Monday, December 9, 2013

Homemade DIY Vanilla Extract

Pure vanilla extract at the grocery store is so expensive. I purchased some recently and for a small bottle, it cost around $14! When I heard that there was a way to make your own vanilla extract for way cheaper, I was thrilled! With just a couple of simple ingredients and some time, you'll have a large quantity of vanilla that will last you a very long time (or you can gift them to people for Christmas like I'll be doing!).

All you need is a 40oz bottle of vodka, vanilla beans, and some small bottles if you'd like to give them as presents. I purchased the cheapest bottle of vodka that I could find - it doesn't matter whether you use a high quality or not when it comes to the alcohol. As for the vanilla beans, they can be very expensive at the grocery store, so I recommend purchasing them online. Also, be sure to use "Grade B" beans and nothing that is "Grade A" or high quality. The cheaper vanilla beans are better for making extract, whereas the higher quality beans are better for using in cooking. I bought them from a shop on eBay that I highly recommend (search for Grade B Madagascar Vanilla Beans).

I followed the instructions from this website, but here are some quick directions:  Remove 1/2 cup of vodka from a 40oz bottle. Take 12 vanilla beans and slice them once lengthwise with a sharp knife (not enough so the beans come out of the pods). Put the vanilla beans inside the vodka bottle, put the lid back on, and shake the bottle. Store the bottle for at least 3 months in a cool, dark room and shake it up once a week.

If you want to give these as Christmas gifts, it would be a good idea to start making the vanilla in the summer. I've heard that if you let the vanilla beans soak in the vodka for 5-6 months, it will produce a stronger flavor. If you're in a time crunch, I'm sure 2-3 months would be fine.

If you're looking for bottles, there are a ton of places where you can order clear or amber 4oz bottles online. I discovered that anyone can purchase from a company called Uline and I was able to order online and pick up the bottles in person at their warehouse that wasn't far from my place, which saved me money on the shipping costs. I ordered these clear bottles - $1.10 each when buying a case of 24.

When the time has passed and you're ready to pour the vanilla into small bottles, just be sure to remove the vanilla bean pods and run the liquid through a coffee filter to remove any vanilla beans that might have escaped or any grit so the extract is clear. Pour the vanilla into the small bottles, put a cute label on the front and add ribbon if you'd like! Now you have a wonderful homemade gift that anyone who loves cooking would enjoy!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Support Me in my Walk for Farm Animals! (Farm Sanctuary Charity Walk)

Two years ago, I participated in the Walk for Farm Animals supporting Farm Sanctuary and I've decided to raise money for this amazing animal charity once again this year! I have joined the Toronto walk that happens on September 28th, 2013.  Ever since I visited Farm Sanctuary, I've been a huge supporter of this amazing organization and will do everything that I can to help them out. They are one of the leading animal charities that rescue farm animals that have been abused as a result of factory farming, and they also do a lot to change government policies regarding abusive practices towards animals.

I would really appreciate any donations if you would like to sponsor me in this event.  By clicking the above button, you will be taking directly to my fundraising page, where your donations will go directly to Farm Sanctuary.  Any donations are appreciated and the rescued farm animals will be thankful for your support!

It would also be fantastic if you wanted to participate in the event and raise some money as well for this worthwhile cause!  You can sign up as a participant in a city close to you, become a Virtual Walker in your city like I did, or "Sleep In For Farm Animals" where you'd like to raise money but might be a bit too busy to take part in a walk. 

Thank you so much for your support!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

FO: Crochet Swiffer Sock

I recently picked up a Swiffer for the apartment but I absolutely hate the idea of buying those disposable sheets. It is terrible for the environment and a waste of money! I'd heard about people knitting reusable Swiffer covers and searched around online for a pattern. I found a crochet pattern that totally did the trick! It is double-sided with a flat side and a side with longer bits, which I find are great for picking up all of those dust bunnies.

It works wonderfully! I am in the process of making a couple more as back-up Swiffer covers. I find that they pick up the dust bunnies really well, and you can throw them in the washing machine after you use them. You still will need to use a dust pan for the larger bits of dirt.

I've heard that acrylic yarn works best because they create some static for picking up the dust bunnies. This is a great one for using up extra yarn in your stash - I just used leftover worsted weight yarn. You can easily crochet this one up in an evening! Hooray for being environmentally-friendly and saving some cash!

Monday, May 20, 2013

WIP: Versio Sweater with Schaefer Yarn Company Finger Lakes Yarn

Just a little knitting update on this holiday Monday here in Canada (Victoria Day!). I have the day off work so I have decided to take some time to myself and do a little knitting (and blogging!). It is very hot outside today and while I did take a little time to sit outside with an iced coffee and enjoy the sunshine, I'm back inside and ready to keep on knitting.

I'm back to working on Versio using the beautiful yarn that I purchased in Watkin's Glen, NY - Schaefer Yarn Company's "Anne" wool. It is in the shade, "Finger Lakes" that you can only purchase at stores in the Finger Lakes region.

For those who may remember (or you can check out my past blog post), I knitted the entire sweater using this yarn last year and found it was WAY too big after I blocked it. Not only was it too big, but it seemed out of proportion. I have made some adjustments with the size that I'm knitting, as well as the needles I'm knitting the sweater on. Hopefully, things will work out better this time. It is such a shame to spend all of the time knitting a sweater and not have it look beautiful in the end!

I'm not sure about my readers out there who knit or crochet, but do you find yourself knitting more or less in the summertime? I know that some people might think of knitting as a winter craft, but I love to knit all year around! I do spend some more time outdoors, but there's always time to be made for knitting. What do you think? I am curious!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Knitter's Frolic 2013

It was my third year attending Knitter's Frolic and it was my favorite time yet! I had to work until pretty late the night before, so I wasn't able to arrive to the marketplace until about 11am. Even though I always hear that the place is packed first thing in the morning when it opens, it was still quite busy! I also found so many nice yarns to knit with, so it was a great success!

This first wool - I really wish I could remember the booth that I purchased it from, but the lady running the booth was so nice! I bought 5 skeins of Manos Del Uruguay Alegria in beautiful variations of cream, light to dark blue and turquoise, to caramel and gray. I really hope that I can make a beautiful sweater out of this wool!

I could not resist this bright and colorful Manos Del Uruguay Maxima wool in a whole rainbow of colors! Pinks, oranges, yellows, blues...I think this will make a really nice hat or scarf! I bought 2 skeins of it from Rose Haven Farm Store (Picton, Ontario).

I bought a kit (I love the kits at Knitters Frolic - makes everything so easy to make!) from The Needle Emporium booth (blog!). It is the Austin Hoodie with 3 skeins of Lorna's Laces Solemate in a light turquoise "The Outer Drive". I bought the Ravinia kit last year from the Needle Emporium using the same wool and it turned out so beautifully!

I purchased these two skeins of sock yarn from the Sweet Fiber booth. I didn't see this booth last year so they might be new to the Frolic, but I loved all of the different colors of hand dyed yarn available! I might make a shawl with these, or socks and gloves, or maybe a top! Who knows!

This was my last purchase at the event and it was after seeing the finished product on a mannequin at their booth. It totally drew me into the booth and I couldn't help but want to make it! The pattern is Liesl and it uses Louet Euroflax Linen yarn. This is fantastic because I'm always looking for non-animal sourced vegan yarns to try out. I bought the kit from Adirondack Yarns from Lake Placid, New York.

While purchasing all of this fantastic yarn certainly was fun, the highlight of my day was taking a class at the Frolic! This was the first fiber class I've ever taken, and my first at the Frolic. The class was Spindle Spinning instructed by Barbara Aikman.

I've always wanted to learn how to spin yarn and I decided that a basic spindle spinning class would be a great way to start. Only after a short time, everyone in the class was spinning up their own yarn from merino fiber! There were only nine people in the class, so Barbara was able to teach us all within the small group (we sat in a circle). She was also able to provide us with individual attention and help us out. Barbara also provided us with any background info on spinning and gave us plenty of resources to keep going with the new hobby. The first ball of white wool was the very first one that I spun from fiber! Then, we got to choose some colors and next came the beautiful darker blue wool. We were able to take some fiber home with us, so I chose the light blue fiber to spin into wool. Later, I'm going to ply the dark blue and light blue wool together!

All in all, it was such a fun way to spend an afternoon! I will be busy with knitting projects for a very long time - at least until next year's show!