Saturday, March 23, 2013

Pinterest Project: Etched Glass

Yet again, Pinterest has inspired my latest project: glass etchings. The process is incredibly fast, and relatively simple. Though I've etched glass before, I've mostly worked with pre-made stenciled designs and patterns. The pictures below from Pinterest gave me the idea to write something on glass.     

To make an etching, you have to put a paste on the glass that basically eats away at the surface, creating the frosted look. The most tedious part of the process is masking off the area you don't want etched.

Several weeks ago, I saved an old maple syrup bottle with a handy pour spout for storing homemade salad dressing. My husband has had to ask what was inside more than once, so it became the perfect item to label. I used some old alphabet stickers to form my letters. Because I wanted the actual words to be frosted, I cut out the empty letters from the sticker sheet.

I made sure the glass surface was clean and dry, and then arranged my stickers how I wanted them. Next, I used a q-tip to liberally coat the negative space where the glass was exposed. I used a paste called "Armour Etch," which only needs to sit on the glass for a few minutes.

After about three minutes, I rinsed the paste off of the bottle. Every time I etch glass, I'm nervous that it doesn't work because I can hardly see a "before-and-after" difference while the stickers are on and the glass is wet. However, once I removed the stickers and dried the bottle, I was pleased to see my "salad dressing" label clearly written.

Now I've got the etching itch! What other glass items could use a little face-lift? Candle holders? Wine glasses? Mirrors? There's no telling what I'll etch next.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cloth Diaper Makeover: Velcro to Snaps Tutorial

Before Jadon was born, I wasn't sure if I was ready for cloth diapers. There seemed to be a lot of special rules and extra hassle with cloth diapering: diaper-safe creams for rashes, particular detergents for washing, wet bags for traveling, etc. However, once I compared the price tags for disposable and cloth diapers, I was committed to giving cloth my best shot. I started soon after Jadon was born and soon discovered that cloth diapering is not only easy, but, dare I say... fun?

Simply put, cloth diapering is it's own little world and it's very easy to get sucked in. There are so many brands, businesses, fabrics, forums, diaper systems, and diaper "swaps" to explore. For the newcomer, all the terminology and tricks can be a little overwhelming. I'm glad that I didn't have to make many decisions to get started because one of my cousins, and a friend, gave me their used cloth diapers. Now that I'm accustomed to the cloth diapering world, I have a better idea of what I like and don't like. 

One feature I've come to covet is snaps. All my diaper covers have Velcro fasteners, and they just don't cut it for me. They tend to get tangled in the wash, even using the laundry tabs. In fact, by the time Jadon outgrew the newborn covers from my cousin, the Velcro was completely shot. I intended to replace the Velcro for our next baby (someday!) until I found out that you can convert Velcro diapers to snaps. I was sold on the idea immediately.

To convert your diapers, you first have to get rid of the Velcro. I found that cutting off the end of the Velcro tab off completely made the removal of that piece a lot easier. Simply pulling the tab away from the diaper exposes several strands of thread for snipping. A pair of scissors can do the trick just fine, although a seam ripper can get into little spaces easier.

Cutting off the little laundry tab and the long front strip is a little tricky at first. However, after you manage to snip that first thread, pulling the Velcro away from the diaper makes the rest of the removal go pretty fast.

With all the Velcro removed, you are ready to mark the spots where you want your snaps.

I found a pair of snaps pliers, an awl, and an assortment of colored snaps on Craigslist (score!). The awl is used to poke a hole on your marked spot. The snaps come in three different parts: caps, studs, and sockets. You have to have studs and sockets opposite each other in order for the snaps to fit together. So, after making holes in the part of the diaper that wraps around the baby, you insert a cap piece into the holes. On the other side of the fabric, you place studs over the cap pins.

Next, you center the snap pieces on the pliers and press them together. The pliers will flatten the pin so that the two pieces can't separate.

On the front part of the diaper, you will follow the same procedure, but use socket pieces over the pins. I confess, I got a little ahead of myself on this first diaper. I forgot to switch to sockets for the front. These snaps are really hard to get off. The snap pieces never did come apart; the awl hole just ripped bigger. I had to do a little repair work on my huge hole before putting on the correct combination of pieces.

Once I had the snaps system down, the conversion process was so fast. I decided to use one row of snaps for my smallest newborn diapers, and two rows of snaps for a larger sized cover. I could not be happier with the outcome. I finally have snaps! To bad I have to wait for another baby to use them!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Repairing Holes in Jeans

I have two favorite ways to save money on clothes. First, I like to buy clothes nice-n-cheap at thrift stores. This usually requires a little hunting, but that's part of the fun for me. If I'm open minded about what I'm looking for ("I need a new pair of jeans," or "I could really use a dressy black shirt") I'm always able to find something in great condition, and the right size.

The second way I save money on my family's clothes is by keeping them in good condition. It's rare that I can't repair a hole or tear, or get out a stain.

My brother-in-law recently brought me a pair of jeans that tore on one of the back pocket corners. Here's what I did to repair his jeans:

To start, you need a durable piece of fabric. I saved the leftover circles from my blue jeans baby blanket for mending jeans. If you ever have a pair of jeans that are beyond repair, consider saving them for other jean repairs. Place the fabric behind the hole.

Then set your sewing machine to a "zig-zag" stitch and sew back and forth like crazy. I like to use the special "denim" thread I happened upon once when I repair jeans. I had just enough left for this little hole. Usually, it's a great color match because it changes between several shades of blue. These jeans, however, weren't quite as blue as the thread.

I solved the color issue by layering a little brown thread on top of the blue thread. From a distance, the colors blend nicely. Now you can hardly tell that there was a hole.


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Homemade Yogurt Success!

As I continue to embark on my healthy, do-it-yourself journey, my skills in the kitchen are being stretched. I just made homemade yogurt for the first time! I was actually surprised by how easy it was. It takes a lot of time to make yogurt from start to finish (six or more hours!), but most of that time is spent waiting. I would take five to ten minutes to complete each step and then go back to what I had been doing previously (usually tending to Jadon!). 

Here's the tutorial for making some homemade yogurt of your own:

To start, boil a large pot of water to sterilize all the materials that will come in contact with your yogurt. You will later use this hot water to create your own double boiler, a pot-within-a-pot for heating milk uniformly. Your inner pot needs to be something that can be heated safely, like the large glass jar I used. 

The milk you use will yield the same amount of yogurt in the end (one cup of milk makes one cup of yogurt). You can use any kind of dairy milk (coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk with not work), but I recommend using whole milk (especially raw!) so that your yogurt is nice and creamy. Pour your desired amount of milk into your inner container, surrounded by the boiling water. Heat the milk to a temperature of 185 degrees Fahrenheit. Apparently, this is the temperature at which milk froths, so you could technically complete this step without a thermometer. I used a meat thermometer just to be sure. Stir occasionally. This process will kill any harmful microorganisms.

While the milk is heating, set aside your starter culture (a few tablespoons of plain, unsweetened yogurt with active live cultures in it). Starter cultures can come from leftover store-bought yogurts, like mine, or they can be purchased.

After the milk has been heated, the milk needs to be cooled to 115 degrees Fahrenheit, the perfect temperature for the bacteria in your starter culture to grow and multiply. I transferred my hot milk to another pot because I was nervous about the possibility of the glass jar shattering when going from a boiling hot to a freezing cold environment.

When the milk has cooled sufficiently, take a cup of the milk and mix it with the starter culture until it is a uniform consistency.

Then, add that mix to the rest of the cooled milk and stir until evenly distributed.

Notice that Jadon is ready for mom to finish the next step!
You will now need to keep your milk mix at a consistent warm temperature of about 115 degrees Fahrenheit so that the bacteria can thrive and turn the milk into yogurt. There are many incubating techniques that work, including a warm oven, a crock-pot, and even summer heat. Being the frugal gal that I am, I decided to try the "cooler" method because it doesn't require any additional energy. I poured the hot water from my double-boiler into four small glass jars that would fit inside a cooler with my large glass jar of warm milk.

I placed the milk jar in the middle of the cooler, and the hot water jars in each corner. After closing the cooler, I placed it in a corner of my kitchen where it could remain undisturbed for several hours. Some yogurt makers recommend five hours of brew time. Others insist on seven hours or more. I decided to go about six hours before checking on my yogurt.

Six hours later, I wasn't sure if anything had changed when I looked at my jar from the outside. But after I tested the consistency, I found that my mix had thickened quite a bit. For the final step, the yogurt must be refrigerated so that the bacteria stop consuming the milk and reproducing. Otherwise, the yogurt will just get thicker and thicker, and become more and more sour.

I transferred my yogurt to new containers and kept them in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I finally sampled the yogurt and was very pleased with the taste. It honestly tasted like my store-bought variety that I used for my starter culture. The texture was slightly more runny. However, I usually eat yogurt in smoothies, so the texture really doesn't matter to me.

Since I plan to continue making yogurt, I made sure to save a small sample of this batch for my next starter culture. You can even freeze the yogurt sample. I'm really happy that homemade yogurt is a healthy option for baby food. As we slowly introduce new foods to Jadon, I look forward to his reaction of my new yogurt.