Saturday, January 24, 2015

Make your own Vanilla Extract

This morning, I finally got around to doing something that's been on my list for a while: making a new batch of vanilla extract.

We've been using homemade vanilla extract for about a year, and it is by far one of my favorite DIY success stories. It's ridiculously easy - I'd even say foolproof. The result is amazingly delicious, wholesome, and generally all around impressive. And it's a massive savings over buying at the store.

Mom, tell me how to make extract! I'm all ears...
  • Vanilla beans (I use 12)
  • Vodka
  • Resealable glass bottle (mine is a 12.5oz swingtop)

  • Split vanilla beans down the center, exposing the amazing seedy goodness inside. Use a sharp paring knife.
Bonus: delicious smelling hands!
  • Put the beans in the resealable bottle. Then pour vodka over them to cover.
I definitely didn't overflow the bottle while trying to take this picture. Nope. Definitely not.
  • Close it up, and forget about it for at least 3 months.

Bye, see you in May!

That's really it. Over the next few months, the vanilla will infuse into the vodka. You can start using the extract whenever it reaches the color and taste you like. I always leave the vanilla beans in, so the flavor continues to deepen over time. You can pull them out if you want to, though.

Okay, so it's easy and delicious and your friends will think you're Martha Stewart's long lost progeny. But what about the "cheap" part?

Friends, I share with you my secret: Beanilla.*

This web retailer sells high-quality vanilla beans at bulk prices. If you're used to getting 2 beans in a tiny glass vial at the grocery store for the price of your firstborn child, buying an affordable package of 25 feels nothing short of decadent. You can even choose the origin of your beans. I'm having a lot of fun experimenting with the different tastes and textures. Right now, I'm rocking Grade B Madagascar Bourbon beans.

On top of generally great prices, Beanilla often offers free shipping deals and great sales. They also sell bottles, funnels, and whatever else your vanilla-loving little heart might desire.

Now all I have left to do is decide how to use my leftover vanilla beans!

What can I say, life is hard.

* If you're interested in purchasing from Beanilla, I'd appreciate it if you'd use my referral code at checkout: 5039188. Thanks!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Trim Trimmery

The wainscotting continues!

Putting up what feels like miles of trim might get tedious after a while, if it weren't for my goofball husband deciding to channel Mary Poppins.

A couple times an hour, I hear him singing under his breath:

"Oh a nail gun full of brads makes the wainscot go up, the wainscot go up, the wainscot go up"
"Trim trimmery, trim trimmery, trim trim trimroo"

... followed by happy little off-key humming noises.

Then a nail doesn't go all the way in, or a cut isn't quite right, and the humming is replaced by loud swearing, the miter saw buzzing, and a whole lot of banging.

Ten minutes later, though.... trim trimmery, trim trimmery, trim trim trimee.

Hermione helps by making sure the hammer tastes good. 

And the result is pretty spectacular! Check out this corner. And that's before caulking and painting!

This is the kind of thing I get excited about now. I clearly live a life of adventure and mystery.
I'm really looking forward to finally being able to hang some art. That will really make it feel homey in here!

If you want to see the inspiration for this project, or learn more about the materials we're using, read this post.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Making a Home

It's so much fun to start putting on the finishing touches that make our house feel like home.

First, the last real piece of the kitchen! I can't call the kitchen officially done, because we're still missing a door for the pantry. But you can't see that from inside the cooking space, and I still want to celebrate something.  So ... er ... phase one complete?

First, we added trim to the mystery cabinet we randomly discovered inside the wall.
Doesn't everyone have one of those?

General badassery with the new nail gun.
Best. present. ever.

Then we needed some trim for the top and bottom of the bar. As you'll recall, it's curved. After snapping a bunch of regular quarter round, we ordered this flex-trim stuff. It's terrifyingly bendy. We nailed it right on in one piece. Please don't tell me what it's made of, and just let me enjoy my pretty pretty trim.
The Hulk.

The Quality Control inspector agrees we're ready to paint.
I didn't really believe it would ever all be one color!
And with that, we say goodbye and good riddance to kitchen work (for a while).
On to the next project!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Trim the Cabinets and Deck the Walls

Fa la la la la!

Around here, we deck the halls in our own way. Sure, we're a couple weeks behind everyone else. Sure, our "trim" is actual 8' wood trim instead of tinsel, and our decorating involves a pneumatic nail gun rather than shiny ornaments. But since this is as close to Christmas decorating as our nice Jewish family is going to get, we're going to enjoy it.

Since completing the backsplash and generally reassembling our kitchen, the whole room was tantalizingly close to finished. It was just missing several pieces of trim - under the sink, above the dishwasher, in a few nooks and crannies. This weekend, we tackled those final steps.

This is how our sink has looked for months - floating above cut-off cabinets.

Brett fits in a piece of MDF we cut with the jigsaw.
I have no pictures of that, because my free hand was being used to stop Hermione from eating sawdust. Mmm.

Just ignore the dirty dishes, la la la.
We did have to special order a couple pieces of trim, so I can't call the kitchen officially done yet. But soon. Oh yes, soon. 

Then, in some kind of fit of new-year productivity, we also started putting up the trim on the walls. We're planning a board and batten style, like this:

Inspiration from Young House Love

Inspiration from Centsational Girl

Both of those pictures are from awesome DIY bloggers who provide full tutorials, so check them out.

We're breaking up the cost by starting with just the rails and ledge. We'll fill in the vertical boards later on. We're using 1x3 MDF for the rail and 1x2 for the ledge.

The first rail goes up!

And the first ledge. Two feet down, 73 to go!

Obviously, more pictures of the walls will be coming soon. Try to contain your excitement.