Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Magnetic Spice Rack

Awhile ago I found this magnetic spice rack tutorial on Pinterest and really wanted to try it!! :) 

My original plan was to mount a piece of aluminum or stainless steel to the wall between the microwave and the window. When I told Daniel what I was planning and asked him to help me find a piece of metal, he suggested I just use the side of the microwave instead. Genius! :) Now why didn't I think of that....

My messy spice drawer has been really needing some help....plus it's hard to find anything since most of these containers are the small ones, and they're all stacked on top of each other....I have to dig out practically everything to find what I'm looking for...

I bought my tins online here, since I couldn't find what I wanted locally. I printed up labels for each tin, and taped them to the backs of the containers (since they're just taped on I can easily change what I have in each tin if I ever want to). 

Next I glued a strong magnet to the back of each tin. I started by hot gluing them on, but that made the tins sit at a funny angle when they were on the microwave, so I wound up just using super glue. :)

Almost done! :) 

And there it is!! I love how pretty all the colors are, PLUS it's freed up some much needed storage space.

This is how the backs of the tins look.

I actually think I like this look even better than the original idea of a piece of metal to stick the tins to! At least for my kitchen. :) If you don't have an available side of your microwave you could do this on the side of a fridge too.

I moved my bigger spice containers into the newly emptied drawer, which in turn allowed me to shuffle some other things around in the cupboard in which they formerly resided.....so this new spice rack has left all of my cupboards a little more organized and a little less crowded. :) Yay!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Laundry Soap

I recently got a chance to try another DIY project I've had on my list for awhile...laundry soap!! :) It's pretty simple and inexpensive. The laundry soap has to sit overnight so I haven't had a chance to use it yet, but I will let you know how it works once I try it! Here's the recipe if any of you want to try it yourself.

Hot Water
1 bar Fels-Naptha Laundry Soap
1 cup Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (NOT regular baking soda!!)
1 cup (1/2 cup in the original recipe) Mule Team Borax
5 gallon bucket and lid
1 gallon container

It's the same recipe the Duggars use, only I added an extra half cup of borax since we have hard water. I found all the ingredients in the laundry section at Walmart. I threw away my receipt so I can't remember the exact amounts I paid, but I can get pretty close...the Fels-Naptha bar was $0.97, and the washing soda and borax were each a little over $3 per box. I also bought the 5 gallon bucket and lid at Walmart for $1.17. I measured out all of the soda and borax in the boxes to see exactly how much each load cost....1 box of washing soda will make 6 batches of soap, and 1 box of borax will make 9.5 batches of soap (or 19 if you only use 1/2 cup). Since I couldn't remember the exact amounts I just got as close as I could....I figured it costs just under $2 to make one batch (which winds up being 10 gallons) of soap, and if you use 5/8 cups of soap per load of laundry it should wash 256 loads of laundry!! The soap for each load should only cost about $0.007 (yes, that IS less than $0.01 per load)!!!! SWEET!!! :) MUCH cheaper than store-bought!!!

First, grate the bar of Fels-Naptha using the largest holes on a cheese grater. Be careful not to grate your fingers....and since this looks for all the world like cheddar cheese and you're using a cheese grater, make SURE your little one (who LOVES cheese!!!) does NOT eat it!!! :) We had a close call but the smell slowed her down. Haha. :)

Put 4 cups of hot water into a pan and add the grated soap. 

Cook over medium heat, stirring. I read somewhere not to boil it because if you do it may crystallize. Cook until all the soap is dissolved so you don't wind up with lumps in your finished product. I had a little helper. :)

By the time all the soap is dissolved it will be a little foamy.

Fill your 5 gallon bucket half full with hot water. Add the cooked soap, washing soda, and borax. Stir until everything is dissolved and smooth. Then fill the bucket to the top with hot water (I had already taken some out when I took this picture). Put the lid on the bucket and let it sit overnight...it should thicken/gel some.

When you're ready to use it (mine hasn't had time to gel since I just did it this morning) put 8 cups of the soap into your 1 gallon container (I bought a gallon of orange juice awhile back because it came in the perfect container for my soap project!! :) and then add 8 cups of water (this is where you wind up with 10 gallons....you only make 5 gallons of the soap, but when you use it you put half soap and half water in your container). It will separate, so shake the jug well before each use. :)


After using the laundry soap on one of the toughest loads I could think of (dirty "farmer" jeans and kitchen towels!! Haha...) I am very happy with how it worked!! The clothes really didn't smell (good or bad) at all when they were done but I usually use a good smelling fabric softener so it doesn't matter if the soap makes the clothes smell good or not. Everything came out clean and soft! One of the projects on my "to try" list is homemade fabric softener...but I want to use up the store-bought stuff I have first. :) If you're worried that this soap won't be strong enough, I would just suggest using it without add the extra 5 gallons of water (just fill up your jug from the 5-gallon bucket, and don't add the extra water). Anyway, just wanted to let you know how the soap performed! 


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Giant Photo Prints

A recent project of mine was turning our family picture into a large piece of wall art since we have such big walls!! Large prints are hundreds of dollars, which doesn't work for me. :) I recently discovered that you can order "engineering prints" from the office stores! Staples was the cheapest I saw...$1.99 for an 18"x 24", $2.99 for a 24"x 36", and $4.99 for a 36"x 48". I went with the 36"x 48." These only come in black and white, but since I LOVE black and white that wasn't a big deal. :) If you live near a Staples store, you can pick up your order in the store for free. Otherwise you can have it shipped for $9.95...still not a bad price. :) You will also need something to paste your picture onto (since it just comes printed on heavy paper...I bought a big, black, poster-board type thing from Hobby Lobby on sale for $6), and some spray glue (the blog I got the idea from said that mod podge glue will NOT work...it's too wet and wrinkles the paper). Make sure you use some sort of spray glue!! :) 

My poster board and print...my print had been rolled up for several days by the time I got around to doing this project and it didn't want to lie flat...I just left it on the floor for awhile with some books on the corners. :)

Trim off any unprinted, white areas on your print. Spray an even layer of glue all over your poster board. Gently spread your print over the glue (this is a job where you really need TWO people....but I didn't realize that until it was too late. :) I managed, but it would have been MUCH easier with another person!!). 

My print was a little longer than the biggest piece of poster board I could find, so I wrapped the extra around the back of the poster board and glued it in place. I need to attach some loops to hang it by, but I haven't done this yet. I'm thinking I'll just make some wire or string loops and tape them on. :)

Voila!! All done...for around $11. :)

After a few days my print developed a lot of bubbles and wrinkles, which I think must have been caused by me doing this project alone...to get the print laid onto the poster board evenly, I kept having to pull it loose from the glue and move it a little. I want to try this again with 2 people and see if that eliminates the wrinkles. :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Glass Etching Photo-Tutorial

I love learning new skills, and thanks to Pinterest I’ve been finding lots of new things to try lately! One of my most recent attempts was learning to etch glass. I kept seeing all these cool pictures on Pinterest of different pieces of glass that people had etched so beautifully, and I faithfully pinned them to my “DIY Ideas” board. However, I figured it was something that was probably either challenging, time consuming, expensive, or all of the above, so I never really looked into what it took. One day I finally decided to see what it was all about. I couldn’t believe how simple it was! The next day I made a trip to Hobby Lobby for supplies, and set about this new experiment. My first try was a huge success!! I had a glass bottle (actually an empty salad dressing bottle) that I always keep full of olive oil, so I etched “Olive Oil” onto the side. I LOVED it!!! It was so pretty and looked so professional. I spent hours after that walking around my house looking at everything glass I could find, imagining all the possibilities…cups, mugs, plates, candlesticks, windows, mirrors, you name it! Fortunately my common sense kicked in and I didn’t go crazy with the etching. ☺ However, I do REALLY enjoy it, and want to help you see how easy it really is. 
If I can do it, so can you!! ☺

Here are the supplies you will need: Something glass to etch, a paper pattern of what you want to etch (for words/names I just find a font I like in Microsoft Word, and print it out on regular printer paper. If you don’t have any fonts you like, just search online for free font download sites and pick a font you do like. I do this often!!), clear contact paper (I picked up a roll at Walmart), an X-Acto knife or something similar, a pair of scissors, a foam brush, and glass etching cream (the brand I use is Armour Etch and I got it at Hobby Lobby…it’s a bit expensive - $19.99 for a 10oz bottle - but I printed a 40% off coupon off of Hobby Lobby’s website, and you CAN reuse this cream, so if you want to do a lot of projects it’s really not too bad).

For this tutorial I'll be etching a last name on the side of a glass bread pan. One of my early projects was to put my name on the side of my glass 9x13” pan…at our church we have a potluck lunch every Sunday and we also bring meals to families with new babies, so my pans are out and about. Often! ☺ I’ve always written my name on the bottom of the pan with a marker, but it rubs off eventually. This is a permanent (and much classier!) alternative! I've also done sets of glass pans with a couple's last name etched on them as wedding gifts. I would like to add here that on the bottle of etching cream I use it says it will not etch some Pyrex. However, I’ve done a couple of Pyrex pans with great results. Maybe yours are different than the ones I worked with, so just be aware of that. ☺ 

Cut your pattern (in this case, the last name I'll be etching) out of your sheet of paper, and cut out 2 slightly larger pieces of contact paper. Bigger is better when it comes to cutting out the contact paper, because if you don’t leave enough space around your stencil it’s really easy to get cream off it and onto the glass and leave spots where you don’t want them. Not that I would know or anything.

Peel the paper backing off of one piece of contact paper and apply it to your glass piece. Be careful to get it on smoothly. Work out any bubbles or wrinkles in this bottom layer, as they can mess up your pattern later on. 

Lay your pattern on the contact paper-covered glass, and move it around until it’s where you want your etching. Peel the paper backing off the second piece of contact paper, and use it to hold the paper pattern in place on the glass (I’m sorry about the smudges on my pattern…when I was peeling the backing off the 2nd piece of contact paper it got away from me and stuck to the pattern where I didn’t want it. When I peeled it off some of the ink came up too ☺ )

Now carefully use your X-Acto knife to cut around each edge of the pattern. Press firmly enough to get through your 3 layers, but not so hard that your scratch the glass or break the tip off your knife. ☺ This is the longest and most painstaking part of the process. Just take it slow and easy…I’ve found it’s easier to do letters like “o” or “p” or any that have a closed circle by cutting out the middle first, and THEN cutting around the outside of the letter. 

This is after I finished cutting around all the letters! Obviously if you use a fancier font it’s going to be a little more complicated to cut out vs. just using a blockier font, but I like the way the end product looks when I use a fancy font so I’m willing to spend a little more time working on it. ☺

Gently peel off the top layer of contact paper and your paper pattern. I made the mistake once of using packing tape to hold down my pattern, and after about 2 hours of painstakingly cutting out LOTS of little swirls and curls (it was a very complicated project!!) I pulled off the packing tape and the bottom layer of contact paper came up with it. ☹ Talk about discouraging!! 

Gently peel off the pattern you’ve cut out of the bottom layer of contact paper. Go slowly and carefully to make sure any small pieces that need to stay on the glass (the inside of the letter “o” for instance) don’t come off with the rest of the letter.

I use the tip of my X-Acto knife to help peel up the contact paper that needs to come off, and then pull it off gently with my fingers. 

After you’ve peeled off everything you cut out, you’re left with a nice stencil for your etching cream!! Check it carefully to make sure all the cut edges are firmly pressed down to the glass so the cream won’t get under them and spoil your design. 

I’d like to point out that this etching cream is NOT something to handle carelessly!!! Just take a second and read the warnings on the bottle. ☺ Please, please, PLEASE use caution when handling this cream!!! Don’t get it on anything you don’t want etched, including YOURSELF!!

Use the foam brush to CAREFULLY apply the etching cream to the contact paper stencil. Make sure each letter is completely covered with a fair amount of cream. 

Once you have your stencil fully covered, let it sit for a few minutes. When I first started I let it sit for 10 minutes, but as I’ve gone on the time has gotten shorter and shorter and I honestly don’t see any difference between the things that sat for 10 minutes and the things that sat for 3. (I’d like to point out that the white stuff on the floor is just dried flakes that fell off the lid of the etching cream. No damage was done ☺ )

I heard that you can reuse etching cream, and since it was rather pricey I decided to try it. It’s worked just as well for me! Use the foam brush to carefully wipe the majority of the cream off the glass and scrape it back into the bottle. 

Once you finish wiping off most of the cream, run the whole thing under warm water until all the cream is gone. Dry with a soft cloth. 

Now peel off that last layer of contact paper and you’re done!!! Make sure to get all the little pieces like the insides of the letters…they like to stay when the bigger piece of contact paper comes off. ☺

 Voila! Etched glass!! 

This process is PERMANENT so make sure you spell all words correctly and take the time to make sure everything is exactly the way you want it before you apply the etching cream. Now, go enjoy your new skill!!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dandelion Jelly

I'm new to canning and enjoy discovering new things that most people wouldn't even think of canning! Maybe this isn't true where you live, but around here one of the first flowers to arrive in the spring is the dandelion! It's also one of the last flowers to die in the fall....even after my husband tries all summer to kill them. :) Dandelions are basically just a weed and a nuisance to most people, but they really do have some good, edible qualities! I remember drinking lots of dandelion root tea when I was younger. :) Another fun use is making dandelion jelly....just make sure you don't do this if your yard has been sprayed for weeds! You will need:

2 heaping cups of dandelion flowers (just the heads)
2 cups of boiling water
4 cups of sugar
1/4 cup of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of butter (optional)
3 oz of liquid pectin
5 half-pint jars with lids & rings

How to make Dandelion Jelly

Pick your flowers (my daughter loved helping with this step!!) and place them in a clean bowl (I would recommend picking thru them for stray dog hairs, bugs, dead leaves, etc.).

Pour the boiling water over the flowers, cover, and let sit for at least 2 hours.

After letting the flowers steep for about an 2 hours (or overnight, if you're more patient than I am!), pour them through a strainer to separate the flowers from the "juice."

Pour the "juice" into a large pot (you probably don't need one THIS big, but after having other jams/jellies boil over onto my stove I'm extra cautious!) and whisk in the sugar. Simmer for a few minutes and then add the lemon juice. I added about a teaspoon of butter to help keep down the foam as well.

While the liquid is heating, prepare your jars (cleaned and sterilized), heat your lids (lids ONLY, not the rings) in a pan of hot water, and get out your canning funnel and a clean, damp cloth.

Bring the liquid to a roiling boil (a boil that can't be stirred down). Stir in the pectin, and boil for 5 minutes. When you're done the jelly will be VERY hot and runny...that's ok, it will set once it's cooled in the jars. :)

Remove jelly from heat and begin filling jars, leaving about 1/2" of space in the top of the jar ("headroom" for those of you who know what you're doing! :) ).

After all the jars are filled, begin putting on the lids, using the damp rag to clean the rim of each jar before adding a hot lid. Put on the rings and tighten them firmly.

Flip the jars upside-down for 5-10 minutes, or process the jars right-side up in a water bath (a pot of boiling water) for about 10 minutes. I just flipped my jars, but it might be better to do the water bath since I had a couple that didn't seal from this batch.

Flip the jars right-side up (or remove from water bath) and let them sit until they seal (the lids "pop") and cool. Store any that don't seal in the fridge, and keep the rest in a cool, dark place.

And there you have it! Dandelion jelly....it has a delicate, honey-like flavor, and is a very pretty golden color. :) This recipe makes about 5 half-pints. Have fun!