Wednesday, December 19, 2012

homemade christmas goodness

When I posted a picture of my homemade gifts on Facebook last night it received a comment that just literally made my day, week, and month!! An old friend from college said " do you make pinterest real?" What a compliment!! Thank you, Christina :) It's true a lot of my inspiration comes from Pinterest, I cannot claim to come up with these ideas all on my own. But many times there are not distinct instructions to follow (or any at all) and so, I'm left to my own vices.

Back in October I began one of this year's Christmas presents - vanilla extract. I was surprised to learn you make vanilla extract simply with a vanilla bean and vodka. That's it! Time could certainly be considered the third ingredient since it takes at least two months to "stew" before it's usable. And so, I stocked up on bottles from Specialty Bottle and picked out some vanilla beans from Beanilla.

The ratio of vodka to vanilla I used was:

  • 4 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
It is important to split your vanilla bean down the middle so that the guts (commonly referred to as the "caviar") are exposed to the vodka. As I began wrapping these bottles up last night, I was tempted to open one and take a whiff because I wanted to make sure what I was giving was up to par. Trust me when I tell you, it smelled heavenly. And the good thing is - this is the gift that keeps on giving! As you use the extract, simply add more vodka to the bottle and the vanilla bean will continue to lend its flavor.

The other homemade bottled gift I made was rosemary infused olive oil. I ended up doing this in two batches and learned quite a bit from both experiences! Each bottle was set up with two to three sprigs of fresh rosemary. I warmed the olive oil over low heat on the stove until little tiny bubbles formed. Then I used my trusty filter (it kind of looks like a red silicone tornado in the picture above, no?) to pour olive oil into the bottles. Well, this is where I quickly learned that hot oil does not like to be confined to a small space. The moment the oil poured in, it appeared as though it was boiling! It bubbled and rose up - so the trick here is pour SLOWLY. I let the oil cool overnight before I put the corks on. 

Then, because I didn't trust the corks to stay put in the bottle (especially during holiday travel) I opted to buy some bottle sealer wax beads. For sealing the bottles you'll need:
  • Pot of boiling water
  • Empty can
  • Wooden/disposable stirrer
Add about one to two inches of water into your pot, not high enough for the water to spill into the can. When the water is almost at a boil, pour the wax beads into your empty can and place the can in the water. My can wasn't heavy enough to sink to the bottom, so it floated around a lot. I was concerned that it would tip over but that never happened. I used a wooden kabob stick to stir the wax as it melted. Once it was all melted, take the can out of the water (I suggest using oven mitts!) and place it on a solid surface, i.e., countertop. You'll then invert the top of the bottle into the liquid wax. I decided to do two dips because the first seemed somewhat translucent. Two was perfect - and I used my wax stamp to add the fleur de lis detail to the top!

I used a simple velvet ribbon tied around the neck of each bottle, with a small homemade tag, and a golden bell. The ribbon and bells were purchased at Michaels. I just love how these turned out and I'm excited to gift them this coming week!

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