Monday, December 30, 2013

Quick and Free DIY Luminaries!

For a few weeks, I have been saving paper towel and toilet paper rolls with dreams of making traditional Christmas crackers filled with little treats and paper hats. Alas, Christmas has come and gone with no crackers. But I wanted to put all of those cardboard tubes to use, so last night I punched up these little luminaries.

It's so easy that I don't really consider this a tutorial--I feel that it would be insulting to you, my crafty reader. So I've distilled this project into one easy equation:

Cardboard Tube + Hole Punch + White Craft Paper + Double-sided Tape + Battery-operated LED votive = Glowing, Flickering Mantle Magic!

Because I just have a standard little hole punch, I did have to get crafty to reach all areas of the tubes. I ended up folding them in half vertically and punching through two layers of cardboard along the sides. I'd be an irresponsible blogger if I didn't remind you to use battery operated candles only; flames in paper tubes would be bad news. Be creative and enjoy!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Ho Ho Homemade Holidays: DIY Christmas Round Up

Last year, my mom's family made an agreement that for Christmas 2013, we would all exchange homemade gifts. I'm a last-minute Christmas DIYer. Always have been, probably always will be. So it was especially fun for me to hear the rest of the family talk about the last-minute Christmas craft scramble!

Even though hand making gifts can be incredibly stressful, and I always end up asking myself whether it's worth it, seeing how much time and effort everyone put into their creative gifts made this Christmas so special. It's easy to feel burdened and overwhelmed at the holidays, but exchanging homemade gifts really reminded me that generosity comes in many forms. When someone makes you a gift, they are also giving you the time they invested in it. It's a non-refundable, non-exchangeable gift that we should all appreciate more. Everybody came up with such creative projects, I'd like to share them with you:

I gave cheese board making a try. I learned about this fantastic program in Michigan called Urbanwood. Basically, local sawmills are allowed to collect dead urban trees, rather than forcing cities to bear the expense of removing the trees and sending them to the wood chipper. The mills process the wood into usable planks or rounds and sell them at local Habitat for Humanity ReStores. I purchased three slabs of walnut at the Flint, Michigan ReStore. They were so naturally beautiful that I really only had to clean up the edges, drill and router holes, sand the surfaces, and apply mineral oil. I absolutely love the results (and I'll probably need to make another batch, because I am noticeably lacking a cheese board now)!

For my camping-enthused relatives, I made a canvas firewood sling loosely inspired by this one and a bag of paraffin wax fire starters. I also threw in a jar of matches with sandpaper glued to the lid for striking.

My mom made these awesome necklaces out of washers, scrapbook paper, and resin. Seriously! Metal washers! She also made several super cool birdbaths out of thrift store lamps and glass ceiling light domes. But--womp womp--I forgot to take pictures of the baths :(

My Uncle Jim made me this gorgeous ring out of shed deer antler! He cut a thin round from the base of the antler (I think) and used his Dremel to drill a hole in it. It's like wearing a piece of art!

My Aunt Amy made me a beautiful cuff bracelet out of scrapbook paper, Mod Podge, and a metal base. I absolutely love the colors. This project could easily be tailored for anyone on your gift list. My aunt is also an extraordinarily talented photographer. She took a picture of the hubs and me and very neatly cut around our outlines. Then she inserted us into a picture frame with an photo of bursting fireworks as a backdrop. She included photos of sunsets, rainbows, a weathered barn, a Christmas light display. We can change the background to match our moods--it's like having a new set of vacation photos without leaving the house.

Even Cousin Max got in on the fun by making all of us beaded keychains--I love my turtle!

And, last but certainly not least, my most ardent and loyal reader, Debbie, gave me a small pyramid crafted from beautifully marbled paper from Primrose Paper Arts. I can't wait to display it on my desk.
I couldn't be more happy that we decided to craft as a family . . . and I know we're all planning for next year. Be creative and enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book Page Christmas Tree

I had an afternoon lull at work, so you know what that means--another book page craft! We are in poinsettia overload at the branch, so I thought something a little less . . .living . . .would be a good addition to our holiday decor. This was a ridiculously simple, if somewhat time-consuming, project.

Cardstock, poster board, or a styrofoam cone
Pages from an unreadable book (mine was heavily damaged and ready to be tossed), cut into strips of varying widths (wide for bottom, narrow for top)
Holiday spirit

I started with two 11x17 sheets of cardstock taped together. I curved them into a cone, taped along the seam, and trimmed the bottom so the cone was flat when vertical.

I affixed to book pages around the bottom of the cone, just to cover any gaps in the first row of loops. Next I took strips of old book pages and formed them into loops. To form the loop, hold the strip flat, one end in each hand. Then curve the two ends together, placing one on top of the other. You can control how loose or tight the loop is by rotating the ends. When you have the loop how you prefer, simply staple the ends together.

Working around the tree, I taped loops to the cone, starting with larger loops at the bottom and finishing with narrower loops at the top. I filled in once I completed the rows. A little glitter and an origami star on top and Voila! Super inexpensive DIY Christmas decor! I originally saw this idea using loops of burlap; it made a cute, rustic tree. I'm thinking that any ribbon would be perfect. Maybe double-sided wrapping paper? Be creative and enjoy!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Ikea Hack: DIY Sunburst Kolja Mirror for less than $20

In my previous post, I revealed my made-over dining room. Although I'm still accessorizing, I didn't want to leave the walls blank. DIY wall decor was an absolute necessity. I love the look of sunburst mirrors. Retro but chic. Delicate but substantial. I especially love large sunburst mirrors, but I'm not so crazy about the large price tags that often accompany them. There are tons of DIY sunburst mirrors out there to look at, so I knew before I started this project that there were a few key characteristics that really appealed to me: a large mirror as a base, slender spokes that are close together and of varying lengths. This mirror from Apartment Therapy was especially inspiring to me.

I started with the Kolja round mirror from IKEA. At $14.99 for a 22 in. mirror, I couldn't ask for a much cheaper base! Let me say right now, it is difficult to wield a large mirror with no frame. If you don't have a giant husband with a condor-like wingspan, you might want to reconsider the scale here. I only had to purchase 2 packs of wooden barbeque skewers from the dollar store to complete this project--I had the other supplies on hand. .

Here are the supplies I used:
1 mirror
1 tube liquid nails (I didn't use anywhere near a full tube)
1 glue gun/sticks
2 packages wooden skewers (I got mine at the dollar store)
Nippers/tough scissors
Scrap wood
Paint or stain (optional)

First I counted and cut my skewers to the appropriate lengths. The measurements that follow resulted in a mirror that is 41" in diameter. It is perfect for filling up a large wall, but I want to reiterate that it is difficult to carry!

16  10.5-inch skewers
32  9-inch skewers
32  7.5-inch skewers
32  6-inch skewers
32  4.5-inch skewers
16  3-inch skewers

The bottom 1 inch of each skewer was used to adhere it to the back of the mirror, so the visible portion of each spoke is 1 inch shorter than the measurements above. Once all of the skewers were cut, I used liquid nails to affix a relatively large piece of scrap plywood to the back of the mirror. Liquid Nails makes an adhesive intended for mirrors, but the reviews on it are mixed. The manufacturer indicates that the adhesive alone isn't enough to support a mirror. Regular Liquid Nails, on the other hand, can de-silver the back of the mirror. I opted for regular Liquid Nails, figuring I'd rather take my chances with de-silvering than a total collapse. It has been on my wall for a few months with no adverse effects. This piece of plywood had two purposes: it gave me a way of hanging the mirror (I affixed the metal hanger to the wood) and it raised the mirror off of the wall so that it wasn't resting on the delicate skewers.

I measured the circle and divided it into sixteen even sections (yay math!). I ran a bead of Liquid Nails around the rim of the mirror. I placed the skewers with a one inch allowance on the back side. The adhesive does not harden immediately, so there is time to straighten the skewers. Once they were in place, I ran another bead on top of the skewers and used strips of wax paper to press down on the adhesive. Once the glue was dry, I trimmed up the excess paper. I used hot glue to reinforce any sticks that were still wiggly when the adhesive had dried. This is IMPORTANT: I weighted the plywood piece and allowed the Liquid Nails to dry for several days before I attempted to move it.

My aforementioned giant husband carried to mirror outside for me. I taped a sheet of plastic over the mirror's surface for protection, then spray-painted the spokes. In hindsight, I probably would have done this before gluing the skewers down. I painted my sunburst silver, but I also love the look of stained wood.

If you are a fan of sunburst mirrors, but don't want to spend hundreds of dollars to achieve the look, I hope you'll give this a try. Be creative and enjoy!

Dining Room Makeover for Less than $200!

One weekend at a time, my mom and I are determined to redo this old house! I eagerly (and perhaps a bit too ambitiously) volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner this year. I was feeling confident after the kitchen project, and knew that we could knock the dining room out, too.

I've been seeing board and batten tutorials online lately--I was excited to give it a try. Because the plaster under the wallpaper is in pretty bad shape (the bulges and cracks are a dead give away), and we aren't in a position to completely gut that room, I decided to paint over the wallpaper. One gallon of Killz was enough for two coats; it easily covered the very dated, floral paper.

For the top half of the walls, I painted a soft, bluish grey color that I had purchased for another room last year. Sherwin Williams Cashmere base is, bar none, the best paint I've ever used. It covered beautifully in one coat. I left the bottom half of the walls white in preparation for the budget board and batten. I'll write up a separate post about this project, but let me just say that it was incredibly satisfying!

I scoured Craigslist until I found a light fixture to replace the 80s ceiling fan. $40! Score! We removed the buzzing, bulky florescent light ballast from above the window seat and replaced it with thin strips of LEDs. A section of cove molding hid the strips and wires from view.

One of the most dramatic changes to the room was in the flooring. We ripped up the yellowed, plush carpet to reveal the beautiful, original maple floor. My hard-working dad sanded the floor down to its natural state. More pics to come in a later post of the floor.

I still have some accessorizing to do in this room, especially cushions for the window seat and some sort of window coverings. For the walls, floor, and lighting, here's the price break-down:

1 gallon Killz: $16
1 gallon White Paint: $25
1/2 gallon Grey Paint: Left over from another project. Free!
Light fixture: $40 on Craigslist
Ikea Dioder LED lights: $29.99
1 12 ft. length cove molding: $6
1 sheet MDF: $25
1 tube Liquid Nails: $4
Floor Sander Rental: $35
Wood Stain: $7

$188 for a total room makeover?!? I consider it a total win! Every time we tackle a project like this, I gain a little confidence to try something bigger, bolder, or more advanced next time. I hope you're inspired to do the same. Be creative and enjoy!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Making a 4 x 8 Christmas Photo Card With PicMonkey

You know those people who end up on the news every Christmas Eve, frantically scrambling through department stores searching for last-minute gifts? I'm like that. But the crafty version. Substitute department stores for Joann or Hobby Lobby, and that's me. I tell you this so that you'll understand how momentous my weekend project is: I designed a Christmas photo card and ordered prints. And it's not even Thanksgiving. Whoa.

I used my absolute favorite site, PicMonkey, to design a 4 x 8 card. Let me preface this post by saying that I am NOT being compensated by PicMonkey or VistaPrint--although if they are reading and want to compensate me . . . . just sayin.' I just had a clear picture in my mind of what I wanted to do, and these services helped make it a reality. Okay, on to the tutorial.

First I opened PicMonkey and clicked on Create a Collage.

I wanted to make a flat photo card. There are a variety of layout options--I chose just a simple two-photo spread.

I uploaded a photo for the left-hand side and one of the Winterland swatches for the right-hand side.

The next step is to save the collage! I always save mine as a .png for the better resolution, but it does take up more space. Once I double and triple-checked that my collage actually saved, I went back to the PicMonkey home screen and selected Edit a Photo. I chose my collage.

There are so many awesome photo-editing tools in PicMonkey. You'll notice little crowns next to some of the options--this means they are part of the upgraded service (aka, not included in the free version). You won't be able to use these features unless you pay up.

One tip I have learned the hard way: save often, but DON'T CLOSE THE TAB UNTIL YOU'RE SURE YOUR PROJECT IS PERFECT. Once you close, the project is gone and additional editing isn't really feasible.

It took me a while to find a photo printing service that would print a finished 4 x 8 without requiring me to use one of their pre-designed templates. Many of the common photo processing places (Walgreen's, WalMart, etc.) require you to use a generic holiday card, just inserting your photos. That's not how we DIY, though! Luckily, VistaPrint offered exactly what I was looking for (and at a great price). After printing and shipping, my cards were $.80 apiece. I really hope you'll give PicMonkey a try--it's so easy. Be creative and enjoy!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Spooky Halloween Banner From Book Pages

I'm sure you've been seeing these super cute, book-page banners popping up everywhere on web--I know I have. And, of course, I needed one. Badly. I decided to test the method on a display for the teen section of the library. One of the perks of working at the library is easy access to discarded books. Now, please don't freak out and start sending me hate mail, bookish friends--no readable books were harmed in the making of this banner. This book was missing a pretty substantial chunk of pages, and was going to be thrown in the trash. So really, I saved it from a worse fate.

To print the images, I affixed two book pages to a standard sheet of paper using a glue stick. I glued the pages down, side by side, and trimmed the edges. Then I sent it through the printer, putting two letters per page. I trimmed them into the shape I wanted, folded the tops over, and hung it from a length of yarn. This could hardly be more easy! You might have to do a few test pages to get the spacing of your letters just right. If you print on a blank piece of paper, you can hold it up to the light with your book pages held behind it to see exactly where the images will fall on the page.

I'm so excited to use this technique for  . . .well, everything. I'm thinking about making cards using this technique. Cupcake picks? Mixed media jewelry? I can't wait to get started! Be creative and enjoy!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cozy Felted Clog Slippers

I'd been wanting to make myself a pair of slippers for a while when I stumbled across this pattern at Pilgrim Purse - and Poetry. I loved the rounded, clog shape of her slippers and immediately set my sights on making a pair. The pattern is perfectly accurate as written, but it was a little confusing for this non sock-knitter.

I made my slippers according to the directions for the standard woman's slipper. Using the magic loop method, I knit the entire project using circular needles. For those of you unfamiliar with magic loop, this video from Knit Picks is super handy (coincidentally, I used my Knit Picks interchangeable circular needles for this project--I love them)!

I knit my slippers using two strands of Patons worsted weight Classic Wool held together (Dark Grey Marl and Dark Grey Mix). After I cast on (I used the long tail method), I counted 24 stitches, then pulled my loop of cable through (leaving 18 stitches on the other side). Following the instructions, I knit one complete round. Then I worked the first 24 stitches (before the cable loop) in stockinette for 15 rows.

To turn the heel, I followed the instructions exactly as written, but I didn't realize from the pattern that you would not knit all 24 stitches before turning. For example, the first row for turning the heel is: Slip 1, K13, K2 tog, K1, turn. This is only 17 stitches. You'll still have 7 stitches left on the needle when you turn the knitting over and begin row 2. After the first 4 rows of turning the heel, the pattern says, "Continue in this manner until all stitches are used up." The author of the pattern, Nita, clarified in the comments to her blog that the remaining rows of turning the heel should be as follows:
Row 5: Slip 1, K8, K2tog, K1, turn (19 stitches)
Row 6: Slip 1, P9, P2tog, P1, turn (18 stitches)
Row 7: Slip 1, K10, K2tog, K1, turn (17 stitches)
Row 8: Slip 1, P11, P2tog, P1, turn (16 stitches)
Row 9: Slip 1, K12, K2tog, turn (15 stitches)
Row 10: Slip 1, P12, P2tog (14 stitches)

Making the gusset, knitting the length of the foot, and decreasing for the toe are fairly straightforward. I have a front-loading, high efficiency washing machine. I also have very small feet (about size 6). I probably should have followed the pattern for narrow slippers and knit a bit less than 7 inches for the length of the foot. To make due, I did some serious felting on these babies. I ran the slippers through three wash cycles using hot water, and they could probably stand another wash. The pattern tells knitters to make sure that the slippers don't go through the spin cycle, because deep creases will form in the fabric. This is so true! I didn't get to them on one of the wash cycles and they ended up spinning a bit; you can see the creases in the slippers. To block the finished slippers, I rolled washcloths up and pushed them into the toes of the slippers while they were still damp. I haven't trimmed the opening of the slippers to make them even more cloggy--I'm just enjoying them as they are for now. Be sure to visit Pilgrim Purse and Poetry to check out this awesome pattern. Be creative and enjoy!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Vacation Inspiration: Loving the Western Shore of My Home State

My husband and I finally, finally got the chance to go away together for the weekend. This is our first vacation as a couple since we got married (umm, five and a half years ago . . .), so it was long overdue. On our first night, we drove westward across the Mitten to Holland, Michigan. We did the quintessential tourist activity in the town: toured the DeZwaan windmill and the gardens on Windmill Island. DeZwaan was the last historic windmill exported from the Netherlands, and although it is 250 years old, it is still in operation as a grain mill.

I love artisan crafts, and rarely pay much attention to anything else when I visit historic sites, but I found myself drawn to the Windmill Island Conservatory. I am a sucker for succulents, and I loved this birdcage with Burro's Tail growing through the bars.

The grounds are dotted with plants that produce enormous umbrella leaves. The veining on the leaves was beautiful--it reminded me immediately of marbled paper. I've read a few tutorials lately about marbling with nail polish, and these leaves might have inspired me to give it a try.

Although I am usually pretty conservative with color (in other words, I heart black), I could totally envision the vivid colors of these orchids in a headscarf, set of bracelets, or a fun coin purse.

After our first night and day in Holland, the hubs and I continued north along the coast of Lake Michigan. We spent the rest of our weekend in Ludington, Michigan. We found a great hotel right near the beach, and we were within easy walking distance to both the water and the downtown shops and restaurants. Perfect! Lounging on the beach did give me the time to do a little knitting.

Perusing the small boutiques reminded me how much I love the casual, easy fashion sensibilities along the shore. Light fabrics, fun prints, romantic-but-not-fussy. *Happy sigh.* My next project has to be a lightweight summer scarf. No question. I feel so rejuvenated after this trip. It gave me so many new crafty ideas. Wherever your travels may take you as summer winds down, I hope you'll find yourself inspired. Be creative and enjoy!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Holy Mole (say it mo-lay!): Easy (Cheater) Slow Cooker Mole

We've been in a food rut in our house lately. And by food rut, I mean pizza rut. So, I broke out the slow cooker today to try something different. Right up front, let's get the disclaimer out of the way: this isn't authentic mole. There are a number of regional varieties of mole in Mexico, but they do have some common elements, like chilis, dried fruit, thickeners (nuts or seeds), and often chocolate. Traditionally, the dish takes ages to prepare--roasting, soaking, blending, and cooking a lengthy list of specialty ingredients. 

So, yes. I cheated. I cheated and it was delicious. AND I got to use my slow cooker.

I based my dish on the Biggest Book of Slow Cooker Recipes from Better Homes and Gardens. I did make a few changes, though. Here's my version . . .

Slow Cooker Mole with Chicken:
1 14 oz. can fire roasted tomatoes with garlic
2 canned chipotle chilis in adobo
1/2 white onion
1/4 c. raisins
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted (for a more conventional flavor, you could use pepitas)
Small palmful of sesame seeds, toasted (please note, I have elf-like hands--probably 1 1/2 Tbsp.)
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/8 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. quick-cooking tapioca
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed (the original recipe called for bone-in pieces, skinned. I just used what I had in the fridge)
Cooked rice
Limes for garnish

In a food processor, I blended the first 11 ingredients (through salt) to a smooth puree. Then I sprinkled the tapioca in the bottom of my slow cooker insert; it acts as a thickener. I poured in about 1/3 of the sauce, nestled the chicken breasts in, then topped with the rest of the sauce. I cooked the chicken on LOW for about 6 hours, until the meat was falling apart. If you use bone-in chicken, you'll probably want to let it go for more like 8 hours. I served the chicken and sauce over hot rice, with a squeeze of fresh lime on top.

I would like to try this mole with a tomatillo blended into the sauce for a little bit of sour. But overall, I thought this was a good first attempt at mole, especially since I didn't have to work all day to get it! Be creative and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Giani White Diamond Counter Paint Kit

I think the single most dramatic transformation in our kitchen overhaul (see previous post) was the countertop. I love the final look (especially considering what we started with):

The Giani paint kit outlines the multi-step process needed to achieve a granite or marble look. I highly, highly recommend that you watch this video before you start, should you ever attempt this project. Step 1 is a matte black primer. It covers the entire countertop surface. After applying the primer, I had to let it dry for 8 hours.

Step 2 involves layering on the minerals--my kit had three colors: a silvery pearl, a sandy tan, and white.

Giani provides a sponge for layering on the minerals. NOTE: if you want black veining, you should save some of the black primer (and use your own brush). There is a brief mention of this in the DVD, but I thought I should reiterate so you don't have to go digging through trash bags looking for that can of primer (like I did). After the minerals dried, I sanded the surface with very fine 600 grit sandpaper, then wiped down the surface with a damp cloth.

Step 3 is the clear coat. This is the most difficult part of the process. The DVD that comes with the kit includes instructions for applying the top coat evenly. After the first coat dried for 4 hours, I sanded, wiped, and applied a second top coat.

According to Giani, the kit is enough for 35 square feet, or about 16 running feet of standard 24" countertop. I was definitely pushing that upper limit. I ran out of white at the very end of the counter. And I could have used more top coat. All in all, though, I'm so happy with how this project turned out. $70 for new counters is a fantastic deal! I hope this project helps you feel less intimidated about making a dramatic change in your own space. Be creative and enjoy!

Monday, August 12, 2013

$330 Kitchen Makeover!!

We love that our house was built in 1910, but we hate that our house was decorated in the 1970s. So, my Mom and I spent one very long weekend updating one very yellow kitchen. I have to say, I could not be more thrilled with the results. Seriously. I spent an embarrassing amount of time this evening just sitting in there, staring.

I will break the projects down into individual posts this week. But here's a quick summary:

As part of my birthday present, my parents bought me a Giani White Diamond Countertop kit to cover the yellow laminate. Since we were already painting the countertops, it made sense to paint the walls, too. The charcoal gray walls looked so good that the drop ceiling looked even more terrible in comparison. We didn't have the time or expertise to take down the ceiling and re-drywall, but we scored in a major way when we found the ceiling tiles that mimic a coffered ceiling. Once the ceiling tiles were in, though, wow did the cabinets look dingy. So we decided to paint them. That's really where the timeline went off the rails . . .

All said and done, we updated the ceiling, walls, cabinets/hardware, and countertops for $329.01 (not including accessories)! I didn't include the accessories in this total because you could spend as much or as little here as you wanted, but I added about $30-worth of new decor pieces to the kitchen. Here's a price break-down:
Tiles: 7.99 x 14 = 111.86
Cross Ts: .98 x 4 = 3.92
Acrylic Covers for Lights: 9.78 x 4= 39.12
Foam Board: 2.50 x 8= 20.00
White Paint: 28 x 1= 28.00
Satin Nickel Spray Paint: 7.48 x 3= 22.44
Giani White Diamond Kit: 69.95 x 1= 69.95
Charcoal paint: Free! (Left over from a previous project)
Window Rope Trim: 14.38 x 2= 28.76
Cove Moulding (where counter meets wall): 2.48 x 2= 4.96

TOTAL: $329.01!! (not including accessories)

Most of the accessories I used were mine already (platters, silver trays, canisters, etc.). The rest I picked up on clearance, except for the large, yellow EAT. For that, I simply spray painted cardboard letters from a craft store.
Cardboard Letters: 4.49 x 3= 13.47
Sun Yellow Spray Paint: 2.50 x 1= 2.50
Lantern: 6.79 x 1= 6.79
Owl: 7.19 x 1= 7.19

TOTAL: $29.95

Not bad at all. I can't wait to share the projects with you individually. In the meantime, be creative and enjoy!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

More DIY Shrink Plastic: Cupcake Hair Clips

If you read my previous post, you know I've been experimenting with homemade Shrinky Dinks. This week, I made these hair clips for my adorable niece (I can't wait to see them in her super curly hair!). Like the last project, I used #6 plastic, sanded on both sides. Instead of coloring the plastic pieces with Sharpies, I used Prismacolor colored pencils to fill them in. Once the color was on, I outlined the design using a fine-tipped Pitt artist pen. 2 minutes in a 350 degree oven and they were done! I love the way the colors become darker and richer after shrinking (first picture below is pre-shrinking, second picture is post.)

I have learned a few lessons about sealing the pieces. I used Rust-Oleum Painter's Touch 2x Ultra Cover Matte Clear spray again, but I did three or four very light coats on each side, allowing the pieces to dry thoroughly between coats. Then I applied a much thinner coat of the Americana Triple Thick glaze. If I wanted a completely smooth surface, I would have applied a second coat of the glaze once the first had dried. Focusing on THIN coats of the sealing materials seems to keep the colors from bleeding. 

This has been such a fun undertaking for me. My husband told me this morning that he can't believe how obsessed I've become with "taking regular sized things and making them tiny." Hahaha. So true. Be creative and enjoy!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Homemade Shrinky Dink Luggage Tag

It's my great shame to admit that, even though I was born in the 80s, I don't remember trying Shrinky Dinks as a kid. I know, I know . . .but better late than never, right?

I did a bit of online research on homemade polyshrink plastic. Since I wanted to buy lots of fun markers and colored pencils, I wanted to save some money on the shrink plastic. According to many of the sites I came across, #6 clear plastics could be used as homemade shrinky dinks! Recycled bakery containers, what what!?! Be sure to look for the little triangle on the plastic--there should be a 6 in it. Don't be fooled by the #1s!

#6 clear plastic
Fine sandpaper (I used 220 grit)
Sharpies (I haven't tried colored pencils yet, but I know many crafters use them for Shrinky Dinks)
Chalk Ink
Parchment Paper
Baking Sheet

Once I washed and dried my plastic, I cut a tag shape from the smooth lid of the bakery container. Through trial and error, I learned that the plastic shrinks A LOT. The tags I made shrank by 50% along each side. So keep that in mind when you're trying to figure out the initial size. I sanded each side with fine sandpaper (220 grit) to help the color adhere to the plastic. I used a black Sharpie to put my design on the tag--the address went on top, the other images went on the back side. I like the layered effect it made. Once the markings dried, I used chalk ink to create a parchment-esque background on the back surface of the tag.

While the chalk dried, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees F. I put my tag, chalk side up, on a parchment-lined baking sheet and put it in the heated oven for about 2-3 minutes. It's terrifying to watch! The tag curled up into a plastic mess, but eventually flattened back out.

I decided to seal my tag to prevent the color from rubbing off. This is by no means a perfect process, but I decided to spray clear coat on the tag first, then apply a thicker glaze. I used Rustoleum's acrylic clear coat in a matte finish. The key is to hold the can far away from the piece and spray in short bursts. Allow to dry, then repeat until the piece is well-coated. Allowing the sealants to pool on the surface could cause the ink to run. Once the clear coat was dry, I put on a triple thick crystal glaze. It dried into a transparent, hard coating. A halo formed around the images on the back of the tag (maybe from the chalk ink?) But otherwise I'm pretty happy with how this turned out, especially for a first project.

Hopefully I'll find some time in the next week to do more shrinking. I'm thinking zipper pulls and barettes! Be creative and enjoy!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Happiness is a Warm Jam (and a Biscuit!)

Earlier in the week, I posted a picture of the gorgeous strawberries we picked at Heinlein's Berries (just outside of Frankenmuth, MI). Well . . . here they are in jam form! After reading Laena McCarthy's beautiful book Jam On, I was inspired to try a less conventional, lower sugar jam using Pomona's Universal Pectin. Unlike traditional pectins, it is not activated by sugar--it is activated by calcium. So . . .you don't have to risk a full-blown sugar coma just to have a little jam. Unfortunately for me, lots of other people seem to have the same urge to try Pomona's. My order's two-day delivery turned into twelve. And fresh strawberries wait for no one. So, with  heavy heart, I broke down and bought Ball's version of pectin for making low sugar jam. I followed the instructions on Ball's website here. The jam looks great in the jars and the flavor is good. I haven't given up on trying Pomona's, though, so look out for an update in the next couple weeks.

Also, do yourself a favor and check out Jam On. The recipes are interesting and modern (Strawberry Balsamic Jam will be happening here). I'm excited to incorporate jam into more savory recipes. Have you made any jam this year? A tried and true favorite? Something exciting and new? Let me know--I'd love to hear about your preserving adventures. Be creative and enjoy!

PS: the biscuit is from my recipe here. I mixed 1 Tbsp of lemon juice with the milk this time to approximate buttermilk. Mmmm.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Homemade Sweet, Yeasted Crescent Rolls

In honor of my dad's birthday (the big 5-4!), I decided to post the recipe for his favorite sweet dinner rolls. The recipe is based on a handwritten recipe of my great grandmother's that I found tucked into a cookbook.

Sweet Crescent Rolls:
3 c. all purpose flour + at least additional 1/2 c. flour
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter (1 stick) softened + additional 1/4 c. softened
1 egg
About 3/4 c. warm water

Mix 3 c. flour, yeast, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl (I never bother blooming my yeast, but you certainly could). Make a well in the center, pour in a 1/2 c. of the warm water, the egg, and the stick of butter. Beat the wet ingredients, adding more water as needed. I like to start with my dough on the sticky side, then knead in the additional 1/2 c. flour (give or take) as I work the dough.

The dough should be soft and smooth, not too stiff. I knead the dough by hand for about 8 minutes, but you could use a stand mixer using the dough hook for a few minutes instead. Allow the dough to rise in a buttered glass or plastic bowl for about an hour, covered with plastic wrap. Divide the dough into two equal-sized balls. On a floured surface, roll each ball into a flat disc, about 14 in in diameter (I eyeball this). Butter the top of each disc with 2 Tbsp. of softened butter. Cut into 8 wedges. Working one wedge at a time, start at the wide end and roll the wedge up. Press the point into the roll gently. I like to curve the roll into a crescent shape. Allow the rolls to rise for another hour and a half or so.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake rolls on parchment lined baking sheets until golden brown on the tops and bottoms. My dad likes his rolls a bit under baked, so I only left his in for about 6 minutes. I would leave my own in for 8 minutes or so.

I like to brush them with melted butter when they come out of the oven to keep them soft. I'm dying to make these with cinnamon sugar, or chocolate, rolled up inside the dough. Mmmm! Be creative and enjoy!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

Modcloth Blog Hex Nut Bracelet

I pinned this bracelet from the Modcloth blog ages ago, but only worked up the motivation to make it this week. I'm sorry I waited so long! It came together very quickly and I love the end result. The hex nuts make a herringbone-like pattern as they are braided into the bracelet.

The original tutorial says to use twine, but I decided on yarn instead (Peaches and Creme in Bright Pink). I've been working on some brightly colored bracelets for summer--this shade fits in perfectly! I also used one entire pack of #10-24 machine screw  hex nuts.

I cut one length of yarn to twice the length I would need, then folded it in half to make a loop (this made two of the three strands of my braid). For the third strand, I just cut a piece of yarn to the necessary length. I knotted this third strand to the loop. Then, following Modcloth's directions, I braided the bracelet. The key to this project was braiding tightly once I began integrating the nuts into the braid. To finish, I threaded a large silver bead onto the end and tied a knot.  The bead fits through the loop and makes a neat closure. I am thinking about making another of these on black cording or leather, something a little edgier. I hope you'll give this super easy project a try. Be creative and enjoy!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Free Father's Day Card Download--With Bacon!

To my fellow procrastinators, I give the gift of a free Father's Day card ( . . .mid-morning on Father's Day). Like the last card, I designed this one using The bacon image is from Wikimedia Commons (you can find the license information by following the link). To download the card, follow this link to the Google document. From there, you can print (I used cardstock), cut out, fold, and sign. Easy peasy!

Did you all take my advise on the last post and give a try? If not, you really should. Really. It's so fun and easy to use. What does your dad love? Golf? Star Trek? Lasagna? Try making him a personalized card this Father's Day (er, maybe next Father's Day considering the hour). Be creative and enjoy!