Category Archives: DIY

Experimentation with Fermentation! Part 2

My maiden name is Guenther, and my dad’s side of the family has a pretty German heritage, but somehow or other I don’t think I ever tasted sauerkraut until I was an adult. Most likely my mom, who is all Irish, didn’t fancy the stuff. So it just wasn’t something I ever ate as a kid, and I must have therefore figured it was a “yucky” food, and never sought it out. Until one day I was visiting some relatives on my own after college, and they had sauerkraut as a side dish. I enjoyed it from the first tentative bite! It was like pickles, sour and salty and a bit crunchy. I started buying it at the store from then on – not religiously, but when I remembered it as a flavorful condiment.

After learning more about fermented foods, recently, I have decided that homemade sauerkraut is the next project!
And not only that, but I decided I first needed to make my own ceramic crock to ferment it in, being that I am a potter, after all.

dsc04799w

My first attempt at a handmade fermentation crock

Now that I had a crock to ferment in, here’s the process I followed for homemade sauerkraut!

dsc04791w

Chopped Cabbage and Salt

I filled a huge bowl with chopped cabbage. Just one head, about 2 lbs. One head of cabbage was more volume than I expected! But then I added sea salt, probably about 3 teaspoons (I didn’t measure), and started squeezing the buhjeezus out of it.

dsc04793w

Massaging the salted cabbage

This got the cabbage all coated with the salt, and already it started drawing the water out. After walking away, and then coming back to repeat the massaging process every 10 minutes or so, the cabbage really started releasing its juices.

dsc04800w

Cabbage juices pooling in the bowl

After an hour of this, I felt the cabbage was sufficiently reduced in volume and wilted enough to start packing into the crock. I tossed in a teaspoon of caraway seeds (because Michael Pollan added some to his in Cooked), and then into the crock it went, handful by handful.

dsc04801w

Pounding down the cabbage

I used a cocktail muddler to really pound down the cabbage. This forces out the air, packing it down, and it gets the water to continue squeezing out of the cabbage. The cabbage juice (or brine) needs to be at a level above the solid cabbage; this protects the kraut from exposure to air, which can cause it to mold (bad).

dsc04804w

Weights to keep the kraut submerged below the brine level

Once I felt I’d pounded enough, and the cabbage was sufficiently juicy, I topped them off with two half circle ceramic weights I’d also made when I made the crock. These will keep the kraut from floating to the top and getting moldy. The bacteria that transform the cabbage in to sauerkraut prefer an oxygen-free environment, so that’s the environment I intended to create.

dsc04805w

Adding water to the moat creates an airlock

The photo above shows my little helper Ethan, pouring the water into the reservoir around the crock lid. The water will let CO2 out (it’ll “burp” to release pressure), but won’t allow any air to go in.

dsc04806w

My kitchen helper

Look how proud he is, helping Mama. Nevermind that he spilled most of the water on the counter, haha. By the way, how is it possible that this kid is two-and-three-quarters already?? Obligatory observation on how time flies.

dsc04820w

And now we wait…

So that’s it! Now my pretty little crock will live on the kitchen counter for a few weeks, and hopefully it will produce a yummy, probiotic sauerkraut!

And out in my studio I’m working on improving my design. Swing over to my Jadeflower Ceramics Etsy Site – I’ll have crocks like this (better, even!) for sale in my Etsy shop.

Here’s to my continuing fermentation adventure! Bye for now!

 

Leave a comment

Filed under DIY, Fermentation, food, Recipes, tutorial, Uncategorized

DIY Pull-over Bib with a Bow Tie

OK, so having a baby now doesn’t give me as much time to do the millions of things I have swimming around in my head. But here’s a project I absolutely forced myself to carve out time for.

DIY Bib with bow tie

The little guy is a big drooler at the moment (he’s almost 4 months now, so I guess teething is a thing that starts around now?) and he basically soaks through 2-4 bibs a day. A lot of the bibs that he was gifted (usually as a set with a matching onesie) are teeny, and not really very useful. But two that we got were basically towels with a hole cut out for his head. Ah Ha. So I decided to try my hand at a cute version  – with a bow tie! Perfect for those “special” occasions, ya know. (Seriously, with wedding season coming up, not to mention just fun holidays and stuff, this little extra detail will be my one effort to cute-en him up).

 

Pull-over Bib with Bow Tie Tutorial
Materials:
>terry cloth (I bought1/2 yard at the fabric store, but you could easily use a towel)
>backing material (on my first bib, I just used another layer of terry cloth. on this one I used polar fleece)
>double bias tape
>stretchy rib-knit fabric for the collar
>colorful fabric for the bow tie
>thread, pins, scissors & sewing machine

bib fabricStep ONE
Cut out your terry cloth and backing fabric to 15″ x10″

 

cut head holesStep TWO
Cut out the hole for the head. My babe is about 4 months, and I wanted the bib to be somewhat snug while still comfortably fitting over his head. I made the opening diameter 5 inches. Positioned 2″ from the top and centered from side to side.

 

two layers sewn togetherStep THREE
Pin together your two layers (right sides facing outward). Sew a 1/4″ hem all the way around, and radius your corners (I used a light colored pen to mark the corners as a guide).

 

Trim the fabricStep FOUR
Trim your shape to about 1/8″ from your stitching. This will get covered up by bias tape later. Pin around the neck hole.

 

Pin bias tapeStep FIVE
Sew around the neck hole with a V stitch (or use a serger). Then pin your bias tape around the perimeter of the bib. (This is a pretty good tutorial on how to sew with double bias tape and not have it turn out all wonky)

 

bias tape addedStep SIX
Stitch on the bias tape!

 

assembling the collarStep SEVEN
Cut a strip of knit ribbing 2.5″ x 11″. Fold it in half and sew the ends together with a V stitch. Then fold the whole thing over like a turtle neck.

 

pin collar to the neck holeStep EIGHT
Pin the knit collar to the neck hole, matching the tops, bottoms and two sides. This will keep the stretch of the collar uniform.

 

collar attatchedStep NINE
Sew the collar to the neck hole with a V stitch, making sure the sewn part happens on the back side of the bib. (This was probably the trickiest part of this project for me.)
And there you have a functional bib!

…and here’s adding the bow tie detail…

rectangle for the bow tieStep TEN
With your colorful fabric, cut a 5″ x 4.5″ rectangle. Fold lengthwise, right sides facing inward. Stitch almost all the way around with a 1/4″ seam allowance, leaving enough of a hole to flip the rectangle right-side-out. Once it’s flipped right-side-out, fold in your opening hole, and then stitch all the way around as close to the edge as you can.

sew the tie middleStep ELEVEN
Sew a tube for the middle of the bow tie. I did mine from a long rectangle 2.5″ wide, giving me a 1″ strip when it was turned right-side-out.

pinch the middle to make a bow shapeStep TWELVE
Pinch the middle of the big rectangle (like an accordion fold) and wrap the smaller fabric strip around it. Trim off the excess from the strip, and stitch it into place. Now you have your bow tie!

attatch the bow tie to the bibStep THIRTEEN
Position the bow tie pretty close to the collar and pin into place. Hand-stitch all around to secure in place (this will keep little hands from grabbing loose edges and pulling the bow tie off, with their orangutan strength).

 

And there you have it! Slip the bib over your little one’s noggin and enjoy the cuteness. (Pay no attention to the crazy-eyed daddy)
bow tie bib

Something I learned while making this bib – terry cloth is MESSY! Cutting it will make a confetti of little cotton snow all over the place. And it will probably take a couple washings before the bib stops shedding them. Pbbt 😛

1 Comment

Filed under Baby, Crafts, DIY, projects, sewing, tutorial

A valentine fort

I don’t consider myself the romantic type. I find most classic examples of romance (in the real world) to be, well, embarrassing. I’m much more comfortable with cute gestures of love than steamy, sensual, dramatic ones! What can I say, it’s just not me.

So anyway, M & I were talking about what to do for Valentine’s Day this year, and since I have no spare cash, after just paying my taxes (ouch), I suggested we just stay in and have a nice meal. And I mentioned, “oh and we should build a fort!” To which M just chuckled.

Little did he know. I was going to build a fort.

I grew up in a family with 3 brothers, and one of our favorite things to do was construct elaborate forts in the living room, from couch cushions, sheets, blankets and furniture. But my inspiration for this Valentine’s fort was from this picture:

Valentine’s Day Fort via Design*Sponge

This is my kind of romantic.

I wish I could say I have all kinds of rich tapestry linens hanging around my house, but I had to make due with what I could scrounge from my closets.
I found 3 gauzy curtain panels, a couple of flat sheets, 2 lengths of lace, and just about every throw blanket and pillow in the house.

my valentine fort

my valentine fort

I used the method in the Design*Sponge post – draping the sheets over a broom handle suspended from the ceiling, string and safety pins. I also used a large embroidery hoop in the front, from which the airy curtains hung.

Sure, it took me 2-3 hours to make this thing! Ah the perks of being one’s own boss. That’s right, I gave myself the afternoon off for this special occasion. 🙂

cozy living room fort

cozy living room fort

I also made some chocolate truffles (what’s Valentine’s day without chocolate?).
The last finishing touch was gussying myself up. On a normal work day, since I work with clay all day and my studio is home-based, I wear jeans, a t-shirt, and my work sweatshirt. Rarely do I put on much make-up if I’m not going to see people.

For Valentine’s day, to complete the surprise, I wore this dress, an Anthro find from several years back:

Doris Shirtdress – Anthropologie

It’s super fun and colorful, and very retro 50s.
Then I did my face up all pretty-like.

The whole thing was worth it when M got home, came through the back door, to find this leading him into the living room…

candlelit pathway

candlelit pathway

And then this on the other side…

valentine tent and a bottle of wine

valentine tent and a bottle of wine

The look on his face. Priceless. How can you not love a surprise living room fort? 😀

The rest of the evening was spent on the floor, with wine, dinner and a movie. Now that’s my kind of romance.

2 Comments

Filed under DIY, Holidays, projects

Pigs in Space costume: Happy Halloween!

So here is my final post, wrapping up my process of creating a Miss Piggy Halloween costume – the Pigs in Space 1st Mate Piggy costume!
Where I attempt to transform myself into this iconic pig:

Miss Piggy – Pigs in Space

In my previous 3 posts, I went over how to make Miss Piggy Ears, sew a Pigs in Space uniform dress, and make a Pigs in Space felt logo decal. Now we put it all together with accessories!

First Mate Piggy – finished costume!

Now, you can see, I stitched the felt decal onto the front of the dress. And I also stitched the ears onto the wig itself – which was great, since there was no bulky headband or obtrusive clips. And I can snip the threads later if I want to use the blonde wig for something else in the future!

First Mate Piggy costume – headshot

So here’s the breakdown of the Pigs in Space costume accessories:

First Mate Piggy, accessories!

Now, the above collage is more of a wish list for this costume, but I think I made due with what I had, or could get on short notice 😉

First! A blonde wig. Very important to have the right hair. The wig I found was a tad bit too blonde, if you know what I mean. Classic Piggy hair is really more of a dirty blonde. You know, ‘cuz she was natural back in the day. (It’s so obvious that Piggy bleaches her hair these days, haha).

Classic Miss Piggy – pigs in space

Next, the eyes! Piggy’s signature look is thick luscious eyelashes and a pink/purple eyeshadow. Also, her eyes are slightly downturned. I achieved this look with a thick line of eyeliner, false eyelashes, and a layered application of pink and purple shadows on the lid.

sultry Miss Piggy eyes 😉

Next comes all the silver! Miss Piggy always wears gloves, and in her Pigs In Space costume, she trades her signature purple gloves for silver ones. I found mine on Amazon.
Then you’ll need a silver belt. Of course, you can make one, but I lucked out and found a shiny metallic belt at my local Goodwill for $4. Score!

Then we get into debatable territory. Since most Muppets don’t exist below the waist, the only reference I had to go on for the bottom half of Piggy’s costume was from an action figure:

First Mate Piggy doll

You can see she has silver leggings and silver knee-high boots.
As luck would have it, I already owned some shiny silver leggings (from two Halloweens ago – when I dressed as a Cyberman..er..woman). They are from American Apparel, and pricy, but I’m glad to get multiple uses out of them!

Then the boots…well, I didn’t want to splurge on silver boots when I’d probably never wear them again. So instead, I used my off-white boots, which were from my Princess Leia costume from 5 years ago. Lol…yes, I generally choose very nerdy subjects as Halloween costumes. I’m cool with that.

First Mate Piggy costume – Happy Halloween!

So there you go! Happy Halloween to all you folks. Hope it’s a fun one! Kissy kissy!

7 Comments

Filed under DIY, Holidays, projects, sewing, tutorial

First Mate Piggy Costume Tutorial: Pt 1 – Piggy Ears

October is here, and that means pumpkin flavored everything, changing leaves, and of course, gearing up for Halloween! I love Halloween, and the craftiness that goes along with it. Ever since I was a wee one, my mother always made our costumes – I don’t think I once got a store-bought one. At times I thought this was so unfair – seeing those shiny racks of pre-made costumes at the store. But now it is quite obvious to me how lucky I was to have a mother with creativity and the desire to make something from scratch for her children.

To this day, if I wear a costume, you can be sure I made or assembled it myself. This year is no exception! I got it in my head earlier this year that I wanted to do something Muppet related. Then I narrowed it down to Miss Piggy. But Piggy is such a fashion diva! I couldn’t decided on an appropriate outfit.

Then – inspiration! Pigs in Space! First Mate Piggy has the most rockin’ space getup. Light purple with silver accessories. Iconic and classic.

Pigs in Space First Mate Piggy

I’ll have a full tutorial on how to make a Pigs in Space outfit soon.
But first! No Muppet pig is complete without ears, so here’s how to make a simple pair!

Materials:
Pink/Peach colored felt
Thread in matching color
Ear Template: Piggy Ear Template
Straight pins
Sewing machine (optional)

Step One:
Print and cut out your ear template. Trace 6 ears onto your felt.

Miss Piggy Ears step 1

Miss Piggy Ears step 1

Step Two:
Cut them out. Each ear will use 3 pieces (I used a red layer, because I ran out of pink – don’t be like me!)
I used three layers to make the ears more solid and sturdy.

Miss Piggy Ears step 2

Step Three:
Line up your three pieces and secure with a few straight pins. Stitch a seam, using the Template as a guide (be sure to leave an opening for turning it inside-out). A sewing machine makes this super quick, but it can be done by hand too.

Miss Piggy Ears part 3

Step Four:
Admire your stitching job.

Miss Piggy Ears part 4

Step Five:
Carefully turn the ear inside-out, so the seam is on the inside.

Miss Piggy Ears part 5

Step Six:
Using your fingers, smooth out the inside seam and shape the edge into a nice ear-shape.

Miss Piggy Ears part 6

Step Seven:
Pinch the open edges together so the ear cups in to form a concave shape.

Miss Piggy Ears part 7a

Miss Piggy Ears part 7b

Step Eight:
You can use your machine again to close this seam, or you can do what I did and hand-stitch it closed. Be sure to get through all layers of felt.

Miss Piggy Ears part 8

FINISHED!

Miss Piggy Ear finished!

Then you’ll make a second ear the same way, because they work well in pairs.

Miss Piggy Ears – the finished pair

From here, you can attach them to a headband, or hair clips, or stitch them directly onto a blonde wig!

I haven’t decided yet which method I’ll use. But they sure are cute ^_^

me in my piggy ears

Stay tuned for my First Mate Piggy space dress Tutorial later in the month!

4 Comments

Filed under DIY, Holidays, sewing, tutorial

Reflecting on July

This month I had another small re-vamp project that was on the list for ages. I seem to have a penchant for mirrors with decorative frames, especially if they are oval. So when I found this large ornate brass-colored mirror frame at Goodwill (for $5!!), there was no way I wasn’t taking this baby home with me.

brass-colored mirror frame

Yes, it also had a mirror, it’s just not pictured here….because – wait for it – I decided to paint the frame! I’m sure you saw that coming. 🙂
The moment I saw it, I knew this frame would look so great in a solid color, to update the look, give it a more modern vibe. It is plastic (not metal), and the brass finish was a bit too grandma’s-house for my current decor tastes. So I settled on a glossy white (mainly due to the fact that M had purchased a can of spray paint in this color recently and there was nearly a whole can of it left over, score!).

So after many many thin coats of paint later:

mirror frame refinished in white

I love how it almost looks like a plaster, with just a hint of gloss.
You may notice in the reflection…yep, those are garage doors. I’m hanging this guy in the garage, in my studio to be exact. 🙂

the jadeflower ceramics studio

My studio space is still ever-evolving in the decor arena; for the most part it is strictly functional. But here and there, I am trying to add little touches to make it a pleasant place to spend my hours. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you may recognize some past projects like this and this.

Our garage is a quirky place. Did you notice it looks like outdoor siding on that wall above? Well, M and I have a (strong) hunch that the garage was added much later to the house. Exhibit A: outdoor siding. Exhibit B: that rectangle the mirror is hanging in front of is actually a window that the landlord covered up with a big sheet of foam insulation (and which I then covered up with some striped vintage wallpaper because it was ugly!). Oh funny old houses 😉

In unrelated news, we had a busy July. One highlight was a housewarming party M & I hosted, now that we are pretty much settled into our new abode. We celebrated with tacos, fun drinks, and lawn games (with thankfully cooperative weather!). At the end of the evening we lit sparklers saved from the 4th of July! ^_^ Everybody loves sparklers, right?

sparklers!

The party was also to celebrate M and my first anniversary. Awwww 🙂 It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since this fantastic day. My mom and dad brought us a vase of hydrangeas cut from all the plants that were bought the year before; she says that they’ll always have a reminder of our wedding with all the pretty blues/greens/whites of the hydrangeas that now decorate their property.

hydrangeas

A very fun and event-filled month! And August should be just as busy! Until next time 🙂

1 Comment

Filed under Crafts, DIY, Events, Jadeflower Ceramics, projects, Wedding