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DIY Glass Bottle Hummingbird Feeder

July 27, 2012

This is a simple way to make a hummingbird feeder out of a glass bottle with minimal supplies.


  • 1 clean glass bottle with a small neck/opening (mine once contained Star White Wine Vinegar)
  • 4ft of jack chain (or more, if you have a larger bottle, or want to have a longer chain for the feeder to hang from).  Jack chain is sold by the foot at hardware stores. I bought one with a brass finish, but also saw nickel. This chain is best because you can open and close the links with pliers, eliminating the need for other hardware to cut/connect the pieces of chain.
  • hummingbird feeder tubes (I was unable to find any at craft stores in my area, so I purchased these)
  • pliers
  • water
  • sugar
  • optional: glass paint, beads, extra wire, or anything else you want to decorate with. Hummingbirds are especially drawn to red!


1. Start by checking that the cork of your hummingbird feeder tube fits snugly into the mouth of your bottle. In the finished product the bottle  is upside-down and full of liquid, so this is very important.

2. Measure a length of chain that fits around the base of the neck of the bottle. Use pliers to open the appropriate link in the chain, and then refasten to the other end to create a ring that fits around the neck of the bottle.

3. Determine how long the 4 chains that secure the sides of the bottle will be. The bulb of my bottle is fairly small, so mine were about 6″ long. Use pliers to open links and make 4 equal lengths of chain. Attach one end of each length to the chain ring, equally spacing them around and using pliers to close the links back up.

4. Decide how long you want the chain that will hang between the hook and the bottle to be, then use pliers to make a chain the appropriate length.  Attach each of the 4 support chains to the bottom of the hanging chain, then tightly close the link.

5. Make the hummingbird solution by mixing a 4:1 ratio of water:sugar and heating until the sugar dissolves. Let cool, then using a funnel pour into the bird feeder and tightly cap with the feeder tube.

My feeder is very basic, but I have grand plans of painting the glass.  The minimalist decoration doesn’t keep me from enjoying the daily visits from hummingbirds on my porch!

The most basic materials: pliers, chain, bottle, and feeder tube.

L: Chain sized to fit around the neck, R: 2 ends of the chain are attached to form a loop.

4 equal lengths of chain to cage in the bottle.

Chain lengths evenly spaced and attached around the ring.

Ring with 4 loose chains fitted on bottle. Then attached 4 loose ends to single chain for hanging.

Hummingbird feeder: complete! Hang someplace where you can regular enjoy the tiny visitors.


Dinner Inspiration: Barbecue Desserts

July 12, 2012

With summer comes barbecues, pool parties, picnics, and casual dinners outside.  The only thing that makes these events better is delicious desserts that highlight the plentiful fruit now available.

Lemon Blueberry Cobbler: This is so quick to pull together, and perfect for any summer berry!

Cherry Cornmeal Upside-down Cake: This cake is just barely sweet and piled with fruit, which in this house makes it appropriate for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Just make sure not to use a leaky spring-form pan, otherwise you will loose are the delicious cherry balsamic juices!

Lemon Meringue Pie: OK you got me, lemons aren’t exactly seasonal. But bright, refreshing pies are, and this one is divine. Very few ingredients, easy to make, and quite impressive looking.

Beans and Salads

July 9, 2012

It’s taken longer than I would like to admit, but I have finally found a solution to my canned bean problem. I wanted to switch from using canned beans because dried beans are cheaper, not commercially processed, much more likely to be locally sourced, and do not come in a pesky package that needs to be  recycled. The issue was I had become too accustomed to the convenience of canned beans, and I was never good at remembering to soak dried beans the day before cooking. Finally I realized that I could cook a massive amount of beans and then freeze them! I found this tutorial and made a mess of black beans, the beans used most often in my kitchen. I ended up soaking them over night so they cooked very quickly, and then I left them unsalted.  I also stored them in a variety of container sizes, so I can grab the appropriate amount for any recipe. Black beans are just the beginning though, and when I find time I’m going to start adding more varieties to my frozen pantry.

Also, I did really do this project on the 4th of July. Not because I’m entirely insane, but because I wanted to bring this quinoa salad to a barbecue! It’s easy, vegan, and perfect for hot days and crowds of people.

Quinoa Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Serves 4 as a side dish.


  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed under hot water (or fresh corn if it’s in season!)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped (about half a bunch)
  • 2 lemons, juiced (need 1/4 cup juice)
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon of agave (or sugar, or honey)
  • salt & pepper
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • salt & pepper


Cook quinoa according to package directions and set aside to cool. Mix the lemon juice, garlic, agave, salt and pepper into a small bowl and whisk in oil. Combine cooled quinoa with red onion, beans, corn, and cilantro. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and stir to combine. Serve cold or at room temperature.

Easy DIY Apron

May 24, 2012

A few months ago I bought a sewing machine. The last sewing lesson I had was in second grade, and I have never finished the 1′ x 2′ quilt I started in that class.  But the urge to sew has struck me again, and since buying my machine I’ve completed a few basic projects.  I wanted to make an apron for a Christmas present but couldn’t find a pattern I liked, so I just made my own pattern from an apron I already owned. It was incredibly easy and I ended up making 3 aprons with little trouble. This is a beginner tutorial (by a beginner) for other eager sewing newbies.


  • 1 yard of fabric
  • matching thread
  • 1 yard of pattern paper
  • iron
  • ironing board
  • scissors
  • 2 D-rings


1. Use pattern paper to trace the shape of your model apron and cut it out. Then measure the length of the side and neck ties.  Determine how thick you want the ties to be, and then multiply that width by 2.5 (to allow for a small hem). There should be three long ties and a short one for the d-rings to fit onto. If you are including a pocket, measure/determine how large you want it to be (I made mine slightly smaller than the  apron I was modeling after).

2. Cut out all of the stencil pieces for the apron, side ties, and pocket (if you are including one).

3. Determine how wide of a hem you want, then measure, fold and iron each side of the apron and pocket sides and then pin in place.

4. Fold the side ties in half lengthwise, with the fabric pattern on the inside, and then iron.

5. Sew all of the apron hems, removing pins as you go. Also sew all four the ties lengthwise along the open side, leaving a smaller hem.

6.  Turn all of the ties right-side out. I used a dowel to do this.  Just start to reverse the fabric, place it over the top of the dowel, and pull down all the way. Then, iron the ties one last time.

7. Hem one end of each of the ties (except the small one that the d-rings will be attached to) to the two sides and top left corner of the apron.  Attach the unfinished end to the body of the apron, so the finished end is the one one visible.

8. String the d-rings unto the small strip. Fold in in half, then sew it to the top corner of the apron, opposite the other tie.  I found these top ties looked best when I sewed them as close to the edge as I could.

9. Measure the front width of the apron to determine where the pocket should go so it is centered. Pin it in place, then sew down the left side, right side, and bottom.

10. Check the whole apron for any extra thread and cut off the excess.

11. Cook a delicious meal in your new apron!

My existing apron on the left, and the stencil on the right.

The body of the apron, 3 long ties, a small loop for d-rings, and the pocket.

Measuring the hem.

Ironing all of the hems down.

Ironing the side ties with the print facing inward.

All ironing done!

Sewing the hems.

All sewing of the individual pieces complete. Time to stitch them together.

I used a dowel to turn the 3 long side ties right-side out.

All ties were ironed again, then I sewed one end of each tie to prevent fraying (and then removed those loose threads!).

All 3 ties attached.

Measuring the width of the apron to center the pocket.

Top: The pocket pinned in place. Bottom: Sewing the pocket down.

Sewing on the loop with 2 d-rings.

The final results and their recipients! My mom on the left in the apron shown in the DIY, and my sister on the left in an orange and pink print apron I made from the same stencil.

Dinner Inspiration: The Pantry

May 22, 2012

Even though spring produce is making its way into markets, I’ve still been relying on my pantry for a little variation, or an answer to dinner when I can’t be bothered to go shopping.

Red Kidney Bean Curry and Indian Rice (Vegetarian): This dish is surprising complex and satisfying, despite the fact that you probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen right now. The only change I made was to use a can of tomatoes instead of a fresh tomato. I’m not a frequent recipe repeater, and in the few weeks since I made this I’ve thought about it again and again. It’s that good.

Warm French Lentils (Vegetarian): These lentils with a good loaf of bread and butter can be a very satisfying meal.  I’d like to try them again soon with some sausage on the side. I had trouble getting my garlic cloves to stay in the onion, so I let them float freely in the broth and just fished them out at the end. I also left out the turnip, which seemed unnecessary.

Nutty Granola Bars: I know this is not a dinner, but one of these bars as a snack will get you through that late afternoon stretch of hunger . In an effort to reduce the number of things in my house that are processed and packaged, I realized some of the few things I buy pre-wrapped are snacks. These bars are so simple (measure wet ingredients, measure dry ingredients, mix, bake), composed entirely of pantry ingredients, and endlessly adaptable.

Beginner DIY Chair Upholstery

May 15, 2012

Left: The original chair. Right: My finished product.

I’ve been itching to try my hand at upholstery for a while but definitely wanted to start with an easy project with minimal value.  I found the perfect opportunity a few months ago when someone on my street left this chair out for the trash. The seat fabric and foam was very worn, but the frame was still in great shape. It took me a while to decide what fabric to use because I didn’t want to invest a lot.  I’d been thinking about doing a denim chair, but I didn’t have  enough denim to complete the look.  It all came together when my roommates donated some old ripped clothing to my craft fund.  With 4 pairs of pants and 2 shirts I had plenty of fabric to create a nice patchwork cover and practice my sewing skills.  I’m certainly no upholstery expert, but I thought my process might benefit other beginners. For more thorough directions of a much more complicated chair, I referenced this 5-part tutorial from Little Green Notebook.  She has a ton of great tutorials for home projects if you’re looking for inspiration.


  • chair (the simpler, the better, and nothing of serious sentimental value)
  • flat head screw driver
  • pliers
  • drill (the seat of my chair had to be detached from the frame)
  • camera
  • upholstery foam (if it needs to be replaced)
  • old clothing (or just fabric)
  • lining fabric
  • staple gun
  • staples
  • hammer
  • spray adhesive
  • fabric glue


1. Photograph your chair. It’s important to get every angle so you know exactly how it should be reconstructed.

2. Start to take apart your chair using the screw driver to loosen the staples and pliers to pull them out the rest of the way, if necessary.

3. Take pictures as you go, the more the better. In my case I ended up upholstering multiple months after I took apart my chair, but a quick review of the photos made it easy to reconstruct.

4.  Once your chair is fully deconstructed, decide if any pieces are worth keeping.  The interior foam of mine was gross and had to be replaced, but definitely reuse the foam if you can.

5.  Measure the old foam and fabric to determine how much you need to buy/make. Stash these somewhere until you are done with the project.  They could be a helpful reference later on.

6. Construct your fabric (or, just buy).  Since I was working with clothing, I made my patchwork squares as wide as I could, using a pair of women’s pants.  I cut out a card board square to size (7″x7″), and used it to outline squares on the back side of the fabric and cut. To make a piece of fabric 6’x8′, I used 2 pairs of men’s pants, 2 pairs of women’s pants, and 2 men’s button up shirts.  I laid out all of my squares on the floor in rows to get that well curated random look, then stacked them by row.  To make sure they stayed in order I stacked each row with the right square on the bottom and left square on top, then labeled each stack by row, with 1 as my top. I then sewed the squares together to make the full rows, and once all the rows were done I sewed those together to make the complete fabric.

7. Write out instructions for reconstruction.  I did this by going through all the photos I took during deconstruction backwards and noting the order I took things apart.  Then I had a complete set of instructions with the correct order of events.

Then, follow your directions! My chair went like this:

8.  Attach liner.  I just cut some liner fabric from an old project to fit the bum and back of the seat and stapled it in place.

9.  Attach the foam.  I used spray adhesive, then a few staples/fabric glue on the edges and where the foam had to curve.

10.  Cut your fabric to fit. Here it helps to use the old fabric as a guide.

11. Staple! Following your instructions, staple down the fabric pieces in order.  Use a hammer to get any stubborn staples in all the way. I started each side by securing the corners and the middle, then went along the edge pulling the fabric taut and stapling it in place.

12. The fabric on the arms of my chair was in good shape, and would have been a lot of work to remove.  I decided just to cover with fabric directly on top of the old fabric, which I attached with fabric glue.

13.  Once my foam and seat covers were in place I had to reattach the chair to the frame before finishing the very back cover.  I did this with the same screws the chair came with.

14.  Finally, I attached the back piece of fabric with staples on the top and bottom, and fabric glue on the sides.  I let the sides dry overnight with pins holding the fabric in place.  Once the sides were dry I stapled the very bottom to the underside of the chair.

Whew! This was definitely an involved project, but I really enjoyed working out each part of the process. I was going for a more “rustic ranch” look, so I gave myself a little leeway with the patchwork fabric and tiny details of the chair. My squares in the patchwork are not all even, and I could have done a little more sewing to get cleaner corners on the seat and back.  It’s important to decide at the beginning how much work you want to put in and what level of perfection you want to achieve. I’m pleased with the result, and I especially like that the patchwork fabric includes a piece of clothing from each of my roommates so it will always be a reminder of our first year in Seattle.

Free chair! Thanks neighbor!

Starting to remove the leather and lining.

Back removed, and seat detached from base (had to remove screws).

Use a flat-head screwdriver to remove staples.

Almost all of the cover removed.

All foam and lining removed. Ready to be recovered!

All of my 7″x7″ squares cut out.

Left: Patchwork fabric laid out. Right: Stacks of squares organized by row.

One full row of squares.

Two of the rows sewn together.

Completed patchwork fabric.

Lining and top piece of foam attached.

Back and edge lining attached.

Seat foam attached.

Seat foam curved over the edge and stapled.

Sizing and cutting the first piece of the cover.

Stapling the cover to the frame and trimming the extra fabric (already done on the right side).

Complete seat!

Sewing denim for the arm cushions.

Using fabric glue to attach the arm covers over the existing foam and cover.

Fabric cut to cover the back portion of the chair.

Seat of the chair reattached to the frame with screws.

Back panel attached with staples at the top then flipped over.

Sides of back panel secured with fabric glue and held in place with pins while drying.

Completed chair!

In Defense of Food

April 24, 2012

As more and more goes wrong in the food industry, it is books like this we need to turn to.  So many studies have shown that it is refined and over-processed food that leads to the many diseases that currently affect us. Multiple studies have shown that once someone adopts a Western diet of mass manufactured foods, the diseases follow. The levels of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity skyrocketed once processed foods became the norm in our diets. Michael Pollan’s brilliant book, In Defense of Food, describes how we shifted from seeing food to seeing nutrients. We moved from thinking “carrots are good for me” to “beta carotene is good for me” and eating foods that are “fortified” with nutrients instead of just plain good for you.  His arguments for eating natural food with minimal processing from a local source are beyond compelling. This is a perfect read for anyone who has questioned even once what they are putting into their body, and especially for those who have dieted by picking up everything labeled “low fat” in there supermarket (“because a health claim on a food product is a strong indication it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat”).  Perhaps on of the smartest features of this book is it is short, so even skeptics can power through it.  It’s a great reminder that more than ever, you are what you eat, and “you are what what you eat eats too.”

Photo and quotes courtesy of Michael Pollan