Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Quick and Inexpensive Crafts: DIY Vanilla Extract

I have a thing that I like to do, and it is this: I love to create homemade versions of commercial products. For Christmas last year, I wanted to make homemade vanilla extract to give to everyone, but I ended up forgetting it, so we gave it to people for Easter this year instead.

You would be surprised at absolutely how inexpensive and easy it really is. Here is how to do it:

DIY Vanilla Extract


Fresh vanilla bean pods (1 for every 4 ounces of liquid- we usedMadagascar beans)
Small bottles with lids(ours looked like these)
Bourbon, whiskey, or vodka

Use a knife to split open the bean pods vertically. This is important. Make sure the pods actually split to the center. Some didn't split fully in our batch, and the vanilla flavor wasn't as strong.

Push the pod into the bottle. Pour the alcohol over the bean. We used a funnel, and that helped prevent messy spills.

Store the filled bottles in a cool, dark place for at least a month. The longer you wait, the stronger the vanilla flavor. The flavor wasn't strong enough for my liking until the beans had sat for about 2-3 months.

As you use the vanilla, you can add more alcohol to keep it going nearly indefinitely. What might work best is to have two bottles going, one that you use right now, and one that is brewing. As long as the pods do not get moldy, they are still good to use! Eventually, the flavor will fade, and then you can replace the beans, but you can last at least a year on 1 bean, I bet.

When the bottles were finished, we applied chalkboard stickers and wrote "Vanilla" on the outside. You can also paint directly on the bottle, if you want. There is endless creativity with this project.

Homemade vanilla extract also makes an amazing gift. All told, our cost per bottle was about $2 at most.
Here is the finished product. Monkey wrote the labels. 

More Crafty Fun

Linked With:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

DIY Easter Basket Ideas: Handcrafted Soap

Continuing our crafty Easter this year is our next craft, the DIY handcrafted soap!

I have always shied away from making soap in the past, because I thought it was extremely complicated and a little dangerous. While making soap entirely from scratch can be both of those things, there are all sorts of pre-made soap bases that you can purchase that are easily melted down and can be shaped into any mold you want! I think my friends and family will be seeing a lot more handmade soap from us in the future. It was even easier than I imagined it would be.

Here is how we made ours:

DIY Handcrafted Soap Tutorial


Essential oils for scent (I used lavender and mint)
Soap mold (this is the one we used, but I would use silicone in the future, because the soap was really hard to remove)
Dye (we just used paste food coloring, but I'm not sure if that was the most correct way- our soap ended up really soft, which is maybe the fault of the wrong dye?)

Step 1: Melt the soap in the microwave or over a double-boiler.

Step 2: Add the essential oil and color. Mix well.

Step 3: Pour into the mold. Allow to cool for about 2 hours.
Soap in-progress. 

Step 4: Apply gentle pressure to the center of the mold to release the soap.

Step 5: Package as desired!

It was seriously super-easy, and Monkey was able to do everything except pour the hot soap into the mold. Our bars sort of warped on the bottom, but we'll do better next time! You must keep the mold flat at all times or the soap will warp like ours. But it wasn't entirely our fault- our mold arrived bent. :-P

If you use this recipe to make your own soap, show us your results in the comments!

More Easter Fun:

Naturalist Coasters
Easter Egg Heads
Resurrection Tomb

Linked with:
All Things Thursday
Whip it Up Wednesday
Artsy Corner
Showcase Talent Thursdays
Thursday Favorite Things
Catch a Glimpse
Great Idea Thursday
The Mommy Club

Texas Women Bloggers

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

DIY Easter Basket Ideas: Naturalist Coasters

We have a lot of adults in our Easter celebrations. In fact, my two children are usually the only ones in attendance. None of my siblings have any children, and my husband's sister isn't married. Occasionally there is someone's cousin's children, but for the most part, we have adults at Easter.

Does this mean we cannot have Easter baskets? No! We love Easter baskets no matter our age. But, we have had to think of more creative ideas to put in the baskets since few of us like bubbles any more (although one year I put in water guns and everyone had a lot of fun).

This year, Monkey and I wanted to be a little extra crafty for our gifts, as discussed in our Easter strategy post. Our first completed project? Naturalist coasters.

DIY coasters are one of the least expensive projects you can make and would work for a stocking stuffer, hostess gift, wedding favor, and any other time you want to give a handmade gift. I think the overall cost for each coaster was around 70 cents. Not bad for such a cute gift!

DIY Naturalist Coasters


Mod Podge
Foam brush
4X4 tiles (found ours for 13 cents at Home Depot)
Printed naturalist images (found ours in the Creative Commons area of Flickr)

Step 1: Print your images onto regular paper. At first, I tried printing them onto tracing paper, because I wanted the images to look like they were drawn on the coaster, but after we applied the Mod-Podge, the images blurred. Black and white images might still work with tracing paper. Feel free to experiment.

Step 2: Cut out the images and arrange them onto the tiles. At first, I tried roughing up the tiles with sandpaper to make everything stick better, but it didn't seem to make any difference whether the tiles were smooth or rough, so I quit sanding them.

Step 3: Glue the images onto the tiles with Mod-Podge. I found that by working from the center of the paper out toward the edges there were fewer wrinkles in the paper.

Step 4: Wait for the Mod-Podge to dry 24 hours. After it dries, apply a coat of shellac.

Step 5: Wait 2 hours, then lightly sand the shellac and apply a second coat. We sealed the tops and edges of our tiles.

Step 6: Cut 4x4 squares from felt and glue to the back of the tiles.

Step 7: Stack the tiles in piles of 2 or 4 (depending on how many you want to put in each basket) and tie with a pretty bow!

This project is super-easy, and 7-year-old Monkey could do all the steps without trouble. Don't feel like you have to stick to any one particular image type. I really like the look of naturalist drawings, and I've seen this look start to become popular again, which is why I chose it. But I've also seen coasters online done with comics, scrapbook paper, maps, quotes, and personal photos. I think if I hadn't done naturalist illustrations, I would have done maps. I love old maps.

All wrapped-up and pretty!

If you do this project, let me know how it turns out!

More Easter Fun

Whip It Up Wednesday Handmade Linky Party

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Ultimate Blog Party 2014 #UBP14

Ultimate Blog Party 2014

Welcome To The 2014 Ultimate Blog Party

I'm joining in The 2014 Ultimate Blog Party hosted at  5 Minutes For Mom. This party is simply to find new fun blogs and to connect with new or old friends! The party runs from April 4-11, so there is still time to join in if you want!

Schooling a Monkey: An Introduction

What is Schooling a Monkey? Here, my daughters, husband and I chronicle our adventures in homeschooling, crafting, DIY, cloth diapering, parties, and fun! 
The main focuses of Schooling a Monkey are:


Originally, SaM was going to be all about homeschooling- and while it still is for the most part, we don't just post about homeschooling. If you are new to homeschooling, you may be interested in my "How Do I Homeschool" series, and if you are already homeschooling, you may like to read about our curriculum resources. 

Cloth Diapers

Bo, the baby, wears cloth diapers. I found it challenging to uncover how to start cloth diapering, so I created some posts related to the issue to help you out!


I love parties, and host them whenever I have occasion. You may like to read about our rainbow birthday party, Noah's Ark baby shower, vintage tea party, or circus birthday party.


Monkey and I love making crafts together. We often post seasonal craft ideas at Schooling a Monkey. You might like reading about our Easter crafts,Thanksgiving crafts, or Christmas crafts. 

Let's Be Friends!

Thanks for stopping by Schooling a Monkey. I hope you'll stick around!
Leave a comment with your blog info so I can visit you, too! 
If you like, consider keeping up with me by:

Enjoy the rest of the party! I look forward to meeting you!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Crafty Easter for 2014

Unrelated photo really, except we're celebrating that is is warm enough to go outside in shorts (or a diaper)!

Easter is one of my favorite holidays. I love everything that goes along with the holiday. I like wearing fancy clothes, going to church and singing, creating silly gifts for Easter baskets, and making and eating delicious food. We also always take a yearly family photo together, which is a lot of fun, too! Bo will hopefully not be screaming in the photo this year. :-)

We usually visit my parent's house for Easter, which can be a lot of fun because there is often quite a large crowd there!

The past couple of years, I haven't been up to my crafty self to create fun things for Easter. Two years ago, I think we were considering moving around that time, which prevented me from breaking out the craft supplies. Then last year, Bo was just a tiny baby, so I was quite busy just figuring out how to feed her!

This year, I feel like we are finally ready to celebrate the holiday like I want to.

So far, Monkey and I have 4 projects in the works. Our projects will include:

Handmade soap
Homemade vanilla
Chocolate frogs
DIY coasters
Decorated coffee bags

I'm not quite sure how to do the coaster thing. I really want to transfer an image to a tile, maybe, but I need to research more on the best way to do that. The vanilla was actually supposed to be in the stockings at Christmas, but I forgot to bring the bottles when we went down to visit our families.

We will share the results of our projects as we go through them! All of these should be pretty easy, so don't think we have super-crafty ambitions or crazy-awesome crafting talents. Once you see the pictures, you will know. :-)

I particularly wanted to focus on Easter gifts for adults this year, because we have more adults than anything in the family now- and some don't even like candy (shocking, I know). That means we have to be a little more creative about what to put in the baskets.

Do you have any fun projects for Easter lined up?

Looking for More Easter Ideas?
How to Dye Easter Eggs
Easter Egg Pinata and Cross Craft
Resurrection Garden
Fairy Wand Tutorial (would be great for a quick basket gift)