Monday, April 29, 2013

Baking Bread Basket

I needed a bridal shower gift and I came up with this:
This is a filled bread basket.

The basket is an inexpensive wire bread basket.  I added two cloth napkins as liners.  These are two 17x17 pieces of cotton that have been finished on all four edges.  I put in a "bread helper" from Prepared Pantry (one of my favorite sites!!) and two jars of my homemade jam.  I also added a small container of local honey and a beautiful, vintage silver plated jam spoon I found at a garage sale. 

Wrap it in cello and you have a gorgeous, fun, functional and inexpensive gift to give!


If I do it again:

I attached a card AFTER I tied the bow.  I would attach the card first so the bow's ribbon hides the card ribbon.  It's a little detail but it bothers me.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Another Pendant That Originally Wasn't

I took the kids to the marble museum over spring break.  It was a fun trip and they each got to pick out something.

I drove them so I treated myself to a very cool six dollar key ring. 

I got home, intending on putting my school keys on the ring.  This key ring, though, was so cool.   I couldn't imagine it sitting in my desk all the time so I decided to turn it into a piece of jewelry.

This one was super easy.  I took the ring out and then threaded a piece of velvet rope through.  I crimped the ends, added a clasp and, viola!  Done!

I've received a ton of compliments on it and no one has said that it looks like a key ring!

If I do it again:

I should have bought a few more.  I think these would make great gifts.  The center is glass and they are handmade so each is different.  I think one of my sisters may enjoy one as a Christmas gift!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Brooch to Pendant Conversion

My daughter and I went to a few garage sales this weekend and found some junk jewelry.  She went bananas.  I may have, too.  I happen to love the idea of anything sparkly but I don't generally wear anything.  Some women can wear bling.  I am not one.

I came across some beautiful, sparkly brooches and fell in love.  I thought that they may make cute pendants to dress up the plain sweaters that seem to be my mainstay.  I don't wear pins (not sure how) but I have started to wear necklaces so I got busy!

These were my two favorite!  I started with the gold brooch.


Take a look at the back.  If your pin slips in this way, this is how you make a conversion.  It is permanent. . . make sure you NEVER want to wear this as a pin again!

Start by cutting the stick pin out of the mechanism.

That loop that the pin fits into to close?  We are going to take a pair of pliers and carefully close that loop up.  You need to go slow and gentle because it may snap if you are too rough, depending on the type of metal.  If you close it too much you probably won't be able to open it up again.

This one is good.

Thread a jump ring through the loop you created.  You are finished!  Thread a chain through the ring and you can wear it!
I don't have the perfect chain, yet.  I'm not normally someone who wears gold but this will look better with a gold chain.  I need to keep my eyes out at future sales!  I need something substantial, but not gaudy.

I love the shape!  (My daughter commented that it looked like a boob and proceeded to laugh for a full five minutes over her comment.  Glad I am a source of amusement in her life.)

The silver snowflake is my next brooch project.  I may keep that one as a brooch because it might look great with a scarf if I can get my sister to show me how that works.  We shall see!

If I do it again:

I would make sure to have a chain before starting the project!  I want to wear it and I can't!


Saturday, April 20, 2013

New News!

I am quite excited about this!  I started another blog!

Never fear, I will keep writing this blog.  It's fun and relaxing and I enjoy it. 

I started is other blog as a place to put some of my teaching stuff.  I have had a hard time finding resources for elementary school computer teachers online.  There are a few but not a lot.  I decided to add my two cents to the mix.

You can take a peek at my blog over at www.MakingThemThink.blogspot.com if you are interested in seeing what I do in my classroom.

And, for the foreseeable future, I will continue to write this blog.

Twice as much Jennifer.  How lucky can you get?!?!


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

DIY Vegetable Bouillon

I can my own vegetable broth but when the weather starts getting warmer, it becomes too hot to pull out the pressure canner.  I use my vegetable bouillon instead.

This must be kept in the freezer to keep it fresh.  It is still scoop-able, probably because of all the salt in it. 

Keep in mind that there is no real recipe.  I use the vegetables I have on hand when I make a batch.  I always include certain vegetables because I like the way they taste.

Gather your veggies.  I used parsley, celery, green onions, leeks, onions, kale, carrots, a bell pepper and basil this time.

You need a LOT of Kosher Salt.  You could also use sea salt.  I don't like the more dense, iodized salt.

Start feeding your veggies into a food processor.  (Add the leaves of the celery. . . they're good for you!)  Keep chopping them until you make a paste.

You may have to work in batches.  This should be pasty!

Add your salt to the food processor.  I start with 1/4 cup of salt for 10 cups of vegetable and add more if needed.  It should be salty (like store bought bouillon) but not overly so.  If you are on a low salt diet, this is a good place to cut back.

Mix together. . .
. . . and spoon into a freezer safe jar.

Store in the freezer and scoop out a teaspoon for every cup of boiling water you have.

This makes an excellent broth that is very good for you!

I use it as a base for quick chicken noodle soup (add your shredded chicken).  I also spoon a tablespoon into my water for mashed potatoes, cook it with rice, add it to dried beans when cooking, rub it on meat before roasting or grilling and stuff it inside my chicken before popping it in the oven.  Use it wherever you want a pop of flavor!

This particular batch included:

1 bunch parsley
1 bunch red kale
2 onions
1 bunch celery, leaves included
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch green onions, tops included
2 big handfuls baby carrots (leftover from a classroom snack!)
10 or so basil leaves, fresh
1/2 orange bell pepper
2 leeks
1/3 cup salt

If I do it again:

Make sure to not use too much salt.  You can always add more!  I don't use a set amount. . . some of the veggie bouillon I make needs less, some more, depending on what vegetables I used.



Sunday, April 14, 2013

Flower Tower Failure


I've been asked before if everything I do turns out.  The answer is a resounding NO!  Actually, most of my projects don't turn out like I had envisioned them.  Many are better, some are worse and some have to be scrapped.  I thought I'd blog about one of those projects.

My daughter and I have been planning on doing THIS PROJECT for some time.  We picked this weekend - perfect weather, big sale on flowers - to do it.

Pretty, right?  This is the Home Depot Picture. . . not mine.
This is ours:

Ummm. . . not quite the same.

We saw the commercial with the happy couple being helped by the perky Home Depot Garden Expert.  They allude that these are "budget friendly."  They didn't actually SAY it. . . I should have picked up on that.

We went to buy the wire.  The wire was $45 for a fifty foot roll.  YIKES!  I didn't need fifty feet and I didn't want to pay $45.  I found a 50 foot roll of rabbit guard wire for $25.  It's still a lot but I was going to need some for tomato cages later this summer so I bought that.

I also bought two huge bags of potting soil on sale.  The directions call for landscaping fabric.  I had some screen leftover from redoing our back door so I decided to save $15 and use that.  I also bought a ton of cheap flowers.  I spent $65 total, saving a bunch of money because I already had a pot.  This was still WAY more than I budgeted and WAY more than I wanted to spend but I had promised and she was so excited. . . I justified it with visions of my daughter snuggling with me on the front porch as cars slowly drove past, looking with wonder at the amazing flower tower we created together.

We got started.  I am including the photos because she took them.  Use them as a "what not to do".

I cut off some wire, made a loop and stuck it in the pot.

You could use zip ties to hold it together but I just bent the wire in on itself.

I cut the screen, made a tube and slid it in, folding over the top.


I filled the tube about 1/3 of the way full and watered it down. . . 


. . . and added soil around the bottom to hold it steady.

I kept filling it. . .

. . . and watered it down.

I cut Xs in the spaces between the wire and pushed in my flowers.

I staggered them every other one like the directions said and then did every one since it looked so bare.  The plants were too small or the openings were too big. . . I don't know.

About 2/3 of the way up, we ran out of plants.  I was in a dilemma. . . do I scrap the project and my $65, time and materials or do I get more flowers and finish it?  I decided to finish it.  I bought another $15 worth of flowers and finished it up.

From a distance, with your glasses off, it doesn't look too bad but it isn't great, either.  I HATE it!  It's out there and I'm hoping that, once the plants grow a bit, it will fill in.  I'm thinking it will take a LONG time.  My daughter is also disappointed.  She ended up wandering off because, when we reached the top and the spaces turned from 2x4 to 1x4, I had to snip off wires and it left sharp edges. I just couldn't squeeze the flowers into that tiny space.   I believe she got tired of listening to me curse every time I cut my hand.   When she came back, I think she expected that I would have somehow made it look fine and that our project was saved.  Not so.  She came back and I was sitting on the grass, sucking on my bleeding thumb and glaring at the tower.   We moved it to the front porch.  She suggested moving it IN the garage.  I would have but it was too heavy.

If I do it again:

I won't.  Ever.  It was too much money for such a lousy result.  The right wire is essential, I think.  Fuller plants are essential.  I can't imagine the cost of doing one of these without already having any of the materials.  Am I disappointed?  Yes.  Am I angry?  A little.  I work too hard to earn my money to toss it at a project like this.  It's my fault, though.  I should have been a responsible adult and walked away when I realized how much it was going to cost.  Lesson learned!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Canning Lemonade Concentrate

Way back when, I posted about lemonade.  I love lemonade but it has to be the "real" stuff.  Lemons are crazy cheap right now and I got a bunch in my Door to Door box, so have plenty to make lemonade with.  I generally juice the lemons and freeze the juice but I came across a recipe in my Ball Blue Book for canning strawberry lemonade concentrate.  I did a bit of research and found that I could can my lemonade concentrate without having to make changes.  Yes!



(Note:  You should only use tested and approved recipes given to you by an expert.  I am not an expert nor do I have a laboratory in my kitchen to test these recipes for pH content, etc.  This is just how I did it.  You have to use common sense, especially when canning.)

So. . . you scared, yet?  Ha!

Remember my lemonade recipe?

1 cup lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup water

I used six cups of each and boiled it together on the stove.

Fill your pint sized jars with this stuff.

Process for fifteen minutes in a water bath.  It yielded seven pint jars.

These should store nicely until next lemon season.  I tried reconstituting one and found that three and a half pint jars of water for one pint jar of concentrate made for a very nice, strong lemonade.

Shared HERE.