Tag Archives: DIY

DIY Birdhouses

September 5, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Mark and Leslie Kwasnieski want birdhouses to be properly crafted and well-kept so that every bird can find its own comfortable home. 

“When you drive around in the country, a lot of the birdhouses you see on fence posts belong to bluebirds,” Mark says. “Cowbirds then come in and lay their eggs with the bluebirds, so the bluebirds take care of the cowbirds’ eggs and raise them—because the cowbird is much bigger, when it gets older it pushes the bluebirds out of the nest causing them to die.”

Leslie continues: “That’s why you tailor the hole to the bird.”

They educate people on birds and birdhouses through the Nebraska Master Naturalist Program. The nonprofit program is dedicated to training environmentally conscious volunteers in the classroom and the field.

Leslie holds a master’s degree in biology. She initially joined the program to work with recovering birds of prey at Fontenelle Forest’s Raptor Recovery. Encouraged by the experience, she became a board member of the Nebraska Master Naturalist in 2011. 

Nowadays, the Kwasnieskis often visit local nature centers and preserves with their grandchildren. Mark has even held demonstrations on how to build a small and simple birdhouse roofed with a license plate at Heron Haven Nature Center in West Omaha. 

The couple donates their birdhouses to Nebraska Master Naturalist programs, such as those at Hitchcock Nature Center, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, Glacier Creek Preserve, and Heron Haven. 

Mark says anyone with $4 for materials, a basic understanding of craftsmanship, and the necessary tools can build a birdhouse topped with a license plate.

Materials:

  • One 1-by-6-inch (actual width is 5 ½ inches by 72 inches), 6-foot-long cedar fence picket (dog-eared). “Make sure the wood is cedar because cedar has natural oils in it that keep insects from eating it,” Mark says.
  • One old license plate (this can be picked up at a thrift store or garage sale)
  • Four roofing nails
  • 14 (1 ½-inch) deck screws

Tools:

  • Table saw or handsaw
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Electric drill with a 3/8-inch and 1/4-inch drill bit and a 1 ¼-inch hole saw
  • Screwdriver or bits for the drill.

Instructions:

Step 1: Measure and cut the board. Starting at the bottom of the picket, cut two 6-inch-long pieces for the sides; cut another 6-inch piece for the bottom; and cut two 9-inch-long pieces for the front and back. 

Step 2: On the 9-inch pieces, measure 6 inches from the bottom and make a mark. Do this on both edges. From those marks, make lines to the top center of the boards with a ruler. The lines will be at 45-degree angles from the 6-inch marks (for a 90-degree roofline). Cut the wood along the lines. 

Step 3: Select one of the 9-inch pieces as the front of the house. Measure 3 inches from the point and mark. Cut an entry hole using the 1 ¼-inch hole saw on your drill. 

Step 4: Pre-drill six holes, three on each of the edges of the front of the house with the 3/8-inch drill bit. Attach the two 6-inch pieces to the edges of the front of the house with six screws, making all of the bottoms even. Repeat to attach the back of the house.

Step 5: Place this framed birdhouse on the remaining 6-inch board. From the top looking into the birdhouse frame, outline the inside with the pencil so that you know how much material to trim away. The board should fit into the base of the birdhouse. Drill four 1/4-inch holes in the bottom piece for ventilation and drainage. Use two screws to attach this to the rest of the frame, one per side. 

If the bottom has a loose fit, you may need an additional screw on a third side. Remove the screws in the spring to dislocate the base for cleaning.

Step 6: Bend a license plate in half from short end to short end until it reaches a 90-degree angle, making sure it is still readable, and place it atop the birdhouse. You’ll need four roofing nails (two for each side) to hold the license plate tight on the birdhouse. You can use exterior caulk to seal the license plate to the birdhouse frame and fill in under the roofing nailheads.

Step 7 (OPTIONAL): If you want to add a perch, you can use a nail, screw, or a twig. Drill a hole based on the size of what you are using. Pound the nail partially in or add the screw. If you use a twig, make the hole then glue the twig into the hole with waterproof glue. 


Visit snr.unl.edu/naturalist for more information about the Nebraska Master Naturalist Program.

This article was printed in the September/October 2018 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Be Your Own Pit Boss

July 17, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Growing up on a farm in northern Minnesota, barbecue enthusiast Gary Dunteman learned many skills. “When you’re a farm kid, you’ve got to be your own mechanic, you’ve got to be your own carpenter—you’ve got to learn how to do everything.” 

At 13, his dad taught him how to weld to fix machinery. Now his welding comes in handy as he tries out various techniques to create the perfect smoker.

Dunteman once built a 120-gallon smoker with a customized rotisserie rack out of an old air compressor tank from a service station. “People look at it and ask, ‘What is that?’” he says. “I can do 16 racks of ribs at one time.” 

He competes in statewide barbecue competitions on the team Hawgenz Heroz, and he gets a lot of looks when traveling to contests in his decommissioned ambulance. “I call her Rosalie,” he says. The ambulance used to serve the village of Rosalie, Nebraska. “Everybody should have an ambulance. An ambulance has a lot of storage room.” 

Dunteman, who works in packaging sales, first became interested in meat smoking when his former warehouse manager built a barrel smoker. “He brought it into work one day and made some ribs on it. I thought that was the most awesome thing that ever happened.” So Dunteman taught himself how to make his own smoker by watching “ugly drum smoker” videos on YouTube. 

Dunteman says his specialty air compressor smoker would be difficult for most grilling enthusiasts to make (due to the types of tools necessary). But he says that anyone can build their own barrel smoker. Dunteman built his in an afternoon and it cost him around $100 in materials. 

Steps: First, treat your barrel by “starting a big old fire” in it with wood and charcoal to season it. “You want to get it smoked up before you actually start cooking the meat in it.” He then took pieces from an old 21-inch Weber Grill. He repurposed the racks and used the bottom of the grill to make the lid. If you don’t have an old grill, you can purchase a smoker cover and a replacement cooking grate for the racks separately. 

To make the coal basket, he attached four carriage bolts to the bottom of the rack and then attached a 6-inch piece of expanded steel around it to make a basket. “I wrapped it around it and wired it to the rack.” He removed the handle from the side of the grill and put it on top of the smoker lid. He then drilled holes in the bottom of the barrel and attached caster wheels. 

He also put in a suspended water pan (a disposable aluminum dish) between the coal basket and the rack of meat. “The water simmers and keeps it moist and steams the meat as it’s getting smoked, so it doesn’t dry out the meat.” He recommends buying a smoker cover to protect from the rain. Dunteman says if taken care of, a barrel smoker will last a very long time, giving the user many years of savory memories.

Materials Needed 

  • 55-gallon refurbished steel barrel ($29.99 from Jones Barrel Co.) 
  • 4 caster wheels
  • Replacement cooking grate or a secondhand grate sourced from a 21-inch Weber Grill
  • Expanded sheet steel (12-by-24 inches)
  • 4 carriage bolts
  • Smoker cover
  • Disposable aluminum dish for water pan

Aside from the 55-gallon barrel, all of these parts can be purchased at local hardware stores.

This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Entryway

June 20, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

July is always a busy time of year—full of activities, family reunions, picnics, baseball games, etc. And don’t forget barbecues! 

This issue, I’m passing the DIY baton to another do-it-yourself guru. Gary Dunteman is a competitive barbecue champ who really knows how to smoke the competition. He shares advice on making a  homemade barrel smoker.

With the current food-themed edition of OmahaHome, I’d also like to share a favorite family recipe—Catalina Chicken—named after the dressing. This dish is simple, healthy, and looks as delicious as it tastes.

Ingredients: 

• 4-6 large skinless, boneless chicken breasts (thawed if frozen)

• 1 large can of “whole berry” cranberry sauce
(I use Ocean Spray)

• 1 large bottle of Catalina salad dressing

• 1 packet of dry Lipton Onion Soup Mix

• White rice (serving size enough for each person)

Directions:

  1. In a large 8-by-13-inch pan, mix the whole berry cranberry mixture, 3/4 of the large bottle of Catalina dressing, and the whole packet of Lipton soup mix (this will make a thick sauce).
  2. Place all of the chicken down in the mixture, making sure you cover all the pieces.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.
  4. Place one chicken breast with extra sauce over bed of white rice.

Tip: A Greek salad with an Italian vinaigrette makes a great side for this dish!

Here’s to a safe and wonderful holiday, and don’t forget the men and women of the U.S. armed forces who have ensured the gift of freedom that we enjoy every day.

Also, on a very special personal note, I had the honor of seeing my second grandchild, Stella Rose, come into the world this May. Big brother River, not yet 1 year old, was right there for her debut. These two are so adorable, I could just eat them up. 

Cheers! 


Sandy Matson is the contributing editor for OmahaHome.

Succulent Style

May 14, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Succulents are a hot trend, blooming in popularity not just because of their unique beauty—they’re also easy to propagate and nearly indestructible.

More than 25 different plant families contain succulents, with varieties ranging from cacti to yucca, aloes, agave, bromeliads, and even orchids. The word “succulent” is derived from the Latin word sucus, which translates to “juice” or “sap.” The plants are native to deserts and arid climates.

“All cactus are succulents, but not all succulents are cactus,” says master gardener Kathy Bokelman-Zeeb of Papillion. “I couldn’t even take a guess at the number of succulents. They would be at least in the thousands.”

Before starting this DIY project, I decided to get an expert opinion. Gardening gurus directed me to Bokelman-Zeeb. I also searched the web to educate myself on the do’s and don’ts of succulents.
One common mistake is overwatering. This is (most likely) the No. 1 way for a novice gardener to kill their succulents. Succulents need watering when the soil feels dry, but Bokelman-Zeeb says each calls for different care.

“Preferably, you water on a sunny day so they dry out better—rather than a cool day because succulents don’t want to sit in water—you don’t want to encourage rot or mold in the soil,” Bokelman-Zeeb says. “In warmer months I water a lot more, but over the winter, you might only water once every month to keep the little rootlets from drying out.”

She recommends using very loose soil that drains well (there are several brands of potting soil intended specifically for succulents/cacti) and a pot that has holes for water drainage. Non-draining pots can be used but require more attention.

To ensure longevity and beauty of the plants, make sure to fertilize. Bokelman-Zeeb says the fertilizer should be diluted to one-fourth strength in water.

Above all, have fun with your succulents—whether you choose to group them for slower growth, or pot them alone and watch them grow. Let your imagination go wild. Possibilities are endless when it comes to planting succulents. No matter the style of décor—rustic, classic, or modern—they go well everywhere!


Items for this project:

  • Shallow bowl, preferably with holes (which can be drilled if not already present)
  • 12-15 succulents in many varieties
  • Succulent fertilizer
  • Succulent/cactus soil
  • River rocks or small pebbles
  • Activated filter carbon (found at pet stores)
  • Decorative moss (optional)
  • Battery-operated string of lights (optional)

Instructions:

  • Step 1: 
Place a layer of activated filter carbon on the bottom of the pot for drainage.
  • Step 2: 
Add your succulent soil. Fill 1/4-inch from the top of the pot.
  • Step 3: 
Take each succulent out of its container. Place them on top of the soil (move them around until you find the best placement).
  • Step 4
: Scoop out soil for appropriate holes. Plant succulents in about the same depth as their previous container/pot. Tap firmly around roots to set plants securely.
  • Step 5: 
Place a thin layer of pebbles or granite chips on the soil for top cover. This helps keep the moisture away from the base of the plants.
  • Step 6 (optional): 
Use some decorative moss and battery-operated lights to illuminate the arrangement.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Horses, Mavericks, and Pitbulls—It’s an Animal of a Weekend

April 12, 2018 by

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Pick of the Week—Thursday, April 12 to Sunday, April 15: The International Omaha (Horse show) is back! If you go, be sure to attend the InIt2WinIt, featuring local ladies Brooke and Karen Cudmore. Don’t have a ticket? Don’t worry, there’s plenty of free fun at the Horse Discovery Zone and in the tailgate lounge. The daytime competitions are also free. No time for horsing around, though. Get all the details you’ll need here.

Friday, April 13: “What happens when art behaves badly?” If this is a question you’ve asked yourself but have yet to discover the answer to, then you should get to I Like Your Work: Art & Etiquette Opening Reception at the Omaha Creative Institute. Interdisciplinary artist Sarah Hummel Jones is bringing together artists from Brooklyn, Montreal, and Omaha who challenge art world etiquette. Joel Damon will give a performative lecture on that topic. Learn more here.

Saturday, April 14th: The University of Nebraska at Omaha’s student newspaper,  The Gateway, will host its first-ever fundraising Run the Press 5k fun run/walk at Memorial Park this Saturday. The Gateway has been the university’s source for news and opinion for students, faculty, and alumni since 1913 and we want to ensure they keep going. So Omaha Magazine is proudly sponsoring this event in the hopes they keep growing and guiding UNO students in the communications fields. Please register here to help us keep a good thing going.

Saturday, April 14th: Spend the day with some DIY nerds at Omaha Zine Fest 2018. You won’t find a more enthusiastic group of creatives than those at this festival. With over 100 zine creators from around the Midwest and beyond, this is an excellent opportunity to pick their brains and find out how they do it. Besides the free knowledge you’ll gain, there will also be live screen printing, a tintype photo booth, and free coffee from Mug Life. Did we mention the tasty food available from Omaha’s Awesome Eggrolls and Fauxmaha? Get the full day’s rundown here.

Saturday, April 14th: Don’t let the weather deter you from doing good. Rain, snow, or shine, Pasta for Pits! (and All Breeds) is still a great cause to stuff yourself for. Hosted by Helping Hand for Animals, this delicious dinner will help raise funds and awareness for rescue dogs in need of homes and love. So get to Boulder Creek Amusement Park and show your support. There will also be a silent auction and home-baked goodies you can take with you if you’ve eaten too much to enjoy the mini dessert bar. Lend your helping hand by clicking here.

Saturday, April 14th to Sunday April 15th: It’s crafty time! Head to the Pioneer Craft, Antique, and Junk Show at the Mall of the Bluffs in the old Target to find some new additions for your collections. For two whole days, you can dig through handmade crafts, antiques, and repurposed junk until just the right piece jumps out at you. So cross the bridge and start your junk jaunting early. Head here for more details and to find out how you can get a discount on admission. 

Sunday, April 15th: While it might not feel like spring outside this weekend, you can still hear the sounds of spring when you head to Gardens—Flowers—Bugs Concert at the Omaha Conservatory of Music. Be sure to bring the whole family, as children under 12 get in free. Hosted by the Nebraska Wind Symphony, this concert is guaranteed to blow you away, so hold on to your kiddos. Spring into action and get your tickets here.

 

Radical Inclusion

April 10, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For the uninitiated, zines are small, handmade magazines typically made from standard printer paper folded, cut, and stapled together. Variations of the form exist, and subjects are limited only by interest: journalism, politics, art, activism, poetry, fan fiction, DIY, superheroes. Anything cool, hip, instructive, subversive, or enlightening is fit to print.

No matter how you slice the printer paper, Omaha Zine Fest is cool and getting cooler by the year. How cool? Cool enough for Vice Magazine to include OZF as the Nebraska entry in their series “50 States of Art.” Founded in 2016 by Andrea Kszystyniak, Daphne Calhoun, and Kaitlin McDermott, OZF has grown. The March 2017 fest at The Union for Contemporary Art drew hundreds of artists and fans from the Omaha metro and across the Midwest to buy, sell, trade, share, and learn.

Kszystyniak is a Rhode Island native who studied journalism at the University of Missouri and moved to Omaha in 2013. Her personal philosophy is radical inclusion. Her interest in zines started because she was, like many artists, a discipline case.

“I was grounded a lot as a kid, so I was often trapped at home and forced to amuse myself,” Kszystyniak says. “I spent a lot of time engaging with people online and really growing my understanding of art and DIY culture that way.”

A voracious consumer of music and music journalism, Kszystyniak was influenced by the feminist punk Riot Grrrl scene of the ’90s.

“Zines were a huge part of that culture, so I really grew to love them as a medium that way,” Kszystyniak says. “I used to play around on this now-defunct mail art forum called nervousness.org when I was a younger teen. The website encouraged you to collaboratively make and share work with people across the globe. A huge part of that forum was exchanging art, zines, collages…whatever.”

Daphne Calhoun came to Omaha from Grand Island to study social work and public health. For her, zines are great because anyone can get involved.

“You don’t have to have a resume,” Calhoun says. “You can make anything you want to do: DIY, poetry, science fiction, fantasy. The sky is the limit.”

Calhoun worked previously at Valiant Studios, an art and music studio for individuals with developmental disabilities.

“One of my favorite zine memories is compiling an art zine with them. Accessibility is the only thing that matters to me, and zines are such an accessible medium,” says Calhoun who once got her grandmother to make a short zine about interdimensional space aliens. “You don’t need to be an expert or have any expensive equipment. All you need is paper and some scissors and anyone can make a zine.”

In the spirit of radical inclusion and accessibility, Omaha Zine Fest has a safer spaces policy to provide for an open-minded, nonthreatening, and respectful environment where participants learn from one another. It is the essence of the festival, according to Kszystyniak.

“The everyday person needs an outlet to speak out against injustice or even just to teach others things,” Kszystyniak says. “Our No. 1 goal is to make sure everyone comes in and is comfortable and feels safe spending time in a creative community with everyone else there. Our priority is always accessibility, safety, and radical inclusion. It’s really the reason we started the fest in the first place: to make sure everyone has a place at the table.”

Visit omahazinefest.org for more information. The 2018 Omaha Zinefest is April 14 (11 a.m.-5 p.m.) at The Union for Contemporary Arts.

From top: Andrea Kszystyniak and Daphne Calhoun

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Moroccan Door DIY

March 7, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Costa Rican fine artist Elisa Morera Benn and her husband, Dr. Douglas Benn (a professor in the Creighton School of Dentistry), are patrons of the arts. Their stylish home located near Leavenworth Street features great views of downtown Omaha and a vast array of compelling works of art—a mix of hers and others.

Benn’s surrealistic artworks are also showcased around town at places like the Artists’ Cooperative Gallery, the Jewish Community Center, and Hot Shops Art Center. Benn—whose work has been featured at the Louvre in Paris—studied with art masters in Costa Rica and has been a professional artist for over 35 years. A popular theme of her work is children and women who have overcome obstacles.

Just off Benn’s home art studio in the basement, however, is a guest room that features a fully functional and wholly different type of art. Benn transformed the back of an ordinary bookshelf into a pleasing, extraordinary work of art—a portal, if you wish, to other lands.

The bookshelf divided the guest room that also includes a small office area. So, Benn painted the back into the style of a mythical Moroccan door to transform it into an “attractive, surrealistic gateway for the guest.” Her inspiration? The royal arches and neon lights of Morocco. “I love the Morocco style. I have never been in this country, but it is on my bucket list,” she says. 

The project took her about three days and cost less than $75. She was inspired to create the door after finding the Moroccan handles on sale at a craft store. Her array of tools also included acrylic paint, masking tape, dimensional texture acrylic paint, some chalk, glass tiles, flat and clear glass gems, flat and round metal pieces, and a ruler. 

She first Googled examples of Moroccan doors, then she chose her favorite model. “I transferred the design to the back of the bookcase, measured it with a ruler, and then marked it with chalk.” She then put masking tape around the border to prepare for painting. She used Moroccan blue, brown, white, and black. After painting with the plain colors, Benn used a dimensional fabric paint for clothes called “Tulip Slip Black” to paint the flowers and symbols. “This gives you an acrylic texture,” she says.

Benn then finished by adding the handles, round metal, flat and clear glass gems, and glass tiles. “The glass gives you the sensation of looking at a wall with a nice Moroccan door.”

Through her handiwork, Benn created a passageway that often surprises and delights visitors to the Benns’ home. The creative door serves as a continual reminder of her wish to travel to Morocco one day and gives her guests something nice to look at. “As an artist, I love the intervention of making artistic things with normal pieces. Blending new things with old things is part of my inspiration.”

Items used:

  • Free-standing bookcase
  • Moroccan handles
  • Acrylic paint: Moroccan blue, brown, white, and black
  • Dimensional fabric paint (Tulip Slip Black)
  • Ruler
  • Masking tape
  • Chalk (two pieces)
  • Pieces of flat, round metal (approximately 16) the size of a nickel
  • Flat, clear glass gems (approximately 26)
  • Glass tiles (1-by-2-inch tiles, approximately 200)

Visit the artist’s website at artistamorera.com for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Entryway

February 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Spring has officially sprung, and I am itching to spruce things up around my house—inside and out.

In other words, spring cleaning. Washing the windows is typically the first item on the list, but this is not as fun as changing my throw pillows or creating floral arrangements to add something more colorful and lighter to coordinate with the new season. Combining succulents with bold colors and metallics is a hot trend (and I’m planning to experiment with them at my own home). I also take the opportunity to weed through my closet and transition to my spring/summer wardrobe.

Normally I create a spring DIY project, but after my yearlong room makeover we decided to change things a bit and feature some new creative talent out there in our city. This issue spotlights a painting project by a professional artist whose love of Moroccan style helped turn an ordinary bookshelf into a portal of sorts.

Omaha architect Steve Ginn spent five years designing a picturesque woodland masterpiece situated on 20 acres in Tennessee. If you love nature and being surrounded by it in almost every sense, you will love this tranquil home.

Does mixing old and new styles ever get old? The Nabitys would say no, as that is exactly their style—rustic elegance. It turns out you don’t have to live at Cape Cod to get the look and feel of being there, minus the ocean.  Hopefully some of these homes or projects will inspire warm weather decorating ideas of your own.

I enjoy that spring is also the beginning of yard sale season. It’s a great way to pick up some great bargains for new weekend projects on a budget.

If you have something you just have to share with the rest of us DIYers, email me at sandy@omahapublications.com. I love to hear from fellow decorators and creatives. 

This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of OmahaHome.

Sandy Matson is the contributing editor for Omaha Home.

Makin’ Bacon

February 12, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Perfecting a fat slab of bacon at home is a skill worth practicing. Your friends and family will thank you.

Bacon is made by dry-curing or brining pork belly and then smoking the slab(s). Most store-bought bacons use nitrites and nitrates as a preservative, come from commercial farms, and are often frozen and thawed. If you have access to pigs—or know a farmer—you can make bacon locally sourced from organic pork, and you can make fresh bacon without the synthetic preservatives.

Nitrites and nitrates save the bacon’s color, prevent the fat from going rancid, and inhibit bacteria growth. But there are competing opinions about the health impact of consuming nitrites/nitrates, and the World Health Organization has linked the compounds to cancer in humans.

As an alternative, salt can be used in larger quantities to brine and essentially cure your at-home bacon. It won’t keep as long as nitrite/nitrate-rich bacon, but you’ll find the slab disappearing quickly once you get a taste of it.

SMOKED JALAPENO BACON RECIPE 

I use the same brine for many things that end up on the smoker. The ratios are easy to remember and simple to adjust as needed. In the end, it produces consistent results. It is actually a modification from a Betty Crocker turkey brine recipe I found many years ago. A similar whole brined turkey recipe is still offered by Betty Crocker. I have been toying with the same basic ratios of that recipe and they work for many meats.

The duration of the soak and the presence of additions such as brown sugar and sliced jalapeños make this brine a bit different than that of your Thanksgiving turkey.

—3 pounds pork belly
—1 pound sliced jalapeños
(or more)
—1 gallon water
—1 cup kosher salt, or more to taste
—1 pound brown sugar (or if you’re me, you’ll use the whole bag—be warned, this bacon will then burn in the frying pan if not carefully tended to. But it’s worth it.)
—1 tablespoon peppercorns
—1 tablespoon coarse ground pepper (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Trim the skin from your pork belly, if you prefer.

In a large bowl, crush the jalapeño slices thoroughly. This aids in extraction.

In a large boiling pot, boil one gallon of water. Remove from heat.

Stir in salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, and jalapeños. Simmer until cool.

Submerge the pork belly in the brine. Refrigerate for 7-14 days.

Remove the pork belly from the brine after 7-14 days and rinse. Pat dry.

Rub the pork with ground pepper if you like.

Smoke indirectly at around 200 F for 3-4 hours.

Your bacon is done. Slice it. Fry it.

Go ahead and try a strip, and then tell me if you don’t eat the whole slab soon after.

The same general recipe works for other smoked meats with minor modification to the instructions. For example, try this same recipe with trout, but don’t leave them in the brine for more than 24 hours. Try it on chicken breasts (depending on the cut, smoke for 2-4 hours) or pork ribs (which could smoke for 6 hours or more). Be adventurous.

Feeding your friends and family delicious homemade bacon is a great way to make them appreciate you.

Visit Betty Crocker at bettycrocker.com/recipes/brined-whole-turkey for the brined whole turkey recipe that inspired this smoked jalapeño bacon recipe.

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home.

My Thrifty Oasis

January 8, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With a new year, we all like to start with a clean slate. It’s a chance to do things differently, with more attention to purpose. That was my intention when I started this yearlong renovation of an unused room in my home.

My goal was to create a personal oasis that was not only functional but also serene. I wanted a simple, clean, and elegant look that would stand the test of time.

As I assessed the space, I struggled to decide on the color palette. I finally chose a white-on-white scheme with gold undertones. Actually painting the room, however, would have to wait until the end of the year because my focus would be on each and every DIY piece going in the space.

These individual installments were the basis of my yearlong DIY series in Omaha Home. Starting each project, I had to consider the sequence and time of year for each installment. Photo shoots were outside, which allowed me to add a personal touch to the visuals of the story without spoiling readers’ anticipation for this grand reveal.

Let’s recap the five projects that led to this point. For any readers wondering about the black dress I wore in each photo, you can read the backstory in my opening letter to this issue. Catch a glimpse of the dress in the photos of the finished room, too.

Coffee Filter Light 

Lighting is crucial for setting the mood of any room. But who knew coffee filter light fixtures could turn into something this glamorous?

My first project in this series showcased my first-ever attempt at creating a coffee filter lamp. After 15 hours of folding and hot-gluing coffee filters, this turned out to be much more time-intensive than I had anticipated. The end result, however, offers a great bang for your buck.

Wall-mounted Vases

Having a beautiful arched window in my room was pure luck, so I didn’t want to hide it with heavy window coverings. I wanted to accentuate the window’s design elements. I love what shutters do on outside-facing windows, so I tried to duplicate that look on the inside. Using some dock wood leftover from a prior DIY project, and some paint, the reclaimed wood made the perfect backdrop for my wall-mounted vases.

Repaired Vintage Chairs

Some might see junk at thrift stores. I see winning lottery tickets just waiting for me. It’s all about perception, right? A pair of classic vintage chairs—discovered while thrifting—found a new home in my remodeled room. The happy duo are fabulously seated in front of the window. They also happen to be my favorite DIY project to date.

Repurposed Vanity

A buffet turned vanity? Yep, you can repurpose any piece of furniture, and this shining star got a head-to-toe makeover in soft metallic gold paint. The paint I splurged on (funny how far you can stretch one little jar of paint if you get creative).

Mantel Makeover

The mantel offers a decorative focal point to the room. All it needed was a good sanding (and a coat of the same white paint used throughout the room remodel) to tie everything together.

Once the DIY projects were complete, I recruited my professional friends from Marco Shutters to help me maximize the small closet space. They even designed additional shelving for shoes, jewelry, purses, and accessories. Although I wanted to add softness around the windows, I needed something for privacy while adding elegance. Shutters were the perfect finishing touch.

While all of this was underway, I got to work painting the walls, trim, baseboard, and ceiling. My steps were inverted compared to how I would normally approach a room makeover, as I typically paint a room first, adding the furniture and design components later. Nevertheless, it all came together perfectly. As the grand reveal drew closer, I felt so good about each design decision made along the way.

My favorite part of the remodeling process was placing all of the DIY projects in their designated spots and decorating the completed room. The end result was the boutique-like experience I was seeking, a seamless balance of design and function. As it turns out, you do not have to sacrifice elegance for being thrifty.

Visit readonlinenow.com to review the six previous installments in this DIY room remodeling series in Omaha Home

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Home