DIY eco-friendly Kindle case

A while ago our library started to charge a fortune to borrow books from outside their system. Then, I ran out of bookshelf space. Then I ran out of space for a new bookcase. Then I bought a  used kindle from a friend. Refurbished kindles are available for under $100.

What I didn’t buy was a cover for the kindle. That’s because it’s pretty easy to make your own e-reader case!  Here’s how:

1. Cut out two pieces of cardboard that are just barely larger than your kindle.

2. Use duct tape to make the “spine.” Tape the two pieces together, leaving about 3/4″ between the two pieces of cardboard. Use the duct tape on both sides of the cardboard.

I used cardboard from an office paper box, but an old ring binder cover works great too.

3. Cut two pieces of fabric the size of your kindle, with a half inch seam allowance on each side.

4. Now, make a kindle pillow! Put the good sides of the fabric together and sew three of the four sides.

You can insert the cardboard while you sew to get a perfect fit. A binder clip holds the cardboard while I sew (in very crooked lines)

three sides done

5. Turn the pillow inside out and insert the duct-taped cardboard.

6. Fold in the edges of the open side and sew them closed.

7. Position your kindle on the case. Use chalk or a pencil to mark where the corners will be.

8. Cut four pieces of elastic, approximately 2.5″ long.

9. Now here’s the tough part. Fold the elastic pieces into triangles and position them flat on the case. They need to be flat so that the elastic can hold the kindle in the case tightly. Using a very, very strong glue, glue the elastic to the cardboard. Don’t worry, no one will see this part behind the kindle! Don’t use too much glue or it might bleed through to the back. Let the glue dry thoroughly.

10. Sew a button onto the front cover.

I used an a button maker kit I bought in middle school to make a matching button.

11. Make a loop from an old ribbon and sew it inside the back cover.

a little glue can help it stay attached.

12. Insert kindle and read!

ahhhh, FDR's Fireside Chats.


What do you do with 25 pounds of peaches?

You learn to can them!

Last week our CSA offered 25 pounds of peaches for $30. Last year we skipped out because we didn’t know what to do with that much food. This year friends of ours were nice enough to get us a canning kit as a wedding gift. Canning is really easy and safe, just follow the USDA’s home canning instructions. Your tax dollars at work, right?

It takes some time but what better way to wait out Hurricane Irene than to make jam and peaches in syrup? Most canning recipes also work for “fresh preserving,” or storing your food in the fridge for up to two weeks without actually canning in hot water.

Here’s our frugal recipe to try: peach jam is fantastically easy and so much better than any store brand. The initial investment is a little pricey (take the Ball Canning Discovery Kit for $11 if you’re not sure if you’ll like canning, or the Bernardin Canning Starter Kit for ~$60).

Peach Jam for canning and fresh preserving

Fresh peaches! 4 cups peeled, chopped, and mashed

4 1/2 Tablespoons fruit pectin

3 c. sugar

3 Tablespoons lemon juice

The Ball canning company makes it clear that you should  NOT modify the proportions of these ingredients or the canning process won’t work right. Leave out the lemon juice and you might even give yourself botulism. How exciting! You can, however, use strawberries, or another highly acidic fruit safely instead of the peaches.

Bring the fruit and lemon juice to a boil that won’t go down when you stir it.

a rolling boil that won't go down when it's stirred (foam optional)

Add all of the sugar and pectin.  Return to a boil that you can’t stir down. Stirring constantly, boil for at least 2 minutes.

If you’re canning, ladle the contents into sterilize jars and process according to the USDA directions.

Cool for 24 horus, then check the seals according to the USDA directions. Store them in a cool, dark place. We’ve picked our old TV stand/DVD case in the bedroom, which used to be a record cabinet!


A bottle of Gatorade for 25 cents!

Yes, there is a catch. You have to make it yourself. But it’s easy, I promise!

This one is a request from my dad, who just finished his first 100 kilometer ride (yay Dad!)

I’m also training (ha) for the Jayna T. Murray 5k run this fall, plus I like to bike. It’s a lot more pleasant to run 3 miles on your lunch hour in August in DC when you have some Gatorade. However, I’m not willing to pay $1-2 per bottle. Here’s how to do it for much, much, less!

This is all you need:

sugar, lite salt, and a package of unsweetend kool-aid mix.
Your ingredients:
1/2 c. sugar or honey
1/2 teaspoon lite salt (the half sodium and half potassium kind)
1 package unsweetened kool-aid mix
2 quarts of water

it's not blood I swear

And it’s a great day for a ride.
or a run. 
You can substitute 1/2 c. orange juice plus 1/4 teaspoon regular salt for the lite salt, if you don’t have lite salt.
If you don’t want two quarts of sports drinks on your hands:
-use 1 quart or even just one pint of water
-pour it into ice cube trays
-drop a few of your sports drink ice cubes into a bottle of water before a run.
If you drink a bottle of Gatorade twice a week you can spend between $100 and $200 on sports drinks a year. This recipe could save you $75-$150 a year. Oh, and you don’t end up with 104 useless plastic sport drink bottles at the end of that year. Score.

the one where the coffee table garden is devoured by ziplocs

The coffee table garden lives again! (and old ziploc bags make great mini-greenhouses).

I replanted a few weeks ago in spite of still seeing a few fruit flies. As it turns out, my organic fertilizer was the problem, not the soil.

I started the seedlings in half of a used egg carton. This is a great way to reuse plastic or styrafoam egg cartons but clean them first to avoid salmonella, and don’t use the paper ones, which will rot. Trust me.

egg carton plant starter


I started a few others in regular pots too. Then I covered all of these with ziplocs to make mini-greenhouses and keep the couple remaining flies out. Glass bakeware also works surprisingly well (and it gets that huge glass bowl out of our cabinet, yay!)

my coffee table has been attacked by ziplocs


So far the results are great and the greenhouse effect (okay, the good kind) means that I don’t have to water them very often. It also will help keep the plants slightly warmer if you keep them near the window and extend your indoor growing season. That’s the idea at least.

Lettuce fared really well last time so I’ve started  few lettuces each week for the last month. Some progress:


lettuce that almost looks like actual lettuce!

chives and lettuce hide under my pyrex bowl


this was the first basil I planted in round two. it's happy to be back!

Chives, basil, lettuce, and beets make up what will hopefully be the fall harvest.

jersey blueberry explosion = the best blueberry muffins. EVER.

It’s the end of blueberry season and our fridge is loaded with berries from our CSA. What better way to use blueberries than blueberry muffins?

I love blueberry muffins but I couldn”t ever seem to find a recipe that makes them taste blueberry-y enough. That is, until I stumbled upon a recipe from America’s Test Kitchen called, simply, The Best Blueberry Muffins. I’ve made a few tweaks to the recipe to make it less cloyingly sweet, but I promise it’ll be the most intensely blueberry-flavored muffin you’ve ever had (minus the pricetag and artificial flavoring of store-bought muffins). Here goes:


  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 c. blueberry jam
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 ½ cups AP flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract


  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2.Whisk flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together in a bowl.

3. Mix eggs, butter, and oil together. Add these ingredients to the dry ones.

4. Fold in the buttermilk and vanilla until all ingredients are moistened.

5. Fold in the blueberries. Do not overmix or the muffins will be tough and chewy!

6. Fill a greased muffin pan with the batter.

7. Spoon a teaspoon of blueberry jam into each muffin, submerging the spoon so the jam goes all the way through. Use a chopstick or skewer to swirl the jam.
(okay, so I didn’t get the jam as submerged as I wanted it. Oh well. And cute owl chopsticks courtesy of Sayaka!)

8. Mix the sugar, salt, and lemon zest together and sprinkle it over the muffins.

9. Bake for 15-20 minutes.

The end result? These last very well in the freezer. They’re a lot of work but definitely worth it.

Reduce, reuse, reorganize: spice packets

If you’re like me, you open your kitchen cabinets when you go to make tacos and spend five minutes hunting for the long-lost spice packet. No more! An easy fix is sitting in your desk drawer, or even your kitchen cabinet. Just grab one of these

Or one of these

20110718-100150.jpg (empty of course!) and you have instant storage for your spice packets.


1 month decluttering challenge

I’m in the middle of reading Unclutter Your Life in One Week” while I wait to replant my garden (the basil stalks were replanted and are alive. Barely.) I’m slowly realizing that parting with some of my beloved mementos (*cough* junk *cough)  is the only way we’ll ever be able to fit into a 900 square foot home.

I’m giving myself (and you!) a challenge based on the book’s idea to starting small: Get rid of one thing you don’t need in your home each day for a month.

For some added incentive, tally up the amount of money you spent on those useless objects to see how much you could’ve saved. I also have to give myself the challenge to find a responsible way to dispose of the objects! Small goals can really make a dent in your clutter!

Here’s this week’s tally:

Saturday: A pair of cute dress shoes, $25.  I bought these because I saw Taylor Swift with a similar pair. Little did I know, they had so little support that I’d end up with enough foot problems to need $100 orthotics and a cast for a broken bone in my foot (probably the fault of my ballroom dancing lessons, actually).  Its fate:  clothes donation box in our building.

Sunday: A basket from one of last year’s Christmas presents, free. Used to be one of three large containers I used to hold pens and pencils. Prompted me to get rid of my old dead pens. Its fate: the “free stuff” table in our building.

Monday: About 20 dead pens, free. Most of these were trade show swag. Beware trade show swag. It gets into your home, makes you want to buy things for your organization, and promptly dies. Their fate: trash can. A few caps got recycled.

Tuesday: A visor from college, $12. Useful for hot days, but I own a few baseball caps already. And it reminds me of the jerk I dated in college. I dropped it in the clothes box too. Its fate: the clothes donation box.

Wednesday: A plastic water bottle, $4.  I cheated on this one. I saw a homeless guy who looked super overheated outside the hospital this week and gave him my bike bottle. I’ve been trying to get rid of my huge stash of plastic sport bottles (10+…how did that happen?) that my neighbor insists will poison me with dioxin and other fun chemicals (in all fairness, he is a doctor). Only problem…I went out to Starbucks the next day and bought a glass water bottle (50% recycled!). Sigh.

Thursday: The ice cream cookbook that came with my ice cream maker, free. I switched from keeping paper recipes to using Tastebook ( to store my recipes. I have this one memorized anyways.

Friday: A pair of jeans that I’ll never fit into, $20. Sad part is I barely fit in them when I bought them. Their fate: the clothes donation box.

Total amount of money wasted: $61. Holy piles of pricey junk, Batman! And my net loss is only 6 objects since I bought a water bottle. Maybe I’ll feel less demoralized at the end of next week.