Homemade Vanilla Sugar

Apparently there’s this thing called vanilla sugar.  And I could’ve been baking with it all these years!  It’s used in a lot of European cookie recipes and things like that.  But I made it for some chai mix.  It’s really easy to make and I have heard that it’s really expensive if you buy it from a store.  It’s really just regular white sugar and vanilla extract.  Be sure to use pure vanilla extract, not vanilla flavoring, or imitation vanilla.

I needed three cups for my recipe so I made that much, but this recipe can easily be scaled either up or down.  The vanilla sugar will also keep, just store it the same way you store white sugar.

Vanilla Sugar

3 cups sugar

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Mix the sugar and vanilla extract together as much as you can.  I found it helped to use the back of a spoon to mush out the lumps in it.

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Leave the bowl lightly covered overnight.  I used a Pyrex and just placed the lid on top, but didn’t fully put it on.  When you come back to it, it will be hard and stiff.  Just stir it back up and break up any more lumps.  Use in whatever yummy recipe you’re making!

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In the recipe, I had to pulse the mix in a food processor, so I didn’t really stir it up after I let it sit overnight.  I just dumped it in with the rest of the ingredients and let the food processor stir it for me.

Also, It makes your kitchen smell amazing!

Anyone got any other good recipes to use this in?

How To Make Wool Dryer Balls

We use felted wool for many things at our house.  It’s especially great to make mattress pads for our and the minion’s bed.  We get this wool for just a few dollars by buying 100% wool sweaters and blankets from thrift stores and felting them in our washer.  I’ll do a tutorial on that soon.  But my most recent project is these wool dryer balls.

To make the dryer balls you need to use felted wool.  Cut a piece of felt that’s twice as long as it is wide.  3 inches by 6 inches is a good general size, but it doesn’t have to be exact.  Sew the two short sides together wrong sides together.  Your seam will be on the outside.  If you want you can do this on the machine, but if you do it by hand it will look nicer.  I did mine on the machine, but if you’re making these as a gift or have too much time on your hands, feel free to hand sew the whole thing.

Next is the part that’s going to be hard to explain.  Sew each of the ends together in opposite ways.  One side fold the circle of fabric with the seam in the middle and one side with the seam on the end.

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Leave a little opening on one of your seams and stuff with random felt scraps.  Then just close up your seam and you’re done.

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A quick few minute project that will reduce static on your clothes and help them dry faster.  These are also safe to use with cloth diapers unlike most commercial fabric softeners and dryer sheets.

How to Make Pumpkin Purée

I tried to grow pumpkins in the garden this year.  I had visions of our porch at Halloween covered in pumpkins and cans upon cans of pumpkin purées and butters.  We got one pumpkin.  The vines are still out there so I guess we could get another, but I think we might end up with just the one.

But that one pumpkin got us two jars of purée at least.

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Cut your pumpkin in half and scoop out the innards.

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Then put them flat side down on a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes at 350º F.  When they’re done, take them out and let them cool before cutting the rind off and purée in a food processor.  Et Voila, pumpkin purée.  I used one of my pint jars to make a pumpkin pie and the other I plan to freeze.  It’s not as orange as commercial pumpkin purée, but so much yummier!

Removing Labels From Glass Jars

From making my multi-bean soup, I had to clean the labels off a bunch of jars.  I think I found the best way to remove them.

First, just try to peel it off.  The labels of 2 of my 7 jars just peeled off in one piece leaving just a little bit of adhesive.  If you are lucky enough to have this happen, just rub a little bit of oil on them to get the glue off.

If you’re not quite that lucky, make sure the top shiny layer of paper is mostly peeled off.  This will leave the thin white more textured paper.  Then you want to put a thin layer of oil on and let it sit for a few minutes.  You can use any kind of cooking oil to do this.  Be sure you coat the entire outside of the jar otherwise you can just push the adhesive onto other parts of the jar.

When you come back, you should be able to scrub the rest of the label and adhesive off with a dish scrubber.  Then you can just wash the oil off.

Just be sure that the inside of your jars are completely dry before you try to store dry beans in them.

Other than storing dried foods in them, what other uses are there for reused glass jars?

Natural Fruit Fly Trap

Recently we have been plagued by fruit flies in our kitchen.  A combination of summer and our habit of composting causes this.  We wanted a way to deal with them that was cheap and didn’t use toxic chemicals so I made this trap.

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As you can see it was very effective.  Take a mason jar and pour a little bit of apple cider vinegar in.  Take a small piece of fruit, I used banana, and put it in, make sure part of it sticks out of the vinegar.  Put a drop of castile soap in to break the water tension.  I used our diluted lavender soap that we keep in the shower and it didn’t seem to cause a problem.  Then take a piece of aluminum foil and put it over the opening of the jar, poke a few holes in it with a skewer or fork and leave it near where the most fruit flies are.  It also helps to remove any other attractant, so our bananas are in the refrigerator for now.

 

Honeysuckle Vine Wreath: Finally Dry Edition

The gardenias are in bloom and the honeysuckle vine wreath I made HERE is dry.  No thanks to the super rainy and humid Georgia weather this summer.  Now I can embellish it in a variety of ways.  I could cover it with fake flowers, ribbon or another permanent item.  Or I could change out  flowers / leaves from our yard and keep it rotating with the season.

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Mushroom Spore Print: Art

I’ve been eying some mushrooms that I thought were edible.  To help make a correct identification I did a spore print on one of them.  This is a way to get more information on a type of mushroom (different mushrooms have different colored spores) as well as a cool art project.

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Basically you put a piece of white paper next to a piece of black paper and put the mushroom cap on top.  You need both colors of paper if you don’t know what the spore color is because it might be light or dark.  Then you cover the whole thing with a bowl and let it sit for 24 hours.

I came back to this beauty:

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You could even take this a step further and try to find shapes and images in the print.  The spores will rub off the paper but you could try spraying with fixative if you wanted.

A more defined cap will produce a more defined image.  Experiment!

Easy Earrings How To

Since I cut my hair for locks of love, I have wanted to wear big bold earrings with my short hair.  I saw these necklace pendants at the craft store the other day and thought they would be great earrings.

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I bought two and just added earring hooks on them to make them earrings.  Super easy, just a new way to look for earring ideas.

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I also wanted to teach the proper way to open a wire ring such as the ones on the earring hooks.

The first instinct is to just make the circle wider but this weakens the wire more than needed, you should pull one side up making it more like a spiral to open it.  This puts much less stress on the wire and makes it less likely to break especially after opening a ring multiple times.

Sunny Summer Solstice Headband

The minion and I celebrated the summer solstice by picking some blueberries.  It was the first time the minion had eaten blueberries.  Tonight we are going to a celebration at our Unitarian Universalist church and the invitation said “seasonally appropriate clothing” so I decided to make her a sun headband.

I started out with three concentric circles of t-shirt fabric then I cut the rays of the sun in each circle.

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Then I hand stitched them together with three french knots in the center and stitched them onto a strip of regular cotton fabric.  Then I added two ties on either end of the strip of fabric.  The ties are strips of t-shirt material that I stretched so they curled up.  The idea is that you tie the red ties and thus it is fairly adjustable.

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I did iron it, but I like the way the rays curl up, it kind of reminds me of solar flares.  Happy Midsummer!

 

Honeysuckle Vine Wreath

Next to grass, honeysuckle might be the most difficult weed in my garden.  It doesn’t attack my vegetables, but it LOVES my fig tree and muscadine vines.  I do like the honeysuckle flowers and have fond memories of drinking the nectar as a kid.  In fact we even wrote in the minion’s baby book when she had her first taste of honeysuckle.  However, they only bloom for a few weeks out of the year.  The rest of the time, I don’t like them.

I did find another use for those creeping vines today.  I made a wreath out of them.  It hasn’t dried yet, but I don’t foresee any problems.

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First I cut some vines and stripped the leaves off of them.  Next I wrapped them into wreath shapes.  I twisted various vines around each other for the large one, but just one each for the fairy sized ones.  I made three little ones for fairy houses and one big one for people houses.

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There are some thick ends sticking  out of the circles that I will clip once they dry.  I left them all flat on our porch and it probably will take a few days, but hopefully they will dry into the shape and be awesome and rustic.