Posts tagged ‘how to’

Homes that are truly for the birds: how to

So the daily blogging thing comes and goes on here, as you may have noticed. Work has been crazy, life has been crazy, the house is a mess, the computer was under repair …. and to be honest, what I really needed for awhile was to disconnect from the world a bit. I love being connected. I love people. But sometimes, between Facebook, Twitter, blogs, LinkedIn, news feeds, Google Reader, work emails … the amount of information is overwhelming. Sometimes, I just need to disconnect for a bit and recharge.

What better timing and chance than this beautiful Easter weekend? Two full days of sun, warm temperatures, warm soil and a relatively free schedule. I buried myself in the garden, and enjoyed alfresco lunch with my long lost husband who has been overwhelmed with work and grad school. Weeding, pruning, planting herb seeds (slow bolt cilantro, three kinds of basil, dill, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, oregano, lavander), green onion bulbs and wildflowers. Building a partial fence around our back garden so the dogs can’t destroy it now that our backyard is fenced in. Where they previously ran rampant and destroyed, is now a beautiful black iron fence and even better, green things are returning to the garden! (Still much work is needed, so please only look at the fence :))

One dog was particularly glad to accompany me with so much time spent outside:

Back to the main theme, though: birdhouses. I was inspired when reading the April 2010 edition of Country Living and looking at the stunning gardens that were featured. One included four birdhouses, of different shapes, painted the same color and installed on stilts amidst the garden. It was beautiful. I decided I had to have birdhouses, and then about fell over when I saw the price (especially as I was wanting 5 of them).

So, I was determined to semi-make my own. Sure, you could make your own entirely from scratch, but this is much easier.

What you will need:

4 unfinished wooden birdhouses, similar sizes, with different shapes. I found mine at Michaels, where there were about 8 designs to choose from, and all sold for $4.99 regular price. (Though they were on sale for $3.99 when we bought them)

1 can Rustoleum (or similar brand) primer

1 can Rustoleum paint (I used 2 cans because I wanted 2 different colors)

1 can Rustoleum clear gloss sealer paint

1 tube water resistant epoxy glue

2 packages 72-120 inch adjustable closet rods (we found some at Home Depot. For $13, you get 2 6-foot-long poles that can be easily driven into the ground. This was much cheaper than the $15 birdhouse poles we found at WalMart, and saved us about $19 per birdhouse)

Large black trashbags

Layout large black trash bags, forming a safe place to spray paint. Put birdhouses on top of trashbag. Spray first with 1-2 coats of primer paint, thoroughly covering bare wood. Let dry for 45 minutes. Then, spray 2 coats of desired paint color, with 2 minutes of drying time between coats. Then, let houses dry an additional 30 minutes, and spray 2 coats of clear coat, with 2 minutes in between each coat. Let dry for an additional 1-2 hours.

Position poles where you would like your birdhouses to be, with the open end driven into the ground, and the plastic-capped top facing the sky. Your soil and location will depend on how far you want to push down your poles. Mine are implanted 1 foot into the ground, leaving 5 feet of pole out of the ground. With bird houses, the structures measure about 5-feet 8-inches.

After you have your poles positioned where you want them, mix water-resistant epoxy and apply to the plastic capped end of the closet rod, and to the underneath of your birdhouse where it will be attached to the pole. Attach to the pole. It can take up to 5 minutes to set, so stay near the pole for 5 minutes to make sure the house affixes. Repeat with all houses, and voila! You are finished!

(Pardon the terrible lighting in these photos)

April 6, 2010 at 7:49 pm 1 comment

Homemade focaccia recipe

The crafting posts will return at some point soon, but I’ve been on a bit of a cooking kick recently. And anything made from scratch qualifies for this blog, so enjoy the food posts for a bit. 🙂

What you will need:

2.5 – 3 cups flour
1 package active yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup very warm water
1 tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup shredded cheese
1 sprig green onion from garden

Mix one cup flour, sugar, salt, garlic powder and yeast in a bowl. Add olive oil and cup of very warm water. Mix with electric mixer for 2-5 minutes. Stir in additional flour (1.5-2 cups) until dough forms and leaves the side of the bowl

On lightly floured surface, knead dough for 6-8 minutes, until dough is elastic. Grease bowl with olive oil, and put dough in bowl. Turn so that all sides of the dough are greased. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until dough has doubled in size  – about 1 hour.

Gently push dough – if indentation remains, dough is ready. Divide into two, and place on lightly greased pizza pans or cookie sheets. Stretch dough to desired shape, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for another 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove plastic wrap. Brush dough with olive oil, and then sprinkle with grated cheese. Cut green onion into small pieces and sprinkle on top of dough.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy!

Variations: You can put any yummy toppings on this bread. It would be perfect for some fresh herbs from the garden – think basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, oregano – anything. Carmelized onions or fresh tomatoes would also be delicious.

March 15, 2010 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Homemade pickle recipe

If there’s one food in the world I can eat every day, it’s pickles. I will be tempted to buy any kind of pickles at a farmer’s market, Amish market – whatever. I can’t resist the siren call of pickled cucumbers.

It’s always been a goal of mine to make refrigerator pickles, but for one reason or another I never got around to it. Oh my goodness … these are worth the effort. And, it’s not even that much effort – awesome. I am anxious to make these this summer with fresh cucumbers from the garden. And to try it with green beans, too.

You will need:

Four or more large cucumbers (more if the cucumbers are smaller)

One bell pepper

One large onion

Salt

Sugar

Vinegar

Mustard seed

Garlic powder

Dill weed

Celery seed

Step one: Cut cucumbers into desired-size pickle chips. I like really crunchy pickles, so I cut thick slices (1/3 inch). Cut bell peppers into small, bite-sized pieces. Cut onions into long, skinny slices.

Throw all vegetables in one big bowl, throw in one tablespoon of salt. Toss vegetables. Now, let them sit for one hour. This will draw out some of the extra water. After one hour, put into desired containers. (Because these are refrigerator pickles, no need to sterilize containers. Just wash out well with soap and water. You can even use leftover glass jars from other items – we used a leftover pickle jar and two salsa jars, cleaned out of course.)

Then, put two cups white vinegar, four cups of sugar, and your spices in a sauce pan. For my spices, I put 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsps mustard seed, 1 tsp dill weed and 1 tsp celery seed. Bring mixture to a boil, whisking as you go to dissolve the sugar. Let boil for about one minute, then remove from heat. After you let it cool for a minute or two (no longer), pour into containers all the way to the top. Put lids on containers. Let sit on the counter for 10 minutes or so to cool, then put in fridge. Pickles will be ready after four hours in the fridge, but even better the next day.

Start to finish, it takes about 5-6 hours for pickles, however actual working time is only about 15 minutes. And trust me, these will be the best pickles you have ever had. Sweet, sour, crunchy, salty, garlicky ….. the best snack ever.

March 14, 2010 at 10:20 am 1 comment

Reversible table runner how to

Finished project

I have been anxious to make a tablerunner for our coffee table, which may or may not have some paint splatters on it. *Ahem*

I made a very simple one that is a great use of fat quarters in your stash – I used 5 fat quarters for the front, the remnants of those 5 fat quarters and scraps from my stash for the back.

Here, a step by step guide.

1. Choose 5 fat quarters that have a complementary theme. Iron fabric.

2. From each fat quarter, cut 3 4-inch by 18-inch strips.

3. Lay strips by color side by side. Grab one strip from each pile. This is your first set. For the next set, start with the second pile in and grab five, making the first strip be your last. For your third set, pick the strip from the third pile to start your pile. So your piles will be in this order: 1,2,3,4,5; 2,3,4,5,1; 3,4,5,1,2.

4. Sew the five strips in your new piles together. Spread seams open, iron flat. You should have three sets when you are done, measuring about 18X18 inches after seam allowances.

5. Cut 4 inch wide strips from fabric (in the direction that will make 4X4 inch blocks of 5 colors, all sewn together). You should be able to cut 4 from each of the 3 panels, leaving 12 strips and small scraps of fabric at the end.

Cut strips will look like this.

6. Pick a pattern to make with these strips. For our table runner, I did 1,2,3,2,1,2,3,2,1. This left me with three strips leftover, which I used on the back. More on this later.

Sew strips together. Open seams, press flat.

7. From leftover fat quarters, create border. For the skinny edges, I cut 2 strips that are 4 inches by 18 inches, 1 each from 2 of the remaining fat quarters. This made the long side 39 inches long, so I cut 13.5 inch X 4 inch strips from the 3 remaining fat quarters, 2 from each colors. I staggered the colors for the edge so that the same fabrics weren’t right across from each other. Sew on sides, open seams, press flat.

Your top is done!

8. Make your backing. For the back, I pieced leftover strips and leftover scraps of fabric until I created a top that measured the same size. For a less time consuming alternative, you can just do one solid fabric backing. If you choose to piece as you go, then you have a reversible table runner.

Randomly pieced backing

9. Place right sides together of both front and back, pin together. Sew around all 4 sides, leaving three inches unsewn in order to turn right side out.

10. Fold in edges of remaining three inches, sew shut either by hand or machine. Sew around the runner 1/2 inch in from the edge to finish. And you’re done!

Finished backing

With table decorations

Reversible back with table decorations

February 26, 2010 at 7:54 am 1 comment

Quick pot holders/hot pads how to

There are fancier, prettier pot holder patterns out there. But probably not any easier ones. These are made with material that makes them safe enough to use to pull something out of the oven, and heat-insulated enough to protect your countertops from hot pots and pans. You can crank several of these out in an hour, and they make great gifts. Plus, they are the perfect project to use up your fabric remnants.

Easy, practical

Items you will need: Sewing machine, fabric, insul-bright, quilt batting.

First, decide how large you want your potholders to be. It depends on what you want to use them for. I’ve made some that are about 5 inches square, with the intent to use them to protect countertops from hot plates. I have also made them 9 inches square to use to pull things out of the oven.

Cut your fabric, insul-bright (special fabric that is heat resistant), and quilt batting to the same size, between 5-10 inches square.

For each pot holder, you will need 2 squares of fabric, 1 square of insul-bright and 1 square of  batting. (I used warm and natural all cotton batting)

Put one of the fabric squares, right side down, in front of you. Layer one batting square on top, followed by one insul-bright square. Sew around all edges. When finished, lay second fabric square right side up, and place new layered square on top, fabric side down. Sew around all edges, leaving about 1.5 inches to turn the project right side out. Turn right side out, sew closed. Add additional quilting to the outside – either a second square around the perimeter, an X, lines – whatever your heart desires.

And you’re done!

February 19, 2010 at 6:23 pm 5 comments

Whoo-too: How to owl softie

I would make some changes to this softie the second time around, but this is a really simple, quick, simple softie project that requires only a few items that you probably already have.

1 fat quarter

random scraps of felt

thread

sewing machine or handsewn

Ignore the top - yours won't have the same mistake 🙂

Take your fat quarter and fold in half. This should create fabric that’s 18 X 10.5 inches. Cut a shape similar to a gummy drop with the folded part uncut at the bottom. Pick one side of the folded piece of fabric to be the front of your owl. Cut two wings out of felt and sew onto the edge of the body. Then cut a giant  triangle to serve as a beak, sew on. Then, cut two large white  circles for eyes, and sew so they slightly overlap onto the beak. Sew on two smaller black circles to create the pupils for the eyes. Then, sew two little feather-shaped felt cutouts to the top of the face.

Now that your face and wings are done, fold fabric the other way so that right sides are facing in. Sew around the open edges of your shape (be careful to keep the top feathers sticking out), leaving about 1.5 inches to turn the fabric right side out, then fill with polyfill, sew the remaining hole closed, and you’re done!

The mistake I made in this that I would not make again is choosing to have the hole to flip the owl inside out at the top of his head. This made for an awkward seam. It would have been much better to the hole along the bottom edge. Next time I will do it this way.

For variations, add glasses or even little felt feet.

February 12, 2010 at 6:58 am 7 comments

A Valentine’s Day gift how to – Dyed wooden bead necklace

Now that my mom has received her Valentine’s Day gift in the mail, I can share one of my weekend projects with you.

The idea for this gift came from – where else – Martha Stewart’s Web site. You can see it here. I did a few alterations to the directions that I will go over. I have made these necklaces before in blues and greens, and wanted to do some Valentine-friendly colors this time around.

My kind husband was nice enough to document the process by using the photo feature on my video camera. We will never do this again – the quality is terrible. So, I took pics of the finished product with my Canon Digital Rebel and the results were much better.

Here is a sampling of the basic supplies you need:

Rit dyes, wooden beads, satin ribbon, toggle clasps

After you have assembled your supplies, pick a color safe bowl and fill with warm water. Add Rit dye until you achieve a color you really like. I used about 1/2 a box to about 12 cups of water. The less color you use, the lighter the beads will be and the longer the dye process will take.

Vat of dye. Looks a little creepy, no?

Throw in wooden beads, and stir constantly with a color-safe spoon to make sure beads are rotating and all sides are getting dyed. When they are the color you are aiming for, remove with a small strainer and lay on a thick layer of paper towels to dry overnight. Beads will get darker within a few minutes of removing, and will lighten a bit when completely dry. A general rule of thumb – which differs from what Martha Stewart’s site says – is that the beads will dry darker overall than the color they are when you remove them from the dye. So, take them out just before they reach the color you are aiming for. You can always redye later.

Beads ready to dry

Finished grayish purple beads

Valentine's pink beads

Our Springer Spaniel Anna was unenthused by the whole process.

That doesnt smell like food ...

The next day, when the beads are dry, string them on your chosen medium. I chose a variety of colors of very thin satin ribbon in contrasting colors. I figured out the length I wanted the finished ribbon to be first, cut it, and then strung enough beads to cover about 2/3 of the length of ribbon. Center the beads in the middle, and tie knots on either side of the beads to keep the beads from sliding too far. On Martha Stewart’s site, the beads go all the way around and to the back, but I find the necklaces don’t lay as well if there are big bulky beads around your neck. Once your knots are tied on either side of your string of beads, tie toggle clasps on to the end of each side of the ribbon, and voila! You have  necklace.

Finished necklaces, taken with a much better camera:

7 necklaces in all

Close up - love the gradient effect the beads naturally take on

February 9, 2010 at 7:58 pm 7 comments


About me

My name is Mallory Murray and I have a love of all things oldfashioned. I'm a modern day feminist who also adores Martha Stewart. Read on for my sewing, crochet, cooking, gardening, quilting and crafting projects. I am the chief officer of marketing and design at Northwest Missouri State University, so expect the occasional random post about marketing/universities/design. I dream of a hobby farm with baby doll sheep, a sheep dog, a small flock of chickens, and other animals to be announced. I'm also a Pitt State grad, football lover, HGTV addict and obsessed with the color aqua.

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