My Life On Craft Posts

img_9220I picked up a pack of pompom makers from Flying Tiger this week (only $4 for 3 sizes!). I have a vague memory of making pompoms at some point as a kid but definitely didn’t have a cool little pompom maker. I broke them out last night and tried a few:

img_9222Pretty addictive. Also quite challenging. I found some great directions and tips on the Mr P blog – the flower tutorial is here and there are tutorials for fruit, houses, mountains and more, including some some cute animals which were what really sucked me in. And then I came across Tsubasa Kuroda‘s pompom creations – holy wowza, they’re all so cute and intricate and flat-out amazing. I knew I had to give it a go. I attempted a polar bear – whoo, not so easy. Not that I really thought that it would be, but still, I definitely need some practice. It’s darn fun, though, and I feel like I’m getting a better feel for it. Once you get the layering/mirrored symmetry concept down (explained in Mr P’s flower post), it’s yarn ratio, spacing and arranging and a heck of a lot of trimming. My “polar bear” doesn’t look like the one I pictured in my head, but it’s still kinda cute and has a vague resemblance to a polar bear. I learned a lot and am looking forward to trying another one soon. I’ll take more process photos the next time, too. And I really want to get some fancy-pants fake eyes and perhaps needle-felt up some ears. And maybe try some fruit and mountains, too. I’m getting excited all over again just thinking about it. Yippee!

 

 

Art & Craft DIY Tree Ornaments Try Something New Every Month

img_9187My first original felt ornament design! I used inexpensive acrylic felt, needle-felted with a #40 triangular felting needle and bellies lightly stuffed with polyester filling. Faces stitched with single-strand embroidery thread.

The template can be downloaded here.

Art & Craft DIY Felting Needle Felting Tree Ornaments

img_9171The pattern is from the American Felt & Craft blog and can be found here. I used inexpensive acrylic felt, needle-felted with a #40 triangular felting needle and lightly stuffed with polyester filling. Black beads for eyes and mouth and nose stitched with embroidery thread.

Art & Craft DIY Felting Needle Felting Tree Ornaments

img_9167The pattern is from the Cali Cavy Collective blog and can be found here. I used inexpensive acrylic felt, needle-felted with a #40 triangular felting needle and lightly stuffed with polyester filling. Smile stitched with pink embroidery thread.

Art & Craft DIY Felting Needle Felting Tree Ornaments

homebrewcon-logo

My notes for my Trouble-Free Tart Beers seminar can be found here.

Beer Fermentation Homebrewing Speed Brewing Uncategorized

Fermentation Feast

Not only is April’s TSNEM theme Edible Crafting, but it’s also the month of the annual Ferment!Ferment! festival. Which means an extra push for me to try some new ferments. The pic above shows the seven fermented foods that Cuzme and I made and brought to the fest. I tried a lot of new techniques, recipes & ideas and I’m thrilled with how they all turned out. There will be much more experimenting, tweaking & testing but I’ll go over these ferments if any of you would like to give them a try.

Let’s start with the sourdough tortilla bites. I’ll write a future post that goes more in-depth about sourdough starters but for now, if you have a sourdough starter, this is an easy recipe for using your starter without all of the work that goes into bread or other leavened baked goods. I love making bread but there are so many other things that you can make with your starter! The sourdough contributes a really nice flavor to the tortillas. Just mix the dough either the morning of or the night before you’d like to use it. I started with this recipe from The Prairie Homesteader and made a few modifications.

Sourdough tortillas

Sourdough Tortillas or Tortilla Bites (vegan)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups white whole wheat flour (you might need more or less depending on humidity, type of flour & other ingredients)
  • 3 Tbsps melted coconut oil ( I used Trader Joe’s organic)
  • Himalayan sea salt (around 1 tsp)
  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter (room temp)
  • 1/2 cup homemade cashew milk* (room temp)
  • small pinches of dried powdered ginger & citric acid (not necessary but helps keep tortillas soft, click here for more info on natural dough conditioners)

*to make cashew milk: soak cashews in enough water to cover plus a little more (they swell a bit while they’re soaking). Soak at least 4-5 hours – an overnight soak is great. Drain and rinse well. Using blender, pulverize until they won’t blend any more and/or are pretty creamy. Add dechlorinated water in a 3:1 ratio. I usually start with 1 cup of cashews before soaking and add 3 cups of water. Puree until creamy. I usually then strain through my brew bag, which is made of a voile fabric – tighter than cheesecloth, looser than muslim. You might not need to strain if you have a killer blender. Not much pulp remains after straining – I’m looking into interesting things to make with what does remain. If you make more than you need, you can freeze the extra.

Instructions:

Sourdough tortilla dough
This is what my dough looked like before kneading.
  1. Combine the melted coconut oil, sourdough starter, cashew milk, sea salt, ginger & citric acid (if using). Note: if your starter & cashew milk are cold, this might cause your coconut oil to revert to it’s normal solid state and make it difficult to mix in. This happened to me the first time. This is why I recommend using room temperature starter and cashew milk.
  2. Gradually add in flour until combined. I use a stand mixer for this but you could do this by hand or with a hand mixer. You’re looking for just enough flour so the dough holds together and is slightly sticky to the touch. It should be able to form a cohesive ball.
  3. If using a stand mixer, change to your dough hook and knead for a couple of minutes. Otherwise, turn out onto a nonstick or floured surface and gently knead for a couple of minutes.
  4. Place in a bowl, cover and leave in a room temperature or slightly warmer area for 8-24 hours. There should be some headspace in the bowl – the dough will rise a bit.
  5. After fermentation, flour your rolling surface. If you’re making regular size tortillas, pinch off enough dough for the size of tortilla that you’d like. Mine were around the size of a ping pong. If you’re making bite size tortillas, pinch off as much dough as your surface can accommodate. Regardless, roll out using a rolling pin. I rolled most of mine out pretty thin, around double credit card high. Some were a bit thicker and all were good. It’s also pretty difficult to roll out perfect circles – slightly wonky shaped tortillas taste just as good as perfectly round tortillas. I used a biscuit cutter for cute round tortilla bites.

    Sourdough tortilla bites
    Sourdough tortilla bites on a cast iron pan
  6. Preheat your skillet or grill pan to medium-high. A cast iron skillet is perfect for these – no oil is necessary. I haven’t made this on a different type of pan but a little oil might be necessary for other skillets that aren’t of the no-stick variety (I’ll have to test this in the future and amend this post). They cook pretty fast, between 30 seconds to just over a minute per side.
  7. Eat fresh or refrigerate for a day or two. They can also be frozen. Unused dough can be refrigerated for a few days.

Serving suggestions: We’ve eaten these with cheese, beans, avocado, tomatoes and Mexican spices (garlic, cumin, cilantro & dried chiles) but they also work well with other spices. I combined homemade yogurt with Ras El Hanout (shown above), a North African spice blend, for a dip that worked well with these. I bet mango salsa would be delicious, as would traditional Thai or Sri Lankan fillings, flavors and spices. The coconut is apparent so think savory flavors that compliment.

Variations: Use milk, water or whey instead of cashew milk. Use butter or lard instead of coconut oil. Add herbs or spices to the dough when mixing. I’m betting you could stuff these if you sandwiched a thin layer of cheese (regular or nut) or other soft or meltable filling between two of them before cooking. They’re very versatile and quite delicious.

Fermented Cashew Cheeses

If you haven’t tried a fermented nut cheese before, I highly recommend it. They’re not true cheeses, but are a nice substitute for vegans and those who are lactose-intolerant. For the rest of us, they’re just plain tasty. They’re not only versatile, readily taking on whatever flavorings you add, but are also chock-full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and probiotics. They make a great snack or party dish. I’m just beginning my journey down the fermented nut path but I’m in love so far.

Most recipes call for adding a starter culture to nut paste and allowing fermentation to take place at room temperature for a few days. However, fermented nut cheeses seem to be a lacto-driven ferment, meaning that a strain or more likely, multiple strains, of lactobacillus bacteria are driving the fermentation. Lacto strains vary in their preferred temperature range but many lacto strains do well at higher temperatures, say between body temperature and around 110º F. It occurred to me that I could make cashew cheese like I kettle sour beer and make yogurt, by keeping it at a consistent warmer temperature. I use an Anova sous vide stick for this – sous vide uses a circulating water bath to keep food at a specific and constant temperature. The food is contained in either a plastic or glass container (bag, jar, etc). This is also how I make yogurt. If you don’t have a sous vide setup, you can do this in any area that you can keep a relatively constant and controlled temperature in the 104-110º F range. A yogurt maker would work very well. Other ideas (some of which I used before I got the sous vide stick) include using a heating pad or grow mat in a box, cooler or other enclosed area, using a water bath with an aquarium heater (or several), or using the inside of your stove or a cooler with a low-watt light bulb inside. You’ll need to test these out a bit but it’s pretty easy to rig up one of these methods. Regardless, this is a fast and very reliable way to ferment nut cheese.

This was my first batch of fermented nut cheese. As you can see in the first photo, I made three different flavors of cashew cheese. I made a base batch and split it into three, adding different seasoning combinations to each.

Ingredients:

Base Batch:

  • 4 cups of cashews
  • de-chlorinated water
  • 1/2 cup lacto-fermented pickle brine
  • 2 vegan probiotic capsules (I used Jarrow brand)
  • 1 Tbsp aged rice miso (I used homemade)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (fresh preferred but bottled is just fine if you find yourself lacking lemons)

Flavorings:

Rosemary-Garlic-Roasted Tomato:

  • 1.5 tsps fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 3 small tomatoes, roasted

Roasted Red Pepper:

  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning blend (Marjoram, Thyme, Rosemary, Savory, Sage, Oregano & Basil)
  • 6 mini bell peppers, roasted

Chai Beet:

  • 1/3 cup minced pickled beets (I pickled mine with a little star anise & cinnamon)
  • 1/4 cup brine from pickled beets
  • 1/2 tsp Hawaij spice mix (ginger, cinnamon, cloves & green cardamom)

Note: I made these knowing they would be consumed that day. While they were quite flavorful and were consumed immediately, I might knock down the spicing a bit if I were planning on holding them for a day or two before consuming.

Instructions:

  1. Soak 4 cups of cashews in dechlorinated water for 4-6 hours. Use enough water to cover the cashews plus a little more (about 1/2″ above the cashews).
  2. Drain and rinse cashews with dechlorinated water.
  3. Cream in food processor. You might need to do this in several batches depending on the size of your food processor. It takes a while for them to cream but keep going until you reach smoothness. You might need to stop & stir occasionally to keep things going.
  4. Add your pickle brine and probiotic capsules & mix thoroughly. You can do this in the food processor or in a bowl if you’re doing a large batch.
  5. Place in a 105-109º F (40.5-43º C) area overnight (or between 8-10 hours). As mentioned above, I use my sous vide stick to do this. I placed the cashew mixture in a glass jar, capped it with a plastic lid and placed it in a water bath (below the lid line) overnight with my sous vide stick set to 109º F.
  6. Make-do mold for cashew cheese
    Cheesecloth over upcycled berry container

    After your cashew paste has fermented to your liking, transfer it back to the food processor. Add miso, nutritional yeast flakes and lemon juice and thoroughly combine. You could also do this with a hand mixer or by hand.

  7. Split your cashew puree into three parts. Using food processor, hand mixer, hands, spoon or fork, thoroughly mix in seasonings into each batch.
  8. The beet cheese was not as firm so I served that in a bowl. I molded the other two cheeses by placing a piece of cheesecloth into a plastic container formerly occupied by fruit or veggies (the kind that you find berries or grape tomatoes in at your grocery store). The cheesecloth should be larger than the container, enough to drape over the sides. Spoon your cashew cheese onto the cheesecloth, smooth out and wrap the cheesecloth over the top. This made for an easy to transport and quite presentable cashew cheese.

I’m continuing to experiment and refine my fermented cashew cheese process and recipes – more posts coming soon!

Gjetost Cheese

I’ve been looking for interesting things to make with the whey left over from straining my homemade yogurt and came across this recipe. I followed the recipe with less whey, adding cream to taste. It made a really tart but interesting spread. And while it was a nice accent to other foods, it was too tart on its own. However, I think this would make a really interesting tart caramel-type candy if I added sugar to it. So, more experiments to come. Give it a try if you have a bunch of whey on hand & let me know how it goes, please.

Pickled Beets & Turnips

I didn’t specifically make these for the Ferment! Ferment! fest – I made these a couple of weeks before as I had too many beets & turnips on hand. I didn’t write down the recipe but used a 2% brine (this is a great site for brine %s), star anise and a bit of cinnamon for flavorings. Very tasty.

Yogurt with Ras El Hanout

Ras El Hanout is a spice blend from North Africa. It’s one of my favorite blends and we use it in all kinds of dishes. It’s an easy addition to yogurt – serve it with homemade tortillas, rice or couscous. It would also be nice with all kinds of meats.

That’s it. This post took far, far too long for me to write – I started it three weeks ago, jeez. I am going to get better at this whole blogging regularly thing, I promise. And I need to add more pictures, too. My kitchen lighting stinks but I’ve come up with some work-arounds and am getting better at color correcting. I’m continuing to ferment and will be updating and sharing my successes (and failures) here.

I also co-host a weekly podcast on all things fermented called Fuhmentaboudit. Each show usually features a guest but I actually talked about my ferments, and more specifically, the ferments in this post, on a recent episode, #160. You can listen to it on iTunes, Stitcher, or right here on Heritage Radio Network, the amazing not-for-profit network that allows us to spread our love of fermentation.

Happy Fermenting!

DIY Fermentation Food Recipes Try Something New Every Month

I joined the Try Something New Every Month challenge in January of this year. This is a fantastic challenge that Stephanie from Swoodson Says and Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun are co-hosting. They have a list of suggested themes & a Facebook group. I’m going to use this post to collect inspiration, ideas & plans for future months.

The suggested themes:

January – Quilting

I tried paper piecing 1/4″ hexies. Blogged here.

Mini hexie piece

February- Tactile Craft; paper mache, clay, soap, candlemaking

I tried sculpting tiny creatures with Creative Paperclay. I’d like to incorporate them into mini dioramas or jewelry or something. Soon…

Mini Paperclay creatures

Tiny creatures

March- Painting

I didn’t stick to the theme on this one (and I painted the tiny creatures last month). Instead, I tried weaving on my mini Jim Hokett loom & tissue paper mache. The tutorial for the tissue paper mache light shade is here.

Weaving on a Jim Hokett loom

Tissue Paper Mache Light Shade

April- Edible Crafts

I tried several new fermentations (sourdough tortillas, cashew cheese & Gjetost cheese) & blogged about them here.

Fermentation Feast

May – Hand Sewing

June- Heavy Craft; leather, wood burning, glass etching

July- Yarn Craft; knitting, crochet, weaving

August- Printmaking; fabric or paper

September – Machine Sewing

  • I’ve pinned a ton of machine projects that I’d like to try on Pinterest. So many to choose from…

October- Needlework; embroidery, cross-stitch, crewel, needlepoint

November- Papercraft; origami, scrapbook, calligraphy

  • paper beads?

December- Choose your own!

Art & Craft Try Something New Every Month Uncategorized

aka my Try Something New Every Month (TSNEM) project for March

Tissue Paper Mache Light Shade
Cuzme & I rent an old-school loft space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was a manufacturing facility and is not renovated (yet, anyway), which means high ceilings, wonky wiring, exposed electrical conduits and fixed overhead factory lighting. The one pictured above is hanging over our TV/couch area & doesn’t even have a light switch. Ugh. We used a pull cord for years until I recently purchased this brilliant remote control screw-in light socket from Amazon. Which meant that I could now make some sort of light shade for it. I thought about making one of these giant string ball lights but our fixtures aren’t in an entirely open space and man, wrapping all of that string just looks exhausting. I opted for a tissue paper mache shade instead, as I had glue, water, balloons and tissue paper on hand already. Freebie project! Even if you don’t have the materials on hand, they’re all available at most dollar or discount stores and won’t break the bank. This project turned out far better than I ever imagined! It was easy, fun and looks fantastic in place. I made two shades, one for the above the couch and one for our bedroom. I had so much fun that I’ve restocked materials (at our local Dollar Tree) and plan to make slightly different variations for a floor lamp and some battery candles. Here goes my first craft tutorial for those of you that want to try…

Tissue Paper Mache Materials

Materials:

  • white tissue paper ( 35 sheets for $1 at Dollar Tree, enough to make 2 shades)
  • white glue (2 for $1 at Dollar Tree, enough for 1 shade)
  • 1.5″ foam brush (under $1 at hardware store)
  • balloons ($1 for mixed pack at Dollar Tree)
  • petroleum jelly ($1 at Dollar Tree)
  • scrap cardboard and tape (on hand, free)
  • clothespin, string or tape to hang balloon by while drying
  • locking pliers (optional but helpful)
  • Weldbond adhesive or spray or brush-on sealer/finish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Blow up your balloon. This will determine the size and shape of your finished shade, so inflate accordingly.
  2. Make a cardboard ring out of scrap cardboard and tape, large enough that top of your balloon (which will be the bottom of your shade) will fit into it. The cardboard ring will help stabilize your balloon while you’re applying the tissue paper (see step 2 in the photo below).
  3. Cover your balloon with a thin coat of petroleum jelly and place it in your cardboard ring. I used a locking pair of pliers to hold the balloon down while I worked – this isn’t necessary but does make the process easier (shown in box 2 in the pic below). I also cut a little flap into the side of the cardboard ring to accommodate the handles of the pliers.
  4. Tear or cut your tissue paper into pieces. I tore my pieces, smaller at first but soon moved to larger pieces – much faster and easier to work with. It’s nice to have a variety of shapes so you can kind of fit them together but not necessary. I found that square/rectangle-ish pieces in the 4-5″ range worked well and made covering quick and easy. Turns out that Punjab, our 19 and a half year old male cat, loves piles of tissue paper (box 1 in pic below)
  5. Mix your glue and water. I used around a 1:1 ratio of glue to water. I didn’t measure, just guestimated. I started out using a plastic cup to mix and hold the solution but got hip to using an empty glue bottle in the middle of the project (you could also use a generic squirt bottle). Using an empty glue or squirt bottle makes a huge difference in the ease of this project, trust me. It’s so much less messy and easier overall. Add your glue and water to your bottle, close it and shake until mixed thoroughly.
  6. Now you’re ready for the fun part – applying the tissue paper. Squirt some of the glue-water mixture onto your balloon and spread with foam brush (you’re aiming for enough for 2-3 pieces of your tissue paper). Stick on a tissue paper piece, squirt a little more glue on top and smooth down with foam brush (box 3 in pic below). You’ll develop a rhythm after awhile. I held the glue bottle in my non-dominant left hand and brushed with my right, then traded the glue for the tissue paper, keeping the brush in my right hand at all times. You’re using just enough glue to moisten & cover but not so much that it’s excessively wet or drippy.
  7. After you’ve covered the balloon (box 4 in pic below), clip it somewhere where it can hang without touching anything to dry (box 5 in pic below).
  8. Continue to build up your shade one layer at a time, thoroughly drying in between, until you’ve reached 5 or 6 layers. At this point, I patched the areas where more color shone through, ending with somewhere around 6-8 layers. I think… I lost count towards the end. Also, I ran out of white glue and started using Weldbond, as I had some on hand. This isn’t necessary but it did give the shade a nice sheen and might have made it a bit stronger. You could also brush or spray on a finish if you’d like – matte, satin or gloss would all work.
  9. After the last layer is completely dry, nick the balloon with scissors or a craft knife to deflate. Remove the balloon and decide where you’d like to cut. I used my screw-in remote socket as a template for the top hole, tracing around it with a pencil and cutting with a craft knife. For the bottom, I neatened the edge with scissors until it looked right (box 6 in pic below).
  10. Hang and enjoy!

Tissue paper mache stepsTips:

  • This is a messy project – cover your craft area or do this somewhere where glue trailings don’t matter.
  • Be gentle when smoothing the tissue paper with the glue-water mixture. Wet tissue paper is quite fragile. It’s no big deal if it rips, just try and smooth it over with your brush. You’ll get a feel for how much pressure to use as you go along.
  • It’s pretty easy to lose track of where you’ve added tissue paper after the first layer or so. It didn’t seem to matter, though, so just relax and keep gluing. I worked around and around and up and down – go with whatever works for you.
  • Try to hang your drying balloon in an area free of shmutz and try not to drop it on the floor (especially if you have pets). My balloons picked up some unknown icky bits that I just scraped off before adding the next layer. Cat hair makes things a little more tricky but nobody is going to notice a few hairs here & there, right?
  • Don’t obsess over getting the tissue paper really smooth – wrinkles add interest & texture.

Possible Variations:

  • Colored tissue paper would work really well for this project.
  • Add patterns and shapes by cutting shapes out of colored tissue paper and adding to a layer or two or on top of the finished project. You could probably paint with acrylic paint between layers as well.
  • Edge the bottom with a gold or silver paint pen.
  • Draw on designs with permanent markets in black & white or colors.
  • Use different shapes of balloons for your form. Apparently Dollar Tree has an assorted pack if you can find it.
  • Add glitter or other inclusions or use glitter glue on a layer or two.

This was one satisfying project. I’m so thrilled with how my shades turned out and look forward to continuing my tissue paper mache journey soon. I hope this tutorial is helpful and I’d love any questions, comments or experiences that you have with tissue paper mache. Cheers!

Art & Craft DIY Paper Crafts Paper Mache Try Something New Every Month

Mini hexie piece
hmmm… this close-up makes me realize I need to rinse my marking lines off a bit better.

I’ve really been wanting to bring more crafting back into my life. Crafting in a textile-tactile-cotton-wool-felt-yarn kind of way. I enjoy making all kinds of things but the last couple of years have found me mostly making beer, other alcoholic beverages and fermented foods. Which are all wonderful things to make but my soul misses fiber. I dabbled a bit late last year crocheting my wedding bouquet & knitting a bunch of Xmas tree ornaments (posts coming soon!) but I wanted more. A good challenge was needed. And I found the perfect one on the Swoodson Says blog: Try Something New Every Month 2016. Co-organized by Rebecca from Hugs Are Fun, participants are encouraged to try a new craft every month. Stephanie & Rebecca have suggested monthly themes & a Facebook group. This was exactly what I needed. Quilting is January’s suggested theme. I’ve done some quilting in the past but not for many years (more than 10, I think) so this theme really appealed. And I did want to try some type of quilting that was new to me.

Inspiration:

Materials:

  • fabric that I hand-dyed 15 or so (yikes!) years ago
  • printable pdf of hexagon graph paper (enlarged until it was a size I liked, just over 1/4″ on each side)
Pre-quilted hexies
post-sewn & pre-quilted hexies

Tips & tutorials:

The hexies were a bit fiddly at first but I really enjoyed making them once I got the hang of it. They’re extremely portable and a great project to do while listening to audiobooks or podcasts or (half) watching TV. I kind of like them best pre-quilted but the quilting was a nice challenge and gives the piece more body. I’d like to trim the piece into a circle, add a back & a stiff interior and turn it into a pendant. Soon…

This little project was a lot of fun and a great way to kick-start me back into sewing. I love small portable projects and I can definitely see myself doing more tiny hexie projects in the future. They would be cute to appliqué on larger projects and a hexie wrist cuff would be cool. The portability makes this a great vacation project, too.

The theme for February’s TSNEM is Tactile Craft; paper mache, clay, soap, candlemaking. I’ve chosen clay. Stay tuned for my project!

Back of hexie piece
Back of hexie piece

Art & Craft Quilting Try Something New Every Month

mylifeoncraft collageI’ve waffled with this blog over the years – it began as a craft (as in arts & crafts) blog & has been used as a beer & brewing blog most recently. But… it has seen almost no action over the last couple of years. Hey, I’ve been busy – working my day job, writing a book, hosting a podcast, etc, but that’s not really an excuse. I have a lot of fun doing all kinds of craft, from drinking beer to brewing to knitting to cooking. And I’m going to start sharing it all here. So, if you’re looking for posts in a specific area, I’ve created 3 tabs at the top to help guide you: Fermentation (which includes fermented foods & brewing), Arts & Crafts and Food (which includes fermented food, cooking, etc). If you’re a generalist, scroll on…

Cheers,

Mary

Uncategorized