Simply Driftless bio picture

    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.

Upcycling a Sweater For a New Baby

Yesterday, my friend Nora had a baby.  And any moment now I’m expecting to hear that my friend Erin has had her baby.  Yep, two babies in one week.  Yay!


Usually I’m pretty bad about sending a “Welcome, Baby” gift.  As in… I always think about it.  I have good intentions.  But then for any number of reasons, I forget, decide my project isn’t good enough, it gets to be so late that I’m embarassed, or ______ (fill in the blank here).  Last night I was feeling sorta crafty.  That can be dangerous but last night’s efforts didn’t prove too awful.


So.  Erin and Nora, if either of you are reading this post…. STOP.  Walk away from this website.  Do not read or look at pictures past this point.

You have been warned.  😀


Anyway, I have this great Banana Republic sweater that is well past it’s prime.  It’s cotton and angora, incredibly soft, and a fun shade of green.  Even though it was worn and had a small hole or two, I couldn’t bring myself to give it to the local thrift store.  For weeks I’ve been enchanted with “Softies”, or upcycled cloth stuffed animals, so I decided last night that it was finally time to give my old sweater a new life as a baby gift.  (FYI: upcycled means repurposed/upcycled into something useful.)



I also knew I’d need some additional fabric for wings, eyes, and a nose… so I raided my stash of fabric.  Yes, it’s an old sheet, old pajama pants, a bleach-stained tank top, and some scraps left over from another project.  Once I had a few options, I got to work on a “pattern”.


Did I mention I’m not a very good sewer?  I don’t use patterns.  I struggle with sewing a straight line.  And I am a pretty bad artist when it comes to drawing.  So please, don’t judge my artistry skills. 🙂


See?  My pattern.  Believe me, this is about as good as it gets.  I was quite proud of this little guy.  Ha!  So I cut out the outline in paper two times (front and back), then cut out the pattern in my green knit sweater fabric.  You know what’s cool?  I got lucky and could cut Mr. Owl out of the sleeve.  So now I still have the entire body of my sweater to use for another project!


I also cut out some wings from a barely stained baby onesie that I found at a thrift store a while back.  I loved the pattern, it was soft organic cotton, and only a quarter.  So… money well spent, I think.  Then I cut out some white “eyes” and used a scrap of polka dot fabric to cut out two polka dotted eyes.  Each piece was pinned on one side of Mr. Owl.
-Note- I pinned these decorative pieces on the *right* side of the fabric, the fabric that would be the outside.  Once each wing and eye and nose was stitched into place, I stitched the two  sides of the owl together.  Because I wanted the edges to have a little fray/ruffle to them, I stitched both of the right sides facing the outside and therefore the *wrong* sides were touching.  Does that makes sense?


Almost done!  I stitched around the outline of the softy several times to reinforce this soft knit pattern, making sure to leave a hole in his butt  the bottom of the softy to make sure I could stuff him.  Even though I had some polyfill stuffing, I wanted to use scraps to stuff him.  So I cut up my scrap pieces of the green sweater, part of the organic baby onesie, and a few other cotton scraps I had sitting around.  This is partially because I loved the thought of keeping all the products natural in case Mr. Owl gets chewed on by Baby and partially because I’m thrifty like that.  🙂


I stitched up his bottom.  One really great bonus to sewing him the way I did is that I don’t have to hand-sew the last bit after I stuffed him – I could just continue sewing around the edges.   And tada!  A completed softy Owl is ready for Baby.  Don’t look too closely because he’s slightly imperfect… but then, so am I.


What do you think?  I still have to make baby gift #2, so if you have suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

August 10, 2012 - 5:53 pm

Elizabeth - This is a great idea Bec, I love it!! It’s a great idea for babies and toddlers 🙂

August 11, 2012 - 1:57 am

erin - i was fairly warned but the temptation was too huge and I read on. mr owl is so stinkin cute i better have baby soon before you loose your crafty ambition. love you!

DIY – Taco Seasoning Mix

Mmm.  Tacos.  I looooove tacos, don’t you?


Over the past few years, one of my goals has been to learn how to make many typically store-bought items from scratch.  Not only is it healthier (have you looked at the ingredient list of what you buy?), it’s also much more frugal.  It’s crazy how quickly a grocery bill adds up when you buy all of those little items that are supposed to be so convenient.   Like taco seasoning, for example.  This is such an easy item to make ahead of time or even while you are making dinner that I haven’t bought it in years.


When I started making taco seasoning myself, I just used chili powder and cumin, two items I always had on hand for our gazillion batches of chili each winter.  (What can I say?  We like chili.)  But now that I’ve added a few more ingredients, it tastes a little more like the store-bought variety, only without all the preservatives and chemicals.





1-2 tbsp cumin

2 tbsp cayenne pepper

4 tbsp chili powder

2 tbsp corn starch

1 tbsp black pepper

1 tbsp salt (I use pink Himalayan sea salt because it’s pretty it has so many health benefits, but fine sea or table salt works fine.)

optional: garlic powder and onion powder


Directions: mix all ingredients in a bowl or jar with lid.  That’s it.  🙂  To use: add 1-2 tablespoons of taco seasoning to one pound of browned ground beef along with 1-2 tablespoons of water.  Mix thoroughly over low heat until powder is evenly mixed in.


  1. If you have a small glass jar sitting in your recycling bin, try removing the label and washing thoroughly… and ta-da!  You have a recycled, BPA-free, cost-effective container.
  2. We choose not to add garlic or onion powders because we always have those fresh.  But if you do prefer to use the powdered variety, add 1 tbsp of each.
  3. Don’t be afraid to adjust the recipe to your own taste.  For example, if you want a milder recipe, add less cayenne pepper.
  4. Cornstarch is optional.  I add this ingredient because it thickens the mix when water is added, similar to a store-bought mix.  But it’s perfectly fine to skip the cornstarch.
  5. This mix always works great for chili.  I usually just add a little extra chili powder to my chili.
  6. Spices can be expensive and I recommend buying them in bulk.  Your local natural foods store is a great resource, or many grocery stores have a bulk spice section.  I often just reuse an empty spice jar.



Do you make your own taco seasoning?  Do you do anything different?




This post contains an affiliate link.  🙂


Farmers Market Day!

Do you shop at your local farmer’s market?

We are regular shoppers at ours.  I have to admit, I used to be the girl that bought everything from Target or Wal-mart or the local grocery store.  Yep… meat, veggies, fruit, and everything else came from the bigger stores near my house.  But in the last couple years, we’ve shifted our buying habits.  It definitely didn’t happen overnight but little by little we’re seeing the benefits to buying locally and/or organic.


The last couple years, we’ve started buying much more of our food locally, especially produce.  In fact, it’s safe to say that 90% of our fruits and vegetables from May through November are grown within 15 miles of our house or at my grandparent’s farm in northern Wisconsin.  I kind of love that.  One of the biggest reasons this is important to us is our health.  We know who grows our food and that they aren’t spraying them with chemicals.  And as a small business owner, I appreciate that a large percentage of the money I spend will be staying in our local community (as opposed to a larger chain where typically only a fraction of my money stays local).  And lastly, it just tastes better.  Hubby and I did a taste test with several items we buy frequently.  We were amazed at how much better our local purchases tasted.



Confession: I’ve been known to plan my schedule around market day.  I’m so disappointed if I’m out of town and have to buy my veggies at the store.  Have you ever done a comparison of store-bought baby carrots vs fresh from the garden regular carrots?  Try it… you’ll probably never buy baby carrots during the growing season again.  And this is coming from the girl who bought baby carrots religiously for years.  It’s also fun to try veggies that we’re unfamiliar with.  Pattypan squash, kohlrabi, and kale are a few things that I’ve started cooking with in the last year.


If you live in Wisconsin and are looking for a local producer, a great resource is the Farm Fresh Atlas.  In addition to listing farmer’s markets for each region of the state, it also lists other places to get great locally-prepared food.


If you live near me in southern Wisconsin, make sure to check out my favorite vendors who sell at the Gays Mills, Viroqua, and Prairie du Chien markets as Austin’s Rush Creek Farms.  🙂


Are you a market shopper? Why? What is your favorite thing about your local market?

Check back later this week for a fun kale chip recipe and a tutorial on making fabric produce bags, perfect for toting your delicious market produce home.

August 8, 2012 - 9:49 pm

Ashley Bores - Dear Rebecca, I love this post. The end. 🙂

August 9, 2012 - 12:13 pm

Kendra - CAN’T wait to see everything you come up with and share with my readers. BTW – who does your photography? You have some beautiful photos. 🙂

Hello world!

After thinking about starting a blog for months, it’s finally happening.  Yay!  Can’t wait to share what’s been going on here in The Driftless.