Homemade Pickles

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I want to preface this post with a confession.  I have never canned before.  My mom is a canner and has been my entire life.  When you live out on acreage with a large garden you have to learn how to preserve or you will waste much of the harvest bounty.  I have been meaning to learn for years, and finally tried my hand when I received two huge boxes of pickling cucumbers from my parents.  I still have some things to learn and recipes to tweak, but overall I am pretty proud with my outcome.

Canning homemade pickles. Dill Pickles, Jalapeno pickles and more!

Let me back up a minute and talk about the produce I used.  These cucumbers are no ordinary pickling cucumbers.  They are monsters.  The first one is the typical size pickle you see in the store.  The one on the right is the typical size cucumber in my parent’s garden…

homegrown cucumbers for making pickles

And not only are they ginormous, they are plentiful.  After filling one side of my sink to wash them up, I only scraped the surface of the two boxes I had.

Pickles

Since these cucumbers were so large and plentiful, I opted to cut them up two different ways, in rounds…

Pickles at home

And in spears.

How to can pickles

After they were cut up, I had read that I should coat in salt and soak in cold water for up to 24 hours and that helps keep the pickles more crisp.

Making and canning pickles

I gave that a try using bowls and plates to weigh them down to keep submerged in water.  Next time I will try without this step to see it if really helps.  I found the pickles to be a bit saltier than I would like and I am not sure if it is because of the salt bath or the brine I made.

Homemade crisp pickles recipe

While waiting for the pickles to soak, I chopped up some jalapeños and soaked them overnight in an ice bath too.  I really wanted to make some spicy pickles in this batch, and they have turned out to be my favorite.

Making spicy jalapeno pickles

The next day it was time to get canning.  I drained all the cucumbers, peeled a few heads of garlic and gathered my spices and herbs.  I made jalapeno pickles, dill pickles, pickling spice pickles and garlic pickles.

Homemade pickles recipe

With all the supplies ready, I made by pickling brine.  I used the basic recipe from A Sweet Pea Chef

  • ½ cup pickling salt
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 cups white vinegar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Pickling brine

As I packed each jar I switched between the types of pickles.  In the jalapeno pickles I added pepper flakes, peppercorns and garlic.  In the dill pickles I used fresh dill sprigs, garlic, mustard seed and peppercorns.  I ended up not being a fan of the pickling spice.  It tastes like cinnamon and Christmas, so for pickles it just seems wrong in my opinion.

How to can pickles - great pickle recipe

As for the actual canning process, I had to run to Target and buy a large pot, deep enough to can in, a Ball Utensil Set, and some jars.  I did not have a canning rack, so I used lid rims and wire to diy one.  I followed the process on A Sweet Pea Chef of processing for 10 minutes in boiling water.  All the jars but one sealed, so I was pretty happy with the results.


Spaghetti Squash with Feta

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I love fall and eating spaghetti squash.  Since Alex is not a fan, I tend to roast up a spaghetti squash and use it for workday lunches.  One of my favorite ways to eat it is with feta, basil and roasted tomatoes.  It is full of flavor and a great change of pace to the usual salads and sandwiches at lunch time.

Spaghetti squash salad with feta, basil, tomatoes, onion and garlic.  So good!!!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup diced onion
2-3 garlic clove, minced
Cooking spray
1/2 medium spaghetti squash
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
5 basil leaves
3-4 tablespoons feta
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Spaghetti squash salad with feta, basil, tomatoes, onion and garlic recipe

To start out, roast your squash and use a fork to pull it into long strands.  You can learn how I roast mine by clicking here.

How to make spaghetti squash in the oven

In a skillet over medium-high heat, spray a layer of olive oil cooking spray and sauté onions and garlic until softened and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.

Delicious spaghetti squash recipes

Meanwhile, chop up your baby tomatoes.

Delicious spaghetti squash recipe

Add tomatoes to the skillet and continue cooking for about 3 minutes.

Roasted spaghetti squash recipe

Removed tomato mixture from the pan and mix with feta, basil, squash, salt and pepper.

Yummy spaghetti squash salad with feta, basil, tomatoes, onion and garlic.  So good!!!

Stir together and enjoy!  The sautéed tomato, onion and garlic mixture gives a ton of flavor and makes for an excellent change to the typical weekday lunch.

I love spaghetti squash!!


Halloween Broken Porcelain Doll Costume

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I hope everyone had a great Halloween.  This year we planned a costume contest at work, but organized it with only a week notice.  Not having time to run around and look for a costume, I turned to my closet and Pinterest for inspiration.  In the end I decided to try a broken porcelain doll costume.

Halloween Broken doll costume

This is a pretty simple one to pull together.  I had a black tea length dress from my Senior prom. With a little adjustment and sucking in, I was able to get the dress on still.  I grabbed a little cardigan to make it more work appropriate.  Next I grabbed some costume jewelry necklaces, white tights and my favorite holiday pumps.

Halloween Broken porcelain doll costume

What really makes this costume is the broken doll make-up.  I was able to complete this look with just a pale powder compact, red lipstick, black, white and brown eyeliner, purple and white eye shadow, blush and fake eyelashes.  I quickly curled my hair and tied a ribbon as a headband.

Halloween costume- Broken porcelain doll make-up

Simple look that is sure to turn heads on Halloween.  It was fun to see people’s reactions at work and the trick-or-treaters at our house.  With the rain we had a lot less visitors to our house this year, so I guess I will have a bit of candy to consume this next week :)

Halloween costume- Broken doll make-up

Hope everyone else had a great Halloween.  Do any fun face painting to celebrate the holiday?


Haunted Halloween House

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!  Last year I bought this cute little wooden haunted house right after Halloween.  It was 50% off plus I had a coupon so I was able to get it for a steal.  I loved the cute little metal bats and cobwebs and whimsical slanted roof lines.  I knew I could paint it up easily and add it to my very limited indoor Halloween decor items.

DIY Halloween house for halloween decor

After rummaging through my paint drawer I knew exactly what I was going to do.  I have these fun green and purple glitter paints and I also grabbed black for the roof and yellow for the windows.

Painting supplies

As you can see, it took a few coats to get the color intensity I was aiming for.

Painted halloween house for halloween decor

But the finished product is awesome!  I cute little Halloween house we can use on our entry table for years to come.

Halloween decor. Spooky House.


How to Cook Spaghetti Squash in the Oven

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Ever wonder how to best cook a spaghetti squash?  There are a lot of methods out there, and while some are easier than others, I prefer one of the more difficult methods of cutting it in half (the hard part) and then roasting face down.  This method makes it more flavorful with a light coating of oil in the oven.

How to make spaghetti squash in the oven

Start of by washing your spaghetti squash to make sure there is not garden dirt still clingy to it.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Summer spaghetti squash recipes

Next, grab a cutting board and an large, sharp knife.  Get ready to use all the strength you have.  Start by hacking off the top stem area.

How to cook spaghetti squash in the oven

You can cut off the bottom too so that you have a nice flat base.  Using your knife and muscle power, cut this big gourd down the middle.  This took a lot of power, cursing and a few breaks before it finally gave way.

Making spaghetti squash in the oven

Next, scoop out the seeds and innards.

Spaghetti squash recipes

Brush the inside of each half with a coating of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

How to roast spaghetti squash in the oven

Place face down on a baking sheet lined with tin foil.  Roast for about 45 minutes, or until soft and steamy.

Cooking spaghetti squash in the oven

You will know it is done when you can easily puncture with a fork.

Roasting spaghetti squash in the oven

Allow to cool for about 10 minutes so you do not burn yourself.

How to cook spaghetti squash in the oven easily

Delicious summer spaghetti squash recipes

Using a fork, scrape the inside of the spaghetti squash.  The flesh naturally create long strands like spaghetti.

How to make spaghetti squash in the oven

I love the flavor so much I can eat is straight out of the squash, but there are a lot of great ideas on ways to flavor it, like spaghetti sauce, making a feta and basil dish, or even Alfredo.  Enjoy!


Warning Zombie Sign

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My favorite part of my Zombie Attack Halloween decor this year is this DIY warning zombies sign. I decided to make instead of buying because I wanted it to be personalized and I can never pass on a chance for a fun craft day. After searching around on Pinterest and thinking about what I wanted to do, I came up the this look for my sign.

How to make a spooky zombie sign

To make this sign you will need a square wooden board, a wooden stake, paint, red gel food coloring and spray acrylic sealant.  To start out I painted the entire board cream.  I then used my yard stick to separate the top section and painted it black.  I then played around with red and black for the outside border of the sign.  Once dried I freehand painted “Warning” and “Zombies”.

Making a zombie sign diy

Next I racked my brain on how to do the blood on the sign.  I ended up grabbing a tube of red gel food coloring from my baking cupboard and smeared it all over my hand.  I then grabbed the sign in a few places and used one finger to write out “Save Your Self”.  The texture of the gel food coloring gave some great depth and detail and really looks like blood.

DIY zombie halloween sign

After letting it dry for over 24 hours, I took the sign outside and added multiple coats of clear acrylic spray paint.  The red food coloring has already faded a bit and is really not water resistant.  I am not sure if it will hold up all that great over time, but I can always re-do that portion for the future if it fades away.

zombie attack halloween decor

The final touch to make this sign pop was adding fake barb wire and Zombie Arm Lawn Stakes.

zombie attack halloween decor. Zombie eat brains!

Don’t have time to make a zombie sign?  Good news is that there are a ton of them out there to buy and they run about $10-$15 a piece.  Here are a few examples I saw at the Spirit store that would have worked great too.

Zombie Hunter SignZombie Research Metal SignQuarantine Sign


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Zombie Attack Halloween Decor

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I LOVE Halloween!  This year for our outside decor I decided to go with a zombie attack theme.  I had big plans of going all out, but kept it pretty simple in the end to save money and time while still having fun. So, let’s go for a tour around our front yard…

DIY zombie halloween decor

Let’s start out in the little cubby area next to our front door.  Same as last year, I began by adding some webs and spiders.  I decided to use regular webs this year, since the black light ones did not light up as well as I hoped.

Zombie attack decor for Halloween

Next up we ran by the Spirit Halloween store and bought some Bloody Hand Drips Decoration and Blood Splat Window Clings.  These clings are awesome and help to add some gore to the zombie attack theme.

zombie attack decor

Also at SpiritHalloween.com or the Spirit Halloween stores that pop up during this season, we were able to find some foam distressed boards to use on our windows.  I tried using double sided tape, but after a couple hours they started to fall.  So I pull out my staple gun and secured each plank to the wall around the window.  For the bigger windows I was able to tape two planks together and span the gap that way.

DIY zombie attack decor

I also found some fun fake barb wire and wrapped the front post with it.  It looks to be just twine rope painted in silver, so I might make my own in the future if I need more.  I bought two stands this year and saved the second strand to use on my zombie sign.

Spooky spider infested halloween tree decor

Panning over to the trees along the path, I added more spiderwebs and glittery spiders.  I bought 3 bags of web this year and was able to cover a lot more area than last year.  I did the same look on the main tree in front of our house by wrapping it in purple lights and then web and spiders.  I bought new lights because the cheap ones from Party City last year kept failing.  These are much more vibrant LED lights we picked up on sale at Target right after Halloween last year.

Spooky spider infested halloween tree

To add some creepiness we have our native giant spider making an appearance too again this year.  He is much too heavy for the web, so I use thread to tie him the the branch for added support.

Spooky Halloween Spider

Now on the the main new additions this year. Since I had so much fun last year making the wooden trick or treat sign, I decided to do it again this year by making a warning zombie sign.  You can learn more about how I did it here.

zombie attack halloween decor-diy

I am really happy with how the sign turned out and it really adds to the overall look and theme.  I had some left over black cloth from last year so I simply covered the bush and threw some more up in the tree.

zombie attack halloween decor

This big bush came in handy for the sign too.  Instead of having to hammer it into the ground, I stuck it into the bush and done.

Halloween zombie sign.  Warning Zombies!

One finishing touch…adding some zombie hands to the lawn, also found at the Spirit store.  So there you have it, cheap and fairly easy Zombie Attack Halloween decor.

Halloween outdoor decor. Zombie attack

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Hi There Stranger

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I have been getting that itch lately.  The itch of wanting to write and share projects.  Having been absent from the blog for over 5 months, since the end of April, it is about time.  Where have I been you ask?

Work, primarily. Living life. Enjoying the summer. Going on a few trips.

I did not expect to be gone for so long, but after getting a promotion and spending even more hours than ever at work, I decided that something had to give.  And writing for this blog was that thing.  I am not promising to come back and post weekly, but I am trying to find a balance in life and want to come and share more again.  We will see how long it lasts, especially since we are getting closer to the holidays, but I have a lot of things to share. From learning to can, to working on the house, to traveling to New York and Kauai, it has been a busy 5 months!  In the meantime, here are a few Kauai watercolor to enjoy…

Hawaii in Watercolor

Hawaii in Watercolor

Hawaii in Watercolor


Painting the Guest Bathroom Green

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I’m back with another edition of the slowest blog post series ever seen.  Once the wall paper was removed and the holes patched, it was time to start painting.  For this room I decided on Glidden Hazy Sage color matched in Behr interior Semi-gloss paint with primer.

Choosing paint colors- try lots of samples

I wanted the guest bath to have a calming, spa feel to it.  My inspiration came from this room from Better Homes & Garden.  I love the calm green walls, dark cabinets and open shelving.  Peaceful and clean.

Guest Bath Inspiration 2

So I grabbed a sample can of Hazy Sage and put a spot on the wall to see how it looked .  This is one of the few rooms in our house where a second sample was not necessary.  I immediately knew this was the color I was looking for.

Guest bath medicine cabinet before

On with the painting…I love this color!

Painting our guest bath sage green

Once all the edges were cut in, it was time to tackle the cabinets next. I’ll back back soon with an update on how they turned out!  Anyone else tackling a bathroom facelift recently?

Painting bathroom cabinets for an upgraded look


Wine Tasting in Murphys

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A few weeks ago we took a great weekend trip with a fabulous couple to the small town of Murphys.  For those of you who have never heard of Murphys, it is a small town in Calaveras County in Northern California.  From central California you wind up into the old gold mining towns of the foothills and eventually get to this quaint downtown with lots of cute shops and wine tasting rooms.  The great thing about a weekend in Murphys is that everything is affordable, quaint and within walking distance.

Little Yellow Cottage in Murphys

We rented the cutest little 2 bed, 2 bath house called the Little Yellow Cottage.  It was just down the street from the main strip and next to a park.  Plus it was within really close walking distance to all the great shops and tasting rooms, so once we arrived we never had to drive anywhere until it was time to head home.  They did have a 2 night minimum though, so we headed up after work on Friday to make use of both nights.

Clawfoot bathtub in Murphys

I just had to snag a picture of the clawfoot bathtub in the guest bathroom.  How sweet is that!  Someone even took the time to paint the side of the tub to match the wall paper.  While not my style for our house, it was so cute and perfect for the feel of the cottage.

Backyard at the little yellow cottage in Murphys

Another huge plus to the Little Yellow Cottage was this fabulous back yard! We lucked out in having fantastic weather for March and we were able to sit out in the 70+ degree sun soaking it all in.

Backyard at the little yellow cottage in Murphys, California

In the yard were a few cute touches like this little bird house on the fence and a gazebo.

Backyard at the little yellow cottage in Murphys, CA

It turns out that Murphys is also super dog friendly.  Out in the yard we saw this cute little sign, and if you follow the direction of the arrow there is a nice little dog run along the side of the house.  Perfect for a weekend getaway with the boys in tow next time.  We were not sure of the situation so all the dogs stayed with puppy sitters this time around.

Wine tasting in Murphys, California

Such a beautiful day!  Now, time to head out to the winery tasting rooms :)

Zucca Winery tasting room on Murphys

The first stop on our tour was Zucca Mountain.  This was one of the closest tasting rooms to our cottage so a natural first stop.  You can click here for a map of tasting rooms and wineries in Murphys for reference.  I was a bit afraid to go underground into this tasting room, but once inside it was not nearly as claustrophobic as I feared.  The wines were fairly good and they gave us $5 tokens per tasting each that we could combine towards a bottle of wine at the end.  What a great deal to get $20 off one bottle right?

Bloody mary

After the first tasting room it was time to stop for some food.  We decided to get lunch at this cute little restaurant called Alchemy.  The food was great!  I had the asparagus and chicken quesadilla and must try to make one at home!  Plus a nice bloody mary to round out the meal.

Black Sheep Winery in Murphys

After lunch we stopped by the Black Sheep Winery.  They have a sparkling raspberry champagne that is amazing!  It tastes like a summer’s day and they were having a deal if we bought 2 bottles, so I couldn’t resist.  Now I am just waiting for a nice hot day to have a few friends over and enjoy it in our backyard.  We stopped by a few more wineries along the way, but I neglected to take pictures at each unfortunately. Some of the ones we really liked were the Sangiovese at La Folia and both the late harvest Zin called Robert’s Cuvee and the Port at Milliaire.

Wine tasting in Murphys

Next up was Twisted Oak winery.  My favorite here was the Syrah.  Did I mention before how dog friendly Murphys is?

Cute dog in Murphys, dog-friendly wine tasting rooms

This little cutie named Tessa came in to Twisted Vine and was such a sweet dog.  One of the other customers bought her a toy chicken and she was running around having a great time.  I love dog friendly areas like this!

Wine tasting in Murphys CA

As the evening approached we made our way back to Zucca to combine our tokens for a nice bottle of wine by the outdoor fireplaces while listening to live music before grabbing dinner at Firewood.  Firewood is a great simple place to grab a meal in Murphys too.  It is an order at the window, casual feel with hamburgers, wood fire pizzas and some mexican items.

Zucca Winery Murphys

Murphys is a great little town for a nice weekend trip andy I hope to make it back out there again soon!