Category: d.i.y. (do it yourself)

DIY tree stump rustic candle holders.

Yes- this post is ALL about those tree trunk/tree branch candle holders you’ve seen at places like Terrain or on Pinterest or Etsy. It’s really easy to make them yourself, at home, if you have some basic tools.

DIY rustic tree stump/tree branch candle holder.

This idea all started when I asked Jay to make me & my mother some old fashioned Pagan-style Yule logs for Christmas.

The Yule Log started out, we believe, as part of Norse Winter Solstice celebrations. Back then, the longhouse would have a huge fireplace, and the flooring would be either stone or packed earth. Tradition says that the Yule Log began as a huge log, big enough to burn for the entire twelve-day festival. One end would be pushed into the fireplace, and as it burned away, you’d push it in some more until it was entirely consumed.

With fireplaces being less and less common these days, the practical Pagan has adapted. Some choose a small log, some twelve or sixteen inches in length, flatten it along one side to make a base, and drill from one to three holes into the top, suitable for the insertion of candles. The candles are generally (but not always) “fire” colors, with red being the most common. The log is decorated with greenery, sometimes real, sometimes artificial – pine, spruce, fir or other evergreen boughs, holly and mistletoe are a few possibilities – and the candles are lighted at sunset on the Winter Solstice. Tradition says they should burn through the night; but given safety considerations, most only allow it to burn so long as someone is around to keep an eye on it.

-JingleBell Junction

Pagan-style refers to how it’s a log with holes for candles, instead of a large log you burn in a fireplace. It’s also a more modern version. My dad made one when he was a kid out of a log with three holes on top. It isn’t just Pagan’s that use that style- lots of Christians have Yule logs in that way- but if I’m not mistaken, they started it.

So I had some wood in the garage that had been cut from branches that were hanging too low on trees in the backyard over the summer. I was saving it for our fire pit, but then the summer ended and the weather got too cold & they were shoved into the garage & forgotten. Then my mother mentioned she wanted a Yule log, and I realized I had the perfect pieces of wood for it. And then I decided I wanted one, but with tea lights instead of taper candles. I realized they’d look great with my winter tree!

Continue reading

Mele Kalikimaka!

“…is Hawaii’s way, to say Merry Christmas to you…”

In case you didn’t know, “Mele Kalikimaka” is one of my favorite Christmas songs sung by one of my favorite singers: Bing Crosby. It’s also featured in one of my favorite Christmas movies, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I have my grandpa’s original record of Bing’s Merry Christmas! album which it was on, and I also have my late Uncle Pat‘s White Christmas 40th Anniversary VHS box set (from 1994) which includes the script and other reprints of film memorabilia.

I’m clearly into it.

Christmas tree 2013!

Well, anyway, it’s here. Finally! Christmas is here. After months of preparation & anticipation. And I hope it lives up to all of that for you. For me, it’s a vintage Christmas. Vintage ornaments on the tree (and some new ones), vintage-looking colored lights.

Some of the vintage ornaments are my grandparents’, some are my great-grandparents’, and some other belonged to my parents. Like these Shiny Brite ones that were my grandpa & grandma’s…

Vintage Shiny Brite silent night ornament.

Vintage Shiny Brite Christmas greetings ornament.

And a few awesome hand-painted striped glass ones like this…

Vintage blue striped ornament.

And still others are new! Or fairly new. Like this acoustic guitar I bought Jay in 2005 at Restoration Hardware, or the Jack Daniels crystal one Jay’s parents got him from Lenox.

Acoustic guitar ornament, Restoration Hardware 2005.

Jack Daniels ornament!

There’s also this one, that Jay bought at the 9/11 museum.

9/11 Fidelis Ad Mortem police ornament.

And you know I have baking/cooking-related ones on there too. I’ve got a few “baking fairies” with spatulas/pastry bags/etc, a wooden spoon & whisk, a cookie cutter & Santa cookie from Yoyo, a bunch of different glass cupcakes and a personalized chef. This is a very delicate glass cupcake imported from Poland that I got at Sur La Table:

Glass cupcake ornament from Poland.

Each & every ornament has such a special meaning. Isn’t it lovely to look at your tree & have each ornament spark a memory?

And of course no tree would be complete without toys underneath it. My tree has some special vintage toys…

Vintage toys on display under the tree. These are toys that belonged to a grandparent & uncle; some are from the 1920's, some from the 1940's.

These toy trucks & trains are vintage. The Buddy L trucks & Ives trains belonged to my grandfather, and date back to the 1920′s/early 1930′s. The white car in the front belonged to my uncle so it’s probably from the 1940′s/early 1950′s.

And this Christmas is full of new traditions, too. Like this:

Cut the bottom off your (real) tree, then write or burn the date on it. Save them from year to year! Use them as coasters, ornaments, whatever. Just seal them with some acrylic spray sealant so the sap doesn't make them too sticky.

That right there is the bottom of our tree! The nice dude at the place we bought it cut the bottom inch off before he wrapped the tree and gave it to me, but you can do it yourself; either before you put it in the stand when you get it home, or after you take it down. Just slice the bottom off (if you’re doing it after Christmas, use a dry piece, not one that was sitting in water). Sand it a little on both sides, clean it, then write the date on it. I used a wood-burning tool, but I know not everyone has one of those. A Sharpie or rubber stamp works too. I’d also seal it with some kind of acrylic sealer spray (or polyurethane sealer, only if you’ve burned the date in) so the sap doesn’t become annoying.

And now I’ll have a collection of them from every year we have a real tree- which is hopefully many years. You can hang yours on the tree with a little screw in hook & some ribbon, or use it as a coaster, or just put it on a shelf like I did.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

 spacer

Gingerbread cake with marshmallow snow & paper trees.

For some reason, as I was writing the title of this post, I thought of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds. Odd.

Anyway, gingerbread is one of my favorite holiday treats. I love the cookies, I love it in a spicier form like pfeffernusse and I love gingerbread cake. I don’t make it nearly enough, though, even around the holidays. I have a favorite gingerbread cookie recipe & a favorite Guinness ginger cake recipe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy trying others. So I thought that this year, I’d make a plain gingerbread cake- no Guinness, no chocolate- and top it with some fluffy white snow.

And trees. Gotta have trees.

Gingerbread cake with a marshmallow "snow" and paper cupcake liner trees. And elves!

For the trees, I got the how-to from The Cake Blog. Pretty self-explanatory, but still. It’s a fun & easy way to make cupcake or cake toppers.

It’s so retro-looking, isn’t it?

Cupcake liner Christmas trees!

Continue reading

DIY magic: mason jar snow globes.

Oh, December. How I love you. Make no mistake- Halloween is my absolute favorite holiday. Hands down. However, it’s only acceptable for me to play White Christmas over & over again in December. I don’t mind watching it in February or July, but I find other people take issue. Or perhaps they just take issue with me singing all of the songs (particularly this one & this one) out loud at the top of my lungs? Anyway. I wait until at least after turkey day to break out the Bing! Also, December is the Mount Everest of baking/creating: the best crafts, recipes, and decorations are happening  right around now!

Like these…

DIY mason jar snowglobes. Easiest winter project ever!

This tutorial is something you’ve probably seen all over the internet.

No, not probably. Definitely.  I’ve seen this concept more times in the past two weeks than I’ve seen my fiancee, it seems. I’m just repeating it here to show you how stupidly easy it is. And how fun it is. And chances are, you’ve already got the materials- or most of them- laying around the house. It’s a knockoff of a product that Anthropologie made (they made salt shaker ones too), hence the lack of water.

DIY mason jar snowglobes.

Continue reading

DIY: Creepy candy specimen jars!

DIY’d jars are all over the place. Well, jars are all over the place in & of themselves, however lately it seems people are gluing all kinds of crazy shit on top of jar lids & then painting them… with adorable results. I personally glued some knobs on jars last year & made some super cute candy jars. But some other things I’ve seen: little dinosaurs, bunnies, cats, etc. All of these little knick-knacks just glued onto the lids, then painted, then the lids are screwed back on to make a completely different looking candy jar/thread holder/toy container/etc.

So why not capitalize on it for Halloween?

Easy DIY Halloween specimen jars (or candy jars).

I decided there was no reason not to. So, ladies & gentlemen, here are my creepy little “candy specimen” jars for Halloween! You can fill them with candy, with plastic eyeballs, with rubber snakes, with whatever you want. Use them as part of your “laboratory” for a Halloween party.

Oh- & It’d be lame if I didn’t acknowledge that A Pretty Cool Life, It All Started With Paint & Joy the Baker inspired these.

Creepy DIY specimen jars for Halloween!

Continue reading

The wicked witch of the cupcake.

Vintage postcard: flying witches.

Yeah. That’s right. Today we’re talking about witches. Because in case you’ve been living under a rock, it’s October, and that means one thing to me: Halloween.

Ohh, Halloween. My favorite time of year. The leaves changing (hopefully) & crunching beneath my boots, the air getting brisker, the wind kicking up. The costumes & makeup start appearing in stores earlier & earlier nowadays, but I reserve my Halloween excitement for the first week in October. I refuse to do ANYTHING Halloween-related before October 1st. Yes, it’s my favorite holiday & yes, I’m excited. But it’s like buying Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving; it’s just wrong to me. I’ll wait until October to celebrate Halloween… & I’ll wait until December 1st for Christmas, thanks.

That being said, I was super psyched to post this little cupcake topper how-to. I couldn’t wait any longer! I didn’t come up with this idea myself (unfortunately) but I did somewhat modify it from the original directions. I did that because I didn’t have matching mini cupcake liners & regular liners. I don’t do many mini cupcakes, so I never buy the liners. I adapted the directions to suit me & my materials, and with just a little bit more work put in I think they look just as cute. Ladies & germs, I give you…

Cupcake…

liner…

witches’

hats!

Easy DIY witch hat cupcake toppers made from cupcake liners!

Continue reading

Mason jars make the world go ’round.

First of all… before I get to the mason jars, let me just say that I’m crazy. I know this. I’m whacko. Contrary to my usual M.O. of doing these things at 3:00 in the morning, I decided (on this past Tuesday at 1:00 p.m.) to randomly finish doing the complete blog overhaul in ONE DAY. And I should also say that I was nowhere near being done- so I basically did everything in 3 hours. Yup. 3 HOURS. It was a massive pain in my ass, but it’s done. Everything is working, everything is fine, & I’m DONE. Hopefully never to read the word ‘widget’ again.

It’s totally different looking than it used to be. More content focused & streamlined. With the new layout, you’ll see that everything is over there to the right →

All the blog pages, the archives, the search form, the categories & even the link to the recipe index…. they’re all over there now. If you’re on a mobile device, then they’re probably at the bottom- keep scrolling down! The blog posts are no longer separated & you don’t have to click on them individually anymore; now they’re all here just like you’re reading a newspaper, just keep scrolling down. The comments link can be found at the bottom of the blog post. The ‘Pin It’, Facebook/Twitter/e-mail sharing buttons are still down there too, as well as the ‘print’ button. Other than the obvious, everything is the same.

Okay! On to the craft of the day:

Fresh flowers in a mason jar that's been DIY'd with a gold Sharpie!

Lately, I’ve been really taking notice of the small details. I was always the kind of person who was uber observant; I’d notice when someone’s shoes were a different shade of black than the dress they had on, I’d see that tiny little stain on a tablecloth no one else could see, etc. I was always like that. But nowadays I’m really noticing that the little things are sometimes what makes the biggest impression; in a positive way. Those little things that go unnoticed by most people make a giant impression on me!

For example, the above photo. Most people wouldn’t even notice the gold dots on the jar.

But I do notice these things. And they make me smile. So when I happened upon this post a few months ago, I knew I had to re-create it for myself. Unfortunately my quilted 8 oz. jars were all being used for jams & jellies or in the possession of other folks (return the jars, guys, and nobody gets hurt!), so I had to use a 16 oz. or pint-sized jar. Turns out I really love the way it looks on the smooth glass.

Continue reading

I can’t believe it’s… butter.

Julia Child might be my spirit animal. The mere fact that she once said, “if you’re afraid of butter, use cream” is enough for me. Not to mention the myriad of other amazingly awesome things about her, she was a butter lover. I’m a butter lover too. I love butter like there’s no tomorrow. I love olive oil, don’t get me wrong. Big hunks of crusty bread dipped in a high quality olive oil is as close to heaven as it gets. But butter! There’s NOTHING like butter. And I find I can never have too much of it around. So I decided to try my hand at making my own, & it’s deceptively simple.

Like making homemade bread, making homemade butter has a kind of impressive nature. It practically screams either “AMISH!” or “HOMESTEADER!” Which I assure you I am neither; as best evidenced by my extreme lack of any religion, my nose ring & my obsession for going out to eat & looking in mirrors.

Quick & simple homemade butter. Made in a stand mixer using just heavy cream (40-60% butterfat) & salt.

Continue reading

The dish ran away with the wooden spoon.

Back in June when I posted that DIY tea towel apron tutorial, I got a ton of great feedback. So I thought maybe I’d bring back the DIY thing with another really easy project: painted-handle wooden spoons.

I’ve seen these wooden spoons all over Etsy & Pinterest. Every time I see them I think “I can do that.” I even mentioned doing it to match the apron in that post.

So I finally did it.

Make your own painted-handle wooden spoons!

Except these aren’t dipped in rubber like most of the ones you’ll see, they’re just painted in Martha Stewart Crafts™ multi-surface acrylic craft paint. Which, it just so happens, is both “weather-resistant” & non-toxic. They also did not cost $29.00 for a set of three like those other ones for sale on the internet. Instead, it probably cost me less than $5.00 a set, maybe even less than $3.00: The glitter paint is $2.99 & the satin is $1.99 (you could paint a ton of spoons with one bottle!), and a set of the three spoons cost me $1.00.

I think it took me ten minutes to paint three of them. I did one set for myself in pink (of course) and a set for my mother in black. Once I saw how cute they came out, I started experimenting with different colors & styles. You can paint them to match your KitchenAid mixer, to match your Le Creuset, to match your kitchen color scheme or just in your favorite color. Gold/silver/metallic or pearl paints are interesting choices, too!

Here they are in pink:

DIY painted wooden spoons.“pink dahlia”

Here they are in black:

Make your own painted-handle wooden spoons.“beetle black”

Here they are in light green:

DIY painted wooden spoons!“scallion”

And finally… here they are in glittery pink:

DIY pink glitter wooden spoons. Crazy easy & cheap to make!“bubblegum pink”

Awesome, right? No wonder the dish ran away with the spoon; look at how freakin’ cute the spoons are!

This is what you’ll need:

  • Acrylic paint. Mine is useable on wood, fabric, metal & glass among other surfaces, and like I said above- it’s non-toxic. Of course, you’re not painting the part of the spoon that touches the food, but why take a chance? I actually highly recommend the Martha Stewart line; it comes in a zillion colors (the colors I used are named above). I used the satin & glitter finishes, but you can use a gloss, metallic or pearl if you prefer, it makes no difference. All of them are non-toxic & weather resistant.
  • A small paintbrush.
  • Scotch tape.
  • Wooden spoons. I got mine in a 3-pack at the dollar store, you can buy whatever ones you want, or you can freshen up old ones you already have at home (as long as they aren’t recently oiled or varnished).
  • A pint jar or drinking glass, deep enough & with a wide enough mouth to accommodate the amount of spoons you’ll be painting without having the painted parts of the handles touch each other or the glass itself.

How to make your own painted-handle wooden spoons.

This doesn’t even really need a tutorial, it’s pretty much self-explanatory, but here goes nothin’.

The first thing you’re gonna do is gently wash the spoons in hot water with mild dish soap. Let them dry thoroughly. Then, you’re going to tape them where you want the painted section to end. Very easy. I made them all even so that when the spoon parts line up, so does the paint. You can paint as far down as you like, but I’d leave a decent amount of plain wooden space above the spoon part.

How to make those adorable painted handle wooden spoons.

Okay… once they’re taped, get your glass or jar handy & get your workspace ready. Paint your spoon handles with a thin coat of paint, placing them handle side up in the jar or glass as you go. Make sure the painted parts are separate from each other as they dry. After one hour, check to see if they need a second coat (they probably do). Keep the tape on and paint a second coat. Let them dry again in the jar.

It's so easy to make your own colored-handle wooden spoons. Here's a tutorial!

After 2-3 hours you can remove the tape to check if they’re even. If not, just re-tape the spoon a little bit lower and fix your mistakes. Keep the spoons in the jar for 12 hours after they feel dry just to be sure. Let the spoons cure for 21 days (or according to your paint directions) before using or washing them again. If you screw up & get paint on a spot you don’t want it, you can sand it off with some sand paper once it dries.

The glittery ones took about 4-5 coats to look good, but if you paint a solid color underneath then paint the glitter, it’d take less.

And that’s it… you’re done!

If you want a less perfect look, you can definitely paint them without using the tape. Go freehand. Be wild.

Adorable DIY painted wooden spoons.

Adorable x 1,000. I just love them.

Another idea: before painting, drill small holes at the end of each handle in the same spot. Sand away any rough patches & then wash/dry/paint the spoons as directed above. After painting, while it’s still wet, poke a toothpick through to make sure they stay clear. When they’re dry, tie them all together with a pretty matching ribbon for a throw-in gift (or stocking stuffer).

You don’t have to make it solid either- you can do stripes if you’re daring (ha!). Just place the tape all the way up the handle leaving spaces in between for painting. You can do polka dots in another color once the first color is totally dry, too, using a pencil eraser to make the dots. Or you can use pinking shears to cut the tape so yours isn’t a straight line around, but a zig-zag. Tons of ideas!*

Like this “zebra” style version I did (it’s more like an Ikat pattern, really):

DIY hand-painted wooden spoons to spice up the kitchen!

So, how easy is that? Very. Go get on it. And make yourself some fancy spoons!

*Yoyo also sent me a link for this post at red-brolly.com that shows you how to cover the spoon handles in fabric or Washi tape! It’s a bit more complicated than using just the paint, but it’s worth it judging by the photos.

Grow your own garlic- inside!

Wow.. it’s been a while since I posted an actual recipe or how-to kinda post, or rather any post without links to other places. I apologize. I’ve been really busy; Jay was on vacation this past week, we got engaged, etc, etc. You know how it is.

Anyway, any reader of the blog that’s been a reader for longer than a few months will know I love to putter around in the dirt & have a garden. In addition to flowers (especially lilies & roses) which I love to grow, I’ve grown my own food. Eggplant, cucumber, zucchini squash, Romaine lettuce, tomatoes (both heirloom & not), peppers of all kinds, and one of just about every herb available. It’s been a dream of mine to someday have a massive garden where I grow at least one of everything I love- including carrots & broccoli, and to expand into more exotic herbs such as purple basil, etc. I’d also like to buy some berry bushes, since I tried one once (blueberry) and failed.

However, I haven’t gotten into growing onions, garlic or any kind of edible bulb-thingy until now.

How to grow your own garlic indoors!

I stumbled upon quite a few how-to’s on regrowing kitchen scraps like garlic, and then I saw this one. It just so happened that not only did I have some coffee cans left from that cake, but I had a few old cloves of garlic that were starting to sprout. I thought I’d combine them with a few other cloves and see if I could grow my own garlic indoors.

One can never have too much garlic around. Especially since it seems I make more pickles & Italian dishes (like pizza with homemade sauce) that require fresh garlic than anything! And even better if I can do it inside, on my windowsill.

In a coffee can.

It's easy to grow your own garlic... even inside!Four days after planting!

Here’s what I did:

  • Using a hammer & nail, I poked holes in the bottom of a coffee can*. I didn’t want to use a can opener, because I had no extra screen or cheesecloth laying around to cover the holes to prevent the soil from washing out. I decided 5-6 holes per 13 oz. can was plenty. If you’re using a larger size can then obviously more holes are needed. If you use a coffee can, keep the plastic lids and use them as water-catchers under the cans.
  • I filled the cans up with a sandy soil**, then I watered them until the water came out of the bottom. I let it sit, until all the water was out and it didn’t drip when I lifted it.
  • While the water was draining, I separated my garlic cloves. You want to keep as much of the skin or papery stuff on as possible, so don’t peel them! If you’ve got cloves that are sprouting already, then obviously use those. Otherwise you can use any garlic cloves as long as they’re fresh, not preserved or from a jar and they aren’t peeled. I decided to put 6-7 cloves in each can, assuming some might not grow.
  • I pushed the cloves into the soil, flat side down/pointy side up, a few inches in. The garlic can be close to other cloves, but just don’t cram them in so much that they’re touching. A far as depth, I’d say you want (at least) anywhere from 1/2″ – 1″ of soil covering the garlic.
  • Cover them with soil and pat it down gently. Place them in a sunny spot, like a kitchen window that gets a lot of morning light. Water often & keep soil moist but not soaked.
  • As soon as you get green shoots that are a couple of inches high, you can snip them off (leave 1″). They can be used just like chives, as a topping on salads or in other dishes; the flavor is a very light, delicate garlic taste.
*you can also use a large tomato can or just a flowerpot.
**I mixed a few tablespoons of sand into my soil before filling the cans, but if you live in an area where the soil is already naturally sandy then you can skip this step.

How to grow your own garlic, indoors... in a coffee can!

Garlic likes sandy loamy soil, so a good potting mixture with some sand mixed in is your best bet. Also, they like compost fertilizer. So if you have a compost heap that would be the best stuff to use. Other than that, a good ol’ fashioned blood meal works. That said… if you’re keeping them indoors in a small can, I don’t know if this will matter. Especially if you use a fertilized potting soil like Miracle-Gro.

Or you can just do nothing & use regular soil. If my original cloves started to sprout in my house without the benefit of soil, sun or fertilizer, I bet you really don’t need to do much once they’re planted. Those pictures were taken- I kid you not- four days after planting my cloves! FOUR DAYS. I literally had these shoots after just four days. This next photo was after six days.

Once I planted these babies, they literally exploded.

Grow your own garlic... on your windowsill!

They might turn out to be crowded in there, so I might transplant some to a larger container, possibly move them outdoors. We’ll see how it goes. I started this in late May and as you can see below, tons of things have changed since the above photos. I still have no idea where this is going, though!  I’m not fully sure if I’ll grow more bulbs this way or just scapes, but I would assume that eventually I’ll get garlic bulbs.

Garlic scapes are the long, winding, almost blue green shoot that hardneck garlic varieties put out in the spring. Scapes have a fresh, mild garlic taste and make the best pesto I have ever had. They can also be used to glorify mashed potatoes, salads, roasted vegetables or stir-fries.

Harvest scapes when they are young and tender. Once they have curled around in a circle, they are ready for picking. Picking the scape not only is not only good for cooking, it will actually help your garlic grow bigger and better – up to 35%.

- about.com

I want to try this with onions as well… especially since I have a tendency to just throw away onions when they sprout (I know, shame on me) & possibly with leeks or green onions too. It’s amazing what you can grow from things you’d normally toss. I’m even growing a pineapple from the top of a fresh one I used!

Growing your own garlic in coffee cans!They just keep on growin’!

Note: some people will say not to use store-bought garlic, just to use garlic you buy at a nursery, etc. These are the same people who tell you not to buy Heinz ketchup because of the high fructose corn syrup. And I get it, I do. I’m just not that insane about things… I’m too laid back for that. I like having fun, experimenting, & doing things randomly at 2 a.m. which doesn’t always afford me extra time to go looking for the right garlic bulb for planting. So if that means using some cloves of garlic I have in my kitchen instead of hunting down a specific variety, then so be it. Do as you will.

Garlic grown in coffee cans!

And of course I’ll keep everyone updated with the status of my (not so) little garlic babies.