Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Use For Empty Wine Bottles (....and old college textbooks!)

I am happy to report that I've finally discovered a use for all the empty wine bottles Kellie and I generate.  It all began when I started using Pinterest.  Pinterest is a website I first learned of several months ago from Kristin while reading Iowa Girl Eats, one of the blogs I follow.  Essentially Pinterest lets you "pin" items that interest you to various "bulletin boards," organizing your interests by categories you define.  I was intrigued by the site but never took the time to browse it's many boards. Two weeks ago I received an invite to the site from a colleague (another Kristin....with another blog I follow....The Lien Family.)  With link in hand, or rather "in email," I quickly created an account.

After ten short minutes on the site I was hooked.  Although I hadn't repinned anything, I did have fifteen tabs tuned in....all with great new design, recipe or organization ideas.  One of my favorites is summed up in the picture below:

Pretty cool....ehhhh???      EHHHH???     Me thinks...yes...but I needed to figure out how to safely remove the bottom of a wine bottle.  This proved to be an easy feat because most Pinterest items are linked to an external website or blog.  Within a few minutes I was well versed on how to make these Wine-Bottle-Candle-Covers.

First things first...I needed an empty wine bottle.  That was both easily said...and easily done; I already had one.  Second....I needed a phone book.  I don't own a phone book, but I do own several bookshelves full of college textbooks that I haven't even looked at for 2 years. PROBLEM SOLVED...

The one thing I needed that I didn't have was a glass cutter. Luckily we have a Menards less than a mile away from our house.  Twenty minutes and $3 later I had one!

Glass cutters work by creating a score in the surface of glass, which then acts as a fracture point when the glass experiences stress.  Theoretically, if pressure is applied properly, any break should follow this "score" line.  The purpose of the phone book, or textbook in my case, is to create a straight and even score around the bottom of the wine bottle.  Placing the glass cutter between the pages of the textbook accomplishes this by creating a constant distance between the cutter and the floor.

Next I knelt on the textbook with all my weight, both knees firmly positioned on either side of the glass cutter, to minimize movement.  Then I positioned a wine bottle against the glass cutter, the textbook and the floor and rotated the wine bottle until I had created a score line all the way around the bottle.

This picture, while somewhat fuzzy (sorry), shows the score line.  Minimal, constant pressure against the glass cutter was required as I rotated the bottle.

The next step is to "break" the glass.  The safest way to do this is to bring a pot of water to a boil and throw some ice cubes in the bowl of cold water.  Transferring the scored wine bottle between the two water baths causes the glass to expand and contract, hopefully creating a clean break on the score line we just made.

Just to be on the safe side I decided to wear some latex cleaning gloves when "breaking" the glass.  You can't see me in this picture...but if you could, I'd also be wearing sunglasses. Safety my Grandma always told me! One can never be too careful.

Okay...into the boiling water.....

I let the bottle sit in the boiling water for 5 to 10 seconds.  I could hear glass cracking for the first 2 or 3.

Then I dropped the bottle immediately into the cold water, again for 5 to 10 seconds.  Again, I could hear cracking for the first 2 or 3.

Next back into the hot water.....and.......

....possibly a little knock on the bottom or side of the pan (or seems to depend...bottle by by case) and the bottom of the wine bottle fell right off.

The bottom piece broke (not a huge deal) and a hairline fracture shot up the side of the wine bottle (kind of a problem) on my first try.  After discarding my first attempt in the trash I decided to take the pot of boiling water off the burner before dunking the wine bottles into it.


The only issue with this type of break is that the newly formed edges can be pretty sharp.  A quick trip to the in-laws for their Dremel tool had my sharp edges tamed in no time.  I used a grinding attachment to sand off the sharp edges.

I would say this tool is absolutely necessary for this project.  I don't think regular sand paper would leave a safe edge.  If you don't have one make sure to buy, borrow or rent.  Leaving the edges unsanded can not only be dangerous, but it can also make it easier for the bottles to break in the future.

See...that looks much better.  I also added three small grooves (using the Dremel tool) to allow air flow into the bottom of each wine bottle.  Without this any candle placed inside the bottle would use up all the available oxygen and burn out in a minute or so.

NOTE: Don't be stupid...sanding glass = the potential for tiny shards of glass to be flying through the air.  I wore gloves and safety glasses while doing this.  In fact, I even did it outside with the cover from a clear Rubbermaid bin between myself and the project to ensure I wouldn't get any glass particles on me or in my eyes.  Remember my Grandma?? Yea....SAFETY FIRST!

At this point I was done.  I repeated the process until I had 5 Wine-Bottle-Candle-Covers.  The only thing left to do was decide how to use them.

So, I tried this.  It looks okay, for now at least.  I decided I'll go with it until I find something I like a lot better, which will probably involve shopping for something different.

That said and fast forward 3 days since completing this project......yesterday I went to Stillwater, MN with Kellie, her mom and her sister.  For now I'll just say that I found this antique silver tray there (I'm planning a future post with more details re: the trip).  Yea...this could work, too.

Adding a different candle/votive holder mixes things up a little.

This is another idea I thought of...and I LIKE it!


For some reason I feel like this post requires a moral. Okay...let's use this: With just a little thought and some searching (on Pinterest in this case) things can be easily reused and/or re-purposed.

I think I like this one better: "Be Sustainable - It can be fun!"

It is currently really nice outside: 71 degrees and not a cloud in the sky...on October 2.  I am going to head out and enjoy it.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

It Finally Materializes

I have been thinking about starting a blog for about a year now.  The only thing stopping me has been the lack of a name.  So, at this point, I've decided to simply start the blog and come up with a name later.

That is me...stunning, right? HA..jk.

My history in a paragraph: I was born and grew up in Decorah, IA.  After high school I went to Winona State University, in Winona, MN, and graduated with a degree in Business Administration and Human Resources Management with a Management minor.  I currently live in Dundas (Northfield), MN with my girlfriend, Kellie.  I work at the University of Minnesota as an Accountant in their Sponsored Financial Reporting office.

So, that is that. You'll learn more about me as I build this blog, which will probably end up being about a lot of food, wine, shopping and weekend road trips.


Chocolate Cranberry Almond Muffins

Two weeks ago when Kellie and I were in the check-out line at our local Cub Foods I eyed a most delicious looking dessert on the front of a magazine.  I proceeded to flip through the pages of the magazine and decided, in short order, that I needed it.  It was filled with healthy, basic recipes that all included simple ingredients...and....each recipe had a picture. SCORE! I quickly tossed it on top of the mountain of goods we had just stacked on the conveyor belt, much to the cashier's dismay.

The evening after picking this up at the store I made a Tuna Noodle Casserole from it.  Kellie was a big fan, which is a good thing because she doesn't like my usual version of the dish.....(P.S. I've made a mental note to document attempt 2 for you.)  I haven't made anything from the magazine since, although I have been paging through the magazine on evenings after work, flagging recipes that sound intriguing and making a shopping list for a few ingredients I don't already have.


This morning I woke up and decided to throw together one of the recipes I've been drooling over since day one with this mag: Whole Wheat Oatmeal and Raisin Muffins, below....

There was only one problem.....actually 4.  I didn't have raisins, dates, wheat germ or wheat bran


......I had to have it with my morning coffee, but didn't feel like running to the store.  Thus, it was time to improvise.  I threw together the following:

Chocolate Cranberry Almond Muffins
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup crumbled shredded wheat cereal
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup oatmeal
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks
3 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 cup skim milk mixed with 1 tablespoon white vinegar (my go-to substitute for buttermilk)
1/4 cup canola/vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup boiling water

First I mixed all the dry ingredients together and then dumped all the wet ingredients on top, less the boiling water.  I gave everything a good stir until moist and then added in the boiling water, stirring well to incorporate it thoroughly.  Then I let the batter sit for 15 minutes to give the oatmeal time to soften and turned on the oven.

 After the batter had time to "mingle" I used a large scoop to transfer the batter into a muffin pan sprayed with baking spray.

I topped the muffins with more crumbled shredded wheat.  At this point I need to make a confession....the last time I finished a box of shredded wheat I saved the crumbs in the bottom.  It looked like it would make a delicious topping to muffins or banana bread, especially since it was full of my favorite part of the cereal, the "frost!"

Doesn't it look amazing??? I'm really glad I was compelled to save the crumbs I usually throw away!

Next, toss these puppies in the oven for 20 minutes and go start a pot of fair trade coffee.  My coffee of choice is Caribou Coffee's french roast.  It is certified by Rainforest Alliance.

Twenty minutes seemed to be the perfect amount of time for these.  A cake tester came out perfectly clean on my first try.  I immediately transferred them from the pan to to a cooling rack after taking them out of the oven.

...AND LOOK...

Don't they look amazing?!!

These things started filling our house with the most amazing smell about 10 minutes into their baking process, just as the coffee finished brewing.  The two scents combined to make me VERY HAPPY! woke up Kellie!

Look inside these things...REALLY moist and super hearty.  They were so good and come highly recommended.

A partial-improv success!