Mama’s Fridge Pickles

This year, I grew my cucumbers vertically. The result was that they have been able to protect themselves from the Sacramento heat and will not stop producing. It’s been the summer of Mama’s Fridge Pickles!

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This is my personal recipe that I’ve tailored from a few trial and error attempts with multiple recipes. I love it because the cucumbers are jared in less than 15 minutes and the pickles are ready after 6 hours! They only keep for 6 weeks in the refrigerator, so make a note on the jar.

Here is what you will need:
4-6 cucumbers (I used 4 lemon cucumbers for this)
1/2 cup white vinegar
3 tsp Kosher Salt
3 springs fresh dill
1 smooshed garlic clove
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or a leftover pack from the pizza place)
1 quart Mason Jar
Mandoline (optional)

If you gather all you need first, this will go very quickly. If you have impatient kids who want to help, this is a bonus step.

First, wash and slice your cucumbers. I use a Mandoline because it’s fast and consistent. I do not recommend this as a kid job. It’s definitely a grown person job (for fingers sake). The goal is to have enough slices to reach the top of the mason jar.

Speaking of your mason jar, take two or three stalks of dill (or half of a dill package from the store) and cut off the stalk leaving the beautiful leafy part. Discard the stalk. Give the dill a little squeeze with your hands and place them in the bottom of your mason jar.

Smash a clove of garlic and drop it in.

Toss in your salt. Throw in your vinegar. Sprinkle in your pepper flakes. Tighten the lid back onto the jar and give that mason a good shimmy shake for about a minute.

Here is where you have to trust me. You will look at this mixture and then look at the cucumbers and want to shake your head. It’s going to be okay. Science is going to do the rest of the job and we just get to observe.

Place your cucumbers in the jar in the mixture. Some of you are great at making things pretty. I applaud you. Although this is a present for my friend Brit (you can see her art here), this is about as adorable as I can get. You do you. I’ll be me. It all tastes the same in the end.

After I fill it all the way up with the cucumbers, I tighten the lid back on. I flip it over one time to let all the liquid come to the top, just for a moment, then flip it back right-side up. Then I pop it in the refrigerator.

It only needs 6 hours. Come back to it. Flip it again if you want to, although you don’t have to. I often can’t resist the urge. The longer you let it sit, the more your stack will shrink.

In the end, your jar will probably be only three quarters full of pickles. This is a good thing!

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Don’t forget to add the expiration date and enjoy!

Written by Mariah Cook, Sacramento local and toddler mom with another baby on the way (any day). Pregnancy brain motivated her to write her recipe down somewhere otherwise it would be lost for good.

 

 

 

DIY Infused Local Honey

Ever thought of making your own line of honey without becoming a beekeeper? Need a project to do with school-aged kids while making gifts for friends this season? Today is your day!

This year, I decided to infuse Sacramento honey with garden herbs! To gift 12 special people in my life, I spent about $2.50 a person.

Here is what you will need:

  • 5 days lead time
  • Honey (I got 5 lbs because I wanted extra, talk to the honey people)
  • 12- 4oz mason jars
  • Dried Herb – choose one herb type per jar. If possible, dry the herb on the stem
  • Large soup pot
  • Tea kettle

First, stop by Sacramento’s famous Sacramento Beekeeping Store, located near X & 21st Street. Did you know they have a tasting area? For real though! You can taste all sorts of local honey and decide which one would go best with the herb of your choice. Also, they can help you calculate how much honey you will need. Why is that important? Because honey is very dense and is measured by weight verses ounces. For a 4oz jar you need 5oz honey. Honestly, my brain cannot even handle the calculations and lucky for me the beekeepers are there to help.

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When you see this, you’ve come to the right place! My kid is cute, right?!

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Tasting area! All were delish!

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Sacramento Wildflower honey has a strong and wonderful taste.

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I chose Delta Wildflowers! It’s more mellow. Who knew?!

Okay, a note about your dried herbs. The jar will look cuter when the herb is dried on the stem. A trimming of rosemary or mint can be dried upside down in a paper bag. You can also use a dehydrator but be careful with your delicate babies.  The key is to have completely dried herbs that are fresh (if not dried all the way, they will mold).

I wanted to use lavender but quickly learned a couple facts from reading up on it. First, only English Lavender is edible. That’s important, right? Second, only the flowers have enough flavor to infuse. My plants at home are not in season so I made due with purchasing local buds from my honey friends.

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Local herbs and instructions. Better safe that sorry.

So you’re ready? Let’s do this!

Sanitize your mason jars and lids. I boil the pieces for about 5 minutes and then let air dry.

Put a sprig of herb in the bottom of your container or along the side. I used flower buds so I put 1/2tsp in the bottom of my jar. Meantime, warm water in your kettle until  it’s screaming. Then pour water into a soup pot. Place the honey (in the container you purchased it in) into the hot water to warm it until it’s nice and syrupy. The runnier the honey the better. Add more water as needed.

Once the honey is warmed, pour it into your jars. You will notice that the herbs want to rise to the top. That’s okay!

Close them up and store them upside down for 5 days.

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For flower buds, flipping them doesn’t matter; however, for sprigs it does.

All that’s left is to make them cute and give them away!

Side note, if you want to infuse more flavor than what this recipe suggests, a drop or two of edible essential oil of your herb will do the trick. Just warm the honey jar in a water bath, add and stir.

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My cute honey pots ready to go to their new holiday homes. I added a note stating it was Sacramento Delta Wildflowers for an “oooh-aaah”factor.

Did you know that honey never goes rancid? If it crystalizes, you can just warm it up in a water bath and it will be as good as new.

That’s about it. Have fun giving your one of a kind honey to your friends!

Written by Mariah Cook, Sacramento mom and lover of bees everywhere. After making and giving this honey, she was was asked if she has her own bee hive. She thinks the beekeepers in Sacramento are doing a mighty fine job and she will gladly support their work. 

Homemade Wooden Ornaments

If you have a miter saw and a tree branch, then I have a craft for you that goes beyond coasters (And a great project for older kids).

I started a tradition last Thanksgiving of giving my nephews and my son Christmas ornaments. This year, I wanted to also incorporate some branches I saved for crafting. I experimented with both birch and redwood for this craft. Overall, the birch was easier to work with verses the redwood, however, in the end I chose redwood primarily because I thought it was prettier.

Here’s what you need:
Miter saw (also known as a chop saw)
Drill and wood drill bit (to make hole)
Tree ranch that is consistent in size and is straight
Chalk board paint
Pencil and eraser
Ruler
Wood burning tool with ball point and calligraphy tips
Chalk pencil or permanent chalk marker ( I ended up using a metallic marker)

I chose to cut my rounds 1/2 inch thick from a branch that was about 3 inches in diameter. Just a suggestions, cut as many rounds from your branch as possible regardless of how many you will actually need. For example, I needed four rounds, but the branch I chose was long enough to make ten, so I cut all ten. This is because wood isn’t perfect and you never know what kinds of imperfections or colors you will discover once you slice into it. Afterwards, pick your favorite pieces for your project and use the rest for practicing ideas or coasters for your table (A pack of 6 makes for a great hostess gift).

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This piece of birch has water stains, soft spots and pink marks. Each round is one of a kind!

Drill a hole at the top of your round. Paint one side with the chalk board paint. For me, it was easier using my finger to paint because I didn’t want to get any on the bark.

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Example of a redwood round drilled and painted.

You remember those extra rounds? Ok! Bust them out to practice using that wood burner! Every piece of wood is different and you want to get the feel for what you are working with before you do your final piece. Why? Because you cannot erase burnt wood, LOL, so you have only one shot! No pressure…

I cannot free-hand anything. For real though. So I used printed images to to inspire me. Remember, these aren’t perfect circles, so centering images can be tricky. I sketched my image with a pencil so I could erase if needed and clean up when done.

After, and only after, feeling confident in practicing with the burner, I went to work. I found that the calligraphy tip worked great for straight edges and the ball point was perfect for rounded ones.

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Imperfect and adorable!

Then came the hand lettering on the chalk side. Again, I need ideas in front of me and to pencil out what I want to do ahead of time. I used this book:

I went over the penciled areas with a chalk pencil, but ended up using a metallic paint pen instead based on my own personal preference.

My nephews loved their gifts and I know I was happy with the one I made for my son. Mine aren’t fancy enough for etsy, but I know some of you could probably make money off your mad skills! Enjoy!

Written by Mariah Cook, AKA Auntie MoMo.

Mason Jar Terrarium. Make it. Love it. Watch it Grow!

Nothing says, “Mini Garden,” quite like a terrarium. Terrariums are a great gift and fun craft to make with kids. Personally, watching them grow is an equally magical part of having one as each plant grows differently in whatever container you use. Succulents are a favorite these days because they are low maintenance and require very little water, which is a good thing because water is pretty rare these days in lovely Sacramento, California. Here is my step-by-step succulent terrarium using a mason jar, plants from my own garden, and tools from my kitchen.

What You Need:
Mason jar
Tiny succulents
Tiny helper hand (optional)
Potting soil (you gan get at Dollar Tree)
Small rocks (Dollar Tree)
Floral moss (Dollar Tree)
Chop stick
Tweezers
Toothpick
Spoon
Spray bottle with water
Miniature action figure (optional)

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One thing to note about terrariums is that they need drainage to prevent the roots of the plants from rotting.  There will come a day when you over-water this by accident. Drainage will give you the grace you need. It also gives you the opportunity to create great layers of colors in your jar. I am creating a jungle theme with this one, so I chose earth tones.

First, place a layer of small rocks at the base of your jar. You can choose any color rock you want! I went with river rock colors. At minimum, make sure your layer of rock covers the entire surface of the bottom of the container. The more rocks you add beyond that will add height to the overall garden inside.

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Then, add a layer of moss. Moss comes in all sorts of fun colors too! The purpose of the moss is to create a barrier between the soil and the rocks. If your moss is dry, you can lightly mist it with a spray bottle to get it to pack down. If you want a thin layer of moss, be sure the layer is still dense enough to prevent soil from slipping down into the rocks. This will create the drainage for your garden and add a layered look.

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Take a moment to choose your mini plants.  I have a small succulent garden that is slowly growing already. I decided to just pick a few of my own guys. The key: The smaller the better because it will GROW over time. I chose a small Hen and Chicks and a couple types of Sedum.

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No need to get crazy on a million plants. If the terrarium looks a little sparse don’t panic. Plan based the fact that they will grow.

Put in a layer of soil in your jar. You can spritz the dirt to moisten if it seems too dry. You only need enough soil to cover the roots of the plants, but added soil will lift your garden higher. Maybe you like that. Do what you want! You can spoon in extra soil as needed once you have them in place. I use long tweezers, a chopstick, and a toothpick to get the job done. This is the hardest part, but is fun. Tiny kid hands work great too. If you have a plant that seems to lean to one side and you can’t get it placed ‘just right,’ you can use a rock to aid in your efforts.

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Add decoration like small rocks, sand, twigs, or miniature fun stuff. I chose rocks, an army man, and a small can of beer (don’t judge me).

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Spray down the inside of the jar to rid the sides of dirt, clean the plants, and moisten the soil. Then use a tissue to, ever so GENTLY, wipe down the inside of the terrarium.

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For a mason jar, put the rim on the jar but not the lid portion. You do not want to cover the top of this container or it will mold and die. I tied some kitchen twine at the top too! Cute, but not obnoxious.

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Enjoy! With Father’s Day around the corner, this might be right up your ally! These do great in offices, in kitchens, in kid’s rooms, and you only need to lightly water them when you actually remember. And let’s face it, as parents, there is no way we will remember. But hey, your kid(s) might remind you.

Here are a few other terrariums I have done in the past to help inspire you:

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Here are some links to a few great terrarium books I use as references:
Tiny World Terrariums
Terrariums Reimagined
Succulents Simplified: Growing, Designing, and Crafting With 100 Easy-Care Varieties

Written by Mariah Cook. She and her husband live in Sacramento with their one minion.

Modern Baby Gate DIY

 

Sacramento is home to some unique neighborhoods, each with distinct architectural styles. We live in one of the Mid-Century Modern clusters in South Land Park. What is interesting about our home is that it is an Eichler and that it has a second story addition. Once my child found those stairs leading up to the second story, it became imperative that we put up a gate at the top and bottom of the stairs. As a Mid-Century home owner, we were determined to have a gate that was both functional and complimented the era of our home.

We searched for a modern, but simple baby gate online and couldn’t find one that fit our needs. Most gates are in a doorway, which is easier for installation because you can fasten your latch on the other side. Most DIYers with the same issue chose to mount a 2×4 to the wall and then add an exterior gate latch you’d see on a fence; an ugly but convenient choice.

We were not working with a doorway, but a hallway at the top of the stairs so making a custom gate was the best choice over all. For the top we chose to make a horizontal slat gate, but for the bottom of the stairs we bought this bad boy due to space issues.

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For the slat gate:
MATERIALS
6 – 1×2 Pine (http://www.homedepot.com/s/1×2?NCNI-5) Note: could have bought less if we got longer than 8′ 1x2s
Spackle
EQUPMENT 
Chop saw
Brad nailer and nails
Screw gun
Putty knife
Paint w/ primer – Benjamin Moore – Revere Pewter (HC-172)
Paint Brush
WHAT WE DID:
First we measured the space. That’s always a good way to start, right? We knew the slats would need to extend to the edge of the frame of the gate. This meant that building our frame would be our first step.
Some considerations had to be made:
  • How high do I want this gate to be in comparison to the kid’s current size and how big he will grow before the gate is no longer needed?
  • How many slats do you want? We wanted 1 inch between each slat and allowed that to dictate how the height.
  • How high off the floor should the gate sit since it needs to swing open? Is it small enough to prohibit a head or foot from getting stuck? We determined 1 1/2 inch was the the best for us. Your measurements may vary.
Start by determining the best vertical height of the frame for your gate. Cut those two pieces and lay them on a sturdy work surface. The horizontal top and bottom of the frame need to be the exact length of your gate. These horizontal pieces need to extend to the far edge of the vertical part of the frame.
Determine the length horizontally as well. We made sure there was a 1/2″ gap on either side of the gate to allow for the hinges and for the swing. We didn’t want the gate to scrape against the wall when closing or opening. We also took into account our baseboards. Ours are thin, but your measurement may be different if you have thicker styles.
To assemble the frame, use a square (measuring tool) to ensure a perfect 90 degree angle and then clamp before nailing.
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Each horizontal slat will be the same length as the top and bottom slat. Once you have made your frame, take it to the spot you want it installed and test it. Is it a good size? Yes? Then you are ready to install the rest of the slats. Again, the distance between your slats is determined by how tall your gate is and how much distance between each slat prohibits little hands from getting stuck and how many slats you want to put on there for your personal taste. We decided on 1 inch spacing between each slat.
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We then cut our slats. As stated, we made them long enough to meet the outside edges of the frame so we could make sure we nailed them securely into the frame. We used a square and clamps each time.
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We lightly sanded the wood to make it splinter free and to slightly round the corner, AKA kid friendly. Then we spackled the nail areas to cover and create a smooth surface before painting. After that, we lightly sanded after spackling and again to remove any high spots after painting.
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We added the surface bolt on the outside so our child couldn’t open, shut easily or just Eff with it, in general.
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Originally we wanted to stain the gate to add a rustic feel and to offset the clean open space to match our black walnut wet bar counter top. However, pine is a soft wood and after seeing a sample stained, we decided we either needed to build the baby gate out of black walnut or paint it instead to match our walls. Our cheap asses chose the latter.
Lastly, we added a magnet latch for when we want it open, but not dangling away from the wall.
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Written by Mariah Cook. She is happily married in Sacramento and has one little monster.