Category Archives: creative projects

And just like that…it’s Fall!

Chopping peppers for the freezer. That's a bowl of foraged wild grapes there too.

Chopping peppers for the freezer. That’s a bowl of foraged wild grapes there too.

I guess in New York after Labor Day has passed, Mother Nature decides it’s time for fall, no matter what the calendar says. I vividly recall showing up to college over 10 years ago in late August from Phoenix and being mortified that our dorm didn’t have AC. I didn’t realize people could actually live without it. My roommate, being from the area, informed me that in a week or two it would cool down, and sure enough, it did.

Today I dressed in layers. I even put on a knitted hat when we went out to run some errands. I love it, since fall is my absolute favorite. I like it even more now that I live somewhere where leaves change color, you can have beautiful potted mums outside, and pumpkins and squash abound at the farmer’s markets.

For me fall also means rest. Summer is so short here that we are really gung-ho about living to the fullest for three months. Then add in the fact that I had my first table at a farmer’s market for my own farm this year, and that Chris was gone for 7 weeks (leaving me to take care of all the house stuff), and I was a very busy lady.

Now that things are slowing down it’s hard to find the motivation to get back outside to put everything away for the winter. I know it’ll get done, I just wish I could get back some of that, “Yay, it’s spring, let’s get this garden started!” umph back.

Now I want to sip tea, knit, and read on my couch surrounded by my two dogs. I want to roast veggies and make soups. I want to linger a bit longer under the covers in the morning too.

Making grape juice from the wild grapes. We turned it into jelly.

Making grape juice from the wild grapes. We turned it into jelly.

Overall I feel decently prepared for winter. I’ve made a lot of jams and jellies, stocked my chest freezer with veggies and fruits, and I’m already thinking out Christmas gifts. October will bring the last of the outdoor work, and the last push at procuring emergency supplies. They say we’ll have a very cold winter.

My DIY plans for the fall/winter are: making soap, some freshening up of paint inside the house, sewing new curtains for the kitchen, lots of knitting, and making citrus curd when the midwinter citrus is in season and ready to ship.

What are your plans? Are you sad to see summer go?

Happy Halloween/Blessed Samhain

Today is my most favorite day of the year! I’m about to get ready and get into costume (yes I dress up and I try to spend most of the day dressed up as well!) and then we will be heading to Chipotle for $2 “booritos” and then to Jillian’s for some trick or treating.

I wanted to do something creative this year that involved nature. Last year we made bats and spiders out of construction paper and black paper plates. They are cute and we put them out again this year.

I decided we would make a pentacle wreath both as a nod to Mother Nature and as a protection charm for the house. I plan to keep it up until it’s too darn cold, and then I’ll move it to our interior door. The neighbors probably think we are weird already, now I’m sure they will think we worship the devil. 😉

We got everything at a craft store and put it together this morning. It was really simple and I think it came out nicely.

I explained to Jack about the history of Samhain and how it’s changed to Halloween over time. This is a holiday that seems more relevant in my life now more than ever. Since much of my life revolves around growing seasons, it seems very fitting that this is the end of the year.

In two days we will celebrate Dia de los Muertos with some sweet bread and an altar in the kitchen.

Now we march into the darkness. Onward to Winter Solstice!

In a Jam & I Painted a Chicken

Spooning in the jam.

Today I get to mention my friend Jillian twice. For starters, she also recently made the toaster pastries I’ll be talking about, and her combos not only look delicious but they are allergy safe.

At the April Food Swap I got to meet Alana Chernila and snagged myself a copy of her book The Homemade Pantry. Pretty much anyone who ever cooks food for themselves should own this book. The very next day I made the toaster pastries that are pictured on the cover, and knew it wouldn’t be long before I made them again.

Several half-used jars of homemade jam were piling up in my fridge. I wanted a way to use them all up before they went bad, plus I was overdue for some bulk snack making. I promptly made up a double batch of Alana’s crust and stuck it in the fridge overnight.

Ready to bake!

When I woke up I got to rolling. I really love her crust. It’s so easy to use because it’s never crumbly and it isn’t prone to ripping apart from itself. If you fear homemade crust, get the book and use this recipe.

In the end I made 18 toaster pastries. The flavors are blueberry cherry balsamic, raspberry balsamic, and strawberry/raspberry/rhubarb. I left 6 out and packaged the rest to be put into the freezer.

The finished product.

Later in the day Jack decided he wanted to paint. I’ve wanted to paint for some time as well so we headed out to get a few supplies. When we got home we set everything up and then just painted whatever felt right at the time. His is a chaotic scene of animals and fictitious creatures, and mine is a chicken.

creative genius

We are now officially participating in Jillian’s Artful Summer! I will continue to post about our journey with art during this season.

DIY Mason Jar Lids for Straws

The lid of my super fantastic mason jar drinking glass.

Summer cocktail season is officially on now and these are perfect vessels for them. They are pretty awesome for iced coffee, smoothies, and lemonade too.

I had seen these lids on etsy and Chris couldn’t fathom that I would pay for these so he decided to make them for me for Mother’s Day. No matter how cheap and easy these were, they made for a seriously awesome gift.

Chris said you basically have to get your straws first, and reverse engineer back from that. I got a package of BPA-free straws (and the ever-important scrub brush to clean inside them) from this woman on ebay and she shipped them super fast.

One of the nice things about these straws is that they have this part at the bottom that sticks out just enough so that your straw can’t completely fall out of the hole on top.

So you’ll get your straws and then you need to go to a hardware store and look for rubber grommets. Make sure you ask specifically for grommets (not washers) and they will probably be loose in bins. Bring in your straw and test out sizes until you see which one fits the best.

Then you need to see which drill bit fits the external diameter of the grommet size you chose. Chris said that on the inside of the bin where you get the grommets from it’s listed right there. Easy enough so far, right?

Take your canning jar lid put two clamps on it, across from each other. Now anchor these to something secure. You don’t want it slipping or moving while you try to drill the hole through it.

Drill the holes and very carefully wipe away any dust from drilling. The inside of the hole will be sharp! Pop the grommets in, slide in your straws, screw on the lids and you are ready for beverage time!

Use different volume mason jars to have an assortment for kids and grownups.

Although they are not 100% leak proof, they do a pretty decent job. These would be really great as gifts or incredibly fun party favors. You could even take Sharpie markers and write each guest’s name on the front.

So now go and make these and share your pics on my Facebook please!

Chocolate Peppermint Pretzels & More!

The finished products.

I needed to make some simple gifts for neighbors and the Kilpatrick Family (because they are seriously like a surrogate family to me, and they are amazing people), and I really wanted to do something where Jack could help.

I figured these chocolate dipped peppermint pretzels would be the perfect solution.

Peeled candy canes, ready to be turned into minty dust.

I used two different colored candy canes (traditional and ones that include green), peeled them, and then separately gave them a good crushing in my food processor. When each was done I poured them into their own shallow bowl.

Powdered minty magic.

I got 2 bags of the honey wheat pretzel sticks. They are a good, medium length. I melted (separately) white and semi-sweet chocolate chips in a double boiler. When they were all melty, I put the bowls at our workstation and we got to dipping.

After we dipped each one we rolled it around in the peppermint crunchies, then we set them down on a huge silicone mat. You could also use wax paper or parchment paper if you don’t have a silicone mat.

Almost done....

At the end we took red and green colored sugar and sprinkled it on them, then waited for them to dry.

Scrumptious

I realized when we were finishing up the pretzels that I still had lots of melted chocolate left. Since wasting food makes me feel nutso, I knew I had to figure something out.

Chocolate peppermint coins

I got out my mini muffin tin, spritzed a little cooking oil in the bottom of each space and then started pouring the melted chocolate in. I quickly sprinkled the leftover peppermint and sprinkles on, then stuck the whole pan in the freezer for about 30 minutes.

If you don’t have a mini muffin tin you could use a regular one, but the disks would just be thinner and wider. They may also be a little harder to get out so silicone muffin cups might make things easier if you have those.

When I pulled the pan out I let it sit on the counter for a few minutes before carefully popping them out. I put them in little baggies and I’ll be giving them as gifts.

For the pretzels I got some inexpensive containers to package them in. I found a set of green plastic containers and a glass jar with a hinged lid. The glass jar was less than $3 at local dollar store!

When I filled them I put some candy cane striped ribbon around the top and then little “To, From” labels on the top.

The whole project didn’t take more than a couple of hours and it was really affordable. This would also be a great project if you have kids of multiple ages, because even though they might not be able to all the steps, even just putting on the sprinkles would be fun.

So if you are scrambling for any last-minute gift ideas definitely give these a  try!

St. Nick…you ninja!

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Our first real Christmas here (we first arrived just a few weeks short of Christmas, so that one doesn’t really count in my mind) we only had a few friends in the area. I whipped up a few spice rubs for our friends and neighbors, got a couple gifts for Chris and Jack, and that was about it.

Now we are fortunate to have lots of awesome friends, and since I love making stuff (duh), I want to make all sorts of nifty things for them this holiday season. Here’s the only problem….I swear it’s sneaking up on me faster than ever this year!

I really should start planning this stuff in the summer. I know that sounds bonkers, but some things take longer than others to make and can sit around for a few months before Christmas. I’m referring mostly to knitted/crocheted/sewed things. Also, I should stretch my canning endeavors to include extras for gifts. I didn’t really think of that this year. Ooops.

Then there are the things I have to make right before gifting, such as edibles. Now, I obviously can’t make these whenever I have a free moment, since I have to make them right before I give them….but I should’ve been thinking about these recipes back in October!

Again, I know this is making me sound like some crazy Martha Stewart nutcase, but not all my friends like the same edibles, and with food restrictions and allergies, I can’t just make one big batch of something and dole it out to everyone. I actually need to sit down with a list of people and make notes next to it.

In the end, I know it will all get done, and it will be fun to deliver everything. But seriously, next year, in the heat of the summer (when Chris starts singing Christmas songs because he’s weird like that) I’m going to get out a pen and paper (and login to Pinterest) and get crackin’ on planning.

A bit of knit

Jack loses his mind whenever I turn on Photo Booth. That's the new hat.

I should probably be making stuff for my friends and family for Christmas right about now, but instead I made myself a new hat. I had some yarn from the Southern Adirondack Fiber Fest that I still hadn’t used and recently donated some of my older crocheted hats, so I searched on Ravelry for a good pattern.

I wanted to find something I had all the materials for so I could start it the same night. I was also very tired when I started and wanted something simple and a pattern with familiar stitches. A few had stitches I hadn’t used before, and although I’d love to learn them at some point, this week was not the week for that.

I found this pattern and it fit all the criteria perfectly. I didn’t want it quite as slouchy (plus I was afraid I’d run out of yarn) so I only did 2.5 repeats of the fish scale pattern. I also added a knitted row in between each decrease row at the end. It only took two nights to complete and I love it.

Now I’m finally getting around to making this Acorn Head scarf/hat combo thing. A friend was making them last winter but I just never got around to it then. I’m frogging a cardigan I made that came out way too big in order to use the bulky yarn from it for this project.

After that I think I’m going to try to make a few gifts for people. I may even make an Angry Birds beanie for Jack as a surprise. I am not in love with any of the patterns I’ve seen for it, so I’m pretty sure I’m just going to wing it and make up my own.

I should really plan this stuff out better earlier in the year. Dang Christmas, creeping up on me like that.