Thursday, June 28, 2012

Heading to Chattanooga

That's me and my friend Jon last year, in that mix of people watching Onion Flavored Rings (not sure whose photo this was originally)
This weekend I'm gearing up for Do Ya Hear We, Chattanooga’s annual punk fest. Plus some friends and I plan to camp around Tennessee before and after the festival. I can't wait to relax and not have anywhere I need to be for a week!

In the mean time I'm working like crazy and trying to get everything in order in my off time.  Having a mini farm in the city gets to be an issue when you want to leave town, but I think we have enlisted enough of our wonderful friends to look after all the plants and animals!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tagging Spreadsheet for Etsy Listings

I’ve been meaning to compile a list of all the possible tags I might use while listing an item on Etsy.  I’m constantly jotting down tag ideas on my chalkboard wall or scraps of paper, so I needed to get organized.  I thought about just starting a hand written list, but figured it might get hard to edit and add to the list after a while.  A spreadsheet is perfect though, and if you don’t have a program that makes them, you can download the Open Office version for free!
I grouped my words under the headings: category/type, style, look/feel, technique/material, recipient and symbols.  Then I just started brainstorming and going through the tags I already put on items.  As I list more items on Etsy I can add new words I come up with, color code categories, and keep everything alphabetical and neat.  Plus now I won’t be sitting there desperately trying to come up with 13 ways to describe my item!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lazy Sunday Ciabatta Bread

I love Sundays because I’m always off work and don’t usually have much to do other than create things.  I knew I would be spending most of today sewing so I decided to make a loaf of ciabatta bread in between projects.  This type of bread takes all day, that’s why a lazy Sunday is the perfect day for it.  I used a recipe from the book 200 Bread Recipes as my base and added lots of fresh herbs.   This book is made for bread machines, so I’ve improvised a little to do it by hand.   

First you make a starter by combining:

cup warm water
¼ tsp sugar
½ tsp yeast

Mix it together very well.  For the first hour or two mix up the starter vigourously every 10-15 minutes, getting it bubbly and full of air.  Then let it sit covered for 4 hours or more (you can also make the starter the night before). 

Next step is to add:

1 cup water
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp salt
2 cup flour
1 ½ tsp sugar
1 tsp yeast
Stir it very well getting lots of air into the dough again.

Stir again in 15 minutes, then wait another 15 minutes and add:

½ cup fresh herbs (I used oregano, basil, thyme and summer savory)
4 cloves of garlic

Continue coming back to stir every 10-15 minutes for the next 1 hour.

Grease and flour a baking sheet then drop the dough on a well floured surface.  Divide into two loaves and stretch them out to about 11 inches.  Put the loaves on the baking sheet and let them sit for another 30 minutes uncovered in a warm area until they double in size.
Cook at 425° F for 20 minutes or until they sound hollow inside when you tap them.  Let cool and enjoy! 

This is the best bread I’ve ever made and although it takes all day it’s totally worth it.  I’ve brought it to several family dinners and parties and everyone comments on how awesome it is!  So when you have a day to relax just drink some wine, work on some projects and make amazing bread!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Three Sisters Beds

I just wanted to share how awesome our corn, beans, gourds and amaranth are doing!  Our yard is already filled with a garden where we have herbs, greens, tomatoes, peppers, fruit trees, cucumbers, onions and so on… But not much space for corn.  Luckily a friend down the street has a huge sunny backyard, so we dug a couple beds, mixed a little manure and compost in and planted away.  Everything looks amazing.  The smaller bed was planted about 2 weeks after the first one.  Here is what we planted and where we got our seeds:

Ohio Blue Clarage Corn (Southern Exposure)
Black Iroquois Sweet Corn (Southern Exposure)
Purple Podded Pole Bean (Baker Creek)
Provider Bush Green Bean (Fedco)
Blue Bush Lake 274 Green Bean (Fedco)
Bushel Basket Gourd (Baker Creek)
Opopeo Amaranth (Baker Creek)
Hopi Red Dye Amaranth (Fedco)

I’ve only had the space to do a Three Sisters garden once, and I had to move out before harvesting, so I’m excited to see how these beds do!  Everything can be eaten except the gourds.  I’m not so into squash, so I figured something useful could replace it, like a gourd you can make bowls out of!  The Ohio Blue Corn can be eaten as sweet corn when it’s young, but we plan on trying to make corn meal with it once it’s mature.  You can eat the amaranth greens in salads and whatnot, use the seeds in breads and I definitely plan on experimenting with dying fabric using the Hopi amaranth.

Gardening is so exciting!  And since these are new beds the bugs are pretty minimal. Way different from out house garden, which has been full of plants and bugs for years.  If only we could get some rain! 

Monday, June 18, 2012


This weekend was very busy, and amidst the craziness my 3 chickens were finally ready to be picked up!  We aren’t sure what breed they are exactly, because they were hatched by someone’s wild backyard flock, but they sure are adorable!  Luckily the guys I garden with already built a coop out of one of our hoop houses we took down, plus some scrap furniture found around the neighborhood (if only I had been home to take pictures of their process!).  So far it’s holding up just fine and the chickens are happy! 

I will be posting more about our chickens as we learn more and start incorporating them into our gardening.  We still have several months before they start laying eggs, so right now we are just trying to get them comfortable in their new habitat and making sure they are totally safe from raccoons and other predators.   I’m so excited to learn how to raise chickens and start this new adventure!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Gift Box

I always have a little trouble coming up with gifts for my dad.  If I had lots of money it would be no issue, because I’m constantly seeing cool gadgets and tech stuff my dad would love!  But I like making my gifts anyways, so when Father’s Day snuck up on me this year I decided to go with an old staple gift… hot sauce!  I made my first batch 2 Christmas’s ago (for my dad!) and I’ve been hooked.  Hot sauce is super easy to make and a great way to use hot peppers up at the end of the summer.  I’m still experimenting with different recipes, and trying to create my own perfect recipe; so this time around I tried Pepper Joe’s Island Hot Sauce Recipe.  It turned out great!  Super spicy with a hint of garlic, onions and lime!  I put it in a Mason jar and attached a sticker on the lid where I stamped out “dad’s fire breath”.
I also bought him a couple nice beers from this cute little craft beer store around the corner called The Listing Loon.  I needed something to put it all in.  I found this awesome list here that someone composed of tutorials for all different shaped gift boxes.  Using a couple of these as models, I cut a box from a larger cardboard box, glued it together, cut out handles and decorated the outside.  Then I put my gifts inside, and stuffed some ripped up paper in between the bottles so they didn’t break.  I even made my own confetti from the cardboard scraps.  I just cut them into strips and then pulled apart the layers of paper.  Easy, cheap and 100% recyclable!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Homemade Labels for Clothing

As I’m beginning to concentrate on creating a rock and roll clothing line, I realized I didn’t have any labels for the clothes.  In the past I made a lot of jewelry so I have plenty of paper cards and stickers, but nothing I could sew on.  I came across some twill tape at work that had been marked down so many times, it was only $0.34!  So I decided to try printing “raygun undone” on it.  After a few smeary attempts I found something that worked….
MATERIALS: 1 inch wide twill tape (it comes in those Wrights packaged tapes at fabric stores), alphabet rubber stamps, Palette Hybrid Ink pad, iron
I found some old typewriter font alphabet stamps that were perfect!  I researched different ink pads and found that Palette Hybrid ink can be used on fabric if heat set.  So I cut strips of twill tape, leaving space for a seam on each side of my logo.  Then I just printed on each strip, ironed them between layers of parchment paper, and they are ready to be sewn!  I tried washing them out and the ink stayed, so it was a success.  I will have to experiment with these ink pads further, they seem like a great addition to the silk screening and stenciling I have been doing lately!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tips For Making Upside Down 2 Liter Planters

You’ve probably seen this idea before, I’ve tried it in years passed and had marginal success.  This year I took some time to research different methods and judging by my tomato plants, I think I got it right!  So I’ve compiled some basic tips to making your planter successful.
MATERIALS: Empty 2 Liter Bottle, String, Scissors, Soil, Plant

The first thing is to wash your 2-liter so that sticky corn syrup doesn’t start to mold around your plant.

Then cut the bottom of the bottle off, leaving as much of the 2-liter as you can.  I found that the simplest way to do this is to take some crappy old scissors, heat the end of the blade over a candle and stab it into the bottle making a hole you can fit your scissors through and then cut the rest of the way.  Using this same method, I then punch 3 holes evenly spaced around the edge that was just cut.  If you are going to make multiple containers it’s easiest to do this to all the bottles at the same time because the scissors stay warmed up.

One of the biggest issues I’ve had in the past was the bottle heating up too fast and drying out the soil.  I’ve tried covering them in burlap and scrap fabric, but it didn’t help much.  This year I spray painted my bottles with a matte white paint and it has worked out wonderfully.  A white fabric covering would probably also work, but be more time consuming.  The key is to have something that reflects the sunlight.

I also learned that starting a plant from seed inside the bottle only confuses the plant.  I put small pickling cucumber seeds in a couple bottle and the leaves grew up into the soil!  So use a small starter plant, even a little more mature plant works.  We had a tray of 2 foot cherry tomato plants sitting around for weeks and since their stems were stronger it was much easier to push the plants through with little damage.  Of course it can be done at either stage. 
You can use any kind plant that has small fruits, like cherry tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, zucchini, peppers, small eggplants, etc.  I strongly recommend putting a companion herb on the top of your planter.  This will not only make your plant healthier, but also help keep the soil from getting scorched.  For the tomatoes I put basil on top and both plants are going wild.  I have dill on the cucumbers, horehound and basil on the peppers. 

 It’s just so cool to watch the plants grow from both directions.  I love watering them too (which you will have to do every day in the summer since the container is so small), you can just watch the water trickle down through the bottle.  You should try an upside down plant, they are great for saving space, you don’t have stake them and they grow in incredible directions.  I will post more about these once I my peppers and cucumbers really get going! (check it out here)
*UPDATE* Tuesday October 9th, 2012
After a summer full of upside down 2-liter experimentation, I’ve learned a lot and would like to update our overall experiences.  Herbs work great!  Cherry tomatoes do well for most of the summer, but eventually the roots fill the bottle.  Peppers did fine as well and they are still producing fruits, but we didn’t get nearly as many peppers in the bottles as in the ground.  Thai Hot Peppers did the best, because they are tiny and high producers; however I’d say the plants in the ground produced at least 5x as many peppers.  Same thing with a huckleberry bush we tried in one, it only produced a few berries.  The cucumbers started out great and then just died, but we harvested plenty of dill from the top of those bottles.
All the containers still have herbs in the top section, so now we are letting them go to seed and planting the perennials in the garden.  I think the upside down 2 liter is great for experimenting with.  And the tomatoes work out alright.  But the space is just too small for most plants to reach their potential.  I guess upside down buckets could be the answer.
Personally I may still use 2 liters for herbs next year, and hang them on our fence.  It’s still a good way to save space, and keep pests out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Super Mario Quilted Pillow Tutorial

This project was my first real experience with quilting.  I sew all kinds of things, but never actually devoted the time to making a quilt.  It’s funny the only quilt patterns that ever inspire me to try are video game themed, but I guess it just makes sense to quilt stuff that’s already pixilated!  And there are some cool ones out there! 

This pillow is far less time consuming that a quilt, and just as awesome! 

MATERIALS: 1 yard red fleece, ¼ yard black fleece, ¼ yard cream fleece, tiny scrap of fleece (for background block), 2 gold buttons, thread

STEP 1: First I made my Mario pattern (which also doubles as a Luigi pattern!).  I taped several pieces of paper together so I had a big square.  I drew a grid with 1 inch squares, 16 squares per side (probably shouldn’t have used black paper, but I have an abundance of it).

STEP 2: Using this image I drew the outline of Mario and cut it out.  I used this shape to cut out 2 pieces of red fabric adding an extra 5/8 inch border for the seam allowance.  This is the front and back of the pillow.

STEP 3: Then I outlined each block of color on the pattern and cut them out.  I labeled each piece as I cut, so I could easily identify the shape and orientation.  (I also added an inch square for the background color between Mario’s hat and nose, I made it blue, but any contrasting color will work)

STEP 4: I cut 1 piece of the corresponding fabric color for each pattern piece, then arranged and pinned them onto the front of the pillow according to the Mario pattern.  I sewed each piece in place, then added 2 gold buttons to Mario’s overalls. I pinned the front and back of the pillow with right sides together and sewed around the edge leaving a few inches.  I then turned the pillow right side out, stuffed it, and then stitched up the gap.

I’ve made this pillow for 2 different video game lovers and they both adored it!  I made a matching Luigi pillow the first time, and just like in the image above, both faced different directions.  So they looked awesome sitting together on a couch! (Wish I had taken a picture)

Friday, June 1, 2012

My Adventure in Auto Mechanics

Yesterday I did some serious do it yourself work!  I’m talking about auto repair, something I know nothing about.  I lifted my hood a couple days ago to discover that my radiator hose had a huge hole in it!  There was antifreeze everywhere, and my brain started racing… what went wrong? How much will this cost?  How much time am I going to have to waste taking my car in?  I hate mechanics, and I am tired of being ripped off.  So I did a little research online and discovered that all I really had to do was drain the antifreeze, unclamp the old hose, stick a new one on and tighten the clamps.  Seemed simple enough, and the hose is right on top so it’s easy to get to. 

In order to make my car drivable again I had to patch the hole with duct tape and put water in the radiator to replace the antifreeze I lost.  Thankfully my little brother gave me Super Mario duct tape for my birthday, but I hated having to waste it on my stupid car!  But it got me to work and AutoZone.

Unfortunately there was only one AutoZone in the city with the hose I needed, and they gave me the wrong one on my first visit.  But once I had the right equipment it took about 10 minutes!  It’s an amazing feeling to work outside your comfort zone and do something you didn’t think you could.  It’s also pretty amazing what you learn from watching you tube videos!  That is also where I learned to change a tire a couple years ago (And trust me I’ve had plenty of practice since then!).  So I encourage you to at least research your car problems before taking them in.  Usually we probably will need experts, but some problems may be simpler than you think and at least you can get an idea of how much you should be charged for something.  Changing my upper radiator hose cost $30 for a new hose and a bottle of antifreeze, who knows what a mechanic would charge?!