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My article, "Easy to Make Reusable Coffee Filters" is in the new May/June #153 issue of Backwoods Home Magazine. You can pick up a print or kindle copy on Amazon, or through the Backwoods Home Magazine website. Look for my future article on Forever Gift Bags! The article can also be read online on the Backwoods Home Magazine website as well.

Look for other useful tips and projects in my journal index!

How to Make Brown Sugar

Yesterday, I was baking a cake and discovered I was out of brown sugar. Not a big deal, just a bit of a nuisance. The discovery went a little something like this:

Me (taking lid off canister): Oh, shoot! I’m out of brown sugar.
Kiddo #2: Can you still make the cake? (worried expression)
Me: Yes. I just have to make the brown sugar first, then get on with the cake making.
Kiddo #2: You can make brown sugar?

At this point in the conversation, I had not only discovered I was out of brown sugar, but that I had also been remiss in my teaching/child rearing as my child did not know she/I could make brown sugar.

I quickly remedied both situations. Then I wondered if maybe other people also don’t know how easy it is to make brown sugar. So, voila, blog post! Brown sugar is made from molasses and white (table sugar, granulated sugar) sugar. That’s it. Dark brown sugar has more molasses in it than light brown sugar.

White Sugar
Bowl, fork, measuring spoons

Light Brown Sugar

Mix 1 cup white sugar with 2 tablespoons molasses in a bowl with a fork until all of the molasses is mixed in with the white sugar. It will be lumpy. Smoosh the molasses/sugar lumps onto the side of the bowl and keep on beating away with the fork until it turns into brown sugar.

Dark Brown Sugar

Mix 1 cup white sugar with 3 tablespoons molasses. Follow the instructions for light brown sugar.

And that's all there is to it. Store your homemade brown sugar in an airtight container just like you would store bought brown sugar. The only difference is in the price!

Look for other useful tips and projects in my journal index!

Things fall apart—Bruce Davenport knows this all too well.

On the heels of his wife's death, laid-off and penniless with an eviction notice on the door, the only thing left for him and his four-year-old son Cody is Bruce's childhood home, secluded deep within Ozark forests, haunted by the ghosts of his past.

After he receives a strange phone call from his dying mother, who has lived alone in the house for the past 15 years, Bruce reluctantly returns to the estate with his son.

But they soon find that something else dwells in the home, in the earth, in the woods. Unseen things are out for vengeance and blood. If they can survive the night, they may just find out what truly lies within the walls of…Elderwood Manor

Buzz for Christopher Fulbright and Angeline Hawkes's ELDERWOOD MANOR:

“A very dark and atmospheric horror novella with strong undertones of H.P. Lovecraft. The story took me back to the way horror was approached a long time ago … there is evil here. Everyone knows that it is there. The problem is that no one, either in the story or the reader, seems to know exactly what that evil is. This makes it even more frightening and is a subtlety often missing from modern horror … very scary.” –Josef Hernandez for The Examiner

“This short novella is packed to the brim with great atmosphere, strange creatures, and wall-to-wall scares.” –Nick Cato, editor of The Horror Fiction Review

“If you are looking for something that keeps you turning the pages quickly and that will creep you out in many ways, I highly recommend this.” –On Top Down Under Book Reviews

Sewing Reusable Eco-Friendly Produce Bags

Sewing Reusable Eco-Friendly Produce Bags

You’re standing in front of that huge roll of flimsy plastic bags. You’ve licked your fingers, you’ve savagely clawed at the roll, and you finally resort to grabbing the roll and viciously yanking off the stretchy bag…only to discover that in your zeal to acquire the bag – you ripped it. Sigh! And even if you’re lucky enough to get the desired bag off the roll and your produce into the bag – what are the odds you’ll make it all the way home without an apple or onion rolling from the top or bursting the bag?

In today’s environmentally conscious society, we want to reduce the pollution caused by manufacturing plastics and other disposable products. In addition to reducing pollution, consumers are eager to also reduce the litter and waste that these products create. How many plastic bags are buried in landfills? According to the Clean Air Council, Americans use 60,000 plastic bags every 5 SECONDS. 1 billion bags a year. 30,000 tons of plastic bag waste in landfills annually that will take about 500-1000 YEARS to completely degrade. That’s a lot of plastic.

People have been shopping for centuries without the use of plastic bags and have survived just fine. Leather or fabric bags, baskets, and wood crates have carried groceries and products from one spot to another. Plastic bags were introduced as a “convenience” for the shopper – but with the rise of floating bags littering our towns and cities, and the cost of burying these bags in landfills – how much is that convenience really costing us?

You can sew environmentally friendly produce bags on a simple sewing machine using a straight stitch. You don’t need a fancy machine to create a nice looking bag. The bag can be simple or you can add a casing for a drawstring. Adding a plastic toggle can add the security of a “lock” to keep your drawstring closed so your produce stays inside.

What you need:

Muslin or mesh apprx 2 rectangles, 13-inches wide x 18-inches long
Straight pins
Iron & Ironing board
Cotton cord or twill tape - 30-inches long
2- Safety pins
Plastic/metal spring toggle

Place the 2 muslin or mesh rectangles together. Since both sides are identical, you don’t have to worry about an “inside out” side. Pin.

Using a straight stitch with a ¼-inch seam allowance, sew the right and left sides and one end. The end not sewn will be the “top” of the bag where the opening will be.

Turn bag right side out. If you want you can stop here and you have sewn a reusable bag. Or you can continue on with this article to create a more durable, long-lasting bag. Don’t want to make your own bags but really really really WANT the bags? Click here to buy a set in my Ebay Store (Farmhouse Favorites).

Iron your bag. You are going to “French Seam” your bag so the inside will look as nice as the outside and the double seaming will make your bag stronger. Your bag should be right side out but this will soon be the inside of the bag after you’ve finished sewing the seams again.

Using a straight stitch, and a 1/4 to ½ seam allowance (I find that wider seams sometimes are stronger) sew the left, right and bottom of the bag along the seams.

Iron the bag. Once again, you can stop here and have a stronger, finished reusable produce bag. Or you can continue on to sew a casing and insert a drawstring.

Fold over the top edge of the bag’s opening ¼-inch. Pin and sew using zig zag or straight stitch. (The photo shows a christmas fabric bag -- same step however). This is the hem.  Fold the hemmed top edge over 1-inch and pin the edge to the bag fabric. This will be the casing for the drawstring. After sewing, you will insert the drawstring through the “tunnel” you will be sewing.

Using a straight stitch and a ¾-inch seam allowance, sew the pinned edge, removing pins as you sew.  Leave a ½-inch “gap” or opening unsewn for insertion of the drawstring.

Iron the casing to set the seams and create a crisp finish to the bag’s top.  In the photos I sewed a second decorative seam to add to the aesthetic value of the produce bag.

Fasten a safety pin to one end of your cord or twill tape and attach it to the outside of the opening you left in the casing (this will keep your cord from disappearing into the casing while you’re feeding it through). Fasten a safety pin to the other end of the cord.

Insert the free end of the cord/safety pin into the casing and feed it through until it re-emerges from the opening. Pull the cord ends and adjust the casing/bag so the cord ends are even. The photo shows a christmas bag with the same step.

You can tie a knot to the cord ends or you can insert the ends through a plastic toggle, and then tie the knot. The knot will keep your cord from coming out of your produce bag. Toggles can be purchased from craft, sewing and most fabric stores.  I buy mine on ebay in bulk.

Voila! You have a finished produce bag. The instructions sound more complicated than it really is. Everyone knows what a simple bag is – and that’s all you’re making. It can be as easy or advanced as you wish to make it. Either way, you have an environmentally friendly, reusable bag that you can bring your produce home from the store in and know you are not contributing to the pollution of our planet.

Look for other useful tips and projects in my journal index!


Elderwood Manor, our new Fulbright & Hawkes novella due out in July from DarkFuse, is now available for Pre-order. 15% off retail price if you pre-order now and your card will not be charged until July.

ELDERWOOD MANOR by Christopher Fulbright & Angeline Hawkes

Things fall apart—Bruce Davenport knows this all too well.

On the heels of his wife’s death, laid-off and penniless with an eviction notice on the door, the only thing left for him and his four-year-old son Cody is Bruce’s childhood home, secluded deep within Ozark forests, haunted by the ghosts of his past.

After he receives a strange phone call from his dying mother, who has lived alone in the house for the past 15 years, Bruce reluctantly returns to the estate with his son.

But they soon find that something else dwells in the home, in the earth, in the woods. Unseen things are out for vengeance and blood. If they can survive the night, they may just find out what truly lies within the walls of…Elderwood Manor.

Make Your Own Household Powdered Cleanser Shaker

One of the hardest things about making your own products from scratch often is the container or mode of delivery not equaling those of manufactured store-bought items. Let’s face it. Most containers, boxes, bottles, etc of store-bought items have nifty details that make cleaning, cooking, or whatever you’re doing, easier and more effective. So, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, that leaves you with 2 choices: either buy a product with a reusable container that you can use when the initial product is gone  (I have purchased products JUST for the container) or make something that will do the job.

This household powdered cleanser shaker is easy and fast to make from an empty cleanser container. If you never, ever purchase a store-bought cleaner, have a friend or family member save an empty container for you.  All you need is a mason jar, a ring (you can reuse rings that are no longer suitable for canning), a can opener, and an existing powder cleanser shaker container. I’ve also included a quick and easy recipe for an all-purpose household cleanser powder.

What you need:

Mason Jar
Jar canning ring
Can opener
Powder Cleaner Shaker Container with METAL top – Empty

Clean the top of the empty powder cleaner container.

Use a can opener to cut the metal shaker top from the can. For most cardboard type powder cleaner containers, the can opener cuts the shaker top to the exact measurements of the top of a regular mouth mason jar (I used a pint jar, 16 ounces). Be careful. The container lid may be sharp.

Place the metal shaker top on top of a mason jar.

Screw down the ring.

Easy Household All-Purpose Powdered Cleanser

1 cup baking soda
1 cup table salt
1 cup borax

Mix well. Use as you would any all-purpose powdered household cleaner.

Look for other helpful, handy projects in my Index of Entries:

Homemade Biodegradable Fiber Seed-Starting/Transplanting Pots

In a previous blog entry, I wrote about how to make your own seed starter box from a biodegradable egg carton. This entry takes that concept a little further. If you’re like me and start your seeds early indoors, sometimes the seedling begins to outgrow the little egg cup and needs transplanted to yet a larger pot before it can be moved to the garden.

Many seed and garden companies sell biodegradable fiber pots, but why buy something you can make for mere pennies? Sure, the homemade versions might not LOOK as pretty and uniform as they do when you buy them, but who has money to just bury in the ground? Using the lint from your dryer, newsprint or tissue paper, and other natural throw-aways such as egg shells or coffee grounds, you can create your own fiber pots in any size you desire.

What you need:

Dryer lint (about a grocery sack full)
Shredded newsprint or tissue paper
Coffee grounds * optional
Egg shells (ground finely) *optional
Liquid starch
Large bowl
2 bowls that will “nest”
Plastic cup

In a very large bowl, place the dryer lint and shredded newsprint and/or tissue paper. I cut the tissue paper I used into narrow strips because it was faster. If you use tissue paper, be warned that colored paper will bleed dye when it gets wet with the starch.

You can add coffee grounds or finely ground egg shells if you desire as well. (The coffee filter can go in too, just shred it up into strips first).

Add about 1 cup of liquid starch. You can find liquid starch in the laundry aisle in grocery stores, drug stores, and dollar stores. Do NOT dilute the starch. Use it straight from the bottle.

Mix the ingredients well using your hand to squish it all together. Add more starch in ½ cups as needed to make a paste-like consistency.  Place a bowl on top of a plate. I’m using a plastic food storage container. Any container will work. Choose one that is the size you want your fiber pot to be. The pot will shrink some while drying, so overestimate rather than underestimate.  Dump the goopy mixture into the bowl.

Use your hands to spread the mixture up the sides of the bowl, making a depression that is “bowl-shaped”. Put your hand into a plastic cup (like you get from restaurants) and use it to “roll” the sides flat, and to flatten the bottom inside of your fiber pot.

When the fiber pot has taken shape inside of the container, set it aside for 24 hours to dry.

Place a smaller bowl inside of the fiber pot that is partially dry now. Place the plate over the top of the container holding the partially dried fiber pot.

Invert the bowls/containers on top of the plate and allow to dry for 48 hours. The lint and starch and paper are dense and soak up the starch requiring a lot of drying time.

Slowly and carefully remove the top container, leaving the fiber pot, the inside smaller bowl (as a brace) on the plate for another 24 hours.

When the outside of the fiber pot is dry to the touch, pick it up carefully, removing it from the smaller bowl inside. Turn it right side up on top of the plate. If the inside is still damp allow it to sit on the plate and air dry until the fiber pot is entirely dry.

Fill with potting soil/mixture, transplant your seedling. When you water your seedling, do not over water, and make sure the fiber pot is on or in another container. Try to avoid getting too much water on the sides of the pot. When it is time to transplant the seedling/plant, place the entire fiber pot into the soil and cover. The fiber pot will dissolve and degrade in the soil.

Look for other helpful, handy projects in my Index of Entries:

Got Sauce? Homemade Barbeque Sauce

Got Sauce? Homemade Barbeque Sauce

I shop to stock my pantry instead of shopping to fill a specific menu on a nightly or weekly basis. Staples are bought as they go on sale or in bulk so I always have on hand what is needed. Sometimes I cheat and buy pre-made sauces, such as barbeque sauce. Occasionally I find I don’t have a store-bought item stocked, so it is necessary to make my own for whatever I have planned for the night’s dinner.

This barbeque sauce contains typical ingredients found in most kitchens. Cooking time is about an hour. The longer you cook it, the more it will thicken. It can be stored in the refrigerator an airtight container, such as a canning jar (Mason jar) or recycled jar, for about a month. Usually I double this recipe because I am feeding a small army. When doubling the recipe, I increase the water from 2 cups to 3 cups to begin with and then add up to 1 cup more only if the sauce thickens more than I prefer.


2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs onion powder
2 Tbs garlic powder
¼ tsp salt
1 Tbs chili powder
4 Tbs brown sugar
4 Tbs vinegar
4Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 c ketchup
1 tsp Tabasco or other similar hot sauce
1 tsp yellow mustard
2 cups water
6 oz can tomato paste

Add all ingredients except the can of tomato paste to a medium size (4 cups+) sauce pan. Bring to a boil, mixing with a wire whip until all ingredients are blended. Once the sauce has been brought to a rolling boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally and check to make sure the sauce is not scalding. Add the tomato paste, mixing well with a wire whip. Simmer uncover for 30 minutes or until sauce has cooked down to the desired thickness. Use in recipes hot or cool first, according to your needs.

Christopher Fulbright and I will be guests at ConDFW (Feb 21-23) in Addison, TX this Saturday. If you're in the area, we'd love to see you!
Here are our schedules for Saturday (we'll only be in attendance on Saturday): 2014 Guests of Honor -- Author: Kevin J. Anderson; Artist: Alain Viesca

Angeline Hawkes:
12 pm -- Predicting the Near Future

1 pm -- Size Matters! Monsters in Fiction

3 pm -- autographs/signings

4 pm  -- Star Wars vs. Star Trek: The Epic Battle (I am on Team Star Trek)

Christopher Fulbright:
2 pm -- The Return of Heroic Fantasy

3 pm -- signing/autographs

6 pm -- Horror 101: Exploring the Sub-genres

We'd love to see you there! (We will have limited copies of our books available for purchase/signing at our signing session).

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April 2015



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