Brain Specimen Coasters! The 10 coasters can be stacked on top of each other to make a 3D brain right on your table. Educational, interesting, and just a bit disturbing. $19.99
This DIY Sand and Rock Box is a great idea. Sandboxes squick me out (cats) and we don’t have room for one, anyway. Maybe I should just make one in a big plastic box.
Great outdoor play potential here.
Check it out, DIY Pressed Flower iPhone Case. It’s a white iPhone case with pressed flowers arranged on top, then covered with 50/50 clear-casting epoxy resin.
This would make a great gift.
Erin grew too much garlic in her garden, so what did she do? She made her own garlic powder. You slice the garlic, dehydrate the slices, and grind them into a powder.
Garlic powder in the store is cheap, but apparently the DIY version tastes much better. Erin says: “I was amazed at not only how easy it was but also the flavor! It was so fresh and strong, a far cry from the grocery store brand we were used to.”
This is a great way to preserve a bumper garlic crop.
And now that I think about it, I have some sprouting garlic in the back of the fridge…
Here’s when I started believing in companion planting: in 2005, I planted an oregano plant. It started to have problems right away, drooping and looking sad. I watered it and waited, but the plant got worse.
Then I read that chives are a good companion plant for oregano, so I put some in the same planter as the sad oregano plant. Within 24 hours, the oregano perked up and began to flourish. It even grew into the space that the chives took up, as if to hug it.
I still have both plants now, 8 years later. They are remarkably healthy. The oregano has spread under my lemon bushes and the chives–which is very old for a chive plant–is amazingly sweet and tasty. I think their health has something to do with planting the two together when I first got them.
Companion planting makes sense when you think of how plants work in nature. In a forest, you see a mix of many types of plants, not a row of just one type. In a video on companion planting, a gardener explains:
Plants can’t get up and walk away. If they don’t like their environment, many plants do the next best thing and alter their environment chemically, physically, and biologically. When a plant does this, there are other species that benefit from the environmental alteration or are discouraged by it.
Watch the rest of the video here:
The bottom line is that it matters which plants you put together. Sometimes this has to do with chemical alterations in the soil. Sometimes it has to do with root depth of the different plants. And sometimes it has to do with a common pest.
For example, I made a huge mistake this year planting beets and spinach together. Turns out there’s a special leafminer that loves to eat these two vegetables, so putting them together insured I would be dealing with that pest all spring.
That’s how you learn, I guess.
For more on Companion Planting, here’s a post on The Three Sisters: Corn, Squash, and Beans.
One of the liqueurs I use the most is triple sec (also called cointreau), your basic orange liqueur. For example, I have used triple sec in the Grapefruit Margarita, the Mango Margarita, and the Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry Cocktail.
Since I have a lot of oranges on hand because of my garden and use so much triple sec, I decided to make my own.
I used Serious Eats’s recipe, which was done by Marcia from DIY Cocktails. The only odd ingredient was the Dried Bitter Orange, which you can buy in brew stores or herb specialists. You can also order it online. An entire bag costs $1.
I followed the instructions and was pleased with the result. It may not taste as good as Grand Marnier, but the liqueur has a fresh, nice orange taste without the harsh bitterness of your typical bottom shelf triple sec. I can’t wait to try it out in a margarita.
DIY Triple Sec
(Makes one 750 ml bottle)
1/4 cup zest from 3 small naval oranges
1 Tablespoon dried bitter orange
1 cup brandy (I used Korbel)
1 cup vodka (any brand)
4 whole cloves
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
To zest the oranges, I used a microplane grater. This tool allows you to quickly and easily grate the orange part of the peel off the orange and leave the pith behind.
From the recipe:
Combine zest, dried orange peels, brandy, and vodka in a small container. Seal and shake. Let steep for 19 days at room temperature. On day 20, add the cloves, then seal and shake. Let steep for an additional day.
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat stirring to dissolve. Let this simple syrup cool. Strain the contents of the jar through a fine mesh strainer and then through a coffee filter. Discard the solids. Combine the strained mixture with the simple syrup in a jar or bottle. Shake and let it rest for a minimum of one day before use. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to one year (it’s best within three months).
When kids outgrow their crib or kiddie pool, don’t throw them away–reuse them! Here’s some inspiration:
I just bought a sweater that ended up in the dryer and shrunk. Swell. Maybe I’ll try this method: How to “Unshrink” Your Clothes.
Here’s a round-up of spring cocktails that I made with DIY Cocktails.
I recently discovered that there’s a variety of affordable wood chippers for the home garden. I was excited because I’ve wanted a wood chipper for ages. The idea of being able to chop up your own debris for free mulch was very appealing to me.
So we splurged, and now I own the Eco-Shredder. It can shred brush, leaves, chips, and limbs up to 1.375 inches thick.
Recently, we chopped down a tree that had become invasive in our yard. For months I’ve been looking at a pile of branches that needed attended to, so I decided to try my wood chipper out.
So far, I’m pleased. The chipper works great and has been making a nice mulch that I am planning to use in the walkway behind the garage.
The drawback is that it takes a long time to feed a tree branch-by-branch through what is essentially a high-powered shredder.
This is about one-third of the tree, and an hour of work. In the end, mulching all the branches should take about three hours.
In the future, I’ll be able to use the wood chipper every spring when I clean up my yard.