Making refrigerator pickles

Do you know what can be wonderfully tasty? Pickles! Not just any pickles, but ones that you make yourself from in-season local veggies.

After hitting up our local farmer’s market, we came home with gorgeous cauliflower and carrots with the intent to turn them into pickles.

Beautiful multi-colored carrots. They tasted like candy.

First carrots I ever purchased with the tops still attached!

Delicious white, purple, and green cauliflower.

While you can make refrigerator pickles from scratch, I chose to use mixes that I picked up during a trip to Cook Forest, Pennsylvania previously.

Ready to go pickle mixes

We also have a collection of flip top glass jars that are perfect for refrigerator pickles. I filled them up with a combination of carrots and cauliflower and then modified the recipe to make a partial batch. The mix called for a gallon of vegetables, which is way more than I had.

Veggies chopped and ready to pickle.

 

The dill pickle mix has a few more days to marinate, but the bread and butter type mix has already been taste tested and given a seal of approval. I’m sure they won’t last long.

Ready to marinate!

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Make your own simple laundry detergent

Some time ago I decided that instead of buying eco-friendly laundry detergent which can be quite pricey, I would try making my own. This idea didn’t just pop into my head, I saw a number of other blog posts about how to do it.

After actually reading the posts, I decided the liquid version was too time consuming and that I would make the powdered version. To start, I purchased the necessary ingredients on Amazon:

Assembling the ingredients

The next step was to find a suitable container to hold my new powdered laundry soap but I luckily had a decent sized plastic jug that orzo came in. I then got around to grating one cup of the bar soap using the smallest grater I own. Somehow I didn’t anticipate how difficult this task would be.

Trying to grate Fels Naptha

After what felt like forever as my hands quickly tired, I decided grating soap was a stupid idea. I then got out a a much larger cheese grater to make the task go faster. I put the grated soap into a cheap mini food processer to chop up the soap peels.

Soap peels in the mini processor

It took a few iterations, but I eventually got a cup of grated soap after grating about 3/4 of the bar of soap.

From there it was easy, I combined 1 cup grated soap, 1/2 cup borax, 1/2 cup washing soda and 1/4 cup baking soda. My plan is to add oxyclean to individual loads as needed. According to what I’ve read 2 tablespoons of this mixture should be sufficient for my conventional washing machine. It turns out I even had a long handled scoop left over from a nutritional supplement.

The final product

For the next batch I think I might try a different bar soap due to some mixed reviews I’ve read about Fels Naptha. I also read that opening the bar soap and letting it dry out helps with the grating process.

Anyhow, I’ve used the soap a few times and haven’t noticed a difference from store bought laundry detergent.

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Making sound panels in the theme of Dazed & Confused

Cover of "Dazed & Confused (Widescreen Fl...

Cover via Amazon

Recently my company, Ant’s Eye View, moved our Austin office. We ended up with an incredibly awesome location on North Lamar Blvd that happened to be the scene of the Emporium in the movie Dazed and Confused. My co-workers decided to play up the famous location a bit so we’ve got the Emporium sign painted across a wall that spans multiple rooms and each conference room is named after a location in the movie. Oh, and there are movie posters and paddles for decorations.

After moving into the office, we found that the conference rooms had terrible echoes. To fix this, we decided to make sound dampening panels for each room. To complement the movie theme, each room has panels in solid colors that go with the location.

The Top Notch room (click to see sign colors):

The 50 yard line room:

The Moon Tower (pale yellow and dark blue in case you can’t tell):

Being crafty, I was the person who actually constructed the sound panels.

Materials:

  • Sound dampening foam – we used 2′ x 2′ foam with a waffle texture and they look a bit like this
  • Particle board – for mounting the foam and fabric
  • Solid cotton fabric
  • White felt (goes under the cotton to keep bumps from show as much)
  • Mending plates
  • Screws
  • Staple gun
  • Drill

Method:

Cut particle board into 2 x 2 squares. Cut fabric a few inches larger on each side and iron it. First put down the cotton, then the felt, then the sound dampening foam, and then the particle board. Fold in the corners sort of like you are wrapping a present and fold it over the back, pulling it tight.  Use the staple gun to tack down the fabric. Mark holes using the mending plate so that one hole just barely shows above the panel. I used two plates for the 2 x 2 panels. Drill a small hole and then use a screw driver to screw in the small holes. You’re now ready to hang your sound panels!

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Growing mushrooms in your own home

For a gift this holiday season I was given the back to the roots mushroom growing kit.  It’s designed to allow you to grow two crops of oyster mushrooms at home.

It comes with a plastic bag filled with mushroom spawn (I guess this is mushroom speak for roots) and coffee grounds. You cut it open, soak it in water for a day, and mist twice a day and you’ll start to see mushrooms grow!  See pictures below for the progression. They grew impressively fast.

The trickiest part was deciding when to harvest the mushrooms. The directions that came with the box and the directions on the site are different. The box says to harvest at 1.5″ in diameter and before they start to curl, but doesn’t tell you if you should harvest them all at once. The website tell you to harvest when they are 2 – 3″ in diameter and to harvest them all at once. Anyhow, I harvested them once they started to curl. I didn’t get as many out of the batch as I expected, but I did turn them into a delicious stirfry.

I think I’ll try using the mushroom starter in a container outside after I grow my second batch to see if they will establish themselves. The kit is a little pricey for only two batches of mushrooms, but it is definitely cool so it would be awesome if I can figure out how to reuse it.

See the photos:

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