Make-It-Yourself: Part 1

I always love it when I hear new tips for things that I can make myself that will either save money or work as an equivalent of an American product that we can’t get where we live. Here are just a couple helpful “make-it-yourself” items. I’ll keep posting more from time to time. Please share yours as well!

1)House cleaning with vinegar: Lots of people use vinegar for cleaning, but I had no idea just how many things could be cleaned with it! And it is SO cheap and can be found anywhere (I would imagine). There is a whole site called “Vinegar Tips” and on it there are TONS of uses for vinegar. It cleans counters, sinks, ovens, tea kettles (removes lime deposits), toilets, bathroom surfaces, stains in coffee mugs, tile, un-clogs drains, removes odors… I also love it because it is non-toxic.

2) Vanilla Extract: We can’t get vanilla extract here, so to save me from having to haul it over and risk having it open in my suitcase, in the past I have made it myself. Here is a recipe to make your own: 1/2 pint vodka + 4 vanilla beans. Slit the beans lengthwise and then cut into 3/4 inch pieces. Combine with vodka. Seal tightly and shake vigorously once daily for 30 days (though I was not that committed and just shook it when I remembered). I was surprised to actually find vanilla beans here in Russia! Otherwise they are light weight and easily mailed or carried over.

3) Maple Syrup: This isn’t very healthy, but if you are planning a pancake breakfast, it is likely that nutrition isn’t your top priority for the meal, right? We have inherited a couple of bottles of “Mapeline” (imitation maple flavor) from team members who have returned to the states, and it is great. Add 1/2 teaspoon to 2 cups of sugar and one cup of boiling water and you have a decent maple syrup substitute!


Do you have any good “make-it-yourself” items to share? If so, please share them in the comments!

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4 Responses to “Make-It-Yourself: Part 1”


  1. 1 alatvala February 15, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Ha ha! Just re-read the Mapeline section and realized i made it sound like you couldn’t care about nutrition and still make a pancake breakfast.That’s not what I meant, so i edited it. Oops!

  2. 2 Vicky Hudgins February 15, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Hey Ashley, I love reading your posts here because it helps me to understand just how different your life really is living over there! Seriously when we talk I never think to myself, “Ashley, has to make her own Vanilla Extract”!

    Wow, you are even more awesome in my book now:) You are amazing friend.

  3. 3 alatvala February 15, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    You’re sweet, Vicky. You are raising twin babies right now, so I return the admiration for what you do. Well, I have actually only made one batch of vanilla (which was actually quite fun) but other than that I have received vanilla as gifts from people or have inherited bottles from people returning to the US. I am happy to know how to do it though so I don’t have to worry about running out! If you look into it online, there are some people who swear that making your own tastes way better and who go crazy about ordering all sorts of special beans. Also, you can make your own and put it in pretty decorative bottles and give it as gifts!

  4. 4 Gina Marie March 7, 2009 at 12:53 am

    Interesting idea about the vanilla beans! I don’t know if I could find those, so I’m thankful I can find vanilla extract. One year I wanted to make a creme de menthe pie, but I couldn’t get any of the ingredients – oreo cookie pie crust, marshmallow creme, whipped cream, or creme de menthe. Through a lot of online searching and some help from friends (including begging for just three shots of mint flavoring from some very confused Chinese Starbuck’s workers) we managed to make it all. Living overseas certainly breeds creativity and innovation!


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