By Christoph

LED strings powered via USB

I was really tired of the rat's nest of extension cord, wall warts and multiple cables feeding the three 30ft LED strings in our living room. Then a couple of weeks before Christmas it hit me: LEDs consume 5V DC, USB supplies 5V DC, newer wall receptacles with USB can supply enough current. Put them all together and this just might work.

Eclectic Bedside Table

Pia inherited a small antique file cabinet piece from a friend and immediately knew she wanted it to be a bedside table. Just the right size, and two small drawers with a sliding divider inside, make it the perfect fit next to her bed. But how to attach legs without having to make extensive changes to the old piece? Turns out the bottom of the cabinet is inset about 3/8" from the bottom of the sides. Inspiration struck: We can loosely rest the cabinet on a 3/8" plywood platform.

Seat cushion made from recycled coffee bag -

The secret here is how to achieve a snug fit of the coffee bad around the foam without rubbing your knuckles raw as you pull the bag over the foam. We have made mattresses and seat cushions before, and while the results were great, it took a week or longer for our fingers and knuckles to recover from the ordeal. As Pia was discussing our plans for the coffee bags with friends, they sagely nodded and said they'd been do this road before and had to pay with blood. We were not looking forward to that! Then Pia came up with the glorious idea of using a trash bag to reduce friction and tears.

Congestion / cold / flu tea -

This tea works better for us than most over-the-counter medicines, and it tastes really nice. Our kids often prepare it just for the enjoyment.

Produce sticker codes tell you whether it is organic, conventional, or GMO

Even though California voters decided that they don't want labeling of food sourced from genetically modified organisms, you can still tell. Just learn the codes on the standard produce stickers and choose wisely.

A 5 digit code starting with 8 is GMO food - avoid. A 4 digit code is conventionally grown produce - keep moving. A 5 digit code starting with 9 is organic produce - bingo! It's as easy as that. I may just learn to love those stickers after all. (I have a long standing hatred of stickers on food and in my compost.)

Zucchini and Crook Neck Squash from the Weber's garden

Pia is so psyched that this year we get a real bounty of summer squash from our own garden. For some reason this never worked well for us in previous years, even though summer squashes are supposedly very easy to grow. Regardless, it is such a pleasure to harvest today's dinner in your own garden and eat it as fresh as can be. Tomorrow there will be more, and the day after even more. Come for dinner!

Our Tangelo tree on Dec. 4, heavy with fruit

This year our little 4 ft Tangelo tree didn't just have lots of sweet smelling flowers - next to Jasmine, this tree has the most amazing scent of all plants in our garden! After flowering the tree set a load of fruit and the little green balls kept on growing. Usually, most of its fruit shrivel and fall off in short order, but not this time! By mid May we knew we'd have some nice Tangelos come Fall. Around Thanksgiving the little tree was laden with fruit and we anxiously kept checking whether they were ripe enough.