Tag Archives: easy

Blueberries All Around | DIY Syrup, Compote & Dad’s Day Memories

17 Jun

I have always loved blueberries & my most delicious memories from childhood (and beyond!) are my dad’s amazing baked goods. We’d wake up on the weekends to freshly baked blueberry muffins (one of his specialties!) or celebrate the 4th of July with blueberry & rhubarb pies. The list of yummy baked confections goes on & on — keep an eye out for future posts featuring some of his secret recipes!

While there aren’t any baked goods featured in this post, this one goes out to my dad: carpenter by trade, baker self-made — & an all around amazing guy. I couldn’t be luckier (or more inspired)!

Inspiration can come from anywhere — a memory, a sale, a recipe, a special birthday, etc. So when ridiculous quantities of blueberries were on sale at a local specialty market & a friend’s birthday (whose SodaStream dreams were about to come true) was right around the corner, I dug out one of my favorite making books, can it, bottle it, smoke it by Karen Solomon, & got inspired!

Blueberry Lemon Syrup (from book referenced above)

Ingredients

4 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (the BEST/freshest available)
2 cups sugar (I used organic can sugar & a about a 1/4 cup less than this)
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons)
pinch of kosher salt

Directions

1. Combine the berries, sugar & water in a large saucepan over medium heat & bring to a gentle boil (be careful not to let it boil over).
2. Reduce heat & simmer, covered, for 3 minutes — just enough time to let the berries release their juice.
3. Take the pan off the heat & stir to cool slightly then pour the contents of the pan through a fine-mesh sieve set over a large bowl, stirring but not pressing the berries to harvest as much syrup as possible.
4. Reserve the berries for another use (more on that later). The recipe suggests pureeing them in a blender to make a great jam or using them as an ice cream topping, pie filling or compote.
5. Stir the lemon juice & the salt into the syrup.

Storage 

Using a funnel, pour the syrup into a glass bottle for storing in the refrigerator, where it will keep for up to 6 weeks. (I just used a batter bowl with a little dip in the side & that worked just fine — no need for the funnel or extraneous kitchen equipment.)

Making soda

Stir 1 part syrup into 2 parts sparkling water. Add ice cubes & enjoy. (Shot of vodka optional.) It’s very pretty looking & a yummy summer beverage!

Using the blueberry leftovers

I put the leftover blueberries from the syrup making process into a mason jar & tossed it in the refrigerator. I used the compote as a topping for a week’s worth of DIY yogurt parfait breakfasts using a couple of tablespoons of compote, 0% Chobani plain yogurt & Trader Joe’s blueberry muesli. We also mixed some of the compote with fresh berries & used it as a topping for angel food cake. YUM!
 

Easy Peasy! | Stencil project

9 May

I’m sharing a quick & easy mid-week project because it’s perfect for a last minute Mother’s Day treat (who doesn’t keep some sort of project, to do, grocery, or inspiration list?!). My dad used to keep folded pieces of lined paper in his shirt pocket for on-the-job lists & notes but we’ve recently gotten him jazzed about these little gems (how cool that you can customize them, too?).

So…I wanted to make him my own version to put in his Easter basket. While I couldn’t find a notebook in the exact same size, Moleskine’s Cahier size notebook is close enough (and who doesn’t love Moleskine?!). I prefer the kraft brown but a word of caution: it can be a little tricky to stencil on if you’re using a sticky stencil because you might peel some of the kraft paper up when you lift the stencil. It’s possible, just be careful.

Supplies

Stencil (steps for making your own included below)

  • Pen or extra fine point permanent marker
  • Frisket (wide masking tape or contact paper, etc. – I used transfer paper commonly used with adhesive vinyl because it comes in a large roll & has a printed grid pattern that makes it easy to align)
  • Craft knife or tiny scissors

Sponge or piece of foam (I used a shoe shine sponge – hotel freebie!!!!)
Paint (I used liquid acrylic but regular acrylic or screen printing ink would be fine, too)
Notebook (or any object you’d like to stencil)

 Making the stencil

  1. If you don’t have anything sticky to use for your stencil, you could use a piece of heavy paper, freezer paper or card stock & just tape it down. I like using something sticky because I like knowing my edges are sealed, just in case.
  2. Draw the image of your stencil on the frisket (or whatever you’re using). The negative space will be what gets painted so keep that in mind as you create. Start with something simple.
  3. Using your craft knife cut out the parts of the image that you want to appear in paint.

Stencil time!

  1. Position & stick your stencil on the notebook – lightly but enough so the edges of the stencil stay in place. If you created a stencil you need to tape down, use a couple small pieces of masking tape or painters tape to anchor it down. I left one of the bottom corners lifted up a little in the photo below to show you just how lightly I stuck my stencil down.
  2. Squirt/dab a little bit of paint on a scrap piece of paper. Dab the sponge in it and then tap it lightly a few times on the scrap paper to remove any globby bits.  Then dab your stencil with it (you want to lightly tap, overlapping each time, vs. rubbing). If you need to use a little bit more paint, go for it. It’s best to start light & add a little more (so the paint doesn’t bleed under your stencil).
  3. Remove your stencil & let the paint dry. Lifting the stencil is my favorite part!

I know I made these instructions a bit thorough! But don’t worry, this project honestly only took me less than 10 minutes to complete.

It’s a simple project for any maker level.

Happy making!

Recycle…Repurpose…Repeat | Yoga Mat Revival

19 Apr

Earth Day is this weekend so recycling, etc. has really been on my mind recently. And if you haven’t figured it out already, Jess & I are also thrifty/resourceful by nature.

We got a new little rug for in front of the kitchen sink and I was sick of it slipping on the tile floor. I’ve bought non-slip-under-the-rug things from bargain stores but they don’t work that well so I’ve decided to stop wasting money on them — it all adds up! I’m too thrifty to invest in a more expensive option until we have our own house. I figured there had to be an alternative that would work well & possibly offer a little more cushion…then…bing! Idea! Light bulb above head & everything. I remembered seeing my old yoga mat tucked away in the corner of our closet when I was hunting for  my Spring/Summer clothes.

I laid the yoga mat out on the floor; measured a length & width about 1/4″-1/2″ smaller than the rug I wanted to put it under; marked it with a Sharpie marker & then cut it with sharp scissors. It’s been working perfectly & it adds a nice bit of cushion, too (which is great since we’re at the sink every night washing dishes…I can’t wait until we own a home…with a dishwasher!).

I put the remaining piece of yoga mat under a throw that’s on top of a trunk at the base of our bed (the dogs & cat like to use it as a step up to the bed & it’s an antique). It’s holding the throw in place nicely & we no longer have to forever fuss with it to keep it in check. Besides, now the boys have a little bit more of a cushion for jumping, too.

I’m not the only one who has thought of reusing/recycling/repurposing old yoga mats. I found this great link while setting out to write this post. So many awesome ideas!

My favorites are 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 18, 26, 29, 31, 49.
#26 made me wonder if yoga mat would make a good baby changing mat? What about cutting a clean yoga mat down to a smaller size & tucking it your diaper bag? It’s so easy to wipe clean & would make changing away from home a little less stressful.

So…how do you plan to celebrate Earth Day? What things have you cleverly recycled or repurposed?

Decor DIY | The Easiest Roman Shades Ever!

15 Apr

I attempted to make roman shades from scratch once (key words = attempted, once). It was several years ago and I enlisted the help of my friend & fabric whisperer, Andrea. In the end the project FAILED (at no fault of Andrea’s), the mechanics were a total pain in the butt to figure out & I was left with a bag full of fabric, a ½ sewn, lined panel & roman shade guts (little plastic rings, dowels & several yards of nylon cord).

Recently, I found that bag while cleaning out my fabric stash and was reminded of how much I love the look of a roman shade. But they are $$$, hence the reason I wanted to make them in the first place.

Thanks to the interwebs, especially Pinterest, I found a much easier option. And…after finding the tutorial, I excitedly remembered:

  1. I had a few yards of fabric in a bright print leftover from wedding stuff (Jess wasn’t in love with it then for wedding crafts but was okay with it being in our office window)
  2. Our office/studio window had some icky mini blinds in it. They were left by the last tenant & we put up curtains over them & then quickly forgot about them. A note about this: I happen to know that our landlord didn’t supply the mini blinds so they were free game to use for this project. (Yay!)
So this project was essentially “free” to make. Well, truthfully, it was $5.49 because I had to buy fabric glue.

Supplies

Fabric (a mid-weight cotton worked for me but the other tutorials I’ve seen use burlap or heavier cotton canvas)

Mini blinds in a size to fit your window (use old ones & upcycle them or buy cheap ones at your nearest home supply store)

Fabric glue (I used “Liquid Stitch”)

Measuring tape

Heat N’ Bond iron-on hem tape

Fabric shears or super sharp scissors

Double sided craft tape

Iron

Optional supplies:
Pinking shears

Binder clips
Quilting ruler
Thread in a matching color (only if you plan to machine stitch your seams)
Hot glue gun (I didn’t use this but many of the tutorials did)

Instructions

I mostly used the instructions here  & referenced an older tutorial for steps I wasn’t sure about.

Here are a few notes/things I did differently:

:: Prepping the blinds: This was much easier than I thought. I can’t emphasize this next tip enough: BE CAREFUL NOT TO CUT THE LIFT CORD. You think it’s super obvious BUT it’s very easy to get into measuring & cutting & gluing & before you know it, you’re wondering why your scissors are having such a hard time cutting the fabric…& then you realize the lift cord was hiding under the fabric & you almost cut it & ruined the whole project. GAH! So….BE CAREFUL NOT TO CUT THE LIFT CORD.

:: Glue: I had all of the supplies required with the exception of the fabric glue. I bought it at a local sewing store & the brand I used was called “Liquid Stitch”. I used it to adhere the fabric to everything – the mini blind slats, the thicker mechanical bar at the top and the thick bottom slat. So far, it’s holding up just fine. I didn’t use hot glue at all.

:: Fabric: I used a medium weight cotton print. It’s the main reason I didn’t use hot glue – because I feel like it would be less forgiving than a heavy weight canvas or burlap & I didn’t want to see lumps & bumps on the finished shade.

:: Seams & “pattern”:

  • I left a 2.5” border around all of the edges.  Meaning, I measured & cut my piece of fabric 2.5″ bigger, on all sides, than what I wanted my finished shade to be. For the left and right sides, I folded the fabric in 2.5 ” & pressed it with an iron. I folded the flap of fabric under itself, sandwiched the Heat N’ Bond between the layers of fabric & pressed it, leaving me with a double thick seam that measured 1.25″. I did this to give a little more stability to the shade on the sides.
  • I left the top & bottom edges raw so I could play around/easily cut off any excess fabric
  • My pleats (where I glued the slats) are spaced 7.5” apart because that seemed to work the best with the length of my window
  • I used the recommended Heat N’ Bond (no sewing necessary!) for the hem but also used a sewing machine to reinforce the hem on each side to give it nice finished & clean look

:: Finishing:

  • I used binder clips (yes, your standard office supply binder clips) to temporarily hold the fabric in place as the glue was drying on the top mechanical bar & the thick bottom slat. This was a really helpful step.
  • Once the glue on the top mechanical bar & bottom slat was dry, I used pinking shears to trim the excess fabric (to keep the raw edge of the fabric from fraying). As you are doing this, BE CAREFUL NOT TO CUT THE LIFT CORD!!!  I was extra careful not to cut or glue the lift cord in all of the earlier steps & then nearly cut one of them during this last finishing step. OMG! Crisis averted though…phew!
  • Once the finished shade was in place, I put a little piece of strong double-sided craft tape on both sliding pieces of the bracket that holds the top of the shade in place & pressed the top corners of the fabric down (as the instructions in the tutorials state, you have to keep the corners unglued in order to be able to install the shade).

And….voila!…a sexy looking roman shade for less!

So sexy in fact, we thought the trim & windowsill looked too drab after taking down the original curtains. So…I lightly sanded away any ickies, taped it off with painter’s tape & painted it a nice bright white. Even after painting, this project still took just 2 evenings to complete.

Have you ever had a project unknowingly turn into more projects? Let us know how things turned out.

Happy making!

Decor DIY | Frame it!

9 Apr

We have a small collection of screen printed posters created by local artist friends. They are unusual sizes & at first, the task of framing them seemed impossible or very expensive. While I’ve seen thrifty/creative ways to hang posters/prints like here & here, they don’t actually protect the art & we not only wanted to display them, but keep them protected, too.

DIY framing kit to the rescue! We use the standard black metal ones for a cohesive look but they are available in a small variety of finishes.

Supplies

Artwork

Archival mat board cut to the size of your artwork (or chipboard, foam core, or even corrugated cardboard will do — but keep in mind if you use these, it won’t be archival)

Glass or plexiglass cut to the size of your artwork

Flat head screwdriver

2 framing kits (in the width & height of your artwork) such as these 

Instructions

The instructions are part of the framing kit packaging & they are very easy to follow. The whole kit takes about 10 minutes total to assemble (including the time it takes to clean the glass/dust off the plexi!). Easy peasy!

Tips…

Glass &  plexiglass: While you might think that plexiglass would be cheaper, it’s often not the case, so investigate before you buy. There are two hardware stores near me & one sells & cuts plexiglass and the other sells & cuts glass. Call your local hardware store to see if they custom cut glass/plexi before you stop in. Be careful while handling either material — the edges can be deceivingly sharp!

Savings:

  • I’ve found the same brand framing kits in craft stores that publish “40%-50% off one item” coupons weekly. This can be a great way to save even more $ with this project.
  • Keep an eye out for coupons at your local hardware store. I saved $3 on a piece of glass with a coupon from the back of our grocery shopping receipt (thanks to Jess!).

Cutting mat board:

  • Many art supply stores have a “cut your own” large format heavy duty cutter that that they’ll let you use for free (like the Utrecht in Cambridge, MA). Typically, you need to purchase your mat board/illustration board first & then ask to use it.
  • Many art supply stores will often cut mat board for a small fee per cut.
  • You can also cut your own at home if you have a long straight edge (I like cork-backed metal rulers because they provide a strong clean edge and don’t slip) and a utility knife – you don’t need to worry about what the edges look like because they’ll be hidden by the frame — so smooth cuts aren’t necessary to fuss over.

Happy framing!

DIY Cheese | Homemade Ricotta

5 Apr


Recently, my friend, Emily, told me about Salvatore Bklyn. They make fresh artisanal ricotta cheese daily in Brooklyn, NY, using the finest whole milk sourced locally from upstate. After doing more research online, Kate & I fell in love with their story, product and website. Martha Stewart has proclaimed, “It’s my favorite ricotta in the whole world!”, and has featured them on her show. It made me want to attempt to try to make my own ricotta.

(Recipe courtesy of Betsy Devine Salvatore Bklyn)

Makes 4 cups

Ingredients

1 gallon whole milk (I used Shaw Farm milk from my hometown, Dracut, MA)
healthy pinch of salt
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Steps

1. Pour the milk into a large, nonreactive pot and season with salt (a healthy pinch). Cover the pot and place it over high heat. Heat the milk to 190 degrees (use a thermometer), stirring it every few minutes to keep it from scorching. Turn off the heat, remove from hot burner, and add the lemon juice. Stir slowly until you see curds beginning to form. (This should happen almost immediately; you’ve now created the curds and whey.) Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.

2. Line a colander with cheesecloth and place it over another bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least 1 hour, then discard the whey. Eat the cheese right away or transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to use.

The results were amazing. This ricotta is delicate and fluffy, best eaten with a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. yum.

Meals featuring this amazing ricotta:  

#1: Toasted baguette slathered with roasted garlic topped with oven roasted cherry tomatoes and a heaping of ricotta.
Sprinkle sea salt and cracked black pepper and add a drizzle of your favorite extra virgin olive oil. Tasty with a simple side salad of mixed greens dressed in olive oil and champagne vinegar.

#2: Toasted baguette rubbed with a fresh garlic clove and topped with 2 tsp of pasta sauce, ricotta and a sprinkle of sea salt, pepper & oregano. Drizzle with olive oil.

#3: Egg white omelette with ricotta, sea salt and cracked pepper. (Courtesy of our friend, Cobi!)

Weekday Breakfast Treat | Almond Butter Delight

28 Mar

A couple of years ago I was fortunate enough to spend a few days at Canyon Ranch on a work trip to Arizona.

The food was delicious and healthy. It was refreshing not to have to worry about scavenging protein for breakfast or deconstructing pre-made hotel sandwiches to create a healthier lunch option.

This recipe was one of my favorite things from the breakfast spread at Canyon Ranch. I like to put it on thin wheat crackers (like Ak Mak or Wasa Thin & Crispy Flatbread). Jess prefers to spread it on caramel rice cakes. It would also be yummy as a dip for fresh fruit.

My favorite thing about it (aside from it’s deliciousness) is that it’s really easy to whip up a batch for the week.

(Recipe from Canyon Ranch)

Makes 10 (2-TBS) servings

Ingredients

1 cup nonfat ricotta cheese 

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 ½ TBS honey

¼ cup almond butter (without added salt)

Steps

1. Combine all ingredients in a blender container & puree until smooth. (It might seem a little loose but it will firm up a bit after it’s been chilled in the refrigerator for a few hours.)

2. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use. Enjoy within one week.

Nutritional info: 65 calories, 4 grams fat, 5 grams protein, 5 grams carbohydrate, 2 milligrams cholesterol, 12 milligrams sodium, trace fiber 

 Notes: I buy the highest quality ricotta that I can find & swear it makes all of the difference in this recipe. My favorite is Calabro Fat Free Ricotta. It’s so good I eat it straight out of the container sprinkled with a little bit of salt & pepper. YUM!

 Tip for accurately measuring honey in recipes: Spray the measuring cup or measuring spoon with a little bit of non-stick cooking spray before measuring the honey. The honey will easily slide into the recipe – no sticky messes or sad dollops left behind on the measuring implement. 

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