Thursday, May 31, 2012

Drying Herbs

Every year I do a little container herb garden with the herbs that we use most.  Every year I bring those containers inside when the weather turns cold, anticipating fresh herbs all winter.  Every year I manage to kill them.

SO. . . I dry my herbs so that I can enjoy them during the winter.  I think my herbs taste much better than what you find in the grocery store and it's incredibly easy.

Here's my gorgeous herb garden:
 There's basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano in those pots.  I dry them and mix them together to make the best Italian Herb Blend that I use in everything from spaghetti sauce to roast beef to chicken casserole.

To pick the basil, pick the large leaves.  Leave the leaves on the top and the leaves on the top of the stems sticking out.  Also leave the bottom leaves and your basil will keep growing and producing.

To easily pull the leaves off from Rosemary, pinch the stem at the base and run your fingers up the stalk.  The leaves will slide off.

Pull thyme leaves up off the stem, not down, and you will avoid the stem splitting.  It will still produce.

To keep your oregano producing, thin the leaves every so often.

Here's what I took off:

Wash them well!  I put the rosemary, thyme and oregano leaves on a plastic tray inside the dehydrator tray.  If you don't have one, use parchment paper cut to fit.

Basil can be put directly on the rack.

Dry until the leaves are all paper dry.  You should be able to crush the leaves  between your fingers and they will break, not bend.  You shouldn't feel any moisture in the leaves at all.
Major shrinkage!

Put all the herbs into a zip lock bag and squeeze the air out of it.

Use a rolling pin and crush the herbs.

Put into a clean jar and label.  I add to this all summer long until I get a great mixture of the herbs.  Sometimes it is a little basil heavy, sometimes a little oregano heavy.  During the winter, I can add a few more of one herb or another to even out the taste for what I'm cooking.

If I do it again:

I'd buy another oregano plant.  This year it is growing a lot slower than usual!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Glittered Bottle

I have a thing for glass bottles.  If I like the shape, I will soak it, pull off the label and put it somewhere "safe" until I can find a use for it.  It has to go somewhere safe because my husband doesn't see the same possibilities that I do with glass.  He makes a recycle run every month or so with what I haven't used.

He also doesn't like glitter.  He actually has a serious aversion to glitter.  I, on the other hand, love it.  I have learned not to use it anywhere he is.  Glitter tends to get everywhere despite the efforts to contain it.  He always knows when I've gotten the glitter out.

My daughter finished a bottled soda last night and I liked the simple shape of the bottle.  I made this:

This is one of those projects I heard about and thought "really?"  Because this is what you use:

The person telling me about it said Mop and Glow works best but I didn't have any and I didn't want to buy some just for an experiment.  I used what I had on hand.

Glass bottle/container
Floor Cleaner

First, squirt some cleaner in your bottle and swirl it around, coating all sides.

Dump the excess back.

Dump a bunch of glitter into the bottle (or as my niece would say, "a junk of glitter").   There are no photographs of this step because I realized I should probably do this outside so that Brian didn't get crazy over the glitter in the kitchen.  He seriously hates the stuff. . . . he went to our son's Valentine's Day party and someone accidentally spilled glitter everywhere.  You should have seen the look on his face when the teacher offered him her glitter covered chair to sit in to lead his group!  He demanded my sweatshirt to put over it.  Since I don't mind a bit of sparkle I gave it gladly.  But, I digress. . . .

Anyway. . . . swirl the glitter around to coat the inside of your bottle.  Dump the excess out.  You can probably save it because it wasn't wet or clumpy but I didn't know this.  I was looking for a place to dump the glitter so I didn't have to take it back inside the house so I tossed it into a hole that the dog had put next to the fence.  I wouldn't recommend that for two reasons.  First, because the wind was blowing and second, because there was a whole lot more glitter than I thought there would be.  A big ol' pile of glitter.  I ended up tossing some potting soil over the top and putting grass seed over that so this project was a two-fer.  Lawn patching and glitter bottles.  Again I digress. . . .

Let it dry.  I wouldn't put liquids in there without sealing it with something but I intend on putting in the spare bedroom to look pretty so I won't bother. 
 Check out that dusty lamp! 

If I do it again:

1.  Definitely not on a windy day.
2.  I will do pink glitter.  And purple glitter.  And maybe a teal glitter.   I'll also use jars so I can use them as pencil holders!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Mini Ironing Board

I had a great weekend of garage sales.  I spent less than five dollars and came home with some great projects-to-be.  Today is one of them that I finished!

This is the "before" picture.  It cost fifty cents and a very sarcastic remark from my husband when he saw it.

 And my "after" shot:

I have always wanted a mini ironing board for my crafting.  I hate hauling out the big one and carrying it down the stairs for just a quick iron.  I've been known to throw a dish towel on the carpet and iron my piece over that.  (Ummm. . . if you don't use the dish towel, your iron will melt the carpet.  Not that it happened to me or anything.)  This is a good solution for me.

I started with the folding TV tray.  You don't need one as ugly as mine was but you can, if you want to.  I had to take the chisel and remove the gems from the top.  I think they used gorilla glue and, damn, does that stuff stick.

I gave the piece a two coats of paint I had left over from my wooden door mat project.  It's outdoor paint but I don't think that will matter. 

Let it dry and then cover the top with a layer of thin batting.  I used a mattress pad I picked up at another garage sale for a quarter.

Cut it out extra large around the edges and staple down to the back.

I wait to trim until I'm all done.  You will add a layer of cotton fabric over this layer.

Staple down. . .

And trim.

A tip when stapling:  If the staples don't go all the way in, your staples are too long.  Get a good staple gun and a variety of length of staples (I use 1/4 inch, 3/8 inch, 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch staples.  This project took the 3/8 inch staples).

The ironing table is ready! 

My favorite part is that it folds up flat.  I can store it between my crafting desk and the wall and it takes up no space!

If I do it again:

I would do two layers of batting.  The mattress pad was a little thinner than I expected.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Freezing Muffin Dough

Hot muffins. . . mmmm!  I love muffins for breakfast and it's even better if they are hot and fresh.  I love the Schwan's Muffin Pucks.  They're lumps of muffin dough, frozen, that you break off and bake from the frozen state.  They're delicious and expensive.  Here's my version, much cheaper but just as convenient.

Add a Berry Whole Wheat Muffins

1 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c unbleached flour
1/2 c honey
1/4 c sugar (omit if your berries are sweet and not tart)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 c vegetable oil
1 egg
1/3 c milk
1/2 c applesauce
1-2 c berry or chopped fruit

Combine all dry ingredients.  Make a well in the middle and add all "wet" ingredients.  Fold together.  Add the berries or fruit last.  Stir to combine.

Line muffin tins with foil muffin liners.  Fill 2/3 full and freeze.  When frozen, remove from tin and place in zipper freezer bag.

When you want to bake, remove from freezer bag and place in muffin tin.  Bake 350 degrees for 25 minutes.


Fill the muffin tins ONLY 2/3 of the way full.  This way you won't end up with a gooey center.

Chopped apples, mashed banana or raisins make wonderful substitutes for the berries.  I've even used shredded carrots and cinnamon and it was great!  I used raspberries in this batch.

Use the foil muffin liners, not the paper liners.  The paper ones tend to stick to the baked muffin when the dough starts out frozen.

Throw one or two in the oven while you are getting ready and you will have hot muffins when you walk out the door!  This trick works with almost any muffin recipe. . . just add 5-8 more minutes to your cooking time when you start out with frozen dough!

If I do it again:

I would like to find a round silicone mold that has a smaller diameter than a muffin cup.  That way, I can freeze them and pop them out and not have to use the muffin liners when I freeze.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Reusable Shopping Tote from a King Sham

Did you know that grocery stores will deduct money from your total if you bring in your own grocery bags?  In addition to that great feeling you get when you do something green, you can also get paid.  Yeah!

Reusable grocery bags are generally quite ugly.  They're also thin and flimsy.  But not these!
These are part of my amazing garage sale weekend finds.  I found a nice tote that would work great as a grocery bag for fifty cents.  Inside were matching king sized pillow shams.  I wanted the tote but didn't need the shams. . . so I made bags out of the pillow shams!

Two different shams and two different styles of grocery totes.  Here's how:

The bags are made the same way with the exception of the handles.  I'll show you that when we come to it.

Lay out your shams.  Quilted ones are great!

Flip them over and either sew up the space you put your pillow or use an iron on seam.

I went iron on.  Cut to length and iron on the bottom layer.

 Remove paper backing and iron on the top.

Look close. . . hard to tell it's there!
Fold your sham in half, right sides together.  Pin if you want but make sure to start sewing up both sides from the top down.  This helps eliminate that moment when you realize nothing is lined up correctly.

Keep the wrong side out.  Locate the bottom corners and fold them flat.  Sew across.  This will make your gusset.

(The grey and black are the two sides you sewed together.)
Do both sides.  Your bag should look like this:
Flip it right side out!

Yes, the bag is even.  No, I didn't finish pushing it all the way out before taking the photo.

You need to add your handles right now.  I did it two different ways.

First way makes this bag:

You will need fabric for the handles.  I chose to use some duck fabric because I had it handy and I thought the thickness would provide some additional support.  I won't do it again. . . duck fabric is a pain to work with.

The easiest/smartest way to do this would be to sew a tube, flip it and sew both sides.  Duck fabric is impossible to do this with because I have no patience so here's an alternative:

 Fold and iron one side in about a quarter inch.
 Do it with the other side.
 Fold the entire piece in half, stacking those quarter inch pieces on top of each other.  Sew down the two sides.

Decide where to attach it to your bag.  Note that the closer together the handles are, the less support it is to your bag BUT the wider you can pull your bag apart with the handles (if that makes sense?!!?!)

I chose to put mine close to the ends. 

Trim the bottom corners off the handle.

Fold the bottom under and pin in place.

Sew in place.   I used a zig zag stitch and sewed a square.  Here's the back:

And the front.

It holds a lot and is kind of fancy looking!

Here's the other bag with the other handles:

The bag shape is actually the same but the fabric just naturally folds in if there's nothing in the bag holding its shape.

Lots of room!

These handles are different because they're 1) narrower  2) closer together  3) attached a little differently.

1) Narrower:  Fold one long end of your fabric to the middle.  Do the same with the other side.

Fold the entire thing in half and use a large zig zag stitch down the middle.

2) Closer together.

Decide where you want your handles.  Closer together will make the bag easier to get into if you are someone who keeps one strap on your shoulder and pulls the other strap away to get into the bag.  This will be my Farmer's Market bag because that's what I do when I'm there!

3)  Attached different.

Lay your straps down where you want them to sit.  Put them upside down.

Pin them and sew across the strap.

Fold them up and sew them down!  Because the straps are so close, the sides tend to flop in.

If I do it again:

Future bags will have narrow straps with wide placement - a combo of the first and second bag I made.  It will make a nice "all around" grocery bag.

Check out this blog!