We can pickle that!

We can pickle that! (Really.)

Have you ever wanted to live in pioneer times? Oh man, have I. I couldn’t get enough of Laura Ingalls and her little house, quilting bees and barn raisings and berry picking. And you better believe that Kirsten was my BFF of the American Girl variety. Well, turns out I’m not alone. My friend Alli (of livingfullywithout.com fame) came over this weekend to teach me how to make pickles! And even though she was a Felicity girl, we had no trouble imagining ourselves out on the frontier, pickling our summer garden spoils to get us through the harsh winter.

They had mandolin slicers, refrigerators, and blogs on the frontier, right?

Alli was kind enough to buy our pickling cucumbers at the farmer’s market. It’s cucumber season RIGHT NOW, so that means they’re cheap and ready for pickling! But first, give ’em a good wash.

Homemade pickles | handmaden.com

Then slice and dice those cucumbers however suits your fancy.

Homemade pickles

Now separate your cucs into pint size mason jars. Fill them up nice and full. The liquid will fill in around them. Oh, and we sterilized the jars first by boiling them in a large stock pot for a few minutes.

Homemade pickles | handmaden.com

Now it’s time to make the brine, the vinegary liquid that works magic on those unsuspecting cucumbers and turns them into delicious pickles. It just requires boiling water, vinegar, and whatever spices you choose. It was so easy and boring that I didn’t even take a picture. The point is, you should just do it, because if you can boil water and vinegar in a pot, then you can make pickles.

We were a wee bit ambitious and made three different kinds. Here were the recipes we used (generally, but Alli is a pro so she mainly winged it):

Once the jars are filled and the liquid is cooled, put them in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Then they’re ready to eat and can be kept in the fridge for 6-8 weeks.

Homemade pickles

Look at all those pretty pickles! Pickle spears, pickle sandwich slices, pickle rounds! Spicy pickles, dill pickles, garlic pickles! AND don’t forget, bonus pickled red onions!

Pickled red onions and cucumbers

This made for an incredibly satisfying project. Ingredients you mostly have on hand, a couple of hours in the kitchen, really easy clean-up, and a fridge full of pretty mason jars showing off your beautiful homemade pickles.

Thanks for teaching me how to pickle that, Al Pal!

Homemade pickles with Alli

Before and After: Mid-century Dresser

Where I live, everyone wants a mid-century dresser topped with an old-timey typewriter and a pair of mini antlers underneath an antique cloche. (I just learned that word.) So antique stores in the city are keenly aware of what they have and what people will pay for such items — a lot. So I can get a little jealous of other bloggers when I read about the treasures they’ve purchased for pennies from their country junk shop (or more probably, junque shoppe).

But when I start to feel those pangs of envy, I just remember this:

Before

Craigslist. $30. It is possible! Even in the city!

We brought this home last summer and it has been hiding in the guest room, embarrassed by scratches and general dinginess. But now it looks like this:

Dresser Portrait

Standing taller and prouder than ever, and looking worth far more than $30.

Dresser After

There are TONS of resources online about cleaning wood furniture (like here and here)Β and painting wood furnitureΒ and getting rid of dings. (My parents on the other hand had to buy VHS tapes to learn DIY techniques. My sister one time mistook “Paint Your Furniture” for a musical which led to a Schmunk family original song of the same title.)

Anyway, since there are so many great tips and how-to’s already on this subject, I’ll just give you an overview of what I did. The moral of the story is don’t be afraid! I thought this project would be way more time-consuming and daunting, which is why I put it off for an entire year. But it went really smoothly and now I can’t stop staring at this mid-century beauty.

Dresser Before and After

Here were the basic steps I took to clean this baby up:

1. Clean it inside and out with Murphy’s Oil Soap. It was amazing what this step alone did to brighten up the wood, get rid of all of the dust inside the frame, and remove general griminess on the drawer fronts. Here’s the inside of the dresser frame. Left is dusty pre-Murphy, right is clean post-Murphy:

Murphy's Oil Soap

2. Restore with Rejuvenate. In my mind, this step would magically erase all of the dings and scratches. It didn’t. It does however seem to be a good product for overall furniture maintenance, so it made me want to try it on some of our other wood pieces that I’m not so great at taking care of.

3. Sand, prime, and paint the drawer fronts. I learned a few things in my research that I will now summarize for you:

  • Sand first to remove the glossy finish and create a surface that will hold the paint
  • Use oil-based primer because it will cover the wood grain; let dry 4-6 hours (I went with overnight)
  • Use several coats of paint (you can use latex paint over oil-based primer, but not the other way around) and sand in between to remove drips or imperfections

Here’s what it looked like after one coat of primer:

Primer

4. While paint dries, “fix” dings with a marker. This actually did work like magic. I just colored over the scratches with a brown marker (!!!) and rubbed it in with my finger to blend it with the wood. Probably wouldn’t color on an heirloom piece, but worked great for this!

Marker?!

And there you have it. A two-day project that is really more waiting for things to dry than actual work. I love the two-tone look, and it’s WAY easier than trying to completely strip and refinish the entire dresser. Ta-da!

Dresser Close-up