pretty brown, so I wasn’t sure it would take off. I left the crown in water for about a week. After a couple of days the stem core started turning green again, and the total area that’s green seems to be increasing since planting.

For more details on the process from a more experienced pineapple starter, check out Tickled Red’s advice on potted pineapples.

What plant that’s not native to your area do you wish you could grow?

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