Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jim Morrison Wall Art

It’s my amazing sister Holly’s birthday today!  I made her a huge Jim Morrison painting.  It turned out great; I really wanted to keep it for myself!  I think I will just have to do another one for us… maybe with Lux Interior instead?!  I basically just made a huge paper stencil and painting on canvas.


I made my own canvas with 24” and 32” stretcher bars and light tan canvas.  You could buy a pre-made canvas too, but it’s usually cheaper to make your own if it’s big painting. 


I took an image of Jim Morrison that was easy to recognize and decent quality so the basic details would show up in a stencil.  I used Gimp (a free, open source photo editor) to edit my picture.  I changed it to black and white then adjusted the levels, brightness and contrast of the photo until it was straight black and white.  Gimp also has a color option called Posterize (not sure what it’s called in Photoshop); where you can choose to only have 2 colors, black and white, in your image.  With these tools a stencil is easy.


Once I had my stencil I made the whole image the same size as my canvas and split it into 8.5” x 11” paper sized sections.  You will have to do some math for this part.  My image was going to need to be printed on 9 pieces of paper.  I made sure to overlap where I cut my image into sections, so that I could easily match the pieces up and wouldn’t miss any part of the image.


I printed each section out and then cut the border of the page off.  I assembled the image together and taped the paper with packaging tape on the front and back.  It may be helpful to print the whole image out on a separate piece of paper just so you have a model to look at.

(Also note that I printed my image in colors because I was out of black ink, but I will refer to the colored sections as black and the white as white to make it easier)


Now that you have your image, it’s time to make the stencil.  Cut the black spaces out with an X-Acto knife and scissors.  For any floating white spaces (as in not touching other white areas) you will need to keep a little “bridge” of black paper to keep it attached and make placement easy.  It may help to draw the “bridge” before cutting so you don’t make a mistake, as I have done many times with stencils!


Once all the black spaces are finally cut, pin the paper onto your canvas.  Take a permanent marker and outline around every line of the stencil. 


When you finish the overall outline you can go back through where you made the “bridges” and as you’re unpinning, draw in where the floating white pieces begin and end.  I drew a squiggly mark over those spots that would become black to make painting easier.


Now just color it in!  I used black silk screen ink with paint brushes, and then added a second coat of paint with a sponge for a smooth finish.  You could use acrylic paint too, but I wanted it to be flat and smooth like a giant silk screen.  I heat set the ink with an iron, although I’m not sure if it was necessary, but maybe it will help keep it from fading.


Such a large gift required a lot of wrapping paper, so I taped old phone book pages together and tucked the edges under the stretcher bars.  I even found her name in the listings and drew a heart around it as a gift tag.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Drying Peppers

This year I grew a bunch of peppers I’d never grown before.   I usually just make hot sauces or use fresh peppers in my cooking.  For hot sauces I will freeze peppers as they ripen until I have enough for a decent amount of sauce.  But to fully utilize my Alma Paprika and Joe’s Long Cayenne Peppers I needed to dry them.  I learned that not all peppers dry the same, so I used two different methods. 
I also dried some of my Thai Hot Peppers, because they are small and perfect for throwing into soups, pastas, curries, etc.  So for the Thai Hot and Joe’s Long Cayenne Peppers, I simply strung the peppers through their stems on cording.  I used sewing thread for the small peppers and yarn/hemp for the larger peppers.  You can tie a bead or large knot on the bottom of the string to keep the peppers from sliding off as they shrivel up.
I let the smaller peppers touch each other, but for the cayenne peppers I tied a knot every 3 inches or so after each stem to keep them dry and separated. 


Hang the strung peppers in a sunny window.  I just put a couple nails at the top of my window sill and hung the peppers from there.  You can hang them outside, but if it rains and the peppers get moist they will rot or mold.  At first I put the nails on the outside of the window sill, but I kept forgetting to bring the peppers in now that it’s finally raining again!
I had trouble with my paprika peppers; my first harvest rotted when I tried to hang them.   I’ve been dehydrating the rest in my oven.  I slice the peppers and spread them onto a baking sheet.
Then bake them on the lowest setting for several hours until all the moisture cooks out. 
I ground them up in a blender and made Paprika!  It smells and tastes amazing, I’m going to use it in a potato salad for this weekend.
I’m still waiting for the cayenne peppers to dry completely so I can grind them up too; I can’t wait because I love cayenne powder.  One of my favorites is to add it to Alfredo sauce for spicy Alfredo!  I throw a little cayenne in everything to add some spice!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rice + Water + Blender = Rice Milk!

I never realized how easy rice milk is!  We were buying a carton a week almost, but not anymore.   Brown rice works best since it has the most nutrients, but you can use any rice you like.
First cook a cup of rice.  Follow the directions on the bag, the brown rice I used took 2 ½ cups of water for 1 cup of uncooked rice. 

Once your rice is cooked and cooled slightly, blend it with enough water to get the blender moving freely (I usually use an equal ratio of water to rice).  You want to chop up the rice as fine as possible, so add as much water as is necessary.
When your rice mixture is a nice smooth consistency strain it into a clean bowl.  You may have to stir the little rice chunks around so the whole mixture can pass through the strainer.  Continue to strain the mixture 3 or 4 more times, cleaning your strainer and bowls in between.  (I haven’t figured out anything useful to do with the waste rice other than giving it to the chickens or compost, but it seems like it could be a good hot cereal).
Put your milk in some kind of air tight container, like an old juice or soda bottle.  Gradually add more water until you get it the consistency you desire.  I like my rice milk pretty thin so I added about 3 more cups of water. 
You can also add flavoring to the milk; such as sweetener, maple syrup, vanilla, cocoa powder, fruit, etc.  The possibilities are endless, but trust me you will not be wasting money on rice milk ever again after trying this.  Just remember to shake the milk before pouring and you can always add more water if it starts to thicken.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Saving Tomato Seeds


Saving tomatoes seeds is easy.  In the past I have just scooped out seed and let them dry and had no major problems.  However the seeds stick together and can easily mold.  So this method below involves fermenting and guarantees that your seeds will be clean and disease free.


I like to start saving seeds right after I pick the tomatoes and I’m about to cook with them.  Cut the tomato in half and simply scoop out the seeds into a cup labeled with the tomato variety. 


Fill the seed cup half way full of water and wrap plastic over the top. I reused a plastic bag from plastic plates or cups. Poke holes in the plastic for air flow and sit the cup on a windowsill.
Stir the seeds a couple times over the next 3 days. You will see a layer of scum on top of the water and your seed will be on the bottom. Scrape the scum off and strain your seeds out. I used my plastic wrap to strain the seeds then let them air dry on top.

Once they are completely dried put them in a paper packet and don’t forget to label with the tomato variety and date (we’ve made a few mistakes not labeling correctly!).