Archive for December, 2010

This week’s recipe is, as the name implies, super quick and easy. And it really smells wonderful.

You will need:

Dried cloves, dried rosemary, dried thyme, a little pouch to put it all in, and a bit of string.

Mix 1/2 tsp of each of the spices and spoon it into a little pouch. Staple a small amount of string to the pouch and tie a loop on the other end of the string. Hang it over a coat hanger in your closet or fold in with boxed clothing, and it will keep everything around it smelling nice and fresh.

I’ve tried drying out used tea bags to refill them, but so far, I haven’t had much success with that. They always tear open when I try to refill them. What works best for me is opening up a nonused tea bag (saving the tea for another time), putting my spices in and stapling it closed. I’ve tried tiny cloth bags too, but the spices usually leak out between the stitches. You would need some tightly-woven fabric and really tiny stitches to contain the dried spices. Or maybe don’t use the ground spices, but whole ones instead. But ground was what I had, so that’s what I used, and it works fine. Also, in addition to the nice smell, this mixture also repels moths, without the (possible) cancer-causing effects of mothballs. Not to mention this smells way better than mothballs.

Have fun!


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Christmas Presents!

It’s been such a challenge for me to not share all the wonderful sewing projects I’ve made for my family members, but now that they’ve all been opened, I can share them!

For mom, a wall hanging quilt incorporating scraps from her curtains, and one of her old sheets, among other things.

For my sister, who likes blue, and green, and things that sparkle, a small wall hanging of a pond scene with lots of sequins, glitter, and beads.

For my other sister, a set of coasters stuffed with spices, so they release wonderful smells when you set your hot mug on them.

For my dad, who’s working on restoring a ford tri-motor airplane, a patch. He collects patches to sew on his work overalls.

For my niece, a little stuffed cat. I used the towel cat pattern, but with scraps of old t-shirts. She LOVED it!

For Husband, I made a balaclava, but don’t have a picture of that one. Sorry. It came out really cool though.

And I already shared the Chaos game.

And I passed on my hundred dollar holiday challenge, clocking in at about $45. Woo hoo!

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A while back I bought a couple of hard-cover books at the Goodwill to make into hollow book boxes. More details on the books I picked out can be found here. Though I think my efforts started off as a perfect “what not to do when making a hollow book” tutorial, I eventually figured it out, and the books turned out great.

What I started doing first was gluing pages together one at a time, starting at the back of the book. After about 25 pages or so, I decided that was going to take waaaaaaay too long, so I just started painting with Elmers glue along the outside of the pages of the closed book. But when you do it, you should make sure to put a piece of plastic between the cover and the rest of the pages so as not to glue your book shut. I actually caught this one before the glue dried, so it was ok, but using a bit of plastic would prove to be a well-thought-out “I’m being proactive” step. Also, if you’re thinking about lining your book with something or putting some kind of clasp on it to keep it closed, don’t glue the last page to the back cover just yet; slide a piece of plastic between the last page and the back cover. And if you want to line the bottom of the box with the title page or something, this is also a good thing to pull that page out before you glue all the pages on the outside. I did ok salvaging the title page, but again, it might have looked a bit nicer if I had thought it all the way through before gluing. I made two books: the first one using basic Elmers glue, and the second one using mod podge, and they both came out fine. You’ll eventually need the mod podge to finish the inside though, so you’ll need to have some on hand for later steps anyway.

So after you glue or mod podge the heck out of the outside (with the plastic in place first, of course), then comes the waiting part. Put something really heavy on top of it and leave it until it’s dry. Overnight would definitely do it, but if you’re impatient like me, a few hours might be ok.

Then comes the fun part: the cutting. You’ll need a small exacto knife and maybe a box cutter too. I used both, but you could get it all done with just the exacto. Use a ruler and mark about 3/4 inches from the outside of the book on all sides. Take your exacto knife and start cutting into the pages and removing them a few at a time. It will take a long time to do this, so be patient. Keep going until you get all the way through to the last page, but be careful not to cut through into the back cover.

Once you cut all the pages out, slide your title page under the cut pages but on top of the back cover and glue it down. Glue the cut pages onto your title page and let it dry. Then, you can mod podge the inside of the box with a thick layer. Leave it open to let it dry completely on the inside, and you’re done!

Here’s how mine turned out. Not too bad, I think!

The glued edges of my books, and one with a ribbon closure

The inside of my dictionary, with the title page in the bottom

A close-up of the inside

The inside of my other book (soon-to-be pencil case). The book title page says "Better Than Life," and I had husband add above it "Art Is"

Anyone else ever attempted making a hollow book have any other tips to share?

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Winter is now in full swing, and with the change in weather comes cold and flu season. I’ve always been one who gets sick often and gets everything that goes around at work, so I get lots opportunities to try everything that’s out there and evaluate how it works for me. Here are two of my favorite and most comforting home treatments for reducing the congestion and pressure that comes with having a cold.

Decongesting nasal spray

You will need:

  • a squeeze bottle of saline nasal spray
  • a bottle of peppermint extract

Pop the top off your nasal spray container, and add 1-2 teaspoons of peppermint extract. Start with a small amount and add more gradually, after testing it out. You don’t want so much that it hurts, but enough that it will be effective in opening your nasal passages. I think I’ve got about just over 1 tsp in mine. Use as needed.

Cold remedy tea

You will need:

  • Ginger root
  • Fresh lemon
  • Honey

In a mug, add 1-2 Tablespoons chopped ginger root (I don’t even peel it when I make it) and the juice squeezed from half a lemon. Don’t worry about chopping the ginger into tiny little pieces, but do consider that the smaller the pieces, the less you will need (it’s more potent in small pieces). I tend to use about 2 Tbsp of larger slices because I get lazy and don’t want to take the time to cut it any smaller. Pour boiling water over your ginger and lemon mix and let it steep for 1-2 minutes. Strain the ginger and lemon seeds out, and add honey to taste.

This works really well as a decongestant and to just generally relieve discomfort and pressure from a cold. For some reason, it’s not effective if you use sugar or store-bought lemon juice. I have no idea why, but it must be something about the combination of these three things. At least I noticed a difference when I tried to substitute sugar or lemon juice when I didn’t have honey or a lemon or handy. I don’t know what it is about the combination of these three things, but you definitely need all three for this to work properly.

Here’s to a healthier winter this year!

Anyone else have favorite home cold remedies to share?

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So tomorrow is the Solstice. We’re planning on celebrating the darkest day of the year and the return of the sun by having a “dark day” at home. This means no electric lights, no computer, and no TV once we get home from work. Candles are ok, and electricity for cooking or heating the home is ok too. I’m looking forward to a relaxing evening to slow down, reconnect with my husband, and forget about everything for a day. And maybe getting up around 3am to see the rare solstice lunar eclipse might be involved too. Anyone else have plans to celebrate the solstice? What are your winter solstice traditions?

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Pack or Purge?

I’ve never been much of a packrat. I’ve always been a purger. If I don’t absolutely need it or have a use for it currently, I donate it, freecycle it, lend it, repurpose, recycle, compost, or trash it. I don’t keep things around that I don’t need so as not to accumulate excess stuff. I also feel strongly that if I have something I don’t need or don’t use, I should pass it on so someone else can make use of it. It’s not fair to sit on something I don’t need when someone else might use it.

But sometimes, I concede that being a packrat can come in handy. Like with sewing projects. I’ve been on a major sewing kick lately, and I haven’t bought much of anything for any of these projects, which is awesome. And I’ve made quite a lot of stuff, considering I’ve only been cutting up old stuff I have around here. But you’d think that with all the sewing I’ve been doing lately, I’d be using up more fabric, and needing less space to store my sewing materials. Or at least that the stuff I already have should now start to fit in my big box of fabric-y goodness without spilling out. The opposite is the case, however. I’m finding that the more I sew, the MORE space I need to store all those little scraps I don’t want, but know I shouldn’t trash. I can’t work that out in my head, but you can come to my house and see for yourself….I need to invest in another “creativity box” for all my extra sewing materials, and it’s making me crazy to save all this stuff I don’t really have room for and don’t know what to do with. And I’ve never ever been one to save stuff I might use sometime eventually, maybe. I’m really fighting the urge to get rid of all these little scraps, especially since I’m running low on ideas of what to do with them all. Any sewers have thoughts about this? Do you save or purge your scraps?

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So It’s Wednesday, and that means new recipe posting! This week’s recipe: homemade laundry detergent

As with all my recipes, this one is tried, tweaked, and true, and while I got them from somewhere on the internet (can’t remember where specifically), I do know that I’ve tweaked it a bit and adjusted the amounts of various ingredients to my liking. I can say I’ve been using this for a while, and my clothes certainly get just as clean, for a whole lot cheaper and with less unknown chemicals!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 3 cups Borax
  • 1 and 1/2 cup washing soda (look for it in the laundry aisle)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 cup Ivory soap, grated (about 1 bar)
  • 5-7 drops essential oil fragrance, if desired (I personally prefer lavender)
  • Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the rinse cycle for fabric softener. This also helps clothes rinse clean
  • Store in an airtight container, and add 1/8 cup per wash load

I think the original recipe calls for using a bar of soap brand called Fels Naptha or Octagon soap, but I can’t ever find either of those. Ivory soap is very similar to this kind of soap and grates easily too. And grating the soap up makes my cheese grater really clean 🙂 This stuff won’t suds up like the store-bought stuff you’re used to, but I can assure you that your clothes will get just as clean. And if you want to save energy as well, use cold water instead of warm or hot. Again, your clothes will still get just as clean, without using the extra energy to heat the water up.

Now, on to the drying cycle.

If you can, hang as much out to dry as possible. This will cut back on your energy usage. We got one of those retractable laundry lines and put it up inside. I like the fact that I can get it out only when I need it and otherwise, it’s out of sight. We’ve got ours in the doorway to the hall, so it runs the whole length of the hallway when it’s out. I’ve found that stuff dries pretty quickly, usually within a day or two, and in the winter, it helps to add some moisture to the dry air inside.

For making reusable dryer sheets, cut up some old t-shirts into 4-inch squares. T-shirt fabric works well because it doesn’t fray or leave little threads all over everything, and you won’t have to do any sewing or hemming. Put 4-5 drops of essential oil (make sure it goes well with your laundry detergent scent!) on each cloth, and place them in an airtight container for storage. Toss one in with your dryer load, and it will add a nice scent to your clothes the way a dryer sheet would.

The only issue I have with these dryer sheets is that while it gives a nice fresh scent, it doesn’t take care of static too well. Or at all. I have a set of those plastic re-usable dryer balls, but I’ve heard from some places that they might release some nasty plastic-ey chemicals when they heat up in the dryer, so I’m not really all that excited to get another set. I found a posting here on how to make your own dryer balls and that apparently wool is a really great static deterrent. I haven’t tried these yet, but I have plans to, and I’ll let you know how it works out when I get around to making them. For now, feel free to give it a try for yourself, but know that I haven’t tested it yet, it just sounds interesting, so I’m passing it on.

And as always, have fun saving money and buying one less bottle or box of chemicals!





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