Easy Homemade Almond Milk for Vegans

I made a new vegan homemade almond milk.  Due to treatment of factory farm animals, I am trying to move towards a more vegan lifestyle.   We have been buying the “humane” milk; however, that doesn’t change the way that milk is produced.  Baby cows are still taken away from their mothers so that the milk can go to us, instead of the cows.  I can’t support this.  But I still crave a morning bowl of cereal sometimes.  Enter in Almond Milk.

I had made coconut milk and I still love that; however, I was left with a lot of coconut pulp that I wasn’t sure what to do with.  I do have almond pulp left over from the process, but I can easily find a way to incorporate this in more foods we currently eat than coconut.

A couple of things to consider before making Almond Milk.

  1.  Buy unseasoned raw Almonds.  Organic is preferred, however it is way more expensive.
  2.   Don’t forget to soak.  Soak for at least 12 hours.  This softens the almonds for a better texture of the finished milk.
  3.   Make sure the water to nut ratio is correct:  4 parts water to 1 part nuts.
  4.   Blend long enough and make sure you strain well.
  5.   Flavor your milk.
  6.   Use fresh nuts.

How to make homemade Almond Milk.

  1.  Soak nuts over night.  12 hours is a good average.  Your water should be murky when it’s ready to go.  Strain from water.
  2.  Rinse well.
  3.  Add nuts to high speed blender.  Add the appropriate amount of water given the ratio above.
  4.  Most recipes indicate to use cheese cloth but if you have a great strainer, that works too.  I don’t want to use cheese cloth once then throw it away so I used my metal cheese strainer and it worked pretty good.  Some of the smaller bits got through but I’m okay with that.
  5.  Store in mason jars and refrigerate.  This may be the time to add flavoring like vanilla extract, cinnamon, a date or agave extract.  Source says to use it within 2 days.

My next goal is to figure out what to do with yummy almond pulp.

Bowl of Homemade Almond Milk Pulp

I will slow bake it in the oven to dry it out but below are a couple of options.

What to do with left over Almond Pulp:

  1.  Grind it finely in order to make Almond Flour.  This will be great for many baking purposes.
  2.   Coat chicken breasts and bake.
  3.   Add to salads, smoothies or muffins.
  4.   Add to cookie batter.
  5.   I am making homemade biscotti tomorrow for the first time so I’m going to add a bit to the dough before I bake it.
  6.   Add it to crusts, make crackers or add it to facial scrubs or homemade soap as an exfoliator.

I would love to hear your experiences in making Almond Milk.  Have you made other nut milks?  What is your favorite?  And please, I would love more ideas on what to use almond pulp for.

Turn the Castoffs of Coconut Milk into Coconut Flour

I have made my third batch of coconut milk this weekend.  In my quest to go trash and plastic free, this is one change that has also been cost effective.  I can easily spend over $4 for a half gallon of unsweetened coconut milk.  This store bought coconut milk comes in a vessel that is non recyclable in our city, so it ends up in the trash.

By making coconut milk, I end up with the scraps of coconut that didn’t make it through the colander.  Some of what I made with the castoffs were these Energy Balls.  But I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with this leftover coconut.

So, I made coconut flour.  This will make many baked goods gluten free; if you replace regular flour with this.  It’s really simple too.  When you strain the coconut milk from the coconut, make sure to squeeze out as much liquid as you can.  You will have to dry the coconut on the counter for awhile or you can dry it in the oven over a few hours.  I actually opted for both.  I have cats so I can’t leave anything on my counter.  They have a growing like for coconut milk too so I needed to overnight dry the coconut in the oven.  I just left it in there with the oven off.

The next day, I used Wellness Mama’s advice and popped it into the oven at the lowest setting for about 3-4 hours.  I put the pulp on cookie sheets and I checked on it every hour or half hour to ensure it’s not browning.  At about 3.5 hours it was ready to come out.  A few flakes had a touch of brown on it but that didn’t matter.

Coconut Pulp

Then I put it in the food processor and to grind it up as finely as possible.  Mine never got to a powder consistency; however, it’s going to work for me.  Our food processor got warm when I ran it for more than a few minutes so I had to give it a few breaks to cool down.

coconut flour

I have my flour stored in a mason jar on my counter currently.  I found a site, Coconut Mama that has quite a few 100+ Coconut flour recipes you should check out.  I ended up making the Coconut Flour Pumpkin Bread.  I didn’t cook it long enough, unfortunately, so I don’t have a photo of it.  But the above site would be great to save for future recipe ideas.

From making coconut milk, I will end up with lots of flour so I will need to find more uses for it.  So I made this homemade soap.  It literally took 5 minutes using the microwave and melt-able goat’s milk soap base.  I added some dried up rosemary that was for cooking that was about to go bad and I also added in some of the coconut flour for texture.  This will be good as to exfoliate.  I added in some Winter Green Peppermint essential oil for fragrance.  It looks and smells amazing.

coconut soap

My soap isn’t in a very cool shape because I don’t want to buy soap molds.  Instead I use what ever container I have around to shape the soaps.  You can use old milk containers, muffin tins or any other container you have around the house.

Do you have any grace recipes to use coconut flour.  I’d love to hear them!

Vegetable Broth Made From Scraps

I was reading the blog, The Rogue Ginger, start to finish over the course of a week recently.  I not only learned about going waste and plastic free, but I also learned that making vegetable broth is EASY.   The carton that we buy vegetable broth in is non-recyclable in our area so it would always go into the trash.  On my quest to go waste free, I happened to come across the steps to making homemade vegetable stock that I can freeze in mason jars.  This is perfect.

By the way – go check out The Rogue Ginger‘s site.  Lots of great recipes and tips.  I honestly don’t know how I found it but I am glad I did.

For the past two weeks, I collected all of my carrot, onion and celery scraps and put them in a separate container in the freezer.  I keep my compost in my freezer too (in a re-purposed metal coffee canister) until it’s full and ready to go outside. These three veggies are called mirepoix, a flavor base for stocks and broths.  I learn something every day.  You can add more veggies than just these 3.  Check out the image containing veggies to skip on the Rogue Ginger’s post.

I saved up about 5 cups worth, then put it into a pot on the stove top.  I put enough water to cover the veggies and so I can easily stir it.  Next, you add the spices.  I combined the Rogue Ginger’s herb combinations with the kitchn‘s.  I ended up adding Basil, Bay Leaves, Parsley and Thyme.  I eyeballed it; about a teaspoon of each, but it depends on how much water and veggies you have.  This will be a learning experience since this is my first try.

Vegetable Broth From Scraps

I got it to simmering, stirring every now and then for about an hour.  I let it cool for a while, then filtered out the veggies and herbs with a colander and a coffee filter.  I will be composting the coffee filter.

Store them in the freezer or in the fridge and use within 5 days.

**Update – I won’t need to strain the veggies from the broth with anything other tha just the collander.  It doesn’t matter to my husband and me if there are bits of veggies and spices left over.

Plastic Free Dishwasher Detergent

I have been obsessing over having a plastic free and trash free lifestyle.  This is a slow change in progress as I have a husband who prefers convenience; plus, he does all of the grocery shopping.  I don’t want to throw 0% waste at him all at once.  It would never happen.  So, I am trying to remove as much plastic from my life as I can in my chores by means of making things myself.

I have been using homemade laundry detergent for a while and I love it.  It is plastic free and very easy to make.  I have heard debates on whether or not Borax is safe.  Well, I have been using it for about a year or more and I haven’t had any issues: rashes or skin irritations.  However; I am going to try a new recipe next time (I am soon out) that is Borax free to see how it works.

I am soon out of my store bought dishwasher detergent (my husband bought not knowing I had planned to make my own).  I wanted to use up what we had first before making my own.  I don’t like wasting.

Store bought detergent doesn’t contain ingredient list. Claims it’s safe for the environment.

I tried finding an ingredient list on my store bought detergent, but I couldn’t find one.  Look at all of the warnings on this stuff.  This is “Eco” detergent, “Friendly to Lakes and Steams.”  It says Phosphate Free; but since there isn’t an ingredient list; I am not confidant in this claim.  I am maybe reconsidering my dislike of wasting.

Toxic Dish Detergent

I wanted to find a non-toxic, plastic free recipe for dish washing detergent.

I found a recipe I wanted to try on thank your body.  For dish detergent, I wanted something borax free for sure since you use dishes to put food into your mouth.  I didn’t want to chance it.  This recipe was easy.  I had to only buy citric acid; the rest I already had in my pantry.  Citric acid is good for cheese making too (which I learned today).  So whatever you have left over, you can use to make cheese too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups citric acid
  • 1 1/2 cups washing soda
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1/2 cup sea salt

Directions:

Combine all together.  Blend out any lumps.  Store in a sealed canning jar with lid.  The jar that I used had been storing canned tomatoes.  Instead of throwing out the lid, I labeled that this jar contained dish-washing detergent.  It can be reused infinite times.

Three of the ingredients of this recipe are food-based.  Washing soda is closely related to Baking Soda; it’s also known as sodium carbonate and can also be created from sodium chloride, also known as table salt.  This plastic free homemade detergent will be much safer for your dishes and for you.

Easy Homemade Energy Balls

Energy Balls DIY

After I made my homemade coconut milk, I was left with over 2 cups of coconut that I could use for anything else.  I didn’t want to waste it and throw it in the compost bin, which was my initial thought.  I searched Pinterest for recipes that included coconut and came across many yummy ones, but I didn’t want anything with added sugar or covered in chocolate.

I hit the jackpot when I found The Organised Housewife’s blog post about Healthy Chocolate and Coconut Bliss Balls.  I had to try it because I had most of the ingredients and it’s a sure way to curb cravings mid-day when I would otherwise reach for a naughty snack.  Below is the recipe I took from The Organised Housewife:

Ingredients
  • 2 cups medjool dates
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup hazelnuts
  • ⅓ cup cacao
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut

Okay, so I didn’t have all of the ingredients so I made some substitutions.  I used raisins instead of dates, and I didn’t have the 2 cups of nuts.  What I did have was about 1/3 cup of walnuts, so I supplemented the remaining with oatmeal.  I am sure it doesn’t taste AS good but it works until I can buy nuts for my next time making this recipe.

Directions
  • Combine the dates/raisins and nuts in a food processor.  I probably blended for about 45 seconds.
  • Add the cacao and coconut and blend for another 60 seconds.  After it’s done, the food processor will tell you by throwing the ingredients around in a big ball.  Scrape down the sides.
  • Roll into balls any size you want.
  • Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

I still have over a cup left of the coconut so I could use it to make the following:

  • Homemade soap and add the coconut to exfoliate.
  • Use in a breading concoction for coconut crusted chicken, fish or shrimp.
  • Make homemade Almond Joy or Mounds.
  • Homemade smoothies.

DIY Gold Leaf Artwork

This project has been on my mind for months.  I collected leaves in October for this artwork but I could never get started.  I had my leaves pressing between newspaper for a few months and I thought it’s about time to get it started.

I have been checking out our local thrift stores for cheap smallish artwork pieces with a good mat and nice frame.  The frame to me was the most important part.  I could always make a new mat.  One of them was only $2.99.  That’s cheap!

Homemade Leaf Art 1

My original intention was to use the leaves in their original condition and paint the frames gold.  Since then, I have decided to paint the leaves gold and keep the frames in their original color.  Most of the leaves turned a brown color so I figured gold would make them shine a bit more.

The first step was to dismantle the frames and remove the matting from the print that came with it.  The prints weren’t actually ugly so I thought it may be cool to just mount the gold leaves onto the existing background.  My husband nixed that idea.  What does he know anyways?  🙂 I ended up damaging one of the prints because it was taped to the mat so I couldn’t do much with it then but to throw it away.

The next step is to  paint the leaves.  I had to paint mine a couple of times so it had a good coating of gold paint.

DIY Leaf Art 1

Look at my oak leaf shimmer in the sunlight.

DIY Leaf Art 31

Now is also a good time to select the background you want in the finished project.  I had lots of nice scrapbook paper laying around so I selected my favorites that went with the frame, mat and leaves.

DIY Leaf Art 21

Next, cut your scrapbook paper or background to fit the frame and decide on the look of how you want your leaves to appear once complete.  You can have your leaves straight up to down, or at an angle.  You can have more than one leaf in each frame to if you want.  Think outside the box here.

Last step is to glue down the leaves.  I don’t think it matters what type of glue you use.  I had Alene’s craft tacky glue laying around that glues clear so I used that.  I would recommend gluing on the spine of the leaf as opposed to the leaf itself.  When the glue is all set and dry, reassemble the print and attach a mounting device if you do not have one.

DIY Leaf Art 41

Assemble on the wall as you like.

DIY Gold Leaf Art Display 1

Easy Homemade Coconut Milk

I have been obsessed with Coconut Milk since I found that the unsweetened kind had barely any sugar.  It’s nearly 0%.  I have been trying to reduce my sugar intake; milk being really high in sugar, was the first thing I considered removing from my diet.

If I had realized how easy it was to make this stuff, I would have been making this for a long time.  I found a recipe to try out on Wellness Mama here.  I figured I’d give these instructions a try, and if needed, I would alter or add more coconut, based on my taste preference.

I had sweetened coconut shreds in my fridge I wanted to use, so this isn’t the true unsweetened variety that I want, but I wanted to use it and there is no better way than to use it for something I need anyway: coconut milk.  So I measured what I had available, which was about 3 cups.

Homemade Coconut Milk 12

Based on the ratio on Wellness Mama’s site, this didn’t match so I had to do some math.  Brings me back to the good ole days of junior high school or elementary school.  When did we learn ratios, I don’t even remember.

Homemade Coconut Milk Calculation 1

So my recipe called or about 6.85 cups of water to 3 cups of coconut shreds.  Wellness Mama used approximately 1.75 cups of coconut shreds to 4 cups of water.  Adjust as you see fit.

Heat the water to hot, but not boiling.  I went a bit too far with the temperature so I let it sit for a while.  Once it was at a good temperature, I added the coconut and used an immersion hand blender and blended it for a couple of minutes.

Then you send it through a colander to collect the coconut and release the coconut milk.  Originally I had planned to use a colander and a coffee filter but this deemed TOO slow so my husband told me to use the metal strainer (which he uses for cheese).  Worked like a charm.  I owe him credit: thanks Ben!

Homemade Coconut Milk Strainer 1

I popped the coconut milk into the fridge to cool for a while before I put them in my reusable bottles.   Love these things.  I found a box of them in our garage and thought they were perfect!  I think they were purchased years ago to make homemade booze and gift them, but that never happened.  I will put them to use in a different way.

Homemade Coconut Milk 21

Now, I need to find a use for these left over coconut shreds.  No reason to put them in the compost bin when they can be used in a healthy recipe.  More to come on that.

Homemade Coconut Milk Shreds 1

Remember to shake your coconut milk before you use.   This should last me a week or so.  I will update with how it holds up.

Homemade Non-Toxic Deodorant

Now that I do not plan to purchase regular deodorant anymore I needed a replacement if that one day I forgot to use my Crystal stone and it ends up being a really stressful day where I sweat a lot; I have something to fall back on.  In order to not smell up the workplace, I wanted to try to make a homemade deodorant with healthy and non toxic ingredients.

I found this tin among all of the garbage in my husband’s car and I was about to throw it or recycle it.  This is a perfect size for storing my deodorant.  Please note: I am not sure if I would travel with this container because if the deodorant does liquefy, I do not feel confidant that this container will contain what’s inside.  This is really a trial run with this deodorant since I do not know if it will work for me.  I will add an update after I give it a go for a few months.

Deodorant Tin

I won’t document the process with images or a video since there is a great video on Trash is For Tossers here.  The recipe is below.

2 Tablespoons Arrow Root powder

1 Tablespoon Baking Soda

1 Tablespoon Coconut Oil

1 Tablespoon Shae Butter

5-10 drops of your favorite essential oil

Combine all of the above ingredients and melt down in a double boiler.

Transfer into a jar or a canister that has a lid and pop in the fridge for 10 minutes to solidify.

**You can replace Arrow Root powder with cornstarch.  I had to order my Arrow Root powder online so if you already have cornstarch, use that instead.

An Update from a Lazy Blogger

I admit it.  I am a very lazy blogger.  It doesn’t mean that I am not doing things to remove waste from my life and to be more green.  Au contraire.   I wanted to at least write an “update” blog about what I have been up to lately and layout a plan of future blog posts.

Food changes:

Mid October to mid November (30 days) I decided to do a no-sugar, no-flour cleanse.  Other than the obvious, I also didn’t use milk, cream or fried foods.  During this process I found alternatives to almost everything I ate.  I was able to stop my lunch addiction of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches after this challenge.  I also mostly stopped drinking milk.  I have switched to coconut milk (unsweetened).  I was surprised by what foods had lots of sugar in it: Ketchup, BBQ Sauce, milk and lots of ingredients to my favorite stir fry recipe.  It’s just not the same without all of that sauce.  I don’t think I will ever be a vegetarian, but my husband and I have been making purchase decision for more organic produce and meat selections that are more humane.  We have definitely cut back on the amount of meals we make that contain meat because there are so many soy/meat alternatives that are a good substitute.

Due to me switching to coconut milk, the only downside is that they come in non recyclable containers.  However, there is a solution.  I found a recipe for EASY homemade coconut  milk that I will blog about once I use up my current purchased supply.

This is the first year that I haven’t sent any food scrap to the trash, with exception to bones.  I have diligently been collecting scraps in the freezer until I have enough to bring out to my compost bin.  Since it’s winter here the less trips outside the better.  I have also been reading up on the proportions of Carbon to Nitrogen in the compost pile so next year I will be more prepared.  I may even buy some worms.  Sounds like they speed up the compost process quite significantly because they eat half their weight per day of compost.

Thing changes:

Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has really inspired me.  I haven’t bought the book or even read it all.  I read a chapter or two while at a popular clothing store.  It spawned change in me to really consider why I have so much stuff and what do I really need.  What brings me joy?  I have broken down my possessions into categories and purged, sorted and donated within one category at a time.  This is an ongoing project and I am still working on it, but making a lot of progress.  What do I hope to gain from this?  The idea that I don’t need to buy so much.  I can eliminate duplicate items since everything has a spot and should be easy to locate.  I will have more free time since I will have less time finding things and cleaning.  The current thing I am working on is contacting junk mail companies to remove myself from mailing lists.  Less physical clutter makes a more peaceful mind.

One of the things that I have been doing lately is taking inventory of items we throw away.  Especially items that are in plastic packaging that cannot be recycled.  I ask myself, “Is it something that I can replace with an alternative, eliminate or make myself?”  One of these things is deodorant.  These things can almost never be recycled.  Not even the cap.    I found an alternative: Crystal Deodorant.  It is a mineral salt deodorant that doesn’t clog pores with nasty chemicals.  I find that I don’t sweat or get stinky using this every day.  I also found a recipe for homemade deodorant on the Trash is for Tossers website I plan on trying out.   I figured on days I forget to use Crystal, I will have a stash at my work desk so I won’t worry about giving off an unpleasant odor.

I was excited to find that our local grocery store has a selection of certain items in bulk.  I plan on using the bulk section more often for certain staples.  With this, I needed a means to take home these items without generating a plastic bag and tag that would go into the trash.  My solution was to make some homemade bags.  One that I created was from a pillow case that had torn.  I was able to make a bag to bring home my cereal without producing waste.  I made two smaller bags from the bottom of pajama bottoms that had also torn.  I made bags from the usable portions.  This solves the issue of plastic bags, but I still have to bring something up to the register to indicate the number of the purchase.  I plan on making reusable bag tags from tags I already created from wrapping paper waste.  They can do double duty in the form of gift tags.  I look forward to starting that project.

I don’t necessarily think of my cats as “things” but maybe they are.   I tried switching their litter to one I can flush.  They shut that down pretty quick.  I had to switch back to the clay litter, but I am going to integrate back the non-clay variety back slowly.  America’s Best Cat Litter is not only flushable (which would eliminate half of my trash) but it’s also healthier for the cats.  I am focused on getting them switched, whether they like it or not.

These are just a few of my ramblings on how I plan to reduce waste.  I don’t think I will be able to get down to 100% waste-free since Fargo ND doesn’t have as many option as I’d like.  But I am going to try.  I would love to hear about your ways you are reducing waste.  If there is anything you want to share, please leave me a comment below.

Homemade Laundry Soap

I am now on my second batch of laundry detergent.  I have never thought powdered detergent would be effective.  But this stuff IS.   I found the recipe here.  I have a very messy husband who stains every shirt he wears daily, so I require something powerful.   Honestly, I don’t know why he owns anything but black t-shirts.

The hardest part of this recipe is shredding the Fels Naptha soap.  You need 1 bar of Fels Naptha.  You may actually get carpal tunnel shredding this thing.  I shred mine very fine; almost like a dust consistency.

Homemade Laundry Soap

Then you stir in 1 cup of Borax and 1 cup of Washing Soda.    Stir it really well.  And that’s it!  Easy Peasey!  I store mine in a glass jar with a clamp locking lid.  I shake it a bit every once in a while to ensure it is mixed thoroughly.  When it’s laundry day, all you need is one tablespoon per load.  This stuff works amazingly!

Homemade Granola

I have been looking for healthy snacks while I am at work.  My wonderful friend made me some plain yogurt, topped with fresh fruit and granola while on vacation and I wanted to make some homemade granola for this.  I came across a health granola recipe which I HAD to try since I had all of the ingredients.  That never happens at all.

Go check out Elizabeth Rider’s blog here for the recipe.  It’s easy and quick to make.

Journey to Zero Waste

I have been following a Zero-Waster, Lauren Singer at her blog Trash is for Tossers.  I was inspired by knowing that I have an option to use products that are non toxic.  I have for a long time bought good beauty products like Dr Bonner’s soaps and Beauty Without Cruelty shampoos.  But I didn’t realize you have another option.  Homemade beauty products.  Being less toxic is not the only reason I am researching and learning more about being zero-waste.  I don’t like throwing things away either.  I get a ping of guilt when I find I don’t have any option but taking something that is individually wrapped or I have to take my produce home in a plastic bag because it’s more sanitary.  By making smart choices in your shopping you can reduce your waste too.  I plan to document things I am doing by going waste free so hopefully I can inspire you as well.

My husband and I don’t produce much waste as it is.  Honestly, my 3 cats produce more waste than both of us combined.  Having three cats makes it more difficult to go completely waste free.  I definitely don’t plan on toilet training then, but we can still try our best to reduce our what goes to the landfill.

Another blog that inspires me is Zero Waste Home.  I love how assertive she is in maintaining her goal of being a waste free home.  Something she says that I will never forget is, “shopping is voting,” and that couldn’t be more true. What we buy creates demand for more products.  I don’t want to buy individually wrapped products enclosed in shopping.   Unfortunately, I live in a place that doesn’t have lots of bulk options.  One of our local grocery store did however add more bulk bins recently, but they could definitely improve their selection even more.

A couple of things I plan to do to improve my waste production:

  1.  Sew produce and bulk bags to bring with me to the grocery store.
  2. Learn to make more homemade products.  I currently have made my own toothpaste and have used it a few months now.  I have made my own laundry soap.   I have bought ingredients to make my own dish detergent and shampoo.
  3. Become more conscience about my purchase decisions.

I would love to hear how you reduce your waste.  Please leave me a comment below.

DIY Toothpaste

Every year around Earth Day I get inspired to make a change to be more environmental.  I happened to find this awesome website Trash is for Tossers, which is just what I was looking for this year.  I have always been intrigued at creating Zero Waste so to find this website right before Earth Day was perfect timing.  I am going to try making my own stuff to eliminate packaging from entering the landfill and also to save a little money and control the chemical ingredients that come in contact with my body.  Below is the recipe for making your own toothpaste right from Trash is for Tossers:

Toothpaste Ingredients: (feel free to double or triple recipe)

2 Tablespoons organic coconut oil

1 Tablespoon baking soda

15-20 drops food grade mint extract

Directions:  Mix it all together.  Store in your medicine cabinet in a cute mason jar.  Run under warm water if too hard, or put in the fridge if too soft.

DIY Butterfly Greeting Card Art

I went through all of my greeting cards this past weekend.  I sorted into piles of crafting and piles of keep and piles for garbage.  The kept more than I probably should have but they had sentimental value.  The crafting ones I am using for this art project.  The cost of this project was minimal.  The cards were free.  The butterfly paper punch was maybe $2.99, clearance at a stationary store.  The frame I had laying around, and I couldn’t find anything to do with it.  I bought a double mat at 40% off.  The rest was stuff I already had.

I went to work cutting out a whole lot of butterflies.  I selected the portion of the card I thought was the most colorful or decorative.  Some had sparkles, some had pattern and some had embossing.  I wanted to get an assortment of colors as well.

butterflies for blog

The next thing I did was get a scrap piece of paper that I drew my grid on.  I measured the opening of the mat board, then measured rows and columns to my liking.  After that, I transferred the cross marks using a needle so what was left were little holes where I was going to glue my butterflies.

PicMonkey Collage20I wanted my butterflies to pop up a little.  I made sure I had enough room in the frame, that is why I chose a double mat.   Everywhere I had a hole, I glued down a small bead.  I’ve had these beads since I was in elementary school.  I am glad I am finally finding a use for them.

beads

Once the glue was dry I started gluing my butterflies to the beads.  I assorted my colors so they would be mixed in the finished art.  I first glued all of the blue, then the green, then magenta and so on.

DSC_0055 2

Once everything is glued on and dried, assemble the frame and you are done!

DSC_0059

Ta-da!  Nice, eh?  I love this so much I might make a couple more.

Reuse Birthday/Christmas Cards

When I need to do some cleaning in my house, I first put on an episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive for a bit of motivation.   I find it works great.  After an episode this past week, I decided to put all of my cards together and store them.  I figured one photo-box would suffice.  Nope.  Maybe two or three would have done better.   I have some when I was a kid from my grandma so those hold some sentimental value.   There are so many cool cards that I have saved but I was thinking what else I could do with them in order to re-purpose them more thoughtfully than sticking them in a box.  Here are a couple of ways to reuse your hoarded cards:

1.   Cut of the front and use as a postcard.

2.  Use patterns for scrap-booking.

3.  Use a circle punch and make gift tags.

4.  Make bookmarks.

5.  Make into coasters or place mat. -> here.  My grandma had these.  Brings back wonderful memories.

6.  Canning jar toppers.  -> here.  I like this idea.

7.  Make garland.  ->  here.  Very creative idea and chic.

8.  Artwork.  ->  here.   I am going to try the butterfly one.  Love it.  Include the personal messages if you want to showcase in your artwork.

9.  Frame your favorites.

10.  Pine cone ornament for next Christmas. -> here.

Do you have additional ideas?  I would love to hear about them.  I am looking to do a couple of these soon!

DIY Covered Bulletin Board

When I shop at our local thrift stores, I will often find really cheap artwork that either has no glass or damaged somehow.  Mostly really ugly artwork.  But, the frames can really be in good shape, and that’s what I look for.  I bought one for $4.99 maybe and it’s approximately 2 foot by 3 foot.

You can really do a lot with these.   I decided to make a bulletin board covered in a cool funky fabric.  Chevron is in style so I picked some up at Hobby Lobby, and used a 40% off coupon, maybe costing $4.00 in the end.  The rest is just a bit of labor and assembly.

I first pulled off the paper backing to reveal the staples that held it all together.  Usually you will find some cardboard that fills the frame, behind the artwork.  This is what I glued the cork to (also purchased the cork at the craft store).  There are different thicknesses, I went with the 3/8th inch thickness.  I glued the cork directly to the cardboard backing.

I had to iron the fabric because it had creases.  I wrapped it around the cork and left about a 1.5 inch margin, enough to glue it to the back.   I don’t have a glue gun yet, so I used Aleenes Craft glue and used the paperclips to hold it down until dries.

chevron

Then, just fold the corners so they look nice, this is optional.   Assemble  the cork inside the frame, and push back the staples so it’s secure.  I will need to mount some hooks to the back, then all done.

Probably a total cost of $15 tops, I got a cool inspirational board.  Now I have a tough decision on where to put it.

Lavender Extract

Today I was due to pull out all of my dead flowers for winter.  It’s said to snow this weekend so I wanted to make some lavender extract before the flowers went bad.

All you need to make lavender extract is the flower heads of lavender and vodka.

Separate the flower heads from the stalk and place them in a container with a lid.

Cover with just enough vodka and let sit for a couple of weeks.

Shake once every other day.

Then use it in cooking.  I have never used lavender extract in any cooking before but I look forward to experimenting.

extract
Homemade Lavender Extract

Toilet Paper Roll Printed Textiles

I bought this HUGE bolt of fabric.  If that’s what you call it.  I used it to make curtains about 5 years ago and now I am left with this crapload.  I was thinking about selling it in my garage sale, but I think I can find other uses for it.  Like make prints using toilet paper rolls!  Imagine the possibilities once the paint is dry.  I was inspired by THIS blog post.

fabric

What you need:

Fabric

Fabric paint

Toilet Paper Rolls

Paint Tray

Iron

Sturdy Surface

Directions:

1.  Make sure the fabric you are using is clean (free of cat fur – mine was not).

2.  Lay it on a table, make sure you have something behind it, like mat board, in case paint seeps through.

3.  Drop paint on the paint tray and flatten it out with the end of the toilet paper roll.  This was my practice round so I smushed my tp roll like a petal for one part.  Then practiced with circles.

fabric1

4.  You can use multiple colors too.

fabric3

5.  Let the paint dry for a few hours at least.  Then use it however your imagination wills.  This is one of the cool things you can use with toilet paper rolls.

Polka Dot Homemade Cards

I attempted to go to pick up a card yesterday at Zandbroz, a downtown unique store.  I totally forgot that there was a St Patty’s Day parade going on.  Luckily, I realized this before I got too close because it would have been a headache getting out of there.  So I didn’t get to pick up my card, so I decided I would just make one.

I always have random envelopes laying around, which is a requirement for card making.  Everything else can be improvised.  I just found some art paper, then pulled out all of my stamps, ink and other such materials that I could use for a card.

I decided to create a texture on white paper instead of using a printed paper.  I pulled out some bubble wrap and made the background as my jumping off point.

polka dots

The rest of the stuff just sort of fell into place.  I created some flowers from my homemade paper.  Used some wire from my jewelry making for the stems.  Jewelry to come in the future.  Then some ribbon that I had laying around finished it off.  Turned out beautiful, I think.  I like that you can use just random materials to create a beautiful project.

card

What other materials besides bubble wrap could you use to create a texture for cards?

1.  Foam

2.  Doilies

3.  Tree bark

4.  Leaves

5.  Flowers

6.  Loofah

7.  Fabric with texture or denim

8.  Eraser on end of pencil

9.  Screen Mesh

10.  Old carpet scraps

11.  Corncobs

12.  Lace

13.  Buttons

You get the picture.  There is inspiration everywhere.  You can make your own card with just about anything laying around!

Homemade Catnip Mouse

I have a fun 30 minute project for those of you who have cats.  Or for those of you who have friends with cats.  Or those of you who just like to surround yourself with cat stuff yet you don’t have cats.  How can you NOT have a cat, or ten?  My cats have probably 50 cat mice, toy wands, cans of catnip.  Why not make some more?

This is what you will need:

Fabric

Catnip

Scissors

Needle and thread or sewing machine

Yarn for tail

collageInstructions:

1.  I used drapery fabric because I had it laying around.  Fold a 6 by 12 inch rectangle in half.  Draw a rough estimate the shape you will want.  I kept the uncut edge at the bottom of the half circle so I wouldn’t have to sew it.  Cut it out.

2.  Refold, then sew around most of the half circle except for about an inch or inch and a half.  You will need to pull the insides to the outside.  The seam should be inside the mouse.

3.  Use a funnel to stuff the catnip into the mouse.  Make sure the cats leave you some.

4.  Tie a knot on one end of the yarn.  The knot will go inside the mouse so it won’t easily be pulled out.  Tuck the remaining ends of the mouse butt inside of the mouse and hand sew it together.  Make sure to stitch the tail in also.

5.  Let loose for cats go to wild.  And they do.

T-Shirt Yarn

What can you do with a crap ton of holy (hole-y) t-shirts that you can’t wear anymore without looking like a hobo?  You make t-shirt yarn!!  And it is so easy.  Here are the steps on making your own t-shirt yarn.

What you will need:

T-shirts

X-acto knife or scissors

Straight edge

Hard surface that you can cut on (I cut over card stock)

1.  Find t-shirts.  I found that shirts with a silk screen print doesn’t curl as easy in the final step.

2.  Fold the shirt like below.  The top half is about an inch shorter at the top than the bottom half.

a

3.  Cut the bottom inch off the shirt (actually the right side) – but it is really the bottom of the t-shirt.  A scissors worked better than a x-acto knife I found out.

4.  Next you will cut 1 inch or 1.5 inch slits starting from the right, moving to the left.  Cut only up to the top edge, leaving that 1 inch gap uncut.  (see below)

b

5.  You will end right below the sleeve/arm pit.  You will cut all the way across here.

c

6.  Lift up the side of the shirt that was left uncut.  Spread it open over your forearm.

d

7.  You will start cutting into one long strand of yarn now.  Starting on the right side, closest to your fingers.  Place the scissors on the outer side and you will cut a diagonal slice to the first cut.

e

8.  Then you will continue to cut diagonal, the most right bottom cut, to the next top cut.  Stay parallel to your first cut.

a1

9.  Continue all the way to the left.  The last bottom slit on the left side you will have to end the cut on the outermost edge. Similar to how you started, just reverse.

a2

10.  That was your final snip.  You have one long strand of yarn now.  You will have to stretch it so it curls.  Start on one edge and lightly stretch it so the fabric naturally curls.

a3

11.  Finally, just roll it into a ball until you are ready to knit with it.  A scarf made out if this yarn would be super soft and warm!  If you do not have t-shirts laying around, check out a thrift store.  They probably receive a lot of shirts they cannot sell because of bleach stains or maybe some small holes.

Crockpot Apple and Cinnamon Oatmeal

Again Pinterest has really come through.  I am addicted.  I think Pinterest is a place to find unique things.  I have found some of the coolest things on there.  This recipe is one of them and I plan on using this recipe lots and making minor changes based on my mood.  I have a feeling you can make just about anything with a just the main staples in this recipe: oatmeal and water.  I like how easy this recipe is.  You just do the prep work, throw it in the crock pot, then let it go overnight.  The next morning you just dish up.

Ingredients:

2 chopped apples

1/3 C brown sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

2 C oatmeal

4 C water

Directions:

Throw in a crock pot the night before.  Turn on low.  It will need 6-8 hours in the crock pot.

In the morning, add some milk or cream and enjoy!

*What about substituting any fruit for apples?  I think replacing peaches with apples will make a nice peach cobbler style oatmeal.  I plan on trying that next time.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Homemade Facial Scrub

As long as I remember, I have had terrible skin.  I have battled acne since I was a teenager.  Now 30, I am still battling it.  I have taken all sort of prescriptions over the years that has made me dizzy, left me with horribly dry skin and some just didn’t work.  I think dermatologists lied to me.  They always said that sugar and pizza won’t give you acne.  I think it does.  I have cut back on sugar for weeks and my skin improved.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was better.  Great skin comes from the inside.  It’s what you eat and drink that affects your skin.  There are other factors that play a role in skin health.  My hormones will bring about blemishes sometimes too.

I have found that having a good scrub works.  It gets rid of the dead skin cells that can clog your pores.  I made this scrub today to see if it will help.  It has only 2 – 3 ingredients so it is really easy to make.  I made a single serving to see if it will work, but you can quadruple the batch and give away as gifts.

Here is what you will need:

Crystallized honey

Olive Oil

Essential oil (optional)

mask

1.  I used some honey that I have had for a long time and has naturally crystallized.  This would make a great scrub so I wouldn’t need to add sugar crystals for the exfoliate ingredient.

2.  I added 3 parts honey to 1 part olive oil in a small bowl.  Use a fork to mix well.  Then just add a drop of essential oil if you want.

mask2

3.  Then apply.  Before I apply this scrub, I am going to rest a warm cloth over my face to open my pores.  After a few minutes, I will apply the mask.  Allow to sit for 10 minutes.  Then use warm water to remove.

4.  Give away your extras as a great gift for your favorite lady friends.

*Honey is a great antibacterial and speeds healing of blemishes and olive oil is a great antioxidant which helps prevent cell damage and also has soothing properties.

Ruched Garland

Christmas was pretty good in our family.  We celebrate with my husbands side on Christmas Eve, and my side on Christmas Day.  We had 2 days of good eating and not having to clean or cook.  Can’t beat that.

Sadly though, we had to put down our dog Charlie on December 29th.  Charlie had been battling lymphoma since October so we are lucky to have had him this long.  He didn’t suffer, actually he was pretty spoiled.  He got lots of treats, and home cooked meals.  He actually gained 6 pounds since we found something wrong.  He was a beautiful, patient and loyal dog, and we will never forget him.

I was inspired by Make It Give It’s blog about Dictionary Garland.  I wanted to try something that I could hang easily on my Christmas tree.  While we were decorating our tree it was missing something, and I realized, I haven’t added any type of garland to our tree in years.  So this was a project I figured I could try.

My idea was to purchase some ribbon and elastic cord and create a garland that looks ruched, or gathered.  It was a little bit more difficult to do than I had thought because the ribbon I used wasn’t very good.  At least I was able to get enough garland to use up the entire length of my ribbon.

You will need just ribbon, elastic cord (I got the thinner kind), thread and a sewing machine.  And, probably a scissors because I had to start over several times.  I had to relearn how to thread a sewing machine.  In the end I did get it to work.

I placed the ribbon down, under the footer of the sewing machine.  I placed the elastic on top of that, and sewed a few stitches in order to attach the elastic to the ribbon.  Once they were sewn together a half inch, I lightly pulled on the elastic while I continued sewing the ribbon and elastic together.  This will give it that bunched up look that I was going after.  You do not have to pull hard to get a nice gather, just a little.  Just make sure you are sewing straight down the middle of the ribbon and elastic.  Keeping straight while tugging the elastic is hard to do.

This project has many ways that you can make different just by changing the width of the ribbon, or by adding layers of different materials, like newspaper, or dictionary pages like the inspiration blog above.

DIY Beer

My husband has classified himself as a beer connoisseur.  Two years ago, my husband and I traveled to Colorado.  He went there to attend the Great American Beer Festival and I went there to visit my aunt.  My husband spend 3 long days in Denver drinking beers from around the country.  Since then, when the mood sets in and he is craving a beer, he purchases the specialty beers at the local booze shops.  These beers are not cheap.  On average $8 – $10.  Not the way I like to spend our money.

So my husband decided to brew his own beer.  When I first heard of this idea I thought, “Are you mad?  This is going to take up lots of room and will take lots of time.”  It seemed easier than I though.  In today’s blog, I want to try to share how easy it is to make beer.  Honestly, I wasn’t around when he was making the beer.  I was actually napping.  That is how quick it is to make beer.

First step is you need to buy a Beer Equipment Kit.  I think Ben spent just over $100 bucks for this kit, but it is reusable.  It comes with 11 different pieces like the bucket with a spigot, bottle filler, capper, handbook and cleaners.  With this kit you also need to purchase: Hops, corn sugar, malt extract, bottles and caps.  The handbook comes with a recipe for making your first batch of beer.  It looks like there are more advanced techniques in the handbook, but it gives you all you need as a beginner.

First, follow the instructions on the recipe in the handbook.  This makes your wort (beginning beer).  Add some water and let it sit in the bucket for a week.  You will see bubbles coming out of airlock, supplied with the kit, but that is normal.

After the week of fermentation it gets bottled.  You will want to collect used or new beer bottles and sanitize them.  You will need to purchase new caps.  The most difficult process in beer making is the sterlization of the equipment and bottles.  For anyone who cans it’s easier than canning tomatoes in our opinion.

Now the bottled beer sits in the closet, or cool place for a week.  Then the beer goes into the refrigerator.  What I liked most about this whole process is the reusing of all of the beer bottles we had lying around the house.  No bottles were thrown away or even recycled.  They were all re purposed and will continue to be re purposed for as long as Ben will be making beer.

Homemade Pesto

I could eat something covered in pesto any day of the week.  And it is so easy to make.  You can easily add pesto to pasta or on top of toast, and it is so yummy.  Yesterday, my hubby and I were very busy in the kitchen.  We received lots of organic basil from our CSA and used it all for pesto.  Pesto also freezes really well.  We froze 12 servings for the winter months.

Other than making pesto, we also made refrigerator pickles and canned 5 jars of spicy dill pickles.  This was our first year making canned pickles so I look forward to tasting them.  I hate doing all of this preserving on an already hot day, but we had no choice.

Here is my favorite pesto recipe.

Ingredients

2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano or Romano Cheese (Do not add pesto you plan to freeze.  You will add it after you thaw it.)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts

2 medium sized garlic cloves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lime juice

Food Processor

1.  Wash basil well and remove as much water as possible and place in food processor.  Add pine nuts and pulse a few times in the food processor.  Add garlic, pulse a few more times.

2.  Slowly drizzle the olive oil while the food processor is on.  Turn off the processor, and scrape down the sides with a spatula.  Add the grated cheese and pulse until blended.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

3.  If you won’t be using the pesto right away, stir in a few drops of lime juice.

4.  Serve as you wish.

 

DIY Compost Maker

Sorry that it has been a while since I posted.  With it being so hot this summer I haven’t had any energy/motivation to make anything.   I have been trying to sell my beads and gift tags on Etsy too.  If you are interested in checking out my shop, please do, but it is still sort of new and I am trying to figure things out.

Something very cool that happened recently in Fargo, is the city is now taking more waste as recyclable.  I read this in our local newspaper and was SO excited.  This type of stuff makes me happy.  Less garbage headed to our landfill is good.  They are taking all plastic with a recycle symbol and numbered 1-7 and all cardboard.  It always bothered me that we couldn’t recycle cereal boxes or yogurt containers.  But we can now!

I have had composting machines before, that worked okay for a while, but were either too loud or stinky.  I like the idea of making my own compost from food and garden waste but I didn’t want to make a compost heap in our back yard for the rodents and bugs to get into.  Plus, we didn’t have much of a back yard to do this in anyways.

I am going to try to make compost in a coffee container.  Anything with a solid cover would work.  The more coffee containers I can collect the better.  I have more laying around our garage I am sure but will start with one to see how it goes.

Make sure you use brown and green waste.  Brown waste is yard waste: leaves, small twigs, newspaper, dryer lint or straw.  Green would include food scraps: grass, coffee grounds, egg shells, fruit and veggie scraps and plant trimmings.  Combine a good mix of both of these things and put in the coffee can and put the lid on it.  It does need heat to compost so I will just leave it outside.  I will shake it once in a while and check to make sure it’s moist.  You do not want it wetter than a rung out sponge.

I normally take our food scraps to the recycling center and dump it in the garden waste bin they have there and let the city make compost to share.  But I wanted my own to keep.  Now that I have roses and a garden I want to make sure I am taking good care of it.

I am hoping that in a few weeks we will see some progress.  I will update this blog post with how it turns out when it is finished and the time frame to expect good compost.

DIY Beads

It has been a while since I have posted a DIY project.  I made some concrete planters that I am thinking about posting but they didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped.  Stay tuned for that post.  The project that I made today brings back wonderful memories with my grandmother.  She showed me how to do this about 20 years ago.  It is a great project to use all of those “to be recycled” magazines.  You might as well use parts of it for these beautiful beads.

 

What you will need

Magazines

X-acto knife

Straight Edge

Glue

Toothpick

Pick pages from the magazine that have colors you want in your beads.  I wanted muted colors so I picked pages to reflect that.  Another tip is using sturdy pages.  The front or back covers of magazines are ideal.

Cut them into long narrow triangles using the x-acto knife and straight edge.

Using the toothpick start wrapping the wide end of the triangle snug against the toothpick.  I wrapped it around 3 or 4 times before I removed the toothpick and continued twisting with my fingers.  Once you are to the end of the narrow part, put a dot of glue and hold for a moment so it doesn’t unravel.

It probably takes me about a minute to make one bead.  It is so worth it.  Look how beautiful they turned out.  You can use these beads in jewelery or even string them together using ribbons and make garland.  You can pick colors that go with whatever holiday you wish.  Red and Green for Christmas or pastels for Easter.  You can also use scrapbook paper because it has a thickness that is perfect for this project.

DIY Almond Butter

I eat a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich almost every day.  It’s quick to make and somewhat fulfilling.  I suppose not as satisfying as a pizza or Fettuccine Alfredo.  In trying to eat healthier I found that almond butter has less fat than regular peanut butter.  I love Trader Joe’s almond butter specifically.  Unfortunately, here in Fargo, we are 3 hours away from the closest Trader Joe’s.  Yes, we have it here in the grocery stores, but it’s double the price.    Plus, I had no idea how easy it would be to make it myself.   It’s easy AND it tastes delicious.  Here are the easiest steps.

Ingredients

Almonds

Honey (optional)

Salt (optional)

Really, that is it.  However, I found a recipe that adds a bit of raw honey (which I had) and salt.

I bought a bag that was 2 and a half cups of chopped almonds.  I toasted them on a skillet on medium until it browned a bit.  Popped the almonds in the food processor, added a couple of teaspoons of raw honey and 1/4 teaspoon of salt.  It blended for about 5 minutes until it turned into a butter consistency.

Have you looked at the ingredients on a peanut butter jar?  Molasses, Hydrogenated Oil, Sugar…Why are these things needed?  Peanuts and almonds are tasty all by themselves.  And I know that hydrogenated oils are NOT healthy.

I suppose the bag of almonds cost about $4.50.  I could have saved some money but I didn’t want to spend time shopping.  So for less than $5 I have good, raw and tasty almond butter.  You have to really try this yourself!

DIY Homemade Vanilla Extract

I hate buying vanilla extract.  It is so expensive and you only get a small amount.  Since I like to save money I found a recipe for making my own at home.  All it requires is vanilla beans, vodka, an air tight container and time.  I found some reasonably priced vanilla beans at beanilla.  They have a great assortment of varieties.  I went with the Madagascar Vanilla Beans because a friend told me they were the best.  It really only took about 4 days to receive too.

I purchased 10 beans because it had the best value.  I ordered half for myself and half for my friend.  For this recipe I used 5 vanilla beans.  This is what you need to do to make your own vanilla extract.

Find a container to store it in.  I found an old fashion mason jar.  Even a cleaned out wine bottle would work.  Make sure it’s good and clean.

Cut the vanilla beans in half length wise.  Then use a kitchen scissors to cut them down the middle, to expose the vanilla.

Put them into the container and fill with vodka.  At SimplyRecipes, my inspiration for this recipe,  they use 3 vanilla beans and added 1 cup of vodka.  For me, I had to use a little algebra to figure out I would need 1.666 cups of vodka for my 5 beans.

Then store them in a cool dark place.  I put them in a cabinet in my laundry room.  Make sure to give it a shake every once in a while.  After a couple of months it will be ready.  You will have a dark brown extract ready to bake with.

Add more vodka every so often to keep up a good supply.  I will update this blog as it starts to darken.  I look forward to saving lots of money with this recipe and using my own vanilla.  Not only do I save money, but I reduce waste.  The cap to the vanilla bean extract I purchase in the store is not recyclable.  Making my own helps me to reduce waste.

*Updated 7/15/2012.  Vanilla is now ready to use.  It didn’t take long for it to get this dark brown color, but I wanted to give it extra time to infuse into the vodka.