Sunday, October 25, 2009

Even More Denium Recycling

Previously, I wrote about my quest to find reuses for denim jeans that have gotten to worn to wear. These are some of my latest creations.

First, I cut to legs off of a pair of jeans and used the top to stitch this fun and funky handbag for my sister, Andrea, for her birthday. I pinned the legs and sewed them together. I then added a magnetic snap for a closure. I used a piece of the inseam from the jeans leg to create a drawstring to gather the top of the bag.

I used a pretty red and white fabric that I found at a thrift store to make a liner for the purse. The red is the perfect complement to the blue of the denim.

I found a chain that we were not using that happened to be the right length for a shoulder strap. I then found a piece of bias tape that had been in my mom's sewing chest unused for at least 20 years. The tape with the right width and length to wind through the chain and make a sash belt.

I also used the cuff of the same pair of jeans to make a fun purse for my niece's 3rd birthday. I cut off the leg about 9 inches above the hem and stitched the cut end closed. I turned over the end to form a cuff. I used scraps of green felt and a scrap for pretty floral fabric to make a flower embellishment for the bag to which I added an old blue button. Lastly, I used a piece of cording that came from a shopping bag to create a handle. I proved the perfect gift for a girly three-year-old.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Chunky Apple Sauce

As I said earlier, our apples are ready and we have picked most of them. We estimated that we have about 10 bushels of apples to use. Hench, I have been looking for ways to use and preserve all of them.

I got a great idea from my neighbor for making chunky apple sauce. First; wash, peal, quarter, core, and remove any bad spots from the apples. Prepare enough to fill the biggest pot you can find; or two, or three. Add about a cup of water to the apples and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until apples are very soft; about 45 minutes. The apples will give off a lot of liquid during the cooking process. Mash the apples with a potato masher until chunky. If you like a sweet apple sauce, add sugar to taste. I have found that these apples really don't need sweetening. The apples will reduce to about half of their former volume.

Bring the apple sauce to a boil and place in clean, sterilized jars. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.

Halloween Sock Cat

So, this year, finding myself with a pair of Halloween socks that were too holey to wear, and needing a birthday present for my soon to be 3 year old niece, I decided that I would try to make a sock animal for her. First, I searched for some instructions online, and came across these instructions for making a sock monkey.

I quickly realized, that with a few modifications, and some patches over the holes, I could make a sock Halloween cat for my niece. I added pointed ears to the top of the kitty's head and a pointy tail instead of a rounded one. I used yellow buttons for the eyes with a vertical stitch for detail. I used stiff black thread for whiskers and scraps of yellow-orange felt to make a nose and patches to cover the holes.

Since my sewing machine is broken, and my hand sewing skills are a little shabby, my Halloween cat turned out to be more of a Frankenkitty. It's still a little adorable though.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Apple Picking Time

Our apples are ready. Two trees full with limbs bending to the ground. This time of year inevitably; with apples on the tree, morning frost, and a crispness in the air, reminds me of Robert Frost's famous poem.

Apple picking season also means finding ways to use all of our apples. One of my favorite apple treats is Homemade Carmel Sauce with apple slices.

Homemade Caramel Sauce:

CAUTION: This recipe involves very high temperatures. The melted sugar in this recipe will reach over 360 degrees and will stick to skin if spilled or splashed and will cause severe burns. The contents will foam up when butter and cream are added and will boil over if a deep pot is not used. Although this recipe is rather simple, it should not be attempted by children without adult supervision.

1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons salted butter
1/2 cup cream

Get all of your ingredients ready. This recipe requires you to move fast to prevent burning. There will be no time to scramble for ingredients. Place sugar in a large sauce pan; at least 6 quarts (if doubling the recipe, us a 12 quart pan with a bottom of, at least, 12 inches in diameter. This will help prevent your sugar from burning). Break up any lumps in the sugar. Over medium heat, heat sugar until it is about half melted. Stir rapidly until all the sugar has melted. Break up any sugar lumps that appear. The sugar should be a medium amber color. Do not allow it to get darker, because it will burn the sugar. Do not let the sugar boil.

Add the butter and stir rapidly until the butter is melted and fully incorporated into the sugar. When you add the butter and stir, the mixture will foam up and give off some very hot steam. I like to us a spoon with a very long handle so my hands don't get steam burns.

Add the cream to the mixture and stir rapidly until the cream is fully incorporated into the mixture. Watch out, the mixture will foam up again. Immediately remove the caramel sauce from the pan and pour into a heat proof container. I like to use a Pyrex measuring cup. Allow caramel sauce to cool before eating.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Compost Suprise: A Cautionary Tale

Previously, I cautioned about putting seeds in your compost pile. The reason seeds in the compost can be a bad idea is that home compost piles don't always get hot enough to kill the seeds. So, the risk is spreading seeds throughout your gardens. Although this is can increase a weed problem, not that compost volunteers are all bad. If you don't mind plants coming up where they will, watching things grow and discovering what they are can be fun.

Last fall, I didn't follow my own advice. We put a bunch of bad vegetables, squashes, and pumpkins on our compost pile. As you can see, these were the results.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Reusing, Recycling, and Re-purposing Your Way to an Over-the-top Pirate Party

With the heightened popularity of pirates, pirate parties are all the rage; whether for kids birthday parties, Halloween fests, or as a get together for family and friends. The good news is that you don't have to spend a bundle on disposable decorations to create an amazing party scene. By reusing, recycling and re-purposing stuff you already have, and adding in a generous amount of creativity, you can have a green Pirate Party that won't leave you feeling raided.

This is What We Did:

Below, a narrow deck off to the side of the house became the infamous pirate ship, the Robber's Revenge, piloted by Captain Billy Bones. A market street umbrella forms the ships mast while broom sticks, an old white sheet, and Halloween rags create her spooky sails.

On the ship deck, an old table base forms the stand for the ships wheel. A barrel, hammock, crate, bushel baskets, metal bucket, and telescope case compose the ships cargo. Captain Billy Bones, a Halloween skeleton, is dressed up in a hand-me-down puff vest, thrift store velvet jacket, 20 year old scarf, and one of my necklaces. Some Halloween rats, old chains, lanterns, and pirate maps from previous parties finish the scene.

Off of the ship deck, pirate guests row into Pirate Cove where a treasure chest (cedar chest still half full of pillows) is laden with treasure comprised of old costume jewelry, Christmas tree garlands, colorful cookie tins, various brass home decor items, colored glass bottles, and much more.

Pirate guests also found a table laden with treasure for Captain Billy Bones' guests of honor (adult table). Halloween skeletons and skulls, old crystal bowls, mismatched fine china, candles and lots of treasure complete the scene.

More candles, skeletons, and a fish net complete the scene.

Old metal hanging baskets and paper Halloween skeletons strike fear into pirate guests while old brocade and beaded pillows offer lavish comfort while lounging in the cove. House and outdoor plants lend a tropical island feel to the cove.

After waking the plank off of the back of the Robbers Revenge, the crew (kids) found themselves in Kids Cove where a table was set up for the crew. The table was dressed with a piece of old burlap and a square of red fabric. The crew dined off of reused pie tins for a rustic feel. Prior to dinner, the crew found pirate coloring pages (printed from here on the backs of previously used paper) as well as crayons, colored pencils, glitter glue, and jewel stickers for their use.

Putting Together Your Party:

1. Look online and in pirate books (from the library) for inspiration - there are endless ideas for your party.

2. Look around and see what you have - pirates stole cargo from ships the world round. So, bright colored and glitter items you have that would work in a pirate scene.
- Moroccan, Indian, and Asian home decor items work particularly well.
- Pull out silver and silver plate bowls, trays, and silverware to use as serve ware or treasure. If they are a bit tarnished, it only adds to the appeal.
- Look around for a treasure chest. Any size wooden chest will do from a cedar chest to an old jewelry box. Drape the inside with brightly colored fabric and fill with costume jewelry and anything that looks rich or sparkly.
- Raid the Halloween decorations - Pull out the skeletons, skulls, chains, anything pirate, as well as spooky warning signs.
- Look through Christmas decorations. Many garlands and ornaments also work for pirate treasure.
- Be sure to pull out lots of candles and candle holders. Candelabras and candlesticks in black, silver, gold, or bronze, pewter, or with wood accents work well. Colored glass or crystal also work. Look for beads, bobbles or metallic fringe.
- Make your own decorations using items you have around the house.
- Look for more decorations at thrift stores.

3. See what you can barrow from family and friends - what you don't have, they probably will.

Happy Pirate Partying!