RECIPE: Homebrew Simple & Delicious Hard Cider

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Safety Husband has been making hard apple cider for me for a couple of years now. He’s super crafty in his own way, and loves to dissect projects down to their base elements, starting with the most basic method and backtracking till he has done every step he can. He put together a very simple recipe for making your own apple cider out of non-preservative apple juice, similar to his first foray into the sweet sparkling beverage.

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Important Points

Hard Apple Cider is Alcoholic

In most places it’s legal for an adult (21+) to brew their own beer and cider, but make sure to check with your state/county/hoa laws before you get started, and before you try to take your homebrew from your home. Drink Responsibly, and all that other wisdom.*

Brew Times and Temperatures Will Vary

Depending on how everything comes together for you, and what season it is when you’re fermenting, it may take a little longer to go from apple juice to cider. Make sure to keep your bottles in a place that you will check on a regular basis to makes sure everything is still looking right. (More on that below.)

Sanitize Everything

Make sure to keep a rag and bucket of sanitizer around during all the steps. You will wipe down and/or soak every piece of equipment and packaging that touches your ingredients. Your goal is to give the yeast a clean house to go nuts in, they don’t need any dirty roommates (bacteria, etc.)

Overflows and Busted Bottles Happen (from time to time)

Since fermentation creates pressure and lots of action, there can be the occasional accident that ends in a spill. Safety Husband recommends placing your bottles of brew (both during fermentation and after bottling) in a waterproof bin that can catch any run-off or popped bottles. If you want added protection, put a cover loosely over the top of the bin, or hang a curtain across it. (Make sure that you’re still allowing air to escape from your bottles during fermentation, though.)

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Basic Supplies

If you are able to find a local homebrew shop, I highly recommend trying them first for ingredients and supplies. Good homebrew shops (like my local favorite Mt Si Homebrew Supply) always stock the freshest ingredients and provide helpful advice. The Homebrewers Association keeps a list of shops sorted by country and state/province. It’s a great place to find the names of local shops. One caveat – you may need to search for the shop on a search engine or Facebook to find their full info and website.
AHA – Find a Homebrew Supply Shop

Ingredients

  • Apple Juice – any pasteurized juice will work. Be sure that it does not contain sulfites or sorbates, because these will prevent fermentation. Ascorbic acid (sometimes listed as vitamin c) is the only common preservative that will not hurt yeast.
  • Yeast – any yeast intended for wine, cider, or beer will ferment apple juice into hard cider. Different yeasts will bring out slightly different flavors, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Red Star Cotes des Blancs is a great one to try first because it has a good flavor, is easy to find, and cheap. Dry yeasts are easier to ship and can be stored longer.

Supplies

  • Star San – Use this to sanitize everything that will be in the cider, or could touch it. Soap and detergents just remove dirt. You need to sanitize equipment immediately before using it to ensure that extra bacteria, mold, or wild yeast won’t be there to foul up your brew. Follow the directions on the bottle to mix it on brew day. The concentrate could burn you, so follow the directions closely. Once mixed properly, its too weak to hurt your skin and the residue is completely safe. You can keep the same batch in a bucket for a few weeks and use it again later as long as it is not cloudy. If its cloudy, mix a new batch. Star San gets rid of disagreeable bacteria in a minute. It doesn’t need to be rinsed off, and will not leave any flavors in your cider. If your hands are in it enough, it may dry them out a bit but otherwise it won’t hurt you.
  • Drilled stopper – You need a stopper to fit the top of your bottle so that nothing can get in while the cider is fermenting. It needs to have a hole in it so that CO2 may escape. This small universal stopper fits many 1/2 and 1 gallon apple juice bottles.
  •  Airlock – As yeast ferment sugars, they release CO2. The cider will have a constant stream of tiny CO2 bubbles that need to escape. An airlock allows that pressure to release without allowing nasty bacteria, fruitflies, pet hair, or ordinary dust into your cider. The 3 Piece Plastic Airlocks are the easiest to use and clean.
  • Bottles – One the cider is done fermenting, you need clean bottles to carbonate and store it in. They need to be able to handle pressure during carbonation, so make sure they’re designed for carbonated beverages. We used glass flip-top bottles; just be sure they’re rated for high pressure. Some people have had luck reusing clean plastic soda bottles, and many people reuse and cap glass beer bottles. Make sure whatever bottle you choose is rated for the pressure of carbonation. Anything else (like a glass beer growler) will explode.

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Brew Day

Step 1:  Clean and Sanitize

Before you do anything else, sanitize all of your tools. Put your rags, scissors, stopper, airlock, and even the yeast packet into the sanitizer for at least 1 minute. You can leave it soaking until you’re ready to use it.

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You also want to wipe down the top of your juice bottles (and any other possibly contaminated surfaces) with a sanitizer saturated dishcloth.

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Step 2: Mixing

You will be fermenting in the bottles that your juice came in. During the fermentation process there will be a lot of action in your cider, so the first step in brewing is to pour a little off the top of the jug to leave an inch or two of space.  Some yeasts, especially beer yeasts may also accumulate on the top, which is normal.  (This is called krausen.)

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Next, open your sanitized yeast packet with clean, sanitized scissors.

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A typical packet of yeast is enough to brew 5 gallons. If you’re brewing less than that, toss it all in. Once the pack is open, you can’t save it. If you have more than one jug, try to add the same amount to each. It doesn’t need to be exact. What’s important is that its fresh and clean. Don’t worry about stirring – there’s no need it. [Note: if you read dry yeast packet instructions, it may say to rehydrate in water first. That may be important for a wine that may be higher alcohol, but for cider, it’s not necessary.]

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Step 3: Capping and Storing

After adding the yeast, it’s time to cap the bottle off with a sanitized airlock. Push the airlock into the stopper, then fill it to the line with sanitizer or cheap vodka. (This will allow CO2 to escape the bottle, but keep any foreign substances from getting in.)

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Now, push the stopper gently into the top of the jug. It only needs to be tight enough to keep dust out. If its still wet with Star San, it may want to slip out. Be sure to check it later and tighten (by pressing it down at the stopper) if needed.

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Last, put it into a safe place (indoors!) and let it rest for at least a few weeks to ferment.

Waiting Days

Fermentation follows multiple stages:

  1. Multiplication – For the first 12-48 hours, it will look like nothing is happening. The yeast is building up its forces and getting ready to crush that sugar.
  2. Fermentation – Once the numbers are up, the yeast binge on all the sugar they can find. There will be a stream of tiny CO2 bubbles constantly for a few days to few weeks, and the pressure bubbles out of the airlock. The cider will turn cloudy because its so crowded with yeast. There may be so much yeast that they float and pile up in a beige layer (krausen) on top of the cider. This is all normal, and the party lasts at least a few days to a few weeks.
  3. Clarification – Once yeast have eaten all the sugar, they crash hard. When they sleep, they fall. Most krausen will sink. The cider will turn from cloudy to mostly clear over the next week or two. All the yeast will have fallen asleep in a pile at the bottom of the jug that could be up to an inch deep.

Depending on the type of yeast, amount of sugar, and temperature, this may all happen in as little as a week, or drag on for 1-2 months. Cotes des Blancs usually finishes in about 3 weeks. Once its clear, it’s time for bottling day. Bottling day is when you want it. It’s perfectly ok to leave a fermented cider in the jug for up to 3 months.

If Something Goes Wrong

  • 2 inches of beige foam – It may be alarming, but this isn’t a problem. Its yeast and this sometimes happens. If it’s coming out the top – clean, sanitize, and replace your airlock daily or twice a day if needed. It should stop producing mountains of foam in a few days. After a few weeks it will all fall to the bottom.
  • Sulphurous odors – This can happen too for a few days, and isn’t usually a problem. If the yeast are strained for nutrients, they may produce sulfur dioxide. Next time, add some yeast nutrient and hopefully it won’t happen. Usually the cider will taste and smell just fine a few weeks later.

Ok, we tricked you. Those aren’t wrong, but they frequently happen and can be alarming. Relax and wait a bit.
There are a few things to look for that can tell you that your fermentation has gone a little wonky…

  • Black, green, and white floaties – This could be mold. It will often appear fuzzy or change color as more grows. Give it a few weeks and if it spreads or is still there after 3-4 weeks, then the cider is probably going to taste terrible. By comparison – good yeast won’t change color and will fall down on its own. There’s no reason to drink bad cider so dump it.
  • Cider smells like a barnyard – If it’s been less than a month, let it sit another month or two. If it still does, then be extra careful to sanitize everything and be sure to use fresh yeast next time. This is probably due to wild yeasts. Dump the offending beverage.
  • Cider tastes like vinegar – It probably is. Be extra careful with sanitation and make sure you’re using fresh yeast next time.

appleciderimg_0244Bottling Day

Bottling cider takes a little longer than getting it ready to ferment (but both take less time than writing this post!) However, you can do it when you have time.

Step 1: Making a simple syrup for carbonation (optional)

This is completely optional. If you want a still cider, skip straight to step 2.
If you want sparkling cider, the first thing you need to do is sanitize some sugar. The yeast are just sleeping, not dead. If you add sugar, they’ll wake up and start partying again until the sugar is gone. If this is done under a closed lid, pressure builds up, and now you have a carbonated cider! But watch out – too much sugar = too mush pressure. Too much pressure could mean a bottle bomb.
So how much sugar? 1.5 tablespoons per gallon, or 3/4c for 5 gallons. I used an online calculator to figure out how much sugar to add. I entered my batch size (2 gallons), desired carbonation (2.25 volumes – that’s typical for a cider), and room temperature (70F). This recommended 1.4oz of table sugar. I measured that out on my scale, and got 1.4oz with 3 tablespoons of sugar.
Mix the sugar with an equal part water, then bring it to a boil for 1 minute. Cover it with foil or a lid, then leave it to cool.

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Step 2: Sanitize the Bottles

All of the bottles need to be sanitized in Star San for at least 1 minute. They don’t need to be full, but every surface needs to be wet. Its easy to fill them part way up, swirl it around (swirled, not shaken), then gently poured out. The more Star San is agitated, the foamier it gets. Its easiest to sanitize all bottles at once, then start filling them.

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Step 3 (optional): Add sugar for carbonation

If you are carbonating, split the sugar syrup evenly between the jugs. The yeast may probably wake up, start eating again, and making their presence known with bubbles.

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Gently stir the sugar in, but try not to disturb the sleeping yeast at bottom. If you do, no problem, there will just be a bit more left in the bottles later.

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Step 4: Fill Bottles

Pour or siphon the cider into the bottles, leaving 1-2 inches empty at the top.  If a bottle is too full, it may not carbonate fully.

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Wow, that’s a lot of yeast. It’s hard to get every last drop out of the jug without getting a bunch of yeast into the bottle.

There will be a layer of yeast at the bottom, try not to pour that into your bottles (or your friends will complain.) I typically use a siphon to fill  bottles, which makes it easier to separate the yeast sediment. More on that below.

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Once all of the bottles are filled, store them at room temperature for 2 weeks. Its best to keep them in a plastic box in case they leak or explode while carbonating. After 2 weeks, chill a bottle, open it up, and enjoy the results! If its not fully carbonated, wait another week or two before chilling and opening the other bottles and hopefully they will carbonate. If not, chill and enjoy it straight up or in a cocktail. Cider can be stored for 1-2 years and often improves over time.

Other Tools, Variations, & Scaling Up

A: Faster Bottling

Pouring cider into bottles is hard, and stirs up the yeast sediment. You don’t have to worry about the yeast – it will settle back out in the bottle after a week. However, its easier and faster to use an autosiphon and bottling wand. An autosiphon makes it easy to start transferring the cider out without pouring. A bottling wand has a pushbutton valve at the bottom. You put it in the bottle, push down, and cider starts filling the bottle. When it’s full to the top, lift the bottling wand up just a bit and it stops. Cap the bottle, and you’re on to the next one!
All of these should be available at your local homebrew shop, or online retailers.

B: Other Ingredients to Try

  • Sugar – if you want a cider with more alcohol and a drier finish, just add sugar. Unbleached organic is our favorite, but you can use any type. However, be careful with dark molasses – too much and it will get bitter. Yeast will turn almost all of it into alcohol, but some of the flavor remains. 1-2 pounds in five gallons of apple juice makes a great applewine.
  • Other fruit juices – you can use any fruit juice instead of or in addition to apple. Just be sure that it doesn’t contain any preservatives other than ascorbic acid (sometimes marked as vitamin c). Sulfites and sorbates will prevent yeast from fermenting and you’ll end up with vinegar or a bucket of mold instead of a delicious cider. Pasteurized, bottled juices are the easiest and safest to start with. Unpasteurized juice could foul the whole batch or even make you sick if it contains certain foodborne bacteria.
  • Stevia or Xylitol – if you want a cider to taste sweeter, try mixing in a bit of stevia or xylitol before bottling. Yeast cannot ferment it, so the flavor will remain in the cider.

C: Scaling Up

Brewing beer, wine, or cider at home is easy up to 5 gallons per batch. Whenever you buy yeast, you’re buying enough for five gallons. All you need is a bigger vessel, more juice, more bottles, and more friends to help drink it. When you buy a bigger fermenter, be sure to get something bigger than your batch size. I use the 8 gallon bucket from my local homebrew shop even though I’m only brewing 5 gallons (see picture C). Some yeasts intended for beer are “top fermenting,” meaning they like to pile up on top. If there isn’t room, it will foam up into the airlock and then out onto the floor, walls, or ceiling.

FAQs

How much alcohol is in my cider?
The short answer is – it varies. To find out, you need to know how much sugar was there before fermentation, and how much is left afterwards. You can measure this with a hydrometer. The hydrometer will have a chart, or you can use an online calculator to calculate how much alcohol was produced. This will vary batch to batch depending on ingredients, which yeast was used, and the temperature it was fermented at.

What are the laws surrounding homebrew in my state?
That’s a great question for the advocates at the American Homebrewers Association. They have a state by state list for the USA available online. If you’re outside the USA, look for advice from similar organizations working to promote homebrew in your area.

Will that yeast in the bottom hurt anything?
No. This is a delicacy known as Vegemite or Marmite that’s best enjoyed on toast with breakfast. You could buy it, or you could enjoy yeast on toast after your morning cider. Its up to you. Ew

How many times did this article mention “sanitize”?
About 100 times. Nothing else matters if the equipment is dirty.

Safety Husband is also pretty sanitary. Well, I hope you enjoy this post as much as I like drinking home-brewed cider. Please make sure to be safe with your cider experiments (including the drinking of said cider) and let us know how your batch turns out!

*We love sharing recipes and ideas with you, but trust you to take responsibility to do all projects safely and legally. Safe fun is the best fun.

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

I’ve recently gone through some major life changes, one of them being a complete overhaul and reorganization of my home. I had piles and piles of ‘stuff’ accumulated over the years that was literally taking over my space and my life. Making room for a new roommate was the perfect motivation for me to sort through and get rid of stuff and it feels so good to say goodbye to ‘the pile’ and start fresh.

Now that my life feels back in order, I can make time for some new decor ideas for my home. The first thing I wanted to do fill my new bedroom with hanging plants in the window. I spied a lovely Boston Fern at the grocery store and brought it home on a whim. Macrame is one of my favorite craft activities, since I already have the supplies on hand and a hanging planter is a fairly simple project to take on. I decided to use precut strips of jersey (t-shirt) material that I had in my stash for this project, but you can also recycle an old t-shirt by cutting it up into strips.

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

Supplies Needed

• Jersey (t-shirt) fabric, cut into strips
• Wooden beads
• Scissors
• Ruler or measuring tape
• House plant
• Hook (to hang the plant from)

Cut your t-shirt material into 1.5″ strips (you’ll need 8-12 strips total), then stretch each strip into round cords (if you pull on both ends and stretch the fabric strip it will roll itself into a cord naturally).

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

Take 8 strips and tie them together into one big knot as shown below. I chose to use two different colors of blue jersey fabric.

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

Group your cords into 4 sets of 2 and tie a knot in each set. To determine where I should tie the first knots, I first measured the radius of the bottom of my plant pot, then divided that number in half (my pot radius was about 6″ so I tied my first knots 3 inches below the first big knot).

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

Next separate your sets again into twos as shown in the photo below and tie knots again, approx. 3″ below the first set.

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor
DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

Repeat the last step to make a third row of knots. At this point you can stretch your macrame around your plant pot and adjust any knots if necessary. To finish, simply gather all your cords together and tie into one big knot at the top to finish.

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

But I tried my own variation…

You may have noticed that the cords look too short in the photo above to complete the hanger. Inspired by this image, I decided to change cord colors to finish the top of the hanger. To do this, I loosened the last row of knots and inserted a purple cord though the knot, then tightening securely.

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor
DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

Use scissors to trim the extra blue cord to 2-3″ long.

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

Next I added beads to the purple cords, using an awl (bookbinding tool) to help feed the cords through the bead holes. I also added wooden beads to the bottom of the big knot for some extra flair.

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

Finally, I stretched my completed macrame hanger around the plant pot, pulled the purple cords up and tied a knot at the top. To hang, install a screw-in hook into your ceiling.

DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor
DIY: Jersey Macrame Hanging Planter #craft #home #decor

RECIPE: Two Bloody Mary Vodka Infusions

RECIPE: Two Bloody Mary Vodka Infusions #cocktail #party

In my last post, I mentioned that my 31st birthday is coming up and I am planning to celebrate by hosting a Bloody Mary themed party. I’ve been craving a good Bloody Mary ever since we got hit with our first heat wave in Portland. It felt too hot to cook or really eat much in 95+ degree heat and a cold Bloody Mary with all the fixings sounded like the perfect dinner on a hot summer night. (Un)lucky for me, the weather forecast for this coming weekend says the heat will be back on with another 97 degree high so I guess I’ll finally get exactly what I’ve been craving.

In preparation for the party I decided to infuse some vodkas. I chose two recipes, a special Bloody Mary Infusion (think garlic) and Bacon Habanero (think spicy).

RECIPE: Two Bloody Mary Vodka Infusions #cocktail #party

5.0 from 1 reviews
Bloody Mary Infused Vodka
 
Author:
Recipe type: Cocktail
Ingredients
  • • Garlic, crushed
  • • Tomato, sliced
  • • Olives
  • • Bell Pepper, halved
  • • Cilantro
  • • Dill
  • • Vodka
Instructions
  1. Fill a large mason jar with garlic, tomato, bell pepper, olives and herbs. I filled my jar about ⅓-1/2 of the way. Next add the vodka, filling the jar. Allow to infuse in the refrigerator for at least three days (I infused for a full week). Strain and discard the veggies, then pour infused vodka back into a clean jar or bottle.

RECIPE: Two Bloody Mary Vodka Infusions #cocktail #party

The Bloody Mary Infusion can be made up any way you want so feel free to try different combinations. Other ingredients to consider adding are: celery, cucumber, jalapeño, peppercorns. Now on to the bacon….

RECIPE: Two Bloody Mary Vodka Infusions #cocktail #party

5.0 from 1 reviews
Bacon Habanero Infused Vodka
 
Author:
Recipe type: Cocktail
Ingredients
  • 6 slices pepper bacon, cooked
  • 3 habanero peppers, halved and seeded
  • 2 serrano peppers, halved and seeded
  • Vodka
Instructions
  1. Place bacon and peppers in a large mason jar and cover with vodka, filling the jar. Let infuse in the refrigerator for up to one week. Give it a taste test after 3-4 days. The longer it infuses the spicier it will become.

RECIPE: Two Bloody Mary Vodka Infusions #cocktail #party

RECIPE: Candied Jalapeños

RECIPE: Candied Jalapeños by Adventures In Making

My 31st birthday is coming up and I’m planning to celebrate with a Bloody Mary themed party. To get ready I decided to make some creative garnishes including these candied jalapeños. I first discovered these sweet and spicy gems years ago when my friend Lindsay gifted me a jar. I can’t wait to try them on my fully loaded garnish skewer floating atop a spicy bloody mary cocktail!

RECIPE: Candied Jalapeños by Adventures In Making

Candied Jalapeños
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
This recipe makes four 8 oz canning jars.
Author:
Recipe type: Garnish
Ingredients
  • 1½ lbs jalapeños
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 cups white sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon celery seed
  • 1½ teaspoons garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Instructions
  1. Cut off the stems of the jalapeños and slice into ⅛-1/4 inch rounds. Set aside.
  2. Combine cider vinegar, sugar, turmeric, celery seed, garlic powder and cayenne pepper in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the jalapeños and simmer for exactly 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers in to sterile canning jars. Turn up the heat on the pot and bring the syrup to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.
  3. Use a ladle to pour the syrup over the the jars covering the jalapeño slices. Insert a chopstick or butter knife in to the jars to release any air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jars clean with a damp towel and secure lids.
  4. Place jars in refrigerator to mellow for 2-3 weeks (you can also can your jars using a hot water bath method).

RECIPE: Candied Jalapeños by Adventures In Making

I plan to eat these candied jalapeños with everything! They’d be perfect added to a charcuterie board, in a grilled cheese sandwich, on a pizza (with pepperoni and pineapple), or even on nachos instead of pickled jalapeños.

RECIPE: Candied Jalapeños by Adventures In Making

DIY: Convertible Harvest Apron / Produce Bag

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There’re still a million and a half things to do around here, but the garden has been calling. (Literally. The robins are LOUD.)

More often than not I find myself walking around with a hose and eating vegetables right off the plants like an animal; but the harvests are getting to be too big for me to eat immediately, too unwieldy to juggle in my hands, and while my first instinct is to bundle them up in my skirt I’m not too excited about flashing the neighbors.

All of this to explain why I decided to turn a half a yard of cotton material and some bias tape into a harvest apron- not just an apron, but an apron that converts to a drawstring produce bag.

For those of you who like to reverse engineer projects (and improve them!) the concept is simple. It’s a rectangular drawstring bag with one string that’s large enough to tie around your waist. For the rest of you who want to see what I did, follow along!

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Supplies

• 1/2 yard of printed cotton fabric. (18 inches x 45 inches wide, typically.)
• At least 3 yards of a durable, sewable trim to use as a drawstring and tie. I used Double Wide Bias Tape from Wrights.
• Sewing machine (or a needle and thread if you’re handy)
• Complementary thread and bobbin
• Ruler
• Straight pens
• Fabric Scissors
• Pinking Shears (optional).

Tips

• Remember to take it slow, and maybe start with a piece of material that you’re not in love with. The second one will go faster/easier.
• This project will hide a bunch of mistakes, so don’t fret!
• I used pinking shears to keep my edges from fraying. If you prefer, you can ignore all the steps that use the pinking shears and instead do a zig zag stitch down the fraying edge of the material. (This post on Craftsy is quite helpful.)
• Whenever you get to the end of a line of stitches, always go backwards and forwards on the spot with a few stitches to tie off the ends.
• A seam ripper is always useful if you’re as prone to mistakes as I am.
• An iron is also useful, if you have one handy. I use it to iron fabric flat, to fold seams over, and sometime I just push the steam button to listen to the hiss.

Step 1 – Making the Pocket

To begin, you will cut or tear the 18″x45″ piece of material down the fold so that you have two pieces of 18″x22.5″. You will be stitching the edges to form something almost like a pillow case, leaving one of the 22.5″ sides open (this will be the top of your pocket.) To remind myself which way went up, I used the pinking shears to trim one of the 22.5″ sides of each piece of material.

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Lay the two pieces together, with the right sides in. From your pinked “top” measure down 3 inches and put a bright pin or mark to show that your stitches will end here. (Don’t stitch above the markers.)

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Now sew a straight stitch 1/2 inch starting at your marker and going down to the bottom of the bag, across the bottom, and back up the other side (stopping 3″ below the top of the bag.)

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Voila! Pocket made!

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Now trim the other sides with your pinking shears to stop fraying.

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Step 2 – Drawstring Casing

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This first step is a little finicky– the goal is to fold under the raw edge of the fabric so it’s out of the way of the drawstring casing. First, fold back your unstitched raw edge (the 3″  from the top on each side we skipped before) and pin flat. 

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Use a zig-zag or straight stitch to permanently pin down that edge on each edge of the flap (leaving the flaps open.  One side shown open below.)

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Now for the drawstring casing, itself. Fold each open flap backwards to make a 1.5″ hem. Pin each side separately so that the pocket remains open.

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Run a straight stitch around the bottom of each flap, about 0.5″ from the pinked edge.

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Then run a second straight stitch approximately 0.5″ from the top of each side. The space between those stitches is where the drawstring will run.

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Step 3 – Drawstrings and Ties

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Cut your drawstring material into the following 3 pieces:
• Apron Tie: Wrap the string around your waist, add 12-18″ to your measurement and cut.
• Short Drawstring: Measure one piece that is 24″ to act as your other drawstring.
• Wrist Loop: The final piece will be a loop that you can use around your wrist to hold open your apron. I used about 12″ for my loop, but you may want to make yours longer or shorter (or omit this step, if you want!)

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For your wrist loop, cross the ends, and stitch to the middle of one of the open sides. (Make sure to stick above or below the drawstring casing area.

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The side with your loop will now be the front of your apron. Use a large safety pin to feed the 24″ piece through the casing on this side. Repeat with the long piece, through the casing on the other side.

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Fold over and stitch each of the four ends to form a 1.5″ loop. If you have a trim that will fray at the ends, it’s a good idea to do a tight zig-zag here to limit the fray over time.

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To keep your short drawstring from disappearing into the casing, feed the long piece through the loops on each side.

Trim all your little threads, and you’re ready to harvest!

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Tie the long tie at your natural waist, and get into the garden!

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Use the wrist loop when you need to hold open the apron, but keep your hands free. (Especially handy when you’re picking tricky berries.)

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When you’re ready to go in, untie the apron and pull the drawstrings for an instant produce bag.

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When the bag gets just too dirty, throw it into the wash on hot. (Turn the bag inside out to get rid of those stubborn bits of dirt.)

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Things to Try

• Add a pocket for a garden knife or shears.
• Add vintage cotton trim to make it even more vintage-girly.
• Add a bib and neck strap – more pockets?

Any suggestions? Do you have a favorite garden project you’re rocking this summer?

RECIPE: Mango Salsa With Garden Cilantro

RECIPE: Mango Salsa with Garden Cilantro #homegrown

Mango salsa is one of my all-time favorite dishes to make. Loading up a bowl of it with chips is one of my favorite summer-time meals. This year I planted some cilantro seeds in my garden and couldn’t wait to harvest it and try out a recipe from Doreen Shababy’s book, The Wild & Weedy Apothecary. Doreen’s book is a wonderful resource for any budding herbalist as it’s bursting with herbal recipes and remedies.

RECIPE: Mango Salsa with Garden Cilantro

About growing cilantro…

This was my second attempt at growing cilantro from seed. Cilantro can be a little tricky as it tends to bolt (spring up flowers) rather quickly, especially in hot weather. Cilantro thrives is cool, moist weather, so with our recent heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest there was nothing I could do to prevent my cilantro from sending up it’s long, spindly flowers. So instead of fretting over it, I just planting some new seeds to begin another crop.

Some growing tips:

– For a continuous crop all season long, plant cilantro seeds every two weeks.
– Plant in a container at least 18 inches wide and 8-10 inches deep.
– Follow the planting instructions on your seed packet. Seeds should germinate in 7-10 days.
– Place containers in full sun, or if you live in a hot climate, light shade.
– Harvest at least weekly to keep leaves coming.

RECIPE: Mango Salsa with Garden Cilantro

Now on to the salsa recipe. I made up a double batch so that I could take some to a friend’s birthday party and save some for myself 🙂

Mango Salsa With Garden Cilantro
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: Approx. 4 cups
Ingredients
  • 2 ripe mangos, ripe, coarsely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (remove seeds if you like it mild)
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Cayenne pepper, optional
  • Salt, optional
Instructions
  1. Peel and chop up the mangos (if you've never cut open a mango before, the pit is large, long and flat, so you basically cut around the pit). Combine all ingredients and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Then taste and add a dash of cayenne and salt if needed.

RECIPE: Mango Salsa with Garden Cilantro

Serve this yummy salsa as an appetizer with chips, over fish or shrimp tacos, or even use it to garnish chicken dishes.

RECIPE: Mango Salsa with Garden Cilantro

DIY: Funky T-shirt Rag Quilt for Summer Picnics and Winter Snuggling

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I come by both my weird sense of humor and my borderline hoarderness honestly. What that means is I have collections of really funny/awesome/unique/vintage/sentimental stuff that I can’t use, but I really don’t want to part with.

Like a bin of old t-shirts.

Now, I don’t really wear t-shirts. I don’t often find the need to wear old shirts from my ballet or flag twirling days. I stopped wearing the worn out vintage tees that my mom passed down, and I never really found the guts to wear the t-shirts with swears that I thought were my right as an adult.

So they all just sat in a bin in the closet until I found this amazing tutorial at “Sweet Tea in the South” to turning them into a quilt. I made a few adjustments to use supplies I had on hand, but she does an amazing job of going through the process step by step.
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I just want to get this out of the way- this is a labor intensive project with lots of steps, and a metric ton of cutting. Jess at Sweet Tea in the South recommends splitting it up over a few days, and I have to agree. It takes a long time to do, and is exhausting, but here’s the thing…

I think this is my favorite sewing project, ever. I think there might be some romantic love brewing between me and this blanket. It’s thick and soft, and smells lovely. It’s washable and gigantic (mine is 6′ x 6′) and each square is a symbol of who I am and where I come from– the classic rock station I grew up to, the matching t-shirts Safety Husband and I wore to our after prom party, band shirts, and festival shirts.

Supplies

• Old T-shirts- You will need two squares of shirt for each square of your quilt. I used the fronts and backs of shirts, and all-in-all I used about 36 large shirts for my quilt.
• Batting or flannel for the inside of the quilt. I used Cotton quilt batting that I had around. You will need one square for each square of the quilt.
• A template for cutting your squares (instructions below) I used some scrap chipboard.
• A sewing machine with a ballpoint needle and a lot of thread. (I used white all-purpose thread.)
• Straight pins
• Sewing scissors. Optional but recommended – a fabric rotary cutter, and probably a pair of embroidery scissors for snipping.

To Make your Square template

Measure across each of your shirts to see what size square would cut easily out of all of them. My shirts ranged from large to extra-large, and from 14″ – 16″. I used scrap chipboard to cut a 14″ x 14″ square template for my t-shirt blocks, and made another template that was 1″ smaller on all sides (12″ x 12″) for my batting blocks. You can cut your template from cardboard, wood, or anything else you have around.

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Step 1: Cutting the Squares

Lay a t-shirt out smoothly across a protected surface, and center your t-shirt block template around the art.

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Carefully cut around the template.

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Repeat this with each shirt.

When you’re done with all of your shirts, use your batting template to cut out one piece of batting for every 2 pieces of shirt.

Step 2: Building the Quilt Squares

Each square of your quilt will start out as a stack of shirt|batting|shirt. One of your t-shirt pieces will be on the front, the other on the back. I decided that I wanted to make one side of my blanket cool colors, and the other side warm colors, so each of my stacks was coolcolorshirt|batting|warmcoloredshirt. You can arrange them however you want!

To build your block, lay out your first piece of t-shirt, face-down, then center the smaller piece of batting.

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Cover with the other piece of t-shirt, face-up and secure with several pins, making sure to go through the batting layer.

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Repeat with all your squares, until you have a tidy little stack.

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(At this point I laid all of my squares out on the floor and arranged them how I wanted. I marked each square with a letter and number so I knew how to put them back together. It was a lot of work, and I wouldn’t necessarily do it again. Random is OK!)

Step 3: “Quilting” your Squares

There are several ways to quilt the block together, the important thing is to stitch through every layer to keep the batting and fabric from shifting. I used a combination of straight stitches and a zig zag stitches on my machine to make lines across each block horizontally and vertically.

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Repeat in each square, and you’re ready to start putting them all together!

Step 4: Assembling the Quilt

The “rag” in this rag quilt means that instead of hiding your seams, you will leave them out to fray and fringe. With that in mind, you need to decide which side will have the extra fluff. One side will be clean and flat like

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The other will be fringed and crazy

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Start with two blocks, and stack them with the future fringed sides facing out.

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You will pin and sew the two pieces together on one edge, about 3/4 of an inch in (seam allowance). I used a zig-zag stitch for these seams to allow a little more stretch and flexibility.

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Attach the next block in the row the same way until you’ve completed a whole row, then start with the next row.

When you have every row sewn, sew each one to the ones beside it the same way. Make sure you keep your seams facing the same way so that all your fringe is on the front or back.

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Breath deeply and look at all that you’ve accomplished! Now take a break, the next part is tedious.

Step 5: Fringing and Clean-up

The final step is to fringe all those seams so that they will roll up and hide any mistakes you may have made on this quilt, and to cut all your little threads. The embroidery scissors are great for this task, but regular sewing scissors work as well. To fringe the seams make a small cut almost to your seam, every half an inch or so. You will do this around the outside edge of your blanket, as well as at every seam. I suggest a watching a movie.

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It may take a while (several evenings) of trimming in front of the tv, with your blanket in your lap, and your cat cuddled underneath, but when you’re done you might be as in love as I am.

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Now that I’ve done the work, I’m going to use this blanket for everything: picnics, cold nights, hammock times, even make-shift shelter. So if you see a pile of funny/awesome/unique/vintage/sentimental old t-shirts walking around, make sure say hi.

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DIY: Number Etched Drinking Jars

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I used to have a set of numbered glasses that I loved. Each was marked (1-6) with a decal. When people would visit, I would give each their own number, so they wouldn’t mix up glasses. It was lovely.

Unfortunately it’s a partial set now, because they were delicate, and I am clumsy.

It’s been my goal to replace them for some time. So that was my first project when I got the Dremel etching underway.

Supplies Needed

Dremel Micro rotary tool, or similar.
• A Dremel Diamond Wheel Point Bit.
** UPDATED 12/14 – I’ve since started using two different diamond bits with more success. 7105 Diamond Ball Point and 7103 5/64-Inch Diamond Wheel Point
• Printed Number Templates (described below)
• Scissors
• Tape
• Unlabeled Glass Jars – mason or other. I have used salsa jars for my glasses.
• Optional – Sharpie to trace template onto glass.

Safety First

Refer to your tool manual. I have listed my safety gear below, but it might not be adequate for your setup. Take all the precautions you can, and be ready to pay attention to what you’re doing.
• A respirator or dust mask.
• Safety goggles or Safety Glasses.

Tool Tips

• Practice a little bit with the tool to get an understanding of how it works on glass.
• Higher speeds seem to work best on glass.
• Build a jig to hold your glass in place while you work on it. I used a piece of plywood with scrap “rails” attached to it. My jig is painted black so I can easily see my project.
• Rubberized gloves may make it easier for you to hold onto your jar.
• Remember not to etch too deeply into the glass. Don’t hold the bit in one place for too long. Your goal is to make a pattern that is just barely felt when you run your finger across it.

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Measure your glass and decide how large you would like your number to be. (I decided that a 2.5 inch number would be perfect. That’s roughly 180 pt.) Choose your size, and type numbers in your favorite font. Make sure to leave some extra space to cut the templates apart.

Cut the numbers into strips that will fit easily within your glass. You want the paper to be pressed as closely to the glass as possible.

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Use a little tape to hold the paper template in place.

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Now it’s time to etch! First take a good look at your number and make sure it’s straight and located where you want. You will notice that the thickness of the glass will affect the way you see your template from different angles, and it may be difficult to trace the number perfectly. If you like, you can trace the number on the glass with a Sharpie to make sure you have the shape just right. (The Sharpie mark will come off easily after you are done etching.)

Your first etching step (shown above) is to make a light outline of your number, using the pointed end of the bit and a very soft touch.  Try to keep as straight-on to your template as possible– and cut yourself some slack. These are going to be awesome even if you have a stray line or two.

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Once you have outlined the whole number lightly, remove the template and retrace the number to thicken up your outline. Hold the bit close to parallel with the surface of the glass to get a thicker, more consistent, line.

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If you are happy with the shape of your outline, move on to outline the other numbers you would like to do in the same way.

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Voila! You have numbered glasses! But don’t stop there…

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Using the pointed end of the bit, add small designs and lines to the inside of your number. These little additions will look fun, camouflage any mistakes you made with the outline, and make the numbers pop-out on the glass. (This was my favorite part of the whole project. Any opportunity to doodle.)

IMG_2986I’m excited to show off my new glasses, and love that I turned something that should have been recycled into something I can use for years.

Other symbols to try

• Initial Letters for the people who visit often, or to give as gifts.
• Card Suits for game night (Which drink is trump?)
• Astrological Symbols
• Different Speech Bubbles
• Animal Silhouettes
• Punctuation marks (which I love)

What would you make?

DIY: Pressed Herb Candles

DIY: Pressed Herb Candles #gift #handmade

This summer I’ve fallen in love with growing fresh herbs in my garden and finding creative ways to harvest and use them. My favorite herb by far has been lavender. I’ve made my own eye pillows and sachets, and even lavender lemonade and cookies. Now that it’s officially fall, I’m still finding ways to keep my lavender-love going. Inspired by this post from the Free People Blog, I decided to make my own Pressed Herb Candles using lavender and chocolate mint from my garden.

DIY: Pressed Herb Candles #gift #handmade

Since the pressed herbs are more for decoration rather than scent, I added in my favorite essential oil, Lavandin (a cross between true lavender and spike lavender). I can’t get over how beautiful these candles turned out and I love filling my home with the sweet scent of lavender even after summer has ended.

Supplies Needed:

• Glass jars
• 1 block of beeswax (I used 1 1/2 blocks to make two candles)
• Wick
• Pressed flowers or herbs (100% dry)
• Clean empty tin can and a saucepan
• 1 old paintbrush (you can throw away afterwards)
• An old knife
• Cutting board

DIY: Pressed Herb Candles #gift #handmade

TIP: Make sure you use the correct size wick for your jar! If you don’t your candle won’t burn properly (I learned this the hard way). Be sure to ask someone when you are buying the wick to advise you on the correct size.

DIY: Pressed Herb Candles #gift #handmade

For full instructions, visit the Free People Blog.

DIY: Pressed Herb Candles #gift #handmade
DIY: Pressed Herb Candles #gift #handmade
DIY: Pressed Herb Candles #gift #handmade

DIY: Crayon Candles

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled
My obsession with bright colors got me hooked when I saw this tutorial by Brit+Co. I already had a bunch of old crayons on hand from my previous DIY crayon post and I’ve been interested in making candles lately, so this was the perfect project!

Once you’ve gathered your supplies and setup a work space near your microwave, this project is fairly simple and would be a great craft to do with a friend. I loved blending my own colors and experimenting with different color combinations.

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

Supplies Needed

• Old crayons
• Glass votives (I used small juice glasses)
• Wax
• Wicks
• Dixie cups (or any paper cup)
• Popsicle sticks (for stirring)

Additional Tools

• Microwave
• X-acto knife

The first step is to peel the paper off your crayons. You can either use an x-acto knife or soak the crayons in water for easy peeling.

Next, fill a dixie cup with wax and microwave for 1 minute. Give it a stir and microwave again in 30 second intervals until wax is completely melted. Pour a thin layer of wax into the bottom of each votive and place the candle wick in the center. Let harden.

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

Using one crayon per color, fill a dixie cup with wax and top with a broken up crayon. Microwave for 2 minutes and then in 30 second intervals until completely liquified. Let cool for 30 seconds or so and pour colored wax into the votive. Let the first layer dry for 20-30 minutes.

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

Repeat this process and continue to pour layers of colored wax into each votive, making sure to let them dry between each layer.

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

And that’s it!

DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled
DIY: Crayon Candles #craft #crayola #recycled

What other fun crafts have you made with old crayons? We’d love to hear about your projects…

UPDATE 9/14/14

I had some trouble burning my candles. After talking with a candle making friend, she recommended I use a larger (thicker) wick. Also, be careful not to burn out your microwave! I recommend only make a few candles at a time to prevent over-heating your microwave. Happy making!