Madagascar Vanilla Made with Vodka–A Special Homemade Holiday Gift

A couple of years ago, I won a bottle of homemade Madagascar Vanilla in a giveaway hosted by another blogger.  I have to tell you, I squeaked every last drop of vanilla out of that bottle.  For baking, there is nothing as good as pure vanilla extract; nothing…

Making homemade vanilla is a simple DIY project.  And if you get started right now, you’ll have a great holiday gift to give those bakers on your list.  And did I mention how delicious homemade vanilla extract tastes in French toast?

What you will need:

(8) 6 oz. Bottles & Corks, or Caps

(1) bottle 1.75 Liter of Vodka  (I used Barton’s Vodka)

(12) Madagascar Vanilla Beans

Sharp Pairing Knife

Cutting Board

Funnel

Wash all bottles with hot soapy water and let air dry.  Slice vanilla beans in half lengthwise; then cut in half.  Place 1 1/2 beans in each bottle.  Fill each bottle with vodka.  Wipe edge of bottles with warm clean cloth and place a cork in each one.   Store in dark place; uncork in 3 months.

This picture above was taken right after making the extract.

Once you make the extract you will need to decide how you want to label it.  I opted to keep it simple, and made my tags out of cardstock.  I used my Cricut cutter to make my tags, and then I stamped the word Vanilla on each tag using my alphabet stamps and maroon ink.  On the back, I printed the date that the vanilla may be opened.  To finish them off, I punched a star hole in the top of each tag so it could accommodate a ribbon.

Tell me, what baker wouldn’t want a bottle of this in their stocking?

My vanilla now 10 days old.  It will get darker and stronger as time passes.  I can’t wait to pop the cork and use this in a batch of my favorite sugar cookies.

What kind of treat would you make using homemade vanilla extract?

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Treat Your Ghouls with Easy to Make Halloween Goody Bags

This weekend I made some trick or treat goody bags that I’m going to surprise some little ghouls that I know with.

I used my Cricut to cut out the gift tags, and I used my Halloween stamps to decorate both the bags and the tags.  I added a little orange ribbon as a finishing touch.

Once the bags were decorated, I filled them with Spooky Eyes Wrapped Gumballs and Sixlets from SweetWorks Candy

It was a little hard slipping the candy past this guy, but I managed, and it was well worth the risk!  

What kind of candy are you passing out this year for Halloween?

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DIY Country Décor For the 4th of July

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It’s hard for me to believe that the 4th of July is nearly here.  I’m hoping for a warm and sunny day with lot’s of good food and drink, along with a clear and starry night complete with fireworks and a roaring campfire to finish it off. 

To help make this Independence Day more festive I made this simple garland.  This decoration can be custom made to fit around any votive holder. 

If you’d like the instructions on how to make this decoration then click here.   I made a similar version (minus the buttons) for Valentine’s Day.  The only difference between the two is that the 4th of July garland has color coordinated buttons between every piece of material and the Valentine’s Day garland does not.

How do you want to celebrate your 4th this year?  Remember, if you aren’t hosting this years 4th celebration this would make a great hostess gift!

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Join Me in My Write a Letter Campaign

What is it that you find in your mailbox these days?  Junk mail?  Bills? Local advertising publications? And more junk mail? 

When is the last time you actually received an honest to goodness letter from a close friend or relative? 

It’s sad to say, but letter writing is nearly extinct these days.  I suppose it’s understandable with text messages, instant messaging, and email at nearly everyone’s fingertips. 

The reason that we  resort to our tablets, computers, and phones to communicate?  Time and convenience.

But honestly, I miss getting notes or letters in the mail (the old-fashioned way).  I miss the personal touch a handwritten letter conveys, and  I miss buying pretty stationery and notecards to  send my letters and notes on.

Can you think of someone you’ve lost touch with, or someone that you know would really appreciate a heartfelt note or letter from you?  If so, consider this post an opportunity to get in on my write a letter campaign.  It doesn’t have to be complicated or  time consuming;  just a quick note on a pretty notecard will suffice.

I happened to have these plain cards and pretty little paper flower kits (that I bought on clearance at  Michaels last fall) sitting around my craft room.  I wasn’t sure what I would do with them until I decided that I was going to write my favorite aunt a letter.  I want my letter to be as pretty as it will be personal.

Do you still write letters and notes and send them by mail?  If you decide to join my write a letter campaign, who will you send yours to?

I’m sharing this post with BeBetsy.com –  one of my favorite websites.  To help promote my letter writing campaign please share this post on your favorite social media sites!

2012 Holiday Gift Ideas

I  like to believe that nearly everyone has the capacity to give meaningful gifts that won’t break their banks.  Today, I’m going to make a few suggestions to get you thinking outside of the box this holiday season.  The good news; there is still plenty of time to brainstorm and come up with your own great and doable gift giving ideas.

1.)  The gift of time.  Pick something that you’re good at, or comfortable doing. and give the gift of time; organizing, snow shoveling, babysitting, pet walking, car washing, photography, handyman work, etc., and   make a gift certificate for the gift recipient.  To avoid confusion, make sure the certificate is job and time specific.  It’s also a good idea to write your phone number on the certificate with the message; call and let’s set a date!

2.)  Cook.  For years, I have made it a habit to make homemade meals to give.  They are always a huge hit.  I like to prepare foods that can be frozen and reheated later.  Trust me when I say that recipients of these gifts will gladly make room in their freezers for a batch of  your homemade meatballs, lasagna, mac & cheese, meatloaf, quiche, or homemade soup. 

3.)  Bake.  While cookies are one of the most popular treats to give during the holidays, try zeroing in on Christmas morning.  I don’t know many people that would be disappointed with a big pan of homemade cinnamon rolls, a delicious breakfast casserole, or even a tasty breakfast pizza that they can enjoy while opening presents.  Make sure your recipient knows in advance that you will be delivering a special treat.

4.)  Craft or Create.  I don’t know about you, but I love receiving handcrafted gifts.  My mother in-law is a wonderful quilter.  She produces some of the most beautiful quilted projects I’ve ever seen.  I love receiving something she makes for a couple reasons.  One, I’m a horribly impatient person when it comes to sewing and  I know my limitations.   And two, her work is so beautiful that if I wanted to purchase something similar, it would cost me a fortune.  These quilts are now treasured heirlooms – just like the ones my mother made and I now cherish.

And while I’m not quite as creative as my mother was, or mother in-law is, I can come up with a few inexpensive gifts to make all on my own.

Sometimes a batch of homemade hot cocoa, a pretty little cup to serve it in,  peppermint sticks to dip in the cocoa, and a handmade card make the perfect gift. 

 

What are you asking for this holiday season?  World peace, good health and prosperity, a spa day,   gift cards, help around the house, clothes,  a new car, or something else? 

Easy To Make Party Favors

If you’ve got the time, making your own party favors is the perfect way to deliver a bit of uniqueness at any party you are hosting.

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When I needed to come up with a party favor idea for an 80th birthday party for my mother in-law, I searched the internet for ideas but nothing really stood out at me.  I ended up digging out my faithful Cricut and some card stock paper which saved the day. 

A favor shouldn’t just be pretty in my opinion, it should include a tasty treat as well.  So for this, I opened boxes of  delicious, 100% natural, Ovation chocolate covered candy sticks courtesy  of Sweet Works Candy

I covered each candy stick in a pretty green wrapping paper and used them for the stem of each flower I created.

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Now, everyone will find a surprise in their favor.  The flavors of the Ovation candies that guests will get to sample include; Irish Cream, Orange, Cappuccino, Mint, and Dulce de Leche.

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Do you like being creative and making your own party favors, or do you let someone else do the work for you?

We’ve Finally Made Friends

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My sewing machine and I have never been very good friends.  Let’s just say I have never had the patience to be around her very long.  It’s really not her fault either – it’s mine.  Like I said, lack of patience.

I have had numerous problems with her; from threading the bobbin, getting the correct stitch length, and on occasion, sewing a straight line. 

How did I mend the fences so I could make curtains for the Pink Paradise?  I dusted her off  and whispered sweet nothings to her – that’s how.

She was a little hesitant about our renewed friendship because she spit her bobbin out at me a few times, ate my material a couple of times, and  ran me off course a time or two.  Eventually, persistence paid off and we got re-acquainted.  With a little work (okay, more than a little) I managed to make the curtains I needed for the camper – 10 panels in all.

Call it a miracle because it truly is; we are friends again!

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A Joy of Caking DIY Project –Happy Hour Coasters

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I decided to make some trendy coasters for  gatherings where cocktails just might be served.  Once I made these coasters I decided this would be a great DIY project to share with all of you.  As most of TJOC DIY projects are; this project is fun, inexpensive and simple to make.  You will need to break out your Mod Podge though! 

Fun fact; I just found out that Mod Podge  was created in 1967.  That makes it a couple years younger than I am.   Jeez, I really hate to admit that…  I guess that’s why I feel like Mod Podge is a retro kinda thing.

I found my inspiration to make these coasters from two crafty bloggers,  Sarah at DIY or Don’t and Sandra at The White Library.  Sarah opted to use decorative craft paper to make her coasters, while Sandra opted to use a stamp.   I love both techniques but I decided to use paper for my first project since the tiles I had on hand were glossy and would have made stamping impossible.

For this project you will need:

4”x4” ceramic tiles (I used white and off-white tiles.)

Mod Podge

Foam brush

Hot glue gun

Scissors/Xacto knife

Decorative craft paper of your choice (Also can use photo’s wrapping paper, etc.)

Foam, cork, or felt

Clear lacquer spray

The 4’’x4” tiles,  lacquer spray, and foam brush can all be found at your local Home Depot or Lowes.

As far as the other supplies go, you will  need to visit  your local craft store.

Steps to make these coasters:

1.)  Cut out decorative craft paper, pictures, or images that you wish to use on the face of your tiles.  (I cut each drink glass out individually.)

2.)  Working with one tile at a time, use your foam brush and lightly coat the top of the tile with Mod Podge. 

3).  Place the image or piece of paper you selected on the tile that has been coated with Mod Podge.  *Keep in mind that once the paper is applied to the coated tile it cannot be moved.   Carefully smooth out any air bubbles under the paper.

4.)   Allow 1st coat of Mod Podge to dry completely before applying 2nd and 3rd  coats.  *Always allow full drying between coats.

5.)   Cut out foam, cork, or felt; set aside

6.)   Spray each tile with the 1st coat of lacquer spray; allow to dry completely.

7.)   Apply 2 more coats of lacquer.  *Always allow full drying between coats.

8.)   Glue your choice of foam, cork, or felt to the bottom of each tile.

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With  coasters like these there is no need to worry the your good furniture getting ruined from wet glasses.  Goodbye water rings!

I imagine you could go crazy with Mod Podge and tiles if you wanted to.  I can envision coasters being made for the holidays, family reunions with old photo’s, party or wedding favors, and the list goes on and on.

Go ahead and let some of that creativity you’ve been bottling up out!

Can’t get enough DIY projects?  Head over to Mike and Molly’s House for this week’s Show & Tell! 

A Joy of Caking DIY Project –Make Your Own Earrings

I love baking, writing about food, and photographing food. I also love sharing  DIY projects to show you how simple and inexpensive they are to make.  Seriously, if I can make them, you can too! 

Sometimes it’s good to get away from the kitchen and exercise creativity elsewhere.  Besides, earrings have zero calories.  You can’t say that about a homemade Red Raspberry Custard Pie with Vanilla Crumb Crust, Chocolate Covered Caramel Cheesecake Bars, or Chocolate Kahlua Cake Pops – can you?

Have you priced earring as your local craft fair, or even your local department store lately? They’re not cheap.  But that doesn’t mean you can’t make them yourself and save bundles.

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Supplies needed:

One pair of needle nose pliers, pierced earring hooks, and charm sets (with an enclosed circle at the top – as pictured above.)

I bought my supplies for these earrings at our local craft store for less than $5.00 – excluding the pliers that I  already had on hand. 

To make these style earrings:

Start at the base of the pierced earring (where the ring is.) Slide the small coil up slightly.  Using the pliers, pry open the small ring.  Slide the charm onto the opened ring and then close it  with your pliers.  

That’s it!  Simple and inexpensive.  Go ahead, fill your  jewelry box, give them as gifts, or sell them at your local craft fair. 

In case you missed the first TJOC DIY Project – Make your own soap, here it is.

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The .33 Cents Project

Have you ever had a greeting card, desk calendar, or a piece of wrapping paper that seemed to pretty to throw away? I usually hold onto things like this for a little while and eventually end up tossing them out when I get into one of my serious cleaning and hoeing out moods.

One thing I’ve been unable to toss is a partially unused desk calendar with beautiful Americana art images created by Linda Nelson Stocks (who has passed on). 

I recently decided to re-purpose some of these beautiful images. 

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For this project you will need:

2”x2” clear plastic magnet picture frames – I bought mine at the Christmas Tree Shops – 3 for $1.00.  You can pick them up at any craft store.  *If you need a bigger frame they are also available in multiple sizes.

1 piece of card stock paper (if the paper your image is on is not heavy weight)

Glue

Scissors

Instructions:

Each frame comes with a 2”x2” piece of paper in them. Remove it from the frame and use it  as your template.  Cut a 2”x2” piece of the card stock and a 2”x2” image, or piece of decorative paper you intend to use in your project.

Glue your decorative image or paper to the card stock.  Smooth out any air bubbles that may appear and let the glue dry.  Once the glue has dried, slide the image into the frame.  That’s it!

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Now, do you see why I couldn’t part with these?  These little magnets would make cute get well, just because, or birthday gifts.  The best part, they are so inexpensive to make. The frames are also reusable.  If you get tired of one image you can remove it and replace it with a new one. 

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What are you most inclined to do with pretty things like these sheets from the desk calendar that are no longer useful?  Keep them, or throw them out?