DIY “Random Light” Lampshade

Remember our friend Stephanie, who spent the summer of 2012 on a reality show?

Though she’s a chemist, she quickly became known for her craftiness, always making stuff, designing furniture, etc. As she puts it, she imagines that she may be an interior designer in an alternate universe. Very much in touch with her crafty side, this one…. so, we asked her to write a guest blog post, showing you how to make her fabulous DIY hanging light fixtures!


So I live in a pretty cool loft space, but my apartment was riddled with really ugly generic metal light covers that looked more like they belonged in a public school than my apartment. I LOVED some of the fixtures available at Design Within Reach, but they were ridiculously expensive, and I wasn’t willing to drop $2K on four lamp shades. So what’s a gal to do? Make your own! Here’s my step by step process on how to do just that.

Step 1: Acquire big punching ball balloons and inflate until they are nice spheres- the size of these will determine the size of your finished lamp shades, so fill appropriately. A good place to find these is at a party supply store. Also purchase the other supplies you’ll need: wall paper paste, Vaseline, yarn, and stiffening spray. The yarn is going to be the structure of the lamps at the end of your project, so here is where you can really personalize things. Choose colors that go with your décor, or maybe a variety of yarn thicknesses or textures.

Step 2: You’ll want to set up a work space (like that one shown above) where you can suspend the balloons and protect your flooring from drips. An alternative is to work outside or in a basement- but if working outside just make sure it isn’t somewhere that things may blow through the air and stick to your crate.

Now the fun begins! Cover each balloon with Vaseline. Yes, this gets quite messy.

Step 3: Now you’ll be covering your yarn with wallpaper paste. A small bucket is quite helpful here.

Step 4: Pull the yarn out of the paste and wrap around your balloon. Squeeze off excess paste between your fingers as you remove it from the bucket. Otherwise it will be too sloppy & wet. This can be done as a one person job, but it is much easier with two people working together here!

Step 5: Continue adding on string. I used a couple different tones/ thicknesses for variety. Keep swirling yarn around the balloons until you have a nice framework created. Don’t forget to leave an opening at the bottom large enough to slide over your light bulbs!

Step 6: Once dry (I waited 24 hours), spray with stiffener spray- do not hold back! Be liberal with this stuff. J Let dry completely after spraying. Next, pop the balloons and your project is almost complete! I suggest another round of stiffener spray at this point.

Step 7: Hang and enjoy! Looks pretty similar to those retailing for about $1000 here. For less than $10 a pop in supplies to make them yourselves, I think it is worth a little effort!

Awesome! Wanna follow Stephanie’s post-reality adventures? You can connect with her on Twitter, or on her fan page on Facebook!

Hoppy IPA Pickles Recipe

Those bines that are threatening to take over / decorating our upstairs mini deck? Those are first year hops, doing *way* better than we ever thought they would. You see, we haven’t had the best luck with hops.

We started them out a year before we bought our current house, and then spontaneously decided to move before the next season. Pulling them up and moving them isn’t something they really enjoy, apparently.

Then, we got hit by a tornado after we transplanted them. Pretty much every piece of crap debris in the neighborhood was thrown on top of them… again, not the most ideal living conditions, especially on top of the recent move/transplant! If that weren’t enough, the roofers ended up trampling them into non-existence. They did try to grow again after we had pulled the debris off, but were no match for the crew working to make our house liveable. RIP, hops.

So, this year we tried again… and were met with weird conditions. Pretty dry, weird fluctuations in heat, etc. Given that we were starting from scratch again, we didn’t have our hopes (hops?) up!

… and then, they tried to take over the house. They really flourished – maybe Mother Nature is feeling guilty for the shit she put us through last year? Apology accepted, I guess…

So we harvested the hops recently, and it was around the same time that I had decided that I am obsessed with canning all of a sudden. (Can “canning” be the next “cupcakes”? Now? Please?)

A trip to the farmer’s market inspired one of our famous brainstorm sessions, which produced some awesome ideas of what I should try. Some were conventional (pickled beets!), some were more a case of me running wild with it (“Caulcannon Pickles”!). You’ll be seeing some of those creations here over the next while! (Edited to add: We now have a whole recipe category for pickling and canning!)

I don’t remember if I was joking or not when I asked my husband if I should create a hop flavored beer pickle. Even if I had been, the way his eyes lit up meant that I absolutely had to make it happen. What a crazy idea, beer flavored pickles!

Well, after a bunch of work designing the recipe – making sure the acid level was right, planning flavors to compliment the style of beer, etc – I was disappointed to learn that Dogfish Head Brewery beat me to it, with their Hop-Pickle from Brooklyn Brine. Boo! I hate it when I have a great idea, only to find that someone got there first!

Anyway, these pickles are fabulous.

Also, they cost a fraction of the ready-made price AND gives you the flexibility of using your favorite brew! I designed this around my husband’s favorite beer – Hopslam – and we used a homebrewed clone version of that beer for this recipe. The hops we chose were ones we grew ourselves – Centennial – chosen because of how the flavor compliments the beer. Garlic, mustard seeds, peppercorns, and jalapenos round out the recipe, all flavors that work well with the beer.

No sugar at all, though – if you’re into sweet pickles, this may not be the recipe for you. These pickles are sour, and as bitter as you want them. You can vary the level of bitterness by adjusting the amount of hops used, and the length of time you boil them in the brine. We used a full oz of “wet” hops, and boiled them for 10 minutes to produce a very bitter pickle – exactly how my husband wanted them. If you don’t subscribe to his “the more bitter, the better!” mantra, feel free to use less hops, and only boil them for a few minutes.

As an idea of yield, we made a double batch of this recipe and ended up with:

– 3 quart jars (2 of whole pickles, 1 of spears)
– 4 pint jars (All as spears)
– 5 little jam jars (All as slices)

I recommend sticking to slices and spears. They look nicer, take up the flavor quicker, and require far less of the liquid. Also? The jam jars of pickle slices would make really great gifts! We’ll definitely be putting another big batch of these on soon, for just that reason!


Extra Hoppy IPA Pickles

2 lbs pickling cucumbers, washed/scrubbed well.
5 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
24 oz IPA of choice (We used a Hopslam clone)
2 cups water
1/2 cup pickling salt
1/2 – 1 oz wet hops (or equivalent dried).*

Per pint jar (2x for quart jars):

1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1/4 tsp pepper corns
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 – 1/2 jalapeno, sliced (optional)

Canning Equipment:

Clean, sterilized canning jars & rings
New, never-used, sterilized canning lids
Canning funnel
LARGE pot to process them in
Jar lifter (nice to have, not necessary if you can handle pain!)

Slice your cucumbers into whatever form you prefer – we did spears for pint jars, and slices for little jam jars – they’d make cute little gifts!

Measure your “per jar” ingredients into your sterilized jars, along with one or two hop cones, if using. Arrange your prepared cucumbers into the jars, packing them tightly. If you’d like, cram another hop cone or two down the side – they’ll want to float, so keep that in mind as you position them!

Fill your LARGE pot with at least 6″ of water, put on medium or high heat to bring it to a boil as you prepare your brine.

In another pot (NOT the canning pot!), combine vinegar, beer, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve the salt. Once mixture reaches a boil, add hops and stir well, mashing them around a bit. Allow them to simmer for 5-10 minutes, tasting frequently.

Once mixture has reached your desired level of bitterness, use a slotted spoon to remove all hop cones and stray hop leaves. Bring mixture to a boil.

Use a canning funnel, pour boiling beer brine into prepared jars, leaving about 1/2″ head space. Wipe off the top edges of the jar with a clean, wet towel, top each with a new, sterilized lid, and carefully screw on a clean lid ring. I like to use a kitchen towel for this, the jars are HOT! Carefully place your jars of pickles into the boiling water pot, allow to process for 15 minutes. CAREFULLY remove them, allow to cool overnight.

The next morning, check to make sure that all of the jars achieved a proper seal – try to push down in the middle of each lid. If it “pops”, it did not seal. Any jars that didn’t seal should be put in the fridge and used in the next few weeks.

Leave the jars alone for at least a few days, to allow the flavors to permeate the cucumbers. Store in a cool, dark area (ideally) for up to 1 year, chill well before eating.


* We used Centennial hops, as that was one that we were growing that would go well with Hopslam / a Hopslam clone. Simcoe would be a great choice, if you’re looking to buy them from a homebrew supply store. In addition to the hops called for in the recipe, I also recommend having a few extra fresh ones – if using fresh – to put in the jars when canning. It looks pretty!

Are you a fan of hops? You’ll LOVE my latest cookbook, Hedonistic Hops!

Hops are prized for their ability to impart varied, complex flavours to beer… but did you know they can also be used culinarily? While hops may seem like a bizarre or exotic item to cook with, it’s the same as using other herbs and spices in your kitchen… you just have to know what to do with them. Appetizers, main dishes, beverages.. even desserts can be uplifted with hops!

Even those who are not fans of beer will love the unique flavours that various types of hops can bring to their plate. Floral, earthy, peppery, citrusy… Cooking with hops is a great way to expand your seasoning arsenal!

Interested in boozy culinary experiments? You’ll LOVE my first cookbook, The Spirited Baker!

Combining liqueurs with more traditional baking ingredients can yield spectacular results.Try Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake, Candy Apple Flan, Jalapeno Beer Peanut Brittle, Lynchburg Lemonade Cupcakes, Pina Colada Rum Cake, Strawberry Daiquiri Chiffon Pie, and so much more.

To further add to your creative possibilities, the first chapter teaches how to infuse spirits to make both basic and cream liqueurs, as well as home made flavor extracts! This book contains over 160 easy to make recipes, with variation suggestions to help create hundreds more! Order your hard copy here, or digital edition here.

Tropical White Chocolate Truffles Recipe

I know that the idea of making “fancy” desserts – like truffles – can seem intimidating to some. Many foo-foo desserts don’t seem to come across as something that can be made at home, or at least definitely not by a beginner.

I swear that’s not true of this recipe – or any of the other ones in my cookbooks, The Spirited Baker and Evil Cake Overlord! Truffles, cream puffs, baklava… all deceptively easy to make. Go ahead, try some!

Chocolate chips may be a highly unusual medium for truffle making, but they are easy to find, and lack the sticker shock that comes with the more traditional chocolate options. Anyone can make these truffles at home, with common ingredients, for only about $4.00/30 truffles.