Friends forging a course together through the unexpected

Trying my Hand at Pickling September 1, 2015

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 6:14 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

So I could spend some time in this post apologizing for my long absence, or I could just get on with my post.  I don’t want to make excuses so I’ll choose option two!

Along with my theme of being behind, I realized one of my Christmas gifts from Dave has gone unused.  He got me a box of spices from Urban Accents.  I was really excited about it when I got it, but I stowed it away and you know what they say about out of sight out of mind…I opened the box up and one item in there really caught my eye: a Sweet & Tangy Pickling Spice.  I have never made my own pickles before and I thought I’d give it a shot.

box of spices

My town has a Farmer’s Market every Thursday morning.  The problem is I usually remember it as I drive past it on my way to work.  Last week I remembered on Tuesday and I made sure I was up in enough time on Thursday to go on a walk, stop by the Farmer’s Market and pick up some farm fresh cucumbers!  The packet in my spice box only called for 1lb of cucumbers, but the deal was $7.50 for a plastic grocery bag full.  I had $8 cash on me so it seemed perfect.  Fast forward to this past Sunday when I started this recipe and I realized 1lb is only 3 cucumbers!  Needless to say I need to come up with something to do with all the rest of the cucumbers I have now.

The recipe doesn’t require much:


1 lb cucumbers, 1 cup white vinegar, ½ cup granulated sugar, 1 cup water1 packet pickling spice


  1.  In a medium pan, pour the water and vinegar in and bring to a boil.
  2. Open the spice packet and add it to the boiling mixture along with the sugar.


3.  Make sure the sugar is dissolved and then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

4.  While the mixture is simmering, wash and cut the cucumbers into spears.

5.  Place the spears in a heatproof dish and pour the hot mixture over the spears.

6.  Let these sit for 1 hour at room temperature.


As you can see in this photo, I first poured the mixture into a bowl.  I immediatly realized the mixture wouldn’t cover the cucumbers so I moved the spears and mixture to a shallow dish.  This still didn’t cover them completely so every once and awhile I’d turn the spears making sure they call got a fair time to soak.


 After the hour was up, I tried a pickle and it was delightful.  The only thing that was lacking was the temperature. I like pickles cold.  The package told me to serve the pickles immediately or refrigerate.  I decided to refridgerate so I could get the cool crunchy pickle I craved!  I fit all the spears into a tall glass jar (I knew I kept these for a reason!) and proceeded to pour the mixture into the jar.  Well that filled up about ¾ of the way.  I knew they needed to be covered completely so I ended up adding some water.  I screwed on the top and then turned the jar upside down a few times to make sure the mixture was fully combined.  I was pretty pleased with how easy it was to do this and how accomplished I felt.  Do you have a special recipe you use for pickling?  I’d love to hear about it!


DIY Gifts- Vanilla Extract & Cookie Jars January 28, 2015

Filed under: Kelly — Uncharted @ 1:40 am
Tags: , , , ,

A long while ago, in October I instagramed this photo:


Homemade Gifting 2014 Begins

I did follow through with my plan and I made homemade vanilla extract and cookie jars for my friends.  The vanilla was simple but time intensive so you do need to plan ahead for it.  The cookies were easy to put together and hopefully a nice treat for people who don’t like to measure everything when they are baking.  Here is the finished product:


I didn’t want to post about these before Christmas because it would spoil the surprise, but how perfect would these be for a Valentine’s gift?!  First let me tell you about the vanilla.  I researched this quite a bit because I was amazed you could make your own vanilla extract.  There are exactly 2 ingredients necessary for this creation: vanilla beans and vodka!  I ordered the beans off Amazon.  I planned to use Quart sized Ball jars for the cookies so I grabbed two of them to make the vanilla in.  The first step is to slice the beans lengthwise and then in half.  I had a total of 25 beans.  I will warn you that this process is a bit sticky and awkward since the beans have a tough skin.  After a few beans, I really got the hang of it and it became easier.


I placed have the beans in one jar and then started pouring in the vodka.  Once each jar was filled, I tightened the lids and placed them in a cool dark place.  I bottled on October 26th so there was plenty of time between then and Christmas for the vodka to take in the vanilla flavor.  Each week I would give the jars a good shake so the flavor would be stronger.  When Christmas was pretty close I decided to bottle the vanilla.  I struggled with how to strain the beans, but in the end I used my metal colander and coffee filters.  Once it was filtered, I used a funnel to pour the vanilla extract into the amber bottles and added a bean to each bottle to increase flavor further.

Next piece of my handmade gift is the cookie jars.  The idea here is that each ingredient for a cookie recipe is premeasured and included so all someone has to do is mix the contents of the jar with some butter, egg, and vanilla and their cookies are ready to go in the oven! The hardest part was actually choosing a cookie recipe.  I wanted to choose something I would want to eat so when I found the Christmas Crunch Cookie recipe and the only thing I disliked was white chocolate chips, I decided to go with it.  I simply switched that part of the recipe to milk chocolate chips instead.  The only tip I have here is to make sure to tamp down all the ingredients after you add them to the jar.  You can see in the picture below I used an ice cream scoop.  You can also see in the picture next to it, how much higher the flour is when I didn’t tamp it down.  It was annoying to do, but all the ingredients won’t all fit if you don’t take that step.

jars 1

Last thing was the presentation of the jar.  Since the ribbon on the tags I bought were too short, I just taped the ribbon to the top of the jar’s lid.  Then I decided to use red tissue paper to cover the taped top of the jar.  I started by cutting two layers of tissue into squares.  Then I screwed the lid on to make indentation in the tissue, removed the lid, cut out the new shape of the tissue and screwed the lid back on.  I think they turned out pretty cute!  Lastly, I printed the recipe and taped it to my Joy Tag.

jars 2

If you are interested in this particular cookie recipe, I found it through Pinterest and it linked me to Katy & Abby’s blog- Blue Eyed Bakers.  Here is the recipe.  Remember I changed the white chocolate chips to milk chocolate!

Christmas Crunch Cookies:
The Jar Contains:

¼ cup sugar



½ cup M&Ms

½ packed brown sugar ½ cup rolled oats
1 ½ cups flour ½ cup rice krispies
¾ tsp baking soda ½ cup chocolate chips
¼ tsp baking powder

Beat together ½ cup butter, ½ tsp vanilla extract, and 1 egg in a large bowl.
Add the contents of the jar and stir until well mixed (the dough will be crumbly).
Drop rounded spoonfuls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350°
for 10-12 minutes until puffed and golden.


Too Many Tomatoes September 10, 2014

Filed under: Karla — Uncharted @ 7:57 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Lately there has been a growing problem in the Hein household. Too many tomatoes! Our garden is delivering a new tomato every day. In addition to our spectacular crop, my parents’ tomato garden  is producing at least 3 tomatoes every day. Combined, that’s a lot of tomatoes. So many that I’ve started pawning them out to friends, neighbors and co-workers!

Fresh Tomatoes

This weekend I carved out two hours dedicated to using up at least two pounds of tomatoes. How? Homemade marinara sauce. I found a recipe in my Betty Crocker cookbook that I was able to modify to use up the majority of my tomatoes.

Here is my modified recipe:

  • 2- 2 ½ lbs of whole fresh tomatoes (instead of 2 14.5 herbed diced tomatoes) 
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 tablespoon pre-chopped garlic (instead of 8 gloves chopped garlic)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (instead of 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried basil leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley (new addition since I like parsley)
  • 2 teaspoon pepper (one more teaspoon that the original recipe because we like pepper)
  • ½ teaspoon salt

First dice up your onion, then your tomatoes. This way your chopping board doesn’t get full of tomato juice. I unfortunately, did tomatoes first and had to do a little cleaning before I was able to cut the onion.

Dicing Up Tomatoes


You want the whole tomato so don’t get rid of the seeds or the “guts”. Place diced tomatoes in a large pot. Add in the diced onion and remaining ingredients. Heat to a boiling and then reduce to low. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Let cool before placing in storage containers to refrigerate or freeze.

The Final Product!

The Final Product!

The result? I’m well stocked for pasta sauce. Now I just have to figure what else to make in bulk with the remaining tomatoes! Any recommendations?


Wedding Recap: Paper Projects! April 2, 2014

Our print materials for our wedding definitely evolved from the save the date to our invitations and programs. Our first print project together was our save the date cards. Getting engaged in the fall, we thought about waiting until Christmas to send out our save the date announcement. That way we could say Merry Christmas and save the date with one stamp!  We found a template on Shutterfly, plugged in our favorite engagement photos and lingo for a relatively inexpensive option. Especially due to all the coupons Shutterfly sends out.

The next print project was the invitations. Thankfully my matron of honor was a great resource. She had made all of her wedding invitations by hand and was a great inspiration to me and a creative soundboard. She sent me links to a few places to begin my paper hunt. First stop was PaperandMore, where I ordered countless samples of inserts, envelopes and invitations in a variety of colors including cream, white, gray, silver, and navy. My biggest recommendation is to order the samples because you can’t tell texture or true color on a monitor. After rounds of debating here is what we ordered:

For fun finishing touches on the invitations we utilized Cards and Pockets and Etsy. We had seen some cute uses of bellybands and stickers for closing the pocketfold invitation. But Matt and I wanted something different. Low and behold we found our favorite option at Cards and Pockets a monogram wax seal. I was extremely happy with what we purchased and I plan on using in the future. Who doesn’t like a wax seal?

Cards and Pockets

My matron of honor said the best time saver was the personalized address stamp. This way you don’t have to pay for a calligrapher or have your hand cramp doing all of the writing. Simply stamp away!


For the inserts, we bought white card stock from Staples and cut everything to size with a handy paper cutter. And yes, we printed everything at home. In college I took a few graphic design classes and thankfully have InDesign, so Matt and I were able to customize our look and create consistent elements (fonts, colors) that we used in various elements throughout the wedding. (More examples to come in the post about the reception!)

Here’s the final product!


Our wedding programs were another successful homemade print project. One of my friends did a similar layered program that I fell in love with. So I borrowed her idea :). To get the project started, I found yellow cardstock and thin navy ribbon at JoAnn Fabric. We used regular white printing paper for the inserts. We wrote the content and created the design with InDesign, all similar to our invitations. (Can you tell I work in Marketing – unified fonts, colors and elements please, it’s all about branding!)


If you’re down for a few paper cuts and have the time, consider make a few things for your wedding. Not only will you save a buck or two, but you’ll also appreciate what you make even more on your special day.

All in all, we spent just a little over $260 for everything for our invitations, including stamps. For the programs, thanks to gift cards, I think I ended up spending $5 out of pocket.  I’m so glad we decided to make a lot of our own items for the wedding. And the bulk of it got done thanks to our friends and family. We’re blessed with some crafty folks in our lives and if you didn’t like pizza, I think our fingers would have been in a lot worse shape!




Butternut Squash Soup & Homemade Vegetable Stock February 5, 2013

Chicago has decided that it wanted to prove that it really is winter and it means it.  Last week we went from 60 degrees on Monday to a wind-chill of -20 on Thursday.  Totally messed up!  The sudden dip in temperature made me nostalgic for warm food and I’ve had a butternut squash sitting near the fruit bowl for quite some time.  I decided it was time to make some soup!

I looked around on the internet for some recipes and in the end I landed on one from Whole Foods Market.  I liked it because it was very simple.  The only problem was I did not have any chicken stock on hand.  Peering outside and seeing ice coating the tree branches outside my window I decided to alter the recipe to use vegetable stock instead.  I didn’t have any of this either, but then I found a do it yourself veggie stock recipe on The Kitchn’s website.

This involved more than just pouring stock from a box, but it saved me from going out in an ice storm so I decided it was worth it.  All I had to do was gather some veggies from the fridge, roughly cut them up and simmer them in a pot with water!  It was very simple and made me feel like I was a real cook.  I never thought to make my own stock, but it was so simple I’ll probably do it again.  Here are a few tips I have for you:

  • Add more flavor to the stock by ‘sweating the vegetables’ first.  It just means heat the vegetables in the pot without water for a few minutes first.  I did this for 10 minutes- you’ll hear a sizzling sound and know it’s working.

butternut 007

  • Beware- you lose a lot of water while it boils and simmers on the stove.  I started with 12 cups of water and ended with 8.  That is a 1/3 evaporated! My point is to start with plenty of water.
    butternut 013
  • For straining I used a strainer and coffee filters.  It worked okay, but my friend recommended cheese cloth so you can squeeze the vegetables.  This probably would have been easier and yielded even more stock.

Here are the ingredients for the Butternut Squash Soup with my alterations:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

While that broth was cooking I took the time to cut up my onion, carrot, celery and prepare my squash.  This is probably the most laborious part.  Squash is hard to cut.  I researched a bit and decided the easiest way to prepare it is to bake it first.  This means cutting the squash in half, removing strings and seeds:

butternut 001

Then put the squash in a jellyroll pan (baking sheet with edges) and baking it for about half an hour at 400 degrees.  Remove it from the oven and start peeling off the rind with a knife:

butternut 003

When all the rind is gone you can cut the squash into cubes:

butternut 005

 After my stock was prepared I cooked the cut up onion, carrot, and celery with some olive oil for 4 minutes:

butternut 014

Then add in the cubes of squash, thyme, vegetable stock, salt and pepper:

butternut 015

I cooked the mixture for about half an hour, turned off the heat, and placed my immersion blender in the pot and started puréeing:

butternut 017

    In about a minute the mixture was smooth and my soup was ready!

butternut 018

I ate mine with a dash of nutmeg on top and put it in my new handy-dandy bowl with a cracker holder.  Does anyone else think this is as cool as I do?  No need to put the soup bowl on a plate so you can have crackers too!  I saw it in Real Simple magazine and went online straight away to buy myself a set.  if you are interested, I found mine on this website.

butternut 019


Stampin’ Up Some Holiday Cheer December 16, 2010

My teacher friend Penny is a salesperson for the company Stampin Up.  I flippin love to craft and make things, so Penny and I became close over my first 3 years teaching at our school (almost too close, because our friendship cost me everytime I ordered something from one of the Stampin’ Up catalogs hehe).  Some of my favorite days at school were when Penny organized after school stampin’ classes in her classroom where we’d make holiday-themed cards.  At first, I never wanted to give my cards away, because they were so cute and I had worked so hard on them that I was afraid if I gifted them to anyone they wouldn’t appreciate the full effort that went into them! But I got over that.  The trick was to find people who are also crafty who truly understood the beauty of each “work of art.”

When I got Penny’s email about her holiday classes, I knew I had to get the girls to attend one!  There were several that sounded good, but the date that we were all available was for a class where you make 3 Christmas gifts with Stampin’ Up products.  Penny uses some ideas from the company, but really creates some amazing things using her tools and a lot of imagination.  When we got to her “stampin’ attic,” we were immediately excited for the crafting experience that awaited us.

First of all, you would never believe the craft room Penny has going on in her attic.  When I read that we would be having the class in her “stampin’ attic,” I sort of thought it was just a cutesy name for a room she used to craft.  But I was wrong; this room is MADE for crafting and nothing else!  I want one someday: the walls covered in organizers with drawers for every piece of crafting material a girl could dream of, and any remaining space adorned with cards and projects Penny has handcrafted.  It was my own personal slice of heaven.

This class reintroduced me to the familiar feeling of not wanting to actually gift my gifts to anyone because I loved them so much.  We made a cloth pin that I swear could sell for bundles in a boutique, an applique coffee mug with an adorable paper-crafted tag and cocoa/mocha mix inside, and a set of elegant red and white stationery in a handmade box with a satin bow on top.  Everything was a joy to make, and the best part about it was that over crafting we were all able to bond and conversate!  If only I had a glass of wine in my hand, again, a slice of heaven.

Hard at work on our gifts

I think I can speak for all 3 of us Uncharted bloggers who attended this class on Tuesday when I say we will certainly be going back for more stampin’. Now I just have to figure out who will appreciate this next set of crafty wonder…

The finished gifts 🙂


Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree! December 10, 2010

Filed under: Sarah — Uncharted @ 6:50 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

How lovely are your ornaments?  Honestly, I don’t really think it even matters.  Some people say that ugly ornaments aren’t allowed on their tree, or that the homemade ones should go toward the back.  But I think the beauty of a Christmas tree is that you don’t need to have sterling silver snowflakes adorned in diamonds dangling from the evergreen branches for your tree to be magical.

My roommate and I have some crazy ornaments on our tree this year.  Over the past few years, I have acquired some of the tackiest ornaments made of scraps of yarn, popsicle sticks, or craft foam (and sometimes even all three!).  Up close if you look at each of these ornaments individually, I’ll admit they might not be gorgeous.  However, when you put them all together on the tree and the Christmas lights glow around them from every angle, their beauty is incredibly enhanced.  But each one of those ornaments represents a memory of some sort: the people I’ve crafted them with, the loving hands that stitched them, and the overall joy of this beautiful season over the 24 Christmases I have celebrated thus far in my life. 

Some of our handcrafted lovelies 😛

Rhonda and Randy reindeer from the girls' Christmas celebration 2 years ago

So go ahead and put up tacky in all its glory this year, because together when all of your memories are represented on your Christmas tree, everyone will somehow manage to see its beauty.

The tree as a whole


%d bloggers like this: