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  • WELCOME!

    Welcome to Simply Driftless! My name is Rebecca and I'm so happy you are here. Joined by my husband Ben, we are on a journey towards a healthier, natural, DIY lifestyle... and we're trying to do it as inexpensively as possible.

    We have made our home in the beautiful Driftless Region of southwest Wisconsin. This area is full of local food and self-sufficiency and we're excited to continue our transition to this way of living.

Knife review: 8″ Damascus Steel Gyutou Kitchen Knife

Cooking from scratch is pretty important in our home; I’d estimate about 6 dinners each week, along with quite a few breakfasts and lunches are made from scratch.  So we put a ton of mileage on our kitchen tools… pots, pans, mixers, food processors, knives, etc.  Because of this, we choose quality over quantity. We are picky about the “gadgets” we allow in our house, and instead choose to have high quality items that serve multiple purposes.

Last week I was asked to review this knife to see how it held up to the the heavy usage in our kitchen.  The official name is: Professional Grade 8″ Damascus Chef Knife with 67 Layer Japanese VG10 Steel Blade.  It retails for $99 on Amazon.  So here are my thoughts:

Absolutely, it’s the nicest knife we own.  It even arrives with it’s own storage box!  But we use our knives to heavily to keep them in fancy boxes. 🙂 Currently we have a mix of knives in different brands and sizes.  Most of them are the “better” quality at Target. Not the cheapest option, but not the most expensive option… I’d consider them fairly mid-range with most falling in the $12-$30 price range for a single knife.  And yes, this is definitely better than those.  It feels balanced in the hand, slices well, and cuts cleanly.  It also arrives very, very sharp.  I actually knicked my palm by grazing the tip along it as I was slicing some peppers!

The metal blade is built right into the handle and this is a sign of a better quality knife. And actually, if you research Damascus Steel, they are supposed to be some of the strongest knives out there, since they heat the steel then fold it back on itself many times, which gives the blade it’s characteristic layered appearance.

So if there is any downside to this knife, if I’m honest, it would have to be the price.  I did receive a discount on this item in exchange for my review, but I do feel that $99 is a bit steep. (Though to be fair, if you look at comparable knives on Amazon, this doesn’t seem to be that out of line for retail price.)  Perhaps I need more experience with higher end knives to know how this compares to those that are higher than $50 retail, but I do know it’s significantly better than my other knives that retail for less than $50.

Preschool at home – educational wooden puzzle set

Our little guy is turning two this month. While it’s early to think about homeschooling or even preschool, I’m starting to think along those lines for two reasons:

1) It’s fun. I love educational toys. 🙂

2) We need to watch what we spend, so I’ve been starting to gather items here and there for around a year.

I cut back on work quite a bit when he was born, so we make it work in a variety of ways: buying used items, buying items heavily on sale, using Ibotta for grocery shopping (I hate couponing but love Ibotta), and sometimes, I even pick things up for reviewing on Amazon or this blog.  🙂  In the next few weeks I’ll start to feature some of the items we have acquired for homeschool curriculum for preschool, mostly fun toys that teach, or open-ended things that inspire creativity or critical thinking.  As I mentioned, I occasionally find things I can review in exchange for a discount on the item.  I saw these great puzzles come up for review and quickly requested them.  We love Haba, Hape, and Melissa & Doug in our family, and I figured these would be a lower quality version of those brands.  After all, they are half the price.

But I was VERY pleasantly surprised when I realized they are nearly as nice as our Haba and Melissa & Doug brand puzzles/toys, just much cheaper!  The paint is nice, not chipped. The edges are rounded and finished well (I actually did a side-by-side comparison with a Haba base vs this puzzle base, and this one was nicer!)

So bottom line: I would actually pay full price for these, knowing that they are a quality item and still cheaper than our favorite brands!  I hope my feedback helps you out. 🙂

A fun new backyard toy that fits behind our couch!

We have a busy toddler and are always looking for fun activities for him that are open-ended and inspire creativity.  Some of our all-time favorites so far are a ball, a truck to push around, and some blocks (we have a wooden set and some plastic Megabloks).  These items, along with his play kitchen, easel, and books, are about 75% of what he plays with every day.

In the past year, we bought a play tunnel plus a small pop-up tent for our two year old son. Over the winter it was amazing to have something to do that kept him moving around and burning off energy!  The tunnel was from Amazon and the tent was from Wal-Mart.  He LOVED them both and I loved that I could fold them up and store them behind our couch.  But they both broke within a few months!  We had to toss them because they were a safety hazard and could have poked out an eye or punctured skin.  No bueno.  Last week I was given the opportunity to review a three piece tunnel/tent combo by Kiddey.  You can read more about it HERE on Amazon if you are curious.  I’m going to compare this set to those broken ones, in case you are trying to decide what to choose for your family.

1: we like this Kiddey set better. It has three pieces rather than two separate ones. So we can pull out one component or all three if we’re feeling generous. 😉 And they all fold up into one storage case, so it’s easier to stick it behind the couch.

2: Our other (first) tunnel broke within a few months when the wire spiral coil that gave it shape busted through the fabric. Now we’ve only had this set for a week but my husband and I think this set will last longer. In the tunnel we bought before, the circular framework actually ripped through the nylon and started to stick out. I was worried it would poke my son in the eye since it was right at the entrance of the tunnel. I don’t think this one will rip so easily; it seems to be better quality supports.

3: Our other (first) tent broke much easier than the tunnel, even. The framework broke in several spots. My husband tried to repair the “poles” but it just didn’t hold. For what it’s worth, our son is not very destructive. I think that one broke easier because it was a bit complicated to fold down, then twist into shape to store it.  In this Kiddey set, it’s a metal framework and we can tell it’s MUCH less likely to break.  Perhaps it would bend out of shape, but then we could just bend it back into place.  (With that said, we do have to fold it into a circle to get it into the case and it’s folds easily, so I’m not worried about the structural integrity of this set!)

4: This set folds down much easier than the other set we had. The tunnel is basically the same as far as collapsing it, but the tents are waaaay easier than our previous one. They fold in on themselves, then you twist them into a circle. I struggled with the last set but can do this one myself.

5: This set has lots of see-through mesh. At first I wasn’t crazy about that, but with my son playing inside them, he got so much joy in being able to peek through and tell me “peek-a-boo!” So now I see it as a good thing. Who knew being in a tent but being able to see Mama was so much fun? Ha.

Like I said earlier, I don’t think this set will rip or break as easy as our prior tunnel and tent, but even if one thing breaks, there are still two more to enjoy. I see this set lasting a couple years whereas the last set didn’t even make it 6 months. I do think the fabric is a tiny bit thinner in this set BUT since we had more trouble with the supports (as opposed to the fabric), I don’t think it will make a big difference.  End result: my son loves this set, even more than the two standalone pieces we had before. We like that they seem like they will hold up better, and LOVE that we can just fold them and store them behind the couch. Great purchase!

I received a discount on this product in exchange for my honest review and opinion. As I mentioned, we have purchased this type of item before and we already hunting for something like this to replace our broken pieces. So this truly is a fun, well-loved product in our home!

Sandbox!

It’s been quiet around here lately.  Well, for like two years! Our son is growing up so quickly and something had to take a back burner… it definitely couldn’t be him!  But I wanted to pop in and share a few photos that I took yesterday of him enjoying his new sandbox and some new CAT construction toys that he is currently obsessed with. Hard to believe this little guy will be two years old in just a few weeks! We’ve been trying to get some outdoor activities for him – a sandbox, a swingset, and a little climber with a slide.  And we can’t wait to spend a ton of time at the community pool this summer!


I was asked to review this little mini construction set of 5 little trucks/diggers for a seller. Part of that request included a blog share so here is my review. 🙂

It’s a really cute set! Jacob loves them, even slept with them at naptime yesterday and nighttime tonight. Everything works – wheels, hinges for the buckets, etc. They are really well made and SO cute. I love that they fit in both my purse and his hands so they are easy to take with us in the car, play in the sandbox. I kind of wish I would have kept them in the box until his birthday in a few weeks because they would be excellent cake toppers!

You can check them out HERE on Amazon!

(I did get the set at a highly discounted price in exchange for my honest review.) 🙂 I’m just so happy he loves them!

Inexpensive Child’s Magnets; a thrifty activity!

My son is 9 months old and typically keeps us company while we make our meals in the kitchen.  While we usually give him kitchen utensils or a kitchen pan to play with (along with a couple of his own toys), I have noticed he gravitates towards the fridge and our magnets, photo cards, and other things he shouldn’t have.

I began searching for child-appropriate magnets.  I struck out.  I found a few that I liked but they were for children much older than him, or they would not have held up to a teething baby.  Or the few that I liked were priced so high that I just couldn’t justify it! So… I decided to make some.  Over the last year or two, I’ve picked up a handful of lightly used wooden puzzles.  They were all fairly inexpensive, either from a rummage sale, thrift store, or given to us. In a stroke of genius (ha!), I decided to sacrifice one of these puzzles to become magnets for the baby.  This would be a great use for puzzles that have lost a piece or two; a missing piece is not noticeable when they are converted to magnets! At the store, I grabbed some stick-on magnet buttons for $2.50.  Once I got home, I grabbed the sacrificial lamb of our puzzle collection, attached the magnets, and ta-da! Jacob’s new magnets were a 3 minute project that cost $2.50.  Much better than $20 and a week to ship from an online purchase!

 

The result?  He loves them!  He will often play with them during meal prep time.

 

 

But apparently my camera is much more exciting than his magnets! 🙂

Do you have a favorite DIY project? Please share!