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I like to think of myself as the Sandra Lee of Wedding DIY. I kinda DIY'd my invitations. I kinda DIY'd my OOT bags. I definitely made my own favors, but kinda DIY'd the packaging. Trust me, if I could have made the time to do every single fold, crease and tag punch-out myself, I would have. The reality is that I'm a working girl and did not have the time, so I DIY'd based on what I had available to me. You should too - whether it's from scratch or with a lot of help from planners, friends, family or Michaels. Just make it your own! This is the place for all things DIY!

Monday
Feb062012

{DIY} Paper Feather Tutorial

This isn’t the first feather tutorial out there, I’m certain. There’s stuff out there on the interwebs for all sorts of things to make with feathers if you’d like to incorporate them into your wedding décor.

While I was at the trade show in Atlanta, I was pleased to find that the whole French Provincial/Vintage look is still alive and well. It was all over the the place, including the Scott Antique Show I hit up. I don’t think this is a look that’s going to go quietly into the night, like say chevrons.

Anyway, when I’m at a show I often see displays or products for sale that cost an arm and a leg and I always think to myself, “What the hell? This is so expensive! Why, I can make that for a fraction of the price! Pfft.”

And then I never do it.

Well today I did, dammit.

What I saw in a showroom was a big Christmas tree (because it’s always Christmas at the Atlanta show!) decorated with burlap, twine, clear glass and the like. It was really pretty. It also had all these pretty paper feathers stuck in it and that’s when I got all crafty-pious and decided I could do the same.

While I love The Martha with all my obsessive-compulsive heart, her online tutorials (as well as many others) are often lacking in where to find some of the crazy things they use in craft projects. In fact, recently I wanted to make a shrimp stir-fry The Martha had in her February issue. I’m reading down the ingredients, check check check, whoa 1/2 teaspoon of SAMBAL OELEK? What the fuck is that? And just like that, I abandon the recipe. Because I don’t care that sambal oelek is like Asian chili sauce. I care that I don’t have it in my cupboard and I’m not about to go hunt for the shit, pay $800 for a 6 ounce bottle so that I can use it once for this lame recipe. I feel that way a lot regarding craft projects.  I’m going to guess that you might too. Who has time for all this nonsense? No one, that’s who.

My goal is make DIY as simple and as cheap as possible. Otherwise, what the hell is the point?

So, all bitching aside, let’s get to it, shall we?  Here’s what you’ll need:

Step1

  1. Paper, crafters choice. I wanted to use  sepia colored music paper. Naturally, when I’m looking to find ANYTHING vintage-y to print out, I go to The Graphics Fairy. If you’re looking for something specific, go to her search function and you’re bound to find it. I very quickly went to Sheet Music and found several things to print out that worked fabulously, thank you very much. FYI – Card stock or heavier paper might not be best for this project. I used regular old copy paper. Tissue or thinner paper would be super pretty, but probably much harder to work with. I had some that I show in the above pictures, but I didn’t use it because I liked the music paper best.
  2. Feather Template. Google that phrase and you’ll get several options. I found mine right here.
  3. Wire. I got mine at Hobby Lobby for $3.99. I was intending to use floral wire, but I think I left it in the garage when I made the Christmas Wreath on the cheap. I was too lazy to go out in the cold to get it. This heavier gauge worked fine.
  4. Wire Cutters. Or scissors you don’t mind fucking up when you cut the wire, because it will totally ruin your scissors. Forewarned and all.
  5. Glue Stick.
  6. Paper Scissors.

Step 1

Step2

  • Cut out your feather template and just put a quick spot of the glue stick on the back and lay it on top of several sheets of your pretty paper and cut them out. I wasn’t careful or accurate.
  • Reverse the feather and do the same so that you have a front and back for the feather. I didn’t do this and it didn’t really make a difference, I just had to trim some of the edges later. No biggie, but if you’re doing these en masse, it would save you time in the long run.

Step 2

Step3

  • Cut a length of wire the length of the feather, plus a little for the “stem.”

Step 3

Step4

  • Glue stick, baby. On the wrong side of your paper.

Step5

  • Lay the wire on the glued paper.

Step6

  • Place another feather cut-out on top and sandwich the wire between the two pieces of paper, making sure it’s a good seal all around. *Note how my feather templates don’t match (the white paper part). I just trimmed them up. Feathers, snowflakes and sand grains aren’t perfect and no two are alike. Don’t worry about perfection.

Step7

  • Get to snippin’. I opted for some smaller scissors for this and it made for faster feather production. I wasn’t careful or even or anything. I cut big chunks and small chunks and just went at it. The finer the snips, the better looking your feather will be, I’m guessing.

Step 4

Step8 Step9

  • Fluff and bend. Crinkle up the snipped edges, bend the wire a bit and give them some dimension.

Step10

  • If you want to create bunches, gather the stems together and wrap one of the stems around the others.

That’s it! You’re done!

And voila! I made three of them and then stuck them in a bottle I had in my studio with some fake Hobby Lobby style flowers I had from an old arrangement. I actually added in two real ostrich feathers for color. It’s not the prettiest arrangement of all time, but I totally did this whole project in like 20 minutes. No lie.

And there are SO MANY things you can use these suckers for. Make them in smaller sizes for boutonnieres. Wrap the stems in floral tape and tuck them in and around your menus/napkins. Scatter them as table décor. Include them in your bouquet.  Drive yourself batty and make teeny tiny ones and glue them to your table cards. So many craft projects, so little time.

I’m just happy that I proved to myself that I can, in fact, make shit instead of buying it and for super-duper cheap. You can too. 

So do you like? Do tell.

Monday
Dec052011

{DIY Chocolate Covered Cherries} Taking Walgreens Up a Notch!

final

I think there are two camps out there when it comes to chocolate covered cherries: the lovers and the haters. Personally, I love them. I love the fact that if you've got yourself $.99 on December 27th, you can get yourself a big ol’ box of chocolate covered cherries. Cheap AND sweet. How can that be bad?

This next DIY tutorial is how to make your own and make them WAY better than the kind you can get at Walgreens after Christmas. WAY better. This recipe comes from my friend Chicago Lori (not to be confused with Charlotte Laurie or Baltimore Laurie). Lori’s mom taught her and  then Lori taught me how to make these suckers back when I lived in Chicago, like 800 years ago. I’ve been making them ever since. I usually skip a year when I make them because I will be 100% honest here: they are a pain in the ass. Not hard, it just takes a little practice and a little patience.

I generally break the process up into two days: first I make the dough and prep the cherries, the next day I cover them all in chocolate. You can totally do them all in one day, I was just a kitchen-fiend this weekend (four batches of cookies and the cherries) and needed to break it up.

So let’s get started, eh?

Ingredients

1/3 cup butter

2 cups marshmallow fluff (annoyingly, it’s like one container plus a smidge of a second)

dash salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 cups powdered sugar

36 cherries (annoyingly again, this is like one large jar plus a smidge of another)

2 12-oz. bags of chocolate (baker’s choice of semi-sweet or dark)

Several cookie sheets

Plastic wrap

Prep

  • When you measure out the fluff, spray your measuring cup and spatula with non-stick spray first. You can thank me later.
  • Drain your cherries early, the drier they are, the easier they are to work with.

cherries

Step 1

  • Cream the butter using an electric mixer.
  • Beat in marshmallow fluff, salt and vanilla extract.
  • Add powdered sugar gradually (about 1/2 cup at a time), mixing well after each addition.

mixed

Step 2

  • Liberally dust your counter with powdered sugar.
  • Turn out the sugar dough and knead, adding in more sugar if the mixture is too sticky (it will be) until it forms a nice firm dough.
  • Refrigerate 1 hour (I like to use a metal bowl here to retain the cold when I take it in and out of the frig)

dough

These next steps are how I do this. I’m sure you can modify based on what works for you.

Step 3

  • Wrap each cherry in the sugar dough, making sure they are fully covered.(See photos/steps below)
  • Place on a plastic lined cookie sheet.
  • Refrigerate.

step1 step2

step3 balls

Roll the dough into a walnut sized ball and made a depression in it with your thumb. Drop the cherry in the depression and stretch the dough gently around it, like a wonton or an empanada,  keeping extra air out. Pinch the seams closed and then roll into a ball again.

Helpful Hint:  The key to doing this is COLD DOUGH. The more you handle the dough, the stickier and suckier this step gets. I generally keep the dough in the frig, grab a chunk and cover, go back to the frig, grab a chunk and cover. Repeat. Repeat again. You get it, right?

Step 4

  • Melt the chocolate in either a double boiler or in a bowl in the microwave (here are some easy steps if you’re not familiar with doing this). I like to use a double boiler.
  • Dip cherry in melted chocolate and place on plastic lined cookie sheet.

chocolate IMG_3358

Helpful Hint: This is where things gets tricky and take some practice. The first couple of chocolate covered cherries will look a hot mess. FEAR NOT. These taste just as good as the pretty ones. Once again, the key is COLD DOUGH and working with a little speed. Once you dip the cherries in the warm chocolate, it will start to make the sugar dough soft and melty. You gotta get them covered before they get too melty. To do this,  drop the ball into the chocolate and immediately pick it up with a small spoon and twist it in the chocolate to get it covered. I’ll use another spoon to cover any spots I’ve missed and to transfer to the plastic lined cookie sheet. DO NOT use a skewer to try to accomplish this. If you puncture the dough, all I can say is this: CHERRY GOO IS A FUCKING HOT MESS.

Also, read this about tempering chocolate and keeping water away from it and all that. It sounds harder than it really is.

Step 4

  • Let the cherries rest and cool at room temperature before putting them in the frig to harden completely.

balls3

These aren’t as shiny as they should be, but fuck it. They taste AH-mazing.

Helpful Hint: You don’t want to “shock” the chocolate by immediately putting the cherries into the frig. This can turn the chocolate grainy and discolor them. Boo.

You can keep these in the frig after they harden. Or not. I have no idea how long they will keep outside of the fridge, at least a week or two. I’ve never had them last that long, so I can't really say.

Wrap them up and give them to your friends and family. They will totally be impressed (even the people who say they don’t like chocolate covered cherries) and love you forever. Promise.

Tuesday
Nov292011

{DIY Christmas Wreath} Keepin' it Cheap!

OK, so it’s that time of year again. Have you gone into the scary attic/basement and pulled out the boxes with the ornaments and the tree skirt and the little Santa knick-knacks you’ve collected over the years? No? Best get on it. Christmas will be like yesterday already before you know it.

So last year I made some front door swag décor on the way cheap. It cost me ZERO dollars because I already had the majority of the supplies on hand. If you made yourself that front door swag? Well, you’ve got most of the goods you need. All you have to do is go buy a metal wreath frame from Hobby Lobby (or your closest craft store) for $4.99 and you’re set. Go online and print out their daily 40% off coupon and DUDE, so cheap! Oh, and I learned that if you forget the coupon, you can pull it up on your phone and just read off the coupon code to them. Awesome, right?

Last year, I used the branches we cut off the bottom of our tree as the swag. I remembered this when I got our tree this year so asked the Christmas Tree Man if I could have the ones he cut off. He encouraged me to help myself to the growing pile of them behind his little Christmas Tree Shed. SCORE! When I went behind his little shed, I saw a ton of little pine disks that he’d cut off the bottoms of other trees. I asked if I could have those as well. He cut up some extra for me from a little trunk that was lying all lonely and abandoned. He was a very sweet Christmas Tree Man.

wood discs

I have no idea what I’m going to do with the disks, but it seemed like the right thing to pick up, what with me being the occasional crafty sort and all. If you’re thinking of a rustic-y type wedding, now is the time to go a-collecting.

Some facts about this little project:

  • It takes a few hours.
  • It’s a little messy. Pine needles everywhere and your hands get all sappy and gross. I did it in the garage and I’m happy I did.
  • If you’re over the age of 35, do NOT sit on your garage floor all day doing this because your back will scream at you in protest the next day. Loudly.

So here’s how you do it:

Supplies Needed

tools

1. Metal Wreath Frame: I got the biggest size because they were out of the next size down, which is what I would have preferred. I didn’t want to run all over town looking for it though, nor did I want to wait until Friday when Hobby Lobby’s restocks their shelves. So there you go.

2. Garden Shears: Or just some big-ass scissors that can cut through small branches and floral wire.

3. Floral Wire: You need a bit of this so go ahead and commit to the biggest spool out there. Mine was from last year too.

4. Floral Tape: Skip it unless you want the back of your wreath to be all pretty. Even then, I’d say skip it. I didn’t realize I wouldn’t need it until mid-process.

5. Branches, plus any decoration stuffs you want to add to your wreath: bows, balls, ornaments…whatevs. You’ll need about 5-6 really full sized branches for a wreath this big. Less for smaller wreaths, naturally.

Step 1

  • First, cut yourself a shit-ton of wire lengths, about 4”-5” long. You’ll need them to wrap the branch bunches and to tie them to the frame.

floral wire

Cut a lot more than this.

Step 2

  • Start cutting branches to make small groups of branch bundles. Don’t overthink this. The only thing you really want to make sure of is that your bundles aren't too big/long. 
  • Make sure the pretty sides of your branches are facing up (the greener side).
  • With a length of floral wire, wrap the bundles tightly.
  • As you create your bundles, lay them on the wire frame to see if they look like they are a good size. Adjust if needed. Keep making bundles.

upcloasebundle

bundles

Step 3

  • Once you have enough bundles to cover the frame, start wrapping them to the frame with more of the floral wire pieces. Slightly lap one bundle over the next, with all the bundles going in the same direction.
  • There are other instructions out there that use one long continuous piece of heavier gauge wire to do this. I say no to this, because it doesn’t give you the freedom to move or adjust them later.
  • I wrapped the bundles to the inside two wires of the of the wreath frame. I was not neat, precise or very Martha-esque about this at all. You shouldn’t be either.

apply1

aplly2

Step 4

  • Once all the bundles are tied to the frame, decide whether or not if you think it’s full enough.
  • Decide if you want to decorate it further. If not, you’re done. If so, keep reading.

wreath1

Step 5

  • I wanted to add in some other sort of greenery to my wreath. Last year I used what I thought was dead/dried rosemary blooms. Turns out it was lavender (duh). I didn’t want to repeat last year, so looked around my yard for something else to stuff in the wreath. Guess what? I have a holly bush right outside my front door! Score! I cut myself off a few branches, but my sad little holly bush would have looked like a skeleton of a bush had I taken all I needed.

Step 6 (optional)

  • Look around your yard some more. Note that the neighbors have not just a holly bush, but THREE holly trees. Note that your neighbors are never home. Steal their holly.
  • OH, YES I DID.
  • Scurry back into your garage and pretend you did nothing wrong.

Step 7

  • Create little mini-bundles with your stolen holly (or other greenery).

  • Tie your stolen holly or other greenery to the edges of your wreath. I alternated between the outside and  inside edges so that it would look somewhat random. This step is a pain in the ass because the other bundles are in the way and holly has pokey leaves that hurt your hands. This is God’s wrath upon you for stealing your neighbor’s holly. Deal with it.
  • Take any smaller, leftover branches you have and stick them into places where your wreath may not look as full as you’d like. No need to tie these on, just make sure they are stuffed in there good.
  • Add on any bows or fancy decorations. 
  • Hang that sucker up. As you’re adjusting your bow and perhaps tucking in more branches, waive hello to your neighbor’s boyfriend who was indeed HOME when you stole the holly. Try not to shit your pants.

I made the bow with old ribbon and a stapler. Seriously. Piece-o-cake.

The awesome thing about this wreath is that after the holidays are over, all I have to do is snip the wires on the back and chuck the pine bundles. SAVE THE WREATH FRAME because then you can do this again next year for even cheaper.

I think for $5 less the 40% off coupon, plus the rush of stealing from my neighbor made this a worthwhile endeavor. Be prepared for retribution if you do decide to steal from your neighbors. Karma is a bitch.

How about you? Thoughts on the DIY activity here, thievery notwithstanding? I think it’s a bad-ass wreath.

Friday
Oct282011

No Knead Yummification Bread (or Good Friends Share Recipes)

I’ve mentioned my friends Hal and Kim before. They are like, the most super cool couple I know. She’s a pilot, speaks fluent Russian and has written a book. He’s a detective, is an incredible wordsmith and looks dashing/sexy in a bowtie and seersucker suit. But those are just the surface things. Underneath the super-fun and cool exteriors are hearts of solid gold of the purest variety.

Hal is the out-going one. There isn’t a bar in the world that he enters where he exits and doesn’t have a slew of new best friends added to his iPhone. It’s where I met him: at a wine bar. Kim is what my dad (after meeting her in yet another wine bar) described as a “sleeper.” At first, she seems sort of shy; she’s quiet and reserved at first blush. You know you’ve misjudged her the second she opens her mouth though because that woman is crazy-fucking-smart and in reality, anything but reserved.

Hal and Kim are not my best friends, but I love them all the same. They are good people to have in your life, whether they be just down the street or half a world away. Their constant generosity to everyone they meet is heartfelt, true and kick-ass. For the record, Hal is the guy you call when find yourself in a pickle or a police station.

The best thing to do with Hal and Kim is hang out with them in their back yard. Kim is a crazy gardener and they have a managed tangle of plants, trees and flowers that create an enclosed haven. You can sit on their spacious back porch and wax poetic on life, love and politics over countless bottles of wine. Squirrels will drop their half-eaten tree-nuts through the pergola though so there is the occasional duck-and-cover, followed by Kim’s squirrel-cursing and Hal’s attempt to shoo them off by chucking their once-dinner back up at them.

It was here, on this porch in this back yard that I first tasted the World’s Best Bread. It was a beautiful spring evening and the sun was just starting to set. The mosquitos weren’t yet in season. Hal was smoking salmon and the smell of that mingled with the bottle of red we were drinking gave me an almost heady sensation. We were just finishing up the first bottle when Hal says, “Hey Kim, the oven?” and Kim gasps and goes bolting into the house. A few minutes later a cutting board with a baguette and some butter appears on the table. I could see the steam rising off the bread.

There are no pretenses with Hal and Kim. No fluff. No worries. No formalities. Sharing food with them is like sharing air. We ripped off chunks of bread and dragged the pieces across the butter and shoved it in our mouths. It was crusty and yeasty and wonderful. I followed it with a gulp of wine, leaned back and looked up into the canopy of branches and knew then that life simply could not get better than that very moment.

Simple Crusty Bread  Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007) . You can read the original recipe from the NY Times here and you can read Kim’s version here.

Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (this is quite a bit of yeast: about 3-4 packets)

1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt

6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting dough

Cornmeal

1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water. Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. I used a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook, but Kim says you can do it by hand.

2. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).  If using a Kitchen Aid mixer, Kim says the lid that comes with it is perfect for covering it. flour1

Unbleached, yo.

Yest

Creepy yeast.

goo

Big, gooey, sticky mess.

Lid

My mixer didn’t come with a lid so I used a lid from my stock pot. Worked perfectly.

3. If you’re in  a time crunch, you can form loaves to bake at this point. But this kind of no-knead dough is so wet, it’s incredibly hard to manage the dough and form a nice, smooth loaf. Best thing to do is plan ahead and refrigerate the dough for a few hours, or even overnight, after it rises. The cold dough is much easier to handle. The batch you’ve just mixed will make 4 loaves, and the dough lasts in the fridge for more than a week.

*I tried it both ways. After I had let it rise for 4 hours, I pulled out a handful to make a pizza crust. It worked, but it was hard and messy. More on that later….

If you’ve got a pizza peel (I don’t) and a baking stone (I do), put the stone and a small metal broiling pan  in the oven and dust the pizza peel with either flour or cornmeal. For baguettes, I use flour. Cornmeal works well if you’re making a pizza or a round boule loaf. Be liberal with the flour on the pizza peel. Once this wet dough sticks to something, it basically merges with that object for all time (true dat).

4. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.

5. FOR PIZZA: Sprinkle flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife and form into a flat pizza shape. Kim lets it rise on the pizza peel, loads it up and then transfers it to the stone. Since this dough is VERY sticky I could NOT see how to do this (it might be easier with a metal peel and with refrigeration). Instead, I let it rise on a cheap foil pizza tin (remember to dust it with flour) I got at the grocery and prepped all my toppings. I did step #6  as quickly as I could.

6. Pull out the hot stone and place it on a heat-safe surface. Transfer the dough to the hot stone and quickly reshape.  Place all the pre-prepped toppings on the pizza. Put the stone and pizza into the over (don’t forget the stone is still HOT!). Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake about 30 minutes.

pizza1

Toppings here include: fresh mini-mozzarella balls, spoonfuls of low-fat ricotta, fresh basil leaves, turkey pepperoni, grated parmesan and chopped green onions.

The Candyman bought me that sign. He says it reminds him of how I look when I go a little nutso. It makes me feel better when I eff up some recipe.

7. FOR BREAD LOAVES: sprinkle flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Then you can start rolling and elongating the dough with your hands if you want a longer loaf. You can do an oblong loaf that isn’t quite as long and skinny as a baguette. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.

*I let the remaining dough sit overnight and made my loaves the next day. STILL really sticky, but definitely easier to work with. Since I don’t have a pizza peel, I used a plastic cutting board liberally dusted with floor.

loaf

These are extremely ugly shapes, but as Kim says “bent loaves taste just as good.”

8. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely. Or not. Eater beware if you go for the steamy hot goodness.

loaf2

After the last rise and slash. You can see the top loaf goo’d out over the edge of the board. No worries.

bread1

bread2

My loaves were not nearly as pretty as Kim’s, but for my first try I think they were just fine. And they tasted just as good as Kim’s did that evening on her porch. I ate half of the first loaf before The Candyman got home that night. We ate the other half together. The other loaf was gone by the end of the next night.

WHAT? It’s that good.

For the record, I am NOT a baker. I can make cookies and that’s about it. I was pleasantly surprised at how good these were. It’s messy, true. But it was fun and tasted really freakin’ good. 

Bake, enjoy and share with good friends and bottles of wine. It’s how it is meant to be consumed.

Thursday
Oct062011

{DIY Herbology) Fall Harvest Time!

I’ve had me some gardens in my time. Not big ones, mind you. And more often than not, the gardens were a series of pots perched on window sills, porches, front stoops or decks. My biggest and most successful garden was in Chicago where the entire backyard of the 4-flat I lived in was MINE. One neighbor mowed, and I took care of just about everything else and it was awesome. I had sweet pea vines, raspberry bushes, waist-high lemon balm bushes, tomatoes, cilantro, basil, peppers of all kinds, St. John’s Wort, poppies (they aren’t illegal in Illinois), black eyed-susans, rose bushes, thyme, oregano, parsley, cat nip (though the local feral cats always ate them down to the nubs), day lilies, tulips, strawberries, Echinacea and a bunch more I can’t even remember. That garden was my pride and joy.

When I moved to Nashville, I had neither time nor space for a garden and had nary a potted plant to my name until I met The Candyman and he helped me make our patch of backyard a decent place to venture out into. Now that we’re in North Carolina and renting, we have a whole host of issues to deal with. First, we’re renting. It’s not like I can go rototill the backyard if I get the wild hair to do so. However, we do have a small, garden sized patch right outside the backdoor that the owners planted in. I basically had to wait all summer to see what the hell was going to come up. They have a few perennials that are of interest. There are some hydrangea plants that NEVER bloomed. There were some weeds that  I didn’t know were weeds until my mom asked me why I was growing weeds. 

The thing is, I have no idea what grows around here in North Carolina. The soil is crazy. Loads of red clay under a thin layer of topsoil. What the hell am I supposed to plant in CLAY? So there was a little trial and error this summer. My potted tomatoes? Fail. I barely got any kind of crop. Next year they go in the ground. Herbs? After I took them out of their pots and planted them in the ground? Success. Flowering perennials? Fail. Flowering annuals? Fail. It’s too hot here for the ones I chose.

So now, as the weather is just starting to change, I noted that my basil wasn’t holding up under the new cooler temps and I decided to harvest. I haven’t done any herb-drying in a while, since I was single, now that I think about it.

I didn’t want to have plants hanging all over the place for the cat or The Candyman to mess up, so I decided to try oven-drying for the first time. I did a little research, read the pros and cons and then decided to oven-dry my regular basil and air dry my globe basil (it’s smaller and tastes spicy). Here’s what happened.

First, the garden:

Garden

The very last of the bounty: some cherry tomatoes and jalapeno peppers in the background.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm. I might have enough here to make some end of summer lemon sorbet. We’ll see how that goes.

Basil1

The basil. You can see how the edges are going brown and it’s all getting kind of leggy. Should have cut them back a lot more often!

globe

This is the globe basil that I totally let flower and go to seed. Oops. You’re supposed to keep that shit cut back. Oh well. There’s still enough to harvest though!

Step 1: Cut you some basil. There are MANY arguments on when you should do this to capture as many of the essential oils as possible. Most people say around 10am. I say whenever, just as long as it isn’t high noon when everything is all dry.

Step 2: Wash you some basil. It’s good to soak it all in room temperature water so that you drown all the buggies you can’t see. We had many caterpillar suicides off my parsley plants this year.

Sink

Step 3: Dry you some basil. Seriously, make sure it’s all dry, particularly if you plan to hang and air dry your herbs. If it’s still wet when you bundle them, they could mold. Ew. All of my counters were covered in basil!

CounterBasil

Now, here’s where’s I split the basil up. For the air-drying this is what I did:

Drying Option #1: Bundle, tie and hang your herbs. Don’t bundle too many or it will take longer for them to dry properly. Tie your string tight because as the herbs dry, they will shrink and you don’t want them to fall and make a big mess. Find a cool, dry place to hang them.

GlobeBasil

*Note: If you have a laundry line in your house, that’s a good place to hang them. I’ve dried in hanging baskets before, on hooks in closets and from thumbtacks stuck in the ceiling. Just figure it out, yo. I improvised this time by tying the string to a paperclip. Then I hung the paperclip on the wire shelf in our laundry closet. See:

GlobeBasil2

So now that I had the globe basil out of the way, I focused on the regular basil. I dried it in the oven. There are folks who claim that this ruins the basil, sucks out those essential oils, blah, blah, blah. Totally don’t care what they say, doing it my way.

Drying Option #2: Pick all your basil leaves off the plants and make a thin layer on a tinfoil lined cookie sheet. I lined it with foil just because it seemed like the thing to do. This is the longest step and it turns your nails green if you don’t use scissors.

Set your oven to the lowest temperature you can. Mine goes to 170 degrees. Most of the online directions said to leave it in 5-10 minutes. I call bullshit on that one. Some of the leaves were in for 15 minutes, some of the larger ones were in for 30 or so. I rotated cookie sheets in and out, pulling out the dried ones and keeping the still-moist ones in. I checked them in 5 or 10 minute stages. Since the oven isn’t that hot, you can just reach in and fluff the leaves about, feeling to see how dry they are. Take them out when they are just starting to go on the crunchy side.

FYI: The whole house smelled like fresh basil all day. It really was wonderful. 

Baking

And the final product?

Cooked Basil

Piles of fresh dried basil! I might crumble these up, bottle them and give them as stocking stuffers or something this year because this is a shit-ton of basil.

Step 4: Whether you oven or air dry, make sure that when it’s done you package them up in some air tight containers. I use zip lock bags and make sure I get as much air out as possible before the final seal.

The globe basil will need a few weeks to dry. I’ll let you know how that goes. I also have a giant lavender plant that’s still got some blooms on it. Might dry those too to make some little drawer sachets or something. And there’s still that lemon sorbet….it’s easier to make then you think!

So there you go. Easy peasy, really. I just went all Martha on you. How ‘bout that?