Hello! I'm Suzannah, a serious DIYer. Follow along with my DIY fixer upper house renovations, sewing and crafty projects, real food recipes, and de-stressing goals. I'm a recovering former vegan and vegetarian, now healing with a nutrient-dense mostly Paleo diet, and love at-home CrossFit and yoga workouts. I'm also the author of DIY Wardrobe Makeovers!

New mom to baby Otto born April 2018!


Sun, country, and baby goats

We did something pretty amazing this weekend. Every time I get out to parts of Oregon's beautiful and fruitful countryside, I feel totally grateful to live in this incredible place and totally humbled by the work that goes into (or should go into) creating our food and food system.

One of my coworkers owns a nursery about an hour outside Portland, and has alpacas, chickens, ducks, and goats. My company's Fun Committee puts together seasonal weekend events like pumpkin patching, Christmas tree-cutting, etc. and last year (at my suggestion!! =) ), springtime baby goat-visiting and plant start shopping. We went last year and got comfortable playing with and picking up the goats, and it's time for it again this year!

(Baby goats are among the cutest things ever. Evidence: this video and this video. So it was so fun (spirit-lightening, really!!) to see them jumping around in person!)

Here are a few shots of our buddies. The two smallest were only 2 weeks old. This one weighed about as much as our cat, I swear. And was only slightly less cuddly.

The other babies were 6-8 weeks old.

So cuddly! The hay in my pocket was for feeding to the goats. What an interactive experience!

We also stocked up on veggie starts for our front porch container garden.

And, we brought a picnic lunch (ham, mustard, and avocado wraps--so good!! and salad with CSA veggies including radishes) and ate it in the beautiful gardens they have.

I'm excited for spring and summer and more chances out get out to the country!



Contrast stripe easy denim shift dress

Three things.
  1. It's been warm here, like really warm. 83 degrees. I'm making dresses again!
  2. Denim dresses are great. So easy to wear, playful, carefree, neutral so they go with everything. Last year I made this looser one and this classic sundress shape one.
  3. This latest dress project was inspired by this striped linen sheath dress by Lou & Grey by LOFT, long sold out. It came out last summer but these images have popped up here and there this year, and with the warm-but-not-scorching weather, I thought a comfy short-sleeved sheath dress would be perfect for the season. But, I don't have striped linen, and what you find in stores is often a little too lightweight for a dress. I did have pinstripe denim!

I used a fave basic pattern, Simplicity 2584, and cut it short and used the skirt panels from Burda 6853 (which I also used on this dress). I cut a pocket freehand.

I wanted to cut it against the grain for the main body and cut the skirt with the grain (stripes up and down), but I either forgot or didn't have enough fabric. (Cutting out is the hard part!)

It's really just fun to sew on a sturdy, medium-weight fabric like this denim. It's crisp and does just what you tell it to as you sew and press.

Loose enough, it pulls over the head! No zipper!

Very comfy! It was great to wear out to dinner Sunday evening!

Bag: Nine West (similar). Necklace: Old Navy. Hat: F21 (similar). Sandals: Target (they come in wide online!). Dress: DIY!

Hooray for upcoming dress season!



4 easy things you can do in the kitchen to celebrate Earth Day every day

Tomorrow is Earth Day!
I don't usually give much thought to the day itself, since I've been a pro recycler since middle school, a very sparing plastic bag- and paper towel-user since college, a Prius driver since grad school, and a primarily local food-eater since going Paleo 2.5 years ago. Being a responsible citizen of the planet is important to me and I do it as much as possible as a given in my normal routine.

But, I'm on the Sustainability Committee at work this year, and we've put together some programming to encourage recycling and reduce waste in the office, and it's got me thinking about little changes that are easy for people to do without changing their routines. A science/movement writer I follow, Katy Bowman, says in order to change behaviors or patterns, it's much harder to introduce something entirely new--much easier to change a detail on something you already do (for her, it's switching to safer shoes or sitting on the floor to watch TV instead of in a chair). What this means for everyday habits that affect the waste stream is, rather than changing behaviors we have, like drinking coffee every day or washing the counter often, it's easier to change the way we do those things to reduce our impacts.

If you're interested in making some changes to celebrate Earth Day this week, here are 4 easy ideas that we do at home. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen and a lot of waste is generated there, so it's a good place to focus your efforts for a bigger impact.

4 Easy Sustainable Changes in the Kitchen

1. Store recycling in an accessible but concealed location. Ours goes to the left of the fridge in a large pantry, and the paper bag we use to capture recyclable paper and cans is larger than our trash container!

2. Make your coffee at home rather than buying it out. It's very simple. People have been doing it for years. It's really not hard. I don't understand why people are still buying trendy, fancy coffee. Why don't we all just make our own?!? It's cheap, it's easy, it's fast (we use this programmable coffee maker and set it up before going to bed the night before--here's another option), you don't have to talk to strangers first thing in the morning, you can know the source of the beans you use, you can put any kind of milk or cream, fat, spices, etc. in it, and (the sustainability reason) you can bring it to work in a reusable mug. Think of how many cups you save from the landfill if you swap your daily St@rbucks for homemade--and how about all those other benefits I just listed?

3. Use hand towels and rags instead of only paper towels. I wash my hands a lot while cooking, and I actually prefer drying my hands on cloth towels over paper towels. They're also fun to decorate with! As you can see, the hand towel hanging on our stove is one of the only spots of color in our kitchen.

I also clean the counter a lot, and I use old washcloths and hand towels in a rag bucket next to the sink. The rag bucket was $1 at Dollar Tree and we already had the washcloths and assorted towels, and I keep a rotating collection as they get old or I have to use them for wood staining or something. We keep a bucket of rags by the kitchen sink, a small laundry basket for rag laundry in the downstairs bathroom, and a bucket of rags in our bathroom so I can clean the mirror or counters easily. I use rags every day! It's old-fashioned but they work better for cleaning than paper towels, anyway. I also use a rag instead of a drying rack for hand-washed dishes.

4. Keep and reuse bags. We store plastic shopping bags in a drawer (we use them as trash bags in our tiny IKEA inside-cabinet-door trash basket), produce bags on a shelf, and paper grocery bags sideways inside the cabinet. It's handy to have a variety of bags available for use, sorted. We reuse the produce bags from the grocery store (and from the CSA, when they're not too wet or dirty) to split up veggies from our CSA or garden/family's garden. (We use canvas shopping bags for regular grocery trips, but we still end up with lots of paper and plastic bags from other places.)
Photos by Nakalan McKay.

There you have it--4 easy changes that aren't really big changes at all! Happy Earth Day this week, and may you enjoy it and build habits that you use the whole year!



Dress season is coming. Black and ivory maxi dress!

I don't wear a lot of dresses in the cold weather... so I'm very happy spring and summer are coming and I'll get a chance to wear (and make) pretty dresses! I've only made one dress so far this year, as evidenced by the sad 2015 group in my dresses gallery, so this maxi is a welcome addition and great way to get me back into dress-sewing mode.

I had several yards of this fun ivory and black triangle print knit and I hadn't known what to do with it, but I pulled out Simplicity 1355 (same easy, loose summery pattern I used for this lovely maxi dress I made last September and this romper (one of the other views)). As I did for the maxi I made with it last summer, I lined it (the knit is a little sheer) and so had to tweak the construction and ignore a lot of the instructions, but it worked well and gave me a lined dress that's a comfortable, carefree one-piece outfit.

The back is cute, too.

It's easy to wear and dress up or down, or for spring vs. summer weather!

It's been so nice recently, the edgy jacket over it was only kind of necessary!
Bag: Old Navy. Sandals: Target (they come in wide online!). Jacket: Ross (similar). Dress: DIY!

I forgot how easy and fun it is to put together an outfit with a great dress as the centerpiece!



The easiest DIY facial cleanser ever: the oil cleansing method in action

As a DIYer and appreciator of natural beauty solutions... I've been interested in the Oil Cleansing Method since I heard about it a couple years ago. Every few months I'd visit the Oil Cleansing Method and read about the blend of oils you're supposed to use based on your skin type, and I'd do a Google search and come across this comparison of carrier oils, and get overwhelmed about what to choose for me.

I stopped using storebought cleanser, astringent, face wash, etc. on my face years ago and for a long time, washed it daily with a warm washcloth and just water. In the shower I'd wash it with soap (usually Dr. Bronner's bars). (I liked the idea of DIY cleanser, but looking up recipes for DIY face wash is even more overwhelming than looking through carrier oils.) I haven't had serious skin issues in years, but I did have occasional oiliness, dryness, blackheads, or breakouts.

So, I figured there was room for improvement and finally got my act together and tried oil cleansing after a visit to the grand opening of a new Pharmaca near me. I saw the selection of a bunch of oil cleansing-appropriate oils and figured, here they are in one place--I can do this! So Pharmaca sent me this castor oil and sweet almond oil to try.

And it's been great! A couple months now of using the basic Oil Cleansing Method (I admit I usually don't spend the full recommended time massaging my face and enjoying the steam), and the skin on my face feels softer, more supple, and smoother. The redness and spots of inflammation have decreased, too.

DIY Facial Cleanser with the Oil Cleansing Method

It's so easy to make your own oil cleansing blend with castor oil and a carrier oil. I mix my personal blend of castor and carrier oil (I've experimented with that per the recommendations) in a small dish, usually enough for 3-4 days (I keep it covered when not in use). I massage it into my face, wait a white, and then wash off with a hot wet washcloth. It's relaxing and feels so good.

I've also tried a mix of castor and sunflower seed oil, and since jojoba oil has a lot of other DIY beauty product uses, I might buy that sometime and try it as well.

Check out the Oil Cleansing Method page and this comparison of carrier oils to figure out what works best for you!



Homemade real food dairy-free protein shake recipe

For almost a full year now, I've been strength training 3-4 times a week. It's the first time in my life I've found a routine I want to stick to and have seen progress from my efforts. It's incredible!

But, with this regular and somewhat ambitious workout schedule, I'm much hungrier than I am when I'm not working out, and I have less time to make our meals in the evenings after work. I eat breakfast, 1-2 lunches, and dinner, but sometimes I need something extra to keep me going before dinner and after my workout, or in the mornings before my first lunch. I had never tried protein powders or shakes before, but we've been looking for brands of grassfed whey protein (this one is a good brand/value, husband uses it), which was helpful but I've also been experimenting with cutting out dairy entirely. (I'd been mostly dairy free, but still ate butter and whey protein without severe issues.)

Without any dairy products including whey, it was hard to find a good protein-dense in-between-meals solution. (I tried egg white protein--I did not like it. And I don't eat grains or processed foods, so plant-based shakes are not an option.) We did have some grassfed gelatin for making homemade panna cotta and jello-ey treats, but its protein content wasn't super high and it has larger granules and a slight flavor when it's plain or not too decorated.

So, I was SO excited when I heard about Vital Proteins, who make collagen peptides and gelatin from pastured cows, both of which provide 18 grams of protein per serving (that's as much as many whey protein powders). With some experimenting, I've come up with a simple, tasty homemade chocolate protein shake, completely dairy-free and full of essential amino acids from Vital Proteins collagen peptides!

Collagen is an essential nutrient for lots of other benefits, too--there's actually a lot of research about its uses for skin, bone/joint health, and recovery. A couple of my fave recipe/wellness bloggers have done some great posts about uses and benefits, too, check those out here:

It's great for putting in my blended coffee in the morning, too--I've been adding just one scoop and it gives it excellent, creamy texture and nicely augments my breakfast to keep me full longer. (In hot drinks like coffee, I've been using the collagen protein, which requires heat to dissolve, but you could also use the peptides.)

I'm so grateful to have found a product like Vital Proteins for my protein shakes, coffee, and the occasional delicious treat like panna cotta or homemade coconut milk ice cream. The research shows great heath benefits from regular use of this stuff, and I'm looking forward to testing it out with daily use for a couple months! (There are tons and tons of delicious, beautiful recipe ideas on the Vital Proteins blog--there are lots of ways to incorporate collagen into meals!)

Homemade real food dairy-free protein shake recipe


You'll need a stick blender (I have this Cuisinart one, it's incredible for soups, salad dressings, etc. and this!), electric whisk or milk frother, or your blender.

I'd gotten into the habit of putting a serving of whey protein shake into a jar with a lid to bring with me to work or errands, so I developed this recipe to be equally easy to make in a jar. You could do this in a drinking glass as well, but... I reached for a jar out of habit. (You could also put all ingredients in your blender and blend before putting in a glass.)

Note: this is a low-carb protein shake (sweetened with sugar alcohols birch xylitol or erythritol, which are sugar-free); most processed, packaged protein shakes out there are sweetened with strange artificial sweeteners, but if you want to carb load after your workout, try another natural, non-GMO sweetener - I sometimes use coconut palm sugar in recipes.


    1. Combine Collagen Peptides, cocoa powder, and sweetener in the jar and mix with stick blender. This is important to break up the chunks of cocoa powder, and to make sure no collagen is stuck at the bottom of the jar.

    Tip: to keep the stick blender from overflowing the jar or container, hold the jar in your hand so your arm absorbs the pressure from the blender--on the counter, there's no flexibility so the contents can overflow.

    2. Add almond milk and vanilla and blend with stick blender or electric whisk.

    (Again, hold the jar in your hand off the counter.)

    Drink! The flavor is excellent, and it's cold and refreshing. So helpful when you know you need to eat but dinner's not ready (or started!) yet.

    Other flavor ideas:

    I'd love to get creative with flavors of homemade protein shakes, although the chocolate is great. Let me know if you try any of these, or have other ideas!
    • Nut butter (you can try my DIY almond butter recipe here!)
    • Cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, and omit the chocolate
    • Frozen banana (like my chia shake recipe here)--use less or no sweetener
    • Frozen blueberries or strawberries instead of the chocolate--use less sweetener
    • Sweeten with maple syrup instead and omit the chocolate--use instead of dry sweetener

    Coupon code!

    Vital Proteins is offering my readers an excellent deal - 20% off your order of collagen peptides or collagen protein, and free shipping!

    Coupon Code: CREATE-ENJOY-2015
    Offer: 20% Off + Free Shipping
    Valid: April 9 - April 23, 2015 



    DIY Wardrobe Makeovers: sneak peek!

    My book arrived last week. An advance copy, just for me. The first time I've held my writing in heavy matte bound form, and it's amazing!

    It's been available for pre-order on Amazon for a while now (THANK YOU for your pre-orders! The price has already dropped significantly and you'll get the lowest price ever when it come to your door!) but now the "Look Inside!" feature is up so you can see more pages from it.

    DIY Wardrobe Makeovers: Alter, Refresh & Refashion Your Clothes Step-by-Step Sewing Tutorials

    Unlock your closet’s potential with simple wardrobe fixes and refashions to express your style. These basic alterations and step-by-step restyling tutorials will help you fit and reassemble garments into newfound faves. No sloppy shortcuts here—learn how to alter sweaters, pants, and everything in your wardrobe for a more flattering fit. Take it in, take it up, or let it out—all on your home sewing machine. Spend less, look better!

    I was overjoyed to receive my advance copy last week, and it was so fun to share with my parents and mother-in-law over the weekend. Now here are some images for you!

    The projects in the book are in two major categories: alteration techniques (basic sewing skills to improve fit or shape, like hemming, taking in, etc.) and DIY style projects (ways to personalize garments to make them more stylish or interesting). 

    There are basic sewing skills for beginners, as well as a few of my favorite tips for any sewist.

    There's content I've never shared on my blog before, like how to measure yourself for home sewing.

    And tutorials I've never done on the blog before. Like this tutorial in the Alteration Technique Tutorials section--a specialized hemming technique with some key differences from the basic methods presented in the beginning of the book.

    There are some very fun projects in the DIY Style Projects section!

    One of the hardest things about writing this book was doing all the step-by-step photos in my front porch and home sewing room-turned studio. Lots of falling-over white foamboard, believe me. But I am so proud that I took the images!

    Aside from the fantastic posed photos full-page after the DIY Style Projects (by the incredible photographer from C&T who hung out with me and a stylist in Portland last summer), and the shots of my sewing room (by my friend Nakalan).

    I can't wait to share the book with more people as it goes around on a blog review tour and as I do an in-person event in the Portland area. (Stay tuned for details!) Thank you, thank you, thank you to those of you who've pre-ordered the book, and please check it out here if you haven't yet!



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