Friday, December 28, 2012

Edward Scissorhands Skirt Recon for my Sister’s Birthday

I can’t believe it, but my youngest sister turns 16 today!  She, like most young girls I suppose, loves Johnny Depp.  So I looked all over eBay and Etsy for the coolest Johnny Depp t-shirt I could find, and came up with this one….
Pretty cool shirt!  I turned it into a fabulous skirt (or tube top), by added drawstrings to the sides and an elastic waistband.
I should have taken more pictures of each step, but here is an inside shot of the drawstring.  I basically cut the shirt into rectangular pieces and serged (or use a sewing machine) a 6 or 7 inch strip of stretchy knit fabric to each side of the t-shirt.  Then I folded the strip in half and stitched about 1 ½ inches in to form a “pocket” for the drawstring.  I then pressed the “pocket” down evenly and stitched up the center to form 2 “pockets”.  I made the drawstrings and pulled them up one side of the skirt and back down using a safety pin to guide the string through the “pockets”.  I tied each end; you could also use a bead as a stopper if you can find one with a big enough opening to fit the fabric through.  Then I simply hemmed the loose edges, sewed an elastic waistband to the top and trimmed any excess fabric.

Xmas Presents

For the past several years I have made all my Christmas presents.  There are so many reasons to make things yourself around the holidays.  A handmade gift means a lot to loved ones and helps keep us away from all the over consumerism associated with Christmas these days.

Throughout December I’ve been posting what I’ve been making, but I’d like to compile everything here to give you all some ideas of easy, affordable home made gifts.


Simple knit skirts

These are for my Mom.  I used a skirt that I made her years ago for my pattern, which I believe was made with Simplicity pattern #4604 plus an elastic wasitband


Bay Rum Aftershave and Soap
Smells amazing!  I made these for my Dad, brothers, boyfriend, and male friends. (recipe here)


Reusable Muslin Tea Bags and Homegrown Hyssop Tea

My first batch of tea from the garden!  These are for my step-mom, and a couple other tea drinkers in my life.  I found a nice tin container to store the empty tea bags and made tags with a picture of hyssop and explanation of all its medicinal benefits.  Hyssop is an amazing herb! (tutorial here)



For my sisters and lady friends (although I probably could have made these for everyone, since boys wear leggings too!) I’ve wanted to make try McCall’s pattern #6173 for a while!  It was super simple and they turned out great.  Never buying leggings again!

Printed Sweatshirt

For my 12 year old brother, who is too young to shave or care about soap, I printed a chicken skeleton on the back of a thrift store sweatshirt.  My brother takes care of the chickens and other birds at my dad’s farm, so I think he will be into this print as much as I am!

I made a silk screen (you can always make a stencil if you don’t have the equipment) and printed on a scrap of a t-shirt, then cut the patch out and sewed it on a hoodie.

Revenge Bot
OK, so maybe this isn’t one you could make easily.  We have a Christmas exchange on my Dad’s side of the family and I had my cousin who recently started his own skateboard company, Revenge.  So I made him one my robots with his logo on a robo-skateboard and the chest plate. Worked out perfectly!

Last year I made everyone food related items; hot sauce, soup, bread, fudge, chocolate covered cherries, peppermint bark, and even dog treats/catnip toys for pets.  I still wanted to make a few sweets this year and just take them to celebrations.  This is what I took….





Chocolate Covered Cherries (recipe here)

Homemade Pretzels Dipped in Chocolate

I used this recipe here and then melted vegan chocolate chips.

I dipped some in chocolate and crushed candy canes; others were covered in peanut butter, and then dipped in chocolate.



Skittles Vodka

I found this recipe here.  Tastes great, so glad Skittles is now gelatin-free!



And if you don’t have the time or energy for a diy Xmas, you can always shop locally and buy fair trade goods online.  My boyfriend has wanted a backstrap loom for a while; I found a really nice one here from a fair trade non-profit in Guatemala.

I made him this actual backstrap to go with it!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Bay Rum Aftershave and Soap

For the men in my life I made something a little different this Christmas.  I found this recipe for bay rum aftershave and had to try it.  This recipe uses a West Indies bay leaf, Pimenta racemosa, which is a different type than what you buy at the grocery store, making it hard to find!  What I did find was too expensive, so I bought a bottle of Pimenta racemosa essential oil on ebay. 

Apparently sailors in the West Indies used to rub the bay leaves on their skin to cover odors.  Eventually the bay was combined with the local rum and bay rum was invented to be used in extra manly colognes and aftershaves.

8 TBSP Vodka
2 TBSP Jamaican Rum
Pimenta racemosa essential oil (I used 2 or 3 drops per bottle)
Orange essential oil (1 or 2 drops per bottle or add fresh orange zest)
¼ TSP Allspice
¼ TSP ground cinnamon

Basically I just mixed everything together in a 2-liter bottle.  Let it sit a couple days, shaking it up every once in a while.  Then strained it through coffee filters and bottled it up in recycled yeast bottles.

Yeast bottles worked perfectly for the aftershave and I added a label on the lid along with a tag explaining the origin of bay rum. 


I’ve wanted to make soap for a while, and I didn’t realize how easy they had made it!  This company makes several varieties of vegetable based soaps.  You can just buy blocks of… soap basically, at craft stores.  Just melt the soap, add oils, herbs, etc. and pour into molds.   I used the olive oil base and added the bay leaf oil, a few drops of orange oil, crushed dried sage, cinnamon and allspice. 


I wrapped each bar in wax paper, tied with ribbon, and made muscle man labels.


All in all I spent about $50 on ingredients and made thoughtful, handmade gifts for 6 people.  Plus I have quite a bit of rum left!  I tested both products on my boyfriend and they met his satisfaction.  And mine, he still smelled very manly after a full day of work!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Chocolate Covered Cherries

I love chocolate covered cherries!  And they make a simple, cheap gift that most people can enjoy. Apparently they taste better after a couple weeks, so this year I actually made them ahead of time.  They are amazing fresh too, but the additional time allows the cherry juices to soak into the candy giving it that sweet, juicy center.  Either way, chocolate covered cherries have quickly become one of my favorite things to make around the holidays.

60 maraschino cherries (with or without stems, stems just make them easier to dip and handle)
3 TBSP butter substitute, softened
3 TBSP corn syrup
2 CUP confectioner sugar
1 bag chocolate chips


Drain the cherries (save the juice for mixed drinks or other desserts later!).  Let the cherries dry on paper towels or in a colander.


Combine the butter and corn syrup until smooth.


Add the confection sugar and form into dough. 
Chill if necessary to keep dough firm.

Coat each cherry with the sugar dough, using about a teaspoon of dough per cherry.  I usually flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it around the cherry, and then roll the dough around the palm of my hand until the cherry is evenly coated.  (It doesn’t have to be perfect :)


Let chill until firm.


Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler, or microwave.  Dip each cherry in the chocolate and coat.  Let dry on wax lined paper and store in an air tight container.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reusable tea and herb bags


I made a batch of muslin tea bags for a few people for Christmas.  As I’m growing more herbs, I need to make more tea!  So I figured I could fill a couple bags with my own hyssop tea from the garden and through in some extra tea bags for a sweet, green gift.

A ½ yard of 44 inch wide unbleached, preshrunk muslin made 24 tea bags.  I also bought 10 yards of cotton string that is used in making some type of fancy curtain (available at fabric stores).  But you could use any natural fiber string.

I cut my muslin into rectangle pieces measuring 6 x 4 inches, and I cut my string in to 12-15 inch pieces.

Press in half and trim edges with picking shears to prevent fraying.

Press the 2 short sides in about a ¼ inch.

Press one long side in about ½ inch.

Place your cotton string inside the hem line and sew across the top, creating a pocket for the pull string.

Fold the rectangle in half again, with seams facing out.  Stitch along the side and bottom to form a bag.

Clip your corners, clean off any hairs or stray threads, and turn right-side out. Tie the cotton string together and make yourself a cup of tea!


After finishing these, I bought another half yard and made 6 larger bags for storing/drying herbs and spices (I followed the directions above, but used 9 x 14 inch rectangles and 18 inch pieces of string).  You can make the bags as big or small as you want.  Larger bags also work for compost tea!

When doing small, repetitive projects like this it often works best to do it assembly line style.  I cut everything out, then do all the ironing, sew each bag, clean them up and package.  It goes much quicker!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Vegan Fudge


I always forget about fudge until the holiday season.  And then I make tons of it :) I thought fudge was so good, because it used real butter and milk.  I was wrong!  It’s all about the chocolate!  I use Earth Balance vegan butter, homemade rice milk, and unrefined sugar to replace the animal derived ingredients in in an old recipe. Tastes exactly the same as when I made it non-vegan in the past.

2 cup sugar
¼ TSP salt
4 oz unsweetened chocolate (or ½ CUP powder)
1 TBSP corn syrup
1 CUP rice milk
2 TBSP vegan butter
1 TSP vanilla

Using a wooden spoon, mix the sugar and salt together; then add the chocolate, corn syrup and milk.  Turn the heat to low and mix until everything dissolves.

Let the mixture heat up until it reaches between 234-240°F.  Stir as little as possible, the chocolate will boil over so use a large pot.


(If you don’t have a thermometer you can test the fudge by dropping a little in a glass of cold water.  When it’s ready it will be firm enough to form a soft ball.)

Add the vegan butter to the fudge and remove from heat.  Do not stir the butter in until the fudge cools to about 110°F (I usually just wait until I can easily touch the outside of the pot).
Add the vanilla and stir vigorously until the fudge loses its glossy finish and looks more matte.  Pour into a butter pan and let sit at room temperature until hardened.
Here are some fudge repair tips I found in an old cookbook:
To soften fudge: knead with hand until it becomes smooth, and then flatten into pan
To stiffen fudge:  add ¼ CUP milk, stir, heat to proper temperature, beat and pour.

Wish I had known those tricks before; the main thing with fudge is getting it to that perfect temperature.  But even mistake fudge can usually be used for something.  If the mixture doesn’t get hot enough it doesn’t solidify, but it’s great as a fudge sauce for other desserts.  If you heat the fudge over the 240°, it gets too stiff and brittle, but can be used as chocolate shavings in desserts and hot drinks.  You can’t go wrong!



Sunday, November 25, 2012

Dad’s B-Day Gift – Crushed Red Pepper Flakes and Seeded Rye Crackers


For my Dad’s birthday this year I put together a jar of my homegrown crushed cayenne peppers and these seeded rye crackers with amaranth, sunflower seeds and fennel from the garden. 


My dad like’s spicy food, so I figured he could get some use out of my peppers!  Here is my post about drying the peppers, and then I simply crushed the dried peppers up a mortar and pestle until they were nothing more than seeds and pepper flakes.  So good!


This was my first time making crackers.  I didn’t have much wheat flour left, but I had a whole thing of rye flour.  I followed this recipe as my base and added seeds and more rye flour.  My adjusted recipe goes as follows:

½ CUP plus 2 TBSP rice milk
3 TBSP olive oil
1 CUP whole wheat flour
1 CUP rye flour
½ TSP baking powder
1 TSP garlic salt
2 TSP amaranth seeds
¼ CUP sunflower seeds
1 TBSP fennel seeds

Mix the milk and oil together.

Add the rest of the ingredients and mix until dough is formed.

Roll out on a floured surface and cut into cracker shapes (either into squares or use a cookie cutter).  I flattened the dough to about 1 cm, but you could make thicker crackers too, just cook a little longer.


Place the crackers on parchment paper lined baking sheets and cook for 18 minutes at 350°F, rotating about half way through.


They taste great!  My dad will love them.  I put my goods in glass jars and made a couple personal labels using sticker paper and permanent markers.

(I grew Joe's Long Cayenne Pepper's; I crossed the "E" in Joe's out and put a "Y" above to spell my name, Joy :) )

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Stuffed Tofurkey


I’ve been vegetarian for over 10 years now and I’ve never made a tofurkey!  So I figured it was about time.  I looked at a bunch of different recipes, combining several but mostly followed this one; it has great pictures of each step.  It’s also an easy recipe to adapt depending on what herbs you have available.

This is a bit of a process, but after tasting the results I may be making it every year!

Basically you are making 3 parts; the “turkey”, stuffing and a marinade.  I started 2 days before Thanksgiving, because I had to drive to Columbus this morning, but you can make it work starting the day before.  And if you’re already out of time, there is always this fabulous beer can tofurkey idea!



3-4 14 oz containers of extra firm tofu
1-2 TBSP of each of the following herbs:
   Garlic Scapes (/Chives/Green Onions)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Let the tofu sit out overnight or at least a few hours so it’s at room temperature. 


With your hands, squeeze all the liquid you can get out of the tofu.  Then mix in the remaining ingredients.

Take a clean, wet piece of cheesecloth and drape it over a strainer.  I sprinkled some rosemary and chopped sage leaves down first.  Then scoop the tofu mix into the covered strainer.  Use the excess cheesecloth to wrap the top of the tofu and press any liquid out.  Put a bowl under the strainer and a plate on top of the cloth.  Sit in the fridge overnight and place something heavy (I used a juice bottle) on top of the plate so that the presser will continue to squeeze liquid out of the tofurkey. 



You can make this the day of your meal or before and refrigerate.

3 CUPS bread cubes
1 TSP or so olive oil
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 celery stick, finely diced
1 small apple, diced
3 TBSP herbs (I used sage, cilantro, rosemary and thyme)
Pinch of cayenne (crushed red pepper)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 TBSP maple syrup
1 TSP balsamic vinegar
½ CUP sunflower seeds or other nut/seed
¼ CUP dried fruit (I used dried goji berries from the garden but you can use cherries, cranberries, etc.)
½ CUP vegetable broth

First cut the bread into cubes and dry in the over for 20 minutes or so at 250°F.

Heat a pan with a little olive oil and sauté the onion for a few minutes until soft.

Add celery, cook another 2 minutes

Add apple, herbs and spices and cook 5 more minutes.

Add syrup and balsamic vinegar, mix and remove from heat.

Combine this mixture with the dried bread cubes, seeds and dried fruit.

Put the stuffing into a greased pan and pour the vegetable broth over the top.

Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes at 300°F.



I also made the marinade the day before and let it soak in all the flavors.

¼ CUP Braggs (/soy sauce/tamari)
¼ CUP olive oil
½ CUP chopped herbs (I used sage, chives, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and parsley)
1 TSP sesame seeds, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

Just mix everything together and keep in the refrigerator.




Scoop out the center of the tofurkey, leaving an inch or so on the sides.


Fill hole with stuffing, and recover with scooped out tofu.  



Then very carefully flip the whole tofurkey into a cooking pan (I just sort of picked up the whole cheesecloth, placed the baking pan on top of the tofu and flipped).


Baste with the marinade, and cook for 1 to 1 ½ hours at 350°F.  Baste the tofurkey as much as you want throughout the baking.


I had some extra stuffing, so I reheated it separately and added it in around my tofurkey!

Beautiful and tastes amazing!  Much better than eating something this cute…..