Monday, October 29, 2012

Camping Stove

Oh, have you heard?  There’s a massive storm heading our way!  We haven’t done a ton of preparation, but in case the power goes out and we need to cook things, I’ve always got my trusty camping stove.  I have a real one- a whisperlight international, but I haven’t used it since 2003.  That’s the year my friend Matthew invited me to hike the northern quarter of the Appalachian Trail with him.  For the trip he made me a stove out of a few household items.  

Matt and me with Mt Katahdin in the distance.
I don’t camp much these days what with our busy schedules and small children, but I hope to get back out there soon, and I’ll bring this homemade stove with me when I do!

Last time I went (car) camping at the KOA in Natural Bridge, VA.  The stove came, too.

You will need

1 tuna can ($1.19)

2 soda cans ($3 per 6 8oz cans, $3/6 cans = $.50 x 2cans = $1)

1 screw (I used a 5/32” machine screw) (Found it in the basement)

½ inch wire grid ($11.37 per 24” x 10’, but use whatever you have around the house!)

Tinsnips or wirecutters (found them in the basement)

Epoxy (found it in the basement)

Heavy foil (found it in the kitchen)

Drill (basement find)

Drill bits- one the same size as your screw, one that is very small- I used a 1/16”. (basement find)

1)      Cut the ½” wire grid with the tinsnips into a 2 ½” x 12 ½” rectangle and curl it into a circle bigger than the tuna can, but smaller than your pot.
2)      Cut the bottoms off the soda cans about .25  inches from the bottom of the flat part with scissors.  Fit the two cans together carefully.  The bottom one can rip if you are too forceful (I ripped three!).
3)      Using your larger drill bit, drill a hole in the center of the can bottom that is on the inside (the raw edge of the bottom can should be close to the top).  Make sure your screw fits in the hole.
Not very centered, is it?
4)      Use a Sharpie to mark 8 dots along the rim of the can.  Using the smaller drill it, carefully drill eight holes along the rim on your marks.
5)      Mix your epoxy according to package directions and apply around the raw edge of the bottom can.  Allow it to cure according to package directions. 
6)      Cut a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil large enough to fit around your pot with a little wiggle room, and fold length-wise.  This will act as your wind screen.   Now you have a stove!

Now here’s how to use your new stove.  This stove is meant for OUTDOOR use.  Find a level spot on the ground to set up away from anything flammable!

1)      Take the screw out of your stove and pour some denatured alcohol into the screw hole.  You’ll get the feel for how much you need.  Replace the screw.
2)      Pour a small amount of denatured alcohol into the tuna can- about enough to cover the bottom.
3)      Light the fuel in the tuna can and place the stove in the tuna can.  Once the fuel in the stove warms up, it will come through the holes in the stove.  The flames from the tuna can will then light the fuel coming though the holes.
4)      Place the wire grid pot stand around the tuna can and place your pot of water on top.
5)      Wrap the foil wind screen loosely around your pot to block the wind but still allow oxygen to reach the flames.  
The pot is sitting nicely on the stand, now wrap the foil around.

And that’s how you boil water using household items.  Good luck with hurricane Sandy everyone!  I hope you all stay safe and dry and warm out there!  Here's how to store your stove in the pot:

Try It

About $2.19, I bet you can find all these things for free.

Buy It

I saw a store bought version of this on for $34.99


If you love to camp, or just find yourself in a power outage, this is a quick stove to make that is easy to use.  Try It.

Disclaimer:  Some people told me I shouldn’t write this post for liability’s sake.  So for the record, I take no responsibility if you have any mishaps in the making or use of this stove.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christmas is Coming!

Not to freak you out, but Christmas is right around the corner, especially if you are a Christmas crafter.  So now is the time to make your list, gather supplies, and get to gettin’!  Often I put a bag together for each of my relatives that I still exchange gifts with that includes various things I have made that year.  This year will be similar, but a little more tailored to the individual recipients. (Get excited, sisters/in-laws/parents!)  
Here are a few ideas using posts from the last year and a half: 

Spa: Body Scrub and a Sisal Bath Scrubber.  If you make the scrub with a finer grit sugar and salt, it would also make a great hand scrub.

Hot Cocoa: Fresh Marshmallows and Hot Cocoa Mix.  If you put the cocoa through the food processor as Em suggests in the post’s comments, it looks great!

S'mores: Fresh Marshmallows and Graham Crackers accompanied by some good chocolate.

Coffee Lover:Vanilla Syrup and a pound of great coffee!

Sweet Tooth:  Magic Shell, Butterfinger Candies, Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, and Vanilla Extract for future dessert fun.

New Mom: A Nursing Strap and Baby Wipes for baby, and a good snack or treat for mom like Raspberry Granola Bars or Butterfingers.

New Home: Throw pillows with Pillow Covers to match their decor.  They might also appreciate some Laundry Soap with the recipe included if they are of the frugal persuasion.

T-Shirt: A personalized shirt that will either mark the occasion, show off an inside joke, or just fit the recipient's interests (like a superhero shirt for a favorite nephew).

I find that as nice as it is to give canned goods, you have to make sure that what you’re giving fits the recipient, and it helps to give serving suggestions with the canned good.  Example: Jalapeno Pepper Jelly: Delicious as an appetizer- Spoon over cream cheese and serve with Trisciuts.

There are always Ornaments, too! My sisters and I went from full-on gift giving to going out just the 4 of us for a big supper.  Last year when our lives got too complicated to all make it home for Christmas, we switched to an ornament exchange and they were awesome! Pictures to come on those...

I’ve got some new ideas coming soon, and I’m pretty excited!  To me gift brainstorming is one of the best parts about Christmas. It’s up there with Cinnamon Rolls and watching my son recite T’was the Night Before Christmas from memory the way my sisters and I did as kids (and still do!).

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Butterfinger Candies

I did it- I joined Pinterest.  I don’t really get it yet, but I’m figuring it out.  One thing I saw a few times is homemade butterfingers, which only have three ingredients.  In case you haven’t noticed, readers, this school year has been kicking my bottom, and a quick sugar fix project sounded lovely.  The recipe called for a full pound of each ingredient, but that sounded a bit excessive!  

You will need

8oz candy corn ($2.50 per 24oz, $2.50/24oz = $.10 x 8oz = $.83)

8oz homemade peanut butter- ¾ cup plus 2 Tbsp ($.26 per fl.oz, $.26 x 13fl.oz = $3.38)

8oz chocolate candy melts ($2.24 per 12oz, $2.24/12oz = $.19 x 8oz = $1.49)

Melted candy corn- who knew?
The peanut butter did not want to mix in, which is probably where the flakiness comes from.
Cooling loaf of sugar.
 Put the candy corn in the microwave for a minute.  Give it a stir, then continue to heat in 15 second intervals until fully melted.  Add the peanut butter and combine quickly!  It will set up very fast.  Pour the mixture into a loaf pan lined with parchment and pat it flat.  Allow it to cool completely. 

Cut the mixture into bars.  Melt the chocolate according to the package directions.  Dip the bars into the chocolate and set them on waxed paper to cool. 
Ready for dipping.
I really like the texture!
 I had to scrape a little extra chocolate off the bars before I set them to cool.  Once they were done, they were oddly… delicious.  And they did have that flaky quality, though they weren’t  as crisp as the real deal.
Not going to lie- they didn't all make it to this stage.

Try It

$5.70 for 24oz, or $.24/oz.

Buy It

$1.19 for 2.1oz, or $.57/oz.


I don’t think that I would actually replace the candy with these, but they are an easy treat that are fun to Try.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Chocolate Chips

It would never have occurred to me to make chocolate chips had I not received a request on Facebook from my friend Aerial to try out frozen chocolate dipped kiwis.  Well, my sister in Chile just happened to have FIFTEEN kiwis in her fridge, and decided to make them right away despite the fact that the only chocolate she had in the house was the chocolate syrup she made.  Shocker- it didn’t work out so well.  But her defense was that Chileans don’t HAVE chocolate chips, so what is she supposed to do?  A quick google search for homemade chips brought up all kinds of recipes!  I ended up using this gem from HeavenlyHomemakers.  Though the coconut oil she suggested sounded delicious, it was about twice the price of organic butter, so I went the butter route.  

Chocolate chips!

You will need

½ cup cocoa ($3.00 per 8oz, $3.00/2.8125cups = $1.07 x .5cups = $.54)

½ cup sugar ($2.99 per 5 lb, $2.99/80oz = $.04 x 3.75oz = $.14)

1 cup organic butter ($4.99 per lb, $4.99/4 sticks = $1.25 x 2 sticks = $2.50)

1 tsp homemade vanilla ($.01 per ml, $.01 x 4.92ml = $.05)

Everything just starting to heat
About half way through the heating process

In a medium saucepan, bring an inch or two of water to boil.  In a heatproof bowl, combine the cocoa, sugar, and butter, and place over the saucepan (or use a real double boiler if you have one!).  Stir everything together until the butter is totally melted and the sugar has dissolved.  Take the bowl off the heat and add the vanilla.  Pour into a greased or parchment-lined 9 x 13 inch pan.  Allow to cool in the fridge until completely solid, then break into bits.

If you aren’t planning on using these immediately, I’d refrigerate them since they contain butter! 

Poured into the pan and ready for the fridge
I left it int he fridge overnight, and it looked a little rough this morning.
Chunks that I broke up using the paper to keep all the mess off my hands!

Well I forgot to add the vanilla, I always do when it’s added after everything else.  The turned out alright- not all the sugar dissolved, so they’re a little gritty, and some butter solidified on top (it looks like the chocolate bloomed, but it didn't), but they taste great.  It was a little messy to break it up since they melt so easily, but if you use the parchment paper to hold onto the chocolate, it’s not too bad. 

Try It

$3.23 for 12oz, or $4.31/lb.

Buy It

$3.49/lb for Tollhouse in Martin’s bulk section.


Unless you live somewhere were chocolate chips are not readily available, and you can’t use any other type of chocolate, Buy It.  If your name is Margaret, and you’re a knucklehead living in Santiago, Chile, go ahead and Try It.