green gifts

This spring I have been a little in denial. I know the time is coming soon when I have to decide if I’m going to start a garden. But I just don’t know if I’m ready to commit! I dropped by a farmer’s market yesterday and was told, here in Cali, I have two weeks left to decide. I’ve been totally inspired by this hydroponic herb garden, and this DIY green house trick, but I just need something to push me over the edge, or pull me back.

(btw, if you’re thinking of starting an herb garden, don’t miss my 13 tips for starting an herb garden I picked up last year)

While I’m putting off the garden commitment, we did manage to pick out a few strands of seeds to plant a small caterpillar and butterfly garden. We stopped by our nursery and asked what plants might be good to attract local critters. We decided to make seed tape (see my seed tape tutorial here), because it is my kids’ favorite.
Seed tape is great for my kids, they love putting globs of paste on the strips of newspaper. And seed tape is also a great way to store seeds so they’re ready to plant in seconds.

Of course we had to make an extra to give away and add a few embellishments. Butterfly garden seeds on top, caterpillar seeds on bottom. All that’s left to do is lay the strips on soil, sprinkle with a little extra soil, water, and watch!

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I spent yesterday gathering advice for planting my expanded herb garden. I’ve resolved never to have homemade pizza again without fresh basil sprinkled on top! Yesterday I spoke with two amazing women, a friend who runs her own nursery here and my amazing Idaho S-I-L. (The one who taught me to make this salsa.) I thought you might like to hear their thoughts. But first, you have to see what my S-I-L gave me last year:

Seriously the best birthday gift ever. This is an herb garden she started from seeds for me. I almost cried I was so happy. I have managed to keep much of it alive since, so I feel ready to expand. So here, from Laura (my local California girl) and Cherie (my Idaho girl) are a few tips for growing your own herb garden.

1. Do it. It is so much cheaper than fresh herbs from the grocery store, and you will have basil for your pasta and Tai food, mint for your lemon aid, rosemary for your potatoes, thyme for your chicken dinner, and you will generally be a happier and better fed person.
2. Don’t start with cilantro
. It’s trickier than other herbs and may get you frustrated if you’re not a diligent grower and harvester. (UPDATE: though I just got a comment from Sherry who makes it sound easy. Thoughts, anyone?)
3. Pick a sunny spot with good drainage
. Most basic herbs love the sun and don’t want to be too wet. Just a few like partial shade, like cilantro (which we’ve already decided is high maintenance), lemon balm, and mint. If you want to plant in a container, you can plant each herb separately or put them all together in one big bowl. Or plant them in pots according to the recipes you like to use them for, a Tai pot, an Italian pot, a chicken dinner pot. Use a soilless potting mix that will drain well.
4. Speaking of mint, plant it alone
, in its own pot. It will take over all the other herbs and take over your whole yard if you let it.
5. Pick a spot near the kitchen if possible, so you can step right outside and snip off a sprig without having to hike across the yard.
6. You can start from seeds, but start with at least a few from plants for instant gratification. Big woody plants especially are good to just buy as plants (rosemary, thyme, marjoram, oregano). Be sure to water them before you transplant. Grassy herbs grow quickly from seeds (chives, parsley) and my S-I-L recommends starting these and other seedlings right in the pot or the outside spot where they’ll be living permanently, if weather allows.  The grassy herbs especially are delicate and don’t like being transplanted. UPDATE: The most helpful article I found for planting from seeds was this one.
7. Plant some perennials. I’d never realized how many herbs will come back year after year. Try sage, thyme, lemon thyme, chives, oregano, fennel, marjoram and mint. A few of these will get too mature and woody after a couple years. Sage and thyme especially you may want to replant every few years.
8. Try a few annuals.
You have to go with basil for sure. Big-leafed sweet basil or genovese basil are good all-purpose basils. Plant them when it’s hot outside, when you plant your tomatoes. My S-I-L also likes lemon balm and dill.
9. Don’t over water. Water every few days when the top few centimeters of soil is dry. Don’t over fertilize. Once a month should be enough. If the soil is too fertile, the plants will produce too much foliage and won’t have the intense flavor that a good herb should have.
10. Once the plants are taller and established, throw some mulch down over the soil. It will keep weeds from growing and keep the soil moist. Leave a bare spot of soil right around the stem to avoid a slug problem.
11. Harvest often. Harvesting promotes growth. It keeps plants in their growing cycle instead of letting them mature and finish their life. So stop by your garden before dinner each night and snip away. (Never tear.) You can harvest up to a third of the foliage. And if you see a flower, clip or pinch it off. Once an herb flowers it’s trying to finish its life cycle.
12. If you want to try to keep your plants through the winter, you have some options. Rosemary can thrive by a sunny window. You will lose basil, thyme, and sage after a frost, but you can also try variegated basil, which doesn’t flower like other basils so it can be brought in during the winter near a sunny window and last for months.
13. Eat it! In order to use fresh herbs instead of dried, double or triple the amount called for because fresh herbs aren’t’ as concentrated. Try to add them near the end of the recipe. If you harvest herbs and can’t use them right away, chop them up, put them in ice cube trays, cover them with a little boiling water and freeze them to use in soups once the weather turns cold.

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The Salad Kit

12.10.09

Love the idea of giving a salad kit to a neighbor or hostess, (suggested here via here) using this vinaigrette and these croutons or maybe a bag of walnuts or sundried tomatoes to make a yummy salad. But how to decide on salad servers? That would be the trick.

Seth Andersson,
Jamie Oliver
,
DCI
, or
French Bull
?

salad servers forks tongs

(pretty salad picture from here found via here)

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Have you seen Chica and Joe’s blog? It’s a fun place to visit for craft and recipe ideas (like the candy corn bags featured here). Last week these lovely ladies stopped by and mentioned they are looking for coworker gifts in the $10-$15 range. Chica and Joe, this next set of posts are for you!

We’ll start with food gifts. Because, I think a love of food is something I share with Chica and Joe.

best homemade food christmas gifts coworkers

Isn’t the picture of Gingerbread biscotti tempting? Be sure to stop by Annie’s eats, the master baker and photographer behind the shot.

Gingerbread biscotti, yumm
A jar of hot fudge, ready to warm and pour
The latest Zagat
Cookies that look like your coworkers
Awesome peanut butter in flavors you never imagined but know you’ll love
Homemade lemon curd (via here, be sure to check out Stephmodo for loads of other killer recipe ideas)
Homemade pesto
The what’s for lunch spinner, maybe with a gift card to a nice little deli
Anarchy in a jar via this awesome list (if you live in Brooklyn they will peddle it over to your door)
Something yummy from Kohler, like the cherry almond bar

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homemade egg noodles recipe 2 shapes

Isn’t it nice to get a little coddled when you’re sick? I’m sure there was some point in my adult life, though I can’t pinpoint it, when I learned the harsh truth that grown ups get much less coddled at these times. The kids still need feeding, the bills still need paying, the laundry still builds, the dishes still get dirty. Cruel world.

This week my husband had a little cold. Tuesday he spent the full day working from his home office and then installing doors so Grandma and Grandpa could come this weekend. So we decided to make him this chicken noodle soup with homemade egg noodles, for the ultimate coddling effect.

homemade egg noodles recipe 5

Homemade egg noodles take a little work. But they’re so yummy, and I love the process of rolling and slicing and piling stacks of noodles. Plus the kids think they’re fun because they can cut out loving shapes to take care of whoever has the sniffles. You can cook the noodles fresh or dry them and they will keep indefinitely. So if you know someone who needs a pick-me-up but who is living far away, you can mail a batch with some soup mix. Instant love. The recipe and tips follow.

Homemade Egg Noodles
2 c. all-purpose flour, sifted
3 egg yolks
1 egg
2 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 c. water
  1. Put flower in a med. sized bowl and make a well in the center. Add the yolks, whole egg, and salt.
  2. Use your hands to thoroughly mix egg into flour (I’ve used my kitchenaid too, which works, but I feel so much more Little-House-on-the-Prairie using my hands).
  3. Add just enough water, 1 tablespoon at a time, to bring the dough together so it forms a ball. Mix well between each addition of water.
  4. Knead on a floured surface for about 8 minutes until smooth and elastic (again, I’ve used the dough hook on my kitchen aid, but this is some tough dough, so keep it slow).
  5. Cover and let rest 10 minutes.
  6. Divide into 4 equal parts. Roll dough one part at a time until it’s very thin. Thinner than you think (see tip below for easier rolling).
    UPDATE: See TY’s note in the comments, and the great tip to let the dough rest for two hours, then return to it to roll it again before cutting. I think this is a great technique.
  7. Cut dough crosswise into fettuccine-sized strips (see tip below).
  8. Add it to soup immediately or lay it on a cooling rack to dry. Store it in a bag or airtight container. Fresh noodles cook in about 8 minutes, dried noodles in about 12 minutes.

homemade egg noodles recipe dough
roll it thin
homemade egg noodles recipe 3

I can be an impatient woman, so I’ve come up with a couple tricks to make dough rolling go faster. When I begin to roll out the dough, I alternately roll and stretch the dough. Stretch carefully to avoid making holes. Once the dough is pretty thin, I wipe an extra layer of flower over it and roll it up very loosely, into a roll that’s 3 or 4 inches wide. I use my rolling pin to roll over the length of the dough like that a few times. Then I unroll the dough to see how it’s looking. (And according to TY’s grandmother, letting it rest for a couple hours, then rolling again will also help, see the comments of this post.)
homemade egg noodles recipe 4
Once I’m satisfied that it’s thin enough, I roll it up loosely again and use my kitchen shears to snip off a noodle at a time. Usually a little tossing will unroll the individual noodles, but sometimes I need to unroll them one at a time. Or give the kids a few cookie cutters and let them make some fun noodle-ie shapes.
homemade egg noodles recipe 1 shapes
what better way to send messages of love than with noodles in soup?

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If you’re new here, welcome. I’m AmberLee, and since writing this post, I’ve opened up a little chocolate shop. I’d love to have you stop by, don’t forget to send me a hot chocolate flavor suggestion. Or say hello on facebook. I’d like that too.

NOTE: If you blog this recipe, I’ll be thrilled and flattered. In fact, I kept this recipe as bare bones as possible in hopes you’d play with different flavors, molds, and sticks. If you do blog, would you link back to me here? (Like this and this kind review, thank you!) I will so appreciate it. Feel free to use a picture or two, but please don’t repost all the pictures and please don’t post the recipe without my written permission. It’s taken a few years of researching and practicing with chocolate (certainly not an unpleasant thing) and some days of a very messy kitchen (but a happy family) to provide you with this recipe and with good advice about chocolate.

Oh how I love when the weather turns cold enough for hot chocolate. Something about a good cup of hot chocolate makes the world feel like a gentler place.
gourmet hot chocolate on a stick gift
This idea is something I’ve been wanting to try for a couple winters now. Chocolate, and hot chocolate especially, have always been a big deal to me. I spent the first years of my life in my dad’s hometown of Merida, Venezuela—right up the hill from Lake Maracaibo, where some of the world’s most crazy amazing cacao is grown. Our family was made up of German and Austrian immigrants who were crazy about fine chocolate. So I always felt chocolate was in my blood. Finally, my parents and family landed in Idaho, which is where I discovered that a cup of hot chocolate was the difference between a bleak winter and a cozy one.



me in Venezuela, I’m the pudgy one in booties

Enough of my life story, and on to a recipe for real, amazing hot chocolate.

I’m glad I finally took the time to puzzle this through and do a little taste testing, because the recipe turned out to be so simple, and the results so delightful. Stir one of these sticks into a cup of steaming milk or cream and in two minutes  you will have transformed it into a cup of rich hot chocolate, the blessed stuff. I can’t help feel that the act of stirring adds to the experience, soothing you over while building up the anticipation for that first sip.
hot chocolate on a stick gift

First things first: what chocolate to buy (see a whole post dedicated to this here)
The trick to making the best hot chocolate on a stick is using good, serious chocolate that melts easily. A chocolate with a high percentage of cocoa butter will do that. More cocoa butter means quicker melting. A bag of every-day chocolate chips won’t melt as fast. In fact, chocolate chips are formulated not to melt as fast, so they hold shape in your yummy cookies. You can also find fake chocolate (like a bag of Wilton’s candy melts, aka summer coating), which uses vegetable fats instead of cocoa butter. It will melt well, but the resulting cup of hot chocolate won’t be transcendent. And we’re going for transcendent. The candy melts are great for coating the outside if you like, because they stay pretty and shiny even if you don’t melt them just right.

If you’re on a tight budget, try using a bag of real-chocolate wafers made for a chocolate fountain or for fondue. You can also go with a good baking chocolate bar (you’ll probably want one that is sweetened, not unsweetened). If you really want to make an incredible gift, invest in some good chocolate. You’ll have to sample to pick a favorite. For most chocolate, if you enjoy eating it, you will enjoy drinking it, though some chocolates definitely stand out as drinking chocolate (Scharffen Berger, great if you like a natural chocolate), and some seem to fall short (Lindt for me did this). Following are some good other brands to consider: Ghiradelli (great if you want a dutch processed, more cocoa-flavored chocolate), Barry Callebaut, Dagoba, Michel Cluizel, El Rey, Valrhona, Guittard, TCHO, and I’ve really been wanting to try Amano from Utah.

And if you want your chocolate to come out pretty, you’ll need to temper it. I’ve written my full tempering instructions here. But if you are new to chocolate and tempering scares you, just dip your creations in melted, chocolate-looking, summer coating.

chocolate wafers meltable

Word of warning: no water!
There is one thing you need to know before working with chocolate if you don’t already: never let water or alcohol touch it. Not a drop. You can be stirring a potful of smooth, decadent melted chocolate, then get one drop of water in it and the whole thing will get grainy and seize up. It’s a sad experience. (If this happens to you, use the chocolate for a recipe like brownies or ganache that uses chocolate and liquids).

So then, if you’re planning to introduce vanilla, use a vanilla bean or vanilla paste, not vanilla extract. If you want to add food coloring, use a gel or powdered form, not liquid.
chocolate homemade candy

Hot Chocolate on a Stick
Yield: 10 cubes of hot chocolate (ice-cube-tray size)
(use 1 oz. hot chocolate on a stick per every 1 cup milk or cream)

Equipment:
Ziplock bags or piping bags
A double boiler or pan with a glass bowl that can sit over the simmering water
Some kind of chocolate mold, ice trays work great
Stir sticks or a bag of wooden craft sticks like I used (like these, available at any craft store)

Ingredients:
8 oz. chocolate (see note above), bittersweet, semisweet, milk, and white chocolate all work
3 Tbsp cocoa, sifted (dutch processed cocoais more mellow, natural cocoais stronger, pick your favorite)
6-8 Tbsp confectioner’s sugar, sifted, depending on how much sweeter you’d like your hot chocolate
pinch of salt

Feel free to play with other fun ingredients to throw in, ground spices, crushed candy. Just remember, no water and no alcohol or your chocolate will sieze.

6 cups milk and 2 cups heavy cream if you plan to enjoy these right away

Method
(read a whole post about melting chocolate, including how to melt in the microwave, here)

  1. If your chocolate is in a block, chop it into even-sized meltable pieces. Simmer a couple inches of water in a pan, then turn down the heat so the water is below a simmer. I like to remove the pan from the heat, but if you keep it on, keep that water below a simmer. Place glass or stainless steel bowl over the top to make a double boiler. If the bowl touches the water it’s alright, as long as your water is mildly warm, not hot. Dump chocolate into the clean, dry bowl and stir as the chocolate melts. (If you are patient and let those chunks melt slowly, keeping them from getting over 90 degrees F or 88 degrees F for milk and white chocolate, the chocolate will stay “in temper” and will still be nice and pretty when it cools.)
  2. Once the chocolate is 2/3 melted, with just some pieces of the chocolate unmelted, remove the bowl from the pan, dry the bottom with a towel and continue stirring until chocolate is fully melted. This is just one more step to keep the chocolate from getting too hot.
  3. Add cocoa, sugar, and salt and continue to stir until combined. The chocolate will be thicker, as thick as frosting if you’ve put in all the sugar, but stir on. You can pop it back over your double boiler for a minute to make it a bit more liquid, or pop it back in the microwave for 5 or 10 seconds on half power. If the chocolate looks and feels grainy it’s possible you’ve accidentally gotten a drop of water in the mixture. If it has gotten water in it and has seized up, it will still taste alright, it just won’t be as pretty or smooth or melt quite as fast.
  4. Scoop chocolate into a ziplock bag and clip off the corner.
  5. Pipe the chocolate into your chocolate mold, tapping the mold on the counter to make sure all the chocolate settles into the mold. Add a stir stick and you’re done. The stir stick should stay upright without any trouble. If the chocolate bursts through the bag in places you don’t want it to, just put the whole thing in another bag. If the chocolate starts to get too thick to squeeze, just put the whole thing in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds or so at half power.
  6. Let the chocolate cool either at room temperature or in the fridge if you’re in a hurry. I find the chocolate pops out of the mold nicely if it’s been in the fridge. It’s okay to cool chocolate in the fridge, just don’t store it there, because chocolate soaks up the odors of other foods pretty quickly.
  7. If you don’t like the look of the chocolate once it is removed from the mold, you can dip the cubes into a new batch of plain melted chocolate for a shinier finish (again, try to keep chocolate from heating over 90 degrees, or use candy melts, which don’t need to be in temper, they will stay shiny and pretty even if you go above 90 degrees). This also lets you add sprinkles or crushed candy or just lets you dip in fun patterns. I like dipping at an angle into a different color of chocolate.
  8. In order to enjoy these, heat up any combo of milk, water, half and half, or cream. I like 6 cups milk with 2 cups heavy cream. One ounce of chocolate on a stick should be melted into one cup milk or cream. So a standard ice cube-tray block, which is 3/4 an ounce, should be melted into a mug with 3/4 cup milk or cream in it.

Troubleshooting: A few of you have had trouble with your chocolate seizing. Tiffany provided this great note  to help out (thanks, Tiffany!), “if the chocolate begins to seize (since for some reason, both of my batches seized, I’m thinking it’s the humidity in the air where I am) you do not have to throw it out. Just put the bowl back over the hot water and add a little bit of vegetable oil (I used somewhere between a tsp and a tbsp) after stirring over a little heat, the chocolate will get smooth again. Also good to note, chocolate can seize if you add any cold ingredients.”

How to store it: Dark chocolate will keep in an airtight container for up to a year, milk and white chocolate for several months. Remember, don’t keep it in the fridge because it is really good at absorbing odors.
hot chocolate on a stick3

cinnamon hot chocolate

Variations: Try adding a pinch of your favorite spice. We tried adding a little extra punch by lining the outside with red hots. Very fun. You can also leave out the cocoa and sugar all together and replace it with 8 servings of your favorite packaged hot cocoa. And if you have any strokes of genius for flavors, we’re collecting flavor ideas at my hot chocolate shop, The Ticket Kitchen.
mold

As you can see, we played around with a few different molds, like this water bottle ice cube mold from IKEA. The classic ice cube mold was my favorite though. It works best for submersing the entire block of meltable chocolate in a standard mug.
UPDATE: Love Prince Pi’s suggestion of molding these in shot glasses. Also love how the Kitchn (yea!! they tried my recipe!!) made do with a single pan. TinaMarie also made the great suggestion of using small Dixie cups. And finally, check out this beautiful version Sprinkebakes made using a chocolate transfer sheet and birch spoons. You will love it.
hot chocolate on a stick 2

This was fun, but a mess to open (chocolate in egg shells).

Happy melting! And if you have a moment to peruse my shop or become a fan on facebook, I’d love to have you!


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DIY SEED TAPE

09.02.09

homemade DIY seed tape gardener gift

We managed to find a little time this weekend to make our own seed tape. My four-year-old walked into the office to find me with flour paste, a paint brush, and dozens of strips of newspaper. He was instantly intrigued. He ran to get his own brush and we got started.

The intent of seed tape as I’ve seen it is to make planting easier when you have teeny tiny seeds that need to be planted just inches apart (like carrots and radishes). But it’s also fun for gifting flower seeds or giving away seeds you’ve collected from your own garden. And it’s a pretty simple and very kid-friendly project.

DIY seed tape flour pasteHere’s what you’ll need:
-1/4 cup flour + enough water to make a paste
-strips of paper to make the tape: black and white newspaper (no colored ink), single-ply toilet paper, and a thin paper bag all work
-something for dabbing on drops of the paste, like the back of a paint brush
-and seeds!

homemade gift for gardeners seed tape

Making the paste is simple. Start with the flour and mix in water until you have the consistency of a paste. A quarter cup of flour will go a really, really long way.

Check the planting recommendations for your type of seed. Dab the paste onto your strips of paper as far apart as you would plant the seeds. Drop the seeds onto the paste. Drop the same number you would if you were planting. That’s it. Just wait for the paste to dry completely (a couple hours will do) and you’re ready to roll up your tape. Store it in an air-tight plastic bag and it is ready to go for next season. Most types of seeds are planted shallow enough that all you’ll need to do is lay the tape down and sprinkle a bit of dirt over it. Then it’s ready to be watered and to grow.

Homemade seed tape garden

strips of newspaper homemade seed tape
I also had to pretty mine up a bit. I found this tutorial for a newspaper flower, and since I was already slicing up newspaper anyway, it was perfect.

homemade seed tapeDuring this part my 6-year-old joined me and we made flowers side by side. She even made me a newspaper heart. Do you like it?homemade valentine

This particular package of seed tape is going for a special purpose, and if all goes according to plan, I’ll share it with you very soon.

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Brent chasing cowsChasing the cows back home.

We have one neighbor who has made the country extra hospitable for us. He taught us much of what we know about cows and has been very patient when our cows wind up in his pasture, and very helpful in chasing them home. We just found out he’d gone through surgery and were trying to think of a nice little something we could drop off to say we were thinking of him. We decided on locally grown strawberries and home-made wheat waffle mix.

breakfast care packageThis waffle mix is a long-time favorite of our family. In fact, one year we gave it out as our Christmas treat. It’s nice to have in the freezer for that morning when you wake up wanting a serious breakfast without too much work.

Homemade Wheat Waffle Mix
2 1/4 cups wheat flour (home-grind it for some serious wheaty goodness)
3/4 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup shortening or butter, room temperature
1/4 Tbsp. salt

Sift wheat flour and baking powder into bowl (sometimes we intentionally forget to sift). Add sugar and salt. Cut in shortening or butter using pastry cutter, two knives, or your food processor.

Here are the directions to give along with your waffle mix.

Homemade Wheat Waffle Mix (keep in freezer)

Wheat Waffles
2 cups mix
2 Tbsp. oil
1 egg
1 cup milk

Wheat Pancakes
2 cups mix
1 egg
1 cup milk

homemade wheat waffle mix

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Here’s the Father’s Day DIY I think I’m most excited about, an upcycled handlebar bag. I’ve been in love with bike accessories lately, they make me want to pedal everywhere I go. Plus they are great gifts for kids, grads, retirees, and just about everyone in between. So I thought I’d try making a couple of my own.
handmade-diy-fathers-day-gift-bicycle-bagReflective straps…to show Dad you care.
handmade-diy-fathers-gift-reflective-bicycle-bagThe bag is made from a water bottle and a used sock (wash it well!)
2-upcycled-diy-craft-hanlebar-bag
1-upcycled-crafts-bicycle-handlebar-bagYou’ll need
a waterbottle and an old sock that fits it,
iron-on reflective tape (I found mine at JoAnne’s on the notions wall, surprisingly bike shops didn’t carry it)
ribbon that can be ironed
the closure of your choice (I ended up using parachute buckles along with velcro)
3-upcycled-recycled-craft-from-water-bottleStart by trimming off the water bottle at the length you want. You’ll want to soften the opening by holding a lighter near it, just enough to melt the very edge of the plastic.
4-upcycled-recycled-diy-craft-water-bottle-socksSlip the sock over the bottle and position it the way you’d like it to end up. The sock hugged the bottom end of the water bottle  well enough that I didn’t need to do anything more to finish that edge. At the opening of the water bottle, allow a few inches to finish off the bag, and trim off the heel.

upcycled-bag-craft-from-a-sockI decided to close the bag with a draw string. Take the sock off the bottle and turn it inside out. I reinforced the edge on my sewing machine, then folded it in to make a channel for the ribbon. TIP: I shaped a pipe cleaner into a circle the size of the water bottle opening, then folded the fabric over the pipe cleaner. I left the pipe cleaner in while I sewed the channel, leaving an opening for the draw string ribbon to come out. Once it was done, I pulled out the pipe cleaner and threaded the ribbon through the channel with a safety pin attached to the end.

5-diy-handmade-fathers-day-giftCut the ribbon and reflective tape long enough to wrap around the bottle, plus allow several inches to wrap around the handle bars and attach to the closure.

6-handmade-reflective-bicycle-handlebar-bagI needed to trim my reflective tape before ironing it on, which I did with my paper cutter. Iron on the tape according to the manufacturer’s directions.
8-handmade-bicycle-handlebar-bag-fathers-day-giftI took my bag outside and tried out the length of the ribbon on the handlebars. I sewed half the parachute buckle on one side, but wanted my other side to be adjustable. I decided to attach the other parachute buckle by sewing velcro to the ribbon. A more elegant solution would have been using a parachute buckle with an adjustment feature, but this worked!
7-upcycled-recycled-diy-craft-socksThe final step is to attach the ribbon to the sock. I did this in just one spot for each ribbon. With the sock on the bottle still, I slid a piece of ribbon under the sock to reinforce the back where I would sew the ribon to the sock. I tacked the ribbon in place on the outside. Then I slid the sock off the bottle, turned it inside out, and finished attaching the ribbon.

handmade-fathers-day-gift-bicycle-bagSlide the sock back on the bottle and you’re set. Dad now has a handy spot carrying keys, maps, a granola bar, or if he’s really lucky, a pocket GPS unit.diy-bicycle-handlebar-bag-reflective

more, banner

I’ve thrown together a new gift guides page, incase you’re like me and like to see as many ideas as possible in one glance.

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fathers-day-gift-hanger-kids-can-makeLately my husband has been on a house purging mission. In fact, he got a little carried away last weekend and was day dreaming about moving into a house so cheap we could afford to store next-to-nothing, just buy and donate as our needs dictated. I think we all get that itch every now and then.

So in the spirit of cutting down on “stuff,” we decided on a Father’s Day surprise using stuff we already have. I went to his closet and picked out a hanger, and the kids and I got to work. I’m thinking this project will become an annual tradition. I’ve always imagined a closet full of beautiful, natural wood hangers. We’ll work up to it one at a time.

fathers-day-gift-diyThe project was just a simple decoupage on the hanger.
personalized-fathers-day-gift The kids and I brainstormed about how we’d like to personalize the hanger. We decided on writing down the kids’ favorite memories with dad over the year. We talked about the year and looked through pictures until each child had come up with a list. It was a nice little exercise.

cheap-fathers-day-giftI measured the hanger and printed a cover for each side. The kids made drawings for the flip side of the hanger, then helped me sand the hanger surfaces and wipe them down to prepare for decoupage. Finally I added a layer of modge podge and smoothed on our paper. I’d planned to sand the corners where the paper meets the wood, but the border was nice enough that I just skipped that step. Now all that’s left is to present it next Sunday. I’m working on the last two Father’s Day DIYs to get to you early next week!

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I’ve put together a set of Father’s Day DIYs I’m hoping to get to you over the next few days. With a little luck, you’ll get four DIY Father’s Day gifts in four days: Th, F & M, T. (Click here for all Father’s Day gift ideas.) free-printable-hostess-fathers-day-gift-hot-sauce Here’s the first DIY project: homemade hot sauce. Use any recipe you like, but I’ve had my eye on this recipe, which I hope to try next week. Hot sauce works as a hostess gift or DIY favor, but I like to think it’s particularly good for dad. Presented with breakfast in bed, of course. Kids can help color the label and maybe help make the hot sauce, if they can keep away from the peppers!

Homemade Hot Sauce Labels (1898)

I also put together some free printable Father’s Day wrapping paper this morning, which you can download here:  Father\'s Day Printable Wrapping Paper (1317)
You can print it on these labels.

free-printable-wedding-favor-hot-sauce-label free-printable-diy-wedding-favor-hot-sauce

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A little something so your little ones can spend the summer drawing en plein air.0-drawing-outdoorsSome of my best memories growing up involve drawing or painting outdoors. Sitting in the field by our middle school sketching an old barn, painting a mural with high school friends in the home depot parking lot. It’s something I think every kids should get to try. So this morning we put together a portable portfolio from a thrift store book and fabric .

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The basic idea is to cut off the front and back book cover, then make a sleeve for them with the fabric.

We started with some hard back books we picked up at Good Will and scrap fabric. Anything works, old sheets, pillowcases, place mats, shirts.

1-fabric-covered-portfolio1I cut just the covers off the books and traced them on the wrong side of the fabric as shown. I left a half-inch space in the middle and a half-inch seam around the edges. Plus I added a 3-inch flap at both ends at the bottom.

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First I cleaned up the edges. I made a few extra snips to make the seams work as shown. Then, with the fabric wrong side up, I sewed a seam along both the right and left sides, as shown. Plus the three inches at the bottom of the side flaps.how-to-make-a-fabric-portfolio-2

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3-craft-from-thrift-store-sheetsThen I created a sleeve for the book covers. I folded the fabric down, wrong side out, and stiched along the edge.

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4-thrift-store-craftsI turned it right side out and stiched down the middle.

how-to-make-a-fabric-portfolio-5I chose where I wanted the handle and ties to come through the book. These will add a little bump which isn’t good for drawing over, so keep them just an inch or two from the edge of the book. I punctured the book with a knife and threaded ribbon through, tying it on the wrong end. Two holes on the side for the handle, one hole in the middle for a loose ribbon to make a tie.

5-handmade-classroom-portfolio6-classroom-fabric-covered-portfolio7-handmade-fabric-student-portfolio8-fabric-portfolio-for-kidsFinally, I put the book covers in the sleeve so the ribbon handles were poking out. Then I tucked in the flaps. You can hand stitch the openings if you like to keep the covers inside.

9-handmade-fabric-portfolio-for-kidsFor a little extra fun, I added a pencil holder from a scrap of felt.

95-handmade-fabric-folder-pencil-holder-for-kids1My daughter was thrilled to try it out. She picked out a nice little spot and got to work on her first piece of art.11-handmade-gifts-to-sew-for-kids

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I have this fantasy of stopping daily by the local grocer and bakery. I tried this right after I married my husband 8 years ago—via car on my way home from work. I eventually had to resign to more traditional, more economical shopping. But the dream is still there. Maybe with a good bike trailer once I’m no longer pregnant and more stable on a bike. In the meantime, I can dream.

1-bicycle-baskets-for-herDeluxe Shopper Pannier available here.

1-bicycle-shopping-baskets-for-herShopping bicycle bag by Basil. Picture via here.

1-bicycle-accessoriesCheck out this and other Style Box Bags here.

1-bike-accessories-for-herBasket Panniers, by Electra.

1-gifts-for-bicyclistsLove the pattern options on the Kitsch Kitchen Pannier.

1-handlebar-bicycle-bagsLove this bike basket and everything else by Reisenthel via QuirkyBags.

1-bicycle-baskets-2Denver Basket, also by Basil.

1-gifts-for-cyclistsBetty basket via here.

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Visit Electra to see dozens of very cool bike bells .

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I find panniers to be so romantic. More so if there’s a handsome man steering them around town with a baguette and bouquet of flowers peeking out the top. Right now my husband’s bike has a child seat on the back, but someday…someday.

1-panniers-and-gifts-for-cyclistsRoll-up panniers available here.

I’ve been going a little crazy checking out bike accessories the last few days, and thought I’d share a few favorites.

1-pashley-handlebar-bag-fine-gifts-for-himThe Cylinder Bag from Electra.

1-bicycle-messenger-bags-for-himThe Cyclobag from Tintamar. Via Quirkybags.

1-bicycle-tees-for-him-bikeI’m a huge fan of Chris Piascik’s work. His design on the left. Tee on the right available here.

1-bicycle-panniers-for-himThe Dutch Shopper Pannier Set, from Axiom.

1-bike-accessories-for-him-tourboxThe hard case Tourbox by Ortlieb.

bike-bell-for-himVery fun bike bells.

1-bike-bells-gifts-for-cyclistsFor those who like little less subtlety than a bike bell, the Ecoblast blow horn. Runs on air from its own hand pump.

1-bicycle-book-gift-for-cyclistsRoad bike maintenance book. Came highly recommended as a road companion here.

1-fathers-day-gifts-for-adventureresThe Bushnell backtrack navigation system. Start anywhere on the planet and this handy tool will get you back to where you started. Also available in girlie colors.

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