Homemade Vanilla – an easy gift idea

As fall approaches, I begin to think about the holidays and gift-giving. At least the homemade gifts that I’ll hand out to teachers and neighbors and friends who invite us over. For years, I’ve made strawberry jam and while I still made jam this year, I was looking for something a little different to give people who have gotten jam year-in, year-out. I wanted to find something that the kids could help with along with something that most people would appreciate getting as a gift. I came across a post about homemade vanilla. Seemed simple enough, so I decided to give it a try. Two ingredients, cute bottles and time. That’s it.

To get this project going, you’ll need a vessel to put your vanilla in. I chose these adorable 8-ounce Boston Bottles from Specialty Bottle.    


Next item is some really nice vanilla beans. You’ll need three beans for every cup of liquid. I did a Google search for vanilla beans and Beanilla.com was the best source that I could find. Very highly rated and reasonably priced. I purchased a half-pound of Madagascar Bourbon vanilla beans which yielded enough beans for 18, 8-ounce jars of vanilla extract. They were beautiful, filled with seeds and smelled divine.


Next stop, liquor store. For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you saw that I posted a picture of a shopping cart, filled with large vodka bottles, being pushed by my 7-year-old. Well, this is why I was buying the vodka. Did I mention I like to involve my kids in these projects? Well, I wasn’t kidding.


Oh, and, by the way, I grossly miscalculated how much vodka I needed. I only needed two and a half 1.75 L bottles. Luckily, I figured that out before I made the purchase, but the picture was already on Facebook.

Now you have everything. Only other supplies you need are scissors, funnel and a 1 cup measure (if the kids are helping). First step is to prepare your vanilla beans. Cut each bean in half and then in half length-wise. This makes for great division of labor. My 5-year-old did the cut in half:


And my 7-year-old cut them in half length-wise:


Once all of the beans are cut, distribute them into the bottles (3 full beans per bottle) and fill with vodka.


Screw on the lids nice and tight and voila! Homemade Vanilla Extract. You’ll want to let the bottles sit for a couple of months to allow the beans to really flavor the liquid and turn it nice and brown. During this two-month period, give the bottles a little shake every week or so, just to encourage maximum extraction. I’m still working on what the label will look like, but I wanted to give everyone enough time to do this themselves, if you wanted to get it done in time for the holidays. I’ll be sure to share the final product when they are done!


One final note, the total cost per bottle came to $7.40 – less than half as much as the fancy stuff you’d buy at specialty shops. If your homemade gift budget is less than that, you could certainly opt for the 4-ounce jar and cut your supplies in half. I would recommend investing in quality ingredients over cutting costs on cheaper vodka or lower-quality vanilla beans. Quality over quantity, always. Good luck!!


Here’s what it looks like after one month:


As you can see, it’s gotten a lot darker. Still needs more time, but it’s good progress! I even used some in a batch of cookies and they tasted great.


Here is the final bottle. This is after two full months of steeping. You’ll see it’s that deep, rich color that you would expect from vanilla extract. Loving the label too. I purchased the floral border from Sweet Shop Design on Etsy. I downloaded the following two free fonts: Madame Klara and Janda Cheerful. There are tons of free fonts out there on the web. I usually find great compilations on Pinterest. I have a board dedicated to favorite fonts: http://www.pinterest.com/goodatev/graphic-design/ – feel free to follow along!

Final product Vanilla 



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Celebrating a milestone

Today marks a great moment for me. In just over two weeks, I’ve reached 100 ‘likes’ on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/goodateverything.net). In all the growth that I hope to achieve with this blog, this first 100 will always be the growth I’ll be most proud of. You all are family, friends, friends of friends who believe in me and are willing to take a chance on this little endeavor. I appreciate all of you!!

Remember a few years ago, when Facebook was relatively new and the trend went around to create a list of 25 Random Things about yourself? Well, I came across mine today and found that it all is still pretty relevant and gives a pretty good window into who I am. It also speaks to the many passions that I have and feel like I can finally explore through this blog.

So, to celebrate my first 100, I thought I’d share it with you all.

  1. I love being a mom – my two kids are the best things that ever happened to me, they make me laugh every day.
  2. I’ve realized that as long as you have a handful of really good friends, who you can trust with anything, you’re pretty much set.
  3. I’ve also realized that not everyone on this earth is going to like me – and that’s ok. As long as I like me and my friends and family like me, I’m good.
  4. I love Dunkin Donuts coffee.
  5. I could survive on cheese, potatoes, bread, red meat and red wine (and DD coffee)
  6. I do not forgive easily. I’m working on it.
  7. My first concert was the Jackson 5, Victory Tour.
  8. I celebrated the Millennium at the Pyramids in Egypt.
  9. I love to sing, but have crippling stage fright.
  10. My favorite herb is thyme.
  11. Everyone thinks my husband eats like a king because I love to cook – the truth is that he only eats like a king when we have company.
  12. A long time ago, I wrote a letter to Ina Garten (the Barefoot Contessa) I wanted to be her protégé. She wrote me a nice personal email – I still have it. I love Ina Garten and hope to meet her some day.
  13. I was first in line for the open casting call in Providence, RI for Martha Stewart’s Apprentice.
  14. I was a Karaoke DJ in college – and I miss it today!
  15. I still get sad in the fall when I realize I’m not going back to school. (GW, that is)
  16. I believe you get what you give.
  17. If I had unlimited resources, I would buy homes all over the world, spare no expense decorating them and have a private plane at the ready to go to any of them at a moments notice. 
  18. I wish I was more organized. I am jealous of people who have a home for everything they own.
  19. I usually go through 3 Kleenex within the first 10 minutes of Extreme Makeover Home Edition.
  20. As I get older, I take myself and others much less seriously. 
  21. I believe that people are inherently good.
  22. I try to be green.
  23. I believe in God and God doesn’t want me to go to France. I’ve tried three times and each time, something bad has happened right before I am scheduled to leave. I can’t even go to French territories – went to Bora Bora and our cat died, ouch.
  24. I believe there are angels all around us.
  25. I am married to the most loyal, gentle, kind man I have ever known. He is my best friend and I am lucky to be married to him.

Thanks for the support – sending virtual hugs to you all!

Lots of love,


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