DIY

How to Make Grape Jam – In Pictures

How to Make Grape Jam in Pictures on Punk DomesticsWhen the concord grapes get ripe, we like to make jam!  Here’s how we do it.

You’ll need two quarts of concord grapes, six cups of sugar, two small saucepans, a strainer, a canning pot and accessories, and three pint jars with lids and bands.

Wash the grapes and measure out two quarts.  In this picture, there are enough for three batches (six quarts).

Next, peel the grapes, putting grapes in one pot and peels in another.  When the grapes are ripe, you can just give them a squeeze and the grapes pop right out of their skins.

Cook the grapes without water and the peels with just a little water in separate pots for ten or fifteen minutes until the peels are soft and the grapes are separated from the seeds.

Combine the peels in a larger pot with sugar (3 cups per quart of grapes).  Strain out the seeds from the pulp, and add the pulp to the sugar mixture.  Bring to a boil until jam reaches the gelling point.  You can test this with a candy thermometer (211° in Denver), a spoon or by putting a plate in the freezer.

Ladle your hot jam into hot jars.  Process pints in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes here in Denver.  Process five minutes less if at sea-level or using half-pint jars.

Voilà – Grape jam!

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Categories: Canning and Food Preservation, DIY | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: Sewing it Yourself

P9140011So sorry that my TT’s have been so random lately.  Most of my computer time goes to checking email and then, I usually get a few words written  here and there, but no real chunks of time to get whole posts completed!   Such is the life with a twelve week old and a nearly three year old!

This weeks tip: Sewing it Yourself!  I’ve made quite a few things myself, with my handy-dandy sewing machine (next week’s tip – Bumming Sewing Machines off Your Mother ;) ).  I’ve made costumes and a nursing cover and bags to store H’s toys.  But my favorite thing of late is my mei tai!

Anisa Mei TaiA mei tai is a baby carrier, inspired by Asian design.  My friend had recently bought one called a Freehand.  After going to a baby wearing class with her (to figure out how to nurse in my Moby), I saw the mei tai demonstrated, and loved the design…  Just not the price tag; $80!!  So I did what I always do, I searched craigslist for a used one.  After a couple weeks of no luck, I googled some sewing instructions (see them here & here), and I made one myself!

Rick Mei TaiMine is made from 10.10 oz unbleached cotton canvas with a cotton panel of cool bird fabric that I didn’t get the name/designer of (as always, click the pictures for the best view).  It took me about three hours to complete it, not counting washing and stopping to feed E and eat dinner myself.  Originally, I was going to pad the straps, but after seeing and feeling the width I decided it wasn’t necessary.

I am so pleased with how it turned out!  I wore it to the farm last week and it was fabulous and much cooler than the Moby, since there was so much less fabric.  I also left one side with out the birds so that it could be reversed for Rick to wear (though the birds aren’t overly girly anyway).  I still love the Moby too, but this is a great alternative, and is frankly a bit more user friendly.

In total, I spent $20 and three hours.  It would have been a bit less if I hadn’t bought the padding too.  What a savings!

Categories: DIY, Thrift | 2 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Car Maintenance

Back in January, Tracy posted a tip about Changing Your Own Oil.  I was a bit bummed because she stole my thunder!  See – I am a ridiculous planner.  When I first joined in on the Thrifty Thursday tips, I wrote out a list of all the things I wanted to write about.  Then I organized the list into categories, and then put the categories in a particular order (like garden stuff and spring cleaning tips in the spring time).  So my DIY category got pushed back to May/June, and Tracy beat me to the punch on the oil changes.  She did a great post, so I won’t reiterate how to change your own oil here.  But I will add that if you are using conventional oil instead of synthetic, your costs are quite a bit less than what she had posted.  Also, depending on the area of the country you live in. 

BUT  I do have a couple other car maintenance tips up my sleeves (after all, my dad was a master technician for Nissan, and I grew up helping him in the garage).  The tips below are very basic and easy, and don’t require a jack to lift your car. 

First – Change your own Air Filter.  It’s amazing how dirty these things get, and how simple they are to change… especially considering what most shops want to charge you for doing it. 

Air filters run anywhere from $12-20 depending on your car.  Go to the auto parts store and look up which kind of filter to buy for your make, model and year of your car.  If you’ve never looked in one of those auto parts books they have there, you can ask the person at the counter for help, and they’ll show you how to use it (it’s worth it to ask, since this is also how you figure out what kind of oil filter and all kinds of other parts you may need one day if you do your own car maintenance).  Anyway, back to the air filter:

-Clean air filter in hand, open up the hood of your car. 
-Locate the air filter (it usually is near the top of your engine and is either rectangular or circular with a wing nut or latches hold the cover closed).
-Open the cover and remove the old air filter.
-Insert the new filter and close the cover. 
-Congrats!  You’re done!

Next – Check your Fluids.  This includes brake fluid, washer fluid, oil, coolant, transmission fluid (if you have an automatic). 

Most of these should be checked on a hot engine.  So drive to the auto parts store, shut off your car, and check it in their lot (or next time you fill up that other  fluid, gasoline, check it then so you know if you even need to make the trip). 

Once you look at the levels of fluid in each reservoir and determine what you need, go to the store, get it, and fill it up!   If you are low on oil, be sure that you are watchful for a leak.  Your car should not be burning up or leaking oil.  Sometimes a leak is easy to fix (maybe the filter was on too tight or not tight enough from your last oil change), but other things can cause it too. 

I might post a few more car tips next week, depending.  I wanted to include pictures with all of this, but Rick keeps taking the 4Runner to work, so I can’t get the pictures!  BUT if I get a chance, I’ll update this post with some ASAP.  :)

Other things I’ve done myself include changing a serpentine belt, changing front brake pads (this was hard only because I lacked enough upper body strength to pull the pads apart by myself), changing the jets in a carburetor, and helping a friend with her alternator.  They all require more explanation, and more confidence than I have in my abilities to share a how-to.  :)  But there are lots of good books and tutorials out there!  Rick even found a tutorial online to swap out our broken antenna on the 4Runner.  If I can do it, so can you!

Check out Genny, Tracy & Katie Jean‘s blogs for more tips this week.

Categories: DIY, Thrift | Tags: | Leave a comment

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Garden Gate

http://www.gardenplans.com/50gardengate.html

Since I’m still on the DIY kick, I thought I’d share about one of our most complimented DIY projects, our garden gate.  Our veggie garden is technically in our front yard.  Rick wanted to put up a fence so that people couldn’t just come steal our veggies, so of course, I insisted it be cute.  :)

I looked all over the web for designs I liked and came up with this one, shown on the left, from this site: http://www.gardenplans.com/50gardengate.html The plan cost $3.95 to download.

gardenWe bought it, and the supplies we needed.  Rick made a few modifications to the plan to accommodate the tools he has in the garage.  This is how it turned out (note that this pic is from August 2007, and I was too lazy to go take a fresh picture).  As you can see it’s a bit different than the plan, but I love how it turned out, and it looks really great from the curb.   I think Rick built it that summer, or maybe the summer of 2006?

It’s made from cedar, and because we built it so long ago, I can’t remember the cost at all.  But I do know that it was WAY less expensive then anything we could have bought pre-fab at the store.  And it was built to last.  Here’s a picture of the gate from May last year.

It still looks great.  This year, I plan to add another coat of stain, just for added protection, and one of the balls on the posts is cracked and may need to be replaced.  But over all it was a great project, and simple to do yourself.

If you’re landscaping or doing any kind of home improvement, don’t be afraid to go searching on the web for instructions on how to do it yourself.  Sometimes the payoff is great!

Check out what Genny & Katie Jean are posting about this week.

To see more of my Do-It-Yourself projects click the DIY category on the right.

Categories: DIY, Garden, Thrift | Leave a comment

Thrifty Thursday: Habitat for Humanity Outlet

Well, since I’ve been on the project kick so bad, I wanted to share this week about a great DIY store that Genny once told me about… the Habitat for Humanity Home Improvement Outlet!  (this links to the Denver-Metro outlet stores). 

This place is great because, not only can you find awesome deals (a brand new bathtub for $85?!?!), on all kinds of building and home improvement supplies, but 100% of the proceeds go back into Habitat’s home-building program.

Here’s a link to Habitat’s website that lists other “Re-Stores” in the U.S. incase you don’t live in Colorado…  http://www.habitat.org/cd/env/restore.aspx

Check in with Katie Jean to see what tips she has this week!

Categories: DIY, Thrift | 1 Comment

Honey-Do Weekends (part 1)

diaper-sprayer-sprayingI’m not sure what it is about being pregnant that makes you want to remodel your whole house, but whatever it is, I have it!  Last time, with H, Rick and I removed carpet and plywood to find the original hardwoods in our bedrooms, and then refinished them.  We also installed a sprinkler system in the front yard ourselves.   This time around, I’ve made an equally challenging Honey-Do list for Rick.

This weekend was the start of, what I’m sure will be a four or five week long, series of projects.  But, despite the rain on Friday and Saturday, we got a lot of the projects crossed off the list, or at the very least, started.   On Thursday, I began pulling weeds and crab-grass from the front flower beds.  The grass invasion was especially bad this year, so this was a big project.  I have five flower beds, and it took me about two hours to get half of the biggest one done.  Rick mowed the lawn and got most of the other beds done on Friday before it rained.   I just have the second half of that big bed left to do this week.

Saturday we went to Englewood’s first Farmers Market (it was small, but you have to start somewhere), and then to Home Depot to get the parts for the other projects on the To-Do list.  Rick got pieces to repair our back yard hose, and a new valve for the sprinkler system, as well as everything we needed for the Diaper Sprayer.  The guy in the plumbing department was really helpful, since we wanted to combine both the tutorials that we looked at.  We wanted that ball-valve, but we wanted to use connections that didn’t involve clamps.

We ended up with something that will be easily detached from the system when the new baby is out of diapers, but it did cost a bit more than we anticipated.  With tax et all, it came to about $32.  We used a gift card, so it was free to us though.  We figure that by the time you buy one online and have it shipped, we still came out about $18 ahead.  Here are the pictures (click for best view, the thumbnail too):

diaper-sprayer-parts  diaper-sprayer-connection

The sprayer has great pressure, and the ball valve is already proving it’s worth, since Henry wants to spray the hose.  It took all of fifteen minutes to install… if that.  All we need now is a hook for the wall next to the toilet to hang the nosle on.  :)

While at the Depot, we finally got two gallons of paint for our living room/dining room.  I’ve been dying to paint in there for over a year.  I did most of the painting yesterday, with another coat to go.  It should be done by the middle of this week, and then I’ll post before and after pictures.  Stay tuned!

Rick also patched several holes in the walls (some from nails, one from a hook, one from moving the thermostat, etc.) with plaster, so we could paint and hang new pictures and shelves.  He caulked around the front porch columns, and plans to get the final coat of paint on them this week as well.

Sunday morning, Rick and our neighbor, “Mr. Mitchell” as Henry calls him, set up H’s new Big Boy Bed.  H was literally jumping up and down with excitement over this event.  he couldn’t wait to see the bed, and helped me fold his new twin-size cowboy sheets.  Once the guys got the bed in, H just had to help with the assembly…

building-the-bed building-the-bed-2 big-boy-bed big-big-bed

The bed is BIG!  Compared to our little guy, it’s ginormous!  Once it was all built, Mr. Mitchell set him up on it and his eyes got so wide.  he couldn’t believe how high up he was!  I couldn’t either!

We really like this bed because of all the storage it has.  But it will be a while before H gets to sleep in it.  We need to get a few items for it first:  a side rail so he doesn’t fall out, a ladder so he can get up himself, and a waterproof mattress pad to protect the awesome mattress.  It is nicer than my and Rick’s mattress, and we are a little jealous!

As if that weren’t enough for the weekend, Rick also managed to get the garden roto-tilled so it will be ready to plant this week!  Hooray!  We’re about a third of the way done with the list, so stay tuned for more updates as we continue to fix up the house.  :)

Categories: Community, DIY | 4 Comments

Thrifty Thursday: DIY Diaper Sprayer

diaper-sprayer-sprayingWhen you first begin to use cloth diapers, (provided you breastfeed) your baby’s poo is very liquid, and doesn’t need to be flushed before washing the diaper. It just rinses right out in your washing machine with no mess or trouble. But after about six months, when you’ve began to introduce foods to your baby, you will eventually get a diaper with a sticky poo that just won’t come out without help. In the past, this would result in sticking your hand in the toilet to swish the diaper around until you liberate the diaper from it’s poopy mess.

Fortunately, there are people out there with the smarts to make sure there are alternatives to this reality. Someone invented the Diaper Sprayer.

A diaper sprayer attaches to the water supply on your toilet so you can conveniently spray the poo into the bowl, without getting your hands in the muck. These usually run about $40 and up, depending on where you get them.

I did not use a diaper sprayer with my first son’s diapering. I had not heard of one, and so I diligently stuck my hand in the toilet and was thus motivated to get my boy potty trained before he turned two! Yuck!

But, now I’m in the know. And while I think $40 is totally worth a sprayer, for the DIY crowd (I am one), there are less expensive alternatives! I found a blog with an awesome tutorial (which I see no need to replicate) with good pictures, so I wanted to share the link: Gidget Goes Home as well as a great YouTube instructional video on the subject.

In the video, the man recommends using a ball valve to shut off water to the sprayer when it’s not in use. I really liked this addition to the recommended tools/parts from Gidget’s blog since I think it will head off and potential for my toddler to use the sprayer to, shall we say, *clean* the bathroom by himself!

We ended up with something that will be easily detached from the system when the new baby is out of diapers. Here are the pictures (click for best view, the thumbnail too):

diaper-sprayer-parts

The sprayer has great pressure, and the ball valve is already proving it’s worth, since my toddler wants to spray the hose. It took all of fifteen minutes to install… if that. All we need now is a hook for the wall next to the toilet to hang the nosle on.

A copy of this post is on my birth/parenting blog:  SweetSprouts.wordpress.com

To see more of my Do-It-Yourself projects click the DIY category on the right.

Categories: DIY, Thrift, Urban Homesteading | 4 Comments

Coop Construction!

Well, it’s almost 100% complete!  Below are a few pictures of the process:

roost.jpg      nest-box-beginnings.jpg      nest-box-hung.jpg     coop-nest-with-siding.jpg     

The Finished Nest Box      Nest Roof for Egg Access      Coop on Legs     Inside Nest Box View      

Inside Roost View      Coop Open

Still to do:  Build the fenced-in run with gate, install coop window, add the ramp for the chicken door, and add just a little charm (paint, maybe an old tin “fresh eggs” sign, etc.).

Many, many thanks go to our awesome neighbor, Doug.  He gave us some old tin from his garage for the roof and a left over piece of plywood when we came up short!  Yay!!!  Thanks Doug!  You saved us a bundle!!

Categories: Chickens, DIY, Garden, Urban Homesteading | Tags: | 6 Comments

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