How to Stretch your Vanilla Beans

I have recently started making my own vanilla extract for a multitiude of reasons:  its easy, its economical and I can control the ingredients.  Check your bottles; there is actually added sugar in there.  Vanilla beans can be expensive so the best option I have found are these ones from amazon:  Premium Bourbon-Madagascar Vanilla Beans - 1/2 lb. - Approx. 54 beans.  I have more beans than I know what to do with so I have been trying to do some research and experimenting with ways to stretch these beauties to get the most for my money. Out of the same beans/pods I can do the following four things:

1.  Vanilla extract-cut the beans down the middle and soak 3 beans per 8oz. of vodka for approx. 2 months.  You can always continue to  add more vodka every time you use half the bottle to have a never ending supply.
2.  Let the beans dry out and add them to your sugar for vanilla scented sugar.
3.  Once the beans have lost most of their fragrance you can grind them up and add them to your coffee grounds when making coffee.  The flavor is subtle and smooth and always yummy. 
4.  Take that same dried bean pod and grind it up to use in your own melt and pour soap recipes.  It will add a slight vanilla aroma but also some "grit" for extra scrubbing. 

I'm sure there are many other uses for these crazy pods.  I would love to hear yours.  I keep thinking there may be a new cleaning product in my future for these things.  Carpet deodorizer with baking soda???  I'm working on it.  Please share your creations.  I still have a ton of these beans!

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Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special


Realistic Craft Organization

I do not have a craft room.  In fact, I am quite jealous of those who do.  I have a wall, aka vertical storage space.  Just a plain old wall on the side of my dining room that looks like a tornado has hit it.  Aside from its dis-organization, its in a room that gets used quite often when we have company.  I am not a fan of the disorderly, but, it seems to be what I have to live with.  I am determined to find some storage ideas that are not unsightly, affordable, and do-able.  If the storage is something that I need to create, I want to be able to put it together in a timely manner.

I am turning to the 'new' old standby for ideas:   Pinterest.  I am posting some of the ideas I have found on that site to aid in my craft problem.  I also want to turn to you for suggestions.  I am open to anything at this point.  I am also going to do some goodwill hunting.  Surely between those three things, I will be able to bring order to my chaos.  I will post progress photos as I go along but am completely open to all suggestions, critiques, etc.......

Now, I do have a buffet server, but no top.  I am hoping to find one at goodwill.  The one below turned out beautifully and definately not unsightly.

Decorative storage above the cabinet would most definately be possible.  I already have some baskets/boxes that good old spray paint would help them coordinate:

I am in the process of putting together a budget and gathering ideas.  I will post photos as a I go.  I know this is going to be an ongoing project but I'm looking forward to the journey and the final result.


Merry Christmas

Wishing each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas!  Christ is born!  Celebrate that birth and the real meaning of Christmas today!  You are dearly loved!


Family Favorite Christmas Cookie: Rugelach!

Ever since I was a little girl, my mom always made us, what we would call, 'walnut roll ups'.  I never knew there was a fancy name for these cookies until I was an adult.  All I knew is that I loved them and could make my entire diet focused just on them.  They are a buttery, yummy, sweet, nutty cookie that we roll in powdered sugar.  My mother used to make hers entirely by scratch and nothing could ever come close to hers. 

As I am now grown with my own kids, I wonder how my mother ever found the time to make these from scratch and always have them turn out perfect.  Oh, I tried.  But if I made these cookies, they would be the only ones I would ever make, aside from the traditional sugar cookie one.

Until about two years ago. I had a subscription to womans day and found a recipe for raspberry-walnut-rugelach .  I have never had much success with magazine recipes but had to give this one a try.  It uses the refrigerated ready-to-use pie crusts for the base of the cookie.  Let me tell you what a time saver that ONE step has saved me.  I was really skeptical at first but, was delighted with the outcome of this recipe!  It has now become a family favorite that I am able to make every year, even when short on time.  I thank God for that one!  I hope you will try it, especially, if you are a rugelach lover like we are.  You still have time, believe me!  We are making ours today. 

Enjoy and have a very Merry Christmas!


Blog design giveaway!

I have a friend who is giving away a free custom blog design if you will follow her, tweet, or facebook about the giveaway.  She has been designing blogs for well over a year and has done some adorable work. Here are some examples:

  You can enter the contest here.  Please stop by and support her.  And, good luck!  :)


Chamomile and Calendula Gift Set

How do you describe Chamomile and Calendula?  Chamomile has a soft floral, herbal, apple aroma.  Calendula?  Pretty close to the same.  Both essential oils blend extremely well together.  So well that you probably couldn't pick the two apart in this mix.  I chose to use this combination of essential oils in a goats milk/glycerin bar soap and also some bath salts.  I also added dried chamomile flowers to both for appearance, texture, aroma, and color.  Chamomile is known to be anti-inflammatory.  It is wonderful for dry, achy, itchy, flaky skin amongst other things.  Calendula contains many of the same properties and is a wonderful healer.  This combination is also safe for babies in small amounts treating cradle cap, diaper rash, and others.  You can find a million different recipes for bath salts all over the web.  A very simple recipe could contain just a mixture of salts (epsom, sea salt, etc), a carrier oil, and the essential oils.  The soap is simply a melt and pour soap.  You buy the soap in blocks, melt, mix in your additives and pour into molds.  It really couldn't get any easier. 

If you are looking for a good start in finding your herbs and oils, I suggest mountain rose herbs.  I have ordered from them many times and their quality is unbeatable.  I am not compensated in any way for saying that, I just really love the company and the products it provides.

***I am not a doctor or claim to be an expert.  Please see your physician if you have any ailments.  The recipes/ideas represented here are from my own personal experience and in no way meant to diagnose, treat, or cure anything.


TP snowflakes

I'm sure many of you have seen a plethera of ideas when it comes to toilet paper rolls on pinterest.  Lord knows, I have.  I wanted to try my hand at a few projects with them, especially since they cost nothing.  I chose to start out with some simple snowflakes.  I wanted to use them as ornaments and also decorations on some of my Christmas packaging.

Supplies for 4 included 4 toilet paper rolls, cut into 5 pieces each.
Once cut, I glued the pieces together at a point. I then spray painted them with white spray paint that I already had.  While the paint was still wet, I applied a translucent glitter and then sprayed it with a clear glaze.  I gave mine a few coats to seal in the glitter.
To bring the flakes together, I added a snowflake button in the middle to cover up the glue.
I waited a good day before doing anything with these snowflakes. 
Here they are attached to one of my gifts:


Peppermint Snow 'Bombs'

I cannot even begin to tell you how many 'bath bomb' recipes I have tried and have always failed at them for one reason or another.  This one stuck to the mold, that one crumbled, another was too wet, yet another too dry.  On a wimb, I decided to make up my own recipe to see if I could do any better.  It actually worked!  I stayed away from using any water or witch hazel and I did have to wait a few days for them to dry but the recipe turned out perfect and I can't wait to share them.

4 oz. baking soda
2 oz. citric acid
2 oz. corn starch
2 oz. epsom salts
2 TBS. coconut oil
1/4tsp. Vitamin E. oil
1/4 tsp. essential oil (I used peppermint)

Combine all of the ingredients WELL with your hands and place in round molds.
I found some plastic round 3 inch molds that split in half that worked perfectly.  You really need to pack this in as tight as you can and remove from the mold s-l-o-w-l-y and carefully.  I placed mine out to dry where they couldn't be disturbed.  Because of the size, I waited three days to start messing with them and they were rock hard by then.  I didn't have to worry about them breaking at the point.  Wrap them up in any way you choose to give as gifts to friends.  These smelly wonderful.  They really are 'the bomb'.  :)


Deck the Blogs by Ninth and Bird

I've submitted some entries to this contest.  Please click the icon above and vote or just join along by adding your own creations. 


Gingerbread Lollipop Bucket

I know this is going to come out wrong but here goes:  We are not putting up a tree for Christmas.  It's not that I dont want one, really I do.  But, we are headed up north for the holidays for a few weeks and I will be decorating THAT tree and two is just tooo much.  Especially if I can't really enjoy them both.

So, instead of pulling out all of my holiday decorations that I would normally do, I have been making smaller items to place around the house to continue to keep me in the holiday spirit until we leave. 

I love making anything with these crazy fan folds and this was the perfect opportunity to utilize them.  What's not to love? 

The bells came from the dollar store in a pack of 9.  All of the paper came from the same paper pack (I love getting more bang for my buck.) I stuffed the bucket with polyfil to make it look like snow.  There is no snow in sunny Florida so I will make-shift it any way that I can.

I used shish-ka-bob sticks for these 'lollipops' and kept them their natural color.  I didn't want to take anything away from the gingerbread men as the stars.  And the bucket had enough color on it on its own.

So, there you have it.  Just one of many quick, simple, frugal holiday decorations for the home.


Handmade Holidays: Gift Tags

One of the easiest projects to give your gifts a personal touch is the gift tag itself.  There are sooo many ways to make them.  I just so happened to have a paper pack that included them with the stack.  But, I didn't want to just cut them out and put them on a package.  I wanted to give them life and dimension.  I want them to really stick out.

For few of them, I chose to cut up other pictures in the paper stack to add that dimension with foam tape.

Others I chose to use my cricut to cut out additional shapes.

On others I added stickers found in any scrapbooking section at your local craft store.

And then on others, I decided to make the fans you see here with coordinating paper, once again, adding dimension.

All of these tages take literally no time to make, especially if you have a start off point like I did in the pre-made tags.

Merry Christmas!

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Rag Quilts

I {heart} Pinterest.  I can spend hours just browsing through that site, filling my head with creative ideas and new projects I should start.  Oh, and I start them!  Problem is, I dont always finish them.  My attention span is that of a fly when it comes to my patience in crafting.  I love it all.  I just want it all done NOW so I can move on to the next.  But this picture by  Do it Yourself Divas stopped me in my tracks:

I have never wanted to explore quilting (note my attention span issues). Too time consuming, too precise.....two words that DO NOT describe me.  But, rag quilting?  Who would've thought?  No need for perfection or huge amounts of time.  Just some fabric and the desire to put it all together.  I really was skeptical at first.  Could I really make a quilt in a short amount of time?  Turns out, YES YOU CAN! This quilt took me a total of 4 hours to complete and all of 6 yards total of flannel fabric.  (anyone else take advantage of the 1.49/yd sale at joanns this past weekend?)
The only difference in my quilt versus the one in the above photo is that I chose to snip my sides as opposed to binding them.  And I can't believe how soft and warm this is.  I will definately be making another one once I get my hands on another good fabric sale.

My daughter picked out the owl fabric for its 'cool' factor.

Her favorite colors are lime green and blue.  I don't think I could match this any better to her liking if I tried.

**TIP** When cutting your fabric into strips, I found a fabulous short cut that really works.  Simply snip the fabric at the desired width.  Mine was at the 8inch mark. Then, rip it all the way towards the other end.  The rip actually does tear in a straight line and saves you oodles of cutting time.**

Handmade Holidays: Christmas Photo Books

When it comes to crafting, there really is no 'last minute' anything, at least not for me.  I need time to get my creative juices going and can't just come up with some new project on the fly.  Lately, I have been working on a cardboard Christmas album to give to one of my friends.  I made one for myself a few years ago and it is soo fun to look back on a Christmas past. You can find these albums in the dollar spot at Michaels.  (not yet decorated, of course)

I try really hard to add pages for things other than photos.  There is so much more to the holiday besides the pictures.

There are gift tags and favorite holiday recipes and music.

There are wish lists and traditions and the family Christmas tree.

There are all those family 'funnies'  and mishaps that make the holiday so memorable.

I want to capture every moment.  The journaling only adds enrichment to the project and the process.


Make it yourself Mondays: Card sets

For the first time this year, I participated in the craftaholics anonymous handmade gift swap.  Basically, we are paired up with someone in the states to swap gifts with.  The woman I am swapping with loves the color red, coffee, chunky picture frames, and more.  It's been really fun getting to know someone who I, otherwise, never would have met.  And I really hope she enjoys her gift.  I made her a stationary set incorporating her favorite color and her love of coffee.  The pictures are posted below:

I hope she receives her gift before she reads this.  I think she will but you never know.

Included in this little set is a bookmark, cards, gift tags, and thank you notes. 

I wanted to make a good variety of items for more than one occasion.  I purposely chose NOT to make christmas cards or products by the off chance that my 'partner' already purchased hers elsewhere.

All this really takes is some cardstock, embellishments, and some imagination.
If you have a chance, check out the craftaholics website.  There will be a flikr set up and links to other participating bloggers.  Enjoy!


Shutterfly Christmas Cards

Photo Card
View the entire collection of cards.

I just finished designing our Christmas Card for this year.....and here it be! Our family took a trip to Atlantis this year and I just had to find a way to show off that beautiful dolphin, so this was it! What do ya think?  I'm trying to get on the ball for the holiday season as I am going out of town for Christmas and will need to get them out a little early.

I think I have used shutterfly for over 5 years now and have never been disappointed with their quality or service.  If you are considering printing your own, they have many many designs to choose from, using 1 or more pictures. 

**My opinions are strictly my own. I am not paid for this post, but may be compensated in product. **


Handmade Holidays: Peppermint Soap

For a woman who does not like to eat candy canes, I sure love the smell of peppermint.  Aside from the aroma, peppermint can aid in minimizing headaches and migraines-all the more reason to use the essential oil.  The smell can help clear your sinuses too.  As far as using it in soap, it is antibacterial and antifungal; great additions without the use of harmful chemicals such as triclosan.

Soap is sooo simple to make using a melt and pour base.  For this soap I used a goats milk base.  Once you have melted the base in a double boiler or in 30 second intervals in the microwave ( you don't want it to boil), you simply add 1 tsp of peppermint essential oil to 1 pound of goats milk soap base.  I even added a tsp of vitamin E oil for softness.  Pour the soap into molds and spritz with alcohol to get rid of the bubbles on top.  Once the soap is solid and completely cooled, remove from the mold and package accordingly. 

I can't wait to give these as gifts.  I have a few friends who are peppermint crazy and will love this!  Now, you try it!


Make it Yourself Mondays: Appetizers

With the holidays upon us, and football season already here, appetizers are a hot commodity.  I am not a big fan of making them though.  I seem to always turn toward my staple recipes.  With my hubby having a football party at the house, I decided to try something new.  I am so glad I did.  The recipe that follows is adapted from this sausage cheese ball recipe:

2 lbs. ground sausage.  I used mild but I'm also a wuss.
1 1/2 C. all purpose baking mix.  I made my own or you can always use bisquick.
4 C. shredded cheddar cheese.  Calls for sharp but I used a mixture.
1/2C. of each onion and celery, diced
1 tsp. pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together with your hands and roll into 1 inch balls.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes. Verdict:  Definately will make again and again.


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