Homemade Vanilla Extract – How to Package

In May I did a post about starting to make my own homemade vanilla extract. Ideally it takes close to 2 months for the alcohol and vanilla beans to work their magic so I wasn’t able to show the results right away. Now that I have the finished extract however I wanted to update you on how the vanilla extract turned out and show how I am packaging it for friends as presents. If you want to check out the making post first, click here.

things that make me smile (2)The extract after just 1 week, much darker than it was originally. At this point you could just stop and use the vanilla extract but the longer you wait the better the flavor. I could really tell by constantly smelling it each week when I went to shake it what difference each weeks make. The smell of the alcohol slowly starts to turn more and more into a strong vanilla scent.

home made vanilla extract (1)Here is the vanilla extract right before I packaged it, so dark and aromatic. Now it’s just under the 2 month mark and it’s still has a slight alcohol bitter smell to it that I was under the impression would have disappeared by now. I researched online and it appears the smell of homemade extract will not smell exactly like manufactured vanilla extract which I was use to. People suggest leaving the vanilla beans in longer than 2 months if it’s too bitter. Keep in mind it normally will not affect the overall taste of the extract as the alcohol is burned off when cooking.

home made vanilla extract (3)A look at all the containers I thought might work wonderfully with the vanilla extract. Keep in mind that glass works best as the alcohol can leech plastic containers. As well it’s recommend the glass be tinted however if it will be spending most of its time in a cupboard I wouldn’t worry about it.

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I left mine in the original vodka bottle so pouring it into the containers very easy. I also didn’t need to strain the liquid at all as the vanilla beans and seeds stayed easily in the bottle.

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I had no issue filling up 6 containers with just one 750ml bottle of extract. I thought around 100ml containers was a good size for presents to friends and family as most people who do not bake often will take quiet awhile to go through that much extract. For myself I choose the large bottle.

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Since I couldn’t leave the extract alone for the recommend two months I decided to cut up the vanilla beans I had used in the large bottle into fairly small but manageable pieces to place at the bottom of each jar. Keep in mind the vanilla beans need to be covered at all times with alcohol so I cut mine small enough to lay flat on the bottom on each the container.

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After placing the vanilla beans into each container I simply closed them up and made sure the lids were secure. The easiest way to see if you containers are spill proof ahead of filling them up is to simply fill with water and laying the container on all sides, or shaking it up and check for leaks. Most of the containers I used were intended for dry spices so it’s always good to check.

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I am giving my vanilla extract away as house warming presents so I also made labels. I thought of a cute name, Luna Vanilla Extract and wrote that on all my prebought labels. Other ideas for what to write on the label include listing the year/month, the name of reciever, ingredients, storing instructions, how many beans you used in the bottle (if you are testing to find a great combination),  or what type of vanilla beans you used (for example I used beans from India).

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Here is a look at the labels as well as how I gifted them.

Vanilla beans are reusable so if I wanted to make another batch right away all I would need to do was fill up the bottle again with more alcohol to cover the vanilla beans, shake up and start again. What I did since I only used 1 1/2 bottles for all the presents was remove the leftover beans out of the first bottle that was finished. Cut them up again so that they’d fit below the line of alcohol in the half used bottle and placed them inside. Then shook the bottle to mix everything together again and have it settle at the bottom. Next I placed the bottle back in a dark place to ruminate a bit longer.

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So far haven’t had a chance to bake with it yet but going off the smell alone I think you can’t go wrong to make your own. I can’t wait to see how this next batch turns out and the great thing is that I can wait as long as I want this time so I’ll be sure to update this post with more information if I really notice a big difference between waiting more than 2 months.  Hope you liked all my tips and let me know down below if you have any comments or questions!

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Making My Own Homemade Vanilla Extract

I mentioned earlier about my brother shipping me a bunch of goodies from his most recent trip travelling around India for half a last year. Well one of said goodies was an insane amount of vanilla beans and as soon as they arrive I realized it would probably take me years to actually bake enough to get through my new supply. So I decided to do the most logical thing and make homemade vanilla extract. I had no idea what that required until I googled it and my first reaction – vanilla extract is vodka?? I am so ashamed to have not known the ingredients of extract considering I did pre-culinary school courses. My second reaction was how easy it was to make, just some 35% proof  alcohol, a few vanilla beans in a glass jar and a little time.homemade vanilla (3)

To start off you will need a cutting board, knife, any type of alcohol you prefer over 35% proof (vodka, bourbon, rum), vanilla beans (mine are Indian variety which have a hint of chocolate) and since my bottle of  vodka is in a glass jar – I’m all set. This by the way is only half of my vanilla beans.

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So to start the number of vanilla beans is really up to you, there is no agreed upon correct amount per liquid. Every recipe I found online uses a slightly different amount, as well excess doesn’t necessary mean a better or stronger flavor. I had a 750ml bottle of vodka so I went with 1 vanilla bean per 60ml (or 2 fluid ounces) in total of 13. To prep the beans I cut off the ends, flattened them down with the side of the knife and sliced in half to expose the beans.

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Simply add the sliced vanilla beans into the glass container. I removed a shot glass of vodka out of the glass container first to make sure there was enough room. Any glass container will do, just make sure the alcohol is above the beans. As I was using the whole bottle of vodka I decided to simply use it to save time and I knew I would be repackaging the extract after it was made. The container HAS to be glass as the alcohol will leech any plastic container over time.

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I left 4 vanilla bean halves out when I was adding them in and simply scraped them down the middle to get the vanilla seeds and placed both the stalk and the seeds into the container. Not required but I wanted to guarantee that my extract would have some seeds at the bottom. After that I topped the container up with some of the vodka I had taken out earlier and put on the cap.

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The last step is to shake the concoction up and place in a cold dark area. I am using one of my bottom kitchen cupboards. Now just to leave it alone and shake it up once a week while the magic happens. The extract should be useable in a few weeks however the ideal time is to wait 6 weeks and you can go longer. I will be sure to show you the results at the end of June and how I will be bottling up my vanilla extract to gift to friends and use.

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Lomography Wednesday: Organizing Instax Film

organizing instax film (1)Anytime you have a film camera the evitable question is how do I organize all my shots after I’ve taken them? Thought I’d do one specifically for organizing Instax mini films today as I’ve already done a ‘How To’ for organizing negatives (here) and plan on doing one for Polaroid film soon. Plus there is a lot you can do with Instax film and it’s great to get creative. Hope you find this information help, and let me know in the comments if you have your own suggestions!

organizing instax film (2)Albums:

My first tip is the most obvious for organizing, ALBUMS. It’s easy to find albums online and in fact they are pretty affordable but my biggest tip is to buy off of Ebay. Like with any Instax mini accessory I always recommend looking on Ebay because North American just isn’t as into Instax cameras as much as people in Japan, Korea and other countries in China. So unless you live there, it’s the best way to see what they have. What they have that you won’t find anywhere is variety and price. Whether that meas color, patterns and even album material and size (albums for 24 shots, 64 shots, 84 shots, and even over 100+ ). I even have a Little Twin Star album that matches some of the film I have and all of them I bought for around $5 each with free shipping. All the albums I have except the mini album are 64 shots, my favourite being the two faux leather albums. If you don’t like Ebay,  Amazon America (Canada’s is terrible still) has been getting way more variety in albums the last few months than they use to, although usually more expensive.

organizing instax film (5)organizing instax film (4)organizing instax film (3)organizing instax film (6)Alternatives:

If you want another way to organize/show you Instax film here are 4 ideas that I think can be really fun. The best, and one I love the most is photo walls. Simply use tack, tape, pins or anything really and stick the film on the wall. I’ve made them with other types of film in the past but right now I prefer having artwork on my walls instead, so here are a few awesome Instax walls for reference (here, here, and here). Second idea if you want a bit more structure that will probably be less damaging to your walls use Fotoclips. They are made to be used to any type of film and are great if you are worried about the film curling up. Third is the wall sheet which fits 10 or 20 shots that can be hanged on the wall or used as a curtain. I bought a bunch of them with the idea of making them into curtains but haven’t really used them yet. Check out this photo to see what it’d look like, also useful if you don’t want dirt or dust getting on your photos. The fourth idea is more for protective storage but you can use card protectors which just happen to be the same size of Instax mini film.

organizing instax film (7)Travel:

My biggest concern when I first got my Instax Mini 90 camera was how the hell do I store the film when I’m out taking shots or while I’m waiting for them to develop. A lot can happen between then and getting home sometimes and you don’t want to ruin that perfect shot you just took before you even have time to share it. My favourite and most reliable way to store Instax film when out of the house is the mini album. The reason why it’s amazing is because it’s tiny enough to fit in most of my purses and camera bags and will not become an inconvenience like a bigger album (belows shot is so you can compare a mini album to a medium sized one). It also means your film will not get bent, and it holds 24 shots which for me mean I can take it for weekend trip like camping and have plenty of room to store all my shots in. Other alternatives can be the photo wall I showed above which is about the same size as the mini album except it’s a tad longer but much skinner; or the card protectors which are great if you are mostly worried about the film getting dirty and want to slip it into a pocket or bags. The only down side to both of them is the film can get bent.

organizing instax film (8)Storage:

Well storage can be anything, but I love these hipster wooden cases and wanted to share them. I just picked up my own in both styles and can’t wait for them to arrive.

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Monthly DIY: Dragon Scale Maille Bracelets

Today happens to be the premiere of the 5th season of the Game of Thrones and in celebration of it I wanted to show you how to make your own dragon scale maille bracelets. They are a very beginner introduction to making jewellery with scales and are very easy to learn how to make even if you’ve never done anything like this before. I absolutely love these and the scales remind me so much of Daenery’s dragons (which I happen to adore). There are so many things you can make with scales, and scale maille it’s a really addictive and fun hobby. So let me know if you want any other tutorials in scale maille whether its earrings, necklaces, gloves or more complex bracelets. I would be happy to share. As well if you’d rather purchase any of the bracelets you see in this tutorial rather than make them, please send me an e-mail for more details. Let’s start!

What You’ll Need:monthly diy

  • two flat nose pliers
  • 20-30 scales per bracelet
    *you will find the perfect amount after the first bracelet you make, for my wrist I always use ~25
  • 18ga 3/16 jump rings
    *the amount of scales x2 plus a few extra to attach the clasp
  • clasp
    *any style

Cost & Material:

The cost of making one bracelet really depends on what materials you choose to use as scales and jump rings are available in a variety of materials. As well it depends on how many bracelets you intend to make as most suppliers sell in quantities larger than you will need for 1 bracelet. Plastic and aluminum scales are on the cheaper side and will cost around $5 per 100 scales. Titanium is around $10 per 50 scales and Niobium & Patterned scales are usually around $0.50 to $1 per 1 scale. You can also get brass, cooper, gold, and even glow in the dark scales. I prefer the beautiful anodized titanium scales as they look the most like dragon scales. For jump rings you can get them in a variety of materials too, aluminum being the cheapest at around $5 per 500 rings and titanium being around $20 for a few hundred. Aluminum jump rings are the mostly commonly used. The only reason I would suggest using another material like titanium for the jump rings is if you wanted the bracelet to be hypo allergic. Keep in mind you do not see the jump rings except on the ends. Here is great chart that will show you the difference between materials. You can also save money buying machine cut rings instead of saw cut, however I prefer saw cut as I find them easier to work with and more polished looking.  The bracelet that I’m show you cost me about $9 in materials however I did have to purchase several packs of jump rings and scales to get all the different colors (roughly $40) and with that I can make 6 bracelets. I purchased all my scales and jump rings through The Ring Lord (which I review here). The only thing I didn’t get through them was the clasps which I purchased through Ebay in a variety of styles for around $2 per pack of 5-10 clasps.

Steps:

Dragon Scale Maille Bracelets:

dragon scale maille bracelets (14)dragon scale maille bracelets (22)dragon scale maille bracelets (21)dragon scale maille bracelets (23)dragon scale maille bracelets (24)dragon scale maille bracelets (6)A closer look at the back of the bracelet (above) and various clasps (below)dragon scale maille bracelets (17)More dragon colored bracelets (above) and more playful combinations (below)dragon scale maille bracelets (18)dragon scale maille bracelets (3)dragon scale maille bracelets (4)Glow in the dark and aluminium scales (above) and anodized titanium (below)dragon scale maille bracelets (5)

Like all my DIYS please feel free to comment below with any questions, suggestions or photos of you own creations.

Lastly what happens when you own a cat and you leave anything on a table for too long…dragon scale maille bracelets (15)

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This Year’s Tattoo Easter Eggs

I am so excited to show you all my silly tattooed Easter eggs that I made this year. If you haven’t seen my DIY for how to make these yourself, you can check out it out here. I’ve actually updated the original concept of using temporary tattoos to design eggs for ornaments or to use as center pieces. Instead this year I changed it up and went with plastic eggs that I bought at my local Dollarama instead of blown out eggs (they work pretty good but for some reason they attract a lot of dirt and loose particles so I washed them a few times throughout). I also decided to make a few for my friend who has twins, a 2 year old boy and girl. So I thought I’d do designs they’d like, so I made Batman, Cinderella, unicorns and Easter temporary tattoos eggs. As well I used much nicer ribbon this year around. My favourite at the Easter designs and the glow in the dark Batman ones which were really fun to make. Let me know what you think in the comments and show me pictures if you make your own, would love to see other people’s designs.

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Extra Easter DIY: Tattoo Easter Egg Ornaments

tattoo easter eggs

Another extra DIY for Easter to make up for missing last month’s DIY project. This one is super cute and easy to do. All you need is temporary tattoos you like, some patience and very little else. I’ll also be showing you how to make ornaments out of the finished eggs as well for those of you want to hang them up or like me celebrate Easter with a tree (it’s an old German tradition to have an Easter tree). This project is great for those of you who have kids too as you can create themed eggs so easily. Superheroes, dragons, flowers, skulls, moustaches, cartoons – pretty much anything as long as you can find them as temporary tattoos. I’m going to be making Hello Kitty Easter eggs because I have a few friends who love her and I thought it’d be a cute gift idea. I also picked up temporary tattoos from Dollarama of flowers and butterflies since I thought they’d be cute and be great ornaments.

What You’ll Need: easter diy (1)

  • Eggs
  • Temporary tattoos
    Optional:
  • Easter egg dye
  • Scissors and thread or lace
    *only if you want to make ornaments
    Cost:
    $10

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How To: Battery Conversion for Polaroid

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How To: Battery Conversion for Polaroids

I am very excited about today’s Vintage Tuesday post as it’s my “How To” for converting Polaroid cameras to take AA or AAA batteries instead of the original camera battery. I’ve been waiting a long time to do this modification to my Polaroid Land Camera 210 and as soon as my battery holder arrived in the mail I pounced! Most older Polaroid Land Cameras use a custom 3V or 4V battery type that is hard to find (not impossible mind you if you look online) and relatively expensive.  So it’s ideal to do this simple and cheap conversion and that way you can spend more money on film! Speaking of film, I heard right after doing this mod to my camera about the discontinuations of FP-3000B Fujifilm Black and White instant film. Let’s just say I am very sadden by this news and have signed this petition to have Fujifilm reconsider – highly suggest you sign if you use instant film because this the last and only black and white instant film on the market anymore. Anyways sad news aside below is simple steps for the conversion, it took me no time at all and the only thing I bought was the battery holder for $2. Make sure to click on the photos for the better view of the steps.

What You’ll Need: polaroid battery conversion (1)

  • A Polaroid camera
  • Electrical tape
  • Electronic pliers
  • Battery case holder
    *for AA or AAA batteries (3V bought here)
    *to figure out what voltage you need for each type of Polaroid camera this guide is great!

Steps:

  1. Using pliers snip off the old battery ends as we will not be using them.
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  2. Using the pliers stripe the plastic coating so you have exposed wiring for both black and white.
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    *I did go back and restrip so I had more exposed wiring as this amount was not long enough
  3. The battery holder I am using comes with wiring already and had the ends striped. However you can trim down the length.
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    *it’s been awhile since I’ve done any wiring so I left mine intact in case I made any mistakes.
  4. Now twist the wires, black to black and red to white.
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    *I had to do this a few times as my wires were not that long and the older Polaroid wiring was frayed badly.
  5. Before doing anything else put batteries in the holder and test to make sure the connections are being properly made. There is two ways to see if the shutter is working. First: open up the back of the camera where the film goes and try taking a photo, you should be able to see the light from the open shutter. Second: Fire off the shutter once when there is no batteries in the holder and again when there is and listen for the difference. If the batteries are connected correctly there should be a 2nd distinct click sound when you let go of the shutter that wasn’t there before.
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  6. Take electrical tape and wrap the exposed wires.
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  7. Take pliers (or anything that will work for you) and snap off all the old battery holder plastic to make room for the new case. This step should be #1 but I wasn’t very confident and well I am one of those people who hates doing permanent modes to cameras.
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    *this was actually the hardest part and took me an hour, keep in mind I had to be careful about the wiring so I think it’d be much easier if done as the first step. I also gave up towards the end so my holder just barely fits.
  8. Insert the battery holder with the batteries and close the case.
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    *you can add foam to secure the case so it doesn’t move around however since I didn’t gut the insides out completely it’s tight enough that it doesn’t move.
    *as you can see my wires are very long – would reccomend trimming them however not a big issue.
  9. Take photos!

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How To: Make a Film Note

I wanted to show you guys this super fun way of making film notes to send to friends. I first discovered this cute and easy method for sending notes when my friend PawPaw sent me one from Mexico. It’s such a great idea and if you have film canisters laying around it’s a great way to recycle them. When I develop film I never know what to do with the leftovers so I’ve been keeping them for little notes to include with various friend’s Christmas presents, it’s kind of like a message in a bottle. Let me know in the comments if you’ve tried this!

What You’ll Need:

  • Empty 35mm film canister
    *if you are having trouble finding ask a local photography lab or just buy a cheap roll and remove film
  • Paper
  • Tape or glue
  • Pen / Ruler

Steps:

  1. Measure the height of the film (35mm) on 1 or 2 pieces of paper along both sides.
    film note (1)
    *Any type of paper will work
  2. Then cut the paper into stripes with scissors or an exacto knife.
  3. Take your stripes and tape/glue together until you have a long line of paper. I used 5 stripes.
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  4. Open canister and then take out film spool. Tape paper to spool.
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  5. Re-spool paper like film.
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  6. Put spool back in canister leaving a lead of paper.
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  7. Start writing your message
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    *You can do it in sections or write the message all the way down the paper.
  8. Respool and leave a lead again.
    film note (2)film note (3)
    *Extra: pop into film container and send it on it’s way.

This is me holding up the note I got from PawPaw:film note

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Lomography Wednesday How To: Finding Film

how to...When I first started getting into film photography one of the hardest things was finding the film I needed. More and more these days stores that would normally carry film no longer have any stock, let alone carry specialized film like 120 or instant. A lot of camera stores as well have been losing business over the last decade so they tend to mark up film that is already expensive to begin with. It’s a really big hump that can prevent people from getting into film photography or giving up due to the cost. So I thought I’d share where I get mine and why I think it’s a great place as I was in this position about 2 years ago myself and was getting super frustrated with finding affordable film. This guide is for people in Canada and United States as I currently live in Canada and I am only aware of North American stores. However the online stores I reference are based out of New York City and do offer international shipping. Continue reading %s

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Monthly DIY: How to Make a Coffin Halloween Treat Box

Halloween treat box (20)

This month’s DIY project is super fun to do for Halloween and can be used to hold candy, decoration or as a container. My best friend Ana made me a playful jewelry box a few years ago that I treasure so I thought a coffin one would be a great twist to make her one and for myself I am making a silly treat box for work. This project is suitable for beginners and on average cost less than $10 to make and can easily make more than 2 at a time. Half of the stuff you will need can be found around the house, the trickiest item to find will be the coffin container. I found mine at a local Dollarama store, but I have seen them online, and in various craft stores. I bought my velvet paper at a local art store Deserres in the scrapbooking section and the remaining items are easy found at most craft/art or dollar stores.

What You’ll Need:Halloween treat box

  • Coffin container
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Paintbrush
  • Paint
  • Velvet paper
  • Optional: Rhinestones, photo, lace, pearls, dried or fake flowers, cobwebs, spiders, Halloween stickers

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