Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finding A New Hobby - Photography

The beauty about this hobby is that it should cost you absolutely nothing to get started. There are so many different ways that you can set things up to shoot, lighting tricks that can be used, lenses, shutter speeds, you get the picture. (Sorry, had to use that pun at least once).
As many times as I have read about all the different things you can do, the best advice I ever got from someone was to just take pictures. The more you take, the more you learn. It is so much easier and more affordable to hone this skill and make it a viable hobby for you due to the fact that cameras can take digital images now. You can immediately look and tell if you were able to get the shot you were trying to get. These are some pictures that I was able to take with my The first two pictures are of my daughter on Easter. This is an example of what you can do with the picture with editing and all the other fun gadgets and apps they have. I didn't spend a dime on any expensive software or even work on the photo from my computer. It was all done from my phone. No excuses, use what you got, and develop your hobby of turning pictures into art. 
There are also some websites that will take your pictures and help you create a digital scrapbook and will print and bind the pages for you for a much cheaper price than you might spend on actual scrapbooking.  You can still personalize your pages however you would like, it's just all done digitally. is a good site, but I liked better.  The prices are comparable so I suggest you play around with both sites and go with your own personal preferences.


Monday, April 9, 2012

Finding A New Hobby - Remake Your Outdoor Shed

I wish I could claim this idea, but this one comes from my Father- in -law.  My family and I packed up and flew up to New Hampshire to visit my wife's family for Easter weekend. While we were there, I got to see all the work my Father-in-law has been doing since the last time we've been up there.  He is always working to improve his house and property in some way, so I always come back with a wealth of ideas that I didn't have before. This is just one of the projects that I noticed:  the cover to the shed door outside.  Being from New England, my Father-in-law is very proud of their Colonial heritage and he was able to create a Colonial flag on the outer door to the shed in a way that looked weathered and had been there for years.  He measured the pattern for the stars and stripes exactly and made sure they were equidistant apart and proportionate (as all flag recreations should be-I learned).  He then sanded it to make sure it had the same weathered look as the rest of the shed.  He also mentioned that he was not quite finished with it;  he plans on putting a paint/glaze mixture over the flag that is the same color as the rest of the shed and then wiping it off immediately. This will  give the exposed wood the same worn/weathered look as the rest of the shed.  I thought this was so interesting and could see others doing something similar with many different inspirations that come from their own heritage. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Strawberry Jam

So after a long move from Virginia to Florida and all the things that come with moving, I can now finally say that we are officially moved in.  We finally unpacked and threw away that final box that was left over from the move and had a huge garage sale with all the unneeded things we had left over.  As I was driving the last bit of items to the donation center after I had cleaned the garage, I noticed a sign at our local farmers market, "Strawberries Now Here."  A quick left turn and a few dollars later and I had a whole flat of fresh strawberries.  I made a lot of jam and jellies last year, but strawberry season was one of the few that I missed out on and I wanted to make sure that I didn't miss out on it again this year.  The recipe for the Strawberry jam I make is as follows:

5 cups of crushed strawberries: I simply cut mine in halves and place in a strainer, wash and then place them in a pie plate and crush them with a potato masher.  Some will use a food processor, but I don't do this because it tends to mess with the texture of the jam. 

4 Tbls of Lemon Juice: This helps bring out the natural pectin in the fruit to help ensure your jam will set.  Very important, do not skip.

1 pkg of Pectin: I use the surejell brand.  I can't tell you the plus and minuses of all the different brands, I just know that this is the one I have always had success with so I stick with it. 

7 cups of sugar: Yes, this seems like a lot of sugar, but remember this recipe makes roughly 8-10 1/2 pint jars of jam.  There are also many sugar free jam recipes out there, but this is most definitely not one of them.

As you can see, I should be set for a while on strawberry jam as I was able to repeat this recipe three times with the amount of strawberries I got from the one flat.  I heated the crushed strawberries until I got a nice rolling boil going over medium heat along with the lemon juice.  Make sure you stir often to avoid scorching, making jam is a process that does not need to be rushed.  Once you have a nice rolling boil, add your pectin and stir until dissolved.  Once pectin has been completely dissolved you can add your sugar.  It is very important to add all the sugar at once and not in stages.  To help with this process, I usually premeasure my sugar in a bowl and set it aside until needed.  Once you have stirred all the sugar into the strawberries wait until you are able to get a good rolling boil while stirring.  Once this happens, stir for about a minute and remove from heat.  Be careful at this stage and be prepare to remove it from heat if it begins to rise, which it has a tendency to do at times. 
Once you've removed your jam from the heat, check to make sure that it is gelling, either with the fork test or the cold plate test.  Before you start jarring you will also want to remove the foam that has accumulated on top of the jam.  I find that a large serving spoon works best for this.  Once you are sure that your jam will gel, place it in the jars that you have prepared and process via water bath for the appropriate time determined by your elevation.  For more tips on the actual canning process you might want to check my link and videos I made of the process at this link: Canning Tips - Hot Pepper Jelly
Canning and making jams and jellies can be one of those new hobbies that you can find to be difficult to understand at first.  The best advice I can give you is to just try it.  Experience is the best teacher especially with this hobby because it really is, as any hobby or artwork is, unique to the creator.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Looking for a new Hobby? How about making a sand vase?

New hobbies can sometimes take away what is most precious, time away from your kids.  This project can combine a new found interest with time spent with your kids.  Several things that you have to take into consideration when you look at projects to do with your kids are the age group and the number of kids versus the difficulty of the project. Another is whether the materials for the project can be attained at a reasonable price. Making a sand vase is a project that is cheap, easy to do, and something that can give creative freedom to you and your kids.

Materials you will need:

  • Newspaper
  • Plastic cup
  • Paint brush
  • Colored sand
  • Glue
  • Bottle or Jar
  • Paper or pie plate
  • Spoon
The newspaper is used to cover your table so that you can catch any stray sand, and trust me when I tell you this...THERE WILL BE STRAY SAND.  It seems to be the case regardless of how careful you are.  Use the plastic cup to hold your glue and dilute it with some water so that it will spread on the jar more evenly.  Spread sand on evenly over glued areas.  You can do this all in one color or you can also make a design first with the glue, cover with sand and then fill in the rest of the space with glue then add more sand for a more creative and detailed look.  The plates are used to put underneath your vase as you add the sand, this way you can reuse any sand that does not end up on the vase.  Once your vase is covered with sand you will need to let it dry for 30 minutes.  You can also use hot glue toadd ribbons or other decorative objects to your vase.  Get creative and enjoy the time that you are spending with your kids on this project.  Take a look at the video below.  It gives a step by step tutorial on making the sand vase.  If you have any questions or comments please be sure to share them in the comments below.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Home Canning Tips (Making Hot Pepper Jelly)

After I decided to make some Hot Pepper Jelly last week, I realized that there is probably a number of you that have not had any experience doing your own home canning either. So I decided to highlight both so that you could get a good look on how to do your own home canning as well.
Hot Pepper Jelly is great to make as a gift for the Holidays, especially with the colors you can get from it.  You can change this recipe up as well to get different colors by changing the colors of bell peppers that you use.  Between red, green, orange and yellow, you can imagine the different color combinations that you could make.  I usually use the 8 oz jars for processing jelly because it allows you to send more to different people as gifts.  Hot Pepper Jelly is great when served on a block of cream cheese and with crackers as an appetizer for a party or group event.  Fair warning though, people will be looking for more, so make sure you have plenty on hand.

                                                      Recipe: This recipe makes roughly eight 8 oz jars of Jelly
2 1/2 cups of Red Bell Peppers (Roughly 3 large Peppers)
1 1/4 cups of Green Bell Peppers (Roughly 1-2 Peppers)
1/4 cup of  Jalapeno Peppers (Roughly 2 Peppers)

All three of these need to be finely chopped, I use a food processor to make this process quicker.

You will also need:
1 cup of Apple Cider Vinegar
5 cups of white granulated sugar
2 packages of powdered pectin

After your peppers are finely chopped you will need to add them to a stew pot along with your 1 cup of vinegar and bring to a rolling boil over a medium - high heat.

Once you have your mixture boiling you will then need to add your pectin
and stir it in until it is dissolved, which should take a minute or two.  I use the Sure Jell because it is what I am most familiar with.  Once it has been dissolved you will want to add your sugar.  Your sugar should be added all at one time though, so make sure you have all 5 cups already measured out in another bowl somewhere to make this process easier.  Once you have added the sugar you will want to make sure that you continually stir so that it does not scorch on the bottom of the pot.  Stir the mixture until all the sugar is dissolved and it starts to come to a rolling boil.  At this point you will need to check to make sure that your mixture is gelling, and if it is then take off fire, and start filling your jars.  Process your jars in a hot water bath and then let it set up for 24 hours and then enjoy! Please comment below to leave other home canning tips that you may have that we can all use, or variations of this recipe or your own recipe.

For a more in depth look at the actual canning process along with this recipe, take a look at these instructional videos.  I go into detail about how to prepare your jars, processing in a water bath canner and give tips to make sure your jars seal and your jelly sets up.  Enjoy, Comment, and share with others!

Monday, September 12, 2011

What are you looking for when trying to find a new hobby?

Finding a new hobby, seems easy enough, right? Some of you may be wondering why this would even be a concern for someone, but for me, and I think maybe for some others, a hobby is very much needed. First off, I will start off with a little personal history. Two things: I am quite the night owl and I am a family counselor. So this would leave me with quite a bit of time to think about some very stressful things at work. One of the things I looked forward to was some down time to be able to relax and not think about all of these very pressing things, and so I really got into playing video games. The problem with video games is there is no real product from your labor and you can only play them for so long before they become, not fun anymore. Thus my attempt in finding a new hobby.

In looking for a new hobby, I also would like to find something that is productive in some way, which is why I have started with both the sketchbook and also in making my own laundry detergent. I have also taken up canning, which I have taken some video of and will be uploading shortly. Here's the question...In my search of finding a new hobby, what are some of the projects that you all would like to see me try and document?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Making Homemade Laundry Detergent

In keeping with the spirit of trying new things that I have never tried before.  I wanted to try my hand at making my own laundry detergent.  First, you may be thinking, why would you want to do that?  Well, a few reasons came to mind, one, you can save a ton of money on detergent.  All the supplies I bought for about a years worth of laundry cost me around $15.00 approximately.  Secondly, I do not have to deal with any of the additives that are in other commercial detergents that cause my kids to break out every now and then.  This can be great for parents with new babies, etc.  You can control how much of what ingredient goes into the batch of detergent that you make.  The recipe I will be using is one that I found on the web and that I've tried and works great.  There are many more out there as well that you can try.  Something else that you may want to try also is plain vinegar as a fabric softener.  When I first heard this I was afraid my clothes would come out smelling like vinegar but it worked great.  I tried it on some towels first just to make sure.  Here's the ingredients:

-  Zote Laundry Soap (This was the hardest ingredient for me to find.  Many people say that they can find it in the laundry aisle in Wal-mart but I was not so fortunate.  Another place you might try is the Mexican food aisle at any grocery store.  Another place, and where I found mine, you can try an international store.  If you've exhausted all of these options you can always buy it online.  The white soap is regular and the pink is for delicates.  Also, you can substitute this soap for Kirk Castille soap or Fels Naptha soap).
-  20 Mule Team Borax (Found in the laundry aisle at Wal-mart, Target, etc).
-  Arm & Hammer Washing Soda (Also, found in the laundry aisle.  Make sure that you get Washing Soda and not Baking Soda.  There is a difference.  Baking soda is Sodium Bicarbonate and Washing Soda is Sodium Carbonate.  If you are having trouble finding it in the local store's laundry aisle, you can check your local pool supply store as well since it is used as a pool cleaner as well).
-  OxyClean (Should be in your laundry aisle.  Also, there is a generic brand that is half the cost of the name brand, around $3.00 versus $6.00).

Here are some places to find the soaps online if you are having trouble finding them at some of your local stores.  Research prices though, because it varies depending on where you get it.  The soap can be as little as a dollar and up to five dollars.  I was able to buy mine for $1.79 at the International Store here in town.

- 2 cups of finely grated laundry soap which equals to approximately 1 bar of Zote soap.

I grated mine using a food processor with a grater attachment.

- 1 cup of 20 Mule Team Borax
- 1 cup of Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
- 1/4 cup of OxyClean

After I grated the soap, I detached the grater and added the blade attachment.

I inserted the rest of the ingredients in with the soap.

I then covered the processor with a damp towel to keep from having powder get all over the place in the kitchen. 

  I then mixed the ingredients to a fine powder, using the pulse setting on the processor and then eventually using the low setting.

I then placed the detergent in storage bags.  I will eventually place them in a kitty litter bucket for storing once I finish making the amount I am going to make.  It took me approximately 15-20 minutes to make one batch
You can use 1 teaspoon for regular loads and 2 teaspoons for heavily soiled loads.

I have also made a video of me making the detergent.  Enjoy, and please leave your comments below and share with your friends and remember to either follow me on this blog or subscribe to my YouTube channel if you are interested in more creative ideas and hobbies.  Next week I will be explaining how to make Hot Pepper Jelly!