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Archive for the ‘DIY’ Category

Seeking: DIY Cleaner Recipes

Okay, ladies… And gents, I suppose. Do we have any gents?

Anyhow, I need your help!

I’d like to test out a few different recipes for homemade cleaning and hygiene products, and review them here.

Please share the recipe and/or link to your favorites to get the ball rolling:

  • Laundry Soap
  • Dishwasher Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant

Thank you!


DIY Adventures – Fig Preserves

I had so much fun making jam that I felt confident in making the leap when one of the ladies I shop with often at our local Farmer’s Market said she was taking pre-orders for her figs.

I got two gallons of the lovely things, which she said would be about nine pounds.

Wolf suggested fig preserves, which was a treat he remembered his grandmother making. After much debate – since I had no idea what I was doing – I settled on this Judy’s Fig Preserves recipe. Mostly just because the lemons sounded good.

After washing and removing stems, the first real step is to pour the sugar over them and let it sit there and “stew” overnight. Since I don’t have a stockpot or anything similarly large, I ended up using my new (huge!) pressure canner (pot part only).

I wasn’t sure how much that was really going to accomplish. But what do I know?

In the morning there was definite evidence that there had been THINGS going on. So we proceeded to the actual cooking.

We cooked, and cooked, and cooked…

Was it the pot? The wrong temperature setting?

It seemed to take a long, long time to get to the point where the figs were even beginning to turn transparent. The 2-3 hours listed in the recipe was not even close.

Then we had a problem of not knowing when to “say when”. When most of the figs are mostly translucent, is that it? Or are you really trying to get all of the figs all the way?

At some point – something like 6-8 hours later – we stopped cooking it. I canned as much as I could do in a single batch in my water bath canner (5 pints and 2 half pints, since I ran out of pint jars), then put the rest (2 1/2 more half pints!) in the fridge for immediate use. (So we also got a greater yield than the recipe suggested)

The preserves are, overall, a success.

They do have a bit of a strong, bitter taste. I attribute this to overcooking, but Wolf pointed out it could simply be the character of the particular figs we had. He says it does largely resemble what he remembers from his grandmother’s kitchen.

This post was shared at the fun Titus Twosdays Linkup:

June DIY – Canning Jam

Still working on my list of 12 DIY Projects to Try in 2011. Here’s the tally so far:

My original list said I was going to make Plum Jam, which is still on the list (since it’s Wolf’s favorite)… BUT I decided to do Blueberry Jam for this first batch, for a couple of reasons.

First, it seemed like it would make a better comparison (“apples to apples”) with the Blueberry Freezer Jam from last month.

And second, I came across some lovely, locally grown, organic blueberries at the local Farmers’ Market. So far, I haven’t seen any plums in meaningful quantifies.

So, we began…

First, smash up the lovely berries, and cook them up with the sugar and pectin.

I was originally a little concerned about this step, since I’ve read and watched a number of things referring to ways to test the jam and see if it is done. But with the Ball Pectin, they offered reassurance that you only had to follow the recipe – including cooking times – and all would be well.

Then, once it’s jam, just ladle it into jars and let it boil in the water bath for a few minutes.

After resting for 24 hours, all the lids were sealed. Victory!

Freezer jam definitely has a “fresher” taste to it – more like eating freshly-picked blueberries on your toast. Which has its advantages.

Cooked, canned jam, on the other hand, is really a “true jam” – more sweet, more syrupy – not that it’s thin like syrup, but the texture is definitely different. This, too, has its place.

The verdict?

It’s not apples to apples, after all. I like them both, differently.

May DIY – Freezer Jam

Still working on my list of 12 DIY Projects to Try in 2011. Here’s the tally so far:

Jewel and I found some blueberries at the Farmer’s Market last week, and decided it was time to give this a try.

(This image is not mine, but rather was borrowed from an interesting blueberry article on the Projo Fitness Blog, about which I know nothing else)

First we had to go out for supplies – pectin, and some jars and lids (since the only canning jars I’ve scrounged second-hand so far are big ones). We went ahead and bought cute “quilted glass” jars typical for jam.

Things were literally as easy as 1, 2, 3.

1. Mash the blueberries

2. Stir them together with pectin and sugar, and

3. Spoon into jars.

Since we used the Instant Pectin there was no cooking, nor any “canning” processing.

We got just over two jars’ worth of jam from the recipe, so we put the two full ones in the freezer and ate up the remainder!

There’s Jewel with our creation at the top of the post… Sorry for the squint, it’s pretty sunny here right now…

February DIY – Homemade Chai Tea

Still working on my list of 12 DIY Projects to Try in 2011. I know it’s a long way from February, but bear with me. Here’s what has happened so far:

I started with the Spicy Chai Tea recipe from Houseboat Eats. I doubled it, since I figured that everyone would want a taste, and I didn’t want to have to skimp!

Jewel and I had a fun time together on Mother’s Day making up our new concoction.

Bulk spices all came from the Monterey Bay Spice Company (online), except for the cardamom, which I had already purchased (ground, so not as pretty!).

Pretty, eh?

Then I discovered that I didn’t know a good way to crush the harder items – whole cloves, peppercorns, etc.

Here’s what I came up with. Functional, not glamorous.

But anyhow, we got the job done! Then they simmered in the pot.

Taking a West Ladies idea, I strained it using a well-washed section from an old sheer curtain (and a brave husband).

Since the milk is added with the tea, it is already creamy looking – not the clear tea you see in some of the photos with the online recipes (although of course you could make it that way).

And the verdict? Everyone enjoyed the tea! (That’s Jewel sipping hers at the top of the post).

We all agreed it had a bit too much bite, and added a bit more sugar and milk than seemed to be indicated.

Based on our taste test, as well as the variation at Tammy’s Recipes, we’ll be tweaking it a bit next time.

Less ginger, for sure. Perhaps a bit more orange, and a bit more allspice.

Next time will be soon, though! Chai is so delicious…

Wolf asked me if it was worth it — all the time and effort, and even the monetary investment — over buying Chai teabags or concentrate in the store. Aside from the “fun” factor, I readily admit that that cup of chai wasn’t worth all that… But as part of a process, I believe it was. Being able to build it exactly to our taste is a wonderful feeling.

Hopefully we can get a “perfect blend” worked out, and make ready-to-go chai packets as Christmas presents this year.

[Be sure to check out the blog hop I’m entering with this post: Simple Lives Thursday, co-hosted by the amazing GNOWFGLINS]

April DIY – Start a Food Garden

Remember January’s list of 12 DIY Projects to Try in 2011 – one for each month?

Here’s what has happened so far:

Whoohoo! Did it!

If you search for post by the Topic of Gardening, you can see our plan, our raised beds, and our sprouting seedlings.

Now, if I can just get the car to stop breaking down, so I’m comfortable investing the the chai spices…

March DIY – Homemade Hamburger Buns

So back at the beginning of the year I made a list of 12 DIY Projects to Try in 2011 – one for each month.

We got a little off track with winter illnesses, but here’s what has happened so far:

  • January – Sew a Blind Hem
  • February – Homemade Chai Tea (pushed back due to budgeting for outrageous spices)
  • March – Homemade Hamburger Buns – here we are!

I used the recipe from the West Ladies in Homestead Blessings: The Art of Bread Making.

Hamburger Buns by the West Ladies
4-5 cups flour
2 tbsps. yeast
1 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup oil
3 T honey
1 t salt

Mix 2 cups flour with the yeast in a large mixing bowl; set aside.

Heat milk, water, oil, honey and salt in a small saucepan on the stove until very warm.

When warmed, make a well in the flour/yeast and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix them with a wooden spoon, adding more flour as needed to make a firm dough. Knead briefly on a floured surface.

Oil bowl. Put dough in it, turning once to coat, and let rise for 10 minutes.

When risen, roll out to a 1/2 inch thickness and using a large mason jar lid ring, cut out circles of the dough. Place them on greased baking stones and let rise for 30 minutes.

After risen second time, heat oven to 400 degrees and bake them until golden brown on top.

So I mixed. Since I’ve never made this recipe before, and I am not what you might call an expert baker, I did not feel at all confident knowing when the right amount of flour had been added. After all, exactly what consistency am I aiming for?

But anyhow, there was dough.

After rising, I rolled it out to 1/2″ (or thereabouts), and cut it out using a wide-mouth mason jar (I couldn’t find a lid ring!).

After rising and baking, I had the beautiful-looking buns that appear at the top of the post.

It turns out that it was not quite as perfect as it seemed, and they were over-done on the bottoms.

I’m not sure if this could have to do with the “how much flour” question… Since they didn’t look brown enough on top to be cooked much less, I’m not sure it’s correctable by that kind of simple adjustment.

We also found them a bit small for our family’s style – at least the grown-ups. They were actually quite nice as “sliders”, or kid-sized burgers.

And YUMMY! We all enjoyed them very much, and have used the leftovers as dinner rolls, sandwich rolls, and any other excuse we could think of to eat them.

This is something we will definitely be switching to permanently for our hamburger buns. Now to figure out how to make some nice hot dog shapes…

(This post is also on the Blog Hop Simple Lives Thursday, hosted by the wonderful mama at GNOWFGLINS)

January DIY – Sew a Blind Hem

“January?” you ask…

Well, I confess things got off to a rather muddled start this year. We spent almost the entire month of January with some or all of us some or all the way ill… Not a lot got done beyond survival mode, and it is taking me a while to catch up.

You may remember back at the beginning of the year I made a list of 12 DIY Projects to Try in 2011 – one for each month.

I didn’t blog about it, but I actually did complete the project for January – sewing a blind hem.

I started by putting off anything scary by doing far too much research, including watching a ton of videos on YouTube. These are three of my favorites:

  • How to Sew a Blind Hem Stitch – made for making window trims, but the principles are universal.
  • How to Machine Sew a Blind Hem – from Expert Village.
  • Sewing Lesson: Blind Hem – from the Crafty Gemini (now following her blog!)

I already had a blind hem foot in the accessory box for my sewing machine, and I had picked up thread to match the pants already.

Then I just had to convince myself that there was nothing for it but to jump in.

I made several blind hems on a test scrap, and discovered that it’s really not so hard, once the “I get it” clicks into place. Unfortunately, for my first real project, I got a bit of extra challenge because the pants were just barely long enough on Wolf, so I was trying to make as small a hem as possible.

First I turned the hem up (inside), and pressed it.

Then off to the sewing machine…

Here’s two views of the finished hem – lighting adjusted so that you can see it better, or so that it blends away as intended.

And you can also see the results on my handsome model at the top of the post!

Keep your eye out for the slightly-less-belated February post coming soon, and then March will get us back on track, Lord willing…

DIY in 2011

I was inspired yesterday by Money Saving Mom’s post, 12 Do-It-Yourself Projects I Plan to Attempt in 2011.

There are a lot of things I’d like to try in the coming year, as well… And I very much agree with her reasoning that it’s too easy to put it off without more concrete goals and planning.

Crystal’s idea was to decide on one project to do each month, and commit to doing those and blogging about them. Her choices are not too far off from things I’d like to try!

She mentions homemade laundry soap and homemade dishwasher soap. Those sound great, but I’ve tried the laundry soap, and it seems like it’s just not getting the job done with our icky water here. Ah, well…

Here’s my list so far:

January: Learn to sew a Blind Hem, and hem Wolf’s new dress pants.

February: Make From-Scratch Chai Tea. Yummmmm!

March: Make Homemade Hamburger Buns (Anyone have a fabulous recipe to pass along?). We’ve been making bread so long, it’s sad that we don’t already do this!

April: Plant some food-producing plants in a container garden or raised bed.

May: Make Freezer Jam.

June: Make Plum Jam (the “regular” kind) – these two should make for an interesting comparison!

July: Make homemade soap.

August: Make cheese (I understand Mozzarella is a good place to start).

September: Preserve something in the dehydrator.

October: Make Homemade Apple Butter.

November: Make a pair of fleece footie pajamas for each of the Littles. (Set in a zipper, make feet…)

December: Make Homemade Marshmallows.

There are many, many more things I want to do, but these are the ones that came to mind as just the right “significant projects” for this list.

Do you have any Home Ec projects you’d like to try this year?

“A goal is a dream with a deadline”

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