Tag 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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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

Makin’ Bacon Pancakes

If you are a fan of the totally awesome animated show “Adventure Time” and also spend any amount of time on the internet, you may have come across this completely get-in-your-head music video…

Anytime I think of it, or if someone says the words “Bacon Pancakes” it is inevitable that this song will then be on repeat in my brain for the rest of the day…or until I make me some bacon pancakes.

So one recent Saturday morning when I actually had some bacon in my fridge, I decided to whip up a batch. And M was most pleased.

Jake the dog’s song says it all – Bacon pancakes…make some bacon and you put it in a pancake!

Here’s my step-by-step for your own delicious meat-candy filled breakfast delight!

First! Start with the bacon.

you start with the bacon!

you start with the bacon!

For 2 people, I found that 4 strips of bacon was plenty. If you’re cooking for more, or have more of an appetite, adjust accordingly!
I like to use the baking method for my bacon. It ensures evenly cooked, flat bacon, and you don’t have to keep an eye on it. Leaving you to do other things!
If you’ve never baked bacon, here’s how I do it: line a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up) and fold the edges to contain all the grease. Place your baking sheet into a cold oven, then turn it on to 350 degrees, and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. (Check at 15, and leave in until it is the level of crispiness you like!)

Next! While your bacon cooks, mix up your pancake batter. Just your favorite recipe, be it a box mix or from scratch. My go-to recipe comes from my Joy Of Cooking cookbook. It is my go-to for a lot of basic recipes. 🙂
When your bacon is done, drain on paper towels and cut each piece in half.

cooked bacon and pancake batter

cooked bacon and pancake batter

Then! In a pre-heated pan or griddle over medium heat, add your first dollop of batter.

First dollop of batter

First dollop of batter

Then while the batter is still mostly uncooked, place 2 pieces of your bacon on top. Gently squish them on in there.

...put it in a pancake

…put it in a pancake

And finally, drizzle some more batter on top of the bacon, to totally encase them in pancake.

bacon, covered with batter

bacon, covered with batter

Then cook as normal! When you see lots of bubbles forming through the top, you know it’s ready to flip.

time to flip the bacon pancake!

time to flip the bacon pancake!

The final stages, of course, are to slather with maple syrup and enjoy!

bacon pancakes!

bacon pancakes!

They look like normal pancakes, but with a secret delicious surprise inside. ;-P

there's bacon inside!

there’s bacon inside!

These make a decadent, yet very easy breakfast. And I dare you not to sing that song the entire time you make them 😉

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Filed under DIY, Holidays, sewing, tutorial

Raising the bar

Ok, I’m no good at making up clever blog post titles! Let’s just say this post is going to be about my search for a furniture solution – a place to store our liquor. 🙂

M and I aren’t huge drinkers, but for me coming from an Irish/German heritage, I like a good cocktail hour as much as the rest of ’em! Our new kitchen doesn’t have as much storage as our previous one did, so we’re having to get creative with all of our extra stuff that used to have a home. Our dining room is the biggest room in the house, so we’re making it do lots of double duty.

The wall adjoining the kitchen is already home to our coffee station, and now it is also home to our “bar”!

dining room storage: coffee and liquor!

This nice little furniture piece got a bit of a make over (but just barely).
It was a Goodwill find (aw yeah!) for just $12.99! I had been scouting all month for something that was about counter-height, had shelving/storage and was cheap. This baby had a really really beat-up top, lots of stripped finish, and didn’t look too attractive to the average passerby, hence the low price tag.

I knew just from looking at it, however, that it is solid wood (no particle board here!) and I could easily sand the top and re-stain it.

bar top sanded

Look at that – solid oak, I think. And no trace of the previously marred surface. Just a few minutes of sanding and it was ready for staining.

Goodwill find, sanded

I had some wood stain, left over from this project from last year, so I got to staining.

dark walnut stain

staining in process

There is something immensely satisfying about staining wood! After brushing it on and then wiping off the excess with a cloth, the color is so different immediately, I love it.
So after one application it looked like this:

one coat of stain

It really is a pretty wood. The dark walnut wasn’t an exact match for color, but it sure is pretty. I love that it has a bit of a rustic vibe. I did a second coat later in the day to darken it further. Then this morning I brought it back in the house.

After a thorough wipe down/cleaning, we have this!

new bar

I am not totally finished with it yet. I think that the top may need a hint of red – the base and the top don’t necessarily need to be the exact color, but I think since the walnut stain is so close, it will bug me that it’s only slightly off color. I may pick up a small pot of cherry stain for one last coat. Then a final coat of poly, for durability.

new bar top

The last thing I’m toying with is adding some glass doors to the bottom (or something). I really want to store our extra glassware down there, but I wouldn’t want them open to dust and such (yuck, right?). So we’ll explore our options for that.

simple, yet effective

Anyway, totally stoked that we found such a great furniture piece for such a great price! And refinished the top for free, since we already had the sander and the stain, is the icing on the cake. Can’t complain about that. 🙂 Slowly (slowly), this house is coming together.

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Filed under DIY, home improvement, projects

Mirror, mirror…

I am a self-professed Goodwill (or any thrift/antique store, garage sale) junkie. M will often roll his eyes at me when we pass one, and I say, “Can we look for just a minute!”

I can’t help it, I love old & used stuff.

old metal filigree mirror

So in my last visit to my favorite Seattle Goodwill, as I was scouting for other things on my list, I found this old, heavy, dusty, flaking, gold-colored metal mirror. I am a sucker for fancy filigree, so long as it isn’t cheap or flimsy or fake. This little mirror was darling! and only $1.99 – score!!

So I’ve seen lots of tutorials and before/after shots of SO many household items that have been given a second life with a new coat of spray paint. Until now, I had resisted the temptation to cover every piece of interesting junk I could find with bright colors. But here, I succumbed.

mirror frame, first coat

I loved the weightiness of this mirror, but I didn’t love the worn, flaky gold color. I decided to paint it a teal blue/green to match our livingroom area rug and throw pillows. I asked what M thought when I showed him my bargain treasure find, and he said – Awesome idea. 🙂 That teal is one of M’s favorite colors.

We found a good color match at our local Fred Meyer hardware department – a Rustoleum hue called Lagoon, smooth-satin finish.

Rust-oleum Lagoon

It took me about 10 light coats of paint over 3 days to get the amount of coverage I liked. This stuff was very easy to work with, and it dried really quickly, so I did 3-4 coats each day. It was tricky getting into all the nooks and crannies of this mirror! But in the end:

refinished mirror, detail

 

refinished mirror, Lagoon blue

It looks fantastic! It’s tough to get the color just right in the pictures here – it looks more greenish in real life. And it goes perfectly with our pops of teal in the living room. Now I just have to figure out where to put it… 🙂

gotta love bright pops of color

So I still have a whole can of beautiful teal spray paint…Now, what else can I refinish? 🙂

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Starting my Spring “garden”

Every spring I have such great hopes of an apartment Deck Garden, but some years I just drop the ball entirely and don’t get my seeds started in time.

Not this year though! (Well, I’ve made a start, anyway)

I had a couple of cardboard egg cartons that I didn’t want to toss, and thought, “why don’t I turn you guys in to seed starter pots?!” Much more economical that buying those peat-pots, which are great, but any time I can use something I have on-hand, I’m gonna.

So, not that an idea this simple needs a step-by-step….I’m gonna do just that!

empty egg cartons, separated

So I took my lovely egg cartons and cut the tops off at the hinge. I also removed the little flappy bit at the front. Originally I was thinking I’d use the carton top as a tray, but changed my mind, as you’ll see.

egg cartons with dirt!

So logically, I took my cartons out to my deck, where I have a bag of dirt left over from some other planting project. I discovered that along with the dirt inside, it also had a whole colony of these teeny annoying fungus gnats! *Scoff of frustration*
Well, right then and there, I knew i wouldn’t be bringing my seeding pots back inside – I didn’t want to expose my indoor plants to these little pests!
So taking my chances that these stupid bugs will disperse once the dirt is out of the closed-up bag and not harm my seedlings, I went ahead and filled my egg cartons with dirt and sprinkled in my seeds.

I’m starting slow, but plan to plant more seeds. Right now I’m just starting with LOTS of basil, and some fun decorative greenry and chinese lanterns (we’ll see if they sprout).

So I’m leaving my seed pots outdoors – it’s well past the danger of frost here. And just to give my seeds a little bit more security/cover I decided to use the egg carton lids as…well, lids.

egg carton seedling pots - lids on

Not very attractive, I know! But perhaps the added cover will act like a slight greenhouse when the sun shines and will warm up the seeds, and they’ll think it’s time to grow.

If anyone else wants to try out the egg-carton method of seed pots, and you don’t have the problem of pests in your soil, you can definitely do this indoors until your sprouts are ready to transplant. Just be sure you have a water-proof tray underneath, because the cartons will absorb the water and get pretty soggy. You don’t want to damage your furniture!

The absorbent nature of the egg cartons will make sure your soil stays nice and moist, incase you forget to water them for a couple of days…I’m sure this will be the case with me!

Hopefully in the next couple weeks I’ll be seeing something like this:

Basil Sprouts picture via House No.8

pretty basil picture from here!

Fingers crossed. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Anyone else getting their planting on? What do you plan to have in your garden this year?

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Filed under Day to Day, Plants, tutorial

How to make a rolled Book-Page Wreath

I can’t remember when I first saw an example of this kind of wreath, but I do know I’ve been wanting to make one ever since! I just think it’s such a creative use of materials, and a stunning result to boot.

Handmade rolled paper wreath

Handmade rolled paper wreath

Just by looking at it, you can tell that it is a very simply constructed wreath. There are probably different methods for making one, but here’s the step-by-step process I used to make the wreath that’s now hanging in my living room!

Gather your supplies…

Get your Wreath-making materials

Get your Wreath-making materials!

Old book you don’t mind destroying
Exacto Knife
Glue stick
Cardboard
Hot Glue Gun/Glue
Ribbon
(Optional: Crepe paper, vintage image for center)

Take your book and cut out a whole slew of pages that are fairly uniform (all black & white text, for example). Cut those pages into squares. My pages were 6″ wide and 9″ tall, so I trimmed the tops off so they were 6×6 squares.

Begin rolling your pages into cones, ready with your glue stick to secure them. Do this by having your page flat in front of you, corner pointing toward you; with your left hand, hold down the left-hand corner and with your right hand curl the corner closest to you about 3/4 the way into the page; add glue to the far edge and complete the cone.

how to roll a paper cone

how to roll a paper cone

(Rolling the cones is tricky at first, but you’ll get the hang of it quick). For another look at making paper cones, check out this post where I made a whole slew of them for my wedding!

However tightly or loosely you roll the cones determines how many you’ll need to make your wreath. The inner ring of my wreath needed 19 cones. The outer ring was tighter cones and took about twice as many.

Rolled paper cones and cardboard circle

Rolled paper cones and cardboard circle

So once you have enough cones to make a full circle, you need your support to attach them to. I took an old cardboard box and used a soup bowl as a circle template (about 6″ diameter, although any size will do, so long as it’s smaller than the wreath itself). Cut out your cardboard circle and find the approximate center.

To make it easier to place your cones evenly, arrange the cones (unglued!) on top of your cardboard. Then, one by one, pick up each cone, apply a dab of hot glue, and put it back down again in the same spot! Go all the way around until all your cones are secure.

rolled paper wreath

almost there...

You’ll notice that my wreath has two layers…

You can certainly stop rolling here, and you’ll have a beautiful, one-tiered paper wreath. I decided my wall needed a slightly bigger wreath, so I started at the beginning again and made a whole batch of new cones to make a second layer!
For round two, carefully place your wreath face-down on your work surface (you can place an upside-down bowl under the middle of it for elevation) and situate your cones slightly farther out from the center, so they protrude out past the first row.

(*note, I ran out of hot glue at this point. Don’t do this! haha, hot glue makes everything so much easier!!)

Once all of your 2nd layer cones are glued on…

Rolled Paper Wreath back

Rolled Paper Wreath - back side

…glue a loop of ribbon to the cardboard backing, and if you want, glue a second circle of cardboard to the back, so it looks a little prettier (but really, who’s gonna look at the back?).

The last step is to add something pretty to the center of the wreath to hide the middle. But before I get to that step, I wanted to make my wreath sparkle just a little…so I went for the glitter!

spray glitter and paper wreath

spray glitter!

But not just any glitter. I’m not a huge fan of the loose stuff in those little glass jars. Too messy. Instead I used a spray glitter, which would ensure that I wouldn’t find it all over the place later 😛

After two very light coats (letting it dry between each), I had a pretty (yet subtle) sheen of silver glitter on my paper wreath.

paper and glitter

paper and glitter

For the last step – the center of the wreath – you can do just about anything you can imagine. I decided to go with a vintage image, to go with the vintage vibe of the book pages. Cut out a good sized circle from the picture, and then added a fringe of simple red crepe paper (I used a brush and some Mod Podge and slowly worked my way around the circle with the crepe paper).

wreath center

wreath center and crepe paper fringe detail

All that remains is taking your hot glue gun again, and gluing the center to your wreath!

Paper wreath with center embellishment

Paper wreath with center embellishment

So now hang up your wreath and admire your work!

paper wreath above the fireplace

paper wreath above the fireplace

My wall above our fireplace still seems a little expansive for my wreath…despite making it as big as I could! So I added a little frame of berry wire garland. And I’ll probably add some more holiday flare as the month goes on. Gotta love those decorating projects! You tweak until it’s right 🙂

Till next time, happy crafting!

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Filed under Crafts, DIY, Holidays, tutorial